Evening Encouragement, Focus

Good evening friends. This week is Holy Week and all of us are all looking forward to Easter.  Since we have been locked down since Easter last year, we are looking all the more readily at Easter this year as a renewal; a new start. But we must make sure our new start is safe. Carelessness got us as a world in a mess so we must remain focused on safety precautions. Today’s devotion in Quiet Times with God, asks the question – “Where is our focus?”  

I have been watching the series on The Chosen  on Up TV and every time someone portrays Peter, we see Peter’s impetuousness, not in a violent way but a passionate way. Peter flys by the seat of his heart. I think that is what Jesus knew about Peter. Jesus knew if He could ever get Peter to understand and follow through by focusing on His mission, there would be no stopping him.  And that pretty much was how it was, even though he lost his focus multiple times. The impetuous act that helps me the most with my focus is Peter trying to walk to Jesus on the water.  Matthew 14:28-30.

He believed! He knew….but he could not  maintain his focus on Christ.  I think we identify well with Peter because we see ourselves in him. We have a big advantage that Peter didn’t have, we have the Bible. But if we don’t stay focused on its teachings, we too will be easily distracted. Tonight’s words of encouragement in Jesus Calling Evening addition reminds us that circumstances of life can be scary, hard and seem dark beyond our capabilities to withstand.  But regardless of how it all may seem, God assures us it will be glorious and to be patient, have faith and trust God to do the  driving. 

Relax in His wonderful love and have a safe and peaceful evening.  As you breathe in his love and feel His peace come around you, remember to show kindness as God has shown us kindness.

And remember…God’s got this. 

A Different Kind of Short Story

Friends from the Garden

The sun shone brightly upon the earth below as greenery and life awoke in the backyard garden from its long winter’s nap.

“Susan. Hey, how are you? It is so good to see you again this year. How was your nap?

“It was good Daisy, how was yours?”

“It was good. Feels so great to stretch towards the warmth of the sun.”

“It looks like you have a part there that is not wanting to stretch out.”

“It was a hard winter. I had ice packed in all around me. Hoping the sun will tease it on out.”

“Well, hello there my little beautiful friends.”

“Foxy, how in the world are you? Good to see you rejoin us this year,” said Daisy.

“It’s always good to be seen. Did I miss anything yet?”

“No. We are just getting started. I remember last fall the gardener just threw out a bunch of old seeds in that empty space over there where Lupi was. It used to be just grassy weeds and such. Wonder what will grow there.”

“Oh, I remember ole Lupi being there by herself. Always complaining that her gorgeous pink color was being wasted away in the weeds,” said Susan.

“I remember back in the day when that was a beautiful bed of Lupines, Bee Balm and various lilies. The old gardener left and Morning Glories took over and choked everybody out,” said Foxy as he stretched his stalk toward the sun as new buds for blooms started to form.

“Glory was beautiful but a little wild for my liking,” explained Daisy.

“I agree,” said the every stretching Black Eyed Susan as she bent her petal toward the sun. “But if the new gardener didn’t rake up all of Glory’s seeds when he cleaned out the dried stalks last fall, they will be back. They are quite persistent.”

The sun awakened more wonderful life from the ground over the next few days and green sprouts of various shades were being seen not only around the main bed of established friends but over in the new bed where new life was beginning to show itself.

“Hi everyone,” said a bright red chrysanthemum as she popped up next to Susan, opening her bright petals toward the sun.

“Chrissy, hey. Great to see you again this year.”

“Anything new?” Chrissy asked.

“We don’t know yet,” said Susan. “We are watching across the way to that bed where the Glories took over. Supposedly the new gardener worked in there last fall. But we haven’t even see Lupi yet. She is usually up by now.”

 “I hope the glories didn’t finish her off,” moaned Foxy.

“Or maybe the gardener dug her up,” whispered Daisy.

“That would really be bad,” said Chrissy.

“Look Susan, those stalks are getting tall as you,” said Daisy as the breeze moved them around. “Let’s see if they will talk to us.”

“But what it they don’t like us, like the Glories,” cautioned Chrissy.

“They look to be stem oriented, instead of take-over vines. So maybe they will at least be nice. Yoo hoo,” called Daisy and she called across the yard.

To everyone’s surprise, several stems of various sizes and shades of green turned in their direction with help from the breeze, each swaying lightly. Some of the small stems already had small blue bell shaped flowers. The taller stems had larger buds but were not yet open.

“Hello,” said one of the small blue flowers.

“Hello,” said Daisy, who was always ready to greet anyone with a smile. “We in this small patch of white blooms are Daisies. Those lovely yellow blooms next to us are Black-eyed Susans. And a red chrysanthemum is stuck here in the middle. We wanted to welcome you to spring.”

“Hey what about me,” said the Foxglove being hurt for getting left out of the introduction.

“Sorry Foxy. This is Foxy, he is just getting started. Once he fully opens up and gets his height, he will be amazing. And that red beauty is Chrissy.”

“Thanks, Daisy. I forgive you for forgetting me. Welcome aboard friends to a wonderful garden space,” Foxy shouted over to the new friends.

“The call me BB. That is short for Blue Bell. My family comes from Scotland.”

“Hello BB, said a bud on a tall stem next to her. I too am a bell flower. They call me Tall Bell.”

“May be we can call you TB for short,” whispered BB shyly as she looked up at the tall stem moving in the breeze. “What will your color be?”

“Blue like you, but I am more of a star shape than a gentle bell like you.”

“What is that interesting smell,” exclaimed Foxy trying not to be rude of the pungent smell that suddenly hit the air.

A small quiet voice coughed from the back of the new bed trying not to interfere in the conversation. “Sorry guys. That would be me. I have a disgusting but realistic nick-name of Skunk Weed but I really come from the Spider Lilly family. I am a Rocky Mountain Bee Plant and true to my name, and smell, the bees love me.”

“That’s okay,” said Susan. “Some of us have different smells and some of us have no smell at all. It’s all part of the garden plan.”

“And some of us are liked for how we taste,” came a voice in the back of the original flower bed.

“Chicky baby,” cheered Foxy. “You came back.”

“Whenever I can,” laughed the tall blue Chicory flower as it danced in the breeze. How are we all doing this year? Oh, I see we have new friends. Hello.”

Hello came several calls from across the way.

“Have we seen Sunny yet? He was always such a hoot,” asked Chicky.

“It’s a little early yet for him. Plus the birds usually plant them and I have not seen the feeder get filled yet. Maybe soon,” said Daisy.

As the day wore on, they noticed the gardener come to fill the bird feeder with sunflower seeds so they knew that someday soon, Sunny would be back to visit them. The flowers chatted happily as the sun warmed their hearts making them shine brightly in the sun.

The following morning broke with a grayness all around them. Daisy hung her head and Susan tried to close her petals as a light mist covered them. While the plants themselves enjoyed the water, the flowers worried of bacteria and fungus being in the water that would make them sick and could kill them.

But by the next morning, the warmth of the sun was again surrounding them shaking off their fears the moisture had caused. Daisy stretched her head and followed the warmth of the sun. Susan and her friends hummed softly in the breeze as they swayed back and forth. Then a muffled gasping sound came from the bed across the way as something new was bursting from the ground that was loosened from the previous day’s moisture.  

The new flowers of the bed turned to watch a tall spike begin to raise its head toward the sun. Its top buds were still tightly closed but shades of lovely purple were being seen in the lower buds as they were cracking open to receive the sun’s warmth. The flowers marveled at the lovely shade of purple knowing that it fit so well with their various shades of blue with a few white asters scattered about.

“Oh my,” said the flower once it caught the warming rays of the sun. “That really feels good.”

“Lupi, is that you,” asked Daisy as she stretched to see better, not quite sure what she was seeing.

“Why, of course it’s me. I am the longtime resident of this bed. Who else would it be?” she asked flippantly.

“Well,” said Daisy as she looked over at her friends who refused to say anything, for what they saw was shocking. “I guess we are a bit shocked as you are usually early with us. We were concerned about you being late and…you look different.”

“I was late because I got extra dirt poured over me,” she said defiantly. “When I get my height, I will be as elegant as ever.  I am the same rose colored Lupine,” she said as her voice faded to a whisper as she looked over herself. He rose colors were gone. Too many years she had been in the ground and with age she had reverted back to the original color of purple.

“Oh, no. I am ruined,” she all but sighed. “My beautiful rose color is gone. I am now…old,” she said as she hung her head in sadness. Her tall spike falling next to TB who gently caressed her.

“How can you think you are old?” TB asked. “Your vibrant purple makes the rest of us come together as one. We have been shades of blue with the scattering of white and now with your beauty, you bring us together even more as a family of lovely colors.”

“Really,” she asked.

“Yes,” shouted Daisy and Susan from across the way.

“But I have always been a lovely rose color, now I am the standard purple,” Lupi said sadly.

“There is nothing standard about your shade of purple,” said BB. “My name is Blue Bell of Scotland, my friends call me BB. That tall fella by you is TB, Tall Bell flower and our white star shaped lily like flowers around us are asters. While each of us is quite beautiful, there is nothing as rich as you in this bed.”

“Hey Lupi,” called Foxy, “Remember, it is the Queen who gets to wear the purple.”

“You are all being so kind to me in my sadness,” she said sweetly. “Thank you. I have not always been kind in the past. I am so sorry my, friends.”

“It’s because you were over there by yourself for so long,” said Daisy. “Now you have new friends. Share your beauty with them and let your kindness shine.”

“Thank you, Daisy. And thank you, my new friends. I would be honored to share my height of purple in kindness to show you how kind you are being to me. Let us shine out together.

So as the Lupine, the various bell flowers and aster lilies raised their blooms to the sun, the kindness of that small garden reflected gently in the breezes as they moved through the yard all spring and into summer. And the summer fun of both beds brought in a new fragrance of peace that spread out through the entire yard making it a place where the small creatures, the birds and the gardeners enjoy spending much time.

By Faith…

Good evening friends. Hope you are well tonight. While it was a beautiful day in the midwest today, it’s still early spring yet, so I am not going to get too excited. I do have faith though, that spring will be here real soon.  When I think of reality of faith, the first thing that pops into my mind is Abraham.  He left family and country to follow God’s asking.

A life of faith is not a life of one glorious mountaintop experience after another, like soaring on eagles’ wings, but is a life of day-in and day-out consistency; a life of walking without fainting. Oswald Chambers

How many of us have felt like fainting but by some miraculous ability we remained standing. That’s when God shows up to hold us firmly in His grasps.  In reading the Proverbs 31 Ministry devotion this morning I was reminded of this concept in a different way. Think of a time when you were desperately tired. You have nothing left to give to another being, yet a need came up that you knew needed to be met. And from somewhere deep inside, you found the strength to meet this need. Sometimes, those are the situations where you see God’s intervention the most and you become as much, if not more than, blessed that you wonder if this was the initial reason the help being asked for. Maybe you needed the assurance God still held you close. For when you had nothing left to give…God did.

Remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5000? Do you remember what happened just before that? Jesus had sent out the disciples to go spread the word and they did. As they came back and told Jesus of their wonderful stories, he told them to come, go rest. But what happened? The people found them and followed them and Jesus felt compassion for the people. After teaching them he told the disciples to feed them.  What?? You know they looked at each other, possibly complaining of how tired they were. And now He wants us to feed them? From where? With what? There is one kid with enough sense to bring his own food and that won’t go far. But yet, they picked up 12 baskets of leftovers after feeding 5000. And lets us remember those counted were just the men. There were women and children there as well. Faith. How many times did Jesus ask his disciples “Where is your faith?”  How many times does He ask us? Where is our faith? When I look back over my life, I can visibly see the wonderful times He was there for me, but it usually all in hindsight. He never leaves us.

Tonight, we all have friends, family, fellow church members, people in our neighborhoods who are hurting, scared and who feel like fainting. Please lift them up in His precious name.  We all get weak in the knees from time to time and need His comforting arms surrounding us, holding us up.  Let’s stand together as God’s church, as we lift each other up in prayer.

I so enjoy finding these wonderful pictures on the internet with scripture on them as I am a major believer that pictures reach a thousand hearts and there are many hearts that need reaching across this world. It has been a rough year for all of us and many are still in lockdown. When we do start to emerge out of these forced cocoons, let us remember the beauty of kindness and how kindness gives us a chance to start fresh, regardless of the situation. Kindness is a reflection of God’s love and we can all use some of that.

Be safe and have a great weekend.

Not as Hard as You Think

Good evening friends. Hope you are all well. I read several devotions each day and scriptures to glean encouragement to share with my church and occasionally with you.  I don’t know if many of you read “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers but he is well worth taking the time to read. My oldest son, got me hooked on him by giving me his devotional book many years ago. Now I read him online. Today, Oswald reminds us that God uses the tiny things of our life to move us in the right direction for His purpose. 

I must begin to transform my natural life into spiritual life by obedience to Him. Oswald Chambers

I think there are times we feel defeated because of our thinking “how in the world can I rise myself up to this level of perfect holiness in the fear of God? 

Tonight I want to explain that concept but from a different angle.  If we look at the benefits we receive when we transform our worldly thoughts, making our motives more pure, it changes our perspective and our desire with us wanting to be more holy as He is holy.  And while we know this is what we should do … it can seem really hard.  So, I want to show you that it is not as hard as it seems. The world and the negative forces around us just want us to stay broken like they are broken. But 2 Corinthians  5:15, reminds us that in Christ we are a new creation. New…the old is gone..so see we can do this.

And in reality, we need to remember who really should be driving the life train…because when we drive it, we have a tendency to crash it. Not what we want and especially not what God wants. He has a purpose for us.

And since God did the choosing, that means we are part of His team. And I think we can all agree that this is a pretty awesome team to be a member of.

And we all know that we love hanging around with our friends. And if that concept is too casual for you, you can look at it like this – He is the King and we are all princes and princesses, for we are His children, working together to help purify His kingdom to come.

May you all have a safe and restful evening. Always remember how very much you are loved and always remember to be kind.

Connecting Power

Good evening friends. I normally don’t write on the weekends but I was so taken by this morning’s devotion in Jesus Calling that I wanted to share it with my additional thoughts. I have heard the thought of Jesus being God’s golden thread and todays devotion spoke of three intertwined golden threads. Ecclesiastes reminds us of strength three strands.

So in taking my mental picture combined with this devotion, I thought of the amazing strength of this golden strand in this devotion of Waiting, Trusting  and Hoping, which to me equals faith. The center strand is Trusting.  Trust is the backbone of our faith. It is the one attribute God requires the most. For without trusting in God, what would be the purpose in believing in God. Waiting and Hoping wrap themselves around the central stand of trust adding the support need to maintain our connection to God. If we say we are waiting on the Lord’s help but don’t really have our eyes on him, then we don’t really have trust in him. And while hope really refers to our inheritance in heaven, the three strands are intrinsically tied together to bring us hope and peace; Peace being another cord connected to our faith.

Waiting strengthens our trust, broadens our hope and fills us with peace.

“Always wait expectantly, in hopeful trust.” Sarah Young

Remember He is there right beside you. Believe in the power and comfort of the connecting strand.

I sincerely hope you have a wonderful weekend and I remind you as ever to show the power of kindness. Even when our strand seems to be tight, it is strong. So reflect the kindness you are being show by your connection.

A Heavenly Vision

Good evening friends. What a beautiful day we had in Iowa today. I spent 2 hours in wonderful sunshine and 50 degree temps racking my yard from all the winter gifts left by my dogs. There was just too much ice for me to risk doing it earlier, but now the snow has finally melted. And the vision I see in my yard is starting to turn green with ideas for planting already starting.

 I was touched by my devotion this morning in “My Utmost for His Highest”.  Oswald Chambers reminded us of Paul’s conversation that he had with King Agrippa. Paul had been falsely accused in hopes to kill him but was passed around from Governor Felix, then his successor Governor Festus and then he was sent before King Agrippa. First Paul explained that he had done nothing wrong or worth a death penalty, either against the Jewish synagogue or against Caesar. Then Paul explained to the King about his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he closed with this statement…

Jesus had given Paul a heavenly vision of what he need him to do, where before he was doing what he thought was right per the teaching he had learned.

As Oswald’s devotion reminds us, if we are not careful, we can lose our heavenly vision, usually if we become stagnant and are not growing spiritually. Our spiritual growth depends solely on us. In our bible study last night we talked some about how wrong teachings pull us away from the truths of God. But if we are earnestly searching for the truth, through the scriptures, which is the truth, God will open and close doors to make sure we go through the correct doors. We have to keep the heavenly vision given by God in front of us.

“If we lose “the heavenly vision” God has given us, we alone are responsible— not God. ” Oswald Chambers.

I think the proof in maintaining our heavenly vision rests on how we live our everyday lives. Are we reflecting the heavenly vision we say we have? Through this past year, I have seen many people who are reflecting that vision. Sometimes you have to see people go through a storm to realize exactly where their vision lays. Sometimes the storm moves us to a different spot so that we can grow and spread the heavenly vision there. Think how the disciples got scattered. They all ran due to the storm of persecution but look how they scattered the seeds of Christ. They knew what the vision was. And I think you can actually boil that vision down to a single word…Love.

In the NIV version of the Bible, the word Love is said 551 times…I think that means it’s pretty important. We are starting to open up a bit in Iowa. People are feeling more safe, vaccinations are more available, deaths and sickness are slowing down and we are starting to come back to church, to work, to schools and to our lives. We have learned a lot this past year, mostly about what is truly important, family, kindness, helping others. We must not forget the lessons we have been taught through this pandemic. But we also must remember to always reflect our heavenly vision so that we can show others how to have a heavenly vision as well. We must continue to be in prayer for each other and to help when we can. We must remember to walk in his light so we can show others how to walk walk in the light.

And in all things we must always be kind because kindness is a true heavenly vision for all to be able to find peace.

Who Holds Your Trust?

Good evening friends. Today was a beautiful day here in the midwest. I went to store with my window down and it felt fabulous. Now 50 degrees is not that warm but compared to -15, that’s 65 degree difference – a heat wave. Last week when we had negative temperatures and crazy wind chills, it was hard to trust we would have this warm a day so soon but here we are. Trust can be a fickle thing if you have it on the wrong thing.

Who or what do we really trust and depend on to carry us through this life?  Our job, our money or our friends can be gone in a matter of a single disaster.  Or maybe our trust is in ourselves, our education, our talents or our possessions. These also can be gone in an instant. Today’s devotion in Quiet Times with God reminds us how very important all of these things are but that we also must remember that these things are temporary. 

God is the only One who doesn’t change.  He alone is OUR Rock that can not be moved. JMeyer

We know that being children of God, He will deliver us from our current troubles.  This past year has been a huge worry all across this great planet. Then this winter has been extremely difficult all across the US.  But God will get us through it, as was evident today.

Trusting God believes that God is always there. He is always working with us, we just have to make sure that is where we place our trust, in Him alone.  Not an easy task for us on the surface but if we can get there….we will lose some things…like worry, anxiousness, fear and confusion.  There is a profound peace found when somebody else is taking care of things, someone you can fully trust.  God we can fully trust.

As you place all your trust in the Lord, remember the peace it brings you. With that peace, remember to show kindness with others who may not have placed their trust with the Lord yet. Maybe your kindness will be a reminder of where true trust should lay. So remember to always be kind.

Wholeness even with Brokenness

Good evening friends. Brokenness is an everyday occurrence, whether it be a physical item, an emotional  item or a spiritual item.  Today at church we had a physical item that was broken, the women’s handicap toilet broken and it was broken good.  A whole new toilet is on order. An item you don’t think of how important it is until you don’t have it.

Sometimes we don’t fully understand the value of an item until you lose it and again, it can be physical, mental or spiritual. But brokenness is not always a bad thing. Sometimes things have to get broken for us to see how flawed they were.  Then we have a better understanding of what unbrokenness is supposed to look like before we can enjoy the value of new unbrokenness. Isaiah and Revelation both talked about making things new, things better, things unbroken.

Sometimes, God will allow broken things to change our path, not that he causes them to break, but he uses the brokenness to help us understand how to come to a better conclusion and walk a new course. This past year we have felt a lot of brokenness but in reality, we have made new paths and in some cases better paths regardless of the brokenness and have newness in how we live.

There are many of us who feel broken in various ways. Our bodies are giving away, our hearts have seen too much trouble and we sometimes forget to listen to the still small voice that whispering His love  to us every day.  But the voice is still there, with an ever present promise to get us through this life to become a new creation alongside Him. So regardless of the fight you may be fighting, don’t lose heart. The main battle has already been won and we are anew in Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So lean back and take a big breath. And as you relax in the arms of Christ, feel the daily newness of His ever present love for each of us. That is our wholeness. Though we don’t really know what the newness will fully look like, we know it will be fabulous because He is fabulous and we are fabulous in Him.

And remember the beauty of showing kindness to others who feel broken. When we show kindness, we show the love of God. When we show the love of God we reflect how through Him, we are not broken but whole, surviving and loved. Share the newness of unbrokenness, its cool.

Today is the fourth day of Lent and as we head toward Easter, I thought I would also post the message from Our Daily Bread devotion.

Day 4 of Lent: Forgive my hidden sins.

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

Psalm 19:12–13

Well, It is February…

Yes, as we hunker down for the 3rd winter storm in two weeks here in the midwest, with well over two accumalative feet of snow already, I am ever thankful I am not in the northeast. The second storm that hit us with 8 inches of snow dumped 3 feet on them.

But I am blessed with a warm house, plenty of food and a nice view of amazing trees, none of which are on my property. Another blessing during the fall. This year I am more taken by the beauty of these naked trees with their innate understanding as they twist their limbs to reach for the sun, their life force in the sky.

The hardwoods are the most amazing as their branches will bend down and then twist up to reach the light as the sun peeks through the leaves absorbing its love. It reminds me of a praying man raising his hand toward to his life source. But there is something majestic about the ever greens as well, as they created a sort of triangle, again pointing to the heavens to it’s life source.

Trees are a reminder to us all showing where the life forces come from for all of creation.

And if we can ever really grasp that concept, then we will begin to understand the beauty of all creation as was meant to be shared and enjoyed. From the largest mountain to the tiniest snowflake. So as we enjoy all there is to see, remember the kindness that begs to come out of creation’s beauty and share that kindness to its most beautiful potential.

Some Evening Encouragement

Today was a good reminder that after the storm…the sun will shine again. Even though it is cold. Outside of my office against the building is a small raised garden. It stands about 3 feet high, about two feet deep and runs underneath the entire window of my office. It’s where my one bird feeder is that you see occasional pictures of birds and squirrels from my office. The way the wind blows in that courtyard shows a good example why the weathermen were cautioning about the blowing snow. The drift was the height of the wall of the garden.

But it was the small angel statue holding the little bird that caught my eye. All around the angel and the area around the bird, there was no snow. Evidently as the wind would hit the face of the little statue, it would push back against the snow not allowing it to come too close, as if protecting the tiny bird it is holding.

A reminder that while the storms of life may seem to rage around us, we are cared for.

Songs of deliverance, songs of protection, songs of peace, love and care. Songs of the Lord.

Today’s post was more pictures, some I took and some from the internet, but sometimes pictures say more than words. Feel safe and protected in His arms and always remember to be Kind and further reflect His song.