Guilty or Grateful?

Okay, friends! It is confession time. I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, but the fact of the matter is lately I have been overwhelmed with guilt, not for the things that I have done, instead for all the things I have not done. For instance, I am racking myself with guilt for not writing here more often. My son is about to leave the nest for the summer so I am kicking myself for not doing more with him before he goes into camp life as a staffer. I feel guilty for the pounds that I have gained over the last few years. I would love to say this is the first time this has happened to me, but I can’t. Through my life I have often lamented all the things left undone rather than celebrating the things I have done. Call me a pessimist if you will or a gal that looks at the glass half empty, yet I must admit, I have found my reality. Yesterday, The Lord showed me it is once again time to change my thinking.

Guilt can be a powerful weapon that the enemy can use to discourage us. When we make a good choice the enemy whispers, “Yeah, good one, but look at all the choices you made yesterday!” When we spend time with our loved ones the enemy reminds us, “Girl, you sure should have said or done that differently!” He uses guilt to tie us down to the point where we go through survival mode from day-to-day.  I heard somewhere this mindset was called “stinkin’ thinkin’ “. You may ask how do I break this roller coaster of guilt.  The key to stopping this lock down is to begin celebrating what is rather than what is not. I think we need to confess our weakness to God and ask Him to help us to develop an “attitude of gratitude”.

This is our truth. God wants us to be grateful. “Count Your Blessings” was a song I grew up singing. In the business of life, I often forget to count my blessings and focus on the guilt. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “In everything give thanks…” God can show us something to be thankful for in everything we face. Think about all the Psalms that focus on thankfulness. Psalms 105:1, Psalms 106:1, and Psalms 107:1 all begin by giving thanks to the Lord. We need to recognize that the mind can be a powerful weapon against us or a blessing of thanks to encourage us. It remains in us whether we will live in a state of victory or defeat. We need to stop feeling guilty for our size whatever it is and be grateful we are God’s, and we are beautiful to Him. We need to stop agonizing over what we said or did yesterday, and celebrate the wonderful people God has given us to love. We need to focus on God’s Word and how much He has blessed us with every day. Remember, we are human. We are going to make mistakes. We are not going to do everything perfectly every time. Only God is divine. God will help us in our weakness if we realize that He has the strength and the power to break the guilt that is holding us down. Remember Job? He began every day giving thanks to the Lord, even on the day when He seemingly lost it all, however, God was with Job and restored all he had lost. Job’s cry was “blessed be the name of the Lord”. Step out with God and choose to be grateful. It is the first step!

Dear Lord, My heart’s prayer is that you help me to be grateful for You and all You have done for me. Help me when I lean toward guilt rather than gratefulness. Help me to guard my heart and my mind. Bring these verses to my mind when I am about to falter. I love you, Lord. I am grateful for my salvation, and the ones you have given me to serve. Thank you my precious Father! Amen

When God Grins

There are days, and then there are DAYS! At times here lately, I have felt my world begin turned upside down. Like a kid with a new snow globe, there are days when I feel life shaking me so hard then watching me try to settle back in place. That unsettled feeling seems to linger longer than I would like, and I pray and ask the Father to put all the pieces back the way that He would have them to be. It is in these times, He pulls me closer and says, “Wait and watch what I can do!”

This weekend my sons came home from working at camp for the summer. It was so good to see them and visit. My oldest headed back on Sunday because he works at camp year round. My youngest is home to stay. Since he finished high school in May, after camp he was planning on getting a job locally and earning some money before starting college. Of course, with our life in transition right now I wondered this morning how God would work it all out. Father God has been so faithful to us over the last several months I did not doubt He would work it out for “Youngest” a job, just didn’t know how or where. First thing this morning “Youngest” hit the pavement job hunting. I shared our need with my co-workers, and we prayed God would provide a job for him.  My husband call about 1  1/2 hours after I got to work (shortly after we prayed) and God had provided a job for “youngest” and he was starting in the next 30 minutes. Who can do that but God! When I need a smile from the Father, He whispered, “My child I can do better than that…” and He grinned at me.

As I study the Word of God, I long to know God more. As I pray and seek Him, He has been ready to be found. I am reminded of the story in the Old Testament when God was not to be found in the whirlwind or in the earthquake, but He was to be found as He whispered in a still small voice. I wonder if in the past I have gotten so busy that even If He had spoken in the whirlwind I would not have heard him. He chooses to speak to me when I settle into those quiet moments to look for him. Some days you may feel like everything in your life has shaken upside down. In those times, run to the Father, go to Him in prayer, grab your Bible and read His words. Let the God of Heaven hold you close. Only when you are close will you see His gentle smile and sometimes when you least expect it that smile will turn to a grin. This lets you know, He has everything under control.

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

A Kind Word

Someone once said, “You don’t know what’s missing until it’s gone!”, and in a sense I guess that is true. However, some things in life you don’t realize how much you have missed until you begin to experience them again. A kind word from someone is one of those things. Often we may find ourselves in a rut of going to church, putting on our “happy face”, putting in our God time, and leaving without really interacting and having fellowship with those around us. When was the last time you really took the time to give a kind word to someone, and encourage them in their walk with Christ? There is a point when so much is going on in our lives that we hit survival mode and are only able to go to church, and meet with God and that is all we can handle at that moment. The cares of this world may have driven you to a place that you barely can put one foot in front of the other. When we find ourselves in this place, God may use someone to speak a kind word or offer a prayer on our behalf that will help us to see that God has not left us and we still have christian friends that are there for us as well. One of the best things about being a part of the body of Christ and in a God filled church is that you can be there for each other.

In the last month when my husband was so sick, I was so encouraged by all of the kind words, prayers, texts of encouragement, cards, support of our church friends & family, and even people I had not met but who heard about our situation and responded with encouragement and blessings. Some will never know this side of Heaven the extent of the joy that brought to me. Though I tried to express my thankfulness, It has meant so much more that a mere, “Thank you” can cover. Those of you who have ministered to us, you have shared fellowship with us that caused our joy to abound. (I John 1:3-4)

For the last two weeks, my husband has been interim pastor at a new church. One of the things I have really enjoyed has been getting to know the new people and sharing our lives with them.  As I look how far God has brought us in the last couple of months and all He has taught us, I can’t help but try to pass on the encouragement I have experienced. I have again realize the importance of sharing a kind word with someone. Many in this world are carrying burdens and are hurting. You never know that your word, prayer, text, card, etc. will be the difference that will turn them once again to the Heavenly Father. You have a wonderful opportunity to share a kind word that will produce ripples of encouragement throughout someone’s life. Don’t hold back! Give a Kind Word!!!

Before You Ask…

Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you wanted something badly? It is not a big thing, or something that will make the world a better place.  It’s just a “it would so nice if this would happen” moment. Let me share such an experience with you.

I had been saving some money toward a new dining room table and chairs. One by one my chair were breaking beyond the point of repair and my table top contained a permanent maker doodle by a young man who will remain nameless (because it was done accidentally, of course). So whenever I had a little extra, I put it in the dining room fund envelope. I was looking at furniture stores in my spare time trying to decide which one would look the best and be the most affordable. I scoured every sale paper waiting for just the right fit for my room and to match the cabinet that my husband and dad had built for me several years ago. The week after Christmas several stores were having end of the year sales and I had invited my sweet in-laws for an after Christmas celebration. I found the perfect set and Gordon and I had saved enough to purchase it. (Great deal, by the way!) I did think and pray on it for a day or two just to make sure I had peace about this one because it was an important purchase for me.  I felt I could go forward with this so I stopped by the store to buy it and have it delivered to my home. After the transaction was complete,  the saleslady said that my table and two chairs would be delivered. I had purchased 6 chairs, but she said that they only had two in the warehouse and the other 4 chairs would not be delivered for two weeks. She asked me if I wanted to go through with the purchase. I was disappointed, but told her to go ahead and then wait and deliver everything  together when all the chairs were in and ready to go. 

I will admit I went home with a heavy heart. I really wanted to use the new set for the special dinner I had planned with Gordon’s parents. I had been experiencing all kinds of emotions since Christmas Eve when Gordon got so sick and I had been trying to keep upbeat and encouraging. I prayed and asked the Lord to strengthen me and to help me not to be disappointed, but to be happy to share this special time with my family. He really helped me when I needed Him that day. I got out a special tablecloth and began to plan my dinner. It would be OK.

Imagine my surprise when on the morning of the day my in-laws were coming, I received a knock on the door at 8:30 a.m. A furniture truck was in my driveway and the workmen were pulling out a table and not two chairs, but all six chairs. I was so excited. God gave me a wonderful blessing that day. God showed me that even the small thing that I did not ask Him for, He gave to me anyway.  God heard my heart’s cry and showed me that the desires of my heart mattered to Him. I felt the love of my Heavenly Father in a very real way. In all that was going on in my life, He gave me an extra ounce of his goodness and love. He took the time to say, “I love you, my child.” In this moment, He whispered, “I just care so much about you.”

The verses that came to my mind are in Ephesians 3:17-20, “That Christ may dwell in you hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love. May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,”  He loves us so much and wants us to experience the fullness of who He is. God wants us to know His love in such a real way that it overcomes us, and we just have to stop and bask in his goodness. I feel He also wants us to share this love with other believers. I know He is a God who can do “exceeding abundantly above”.  He responded to my heart before I could ask or think. He is ready to do that for his children. God loves us just that much.  I have trouble comprehending that kind of  love, but He still wants me to try to comprehend it. Christ wants us to know that He offers this kind of love to us all.

What are you thinking of, but are afraid or reluctant to ask God for? Go ahead and ask Him!

 He knows what you are thinking anyway. 🙂

Bacon and Bits

I live in a small town. I realize that there are those who love the city and all the perks that city life entails. I am glad to say however that I like living in the country and serving the wonderful people the Lord has given me to minister too.  Today, as I was standing in line at a local restaurant waiting to order, I realized that this was the day for the annual hog show in our town.  I don’t know how I missed this fact. I had been wondering why the restaurant was overly crowded for a Monday.

This restaurant has two dining areas: one is toward the back and enclosed so it can be partitioned off for birthday parties and special events and a large open one up front. Five days a week at lunch the back one is open for overflow because this is a very popular place to visit for lunch. This place always serves good food and more often than not you will see one or more of your friends any given day of the week. It was in all of my contemplating that I saw a sign over the counter. “If you are with the hog show, please sit in the front dining room.”  How funny is that.  I think they were afraid to coop these individuals up in the enclosed dining area. 🙂 I admit this cracked me up. This could only happen in a small town.

How often I wonder do we tend to do this in our churches? Do we approach with open arms those that may look different than what we are used to? I often wonder how many snap judgments we make when someone sits down in our church. Do we try to change the outside of this person without taking time to find out what is in their heart?  Jesus himself chose to spend his time with publicans and sinners showing them how much he loved them. In my case, I am glad Jesus chose to be with me rather than turn up his nose at my sinful condition.  I think it’s time to start looking deeper into our hearts and check our motives. Our churches show be a place where people are loved and made to feel at home in the presence of God. Sometimes I think we even get territorial about the section we sit at in our church. We should get to the place when every place in our sanctuaries and our hearts are completely open to everyone.

I wonder what reaction we would have in our churches if we put up a sign, “Welcome Everyone! Please sit any where you would like!”

*Hey, Friends. Just wanted to give you all a shout out and a quick update on the Clouds. Gordon is doing some better. We are still working on regulating his blood pressure. He has had some good days and some bad days.  His leg is better and We are working on our diets. He goes back to the doctor on Wednesday for a check up. For all those who have kept us in your prayers, I wanted to say, “thanks.” I have felt them. Also Thank you for all your concern. It means so much to have friends and family who support you in times of difficulty. May God bless all of you as you have truly blessed us!

**Gordon has updated everyone on his health issues on his blog. Blessings.

Wanting It All…

In my quest to get ready to leave town for a few days, I called a good friend and asked her to feed my cats. Being the good pet owner that I am (hehe), I bought a large, brand new bag of cat food to make sure Marshmallow, Mocha, and Tom had all that they needed and would not run out of food. I put it up on the barbecue grill to await my friend who will be stopping by tomorrow. I finished my packing and “hit the hay”. Much to my chagrin, this morning I walked out on my  porch to find a large, brand new bag of cat food on the floor. They still had food in their bowl yet they had managed to knock it off the grill and eat a hole not only in the bag, but also all the way through it. When I held the bag up for a look, I saw my neighbors through the hole in the bag. Crazy Cats!

I think sometimes I find myself in the same predicament. I want what I want when I want it, not being content with what I already have at my disposal.  I can’t help but wonder if I am alone in this. All throughout the Bible there is verse upon verse on contentment. This could be because the Lord knew this would be a weakness in us. After all, didn’t Adam and Eve have the Garden of Eden at their finger tips to use and consume? They chose however to go after the one thing that they could not have, “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. (Genesis 3) In His Word, God gives us several powerful verses for us to use to combat discontentment.

Paul said it best in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: but I have learned that whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul knew what it was like to want something. I think of the ailment he experienced with his eyesight, and how he asked the Lord to remove it three times. When God did not, Paul chose with God’s help to be content. He speaks of contentment as something that he had to learn to do. The state of being content is just like anything else; we have to work at it daily. When we constantly focus on the things that we do not have or own rather than the things that we have, we can grow discontent in our lives. It is a daily decision to be thankful and content.

In I Timothy 6:6-8, we read, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing in this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” I think the second thing we need to realize is that nothing that we have is ours to being with. Our possessions are blessings from God. All that we have in this life is given to us by God. How often have you seen someone accumulate so much and it is lost to a fire or flood? To cultivate contentment we need to realize our things are just things, and all things belong to God. In Psalm 8 and 24, we read how “earth is the Lord’s and all that dwell therein”. When we begin to look at what we have from God’s point of view, we see how our focus will change from “the things we possess” to the “God of all possessions”.

Thirdly, Contentment can be achieved because of who we have, Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 13:5 reads, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” We should not sit around and talk over our possessions. Such as, “This person has this and this, wouldn’t that be nice to have.” Too much of this can lead to coveting what someone else has. I think in this verse Christ is saying to us, “You are not alone. You have me. The wealth of my kingdom is for your use. Let me give to you the things that you need, and be content with what I choose to give you. No matter what I choose for you, I will be with you through it all. I will be your constant companion.”

To many times we fall in the trap of discontentment. May we all rely on the one who began us in this life and will be with us no matter what we have. May we all trust Him to know what is best for us. Remember, When we have Christ, we truly have it all.

Happy #12

It seems like yesterday that I was in the hospital giving birth to my eldest child. It was not yesterday, but actually 12 years ago today. I remember counting the days of my pregnancy. I couldn’t wait to become a mom, yet I was a little nervous about having a living, breathing gift from God in my care. I was sent to the hospital by my mid-wife on Monday morning on July 15, 1996. My baby boy was born 32 hours later at 9:00 p.m. I remembered the amazing love that swept over me as the doctor placed that wiggling, crying baby in my arms as my husband and mother-in-love looked on. My boy is constantly amazing me even today. 

Clay is one of those kids that was born to communicate. He loves people. Even as a toddler in the buggy at the grocery store. He wanted to talk to everyone who passed by. He kept the cashiers entertained constantly. If he saw another child, He wanted to “meet that kid” he would say. He organizes the kids at church in games after the service in the church yard. Clay is definitely a go-get-er, and never at a loss for words.

Clay also has a heart for God. At age 5, Clay called on the Lord to save him. His love for God shines through all he does. During Vacation Bible School, he witnessed to some of the kids in his class and encouraged them to make a decision for Christ. One friend of his made a decision to follow the Lord in baptism since he had already accepted Christ. Clay was so excited; he was practically bouncing off the walls. I was so proud of Clay. I pray that God will keep him safe from worldly influences and continue to work in his heart and life.

For the first time in his life, Clay is not with me on his birthday. He is at R. A. camp.  I am probably more melancholy about this than he is. Nothing gets him down for long and I know he is having a blast today with all the new friends he is making. So if all of you would be so kind as pray for “Mom” and “Meme” (Clay’s grandma) today, We would appreciate it. Meme has never missed seeing Clay on his birthday either. She was there for him when he was born and been there for him every day since.

Thanks for taking the time to let me share with you about my boy. He is the joy of my life. Happy “12th” Birthday, Clay! I pray you have 100 more.

“Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord…”  ~ Psalm 127:3

A Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all You do provide,
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side,
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and dreary fall,
Thanks for tears by  now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul,
Thanks for prayers that You have answered.
Thanks for prayers You do deny,
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for pains, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair,
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare,
Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain,
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain,
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heavenly peace with Thee,
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity.
–Author Unknown

When was the last time we just took a moment and said, “Thanks”.

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God… I Thessalonians 1:18 

When you need a Word…

As a child, my parents, Sunday school teachers, and pastors have encouraged me to pursue Scripture memorization.  One of the highlights of my young years was going to a Bible Club every Wednesday in the next neighborhood over from ours. We were taught stories from God’s Word, and lessons on how to follow Jesus. We were taught the plan of Salvation through the verses of the Romans Road (Romans 3:10; 3:23; 5:8; 5:12; 9:10-13).  Scripture Memory was emphasized every week. We were sent home with a cookie and a Scripture verse on a piece of paper to learn for the next week. One of the first verses I learned was Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against God.”  I also learned Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” They even offered a complete camp scholarship if you learned 300 verses of Scripture. I was encouraged to go for it. I am so glad I had people in my life to encourage me in the study and memorization of God’s Word.

It is because of these early experiences that I am blessed today. There have been times in my life when I needed a word from the Lord. The things we face in this life can catch us off guard and circumstances can overwhelm  us to the breaking point. Have you ever been in a situation where you needed a word from the Lord and your Bible was either in the car or back at home? This is where the Lord began to bring verses of Scripture to my mind when I needed them most. Sometimes it was just a phrase or two of a verse, but a phrase is often sufficient when in tribulation.  I was reminded of this again when I was sitting at my desk quite overwhelmed with a problem, and I found myself really scared. I prayed to the Lord for help, and in an instant the Scripture came, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” Over and over on that day, when thoughts of fear came, the phrase remained. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” How thankful I am that He is willing to speak to me where ever I am with words of comfort from His Holy Word.

The Word of God is more than just a book. It is a living testament of a Holy God reaching down to man. The promises are endless. The words are true. God has given to us a guide on how to live this life. We, as a follower of Christ, need to follow his teaching wholeheartedly.  Pehaps you would like to  know more of the word of God. Take one or two verses per week and commit them to memory. You may think that one or two verses a week is not much, but as time goes by you will know more and more the heart of God, and when you least expect it, He will bring to mind a verse that will give you what you need for that moment.  You can ask the Lord to guide you and He will. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know many verses from memory, you can start today. I am glad that God is willing to take us right where we are and move us forward. He does that just because He can, just because He is God.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”  ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

‘Tis the Season

The Christmas season is here. The time has begun to fight for parking in the Wal-Mart parking lot and the mall parking lot, and to wait in long check out lines behind 50 other people while the store insists on only having 3 lines open and 15 lines closed.  Nevertheless, I take great joy in the Christmas season. 

I love the lights and sounds of Christmas.  I decorated my office yesterday with all things “Christmasy”.  Colors, Red, Green, and Gold, abound everywhere.  “A Charlie Brown Christmas” CD  is playing in the background. (“dun, dun, dun,”  “dun, dun, dun,”  “dunnnnn, dun”)  I always look forward to decorating my home so tonight is the night.  It’s time to trim the tree.  We will have white chili bubbling on the stove, and the smell of Christmas cookies lingering in the air.  We always have such fun putting up the tree and even more so since last year we purchased one of those pre-lighted ones that come in three sections. My hubby, Gordon, is rather fond of the new tree. The manger scene and Christmas village are soon to follow.

Truly, the No. 1 reason I love Christmas is to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, The birth of our Lord.  I am so glad He chose to come to dwell among men, and give us an opportunity to be clean before a Holy God.  Jesus came because He knew it was the only way to save mankind from the sinful state in which we were entangled. 

In Galatians 4:4-5, we read, “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”  Jesus is the only way to God. He made a way when there was no way. We were in bondage under the law, and the law demands justice for sins committed.  Christ came to redeem us so we could be extended grace and mercy.  We now have the opportunity to come to God.  “Thank you, Jesus, for coming as a baby, living a sinless life, and dying on the cross to bear my sin, punishment, and shame.” 

Tonight as I am trimming my tree and spending time with my dear ones, I will continue to thank him for coming to earth and being willing to give what only He could give to me…Life Eternal. 

‘Tis the Season…