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Finally…

finallyI tend to live my life in ‘finally’ mode where moments and events are crossed off a mental checklist. It’s like running a marathon to an unknown finish line. There are pit stops along the way, but instead of savoring the moment, I can’t wait until I can finally be on my way again so I can finally arrive at a future moment and finally reach the unattainable finish line.

It’s a destination to destination lifestyle that never takes pleasure in getting there.

The well-known idiom ‘getting there is half the fun’ doesn’t apply to me. I prefer being emailed or beamed to my destination; to heck with stops along the way. I’ll enjoy the trip when I finally get there which translates: OK, we’re finally here, let’s get a move on.

To operate in finally mode robs us of any opportunities to interface with life’s daily moments. There are no exclamation points between each finally, only a trail of dots. Jesus spent his earthly life journeying from one destination to another and a myriad of exclamation points followed Him because He never lost sight of His purpose.

So what is God’s purpose for me and you?

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

We can opt to chase the dots to our next destination, but if the journey isn’t divinely appointed, it’ meaningless.

God purpose for us is to have an intimate relationship with Him based on faith, worship and a heart that desires spiritual growth and a Christ-like character. Short and sweet, God wants to be the blueprint for our temporary residence on earth.

When I find my direction in life disoriented by the finally mode, I know it’s time to slow down and partner myself to the One who guides my steps according to His purpose. Our daily moment’s become anointed as we allow God’s purpose to navigate our life.

When life is finally over, I want God to say WELL DONE (followed by a multitude of exclamation points).

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My Avenger (El Nathan Neqamah)

venganceJonathon Wild was a notable thief and master manipulator. He appeared to be on the side of the law by offering London police his assistance in finding stolen goods, but he was the thief.

Wild ran a gang of thieves who kept the stolen goods and waited for the crime to be announced in the newspapers. He would then claim that his agents had found the stolen goods and return the items to the rightful owner for a reward.

The story of Jonathon Wild is just one of the many betrayal stories recorded throughout history. Even the pages of Scripture are no exception . Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of death; King Saul sought to kill David even though David had served with loyalty. The Book of Judges shares how Delilah betrayed Samson’s when she allowed the Philistines to shave his hair.

Our first response to betrayal is anger and to seek our own form of revenge. Licking our wounds isn’t an option; we want a payback and we want it to be worse than what was done to us. In the case of Jonathon Wild, his duplicity eventually became known and he was hanged before a massive crowd. Forgiveness wasn’t an option to those he betrayed.

For Christians, forgiveness is the only option when others deceive and fail us. It isn’t our job to take revenge. We are called to forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us. That’s a bitter pill to swallow when every fiber of our body cries out for vengeance. It might feel good for the moment, but when we react on our own, we are essentially telling God we don’t trust Him to handle every situation.

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” Deuteronomy 32:35 (NIV)

Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God and when He exacts revenge it is done objectively. Our biased opinion isn’t needed to determine just recompense. God needs us to let go (forgive). If we can let go of the experience and our desire for revenge, we can move beyond the betrayal. The negative emotions associated with the betrayal may remain unchanged and that’s OK.

The act of letting go helps us look past our hurt and anger and resign our case to the final jurisdiction of El Nathan Neqamah* (The God Who Avenges Me).

Is it time for you to let go and trust God to right the wrong?

*Play for Pronunciation

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ADONAI Ori (The LORD is My Light)

psalm27_1

I awoke earlier than usual this morning. In the quiet twilight of dawn the Holy Spirit, as only He can do, prompted me to pray for those who carry grief and sorrow in the secret places of their heart. One friend in particular came to mind but I felt impressed to pray for others. I didn’t know the secret heartache of many, but God did.

In the stillness of the hour I meditated on the goodness of God and watched as daylight slowly edged its way through the dark morning skies.

        “You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.”
         II Samuel 22:29

Isn’t that just the way God works with the sorrow and grief we conceal in the darkened corridors of our heart? When the blackness of night casts shadows of hopelessness upon us, along comes daybreak to penetrate our heart with random words of encouragement or acts of kindness. Our hope and strength is renewed for a season as our darkness turns to dawn.

Today, I pray you find His light in the presence of your darkness and that your sorrow is turned into joy. From the rising of the sun to its setting, give praise to God. For praise is the clearest and most direct means of showing our total dependence on God in the midst of darkness.

Even King David endured periods of darkness in his life. He responded with praise and God brought deliverance. Psalms 27, written by David and sung in Biblical Hebrew, gives insight into how this song may have been heard by the listener when first written.

Listen to Psalm 27

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The Beauty Within Us

Spider Web
My eyes caught a glimpse of something glistening on the back deck. As I opened the glass siding door to get a better view, I saw the beautiful silver strands against the backdrop of the morning sun. It was as if God stopped me in my tracks for a single moment of reflection before I was overcome by the busyness of my day.

Only the Master Creator would impart to a detested and loathed insect the ability to spin a web of such beauty. If God gives grace to a spider how much more consideration has He given to us. Others see us from the outside, but God sees the potential for spinning a web of beauty within us.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

The next time you see a spider web, remember this, God has graced each of us with inner beauty. It’s up to us to spin the web and let is glisten against the backdrop of His Son.

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Lonnie’s Gift (A Short Story)

by Denise Marks

lonniesGiftHis dark skin was a stark contrast to our family members. I assumed he was a worker at the state park looking for a shaded area to rest on his lunch break. That became suspect when an hour later he was still seated at a picnic table on the far edge of our rented pavilion. His occasional glance toward the prepared food and personal items nearby alerted me something was amiss.

The morning had started with intermittent rain and overcast skies which didn’t seem promising for our annual Christmas in July family picnic at the Millennium State Park. We had a Jeep loaded with enough burger meat, hot dogs and side dishes to feed 60 plus people. I crossed my fingers the current weather would eventually give way to sunny skies.

My husband Chris navigated through the state park to locate our rented pavilion, situated at the bottom of a grassy incline Great, I thought. Not only do we have to carry heavy tubs of food and supplies down a precarious slope of wet grass, I have to do it in flip-flops. Water skis would have been a safer shoe choice.

With the arrival of family, sounds of laughter and chatter rebounded inside the pavilion. It didn’t take long for my disposition to lighten as everyone offered to lend a helping hand. Food was plentiful, almost to the point of excess, as three generations gathered to celebrate family. When overcast skies gave way to sunshine, lawn games and water activities dominated the day.

Yet, midst all the activity, my attention remained focused on the lone man seated in our pavilion. Why had he stayed so long? What were his intentions? I felt ashamed for thinking the worst, but better safe than sorry when clueless to a person’s identity. And so, I asked my grandkids to discreetly move electronic devices and purses to a more secure area before we walked to the beach.

The grandkids and I returned from the beach to find the unknown man gone. I was about to breath a sigh of relief until I caught a glimpse of him congregating with family members. My husband called out to me as I approached the group,
“I want to introduce you to someone. His name is Lonnie.”

As I offered a friendly handshake, I couldn’t help but notice the sadness in his eyes. They seemed to reflect an untold story of homelessness, hunger and loneliness. It was a family event and I didn’t have time to explore why a man who appeared clean-shaven and relatively well-groomed lived as a vagrant in a state park.

Chris had also noted Lonnie perched on the outskirts of our family event. In kindness, he introduced himself and asked, “Is there something you need?”

Glancing downward, Lonnie replied, “I’m hungry. Do you have any food to spare?”
“Of course,” said my husband as he handed Lonnie a plate and invited him to share with us.
Several servings later and a trail of cookie crumbs throughout the pavilion was evidence Lonnie had enjoyed his gifted meal.

From the outskirts of the pavilion, he watched as our family played lawn games. I sensed he wanted to be a part of our family surroundings, but was apprehensive to engage himself in any of the activities.
At the end of the day, Lonnie disappeared just as discreetly as he had arrived and I couldn’t help but wonder if Lonnie called the park his home. There were so many unanswered questions about this gentle man. The only thing he disclosed that day was his need for something to eat— and he did so with humility.

Since gifts are not exchanged at our Christmas in July gatherings, we didn’t expect the heartwarming gift Lonnie left with us. He gifted himself. His presence was an unspoken reminder that not everyone has food, family, friends or shelter. When blessed with more than enough, pay it forward.

These questions would never be answered, but we received the gift of a different perspective. If we were to ever meet again, I would say to our new friend, “Thank you Lonnie for spending a few hours with our family. Your presence was the best Christmas gift ever.

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TWEETS FROM SATAN

evil-twitter-bird-with-hornsI am not a person prone to depression, but this morning heaviness filled my heart. Loneliness and teary outbursts befriended me as the enemy taunted me with my shortcomings, failures and flaws. What was going on?

I had just experienced a weekend of spiritual renewal that left me feeling empowered to take bold risks in my Christian walk of faith. The movie ‘War Room’ further inspired me to make a greater commitment to my prayer time and the study of God’s Word.

My fiery aspirations were quickly dampened as the enemy began to infiltrate my thoughts with relentless tweets that focused on my inadequacies.

“Why would Jesus love or use someone like you.”
“You think you are helping people through your devotionals but no one reads them.”
“Don’t you know God gave up on you long ago? He isn’t listening anymore.”
“Do you really believe God has a calling on your life at this age? “

And then, Father God began to stir the embers of my downtrodden spirit. Flames of faith reached upward as He stoked the fire. When I called out to Jesus, my darkness was turned to joy. God’s altar of grace burns continuously and the enemy cannot extinguish it.

Our sacrifices of praise, the blood of Christ, God’s Word and prayers of believers will keep the fire burning until God’s appointed time.
As the spiritual veil of darkness lifted, the Holy Spirit directed my thoughts to this scripture:

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”
Leviticus 6:13 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I sense an urgency to keep the fire burning continuously as we witness believers being mocked, persecuted and tortured daily for their faith in Jesus. Truly we are living in the end times where ungodliness is embraced by those in high places, acts of perverseness have no shock value and homage is paid to man’s ego and fame.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
II Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

I encourage Christians everywhere to keep the fire burning upon the altar of God. We are at war against the enemy of this world, Satan and there is no middle ground in this battle. You are either for God, or against Him. Who is your master?

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Call in the Dump Truck

Garage_JunkMy husband, Chris (also known as Poppy), has been unable to park his car in the garage all summer due to my unending collection of soon-to-be re-purposed furniture. So, yesterday, when Poppy purchased a newer car, I asked my oldest grandson, Carson, to help me clear a space in the garage for Poppy’s homecoming.

We swept the concrete floor and moved my massive furniture collection into a truck for a future Goodwill drop. At day’s end, drenched in sweat and dirt covered clothes, the garage door was lowered with a sense of accomplishment. The once cluttered space had been cleared for something of greater value than my curbside finds.

I can’t count the number of times my spiritual life, like my garage, has accumulated things of no value. Life travels present us with plenty of opportunity to pick up curbside finds. With no forethought, we purpose grandiose ideas of how these discarded items can be salvaged or repurposed into something of value. And so, like the stockpile of stuff in my garage, we fill our life with things that serve no purpose.

In an attempt to save the masses (curbside finds), we clutter our life with other people’s problems (curbside garbage).

When Chris arrived home with his new ride and opened the garage, he was amazed at the transformation. Carson and I had cleared a space for something of value. There were a few furniture pieces that we kept, but our selection was reserved to items that showed a promise of restoration.

As Christians, there are occasions we need to call in God’s dump truck and empty the accumulated garbage that prohibits spiritual growth and crowds God out of our life. It might be:

• Addictions
• Work
• Anger
• Pleasure
• Busyness
• Relationships

At the end of the day, when you lower the door of your life, will you have a sense of accomplishment or frustration?

God longs to eliminate the clutter in our spiritual life and replace it with things of value. Are you are ready to open the door to God’s spiritual dump truck and unload your curbside finds?

One thing I can promise, when you ask God to clear a space for Him to park within your life, that space will be filled with things of eternal value; things of purpose.