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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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God Doesn’t Need Us

21bb469bd758a78d363986998129d056Contrary to what you might think, believe or been taught, the truth is God doesn’t need us. He is already all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent. He isn’t a God who needs anything, and that includes us. He doesn’t need our faith, our prayers, our love, and He doesn’t need our praise.

Some have suggested God created man because He needed someone to love Him or He needed someone to love. False truth!

He is the creator of all and He is above all, as the Apostle Paul said in Acts 17:24-25,

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands; And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

We Are Arrogant

God has plans that are better than we have for ourselves but we think we know better. We dismiss him until finding ourselves in need or in a hopeless situation. We can’t remember the last time we read our Bible or actually pursued Him with all our heart, soul and mind. (Matthew 22:37). But the minute we find ourselves in dire straits we look to God for an easy bailout. We treat Him like He’s a Genie in the bottle ready to grant us our three (selfish) wishes.

But God Never Listens

God is always listening, but we aren’t.  To truly find answers and help from the Lord, we must search our spiritual heart. Is there anything we aren’t doing that He told us to do? When we repeatedly hardened our heart to His call we stop listening and become obedient to our desires, not His.

We Need God

As depraved, in-corrupt people we have nothing to give to God, but yet He wants us. Left on our own, we would have never gone to Him. He came to us for our need, not the other way around. We can understand and appreciate Him more for who He truly is, and for all He has done for us when we fully digest that God loves us.

Consider this:

God sent His only Son to die a horrific, painful death on the Cross even though He didn’t need us. He did it because He knew we needed Him. That’s love, that’s grace, that’s mercy and that is mind boggling. God doesn’t need me, but He WANTS me. He wants me to see my need for Him. He wants me to desire His ways, He wants me to seek after Him and He wants to spend eternity with me.

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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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MY CUP OVERFLOWETH

PoppyJuice“NeeNee,” shouted my youngest grandson at the top of his lungs, “I poured too much Poppy juice into my cup and it spilled all over.”

The grand kids coined the term Poppy Juice when they were old enough to drink from a sippy cup. It’s a blend of red fruit punch that Poppy mixes in a big jug; should it spill, you have one big sticky mess with a good chance it will stain whatever it penetrates.

I’m fairly certain permanent wheelie marks were left on my office floor as I flew out of my office chair in the direction of the kitchen. What I saw was a panic-stricken six-year old on his knees with paper towel stretched in every direction in an effort to stop the trail of red juice that covered the floor.

“I’m sorry, NeeNee, I didn’t mean to put that much in my cup.” The remorseful and tearful way in which he spoke those words resonated with me. In that moment, I saw myself at the feet of Jesus asking for forgiveness.

I can’t count the number of times my life’s cup has overflowed and required heavenly intervention and damage control to mop up my bad choice messes. Like my grandson, I tend to ignore the voice that continually calls out to be slow and careful and I find myself saying, “I’m sorry, Jesus. I wasn’t slow and careful like you asked. and my cup overflowed.”

With love and a forgiving spirit, my grandson and I worked together to bring restoration to a chaotic and messy situation. That’s exactly what Jesus does for us. When we cry out for help, He comes to us with love, mercy and forgiveness to clean the stains of sin that overflow from our life.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Though we fall short of God’s glory, He made provisions to restore His glory within us through the cross of Jesus. He stands ready to restore our life messes and lead us in the paths of righteousness.

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SISTERS

3139_1074232579462_6883989_nI have only one sibling; a sister named Sharon, but I call her Sharrie or sissy. We are one year and two days apart in age, but our chosen life paths are about as far apart as you can get.

She is a pastor’s wife and that in itself speaks volumes about her. Not everyone is cut out to be a soul mate to someone dedicated to the ministry; certainly not me. My mom was one of those women, but God saved us all when I chose a different path.

My sister has a beautiful singing voice, plays the piano and effortlessly leads worship service every Sunday at church. She loves to hike trails, camp, bake, play practical jokes and hang out at their northern cottage which I have never visited (hint). Sharrie’s laugh is infectious; you have only to sit next to her while watching a comedy movie to witness her ability to unabashedly laugh out loud. She is our daddy’s daughter in that respect.

I, on the other hand, prefer hotels to camping; opt for motorized vehicles over bicycles and never hike more than up and down the stairs of my home. Church members would drop off the rosters if I led a worship service and all my baked goods are purchased at the local grocery store.

No one can keep a secret better than my sister or save money in a pillowcase like she is known to do. When I needed money to buy cigarettes in high school, her pillowcase was the bank that provided the needed cash.

She was the athlete and compliant child; I was the president of art club and a rebel. I married at 18, she married at 27. All ‘no’ answers from my parents were an open invitation to ‘do it anyway’. Anger was my middle name and I could bring conflict to a situation quicker than the blink of an eye. The Bible scripture blessed are the peacemakers did not apply to me.

With all our many differences you might wonder if my sister and I were birthed from the same parents. The God who created the opposing contrasts of night and day also created the opposing contrasts of Denise and Sharon and has allowed our different life experiences to work in unison. Our approach is uniquely different, but our lifelong goal has always been the same; to grow in the grace of Jesus.

My sister complements my shortcomings and remains my biggest cheerleader in helping me reach my goals. She prays, intercedes, listens and forgoes judgment when I make bad choices. When I reach out to her, she greets me with arms wide open; she is a friend in all seasons of life. There are no words I can pen to paper to express how much I love her.

And so, on my sister’s 58th birthday I give thanks for our forever friendship, the differences that join us as one and the many times she has been the beacon of hope in my darkest nights. She always believes in me; applauds my accomplishments and looks up to me, though I’m not sure why. Thank you for being my polar opposite. God knew I needed that in a sister.

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SOUP OR SALAD?

SouporSaladDevotionalI watched as a large group was seated at a nearby table in a restaurant where I was having lunch. As the guests studied the menu, the waitress asked, “Can I get you something to drink?”

Coke…water…coffee…nothing for me was some of the responses and as she left to fill the drink order, decisions were made about what to order from the menu.

“Is everyone ready to order?” As the waitress jotted down orders she presented each guest with a number of different choices.

What kind of bread, do you want soup or salad, which dressing do you prefer or how would you like that done? There were choices about side dishes, toasted or not toasted, desserts and whether one check or separate checks were needed.

The six people seated at the lunch table all made choices; some the same, but more often very different from others. That’s a lot like life. Every day is a soup or salad day filled with a host of choices that only we can make and the consequences of those choices are sometimes out of our control.

If you order a well-done burger and the short order cook prepares it medium, you must make another choice; eat the burger or send it back. Or, the chicken soup ordered turns out to be a bowl of clam chowder.

The table of life offers an endless number of soup or salad choices; some good, some not and some that are simply out of our control. And then enters Jesus with His mercy, grace and love. He takes control of our choices and works all things for our good if we consult with Him about our life choices and commit our ways to Him.

“And we know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good.” Romans 8:28

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SHAKE DON’T SHUFFLE

oldwomanAs I gazed out my office window, I couldn’t help but fixate my eyes on the woman who moved slowly down the sidewalk; she walked as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders. The methodical way in which she shuffled her steps and the downward creases at the corner of her mouth seemed to signify a life absent of joy and a hidden sadness she couldn’t share.

The woman seemed to sense I was watching her. She stopped abruptly and turned toward my office window. Uneasiness gripped me as the sun cast the outline of her shadow across my desk. It was only when our eyes met that I realized this woman was a reflection me and my uneasiness turned to panic.

With her forehead pressed against the glass and hands cupped around her face, the woman mouthed words I could not hear. I rolled my office chair over to the glass window and positioned my ear to the pane, but heard nothing. The woman soon turned away and continued to shuffle toward her unhappy destination. It disturbed me.

For the rest of the day the image of the sidewalk woman haunted me. Why had I felt such panic when our eyes locked? I longed to know why.

That evening, after dinner, I sat down and opened the newspaper to the Hometown section. I stared in disbelief as I locked eyes with the same elderly woman I had seen earlier that day. The news article was written by her oldest son and as I read the words, a shadowy picture of me began to unveil; I struggled to hold back tears.

The woman’s name was Sylvia. She held a graduate degree, married her high school sweetheart after college and together they raised three children. To the outside world it appeared to be a picture perfect life, but there was nothing further from the truth. You see, Sylvia didn’t love herself and her job only served to feed on those insecurities to cultivate an attitude of defeatism.

Because worry was a constant companion Sylvia wasn’t able to enjoy life’s moments. As her children grew in age, they adopted mom’s worries and insecurities as a lifestyle; and Dad began to distance himself from the family with extended work hours.

The son’s story spoke of the heartache of living with a loved one who is unable to fully embrace love and themselves. In retrospect, he listed those things he most longed for as a child:

  • For mom to have the courage to leave a job that fed her unhappiness
  • To play catch in the backyard rather than three baseball games every week
  • An acceptance that money worries are pointless; it will never create more income
  • That less is more
  • I’m not the sounding board for your unhappiness
  • 15 minutes of your undivided attention
  • That you loved yourself as much as I love you
  • When to say no to activities, events and things that don’t really matter
  • A clean house is not important to me if it means you can’t spend time with me

I folded up the newspaper and place it by my side. I quietly contemplated the story I had just read. In many ways it was my story and I didn’t want to end up as an unhappy, elderly woman who never stopped to smell the roses or took chances. The panic I had felt as I looked into this woman’s eyes was that very fear.

In that moment, I knew it was time to make changes, to love me and to follow my dreams. I needed it, my kids needed it and so did my husband. When the elderly lady peered into my office window she had said:

“Know what really matters. If your life is absent of joy, there is no one to blame but yourself. You get one chance at life so embrace it with everything you’ve got. You need to shake not shuffle your way through life.”