Conformed or Transformed 

Have you ever watched a caterpillar turn into a butterfly? You’ve seen the before and after but you can’t actually see change take place. It’s a mystery how God takes a slimy, fat, little worm and transforms it into a beautiful, delicate butterfly.  To be transformed means to be made into something completely different. 

It’s also a mystery how He can take a lost soul and transform it into something that begins to resemble His son. He makes us more Christ-like the longer we follow Him.  It’s a process, not an instant occurrence. While God says we are changed as soon as we accept Christ as Savior, the outward appearance takes a little while. It’s kind of like the butterfly. When he’s crawling around on the ground you can’t tell that the makings of a butterfly are already inside him. All you see is the caterpillar. No wings. No long legs. No beautiful colors.  It takes time before the butterfly emerges.  The change takes place inside the chrysalis where no eye can see what’s happening. 

It’s the same for us. God hears our cry for salvation. He declares that we are His and then He begins the process of change.  This is also what happens when we hear a word from God about the direction of our lives. We hear what he wants for us and then don’t understand why it isn’t happening. But we can’t see inside the chrysalis. We can’t always see all the work God is doing. We just have to trust Him to do it His way. 

Also, there is a strong temptation to just stay a caterpillar. We blend in with the rest of them and feel safe. We conform to those around us because to do otherwise would be risky.  But God doesn’t want us to be like all the others. He has said we are to be set apart. I would think a butterfly in the middle of a crowd of caterpillars is definitely set apart. Definitely conspicuous.   

Choose today to let your colors show. Unlike the caterpillar, we can choose to be transformed. We have a part to play in the final outcome. We can make the decision to allow God to renew our minds so that we may be transformed. Let God work in your life and transform you into a beautiful butterfly that can show off God’s handiwork and bring Him the glory. 

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  – Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Taste and See That the Lord is Good

Several years ago I was attending a women’s retreat at a camp with a group of ladies from my church. I had been struggling with some very difficult challenges in that particular season of life. I had been asking God to help me settle a few things in my heart.

One thing I asked Him was if what was happening in my life was a result of my own actions and choices or just part of life.  I had read the story about the blind man that Jesus healed and how the people had asked whose sin had caused the man’s blindness, his own or his parents.  Jesus had responded by saying that neither of those reasons was the cause but  the man had been born blind so that God’s glory would be revealed. God has His own reasons for allowing things to happen in our lives.

When we consider all of God’s attributes we should know that He will never fail us and will take care of us. But sometimes the challenges of life seem to overpower what we know to be true.

On that first day of the retreat, when we were registering and receiving our study materials for the sessions, one of the items we were told to take was a small journal. All of the journals were displayed on a table and each cover had a picture. We were told to prayerfully consider which cover spoke to us.  As I stood there looking at all the covers, one suddenly drew me like none of the others.  As I looked at the picture of a partially eaten apple, I heard the Lord speak gently to my heart. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  It was exactly what I needed. To know that God was good. To know that no matter what, that was a sure thing. God was challenging me to take Him at His word.  I chose to do so.

Today, I still have that journal and Psalm 34, which contains the verse God spoke to my heart, has become my favorite Psalm.  If you are struggling with something in your life and just need a little encouragement, ask God to give you what you need. He never disappoints.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8 (NIV)

Chosen

The children gather on the playground for a rousing game of kickball. Team captains are selected and the group of players stands in anticipation of being picked for a team. As the selection progresses and the players move to stand by their captain the anxiety rises with each pick. Who will be the last? Will the captains fight over who has to “take” the last man standing? Perhaps it’s the heavy boy or the girl who’s a little klutzy.  Will that child be shamed and embarrassed by being the unwanted player?

Maybe you were that child. Maybe you were never actually the last one picked in such a public way. Maybe you just feel like you never measure up. Like you have nothing to contribute. Maybe you think you have been passed over because you never really figured out how to have what it takes.

Be encouraged today, my friend. You have indeed been chosen. You are wanted and have a place and a purpose. Be brave enough to step forward and stand by your Captain. He will lead you to victory.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”  –      John 15:16 (ESV)

“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, ” – Ephesians 1:4-5 (ESV)

 

Changes

Changes are part of life. We can’t ignore them. Why is it that whether the changes are good or not so good the transition is often difficult?

Sometimes the changes are gradual like the simple process of aging. It may bring difficulties but the actual process isn’t a struggle. It often just happens while we aren’t looking.

I think the changes that are the most difficult are the abrupt ones. Sending a child off to college, retiring at the end of a fulfilling career, watching a grandbaby move away. Those kinds of changes are ones you think you are preparing yourself for but when “the day” finally arrives it still might feel like the ground beneath you is unstable. And then there are the tragic changes that occur with the death of a loved one, the termination slip from your job or an accident or illness that leaves permanent physical changes. Those changes feel more like major earthquakes than tremors.

When things happen in our lives that are not what we had hoped for or planned we have a choice to make. We can stay in the past and spend all our time mourning what we’ve lost or we can move forward into the new season that the change has created. We can’t always arrange our circumstances but we can embrace the opportunities that change brings. We can allow God to do a new work in our lives because of the changes that come our way.

Maybe it’s time to let go and move on with the Lord. He promises that you won’t be disappointed!

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

Navigating the Journey

We have all heard that life is a journey, not a destination. We sing the songs in church about this earth not being our home, we are only passing through. But if we are on a journey, how do we know if we are headed in the right direction?

Do we just believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept our salvation and then just start walking? Shouldn’t there be some sort of map or navigation system for such an important journey, one that lasts a lifetime?

We do have a map, it’s our Bible. We also have general instructions about what the journey will look like. We have warnings about pitfalls to avoid and we are told to stay on the narrow path, not veering to the right or the left. But do we just set our course and take the first steps and that’s it?

I believe the journey of life is a constantly shifting path. We are told when we come to faith that we need to repent of our sin and receive the Lord’s forgiveness. But if we truly repent, that means we are setting a new course. We are now navigating in a completely new direction from the one we followed before we became believers. We need a new navigating system too.

In centuries past, sailors used the sun and the stars to navigate the oceans. They would set out on a well-chosen course, but each day they would have to adjust their course as they encountered shifting winds, waves and storms. They couldn’t just “stay the course” without paying any attention to how the elements were effecting them. They constantly realigned themselves with their destination.

Now, in modern times we have technologies such as the GPS. A Global Positioning System can tell you exactly where you are on the planet. It can give you the coordinates of anywhere on earth. That might sound like a perfect system. How could you possibly get lost? You are never really lost if you can figure out exactly where you are, are you?   Well, if you’ve ever taken a trip using a GPS and have made a wrong turn you are familiar with that artificially calm voice saying “recalculating” or something similar, until you get back on course.  Even with a GPS you can still get off course.  You may know exactly where you are, but is it where you are supposed to be?

God says that we need something more reliable than our own sense of direction. Some of us know that we are sorely lacking in that area! Better to trust the one who knows exactly what our course should be. Better to allow the Lord to adjust our course, to redirect us when we get off the path. We can only benefit from this adjustment if we seek Him and listen to His voice. He will get us back on course. He wants us to finish the journey and when we do, He will be waiting with open arms. Do you need to have your course adjusted today? I know I do.

 “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.  Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course” – Proverbs 2:6-9

How Did You Sleep?

It’s a question Randy and I ask each other most mornings. For a number of reasons, we often have difficulty sleeping well the whole night through.  It’s a wonderful thing mornings when we both wake up able to say we slept well.

Last week we survived Hurricane Irma.  It was a challenging week leading up to her arrival and another challenging week after she did her worst and moved on. There were some nights we didn’t sleep well.  Mostly because without power it was pushing 90 degrees in the house day and night. Too hot to sleep.

The days leading up to the arrival of Irma were filled with hard work. The workers were hot and tired but kept on with the task, knowing we were running out of time to prepare. We were all grateful to fall into bed each night.

It was a sobering sight for us relatively new northern transplants to witness the preparations happening around us.  When we went out to get our final supplies we saw things we’d never seen before.  Many boarded up homes and businesses that had taken necessary measures to protect their belongings.

As the wind began to pick up we could feel the seriousness of the decision we’d made to stay. We were completely leaning on God’s mercy now.  There was nothing else we could do but wait.

The clouds rolled in and the winds blew and the rains beat against the house but we couldn’t see any of it as darkness settled in and we sat behind boarded up windows. We prayed for our safety as well as our neighbors and many others all over the state. Around midnight the power went out and the noises outside became loud and unrelenting. After about an hour of this we did the unthinkable.

We went to bed. Most of us slept through the storm. We woke to an eerie quiet. Our first glimpse of the aftermath was in the early morning just after dawn. Debris everywhere, downed trees, and then the sound of generators starting up all around us and sirens that were continuous for hours.

The days after the storm we still had much to do but the nights were not as restoring as they had been the previous week. While we were thankful to be alive and that we experienced very little damage, we were growing weary of the challenges we dealt with daily.  In a word, we really are…spoiled.  It was a struggle to figure out how to feed all of us without power. We ate a lot of cold sandwiches and even some cold Chef Boyardee. We grilled hot dogs and even made a pot of chili on the grill.  It was not what we were used to but we made it work.

We pulled together as a family and I was so proud of my boys who have become men and their wives who worked for hours to prepare this home and the supplies we needed to make it through.  We took cold showers and washed laundry in 5-gallon buckets. We spent a lot of time outside where we could at least catch a little bit of a breeze. And at night we stood on the patio and marveled at the beauty of the heavens with no electric lights to interfere.

 

When the power finally came back on Friday night, almost 5 full days after it went out, we heard a cheerful cry go up from all over the house. Loud “hallelujahs” were shouted without reserve. We had made it through. Praise be to God!

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8 (ESV)

Is It Over Yet?

A few months ago, when things were so difficult with Randy’s illness, I remember saying to God, “Can we be done now?”  I imagine about the time you are reading this I will be saying the same thing. I’m writing on Saturday for a Monday morning post because I simply don’t know what the next 48 hours holds.

We would certainly appreciate your prayers. You may have more information about  what has transpired than I do at this point. But be assured, we are in God’s hands, no matter what the reports are.  I would love to believe that this hurricane will do as Charley did a decade ago and decide to turn at the last minute.  Only God knows.

A few things have come to mind as we have been counting the minutes toward this storm’s arrival.  So many times we let the unimportant things take precedence over the truly valuable things.  Even if we lose every material thing we own, will it matter if we have all survived? Yet we still try to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with. We have not been irresponsible. We have done our homework and learned as much as we could about what to do but it’s still not a perfect science. We still have to face the bottom line that all we have done could be for naught.

But none of that will matter in the end if we are all safe when it’s over.  I am so thankful for family. I was so proud to see my husband, sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren all working together to prepare.  We are so blessed to have this family.  They were out there sweating in the hot sun hanging heavy plywood for hours without complaining.  And on Saturday they worked outside to secure everything that could move.  We were as prepared as we could possible get. We trusted that God would take care of us.

As we watched the rain bands begin to arrive we had moments when we would just spontaneously pray. Randy and I stood in the kitchen before dawn, before anyone else was up, embracing each other and calling out to God to be our shield and our shelter in the storm.  It’s never a good thing to have to face such major threats, but it does do something to your life perspective. It makes you come to terms with what matters.  It makes you draw closer to God than perhaps you’ve been in a while. Those are good things.

Sometimes I think it’s actually easier to throw yourself at the mercy of God when things are so overwhelming than when problems are smaller. We KNOW there is nothing more we can do. We are desperate for God’s help.  He truly is our only hope.

I will update you as soon as I am able. Perhaps we will all be surprised by a miracle! If not, rest assured, our God is still bigger than Irma.

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? – Jeremiah 32:27

Waiting for Irma, the Uninvited Visitor

 

I’ve lost track of what day it is.  Doesn’t matter anyway. As we watch the hours pass bringing us closer to an unknown none of us ever imagined we’d experience, we continue to complete the last minute preparations. Windows are boarded up and the house has an eerie darkness in the middle of the day. This morning the sun rose, beautiful as always I’m sure, but we didn’t see it.

We’ve been watching Facebook for updates from our favorite weather guy. Each report seems a little more ominous than the last. What’s really strange is to see the posts from friends in other places talking about football and parties and all the activities they are excitedly anticipating for the weekend. It’s surreal to be wondering what will be left in the aftermath of this storm while in the rest of the world it’s “business as usual.”  It gives me a new perspective.  I think back to all the times I was absorbed in my own stuff while so many in other places are suffering. I pray that God will let this be a lesson to me to be more aware of what goes on outside my own little world.  I remember thinking the same thing though, when Randy was in the hospital and I would travel home at night after a long day and see people going about their business with no idea or care for what I was experiencing.  I guess I haven’t learned the lesson yet but I am trying to become less self-centered.  It saddens me to think I can still be so self-absorbed after walking with the Lord for over 40 years.  What have I been doing all that time? Lord, please make me more like Jesus. Help me see the suffering in this world as You see it.

So, if things look so bad, why did we choose to stay?  Why didn’t we just hop in the van and head out of harm’s way?  A couple of things influenced our decision.  For one, the storm was predicted to go much further east than it seems to be heading now. We expected some wind and took the necessary measures to protect against damage. Secondly, there are going to be 15 of us here and that’s a pretty large crowd to try to relocate.  Also, we are in a non-evacuation zone, not subject to storm surge. Being over 60 feet above sea level, we aren’t at risk of major flooding. We might get some localized flooding from overflowing storm sewers but nothing serious. The saying we keep hearing from officials is, ” run from the water, hide from the wind.”  That’s what we’ve decided to do, hide as securely as possible from the roaring wind.  I have to tell you that I am definitely not looking forward to hearing that sound outside for hours though. That was the worst part of the thunderstorms and blizzards in Iowa.  I hated the raging wind and this will be a much bigger deal I’m sure.

Another thing about deciding to stay was the massive evacuation going on all around us.  They have called for mandatory evacuations of the coast as well as all mobile home parks. There are millions of people trying to get out of  a state with a limited number of roads heading north. And to get far enough north is a challenge since the storm is headed in that direction.  There is no gas, no hotels, no way to know how far we would get and the idea of getting stranded in a vehicle to ride this thing out is something we had to avoid at all costs.

So, here we stay, hunkered down the best we know how.  Some of our neighbors have left and some have stayed. The older ones, who have lived though this before, seem much more proactive in preparing while the younger folks seem  less concerned. It has brought out the best and the worst of humanity already. Seeing folks helping strangers on the one hand and watching people fight over limited supplies on the other. The grocery stores have very little to offer and will all be closing this evening.  We are at the point of no return now. There is no place else to go unless we decide to head to a shelter, may of which are already full of people in much worse circumstances than we are now.

This is when we must decide if we trust God with our lives or we don’t.  Do we truly believe His promise to take care of us and be with us in the midst of the storm? I guess it’s time to take those promises literally.  It’s easy to say we believe those things when we aren’t facing any kind of threat.  Now is when it really counts.

 
I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles.The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them…  The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help. Psalm 34: 4-7, 15 (HCSB)

 

It Must Be Nice

Have you ever said, “It must be nice,” when you hear about something good happening in someone else’s life?  Has anyone ever said that to you when you’ve shared a particularly wonderful thing going on in your life?

It may sound innocuous enough but it really isn’t.

When someone, anyone, responds to something good happening in another person’s life they have three options. They can respond with genuine pleasure that the person is experiencing something wonderful. Or they can be indifferent, having no strong feeling about it either way. The last way to respond is to be jealous.

Jealousy is what fuels a response such as, “It must be nice.”  It really means, I wish I had what you have instead of what I have.  We may think it’s an innocent phrase but it can be so much more.  It can actually be a form of coveting.  The Bible is clear about that.

Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor – Exodus 20:17 (HCSB)

If you take the last phrase of that verse and bring it to modern day it includes your neighbor’s car, boat, job, vacation, electronics, and anything else you can think of. God knew it would be a trap for us if we kept wanting what others have. And now, in the 21st century, it seems that’s ALL our culture is interested in.

People see public figures in the spotlight and can often wonder what it would be like to trade places with them.  It might seem fun to “see how the other half lives,” but do we really want to do that? When we get caught up in desiring what someone else has, we forget that there are things in their lives we might not wish to have.  When we look at the entire picture, we might just come to the conclusion that we’d rather just stay where we are.  All those tempting things we may see in someone else’s driveway come with the sorrows and struggles of the people who live there. It might not be as pretty a picture as you think.

The bottom line is that God has given you the life you have for a reason. He is molding you into the person He designed you to be while using the circumstances of your life to do it. So the next time you are tempted to say, “It must be nice,” perhaps the better option would be to say, “I’m so glad for you!” And then thank God for the life He’s given you. It really is a gift, you know.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9 (HCSB)

Has Your Life Grown Stagnant?

We once lived beside a home with a pond. It was a lovely place with a weeping willow tree on the bank and a wide assortment of wildlife. Fish, frogs and, much to the dismay of the owners, muskrats thrived in the water. A nice place to sit in the shade and experience nature.

Contrast that with a stagnant pond that was down the road a mile or so. This pond was green with algae. It had a slimy film covering the surface and if you had your windows open when you drove by you could smell it before you saw it. I can’t imagine much could live there except mosquitoes. Not a place where you would want to spread a blanket and have a picnic.

The definition of stagnant is “not flowing in a current or stream; not advancing or developing.”  Whatever it is, water, air or something else, if it isn’t moving in some way it becomes stale. If there is only input and no output it slowly loses its life. With water, if there is only input then the only way for the water to leave the pond is evaporation. That process continues to concentrate the minerals until the body of water cannot support life. It’s the reason the Dead Sea is dead.

The thing is, we are like a pond. God is constantly pouring into us wonderful things that He means for us to use. Resources that are for our benefit and the benefit of others. If we just sit there and soak it all in and never find a place to put those resources to use we become like that stagnant pond: smelly, uninviting, and avoided.  And if we get so full that there is no room for more we won’t be able to receive fresh infilling either. We will just continue to become more stagnant, not allowing God to give us fresh living water because we refuse to share what He’s already given us.

Is God doing a new thing in your life? Is He calling you to step out and share with others in a new way? I believe the Lord wants us to take a risk and let Him flush the stagnation from our lives. Ask Him to show you what He has for you to do and I’ll bet it will be the most refreshing thing you’ve done in a long time!

John 7:38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

James 1:22 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

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