Friday, January 31, 2014

Green Flag

I never see kids skating outside anymore. For that matter, I never see ponds cleared off. The snow just sits there. Long gone are the red and green flags. I pass a pond on my way to work, and there seems to be a permanent metal sign that says, "No skating." When did that happen?

When I was a kid, it seemed like we lived at our local pond for most of the winter. Maybe it was just colder 45 years ago. But even when my children, who are now in their late twenties, were young, I remember taking them skating-outside!

I can remember the sound the ice made when it shifted, or moved or whatever it does. It sounded like it was cracking, and I always got so scared, even though I knew that if someone had ventured out there to clear off the snow, it had to be safe. If the green flag was out, it had to be safe. If the lights were on at night, it had to be safe. If the cabin was open and a fire was going, it had to safe. If lots of other people were skating, and exhibiting no signs of anxiety, it had to be safe.

How do we know we're safe? When we venture into new and unknown territory, it feels scary. Sometimes we have to step out onto the ice, even when we hear it shifting, moving, cracking...whatever it's doing. We look down and see where the ice has cracked underneath the surface and wonder if it will simply break apart and swallow us up. We can clearly see that the ice is thick. It must be safe. But it's still scary.

It's easy to trust when someone in authority says it's safe. If the green flag is flying, if the lights are on, if the snow has been cleared off the ice, if the cabin is open and a fire is going; if there are others skating without any cares. 

But that's not always the way. There aren't always clear red or green flags. There are not always clear signs indicating if the ice is safe. Someone may not have necessarily gone before us to clear the way. We have to simply trust--trust in the Lord, not in ourselves. He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe (Pr 28:26). If we know the steps we are to take are from Him, we can trust that He will keep us safe while we move forward, even if it's scary. 

We may feel afraid, but we need not fear because His Word says, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Is 41:10). 

Jesus is our green flag. He has gone before us to clear the way, to shine His light, to open His heart, to start the fire, and to walk in safety where we have yet to walk. Put your trust in Him today, and take a step of faith out onto the ice. He won't let you drown.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Be Not Afraid (John Michael Talbot)





Thursday, January 30, 2014

Amazing and Astounding!

I'm guessing that most everyone reading this blog is familiar with the "Transfiguration" of Jesus. Luke 9:29 tells us As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning."

I was reading about this the other day in Beth Moore's book, Jesus, the One and Only. She says this:

"I'm not sure, but what I picture happening was for just that moment, Christ, the fullness of the Godhead bodily, who had been imprisoned in this body of flesh, suddenly just lowered it as if it were a coat--almost as if to just drop it to the ground--and for that moment stood there in His Godness. For just that moment He became a little bit more of who He really was. He took off some of the human costume and stood there in a greater revelation of His glory."

Wow! You know, I don't think I ever really grasped the "Transfiguration" before. Not like this. Beth painted a picture for me that gave me a greater glimpse of the true glory of God. Imagine Jesus, just taking his humanity off, like a coat, and what was under that, inside that, was pure God-ness! 

We know that Jesus was fully man and fully God, but that's such a hard concept for us "fully humans" to grasp. This really made me see the power of God in a human form. I think that for years, I pictured the glory of God coming down from heaven and enveloping Jesus, along with Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus (Luke 9:30). Almost as if Moses and Elijah brought the glory down with them, instead of the reverse. I  believe that it was the glory of God in the human body of Jesus that gave Moses and Elijah their glorious splendor. They experienced the heavenly power of God, and Jesus was the heavenly power of God. He carried it with Him! He embodied it! Simply amazing and astounding!

Selah...
      (pause...and think on that)

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

no song or video today. Just pause...and think on that...amazing and astounding!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sniper Alert

When I was a young(er) woman, my roommate and I decided to go to San Francisco to have dinner and see a show. We lived in Santa Clara, a little less than an hour from the city. As we left the restaurant, we noticed something strange. Not one person was on the street! Very unusual for what's typically a very busy area. We were walking along, commenting on how strange this was, when out of nowhere we were grabbed by a policeman, who quickly brought us into the outside foyer of a store. "What's the matter with you?" He exclaimed. We were still in a sort of stupor from being accosted and now we were confused to boot! "Don't you know there's a sniper up there?" He pointed to a tall building a few blocks away. Say WHAT???? 

"Stay here. Don't move," he instructed. Then he left, presumably to find more errant theatre-goers to save and confuse. "How long do we have to stay here?" we wondered. Meanwhile, we saw people scurrying from storefront foyer to storefront foyer, trying to get to where they needed to go without getting shot. We were 19 years old, and all 19 year olds are indestructible and fearless, so we decided we weren't staying anywhere. We started moving along surreptitiously, as if we were in a movie. It sort of felt like we were. 

The show was cancelled, so we only needed to get back to the parking lot, which was a few blocks over. We got around the corner well enough, where the stores blocked the vision of the sniper (by the way, we never once heard a shot). The hard part was getting across the street to the parking lot, which was in full view of the building he was in. 

Being fearless and indestructible, we made a run for it. My roommate began running oddly, in a sort of zig-zag pattern. I started laughing, as my heart was pounding in fear. "What are you doing?" I yelled. "That's how they do it on TV," she yelled back. "If you don't run in a straight line, it's harder for the shooter to aim."

We did get to the car and safely home. But that zig-zag thing always stayed with me. I can still see her doing that, and the laughter broke what was a serious and possibly life-threatening moment. 

Satan is like a sniper, isn't he? He sits in his corner office at Black Bear Investigators, LLC and watches. Be sober and alert. Your enemy, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). The difference is that he actually tries to get us to run in a zig-zag pattern, to deter us from our path.

God makes our path clear to us when we spend time with Him, and stay grounded in His Word. It's when we begin to stray, and let our time with Him slip by one day, then the next, then the next...our bible sits on the nightstand unopened. The ways of the world begin to seep in and the ways of God begin to slowly fade. That's when we start zig-zagging. And that's when our enemy, the sniper, takes aim. Unlike a human sniper, he prefers his targets to be running haphazardly through life, not really paying attention. 

He shoots his poison arrows into our souls and entices us back to the ways of the world. We don't really feel any pain because we've already begun to become desensitized; it's insidious. He's not stupid. He knows exactly what our weaknesses are and knows exactly where to shoot. 

Wikipedia defines a sniper as "a highly trained marksman, who operates...to maintain close visual contact with the enemy and engage targets from concealed positions..."

We are satan's enemy. He has thousands of years of training and he maintains close visual
contact with us in his concealed position, up in his corner office of Black Bear Investigations, LLC. To coin a phrase, "we never knew what hit us."

We need to stay sober and alert and recognize when we start running haphazardly, in a zig-zag pattern. When the ways of the world become more appealing than the ways of Christ, we know we need to run...in a straight line...back to the throne and fall at His feet, where we are always welcomed and embraced.

Don't let the sniper get you today!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day
I Belong to Jesus (Dennis Jernigan)...when I started watching this video, I thought it wasn't quite what I wanted to convey, but wait until you see the end!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Holy Muzzle

I read something yesterday morning about how your thoughts and your words are so closely connected, they are like bone and marrow; so close, it's hard to divide them. I was reading this in bed, soon after I awoke. I was actually feeling kind of down, with no real explanation. I just woke up that way. It made me think. I could speak forth negative thoughts and spiral further down, or I could speak forth something positive and perhaps my thoughts would follow. So, as I got out of bed and began my day, I decided to pay attention to the words I spoke.

Don't you know that the first thing out of my mouth was something that comes out all the time without my thinking about it---"MOVE, you stupid dog!" (paraphrased. It was a bit worse than stupid...but seriously, why are dogs always everywhere you need to be?). Immediately, I was remorseful. That was the first thing out of my mouth? I wondered how disappointed God must be in me. I apologized, but realized that His mercies are new every morning...every moment...and that I would get a do-over. God loves me, and He knows me oh so well. He knew what I was going to say before I even said it. You know what I'm going to say before I even say it Lord (Ps 139:4). 

If God knows what I'm going to say before I say it, then doesn't it make sense for me to ask Him to stop me from speaking forth anything that is negative? Psycho Dog needs to have a muzzle when she is in situations where we don't trust her not to bite. Perhaps I need a holy muzzle? I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked."(Ps 39:1).

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to become engaged in gossip, slander or otherwise unproductive and hurtful talk when others are doing it? You say to yourself, "I'm not going to say anything. This isn't right." And before you know it, you're contributing. 

As I researched the word, "tongue" in the bible, I kept seeing the adjectives, "lying" and "deceitful."  How true! We think one thing, yet quite another comes out! Our tongue deceives our brain! Then, there are the times when we might feel the need to embellish just a little, in order to impress someone. Our tongue lies! And all the while, we're thinking, "Why am I saying this? It's not true!"

Ah, yes, a holy muzzle might just be in order. When Foxy is muzzled, she is so much more calm and docile; very pleasant to be around. And I feel more relaxed, knowing that no one can get hurt. Perhaps a holy muzzle could calm me down, train my tongue not to lie and deceive. I would feel more relaxed, knowing that my tongue can't be the cause of hurt when I've got my holy muzzle on. Oh, Lord, before I speak, you know what I'm going to say. Please train me with Your Holy Muzzle so that some day, I will be able to speak without it. As long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not say anything wicked, and my tongue will not utter lies (Job 27:3-4).


Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Prov 16:24).
Speak forth something positive to someone today. If you can't, ask God to muzzle your mouth.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
May the Words of My Mouth/Psalm 19 (Vineyard)

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Wind

Wind is a strange and fascinating phenomenon. I can’t see it-but I can see it.  It weaves its way through tree branches and turns leaves upside down.  Sturdy evergreens sway back and forth in a rhythmic cadence, their pinecones clattering to the ground in obedience to the wind’s commands.  Leaves scurry about, running circles around each other, going nowhere until they finally get slapped against a wall in defeat.  Cumulus clouds race through the vast expanse of sky; I wonder how high the wind has authority if even the clouds obey? 

I can hear it, but it has no sound.  Warm gentle breezes cause a rustling on the trees, a ripple on the water, a swaying of grass, and its gentleness is heard.  Stronger winds carry a roar.  The wind itself has no sound.  It’s the things that get in its way that trigger the sound - the mighty rocks, the hills and valleys, the mountains and canyons, the tall tree trunks, the fragile branches that reach heavenward in an effort to touch.  And me. 

Not only can I see and hear the wind, but I can feel it.  It has no visible shape, no tangible form, but if I hold my hand out, I feel the wind. I cannot touch it; rather, it touches me.  I cannot touch something that has no form.  I cannot hold it.  For each time I feel the wind, it is different.  It is never the same wind as before.  It’s always a fresh wind.

Wind moves me.  Wind demands my attention!  Wind reaches into my being and pulls out that which is sleeping and awakens it.  Wind warns me.  Its roar captures my heart and speaks urgently.  “The time is now,” it shouts!  Then it is gone. The wind is still.  Until it comes again.
Yes, wind is a mighty and powerful phenomenon. 

If we pay very close attention, we can see, hear and touch the Wind of the Spirit.  The Spirit of God weaves His way through the branches of our lives, and turns our leaves upside down.  Just when we think we are standing strong, His Spirit moves in our lives and upsets our “pinecones”-the fruit of our so called labor. Everything we think is important in growing our ministries, our businesses, our families, our lives, comes clattering down to the ground with one strong wind.
  
And the leaves in our lives-don’t we run about in the wind, thinking that we are doing something important, while, if someone else were to observe, they would see us scurrying about in meaningless circles until we are slapped against a wall in defeat? Then we look up.  We see that the Wind of the Spirit is so mighty, that even the clouds obey.  How high is the authority of the Most High?  We cannot see to the ends of the sky. 

How quickly and easily we get in the way of God! The Wind of His Spirit is always moving, but we don’t always notice.  It isn’t until we get in the way of the Wind of His Spirit that we hear His mighty roar.  Sure, when we are quiet, we can hear His still, small voice; the gentle breeze which seeps in and out of our pores, speaking softly and tenderly.  But when we attempt to navigate through life on our own accord, in our own way, we get in the way of what God wants to do in our lives.  We don’t see the path He wants us to take. We continue to move in our own desires.   We are listening to our heads and not to our hearts.  And that is where God speaks to us.  Deep within. 

The Wind of His Spirit wakes us up.  It demands our attention.  It warns us.  It captures our
hearts and speaks urgently to us.  It shouts, “The time is now!”  And then it is gone.  The Wind that we just felt is not the same wind that we will feel after we blink.  We miss the moment when we don’t act on those words, “The time is now.”

We cannot touch the Wind of the Spirit; rather, it touches us.  It is always the same, yet always fresh and new. A new anointing, a new Word, new mercies, every morning. God touches us in the wind and wants our attention.  He longs to caress us in the gentle breezes, but sometimes we need the roar of the wind to awaken our souls.  Sometimes, when the storms come, we cry out, “God, where are you?”  And we are afraid of the wind.  But God is right there, in the wind.   

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Saturday, January 25, 2014

God's Sea Glass

Remember walking on the beach collecting sea glass? I always thought sea glass was the coolest thing. Broken bits of bottles or other glass that somehow became smooth. They were like little rocks. People actually make jewelry out of sea glass.

The interesting thing about sea glass is that it starts out as broken shards of glass. Broken glass is sharp. Years and years of tumbling and rolling over the sand and in the salt of the sea wears these broken edges off to a rounded and smooth finish. 

We are like sea glass. We spend years being tossed about. Even if you had a wonderful and "functional" upbringing, and and have no clear cut "dysfunction," to blame on your parents, everyone experiences hurt, pain and rejection in their lives. It's part of life and it's conducive to our growth and maturity. It's those broken pieces of our lives that shape us. We can hold on to them, and allow those shards to keep hurting us. And when people get too close for our comfort, they will feel the sharp edges of our brokenness. We will succeed in wounding others as well as ourselves. 

Or we can release those sharp pieces of hurt into the sea of forgetfulness, where God has cast our sins. When we open our hands and give those shards to Jesus, the healing begins. It may come quickly, but more likely, it will take years. If we spend years clutching our brokenness, it makes sense that it will take years of tumbling to refine us, to smooth out those sharp edges. It's a process, and if we want to become God's sea glass, we must endure the process of tossing and tumbling, often being thrown against the sand in order to smooth out our rough edges. The salt of our tears which was once self-pity becomes a healing balm. 

Then, one day, we will find ourselves at peace, washed up on the shore, where there are hundreds of other pieces of sea glass. It is then that we will notice that the hurt we once held on to has gone and in its place is a beautiful gem.

Blessings Along the Path,

Mary

Song of the Day
Brokenness Aside (All Sons & Daughters)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Spiritual Endorphins

I've actually gone to the gym three times this week, and it's only Thursday. Last week too. I not only have gone to the gym, but I've actually exercised there. I just can't stand looking at that automatic withdrawal in my checking account every week and not make good use of it.

I like the elliptical machine because there is a nice spot for me to prop my Kindle up, and if I get immersed enough in what I'm reading, I (sort of) forget that I'm actually exercising. But it takes awhile to get going. A little while after I start, I look at the clock on the machine to see how long I've been going. I always seem to look at around 8 minutes and I think, "Oh my gosh, is that all? It feels like 20!"

And then, magically, around 10 minutes, the endorphins must kick in, because suddenly, I seem to be pacing myself comfortably and I'm actually concentrating on my book. My breathing settles into a nice rhythm. The exercise doesn't seem so bad by then. Thirty minutes later, I'm actually energized, and I think, "Well, that wasn't so bad."

I think that spending time with God can sometimes be like that. You gasp? How can I possibly say that?! Because it's true! Our flesh fights it. Our flesh tells our head that we have so many other things to do; that we can't possibly spare that half hour (or whatever time you decide on). But our spirit, sensing the need, wants to come before the throne. 

How we approach God can look very differently from person to person and even, in our own lives, from day to day. Sometimes, we may read devotionals, journal and intercede. Some days, we bring our petitions and needs before God. Other times, we search the bible, looking for some answers, or even a certain verse. The hardest thing to do is nothing. To just sit quietly and wait. To listen for our Lord to gently speak. When we finally decide to sit quietly and wait, it can feel like those first 8 minutes on the elliptical. It's so hard, and it feels more like twenty minutes than 8! Can it just be over already?

But when we force ourselves to keep going, to be still, to wait; when we quiet our souls and our minds, suddenly our "spiritual endorphins" kick in and we settle into a comfortable pace. He will quiet you with His love (Zeph 3:17). Our breathing becomes more controlled, as do our emotions. Those thoughts that were clamoring for attention suddenly still, and clattering of our mind settles into a comfortable rhythm of listening. He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul (Ps 23:2). 


Quiet waters are bodies of water that are still. Not a racing stream, not a powerful and thunderous waterfall, but a body of still water. So still that it appears that the water is not moving. How soothing that is. So soothing that it restores our souls. It is only in the quiet can our soul be restored. Once we get past the first few minutes of restlessness and noise, it's not so bad. By the time we are finished, we feel energized. Unlike exercise, which makes me say, "Well, that wasn't so bad," I'm inclined to say, "Wow, that was awesome. Let's do it again soon, God!" I think that makes Him smile. I also think His response to that would be, "Anytime, my child, any time. I'm always here."

Just like the gym.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day (This is a beautiful quiet piano piece with equally beautiful text in the video---it might just help you jumpstart your quiet time)
Quiet Time With God (James Dering)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hello, My Name is Mary and I'm a Sugarholic

I have this daily struggle with my flesh when it comes to sugar. I've been trying so hard to eat right, and I do pretty well until lunchtime. After lunch, I always seem to crave sweets. Rather than deny myself what I'm craving by substituting it with celery (yeah right, like that's gonna help!) or an apple, as my doctor suggests (sorry, doc, it's just not the same thing. I need refined sugar!) I give in by allowing myself a small bag of low-calorie treats. But I want more. A cup of tea in the evening is just begging for some shortbread!

The other night when I was snowbound, I got bored. I made cookies. Now I'm eating them. I just can't seem to get control over this sugar thing! 

I am probably also addicted to reading. I cannot get enough books. I absolutely love the library, and they know my name there! Is that a bad thing? Probably not. However, anything in excess is probably not a good thing. I probably read too much and neglect other things, like preparing dinner.

We often turn our nose up at drug addicts, alcoholics, sex addicts, or people with any other "undesirable" behavior that causes addiction. I truly cannot understand how someone can become addicted to those things, simply because I am not. But how am I any different when I cannot control a sugar addiction? When I feel as though I "have" to have some sort of sweet thing after a meal? How easy would it be for me to go without? And would I think about it constantly? Probably not very, and probably yes.
Yeah, this didn't work for me...
I do all that and still want the cookie!

I'm no different from an alcoholic. My addiction is just more controlled. I probably won't lose my job, my money and my family, and end up on the streets begging for a cookie. It doesn't affect my behavior like drugs or alcohol does. It's acceptable, where something like porn addiction is not. 

Okay, maybe it's not an addiction. Or...maybe it is. I guess that's for me to work out with God. However, it's opened my eyes to the bigger picture of addiction. I would venture to say that most of us have something that we could call an addiction of sorts, something that we struggle with that would be very difficult to give up. We might label it an addiction, a struggle, an issue, an unhealthy habit or a sin. The question is not so much, "What is my addiction?" but, "Why do I feel the need for this?" I believe it's important to discover the emotions behind the addiction or whatever you want to call it. A friend recently told me that this is important because without getting to the root, you'll just find another addiction. So true.

The Twelve Steps, originally intended for alcoholics, is a great program that works for anyone dealing with an "issue." It speaks of a "higher power" that everyone must acknowledge before they can break the cycle of addiction. As you know, my "higher power" is a biblical God. I cannot conquer any addiction, trial. issue, habit or problem without my God. Perhaps reviewing those twelve steps wouldn't be such a bad idea for me right now.

What are you dealing with that's controlling you? Check out the twelve steps, and let God help you with it.

I know I've talked about this before, but here they are again:

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
(replace alcohol with whatever is controlling you):

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. 

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Nothing But the Blood of Jesus (All Sons & Daughters)


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Help Yourself!

There used to be a game on the local radio station's morning show called, "Bible or Not?" The caller would be given something like six phrases, sayings, or verses, and would have to decide if they were from the bible or not. 

How about this one? 
The Lord helps those who help themselves.
Bible or not?

You're right! It's from the book of Hezekiah! Where is that book, you ask? Oh, that's right, it doesn't exist. Neither does that scripture. Contrary to popular belief, it is not from the bible, nor is it even scriptural. In fact, the bible tells us the opposite. He who trusts in himself is a fool (Prov 28:26). And Jeremiah 17:5 tells us, This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD."  (Ref: www.acts17-11.com).

Friends, I don't know about you, but I desperately need the Lord. He longs for us to long for Him. He desires for us to cry out to him for help. He doesn't want us turning away from him in our hour of need, only to feebly attempt to handle our problem on our own. He wants us to turn to Him. He wants us to ask Him for help. He wants us to bring it to Him and show our weakness, because when we are weak, and we come to Him, we are made strong by His grace. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:9-10).

I'm really not sure where that saying came from. It has good intentions. I suppose it means that God will help you if you show initiative, rather than sitting back and doing nothing. Sitting at home wishing you had a job won't get you one. But when you call on the name of God and ask Him to guide you, help you and be with you during your difficult time, He will. In that sense, I suppose, "God helps those who help themselves." However, we need to be careful not to shut God out in our time of need, thinking we can do it on our own. Need Him today. Let Him help you.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day (Very moving: He sings the entire song on his knees; it was filmed during World Youth Day, a Catholic youth event, in Argentina in 2013).
I Need You (Matt Maher)




Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Technical Glitch

Every now and then, my blogs don't get sent out to the email subscribers. I have no idea why. But I didn't want you to miss today's blog...so...here it is again...if you already received it, I apologize for my duplicity!


I was leaving the supermarket the other day and this little girl was sitting in the cart at the end of the check-out while her mother was frantically bagging. She was pointing to some kind of lovely toy that caught her eye, and kept repeating over and over, "I want that. I want that. I waaaaaaaant thaaaaaaat." Her mother just ignored her and kept bagging, most likely thinking, "If I can just get through this before she starts to cry, I'll be okay."

Children are very selfish creatures, are they not? They have to be taught that they cannot have everything they want. If that mother bought that toy for her daughter, it would most likely have been discarded within a few minutes for lack of interest. Mothers have to be mean and say no a lot.

Are we really all that much different as adults? We still want; we've just learned how to hide our desires. We see something lovely, and instead of repeating aloud, we think, "I want that. I want that. I really waaaant that!" The problem is, we still think we can have everything we want. Plastic helps us achieve that goal. We don't have a mean mommy telling us no. We have to practice self-control.

Before we cross that line, we need to do what we learned as children, when coming to a train crossing. Stop. Look. Listen. 
Stop the loop in our heads that's saying, "I want that. I want that." Recognize where it's coming from-the emotional part of us that is trying to fill a void. 

Look at the situation objectively instead of with our feelings. Talk to ourselves. Ask ourselves, "Yes, I want that. But why? Do I really need it? Can I afford to pay for it right now? Or will I be paying for it long after I've lost interest in it?"

Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, our guide, our conscience, our Father...our mean mommy, if you will. What is He saying? 

We need to realize that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). Did
you notice the word "perfect?" If you remember yesterday's blog, we can say that every good and complete gift comes from Him. When we find ourselves trying to fill a need with things, when we find ourselves wanting, wanting, wanting something, when we feel somehow incomplete, we need only stop, look and listen for the Father of heavenly lights. He alone can fill that void.

Take a look at these lyrics from the song, Every Good Gift (link below):

Mercy, provision, healing, compassion, freedom, redemption...Your light shines, my heart glows.

These good gifts are given to use freely. Daily. They far outweigh any material thing we could possibly want, and they are things that are valuable and will edify us-things that we will never tire of! So the next time you cry, "I want!" ask the Father of Lights to give you one of these. He'll never hold back. He'll never say no.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Every Good Gift (Clayton Brooks-Oaks Worship)

I Want That!

I was leaving the supermarket the other day and this little girl was sitting in the cart at the end of the check-out while her mother was frantically bagging. She was pointing to some kind of lovely toy that caught her eye, and kept repeating over and over, "I want that. I want that. I waaaaaaaant thaaaaaaat." Her mother just ignored her and kept bagging, most likely thinking, "If I can just get through this before she starts to cry, I'll be okay."

Children are very selfish creatures, are they not? They have to be taught that they cannot have everything they want. If that mother bought that toy for her daughter, it would most likely have been discarded within a few minutes for lack of interest. Mothers have to be mean and say no a lot.

Are we really all that much different as adults? We still want; we've just learned how to hide our desires. We see something lovely, and instead of repeating aloud, we think, "I want that. I want that. I really waaaant that!" The problem is, we still think we can have everything we want. Plastic helps us achieve that goal. We don't have a mean mommy telling us no. We have to practice self-control.

Before we cross that line, we need to do what we learned as children, when coming to a train crossing. Stop. Look. Listen. 
Stop the loop in our heads that's saying, "I want that. I want that." Recognize where it's coming from-the emotional part of us that is trying to fill a void. 

Look at the situation objectively instead of with our feelings. Talk to ourselves. Ask ourselves, "Yes, I want that. But why? Do I really need it? Can I afford to pay for it right now? Or will I be paying for it long after I've lost interest in it?"

Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, our guide, our conscience, our Father...our mean mommy, if you will. What is He saying? 

We need to realize that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). Did
you notice the word "perfect?" If you remember yesterday's blog, we can say that every good and complete gift comes from Him. When we find ourselves trying to fill a need with things, when we find ourselves wanting, wanting, wanting something, when we feel somehow incomplete, we need only stop, look and listen for the Father of heavenly lights. He alone can fill that void.

Take a look at these lyrics from the song, Every Good Gift (link below):

Mercy, provision, healing, compassion, freedom, redemption...Your light shines, my heart glows.

These good gifts are given to use freely. Daily. They far outweigh any material thing we could possibly want, and they are things that are valuable and will edify us-things that we will never tire of! So the next time you cry, "I want!" ask the Father of Lights to give you one of these. He'll never hold back. He'll never say no.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Every Good Gift (Clayton Brooks-Oaks Worship)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Practicing Perfection

Tell any performer that their performance was "perfect" and they'll tell you it wasn't. I was once told that a performance I gave was flawless. I was really taken aback. It may have seemed that way to that person, but I knew that it was anything but. Among other things, I said snored instead of sneered and I missed an entire line. But I carried it off so that no one noticed those things. It appeared that my performance was flawless, but I knew it wasn't. I didn't want that title, because what if I messed up the next time? Where do you go from flawless and perfect?

We are told that "practice makes perfect," but I disagree. What is perfect, anyway? Perfect, as an adjective, is described as "having all the required or desirable elements, qualities or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be; complete." Interestingly, perfect in the verb form is defined as "to make completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible." Ah, this is why I don't think practice can make perfect. Who of us can claim that anything we do is completely free of faults or defects, when we are incapable of becoming that ourselves? Yes, we can come "as close to such a condition as possible," but I don't think any of us can ever say that anything we have ever done was perfect. I say "practice makes better," but not perfect.


When we strive for perfection, we tend to set a standard for ourselves that may be impossible to achieve. When we cannot meet that standard, we feel that we have failed, and strive harder for that perfection. Worse, we often have an abstract idea of what perfection should look like. For instance, if I desire to be "the perfect wife"  (a disdain for domestic duties has already disqualified me for that), I will continually fail, because there is no clear definition of what that looks like. I'm setting myself up for failure. I can try to play a musical piece to perfection; that is more concrete, but because I've set myself up with abstract perfection too many times, and failed miserably, I will most likely not recognize if I actually have played the piece perfectly. I am too busy pointing out all my own flaws. Perfectionists don't set goals, they set standards...impossible ones. For some bizarre reason, perfectionists seem to strive for perfection, but expect failure. 

The problem is that we, as humans, are flawed. Not one of us is perfect, so we will never be able to attain perfection. Yet  we continue to strive for it. There is only one Perfect One-Jesus Christ. 

The Greek definition for "perfect" means complete. Biblical perfection is a trait that is desirable in that we strive to become like God--He is perfection; we are imperfection. We are incomplete without Him. We are only complete when we give up our beliefs, our standards, our rules, submit to the Father, and allow Him to mold us into perfect completion. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). 


Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me." (Matt 19:21).
I don't think Jesus was suggesting that every one of us needs to do that to be perfect; the man Jesus was addressing was very rich, and "went away sad," when he heard this. He didn't want to give up his wealth; he wanted another way into the kingdom. What are you holding on to that is keeping you from enjoying the kingdom of heaven? Are you constantly performing in order to seek approval? Constantly setting impossible goals in order to be the perfect (fill in the blank)? If so, have you noticed that your performance is never good enough, and that you never receive enough approval? Are your standards too abstract? You may be a perfectionist!


I am a recovering perfectionist. I still slip into those patterns and habits. But I usually recognize them, and bring them to Jesus, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb 10:14). 

When I stop thinking so much about myself, and focus on the heart of Jesus, when I realize that He loves me unconditionally---that I don't need to perform in order to earn his approval, when I realize that all I need to do is bring my broken and imperfect self to the throne, when I hand him my heart and say, "I am imperfect. Make me perfect, Lord, as You are perfect," I will be complete. Then, and only then, will I be complete...perfect. 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Just As I Am (Brian Doerksen)






Saturday, January 18, 2014

Severing Major Attitudes

A friend and I were chatting on Facebook the other day and she told me that a particular operation was barbaric because of the amount of blood loss. She typed, "The actual surgery is very bloody, because major attitudes are severed to release (the organ) from the body."

Stupid auto-correct. Of course, she meant major arteries are severed.

We had a good laugh over that, but I thought, this is too good to pass up...major attitudes being severed. Let's just go with this metaphor.

We all have those---attitudes. Sometimes they are minor; sometimes they are major. They all get in the way of our spiritual growth. We cannot grow in grace and become more like Christ if our attitudes are in the way. We cannot stand in the presence of a Holy God, expecting favor, when we are holding an unfavorable attitude toward someone or something else. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).

I believe that the extent of our attitudes (minor/major) is determined by how willing we are to let go of them. Some of us hold on to our attitudes like a child clutches a favorite blanket. I will not be moved. I will not give this up. This is my security. This is what defines me. Don't ask me to change. I have a right. This is mine. You owe me. 

An attitude is "a settled way of thinking...typically reflected in a person's behavior." If we are settled on something, not willing to be moved, and it is reflected unfavorably in our behavior, we will remain stagnant in our spiritual growth. If we truly want to reflect Christ, and if we want to live in contentment and peace, we must give up our attitudes. But it's not always easy. Our flesh desperately wants to hold on to that sense of entitlement, that anger. It feeds on self---being selfish, self-absorbed, self-centered. We can't give up our attitudes on our own, because our attitudes are all about us! We need a Helper. Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit in me (Ps 51:10).

That's when the Surgeon has to come in and sever the major arteries/attitudes around our heart (and the heart is surrounded by major arteries) in order to hold it in His hands, massage it, make it soft and pliable. Oh, it's bloody. It can be a lengthy operation. And it will exhaust us. We will need to rest from the process of having our attitudes released from us, and settle into restoration. But in the end, we are healthy, healed and whole--filled with the spirit of God and the spirit of peace and love. Now, we can stand in the presence of a Holy God, not with an attitude of expectancy, but an expectant heart. Not with a sense of entitlement, but with a sense of gratitude and awe. Have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day:
Have Your Way (Highlands Worship)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Jump-Part II

Since I deemed this week's theme to be "jump", I want to challenge you today. 

What are you afraid of? What's holding you back from pursuing something you desperately desire to do? Look at these pictures of people jumping. 


There is something exhilarating, and yet scary about jumping. The feelings right before you jump are mostly fear and anxiety. But the adrenaline rush comes and you know you have to do this. You're on the edge of the precipice. You just can't turn back now. You've come too far! You can't and won't give up. Because you know that if you do, you'll be right back on the edge of the precipice again tomorrow feeling the same anxiety and fear all over again, but now you'll also feel a hesitance and a feeling of failure. You didn't do it before. Why? Maybe you shouldn't do it now. Each time you don't jump, it becomes harder the next time.


I can still remember the first time I jumped off the high dive at the local pool. I watched others for weeks. It seemed scary, but fun! And every single person came up. Nobody drowned or got otherwise hurt. So I finally climbed up those steps. Straight up, like a ladder. I can still remember the feeling of my heart pumping madly, as if it would burst right through my bathing suit. Walking very slowly toward the part of the board where the handrails end. After that, I was on my own. Nothing to hold on to. I felt like I was on top of the world up there! I could see the playground and the main road and the ball fields. And the pool. The pool was sooooo far away! 

I can't remember how long I took. I'm sure there were impatient people behind me. But I remember that feeling when I stepped off that board. The fear and anxiety quickly turned into exhilaration and wonder. I was flying! There was no turning back now! And then I crashed into the water. It hurt a little. And I was plunged farther into the water than I thought I would be. I didn't know I'd go that far down! I had to come up quickly to catch my breath!Then, when I could breathe again, I thought, "I did it! I really did it!" And I couldn't wait to do it again!

It's amazing how quickly our feelings change after we jump. Those seconds when we are free-falling, when our feet have just left the safety of something firm and we're plunging into the unknown---there is no way to adequately describe what that feels like. It's that first step, the step that takes you into the unknown that is so difficult. But it's only one step.

So, what's holding you back from jumping off that precipice, that cliff, that diving board into the unknown? Take a deep breath and take a leap. I guarantee, you'll not only be glad you did, but you'll probably want to do it again. Push past the fear and anxiety and look forward to the exhilaration and the freedom! 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Video of the Day--I'm not suggesting any of us shoot this high, but if you're so inclined, go for it!
Top 10 Biggest & Best Jumps 
(Note: as a reference, on #1, the last clip, 31 km=just over 19 miles and 1000 km/hr=621mph)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jump!

I can't believe I'm even sharing this publicly, but here goes. And no, it's not some deep, dark secret. I'm not that stupid. It's a story of...well, just how stupid I really am!

You may remember a few months ago (or you may not) I had this thought that I needed a new car all because my cd player didn't work, and then I realized that all I needed was a new CD player. Well, I got one for Christmas and had it installed a few weeks ago. It's really cool. It's got a built-in bluetooth, so not only can I talk on the phone hands-free (through my radio!), I can play mp3 music from my phone.

I was driving to work the other morning, listening to such music, and noticed this strange thing on my dashboard that was never there before. It looked like a small microphone! Okay, here's the stupid part. My immediate thought was, "Oh my gosh, who put that there? That wasn't there yesterday! Someone's spying on me! Is it a microphone or a mini camera? My car has been bugged!" It's okay, you can laugh. I can't hear you anyway. When I realized what it actually was, I laughed. I'm not really sure exactly what it is, but it's connected to the new cd player/radio. Most likely something to pick up the bluetooth waves or whatever they're called. 

Honestly...WHY would anyone bug my car? And what unprofessional idiot would put a microphone right on the dash, where it is clearly...ok, maybe not so clearly...visible? How did I not see that weeks ago? And when did I get so paranoid? Next thing, I'll be imagining drones hovering outside my window to make sure I'm actually working and not writing blogs. My life is not a movie or a spy novel. These things don't happen in real life.

The other day, I wrote about forgiveness...a misunderstanding in the way something was taken. Yesterday I mentioned thinking before you speak. Today's lesson I suppose is to think before you think? There is a common theme here. Jumping. Jumping to a conclusion.  

The word jump, in the noun form, is defined as "a sudden, involuntary movement caused by shock or surprise." Getting an email that you feel is directed at you instead of a group of people as a whole could cause shock or surprise (the first act I needed to be forgiven for, because it was partly directed at her). Taking something personally when it was never intended to be could cause shock or surprise. Reading something that is incorrectly spelled and thinking it means something other than what was intended could cause shock and surprise. Hearing stupid words spill out of your mouth before you have a chance to stop them could cause shock or surprise. And certainly, discovering a hidden, or not so hidden microphone/camera could cause shock or surprise. Our brains "jump"---involuntarily and suddenly move in a certain direction before we can think clearly.

How many misunderstandings could be avoided by thinking things through or asking for clarification? By not jumping to conclusions? If you're not sure of something, before you jump to any conclusions, why not take a moment to ask the person for clarification? Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). Isn't that the truth! Why add to it by creating misunderstandings? Think before you think!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day (for you old-school Rockers)--check out Eddie's hair--I had the same hairsyle in the 80s! 
Jump (Van Halen)