Vickie's Blog

Thoughts Along Life's Journey


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An Extravagant Beauty

I happened upon a TV program this week about someone who has been traveling around the coastline of Ireland. The camera lens revealed some extravagant beauty, especially on the western side of the island. The western side is wide open to the atlantic ocean. For centuries the atlantic has been buffeting the shores with fierce swells. The result? A craggy shoreline of magnificent beauty etched into impressive giant rock, sheltering within its steeps, a myriad of hidden caves and inlets. The entire scene was breathtaking.

The eastern shore has its own beauty, too, but it’s calmer. Green fields spill out across the land until it meets with a much gentler shoreline. The eastern coast faces the mainland of Scotland and England and is protected from the wild waters of the atlantic. Both hold a beauty of its own, but for me, the buffeted rock of the western coast sustains a splendor that captures my eye and my heart.

As I contemplated this scene, the words of I Peter 1:6 came to mind: “Be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.” So many times in our journey, don’t we wish that getting through life’s difficulties was a whole lot easier? It’s tough, and it hurts to go through trials. Like the rocks on Ireland’s western shore, we feel continually beaten; savage winds assaulting our every hope of peace. We don’t want the battering of life’s turmoil, but if it must be so, we wish it would pass quickly. We spend so much time longing for the winds to subside, that we miss the loving molding of The Potter’s hands.

Our heavenly Father is always working to bring out exquisite beauty in our lives. He desires to adorn us with grace and elegance. He longs for us to stand strong against the savage gales that lash out and pound our worlds; but, how do we stand against such mighty forces? We lean into our heavenly Father. It is He who is surrounding us with His own strength and courage. He is our sturdy post to cling to in any tempest of trial. Therefore, since He is our post, take heart; you will not be smashed to pieces. No, you will be revealed as a mighty man or woman of God, ready to stand victorious and magnificent against anything the storm blows in. When you learn to lean into your Father in the midst of any treacherous gale, you will appear what He has been designing all along — an extravagant beauty. Therefore,“Be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead.”


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The One Necessary Thing

The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, are records of Jesus’ life on earth. In it we read about many of the miracles He performed. We take note of Jesus, the great storyteller, revealing spiritual truths through everyday experiences and examples. We see Jesus and His busy schedule: teaching His followers, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, preaching in the Synagogues, debating the religious leaders of the day, casting out demons, even settling disputes among His disciples.

Yes, Jesus was a very busy person, teaching many truths about successful Christian living. However, throughout His ministry, it is interesting to note that Jesus points only to one crucial thing that is necessary to living the abundant Christian life. There is only one thing we must practice in order to know His peace, courage, strength, joy, and direction through all our days.

We have no record that Jesus ever taught a seminar on sermon preparation. There is no record of Him giving instruction on how to conduct a feeding program and helps to the poor. He never gave a lecture on healing ministry, He never suggested a tea cafe to reach the community or a daycare center for the children. There is no record that He gave instruction on conducting a youth camp at the Sea of Galilee. All of the above are wonderful tools today, that when led by the Holy Spirit, the love of God can be shared. Even so, there is no record of Jesus giving any teaching on these matters.

He taught one necessary thing: it’s a tremendous spiritual truth that is absolutely essential in order for any of the above to be effective in leading others to know Jesus. It’s a necessary thing in order for any of us to maintain inner peace in the midst of turmoil. It’s a thing often ignored; it’s often put aside until a later time; it’s often hurried through on the busiest of days. It’s the thing called — prayer.

How to pray is what Jesus taught, and it is what He showed us by His own example. Even on His busiest of days, when He was ministering all day and into the night, it is recorded that “Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.”Luke 1:35

Jesus tells us how to pray in Matthew 5:9-13. We call it The Lord’s Prayer. It’s a tremendous model on how we should pray. There is another instruction on prayer that Jesus gave us, recorded in Matthew 7:7-8, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.”

There are those who would read these words and quickly say that they have asked, sought, and knocked, and God did not answer their prayer. Here is an important truth: God always answers our prayers. Sometimes He says, yes. Sometimes He says, no. Sometimes He says, wait a while. In the meantime, we are instructed to keep asking and seeking and knocking. Why do this if the answer is wait or if the answer is slow in coming? Because asking and seeking and knocking is for our benefit. Those actions keep us focused heavenward. When we focus heavenward, our very thoughts take on a more godly attitude. When we take on a more godly attitude, then God is able to build strength of character in us. When strength of character is built in us, then faith and trust in our Father grows more secure.

Too often we focus on that which we don’t understand, and we quit praying. Jesus urges in His teaching to — keep on keeping on. That determination and obedience is what sharpens our spiritual ears to hear Him when He speaks. If we aren’t ready to listen, it stands to reason that we will never hear. When we do not hear, discouragement sets in, and we declare that God doesn’t answer our prayers. It’s a spiritually debilitating circle. It doesn’t have to be so!

Let’s determine today, and each day as we awake, that we will obey the teaching of Jesus and we will pray; we will talk to Him, telling Him quite simply how we feel about things going on in our lives, what we feel we need, perhaps how we are worried about those around us, what we would like to happen in our world, etc. Ask God for help with everything that troubles you or confuses you. Just talk. Pour out your heart in your own words. When we do this, we will grow to understand that prayer is for our very best. We will grow to a greater understanding of God and His ways. We will come to know a joy so great it can never be measured. Remember this — of a certainty, such immense joy can never be found — without the one necessary thing — prayer.


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A Very Good Friday

Around the world today we will celebrate what we call “Good Friday.” It’s the time when we remember the day that Jesus was put upon the cross. Most people know something of the story of the death of Jesus and why He died. In fact, just a few days before His death, Jesus plainly told His followers what was about to take place. He said to them in John 12:32, “When I am lifted up on the cross, I will draw everyone to myself.”

Jesus, in fact, told His followers several times why He had come to earth, why He would die, and that He would come again after His death. When we read the words of Jesus, how plainly He spoke of these events, it can boggle our minds when we realize that His followers just didn’t get it. Their hopes were that Jesus would overthrow Rome and set Israel free from Roman rule.

We could easily stand in dismay and wonder at the thick headed disciples. Jesus clearly told them — so why didn’t they understand? Actually, we can’t be too hard on them because we are no different today. Throughout Scripture God has recorded His Words to us. Those words are full of hope and promise, and yet, like the disciples, we so often just don’t get it. We read what He says, but we make plans of our own. We especially want our plans to unfold — now! We tell God what we want, ask His blessings, then stand in dismay when those plans don’t materialize as we had thought they should.

When God doesn’t do as we want Him to, then our joy fades. We are perplexed and, like the disciples the night before Jesus was killed, we run away, scared and confused at the dashing of our hopes.

I encourage us all on this very Good Friday, to pay attention to our Father’s Words. They are true all the time. Meditate upon His promises. Look through Scripture and see how many promises you can find. It’s amazing! Let’s hope in what Father says, not in what we want Him to say at any given time in our lives. Remember, He always has your best interests in His heart. He has designed a perfect plan for you and for me. Yes, we can mess up those plans. Thankfully, we have a perfect and loving God who can take what we ruined and give it life again. After all, bringing light out of darkness and life out of death, is a specialty of His.

When Jesus said those words to His followers, “When I am lifted up on the cross, I will draw everyone to myself,” He was offering hope and promise such as the world had never seen. He was offering to take all our sin, all our hopelessness, all our despair, everything ugly in our lives upon Himself. As a result He could offer eternal forgiveness of sins, hope, joy, and He offered to make something beautiful of our lives.

He gave Himself to the death of the cross “to draw everyone to Himself.” Let’s stay focused on His plans for our lives and let’s leave the timing of those plans to His perfect strategy. The blueprint He has drawn for your life is something magnificent — and it’s all because of what happened on Good Friday.


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When Your World Gets Noisy

Doesn’t the world get noisy at times, loudly shouting out that — burdens are heavy, situations are out of our control, people are demanding what we cannot give, work grows more stressful. Our once peaceful world suddenly spins uncontrollably, and in our heart of hearts, we fear we may fall into the abyss of emotional turmoil where peace will never be found again. Such realizations of our personal worlds crashing in on us can cause sleepless nights, short tempers, feelings of despondency, and self loathing for our weakness in it all. How do we crawl out of this melancholy quicksand of gloom and despair?

God gives us a wonderful gem of help in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” The dictionary definition of guard is: to watch over in order to protect. It stands to reason then, that if our hearts affect everything we do, then, of course, we must watch over it and protect it.

How do we do such a thing? When we guard something, we pay attention to it. Therefore, we must take great care what we put into our hearts. What goes into our hearts, affecting our daily course in life, comes in through the eyes and the ears. We must take care what we let our eyes watch. We must take care what we let our ears hear. In other words, we must pay attention to our habits. For example, if our habit is to feast our eyes upon ungodliness, then our hearts will be filled with everything that is not of God; therefore, everything that is unkind, unlovely, selfish, loathing of others and of ourselves. Despondency is most certain to take control when we leave our hearts unprotected against such darkness.

Equally, in contrast, if our habit is to feast our eyes upon things that are counted as holy, then our hearts are filled with everything that is of God; therefore, everything that is kind, lovely and loving, generous, honoring of others and of ourselves. God’s own inner joy and peace is most certain to take control when we protect our hearts, pouring in the very light of God’s truth.

The attitudes that claim our hearts are results of what we feed it. Remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan himself for forty days in the wilderness? Jesus was tempted with power and riches that all came from the darkness of this world. What did Jesus do? He guarded His heart, knowing better than any of us, that He must protect it in order to stay in the light of His Father’s joy and truth. The story is told in Matthew 4. There, Jesus gives us two instructions on how to guard and protect our hearts. He said in verse 4 that, “People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every Word of God.” Then He said in verse 10, “You must worship the Lord your God; serve only Him.”

What happened when Jesus followed those two instructions? The answer is found in verse 11 where we read, “Then the Devil went away, and angels came and cared for Jesus.” The results of guarding and protecting our hearts will be the same for you and for me. The force of evil will have to flee. Oh, that evil will come back another time, trying again to plunge us into the despair of darkness, but the attempt will fail every time, if we follow the instruction to guard our hearts, knowing of a certainty that it affects everything we do.

Yes, the condition of our hearts affects everything we do, everything we say, everything we feel. Let us determine, with God’s own help, to guard our hearts. Let us take careful notice — everyday — upon what we focus, for God’s own Word also says in Philippians 4:7, “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” May Jesus be our everything. Such a focus, coupled with feasting on God’s own Words, and worshipping Him above all else, will guard and protect our hearts.


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Surely This Can’t Be The Way

Last week I had the joy of visiting the northern coast of Devon, England. How boldly beautiful are its rocky cliffs with great boulders and stretches of rock elongated along the shoreline. I felt as if I could have sat for hours just staring out at the grand and majestic beauty before me.

As part of our journey, my friend and I visited an ancient coastal town — Clovelly. Literally built down the cliff side, there are only narrow, cobblestoned footpaths to take residents and visitors to the harbor below. Having mastered our way down the path, we decided to have lunch at the little restaurant along the harbor.

We passed through what appeared to be an obvious way to the entrance. There was indeed a door just under the archway but it was old and heavy looking. Surely this can’t be the way, we agreed. Making our way around the back of the restaurant there were steps leading to the reception. Ah, this had to be it, but no, what our eyes beheld was a room that was not inviting at all. It was cold and sterile looking; it was not the warm and friendly atmosphere, with delightful smells of good food, that we were hoping to find.

We descended, and coming to the unlikely door again, we decided to give it a try. Pulling the door open, what greeted us was an ambience of warmth and coziness. A friendly lady working there welcomed us in. A fire filling the whole of one wall gave us warmth. The food was hot, tasty, and filling. How wrong we had been in our judgement of the unattractive door.

It’s no different in our spiritual world. So often we judge God’s leading in our lives by outward appearances. He whispers into our hearts, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.” (Isaiah 48:17) However, the way doesn’t seem attractive. Perhaps it even looks scary so we convince ourselves that — surely this can’t be the way.

Eve did the same thing in the Garden of Eden. God clearly gave Adam and Eve His perfect directions. Understanding what they could not, He forbid them to eat the fruit of a particular tree, knowing it would bring them harm, but Eve did not see that as an attractive prospect. The fruit appeared delicious. In Genesis 3:4, we see Satan telling his blatant lies, “You won’t die, the serpent hissed. God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.” In listening to this lie and taking time to consider this lie; then deciding the lie was more attractive than God’s way, we read the sad words in verse six, “The woman was convinced…so she ate the fruit.” Unpleasant consequences followed. Veering from God’s path never brings lasting joy.

Sadly, we have all, at various times in our lives, heard the lies of Satan as he points out a seemingly more attractive path for us to take than the one we see God revealing to us. Never forget that Satan only ever has desires to bring us harm and shame and disaster. Satan has been a liar from the beginning and he will always be a liar.

Equally, never forget that God only ever has desires to bless us and bring us joy of heart and peace of mind. God has been the epitome of truth from the beginning and He will always be truth. As Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me.”

The path God leads us to may indeed appear unlikely, unattractive, scary; even so, let us open the door of His leading. There will always be a glad welcome for us, the warmth of God’s love for the path ahead, and nourishment from His own Words to sustain us along the journey. If God is leading, then surely it is the way.


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The Joy Of God’s Sovereignty

Like many, I love the Psalms. It is a treasure chest of comfort and encouragement. This week I was reading in Psalm 115. When I came to verse 3 my heart quickened in excitement. I read the words, “For our God is in the heavens, and He does as He wishes.” Why did that make me excited? Because it reminded me of the sovereignty of God.

The dictionary definition of sovereignty is: one that exercises supreme, permanent authority.

I’ve heard it said by some, that to think of God as supreme, makes them feel afraid. They mistakingly see God as a huge thunderbolt in the sky, looking for some reason to strike in anger. This is a misconstrued view of our Holy God who loves so perfectly and deeply, that He sent His only Son to pay a price that sets us free from our sins; a price that you and I could have never paid. That’s love in its purity.

You see, when we accept God’s undeserved love, and when we understand that indeed, “our God is in the heavens, and He does as He wishes,” then we grow to realize the joy of what that entails. Since our God is supreme and has permanent authority, then our God has authority over all that comes into our lives, and over all that crosses our paths. Since He is a God of perfect love, then His authority over us is always, without exception, exercised in perfect love toward us. When we realize that our perfect, loving God, is making plans for our lives, taking what was meant for bad and turning it into our good (Romans 8:28) then — that’s reason for great joy.

When our joy grows because we live under the authority of the one and only, perfect, loving God, then our confidence in Him becomes steadfast. When our confidence is steadfast, nothing wavering, then peace that passes all understanding floods our souls, easing away the anxieties that beset us, and gently fills us instead with a holy joy. Why? Because our Sovereign God is in control and He does as He wishes, and He wishes to change our quivering hearts into courageous determination, undaunted by the troubles of this world.

One of my all time favorite hymns, It Is Well With My Soul was written by Horatio G Spafford in 1873. Here is the first verse:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

How truly wonderful and loving, that the one and only, supreme God in the heavens, does exactly as He wishes — and He wishes to bless us with everything we need to face anything at all — always.


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Growing What We Plant

This morning, just as the sun was rising, Molly, a lovely, gentle labrador, and I were making our routine walk around the little lake near my home in England. Two ducks had arrived only last week. They glided along the water’s surface with elegance. In patches along the bank, flower bulbs that had been hidden through long winter months are now making themselves known. Purple and white crocuses, and bright yellow daffodils are all bursting in splendor through the grass, lifting themselves toward the sky in grand announcement — “Spring is coming! We are the proof!”

As I gazed upon the beauty surrounding me, I was reminded that quite simply — we grow what we plant. In our physical worlds, if we plant a rose bush, then we will grow roses. If we plant tomato seedlings, then tomatoes will grow. If we plant a daffodil bulb, then daffodils will grow. None of us are surprised by this fact. We all know that whatever we plant, that is what we will grow. Let’s not forget that the same thing takes place in our spiritual worlds.

If we want to be more Christlike, then we must remember that we grow what we plant. For example, if we want to grow faith, then we must plant our minds with faith, and how does faith grow? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Therefore, we saturate our hearts with the seeds of God’s own Word, believing that faith will grow as a result — and it surely will. If we want to grow hope in our hearts and minds, then again, we plant in our hearts and minds, God’s own words.

Our hearts are the soil. God’s Word is the seed. When we plant the truth of His Words into the soil of our hearts, then godly characteristics will grow within us. Of course, we must water our soil with prayer and praise and thanksgiving which keeps a holy desire within us to hear and do all that Father speaks to us.

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” We can plant nothing of godliness on our own. We can act in kindness without Christ, but pure and holy love only comes through Jesus. It is only through Jesus being planted into our lives that we will then grow a godly kindness, truth, thankfulness, generosity, forgiveness, and above all — a godly love that the world cannot give.

Therefore, let’s be careful what we plant in our hearts, because what we plant will surely grow.

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