Grace in the Little Things

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How often have you heard, “God cares about every detail of our lives,” ?  Or, “If it matters to you, it matters to Him,” ?

I’ve heard it a thousand times.  And I believed it.  But, God has a sense of humor, and a perfect sense of timing.

Currently, my minivan is on the fritz – the transmission is out (YAY….not!).  So, I’ve been driving our old F350 – I really do like to drive it, though you don’t exactly zip around town in a crew cab long bed 1 ton truck!  Anyway, the front passenger window was rolled down but wouldn’t go back up (the windows are electric, and there are also two other windows that will not roll up completely).  So, while at home, we’ve kept the windows covered to keep the rain out (what rain, you ask?  ha ha).  However, when I drive around town, I don’t like to look too much like a backwoods hillbilly, so off the covers come until I get home – you can imagine that I tend to stay home if it’s raining!

Well, a few days ago, I had to go buy groceries.  Thankfully, no rain – and it was a beautiful day!  So, off came the ugly black covers on the back windows, and off came the florescent orange cover on the front window!  I drove into town, and asked God quickly, again, to please roll that window up.

Now, let me interject here that I have ‘asked’ for that window to be rolled up several times before.  “God, will you PUH-LEEZE roll the stupid window up?”  Sounds heartfelt and very Christian-like, huh?  If I were God, I would have ignored my request, too.  Much, in fact, the way I ignore the requests of MY children when they whine, or don’t use a respectful tone.

But, the day was wonderfully cool and the sun was shining, and somehow, God had used those things to change my attitude.   I asked Him to please roll it up, tried the switch, and nothing happened.  So, I paused for a minute.

(As a quick side note, I don’t know about you, but I always do my BEST praying in the car by myself.)

I told God that I knew He did care about the little things in our lives.  I knew He could roll the window up that instant, if He so chose.  But, if not, would He just protect my truck while I was inside Wal-Mart buying groceries?  Either way, it was up to Him, and I was going to be happy either way.

I left the switch alone.

A few minutes later, for reasons I can’t explain other than the Lord, Himself, caused me to, I pushed the switch to close the window.  It rolled up smoothly, without a glitch, perfectly!  As if nothing had ever been wrong.

I laughed at my stubbornness in previous prayers – how I sounded like a spoiled, whiny child!  I told my husband what had happened and he, too, thought it awesome.  I told him the story of how I had “prayed” for that window before, and he said, “But did you really think He would do it?”

“Shutup,” was all I said, laughing and jokingly, of course.

So, my question for you is, when you pray for something, are you like a whiny, spoiled child who just wants to have his/her way?  Or are you praying truly asking the Lord for His covering, His protection, His will, and His timing?  And more importantly, are you trusting Him to answer?

The truth is that the little things can teach us so much about God, and ourselves.  There are so many lessons for me in this little story about the window that wouldn’t roll up.  How many can you see for yourself?

Uninhibited Volunteering

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My girls have recently become involved with 4-H, which means, I have recently become involved with 4-H!  LOL.

It’s ok, I enjoy the company of other people, and gravitate toward others, rather than always being alone.

The girls volunteered for offices within the club, and I am now the proud parent of a Reporter and Health & Safety Officer for our local 4-H club.  I’m really proud of them, though they almost bit off more than they (or I!) could chew.

So far, the girls have (combined) volunteered for:  offices in the club, livestock showing, photography, forestry, community service of course, being on the Christmas Committee, and a few other things.  Now, I don’t mind all that, as long as they remain devoted to whatever endeavors they choose.  For instance, forestry will be very challenging for my oldest, only 10, but has the potential to develop into something wonderful.  I’m excited about the possibilities they have available.

Tonight,my 10-year-old volunteered to be the leader of the Christmas Committee, which will be in charge of delegating for the club party in November.  She is the 2nd youngest, next to my younger daughter only, yet will be heading up this committee.  This is a great leadership learning opportunity for her, and will give her another chance to serve others.

So, it all got me to wondering.  (And we all know what happens when I start wondering!)

How often do we volunteer OUR time as adults?  Do we jump in and offer to provide a service for someone less fortunate, or for a friend who simply can’t do it?

I’m not hounding, and I’m not advocating that you become someone who cannot say, “No.”  But, as I look at my own life, I wonder how much I put my own selfishness in the place of serving someone.  God commanded that we work 6 days and rest for only 1.  Yet, I feel cheated if I have to “work” on the weekends.

I’m a person who doesn’t like to feel that everything is scheduled….our homeschool is very much a “go-with-the-flow,” and reflects our lifestyle in a good way.  But, God has been showing me that some structure is not bad.  It doesn’t mean I have to schedule everything, but simply have a basic guide.  And, I’m learning something else….

When I have that basic guide, I can schedule in some volunteer service.

If I can know that my own personal work will be accomplished by a certain time, then I know I can offer my time to another.  And, if my own work is done, it is selfish of me not to offer my time.

My goal over the coming months is to schedule some volunteer work as a family, and perhaps even individually.  John has been wanting to serve dinners on Thanksgiving for years.  Perhaps this is the year.  I’ve always said, “But, we don’t know where to go?”  Well, isn’t that taking the easy way out?

I want my children to know that there are others who are much less fortunate than we are.  That even though we are not rich, and may never be, that serving others through volunteering is a way to serve the Lord God Almighty, and to show the love of Jesus Christ His Son to those who may not yet know Him.

Here’s hoping you’ll volunteer, too.

Happy serving!

Toni

Decluttering….Far More than Organizing

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I am a pack rat.

I admit it – I keep all kinds of things.  Drawings, papers, articles.  The problem is, I don’t organize it well enough it find it, and soon forget I even kept it until I start weeding things out.  So, at that point, you would think I would say, “Toni, you haven’t used this in X months/years, get rid of it,” right?  Wrong.

Nope, I refile it with better intentions of using it, reading it, writing about it, etc.  And, again, 6 months later…I run across it again.  Some would say I need a better system.  Some would be right.

Anyway, today is the day that I begin decluterring – again.  So, I’m trying to toss things I don’t need.  I’m getting better.  I think I may even be able to overcome my addiction at some point in my life!  But, it made me think of something else:

Jesus said that when we become His followers, we are no longer that which we were before, but are new creations.  So, why then, do we tend to hang on to the “stuff” of our past for so long?  Maybe for some its the pain of a divorce, or the shame of an immoral relationship…for others it could be the hurt of abuse, or the indignity of past addictions.  The truth is, no matter how early in our lives we came to Christ, we all have a past as a sinner.  And, the instant we trusted in the power of the blood of the Lamb to forgive us for those sins, we became something new, something wonderful, something Divinely inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

So, why do we allow Satan to steal our joy by holding on so closely to those things we need to toss from our lives?  I believe part of it lies in lack of forgiveness.  Jesus said we are to forgive others, and He said that if we do not forgive, He cannot forgive us.  Who are we to say, “I can’t forgive myself for _____________,” when the One who created us, says, “I freely forgive you”?  Dare we put ourselves above God and say our judgment is stronger than His?  God forbid!

I believe part of it lies also in familiarity, though.  Even though those things are something we would gladly do without, comfort sometimes makes it hard to let go.  Think about it – an old, tattered, soft, worn-out t-shirt is so comfortable.  You wouldn’t wear it in public, and its threadbare, but you keep it simply because its comfortable.  We are so afraid of getting rid of the familiar sometimes that we miss out on the Divine!  With the t-shirt – God wants to replace it with a robe of pure white!  A white that we can’t comprehend!  But, we’re content to hang on to the tattered, worn-out t-shirt with the stains all over it.

I am pleading with each one of you – get on your knees – get on your face before the Lord of the universe and ask Him to reveal anything Satan is using to rob you of your joy in salvation.  And ask Him to remove it, completely.

Most importantly:  let Him remove it.

Psalm 51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

More than you can imagine!

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For anyone who knows me, you know that the biggest struggle for me comes from covetousness.  Satan knows EXACTLY where to hit me – right between the eyes every time.  Bigger house, newer car, nicer clothes, motorhome, a boat, etc – these are all things I’d love to have.  Yet, I know that being a believer in Jesus Christ does not guarantee me any earthly treasure.  However, sometimes knowing and letting go are two very different things.

At church tonight, one of our elders spoke about Heaven.  He spoke mainly about the New Heaven, the one to come after the Great White Throne Judgment.  Fellow believers, let me tell you, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

Do you realize the sheer size of the holy city of Jerusalem when it comes down to earth at that time?  Even if it were built just like human cities, the size alone would astound even the most skeptical of critics.  Fifteen hundred miles wide, long, and high!  This city is a 1500 mile cube!  Not only the size, but consider this:  the paving material is, as our elder put it, “the most prized possession in the world today – gold.”  But, this isn’t the kind of gold on your wedding band.  In comparison, that’s cheap.  This gold is so perfectly pure that it is like glass.

Then, there’s the “pearly” gates.  First, imagine how enormous gates for a city such as this would be.  David said that 1500 miles would cover the USA from the Canadian border into Mexico, and from the Mississippi River into the Pacific Ocean.  Now, imagine that height as well.  So, again….how big do those gates have to be?  And each one is created from a single pearl.  I don’t know about you, but I had heard the pearly gate thing before, and have read it.   But, when I really think about the SIZE of it, the wonder comes back again.  One pearl equals one gate.  Unfathomable.

The foundations of 12 different precious jewels.  I think maybe the idea here is that God uses what we perceive to have immense value as building materials.  But, when you think about it, it makes sense.  God sees more value in us than He does those jewels.

So, how does this tie into the covetousness thing?  Glad you asked.

On one hand, it doesn’t.  It is simply a wonderful reminder of what awaits us in Heaven when we get to see our blessed Saviour.

However, on the other hand, I needed to hear it tonight, because this week has been one of those weeks I have really struggled.  On this hand, this reminder taught me something…something simple, yet very profound hit me as I listened.  Maybe, just maybe, I’m like Fanny Crosby.  She once said that if she had the chance, she would have been born blind all over again.  Why?  Because the first face she would ever see would be that of her Saviour, Jesus.  Now, I have my eyesight, hearing, full use of my arms and legs, but maybe there is still a correlation:  not having everything I long for here on earth means that when I get to Heaven, it will be that much better.

Yeah, right now we live in a mobile home…hey, we’re adults, let’s call it what it is…we live in a trailer.  But that does not define me.  I buy clothes at Walmart, garage sales, and resale shops.  But that does not define me.  I drive a used minivan – and I still owe on it.  But that does not define me.  I do not have a perfect figure, and I am a diabetic.  But, that does not define me.

What defines me is who I am in Christ.  He has forgiven my sins!  Even mine!  And, everyday I wonder why.  As humans, we are so caught up in what we do to deserve something, that we find it hard to understand how the Creator of the world can forgive us so freely – without us doing anything to “deserve” it.  What defines me is knowing that I have a place secured in Heaven…that my Saviour went there to prepare a place for me, and is returning again to bring me home.  How or when, only Heaven knows.

Either way, the song Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus says it perfectly, and I’ll leave you with these words, because tonight, the Lord used them to speak to me:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of this world will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Strangers in a Strange Land

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We went to my sister’s house a few weekends ago for my nephew’s birthday party. First of all, I love my nephew dearly – he is very sweet, and shares the same sense of humor as so many in our family. He reminds me so much of my sister as a kid growing up, and of my dad – the eternal prankster.

Anyway, my sister lives in a big city in southeast Texas – on the coast. Our family lives about 20 miles out of our small town. Let me add a little more detail – just to be sure this post makes sense!

The town I live in…to be more exact, live outside of, has only one Super WalMart. We have one Bealls, a Brookshire Brothers grocery store, a feed store, Tractor Supply, Lowes, and two vets. There are of course several smaller businesses there as well, but we are still a relatively small town of about 8247 people. This is also in deep east Texas, where the people are hard-workers (for the most part), laid back, and lead simple, quiet lives.

The town my sister lives in has, on one corner, a WalMart, Walgreens, Target, Home Depot, nail salons, etc. And that’s just the ones I can remember. My town has no mall….to get to one we have to drive 1 ½ hours south or 1 hour north. For my sister to get to a mall, she has to drive about 15 minutes, and that’s due to traffic.

So, here’s where the meat of this post comes in:

I needed some jeans while I was there (and got to buy TWO sizes smaller than the last pair I bought!!!), and wanted something other than WalMart jeans this time, so she and I went to the mall. (OK, to be honest, we went to the mall to pick up my favorite brother-in-law’s cookie cake because it was his birthday, too.) Anyway, we were starving so we grabbed a bite to eat in the food court before we made our rounds. As I looked around, I actually told my sister, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

Now, I grew up in the city (albeit not one as big as where she lives), and have lived in or very near large cities most of my life. But for the past 2 ½ years, we have lived here in the country. And, I must admit, I was not prepared for how much it has changed me.

The mall itself seemed like something out of Star Trek. Even the malls we do have nearby are no comparison. After people-watching during our Arby’s meal, we made our way to the store I would buy my new (smaller!) jeans in. I picked ‘em out, tried ‘em on, and went to pay…the cashier took my payment, and this is the part that I had to laugh at: she wrapped my blue jeans in tissue paper and put them in a brown shopping bag and tied it with a bow! My sister jokingly said, “You don’t get service like that at home, do you?!” Nope. We get WalMart bags!

I did a little more shopping, and we headed back to the house. I really was amazed at how much different the city seemed to me now that I had lived in the country for a while. I was, in fact, uncomfortable there. I felt terribly out of place – like people could look at me and tell that I didn’t belong.

But you know what? I didn’t mind a bit. Because that’s what Christians do, anyway. We experience that out-of-place feeling daily in our lives, regardless of where we are. We can be at the convenience store around the corner or the post office.

Wherever we are, we are out of place. We are strangers in a strange land, because our home is not here. Our home is in Heaven and the moment we feel too comfortable here, we have lost the focus on what is important. Sin abounds in this earthly residence, but in Heaven our citizenship is secure and wonderful.

Jesus promised us that this world would hate us, because it hated Him. But we are not to fear – for HE HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD!

So, today I want to remind you that if you feel completely out of place in the world, don’t fear. Rejoice! This is NOT your place! You are designed for far greater things than this old world! God made you to enjoy the Heavenly home He created just for you!

 

Your voice can make a difference

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The following is a link to a page on the ChinaAid website.  China is notorious for persecution against Christians; however, sometimes God blesses those fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with early release, better treatment, etc., due to an outpouring of concern from the international community.

Help bring justice to Shuang and her family

This elderly couple is facing a death – the husband lay dying in the hospital clinging to the hope that he will once again see his wife before he goes to be with his Savior.  Sadly, his wife is in a Chinese prison for “damaging government property,” when her real crime is believing in Jesus Christ.

At the bottom of the page are 2 ways to help this family:

1)  Monetary donation – this will help ChinaAid with supplies such as food, clothing, etc., that is much needed by families affected by persecution in China…

2)  Write emails.  Chinese officials feel pressure already due to the outcry of Christians around the world.  If they are bombarded with emails insisting they let Shuang Shuying free, there is an amazing chance that God will cause them to do just that.

In this case, writing those emails may be even more effective immediately due to the impending death of Shuang’s husband, Hua Zaichen.  I urge you to get involved – TAKE ACTION!  Christians were never intended to be idle bystanders, watching from the sidelines!  We are intended to be victorious!  God reveals His glory through our obedience!   It will only take a few minutes out of your day.  They need only be short, polite emails insisting on Shuang’s immediate release from prison.

So, go write some emails. 

 

What are you still doing here?

Change is upon us….what have we done?

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Here is a great article for you to check out:

Change we never imagined

Is it possible that even the very people who voted Obama into office are not scratching their heads in disbelief at the speed at which such monumental changes are being made?  Doubtful.

God is watching….and thankfully, He is in control.  But that doesn’t mean He approves of what is happening.  We need to be very aware of the differences in approval vs. permissiveness.  As I stated in an earlier post, God permits us to make our own choices, but that does NOT mean He approves of that which He permits.

As Mr. Barber states in the article linked above: 

“People of faith, conservatives, and those of you with traditional values: hold on to your hats – it’s going to be a bumpy four years.”

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