CARDS

Are you one of those people? You know, a card hoarder. I think it could be genetic.

My grandmas saved shoeboxes full of precious cards and notes given to them by friends and family over the years. One grandma had every birthday and anniversary of her kids and grandkids penned on the wall calendar in the kitchen. She had a stash of all occasion cards, and I don’t remember Grandma forgetting any of her four kids and their spouses, eleven grandkids, and four great-grandkids’ birthdays until her last years.

When my grandparents passed, the family found many of these tucked away old cards and letters, bringing back memories, love and laughter, and the answers to long-held questions for those who craved knowing more about their family history.

As a child, we lived on the farm, and it was a big deal to go to town to do the shopping. I got an allowance for chores from an early age and learned to save for gifts. It wasn’t a lot of money, but things didn’t cost as much back then. Dad usually ended up with Aqua Velva and a tie every year. Many farmers wear them, you know. Mom would get a pretty necklace or embroidered handkerchief from Woolworth’s discount store. If there was any money left, my little brother might get a trinket. I usually saved for something bigger for myself, like one of those tiny turtles eventually banned from being sold because children were contracting salmonella from them. It’s a wonder I’m alive.

Anyway, if I didn’t make one, picking out the perfect card was serious business for me. I would go to the drug store and scan all the cards for just the right one for whom I was buying.

I remember one year, I must have been around eight years old and spent a considerable amount of time browsing the cards for Mother’s Day, and the card I picked out cost a dime over what I had in my pocket. I scanned the cards again to find the second-best, but my heart was set on the first one because it was the right message. I counted my money again to make sure. Sigh. As I walked away to pay for second-best, I saw a glint out of the corner of my eye, bent down, and picked up a dime that was on the floor partially hidden by the display rack. Happy doesn’t even begin to describe my good fortune that I still remember 52 years later. I cared that much about the message and so did God.

When we moved last year, I sorted through cards, letters, and old handwritten prayers from decades ago. It was fun to read my detailed petitions and marvel at how God answered them. They brought back memories of lean times, uncertainty, my grandparents, pain, helping people, Mother’s Day when my children were little, birthdays, anniversaries, apologies, thank you’s, and singing songs long forgotten. Some were store-bought, but the most cherished of all were the sentiments scribbled on a scrap of paper by a child’s hand.

Occasionally, I’ll find a note in one of my bibles or a book that comes at a time when the message or memory is dearly needed. For a moment, I’m taken back in time and encouraged with love and hope. Sometimes that’s all it takes to change the path of the day and fill me with humble gratitude.

So if you are a note and card keeper, I encourage you to be selective. While old messages of encouragement and love are comforting and welcome, anything less than should be sifted carefully. Your heart matters. Cover it with loving words. We want to move forward with joy, not stall while looking behind.

God cares about the messages you keep.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

THIS DAY

THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION

Thirty-one years ago, after two weeks of sobriety in a treatment program, while watching the 700 Club with Pat Robertson on television, I chose this day to come to Jesus in complete submission, and on my knees, humbly admitted my sinfulness and asked for forgiveness. Jesus welcomed me with open arms that were full of love, and yes, He forgave and saved me from myself and eternal damnation. Never in my life had I ever felt the feelings that followed this gift. Suffice it to say, no drug, drink, or vice could ever compare!

I learned over the years that my faith should not be based upon feelings because feelings are not always factual. Seven years after this day of rejoicing, I relapsed for a short time. I wasn’t spending time with Jesus, and I didn’t have people in my life to remind me. I didn’t know how to follow Him on my own. I didn’t realize that reading His Word would shine a light on His path for me to walk on. Now, I nurture my relationship with the Lord, protecting my mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I’m assured of God’s love daily by reading the Bible and spending time with Him in prayer. In the past, when I had to be at work by 6 AM, my feet hit the floor by 4 AM so I had time to begin my day with Jesus. I fellowship with other believers who hold me accountable and remind me that God is in control and I am not. I love hearing how God works all things for good in the lives of others through their testimonies and encouragement!

Psalm 51:3-19 says, “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your mercy. According to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was born in iniquity and in sin when my mother conceived me. Surely You desire truth in the inner being. Make me know wisdom inwardly.
Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness, so the bones You crushed may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from Your presence— take not Your Ruach ha-Kodesh from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will return to You. Deliver me from bloodguilt, O God— God of my salvation. Then my tongue will sing for joy of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.
For You would not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it, nor be pleased by burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Even in the tough times, and there will always be times of pain, turmoil, sadness, and injustice until we are in Heaven, God sustains us and gives us hope when we trust Him. If you have ever wanted someone to take the load off your shoulders, God is the One. His shoulders are broad.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

You won’t be sorry.

ROCK

Just as I can’t invalidate the feelings and first-hand experiences of others, they cannot invalidate mine.

Feelings and experiences are subjective and personal, which is why faith cannot be dependent upon them. Even scientific objectivity is fluid and constantly changing. A doctor once told me medicine isn’t an exact science. Well, that wasn’t reassuring to me! If science depends on fallible man’s perception and evaluation, how is it ever exact?

The Holy Bible, as the Living Word of God, has stood the test of time for those who love Jesus. Science can’t disprove it but instead is supporting biblical authenticity and reliability.

https://biblearchaeology.org/research/topics/amazing-discoveries-in-biblical-archaeology/4852-important-biblical-archaeological-discoveries-in-2021-an-update-from-dr-bryant-wood

https://www.icr.org/article/modern-scientific-discoveries-verify-scriptures/

https://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/theology/bible-archaeology.php

Our perceptions may question and threaten to cause doubt in our minds. But through faith and God’s Word and even scientific discoveries, we can know in our hearts that God is in control, always loving, protecting, and guiding for good.

Thank you, Lord, for being the constant in my life.

You are my rock.

“There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2

PRESSING ON

In response to someone who asked why so many older couples are selling their homes and moving to places far away from their families to spend retirement:

I lived away from my family for over 35 years for various reasons, primarily job-related. Our children didn’t grow up knowing their extended families. We learned to live our lives independently, sometimes only seeing our families once a year on holidays or even less. In this absence, we created our own traditions. We didn’t have built-in free babysitters for going out. No big vacations, we camped. Rarely eating out, I cooked. I cut my kids’ hair, we wore second-hand clothes, and for years I made a lot of the gifts we gave.  You do what you have to and make do.

The best explanation I have for why we decided to move is God opened a door, and we gratefully grabbed at the opportunity to walk through it. We lived 35 years in Colorado. Now that we are almost to retirement age and our kids are all grown, we decided it was time to start over in a little warmer climate, in a more centralized location to our families, where it’s more affordable to live out the rest of our years. 

Most people are happy for us. We haven’t been treated very well by some. Others are just curious as to “Why?” because we now live in Oklahoma in a more rural area with a slower lifestyle and horses, cows, and steers as our neighbors down the road. On the other hand, you won’t meet friendlier people, and there is something to be said for a land covered with an abundance of tree species, wildlife, water, and green everywhere. It’s a different kind of beauty from Colorado’s mountains. Still, for a body and mind parched from the crowds and arid insignificance, it may not be for everybody but it’s an oasis of respite for us until the Lord calls us home.

I sometimes miss the old holiday gatherings from long ago with all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but this is a much different world in which we live. It was prophesied to be this way and has been in the works for centuries. Our dependence needs to be on the Lord, not our parents, children, families, or other entities. God is the Sustainer. 

Frankly, I don’t know how I would have made it through the thick of life without Him, but

I am looking forward, not behind.

Not that I have already obtained this or been perfected, but I press on if only I might take hold of that for which Messiah Yeshua took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself as having taken hold of this. But this one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal for the reward of the upward calling of God in Messiah Yeshua.

Philippians 3:12-14

PIVOT

OUR OLD PUP, CHANSE.

The other day I was having so much fun playing fetch with our new pup, Dandy, in the backyard. He is only 11 weeks old but quick as a whip and loves to chase a ball and slide into it with a flourish, just like a kid would dramatically dive and slide to catch a football.

We try to expose him to new experiences and sounds, but the neighbor’s toy dog’s high-pitched, tiny yip stops him in mid-stream. Forget about finishing any job he set out to do when that happens; he high-tails it for the door with wide eyes as big as marbles.

How fast we can turn on a dime when one of our basic instincts kicks in. I’ve seen sweet mothers turn into a grimacing, staring, barely civil force to be reckoned with when their child hurts. I’ve also seen people make an about-face when they know a reward, good or bad, is coming. Sometimes the behavior sticks afterward, and sometimes it doesn’t. What motivates people to make permanent, pivotal changes in their life when a reward isn’t enough?

Sometimes discomfort does, and sometimes it doesn’t. Some of us keep going through the same pain, over and over, because we won’t change our ways even with warnings. Often those who overcome their fear of change clear the hurdles to more happiness and less discomfort.
The people who don’t make lasting changes are likely expecting others to change, so they don’t have to. It can be a long wait.

Overcomers not only seek answers but follow their findings.

Every pivot we make in our lives requires a decision. We decide to search for God. We decide we need Jesus. We decide to quit drinking alcohol, smoking, taking drugs, and celebrating things God convicts us to forgo not only for our good health but for the benefit of the people we love. We can decide our body is a temple, belonging to the Lord, on loan from Him while we reside on earth. We can choose to eat healthier. We choose to read and study the Bible to know our Creator better and follow Him.

Even though we sometimes flounder, wander, and stumble, it’s only a reminder of the ability of fear, ego, pride, and arrogance to pull us down.

We can choose to gather humility and pivot back toward True North, with Jesus Christ as our navigator. His love never changes.

This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

Clean

I recently got a little nostalgic and checked out the houses for sale in my small hometown in Iowa. I saw a home on the same street where my dad bought a house in his retirement years. It looked vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t sure if the address was the same. I couldn’t remember, and I was hoping it wasn’t.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be the same house he sold in 2003. It was unrecognizable and was in such horrible shape it looked like it could have been used as a crack house. The outside was in disrepair and needed painting. The inside was much worse. The carpets were torn up and filthy, and the walls were covered in what looked like mold or something splattered. I could see where a poster had hung, perfectly silhouetted by a layer of smoke residue. The blinds on the windows were broken and
bent.

With his own hands, Dad had gutted and remodeled the kitchen with new cupboards, countertops, wood laminate floor, fixtures, paint, etc., before he sold it. The only thing that still looked in reasonably decent shape was the floor. It made me sad to see what it looks like now.

We were raised to take care of our things to the best of our ability, even if they were used, old, and cheap. This included our clothes, toys, tools, appliances, and cars, as well as our homes. At the very least, when money is scarce or possessions are meager, keeping your home and yard clean and tidy give a sense of control. The calming effect is real, not only while you live there but also when you move or sell. A discipline of continued light upkeep saves time when it’s necessary to deep clean.

That said, I know some beautiful people who have relegated housecleaning to a lower rung on their list of priorities, and that’s their prerogative. Mary was an example when she sat listening at Jesus’s feet while her sister Martha scurried around trying to make things nice for Him. Mary’s reward was Martha’s lesson.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42

A common misunderstanding is that the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is in the Bible. Many parents have tried to pass that off to their kids as scriptural (my lips are sealed) when it’s not, in that sense.

2 Corninthians 7:1 says,
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to com
pletion in fear of God.”

Of Jesus’s disciples, I can imagine Matthew, a tax collector, was calculated and meticulous, where Simon, a fisherman, was more laid back and, well, dirty and smelly. Both had their spiritual faults and physical and occupational differences, and both were essential in God’s plan for the world.

I find great comfort in knowing this:
Whether you decide to clean your house or come as you are,
Jesus welcomes you with open arms.

ORDINARY

Are you content to be ordinary?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “ordinary” as:

  1. common
  2. no exceptional ability
  3. not particularly good

In 2003, Robert S. McGee wrote a book and Bible Study called “The Search For Significance,” which detailed how to overcome our insecurities about our abilities and use our talents with freedom from the opinions of others and the pressures we place upon ourselves. The book was a huge success and became a classic, helping Christians to look past the lies they’ve been told about their worthiness and look to Christ for love, acceptance, and self-worth. 

As I look around at the world today, I see so much neediness as people grasp all sorts of things to fill the void in their lives; drugs, alcohol, food, sugar, social media, pornography, technology, work, exercise, and even church. When a person seeks relief from what ails them, “cures” abound. When one tool no longer fills the need, it’s easy to find a replacement.  

Temporal remedies, by nature, never last long. They only allow more time to avoid our need for Jesus in our lives. 

Yesterday I wrote about habits and how we cultivate them all the time. Without a doubt, developing a relationship with Jesus Christ is the best habit I’ve ever formed. Even with an imperfect life, He gives me joy. When I’m in pain, I have hope. When I feel insecure, I know I can run to Him for encouragement. When I’m afraid, He comforts. When I’m lonely, He reminds me He is always with me. When I feel beaten down by the world, He lifts me. 

Isn’t simple faith what most of us are looking for; knowing in our heart that we are loved and acceptable through Jesus who made us so? We don’t have to do anything to prove our worth because we are worthy by His grace. When I felt the gift of grace was when everything else paled in comparison.

I’ve never heard anyone say they were sorry they knew Jesus, but I’ve listened to many regrets that it took so long to want to.

You are more than ordinary.

If you are His, you are chosen, and your significance is His Glory. 

Believe and respond.

For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:14

CHANGES

I was sitting here after consulting the Lord, wondering what I should write about today. Daily writing is part of a new discipline I’m trying to develop. Even if it’s only for fifteen minutes, it’s a start.  

We learn new habits all the time. Whenever God blesses us with an opportunity, lesson, or sweet reward, He helps us make the needed adjustments to glorify His name.  

Parents who have their first baby find themselves doing things that used to repulse them, like changing dirty diapers and getting up much earlier than they ever imagined. They seek information to give the best care to their little one, and the lion they never knew they had inside reveals in a protective posture against anyone who might do their child harm.

A new job can bring many changes; different hours, new location, learning skills, and more personality challenges to navigate while enjoying income security.

Lessons are not a bad thing, but some lessons are so complicated, if we aren’t careful, they can cause us to stagnate and look down instead of reaching up for the helping hand. 

Lessons that involve other people and how we react to what they have done or not done can be devastating. A single proactive prayer when facing the temptation to respond without the Lord in mind is grounding.  

One of the most challenging things I ever did was start praying for someone who hurt me deeply. I didn’t pray for them to get what I thought they deserved; I prayed for them to be healthy, happy, and prosperous. So hard to do. I didn’t mean it as the words left my mouth but almost without notice, the day came when the prayer was effortless, and I knew I had come through it, and everything was going to be okay. 

Cursing the darkness doesn’t make it go away, but praying and embracing the light will. Make the changes in yourself, and the rest will follow. God will sustain you in the thickness and bring you through to the other side. 

You are loved. 

You are worthy.  

You can do this.  

Let Jesus help you.

“For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

SWEEPING

I remember in the 60s, a time when most mothers stayed home, but my mom worked outside the home. It wasn’t a popular choice. She didn’t have to, but she always insisted on having her own money and told stories of working as a teenager cleaning people’s homes for hours and getting paid hardly anything. The money she did make, Grandma took to pay bills. It was a time of frugality and meager survival, but Mom said they always had plenty of delicious food on the table. I have no doubt these experiences molded Mom’s choices later in life.

Have you ever noticed, so often, a person’s early life experiences direct their later choices in such a way to reflect the exact opposite of what they went through? It’s like a knee-jerk reaction because they don’t want to repeat the negative experiences and emotions, and it’s such a personal thing because each person perceives an experience differently. It explains why parents who have raised all their children alike might have adult children who live and parent their children very differently than their parents did.

Oh, to be in the stage of life where looking back brings a comfortable understanding and humble forgiveness offered to others, as well as ourselves, for our young insecurities and lack of knowing better. We can even forgive those aware of what they are doing, and we do not need their permission. We can decide to keep our side of the street clean without sweeping the trash to the other side. It is truly a sweet time of reflection and closure to give the gift of mercy, forgiveness, and love and to accept it.

Time stands still, and the heart is finally at peace. Thank you, Heavenly Father. Thank you so much for never letting go.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

MORNING

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
shining brighter and brighter until the full day.
Proverb 4:18

Sometimes I don’t wake up feeling like I’m shining very brightly. But having a cup of coffee and taking time to spend with the Lord is a crucial component to my day getting brighter and better. It took a long time to learn that I could control my attitude toward mornings. Mornings don’t master me.

Our hope is with Jesus!

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