I Was in Prison

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

“Do you want to go to church?” my husband asked.

We were out of town on a trip and the next day would be Sunday.

Just down the highway from where we were staying, we had noticed a church.

That’s where we would go.

When Sunday morning came, we pulled into the parking lot and began searching for the entrance.

Making our way inside the large building, we sat down in a meeting room.

Quickly, we were greeted by the pastor who told us that the next service would be across the hallway.

We made our way to the sanctuary and found seats.

A man came in alone and sat down in front of us.

He seemed to have some physical issues, with one shoulder higher than the other.

It was difficult for him to look up and straight ahead.

His pants were badly torn.

He was wearing pull over rain boots, and it wasn’t raining.

When the pastor spoke on a specific scripture, the man took his own Bible and looked up the passage to follow along.

The Bible was worn and dirty.

When the service was over, my husband and I spoke with the man.

His name was George.

He told us he had been coming to the church for about a year.

We offered to take him out for lunch.

He said that he already had plans.

I was disappointed.

I had even hoped that if he had lunch with us, we could also take him to a store and buy some pants for him.

We said goodbye and went on our way.

I will remember George for a long time, sitting there, bent over, turning the pages of his Bible.

We didn’t actually get to help him in any way, but God knows that we cared.

 

Jesus once told the story of the sheep and the goats:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

—Matthew 25:31-36

Those on the right asked Him when it was that they gave Him food or drink, invited Him in, clothed Him, took care of Him when He was sick, or visited Him in prison.

He replied by saying that whatever they had done for the least of people, they had done for Him.

As each day unfolds, I need to remember that.

If Jesus had badly torn clothing, would I want to get new clothes for Him?

If Jesus looked hungry, would I want to buy food for Him?

Jesus wasn’t sitting in the pew in front of me last Sunday in church—–

 

but George was.

 

 

clothed me

 

 

He Was Commended

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

Every time I think about it, I become quiet and sad.

I was out of town last night.

Wondering what the weather was going to be like for the evening, I picked up my cell phone to check the forecast.

When I did, I also read something posted on a network site I use.

A friend of mine from my teenaged years had just days before been killed in a car accident.

I thought of memories of him when we were both young.

He was funny.

He was talented.

Since I had moved several hundred miles away from our home town, I had not talked to him in several years.

Feeling earnestly saddened by the news, I chose to read from a Bible app on my cell phone.

It had been awhile since I had last read from it.

Opening it, I found the scripture that I had most recently viewed.

The book of Hebrews, chapter 11, verses 4 and 5 were there.

 

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

 

When I found out about the accident, I looked at an online obituary and read comments there made by his friends and co-workers.

The part of the scripture that read, “And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead,” really stood out to me.

When someone truly serves God with a faithful heart, doesn’t their example live on as a testimony, even though they are dead?

Another part of the passage that was meaningful to me was, “For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”

Wouldn’t you want that to be said about you?

Wouldn’t you want that to be the truth about your life?

That you were one who pleased God?

I believe the passage from Hebrews was left on my phone for a reason.

God knew that I would find out about my friend and begin reading from His word.

These two verses spoke to me at a time when I was contemplating the end of life’s journey here.

God is like that, you know.

He never leaves us, and when we need comfort or guidance, He can bring it to us in His perfect timing and in His way.

 

 

 

Click image to enlarge

commended

 

Entrust to Faithful Men

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

Visiting the city which is the oldest European settlement in my country, I was interested in photographing some of the unique buildings that I saw.

Driving in the heart of the city, I passed by a tall, ornate church.

Getting out of the car, I walked around the magnificent structure.

 

It’s comforting for me to see churches when I visit a new town.

When I see a church, I know there are those who meet within its walls who love the Lord.

The existence of these centers of worship is due to legacy and the blessing of God.

An ancient sanctuary reaches into the future with a history of faith within the hearts of those living long ago.

Even a new church stands because someone in the past related the good news of Jesus to the members who constructed it.

My heart’s desire is to leave a legacy that is pleasing to God.

All churches have a story of legacy and trust.

When I am gone from this earth, every investment I have made toward God’s kingdom will be used for His glory.

Every Bible story I told my to my children.

Every offering I made of time, talent or funds.

Every prayer.

Every discussion about God’s love and forgiveness.

And what will become of that?

A legacy.

A transferring of faith—-

from one generation to another.

 

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

—2 Timothy 2:2

 

 

Click to enlarge image.

teach others

Fearfully and Wonderfully

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

I learned something new today.

In quite an unexpected way, I might add.

A friend suggested visiting a local farm supply store that had opened in the area some months ago.

As I walked through the spacious aisles, I noticed that they were filled with interesting items like camouflage pajamas, carpenter’s pants and kitchen ovenware….

To my absolute delight, I came upon a display of baby chickens in tubs.

That’s right.

Tiny wads of feathers with spindly legs and cute little beaks.

There were at least three containers, each housing a specific kind of baby chick.

Since juvenile chickens have not matured to the point of owning an individual “cluck,” they sang to the store’s inhabitants with a steady peep, peep, peep.

So what did I learn?

I learned that humans and baby chicks have a lot in common.

Sure, I know the obvious similarities.

We both eat, sleep and walk.

We both hear and see and feel.

We both have voices.

There’s something else, though.

When I hear a loud sound unexpectedly, I become startled and jump.

God has placed that within us to become more alert in case of danger from whatever caused the noise.

While I was looking down at a particular group of little chicks, there was a loud sound in the store.

I don’t know what it was—a box dropping, a door slamming.

I really can’t recall.

When the loud sound occurred, all the chicks were startled and jumped.

All at the same time.

Flight or fight response?

After doing a little research, the term fear potentiated startle rose to the top.

Baby chicks and humans both exhibit a jump or startle when they are stimulated by sound.

Until this morning’s visit to the farm store, I was not aware that baby chicks could be startled by sound.

I have some friends that do not believe in God.

Knowing that, I pray for them, that they will one day come to believe.

There are those who would say that through a fantastic evolutionary process, all living things have developed several similarities over time.

Lots of time.

Thousands and thousands and thousands of years.

I, too, feel that all living things have several shared likenesses.

The difference is, I believe that God put all the similarities in place Himself.

God wanted chickens to eat.

God wanted people to eat.

He wanted chickens and people to sleep and to walk and to speak—each with it’s own voice.

God also wanted chickens to react to threatening sound, even as baby chicks.

Seeing all those little creatures jump in tandem right before my eyes will be a recorded memory for a long time in my mind.

Startled chickens jump.

Startled people jump.

God made us all.

 

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

–Psalm 139:13-14

 

 

Click to enlarge image.

fearfully final

 

Invisible Attributes

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

Walking along in the park, I saw some unusual plants growing.

Parts of them looked reminiscent of a science fiction movie—-round orbs with antenna-like rods protruding out to space.

Thinking of them a different way, it’s easy for me to imagine that the images were taken from a microscope’s point of view, exposing a tiny, unseen world of thriving bacteria.

Reality before me, I had been admiring God’s handiwork in a lake shore plant.

Intricate.

Mathematical.

Such order and creativity in nature speaks of God.

All around us, silent voices of existence call out, giving mute testimony of His power.

Since God has created order in nature, can He not bring order to our lives, as well?

 

Click to enlarge image.

invisible

Sun-Washed

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

  Psalm 19:10-14

  The Message

God’s Word is better than a diamond,
    better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
    better than red, ripe strawberries.

There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
    and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
    Or know when we play the fool?
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
    Keep me from stupid sins,
    from thinking I can take over your work;
Then I can start this day sun-washed,
    scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.
These are the words in my mouth;
    these are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them
    on the morning altar,
O God, my Altar-Rock,
    God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

–Psalm 19:10-14  The Message

I sat in the hotel lobby about a thousand miles from my home.

The morning sun shone through the window and onto a vase of flowers sitting on a table directly in front of me.

Washed in light, aglow with a quiet serenity.

 

I want to be sun-washed  and forgiven as I start each day.

I want to be free of the deception that I can “take over” God’s work—thinking I can handle things on my own without waiting on His timing and His will to unfold.

I want a clean slate, empty and ready to be written on.

Sun-washed.

Forgiven.

Ready to live…

 

 

 

Click to enlarge image.

sunwashed final

Planted on Good Ground

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

The setting was edge of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus was telling a story to the people who had gathered there–a crowd so large, He got into a boat to speak to them as they stood on the shore.

He told the story of a farmer.

A farmer who planted seed.

He told of what happened to the seeds after they were sown.

Later, He explained the story He had told to His disciples:

“Listen to what the story about the farmer means.  Someone hears the word about the kingdom but doesn’t understand it. The evil one comes at once and snatches away what was planted in him. This is what the seed planted along the road illustrates. The seed planted on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and accepts it at once with joy.  Since he doesn’t have any root, he lasts only a little while. When suffering or persecution comes along because of the word, he immediately falls from faith The seed planted among thornbushes is another person who hears the word. But the worries of life and the deceitful pleasures of riches choke the word so that it can’t produce anything. But the seed planted on good ground is the person who hears and understands the word. This type produces crops. They produce one hundred, sixty, or thirty times as much as was planted.”

—Matthew 13:18-23

 

What type of seed am I?

Am I producing crops?

Am I listening to hear and understand God’s word to me?

 

 

Click to enlarge image.

planted final

Someone to Devour

 

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

It was my first time to visit the island.

Walking on a trail, it was quite wet at times.

Almost swamp-like.

I found several very interesting objects to photograph.

One rather curious thing was a group of bracket fungi growing on a log.

They were very fascinating, with their mix of puce and rust colors, edged with a marshmallow-white ring.

As intriguing as they were, destruction was likely a part of their story.

This type of fungus can actually kill the tree that it’s on and then continue to feed off the tree for some time later, as I was witnessing.

It attacks the inner part of the tree first and when the brackets appear, the inside of the tree has already suffered damage.

A fungus slowing devouring a tree…..

 

I thought about how the devil is like that fungus.

The Bible says,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”    —1 Peter 5:8

Somehow, I don’t think he actually looks like a lion most of the time.

Huge.

Big, ravenous teeth.

Loud roar.

No, it’s different with him.

More like a fungus.

He begins to look for a place inside our hearts.

Attacking our thoughts, Satan prowls around with temptation as his claw.

If sin begins to grow within us, left unchecked by repentance and forgiveness from God, it begins to damage our inner selves first.

By the time the “fruit” of the sin is visible on the outside, a lot has already gone wrong on the inside.

Although it is true that our enemy is constantly looking for someone to devour, we can turn to God for strength and for protection from that which would seek to ruin us.

 

 

Click image to enlarge.

devour

He is a Christian

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

I love frogs.

To me, they are delightful creatures, full of color and full of voice.

And, of course, they hop.

Really well.

All frogs are not the same, however.

I’ll admit that while there are certain frogs you could safely hold in your hand, there are others that could kill you.

I guess that’s why I know some people who are terribly afraid of all frogs.

It would be good, especially for those folks, to be able to distinguish one frog from another.

Last night, I noticed a tree frog on the wall of the front entryway of my home.

Pleased at his presence and the photo opportunity, I got my camera and snapped a couple of shots.

Not being quite sure exactly what kind of tree frog he was, I did some internet research.

I found a diagram comparing the toes of two species in my area.

I also found a photo completely matching the frog on my wall.

What was he?

A squirrel tree frog.

More properly, Hyla squirella.

He had the same eyes as the internet photo.

His  green color was the same on his back.

His hind legs had a matching tan color.

He was sitting the same way.

The shape of his toes matched, as well.

There was no mistaking it—he was a squirrel tree frog.

 

It’s not that easy to identify types of people, at least by sight.

Who looks kind and good?

Who looks honest?

Who looks loving?

Looks can be deceiving, because it is the heart that tells just who a person is.

Who looks like a Christian?

We can’t tell by the color of skin, hair or eyes.

We can’t tell by the measurement of height or weight.

1 John 2:6 says,

“Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ did.”
If our lives—how we talk and the things we do—could be placed for comparison beside how Jesus talked and what He did, would anyone consider it a match?

 

Click image to enlarge.

should live

A New Day

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

The rain poured down for several minutes while we were preparing dinner.

Our family had decided to work together to make the evening meal.

When I had finished eating, I could tell that it was no longer as dark outside as it had been.

An orange glow was in the sky, making the grass a vivid, emerald color.

Taking my camera with me, I ventured out into the street to see the sunset after such a long rain.

Reaching the open space away from the trees, I was enveloped in color.

Looking all around me, I didn’t want to miss any part of the spherical canvas that was ablaze with light.

I took several pictures, focusing on different parts of the sky.

The rain was gone.

Although night was approaching, the setting sun sent a silent invitation to tomorrow’s dawn.

A new day.

 

In the New Testament, we find the account of the birth of John the Baptist.

God had planned for him to go ahead of Jesus, preparing the way for Him in speaking to the people.

When John was born, his father, Zechariah, prophesied about him:

“You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High. You will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his way.  You will make his people know that they can be saved through the forgiveness of their sins. A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.

—Luke 1:76-78

 

A new day.

A new forever.

Jesus was coming, destined to pay for our sins on the cross so that we could be saved from destruction.

The day of Jesus’ birth did occur, and the new day dawned, just as God intended.

We live in the new day right now.

This very moment—

 

Because God is loving and merciful.

 

 

Click image to enlarge.

a new day

 

 

Out of Darkness

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

The trail was quiet.

Walking along in the wilderness, I was so far out that my cell phone had given up searching for a signal and declared, “no service.”

A natural spring was actually close by beyond the dense forest and a few people were enjoying the cold water on what had turned out to be a rather hot day.

In the path I was following, certain areas were draped in shadows as the trees and foliage made a canopy shielding the ground from the direct light of the sky.

Stepping past an array of green leaves, I noticed that they were basking in a small patch of sunlight while the area nearby was shrouded in the shadows.

Several years ago, a song titled, “Shine On Us” became popular.

Here are some of the lyrics:

 

Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way
In the darkest night
Let your light shine on us *

 

Our lives could be represented by those leaves I saw on the trail.

With darkness all around, they were in a place to receive the light.

God’s light can shine in our hearts even though darkness may be all around us.

When God’s light shines on us, we have life.

 

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

–2 Corinthians 4:6

 

* by Phillips, Craig and Dean

 

Click to enlarge photo.

light

Shortcuts to God

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

Self-help books.

Besides school texts, self-help books are probably the most numerous species of literature thriving in my in-home shelf habitat.

For some reason, I have had quite an interest in the past years in learning how to make life better.

Do these things and…….this will happen.

Think this way and…….this occurs.

There are so many “you can make big changes on your own if you read this” books out there on the market.

Lose weight.

Gain weight.

Get happy.

Stay happy.

Get rich.

Get simple.

Get more.

Get less.

Wear this.

Don’t wear that.

Whatever you want to improve, there’s probably a written guide somewhere to help you achieve your goal.

These written offerings can be quite insightful.

I have personally learned a lot through the years by purchasing books here and there that have spoken toward my eventual success in some area.

The fact is, I get to choose what to read.

If the words on the page suggest unlikely shortcuts to my goal, a red flag of concern should go up.

I shouldn’t even hope to lose ten pounds in a week or look ten years younger in a month.

Changes like that must take time to be effective and not harmful.

Shortcuts to success are not usually a true way to success at all.

What about shortcuts to God?

John 14:6 reads,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Think of it this way:

Suppose a 5k race is scheduled on a path around a large lake.

Runners must stay on the path and arrive on the other side at the finish line.

There is one person in charge at the finish line to verify who has crossed by them.

Anyone trying to take a shortcut by running over a bridge to get to the other side of the lake will miss the proper finish line and will be disqualified.

There are so many shortcuts to God that are promoted.

If you are just good enough, you will go to Heaven.

If you give of yourself, volunteering or working for others, you will go to Heaven.

If you achieve a particular goal in life, you will go to Heaven.

The list could go on and on.

The problem with these statements is, none of them says that we must come to God through Jesus.

They are like a bridge that will not lead to the true finish line.

If we want to find our way to God, the Bible tells us how.

Do these things and…….this will happen.

If we put our faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior, repenting and asking for forgiveness, we will live forever in Heaven when we die.

Think this way and…….this occurs.

If we believe that God is faithful and that He has forgiven us, we feel a peace and inner joy knowing that fact.

No shortcuts.

Only the way, the truth and the life.

 

 

Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

–Matthew 7:13-14  The Message

 

 

Click to enlarge image.

shortcuts final

The Covenant

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

The rainbow was so dazzling, I just had to stop, get out of the car and photograph it.

The sun was going down and the radiant glow of colors was magnificent.

When God makes a promise, He never breaks it.

After the waters of the great flood had receded, God spoke to Noah and his sons, giving them instructions.

As He spoke with them, He told them of a covenant.

A covenant with humans and also with living creatures on the earth.

“I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

–Genesis 9:11-17

 

Any promise of God to us will never be changed.

He is faithful.

He is trustworthy.

Will God always forgive those who choose to believe in Him and His Son, Jesus, when they call to Him in repentance and faith?

Will He really never leave us or forsake us?

Is there really nothing that can separate us from His love?

These truths are like promises in the Bible.

If we are feeling doubt or becoming fearful, we can remember that God always keeps a promise— especially when we see the rainbow He sets in the sky.

 

Click image to enlarge.

and the earth final

Sweetness to the Soul

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

Driving along the highway, I couldn’t help but notice the sunflowers.

THOUSANDS of sunflowers!

On and on they went as I passed the green and yellow carpet of blooms that reached confidently toward the sky.

Each flower, giant and golden, began with a planted seed.

 

What if every time I said a kind or thoughtful word to someone a sunflower would be planted on an acre of land?

What if one could be planted every time I spoke to someone about God?

Within one year, what would that acre of ground look like?

If I were allowed to see it, would I cry tears of joy at a beautiful crop of yellow petals?

Or would I cry tears of sadness and regret because there were so few plants in the field?

God can use the seeds of our speech to touch an infinite number of hearts.

Truly, I want to say gracious words that convey love, concern and peace to others around me.

Isn’t that what you want, also?

 

 

Proverbs 16:24

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

 

 

Click to enlarge image.

honeycomb final

 

 

All Things

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

Last night, a friend gave me a gift.

She had just recently gone on a trip out of the country.

Having found some beautiful wooden key chains, she bought several and allowed friends to choose their favorite.

Strangely, she had brought back one made of purple wood.

She explained that this was the wood’s natural color.

Each of the wooden key chains had a dragonfly delicately carved into it.

I chose one of the darker brown woods to keep as my own.

Just a few moments ago, I ventured outside to get some photographs of a bird in my driveway.

While I was standing there, a dragonfly came along and sat on a fallen branch near me.

Not just any dragonfly.

A type of dragonfly that I don’t remember ever seeing before.

A purple dragonfly.

With a swift and graceful take off, he left his perch and flew around in front of me.

God allowed me to see the image of a dragonfly carved into purple wood that He had made.

Next, He blessed me by allowing me to see a purple dragonfly that He had made sitting on a brown branch that He had made.

With words I don’t quite remember now, I thanked God for the beauty I was allowed to see.

 

 

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

–John 1:3

 

 

Click to enlarge image.

all things

Seek First His Kingdom

7a3cd-bookmark252b3

 

What will I focus on today?

The lens of a camera will allow the photographer to focus in on whatever is before them.

What is focused on is sharp; other objects become blurred and indistinct.

What is focused on is the object of greatest importance.

The predominant image is given the most clarity.

We all live a life of focus.

For every person, certain things are sharply in view while others are blurred.

For example, if we are highly focused on our jobs, our families and personal time may be distorted.

Being indistinct, the needs there may even go unnoticed.

What happens if we choose not to focus on God each day?

Does His presence fade away in the background as we concentrate on something else?

There is much to say about living in the moment.

Taking life one day at a time, listening for God to show us what He wants us to do that day.

It’s easy to become focused on the tomorrows that might come, attaching worry to that imaginary image.

Here are some of Jesus’ words about worry:

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that 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, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

—Matthew 6:28-34

 

What will I focus on today?

 

Click to enlarge image.

seek first

 

 

 

A Love For Him

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

During the time of Jesus’ ministry on the earth, who did He seek out?

He chose His disciples.

He talked to crowds about the kingdom of God.

He talked individually to people, as well.

Sometimes, He talked to people who had obvious transgressions.

Tax collectors.

Prostitutes.

People known by their sin.

Sometimes, He talked to people who might not have shown any outward offense.

People like the rich young ruler who had kept laws but refused to sell all he had and follow Jesus.

Who is more broken and in need of salvation and forgiveness of sins?

The prostitute?

The tax collector?

The young ruler?

Who is more broken and in need of salvation and forgiveness of sins?

You?

Or could it be me?

The real answer is that those who do not know Jesus as their savior are in need of His forgiveness.

We are all existing in the same need.

Once we ask for forgiveness, believing in Jesus, we are all existing in the same salvation.

We will never be a first class Christian or a second or third class.

Every life is precious to God.

Every one.

As believers, we each have a ministry on the earth.

By following Jesus, there will be those that He wants us to talk to about Him.

Prostitute?

Tax collector?

Ruler?

Maybe.

Neighbor?

Coworker?

Family member?

If we are attentive to His voice, He will let us know.

He sees the hearts of the broken even when we cannot.

 

 

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

—Mark 10:17-22

 

eternal life final

 

 

 

His Mercy

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

No matter what happens to me today, I can trust God.

He will never make a mistake.

He is always there for me.

Whatever He tells me will always be the correct thing.

Whenever He looks at my failures, He sees that Jesus paid the penalty for my sins.

God is merciful.

 

The word of the Lord is correct,
    and everything he does is trustworthy.
 The Lord loves righteousness and justice.
    His mercy fills the earth.

–Psalm 33:4-5

 

Click to enlarge image.

mercy

 

 

Love

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

Patient.

Kind.

Happy with the truth.

That’s what love is.

Am I loving?

 

Am I jealous?

Am I rude?

Am I arrogant?

Am I irritable?

That’s not loving.

 

The choice is mine.

 

 Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.

–1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

 

love never stops

 

 

Wear Love

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

The butterfly was flitting all around the plants.

Since it looked different than the butterflies I usually see, I was particularly interested in it.

It was beautiful.

Elegant.

Quick.

It proudly displayed the color and form that God had given it.

In The Message, we are encouraged to dress in a wardrobe that God has picked out for us:

 

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

—Colossians 3:12-14  The Message

 

garment

 

 

 

Listen

 

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

It was dusky dark and getting hard to see.

Mosquitoes were coming out to greet the night and it was time to be ending the walk.

A rabbit suddenly scurried out ahead of me.

A hop here.

A hop there.

Wait.

Stand up on two legs.

Listen.

Listen with those big, tall ears.

I have read that rabbits can hear very well.

In fact, they are thought to be able to hear a sound from two miles away.

There’s a lesson for me in all this.

In everything that I do, I need to be wise.

When things come up, I should wisely consider my choices.

My words and my actions.

Even my thoughts.

I don’t have to rush into things.

Just a hop or two might suffice.

I might need to stand up.

But, at all times, I should listen with my ears.

I should listen for wisdom and guidance from God.

 

 

 

Listen to what is wise and try to understand it.

–Proverbs 2:2

 

wise final

 

 

He Calmed the Storm

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53
I could see the storm coming over the beach and out to sea.

The unrelenting power of the wind and rain.

Vast and uncontrollable, it could not be stopped.

The storms in our lives look just like that, don’t they?

Unrelenting.

Powerful.

Vast.

Uncontrollable.

God sees things in a different way than we do.

The storm at the beach was not too big for Him.

The storms in our lives aren’t either.

He has the power to calm the wind and the waves.

 

He calmed the storm to a whisper
    and stilled the waves.

–Psalm 107:29

 

 

storm two

 

 

 

Consider the Lilies

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

Is adding a single hour to your life a small thing?

God can add an hour, a day or a year.

He can add any number of years if He chooses.

God is the giver of life.

We are not in charge.

So, since we can’t really add to our lives or make anything better by worrying and being anxious, why do we do it?

 

 

 

 

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

—Luke 12:25-27

 

 

lilies final

 

 

Be Glorified

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

In the last few months, I have been challenged to actively be a part of things, be a visible presence (which is the opposite of hiding who I am) and to be a person who shows courage.

That’s quite the challenge, isn’t it?

Although I could look back through the years and make mental check marks beside the events I participated in, the times I was “visible” and the courage I was displaying, I would have to be honest about the rest—

Those times that I didn’t participate, the times I was truly hiding, even if I was the only one who knew it,

and, of course, the times that I was anything but courageous.

About three weeks ago, I got through this challenge in a small, almost insignificant way.

Later, I became aware of just how significant it had been.

One of our sons was having surgery at a local hospital.

While waiting to hear that he was out of recovery, news came that there was a complication.

Nothing huge, but he was going to have to stay there for an extended time.

I had been praying for him.

Not far from where I was sitting stood a grand piano.

Silently, it only gave the memory of music to those that passed by.

A thought came to my mind.

I argued with the thought for a second or two, struggling with just a twinge of non-participation and the need to hide.

Walking over to the desk where my son had been admitted, I calmly asked if I could play the piano.

Given permission, I sat down and played one song after another for perhaps a half hour.

Hospital employees, along with people visiting for one reason or another, came walking by during the impromptu concert.

When I was finished, I stood up, noticing a brass plaque adorning the piano.

I believe it read, “To the Glory of God.”

A doctor’s name, along with that of his wife, was engraved there, identifying them as the ones who had given the piano to the hospital.

As I began to walk away from it, a man rushed up to me.

He had been friends with the doctor who had given the piano.

The doctor was no longer living, but his wife was.

While I had been playing, this man called the doctor’s wife and told her that someone was playing the piano they had given!

Others came up to speak with me, happy to have heard the music.

I may never know of the comfort God may have given to someone who heard the sounds of the hammers striking the strings, creating the familiar hymns for those that passed.

I can imagine that the doctor’s wife would have been happy that the instrument she had given was in use.

I can also imagine the musically silent atmosphere on the first floor of the hospital that day if I had not taken that first step toward the desk, refusing to hide in my waiting room chair.

Since the ability I have to play the piano was given to me by God, I truly do want to honor Him with my playing.

To do so, I must actually step up to the piano and begin—

to the glory of God.

 

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God;  whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

—1 Peter 4: 10-11

 

gift

 

God Is My Helper

 

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

Getting ready to go out for the day, I decided to use a hair curler/dryer.

Normally, this would have been fine.

This morning was not going to be normal…

My hair is somewhat long and I had curled a section of it around the dryer teeth, doing so with a winding motion.

After a few seconds, I turned the hot air off and attempted to unwind my hair.

It was a futile attempt.

With an electric hair blower practically stuck to my head, I began to try to untangle my hair from the combing teeth.

Working unsuccessfully with it for some time, my husband suggested that he try to help.

“NO!!” was my reply, as my arms were growing even more tired, being lifted to my head.

I was afraid he would:

1. Pull my hair and hurt me

2. Break my hair off, leaving a unsightly mess

I was being stubborn and not availing myself to discuss the matter.

After several minutes more of trying, I allowed my husband to assist in my dilemma.

He got a metal comb with a long, thin handle and began to make tiny spaces in between my hair and the dryer.

Following this strategy, my hair began to become detached from the wand.

Within moments, I was free.

He hadn’t hurt me and my hair had escaped with a minimal amount of damage.

 

What about when I need God’s help?

The Bible tells us of His constant availability to us.

When I am faced with a tangled mess of relationships, finances, or health concerns, do I look to God for help?

Am I afraid that His solution might hurt or that there will be damage that I am unhappy with?

Psalm 54:4 encourages us this way:

God is my helper! The Lord is the provider for my life.

I would not have been able to have stood in my bathroom much longer trying to get the styling dryer out of my hair.

At some point, I would have had to just sit down and rest my arms or go about my business with a styling wand connected to my hair and an electric cord following my every step.

Allowing myself to accept the help I needed was the right choice.

Will I accept the help I need from God as I continue to become tangled in every day life?

That is a question I will have to answer, one problem at a time.

 

provider

 

 

 

He Comforts Us

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

 

When I came out of the meeting, the sun was just beginning to set.

Most of the sky was riddled in clouds and it was raining.

Other people were exiting to the outside, as well.

I said something like, “I love it when it rains and the sun is shining!”

Getting into my car, I began to drive as I witnessed a magnificent display of color and beauty as the sun’s rays painted the monochrome clouds in a brilliant array.

Stopping the engine on a street, (no other cars were in sight) I snapped a photo or two.

For at least the next twenty minutes, I watched the various hues emerge in intensity within the moving clouds.

I began to think—

It had been raining.

The sun had been shining through the rain.

For some reason, we associate rain with difficult times and sunshine with happy times.

Thinking along those lines, I was experiencing a visual representation of “happy difficulty.”

How can circumstances bring us happiness and still be difficult and trying at the same time?

Life can get hard.  Really hard.

So much can go wrong.

But, along with the struggles, we can become aware of God’s presence through it all.

His light can begin to blaze through the rain, creating a spectacle of radiance that captures our gaze and draws us away from the storm.

At these moments, we are aware of both our problems and His presence.

2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us,

“He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God.”

God does not leave us alone…

even when it rains.

 

H

 

 

 

What Your Heart Desires

 

 

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

Who gets to decide what we like or what our dreams and goals should be?

In an article I was reading, the author recounted a decision that she had made.

It had been a tough choice.

Was the option she chose actually the wrong one?

That’s something I can’t answer, but it made me begin to reevaluate my own thoughts about pleasing other people.

The author had determined to give her home a makeover.

Choosing a new color scheme, those who were working for her wanted certain items to be replaced.

That included something that had been handmade for her.

Something she really cared about.

Something she really, really liked.

So, what was the problem?

The people doing the upgrade on her home thought that this cherished possession was the wrong color.

It wasn’t broken.

It looked nice.

It still served its purpose.

It just happened to be the “wrong” color for someone else’s tastes.

Well, now.

What did she do?

After having great difficulty with the whole idea, the author got rid of her special belonging.

Later, she considered many aspects of why she had wanted to keep it, and, in the end, felt that she had made a good choice.

As I considered her decision, I had to rummage through my thoughts about why this made me a little uncomfortable.

It was her house, right?

She gets to pick what’s in it and what’s not, right?

If her handmade item was important to her, was pleasing other people about a color scheme even more important?

Actual things may not be that significant in the long run, but allowing others to push us toward a decision that we are not convinced of seems to rid us of our identity and, in some cases, our dreams.

Dreams that God may have placed within our hearts.

Dreams that are attached to a heavenly purpose.

We wouldn’t want to be swayed away from those just because other people thought they  didn’t “fit” with how they thought our lives should go.

Psalm 20:4 reads,

May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose.

What dreams and goals has God planted in your heart today?

 

 

heart desires

To Cleanse Us

 

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

While I was walking out to my garage, I noticed him.

A White Ibyss was at the end of my driveway, bathing in the water that had collected there from a previous rain.

Thrashing about, likely getting every feather wet, he was fun to watch.

I stepped into the house to get my camera.

After I returned, I watched him again.

Wondering if he had a flock nearby, I found them gathered in a yard across the street.

This one had a mind of his own.

“You guys can look for bugs in the grass; I’m taking a nice, cool bath!”

There’s a lot to be said for staying with a group.

Safety.

Camaraderie.

Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for choosing to go your own way and making your own decisions.

Like, for instance, becoming a Christian.

Salvation.

Everlasting life.

Even if all our friends find no interest in Jesus, we still must follow Him on our own.

It might mean leaving our friends on the other side of the street.

But, with our sins forgiven, won’t it feel good to be clean?

 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

—I John 1:9

 

 

 

to cleanse us

 

 

Do Not Fear

 

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

After camping in an area for three days, I still had not seen a deer.

I had hoped to photograph some of these graceful creatures, since I knew that they had the reputation of being there.

A raccoon came the first day.

(It wasn’t even dark.)

An opossum walked across the road in front of me.

A large crab had even lumbered along.

But a deer?

Not this time.

God always knows our hearts even before we tell him what we are feeling.

In fact, even if we choose not to tell him our feelings, He knows them, anyway.

Given this truth, God already knew I wanted to see a deer, so, I believe He let me see one before I left the wilderness.

Just as my husband and I were leaving the campground in our car, we found ourselves at a stop sign with a deer right beside us!

Instead of running away swiftly into the brush, he remained calm.

He was calm when we looked at him through our car windows.

He was calm when I got out of the car.

He was calm when I walked closer to him.

He was calm when I began snapping pictures of him as he walked around, so close to me.

Was he afraid?

Not really.

I think he felt safe.

As believers, we are not supposed to live in fear.

We find these words in the book of Isaiah:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

–chapter 41, verse 10

And these words in the book of 2 Timothy:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

—chapter 1, verse 7

When challenging situations occur in our lives, do we trust God and remain calm?

Are we calm when the problem is just “sitting at a stop sign”?

Are we calm when the problem starts to come a little closer?

Are we calm when strange, little “clicking boxes” of the problem are pointed our way?

Or, are we terrified and fearful?

The deer we saw displayed such a lack of fear, we couldn’t help but notice.

When we are trusting in God during difficult circumstances, do others notice our lack of fear and our abundance of faith?

If we are not trusting in God, what is it that they see?

 

do not fear

 

 

 

Don’t Be Greedy

bookmark3-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1_zps08a42f53

 

 

It was a routine check-up day at the doctor’s.

After having gone through the initial part of the visit, filling out papers and going over medical information with a nurse, I was told to go to a small waiting area before finally seeing the doctor.

As I sat down, my eyes were drawn to some brochures displayed on a table just a few feet away from me.

A photo caught my attention, because it showed a woman who was pushing a swing.

There was no one in the swing she was pushing.

Instead, there was a large camera.

The general idea of the illustration was that this woman was going to be giving all her time to photography, just like she would have had to give all her time to a baby, if she had one.

Is it a “bad” thing to give a lot of your time to something you enjoy, such as photography?

What about sports?

A career?

Your family?

Well, that depends….

I had taken a book with me to the doctor appointment from a Bible study that I am currently involved in with a group.

Only moments before, I had been reading about substituting other things in place of Jesus in our lives.

By placing too great an importance on anything other than Him, we become slaves to whatever that is.

Suddenly, I had spotted a photo of someone who was swinging a camera instead of a child.

It gave me a striking visual of how we can idolize anything in our lives if we put them in the place that Jesus should have.

I don’t want to waste my time swinging a camera….

 

greedy