TBT: #Blessed

Last Sunday, our pastor discussed the Beatitudes, pointing out the differences between our culture’s idea of blessing and the statements of blessing our Lord spoke on so many years ago.

A portion of the sermon reminded me of an Advent article I wrote a few years back. While chronologically speaking, this is not the Advent season, I firmly believe for the Christian, every day is Christmas and every day is Easter.

Besides, who knows when the second Advent will be? Thus but also for fun, this link will take you to some throwback thoughts on the word Blessed followed by a prayer similar to the one the Lord has compelled me to pray for my family since Sunday.

Gracious Redeemer, You are the Blessed One and the source of all blessing. Thank You for the privilege of sharing in Your blessings through the sacrifice of Your only Son!

Today I pray for Your Church as I’ve prayed for my family this week; that we will have the blessing of being poor in spirit so we may understand the depth of our need of You.

Teach our hearts to mourn for sin over the darkness in this world as well as to share in the grief of our brothers and sisters. Destroy our arrogance and pride and replace it with profound humility.

Change our desires and appetites so that we hunger and thirst after righteousness and not after worthless pursuits. Guide us in being merciful to others as You have been merciful to us.

Purify our hearts so our desires and the overflow of our hearts are pure before You as well as demonstrating Your purity to others. Show us how to be peacemakers and not contribute to the turmoil and chaos of the global conversation.

And when persecution comes to us, Lord, let us be found faithful to You. Teach us to rejoice over everything that drives us closer to You, even thought it may be exquisitely painful at the time. You are worthy, Lord, and we are Your humble servants, amen.

Blessing

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
(Psalm 63:1-4)

So how are you holding up during COVID Madness? I’m still enjoying having all my family around for the most part. But I won’t lie: I miss my friends. I miss seeing one daughter play tennis, and this weekend, I’ll miss seeing my other daughter’s now-cancelled spring play.

Finances are a bit tight, too. I’d hoped for more chances to substitute at the school while working on this silly book and help out with our expenses -which have increased. And in truth, I’m a bit sick of never being able to keep the house clean.

Even still, I count myself very blessed.

Wild Violet

I am blessed not because life is perfect and my kids have all the opportunities we’ve sacrificed to give them. I’m blessed because I know the Creator of the universe. Because my Lord died to give me access to the Throne of Grace. Because in Christ, I have the astonishing privilege of meeting with the Almighty, of reading His word and talking to Him, every single day.

Each day, I also love to walk in my neighborhood and marvel at the beauty He’s placed all around me. Even the weeds here are pretty.

Even more, though, I marvel that the same God who put such detail in the tiniest of flowers has put the same amount of attention into the details of my life.

Every single thing – from chronic pain and fatigue to the challenges and joys of motherhood; from a childhood of sorrows to a roller-coaster adult life; from the roof over my head to the dirty floor under my feet – all of it, He has used for my good. Preparing me. Changing me. Growing me.

Because He is a good Father, my God has not kept me from hard things in life. Instead, He has used the hard things to teach me more about Himself. To expose my need of Him and to shred my awful pride.

I am blessed not because of what He gives me, but because of who He is. He is my God, my King, my Savior, and my Rock. He is my Reason for doing everything I do. And He is worth it, not because He is the Giver of good gifts. He is the Good Gift.

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Y’all, I am totally in love with the Lord my God. Even now when life isn’t easy and the future is unknown. Truth be told, the future has always been unknown to me. But not to God.

Dwarf Larkspur along a trail

In Christ alone, I have peace. Apart from Him, I not only have nothing, I am nothing. But in His love, knowing that He is my future and my hope, I have Shalom. Peace.

Because His steadfast love is better than life, I will praise Him. No matter what.

Friends, I pray that You will seek Him with all your heart and find Shalom beneath the sheltering wings of the Most High. Even now. Especially now.

Words of Truth

For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. 
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; 
unite my heart to fear your name. 
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, 
and I will glorify your name forever.
(Psalm, 86:10-12)
Miami mist
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are the God of my salvation; 
for you I wait all the day long.
(Psalm 25:4-5)
Daisy Fleabane, pink variety
For you are the God in whom I take refuge; 
why have you rejected me? 
Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; 
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
(Psalm 43:2-3)
White Daisy Fleabane
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules....
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
(Psalm 119:143, 160)
Dutchman’s Breeches
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 
As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 
And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
(John 17:17-19)
Persian Speedwell
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)
Carolina Geranium with Blue Fieldmadder

Father, let those of us who are in Christ be diligent in handling the truth. Let us walk in truth and spread truth. Above all, in a worldwide flood of information where people are needing truth, prompt us to spread Your Truth – the truth of the Gospel and of Yeshua who IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life, amen.

In the Weeds

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; 
be gracious to me and answer me! 
You have said, “Seek my face.” 
My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
(Psalm 27:7-8)

I’ve become obsessed with weeds.

Well, technically, it’s the flowers I’m obsessed with, not the weeds themselves. I’m very blessed to live in an area where social distancing and shelter in place orders are balanced by large yards and plenty of growing things.

Not all of my pals in the blogosphere are so fortunate.

So I thought I’d take a break from my typical Scripture meditations and share some of my favorite bits of Psalms and photos of my recent neighborhood wanderings to brighten things up.

I know a lot of us could use some color in our days. My God must be a fan of color, too. He’s decorated the entire natural world with it. And if He lavishes such detail on the weeds of the field, He will certainly have attention for you.

Seek His face; it is more beautiful even than these…

Closeup of purple dead nettle in flower

Purple Deadnettle is a common front yard weed in my region. It typically blooms in late winter or early spring, often gracing our Middle Tennessee yards in March.

My front yard in mid-March
Field of purple dead nettle near the pond

I’ve seen this weed bloom every spring for the last four decades, but this year I decided to find out more. Besides learning the name, I also learned it is edible! Do a Google search and you’ll find tons of recipes with purple dead nettle as an ingredient.

Apparently it even has nutritional and medicinal properties. I failed to try it out this year, but you can bet I’ll be tossing some in a smoothie or salad next spring. I’m curious about the taste, but alas, my husband mowed before I’d done my research.

The bees seemed to enjoy it, though.

I’ll feature just one more, very similar, early spring weed today. To be honest, before this year, I never noticed there were two lookalikes vying for space. The flowers of henbit are remarkably similar to the dead nettle, but the shape of the plant is very different.

You can see the difference in the leaf structure, though the flowers are remarkably similar. But never fear! Both henbit and dead nettle are edible plants, so just be careful they haven’t been sprayed with herbicide.

I’ll be back soon with another favorite Scripture nugget and some more photos from my suburban adventures. Until then, stay safe and stay sane in the middle of COVID madness!

Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; 
for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
(Psaalm 27:11-14)

A Pandemic Invitation

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my God,"
My times are in Your hand...
Psalm 31:14-15a

How is everyone holding up through this COVID-19 pandemic?

We are doing well here in my corner of the world. Huddled at home but not in fear, enjoying one another and leaning in to God.

This same God, by the way, has faithfully met our needs thus far. Not all of our wants – we are all being required to let go of those these days, huh? But we do not lack anything we need. We have food, water, clothing, and yes, even toilet paper.

He has also supplied joy, peace, and patience as we are compelled to be together almost constantly under one roof, living a different life in April than we could have guessed at in our wildest imaginings at the beginning of March.

Yes, life is uncertain these days; yes, there are shortages; yes, there is a great deal of misinformation and disinformation circulating; and yes, there is a staggering amount we do not know about what will happen.

But allow me to ask a question: How is this different than any other day? Only in our awareness of it. We feel out of control, reeling with uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring.

The truth its, all that’s really been lost is the illusion of control.

Just because a new virus stalks the world does not change this fact, though it has enhanced it. You and I, we never had control over our lives. We simply were surrounded by so much routine, so much accessibility, and so many things obtainable that we weren’t aware of it.

Yet even a month ago when we could pick up toilet paper any day on our way home from work or school, we had no guarantees of arriving home. On any given day, a vehicle accident could rob us of life. Or our hearts could cease to function. Or we could break our necks tripping over stairs as we bring the toilet paper into the house. Or one of dozens of other “what ifs” could happen.

Over sixteen years ago, my life was altered by a virus. Not COVID-19 but viral meningitis landed me in the hospital and triggered a chronic headache condition accompanied by chronic fatigue. And yet, I still do not fear this new threat.

Why? Because I trust in the One who holds my times in His hands. The illusion of control had already been stripped from me only to be replaced by an experience of חֶסֶד (chesed); of the steadfast and unwavering love of the Lord God.

For over sixteen years, He has continually been showing me how good He is, how He can provide, how He does wonders even in the midst of unrelenting pain, how His strength is truly perfect in my overwhelming mental, physical, and emotional weakness.

I not only believe these things to be true, I have lived their truth. I know them like I know my way around my house.

Friend, if you are anxious or afraid, if you feel trapped in uncertainty or by addiction or sin, you don’t have to be. I invite you today to turn it all over to the One who holds our times in His powerful and unchanging hands.

He isn’t asking you to give up control but telling you He is the one who has control, not you.

He isn’t asking you to give up fun but ready to show you true joy and fun are not found in the sin which promises so much and yet produces only temporary pleasure at best, a permanent prison at worst.

He is here in this pandemic, waiting for You to accept the gift of salvation in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ who died to set you free from sin’s clutches.

In Him alone can you find freedom from fear, joy in His presence, pleasure forevermore.

You are invited, friend, but you have to decide: Cling to your illusions? Or trust in the One who made all things and in Whom all things hold together?

Walking With the Lord

How are you doing during this COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine?

I won’t lie – I’m enjoying it. We have all our teens here under one roof, I’m starting to finally catch up on a decades-long sleep deficit, and we are blessed with a large neighborhood to walk in full of all that is blooming and green.

But I know this isn’t easy for everyone. Not all of you are introverts or ambiverts content to have alone time. Not everyone enjoys their family. And many are stuck in apartments and flats far away from anything naturally green.

So let me know how you’re doing. Seriously.

As for me, I’m enjoying another chronological trip through the Word. I’ve been in 1 Samuel the last couple of days. Today what grabbed me was Samuel’s apparent integrity.

At the very beginning of his call to speak for the Lord, God called out to the boy in the quiet of the night and Samuel answered Him.

And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”

1 Samuel 3:10

It’s interesting to note in ancient Hebrew, the word translated “hears” could also be translated “one who hears,” making his reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is one who hears.”

The root of this Hebrew word is the same root in the beginning of the Shema where it is translated, “Hear!”

In both the Shema command for Israel to hear and Samuel’s reply that he hears, the word does not merely refer to the physical action of soundwaves starting a chain vibration through the eardrum, malleus, incus, and stapes into the cochlea and then to the vestibulocochlear nerve.

In both cases, there is an implication of hearing with an attitude of readiness for action to what was heard. So when Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears,” he meant something like, “I hear and obey.”

It’s my prayer that if God calls out to us during the relative quiet of quarantine, we will answer Him with ears to hear as well.

Fast forward to the time Samuel appointed Saul king over Israel.

“Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.”

They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”

1 Samuel 12:3-4

In this passage, Samuel is virtually handing off the government of the people to the newly appointed king. By her own request Israel is making the transition from theocracy to monarchy, and Samuel’s role is changing, too. Until this point, he had spoken for God directly to the people. He will now speak for God mostly to the king.

Wouldn’t it be something to be able to stand before a nation and ask them Samuel’s question only to have them answer with a testament to your faithfulness?

Again, I pray that the Lord will make us faithful in our integrity to others as Samuel was in his integrity before the people of Israel in the days before the first king.

Now if only the people of God kept a familiarity with the Scriptures, they would’ve known the standard their new king should be held to (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Hmm… seems there may be a lesson and a prayer for us in there, too…

Overwhelmed

TBT: I won’t normally post this many times in a week, but a teaching in my Wednesday night Bible study (now meeting virtually) reminded me of this…

Running the Race

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
Genesis 32:9-10

Reading through the Old Testament as a new Christian, I remember being overwhelmed by sheer frequency of  slaughter documented in its pages. I knew then that God is good and that His purposes are just, but in those early years I really struggled with the annihilation of peoples and nations that are recounted in the Book.

In more recent years, God has brought me to an even more acute understanding of my sin and His sovereignty than ever before — and that’s…

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