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Thursday, 07 April 2022 16:46

Let Spring Erupt!

Embrace_Spring.png

Each March the chorus frogs song usher in spring.  April arrived and we still haven’t heard our frogs. Spring continues to lay dormant. It is a bit irritating. I like snow in February but not April! So, we wait, because we know it will come. It always comes.

Spring reflects the promise we hold dear, new life. It symbolizes Jesus, our hope of life reborn, not just in heaven be on earth as well. (Matthew 6:10) As we wait, we know even when God appears quiet, He is working. After a dark season, it is important to remember that promise. New life is developing in our mind, soul, and body as we learn to love Him more.

The world has tarnished and dented our designed. The Holy Spirit however is at work resurrecting us back to the initial plan. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” Transformation polishes our imperfections, removing sin's damage from both our soul and spirit. 

Transition is ongoing. Funny how we can see the need to change in others, but we miss our own need for growth. Improvement continues in the process of life, a slow development into Christlikeness. Embrace the process and yield to Him. Be transformed back to His image, our true self, as we were created.

We cry out, "refine us to reflect Jesus." We stretch to react the way He would in each and every situation with humility, love, and truth. 

We wait. We notice it when change is drastic but are frustrated when we don’t see progress. As time and change crawls forward, we need patience. If you are like me, that is hard. I’d rather not see the flaws that remind of the lack of progress. Then I need to go back to my earlier statement, life is a process. Recognize He is good, press into the Lord and let His refining work continue.

The Spirit lives right here, dwelling in us.

Speaking to us.

Molding us.

Changing us.

All while loving us.

We simply respond by listening, yielding to His crafting, embrace the change and love Him back.

Spring is coming. Soon we will see our backyards turn to green, the birds will sing, and the frogs will call. A new season buds, reminding us He makes all things new.  Let spring erupt inside of us, as we witness its return to the world around us. 

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Saturday, 05 March 2022 17:18

Stability

but the godly have deep roots Proverbs 123

As a young woman, I visited a California beach with my cousin, a Golden State native. His goal for the day included teaching me to body surf. He instructed me from the beach convincing me this sport was easy. I entered the churning water with trepidation. Although only in knee deep water, the waves crested over my head. We dove through the waves to get far enough out. In a lull of the crashing water, I turned to the beach to let it carry me in or crash over me.

The first time wasn’t bad; I made it to the beach. Determined to improve, I attempted another run. This time I didn’t quite time it right. The water rotated my body topsy turvy in a moment of panic it became clear I didn’t know the way to the surface. After a bump off the ocean floor, I found myself spit out onto the beach. A few bumps and bruises but no real damage done.

This is exactly what the last two years felt like to me. Some inconvenience but also great loss upon loss. I found myself in grief counseling feeling like my younger self unable to discern which way to the surface. Therefore, my word for the year is STABILITY, picked way back in November before much of the loss occurred.

Circumstance can overwhelm us. It can get to the point where you go through the motions just to survive the day. BUT and this is important, we cannot allow this to become our habit. This is an unacceptable normal. Survival seasons are just that, seasons. They come to an end. Our roots in Christ (Proverbs 12:3) stabilize us putting a halt to the tumbling in our mind and spirit. We need to fight back to enjoyment and a flourishing full life. We continue to say “we can do this. It is fine. It is better. God is with us” and we need to mean it.

I am determined that the difficult experiences of life will strengthen me through God’s grace. I am struck by Ezekiel 47:12 “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.” Throughout Scripture trees represent people. I choose to hold onto this truth God is stabilizing me. He will use the fruit from my experiences as food for others and the leaves for healing.

 

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Tuesday, 01 February 2022 13:51

Reaching Up

Reaching

Reaching Up

Amusement parks are an important part of our family fun. Taking our kids on their first roller coaster ride became a rite of passage. Nervously our middle child waited in line with me. She tried to grasp what this ride entailed, keeping up an excited chatter as we moved slowly forward. As our turn approached, her little hand grasped mine. I promised she would love it.

During the ride, uncertainty dominated her countenance. Her grip on the shoulder harness matched the grimace on her face. Later, I learned her inability to predict the experience overshadowed the ride. Yet, afterwards, she shared her delight and wanted more.

This is how I feel about the last few years. Except, I’m not enjoying the ride. Twists and turns have not brought thrills but pain. With both community and personal tragedies, I’m holding on tight. My ongoing effort to find fun needs to be a healthy adventure. Not to avoid the pain but to invigorate my life again. 

Proverbs 14:13 reminds us “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” I am not seeking fun to conceal my pain. If we do that the pain will fester like an untreated wound. I don’t want a puss filled heart. I know, gross, but we must face the sadness and dissatisfaction to live a life of freedom. When sad moments creep in remember that Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) Enhance your life by facing your grief and releasing it to the Lord.

The Psalmist understood grief. They wrote about it in repeatedly. I love that God allows these emotions to be expressed in His word. It encourages me to know that I am not the only one who felt this way. Psalm 42:5-6 “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” A key to the relief of our despair is worship. Praising God reminds us of who God is and He is in charge. It relieves our stress to know He is always there for us.

We need to ask ourselves the same questions posed by the Psalmist. What is the source of my downcast heart? Am I dealing with a real-life trauma or is this feeling wrapped in my self-worth? When we feel discarded, it can lead to depression. Like our Psalmist friend we need to turn to God in worship. He is not done with us! In trauma, God promises to be with us. Isaiah wrote “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10).

After turning to Jesus, turn to a friend. Confide your struggle to someone you trust. Don’t hesitate to seek counseling if you continue suffer. God provides wisdom and compassion through trained professionals. Healing will come, God desires to give it to you.  God is carrying us; we need to remember to each up and hold on.

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Wednesday, 03 November 2021 13:27

Linked to Last

Struggling to fit rest into my schedule, I turn to activities to distract me, but they don’t fill me. I didn’t recognize it right away, but I know I need a change. There is nothing wrong with distractions like TV, books, and social media but when I turn to them for true rest, they fail.
Sitting still remains hard for me. Friends of mine, sit in God’s presence for hours, soaking Him in. I can emulate this practice, but it takes discipline and that is not always restful. The beauty is we have freedom to seek the Father, through Jesus, in the way we are wired. I love that about God. Today, I started my morning with a hot bath, resting in its warmth and the love of the Father. Tomorrow it will look different, but the point is to seek the rest and just "BE".
The Sabbath was introduced to the Jews in the 4th Commandment, found in the book of Exodus. Scripture reminds us to keep it holy – set apart. We are instructed schedule sacred day of rest.
Over the years, many rules and regulations became associated with this term. That is not the Sabbath I am referencing. Sabbath is a time and place where we can "be" and no longer must go. The word Sabbatical reflects the modern way to Sabbath. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, sabbatical means "of or suited to the Sabbath, bringing a period of rest that occurs in regular cycles." This is our time to be rejuvenated. We are refueled so that we can "go" and do.
During most of the year, my daily mini sabbatical is found in walking. I love this time; it invigorates my body and frees my mind and spirit to pray. The beauty of the nature around me invites me to worship my Creator. The peace in my neighborhood allows me to speak to my Heavenly Father and to hear Him speaking to me.
Rest looks different for different people. I love to walk to relax, my daughter loves to swim. She loves the sensation of the water surrounding her entire body. As the water envelopes her, it limits her senses. The stresses of her life are dampened as her brain no longer receives information from her eyes and ears. She simply feels the comfort of the water and her body relaxes. I love this picture of Sabbath, the water represents the Holy Spirit, who revitalizes and refocuses us. However, we choose to rest, environmental noise decreases as we invite the Spirit of God to surround us. In His presence, we relax, restore, and rejuvenate.
In Jesus’ gentle and humble presence, we are safe (Matthew 11:29). Yes, we receive direction but also, we receive acceptance. I love the idea of seeking this place of security. I am thankful no matter how long we have been away, we can run back to Jesus. Words escape me as I ponder this, oh God that all would know this wonder! Jesus ends this verse with this promise. In this manner, you will find rest. Take a sabbatical with Him. Let the Holy Spirit gently and humbly restore you and He will show you, His rest.

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Tuesday, 19 October 2021 15:01

Love Camp

Love camp

Love has a broad definition. I love my dog, a delightful book, a warm spring day, spaghetti, my husband, and Jesus. I'm pretty sure you can tell, each one of those things I "love" is cherished on different levels.

After thirty years of marriage, the shared love between my husband and I is comfortable. Anchored in security we easily take each other for granted. Tired from life’s stresses, unguarded comments slip out, especially after long days at work. What should we do? Simply put we remember to love and to reflect Jesus in our relationship. I Corinthians 13:13 reminds us “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

A beautiful sentiment easily repeated but difficult to live out, especially in a tense and uncertain season.

Love is a double-edged sword. Untainted it provide the essence of life. Sadly, it also can bring forth the emotions of disappointment, rejection, and pain. Why is love so important to us? Why can't we just throw it aside and plunge into our career, school, or ministry? Simply put we NEED love. As Relational beings, God created us to thrive on unconditional love. Agape love, implanted in us by the Holy Spirit, grows when we nurture it. (Galatians 5:27)

Often isolating this chapter to marriage, we forget 1 Corinthians 13 applies to the church. However, it should be true for all our relationships. Friends, we need to own what is in the chapter of Scripture. To love unconditionally we need to recognize it and imitate it. In 1 Corinthians we find there are two camps. What love is and what love is not.

Camp #1 Love is

Camp #2 Love is not

Patient: implies process

Jealous

Kind

boastful

Loves truth

Proud

Perseveres

Rude

Faithful

Demanding

Hopeful

Irritable

Endures

Record of other wrong

= doing what is right

Rejoices of injustice

You see many of us don’t move into love as a permanent home. We move from one side to the other depending on our situation. We become offended by thoughtless actions or differing opinions. Driven by righting the wrong we move to the “love is not” camp. Acting out of an offense drives us to feel we need to defend God instead of being Christ-like, which requires us to love. 1 John 4:8 tells us "But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." God does not need our defense; he requires our witness to love through difficult circumstances.

So how do we stay in the love camp? We actively and purposefully choose it. We choose to be there. When we find we have wandered or even bolted into the Love is not camp, we ask forgiveness pack up our gear and move back. Circumstances do not dictate our love location. Other’s actions do not dictate our love location. Jesus as our example, reminds us to choose the enduring love in patience, kindness, truth, perseverance, faithfulness, and hope.

I struggle to stay there but today I choose the love camp. Tomorrow I will ask myself where have you pitched your tent? When I recognize my location shifted, I will choose to move.Revive in us the deisre to love LORD! Are you with me?

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Saturday, 31 July 2021 14:38

Beauty Hunting

I learned a new phrase the other day: beauty hunting. It’s active pursuit of discovering beauty in the world around you. Isn’t that great?

Francis Bacon wrote “Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite”. Beauty, in all its forms, inhabits the world around us. Maybe you are stuck and don’t know how to move past the pain of the past year. It’s okay to grieve losses and celebrate beauty at the same time. God promised us beauty for ashes in Isaiah 61, it must be around to find. Looking for delightful moments allows us to peek at the limitless creation around us, and it redirects out minds to hope and restoration.

As a new empty nester, I need some hope and restoration. Actually, the first thing I’m doing is retiring the word empty from empty nest, because empty evokes hopeless emotions. But we are far from hopeless. We are ready to thrive! Transformative nest doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s a better description. There’s a fresh life full of adventure – and beauty – waiting for each of us. For many, life slows down, and you can finally take a deep breath, look around and take in all sorts of lovely things and moments. Beaty hunting!

In this new season of life, I’m looking for fun to rejuvenate my spirit. So, let’s make a game of this. When you are out and about, see if you can observe beauty with all five of your senses. For example:

  • I see an older couple holding hands.
  • I hear the giggle of a child. (Isn’t that the best?)
  • I smell freshly baked bread.
  • I feel the cool breeze after a thunderstorm.
  • I taste the wonder of a pour over coffee.

Beauty promotes joy and elicits wonder, reminding us our creator put good in the world for us to enjoy. Beauty permeates all of life, spilling out of the ordinary. Allow it to seep into your soul and redirect our sensory input from the negative to the positive. Don’t ignore difficulties, but let beauty keep them in balance.

Beauty hunting creates memorable moments in a normal day. Broaden the scope of its impact by describing why something is beautiful to you. What we see as beautiful often comes from experience.  That older couple mentioned above represents resiliency in marriage. They remind me of my parents who shared 57 years together before my dad passed away. Time tested they remain together with a bond that cannot be broken. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s true about that random couple I saw but to me, that’s what they represent. Continue with the list and ruminate on each beautiful observation. Linger over the details.  

Beauty hunting can look however you want. You can do it alone or with a group; it starts great conversations! It can be used when out to dinner and the conversation wanes or on a walk through a familiar neighborhood. Our souls yearn for the lovely in our lives to touch us deeply and produces joy and peace.

Try it and email me your observations! Everyone needs a little beauty.

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Thursday, 01 July 2021 14:55

My name is Victory!

Ephesians 1:13 (ESV) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,Sealed with the promise

Destiny was born to a drug addicted teen and left at the hospital to be placed in foster care. Her little, puffy body struggled as she, too, craved the drugs she received during her prenatal development.

Cindy and her husband were looking to adopt another child. Cindy heard about little Destiny through a chance meeting, but their lawyer said it was unlikely because the baby was born in a different county and the birth mom had given up custody. They left the courthouse downcast and uncertain of the future of their little family. 

Cindy questioned the promise she heard from God; did He indeed have a plan?

Against the odds, they received the call informing them the judge ruled in their favor. They could pick up their baby immediately! Destiny, renamed Victoria, became a permanent member of their family, sealed through the legal action of adoption. Now, 10 years later, she recognizes her own name in Scripture. With great joy she exclaims, “There, that’s me, Victory!”

We, too, can rest assured that God has adopted us into His family. Ephesians 1:11-14 assures that God chose us; Jesus invited us into the family and the Holy Spirit keeps an impenetrable bond. This Holy Spirit’s seal protects us from rejection from God’s family; the adoption is permanent (2 Corinthians 1:19-23). The Trinity guarantees our place in the family. What a delightful assurance for each of us that we have a place within God’s Kingdom — a right to be called God’s child (John 1:12).

Paul knew Roman adoption erased all history of the son when he became a member of their new family. The child did not choose the family, the family chose the child. Often quite wealthy, they chose a child to bear the family name. Forgiven all past debt, the child gained the rights of adopted family. This guaranteed their inheritance and place in Roman society.

The same is true for God's children. God chose us, we accept this adoption through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit inside of us bears witness to this (Romans 8:16). Our debts are forgiven by the promise of the new covenant through the death and resurrection of Jesus (Mark 26-29). Holy Spirit Himself seals us permanently, becoming our guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22).

Paul’s goal in the book of Ephesians is to explain the principles of the gospel. The promise held in place by the Holy Spirit’s seal secures us from Satan. It proves our authentic identity in Christ as we stand before God (John 5:24). It confirms our testimony that we truly belong to God (1 John 4:6), for the Spirit of truth resides in us. This is where our confidence lies, in the deep understanding that nothing breaks this guarantee. This seal is permanent, a mark identifying us as a child of God.

Like Victoria’s name changed, so does ours. We are a symbol of God’s victory over sin and death. My name is Victory!

Prayer: God, we praise You and thank You that You made a way for us to join Your family. Forgive us when we forget that Your adoption is permanent. Thank You for eagerly receiving us when we turn back to You. Thank You for the promise fulfilled by Jesus, and we delight in knowing the seal of the Holy Spirit is on each of us, changing our life course to victory. In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Tuesday, 01 June 2021 20:13

Embrace a Zoe Attitude

 

We volunteer at an inner-city community nonprofit on a regular basis. I love the people, and some are becoming like family. As I planted flowers, some of the neighborhood boys asked to help. Carefully, I showed them how to pull the plants out of the plastic pots. I explained how to pull the roots loose as to better spread in the new soil. Finally, I demonstrated the depth of the hole they were to dig. Two of the boys worked together on planting one plant and decided that was enough.

“What else can we do Ms. Leslie?” They asked

“UH…” at a loss I looked around. I noticed large chunks of dirt clods in the new soil. “Break apart the clods!”

And they did. With great glee they hacked away at the chunks. It was fun to see the boy’s exuberance as they went about their task. As the dirt flew around me, their excitement inspired me to complete my job. The joy of children makes any job fun even with dirt raining down on me.

In John 10:10, Jesus promises to give us life “and have it to the full”. Other Scripture versions use the word abundant for full. Abundance means we have more than we need of something. It is an overwhelming supply. A full to the maximum resource. An abundant life, the “Zoe” in the Greek, is one that is full and vibrant. It is a genuine life that is full of gratitude, one that recognizes that God blesses each of us. These blessings are not necessarily financial or even health but rich in relationship - the joy in knowing that Creator God wants to spend time with me.

After a year of uncertainty, it’s harder to live this way. I realized my daily routine brought security that 2020 upended. Returning to the true source, Jesus, I find that inner joy.

Jesus promises this life to all who follow Him. It is not an event. It isn’t found through service or recreation. It is found through trust in Jesus. No matter the circumstance, God stays with us. Our advocate is standing up for us, walking through it with us, and inspiring us on to do whatever each day holds. This is the Zoe life. The life that is full and genuine. A life that is worth facing each day, knowing that the God of the universe invited us into something greater than ourselves. We are to embrace a Zoe attitude in all we do.

WHAT A GIFT to grasp this way of life, each day recognizing that Jesus relishes living this life with us, the Zoe life promised to us.

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Thursday, 29 April 2021 17:38

Easter shoes showing me the way home.

 

As a little girl, my sisters and I received a new Easter outfit every year often including a new pair of white patent leather shoes. I felt grown up as the heals clicked down the church hallway. We paraded into church with our new dresses, Easter hats and our fancy shiny shoes. Those were special shoes, marking for the most important day of the year.


This year my Easter shoes looked different. Our church sponsored a stay-home mission trip. We served local organizations in various ways to help alleviate much of the added work that this difficult year brought.
Assigned to staining a deck and ramp of a warming center, I tried to work without inconveniencing the residents, but that proved more difficult than I thought. We could not lock the windowless door, so several people accidently stepped out onto the wet deck. Redirected to the other exit, most quietly respected the request.


At the end of the day, my white shoes were covered in red stain blotches. I sent pictures to my kids asking them to guess what I had done that day. Various guesses related to blood commenced, entertaining us with the silly humor we like to share.

But one moment from that day captured my attention.
Two men approached the ramp hesitating and unsure of what to do. I apologized for blocking their entrance, inconveniencing their normal routine.
One replied, “It’s okay, you are making our home beautiful.”


This caught me off guard, he said “home”. Home implies permanence, a dwelling place for family. A place I regarded as temporary for those suffering setbacks, a place of rescue and even sanctuary but not home. His comment humbled me and reminded me of how little I really knew of other’s sufferings.


Holy instances like these, cause one to pause and reflect. Straining to see behind the supernatural veil, I captured a glimpse of Jesus in that moment.
Jesus, as Messiah, had no home but He abided in the Father and we abide in the Christ. When we serve the least of these, we serve Jesus, and we are truly home. Discussing this with my son, he drew my attention to Psalm 91:1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty”


That man’s pleasant response reminded me that he was not the only one at home in that instance. I too, found my home there because Jesus was there in that man’s words. As I write this, I am reminded that maybe I mislabeled the needy person in that circumstance. Truly after a difficult year, I was the least of these and this man’s humble spark of gratitude in a life of hardship, deeply ministered to me.
Now, my stain-spattered Easter shoes remind me of the promise that my eternal home will always be in Jesus.

 

Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 05 January 2021 19:07

Revive!

Inward revivals radiate outpng

An inward revival radiates out. You can’t help it because the joy of the Lord bubbles out flowing onto anyone that passes. This is who I want to be in 2021, no not just want CALLED!

My hope does not rest in the current circumstances of our world. Darkness wants to rule over us and tell us this situation or that situation will steal something from us. Honestly, I’m not interested in the opinion of man, whether I agree with the opinion or not. In the long run it doesn’t matter. My hope resides in the promise that God is with me. No one can take that from me.

I believe God told me last summer to go and serve Him no matter how I feel. He can protect me but there may be “deep waters” I will have to go through, and He will be there.   (Isaiah 43:2) So I served, one eye on the circumstance and the other on the Lord.

Romans 12:2 inspires me to get both eyes on the Lord and away from the dark. It now seems customary to share negative opinions, showering them over whomever is nearby. I repent of any way I have contributed to this and ask God to transform me. Our mind holds the key to renewal when we willingly surrender our thoughts to Jesus.

Reading through this verse let’s dig in and apply it. When we daily allow Holy Spirit to transform our way of thinking we learn to live God’s will. This good plan, Agathos in Greek, holds a promise to not only possess a good nature but a useful one. A usefulness that bubbles over with joyful and honorable actions. This alone is complete we don’t have to do anything else and others will notice the change.

Fill us

 

With that I am letting going of criticism and embracing altruism. Although not necessarily the antithesis of one another the first often hampers the  care for others. Revive my spirit Lord so that I can revive others.

Father forgive me for my wrong thinking. Help me to shed my cultural mindset and to daily look to YOU for renewal. Mold my heart and mind to you so that I am empowered to love the way YOU love. In Jesus Name, AMEN

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