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Heart Condition

What is the condition of your heart?

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.” 1Samuel 16:7

I was very pleased with my purchases. I had gotten some good deals. Smiling I reached for my receipt. The cashier leaned in, “You’re senior discounts on there. Have a good day.” Her eyes smiled above a mask that had a villainous grin with exaggerated teeth. I started to protest but as I glanced at the receipt and saw the additional 10% reduction, I thanked her and left the store.

Firstly, I am not yet a senior. I do however, have quite a bit of gray sprouting about my temples. I have no doubt that this cashier chose that characteristic as her reason for assuming I was a senior citizen.

Thoroughly offended I quickly began to text my friends, giving them a similar narrative as you have just read.

As much as I was offended by the lady’s assumption, there is a relatively easy fix to hide my gray. However, there is no hiding your heart from God. God is not concerned about your grays, you clothing or your car. He is interested in your heart only. What is the condition of your heart? Do you fill it with humility, love and forgiveness or are you hiding something a bit different?

When God looks at us, he does not see the physical. Rather he looks only into our hearts. What is in our hearts influences how we chose to serve the Lord. Is your heart compassionate to others? Is it generous and merciful?

Samuel needed to be reminded that appearances mean nothing. As each of the sons of Jesse passed Samuel, (1 Samuel 16) he like most of us, was only focused on what his eyes could see and not what was hidden beneath. A man or woman’s worth is not in their appearance but in their heart.

My gray hairs may be a product of my advancing age, but what does your heart produce? How much time do you spend grooming your outside verses the inside? Take time this week to look inward and examine your heart. If people when they looked at you, saw only the condition of your heart, what would they see?

Typist for Jesus

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Bubble Trouble

Bubble Trouble

So they complained to Moses by saying, “Give us water to drink!” Exodus 17:2

I was washing up dishes the other evening when I noticed that Bryan was acting strangely.  He was crouched down, eyes wide and tail down.  “What is it boy?”  I asked.  He turned and went to get in his chair.  I did not think too much more about it, until the next morning.  Bryan was taking much longer in the back yard than usual.  I went through the gate and peered around the deck.  Bryan was lapping up something.  Concerned it could be a dead animal or maybe something someone had thrown in the back yard; I began calling him as I walked into the yard.   For some inexplicable reason, he had dug a hole and was lapping up muddy water.  I took him in and to the new water dispenser.  I stuck my finger in the cool water and put it up to his lips.  He licked but would not venture closer.  Finally, after much cajoling he timidly approached the water.  Once he tasted the coolness he began to lap faster and that is when it happened.

“BA-LOOP, BA-LOOP”

Bryan took off like a shot out of the kitchen.  That big bubble had sent him skittering across the tile.  I never thought that an eighty-pound dog would be afraid of air bubbles when I bought a new water dispenser over the weekend.  I know that many of you, like me are laughing at Bryan for being afraid of the bubbles, but we are not that much different.  Very few of us embrace change.  Nor do we like it when God moves us out of comfort zone.  Sometimes, for God to bless us or position us where he needs us, it means that things in our lives must change.  The Israelites prayed for 400 years before God sent Moses to lead the them out of Egypt and to their own land.  However, to get from the land of captivity to the promised land, there had to be some changes.   Just like the Israelites of the Exodus, we too do not want to endure changes or adapt to something new. 

              Poor Bryan is so afraid of the new water dispenser that he prefers to drink muddy water out of the backyard than deal with something new.  How many times have you, so afraid of change, settled for muddy water?  I cannot count the times I have allowed my fear of change, failure or discomfort keep me from blessings or opportunities.  Do not settle for muddy water, instead trust God to lead you, provide for you and strengthen you as you embrace the opportunities that come with change.

Typist for Jesus

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Connection Lost

(Read John 16)

This past year we all have learned that there are many ways to work without being at work.  I have been working from home for almost a year now.  Pretty much if you have an internet connection you can work. 

My daughter had a doctor’s appointment and rather than taking off from work I decided I would take my laptop and continue working.  Due to social distancing, only the patient can go back so I decided to use that time to continue what I had been working on that morning.  The nurse called her back and I flipped up the top to get back to my spreadsheet.  Except there was a problem, my system was not working.  Ah, I needed to get the password from the receptionist.  I went to the desk and asked.  Unfortunately, they do not provide internet access. Without the internet my laptop was now useless and my plans for being productive thwarted.

The Holy Spirit is our connection, through prayer and daily Bible study,

we can strengthen our connection.

            It is the same in our spiritual lives, without a connection to the Father and Son, we too are lost. The Holy Spirit is our connection.  With the Spirit we have discernment, wisdom, comfort, and guidance.  The Holy Spirit is a gift from Jesus.  In the book of John chapter 16, Jesus is preparing his followers for his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. He knew how his followers may feel lost and unable to continue the work that he started with them.  He also knew that 2,000 years later you and I would need the Spirit to guide us in continuing the work that he has started in each one of us. In Jesus’ physical absence he sent the Holy Spirit as guide and comforter those that believe in him. We have that Spirit available to us, filling us and guiding us in the way that the Lord would have us to go.  Unlike the internet, the Spirit can reach you without a password.  Once you accept Christ Jesus as your savior the connection is made, and you no longer navigate this world alone.

            Use the gift that Jesus has left for you, to draw you nearer to him.  Allow the Spirit to teach and guide you. Through prayer and daily Bible study, strengthen the connection.

Cartoon Typist for Jesus
by Bitmoji

The best is yet to come,

Typist for Jesus

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The Best is Yet to Come

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so, they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  John 2:1-10 (NIV)

              A friend of mine recently recommended this story to be included in my new book I am currently writing.  As I studied the characters and the circumstances that they were facing, I decided that in our current situation as a people across the globe that maybe this story should be shared now.

 As I read my mind created the scene.  It was fall in the land, that is when the weddings were preformed because there was plenty after the harvest and cooler.  The Jewish wedding feast last for five days and during that time food and wine is plentiful.  In the first verse, it states that it was the third day of the feast, that let’s us know it was serious that the wine had run out because there were two more days of feasting to go.  So that is one reason why Mary came to Jesus, she knew that he could remedy the issue. So Mary asked Jesus. Notice that Mary does not argue with Jesus or presses him, she simply tells the servants to “Do whatever he tells you.” She made her request and then left it with Jesus.

What really interest me in this story is the servants and their unwavering obedience.

Mary walks away and the servants look to Jesus. I think they were waiting on Jesus to tell them to run into town or knock on the neighbor’s door but Jesus told the servants to fill the ceremonial jars with water.  Can you imagine what was going through the minds of these servants?  They begin drawing water out of the well and dump bucket after bucket into the vessels. Finally, six huge stone jars are filled to the brim with water.  Their task complete, once again they turn to Jesus, curious maybe a bit confused, and waited for his next command. 

Now take a moment to think about this, what if you had been the servant that Jesus told to draw out the water and take to the head of the banquet?  

Now you don’t know Jesus, but you do know that there is nothing but water in that jar and now in the decanter.  However, being an obedient servant, you take the decanter to the head of the banquet.  As this servant walked through the loud hall filled with singing, winding between the couches and guests, I can only imagine what must have been going through the servant’s mind. I have thought about that a lot since studying this passage. Was he or maybe it was a she, the gender is never specified, scared?  I think that I would have been.  Yet, these servants did what was commanded without questioning. 

  I believe that a true servant must relinquish their will and body to their master.  To do that, the servant must choose to trust the master.  That person knew that they had filled the decanter with water but they took it obediently. When the servant got to the table what a sweet relief it must have been when rich, red, fragrant wine filled the cup. 

Often, we are put in situations where we do not know what God has planned next.  God rarely shares his plans or reasons for what he does.  I find that very frustrating.  I believe that God chooses to withhold that information to cultivate trust, faithfulness, and obedience.  The servant carried the vessel of water obediently to the banquet table not knowing what was going to happen until they tipped the clay jar and wine spilled out. Do not become discouraged or scared, instead like the servants, trust the master.  Do not let what is going on around us discourage you and your faith. Continue to be obedient and faithful to Jesus. 

At the end of the passage, we see that the master of the banquet was very pleased that the best wine had been saved for the end of the banquet. “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 

 No matter what is going on in your life and in this world, remember that the best is yet to come.

Typist for Jesus.

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A Bit of the Ole Razzle Dazzle

Do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God many false prophets have gone into the world. I John 4:1

It is now mid-January and most of us have reluctantly packed up the lights and tree.  I decided to leave one item of decoration out because it really was not centrally Christmas but mostly just winter-themed.  Another reason I left it out was that I was pleased with it.  I thought I was very clever in making it.  A simple crate with a scrap of material, greenery, lights, and three birch sticks.  Why was this so “clever” on my part?  Because my birch wood sticks were nothing more than painted paper towel rolls.  By themselves painted and tied with a bit of twine they are not very impressive and it painfully obvious what they are, but once you place all the lights and greenery around them it gives a good illusion. 

At a glance, you see what I want you to see.

Recently, no doubt you have been seeing a bit of razzle dazzle going on in the media.  In the coming days, you will see even more.  There will be times you are confused, outraged, and simply do not know what to believe. It is during these times we need to look to the One who knows all.  He is not shocked or surprised by current events.   James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”   Do not rely on your own understanding but ask the Lord to give you wisdom and discernment.  Prepare yourselves to see beyond illusions and lies.

Beware of the razzle dazzle.

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A Good Cup of Coffee

and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:47

            About six weeks ago, my coffee maker gave up the ghost.  I have been using a percolator on the stove.  Fine coffee but hard to keep warm like a traditional coffee maker.  I decided that with a gift card I had receive for Christmas I would get a new one.  As I stood in the aisle, I was amazed at all the brands and differing degrees of coffee maker.  On one end a simple coffee maker and on the other an expensive machine that did everything including taking commands from Alexa.  Short of doing your taxes, this machine seemed to be able to do anything.  Yet, I could not help but wonder, is it any good at making coffee? I ended up buying the $9.99 coffee maker, I did not need all the other options.  I just wanted a good cup of coffee.

-What does a coffee maker have to do with Jesus?

            Unfortunately, we are the same when searching for a church or what Christianity can offer.  Our requirements for church, Bible studies and the messages coming out of the pulpit is what that it conforms to what we want to hear. Do we like where the church is located, is it convenient to where I live, is the pastor connected in the community?  Does he know all the right people? Does the message make me feel good about myself?  I want to feel good and have my needs met, I do not want to have to examine myself or acknowledge my failings. 

We focus on how to fill the pews but what we need to focus on is how do we fill heaven.

We want a Christianity and a Jesus that conforms to us and how we want to feel.  Being a Christian and a follower of Jesus is not about how you feel.  In fact, there is no feelings in Christianity. True discipleship is about obedience, sacrifice, charity, and compassion.  We do not need, nor should we look for all the bells and whistles.  What makes a great church or ministry is the courage to focus on what is important and needed.  Truth.  Teaching salvation and repentance. These two things are very unpopular in the secular world.  God, through His son made a way of salvation for ALL humankind. However, without true repentance there is no salvation.  Let us not allow ourselves to be caught up in the easy, comfortable, and non-controversial Christianity that is sweeping the globe.  Let us be courageous and share His truth.

            Typist for Jesus

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Away in the Utensil Drawer

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

I love decorating for the holidays. All the glitter and shiny lights. I think I have lights attached to anything that stands still long enough. My granddaughter also loves the decorations, however at 22 months, she just wants to tear everything down, sit on it, step on it and sometimes just yell at it. I have one area that I let her do with as she pleases. It is an old incomplete nativity scene. The animals and shelter are long gone. Only two wise men, Jesus, Mary and Joseph remain. The baby Jesus is her favorite piece. The same size of her hand, she carries him close. She carries him all through the house, cuddling, cooing and kissing him.

I have found baby Jesus in the sink, dog food, dog’s water bowl, bath tub, drawers and multiple times in the floor. He has even appeared waiting in line to see Santa in my Christmas Village. She loves baby Jesus, until something else grabs her attention. Which can be anything from a toy, hunger, sleepiness and of course something she should not be messing with. (like the dog’s water bowl) Unfortunately, we are guilty of the same spiritually. Jesus is great until something more interesting or distracting comes along and then we just leave him to pursue what has grabbed our attention.

As we enter into the new year, let’s not leave Jesus behind packed up with the Christmas decorations. Instead, let’s carry him into the new year and firmly in our hearts. This past year has been challenging on so many levels not the least spiritually. I anticipate this new year will continue to test us. We cannot face these new challenges without Jesus.

Hold to Jesus. Do not allow the distractions of politics, media and personal trials to loosen your grip.

Typist for Jesus

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Revive Your Heart’s Fire

Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful. Romans 12:11-12 NIV

The sun had begun her descent, casting long shadows across the field. The aroma of smoked beef and chicken hung in the air enticing my stomach to growl.  As the last of the shoppers made their way to the parking lot we began to pull down the tent and repack our boxes.  It had been a long day but nonetheless fun, we had met several people and made a little cash.  Finally everything was done, coolers topped off with ice, cars carefully packed and the smoker strapped to the back of the trailer, it was finally time to go. Tired, sunburned and hungry, I pulled behind my friend, forming our convoy.  The trailer she towed bounced and shook as we began the mountain climb. 

Gaining speed, I noticed that the smoker had begun to cough up little puffs of smoke.  By the time we started down the mountain, those little coughs had become a steady billow of black smoke.  I blew my horn and flashed the lights.  We took another deep curve, gathering speed and that is when it happened.  I flashed my lights, then blew the horn and crossed over the middle line to get her attention.  The whole time I was yelling at my Bluetooth to call.  Finally I had a signal, relieved I shouted my command again as I blew the horn and flashed my lights. This was becoming serious, the smoker was engulfed in dancing orange flames. Hot debris flew out, causing sparks as they hit the pavement bouncing down the country road.

The ringing stopped and I yelled, “you are on fire”!  She pulled to the side of the road and together we doused the flames and checked the ropes eager to insure our safety as we continued the trip. Once the flames had been reduced to sizzling smoking ash, we laughed a bit.  Doubled checked the trailer, and headed back to the cabin. It had been an exciting few minutes. After hours of the smoker not being used and cool to touch, it was obvious that at least one ember had held enough heat to be revived.

You may be feeling like the fire has gone out in your spiritual life.  Especially during this year and even now in the holiday season.  In many ways it does not feel much like Christmas and I am sad to not be able to spend it with my family.  Although the world may not feel much like Christmas, we should carry it with us year round. Christmas is not a date, or simply a holiday.  It is a time to reflect and give praise to God for providing a way of salvation through His son.  I think that this week’s verse in the book of Romans is good advice in the face of adversity, uncertainty and an overwhelming sadness.  Paul understood hardship.  He knew loss, hunger, pain, rejection and I am sure at some times defeat and sadness.  At that time in history all those that were subject to Roman rule also understood these things well. Because Paul understood he wrote these words to the Romans and us.  “Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive.”

You and I may feel like the fire has died down, but as long as there is even an ember, the fire can be revived.  Do not allow anything to extinguish the fire in your heart for Jesus.  Continue to serve the Lord and in hope find your joy.  Though many of us are facing suffering, be patient and pray faithfully. 

Fan those embers.  Revive your fire for Jesus!

The best is yet to come!

Typist for Jesus

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Share Boldly

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

                There is always one dish that is only served for the holidays in each family.  Some families maybe more.  In my family we have the Thanksgiving staples but there are also a couple of other recipes that are reserved for the Thanksgiving table.  One recipe is my grandmother’s sweet potato soufflé.  It is a favorite.  This past week, my friend texted me asking for a sweet potato recipe.  I went to the kitchen and pulled out a journal filled with recipes.  Each recipe is dated with the person’s name that I got the recipe from.  I took a snapshot of the recipe and texted it to my friend.  “Here is my grandmother’s recipe” I sent. She responded with “Awe.”  She did so because I was sharing something special and dear.  For the cooks in my audience you understand what I am referring to. 

                Later as I was making the recipe myself, I thought about how happy my grandmother would be to know that her recipe was going to be on another table this year and maybe for many more to come.  I know she would have like that very much. 

We can be a little stingy with our knowledge sometimes.  Not sharing a recipe because we think it makes us special or maybe it is like a having a coveted secret.  We hold back more than just recipes.  We hold on to some snippets of knowledge in order to elevate or maybe in some cases protect ourselves.  Whatever the reason, sharing knowledge is a good thing especially when it comes to the knowledge of Christ and the path to salvation. 

                Sharing the gospel and your personal knowledge of Jesus is a command.  In Matthew 28 verses 19 and 20, Jesus is giving this command to the disciples.  What good is a knowledge when it is hidden away.  What good is your knowledge and experience of salvation if you are unwilling to share it with those in your life? 

My grandmother did not just share her favorite recipes, she shared her love for Jesus not just to me but to many others. Now is the time to boldly share Christ with others.

Typist for Jesus

You can purchase your copy of the Mustard Seeds, Modern Parables on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Mustard-Seeds-Melissa-Levi/dp/1950034712

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No Room for Improvement

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8(ESV)

On the kitchen table is candy left over from the holiday.  There are only a few packs of Caramel M & Ms.  They are the only inhabitants of the candy bowl because either no one likes them or no one is brave enough to try them.  I have been passing that bowl for a week however today I decided I was going to give those M & Ms a try.

As I chewed the candy, I had two thoughts.  First, I do not like them and second, why is it we are never happy with something the way it is?  M & Ms whether plain or peanut are wonderful, so why did someone decide it needed to be changed?  

I think it is because as humans we are always trying to improve things.  This is a good trait on the whole, because we are always striving to make things faster, safer and easier. It is in our DNA to strive for improvement and innovation.  However, we cannot seem to accept that some things do not need to be improved or changed.  Some things are perfect and exactly what we need.

From the beginning, man has tried to “improve and reinvent” God. We try to make him what we want him to be. We want God to be silent and us to have all the say.  If we determine what is right and wrong, then we are not sinful. If we discount the creation, the flood and call it fiction then the rest of the Bible is no longer relevant. We teach Science in our schools and churches that strive to explain God’s beautiful purposeful creation into a reaction of chemicals and exploding planets. That you are an extraordinary accident of primordial goo. We take Jesus’s teaching and contort his message of love and call it hate so we are free to hate everything God loves. 

Unfortunately, we accept much of it and soft serve it in churches. Man strives to make God easier, more socially acceptable so that we choose what part of his word to believe, obey and share. Where the Church and the teachings of Jesus once framed society, we now find ourselves conforming to the desires of society. 

Since the beginning, God has remained the same.  No matter what society, science, schools, compromising churches or the media present, claim or teach, the truth remains unchanged.  This should be a comfort.  Life is ever changing, what is true today may not be tomorrow.  Who we are with today, may not be with us tomorrow.  No matter what happens in our lives, in this world, in politics, in science or next door, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Instead of trying to change God to fit what we want and what makes life easy, we should be looking to improve and change ourselves to be as Jesus. God’s love for us and his creation has not faded. His Word is still relevant today, his message of true love is for all.   He proves his love through the gift of grace, forgiveness and salvation found only in true repentance, and the acceptance of Jesus and the full Word of God.

Typist for Jesus

https://www.amazon.ca/Mustard-Seeds-Melissa-Levi/dp/1950034712

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Enduring Grace

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

I ran out to Walmart to get a few things for the week. It was about 7:30 pm, and the sky was heavy with threatening skies.  Dark gray clouds bubbled.  I hurried to get to the store before these boiling clouds released their load.  I passed through the doorway, nodding to an attendant who checked me in her little tablet.  Grocery list in hand, I got a cart and got to business.

Things have changed so much in a short amount of time.  Everyone in masks, including children,  standing six feet apart, plexiglass shields between you and the cashier and police in the stores and standing outside.  I find it to be very oppressive and sad. 

The intercom announced the closing of the store, and every five minutes reminded the shoppers that it was time for our little hamlet to shut the doors.  I finished up and got in line, making sure I was observing the distance rule.

I checked out and left the store.  At the doorway, an employee checked me off as leaving on her tablet as she kept count of people in the store.  As I made my way to my car, I noticed a young woman dressed in black with green hair staring into the sky behind me.  I glanced back and saw the reason for her pause.  A brilliant rainbow shone across the sky. It was perhaps one of the largest rainbows I had seen.  People began to stop in the parking lot, cars stopped, and even an officer walked from the entrance to see what was going on.  Though it had never rained in our area, the rainbow had still appeared.  I stood in the parking lot, staring at the rainbow, reminded that its beauty was much more than just a visual treat; it is a reminder that God’s Grace is enduring.  

Despite everything you are experiencing, God is still very much in control and is extending his grace to all.  God is very much on the throne and is working. It is not his desire to see any perish or suffer, but rather to give every opportunity for people to recognize and accept his forgiveness and grace.  The rainbow is a reminder that God is still extending his grace to all.

Typist for Jesus

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Weighed Down

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

I was on my way to meet my friend.  As I topped the hill, I saw something in the road.  I slowed and squinted to take a better look.  It was a little turtle.  He was in the middle of the opposite lane just sitting there with his neck extended looking around.  I stopped the car and backed on to the side of the road.  Just as I got out, a car came over the hill.  I put up my hand and he slowed.  Fortunately, he came to a stop and waited as I ran to pick up the turtle and move him to the safety of the grass.  Just I reached for the turtle he took off.  I had to give a little chase.  They are faster than you think.  I picked him up, all four limbs and head disappeared into the carapace.  I placed him in the soft grass across the road.  By this time there were four cars waiting.  I sheepishly waved and got back in my car and continued on my way. 

 As I drove to my appointment, I thought about that little turtle and how he tucked in when I came to help him.  I thought about how he trusted that shell.  I think that many of us trust our shells. Push our pain, guilt and shame in that shell and carry it around on our backs.  I imagine several of us are lugging around some pretty big shells and those burdens weigh us down.

Jesus wants to free you of the burdens you are carrying.  Romans 8:1 reminds us that because our sins are covered in Christ’s blood we do not suffer condemnation, shame or guilt.  However, in order to have this we must lay down these things and accept the freedom that his blood gives.

Stop carrying weight that is no longer yours to carry.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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?

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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.

Typist for Jesus

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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!

Typist for Jesus

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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?

Typist for Jesus

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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

One Way, One Truth

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus answered,

 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

I was alone the other day and thought I would stop at a discount store I have passed several times.  I found a couple of things.  While I was waiting on the young lady to check me out, she apologized for my long wait.  I told her it was fine.  I had learned that when you had a moment like that you should take advantage of the moment and relax. 

She nodded in agreement. “Do you meditate?” She asked.

“No.” I replied. “I am a Christian.  I pray.”

“Oh, well it’s all the same anyway.” She said. “I know of couple of Christians.”

“Well, no.” I returned. “Meditation is a focus on the self, whereas prayer is to God.  An offering of praise and thanksgiving.  An interaction in a relationship.”

She shrugged.  “It’s really all the same things. You know, “you do you.” Behind the mask she gave a little laugh of disinterest.

 I did not press it further, but when I got to the car, I lifted this young woman up in prayer.  Unfortunately, her views are not uncommon.  It is a growing world view.  It is the equaling of spirituality, religions, and Christianity.  It is also the world view of a one world religion and order.  On the surface, the idea of a united world is very appealing except a world united in any thing but Christ Jesus is false.

a world united in any thing but Christ Jesus is false.

                This is a dangerous world view for those that are not saved or not firm in their faith.   The idea that meditation, prayer, and spirituality is all the same, and that each “religion” is essentially the same leads people away from Jesus.  There is only one way to salvation and that is through grace extended to us from God.  God chose to accept Christ as the propitiation of our sins. It is Jesus’ blood that pays the price of our personal sins but only through repentance and acceptance on our part of this payment.  Mediation, yoga, doing good works or promoting peace, is no substitute for the blood of Jesus. Many however will chose to believe that it is.  Churches, pastors, preachers, and others will think that if they bend to this type of thinking it will entice people to come to church.  Jesus never used enticements or empty promises to bring people to him.  Rather he stood on the truth and shared it with all that would listen.  

               You will see more of this “equalizing” not only in the secular world but in churches and “Christian “movements.  Do not be deceived.  If they do not teach Jesus, they are false.  If they do not teach repentance and salvation through acceptance of Jesus, they are false.

 Stand firm in truth.  Do not be conformed.

              Typist for Jesus