Flowers In Winter

I am captivated by the beauty of flowers, especially when the cold and dormant days of winter try to snag my attention and steal my hopes for Spring and new life. Somewhere, beauty is blooming and this rose stands to defiantly attest to it.

No matter how dark and dreary things look in winter, I can be thankful that God’s goodness is still blooming. And gratitude for what was, what is, and what is to come is the key that opens my heart to joy and hope!

“Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,”

1 Peter 1:8

We need better vision. We need to have the eyes of Christ to see the beauty beyond the things we see as ugly and unwanted. The last thing we think we need, may be the first thing required to prepare us for the life He wants to give us. And the time between the now and the not yet yields the important stuff that causes our hearts to be ready to receive the full weight of the glorious reward.

I’m there right now. I’m waiting. I have hope and I am learning to rest in grace.

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you in the revelation of Jesus Christ”

1 Peter 1:13

This is a thinking thing. A mindful thing. God has to be the God of my mind. My thoughts are to be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. They are not to run amuck with the worries and cares of this world. My thoughts are just my thoughts; they cannot control me. They can float by or be acted on according to the information and the permission I give them. They are to be informed by the transforming words of The Bible. Scripture. Truth. Then, and only then, will my faith bloom, even in the midst of a cold and harsh winter season.

Defy the dark today. Make a list of your blessings. That warm cup of coffee that coaxes you awake. The shelter of your home. Things you have or have not because the God who loves you beyond measure only allows what is best for you at the best time for you. And there is nothing that can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Winter Wonder Land

Ever wonder when things are going to get better?

There’s no dark and cold that can hold back the new day. There are always new mornings that break through the old mournings because there is a faithfulness that is beyond ours. There is hope when we remember there will always be mercy and compassion that will never fail.

“This I recall to my mind, there I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. ”

Lamentations 3:21-23

You may be mourning this morning. What a difficult way to start the day. Maybe a loved one that you are missing terribly. A family mess that seems hopeless. An assault to your neatly-filed and nailed-down faith because your prayers are yet unanswered. Sit with that. Sit with the Word, Jesus. You will not be consumed. He cares and more than that, he feels your pain. To have compassion means to co-suffer. To experience deep sorrow and desire to help alleviate suffering. Jesus has that for you.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him.”

Lamentations 3:25

You can rest. Take a deep breath, let the Light in and feel the warmth of His love.

I was a much “younger” believer in Jesus when I came across these verses from Lamentations. They were life-changing for me. Way back then, I felt like it was possible for me to drown in all my questions and failings. I thought there was a limit to what God would tolerate and just zap me out. Take me “home,” or heaven forbid, not let me in. And at times, I forget. I need to recall, remember, over and over that God’s mercy, compassion and faithfulness are in a league all Their own. He has no limit, “they are new every morning.”

When Jeremiah penned this chapter, God was pretty angry with His people. They had defiled themselves with false gods. The One True God hates this. In chapter two we read, “The Lord has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion. He has stretched out a line; He has not withdrawn His hand from destroying; therefore, He has caused the rampart and wall to lament; they languished together.” (Lamentations 2:8) My study Bible says of this Scripture, “When God stretched out a line, He intended to destroy His city. Jerusalem had been measured, marked, and numbered for judgement.”

Then we hear from God’s prophet, Jeremiah. He laments for those who experience God’s wrath. He reveals the mercy of God and the hope that is still there in the midst of their disobedience. Jeremiah remembers that God is compassionate and full of mercy. God’s wrath is His love that knows there is no other way to get our attention. This is really a growing-in-my-faith belief that has taken me years to confess. Wrath scares me. It sounds so negative, doesn’t it? Yet as a mother of 4 grown children, I have had to display a little of my own in order to get results. However, I believe it grieves God to see us suffer for our own sinfulness. Because He suffers with us. Immanuel. He is with us.

Jesus came to be with us in all of the stuff that makes up our lives. He came and lived and died and rose again to show us the heart of His Father; to pay the price for all the disobedience we just would never be able to make right. He came to make peace with God’s wrath towards our sin. He came to show us that there is just no way he will leave our side, no matter what is going on. He came to show us that none of our stuff will separate us from His perfect love, mercy and compassion.

New Things

Isaiah 48:6 “You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, Even hidden things, and you did not know them.” (NKJV)

Happy New Year!

This verse from Isaiah begs us to pay attention to God’s words. In this new year, God wants to show you new things. Things that may have been hidden from you before. Beautiful things, hard things that will carve into your life good, strong character. Always with the purpose of transforming you, renewing your mind and making you more like Jesus, (Romans 12:2). This is my prayer for myself and you as this new year begins. May every new victory and every new trial bring us closer to what God’s purpose for our life is.

Preaching to my own heart this morning, and purposing in my own heart, that He will cause me to live each day more in His strength than my own, (2 Corinthians 12:9). Recognizing that on my own, I am prone to be prideful, striving to improve myself instead of allowing Him to perfect every little detail concerning me, and it is a work of His hands, (Psalm 138:8). I am prone to over emphasize one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23), when all of them are required to make my character like Jesus. And that I can’t grow any one of them, without His Holy Spirit, teaching me and helping me remember the lessons, (John 14:26).

If you read this far, thank you. I am praying for you to enjoy a new year of God’s grace. “And of His fulness we have all received, and grace for grace.” John 1:16

Christmas Day 2021

This is the final touch to my Jesse Tree this year. One thing I determined to finish as sort of a gift to Jesus, since there is really nothing He needs, except a heart that really wants to do something to honor Him. In November, I reprinted the paper ornaments from Ann Voscamp’s site on shiny photo paper. Added some glitter and glue and each day, after reading the Advent devotion, I would place an ornament on this little fake tree, post a reflection on Instagram, and carry those thoughts with me throughout a season full of distractions. I have to tell you it made a difference. This year’s been a doosey, hasn’t it? I think we are all feeling it and the one thing we might be looking forward to, like Christmas, has us still getting sick and struggling with all kinds of problems.

Jesus came on the scene as a babe in a stinky stable, placed in the feed manger for a bed, for crying out loud. And during the darkest days in earth’s history. There were very few looking for His coming and fewer than that welcoming it. Whatever was going on around His birth did not matter because the Answer to all our problems and questions was born and we could breathe safe because He was with us now.

I needed to be reminded of that this month. Every. Single. Day. The end of the year of anxious moments adding up to anxious days and anxious months can be upended when we realize He keeps His promises to us. We can experience renewed hope and restored relationships, because He came. And we can be sure that Christmas means that the Gift will never be taken away, and even in suffering, the Gift stays with you. When we focus on this, focus on Him, how beautiful the tapestry of our faith life becomes.

Dear reader, you are beautiful, not because you have always been kept safe and comfortable from the trials you have experienced, you are beautiful because of how you have welcomed Him into each hard place. You have allowed Him to be your strength and comfort. Women like that can change the world. Women like that show others that bitterness and unforgiveness cannot exist within a heart that is truly grateful for Immanuel. God with us.

The Good Soak

The Good Soak

I love doing dishes, call me crazy, but dishwashing is my favorite household chore. I enjoy getting my hands into warm, soapy water and turning something visibly soiled into something sparkling clean and ready to be used again. Yet in all that fun, I can get annoyed if things take a little too much elbow grease to get clean. Baked on, caked on debris can be a bit of a challenge so I always put those items to soak as soon as possible. After the soak has had its say, the dish comes clean with a minimum of effort and all is well again at the kitchen sink.

Translate this to our spiritual lives and there is a similar pattern. When we feel the dirty, caked on grime clinging to our souls from sin and shame, nothing reveals this and makes it easier to remove than a good soaking in the Word of God. This is where lies are revealed for what they are and truth makes a way for the wrongs to be righted and the sparkling, clean and new you can emerge for a brand new try at following Jesus, moving on, with His mercy and grace.

God tells us in Psalm 103 that he has not dealt with us after our sins; nor regarded us according to our iniquities. (vs.10)

“For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103: 11-12

This washing makes the soiled soul rejoice because there is just no way we can “clean-up” ourselves. A favorite promise of mine in the Bible is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise starts with an “if” which means we have freewill to choose to obey God in confession and if we do, the fulfillment of the promise follows. And that act of forgiveness is huge because it not only means God says He forgives us, but He cleanses this sin from our record. Removes it, never to remember it again.

Confession is the key. Recognizing our sinfulness, we let God know that we know what we’ve done. We agree with Him that it was wrong and we need His forgiveness, first and foremost. How do you know, that you know that you have done wrongly, except to know His Word and listen to His Spirit as He convicts you until He convinces you that you need a washing.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved, us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5

After a soak in His Word, and confession from a repentant heart, you emerge: a sparkling, clean vessel, ready to be used again.

Love you in Christ, Vickie

New

I try every year to find a word. Sometimes it doesn’t come till half-way through the year but I’ve experienced that certain words pop up in my life in a repetitive fashion during particular years and cause me to believe they are from the Lord.

There was the year of “surrender” where white flags kept popping up everywhere and I could not get the hymn “I Surrender All” out of my head.

The year of “abide” when Jesus beckoned me and I realized that His Presence in my minutes, hours and days was all I needed to comfort and strengthen my heart.

This year it’s “new.” At the end of last year I got hungry for something new. I couldn’t look at the old things and be happy. Mainly myself being the “old” thing. My energy seemed to be waning, my skin sagging, my initiative lagging. I was lost in thoughts about what I used to be rather than living in the reality of who I am now and looking for a vision of what God by His grace has for my future.

I refuse to believe it is just a coincidence that this word started popping up. In a Christmas gift from someone I love and respect and know has a close relationship with God. In a sermon I listened to on the internet. In a long-forgotten, unread book my eyes fell on while looking for something else.

I have found that in order to please most people, you stay the same. They know you that way and there is comfort in the known. But God never intended us to be that way. With each new day, month and year, we are to keep growing and learning and becoming all He planned for us to be. I am not commanded to settle for the “me” of my past.

When I was saved, I became a new creation in Christ. I knew there was a difference in the old me and the new me. The old me no longer defined who I was, the new me had Jesus, the hope of heaven and in the meantime a Friend that sticks closer than a brother and never leaves.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

But the newness doesn’t have to stop there, and shouldn’t.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

If I want something new in my life, I need to do some pressing-in to what He has for me in my future, and dwell less on what my past holds. My past has no hold on me if I am pressing forward.

Imagine with me a race where, at the finish line the runners press forward with their upper bodies to be the first one to touch the tape. The last kick of their energy aimed at the finish line. That’s the vision for my future, and the future of every believer serious about finishing well.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

But the Scripture that I have found so rich with the “new” word is Isaiah 43. The Lord is speaking to “every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” (vs. 7) “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.“ (vs. 11-12) “Behold I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (vs. 19)

What this tells me is that God made me, saved me and I am to be a witness for Him. I am to hate sin and never make anything this world has to offer a false god to me. And He makes the way for this to happen. He will even clear the wilderness in my life and water the dry places when I thirst for His living water. That He is doing new things for me and for you dear sister. Just press-in to His Word and let go of the past and press on to the new things He wants to do in your life. I’m so ready, how about you?

Safe Keeping

Sculpture on display at Museum of the Bible, Washington DC

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

Mothers notice things, keep things in the most secure space they own, their heart. The space that spasms with every joy or sorrow. That jumps to attention when her loves are threatened. That melts in moments when her loves return affections or do something from their own hearts of love for others.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was no different. She felt the full range of mother monitoring. She quickly offered her breast to her hungry baby. She knew that this birth meant immeasurably more than any other baby’s birth in the history of the world. That His fame would be a flame that could never be extinguished. I imagine that it was all too much at first, but God made it just enough for her to handle. He quieted her heart to ponder what was happening. He caused her to keep it all in the safe place of her heart. He revealed at the most appropriate times all that raising the Son of God would entail.

I think of Mary more at Christmastime because of the focus on the Savior’s birth. I thought of her with each of my own children’s births. Going through the labor and delivery process with a mind prepared by Lamaze, in a clean hospital with good support. I felt empathy for this young woman who only had Joseph and a stable. How strong and trusting she had to have been.

This Christmas I have been stuck on the song “Mary did you Know?” The lyrics, penned by Mark Lowry, ask a question, over and over, listing the miracles that Jesus would perform, the redemption and deliverance He came to offer. Where He came from and where He was going and what He would be doing in the time between. I believe Mary knew her son was God’s only begotten Son, yet a human heart can only hold so much.

“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.” Luke 2:51

The pondering part is always the rest of the story. In her heart she knew her baby boy would change the world. In her heart she knew that no one would ever be the same once they asked Him into theirs.

Mothers really can’t know everything their children will do or become. Will they cause your heart to almost burst with pride and love or will they cause your heart to break with disappointment? In my experience, yes and yes. They are human beings after all. The cost of loving your children is so high at times you wish you could somehow bail yourself out. But you can’t. Mother love is unconditional.

For all the mothers pondering all you hear, all the “sayings” that will be in your hearts forever, Jesus came, and what that means to me and all of us is this, “God with Us” Emmanuel. (Matthew 1:23) No struggle we face as a mother is a surprise to God. The shock you may feel in the deep tender area of your heart needs the comfort that God sent Jesus to give.

Mary had to have known that her baby boy would have to die one day, yet she pondered the moments that lay ahead of her, the mothering day to day. And this is all we can do. Ask God for guidance and help in the now. Trust God to handle the future. Live in the hope that everything is going to be alright, because God gave us His Son to one day right all the wrongs in this life.

On these days after Christmas, before we set out on this New Year, I pray you linger at the manger a little longer. With Mary, ponder all the things that really matter and let this year go in gratitude and grab on to the new one with gusto. In Christ, the best is truly yet to come!

“Looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:13-14

“Why Can’t I Do It?”

“For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that I do not;

But what I hate, that do I.” Romans 7:15 (KJV)

How do we get from a battle we cannot win, to a battle we cannot lose?

A little more clarity comes with the New King James Version:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand.

For what I will to do, that I do not practice;

But what I hate, that I do.” Romans 7:15

One of the most perplexing chapters in the Bible is Romans 7. You have to read it very slowly, you have to read it reflectively. You have to read it responsively. Repenting at the end of nearly every verse. It is that convicting. You have to read it with gratitude to Jesus, because He truly is your only hope.

Believers have a type of split personality. The Bible calls it out as a struggle between two natures. The “old man” and the “new man.” (Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:10) One part that is corrupt, dying daily and one part that being made new and is alive forever.

The term “born again” describes it perfectly. Our first birth, by flesh and blood, our second, by the Holy Spirit. Our first birth, biological, our second, spiritual. Our first birth, on a journey that ends with the grave, our second, everlasting, from the first moment we trust Christ as our Savior. (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23)

Romans 7 describes the time between the second birth and when we leave this fleshly existence and enter the eternal, when we are glorified. (Romans 8:20) Everyday, after day, is a step in the process. A struggle between the old and new you. One nature that can be tempted and tried by the enemy, Satan, and a nature redeemed by a Savior that gave His life for you. Jesus.

We might ask, and I do often, why we have to battle this when Jesus has already won it for us. The only answer is found in faith that God knows the struggle is good for us and produces good in us. This struggle in my life forces me to trust Him, to seek His help and find the only peace and joy that truly satisfies my soul. The answer is found in our focus. What do we seek and set our affections on? (Colossians 3:1-3) We can be too short sighted. What we want right now becomes more important that what we would hope to become on the other side of the struggle.

Because of Jesus, not me, I am not condemned, no matter what. Even though I am flesh, I am also born after His Spirit and am free from the law that, even though it is good and points out my sin, could never save me from it. Only Jesus can, and has and does forever. (Romans 8:1-3)

Claim this today. When you step over your restrictions and guilt comes. Claim this today when you know you thought wrong thoughts, said wrong things, ate too much, spent too much, worried too much, complained too much. Claim this when you find it hard to love or serve someone. Walk on, dear one. In the Spirit.

Trying…Again

“Trying…Again.”

“MY heart is overflowing with a good theme:

I recite my composition concerning the King;

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”

Psalm 45:1

Gratitude 13,763: “Writing…again.”

I just have to. When the Lord asks you to do something, there’s just no way around it. If your eyes have fallen upon these words, they are for you. I have prayed for that.

The Scripture that precedes my words describes the calling. From an overflowing heart I write. Everything we do or see others do comes from an overflowing heart. A heart overflowing with grace or grief, good or evil, love or hate, fullness or hunger. Hearts overflow and spill out with what they contain. What will yours spill out today?

The alternative is to attempt to hold back what your heart contains. Methods may vary. Believe me, I know. And some not at all bad. Avoiding people and situations that cause you to spill out the bad stuff can be helpful until you’re ready to constructively handle them. Some can be quite bad though. It can be destructive to try to numb your heart with substances or experiences that are fake or counterfeit. It can be harmful to isolate yourself from friends or family for fear of burdening them or revealing a false image or reputation you are trying to protect.

It can be hard to try again, when your past experiences have been unsuccessful to say the least. Try again anyway friend. Prepare your mind by taking it to a higher level of thought. One led by His Word.

“Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there by any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Philippians 4:8

I’ve been knocked down this year, we all have, but don’t stay down for the count. Rise up! It starts when we change our minds. When we change the way we think. Let’s dwell on things that are

TRUE:__________________________________

HONEST:________________________________

JUST:___________________________________

PURE:__________________________________

LOVELY:________________________________

OF GOOD REPORT:_______________________

VIRTUOUS THINGS:________________________________________________________________

PRAISEWORTHY THINGS:____________________________________________________________

You fill in the blanks. Soon your heart will be spilling over and blessing others and heart of our Savior. In His love and mine

Things You See in the Dark

Things You See in the Dark

They were perched up on the back of the couch. Staring starry-eyed out the picture window of the living room as Pappaw was grinding on a mower blade. Sparks flew from the grinding wheel into a perfect circular fireworks display against the dark of night. Those little grans squealed with excitement as they watched something they would never have seen in the light of day.

It was magical. “What IS that Mammaw?” he asked with his adorable little-boy voice. And when I told him, “Its Pappaw, using the grinder to sharpen something” he followed with, “But I can’t SEE Pappaw.” And he was right because the beauty of the sparks were all that could be seen in the dark. Not the one who was responsible for creating them.

Later on, I relayed that moment to the “magicmaker” and he replied, “There’s lots of things you can’t see because of light.” It got me thinking. When we want to see something better, we usually turn on a light, or bring it into the light so it can be seen. Yet some things need the dark to show themselves to us. The dark can actually bring out things that are hidden by the light.

I took notice of what he said because I found it to be true. Especially in my own life as of late. Maybe in yours as well. When things were going along swimmingly, I enjoyed my walk in the light. Full of energy, hope and faith. God right there. My best Friend, being careful to thank Him and praise Him and excited to start each new day. I saw Him at work, I did. I felt His mercy and grace and compassion, new every morning. I just didn’t see what was ahead.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

1 Peter 5:8-9

When a darker day dawned, I admit I was disappointed. I didn’t ask the shake-my-fist “Why?!” But the weary and disillusioned “Why Lord?” That’s what I do, I try to find a cause and I try to make a plan and I try to control. But in the dark, I can’t see where I’m going. I can’t see my Heavenly Father in this, all I can see and hear and feel is that prowling, snarling, salivating adversary. All I feel is his hot breath on the back of my neck.

But wait, right there, in that dark place is a Presence. A peace “not as the world giveth,” (John 14:27) He tells me to not be troubled or afraid. And there He is. The Light. Shining brightly in the dark of my problem. My mess. One I may or may not have been responsible for. It doesn’t matter to Him because His love never changes however many times I make bad decisions, behave badly or things go just plain bad for no apparent reason.

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

1 Peter 5:10

Maybe even in those times, I see the Light better, because it is contrasted against the backdrop of the dark day I’m in. His Light is always there because He is true Light. (John 1:9) When I sit at the table I have set for myself and I feel alone and my appetite is gone, He knocks at the door of my heart telling me that He would like a seat at the table. All I have to do is open the door and the Light comes in. (Revelation 3:20)  The Light comes into the dark room and suddenly my appetite returns. I feel like sharing a meal.

Taking in sustenance that strengthens and sharpens my faith, kind of like Pappaw did to that blade. Sparks flying everywhere.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17