This Flower…

This flower is growing in my mother’s driveway. It sprouted earlier this summer when she scattered birdseed that was too large to fit in her bird feeder. My mom has flowers growing all over her yard. Flowers that she never really planted. She just scattered a few seeds here and there and waited for the beauty.

Out of all her flowers, this one wins the prize. My mom specifically asked me and my sister to park carefully when we visited, so as not to run over the sunflower that had begun to grow in her driveway. We followed her instructions, but failed to mention the flower to our children.

The flower was a source of joy for Mom, who can’t get out as much as she would like. She could view the flower from her sunroom and watch the beauty of its growth. A flower gracing the gravel with its glory.

Enter two young boys with light sabers. My son, Benjamin, and my sister’s son, Andrew were playing outside at Nana’s house when they discovered the large “weed” growing in the driveway. It did not yet have blooms and could easily have been mistaken for a weed. These boys know their Nana doesn’t like weeds in her yard and decided to take care of the problem. A few moments later, the flower had been whacked with Jedi force.

My sister, Kristi discovered how the young Jedi had tackled the “weed” and explained to them it was a flower. They quickly apologized to Nana and of course, she forgave. However, I knew the sight of the wilting flower would make her sad.

I visited a few days later and used scissors to trim everything that was dead. My hopes weren’t very high for recovery, but I reminded myself that it was in my mother’s yard, where everything grows.

By now you know the rest of the story. The flower has fully recovered and proudly shares its blooms with the world.

This story immediately turns my mind to the amazing things that God can do. My mom scattered several seeds at the beginning of the summer, but only one grew into a beautiful, blooming flower. We too are called to scatter the seeds of our faith to the world around us. Some of those seeds will never take root and grow, but some will grow and become the most beautiful children of God. Followers of Christ, forever changed for His glory.

Even those who begin to grow in the faith can be knocked down by the evil one. They can be torn apart because Satan doesn’t want them to bloom and grow and point others to the Savior. In these times of attack, it’s God our Father to the rescue. He is the One who gives life and gives it abundantly. He prunes those injured, dead places from our lives. He removes the weight of those burdens and restores us to a place where we can grow in His goodness. Praise be to God, the giver of all good things.

Father, help me to grow in your goodness and bloom radiantly for You. Help me to scatter the seeds of my faith so that others may know You and live for Your glory.

“Think about how the wildflowers grow. They don’t work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that even Solomon, the great and rich king, was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers. If God makes what grows in the field so beautiful, what do you think he will do for you? That’s just grass—one day it’s alive, and the next day someone throws it into a fire. But God cares enough to make it beautiful. Surely he will do much more for you. Your faith is so small! Luke 12:27-28 (ERV)

In His Love,

Karen 🌻

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Worn Out

My 15 year old son, Jonathan recently began playing tennis. When he plays a sport, he plays hard and he never gives up.

Jonathan played in his first tournament today. It was a last minute opening and we weren’t as prepared as we could have been. We haven’t purchased a racquet that best suits his style of play and we haven’t purchased “tennis” shoes specifically made for the sport.

Jonathan has been wearing regular athletic shoes for practice and has already demolished two pairs. He was down to his last pair of athletic shoes for the tournament today. The shoes he began the day with were not new, but certainly were not falling apart.

Jonathan played three matches and by the time the third match began we jokingly mentioned the use of duct tape to keep his shoes intact. With every slide to reach the ball, I wondered how much longer they would last.

Jonathan’s shoes did last, but are now only suitable for the trash. He even accomplished making holes in his socks with his quick movements to the ball. Just like I said, he plays hard and never gives up.

Tonight, as I looked at the poor condition of Jonathan’s shoes, God placed a thought in my mind. How quickly those shoes were worn out playing a sport. How long would it take to wear those shoes out doing the work God has called us to do?

The thought overwhelmed me for a moment. What if I worked hard and never gave up in my walk with the Lord? What if I wore out a pair of shoes daily because I was working non-stop to bring glory to Him and share His love with others? It’s a humbling thought, but glorious at the same time. Should I attempt to wear out my shoes each day? Not in literal terms, but ideally, yes. For me, those worn out shoes are a visual picture of staying focused on God and His will. Doing whatever He calls me to do, whenever He calls me to do it. Those shoes remind me to work hard and never give up. God is completely worth it!

I think I’ll spare the shoes from the trash and save them as a reminder. It’s funny how God can use worn out shoes to stir my passion for Him.

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it for the Lord and not for men.”

In His Love,

Karen ❤️

Give a Little Bit

Give a little bit
Give a little bit of your love to me
I’ll give a little bit
I’ll give a little bit of my love to you
There’s so much that we need to share
So send a smile and show you care

I’ll give a little bit
I’ll give a little bit of my life for you
So give a little bit
Give a little bit of your time to me
See the man with the lonely eyes
Oh, take his hand, you’ll be surprised

Anyone remember this song? You may not remember it from 1977 when it was released by Supertramp, but you’ve probably heard it since. This tune was playing in my mind this morning. I don’t know why, because I can’t imagine the last time I would have heard it on the radio. I started thinking about the words though and something else came to mind that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately…encouragement.

Think about the last time someone told you you did a great job. Maybe you cooked dinner and your family went back for seconds because they thought it was so good. Maybe you posted something on Facebook and you got 60 “likes”. Maybe you taught a Sunday School lesson and someone told you you really have the gift of teaching. Perhaps you’ve worked hard to lose weight or you got a new hairstyle and someone noticed and complimented you.

These things are so simple, but they pack a powerful charge of positive reactions. If I realize that my family actually enjoyed what I made for dinner, I feel appreciated. I want to cook something wonderful for them again. If I post something on Facebook and get 60 “likes” it makes me feel like people care about me and what I’ve shared with the world. These simple ways of encouraging others make people feel like you care about them and what’s going on in their lives. If I’m encouraged about my teaching skills, I feel like there’s a reason for me to continue. Maybe God really is using me to tell others about Him. And so on with the weight, hair, etc. It’s an uplifting feeling just to know someone noticed and took the time to mention it. Encouragement presses us on toward the goal, whatever the goal may be. It also makes us feel loved, appreciated, and cared for.

The Bible teaches us to encourage one another. One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 3:13.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

I love this explanation by Jill Camarin:
“If overexposure to sin causes hardness of heart, then being built up and encouraged daily will prove just the opposite. It will keep our hearts soft, pliable and receptive to the Lord. This is why the writer of Hebrews instructs us to find daily encouragement in one another, because it strengthens us for the day ahead. Encouragement of this type comes in experiencing the body of believers who were meant to share life with. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” ( Hebrews 10:24-25 ). Knowing that Jesus promises to be in the middle of the relationship, when we share our lives with other believers drawing encouragement from them we are also built up in faith; ready to operate as God’s ambassadors in this world.”

I realize there are different types of encouragement. Spiritual encouragement relates to our faith and our relationship with The Lord. Encouraging someone by liking their post on Facebook or noticing they’ve lost a few pounds, might not further the kingdom, but it just might perk them up and give them a boost for the day ahead. It shows them that someone cares about their life and who they are.

I have a long way to go when it comes to encouraging others, but I’m asking God to help me. So…give a little bit of your love, your life, and your time today. Just like it says in the song, you’ll be surprised!

Love,
Karen

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If I Don’t Have Love

Have you ever had a time that you felt like God was trying to teach you something or change something about you? Thankfully, I have and I’m experiencing His guidance, direction, and correction right now.

Maybe you haven’t realized it was happening, but if you think about it for a minute, God might be trying to mold you as well.

For me, it often happens in the form of being inundated with the same theme. Something comes up over and over and over again. Or maybe it’s been there all the time, but God has graciously opened my eyes to view things differently than before.

Right now, I’d say there’s a pretty big one going on in my life. LOVE. God is reminding me that He is all about love and because He is all about love, I should be as well. It all started with For King and Country’s song, “The Proof of Your Love”. I enjoy singing along and I love the fact that it’s straight from scripture, 1 Corinthians 13.

Take a moment to listen and read the words of the song.

In case you can’t view the link, the lyrics are below:

If I sing but don’t have love
I waste my breath with every song
I bring an empty voice, a hollow noise.

If I speak with a silver tongue
convince a crowd but don’t have love
I leave a bitter taste with every word I say.

So let my life be the proof
the proof of your love.
Let my love look like you
and what you’re made of.
How you lived, how you died.
Love is sacrifice.
So let my life be the proof,
the proof of your love.

If I give to a needy soul
but don’t have love
then who is poor?
It seems all the poverty
is found in me.

When it’s all said and done,
When we sing our final song,
Only love remains.
Only love remains.

[Monologue]
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all of His mysteries and making everything as plain as day, and if I have faith to say to a mountain jump and it jumps but I don’t love I’m nothing. If I give all I earn to the poor or even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, no matter what I believe, no matter what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (The Message)

Listen to the words and let them sink in. When I watched one particular You Tube video of the song, it hit me hard when they flashed a picture of Adolf Hitler as the words were being sung about speaking with a silver tongue and convincing a crowd. Wow! That’s exactly what he did. He convinced many crowds to do things that people still cannot fathom. Things that are unbelievable and extremely horrific. He convinced them and he was completely devoid of love. He was full of hate.

The Scripture translation from The Message in the monologue also gave me reason to pause. You see I teach children at church. I’ve done it for many years. I feel great joy when I’m explaining something to the children and I can see evidence that they really understand. They get it. 1Corinthians 13 reminds me that even if I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all of His mysteries and making everything as plain as day, but don’t have love, I’m nothing. Nothing in God’s eyes.

Even if I give ALL I earn to the poor, but don’t have love, I’ve gotten nowhere. Nowhere in furthering God’s kingdom. Nowhere in becoming a woman after God’s own heart.

We’ve read and heard this Scripture so often. But do we really take it to heart?

I mentioned that I’ve been inundated with LOVE lately, so on with the story. I’ve just begun Beth Moore’s Bible study about David. Yes, King David. The man whom God chose to be king over His people because He was searching for a man after His own heart. He found that man in David.

Can you just imagine being referred to as a man or woman after God’s own heart? By God Himself? I can’t imagine it, but I know I SO desire it.

There is a huge contrast between Israel’s first king, Saul and the second king, David. Saul usually tried to do things to please God when he knew he had messed up or when he needed a favor from God. David loved God. He sang songs of praise to God, he talked to God on a regular basis, he sought wisdom and guidance from God, he desired to spend time with God. He didn’t do these things in order to mark items off his to do list (pray, read Scripture, praise, sing). David did these things because he loved God. They were responses from his heart because he had a deep love for a mighty God. David wasn’t perfect, but he loved God and God took notice.

There’s a great lesson to be learned from 1 Samuel 16:7. “…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but The Lord looks at the heart.”

One final thing. A sweet friend of mine gave me the book Kisses from Katie. This book is about an incredible young woman who gave up college, her boyfriend, her sports car, her family, her friends, her life…to live in Uganda. She loves the people of Uganda. She has adopted 13 girls. She has also established several ministries to care for the physical and spiritual needs of the people of Uganda.

What’s the most amazing thing about Katie in my eyes? She did all of this alone. Just her and her Savior that she loves and adores. No husband, no friends, no family. She went all alone to do the work God called her to do. She kisses and hugs children who have fungus growing on their heads. She removes jiggers (small burrowing insects) from their feet. She cuddles children who suffer from HIV. The list goes on and on.

Why has she done this? Because she believes God has called her to Uganda. She also believes Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” She does these things because she has love.

Katie lives in a village where deadly diseases run rampant and there is an ongoing war just a few hours away. She is surrounded by things that can destroy the body, but she says she is much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than she is of any illness or tragedy. She is running from things that can destroy her soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance.

One of my favorite quotes from Katie is “Jesus called His followers to be a lot of things, but I have yet to find where He warned us to be safe. We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us. And there is no better place to be than in His hands.”

These are just a few examples of how God is reminding me to check the motives of my heart. Do I do the things I do because I’m trying to win favor with God and man or because God has changed my heart and given me a heart like His? A heart of love.

Dear Father, thank you for opening my eyes to Your truth. Your messages are all around me. Thank you for loving me and changing my heart so many years ago when I asked for forgiveness and gave my life to You. Please forgive me for allowing the things of this world to distract me from You and Your will. Remove any hardness that might have settled into my heart. Replace it with love and tenderness that can only come from You. Give me a sense of urgency each day to be about Your work. Help me to show Your love to others. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I will be enabled to love through Your almighty power. Help me to love the unloveable and reach the unreachable. Make me a woman after Your own heart.

Love,
Karen

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Stripped Naked and Barefoot

Isaiah… the well known prophet who foretold the birth of Jesus 700 years before He was born. Isaiah… who so famously said to The Lord, “Here am I. Send me!” That same Isaiah walked around stripped naked and barefoot for 3, yes… 3 LONG years!

We find this short story in Isaiah 20:2-4. “At that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot. Then the Lord said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared—to Egypt’s shame.”

Every time I read this Scripture I cringe. First of all, because I can’t even imagine the shame and humiliation involved with walking around naked for 3 years. Second of all, because I can just picture myself in Isaiah’s position:
“But Lord, are you sure about this? Don’t you think 30 minutes would do the trick?”
“But Lord, no one will ever take me seriously again!”
“Lord, shouldn’t we consider what kind of example this will set for my children?”

It is not recorded in Scripture that Isaiah objected in any way to what the Lord told him to do. Does this mean that Isaiah felt no shame or humiliation? I’m almost positive that he did. How could he not? He was a public figure. A messenger for The Lord. Everyone knew he was naked and barefoot. He couldn’t hide. He had the Lord’s work to do. Isaiah did what The Lord asked him to do and he obviously did it well.

It is easy for us to sing the chorus in church “Here I am Lord…I will go Lord, if You lead me”, but wow! Will I go naked? When this question comes to my mind, I think of the verse which is ironically in the book of Isaiah.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Our simple minds cannot comprehend all the ways of The Lord. Isaiah understood this fact and obeyed with complete trust. God had a plan. Isaiah was blessed to be used by God as a part of His plan. If Isaiah had not trusted God and obeyed, I believe God would have used someone else to carry out His plan. Just think of all that Isaiah would have missed.

God most likely will not ask me to walk around stripped naked and barefoot, but He almost certainly will ask me to do things that are out of my comfort zone. These are the times that I need to remember this life on earth is not about me. It’s about Him. It’s not about my comfort and security. It’s about seeking His face, hearing His voice, and obeying with complete trust. It’s about bringing glory to His name.

Lord, help me to be sincere when I say, “Here am I. Send me!” Increase my faith and build my trust so that no matter what You call me to do, I will obey without hesitation. Help me to lay aside my pride and serve You with complete devotion. Remove my concerns with what the world thinks of me, and help me instead to be totally consumed with Your will.

Trusting Him,
Karen

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Wonderful, Merciful Savior

“Supreme Court to Address Marriage”, “Berkeley Student Group wants to Ban Salvation Army”, “Church Calls Off Charlie Brown Christmas Show Amid Controversy”. These are a few of the headlines I recently read on the CitizenLink newsletter that I receive from Focus on the Family.

These headlines grieve my heart and my spirit. These stories highlight the fact that the people of America are falling farther and farther away from the one true, Holy and righteous God. A nation that disobeys God and has no regard for His commands cannot remain in favor with God. This is very evident in the Old Testament.

It saddens me that true Christians are becoming the minority in our country. America was built on Christian principles. Our founding fathers never forgot God and did not fail to give Him credit for His blessings on this great nation. How far removed we are from that today. At every turn, someone is challenging even the mention of the name of God in the public arena. Groups are working day and night to tear down any laws regarding marriage as God intended and the blood of millions of unborn babies covers our hands.

Yet in all of this, God gives us a promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Our land desperately needs to be healed and God is the only one capable of this great task. This promise from God contains an “if, then” clause. I pray that we as Americans will choose to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways. Our hope is in the knowledge that God is gracious and merciful.

I like the way Pamela Rose Williams defines grace and mercy. “Grace means to get something that you do not deserve; unmerited favor. Mercy means you do not get a punishment that you deserve; compassion, forbearance.” Take time to read these definitions again. Think about what they really mean, then spend time giving thanks to God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son.

One of my favorite praise songs is “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” by Selah. It reminds me that we have a Savior who desires to rescue us. We have a Savior who is merciful and gives us healing and grace even when we’ve hopelessly lost our way.

My favorite version of this song is as performed by Selah. I could not find their version on YouTube, but I did find it as performed by the Women of Faith. Click the title of the song below. You can see all credits as the video begins. Please listen and praise our wonderful, merciful Savior.

“Wonderful, Merciful Savior”

Praising Him,
Karen

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Lessons From a Dog

We have a dog named, Baxter. He is short, fat, and black. A mix of dachshund and corgi. My Mom found him in her pasture with a plastic coffee jar stuck on his head. Apparently, he had been looking for food and had gotten himself into a bit of a mess. At just 8 weeks old, he was a pitiful little sight with an injured ear and more fleas than you could count.

My children had been begging for a dog, so there you go. They thought God had delivered a puppy to their doorstep in response to their prayers. (I won’t tell you what my husband thought!)

Baxter has been with us for 2 1/2 years now. Below you will find a few lessons I’ve learned from him. Even though these are behaviors I’ve observed in a dog, I think they can be applied to our lives as Christians. Simple, basic lessons.

*Bark if there’s danger. Someone will rescue you. Once inside, relax and be at peace.

Baxter is a barker. He barks a lot. But if he senses danger, he will bark even after the danger has passed. He will bark until someone lets him come in the house and rest safely in his cage. Once inside, he is completely at peace. Isn’t that how we are when turmoil arises in our lives? We cry out to the Father. More so than any other time. He hears us and draws us to Himself where we can be comforted and find peace.

*If someone gives you a bone, hide it. It is your treasure.

Baxter hides his bones. Even if it’s pouring down rain. He treasures them and saves them for later. God tells us to treasure His Word and hide it in our hearts. Why should we hide it in our hearts? So that the treasure of God’s Word will be there when we need it. So we can pull it out and apply it to each life situation as needed.

*If you’re hungry, go straight to your master. Ignore everyone who tries to distract you along the way.

Baxter likes to run in the door without permission. Once inside, it becomes total chaos. He runs straight for the cat’s food. The children scream like…well…like children and convince themselves it is the perfect excuse to run wild in the house. Of course, Baxter, in spite of his fat tummy that almost touches the floor, outsmarts them every time. The children dive and jump and Baxter gets away.

After observing the excitement for a few minutes, I decide it’s time to restore order. I call, “Baxter” and he’s at my feet within seconds. He knows I’m his master. I’m the one who consistently takes care of him. He also knows I will give him something good to eat if he obeys me.

So when we are hungry for God, we should avoid the chaos and distractions around us. We should run as fast as we can to receive the good things He has to give us.

*Know the difference between friends and enemies.

We have a cat named, Tiger. Tiger was here long before Baxter arrived. I’m not sure if you can say a thought crosses a cat’s mind, but if that’s possible, I can honestly say the thought to like Baxter has never crossed Tiger’s mind. Tiger despises Baxter. If he is ever near him, he hisses. If Baxter ventures too close, Tiger strikes with his paw. Tiger is an enemy to Baxter.

However, when we board Baxter during vacations, he stays in a boarding place that has a resident cat. Guess who sleeps with Baxter almost every night? Yes, the cat. Baxter knows the difference between a friend and an enemy. He avoids Tiger at all costs, but allows the friendly, resident cat to share his bed.

We, like Baxter, should be fully aware of the difference between friends and enemies. There are people in our lives who will try to tear us down by pulling us away from God. If they are enemies of God, we should avoid them.

Does this mean we shouldn’t share Christ and His salvation with those who don’t know Him? Not at all. We should tell them about Jesus and all He has done for us. We should pray that they will allow Christ to be The Lord of their lives. But if they do not believe, we should not allow them to become so close to us that they begin to influence the way we live. Remember the example of a person standing in a chair and a person on the floor. It’s much easier to pull someone down than to pull them up.

Our friends who are closest to us should have the same beliefs and values that we have. This way we can encourage each other to follow God’s ways. We can hold each other accountable as well as love and care for each other. These are true friends.

I started wondering if this post was a little silly to compare a dog and a Christian, but then I found this quote from John Calvin.

“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

It appears that he learned a lesson from a dog as well. 😄

Karen

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