Effortless Change

Effortless Change

abutterflyLinking up with Lisa Jo Baker for this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt…

MESS

I thought it would never change.

I thought I would never change.

Years and years after salvation, my trying to change produced nothing…but discouragement.

The constant failure to be what I wanted to be,

what God wanted, commanded me to be was…

exasperating,

excruciating,

exhausting.

Then, finally, I realized the truth…

that it had already changed,

that I had already been changed.

Some One else had changed everything….so very long ago. Little did I know the key to my “no longer being a slave of sin” was in

“knowing this, that our (my) old man was crucified with Him (Romans 6:5-6)

Knowing that and acknowledging that, well, it made all the difference. Somehow, someway, remarkably with no effort on my part, change came. No one was more surprised than me.

In the field of faith I finally found my harvest of righteousness.

Any and every harvest is reaped in that one field and only that field.

Not the field of hard work

or good works…

but of faith in His work.

“What must we do to work the works of God?” the disciples asked.  The Master’s reply… “This is the work of God, to believe…”

It was a long time in coming, but finally

my trying turned to triumph,

my stumbling block became my stepping stone,

my mess became my message.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  II Corinthians 5:17

 

A Pen’s Fountain

A Pen’s Fountain

FountainPenJoining Five Minute Friday for this week’s writing prompt: Writer

Writing has been a struggle of late. I wouldn’t be being honest if I said I didn’t know why. I know why because I know that for the writer I am, writing primarily about God and His life-giving Word, writing is simply overflow. And lately, there’s been none.

Striving, struggling, straining to write let’s me know there’s no flow.  Recently someone asked how often I update my blog, to which I answered, “When I have something to say“. And I’m realizing more and more that the nagging voice in the back of my head pressing me to write…something…anything to create a post so the blog stays current, is a sign that there’s a different current I need to attend to.

Like a stream in drought with but a trickle of movement, I need current all right…the current that comes from immersing myself in the fountain of living water, the source of life…abundant life. That, not my blog, is what I need to keep current. Little input equals little output, and that’s been my state.

So, once again I’m learning yet another of my issues is a heart issue. This writer’s hand has been stilled by a wanting heart.  I long to be in the flow, to the point of overflow…my heart so full that inspiration, revelation can not be contained.  That I, with the psalmist, might declare through my writing, by the mere fact that I am writing…

My heart overflows with a good theme…My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalms 45:1

 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license

Seeds Unseen

Seeds Unseen

adandelionI’ve been thinking more about this heart problem I’ve been diagnosed with. You remember…the one I thought was a mouth problem until being reminded my runaway tongue was simply speaking from the abundance of my heart.  Yeah, that heart problem.  Anyway, I’ve recognized that this abundance my mouth has been speaking from is just that…an abundance.  Yes, I have an overflowing, bountiful crop. And with a harvest so apparent I’m remembering something I’m surprised I let slip.  You don’t get a harvest without planting some seed.  But what is this seed?

Since I am by no means a tiller of the ground, whenever I think of seed, my mind goes to Mark chapter four. When Jesus spoke the parable recorded here it appeared He was teaching a lesson on farming. He speaks of sowers, soil, and seed. However, when His disciples ask Him to explain the meaning of the parable, Jesus replies by saying, “The sower sows the word“.  As it turns out, Jesus isn’t talking about farming after all.

In reality, Jesus is using a story about farming in order to draw a parallel, and in doing so He shares an all important truth.  He reveals the very nature of words.  According to Jesus…words are seeds.  Any word, every word is a seed, and seeds take root, and they turn into fruit…and low and behold…you have yourself a harvest.  Words produce a harvest.

Apparently, with the abundant crop I’m seeing and hearing in my life of late, some words have gotten planted in my heart.  They’ve taken root and have turned into fruit. And now, with ever so much diligence, I begin the grueling task of pulling weeds, an abundance of weeds that have overtaken the garden of my heart. Yes, I’ll be busy uprooting words…lying words from the Liar, words I’ve said in my heart, deceived into thinking would do no harm if not spoken. Carelessly simulating the Serpent himself…

you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  Isaiah 14:13-14

Oh, the bitter consequences that can come from words thought hidden in the heart.

Needless to say, I’ll be doing some serious weeding!  And I’ll be doing more than just that, for later in Mark 4, Jesus actually addresses things thought hidden and couples it with yet another sobering truth.

For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear…   Mark 4:22-24

Yes, words are seeds, and I must be ever aware.

What seed will I heed…and, what seed will I weed?

 

Joining Lisa Jo Baker for this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt…”GARDEN”.

Life “Issues”

Life “Issues”

DSC00626SMy mouth has been giving me trouble of late. I admit, sometimes I even surprise myself. Something’s just not right. Where’s this venom coming from? I need to get a grip.  This is causing issues and something’s got to change, so I write myself a simple prescription…

Watch Your Mouth

Surely this will be the cure. I determine that, with ever so much diligence, I will watch my mouth.

Yet in spite of my best efforts, before very long, a new spew erupts. I take another dose. “Watch your mouth”, I tell myself.  “Just watch what you let out your mouth!”

And then I remember the book of James.

No one can tame the tongue. It’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless God and curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.  James 3:8-9

And with all my heart I agree with James’ conclusion…

…these things ought not be this way.

So what’s the answer to my dilemma? If the tongue can’t be tamed, then what am I to do?

Once again I remember, am reminded, not of the words written by James, but of those spoken by his brother, Jesus.

…the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.  Matthew 12:34

Trouble with my tongue? A misdiagnosis. According to Jesus, my speech is merely my symptom, indicating there’s a deeper problem. The real sickness lies elsewhere.  Apparently it’s not my tongue that’s my trouble, it’s my heart. I have a heart problem.  Oh, the pump itself is working all right.  It’s pumping…pumping out what it’s full of. The poison isn’t in my tongue, it’s taken up residence in my heart. Serpent venom, lies, allowed entrance unchecked into hidden chambers unguarded.

Watch Your Mouth. I discard the old prescription,

and write myself a new….

Watch over your heart with all diligence,

For from it flow the issues of life.  Proverbs 4:23

“Watch your heart”, I now tell myself.  “Just watch what you let in your heart!”

And I’m feeling better already.

 ~

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and the writing flash mob over at Five Minute Friday.  This week’s prompt: WRITE

Another entirely different post written on this same word prompt can be found here. It tells of Baruch, a writer called of God, and an all important but often overlooked part of his story that might just help us double check the reason we write.  

A Hero in Haiti

A Hero in Haiti

Danita&IIt was seventeen years ago that I first met Danita. We’d just moved to Florida, had begun attending a huge church and she was the first woman to reach out to me, a one-on-one encounter amidst a sea of people. Over lunch one day I got my first glimpse of this extraordinary woman. Gentle, soft-spoken, with caring eyes and a quiet spirit, she took whatever time necessary to listen…really listen to someone who, at that time in life, needed a soft place to fall.

For the next two years, I watched this woman live.  She never ceased to amaze me with her selflessness and sacrifice, her integrity and virtue, her tireless servant’s heart, her godly character and genuine compassion. Trust me, I have a story, at least one, for every word I use to describe her. She is the epitome of beauty and strength. I watched, up close and personal, and I saw…her grit, her guts, her grace…but most of all, I saw her God.

In 1998, just after we had thrown a house-warming party to celebrate her moving into a home of her own, Danita made a bold and brave decision to leave everything she’d known; the familiar, the comfortable, the secure…and move to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the impoverished nation of Haiti …alone.

Saying goodbye to family and friends, she made preparations to leave. A woman who does whatever it takes, she also prepared for the future by asking my son to teach her how to drive a motorcycle, knowing it would soon be her only means of transportation. I’d seen her do a similar thing once before, driving a U-haul to load some long-stored belongings, transporting and selling them to have money to give to women less fortunate. But now she was preparing to care for those less fortunate still, the most distressed and helpless of all…the orphans of Haiti.

Now, these many years later, this month she celebrates fifteen years of service in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. For seventeen years now I have watched and admired.  In countless ways she has proven to be a doer, not just a hearer (James 1:22), one who loves not just in word and tongue, but in deed and truth (I John 3:18). When I say that she is the definition of a hero, I mean it literally, for heroes are people who transform compassion into action. They go beyond rhetoric and actually rescue.

My remarkable friend Danita is giving her life to do this very thing. Why? It’s because she knows the One who took action on her behalf, the One who gave His life to rescue hers. It is because of this One that she can now rescue, love, and care for orphans and impoverished children…

she can be a hero in Haiti…

because she has a Hero of her own.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27

Go here and watch the videos located on the sidebar, and like I did years ago, you’ll get your first glimpse of this remarkable woman and you’ll get a chance to see the magnificent work God has accomplished through one woman’s life.

 

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday for this week’s writing prompt, “Hero”

And remember…tomorrow begins a brand new month of Mark 4:30 Photo A Day, a unique photo challenge with a focus on God’s Word!  

 

Desire Realized

Desire Realized

If I was considering sparing you, dear readers, the details of our recent vacation in Mexico with accompanying pictures, the prompt for this week’s Five Minute Friday has made me reconsider.  I mean really….what else was I to do when I saw that “visit” was the prompt?

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IMG_20131109_162859_493I’m feeling especially blessed to have the opportunity to actually do something I’ve long yearned to do, but until now had only dreamed of.  Having homeschooled for twelve years, I’ve taught a lot of history.  Learning and re-learning about the events and cultures of far away places and times kept a fire burning within me to do more than study facts and survey photographs of lands and landmarks. I longed to experience these places for myself…to walk the streets, smell the aromas, touch the architecture, observe the culture, see the people, savor the flavors…to witness life…in other parts of the world. Finally, thankfully…the time has come and my desire is being realized.

Desire realized is sweet to the soul. Proverbs 13:19

This year it began in Mexico.  Our neighbors in Florida own a home in Jalisco and were kind enough to invite us for a visit. Their stunning home is located in the town of Ajijic, a charming village located on the waters of Lake Chapala and surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains.  Complete with cobblestone streets, craft shops, art galleries, and outdoor cafés, this picturesque retreat afforded endless photo opportunities, providing plenty of material for my daily photo challenge.  Color is simply everywhere… in hand-crafted wares sold in the streets on market day, in vibrant tiles found embedded in the walls that surround the homes (endless walls, an identifying feature of the region), in the charming cupolas which adorn the roofs, dotting the skyline with dollops of color, and even in the foods that simply burst with flavor.

Our host and hostess could not have been more gracious, opening their hearts and their home to us, spoiling us with gifts, providing restful, private accommodations, outdoor dining overlooking the lake, and serving us delicious food, drink, and surprise bedtime treats.  Going out of their way to ensure we were entertained, they showed us the sights for hours on end (not to mention waiting ever so patiently as we painstakingly selected souvenirs and mementos), they took us to the best of restaurants, included us in lovely gatherings hosted by some of their dearest friends, which in turn afforded us the exclusive privilege of getting a glimpse behind those ever present walls of privacy. I do not know how we could have had a more enjoyable visit than these two incredibly generous people made possible.  The memories we made in Mexico will linger in our hearts for a lifetime.

Here’s just a few of the over four hundred pictures I shot, many taken from the back seat while being chauffeured through the cobblestone streets.

The view from Bob and Pat’s balcony…

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where we drank coffee and ate fresh berries, tomatoes, cheese, breads and more every morning…

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This is their fabulous dining room which leads to that gorgeous balcony.  We could never decide which was the more beautiful view…in or out.

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A couple of the many cupolas..

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…and a couple of the amazing churches…

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This one is where Bob and Pat attend and we were pleased to join them for worship there…

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Here are just a few of the many walls, windows and doors that add to the mystery which is Ajijic…

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The brilliant food and flare of Mexico….

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We lunched overlooking Lake Chapala at Chac-Lan, a restaurant on the same grounds as the luxurious Monte Coxala Spa De Altura

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and caught this breathtaking scene on our descent back down the mountain…

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But to me the most wonderful of all the sights were the lovely people of Mexico….

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And then there’s the best looking man in all of Mexico….Hey…that’s my handsome hunk of a husband!

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And here’s the two most wonderful Bobs in the entire world, strolling along the lake in Chapala…

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Lastly, here are my two favorite photos… With lots of help from the know-how and endless experience of the renowned Bob Canning, I tried out my camera for some nighttime street photography. I had no idea what I was doing, but he did, so I followed his instructions….and look at the result!  Street photography might just be my new favorite thing.

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And finally, this is my very favorite photograph…a scene I would have totally missed had it not been spotted by the Canning power of observation. Bob is an expert at recognizing a great shot and once again his guidance enabled me to capture this sight…this solitary moment in the life of a dear matron of Mexico.

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A huge and heartfelt “Thank You” to our friends, Bob and Pat Canning, for making these memorable moments possible!

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The generous will prosper, and those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

 

The Word “Works”

The Word “Works”

DSC00201CThe Power of Romans 15:5

My husband and I just returned from a marvelous vacation in Mexico.  We have arrived at the stage of life where we’re traveling and experiencing new adventures, seeing new places, meeting wonderful people, witnessing other cultures and just plain enjoying life and each other.

Ahhh, wedded bliss.  But don’t be fooled.  It hasn’t always been like this.

Two people don’t make it through 35 years of marriage without some bumps in the road.  In our case they were more than bumps…they were more like craters, sinkholes…black holes, threatening to swallow up everything in their midst.

It was rocky from the start. Continue reading

Mirror Reflection

Mirror Reflection

reflectJoining the writing flash mob over at Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt…REFLECT

Ever since I became a Christian on Christmas Day years ago it was my desire to reflect the character and image of God. Seemingly it was His desire too, for He said, “Be holy as I am holy”. Unfortunately, I failed miserably.  Year after frustrating year I tried, exerting untold effort, but still saw very ugly fruit in my life. Wouldn’t my constant reading and praying lead to obeying? It did not.  No, it was something entirely different that finally brought the transformation I desperately longed for.  After years of struggle I finally discovered that change doesn’t come through focusing on what I must do, but on what He has already done. Today I reflect on one aspect of what I learned about how to reflect God’s image. You might be quite surprised to discover how effortless change can really be.

Mirror…a surface that reflects an image

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  II Corinthians 3:18

For years this verse was a mystery.  According to this scripture being transformed into God’s image depended on what I was beholding….what I was looking at.  It also told me what to behold.

“Beholding…the glory of the Lord”

What it didn’t tell me was how to do that. How exactly was I to behold the glory of the Lord? Was I to set my mind on all His wonderful attributes, meditating on His holiness and splendor?  In doing so, would I then be miraculously transformed into that same image?  Is that what it meant to “behold the glory of the Lord”?

I conducted a search of numerous commentaries to uncover the meaning of ‘beholding the glory’.  I found a multitude of exhortations concerning what I must do.  Read the Scriptures to behold the glory.  Pray and spend time with God as Moses had when his face shone with glory.  Need I say that I felt disappointment to think that transformation depended on my efforts? I had proved myself to be entirely unreliable.

As I continued to research the meaning of the word behold and beholding I discovered something amazing.  These words are used nearly two hundred times in the New Testament, but the word used in this verse is used only once.  The word used here is not simply beholding, it is actually “beholding as in a mirror”.  There is a difference.

How is it different?  Well, I can do some beholding in a lot of different places.  I can do some beholding in a garden and see flowers.  I can do some beholding in a forest and see trees. But remember, this scripture doesn’t say “beholding”….it says ‘beholding as in a mirror So if I go to a mirror to do some beholding, what do I see?  Beholding in a mirror…I see ME!

Yes, according to II Corinthians 3:18, we are not told to behold the glory of the Lord, we are told to behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.  Therefore, the transformation promised in this verse comes from beholding the glory of the Lord IN ME!!!!

Most commentaries explain beholding God’s glory as looking to see what God looks like. But when I go to a mirror I don’t go to see what the mirror looks like…I go to see what I look like.  Unless I’ve got glass cleaner in my hand, my focus is not on what the mirror looks like, but on what I look like. As new creations in Christ Jesus our new man has been recreated in righteousness and holiness, according to the exact likeness and image of God. (Ephesians 4:24)  According to God, that’s what…that’s Who I look like!

Transformation comes by beholding the glory of the Lord IN YOU.   As we see the glory of the Lord that is within, beholding the realities of our recreated spirit, we will begin to reflect that glory for, truly, it is….

 Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

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The amazing leaf photo featured here was taken by my multi-talented sister-in-law, Patricia.  See more of her stunning photographs along with many of her other creations at Patricia Fisher Designs

Part of this post was originally published last year as Beyond Beholdingand here’s a helpful companion post called Your Inner Image

Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance

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Linking up with Five Minute Friday.  This week’s prompt:

Fly

I like the verb much better than the noun.  The noun…well, I don’t even like to say the word.  Nothing, absolutely nothing can make me arise from my rest or stop what I’m doing like the noun.  I verb into action, stopping whatever I’m doing…to end its life.  Murder is the goal.  Nothing less than premeditated, intentional, swift murder.

I speak to this noun that has been so bold as to invade my life, thinking it has the right to intrude on my space, to co-exist with me. Yes, I speak to it, “Enjoy whatever’s left of your life because it is about to end”… announcing its fate as I verb to find the murder weapon, the adjective swatter.

No, this noun will not disrupt my life, rob my peace, interrupt my rest, aggravating and harassing with its annoying, nagging buzz in my ear.  It’s enough to make me verb off the handle! I simply will not tolerate this noun in my life.

But more than this…neither will I tolerate this noun‘s lord, the evil proper noun, Beelzebub, “Lord of the Flies” .

No, with him I need to feel the same.  I need to verb into action, take up my weapon, the Word of God, declare his demise to all the heavenly realm, being swift to mete out harsh punishment, enforcing his defeat with a zero tolerance policy.

Then, returning to my rest, with the wind of His spirit under my wings, I…

fly.

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Luke 10:19

 

photo credit

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Falling For the Lie

Falling For the Lie

Lightning TreeAnother Five Minute Friday…on Saturday.

This week’s prompt:  TREE

 

 

The message is all around us…

it’s heard from pulpits, written about in books,  and voiced in song.

Be like God.

The message is within us….

a constant voice in our head, keeping us forever conscious. It encircles our thoughts like a WWJD wristband, reminding us to behave, directing our actions with its ever-present admonition….

Be like God.

The message is in God’s Word…

Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. I John 2:6 NIV

Be holy, because I am holy. I Peter 1:16b NIV

Yes, the message is clear.

Be like God.

It’s the goal, the attainment of which we are constantly occupied. We are determined to do it, and we think we know how. We commit to watch ourselves…ever so closely. We monitor our behavior, our actions, our reactions. We gauge, we measure, we weigh, we assess, all to ensure the good outweighs the bad.  We are determined to

Be like God.

Surely, we’ll be able to accomplish it by awareness, by diligent self-examination, by this knowledge of good and evil in us.  Yes, this must be the way. Or is it?  Or could it be that, like Eve of old, we’ve been deceived? She, too, was presented with a way to…

Be like to God.

Ah, but what if, like Eve…..we’re eating from the wrong tree?

Yes, Eve was told that partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make her like God. Could it be we’ve fallen for the same lie? We’ve thought we could be like Him by knowing the good and the evil in us….by giving this our attention, by making this knowledge our primary focus.  But the truth is, this knowledge produces no life. It only brings death, just as God said it would.

So let’s make sure we’re eating from the right tree….the tree of life!  Jesus said,  “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life”.  Let’s go to His Word, partake of its life giving fruit, and discover what we’re to really look at that we might…

Be like God.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  II Corinthians 3:18  

More on II Corinthians 3:18