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What did you do today?

What will be my last earthly activity is just a stronger way of asking ourselves – what will we be remembered for after we die.

We know that the last thing we see or do is always what everyone remembers.

Like the police officer who rushed into an active shooting situation and, as a result, died while saving others. Yet…

Does anyone remember how he signed his children’s report card the night before – after having a big celebration for their achievements, even the C-level child?

How about the hot cup of coffee that he took to his wife in bed that morning before heading out to another day on the job?

Does anyone remember that he was a guest speaker that morning at an elementary school about being a police officer, while letting the children try on his hat and badge – careful to leave his gun in his patrol car?

Does anyone remember that he bought lunch for a homeless person a few hours before?

This is not about a particular police officer. It could be about all people and how we chose to go about the moments in our daily lives. And yes, all will remember the last moment that their life was touched – either good or bad – by each of us.

I want to share a harrowing season in my life that has actually made me listen to the voice of my heart. It was an experience that no person should have to go through. It was a result of trying to stand up for what is right – in the right way. But the injustice came from mankind and old ways of belief. It is ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ of deceit and cruelty and of using God’s name in vain that is not of God.  And for the first time, I scratch my head and wonder how I got to be this age without seeing that clearly.

I have been stalked for over a year in every sense of the legal definition. I was forced to get security cameras on my home, to tell people where I was going and when I would return, to leave the YMCA where I exercised, and to find a grocery store farther away.

The most difficult thing in this was that I was forced for safety reasons to leave my church.

You may ask, what? Why? Isn’t church supposed to be a place of safety and one to experience the peace of God? But, my stalker was there replacing my worship with sinister behavior and no one could help me. My last blog was “No means No” written to the stalker who reads my blog over and over (yes, I see it on my dashboard).

If you haven’t noticed, the church is rapidly becoming the nesting spot in the world’s spiritual warfare. Evil’s attitude of entitlement  is the core of this warfare because evil elevates itself  above others.

When this happens we must be on guard. How do we recognize and defeat it?

First, we begin, all of us including the pastor, by living in the mindset of Christ, with a servant mind guided by the Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:3-5 New International Version (NIV) is a reminder:

“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”.


We are about to enter the season of Advent, celebrated by Christians who spend time in spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, born in a stall in a manager. Jesus who washed the feet of His disciples.  Jesus, the son of God who died for us.

This advent season reminds me that God sent His only begotten Son to earth that we might have eternal life through the forgiveness of our sins. It is so simple, we only have to ask. My thoughts and prayers as I light each candle will be to remind myself of this, while I also remind myself not to allow the evil of earthly things that try to poison my joy.

We should remember that God doesn’t always call the prepared. Instead, he prepares those who respond to his call. It is this call that brings us through and out of the dark into the light.

God called upon and sent a circle of people to surround me, a reminder that through them, He is with me. I pulled my hope and strength from their loving arms, their positive energy and the fact that like God, they see me with eyes that recognize my imperfections and protected me from this evil with their love anyway. This is how I came through the darkness.

I continue to hold tightly to my faith; regardless of the evil that often tries to destroy it. I will live it each moment of each day so that only my faith will be the lasting memory that I leave.

God’s got this.  Peace and love to all.

No Means No

Better life

 

Women don’t leave a relationship easily, even when it is one of pain. They tend to give the benefit of the doubt more than is wise – trusting that the other person didn’t mean to cause harm. She eventually learns that your damage, while difficult, didn’t reach her mind or her soul. This realization is her point of no return. She is finished with you.

Hers is a forever good-bye. Nothing you can say or do will change that. You’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise. Her trust has been destroyed. She is so much stronger because she now knows that she deserves better than what you could ever give her. She moves forward, totally detached from whatever space you had taken up in her life. She will never reattach to your kind of betrayal.

Ever.

You are only a fading dark spot on the horizon– a minor mistake made and forgotten. She doesn’t look back. Her eyes face the next season as life brings forth the joys and blessings that were meant for her all along. She has experienced the worst from you. She cherishes her new best life and is thankful for it.

You are not, nor will you be, any part of her life – ever. Civility and respect means that NO means NO. You don’t have a say in her definition of that word.  The best you can hope for is that she has forgiven you.

Take heed: Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.

Understand these words… and go fix yourself.

Changing Hearts is God’s Work

Forgiveness
Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent foresees evil and hides”.

How does a person forgive something that — to them — is unforgivable?

Jesus, while in agony on the cross said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Often in our humanness we wonder, “But what if they do know? What if their actions are calculated and self-serving?”  Distrust replaces love and forgiveness and when this happens, it’s time to be honest with God.  The best way to do this is by going to His word for direction.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent foresees evil and hides himself”.  But sometimes forgiveness requires caution because it is different from trust, necessitating the dynamics of a relationship to change.    Until an offender has a true change of heart, and because we can’t see that person’s heart, wisdom says to limit our trust in that person.

Trust is a like a four-way intersection where adherence to the wishes, viewpoints, or beliefs of others must intersect with humility and acceptance, even though they may not be the same as yours.  Pretense of respect and honor, shrouded in hollow words are as transparent as a full moon on a cloudless night.   For honor to shine true, the respect must be real.  How do we know if it’s real? We must proceed with caution given to us by the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean acceptance, or even forgetting of transgressions. It requires truth which means letting go of that which has caused hurt, whether forgiveness was requested or not.  This becomes a decision of the will – a conscious choice made in the name of Christ – to forget as much as possible and to move on with your life. It doesn’t mean we’re not to forgive.  Forgiveness may influence our world, but we must be humble and grateful for God’s love and forgiveness of us as we forgive others while maintaining the recognition that we are not God.

Changing hearts is God’s work.

 

Sometimes a pencil…sometimes an eraser

 

Happiness means that sometimes you’re a pencil…and sometimes you’re an eraser…

The opposite of happy is not unhappy, it is just sadness. Saying you’re unhappy is diluting and hiding from the actual emotion of sadness that both our physical body and our spirit must recognize and process in order to release it. This allows us to once again feel happy, because happiness is not exclusive of sadness.  The expression that ‘Life happens’ is just a way to hide from this. Life begins and ultimately ends with various pauses in between that make up life’s journey. Understanding this is to help us better appreciate the nuances and depth of each person’s journey.

music

I recently asked my Facebook friends a question:  If you are not happy, but you are not UNhappy, what are you?  Interesting responses include:

Complacent

Contented

 Numb

Bored

Indifferent

Medicated

Somewhat happy

Even keeled

Possibly accepting hopelessness

Happy and content with Jesus

Preoccupied and can’t think long enough to decide

Serene

Regardless of the variety of responses, each comes from our own individual perspective.  If each person were to expand on their response we could all learn more about when to be the pencil and when to be the eraser – either way, we would all feel happy in the doing. All of us are searching for happiness, but we need to know what makes us happy because often it is the NOT knowing that brings us sadness.

Don’t let sadness win!  Acknowledge it, feel it, then let it go however long that takes or in whatever form your individual circumstance requires. Expect the sun to come up each day, expect to love and to be loved; expect to forgive and to be forgiven; expect to be happy and to make others happy, if it is only to smile, to pray, to be kind, or maybe to share a “God Wink” such as this one from my good friend, Karen, by permission.

“Contentment is saying I’m okay with what I have and where I’m at.  I think contentment is a deeper level of happiness. Happiness (the ‘oh boy’ feeling of joy) is fleeting, but contentment is like a bed of hot coals. There are not flames, sparks or excitement, but there is constant steady warmth that warms your soul and still cooks your food.”

                                                                                                       – Karen Reed Woodcock

Words

bill cover

Family is a dichotomy of love and hate – especially true in the relationships of siblings.  Both emotions are steered by the conditions of their lives as they grow up.  There were six of us children, growing up as “army brats”.  That meant that every two years we moved to a new state.  As a result, we became each others best friends because we had to depend one-on-the-other to be the constant in our lives during our formative years.

Then as we grew up we drifted into forming individual lives, only coming together as a family unit on holidays.  That is until life began to bring us back to those feelings from our childhood when we were the only ones who recognized and who truly understood what the others were feeling.  It is those very feelings that cause us to join in God’s word in Isaiah 40:1 “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God”  bringing forth the unconditional comfort of family.

Today, my guest blogger is my oldest brother, Bill.  When we were kids, he let me stay up late and watch The Twilight Zone with him on Friday nights, followed by those scary Godzilla movies on Saturday mornings, and laughed with me while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, enabling me to face fear with the knowledge that better times always come.   When I was only nine and weighed 75 pounds, a bully at school stomped my foot, causing me to cry.  The next day at school, Bill walked up to the bully, stomped the bully’s foot and said, “Don’t ever do that to my sister again!”  And the bully never did, nor any other bully because words do get around.

Bill is the one who, when I was home with a very bad case of the flu, signed me up for cheerleader tryouts; not something I had even considered.  He then became my campaign manager by again signing me up to run for student council – also not on my “bucket list”.  He helped me write the words to my campaign speeches and encouraged me to reach all the way to my toenails and to pull up the courage to share them in front of the student body (I was very shy).  Imagine my surprise when I succeeded at both and both are two of my best high school memories.

He is the one, as I struggled with the decision to go to college after getting married said, “Just try it.  Take one class, make it your favorite subject – and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back.  You just need to know what it’s like.”  As usual, he knew me better than I knew myself.  Not only did I graduate cum laude from his favorite – The University of Alabama, I went on to obtain my Masters Degree.

He is the one who is calm in the storms of our lives as siblings today – all with words of peace, faith and hope, – and a whole lot of prayer.  I want to share the words of this man who backs them up with actions, making a difference.

 

BillWords by Bill Brewer

“I guess, just about everyone has heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I, for one, have never embraced this saying, because words do have meanings and they do have consequences.

What if you had printer in your home and as you went through each day each word you spoke was printed from the printer, page by page? What would be there for you read when you got home? Would you share it with everyone or just shred it?

Then, what if for one day each word that you spoke would travel across the screen of all television sets in your hometown? Could you then go out and walk in public with your head held high? Or would you hide and only come out when it was dark?

In a spiritual way, each word we speak appears on the screen of God’s television. When each of us talk to people we meet each day, we should always strive to use words that God would approve of.  Always remember that a word of kindness and encouragement, especially to a child, could give hope to a person that had none before, or give that child the needed encouragement to excel.

A single kind word or act to someone close to you, or even to a stranger, could show them that someone cares. So as you start each day ask yourself. “What will my printer say about me today?” But more importantly, when the day ends, we need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say about the words we spoke today?”

Bill, husband to Kathy, father to two daughters and grandfather to five grandchildren, brother, friend, veteran, refers to himself as “Just a God loving country boy.”

And so he is.

 

Giving Up is Harder Than You Think

forsythia“What are you giving up for Lent?”

This is a common question among my fellow Methodists. I must confess, the first time I “gave up” something for Lent was about five years ago. Oh, I had tried in previous years, but just couldn’t sustain forty days; just too much temptation I guess.

A few years ago I was determined to try again. I knew it had to be meaningful and near and dear to me – a real sacrifice! Anyone who knows me, if asked, “What would be hard for her to give up?” resounding response would be – SWEETS!!!

It was so hard. But every time I was tempted, I would tough through it by remembering why I was giving something up. After all, Jesus gave his own life for us.

What a success it turned out to be – I lost 14 pounds in forty days. This giving up something paid off. Oh, and Jesus’ sacrifice did too – so that we might have everlasting life.  Of course, it wasn’t long after Lent season when I began to eat sweets, and in the doing – you guessed it – I found those 14 pounds again. Lent didn’t change me a bit.

It is now Day 6 of this season of Lent. I didn’t give anything up this year except worry and anxiety. I modified my strategy because it’s so hard to give up something.  Therefore, this Lent season I am receiving by focusing on my relationship with God. I schedule a quiet time each day in self-reflection and prayer. I begin by closing my eyes seeing only darkness and I think about what happened yesterday, and what’s going on today, and I begin to feel His presence right beside me. I then pray by repeating, “God, God, God” with each breath as I allow sparks of thoughts in that darkness to guide me in my prayer, ending with,“Father, thank you, forgive me, lead, guide, and direct me that I may serve You through and with others. Amen.”

Until yesterday that is – it was but Day 5 of Lent.  I got busy with errands, laundry, and dinner and a movie with a friend, and I missed my time with God.

Temptations come in the most mundane forms; allowing worry and anxiety in again…just like those 14 pounds. I’ve always thought that the simple act of living your best life is a daily endeavor, requiring courage, which is but fear and faith holding hands.

As I took Teddie for his walk today, I noticed the forsythia bush has the slightest glimmer of tiny yellow buds. Snow and ice had bent it’s straggly limbs only days ago. I smile with the knowing that seasons don’t wait until everything is perfect. Nor does God.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  –1 Peter 5:12

Friendship

You can have old friends; you can have new friends – but, you can’t have new old friends. However, you can have new friends that feel like old friends, and you can have old friends that feel like new friends.

Life happens and as a result we change and our friends change. But, we don’t have to change friends; we just need to adapt to the changes in ourselves and those in our friends. Those inevitable life changes can make us angry, afraid, insecure, sad, happy, joyful – or, if we are lucky, a better person, albeit a different one. Love doesn’t dissolve for these friendships. Sometimes it’s the love we have for ourselves that dissolves. We lose our way, our identity and it’s just too hard to figure out how “to be”. So we just hide out in plain sight and true friends recognize that type of “hide-and-seek” game we play with ourselves.

Self-awareness limits judgement on the two-sided coin of friendship – with one side being trust and the other being forgiveness. Friends come and friends go – but a true friend sticks by you like family. Proverbs 18:24

That is what friends do.Friend picture

WAITING

Waiting

This is one of my favorite paintings. When  I painted it, one of my friends commented that it looked like the person in it was waiting for something. Thank you Andy for that insight.

Do you own certain outfits that you save for special occasions? Do you buy greeting cards with the intention of mailing them, but don’t? Do you commit to something and then decide to wait until the timing is better? Do you decide to lose weight but you’ll start next Wednesday, then the following Monday, then…? Did you decide you want to go on a trip to Europe but decide it’s too expensive? Do you want to write your memoirs, take up painting, volunteer at the homeless shelter, teach a class, take a class, read War and Peace – but haven’t gotten around to it?

I have.

Why do we wait? I suspect it’s because we just don’t know the ending yet. If we did every day would be a special occasion, we’d own stock in Hallmark, we’d experience life events in-the-moment, we’d have a BMI that’s just where it’s supposed to be, and we’d be knowledgeable about how the rest of the world lives. We’d be writers, painters, volunteers, teachers, students and would be extremely well-read (so many books, so little time).

Life does not wait – it continues on as both it and we –  are meant to do. I recently discovered a blogger that talked about about “knowing life”:

What I do know is this. When life changes forever you learn to appreciate every single day, hour, minute, moment, breath, pause, reflection, laugh, meal, conversation, experience, pain, joy, drive, walk, shower, kiss. Every hot chocolate, train trip, day at work, bill to pay, run in the rain, phone call, afternoon nap, rejection, email, glass of wine, movie date, pair of jeans and opportunity. Every YouTube video, argument, cafe breakfast, new friend, disappointment, picnic, cold morning, traffic jam, macaroon and pay day.

You appreciate it all. Because this is life.”

                       – Claire Baker at http://thisislifeblood.com

We don’t need to know the ending; we only need to live the now.

Why wait?

 “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”
Psalms 27:13-14

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