Break Through!

“For now I will break off his yoke from you, And burst your bonds apart.” Nahum 1:13 NKJV

‘For it shall come to pass in that day,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘That I will break his yoke from your neck, And will burst your bonds; Foreigners shall no more enslave them.’ Jeremiah 30:8 NKJV

I spent a few days this week inspecting my yard and playing with my camera. Doing so, I came across my hostas!  Hostas come in many varieties and  return faithfully year after year. However, for this to happen, the hostas must first break through my very hard Georgia clay.

Like hostas, we have to push through some hard things as well. These things are as unique as each of us, yet if  persevere, pray and stay with God;  we can also find the warmth of the Son/sun and enter a season of growth and renewal. Not only does the hosta have to break through the cold hard ground to thrive in the spring, it must also shed some of its old dry and useless self. Hostas push away the old “bones” left over from last year making room for more life-sustaining leaves. There is a lesson in this for all of us.

The scriptures above speak of God’s promise to His people. Both prophets testify about how God will free His people. God’s Word speaks of delivering His people from enemies both physical and spiritual. God doesn’t want us to be in bondage to other people or sin.   DSC_0607

For some of us to live our lives as God intended we need to

Break some bad habits

Break new ground…learn something new, meet new people, broaden our thinking, vision and aspirations

Break off the shackles that bind…fear, depression, doubt, regret, guilt or whatever holds you hostage

Dare to deviate from what is not working. What has God promised you? Have you asked Him for direction, discernment, revelation? Have you done the things He’s told you to? If you are waiting on God, He is probably waiting on YOU!

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For [it is] time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12 NKJV

Fallow in the above verse refers to land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season. Many of us are waiting for a break through but do nothing during the growing season. How can we expect to reap a harvest if we don’t  sow good seed? Our break through requires work on our part!

Reap in mercy. To reap mercy you have to sow it. If some of us were a bit more merciful and less judgmental it would allow more time to improving ourselves!

It is time to seek the LordMany of us continually look for the next best thing, big idea or solution to a problem; yet, if we would only seek Him we would find the answers we desire. Our God is more than able. He is more than willing.

For those of you waiting on the perfect time to take that leap of faith, obey God’s prodding or even courage to take that first step, do it anyway. Do it afraid.

You don’t have to be fearless. God rewards our faith in Him, not perfection.

Finally, I never know when my hostas are going to appear. Some years I find them in February. Other years not until May. I never know when they will break through. We don’t know when our big break will come either. Yet, I am always expecting them to appear. I dare you to expect God to do the miraculous with you and through you.

Break out of what was and step into what can be.

Life is waiting. Time will not.

“A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;” Ecclesiastes 3:3 NKJV

Beauty for Ashes!

“To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified,” Isaiah 61:3 NKJV

Isaiah 61 is probably one of the most comforting chapters in the Bible. The very first verse begins with good news preaching “good tidings to the poor,” speaks of   heal the broken-hearted,” and proclaims “liberty to the captives.”

We have all at one time or another been in need of good tidings, healing or freedom from bondage. This chapter provides hope of change or rather an exchange of what we have for what our God is willing to give us instead.

God’s love for us allows us the opportunity to give Him those things that are painful and receive from Him beauty, joy and relief from oppression. These things He gives to us not only for our good, but that He may be glorified in the process.

We all suffer wounds along our way. We have losses and people we mourn. There are things we’ve held dear that have been reduced to nothing. We’ve all felt overcome by fear, doubts, and even the duties of daily life. But we don’t have to stay bound by any of this!

The cherry tree pictured below has been wounded. The gouge in the trunk was not created by nature. So great a wound could have killed it. Some of the things we experience can kill us too.
But God! This damaged tree yet blooms! And we can too!  DSC_2960

 

We can rise up and above our losses, regrets and missteps! God enables us through the anointing and blessing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus died for us that we may be freed from the pain and suffering sin brings. When we choose Him, He exchanges what we have for what can be.

Choosing God allows us to be planted and restored as His people; strong, beautiful and useful. We have a purpose to serve!

If you are feeling wounded, don’t give up! Instead, give yourself over to God. He can take what is left for dead and give new life! He restores us! He can even equip us to restore others! God can take our pitiful selves and through us to do the miraculous!

DSC_2912

God’s blessings aren’t always “in your face.” His blessings often start small and grow. Like a seed, God’s blessings can evolve into more than we can even imagine. What is at first naked to the eye can develop into something so large there is no doubt God has caused it to thrive and prosper.

Isaiah preached of what was to come.

The God Isaiah spoke of is available to us now. Accessible. Ever present. Healer. Redeemer.

The key to receiving the beauty of God is having faith in not only what He has done but in what He can do for us. Now.

“And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalms 90:17 NKJV

Bare Bones

The tree pictured above doesn’t look so impressive. This tree looks barren, uninviting and lifeless. It is a good representation of the chill in the air as I walked among the trees this morning. However, appearances are often deceiving. Just as with this tree, some of the very things in our lives that appear to be hopeless and lifeless are just lying dormant and waiting to bloom.

The next photos give a better representation of what is really going on. If you pass by casually, you’d never notice. Yet, if you take time to look closely, you can see the new life. There are often things in our lives that we have left for dead. We often fail to notice the potential remaining in situations and dreams that seem to have died or that are longer comfortable to hold on to. secondary 139      secondary 143

Even though this tree appears lifeless, God will allow it to bloom with fragrant flowers that will soon attract bees and continue the cycle of life. Later, this tree will be lush with green leaves that will provide protection and a home to singing birds. And still months later, those leaves will blaze brightly with brilliant color that will ultimately glorify our God.

So…if there are a few things in your life that you’ve given up on or left for dead, look again!

With God, those things that look lifeless and hopeless can find a new season, a new purpose and an opportunity to once again bloom. It is up to us to expect a season of spring even when we are surrounded by the harsh cold winds of winter and grey skies of doubt loom near.

We don’t always look like we are doing  well at various times in our lives. An illness, financial difficulties troublesome relationships or other matters can have us looking less than our best. The good news is God isn’t done with us either. We, too, have the potential for new life!

“The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail,” Isaiah 58:11 NKJV

“Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live,” Ezekiel 37:5 NKJV

Power and Authority

A hint of spring is here in the Atlanta area. The snow and ice are finally gone. I really applaud you out there who deal with all the white stuff regularly. We made out much better the second time around. This time nearly everyone heeded the warnings issued repeatedly by our governing officials. This time, people readily recognized that there are some things beyond our power to control.

Most people tend to think that no matter what is going on around them they can handle it. We sometimes think we can always make some provision, adjustment or schedule change that will allow us to do what we want to do even when a higher authority has said “no.”

I watched a television interview of a tow truck operator clearing some wreckage. He was shaking his head explaining how even though things didn’t look very bad, people were still out on the roads during the storm and finding themselves in trouble even though the government authorities were begging people to stay put. Those few on the roads for a joy ride were deceived by the calm appearances and had to pay (literally) the consequences for their behavior. How many times have we done the same thing in different circumstances? 

There are times in life we must come to grips that we cannot do what we want to do. God’s plan just does not allow it. We must accept this and act accordingly. We often get ourselves in trouble when we fail to recognize His power and authority and instead go off and do our own thing. Often it ends with us praying for God to save us from our own poor choices!

Just like the meteorologists, God gives us instructions and warnings. It is then up to us to take what we know and behave in a manner consistent with the information we have been given. Yet unlike the meteorologists, God’s instructions are infallible. There is no second guessing or “wait and see” what will happen like the weather. God’s instructions are crystal clear. How often do we ignore the warnings signs and instructions we are given so we can justify our own actions? 

Only God can make it rain, sleet, hail or snow. He determines the temperature. As such, only God can stop the seemingly unstoppable or thaw a hardened heart. Only He can create such a spectacular winter wonderland. Man may try to recreate His majesty but anything we do can only pale in comparison. We are wise when we recognize His power. 

Realize there are some things that you cannot control. Sometimes, I think God gives us a storm or two to help jog our memories. Sometimes we simply won’t be still until we forced to.

“Be still, and know that I [am] God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth,” Psalms 46:10 NKJV.

We also fail to recognize God’s power and authority when we stress ourselves trying to achieve things only He can make happen. When we recognize His power and trust Him to move our mountains, we can then enjoy the kind of existence we were created to have. Recognizing the power of the Sovereign God allows you to rest and stop struggling to do what you cannot. Recognizing God’s power and authority allows you the opportunity to live instead of merely exist.

As we were thawing out last week, I felt our earthquake that radiated from the Georgia/Carolina border. Maybe the southeast needed yet another reminder of God’s power. I was reminded that I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to come up with the solutions. I can trust God to do those things for me. He can move heaven and earth.

I will do what I can while trusting Him to do what I cannot. Sometimes the strength we look for in ourselves will only be found when we look up to our God. Recognizing our own limitations is often the first step toward acknowledging His power. 

When I can’t, I am confident that He can! What more could I possibly ask for? 

“Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power,” Psalms 21:13 NKJV 

“Great [is] our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding [is] infinite,” Psalms 147:5 NKJV 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13 NKJV 

“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” Ephesians 3:20 NKJV

Love thy neighbor!

Well, I finally got that snow day I’d been waiting for.

I realize a couple of inches of snow is no big deal to the rest of the country, but in the Metro Atlanta area we just don’t do snow. We may see it three to five times in a decade. We can readily stand the heat. Snow? Not so much! I think next time the governor will just tell people to stay home.

In light of the horrid conditions many were forced to endure, it was actually quite uplifting to watch and read about all the good things that took place during such a trying time. I love it when the worst of conditions brings out the best in people.

There were several stories about people who opened their homes and businesses to strangers offering shelter in the storm.  I watched on television as one guy walked from his house and stood for hours in the cold to offer sandwiches and hot coffee to those who were stranded and starving in their cars. One local group of people who owned Jeeps made the rounds towing and pushing cars out of ditches.

Likewise, in neighboring Alabama, a group of Chick-fil-A employees closed up shop to go out in the cold and offer hot food and drinks to people stranded on the highway. They also made their restaurant available to those in need of shelter. The employees worked non-stop. The cash register did not. They made a very deliberate choice not to take a dime for their efforts.

Random acts of kindness.

With all the negativity continually displayed in the media, it was nice to see acts of selflessness and love receive the attention so rightly deserved. I heard one man say in a news interview that the snow was a great “equalizer.” It doesn’t care if you are rich, poor, educated or not, nature will ultimately bring us all down to the most basic of common denominators.

The first of which is people who are dependent on the assistance of others.  Or alternatively, a second group being the people who can help other others in need. The funny thing though is you never know which one of these two categories you will ultimately fall in. You can be a “helper” one minute and on the “receiving end” the next. That’s just the way life goes.

The first book of Corinthians teaches us the importance of love. As a child I thought its instruction was to make us more loving for the benefit of others. Yet as an adult I believe this instruction is vital to us that we may “reap what we sow,” allowing us to receive love as we have displayed it to others.

It isn’t so much about taking the “high road” in life situations as it is creating fertile ground now that will  yield a good harvest later. The people who can live this premise of loving others don’t give of themselves for what they will receive later. They already know they will be taken care of when needed. These people don’t keep count of their good deeds. They don’t have too. They have a faith that overrides cynicism. Their trust is in God, not people.

We are already into February, a month associated with hearts and love. In this month, let us all make an effort to be offended a little less and love a little more.  A little care and compassion can go a long way toward opening the door for the blessing  you’ve been waiting for.

 “Let all that you [do] be done with love,” 1 Corinthians 16:14 NKJV

“And now abide faith, hope, love these three; but the greatest of these is love,”
1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV

“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31

It’s a New Year…so get over it!

It’s a New Year…so get over it!

This isn’t at all what I had planned to write about. My intention was to end the year in 2013 thanking the many people who have supported me and this blog especially so in the latter part of the year. You are hardly forgotten! Alas, my plans were for naught. Christmas was wonderful!

Ringing in the New Year…not so much.

I slept through the beginning of 2014 as best I could huddled down in my covers and fighting off a very nasty bug. I thought I had been oh so careful, washing my hands at least twenty times a day (I am not exaggerating), Lysol, Sani-wipes, trying not to inhale other people’s germs, taking vitamins and getting plenty of rest. Yet, it came down to taking my own advice. “You aren’t going to do much of anything until you get over it.”  I have said these very words to patients at least a hundred times.

Yes, I took all the proper OTC remedies, was seen by a nurse practitioner and given a good antibiotic to knock out my trifecta of bronchitis, sinusitis and possibly strep. Even with all of that, the body said NO! Not moving, doing or going a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e!

I had “plans” to hit the New Year’s Day sale of my favorite department store. Didn’t happen. So, as I lay in bed reminding myself that I was NOT dying, it only felt like it; I was praying and thinking how everything happens for my good. Maybe I spent enough money this holiday season and I didn’t need to go to the mall. Okay God, I’m stuck at home for my own good. I get it.

The next day, I’m still sick, actually sicker. I’m thinking to myself I’m doing everything I can to get better. I know what to do! “You are going to have to get over it before you do anything,” I hear God in my spirit.

But HE is not talking about my illness. God does work out all things for our good and He most definitely can use anything to get our attention.

You see, on Sunday the television preacher was preaching “get over it.” I listened to that sermon and thought it was good and very relevant.  Only days prior to that, I was speaking with my oldest son about making good choices and telling him not to make the same mistakes I had. In his teenage wisdom, this kid told me to “get over it.”

First of all, if one of my kids tells me to “get over it,” there is a huge problem. My first instinct was to look behind me and see exactly who he was talking to!

Cam said it so quickly and distinctly and then resumed his normal conversation I was left speechless. I knew it was God talking to me through my child. It was hardly the first time God has done that.

I heard the same exact words in less than a week and knew them to be true yet still a little something in me hesitated. I had no problem “getting over it,” but there have been times when I have circled back and found my “it.” Or, I worse, I allowed “it” to find me.

It may be a reference to something else, a subtle reminder or just being tired and annoyed as we all can be that allows my “it” to rear its ugly head. I have gotten over many more significant things in my life, matters of life and death but this one thing, somehow finds a way to grab my attention and my thoughts.

Unfortunately my thoughts can then morph into regret which then can become resentment and consequently eat away into the forgiveness I thought I had given.

I did pray for revelation while I was sick. And boy did I get it!

I post this because God basically told me the things I want to do, places I want to go and dreams I want to see realized ain’t happening (and yes I do mean ain’t) until I get over “it” for good!

I suspect that most of us have some “it” that may be holding us back from God’s very best in our lives.

When Abraham’s nephew Lot took the best of the land that was divided between them Abraham got over it. Abraham knew that whatever he had with God was so much more than anything Lot could ever take from him.

We would all do well to remember this same thing as we begin 2014. Whatever we may have lost, whatever regrets we have, or mistakes we have made are insignificant compared to the power of our God. In our weakness, He is strong.

Leave your past exactly where it belongs and concentrate on what God can do now. God has plans for all of us if only we would trust Him and truly “get over” the things, thoughts, regrets and mistakes that can hold us hostage and keep us from achieving our very best this year.

Have a Very Blessed 2014!

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” Philippians 3:13-15 NKJV

Sour Puss!

I have another blog, God,Autism and Me where I posted months ago about how a stray cat we named “Lucky” made quite an imprint on our lives.  “Mr. Lucky” has been with us ten years this month and was not at all impressed when another cat recently made her way to our front door.

“Greystone,” as my oldest son calls her, appeared roughly a year ago. She didn’t start off as a permanent fixture, but rather dropped by occasionally at her leisure.

I wasn’t going to fall for it again. I don’t even like cats. I remind our one cat in residence of that fact constantly.

Well “Grey” had kittens. I noticed her in the neighbor’s yard across the street over a month ago. She was lounging in the driveway with four kittens romping about happily.

Then I didn’t see them again for nearly a month. I figured maybe someone took them in and they had been adopted. Later, I worried that something happened to them. Guiltily, I put food out “just in case” they were homeless. Sometimes the food was eaten, other times it remained. I wasn’t quite sure what was eating the cat chow I’d put out but I finally caught her in the act of eating. But there were no kittens in sight.

Today I saw Greystone and she wasn’t looking so hot.  She now has only two kittens with her. She is definitely malnourished even though I suspect I’m not the only person in the neighborhood trying to help her out. I’ve tried to coax her closer on other occasions and she has maintained her distance until today. She came up to me, purred, rubbed and contemplated actually coming inside the house until…Lucky hissed at her!

Greystone took off running!

I could have slapped that Lucky cat!

Now before all of you animal lovers come a calling I did not.  I did, however, pick him up and give him a good talking to about his inhospitable actions! I have absolutely no doubt he understood every word I said. His behavior made me think about how we humans behave with our “selective amnesia”.

You see, Lucky appeared on my steps years ago one October just like moma cat. The very steps he chased Grey down today are the very same steps he crawled up one morning desperate for food. Lucky was once cold, hungry and lost just like her.  Now, years later, Lucky is warm, comfortable and considerably overweight due to his life of luxury. You would think he would want moma cat to come inside too.

Just like my cat, many people, “religious folks” especially, tend to forget that they were once shut out, downtrodden, dirty and homeless in some form or another once the years distance them from their prior circumstances. Some people may not have been physically homeless or broken in body, however, the mind, soul and spirit were once just as battered! Often when a person finally get’s his or her life “somewhat together,” instead of showing people the same door where they found grace, there is instead presented gossip, rejection and disdain.  Unfortunately, many people tend to reject others with the very same traits once found in themselves.

Sometimes when we are comfortable in our accomplishments and are no longer in the state we once were, our comfort turns into condescension.  Some people having attained a certain level of accomplishment, success, or recognition (especially in religious circles) tend to forget what it feels like to be where they once where. Their hearts become hardened as their memories and the pain once suffered fade away.

Where there should be an open door to welcome the “unchurched,”  the less fortunate and people who really could use an encouraging word, there is often a closed door that reads, “do not disturb,” “I made it so why can’t you,” or “I’m too busy right now.”

This isn’t the case for everyone, but it is a reality for far too many.

Time can surely dim our memories but we shouldn’t allow it to harden our hearts. We are to encourage one another which means that we should actually do something in the circumstances where we can made a difference.

“Thus also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,”  James 2: 17 NKJV. 

Those of us who say we should “keep the faith” need to actively “keep it”  by actually doing those things or works that make a difference! Opening the figurative doors of grace and mercy, showing empathy for others who are now where you were, and allowing  your battle scars to teach you compassion is one way to do that.

I will continue to keep an eye out for Moma Grey and her kittens and attempt to get them to the vet… as soon as I can catch them!

But in the meantime, I will allow this afternoon’s adventures to remind me to keep an open door to my heart and the memories of my trials and failures always near. May I always remember that I am blessed by God’s grace and mercy. He took ME in!

Prayerfully, I will do this, less I become as guilty as the cat!

“Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy,” Matthew 5:7 NKJV

Pruning

“I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit,” John 15:1-2 NKJV

Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches is one of the most readily quoted. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5 NKJV

Without Him we can do nothing. However, the scripture prior to that, John 15:2 is often skimmed over. It is easy to realize how dependent we are on Christ, yet most of us are remiss and become ill at the notion that to become fruitful we must be pruned.

Without pruning, even the best specimens in any garden will eventually lose the ability to bear fruit. At the very least, the output will greatly diminish. The limbs will become weak and unable to support what little fruit that is produced. Comparatively, the same tree that has been pruned will be shorter but stronger. 

Trees and shrubs that have been freshly pruned usually look awful. Where I live Crepe Myrtles trees are blooming now. However, for them to bloom to the fullest, dead limbs are cut away in winter. The trees look so bad after their winter pruning the process is jokingly called “Crepe Murder.

We often look bad and feel bad when our Father takes to pruning us as well. Sometimes it may be a stray branch here or there that is removed. But then there are times in our lives when we may feel like we’ve been taken all the way down to the roots!

Pruning is painful.

We may even feel like we’re dying all the while God is preparing us to produce more! We don’t often see it at the time or understand. We can feel bad and look worse.  Yet, Jesus promises that every branch that does bear fruit God prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

Sometimes the removal of things in our lives, though devastating at the moment, eventually make us stronger. Sometimes there is a reason so-called “friends” leave. It may be a job. Or even a relationship.

God cuts off what is not good for us. God often removes those things or people we would in no way leave on our own.

We can have faith knowing that He is our life source and through Him we will be fine no matter how deep the cut. Our progression in life requires some pruning.  Thankfully, the potential fruit is well worth the temporary pain.

The next time you experience a hardship, disappointment or painful experience; don’t assume it is an attack from the enemy. It might be time for God’s hand on you.

It may just be time for you to produce more fruit than you thought possible!

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:7-8 NKJV