Matters from the Grey Cells Contemplations of a believer in a realm of unbelief
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A self-made man

April 26

lincoln2 In the past few days I have been thinking about what it means to be a “self-made man.” There was a time when I would have thought that might have been a good thing. I grew up reading almost everything I could get my hands on and I loved reading about Abraham Lincoln. By the time I was in the fourth grade, I had read every book our school library had about the boy who was born in Kentucky, taught himself by the fire in his log cabin and grew up to be the sixteenth president of my country. To me, honest Abe was a self-made man. He was a man to be admired and respected. He was a man who could be trusted.

But, something happened within my extended family to make me think about another sort of self-made person and it is breaking my heart. The kind of person I am thinking about now didn’t teach himself by the fireside in a log cabin at night, but he did teach himself some things. It seems he taught himself that he didn’t need God. I don’t know when or how, but I do know one thing, he did it precisely the way God said he would. He did it exactly by denying everything that came to him through God and by God’s loving discipline. For although he knew God, he did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but this self-made person became materialistic in his thinking, and his foolish heart became hard. (Romans 1:21)

A person like that is very hard to be around. Even when the room is filled with family and friends celebrating, his heart seems rock hard and stingy. He has little room for anyone else and he can’t celebrate with the people closest to him. We watch him drown himself in “artificial spirits” instead of the true spirit of God. We watch him deny cherished loved ones things he promised them because he gave away his judgment as God said he would (Romans 1:22). He sits in front of us thinking he is so wise, but we know. He has become a fool and it is truly heart-breaking to watch. What hurts even more is that the choice to choose something else over God seems to have been made eons before it became evident because at this point, the person has truly become self-made. He is not a god-made person at t his point. God has given him up in the lusts of his heart to impurity (Romans 1:24), to dishonoring of his body.

Romans 1:18-25

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

When a person chooses God, we see repentance, we see growth, we see godliness, faith, hope, and the fruit of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is visible, tangible, proof of a god-made person.

When a person chooses himself, there is proof of that, too. We see the proof of self-made in Romans 1:28-31. When a person chooses to be self-made rather than God-made any or all of the following will occur.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Why do I write about this? I write about this because it is the truth. This kind of thing happens every day. People deny that God exists and God lets them do it. God lets them deny Him for a long time, but the day comes when God says, “That’s it. I can’t let you do this. You know better. You have to choose. Choose yourself, or choose me.” Up until that day, the person may have been sort of going through the motions of following the Lord. The person may have looked fine on the outside and just been a hot mess of unbelief and little faith on the inside not knowing where to turn or who to turn to. That person may have been angry at the world, building up bitterness and unforgiveness inside themselves and taking it out on God. Who knows? God knows, and believe me, God does care.  God wants to change self-made into God-made. That’s what He does.  Even if it looks to the world as if there is no hope for someone there is. Only God knows when a person has genuinely, wholly turned completely away.

Until then, it is up to us, those who love them, not to give up. We must pray, and love and pray and forgive and pray and pray again. We must never lose them to themselves even when we have to let them go and do their own thing (because if God does, then we do). Even when we love, forgive and pray from a distance, we have never given up. The battle may have been lost, but until the war is over we never give up! Rather lose the battle than lose the self-made to himself. The prodigal son didn’t want to live eternally in his own mess! Would anyone else sincerely choose to do the same? No, of course not! That is why our love, prayers and forgiveness are so important. We cannot let someone we love, who has no accurate judgment, no true wisdom, be in the world without the cover of Biblical warfare. As mentioned in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ”

The self-made man I so admired in my youth, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” He also said, “Be sure to put your feet in the right place and then stand firm.” Those sound like the words of a god-made man to me.

Father, today I submit my will to You, if You have finally given our self-made over to himself that is your affair. You are always right. If You have not, then I ask You, in the name of Jesus to remove the scales from his eyes. I ask You, for the sake of Your Son, whom You love, to restore his faith and commitment to You and those he has committed himself to in the past. I pray a hedge of protection around him and his thoughts. I pray he is unable to act in any way that would displease You even if he wants to. I pray he is so miserable in the mess he is in he will rise up and repent and come home to You!

Most of all Father, I pray that if I ever start down a path toward a self-made life You will turn me around so fast my head will spin. Thank you, my God, my Salvation and my eternal home! Amen.

How can I forgive when it hurts so much?

April 20

unforgiveness

Somewhere, on the path of my Christian walk, I got the idea in my mind that a person needs to be repentant to be forgiven. That is true in the general sense. For the Lord of all creation to forgive a sinner such as me, repentance is required. Sinners need to confess their sins and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In that moment the Lord forgives the sinner. That sinner becomes His for eternity: he makes peace with God and can never go back into the abyss of unforgiveness again. Yes, in the general sense, that is all true of forgiveness. And it is all huge. It is mind-boggling. but as mind-blowing as it is, this path of forgiveness is for another time.

But, just like everything else in life, there is more to forgiveness than that. There is another path. There is the individual’s path of forgiveness. That is what is on my heart today. It is the type of forgiveness I have to do on a daily basis. I have to forgive others and sometimes it isn’t easy. What I’ve been discovering is daily forgiveness is a completely inner exercise that involves me and me alone. It does not involve another person at all. Not ever.

I mentioned before that I got the idea in my head that a person needed to be repentant to be forgiven. I must have translated general repentance into some sort of weird, specific repentance and made myself the judge. If a person didn’t seem repentant enough to me, then I thought it was alright hold back forgiveness until I thought he or she was repentant enough to be forgiven. In order to forgive, I needed to hear certain words or see certain specific repentant attitudes. I needed to hear a person ask for forgiveness instead of just say, “I’m sorry.” To me, a person saying sorry really didn’t mean anything. To me, all that meant was he was just wished he hadn’t been caught or found out.

I thought it would mean something to the person who “needed” my forgiveness if I held it back. I thought that it might mean more to that person if they knew they needed to have the “right” attitude to be forgiven that they needed to make a change. It seemed right and proper, after all. Repentance was the right attitude. I had given repentance to the Lord when I became His. I was a stubborn, (but repentant) person when need be and asked forgiveness of others. So, what could possibly be wrong with my type of forgiveness?

C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” That is so true. But, believe me, everyone has something to forgive whether it is something large or small everyone has something. So be careful with forgiveness. Be certain you aren’t doing what I was doing and requiring a person to change before you forgive them. Because when you do that it requires that person to change on your terms. That is never a good thing. Who has the right to require a person to change?

If you require someone to repent to receive your forgiveness and they seem to repent, what if that repentance isn’t genuine? Then what happens? It can cause anger in you, especially if the other person goes and does the same thing over and over again. The Bible tells us not to let anger tempt us to sin. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians 4:26. Withholding forgiveness by requiring repentance can build up in us the kind of anger the Bible warns against.

That anger. We are not to let the sun go down on our anger. I can’t tell you how many sunsets have gone down on my anger. That is because I honestly do not know myself. I don’t know if you’d believe it, but I didn’t even know I was angry until recently. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. But, with me, there is always something wrong. There is always something to work on, always something I have to do to grow spiritually. If, we are like onions (which I’ve heard many times) I’m the biggest one you’ve ever seen. There are so many layers to peel back I feel like I’m still the same size I was when I started this wonderful pilgrimage even though there have been hundreds of layers peeled back!.

Recently something happened that hurt me so badly I did not want to cope with it. Not only that, I did not want to forgive it. The very worst of it is I purposely chose not to forgive it. It was three days later when I realized how angry I was on top of all the hurt. It occurred to me after crying for a couple of days and becoming exhausted from being angry that I needed to decide to forgive the hurt along with everything and everyone involved. I honestly couldn’t live with my unforgiving self and all the anger in that situation and I just wanted to be free from the pain. That’s when the miracle of forgiveness happened. I forgave. The anger disappeared.

The recent incident made me think about all the unexplained anger that’s been popping up during the last year. I realized I’ve been angry for a long time for things I did not even know I was angry about. Was this anger due to unforgiveness as well? If so, I had to get rid of it. I had to forgive everyone of everything and I had to do it immediately. That is when I learned a universal truth expressed by Lewis B. Smedes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

As I said before I discovered forgiveness is an inner discipline that involves me and me alone. It never involves another person. Not ever. Once I make up my mind to forgive, the power of the Holy Spirit is loosed to do His miraculous work and finish it. He frees me from the prison that my unforgiveness built around my angry heart and mind and heals me. If no one else is ever changed, it doesn’t matter. I was!

Letting the bird out of the cage

April 4

Letting the bird out of the cage

When I was in the fourth grade my brother and I had a dog and parakeet. My brother, who is two years younger than me, took care of our dog and I took care of the parakeet. It was a beautiful bird with a bright, almost florescent green breast and sunny yellow head with splashes of baby blue around his eyes, beak and cheeks. As with most parakeets, his signature wing feathers were specked with black.

But, just like every other pet, he took some work to care for. Some of the responsibility didn’t bother me, but most of it was an enormous hassle. I hated cleaning out the cage every week. I would wake up Saturday morning and spend what seemed like all morning cleaning out that miserable cage. Bird poop was white, runny, smelly, sticky and it got all over the bottom of the cage. Of course, with newspaper lining the bottom of the cage the droppings were much easier to clean up, but there was still the trial of picking up the sticky, smelly paper. That wasn’t the worst part; the worst of it was the seeds. The bird wouldn’t just eat the seeds; he would shell them and spit the shells on to the newspaper building up several layers of wet, smelly mess at the bottom of the cage. Instead of looking forward to Saturdays, I felt like a slave to the “cleaning of the cage.”

So, why am I reliving the experience of taking care of that parakeet? I am reliving it now because I learned my first serious life lesson from taking care (or I should say not taking care) of that bird. What happened? What kind of life lessons can be learned by taking care of a parakeet? The obvious lessons parents want their children to learn from having pets are; 1) the responsibility of taking care of a pet every day; 2) taking care of a pet must be done whether the child feels like it or not, whether it is convenient or not; 3) children learn the importance of dependability because pets depend on their caregivers; 4) it is important for children to respect living creatures and having a pet;  5) it teaches them respect for living creatures; 6) an inevitable part of life is death and mourning and that inevitably comes with owning and caring for a pet.

And all that probably happened for me as well, but something more than that happened for me, because I was a very self-centered child who got tired of taking care of a pet every day. I was also an emotionally immature fourth grader being raised by very young, parents who had little time for my brother and me. We had lots of chores, including those of taking care of the pets.

So, one Saturday, after I finished cleaning out the cage, I made a cold blooded decision. I cleaned the cage near the open window in the living room. I had enough to do, I thought. I had my portion of the household chores to do, which never seemed to meet my mother’s high standards. I had the image of the perfect military daughter to uphold, which certainly never seemed to please my rarely-at-home-father and I had this bird to take care of, which was a never ending chore. I looked at the cage which was clean. Next week, it was going to be filthy and I was going to have to clean it all over again. I looked at the parakeet. He turned his head and looked back at me. I don’t know if he knew what was coming, but he turned his head to the side and looked at me from the other direction and said, “Pretty bird, pretty bird.” I didn’t say anything, I just opened the door to the cage and he flew out of the window into the open air. In less than five seconds I couldn’t see him and I knew I would never see him again. It was over, all my responsibilities were over. No more Saturday mornings cleaning bird cages. I was free.

But before the bird was out of my sight, I felt responsible for killing him. I began to cry. Huge, uncontrollable tears sprang from my eyes. I felt remorse so deep, so immense I never thought I’d feel alright about myself again. I ran to tell my mother about the empty cage. What I didn’t tell her was that I had let the bird out. I told her it was an accident. The remorse she saw on my face was so real it must have wiped away the issue of how the bird got out of the cage. I don’t remember what my mother said, but it was something about learning from my mistakes and being careful when doing a task.

And that was that. I never had to clean the bird cage ever again.

But, that wasn’t that. Even though I never had to clean the bird cage ever again, I grew up to be a very self-centered, emotionally immature woman. Add to that spiritually immature as well. Between fourth grade and growing up and I did at least a couple of really, really horrible things and each time I was hugely remorseful. I have never forgotten what letting that poor little helpless bird out of the cage taught me. I can do something really, really horrible and then feel immensely sorry for it, but that does not take away my responsibility for doing the really, really horrible thing. No matter how immeasurably sorry I am I can’t take it back; the bird is still gone. Being remorseful never kept me from doing bad things. I did bad things and I was ALWAYS very sorry about them. I always wished I hadn’t done them, but…and there was always a But…until I was 32 and met with FORGIVENESS in the flesh. I don’t know what that last statement means to you, but to me it means Jesus Christ. He is forgiveness in the flesh.

“In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to
the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7

The only thing that has ever solved the problem of remorse for doing something unpardonable is the forgiveness of sin. Jesus is my answer. Jesus forgave me for letting the bird out of the cage. Jesus forgives any one of us for any sin. All any one of us has to do is to bring our sin and repentance to Him and He will forgive.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

I have to say that before I met Jesus, I was filled with remorse for doing bad things. After filling my heart and my life with Jesus, I am filled with repentance when I do sinful things. There is a difference. Remorse means a feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed). Repentance means to feel sincerely sorry for your past sins or wrong doings and turn away from them or discontinue doing them.

There has been at least once in my life when I’ve seen the lesson of the bird flying out of the cage being painfully played out in someone else’s life. On October 25, 1994, the evening news covered a story about a woman in South Carolina reporting to police that she had been carjacked by an African-American man who drove away with her sons still in the car. She pleaded on television for the rescue and return of her children. My husband, daughter and I were watching that report and I said, “She did it. She killed those two little boys.” Somehow, I knew she had killed her two sons. Saying that was horrifying to my family. They thought I was horrible for even thinking it, much less saying it out loud. But, I told them that I was pretty certain. I don’t know what it was about that incident. Maybe I recognized something in her because I had stood where she was standing. I knew what it was like to do something truly horrible and be sorry. I saw her crying her eyes out. I knew she was truly sorry for what had happened. Sorry hurts. Sorry makes us miserable. Sorry makes us wish with all our hearts we hadn’t done what we did. But, sorry just doesn’t cut it. Sorry, doesn’t bring the bird back into the cage. That is why instead of hanging on to sorry; I reach up and grab hold of Jesus and the forgiveness that He so freely gives.

Dear Jesus, please forgive me when I am sorry and not repentant. Show me when I should be repentant, bring me into true repentance when I’ve done wrong. Amen.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd

March 2

The Lord is my ShepherdMy husband and I have had a very hard week.  I am thinking and meditating on the Lord, My Shepherd and remembering things I learned about Him many years ago and just needed to journal.  Please be reminded these are the simple thoughts from my own experience.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.]
3     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

The first thing I learned about the Shepherd I memorized when I was a child. That was long before I understood what a shepherd did for his sheep. As a child, I did not really care what a shepherd did for his sheep. I am certain I did not understand or care about what the Lord did for me either. Before I became a believer, I know for a fact that I never ever compared myself to a sheep. But, all my thoughts changed when I became a believer. I learned to think of the Lord as a shepherd. Not only that, but as The Ultimate Shepherd (which He certainly is). And, since I began to think of the Lord as a Shepherd, I had to begin to think of myself as a sheep.

The first thing I learned about myself as a sheep was that I had gone my own way. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;” Isaiah 53:6. In going my own way, I had never been much of a follower. It has taken me years to learn to follow my shepherd. I am not certain that, even after all these years, I still know how to follow Him daily. The best way is minute by minute. It’s the best way, but it is hard and I have not mastered it. That is why I need the Shepherd. He is always faithful, always here to lead me no matter what I do, where I go,  or what kind of a mess I get myself into.

The second thing I learned about the Shepherd was that He makes me to lie down in green pastures. Sheep frighten easily and predators frighten them. With that said, sheep will never eat or lie down(in green pastures) when a predator or enemy is close. They’d rather run! As His sheep, My Shepherd makes everything safe enough for me that I can eat, lie down, rest and go to sleep. I never need be afraid. There is tremendous freedom in knowing the Shepherd.

The 23rd Psalm tells me that He leads me beside still waters. Isn’t that interesting? Why? Why does that matter? I can tell you that it doesn’t matter to me too terribly unless those waters are raging rapids. But, Sheep do not like to drink from running water. Running water of any sort frightens sheep. Also, sheep will run from what frightens them. My Shepherd cares so much for me, that He would never lead me beside water that is running. He knows where the still waters are and He takes me there to drink. That’s love and care! Just knowing the Shepherd and how he cares for His sheep, I know that He loves me and cares for me, His sheep.

Sheep will follow each other. As I’ve grown I’ve learned to follow the Shepherd. It’s so much easier to follow other sheep rather than the Shepherd. It’s easier to read their books and meditate on their words but it won’t restore my soul or lead me in the path of righteousness. Verse three of the 23rd Psalm says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” If I read what someone else says about the Bible, my soul won’t be restored in the same way as it is when I read what The Shepherd says. The Bible is the record of the Shepherd’s very words. These words restore my very soul. These are the words that will lead me into righteousness. These are the words that bring glory to His name when I lead a righteous life. 4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

In Bible times, shepherds used a “rod” to fight off predators and a “staff” to rescue their sheep. The “rod” was the blunt end and the “staff” was the hook end of the tool the shepherd carried. The blunt end was for protection and the hook end was for rescue if a sheep was caught in a bramble or in running water, or any frightening situation, really. Sheep are easily frightened. So, in a very literal way, a rod and a staff were very comforting to sheep. Knowing this about the Shepherd, helps me to know that His rod and staff are there for me. His protection and comfort are real. He protects me. He comforts me. When the world is frightening (and it is at times) He protects me even when I can’t see what He is protecting from(“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). He comforts me when I meditate on His word and ask Him to “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 5 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Shepherds in Bible times rubbed olive oil on sheep’s cuts and scratches to help them heal. I know that during this lifetime I will not sit down at a banquet table in the presence of my enemies where I will be honored with an overflowing cup and anointed with oil. Nope, that’s not going to happen. But, my Shepherd assures me that it will happen. As long as I am one of the sheep of His pasture, He will see to it that my place at the banquet is secure. Actually, He has already seen to it. Just as the Bible tells me in Matthew 22:1-14 that the King prepared the banquet for His Son and even though I may not have been one of the original invitees, I will sit at the banquet table. My enemy, the devil, will end up on the outside looking in.

These are the things I’ve been meditating on during the past week that has been so very difficult for me. I’ve been repeating the 23rd Psalm over and over. It has been very comforting. When I repeat these words, the hurt and upset subsides in my soul. I know the Shepherd is in control and is leading, protecting, comforting and loving.

Thank you, Heavenly Father for your leading when I do not see the path (“for we walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7).  Thank you for protecting when I try to fight the wrong enemy. Thank you for comforting when the enemy strikes a blow, when those blows hurt, when those blows take me backward (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Thank you for being my hope, my all-in-all.  Amen.

What Are You Trying Not To See?

February 14
Afraid to see what a bad person I am

Afraid to see what a bad person I am

I have been reading a book about a psychiatrist who successfully treated a woman with multiple personalities. The most fascinating thing about the book to me is that some of the personalities had to wear glasses; some had high blood pressure, some diabetes. Others didn’t have any of these maladies. I thought how is that possible? In the same body, one personality had to wear glasses, but another one didn’t? Does it mean that every sickness is in the mind? I just can’t stop thinking about this.

I discussed this topic with a few people and they have been as interested as I yet at least a couple of them weren’t as surprised as I was. My massage therapist said that the mind/body connection is very much a mystery. She relayed a story about a man who was treated for cancer with a placebo and was healed because he believed in it. When he was told his treatment had nothing to do with his healing, it was all in his mind, his cancer returned. He went back into cancer treatment and again his doctors treated him with a placebo. Again, he was totally healed. Again, his doctors informed him about the fact that he was healed by his belief in the treatment, not by any medicine. And, for the second time, his cancer returned. Why? Obviously, he wanted to be healed. I just do not understand. I mean I do understand (what’s not to understand about it). What I don’t understand is why I do not allow myself to be healed without chemicals. I don’t mind using natural remedies, but I do not want to use manmade chemicals.

I have high blood pressure; why I haven’t I just told myself that I do not have high blood pressure and make it go away. It should work. My mind is the master of my body (or it is supposed to be).

Further into the discussion with my massage therapist, we were discussing issues that were causing each other distress, emotional and physical. She mentioned her daughter had a scar on her foot that was very distressing. I told her to use some Balsam Fir essential oil on it. My husband used it on his scars from double knee surgeries last summer and they are remarkably healed. I mentioned I was having distressing trouble with my eyesight. I asked her if she knew of an oil I could use to help improve my eyesight and then she said something that rocked me to my very core. She said, “My life coach would say, “What are you trying not to see?”
I said, “What did you say?” but, I knew exactly what she had said, and I knew exactly what my response to the question was.
She repeated, “My life coach would say, “What are you trying not to see?
“Trying not to see? You mean I can’t see well because I am trying not to see something? I asked with tears welling up in my eyes. ”Yes, exactly,” she said. My response was immediate. I knew exactly what to say.
“What a bad person I am,” I said, crying.

All this discussion about the mind/body connection and being able to heal myself by speaking to my mind and taking control of my thoughts is not a new idea. Of course, nothing is new the Bible tells me that.

Ecclesiastes 1:3-11
What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.

SO! What do I DO? I must have a cheerful heart. I must not let my bones dry up. This is what the Bible teaches me through Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:22

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5

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.

 When I know that nothing is new. That God is always present in the world and in me. When I know that He has already given me the good medicine and that good medicine is a cheerful heart. I must see to it that I use that cheerful heart. When I know that His divine power will demolish the strongholds that want to take my mind captive and make me become disobedient to Christ; when I know all this and ACT on it and become a victor, then I am  healed!

I am speaking to my mind. I am healed. I do not have high blood pressure. I have cheerful heart. My mind is captive to the truth that God has given me. Amen.

No Signs of Life

June 18

No Signs of Life
Recently, my family and I visited a model home. It was beautiful. Everything in it was placed perfectly. It goes without saying that the furniture was divine and the accessories were hand-picked. I loved it.  I made the comment that I would move in immediately and not change a thing. The manager made the remark in return that the reason I liked it was because there were “no signs of life.”

“No signs of life.” I can’t stop thinking about that phrase. It has really made an impression on me and I’m not certain what sort of impression it is.  Is that what my whole life is about? Do I want it filled with no signs of life? Just rooms all clean and full of pretty furniture, and perfect accessories all perfectly placed? A place I live in all alone and share with no one? A space even I make no impact on?

I’ve been feeling suffocated in my own home lately. Everywhere I look there is a pile of something that needs to be moved or given away or (dare I say it?) thrown away.

Why am I crying?

Am I crying because I have no friends to “hang around with” on a regular basis? Am I crying because my house is a disaster and I don’t want to do anything about it? Am I crying because I lost my job and I feel cheated and robbed and treated unfairly? I shouldn’t have been fired.  I feel as though I’ve been thrown away, lost the friends I made at work; lost all the respect people had for me and my position at work; lost my value; lost the work that was important to me; lost the children I knew and had a part in their lives. It’s all gone, lost. Why? Why? WHY?

It doesn’t matter why I am crying. I know that. What matters is what I do about it. What matters is who I run to. What matters is how I accept it.

One thing I do know. My expectations are WAY TOO HIGH.  Expectations for friends are too high…is that why the friends I choose will never be able to live up to them.

These thoughts, this depression, isn’t…All of my own making. These thoughts aren’t the thoughts that come from the way,  the truth and the life. Of course, there is truth in them, but it is bent, twisted, and meant to cause pain.

I reach for the truth. I search through the pages until I find it. I find what I am looking for. There are no truer words than the words of God or His promises to me.  This depression is not of my own making…But staying in it is of my own making.

I choose the circle of life.  I turn from the vicious circle of depression and death and choose the circle of life.

Psalm 102:6-12

6The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Last but not Least

June 2

Velvet the geckoThe last animal we had in our classroom was Velvet, the velvet gecko. This gecko comes from Australia and looks like it has two heads. Of course, this is for protection and camoflage and it was fascinating for my first graders to watch it for the last few weeks of school.

I’m sorry to say that for me, Velvet, as a pet, was a just about as exciting as Charlotte. This gecko is very shy and stayed inside its hiding log most of the time. Although, we did see it eat some of the new batch of crickets one Tuesday morning. That was the highlight of observing Velvet. Even observing lower-key animals it surprises me how much I have added to my own love of nature during the past year. I have never really liked having pets, but it has truly been an amazing experience watching them every day.

What have I learned from these animals? I’ve learned that God is in every detail of our world. Every breath, of every being from the large to the small, from the high to the low, from the rich to the poor, from those things that can be seen with our eyes and those things that cannot be seen, but are present whether we see them or not.

God is. God is truly unfathomable. His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). He is worthy of my praise, worship, devotion. He looks at every detail of my life and watches it, cares about it and loves me with all that is in Him just as he does with all things.

Because of our nature studies this year, I can’t get enough of creature documentaries. I watched one called “Microorganisms” three times about two weeks ago. I saw it by myself first and was fascinated so I had to get my husband to watch it with me. We then went out to see our grand girls and watched it with them (7, 5, 2 ½).  They were all just as fascinated as I was. And I watched with just as much enthusiasm all three times. It has been so much fun to instill this same love for all things in nature to my grand girls. They are always looking for some creature for me to “study” and/or take to school to show my kids.

All of nature is supposed to bring us into a higher awareness of God, make us more in awe of Him and want to worship Him. I would say it has done this for me, I hope it will do the same for you.

Weapons with Divine power!

March 15

weapons with divine powerYesterday, I finished listening to a CD by Beth Moore entitled Freedom. At first, I did not think what she had to say made much of an impression. However, I cannot get some of the ideas she presented out of my head, so I must be wrong.

The topic, of course is freedom. I didn’t need a sermon about freedom. As a child of God, I know I am free. So what kind of freedom was she talking about? She gave some concrete ways to weaken the strongholds Satan has on us. The reason I didn’t think it made much of an impression was because the strongholds she mentioned were substance abuse, sexual abuse, pornography, unforgiveness and extra-marital affairs. I do not have problems with these types of things, so I didn’t pay that much attention to what was being said at the time.

I know, I sound arrogant. I am ashamed to admit I had to think for a moment and wonder what strongholds Satan does have on me. There are many, believe me. I cannot believe it took me even a moment to think of some. In my mind, as long as I don’t have any “major” sins, I am as good as I can be. I believe in God, I trust in Him, I am doing the best I can. But, truthfully, I had to confess I am living in denial. I had to admit that I know I still have weaknesses, I am not free. I had to sit and meditate on what God wants me to learn; how He wants me to grow, what strongholds He wants destroyed. According to Beth Moore, “Identifying the lie is absolutely crucial to destroy the thing that has gotten hold” of me. Her words helped me to understand, and know how to apply.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“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.”

Before listening to the Freedom CD, I knew the battlefield is in the mind. I did. But I never truly learned 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. I did not realize that the weapons we fight with “have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

I did know Philippians 4:8
“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy—think about such things.”

And Ephesians 6:11-17
”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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

I knew I was supposed to think as Christ thinks, but why didn’t I know that thinking God’s thoughts had divine power to demolish strongholds?  I knew I had to stand firm and put on the full armor of God. I’ve done those things and I still have strongholds in my life. We ALL do. So, why am I just now awakening to the truths about 2 Corinthians 10:3-5?  Why am I just now realizing I have strongholds? I honestly thought I had taken care of them. If Satan had holds on me, it had more to do with my weaknesses and inability to overcome.

Some of what I thought was true. I was weak and I did have an inability to overcome. Some of what I thought of as true was just a lie meant to destroy me.  I am only weak when I do not use the weapons that “have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

Now, I feel much more equipped to fight the war and win. When I hear the whisper in my head that tells me I can’t ever change, I know exactly what to do. Replace it with the thinking of Jesus Christ himself. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” Jeremiah 31:3.” I can do all this through him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13.

I know I have been equipped the full armor of God. I know the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  Now I know for a fact they have divine power to demolish strongholds. Now I am equipped to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

My prayer today is – God make something beautiful from the mess I’ve created on my own. Strengthen me to follow your principles which have divine power to demolish all the strongholds in my life.

But the greatest of these is love

February 2

Love isThe Lord never ceases to astound and amaze me. I delight in finding Him in he midst of the most mundane activity or even better, during a time when I am most definitely not thinking about Him. I love the vast and myriad ways He brings my attention back to my center,Him.

I am confessing that I do not think about Him 24/7. I do my best to keep my thoughts, deeds and eyes on Him, but I am only human and things happen, you know.

Just this week, in my first grade classroom my students were working their learning centers (or workstations as we call them). It was very near the end of the day and I was working with two students on their reading while everyone else was quietly active at their workstation. I noticed it was time to clean up and told the student working closest to me to start picking up. I then turned back to the two readers and tried to finish up with them.

Suddenly, there was a commotion and someone was crying. What a way to end the day, I thought! Now there will have to be an investigation. What happened? Why is this student crying? Then, there will have to be soothing for the crying student. No calm ending to this day is likely. When just a moment ago there was peace and harmony, calm and quiet in the room, now there is chaos and confusion, madness and mayhem. I am everywhere at once. Soothing and administering a wet paper towel for the injured party, directing students to complete their cleaning, directing others who have completed their clean up to sit down.  There I was, working in and of myself. Thinking only of the here and now and letting the circumstances control me and my attitude.

When one particular student walked toward me quietly, of course, I did not notice him. Oblivious, he kept moving forward toward me. He positioned himself right in front of my face and said, “Mrs. Sterrett, I love you.” He then placed his precious little head on my shoulder. Oh my LORD! What a precious moment. I see you Father, you are sending this sweet one to remind me of who I am, and who You are, and how much you love all of us.

There is nothing better than being in the Lord’s presence, when just a second ago there was chaos and confusion, madness and mayhem, the Lord sent his messenger to restore our room to fully focus on the “greatest of these…love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The room froze and all eyes were on the love the student was giving me. I could see it on their faces as they waited for my response and reaction. What will she do now? I did what anyone would; I put my arms around him and said, “I love you, too!” I gave him a big hug. All at once everyone was lining up for hugs. We all hugged and happily cleaned up, lined up and left for home.

Thank you, my Father. Thank you that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Love did its work and did not fail our class this week!

Thumbs down for Charlotte

January 20

Charlotte the tarantulaWe’ve had a tarantula in our room for the last three weeks…….. Her name is Charlotte. We had a cornsnake for several months before Charlotte and we all loved him. Charlotte, however, is a different story. This spider is so boring. She moves, but we never see her do it. She eats live crickets, but not when we can see.  She drinks water. The only way we know this is because her water bowl gets empty. If you ask me, I really think it just evaporates.

Every morning I come in the classroom and check on Charlotte. The first time I did this and couldn’t see her in the habitat, I was afraid she’d somehow gotten out. It literally took me five minutes to find her in there. She is so dark that she is very hard to see. Her surroundings in the habitat are very dark too and that adds to the difficulty of finding her every morning.

I never dreamed a tarantula would be so blaah. Next time we get an animal, we are going to get the two headed lizard or something fun. I do not want the iguana or one of the parakeets, but the lizards and snakes are the best for me. They are fascinating to watch and easy to keep.

So, I say Charlotte’s is not an amazing creature. Oh, I guess I have to take that back. She did shed her skin once and that WAS something to see! We were able to feel how fuzzy she is all over. That was really great.

After that though, it’s been downhill all the way with Charlotte.