What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Only Believe...

Yesterday was a full day.  Started out by attending a simulcast at our church with Priscilla Shirer as the speaker...Wow! That's what I say!  The topic was a study of Gideon, from the book of Judges chapter 7.  Read this chapter, and think about what God did that day in the life of Gideon and his 300 warriors...pay attention to the details, and you will see why I say, "Wow!"...Of course, Priscilla Shirer delivered this message with such power and anointing from God, I came away from there with a new sense of purpose and enthusiasm for what God can do and wants to do in my life...I'm still trying to digest it all.This is a link to more information about this dynamic Bible Study., "Gideon: Your Weakness, God's Strength".

From there I went to a concert at the church where I work, which was put on by the Director of Music, David Levi Bedenbaugh, who was introducing his new CD, "Winter Is When Things Grow".*(see below for more info)  Just the title makes you think, doesn't it?  Think about the times of your life that would appear to be "winter"...you know, times of being set aside for awhile due to unemployment, illness, family stresses, moving away from home, loss of loved one or friend, divorce, depression, feeling trapped at home or in a bad situation...anytime that you have felt alone or afraid in life.  Winter, often seen as the time when things die, go dormant, hibernate.  The time in our lives when we feel unproductive, lacking purpose, confused, frustrated, lost.  And yet, my friend chose this title for his new album because he discovered that the "winter" of life is oftentimes the very time that God chooses to begin a new life within us...to plant His seeds of growth and purpose in our hearts as we strive to seek His face in our times of sorrow, darkness, and uncertainty.  

The underlying themes of both ministries yesterday was to believe...believe God when He tells you, like Gideon, to just take 300 warriors against the 100,000 plus Midianites,

"Then the Lord said to Gideon, 'By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place.'" Judges 7:7

(Read the whole chapter to get the whole story...it is marvelous)...

And like Jesus said to the man who was possessed by a demon in Mark 9:23:

"If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes..." 

And also like Jesus said to Thomas, known to us as "doubting Thomas", in John 20:26-29...
"And after eight days (after Christ's resurrection) His disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, 'Peace to you.'   Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.  Do not be unbelieving, but believing.'
"And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'  Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" 

I think of the old hymn, "Only Believe", written by Paul Rader in 1921: (verse three in particular:) (and also quoted in one of David Levi's songs, "Only Believe"....)

"Fear not, little flock,
whatever your lot;
He enters all rooms,
the doors being shut.  
He never forsakes,
He never is gone-
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.

Only believe, Only believe;
All things are possible,
Only believe.
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe."

"Whatever your lot...count on His presence in darkness and dawn..."  (Where have I seen that word, "presence" before?...hmmm....my theme word for 2013....)

If you are currently in a "winter" season of life...up against huge odds....(100,000+ Midianites against 300 unarmed soldiers)...feeling lost and alone, fearful, doubting like Thomas of old...perhaps this message is for you today.  Oftentimes it's not even the BIG things that throw us, but perhaps it's the smaller things that trip us up...disappointments, a feeling of unworthiness, lack of self-esteem and confidence...the feeling of "Why would God choose to use me for anything special?" "Who am I?"  We need to look at Gideon, the demon possessed man, and "Doubting Thomas", to see that God works in mysterious ways even during our time of feeling like we are set aside...the winter of our lives...to start a seed growing beneath the surface.  And then when the sunlight of His love shines upon us, when He sends His rain of hope and encouragement through other servants of God...whether it be through music, simulcast Bible Studies, God's Word the Bible, a devotional reading on a blog or a book...whatever it takes...in His time, He causes the seed to push through the frozen ground and blossom into something lovely for His glory.  Are YOU ready to rise and shine?

"Only believe...only believe...All things are possible, only believe..."
*If you are interested in obtaining David Levi's CD, "Winter is When Things Grow", please let me know. It is not available on the open market just yet, but if you are interested, copies are available for sale.This is a fun and informative link about his concert, which tells more about his music.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Faith without Works is DEAD!" Updated

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."  James 2:26

Photo by Michael Belk, "Journeys with the Master"...

Now don't shut me off before I have had a chance to speak here...I am not trying to stir up a theological debate over faith vs. works.  I am not talking about whether or not we are saved by faith or by works...The Bible is very clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 when it says:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." 
No, what I want to talk about is the works of the believer after he has been saved.   In Ephesians 2:10 we are reminded that,
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
So, we were created by God through Christ to do good works...it is something that is expected of each believer.  Not as a prerequisite for salvation, but as an action of the heart, an offering of praise and thanksgiving to God as a result of the salvation that we did not, could not earn...a way of giving back to God out of the humility and gratitude of our hearts for such a precious gift.

I was thinking about the story of the "Good Samaritan" this morning, found in the book of Luke 10:25-37.  I'm sure we've all heard this story before, how there was a certain man who was traveling and fell among thieves. And the robbers stripped him of his clothing, beat him up, and left him half dead along the road.

Along comes a priest, on his way to the Synagogue no doubt,  and when he sees the man lying there in his agony and pain, the priest actually crosses over to the opposite side of the road and turns his head and goes on as if he didn't even see him.   Next there was a Levite, a man of the Law, who also drove by and looked the other way...just couldn't be bothered...I'm sure he was on his way to the court to make lots of money off of other unfortunate people.

Now along came a Samaritan...a stranger in that land...a person who would not have been considered a good religious man or even a person whom one would have trusted because of his national heritage and ethnic background...and when he saw that poor man lying in the ditch crying out for help, he stopped, had compassion on the man, bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal (or in his own luxury vehicle?), and took him to the nearest inn and personally took care of him!

The next morning, when this Samaritan man needed to get on to his destination, he went to the innkeeper and gave him his own money out of his own pocket, and asked the innkeeper to please take care of the injured man, and when he returned he would repay him whatever more he had spent in his care.

Jesus asked the young man to whom He was telling this story which person he believed was a good neighbor to the man who had fallen among the thieves.  The young man replied, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37)

So now, dear "Christian Friends", let me ask you this, why is it that oftentimes the people who are the first to come to our aid with offers of casseroles, rides to the doctor for chemo treatments, help with babysitting, thoughtful gifts of encouragement and items to comfort us in our time of need are NOT always the church people, our best friends, or even family members?  Why is it that often times the people who show the most concern, love and compassion are total strangers?  In reality they are often people that we would not consider to be "good Christians", as we judge christianity from our lofty, sanctimonious religious balconies of false piety and holiness.  Why is that? 

Perhaps you don't believe that could be true...maybe you think that since you pay your tithe each week at church and you sing in the choir, and you might even attend an extra Bible Study or serve on a committee that you have done your part.  You must be a "good Christian".  Yes, you are saved because you have accepted the free gift of salvation offered only through faith in Jesus Christ, but have you actually thought about your neighbor? Do you turn your head in disgust when you see someone in trouble, perhaps because of their own folly and inappropriate behaviour you think they deserve what they have gotten?  Do you think that because they have lived a less than holy lifestyle (by your standards) that they somehow deserve punishment, disease, an unwanted pregnancy, bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce, or whatever else...and that therefore you are not required to assist them in any way?  After all, it's their own fault they got into this mess, so let them suffer? And even if that was a good reason,(which I am not saying it is or isn't...may GOD be the judge) what excuse can you give for your inactivity when the injured or sick person IS a good Christian by all standards, and through no fault of their own they are suffering from a dread disease, divorce, bankruptcy, loss of a dear loved one,  etc.

I am just as guilty of this as the person sitting next to me in church on a typical Sunday morning.  We have all come short in reaching out to our neighbors with the love and compassion of Christ.  I know I have failed in this many times. So what can I do about it?  How can I change?  Maybe first of all by praying and repenting of this sin of omission, asking forgiveness, and then asking God to open my eyes to the lost and hurting all around me.  They aren't just people "out there" somewhere...many of them are right next to us...at work, at church, even in our own families.
Link to "Give Me Your Eyes"    "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath is a song that expresses a lot of what I am trying to say today..."Give Me Your Eyes" for just one second...

Lord...Let me see the people around me the way YOU see them...those right here in my own family, my neighborhood, my office, my church...help me Lord, not just to see them, but to reach out to them in love...YOUR love, Your compassion, Your heart, Your arms...Your eyes.... and forgive me for all the times I've turned my eyes away, crossed over to the other side of the road, and ignored their cries for help.  And thank you, Lord, for all the people You have sent my way in my time of need...for those who didn't ignore your promptings and who came to my rescue.  Thank you Lord, for total strangers  who oftentimes were the ones who cared the most.  Bless them Lord today...and help me to be a blessing to those You send my way.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Destress after A Stressful Week -Updated

It's Sunday evening following a very stress-filled, tragic week in our land.  The week started off with a bombing...at the Boston Marathon of all places.  Senseless, horrific tragedy. A couple of days later a fertilizer plant blows up in Texas, killing many more innocent rescuers and destroying many homes...another heartache  for our hurting country.  Some parts of the nation are having floods, others still have freezing temperatures and snowstorms. Five hearty young men lost their lives in an avalanche while snowboarding in Colorado. Thankfully, the perpetrators of the bombing were finally found...one lost his life in the capture, and the other is clinging to life in the hospital.  That's all I am going to say about that incident.

On a brighter note, we're finally getting some much needed rain in our part of the country, and the trees, flowers and grasses are blossoming forth with rampant effusions of joy! Even the deer have noticed...and have helped themselves to my beautiful daylily blossoms.  Oh well...that's why I love living in the woods.

My daylily-before

My daylily-after

So, this evening I needed a respite from the turmoil of this past week's anxiety.  I missed a wonderful opportunity this afternoon. A lovely friend and neighbor dropped by  for a few minutes, and although I offered her a cup of tea or some iced tea...she refused as she didn't plan to stay long...but we ended up chatting for quite a while...and I should have insisted on putting on the teakettle and sharing a pot of tea with her.  Dummy me. I didn't think of it until she was gone. It was one of those hit myself in the forehead moments and I scolded myself for being so dumb.  I'm always wanting to have someone to share a cup of tea with ...and I blew it.  But actually, we had all the best part of a tea party without the tea...we just visited and enjoyed one another's company...and isn't that what tea time is all about anyway?  

After my friend left I took a walk around the yard and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the burgeoning spring foliage...minus the daylily blooms.  I put some broken pieces of bars of Ivory Soap around each of the plants, hoping that they will deter the deer from further snacking.  If not, they will at least have nice clean faces and hooves.  They may even be able to blow some bubbles...Ha!  (someone told me that might work...so we shall soon find out. It's raining now, so I have a feeling my Ivory Soap is floating away...)

I couldn't resist picking a bouquet of the fragrant honeysuckle and confederate jasmine blossoms that are smothering the courtyard fence.  

Then I sat down to relax, finally with a cup of tea and my sweet "baby Elva", and a little book all about sharing tea time with friends.  Today's book was "Tea with Patsy Clairmont", one of my favorite speakers and authors.  If you don't know Patsy, you need to check her out! She normally travels with the Women of Faith Conferences throughout the country each year, and a more delightful speaker you will not find! Be prepared to laugh.  (Postscript added later:)...Patsy Clairmont is a walking miracle...she spent years locked in her home in fear of crowds (agoraphobia)...and now she regularly speaks to crowds of 20,000 + women every week throughout much of the year with the Women of Faith Conference!  I'd say that's a pretty amazing story of God's power to bring healing to a hurting soul, wouldn't you?  What hurt does God need to heal in YOUR heart /soul today? If He can do it for Patsy, He can surely do it for you as well...Check out Patsy's website for more info on this dynamic woman for Christ.

Tea Time with Elva AND Patsy Clairmont!
So, dear friends, I hope your week has ended up better than it started. I pray that you have found a way to de-stress after such an emotion-packed roller-coaster ride of turmoil.  Here are some thoughts to ponder as we  close this chapter:

"Oh sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed 
in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His mercy
and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord,
all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Sing to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of a psalm,
with trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the Lord,
the King.

Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
the world and those who dwell in it; 
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
and the peoples with equity."

Psalm 98

Goodnight my dear friends.  May the Lord be with you and yours this coming week, and may we all find peace and hope in time of need.
Blessings be upon you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Who is Your Pilot? Updated April 18, 2013

New Update:  April 18, 2013, Two years after original writing:  Thinking today about the different tragedies that have taken place in our  nation just this week...The Bombing in Boston on the day of the Boston Marathon, which killed 3 people and severely injured so many more...and then just last night a major explosion in a fertilizer factory in West, Texas, which again, killed several and injured many more and destroyed a large portion of that town...Those families may not feel like God is holding on to them today, but He is...in the midst of the chaos and turmoil, pain and sorrow...He is there...holding on and extending His arms of love to these communities through the outpouring of love and help from so many from around the nation. May these hurting souls feel His presence in the midst of the tragedy...may we be His hands and feet to those who are hurting in whatever way God leads.

UPDATE: Additional Note:    "Oh No! You Never Let Go!"   Click on this link for a song of encouragement by Matt Redman.  I think this is an appropriate message for this post.  God bless you, dear friends...Hold on tight!  God will never let go of you!!!  Pam

"If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

I have a little daily devotional calendar shaped like a teapot...(I like teapots)...and the reading for yesterday morning was most appropriate for those going through difficulties...like cleaning up after Hurricane Irene swept through and left many stranded and flooded and wounded...or those who may be mopping up after other kinds of family disasters and turmoil...sudden illness, bad news, marital difficulties, financial woes, loss of employment, loss of loved one or friends, or any other sorrow that comes upon all humanity sooner or later. The reading for the day went like this,
"It is not how troubled the sea is that determines the course of your life; it is who the Pilot is."
"The Lord will either calm your storm or allow it to rage while He calms you."

 I don't know who wrote those little statements above...no credit is given.   But I thought they were worth sharing with you.  Perhaps you needed to be reminded of Who is piloting your ship right now in the sea of life...hopefully it is the Lord.  I know I needed that reminder. 

"Christ Our Pilot", by Warner Sallman
Thank you, Lord, for being the Pilot of my ship.  Please don't ever let me attempt to take back the wheel...I need YOU to stay in control.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"How Is It You Do Not Understand?" - Recycled from 2/15/11

Dear Ones,  I have been in a bit of a writing slump lately...no particular reason...just can't seem to get with the program...so here is a recycled message that seems to speak to me...and I bet it will you as well.  It's one of those messages that is ageless.  Enjoy. I'll be back as soon as I come up with something new to say!  :)

Mark 8:18 "Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?" ~ Jesus

This morning I opened my devotional guide and Bible to read Mark 8:14-21, and I felt really convicted that this passage was talking to me. Jesus was clearly exasperated with his disciples. They had gone out in the boat and had forgotten to take along any bread or other food to eat. The disciples thought that Jesus was a bit frustrated with their lack of planning.

"But Jesus,being aware of it, said to them, 'Why do you reason because you
have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still
hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do
you not remember? When I broke the five loves for the five thousand, how
many baskets full of fragments did you take up?' They said to Him,
'Twelve.' 'Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many
large baskets full of fragments did you take up?' And they said,
'Seven.' So He (Jesus) said to them, 'How is it you do not understand?'"

Can't you just see Jesus hitting Himself in the forehead and saying, "What do I have to do to prove to you that I am taking care of you? How blind can you be?" I mean, I know Jesus wouldn't say this, but I can almost hear Him say, "How dumb can you be?" I looked at myself in the mirror and said, "How dumb can you be, Pam? Hasn't God shown you over and over and over again that He is in control in all things...and He is providing all your needs...and that He has not changed...Yesterday, Today, and Forever, Jesus is the Same!!

Numbers 11:23 says: "And the LORD said to Moses, 'Has the LORD'S arm been shortened?" This was when the children of Israel were wandering around in the wilderness after He had miraculously rescued them from the Egyptians through the Red Sea. They just couldn't believe that this same God would continue to provide their every need, even though He had shown them time and again His amazing power.

Yeah, I needed that reminder...I needed to remember that when all is said and done, there will be twelve baskets left over no matter how ill-prepared I might have been. There will always be enough to go around and then some. I do not have to worry or fear for my future, or my children's future. God's arm has definitely NOT been shortened. He has NOT changed...He is still ALL POWERFUL. I do not need to fear.