0

A HOLY EXPERIENCE

Heaven and HellI stood next to the bed and clasped my hands around her frail fingers and squeezed them gently. No words were spoken, after thirty years of friendship; there was no need to speak anything. She had fought long and hard but we both knew this was our final good-bye.

To silently gaze into the eyes of someone preparing to greet death is a holy experience. In the last few minutes before death calls there is one last chance to decide where we will spend eternity.  The angel of death stands ready for acknowledgement from God, “I own this soul, claim it and put it on the next chartered flight to Heaven.”

But sometimes death gives no notice and there are no second chances; no time for pleas of forgiveness or opportunities for a holy experience. Once you are laid out on a stretcher and rolled into the morgue your unused trump card for salvation is no longer valid. It expired upon death.

Why take chances?

Engage in a holy experience with God before you stare death in the face. My friend was fortunate to have time to prepare for her departure from this world.  Those who stood at her bedside were able to share in the holy experience of her passing. As she drew her last breath there was a spiritual assurance that all was well with her soul.

Is it well with your soul?

Life holds no guarantees about the time or circumstances of our death. When the death angel arrives, we are faced with two roadways that lead to our eternal destination.  One is marked ‘I believe in Jesus’ with road signs that lead us to a heavenly jubilee.  The second reads, ‘I deny Jesus’. The road signs spiral downward and direct us to a bottomless pit of destruction.

“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” 2 Thessalonians 1:9

Life offers us the opportunity to choice life over death. Jesus stands ready to forgive and bring redemption to our imperfect life. I encourage you to have a holy experience with the savior of your soul before you lay prostrate on a gurney headed for the morgue.

“God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong.” John 1:9

1

INVENTORY LIFE’S LIABILITIES

ROX1ECA

January is the most despicable month on the calendar for me. Not only is it bitter cold, it is a month to gather tax information and determine the ending value of my retail inventory. It is essential to maintain adequate levels throughout the year to fulfill orders; but at year’s end, the unsold inventory becomes a tax liability and no one wants that.

Retail businesses try to forecast what items will turn a quick profit so warehouse shelves are empty on December 31. It’s a great concept in theory, but NOT in reality!  Just about the time I am ready to close-out a slow-moving item, customer interest spikes; and I am forced to increase inventory levels to keep up with the demand. And then, customers again lose interest and I’m left with inventory I can’t sell.

What excess inventory do you need to unload?

As the first month of a new year, January is an ideal time to take inventory of those things in our life that aren’t profitable and take up valuable space.  When you look at the spreadsheet of your life, what do you see? Did last year bring significant growth, did you break even; or, face liabilities because you failed to unload excess inventory?

It is no secret that every asset has a liability and every liability has an asset. So if every good has a bad and every bad has a good, it should all balance out in the end.  In the finance world this is true, but the balance sheet of ‘life’ is not that simple, if it were, we would all be happy.  

When life’s liabilities outweigh the assets, it’s time to unload excess inventory and restore balance to the spreadsheet of our life.

Here are ten helpful tips to minimalize life’s liabilities:

  • ·         Forgive, life is too short.
  • ·         Bag up past failures and toss them in a dumpster.
  • ·         Attach wrong choices to arrows and shoot them into infinity.
  • ·         Live life for you, not the approval of others. Give yourself permission to disappoint people.
  • ·         When faced with a crisis, remain calm and follow the yellow brick road. Even Dorothy faced obstacles, but managed to find her way home.
  • ·         Say goodbye to vampire friendships that suck the life and energy out of you.
  • ·         Strive to move within God’s will, not your own. To assume you know better than God will put you in the ‘red’ every time.
  • ·         Awareness is great, but action is required if you want to overcome.
  • ·         Discontentment that lingers will eventually erode joy.
  • ·         Less stuff means fewer things to weigh you down.

 

1

KEEP THE LAYERS PURE

layeredjelloWhen my grandson asked to make Jell-O, it never occurred to me there might be an object lesson to share. Leave it to me to find one. We weren’t making just any ordinary Jell-O; this was rainbow Jell-O and it took great skill to pour all the colorful layers.

I would love to tell you that my five-year old grandson took command of the project, but that was not the case. He did manage to empty the Jell-O packets into the bowls lined across the kitchen island; he may have done a small amount of stirring, but that was about it. The completion of his great idea fell on my shoulders. Imagine that!

The planned object lesson for my grandson never happened, but it is one I have experienced again and again in my life.

To pour in layers is not an easy task.

I have made handmade soaps for over 15 years and pouring soap in layers is considered an advanced technique. I discovered pouring Jell-O layers is no different. It requires patience if you want to keep each layer “pure”. Layers

When you rush the process it is inevitable something will either cannonball into a previously poured layer, or the soap will be too hot to pour. This causes an irreparable color bleed and your only option is to start over. That is when the cha ching factor kicks in and you step back and wonder why in the heck you didn’t slow down and do it right the first time. 

Every layer of our life is an exercise in patience coupled with knowledge.  New layers must be added with deliberate slowness to ensure previous layers are prepared to accept and bond to the next layer of change.

I don’t know about you, but I am the first to admit that I have tried to add ‘pure’ layers to my life only to find my timing was off. When the new layer was added it was only a matter of time before is separated from the layer beneath.  My timing was off. I had moved forward outside of God’s perfect time frame.

There are consequences to pay when we independently add a layer before God says, “It is time.”

The Bible is filled with stories of those who moved ahead of God. But God’s timing is not our own and to move ahead of God doesn’t work out to well. Consider this story.

God promised Abraham and Sarah a child, but Sarah became impatient and tells Abraham to take their maidservant Hagar for a wife and to conceive with her. Hagar conceives.  Sarah gets jealous.  Sarah gets mad at Abram.  Abram tells her to do as she pleases.  Sarah kicks out Hagar and the baby. 

The Angel of the Lord finds Hagar in the wilderness and instructs her to name her son Ishmael and says of him, “He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12)

Fast forward fourteen years later. Sarah finally bears Isaac, the son God had promised Abraham.  Both Abraham and Sarah had moved outside of God’s timeframe and reaped the consequences of their actions.

Let Jesus fortify your layers.
Be patient for God’s timing and prayerfully submit the layers of your life to His will. When you do, He will fortify every layer and render the enemy, Satan, powerless to penetrate and corrupt the foundations previously laid. God has a perfect plan to make the layers of your life ‘pure’ if you only listen.

Here is a link to the recipe for the Rainbow Jell-O dessert.
http://www.blimpygirl.com/all-recipes/rainbow-jell-o

 

1

LIFE IS SHORT, HAVE AN AFFAIR

Prayer

I hesitated as I stood to my feet; I looked around to see if anyone was watching. With deliberate slowness I walked toward the man who could have easily been mistaken for George Clooney’s brother.  As our eyes locked, I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. His arms reached out to embrace me and  whispered, “This will be a night to remember.” Hand in hand, we walked toward a corridor lined with empty rooms.

He opened the door to one of the rooms and I heard him ask someone to bring me a drink. I fumbled nervously with my purse and found a seat next to the window. I welcomed the cold drink and gulped it down in a matter of seconds. What in the world was I thinking when I told my friend I would attend this conference. I never expected to find myself in a room with a total stranger. This was so unlike me.

Yet, at some point during the conference I had let down my guard. And now I was alone in a room with a man I didn’t know.  I wondered if he had a family like me. But before I could inquire, he asked me to kneel down next to my chair and close my eyes. Little did I know a life-changing moment was about to ensue.  Something that would change the dynamics of my marriage, my family; and impact my future in ways never imagined.

And then, I heard a door open and a familiar voice rung out, “Please, pastor, don’t start without me. I want to be a part of this life-changing moment.” It was the voice of my friend, the one who had invited me to attend the conference. She threw her arms around me and joyfully shouted, “I am so happy for you. I know this was a difficult decision, but life is too short to not have a love affair with Jesus.”

With my friend next to me, I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus into my heart. It has been a love affair ever since.

I am forever grateful for the pastor who ushered me into that quiet room to share the gospel of Christ. When our eyes locked that day, he knew I was about to enter into a love affair with Jesus, the King of Kings. He was just one of the many pastors who had volunteered to work the Christian conference and counsel those who wanted to know Jesus. 

And for the record, the pastor is happily married with three kids and continues to reach out and embrace anyone who wants to have a love affair with Jesus. He is a true man of God.

SIDEBAR: This devotional story is shared based on events as told by a third-party.

0

OPPOSING VIEWS

IMG_7868

My five-year old grandson, Fischer, opened his backpack with great excitement and said, “Look, NeeNee, my teacher read The Mitten Story today and then I made this.” He showed me a mitten crafted from construction paper and stuffed with various animal cut-outs he had colored. “Do you want to hear the story?” And before I could answer, he was shaking the animal cut-outs onto the kitchen counter. With limited vocabulary, and the memory of a five year old, Fischer shared his unprompted version of the Ukrainian folktale.

Of course, seven-year old sister, Olivia stood ready to interrupt whenever she felt an important story detail was omitted. Both Fischer and Olivia interpreted certain portions of the same story in different ways in an effort to draw the listener’s attention to their point of view.  In the case of my grandkids, I call it sibling rivalry. But when the same scenario occurs between Christians, I call it denominational rivalry.

There will always be KEY truths to any story. In the Bible, those KEY truths are Jesus was born of a virgin, crucified and resurrected from the grave to save mankind; His blood cleanses us from our sin, and Jesus will one day return for those who believe upon His name. Most all Christian-based churches readily embrace these as fundamental truths regardless of denomination affiliations.

When a religious doctrine doesn’t’ align with your interpretation of God’s Word, then what?

Human nature alone prompts us to respond with persuasive arguments when our belief system is challenged, if only to justify our own interpretation of a story or event. When you throw religion into the mix, you have a combustive mix of religion fueled by a hundred different points of views. It ranks right up there with opposing political views.

When we are confronted with opposing views about our interpretation of God’s Word, I say stick to the basics. Jesus deals with Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and many more self-proclaimed religions. In my humble opinion, I believe God is attentive to each of us and relates scripture in a way that spiritually speaks to our individual needs.

When my grandson, Fischer, shared The Mitten Story, his focus was on the animals. He wanted them to stay warm inside the mitten. My granddaughter’s focus was entirely different. She wanted the little boy to find his lost mitten so the grandmother wouldn’t be angry. I like to think God deals with us in the same way. He has written stories for everyone to live by, but the focus (not the truth) of those stories change based on who is telling the story, and who is listening.

 

1

BETWEEN THE COVERS

oldbooks

Never judge the contents of a book by its cover. 

“It is only when we open the frumpy book covers of those around us, and sift through the pages of their life, that we are able to see the beauty that lies within.” –Denise Lobbs Marks–

In our lifetime, we will walk past countless books with exterior covers in every condition imaginable; all with a story to share. You may be the type that befriends only the trendy books on the best-seller list with exteriors dressed in colorful jacket covers.  I tend to seek out books with frayed edges, broken bindings and clearly in need of restoration.

Battered covers often have a main character with an incredible story to share, and as the story unfolds, unscripted and transparent truths about the character are revealed. With every page turn, something new is uncovered about their life and I begin to see the fictional character as a living, breathing person.  

I find myself thinking, I never knew that about you; I had no idea how much you suffered, you should have asked for help.

What is your story, what is the condition of your book cover?

 If your cover shows signs of abuse, wear and tear and is unraveling at the seams; then it’s time open the cover of your life, and with the help of others, faces the reality of your situation. Don’t wait until your cover has a broken binding before you rewrite your life story.

God stands ready to restore and publish your amazing ‘saved by grace’ story. He refurbishes the cover, gives us a new story to tell and places us next to another book with a broken binding, and says, “Share your story.”

Like Jesus, we should seek out those individuals with less desirable book covers and lead them to the Master of restoration.

“The numbered pages of our life are scripted daily and new chapters added yearly. Our life story is a never ending process until the last page of our story reads: THE END.” –Denise Lobbs Marks–

9

THE PIT OF DEPRESSION

“I’m sinking, but it’s never quite deep enough to drown.”  -Denise Lobbs Marks-

Depression

“Come and crawl inside my pit.
Measure its width and breadth.
Tell me, who can escape its darkened depths?”
-Denise Lobbs Marks-

Over the weekend I happened to find a long forgotten folder filled with my writings from many years ago. I have no idea why I never noticed this folder before. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be found until now. Opening the folder was much like opening Pandora’s Box; the contents contained some of the darkest moments in my life.

As I sifted through the pages, the hand writing itself indicated the writer was in a state of distress. Tears streamed down my face as I read my cries for help, the cries that no one ever heard; the outpourings that gushed from a crushed soul.

If you have never suffered depression, count yourself as one of the fortunate and don’t, for one minute, think it could never happen to you. No one, and I mean NO ONE, is exempt for the pit of depression.  It is powerful, real and arrives unannounced and without an invite.

“I watch helplessly as each drop of hope trickles onto the parched and barren ground beneath me.” –Denise Lobbs Marks-

There are so many things that can catapult us into the throes of depression. It might be divorce, death of a loved one, a failed business, lost income; it is an endless list of life situations, and we all react differently.

Knowing when to ask for help is critical.

Sadly, depressed people are often viewed as weak and unable to cope with daily life. But that isn’t true. Life is complicated and there are many situations that can leave us emotionally dead.

“Look closely and see the empty, lifeless eyes. They make a statement about a living death.” –Denise Lobbs Marks-

No one seeks to surround themselves with people when depressed. There is solace in aloneness and nothing screams aloneness more than depression. It is beyond difficult to reach out to others when all you want is for your flesh to dissolve into the dust from which it came. But those are the moments you need to reach out to someone you trust; someone who will listen without judgment, someone willing to be your sounding board.

“I know I exist externally because the breath of life warms my flesh and my heart pumps endlessly. Yet, my spirit, the life force needed to motivate my will and desires has vacated my body.” –Denise Lobbs Marks-

You are not alone.

Whatever life situation you face, be assured, you are not alone. When our life is parked on vacant land, and it seems everyone around us has lovely landscaped lots, think again. Many lives have been destroyed, broken and badly bruised. Hearts and souls have been buried beneath rubble when strong winds prevailed, but they refused to make their vacant lot a burial site.

I pray you never experience the pit of depression or the devastating repercussions of life changing events. May you spend more time building than repairing your life, and may sunshine follow every rain. Whatever you face, always entrust the help of others.

Never give up.

It was interesting that the very last item in the folder was somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Life is good and God’s mercy and grace is even better.

“I dream of laughter erupting within me like a volcano about to explode. I imagine it gurgling and churning­­, slowly at first, and then rising…rising… until the pressure can no longer be contained. It finally explodes with a gigantic force and the effect can be felt by all those around me.”  –Denise Lobbs Marks-