Vickie's Blog

Thoughts Along Life's Journey


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The Beauty Of The Cross

When we hear the words, “the beauty of the cross,” we may understandably think of a silver or gold cross dangling from a necklace.  Sadly, even among Christians, the cross has become nothing more than an Easter subject or a jewelry selection.  I write today to encourage us all, do not forget that without the cross, all humanity would be lost and without hope.

You see, if not for the cross, humans would attempt to fill the void in their lives with points of religion that entail rules and regulations.  Of course, no one can perfectly maintain rules and regulations.  We will slip up somewhere along the way.

Thank God the cross is not about religion, nor rules and regulations; the cross is about relationship.   The cross held upon it’s roughly hewn timbers the embodiment of love, because it stretched upon those timbers, the life of Jesus that spilled out the blood of forgiveness for all mankind’s sins — no matter what those sins may be. The cross is the key to freedom.  The cross is the way of hope.  The cross points to the way of forgiveness.  The cross is the revelation of the heart of God.

If Jesus had not died on the cross, life would be senseless.  However, since Jesus did take our place for the payment of sin, everyone has opportunity to receive, not only forgiveness of all sins, but also to receive a promise of eternal life in heaven, where there will be no more tears or sorrow.  Because of the cross, we have available to us, the power of God working in our lives, showing us the way to successful and joyful living.  How weak we would be if not for what happened on the cross.  Our own attempts at triumph in life would be futile and depressing.  Thank God, that through the love of Jesus on the cross, He conquered death, gaining victory on our behalf.

The way of the cross was cruel and painful, painted in blood, leading to death — enter Jesus — and the way of the cross becomes the most beautiful object because of the love that was nailed there.  When we understand the way of the cross, we can say with Paul as he said in Galations 6:14, “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of the cross, my interest in the world has been crucified, and the world’s interest to me has also died.”

Without the cross, our eyesight is limited; with the cross, our eyes are opened to the glory of heaven.  Therefore, how beautiful is the cross.

 


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Swim — Or Tread Water

Just today I was thinking about swimming and treading water. If one doesn’t know how to swim, or if they choose not to swim, then the instinct in the water is to tread. It’s amazing how, with continual gliding movements of our arms in the water, we can stay afloat. When I was a child, my cousins and I would have treading water contests to see who could tread the longest. There were never any winners; we all gave out about the same time, our strength fading fast.

As those childhood memories came to my mind, I thought to myself, that’s what we so often do in our spiritual worlds. We should be swimming in the peace of Jesus at all times; too often, we are treading in the water of our own attempts to get to shore and stand on solid ground. When we find ourselves in difficulties, why do we tell ourselves that we can survive and get to shore simply by treading water?

I love God’s Words to us in Isaiah when He was talking with the people of Israel. They were going through a terrible time. God says to them in Isaiah 43:1-3 “But now, Oh Israel, the Lord who created you says: ‘Do not be afraid for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up. The flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”

Those wonderful words are for us, today! God sees our troubles and He cares. He knows all about our treading attempts to save ourselves. He is always on the ready to be our lifeline; to pull us to shores of safety; to pull us into His arms of love. He is ready to put us on a solid path that leads to our good. Our own efforts, time and again, will surely lead to our destruction. Never forget, God is always on the ready to take us to shore. He is ready to swim with us, being our peace and strength in the water.

The choice is always ours. God never forces His guidance and care on us. We must reach out and grab hold of His lifesaving arms. Or — we can tread water.


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Everyone Goes Through Something

Our friends from the UK are having their last week with us before returning to the UK tomorrow.  This week we took them to the Smokey Mountains.  While there, we took a day to spend at Dollywood, which was hosting their annual Gospel Singing Fest.  What a huge blessing it was, sharing with hundreds of other believers, worshipping through song.

We were especially blessed by singing artist, Karen Peck.  In fact, we went to all three of her performances.  Each one was a bit different in song, but the same in sharing the joy of Jesus.  She sang a particular song that I had never heard before.  It touched me deeply,  It’s called, “Everybody’s Going Through Something,” from her newest album named, “Revival.” In the chorus are the words, “If I have to go through something, I’d rather go through something with Him.”  Oh, yes!

I have often speculated in life — how do people who don’t know Jesus get through all the troubles of this world?  How do they get through pain, hurt, rejection, grief?  Somehow they do survive.  Even so, in my own experience of surviving, I’m so glad I’ve never had to muddle through in my own strength.  Jesus told His disciples, just before He went to heaven, “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27  The times I have called upon the truth of that verse is innumerable, and the help that would come, was always there.

When I have felt misunderstood; when I have felt there was no way out of some dilemma; when I have felt the agony of loss — I have never had to face any of those emotions alone.  I can testify of a truth that in every trouble of life, when I would call out for the help of Jesus, like a breath of cool air on a sultry afternoon, He has swooped in with His peace, guidance, and assurance to get me through to a good end.

I am so thankful that, not only does Jesus not mind when I call to Him for help, but He adores it when I do.  Are you hurting today?  Whatever is breaking your heart or bringing pain into your life, Jesus longs to help you.  Like a mighty eagle, He is ready to sweep down in love to bring His aid into your life.

I close with another of Jesus’ promises to us:  “I will not leave you comfortless — I will come to you.”  John 14:18

Never forget that His help is only a call away.


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Better Than New

My mother and I took our visiting friends from England to New Orleans this week.  As I strolled about the French Quarter, I noticed a statue being renovated.  The passing of years and of weather had made the statue dull and splotchy in places.  It was easy to see, that with the renovation, the statue was going to be made to appear as it did when it was made — it would look like new.

A thought came to my mind — thoughts about the person who becomes a Christian.  Two things happen:

First, we are told in II Corinthians 5:17 that, “Old things are passed away and all things are become new.”  What a wonderful promise.  Jesus begins His work of making us into His own image.  He puts His thoughts into our minds.  He puts His desires into our hearts.  He gives us His own peace to face all situations.  He gives us courage and joy.  He fills us up with His love.  We are indeed made new, but not like the statue, restored to it’s original state; no, we are made even better because we are forgiven of all our sins.  The things that made our hearts blackened by sin, Jesus cleans up and presents us before God as if we had never sinned at all.  What love!

Second, we are given a promise of what is to come when we leave this earth.  II Corinthians 5:1 tells us, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down, that is, when we die and leave this earthly body, we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands.”  What a hope.  Life for the Christian is filled with promises from God to give us all the holy assistance we need as we travel the road of our lives; then, when we reach the end of the road, our eternal home awaits us.  It’s a home where there are no more tears, no death, no pain — it’s a place of eternal peace.

When God does His restoration work in our lives — nothing at all compares to the wonder of it all!  How amazing is that!


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Waves Of The Ocean

This week I had the pleasure of spending several days at Panama City Beach, Florida.  My mother and I took friends visiting from England.  It’s their first time to come to America; naturally therefore, their first time to set eyes on the Gulf of Mexico. What joy to watch their reactions to all they saw — dolphins leaping into the air, stingrays swam around us, a pelican did some fishing nearby, and of course, sea gulls filled the skies.

Each morning I awoke early, making my way to the beach.  Night had given way to daylight.  Only a few other people strolled along, enjoying warm waves gliding over feet.   I walked a while, then sat in the sand and stared in wonder at the beauty before me.  The vastness of this ocean always amazes me, reminding me again and again of the majesty of our Creator.

As I watched waves coming toward land one at a time, I was reminded that each individual wave, unique in itself, is still a part of the whole ocean.  The ocean gives life to the waves. The ocean is the source of strength and mightiness.  Storms may brew upon its waters causing waves to crash onto shore, but still they are one.  The ocean may be calm and still, sending waves gently pushing onto the shoreline, but they are one.  The waves cannot exist apart from the ocean.

It’s the same in the life of God’s children.  Storms may brew in our lives but we are one with our Father.  Our Father is our source of strength.  Our Father gives spiritual life to each one of us. We are one.  Jesus said to His disciples, “…apart from me you can do nothing.” How true. To attempt anything apart from God’s guidance and wisdom is like a wave trying to move apart from the ocean. It can’t be done.

I love the picture that is painted in the words of Colossians 3:3, “…your life is hidden with Christ in God.” How amazing is that! When someone becomes a child of God, they are no longer alone. Like the waves of the sea, they are a part of the family of God and of God Himself. You are hidden in Christ and Christ is in God!

What comfort to be reminded that, just as no wave can be separated from the ocean, neither can any child of God be separated from Father God. You are His and He is yours — forever.

Forever He will guide you. Forever He will give you strength to face anything. Forever He will love you. Forever He will fill you with peace in the midst of all storms. Forever you will grow stronger in holy confidence — as you understand more fully — you are in Him and He is in you.


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When God Shakes Up Our World

Many of you will remember the stories I have told of our partially blind cat, Kitty, who lives on the screened in front porch.  She’s happy in her little world.  She knows where everything is around her; all is familiar.  It’s safe.  She’s satisfied with her world.  However, I saw that it could be better.  Kitty’s porch needed a coat of paint.

Therefore, early one morning this week, I came out onto the porch with a gallon can of paint, some old newspapers to scatter around, and a paint brush.  I wondered how Kitty would react.  As I took the lid off the paint and dipped in my brush, Kitty approached cautiously.  I began to apply paint — up and down went the movement of my arm.  Kitty was doing her best to focus on my movements.  What was it?  What was happening to her little world where everything had been in order?  What happened to the  two rocking chairs?  Where was her bed?

Cautiously she came closer; then she jumped back.  Her anxiety was obvious.  I talked soothingly to her, calling her name, but I kept painting.  Finally, after much heedfulness, Kitty approached close enough so that  I could reach out and touch her.  Oh, yes, that was better.  Her body, rigid with fear, relaxed to my touch.  It was me, of that she was now certain.  She came even closer.  After more minutes, Kitty was walking with ease around the paint can, around me, and then — Kitty was helping me paint.  She walked between me and the wall.  When she emerged, she was no longer all black on her body.  She now displayed a side of white.  I brushed over the place where Kitty had helped me paint.

More minutes passed, and Kitty lost interest in what I was doing.  She went to her perch, jumped up, and even took a little snooze.  She still didn’t understand what I was doing, but just knowing it was me took her fear away.  Whatever I was doing, Kitty trusted me.  In truth, I was indeed making her porch, comfortable to her liking, even better.  It is now fresh and white.  The rocking chairs are painted, too.

As I spent the morning painting, I contemplated how we often respond to God when He sees that our worlds need improving.  He enters and shakes things up.  What is He doing?  We like things the way they are; nothing needs changing.  We become fearful because we don’t understand what God is doing or why He is allowing something to take place in our lives.  Like Kitty, we approach cautiously, distrusting.  Fear grabs hold.

However, also like Kitty, when we choose to come close to our heavenly Father, in spite of the fear; in spite of the fact that we don’t understand why He is allowing certain things to take place in our worlds — then like Kitty, we sense His touch.  We know it’s Him.  We can trust Him.  Maybe we even try to help God paint.  We might mess up, but He will fix the smudges.  Our heavenly Father delights when we come close to Him.  He loves it when we desire to take part in what He is doing; when we trust that all will turn out just fine, because He is in charge.

I made Kitty’s world better for her.  I would never hurt her even though I knew she would experience some fear at first.  It’s the same with our heavenly Father.  He would never hurt us, even though He knows that we may experience fear when He begins to change things around.  He has our best interests in His own heart at all times.  Isn’t that amazing!  What pure love.

God is always working things to our good — even when it hurts.  We can trust Him with everything that we don’t understand.  God will always paint our world to His glory and to our good, and He will do it in perfect time.  The Psalmist says it well in the  following:

Oh Lord my God, You have performed many wonders for us.  Your plans for us are too numerous to list.  You have no equal.  If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.”  Psalm 40:5


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Dad’s Words Echoing In My Heart

I’ve had some blasts of energy the past few weeks, channeling it into some fruitful work.  I’ve painted the bathroom, the back porch, and our cat, Blackie’s house.  If  I do say so myself, it has all spruced up nicely — lookin’ good.  Tomorrow I plan to paint the front porch, and on Saturday it will be time to saddle up on the tractor lawn mower.  How I love being in the outdoors.

As I’ve gone from one task to another, a flood of memories began to fill my mind and touch my heart.  You see, many times over the years, it was with my Dad that I painted things, or cut grass, or trimmed trees.  We would work side by side, and in our working, all sorts of conversations arose.  Sometimes we talked of very serious matters; sometimes we talked of things that made us laugh long and hard.  Often we talked about the things of God.

This week, I was surprised at the recollections that came back to me; things we discussed that I haven’t thought about in a long time.  It felt good and warm to my heart to recall my Dad’s words.  Sometimes they made me smile and even laugh.  Other times, I reflected thoughtfully as memories of our conversations played in my mind.

I thought about the deep joy and sweetness that comes to me when I recall my earthly father’s words.   Continuing in my pondering, my thoughts switched to my Heavenly Father.  When I recall His words — words that I have hidden in my heart over the years — those words are also sweet to recall.  The words of my Heavenly Father bring me comfort when I hurt; they bring me peace when I am troubled; they bring me guidance when I don’t know which way to go.

I had such joy when I talked with my earthly Dad.  When I engage in conversation with my Heavenly Father, my joy is doubled as I share with Him a thankful heart for all His goodness to me.  You see, the words of my Heavenly Father is what I need every day of my life, because, as it says in Psalm 119:105, “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

Therefore, it stands to reason, if I ignore my Heavenly Father’s words — words that are a light to guide my way — then I may find myself walking in darkness.  In the dark, I will lose my way; I will lack confidence to move as fear paralyzes me.  Joy will fade away as anxiety and worry fill the space where joy once resided.

My personal prayer is:  “Dear Father, help me to remember, whether in the best of times or  in the most troublesome of times, give me your own sweet reminders to choose light.  It is in the light that I will always see clearly.  The darkness is blinding.  Help me to remember, dear Heavenly Father, the sweetness of Your words.”

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