Flower, Fire or Fake

Flower, Fire or Fake

How would you describe yourself? Are you similar to a fire, a flower, or a fake? Have you found yourself asking God about the next step to take, the next stop to make, while refusing to be fake? I have. And once again, I have determined, that it’s okay for me to be a flower and it’s okay for others to be fire. As long as I am not fake. I will be used of Him.

I don’t know about you, but just when I think I know who I am, life takes a twist and I discover more about myself than I knew before. During these times, I think about fires, flowers and fakes. We all know people who would fall into one of these categories. However, we are not held accountable for them. We are solely responsible for ourselves. The gravity of character, behooves me to visit the question and examine if I am being true to myself, to others, and ultimately to God.

Admiration swells within me for those who have fire and zeal, burning and blazing a trail for God. I also love those beautiful people who, as flowers,  grace the field of life with radiant splendor and shine their praises to their Creator. About the fakes. All of us have been around a fake or two, and know how ugly that can be. And if we were completely honest, most of us have taken on the robe of not being “real” on occasion, ourselves.

So, who am I? Who are you? Ultimately, we are children of God. Loved. Adored. Accepted. But what about our calling? The field of service for Him. I contemplate the direction I’m traveling and the goals set before me. I then ask, am I a flower, a fire, or a fake?

In the book of Judges, we find a descriptive story that showcases two strong women. One is like a fire and the other as a flower. Both are mighty warriors. During this time, the Israelites were conquering the land of Canaan that God had given to them.  Since they had no leader, the people relied upon the judges of that time to deliver them from their enemies. We see Deborah, a prophetess who was also judging Israel, call for a man named Barak. She tells him,

“‘This is what the Lord, the God Israel, commands you; call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulon at Mount Tabor. And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.’ Barak told her, ‘I will go, but only if you go with me.’ ‘Very well’, she replied, ‘I will go with you, But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.’ “

 It was a big deal for a woman to be a judge in those days. And it was a bigger deal for her to go to battle and fight. Until this account, it was unheard of. And we may wonder why Barak was depending on her anyway?

Historians tell us that it was well know that Sisera had 900 iron clad chariots. He had ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for 20 years. Barak was fearful, but Deborah lights a fire under him and Barak calls the 10,000 warriors as she commands. As promised, Deborah goes along. I can only imagine what Deborah was thinking. This fake-what kind of a soldier are you anyway, Barak? King Sisera heard that Barak had gone up, and called for all 900 of his iron chariots and all of his warriors. Basically, the king was eager and fully prepared to slaughter the insurgents.

“Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Get ready! This is the day the Lord will give you victory over Sisera, for the Lord is marching ahead of you.’ So Barak led his 10,000 warriors down the slopes of Mount Tabor into battle. When Barak attacked, the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and warriors into a panic. Sisera leaped down from his chariot and escaped on foot. Then Barak chased the chariots and the enemy army. Not a single one was left alive.”

“Meanwhile, Sisera ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, come into my tent, sir. Come in. Don’t be afraid. So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. ‘Please give me some water,’ he said. ‘I’m thirsty.’ So she gave him some milk from a leather bag and covered him again. ‘Stand at the door of the tent,’ he told her. ‘If anybody comes and asks you if there is anyone here, say no.’ ”

“But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and a tent peg in her hand. Then, she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died.”

We notice Deborah, who glows brilliantly and strikes when the iron is hot. Our attention then shifts to Jael, who silently rises in the middle of a field, and as a flower, brilliantly spreads her blooms before us. Both women are courageous and mighty in valor, yet so different in personality. Both women are strong, diligent, and dedicated. We see one boldly declaring the Word of God, and the other quietly performing the will of God.

What type do you better relate to? I am convinced that all of us have individual qualities, and I firmly hold to the belief that whether you feel like a fire or a flower, you are a warrior in God’s army. Keep shining and growing. Continue living and fighting. Because who knows whether we will ride out to battle to meet the enemy or if the battle will come to us in our humble abode. No matter where. The battle will be won!

I just want to encourage those who are on the battle front, I say -Blaze away the trail! And to you, who feel like a flower blooming beside an unknown tent somewhere, I remind -Be strong and keep a weapon prepared to win the victory!

True- God can’t use fake, but He will take and make us into a shape that pleases Him. All of us can be warriors. Our challenge is to be true to ourselves and to God. Then, go out and Light a fire or plant a flower for His Kingdom today!

Doors Still Open

Doors Still Open

 

Standing inside a small cubicle, surrounded by metal walls, I waited patiently to reach my destination. Digital numbers danced above my head as inertia told my stomach that we were still climbing. And then a dead stop, followed by a short drop. I shuffled my purse to the other shoulder and took a step forward expecting the door to slide open momentarily. But it didn’t. The air seemed to grow thin around me and I looked around for the emergency alarm. Alone, I jumped and slumped to the floor crouching in the corner with my head between my knees. I was stuck!

Have you ever been on mission to get somewhere only to run headlong into a closed door? I think many of us have experienced life at a standstill, with a proverbial door slammed in our face. As hard as we try to twist that knob and kick it doesn’t open.

Growing up in an “all girls” house, we never closed bedroom doors or bathroom doors. We simply had an open door policy. As a teenager, I quickly learned the importance of privacy and the fortitude of a closed door. But in general, I hate closed doors. They make me feel separated. Left out. Shut out.

 

On my spiritual journey, I’ve encountered closed doors. Honestly, at times they have caused me to question my situation in life and the goodness of God. I detest a turn of plans, a door that is unopened. But like a teenage girl, who has matured, I’ve come to recognize and respect a firmly closed door.

 

A few months ago, I asked for specific direction and followed the lead towards open doors. Prayerfully and carefully, I traveled the path and reached the clearing. The crazy thing was, as I headed towards the door, it seemed to close ever so slowly. And just as I stepped upon the threshold, the door was slammed shut. Right in my face. I rang the doorbell. Waited, and then knocked again. Angrily, I beat on that door until my fists were bruised. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks and I stomped my foot in disgust. How could God have tricked me? I had prayed and obeyed. I had walked in the light and followed the truth. Why did the door shut?

 

I’m not absolutely sure, but of this I am confident. Doors will again open. In His time and for my good. Me, prying the hinges off and forcing a door open is a bad idea. I have to believe that a closed door is for security and safety. I also have to trust that what God opens, no one will be able to shut.  Revelation 3:8 says, “I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”

 

That gives me both strength and comfort. And while I surrender my will and my way to He who allows doors to close, I choose to believe the promises that doors do open. According to His will, we can walk through them. Today, let us continue asking, seeking, and knocking in faith. Always trusting in our God who opens doors for us!

Looking Out a Different Window

Looking Out a Different Window

Stuck in a rut of thought?
            …….. Today may just be the time for you to Look through a different window!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, delcares the LORD.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Tracy Cooper, a blogging comrade, at Earl Grey and Yellow graciously gave permission to share her story here with you. For more, visit her website www.earlgreyandyellow.com

When I was a child, my dad’s parents had a dogwood tree in their front yard. It had pale pink flowers and was big enough for me to climb. What happiness it was to be aloft in a billowy drift of pink blossoms when I was cradled in its branches. After my grandmother died in 2002, I planted a dogwood tree in the backyard of our first home in her memory. In 2007, we moved to our current home. Unable to bring the tree along, I planted another just like it in our new yard.

For five years or so, the new dogwood I’d planted never bloomed, or so I thought. I wondered if I’d bought a dud, or if it was in a spot that wasn’t favorable for growth. Reliably, the leaves came out and it was a handsome little tree, but I never noticed any of the creamy pink flowers I hoped to see.

A few years back, when I just so happened to view it from another perspective (my upstairs bathroom window) I was surprised to see a scattered array of flowers. They dappled the top of the tree, with a couple of blossoms low enough to observe from the ground. I immediately sensed that this was The Lord showing me that often, when we look at things from our limited earthly vantage point, we are unable to see the bigger picture. However, when we trust the One who is in the highest place, we can be assured He is at work. Even when we are unable to see, our Heavenly Father is working on our behalf. This lesson reminds me to seek higher ground by digging into the Bible and praying more earnestly while waiting on God to see the things that I want come to fruition.

 

So often in life, we have desires for things to change, begin, or end. Our hearts cry out for breakthrough and for our faith to produce fruit. Changing our perspective and waiting on God allows us to glimpse the unseen, fueling our faith that God will bring the good works He has begun to completion. It’s pretty awesome to serve a God who loves me enough to use a bathroom window and a dogwood tree to speak to my heart and change my perspective.

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. -Isaiah 64:4

No Thing Lost

No Thing Lost

As I waited in line at the drive-up, a young woman jumped from her hurriedly parked car and frantically began shaking the bushes, swatting the flowers and kicking the loose mulch below. I curiously watched out of my car window, while she paced the perimeter of the bank parking lot.

When I questioned if I could help, she told me that she had placed loose cash in the outside drawer.  Before the teller could pull it in, a hundred dollar bill had unfortunately blown out. A feeling of frenzy washed over me, as I felt her pain of having lost something valuable.

“God’s love is meteoric,
    his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
    his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
   nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
    slips through the cracks.”

   (Psalms 36:5-6)Msg

 In our spiritual life, Satan wants to throw us into a state of panic with accusations that something is missing. He then tries to convince us that we have to hold on a little tighter or we will lose what we do have.

Jesus said, “If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Matthew 16:25)NLT.

We must daily choose to believe in a GOD, who does not allow his children to blow away or to fall through the cracks.

He is in charge of our yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

  • I will surrender to God’s will and way.
  • I will trust that my steps are ordered by the Lord.
  • I will expect God to do great things in my life today!

 

Playing Strong

Playing Strong

Football isn’t really my thing, but as a wife and mother of three, I relate to the game by way of the struggle. The practicing and playing. Winning and losing. Getting up and falling down. Catching the ball and yes, many times, dropping the ball.

For years, I thought if I were good enough, kind enough, or strong enough,  I could play a good game.  I would kick off my day with a prayer and when things got tough, I would get tougher. When push came to shove, I would shove harder, labor longer, and stay up later. For awhile, it worked.

But As the game clock of my life counted down, I became strangely aware of my weaknesses. At first, I didn’t want to see them or own them. After all, a good player must be strong. I thought, I must fight harder and longer. Can not be weak! But I was, and I am.  My opponent positioned weakness to cause offence in my life.  I was wide open and defenseless, because I fell for the idea that only strong people could win.  I had no patience for weakness, until it landed on my doorstep.  I was then forced to look at it, recon with it, and deal with it. How ?

I had to be really honest with myself and humble myself in the light of God’s Word.  II Corinthians 12:10 says, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”  In my own strength, I am not strong enough, good enough, or wise enough. My stamina only comes from realizing that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. It has nothing to do with me, it must all be Him!

At age 45, it’s halftime in my life. I still feel like I’m practicing, but I am actually playing. Each day, I have to lean into His strength. I cannot look back at the wins or the losses. I dare not replay the fouls and the falls. To be a strong player, I must play hard. When I am weak, lean into His strength and trust Him for the wins in life!

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14).

 

 

Worth Millions…but can’t hear

Worth Millions…but can’t hear

She was made to look like a fool, in the heart of New York City, this past New Year’s Eve. A world famous celebrity stood with mic in hand, trying to get her cue. She didn’t recover and was ridiculed by thousands, on a less than par performance. An embarrassment to herself and her fans. What happened?

James Hibberd posted in EST on January 2, 2017 these words:

It’s now four minutes to showtime. She says, “I hear nothing in my ears, my ears are dead.” The other stage manager says, “It will work right when we go live.” Then things start to get chaotic. They start counting her down — four minutes, three minutes. Mariah: “I can’t hear.” Them: “You’re gonna hear when it goes live — two minutes!”

So, right when it goes live, she can’t hear anything. The ears are dead. They’re dead. So she pulls them out of the ear because if the artist keeps them in their ears then all she hears is silence. Once she pulled them off her ear she was hoping to hear her music, but because of the circumstances — there’s noise from Times Square and the music is reverberating from the buildings — all she hears is chaos. She can’t hear her music. It’s a madhouse. At the point, there’s no way to recover.
 
There are many speculations for the poor performance, but as a woman who follows Christ, this one phrase stood out to me: “I hear nothing in my ears, my ears are dead.” I shook when I read it. My mind immediately remembered the verse I had read that morning, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 1o:27KJV)
I’m not exactly sure what happened to this infamous pop singer, but I don’t live her life. I am responsible for mine. While following extremely different paths, I somehow relate to the story.  I’m not a celebrity worth millions of dollars, but I am a child of God. I walk to a distinct drum beat. The rhythm of my feet run after His will and His plans. I want my life to be choreographed by His design. My song to praise Him and lift Him up. To do this, I must keep my ears tuned to His voice and keep in step with Him. I don’t ever want to get to the place of distraction, where the glitter and the lights blind me. Where the voice of the crowd drowns out His voice.
May this 2017 New Year be one of learning, walking, and listening to the Good Shepherd. And when we go “Live”,  let’s be on cue, in step, and following His voice.

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Savor the Season

Savor the Season

She sat there humming a Christmas carol, while rolling out the dough and sorting through a pile of cookie cutters. Choosing the angel and carefully squeezing it through the soft buttery pastry, lost in a world of Christmas Nostalgia

Magically, the white batter inside the red bowl seemed to multiply as more cookies were rolled, cut and baked to a golden crisp. Sweet aromas filled a warm and happy kitchen, while children created delightful dainties.  Miniature gingerbread men, candy canes, trees, stockings, angels, stars and bells filled platters with yummy Christmas cheer.

For me, this occasion is part of the annual holiday tradition my kids experience each year. Watching them decorate poor Rudolph’s nose with a red M&M, top the tree with one too many chocolate chips, and sprinkle a whole container of yellow sugar all over the star, the counter, and down below. Oh, what fun it is to sugar coat the floor. Hey, Jingle time!

My feet crunched under me and thoughts of years gone by, rolled through my head. As I wiped gooey counters and mopped sticky floors, savoring the  memories of friends and neighborhood kids joining mine for “cookie day”. But this year was somehow different. It seemed a little sweeter.
Amid sprinkles and icing, sat a 10 year old blonde, who joined us for her very “first ever” to cut out and decorate Christmas cookies. Her happy smile brightened the room as she proudly wrapped her goodies to surprise her dad.

Then, there was the humming and the tranquility of the older girl, who seemed to be lost in a childhood dream of Christmas Fairy Land. The girl, whose sickly mother had passed away her senior year of high school. A tear crested my eye, when she said this was her first time to make Christmas cookies as well.  Long term illness had given no opportunity for mother and daughter to bake and savor homemade cookies together. A young lady now, who buried her father last month, stood decorating cookies with joy in her heart. How? Because she experiences the Spirit of Christmas in the gift of Christmas—Jesus!

My heart warms at the thought and my nodding head agrees with it. Jesus came to fill us with hope, light and life. Let us bask in this message. Savor the simple, quiet moments of the Season. Cherish family and friends. Revel in small deeds of kindness. Ponder the Wonder of God’s gift to us all.

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Nothing Impossible

Nothing Impossible

Let faith arise in your soul. He is working all things together for good. He is making something out of nothing.A few months ago, I wrote this phrase and posted it on my fridge:

Make Something from nothing? God says, No problem!!

Many times, the checkbook dwindles to nothing. The cupboards produce nothing. The interview for a new job was two weeks ago, but we hear nothing. We look in the mailbox. Nothing.  We hope for changes in relationships. Nothing. The kids even notice, and say, “Nothing ever happens around here.” We would never admit it to our small group, but if we were really honest; we believe God is in the nothing business. We haven’t seen Him do anything around our house for ages. Nothing has changed in the work place. Nothing is stirring in our kid’s lives. Nothing has become a part of everyday life. So why are we settling for a NO.THING in our lives? And why do we insist on living this way, when we really want to see something happening? Something improving. Something going on. Something getting accomplished. I asked myself this very thing, as I stuck tape to the above phrase and meditated on this verse. I’ve got to admit, for a girl who likes something working at all times, I absolutely hate nothings! If I’m doing nothing, I want someone to be doing something or something to be going. I sit down to pay bills with the dryer tumbling and go to bed with the dishwasher running, because something must get done while I’m resting.  Yet, if I am not careful, the nothing syndrome will settle back on me-The malady of thinking nothing is happening, when life veers to the left instead of the right. When things don’t happen the way I think they should, or hoped they would.

Today, I saw this scripture through eyes that, yes, are in dire need of readers. Guess what? I’m so excited to let you in on my find: “Nothing is impossible with God.” Say it this way, with emphasis on the middle word. Ready? NO.THING is Im-poss-i-ble, with God. Do you realize what that means? It means that God is not able- to do nothing. Completely incapable of nothingness. Which means, He IS doing something. Something IS happening. When we cry out to Him for help-when our heart yearns for God to rend the heavens and show us that something is shaking and moving up in his throne room. When we want those windows open and blessings to pour out of them, He IS indeed working! We must believe that when God says nothing is impossible with Him, that is precisely what he means. Trust Him today with what you feel is a nothing in your life. Let faith arise in your soul. He is working all things together for good. He is making something out of nothing.

No.thing is utterly impossible with God!

 

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Wet & Muddy

Wet & Muddy

A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17

I raced outside after her, splashed through the downpour and breathlessly said, “I’m here!”

I glanced over at my friend, whose hair and clothes dripped with water. Her bare feet were covered with mud and her legs splattered. I was drenched too, but none of that mattered. We had made it! Through pelting cold rain and claps of thunder. Our baby jersey calves thanked us for opening the barn for them, as they dashed inside and huddled around the feeding trough. 

My friend and I stood together gazing out, as lightening flashed and water poured off the red metal roof overhead. “You didn’t have to come out here and get wet, too,” she said. True, I could have stayed in the house and refilled my coffee cup. It didn’t take two, to open the gate and scoop feed into the bins. But if she was going out, I was going out. 

She was right, I didn’t have to be out there- but I was there. Dripping wet, alongside her. Standing there beside her. Feeling the damp and the cold with her. It was then, I noticed a shoe wedged outside the barn. Stuck in the mud. It was hers. All covered in muck.  A waterfall was now cascading over it, and tunneling below into the open field. Reaching out and stooping down, I pulled at the shoe and dug through squishy mud …. and yeah, cow manure. Gross! I swished the goop off in the open water trough and handed the shoe to my friend. 

 It reminded me of life, and how we encounter storms just as this. Ones that swoop in unannounced and sweep us out into the weather. One minute, we are visiting and drinking mocha, and the next moment facing an unexpected storm that blows in. One that forces us out of a warm, comfy place and into the weather. We find ourselves sloshing recklessly through the wet and slime.

How often I have been thrown into a situation that was a windy gale. It shook me and saturated my spirits. Often, in attempt to give shelter to another, I myself have been drenched.

 “A friend Loveth at all times” is a great verse. The application is greater still. A friend, someone who may not have all the answers or resources, but is just there. To love me. To stand beside me. Cheer me on. Pick up my lost dreams out of the mud and slip them back onto my feet.

At times, friends are not around and others don’t even know my pain. They may never have walked in my shoes or experienced this type of grief. It is then I find Jesus, “A friend who sticks closer than a brother”, and has promised to never leave me, nor forsake me. He picks me up, reaches down to get my shoes out of the sloppy mess and carries me gently into safety. He’s my friend.

If you have recently found yourself in a muddy situation….I just want you to be encouraged. As long as He is with you, it’s going to be okay. Look up! He’s standing beside you and He isn’t afraid of the mud! (And if you look more closely, you’ll see your flip-flops are in His hands).