4 Bucks and a Dash of Hope

I was on my way to pick my kids up from their dad on Sunday night.  I left a few minutes early so I could stop at the grocery store on my way for some necessities. It was going to be a “drive by” shopping trip.  You know the kind.  Get in, get what you need, get out.

I step out of my van and head toward the store.  The wind is whipping and the air is biting. When is it ever going to be spring? Hurry, hurry.   Bread, milk, eggs, creamer…I recite my list over and over in my mind.  I always forget something!  Hurry, I only have 15 minutes!

“Excuse me.  Excuse me, ma’am.”

Is he talking to me?  Please, don’t let it be me.  WHAT DO YOU WANT???

I turn my head to the left to see where the voice was coming from.

Sure enough.  He was talking to this “ma’am.”  Apparently I have a “look.”  The look that screams, “Naive Sucker.”

“Would you be able to help me out?  I need some money for gas.”

Ugh…I’m in a hurry…It’s almost dark.  There’s hardly anyone around.  What if he tries to abduct me and kill me?  Fear creeps in.

Then, I hear a voice…”You say you want to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Here’s your opportunity to prove it.”

That ever-present voice in my head gets on my nerves sometimes.  So, here I go.  If he kills me, he kills me.

I tell the man I don’t have much cash as I dig in my wallet.  I never carry cash.  He tells me his plight.

“I lost my job.  I’m on worker’s comp.  I’m stuck in a lease for $600 a month.  I have 3 kids at home and one here in the back that we weren’t expecting…”

Yes, indeed.  There was a precious little blonde headed girl in a carseat in the back of the beat up, rusting Durango.  I peeked my head in the window and smiled at her.  She smiled and waved back at me.  Sweet little girl, just like my Lily or Emma.

The man was very scruffy, in great need of a shave.  He had two gold rings coming out of his nose. Several in each eyebrow.  I notice his hands were chafed and cracking.   He wasn’t much older than me.  I began to judge him, putting him in a category of a lower class.  Then something began stirring inside of me.  I kept listening and studying him. As I listened with my ears, I began to hear with my heart.

“I’m a welder.  I loved my job. I love to see a piece of metal turn into something useful because I was able to make it.  I haven’t been able to work since my back surgery.  The doctors say it’s a miracle that I can even walk at this point.”

As I scavenged for the dollar in my change purse and some quarters I knew that were in there, I began to voice my empathy for him.

“My husband had back surgery.  I know that can be hard.”

“I’ve had to get by on workers’ comp too.  I know that isn’t easy.”

“My brother-in-law is also a welder.  I know that job can be rewarding and it takes a special kind of person to be able to do that job.”

“My family has fallen on hard times too.  I know how it is to have a lot more days in the month than money to pay for your bills.”

I only had about $4.00 in my wallet.  I gave him what I had.

I kept hearing, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee…”

These words were spoken by Peter in Acts 3.  There was a beggar at the temple gate who asked Peter and John for alms.  They had no money to give the beggar. What they had was far better.  They had Jesus and His healing power, hope for a crippled man.

Feeling strongly in my heart that this man needed more than just gas money, I began telling him about the love of God.  How much God loves Him and desires a relationship with him and wants to bless his life.  I urged him to give his life to Jesus if he had not done so yet.  I said a little prayer for him.  He thanked me and I hurried into the store.  I left him with $4.00 and some hope.  He was gone by the time I came back out.

I tell this story, not to toot my own horn, but to share my own lessons learned.

We all have bad things in our lives.  Loss of jobs, health crises, loss of a loved one, divorce, financial problems, addictions, etc.  We wonder why God would allow such things to happen.  Why do we have to go through bad stuff?  Why DO bad things happen to good people?

God does not make bad stuff happen to us.  He loves us and wants only the best for us.  That’s the kind of Father His is.  We live in a fallen world, we make bad decisions, we live among imperfect people.  Bad things, unfair things, things that don’t make sense to us are going to happen.  For sure.  But, God doesn’t let one ounce of our life go to waste.  He can use every bit of what we have been through to glorify Him and help others.  If we allow Him to…

Because I had been through some “junk,” similar to the man in the parking lot, my heart was able to find a way to empathize with him. Even when my mind and prejudices began their knee-jerk reaction to his “type,” my heart heard his heart and reached out to him.  I could relate to him.  I was able to show him love.

In the past, I have mumbled a “No, sorry,” and continued on my way.  If I had done that on Sunday, I would have missed the opportunity to speak life and hope into this family’s life.  If I had never gone through any of the same “junk” as this man, my heart would not have reached out to him and I would have missed an opportunity to give him the most precious handout of all.  Jesus.

Do you get what I’m saying?  Don’t despise what you’ve been through.  Share it and use it to spread a little hope.

Sympathy and empathy are two different things.  Sympathy is feeling bad for someone because of what they are going through.  You feel sad FOR them.  Empathy is knowing what a person is going through and feeling their pain WITH them.  It’s very different.   Empathy activates true compassion.

A friend going through divorce.  “There is hope.  Life does not end after a divorce.  God has promised to be your husband when you have none.  I’ve been there and made it through.  You will too.”

A neighbor whose husband has lost his job.  “God provided for my family in unbelievable ways.  He can do the same for your family, too.  He wants to pour out blessings upon you that you can’t contain.”

Who can you empathize with and speak life and hope to today?  Open your heart and eyes to the people in your world.  Hear their words, hear their heart, feel their pain with them.  Don’t be afraid to get in the trenches with your fellow human beings and get your hands dirty.  That’s exactly what Jesus did.

You don’t need a degree from a seminary or Bible school to “preach” the gospel.  All you need is a heart for others and the willingness to be real with people.  The good news of the gospel…what everyone NEEDS more than anything!

One more lesson I learned…or two

I admit.  I was a little scared to approach the man in the creepy SUV with the pierced face and scratchy voice.  Well, a lot scared, maybe.  My active imagination, tendency toward paranoia and perhaps my common sense was screaming “serial killer, rapist, criminal!”  But I also felt the tug in my heart, God gently prodding me to action.  I didn’t allow fear to control me.  Sometimes, we need to “Do it afraid.”  I stepped out and obeyed.  The Bible says that God values obedience to His voice above anything else we could ever give Him.  I’m learning to hear His voice and obey immediately.  How many opportunities for ministry have we missed by brushing aside or ignoring His voice or because we are just too afraid?

As a born-again Christian, you have within you, the answer to all the world’s problems.  The hope that is in you is the most precious gift you can give.  Allow God to use every bit of you and your life for reaching your world.

As a side note…I’m sure my mother will be reading this…The parking lot had plenty of good lighting and there were other people walking into and out of the grocery store.  Had I been kidnapped or what have you, someone would have seen and heard.  I have quite a boisterous scream.  And you know, Mother, I’m packing.  😉  A mother never stops worrying about her kids…even when they’re 35!

Don’t Worry About It!

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  Matthew 6:25

What are you worried about today?

Paying your bills?  Your health?  Your marriage?  Your children?  Your future? 

Are you constantly worried about what other people think about you?  

Are you worried about the safety of your husband at his job?

Are you constantly worried that your husband is going to leave you or cheat on you?

Are you afraid your children are falling in with the “wrong” crowd?

Are you worried about the health of your aging parents and how you are going to care for them?

Are you newly divorced and filled with anxiety for your future?

Does worry consume your life to the point that you are paralyzed with fear, stress and anxiety?  

Are you a person who takes medication for your anxiety?

A life full of worry, stress and anxiety is not God’s will for His children.

Jesus said it Himself…He does not want you to be filled with worry about the cares of this life.  He always takes care of His children!  Always!!!

A lot of times, we think that WE must be the avenue through which our problems are solved.  “God helps those who help themselves.”  Right?

No!  Do you know that quote is NOT in the Bible!  Nope, not in there.  We go around saying this and fool ourselves into thinking that we must “do” something.  “Doing” turns into worrying.  Worrying about everything and anything.

Do you realize that Jesus’ sacrifice was a complete act of grace for our lives…our lives for all eternity AND our lives NOW?

Jesus’ sacrifice was not only for the covering of our sins, the health of our bodies and our eternal salvation.  It was also for our peace!  Isaiah 53 says,

“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,”

Jesus suffered brutal punishment and pain so that we could have peace in our lives!!!

On the night Jesus was betrayed, He left these parting words with His disciples.  Even in the midst of the ensuing chaos, His desire for those He loved was for them to be at peace.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you;  not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

Peace is translated, “Shalom.”  Wellness, wholeness, completeness, as well as peace of heart and mind.  Shalom means having every part of your being (spirit, soul, and body) in complete and total peace.

Walking in the peace of God, just like Jesus did, allows us to be in perfect control of our feelings, emotions and actions, no matter what the devil throws our way.  Not once do we see Jesus wringing His hands or having an emotional meltdown.  Even when the storm literally raged around Him, He spoke and embodied peace.  Jesus was THE peace-speaker.

The peace we have been given (as a gift, like salvation, healing, grace, righteousness, etc) is not a feeling that is based on our life circumstances.  It is a state in which we live.

But, but, but you say. “You don’t know what my life is like.  I have so much stress!”   Being at peace is a decision you make inside you, in your heart.  By YOU deciding that you will NOT LET stress consume your life, you are allowing God to work on the external circumstances FOR you.

During the last few years of my first marriage and the divorce that ended it, I had a peace that I cannot explain.  As many of you know, having marriage issues and going through a divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can endure.  Did I feel stressed and worried at times?  Of course I did.  But, before I would let it consume me, I would do something that might seem kind of silly to some of you.  I would close my eyes, picture myself holding my problems in my cupped hands, and then would throw them upward, as if “casting” them up to God.  Peace would come over me!  It’s true!  I did this seemingly childish act many times over until it has now become a habit of mine.  When I begin to worry or be afraid or stressed, I toss it to God like a game of hot potato and tell Him, “It’s all yours, Lord.”  Then I get back to doing what He wants me to be doing.  This simple act has helped me through a divorce and every other stressful situation I’ve encountered since, big or small.

What should we do instead of stressing about all the worrisome issues that come up in life?

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”            Matthew 6:33

Follow hard after God and He will work out all the details for you.  No worries.  He’s got this.

When we worry, we are telling God that we don’t need Him to help us.  We are saying that we can handle it ourselves.  If you think about it, we are nullifying Jesus’ sacrifice for our peace when we hold on to our problems.

Worrying is a sign of lack of faith in God.   Having faith in God, aka not worrying about things or getting stressed out, produces peace in your life.

Worry=little or no faith    Peace=total surrender and full of faith

Are you walking in the midst of your storm and not even noticing the waves tossing you about or the lightning and thunder roaring around you?  

Or are you consumed by stress and worry?  Is stress manifesting itself in your body through stomach ulcers, headaches, moodiness, and depression? 

The devil knows where to attack you…in those areas of your life where you feel the least secure.  Is your primary concern your finances?  Then, that’s where you won’t have peace.  Or maybe it’s your kids?  Then, that’s where your stress will originate from.

If you want peace in your life, refuse to allow worry and stress to come in.  Jesus said, “Let NOT your heart be troubled.”

“Cast your cares upon the Lord, for He cares for YOU.” I Peter 5:7

No matter how tiny or insignificant it may seem.  If it is causing you worry or distress, God wants you to give it to Him.  He knows what to do with your worries.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Besides, what good does worrying do you?

“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to your stature?”  Matthew 6:27

Worrying accomplishes one thing and one thing only…it gives the devil an open door into your heart to attack you and weaken your mind, spirit and body.

Find rest for your soul in the arms of Jesus.  He paid it all for you to have life everlasting and life abundantly. Embrace His grace and trust in Him with all the issues in your life.  Refuse to allow worry to consume you. God wants you to walk in peace.

Peace is part of the package of free gifts bequeathed to YOU at the moment of your born-again experience.  Walk in peace, starting NOW!

I sang this song as a little girl…I still sing it to this day when I’m feeling stressed or worried.  It goes like this..

I cast all my cares upon You,

I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet.

And any time, I don’t know, what to do,

I will cast all my cares upon You.

What are you worried about right now?  Put your hands out in front of you, picture you problem in your hands and then throw it up in the air. Cast your cares upon the Lord.  Have faith that He is working it all out for you, for your good!  Go ahead, try it.  No one’s looking…:)

I Admit, I Was Wrong

I write this because I MUST.  I have received so much revelation of God’s love and grace that I MUST share it.  Be blessed and may you experience divine revelation, as well.

Miriam Webster defines legalism as:  “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code <the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice>”

From the age of 6 until the age of 26, I lived an extremely legalistic life.  For 20 years, I depended on my efforts to maintain and reach a level of perfection or holiness to keep me “saved.”  If I could just be good enough, perfect enough, follow all the rules, I would be God’s favorite, I would earn His favor.  I thought that if I followed the “Steps to Salvation” (Acts 2:38) and then followed the list of do’s and don’ts outlined by the religious organization I was part of, then I would be saved. That all changed though and I thank God for His mercy in my life.

Throughout my life, the “Steps to Salvation” were taught to me as such:  First, you must repent of your sins, as in, get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness for all the wrong things you have ever done.  Second, be baptized to wash away those sins.  And thirdly, receive the Holy Ghost by speaking in tongues, which proves that you are saved.  Once these three things have been completed, your salvation has become complete.  Side note:  Repentance is not begging God to forgive you.  He already has.  Repentance is changing your mind and accepting that your sins have been forgiven.  Baptism DOES NOT wash away your sins.  We are baptized because of the forgiveness of our sins.  Baptism is an act of obedience when we become members of the body of Christ.  The infilling of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, is not the proof that you are now saved.  We receive “dunamis” power when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, which is the dynamic power given to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. The act of speaking in tongues is not salvation.  The “proof” of salvation is in a person’s heart and only God can see that.

Once the steps to salvation are completed, then come the “standards” of living that you must adhere to if you wish to remain saved and if you wish to participate in any kind of leadership within the church.  Things like this:  women cannot cut their hair or dye their hair; women cannot wear makeup; women cannot wear pants or shorts or sleeveless shirts or anything deemed immodest by the leaders of the organization, all skirts and dresses must cover the knees; women cannot wear jewelry.  Men are not permitted to have facial hair; men are not permitted to wear shorts; men are not permitted to have hair longer than their shirt collar.  Public swimming or coed swimming is a big no-no.  School dances such as proms are off limits. No TVs are allowed and going to the movies is prohibited.  And the list goes on…You must understand the context and audience of each book of the Bible.  Books like I and II Corinthians were written to new Christians who were used to participating in pagan customs and goddess worship.  Go ahead, read it again.  Pray for understanding.  Try to read it in a different version or translation.  Research the culture of Corinth in those days.  You’ll see.   

I tried my best to live up to ALL the requirements for living a perfect and holy life, to become righteous and sanctified and justified and all that stuff while trying to keep myself from going to hell.  Now listen very carefully to my next words.   I had it all wrong.

I can see some of you shaking your heads in disbelief.  I can see some of you nodding your heads because you’ve been there.  And I can see some of you frowning and becoming offended at what I’m saying because you are still there.  I’m not backslidden, quite the opposite. I haven’t fallen away from the truth, I have found the truth!  The truth has set me free and can do the same for you!

It’s not about me, it’s not about you.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s not about what I can do or what you can do, it’s about what Jesus has ALREADY done.

THIS is the truth.  Salvation occurs the moment you realize, understand, believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth, shed His blood and died on the cross for YOU.  When you repent (change your mind) for the life you’ve been living and decide to hand over the controls of your life to God, you become saved.  There is a transformation that happens between you and God in your spirit/heart at that very moment.  You become a child of God and you find all the favor you’re ever going to get from God right then and there.  He becomes completely pleased with you.  You become the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus.  There is nothing more that you could do that will earn more favor, make you more righteous or save you more than believing in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for you.  By grace you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  PERIOD.

We are not saved by our works.  As Christians, we SHOULD do good deeds so that others will see Jesus in us.  Our works are not to gain favor with God or salvation, but for others’ benefit.  Since Jesus is no longer walking this earth with us, we must be His hands and feet.  That is the purpose for DOING things.  WORKS DO NOT SAVE YOU OR KEEP YOU SAVED.

News Flash!  You won’t go to hell if you don’t do works or follow the law or the rules.  And your outward appearance has NOTHING to do with it.  God looks at the heart.  The Bible says our righteousness is as filthy rags.  Basically, it’s gross and disgusting to God when we try to appear holier or more righteous or get more saved or whatever other impure motive we have for doing things.  What do you think He thinks about all these man-made rules religion is forcing upon people?  He is disgusted by them.  Gross misinterpretation of Scripture and manipulation of the Word of God has wreaked havoc in the lives of well-meaning Christians for ages.  STUDY THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELF!  Don’t just take the word of a person just because he’s a preacher or a leader in your religious organization.  YOU have access to the presence and voice of God.  He can and will speak to you if you ask Him!

Reading your Bible, praying and fasting do not change God’s opinion of you.  It changes YOU.  These disciplines are solely for your growth and development as a Christian.  Do you get that?

Here’s an example from the Bible.  The Galatians, who were Jews, were trying to force the Gentiles who were newly converted Christians into becoming circumcised like them.  That is what the law had required before.  But we know that the law was no longer the judge once Jesus died and rose from the grave.  Jesus changed it all.  Grace now rules.  The apostle Paul shows up and is like, “What the what?’’  He asks them that if they were going to start following the law again, then why in the world did Jesus have to die on the cross?  Mixing the law (rules and regulations) with the grace of Jesus is like slapping God in the face.  All your sins, all my sins were taken care of, wiped out, cast away on the day that Jesus died.  He bore ALL the sins of the world that day.  There is nothing more that needs to be done by you or me but to accept this FREE gift of love, grace, mercy, righteousness, holiness, healing and salvation from our Creator.  Read Galatians chapter 5 if you don’t believe me.  And also the entire book of Romans and Hebrews.  And how about all the words of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not based on one scripture in Acts, it’s based on the life and death of Jesus Christ, the grace of God.

Once you experience this awesome conversion in your heart, your life will change.  You won’t need a list of do’s and don’ts.  As my pastor recently said, “Your want-to will change.”  You will become a new creation in Christ.  Everything will be different.  You won’t want to be like you were before because of God’s tremendous and everlasting love for you.

The Ten Commandments is our moral code, true.  But Jesus came and said there are only two commandments which the rest of the commandments hang on.  First, love God with all your heart.  Second, love your neighbor as yourself.  If we can just get those two “rules” down, then we’re good.  Think about that.  If you love others, you’re going to treat them like you would yourself.  If you love God, that’s going to change what you do in your life.  When you understand the terrible things that Jesus went through for YOU, it becomes very personal.  Have you ever seen the movie, “The Passion of Christ?”  For me, it was so painful to see what Jesus endured because of MY sins.  Seeing a depiction of what Jesus went through makes me not want to sin every again.  I take it very personally.  That’s how it should be.  Understanding the sacrifice and love of God will change you.

God loves you so much.  He sent His son to die for YOU.  If you were the only one on earth, He still would have done it.  You are the apple of His eye, His most cherished creation.  All He wants is relationship with you.  He has made a way.  Believe it.

Once you become a new creation in Christ, the doors will be wide open for you.  Salvation is just the first of many precious gifts He has for you.  A Christ-filled life is an abundant life, bursting with blessings and favor.  Joy and peace are yours for the taking.  And so much more.

During Vacation Bible School this past summer, we taught the kids a song about God’s love.  The words to this song perfectly sum up what I’m trying to say today.

You cannot stop God from loving you.

His love is not based on what you do.

Today God wants to help you understand.

That nothing can snatch you from His hand. 

Paul’s prayer and desire for the church in Ephesus is my prayer and desire for each of you,

“For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV 

If you would like to know more about what the Bible says about salvation, grace or legalism, feel free to contact me.  Be Blessed!

“How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”   Proverbs 16:16

Click on this link and listen to this song “Scandal of Grace”      http://youtu.be/cka7fYhWj2E


Demise of a Rosebush

Some time ago, I had a rosebush in the flower garden outside of my living room window.  This rosebush had long branches, like tentacles of an octopus, reaching out and jagging whomever walked by and required constant care and upkeep to keep it under control.  On several occasions, I neglected to give the bush the proper care that it needed. The branches would sometimes spread out 6-10 feet, completely invading the flower garden.  The bush demanded weekly, if not daily care to maintain its beauty.  Caring for the bush was an arduous task, but when it was in full bloom, it was a spectacular sight.  Hundreds of pale pink, fluffy, velvety roses dripped from the branches of the bush.

Weeding around the bush was quite a chore.  Pulling weeds that grew amongst the rosebush was painstaking because of the inch long thorns that jagged me with every yank.  And I REALLY do not like weeding.  I’ll take any other yardwork (mowing, digging, raking, cutting down stuff with a chainsaw, you name it), but weeding.  So, when I get around to it, I do it as quickly as possible and probably not as thoroughly as I should.  But alas, weeding is vital to the health of the flower garden. If weeds are left to grow, they will literally choke the life out of other plants.  Weeding is a necessary evil.

On one particular day, I went outside to do a check up on my flowers.  A week or two had gone by since I had weeded and my once-blooming flower garden was looking ragged and forlorn.  I began weeding and weeding and weeding…and weeding.  When I finally reached the rosebush, my hands were sore, my back was killing me and the sun was scorching a hole through my shirt.  I noticed there was a rather large weed growing right up the center of the bush.  Reluctantly and carefully, I reached my hand in to pull the weed out.  I gave it a pull, oh so carefully, so as not to get punctured by the bush’s daggers.  It would not budge.  Rather than risking the skin on my hand and arm, I just left it.  I was tired of weeding and couldn’t tolerate any more that day.  Enough was enough!

More weeks went by.  The rosebush had grown out of control and the weed in the center had grown larger. I gave it a yank using both hands this time, really putting my back into it.  Fail.  I could not get it out, no matter how hard I pulled, no matter how much I twisted it, no matter what angle I came at it from.  Once again, I abandoned my efforts.  Susie-0, monstrous weed-2.  Complete defeat.

Autumn came, the roses stopped blooming.  I cut the bush back like you’re supposed to do each fall.  I cut the weed back too.  By this point, it was no longer a weed, but more like a sapling.  I wish I had caught it sooner!  I just left it there, growing among my beautiful rosebush.  “Maybe it will die during winter,” I thought to myself.

Spring arrived.  It took me several weeks to attend to my garden.  When I finally got to it, the weed that had been a sapling was now 10 feet tall and had a bona fide trunk.  A tree was now growing straight up from my rosebush!  How on earth could this happen?  I waved the white flag.

I figured it was time to call in the big guns, aka the hubby.  He tried extracting the “tree” from my bush with a shovel and saw.  He could not.  Being a man, he decided the best course of action was to bring in a piece of heavy equipment.  More power, right?  Argh, argh, argh.  He pulled the John Deere tractor up to the bush, wrapped a chain (!) around the trunk of that overgrown weed and pulled.  And do you know what happened?  Not only did the weed come out, but so did my rosebush.  The roots of the weed had become entwined with the roots of the rosebush.  When he pulled the weed, the rosebush came out too!  My beautiful rosebush was destroyed!  All that was left was a gaping hole in the ground and a very tiny remnant of the root.

If I had only been more diligent about consistently weeding my garden, this would not have happened.  But because I was lazy, because weeding is hard, because weeding is not fun, because I had better things to do with my time, my rosebush was nearly completely destroyed.

The human heart (soul) is like that rosebush.  It is wild and untamed in its natural state.  But it flourishes and blooms when it is daily watered, fed and weeded.

What is water to our soul?  The spirit of God.  It is like rivers of living water.

How do we feed our hearts?  By putting good things into our minds and hiding the Word of God in our hearts. And through praise and worship.

How do we weed our hearts, clean out the soil of our soul?  By asking God to reveal the weeds to us and remove them from our hearts.  We can ask God to search our hearts and our souls.

Weeds growing in the heart can be things like bitterness, hatred, regret, envy, or anger.  If we do not remove these unwelcome assassins when they are small, they will take root in our hearts.  Once they take root, they are difficult to remove.  And once they take root and began to grow, extracting them will be equivalent to spiritual open-heart surgery.  Weeds must be removed or complete destruction WILL occur.

Guard your heart.  Don’t be easily offended.  Forgive others when they wrong you.  Let things go.  Be grateful for the things or the life YOU have.  Stop looking in the past and wishing you could go back and change things.  Don’t harbor ill feelings towards other people.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Call in reinforcements (pastor, friend, counselor) if you need help clearing the weeds.

The heart that God has placed in you is precious.  Give it daily love and attention.  You have a choice.  Encourage your rosebush to grow and flourish or allow the weeds to take over and choke the life out of you.

The weeds in my heart almost choked the life out of me.  Regret, bitterness, anger, shame, and hatred are just a few of the weeds that tried to cause destruction to my soul.  But through God’s mercy and grace, I was not consumed by them.  The process of extraction was painful, tedious and a WHOLE lot of work.  I now water, feed and weed my soul daily.

Daily diligence wards off devastating destruction.


Psalm 51:10

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

A Resolution to LOVE

It’s that time of year again! All over Facebook, I see people posting about how 2014 is going to be the best year yet for their lives. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s time to make those New Year’s resolutions! I, historically, have not made resolutions. There’s something about the pressure of SAYING I’m going to lose weight, become more organized, save more money, etc. that weirds me out. Maybe it’s just because I’m weird, I don’t know. I need more than a “general” statement like, “This year, I will lose 30 lbs.” It’s got to be broken down for me, week by week, month by month and so on. And then, I get all obsessive about it and think only about that one thing while the rest of the world swirls in chaos around me. I don’t have the time or energy for that! I mean, yes, I DO need to lose 30 lbs (okay, well maybe 40) and I fully intend on placing my personal well-being and health back on the list of priorities this year. Also, I DO plan on systematically organizing my house, room by room this year. I have a lot of clutter to get rid of. These are more like ongoing resolutions for me. These are goals I keep logged in my head that I’m always working on. I don’t normally say these things aloud though. I wouldn’t want anyone to try to hold me to it! Hahaha! Hey, I’m being honest! There’s nothing more annoying than my husband kindly “reminding” me of my resolution while I’m eating a piece of triple chocolate cake…

But, this year, I want to make a resolution that I fully intend on becoming obsessive about and one that I truly desire to consume my mind. And this year, I’m going to put it out there for all to see. Ok…here it goes…

In 2014, I will show more LOVE and extend more GRACE than I ever have in my life to this point. What will that look like in my life?

When my kids behave in a way that is less than desirable to me, instead of freaking out on them like a madwoman, I will gently correct them and wrap my arms of love around them. Lord knows, I’ve messed up in my life and have been extended love and mercy from Jesus. He doesn’t beat me up about my mistakes. Why should I be so harsh with my kids? The Bible says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48) And then, there’s this verse from Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers (mothers too), do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

When my husband doesn’t “measure up” to my expectations of him (which he normally isn’t even aware of), instead of pouting and giving him the silent treatment, I will show him love and extend grace to him. Instead of thinking only of myself and what I want from him, I will focus on meeting his needs and giving of myself to him in a more selfless manner. When Jesus was being tortured, beaten and crucified for MY sins, for my sickness and disease, He was thinking only of me, not Himself. He wasn’t concerned with His own comfort and desires. So for heaven’s sake, can’t I lay my self-centered point of view aside every once in a while and show my husband the love and attention that I would like to receive? Plus, it’s the Word, ladies! “ Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.” Ephesians 5:21-24, The Message

When my family or friends disappoint me, not follow through on what they said they would do, cancel plans on me, talk about me behind my back, hurt my feelings or criticize me, I will not retaliate. I will NOT live by the “eye for an eye” rule. I will show them love and grace. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. I will turn the other cheek. I will keep my mouth shut when I want to say something back. When I feel left out or slighted, I will remember how Jesus was alone on the cross, how He had to bear that day by Himself. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.”

This is just a small sampling of the people who cross my path in life. How about the people on the street, at the mall, at the grocery store? Or how about those whose way of life I don’t agree with? What about those who are different than me in every way? I resolve to show them the love of God. I may be inconvenienced at times and I know I will have to swallow my pride a whole lot, but His love is in me and I must let it out.

Here are some verses to help encourage me, maybe they’ll encourage you to show love, too!

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” I John 3:17

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:2

Jesus even said it Himself as recorded in John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

And finally, take a moment to read I Corinthians 13.

So, all you Facebook peeps, I join you. I join you in making a declaration that 2014 WILL indeed be the best year yet!