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 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 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.