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Walking Mission Field

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I’ve been called many things, but never a walking mission field; it was a first.

I recently connected with a prior acquaintance to assist me with my Monday house cleaning jobs. The drive time between each house clean has given us ample opportunity to grow from acquaintance status into a heartfelt friendship. Her name is Janine.

Travel Talks

During our travel time we talk about our families, favorite pastimes and share memories about our childhood years. But it is our shared faith that really seals the bond between us. She is a believer in Christ and her commitment to a life long journey of discovering what that means brings added value to our relationship because I am on that same journey.

A few weeks ago I casually mentioned that I have a blog called Devotionals for the Imperfect Person. Those who know me well know that writing is my passion. Not just writing about my faith to bring inspiration, but writing stories of encouragement and hope when weathering storms of life.

Caught Off Guard

On other drives Janine and I have talked about my Warrior Chair project; chairs painted and gifted to others that are battling cancer. There have been conversations about cultivating a daily pay it forward attitude, being attentive to the needs of others and my life as a pastor’s daughter.

It was our last stop on the way home from a clean this week that prompted Janine’s comment, “You are just a walking mission field.” It truly caught me off guard and I was uncertain what had prompted the remark.

I had made a quick stop at the corner market near my home after our last clean. I explained to Janine that the girl who worked there was a single mom with two kids. Her work days were 15 hours with a 40 minute drive to work. I went on to share I had dropped off a token gift bag to her last week.

There was nothing of particular value in the bag, but it contained some goodies along with a note of thanks for the great service she gives every time I visit the store. Unknown to me, the store clerk was having a particularly difficult day and the gift bag was a reminder she is valued.

The Mission

I shared this story with Janine. Not to receive any accolades, but to share the joyful impact a simple goodie bag had imparted to this unknown store clerk and how she was filled with gratitude. The door was now open to share the greatest gift of all: God’s love for a store clerk I barely knew.

We can all choose to be walking (or driving) mission fields. The rewards of our efforts may not be evident through the eyes of man, but God’s all-seeing eyes take note and He blesses the effort in unthinkable ways.

What mission field are you headed to today?

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2018: A Pay It Forward Christmas

1ab1d1e0550be0eb56556f6449aba62bAs the Christmas holiday season approaches, I am contemplating ways to make it a minimalist holiday season. Those on my buying list have no genuine needs. They might have wants, but that’s not the same as needs.

My grandkids are in their teens or soon to be. They lack nothing and have  a closet filled with clothes, comforts of a good home, food on the table and electronic devices up the wazoo. What they believe to be lacking in their life are expensive items like owning their own vehicle free and clear (you know, that new Jeep parked at the local dealership), prepaid car insurance until they finish college & university degrees (paid for, of course, by someone other than themselves).

It’s the wave of the current generation; the one we helped to create by giving them (our kids and grandkids) everything they desire with little regard to words like: earn, work, deserve, merit or most importantly, saying no.

This year, I have determined that the gifts on my shopping list will be genuinely gifted from the heart.

What does that mean?

I like to think of it as ‘pay it forward’ gifts. It’s not about what you receive, but what you gift to someone else. It could be buying a cup of hot cocoa for the volunteer person who rings the bell for Salvation Army donations. Maybe it’s baking cookies or a Bundt cake for local firefighters or police officers, or dropping quarters in the a laundromat washing machine to pay for someone’s next load.

The agenda

I have posted my agenda, should you want to consider a minimalist Christmas this year. Yes, I am starting early, but the initial planning takes some pre-planning because the thought process involves thinking of others before us.

My grandkids won’t receive any Christmas gifts from Neenee & Poppy unless they fulfill the (15) required ‘Pay It Forward’ items on the list below. Some items can be done jointly; others must be done solo. The agenda will start November 24 and must be completed by December 22.

  1. Deliver indoor plant to someone in a nursing home (jointly)
  2. Buy a cup of hot cocoa for the Salvation Army person ringing the bell (solo)
  3. Bake something for firefighters or police officers (jointly)
  4. Put a quarter in a gumball machine and walk away (solo)
  5. Put enough quarters in a laundromat washing machine for someone to do a load (solo)
  6. Print up some inspiring signs and post around town (jointly)
  7. Leave a card on someone’s door step that tells them you prayed for them today (anonymously). Pray over the card before leaving on doorstep. (solo)
  8. Post a sheet of random ‘Pay It Forward’ tear-off compliment’s at neighboring stores/businesses
  9. Drop off a meal to a widow. (jointly)
  10. Leave a box of goodies in your mailbox for your mail carrier. (jointly)
  11. Spend some time with the elderly. There are many people in retirement homes that have no one who visits them. Ask the local facility staff if there’s someone whose day you could brighten. (either jointly or solo)
  12. Send a handwritten card to someone you know, unexpectedly. (solo)
  13. Put post-it notes with positive sayings on random lockers at school. (solo)
  14. Write a 200 word letter to your parents about why you love them. (solo)
  15. Donate a much loved toy or item of clothing to someone in need within the community. (solo)

I look forward to sharing photos and comments of our Pay It Forward Christmas season.

 

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Opposing Views

opposingviewsI believe it’s a pretty fair assessment that posting our opposing political views serves no purpose but to vent our mindset on the situation. Let’s be honest, based on the Facebook posts I am seeing, you aren’t going to change or persuade anyone’s mind on their political views.

My circle of friends encompasses many that have a political or religious viewpoint that differs from mine. I’m certain you find yourself in the same amphitheater. We cheer on those who support our opinion and cause but tend to separate ourselves from those who voice an opposing view. I have noticed it is not unusual for a verbal confrontation or dissolution of friendship to ensue.

This discord weighs heavy on my heart as this passage of scripture comes to mind,

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (RSV) Luke 12: 1-3

We must live without any real secrets, because they are eventually going to become public—now, later, or when Jesus’ comes. We will be on full display when we stand before the Lord. The reality of our public persona and true self will be revealed.

 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Luke 12:53

So, while we all sit back as judge and jury on current political events, let us take pause of our own personal life. What hidden and unrevealed hypocrisies lurk in the shadows of our past? It’s a question that requires serious contemplation because, one day, we will be required to give a full account of our life.

When the big books of heaven are opened and your soul is required to give account for your time on earth, how will it read?

I sincerely pray the proclamation of your life reads: “It is well with my soul.”

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CHANCE MEETING or DIVINELY APPOINTED?

God has Diviinely Appointed our LifeAre brief encounters with others a chance meeting or divinely appointed? Are there hallowed moments implanted in our path of life that intersect with others for a divine purpose; moments of which we are unaware, but God-ordained to intervene and change the fate of someone else? I believe the answer is YES!

He has an appointed time to every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastics 3:1)

The key word is Purpose

God has designed a perfect plan for our life but in disobedience we follow our own ways. In the process, we end up on a course God never intended for us to pursue. We live in an imperfect world where sin entices and lures certain areas of our life into dark alleys that lead us away from the individual, perfect plan God designed for us.

Every moment of our life is chaperoned by God and He uses chance meetings with others to redirect our steps. No matter how often we deviate from God’s plan, He takes action to divinely redirect our steps and put us back on course to fulfill His purpose.

Staying on Course

I’ve abandoned God’s perfect plan more times than I care to count. There have been marriages, jobs, moves, friendships and choices that required intervention and chance meetings with others to alter the direction I was headed.

There have also been chance meetings when God uses me to unknowingly incite a change of direction for someone who has fallen off course and needs to be reconciled with their God-given purpose.

Whether you are a believer in Christ, or not, everything that happens in your life has a purpose. From the beginning of time, everything is divinely orchestrated by God for a specific purpose; a purpose which only He knows. Unbelief and human efforts won’t change those chance meetings God ordains in an effort to point you in the direction of His saving grace.

Today’s Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for divinely appointing a purpose for my life even before I was conceived. The greatness of your love is unconceivable. You chaperone every moment of life to ensure I stay on the path you have individually designed for me; you desire to make all my ways perfect.

“It is God that girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect.”
Psalms 18:32

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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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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.