Godly Grandeur — Perpetual Creation

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If you haven’t taken a walk in the woods this season, now would be the time. The beauty and continuous life seen there is breath-taking. The hush of the breeze, the variety of shape and size, the colors that wash over you represent the trueness of God. Even with the death process that is ongoing and the destruction that occasionally attacks, life is perpetual. . . like the first law of motion, that which is in motion tends to stay in motion.

Here in the woods, the motion of creation is displayed wonderfully. Creation is life. Yes,301 death and destruction attack and destroy, but life keeps going. To believe that God created this in six days is not hard to believe. To think that all this just happened is hard to believe. We have the saying ‘Life goes on’, and how true it is. We cry out against that saying when we have experienced evil and loss. That life goes on seems wrong and unfair. But, be thankful that it does. Look at the plants that grow unaided by human intervention . . . the trilliums, the lady-slippers, the forget-me-nots. A multitude of plants keep on growing, trees grow out of dead trees and through rock. God is life continuing.

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We say destruction is from God, we rail against God allowing evil and therefore conclude He doesn’t care. But life is what God does. Life keeps going perpetually. Think of the thousands of years that life has kept going. We think that accidents are God. An unwanted pregnancy may be an accident, yet is is precipitated by the law of sowing seed . . . you sow seed, you reap life. And think about the infant growing in the womb, the wonder of giving birth, the growth of that baby into someone with a totally unique personality, able to talk and walk and create and think brilliantly. Yes, a birth defect is an accident, not God’s original plan, and I know about that.  Yet, considering all that could possibly go wrong in the growing of an infant, because so much goes into that growing, it is amazing that the majority of births are defect free . . . that’s life continuing, God’s plan.

We know the agony of a young person dying at an early age, truly an accident, crying out against all that is right. Truly tragic as it is, it shows God’s plan is for life — for we correctly don’t think of early death as a right thing. We do take note and find comfort in the good that may come of it, but that again reveals that God’s purpose, His grandeur, is life, not death. He will help us go on . . . and it’s right that we do so, allowing His healing and comforting hand to work in us. Life does and must go on.

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We see evil in the world, but it is not from God — it comes from without. Even the word evil in English is live backwards. It’s a wrong direction, going against God’s purpose. 

Sometimes we worship what man does, his creative brilliant mind, the many inventions and commodities he has made. But where did that intelligence come from? God began it all with creating a world that perpetually continues, that demonstrates life.  We marvel at science, yet the laws that we use to create are the laws that God placed in the world. The law of lift, gravity, laws of motion, of thermodynamics. All of it we discovered in the world that God created. All the abilities of language, of communication, of intervention, came from the creative mind of God. He created a world that is logistically amazing and interdependent on its working parts.

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Even the simplest cell has over 60,000 proteins and thousands of interdependent parts . . . not simple at all . . . except that it is simply magnificent. Some say evolution is true because of similar systems in all animals. Yet, when we find a work of art, or pieces of writing, we identify the creator by the similar patterns. God has similar patterns throughout all living things, but the most marvelous variety you can imagine. We want to call it mother nature, but it’s Father God, who loves us and gave life that continues.

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So go outside and find a place where you can consider what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will continue to do. His heart for you is life, continual, restorative life. No matter what has attacked you, what lies have been told to you, God is a life-giving God. His Godly grandeur is perpetual life. Feel free to tap into it.

 

Forgiveness — Let It Go

There it was again. I was out walking, enjoying the day, and my mind reached down and pulled up that hurtful memory like a cow pulling up its cud to chew. And chew I did. I was there again. I rehearsed what they said, what they did. It was simply wrong. It wasn’t true or right. I saw their expression. It hurt. It made me mad. My body tensed. All the words I should have said coursed through me.

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Finally, I said to myself, “That was five years ago! WHY am I thinking about that now? I thought I forgot that.” Obviously I had not. As I settled down and focused on why I was remembering so vividly rather than what I was remembering, I had the thought, ‘perhaps I need to forgive’.

The word forgive comes from the Greek word aphiemi which means to release or send away. Bottom line it means ‘let it go’.

Unforgiveness puts us in a prison of torment. They say it’s like preparing poison for the person you haven’t forgiven and then drinking it yourself, not understanding why they don’t change. You live with tormenting thoughts day and night of what they said or did. Those thoughts can exhaust you and dominate everything and anything you need to do.

Unforgiveness makes us ugly. We think we are unaffected because we are sure we are right. The truth is we become difficult to be around. Perhaps we are always the victim, promoting the poor me attitude. Perhaps we put up a wall so no one else can hurt us or deceive us. We also may go on the aggressive, just to make sure no one has the opportunity to do anything against us.

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Forgiveness sets us free. Most of us think forgiveness lets the other person off the hook. Not so. It does not deny what they did or that it was wrong. They will have to answer to God, to themselves, and perhaps the civil/criminal court of law. But we can be free of their sin’s control over us. That person may not even know anyone was offended. It’s possible their comment or action was inadvertent. And, certainly, it may have been on purpose, mean-spirited, and downright evil. Either way, forgiveness sets us free from those chains.

Forgiveness is the highest order of life.  If you forgive constantly, if you make a habit of letting things go, life is a joy.  Forgiveness destroys the stumbling blocks of anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness, and wariness that seem to place themselves right in your path. You have opportunity every day to take offense, but it will be poison in your veins.  Forgiveness cleanses you, protects you, and so blesses others. Why not begin developing the habit? As with any habit, you will have to practice. Sometimes you may need to forgive the same thing many times, but it becomes easier and easier.

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I spent a whole summer walking and forgiving.  It seemed all those things that had festered below the surface were brought up to my mind, like the cream rising to top so it could be skimmed away. I learned to let it go, to skim it away. Some were easier than others, but I began to develop a pattern, and I began to learn to recognize the poison for what it was. Looking back, a lot of good doors opened after that summer. I think when those ugly thoughts aren’t dominating our thinking that we are open to hear God’s thoughts and good plans for us. I still have to work at it at times, but life is so much better when I let it go.

Between Two Trees – How To Find Your Way When the Path is Unclear

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Spring has arrived and it’s time to walk in the woods again.  We have a wonderful trail a short distance behind our home, and we created a path from the house to the trail. But after a winter away from that path, it’s always a bit difficult to maneuver. The woods are always changing while looking all the same. I developed a phrase which helps me locate our path: between two trees. It sounds so silly. In the woods, everything is between two trees.

Yet I’ve gotten to know, to recognize two particular trees not too far apart. As I walk between them, I look for the next set of trees that are my markers.  I have four sets of two trees that get me home.  The last set always makes me think of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The trees are tall and wide and seem like a gateway to another world just as in C.S. Lewis’s wonderful story.

The woods change with the seasons. In early spring, I can see our house in the distance while I locate my trees. Soon my feet have shuffled away some of the dead leaves so the path is fairly plain. However, when the leaves bud and open – I always call it the greening – the house is no longer visible and I have to pay attention to my trees again. In the fall the leaves blanket the ground hiding the well worn path and my trees lead me once more.  If I walk in the woods in the winter, all is white and gray with nothing to distinguish my walkway. The  two trees beckon me home.

Life constantly changes while often looking the same, just like the woods. You know the path is there, but it’s just not quite clear. Things get in the way, seasons change, and it seems so hard to see where you know you should go, where you thought you knew the way. What can you do? How can you pick out your own two trees or several sets?

In life, you only need one set of two trees and you only need to look up to see them.  When Jesus died on the cross, He hung between two thieves, also on crosses. A cross was called a tree.  Jesus hung between two trees and He is your way home. When you look to Him, He will show you the way, no matter how much life changes or stays the same.  He tells us He is the way, the truth, the life.  He also says He is the door.

He will give you wisdom, give you answers, and give you peace and strength for the journey. He may do it with a verse from the Bible, a knowing in your heart, a thought in your mind, or perhaps a friendship you weren’t expecting. He will hold your hand and walk with you. Ask Him to lead you where you need to go. Look to the One between the two trees and find your way through the beauty, the confusion, the changes, and the blessings of the many seasons of life.

The 45 minute Principle to Success: How to survive the chores of daily life

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I had a book to write, not only write but finish.  I did not have a publisher yet setting deadlines, but I knew inside I needed to write and to get it done.  I have 2 other books partially done and one that I need to rework, but this one I knew I had to get done. But I was distracted.  Everyday there was something else that demanded my attention whether trivial or important. I kept setting goals to write 2 to 3 hours a day. That seemed reasonable. Gosh, I knew authors who wrote daily for 4 hours, even 8 hours.  2-3 hours should be doable, I told myself.  However, there never seemed to be enough time in the day, or if there was on occasion, I just could not sit myself down for that long. I was like a little kid with no discipline it seemed. And so because I couldn’t see that happening, I didn’t start.

After a couple months of this, rather than apologizing to the Lord daily about my lack of discipline, I asked Him how I would ever get it done.  Inside, I felt Him ask how I got my first novel (already published) written. I replied, “In 45 minute segments, here and there.” It was as if He said, “then do it again – it’s how you write”.  Amazingly, that was my answer.  I could easily set aside 45 minutes, and because I could, I did. Often those 45 minutes turned into an hour and a half and sometimes a few hours, but the 45 minute thinking allowed me to start. About 3 months later the book was finished.

I have since found that the 45 minute principle helps in all sorts of other things.  Maybe I should walk an hour a day, but I just can’t get it together enough to do that. However I can walk 45 minutes. Sometimes in the morning I wish I could spend 2 hours in prayer and bible study, but with everything else that needs to get done, it won’t happen.  I can often get in 45 minutes, though.  And if 30 or 20 is all I can do on somedays, that’s OK.

Now, the chores. The closet sorting, the cleaning, and all those things we don’t enjoy. They take hours and hours. But wait, I can do 45 minutes. When it comes to that closet, I tell myself “45 minutes, that’s it. What I get done, I get done, and then I’m off to other things. Now, if I get into it and want to go longer, well I can if I want to, but all I’m promising is 45 minutes.

My sister-in-law’s closet collapsed – she said the closet cyclone hit and put a picture on facebook.  I immediately commented: Go in 45 minute segments and do phase one . . . get rid of all the clothes you don’t like and know you’ll never wear. If you aren’t sure, just leave it. And take them away immediately if not sooner. The next day do phase 2: get rid of the clothes that don’t fit and adopt the thought ‘I can bless someone with this’ rather than ‘Oh Gosh, I really like it, so and so gave it to me, maybe it will fit next year’. And take them away. Phase 3 is those things that you so loved and paid so much for but after you got them home they just don’t work. It seems such a waste and you should really wear them.  If so, wear them. But if you can push yourself a bit, be realistic and let someone else be blessed.  When I do this I can fit what I actually wear into my closet space and I can see those great things I forgot I had.

You can apply the 45 minute principle to just about any chore and responsibility in your daily life – probably any pleasure, too. Only spend 45 minutes on that hobby, or puzzle, or facebook, or reading your favorite magazine, so you can still get the other things done that are necessary. You may have to adjust it to 30 minutes, but if you tend to procrastinate because the job is overwhelming and you know it will take so long, chunk it up and do it in incremental segments. You will always see progress this way and progress brings success.

3 Aspects of Hope for Daily Life

I’m sorry, Judy, but we selected two very qualified teachers for those positions.” I was crushed. Other than wanting to cry, I was baffled because I didn’t know how to be any more qualified. But I kept on. I subbed. I offered to help with any and all extra-curriculars. I applied for an aide position and got it. I chose to be thankful, and believe. I had hope that there was a position for me in that school.

Hope is a seed.  It starts small. Sometimes it’s just a tickle, a thought in the back of the mind, a phrase that someone says in passing.  But it has a persistence, a flash, a spark that captures your very being.  Sometimes you have to dig for it, because it seems so far out of reach, but you just can’t let it go, even though everyone, including you, keeps telling you that you should.  Like a seed, it is planted in darkness and remains unseen. You know it’s there, but you can’t see it. You long for it, wonder if it’s real. So you water it and keep the weeds away because somehow you know that it will come forth and bear fruit.

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Hope is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  Romans 5 tells us that we have peace with God through Jesus and through Him we can walk into faith and grace and rejoice in hope of glory of God.  His glory is all His goodness. He gives us the ability to walk into it. And in the book of Hebrews He tells us this hope that He puts in us is an anchor to our souls. If you’ve ever been in a boat in rough seas, you know how important and life-preserving an anchor is. Life in this world can be very rocky. Thank God He puts hope in our hearts.

Hope does not disappoint. Romans 5 also tells us we can glory in adversity and pressure because it produces endurance and perseverance. That perseverance develops character and character produces more hope. This hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in hearts by the Holy Spirit, and that love brings perspective and confidence.  So, no matter how you come at life or how life comes at you, if you trust God, you will not be disappointed because His love comes with it. This doesn’t mean to lay down and let terrible things happen to you, but when things do happen, let hope arise within you and hang on to God.

That year that I was an aide was tough. It was with the students who had behavior issues. Oh did I learn. I persisted, I hoped, and I gained experience. In the next set of interviews, I was hired to teach the following year in a position that I held and loved for 22 years. The seed from God did not disappoint. I worked hard, had a blast, and know I was a positive influence on many young people. Let your hope grow. Water it, nourish it, protect it, don’t let it go, and see what God can do.

3 Aspects of Faith for Daily Life

I was so upset one day after a phone call from someone I dearly loved.  I was not happy with the situation I thought they were allowing…I wanted them to do something different, but I knew I couldn’t tell them that . . . I’d already done that a few times. . . and it didn’t work. So I went for a walk on the beach.  It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and glitters on the aqua blue waves. The air was warm. People were walking and swimming and playing. . .a beautiful day.  I took in the beauty, but inside I cried out to God. “Lord, I need to hear from you on this. I need your perspective.  I don’t want it to go this way.  I want to fix it. I want to shake someone so they see it correctly.” I was looking up and there may have been tears in my eyes. When I finished my little rant, I glanced to my side.  There on a bench about 20 feet away sat a man with a black t-shirt on. In huge white letters his t-shirt said, “Stay Calm and Walk On.” At first, I did not want to acknowledge that God was answering me like that. But He was.

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Faith needs Hope. Without hope, there is no foothold for faith, no path to walk on. The Bible tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, so hope needs to be present.  You have a desire, a need, a dream and you hope for a fulfillment, an answer to your desire.  If you spend time in the Bible, known as the Word of God (what He says), you’ll find all kinds of promises, and more often than not, there will be a promise for what you want or need.  So, you want it, God promises it, and now you build on that with faith. You believe and trust that you will get the answer, the need met, the desire fulfilled.

Faith works by Love. Faith doesn’t stand alone when you are believing and trusting. It travels down a two-way street of love.  One direction is knowing that God loves you and wants the best for you, and the other direction is loving Him and the people He has set around you.  1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible holds amazing truths about love.  We can have all kinds of faith, but faith is nothing without love.  That chapter in the Bible tells us love isn’t rude, but is kind. It doesn’t rejoice in evil but in truth. Love isn’t resentful and touchy. Helping others in faith, hope, and love will open doors for you.

Faith without Works is dead. The Greek word for work is ergon, meaning toil, effort, labor. Sometimes we want to believe God for what we need and never do a thing…just sit back and wait. There is a certain truth to that…it’s called resting in the Lord, letting go, not trusting in our own efforts. However, there is a toil, an effort, a labor to standing firm in your trust, in obeying God in those little and big things He may nudge you to do. It is a bit of a dichotomy, but you let go of your own way of doing things, put your situation in God’s hands, and then speak and act as if it’s done, staying vigilant to hear and obey what He wants you to do.

So now what do I do about the situation that so upset me. I have to walk in faith. I have asked God to lead me to promises and verses that lay a foundation of hope. On those I build my faith and trust God to fulfill those promises. I stay calm in faith and make a continuing effort to walk in love, knowing God loves those involved more than I ever could, and He can guide them. And then my work, my ongoing effort is to pray for His will to be fulfilled, to trust and believe and to speak the promises in faith, knowing God will bring them to pass. And if He nudges me to say something, do something, I will obey.