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Verse of the Day
Monday
Mar132017

When You Want More from Your Life

Dawn breaks over a crust of white out the window.  It feels bleak today.  What was once the fresh powder of potential is muddied and hardened, and I find my heart is in a similar place.  

I want more.

More purpose.

More joy.

More peace. 

More love flowing into me and through me.

The sun, this burning presence of white fire, ascends over the land, and I breathe in its life through the frosted windowpane.  It returns with its promise to cast out the darkness.  It is in this breathing that I realize the sun never moved.  It was the earth that turned, a constant ebb and flow, back toward the burning face of light every morning and back toward the darkness every night.  

Is this not how our hearts encounter the burning light of God?  We are hungry, and we recognize this hunger and turn toward him.  But when shadows grow long and the day grows old, we so quickly forget.  We so quickly turn back to the darkness and the things that will never satisfy.

The sun doesn’t move; nor does our God.  We may turn, but he remains.   Life is meant to be a journey of keeping a gaze fixed on him, a journey of walking more fully immersed in his love, going deeper.  It is only from this place of receiving the love of God that we can discover our purpose: to love him and love others.

The problem is not that we are unaware of this in our minds. The problem rests in our hearts, hearts from which we struggle to give love and live with purpose.  The struggle comes when we fail to first receive the love God is constantly raining down.  We must learn how to position our hearts and minds to receive more of his love.  God’s love is already fully present in the lives of his children; he is calling us to learn to recognize it, to cultivate it.

When we are living in the fullness of God’s love, this love naturally flows through us and onto others.  Our attitudes, words, actions, and motives flow from this love.  When we give, serve and love out of self-effort, our love is not wasted, but it is not all it could be.

I have encountered the reality of good intentions with wrong motives again and again in my own walk.  My intentions are good: I want to love others with the love of Christ.  My motives are wrong: I want to love others with the love of Christ so that I can feel better about myself.  

After much sacrifice on my behalf, I recall desperately desiring even a simple gesture of thanksgiving from a friend who received the fruit of my sacrifice a few years ago.  When the thanksgiving never came, I was resentful and hurt.  And then the nudge came in my spirit: Did I really serve my friend with pure motives, or did I somehow hope to feel better about myself as a result?  If I had truly served unto the Lord, his pleasure would have been enough.  My anger showed my hidden motives.  I was somehow building my self-worth through pleasing others and seeking their affirming words.  This is not the kind of love God is calling us to give.

God calls us to love well and need nothing in return, knowing that we are living, serving, and giving of ourselves for an audience of One. 

 I want his light to shine through me for the world to see, giving not of my own resources, but from his abundant overflow.  May I never serve another person to attain one more notch in my spiritual belt or to fulfill some longing in my own empty soul.  May I walk in the light, be filled with the light, and exude the light.  This is the place where we find the fullness of life.

Stacey

Friday
Mar102017

A Food Reflection

When I was young, about six or seven, I developed hives.  Although I don’t recall what caused them, I well remember that I was put on a restricted diet, at least for a time, to discover their source. 

Now, I was the youngest of five children in a family which had limited financial resources.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad was a laborer in the mill.  We weren’t poor, exactly; we just didn’t have any money. 

When my mom did her weekly grocery shopping, she would buy one bag of chips for us. To share.  A bag of chips was a big deal.  Her challenge was how to fairly distribute the chips among us kids.  The simple equation looked like this:  one bag of chips, five kids, one on a restricted diet.  Solution?  My mom actually counted the chips out. I don’t know how she determined the number per kid; I just know I never received enough. 

Never. 

Throw in the “restricted diet” factor, and there was one potato-chip deprived, Irish kid in that household crying her eyes out. 

I clearly remember walking down the ally behind our house. 

Alone. 

The weather was warm.  I was crying. 

Again. 

I was angry. 

I made a vow to myself that day.  With fists clenched, I vowed that someday I would buy a large bag of chips and eat every single one of them all by myself.  And…I have.  I have devoured many bags of chips since that warm day in the ally fulfilling that childhood promise to myself. 

I cursed myself that day without realizing it, of course.

“Never enough” has driven my eating for most of my life; as a matter of fact, it became a theme throughout my life beyond just food.  There were other factors, too, I know, but for a memory so strong that it is still fresh in my heart over sixty-seven years later tells me that it has deep, deep roots. 

Of course, there a lesson in all of this. 

I feel the need to mourn—hives, poverty, unfairness—and to forgive my mom. 

For what?  I’m not completely sure.  Maybe for not seeing how desperate I felt.  For how hungry I was for more than just chips. 

The truth is, with things of the flesh, there will never be enough. 

Never. 

Fortunately, that empty little Irish girl grew up and has learned that she does not live by chips alone. The emptiness in my heart, in my life, was filled the day I met Him. 

Jesus is enough. Totally. 

It has taken me a very long time to understand, but, now, with a heart overflowing with gratitude, I release this memory to Him, choosing to relinquish the power of “Never enough” over my life.  

Because He is.

Myra

Friday
Feb242017

God's Creatures, Great and Small

So many times we wonder if God can use us in unexpected situations where we find ourselves. I found myself in one such situation. I had been called to California when my sister began to lose her battle with cancer. No matter what the doctors did, the cancer seemed to stay one step ahead of the chemo and radiation treatments. John, her husband, brought Suzi home, arranged care to keep her comfortable, and called in the family.

I left Pennsylvania on a cold winter day on January 9th, 2017, arrived in California at my sister’s home in the rain, and was ushered into her bedroom by my brother-in-law John. My sister lay dying, being held in comfort by the morphine she received every two hours. I let the tears stream down my face as I caressed my sister and kissed her. I told her I loved her and to watch for the angel who would escort her into the arms of Jesus. She opened her eyes acknowledging my presence. I spent the next two days sitting with her, talking and reading to her, and praying with her and the hospice chaplain as he prayed, helping her confess her sins.

On Tuesday, late in the morning, I went for a walk around the 26 acre ranch, El Sueno, which my sister and her husband John managed. I walked around the place admiring the beautiful show and race horses there. The trainers, students, and ranch personnel were exceptional. They greeted me with open arms, inquiring about my sister and John, asking also about how I was doing. I felt so much love and comfort from each person. I knew God was with me during this difficult time. Upon leaving the barn, I noticed a trainer leading a rider on a beautiful horse to the arena for training. They had paused briefly for the owner of the horse to catch up with them. I approached the horse and remarked what a beautiful creature it was. The horse stood very still, smelling my hand and looking into my eyes. I began to pet her as the rider shared that the horse’s name was Emily. Emily stood still while I patted her neck and scratched under her chin. When I stopped to answer some questions, she used her head to nudge my chest. I began petting her again. I eventually stopped and stepped away so they could proceed into the arena. I thought nothing more of the incident. 

Later in the evening, another trainer, Debbie, stopped at my sister’s house to visit my sister. She shared with John and me that they were calling me the “Horse Whisperer” at the barn. She and another trainer were watching the whole incident with Emily; their thought was that the rider was going to die at any second. Apparently, Emily was a wild mustang who had recently been rescued from running wild in the Malibu canyons. She was being trained for Dressage and didn’t actually like people. She has only let the trainer, rider, and owner pet her. Emily reacts negatively toward anyone else who approaches her. They were totally amazed that Emily would let me make such of a fuss over her, petting her head and neck, and scratching under her chin. I was totally amazed by what Debbie was telling John and me.

Later that evening, as I sat with my sister and reflected on the “horse whispering” incident, I tried to understand why this young mustang would let me make such a fuss over her. Suddenly, it dawned on me why Emily responded the way she did. As I waited for my plane to arrive in Burbank, I had prayed the God would use me to minister to those at the ranch and to all whom I came in contact with during this hard time. I asked Him to use me as a sieve to let His love, peace, and comfort flow thru me to all I encountered here in California.

Emily was calm during the exchange between her and me because she felt her creator in me. Emily didn’t feel me petting and loving her; she felt God's presence calming her, helping her to relish the feel of human hands on her. Those hands, my hands, brought her God’s comfort and love. I felt privileged that God would use me with this magnificent creature.

This has shown me that God can use us in all circumstances and in situations where and when we least expect it. God has promised He is with us in all situations, at all times. But God can only use us if we give Him permission and open ourselves to Him.

Ellen - Guest Blogger

Tuesday
Feb142017

A Valentine Gift!

I am amazed by the number of blessings, promises, and gifts that the Lord has for us!  I haven't studied that in depth, but I am sure there are thousands upon thousands.

I have been learning about it more as I have studied the book of Ephesians.  In going through the first chapter alone, I counted 40.  (This includes different translations, so each one seems to multipy, as not every translation reads the same.)

As a friend and I were talking about this, we came up with the idea of making a box containing cards, each with a blessing, promise or gift, to use as an illustration for our study in Ephesians.  

So today, I want to share our box with you...

And inside the blessings of God abound!

At our study, we each take a card out of the box every week, and are asking God to reveal more to us about the gift on the card. It has been amazing to see how God answers those prayers and most of the time He does it in the most unexpected way! 

He wants you to know the blessings he has for you!  They are free - all you need to do is receive them.  As a friend reminded me recently, too often we think of blessings as material things God gives to us.  When really what he wants to give us is himself.

Now that's a Valentine Gift that keeps on giving!  For eternity!  

My prayer is that Jesus will reveal His love to you today, and every day!  Live loved, sweet sister!

Linda

 

About the box...

If you would like to make a box for your personal use, or as a gift for a friend, the directions are below.  You also have permission to link back to this site, but not to copy what is here. We are not selling this and ask that you do not either, as it really is a gift from God, isn't it?

The box is from the dollar store. I used a bow I had in my bow box. You can get some of those at the dollar store too! I printed out the gifts onto card stock and cut them apart.  Once cut apart I wrapped the cards in tissue paper, put them in the box, and voila!  By all means put your own spin on it and get creative!  I plan to add more gifts to my box as I find them, which probably will mean a bigger box :)

Download and print:

The Gift

Gifts 1

Gifts 2

Gifts 3

Gifts 4

If you made a box, we would love to hear about it!  Share what you did in the comments below.

Monday
Feb062017

Finding God in Silence

“In the act of silence you’re not waiting for God to make a move. You’re becoming aware of the moves he is making.” – Brennan Manning

 

Patches of crusty dirt-stained snow lay on the grass like a map of continents from some other planet etched on a worn green canvas.  I think I see a continent resembling Africa.  

There are starlings at the feeder, and I’m thankful for even a small sign of life.  

Winter feels like death to me.  

I’m not sure if it’s from growing up in the country, climbing so many mountains in my twenties, or if it’s just the way God wired me, but the natural world feels like home to me.  Going to the woods brings life to my soul, and I often feel most connected with God under open skies.  The first time I really encountered him for my own was in a hayfield.  But that’s a story for a different day.

I love being outside so much that the sting of winter’s reality strips my vitality.  I feel lifeless and unmotivated.

I ponder these things as I watch the starlings flutter over Australia.  Why must there be winter?

A thought about restoration floats across my stream of consciousness, and I let it keep going.  Surely God doesn’t want to speak about a cold, bleak season, and how he intends to use it to restore me.  

I ponder Psalm 23, mostly for a distraction.  The steaming coffee in my hand is like warm medicine.  The baby monitor remains silent.  I pray he keeps sleeping at least another twenty minutes.

The thought about restoration returns, and I can’t ignore it this time.  I let it bounce around the walls of my mind for a few minutes, trying it on for size.  Is it really like God to use cold, hard seasons to restore us?  Isn’t winter more like trial – something to get through, not something to restore?

I’m reminded of the pace of our summers.  Days are filled from dawn to dusk with trips to the creek, hikes through the hemlocks behind the house, afternoons splashing in Lake Arthur, visits with friends, neighbor kids on summer break, and evenings spent catching fireflies and walking along soybean fields in search of deer.  There’s little time to stop, sit, and be.  The laundry piles high, partly because I’m never inside to do it, and partly because each family member muddies three outfits per day.  We eat a lot of pizza and hotdogs.  Lunches are always packed in crinkly shopping bags, intermittently eaten and smeared in the backseat of cars and in the shade of huge strollers, big enough to hold two small adults.

Summer is fast.  We love it all.  But we’re tired, and there’s seldom time to think.

Winter isn’t like that.  We’re inside.  We make crafts and write letters to friends far away.  Toys are strewn across the floor while I pound on a keyboard and redirect the toddler who insists on sitting with me.  There’s time to think about what I learned in the summer months, read long Bible stories, and light candles every night.

The darkness assures we’re not building fires in the woods or racing across the yard in orange sleds past five o’clock.  There’s time for quiet reflection, the writing of new Bible studies, blog posts, and journal entries.  We watch MASH reruns for hours and look forward to Andy Griffith at eight o’clock.

And so, as the starling flutters off to lands unseen, a spark of gratitude rises in my heart.  I’ve silenced my soul enough to be aware of what God’s doing.  He’s moving, even in the winter of my heart.  He’s rebuilding, restoring, and transforming.  I ought to make more time for silence.  And since it’s winter, I think I will.

Stacey

(Visit Stacey's website at staceypardoe.com)