Look At Him

There I was on the ground, looking up at the beautiful blue sky, concentrating all my efforts on the voice in my head that was screaming, “just hold on!” This wasn’t some Zen metaphysical chant – this was a literal command from my brain to hold onto the leash of my 65 pound dog. The dog had knocked me backwards and  was dragging me, my  arms fully extended over my head,  across the grass. I’m sure I looked like a land-locked water skier holding desperately onto the tow-rope of a runaway boat. The owner of the golden retriever who had gotten a bit too close for my dog’s comfort had a LOT to talk about at dinner that night. He shouted, “good luck” as he hurried away with his dog. I may or may not have heard a chuckle as he departed.

I pulled myself up on my quaking legs, adjusted my grass stained clothes, brushed some of the leaves from my hair and limped my way home. I can laugh now at the sight I must have been, but I sure wasn’t laughing the day it happened. Instead I started my quest to better understand the crazy dog we had adopted. I spoke to trainers, the vet and watched countless dog training videos. From one of the videos, I have learned the absolute most important command I can give to my “reactive” dog. It is three simple words that have changed my dog walking experience. The words are “look at me.”

I say this when we are walking and a loud motorcycle zooms by,”look at me.” I say it when a child on a bicycle passes, “look at me.” I say it repeatedly when we encounter another dog on a leash, “look at me.” The thinking behind the command is that if I get the dog’s attention off the thing that is scaring her and onto me, the master she has learned she can trust, she will settle and we can enjoy our walk together.

I imagine God quietly speaks the same command to us. Look at Me.

When our spirits are anxious and our hearts are clamoring for peace, I imagine He is calling, “Look at Me”. When the election cycle makes our minds spin and the culture makes us wonder where this whole mixed-up mess is headed I am sure He is pleading, “Look at Me”. When we wonder if we are fully understood and loved, I know he is assuring us, “Look at Me”. Oh that we would listen to His call. The choice is always ours: look at our circumstances or look at our Master.

Our God is trustworthy and true.  He has proven that over and over again. He know us intimately and understands our every fear. Whatever you are going through, He is walking right beside you. Will you Look at Him?

O, Soul are you wearied and troubled?                                                      No light in the darkness you see?                                                  There’s light for a look at the Savior.                                                 And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus                                                                         Look full in his wonderful face                                                              And the things of earth will grow strangely dim                                   In the light of his glory and grace

Cyndi Word

 

 

 

Jesus Meets Us Where We Are

In our study this week, we were reminded that we were born for such a time as this and to lament for the “good ‘ol days” was in fact, complaining to God that we aren’t happy with our assignment.

I never really considered that perspective. I was more focused on the “signs of the times” and the soon second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with a “Maranatha” longing in my heart. We think of mission fields as a place, not so much a time. So here we are folks. Most of us ill equipped for some of the challenges of our day and many of us still recovering from our own dysfunctional experiences growing up.

There is a popular political saying “never let a crisis go to waste”, and this attitude has pushed through many ungodly agendas. Every crisis is exploited to dismantle the façade of liberty that we have in this country. The Lord woke me up one morning with the thought “Call the missionaries home, the world is at the back door”.  I felt it was His intention to change what the enemy means for evil, to turn for the good and felt prompted to pray for multilingual laborers to be sent to the border.  This tsunami of immigrants into the Western world is a strategy intended to collapse the structure of society, but what if this is their first opportunity to hear about Jesus? What if while the enemy intends for the floor of these countries to collapse under the weight of the burden of unchecked migration, the Lord used to fortify the walls of defense?

The societal undoing of the already battered family structure to build another idea of family has us hunkering down and hiding in the trenches. We’re wondering how our children and grandchildren will fare if the culture continues down this path.  We are living in perilous times, and lawlessness abounds. Good is evil, and evil is good and humanity is caught in the crossfire.  We are dealing with censorship of Jesus and Biblical worldviews in favor of a very methodical antichrist agenda.  The Lord said “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him. …My Spirit Who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants from this time and forevermore”. (Is. 59:19-21) In other words “I got this!”

With this assurance, we must pray that His Holy Spirit guide us and teach us how and where to stand. We need to spend more time in our prayer closets than planning the church’s strategy to increase numbers. As sinners, we all have history and but for the grace of God, we’d still be wandering aimlessly trying to fill our love tank with carnal trinkets, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. We all can agree that this world is full of hurting people and what we are seeing is desperation to stop hurting. It is incumbent upon us to recognize and ask the Lord to deal with our prejudices and judgmental attitudes. Some sins go before a person, others follow after, but over the years I have been convinced that one of the greatest sins that we can commit is hypocrisy. Jesus showed very little patience for self-righteousness.  Some of these attitudes are rooted in our own insecurities, but the Lord is able to sever us from this root if we ask Him.

We must learn how to love in truth. We cannot build a house on sand by the stormy seas.  We have to have a firm foundation, and the Word of God is that foundation and light to guide us through the storm.  We are not a friend, if we do not tell the truth. “Humanity, Jesus will meet you right where you are, but He will not leave you there. Are you willing to let Him change you from the inside out?”  Let’s trust Jesus with the results.

Deborah J Claypool

The Fruit of the Spirit

Recipe for Jammin’ With Jesus

First you take a little Kindness, Patience, Peace and self-control…

With Gentleness you stir it adding Faith into the bowl.

When Faith is well established, add your Goodness and your Love

Watch while Joy just bubbles over,

A gift from God above.

What if there’s a blizzard and your pantry shelves are bare?

You’ve looked for Love and Kindness

But there wasn’t any there.

Your Gentleness is moldy, your Patience running thin…

you thought you had some Joy and Peace,

but all you found was sin.

The remedy is simple, confess your sin and feed

Upon the Word of God, it gives you all you’ll ever need.

Remember we are just the branches,

Jesus is the Vine…

We can’t produce this fruit of His

Without His help divine.

The markets may be closed indeed, The snow may make you shiver,

But feed upon the Word of God For Jesus will deliver.

 

Deborah J Claypool

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. (Gal.5:22)

 

Eternity Minded

I didn’t know what my “word” should be for 2016, but God did. I gave up making resolutions at New Year’s start a while ago. Instead, I pick a word as the theme of my year. One year it was “Joy,” my very favorite word. The next year it was “Discipline,” not at all my favorite word, or practice for that matter! So as 2016 loomed, I began to ask God what he wanted my focus to be. Leave it to God to give me my answer on a New Jersey Transit bus.

I was on the bus with my daughter just after Christmas, traveling from our hotel in New Jersey into New York. As I found my seat and settled in for the 20 minute ride, the very loud woman behind me began a phone conversation with a friend who was obviously suffering with some health issues. My fellow-traveler knew just what her friend needed. She knew a “guy” who provided vitamins and IV supplements that “could restore a person’s DNA on a cellular level.” He was the reason this woman “looked so great”, and he was the reason she was going to “live a lot longer than the average slob.” My travel companion went on to say that Moses and people of his time lived to be 140 and we should be able to live that long as well. She went on and on… and on.

The bus finally arrived at the Port Authority in NY. The woman behind me disconnected from her call quickly, jumped to her feet and rushed to exit the bus. Her departure was stalled, though, by a young mother who was blocking the aisle as she maneuvered her luggage and child out of a row of seats.  I guess the woman who wanted to live as long as Moses was afraid she would have to wait 140 years to get off the bus. She started protesting the delay. LOUDLY. “She lived in New York because she liked to move fast, she didn’t have all day, stupid tourists, come ON already!”

I found myself wondering why this woman wanted to live so long when she was obviously stressed-out and miserable. As I stepped out of her way so she could sprint down the escalator ahead of me, God gave me my 2016 focus word. ETERNITY. My travel-mate on the bus had only one focus and that was her time spent on this spinning planet. God helped me realize that much of the time I have been guilty of living the same way. Caught up in this world, I sometimes forget my time on this side of eternity is fleeting- a blink, a Nano-second.

So this year I will truly focus on Eternity. I predict the changes this focus will bring will be far-reaching. I hope to look at people differently, remembering that every single one is a skin-clad soul that will live for eternity. I want to be bolder about introducing those souls, like the woman on the bus and her “guy,” to my God. I want to spend my God-given “allowance” differently, with a focus on things that will last much longer than the latest trend. I want to see worship as a warm-up to what we will experience in heaven, and the tasks God gives me here as a training ground for whatever he will have me working on for the next billion years.

How about you? What is God calling you to focus on in 2016? I would be delighted to share Eternity with you! Literally.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

 John 10:28-30

Cyndi Word

Perfection Himself

I used to strive for perfection this time of year. I remember hanging the Christmas hand- towels in the guest bathroom; folding and aligning them so that they were exactly even took me much longer than it ever should have. I remember shopping for the perfect ribbon, and then carefully trying to tie it into the perfect bow. And then there was the Christmas tree. My children can testify to how annoying I was about the tree. I looked at tree after tree, spun them around making sure they were symmetrical with no obvious bald spots or, heaven forbid, a crooked trunk.

 I don’t know when I started to let go of that quest for perfection. Maybe it began the year I lost my middle son in the mall after getting his hair cut so he would look his best for Christmas. That was the same year I almost set the house on fire when I pre-heated the oven and forgot I had stored a Costco sized box of potato chips in it. My family was due to arrive in minutes, I had a house full of black smoke, my kids gathered outside under the “meet here in case of emergency” tree and I was half dressed, hair askew as I ran around in small panicked circles. We ordered pizza that year. And we showed up to Christmas Eve service, my entire family, smelling of burnt plastic. Fire and Brimstone took on a whole new meaning to whoever sat near us that night.

It may have been that year of chaotic imperfection or it may just be a wonderful byproduct of walking longer with Christ, but I have let go of the need for perfection and actually started to embrace imperfection. My Christmas trees the last few years have had bald spots, and they have been just the slightest bit uneven in distribution of limbs. My light-up yard snowman was recently delivered with a rip on one side. I thought about returning it, and then decided to keep it, not despite the rip, but because of it. My new love of imperfection is why that hippo ornament, which is way too big to be on the branch my son chose to hang it on, is going to stay right where it is. All these little pieces of imperfection, that in the past would have truly bothered me, are now the very things that make Christmas even more beautiful to me. I look for imperfection, and I am beginning to even treasure it. Evidence of imperfection reminds me why the birth of Christ was necessary in the first place. It reminds me why I need Jesus so very desperately.

Christ didn’t come for the perfect, He came for the imperfect. He came for the broken- hearted, he came for the ugly, the twisted, the crooked and the sin-filled. As I look at my imperfections, I am so grateful he came and that he He carried all that imperfection, the sin and disgrace, to Calvary.

Perfection Himself was born into our mess.

Perfection Himself lived and walked among us and never once sinned.

Perfection Himself was nailed to a crooked and rough tree.

Perfection Himself defeated sin and death.

Perfection Himself will come again and bring us to our Perfect and Forever Home. Praise Him!

                                    O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

Till He appeared and the Soul felt it’s worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

O night divine!

Don’t Be Afraid

I  hadn’t thought of that old row boat for years. When my dad bought it, I imagine he pictured warm afternoons out on the water enjoying some peace and solitude. He probably saw himself rowing out on the lake, dropping a line in the water and bringing in a great big fish. As he pondered the purchase, did he hear the sounds of a fishing rod being cast and reeled in? The sound of a fish flopping against the metal bottom of the boat?
I somehow doubt he was able to picture what a little girl could do with a rowboat, the potential for fun she would see in it. Like turning it into a backyard swimming pool. I remember so clearly the summer afternoons I did just that. I clearly recall  the rubber stopper that plugged the drainage hole on the side of the boat, it had a little gold chain attached to it.  I would make sure that the stopper was firmly in place, then drag the hose over and fill that boat to the brim. Then my Barbies, a whole lot of other water toys and I went into the “pool.” I think I even invited friends over to “swim” in the boat.
I found myself thinking of that old row boat the other day. I was out walking and got caught in a downpour. I was soaked to the skin within minutes,  with wet hair hanging in my face and my hems dragging with the weight of water. It reminded me of a day spent in the little rowboat. My dad had taken my sisters and I out for a day of fishing. I don’t know if rain had been predicted or if the storm blew in unexpectedly but it caught us out in the middle of the lake. This wasn’t a gentle summer rain, this was a deluge of water falling from the dark sky, which was also crackling with thunder and flashing with lightning. I remember my dad moving quickly, rowing furiously, trying to get us to shore. He knew what I didn’t know at that age, that being in a metal row boat in the middle of the water with a sky full of lightning isn’t the best idea. His memory of that day is probably very different than mine.
Do you know what I remember? Laughter. I remember my sisters and I bailing water with little Dixie cups and I remember lifting my face to the sky as the drops fell and just laughing. What I don’t remember is being afraid.
I was with my dad. So far, he had never let me down. It didn’t even enter my mind that he didn’t have things under control or that he couldn’t keep me and my sisters safe. I trusted him completely so I was able to laugh in the summer rain.
I’m so grateful that memory surfaced as I walked in the rain a few days ago. It turned a gloomy day into a holy moment as I asked God to help me to trust him that same way. When the storms of life come, when thunder booms and lightning splits my world,  I don’t want to be afraid. I want to know my Father has things under control, I want to trust His amazing love for me. I want to do my part, even if my efforts seem puny and ridiculous.
But then I want to lift my face to the heavens, trusting the Father who has never ever once let me down, and laugh.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.  Psalm 107:28-32 
Cyndi Word

Divine Appointments

It happened again:  The fast heartbeat that I couldn’t ignore and the still small voice inside my head that wouldn’t stop whispering to me. I tried to dismiss it and talk myself out of it – surely God had someone more equipped to do this particular job.

I needed to go by the Christian book store to pick up a book. It wasn’t convenient, and I didn’t really feel like stopping there. I had a lot to do that day and this was a little bit out of the way, but for some reason my car headed in that direction.

I went into the store to try to find my resource and be on my way. The store was quite disorganized and it became evident that I wouldn’t be able to find what I needed quickly. I would learn later that the store had been without a manager for several months and the two ladies behind the counter were struggling with how to manage things. I made my way up to the counter to ask for help and the salesperson took me back to the very shelf I had just stood at. On the second look, though, I was able to locate the book I needed. I followed her to the counter and she began to ask me several questions about the book I was purchasing.

I told her that the book was for a bible study that I was co-leading. Immediately,   she began to tell me about her life and what she was going through. She mentioned that she had just broken off a bad relationship, had gotten a purity ring to reminder herself of her commitment, and was looking for a bible study to join. She asked about where I went to church and how to keep growing in her faith. I was so excited to see her hunger for the things of God! She asked me for advice about how to get stronger in the Lord and to continue on the right path.

Our conversation was interrupted when her boss called her over to deal with a problem with the computer they were having. As quickly as the door had opened for me to share with her, it began to close. I told her that I would pray for her on her spiritual journey and headed to the door. As I left, the Holy Spirit began talking to me. “Don’t leave without praying WITH her IN person.”

This was the second time that God had so strongly asked me to pray with a stranger in public. I had done this before, so I knew whose voice I was hearing. At this moment, I had a choice to make.

I tried to plead with God that I didn’t really need to go back in and bother the ladies behind the counter. I had already said enough. But when the Lord is prompting us to do something, HE wants obedience from us – not talking back. So, I headed back into the store. I realized that I had to obey. God had given me a divine appointment on this normal weekday afternoon. There had been a reason for me to be at this place at this time.

I went back, and with the Lord’s help, I prayed with them.

God puts us in places each day at specific times with appointed people around us that HE wants us to influence. He prompts our hearts to do something or say something in these seemingly every day moments of life. We have a choice to make. Will we obey or not?

I haven’t been back to that store. I don’t know how things are going for this woman, but God knows and I trust that He has used that act of obedience for things I can’t even imagine.

“The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going?”  Proverbs 20:24

Angela S.