Living intentionally brings great Joy!

shopping together

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily (from the soul),

 as for the Lord rather than for men.” Colossians 3:23 NASB

This morning, my devotional reading took me to Isaiah fifty-seven. I never got there. My personality says I’m easily distracted. So true this morning as I opened my Bible to Isaiah fifty-three.  I’ll start reading here then meander on over to the devotional verse in chapter fifty-seven, I thought, but I spent all my time in chapter fifty-three!

Reading Isaiah fifty-three slow and thoughtfully, I stopped several times to ponder several verses. But verse ten stopped me cold. In the New Living Translation it reads,

 “But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.”

In verse three it says that the Savior was “despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”

We all have turned our backs on this man, this Savior, and yet in verse ten it says that God knew we would! It was His good plan that He allowed His son to go through this torment. That’s how much God loves us! He truly did put His own Son on the cross for us! Seasoned believers can get real calloused to the story of Jesus’ death on the cross for their sins. I don’t think we mean to. We just hear it often and we let it lose its meaning.

But today, I was reading Isaiah fifty-three from a new translation for me, the New Living Translation, and I asked Jesus to give me fresh eyes to see what has been familiar to me. When I read “it was the LORD’s good plan….” I stared at my Bible for a long time. It seemed that these words hit me harder as to what He did, more than what I was used to in my New American Standard version that says, “But the LORD was pleased to crush Him…” I believe God just spoke to me in a real way this morning. God seemed to say to me, “I had this all planned that the Savior will come, and people won’t like Him, won’t understand Him, won’t believe Him. He’ll be severely mistreated, abused, and rejected and all this is part of the grand plan!”

I looked further at the next verses and saw,

“Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.” Vs. 10-11

His descendants are those of us who choose to believe that what he did on the cross for us will live because he died for us! Amazing! That, my Friend, is worth pondering early in the morning on the porch!

I asked the Lord to help me live intentionally this day.

I got dressed and headed out to visit a new friend in the hospital. While there I asked her if she were familiar with Psalm 23. I had brought my new Bible, the NLT, and was prepared to read it to her. But alas, we both had grown up knowing this familiar Psalm from the “real” translation – the King James Version! So, together we recited it from memory and what joy to quote the poetic truth together! We visited a bit longer before it was time to offer a prayer and a kind farewell.visiting an elderly woman in hospital

My hands were in dire need of attention! I headed over to my favorite nail salon. The gentleman was indeed gentle. Paul took such good care of my hands. In the midst of sitting there with hands outstretched while he trimmed the painful cuticles, I began to hum “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” Some words came out unintentionally. The lady getting her nails done beside me looked over and said, “You just don’t hear those old Gospel songs at church anymore and that’s just plain sad. Those have the deepest meaning.”

“You’re so right about that,” I said. Paul’s smile grew as he encouraged me to keep singing! For some reason, after a few minutes, the song just went away. I sat quietly, taking in such gentle care.

Later, as Paul was finishing treating my hands I leaned in under the bright lamp and asked him quietly if he knew Jesus. His face lit up with joy. “Yes, He lives here,” he smiled, pointing to his heart.getting nails done

“What is your favorite book of the Bible?” I asked. He said he reads the Bible every day.

“I read from Isaiah this morning,” I said.

“Oh, Isaiah! Fifty-one and fifty-three are my favorite!”  he said, lighting up.

“I read chapter fifty-three this morning!” I responded and then explained what verse ten did to me, stopping me in my tracks, making me thank God over and over.

“I read Isaiah fifty-three every day,” he said quietly with confidence.

“Wow. Everyday. You must glean something new every time you read. You must grow deeper in your faith walk with Him,” I said, utterly amazed at our conversation.

“I think of Jesus every second of every day,”

he said, pointing heavenward then to his heart. “He means so much to me.”

Humbled at his utter devotion to his Lord, was this simple man who works on women’s hands all day six days a week, then worships his Savior on Sundays with his family and friends.

“We do whatever we do as unto Jesus,”

we both agreed, smiling. Absolutely. Whatever our work, it is worthwhile when done as unto our Lord.

He received an extra handsome tip today because he blessed this old soul with his genuine heart and testimony of his devotion to his Lord.

Father, it is so hard to comprehend what you allowed your only Son to endure for me; for us. Thank you, Father, that your plan was accomplished! Thank you, Jesus, that you willingly obeyed your Father. When we live intentionally, led by your Spirit, and ponder on what you did for us on the cross, you bring blessed surprises to our dailyness! I love you, Lord, every second of every day! Amen.

Created for a Purpose

two women talking

“You yourselves bear me witness,that I said, I am not the Christ (Messiah), but, I have been sent before Him.” John 3:28

Each week either on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, I have the joy of visiting the sweetest saint on earth. I pull into the driveway of her apartment building, expecting to either meet her in the dining room for lunch with she and her friends, or I’ll find her waiting at the entrance for a ride over to one of her favorite restaurants – just the two of us, she’ll say. Those are her cabin fever days when she needs some fresh air.

Once we’re seated with lunch before us, she’ll tell me about her adventures over the past week. “Can we stop by Tuesday Morning to pick up some good chocolate today?” She has asked on numerous occasions recently. One week she told me a story, her green eyes dancing. Seems she has discovered when she goes over to pay a short visit with her friends in skilled nursing, she has had some positive feedback that the visits were so special and enjoyable.

I muse at her enthusiastic surprise. Of course those dear folks are glad to see you, I’d explain. You’re not a needle poker, or pill giver. And what you bring doesn’t come from the kitchen. They are delighted that another soul other than family or foe has taken the time to walk all the way down the hall to see them! Imagine! She does imagine. Not too many years ago, she was sitting in one of those tiny rooms in a chair beside a single bed, her beloved husband of sixty years lying in the middle of it.

On this last visit she and I dined out at La Madeline near her home. My heart was heavy that day. She was patient to hear of one of my friends moving to hospice care this week. She’s my age, I sighed. But does your friend know the Lord, she asked me, leaning way in; concern written all over her face. Because, if she does, she ought not be afraid! Heaven is a wonderful place! Yes, I told her. My friend, a relatively new Believer, is at peace. She knows Jesus.

Then she shared her story. Sad, yes, but so much better. Her best friend of nearly fifty years has released her husband, she said. Good, I replied. Her ninety year old husband has been existing in a hospital bed in their two bedroom apartment, filled to the brim with all their furniture and treasures they simply couldn’t part with when they down-sized five years ago.

Now, her husband has her permission to pass into glory, unhindered. She asked her best friend, Wanda, if she had funeral services in order? Did she know what her husband would want? A memorial? Where? Wanda was befuddled. I have no clue, she told her.

She sat down with her dear friend, and over the past few days tenderly walked her  down the long last days hall with her, down to the florist choice, hymn choice and where she wants the service. This was now familiar ground for her. Yet, I know she was careful to let this be her friend’s husband’s service.  These were their wishes, not hers.

” He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

On the way back to her apartment a light went off in my head. I turned and looked at her. These are the very reasons you are still here at the feisty age of eighty-nine! You are still here on earth to go through these hard days with Wanda! You’re here to bring a bit of chocolate, sunshine and smiles to your friends at skilled nursing! Plus, you now understand heaven and all its joys! She wore radiance as a silk scarf around her neck the whole time we talked. Talking of dying and suffering are hard when you don’t know where you’re going afterward, she said, radiant.

You were made for such a time as this!

This past Friday’s Bible Study lesson had focused on John the Baptist, the forerunner for Jesus. After Jesus had been baptized, called out His disciples, and began ministering, teaching and healing folks, John the Baptist’s disciples were a bit jealous that Jesus was now getting all the attention. But, his purpose had been accomplished. He had announced the coming of One greater than he; he had called the people to repentance, and he had baptized the Messiah. Purpose fulfilled.

I bent over and gave my mom a genuine hug. You are so ready! But not yet, Lord! There’s still much the Father has for you to do! Right here! Where you live!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4

happy old woman

Father, thank you for this season to enjoy my mother. It is a joy to watch her be exactly where you want her; to witness her love for life, for her friends, and most of all, for her Savior! And yes, Lord, I know I’m very blessed to have her! In Jesus’ name, Amen

At this season of the year, do not be afraid

“The angel of the Lord said to her, “Do not be afraid.” Luke 1:30

Do you mark certain passages in your Bible? Can you highlight on your phone Bible app? I don’t know.  I haven’t really read the Bible on my phone, even though I downloaded an app a few weeks ago so I could better relate to my younger mom friends!  I’m just used to my “real” Bible! The one I can hold in my lap and underline with a real pen!

underlined Bible

Lately I’ve been underlining the phrase that the angels kept saying right off the bat to the one they were sent to give a Godly message-“Do not be afraid.”

God sent the angel Gabriel to give Mary a very important, life-changing message and after he greeted her, he said, “Do not be afraid.” Mary was greatly troubled by this being suddenly appearing and talking directly to her. Troubled? I’d be so knotted up in fear I wouldn’t be able to respond. And the angel dares to tell her not to be afraid?

An angel appeared to Joseph, whom Mary was betrothed to be married, in a dream and the first words out of the angel’s mouth were, “Do not be afraid…..”

The angels in the heavens over the shepherds the night Mary had her miraculous baby named Jesus were also told not to be afraid.

Something totally unexpected happens in the life of these people and they are told not to be afraid. Right. Of course they were afraid. Startled. Terrified. Perfectly human response!

But I’m thinking that the reason for the admonition to be unafraid is that once their adrenaline died back down to normal so they could think, they were encouraged to consider the message. Yes, it was clearly unorthodox. Mary was told she was going to have a baby but not from Joseph and not from any other man.  Joseph was to take Mary, knowing she was pregnant but not by him but by a Holy Spirit, whatever that was. The shepherds were told to go worship the Messiah who was just born as a baby in a feed trough there in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary had to rely on what they knew from their Jewish teaching that Jehovah was indeed their God and they were to trust in Him and how He was moving.

Later, when Jesus gave final instructions to His disciples on the night of the Passover meal, He told them “when I go away the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Then He said to them,

“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 14:25-27

peace I give to you

This passage is not only underlined but held close to my heart. I have to return to this passage over and over because the enemy likes to tell me otherwise.

To so many of us, including me, this seems to be the season of “get it all done as soon as you can while still maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the home;” or,  the season of “I must do something tangible for everyone I know right now so they’ll think nice of me and because this is what we do at this time of year only.”

Somewhere along the way, the “Should-a finger” begins to wag. You know, that ugly nagging old finger; the enemy uses the “should-a finger” when we crash in to bed at the end of a very busy day and the “should-a finger” begins to accuse. You should-a done it this way-the way you saw it done on Pintrest or the way your friend does it- her decorating, her baking, her outdoor decorations, and those lovely Christmas cards of all the family dressed exactly alike and smiling. How DID they get that baby to smile on cue???

The world, including a whole lot of well-meaning Believers, gets caught up in all the hoop-la. They just have to decorate, send out cards, bake, all while carrying on the normal routine of their lives. When you enter their inner world, their bedroom, their closet, their kitchen, their heart, you’ll see cracks and crevices of not-put-togetherness. Trust me.

And that’s when I have to run to my treasure trove of Scripture such as the one in Isaiah 26:3.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Thee, because they trust in Thee.”

Perfect peace. His peace. That peace He promised that would not look like the world.

Yes, I have to make the conscious decision to move away from the accuser and in to the Truth of what Jesus promised. To the Word. And truly, I’m put at ease when I dwell on Jesus. That’s what He wants us to do! He is not a religion! He is not a plastic or ceramic baby doll in a manger at this busy season. He’s real and wants us to trust in the promise of His peace. So I do. And experience the reality of His peace.

So what does leaning in to the perfect peace of Jesus look like?

On Wednesday evening a couple of moms and their children came over for chili and cornbread. I had stressed over having enough for whoever came, thinking surely more were coming. They just had not taken the time to let me know. But once the moms came, in my spirit I gave the evening entirely over to the Lord. What He had in mind was exactly what transpired. Time with a couple of moms who needed to pour out their heart; and time to pray. No frills, gifts, or fanfare.

Listen. All the extra giving and card giving and crafts and baking are not bad in or of themselves. But all this can be distracting us from focusing on who Jesus is and why He came. Distractions are definitely one of the enemy’s greatest tricks.  The enemy also delights in posing as the “should-a finger” causing in us that over wrought feeling of not accomplishing all that should be done at this season.

“Don’t be afraid to simplify. Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and……be thankful” Colossians 3:15.

Thankful for the reason we go crazy at this time of year. Take a few minutes each day and say, “Lord, I lean in to Your peace today. I choose to rely on You this day. Help me to rest in You no matter what. Thank you, Lord!” Then, you’ll be a blessing to those around you as you experience His peace. It will come over you in a beautiful profound way. I guarantee it.

Do not be afraid to lean in to the Father this year.

Do not be afraid to let go of those things that really aren’t important.

Do not be afraid to say no. Not this year.

Do not be afraid to give thanks; out loud; multiple times a day!

Do not be afraid to give out smiles and hugs and love to others.

Do not be afraid to receive. Do not be afraid to give.

To Him be the glory. Amen.

 

His peace is so real!

“My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives do I give to you”…John 14:27 NASB
True Life: 
As usual, God showed up last night to be right with our single moms at our weekly Moms@Midweek gathering! He wrapped Himself up around us and made Himself known. He’s invited, you know. We mentor moms are faithful to ask the Lord to show up each week. We ask Him to be with our single moms during the week, but to especially be there right with us all that night. Because you see, it’s not about us mentoring moms doing anything special. It’s about Him. He does the work. We just get to watch Him work.
Come to think of it, He would like to be invited to participate in each of your days from the very beginning! So, while you’re getting ready for your day, getting your children off to school, you off to work, your errands, your own school, He would love to meet with you for a moment.
When one of my favorite broken evangelists converted from a Franciscan priest, Brennan Manning, prays he puts a chair before him. And he invites Jesus to sit in the chair. And then he talks to the Lord Jesus more easily, knowing He’s listening.
Lately, I’ve been camping on Jesus’ promise that He’ll bring peace to my dailyness.
True Word:
So, here’s the word for today – “My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27.
And a wonderful cross reference is “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts……..and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15.
Let the peace rule – rein – have dominance over – captivate your heart. Peace.  Calm. Rest. In Him.  Takes a bit of trust. Okay. A lot of trust. That the unseen Lord of the Universe is in you and wants to give you His peace? Well, I’ve experienced it. It’s real.
True Walk with Him:
Today. As you go about your busy day, may you take a moment here and there to stop and breathe and think about Jesus’ peace ruling and reigning in your life – your mind – your soul – your heart. He has you! Let Him do what He does best. Love on you!

Better Plans

You’ve all seen the ads – weight loss, Jazzercise, face lifts, ads for all manner of self improvement. And yet, we have all those cookies from the cookie exchange gathering in the freezer yelling our name through the door! Too cold to go walking and too broke for a face lift! Whine. Whine, as I plop on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of frozen cookies.

Sometimes I absolutely hate January and all the hype of new year’s resolutions because when I bend to the pressure, I make half-baked, not too thought-out resolutions to ….lose five pounds….exercise more….blah, blah, blah! Am I serious? In no time I’m digging into the cookies in the freezer!

This year, I made a few decisions that I plan to keep. In sharing them here, I’m hoping that by putting them in to writing, I’ll take my commitments seriously. So, here they are:

I plan to think more. In this pursuit, I’ve taken up jigsaw puzzles. I’m addicted! While working on the last three hundred piece brightly colored puzzle, I told myself over and over, “think, Dianne. Consider the shape, the color, the lines. Does that piece really fit there??”img_20161111_062022

In continuing the plan to think more, I’ve begun memorizing scripture….again. Sadly, it’s been well over thirty years since I’ve made a huge effort to memorize a segment of scripture. In October I was handed the book The Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene H. Peterson which takes the short Psalms 120-134, the Songs of Ascents, to discuss growing in Christ through discipleship. I’ve come to realize that in memorizing Psalm 120 I had to imagine what David, the writer, was trying to say. I wrote out the Psalm then marked up the prepositional phrases, the verbs, the nouns, the repeated words, and then took Peterson’s analysis of the Psalm and it has become easier to think through and say without looking at it! Why these particular Psalms? They are short. I am enjoying studying them through the eyes of Peterson, and it’s a start back to memorizing a section of verse.

I am also thinking more through my writing. I’m paying attention to the folks who critique my pieces in our little once-a-month writing class, as well as the sage advice found in The Christian Writers Market Guide by Jerry Jenkins.

I plan to listen more than talk.  The other day I took my precious fragile neighbor on our weekly shopping visit to Wal-Mart, as she loves to just get out of the house! Yes, her sweet husband does take her out, but, she says, he wants to go in, get what they need and leave. It didn’t take long to realize that as we walked slowly up the aisle of the yarn and knitting needles where she would always zero in on the variegated skein of yarn, she would then stop to tell me what was going on in her sister’s life or her niece’s life. Obviously  she was craving some girl time! We would usually be gone for about an hour. I have grown to cherish this time with her.shopping-with-lady

And then there’s my son. Usually people grow very uncomfortable when silence happens over the phone. Did the other person hang up? Oh, wait. You called. My younger son loves to call to say hello. What I have come to understand is that he is thinking when the dead air occurs. He’s always had something good to say, but I am usually so busy,  have so much on my mind, and want to move on, that when he does say something it’s important and  I know that I need to shut my mouth, quiet my heart, and listen to my son. He wants to be heard. And silence is meaningful communication, too. So I let him think. And I listen.

Finally, I plan to be grateful. Someone suggested we write down something good that happened each day on a little post-it note and put it in a jar. The following Thanksgiving Day we open the jar and read all the good things that happened the past year. Already this year my jar has quite a few post-it notes in it! I’m also looking for opportunities to show gratitude; to the waitress, to the sweet lady who works on my stinky feet, to the lawn care guys! Gracias! Out loud and often. All year!

Do you have better plans? Hope these ideas help and now…….

To Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

 

 

 

What is my response?

praying woman with BibleShe came in  and sat down at the nearly busy restaurant with the two of us already there. As usual, the conversation went around the table, asking about our twenty-something sons and daughters. All were well, doing the best they could. One in the military, another bar tending in Corpus, another in a recovery house trying to find a job. Any job. So on and so forth. Then, subtle as a whisper, the red flags were hurled in our faces, as she said things like, “I told my husband that it felt good to hear the bus drivers turn their head and look twice at me.” And, “He didn’t even respond. He doesn’t even care.” Whine.

I caught it, but didn’t do anything but pray at the time. Months went by. Pretty soon, it was clear, the marriage was suffering. My other girlfriend and her husband were coming over for Bar-B-Que. We invited the two of them. “No, Henry (not his real name) can’t come. I don’t think we’re coming tonight. Sorry.” Hung up. Whoa. What was going on? By the way, we never heard from Henry. And shamefully, neither of the husbands bothered to call him to check to see if he was even aware of the conversation.

Another time the three of us girlfriends gathered together with her (M) is all I can say right now, she pretty much told us she and her husband were living as brother and sister. There wasn’t any intimacy. Not any more. Not for a very long time. We prayed together. We asked her if she was getting counseling. Not really. Slippery slope got slipperier. Another couple of months later I got an email from her husband. Blinded as a deer in the headlights, he was sending me a letter that she and the “Fox” had penned for their spouses! We would rather be “happy” than married to our current spouses, it said.  Hope you are happy for us. Bam. It was done. Right out in the open. We don’t care, the letter was saying, if we do break up two marriages for the sake of our personal happiness. We are doing it. I couldn’t believe it. I cried. I texted her. Do you realize what you’re doing. Yes, she eventually said, but counseling is too late.

Several months went by. She had not seen us. One of our friends was not willing to be with her if she was living with the man. I understood but hurt for her. I would send her texts asking her to get her relationship back to the Lord. Long periods of time would pass before she would respond, if at all. Thank you for thinking of me, she would say. I prayed. I sought counsel. There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, one counselor told me. Apparently, I had not told him she was LIVING with the fox.

Just a few days ago, one of our friends and I met with her in another town at a restaurant and talked. Again, the conversation went to how are the older twenty-something sons and daughters? Fine. God led the one in recovery to a job that fits him to a tee. God did it. Nice, she said. Basically, at the end of the long three hour visit, it seemed that all she wanted was to know we still loved her and that she really wanted her two sons and their families to forgive her; though, they were not only still shacking up together but they were engaged. “I’m struggling with this,” was all I could manage to say. Looking back, yes, we talked of the enemy. We talked of grace. We talked of the prodigal son and the Father running to meet the REPENTANT son. She just smiled.  repetance

Sadly, my friend and I never once asked her, “Have you repented? Are you sad about your behavior before Christ?” I feel like I watered down the gospel. I cheapened His grace that we so desperately don’t deserve.

See, we can’t say we have Christ in our hearts and still live in sin. Oil and water. It just doesn’t mix. The Lord led me to Colossians 3:1-17 this morning. Put off the old ways; put on the new. How do we say we’re a Believer in Jesus Christ if we keep behaving like the world around us? So, I’m going to talk to her again. Earnestly, compassionately. Truthfully. Seek your vertical relationship with the Lord, turn from your sinful life of living with a man not even your husband and then your family will forgive you. In time. Distance between them is a huge consequence you are paying for seeking your own “happiness.” Jesus calls us to a backwards life – living holy not necessarily happy. I still pray for her. I hurt for her. But I’m grateful for the opportunity God gave me to see that in talking with one who says they are a believer but not living like one, He will challenge me to get honest with that person and remind them that they are dealing with a Holy Righteous God and that His grace is for those who seek Him and want to obey Him and live fully for Him; and when we do sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us and we confess and turn (repent) from that sin and go another way. His way. And we experience His forgiveness and His grace. Amen.