Update Available?

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Update Available?

My iPhone, iPad and computer have updates. All too often, I dismiss the screen because I am afraid if I update them before I’m ready, I’ll encounter changes I am not ready to deal with. God can use anything to call attention to His will. It is amazing to me how the phrases and words used to deal with today’s technology remind me of my journey of faith. Save. Delete. Update. — Salvation. Forgiveness of Sin. Renewal.

In the dentist’s chair, as a patient of course, he asks me, “Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?” “Nope” I say smugly. Remembering all the ones I have failed to keep. (Maybe the “flossing” every day is the one he’s noticed that I’ve failed at.) But I don’t care. I was waiting for the one that I really needed and that would be possible to keep.

I’ve been waiting. Today it arrived. Some new inspiration to get started on the New Year.

I get inspired by other women who serve God. If you are on Instagram, check out “Well Watered Woman.” This year’s inspiring phrase is “The Word before the World.” This is how I try to start my day anyway, but, I can get distracted. I can think the “other stuff” screams louder and so I do what I have to do.

And the other things do scream louder, those of you with littles know that all too well. When mine were little I would set my alarm to get up early and when I did, so did they it seemed. How frustrating this can be to your plan to be alone with the Lord, yet how precious and short this time is when they are needing you that way. Take heart. Do what you need to do for them, for Him. Any act of service or care done with the right attitude is holy. And it will be all good, I promise. I believe the world is what is outside your home, outside your inner circle of relationships. Time used for the ones God has given you to love and serve, should be a high priority.

You may say, “I am so busy doing what I have to do, I cannot add one more responsibility!” Time with God before the world does not have to consume so much of your time that you feel it can’t be squeezed into your daily routine. There is always enough time to have daily devotions, I promise. In truth, we are warned in Scripture that we could be weakened, become faint, “lose heart” without this effort on a daily basis. The Scripture says:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

Day by Day means: Every. Single. Day. Which means there needs to be some way you can be with the Savior that renews. The God who made you in His image.  We “water” our faith, causing it to grow, by spending our precious time with Him, instead of the world. Because of the grace and mercy of God, His Holy Spirit speaks to us through Scripture. He did not leave us without instructions or inspiration. The place we find these is in the Bible. Read it. Study it. This is the way to be renewed.

Even though it is a crucial discipline, making sure I have a daily alone time with God is not the habit that God was trying to instill in my heart this morning. I am a high-needs Christian, so time with God every day through Scripture is my oxygen. I don’t think I could breathe without my daily time with Him, alone. But I’ve been stuck lately. Not moving forward with some things I know I should be doing because I feel powerless to change. Powerless to be renewed. Powerless to update what needs updated.

I use the perishing of my “outward man (woman)” as my excuse too many times. I want to play the “aging” card. I can get so set in the way I do things that I don’t want to change. I cringe when I have to learn a new “thing” at work. I stress over a new routine or new or better habit I should take on. I need to click on the Update and go to settings and get ready for the New Year with the updated version of me, renewed by His grace. Day by day.

Wherever you are today on this journey of faith, I pray this post encourages you to get into His Word. Make time with God alone, in His Word, a priority each day. And be ready to “Update” when and how you know He is telling you to.

With His help, I purpose in my heart, I resolve, to do this in 2018. How about you?

 

 

 

 

When The Future Seems Uncertain…

 

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When The Future Seems Uncertain…

I’m entering into 2018 a little hesitantly. I hate that because I’m usually pretty pumped to start a new year. Maybe it is because 2017 held some pretty significant sadness, and it’s a little scary to take on a new year looking for what could be difficult. If the same is true for you, let me share a song by J.J. Heller that is on repeat at my house this morning:

 

“Back Home”

Don’t let your eyes get used to darkness

The light is coming soon

Don’t let your heart get used to sadness

Put your hope in what is true

 

No matter how the wind may blow

It cannot shake the sun

Lay your sorrows on the ground

It’s time to come back home

 

When the future seems uncertain

Like the coming of a storm

Your loving Father carries his children

When they can’t walk anymore

 

No matter how the wind may blow

It cannot shake the sun

Lay your sorrows on the ground

It’s time to come back home

Oh, back home…

 

This song is kind of an anthem for me to lay down last year’s burdens, which I should have been giving to the Lord the whole year long. To allow Him to scoop me up like that little girl that loves to be carried in her Daddy’s arms and allow Him to carry me over the threshold of 2018. To come back home to the truth that “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4. And “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18.

For the Christian, home is always where our Father is; trying to succeed anywhere else will always leave us with an empty, sad feeling that we can get used to if we allow it. We can open our eyes in the morning and when we should be grateful for another day, we can wonder why we should get out of bed. That is when it is absolutely crucial that we read our Bibles, choose to believe every word and participate in a conversation God started in the Word and gives us the privilege to continue through prayer.

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One of the definitions of the word “crucial” is that it is an adjective that refers to “the form of a cross, cross-shaped.” Isn’t it interesting that the most critical, the most important takes us to the cross? The way to start any new year and take every, single day of it, is to keep mindful of the Cross. The victory won there that can never be defeated by sin.

So if the future seems uncertain, no worries, we have the certainty that our loving Father carries us through it all.

So, dear readers, Have a Happy New Year. In His everlasting arms.

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:…” Deuteronomy 33:27

 

Ponder and Praise

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Ponder. Have you been doing that lately? Isn’t that what practicing Advent is all about? Taking the time to thoughtfully weigh the significance of the gift of Christ. There were 400 years from the prophesy of Malachi to the Advent of Christ. Four Hundred years, between the Old and New Testaments. Then, He comes. The Flesh that fulfills the Law and joins the Old and New and makes a way for us to be welcomed back into the heart of God. The hopeful anticipation of the Messiah is fulfilled in this little Babe.

After an angel tells Mary she will carry in her womb the Son of God. After an arduous journey to Bethlehem. After labor and delivery in a stable. After she swaddled Him and made Him a manger-bed. After a star appears overhead that had never been. After angels sent shepherds fearfully scurrying to see this Miracle, and left proclaiming it “widely.” After all this, the Scriptures say:

“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

In contrast to this pondering of Mary; can you think with me that we might ponder things at times that are of such little significance? The fruits of that kind of pondering are worry and discontent. This should tell us that maybe we are giving significance to things that are certainly not worthy and that are out of our control and we should be following the advice of the Apostle Paul.

“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

The heart of woman is a very precious thing. It is tender and strong and made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) It is scientifically known that the brain of a man and a woman operate differently in relation to their emotional system. Those differences are good and right because God does not make mistakes in His creating. God created woman, out of man, to have characteristics that complement him and yes, help him; because it was not good that man was alone.

“And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18.

Later on, in Luke 2, we see this mother’s heart again. Anxious, worried to death. And she scolds her Son for being the fault of it. Which one of us mothers has not been there? Jesus was 12, that age for me and my sons was precarious. Love them to death one minute, ready to knock their block off the next. But this is Jesus, after all. In the Scriptures it says that He stayed back in the temple when the family had taken off to head back home to Nazareth. A frantic mother and father searched for him among the crowds and He was nowhere to be found. So they traipse all the way back to Jerusalem and, finally, there He is.

“So when they see Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” Luke 2:48.

Now if I were writing the Scriptures, I would have used several exclamation points. You know I like them. I am sure Mary was quite emotional, because she is a female, and we are emotional. I can imagine her thoughts, God had given her His Son to raise and she lost Him. I felt that way with my own kids. Children are gifts from God, raising them is holy work. When I see those pictures of missing children, my heart aches for their families. All I can do is know that God knows where they are and pray for them.

Mary calmed down when Jesus reminded her.

“And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49

I can imagine Mary’s expression at that point. I would have probably thought, give me a break. This is hard, this raising of You. And then she pondered again, she did not understand it, because she was like us. She did what she could do, I imagine she held her tongue (unlike me) and… “kept all these things In her heart.” Luke 2:51. Because this is what a mother does. We keep all those things that we don’t know what to do with in our hearts. All the memories of the times our children bless us so much we could burst. All those times they worry us to the bone. All of it. Deep. In our hearts.

There are the ponderings that lead us to the sin of worry. And there are ponderings that lead us straight into praise. To the praise of our God. Who is and does more for us than we could ever deserve or imagine. All this grace upon grace. Unmerited favor. Ponder and praise on this today!

 

How are you doing?

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Are you right on track? Are you behind? Overwhelmed? Too busy? Too tired? And if things aren’t going too well right now, is that expected? And does it matter which time of the day I ask you?

I can handle just about anything first thing in the morning, if I’ve had a good night’s sleep. That didn’t happen last night and my eyes feel real tired right now. How about yours? The thing is – we can’t be expected to pull off everything we hope to, when and how we imagine it all. Period. And that’s okay because we live in an imperfect world. Stop expecting so much of yourself and everyone else around you. Stop expecting perfection, or anything close to it, and start enjoying the effort in the everyday.

I can remember my report card from the first grade. (Back in those days, not everyone did Kindergarten.) There was the grade for the subject, then there was the grade for the “effort.” Mom always told me the “effort” was the most important. I aced that one by the way. Usually they line up but not always for me. She made me feel valued because I tried, I will never forget that. That kind of stuff brings joy in the remembering.

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Laugh. Laugh when the cookies flop, the juice drops on the carpet and the package is late. Let joy be your default because Jesus is your Redeemer.

The only perfect expectation that cannot disappoint is one that is related to God. Talk to your soul, like David did, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and salvation; He is my defense: I shall not be moved.” Psalm 62:5-6

You will not be giving up. You will not be a quitter because God is a Savior. He is your Rock when the winds of discouragement pummel you and try to make you unsteady. He is your Defense when that blasted accuser says “I told you so” over and over.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2: 11-14

The enemy of your soul does not want you to enjoy this Advent Season. He does not want joy in your heart or kindness or love to reign. Resist the urge to keep up with others that seem to “out-do” you. Keep looking for that “blessed hope” of this season. Settle it in your mind and heart that you have been rescued from the throes of evil, because God sent His Son. So He could be with us, always.

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God gave. And the greatest gift we can share is His love. This is such a light item to put at the top of our “to-do” list. We are “His own special people” and we are “zealous for good works.” Smile, over and over. Pray for those who are having a difficult time missing loved ones. Give your time and energy to those who could use more of both. Be brave as you step out of your comfort zone to bring comfort to someone who really needs it.

You can expect this — Jesus redeems and you are His special girl, and there is always enough grace to cover any and all mess-ups.  Keep on having a joyous Advent!

 

On Being Thankful

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Do you ever wait for it? The thank-you that never comes? It hurts, doesn’t it?

Thankfully (no pun intended) in my circle of family and friends, this doesn’t happen often, but in the larger sphere my life shares in, it happens. And I try not to, but I do notice it. Ungratefulness stinks here and I can only imagine how it hurts the heart of God to have given so much for us and to us and yet we can neglect to give Him thanks and praise.

In Scripture, being unthankful is harshly judged. There is a very long sentence in Romans 1 that fills verses 20 – 21:

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Did you know that by being ungrateful your thoughts can be useless? Unimportant. Ineffective. These words are also used to define the word futile. Further, the heart can become foolish, and darkened. A pretty heavy penalty for not appreciating the gifts freely given to us from God. All of them grace.

And in case we didn’t know, let me share, from Titus 3:3, the characteristics of a foolish heart. “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” An unthankful heart can become dark and the consequences of the behavior of that heart are tragic. Many of us have witnessed that this year.

I don’t know about you but I hope you feel like me that those kinds of thoughts and that kind of heart is definitely not the kind you want to live with. I know we are all human and being thankful “in everything,” like we are instructed to in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, can sometimes be a bit hard. Yet, I am thankful for a God that loves us so much that while we were yet sinners He died for us (Romans 5:8) and knows that it can be hard for us. He doesn’t turn away from our prayers. Even the ones that ask for help being grateful when there seems to be little to be grateful for.

In 1 Chronicles 16, there is a beautiful portion of Scripture that my Study Bible names “David’s Song of Thanksgiving.” That psalm is preceded by some history of what was going on at the time. The Ark of God was being brought to the tabernacle that David built for God’s glory. This was a huge deal and there was a very special celebration among God’s people. In verse 4, David appoints certain people to officially record, thank and praise God. Those acts are absolutely essential to honor God, to glorify Him as God. To avoid useless thoughts and dark hearts.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we are exhorted to be thankful, and we shouldn’t have to have a National Holiday to do it. But it is nice that our nation recognizes and sets apart a day to do just that.

Ladies and Sisters-in-the-Lord, let’s make this Thanksgiving very special. First start by thanking God for who He is and what He’s done for you and then intentionally thank others for the gift they are to you. I am very thankful for whoever reads and is blessed by this blog. I am very thankful for the kind comments you have shared and times you have thanked me for doing this. I do it because I love Jesus with all my heart and I love you, a very special friend and daughter of the King.   

Listen and Love

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Listen and Love

I sat back down. And on and on it went. There was something about a generator and an alternator, a circuit board and a battery. This broke down and that broke down. This kind of talk hurts me. Actually feels like a pressing weight on my heart. I did stand up to walk away, but something made me stay and listen.

If we love, we listen.

The longer the words flowed out, the softer they became in tone. It was like they were being absorbed and cushioned in the sharing. It was so amazing.

I offered some responses and they didn’t cause him to close up. It was like the time I gave him to open and pour out somehow, through God’s grace, relieved pressure that had to have building for a long time. Because I was so afraid, so bent on protecting myself from things, I didn’t think listening mattered. Just because all those things were foreign to me, does not mean that they do not matter. Especially to him, the man I love.

If we love, we listen. One of the definitions for the word “listen” is: to pay attention. To pay attention is “directing the mind to an object.” And I confess, I had some attention deficit. “You do your thing and I’ll do mine.” Thinks the woman that has a listening problem. “I can’t fix it, so do I need to know about it?” Shame on me.

Jill Briscoe tells of a real life experience that taught her something about listening. There seemed to be a woman, very negative about a good many things, and it would have been easier to shut her out. But instead, she chose to listen and this person told her later, “Because you listened to me, I knew you loved me, and because you loved me, I listened to you.”

 

Now I love my husband very much. When did I start to think that he would just keep believing that, when the listening and focus of attention wavered a bit? When I thought I just couldn’t stand to hear one more word describing broken things that I have not a clue about or cared to learn.

You may or may not have a husband that challenges your attentive moments. You may have a friend that has taxed your patience with her problems. A child or relative that you think if you hear their voice one more time you won’t be responsible for the fallout.

If we want others to experience the love of God, shouldn’t we be willing to listen?

If we love God, we must love people. And if they equate our love with our listening, we need to do a lot more listening. If we follow Jesus’ example, we need to remember His words. As His earthly ministry was getting started, He asked His first disciples, “What do you seek?” He listened to their response and invited them “Come and see…” (John 1: 38-39)

Jesus invites us and instructs us to pray. (Matthew 6:5-13) And believe me, He has no problems listening, because He has no problems loving. He loved first. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) He wants us to cast all our cares on Him. (1 Peter 5:7)

If we want others to experience the love of God, shouldn’t we be willing to ask those open-ended questions and be more than willing to listen to what they have to say, even if it is hard to hear? We don’t have to agree in order to listen to their position and maybe, just maybe, they will feel loved enough to listen to ours.

Remember Jill’s words. Remember that one of the most important things we can do for someone else is to just listen, whether or not you will be able to fix the problem or reduce the effects of it one little bit. You will show them they are loved. Because you listened.

God Bless Grandmothers…

 

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(Image by Melanie Lamb)

 

I Missed Grandparents Day…

Writing this as a kind of apology, Jesus revealing to me that I’ve been using my little kids too much. That even though we learn so very much from them, I have learned so many crucial life lessons from grown-ups too. Taking some space to share a bit of what I have learned from seasoned Christian women on this journey.

My grandmothers. On my father’s side, I have learned so much from my grandmother, Edna Grace Ludwig, posthumously. She was ill most of my formative years, so I did not have much time with her, but she certainly made up for it when I had to go through her estate after the passing of my dear Aunt Mary.

My greatest treasure is the notes she left from an exhaustive Bible Study she worked on during her later years. I have her handwritten answers to the wise instructor’s questions. No computer to write with and store her wisdom. Just pen and paper. “Spirit” duplicated worksheets, with corrections and additions from the wise hands of her discipler. My Grandma Ludwig sought God. She cherished His Word and I hope she sees that her faithfulness is a legacy that I am so extremely grateful for.

Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man (woman) who walks not in the counsel of the ungoldly, nor stands in the paths of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his (her) delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law doth he (she) meditate day and night.” (God’s Words are for all of us.)

On my mother’s side, I have learned so much from my grandmother, Clara Mae McElfresh. This “grandma” influenced me much before she went to be with the Lord. She was a caregiver. She wanted so much to be a registered nurse, yet she was able to provide nursing care that more than made up for the fact that she did not have a “degree.” I saw how she made a difference to those who suffered and I wanted to be able to do the same thing. However, she first and foremost loved Jesus. He rescued her and she never stopped praising and serving Him in the new life He gave her after she was saved.

2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

These women had struggles.

Grandma Ludwig, lost a baby shortly after he was born. She raised a son with challenging health problems; polio and a seizure disorder. She operated a small general store where she extended credit to many families who were never able to pay. I am sure she talked with Jesus about all of these heartaches and more. Those are just the profound highlights of what had to be the darkest nights. Add those to the inconveniences of getting your water from the well and doing laundry on a wash board!

Grandma McElfresh had what I have understood to be a difficult upbringing.  Yet Jesus found her and turned things around. One of my most poignant memories is watching her care for her dying husband, crying out to God to ease his suffering. I had the privilege of staying day and night with her during those first few days of grieving for her loss and they made an impact on my life that will always stay with me. Such a tear-filled gift. She also lost two sons from this earth before the Lord took her to Heaven. Again, just some highlights of her darkest nights for she also lived in a world without the many conveniences we have today.

And I could go on and on about the wonderful example my own mother, Donna Ludwig, has been of a grandma that goes above and beyond to make sure her grandchildren know they are loved and precious and that Jesus is her Lord. She is still going strong, even now that she is a great-great grandma!

Some of you may have your own stories of how much of a difference a grandmother, or older-wiser woman has had on your life. Remember them and think of how we can have an impact on those women who are coming after us.

I am finishing up a study focused on the directions God gives to older and younger women, based on Titus 2. We older women are to teach younger women to follow Jesus in all the many directions their lives take them. This is not the same world we inherited from our grandmothers. There are so many distractions from the true, holy life God requires to experience His blessings. Younger women need our guidance and better yet, our support and prayers. The example of our faithfulness will make a difference, even if that difference is realized many miles down the road.

I am going to a conference this weekend in Indianapolis, Revive ’17. Women will gather together from many places in this country and will be watching via livestream from all over the world. We will be praying and worshiping together and learning together the importance of “passing the baton” to those who will be coming after us. Please join us at this address, https://buff.ly/2y7gWhl , or go to reviveourhearts.com and see what this is all about.

Teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.

They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

TITUS 2:1-5, 10