The Fragrance of Life

Have you ever taken a long walk through a beautiful garden? There is really something spectacular about it as you twist and turn through the cultivated landscape. The fragrances along the way fill your senses. Add the over the top scenery of the place and it only adds to an otherworldly experience. Most times, I hesitate to leave such a place.

As I walk through the garden of my life, each friendship adds a different fragrance to the atmosphere around me. Each is one of a kind, unique and can never be duplicated. This past month two of my friends have been transplanted from their earthly garden to their heavenly one and I will miss them both.

One was like a peony, sharing her fragrance with all around her. You couldn’t be in the same room and not notice her. She was beautiful and had a lovely disposition. She stood out with her sense of fashion and platinum blonde hair. Lest one think she was coddled throughout life, her personal history informs us of a different story. She was rejected by her family at seventeen for being a single unwed mother. She was put on a plane and shuttled to a different state to have her baby. Feeling unwelcome, she did not return home for decades. She remained where she had been sent and got an education. She became a nurse and social worker. She was compassionate and non-judgmental; always willing to hear someone’s story and extend a helping hand. She exuded the fragrance of empathy that all partook of in her presence.

The other was more retiring. She was an introvert and was content to stay in the background. Her fragrance was released as she quietly assisted others. Her fragrance was also born of difficulty. Her husband died unexpectedly and she was left with three young children. She returned to school to become an educator and never married again. She was creative and had a knack for decorating the events she attended. She was like a delicate Morning Glory. One would have to sit near her to catch her fragrance but it had a rich sweetness that only those who took time to listen to her would be able to enjoy. She exuded the fragrance of selflessness; a fragrance that is only found in the rarified atmosphere of humility.

As I continue to walk through life, I will miss their fragrance. Each meeting and event won’t be quite the same without the addition of their unique scents. The air will never smell as sweet again and I look forward to the time when I take my first breath of heavenly air. I know I will breathe their scent again and my life will once again be enriched by their presence.

Photo by Jill Wellington. Courtesy of PIxabay.

Resident Evil

The other evening I lay in bed thinking about a horrendous crime that happened. It was on the news nationally and I was thinking about the evil that our society deals with on a daily basis. As I was pondering what was going on in our culture and thinking about how bad things were, I heard three words in my spirit, “Cain and Abel.”

As I reflected on those words, I felt like what the Lord was trying to tell me was that there is evil in the heart of man. It has been there ever since man decided to go his own way and live independently of God. I was reminded of the scripture in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” I don’t know about you, but when I hear those scriptures, I don’t want to believe them about myself. But it’s true, the unregenerate heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked, even mine.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” That’s right, whatever is in our hearts will eventually come out. Jesus was even more clear about it in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” It’s pretty clear. When we are looking for resident evil, we need look no further than our own hearts. People who know themselves well know that any of us could fall into sin at a moment’s notice. None are immune.

Is there any hope for us? Fortunately, the Lord does not leave us in our unregenerate state if we want to change. He says in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Help is right there for the asking. If we want a new heart and new spirit, we must come to the Lord, turn away from our sins, and ask him to come into our lives and give us a new heart. He will be true to his word and do it. After all, that is why Jesus came; to pay our sin debt and give us the opportunity to be born again.

What do you say? How’s your heart condition? Any resident evil there? Are you trying to cover up your evil thoughts and deeds? Doesn’t work, does it? It’s like trying to put lipstick on a pig. But think about it…a new heart is only a prayer away. You just have to ask.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Forgiveness Comes Before Freedom in the Dictionary – Redux

Remember when you were in grade school and your teacher was teaching you how to use the dictionary? You worked on papers where you had to decide which word came first. You would receive your paper and there would be rows of words, two at a time, and you had to circle the word that came before the other word in the dictionary.  Let’s say the two words were: forgiveness and freedom. Which word would you circle? Forgiveness; of course, always comes before freedom in the dictionary. Just as it is in the dictionary, so it is in life. Forgiveness always comes before freedom. Throughout our lives, we receive many offenses from people, some large and others minute. We have two choices when we are in a position where someone has offended us: 1. We can either choose to hold on to the offense or 2. We can forgive.

Forgiveness can be a very difficult thing to give in our lives, especially if someone has hurt us deeply. Our tendency is to want to hold on to the hurt and nurse it. After all, we have been wronged. The problem with this attitude is that the unforgiveness that we carry does not necessarily harm the other person; it only harms us. We are a container and when we hold on to an offense, it is like a toxic substance inside of us. The toxic substance does not do our bodies or our minds any good, only harm. 

When it comes right down to it, forgiveness is a choice. We must choose to forgive those that have done us wrong. When we do that we become free of the offense. Is the process instantaneous; we forgive and then we are free? Sometimes, but not usually. Forgiveness is a process. We choose to forgive, and then we begin to walk it out. The memory may come to mind again and again, but each time we say, “I choose to forgive that person; I am not going to carry this around with me anymore.”  Over and over, the process repeats, until at some point, the memory fades and that offense no longer has power over us.

You will say to me, “But you don’t understand what so and so has done to me.” You’re right, I don’t understand, but the process is the same. Jesus told us a great story about this principle. In Matthew 18, he tells us about a servant that owed a king a great deal of money; by today’s standards, it would be several million dollars. The servant could not pay the debt and the king commanded that the man, his wife and children, and all he had be sold to pay the debt. The servant then fell down and begged him to forgive the debt. The king relented and forgave the servant of the entire debt.

The servant then went out from the king and found someone who owed him several thousand dollars.  He took the man by the throat and demanded the man pay him what he owed him. The debtor begged the man to have compassion on him and he would pay him what was owed but the servant would not show mercy. He had the man thrown into prison. Soon it was reported to the king what the servant had done to his debtor. The king then called the servant and demanded to know why he had treated the other man so harshly seeing that he had received mercy. He then threw the man into prison until all of his debt was paid. The story ends with this admonition from Jesus, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

The point of this story is that we all stand before God owing a great debt; that debt being our sins and trespasses. If we want God’s forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive those who have sinned or trespassed against us. It is a spiritual law of the universe. If we want it, we have to be willing to give it.

You will say to me, “But, you still don’t understand what so and so did to me.” You’re right, I don’t, but God does. 

To do this, we also must understand what forgiveness is not:

1. Forgiveness IS NOT saying that what the person did was not wrong. It was wrong and nothing will change it.

2. Forgiveness IS NOT saying that the person won’t have to make restitution for what they did to you. They still may owe a debt to society and may need to go through the judicial system. 

Forgiveness IS you releasing them from the wrong they committed against you. They are still responsible before God and society for what they did. You no longer have to live in a prison of hate or despair over their actions. You can be free from them.

You see, in life, just as it is in the dictionary, forgiveness always comes before freedom. 

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

Survive or Thrive?

Recently, my husband and I watched several episodes of Season 7 “Alone” on the History Channel. We then skipped to the end to find out who won. The man who made it the longest out in the forests of British Columbia had an amazing set of skills. Once he was dropped off, he made a shelter that was well constructed. He was able to shoot a deer with his bow and he built a smoke house to process the meat. When the meat ran out, he built a trap line. Not only was he able to survive 73 days in the wilderness alone, he seemed to thrive for the majority of his time there. The other contestants had some of the skills he had, but none seemed to have all of the skills he demonstrated.

I thought about what might be coming down the pike for all of us. Will there be energy or food shortages? I have been watching Europe and I don’t know if what is happening there is a harbinger for what is coming to the United States. What kind of skills will we need if things indeed do get difficult here? On the practical side, it wouldn’t hurt to know how to grow a garden and we should definitely think about alternative forms of energy for our homes.

On the mental and emotional side, as believers in Jesus Christ, we should be working on our skill set now so that we are able not only to survive in a difficult economy but to thrive. The first thing we will need to do is to keep our eyes on the Lord, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 We must also know the word of God so that we will not fall prey to every rumor we hear, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119: 105. We need to learn to depend upon the Lord for our sustenance (even if at the moment we have plenty of money), “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4: 19 One of the hardest skills to develop is the ability to hear the Spirit’s voice. In this world of constant activity and noise, we will need to be intentional if we are going to take time to hear what the Lord is saying to us. Even Jesus was intentional about spending time with the Father so He could hear His direction. “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He (Jesus)went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Mark 1: 35

I don’t know about you, but I know that I need to be working on my skill set. I want to be able to depend on the Lord and hear His direction in a better way. I want to know the word so that I am not led astray. (I can’t tell you how many hundreds if not thousands of emails were circulated this past weekend telling everyone that the Rapture was going to happen this past Tuesday.) And for sure, I know that I need to spend more time in prayer and learn to keep my spiritual eyes on Him.

What other skills do you think we are going to need if things get difficult economically? I would love for you to add to the discussion!

Image by Rasto Volansky, Courtesy of Pixabay.

Resilience

Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness.” Oxford Languages

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were listening to a man who had been on the History Channel’s Alone series. He had made it 43 days alone out in the forests of British Columbia. He talked about how he made it and he stressed that most of all, it depended on a person’s mental outlook. He said that resilience was the most important quality a person could have in that kind of a difficult situation.

He also talked about how he had planned what he was going to do when he was dropped off in the woods alone. Then came the shock after he was dropped off. Nothing was like he thought it would be. That’s when the resilience kicked in. He had to get over his shock and quickly adapt to his surroundings.

I thought about what he said a lot. I thought about many believers who are convinced that there will be a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. I have been in groups where people are talking about what might happen in the future and they say, “I don’t have to worry about anything, I won’t be here.” They are so convinced that they have a handle on what their future will be like that they won’t entertain any other possibilities.

To quote Joel Richardson, “I find that to be a problem pastorally.” If perhaps the Rapture doesn’t happen at the time they think it will, what will they do? Will they be in shock and have a difficult time adjusting to their new reality? Will they think they have been duped by the teachers that have taught them this theory without giving them the caveat that perhaps it could happen a different way?

I have been concerned about this for a long time. No one knows the day or hour of Christ’s return for His church. We should all be ready at any time. But we must not be so foolish to think that we may never go through any difficulty or persecution before He comes back. Only those in the American church are so cavalier as to believe such nonsense. When you speak to Christians in other countries, especially those in the 10/40 window, they are concerned about sharing the gospel and living for Christ today. They already face persecution and many difficulties unlike we in the west do. Let us not live with a false sense of security. We need to be resilient and tough regarding the future for no one knows for sure when the Rapture will take place.

Photo by Svklimkin. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Farewell Patricia

“OVER AND OUT”

My dear friend, Patricia, found out she had inoperable cancer about three weeks ago. She put it on Facebook so that her friends and family knew. Her hubby asked people to come for short visits as they had put her on hospice.

A friend and I went a few days later. She was upbeat and wanted to share some things about her life with us. There were no tears from either side, hers or ours. Instead, there was a peaceful acceptance as we prayed together for the last time.

People came that first week and then she had difficulty talking as her lungs continued to fill with fluid. She posted short notes on Facebook and then a few days later turned off her phone. She continued to post on Fb and then about ten days ago came her final post. Her last words to us were “Over and Out.”

I can’t tell you how that post comforted me. She knew she was passing into the arms of Jesus and was ready to go. It took about ten days until she finally took her last breath. The woman lived a life of love and in the end she went fearlessly into the next life. Farewell, Patricia. I will miss you but you will always be a shining example to me.

Photo by Gerd Altman. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Good vs. Saved

“Good people don’t go to heaven, saved people do.” Skip Heitzig

Billions of people on earth are busy doing good works in order to get to heaven. They are doing things such as fasting, following religious traditions, giving alms, feeding the poor, going to church, etcetera. They are trying their hardest to be good enough so that when they die, they can go to heaven.

The problem with this approach is how do you know when you have done enough to get in? Do you think that God puts all of our good works on one side of the Celestial Scale and our bad deeds on the other side and then if the good ones outweigh the bad, we are admitted into heaven?

The problem with this kind of thinking is that our good works are not quantifiable. How much do we have to give in order to have really done a good work? Does showing up for church or at the local temple qualify as a good work? Do we get credit for being nice to our family or those who love us? Who’s keeping score and when do we know when we have done enough?

I spoke to a person a while back and we were talking about good works. He certainly had given more to the needy than most people and I’m sure he hoped that would count for something when he stands before the Lord. He was raised in church but somehow had forgotten about Jesus. So, I asked him, “If we can get to heaven by doing good works, why did Jesus have to come to earth to die for our sins?” He didn’t have an answer to that.

The answer to that question, is by way of inference, that of course we can’t get to heaven by our own good works. That is exactly why Jesus had to come to earth because none of us is good enough or can do enough good works to get into heaven. Someone had to pay the price for our sins in order to secure our way into heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3: 16-17

Are you trying as hard as you can to be good enough for God? Are you doing good work after good work in order to be accepted by Him? Why don’t you take a step back and take a good hard look at Jesus. Can you see that He is the only One that can get you where you want to be when you die? Let me know if this is a new thought for you.

The Eyes of Faith

Have you ever been praying for someone and you only see them as they are? Maybe they are making a bunch of mistakes. Perhaps they are sabotaging themselves at every turn. Their behavior has made you think of them and react towards them in a certain way. We seem to be locked into seeing them in a negative light and we treat them accordingly.

Perhaps we need to take some time and think about how the Lord would like their lives to be. What would that look like? If we can come up with a positive picture of them in our minds, then perhaps we can pray for them that way. We would be seeing them with the Eyes of Faith. Faith that when God intervenes in their lives, their lives will look much different.

The amazing thing about this is that when we can do that, we begin to treat them differently. We begin to treat them with more respect and we are not so negative towards them. We speak to them about the possibilities in their lives and try to help them see a different future for themselves.

When they can see themselves in a different light, it helps to dispel their negative self-image and sometimes they can believe in themselves again. People who are caught in a negative cycle of behavior have lost hope for themselves and their actions may just become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is there someone you need to begin to look at with the Eyes of Faith? I know there is in my sphere. Remember the Scriptures say, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Hebrews 11:1 Let’s hope for the best and see those caught in a negative spiral with the Eyes of Faith. It just may help change their world.

Image by Daniel Hannah. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Flip the Script

The other evening, I couldn’t sleep. I began to pray for a member of our family that keeps making mistakes over and over. As I prayed for him, I talked with the Lord about the things he kept doing. Eventually, about 1:00 A.M., I fell asleep. The next morning, when I woke up I was discouraged and didn’t know why. I thought about it and realized that I had been focusing on the mistakes this person kept making. I could see I needed to flip the script.

I then remembered Ruby, a friend of mine, who would say, “Don’t pray the problem!” I looked back at the evening before and that’s pretty much all I had been doing. So what should I do instead? I prayed about it. The first thing I needed to do was to get my eyes off the person and his problems and place them on the Lord.

I spent that day focusing on the greatness of God and his ability to answer my prayers. After all, He created the universe. He keeps the stars fixed in the heavens and the planets spinning in alignment. Surely, He has the ability to help solve the problems that concern me. Psalm 113: 4-6 says, “The Lord is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” Clearly, our God has the power to answer our prayers.

That evening after thinking about the greatness of God, I felt the Lord nudging me to be thankful for the things He had done for me. He reminded me of the time when I could have accidentally killed my brother. He was not even injured after the incident. My entire life would have been ruined had I hurt my brother, but God in His mercy, prevented that from happening. He also reminded me of the times He protected me during the years when I was not living for Him. Psalm 118: 1-2 says: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Surely, I could see how God had been merciful to me and that He would be merciful to my relative.

The last thing I was reminded of is to be careful where I put my faith and focus. The Lord instructs us in His word to believe that He can and will answer our prayers. The disciples had been trying to cast out a demon and they were unable to. Jesus showed up on the scene and cast it out. The disciples wanted to know why they had failed. In Matthew 17: 20 Jesus answered, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Again, even though this problem seemed impossible to solve, the Lord was reminding me that nothing is impossible for Him.

So the next time you become discouraged in prayer, flip the script and remember Ruby and her advice, “Don’t pray the problem!” Place your focus on the Lord, His greatness, His mercy, be thankful and have a little faith in Him. He can do anything!

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

Intentional

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were watching a historical movie about WWII. The movie was going great and then Bam! Someone threw in a vulgar expletive. A while later, in an especially relevant part of the movie, the beginning of a sex scene between two men was flashed on the screen. When the movie ended, I asked my husband, “Why do they have to put that stuff in? After all, it is not relevant to the story.

I then remember listening to David Heavener about a month ago. He is an actor, writer and director who has been in Hollywood for over twenty years. He talked about how the writers are intentional about what they put into the scripts. There is nothing that they put in that is not purposeful to their aims. If they want to promote an agenda, you will find it in the script somewhere.

So then, I began thinking about many of the problems we are facing in our society today…how many of them are intentional?

The Border Crisis…Intentional.

High Gasoline Prices…Intentional.

Sexualization of our Children in Schools…Intentional.

Criminals Released on our Streets…Intentional.

Chaos in our Cities…Intentional

The list continues. One thing I don’t think is intentional is the high inflation that our government’s policies have caused. Let us not be naive as we wonder why so many things are happening in our society. The causes and subsequent effects of so many of the policies are intentional. You have to ask yourself why and behind the smoke and mirrors, you will find the answers.

Image by Intographics. Courtesy of Pixabay.