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Archive for December, 2014

With a sweeping stroke of my paint-filled-brush, the blank canvas disappears. Forever. And with a flurry of tap-a-dee-taps on theDSCF2870 005 keyboard the blank page of my manuscript is a thing of the past—the story unfolds.
Can I go back to change the direction of the painting or novel? Of course. But the virgin whiteness of the canvas and page has vanished until I begin a new picture or book.
Layers of color, skillfully applied, hopefully enhance the depth and mood of the painting just as crafting and weaving words builds suspense as the plot line flows from scene to scene into a mesmerizing tale.
Every brush stroke and every word adds or takes away from the finished product. That’s why many hours of thinking, researching, and planning must swirl in the mind of an artist or writer before the first color or words smear the page.
And life should be like that too.
Years ago the habit of the Church was to have Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve. A night when the congregation came together to seek God’s will during the final minutes of the previous year and His help for the coming new year.
Thursday, January 1, 2015, will present to us the stark white canvas of a new year. What will your opening line tell the world? What tone will you set for the year in those opening moments? Blessing or cursing? Love or hate? Anticipation or resentment?
Might the first strokes or words of the next 365 days be improved or hampered by thoughts, research, or planning done or not done before the clock strikes midnight on the 31st?
Good or bad, we are creatures of habits and the habits we nurture affect every area of our lives. But God gives us the freedom to choose how we will determine to walk into this new year—with His help or on our own.
Before I apply the first brush stroke to a new canvas I gather DSCF7975traveling companions—an easel, a stash of many types and sizes of brushes, paper towels to sop up my messes, turpentine or water—depending on my medium of choice, and the composition of the finished product clearly etched in my mind.
A manuscript is different, but I still collect my travel buddies—The Synonym Finder, Roget’s Thesaurus, a ream of white paper, edit partners, pictures, research material, a computer and plenty of ink. And usually a general idea of the final scene in the story.DSCF7972
I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer and open to change. Many times I wish I were more out-lined oriented, would save me yards of time and ink, but the writing trip’s not nearly as much fun.
And many of us attempt to live life clinging to a seat-of-the-pants DSCF7974attitude, but that’s not what God calls His people to do. His instructions are simple. His Word is our road-map and resource guide. The Holy Spirit and fellow believers are our travel companions, encouragers, teacher and helpers when our path gets rocky and steep. And prayer is our walkie-talkie for moment-by-moment communication and personal instruction from the Father.
When I don’t pay attention to the rules and techniques of painting, I make a muddy, ugly, mess. And when I refuse to follow the foundational rules of writing, the finished product screams ignorance and failure to those who read what I write.
And when I refuse to seek God’s help and obey His commands my life becomes a flashing billboard of the consequences of disobedience.
How am I going to walk through 2015? Following God or the world? Learning to love those God places in my path or grumbling about interruption to my norm? Will I accept God’s authority and obey Him or will I choose rebellion? Each decision is made in my heartDSCF7971 and works out in my mind before spilling onto those around me.

Will my life in 2015 be a masterpiece of obedience or a muddy mess of doing it my way?
The truly Good News is God is always right there when we make a mess of our lives. If we are sorry and choose to turn to Him to change our ways, He hits the refresh or delete button, depending on the relationship. He casts our sins behind His back. And gives us a new page, a fresh canvas washed clean by the blood of Jesus and restores our life—if we choose to trust and obey Him as we continue 2015’s journey.
What about you? How are you readying yourself for the New Year? Or are there smudges, stains and scum from 2014 that need Jesus’ healing touch to transform your life or your family? He loves you and longs for you to trust Him. Not just now, but forever.
The last minutes of this old year are drawing to a close. How will you color the blank canvas or fill the blank pages of 2015? With Jesus or with the things of this world?

“And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true;’…and behold, I am coming quickly. ‘Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.’… ‘Behold, I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:6-13 NAS).
“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come, let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17 NAS).
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly. Amen’” (Revelation 22:20 NAS).

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Fourteen years—fourteen years since that first Christmas without our daughter. We think we’veDSCF7788 healed, but the decorations go up, the carols play, and we’re swept back into that emotional time warp of holidays past and once again deep scars of grief are probed and our hearts ache.

Last year was a major milestone for me, during an unexpected meltdown, a dear friend reminded me, “You don’t have to keep going down the same road.”

For thirteen years I drug out the same tree, put everything in the same place, administered CPR to old memories, choosing to cling to the past, choosing to hang each one of those gut-wrenching ornaments on our tree. And each year the process became more difficult. And I found out the hard way, it hurts when God has to pry my fingers off the past in order to move me forward today.

Two December blogs of 2013, Is Jesus Enough and Storm to Storm—Faith to Faith, https://dianegates.wordpress.com/ recount what happened and how God used my dear friend’s words to bless my heart and change my life.

This year we have a new tree, many of the same DSCF7798ornaments, but those scab-ripper ornaments are packed away, waiting for children and grandchildren’s trees, where they will be treasures not idols. I’ve chosen to take a new, less bumpy road through this year’s Christmas celebration.

I don’t see any raised hands, but I see some of you reaching for Kleenex, and I see and hear your sniffles. And I know if this is your first Christmas after the loss of one you love, you wish you’d gone to sleep before Thanksgiving and could stay in bed with the covers over your head ‘til January of 2015.

Scripture tells us our emotions mirror God’s emotions because we were created in the image of God. We read of His anger, His forgiveness, and His love. We’re in good company.

Consider the turmoil God must have suffered nine months prior to that special night when the Spirit of God overshadowed Mary. For the first time ever, the Father, Son, and Spirit were physically separated. The Son left the realm of His Father’s glory, relinquishing His rights, His comfort, and confined Himself to a pitiful human body so you and I and our loved ones might live.

The separation was the Father’s choosing, planned before the foundation of the world, and the Son was willing. Willing to pay the price.

But I wonder if knowing all the whys and wherefores made it any less difficult for God? If you had known beforehand when and how your loved one would die, would that have made your grief more bearable?

Father, Son, and Spirit knew the necessity of the sacrifice and the cost of the victory—down to every lash Jesus would endure. But as the time arrived for that miraculous conception did GodWise Men 3 experience sadness and grief over the pain and horror He knew His Son must experience before the final victory was won?

We glamorize and commercialize the manger scene in Bethlehem. There were no wise men from the East that night with the Wise Menshepherds. They arrived two years later. Our little nativity sets are beautiful and touching. But I’m afraid we’ve lost the awe, the deep sacrifice, and the eternal majesty of that night.

Dr. Paul David Tripp says: “God’s story is a life-death-life story. And we are in the middle of that story, having just experienced the life-death cycle thus far.”

So what better time to consider this miracle of God’s story than during the pain and sorrow of our own loss? And what better time to be quiet before God, asking Him to teach and ground us in the truth? His Son, His only Son, entered this world to lie in a manger, die on a cross, to become our forever Savior and King!

God’s amazing life-death-life story.

SILENT NIGHT—HOLY NIGHT keeps whispering in my soul. The night angels brought the message of God’s good will rather than His wrath. The night God announced the arrival of the long promised Messiah. The night the angels sang to bleating lambs and lowly shepherds. But all heaven knew there would be great pain and sorrow on this earth and in our lives before joy reigned forever.

“An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were greatly afraid. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men” (Luke 2:9-14 KJV).Wise Men 2

I know your soul groans and you hurt, but in the depths of your dark night of grief will you accept comfort, knowing God has experienced and understands what you’re going through? I know from years experience—yes, you can.

And God’s message to you and me today is the same word He sent to those frightened shepherds. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is with you. He completed the Father’s life-death-life plan established before the foundation of the world. He knows your pain and sorrow and is engaged in enlarging your heart’s capacity for His joy through this roto-rooter of grief. You can rest in Him. You can rely on Him. You can trust Him. He loves you and promises to wrap you in His comfort and care ‘til we can raise our hands to worship and praise King Jesus!

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In her teen years our daughter constantly bemoaned “You love my brother better than me.” Followed by a long list of why she believed DSCF7732I loved him best. There was no convincing her I loved each of them and didn’t play favorites. This was her perception. Her reality. Her POV.
One of the first things a writer must decide when crafting a story is who is your point of view character? Who is telling the story and in what tense? First person—from your main character or protagonist view point—past or present tense. Or third person, an outsider’s view point—past or present tense.
Whichever POV the author chooses must be followed without deviation throughout the story. But in real time there are only two points of view in which we can live our life story. God’s or Satan’s. That’s it folks, regardless what your professors or family or even preachers have told you. Regardless of what you think you think.
God’s POV is based on forgiveness, restoration, love and eternal life with Him. Satan’s plot line is deception, destruction and death and he will lie, cheat, steal and murder to ensnare you in his POV. His goal? To separate you from God forever.
Bill Gilham says: “Satan speaks in first person singular, with a southern accent.” That would be for us folks in the South…in other locales, you pick your accent.
Let me explain. You stand in front of the mirror and hear in your head, “My nose is too long. I’m ugly. Nobody likes me. I’m worthless. I should just end it all now.” You get the picture, and you can listen to the news or movies or friends to find out what other lies this enemy of your soul whispers, shouts, and screams. And the more you listen to that voice, the more you are lured into his web of lies. You perceive you’re hearing truth, but you’ve become accustomed to hearing your story from Satan’s POV.
Step back and reason with me, if God created you in His image is any one of us ugly in His sight? Worthless? Impossible to love? Of course not. And if we know the nature of God and the nature of Satan, it’s not difficult to identify the source of the voice. But how can you cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die know for sure? God’s story is written down, recorded by Him forever in the Bible.
God’s promises or Satan’s lies? And you get to choose.
But if you don’t have all the information how can you make an educated choice?

Prism Books is about to release my good friend and writer, Julie Cosgrove’s new book “Legitimate Lies.” The POV character is the DSCF7730same as in the first book in this series “Hush in the Storm.” Those of us who’ve read Julie’s first book know Jen. We know what she’s been through. We know her personality. We know her standards and her heart’s desire. Those who begin with the second book won’t know the background like those of us who’ve been with Julie since the beginning.
God lays the in the beginning foundation for us in the Old Testament by telling us where we came from, where we’re going, who He is, and what He’s going to do—multiplied hundreds of years before what He tells us occurs.

The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, revealing to all who will read and believe God’s intervention and solution to sin and His plan for us now and for eternity.
But the majority of this world has no appetite for God’s truth, even a great number of folks who sit in church every Sunday morning. So how will they discern truth from lies? How will they know who’s whispering in their ear?
Within a few weeks a newborn baby comes to know and respond to the sound of its parents’ voices. The baby’s ear is tuned to those with whom it has a bond, a perceived relationship. So whose voice is your ear tuned to respond to? The voice of love, joy, peace, and forgiveness? Or the voice of lies, rage, hate, and destruction? Can you discern the difference? Do you know your Father?
This Christmas I urge you to spend some time thinking about the voice in your soul. Does your plot line wander in and out of God’s POV? Are there moments when Satan’s POV grabs the reins and runs you off-the-road and in-the-ditch? We’ve all been there because we’ve all sinned.
But God is the Ultimate Editor. Through the birth and death and blood and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God edits our lives, forgives our sins, restores the years the locusts have eaten, and transforms you and me into His jewels.
Unlike the books we write, our life’s POV can change. What better time than today to be sure your name is recorded in the book and inscribed in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ who will hold you safe through the twists and turns of life. He is the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Praise His holy name!

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“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:16-17 KJV).

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“158.16 Disabled, incapacitated, crippled, disqualified, ham-strung, invalidated, disarmed, paralyzed. Hog-tied.” (Roget’s International Thesaurus, page 92).
If only you could feel the ache in my heart tonight over the state of our families, our nation, and the world. If only I could let you see what my eyes have seen and know there is help, hope, and healing, whatever your problem. If only I could convince parents you can’t teach your children what you don’t know. And your children will suffer the consequences of your ignorance of God’s Word.
There is no black church. No white church. No Spanish church. No Oriental church. No Indian church. No Jewish church. No Baptist DSCF3049church. No Methodist or Presbyterian church—we are ONE CHURCH—The Church. The Body. Made in the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer, bought and paid for by His blood that is red—just like yours and mine.
This is a volatile point in history and the only answer lies at Golgotha’s cross where the blood Jesus shed covers my sins and your sins. The place where like an onion He can peel away the stinky DSCF7673layers of hidden sin in our lives. Or the place where you choose to reject His mercy and grace and keep sloshing through the pig-pen of life—hog-tied by the enemy of your soul.
And make no mistake, from the White House to our house, we are hog-tied by a generational battle of anger and racial prejudice while the godly foundations of this nation are ripped, shredded and trampled underfoot. And people, black and white and all shades in between, are hog-tied, unable to discern and overcome the source of this chaotic ruckus.
Our judicial system of righteousness judgment is hog-tied. Our lawimage enforcement officials are hog-tied. Our educational and parental rights as Christians are hog-tied. And many congregations in this nation are hog-tied by preachers delivering false messages. Lies rather than truth.
The spirit of lawlessness is raging among us.
This past Sunday, in St. Louis, we watched that spirit at work when one of those sons of lawlessness stood on holy ground and stoked incendiary fires of damnation. He stood where God’s word should have been proclaimed and spewed lies. Lies spoken to incite God’s people to rebel against His instructions to His Body.
The sad part is those enticed believe every word these false prophets speak and knowingly or unknowingly choose to violate God’s command to love their brothers whose blood is red—just like theirs.

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“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NAS).
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21 NAS).
The victim mentality lie has been perpetrated in our nation for at least fifty or more years. The mentality that says you can do anything you want because of the color of your skin or the way you were raised or what you have or don’t have.
This erroneous teaching taunts If it feels good, do it. Take what you want. Or do whatever your mind conjures-do it. There will be no consequences. And that lying voice inside answers, something in your background caused you to steal, bully, abuse, murder, sexual perversion—you’re not to blame. It’s someone else fault. Because the lie there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no accountability, and no consequences has been openly taught in our public schools and from some pulpits for over forty years.
On August 11, 2014, in Salt Lake City, Utah, a white, unarmed, twenty-year old, Dillon Taylor was shot and killed by a Salt Lake City black police officer. The officer’s name hasn’t been released. Nor have the false preachers gathered in Salt Lake City. Why? Because this event, plus countless others like Dillon, don’t fit the enemy’s false picture of victim mentality.
The civil war was fought over the issue of slavery, and if the enemy of God has his way, I’m afraid we will be deceived into another war or forced into a national or international police force. Because the erupting boil of racial prejudice continues to seep and spread poison, pushed by those in authority with a strange agenda, an agenda that gives Satan a stronghold in the hearts and minds of any who listen and agree, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
This disgusting boil is sin. Sin that weaves throughout generational lines of all people and needs to be confessed and washed in the blood of Jesus. Forgiven. Cleansed. Healed. Restored.
But why has the enemy used this one sin to attack America over and over again? Because we’ve clutched and held onto pride, anger, hatred, and lack of forgiveness, allowing this fierce-some-foursome to fester and grow in our hearts. All our hearts. Either by choosing to do what’s wrong or choosing to do nothing.
We still allow white hoods to organize and exist in America. Criminals who hide in sheets and perpetrate hate, violence, and murder in the dark night of their hearts. And many stashed their hoods and sat in churches on Sunday morning after their despicable evil on Saturday night. I’ve seen burning crosses, fires, and the riots of the ‘50’s. And God rest His precious soul, Martin Luther King led and won many battles by his faith in our Lord God Almighty and his commitment to peace. Our nation must not digress and repeat such a horrific history.
Yes, we have bad cops, like we have bad people—of every ethnic group. And these rotten apples cast dispersion and doubt over the multitude of good policemen and good people.
But could there be something more sinister involved here? Like an evil spiritual force many refuse to admit exists?
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm—Stand firm therefore…” (Ephesians 6:12-14a NAS).
Have you believed the enemy’s lie that your anger is justified? Is God placing His finger in that ugly black hole in your heart where you’ve harbored pride, anger, hatred, or even evil against a brother whose blood is red like yours?
Can you worship one day then shrug, laugh or participate in those actions you know cause God pain?
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 NAS).
DSCF6601 013_edited-1So where do we go from here? Will you continue to allow yourself to be hog-tied by lies that pour from social media and the news? Will your tongue remain hog-tied when racists remarks leap out your mouth or the mouths of your friends and acquaintances? Will you speak out over injustices, regardless of race, in a peaceful, lawful manner? Or will you have the courage to rebuke them in Jesus name with the truth of God?

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