Practice Makes Perfect

I love hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. His words bring such peace, joy, faith, hope and love. With one word He can change my world.

So I sit in my prayer chair and I listen. I find myself in a situation where I need wisdom and instruction, so I stop wherever I am and I listen. Funny thing though is sometimes when I’m not consciously listening, out of the blue I hear Him speak and once again His words change my world. This brings me to something He said to me a few days ago.

I was riding as a passenger in a car. I was just watching the world whiz by. At one point I could clearly see the driver in the next car. His head was down and he was looking at his phone as he was driving. He looked like he was texting. I judged him for his dangerous driving behavior. Then I heard the Holy Spirit speak.

Don’t practice judging. Practice love.

I’ve meditated on this the last few days and studied the scriptures on judging. I don’t find that we are never to make judgements. For the many scriptures that tell us not to judge, I found others that instructed how to judge. What I found was that the manner or the heart with which we judge matters.

When God makes a judgement it will always be 100% from a heart of love. Love is not what was in my heart when I thought, “What an idiot.” The Bible tells us that Jesus only said what He first heard the Father say and He only did what He first saw the Father do. I didn’t hear the Father say, “Did you see that guy texting and driving? What an idiot. Judge him for Me won’t you?”

Practice makes perfect. Since that day, I have caught myself practicing some unloving behaviors on perfect strangers from afar. The texting driver. The parent letting their child run wild. So many opportunities in this crazy world to make a judgement. But each is also an opportunity to practice love. Choosing to love instead of judging with a prideful heart. Choosing to pray instead of complaining. This doesn’t just work for far off strangers, but it works with up close aquaintances too.

This may seem impossible, but it’s not if we continue to practice. What are we to practice? Practice hearing His voice and receiving His love. In His words and in His love is the power to love like He loves. In our own strength, our own ability, our own self-control, this IS impossible. But He has given us His Holy Spirit, His strength, His ability, His self-control and with God, nothing is impossible.

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control… (Galatians 5:22-23, Amp)

Praying for You

There are times when something quite silly suddenly propels me into a place of prayer for something quite serious. That happened to me today when a song from the 90’s began playing on repeat in my mind. It just wouldn’t go away and I was actually getting quite annoyed.

I decided that maybe if I played the song on Youtube it might finally go away. I began listening to it and the next thing I know, I’m praying. Here are the verses that had been in my mind all morning.

Tell me how am I supposed to live without you/ Now that I’ve been lovin’ you so long/ How am I supposed to live without you/ How am I supposed to carry on/ When all that I’ve been livin’ for is gone.

Yes, I’m a little embarrassed to say that all morning long I’ve had a Michael Bolton song from the 1990’s playing in my head.

But as I listened to that chorus my heart suddenly ached for everyone dealing with loss this holiday season. I prayed as my heart ached for the husband spending the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without his spouse by his side. My heart ached for the wife lost and alone because her best friend, her husband is gone. I prayed for the mother and father who lost a child, young or old. I prayed for those who should be holding a new baby this holiday season, but whose hearts ache with grief because of their empty arms, the empty crib.

I’m praying for you today. I am praying for His peace that passes understanding. I’m praying for the comfort that only He can give at this time. I’m praying for the healing of your heart that only He can bring.

You are not alone. You are not forgotten. I’m praying for you today because you came up in my heart. I’m praying for you today because He put you there. I’m praying for you today because you are on His heart today.

Life be, Love be, Peace be in broken hearts today. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen

To Love is to Pray

I’ve shared in the past about well-known people such as celebrities that were tabloid train wrecks, always in the news for the wrong reasons. I’d pass the magazines at the checkout and see their picture with a shocking headline. I’d see the headlines and photos of on-line articles that I never read, but there before me was presented their steady decline. Then finally the headline stating what we all knew was coming, that this celebrity train wreck had tragically died.

I’m so very sorry to say that many times that was the moment that I realized that I had watched this person’s decline and had never once thought to pray for them.

Lord, Help me to truly see them and not judge them but pray for them!

So this morning I was thinking about a person in my life. I won’t say who it is but I will say it is not someone I live with. This person seems to make a lot of careless decisions and their decisions always seem to be made to their benefit without regard for others. I’ve often had the thought this person is irresponsible and selfish. I don’t think thoughts like this often, but somehow when a person is directly in our lives or related to us we seem free to make judgements on them and their behavior. Probably because their poor decisions can have an affect on our own lives.

So as this person came to mind this morning I suddenly felt convicted. I have seen this person and his/her actions. I have judged this person and his/her actions. But I don’t recall praying for this person.

Maybe they’re not a train wreck currently on the road to a tragic death. Maybe they are just really annoying friends or family. But do I really see them? Do I see them through His eyes? Am I seeing them to judge them or to pray for them? Am I praying for their peace and well-being for their sake and not my own?

How do you see your spouse? How do your see your family members? How do you see your in-laws? How do you see your boss or co-worker? How do you see others? Do you judge or do you pray?

 Lord, Help me to truly see them and not judge them but pray for them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

PS… Thank you to those who truly see me and pray for me!

Love & Marriage

My husband and I have been married for 23 years. Like all couples we’ve had great times, good times, and not so good (bad) times in those 23 years. I sign us up for lots of marriage conferences and classes. Not because I think we have a bad marriage, but because I want us to have the best marriage possible. We recently started our latest marriage class. It has stirred up a few things in my heart regarding love and marriage.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19, NIV

Our latest lesson was entitled “Radical Love”. I believe to love radically we must first know that we are radically loved by God. Our love, security, identity are found in a loving God. But love is not idle and stagnate. Love moves and can’t help but flow. When we receive it, we then find ourselves having to give it. Our spouses should be the first to taste of this love. It’s good to love our neighbor, to love the widow and the orphan, to love the lost and broken, but sometimes the one closest to us, our spouse, is not shown this great love. I know from experience and there were many times I was the one not showing His love to my husband.

It’s great when you have two people receiving and giving this great love in a marriage, but that’s not always the case. I think it’s very important to realize that you are not responsible and cannot change the other person. The person you can choose to change is yourself. It can start with just one and you are the only one you can change.

Now, let me also mention that you can’t change you. God never intended for you to transform your own heart. He is offering to do that for you. You can’t make that decision for your spouse but you can make that decision for yourself. Choose to let God work in your heart and mind through time spent with Him and in His word.

…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2, NLV

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16 NLV

Here are two scriptures that I have found change my heart and mind allowing me to better love my spouse.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Galatians 5:22-23, Amp

I have read these scriptures. I have studied these scriptures. I have meditated on these scriptures. I have taken time to let God talk to me about these scriptures. What was the result? When my husband and I disagreed or argued, when I was tired and hungry and not in a good mood, God’s Holy Spirit would tap me on the shoulder as I spoke or raised my voice to my husband, as I defended myself or my point and simply said, “Was that patient or kind?” “Was that gentle or peaceful?” “Was that love?”

I then had two choices, harden my heart and press my point or yield my heart and simply say, “I’m sorry.”

These two scriptures First Corinthians 13:4-8 and Galatians 5:22-23 tell you who you are and can be because of God’s work in your heart. Read them, study them, meditate on them. Let God talk to you about them. Look into the mirror of God’s word and let it transform you into His image. He is love.

Shine

Sinners sin. Hurting people hurt people. As long as there are sinners, as long as there are hurting people we should expect people to behave in selfish, unkind, cruel, and at times inhumane ways. If you chose to watch or read the news you will find an overabundance of stories of cruelty, murders, selfishness (don’t get me started on politics), theft and so on. Stealing, killing and destroying seem to abound.

Today I think about something I heard a minister say regarding the nation of Israel. The minister said that God had strategically placed Israel as a center hub that all the other nations around it would have to travel through. The nation of Israel was to be a light to all the nations. A nation that shined with the goodness, the glory of God for all the world to see. This reminds me of a scripture regarding Christians.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)

It also brings to mind these lines from the children’s song “This Little Light of Mine”.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine… Hide it under a bushel – NO! I’m gonna let it shine.

Here is a recent status update I posted to my Facebook page. 

Politics has caused such a divide and led me as a Christian to do things I was never supposed to do… judge, reject, condemn and pass sentence on people. I will continue to vote and make my voice heard for the America I know and love, but I will never again allow it to cause me to miss someone’s pain just because I don’t agree with them politically. #nofearherejustlove

This was in reference to the tragic death of Robin Williams. I didn’t watch his movies because of some of the things he had said and done regarding religion and politics. I also didn’t read stories about him. I just skipped over them. I didn’t know he battled depression. I didn’t know he battled addiction. I don’t recall ever praying for him. I had the same realization after Amy Winehouse’s tragic death.

For them, I was never a light. Maybe I never met them. Maybe I never would have, but I could have prayed. So it makes me think more about the people around me. The ones I have met. The ones I do know and who know me. Am I being a light? Or am I hiding my light under a bushel of offense due to politics, religion or just the behavior of sinners being sinners and hurting people hurting people?

This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine. I’m determined to let the world see God’s glory, His goodness through me no matter how dark and ugly the world can be. Selah.

Little Foxes

Big: large, as in size; of major concern; important… Little: small in size; tiny; not big; not large… (dictionary.com)

Recently, I shared that I had been struggling with my emotions for a few days. I found myself being impatient, unkind, sad and angry. While there was a situation I was grieving over, I also knew that there was much more to it than that. I knew it was bad when I exploded in anger over something a person connected to our neighborhood had done. Thankfully, I didn’t explode at the person involved. Unfortunately, my husband had to hear me rant and yell about something this person had done that actually was the last straw after months of little issues with them.

A friend once shared that patience and kindness are the gauges that let you know how you are doing in your ‘love walk’. Love is patient and kind. I’ve studied God’s love for years. I taught classes on love for years. How did I get here?

God reminded me of a scripture.

…Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. [So I went with him, and when we were climbing the rocky steps up the hillside, my beloved shepherd said to me] O my dove, [while you are here] in the seclusion of the clefts in the solid rock, in the sheltered and secret place of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. [My heart was touched and I fervently sang to him my desire] Take for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom. (Song of Solomon 2:13-15, Amp)

God reminded me of the part that speaks of the little foxes that spoil the vineyards of our love. I once heard someone share that because foxes burrow underground, they can do much damage to a crop without any evidence that it is happening. It goes unseen and unnoticed until the plant starts dying above ground due to the damage caused below ground to the roots.

Little foxes. Not big foxes. Little foxes.

God spoke to my heart and told me that I am someone that is very quick to forgive when someone has wronged me. If someone does something obviously wrong to me, the first moment I feel hurt and possibly angry, in the very next moment I choose to forgive them. Lately though, while I was still quick to forgive the ‘big’ things, I hadn’t realized that daily people were doing ‘little’ things that I didn’t even realize bothered me. But they did bother me and I didn’t even think to forgive them over something so small. Little foxes were starting to burrow.

This person I was angry with had done one unkind and ungracious thing after another. Little things. I noticed. I let them bother me yet I didn’t think to forgive. The foxes were slowly, silently spoiling the vineyards of our love.

I repented. I forgave this person. I started forgiving every person I could think of for every little thing they had done. I forgave politicians I don’t even personally know.

During a marriage class on forgiveness, the instructor shared that it’s not only important to forgive your spouse for the things they had done, but to also forgive them for the times they disappointed you. Forgive the big things. Forgive the little things.

As soon as I ‘slipped away’ for some time with God, He started exposing and taking away those little foxes. In the safety of His Presence I let it all go and forgave all men their sins against me. My emotions calmed down. The peace came. I’ve been much more patient and kind again. I’m once again enjoying the vineyards of our love with my God.

1 Corinthians 13 ~ Love is patient and kind… Love takes no account of the evil done to it… It pays no attention to a suffered wrong… Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person… And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 John 4:19 ~ We love because he first loved us.

Slip away with Him. Let Him tell you of His love. You won’t be able to help yourself, because of His love, you will love too.

You Are Invited

Over the last three days, I have struggled with my emotions. I’m sad one moment and suddenly angry the next. Sadness is something that I experience every now and then, but anger is not an emotion that I am used to. I can tell you that there is an element of grieving involved, but there were other reasons too. I planned on blogging about that today, but then a conversation with a friend brought this post about instead.

I shared with my friend about my emotional struggles over the last three days. She too has experienced emotional struggles. Hers are due to the loss of a loved one, the loss of a child. She spoke of having to choose to press through each day. I too have sensed that need to choose to press through the emotions and it’s physical effects. As we spoke, a past experience came to mind. It was the memory of my grandfather’s passing.

To this day I clearly remember his funeral. At God’s instruction I sat next to my grandmother, held her hand and meditated on His peace, the peace that passes understanding. I had this sense of her and I being encased in a protected bubble, encased in a ‘bubble’ of His peace. About a week later when my grandmother came for a visit, she mentioned the sense of peace that she felt at the funeral, a sense of being in a bubble. She had felt it too.

It suddenly became clear to me that the choice we make each day isn’t to press through emotions or struggles, but to choose to enter that ‘bubble’ of His protection and peace, choose to enter His Presence and abide there.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust”…He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge… Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you… (Psalms 91, Amp)

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.  (Proverbs, 18:10, KJV)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, KJV)

…Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. [So I went with him, and when we were climbing the rocky steps up the hillside, my beloved shepherd said to me] O my dove, [while you are here] in the seclusion of the clefts in the solid rock, in the sheltered and secret place of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. (Song of Solomon 2:13-14, Amp)

…How often would I have gathered your children together as a mother fowl gathers her brood under her wings… (Matthew 23:37, Amp)

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings… (Malachi 4:2, KJV)

…I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalm 23:6, KJV)

Daily there is an invitation. Come away. Abide in Him. In that place we experience His healing, peace, restoration, and love, Then we have healing, peace, restoration and love to take to others. You are invited.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD… (Psalm 27:4, KJV)

For those experiencing grief:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows… (Isaiah 53:4, KJV)

The Comforter (the Holy Spirit) wants to wrap His wings around you and bring comfort and healing. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

I Have Wronged No Man

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. (Acts 9:1-2, NLT)

They rushed at …[Stephen] and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they stoned him… (Acts 7:57-59, NLT)

Saul persecuted, arrested and was responsible for the deaths of Christians. Yet later (as Paul) he says, “Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone…” How can someone with his history say that?

Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities… (Psalms 103:2-3, NKJV)

Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin. (Romans 4:8, NLT)

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12, NKJV)

Today, I too can say, I have wronged no man. Not because I have always treated others as I should, but because of the blood of Jesus that brought me forgiveness of all of my sins. Today, I can also say that no man has wronged me. How can I say that? Have I always been treated right by all men? No, but the blood of Jesus was shed for them too.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NKJV)

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (Colossians 3:12-14;MSG)

I choose to forgive as freely and completely as He chose to forgive me. Selah.

Teach Me

Show me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. (Psalms 25:4-5, KJV)

I’ve written on this topic before, but felt very strongly this morning that I needed to do so again and in greater detail. In 1997 my nephew passed away a few short days after his birth. Many shared their thoughts on why this happened, why God did this. I knew God, but I knew very little about His nature and His ways. My prayer to Him in the midst of it all was this, “God I don’t know what happened, but I don’t believe You did this. Teach me about healing.”

Within two months I found myself at a new church, though neither my husband or I had considered leaving the church we had been in for years. There is so much to this story, but for the sake of space and time let me just say that less than a year later I had become a part of the healing ministry at that church including volunteering in their hospital ministry and being a part of their healing school. Many years later, many prayers later, hundreds of people ministered to and prayed for later, I became the person ‘in charge’ of the healing ministry at our church. I was in charge of training the hospital ministry team and coordinating the ministry. I taught healing school and trained the healing school volunteers. Sixteen years later I am still praying for the sick and seeing them recover. How? I asked Him to teach me about healing.

It didn’t take me long to realize what it meant to ask Him to teach me. I asked Him to teach me about prayer and soon found myself as a young woman with jet black hair, sitting in prayer meetings where just about everyone else in the room had white or gray hair. I’m not trying to make much of myself. I’m making much of my God! I asked Him to teach me about prayer and I ended up with wisdom beyond my years.

I asked Him to teach me about love and to teach me how to love. While at this same church, I not only taught classes on healing, but I also taught many classes on God’s love.

I’ve asked Him to teach me how to be a good wife. I’ve asked Him to teach me about anything and everything I can think of and He always does.

Recently I shared this with someone going through a very difficult situation. One of the things they were battling was tremendous fear. It was not only a battle that was specific to this situation, but one that they had struggled with for much of their life. I encouraged this person to ask God to teach them about His love. Perfected love (His perfect love) casts out all fear. I also encouraged them to ask God to teach them how to walk free from fear.

He longs to lead, guide, instruct, encourage, and teach us. We don’t have to walk through this life alone. We don’t have to try to figure it all out on our own. Trust me you will never figure it out on your own.

Ask Him, “Teach me”. Let Him help you to have the abundant life His Son gave His life for. Selah.

…one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray… (Luke 11:1, KJV)

It Is Well

I have mentioned in the past that whenever I write, I always have a song stirring in my soul. Today as I write, the song I’m hearing in my heart is “It Is Well With My Soul”. I’m letting it wash over me as I weep for my friends that just lost their baby.

For 16 years now I have been helping family, friends and strangers navigate through critical illnesses and life’s tragedies. By the grace of God, and only the grace of God, I can remain strong, peaceful and calm in the midst of any storm. However, while I could keep my emotions in check and the tears at bay when most needed, I also found that often the tears never came. But those emotions, those tears don’t just disappear. Little by little they accumulated in my soul. Not good for my soul or for my body which is affected by the activity in the soul.

I have learned to embrace what I call my gift from God of a built in release valve, my tears. It’s okay to cry. I’m telling myself this as I also pray this helps anyone else that needs to hear this.

I sit. I weep. I let Him restore my soul.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul… (Psalm 23:2-3, NKJV)

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2, NKJV)

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8, NLT)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows]. (Psalm 147:3, Amplified)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNqo4Un2uZI&feature=kp