Don’t Lose Sight

What a season it has been. 

A virus, unseen to the naked eye, wreaked havoc on all mankind for almost the entire year.

Drastically affecting one of the most natural things often taken for granted in our world, fellowshipping with one another.

Even the greatest introvert, who adores solitude, has missed having the ability to stand quietly near strangers in this season.

And as for the extroverts, well… all the social distancing has just about pushed them over the edge entirely.

Yet here we are. 

With our masks and face shields, goggles and other protective, distancing gear.

We are here, not all but most.  

We are here, fully alive in a completely upside down world.

Cures are being considered, vaccines created and yes, in time this too shall pass.

But as of today, while we are here, in the thick of it all, tired of it all, remember these three simple words: Don’t Lose Sight.

Don’t lose sight of goodness, hope, gratitude, purpose, love, kindness, faith, truth.

Don’t lose sight of God.

Just because “our normal” stopped existing, doesn’t mean God did.

In fact, with the ways of mankind coming to a screeching halt in 2020 perhaps our Divine Creator was simply giving each of us the time to reset, regroup, refresh and refocus on Him for a brand new season ahead.

Pure Worship

A spirit of pure worship doesn’t usually flow from me with the sound of music the way it does for others.  Many lovers of God lose themselves completely in faith-filled lyrics and in instruments of praise. But not me.

Sometimes it comes across as a distracting noise for me.  Not every time, but most times.  Witnessing from a distance the intimate connection that transpires for others when a piano key tings or guitar strings vibrate has caused me question my worship.  What is wrong with me, am I defective? 

Scribbling in my journal one afternoon, feeling exceptionally content, it hit me.  Music may not bring out pure worship in me, but let me sit down to jot a line or two of inspiration, or grab a paint brush and produce expressive  art across a blank canvas, or use my hands to sprinkle glitter on glue and suddenly my spirit, my inner being, instantaneously connects with God.

Should my artistic expression come out exceptionally hideous it would not matter.  There is simply something about a quiet creative moment that draws me close to my Creator.  I sense His presence and feel the warmth of His Face shining upon me in a very real way.   Sensing His presence in those moments, causes my very soul to respond in the way that many others do with music–pure worship.

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24

You Were Created to Fly

“For we are God’s Masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
By Monica Cane

Three years ago my husband took me to Pets Mart to pick out a young parakeet for my birthday present. This was a huge deal because I had been bugging him about buying a bird for at least ten years with no luck. I can’t say the reason for the change of heart. Perhaps ten years of requesting the same thing wore him down or maybe his heart suddenly softened toward our fine feathered friends. Whatever the reason, my husband surprised me that year with the gift of a tiny yellow birdie which I named Lemon.

I made Lemon a nice home in a cage filled with bells, toys, ladders and treats and placed the cage in our living room, so he could be a part of our daily family noise which he seemed to enjoy judging by his birdie chirps.

Once when I was cleaning Lemon’s cage outside my husband called my name. When I turned to see what he wanted the bottom of the bird cage suddenly fell off. Instantly, Lemon flew up and over our house and landed in a tree in our backyard. Fortunately, I was able to climb the tree and rescue him and then made sure to put extra clips on the bottom of the cage so there wouldn’t be another birdie-jail break.

Overtime I noticed that Lemon wasn’t chirping quite as much as he once had and so I decided to give him a change of scenery. I placed his cage on a table next to flourishing herb plants and dwarf fruit trees in our patio and apparently being closer to a natural bird environment was exactly what Lemon needed. He was back to chirping, squawking and singing especially whenever he heard the free birds in the area chirping along as they flew by.

A few days ago, I began my usual routine of cleaning the bottom of Lemon’s cage outside while he watched from inside his cage on his perch. I sprayed a little water above him so he could take a bird bath but what I didn’t realize is that one of his cage doors had caught on a toy and been partially open the entire time he’d been sitting on the perch. As soon as the water touched his feathers Lemon flapped his wings and tumbled out of the open door.

He lopped in the air for only a brief moment as if unsure as to what happened and then quickly realized he was free. Immediately he flapped his wings with vigor, raised-up and allowed the wind carry him. This time Lemon didn’t head toward our backyard instead he flew above and beyond the houses next to us. It all happened so fast that before I could shout, “Lemon Wait!” He was gone.

I scoured the nearby area, made chirpy noises, put out seeds and turned on my water fountain in hopes of drawing Lemon back home. Realizing the odds of finding him, I mumbled, “Why did he have to fly away, God?”

Instantaneously a truthful thought was impressed upon my heart. Without my knowing the door had been opened to the cage the entire time I was cleaning it but Lemon didn’t realize that freedom was available to him. That’s a lot like us. We often sit on our own perch without a clue as to the freedom God has given us through His son, Jesus. (Galatians 5:1)

Once Lemon did realize he was free, he flew like he meant it. In fact, he flew the way God created him to fly.
I don’t know the outcome for Lemon but what I do know is that he flapped his wings and allowed the wind to lift him higher and in turn accomplished what God created him to do.

The same is true for us. As children of God, we must allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to take us to a higher place, to help us understand our purpose in God’s plan so that we too can spread our wings and fly the way God created us to do.

God Gives Fresh Starts

God, make a fresh start in me. Shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.—Psalms 51:10

I’m the type of person who likes consistency.  I like to make plans then implement them so I can maintain a steady flow to my daily routine.  Like a creature of habit I’ve developed a regular way of doing things.   For the most part, I use one of three favorite cups for my morning coffee, I sit on the same side of the sanctuary at church every week, I usually take the same route to work, or school and I like shopping at the same store to mention a few regularities.  Because of my need of consistency, I follow a specific pattern as a way to bring comfortable evenness to my life.

On the other hand, I am also very much the type of person who becomes easily bored with the very routines I implement.  The predictability of my life often causes an inner restlessness because while I like consistency, I also long for excitement and change.  Nothing too crazy or wild just a little something that reminds me I’m alive.

One might think it would be easy to balance these two opposing sides, but honestly, it’s not. Wanting to be stable and grounded while at the same time wanting variety and adventure and expecting others around me to understand how I’m feeling during these times even though I don’t, can stir up some heated frustration, causing me to feel like a bubbling volcano ready to blow until both sides of my nature is satisfied.

As expected, I’ve discovered I’m not alone in my feelings.  Many people want the security of an easy going, predictable life yet find themselves unsatisfied and in a whirlwind of chaos because their bored with their routine and long for change but don’t exactly know how to go about it.

King David understood this self-induced chaos in a different yet very similar way.  The King desired to live a secure, solid, obedient life before God, but he too at times became bored.  Although he sought direction from God on many matters throughout his life, at times, the matter of balancing his desire for stability verses adventurous change were left un-prayed for and lead him to follow paths that God never intended.

In Psalms 51, we find David confessing to God about one of these so-called paths.  David had become bored with the routine of his kingly-life and instead of seeking God for positive change; he took matters into his own hands and had an affair with Bathsheba.

Over time he recognized the consequences of his sin, and confessed the errors of his ways.  He then asked God to cleanse him and give him a fresh start, to take the mess he had made out of his life and to create something right and new in which God faithfully obliged.

God will always forgive a person who loses his way if they repent with a sincere heart but wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if when the monotony of our daily routine builds up and we need some excitement that we ask God for a fresh change instead of taking matters in our own hands?

While our struggles with our dual nature of wanting stability and adventure doesn’t necessarily lead us to sin against God, it sure can cause chaos in our lives.  Often when we become frustrated and bored with our daily routine, we begin to take it out on those closest to us. We’re snappy, we’re irritated and some days, downright mean just because we feel like we are in a rut and we need change.

When boredom starts to creep into your life, stop what you are doing and ask God to refresh your spirit.  Ask Him for a new outlook, a personal adventure that is aligned with His will for your life.  Something that will add the spice you long for but will still bring the stability you desire.  God is the one who created both sides of our consistent and radical nature and he knows just how and when to put a fresh wind in our sails while at the same time keeping us on course, if only we ask.

Our Fruit

Sometimes our spiritual fruit falls off doesn’t it?
But Ezekial 47:12 reminds us that time spent with God refreshes our soul and He in turn causes our spiritual fruit to grow once again.

“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow. . . Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them.” – Ezekial 47:12

Strong Winds Can’t Stop Us

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him will bare much fruit.” – John 15:1

I have a peach tree in my front yard and last Spring the entire tree basically produced only two good peaches and they both splattered to the ground before I could ever taste them. Not knowing much about caring for fruit trees, I asked a friend who seemed to be the green-thumb-type what I should do to ensure the tree would produce more fruit this Spring. My friend explained that all the tree really needed was some regular fertilizing, watering and some extra TLC. And that’s exactly was I did from last Spring until now.

I was so excited when I noticed small peach buds beginning to cover the branches recently. Why just the other day, I went to my peach tree, gently touched the many budding peaches on the biggest and main branch of the tree and whispered in my tender-love and care voice, soon the peaches will ripen and I will make tons of peach pie. Then came the wind.

A day after having my brief but intimate conversation with my peach tree, a big gusty wind blew threw town and the next thing I knew, the biggest branch that held many smaller branches, covered with developing peaches broke off the from the tree and was completely damaged.

My heart sank. An entire years worth of extra TLC and the dream of making dozens of peach pies to share with others were gone with the wind. Seeing broken branches, torn bark and scattered green peach buds all over the driveway, I figured all hope was lost.

I was just about to give up on the idea of ever making delicious homemade pies from my own tree when I stopped at the base of the tree and looked up. There, way up high on smaller branches than the one that had broken off, I saw green peach buds. The higher I looked the more peaches I saw. I couldn’t believe!

Despite the main branch being broken off the tree was standing strong and producing much fruit at the top. Sure the tree was injured but it wasn’t stopping it from baring what it was meant to bare–peaches. I tried to count how many there were to figure out if my peach pie dream could continue but there were too many peach buds to count. Again, I whispered in my best TLC voice, but this time I said, Awe, thanks God.

As I wait for the peaches to ripen and my homemade pie baking-fest to being, I think of John 15:1 “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him will bare much fruit.”

When we make God our foundation, even when strong winds blow through our lives and toss us around, like my peach tree, we can still stand strong and bare much fruit because we are rooted in Jesus, our vine.

Know, Love & Pray for Your Enemies

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Mathew 5:44

To love and pray for our enemies can seem like a pretty steep request, don’t you think? After all, when someone we love tramples on our heart or when we are betrayed by a so-called friend, our first reaction is not necessarily to love and pray for them. On the contrary we might feel more inclined to put on a pair of steel-toed boots and give our enemies a nice swift kick, hoping to knock some sense into them.

It’s taken some time but over the years I have come to understand and appreciate the spiritual principles of Mathew 5:44. God’s call for us to love and pray for an enemy in no way excuses the action or behavior that caused them to make it onto our enemy list to begin with. Instead, loving and praying for an enemy allows us to embrace the struggle, rise above it, release any bitter stronghold their wrongdoings may have had on us and begin to heal. It gives God the room He desires to deal with our enemies on our behalf.

Pray for Them

Recently while studying about growing in confidence and overcoming self-doubt, God brought something to my attention that surprised me. Intangible feelings like self-doubt, frustration, anxiety, insecurity and disappointment to name a few, belong on our enemy list as they are enemies of our soul. In fact, these emotional enemies are often a greater detriment to our well-being than any wrongdoing person our enemy list.

I had never looked at it that way but the more I considered this possibility and reflected on how various uncertain emotions have hindered my well-being at times, I realized it was true. To love and pray for our enemy does not just apply to hurtful people but it applies to the emotional enemies of our soul. Fortunately, God has given us the power to recognize and pray for these types of enemies.
For example, when intense feelings of insecurity rise up, it’s not that we are expected to love that feeling, but we can embrace the fact that the feeling of insecurity is present.

We can acknowledge that this emotion belongs on our enemy list and we can pray for that particular enemy with powerful words such as: I may feel insecure right now but “I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.” Romans 8:28.

When that familiar, unproductive feeling of self-doubt shows up we can confront it and pray: I may not believe in myself right now but this is just a feeling and feelings pass. I have no reason to doubt because, I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. Ephesians 1:3-8.

Whether your enemies are hurtful people or negative emotions when you pray for your enemies, your obedience to God’s request will open the door for healing, breakthrough and a beautiful transformation. Now that’s a worthy request, don’t you think?

Want Peace? Cease Striving…

I love reading inspirational quotes. I consider them little nuggets of encouragement that make my day a little bit brighter. When I find one that causes me to laugh or smile, increases my confidence, or reminds me of a positive truth, I almost always have to share it with others. Whether I post it on FaceBook, Twitter, text or email, I just can’t seem to keep inspirational quotes to myself because I know somebody, somewhere will be encouraged when they read the quote just I was.

Because of my love for inspirational quote, recently when I came across a new app that said it would send inspiring quotes directly to my email every morning I couldn’t click, Sign me up fast enough.

Most of the quotes I have received so far have been pretty good at inspiring. They often encourage one to climb to new heights, believe in you and do the impossible. Who wouldn’t find inspiration in that?

However, last week I received a quote that didn’t inspire me at all. As a matter of fact for one brief moment I flinched, twitched and got that crazy look in my eye that I get sometimes when something doesn’t set right with me.

It was only six little words but it rubbed me all the wrong way. The quote, listed as coming from a Greek playwright Euripides (480 BC–406 BC) said, God helps him who strives hard.

When I read those words I had an instant flashback to all the striving I have done over the years. Whether it was as a child, a woman, mom, daughter, friend, employee or Christian, I spent countless hours “striving” for something along the lines of perfection. Quotes like stated by Euripides really made sense to me then. I believed God would help me be better and do better as long as I kept striving.

I am certain I would have spent my entire life striving if it wasn’t for God bringing a familiar scripture to my attention but in a different translation than I had read before. “Cease striving and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 NASB.

For years I had read this scripture in the NIV translation which says it as, “Be still and know that I am God.” I always appreciated the verse and took it to mean that I needed to quiet my mind and trust God and so I strived to do so. But when I read the words, “Cease striving…” well that was downright shocking.

Cease Striving? But striving is what I do God, was my response to reading that translation.

Well do you want to know what the Almighty God of the universe, creator of heaven and earth spoke to my spirit in that moment, in that still small voice of His that is often missed when we’re too busy striving? God spoke to my heart and said, How’s that working out for you?

He got me there alright. All my striving over the years for some measure of perfection in one area of my life or the other hadn’t really worked out at all. Truth be told, most of the time, all it did was leave me exhausted. It wasn’t until I ceased striving so hard in my own efforts and simply chose to have faith in God and follow His way that things changed.

I know that our culture is bent on striving to be the best and do the best and when kept in proper perspective there’s nothing wrong with it. But if like Euripides you start to believe that God will only help you because of all your hard striving, then there’s a problem.

You want God’s help, you want His blessing? Then simply let your hands drop, let go, relax, cease striving and know that He is God and that He will take of you.
Now that and inspirational quote you can count on.