Monday, March 31, 2014

Take a Pass on Passing Judgment

The other day I was out shopping, and  I saw a young woman with three young girls in the shopping cart, one young boy walking beside it and a baby in a sack hanging on her front. All the children were well-behaved and the young woman seemed so relaxed and low-key. A few days later, I saw (in the same place!) another young woman with four children and she appeared to be expecting a fifth. She seemed to be on the same drug as the other woman. 

On the way out, an older man turned to Brian and me and said, "Did you see how many kids that woman had? And another on the way!"

Of course, I noticed the gaggle of kids each of these women had, and maybe I made a judgment in my head. But I was mostly impressed by how well-behaved the children were and how relaxed the mothers were. You have to be a certain kind of person to have 4-5 children. I'm not that kind of person and I never was.

I can remember when I was of child-bearing age...the question after you had the first baby was, "When are you having another?" Please, let me just get through this first. If you were expecting for a third time, the questions suddenly changed to, "You're having ANOTHER?" 



When did we start living in China when we were only allowed to have two children? (Or is it only one there?) Why do we make rules for everyone else to follow? What makes us the boss of other people? Why does it matter if a couple want to have five children? Who are we to pass judgment? We all do it. We may not care how many children someone has; perhaps we've decided that someone shouldn't...I don't know...smoke outside the hospital...it sets a bad example. Or that a person shouldn't decorate a certain way because it's outdated. Or that someone's clothing isn't appropriate (maybe it's not, but it's not our place to decide that, unless there is a dress code they are breaking and we're responsible for enforcing). 

When my daughter was a teenager, she once showed up for church in a very short skirt. Someone said to her, "Nice of you and your short skirt to come to church." My daughter never forgot that, but not because she wanted to go home and change. Because it was my place to comment, not this other person's. Hey, at least my teenager was in church.


I remember a story in the bible where a woman was caught in adultery and she was to be stoned. The Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "What do you say?" What was his response? "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Everyone dropped their stones and walked away. (John 8:3-7)

May we do the same.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary




Friday, March 28, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation

The theory of "Six Degrees of Separation" is such that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away from being introduced to anyone in the world. So, theoretically, if I want to meet George Clooney, I should be able to find a few "friends of friends" in order to meet him. I haven't found those people yet. When I do, I'll be sure to let you know, so that now you too will be able to meet him. I'm willing to share.

My daughter, Amy went to school with a young man who has this really great song out. The name of his band is Oh Honey, and the song is "Be Okay." It's positive and upbeat. Amy played the song for the little girls she nannies for, and when she told the girls that she knew the guy singing, they couldn't wait to tell their friends. (Plug: the 100th episode, or 13th episode of Season 5, of Glee featured "Be Okay"...sung by Rachel and Santana). Those friends are now three degrees away from knowing Mitch of Oh Honey.

I'm so glad that we can know God through only one degree of separation-His Son Jesus. And I don't even really like that word, "separation," because we are no longer separated from Him; Jesus' death on the cross reconciled us to the Father. 

But this theory also makes me think of missionaries, who bring the good news to those in the world who have never heard of Jesus, or even heard of God. They worship a god, but they do not know the One True God. They hear from a friend that a friend has a friend...that friend tells them about Jesus. That's how the gospel is spread. Eventually, we will close the gap from six degrees to one, and Jesus will return. Oh glorious day!

Oh, and if you know anyone who has a friend who knows someone who knows George Clooney...can I have their number?

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary



Song of the Day
Be Okay (Oh Honey)
Glee's 100th episode information

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Banished!

Imagine you are Eve, or Adam...depending on your gender. You walk and talk with God on a daily basis. You are free to eat anything in the garden, your home, except the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, it's like seeing a sign that says, "Wet Paint." We have to touch it to see if it truly is wet. We want to eat the forbidden fruit. We want what we can't have. We want to try what's not good for us, just to make sure we think it's not good for us. As if we know more than God.

We all know the story. They eat the fruit, they realize that they are naked and they no longer walk with God in the garden. In fact, God banishes them from the garden. From the only home they've ever known. Seems kind of harsh, doesn't it?

Try to imagine with me what it must have been like to be banished from your home. Maybe you actually experienced some sort of banishment. We've all experienced rejection, so we can sort of imagine what it must feel like. 

But can you imagine God pointing his finger away from that beautiful, tranquil garden and saying, "Go!"

I find that hard to picture, because I know, love and serve a loving God. So why was He so harsh?

According to a website, sharefaith.com, Eden was perfect. Adam and Eve knew no fear, no shame. But as soon as Eve was deceived and Adam disobeyed, sin entered the world. If they had been left to continue to eat from the tree in their fallen state, they would have remained in their unredeemable state. They were expelled for their own good, and the good of all mankind.

They still had access to God; He did not abandon them, but the dominion, power and authority Adam once had was transferred to God's archenemy. Adam now had to till the ground and start from scratch. (You can read the whole explanation at http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/christian-ministries/adam-and-eve/adam-and-eve-are-cast-out-of-the-garden/index.html )

But the wonderful news is that God provided a sacrificial lamb for the atonement of all sins. We are no longer considered unredeemed...Jesus' death on the cross redeemed us. We no longer have to earn our way back to the garden, back to God's grace. We can walk and talk with Him. We can't see him, like Adam and Eve did, but we can know He is there with us and will never abandon us. Never again will we be banished from paradise. We can live unashamed and without fear through Jesus. And when we die, like the thief on the cross next to Jesus, we will again be in Paradise with the Father.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
I Am Redeemed (Big Daddy Weave)






Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Too Tired to Care That I'm Tired

I went back to work the other day, after being home for almost six weeks. I figured that working a half day would ease myself back in. I was right. I knew I'd be tired, but boy I wasn't prepared for exhaustion. I feel like I've been working a ten hour day instead of a five. Both my body and my mind have had it after five hours. 

I was driving home from work yesterday afternoon and was feeling a bit frustrated because I wanted to have more energy, but there was nothing I could do about it. Hadn't I learned anything from the last six weeks? Our bodies heal in their own time. We can't rush that. AND...I'm on the "other side of 50."  Healing doesn't come quickly anymore. I have to accept that.  

I'm still exhausted, even though I had a nap. There is not much I can do once I leave work but go home and rest. Accepting things that are beyond our control is all part of relinquishing that control. We can't always be what we want to be, even if all we want to be is simply not tired! No sense trying to fight it.

What are you fighting against today? What are you trying to control that is beyond your control? Is it frustrating you? Give it up. Let it go. No sense trying to fight it.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary




Monday, March 24, 2014

Barely Tolerated or Loved Unconditionally?

Cesar Millan and Daddy
I was watching Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer the other day and the featured bad dog was a pit bull who was aggressive toward other dogs...a dangerous thing, since a pit bull could actually kill another dog with its aggression. To make a long story short, Sandy, the dog was rehabilitated by a woman named Cherie Lucas, who operates a no-kill shelter in California. However, both Cherie and Cesar agreed that even though the dog was rehabilitated, they felt that the owner wasn't right for the dog. He had soft energy or some such thing. They felt bad telling the owner that they felt the dog should stay at Cherie's facility, since he was doing so well there, but the owner only wanted what was best for Sandy. He agreed to let her stay where she was thriving.

In another episode, Cesar mentioned that no dog is born aggressive. If a dog becomes aggressive, it's because he/she has lost trust or respect. When a dog loses trust, it becomes insecure. These things combined made me think about our Foxy. Has Foxy lost trust in us? Although she appeared to want to be the boss, was she actually insecure? She obviously has lost respect. But we've lost respect of her as well. And we've lost trust. Were we not good owners for our dog, like Sandy? Do we have "soft energy?"
Cherie Lucas, owner: Second Chance at Love Humane Society

It makes sense. The trainer assures us that Foxy is a different dog with her.  She's happy. She's thriving. She's showing no signs of aggression, except toward a cat, which is a normal dog reaction. We do want what's best for Foxy (and for us!), and obviously, it's not us. 

That made me a little sad, and a little disappointed. We tried so hard. And we really tried to love her. There were times when I did love her, but more often, I tolerated her at best. And I believe she basically tolerated me too. 

I'm so glad that we have a God who doesn't just tolerate us. He loves us unconditionally, even when we lose trust or respect. When we become insecure, He offers us the security of the love of Christ. Can you imagine if God loved us based on our behavior? If he simply tolerated us when we acted out or acted up?

Sadly, many people believe in this kind of a God, and I think the "holiest" Christians even believe that at times. We think God must be so mad at us, or disappointed in us because we (fill in the blank). But that's what's so wonderful about repentance...grace...mercy...

When we fail, when we disappoint, when we sin, we can...and should...come freely to our Father God, our Master and receive forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. He offers us mercy and extends grace to those who humbly repent. He longs for us to come to Him.

Recently (when Foxy was still living with us), Brian was petting Foxy and hit a spot she didn't wasn't comfortable with and she turned on him. She didn't really bite him; it just sounded like she did, and she realized what she was doing and stopped. Immediately, she put her front legs on his lap, put her ears back and kissed his face, as if to say, "I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me. Please forgive me." She was so cute, you couldn't help but forgive her (see, I do have a heart!). That's how God sees us when we repent. He can't help but forgive us!

How do you see God? Do you see Him as a taskmaster? One who basically tolerates your behavior and only picks out the bad things, not seeing the good in you? Or do you see Him as a loving Father, quick to forgive, One who easily forgets your sin, your inadequacies and your faults, only seeing the good, the very good person that He made you to be? Be quick to come to Him. Don't stay away. The longer you stay away, the more you will lose trust, which will allow insecurity to fester. Don't stay away.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
You Are Good (Kari Jobe)


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Don't Like That!

Today's blog comes from a friend who wanted to share her story and her lesson. She prefers to remain anonymous, so I will call her Grace.


Early in the year, Grace felt that the Holy Spirit gave her a Word for the year...something that she could work toward. The word was "abide." Oh, good, she thought..abide. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me (John 15:4). That's a good word, she thought. All year, she would attempt to draw close to God, abiding in Him so that she could bear fruit. She vowed to read her bible more, to spend more quality time, prayer time with the Lord. Oh, this would be a good year!

Not long after, she attended a prayer meeting, or some sort of special meeting. I don't remember what (sorry, Grace). At any rate, there was to be some worship music in the beginning and she was excited about having an intimate and anointed time of worship. She even said to God, "You know, God, I would really enjoy playing the tambourine. If there was a tambourine there, that would be great!"


She got to the church, and guess what? There, on the windowsill right next to her chair was a tambourine, just waiting to be played! She thought, oh great! Thanks God for answering my prayer. You are so good. I must be abiding in You..and you in me! 



She was in the middle of worship, when suddenly she heard this voice..."I don't like that!" She stopped what she was doing, opened her eyes and followed the voice. It was coming from a little old lady seated next to her. She repeated, "I don't like that!" 

"Oh," said Grace. "I'm sorry. Is it too loud? Would you like me to play it softer or maybe go into the aisle?"


Little Old Lady repeated, "I don't like that!" 


Grace got the point. Little Old Lady did not want that tambourine played. At. All. Grace returned it to its place on the windowsill.


"Well, God," Grace said in her head. "I prayed for a tambourine and you provided it. I don't understand. But I will choose not to be offended." She felt disappointed, but not offended. 


Later in the service, Grace heard sniffling. Guess who? That's right. Little Old Lady. Grace said to God, "God, do you want me to offer her a tissue? After she made me put my tambourine away?"


Before she could get an answer, Little Old Lady leaned over and said in the sweetest voice, "Would you happen to have a tissue?" 


Did you see why I re-named my friend "Grace?" I know that scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8), but so does grace. In addition, we are told in verse 9 of 1 Peter to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. We could replace hospitality with tissues...offer tissues to one another without grumbling. Grace gladly provided the tissue and somehow, by doing that, the tambourine issue seemed less...big.


Grace told me that when she received that Word, "Abide", she never thought it would look like this; like loving someone who snarls at you, "I don't like that!" then turns around and kindly asks for a tissue. It's not easy to love the unlovable. To choose not to take offense at what people say to us. To extend grace where you would rather extend a smart retort. She thought it would be more...inward, and less outward.

But if we are to "abide" in Christ, we are expected to bear fruit. In fact, it should just happen. A vine doesn't have to work at producing fruit. It just happens. Grace does not extend rotten fruit to others, but extends the fruit of the Spirit...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22).


I guess a good test of what kind of fruit we are extending to others is to go down that list and ask ourselves, "Is this loving? Am I joyful? Patient? Kind? Is it good? Am I being faithful to God and to what I stand for? Am I being gentle? (Hmmm....selah...pause, and think about that..sorry, personal rabbit trail...) Am I self-controlled? (Selah AGAIN...)


Thank you, Grace, for your lesson along our path today.

Mary

If you have a lesson you'd like to share on my blog, email me. I love to share other people's stories...with their permission, of course! !

Song of the Day
Abide With Me (Greg Howlett)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Changing Our Nature...Lessons From a Dog

I'm afraid that Psycho Dog has either truly lived up to her name, or we need to change it to Multiple Personality Dog...but that's too long...Psycho Dog sort of fits her.

Foxy had a rap sheet at a very early age
As I mentioned in a previous blog, we needed to remove Foxy from our home for various reasons that I won't bother to bore you with. She is currently residing in a "semi-foster" home. The trainer has graciously agreed to let Foxy stay with her while Lucy (aka Normal Dog) recovers from surgery. Both the trainer and I have been reaching out to various places in hopes that someone will take Foxy. 

When I asked the trainer if she would be willing to let Foxy stay another week, so that Lucy can further recover without the stress of having Foxy around, her response was not quite what we expected. She suggested that Foxy stay with her for the "foreseeable future" (translation in my head: forever). She is reaching out to rescue organizations and the many contacts she has, but she is presenting Foxy as a different dog. Apparently, she is a different dog with the trainer...a very different dog who is affectionate and not at all aggressive! In fact, she went on to tell us, she brought Foxy to the groomer with her and by the end of the time there, Foxy was kissing the groomer! Say whaaaat???

So, the little sly Fox is playing it this way, huh? She acts all sweet and kind in hopes of gaining love and approval. But at home, she is a tyrant, a terror, a tornado! In a way, it made me sad to think that this dog is capable of acting this way and we have no knowledge of her other life. Is the family dynamic such that we just can't stand each other? Is she that unhappy? Is it that she and I are just going through our lives tolerating one another and would be better off without each other? I don't know. I'm still somewhat baffled! 

Don't we do the same thing? We act one way around our family and close friends---that's our true nature...and another way around strangers, acquaintances, co-workers, hope-to-be-friends. We want their love and approval so we put on a good act of who we want to be. Maybe the way Foxy is acting is the way she really wants to be, but we just bring out the worst in her. Maybe the way we act around hopeful friends and strangers is the way we really want to be; maybe it really is our true nature and the one at home is the one that comes out when we're unhappy or comfortable with those we know will love us anyway. Maybe the facade we are presenting isn't phony...maybe it's who we are capable of being!

There is hope for Foxy and there is hope for us! Maybe Foxy's been reading my bible when she sneaks out of the bedroom at night...maybe she is learning to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:22-24). 

We need to find our true selves. When we do, we need to take an inventory of who we are; we need to put off the old nature and put on the nature of Christ. Not easy, but apparently, it's so simple, even a dog can do it.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
It's a Dog's Life (Mick Dunne)--Guess I'm a day too late with the Irish choice...

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Stop Counting!" Day

Lately, I've been walking around the track in a nearby park. Every lap is 1/4 mile, just like a track around a high school football field, except that this track goes around a pond. I was coming up on my 4th lap this morning and thought..boy, this is boring...only a few more laps and I can go home. Except that I would be bored at home, so why was I in a hurry to finish my boring walk only to go home and be bored? 

Then I thought that perhaps if I only stopped counting laps and just enjoyed the (cold) fresh air and the benefit of the exercise, I could actually enjoy myself. So I did. I stopped counting, and you know what happened? I suddenly had a burst of energy and enjoyed myself. 

I can't tell you how far I walked, but I decided to stop when my legs got cold. And then I went and got myself a cup of coffee...and a donut. Because I was tired of counting. I had declared today as Stop Counting Day. Since I'd stopped counting laps, I figured I should stop counting calories too. I wanted a donut and had one...guilt free. A donut wasn't going to kill me. It wouldn't even make me fat. Not today. Not just one.

I've been counting the weeks I have left on my medical leave until I go back to work. I've been saying that I'm so bored, but today gave me a new perspective. Instead of expecting and cultivating boredom, I could be enjoying my time off. I could be enjoying the quiet and lack of routine.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who counts. We count laps or steps or miles when we exercise. We count calories when we eat. We count our money when we pay bills. We count our friends on Facebook. We count how many days until the weekend when we work. We count how many weeks until vacation when we go back to work after the weekend. 

Sometimes we count offenses. How many people have wronged us. How many times a certain person has done us wrong. 

Maybe we should all just stop counting. Once I stopped counting my laps, my calories and my weeks, I felt free. I decided to just enjoy the day. I decided that I didn't have to listen to what I think I should or should not have or do.

Life is not a series of "have-tos" and "should-nots." How much time do we waste counting down? How many hours are wasted on calculating miles run, laps walked, calories consumed, dollars spent, dollars left, and times wronged?

Love keeps no record of wrongs (I Cor 13:5).So we should not be counting wrongs done to us.

...Whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and out of the body...but the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean' (Matt 17-18). We should be more concerned with what we say than what we eat. 

Ok, that doesn't give us license to just shove donuts into our mouths without thinking about the health repercussions...I'm just thinking that sometimes we can take counting to an excess. 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven (Eccl 3:1). Counting is not listed as one of those activities, but I guess there is a time for counting and a time to refrain from counting. Sometimes, you just have to have a "Stop Counting!" Day.

"You are making all things new. We are free." (All Things New, Elevation Worship)

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

All Things New (Elevation Worship) ...check out the guy playing his guitar with a violin bow...??? New generation of worship...different, but it's great to see so many young people sold out for God!

Friday, March 14, 2014

From Rational to Radical

I've been thinking about this "giving up" thing that Christians do for Lent. The majority of people I've known over the years have usually given up chocolate, bad language or booze. One time I went out with some friends and one of my friends ordered wine. I said, "I thought you gave up alcohol for Lent." She looked at me, aghast, and said, "Oh I could never give up alcohol altogether. I gave up hard liquor." Oh...

We tend to give up "things" that we may struggle with on a daily basis, or just from time to time. I guess it depends on how much we want to suffer. 

But how about this...why not give up...ourselves? Give up our attitudes...that lead to the bad language. Give up our desires...that lead to indulgence of alcohol or sugar. Give up our attempts to be holy...good...right. 


Or how about this...give up what makes sense. Give up our carnal thinking...give up our rational thinking. Give up and give in to Jesus.

Like Peter, getting out of the boat. He gave up his rational thinking. His eyes were so focused on the Lord...until he "saw the wind." Isn't that interesting? He was walking on the water until he saw the wind...the wind is something you cannot see. How is it that something Peter could not see could cause him to disengage and lose faith? Perhaps he didn't so much see the wind but felt its effects. The wind caused the turbulence in the sea around him, around where he was walking. Maybe it was the turbulence that he saw that caused him to falter, to look down, to lose faith.

When we see the turbulence around us, we often look down, lose faith and falter. We become afraid of something we cannot necessarily see; rather, we feel it. We feel its effects and we stop thinking with the mind of Christ, and resort to our earthly thinking.

If you're like me, and don't necessarily "give up" something for Lent, why not give up you this season? Give up your rational thinking and start doing some radical thinking. Throw your hands up and say, "I give up, Jesus!" 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
White Flag (Chris Tomlin)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

To Deny or Not Deny?

The Lenten season has begun. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for six weeks, or forty days. The purpose of Lent is for Christians to prepare their hearts for Easter through times of prayer, repentance, fasting and self-denial. 

Lent is usually observed by Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican churches, although some Evangelical churches now observe Lent. 

I am a former Roman-Catholic turned Methodist turned Evangelical. I used to observe Lent but I no longer do. For the past 20+ years, I have remained ash-free on Ash Wednesday, and supposedly guilt-free. I no longer feel I have to refrain from a certain behavior or habit for forty days. I eat meat on Fridays. I have told myself that I no longer come under the "laws of the church."

On the other hand, am I missing something by denying my flesh of something? I've told myself that I can do that any time; that it doesn't have to be during Lent. But I don't. But I could if I wanted to...without anyone telling me I have to...but I don't.

I know someone who gives up chocolate every Lent. She's not even religious. I suppose she feels it's a good thing to do (she gets up at midnight on Easter Sunday and has a chocolate bar!). So, you don't have to be Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran or even slightly religious to observe Lent.

I know others who give up things for Lent because of their religious upbringing, but don't go anywhere near a church during the rest of the year. They "have" a religion, but don't go to church or live their faith. And some of those people label me a fanatic. But they relinquish something dear to them just the same. I have been guilty of passing judgement on those individuals. Am I any less of a hypocrite than they are by passing judgement?

I read that Lent lasts forty days in commemoration of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by the devil. It makes sense then, to deny ourselves of something during that forty days. Every time we want that thing, we will be tempted. We, like Jesus need to call on the name of God to deliver us from that temptation. 

There is something powerful about self-denial. There is nothing wrong with "giving something up for Lent," even if you are not religious. It's the why that's important. Many people do so because they've been conditioned. Still, many others deny and deprive themselves because they want to identify with Jesus. Self-denial and self-discipline draw us closer to our Lord. It is not my job to determine someone else's why, just as it is not someone else's job to determine my "why-not."

Whether we observe Lent or not; whether we "give up something" or not, we are all brothers and sisters of the faith. We all serve the same God. We all believe in the same Jesus. I must repent of passing judgment on those who observe Lent. I commend you. You are stronger than I am. As is often my theme...let's not complicate things. We are all walking toward the common goal-Holy Week, Easter, the celebration of the miracle of our Risen Lord and King. Hallelujah!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Wiser One

Sad (and drugged) Lucy 
Lucy, aka Normal Dog, recently had a mass removed from her toe. Unfortunately, she lost the toe in the process. We managed to get Psycho Dog out of the house for awhile so Lucy can recuperate without being stalked and chased on top of everything else she's going through. 

She has to go out on a leash, which presents a problem. She pulls. And I'm restricted in my activities so I can't take her out. Brian has to do it when he's home, but I was faced with a dilemma...who will take her out during the day? Luckily, I raised an empathetic daughter who took pity on me and will come today. I bribed her with lunch. 

I'm also lucky that somewhere along the line, that daughter became the wiser of the two of us. Lucy wouldn't pee this morning; Brian had her out for 20 minutes. I guess she was so out of sorts, and couldn't find much grass. He went to work and I panicked. What do I do now? What if she has to go when no one is here to help me? How will I handle this? I texted Amy, my daughter, who has a dog and has learned a few things along the path of life (and maybe her mother?). This was her response: "Stop worrying about it. If she pees in the house she pees in the house...ur not supposed to be moving around a 70 lb dog...sit in ur chair and stop worrying about it."

When did my daughter become wiser than I? When did she start giving me advice that actually makes more sense than my own treadmill reasoning (around and around going nowhere)? maybe a long time ago and I never paid attention. Why was I getting myself in a dither? If Lucy pees in the house, I'll clean it up. Why was I over-complicating things...yet again???
No, this is not Amy and I. We are far better looking!

Sometimes we need to listen to people we think know less than us, especially our children. Adult children are just that...adults! They know things! Even the youngest children can teach us things because they have not yet learned to be hung up on life. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought (Rom12:3). This verse should be taken in context with the subsequent verses, which explain the gifts and how each of us needs to work together and not think more highly of the office we hold over the gift someone else might have. But doesn't it make sense in everyday life too? 

I know I don't have all the answers on any given day. Sometimes I need to be slapped to snap out of my ridiculous thinking (A text works the same way as a slap and doesn't hurt as much). Keep your mind, your heart and your ears open, and you just may hear what you need to hear. And you may be surprised at the source.

Thank you Amy.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Take a Step Out of the Boat

This weekend we went to see The Son of God (the movie, that is). I highly recommend it (even though I think it was all the cut scenes from last year's The Bible). 

There is something about seeing the words on the pages of the bible come to life; something about seeing the life of our Savior depicted on a big screen. I saw a lot of things differently, and a lot of things more clearly, more deeply.

One of my favorite scenes was when the disciples (and Mary) were in the boat during a storm, on their way to Gennesaret. They looked up and thought they saw a ghost. Of course, it was Jesus, who beckoned Peter to come to Him. Peter, who was so zealous for the Lord, started to climb out of the boat. He had faith enough to believe that if he climbed out of the boat onto, not into the water, that he, like Jesus could walk on the water. He didn't think he was like Jesus; rather, his belief was so strong that His Lord would not let any harm come to him, that it over-rode his common sense. Anyone knows that if you climb out of a boat, you will sink, not magically walk on top. But if Peter's Lord could do it, and beckoned Peter to come to Him, then surely he would be safe. It almost seemed as if Peter didn't stop to think logically; he just went with what He believed. It wasn't until he looked down that he began to sink. He looked down. He doubted. His faith faltered. But Jesus saved him anyway. You of little faith, why did you doubt? (Matt 14:31)


How many times have we doubted? We might get "faith-filled" and attempt to step out of the boat. We trust that God will be there for us; we have heard Him beckon, "Come." (Matt 14:29). We truly believe. We step out of the boat, even though it doesn't make sense. At first, it feels strange...unnatural...but we continue on. Then the storm increases, and we become afraid. We take our eyes off our Lord, the only one who can supernaturally solve our problem and keep us safe. We start to sink. We feel as if we are going to drown. What happened? You of little faith, why did you doubt?

Why indeed? Why do we doubt? Oftentimes, we listen to others...well intentioned people, maybe even believers who, like satan, say, "Did God really say that?" Our faith erodes a little. Once that little fracture is there, the enemy seizes the opportunity to zoom in and cause more doubt...until we look down.

It's hard to have faith sometimes, yet so simple. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and not listen to anyone else. If the Lord has told you something that may seem, in the natural, unlikely or impossible, yet you believe, don't listen to your friends, family or well-meaning bloggers. Listen only to the voice of God. Do not be swayed. Do not look down. Walk on the water!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Walk on the Water (Britt Nicole)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Power to Choose

We are having serious canine issues lately, to the point where we need to remove Psycho Dog from our home. It's been a very tense few weeks between trying to find some place for her and the things that are happening in our home that are affecting everyone.The most recent canine issue, early the other morning, led to a meltdown---mine. It put me in a horrendous mood and it was only 6:30am. 

I brought my bad mood back to bed, where it affected my husband, so I removed myself and my bad mood from the bedroom into the living room where I could wallow in my self-pity without feeling guilty for disrupting Brian's sleep. I cried out to God (quietly, so as not to further disrupt Brian's sleep...because I'm such a thoughtful wife..ahem, yeah, right...)...anyway, I quietly cried out to God, "I just can't take this anymore. I don't know what to do." 

At the moment, I felt helpless. My situation felt hopeless. 


Then I realized that all of this was setting the tone for my day...and Brian's. I realized that I would be in a bad mood and feel sorry for myself all day...over a dog!

Was I really going to let a dog determine my mood? Was I really going to cry out to God, yet ignore his gift of peace, readily available to me? Was I really going to give this dog the power to set the tone for the day? Power is exactly what I've let this dog have for the last 7 years, even though I would be the first to say that I'm in charge. Still, I may be in charge, but there's always a power struggle with this dog to the point of causing intense anxiety in the other dog. 

It's amazing what we let have power over us. A dog. A mood. A boss. A situation. A family member. Food. Anger. Unforgiveness. The list could go on and on. We let these things, or people determine our mood because we let them have power over us. 

Some things are easier than others to gain control over. But ultimately, we need to remember that God is in control. He has the power to change our situation, but we often need to do our part. We can't just sit back and do nothing; we have to be proactive to bring change. But God can give us the power to make those changes. Sometimes it just means a determined change of attitude; sometimes it means removing yourself from the situation to get a better perspective. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

I love Joyce Meyer's saying, "You can be pitiful or you can be powerful, but you can't be both." Which one will you choose today? You may have started out pitiful, but you can easily turn pitiful into powerful with a simple shift in attitude. It's a choice. We have been given the power to choose.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary



Song of the Day
More Love, More Power (Michael W. Smith)


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cryptic Messages

I love word puzzles, especially cryptograms. A cryptogram is a phrase which uses a scrambled alphabet that substitutes one letter for another. It's essentially something written in code. Using logic and patience, the code can be broken one letter at a time to reveal the phrase. It's a lot of fun, but can be very frustrating. I admit that sometimes I cheat by glancing at the answer...just enough to see the first word. If I can get a hint, I can usually finish on my own.

Sadly, people who don't know Jesus personally often look at the bible as a cryptogram. It is just a lot of words in a huge book. B-O-R-I-N-G! Many people try to read it from the beginning and don't get past Genesis, where all the fun stories are. 

It's a fascinating fact that once we accept Jesus as our Savior, the code is broken, the words come alive and our eyes are opened to the Truth. We are transported to the time and place we read about; at times it feels like we're right there. Sometimes we read something and it's just what we need to hear to encourage us. It's no longer a big, boring book of puzzles; all the pieces come together through the blood of the Lamb...all the dots connect through the knowledge of Jesus. The Word is alive. The Word brings Life. God wants us to enjoy learning from His Word!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Jesus is the Word. And Jesus is not a Cryptogram. He is simple and straightforward. His desire is never to confuse us, but to teach us, to love us and to show us how to love. Let's not complicate life more than it already is. Jesus broke the code for us. All we need to do is ingest it and let it nourish us.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Except When I Pray

I've been plagued lately with insomnia. Not the "up all night" kind; more like the "when I get up to go to the bathroom and lay (lie?) back down, I'm wide awake" kind. The problem with something like this is that when I wake up, I immediately worry that I won't get back to sleep; that thought alone will keep me awake.

I don't seem to have a lot of say in the matter. Either I'm awake or I'm not. My mind starts whirring, like a helicopter. Thoughts churn around and around until they come back again. Nothing I do seems to help. Except when I pray. 

I don't get out of bed. I don't turn on the light and grab my bible. I just lay (lie?) there and people start coming to mind. And I just send up a quick "think" prayer---you know, the kind where you don't really go into an actual prayer, but you just think about the person and their situation. After all, God knows my thoughts, so a think prayer counts just as much as a formal prayer does. 

Or, instead of dwelling on my problem at hand, I meditate on a scripture. I just keep repeating it in my head; something that might help my anxiety like, "I will not be afraid of the terror of night," (Ps 91:5). Because when I lay (lie?) awake in the middle of the night, I start thinking about things that might be wrong, and that can lead to more anxiety. Things escalate and become bigger in the middle of the night.

A similar thing happened immediately after I had surgery. I heard this voice, "You're in Recovery." I opened my eyes and tried to say, "Yay!" but nothing came out. But in my head I shouted, "Yay!" My mind was alert and almost on overdrive, but my body was at the other end of the spectrum. It was the strangest thing. I wanted to talk, but I couldn't. Very frustrating for a person who never shuts up. It could have been a reaction to the anesthesia...I don't know. I had to talk to myself in my head. I told myself to let them do their job; they know what they're doing. I told myself to relax, that my body would awaken when it's ready. I couldn't get relief. Except when I prayed. I don't remember what I prayed, but I remember that the only way I could calm myself down in my head was to pray. I believe I thanked and praised God. 

There is something soothing about prayer, whether it's for myself or others. It puts me into a different zone and I forget about the fact that I can't sleep...or can't wake up! Eventually, instead of my mind whirring like a helicopter, I feel a settling peace, my thoughts become more sparse and I even I start to forget that I'm praying. Calm trumps anxiety and I begin to drift off. When I couldn't wake up and talk, that calm gave me the ability to accept where my body was and needed to be...in a state of recovery. 

If you have an overactive mind, like I do, I'm sorry. There isn't a whole lot you can do about that. Nothing will turn it off. Except when you pray. Trust me...it works.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
In the Stillness (Ruth Fazal)..and others...apparently the link has many songs... (great music for helping you get to sleep!)







Monday, March 3, 2014

Listen to Your Doctor

"Listen to your doctor. Do what he tells you."

That's what everyone tells me. And I do, because I want to heal. When we visit the doctor and he (or she) gives us antibiotics for an infection, we take it as prescribed. We don't argue or take it as we like. Well, maybe some people do, but the general public typically takes medication as directed and takes a doctor's advice to heart. We don't tend to want to mess around with our health. We know that the doctor knows far more than we do. He's the expert, so we listen.

Why, then do we not do the same when we know God is telling us to do or not to do something, especially when it's for our own good? We balk, we rebel, we ignore His voice, and we excuse our behavior. Sadly, we often don't take our spiritual health as seriously as we do our physical health. We know that God knows far more than we do, that he is the expert...yet we seem to think we know better. Or, that we can get away with something. Or, that if we don't listen, it won't be that big of a deal. We know because we've tried it before and got away with it. We didn't die. We didn't get more sick. Do we not take our faith seriously enough?


Sure, we can get away with doing things our way, and we won't die. But we will fall away from grace for a time...but we can always come to God through the blood of Jesus and be forgiven, right? It's not like rebelling against taking a blood thinner, getting a blood clot and having a stroke. It's more like not taking the cough syrup and having that virus hang on longer than necessary. It's a small price to pay. Not a big one. Or is it? 

We fool ourselves. The more we disobey God, do things our own way and fall away from grace, the more we disobey, rebel and fall away until we are so used to it that we no longer hear the voice of God...or maybe we do, but we're confused as to whose voice we're hearing. We just go about our day doing things the way we "feel led," deceiving ourselves into thinking we're hearing from God. Eventually, we will get sicker...spiritually sick, and die...a spiritual death.

A few years ago, I told my cardiologist about a close family member who'd recently had bypass surgery and the specifics behind it. Because of family history, he grew very concerned and vowed to keep a close eye on my health and my heart, even though it's very healthy. His words were, "Not on my watch." I was very taken by the depth of his concern and dedication. 

But my cardiologist doesn't love me. He cares about me, but I'm guessing he wouldn't lay his life down for me. God does. He loves me so much that He proclaims those same words..."Not on my watch." He vows to keep a close eye on our spiritual health, even when we neglect it. He fights the battles for our soul in the heavenly realms. He gently woos us back when we turn the other way, when we become confused as to if we're hearing His voice or not. He gently whispers in our ear until we hear Him and return to Him in gratitude. That gratitude leads to obedience. 

We always have a choice. We can take our medicine and do what the doctor says.We can spend time in His Word and listen to our Great Physician. Or we can try to do things our own way. But we usually end up back at the Doctor when doing things our own way doesn't work. 

Listen to your Doctor. Do what He says.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day---just for fun
Put the Lime in the Coconut (Harry Nilsson)