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God’s Handiwork

For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

 

Do you believe this? God’s handiwork!

When a child brings you a picture they have drawn or colored for you (their handiwork), what do you do with it? Most of us usually hang it up—on the fridge, in our office, or somewhere else that others can see it. The child is so proud of what they’ve created and it is easy to catch their excitement!

God feels the same way about what He has created! Even more, we have been created for more than to be hung on a fridge. Just as a child puts careful thought into what he or she creates for someone, God put careful thought into each of our lives even before we were created!

God created each of us with strengths and weaknesses, knowing both would be used to form us into the person He wants us to be. Unlike a child’s drawing, God created us for more than looking pretty or hanging out alone. We were created to do good works, serving others with our strengths and relying on others to help us in our weaknesses. God’s perfect plan for us is to work together to do His work, encourage others, to find the purpose for which God created them, and to further His kingdom.

My friends, just as artwork from a child is carefully created to bring joy and brighten the day of those who see it, you are a creation of the God of the universe! You were chosen by Him to do great things and bring joy to Him and others today and every day.

be blessed today!
Paula

 

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Ice Cream Parlor Ponderings

Sitting inside my air-conditioned house this afternoon I watched the flash of a thunderstorm in the distance yet promptly declared I was going down the road to get ice cream. After all, it is the unofficial last day of Summer so ice cream was a necessity! Pulling into the driveway I noticed the lines were long and I would be left outside of the wooden awning that would provide protection from the raindrops but I pressed onward. Crossing the parking lot to the front of the ice cream shop I reached the line as the thunderstorm drew even closer and I knew I had waited too long. But I was already there, so I bravely continued my quest. After all…ice cream.

I joined a line and glanced around. There was an eclectic group of people awaiting their cool treats; very old to very young, varying tallnesses and thicknesses, dark hair, light hair, curly and straight. Some had piercings, some had tattoos, some were wearing funny hats. There were even a couple of dogs tagging along. Although we were all different, we had one thing in common. Ice cream.

It wasn’t long before the heavens let loose and buckets of cool, refreshing rain came pouring from the sky. We all huddled a little closer under cover, and as we awaited our turn at the window we seemed to be more comfortable visiting than we were before. We struck up conversations about the storm, the dog who was scared of the storm, and the little girl who took the long way around from the inside of the shop outside for ice cream.

As we each received our treats no one seemed in a hurry to get to their cars and go our separate ways. Well, there was that downpour, and the thunder, and lightning that was getting pretty close. So we all hung around, eating our ice cream and chatting. It didn’t matter where we were from, who we were with, or what ice cream flavor was our favorite. We all had one thing in common, the storm…well, and ice cream.

It wasn’t long before long the rain let up and I took off my shoes and splashed across the parking lot to my car. As I climbed in and drove the 1/2 mile home, I wondered to myself why tonight’s adventure couldn’t be repeated more often, even without the ice cream? Why don’t we visit more, laugh more, and find more things in common with each other? After all, we each have joys, we all have struggles, all experience pain….and we all need Jesus. Why do I allow perceived differences to hold me back?

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.         2 Timothy 4:2

Why don’t I look more at what I have in common with others than what makes me (or them) different? Why am I self-conscious, wondering what they will think instead of thinking about the need they may have that Jesus can meet? Why does it take ice cream and thunderstorms to push me out of my comfort zone? I’m going to work on those answers, and try to find solutions. Maybe I can begin by asking their favorite flavor of ice cream.

My dad always declined ice cream in the Winter, declaring it was out of season. I guess when we share Jesus with others we risk them declining what He has to offer as well. We may need to be prepared to continue loving them, opening our lives to them and sharing Jesus with them for a long time before they accept. The risk should not keep us quiet.

Will you join me in sharing Jesus more with others this week? Ice cream may or may not go out of season, but I know beyond a doubt the love of Jesus doesn’t and we shouldn’t act as though it does.

Paula

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Strongholds

What comes to mind when you think of a stronghold? No, it’s not someone who is holding your arm too tightly, but it does usually come with a negative connotation. It always has for me too…until recently.

The only Scriptures I remember reading or hearing about strongholds through the years are those where we are reminded, especially in the New Testament, of strongholds that belong to the devil.

When I searched for the dictionary’s definition of a stronghold I found “a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld.”  Unfortunately, these beliefs aren’t always truthful or positive! I think most of us have a negative thought or habit (or two) that we repeatedly fight. For me they are usually a pattern in my mind reminding me of my weaknesses and taunting me that I will never overcome certain struggles.

The devil is all over these types of negative strongholds! He would have us believe we are weak and defenseless against the struggles of this world. Sometimes it certainly feels that way!

What the devil is hoping we will forget is that when we have the Holy Spirit we have all the power we need to demolish these strongholds!

For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.                                                                    2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The good news, my friends, is that we are not in this fight alone! When we know Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord we have the Holy Spirit’s power inside of us! We only need to unleash it in the battle for our minds!

Destroying House

I know for me some days it’s easier to remember to use this demolition power than others, but whether we use it or not, it is ALWAYS there at our disposal!

I mentioned earlier that these days strongholds don’t always come with a negative connotation for me. I’ve been dwelling in the Psalms a lot lately during my quiet times and keep seeing strongholds mentioned, especially by David. As I dug around I learned another definition of stronghold; “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” David found and created these strongholds when he was running for his life from King Saul. He was protected in these places by those who fought for and with him and found rest and solace when he was there.

We have it even easier than for David as we don’t have to build our own strongholds to find protection from our enemy! The Lord is our stronghold, and the Holy Spirit fights for and with us! He is waiting for us to stop fighting alone and find refuge in His stronghold.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
                                                        Psalm 9: 9-10

Once we have taken refuge in the stronghold of the Lord, if we are willing, we will find others who are searching for sanctuary themselves. Together we can bandage each others’ wounds, prop each other up, feed each other with the nourishment of God’s promises and stand together, often on our knees.

Don’t fight this battle alone! Remember the strength available to you through the Holy Spirit, and be vulnerable enough to let God use your experiences to strengthen others for the fight. We are called to fight, but we are not called to fight a solitary battle.

Now go out there and do some demolition with the Lord!!
Paula

 

 

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Just Who Do You Think You Are??

As humans our image of ourselves and others is so often based on external factors.

What will I be when I grow up?

Am I pretty enough, talented enough, smart enough?

Do people like me?

How many times through your life have you asked these questions of yourself or others? I’m not suggesting it is wrong to think about the external or to have goals and dreams about what we desire out of our lives.

The trouble comes when we base our self-image entirely on external factors, or allow others to form our identities for us. We may believe the lies that we aren’t enough unless…and this is exactly what the enemy wants us to do! He wants to make us feel broken down and defeated.

When we examine our lives by our own strengths and weaknesses the weaknesses will always outweigh the strengths. It can be easy to go down the rabbit hole of regret or self-deprecation and become trapped at a dead-end, face to face with the father of lies.

It is vital that we know who we are in Christ:

  • Chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. (Col. 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4)
  • Rescued from the domain of Satan’s rule and transferred
    to the kingdom of Christ. (Colossians 1:13)
  • Victorious through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
  • Changed into the likeness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
  • Given exceedingly great and precious promises by God. (2 Peter 1:4)

If we stand on our identities in Christ, the wounds we have accumulated through life, whether physical or emotional will no longer keep us bound in the past, but rather be used as tools in the hands of our God. He will wipe out the lies we have believed for so long and fill us with love, truth, and hope for tomorrow. While it usually isn’t a dramatic, overnight change, if we allow Him, God will shape our present and future into something good. We will look back over months and years and see ourselves more and more the way God sees us, beautifully restored and useful.

The world around us seems to constantly be demanding that we prove ourselves by our external environments. As children of God we only need to declare who we are by standing on His promises and finding our identities in Him. As we do, God gives us the added blessing of learning how to use our past experiences, both good and bad, to walk alongside and encourage others who are struggling and help them find their true identity too.

The next time you hear the enemy say, “Who do you think you are”, remind him that you KNOW you are a child of God and you are no longer going to believe the lies that you are any less.

blessings and peace to you as you walk in confidence and hope today!
Paula

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing Through the Fog

A thick fog has settled in over my little corner of the world early this morning. It brings with it an eeriness and distorts the view of my surroundings.

Have you ever experienced a fog settling in on yourself? It’s not uncommon to hear someone say they have brain fog when they can’t think of something clearly or are trying to figure something out. Searching for the right words or trying to find car keys in the morning can sometimes make us think we are in a brain fog. We often address these experiences lightheartedly and brush them off knowing that a cup of coffee or a little time will usually clear our brains and make the fog go away.

What about a spiritual fog? Have you ever had a time when life seemed confusing and overwhelming and you felt like your spirit was in a fog?

I’ve experienced times like this. Because of physical tiredness, uncertain situations or confusion I’ve gone through times when life seemed to weigh down on my spirit so heavily that it felt like I was in a spiritual fog. These times may cause me to become overly emotional, and to not be able to sort through a situation clearly. Often these fogs bring on uncertainty of my position in Christ and how much he loves me and is walking with me to give me strength.

Just as fog on the ground can distort our surroundings and make it difficult to see where we are going, spiritual fog can also distort our view.

So what can we do in these foggy situations when we can’t see our way through?

  • Remind ourselves of our position in Christ. Scripture tells us that we are children of God, we have the spirit of God living in us, and nothing can separate us from the love of God.

    For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

  • Put on the armor of God. Go to Ephesians 6:10-18 and put on each piece of armor carefully and prayerfully.
  • Seek out a trusted friend who will help you process the challenge and find your way through the fog.
  • Praise the Lord! Whether through music or speaking scripture aloud, praise, even (especially) when you feel like you can’t. Psalm 147 says God delights in people who praise and fear Him. Even if you think you are just going through the motions do it! You may be surprised how the act of praise will change your perspective.

The fog that was clouding my backyard view has cleared now and I have a different perspective on the day. If you find yourself in a spiritual fog today, I encourage you to ask the Lord to help you fight your way out of it and see clearly your position in Him. If I can help, please drop me a note.

blessings and peace to you today!

paula

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Will You Take The Risk?

I heard John Ortberg on Focus On The Family today. He was talking about how much easier it is to like/love those who are like us. It can be much more difficult to love someone to whom we can easily relate and who is predictable. Allowing ourselves to open up to someone new, or someone with different interests or a different bent can be risky, and may cause us to step out in faith. It is much easier to stay in our comfort clan, so to speak and not reach out. But something John said really made me think. I wanted to share it with you:

We can only be loved to the extent we are known…and
We can only be fully loved if we are fully known.

This is true in relationships for sure. Reaching out to others toward a complete relationship means allowing them to see the ‘real’ us. It’s not enough to only serve on church committees, chat with the other parents at soccer games or lend a hand to a neighbor shoveling snow. If we want to make lasting friendships with people who will love us fully we must be willing to open ourselves up and be vulnerable, both to  rejection and acceptance. We need to be willing to be consistent with others, allowing them to see the real us – our hopes and fears…and our faults, along with the positive, happy parts of us. This can be difficult, and scary, even for adults!

heart mittens

Do you realize there is one who already loves you this fully? We never need to fear rejection from Him no matter what is in our mind or heart. He will always welcome us and we can be certain His actions will be consistent every time. The love we get from God is not always ooey, gooey love that makes us feel all warm inside. Sometimes He loves us enough to discipline us, allowing us to face consequences for our sins. But even in the midst of hard times and hurting, the depth of His love never fades.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Just as in building and growing relationships with others requires consistency from us, so does our relationship with God. We can only know Him fully when we consistently open ourselves up to Him, honestly sharing our heart, our faults and our fears. We might feel like we’re taking a risk to spend time with Him every day and open ourselves up to Him at all times – not waiting until we feel all cleaned-up and ready to talk to Him. When we take those steps of faith we’ll find Him waiting for us, arms and heart open wide.

Growing relationships with other humans can be risky. It’s important to be sure before we allow someone else to know us fully that they are someone God has put in our path who can love us fully and not someone who will take advantage of our vulnerability. This takes prayer, time, and a little testing of the waters. Thankfully growing our relationship with God is never truly risky. God is a solid rock on whom we can depend to never leave us and never let us down.

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
~ Isaiah 26:3-4

Take the risk and get to know Him better today. You’ll be glad you did!

blessings and peace as you step out in faith…
Paula

 

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Standards ~ Do You Measure Up?

Comparison begins when we are very young. We think our friends have more toys than us or are more talented, can run faster or are more popular. Healthy comparison can make us better athletes, musicians, students or entrepreneurs. But sadly even in childhood we can be bombarded with the idea that our classmates are smarter or our friends are prettier, more talented, etc. This unhealthy comparison can bring us to a place of unhappiness, anger and fear. Sadly this pattern doesn’t change when we hit adulthood. Instead we are faced with a brand new set of standards and if we let the world around us set them for us we will never measure up!

I realized the other day that becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly change our tendency to compare. Too often we wish we could sing like our worship leader or teach like our pastor. Or we long for the gift of hospitality when we’ve burned every batch of cookies we’ve baked! Maybe we even compare our testimony to someone else’s and feel like we don’t measure up.

As I’ve been pondering all of this I came to the determination that it must make our Lord very sad. Consider this scripture:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:10-11

Each of us is created uniquely to accomplish something for God that no one else can. Your blending of gifts and talents is different from mine so we can connect with different people and reach more for Him. Above all we are to use what God has given us to bring Him glory and point others to Him. I am convicted about time I’ve wasted comparing myself to others or whining over what I didn’t have instead of asking God to show me what’s next. I’m going to work on this!

I hope comparison isn’t a pit you fall into often! Hopefully you measure yourself by what God says about you instead of listening to the discouragement and lies of the enemy. If you aren’t sure how God wants to use you, spend some quality time in prayer. He will meet you there and pour out His plans for you.

The next time we begin to compare ourselves to someone else let’s compliment them, thank God for them, then thank Him for what He’s created us to do…then get at it!

blessings and peace to you along the way…

paula