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My Dog Has a Chipmunk Problem

Big Bryan

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

My dog is obsessed with the chipmunks living under the deck.  He whines and barks at them through the window as they run and play, stopping to munch on a nut or vegetation right in front of the glass door.  Just two or three feet and a glass pane separate him from his nemesis.  Once I let him out for his relief breaks he runs from burrow to burrow, sometimes forgetting why he was let out.  Then he comes inside and realizes he needs to go out.  All day he paces, whines and cries and nothing I do distracts him from those chipmunks.  He is obsessed and cannot focus on anything else.  

I am going to go out on a limb and say that we too can become obsessed with things.  In fact, like those chipmunks in the window, we are also distracted.  Everywhere you turn there are commercials, radio advertising, billboards, emails, news reports and the topic of every conversation you take part in.   The Covid-19 situation is on the forefront of every communication.  Stirring up fear, worry and questions.  We spend a lot of time pacing and trying to figure out what will happen next.

I have begun limiting my exposure to Covid-19 reports, articles and news.  Some would say this is not prudent.  However, I disagree. I am not sticking my head in the sand, instead I am controlling what I expose myself to.  It is true we need to know what is going on in our communities, governments and the world, but there is a limit.  Instead of subsisting on a continual buffet of Covid reports, information and speculation, we should limit how much time we spend reading and submerging ourselves in the ongoing situation. I know that is not easy, you cannot listen to the radio or watch TV without every commercial being about the Covid 19 virus, but you have the power to choose what and how much you digest.  Do not allow yourself to be distracted to the point of neglecting yourself. This constant exposure can intensify fear, loneliness, depression and aggression.  Enjoy time with family, make time for study and prayer, enjoy a good meal or take a walk.  You have the power to limit your exposure and protect yourself.  

I put curtains up on the door and Bryan is much calmer.  He still knows the chipmunks  are there and checks out the burrows every time we go out, but he is not obsessed anymore because the constant stimuli has been curtailed. 

Typist for Jesus

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Spring Planting

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

Spring has sprung and the yard is filled with roses, azaleas, and tulips.  I love this time of year as nature comes alive with color. It is also time to plant vegetables.  Now that we have a house, my daughter and I are excited about having a small garden. This past week she planted seven different items and every day we have checked for the seedlings to emerge.  Of the seven planted four have broken the surface. By Friday my daughter was disappointed that we still had three pots with no development. Rereading the seed packets we discovered that some seeds take longer to germinate than others and this explained the delay. Now we can look forward to them emerging when they should. 

It is the same with the seeds we plant in people’s lives.  I often get frustrated when I do not see a change or growth.  That is because I have forgotten my role. It is my role to plant the seed, but God’s to give the increase.  It is hard to remember that when you care about someone. You only want the best for them. You want them to know the peace and assurance you have in Jesus but that is between them and God.  Plant the seed, water the seed but ultimately know that God gives the increase. 

Seeds emerge in God’s time.

Typist for Jesus

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A Parade All My Own

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

I recognized the sound.  The thump and lope of a flat tire.  I coasted to the grass along the country lane.  Getting out of the car I saw that the tire was flat and coming off the rim.  It was my first time to travel this road and I had only gone a few yards when I realized it wasn’t a road made for my little car.  I should have turned around, but I thought I would just carry on and that is when I hit the pothole and ended the life of the rear driver’s tire. 

I explained the situation to my daughter and got on the phone with a towing company.   Thirty minutes later the truck backed up in front of my car. What happened next was bizarre, hilarious and unexpected.  The driver explained to me that because of the Covid-19 we could not ride in the cab with him. I stared back at him. “Well,” I began. “I can call my other daughter to come to get us.”

“So, I do have another option.” He said, a twinkle in his eye. “You can ride in the car back to the shop.”

Windows down, seat belts on, my daughter and I princess waved as we rode down the main street.  People pointed and laughed. Some stared and some chose to ignore the spectacle. I will admit it was great fun!  A parade all our own. As I was enjoying the ride and of course the attention, I thought about how sometimes in your life you just must be carried.  I had to trust the driver not only with my property but the lives of myself and my daughter. It was an unusual event in unusual circumstances. 

Today across the world people are living in fear.  The world has a common enemy. Not just of the virus that is storming every city, village, and town, but the worry about jobs, finances, health, losing a lease or home and the future of each of us and our loved ones.  Now more than ever we need hope and faith. And now more than ever, the world needs to see Jesus. That is where we as Christians come in. You may be the only example of Jesus some may see.

We keep reading the same phase in news reports and articles, “These are unprecedented times.”  These may be unprecedented times for the world, but this is no surprise to God.  Allow him to carry you through this. Share your faith and hope in Jesus. Hold fast to your faith.

Typist for Jesus

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Keeping Your Head When Everyone's Losing Theirs

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6

I was talking to my daughter one evening. She was reading articles offline and on Facebook. The stories were shocking about what lows people were stooping. As she read the headlines, I could hear her panic beginning to rise. “Mom, these people are nuts; they have lost their minds!”

“Yes, I said, it appears they have. We are going to see a lot more stories about people doing despicable and irrational things. We need to remember that this is a small slice of society. Despite what you see and hear about, remain grounded and do not let this mania take over.”

Over the next few weeks, you will see some extraordinary things. You will witness people reacting out of fear. Do not allow these stories or other’s actions to draw your focus away from Jesus. Keep your head. Do not respond, but think and use the reason God has given you. 

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

During this time, remember to keep your focus on the cross. Do not allow yourself to get tangled up in the hype or panic.  

Typist for Jesus

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Do Not Fear!

Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

I had stopped at the Dollar Tree to get a couple of things for a project that I am about to begin.  While I was looking for the glue sticks, I heard a lady cough. That cough was then followed by an eruption of coughing.  The cough was deep and raspy, it erupted from her chest and echoed throughout the small store. I didn’t pay much attention, at first, but then the hacking continued.  I stepped out of the aisle and cast a caution eye across the shop. The store was quiet except for the coughing. The employees had stopped ringing, the customers had stopped shopping and the manager stood in the front.  Her indecision written all over her face. It was mixed with a genuine look of fear. Everyone had stopped what they were doing and all their attention was focused on the middle aged lady in aisle three. 

I will admit that for the first time during this Covid-19 situation, I was experiencing genuine fear.  With every cough, my mind raced and questioned. Should I leave my shopping and exit the store? Could she be infected and has she just infected us all?  The hurricane of questions gained speed in my brain, tearing through my sense of peace. I wasn’t the only one caught in the swirl of uncertainty. My fellow patrons stood motionless, their faces betraying their thoughts. The chill of fear emanated from us all.   

God commands us to not fear.  In fact, “do not fear” is in the Bible 80 times.  Seems to me that if it is repeated this often, then God wants to bring home the point.  Whenever we allow fear to control us, we are decreasing hope and limiting our victory. We cannot let hope fall to fear.  We have to hold on to our hope in Christ with both hands. Without it, there is no victory. 

I know that this is a confusing  time, unprecedented in our lifetimes, however, no matter what you hear, no matter what you see, remember, God is ultimately in charge. You have nothing to fear.  His Word tells us so.

Do not fear, but rather encourage your faith.  Encourage those in your life. Do not let fear win over.

Typist for Jesus

Out of the Mouths of Babes

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And (Jesus) said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

As Vivian’s mom was tucking her in, something caught her eye.  Laying on the nightstand was the glass baby Jesus from the Nativity scene.

“There it is!” Her mother exclaimed as she picked up the figure.  “I have been looking for this.”

Vivie sat up and snatched the tiny effigy of a sleeping baby. “Mom I don’t want you to pack Jesus away.”  Furrowed brows and pouting lips conveyed her feelings.  She held the tiny figure close to her heart.

“Well, we have to put him with the Nativity scene.  He needs to be with his family.” Her mother cooed. “So, we can put the Nativity up again next year.”

“No.  I want him to stay with me!” Vivian flung herself back down on the bed and closed her hand tightly around baby Jesus.

“Ok”, her mother answered and cover her up again.

Vivie put the baby Jesus back on her nightstand and drifted off to sleep.

When my friend shared this story, I laughed and then I really thought about that little girl’s words and actions.  Like Vivian, we all should desire to have Jesus with us always.  Not packed up in Christmas decor or only mentioned on Sunday, but rather in our day to day lives.  Vivian has a desire to have and keep Jesus close to her. Do you have a desire for Jesus? Do you long to have him close?

I think we all can take a lesson from little Vivie.

Typist for Jesus

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When You Are Weak, Jesus is Strong

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:9

I was tired, hungry, frustrated and I all I wanted was to get home.  The ride had been nerving with sheets of rain and bumper to bumper traffic.  I finally made it to my exit and there, my hopes of getting home were quickly dashed when I pulled up behind a long line of cars waiting at the railroad tracks.  Heaving a heavy sigh, I leaned back in the seat and cast my eyes upward. As I waited the rain began to slow and the dense cover of gray began to lighten.  When I sat upright, I saw one of the most distinct rainbows.  Each of the colors was bold, spaced perfectly and brilliantly glowed. It looked as if it were rising just before me. So close I wondered if it were possible to touch. My eyes followed the bow to its end, just across the railroad tracks.  Each row of color no less bright than at the starting point.  I smiled. God was giving me a reminder.

Many times, in our life’s we run up against obstacles.  It can be our health, finances, people and sometimes it is ourselves.  The good news is that no matter what you are dealing or faced with, God’s grace can reach you and remains with you before, during and continues with you after the obstacle has passed. 

Grace is all we need. It does not mean that things will turn out the way you want, or that every prayer will be answered but it does mean that no matter what you face his grace is sufficient to see you through the trail or tribulation that you face.

When you are weak, Jesus is strong.

Typist for Jesus

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Taking Out the Trash

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13

I had just pulled the covers up over my body when I remembered that the garbage needed to go to the road.  After two years living in an apartment, there are things that I have gotten out of the habit of doing.  Taking the garbage to the road is one. Maybe, I thought, I can take it up tomorrow before I leave for work.  Or maybe it can wait until next week.  No, I thought, I better get it to the road tonight. I reluctantly threw the covers off and stepped into my house shoes. 

Flashlight in one hand and the wheelie tote in the other, I started up the hill that is my driveway.  At first the drive is a gentle incline for the first two-thirds, then there is a sharp incline and finally a lip that brings the drive level with the road. As I pulled the wheelie up the drive, gravity tugged back. “Good gracious!” I grumbled. “What is in this can that is so heavy?” Every step seemed to add ten pounds to the tote.

Reluctantly, the garbage can popped over the lip. I stood on the side of the road in the inky black night, my flashlight penetrating only a couple of feet, to catch my breath.  Back down the drive I began shuffling my house shoes.  Back inside I locked back up and returned to the comfort of my bed.  As I lay waiting on slumber to claim me, I thought about that little escapade. 

Everyone has garbage.  As I was pulling that wheelie up the drive, I thought about all the garbage that all of us drag along behind us.  All that emotional trash weighing us down, impeding us from moving forward, and bogging us down. We all have refuse but we have to learn to unhook it and move on.  Oh much easier said than done.  I know it well.

Emotional garbage is unforgiveness, pride, fear, guilt and shame.  We just can’t allow ourselves to let go of things, so we drag our totes of trash up and down the hills picking up more along the way. 

Do you harbor unforgiveness of another or maybe yourself? We are commanded to forgive but it is not just others, it is for ourselves as well. Have you forgiven yourself? Isn’t time you stopped blaming yourself?  Punishing yourself? Tossed out the guilt and shame?

We all have done sinful things.  Said hurtful words to people. Made selfish choices.  We are all guilty of these sins, but dragging it around with you, allowing it to afflict you, robs you of the freedom gained from forgiveness. How can you show Jesus’ love and His desire to forgive and heal if you are unwilling to accept it yourself?  Jesus forgave you, so maybe it is time to forgive yourself.

Stop dragging that garbage around. 

Typist for Jesus

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A Bitter Cup

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15

I poured hot black coffee into my favorite cup and then followed up with sugar and cream that turned my cup light. I went down the hall to my office and settled into my chair. I was eager to get the hot coffee in my body and get the caffeine pumping. Lifting the cup to my lips, I grimaced. It was bitter and disappointing. I set it on my desk and stared at it. So now I had to decide if I was going to drink from the bitter cup.

 I have the choice of whether or not to drink from my bitter cup, and I have the option of whether or not to allow bitterness to fill my heart. But how can I do that? How do I prevent bitterness from entering into my life?  

  The straightforward answer is forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness leads to resentment and bitterness. I have said and heard others say, “I just can’t forgive,” possibly it is more about an unwillingness to forgive. When we have an unforgiving spirit, our eyes are not on Jesus; they are fixed on ourselves. You may be thinking, but you don’t understand, you don’t know what they did. You don’t know what I suffered.  That is true, I do not know, but Jesus does. Jesus understands. He lived a perfect life, yet he was beaten, spit on, mocked, and finally nailed to a cross.  

Pray for those that have wronged you. It is challenging to remain unforgiving toward someone that you are praying. I am not saying that it is easy, I know personally, it is not. However, we are to forgive because Jesus forgave us.  

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All Fogged Up

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

I was driving to work this morning, it was raining and foggy.  Because my sight was diminished, I slowed down.  As the fog increased in thickness, I noticed that the other commuters we still flying past me.  It made me nervous and I was very put off that they were continuing to go fast. Could they not see the fog?  As I left the long stretch of dark highway to the lighted lanes going into the city, I noticed the fog wasn’t outside the car it was my windshield.  I turned on defrost and the window quickly cleared.

Boy, did I feel silly, however we all do it every day.  Not in our cars but rather by what lens we choose to look out. We are all different and have been subjected to many different experiences.  We have seen, participated or been victim to prejudice and stereotyping.  We all have opinions and preconceived ideas and thoughts about certain people, races and religions.  It is human nature.  But as Christians, true Christ followers, we need to reject those lenses and focus on the lens that Jesus uses when he looks at us.  Jesus does not look at the hairstyle, the color of the skin, the language or culture of a people, he looks at the individual heart.   Do not allow yourself to be distracted by skewed lenses, rather learn to look at one another with Jesus’ lens.

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Heart Clutter

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.  1Corinthians 14:33

My house looks like I am auditioning for the TV show, Hoarders. Since my daughter and the baby have been staying with me, my house has become cluttered and chaotic. Throw in the mix that I am preparing to move. I have boxes and stacks of stuff everywhere. Boxes labeled give away, keep and the favorite, “thinking about”. You know those items; the ones that really should go but I keep hanging on to them.  

My house is in such disarray right now, that I have trouble just walking in some rooms. There is no counter space in the bath or kitchen because there is simply too much stuff. At some point, I need to evaluate and let go of things that are broken or serve no purpose. I do not want to move into my new home with the clutter of the past.

It is hard sometimes to let go of things. Guilt, anger, shame, and pain seem to linger in the corners of our hearts. They clutter up our thoughts, sometimes our relationships and our connection to God. If there is so much clutter in your heart, you are depriving yourself. Heart clutter breeds confusion, it holds you back from realizing the plan God has for you. It gets in the way of your relationships because you cannot let go of the guilt or maybe the pain you have suffered. We desperately hang on to the clutter of the past, reluctant to let it go. I think one reason may be because if we forgive if we release ourselves and others, we open ourselves up to more potential harm. In some way, we feel protected by the clutter.

Jesus does not want this burden for you. He wants you to lay it down at His feet and allow Him to heal you. Allow Jesus to come into your heart and give you freedom from the clutter.

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The Gift Isn’t Under the Tree, It Is in the Manger

For God so loved the World, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV

I stopped off at the Walmart on the way home from work. I had three things that I needed. I went in with the purpose of getting just those three but by the time I made it to the checkout counter, the cart was full of clothes and toys for the grand baby. I find myself in the toys and infant clothing every time I go to the store. I want to make sure that my grandchild has all that she could possibly want or need. I want her to have comfortable warm clothing and toys that engage her mind and delight her. I was the same way with my children and to be honest I still am, the cart had a few things for them as well.

It is natural to want your children to be happy and have everything they need and we have an internal drive to do so. God is much the same in His desire for His children. He has provided a beautiful world, an array of beautiful animals, relationships, family, food to satisfy all tastes, and His son for the salvation of His beloved.

God loves you and me so much, He gave us so many wonderful things but the most important gift was His son Jesus. This season as you shop for your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or neighbor kids, remember that the most important gift that you can impart to these children and those in your life is Jesus. We want so much for our children, we want to give them everything we can, and we become distracted by the glitz and glamour of the marketed Christmas. Before you fill the space under the tree, take time to share the real story and the true meaning of Christmas. It is not about what is under the tree, rather what was laid in the manger.

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Does Your Life Produce Good Fruit?

This week I received a sad phone call.  A lady that was a family friend had passed away. As this person related the information to me, they shared with me their memories and thoughts on this lady.  They began, “She was a godly woman, kind and loving she was faithful.”

As I listened, I realized that they were describing the fruits of the Spirit. This woman had left a legacy and had lived her life, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit.  

My caller went on to describe that this lady had not had a perfect or easy life. She had suffered loss, dealt with health issues, buried a grandchild and like the rest of us struggled.  However, she strived to stay upbeat and trusted the Lord to bring her through the trials. Her faith had seen her through some difficult periods in her life. 

When our time is done here on earth, how will we be remembered?  Will our life be recognized as one that exhibited the fruits of the Spirit? 

What legacy will you leave?

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Trials and Tribulations are Universal

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

One of the most enjoyable experiences of my European adventure was the opportunity to meet regular people just like me.  On evenings when we were not too exhausted, my fellow travelers and I would venture out in the little “neighborhood.” One evening we decided to try the small Italian restaurant on the same street as our hotel.  It was a quaint little place with little bistro tables and chairs along the sidewalk. A tall man with a white apron and bow tie invited us to sit. The table was in the open window and looked out on the street. We placed our drink orders and studied the menu.  After we placed our orders, we discussed our day. As we chatted, I noticed a young man smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk. He paced up and down, glancing at us.

I admit we all became a little apprehensive.  The young man crushed the cigarette and sat down at a table outside the window.  Leaning in, he addressed us with a thick accented, “Hello.” We returned the greeting and engaged in conversation.  

He was from Brittany but had lived in Paris for many years.  He gestured down the street. “I live there.” He struggled with English, but overall we had no trouble understanding and conversing with him.  He said many times that he hoped to revisit America. He had been twice and enthusiastically told us how much he loved it. As the conversation continued, he painted a different story of Paris than I had formed.  I asked him why he would want to leave Paris? Every day he woke up in the most beautiful city in the world. He looked down at the table and ran his finger on the edge. “I wake up in Paris every day with uncertainty.  I do not have a job, and I may have to move back to my parents. I am only out tonight because my friends are treating me to dinner.”  

Our food came, and the young man excused himself.  That evening as I said my prayers, I remembered that man to God.

The next morning we rose early.  We had a full day and a long bus ride ahead of us.  It was still dark when we arrived at the tour bus agency.  It was chilly, and I hugged my sweater to my body. As we waited for the bus to arrive, I glanced down the row of businesses.  At first, I thought it was an old blanket discarded, but as I looked closer, I realized it was a person asleep in a doorway. This realization left me a bit disappointed.  I had in my mind a different Paris. A city of romance, culture, and history.  

Often we think that our difficulties and suffering are unique.  However, hardship, misery, and despair are universal. Meeting this young man reminded me that everywhere there are people just like you and me. It does not matter how many museums, cathedrals, castles, or stone buildings there are in a city; there are still people that are hurting.  

I am sorry to say that I tend to focus on my troubles, causing me to forget that others are dealing with their issues. By focusing on our problems, we look inward rather than to Jesus. We also miss the opportunity to share His love by reaching out to those in need. 

As you face tribulations and trials in your life, remember that you are not alone.  Jesus is with you, guiding you and helping you to face them. Remember also that you are not the only one that is dealing with financial, marital, employment or health issues. Never pass up an opportunity to help others in their time of need.  If you are helping others, you will not be focused on your problems which can produce anxiety and depression. Be there for others and allow them to minister to you.  

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Oh Deer

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God Deuteronomy 28;1-2

It was sudden, the thud and a blur of brown in the headlights.  I slammed the brakes, and the car slid to a stop. The brown flash now hit the car again, and I realized that it was deer. She hit the hood and bounced, hitting the grass of the field, rolling, struggling to get her legs under her.  I got out of the car and watched the doe charge to the trees. I inspected the damage to my vehicle. It was not too bad, but my heart sunk.  

The next day as I spoke to the insurance adjuster, I retold the story.  She asked me at what speed I was going at the time of the collision.  

“Oh, that’s easy,” I replied, “I was doing just under 25.” 

“Well, you are lucky.  We get several claims, and many times the car is totaled and often the drivers injured as well.  If the deer goes through the windshield, it can be awful. I am glad you are ok.”

I was passing through a school zone at the time.  What was intriguing was that school was out, but the lights were still flashing.  It was an icy morning, and the county had delayed the start of school. As I pulled out onto the road, I knew that school was out, but because the lights were flashing, I chose to obey the rules.  I’ll be honest I thought of ignoring it as did many of the cars that passed me, but I was compelled to observe it anyway.  

After I hung up the phone, I thought about that decision and reflected on what the agent had said.  If I had chosen to ignore the law and had been driving faster, the outcome could have been very different. 

Many people chose to ignore the laws, not just traffic but God’s commandments.  Commonly, many people feel that God’s laws are restrictive. Old fashioned and do not pertain to today’s world.  I submit that God’s laws are not restrictive but instead intended for our good. Often we chose to disobey God’s requirements, and in doing so, we find ourselves suffering the consequences of our choices.  God gave us his Word so that we will know how to live our lives in obedience. Being obedient to God may seem difficult or oppressive; however, it is for you to have an abundant and peaceful life.  

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E D I T S

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

For the past couple of weeks, I have been going over the edits for the Mustard Seeds, Modern Parables book. What I have learned is that I have no idea how to use a comma, I either have too many or not enough.  

The purpose of editing a manuscript is to make improvements. Tedious, time-consuming, and at times painful but necessary. It is my least favorite part of writing.  

The ultimate goal of the Christian is to become more like Christ, the very image of our savior. It is a life-long process and will only be complete when we stand in the presence of Christ Jesus. Throughout our lives, we undergo a similar exercise of modification. As we grow in Christ, we are continually in situations and trials; these tests are to strengthen our faith and to improve us as Christians.  

For us to become more like Christ, we must be open and willing to undergo the “edits.” 

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We Are to Serve, Not to be Served

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy France (picture by Melissa Levi)

As the bus came out of the trees, Mont Saint Michel rose up out of the salt marshes of Normandy. Its spire, like a finger, pointed heavenward. Blue skies with the occasional wisp of white seemed to stretch forever as if nothing existed beyond the abbey.  

I departed the bus and impatiently waited for the next tram. Excitement propelled me as I walked across the causeway to the benedictine abbey. The closer I came, the realization of just how big this feudal structure was became obvious. Once across the path, I entered into a medieval world. Cobbled streets and narrow passageways stretched out. Shops, restaurants, and people filled the island city. Anxious to make sure I made it to the chapel at the top of the abbey, I, along with my daughter and friend, began the arduous climb up the stone steps. 

  The steep stone stairs took us higher, and the view of Normandy was magnificent. The wind whipped and clawed at our clothes as we climbed. Finally, the staircase widened to the courtyard that surrounded the chapel. From the turrets, I stood stretching my eyes to the horizon that melted into the sea. There was peace so high above the world. I entered the chapel and found a pew. I longed for a moment of quiet reflection. 

As I sat in that pew in the stone chapel I thought about the abbey. One of the things that I found to be interesting about Mont Saint Michel is its design in the structural hierarchy of feudal society. On the top, there is God, then the abbey, monastery followed by the great halls. Then storehouses, housing, and on the bottom and outside the walls are the fisherman and farmers’ houses.  

This design places the spiritual leaders and teachers above the rest of the people in the city. There above the commoners and tradesman, the residents of the abbey segregated themselves. It immediately reminded me that Jesus does not want any of us to put ourselves above others. When Jesus came to teach, save, and heal, he did not go to the synagogues, instead, he went to the people. Jesus went to those that needed healing, forgiveness, and encouragement. We cannot influence, encourage, and help unless we are willing to go to those in need.

Getting close to God does not come from building towering chapels and monuments; it comes from focusing on people.

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Seeking the Master

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night over the Rhone”.

On my recent trip to France, I had the pleasure of visiting several museums.  One that I enjoyed a great deal was the Musee D’Orsay. Musee D’Orsay was more contemporary than the Louvre or others.  It had a vast array of artwork from amazing sculptures, such as Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” and notable paintings such as Whistler’s “ Mother”.  Part of the museum’s exhibits was Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night over the Rhone”.  This painting is one of a series in his nocturnal paintings, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see it.  

My daughter and I took the stairs to the top floor and using our museum map found our way to the room that housed part of Van Gogh’s collection.  It was easy to find the piece because it was surrounded by people trying to get a photo. I entered the group and as the people peeled off I made my way to the front of the line. Just as I had a clear view I snapped a couple of pictures.  Just as I did so, a man in his early 30’s walked past the group, stepped in front of me and the others that had been waiting and began to examine the painting closely. Starting in the leftmost corner, he leaned close, only inches from the oil canvas.  People began to grumble, and asked him to move, he ignored everyone. The protest became louder and people began to tap his shoulder, he continued his examination. Finally, satisfied, he strolled away and found another painting.  

Later as I sat looking out of the hotel window at the stars on the night’s canvas, I thought about that man.  I wondered if maybe his approach to the painting was really the way it should be done. Just like the other museum guest, I too was more focused on getting the right photo.  Yet, this man did not attempt to photograph any of the artwork as far as I could see, instead, he made sure he spent time with the art. This man did not want a snapshot of the artist’s handiwork, instead, he wanted to take time to seek what message and intent the artist was trying to convey.   

We should be doing the same, seeking God by taking the time to truly study His Word, seek Him through prayer and demonstrate His love to one another. Christianity is not an image to be displayed but rather a life to be lived. Do you take time to seek the Master and His message for you?

Typist for Jesus

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Chaotic Beauty

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 ESV

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I passed through the doorway into a darkened room.  The walls were black and blank. In the center was a cylinder, I passed through it as I explored the dimly lit warehouse space.  Large wooden spools were spaced throughout, my daughter and I found one and waited. As we waited more people began to filter through the door, some like us found seats some milled around. Time passed and the room and mezzanine filled with people.  The lights dimmed and darkness crowded around us. Silence hung motionless as we all waited. Then a blast of music gave me a jolt and brilliant light exploded on the walls. Before me, Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces were built and tore down to the music.  The music, like Van Gogh’s work was chaos, a collection of different genres, rock to classical meshed with images of his paintings. Oceans morphed to wheat fields and sun flowers bled into the starry night.

Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist.  He is my favorite because he takes chaos of colors and frenzied brushstrokes and creates beauty. 

Many years ago, my life was chaos, a roller coaster of emotions, disappointments and depression.  However, once I stopped fighting it and relinquished it to Jesus, the chaos that made me feel like I was orbiting earth without a tether, slowed.  Jesus reached into the chaos of my life and it made it beautiful. That is what Jesus does once you give him control, he takes the crazy, the depression, the pain, the fear, anxiety, worry, guilt and shame and he makes it beautiful. That chaos is now a tapestry of beauty.

He can make your chaos beautiful.

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Play the Best Game in You

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

I have never been one for sports.  However, this evening, my friend excitedly shared that Tennessee had won, but more than that, she explained how the player responsible for securing the win was not the likely candidate to have done so.

I will not pretend to know the details or try to deliver commentary of the game, but the story of the benched player turned hero piqued my interest.  Benched for not playing very well a couple of weeks ago, the starting quarterback was replaced with a freshman. Unfortunately, the freshman sustained a concussion and was unable to finish.  This meant the benched quarterback was getting another chance, and he used it to bring home the win.

This quarterback could have just given up, gotten an attitude, or allowed bitterness to well up within his heart. Instead, he got off the bench, and he went to the field, and he played the best game he had in him. 

We all make mistakes, miss the mark sometimes, and at one time or another, find ourselves benched.  How we come off that bench is the real measure of who we are.  

You will face trials in your life, and you will not always win the first time, or maybe not the second either.  However, the key is to never give up, no matter what you may face. Do not allow past mistakes or sins to keep you sidelined.  When you are called off the bench and to the field, play the best game you have in you!

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Outward Appearance

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:14-15

Chambord Chateau

As I walked down the gravel path, the roof of Chambord castle peaked above the trees. As I continued, it rose majestically stretching heavenward, the spires piercing the blue sky of Loire Valley. I stopped at the avenue and marveled at the 500-year-old chateau surrounded by manicured gardens and cobbled walkways. All the books and documentaries had not done justice to Chambord’s beauty. I entered the castle doors and into the foyer. Ahead of me, the heart of the chateau loomed DiVinci’s double helix staircase. I climbed the spiral stairs to the roof. Strolling through the spired towers, I marveled at the stonework, the detail, and beauty. The wind whipped my hair as my eyes scanned over the treetops across the acres of land that rolled out before me. Chambord certainly delivered on beauty and wonder. 

 As I descended the staircase, I took in each landing as I went — great empty galleries on each floor, illuminated by grand windows. Cold stone floors echoed the steps of other tourists as carved faces of wild beast watched them mill about. This magnificent chateau, with all its grandeur, was an empty shell. Never fully furnished, or inhabited, this chateau was never a home, only a part-time residence for royals. 

On my bus ride back to Paris, I thought about the empty chateau. All the external beauty, the intricate design, and gardens, yet there was nothing within — an empty stone shell. 

It is not just grand chateaus that display beauty, wealth, and project power, but many of us do it too. Often we spend time worrying about what our outside looks like to others and neglect our inside. Men may be making the judgment of the outside, but God sees the inside of a man. He looks at the heart, our motives, and our love for one another. Spend more time on the inside. Once the inside is right, it will shine on the outside. 

Typist for Jesus

Chambord
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Where is Your Heart

King Tutankhamen
King Tutankhamen
“King Tut”

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

I stood before the broken and worn statue of King Tutankhamen. There was not much left of the artifact, a remnant of colorful paint clung to the sandstone, his eyes dark and piercing looked out over the excited crowd. Cameras clicked, and people murmured as I slowly circled the effigy. This was a moment I had only dreamed and never believed that I would realize. But here I was, amid relics over 3,000 years old. Amazing sculptures, gold, jewelry, and carvings all for the Egyptian king to take with him beyond this world. It was apparent that great care was taken to ensure the boy king would have all required as he passed from this realm to the next.  His tomb was decorated with scenes from life, instructions to overcome the obstacles he had to face as he journeyed through the underworld. The chambers in the tomb were filled with food, household goods, and items the king would need for his new life. All possibilities were thought of, and the tomb was filled to brimming with treasures. All that preparation, all those golden treasures and that care, yet the king left this world and could take none of it.

Unlike Tutankhamen, we have a hope that is not rooted in riches and deeds but in faith.  We do not have to concern ourselves with material goods or if our needs will be met in the next world.  Through Christ Jesus, we know that our debts are paid and our future is Heaven. Jesus tells us in the book of Matthew, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

If we are focused on earthly treasures and comforts, then that is where our hope will lie. King Tut’s hope of a future was the riches that filled his final resting place. Your hope is in Christ.

Typist for Jesus

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Walking Through Manna

When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.  Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. Exodus 16:14-15

Have you ever prayed and over time began to wonder if you will be answered? Maybe you have been praying for days or even weeks. Perhaps you have been praying for years.  

I wonder how many answers to prayers I have missed because I was anticipating an answer that conformed to my notion of how it should be answered?

When Moses and the Israelites were in the wilderness, the people had many complaints. One complaint was that God had removed them from Egypt and their fires, where they had lots of meat and bread to sate them. After 400 hundred years of praying and anticipating freedom from captivity and slavery, they were upset with how they had been released. Somehow the grumbling of their bellies canceled out that the prayer had been answered. They were free. However, all they did was complain and whine because of the hardships they faced.  

As I was studying this week, I found myself reading the Exodus story. The Israelites named this substance, described to resemble coriander seed, manna. Manna means, “what is it?”. I can imagine the Israelites strolling through the manna. They are looking up in the trees all around the camp for the promised bread. All the while, they are walking all through the answer to their request. Manna was not the loaves of bread they had expected. Instead, the tiny seed-like substance had to be gathered, ground and made into a porridge or cakes. God provided the element they needed to prepare bread.

Often, the answer to prayer is not the baked, sliced, and packaged product we think it should be. Sometimes, it is the pieces you need to achieve the request. If God did everything for us, what would we learn? Without a doubt, God could have left loaves of bread outside every tent but in the end, what would it have accomplished? Just like children with parents that indulge and spoil, the Israelites would not have respected, obeyed, and loved God. We are the same. Sometimes the answer is not packaged, it is the needed ingredients.

Are you missing the answers to prayers because you are trying to identify them in the way you think it should be answered? Are you walking all over your manna?

In Isaiah 55:8, we are told,“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  

We cannot anticipate what form the answer will be by relying on our own thoughts, but we must pray for discernment and grace to recognize the answer when it is given. 

Typist for Jesus

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You Have A Future And a Home

 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14

This past week, I have seen several people on a particular corner on a major artery in my city. I have donated to these people a few times over the last few weeks. A couple of times this week, my attention was captured by a sign they had switched out holding. “It read: Jesus was homeless too.”

That sign lodged in my brain. I disagree, Jesus was not homeless, and neither are we.

Jesus, like us, was sent to this world to fulfill a mission. (John 3:17) This world, these problems, sickness, worries, heartaches, riches, and fame are temporal and are never meant to last. However, what you do in your time whether it is 30 or 80 years does last. It last in the people you touch and how your actions inspired them to continue. The Bible tells us that we are “strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.”

1 Chronicles 29:15.

You have a future, and it is not this earth or the things in this world. Your home is in heaven. Jesus tells us, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3

Sometimes and I am very guilty of it, we focus on this problem, this election, this paycheck, this bill, and so on. These problems are temporary, and life has many ebbs and flows, but heaven is real, waiting, and forever.

You have a home with Jesus

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Heart Construction

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Since I have moved across town, my commute has changed. My route passes through the center of construction. Everyday traffic slows to a 35 mile an hour crawl funneled between orange and white barrels. Concrete walls are erected and removed overnight. It can be quite vexing at times. As our city grows, adjustments have to be made to accommodate. With people relocating to our town and our million visitors each year, we have to undergo some structure changes. No one enjoys the stop and goes of road construction. The dust, uneven payment, and disinterested stares of workers seemingly on a perpetual break. Traffic cones and flashing lights funneling commuters through the bottlenecks.
Just typing this description has raised my blood pressure.
In many ways, our journeys through life are much the same. We encounter detours, closed roads, and reduction of speed along our way. It is equally vexing and challenging. To grow in our journey with Jesus, we have to be open to change. Our hearts and attitudes need occasional upheavals to encourage growth, faith, and strength. We have to embrace the changes and focus on the ultimate outcome.
Once the construction is completed, traffic will move smoothly through the city. Extended lanes will give this significant artery ease. The barrels will eventually disappear, the dust will settle, and traffic will return to normal. In fact, it will be better.
If you are dealing with some heart and life construction, take heart. Focus not on the current state but look forward to the eventual outcome. You are undergoing these upheavals and changes so that Jesus can grow you. Growth cannot be accomplished without change.

Typist for Jesus

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Are you Prepared?

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. Matthew 25:1-4

I have just spent my day cozy in bed.  A drizzle of rain outside and a hot cup of coffee has made it perfect.  I have been on the internet most of the day looking at potential restaurants in and around Paris.  Yes, you read correctly, Paris the one in France. I am just a couple of weeks from my first trip abroad.  I will be fulfilling a dream of a lifetime. I will stroll the streets of Paris, visit patisseries, looking on the face of the Mona Lisa and gazing on the Eiffel Tower. 

 My traveling companion and I have been working on this trip for months.  She has been researching, planning, reading reviews, and buying tickets online. We each have packing lists that list each and every conceivable thing that we might need. It has been years of dreaming and months of planning, but it is finally around the corner. We are prepared for this trip.

As I was dreaming of creme brulee and eclairs, it occurred to me how much time we spend planning our futures.  We prepare for our education, building houses, birthday parties, pregnancies, retirement, and vacations. However, how many of us plan for our ultimate future?  How many of us anticipate and are ready for eternity in heaven?

The Bible tells us that no one, not the angels nor Jesus, only the Father, knows the hour when Jesus will return to gather his people.  In the book of Matthew, several parables encourage us to make sure that we are prepared for the coming of Christ. We should always have the kingdom and the ultimate future in mind. We only have this moment to share the gospel, show compassion, and give encouragement to all we encounter. 

We do not know when our time to be called home will come, nor when Jesus returns. 

Are you prepared?

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Humble: H-U-M-B-L-E

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

                Years ago, I was discussing with a friend of mine how I was upset about getting passed over and not receiving the credit I felt I was due.  I commented on me and humility.

                This friend giggled. “Missy,” they began, “you can’t even spell “humility.”    Ouch. However, my friend had a point. 

                I just went through a similar scenario.  Again, I am whining about not getting my due.  My pat on the back. My recognition.

               It is so easy to get caught up in the mentality. “Look at me and what I did!”   A slippery slope indeed, one that I keep tumbling in to.  As soon as I got angry and hurt, I realized that these feelings were not of a person following Jesus, and I began to pray. This went on for days.  Finally, a brother in Christ came to me.  He asked what was wrong because my anger and hurt was affecting everyone around me. He allowed me to talk it out and share how I was feeling.  I told him I knew that these feeling were not pleasing to God, but no matter how much I prayed, it continued.

                “Well, you are human.  Not a super Christian.  But you know that you are not doing what God wants so that in itself is good.”

                Just being able, to be honest, and say how I was feeling out loud made me feel much better.  The anger began to fade, and as the red tide receded, I began to realize I was praying for help, but I never acknowledged my sin or asked for forgiveness. I was focusing on the anger and hurt. That was all I was bringing to the cross.

                It is one thing to realize that you have sinned, but it is another to confess it.  I knew I was wrong, but in my spirit of pridefulness, I failed to admit it and deal directly with the sin.  As soon as I admitted to God and myself my actual sin, not only the product, such as the emotions and feelings, the anger evaporated.

                I think that I am guilty often of focusing on the emotions and feelings rather than getting directly to the root.  Feelings and emotions are just that, mere feelings.  But when you turn your focus to the root cause and confess it, that is where you find absolution and peace.

Typist for Jesus

Seriously, Where’s the Beef?

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I was determined to have hamburgers on the grill this weekend.  However, it was looking like that may not happen. This was my fourth grocery to check this morning.  I headed straight for the meat section.  My shoulders dropped, the shelves were cleared out.  Or so I thought.  In the bottom of the cooler were seven packages of hamburger.  Above them a sign read:  “Only two packs per customer.”  I checked them over, choosing the best of what was offered and tucked them under my arm. As I made my way down the aisles I noticed how many of the shelves were empty. Quantity restriction signs hung loosely over empty shelves.

 It is an emotion that I find hard to explain as I look at bare shelves and people in surgical masks.  Nothing but fearful eyes darting about.  Even children sitting in carts with masks seem unnaturally subdued. No smiles, just the undercurrent of fear and uncertainty.  

Life, in a very short few weeks, has been turned upside down.  Though our lives have been altered there is One that will never change.  One that will always have what you need, when you need it.  No waiting, no restrictions or emptiness.   Jesus is listening, comforting, strengthening and loving us all.   

Unfortunately, that is easy to forget when your eyes are filled with these images.  Though we cannot see Jesus with our earthly eyes, we know in our hearts that he is here.  He is with you and me.  You must not allow these images to discourage you from the truth.  No matter what you may see, read or hear, God is ultimately still in control.

Be strong and courageous.

Typist for Jesus

There’s a Cuckoo in the Nest

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

I went to water my hanging basket on the front porch.  It was looking very droopy.  I climbed up on the bench and saw the reason for the droopy and flattened plant.  Tucked under the delicate yellow petals was a nest.  Lined with feathers it was a warm place to hatch and rear the next generation.  However, as I peered deeper into the nest I saw an egg that did not match the pale green eggs.  It was larger and brown speckled.  I snapped a quick picture and climbed down.  As I went inside the momma bird returned, scolded me and resettled in her nest.  As I looked at the snapshot I realized this little momma had a cuckoo in the nest. I immediately felt sad for her; her little family was in danger.  The unsuspecting songbird pair will work tirelessly to feed and nurture the imposter, completely unaware of what it is doing to their family.

Cuckoos hatch earlier than the other chicks and in most cases either push the other eggs out or starve out the chicks by obtaining all the mother and father’s attention. This particular egg belonged to a cowbird, a much larger species of bird.  The cowbird egg was being incubated to destroy all the parents had worked for and end a whole generation. 

I think that we are guilty of nurturing cuckoos in our hearts. A seed of discontent, anger, self-pity, maybe unforgiveness. These cuckoos are not of God but destroyers sent by our enemy.  We feed those cuckoos until they push out our joy, steal our gratitude and fill us with anger and pain.  Unfortunately, for those song birds they could not tell the difference between their eggs and another’s however we are able to distinguish the emotions and seeds that are from God or our enemy. Ultimately we chose what we nurture and what we reject.  

Do you have a cuckoo in your heart?  

Typist for Jesus

A Faith that Withstands the Threshing Floor

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12

For the past two weeks I have been trying to write a Seed.  However, only the words, “it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff” has rolled through my mind.  So I began to look for a correlating story as my example, however none came to me. I read about the process of separating wheat from chaff.  (Threshing is done by beating the grain using a flail on a threshing floor or using donkeys or oxen walking  in circles on the grain on a hard surface.) 

This phrase first rolled through my gray matter the night before my city was hit by four tornadoes.  How unfair, I remember thinking that our community was dealing with the Covid 19 virus and now a destructive tornado.. So many people I know were out of work, others worried about the health of loved ones and themselves and then to have our community shredded by an EF3 tornado.  Where is the fairness in that?  As I meditated on these thoughts and shared my questions with Jesus, that phrase continued to roll through. It was then that I realized the correlating story wasn’t something from my life but our lives.  We are living in unusual times.  Dangerous and uncertain times.  

“Now the wheat will be separated from the chaff.”  Whispers.

Faith is nothing without testing.  It is easy to stand and say I believe, God is in control and Jesus is my savior when life is good.  It is easy to declare my faith and trust in God when I am not on state lockdown or huddled in a closet in the darkness.  We are living in unusual times.  Dangerous and uncertain times.  It is now that the wheat will be separated from the chaff. 

Is your declaration of trusting and serving the Savior just words?  Or is your faith one that will withstand what we still have to face? These events have not changed our duties as Christians. We are to witness, lift up those in despair, help the needy and retain our faith and joy, no matter what may come.  Now more than ever in your life, those around you need to witness a faith that withstands the threshing floor. 

Are you  the wheat, or the chaff?

Typist for Jesus