As White As Snow

I kept looking out the window to see if  it was snowing.  Finally, at 10:00pm last night, I looked out and the world was white.  Beautiful!  I took our dog, Jack, outside.  It was like daylight because of the reflection of snow.  Everywhere we looked, it was fresh, undisturbed, falling in gentle flakes.

This morning at first light Jack and I were out again but this time it was a different scene.  Cars had already begun making the snow dirty.  The sidewalks were filled with squashy footprints.  The beauty of the night before was gone.  As we traipsed along in the wet slush the excitement of the fresh snow was gone.

What I was seeing is a picture of what takes place in our spiritual worlds.  When we come to Jesus, asking Him to forgive us and make us new, He does that very thing.  We are told in Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are as scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.” (says the Lord)  God’s love and redemption is amazing!  He forgives absolutely and He makes new absolutely.  God never does anything half-way.

Then, the temptations of the world come across all our paths.  Too often we succumb to those things that soil our hearts.  The beauty of our newness in Christ fades like trampled on snow.  Joy diminishes.  Peace crumbles.  The beauty that once was is now soiled.

Great news — we don’t have to remain as snow made dirty by the tracks of this world.  At any time we may call out to the One who loves us unconditionally.  Jesus promises us that every time we come with a sincere heart, He washes away the sin and makes us clean like snow again; just as if we had never sinned at all.  We stand pure in His sight when we are washed in His forgiveness.

Oh, what a loving and holy Father!  Nothing compares to His love and forgiveness.

70% Burned — Please Pray

When I heard the story, I shuddered.  A man unconscious and trapped in his pick-up truck was on fire.  He was being burned alive.  A stranger arrives on the scene.  Seemingly, with no regard for his own safety, he opens the driver’s door and pulls the man out, burning himself in the process.

The man who was burning in the driver’s seat was once a little boy in my mother’s children’s church.  He and his siblings were always the cutest things, capturing our hearts, stirring a deep love within our own hearts that remains to this day.  Therefore, with a concerned love for Jim, his wife and children, and his extended family and friends, I ask that those of you reading this would take a moment to pray for Jim.

He is in a specialized burns unit.  Pain is intense.  Skin grafting and therapy will take months of endurance.  I’m so thankful to be able to say that his family know the strength that only God can give.  They are clinging to it with a strong faith.  Please pray for them that their faith does not waver, that they sense the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit with them, comforting them in all their questioning and fearful moments.

Friends have rallied around them, writing words of encouragements with reminders of God’s love for them and offering practical helps.  Being brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom is a beautiful thing.  It makes us family.  Family helps us to remember to take Father’s own strength when we know we are weak.  Family reminds us to keep on clinging to the hope that Father promises, to bask in God’s peace that surprisingly comes in the direst of situations.

We could all tell wonderful stories of how friends have comforted us and stirred courage within to go on when we thought we couldn’t take another step.  Friends are so important to our effective walk with God because they remind us of Father’s promises of His presence always with us, of His love that never fails, of His strength that holds us in our weakness.

The Apostle Peter understood the great effectiveness of the encouragement that comes from friends.  That is why he wrote the following:

“I will always remind you of these things — even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.  And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live.”  II Peter 1:12-13

Thank you, Father, for our praying friends.

The Boy And The Mop

I heard a funny story this week about a young boy who was afraid of the dark.  It was late evening when the boy’s mother asked him to bring in the mop from the porch outside.  “It’s dark,” the boy said with a nervous look on his face.  “You know Jesus is always with you,” his mother replied.  “Oh, yeah,” the boy spoke with some relief as he opened the porch door a couple inches, stuck his hand out and said, “Jesus, will you hand me the mop?”

I’m sure his mother gave further explanation to the boy but isn’t the display of his faith precious?  The fact is, while not in the flesh, Jesus is indeed always with us by His Spirit.  Just think, the very Spirit of Almighty God resides within everyone who has received Him into their lives.  Therefore, it really is true that Jesus is always with us.

At a morning Bible study I was attending recently, a woman shared that although she lives alone, she finds that her relationship with Jesus is such that she is always talking to Him.  “When the phone rings,” she told us, “I hear myself saying, ‘Jesus help me deal with whatever this call is about.'”  I love the intimacy she shared with us.

I have some of my best conversations with the Lord while driving.  I comment on amazing cloud formations, the beauty of the seashore I drive by, or I discuss with Him whatever comes to my mind.  I talk out loud about things that concern me.  I ask blessings on various friends and neighbors as they enter my thoughts.

The young boy asking Jesus for the mop wasn’t far off the mark.  Jesus really is with us always.  There are times we sense His presence more acutely some days that others, but what we feel never changes the fact; Jesus is always with us.  If we call and listen, we can hear Him speak into our hearts offering guidance or peace or courage.  Whatever we need, He is right there with us.  The practice of the presence of God is a worthy endeavor that promises to bless us; not some of the time, but all of the time.

“It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth.  The world cannot receive Him because the world isn’t looking for Him.  But you know Him, because He lives with you and is in you.”  John 14:17

Happiness Barometer

We all respond with happiness when certain things happen.  For some it’s bumping unexpectedly into a friend whom we haven’t seen for awhile.  For others it might be receiving a simple gesture of kindness, like an invitation to come for coffee, a box of candy, or just a day out browsing the stores with friends, or taking a walk in the countryside.

For me, it’s spontaneous responses from my canine friends.  For example, just this morning I was taking a friend’s dogs to the park to play ball.  One dog was in the backseat while the other one was in the passenger seat next to me.  As we were riding along, I suddenly felt the lightness of the front seat dog as she slipped onto my lap and lay there until we reached our destination.  I had lay my hand on her.  When we came to a stop I glanced down to find her staring up at me with a look of what I define as sweet adoration.  My heart soared.  “I love you, too, Tilly,” I said while sticking my other arm to the back, feeling for the other dog.  “I love you, too, Poppy,” who licked my hand as she began to prance about in anticipation of the ball game to come.

That happiness of this morning has lasted even until now as I sit typing out the story.  That’s when the reminder came to me about how I respond to my Heavenly Father.   If I get all glowing and overcome with tenderness in response to a dog’s love, how much more must my Father be glowing when I crawl into His lap of love, just because I want to, and let Him know that I love Him.

Have you ever wondered why we are instructed to give praise to God?  Is it because of some ego trip of God to be so adored?  Of course not; it’s for our need, as much as for His delight.  When we take time to enter into His presence with praises and words of love and appreciation, it strengthens our own resolve, puts our thoughts and understanding into proper perspective, and fills us with peace and joy that is so vast it cannot be measured.  Praising God is an absolute delight to Him, but it is a tremendous joy builder for us, too.

When we praise Him when we are sad, downcast spirits are lifted.  When we praise Him when we are glad, our joy buckets are so filled they overflow into that “peace that passes understanding.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Just as I adored those little dogs showing affection to me, our Father cherishes our love shown to Him, but the joy He receives is bounced right back to us to overflowing.  Taking time to praise our Heavenly Father is always a peace and joy builder; always, without exception.

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done.  I will be filled with Joy because of You.  I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:1-2

Paralyzed In Fear

You’ve probably heard stories of people in situations that so badly frightened them they could not move.  I once heard the very sad tale of a boy whose brother slipped in mud while walking along a riverbank that sent him sliding into the water.  When he fell, he hit his head on a rock so hard, he was knocked unconscious.  His brother, who was terribly frightened of water, was paralyzed in fear, rendering him unable to go down into the water to help his brother.

Hearing the boy standing on the bank crying out for help, people arrived on the scene to pull the unconscious boy out of the water but it was too late.  The brother had already drown.  To add to the sadness, the boy was not fully submerged.  His brother could easily have stepped down the bank and lifted his brother’s face out of the water until help arrived.  If not for fear the situation would have been vastly different.

God’s Word tells us that God is not the author of fear.  Therefore, fear that prohibits us from moving forward in a positive manner, comes from the enemy of God — from Satan himself.  This arch enemy of God is also the enemy of every follower of Jesus Christ.  Satan hates that very name and will use every tactic he can conjure up to make us ineffective.  Like all enemies he seeks to destroy and kill.  He wants to destroy success and joy, and to kill all hope and peace in our lives.  He whispers lies that, if we make the mistake to consider the lie, may paralyze us with such a fear that we choose not to walk in the direction that God has chosen for us.  After all, God’s destinations are not always known.  He often asks us just to take a step at a time, trusting the path we take to His leading.

The unknown can be fearful.  When we listen to our enemy, fear can take hold, paralyzing us in fear.  We become weak.  Joy leaves us.  Peace drains away.  Fear is such a joy killer.

“But with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Luke 1:37  

The key word in the above is “with.”  When we rely on our own strength to overcome our fear, it may never happen, but “with” God there is no path too difficult to travel.  “With God” we need fear no direction in which He leads.  We need fear no person or goal to meet.  The key is always — “with God.”

In Father’s Own Words

Here we are once again; seeing one year out and a new one in.  Have you made new year’s resolutions?  Are you wondering what the new year holds?  We all like to dream and try to imagine what the months ahead will bring to us.  There will no doubt be some good times ahead; equally, there will most likely be challenges to face which we will find difficult.  Good days and hard days are all a part of life.  Happiness, sadness, tears and laughter; it comes to us all.  The question at the time of new year may be — how will I handle all that may come my way?  There are no better words of encouragement than from our heavenly Father.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

“I have told you many things, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have troubles and sorrows, but take heart because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“When you go through deep waters, 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.”  Isaiah 43:2

“Don’t be overcome with a love for money; be satisfied with what you have because God has said, ‘I will never fail you or abandon you.’  Therefore we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear of what mere people can do to me.”  Hebrews 13:5-6

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me.  Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies..  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23

May 2019 be filled with blessings to overflowing, and my your determination to walk in His ways stay strong; filled with great joy.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

When Bad Things Happen

The young girl lay in her bed and tried to think but thoughts were all jumbled.  Nothing seemed to settle into anything clear.  How would she tell her parents?  They were both so full of love for her; so devoted to God.  What would she say?  Perhaps it really was all a dream; or should she say, a nightmare?  No, it wasn’t a dream. A vision maybe?  Her body felt a trembling.  She turned to her side and lay her hands on her abdomen.  No, it was neither a dream or a nightmare or a vision.  It was real.  She was pregnant; yet she had never been with a man.  How would she tell her parents such a thing; and equally disturbing, how would she tell her fiancé?

Haven’t you and I been in similar situations?  Oh, I don’t mean surprisingly pregnant; I mean, loving and serving God, when suddenly with no warning, the world goes all topsy-turvy.  Everything is going wrong.  You find no words to explain.  Perhaps you can’t explain because you don’t understand yourself why bad things are happening in your once-upon-a-time peaceful world.  Why is God allowing all this, you wonder to yourself, or perhaps your complaints are out loud for all to hear.

Joseph couldn’t sleep.  He never would have dreamed any such thing of Mary.  She came from a devout family, true to God.  Her parents carefully raised their children in His ways.  How heartbroken they would have been to have Mary publicly shamed.  He couldn’t do that to them.  He couldn’t even have done it to Mary.  He had made his decision to break the engagement quietly, hoping that with time idle gossip would subside.  It was in the middle of these thoughts that it happened.  Was it a dream?  A vision?  No, it was a messenger from Almighty God.  What an amazing message indeed. Mary was pregnant by the divine hand of God.

Joseph and Mary were required by law to go to Bethlehem to pay their taxes.  Mary was due anytime now but she pleaded for Joseph to take her with him.  He understood.  Cruel words had been hurled at them both.  “Never mind the words,” Joseph had comforted her,” God’s ways are not our ways but always they are the best ways.”  Mary continually thanked God in her heart for giving her such a man of faith and understanding.  The days had been so difficult, but he was right.  God’s ways are always for our own good, even when the way forward is so unclear and the path difficult to walk.

It happened the very night they arrived in Bethlehem.  So many people were in the town to pay their taxes.  Every inn was booked.  Jospeh could find no room for he and Mary.  Finally, seeing Mary’s very pregnant condition, a kind innkeeper said if they didn’t mind, they could find a place where he kept his animals.  Joseph was grateful.  He piled hay into a sort of bed.  Mary lay there and gave birth to the most wonderful gift God would ever give mankind.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have life eternal.”  John 3:16

This is why we have Christmas; the day to celebrate when Jesus Christ was born.  God had Him born in human form.  He had one mission only.  To pay for the sins of mankind by His own death.  It had to be Him to pay the penalty because only He is holy and only holiness could be presented for lasting payment.  It is for anyone for the asking.  There is nothing God will not forgive.  We only need come to Him with a sincere heart.  Seek that forgiveness and you will find it — in Jesus.  There is no other way.  What a wonderful, amazing, peaceful life it is to have Jesus in it.

Merry Christmas and may this New Year be filled with God’s blessings.

The Maple Leaf

There is a place near the seafront where I often take Jack to walk and run.  It’s a beautiful place with vast fields right next to the open sea.  Seagulls are flying, waves are rolling to shore.  Along one side of the fields are trees of varying types, shapes and sizes.  There is a maple tree that I have enjoyed in every season.

Recently I watched the presence of Autumn in its leaves, making brilliant colors of red and yellow and bronze.  All too soon the leaves began to drop to the ground but that held its own beauty.  Jack and I both loved walking through dry leaves, hearing them crunch beneath our feet.

Last week there were several days of rain.  On a walk during one of these rainy days, I noticed a rather large maple leaf laid flat on the cemented walkway, plastered there by the rain.  On every subsequent day of our visit the leaf was still there.  Because it was so large I couldn’t help but notice it every time I passed.

Today as Jack and I walked along I began to look for this very familiar leaf.  We neared the place where I knew it would be found; only it wasn’t there, or was it?  I stood and marveled at the place where the leaf had embedded itself the cement.  The leaf was indeed no longer there but its imprint was perfectly formed.  That imprint will now be seen for many seasons and perhaps even years to come.  When I see this imprint I will always be drawn back to the beauty of its yellow color that first caught my eye.

That’s when I began to contemplate that you and I have the same opportunity to leave an impression of the life we have lived even long after we pass from this earth.  We leave imprints on other people’s lives by the way we speak or react to one another in any given situation.  How we imprint can influence someone else for good or for bad.  It’s like Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  

It’s both a lovely and daunting thought that our words and actions are capable of encouraging or discouraging; of leaving a lovely memory or a nightmare in the mind of another.

May we all, with Father’s help, be careful of words and actions, that we may be lasting imprints of great beauty.

The Scary Washing Machine

My washing machine is one that fits under the counter in my kitchen.  The kitchen is also where Jack finds his food and water bowls.  Both bowls are kept clean and fresh to take care of his hunger and thirst needs.  Throughout the day he can be heard happily munching or slurping away.

The other evening I became aware of Jack whimpering.  I looked to see what was the matter.  He was standing at the kitchen door and peering into the room with a very sad look on his face.  “Jack,” I called out, “what’s the matter?”  He looked at me and whimpered again so I got up to investigate.  Immediately I realized the problem.

Jack doesn’t like noises.  I had forgotten that he doesn’t like going into the kitchen when the washing machine is operating. It whirs and spins and gurgles; not his favorite sounds.  As I came closer he looked up hopefully as if to say, “will you go with me, please?” I did.

In Jack’s eyes I was some kind of super hero, bravely facing the big, bad, noisy washing machine.  As I stood in front of the white atrocity, Jack walked over and began to eat from his bowl.  Once in a while he looked up.  “Im still here, boy,” I assured my furry companion. I smiled and felt good all over to know that just my presence, in the midst of what causes him fear, could be such a great comfort to him.

As I stood guard waiting for him to finish his dinner I began to thank Father that He does the exact same thing with us.  He doesn’t chide or become exasperated when we are fearful.  No, He lovingly whispers His words of love like, “I will never leave you or forsake you,”  (Hebrews 13:5) or “I the Lord your God will go before you,  I will neither fail you or abandon you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6)  

I take great comfort in knowing that as this world spins chaos loudly like a washing machine cycle that seems to be endless, He is right there with me, smiling, comforting, loving, just like I do for my goofy but dear dog, Jack.

When All You Can Shout Is, “Help!”

3:00am.  The dark water was as black as the sky. Waves pitched the small fishing vessel up and down, back and forth.  The men tied down the canvas, secured everything that moved, and held on tight.  That’s when they saw it.  The ghost!  Only it wasn’t a ghost.  It was Jesus!  It was like he was floating in the black of night; but no, he wasn’t floating!  He was walking on water!

The frightened fishermen argued among themselves as to whether or not it was really Jesus.  Finally, Peter calls out, “If it’s you, call me to you!”  Peter obviously hadn’t thought through the possible outcome of that challenge because the recognizable voice of Jesus indeed  bid him to come.  What?  The others were watching open mouthed.  What would Peter do?

He gritted his teeth, wiped the lashing water out of his eyes, and slung his feet over the boat.  Just look at Jesus, he told himself.  He felt something solid beneath his feet, but it wasn’t solid at all; it was all water and Peter was walking on it.  One step.  Two steps.  Gusts of wind hit him full body.  Sprays of hard water stung his face.  In fear he looked away from Jesus, concentrating more on the raging storm around him.  That’s the moment it happened.  The solid feel beneath his feet fell away and water sucked him down, down, down!

Did Peter flap about?  Did he try to swim?  We don’t exactly know.  What we are certain of is who Peter called for help.  “Lord, save me!”  Those three words were all that he had time to shout.  What did Jesus do?  Did he stand there in annoyance watching Peter drown in fear?  No, he did what He always does when any of us calls out to Him for help. He reached out, took hold of Peter, and together they got back in the boat.

Are you fearful about anything in your life?  Are you worried about the outcome of some situation?  Are the winds of life beating you down into despair?  Then do the only necessary thing.  Call out to Jesus for help.  There is no doubt that He will come.  He will come offering His own strength, and taking hold of you, He will put you back in the boat, guiding you to the shore.

The above story is told in Matthew 14.

“Call upon me and I will answer you and show you great and might things that you do not yet know.”  Jeremiah 33:3