A very special pastor in Florida asked Brian and I a question "Are you just going to go through this or are you going to GROW through this? The man asking this question ministered and counseled pastors and wives who were hurting and wondering whether to continue in ministry. So I'm writing this with "the brethren" in mind.Read More
Heads or Tails with Jean Harrison
After joining a group of women at church in doing an online devotional called "Good Morning Girls", where the women take a passage of Scripture and "S.O.A.P." it (Scripture-Observation-Application-Prayer) Jean found herself thinking through Scripture and it's application to life in her walks with her new puppy, Buddy. Here are some of her musings...
Every day I have a choice of faith. Do I worry excessively about a certain trouble, or do I pray about it and hand it over to my Lord? When I try to fix a trouble, I end up spinning my wheels and expending a lot of energy. God allowed this and He has a plan.Read More
I frequently play a song by Jesus Culture at home and one of the lyrics is "there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain". It gets me excited because I know, personally, that it is the truth. A women's Bible study introduced the phrase "generational strongholds" to me.Read More
Who doesn't enjoy receiving a gift? They are given throughout the year on birthdays, Christmas, and on those "Hallmark" inspired occasions. Presents are thoughtfully wrapped in homemade or store-bought paper and tied up with ribbons and bows. Sometimes you just know what the gift is going to be...Read More
I'm in the middle of reading a book and one chapter is called Leaving the Porch. It brings up the big question........why are we content to just stand on the porch? Are we just peeking into the light-filled, inviting windows of God's dwelling? What keeps us from marching into the interior rooms where He is waiting?
When the weather outside is raining hail, high-winds, and tornado warnings, I scoot off the porch and go inside with Him. Does he yell at me because I stayed on the porch too long and am a frightened mess and dripping wet all over His floors? Never! I am protected, loved, and secure in these interior rooms. We talk, I stop shaking, and we wait out the storm together.
So He asks me everyday of my life to leave the porch and come inside. There doesn't have to be a storm raging outside in order for me to sit with my Father and talk. What hinders me?
Proverbs 2:6-8 "For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints".
Acts 27:18 "And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship".
I read this Scripture recently and it really struck a chord with me. I likened myself to this ship as being "exceedingly tempest-tossed". Fear, anxiety, and worry should never be mistaken for flotation devices. They are useless weights dragging me to a place deeper and deeper where there is no light. Why do I clutch these burdensome emotions? Do I think I'm the captain of my ship and have to stay on board while it sinks under the weight of a storm? Really bad plan! What good is a sunken ship on the bottom of the ocean? I suppose it could provide the underwater creatures with a reef eventually. But is that God's plan for my ship? I know it's not.
Wouldn't it be better as a child of God to jettison all that excess, useless weight and lighten the ship? I believe my Heavenly Father lets me hit the bottom of this particular ocean clutching the fear and worry. My Father is saying "I cannot help you when you are so blinded by your own perspective and feelings surrounding this tribulation". I admit I have no control whatsoever and make my decision to trust God with this big blip on my radar. I am wonderfully unshackled and begin my ascent to the surface. My spirit is free to sense Him now that my eyes are not clouded and my ears aren't plugged up with deep sea water anymore.
Jesus is my Life-Saver when I come to my senses and reach for Him. He is always there waiting for me after I lighten my ship and place my trust in Him alone.
Luke 6:19 "And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all". The lost lambs finally had a "shepherd in the flesh". A Messiah........Son of God in their midst!!
What kinds of people flocked around Jesus? How do we touch Him today? Do we just touch Him with our requests? Or do we look to serve Him first with our Kingdom work?
When we were in Costa Rica, our guide took us to a Catholic Church. It was very ornate, big, and beautiful. Something you could worship if you had a mind to. Early on, when we were looking around, I saw people single-file and some ways apart walking on their knees. Mind you, the church was really big. The people started at one end of the church and went to the altar walking on their knees. Brian said it was an "act of penance".
I was rather incredulous and kept staring. Then I kind of woke up and thought I was intruding on this act of penance. So I walked away. I thought of how badly my knees would hurt if I did that. Yeah, the knee with the arthritis would be a serious consequence.
So how do I seek to touch Jesus? I really try to touch Him with my obedience to God's Word. I have a note card in my dresser mirror that says "love is an act of endless forgiving". Yes, I really set upon forgiving also. Sometimes it doesn't happen overnight but I really don't want to be tormented by unforgiveness. Remembering what Jesus said on the Cross......."forgive them Father for they know not what they do". I forgive because I want my joy back !!
I believe I touch Him when I choose to love. When I choose to love, I am walking with my Lord hand-in-hand. That is the "best walk in the world".
A follower of Christ discovers that "faith passages" are different every year. The faith passages when you are a teenager are quite distinct from the passages through each later decade of life. The stuff that you have angst about now will not matter one, five, or ten years later.
Our Lord is with you and me in every situation, good or bad. We need to be attentive to His Presence throughout everyday. He is there and we are not alone!! Our hope needs to be in Him and not in this world. The world is full of darkness, and we absolutely need to be walking with the Light--Jesus. Our Lord will never make you feel stupid or useless; only people do that. He alone is our Hope, our Comfort, and our Hero in times of distress.
Dearest son, choose your friends wisely. Look for friends that follow Jesus; ones that read the Bible, have a real prayer life, ones that have a "real relationship" with our Lord. These friends are better than gold! These friends will encourage you to live a life for Jesus. Living for Jesus is the only kind of life that is truly worthwhile on this earth.
My son, I lived life apart from Jesus for 29 years. I came to understand what the world has to offer. The world will draw you into its darkness with many, many temptations. There may be happiness for a season, but at the end of these temptations awaits emptiness and devastation. When I lived in devastation, I thought "this is all there is". Then God brought someone to tell me about Jesus. I acknowledged my sin, repented of it, and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. He lifted me out of that darkness and muck. Jesus will always be my Hero!
We all fall short of God's perfect standard for living. The more we try to be good, the more we fail. Salvation has nothing to do with obeying the right set of rules, doing the right type of good works, or feeling a certain way. Salvation comes by simply saying "Yes, Jesus, I trust You". When you accept Jesus' terms for salvation, you can trust that God will honor His agreement forever. Your salvation is secure. The restoration process has begun and God will complete it. (this last paragraph is what I share from the We All Need Hope booklet by Lighthouse Christian Products).
I'm into week two of reading l John with my online Bible study group. We are just diving into Chapter 2. Apostle John is teaching about obedience and love. This is where the "rubber meets the road" with genuine believers of Christ. A follower of Christ is expected to be 100% obedient to God's commands. It is a "test of genuine fellowship". The total obedience does not happen overnight. Obedience grows and grows as my love for Him unfurls and expands; breaking down walls and boundaries of my old self.
The narrow road leading to Christ is a road that is sometimes salted with cut glass, sharp pebbles, and boulders. There are seasons when I am bogged down on this road. I cut my feet, stub my toes, and have a lot of intense climbing on this narrow road to meet my Lord. I know he watches me struggle. I am alone most of the time, but there are days when He sends angels in disguise. I hear His encouraging words that strengthen me as I run to catch up to the next bend with Him.
When I was a child, obedience was a fickle action. Was I going to rebel, be half obedient, or fully obedient? There seemed to be degrees of perceived obedience when I was a child. I am now an adult and realize that obedience and love walk hand-in-hand. I would rather walk with my Jesus holding His hand instead of walking behind Him and kicking at the dirt.
l John 2:3-6 "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked".
I had a memory pop up this morning and feel led to write about it. By the way, nothing to do with Buddy if you want to opt out now :)
Years ago, when Brian and I were scuba diving in Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles), there was a night dive scheduled. Being a novice diver, I was quite anxious about diving at night but went anyway. Maybe I would enjoy it....overactive imagination and all !!!
So there I was - ? - feet underwater and it was okay for awhile. I was focusing on the reef and was near the other divers. By the way, some underwater creatures only come out at night and it's a very fascinating time to dive.
Well I was so focused on the reef that I didn't notice everyone else had moved on. Oh yeah! The stuff of nightmares! So I am frantically swimming to catch up to everyone and panic has set in. I am looking away from the reef and into utter blackness.
That was quite enough for me. Dive over and I was swimming to shore. But the nightmare wasn't over. Something grabbed me and I couldn't go forward. My tank got caught on some mooring ropes and I freaked out! Crying, sobbing, yelling and totally freaked out. I didn't know what had me! And I lived to tell about it.....
Matthew 22:13 says "......bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
My nightmare had an end to it but for unbelievers the outer darkness will be for eternity.
I accompanied my husband to a place far, far away recently. He was officiating at a wedding in a very rural setting. It was an outside wedding taking place next to a noisy stream. A lot of water sounds amidst flowery, blooming trees. So picturesque!
Funny though, because what captured my attention was the tiny, wild violet plants that were growing in the grass. The first one I saw made me gasp. It was so unexpected. Now that I was really looking, I saw that they were scattered all over the grass.
The next day I am thinking about these little wild plants and all the feet yesterday that were most likely trampling them. There were high heels and all sorts of shoes mashing those dear little plants. I wonder if they gave off a sweet fragrance when they were trampled?
Believers in Christ do get trampled underfoot. There are times when it's accidental and, on the other hand, sometimes it's intentional. I'm sure we all cry out under the pressure, but what kind of fragrance squeezes out of us during these times. Is it a stench of revenge? Or is it an aroma of forgiveness that would be pleasing and acceptable to God?
Isaiah 53:7 "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth".
This morning I was reading 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 with the Good Morning Girls and just began to write my observations about the Scriptures when the troubles began and grew. Buddy was in a hurry to go outside; potty I thought. Hauled on winter coat plus boots and went outside to discover he just wanted to sniff the 30 degree air. We came in and 30 minutes later, he is earnestly pressing to go out again. Same deal.......sniff, sniff.
In the meantime, Brian comes down from his shower and informs me that his deodorant exploded (how does stick deodorant explode?) and there probably is small bits of it on the bathroom floor. A small growl starts in my throat, but I stifle it. Brian leaves in a hurry to make hospital visits.
Back to Buddy, and 45 minutes after his last outing. He seems to be in a panic to go outside. I relent and take him out......more of the blasted sniffing the air and no potty. By the way, our son Ben thinks he is the Dog Whisperer because when he takes Buddy out, the puppy gets right down to business and it's all over in 30 seconds. So we keep asking Ben with plaintive voices "can you take the dog out"?
I decide I've had enough of puppy shenanigans and put him in his crate and get ready to shower. My first thought looking at the bathroom floor is "this isn't so bad". Looking in wrong place! Deodorant chunks are all over the other 3/4's of the floor :(
Once in the shower I remember 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you". So I begin thanking God that Ben and I don't use exploding deodorants. Thank Him that the third time out Buddy had the decency to look back at me contritely with his ears laid back. Thanking God that I had hot water and plenty of it. All in all, I had many, many things to thank my awesome LORD for this morning.
Buddy likes to play ball in the house. We throw his ball down the hallway and it bounces off the walls and many times goes under the bookcase there and gets lodged. I grew very tired of walking to the bookcase, bending over, and retrieving the ball from under the bookcase. This game is supposed to wear the dog out, not me. So I used what was at hand, which are two lids from computer paper boxes, to shove under the bookcase and block the ball from going under there.
I have noticed that, if Buddy thinks I am "not totally in the game" with him and leaving everything else undone.......as in reading, typing on my Ipad, watching tv, he walks away from the ball throwing. He doesn't think much of me when I am only half-heartedly playing with him. He wants me down on the floor, on the same level as him. My puppy wants my legs stuck out so he can jump over them. Now that's "being in the game with him".
I am a follower of Christ but throughout each day "am I really in the game with Him"? This is not a joke but definitely serious. Am I attentive to His Presence 24/7 ? Do I recognize and use the opportunities that I have everyday to be a witness of His Work? We all have the same amount of time everyday, but do I use it wisely and for Him? Serious questions require serious introspection and answers. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were required at certain seasons to "afflict their souls". How am I doing with that?
God speaks about this condition in Matthew 15:8 "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men".
Oh how devastated I would be if my God said that about me.
Well that's the resultant phrase I've coined when Buddy tears down the foyer and all the rugs and runners swoosh in a westerly direction. It's quite fascinating when a 30+ lb puppy cannot contain himself and just goes crazy with joy. I was in our Lazy-boy chair once with the footrest up and Brian brought Buddy in from an outside walk/run. Our dear little puppy saw me, ran pell-mell down the hall, into the living room and jumped on my foot bending it backward. That was when I got exuberant and let out a big yell.
We experience "Ski Rug Top" just about everyday. Throwing the ball down the foyer will result in everything flying that isn't nailed down. Buddy is having the time of his life skiing down the hall on the "magic carpet" :p Those thingies that you put under the rugs to keep them from shifting; don't work! They wind up looking like accordian-pleats under the rugs.
I'm trying to imagine what it would look like if followers of Christ would be filled with such exuberance and joy in serving Him. A real world changer!
Luke 19:37-40 "Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:
'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples". But He answered and said to them, 'I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out”. (Disclaimer: There is no affiliation with Ski Round Top, which we’re sure Buddy would love also)
This story percolates to the surface because of my endeavors to outfox Buddy, our puppy. I use a variety of tricks while trying to collar him downstairs when he is being naughty, coaxing him to eat his dog-food when he'd rather scavenge outside, and getting him to stop barking when he hears a doorbell on TV. Sometimes we can't get him to come downstairs and, most times, we can't get him to come upstairs. His crate is upstairs; so going up is not that appealing to him.
Coaxing Buddy to drop a sock, glove, hat, or shoe that he has picked up with lightning speed used to be a trial. Now I just say "drop it" in a very stern voice and, fortunately, he obeys that command. It's a contest of will and wit to be one-step ahead of a puppy.
Getting back to the title "Do I Ever Try To Outfox God"? Just typing that title makes me laugh:0 It's very silly but I believe I do try to outfox God. I used to substitute the word "concern" for worry, because I know that worrying is a sin. I have a difficult time asking for help also. I cloak it in the thought that I don't want to bother anybody. In reality, it is due to the sin of pride. Did that escape God's attention? I don't think so. Our LORD doesn't take any time-off.
A few years ago I created the phrase "spiritual loophole". My definition of it is finding a way to excuse ungodly behavior. It is quite human to have a ready excuse for questionable behaviors and words. But don't we really know, deep-down, that we have crossed the line?
Proverbs 21:2 "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts". Enough said!
Brian and I are celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary at the end of April. On the Sunday morning before the big event, I was thinking along the lines that marriage is like being in an amusement park with my wonderful husband. We are in a seat built for two and we have a lap-restraint holding us together.
These days, I like the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Scrambler the best. For some reason, when I'm riding them I just laugh and giggle the whole time. It's a joyous experience for me. I used to ride the roller coasters but just cannot do them anymore. I never liked the Ferris Wheel; too slow and too high. That combination didn't agree with me at all.
My husband's preferences are somewhat different. He enjoys the roller coasters and the more wild, adventurous rides. When we lived in Orlando, we both loved a ride called Space Mountain. It is a roller coaster but the spin is that the ride is in "pitch black" conditions. You cannot see what is coming or where this ride is taking you.
So this "Space Mountain" marital journey encapsulates many emotions. Some days are laughs and giggles. Others days we hold each other tight and cry out because the journey is pitch black. There are frights, screams, rollicking laughter, and awesome wonder.
The "Lap Restraint" holding us tight is Christ Jesus. He knows exactly where this journey is taking us. No surprises for Him. Brian and I cannot see what is ahead and that's where faith and trust in our Lord connects us. We hug each other tight, our Savior puts His Arms around both of us tightly, and our Holy Father has arms big enough to engulf all of us in a heavenly embrace. What more could we ever want from this journey?
Isaiah 52:12 "For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard".
This Winter season was especially difficult and fraught with perils. For me, the danger was not driving on the slippery roads; it was the challenge of taking Buddy out to relieve himself. Everything seemed to be slippery: the porch steps, tire tracks made by snowfall, and all the ground alongside our big, five-townhouse driveway.
Just getting on winter boots, coat, scarf, hat, and gloves drained energy several times a day. So how many times did I fall outside? Only once, praise God! It was Sunday after church and Brian was making lunch (bless his heart :p ). Our son was upstairs skyping. I knew freezing rain had started to fall since coming home from church, but I just thought "I'll be really careful". Got Buddy to the first porch step and BOOM down I went. It was quite a shock and I just lay there with Buddy waiting patiently on me. I couldn't move. I looked around in a stupor, and wondered how hurt I was. Our storm door is all glass and I saw that my son had come downstairs and spied me laying on the steps. He picked me up and helped me inside. I had soaked up a lot of that freezing rain too. Oh yes, it was a real adventure just taking Buddy out this winter.
So was God watching when I fell? Sure! Nothing escapes His attention. I had fallen inside, outside, and fell again when Buddy yanked hard on the leash and made me lose my balance. The common denominator was Buddy:) On the bright side, maybe God was reassuring me that my bones were still dense.
I have a picture upstairs that I love. A print of sparrows with the words "His Eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me". This is my all-time favorite Gospel hymn. I first heard it sung by Ethel Waters when I was a little girl and it captured my heart then and always.
Matthew 10:29, 31 "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows".
We had a recent episode at our house that quite surprised me. Just Ben, Buddy, and I were at home. The washing machine was operating upstairs and making a racket. I was sitting downstairs typing a story on my IPad. Suddenly, Buddy wants to crawl in my lap and I push him off. He's no lightweight anymore at 30+ lbs. So I end up relenting and he crawls up on me and is shaking like mad. So I'm definitely freaked and wondering what on earth is wrong with him. Is it the noisy washing machine? I'm asking these questions out loud and Ben says "I hear a chirp". Really? I don't hear a chirp with all the noise upstairs. Again, Ben says "yeah I hear a chirp". Now that is not welcome news. Our downstairs smoke alarm has been a great, great source of irritation since we moved into this townhouse. It will go off at the slightest provocation and Brian has threatened to take a hammer to it more than once.
Ben finishes his breakfast and now he gets to hold the dog while I go all around the house, upstairs and downstairs to track down "the chirp". I stand below the downstairs alarm. Nothing! I go upstairs and listen. Nothing! Cannot hear the stupid chirp. Buddy is still shaking to beat the band :(
Finally, Ben says "maybe it's in the basement". I'm thinking "no way"! So I'm down in the basement now listening and looking all over the ceiling area. Yessiree....a soft chirp going on down in the basement. I finally see the alarm at the foot of the stairs. A humbling moment here.........I have overlooked the basement alarm all these years when replacing the batteries. My eyes have gone right past this alarm for eight years and I wasn't really conscious of it being there. A really "duh" moment!
Okay, so the battery is pulled out and "blessed relief"; the chirping stops. Buddy stops shaking and order is restored to our little townhouse world. To think that just a "chirping" sound would make the dog shake, rattle, and roll. He was truly traumatized. And the only place of comfort for Buddy was one of our laps.
I have a Scripture laying on my messy place at the dining room table. Psalm 94:18-19 "Your mercy O LORD will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul". My Heavenly Father has the biggest arms in the world and I run to Him. Glory!
It really bugs me when the sunlight is shining just right in the kitchen and all the hidden dust and dirt is revealed. I don't even want to think about all the slobber marks on the bottom areas of the appliances and cabinets. Most of them are from the dog :) I swipe a damp cloth over all that is revealed and move on. Task accomplished!
All of the above leads me to thinking about how my Lord shines a light in my spirit and shows me where the dirt lies. Am I aware of it? Oh yes! Am I moved to clean it up? Sometimes I am really frustrated with that particular ongoing dirt and want to rant and rave. I know that I can't clean it up on my own. It takes a lot more than a damp cloth to clean that mess up.
So God is shining a light and drawing my attention to that particular sin. He wants it cleaned up but how strongly do I feel about it? As a follower of Christ, am I realizing how much this sin dishonors God? Does it grieve me badly and so much that I will do anything to get rid of it?
God knows our hearts and our thoughts. He knows when we are really in the game and when we are not. As King David asked in Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting".
As far as I know, that is not a common prayer in the Bible. If we are going to ask a question of God, we had better be prepared for the answer.
Buddy is a rescue puppy and will be a year old at the end of March. A couple of weeks ago, I had him out for a short walk. He got very excited seeing another dog and a human too. It was a tiny Yorkie dog and I was trying valiantly to keep Buddy from jumping all over that little feather duster. You guessed it, I lost! He jerked me off balance and down I went into the wet grass. I sat there for a while because the young girl with the dog wanted to talk. I figured if I got up, I probably would go down again. I had quite a conversation with her. She gave me the impression of being a dog whisperer and introduced a tip to calm him down. Really? Buddy is a mix of Schnauzer, Cocker Spaniel, and Jack Russell. Calm him down? Only when he has worn himself out :p
So I'm thinking about this vexing, straining at the leash thing with Buddy. He's getting bigger and stronger, and I'm getting older and weaker. Something needs to give here and I don't intend it to be me. Forget puppy obedience school. Been there and done that. It stressed me out so badly being there for an hour at night, once a week, for an interminable number of weeks. What did we learn? Buddy really, really, really likes treats.
Anyway, I'm wondering what it is that I'm "straining at the leash at with my Lord." The Holy Spirit is guiding and teaching me on one end and I'm creating tension at the other end with my sin nature. A lot of tension there sometimes and who is going to give way? It has to be me!
God has all the time in the world to watch me wear myself out and surrender. Scripture tells me----2 Peter 3:8 "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with The Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day". It amazes me that I can be even more willful than my dog.