Call In

As anyone who has been within 10 miles of me in the last few weeks knows, my baby boy left for Army boot-camp. I had to wear dark sunglasses to hide the cartoonish tears squirting from my eyes as I said goodbye at the recruiter’s office. I am so happy that he is following his dream and proud that he wants to serve his country, but letting him go is hard, as any parent who has experienced the emptying of their nest can testify.

As we hugged goodbye, he told me that he would be calling within the first couple of days to give me his address and warned me to have my phone at all times because he would have about 2 minutes to make that call.  Now don’t get me wrong, I generally depend on my cell phone. It is usually with me but there have been times I have left it at home as I’ve headed out to work. There have been other times where I have ignored that little battery warning symbol and have had the phone shut itself down. Those times without my phone have been inconvenient, but haven’t bothered me enough to change my behavior; I still sometimes forget to check if my phone is with me and fully charged.

That is not the case this week. My phone is attached to me! If I didn’t think it would look ridiculous, I would duct tape it to my face. It is fully charged, it is in my pocket or by my bedside, and the ringer is turned to a deafening loud level. I accidentally put my purse with my phone in the backseat one day and just about crashed my car when I heard it start to ring. I reached and contorted and totally frustrated the cars around me as I came to a complete stop in order to get to that phone call, just in case it was the voice I was longing to hear – My child’s voice.

All this has had me thinking, does God feel this way? As he keeps all the world in motion, are his ears straining to hear the sound of one of his kids calling home? Does he look forward to our quiet-time; is it on his daily schedule?

I wouldn’t presume to know all there is to know about God, but I think the answers to those questions are yes. He is our Father. He loves us perfectly and even though he knows the minute details of our lives, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to hear about them from our very own lips.

So, call your Dad… He is waiting.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:12-13

Cyndi Word

The Winter Tree

Featured image

A friend of mine visited me a few years back and noticed that I had a thing for trees.  She pointed out a few pictures around my house that showed bare deciduous trees in the winter and inquired about them.  Some people prefer trees with blossoms such as we see in the spring, broad green leaves providing shade from the summer’s heat, or a colorful palate of oranges, reds and yellows that burst forth in the autumn.  But for me, the winter tree has a beauty that is indescribably unique. I never actually noticed trees in the winter, unless they were covered with a layer of ice and sparkled in the sunlight, until the Lord spoke to me of hope in the dry seasons of life and He used the winter tree to do it.

The trees in the winter stand isolated, reaching heavenward, seemingly lifeless. They are void of leaves or other ornaments of beauty and appear naked against the landscape.  They bear up during blizzards and because they are leafless, they are not greatly moved in the storms. The covering of leaves would, in fact, make them weak and vulnerable to breaking.  Therefore, while the winter tree almost appears abandoned, it is in reality and by the forethought of God, protected from the elements of this world.  I remember the day the Lord showed me the absolute beauty of the lace-like branches, bare and naked, against the sky.  It was the most beautiful I had ever seen a tree to be and I realized that we are sometimes like that.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl.3:1).  “Everything” includes our life and our walk with the Lord.  There are seasons where we feel connected to the Lord and all is well, and other seasons when we feel spiritually “dry”, walking through a parched and weary land where there is no water. (Ps.63:1).  When we go through these dry seasons, we often become perplexed and wonder if we’ve done something that broke our sense of communion with the Lord.  It is important to examine ourselves to see if we have sinned against God and to ask Him to reveal anything in our lives that may have offended Him and created a break in our fellowship.  Being imperfect, we will probably come up with a few things that we suspect may have broken fellowship, but having confessed them, we claim the promise that if we confess and repent of our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) If the dry spell is due to sin, this remedies the problem if we are sincere.

However, not all such desert experiences are due to sin and are, in fact, a part of the normal Christian life.  Such seasons have been called “wilderness” or “desert” experiences.  We learn of our weaknesses in such times and our dependence upon God. This is important to understand because we have an adversary who would love nothing more than for a Christian to become discouraged in such seasons of life.  I’ve come to believe that all discouragement is from the devil, who is the father of lies (John 8:44).    The only weapon against lies is truth.

The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit, our weapon (Eph.6:17), and when discouragement creeps in we search for the truth in Scripture to counteract the lie and cleave to it.  This is how we exercise faith and how we learn experientially the faithfulness of God.  If we never had the dry, winter season and were stripped of our ornamental coverings, we would not learn of His faithfulness or the power of the Word of God against all discouragement.  The Lord your God has set the land before you, go up and possess it…do not fear nor be discouraged (Deut.1:21).  If God commands us not to be discouraged, He also has provided for our need.  Faith grows when it is exercised, and the promise of spring reassures us that this is just a season through which we all must pass.

Deborah Claypool

Think on These Things

With the release of Fifty Shades of Grey this week, I have thought a lot about what effect this movie will have on our culture.  I’ve also thought about this:  how does the way we spend our time, including our entertainment choices, affect our minds?  We are always being bombarded with inappropriate things that vie for our attention.  As the mom of two teens, I am constantly on watch of what is coming into our home.  It’s an ongoing battle and I have to have an acute awareness of what’s going on.  It’s so different than even a decade ago.  Men, women, and children didn’t have porn at their fingertips and weren’t able to download images on mobile devices.  Instant gratification has never been so attainable in our society as it is now.

It doesn’t have to be porn – it could be anything that we allow our minds to be fed with that affects our actions.  Spending too much time focusing on the things of this world truly does affect our behavior.  Maybe it’s alcohol or drugs, food, gossip, power or status, greed, materialism, ungratefulness, discontentment, pride, etc.  It all boils down to this:  in our humanness, we want what we want, when we want it, and we don’t want someone else telling us what we can’t do.  Whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all been here at some point in our lives and will continue to struggle with this until we are no longer on this earth.

What happens when we fill our minds with things that are not good for us?  We are more likely to think inappropriate thoughts.  If we dwell on the thought and continue to entertain the thought, we are more likely to eventually act on the thought.  If we continue to act, that deed will become a habit.  When we continue on with a habit, it becomes our character.  It’s amazing to think that it all starts in our minds – with one thought.    A thought becomes a deed; a deed becomes a habit; a habit becomes a character. And some may say that our character becomes our destiny or our legacy.

Of course, we can’t help what kinds of crazy thoughts come into our minds.  I’ve been in church and had the most ungodly things pop into my brain.  I wondered where in the world that thought came from.  What’s important, though, is what we do with those random thoughts.  That is what matters to God.  Scripture tells us that we must take our thoughts before the Lord and line them up against the Word of God.  2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “…we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”.  The Message says it this way:  “fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”

WOW – “every loose thought and emotion and impulse” needs to be taken to the Lord so that he can shape them.  He wants to build in us lives of obedience and maturity.  He does that by clearing away the things that aren’t from Him.

God cares about the choices we make: what we watch, read, listen to, and think about. He knows how things will affect us; he created us after all.  We shouldn’t look at this as a list of dos and don’ts, as God is not about legalism.  He gives us the Holy Spirit to live within us to teach us, warn us, and convict us about our choices.

So how do we get victory over our thoughts and actions?  We can start by setting our minds on the things of God because our actions flow from our minds.  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

My prayer for us is that we let God have His way in our lives; that we let Him have dominion over our choices; that we bring all of our thoughts before Him.

Angela S

He’s Been Faithful

One day this week, because of an unexpected “snow day,” I had an afternoon recalling God’s faithfulness in an unusual way. I was shredding old documents from 2003, 2004, and 2005, and as I did I looked back at a difficult, and at the same time amazing journey for our family and friends.  My husband Mike had major surgery for cancer in 2003 and died in 2005.  When we received his cancer diagnosis, we said we knew without a doubt, it was, “so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3b)

As I looked back at old calendars with chemo and radiation appointments, I was reminded of the car we were given so we could get to treatments and back safely.  I looked over old check registers and remembered the generosity of people, some I did not know-so I thanked Jesus for them.  “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  Also, in the cancelled checks was the check for Mike’s casket spray, just a few months before the check for my daughter’s wedding flowers.  By God’s grace we were able to plan a wedding where we remembered Mike and had a wonderful time with family and friends.

I came across pay stubs from the Christian school where I had worked for 15 years, and I recalled the generosity and love I received from the staff.  Under those stubs were the ones from the fall of 2005, when I was given a job in the Public school system, a few days after school opened, because I believe, God wanted me to know He still was with me and providing for me.

There were many prescription receipts.  These made me think back to the amazing Hospice nurse, Judy, who took such good care of Mike.  They had a great rapport in the midst of such a challenging time.  He invited her to church a lot, and she always said she’d try to come.  I still remember watching her go to the altar for communion at his funeral.  She did come…“I was glad when they said to me; Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 22:1)

I am grateful to have had 33 years with Mike, and to have seen the work God did in both of our lives in those years.  I was able to see Mike baptized when he was in his early thirties; and not long before he died, Mike was able to see our son baptized in his church as well.

There is so much more I could say about this time in my life.  I confess, when I got up on New Year’s Day, and had to face the fact that this year it would be 10 years in April since Mike’s death, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  It’s just hard to believe sometimes.  Job 10:12 says, “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.”  I need to always remember He sees the inside of me and He watches over every moment of my life.

Looking back has been such a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness then, now, and always.  He is faithful in the big and the small concerns of our lives.  In the timeline of the past 10 years, I can see His hand throughout.  How about you?  Looking back, can you see Him there?  Can you give evidence of His hand all over your particular situations?  Have you given Him the glory?  How have the works of God in you been unmistakable to others along the way?

“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams] — To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever.  Amen (so be it).” –Ephesians 3:20-21 (Amplified)

Donna Bowles