Debbie's Perspective

Just my thoughts of the day.

Selective Listener?

Luke 6:27a ~ “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!

I was just walking toward the kitchen as my husband walked past me and quickly said, “Don’t worry, I have already asked her to clean it all up.”  Then he promptly left the house for work.

I hesitantly walked around the corner and came face to face with my teenage daughter using her feet on two dish towels swiping away at the floor.  When she saw the look on my face she said, “Mom, you should be glad that I already cleaned up a lot of it.  It was really messy earlier.  Great! I thought as I surveyed the flour and powdered sugar dusted counters, the sink and counter full of dishes, and the little drifts of powdered sugar clinging to two of the cabinet doors.

I was already frustrated irritated, okay let’s be really honest, I was angry with her over two other incidents in the last couple of days.  So last night when she just had to bake these cookies for the school project – at 10:30 p.m. – I went to bed.

After cleaning the kitchen (grudgingly because the bus doesn’t wait, and let’s face it, her cleaning methods were just making a bigger mess at the moment), but having her make her own lunch because I was taking care of her mess, I sat down to have a little quiet time with the Lord hoping for a new perspective on things.  He never disappoints.

I was reading the verse that practically screamed off the page at me, “But to you who are willing to listen…”  Well, of course, I listen.  Those who don’t would be the unbelievers or those who pick and choose what they want out of the Bible, right? I felt the Holy Spirit nudge at my heart and ask, “Are you sure it isn’t talking about you?”

Okay, Lord, show me what you want me to see.  He said, “Well, now that you are willing to LISTEN, I’d be happy to show you.  Just keep reading.”  As I read about how I am to love, be good to, bless, and pray for my enemies, I realized I wasn’t even doing that for my family so how could I possibly do it for my enemies.  Oh no! I was a selective listener.

Of course I love my family, I do good for them, I bless them, and I certainly pray for them.  I justified the situation; after all, I was just a little mad at the moment.  But wait, this passage doesn’t stop at those.  Oh goodness, there is more!  What about turning the other cheek, offering my shirt when my coat has been demanded of me, and giving freely without asking for anything in return?  Surely this isn’t talking about my situation because I’m dealing with my child, not enemies.

Hmmm, let’s see.  The end of verse 35 says that if I do all of these things I will truly be acting as a child of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  Then in verse 36 Jesus says, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

I know sometimes I have to chastise and discipline my children, and it is clear in God’s word that He does that to us, His children, because He loves us.  But, He is also compassionate toward us, and sometimes just makes sure we are listening and then teaches us the right things to do.

 

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Not Just A Baby

I said goodbye to my daddy this past week.  As I sat by his bedside and his last hours grew near, my first thoughts were, “Lord, I had hoped we would get through Christmas.”  But as the hours ticked away, and my mother and sisters and I sang hymns to him, read scripture passages, and prayed, a different feeling filled my heart.

I know why I celebrate Christmas; the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but there is that part of me that thinks Christmas should be happy and cheerful, pretty and fun, and  family and friends getting together to celebrate.  It’s Jesus’ birthday!

Losing my daddy this time of year brought an unexpected understanding that deepens my joy of the true reason I celebrate Christmas.

Psalm 23 was one of my daddy’s favorites.  This past week as we read it over him many times, each time I read, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me,” I was aware that we all walk through that valley; we will all face death one day.  Our journey here on earth will be done, and then what?  Because of the baby Jesus lying in a manger, we can face that day with great joy and rejoicing if we’ve accepted and received His free gift of salvation by believing and placing our faith in Him.  If we’ve opened our eyes to see that He isn’t just a sweet story about a tiny baby and nothing more.

That baby was the physical manifestation of the promises throughout the Old Testament; the prophecies of a savior.  Salvation came to earth that day in the body of a baby boy, but that baby would grow to be a man, die on a cross, and rise from the dead so that we might have eternal life.  That day marked, in our physical realm, the beginning of God’s plan of redemption being fulfilled.

He is so much more! Simeon in Luke 2:28-32 saw that in the tiny baby he held – Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

My heart is saddened that I’ll no longer be able to see my daddy here on earth, but because of the baby Jesus the angels proclaimed, the shepherds came to see, the Wisemen traveled so far to worship; the Savior of the World, my heart rejoices because I know I will see him on the other side of the veil in the presence of our Savior.

Isaiah 9:1a – Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

Isaiah 9:2 – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:6-7 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Christmas has not been overshadowed by this loss because I understand that my daddy is finally truly home for Christmas. He is seeing with his eyes what we can only get a glimpse of in our hearts.

Thank you Lord Jesus, Light of the World.  May those walking in darkness turn and come into your glorious light, may they come to know the joy and peace you so freely give.

Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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The Water and The Fire

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It was midnight, and once again I was awake; crushing fear causing me to gasp for breath.  Was he breathing?  I slowly turned and gently placed my hand on my husband’s back.  The slow rhythmic breathing calmed me just a little.  Now my thoughts raced toward my son in the next room.  I knew logically that he was just fine, but the terror inside me drove me out of my bed and to his room to check once more.

Just days before I had experienced my third miscarriage, and now a gripping fear of losing the two people I loved most in life was closing in on me.   While the other two miscarriages were devastating, this one seemed to knock the wind out of me.  How could this have happened again?

Could I trust God anymore?  That was really the question on my heart.  I had lost my first husband at 20 in a horrible accident, endured years of heart wrenching infertility, and now the loss of three babies.  What would stop life from ripping away everything else I held dear?

I grappled with this question over the next two days until, crumpled on the floor weeping, I realized that the only safe place to be was in the hand of God.  The loss of anyone or anything in this temporal world would forever be out of my control.  I could choose to walk away from God and try to control my life and everything in it to no avail or I could place my life in God’s hands and know that even if I lost everything I hold dear, He would still have me safely in His care.

A peace washed over me like I had never before experienced.  The fear that had held my heart so tightly the past few days lost its grip, and a new-found calm and confidence replaced its choking squeeze.  I wasn’t any safer physically from life’s tragedies than I had been before, but I was spiritually and emotionally safe for eternity.

Isaiah 43:1a-3b

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

God has been faithful to this promise towards me.  Since those many years ago when I placed my life into the loving hands of Jesus, I’ve walked through waters that did not wash over me and fires that did not burn me.  I’ve lost five more babies to miscarriage since that time; eight in all, said goodbye in this physical realm to my sweet daughter who lost her battle with a muscle disease, and faced some other big life challenges along the way.  Throughout them all I have felt His loving hand comforting me, guiding me, and upholding me.

God doesn’t promise us that He will keep us from the waters and the fire, but He does promise He will walk us through them and keep them from overtaking us and destroying us.  We have to trust that the One who created and formed us is the One who redeems us and calls us His own.  He’s invested in us.

I’ll be honest; it hasn’t been easy staying in His hands. For some reason I keep trying to jump out and keep things safe myself, only to realize that this is futile, and I quickly march myself back into the palm of His hand instead of dangling precariously on the fingertip. It has to be a conscious effort for me. I have to decide to do it daily and sometimes moment by moment, but it is the only safe place to stay when the waters rage and the flames lick at my life threatening to set me ablaze.

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What Are You Thinking?

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Raising kids in a multi-media smorgasbord society is hard.  Especially when they are 11 and 12 and much more tech savvy than I am.

Trying to police what they watch, listen to, and interact with can be daunting.  Gone are the days of Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies as the only thing to watch after school.

Why am I so careful about this? Because I know that what they constantly think about and fill their minds with will affect their actions.  It will affect the way they see the world around them, and will ultimately play the biggest role in the kind of people they turn out to be.

So, as I studied Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” It began to sink in that the same things I so carefully pay attention to with my children need to be at the forefront of my attention for me as well.

I’ve read this verse many times, and on the surface always thought it was saying to keep my thoughts positive and clean.  Of course, anytime we dig deeper into a verse we find that it means so much more than what we see on the surface, and sets a standard that is impossible to keep without God’s help.  That’s why I’m so relieved the prior verse promises us that God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ with His peace that surpasses all understanding.

But verse 8 is telling us what we should be setting our minds on.  It’s a choice of our will to do it. This is important because there are a million things, that don’t fit the bill, vying for our attention every day.

Whatever is true. This is a very important one.  This one statement sets up every other thought we have. As Christians we should know that the only standard for what is true is the Word of God.  What we think, our opinions, values, and philosophies on life must line up with the Word of God.

It’s so easy to hear something and say, “Yeah that seems right.” It sounds good to us. Maybe something seems unfair or unjust, so we jump on the band wagon of cultural opinion and take it in as our view of the matter.  The problem is if it opposes the Word of God, then it isn’t true.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” –Proverbs 14:12

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 54:9

God is clear; we don’t think like He does. The great thing is, He lets us in on how He thinks in His word.

I believe that Paul was exhorting us to make these things a part of who we are and not just a thought that flies through our minds here and there or a positive thinking mantra we have.  This way of thinking should impact us in such a way as to become a part of who we are.

When that happens then our thoughts will become our actions, and respect, integrity, kindness, excellence, and anything else that is worthy of honor and praise will seep into our character. That is when we can begin to make the impact on our world that Jesus is sending us out to do.

So…..

What are you thinking?

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Choices

ForkintheRoad

Our lives are filled with a multitude of choices every day. Do I hit the snooze one more time or get up now? What will I wear? What will I eat? What route do I take to work; the toll road or the main roads? If it is a Starbucks morning, then the decision is made; the main roads.

Choices move our life forward. We have to make them, but they can’t be all our life is about.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am called to a higher purpose than a life devoted to my physical well-being. A life filled with concern over what I may gain or lose and how future events are going to affect me.

In Matthew 6:32 Jesus tells us that unbelievers run after those things, and our heavenly Father knows that we need them.  Then in Matthew 6:33 He exhorts us – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Seek first – We are to pursue with diligence, attain awareness and understanding, perceive keenly above everything else we do.  It should be our highest priority.

What?

His kingdom – the sovereign rule and reign of God.  That means we set our highest priority to having God as our sovereign ruler and His word as our standard.  We can’t allow society’s ever changing standard and ideas to be our guide.

and

His righteousness – the English usage of righteousness means “uprightness” or “conformity to an established norm”, but true biblical righteousness is about covenants and relationships. “His righteousness” is about being in a covenant relationship with God. It’s about what God does in fulfilling His covenant through Jesus.  It isn’t about us behaving in a certain way, because man’s established norms change all the time throughout cultures and times. God requires righteousness to come into relationship with Him, and so He imparts His righteousness to us through our faith in Jesus Christ.

And all these things – The whole 6th chapter of Matthew talks about what “these things” are.  Every generation of man needs food, clothes, security, and reward or recognition for his hard work. God knows that we have these needs.  He isn’t saying that we shouldn’t have them or need them, but He is making it clear that we aren’t supposed to worry about them all the time. Jesus contrasts them by pointing out that we can seek all these things for our own selfish gain or use them to care for ourselves and bless others.

Will be given to you as well –If we allow Him to rule our lives and trust Him, then we won’t have to worry about whether our true needs will be met. God promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus – the covenant and relationship thing again. But, best of all, He provides a higher purpose – fellowship with Him and being part of His kingdom.

When I became a Christian, I made the choice to answer God’s call to follow Him and do His will.  I fulfill that choice or deny that choice every day through what I seek after. It’s always a choice.

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Conform or Transform?

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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. ~Romans 12:2

Sammy inched his way into the big meeting.  The other caterpillars had assembled there as well.  He waited in anticipation to hear the good news that had been buzzing around the grove all week.  Now he watched as a majestic butterfly floated up to the podium.

“It is with great pleasure I come to you today, sent by the Creator to tell you of His great plan for you,” the butterfly said joyfully.  “He wants you to know that you have been created for a new life; a life that, if you will allow Him to, will transform you from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.”

A gasp spread through the crowd.  Whispers of, “What did he say?” and “That is just crazy,” filled the room.

“No, it isn’t crazy talk, it is true,” the speaker replied.  “You have been created for good works, to help prepare the fields for a big harvest.”

After the speaker had finished all he had to say, Sammy sat there stunned.  Could it be true?  It sounded like such a wonderful story, and his heart was racing.  Some of the other caterpillars were already leaving shaking their heads and making fun of what the big butterfly had said.  Others were huddled together excitedly talking about the big transformation day.

What was Sammy to think? He longed to be a beautiful butterfly spreading his wings and floating on the afternoon breeze.  He felt it deep inside, growing with every moment; a knowing that what he had heard was true.  Even though it sounded strange, this wasn’t the first time he had heard about this.  He had heard others talking about it, and butterflies telling of their former days as caterpillars.  He knew he believed.

The following days were busy and friends gathered together to discuss how to make this metamorphosis happen.  They shared wonderful books telling them about the Creator’s instruction book.  Some of the caterpillars started reading the Creator’s book for themselves.  They read other books to help them understand the Creator’s book, but mostly they just read His book.

These caterpillars began to build a cocoon separating themselves from the typical life of the other caterpillars.  Some of the other caterpillars laughed at them, and thought they were being judgmental and mean no matter how much the cocoon caterpillars tried to explain that they were just trying to follow the Creator’s plan.

Some caterpillars listened to others who thought they had a great plan for changing.  These caterpillars ended up painting their body’s different colors and trying to build wings.  Some had tried to jump from the high branches and wait for their wings to sprout, but nothing had happened, and many had gotten hurt.

Sammy was in a group of caterpillars that believed the cocoon caterpillars were taking it just a little too far.  Even though the cocoon caterpillars encouraged him to read the Creator’s book, he thought it was boring, and he just didn’t have the time to read it.  It seemed so old fashioned, with lots of stories of caterpillars from long ago and their change, but he couldn’t really see how that affected his life today.

Sammy enjoyed reading the books written about the Creator’s book.  They were exciting.  The only problem was that they could also be a little confusing because some books said that the Creator meant this, and others said he meant something else.  It was hard to tell which one was right.

Time was passing quickly, and a lot of Sammy’s friends were already completely wrapped in their cocoons.  His friends that believed, but only read what other’s said about the Creator’s plan, were beginning to wonder why they believed in the first place.  Many were longingly looking at the lives of the caterpillars who hadn’t believed at all.  They seemed to be having fun. They weren’t reading and studying.  They weren’t trying to change. They hadn’t spent all their time trying to feel or work their way into becoming a butterfly.

Sammy had to make a decision, and he had to do it quickly.  There wasn’t much time, he could just feel it.  The majestic butterfly had said that transformation day was coming.  He could follow what the Creator instructed him and become a butterfly or he could do what he thought best and stay a caterpillar.

Sammy really wanted to be part of the big harvest.  He really wanted to have the life the Creator had promised.  The only way he could do that was to become a butterfly.  So, Sammy took out the Creator’s Instruction Book and began to read.

As he read, a cocoon began to form around him.  He realized that what others saw from the outside as a wall that looked like judgment, from the inside was a place of rest and safety from the harsh world outside.  It was a place where the Creator spoke beautiful things into his heart.  He could already feel the transformation beginning.

The cocoon was getting way too tight.  He whispered to the Creator, “Is it time?”

“Yes,” the Creator whispered back to Sammy.  “You are ready.”

Sammy slipped from the cocoon into the cool afternoon breeze.  His wings unfurled and a gentle gust pulled him into the air. The beauty of the fields below was breathtaking.  From deep within his heart he heard the Creator say,

“Go, Sammy, now you are ready to do what I created you to do.  You now know what my will is – my good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

We are not to conform to the pattern of this world, but neither are we to try to conform ourselves to the Christian life.  We are to be transformed by renewing our mind with the Word of God and fellowship with our Lord.  Only then can the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit make us into the new creature we are called to be.

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Prayer Pocket

Psalm 17:6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.

I’ve heard it said that we pray only as much as we believe it will do any good. There are also those who see prayer as a final resort — okay, I’ve done everything I know to do, I guess all that’s left is to pray.

My great-aunt Hattie believed in prayer. Everyone knew that if you had a need just tell Aunt Hattie, and she would be praying. She wore an apron everyday. In one of the pockets on her apron she kept pieces of paper with people’s names and their needs written on them. Throughout the day she would stick her hand in her pocket, wrap it around those pieces of paper, and lift up a prayer. She called it her ‘Prayer Pocket’. I believe her prayer pocket was a tangible connection between God and those needs. Each day, several times a day, they were lifted before the throne of grace and mercy; brought boldly there to receive God’s answer by a woman of prayer.

I want to be a connector from earth to heaven. I want to be a woman of prayer, to persevere in prayer and see the hand of God move for the people and things I pray for. I want a prayer pocket in my heart. A place where I keep the needs of those around me, and lift them up to the Lord throughout the day – a tangible connection with God.

So how do I do that? Where do I start? My ‘One Word’ for this year is Seek. I don’t want to just seek answers to my prayers, I want to seek God, and in finding Him I know all the answers I ever need will be there.

My first step was to define Seek: To make a search or inquiry/to attain awareness or understanding. To perceive keenly – extreme perception. Yes, that is what I wanted; to have an extreme perception of God.

Now I just needed to find the right scripture to meditate on daily to help me keep my focus where it needs to be. In my search through the scriptures that had the word seek in them, I couldn’t find the one that really resonated with the depth of what I wanted. Then, while talking to my sister about one she was memorizing from The Amplified Bible, I found it.

Philippians 3:10-11 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

I know what grabbed me was the phrase ‘For my determined purpose is’. That was it! It had to be my determined purpose to seek God, to know Him intimately, to have an extreme perception of Him. I couldn’t do any of that without prayer. I had to talk to Him; connect with Him.

Could I do it? Would I fail?

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

No, I will not fail to seek Him. Not because of my strength or my ability, but because of His strength and His ability. I will not fail because He is seeking me.

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