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Don’t Miss the Moments

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I watched my middle-aged neighbors as they cuddled together in a water tube in front of their lake house.  I couldn’t hear their conversation, but it was apparent they were enjoying each other’s company as the cooling waves splashed around them on a hot summer day.

It was a moment.

I couldn’t help but notice the man who clutched a bible in his hand as he raised his arms in praise during the church service today. He seemed overcome with a tenacious desire to give glory and thanks to the redeemer of his soul. Or, the young married couple, radically covered in tattoos, whose arms were lifted up to worship the God who had rescued them from their addictions.

It was a moment.

A good friend today, along with so many others, asked Jesus to be the Shepherd of his life and was baptized in the lake waters. It was so unplanned and genuinely sincere that it brought tears to my eyes.

It was a moment.

At the end of our pastor’s message today, my husband took my hand in his, gently squeezed it, and softly kissed my lips. I felt loved.

It was a moment.

A friend shared how much my devotional inspired them; a community member appreciated the donated gift, a client thanked me for a job well done.

It was a moment.

A family member called just to talk, a man waited to hold the door for me; the struggling, single mom who is a cashier at the corner store never fails to smile and ask how I am doing.

It was a moment.

One of the lines in the song Dream Small by Josh Wilson is…

…dream small. Don’t buy the lie “you’ve gotta do it all.”
Just let Jesus use you where you are one day
[one moment] at a time.

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Prayer for today:

It is the sum totals of simple moments that make up our life. Ordinary moments can change the world if we allow you to empower them with your greatness.  Make our moments count. It may be with a smile, a kiss or kind word. It could be opening a door for someone, visiting the elderly, conversing with family at the dinner table. Help me see that every moment is part of a bigger dream when seen through the eyes of God.

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.

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Living Within the Lines

Live Within the LinesWhen I was a kid, a box of crayons and coloring book could occupy me for hours on a rainy day. It was a free for all with crayons erratically scribbling outside any designated boundary. To stay inside the lines wasn’t a consideration; I was a budding artist.

When finished, the colored page was given to mom who praised me for a job well done and displayed it on the refrigerator door until she found a polite excuse to remove it.

In adulthood the only time I color is with my kids or grandkids and when I do, it’s rare to find a clean page to color. The kids have scrawled over every page in the book with total disregard for the printed lines or direction they move their crayons. When I do find a blank page, I am quick to exercise my proprietary rights and ban squatter privileges to anyone under the age of ten.

For me, a blank color page exemplifies a new start in life; a new beginning in my walk with Christ. It’s like a form of therapy in times of stress and uncertainty.  Every circular motion of the crayon is a reminder to stay within God’s boundary lines for the best outcome. I grow and flourish in my strengths, find comfort, serenity and healing when I choose to be obedient to God’s will.

There is a spiritual awakening that occurs when we discover God’s lines don’t confine or hinder us, but rather provide healing to do the impossible within us. His boundary lines are defined by grace, balance and love. To give Him control of our crayon box is to give Him control of our life.

Are you frustrated and confused about your circumstances and question God’s purpose for your life? Is your life going in every direction and cluttered with scribbles that extend outside the lines of grace?

I encourage you to ask God to help you color inside the lines of HIS will. Our Heavenly Father can color inside the lines of our life better than anyone else.

“Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you.” Jude 21

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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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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.

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Reflections: Golden Years

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As I approach 60, my mailbox is filled with AARP promotional material and long-term health care applications. My prized collection of reading glasses has grown to over 20 pair; and crossing my legs has become a mandatory ritual whenever I cough or sneeze. The grand kids know that lost reading glasses can be found perched on my head and sending a one line text message will take me 10 minutes.

With age, comes a sense of freedom from others opinions or expectations. It’s truly exhilarating to grocery shop in my bikini, wear PJ’s to my dental appointment and cruise past a fast-food drive up window topless… just kidding!

A transcript of my daily conversations are much like this:

Grandchild: NeeNee you wore that outfit yesterday.
Me: Yep, and I might wear it again tomorrow. In fact, I might wear it all week. Mention it again, and I will show up at your school in this outfit.

Builder: I can have that done in 2 days for $$ cost.
Me: So, what you are saying is it will cost twice as much as your quote and take twice as long.

Husband: Did you take a nap today?
Me: Yes, I did and the answer to your ‘real’ question is NO; you can’t have the TV remote tonight because I will be up late watching every Hallmark movie made.

Daughter: Hi Mom, it’s 9 PM; I hope I didn’t wake you?
Me: Of course not, I’ve been asleep for an hour waiting for your call.

Grandchild: You sure have a lot of wrinkles.
Me: I know; thankfully, they are the only thing that doesn’t hurt with age.

With age comes knowledge and there are a few things I have learned. Like memory loss can sometimes work to my advantage, sex is over-rated, control isn’t the Holy Grail and neck scarves do wonders for the fleshy wattle around the neck. The cowboy boots that look so cute on the magazine model won’t look like that on me. Neither will the size zero stretch pants on the mannequins in the junior section of a store.

On a spiritual level, I have discovered life isn’t all about me. I now listen twice as much as I talk, and when I do, something marvelous happens. It generates a call to action based on the need of someone else and fosters an attitude of generosity, pay-it-forward and volunteerism.

And so, as I head to the salon to have my gray hair colored, purchase age-defying make-up from Mary Kay, pack Spanks and reading glasses into a suitcase for an upcoming vacation, I consider what age 60 will be like in heaven.

What characteristics and features will identify me to those I’ve known at different ages in my earthly journey? Will wrinkles, gray hair and reading glasses no longer exist? I can’t help but wonder if we will be given the opportunity to pick our ideal age in Heaven. If that could happen, what age would you pick and why.

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FINDING TIME FOR GOD

Finding Time for GodMy mornings begin at 6:30 pm, sometimes earlier. I pour myself a half cup of coffee and head to my office where the computer is always on because I work from home. The day starts with a check of social media, emails and finally sifting through the endless stack of papers that clutter my desk.

If time permits, I work on a devotional or scout out a hands-on project to do with the grandkids. By late morning my home is filled with workers and my focus turns to business matters until their 6 pm departure. I scramble to pick up the house, do a load of laundry and prepare dinner before my husband walks through the door at 6:30. And then- I crash on the sofa.

It’s not a glamorous life by any stretch of the imagination. There are many days I don’t shower until late evening. By mid-summer every potted plant on my deck has died from thirst and there are least a half dozen items in my fridge that should have been pitched months ago. Thankfully, I have a bi-weekly cleaning service to keep the dust and dirty floors in check.

The demands of daily life can be overwhelming. We tend to make time for the things we really “love and want to do” but try to find time for things we “have to do”.

So where does God fit into our day?

I believe when we find it difficult to fit God into our day, it’s a love problem. When God time is squeeze out by our preoccupation with social media, emails, texting and over commitments, we suffer spiritually.

It is only when we give God His rightful place in our daily life that we experience the joy of the Lord is our strength and become more productive; we accomplish more in less time with less stress. When we make God first, we experience peace and joy even when our daily schedule seems daunting.

Our present joy and eternal destiny depends upon making time for God. Our Creator wants to intimately connect with us. It takes effort to find the time and energy to connect with God on a regular basis – just as it does with any relationship that matters.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

When we get quiet with God and shut out the daily noise that surrounds us, God will surprise us with insight; He re-calibrates our soul. It’s an invitation for Him to do new things in our life.

It is difficult to build upon what is right until we make time for God. In doing so, we realize our emptiness and God is able to intimately connect with us. Let us be reminded that a love relationship with God starts with an understanding of what He has done for us.

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” John 3:16 AMP