A Life Well Spent

It’s about the faith, love, and beauty you leave behind.

One evening after work this week, I took a drive to my hometown to pay my final respects to my beloved cousin, Joan. She had been ravaged with Alzheimer’s for the past few years, but my heart was filled with the many good times I was blessed enough to share with her and her family.

Her mother and my grandmother were each one of ten siblings and so I was gifted with many cousins and great aunts and uncles. As I walked into the funeral home with a heavy heart, I was greeted by many familiar faces that I haven’t seen in a decade or more.

There were lots of smiles and happy greetings and lots of stories of Joan. She was truly one of the kindest, gentlest people I have ever known. She was one of those people my mama would say, “would give you the shirt off of her back.”

As I thought about the family visitation the following day, I thought about the peace that I felt there. There was a true peace that I felt from her children as well as from the other, many family members who were there. When I think of that part of my family, it’s always closely tied with my faith. They were always church goers. Faith was just a part of their lives. When I spoke to my 90-year-old great aunt, I thought of the times I went to church with her.

When I spoke to one of Joan’s daughters, also a strong woman of faith, peace seemed to radiate from her. I was strongly reminded that death for Christians marks the final step for our earthly journey, but it’s the first step into Eternity, where we will never be sick or old, where we will always be filled with peace and joy and where we will walk with Jesus everyday.

Joan was also an artist and I have had one of her paintings above my fireplace for as long as I have had a fireplace. It’s colorful like she was and it always makes me smile. As I sit and gaze at it, I am reminded to spread as much faith, love, and beauty wherever I can, because in the end, that’s what we are remembered for.

We all have some type of gift to share with the world. Joan did a wonderful job of sharing hers. We are all called to do the same. A life well spent and a painting, reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

Categories: Building Christian Character | 1 Comment

The Business of Restoration

We can all be in the business of restoration.

One day last weekend, my daughter was in a terrible mood. She didn’t even want to come out of her room. While I know that this is fairly normal behavior for teenage girls, it bothered me that she was so out of sorts. We talked for a little while and I shared with her some of my own concerns that had been weighing me down.

I reminded her that even though we were both kind of down-and-out, that we were supposed to be staining our table and chairs for our deck. She and her daddy had spent a lot of time and elbow grease, not to mention the bleach, to clean it a couple of weeks earlier. She had also accompanied us to Home Depot to choose the new color.

She kind of reluctantly agreed. The day was warm and beautiful. The birds were singing and we painted and talked. We both began to relax and we began to laugh a lot. She became her normal happy self and I too, felt some tension release.

When we ran out of stain, which was before we finished the project, we were both in different frames of mind as I knew we would be. I marveled at how well the formula always works.

There’s just something healing about creating beauty. There’s something freeing about giving something old, brand new life. There’s a satisfaction that comes from working with your hands that nothing can really compare to and there’s a certain type of peace that only comes from being out in the warm sun, surrounded by trees and singing birds.

I suppose we are wired that way. God created the sun, the birds, and the trees. Why would we not find it peaceful to bask in His creation since we too are His creation? Jesus is in the redemption business. Why would we not find great satisfaction in giving new life to things that seem dingy or even useless? Isn’t that what He does for us everyday?

The world teaches us to stay indoors glued to our electronics, with our doors locked. It teaches us to focus on ourselves. It teaches us to throw away anything or anyone that isn’t bright and shiny and brand new.

The Bible reminds us that we are in this world, but not of it. We are called to look for signs of life in everything and everyone around us and when we find it, to do our best to help them shine.

We too, are in the restoration business. A table and chairs reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

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Don’t Panic, Pray

God knows what we need.

Our sermon last Sunday, was from Exodus 17. It was about the Israelites traveling in the wilderness. The first verse says they traveled from place to place as the Lord commanded. At first glance, it looks like they were doing exactly what they should. They were following God’s lead.

Only one chapter earlier, God provided manna from heaven for them and after they complained, He provided quail as well. Just four chapters earlier, God parted the Red Sea for them and destroyed the Egyptian army that pursued them.

God had shown Himself in huge and miraculous ways. These people should have been people of great faith. But, by the second verse, it becomes clear that they were full of fear and doubt. Apparently, they could find no water where God had told them to pitch their tents and so they began to quarrel and turn on Moses.

Fear and desperation can change people. It can make them irrational. It can make them say horrible things. It can lead them to do horrible things. In this case, some were thinking of stoning Moses.

I’m always shocked at how quickly the Israelites lose faith. After all of the miraculous signs, did they really not believe that God could provide them with water?

But, then when I honestly look at my own life, I too, have found myself in wilderness type places where I felt that God has led me, but then wondered if He would provide. After all of the blessings, after the hundreds of times He has shown Himself to be faithful, I have found myself afraid.

Maybe you have too?

That’s when I start wondering if I heard Him right. Am I really where He wants me to be?

The Israelites even asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

While it’s easy to judge the Israelites for their incredibly short memories. Do we really do much better ourselves? As soon as we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, do we question God’s presence in our lives?

Our pastor pointed out that if God showed Himself to us every minute, that our faith would never grow. He said sometimes God steps back so that we can grow into something much stronger.

If you don’t believe that growth is difficult, ask any middle schooler.

But, even though the Israelites panicked, God provided. He created them. He knew that they needed water and He provided it for them even after their faith waivered.

And, He does the same for us. If we find ourselves in the wilderness with no water, we are called to pray, not panic. We are not alone and He will provide, just as He always has.

Perhaps you needed reminding today.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character, Trusting God | Leave a comment

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Patrick used familiar surroundings to share the Gospel.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. I really like this holiday. There’s no pressure to buy anything. Everyone just wears green and celebrates our supposedly, Irish roots, while looking for leprechauns. But, St. Patrick’s Day has an interesting past which is actually God centered.

It’s all a little cloudy because it happened so long ago, somewhere between 400-600 A.D. Legend has it that Patrick was born to wealthy parents in England and was captured at some point in his mid teens by Irish raiders. He was taken to Ireland and sent off to be a slave tending sheep. (Isn’t it interesting that sheep were involved?)

He was very afraid and lonely and began praying all of the time. (Can you relate?)

After six years in captivity, God told him in a dream, it was time to go home and so he began walking. He walked nearly 200 miles before he was saved by friendly sailors. (Can you imagine walking 200 miles and not getting discouraged or giving up?)

While he was in Ireland, he learned their customs and language. It is said that some time after he returned home, an angel told him in a dream, to return to Ireland as a missionary and preach the Gospel to them. (I can’t imagine the wrestling that must have ensued.)

After studying for 15 years, Patrick obeyed God and returned to Ireland. The Irish were mostly pagan and Druid, but there were some Christians there. Since he knew their customs, he knew that the shamrock was a sacred plant to them. He used the three-leaf clover to explain the trinity to them.

He knew that they used fire to honor their gods so he used bonfires to celebrate Easter. He also used the sun which was a powerful Irish symbol, and superimposed it on the cross to create the Celtic cross.

Patrick would have never been able to communicate with the Irish in such an effective and powerful way if he hadn’tΒ endured the six years in captivity there. (When times are the toughest, it’s hard to see God is building something amazing, but He often is.)

At the end of his life, Patrick had helped to start over 300 churches and baptized over 120,000 Irish people. He preached in Ireland for over forty years and died on March 17th.

He is credited with at least thirty-three miracles including many counts of healing as well as several resurrection stories. He is not credited for driving snakes out of Ireland. There never were any there, but he is credited in turning almost an entire nation to Christ.

Looks like he did actually drive a snake out.

Patrick’s story inspires me. Perhaps you needed some inspiration today.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

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A Reminder to be Vigilant

We are called to be vigilant while we work.

Last weekend, we were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day. My family spent the entire day in the yard working on various projects. One of mine was raking leaves and removing debris from under what used to be a deck. I wore hiking boots and work gloves and was ever mindful of where I put my hands.

Another project was relocating a fire pit. It consisted of many stacked rocks which had become covered with leaves. I kept a shovel close by just in case.

Anyone from the Deep South can tell you why I was being so careful. Anyone from my area of the world who has spent much time outdoors, can tell you what warmer temperatures bring out. Snakes. On my particular piece of earth, it’s copperheads.

Now copperheads aren’t like rattlesnakes. They don’t give you a courtesy warning alerting you that they are nearby, and they a perfectly colored to blend in with the leaves. Whether or not they are aggressive, if you accidentally pick one up or step on one, you will get bitten.

So, I was very vigilant. I dressed appropriately. I watched for snakes. I kept something I could use as a weapon close by at all times. I didn’t stop working Β out of fear. I didn’t avoid my yard or creating what I wanted to create, I was simply prepared for trouble. I wasn’t overly anxious about it, but I was prepared.

As I went about my work, I was reminded how our spiritual lives are very much like my backyard and the tasks I was performing. All Christians have a common enemy who lurks in places, close by, but usually our of sight. Like the copperhead, He too, can sometimes blend seamlessly into our surroundings and attack without warning.

Yet, we are not called to fear him. We are not called to cower indoors afraid to do the kingdom work for which we have been designed. We are called to be vigilant. In Ephesians 6:10-17, the Bible reminds us that Christians are not fighting flesh-and-blood enemies. We are fighting enemies in the unseen world. It also reminds us that we can protect ourselves with the Armor of God.

We are told to protect ourselves with truth and the righteousness of God. We are told to use the gospel of peace and the shield of faith. We are told to use the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God and to pray and be watchful.

We have lives to live. We have work to do. We have a loving God who offers us protection. We need to be sure to take Him up on it.

A day of yard work reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

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Walking by Faith

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

On Sunday morning, my hubby gently tapped me and informed me that we had missed springing forward for daylight savings time. We have never done that before, but interestingly enough, I wasn’t filled with the need to rush.

I had actually been dreaming about the song we were singing that morning in the choir. It was titled, “Walk by Faith,” and I could ‘t wait to sing it. We sing quite a few songs that really do nothing for revving up my soul, but Sunday’s did and I didn’t want to miss it.

On Sunday mornings, I give myself almost two hours to get ready. I like to sit down with a cup of coffee and breakfast and read a devotional. I like to play praise music as I get dressed. I like to take time to pray. I make it a point to try to prepare my heart for worship before I leave my house.

I learned this practice quite a few years back. I have often believed that for families of faith, Satan’s busiest time is Sunday mornings when we are trying to ready our families for church. When we are raising littles, Sunday mornings are often filled with rushing that ends up producing anxiety and frustration, which leads to raised voices and sometimes tears. The teen years can prove to be just as stressful. By the time we arrive at church we are so upset, we miss the entire message, the blessings, and the ability to bless others.

To combat the Sunday morning stress, I began getting up much earlier than I had to, so I could be open and ready for what God had to share.

So, as I awoke on Sunday, I was behind the proverbial eight ball. As I dashed for the shower, I couldn’t help but marvel that the song, “Walk by Faith,” kept running through my head. One of the lines in particular, was “we walk by faith and not by sight.”

I said a prayer. I acknowledged that the God who I worship, called the Universe into being. I acknowledged that the God I worship, fed five thousand people with a couple of fish and five loaves of bread. Surely, my God could get me to choir practice in a timely matter, while allowing me the peace to truly worship Him. I asked for His intervention.

My hubby had a cup of coffee waiting for me on the counter. I thanked God for that blessing as I calmly got ready. I ate a quick breakfast. I didn’t dawdle, but I didn’t rush either.

Practice is usually at 9:15, but that morning it had been pushed back to 9:00. After waking up an hour late, I walked into church right at 9:15 to find that they hadn’t even started. I wasn’t even late.

I had lived the anthem that morning. I had walked by faith and God delivered, but in the end, He always does.

Sometimes I need reminding. Perhaps you did too!

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God, Watching for God | Leave a comment

Blooming Where We Are

Sometimes we need to remember that our mission field is right where we are.

Yesterday, when I arrived home from work, I grabbed a chair and collapsed onto my deck. I sat in the warmth of the March sunshine, listened to the birds and tried to breathe deeply. It had been a long day and a long week and I still had another day to go.

Nothing bad had happened; in fact I had received some really good news earlier in the week. But, my job had been crazy busy, with a million interruptions and I was just bone tired.

I looked across the yard at my white irises blooming. They always make me smile. My hubby and I dug them up years ago, from an old home place on my parents property. I have no idea how old they are, at least sixty, but likely much older than that. We planted them at the base of one of our oak trees and they multiplied like crazy. We now have them at the base of two trees and several other places in the yard.

They didn’t ask to be moved from their home in Middle Georgia to their home in Northeast Georgia. Yet, they just seem to grow and prosper wherever we plant them.

Those white flowers made me think of a conversation I had earlier in the week with a coworker who reminded me that I have been put in my particular place, at this particular time, for a reason that had noting to do with my job description.

We forget sometimes that we can do kingdom work wherever we are planted. It doesn’t matter what the job description is on paper. We can be a construction worker, a waitress, or a CEO of a company. Our job titles make no difference to Jesus. The spiritual work we are called to do can shine through, wherever we are.

Our mission field is always the ground we are standing on, whether we asked to be there or not, whether it’s difficult or easy. Those irises reminded me to bloom and prosper wherever I am planted, knowing that at some point, I may be scooped up and planted somewhere else, but that I am not to worry about that. I am called to trust God’s plan.

I am called to bloom today in this spot, right where I am, and so are you. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God | Leave a comment

Beating the Odds

Some things flourish against all odds.

I was working outside this weekend with my hubby. We finally got some rain last week, but I noticed that the ground was still cracked and rock hard. While I was holding up a board, a bright green sprout caught my eye. He patiently waited while I snapped some photos. After twenty years of marriage, he’s used to dealing with the fact that I’m easily distracted when I’m outdoors.

I really can’t help myself. I tend to see God’s fingerprints everywhere in Creation.

On this particular day, the green sprout stood proudly, despite the hard, inhospitable ground, almost as if in defiance. It was like it decided to grow against all odds and was thriving. I couldn’t help, but to be impressed by its perseverance. I thought about the little sprout for the rest of the day.

I thought about how God’s economy is so very different from ours. If we want something to grow, we water it and tend to it. We pamper it and hope. We can put endless hours into something and it may flourish or it might not. While we love to believe that hard work always produces results; sometimes it does not.

We live in a society where we have been taught that self-reliance is something we should strive for. We should be able to do everything completely on our own, by the sweat of our own brow.

The Bible teaches a different dynamic. The Bible teaches us to acknowledge first and foremost that we rely on God for everything and that every good thing comes from Him. Yes, we are called to work hard, but we are also called to know that He has a plan and that it often differs from our own. Obedience and faith teach us to be okay with that.

The Bible also teaches us the importance of community. We are called to help each other and work together. There are some things we simply cannot do alone. There are times when we need other believers to hold us up and to stand in the gaps for us.

There are times, when against all odds, something beautiful flourishes when it seems next to impossible, when on paper, there was just no way. If we dig a little bit, we often will find that there was prayer behind the miracle and many times a group of prayer warriors.

In those instances, we are reminded that nothing is impossible with God. A little green sprout reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character, Community, Watching for God | 1 Comment

The Rewards of Seeking

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

I was taking a walk recently and praying. The day was beautiful and unseasonably warm for a winter day in Georgia. I had a lot on my mind and my heart was heavy. I often find that God communicates with me when I’m out in nature.

In the past, He has sent me a hawk. Once there were three smooth stones for me to find. Another time there was a lone penny. All of those items corresponded perfectly with the situation where I found myself.

So, I reluctantly, went for a walk and watched for God. What I really wanted to do, was to lie on the couch and eat cookies, but I went seeking.

I thanked God for the day and the many blessings He has showered me with and I poured out my heart, hoping for answers. I watched and waited expectantly as a lone buzzard soared above, yet seemed to follow along with me.

“Just great,” I thought. “I came looking for inspiration and all I see is death.”

Yet, almost as soon as I thought it, I could feel another voice. That voice reminded me that buzzards don’t kill anything. They just clear away what is already dead. They have a very important job. Without them, dead things would pile up and dead things can carry all types of diseases and harmful bacteria.

As I continued to walk, I thought about how often we carry around things from our past that cause us harm. What things do we need to let go of and allow Jesus to take them away. Maybe it’s constant worry and anxiety. Maybe it’s old anger or old wounds. It could be almost anything that burdens our souls. Sometimes these emotions had a useful place in our lives, but as time has passed, they are only piling up and hurting us.

The buzzard reminded me that Lent is the ideal time to ask ourselves what things we are carrying around that are dead weight. What are we allowing to come between us and true relationship with God, a relationship that means true peace?

As I contemplated that thought, I heard a hawk call loudly in the distance and once again, I was reminded that those who truly seek with open hearts, will find. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Building Christian Character, Watching for God | 2 Comments

Lent Lessons

Lent can be a spiritual time to ask God what needs redemption in our lives.

Today is the first day of Lent. It will last for forty days, not counting Sundays, and will end with the celebration of Easter. The forty days come from the time Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan. Afterwards, He began His ministry. In a sense, it was a preparation for the work God had planned for Him.

For Christians, it’s a time of repentance, prayer and reflection. It’s not a Biblical practice. It’s more of a church doctrine and not all churches participate in Lent.

Lent is not really a joyful time. Self-reflection, is a hard look at what needs to be changed about ourselves in order to draw closer to God and to better serve Him. Repentance means to stop doing something we are not supposed to be doing, and to ask for forgiveness. Neither of those are fun activities.

It’s always tempting to skip the whole Lent thing and go right to the Easter celebration, and we can. There’s no Lent Police walking around to make us participate in Lent.

But, over the years, I have come to look at Lent as an opportunity. Easter is our highest holiday. It’s our day of redemption. In order to fully participate in that celebration, we have to give some careful thought about what needs redeeming.

Are we carrying around unresolved anger? Are we carrying around guilt over past hurts? Are we carrying around unforgiveness? Are we carrying around pain? Do we have relationship issues that need repair in some way?

Easter gives us the opportunity to place all of these heart crushers at the foot of the Cross. Jesus will redeem them for us. There is only one requirement: We have to ask.

He cannot redeem what we refuse to lie down and if we aren’t willing to do some honest soul-searching, we can’t even admit what our needs are. This is where quiet time, prayer, and reflection come in.

Many people choose to give up something for Lent and that’s fine if that’s how they want to honor the season. Others choose to pick something new up, like daily Bible reading. That’s also fine. Over the years, I have done both and have benefited from both.

But, we can also choose to intentionally use this time to ask God to show us what we need to change in order to be more Christ like and to deepen our faith. The bottom line is that observing Lent makes Easter much more joyful.

Perhaps you needed reminding today.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

Categories: Building Christian Character | 2 Comments