Snow Day

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Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 

Psalm 51:7

I am homebound today for the third day in a row. Snow has closed schools and many business here in the Pacific Northwest.  The snow has covered everything, blanketing the good, the bad and the ugly in white. Clean and vibrant white. It is beautiful. I lived in Montana for 25 winters and took snow like this for granted or at times, wished it away.  I remember a scene, though, that stands out in my mind.

Our neighbor had several acres of land and he was fond of vehicles. Broken, rusted, old, new vehicles (trucks, cars, farm equipment) and just pieces of vehicles. Actually, I don’t know that he was fond of them, only that he collected them. His yard and pasture were a veritable junkyard. We didn’t have neighborhood associations then (probably still don’t in that part of Montana) so his treasures could accumulate to his heart’s desire.  Ugly is an understatement and I passed it every time I went to town, took kids to school or came home – there it was in plain sight –  the neighborhood junkyard. Until it snowed.

Snow transformed the junkyard into a glistening, sparkling exquisite collection of sculptures. I would be in awe of the transformation as I drove by. I was surrounded by beautiful snow-covered nature scenes – mountains, trees, and creeks, but this scene seemed the most remarkable simply because of the transformation. Mountains are always beautiful as are trees and creeks, but a junkyard, well, not so much. Until the snow made it a work of art.

I imagine my heart something like this junkyard before I accepted God’s freely offered forgiveness for my sins.  A collection of junk that could only be described as ugly. A collection I would rather no one saw, including me. After accepting His forgiveness, I see my heart more like the snow-covered sculpture I marveled at in Montana. What a transformation!  How awesome to think that my sins have been forgiven, I have been cleansed and now my heart is whiter than snow. Not because I am sinless, but because my sins have been wiped clean. I have a clean and vibrant white slate for a heart and much like the junkyard that was transformed into a thing of beauty, God transformed my heart into a work of art He could gaze upon. He doesn’t have to turn away from seeing my heart because He freely cleansed it for me. He washed it whiter than snow!

What an amazing gift forgiveness is, so totally undeserved. I am so grateful that You saw my ugly, junkyard condition and chose to free me from it. Not just by covering it with snow, but by cleansing me and wiping away my sin from before Your eyes. I need that washing daily. Thank You for forgiving me, for loving me in spite of my sins and wanting to gaze upon me with love and acceptance. Thank You for the blanket of snow You keep me covered in.  Amen.

pic credit: wovenwomenblogspot.com

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Who Owes Who?

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For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,

your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 

 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6: 14-15

My husband surprised me with a new van.  Not brand new, but new to us and 11 years newer than the van I was driving. One day, a father was dropping off his children at work, saw me get out of the van and commented about it.  I told him how my husband had surprised me with it and he said how nice that was of him. To which I added (and I’m not proud of this) – well, he owed me.  The man looked shocked. Let me explain:

For several weeks, we were vehicle challenged. We went back and forth from having two that worked and one that worked and one day, neither one worked. My husband was frantically trying to keep us rolling, working on one and then the other. Most of the time he handled it very well, but then there were times, when, let’s just say, I wanted to run away from home.

Once he determined to give up totally on one, he began searching for another vehicle we could afford. He was back and forth to the car dealership and test driving cars and all during this time, I was under the impression he was getting the vehicle to replace his truck which is the one that died. I say, under the impression, because at this point, we were no longer talking and my opinion was not solicited. The tension in our home was escalating and the cold war between us raged on.  When he finally showed up with this van and said it was for me, I should have been elated, I’m sure, but I was still angry at not being asked my opinion about financing a vehicle. I did, however, drive it and thank him.  But I felt justified in saying he owed me based on what he had put us through because of his stress level over all of this.

So, back to my story, the father says, “well doesn’t everybody owe somebody?”

Of course, the father was right and I felt ashamed of my attitude.  Everybody owes somebody and I owe many somebodies. How gross of me to see it any other way. I have been forgiven of so much by my husband and by God and for me to withhold forgiveness to anyone is well,  just plain old gross. I repented and chose to begin the practice of forgiving others immediately and letting go of anything I may feel they owe me, because I know that what I owe has been forgiven by God.  I say “begin the practice” because I am a long way from accomplishing this feat but I am purposing to do this one day at a time, or one minute at a time, if need be.

Lord, how awesome it is to know that my sins are forgiven; that You are holding nothing against me. As my slate is wiped clean, help me to wipe clean the slates of those that I believe have harmed me. Help me to forgive freely and graciously, just as You have forgiven me. Thank You for my new van and a husband who would work so hard to keep us with transportation. Forgive me for holding his sins against him. I choose forgiveness, help me to offer it freely. I ask in Your gracious name, Amen.

Swinging Bridge

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Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

When I was 24 years old, I had three children under the age of 5. I was living in Montana miles and miles removed from my family in Texas. My husband, their father, was seldom home and not very helpful when he was home. I felt alone; I was alone. I had this recurring dream.  In this dream, I was trying to cross a swinging bridge with my three daughters. The bridge was high above rapidly moving water, water that would sweep us away in minutes should we fall, and the bridge swayed and seemed very unstable. I was trying desperately to figure out how I was supposed to get three kids across to safety when I only had two arms. I would wake shaking and terrified and overwhelmed. It wouldn’t take a dream specialist to interpret that dream.  In my waking hours, I was alone, I was overwhelmed and I was terrified. And more than once, I would question, how on earth, am I going to take care of these three kids by myself?

It would be years before I would know the comfort of this verse. Years before I came to know that I wasn’t alone and didn’t need to be terrified.  I don’t know how He does it, but God has a hand available for all His children to keep them from being swept away by life. I love this promise. I love the image it paints in my mind – a father, a loving father reaching out his hand to hold mine for as long as I need him to.  I am much older than 24 now and I don’t have 3 young daughters to raise anymore, but still, at times, I find that life can be overwhelming but I know that  when I feel alone I have only to reach out and the bridge doesn’t sway quite so much and the waters don’t seem so threatening. If I hang on to His hand, I can cross to safety.

Whatever the trial, whatever the bridge you or I need to cross, we are not alone. The God who promised His hand to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promises His hand to you and to me. We don’t need to fear or look anxiously look about. We only need to extend our hand to hand God has offered us.

Once again, I come to You, hand extended. Would you stabilized me again? Thank You for being my God, my Father, my Protector, my Comforter, my Peace, my Help. Thank You for always being there, for always reaching out to me, for always strengthening me. When fear tries to tell me otherwise, would You please remind me of this verse and Your love?  Thank You for being all these things and more to my precious three daughters, help them to come to know that they are not alone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

picture credit: bkdunn.com

Salvation Garden

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In simple humility, let our gardener,

God,

landscape you with the Word,

making a salvation-garden of your life.

James 1:21

Learning the things of God requires humility; a desire to know the Lord requires meekness. Humility involves teachability. Taken as such, God’s word has the power to make a salvation-garden of our life!

God’s word has the power to save us from ourselves, our sins, our pain, our sense of unworthiness and bless us in so many ways but only if we come to it with a humble, teachable spirit. Too many times though, we come to the Bible with preconceived ideas of who God is, of what He means, of how He operates in people’s lives and rather than let the word of God speak to us as it will, we hear what we want, we accept what makes sense, reject what doesn’t, try to complicate it, try to overlook the parts we don’t like and twist the ones we do.

What would happen though, if we wiped clean the ideas we have of God and His word and look at it afresh with a teachable spirit? What kind of seeds would be planted in the salvation-garden of our lives?

Seeds of hope

Seeds of forgiveness

Seeds of love

Seeds of healing

Seeds of deliverance from habits

Seeds of mercy

Seeds of grace

Seeds of joy

Seeds of acceptance

Seeds of belonging

Seeds of adoption

Seeds of freedom from everything that enslaves us

Seeds of provision for our journey

Seeds of value

Seeds of significance

Seeds of vision

What an amazing garden that would be!

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And all we have to do is approach the word of God with humility, let God plant the seeds, and stand back and watch as He produces a harvest in our lives that will amaze us and bless others.

Let my heart be fallow ground; may I always approach Your word with humility and a sincere desire to be taught by You. Thank You for the salvation garden You are growing in my life. I see evidence of new life, Your life, springing up all around me and in me and I am humbled by that. Open my eyes to the preconceived ideas I have of You, misconceptions that blind me from the truth of Your word and help me to be teachable. Bring a harvest in my life, I pray, that will bless others, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

picture credit: Wikipedia.com and blueeyedenaissiempre.blogspot.com

 

Payment Accepted

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So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.”

Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God.

The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.

Hebrews 10:19-22

Message Bible

Need healing? Need restoration? Need peace? Need something you can’t even put into words?

Feel like you can’t even approach God? You’ve been too distant – feel too unworthy – it’s been far too long since you even considered Him as a viable source for anything? Whatever the barrier that keeps you from God, He hasn’t placed it there. The only barrier was our sin, yours, mine, individual sins and collective sins, all of them, the sum total, the past ones, the present ones, the ones you haven’t even thought of yet. Those caused a barrier; but that barrier has come down. They came down when Jesus said, “it is finished”. The sacrifice made to  atone for our sins was made. God was pleased to call our debts paid in full and the barrier that separated us is no longer.

If we believe that, if we accept that, we can walk right up to God – without hesitation. We can take our needs, our concerns, our fears, our joys, our hopes (the ones that are alive and even those that have died) and we can confidently know that we are, as this verse says, presentable – inside and out. We don’t have to clean ourselves up first, we don’t have to dress up or act proper, we just come, as we are, and know that it was God’s desire to have the barrier of our sin removed so that we could come. He paid an incredible price for it. The only thing to be done now is accept that fact and walk right up to God.

The payment has been made; my debt is wiped away. What an amazing gift! I come to You, confident that I am presentable, inside and out, and ask for wisdom. I feel somewhat divided today. Does what I do honor You? Does it please You? I want, I need to know that what I do with my life is Your will and not mine. Would You show me, lead me, help me settle in my heart just what You would have of me? I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Really Jesus?! Children?!

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The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

Mark 10:14-15

Jesus was constantly surprising people by His word and His actions, even His disciples who had been with Him for some time. He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery, He dined with tax collectors, He touched lepers, He healed all, He fed thousands with a handful of food, He walked on water, He taught with such authority that people scratched their heads in amazement, He claimed to be the Son of God. And here, He has the audacity to tell His disciples that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Who but Jesus would elevate children to such a place?

Jews at that time would have been taught that the kingdom of God is something you earn your way into and how could a child do that? By their standards, most adults couldn’t do it.   The disciples attempted to shoo the children away,  thinking Jesus apparently had more important things to do. Once again, Jesus surprised the crowds, the Pharisees and the disciples by showing them what He considered worthy of His attention and His kingdom – children.

This is a beautiful story of Jesus welcoming all of us who can’t earn our way in to be able to freely enter the Kingdom of God. The kingdom prepared and planned by God, planned and prepared for us. A kingdom where Jesus is Lord over all. I don’t know what that kingdom will look like, but I suspect that if Jesus is Lord it might look a lot like all of these things He did on earth that surprised people. Loving the least of people, healing the all and the many, dining with the ones society might call unworthy, refusing to condemn those we would gladly point a finger at, opening His arms and His heart to children. Welcoming people like me and people like you and laying His hand on our head to bless us. Wow! I can’t even begin to imagine the healing that flows from His hand when He lays it on my head. Can you?

What a beautiful story this is Jesus of Your love for us all, for me. To be welcomed into Your arms, knowing full well I can do nothing to deserve such a love or embrace and yet…  Words fail me now, I am so touched by the thought of Your kingdom and Your hand of blessing on my head. Thank You. Amen.

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All The Black Sheep

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Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?     

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,     

a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him,     

nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over,    

 a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away.    

 We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—     

our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,     

that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,     

that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.     

Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.     

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,     

on him, on him.

 He was beaten, he was tortured,     

but he didn’t say a word.

Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered     

and like a sheep being sheared,    

 he took it all in silence.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off—    

 and did anyone really know what was happening?

He died without a thought for his own welfare,     

beaten bloody for the sins of my people.

They buried him with the wicked,     

threw him in a grave with a rich man,

Even though he’d never hurt a soul     

or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,     

to crush him with pain.

The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin     

so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.     

And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,    

 he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.

Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,    

 will make many “righteous ones,”    

 as he himself carries the burden of their sins.

Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—     

the best of everything, the highest honors—

Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,     

because he embraced the company of the lowest.

He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,    

 he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Isaiah 53: 2-12 Message Bible

I was the “black sheep” growing up. Oh, no one really said that, at least not out loud, but I knew. I simply couldn’t measure up to expectations. I didn’t mean to fail, to make bad grades, to get in trouble, but as my mom was fond of saying, “no, but you didn’t mean not to either”. I suppose she had a point. I tried to be good, to mean to do right, but…

The good news is, the great news is, the remarkable news is – I have a defender, a champion, a redeemer and He chose to take up my cause and the cause of all the black sheep. Wow! How amazing is that? And because of that, God’s plan will deeply prosper in my life. Who would have thought God’s saving power was meant for the black sheep of the family?  For all of us who couldn’t measure up.  Only God.

Jesus, again I say, what a wonder You are. Had I seen You back then in person, would I look at You and turn away? Would I give You a second look? Oh, how it grieves me that I might have. Even now, I know there are times when I fail to see You and Your life given for me as completely as I should. Help me to see You, to see what You did for me, to embrace all that You have purchased for me, and to share that with others who may also feel like a black sheep, unable to measure up, unable to make the grade, in need of a champion. Thank You for taking up our cause and taking away our sins. In Your name, I pray, Amen.

picture credit: vappingo.com

God’s Best Gift

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If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us,

embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son,

is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?

Romans 8:32

Jesus – what do you think of when you hear that name? A good teacher? – a revolutionary? – a prophet? –  a great leader? Maybe what comes to mind is stories from Sunday School – the miracles He performed like feeding 5000 people with a few loaves of bread, or causing the lame to walk or the blind to see. Maybe you see Him as the compassionate man who loved people from all walks of life or the angry man who overturned the tables of the merchants at the temple. Maybe you see Him as the man who claimed to be the Son of God and got hung for that. And He was all of those things.

But do you see Him as a gift?

A gift from God sent to show us the way to satisfy the deepest longings of our heart.

A gift sent to show us the deepest longings of our Father God’s heart.

A priceless gift,

one we didn’t ask for,

one we didn’t know we needed,

one that has never been duplicated and is given to all.

Freely.

What an amazing gift!

So undeserved,

so beyond our wildest expectations,

so wonderfully thought out,

so amazingly incomprehensible.

Given to me.

Given to you.

Why?

Because our Father in heaven loves us!

Father, what an amazing gift You have blessed me with. Your precious Son, sent to show me the way to You, the way to peace and fulfillment and eternal life and love. Thank You for thinking so highly of me that You would send Him to me, as a gift I never deserved and couldn’t earn. Help me to treasure the gift of Your Son, help me to never take for granted what giving Him cost You. I ask in the saving name of Jesus. Amen.

Last Pick

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But you are a chosen people,

a royal priesthood,

a holy nation,

a people to be his very own

and to proclaim the wonderful deeds of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I Peter 2:9

These two puppies were the last pick out of a litter of nine. I named them Mr. Magoo and Scooby Doo (I wonder if that’s why they were last pick?). Someone had to be last pick; I sincerely don’t understand why it was these two, but we enjoyed having them here for longer than the others. I know that it is not wisdom to attach human emotions to dogs, but I think it hurt their feelings. They tried to hard to be picked, but in the end, the people left with a different puppy.

When I work with kids in a gym trying to organize a group game, they beg to pick captains and let those captains pick the team. I probably don’t have to tell you how that goes over. Some sweet kid is standing there, inwardly pleading, please, please pick me but their inward pleas go unheeded. Some resign themselves to being last pick. It hurts my feelings for them and I am sure it hurts theirs. So, I say no to their begging and pick the teams myself.

Have you ever experienced that feeling? That sinking hope that, this time, you will not be last pick, that you will be chosen, it will be your turn to be first pick? I remember that from my school days, how many decades ago?  It hurts. We all want to be first pick or at least, not last.

This verse assures us that in God’s eyes, we are first pick. We are chosen to be His. What an honor and a privilege that is! This verse implies a responsibility, too. We are chosen by Him, to be His, so that we can tell others of how He brought us out of darkness and into His light. I remember the darkness my life was before I acknowledged His presence and invited Him into my life. It was grim; everyday was like being on a sinking ship and knowing that nothing I did could stop the ship from going down. But then, I called out to Him and He stabilized my ship and brought a meaning to my life I would have never dreamed possible. He brought His light into my darkness and my life has never been the same since.

Can you rest in the fact that God has chosen you? Can you take comfort in knowing you weren’t a last pick for Him, but a first pick and that He calls you His own?

Lord, to be first pick is really something that never happened for me until You came along and chose me. What a honor that not only did You see me in my despair, in the sinking ship I called my life, but You were willing to reach out a hand, call me to be Your own and bring me into Your marvelous light. All I can say is thank You and proclaim Your wonderful deeds as You lead. Amen.

picture credit:  me!

The High Price of Sin

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I breed dogs. I started with Golden Retrievers way back, I don’t even know how many years ago. Long enough ago, that they sold for $50 and that was a fair price. Then I began breeding Standard Poodles and now Goldendoodles. Like other things, puppy prices have gone up. And down. I’ve made an observation about prospective puppy purchasers. A puppy valued at $1000 is going to bring people who have done their homework. They have researched the breed and other breeds, they have read how to pick a good puppy, they have generally made plans on how they will take care of this pup when everyone’s at work or they go on vacation; they understand that a puppy is an awesome new member of the family and that they have responsibilities for that new member.

On the other hand, when I lower my prices, I get more impulse prospective pet people. They got their tax refund back and the kids want a dog and, no they don’t know too much about Goldendoodles or even what is involved in taking care of a puppy. I am not saying they don’t provide wonderful homes for the puppies, I am just saying they may not have considered the cost, the full cost of that puppy.

I have found that, in general, people value what costs them something more than they value what costs them little.

In the Old Testament, in the book of Leviticus, God established that the price for the remission for sins would be the shed blood of an unblemished male animal. He gave specific instructions on how to handle the blood of the animal; the blood was precious, it was considered the life of the animal. People watching the animal they brought being sacrificed would recognize the cost of that sacrifice and know that that was the cost of their sin. It was designed to make it very hard for them to take the sacrifice lightly, to think that their sins had no cost.

We don’t do that today. I’m glad, I couldn’t imagine picking one of my male, unblemished puppies and raising him up to be slaughtered. But I do realize the cost that would become mine to absorb if I did that and it makes me see a little more clearly a fraction of the cost of my sins. No puppy will be sacrificed to cover mine, mine were covered by Jesus, the unblemished male offered to cover the expense of my sins. It’s easy to overlook that sometimes and think that sin is no big deal, or that some sins are no big deal. But every sin, big deal or not, cost the life of Jesus. When I think of the price paid for my salvation – forgiveness for my sins and healing for my body – I can not overlook the cost because it is a very big deal that Jesus would surrender His life for mine.

Jesus, all I can say is thank You. How humbling it is to think of what You have done for me. And that You did that freely, knowing at times, that I would not count the cost, that I would take Your sacrifice for granted. I am so sorry for doing that. Please forgive me and whenever I start to think of my sin as little and no big deal, remind me of what it cost You for me to be forgiven of that sin, remind me of the cost You paid for my healing. I ask in Your most holy name, Amen.