His Garden of Grace
PRAY Thats a given, right? Well yes, and no. We Know we ought to pray. We Know we want to pray.We Know we need to pray.But do we know how to pray?Do we know what to pray? And, can I be honest here? Isn't it just a little bit frustrating sometimes when you pray and NOTHING changes? In fact, sometimes you have this wonderful time with God and then your whole world crashes down around your ankles; the kids fight and you loose your temper and tell them to shut up and go away and your husband hurts your feelings and you lash out at him and you get in the longest line at the checkout and...well, you get the picture. I am sure you are smiling here, because it has happened to you. ME TOO.Really.More often than I would like to admit. I don't understand the ways of God. OR the ways of our enemy. But I do know something about the why. And when I discovered this, it was surprising to me. God doesn't need us to pray for Him to know our needs. DUH! We don't pray to tell Him what to do, or how to do it. Our prayers are to remind us WHO HE IS. Now, I am sure you all knew that. But it was news to me when I first figured it out. So, if he doesn't need us to remind him of our situation, or tell him who to bless or what to do in this situation or that one, then what in the world do we pray about??? What do we say? Col. 1:9-13 says: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work growing in the knowledge of God being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you man have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Spiritual Stuff. Physical Stuff. Emotional Stuff. All Stuff. Thats what he wants us to pray about. But lets look a little deeper. The disciples had the same problem. They wanted to know how to pray, too. And Jesus gave them the model prayer which is what we call "The Lord's Prayer". We all know it. Our Father, who is in heaven....But what if we really thought about who Jesus was and who he was talking to and his audience for that prayer? Here's the thing: Jesus was talking to God the Father. HIS FATHER. And because of Jesus, He is our Father, too. Thats why Jesus says: OUR FATHER. So lets have a sit down with our Father. A conversation. If you look at "The Lords Prayer" as a little conversation (this was AFTER Jesus had just spent some time praying) it looks a little different. And if we read on in Luke 11, we find Jesus telling them to be persistent, almost to the point of being annoying. Which brings us back to Paul, who says: we have not stopped praying..... I think our problem lies in us. WE give up too soon. WE get defeated. WE believe the lies of the enemy. WE think that God is never gonna answer, he is bored hearing from us, and things aren't going to change, so why should I pray. And we complain about things instead of praising God that things are hard, and that he brought those very hard things that drive us crazy into our lives so that they would drive us to our knees and to a relationship with Him who loves us most and can DO something about it!!! So here is my thimble full of knowledge about prayer: Do it. TAH DAH. Talk to your Father. Talk to him like you would your girlfriend. AND LISTEN. Really. He does want to speak to us in that "still small voice". Ask him a question and wait. QUIETLY. That voice in your head that answers you? It is not you....its HIM. Did you think he would sound like James Earl Jones? No, silly! He speaks in your heart. And to me, it sounds alot like I am talking to myself. But the ideas and thoughts that come to me are NOT OF ME. I swear. It works. And if I ask and I dont hear, then I look to his word. Cause chances are, the answer is right there in front of me. And if I still get nothing, I wait. Cause sometimes "wait" is the answer I need. So often I rush into things and ruin them by putting my dirty hands in to it. I just want to fix it. NOW!!! But HE DOESNT NEED ME TO FIX IT in my strength. He wants to do it, and better than I could, and he wants me to learn to trust Him and have relationship with Him in "The Waiting." Waiting. How I hate to wait. But I am learning that there is peace and joy in The Waiting. I am learning to embrace waiting as a friend. As a opportunity to love my Father God in ways I never thought possible....that I only saw in others and desperately wanted in my own life, but didn't know how to get. Now I know. Pain and Waiting. Lots of Waiting. So today, as we Wait for Jesus' birthday, what do you need to do to get ready? Not the list of buying gifts, trimming the tree, cooking, baking, crafting.....etc. I mean, what does your heart need? What do you need your Father to do in you today? In your family? Ask. And don't let the enemy steal it. Anticipate it in the Waiting. And Hope in God. Not in the situation ever changing, but in God's ability to do whatever He needs to do. Embrace the Waiting. The Longing. The Resting. John 1:16-17 says: From the Fullness of His Grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given throughout Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. From the Fullness of Grace. And that came through Jesus into you. Fully embrace Him and you can walk gracefully, graciously wherever He takes you this season. Even in the Mall. I love you!Leslie
Let every heart prepare Him room--Christ has come. Is there room in your heart for Him? Col. 1:3-5 says: We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints---the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. Todays installment is going to be short and sweet. Our hope is Christ. He is the one who makes hope for the future, for the present and for our past, possible. He has defeated the enemy, forgiving and redeeming us for all time, reserving a seat in the glorious presence of God. But this is not only for the future! Our hope rests in Him for today! But our hearts must be prepared to receive what he has for us. Good, bad and ugly. Mostly it is our perspective that we need to change. The way we perceive that which we receive is what makes the difference. If we think of everything...the good: fun, beautiful, lovely or the bad: hurt, pain and disappointment or the ugly: sickness, death, disease as coming from His hand, then we would learn of Him. Rest in Him. But in order to do this, our hearts have to be prepared ahead of time. But how? By remembering who God is, and His promises to us. By encouraging ourselves in the Lord. By committing our hearts to Him regardless of the way things look on the outside. "O LORD God of Israel, there is no God like you in Heaven or on earth--you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way." 2 Chron. 6:19 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinnersor sit in the seat of mockers.But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in seasonand whose leaf does not wither.Whatever he does prospers. Ps. 1:1-3 So prepare your heart. There will be interruptions, disruptions and disappointments. You won't have time to do everything, and you will let people down. You will be faced with some tough situations, and tough choices. But our Hope is in Him.He is who we want to please. We will stand before Him in the end.Spend time with Him, Rest in Him. Be still in Him. Get to know Him.Ponder the Wonder.Make room in your busy schedule for Him. Don't leave Him out; don't leave Him behind. After all, it is HIS Birthday. And find a way to express to others that "faith and love that springs forth from the hope."Perhaps you could send a note of love to someone who needs the reminder this season. Or just a hug at the right time. Or a prayer. God will show you.
Ponder. Have you ever stopped and 'pondered' that word? It is a word we don't use very often anymore. But it is a word that is rich with meaning. The dictionary says it means to think carefully about something before making a decision. But I like the old meaning which says to appraise, judge the worth of; weigh, reflect on.Thats what Mary did when the angel of the Lord announced that she was going to give birth to Messiah. She treasured. She pondered the wonder. And thats what I want to do that this month. This season. To ponder. Rest and relax. To take time to do what is important, and let go of the expectations, the hurt, the things I don't understand. And give in to the wonder that is Christ in me, the Hope of Glory. My favorite book of the Bible right now is Colossians. It has been since I discovered so much of myself in the pages there. It has been such a comfort and reminder to me since this season of life began for me. And last year God planted the idea to do a "December Daily" from the book of Colossians. So what began last year as a seed will hopefully come to full bloom this year. There is so much richness in these 4 short chapters and my hope is to remind myself daily of these truths and perhaps encourage you too. Many scrapbookers do what is known in their world as a "December Daily", where they take a snapshot of their life on that day, whatever they are doing and make a scrapbook page that reflects that. Or they take a memory or a tradition and each day throughout December and journal about it. So I want to take that idea, and spin it for our spirits. Each day I want to take a word, put feet on it, and walk it around in our hearts and minds for that day. We will do that for 7 days, then repeat. And take it deeper each week. And today we will ponder. Colossians 1:1-2 says: Paul, and apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, most of the time, we just gloss over this part, so we can get to the meat of this book. But this jumped out at me the last couple of times I read it. So I pondered it. Read it again. Paul was sent to them, by the will of God. Who did God send to you?Since you are reading this, I know He sent you to me.Wow.Ponder that for a minute.Our meeting was not by chance. God, in his wisdom knew I needed you in my life. And you needed me. And thats not all.He considered them holy and faithful. And that only happens by the blood of Christ. And we share in that truth. By Christs blood, we are already Holy and Faithful. But there is still more. Grace and peace to YOU from God OUR Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ.Grace and peace.Ponder those two words for a moment.Are you living there?It is extended to us, but are we really drinking from the fountain of His grace and letting His Peace wash away the grime of the world and wash over our souls?I really have a hard time living in His Peace.But to live there, I have to drink deep from the fountain of His glorious grace.What a privilege that HeHas invited meto participate in grace.Ponder that for a moment. Or maybe all day. Put some feet on that and let it prance around inside.Lets live there a while. Pondering the wonder of His Grace and Peace, dwelling in us in the form of His son, who brings to us the only gifts we really need this season. And we have the privilege of passing those gifts on to others he brings into our path. To make Him known by our honor of His name. By participating in His Grace and Peace.How lovely is your dwelling place,O LORD Almighty!My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD'my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.Even the sparrow has found a home,and the swallow a nest for herself, where where she may save her young - a place near your altar.Blessed are theose whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Ponder. Let it fill your heart with awe and wonder.And share His grace and peace with someone who needs to ponder, too. Forever His,Leslie PS. And if you do it without telling them why you are extending grace and peace to them, it will really make them ponder!
Time for another lesson. Sorry I missed yesterday. Should have said in the first day that I would be posting periodically throughout the week, or maybe even sporadically, since I am not known for my routine schedule. In fact, routines scare me. I run from them like the plague. However, when I settle in them, I really learn to like them. But the commitment of a routine frightens me. I mean, what if I want to do something different instead? Anyway, I will post these semi-regularly. Which means, when I get around to it. Lesson 2 Easy Come, but Time to Go! Interesting that I am talking about doing something regularly. But that is just how God is. This is something that has taken me years to learn. And I have not arrived, but I do have a measure of success in this area, after being force into it by our Heavenly Father. Mind you, I went there kicking and screaming, but now I have settled into a (gasp) routine and I can't go back. Not weeding the garden, mind you, but in my heart and mind spending regular time with Him. I need Him just to breathe right now. I am desperate. In my garden, the weeds took root. In some ways, they were very easy to pull up because they were so big. But in other ways, it was so much more difficult. Let me explain. When a weed is small, it lays just under the edge of the soil, right near the surface so it can absorb water and other nutrients that fall off other plants when it rains. But as it grows bigger, the surface nutrients are no longer sufficient for the needs of the plant. So it takes root, and it grabs into the soil to pull from the earth what in needs to mature and produce seed. The deeper it roots, the harder it is to remove the entirety of the plant. And the more it rips up the soil in the process. It also, if it has gone to seed, scatters its offspring into the newly churned soil, which allows for deeper roots and quicker reproduction. Which equals ugly, at an alarming rate! In my heart, if I take the thought captive before it takes root, then I am rid of it before it has a chance to sprout and do its damage. But if I take that little seed, and coddle it by thinking on it, mulling it over and holding it in my hot little hands and heart, I am tilling the soil to give it room to root itself fully. I am ever so guilty of this. I have been hurt by some stinging words recently, and my mind is constantly drawn back to the words. Actually it is not so much the words that hurt, but the heart with which they were spoken. Well, the words hurt too, especially since they were not true. Now, it is perfectly ok, as we said yesterday, to be hurt by another person's words. But to grow them in our minds is not. But what if I do? What if I give life to those awful thoughts and let them consume me? How do I get my wonderful garden back? Get out the round-up. When you have to pull up those big suckers, you find other smaller weeds that were obscured by the big ones. They aren't really the main problem, but they will be if allowed to stay around. And since the big ones leave the soil tilled up, these little ones and all the other seed that fell when you pulled up the biggies are now getting great nutrition in that fresh soil, they grow really, really fast. And then they are deeper and harder to get rid of. So after getting rid of the big guys, you need to spray the entire area with weed killer. Then you spread fresh mulch around to protect that clean soil and keep the weeds from taking root again. The things that have transpired in my family recently have made a very fertile place for hurt to grow. And if I am not careful, I will find myself consumed by it, overcome by the despair of the situation, and thinking horrible thoughts about the persons involved. Then I will give life to those thoughts by retaliating or hardening my heart to the ones who did the hurting. And who does that really hurt? ME. Suffice it to say that when I said to take every thought captive yesterday, that is what I meant. And then I have to change my focus. But that is another post for another day. Back to pulling weeds. When you are angry or hurt and you act on it, or you have some other habit that you just hang on to, or unforgiveness reigns in your heart, or any number of other sins have found root in you, as the Holy Spirit allows them to surface, it is time to take action. You must obey His voice immediately, pull up those weeds and cast them out by confessing and asking forgiveness. You are doing this for 2 reasons: 1. to agree with God about your condition, and 2. to humble yourself and place yourself under His control. Then, you need to ask God how you got here and where to go from here. You might need to go to the person you wronged and ask forgiveness. You may need to make restitution. And chances are, God will reveal more sins for you to acknowledge and confess. Because usually by the time we get around to seeing our sin, it is pretty grown up and we have a mess of things lurking in the undergrowth. Once you make the deliberate choice to grow this weed, and make no mistake, we have a choice, it is easier to let something else in, and then a little more, and a little more, until we are left wondering how in the heck we got here. I have personally experienced this many more times than I would like to admit! After the major weeds are pulled up, it is time to spray the weed killer. I really like a product called Weed and Feed. It is a great little product because it does two things: Kills the weeds (duh) and fertilizes the soil. In the heart-garden, the Holy Spirit helps us weed out the sin in our lives, and then the He teaches us to apply the Word of God as our fertilizer. He uses it to grow us through the pain to make us more like Christ. And the more we read, study and apply His Word the harder it is for those weeds to take root in our hearts. The final blow is the power of prayer. As we nurture our lives by spending time with Him, sin has a difficult time hanging around. We fall so in love with Him and realize our desperate state, that He somehow protects us. That doesn't mean we wont face pain and hardships. But we begin to see the difficult from his perspective and realize that "what others meant for evil, God has meant for good." When the temptation comes to feel sorry for ourselves, or any number of other temptations come, we are more able to recognize them because we are connected to the Vine and are under the control of the Master Gardener. So what is He doing? And why is it so difficult? And now that the weeds are all gone, what do I do? Thats for the next few installments. For now, rest. After all, that is what gardens are for. Find a quiet place and rest in His mercy and grace for you. I will too.
It has been my practice for several months now to go out and watch the sunrise in my front yard. I have a beautiful view, and it is very picturesque to watch it come up with palm cypress trees in the foreground. I go out to watch because I feel like it is better than the best movie. Every day it is different, and every day I sense God's presence in a new and tangible way. My favorite color is pink. And most every day, in my front yard here in sunny south Florida, I am surrounded in pink sky. As the pink hues of sunrise envelope my little world, I come face to face with the reality that I am loved so deeply by my creator, the God of the universe. I truly, with all my heart believe he creates these beautiful "skyscapes" just for me. Really. Because he can, and because he loves to show me just how much he loves me. I just have to get up in the morning and look for it. Anyway, the last two weeks have been particularly difficult ones, because of a family situation that is vastly painful beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I have been grappling with it and trying to see God's plan in it, but it has been so hard. And it has been rainy here, so the sunrises have been non- existent. They have really mirrored my emotions. Gray, and seemingly shrouded in sadness. Sometimes, it seemed that God himself was weeping along with me. Which is a great comfort to think that my sadness of heart could touch the heart of God. After all, what is happening in my family saddens his heart too. And the hard part is that I am helpless in this situation. I must sit back and watch it all unfold. But God has been faithful in reminding me that I am not without hope. Especially this morning. I awoke early and went outside, where the sunrise was just beginning. It was beautiful beyond words today. Pink was all around, and as I looked straight up, there were a few puffy lower level clouds that were pink. They were right over head. And as my eyes traveled around the sky, the entire horizon to my left and to my right turned a subtle pink. And I looked behind, and it turned pink, too. So I looked back up at the clouds overhead, and they had formed a circle of pink-ness. And thats when it hit me. God was surrounding me. As I watched, He was engulfing me in his presence and telling me, "You may not see me working, but I got this. You just need to rest and remain in me. See, I go before you, and I guard you on your left, and on your right. I have set my rear guard behind you, and I have covered your head. Don't worry, child. I am in The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I see, I know, and I AM." I stood there, worshipping him with a grateful heart. And as I looked around, the sun was again covered by the clouds. And the sunrise, a brief interlude today, was over. The cloud cover blotted it out, and soon, it will begin to rain again today. But that's ok, because God showed up today, big time. And my joy cup is filled to the brim and overflowing because He came to me in my sadness and met me there. He lifted my spirit in the way that only he can. And although my heart is still sad and hurting beyond words, I am no longer overwhelmed by it. He lifted my head above the waters that were threatening to drown me, and breathed his breath into my lungs. And my strength is renewed. My hope is shored up again. And I can go on with great joy, because he loves me. The song on my heart today as I woke fit this, too. It was one the worship team sang this weekend at church. An old one, that I am sure now that was chosen to strengthen and encourage me this week. Wow, God. You really want me to get this message today. Strength will rise when we wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon you Lord. We will wait upon you Lord. Our God, will reign forever. Our Hope. Our Strong Deliverer. You are the Everlasting God. The Everlasting God. You do not fail, You won't grow weary. You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need. You lift us up on wings like eagles. Thanks, God. I am humbled and amazed yet again. I love you, too. And I will hope in you all the day long. I trust you.