Monday Moments

Well this Monday is almost over.  It’s 11:54 p.m. and I seriously need sleep! But today has been a blessing and I want to follow through with my “Monday moments”… redeeming my Monday’s for the Lord and being thankful.

I have one sibling.  A sister.  She is four years younger than me.  She is also about five feet, nine inches tall, blond, and resembles our dad’s side of the family.  I on the other hand am five feet three inches tall (well maybe two and three quarter inches!), brunette (umm…though blondish now), and resemble our mom’s family.  We live over six-hundred miles apart so we have not seen each other in 2 1/2 years…until this weekend.  Today was “our day”.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine…”  Proverbs 17:22

We had lattes and grocery shopped and browsed.  We reminisced, laughed, snorted, almost tinkled, and laughed and snorted some more!  Oh how fun to be with my baby sister again!

I believe God is pleased when we laugh.  When we hear our children’s or grandchildren’s laughter, and see their enjoyment of life we smile.  It’s the same with God.  He loves to bless His children with good things and it brings Him joy to see us enjoying those gifts.

Family is a gift.  Enjoy that blessing.  Be thankful for the family you have, because none of us know how long we will have one another.  Don’t waste precious time staying angry and holding grudges.  Be the bigger person if you have to.  Make the first move to mend a strained relationship.  Learn to laugh with each other again.  Not only will you feel blessed beyond measure, but you will bring a smile to the heart of God.

A good laugh heals a lot of hurts. — Madeleine L’Engle

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. — Phyllis Diller

He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast. — Proverbs 15:15

Keep Laughing!

Debbie

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Just For Java?

I love my coffee.  Well, love may be too strong a word, but I do take great pleasure in that cup (or cups) of coffee.  The aroma satisfies me almost as much as the taste.  I have actually become quite the coffee snob, because not just any coffee will do.  It has to be bold yet smooth, so there are only certain brands I will buy.  Though I’ve tried to break the habit, I am a regular at my local coffee shop.  I enjoy it so much that many days I’ll repeat the pleasure in the afternoon!

DSCN2789Then there is the cup or mug.  Ah yes, the vessel I choose is of much importance to me as well.  I don’t get quite the same enjoyment out of the coffee if that mug doesn’t fit quite right in my hand, like it was made just for me.  It has to keep my coffee good and hot as well.  And of course it has to be clean.  Nothing can ruin a good cup of coffee quicker than a dirty vessel.  After savoring the aroma for a moment or two you raise the mug to your lips, anticipating that wonderful first taste.  You take a drink and….BLECH!  You get a  mouthful of all these little bits of…you don’t know what and not sure you want to.  Down the drain it goes (along with rinsing your mouth out).  You start over….with a clean vessel this time.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary gives four definitions for the word vessel, a noun.  For my purpose here, I am only using the first two.  “1: a container (as a barrel, bottle, bowl or cup) for holding something  2:  A person held to be the recipient of a quality (as grace).” 

In scripture we find that we are referred to as vessels.  2 Timothy 2:21 says: “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from these things (see previous verses), he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”  NASB.  In Acts 9:15, God was speaking to the prophet Ananias concerning Saul (who was soon after named Paul) saying: …”Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel.” KJV. 

You may be thinking; “Me?  A vessel God wants to use?  Really?”  Yes!  But we need to do our part.  Just like we don’t want to drink our java out of a dirty vessel…it taints it, steals our enjoyment of it….we have to be clean as well so God can use us.  Then others, as well as ourselves, can enjoy being a vessel used by God.  “So how do I do that?” you ask.  I’m glad you asked!

In John 15:3 Jesus is speaking to his disciples.  He says, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.”  Psalm 119:9 poses the question; “How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word.”  God’s word cleanses us.  It speaks to our spirit and opens our eyes to our own sin so that we may repent, or turn from it keeping ourselves clean. 

We can also be made clean through prayer.   In the Psalms David cried out to God in prayer many times.  In chapter 19, verse 12, he said to God; “Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse me from secret faults.”  In chapter 51 verse 2, he said; “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”  Finally, in 1 John1:9 we are told; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Life gets hard, we are all aware of that.  Honestly, at times it seems like everything around us keeps dumping in on us and dirtying our vessel.  To remain clean, we need to keep talking to God in prayer and reading His word.

I once head someone ask the question; “Which dog are you feeding, the  white one or the black one?  Because the one you feed is the one that’s going to grow.”  We need to continually be feeding on God’s word, so it’s His statutes and precepts we will know and obey….not what the world says is right.  Our difficult circumstance may not change, but we can still make sure that we are feeding the right dog….and regularly cleaning our vessel.  That way, no matter what we may be going through, others will savor that wonderful aroma (of Christ) when we are around them (see 2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

So pour that cup of java and enjoy while you’re cleansing your “vessel” through prayer and God’s word!

Cleansing with you Sweet Sisters,

Debbie

 

Monday Moments

From the time I got up this morning, I couldn’t get it out of my head.  Monday moments.  What am I to do with that phase?

I have always struggled with Mondays.  Always thought that the first half of Monday should be an extension of the weekend.  The second half could be the start of the work week.  Don’t you think that’s a good idea?  Give us a few extra hours to build up steam…like a locomotive.  It starts out slow, building up speed as it goes!

I think in the years I’ve had to deal with chronic illness, Mondays have gotten harder for me.  I’m exhausted from the weekend, and it doesn’t even have to be a busy one.  It’s just being out of my little ol’ routine.  Then there is that wonderful “to do” list that is always far longer that I have the energy for on any given Monday.

As I continued to ask God what I was supposed to do with that phrase, it struck me.  Instead of always being overwhelmed and weary, be on the lookout for one verse, one quote, one blessing….something that puts my focus on Him.  I may not accomplish even a fraction of my “to do” list, but I can always find something to smile about.  There is always something to be thankful for.

So I am going to be on the lookout for those Monday moments.  Moments where I’m reminded to be thankful, or reminded of what is important.  Maybe simply something that brought me joy.   I’m not sure where God may take this, but I’m willing to follow His lead.  Will you please join me?  I am going to attempt to post something short every Monday.  I would love it if you would share your Monday moments in the comments.  Together, let’s turn our mundane Mondays into Monday moments that glorify the One Who gives us every moment to praise Him!

Today’s Monday moment came from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional.  Some excerpts that I needed to be reminded of today:

“We give thanks to God not because of how we feel but because of who He is.”

“He who is grateful for little is given much laughter … and it’s counting the ways He loves, this is what multiplies joy.”

“The life that counts blessings discovers its yielding more than it seems.”

“Why don’t I keep more of an eye on the number of His graces?  Why don’t I want to know that even though it doesn’t seem like there’s been enough rain, He reigns and He is enough and the bounty is greater than it appears?”

Oh God yes.  So many blessings.  So many graces in our lives that show how very much You love us.  Even on the hardest of days, it is You who breathes life into us.  It is You who gives the strength to go on when we have none.  Give me eyes to see Father.  Give me a heart that remembers to always look for ways You provide, ways You bless.  It is all grace.  I want to always remember.  Help me to always be thankful, because You are always faithful.  Thank you Jesus.

Counting blessings,

Debbie

Finding JOY in Suffering

Suffering.  It’s an ugly word.  None of us want to suffer, nor do we want to see a loved one suffer.  But the hard truth is that life on this planet Earth is filled with pain and disappointment.  It gets difficult, heart breaking, and gut wrenching hard.  There is no avoiding it as long as we have breath in us.  People have  wondered for centuries why God would allow all the evil and suffering that goes on in this world.  Fact is, God is God and we are not.  His perspective is far greater than ours is.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”   Isaiah 55:8-9

DSCN3070      The Bible makes no attempt to sugar coat, or hide the fact we will all suffer at one time or another in this life.  Many places in scripture we are told we will suffer…to expect it.  But we also see it through the very real lives we read about throughout scripture.  Though we may not see it at the time, for the Christian, God does have a purpose in our suffering.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”        Psalm 119:67, 71

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”  1 Peter 5:10

    When we take the time to search out the meaning of certain words in their original language, it can give us a better understanding of what is being said.   The basic meanings of the highlighted words above are; to set fast, to complete thoroughly, to lay a firm foundation.  Whenever God allows suffering, His purpose is to use it toward making us complete in him.  He is using it as stepping stones, laying for us a firm foundation. 

     The Greek verb for “strengthen”, sthenoo,  means “to strengthen in spiritual knowledge and power”.  How?  Look again at the verses above.  “…but now I keep Your word.”  “…that I may learn Your statutes.”  Friends, we cannot keep His word or learn His statutes if we are not reading and studying it.  Both of which will strengthen us in spiritual knowledge and power!  His purpose is to drive us to Him.  His desire is that we would  talk with Him in prayer, that we would read and study His word.  Not only to gain knowledge, but to know Him more. 

     So suffering keeps us dependent on God.  It causes us to pray more….because hey, admit it….don’t you tend to pray much more when troubles hit than when everything is just peachy?  Sad but true for most all of us I believe.

     Trials and suffering send us back to God’s Word, searching for wisdom and promises to stand on which will hold us steady.  Through His word we learn to know His heart.

     Suffering also keeps us humble.  We’re human.  Us humans tend to get pretty self-sufficient and self-important.  We need to remain humble and realize that without Him, we are really nothing special (John 15:4-5).

Are you beginning to see it?

     If suffering keeps us praying, reading, depending on, and growing in Him…isn’t that a reason to…be Joy filled?  Yes please!

“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”  Jeremiah 15:16

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”  Psalm 16:11

     This kind of joy is not denying the reality of our particular situation.  It has nothing to do with being “happy” all the time.  Happiness is circumstantial.  Deep, abiding joy is with us no matter what storm is blowing around us.  It comes from internal factors – like our faith in the One True God…and our relationship with Him.

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God”   Isaiah 45:5a

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”  Isaiah 45:3

     We experience this joy when we have no doubt that God is in control of all the details.  We know this joy when we have a quiet confidence that He is present with us…personally…through this, and we can praise Him for who He is, even in the midst of our suffering.  We can feel sad…and at same time still have the joy of the Lord within us.

     There is one more thing that ties this all together, all this about joy in suffering…

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”     1 Thessalonians 5:18

     Dear friend, God is always good and gracious to us.  His blessings are truly abundant, and He wants His best for His children.  When we have a thankful heart, it steadies the storm of suffering.  Though we can not always be thankful for the exact circumstance, we can be thankful that God keeps His promises.  We can be thankful that He is with us through the suffering.  We can be thankful He will strengthen us and comfort us.  We can be thankful that….

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.”  Psalm 40:1-3

     Oh friend, I pray that you can surrender to Him….whatever wave of suffering you may be riding on right now, let a thankful heart steady the ride.  Seek Him.  He promises you will find Him.

     My prayer for you is that you will know the Joy of the Lord, and you will be blessed with joy’s traveling companions…peace and hope.  I pray your burden will be light, and you will soon be singing a new song…one of joy and praise.

Blessings to you dear friends.

Love,

Debbie

 

UNPLUG – I Double Dare You

DSCN3057Unplug…all of it for a few precious minutes each day and be quiet.  No phone.  No radio or podcast.  No email or social media.  Just be quiet and tell God you want to hear Him.  It would be a good idea to actually hear what your spouse and/or children are saying too!

We get so caught up in the hustle of our days, and the proverbial “to-do” list that even when we do stop physically we still aren’t   Q. U. I. E. T.  We stop and plop down in front of the television, computer, or smart phone that’s stuck in our hand like another appendage.

We all know Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God;…”

Yet we are never still and quiet enough to hear His still, small voice.  I like the NASB translation of this verse.  It reads;

Cease striving and know that I am God;…” 

The meaning is: Let go, relax.  I’m thinking….”Let go of your device!!!”

Maybe we take a few minutes to read a verse or two or three in our Bible, but we close it and dash off to the next thing without listening to what God…the Holy Spirit wants to speak into our hearts about it.  We aren’t listening to what He wants to teach us, or what He desires for us to do about what we just read.

Not only is listening for, and to God important in our lives, but so is actively listening to our families.  Do we actually look at them when they are speaking to us?

Whether we have been at work all day or working at home, we need to look into our spouses’ eyes when they talk to us.  We need to actively look at our children as they are telling us about their day.  Because believe me, if parents do not actively listen to, and look at their children when they are young, there will come a day when they will quit trying to tell you anything…and that is a tragedy.

Okay, so maybe you don’t have a spouse or children.  Maybe your children are grown.  That’s fine, because we all need to apply this, no matter who the people are in our lives.  We all need to unplug…silence the phone for awhile and put it down.  Enjoy the blessings of silence, and time to read and think.  Be thankful for the blessing of time with God, family, and others in our lives by making the most of the time we have together.

Yes, there are many benefits to the internet and these devices of ours.  However…..there are also dangers and risks.  Some dangers I’m sure come immediately to your mind.  Though there are conflicting statistics, a brief internet search shows that there is a very real “internet addiction”.  I get it.  If someone struggles with a drug or alcohol addiction, they need to completely avoid the addictive substance.  But the internet and our devices, I think would be more like a food addiction.  We need food to live, so one cannot completely avoid the addictive substance – food.  The addiction has to be brought under control through various means.  So it is with the internet and our devices.  We shop online, pay bills on line, check tons of email…important and…not so much.  Many of our jobs and ministries require a good bit of online time.  Then there’s social media.  But is it really that important to scroll through the entire several hours of statuses since we last logged in to see what we’ve missed?!

We have to draw the line somewhere.  That line is going to be different for each of us.  But I think we can agree that it’s all too easy to become so connected to all of our devices, that we become very disconnected in our relationships.

Here are links to two very good articles on how our screen time is seriously affecting our marriages and our children.  One is Christian, one is not.  But both give some concise and very eye opening information on the subject.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/04/ways-screens-are-ruining-your-familys-life_n_3860927.html

http://www.marriagetoday.com/unplug-your-marriage/

I want to share just a few thoughts from scripture, but lest I appear as a big, fat hypocrite…….I am convicted.  I am in the rut myself and need to make some changes.  I too, need to learn how to set limits for myself on online time…especially in the evenings.  At least once a week, like tonight, I’m working on finishing a blog post.  But all the other evenings there’s far too much time spent on social media and “just browsing”.  Time that could be spent reading or talking with my husband when he’s home, not to mention getting to bed at a much earlier hour.

I am so ashamed to admit this, but a typical evening, after the dinner clean-up and evening walk is this;  Hubs on one end of the couch with the tablet, me on the other end with my laptop, in front of the television with our phones nearby to catch the occasional text or email.  Next to each other, connected….yet disconnected.  Lord have mercy!  It’s scary how easily these things can become a distraction…then a habit.

In 1 Peter 3:7, husbands are told to;

“…live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

Men, how can you learn to understand your wives if you are not “observing” them….seeing the heart behind the words or behavior?  Be a student of your wife…learning what makes her tick.  Learn to know and understand her heart.

Wives, we too need to “observe” our husbands, be sensitive to their needs, be their helper, and treat them respectfully.  Proverbs 31:11-12 tells us;

“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”

Finally, Psalm 127:1a, 3a, 4 says;

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…”  “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord…”   “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”

If God says our children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior…where are you aiming your children?  Every day, every moment is shaping them, and pointing them….somewhere.  Live in your home in such a way that you are pointing yourself first to Jesus….then making every effort to point your children to Him

Kind David said in Psalm 101:2;

“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way…..I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”

Colossians 3:17 tells us;

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus….”

Let’s live our lives within our homes, as well as outside of them in such a way that honors Christ and blesses our families.  Take time to unplug and plug in to the True Power Source.  You will find a peace and calm amidst the daily hustle.  You will find a joy and happiness in your days that has been missing.

My prayer is that we will be reminded to invest the time we are given in people, in our relationships, and not waste so much of that time being distracted on our phones, computers and televisions.

Let’s encourage one another to do exactly that!  Will any of you take the challenge to unplug from your devices and connect a bit more with your families….with God?!  Let me know in the comments what changes you need to make, and how it’s going!  My first step is to spend no more than 20 minutes of screen time evenings (unless I’m writing!), and stop carrying my phone with me almost continually.

I think this one is to be continued!  I need to be held accountable myself!

All for His Glory!

Debbie