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Reflections

How are You with Accents?

How are you with accents? I’m awful! I can hear them in my head, but I cannot recreate them out loud.

Unless…

Unless I’ve just watched a movie where the accent has been prolific. Or I’ve spent time with someone who speaks differently than me. Then, I can walk away for a short commercial break, or an equivalent amount of time, and mimic the accent almost exactly. But it fades fast.

Can you relate? Even if you’re talented with accents, you’re probably better after having been exposed to one, right? Do you know what I’m talking about?

It makes me wonder…

It makes me wonder about my attempted imitation of Jesus. I can’t be very good at it when I’m not spending time with Him. If I hope to mimic Jesus, I need to hear Him.

When I tune Him out, my ability to copy His accent fades. I start making my own noise. And there’s a good chance I’m going to embarrass us both.

How about you? Are you good with accents? Is it easier if you spend time with someone who has one? How much time away from Jesus do you think it takes before it becomes difficult to speak and act like Him?

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

Ephesians 5:1
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Reflections

Something of Value Learned from Snow People on the Trail

Hello, my friends! How are you? It’s been a pensive several days for me. But there was a highlight; something of value learned from snow people on the trail.

Lately, I’ve been in my head. That sounds funny, but do you know what I mean? Are you familiar with that place where you retreat so deep you lose awareness of what and where you are? I made up a short ditty of a prayer to help me out.

I don’t wanna be stuck in my head.
Lord, please set me in Your Word instead.

Mama Lava

My head is a place of insecurity and lies. What I think about myself when I’m stuck there is not what God says about me. It isn’t a place I want to spend my time.

This post is to remind myself, and all of you, that God is good. He brings joy, even in hardship. Do you know how He did this for me?

Snow people.

I went for a walk to think and pray. I was trying to keep my mind focused on the truth of God’s word as I trudged down the trail in calf-deep snow. I stopped when I saw this snow person smiling at me. Someone had built it and left it to bless future passersby, of which I was one. I felt my face smile.

A snowman with pine cone eyes.
This smiling snow person greeted me on the trail. Don’t you just want to smile back?

Because the uneven footing required me to watch my steps and my head was down, I did not see the many snow people dotting the trail ahead. It wasn’t until I encountered the second one that I looked forward.

A snowman with a long twig nose
The second snow person I encountered. I couldn’t help but wonder about the unique nose. The mess scattered around suggests the possibility of hair and a broom at one time.

Aren’t they cute? I felt joy as I imagined the couples, families, and creatives who took the time to build and leave these adorable works of art. I grinned as I thought about the snowball fights and laughter they surely enjoyed as they went.

Snowman with a carrot nose
This one has a real carrot nose!
A snowman on a rock
This is one of my favorites! Its billowy hat matches the clouds.

I pictured groups of people posing for photos with their creations, possibly lending their own hats and gloves, as my family and I have done in the past. I envisioned the snow people with plaid scarves and dignified top hats. This one looked like it had been built to sport a beanie.

Pointy headed snowman
This one looks like its head was made for a beanie. Or maybe it was wearing a party hat of snow!

The trail wound around and brought me, one by one, into the presence of several snow people. They brought me completely out of my head. They seemed to remind me that I, too, have an intentional Creator who placed me on this trail to smile at others.

Snowman with a flat head
Melting but still adorable!
Snowman missing part of his face
Aging but still smiling
Snowman with jagged edges.
Roughly built, but angelic, don’t you think?

Like some of these snow people, I’m a bit worse for wear. Time has aged me, heat has damaged me, and winds have changed me. My fancy accessories are gone.

But I don’t mind those imperfections when I look at these snow people. They make me smile just as they are! God showed me the false nature of that voice my head which highlights my surface-level insecurities. He assured me that I could trust Him and His plan for me.

Not only that, but He also reminded me that He sees me perfected because of His Son. I am a new creation, as His Word says. To Him, and for His purpose, I am like this snowman, obviously made with extreme care and gifted with adornments to keep.

Snowman with hat, scarf, and gloves
Created with forethought and love, and gifted with adornments to stay.

God gave me a distraction, got me out of my head, and let me learn something valuable from the snow people on the trail. They brought me such joy. I hope they do the same for you! What has made you smile lately? I would love to hear about it!

Categories
Reflections

3 Precious Principles to Pull from Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I have what I need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
he leads me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.”

Psalm 23, Christian Standard Bible

3 Precious Principles to Pull from Psalm 23

As I read this familiar passage today, the Holy Spirit ministered three things to my heart.

Precious Principle #1

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I have what I need.”

Psalm 23:1

It’s not that the Lord provides everything I need; He is what I need. If He is my Shepherd, I have what I need.

Precious Principle #2

“Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

It does not say there is no danger waiting for me in the darkest valley. The point is I don’t fear it. If Jesus is my Shepherd, I will not fear.

Precious Principle #3

“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.”

Psalm 23:5

When I’m surrounded by enemies, I don’t typically want a table prepared. I want to run. But Jesus loved me when I was His enemy, and He wants me to love mine. He will pour blessings like oil on me, so I will overflow on everyone around me. If the Lord is my Shepherd, I am blessed to be a blessing.

These 3 precious principles, pulled from Psalm 23, instruct me specifically today. May they encourage you too! The Lord is our Shepherd,

  • We have what we need.
  • We will not fear.
  • We are blessed to be a blessing.

Thank you, dear Lord, for reiterating these 3 precious principles from Psalm 23. Show us how and when you set us up to live them out. We love, appreciate, and honor you, our Gracious Shepherd. In your holy name, Amen.

Categories
Reflections

My Vacuum and the Window Tracks of My Heart

They say the eyes are windows of the heart. Where there are windows, there must be window tracks, right? So why did it come as a surprise when God prompted me to think about the window tracks of my heart? It happened this way…

My Vacuum and the Window Tracks of My Heart

When we moved into our new home, we splurged on a new vacuum. It is one of those robot kinds – a small round apparatus which completes the chore on command. I love it!

I’ve never been able to consider one before, because socks and toys can choke the motors of such devices. When I lived in a larger space with many more people, it was impossible to keep the floor clear. But now, all that has changed.

With a small space and only 3 adults in my home, I can run the vacuum several times per week. My floor has never been so clean! I thank Jesus for my little robot vacuum.

A black robot style vacuum.
Dust on and in this little machine at work, but no longer on the floors under it!

The other day, I was sprucing up the house in preparation for company. And I made a mortifying discovery! My window tracks were filthy!

There were even dead bugs in some of them. How had I not noticed before? And how long had they been so gross?

I realized something in that moment. I had upgraded my vacuum to the robot style. My floor looked better than ever. But it was only the floor.

My vacuum and my heart

I was no longer walking around, with an upright appliance, looking for dirt. In the past, I would have used the wand attachment on my standard vacuum to suck grime from the window tracks a few times each month. But my new, “improved” method of vacuuming had created a major deficit in my cleaning routine.

God used this moment to speak to my heart. With the coming of the New Year, I usually start a new Bible Study plan. I anticipate going deeper and doing better every year.

Sometimes the new and improved overlooks the tried and true.

Mama Lava

But the message God ministered to me through my dirty window tracks was that sometimes the new and improved overlooks the tried and true. In other words, I need to be sure that whatever method I decide to adopt for my quiet time this year does not create gaps which leave past areas of progress in decline. It was poignant instruction from Him which had direct application for my life.

What about you? Have you made strides in your walk with Jesus? Have you changed your strategy for the upcoming year? Do you risk leaving the window tracks of your heart unattended while you enjoy your new methods and tools?

What other improvements are you striving toward? There are so many areas of our lives where we might accidentally overlook something important as we strive to do and be better. Does anything specific come to mind?

Eyes on the window tracks

I plan to incorporate my old vacuum back into my chore schedule. It works differently than my new one. By using them together, I expect a more thorough result.

I will also maintain eyes on the window tracks of my heart. I need to be attentive to any neglect that might occur as I change my approach to my quiet time. I don’t want to miss out on anything Jesus has for me; and I certainly don’t want to allow filth to accumulate where He’s already purged!

Thanks for reading, my friends! My vacuum and the window tracks of my heart are only two of limitless possible examples where an improvement might cause new problems if we aren’t vigilant. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

Categories
Reflections

What is Kindness and How Does the World Need to See It?

Hi! How are you all? How have you spent your first week of 2023?

I’ve been digging into my Handle Verse. If you missed my last post, it is Romans 2:4. The big idea is KINDNESS. I’m asking God what His kindness is, and how the world needs to see it.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

Romans 2:4

The world needs Jesus. My aim is to demonstrate God’s kindness in a way that draws people to Him.

I’ve been asking God to show me what this kindness looks like practically, and how to disperse it. He’s impressed on me that it will overflow from a heart yielded to Him. And He’s given me some specifics.

What kindness is not

It is not joining in gossip. It is not covering for someone dishonestly. God’s kindness never constitutes participation in sin, no matter how supportive or helpful it might make me feel.

Guideline for kindness

God has impressed on me to be personally steadfast. He gave me Psalm 15 as a guideline. It contains many real-world examples of Christian kindness.

“Lord, who can dwell in Your tent?
Who can live on Your holy mountain?
The one who lives honestly, practices righteousness,
and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend
or discredit his neighbor,
who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his word whatever the cost,
who does not lend his money at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent—
the one who does these things will never be moved.”

Psalm 15

What kindness is

From this passage, I understand kindness to be a deep respect for everyone based on submission to the Truth. Well, everyone except for the one rejected by the Lord. Who is that?

I only know of one being who has been unequivocally rejected by the Lord. That is Satan himself. I am to despise him.

de·spise

/dəˈspīz/

verb

  1. feel contempt or a deep repugnance for.
Dictionary.com

Kindness is trendy

Kindness is trendy right now. It is a slogan found on t-shirts and mugs, even in secular stores. Random acts of kindness are hashtag worthy. Everyone recognizes the need for more kindness in the world.

But all kindness is not created equal. God isn’t asking me to be kind for the sake of being kind. It’s not so I will be a better person or make someone else’s day better.

Kindness is a characteristic of God

I am supposed to act out God’s kindness. The kind of kindness that draws people to God. The type that leads to repentance and salvation.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

Titus 3:3, 4 (emphasis mine)

Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit

The only way to exude God’s kindness is to be filled with His Spirit. If He is the Source, I must be plugged in. Anything I muster on my own is missing the mark.

Turns out this call to kindness in 2023 is a call for me to walk more closely with Jesus. To submit to Him more deeply than ever before. To stay connected and tuned in so I am naturally covered in, and giving off, His kindness.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Colossians 3:12 (emphasis mine)

What would you say kindness is? How do you think the world needs to see it? Do you agree it’s time to lay aside the platitudes and trendy knockoffs of Christian character? Are we willing to authentically pray, “Less of me and more of Thee in 2023”?

Incidentally, the verse God gave my husband for this year is John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” At first glance, our focuses were different. But, as God does, He put us in perfect sync. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Categories
Reflections

My New Year’s Handle Verse is One to Be in 2023

Last Year, God gave me my first Handle Verse. It was one to hold onto. It meant the world to me!

Luke 1:45 written in white against the backdrop of blue sky, sand and water
Last year’s Handle Verse was one to hold onto for 2022.

I’m believing God for some promises He’s made which have yet to come to fruition. And this verse declares me blessed right there. But wow! I’ve also been blown away by how God has made good on His word this past year.

One of the promises God fulfilled in 2022 was our move out of California. If you follow the Back Porch, you know all about it. You remember how we found our house, and how God made the impossible possible to get my daughters and their kids set up in their own places.

Do you need assurance that God still works wondrously? Start reading here.

New Year, New Handle Verse

Several weeks ago, I began asking God to give me a Handle Verse for 2023. Faithfully and consistently, He brought me to the idea of His kindness. He put a song on repeat in my head:

“It’s your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too”

Song by Leslie Phillips

The scripture behind these lyrics emerged as my new Handle Verse.

One to be in 2023

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

Romans 2:4

What a humbling verse! God doesn’t berate us to repentance. He doesn’t shun us until we do what we ought. He draws us with kindness.

A botanical photo with a Romans 2:4
My New Year’s Handle Verse is one to be in 2023.
I aim to be more kind.

And you know what? We have direct access to God’s kindness, not just to us, but through us. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit, promised to us as we walk with Him.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22, 23 (emphasis mine)

My aim, this year, is to extend God’s kindness so He can draw others to repentance and salvation.

Mama Lava

It is God’s job to bring people to repentance. That isn’t on you or me. We get to demonstrate His kindness.

In context, Romans 2:4 warns us not to misunderstand God’s kindness. It does not mean He overlooks our sin. He sees our actions and knows our judgmental thoughts.

I realize I am judgmental. I also tend toward words. By now, everyone around me knows what I believe and why. It is high time to cease ‘preachiness’ and increase kindness without judgement.

I need only to see someone precious, whom Jesus died to save.

Mama Lava

I need to open my eyes wide to see and address my sin. But with others, I need only to see someone precious, whom Jesus died to save. Their faults are not my business. When it comes to them, I just want to be kind.

God’s unwavering kindness brings me to repentance. It can do the same for those around me, and around you too. If you don’t yet have a handle verse for this year and would like to adopt mine, please do. Its call to kindness makes it one to be in 2023.