{ This Valley }

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This valley does not go on forever.

Just keep walking.

One step at a time. 

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While you are walking

While you are praying

While you are looking up

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The ground will rise to meet you,

The wind will suddenly be at your back

And sunlight will fall tenderly upon you.

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You will know that God

Has been

Holding you gently

  In His loving grip.

~~~

“May the road rise to meet you, and the wind always be at your back. May the rains fall softly on your fields. May God hold you gently in the palm of his hand. — Traditional Irish Blessing

~~~

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. — Numbers 6:24-26

~~~

Photos:

K

Jeremy Bishop

Wolfgang Lutz

 Marc-Olivier Jodoin

This is one of my all-time favorite devotional books: Streams in the Desert.

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{ Better Than }

God’s steadfast love is better than life. ~ Psalm 63:3

A good name is better than great riches. ~ Proverbs 22:1

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9

The end of a thing is better than its beginning. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:8

The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. ~  Ecclesiastes 7:8

To obey is better than sacrifice. ~ I Samuel 15:22

But God treats us much better than we deserve… ~ Romans 3:24

Consider others better than yourself. ~ Philippians 2:3

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Photos:

 Annie Spratt

 Michal Janek

 Tim Marshall

{War Declared on Sin Today }

War declared on

SIN

today.

Zero tolerance.

No exceptions.

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No questions asked.

No holds barred.

No ifs, ands or buts.

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The enemy–

Including but not limited to–

Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth,

Will be apprehended and arrested

Without a phone call,

A trial,

Or a last meal.

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Offenders will first be

Drowned in light,

Then beheaded with a double-edged sword

Followed by hanging from the highest gallows.

–The Management

~~~~

For when you live controlled by the flesh, you are about to die. But if the life of the Spirit puts to death the corrupt ways of the flesh, we then taste his abundant life. — Romans 8:13 TPT

~~~

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I am reading this book,thanks to Brenda, who recommended it. 

Photos:

Museums Victoria

Henry Hustava

Aaron Burden

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

{ My Psalm 139 }

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Dear God,

You have searched my heart

  • Inside and out
  • Up and down
  • All the way through

(and that would scare me a little, if the searcher was anyone but You)

Because there are some:

  • Cluttered corners
  • Dusty nooks
  • Untidy spots

In this heart of mine.

But because YOU are the One pointing the spotlight,

I know that you see it all and love me still.

Your searching light doesn’t drive me away…instead it draws me.

So go ahead and search –

(I can’t escape that loving lens anyway.)

If I try to hide under a pile of feeble plans and works

You smile and shine bright on me.

If I disguise myself in one of my favorite masks,

You lift it off and embrace me.

Using toys, tricks, and hopeless distractions

I cover myself.

But you know I’m there.

You saw all my thoughts and future words

even before I was born.

You scrutinized it all when you were:

  • Secretly crafting me
  • Masterfully molding me
  • Uniquely carving out my days and ways

And you keep on weaving, sculpting and sovereignly decorating me from the inside out.

Your work makes me

  • Stand up and celebrate
  • Kneel down and weep
  • Glad to praise you forever

And while You keep shining Your light,

We will keep clearing out the clutter.

I will grip Your hand and

Follow Your path into eternity.

~~~

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

{ Clean }

 

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I don’t dress like this when I clean the house.

 

I like a clean living space, but, cleaning is not a cherished hobby of mine. I generally value clutter-free over dust-free.

Years ago, my Spanish friend Ana invited me into her small apartment. I was amazed at how shiny-sparkly-clean it was and I commented on it.

“Yes, I like to do this!” Ana bubbled enthusiastically. I’ve never forgotten her radiant response; scrubbing the home spotless was a happy thing for her.

My Norwex-selling friend recently educated me on the stunning benefits of micro-fiber cleaning.

I’m totally not going to have a Norwex party, but I appreciated her zeal and knowledge; I really learned something.

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For a recent birthday, my daughter gave me a cleaning tote, stuffed with Mrs. Meyer’s sprays and other goodies. Was this gift a not-so-subtle hint, because she knows my housecleaning flaws? Hmmm….

Anyway, cleaning is more fun, now that I have Mrs. Meyer’s help.

I will now awkwardly transition to some brief thoughts about spiritual cleaning.

I was reading my Bible the other day and I cannot remember exactly what I was reading. I didn’t feel spiritually dirty and didn’t set out be to be purposefully “washed” that day, but suddenly I truly felt God’s words cascading over me, cleansing me.

As I have chewed on this the last few days, I have felt that reading God’s word is a powerful spiritual cleaning agent because:

  • It reminds me whose I am
  • It purifies my life perspective
  • It shines a loving light onto my heart
  • It pours hope down on me
  • It showers comfort over my soul
  • It cleanses festering wounds
  • It removes destructive thoughts and damaging lies.

~~~~~~~

“…wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

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“The Gospel is a cleansing agent, for it is the good news of Christ’s atoning death at Calvary. The Word is a cleansing agent also for sanctification. That’s why it’s important for us to read and study the Scriptures; they are a cleansing agent in our lives. It’s amazing what the Word of God will do with people when they read and study it. — John MacArthur

 

Bible photo:  Aaron Burden

{ God’s Math: 1 + 1 ≠ 2 }

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  —Isaiah 55:8-9 

I am not a math whiz.  Of all my extended family members, I am probably the least gifted with numbers.

My brain lives in the realm of pictures and approximations. Math is too exact; too detailed.

Yet, other family members seem to be fearless of numbers. My math-major sister-in-law said once in a casual setting, “I love abstract math.”  

What is that? Math with no visible symbols? Who would want to make math harder than it already is?

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So, the other day, I was visiting a church, watching a group of missionaries assemble at the front.

This caused me to think of my daughter, who is working at a refugee camp far away, going beyond her comfort zone, doing brave things in a company of global strangers.

Which caused me to consider all my children and who they are becoming.

I wondered: 

Lord, how did this happen? How can it be that you take children from a humble home, raised by imperfect parents, and grow them into amazing, beautiful souls?”

It doesn’t add up.

So, I was thinking about God’s kind of math, right there in the church service. 

God’s equations go beyond 1+1=2. God’s math goes beyond what seems logical or rational.  God’s math even seems to work backwards sometimes.

God’s kind of math says:

  • 2 small coins can sometimes mean more than a large sum of money.  (Mark 12:42)
  • Weak can be more powerful than strong. (Isaiah 40:29)
  • A few resources in God’s hands can multiply at a miraculous rate. (John 6:13)
  • Those who are last shall be first.  (Matt 20:16)
  • When you give to God, you get back way more than you gave. (Luke 6:38)

Things put into God’s hands seem to explode exponentially.

Finally, the omnipotent God is not only a master multiplier, he is a caring Creator. Which earthly number cruncher would not only count stars in the sky, but also lovingly name them?

He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4

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Photos:

John Moeses Bauan

Alexander Andrews

{ God’s Gym }

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Can I look at life trials like an athlete looks at barbells? She can’t weight to lift those heavy chunks of metal…because she knows they build muscle.

Here are 3 bodybuilding terms, tweaked for daily Christian living:

Gains

Gains = progress made. As an athlete builds endurance through hard work in the gym, a Christian builds endurance and patience by being exposed to difficult circumstances and responding in a spiritual way.  It’s not just being exposed to difficult times and people that achieves growth. Gains are made by exercising faith and obedience muscles –especially when it’s tough.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Weekend Warrior

There are people that hit the gym all week long, and there are people that only come a few hours on a weekend. Likewise, there are people sporadically go to church or read their Bibles and perhaps feel stirred…but never really change.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1: 22-25

Spotter

If you lift heavy weights in a gym, you may need a spotter. The spotter is there to prevent the weights from falling down and crushing you. Spotters may also boost the lifter’s morale by shouting encouraging phrases.

We need spiritual spotters — encouragers in life — to stand beside us as we lift emotional and spiritual weights. Spotters don’t do it for us, and they don’t tempt us to escape the gym. They are friends who stand alongside and encourage us to succeed. Their presence is comforting, helps us follow through, and prevents us from feeling crushed.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

Finishing Well

Lord, by your grace and power, may I make consistent gains as I press on in the Christian life.
May I actively look for ways to encourage others.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Trials need not deplete me, they are used by God to complete me.

 

 

 

{ Even Up Above Yourself }

Philippians is joyful letter, written by an incarcerated man of God, who loved his spiritual “children.” They were fellow believers, living miles away, who were struggling to live out their faith in a tempting and dark world.

I especially like chapter 2, though it’s easier to talk and write about it than it is to DO IT.

Anytime it happens, I know it’s only God working it out somehow through me.

Here is my paraphrase of this chapter, and unlike the true inspired words of scripture, it’s peppered with all my favorite punctuation marks — dashes, parentheses, ellipses, etc…

Anyway, it’s from the heart and I hope writing my version of Philippians 2:1-11 reminds me to do what it says:

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Following Christ brings encouragement, love, comfort, affection and a godly sympathy —

So, encourage me by living and walking together with unity.

Don’t be selfish or proud in your attitudes or actions.

Be humble — and lift people up — even up above yourself.

Don’t wallow in self-absorption; break out and joyfully meet a need…or two…or three!

Because (and only because) of Christ-in-you, you have His mind.

So…do things in the same way He did.

He came as a poor and lowly man…but in reality,

He was — and still is — G O D.

He willingly took on human form, with all of its earthly limitations.  He was a meek and loving servant — empty, humble and obedient.

His obedience took Him to the cross.

(But He didn’t stay there.)

After the unimaginable suffering came the unlimited triumph.

Now and forever, God has lifted Jesus up and given Him a name so powerful

it will make every knee bow

and every tongue admit

that yes —

Jesus Christ

really and eternally–

is  L O R D.

[And He — and we — will forever give God the glory He deserves!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Philippians 2: 1-11  ESV

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Photo Credit:michael schaffler

{ 7 Questions }

I received a list of thoughtful questions from a dear one.

Answering these questions might be an excellent end-of-year exercise to rouse my sluggish brain cells out of their post-Christmas sugar stupor!

So…here goes.

(If you also would like some brain exercise, feel free to answer one of the questions ~ post your answer in the comment area below!)

Happy 2019.

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  1. If the last year could be summed up in one word, what would it be? Doors. Doors are pathways to growth, discovery and change. There were subtle but real changes in our family; new job opportunities, new friendships, and new “life tributaries” that occurred in our growing young adult children.   They are blossoming into their own persons.  This is hard sometimes for a mother.  I must bite my tongue when older children don’t automatically mimic our parental ideals. God is molding them uniquely; they have brains, prayers and dreams of their own.
  2. What are two or three major themes that kept occurring? Change. Reality. Release.
  3. What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of? Small internal victories, like: Holding my tongue at the exact right time. Deciding to wait and listen before reacting. Asking another question instead of responding emotionally.  Ignoring a perceived offense rather than retaliate with a sarcastic / witty comeback. Choosing faith instead of worry.  (These might seem like itsy bitsy successes hardly worthy of mentioning, and they might have only happened once or twice in all of the 365 days of 2018. But to me, they seemed to be larger accomplishments than completing an Ironman triathlon….)
  4. What do I feel I should have been acknowledged for, but wasn’t? Hmmm….I will think about this one…or maybe I shouldn’t dig around to find something?
  5. What disappointments or regrets did I experience this year? Spending time doing unimportant, useless, time-wasting things.
  6. What was missing from my year as I look back? Nothing that I can think of. 
  7. What were some major life lessons I learned this year? Time passes faster than I think it can or want it to.  

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Photo credit:Josh Riemer

Questions adapted from Lore Wilbert ~  http://www.sayable.net/about/ 

{ Untamed & Dangerous }

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The tongue.  That fiery, kind, brutal, life-giving, encouraging, poisonous puppet.  It doesn’t do the damage on its own; there’s a mysterious channel that runs from the heart and brain, looking for a way to get out. So, the tongue obliges, spilling its venom, or healing balm — whichever the heart dictates.

“She’s written about the tongue before,” you say.

Yep. I wonder why? Because it’s an ongoing, never-ending battle. I’m not what you’d call “a talker.”  But, I think a lot of thoughts and they boil just like anyone else’s.

So, I had a lot of these bubbling thoughts the other day — and it was a stinky brew. There was a real and present danger that it was going to force its way out of my mouth, via the formidable tongue.

Which led me to read (again) the words from the book of James (see bold words below) And, I read and wrote and summarized what I was reading, hoping that I will totally understand and assimilate the living, powerful word of God. The basic thing I want to remember: the tongue is untamed and untameable — humanly speaking.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I cannot try to control it.  When I ask God for His help, He will give it.

This is my uninspired paraphrase of James chapter 3, the revealing and helpful “tongue chapter” of the Bible:

We are prolific stumblers.  If you don’t stumble when you use your tongue, you must be a mannequin or a robot.  Just like small bits guide the big bodies of horses…and just like seemingly insignificant ship rudders control unwieldy, bulky ships, the tiny tongue effects enormous power and potential — for good or evil.

Forest fires are started by a small spark, and the tongue’s work is like that at first — a mini controlled blaze – one that turns into a menacing, chaotic firestorm.

The tongue is the Creator’s design, but it is a notoriously sinful member of our bodies — staining lives, reputations, and setting relationships ablaze. The tongue is a useful weapon in the soul-enemy’s arsenal.

Wild creatures worldwide have been tamed by humans — but not the wild, unruly tongue. It never can be tamed.  It’s restless and seems to be always itching for trouble.  Our tongues are double agents — blessing and cursing at will. How can both poison and healing come out of the same opening?  But that’s the sad truth about the tongue.  Kind words, and cutting words; helpful and damaging, encouraging and murderous — all pouring out of the same mouth…

James 3: 2-10 from the Bible:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. ~ James 3:2-10 ESV

 

Photo credit: Sarah Louise Kinsella