Ode to My Coffee Cup

 

How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways…

(sip…sigh)

You & your faithful compadre, Grind & Brew,

Stand in constant readiness each morning…afternoon…evening…

(sip…slurrrrp….sigh)

Your gleaming, slightly stained (gulp) presence (sip) carefully

Cradles this wonderful, fog lifting, brain clearing, eye opening elixir

COFFEE!!!

Gulp…slurrrrp….siiiiiip…….

What is this emptiness that greets my caffeine-seeking taste buds??

What wretchedness has befallen me???

Mine eyes cannot comprehend what sits in front of me…..an empty coffee cup!!

(Determined foray into the kitchen…

Refilled cup in front of me…)

How do I love thee?

(sip….sigh)

Let me count the ways………….. 😀coffee 2951

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Loosen the Chains

Loosen the Chains

(This blog is taken from a  7-minute sermon I wrote a few years ago. I was drawn back to it this evening; and impressed to share it in a blog. I needed this timely reminder of what, as a Christian, I am called to do….perhaps it will help someone else also.) ❤

 

Several months ago I had to report for jury duty, and for the first time I was selected to sit on a jury. It was an experience that I will always remember. This wasn’t a murder case nor did it involve some infamous drug lord who had been trafficking on our local streets. (Trust me; it wasn’t anything like Matlock or Law & Order!) It was about a mother being sued by her daughter. The bitterness, anger, animosity and vindictiveness displayed by these two women and other members of this family were an overwhelming tragedy. One day while standing in the hall, waiting to return to the courtroom, I had to move out of the way to allow some deputies to escort several prisoners from a courtroom adjacent to ours. As these men shuffled past me, bound & shackled at their wrists and ankles, a phrase from a song by Mary, Mary popped into my thoughts. “Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance…I just wanna praise Him, I just wanna praise Him!” Over the course of the five days of my jury service, I saw different varieties of chains. There were the obvious heavy steel manacles and chains that bound the prisoners, restricting their physical movements. The family involved in my court case were also bound, but by fetters unseen to the naked eye. Their hatred, malice and bitterness bound them just as tightly as any steel forged by man. In observing the countenances of the countless people I encountered in the hallways that week, feeling the weight of hopelessness and despair, I realized that many chains are not obvious to us.

Tonight I want to talk about two different kinds of chains. There are the heavy, thick shackles and chains traditionally fashioned from chrome, steel and nickel plating. Their very presence is obvious both to the captive and the observer. A less obvious, but even stronger chain puts me in mind of spider silk. Spider web silk is 10 times stronger than a steel strand of the same weight. The silk from a Nephelia spider is used to make fishnets and tote bags. When the spider’s prey is caught in its web, the silk stretches but doesn’t break. Even though the thin strand of the spider web is visible, its incredible strength is not obvious to anyone but its prey.

When a sinner comes to Jesus, His saving grace sets that captive soul free from the bondage of sin and death. Nahum 1:13 says,

“So now, I will break his yoke bar from upon you, and I will tear off your shackles.”

            All of the chains that the enemy has bound us with fall away. But Satan does not give up so easily. He lures the new believer with thoughts of the so-called “joys” of our past—drugs, alcohol—whatever it was that previously kept us in bondage. And the believer may once again find him or herself in chains. These chains are more visible to the observer.

Then there are the chains that are less visible, but perhaps stronger and more detrimental. These are the “whispers” from our past, the silken spider strands that hold us fast and keep us from being who God has called us to be. When we stand and worship in church, Satan may whisper, “Who do you think you are? If these people only knew…”. When an elder asks you to help with the offering, serve communion or even do a 7-minute sermon, the enemy of your soul reminds you of what you’ve done and from where you came. And he whispers, “If they only knew the real you…”. The silken strands wrap themselves even tighter around you. These are the chains that cannot be spotted with the naked eye, but have the potential to be even deadlier to the Christian than the first.

Good news!! We know that the believer has the power, through the blood of Jesus Christ, to fight these attacks and whispers of Satan. With prayer and standing on the Scriptures, he can be free of these chains. Rev. 12: 11-12 states, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.” The Encarta dictionary defines “testimony” as proof, something that supports a fact or a claim. It’s evidence given in court, written or oral, detailing what the witness has seen or knows personally.

We are to fight this battle daily for ourselves and our own salvation. But we are also to use the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony to fight for others. You do not know what your brothers and sisters around you tonight are going through. When God speaks to you through a Scripture verse, share it with someone else. If the Holy Spirit reminds you of a particular battle that you won with God’s divine intervention, share that with someone.

If you have ever been entrapped by alcohol or drugs, or any manner of sin, God has given you the key to loose those chains and rebuke the devil when he seeks to remind you of your past. James 4:6-8, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” If you have ever been the victim of abuse, or even the perpetrator, and the enemy seeks to remind you of who you were, you need to remind him of who you are—you are not a survivor, but you are an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony.

If none of that applies to your life, God has still given each and every one of us the key to loosen someone else’s chains so that He can set them free. It is important to walk up to someone else, hug them and tell them how special they are. But it is too easy for them to think, “Yeah, if you only knew….” That’s why you need to give them a Scripture to stand on, because the enemy can’t argue with that.

Immerse yourself in God’s Word, and in worship; because the Holy Spirit uses both of those to fight the enemy. Just a word of personal testimony of how the enemy can use those spider strands, those whispers from the past—I have been a Christian for a long time. I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that I am saved, that God’s Word is true, and He has worked many miracles in my life. But a few months ago, just as I was drifting off to sleep, the enemy slipped in with an unecpected attack. All of a sudden, I heard the words, “There is no hope, there is no hope!” Instantly, I was overwhelmed with the sense of utter despair & darkness I had experienced as a child and I felt like my soul was being sucked into a black abyss. I literally had to struggle out of that, and say “that’s not true. God says I have hope. That’s not true!” Then I fell asleep. As I awoke in the morning, before I was fully conscious, the words from a worship song from the previous week were going through my mind. “There’s still hope for me today, for the God of heaven loves me!” And I awoke with a sense of peace and comfort.

Go to the Source

riverWaterfall What (Who?) Is Your Source?

“And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24:27 (NASB)  

Who do you turn to when you need the truth…when you need understanding? We’ve all heard the phrase, “We have to go straight to the source!” So, just who or what is your source of knowledge, comprehension & understanding?? When I think of “going to the source”, I get a beautiful picture of refreshing, crisp, clear water flowing from its source.

As Christians we need to know God’s Word so that we will know God’s voice. The Psalmist David tells us in Psalms 119: 11, 16-17, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee….I shall delight in Thy statutes, I shall not forget Thy word. Deal bountifully with Thy servant, that I may live and keep Thy word.” So I’m thinking that in order to treasure, delight in, remember & keep what God tells us…we must know what He is saying to us!  We must know that it is His voice to which we are listening.

It is not mandatory that we have formal Bible training to read & understand the Scriptures. If we pray & ask God to help us understand His Word, the Holy Spirit is faithful & more than able to reveal the Scriptures to us. However, we must do our part, and do it acceptably. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” 2 Tim. 2:15-16

We have access to a myriad of sources when we search for insight into the Bible. There are many commentaries, books & devotionals available to us. But we must remember that these are educated opinions of….people! (And some more educated than others). Where did these opinions come from? Many of them are valid…but we MUST study the Scripture first & then see if the commentary or devotional lines up, not the other way around. A preacher or author’s current popularity does not automatically indicate that what they are speaking is God’s truth. (Just because something “sounds good” does not mean it is right.)

There are many excellent devotionals out there which inspire us and whet our appetites for more of God & His Word. We just have to check out who authored them & make sure they align with the Scripture. (My husband gave me one by Thomas Nelson…a source I have found very trustworthy…and I love it!)

Can you tell how passionately I feel about examining the Scriptures? 😀 I can’t change the meaning of a portion of Scripture to match my opinion; I must make sure that my opinion & understanding align themselves with God’s intent. If they don’t, then I am the one who must make the changes.

This brings me to my question, and the main point of this blog, “What (Who) is Your Source?” Who do you turn to when seeking understanding? We have pastors, friends and fellow Bible scholars to whom we can go. But after we hear from them, we are to heed the Scriptures’ counsel and be like the Bereans “…for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11-12 Even though the Bereans received eagerly what they heard…perhaps like flowers in an arid soil receiving life-sustaining water…they did not simply trust the word of these itinerant preachers. They examined the Scriptures daily with purpose…did this word line up with the Word of God?

Now that we have established the importance of trustworthy sources when studying the Bible, as well as doing our own diligent studying; let’s take a look at the significance of the verse with which I began this blog.

James_Tissot_The_Disciples_on_the_Road_to_Emmaus_525

    And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24:27   

Two of Jesus’ disciples were on the road to Emmaus when He joined them. These were discouraged men walking the eight miles from Jerusalem to the small village of Emmaus after Jesus’ crucifixion…and they were in a really deep funk. Even though they had heard the report of the women who found the empty tomb & encountered the risen Lord, they did not, could not believe it. Why?? They had been taught the Scriptures! It’s simple really…their understanding of the Scriptures concerning the coming Messiah did not line up with the true meaning of those Scriptures. They thought Jesus would redeem Israel & release them from Roman rule; and their hopes were shattered when God didn’t do what they wanted him to do.

When Jesus joined them on this long walk the men didn’t recognize their new companion. “No doubt they were quoting various Old Testament prophecies and trying to remember what Jesus had taught but they were unable to put it all together and come up with an explanation that made sense.” (The Bible Exposition Commentary) It didn’t make sense to them because, like most Jews of that time, they saw the Messiah as the Conquering Redeemer, but not as the Suffering Servant. “The teachers in that day were not unlike some of the “success preachers” today…blind to the total message of the Bible.” (B.E.C.)

How did Jesus teach them on that long walk? He explained to them everything about Himself that was in the Scriptures…using the Scriptures themselves. Can you even imagine what this Bible lesson must have been like? The disciples’ companion & teacher was the best of all possible tutors, the One who has all wisdom & knowledge. He did not consider it beneath Him to preach, to teach to an audience of….two! The King of Kings, the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah went back to everything the disciples had been taught from the Old Testament and taught them what these Scriptures were truly talking about. They got the truth of the Bible from the ultimate source…the Son of God Himself!!

Can you even imagine?? What a most profitable, memorable eight mile walk these two had that day. Jesus opened the Scriptures…and then He opened their eyes! They understood, possibly for the first time, the Biblical truths; and they recognized their Risen Savior. Jesus knew that in order for His disciples to have a life-changing experience, to finally truly believe, they had to understand the reality of who He is. And what was Jesus’ source to which He turned? The Scriptures themselves…..

If we want to understand the Scriptures, if we truly want to know what God is saying to us….then we must follow the best example in Bible study that we have ever had. We have to examine the Scriptures in order to understand the Scriptures.

I realize this has been a lengthy blog, much longer than I ordinarily write. But this has been on my heart for more than a year. Are we following the platitudes of popular writers & speakers…I see these posted daily…or are we following the Scriptures, given to us by God Himself, which will open our eyes & lead us to true understanding?

Who (What) is your Source………

go to The Source………

Are Random Thoughts…..Random?

Random Thoughts“On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty,

And on Thy wonderful works, I will meditate.”

Ps. 145:5

 

Have you ever been busy with one thing or another and suddenly a seemingly random thought pops into your head? I find it happens quite often. I am focused on one thing, and suddenly….squirrel! My brain is off on another rabbit trail. 😀 But, already, I digress…. 😉

 

As I walked into my kitchen this afternoon, thinking about our upcoming meeting with the contractor, a random thought popped into my head, “People say I’m strange, does it make me a stranger that my best friend was born in a manger?” Ummm….what?! Where did that come from?

 

I puzzled over this for several minutes when I remembered that this was a line from the song Jesus Freaks by DC Talk. What makes this so surprising is I have not heard a DC Talk song since our sons lived at home & listened to this band quite frequently. Fred is 38 and Tim is now 35; and they haven’t lived at home for many years….so this gives you an idea of how long it has been since I heard this song!

 

Where had this been hiding all of this time? It’s not as if I had been listening to this band, or researching Christian bands from the 80s & 90s. (I didn’t object to this music, but…honestly…it wasn’t one of my favorites.) This song had been hidden in the recesses of my mind all of this time…just waiting for some random moment to push forward & grab my attention.

 

I have heard it said that we never forget anything that we see or hear; it is locked away forever in some niche in our brains. One of my favorite teachers, Pastor Kenn Winkler, was fond of saying, “Learn all you can, be a sponge…they can never take it from you!” Simple advice containing a wealth of wisdom.

 

Our brains are indeed like sponges; wonderfully created to hold a treasure trove of knowledge…both information & misinformation.

 

The question that has occupied my attention all evening is…on what does my mind dwell the most? Because that is what will be in the forefront of my thoughts. I love a variety of Christian music…but I also like Country Western & some of the old rock groups from days gone by. 😀 But where is my focus?

 

I just remembered a portion of a song from my Sunday School days…long ago…”Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love…so be careful little eyes what you see!” What we see, what we hear, what we say & what we do will always be with us; and at some point will work its way through to the surface. Will it be something that we are glad to revisit? (If it is something we regret, something of which our Father has already forgiven us…then we just thank Him for that forgiveness & move on!)

 

So I must ask the question, “Are random thoughts…random?” What occupies our thoughts & attention? Where does our mind & heart dwell…on what do we meditate? Because that is will pop up, unexpectedly, in these “random” thoughts.

 

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” Phil. 4:8

Signed, Sealed and Delivered!

sealedEph 1:13-14 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”  NASB  

I love God’s Word with its precious promises that never fail to speak to our hearts! I am almost 62 years old; and I’m still amazed at the unrivaled power of the Scriptures to reveal fresh insights of His mercy & grace. God is so good…He never wants us to lose sight of just how much He loves us.

When I was reading my Bible this morning, this verse in Ephesians caught my attention; and the phrase “you were sealed in Him” simply leapt out at me. You know how I love to do word studies! Just what is meant by “sealed”? Can it be something as temporary as a sealed envelope? (That is so temporary & easily opened…whether by steaming or ripping.)

There are a variety of “pictures” that come to mind when I think of something being sealed. For example, when we can fresh veggies & fruit there is a sealing step at the end of the canning process. This aids in preserving the freshness & flavor. Doorways & windows can be sealed shut to protect valuables from thieves; and artwork is sometimes covered with a sealant to preserve. Royalty & dignitaries  place their official seal on letters & documents. These are just a few things that come to mind when I read the word “sealed”.

But what does the Apostle Paul mean when he said, “…you were sealed in Him…”? In this particular verse it “indicates: a) security & permanency; b) ratifying the fruits of Paul’s (or any believer’s) ministry; c) secrecy & security & the postponement of disclosure; and d) ownership & security, together with destination.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words)

What does this mean to us today…right where we are today?   It means everything!! Not only are we sealed in Jesus through God’s gift of salvation…we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise! Unlike the examples of sealing I mentioned earlier, which are seals that can all be broken, this seal is secure, permanent, and has a set time of disclosure & a set destination.

In short…NOTHING can separate us from the love of God…NOTHING can rip us from His loving embrace! The key to this eternal, forever life-changing seal? It’s contained in the first part of this Scripture, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed…” We hear the message of truth…the gospel of salvation…& we believe!

Do you ever have a moment when you read a Scripture that you have read many times before? This was one of those moments for me.

I am overwhelmed…I am undone…..

Thank God for Jesus! Thank God for His never-failing love….. ❤

Signed, Sealed & Delivered….I’m Yours! ❤

How May I Serve You? (Part 2)

helping others“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:28

There are so very many ways that we can serve as Jesus served, and a key one is to serve others. I want to share a wonderful example of serving those whom we do not know; those we’ve never met & more than likely will never see again in this lifetime. How do we show Jesus in these chance happenstances?

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. After celebrating the Resurrection power of our Risen Savior, we headed home, picked up the Easter cupcakes for a family celebration and headed back out. It was a rather warm day and we decided to stop at a gas station to pick up a cold soda for my Honey. As we were getting ready to pull away from the gas station, an elderly Asian woman walked up & knocked on the driver’s window. Startled, my husband rolled down his window & in broken English this lady asked for directions to Del Rosa Ave. Fred started to give her verbal directions; then realizing she wasn’t quite getting it he began to draw a map on a scrap of paper. After a few moments of the two repeating directions back & forth Fred smiled kindly at her. He said, “Get back in your car & follow me. I’ll show you the way.” We led her to Del Rosa Ave, pulled over & Fred waved her on.

My wonderful husband lives the example in Matt. 20:28 every day. Even though we felt the “hurriedness” of trying to reach our destination in a timely manner, he did not hesitate to serve this little elderly woman. He didn’t preach, he didn’t quote Scriptures…both profound facets of our faith…he simply showed her Jesus by meeting her needs. Now the Holy Spirit will do the next part….

It reminded me that our schedule can always be adjusted to follow Jesus’ example.

Sooooo………………….

…………how may I serve you? ❤

 

Nocturnal Hijinks….My Furry Family

nocturnal cat picTrue story…this is exactly how cats think! Shortly after retiring for the night, our kittens would begin to run amok throughout the house. We would awaken to the sound of things crashing…not falling, but crashing…from shelves, the tops of the entertainment center & china hutch. In the morning we would walk into the living room to find the drapes shredded…no doubt the result of a race to see which kitten could reach the curtain rod first! Once, in the middle of the night, I turned on the bathroom light to find one kitten, Admiral Purry, peering down at me from the top of the shower curtain rod. I could go on….and on…..and on, but you get the idea. After 1 1/2 years the furry darlings, Admiral Purry, Socks & Scrappy, were given residence in the backyard & everyone is much happier! Feline adventures… 😀