A Lifetime of Chocolates

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I love a new box of chocolates – surprise waits in every bite. When I was a child it took a long time to decide which was the very best one and that choice would bring delight to my taste buds – most of the time. My mom’s rule was “if you take it – you eat it.” When it was that “gooey” Caramel I was in heaven but then there were those ones – you know those ones that ruin the whole chocolate experience. The only name I had was “nastiness.” When I was the unfortunate recipient of that choice, my only focus had to be on the fact that it was wrapped in chocolate and I would will my mind to think of that. Soon I found a trick – at least until I was found out – if I stuck my fingernail in the bottom I could know what was inside, and avoid a “nastiness” experience.

Well, “life is like a box of chocolates” and we wish we could use that fingernail trick to check inside. However, just like my moms response to my great idea; life’s response is the same – “no peeking allowed”.

We receive those “yummy gooey” Caramel’s, those “ok” cream centers and those “nastiness” unknowns – in our lifetime box of chocolates. Each filling is wrapped in chocolate. The chocolate is the ultimate focus. When we get the “yummy gooey” and the “ok” ones we often miss the chocolate so lovingly covering it. But, without that covering layer those “nastiness” ones just wouldn’t make it down.

Jesus has lovingly covered each of life’s fillings with chocolate – giving us a gift of the Holy Spirit. He is always there covering us with that sweet layer as we enjoy the “yummy gooey” and the “ok” fillings of life. But when we get a bite of the “nastiness” fillings, the reality of His presence – His very taste – is our comfort and focus to get us through.

Our box of chocolates comes pre-sorted just for us from the Father’s hand and we don’t get to peek. Whatever each piece brings into our lives, we can depend on that sweet chocolate taste to get us through. As we focus on the chocolate, not the filling, we will find the surprises He has planned for us – even in the midst of the “nastiness”. Our box takes a lifetime to complete so allow each piece to produce its effect in your life – and don’t forget the chocolate.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness, have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)

 

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Speak Life

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Life is full of the “ good, the bad and the ugly” along with many more expletives. But today I desire to focus on the fact that the first in that well-known quote is “the GOOD”. Life IS full of good – it is all around us if we look.

Unfortunately we are inundated with the negative. We hear and see it everywhere. The news visually captivates the worst of the worst, as it pours in through our televisions and the radio screams it in our ears, while we scroll through an endless social media feed.

Somewhere within our senses we become callused and obsessed with the bad – forgetting that there is good. That callousness easily fuels and changes our hearts. Soon we have become bitter and continually negative – everything is tainted by that bend in our thinking.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (ESV)

Choosing to do as this scripture encourages, means a concerted effort to turn off that “bad and ugly” input – to look around and find the “good”.  Join me today in an effort that will renew your life – an effort to find the “good” everywhere you look and go. Begin by speaking life to those around you and watch the transformation happen.

Up from the Ashes

In the midst of the pain and loss a seed is found – life will move forward, life will spring forth, life will be green again as it rises up from the ashes.

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I often ponder the parallels found in the truths of scripture shown through the natural and spiritual. Many such, have been in the forefront this year.

As last spring began, the lush tall forest trees of the west coast stood strong and vibrant, never knowing what the next season would bring. Spring soon led into a scorching summer as flames consumed over 8 million acres that now lay in ashes – those same lush forests destroyed.

An interesting fact occurs in the midst of forest fires – the seeds of life are spared, hidden and protected – they are surrounded by a hard safe shell that allows them to spread, land and in the midst of the nutrient ash – in time – they will bring forth life. Seedlings of life will begin to turn the black and gray colored hills and mountains into soft green life.

These last 6 months have left much in ashes across our country. Thousands of lives will never be the same due to floods, fires, and hurricanes but also from accidents, drugs, suicides and disease. They too, never expected to have their lives lay at their feet in ashes.

However, strength and new life will arise. If the ash lies at your feet it doesn’t look or feel possible, but somewhere deep inside faith stirs, then rises up to keep moving forward. Somehow that seed of faith has been hidden and protected. In the midst of the pain and loss a seed is found – life will move forward, life will spring forth, life will be green again as it rises up from the ashes.

In the midst of the ashes believe that Jesus has a plan – a protected, hidden seed within you. Your story is not over – trust in your Heavenly Father. He loves you, never leaves you, walks with you, is faithful and good all the time. Trust Him to bring life up from the ashes.

Is 61:2b-3 He has sent me to comfort those who are sad, those in Zion who mourn. I will take away the ashes on their head, and I will give them a crown. I will take away their sadness, and I will give them the oil of happiness. I will take away their sorrow, and I will give them celebration clothes. He sent me to name them ‘Good Trees’ and ‘The Lord’s Wonderful Plant.’(ERV)

Psalm 30:11 Then he turned my sorrow into joy! He took away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. (TLB)

Living a Road-kill Lifestyle

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“I have such a crazy busy day, I don’t know how I’ll get everything done.”

     We have all said those words – felt the build up of stress they evoke – experienced the exhaustion as that day ends only to begin again tomorrow in the same fashion. How do we get off this crazy cycle?

     Expectations wait for you at every corner, every event, while every individual seems to elicit more of your life. Even worse, they are all good – nothing you’re involved in says, “This isn’t worth doing”. But, still the chaos swirls around you whispering “more, more, more”.

     A day must come when the brakes are applied. The screeching of tire meeting pavement must fill the air because without that application the next sound will be the uninterrupted crunch of metal and breaking glass as you become the road-kill beneath your “I can do this” chaotic lifestyle.

     Living in a constant “flurry” of activity leaves no place for the whisper of the Holy Spirit to direct you to that broken young mother, that lonely old man, that friend who needs a listening ear. No time is available to dig deep into the Word searching for the nuggets He has stored there just for you – just for today. No time left to “pray” for your friends needs that you carelessly regurgitate “I’ll pray for that”. The enemy loves to keep you at this pace for when he does you are of no threat to him and of little value to those you love.

     The application of the brakes – the NO – has to be a choice, a very specific decisive choice. It is NOT easy but once applied – in time – you will find the rhythm of walking under the grace of God. Waiting, listening, hearing and moving as He directs. Will you never again feel that “busy” day syndrome – No – but it will be with a different mindset and with an outcome that will be eternal.

     Hit the brakes today – avoid becoming the road-kill of your chaotic lifestyle – step under the peace of His presence and learn to walk in the rhythm of His grace.

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (ESV)

Who’s In Your Boat?

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The darkening clouds began to swiftly swirl around them as the waves surged. The sea had been tame as the short journey began but now waves crashed over the bow and threatened to take their lives. They had seen His hands do many miracles – how and why was He sleeping as they struggled in the midst of this aggressive storm? Waking him from his slumber brought rebuke – first for their lack of faith but then of the very wind and waves that threatened their lives. Quickly the tumultuous sea became still as they stood astonished at His authority.

As we walk through life’s journey we are also surprised by storms that threaten our lives – some mild, some crashing the bow and some that have begun to sink our boats. How we respond – How we get through it depends on WHO is in our boat.

     All of us – in the midst of the storm begin to falter, question and grow weary. However, if we know Jesus is our rock – our salvation – our hope; we know He is in our boat. He is always there for us and has our back! Going down with the boat is NOT His plan! We need to wake up – look up – and with faith reach out for His hand.

     It’s not in our ability to silence the storm. We only need to look to Him and He steps in. He rebukes the winds and waves – He calms the storm.

Matthew 8:26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Stronger & Higher Together

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With a 6ft wooden fence between them my 20ft majestic Purple Robe tree stands beside my neighbor’s spectacular Wisteria vine – both prolific in growth and multiplication. Shoots abound underground – both ways – between the fence line. Each spring to early summer both flower with intoxicating floral blooms that are glorious to behold. This summer, however, I have noticed an exciting merging of the two. The Wisteria, now strong and flourishing, has “jumped the fence” and has begun intertwining with the strength and height of the Purple Robe, reaching its tendrils higher then it previously could. OH, MY – anticipation waits for next springs glorious sight as they erupt – stronger together – each increasing the others beauty – transforming from glory to glory.

Spiritually, we too are meant periodically to “jump the fence”. Those who believe in Christ are many – many different individuals in many different buildings – each prolific and multiplying in their own sphere. As one body through Christ – it’s ok – to “jump the fence”: to intertwine and to bring the beauty of one into many.

We, individually plant our roots into a single place of growth. There we are safe, nurtured, grow, and produce; reaching the top of that 6ft fence, our strength then can be shared, expanded, enlarged into the body of Christ around us.

We as a body require and thrive in unity and connection to each member – whether that is individually or as complete groups of believers. We are all one in Christ!

Just as the strength of the Purple Robe will support the continued expansion of the Wisteria vine (even over the fence) so should we strengthen and support our sisters and brothers in faith. Together we will produce the glorious sight of growing from Glory to Glory. We will grow stronger and higher as we become one body – loving and walking together.

I Corinthians 12: 12-13As the human body, which has many parts, is a unity, and those parts, despite their multiplicity, constitute one single body, so it is with the body of Christ. For we were all baptised by the Spirit into one body, whether we were Jews, Gentiles, slaves or free men, and we have all had experience of the same Spirit. (Phillips)