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
I have found myself in a sort of dry season. As followers of Christ, there are times when we find ourselves in such seasons. We allow the worries of this world, heartache, fear, and our own selfishness to consume our thoughts and to steal our joy. At first we don’t feel the drift, but then we begin to feel the distance and we look up to find that the current has carried us further than we want to be. That’s where I found myself and so I began to ask God to draw me back, to show me what caused the distance in the first place, and I’ve tried to wait patiently for Him to answer. Patience is not something I do well so it has been a challenge.
This morning He showed me what was lacking in such a way that it left no room for coincidence.
I am keeping my son and daughter-in-law's two labs and I have a lab of my own. Three labs, who don’t know they are dogs, in one house. Well, this morning they were wound a little too tight so I sent them outside so I that I could have a “quiet” quiet time. Because we live on a pond with alligators, I decided to have my quiet time on the back porch so I could keep an eye on them.
“Quiet” was not happening. They ran back and forth taking a ball from each other, tumbled around in the flower bed where flowers and new pine straw used to be, and barked at Buster the cat who could have taken all three of them out at one time if he chose to do so. He really is that mean. Anyway, after one of them ended up in the pond, I decided that I had had enough and they got banished to the kennel.
A little over a week ago, we had to make the agonizing decision to put our 14-year-old lab, Hunter, to sleep. For those of you who have four legged family members, you understand the heartache. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially under those circumstances. We really didn’t think she would make it through the night last Wednesday night. Truthful, we were hoping that maybe she wouldn’t because we knew that if she did; we were going to be faced with a gut wrenching decision.
She perked up a little bit Thursday, but our Vet gently confirmed what we already knew in our hearts needed to be done. Drew, my oldest held her head in his lap as the preparations were made. It was fitting that he be the one to hold her, after all, she was his. Sam, my youngest, climbed into the back of my Yukon so he could be beside her and the doctor made room for me to be next to Her, too. We all held onto her and cried as she slipped away.
Gosh, another year has come and gone. I just learned to write 2015 on my checks – just in time to have to start over learning to write 2016. It’s crazy.
The older I get the faster time seems to move. Really, the faster changes come. For example, not too many years ago I was smarter and wiser than my children. Obviously, as time has marched forward, they have become much wiser than me in many things, one being how to properly raise children.
This fact has come to light due to the careless way they perceive that I am rearing their youngest sibling. They recently felt the need to correct my parenting or lack of parenting skills by bringing my woeful parenting ways to my attention. It seems that I am way too lax with the youngest. He is allowed to get away with way more things than they were ever allowed to get away with.
Because I am not one to turn down a good argument, I decided to present them with a brief rebuttal:
1. He has perfected his “badness” by watching and learning from his older siblings.
2. If the older siblings had not been so difficult, I would not be so tired and would be better able to keep up with his antics – which as you will remember he has learned from them.
“Mom, they sank the boat," came my very frustrated daughter's voice from the other side of the phone.
Philip and I were on the way to Columbia for a concert when I got the phone call.
Sam and his friend Lathan were coming in from duck hunting behind our house when Philip and I pulled out of the driveway. Becca, my daughter was waiting to take them to get something to eat. Everything was under control, or so I thought.
Really, when one has teenage sons, nothing is ever "under control." Sometimes we just have to slip into a semi-delusional state in order to preserve our sanity.
Anyway, we were less than 15 minutes down the road when Becca called with the news.
“What do you mean, they sank the boat?” I yelled into the phone as my heart rate began to climb to an unsafe level. “We’ve been gone less than 15 minutes. How do you sink a boat in less than 15 minutes?”
Summer is done. It’s over. I know this because school starts tomorrow. I am just devastated. I’m not ready. My brain has not recovered fully and now I have to throw it right back into the chaos of learning? I cannot do 10th grade for the 5th time.
I cannot even…
I did it once personally then 3 other times on behalf of my three older kids. Now I am being forced to do it with my youngest, least interested in school child.
It might kill me this time, it just really might.
He and I have had a sort of partnership over the years when it comes to all things “school”.
I do all the worrying. I keep up with what is due and when, though I don’t always know why. I devise study strategies, none of which have ever been successful. I develop very close working relationships with his teachers, which might explain why they act like they don’t see me when I wave at them in the grocery store.
His part in all of this is to somehow make it to school and back home. What happens in between is somewhat vague because he never seems to be able to recall when he gets home.
Teachers, I’m sorry. That’s all I know to say. And I will give you a very nice Christmas gift. VERY NICE.
Here is a tested truth: light will always defeat darkness.
Try it out. Take a candle and light it. Put it in the middle of a room and turn off the lights, close the blinds, make the room as dark as possible.
No matter how dark a room becomes, the darkness will never be able to block the light from that single candle. In fact, the darker the room, the more evident the light from the candle will become. The darkness is powerless against the light of the candle.
The world, for now, is under the rule of Satan. Satan loves darkness and he rules in darkness. He uses the darkness to blind the minds of unbelievers to the truth of the gospel of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
But Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) Out of the darkness of our own hearts, God brought light through salvation.
Though the darkness cannot prevent our light from shining, we can. The light radiating from the believer results from an inward transformation. The more we grow in wisdom and knowledge and understanding of His Word, the closer we draw to Him, and the more intimately we walk with Him, the stronger and brighter our light becomes. But, when we are focused on ourselves and on the pursuit of worldly things, our lights are dim and harder to distinguish from the darkness. If we find ourselves ashamed of the gospel and afraid to take a stand for what we believe, we hide our light under a cover and no one can see it.
In Matthew, Jesus continues, “Let your light shine before men so they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Too often we focus on doing good works – works in our own power – the ones we choose to do, the easier works, the ones that require little sacrifice on our part. We feel good about ourselves and about the good we are doing. Sometimes we even like to get in a little bragging. But those works too often point others to us instead of bringing glory to our Father in Heaven.
When the light in us shines brightly, when that inner transformation is what causes the brightness of our lights to shine, it illuminates the good works that we do out of a deep love for our God and others see Him because of the light in us.
We have seen that light in the lives of the families of our brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the shooting this past Wednesday night.
A dark evil descended on Charleston. One fueled by hatred and ignorance. The evil committed had the potential to give rise to more hatred, violence, and evil. It had the potential to throw the city of Charleston into turmoil, like the turmoil we just witnessed in Ferguson. But it didn’t because the darkness descended around followers of Jesus who chose to respond to the evil as their Savior commanded. Out of the darkness emerged a brilliant light; one that the darkest of darks could not extinguish.
Because of their response, the enemy was defeated. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. (Genesis 50:20)
To the families who lost their loved ones Wednesday night, first know that you will be constantly in our thoughts and prayers. Also know that as your brothers and sisters in Christ, we thank you for showing the world what it looks like to walk in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior. Thank you for showing all of us what it looks like to love and forgive in the wake of what seems to be an unforgivable act.
We have seen your light shining brightly in the darkness and it is beautiful to behold.
This has been an exciting weekend for my family. On Saturday, we all piled into cars and headed to Augusta, Georgia for a celebration. Except, one member of the family knew nothing about it, and that made it all the more fun for the rest of us. The surprise was for my daughter. The occasion was her engagement to a sweet boy she has been dating.
She was very surprised, in fact, she was so surprised that she didn’t answer him when he dropped to his knee and asked her to marry him. She just cried and stood there. I finally couldn’t contain myself any longer and yelled out from our hiding place, “Say yes, Becca, say yes!”
Seriously, what would she do without her mother’s guidance and direction?
After we all hugged and kissed the newly engaged couple and each other…and a few bystanders, who appeared somewhat shocked, we all headed to a picnic shelter for some food and about 1003 more pictures.
I began texting family and friends to share the exciting news, but something went wrong. Some people only got the picture while others only got the text, which said something to the effect of, “Will have a new son June 6!” Now, if the picture had gone with the text, it would have made perfect sense. However, without the picture to bring context to the statement, the meaning of the statement took an interesting turn.
My phone began blowing up with comments like:
“And you’re ok with this?”
“I hope you are referring to a new son-in-law?”
“Are you getting senile?”
“Is that possible?”
I began texting back as quickly as I could trying to explain that I was NOT having a baby June 6, I was getting a son-in-law.
Right after that all my children gathered together for a picture… all EIGHT of them. Four of them I birthed, the other four God gave me in different ways. But make no mistake, in my heart they are all mine. Every - last - one - of them. For me, that means that the four I did not birth have the same rights and privileges as the ones I did birth. Sadly for them, there aren’t a whole lot of rights and privileges…but still, if there were, it would be theirs.
Each of those four has my heart. I see them as I see the others, a blessing from God. They are my children. I love and tend and protect them as I do the others. I have fretted over them, wept for some of them, and spent countless hours on my knees before the throne on their behalf. I have felt my heart burst with pride over them, and I have issued some maternal correction and guidance to a few of them… Who am I kidding? I have issued motherly correction and guidance to all of them because, well, it’s my job and I like telling others what to do from time to time.
You know what I realized as I reflected on my love for these four? My God loves me like I love them, only much better. I am an adopted child through faith in Jesus Christ. God chose to adopt me because it gives Him great pleasure (Ephesians 1:5).
2 Corinthians 6:18 says, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
As I look at the picture of all of them standing there, I realize that my first statement, “I will have a new son June 6,” was exactly what I meant. I am thrilled for this new son. I am overjoyed over my adopted children. And, I am most grateful for a loving Father Who found great pleasure in adopting me.
Have a wonderful week!
Well, they weren’t actually in the house; they were in Turner Field, the Braves Stadium. Anyone who knows our family knows my husband and daughter are HUGE Braves' fans. So, at least once a year we give our TV a rest and make the trek to Atlanta for a game.
My husband is not only a Braves fan but he is a “thrifty” Braves fan, and we have perfected the art of watching Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrell through binoculars. Once we even enjoyed cheering on Chipper Jones through a telescope. No easy task for three people! However, on this momentous occasion three weeks ago, my husband scored 3 AWESOME tickets 23 rows up, right behind home plate! We knew that Turner Field had beautifully manicured grass from the 162 games we have seen on TV, but to actually almost touch it from our seats …priceless.
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?
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