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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.

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Still Waters

IMG_2894[1]A feeling of loneliness seems to envelop the lake today. Except for a few lone ducks that cruise the waterways, there are no boats, no people; only the stillness of waters at daybreak coupled with droplets of refreshing rain.

Any movement on the placid waters is limited to the ripples created by winged wildlife as they paddle to their next feeding area. The calmness of the waterfront awakens my soul to a need for private reflection. I feel compelled to connect the spiritual dots of my life in an effort to reveal the hidden picture.

Fog begins to lift above the distant water’s edge and I look for God’s ordained agenda for today. Will I find still waters, or perhaps identify with others encountering the ripple effects of heartache and loss?

Wherever God places me today, I want to be available to offer encouragement to those experiencing rough waters and point them to the safety of God’s everlasting arms of mercy and grace.

Adverse waters are destined to happen in our imperfect life. They can have a profound impact and cause us to search for life survival skills that keep us buoyant and afloat.

Are you invested in the everlasting arms of God’s grace and mercy that bring buoyancy to your life? Or, are you floating along the fringe of destruction without a life jacket which will eventually pull you into deep waters.

Do you want to sink or float?

Today’s forecast may begin with placid waters, but that can change at any given moment. When gifted with moments of stillness, we need to pursue the skills needed to weather future unexpected storms that will inevitably impact our imperfect life.

Prayer for Today:

Dear God, help me to float when life’s circumstances want to pull me under. In moments of still waters, restore my soul and clothe me with a life jacket to survive future storms of my imperfect life.

He calmed the raging storm, and the waves became quiet. – Psalm 107:29

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Jesus: The Feng Shui of my Soul

water-1525798_1280The consistent rhythm of lapping water against the lake’s shoreline is a harmonious and soothing Feng Shui blend to my soul. I need that right now. I am continually amazed how God uses nature to enlighten and direct our thoughts to find tranquility in His divine creation amidst life’s adversities.

Every one of us has been a casualty, even if only temporarily, of a life story that has an unhappy conclusion. God knew that from the beginning of creation which is why He sent Jesus to save us.

Our eternal redemption was secured with every droplet of blood spilled at the base of the cross, but that sacrifice never guaranteed life on earth would be without heartache. Even Jesus didn’t escape the hardships and suffering of this world.

In our moments of distress, when we feel lost and alone, Jesus is our Feng Shui. He listens to the inner cries of our heart, brings a balance that enables us to move forward even in our deepest moments of anguish and sorrow.

Are the lapping waters of your life’s shoreline bringing waves of defeat or waves that create?

Waves of defeat bring  debris to the shoreline of life. Waves that create, clear the water’s edge and wash life’s debris into God’s sea of forgiveness.

And so, as I listen to the lapping water, I choose to cast out the debris that contaminates my life and embrace the harmonious and soothing Feng Shui of God’s forgiveness. In the process, His redemptive grace cleanses my shoreline view. so I can see clearly; I can see Him instead of the adversity littering my shoreline.

Prayer for Today:

Lord Jesus, help me to look beyond my adversity and seek peace and tranquility in the shoreline of everyday life. Cause me to seek you in all things with the knowledge that every lapping wave is purposed from above.  Allow me to see that my reaction to those waves will either create a new shoreline view or obstruct it when I give into defeat.

“seek God…he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:27

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Never Wrong: The Sorry Never Comes

never wrongThere are those individuals who will never admit they are wrong and when challenged, they dig their heels in even deeper with a combative attitude which often leads to total denial of words spoken or actions performed.

An apology from a husband, wife or friend for unwarranted explosive behavior may never happen. Their ‘I need to be right and won’t back down’ situation is transformed into something entirely different through their eyes.

Phrases like, “I never said that,” or “I was calm until you raised your voice,” aren’t uncommon when a Mr. or Mrs. Right recalls and replays a confrontational moment. I think all of us have friends or family members obsessed with the need to be right at all times and in all things. It is tough on marriages, friendships and employer relationships.

Encounters with a person who is never wrong can deplete us of every emotion except the one that exacerbates the situation: Anger. Through personal life experience, I find the always right persona is often coupled with a tutorial of: If you had done it my way.

Maybe you are the person who is driven to always be right. Or, perhaps it is a spouse, family member or close friend. The reality is it’s a difficult place for all concerned. Each has their own set of coping skills and behavioral reasons that I call ‘help me Jesus moments’.

Aggregated layers

A culmination of life experiences and stories shape our life. Some we willingly acknowledge while others are laid to rest in the abyss of stories with bad endings. Bad ending stories have a way of resurrecting themselves at the most unexpected times and trigger a reaction.

Reactive behavior is a first response in the process of trying to gain control and look for someone to blame. It has a way of peeling away layers to reveal an alter personality that isn’t always becoming.

How to live and cope with an ‘I am never wrong and won’t say I’m sorry’ person?

I pose this question because many stories have been shared with me in confidence that echo these same relationship issues. Seems it is more common than one might think but most won’t openly talk about it because it provokes emotional/financial repercussions, disbelief, blame and shame from others.

As I sit here overlooking the lake and listening to the sound of boat engines and barking dogs, I want to believe life is simple. But it’s not.  I don’t have answers to the countless contaminates that dominate this world because of sin. I don’t have answers to the attitude of I’m never wrong and a sorry will never come that seeks to tear apart family relationships.

What I do know.

Tomorrow, when I awake, the sun will rise. Chances are good that it won’t be a perfect day. Chances are even better that I will encounter a confrontational moment with an ‘I am never wrong’ person. Odds are it will involve a conversation with God about what He needs to do to fix this person.

God’s reply will be the same: My child, today, I am working on you. My grace is sufficient to perform every good work… in my time.

Prayer for Today:

Dear God, keep me from bitterness and disdain for those that have the need to be forever right. Be near and keep me calm when I want to fight back with words that I will later regret. Remind me that my imperfections need your grace as well.

“Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal;” Romans 3:23

Amen