Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I’m Already Behind



It's a new year. New plans. New goals. Lots of excitement. This year I'm going to do it. This is MY year. I can do it.

And then you miss a day of your reading. You don't sleep well the night before, so you don't get up when the alarm goes off. You say to yourself, "It's okay, I can catch up tomorrow."

Tomorrow comes and you don't get it done that day either. Before you know it, a week goes by and you haven't read your Bible plan at all. What do you do? Throw up your hands and say "Forget it. I knew I couldn't do it anyway! I'm already behind. I'll just do something else for my reading and try again another year."

Friends, that was me for the last several years. I've been a Jesus follower since I was 11 years old, but not once I have ever read the Bible through. I'm sure through the years I've read and studied all the books...even Leviticus...but not in any systematic approach.

Right before Christmas, my friend Julie was over. We talked about our goals and plans for the new year.  She mentioned continuing her chronological study and memorizing Scripture.  I was so convicted at that very moment. She is a new believer and she is on her fourth time through the Bible! It's not a comparison game, but I realized that I had never read through the Bible even once. The Lord put it on my heart to do just that.

Why do I tell you all this? To encourage you! To say "You can do it, and it's not too late to start." It doesn't matter if you start January 1, February 18, or August 25. Just start sometime...better yet, today!

It might actually take me two years to complete this plan. And that's okay. At least at the end of those two years I'll be closer to the Lord than I am today, because I will have spent quality time in His Word, meeting with Him.

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬


Maybe the Lord didn't put it on your heart to read the Bible through this year. Maybe it is to memorize His Word? Perhaps it is to be more intentional with reaching out to someone? What about being more faithful in prayer?  Ask Him to show you how He wants to grow you this year.

I'm not perfect. I'm sure there will be days that I don't get my reading done. But I know this:  I am going to be intentional to make it a priority.  If I miss a day, I'm going to pick it right back up.

This year is my year. Is it yours?

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him....Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:15-17‬, 23-24


Click here to download a copy of I'm Already Behind.


Editor's Note:  Get your own clip art and journaling card by Christina's Alive.  Be sure to visit Christina on Instagram to leave her a note of thanks!





Saturday, December 16, 2017

Making Spirits Bright


One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to look at all the lights. Whether it's the lights of all the little alpine trees in my house, or lights in the neighborhood, it always brightens my heart.

Isn't that how time with those certain friends is? After you've been with them, you feel encouraged, challenged, and hopeful. Something about being with them brings a little joy to your life.

Read Luke 1:39-45 with me.

These are the verses right after Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and learns she will be having a child. We are told that Mary goes quickly to visit her aunt Elizabeth, who is also expecting a child. I can only imagine it was a frightening time for Mary, and she sought out comfort from being with Elizabeth. While we don't know the exact conversations that took place, we do know that Elizabeth felt John leap within her womb the moment John heard Mary's voice. What joy that must have brought to both women!

2 Timothy 2:1-2 says, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also."

When we take the time to visit with others and intentionally invest in them, our lives begin to look a little different. Yes, it takes time and sacrifice on both parts. We may have to travel to their home like Mary did, or give up some "me" time.

Sometimes, like a string of Christmas lights, it can even get tangled up and a bit messy, but...it's worth it in the end when the lights get plugged in and they brighten up things around them. That's how it is with people's lives too. Once we take the time to learn from each other...study His Word together...do life together...we are then better equipped to shine His light to those around us.

Jesus was very intentional with those in which He spent His life. He chose to pour life into others. Who do you see around you in which you can speak life?

As a new year begins, ask God to show you how you can be intentionally involved in "making spirits bright"!





Editor's Note: Clipart in Bible illustrations are from Creative Faith & Company. Check out their blog here for a free printable that includes these and more!

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Swamp

Driving down the back roads the other day, heading to see my grandsons, I had to stop my car in the middle of the road and pull over. No, I didn't run out of gas, or have car troubles. But, what I did see stopped me in my path. I was compelled to get out and take a closer look.

Normally when I'm traveling through this area, I just mosey right on along because it's smack dab through the middle of a stinky, dirty, slimy...did I say stinky...swamp. The water is backed up, covered over in muck, and usually has all these dead trees and stumps protruding out of it.

On that day, which happened to be a sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon, it was different. Out in the middle of what was usually a stench filled backwater area, were all of these beautiful lilies! Perched on top of bright greenish blue lily pads sat these delicate blooms. There must have been thousands of them.

It just took me back. I never dreamed anything good... anything that beautiful... could ever come out of all of that mess.

Isn't that how we are? We have stinky, dirty, slimy messes in our lives and we are sometimes certain that's all there will ever be. We ponder whether there will ever be any beauty.

Read Isaiah 61:1-7 with me.

During the days of Isaiah, I can imagine that the Israelites might have been a bit hopeless too. But Isaiah gives them some great news: Jubilee is coming and all will be made new. All of the things that imprisoned them. All of the things that broke their hearts. All of things that caused them to mourn. And all of the things that were torn apart.

Even better, when Christ comes, He brings jubilee! He offers freedom from all the pain and hurt in what can be a stinky, dirty, slimy world. He brings Peace. He provides hope. He gives forgiveness.

What do you need to offer up to Him? Leave it at the foot of the cross. Let Him set you free, heal your brokenness, and give you a crown of beauty for ashes.


“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”
Isaiah 61:3 NLT


Click to download a copy of The Swamp!


Editor's Note: Clipart in Bible illustration and traveler's notebook is from Creative Market. Click here to get your own copy!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Joy


When you were a child, how many times did you pluck a dandelion, close your eyes, and make a wish?  If you were like me, I'm sure it was a thousand or two times!!  Those seeds were in their prime just waiting to be scattered in the wind...landing where they may!

I can still remember the joy I had watching each little individual seed blowing in the breeze. Hours might pass by as I blew on one after another. One might land near my feet. Another in the yard next door. And others still would be carried farther than my eyes could see.

Seeing those little seeds floating on their merry way would bring such giddiness and joy to this girl's heart. Those seeds would be sown, new dandelions would sprout up, and the cycle would repeat.

Through the years the Lord has given me opportunity to sow other seeds as well. Seeds that will last through to eternity. Raising my girls. Time with students. Teaching ladies.

Getting to see these types of seeds sprout brings an even greater joy. Watching my oldest daughter instill in her three young sons things of eternal value...wow.  Listening to my first grandson give gratitude to the Lord for a beautiful falling snowflake...oh my. Observing my youngest daughter pour her life in to children in an orphanage half way around the globe and then learning just this week that one of the young girls in that orphanage has decided to be a Jesus follower...hmm.  Hearing the news from a girlfriend that she is teaching her friend the things that I taught to her...whew.

I'm not writing all this to pat myself on the back. I'm writing it down as a reminder to myself that my work here is never done.  Now is not the time to sit back and waste time. There are always more seeds to plant...and to water...and to cultivate. Even though I may not physically be able to do the things I used to, there is always someone I can meet with, someone I can pray with, and someone I can pour His love in to.  I have to choose to be intentional.


A tear often slips out of my eye when I ponder the goodness of God that allows me to be a part of Him bringing people to Himself.  He doesn't need us...but He allows us the privilege.

Truly "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
‭‭3 John‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Who are you investing in today?

"and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also."
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬



Thursday, May 25, 2017

His Kind of Love




Shortly after my honey and I first met, he commented that I had so many friends. That seemed like an odd statement to me, because I've always had lots of friends. Doesn't everyone?

Because I tend to be an extra extroverted extrovert, I'm pretty much always connecting with someone. I love to be with people. Girlfriends charge my battery. People encourage my being. They fuel my heart. And I get to talk with them. Who doesn't love to talk??

Many years ago now, the Lord impressed upon my heart that my mission in this life was to encourage others to have a love relationship with Him. That could explain why He made me a bit on the outgoing side. I've always been pretty open about my life with Jesus, but He was instructing me that I needed to be intentional with this. I knew He would show me what that would look like.

Over time, I realized that He meant "go and make disciples". I thought at first He literally meant "go somewhere...go be a missionary". I've come to understand that verse for me meant "as you are going". Going through this life. Raising babies. Steering teenagers!! Caring for aging parents. Losing a sister. Coping with the pain of divorce. Accepting health issues. Coming alongside hurting friends.

Could it be that friends are for more than mani pedis and going out to eat??

All the while as we go through this life, we are given the opportunity to have others alongside us....as we are going. You know what? Not only do we get to be involved with what God is doing in their lives, they get to be in ours.

Raising my girls wouldn't have been possible without friends and mentors giving me great advice. Losing my sister and caring for aging parents...the same. Friends and family carried me through those. Divorce? Yes, my friends, my daughters, and my brother were right there beside me. These same ones have bent down and put my shoes on my feet, and even now sweep my floor because some days I just can't.

And I thought all these years, I was just doing what God had placed on my heart to do...show others about a love relationship with Him. And I was. And am.

But, oh my, how much more my family and friends have taught me...and shown me...about His love. They have shown me that I am loved. Loved with His kind of love.


"This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."
‭‭John‬ ‭15:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Friday, April 7, 2017

Free From What If's

I've always been a thinker. A dreamer. A planner. And, unfortunately, a worrier. There are days, and often many nights, that my mind just doesn't want to turn off and slow down. These are the times that pondering isn't always a good thing.

This blog post is really for me because I'm sure none of you ever deal with that. You just pray and give it to God and leave it there. You never start thinking "but what if this happens? What if that happens? How about this God?" Or my favorite..."don't you think you should fix it like this God? And by this date?"


The Lord keeps reminding through His Word that He has it all under control and He doesn't need me with my list of "what if's" to help Him out. In fact, over and over in Scripture, He tells me that I am to stand still, trust Him, and that He will fight my battle.

This week as I was reading about the Israelites preparing to cross the Red Sea, two little words jumped off the page at me. "Be silent." What? Me? Be silent? Don't say anything?? Ha! Anyone who knows me, knows I talk. A lot. And the word "silent" would never be used to describe me!!  However, plain as day, God spoke to my heart when I read these verses in Exodus 14.

"And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."

Oh my!! Surely I misread that. Nope. It says all I have to do is "be silent". Wait. "Of all things Lord, be silent?" "Yes, Gayle, be silent." Hmmm. Ok. I guess I can keep my mouth closed. I memorized a Psalm many years to help with that. Remember I'm the girl who likes to talk. A lot. "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" ‭‭Psalm 141:3‬

What the Lord is really teaching me though, is that it's much more than just keeping my mouth silent. It's keeping my thoughts silent as well. That's where the beginning of that passage in Exodus spoke to my heart. "Fear not."  Be brave.  I'm a strong, independent kind of girl and I don't like to admit that sometimes I'm fearful and not very bold.  Finances. Health. My kids and grandkids. The future. Home repairs. Sometimes, all of those thoughts run through my mind all at once and it's like they are competing in a marathon in there...or at least bumper cars!!

But God. I think He knew the Israelites...and I...would need to hear these words. "Be silent." The passage summed up for me is this:  1.  don't fear  2.  stand still  3.  watch God  4.  be quiet

This next dialogue is for me, but you can read it if you like. Why be afraid when God is always in control and He is always faithful? Stand firm. Don't waver. No doubting. Then, watch God. He will always take care of the situation. Remember? He's the faithful One. Oh yeah, don't forget...be silent. Not just your mouth, Gayle, but your mind and heart too.

The story in Exodus goes on to tell us not only did the Israelites cross the Red Sea, but they did so on dry ground, and none of them were defeated by the enemy. All they had to do was "be silent". 
 

"Father, please help me to be quiet. To be brave and bold. To trust you. To not fear. And then to turn off my mind full of 'what if's' and be silent as I watch you." Amen.



(Editor's note:  This study was influenced by an Illustrated Faith devotional entitled "Free to Flourish".)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A New Song


 
Once upon a time, there was a little girl with blonde hair and golden brown eyes. She lived with her Momma, her Daddy, and her sister and brother. All was happy and just right from her perspective. She would often dream of being all grown up and someday marrying her Prince Charming. They would have a few kids, own the little cottage with the white picket fence, grow old together, and live happily ever after, because that's just the way fairy tales always ended.

Right?? Well, in this case, not quite. Everything was just as she dreamed, right up until the "grow old together" part. You see, her Prince Charming, her pastor husband, decided he wanted to live happily ever after...without her.

As you can imagine, her heart was broken and her dreams were shattered. She was so sad. So hurt. So lost. That fairy tale life she dreamed of turned out not to be such a fairy tale after all.

But God whispered ever so lovingly in her ear. "Depend on me. Remember, I'm your first love. I'm your Bridegroom and you're my bride. I'll never leave you."

So she did the only thing she knew to do. She threw herself into His arms. She spent hours pouring herself in to His Word...His love letter...to her. She asked Him for wisdom as only He could give. He surrounded her with her family and friends and her church who comforted her. She chose to believe He would hear her pleas and answer.

"I've thrown myself headlong into your arms— I'm celebrating your rescue. I'm singing at the top of my lungs, I'm so full of answered prayers." Psalm 13:5-6 MSG

One day her brother called her while she was at work. She knew that something wasn't right, because he never called her office.  He told her the devastating news that their Daddy had stage 4 lung cancer. The tears just poured from her eyes. Her Daddy, her rock, was dying and he would soon leave her too.

But God, once again, reminded her He was right there. He wasn't going anywhere and that He would always love her.

Days turned in to weeks. Weeks turned in to months. The girl spent her days going to work, running back and forth to Little Rock, coming home to her sweet fur baby Maggie, and pouring herself in to God's Word. As she pondered His Words, usually with Maggie in her lap, she allowed His Words to soothe her weary soul.

And then one day, it happened. The same sweet whisper she had heard compelling her to depend on Him, was now telling her to go open the front door. She thought it a bit strange, but she obeyed.

What her eyes beheld caused a cleansing tear to roll down her cheek. There, just out at the edge of the sidewalk, the Bradford pear was bursting forth in bloom and the daffodils were displaying all their glorious yellow color. The sky was bluer than blue, the rays of the sun warmed her face, and the birds' melodies were sweet music to her ears. All of creation was pouring out praise to the Creator!! It was as if the words in the Psalms she had been pondering were birthed right before her.

You see, she wasn't even sure if the daffodils had bloomed the previous spring. She was pretty sure the birds hadn't been singing and she knew the skies had been dark.

But God, on that spring afternoon, gave her a new song to sing. He reminded her that after the darkness...after the winter...after what may seem like four winters in a row...spring always comes, and...if she let Him, if she would choose,  He would always give her reason to sing praise!

"I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD."
‭‭Psalm 40:1-3‬ ‭NLT


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