Power Couple {10.6.17}

POWER. Some have it. Some think they have it. Some want it. Some abuse it. Some use it wisely.

WISDOM. That’s the key ingredient needed when you have been given power. Wisdom comes from God.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been studying the book of Esther. It’s quite an intriguing story (true story I might add).  I’ve been thinking about Esther and how she not only pushed the envelope, she pushed it all the way out of the box. Let’s take a look at her bold actions and statements as we view the marriage of King Xerxes and Queen Esther – the power couple.

Queen Esther: She had been brought with many, many other young girls to be prepared to be presented to the king. Of all the girls presented, she was the one King Xerxes chose as queen. Even so, she could not come into the King’s presence unless summoned. To go to him on her own could mean her immediate death. The only exception would be if the king granted her favor by extending his gold scepter to her. Then her life would be spared. I know…this sounds crazy in our world today here in the United States but, that was the culture. Even today if we traveled much outside of our country, we would find similar things that would seem bizarre to us. The thing was, the king was the ruler. If he gave you an order or asked you a question, you better hop to it, queen or not.

King Xerxes: He had the power. He didn’t always use it wisely. He was swayed by others. He gave power to those who used it with evil intent. He seemed quite shallow at times. His actions made me think that he was living in his own little world and didn’t realize much about what was happening around him. He had the power of life or death in his hands and could use it at will. Others were at his mercy. But even though all of these things appear true, we see glimpses of his kindness and compassion.power couple

Here are some things that just amaze me about this power couple’s marriage story:

Esther’s boldness and courage. First of all, she did go before the king without being summoned. Not only that but when he asked her what was wrong, she didn’t answer him. Instead, she put him off by inviting him to a banquet later that day and said she would answer him then. So, at the banquet, the king asked her once again and once again, she put him off. This time until the next day. She said she would tell him if he would come to a banquet tomorrow. That next day she finally told him what was troubling her and made her request (to spare her life and the lives of her people). There is SO MUCH to this story. I hope you take a look at it again or for the first time. But, when I think about it – she not only went into the king’s presence when she could have been killed just for that. She also refused to answer him. Not once, but twice. That’s either bold courage or foolishness.

King Xerxes kindness and compassion. He certainly wasn’t always kind or compassionate. In previous chapters of the book of Esther, we find him proud and easily led. But, in this part of their story, he looks upon Esther with kindness and grants her favor. First of all, he doesn’t have her killed for daring to come to him uninvited. Then when he asked her a question, she refused to answer but put him off instead, not only once, but twice! Still I can just feel the kindness and care he has for her dripping off the pages. He seemed really concerned about her needs or wishes. It wasn’t “all about him” this time. It was about her.

So, it makes you wonder doesn’t it? What changed Esther, the young innocent girl to the bold and courageous Queen Esther? What changed the prideful and self-indulgent King Xerxes into the compassionate husband? The key is found in Esther 4:15-17. The key is GOD – fasting and praying to GOD, the only one who can change hearts and situations. He can turn what we see as our worst nightmare into our greatest triumph. He can change a heart of stone into a compassionate heart of flesh. He can turn a coward into a brave warrior. Simply – GOD can!

The next time you feel like God is leading you to something, be brave dear friend. If God calls us to something, He will provide. We can count on it because we can count on Him. I pray for the giving and receiving of blessings for you today.

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Respect {9.25.17}

respect sign.jpgRespect – Where has it gone? Aretha Franklin sang about it. We used to see it lived out around us. It seems these days as I watch and listen, that everyone wants it but few are willing to give it. When I was growing up, we were taught respect. Respect for Self, Respect for Others (persons), and Respect for Property (that of ours and others). It wasn’t a class we took in school, it was a life lesson that we learned by example, direction and correction. Instead of all the “I” and “me” that is heard today demanding respect, “we” learned it, taught it, and gave it.

Respect is not just for the person or persons who we feel deserve it. It’s not just for the “greatest of these” but also for the “least of these”. It’s for the positions those people hold, the parents, elders, teachers, veterans, law enforcement, neighbors, firefighters, grocery clerks, etc. etc. It’s for those lying in Arlington National Cemetery who fought and died for our great nation. It’s for the office of President of these United States – the great country we call ours. It’s the “golden rule” of living – treat others as we would like to be treated. The United States of America. United States – not Divided States.

One Nation Under God. Under God – not Above God.

Its’ not for the “me” but for the “we” that should draw usin God we trust back to our roots. If you have ever had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., you will see that our country was founded “under GOD” and with His principles and values. When you visit the monuments, you will see many words written and God’s hand in them. Take a look at our currency. It says, “In God We Trust”. No matter what or in whom you believe, the facts are there. “In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) and in the beginning of our great country, GOD blessed, guided, directed and protected. Our country was not founded upon the god of “self”!

We’re not a perfect people or a perfect country but I notice many trying to get in. However, I see no lines of people trying to get out. For those who won’t stand for our country, I wonder why. If they hate it so much, why don’t they leave for a country they feel would treat them better. Or better yet, why don’t they try to treat their country better by giving it respect. Then maybe they would feel better treated by it.

respectLet’s get back to a “we” focus instead of a “me” focus. Let’s get back to “united” instead of “divided”. Let’s look to the good of all instead of the desires of one. Let’s give a little respect and hopefully we will get a little in return. Let’s stand firm for our country and not bow down to self-indulgence. Let’s pledge allegiance to our flag and sing our national anthem (The Star-Spangled Banner” loudly and proudly.

Like another song says, “I’m Proud to be an American”!

Unexpected Kindness {9.20.17}

kindness quoteI recently witnessed an unexpected kindness in an unusual place. I was standing in line to return something at a department store. There were two registers, one in front of me and one to my right. At the register in front of me stood a young mother with a newborn baby. I could not see the baby but I did see his or her tiny feet as the mother was holding the baby while trying to conduct her business. Evidently the baby had been a bit fussy because she had a cart next to her with the baby’s empty car seat in it. As I kept watching (hoping for a glimpse of the little one), she finished her transaction and the clerk was filling a rather large bag for her. Then I heard the clerk say something that surprised me. baby feetShe asked if the young mother would like help out with her things. Then she got on her pager/phone or whatever it was attached to her shirt and asked for assistance. Then she answered the same device and said that the manager would be up in a minute. She also said that he is a great guy and always ready to lend a helping hand. Well, my turn was next at the register to my right so I didn’t see her help arrive or them leave the store. But, when I was walking out, the manager was walking in – smiling. I thanked him for the sweet service he had just given and went about my day smiling as well. Some might say that was a very small thing. However, how was she going to get that cart back into the store (no cart corrals in the parking lot at these stores). I’m sure she was struggling with that thought in her mind. Then came the unexpected blessing. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make the most impact. His act of kindness made an impact on me that day.

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

kindness rockWe could use a little more kindness in our world today, couldn’t we? I’m going to try to spread a little. After all, good intentions never helped anyone.

I like this quote I recently found in a book I was reading: “True worth is doing each day some little good, not dreaming of great things to do by and by.”

Bumper Car Navigation {9.6.17}

Do you ever feel like your life has been bumping you around like a bumper car ride in a carnival? Just when you get your eyes focused in one direction – BAM! You’re bumped into another. Then just when it feels kind of safe – BAM! You get blind-sided and off you go again in a direction you had not been headed. This was not your plan. This was not your road map. This was not your career path. I never did like bumper car rides. I like to play it safe.

I am studying the book of Esther with a wonderful group of ladies and this morning as I woke up, she was on my mind. bumper carsGod began to show me how her life and ours sometimes feels just like that – a bumper car ride.

Let’s take a look at Esther’s life. She was a child with a father and mother. No worries – right? Then – BAM! Both parents died and she was an orphan. Then, the Bible tells us her male cousin took her as his own daughter and raised her. I’m sure that was quite different from being raised by a mother and father (especially as a girl) – BAM! Another bump in her road. Well, then come her teenage years (enough in itself – right?) and – BAM! Here come the king’s commissioners who are searching for beautiful girls to bring (parade really) before the king so he can select a new queen from among them. Now she’s uprooted once more and taken away from her home to go with all the other young ladies to the king’s palace. Of course they don’t really go right from their homes to see the king. Not only are they forced from their homes into this “program of sorts” – a year-long beauty treatment program, but they are now in competition with each other. Yikes! That would be hard to even form real and true friendships. How lonely they must have felt. Well, after a year, Esther is presented before the king and she finds favor in his eyes. Then, you guessed it – BAM! The king likes Esther and she’s made queen and presented with a crown. Now things are going along as you would expect when all of a sudden after a few years (5, I think), the king doesn’t call for her any longer. It’s been a month since she’s been in his presence. [She can’t speak or see him unless he requests her. – Can you imagine?] Now, another crisis arises and her male cousin asks her to go before the king and make a request of him (which when not summoned could and probably would cost her life) – BAM! Another bumper car hit her. This time so hard she got whiplash. Well, there is so much to this story – you have to read it yourself but it made me think of my life and probably most of us. Things happen that we never in a million years expected. How do we handle them?

In Proverbs 3:5-6, God tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”straight and narrow path

It seems to me that my path is never straight for very long. How about you? What I think this really means is that even with all the bumps, turns, stops and starts, if we trust in God, He will be doing the navigating for us. Those bumps and turns just may be his GPS system directing us to our destination. The thing is, we have to trust Him and make sure we are keeping our eyes on Him. Only God knows the entire plan and sees the entire picture. We have to wait for hind-sight to see how He worked it all together for good.

Years ago I did a study by Henry Blackaby called Experiencing God. I don’t have the book in front of me but if I remember correctly, in that study I believe he called all those “bumps” a crisis of belief. Do we believe God really can do anything – even with us and in this situation? If so, we must pray, seek and trust Him and then step out in faith. As a friend once told me, we need to Let Go and Let God!

We’re in the ride of our lives and we only get one shot. When we get bumped around, let’s make sure we keep our eyes on Jesus, hang on and ride it out. As long as we are following God, we will be on the right (straight and narrow) path – even if it seems pretty bumpy and jagged.

Have a great ride!

Be Still and Know… {8.23.17}

Do you hear from God? Do you sometimes wonder if it’s God or simply your own thoughts? I can answer yes to both of those questions. be still and know that I am godI regret the times of inaction on my part due to wondering if it was God or me with these “great ideas”.  I have decided this past year to push forward as long as it lines up with God’s Word and is not contrary to His Word. It never hurts to do the “right thing”, even when we’re not sure of the outcome and even when we think we are going to look silly. Been there – done that. I’m thinking back on a time a few months ago when I saw a young lady in a store, sitting on a bench with her head down looking forlorn or upset. I walked past her and then the thought came to me that I should check on her to make sure she was ok and see if I could help. So…when the though persisted, back I went. I said hello and asked if she was ok. She said YES and apparently, she was just reading something on her phone or simply taking a break. Oh well. Maybe it was me or maybe it was God just seeing if I would obey, even if…

I don’t know about you but I am usually “busy”. If my hands aren’t doing something, my mind is whirling. We don’t have to be physically active to still be preoccupied and active in our thought life. In recent years God has spoken to me the most clearly and most often when I’m in bed. It’s usually when I just wake up and my mind hasn’t started reviewing my “to do list” yet, and I’m “still”.  Quite often it seems like the thoughts are “out there” or at least “out of my league”. That’s another indication that it’s God speaking. Usually it’s something that either I don’t think I can do or it takes me way outside of my comfort zone.

Sam writing on framingWe are building a house and last week our grandson was checking out the construction with his parents and decided to write his name and date on a wall board. His Mom sent us a photo. I must have been thinking about that when I went to sleep. Anyway, when I woke up the next morning, these scriptures were in my head (see below) and I felt like God was telling me to write scriptures throughout the house while it was still in the framing stage. Not only to write the scriptures but to also pray them over the house.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 “These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

So, we selected specific scriptures scripture unless Lordfor different areas of the house and my husband and I went about writing them (29 of them actually). I also wrote them down in my prayer journal so that when they are all covered up, I’ll still know what scripture is written where and can continue to pray them. We may end up with more scriptures because I’m hoping that other family members will add to them. I have to say, I love walking through the house now and seeing God’s Word in every area. It’s comforting and brings me hope and joy.

God is serious about remembering, scripture use giftsspeaking and writing His Word. This same message is further on in the Deuteronomy text.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

Was this God speaking to me or was it my own thoughts prompted by our grandson’s action? I don’t know for sure but I know it is not contrary to God’s Will. We also know that seeds have been planted. The building superintendent on our house called and told us that he noticed scriptures written throughout the house. scripture offer hospitalityMy husband told him that we had done it. He said, “I don’t have a problem with that.” So, every day now until they are all covered up, the workers will see God’s Word. His Word is not empty. If one person seeks God from them, hallelujah!

My lesson from this: I’m trying to be still and listen because God’s voice isn’t always loud and booming. He wants us to be still and listen for it. Here’s what happened when God was speaking to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-12 “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire came a gentle whisper.”

Have a blessed day and remember to “Be Still and Know…”

Water Lilies {8.19.17}

Last week as I was driving to pick up my Mom, I drove past two small retention ponds. One of them has had water lilies for a few (or maybe several) years now so I always look for them. This time, however, I was amazed at how enormous and beautiful they were! I could not even see any water in the pond. It was totally covered with the lily pads. They were so beautiful that on our way back down that road, we pulled off and I got out and took a picture of them. Of course the photo from my phone does not do them justice but I hope you get a glimpse of how beautiful they are. water lilies 2It reminded me of God’s message to us in both Matthew and Luke which reminds us not to worry. Here’s the Luke version: “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith”! (Luke 12:27-28) Not only can and does God grow things in the soil, He grows them in the water. The common thing is that all living things need a root system for growth. The same is true of us. We need to be rooted in Christ in order to grow. And, we have to read His Word to be fed so that we can mature to our full potential, just like these beautiful water lilies.

I am constantly thrilled with the beauty God took time to create that we get to enjoy. Nature is amazing and we so often take it for granted. Plants, grasses, harvest, flowers, clouds, sunrises, sunsets and another thing I saw last week, rainbows. Here’s what God says about the nature He created in Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” We don’t have to look far to see God! There is no other explanation for life. Only God!

If we neglect to praise God as Creator, here’s what Jesus says will happen. “I tell you, he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40). Take a look outside at the beauty our Creator has given us and don’t forget to thank and praise Him. We certainly don’t want to leave it up to the stones!  ENJOY creation! He wants us to!

 

Packing and Moving {8.8.17}

Have you ever packed and moved? If so, you probably are hesitant to read this blog post. We recently moved, downsized – really downsized! We are building a house so after we sold our home, we found an apartment (with a garage – thank you, God). garage storageThat’s great because after we sold some things, gave some things away, and pitched some, we were actually able to fit it all in. It took some really creative organization and we just hope we don’t need anything that’s in a bottom box in the garage (we have a narrow path to the door from apartment to garage). But, God blessed us with this place and we are thankful.  I have to say though…it was a struggle and the night we actually slept here, we were pooped (maybe a better word is exhausted but you get the idea). Counting this apartment, we have lived in 10 different homes in the past 35 years. Funny though…I don’t remember the actual moves. Maybe I blocked them out of my mind or maybe it was because I was younger then. Regardless, this move really knocked the wind out of me. If I had to carry boxes down those stairs another day, I might have gone on strike (ha ha). During this process though I began to think about the Israelites and felt humbled, a little bit guilty and a whole lot of thankful! After all, we had time – time to sort, time to sell, time to pack, time to move (it went right down to the wire but we made it 1 hour before our house closed and we had to be out). Grumble and complain – can’t do it when I consider my blessings. Let’s take a look at the Israelites.

Their exodus took place at night. exodusThey were told it was coming but still…did that prepare them for the moment’s notice to get out of town? I wonder. They grabbed what they could carry and off they went. Then as they traveled, God went before them in a cloud. When the cloud stopped they camped. When the cloud moved, they moved. They always had to be ready to pick up everything and take off. (Numbers 9:15-23) They followed the cloud and did just what the Lord commanded, when He commanded (immediate obedience – after all, is delayed obedience really obedience?).

Exodus 15:11 “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders”? (Remember all the wonders He showed them during their trek? Parting the sea is one of my favorites but so very many…) Exodus 15:13 “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” God is good – all the time. He knows all; He created all. We can surely trust and follow Him!

I have a hobby – quilting. It’s a hobby I thoroughly enjoy (especially since I share the hobby with my daughter) but along with that hobby I have tons of stuff (supplies). As I was boxing up all the fabrics, books, tools, etc. I was a little overwhelmed myself with how many boxes it took to accommodate all my “treasures”.packing boxes.png In my defense (or justification), most of what I make is given as gifts but still – I think I might have to live to age 100 to use up everything! Humbling, a little embarrassing and extremely motivating to get busy and sew. I started thinking about what God says about our “treasures”. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not (stop) store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store (start) up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I sometimes wonder, if I just had time to grab what I could carry and leave everything else behind, what would I grab? What would you grab? Makes you stop and think doesn’t it? What are our “treasures”?

god-is-loveWell, we are settled now until the next move and I would like to leave you with this verse about treasures – God’s treasures. Deuteronomy 26:17-18 “You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.” If God is not yet your Lord, please seek Him. When you seek Him, you will find Him. His word tells us so. You will find what has been missing from your life in God, only in God. Have a blessed day!