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Seasons of Grace

img_3614[1]I gaze out window watching remnant leaves from the fall season gracefully skate across the surface of my ice-glazed deck.

They spin around and then smoothly skim the surface of the ice with occasional moments of being air bound before gracefully, flawlessly descending back to the icy surface.

And then, without notice, the edge of the remnant leave becomes caught in a crack. It fights to free itself to no avail. Suddenly a gust of wind dislodges it and it once again is free to glide across the surface of my ice-glazed deck.

We are all leaves fallen from grace trying to weather the seasons of life. There are winter season when we navigate across ice-glazed surfaces to keep our balance; avoiding cracks and thin ice.

Spring brings the emergence of new growth. We labor to recover from any losses in the wintry season of our life. The arrival of summer’s glorious, bountiful sunshine is welcomed. It’s a time of renewal, joy and reprieve. Our dreams for the future blossom, we bear fruit and flourish in preparation for fall.

Fall descends and the colorful sprays of leaves will soon fade and turn brown. A reminder of how we have all fallen from grace. It’s nature’s call for us to reconcile with the Creator of all things because winter is coming.

“In [fellowship with] Christ we have redemption [i.e., we have been bought back from Satan] through His blood, and have forgiveness of sins according to the abundance of God’s unearned favor,”
Ephesians 1:7

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Heavenly Father, no matter the season I face in my life, I ask for your guidance, encouragement and the knowledge that you go before me in all things. You have eternal purpose for each and every one of us whether we choose to accept it or not.

Open my eyes to see my life through your eyes. A life that is redeemed, rescued and full of plans directed and orchestrated by you.  In my bleak and barren seasons lead me, in those seasons of rejoicing may my feet dance in praise for your enduring mercies and endless kindness.

In all things, I give you thanks always.

Amen

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Our Skyline is Forever Changing

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This morning’s skyline over the lake appeared ominous and threatening. But in a short time, I watched the skyline change to a luminous, vivid spray of color that welcomed the IMG_4064dawning of a new day with open arms and shouted to anyone that cared to listen, “There is hope if you are willing to be still and wait for the Creator of all things to showcase His glorious influence over how you perceive the day He has set before you.”

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be full of joy and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24

Did your day start out like this morning’s skyline? I encourage you to wait prayerfully and patiently before the Lord. He listens to us in our time of need and just when we believe all hope has vacated the skyline of our life, HE arrives in the most magnificent way and reveals hope. God has a way of turning our ominous and threatening moments into joy.

“You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy.” Psalms 30:11 (GNT)

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, let me move and breathe with the knowledge that YOU go before me at the dawn of each new day. From sunrise to sunset, your grace is sufficient. You only want the best for me and no matter how dark the clouds above me, you are continually reshaping the skyline of my life into something glorious and beautiful. Thank you, Heavenly Father for caring about every detail of my life.

AMEN

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Are You a Taker or Giver?

I do plefbe106998c36bce9aa90503259d6015a--amen-so-truenty of community work. Trust me when I say that those who give the most are the least financially equipped. And no, I’m not talking about me; however, if any of you feel compelled to pay off my mortgage, it would be greatly appreciated.

The individuals and families I reference are those you may least expect.  Consider this comment recently shared with me:

“We continually give, because that’s what we do and who we are. Yet, in the giving of our time and non-monetary donations to local events, we have found ourselves in situations where a family member had to gift us money for groceries. We have our kids pack lunches to save on the $3 per child lunch fee, but even then, we fall short and not because we are extravagant.”

Linden Tribe this is an ongoing issue in our community.

There are takers and there are givers. We tend to pay attention to the takers because they have the louder voice; but what about those who don’t voice their need?

Sure, maybe they should, but it’s not who they are; and more likely, it’s not who their parents were either. Asking for a hand-out is difficult. These are families who are not afraid to work. For most, they are college-educated or skilled trade people who just can’t keep up with family expenses.

The list includes single moms/dads living on one pay check, individuals who have fallen on hard times due to health issues. Then there is the average household paying for multiple children in school sports, kids who outgrow clothes and shoes in a matter of months and still have to pay to get into community sporting events. Yes, I know, there are season passes, but really? How much do you save and why isn’t that part of the tax levied by the school district? Just sayin’!

My point

Take it for what it’s worth. The people I reference don’t qualify for food stamps, Obama Care (for what that is worth) or free school lunches. Oddly enough, these are the individuals who are first to volunteer to coach a community sports team or donate their resources to a charitable event.

They see their community as a working mission field and to not serve would be a dishonor.

Food for thought

What are you doing to serve your community? Are you sucking the live out of it and giving back nothing? Then shame on you! Mount your giddy-up horse and find ways to serve, donate, and share the blessings you have been gifted.

I can give you a list of people in our community who would greatly benefit from a grocery store gift certificate.

How are you Paying It Forward to the community where you live?

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The Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.

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Held to the Flame

flame

There are times in life when we are held to the flames. Perhaps it is divorce, separation or a battle for your health. Addictions, loss of a family member or job can quickly place our faith next to the flame.

I get it, and have experienced all of these ‘held to the fire’ moments within my life. Was it easy, NO! Was God faithful, YES! It is God’s holy fire that transforms us. When held to the flame, our spirit is transformed into something new.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. (7) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1: 6-7

We are valuable to God. Giving up His Son to death so that His blood would bring us forgiveness of sin is certainly proof of that. If your life is being held to the flame, God may be trying to tell you something.

Open your ears to hear God’s voice; He speaks to us through His Word. Read it!

Open your eyes to your surroundings. Are you hanging out in places and with people that give cause for concern?

Open your heart to change and the deep inner stirring of the Holy Spirit within your soul. That comes through prayer and meditation with our Heavenly Father.

Sometimes our life is held to the flame for no apparent reason. REJOICE! God is testing your faith for a divine purpose. You may not see or know that purpose while on earth, but eternity holds all the answers.

Dig in your heels, hold tight! Let your faith be increased and proven to be genuine because it has been held to the flame.

“So now, beloved ones stand firm and secure. Live your lives with an unshakable confidence. We know that we prosper and excel in every season by serving the Lord, because are we assured that our union with the Lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

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Stuck in the Mud

stuck_in_mud

Sometimes in life we find ourselves in a mud pit spinning our wheels and getting nowhere.  No matter how much effort we put into moving forward in life and overcoming challenges we are stuck; we’re in a funk and can’t get to where we need to be or want to go.

I’ve been immobilized in mud many times for many reasons and there key questions to be asked when that happens.

  • Am I secretly coveting the life of someone else?

How we see another person’s life is one dimensional. We don’t know what’s going on in the shadows. It’s futile to desire the lifestyle, job, wealth or relationships of others. If you choose to do so, the only place you will go is the mud pit.

Looking from the outside paints a deceptive facade of what chaos, agony and personal pain this person may be suffering on the inside.

  • Am I waiting for someone or something to change life for me?

If that is your mindset, you will remain in the mud pit. Only you with God’s help can bring change. If you want to get moving again then shift your life into four-wheel drive. That requires you, not others, to assume responsibility for your emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.

What does that require?

  • Refuse to play the blame game. What has happened in the past is just that, the past. Your focus should be the future.
  • Switch it up and change your routine. A change of venue is a powerful tool to change your mindset and see life from a different perspective.
  • Stop making assumptions based on past experiences. Realize you are empowered to forge new experiences, change your course and choose your fate.

 

  • Have I invested in mud flaps?

If you are spinning your wheels in mud, you’re going to need some mud flaps to keep the backlash of those who have no interest in YOUR destination but are quick to offer opinions, judgment and their point of view. Mud flaps guard our vision from the dirt and debris that life throws our way. They keep us from being directionally challenged so we don’t end up in the mud pit.

I got mine for free by asking God. The set includes: Guidance of the Holy Spirit (guidance), the Word of God (intervention), Prayer (road-side assistance) and fellowship with other Christian believers (support). It’s a free-standing offer that I highly recommend.

  • Have I learned to say no?

Don’t be afraid to rearrange your priorities a bit and make “no” a more commonly used word in your vocabulary. The ability to say ‘no’ reflects you are in the driver’s seat of your life and empowers you to avoid the mud pits and navigate life according to God’s plan.

There are times that God deliberately places us in a mud pit to reform and transform us for a greater purpose. When we stop focusing on our circumstances (stop spinning our wheels) and focus on Him we find rest, encouragement and renewed passion.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
(Ps. 32:8)

If are currently in a stuck in the mud season of life, I encourage you to fully, completely, and absolutely surrender your own will and seek God’s. Let go of the lies, shame, worry, doubt, comparing yourself to others and take hold of your grace-filled pardon.

Dare to dance to the unique rhythm God has fashioned for your life and invest in mud flaps.

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When God Lifts the Fog

fog

As the fog lifts from the lake this morning, I am reminded of how God lifts the fog from our life when we seek Him with all our heart.

What does ‘all our heart’ imply?

I believe it is a quest of the soul to discover the depth and breadth of God’s desire to lead us into a personal relationship with Him. It’s that simple. When we allow God to get intimate with our soul, He lifts the fog that hinders us from seeing the fullness of His redemptive powers.

What are His redemptive powers and how does that relate to our life?

In more ways than you might think or have considered.

Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross ransomed us from sin. It opened the floodgates of Heaven so we can stand reconciled before the throne of God. It means God is attentive to every aspect of our life because our soul has been given “sky priority” status and stamped with His seal of grace.

The heart (meaning soul) of mankind is inherently evil due to sin. Sin is our disobedience to God’s plan for us.  All the good deeds in the world will never make amends for that broken relationship. Thankfully, God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension. He gifted us redemption through the death of his Son Jesus on the cross.

It is through the blood Christ shed and His resurrection that we are given access to redemptive powers in our life. They are freely given to all mankind and the only requirement is to genuinely ask Jesus to become the ruler of our heart (soul).

What does that mean?

It means God’s truth must dwell within our heart and we give Jesus full rights to call our heart His home. If you want the fog lift, you must empty your heart of ‘you’ and pursue Jesus. Only then will the redemptive powers of God be operational in your life.

To love God with all our soul requires us to relinquish all ownership of self. It’s a process of realigning our understanding to God’s understanding. That’s not easy and it requires us to die to ‘self’ daily.

How do we die to self?

Prayer and ingesting God’s Word (the Bible) are the tools needed to lift the fog that surrounds our life. It sounds easy, yet harder than you think. The opposing force of darkness (Satan) seeks to engulf us in a mist of fog that prevents us from seeing the keeper of the lighthouse.

Our soul must be replenished and realigned from our understanding to God’s understanding. To lift our spiritual fog is an incremental process and one I struggle with daily. It requires effort, desire and time on my part, but when God lifts the fog, there are no regrets.