Most Blessed

We are the most blessed people on the planet.  Really.

We spent most of yesterday in the stress of medical issues…in the doctor’s offices, the Emergency Room, standing in line to get prescriptions, getting home and getting settled again.  It was a tough day.

It could have been tougher.  We were being prayed for all day.  We are so blessed to be surrounded in love by people who pray!  Throughout the whole thing, we were aware that God was at work and that we were being loved in phenomenal ways through the prayers of others.  There is some serious comfort in knowing that.

In addition to that knowing, God used the opportunity to send us medical care professionals who exceeded their mandate for giving care…and actually cared for us enough to stop and educate us in the process.

I love it when God sends me blessings in the midst of the day.  I love it when He shows up in the texts and phone calls and emails…and in people!

Actually, God showed up on Sunday night at the beginning of our situation when I received notice that a fellow blogger had visited this site and “liked” one on my previous posts.  As I always try to do when that happens, I returned the visit and read a few things on his site.  As I did so, a Twitter post he had made earlier in the day caught my eye.  It said:

“God gave you this life because He knew you were strong enough to live it.”  ~Pastor Jon Lilley (fellow blogger @ www.jonlilley.com , brother in Christ, person I’ve never met…and carrier of a message that God used to prepare us for yesterday)

I love that quote!  It reminds me that God is in charge of every detail and that no matter what happens to us, He really is aware of what we’re going through at every moment.  He’s got a plan.  Sometimes we don’t really like the plan, but it doesn’t change the fact that He’s got one! (grin)  It also reminds me that He’s put people in place to bless us and make the life we live easier…by their actions, their words, their prayers…by their presence.  We are surrounded by those people and they are some of our greatest blessings in this life.

Yes, indeed, we are the most blessed people on the planet.  Really.

For your weekend…

“Not what we give,

But what we share,

For the gift without the giver

Is bare.”

~James Russell Lowell

 

My cousins near Des Moines are expecting about 26” of snow over the weekend.  Winter is still very much on their minds.  Other friends are dealing with flooded areas and still others are continuing to clean up the debris from recent strong winds.

Here in Mississippi, the rain has passed, the weather is balmy and the wind is soft…and with all of the blooming buttercups in the yard, I’m having a hard time restraining myself from doing some Spring Cleaning out in the yard.  It’s still too early.  I know this from years of experience…of doing the garden clean-out before winter had truly passed.

Knowing that I will most likely have more cold weather to endure doesn’t remove my desire for some good old-fashioned Spring Cleaning!  (Oh, come on!  You KNOW you can’t wait to do it, too!—grin)  Since I can’t be out in the yard quite yet, I’m focusing on the inside for now.

My idea of Spring Cleaning may be a bit different from most people.  I like to look around the house and see what needs to move on out to bless others.  Actually, I do this several times a year.  My husband has joked that he has had to keep moving in the past not to be included in the clean-out.  He’s wrong about that…I need him to help me with getting some of the heavier items out of the house!

I am not a minimalist as far as home decorating goes, but I’m definitely not averse to seeing some “blank spaces” as I look around a room.  I’ve had a rule for years that when something comes into the house, something must leave the house.  That forces me to make buying decisions very carefully.  If something catches my eye, my first thought is, “Where would I put it?” and my second is, “Do I love that more than something I already own?”  If not, then it stays in the store.

Sometimes our things move on to friends, sometimes they get sold, but most of the time, they end up at a local charity shop.  I love the idea that someone else can make use of these things and be able to purchase them at reasonable prices…all the while creating a benefit for others who are in need.

At the risk of moving this in a political direction, the current state of our economy has created a larger group of people in need of assistance; people who are not content to take government hand-outs, but are having a very difficult time making ends meet.  Donating to local charities—whether in cash or in donated goods–means some of your own neighbors may be able to receive additional assistance or even make purchases at prices that are still within their strained budgets without feeling embarrassed or having to do without the things they need.

So here it is…your challenge for the weekend:  start going through your cabinets or your closets and start a ‘give-away’ box for a charity in your area.  Most of us have more than just the bare necessities and many of us have more than we will ever use.  Don’t make this a big deal—just pick one side of your kitchen and clean out those unused pots, pans, dishes, glasses, etc. OR use this as the opportunity to go through your clothes closets and get ready for the upcoming change of season by cleaning out those things you no longer love or that your kids have outgrown.

It’s “not what we give, but what we share…”  What will you share this weekend?  I think you’ll find you’ll be blessing yourself as well as others nearby!

Twenty years and counting…

When the clock ticks 6:32PM (EST) tonight my husband and I will have been married for 20 years.

Twenty years ago, the church was packed with loved ones and the scent of gardenias and pink roses.  Our families and many of our friends were present to witness our commitment to each other before God.  We exchanged rings with a Scripture reference engraved inside.  In part, it says:

“They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way…”  Jeremiah 32:38-39a

God has been faithful to fulfill that portion of Scripture.  Because of His faithfulness, we do have one God, one heart and one way.

We do not always have one mind or one opinion.  (grin)  That’s ok, too.  Complete agreement on every single detail would soon become boring and redundant.  The past twenty years have been packed full of life and love, dreams and plans. Some happened. Some didn’t. Regardless of outcome, all of them were orchestrated by God.

As we celebrate this milestone in our lives, I’m also reminded of another portion of verse read at our wedding.  It, too, is still appropriate as we look forward to the next twenty years and counting…

 “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”  ~Robert Browning

 

 

When it’s hard to breathe…

I was reading in the book of Job this morning.  I think that God took me there because it is the story of a good man—a righteous man—who has been just overwhelmed with difficulties and grief and underwhelmed with the “comfort” of his friends.  That happens sometimes.

I think we can all relate to being the one who is overwhelmed with the difficulties of life.  Perhaps our trials will not compare to the extent of Job’s difficulties, but really, when you’re in the midst of a trying time, you’re usually not taking time out to make sure your grief is larger or smaller than what someone else is dealing with at the time.  At those times, we tend to focus on our own issues because sometimes, it’s just hard enough to breathe.

Hopefully, we’ll have friends who will come alongside us in times like that.  Hopefully, we’ll have friends who will be better comforters than Job had!  Whether or not that is the case, Hebrews 13:5 tell us that we can have a Friend who will never leave us.  His name is Jesus and He will always be “enough”–no matter what you’re facing.

If you’re one of the ones having trouble just “breathing” today, let me remind you of the following:

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  Job 33:4

God made you on purpose.  He made you deliberately and with intent.  He has chosen to give you life.  It is His breath that you breathe.  Breathe.  You don’t have to come up with all the answers on your own today.  He is in control…even when things feel out of control…even when it’s hard to breathe…especially when it’s hard to breathe.

Breath of Heaven  (Songwriters: CHRIS EATON, AMY GRANT)

Chorus:  “Breath of heaven, Hold me together, Be forever near me, Breath of heaven. Breath of heaven, Lighten my darkness, Pour over me your holiness, For you are holy. Breath of heaven. Breath of heaven. Breath of heaven.”

Happy Monday!

“The ornaments of our house are the friends that frequent it.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The sun is shining.  A friend should be arriving soon for a day of “catching up” and just being.

It is the best kind of day.  I would wish you the same.

Happy Monday!

For your weekend…

Well, it’s over.  The plethora of hearts and flowers and mushy cards alongside boxes of candy and bouquets of flowers…all gone…or at least in the sale bin at the store!  (grin)  Oh, the flowers will still be pretty throughout the weekend and the candy might just last a little longer, but the big hoopla that is Valentine’s Day has passed us by until next year.  Some will read that sentence and be sad.  Others will breathe a sigh of relief.

My husband looked at me this morning and said, “Happy Day-After-Valentine’s Day!”   He’s not late in celebrating so much as getting a head start on next year, I think.  I’m fortunate to have him in my life.

I’m always aware that this time of year isn’t always a happy thing for some people.  All the “forced loveliness” can get them down when they don’t have someone to celebrate with and share the day’s delights.  It’s important to remember, however, that whether that’s the case or not, YOU ARE LOVED!!!  God thinks you’re really special.  In fact, He’s crazy about you!!!

I’ve learned something very important over the years:  the best way to feel the love is to share the love!  Your mission for the weekend is to think of someone who may not have enjoyed yesterday so much–it doesn’t matter what the reason is, just pick someone out.  Got that name and face in your head, yet?  Ok.  Here’s the next part…send them a little happy in the mail…annonymously, if you want.  You know my rules:  it doesn’t have to be big or expensive; just a card or a cartoon, a jar of bubbles to blow or a can of play-doh!  Make it fun!  Anything to lift their spirits for a bit.  I guarantee you can’t do it without a smile for yourself, as well.

Let’s spread the love just a little bit longer this year!  Happy Day-After-Valentine’s Day to us all!

Extravagant Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I  finished yesterday’s blog with Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:13:

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

I can’t quit thinking about that “love extravagantly” part.  It’s something to strive for!  It’s something to aspire to!  It’s something we can never do on our own.  In fact, it can never truly happen unless we’ve already done the first thing on that list:  “Trust steadily in God.”  Extravagant love just isn’t possible without Divine assistance and a personal experience with the Originator of the entire concept, God Himself.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:16-17

Now that’s extravagant love!

Love is…

Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,

but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

                     1 Corinthians 13:  4-8a (ESV)

Just this past week, I’ve heard this passage used at a funeral, a wedding, a Sunday morning sermon…and now in a Valentine’s week blog.  It’s been used for centuries…because the message is timeless…and true.

I looked at several different translations before I chose the one above.  Each one was wonderfully worded, but I wanted to use the one with language most similar to the one we use today for a reason:  the message in these verses is too important to miss.  This is more than just “special occasion” Scripture!  This is how we’re supposed to live every single day.

As I looked through the different translations, I also read the remaining verses of Chapter 13.  Although THE MESSAGE is considered more of an interpretation than a translation, I read over it as well, and I found that I really liked the way Peterson interpreted verse 13:

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

Bouquet Love Lessons (and a gift suggestion!)

I came downstairs this morning and saw that the bouquet of flowers on the mantle needed some attention.  Actually, “attention” in this case is code word for they need to have fresh water, have the stems clipped and some of their less than stellar-looking members need to be removed altogether and the remaining flowers rearranged in another vase.

It’s not too surprising that all this is needed because today is the thirteenth day that they’ve been in place on the mantle.  Yes, I said, thirteen.  And, to make this all the more surprising, I bought them after our dear friends at the Kroger store marked them down because they had gotten in some that were just a bit more “fresh.”  I bought them because they still looked great, I had friends coming for the weekend and I love having fresh flowers in the house…and, at the time, there weren’t many blooming out in my own garden.

I’ve been adding fresh water occasionally, but—until today!—no other maintenance has occurred…or even seemed necessary.  Now, you know that it made me start thinking about something besides the flowers or I wouldn’t have written this many words about something so simple.  Here it is:  love and marriage relationships.  (Since it’s the “week of love” you just knew you couldn’t escape it here, too, right?  Hang with me on this because I even have a gift suggestion for you later!)

Our schedules are busy and sometimes when things continue to appear to be in good shape, we forget to do the maintenance on them.  It happens with automobiles, it happens with home appliances and a whole host of other inanimate objects, but I think, by far, we’re the most consistent—or should that be “inconsistent”?!–at this when dealing with other humans…especially those we love.

As long as things “look right” to us, we often assume that they are right…right up until it becomes painfully obvious that they aren’t.  If we need to do some relationship maintenance anyway, doesn’t it make sense to do it on a regular basis…it’s a lot more fun that way and the rewards are– trust me here!–HUGE!

Almost everyone I know has at least heard of Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Your Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.  In it, he illustrates that we all have different things that make us feel loved more than some others.  Just in case you haven’t read it, here are the five love languages that Chapman has identified as being most common:

  1. Words of affirmation (these may be verbal or written)
  2. Quality time (note the “L” in there…quantity time is not the same thing)
  3. Receiving gifts (they don’t all have to be big-ticket items)
  4. Acts of service (this is why seeing you take out the trash may be the sexiest thing she sees you do all week!)
  5. Physical touch (this is much more than just sex…although that’s a great part of it, too)

In the book, Chapman talks about the fact that we often speak our own love language to those around us…and they may still not “feel the love” because they aren’t hearing it in THEIR love language.  We have to learn to be “bilingual” in relationships.

He’s not wrong, people.  I know this from personal experience.  The way we speak to each other and what we hear in response isn’t always verbal or in our native tongue.  We communicate on SO many other levels.  Wouldn’t it be great to be understood?

This is getting long and I could really go on for days, but I won’t.  Here’s the gift suggestion I mentioned earlier.  No matter what ELSE you choose to give your spouse this Valentine’s Day (two days from now, guys!) think about doing this, as well:

  1. Tell your spouse that they are important to you, that you love them and want to make sure they understand just how much every day for the rest of their lives (words of affirmation!)
  2. Tell them that you want to set aside at least 15-30 minutes a day to work on making your relationship even stronger so it will last forever (quality time!)
  3. Bring out a copy of The Five Love Languages (receiving gifts!…and you may want to add some flowers here, if this is her love language…I’m just being honest here)
  4. Make sure they’re comfortable and there are no distractions…like dirty dishes in sink or socks on the floor (acts of service!)
  5. Put your arms around them; hold their hand (physical touch!)…and then start reading together.

(and yes, realistically, I know you may not actually get to the reading thing on Valentine’s Day)

Finding myself…

“I just need to take some time and find myself.”  Anyone else recognize that phrase?  It used to be more popular in the 60’s & 70’s, but I know some people who still say it.  It seems to show up occasionally, mainly, as a polite way of saying, “I don’t want to do what other people want me to do, so I’m just going to take a break from even pretending to listen to them and do what I want for awhile.”  (There may be a whole host of psychologists who just called me an “unenlightened Neanderthal” for that one, but don’t worry, I’ll be ok.)

To catch you up, let me just say that my weekend was not completely full of all the “happily ever afters” that I’d been praying for some people.  Certainly, there was joy.  Certainly, some situations are more resolved, but there seemed to be a rush of others to take their place.  I was called on for a LOT of prayers.

That’s not a bad thing!  In fact, it is a great thing.  Those calls for prayer are evidence that some of the people I love know that prayer can make a difference!  Each of us realizes that I’m not the answer—it’s a God-thing!—but, still, it’s an honor to be trusted to go before Him on their behalf.

In any case, the majority of my weekend was spent in prayer for various loved ones.  Now, before some people get the wrong idea, let me remind those who are not familiar with this practice that prayer to God doesn’t always mean that you’re on your knees the whole time.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.”  That means that you can proceed with your schedule and still be in an attitude of prayer.  It means that your body may be occupied in tasks that are part of your normal routine while your mind is focused on the prayers and God at the same time.  This type of prayer allowed me to continue praying throughout a funeral, a wedding and even throughout our Sunday School and our worship-filled church services over the weekend.

In fact, I was sitting in church last night praying and asking God to show us what we were supposed to learn from all of these difficulties—because, frankly, some of these things I just do not understand at all!  While I was praying, however, there was another part of my mind being frustrated by the actions/reactions/inactions of some of the people I was praying for right then.

And that’s when I “found myself”…sitting in judgment.  Ever been there?  It’s kind of a lofty perch until you realize you’re sitting in someone else’s seat…God’s.  Then, it gets more than a bit uncomfortable.

No, we’re not going to agree with all the attitudes and actions of the people we love.  Yes, we’re going to “miss the mark” sometimes.  In fact, that is the very definition of sin.  But really?  Right in the middle of prayer?!  Yep.  Right in the middle of prayer.  I was sitting in judgment and wanting to “play God” in the worst way possible.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it is a truthful one.  And, honestly, what better time that during a prayer could I ask for God to speak to me about it?  Of course, I’d have been more comfortable if He’d just “fix” those situations I was praying about and stay off my toes, but then He wouldn’t be doing His job of making me better equipped to do the thing He’s assigned me to do.

If I’m to continue to pray for others I must be willing to hear from God—no matter what He chooses to say to me.  I will also need to be willing to pray for those who need it whether they’re doing things to suit me or not.  If I’m to continue to be useful to Him, I will have to do things His way.  You will, too.

It doesn’t matter if we approve of the actions, reactions or inaction of others.  We’re not called to approve.  We’re called to live lives that follow Christ.  We’re called to pray for those who need it regardless of what we think.  That doesn’t mean check your brain or ignore the behaviors.  It does mean that we’re called to LOVE…like God does…and if I have to “find myself” somewhere, I’d rather it be there.