As we continue in the “I AM” statements of Jesus, there is one that gives me warm and fuzzy feelings. One that makes me feel like a young child again, cared for and protected.
One of my favorite childhood memories was being carried from the car by my dad, into my room and tucked under the covers of my bed. I felt loved, protected, cared for, warm and cozy. It was not only the covers that made me feel warm, but the care and protection from my dad to make me feel secure and safe. I loved this so much when I was little, that I must confess, there were times I faked being asleep so that my dad would carry me into bed!
I believe this feeling is innate in all of us, and not just when we are children. We crave the feeling of warmth, security and love no matter what our age is.
The “I AM” I am talking about feels to me like Jesus Himself is tucking us in and keeping us safe. He not only tucks us in, He Himself lays across the entrance and becomes the gate for us!
“Very truly I tell you, I AM the gate for the sheep.” John 10:7
In the ancient world where Jesus walked on this earth, the sheep pens held the sheep safely at night and there was only one entrance. The walls of the pen allowed the sheep to sleep safe and secure at night keeping dangers out.
In those days during the pasturing season, shelters would have been temporary as they traveled. In these temporary shelters the shepherd himself would lie across the opening
during the night and literally become the “gate” for the sheep.
In this I AM statement, Jesus is claiming to be the GATE for us. He is our protection!
We can have life and have it to the full as we are safe and secure in His protection.
WE ARE SAFE, WARM AND SECURE WITH JESUS AS OUR GATEKEEPER.
Sleep warm and secure my friends knowing Jesus is protecting you!
Have you ever wondered how you can pass the same way over and over again and feel like nothing ever changes? Then suddenly you are traveling that very same route when there it is! Your attention is drawn to an obvious change and you cannot believe that before your very eyes, there it is!
This happened to me on our evening trail ride through the vineyards. We take this trail frequently and I love the way the scenery changes from fields full of grazing cows to perfectly formed rows of grape vines!
Suddenly, yesterday I spotted it! Huge clusters of grapes, ripe and hanging from every vine. How had that happened? It seemed like it was overnight! Of course I know that it is scientifically not possible that the grapes grew overnight, but it sure seemed like they did!
The Truth is, I was not paying attention to the vines. I was getting my exercise, checking it off my list, and moving past the vines as I pushed myself forward to accomplish my goal.
The fruit had come, the vines had done their job, as well as the sun, rain and atmosphere around them.
But was I doing my job? I am not just talking about riding my bike and exercising. As I stopped to take the picture of the beautiful, ripe fruit hanging in clusters so heavy I thought they may fall to the ground in a gust of wind, I was touched in my spirit with the thought of “clinging to the vine!”
“YES, I AM THE VINE; YOU ARE THE BRANCHES. THOSE WHO REMAIN IN ME, AND I IN THEM, WILL PRODUCE MUCH FRUIT. FOR APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.” JOHN 15:5
I am afraid I tend to rush through life so quickly sometimes. I can make my list, check it twice and move through it at record speed. I fool myself into thinking that I am doing a pretty good job until I hit a roadblock. Suddenly, both tires fall off the bike and I find myself in a pile on the trail looking up. There it is, the vine, standing strong and full of fruit, just waiting for me to attach myself to it and stop straining in my own strength!
This is a frequent exercise of mine, as I find myself getting on and off the track or “trail,” and having to re-attach myself to the True Vine. The only way I know to do this is to cling to the “I AM’S” of Jesus. The statements that He makes about Himself.
One of my favorites is,
“I AM THE TRUE GRAPEVINE, AND MY FATHER IS THE GARDNER.” JOHN 15:1
The “I AM’S OF JESUS,” are who He is! Friends when we cling to these we can keep the tires on our bike and roll through this life with confidence, TRUE CONFIDENCE from the TRUE VINE HIMSELF!
Meet me back here next week as we take a look at another “I AM” statement.
God’s Word tells us that whatever is in our heart is what comes out of our mouths!
“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” Matthew 12:34
That is the New Living Translation,NLT. I also love the way the the New International Version, NIV puts it…
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matthew 12:34
Have you ever had anyone say to you, “You are just full of it?”
I have and I hope my response would be, YES, I am “full of it,” full of God’s Love and Truth. But of course the TRUTH is, I am not always full of God’s Love and Truth. Therefore, what comes out of my mouth is not always kind and loving.
I am blessed to have four beautiful grandchildren. From the time the first one was born, I was uttering the words, “Always be kind and loving.” “That is how others will know that you love Jesus.” My point was to teach them this very principle. When we act kind and loving, we are acting like Jesus. When we act like Jesus, His Love and Truth fills our hearts. When our hearts are filled with His Love and Truth, good things pour out of our mouths.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the Word of God!
In a world full of hurtful things and hurtful people (which we can also be at times), we can all fall prey to a hurt, broken or spiteful heart. God does not want this for us! God desires that we pour His Truth and Love into our hearts and demonstrate His kind and loving ways so that our hearts will be full of all of His goodness. Then, even when we are hard-pressed, challenged, disappointed, discouraged, let-down and hurt, the goodness of God we have filled our hearts with will pour out of our mouths.
KIND AND LOVING WORDS COME FROM A HEART FILLED WITH GOD’S GOODNESS!
The beauty of loving and kind words pouring out is that they can heal, bless and mend another broken, sad, hurting heart. You may actually be helping someone else to fill their heart back up with Goodness to allow it to overflow out of their mouths!
God’s Truths never return void my friends! They are True today, yesterday, tomorrow and forever!
August is a long month and the hot days can seem endless. For many of us the heat of August has not just come in soaring temperatures, but in smoke filled skies. For others it has been the heat of feeling like the Covid virus will never end. And for all of us it has definitely been the hot searing pain and grief of watching those suffering in Afghanistan.
Do you know that there are over 25 definitions of the word HEAT in the dictionary.
“Extreme pressure, as of events, resulting in tension or strain.”
Has this definition defined you anytime during this hot month of August? I know it has defined me. As hard as I try, I cannot escape the drastic temperatures during the month of August any more than I can escape the “HEAT” of this world I live in.
This weekend I found myself in one of my happiest of all places! I had not seen two of my grandchildren for almost a month. I could not wait to hug them, run and play with them and watch them play sports. We drove the two plus hours to their home and woke up the next morning to hot temperatures. We were able to walk a bit in the morning and ride bikes and scooters for a short time, but soon the temps were soaring. We made the best of it only to wake the next morning with the temperature reaching 102 and the air quality climbing into the hundreds as smoke filled the air from nearby fires and it was unhealthy to be out in. Disappointment reached an all time high as soccer and football games were cancelled and our plans for the day were dashed.
You know how that feels, right? Disappointment is never a good feeling. It grips us and can easily make us feel sad and discouraged.
As we drove home on Saturday we felt a bit like that. We had a great time just being together, but our plans were certainly disappointing.
We began looking toward the next day. The smoke was definitely traveling our direction and the air quality, while a bit better, was not good. The feeling of disappointment and discouragement began to grow. We had an outside event planned for our church. In fact, we had the entire service planned for outside. It was our ‘All Church Picnic.’ It had been cancelled the year before due to covid and it now looked like it may be cancelled again!
I felt the disappointment growing inside of me and taking over. I began to get discouraged and grumble and complain…WAS THIS EVER GOING TO END? Then as quickly as the discouragement came the prayers came. “PLEASE God, you are in control. You have all the power. If you want this picnic and outdoor service to happen then calm the hot August temperatures and the heat of these terrible fires.”
And God answered our prayers! I knew I was not the only one praying. As a church family we were praying. We needed to be together. We wanted to raise our voices in worship and praise to our Heavenly Father outside for all to hear. We wanted to offer food and community to our community in Jesus name. And God heard our prayers!
The next morning the weather was calm and beautiful. the air quality had improved and dropped in half! And God demonstrated to us the Truth of His words in I Corinthians 12:21-22
“The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most important.”
We were together as the body of Christ, eyes, hands, feet and every other part, doing it’s part to set up, prepare food, lead worship, place chairs and canopies, speak God’s Truth, hand out programs, greet, welcome and clean-up. Every part doing their part in love and unity to bless the community God has placed us in!
Needless to say, it was a wonderful event! One that turned this girls discouragement to encouragement as the body of Christ came together and blessed others in Jesus name!
A family works best as it works together!
Our discouragement can turn to encouragement when we all do our part together as the family of God side-by-side!
Pumpkin Spice is Back! That delectable spice mixture that warms you straight down to the bottom of your toes is back! That frothy steamed milk poured over that rich deep espresso, topped with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves is here!
All I can say is, “WELCOME BACK PUMPKIN!”
My heart races, a smile pops spontaneously on my face and I run out the door to grab one of those tasty drinks. I grab the handle of my car door when something strange begins to happen. A drop of sweat trickles down my forehead. Slowly but surely the sweat drops increase until the back of my neck feels damp! Then it hits me…
No Fall drink, as tasty and delightful as it may be, can make Fall happen. IT IS STILL SUMMER!
Does that mean I am going to wait for those crisp mornings, cool nights and sweater wearing weather to appear before I sip a pumpkin spice latte? Not a chance! I may not be the first in line today to grab one, but I certainly will not be the last!
We may still be in the ‘Hot August Nights’ of Summer, but the HOPE of Fall is real!
The way I see it is this…I can mope around with my sweaty neck feeling the heat of Summer and let it define me. Or, I can raise my wet, sweat-drenched brow and look to the Hope of Fall!
It really is a mind-set. We are no more in control of when Summer ends and Fall begins than we are of when people move or when they stay. Nor are we in control of when people get sick or when a life ends or how it ends. Neither are we in control of how long a prayer takes to be answered. We are not in control of life’s circumstances, but we can be in control of our attitude toward the circumstances life brings!
“Have this MIND among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:5
It is possible for us to have the mind-set of Jesus because He lives in us!
Admittedly, this is not possible in our own strength! But with God, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!
The old saying goes, “Mind over matter.” I believe as Christians, Christ followers, Christ living in us, we can say, “CHRIST OVER CIRCUMSTANCES!”
WITH THE MIND-SET OF CHRIST WE CAN HAVE HOPE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES!
So, as Summer lingers and these Hot August Nights Persist, let’s keep the mind-set of Christ and look to the hope of cooler days ahead!
HOT AUGUST NIGHTS SUMMER SIZZLER-HAVE THE MIND-SET OF CHRIST WHICH IS OURS IN CHRIST JESUS!
So, if you catch me at Starbucks today sipping my Pumpkin Spice Latte, don’t judge me, my mind-set is dreaming of FALL!
Here we are, in the middle of August, and it’s still hot!
Have you heard it said that heat can make our temperatures rise? It’s true! And this occurs not just physically but emotionally as well. Because this phenomenon is true, I have a question for you…when is the last time that you have felt insulted?
For the majority of us it may have been a week away, a day away, or even moments away.
God in his wisdom, has created us as emotional beings. Those emotions in and of themselves are not bad. It is what we do with them and how we use them, that can be good or bad. We all receive insults, whether intended or unintended, in our lives. But if we identify with Christ, and we are called to live like him. Therefore what we do with these insults becomes vitally important!
In the book of first Peter, it is laid out clear for us how we are to respond to insults.
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.”
1 Peter 3:9
That word “instead” stops me in my tracks. It implies that I am doing something incorrect that I need to make correct. This response, in my own human flesh, is impossible. But with God all things are possible. Only by God’s Spirit living and active in me can I accomplish this correction. Nowhere in my life has this been practiced and proven true more than in my marriage.
My husband and I are very different. And it
Is not an understatement to say that we
Do not always see eye to eye. Given that I am a passionate person by nature and take words very seriously, I could feel insulted almost every day. But knowing my husband’s heart and character and knowing that his heart is not to insult me, I can take a step back, take a deep breath, say a quiet prayer, and respond with a blessing instead of retaliating with an insult. This is easier said than done but with the power of God’s Spirit living in us, we can do it! One of my favorite quotes from my husband is: “It is instant oatmeal to say, and brain surgery to do.”
The proof of this truth by God, put in to constant practice, is our marriage. We celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary tomorrow. Relationships are not easy.
They take much effort, a lot of prayer, and self control, also known as taming your tongue. But living our lives by God’s directive, and not the world’s, we can accomplish good and right relationships through His power!
RETURNING AN INSULT FOR A BLESSING BLESSES US AS MUCH AS THEM.
Hot August Night Sizzler #3: Return a blessing for an insult!
It’s still August, the mornings and nights are still hot and sticky. In many places the air quality prevents you from even going outside for very long. That nasty “C” word is still around and seems to be on the rise. Emotions are high and temperatures are HOT! How do we get our hearts and minds in the right place? How do we lift our spirits when there are so many reasons for them to be low?
It’s really quite simple…WE SERVE!
Jesus set the standard, I didn’t, I just practiced it, and so can you!
“FOR EVEN THE SON OF MAN DID NOT COME TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE, AND TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY.”
This verse is repeated in the gospels several times. Jesus sets the ultimate standard for living. We are to SERVE others!
If you believe that you do not have anything to offer others, you do! God has gifted each of us with different gifts so that they can be used to meet different needs for different people!
“EACH OF YOU SHOULD USE WHATEVER GIFT YOU HAVE RECEIVED TO SERVE OTHERS…”
1 PETER 4:10a
Serving others not only fulfills the mandate given to us by Jesus himself, but it takes our focus off of ourselves and onto God and His purposes!
There is no greater cure for what ails you, than to serve others in Jesus name!
I tested it out this week, myself!
In last weeks’ blog I wrote the first Hot August Nights’ Sizzler: The need to keep our eyes focused on what God has in front of us.
At that point, it was easy! I had my beautiful newborn grandson in my arms and my sweet two year old granddaughter on my lap! My older two grandchildren were on their way and I would soon be living the DREAM! All four of my children and all four of my grandchildren together with my husband and I! All of us under one roof? That is a rarity! Given the callings placed on our lives by God, we don’t have many weekends or holidays together! We cherish these priceless moments together and do our best not to take them for granted!
But as the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” And it did.
I found myself at home, lonely, and practicing my therapy, CLEANOLOGY. You can try and look that up, but you won’t find it anywhere. That’s because it can cause sore muscles, the inability to stand up straight for a time, and cracked and sore fingers from the over use of Clorox! Therefore, it has not been approved by Doctors or Psychologists. It however remains my go-to therapy whenever I am missing my family! It does however produce a very clean house with a very distinctive smell!
Problem is, my therapy only works for a short time. I work my body physically while my emotions spin around and around. I am still left with that indescribable whole in my heart!
Enter the true therapy that works…In less than 48 hours after returning home from being together with my family, our church was taking part in a city outreach to children and their families. We worked side by side with other churches in our city setting up booths and games and providing supplies for under-resourced children to receive backpacks to begin school with, and lots and lots of fun and smiles! We served from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and my muscles were sore but my spirit had soared to a beautiful high! The kind of high that is only felt when we use our gifts and resources to serve others!
That night I went home exhausted and HOT from the August heat, but filled with a joy unspeakable! God is the only one who fills us with true joy and love, and serving others in His Name is what produces that joy and love!
HOT AUGUST NIGHTS’ SIZZLER # 2-SERVE OTHERS IN JESUS NAME!
I pray you will go out and serve others this week through the love of Jesus, I know from experience that you will be blessed if you do!
In the month of August the nights can be hot and sticky! It can feel sometimes like the day only got darker but never cooled down! We go to bed and we wake up feeling like summer may never end. Hot August nights make us yearn for Fall! The promise of crisp mornings, followed by cool afternoons and chilly evenings…but that is a series for next month! This month it’s still Hot August Nights!
I love the Fall! I can’t wait to wear my cute, cozy sweaters! I can’t wait to sip on a pumpkin spice latte! And I crave eating everything pumpkin flavored! In contrast, I don’t like the heat of summer. And yet here I find myself in those Hot August Nights! I am afraid I am suffering from PRESBYOPIA!
Presbyopia is the lack of ability our eye lenses have to change in focus from far away to close. Our eyes get tired! We stretch them, push them, and downright wear them out as we strain to look so far ahead and then by necessity, have to bring our focus back to right in front of us. We simply wear our focus out. It becomes foggy and cloudy at best!
The goal of course is to have 20/20 vision! It is to be able to see clearly what is in front of us. Defined it is, “Visual acuity; clarity and sharpness of vision.”
Not perfect vision mind you, as most people mistake it for, but clarity of vision and sharpness of vision. Now who of us does not want to be clear and sharp in what we see? I know I do!
The terms I have described above are typically connected to physical vision; our eyes, pupils and lenses. However, what I am talking about is spiritual presbyopia.
And boy have I had it bad! I have spent so much time straining to focus on what might be out there or may happen or could be ahead of me that I have failed to focus with clarity and sharpness on what is right in front of me!
My first Hot August Night Sizzler is: The need for 20/20 vision spiritually!
This week God graciously reminded me of my need for this in my life!
Last week began with me frantically trying to, “Get all of my ducks in a row!”
I wanted to be sure that I was ready to pick up and go the minute our new grandson was born! The call came, they were in the hospital and the labor was going fast!
My world came to a halt. Suddenly, all I could see was what was right in front of me! My vision had narrowed to 20/20! We were about to be grandparents again and all I cared about was the healthy birth of that baby boy! In less than 6 hours he was here! I saw with great clarity that what was most important was that I’d be there!
For the next four days my vision was sharp and perfectly clear. Everything else seemed to pale in comparison! The ducks that I thought needed to be in a row could fall out of line for four days. The problems that I thought I needed to solve suddenly seemed to take care of themselves. The schedule I thought I had to keep went along fine without me. Add the to do list which seemed endless suddenly had a period at the end of it.
This beautiful gift from God that I was able to hold in my arms, and his sister that I played with and rocked to sleep, and his parents that love me and I love them cleared my focus to a sharp 2020 vision!
OUR SPIRITUAL VISION IS 20/20 WHEN WE FOCUS ON WHAT GOD HAS PUT RIGHT IN FRONT OF US!
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
On these Hot August Nights, I pray that my focus stays clear and sharp as I allow God’s words to light my path!
It’s the very last week of July and our “STEPPIN” together has come to an end.
How is your steppin going?
Have you put some or any of the Daily Disciplines we have shared into place?
Have you started your day with God in His Word and in prayer to Him?
Have you sat still with God and let His goodness be revealed to you?
Have you trusted Him and allowed the TRUTH of scripture to calm your fears and anxieties and give you the peace He promises?
Have you splashed or soaked or sipped any of the sweetness of Summer?
Or, like me, are you reading this and feeling stunned that Summer is almost over?
Those long days of Summer that offer a lack of routine, breaks, vacations, longer nights and earlier mornings are quickly coming to an end. With this realization, I find myself fighting the all too familiar feelings of failure! How about you?
If you are feeling the same way then I have good news for you.
We can push the RE-START button!
“THE FAITHFUL LOVE OF THE LORD NEVER ENDS! HIS MERCIES NEVER CEASE.GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS; HIS MERCIES BEGIN AFRESH EACH MORNING.”
Friends, this incredible promise comes in the middle of a book of REGRET!
I have been watching the Olympics, have you? I could be called an “OLYMPIC JUNKIE!”
I love watching the greatest athletics do what they do best. I get hooked and have already spent too many late nights watching. I literally mark my calendar and anticipate the Olympic Games!
But this year there has been something I have noticed. The United States has had more failed attempts to win gold than usual.
The unbeatable men’s basketball team lost their very first game. Not the “Dream Team” of old! The GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) of gymnastics has not reached her full potential as expected. The “QUEEN” of the pool dropped into third place and won a bronze medal instead of the gold she was expected to win. I could go on and list even more “failed attempts,” but you get the picture. Sure, there have been great victories as well, but many have “failed.”
I believe God was grabbing my attention and showing me that we all have failures and successes, what matters is that we TRY!
My dad had a great many sayings by which he raised his four daughters. One of them has stuck with me…
“You only fail if you do not TRY!” -BCD
God does not desire that any of us live with REGRET. He wants us to learn that regret and failures come, even to the best and greatest, but God’s Love and Mercy is new every morning! We have the opportunity at our fingertips to push RE-START and allow God’s mercy to flow through us!
GOD’S LOVE AND MERCY NEVER ENDS, WE GET TO TAP INTO THEM FRESH EVERY MORNING!
Every day is a gift from God and every morning is new! God’s mercies are not just for us when we succeed. God’s mercies are even stronger when we fail! God’s grace does not just cover us when we are walking in accomplishment. God’s grace covers us in greater measure when we are sitting in failure!
God is a God of RE-START! We can get up every morning and face each day with renewed strength and optimism when we push the RE-START button God has given us!
God does not just give us a “second chance,” God gives us a third, forth, fifth and sixth chance. God’s chances are unlimited because His love for us is unlimited!
God does not love us because we succeed or fail. He is not counting our accomplishments. In fact, it can be those times of failure and missing the target that bring us closer to Him.
So instead of allowing those feelings of failure to creep in and take over, I am choosing to realize my need for God. Afterall, He is perfect and I am not!
Maybe this Summer was intended to be a time for ‘SUMMER SLIPPIN,’ a time for me to focus on God and realize just how so very much I need Him. And, if that is the case, I have not failed in the least. I have actually been very, very successful!
As I wake each morning, Summer, Fall, Winter or Spring, and do my best to live a life with daily disciplines, I know I cannot do it in my own strength. I need my God and His wonderful RE-STARTS each and every day! That is the key to success!
I just returned home from our Summer vacation and realized that I had, had a ball!
WE laughed, we ate, we ran, we played, we even worshipped together. What I did not do however was SIT!
Sure, I “sat” down to eat and was technically “sitting.” However, the entire time I was talking, chewing and getting up and down as I made sure everyone had everything they needed. I also “sat” on a beach chair at the beach for moments at a time as I watched my grandchildren ride the waves. Let me tell you, that was the most nervous sitting I have ever done! My back was arched, my neck was strained and my body kept leaping to my feet as I strained to make sure I could see where they were at all times!
There were other moments of “sitting” of course, but each moment was accompanied by other thoughts and actions. This is not the kind of “SITTING” I am talking about. When you look up the word ‘SIT’ in the dictionary it may surprise you that there are several definitions.
The first definition is the most obvious: “To rest with the body supported by the buttocks or thighs; AKA; to be seated.” The second is also pretty familiar: “To be located or situated.” But it is the third definition that made me “SIT up and take notice!” Pun completely intended! “To remain quiet or inactive.”
I can clearly state that this was not on my agenda for vacation. We had so much fun! I love being active and my family does too! We are famous for packing in as much activity as possible, to every single day we have together. And we did! I am not complaining whatsoever. I would not have it any other way. But as I SAT to write this weeks’ Blog on Summer Steppin, I realized I was lacking the discipline of SITTING!
I ran around the house after returning home like a hummingbird extracting nectar from one flower and then the next. Unpack this, throw that in the washing machine, carry this upstairs, run downstairs and put this away, and, oh yes, write your Blog! My heart was racing so fast that the only part of me that could keep up with it was my mind that was spinning out of control with my virtual “To Do List!”
Suddenly my eyes caught a glimpse of one of the framed verses on my family room wall…
“BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.” PSALM 46:10
It hit me like a brick on the top of my head…In order to hear from God you must, BE STILL! Sit down, be inactive and remain quiet. This truly is a discipline and one I need to exercise more frequently. It is wonderful and even important to have fun! It is certainly important to spend quality time with family. But fun in the sun, and quality time with my family does not equate to sitting and spending time with God. In your crazy, fun, Summer escapades, be sure to include the discipline of sitting and spending time being quiet and still before God.
Discipline #10-SIT QUIETLY AND BE STILL WITH GOD.
TIME SPENT ALONE WITH GOD IS NEVER WASTED OR INEFFECTIVE!