Categories
Reflections

Three Ways Sappy Stuff Sticks and One Fantastic Challenge

Well, my granddaughter left. Who knew a whirlwind could be such fun? I did very few chores, while she was here, which weren’t related to her care. Since my daughter and grandson are about to arrive for a few days, I decided to tend to my tasks ahead of time.

To that end, I was out sweeping my long driveway early this morning. We’ve had some incredible windstorms as well as the beautiful monsoons. This amazing weather makes a mess of whatever lies below the trees. Pine and oak particles almost completely hid the concrete from view.

About halfway through my job, I noticed that many sticks and leaves were stuck to the cement. I adjusted my sweeping motion to pry them loose, but some just wouldn’t budge. I leaned on my broom for a second and a little voice inside my head said, “the sappy stuff sticks”.

The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside!

A pine tree with inner trunk and sap exposed
The sap in a pine tree is plenteous and sticky! I suspect our backyard porcupine ate the outer layer off this trunk, exposing the sap inside. Can you see it glistening?

Ah, I see! “The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside”, I repeated to myself. Suddenly a thought process unfolded and I understood three ways this is true and one fantastic challenge!

Three ways the sticky sap stuff rings relevant:

1. This is why I’ve had a hard time with my devotions lately.

I’ve been reading in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I’m into Joshua now, but I’m still struggling. There is a lot of repetition, chronology, and law. I know it is important. God put it in His Word intentionally. Some of it is downright fascinating even! But my mind wanders in these passages.

I would rather read about Jesus healing people and loving on the least likely. My thoughts breeze ahead in the pages to valiant heroes and poems of praise. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

2. This is why so many clamor to this trend of following Jesus while rejecting God.

I’ve noticed that Jesus has become trendy. Have you seen it? He was accepting of everyone, humble, and full of compassion. Pretty much everybody can rally around a deity like that these days! Problem is, it is only half the story. Jesus accepted everyone as they were, but they couldn’t stay as they were. Their encounters with Him changed them. They either bowed in repentance and reverence or they ultimately rejected Him.

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus, Matthew 7:21

Jesus was humble and compassionate in his role as King of Heaven on Earth, but He is also part of the triune God. He was present in Genesis 1:1 and all the way through the Old Testament. We cannot honor Jesus and reject God. Jesus is God. But the sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

“I and the Father are one.”

Jesus, John 10:30

3. This is how social media, Hallmark, and advertisements choose their content.

Can you imagine a movie about real daily living? The part where dust accumulates, people battle cravings, and new shoes cause blisters? Or an ad about fainting in line at Disney or falling asleep at the museum?

This is real life! But no, the parts we see on the screen are the minutia – the moments people fall in love, are happily surprised, and overcome with joy. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

One fantastic challenge:

It was as if Jesus were out there sweeping with me and pointing out all these things. It was incredibly encouraging! You know why? Because, in this context, it was the dry and hard stuff that I appreciated the most. It was the satisfying part of my job. It brushed easily away while the wet and sappy stuff stuck.

I think Jesus wanted to challenge me to give credit where it is due. The dry and hard stuff has its merit. I need it. It provides fantastic balance.

And somehow, being reminded by Jesus to appreciate the dry and hard stuff was a sappy experience. It is just the way my heart feels when I talk to Him. I’m sure the lesson will stick with me for a good long time.

Hopefully this lesson is so sappy it sticks for you too! I know you’re dealing with dry and hard stuff. It is there for a reason. Lean in, my friend. Ask Jesus to meet you in it.

I want to challenge you – if you haven’t already, get to know Him for Who He truly is – Almighty God. It means everything to realize that the God of the Universe, of the Old Testament and New, wants a relationship with you. He desires to know you and be known by you. Please, let that sappy stuff stick!

Categories
Reflections

4 Practical Ways God Positions His Devoted People

Have you ever felt betrayed because someone moved away from you emotionally, physically, spiritually, or mentally? I have. It’s hard not to take something like that personally. We can avoid a good amount of heartache if we understand the practical ways God positions His devoted people.

This is a follow-up post to Introducing the God Who Positions His Devoted People – Part 1. If you would like to start there, please do! Otherwise, let’s examine GPS – God’s Positioning System – and use it to stay the course He has laid out for us.

4 Practical Ways God Positions His Devoted People

1. God positions His devoted people emotionally.

I refer to this phenomenon as “the tying and untying of heartstrings”. Sometimes we’re drawn to, or away from, things with an unexplainable urgency. God positions us, emotionally, to do what He asks us to do.

A map, a guidebook, and a compass
Photo by Abdessalem BENYAHIA on Pexels.com
God gives thorough, well prepared instruction.

On the surface, this is easily misunderstood. Separation can be a difficult process all around, and it can feel like a punishment. But it is actually an amazing blessing. Let me tell you a true story.

When my children were little, we were deeply rooted in Southern California. We felt we would never leave our church, the school the kids attended, or the halau (Polynesian dance studio) where our family performed. Yet one after the other, we were forced out of each of those institutions as tuitions, situations, and locations changed.

It was a painful and confusing time. But when God moved us to Hawaii soon after, we understood. Our heartstrings were already untied from what might have held us back. God had prepared us, in advance, to joyfully go where He wanted to position us next. And that is the perfect segue into the second way God positions people.

2. God positions His devoted people physically.

God puts us in the physical locations where He needs us to be. Whenever my husband and I change our home address, we try to remember it isn’t just about a new house. God positions us near specific neighbors, teachers, bank tellers, etc. He has plans to use our interactions with our new community to bless and teach us all.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:14b, 15

And as I’ve seen Him do it with us, I need to allow Him to do the same with others. I cannot hold too tightly, or be resentful, when He moves people, and positions them physically for His purpose – even if the process separates them from me. They were created for His glory, not mine.

“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.”

1 Corinthians 7:17a

It might not be as big as a household move. Just today, my husband, son, and I went to a local business at 10am, their opening time listed on-line. They were closed, and the sign on the door said they’d open at 11.

With an hour to wait, we ended up at a nearby restaurant. Was God physically positioning us there to bless someone? Possibly! He doesn’t always create an unexpected turn of events, but when those occur, it is a good idea to be extra vigilant for divine appointments.

3. God positions His devoted people spiritually.

What do you think about this one? I am going to tell you another true story to illustrate why I include this as a way God positions His people.

My family had found a wonderful church. We were heavily involved, serving, and being served. In God’s timing, He moved us on.

We switched to a church where things were done differently. They focused on distinct attributes of God and worshipped Him in unique ways. We gained a fresh perspective from experiencing Him with that congregation.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Psalm 32:8

When circumstances changed again, and we landed at the next church, it all came together. We could clearly see how God had positioned us spiritually, teaching us over the previous several years. He had given us a foundation for real spiritual growth and ministry. God is consistently contributing to our understanding of who He is, what His plans are for us, and how He positions His people.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:6

4. God positions His devoted people mentally.

This is one that I’ve come to notice recently. I have encountered brilliant people who will not embrace God because they cannot fully comprehend Him. And I have met little children who love Him with all their hearts.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’.”

Matthew 18:3

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

I’m not saying God positions us to be simple minded, but rather heavenly minded. He enables us to surrender our prideful desire to completely grasp Godly things with our human intellect. He positions us mentally to accept Him. When we open ourselves to His prompting, the Holy Spirit does His convincing work, and our faith grows.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

2 Timothy 3:14, 15
Compass held over a ridge with a canopy of trees below
Photo by Supushpitha Atapattu on Pexels.com
We must align ourselves with God’s coordinates for us – body, mind, and soul – and encourage others to do the same.

Some say it’s wrong to move on from connections, situations, institutions, and such. They see it as a failure of loyalty. And I guess, at times, it can be that.

But when we realize God positions His devoted people emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally, we shouldn’t be surprised when shuffles happen. Instead of taking offense, hopefully we will encourage everyone to follow God, wherever He leads. Separation is painful, but it is temporary. We will have comradery for all eternity once our work on earth is done!

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,

    for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

    for to you I entrust my life.

Teach me to do your will,

    for you are my God;

may your good Spirit

    lead me on level ground.”

Psalm 14:8, 10
Categories
Devotions

There is Something Amazing in the Sinking

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said.”

Matthew 14:25, 28, 29a

Oh, these verses hit me in the gut!  Here’s why: Peter manipulated this call.  It was his idea. 

He saw Jesus doing something miraculous. He wanted in. More likely, he wanted out. He wanted out of the boat, out of the physical world constraints to which he was subject. He secured his invitation.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

Matthew 14:29b, 30

There is something amazing in the sinking, a nugget for you and for me.

Let’s back up a little. The verses prior to these explain that the disciples were in the boat because Jesus had plans on the other side of the lake. He had sent them ahead while He stayed behind to finish after a prior engagement. And before He joined them, He went off, alone, to pray.

The disciples had quite a head start across the lake. The wind whipped up and the water got choppy. My version of the Bible says the boat was “buffeted” by the waves.

buf·fet; verb
past tense: buffeted
1. (especially of wind or waves) strike repeatedly and violently; batter.
2. knock (someone) over or off course.

Dictionary.com

There they were, in a little boat in deep water, being buffeted. If I put myself there, I imagine hanging on for dear life, trying not to throw up. It does not sound unlike how life feels to me right now, but that is a point for a different post.

Jesus intended to catch up with them so they would arrive together on the other side. Do you think they wondered how He was going to do that? They were certainly not expecting Him to come walking out on the water.

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.”

Matthew 14:25, 26

Can you imagine? It would have been amazing on a calm lake, but this water was rough! It was a show of power indeed.

Peter wanted to walk in power too. (That is giving him the benefit of the doubt. My suspicious side thinks maybe he just wanted to do something cool. Either way…) He stepped out onto the lake, became afraid, and started sinking. Jesus immediately caught him and put him back into the boat. 

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

Matthew 14:31-33

Jesus did not pull the disciples out of the storm and put them back, safely on the shore. He moved them forward. He calmed the storm and then saw them through to the other side.  Why?  Because crossing was God’s plan, His idea, His will. 

Peter, though, was plucked from the waves and returned to the boat from which he came. Jesus gave Peter a glimpse of what was possible, but there, in the middle of the lake, in the pre-dawn dark, more water-walking was not the miracle they needed.

Ferocious blue waves: There is Something Amazing in the Sinking
Photo by bt3gl on Pexels.com
Peter’s first thought was not to calm the waves, but to walk on them like Jesus did.

Peter was enthusiastic, but his timing was wrong. Miracles bring glory to God, not men. God was working. Jesus was calming waves. The buffeted boat was going to make it safely across and Peter was distracted by his own idea. He had to be put back in his place.

Peter’s ego was probably a bit worse for wear when he found himself back at square 1. But did this disqualify him from being part of what Jesus had planned? Not at all.

Jesus had something amazing to do on the other side of the lake. It was to heal the sick and save the lost. All the disciples, including Peter, got to be part of it.

“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all who were ill to him and begged him to let those who were ill just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”

Matthew 14:34-36

There is something amazing in the sinking of Peter that resonates with me. I recognize times where I have called myself into ministry. I saw Jesus doing something amazing, somewhere other than my area of responsibility, and asked Him to let me participate.

Ultimately, when I sought positions, as opposed to being called to them, I was chasing opportunities for my own glory. Whether I wanted to appear useful in the Kingdom of God, feel gifted for service, or whatever my reasons, they were about me.

When it became apparent that my ideas were a distraction from what God had asked me to do, my efforts tanked and I sank. Jesus had to grab hold of me and set me back where I started. 

A boat safely moored and in calm water: There is Something Amazing in the Sinking
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com
I need to stay in the boat God puts me in until He calls me out.

Jesus, the ultimate Life Guard, has always rescued me. In his grace, He has allowed me to get back on board with His amazing agenda, even after distractions and failures. I can say, there is nothing like sinking to remind me to ride contentedly in the boat I am given to the shores God has in store for me.

Lord, You are so good! Please forgive me for every time I’ve stepped out into situations for which you hadn’t prepared or called me. You are faithful to rescue and restore with such patience! I do not want You to have to keep returning me to square one. I want to progress in doing Your will, in Your time, and for Your glory. Oh Lord, your agenda, not mine!

Categories
Devotions

Forgiven and Free – Fooled by Feelings or In the Know?

The following quote made me stop and think. Do I bank my future on what I feel or what I know? How about you? Are you fooled by what you feel? Do you need to know whether you’re forgiven and free?

David Hocking quote about feeling forgiven: Forgiven and free - fooled by feelings or in the know?
Feelings can fool us. We need to know we’re forgiven!

To be sure, we need to go to the Source. The Bible helps us know whether we’re forgiven and how to fix it if we’re not. Feelings change but the Word of the Lord abides forever.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:14, 15

“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Matthew 12:31

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 2:38

“All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 10:43

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”

Ephesians 1:7

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Colossians 1:13. 14

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9
Categories
Devotions

Is your Attitude Appropriate for a Dress Code which Requires Full Armor?

This morning, I caught sight of my granddaughter dressed up in an angel costume. Her dress was sparkling white, and her halo was positioned just right, but something was amiss. She was throwing a fit. Her scowling face was buried in her hands. She wore the outfit, and was cute as could be, but fell short of angelic. Her attitude was the problem.

Almost angelic: Is your Attitude Appropriate for a Dress Code which Requires Full Armor?
The Attitude makes the Outfit
Is your Outfit Appropriate for a Dress Code which requires Full Armor? The Attitude Beneath…

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:11-13 (emphasis mine)

Wow! This has been an eye-opening series! Thank you all for coming along for the ride.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17

I sincerely want to thank everyone who took part by commenting and discussing the dress code which makes up the full armor of God. Hopefully we grew together. I know I learned from you!

  • Fellowship: a friendly relationship marked by ready communication and mutual understanding
  • Conversation: an exchange of views for the purpose of exploring a subject or deciding an issue
  • Collaboration: the work and activity of a number of persons who individually contribute toward the efficiency of the whole

To conclude this series, I want to appreciate and highlight a few reader comments. which expanded my perception and comprehension of the Full Armor of God.

Reader comments: Is your Attitude Appropriate for a Dress Code which Requires Full Armor?
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I pretty much owe the premise of this wrap-up post to input from my incredible sister-in-Christ over at God Still Speaks. She pointed out how grateful she is to have a casual dress code for work, as she is self-employed. She is comfortable before she puts on the full armor of God. She prompted me to think about how important it is to have a proper foundation.

What do we wear under our armor? Our attitudes and motives! If we don’t allow God to be the Master of those, how can we expect His outerwear to be comfortable? My granddaughter drove the point home today, displaying what a bad attitude does to a shiny outfit. It dulls the whole thing!

I had to increase my full armor gratitude meter when Betty Draper from Wise Hearted reminded me that we didn’t pay a single cent for this outfit. Jesus paid it all! We’re protected by a breastplate of righteousness and a helmet of salvation which we could never purchase for ourselves. We could work our whole lives to earn just these two pieces and we’d still fall vastly short. What a gift – free to us, but so costly to our Savior!

Standing firm: Is your Attitude Appropriate for a Dress Code which Requires Full Armor?
Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

Gary Fultz noted that God’s full armor always fits. What an incredibly miraculous truth, right? Sometimes our faith is puny, and sometimes it goes through seasons of growth. But our shields are always sufficient. Oh, and the truth onto which we latch can be so shortsighted, but our belts always buckle well around our waists. Do you know why? Because it is based on the perfection of Jesus – the size of His merit, not ours.

Looking ahead with resolve, Hope, from Patiently Hopeful, called her armor a precious gift and said she wanted to be mindful to wear it constantly. It made me ponder my cell phone. I don’t go anywhere without it, not even to the other room. You have probably developed the same habit. Why? Because it has everything we need – our shopping and to-do lists, the time, the weather, Google, our maps and GPS, our step-counters…

But are those things more important than our armor? If we don’t go anywhere without our phones, how much more should we make sure to always have our feet fitted with readiness to share the gospel and our swords, which are the words of God?

Dew pearls on a web: Is your Attitude Appropriate for a Dress Code which Requires Full Armor?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you are not connected with the above bloggers, I highly recommend a visit to their sites. You will be encouraged and strengthened in your walk with God through what they have to say. Prayerfully, you are already gleaning from their insights, as I have shared what I’ve learned from their pearls of wisdom.

How is your battle-preparedness right now? Is your Belt of Truth securely buckled? Is your Breastplate of Righteousness in place? Are your Feet Fitted with Readiness to share the Gospel? Have you taken up your Shield of Faith? Have you accepted your Helmet of Salvation? Do you have the Sword of the Spirit ready in hand? Have you assumed a Posture of Prayer? Is it all resting on an Attitude which has been grounded and founded upon Christ Jesus? Is your outfit appropriate for a dress code which requires full armor?

Thanks again for journeying through this series with me on Monday nights! It is always such a blessing to me when you all visit the back porch. I appreciate the fellowship, conversation and collaboration with you. Whether you are just stopping by for the first time or you have been a regular for months, you are valued and always welcome!

Categories
Celebrations

Six Interesting Verses, Six Month Old Blog, and a God Who has our Six

Exactly six months have passed since I pressed “publish” for the first time on the Back Porch! I’m celebrating with a number 6 themed post today. Thanks for being here!


I really liked this quote I read:

“Whether you stay six weeks, six months or six years, always leave it better than you found it.”

Jim Rohn

And with six people in my immediate family besides me, plus six extras who have married in or been born recently, if we stay anywhere longer than six minutes, we’re bound to leave a mark. Hopefully, it is for the better.


Bible: Six interesting verses, six month old blog, and God has your Six
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Did you know that there are 66 books in the Bible? They don’t all have six or more chapters, but to celebrate today’s occasion, I looked up every existing chapter six, verse six. I really enjoyed it! I wanted to share my favorite six of these interesting verses with you today.

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment’.”

Exodus 6:6

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

Proverbs 6:6

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:6

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Hosea 6:6

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…”

Romans 6:6

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

1 Timothy 6:6

Just for fun, here are six amusing quotes:

“My doctor gave me six months to live, but when I couldn’t pay the bill he gave me six months more.”

Walter Matthau

“I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”

Joan Rivers

“Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months.”

Clifford Stoll

“The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.”

George Miller

“I grew up with six brothers. That’s how I learned to dance – waiting for the bathroom.”

Bob Hope

It’s better to be known by six people for something you’re proud of than by 60 million for something you’re not.

Albert Brooks

Clock: Six interesting verses, a six month old blog, and a God who has our Six
Photo by SevenStorm JUHASZIMRUS on Pexels.com

Are you familiar with the phrase “I’ve got your six”? It is a military term based on the hands of a clock. If a soldier is facing 12:00, his back is at the 6. So to have someone’s six means you’ve got their back. I wanted to share one more verse that is not a 6:6 but is incredibly comforting because it confirms that God has our six (and our nine and our twelve and our three).

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”

Psalm 139:5

Thank you so much for celebrating with me! I leave you with a six-fold blessing:

May the Lord
1) Bless you 2) Keep you
3) Make His face to shine upon you
4) Be gracious unto you 5) Lift up His countenance upon you
6) Give you peace
Numbers 6:24-26