Tuesday, March 28, 2006

All of My Best Friends Are Sinners

All of my best friends are sinners
THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE. (This was so well-said I just had to share it!)

"All of my best friends are sinners. I don't mean that I hang out with really bad people. I mean this as a way of looking at everybody, starting with myself.

When Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, it was a way of making us ultimately face into the reality of our own need. How we love others is dependent on how we love ourselves, and self-love has to take into account failure and sin, because we know ourselves better than anybody. We can try to cover up the bad stuff about ourselves, but that only disconnects us from the truth and makes us hypocrites, unable to love because we cannot love ourselves as we truly are.

The only kind of love hypocrites can have is a prejudiced love. Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day who loved other Pharisees and condemned everyone else, when we are being hypocritical, we can't help but love those who are like us and abhor everyone who is not.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) When Paul says this, he puts himself in a position to get next to anyone. You can greet all of humanity with open arms from the perspective of knowing intimately your own sin and failure. “Over there are the sinners of the world for whom Christ died … hey, that's my group!”

A recovering alcoholic is still an alcoholic; he's just recovering from alcohol's influence over him in the company of others willing to do the same thing, so they can all be an encouragement to each other and accountable for their actions. That's the thing that's always been appealing to me about recovery groups. They are all about love and acceptance at the lowest level, and that is what we all need. These people are admitting that they have ruined their lives and are ruining the lives of their loved ones, and they are suddenly among friends who understand everything about that.

When you are trying to believe a lie about yourself, you can only accept those who have committed themselves to perpetuating the lie along with you and are sworn to secrecy about their own hidden sin as a form of mutual self-preservation. But it's all a game and we know it. How refreshing it is to come clean – to bring your life out into the open and be forgiven by God and join the rest of the human race for which Christ died.

Everything and everyone looks different once you have done this. And it doesn't matter if someone else is a Christian or not. Either way that person is still someone for whom Christ died, and therefore someone you can embrace. And why not, since all your best friends are sinners anyway!"

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rejoice in Hope

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; By whom also we have access by faith in to this grace where we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we rejoice in trials also; knowing that trials work patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope. And hope makes us not ashamed; because the love of God is spread in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.

I am so thankful to have hope, given to me by my faith in the Lord Jesus. I'm not sure that I have reached the place where I can rejoice in trials, but I can understand them now. I used to think of a trial as kind of a punishment, and I would go thru it complaining and thrashing. By seeking the Lord thru reading His Word, reading other Christian women's blogs, reading several Christian sites and books by Christian authors, such as Billy Graham, I have come to understand that trials are a test of my faith and God only tests those He loves. If I didn't have an opportunity to exercise my faith, how would I ever develop spiritual muscles? And by these trials, God promises patience, which gives me experience and by these experiences, God gives me hope.

So during trials, I can rejoice in hope. That hope dispels fear which is what holds me back from living my fullest life. It gives me freedom to be completely alive in the Lord and experience grace. Things don't happen to me, I am not a victim. I decide.

Wherever I am in my journey here on earth, each day, life offers a variety of paths. At each fork in the road, I decide which path to take. Some decisions are minor, while others are life changing. I can't let life get so hectic that I am preoccupied with only immediate concerns and am unable to step back and see the whole picture. I will stop struggling to have my own way and submit to God's will for my life. My hope is for joy and purpose with even the most ordinary events being part of His plan for my life. I take His hand each morning and ask Him to lead me on the journey.

Lord, I love you and I am so thankful that I can wake up early and spend time with You at the beginning of my day. I want to do Your will and will rejoice in trials as you guide me in Your Ways.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Walking In The Spirit

I got my daily email from The Purpose Driven Life. I can't believe how good God is. It was exactly about what I struggle with.

“It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

John Fisher writes: "I think every Christian struggles at one time or another with this truth. Spiritual growth is a constant struggle between what we do for God versus what we do in God. ......what we do for God by ourselves -- what we do relying on our own resources and our own ingenuity. We may even make it sound good because we are doing it for God, but unless it is of God and from God, it will not be ultimately successful. All great Christian endeavors fall into this trap at some time. We want to control the outcome.

So how do you know if you are dealing in the success of God’s power? You are at risk; you are Johnny on the spot; you are way over your head; you are not completely sure what you are doing; you are acutely aware of your own weaknesses; you have ventured into a place where, if God doesn’t show up, you are a dead duck. Believe it or not, this is what the Bible calls: “walking in the Spirit.” (Don’t you love it?)

Welcome to the adventure. It’s kind of fun, actually. Once you jump in and believe in someone other than yourself and what you can control, you discover a whole new resource."

Controlling the outcome--yep, that's the trap I fall into in all endeavors that are not done in the Lord. I hate to takes risks, am never in over my head, alway want to be sure of what I am doing and play it safe. I have to admit it for what it is. It's not fear as I had previously thought it was; it's pride and lack of surrender to my Heavenly Father. That's why I thrash about, get frustrated and angry and end up being a poor witness. I am praying for the Lord to "take me down", like I would to a dog to get him to submit. This is my adventure with the Lord--releasing control.

Lord, bend me, mold me, break me and control me. Teach me to surrender and submit. I want to walk in Your Ways. I am ready for the adventure.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The New Puppy

Here's Teddie! I know he looks like he is in jail and that's kind of what it is. I and several dog owner friends who subscribe to this way of thinking. Cage training for puppies. Much less stressful for a new dog in the house. It lets the older dogs (Chickie and Harry) get used to the puppy and also serves to save carpets from puppy accidents. It helps the puppy to learn that outside is the appropriate place to go potty. The cage is big enough (10 times the size of the dog) that if he has an accident, he doesn't have to sit in it. I overslept this morning and there was a wet spot on the floor of the cage which was easily cleaned up.

He is about 16 inches long and about 10 inches at the top of his head. He only weighs a few pounds as he was dehydrated and starving when a guy found him running along a busy street and brought him over to our friend's house. I grabbed the little fellow immediately and when I felt how skinny he was decided to bring him home, whether we decided to keep him or not. He needed to be fed and given water(which we did immediately). When we first brought him home, I thought he might die because he was very lethargic. But now, 3 days later, after many feedings of chicken and rice with puppy formula added in, he is bouncy and mischeivious. His eyes are clear and he is a happy little fellow.

We will visit the vet tomorrow for a checkup and the start of vaccinations. We'll see how old the vet thinks he is and find out what kind of breed she thinks he is. He looks like some kind of toy mix to me. Like toy poodle and maltese or some such. His hair is straight but his face is very poodle-like.

Teddie, Welcome to Parker Pet Heaven (as my friends call our house). We've never had a puppy before. All our dogs have come to us as other people's discards. We take them in, love and care for them and make them part of our family.

Just like Our Lord does. He takes in sinners and makes them His children. I am an heir to the Kingdom of God. I have so much to be grateful for today! Praise you Jesus!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Breaking the Strong Holds of the Past

As I was getting dressed this morning--Just kidding!

Seriously, though, I have been thinking about my attitude and image of myself. Some days it's pretty good and other days I feel like I look just like this. It's all in my head, it isn't reality. Some days I feel ugly, ungainly, grumpy and negative. Today IS NOT one of those days, but I want to figure out why those negative days happen. Every morning, I wake up earlier than my spouse so that I can have my private prayer and worship time. I want to start the day with my Heavenly Father. I want to put a positive spin on the day. I list what I have to be thankful for. Usually, one thing that goes wrong can screw up the whole day. But yesterday was different........

I listened to Joyce Meyer's Sunday sermon. She talked about breaking the strongholds of the past. She emphasized the word, "Strong Hold" and said that we don't have to perpetuate negativity. We have to be willing to pay the price to break the bad habit (pattern), by facing the truth, dealing with the root of the problem and taking responsibility with NO excuses. I can make the choice to live for myself or to live for the Lord and serve others. Breaking the strongholds of the past required a conscious decision. I said with her, "I refuse to live like this any longer. The past will NOT control my future."

She reminded us also that when we make a decision for God, that is just the time Satan will come against us, to try to defeat our purpose and set us right back to where we were; to take away hope of change and send us back to our negative ways.

But the Lord was with me yesterday. I felt joy and had a positive attitude. Then, something happened. I was putting the clean dishes away, when one of my favorite coffee cups seemed to just fly out of the cupboard onto the counter and shatter in every direction, sending glass as far as the television in the living room. My standard negative response would have been one of anger and negative behavior, griping and complaining as I cleaned up the mess and depressed and upset all day at losing that cup. It could have ruined my day. But I was able to recognize the incident for what it was--Satan's attempt to take away my joy and resolve to live positively. I cleaned up the mess and said to myself, "It was just a thing" and I went on with my day which turned out quite lovely.

Praise you, Lord for another miracle. I am breaking the Strong Holds of the past, one by one, with Your strength. I get it! It's no longer a mystery why my days were so negative. I praise You for revelations and progress!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Structured Prayer Time With My Friend

Yesterday, my friend and I discussed by email, that we would pray together even though we are separated by many miles. My time zone is not her time zone and she is an hour earlier than I am. She graciously said that she would get up early to pray together with me. We agreed on a list of things that we would pray about. I didn't think I needed to set the alarm, because I always wake up much earlier than my husband and always 1/2 hour before the time we set to pray. I am embarrassed to say, this morning (the 1st morning we are starting our together prayer time) I woke up 10 minutes late. No excuses, although I can think of a few--of course. From now on, the alarm will be set. I was a little late today, but will not be from tomorrow onward.

I am so blessed to have her as my friend. When we struggle, we pray with and for one another, either on the telephone or by email request. Although a lot of years separate our ages, we are kindred spirits. We both love the Lord and struggle with being married to non-believing husbands. We feel things deeply and are opinionated. And we are both saved and washed clean by the blood of Jesus and believe one day we will see Him.

There was a time that my husband was out of town for the second time in two weeks and I was in the 2nd day of the 2nd week and got up that morning feeling sorry for myself. I started crying and having a pity party, thinking of all the lousy things that had happened. I watched a movie that I knew would make me cry more. In the middle of the movie, she called me. That's not a coincidence, that's a miracle from God! She is always coming up with ways that we both can improve our walk with the Lord. She seeks God's face. I pray always in thanks to the Lord that she was my neighbor all those years ago and she had the courage to strike up a conversation with me. I couldn't love her more than if she was my sister/daughter. What a blessing she is in my life, as I hope I am in hers.

The Lord has been blessing me so much that I can hardly contain it within me. This is true JOY, the joy of the Lord. When Keith Green said in his song, "Make my life a prayer to you (Lord)", I finally understand what he meant. I'm not just praying to the Lord during prayer time, but with every minute of the day. My God is not in a box, where I open it up, He is all around me and within me every second, giving me strength and courage, renewing my purpose, carrying my cares, lifting me up, casting out fear. As His Word says in Romans 8:31 "If God is for me, who can be against me?"

Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit, today I give thanks for the miracles you have given me. Help me to become the person you know I can be. When I don't know what to pray for, let the Holy Spirit within me come to you with inexpressible groanings that go beyond human words. I love you Lord, with all my heart!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Our Stories

We all have our stories; when someone asks about you, you begin by telling your story to explain who you are. My story used to be about my job: "I am an accountant, I do such and such at this place of business......" I would go on about the people I worked with(in a gossipy sort of way) and eventually get around to saying I was married and had dogs. If you went further in depth with me, I would tell you about betrayals and bitterness (all having to do with jobs--either current or past). I defined myself as what work I did. Although I though of myself as a Christian, I rarely spoke about my faith in Jesus. I see now that I was a Pharisee.

My story started changing when we moved to Arizona. I thought I would find a job right away, but although I sent out numerous resumes, I got no calls. My story then became about how I couldn't find a job and the depressed job market. Then as I prayed for a job and to find the Lord's will for my life, He started to change me. He revealed something to me every day about myself. If I look back at past blogs, I can see the progress. I can see how everything works together for God's glory.

My story is changing--NOW! It's going to be about the miracles the Lord gives me every day. It's about salvation and unconditional love from the Lord. It's about loving my husband and wanting salvation for him more than anything. It's about forgiveness and letting go. I am excited about this miracle today!!!! Halleluia.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Where The Mind Goes, The Life Follows

I have a negative tendency in my thought processes. It comes from being raised in the 1950's when the prevailing idea was anticipate the worst, then you will never be disappointed. Also, don't praise your children when they do what should be expected of them and make sure that they don't get egotistical and proud. The old adage of: "Spare the rod and spoil the child", made whippings a daily occurance. This was how parents (and teachers) guided you in the way you should go. When I fall back to old habits, I operate from a guilt-based thought process. I shouldn't do this or that. I shouldn't eat this or that. Being deprived of doing certain things or eating certain foods only make them more desirable to me as they are the forbidden fruit.

Today, Joyce Meyer talked about how what we think programs our lives. I can reprogram my mind, just as I would reprogram my computer. By reading the Word or any spiritually uplifting book, I can put new spiritual programming into my mind. I can rebuild and renew my mind also by writing and proclaiming from my mouth the positive things that I want in my life. Secularly, these are called "affirmations". I am going to write down positive affirmations and read them each day after I have my morning time with the Lord.

Sometimes, when I try to make positive changes in my life, I overdo it and burn out. I feel overwhelmed with everything I can think of to do to cause myself to change. Today, I read something that will keep me balanced.

On Joyce Meyer's website, she has a monthly magazine and there's an article about studying the Bible. She says: "The Bible never tells us how long to study—it just says to study the Word regularly and we’ll be blessed. I like to compare studying God’s Word to eating. When I sit down to eat a meal, I eat until I’m full. The same thing is true for studying the Word. When I sit down to study, I usually stay in the Word until I have a "full," or satisfied, feeling in my spirit."

Today, with the Lord's strength uplifting me, I will put one foot in front of the other, quit focusing on what's wrong with me and I will be careful with my thoughts--I will stay clear of mind by keeping all thing that cloud up thinking out of my system. Those things are food, alcohol and television--none of which are bad, in moderation.

Lord, Jesus, today I pray for your strength and guidance to secure balance in my life--in my thoughts, actions, words and food intake. Thank you Lord as I know You have already accomplished this and I accept it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Real Change In My Perspective

I receive these "thoughts for the day" each day in my email from the Purpose Driven Life online. This one really created a paradigm shift in my perception of living the Chrisian life and following Jesus. I have always felt that no matter how "holy" and "Christlike" I attempted to live, I constantly fell very short of the mark. I knew that the Lord loved me anyway, but still felt guilty about each secular tv show I watched or book I read or music I listened to. I thought I should spend every minute watching a preacher on tv or listening to one on the radio, listening to only Christian CDs, and I should be reading the bible or a Christian based book. This has been a burden ever since I became a Christian almost 40 years ago. Today, just today, this made me see my life in a different way; I finally get it! I don't have to shift gears into a "worship" mode or a "spirit" mode (that imaginary line spoken of below). I can open my whole life to the Lord. I know that a lot of you figured this out right away, but I am a slow learner. I used to stop doing what I was doing to have a moment of worship and communion with the Lord at several points during the day. Now I comprehend that every minute of every day can be spent with Him.

Welcome to Our World
by John Fischer - Purpose Driven Life

"What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the holiest thing that could happen to us." This quote is from Jean-Pierre Caussade, an 18th century writer who shows us that sometimes it takes writers and thinkers from other centuries to awaken us to new ways of thinking. Well… new to us, maybe, not to them. Nothing stunts our spiritual growth more than the imaginary line by which we separate holy things from secular things. Or how about the way we make “holy” things holy by removing them from their human context and making them glow with their own special kind of light? That's closer to superstition than it is holiness.

Jesus Christ lived human life on a strictly human level and yet all of it was holy because of who He was. I can't imagine Jesus ever having a purely “secular” moment. So does that mean He walked around with His hands in a praying position all the time, spoke in a low voice, never laughed, and whenever He opened His mouth, scripture came out?

Come now, we all know too much about being human to really believe any of this, but then where do these ideas come from? I think there are lots of answers to this but at least two big ones. 1) We like to keep the sacred far enough away as to be beyond our reach, thus having an excuse for not even trying to be holy. 2) We are too embarrassed about our humanity to imagine Christ ever really sharing in it. Well it's time to welcome Christ into our world. Welcome Him to coffee, to our cell phone conversations, to our chores around the house, to our commute, to the board meeting and the shopping mall -- to the kitchen, the family room, and the bedroom.

We've been trying too long to get into His world with little or no success, which is pretty silly when He already came to our world, lived in flesh like ours and intends to continue living in our flesh today. The Word became flesh and it still is flesh, it's just that the flesh it became here on earth is now yours and mine instead of Christ's. Until we believe this we will never understand what it means to be holy. So let’s set aside all those eyes-rolled-back, flipped-out ideas of holiness, and welcome Christ to our little, seemingly insignificant, dysfunctional lives. That's where He wants to be anyway. And that's precisely where the enemy doesn't want Him to be, because once He is there, we discover, in fact, that we are not insignificant after all. Suddenly all of life is sacred, and we can finally say along with Jean-Pierre Caussade, "What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the holiest thing that could happen to us."

Praise you, Lord for the incredible revelation You have given me today. I am looking for miracles and You have given them to me. I love you, Jesus with all my heart and I want what You want for my life. Mold me, use me for Your purposes!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Trials, Temptations & Triumph

I watched Joyce Meyer this morning for the first time. The Lord sent her to me. I got up, turned on the news and it was so depressing, I couldn't stand it. I meant to change the channel down, but instead hit the up button and there she was. Talking about just the things that I have been working on in my life--with God's help and strength. I am paraphrasing some of the things that she said.
Here's her website www.joycemeyer.org
The show was titled, "Tests, Trials, Temptations and Triumph" She hooked me in when she said: "There are no drive thru breakthrus--you gotta go thru it to get thru it." A little later she said, "Submission is not an act, it's an attitude" She told personal stories to illustrate the lesson and it rang true with me. She tells stories with humor but behind the humor is truth. She said this one thing that rang in my heart like Big Ben. She talked about how sometimes we know God could deliver us and even though we pray and pray, He still doesn't. The reason we are not delivered is it is a test of our faith. "

How else can I become strong in the Lord without going through a test, trial or temptation and coming out triumphant? Satan tempts me, God allows temptation to test me. If everything was nice and rosy all the time how would I ever flex my spiritual muscles and grow stronger. If I live sacrificially, I will go thru tests and trials so that I can help others in similar situations. Getting rid of the junk in my life that make me a poor witness to others, like addictions: overeating, cursing & gossiping teaches me about the power and strength of the Lord. But I have to release control over my life and fully embrace God's will for my life. I can cast my cares upon HIm or I can carry them around like a 200 pound gorilla on my back. Thinking about submission has always made me cringe. I didn't want to be in submission to ANYONE! I was no slave. Then the thought of submitting to my non-believing spouse was even more abhorrent. So we had 21 years of strife(the first year doesn't count, as it was the honeymoon phase). I argue with everything he said. I told him and myself that I was just voicing my opinion--everyone has a right to their own opinion, don't they? But it wasn't just an opinion, it was a challenge and the beginning of an argument. Usually, he would back down, knowing that it wasn't that important to be right. But it was very important to me. I NEEDED to be right.

The Lord has revealed so much to me in the past few months about myself. While proclaiming to be a Christian, I rarely behaved in a Christ-like manner. I can see now that I was a Pharisee. I was talking out of both sides of my mouth. I praise the Lord that He did not spit me out, but was patient and waited for me to see the error in my thinking. It's been a difficult journey of self-awareness, watching all my character flaws revealed, one by one. There's probably more, but Jesus is kind, only giving me as much as I can handle at one time.

God is good to me!