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Burned, But I’m Ok…

I am thankful for the part time job I have at a small country church in the next county. It is approximately around 15 minutes from my house. So as the drive goes, It really is not that far, and I have some good one on one time with God as well as time on some days when I can have some quietness of spirit. Today, as I was zipping back toward the house I began looking at a woodsy area that lasted for a few miles. In that particular area, someone had done a control burn. This is popular in our area of Georgia to make sure the undergrowth is kept at bay, and if there was a fire started by lightening etc., it would be easier to handle. So as the burn happened a while back, I could see how the trees and flowers were recovering. I am amazed at the resilience of the foliage that God created. It was taking time, but it was recovering. The black ground had new growth and the leaves on the trees were greening out. It was something to see.

Here lately, I have encountered a lot of men and women in ministry who are going through suffering. They are being “burned” by people inside and outside of the ministry. More than once in the last few weeks, I have heard church ministry leaders say that church ministry is hard. You know what, my friend? It can be hard. I don’t always understand why things happen as they do. When I have more questions than answers, I take them to scripture.

In my searching and praying on this topic, I have come to some conclusions. Let me say that I don’t claim to know everything. Hey, I am not Jesus. I do strive to be like him every day and to be a willing pupil of His teaching. I can say that I have been in the trenches of church ministry for 27 years with my dear husband, and through suffering God has taught me some things that I never could have learned any other way.

So, here is one of my conclusions! Only one for now, so hang with me if you will.

Ministry is hard, but God never told me that following Him would be easy. I’m not sure why this point did not occur to me years earlier, but it really hit home for me several years ago. I am called to serve God. I am called to love the people in my congregation. I am called to follow the Lord and His Word. While doing these things, I have been in the position where somebody didn’t like it. I have been where I have been hurt by those who are hurting. I have suffered at the hand of those who disagree with my husband who was doing what was right. I have had times where someone tried to hurt my family members with cutting words and backstabbing. In these times, I have learned that I am not the first one or the last one to encounter this scenario. So I go to the Word!

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” II Timothy 3:12

Everyone who is trying to do what is right is going to suffer persecution. This verse in II Timothy says, “all”. Did not all of the disciples of Christ suffer bad things at the hands of others?

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:17-18

In these verses in Romans, when I suffer with Christ or because of Christ there is a benefit that I cannot get any other way. God’s glory will be revealed in me. Through suffering I am becoming more like Christ and a little less like me. You see, this suffering that I am facing it’s for my good. In my flesh, I can’t handle the emotions and arrows of hurt flung in my direction. However, I am not suffering alone. I am suffering with Him. In Christ, I know that I will receive the benefits far beyond what I can imagine. I may not receive the glory right now. The glory might not be till I get to Heaven, but that should not stop me from taking on the suffering with Him. I need to accept it as a part of being where I am right now, and doing what I am supposed to be doing. I may not like the suffering, but some things must be endured. I have to keep my focus on God through the midst of the suffering I am facing. I keep my focus on my God, and look forward to the glory that will come for the suffering I faced cannot be compared to it. I can experience joy today because I am in this place with Christ.

I need to be one who is willing to walk the hard road, and in doing that I may be burned sometimes. I must remember though the burning process new growth will take root and flourish. I will not stay as I am. I will recover and I will be closer than ever to the God who has walked beside me through it all.

At the end of the day, everything I suffer is for my good and for His glory. I have even heard a song written about this. I think it’s time to look it up again and take a listen!

Blessings to you,

Amy

The River…

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. ~Psalm 46:4

I find comfort in being out in nature. When I was in high school, we lived in a home on the river for about 6 years. I can’t begin to count the number of times I sat in the back yard or on the dock and watched the water. Watching the river as it moved along relaxed me. Often, I could feel my stress level going down as I sat there. There was quite a strong current at times, but by just watching you didn’t really notice it. The water held a strength in it as it moved along. It was active, always moving, yet the vastness of it comforted me. The river was a constant in my life. When I sought it out, it was there.

When I think about it, in quite the same way God is reflected in the characteristics of that river. Always active, always moving, but always present. God’s strength and nearness is a comfort to me when I need it most. When I take the time to focus on God and draw near to Him my heart is glad. My stress levels go down and I rest in the one who is unchanging and always constant. Knowing this, it is up to me to daily seek His presence, and watch closely what He is doing for God is always active.

#psalm46challenge

Blessings to you.

In Remembrance

The Easter Season is one in which we remember all that Our Lord did for us on Calvary. In remembrance of this unselfish act of love by our Savior, I would like to share with you a post I wrote a few years ago.

On February 23, 1945, one of the largest air raids by the Royal Air Force took place. It happened in Germany at Pforzheim, which is to the west of Berlin.  After World War 2, and because of the many air raids that took place, the rubble of the city was overwhelming so the people began to gather it all into one area. The rubble was gathered then overlaid with dirt and sod. It is called “Teufelsberg” or  “Devil’s Mountain”.  A place of death and sorrow now looms attesting to the fate of the city.  Where there was once a flat place is now a mountain of remembrance.

At the time this was done, I am sure no one realized this would be a place where children now laugh and play. The trees in this place are beautiful and the mountain is abundant with grass and vegetation.  It is a place where couples walk and picnic, and kite flying is a prevalent pastime.  It is amazing that out of death and destruction comes new life and purpose.

This reminds me of another hill of death and destruction: Golgotha, or the place of the skull. At this place, judgment was placed upon those that had broken the laws of the land. It was where justice was satisfied. A place of shame, and a place of death looms to the fate of the guilty.

At Golgotha, a miraculous event took place. One who knew no sin was crucified on a cross. The only man in the world from the beginning to the end of time that had never committed one wrong thought, act, or deed bore in his body your sins and mine. Because of a Holy God, the justice of our sin would have to be paid. I am the one who deserves the judgement of my sin, yet Jesus stepped down from Heaven and took the place that was rightfully mine.

Hebrews 12:2 reads, ”Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.”  On this mountain, He endured the cross so I could have joy. From the death of Jesus springs eternal life for all who are willing to accept it.

Golgotha, which to me was once a place where death and sorrow loomed, is now a testimony of a life transformed by the grace and mercy of God. I will look to the mountain which is now a remembrance of the life I now have in Christ.

“I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.”  Psalm 121:1

Watch Out, Spider!

In my effort to get to work on time the other day, I, as usual, went flying out the front door and raced with my purse, foam “guzzler” of iced tea and bagel. Clay chose to fly out the door after me and  reminded me that he had seen a spider in the door of the car that we needed to take care of. I didn’t want to disappoint him the pleasure of killing a spider, but if I identified it quickly enough I could proceed down the road and reach my destination on time. My plan was to put Clay at ease and take care of it Iater that day. I opened the back door and asked him where he had seen the offender. This spider had built a web between the doors that you could only see if you opened the back or front door on the driver’s side. All I could see was two egg sacks and a complex web. Clay pointed it out as it was hiding up under the hinge that holds the door in place. The way the spider was hiding I could not identify it so with a stick I removed part of the web and the egg sacks and “squashed” them. I didn’t want them hatching and taking over my car. It is a small four door and there wouldn’t be room for all of us. 🙂 Anyway, because I couldn’t see very well I closed the back door and opened the front door to see if I could get a better view. I did. It was a black spider so I was immediately concerned I asked Clay to run inside and get the bug spray. When he returned, I armed myself with bug spray in one hand and a stick in the other.  I sprayed it good and as it slowly descended on a silky strand of web with legs curling I saw the red hour-glass shape on it. It was a black widow. I got chills as I “squashed” it when I realized that it had been there for quite some time. At any moment, it could have chosen to hop out on me or one the boys and hurt us.  I praise the Lord for his hand of protection on our family.

As I went throughout my day, I could not stop thinking about the near miss we had and God’s protecting hand. Then my thoughts lead me to realize that temptation and sin is there lurking, waiting for just the right moment to strike. It waits patiently for the opportunity to catch me with my guard down and in the place where I am the weakest. At every turn in this life, sin is all around us. We are faced with it in the media, in the places we go, and sometimes in strangers we come in contact with. We need to be ever mindful that there is one that would love to see us fail and bring down the name of Christ. It is so important for us to watch out for these opportunities, and “squash” them as we would a poisonous spider.

It is not easy to turn from temptation and sin, but we have the Holy Spirit inside of us and a Savior who overcame the very essence of sin and death on the cross.  It is God who provides a way of escape for us so we do not have to give in to the temptation.  In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we read, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will no suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  We are going to be tempted to do the wrong thing. Satan does not want us to succeed in the Christian life, and if he can keep us defeated, he most certainly will. My favorite line in this verse is “God is faithful.” He is here with us and we can rely on his strength when we are weak. When we became a Christian, we trusted Him with our very soul. In the same way, we can trust God for our daily keeping also. He can help us to resist temptation and guard against the attacks of those who would harm us.

It is time for you and me to keep our eyes open and watch for potential danger, temptation and sin. We know we have a friend who has endured such temptation and become a victor over it. We must turn in Jesus in our need. Jesus is our hope and He is ever faithful.

Weekend Fun

On my way to work this morning, I saw a wonderful sight. A dear lady and her son were out walking together. They made it to the end of their road and then turned around and headed back the other way. So I have given myself a fun challenge, get out and get moving. This is a great weekend for me to do this because my family and I are headed this afternoon to a state park for an overnight camp out . We are looking forward to getting out in nature and seeing and experiencing once again the beauty of God’s creation.

You may not have the opportunity to go away from home this weekend. If not, have some fun going out in your yard or sitting on your front porch and get a glimpse of the wonders of nature. You can play a game of catch with your kids or walk around and see if you can spot any birds hanging out in your trees. One of the reasons I love fall is you can get out in cooler weather and not be overheated in 5 minutes. 🙂

In looking at all God has created, we can give glory to our creator.  I would love for you to let me know what you are up to this weekend. If you are getting out and about or just stepping out your back door, remember we can be blessed and encouraged by the beauty we behold. Blessings.

“For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.”  ~Psalm 95;3-6

I Need A New T-Shirt…

Hi, everyone. I hope all of my buddies that were affected by Fay have survived okay. My thoughts and prayers certainly go out to all who were touched by the storm. We were hit here in my south GA town pretty much head on. We had lots of wind and rain. I think the rain count at this point is approximately 27 inches where I live. We have had lots of flooding also and schools are closed until Thursday due to the massive amounts of standing water. At one point on Saturday and Sunday, they had to close the Highways to the west and east of us because of the creeks flowing over the roads.  My home was without power for appoximately 20 hours.

I was going to post earlier on all of this, but on Saturday night our roof leaked a bit. I found a puddle in the dark at the top of a couple of stairs leading down into our family room. I banged my shoulder and my leg and have been pretty sore for the last couple of days. Thankfully nothing was broken except for the lone candle I happened to be carrying. One of the problems with my misadventure is that the candle had been burning for quite some time and had a large amount of liquid wax all in the top. When I went flying, so did it. Wax went everywhere and I was covered on my arms and legs. My hair suffered an equal fate with wax in it all the way down to my scalp. Boy, was I a sight! Waxy buildup has taken on a whole new meaning for me. All my life I thought it only applied to floors. 🙂

Fay was rough on me for sure. The only thing left for me to do is have T-shirts printed with “I Survived Fay!” It has quite a ring to it.  I also heard this morning on the news that Hurricane Gustav is formulating in the Gulf. I might wait on the t-shirt idea until Hurricane season is over.

Back to Nature!

I shared in my last post what a great Mother’s Day I experienced and the things that awaited me on Sunday morning. On Saturday, however, I had the delightful experience of going with my hubby and boys down to St. Marks Wildlife Refuge.

We took off Saturday morning to head to one of favorite places and get “back to nature”. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed walking in the woods and looking for wildlife, flowers, etc. This Saturday was no exception.  There is always something so relaxing as a jaunt through the woods. Whether it is getting away from the phone and distractions of every day life, or taking the time to stop and take in the beauty of God’s creation I’m not sure which one helps me more in body and spirit. I do know that I wouldn’t trade the time with my family and the joy of being with the ones I love.

You never know what you might come across. We have such fun seeing how many different species of birds and animals we can identify. By looking at the maps of the trails, my hubby showed me one that we had never taken before, so I thought there was a good chance that we might come across something we had yet to see. Armed with hiking poles and binoculars, we headed out for our adventure.  We hit the trail about 10:00 a.m. and hiked to our heart’s content. We saw many species of birds and got some great pictures. Later, we encountered a small gator lounging in the middle of the trail. This is most unusual because we mostly see them in the water or on the banks next to the canals. We took some pictures, not to close of course to document our adventure. After our hike, We stopped by the jeep to grab and drink and to go to the lighthouse down on the gulf. Later, we had a picnic by a pond where birds gather. By now we were ready to ride to Wakulla Springs and spend the afternoon swimming and playing in the water. It was a wonderful day. 

As I was recalling the joy of the day, it came to mind that as I go to God’s Word I experience much the same feeling and joy as spending the day in the woods. First of all, my body and spirit receives a calming, relaxing effect on me as I delve into the Scriptures. It pulls me away from the distractions and cares of this life and uplifts me. I am strengthened in my daily walk. The longer I stay and the further I go I receive the benefit of letting go of the stress and worry, and sweetly commune with my heavenly Father.

Secondly, as I pick up my Bible to read and study, I never know what I will find. Unexpected truth and blessings pop out and speak to my heart and soul. I experience peace and joy as I study the word. The wealth of promises uplift me and encourage me in my walk of faith. Yes, sometimes I am convicted of something that I need to work on in my walk with the Lord, but I know I will find the help I need to watch out for the dangers this world throws in our path. I also know if I grow weary in the walk, God will help to lighten the load I carry, take my hand and go with me. I need this time with Him to prepare for the day ahead of me.

At the end of the day, Saturday, I was tired, but unbelievably refreshed and renewed and ready to gear up for the challenges ahead of me this week. In the same way as I go the Word, I am ready to “gear up” for what God has for me to do today. It is not what I can do in my strength, but what he can do through me.  When I need to get away from it all, I have a place I can go to get “back to nature”.  I know, also, when I need Him, I can go “back to the Word” where stresses will be relieved, burdens can be laid down, and communion with Our Great God can and will occur.

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Se’lah”     ~ Psalm 68:19 ~

Avoid “Cat”astrophe!

Imagine a tall board fence between two large fenced in yards  on the left side of the fence is a large disgruntled pit bull and on the right side of the fence is a big black rottweiler who has not yet had his lunch then walking along the top of the fence is a cat carefully balancing her way along step by step. She can’t step too far to the right or the left. She must keep going till she safely passes through the danger to the other side where safety awaits, so the balancing act continues.

I was reminded of this story as I viewed Corry’s blog yesterday. (It is a picture of a cat and several dogs.) This picture shows the balancing act we try to perform on a daily basis.  In searching for balance in the Christian life we have discussed  the guidelines of “Pleasing God” and “Loving Others.” The third guideline we need to adopt is that of “Our personal walk with the Lord.” This concept builds on the other guidelines. Can we please God if our walk is not right? Can we love others the way we should if our attitude is full of anger, bitterness, or pride?

The book of Ephesians has much to say regarding how we should walk as a Christian and how we should act toward each other.  Paul in the Scriptures gives the first challenge the Ephesians to “Walk Worthy In Unity”.

Ephesians 4:1-3 reads, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 

First of all what does it mean to walk worthy. I looked up “worthy” in the dictionary and the definition is “having worth, value or merit; deserving”  I believe this has to do with knowing who you are in Christ.  When I repented of my sin and accepted the salvation  that was offered to me through Christ redemptive work on the cross, I became a child of God.  I became one of his own.  I was undeserving because of my sin nature, but through Christ I am accepted by God. When God looks at me, He sees not my righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ imputed or cast upon me by Christ himself.  It is not about me, but about who Christ is!  We have been made joint-heirs with Christ.  We are made right before God. We are made over in the righteousness in Christ.  Paul is telling us today to walk with merit and value in the place that God has called us to serve.  He has given us all something to do. 

We are unique individuals that is what makes us special in the body of Christ. We are uniquely equipped for a special purpose by God for the furthering of His kingdom. So we need to walk knowing our worth in Christ, but not letting it go to our head causing it to swell with pride. When we look back at verse 2, we see we are to walk with “lowliness, and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love.”  If we practice each one of these traits, we will be treating each other the way that Christ intended which is knowing our worth in Him and treating others with respect and love. 

Verse 3 wraps up the why of verse 1 &2.  We should practice these attitudes because we are working toward a common goal: Unity.  God wants his people to be unified in our goals, in our purpose, and in our dealing with each other. We should “endeavour” or work hard “to keep up the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  God wants his children to get along with each other.  This is not something that comes to us naturally.  It comes by each of us letting the love of Christ radiate through us.  I can do nothing outside of His grace and mercy, yet through Him these things are possible.  We must pray for and strive for unity.  The Bible tells us to live peaceably with all men. It sounds unrealistic to be at peace and in unity with everyone. We quote, “with God all things are possible,” but do we with faith grab hold of this concept and believe. With God, I can love the person who is unlovely. With God, I can be unified with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  With God, I can be at peace with all men.  We must move from possible to probable. Through Christ, it can happen!!!

“Watch your walk because your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

The Mountain

On February 23, 1945, one of the largest air raids by the Royal Air Force took place. It happened in Germany at Pforzheim, which is to the west of Berlin.  After World War 2, and because of the many air raids that took place, the rubble of the city was overwhelming so the people began to gather it all into one area. The rubble was gathered then overlaid with dirt and sod. It is called “Teufelsberg” or  “Devil’s Mountain”.  A place of death and sorrow now looms attesting to the fate of the city.  Where there was once a flat place is now a mountain of remembrance.

At the time this was done, I am sure no one realized this would be a place where children now laugh and play. The trees in this place are beautiful and the mountain is abundant with grass and vegetation.  It is a place where couples walk and picnic, and kite flying is a prevalent pasttime.  It is amazing that out of death and destruction comes new life and purpose.

This reminds me of another hill of death and destruction: Golgotha, or the place of the skull. At this place, judgment was placed upon those that had broken the laws of the land. It was where justice was satisfied. A place of shame, and a place of death looms to the fate of the guilty.

At Golgotha, a miraculous event took place. One who knew no sin was crucified on a cross. The only man in the world from the beginning to the end of time that had never committed one wrong thought, act, or deed bore in his body your sins and mine. Because of a Holy God, the justice of our sin would have to be paid. I am the one who deserves the judgement of my sin, yet Jesus stepped down from Heaven and took the place that was rightfully mine. 

Hebrews 12:2 reads, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.”  On this mountain, He endured the cross so I could have joy. From the death of Jesus springs eternal life for all who are willing to accept it.

Golgotha, which to me was once a place where death and sorrow loomed, is now a testimony of a life transformed by the grace and mercy of God. I will look to the mountain which is now a remembrance of the life I now have in Christ.

“I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.”  Psalm 121:1

Catch the Sunrise

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him…”  (Psalm 8:3-4a)

The sunrise outside my bathroom window this morning was absolutely spectacular. It was a great start to my morning to look out my window and see God showing off.  I began to think on all the wonderful blessings God has given to me this weekend. Little touches of his grace and mercy were extended to me through so many different avenues.

The theme of our Sunday services was encouragement. I don’t know about you, but it seems that in the world today,  encouragement is hard to find. Every where you turn discouragement is present. Have you tried to smile and speak to someone in a store only to have them respond negatively?  We, as Christians and as the church, need to be an encouragement to others.

As a child, I remember a little song about having joy. It goes like this:

Jesus and others and you. What a wonderful way to spell joy.  Jesus and others  and you in the life of each girl and each boy. “J” is for Jesus for he has 1st place. “O” is for others we meet face to face. “Y” is for you and what ever you do. Put yourself 3rd and spell J-O-Y.

In the world in which we live, the cry is “me first.” Now I know every person needs to take a little time for themselves. From time to time each one needs a little personal space, but I think as a whole, even in Christian circles, to often our cry is “me first.”  I feel that if we want to find the true joy that is at our disposal  we need to put our Savior first rather than ourselves.

When I begin to brag on Jesus and make time for him first, I find I start to think of what I can do for someone else. “What would he want me to do for this person? How can I pray for this person?” As I begin to talk with Jesus and share my thoughts with Him, I find he gives me encouragement to go out and help someone else. He gives me strength to put “feet” on my prayers. I go from being with Him to doing for others.

It is amazing what this does for me. It cheers me to know that I am carrying out this little part in a big world. I am helping to encourage someone else. I am amazed because encouragement is contagious. You can’t help but catch it. When we respond with encouraging words to others, God will throw a little grace our way and encourage us. It’s grace because we don’t deserve it. We don’t encourage others so we will get a blessing, but it happens anyway. God shows us who he is and what is available to us. It’s “joy unspeakable and full of Glory.”

Spend time with your Savior. Lift him up and see what happens. Then go out and love and encourage another person. Show the world that we have something to smile about, and spell out the joy in our hearts.

We might just catch the sunrise.