Thursday, July 9, 2020

God Used A Sunset

Having a daily quiet time is essential for me. I chat with God through out, sing a hymn, read a couple of thought-provoking devotionals, a chapter in Proverbs and a chapter or two in whatever book of the Bible I am studying, and then I spend time earnestly praying. Being in the presence of Jesus in the morning makes my day start out peaceful and purposeful. So much of the time, God seems silent but I know He is there just the same. It is like two old friends sitting on the sofa not having to say a thing. They have a knowing between them while enjoying each other’s company.

This particular Saturday morning, June 20, I was reading Jesus Calling Morning & Evening by Sarah Young. There were several sentences on the morning and evening parts that caught my eye so I underlined this year in pencil. It amazes mehow different years will inspire different underlinings. When I finished, I wrote out the suggested prayer command I wanted to remember at the end of the devotional page.

What caught my eye were these sentences:

  • Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing.
  • Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments.
  • You will see Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Above these, I notice a line about glorious sunsets but didn’t underline it even though I thought in the moment how wonderful it would be to see one.

Later in the day, after meeting up with two other ladies we drove about 45 minutes away for our monthly share group at a member’s home we had not been to before. While riding, I reassured one of the two that I would escort her back at the church so she could make it home before dark as she had requested before agreeing to come. It was an awesome time of food, fellowship and intercessory prayer but as promised, we left in time to fulfill my promise.

After hugs and good-byes, I left the church to drive the short distance home. As I turned the corner onto Main Street, I was suddenly put directly in front of a gorgeous sunset that filled the whole sky in front of me. It captured my heart with awe and I whispered “Oh Lord, how beautiful!” I quickly pulled over and snapped a picture with my cell phone before the moment was gone. Later, I posted it on Facebook to bless others. Then, I was through or so I thought.




The next morning, Sunday, at my church’s intercessory prayer meeting, God inspired me to post the picture to my blog. Little did I know there was a reason for revisiting the photo again. That was not all He wanted me to see. 

When I got home from church, God reminded me of yesterday’s devotional so I went to look it up again. First, I saw the sentence about the glorious sunsets and my heart smiled...but then I noticed the sunset portion had been faintly underlined. Only God could have set this up to underline those exact words! There were three pages involved and the underling had to line up perfectly. The sunset sentence was on page one (left side), not underline originally. Page two (right side), I had underlined a sentence. When I underlined a sentence from page three (back side of page two), it transferred the pencil from page two to underline the sunset sentence on page one. God wanted the sunset sentence highlighted. I began to realize yesterday was a total setup by God to communicate His great sovereignty. If I would be willing to develop the eyes to see, He wanted to show me Himself through His beautiful creation. 



The devotion itself, the time of the party and my friend having to be home before dark was all apart of His timing to have me back to see that gorgeous sunset. I felt so special to Him in that moment! He IS always working on our behalf behind the scenes to show us His kingdom. My heart began to thank and praise Him for His wonderful works! 

God communicates with us all the time. But... 
have we developed the eyes and ears to notice? 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Sometimes God Answers Quickly

An unexpected call lead me on a trip high up into the mountains of NC to visit a friend at her family’s cabin. The cabin has been a vacation home since 1968 and she only travels up from Charleston, SC three times a year for a stay. I have known this friend since childhood and have visited her family cabin several times over the years. Her family had lived across the street from my grandparents years ago and I loved to go visit them when my family came for Christmas or a visit in the summer. Now, we are both on the other side of life and I had not seen her in over 12 years. This was truly a treat.

Of course, we did the normal catching up on what our relatives in both families had been up to. I didn’t realize that her brother had died last year. I told her of my brother’s death too. I talked about how I loved her parents home as a child, baking poundcake with her mom and how in my mind’s eye I still occasionally ventured from room to room to reminisce. My grandparents home is like that for me too. The vivid memories are much more precious now that I am older. I have dreamed about the places I have lived and the people I have known and that has brought me so much comfort and joy. 

Then my friend said, “Someone has torn down your grandparents house and the lot is vacant.” She didn’t know why, didn’t know who owned it now and didn’t know of any plans for rebuilding. My heart sank low. So much of what I knew as a child has already been demolished because of progress. So many of the relatives I grew up with have gone too. Nothing stays the same and I get that. However, when those things which one uses to remember and reminisce with are lost, it can be disheartening. I couldn’t shake it off my mind.

When I left the mountains, I prayed that God would protect my friend and her family. She is battling cancer so I prayed for her health and healing and time for another visit together. Again, it is true. The realities of aging are not always pleasant.

The following morning, when I had my quiet time with the Lord, I explained how I felt about my grandparents home and that I didn’t want to continue to mourn the pasting of an era. I admitted life must go on and change is apart of that life. However, I would require some help from Him to get me back into the life I now enjoy. 

As I finished up my prayer and readings, it happened! First, a friend texted and asked me to have an early lunch with her at her home. She had fixed pigs in a blanket, baked beans, and cantaloupe. Her husband had unexpectedly been invited to go shooting and now she didn’t want to eat all that food alone. Although I didn’t really want to get up and out of my comfortable pajamas at first, I felt a nudge to accept so I did. When God begins to send the answer, I need to be willing to get up and receive it. Then another friend texted. She asked if I would fix supper that night because she had time for a visit. I had asked her to do that whenever she found space in her busy schedule. Perfect! My day was set. Then, it really dawned on me. God WAS answering my request! My heart leaped for joy as I left my room of prayer.

As my day progressed to the end, I realized those feelings of sadness had departed because I had concentrated on being with those I cherish now. God knew exactly what it would take to lift me up. And in the place of sadness came praise, thanksgiving and joy! So many times it seems we have to wait in faith and patience for an answer to our prayers. But today...today was not one of them.



Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Pruning Is Hard To Do


I like to plant things in my flowerbeds that require very little maintenance. My plan was to plant a couple of varieties of African daisies to finish out the look in my front beds. Their care consist of watering and pinching off the dead blooms. Not bad. However, as I praised my finished work, God raised my eyes to view the over grown nandina bushes just behind. They looked unruly and overgrown. Nandina bushes are basically maintenance free too except they require major pruning every couple of years. It was like God was reminding me this was the year. 

Reluctantly, I found the pruning shears and started to work. Of course, I wanted to give up after the second bush because my back was hurting from bending over. With each cut, I kept thinking I’ll finish this tomorrow. Yet, God was not ready for me to quit and told me to sit down, relax, and continue on. Just so you know, it was amusing scooting around on my hind parts from bush to bush and the times I had to get up...well that was pretty amusing too.

I should have known when I heard ‘sit down, relax, and continue on’ that there was more on God’s mind then just my immediate trimming need. The more I pruned the more He talked to me about the process of pruning. Now, I was pruning in the natural but He was explaining pruning in the spiritual. I finally had to get my journal and start writing. Below are the highlights of what I heard.


  • If we are God’s child (accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord), then we will be pruned from time to time. Those whom He loves He corrects.
  • Even though God prunes out of love and always has our best interest at heart, there will always be those who will question and blame God, refusing to change and thus never receiving the blessing of revelation and restoration that pruning provides.

  • Trust God and His progress. Come humble before Him. He will turn everything to our good when we allow Him to finish His work. He is preparing us for the desires of our hearts which usually originate from Him.

  • God desires more fruitfulness. Each trimmed limb often produces a double or more portion.

  • Sometimes just a small snip gets our attention and realigns us but other times it’s a major undertaking. Major pruning is a step by step process. Each lesson has to be completed before advancement is allowed because each lesson is valuable. Stubbornness, willfulness, and the like will prolong the prune.

  • Some of the reasons God prunes us are among the following: pride, ungodly mind-sets, undesirable attitudes and actions, unproductive dead parts, or lack of balance. The focus is to put us back on the right track again.
  • Pruning does not mean we have lost your position in Him or His love. On the contrary, it is out of His love that He takes the time to refine. Then afterwards, who knows...it could bring an unexpected promotion.

  • Our pruning is tailored to what is necessary at that time. And...We are not all pruned at the same time. God continually searches our hearts individually and not our deceptive outward appearance for inconsistencies.

  • Hopefully because of our experiences, when we see the pruning of another, we will be compassionate, encouraging and not a gossip.

  • We do not want to be 'in need of pruning' because of pride and possible embarrassment but God is not concerns about our reputation or our feelings when it comes to needed course corrections. He will comfort us doing the process but our feelings are not a deterrent. If it gets messy, He can restore anything lost when needed.

  • God remains near us at all times to instruct and encourage. God always helps us clean up the repentant mess around us by taking away any sin, shame, guilt or regret. God is after the hope of glory He desires in us through expanding our faith and character.

  • When God prunes us, He doesn’t look down on us in condemnation at all. He desires to reveal wisdom and solutions on a level we can understand. However, it is our responsibility to actively seek Him for the needed changes when things go south.

  • Joy can be achieved throughout this process when we become grateful for/in the journey.

  • When a plant is trimmed on the surface, its initial response is to go underground to develop stronger roots. In spiritual pruning, a stronger root is a teachable heart, a listening ear, time in His presence, prayer, bible study, fellowship, counsel and support from godly people to name a few.

  • God’s grace is sufficient to help us find and eliminate any and all sinful roots especially the root of bitterness. Unless we intensionally root out the causes of these ungodly attitudes and actions, they will keep cropping up.

  • God’s purpose in pruning is not to harm us but to guide us and give us a future and a hope by reestablishing His promises and commands then reaffirming His faithfulness to fulfill those promises and realign us in His cammands. In the end, we feel lighter and freer and we treasure the wisdom revealed because we have become more Christlikeness.

Afterwards, when I came into the bathroom to get cleaned up, I walked in front of the mirror and my T-shirt caught my eye. Rooted In Christ! That put a smile on my face. What a great ending to a great time with the Lord.

I don’t know where you are in your life today. You may be living the life of God’s joy, peace and abundance. However, if you find yourself in a season of God’s purposeful pruning, I hope this post will encourage you in your difficult season. It may not seem like it now but this too shall pass in God’s way and timing. Learn all you can and allow Him to love you through it.


Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What Will You Do With This Jesus?


This is a beautiful Christmas poem the Lord gave me this year. I hope it blesses you as it did me while I wrote it down. Afterward, I felt a real sense of urgency that our time is short.




What Will You Do With This Jesus?

Mary Jane Downs
December 15, 2018

Sitting here in my den filled with bright light
Thinking about that one blessed long ago night.
When the entire world was about to be forever changed,
But few even noticed…distracted by more “important” things.

The story of Jesus had started months before then
When an angel had visited Mary in her little den.
The prophets had for told that the Savior would come.
Now Mary was being told the Savior would be her son.

Mary and Joseph, her betrothed, went through horrible shame
Because people wouldn’t believe what God had proclaimed.
The gift that He had promised for so many centuries
Was now coming in a way that seemed to them too mysterious.

Still…on that blessed night, all went according to God’s holy design.
Jesus was born without any thought or plan from mankind.
He lay in that out-of-the-way straw-filled manager for all to see.
But only a few shepherds and three wise men felt the need.

Incredulously you may say, well…if the birth happened today,
We, the enlightened, would be much more aware than they!
How could they let such a glorious event pass them by?
“I” would have surely done more when Jesus arrived!

It’s sad to say that today not much has changed.
Man desiring more temporal earthly treasures to gain.
Jesus has lived among us through the Holy Spirit for over 2000 years
And most of the world still ignores Him or jeers.

So now I look to you and say with love
“What will you do with this Jesus, God’s son?
Is He more significant then your “important” earthly plans?
Will you bow at the manger and hold His divine hand?

Everyone has to make the choice for themselves,
Accept God’s gift or place Him up on your dusty shelf.
You have only this lifetime for that conscience decision.
Choose wisely, my friend, it will be eternally written.


Micah 6:8 
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourselves and walk humbly with your God?


Deuteronomy 10:12
And now, Israel, what does the Lord you Go require of you but reverently to fear the Lord your God, this is to walk in all His ways and to love Him. And to serve the Lord your God with all your mind and heart and with your entire being. 




Poems the Lord gives me usually form a picture when I complete and center them. 
Can you see the picture in this one?
I had just bought one in preparation for the snowstorm we just had here in Western NC.
It's a Coleman lantern on a table (or life's foundation).



Friday, July 28, 2017

Jason's Simple Desire

Jason came by today to pick up and repair my pressure washer. Nothing unusual about that, right? However, as he was loading it onto his truck, he asked if I would listen to a simple testimony God gave him recently.

When Jason helped with Vacation Bible School last month, he expressed to a gardener friend the desire to have a fresh picked off the vine tomato so he could immediately make a sandwich and eat it. He had fixed and eaten so many of those sandwiches as a boy that he had grown tried of them then. Now years later, he was missing that great taste of home. The friend offered Jason the opportunity to come by and pick from his plants. The two friends agreed to get together later. Jason planned on having his bread, mayo with some salt and pepper in his truck cab before he arrived at his friend’s garden so the experience would be just like it used to be as a child. But God made different plans after listening to Jason’s desire.

Several days later, while Jason drove along his driveway, he noticed a small tomato plant growing at the end. He started thinking how could this be? He had tried numerous times to grow tomato plants on the back side of his property without success. And where did the seed come from? When he got out and investigated, he soon realized the tomato plant was there because God was the gardener. The ground was so hard that when he tried to stake it up, the thin metal stake kept breaking off. Then, when Jason tried to water it with added Miracle Grow, the Lord spoke,

Leave it alone, I planted it and I will take care of it.
 If you mess with it, it will kill it.”

So Jason has left it alone.

This knee-high plant already has multiple blooms and small tomatoes. Jason’s anticipation is mounting as he passes that tomato plant daily. He says he knows it will be the best tomato ever because it is straight from God Himself. And that smile on Jason’s face as he tells this simple testimony…well, it’s a mile wide.

************

Before telling me this story, Jason expressed shyly that he doesn’t feel special. I have a feeling that at times Jason may look at his present circumstances and conclude that because his life doesn’t ‘look successful’ it is not. He works hard to provide for himself and his family with not much to show for his efforts. But God knows how special Jason is and right where he lives. God knows what He wants to accomplish through Jason’s life as well. And what is that?  God wants Jason to proclaim all the simple testimonies of love and faithfulness He provides throughout Jason’s life. In return, God has promised Jason His protection and provisions. And even though others may deem Jason unsuccessful and insufficient because of outward appearances, God says:

“Don’t look at what you see with your natural eyes Jason
but look to Me for all you need.
 And Son, keep on talking, I got ya covered.”


If God is listening to Jason’s simple desires, He will be listening to yours!

Jason’s simple act of faith to tell others will wind up touching many more lives then he could ever imagine. And so it will be with us when we decide to step out in faith and tell our simple stories of God’s love and faithfulness too. I have a story picked out already. What about you?

***********

After I wrote this out, I went and looked up the name Jason and its meaning: 

JASON: Healer, Benevolent

Luke 6:45  A good man out of the good treasures of his heart brings forth good . . . For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

The Name Book
Dorothy Astoria

(or a desire of the heart!)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

What Are We Expecting To Find In God

Welcome Lisa Griffin today! She has created a thought provoking blog piece that I think you will find interesting.
Our community seems to never stop wondering “where do I find God”, “will God help me”, and “how do I get to know God”, and I often come across stories of different people that tell about some difficult situations in life that push them to seek for God’s help. These stories always start the same. Something like: “I faced a difficult situation in my life and I started to scream for help…”and more often, authors of such posts say that they’ve received the assistance they were asking for. But what happens next? After some time, many people simply forget about their appeal to God; why is this happening, what are we expecting to find in God and why do we lose our faith later?
What motivates us to start talking to the Almighty?
As I said previously, almost every time it starts with some tragedy. Each one of us has to deal with certain difficulties in our lives, regardless of whether he wants it or not, and experiencing such situations we pray, we are speaking to the Lord and ask him to help us.
Moreover, many assume that God has to hear and support us. After all, we have always heard the saying “Ask - and you will be given”, but if it is so, then why then so many prayers stay unanswered?
I see only one reason that can stand behind this – many modern people may attend church and behave like Christians, but how many of them really KNOW the Lord and really keep their hearts and souls opened for Him?! Unfortunately, not as many as it may first seem.
Why don’t we devote enough time to building our relationship with Him and then, during the hard times we get confused and are wondering why He didn’t answer us? This all happens only because we don’t realize what we really need, what we expect to get from Him and then, after not getting what we wanted, we lose our faith.
Speak and you will be heard!
Where to find God? No matter how banal it may sound, the God is always next to us but turning to Him and listening to His answer are two quite different things, which we need to realize and accept. By listening to Lord, we open our minds for him and hear His will.
Unfortunately, today, many people are a little wary of this because in the modern world our turning to God is called prayer, but His appeal to us I often considered as schizophrenia. Due to the fact that the ideal was lost, our relationship with the Almighty became very difficult and if it is still present, it is often unilaterally, which means that we talk to Him, but often do not even listen to His answer. He speaks to us, and we can't hear. Any communication requires the cooperation of two people, in our case – you and your God: When we pray about something and then He listens and responds, we are supposed to listen, otherwise it would be a monolog.
Why do people lose their faith?
Anger and disappointment towards the Lord are something that has always confronted many people – both believers and unbelievers. When something tragic happens in our lives, the first thing that we do is ask Him “Why?”.  It is our natural reaction. But what we're really asking is not so much “why” but more “why me, Lord?" and this statement indicates two flaws in our thinking. First, as believers, we often live with the belief that life should be easy, and that God should prevent any tragedy in our lives. When He does not, we are angry at Him. Second, when we do not fully understand the extent of the power of God, we lose faith in His ability to control circumstances, other people and the way they affect us. We get angry at God because we think He lost control of the universe. And especially over our lives. We lose confidence in God's omnipotence because our frail human flesh is grappling with our own frustration and lack of personal control over what is happening. When all is well, we often attribute this to our own achievements and success, but when bad things happen, we rush to blame God, we are angry at Him because He did not prevent them.
Open your heart and accept His love!
Now let’s look at this from another perspective. After someone had faced a difficult situation in the life, he prayed but didn’t receive any answer – was it the Lord who didn’t want to answer or maybe we just can’t determine when he speaks to us? Maybe sometimes the answer comes, but not as quickly as we would like.
I would say that God always answers a sincere prayer, but often we can't understand His answer or simply didn’t expect to hear such answer, and therefore we don't accept it and deny the Lord’s help. Agree, if you talk with your good friend, but he's not responding or gives answers that are not relevant to the subject, and this continues for a while, you can get disappointed and this can even become a reason why your friendship might come to an end.
The same is here. When we don't hear the answer from God or the answer is not in line with our expectations, we feel frustrated and it gets very easy to lose faith just because we don’t see the purpose for our prayers. But you should always remember that God always stands by, waits for you to speak to him, and he is always ready to give you his love, the only thing that you have to do is to keep on believing and following His will!

Learn how to find Him. Learn to hear God's voice, whispering all the mysteries of the world within us, worship and love him, and then He will treat you the same way as we all are His children!



Lisa Griffin is a blogger whose lifestyle credo is “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

Run...Mary Jane...Run!

In December of 2015, I ended a relationship that was basically built upon lies, not mine but his. When God showed me how all the pieces would fit together, I was shocked at how ugly the picture was going to turn out. And so I walked away…and when I did, I felt like the life of faith and creativity that I had once known was being sucked out of me and in its place, a stronghold of fear. What I wanted so badly had turned into a nightmare, a mental battle for my character, my authority and my peace of mind.

For almost nine months, the enemy of my soul flooded my mind with so much negative criticism that it was hard to combat the depression. I had a hard time reading the Bible and listening to Christian music because I felt condemn not only for what had just happened but then the enemy headed for my past insecurities as well. Now, I know condemnation is not from God (Romans 8:1) but I felt powerless with the heavy on slot of accusations. Just because you know what to do doesn’t make it easy to do it in a time of pressing trouble. I tried speaking and reading the Word out loud. Claiming the promises. However, whatever I did, my ‘believe’ was not there and so my faith was cut short. It looked like life had forever changed and with little hope, I was going downhill fast. However, I felt compelled to keep going forward to fight the good fight of faith with the little hope that I had until I regained my lost mental territory.

During all this time, the Lord was relentlessly faithful to me through the love and faithfulness of family, friends and church. Also, I saw 10 10 everywhere which to me could only mean one thing.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and [a]have it abundantly
John 10:10
                                               
Then there was the word He gave to me personally as the healing had barely begun.

January 7, 2016

You are my darling wife to be. I had to come rescue you. I love you, appreciate you, and adore you. I did not want you to be swallowed up by your circumstances. Come follow Me back to health, both physically and spiritually. See what I can do in a short period of time. You are not alone neither have I forsaken you. You have wanted to quit but I won’t let you. You are my precious child who I want to help. Yes, you lost your way, but I grabbed you by the hand and rescued you and have put you on solid ground. Seek me Mary Jane. Trust that I will bring you through. I know you are afraid right now and I have my loving arms around you. You are not alone. Follow Me, Mary Jane, follow Me.

With all the affirmations and confirmations, the enemy sought even more desperately to destroy me and my relationship with the Lord.

When my prayers changed from “Oh God, help me!!!” to intensionally praying for others and praying the opposite to whatever the enemy was telling me, my mind slowly began to respond. I knew then that I had broken down a line of the enemy’s defense. God was doing His part. Now I needed to do mine.

Afterwards, I heard the Lord say, “You have got to get out and walk.” As much as I wanted to stay sheltered, I knew I had to listen to His directions. In late October 2016 after walking for about six weeks, I started seeing major release from the enemy’s mind control. I was gaining confidence and courage to resist all the lies. It still was not easy but I was determined.

Since my mind was beginning to clear from the negative thoughts, I started to see my positive creative imagination began to peep out. Oh, how I had longed for my writing to spring forth again.  The Lord was right. Being out in nature was helping me to heal.

Lastly, I felt the Lord say, Running your race will give you endurance,” so that’s what I did. I started running some and then some more. Each week or so I would increase my running a little bit more.  And each and every week I was gaining back my mental strength. In November of 2016, I entered my first 5K at South Mountain Christian Camp. As I crossed the finish line to win 2nd place in my age group, I knew I was well on my way to being myself again.

 As of today, I have racked up many 5Ks, a couple of 10Ks, with my latest goal of a half marathon coming up in three weeks. My main goal there is to finish within the allotted time. Pretty good for an out of shape 61-year old beginner, don’t you think? Do I love to run now? No, I can’t say that I do but I love where it is taking me and that keeps me joyfully putting one foot in front of the other as fast as a can.


PRASIE BE TO GOD FOR HIS WONDERFUL FAITHFULNESS!


Are you going through a mentally tough time right now? I know it is not easy and sometimes your fears seem like they are going to over take you. But do not lose heart. Jesus is right there with you, holding your hand too. Read the words the Lord gave me again but insert you name instead. He wants to help you overcome whatever it is you are facing. Go to Him the best way you know how. No matter what the situation is, Jesus is waiting for you to let go and let Him help you.

********************************



As I prepared for a recent 5miler race in downtown Columbia, I told the Lord I could not do this without Him. What He answered me with was a vision of me running down the street with a large angel, flying overhead. At the race, as I came around the corner to run the last quarter mile, my earlier vision came to life. The two scenes were exactly the same. I knew without a shadow of doubt that a large angel was flying overhead cheering me on.