Absorbed in my bible study, it took a few minutes for the sound to register and make me aware of my surroundings again - the unmistakable sound of our dog pawing at the back door to go out. As I got up and start walking in that direction, her anticipation was so over-whelming that she was literally dancing and jumping about. I opened the door and she bounded out as fast as she could, directly to the three palm trees that stand close enough to each other that the squirrels bound back and forth in their branches from tree to tree. You see, she loves to chase the squirrels in her yard. She has not caught one yet, praise God, but she has come very close. Finding them and then chasing them is the highlight of her days.
As I stood at the door watching her, I could not help but chuckle at the fact that because she was so focused on the trees where she has had “success” in finding them before, she completely missed the 5 squirrels that were on the ground. A couple no more than fifteen feet from where she sat staring up into the tree branches.
Then it occurred to me, by prompting of the Holy Spirit I am sure, that often times I run through my life like that. So hyper-focused on a person, a place or a situation that has brought “success” before that I miss all of the blessings my Jesus has placed around me now. I am so consumed with the path that I have set out on or turned back to that I neglect to see the favor God has for me out in plain sight if only I would change my focus.
Makes me think of horses in parades that have blinders on. Those blinders are for protection; protection for the horse, rider, and audience. Sometimes the horse cannot handle that much chaos, distraction and activity without it causing anxiety and panic.
But the blinders I tend to wear are not protecting me at all. Quite frankly, they do just the opposite. They keep me focused on my own chaos, distraction and activity that it causes anxiety and panic for me.
If I take the blinders off, I am able to see and therefore receive all of the gifts God has for me in this world - my squirrels, as it were. Gifts such as a Godly husband that loves me deeply. Gifts of healthy children that call me mom. Gifts of loving parents and sisters, and in-laws who call me their own. Brothers and sisters in Christ that speak truth into my spirit and a church that I call home.
There's also the beauty of His creation that He made just for me! He even puts flowers on “weeds” so when I, with my black-thumb, kill off all of the “good” plants in my yard it still looks pretty. His blessings and gifts and bounty goes on and on and on.
Please Lord, help me to look up from my path, take the blinders off and receive all that you have for me. Help me to stay focused on You as You direct my path. I pray that it will become my daily posture to come, on my knees, to You to calm the chaos, distraction and activity that so often causes anxiety and panic. I want to see, receive and enjoy all that you have for me daily so I can be all you designed me to be. It is in the mighty, loving name of Jesus that I pray. Amen
Special thanks to Laura Crain for sharing with us!
–branches dreamstime.com,blinders blogspot.com/blinkers,blessings linkedin.com/pulse/countless-blessings-ray-w
Yesterday, I was led to share something about my past that I didn’t want to share, especially because it was in front of someone whose approval is very important to me. For the rest of the day, my heart was heavy. I found myself struggling with why sharing this particular part of my story was causing so much hurt in my heart. I have shared parts of my story many times before, and though it has never been easy, I've never experienced emotions quite like this.
I found a quiet space to just sit still before my Father, and I asked for help. As I sat there, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, gently shed light on what was happening.
A good bit of my story revolves around things that happened in my life before I came to a saving knowledge of my Lord and Savior. But, this particular part of my story happened after Jesus saved me from my wicked and sinful self.
Before Christ, I sinned against a God I didn’t know, but now, when I sin, I sin against a Father I do know, and that makes the sin all the more grievous to me. I thought about the disciple, Peter. What incredible heartbreak Peter felt when he looked into Jesus’s eyes as he realized in full whom he had sinned against. I was feeling that heartache.
I want to make sure you understand that my struggle was not with whether or not I had been forgiven. When we repent of our sins, God takes them and throws them as far as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more. I believe that with all my heart, so I knew that there was no place for condemnation.
So why the broken heart?
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh. No one knows with certainty what that thorn was, but Paul explained that it had a purpose:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (verses 7-12)
I found myself agreeing with Paul. I will be glad for my thorns. The pain reminds me of who I am apart from Christ and let me tell you…that keeps me in a humble place. It reminds me that His grace is precious and all I need. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to be strong on my own; that when I am at my weakest, He does His most powerful and amazing work.
I found myself gladly embracing my broken heart. In fact, I always want my heart to be broken when I am called to revisit those dark places because on the heels of the heartache is the sweet reminder that I am a cherished child of the Most High God. I always want to be amazed that He would saved one as wretched as me because when that reality sinks deep into the inner most parts of my heart, I find myself loving Him more and more.
Who is like our God?
This blog is from my young friend, Ben Jackson. After reading his blogs and hearing his story, I wanted to share one with you. He is a testimony to the powerful influence of Godly mentors and to the incredible influence of a Godly mother who pointed him toward Christ and who never gave up on him, even during the tough years.
Instant gratification and contentment are daily stumbling blocks in my life.
Boy, that was a depressing first statement, wasn’t it? Let’s try that again.
When I was a little boy, I always wanted to be a big boy. When in middle school, I couldn’t wait to be a high schooler. In high school, I couldn’t wait til I graduated. The X’s and O’s changed through the years, but the desires never did. I’m going to try and assemble my thoughts as well as I can here – what the Lord is showing me in my life currently – and it is a strange blend of rest, seasons, thankfulness and his holiness.
This past year brought more challenges than I bargained for. The physical, earthly things were manageable – full time job, full load of college classes, volunteering with Young Life – but I battled contentment inwardly. I did not want to live in Sumter this year. I was unhappy, and felt like I was missing out from all the “big college” fun that so many friends of mine went off to experience. It doesn’t sound like I battled too much – it may sound like I was simply feeling sorry for myself (which I was). But what I came to realize is this: for weeks and months into this year, my sin was dominating me.
And then comes Jesus.
This is something I shared in my Heart Talks group and I thought some of you that aren't in the group might need this too…
I want to share about "process". I'm watching my daughter go through this season so it's fresh on my mind and huge in my heart. There might be a few of you who have no idea about it or some of you might be like me and just need a reminder… because you’re there too.
Where do you picture yourself when you picture yourself at total peace? Is there anywhere you can go where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt God is right there with you? Where He wraps you up tight and gives you a big hug of peacefulness? Where for a brief of time all is right and good?
I grew up near the SC coastline listening to soft breaking waves, the lonesome cry of seagulls, and the crispness of sea oats scraping against each other. Those images and memories continue to speak the gift of peace and God’s presence to me. If I were to do yoga and structured meditation (which I unfortunately don’t), I suspect I would do it picturing myself there with those same coastal sounds. Oh… that feeling of totally being in the presence of God, where the daily cares fly away like the pelicans! I love it!
I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas. I also hope that sometime during the hectic holiday season you found time to reflect and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas…Jesus. Maybe even gave Him a gift?
With Christmas running right into the New Year’s celebration, I thought it would be fun to share a great idea with all of you. Jill Jones shared this activity with us at a Sunday School Christmas party. Her daughter had shared it with her earlier. This year, as you celebrate New Years, instead of making resolutions that you know you won’t keep anyway; try making a “Top Ten” list. Jill’s daughter and her husband do this every year on their anniversary; but I thought New Year’s would be a great time to start this also.
As you celebrate with your family or friends discuss the years “Top Ten” most important events that happened in your lives. It could be weddings, births, deaths, accomplishments, disappointments, or anything worthy of a top ten list. It’s a great conversation starter and wonderful time to reflect over the year. Rachel, Jill’s daughter, writes these down and keeps a notebook from year to year.
My prayer for all of you this New Year…"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”(Numbers 6:24-26)
I have been intentionally trying to learn the spiritual discipline of being still. It’s hard. Being still is just not something that comes easily to me. How about you? I’m a doer, a fixer. One of the worst feelings in the world to me is finding myself in a crisis and not being able to do anything to change it or fix it. I don’t like that feeling of helplessness.
So what does God mean when He says to be still and know that He is God? What does that look like? I think often times we confuse being still with doing nothing.
Now get this. I was watching the remake of The Karate Kid with one of my boys when Mr. Han, the maintenance man turned martial arts instructor, said this to his young trainee: “Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.”
Recently, Philip and one of our children visited the Grand Canyon. The first morning there, Philip got up early to see the sunrise over the Canyon. Now, you need to know three things about Philip to fully get this. One, he is terrified of heights. Two, he is somewhat limited in his ability to use an iPhone…no, he is very limited. Three, the great outdoors is not something that normally stirs deep emotions in him – unless, that is, it’s an outdoor sports complex.
As he watched the sun begin its ascent over the canyon, however, all three of the above-mentioned issues were no longer issues. As he watched the sun slowly rise, he became overwhelmed with the glory and magnificence of his God. Philip became keenly aware that what he was experiencing was not the beauty of the creation. It was the glory of the Creator.
As he sat there in total awe, the song Glorious by Paul Baloche came to his mind so he played it (on his IPhone). For some time, he sat there in sweet communion with his Heavenly Father as he listened to the words of the song.
Look inside the mystery
See the empty cross
See the risen Savior
Victorious and strong
No one else above Him
None as strong to save
He alone has conquered
The power of the grave
Glorious my eyes have seen
The glory of the Lord
Glorious He stands above
The rulers of the earth
Look beyond the tombstone
See the living God
See the resurrected
Ruler of my heart
No one else above Him
None to match His worth
The hope of His returning
Fills the universe
Glorious my eyes have seen
The glory of the Lord
Glorious He stands above
The rulers of the earth
Lord You are Glorious
As I thought about Philip’s experience, it occurred to me that there were others watching the same rising of the sun. I wonder if anyone else encountered God in that canyon. Everyone there saw the sunrise, but did everyone see the glory of the Lord?
Interestingly, the song by Paul Baloche is not talking about God’s glory in His creation; it is talking about God’s glory as revealed through His Son. Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s nature. Though He was cloaked
in human flesh, Christ was and is the true manifestation of God’s glory.
I loved watching my husband’s face as he recanted his experience to me. God had so delighted his heart and it left an indelible mark. Why? Because Philip did not see God’s glory with his eyes. He saw it as revealed by the Spirit within his heart.
You know, we don’t have to go to the Grand Canyon to be awed by God’s glory. It’s
all around us. All we have to do is be still long enough for Him to show us and
rely on our hearts to see it – not our eyes.
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Have a great week!
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