Have You Been Surprised by God Lately?

“The whole earth is full of his glory”—Isaiah 6:3(KJV).

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Listening as our associate pastor read the familiar words, I marveled anew at God’s love for us. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God didn’t have to create anything. He didn’t have to create the birds of the air or the flowers we love to pick or the other multitude of creatures and plants for our enjoyment. Just as He created us for His pleasure, He wanted us to enjoy and take care of His creation. Oh how we have failed—all of us. I take comfort, however, in the fact that He never fails us.

As I glanced out my kitchen window this morning, I was surprised by God. A large red-headed woodpecker was enjoying the suet at the feeders hanging on the edge of my deck. This beautiful creature, along with the various other birds that visit each day, are stunning. The variety in their size, shape and color leaves me breathless. How easy it would have been for God to make them all alike. How boring would that be? But, He didn’t.

Clear distractions, focus on each moment.

God loved us so much that He went out of His way to create, to spend five days deliberately preparing a Creation He called “good.” In today’s world, it’s sometime difficult to find the good in the midst of all the chaos.

A recent quote by an unknown author gave me pause. The author said, “The New Year is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God.”

To do this, I’ve realized I have to let go of some things to make way for His work in my life. Here are some suggestions to help all of us unclutter our lives:

Cling to Jesus and let go of the Past

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14(NIV).

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Since 2001, I’ve packed my belongings and moved five times. That averages moving every three years. However, I did remain in one house for almost 11 years. If you’ve ever moved, you know the challenge it involves. While looking forward to a new adventure, there is still the logistics of dealing with possessions one has accumulated over the years.

When I prepared to move this last time in April 2016, I realized, once again, how much I had amassed. During the 11 years I’d lived in that residence, I lost my only surviving parent. My mother had passed in 2004, followed by my father in 2007. When my sister and I met to assess their belongings, we each chose things we wanted to keep. Then, we allowed family members to make their selections. Everything that remained was given away.

As the apostle Paul said, we must forget what is behind.

We must cling to Jesus.

As I cleaned out cabinets last April and started packing, I came across some of my mother’s crystal, as well as other decorative and delicate items stored on the top kitchen shelves since September 2007.  Almost nine years later, the keepsakes had remained untouched, except for one beautiful cut-glass vase I’d used many times. Why was I hanging onto things that were not useful to me? Why had I toted them home in the first place? Gathering dust, they had remained hidden from sight.

Can We Give Better Gifts?

The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son.

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had” – Acts 4:32 (NIV).

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Three words at the top of a brightly colored advertising insert in my daily newspaper captured my attention. “Give better gifts.”

The insert was only one of 25 stuffed inside to lure customers into shopping Black Friday sales. Retrieving the heavier-than-usual newspaper off my driveway on Thanksgiving Day reminded me that Christmas isn’t far off and I’d better get busy shopping. However, I abhor crowds so I tossed the advertisements in the trash.

I’m not opposed to saving money when shopping. However, I have come to detest the commercialism now associated with a sacred Christian holiday. Recent TV commercials and a story in the business section of the newspaper several days before Thanksgiving made me want to cheer. Many businesses are refusing to open on Thanksgiving so that their employees can spend the day of gratitude with their families.

Gifts of our time and our presence are better than any store-bought gift.

One company has gone one step further by announcing for the second year in a row that they will be closed on Black Friday. In fact, according to the article, they are not offering any Black Friday deals online or otherwise. REI, a national outdoor retail co-op, is dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Passionate about the outdoors, the company is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.

How Are You Spending Your Days?

How we spend our days is important in God’s kingdom.

“Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should” – Psalm 90:12 (TLB).

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With each passing year, I become more aware of the brevity of life. Recently, I celebrated my 63rd birthday. When a friend phoned to wish me a happy birthday, we discussed how long we’d known each other. We were surprised when we realized it had been more than a decade. Our friendship has grown during that time, making me realize the necessity of having and nurturing those relationships that are important to making life worthwhile.

A recent post on Facebook made me think about the importance of relationships vs. things. Things don’t bring happiness. Both are fleeting. However, we were made for a relationship with each other. The post follows: “I believe as we grow older our Christmas list gets smaller and the things we really want for the holidays can’t be bought.”

Only then will our days really count.

What is more important than to be surrounded by family and friends who love us in spite of our faults and failures? Nothing in my book! No gift can replace the shared laughter, the tears, the disagreements, the heartache, the pain or the victories. Nothing! Money cannot buy the experiences we share.

Money also can’t purchase the kind of friend who won’t agree with you to make you happy. Instead, the best of friends will say what needs to be said, whether you want to hear it or not. I have several friends like that. Whether I complain or am feeling sorry for myself, none of these three let me stew in my pity very long. They love me enough to encourage me with kind but honest words.

How we spend our days is important in God’s kingdom. We can spend our days in pursuit of money to purchase material things for our own gratification, or we can spend our days pursuing what really matters.

Are you wrestling with the past?

“No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”—Philippians 3:13 (TLB).

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Brown leaves crackled underneath my neighbor’s feet as he shuffled across the lawn to deliver my morning paper. Confined to my house after surgery, I was blessed to have Stan and his wife taking turns retrieving my daily paper as well as my mail.

My lawn, carpeted with oak leaves, still revealed a green coat underneath. Even though November was just around the corner, summer hadn’t completely let go. One hot pink flower still bloomed on the Hydrangea bush near my front door while others exhibited their skeletal remains.

While I’m enjoying the remaining hints of summer, they remind me of our tendency to cling to the past—not just the wonderful memories of days gone by, but also the hurts that can leave us brittle and a skeleton of the whole person Jesus longs to heal. For He is the only one who can bring complete healing from the pain of our past.

Instead of wrestling with the past, we can let go with His help.

 

We’ve all had our fair share of emotional and mental hurt. We’ve suffered at the hands of friends as well as family members. The pain of betrayal can leave us with invisible scars, but scars nevertheless.

However, we have a choice. If we choose to hold on to the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness, these will surely hinder our walk with Christ.

Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us to keep no record of wrongs. “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!”

In “Every Day with Jesus,” author Selwyn Hughes writes, “This passage provides a vivid description of a life damaged by past hurts—a life that has become a wasteland, a desert. Dwelling upon a record of wrongs weighs us down and heavily burdens us. But the Lord’s instructions to forget these former things and not dwell on them, comes with a beautiful promise. Letting them go releases streams of living water into our life and enables God to do a new work in us.”

The greatest new work that Christ does in our lives is to bring us to a place where we can forgive those who have hurt us. It is such an important aspect of our daily Christian walk that Jesus even included it as part of the Lord’s Prayer. In Luke 11:4, we read the following: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Instead of wrestling with the past, we can let go with His help. And, when we refocus our energies on the present, we can look forward to what Jesus has in store for our future. Letting go is the answer to healing and a peace-filled life.

I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at carol@carolaround.com.

Are you the hands and feet of Jesus?

“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality”—Romans 12:13 (NLT).

Young Woman helping Older Women walk in woods

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“Roll it, Carol!”

It was yet another reminder from a friend to follow instructions. The metal walker I have to use after knee replacement surgery is outfitted with wheels for a reason. Rolling instead of lifting the contraption is actually easier and safer. I couldn’t figure out why I was having trouble with this simple task.

Discharge instructions from the hospital required I have someone with me at home 24/7 for at least the first four to five days. Living alone for the past 15 years has led to a very independent lifestyle. Even before then, I lived under the burden of feeling indispensable. I thought I could handle everything that life threw at me. I also felt empowered, thinking others couldn’t make it without me.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

However, since Jesus got ahold of me in 2001, I’ve learned some important lessons.

First, I’m not in charge of the universe. I don’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Second, I must allow others the pleasure of helping me when I’m in need. I don’t have to pretend I can do it “all by myself,” like a stubborn two-year-old seeking independence from her parents. I’ve learned it is okay, at times, to “roll” instead of lift.

Is Your Door Open or Closed to Jesus?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”—Revelation 3:20 (ESV).

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While the final book of the Bible can be challenging to read and study, for those who place their hope in Jesus, it’s an affirmation of an eternal future. For me, one verse in Revelation paints a vivid picture of Jesus’ invitation for each of us.

When I first read Revelation 3:20, I could picture Jesus knocking on my door. I’d already opened the door of my heart to Him. However, when I first viewed English artist’s William Holman Hunt’s painting, “The Light of the World,” this scripture came alive. In the painting, a figure representing Jesus is preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door.

What does an open, vibrant relationship with our Lord look like?

According to Hunt, “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good subject.”

The door Jesus is preparing to knock on in Hunt’s painting has no handle. It can only be opened from the inside. Explaining the symbolism, Hunt said that this represented “the obstinately shut mind.”

The painting is rife with symbolism. The door’s iron work reveals rust representing a door unused for some time. Hunt’s brush also captured a door overgrown with dead weeds and trailing ivy representing a deserted place. Even if we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior, our relationship with Him can stagnate, rust and become overgrown with the cares of our earthly life.