Life Lessons

We all have had and will have assignments in our lives. From school to work, it is a given that there will be a task, many times with a timeline attached to it, that needs to be accomplished. pencil-308509_1280

I remember homework assignments in school. I remember assignments as a reporter. I remember assignments in the business world. But the most life-changing assignment I ever received was when familiar words from the Bible suddenly came alive and set me on a course that I pray continues.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. – II Corinthians 1:3-7

I knew I had, and I would, experience affliction and that I would be comforted by a loving Father. But as I read these verses, a stirring in my heart, that recognition that more was required of me, came alive. The understanding that in whatever happened in my life I needed to endure it patiently and accept comfort from the great Comforter, willing to offer the same to others. I realized that the more things seemed to go wrong in my life, the more I was being trained to reach others, to offer them the comfort God gave me. I would be able to help them understand how much they are loved, and that God’s plan may not always be understood, but it is a plan for ultimate good; eternity with Him.

I remember standing on the stage of that little church on the hill and proclaiming to the congregation that the Lord had given me an assignment through these verses, and for the next ten-plus years I was obedient to do the best I could to follow through with the assignment. I trained in evangelism, and then taught classes in evangelism. I did outreach ministry. I talked to hurting and grieving people. I visited and prayed with people. I worked with children to senior citizens, doing what I could to help them find their own assignment.

I wondered sometimes if I succeeded in what I set out to do. I discovered the more I did, the more I learned, and I was finding out just how much I didn’t know. Still, through it all, I learned about the Triune God, about people, about myself. Now I wonder if that wasn’t the real assignment. All those years, and efforts, and mistakes, and joys – discovering, sometimes in painful ways, that it just is not about me. At all.

We all have assignments. Fine-tuned to fit our gifts, perhaps, but still, we are all charged, by Jesus:  Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20

I can’t do all the things I used to do. At this time in my life, being able to physically get out and visit people is a major challenge at times. The season for me to do a lot of things has come and gone.  I spent years on the church stage with a worship team, either on the keyboard or playing the guitar. Arthritic hands hinder that now. I used to sing on the worship team, and at revivals and special programs, and the voice is not what it used to be, rarely on key. That doesn’t stop me from praising with a thankful and joyful heart. I confess that took longer than I like to admit, my getting to that point. When the bottom fell out of “my” ministry, I felt like I had failed somehow, had become worthless. Ah, the lessons my loving Father taught me in that season about pride…

God gave me an ear to hear, not only Him but also my brothers and sisters who need someone to hear them out, to have empathy, to truly understand what they have been through. To pray. To love. To offer hope.  My assignment made that possible. It humbled me to see as He sees…at least in some small part. To understand that just because the how has changed the why hasn’t, and the opportunities to continue the assignment remain. Thus, I write.

Oh, there have been many assignments in my life, but that one was the life changer. What assignment do you have that will determine the journey God has waiting for you?

Next blog: Candlesticks

 

 

If I were to ask you what the word glory meant, how would you respond? Like so many of the words in the English language, it can have many definitions, many uses, some overlapping, some very different.

Glory is one of those words I find fascinating, whether I hear someone exclaim Glory, whether it’s used to describe the American flag, or whether it’s used in Christian circles or other religions, as a word person I find myself looking at different dictionaries to see what can be found about the word. But of course, as a Christian, discovering the word as it relates to my faith walk, is the most captivating.hot-air-balloon-1668703_1920

It has been reported that glory is the most common praise word in the Bible. The concept of glory is relayed with several different Hebrew words throughout the Old Testament, relaying the concepts of deference, importance, heaviness, honor, majesty, and respect. In the New Testament, these concepts were translated into Greek, with the meanings of good reputation, honor, opinion, and judgment.

Of course, the above are mere generalizations of years of scholarly theological research by a non-theologian who just loves words.  What I will include are different references on the use of glory in the Bible.

Glory (Heb. kabhod; Gr. doxa).

These dictionary topics are copied from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

After researching a word like glory, how it is used, both secularly and Biblically, it helps me comprehend just how feeble my own efforts to bring glory to God can be. Yet, it encourages me, it reinforces my awareness of the supremacy of God, and it makes my daily prayer of “Father, do not let me do, say or think anything that doesn’t bring glory to You” richer and more meaningful to me.

Glory to God!

Next blog: Assignments

 

Haven’t we all had those moments of confusion in life?  Those moments of unsureness, hesitation, indecision, doubt, even skepticism? When so many things seem to be thrown at us that settling the mind can seem a major challenge. question-3385451_1920From where to eat out to what to watch on television, too many choices can lead to confusion. But that isn’t the only kind of confusion. In today’s world, we are faced with a barrage of things that distort our view on so many things, creating confusion that can stymie even our walk of faith.

When we have been confronted with people we discover we cannot trust, then confusion bleeds into all areas of our lives, creating such insecurity and doubt. Was my spouse really working late? Is that person really my friend? Is that salesperson trying to manipulate me into getting what he/she wants me to buy and not what I want or need? How do I know that this person talking to me about Christ really knows Christ and the words shared can be trusted? How can I be sure the ministry where I put my money will really be used to help people and not end up financing a trip to the Bahamas? How? Why? What? When? When it gets too much, so many seem to shut down. They close the door to the world and the people in it, both physically and emotionally.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:33a

Holding on to that basic truth can be a strong foundation for believers. The greatest way to defeat confusion is to know the Word of God, to study, to know, what God is telling us. Equally important is to communicate with God. Not just give him a want list, but to talk with him, listen for His response.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. – John 14:26

The pastor that mentored me taught me to check words, actions, thoughts, and confusing teachings against God’s Word. In order to do that, I had to know the Word, and after all these years I’m still learning. To know that God is speaking to each of us through the God Breathed scripture He gave us, is to know that there are answers, that there is peace.

We have to personally make a decision to trust God, to submit the doubts, the confusion, the scattered thoughts to God, and in surrendering them we can begin to trust ourselves to be able to avoid so much confusion.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, – 2 Corinthians 10:5

We have an enemy.  We need to recognize the impact he has in this world, in our lives; to stand firm in God’s strength in order to continue forward in sharing the good news to a world lost in confusion, praying that minds are not veiled to the gospel.

But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:2-4 

Confusion, small or large, is not insurmountable with God on your side.

Next blog: Glory

 

 

 

 

Sometimes a change of scenery helps re-focus different things in your life. Who you are. Who you aren’t. What you really like. What you really don’t like. If you’re really hearing what the Lord is saying through His Word, or if it is your own independent thoughts and desires that are making the bulk of the decisions. A place where you have to take a realistic look at choices, and if the directions you’ve planned are in agreement with the plan God has set out for you.

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You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11

Sometimes that sense of being unsettled hits you as you observe the unfamiliar environment you find yourself in. You have doubts that recent choices are really what you are supposed to be doing. Especially when circumstances of life seem to hinder what you thought would easily happen.  But then the Lord gives you clarity.

 

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; – Psalm 37:23

Your path, because you delight in God’s way, is already established. You do your part, you pray, you study instruction in the Word, and you live out what you’ve learned. You have confidence that the scripture that guides you is directly from the Lord, God breathed into the words men have written that make up the Holy Bible.

A change of scenery can be a good thing. You sometimes see some things that need to be adjusted in your life. You recognize things that are on track and rejoice. You are comforted in acknowledging that you are not alone, even if the scenery changes. 

Next blog: Baking bread and mysteries

 

It’s tempting to spend time thinking about the past. Many of us have great memories of family and friends. Experiences that bring smiles to our faces. Accolades that make us straighten a little, feeling a sense of accomplishment at something that we were able to carry out.
We also have things that were painful, from childhood disease to death, and a variety of things in between. Things we did so poorly we are embarrassed. Things we said that sounded terrible, actions we took that hurt not only ourselves but hurt others as well.
girl-1263651_1920It would be nice to think that the hard things were all before we accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and not to happen again. But, in being honest, we have to admit we do not act in any way near perfection, and the opportunity to both experience, and create pain for others, is still there.
Sometimes, even when we don’t acknowledge it, the things from the past, both good and bad, have taken us to a place where our current lives are so controlled by what went before, and we live in the past and can’t live life today in the fullness the Lord desires us to live.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.-Philippians 3:13-14
I have been guilty of living in the past. Doing and not doing things in order to protect me from repeating difficult events. Thinking too much on all that was good in the past. Allowing the past to control not only my today, but also my future. It is so easy to go from one extreme to the next. Totally blocking out the past, or reliving it over and over again in our minds. Neither one is productive.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.Isaiah 43:18-19
I love the above verse in Isaiah. ‘Do not dwell on the past.’ We learn from the past. But dwelling on the past is not fully acknowledging God and His plan in our lives. He makes a way for us through the darkest, craziest wilderness, and provides new and fresh things on this journey with Him, to Him.
I am not going to say I have forgotten the former things that brought me joy, nor those that hurt me or embarrassed me. I’ve not forgotten the things that I did to others that were unkind and hurtful. But I have repented, given those things to the Lord, relinquished control over them, and discovered that they don’t have the power over me they used to. Life is not easy. Being a believer and committed to living the life God has ordained for me, is not easy. I can’t expect it to be. I will sin, I will make mistakes, I will say and do stupid things when the flesh battles against the spirit. And because I love the Lord, because I desire to be obedient to what scripture teaches me, I will repent.
I live fully and abundantly today because I know what my goal is, I know where my strength originates, I know the Lord is my foundation, and I know that home is not here on this earth, but with Him, forever. My eyes are on the future, living today fully, leaving the past in the past.
Next blog: Change of Scenery

I Used To Be My Own Boss

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Betty’s Blog

I used to be my own boss, I made plans, you see. I could accomplish all that my mind told me. But now it is different with these aches and pains, my body is now the boss, not my brain. It tells me to quit when I’ve only begun, I walk with a wobble – forget about the run. Now the day starts slowly when it was gung-ho. Finally, when my bed is made my body complains. Why not crawl back in it? Well, I’ve ignored it all like a bad dream. Now, I notice my mind, it has finally come back on the scene. It suggests I hang a sign on my body that actually condemns it. The Spirit of God, who authors my writing, laughs along with me as we speak.  “It’s my broken-down body,” said God. “I spent my son’s blood to redeem it.”  I may be useless to the world around me, but I am precious and priceless, for God made no one exactly like you or me.

 

 

 


        	

Back in the 1980s, a new church started in the town where I lived. As a reporter for the local paper, I’d interviewed the new pastor and was compelled to support him and his wife on their first meeting with the community.  At one of the first of many Singsperations, I was introduced to a different form of praise songs. I’d come from a traditional, hymn singing church, and although I listened to contemporary Christian music on the radio, somehow these praise songs reached me in a different way.  Hymns still touch me in a way no other music can because it was in the midst of a hymn that I recognized in a much deeper way just who Christ was, not only to the world but to me. But this “new” style of worship in music caught hold of me. I can still remember the first song the pastor and his worship team sang. We Sing A Sacrifice Of Praise. But it became more than a song in the 17 years I came to worship and serve at this little church on the hill. It became a theme for my life.sky-2667455_1920

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:14-16 

In the good times, in the difficult times, in the joy and the sorrow, praise was the glue that held me together. Not only in the church community, but at work, with family, with friends – you know, life. I learned the importance of acknowledging God in all things, that God is worthy of praise; even if it feels like broken praise when the body is suffering, the heart is broken, and there is no understanding of why things can happen as they do. To praise through it all, to sacrifice to all Jesus has done, all God the Father has given, and for the comfort and guidance offered through His Holy Spirit, is to live.  To bring a sacrifice of praise because He is pleased in the sacrifice, knowing how much my heart wants desperately to please Almighty God, I willingly bring him praise.

And yes, I eventually ended up on the platform as part of the worship team. That is another story that maybe I’ll tell someday. For now, please know that there is power in our praise. Power in putting God higher than anything we are dealing with, the power to pull us out of any pit, to land us on firm ground, to give us a song to sing.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.-Psalm 40:1-3

A sacrifice of praise. Deliverance. My testimony, dear friends.

 

Next blog post: Sounds, smells, and sights