Gap Fillers

Have you ever seen a brick wall that has begun to crumble?  It’s worn and the mortar in between the bricks has begun to disintegrate.  When that happens; when a gap appears, fresh mortar must be applied to hold the bricks together.  It’s the same in our spiritual world.  God as our Father has made us family.  He has given us the privilege, when called upon, to be mortar in someone’s life.

We have all experienced situations when it seems our personal worlds are crumbling all around us.  The mortar of our resolve has begun to disintegrate.  We are weakened.  We have been hurt or disappointed.  We grieve.  We see no way out.  We need someone to come and  apply fresh mortar.  That’s why Father has made us family.  When one is wounded, another steps in to hold up weary arms, to wipe away a tear, to speak encouraging words of truth and of God’s love.

It is a need we all have for someone to come and lift up our tired arms.  It is a joy to let someone enter our hurting worlds, to speak words of kindness, to lend a practical helping hand.

It is a great sadness when offers of such help are refused.  Father wants us to be quick to bear a burden and to be equally quick to share a burden.  Crooked places are better made straight when help comes to mend the road.  Crumbling walls are made stronger when there are those who come with fresh mortar to fill in the gaps.

I have had precious gap fillers in my life.  For each one I remain truly thankful.

“Share each other’s burdens for this is what Christ asks of you and it pleases Him.”  Galations 6:2

It’s The Little Things

I know we all have big things in life that irritate us to the hilt and we have little things in life that irritate us just as much.  For me, for some reason, it seems to me more of the little things.  A dear friend said to me not long ago, “I can’t figure you out.  You go —  on purpose —  to countries where there are people who would gladly kill you but you get all upset about a store locking its doors before closing time.”  I laughed in the midst of my snort of frustration because he was so very right.

I have made a mental note to be aware of this and while doing so something else has taken place.  I have been thanking Father in a fresh way..  He has been helping me, not only to be aware of the little things that cause frustration, with hopes to overcome that habit, but He has also made me aware of the little things that point to His own goodness: a stranger let me into a busy line of traffic, a young moorhen took flight for the first time right before my eyes.  I watched this little bird grow up.  The first flight brought a tear to my eye.  I parted my curtains and stood frozen as a pink sky greeted me.  Two little dogs that I walk in the mornings leapt into my lap just because they wanted to; their shining eyes touched my own heart with the love I saw there.

Today I did a clean out of stuff not needed.  Old bits of boxes needed to be taken to the dump.  I loaded up only to find out upon arrival that it was closed!  Grrrrr an imitation began but then I glanced at the friend sitting beside me in the car and a smile of warm thankfulness filled me for her treasured friendship of many years.

I love God’s creation and often gaze at it, but this week I have been scrutinizing with fresh eyes.  Every time an irritation has sought my attention, another thought has quickly interfered, leading me to something for which I can be thankful.  The kindness of strangers, the love of a friend, and the handiwork of God.   It has all been fresh air to an otherwise frustrated heart.

Little things can be so exasperating, but the little things can also be the biggest blessings.

Father, help our eyesight to see what’s important and what really isn’t.

“The Lord is my Shepherd.  He gives me everything I need.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters.  He refreshes my soul.”  Psalm 23:1-3a

Washing Duvets

Our dog, Jack, if I do say so myself, has truly landed on his feet by coming to live with my mother and me.  From dismal beginnings as a homeless puppy in a ditch, to a life of morning peanut butter sticks, daily nutritional food, an assortment of toys, and even his own duvet’ to sleep on.  He loves his duvet so fluffy and soft.  It’s not unusual to suddenly notice it’s gone quiet in the house and he has seemingly disappeared; but no, he’s napping on his billowy duvet.

It was time this week to wash it.  I pulled it out of his bed and wadded it up into a huge ball for easy carrying to the dryer.  This got Jack’s immediate attention.  He came over and took a mouth full of duvet, trying to pull it away from me.  “Jack,” I said, “I need to wash your duvet.”  He looked at me with great astonishment as I pulled the duvet out of his hopeful jaws and stuffed it into the washing machine.  The timer being set, I glanced at Jack and couldn’t help but laugh.  There he was doing a vulture imitation with his head hung low to the floor.  The loss of his duvet obviously weighed heavy upon him.

I thought to myself, if only he could understand I’m making his treasured duvet even better.  That’s when a truth hit me.  I didn’t want to think about it but I had to stop and consider my own behavior before my Heavenly Father.  Hadn’t Jack’s lack of understanding and pouting, at times over the years, been mine, too?

My thoughts quickly darted to yesteryears, remembering times when Father had given me a wonderful blessing of some sort.  I was so happy!  Then, with the passing of time, something happened that I could not understand.  It seemed the blessing had turned sour.  Why would God let such a thing come to pass?  What was happening?  I cringed as I recalled that, like Jack, I too had hung my head like a vulture, disappointed in what I did not understand about God.  Was there some lesson God was teaching me?  Was this a molding time?  Had I done something wrong?

All those serious thoughts swirled in my brain.  I made myself believe God must have been disappointed in me; when actually, all He was doing was making my blessing even better.  I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes being a bit befuddled concerning methods of God.  While no one can understand God’s ways fully, we do know that His ways are always, without exception, for our good.  He tells us so in Romans 8:28.  God loves us without measure.  Therefore, when something goes wrong  — it doesn’t necessarily mean that God is displeased with us.  He might just be washing duvets.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:5

 

 

A Sliver Of Light

I’ve often been amazed at stories told by those who have been prisoners of war.  One such story stays in my memory about a man who had been captured in the Pacific during WWII.  As a punishment in the camp he was forced into a wooden box and kept there for days.  He couldn’t stand up or move around.  He was in a sitting position.  To sleep he could only lean his head against one side of his squared cell.  It was hot and often he felt as if he might suffocate.  He was given no water or food during this time.  He sat in his urine soaked pants.

He tells that he never lost hope that he would survive because he could always see a sliver of light through a crack in his wooden prison.  Light shone through in the day and also in the night from lanterns hung around the camp.  He was uncomfortable, hungry and thirsty, and in great pain, but hope stayed alive because he could see that sliver of light.  That light represented life that was going on all around him.  It gave him hope that he would be returned to his fellow inmates and together they would press on.

I thought that this is how situations are in our physical and emotional worlds.  We have a dream that is dashed.  We are betrayed by a trusted friend.  We are unfairly treated at work.  We suffer poor health or watch someone we love grow weaker from illness.  The list goes on of unpleasant circumstances which, at no fault of our own, imprisons us in a dark world of the unknown.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we can always see a sliver of light from the One who is the Light of this world.  He alone is our greatest hope.  Martin Luther once said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.”

The Apostle Paul was imprisoned unfairly.  He wrote to Timothy in I Timothy 1:12, “I am suffering here in prison, but I am not ashamed of it, for I know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard all that I have entrusted to Him, until the day of His return.”

The darkness of this world can seemingly suffocate all joy and hope away, but anticipation for deliverance need never fade.  The key is — stay  focused on the Light even when it seems but a sliver.

 

An Encouraging Challenge

I read something this morning written by a friend named Starla Shattler.  Starla is an excellent writer with wonderful insights into God’s Word.  I was greatly encouraged after reading the following.  I hope you will be also.  She titles it:

REGARDLESS

“The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the King of Egypt told them to do.”  Exodus 1:17

“Joseph, the slave-turned-savior of Egypt, was dead, and so were all who remembered his good work during the great famine.  A Pharaoh who had forgotten his history came to power, and all he knew was that a foreign people, “many and mighty,” lived within his borders.  His fear was national security for if an enemy marched in, the Israelites might help them out.

His solution to the situation?  Slavery—ruthless, forced labor with harsh demands and long, hot days, but his plan backfired because the more bricks the slaves built, the more babies were born. “The more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread”(Ex 1:12).

Pharaoh’s next option? Infanticide.  He didn’t want to lose his labor force—just limit it, so he instructed the Jewish midwives to murder all baby boys at birth.  What would Shiphrah and Puah do?  The most powerful man in the world had issued an order, but the choice to comply was their own. Should they carry out Pharaoh’s command to take the babies’ lives or let them live and risk their own?
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They never even hesitated.  “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do”(Ex 1:17).  Pharaoh was unhappy and asked for an explanation. God was pleased and blessed beyond expectation. “God was kind to the midwives…and because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own”(Ex 20-21).

Life is full of choices, and our days are determined by our decisions—not so much how long we live but how well we live.  And how much of our lives will last.  Often it’s wise to weigh the options, but when God has spoken on a matter, don’t debate. Do the right thing, and know that obedience always brings blessing.  Some rewards appear on earth; the rest will arrive in eternity, but they will come because God is kind.

As you decide how to live today, remember that it matters not who in this world is offering opinions, proclaiming policies, or demanding the latest version of morality.  The King of Heaven has spoken in His Word, and His commands are the ones we should keep.

Regardless.”

 

The Dance Of Nature

It was 6:00am when Jack (our dog) and I set out for our early morning walk.  While the night was quietly slipping away, the sky was awash with a wide streak of pink clouds.  I froze in place for several moments just gazing at this beautiful sight.

Later in the afternoon I took Jack for a walk along the beach.  The pale green water sent high waves capped with white, racing and crashing to the shore in magnificent splendor. What amazing strength to behold.

The wind sailed across the water grabbing trees, dancing with limb and leaves, dipping to the ground and twirling tall blades of grass into a jitterbug of delight.  Birds stretched their wings, gliding in perfect rhythm with its breezy partner.  Everywhere I looked, nature was either in a tango or a chacha of wild pleasure.

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers – the moon and the stars You set in place – what are mere mortals that You should think of them, human beings that You should care for them?  Yet You made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.  You gave them charge of everything You made, putting all things under their authority-the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.  O Lord our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!”  Psalm 8:3-9

The Case Of The Chair – Not There?

It was only last week that my mother and I had been in a store that sold curtains, sheet sets, and furniture.  As we walked around the store and through the furniture section, my mother saw a reclining swivel chair with footstool.  She sits in it.  I hear a “aaaaaaaah” sound of delight.  “This is so comfortable,” she says.  She gets up and we continue to walk about the store; then we leave.

Yesterday we were back in the store meandering about when we again walked through the furniture section.  There was the chair, only this time it was on sale!  A third off!  We were delighted and decided to purchase the chair.

It took a while to find any personnel.  I walked around as did my mother but we could find no one.  Finally I went to the check out counter and asked if help could be called.  The young girl replies, “There should be someone on the floor.”  I can feel my frustration rising at this obvious statement.  “I agree,” I reply, “but there isn’t, which is why I’m asking you to please call someone.”  I feel my face stretch into a smile which I know is fake because inside an irritation is beginning to occur.  I remind myself to calm down.  Someone will come and all will be well.

I return to the furniture section to wait with my mother, and sure enough, someone comes to help us —  or so I thought.  I tell the sales clerk that we like this chair and want to buy it.  I add that we would need it delivered.  “Of course,” the young girl assures us with a smile.  She sits down with an iPad and begins typing.  “Hmmm,” she hums, “I don’t seem to find it in the system.  I need the exact name of the chair.”  She excuses herself to go and find the name when I announce, “Here’s the name on the tag.”  She glances, smiles, says, “Oh, yeah.”  We all chuckle and she continues typing on her iPad.  “I just need to go and consult with my colleague.  The name isn’t registered.”  It was then I glanced at her iPad and see the misspelling of the type of chair.  “It’s not spelled correctly,” I say, “would that make a difference?”  She chuckles and retypes.  I see a photo of the chair appear on the screen.  I sigh in relief and relax as I feel we are getting somewhere.  I was wrong.  “I’ll be right back,” she says.  “I just need to check something.” She leaves.

My mother is sitting in the chair to be purchased.  “This sure is comfortable,” she says.  I feel happy that we will soon be getting this chair.

The young girl returns.  “I’m so sorry,” she begins, while wearing a great big smile on her face as if she isn’t actually sorry; she’s elated.  Must be the training I think to myself.  She then explains, “We can’t deliver the chair because we no longer have them.”  “Pardon?”  I hear myself ask.  She repeats her statement with the same smile of elation stretched to its fullest.  It was at this point that the frustration I had felt earlier was suddenly full blown aggravation.

At such moments do you ever begin to envision a scenario in your mind?  I do and at that moment of rising anger, my mind starts to think about the Flintstones.  It’s Bam-Bam with his amazing strength.  He takes rogue dinosaurs by the tail and bad guys by the hair of the head and wham wham fwap fwap they are being banged from one side to the other by Bam-Bam.  I want to stress at this point that I absolutely did not grab her ponytail and do the same.  My arm twitched with desire but I did not do it!

I want to further emphasize that I refrained from sarcasm, perhaps saying something like, “Hon, if you come here and carefully stretch out your hand and touch this object, guess what?  It’s the chair!”  I didn’t say it although the visions of Bam-Bam still danced in my head.   It was my mother who uttered with some astonishment, “What do you mean you don’t have it?  I’m sitting in it.  Here it is.”  She is standing now and pointing to the chair.

“Oh,” the girl laughs, “no let me explain.  When we place an order it comes from the warehouse.  They don’t have anymore.”  I ask if the store can deliver.  No we are told, the store can’t deliver.  We can have the chair if we take it ourselves.  We then leave because, of course, neither my mother nor I can heave ho the chair onto our backs.  Neither could we ram it into my little car.

All the way home I feel fury boiling inside.  All peace is shattered.  Pictures in my mind of Bam-Bam have fully taken over.  My arm tingles with the delicious sensation of wham wham wham!  Did I pray about this aggravation?  No.  I admit it never occurred to me; I was consumed with agro!

Back at home while my mother puts the kettle on I turn on my laptop and go to Amazon.  After typing the name of the chair and clicking, the chair appears.  I stare in unbelief.  There it is — half the price plus free delivery!  I start to laugh and call my mother.  We order the chair.  It is promised be with us on Tuesday.

I sit and contemplate the Lord’s care of us even when we don’t know it; even through visions of Bam-Bam whamming.  Even in the seemingly insignificant, in spite of personal rising frustrations, blessings are coming.  I thank Him that His eyes are ever watching over, always blessing; and I think too, God must have been laughing also with the action of The Flintstones playing out in my mind.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17 

 

Roses And Battle Wounds

For more than forty years there has been a small picture of a rose that I have kept in my Bible.  It’s a pink rose bud.  On the back, the friend who gave it to me, copied the following poem by Gregory:

It is only a tiny rosebud, a flower of God’s design.
But I cannot unfold the petals with these clumsy hands of mine.

For the secret of unfolding flowers is not known to such as I.
The flower God opens so sweetly, in my hands would fade and die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud, this flower of God’s design,
Then why do I think I have wisdom to unfold this life of mine?

So I’ll trust in Him for His leading each moment of everyday.
I’ll look to Him for His guidance each step of life’s pilgrim way.

The pathway that lies before me, my Heavenly Father knows.
So I’ll trust Him to unfold the moments, just as He unfolds the rose.

There have been instances over these forty years when the path forward seemed too hard.  I was nervous at the prospects of what lay ahead.  Sometimes I would try to make a different plan from the one God had clearly shown, daring to think He would approve of a variation.  I felt rather proud and even smug at times about the brilliance of my ideas.  God never fell for it; not once.  Each time I had to crawl back, feeling absolutely humiliated at what I had done.  Each time I had to reveal the battle scars I had gained in attempting to go my own way.  Each time He picked me up, poured His healing oils of love and forgiveness into my wounds.  Each time I was renewed in gladness and sweet peace.  Each time I told myself that I would never plan my own way again.  Each time there was a next time.

How loving beyond human words are the ways of our Heavenly Father.  How sweet His forgiveness.  How powerful His grace.  How pure His love.  Amazing.  Always amazing.

One more thing about the picture of the rose that I keep in my Bible.  It has been burned around the edges.  My friend wrote:  “The burnt edges only enhance the beauty.”  How like the grace of our heavenly Father.  No matter the battle scars acquired by our own disobedience, He continues to mold us into the lovely likeness of His Son.

Never fear His plans and never shrink back when you have got it all wrong.  Think upon  His everlasting love and remember, “It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

Read more at Poem : Rosebud, a flower of God’s design http://www.turnbacktogod.com/poem-rosebud-a-flower-of-gods-design/#ixzz5SOyX99vL

Kept In Golden Vials

Have you ever noticed that there are several verses in God’s Word that mentions “a sweet smelling odor?”  In the Old Testament there are verses referring to offerings to God being a sweet odor to Him.  In the New Testament Apostle Paul informs us that we who know Him are a sweet odor.  Christ is the sweetest of all for the perfect sacrifice of His own life for us.  There’s another verse in Revelation 5:8 that reads, concerning us, “…before the Lamb were harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints.”  

Reading that always reminds me of God’s deep love for me and for you.  Has the question ever floated in your mind, “Does God really care about the mundane things in my life?”  I’ve heard people say that there are far more important matters throughout the world for Almighty God to take notice of than individual lives simply going through a hard time.  Not true.  We know that’s not true from the above verse in the book of Revelation.  It clearly states that our prayers are a sweet odor to Him.

Elsewhere in Revelation we read that God keeps our tears in a bottle.  Why would He do that —  keep our tears in a bottle and our prayers in golden vials? Things are only kept in precious places when they are valuable.  Does God care about the mundane situations in our lives? Does He care when we cry?  Does He take all that much notice when we call out to Him for help?  We can definitely conclude that, yes, He does; so much so that He stores them away for safekeeping.

The next time you wonder if your seemingly small difficulties or your deep tragedies are important to God in the light of world tragedies, remind yourself that your every prayer is so precious He keeps it in golden vials.   They are sweet to Him.  He treasures everything that matters to you.

Two Kinds Of Hope

I feel confident to say that everyone of us have experienced hoping for something only to find ourselves disappointed at the results.  As we go through life we learn two things about hope:  we don’t always get what we hope for, and when we do, we are often disappointed because the thing hoped for didn’t do for us what we expected it to do.

When dealing with the disenchantment of hope we can identify with King Solomon.  He was a man that could have everything the world could offer; yet he found it all unsatisfying.  He had material wealth but it didn’t satisfy.  He was popular but that didn’t satisfy either.  He experienced the finest wines and the most exotic foods but there was no lasting satisfaction.  He looked for happiness in sex with 700 wives and 300 concubines. (One wonders how he had time for anything else!)  but that brought no deep and lasting satisfaction either.  He wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:14, “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it’s all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”  He could not find lasting fulfillment or purpose in anything the world had to offer him.  Its pleasures were for a moment and then vanished, leaving him to chase something else to make him happy.  Have you ever felt like Solomon,  running after fulfillment, breathless in the exhausted pursuit?

There are two kinds of hope that we can attain; one type of hope comes from the world and another comes from faith in God.  The first hope is not a bad hope.  We all joy when we get that house or that dream job.  We all appreciate when a bad situation changes for the good.  Even so, the above is temporary.  They involve hope that is fleeting; here one day and gone the next.

The hope that God Himself gives us is lasting in spite of any of the above.  The hope that God gives involves His promises that are steadfast and unchanging no matter the situations of our lives.  His loves is unchanging.  His peace is unchanging.  His joy is unchanging.  His hope is unchanging, enduring through anything, holding us up in everything.

The world’s hope is sometimes satisfying and something not.  God’s hope is steadfast at all times; promising a peace and joy that nothing of the world can ever take away.