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Archive for October, 2014

Vacations are wonderful things—times to relax, unwind, regain perspective—so we return with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit to tackle the challenges of life.

My husband and I returned yesterday afternoon from a week’s vacation in Maine and when I walked in our front door a whiff of house-e-tosis curled my nose hair.

Our fresh vacationed eyes rested upon a heap of garbage and gunk we had grown accustomed to in the middle of the kitchen floor. The place was nasty and I determined to clean up and toss out offensive odors and clutter we had allowed to swarmed our home and cloud our vision for goodness knows how long.

This morning I charged out of bed intent on shifting into hyper-cleaning mentality. However, my Precept homework was a week behind, so I grabbed a cup of coffee, my Bible, and study notebook and headed for my chair.

I turned back to the previous lesson for a quick catch-me-upper. And found Paul’s prayer for those Ephesian believers so on point with my state of mind today I had to ponder, pray, and then write this post.

In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul asked God for five things for you—for me—for all believers for all time:

• That God would grant I be strengthened with power through His Spirit in my inner man.
• That Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.
• That I be rooted and grounded in love.
• That I may be able to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love.
• That I may be filled up to all fullness of God.

Then Kay Arthur asked us to go to our Strong’s Concordance and look up the meaning of the word “dwell”. “That Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.” The Greek word is “katoikeo” and means “to house permanently, i.e. reside. Or “to settle down in a dwelling, to dwell fixedly in a place.”

Just like I’d grown accustomed to the odor of my house and had overlooked cobwebs in the corners, dust on the baseboards, and sticky stuff on the floors—fresh eyes showed me red zones of squalor. Squalor that needed my attention. Attention that required action to make my house clean. Presentable.

And as God always does, He shined the light of this knowledge deep in my soul where the real house cleaning needed to occur. Several phrases leaped off the page and jabbed my heart.

That I be rooted and grounded in love. That’s right rooted and grounded in love—not rooted and grounded in faith. Ouch! That changes the whole picture doesn’t it? The first part of that verse sets the perimeters: “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you being rooted and grounded in love…”

We were in Washington and Boston part of last week and this area of IMG_1897 342

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the country is far removed from the Texas way of life. Vast numbers of folks reside in a much smaller space. Dusty, dirty, loud commuter trains take folks everywhere. You see life up close and personal…and personal is always yucky when you look through critical eyes. Having just come from a city concerned about the spread of Ebola, I saw DSCF6767squalor, pictured lurking germs, and looked down my nose at their dirt and noise—ignoring the beam in my own eye.

This morning I wonder what Christ sees when He looks at me? A heart “rooted and grounded in love”? That would be another “ouch”.

What does He see in your heart?

But wait, it gets better (or should I say intimately more uncomfortable). From verses 14 through 19, each verse is conditional upon the former. If Christ doesn’t dwell—hasn’t come in, settled down, and resided in our heart—we can’t be rooted and grounded in love—love comes from our Lord. Nor can we, regardless of our education or church standing “comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth, or know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

So folks, before I begin my Fall housecleaning this morning I am compelled to “bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” and confess the squalor in my own heart—my lovelessness—my critical spirit—my judgmental nature.

Christ tells us in that day He will tell many who depended on their good works—those who looked down their nose at would be brothers and sisters in Christ for whatever the reason, but cared for themselves, grumbled, found fault, caused divisions, worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit; those with faces painted pious, who never participated in anything beyond an hour on Sunday morning; those who lacked roots of love—these He told, “…depart from Me. I never knew you.” Or in essence…I never moved in, settled down and dwelt in your heart. I don’t know you.

‘Cause when the Holy Spirit lives in your heart, His love shows up in every area of your life. You can’t remain the same because you’ve become a citizen of the Kingdom of Light. You’ve had a heart transplant.

But are the arteries of your heart clogged with pride? Are your veins so corroded with the appetites and longings of the flesh there’s no room for the wind and fire of His Spirit to light your soul like He did with Moses on that mountain top so long ago? Or Abraham, or with David, a man whose heart beat with God’s allowing his soul be illuminated with lyrics and songs of praise to his Lord?

Don’t know about you, but today I’m cleaning Jesus dwelling place and asking “…according to the riches of His glory,” that I “…be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…”

With fresh eyes I’ll guard my heart for trespasses, offensive odors, a haughty disposition, and a critical spirit which tend to seep in and create squalor. Needing, desiring, pleading instead to be filled with the fullness of God each and every day ‘til Jesus comes.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (I Corinthians 13: 1-8(a) NKJ).

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Today I’d like to introduce my friend and fellow Prism Book author, Sharon McGregor. Featured below is a picture of her new release Autumn Dreams. Isn’t this cover just gorgeous and begging to be read?

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Now Sharon, give us a quick blurb to tickle our fancy.

Autumn Dreams is a romance novella that takes place on the prairies in the late 1940’s.

Maggie arrives at her new teaching job, to board with a family she’s prepared to like. What she isn’t prepared for is her landlady’s brother Marshall who seems to immediately hate her. She is captivated by Ellen’s six year old daughter Emma who is having identity problems when faced with the arrival of a new baby. Then Ellen goes into labor in the middle of a storm and Maggie must come to terms with her fears and help. Along the way she helps a family grow closer, but what about her hopes for the future? Can she get past the wall Marshall has set up and does she really have a future here among the people she has grown to care for?

I love a good romance story and love that period of time. Here are two websites you can go to for directions in finding Sharon’s book. I’m sure Amazon would be the first place I’d check.

http://www.sharonmcgregor.com and http://www.sharonmcgregor.com/blog

Now tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.

I came to the West Coast after growing up on the Canadian prairies. My imagination and story weaving got its start while being an only child living on a farm. And from there I moved from cowgirl dreams to romance and mystery, but I’ve never lost my love of horses.

Beside reading and writing, what occupies your time?

My daughter and I have two shops–one an ice cream-candy shop. The other a bath boutique.

And your family?

In spite of spending years escaping the cold, I now spend endless hours at the ice rink watching my grandchildren figure skate and play hockey.

And I summon the courage to get on a plane (I’m terrified of flying, just like Maddie in Northern Lights) to visit my son and grandchildren who are still knee deep in the prairies.

Give us a little insight to why you write what you write.

I love endings with happy resolutions which is why I enjoy writing romance and cozy mysteries. Autumn Dreams is my second romance novella with Prism Books.

Sharon, thank you so much for spending time with us today. I’m headed for the bookstore this afternoon for my copy of Autumn Dreams. Perhaps you’d like to zip over to Amazon.com and afterwards take a moment to give Sharon a book review. I’m sure she’d appreciate knowing how you liked Autumn Dreams. Thinking about Christmas gifts already? Why not give a girlfriend a copy of Autumn Dreams.

Next week: Fresh Eyes

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Sayin’ goodbye is hard.

The distance from the airport parking garage to the Southwest gate seemed endless. Tears threatened an assault. I gulped them back. Grandson Noah and I chatted about stupid stuff, each of us knowing the elephant in the room was grief over having to say goodbye. Again.

Oh, I knew I’d talk on the phone with him and see him next trip, but my heart ached. We’ve done this drill so many times and it never gets easier. But to say goodbye and know it’s final for the duration of life in the here and now—that’s hard. Really hard. But it’s not forever.
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Sayin’ goodbye hurts.

After the death of our daughter, I sat in the counselor’s office and heard her ask me, “DiAne, have you said goodbye to Michelle?”

Her words smacked me in the face. I snuggled in my self-righteous, stupid self and stammered mad. Why should I have to say goodbye, my daughter was a believer. She’s with Jesus. I’d see her again. Why should I have to say goodbye?

But in the days that followed, God brought scenes of my children leaving for college to mind. I saw them drive out the driveway, knowing I would see them again and what did I do? Stood in the driveway waving and watching ‘til they were out of sight, shouting goodbye.

And I know one day the goodbye will vanish and we’ll be together again and the hurt will vanish too.
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Sayin’ goodbye is necessary.

I remember the last time I saw my mom before she died. Alzheimer’s had robbed us of everything the last eight years of her life. But when I leaned over and kissed her, shortly before she went to be with Jesus, she replied in a clear, lucid voice, “goodbye.” Her body died a week later. But Mama’s mind and ability to respond to an earthly relationship died seven years before.

Saying goodbye frees us from focusing on the ugliness of death and to comprehend the glorious riches of God’s grace and the reality of His promise of an inheritance and eternity with Him.

We can’t focus on heaven when our eyes and heart are mired in the muck of fear. It takes months, maybe even years to say goodbye. But God has a purpose and plan for you, so it’s necessary to say goodbye, for now.
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Sayin’ goodbye confronts us with an ugly reality.

Whether your loved one has been ill for a long time or their death is unexpected, you are never prepared for that moment of separation. We are created eternal beings. And the bottom line when ferocious grief assaults your soul, you are brought face to face with your own earthly mortality. And Satan’s cunning voice whispers to your hurting heart, “You’re next.”

“Inasmuch then as the children(us) have partaken of flesh and blood. He (Jesus) Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He (Jesus) might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those (us) who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14 NAS).

Yes, God has numbered our days too. But if we trust Him for today, can’t we trust all our tomorrows and everything that goes with them to Him too?
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Sayin’ goodbye reveals a weak link in the chain of our lives.

It is so easy to pour out platitudes when others are plunged into the tsunami of grief . We recite scriptures and think in our minds we believe them with all our heart. But in the practically of the valley of the shadow of death our faith is put to the test. Do we really believe what we preach to others when we’re the ones hurting? And God asks, “Do you trust Me?”

And that’s the bottom line. But even the faith to trust Him is a gift from God, all we need is a heart that wants to.

Sayin’ goodbye requires us to accept God’s sovereignty.

During some of the darkest days after our daughter went home to live with the Lord Jesus, I read Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord…” I had read that verse many times, but that particular day the words jumped off the page and pierced my heart. Her death was unexpected to us, but not to God. He numbered her days before she was born.

Clear as could be I heard in my spirit, “Do you trust Me?” In the silence of the moment with my teeny-weeny less than mustard seed sized faith I whispered, “Yes, Lord. I trust You.”

And the clouds of grief diminished a little each day as I learn experientially to walk through life’s dark times trusting everything to God.
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Grief never goes away—it changes, and grief is God’s roto-rooter to increase our heart’s capacity for joy.

Sayin’ goodbye is the beginning—not the end.

Jesus tells us death is an enemy. An enemy that reeks incredible heartache and destruction. But it’s not always going to be that way. God created us to become living stones, not dead stones. Stones that are being built into one body in Christ Jesus.

Our loved ones do not become heaven’s newest angels. God created all the angels there would ever be in the beginning. Those who love and trust the Lord Jesus are living stones who will rule and reign with Him forever.

Our loved ones aren’t sitting on a cloud, plucking a harp. No, if they had faith and trust in Jesus, they are doing what God planned for their lives. Doing what God transformed them to do and be. They are healed, filled with His joy, and alive forever by the same power that resurrected our Lord Jesus Christ and defeated Satan’s power over us through the fear of death.

The joy of His promise of a future and an inheritance is the power that enables us to keep on keeping on.

Saying goodbye is a choice.

The term “in that day” refers to a certain point in time, a time only God knows, when this age will end, death will be nailed in a coffin and buried forever. And Jesus will rule and reign, right here on earth, and we will never have to say goodbye again.

God’s promises are sure. You can trust Him. Scripture tells us He is not willing for any to perish, but that all should come to eternal life, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you’ve never trusted Him, choose to accept His free gift of salvation purchased for you at the cross. Please make that choice right now.

You don’t have to wait ‘til you’re good enough. I sure didn’t. You can bow your head right now, admit you’ve sinned, and by faith believe that Jesus died to purchase you back from Satan. Thank Him for loving you and ask Him to teach you to trust Him more every day. Tell Him you want Him to be your Savior. Then tell someone, tell a friend, tell me, you’ve chosen to accept God’s gift of mercy and grace and follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Sayin’ goodbye allows you to choose worship.

We are so prone to hang onto the shirttails of pride. Meeting the challenges of the day, solving problems, running life—‘til death sideswipes us and we realize we are in control of nothing. At that point you will either turn to or away from Jesus. You will become bitter or you will worship The Lord God Almighty, El Shaddai.

And worship is the reason we were created—to worship. What do you worship?
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Sayin’ goodbye is an act of surrender.

Surrendering your loved one and yourself to the God who created you, loves you beyond your ability to comprehend will bring you to your knees giving honor and glory to Him. “… one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NAS).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NAS).

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We’ve all heard this title so often the words become cliché, but please grant me the privilege of referring to that lonely road one more time.

My husband and I were scouring the countryside around Crandall, Texas, for photo ops last weekend and due to the drought, found few. We meandered up and down country lanes which had become washboards that rattled our brains, not to mention the underpinnings of my car. Dust clouded the windshield and I was ready to call “uncle” and go home.

Then I saw it—that special frame—the one shot that made the whole afternoon worthwhile. And like a lollipop to a stick, I connected to this picture, this premise, this long, lonely, path. The one God calls us aside to hear Him. You know, the road less traveled.
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A super highway snaked not a mile away and farm to market roads (that’s what we call two lane roads in Texas) not a half mile to the north. All busy taking folks from Crandall to Dallas or Terrell. But this little path rolled along the curvature of the pasture, probably carved by a single tractor. Over and over again.

The past few years of my life trailed through my mind. And I connected with the ruts and ridges worn deep in the earth by the journey each morning from home to pasture, and each evening back home again. An HD picture of my life.

Years ago I began writing, received a few rejections, and threw the manuscripts in a drawer. Every now and again I’d pull them out and do a rewrite, until five years ago. God tapped my shoulder and said “now or never.” He brushed away my frugal excuses about lack of money by the announcement of a half price writing conference ready and waiting for me to enroll. So I registered, attended, and the rest is history.

Within ten minutes of walking into that intimidating gathering, I found out numerous things I had done wrong. No wonder I’d been rejected. God connected me with a writing family and for the next five years I diligently pursued my goal of becoming a writer—until a month ago.

I was tired. Exhausted. Bone weary with words. Edit groups, rewrites, hours placating a temperamental computer, costly conferences, dollar signs plastered over each ink cartridge, more edits and editing, and time, bolts of time—all for what? What if I couldn’t even write?

Oh, I’d received a trio of awards for a few chapters. But I cried out to God that night, “God, am I truly doing what you want me to do? I know you slashed that conference fee years ago so I could afford it, but have You changed your mind? And as far as schmoozing publishers and editors at conferences—You know I can’t do it. Am I even a writer? Please show me. I want to be in the center of Your will, whatever that will is.” After another few minutes of groaning and whining to the Lord I drifted to sleep.

And Wednesday morning I didn’t wake up feeling any better.

Sunday evening a writer friend and I were emailing about her new book and she asked, “What did you ever do with that book you were working on when we attended that seminar four years ago?”

She couldn’t see me, but tears rimmed my eyes and I hung my head, ashamed, and typed, “nothing.” And hit send.

Several minutes passed and another email flashed across my screen. “Do you have back-cover copy?”

I replied, “Yes.”

“Do you mind if I send it to my editor?”

My breath caught in my throat and my world stopped. In that second I bowed my head and breathed, “Oh Lord, you did hear me. You are here and You do care.” I wept as a wave of Jesus’ compassion and grace washed over me.

I know many of you reading this blog tonight may be experiencing fierce fiery darts from the enemy of your soul—I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I don’t know which way to turn. What’s the matter with me?

Bill Gilliam says, “Satan speaks to us in first person singular with a southern accent.” And I can hear all of us agreeing “Amen.” It’s hard to maintain your footing and your focus when barrages strike home over and over again. Yet we motor along that super highway trapped in the crowd, just trying to keep up or out run them.

When God asks us to pull onto that road less traveled, pause in a shady spot, and ask, scream, or sob—“Help me, Lord. I don’t know where I am or what You want me to do. Please show me Your way.”

God knew my needs and He knows your needs. He called me to that place of quiet calm.

That Sunday evening God guided a very special young woman to come alongside to be a conduit and confirmation of His refreshing love and encouragement poured out on me. And I received hope. His hope. I was reminded of His truth, my life is in His hands.

But I wonder how many times I’ve raced down those endless farm roads of life, one thought in mind—getting to my destination. Dried out and dusty, too busy to hear the Spirit’s urging to notice and help someone else struggling in the constant chaos of the freeway and traffic jams of life. Too distracted to invite them to travel with me along the road less traveled. And too tired to care.

Where does Jesus find you today? In need of help or in need of helping? The Word tells us “We have not because we ask not.” And these words apply to whichever situation you find yourself tonight. Talk with the Father. Ask Him. He loves to hear the sound of your voice—even if you’re whining.DSCF6619 030

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6 NASB).

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