Tag Archives: Jesus

Refocus

Happy 2019!

 

Photography by E.V.A. Lambert (c)2019 RapturePractice! Publications

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Shout It

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinithians 8:9 (NIV)

Concept: God

Photography: Unsplash

Design: (c)2018 E.V.A. Lambert for RapturePractice! Pub.

I do not own the All the Poor and Powerless All Sons & Daughters with Lyrics video music, images nor have any rights to profit from worshiping God.

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Second Stringers

To no one’s surprise, for this entire advent season, joy shot from Scriptures for me, but like never before. Okay, maybe I noticed them before, but this year they felt like a whole new ball game. Maybe it’s just me…

Rarely comfortable as a starter, I’m a strong second stringer.  So is it any surprise less popular verses struck me so strong?

Thanks to Handel some identify a line or two of these verses with Christmas (and Easter). Me too.

But this year the preceding and following lines sacked me daily as I read and read again.

I hope these snippets continue sparking everywhere all year around:

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. …”

Isaiah 9:1 & 2, 6 & 7 (NIV)

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

John 3:16, 17 (NIV)

Peace, people.

 

Featured Image courtesy TheWay.com

Header image courtesy Pixabay

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Humbly Humane

When summer began Hero, the 18-month-old steer was essentially wild.

One of his first encounters with man was to be roped and his testicles cut off. Back with his mother he likely forgot about his loss that day. He never seemed to forget about the evil ropes of doom and wanted no part of the upright beings at the ends of the ropes.

If he wasn’t already bigger than me I could still easily imagine how he felt, so I respected his space.

Before long he connected the rope creatures with food and water. During the next winter he would come running to the gate at feeding time.

Come spring his mother, “auntie” and “cousin” went away “to live on a farm” leaving him alone in the pasture. Afterwards he gradually became more open to humans.

After hanging around the vegetable garden fence all summer Hero became so comfortable with me he would gingerly nibble from my hand. I came to laugh at how he intimidated me the first time I power-walked the pastures. He pranced along with me, as if coaxing me to frolic with him.

Not long into summer the steer started begging for attention while I groomed the horses. The day Hero literally nosed my arm so I’d brush him too my internal red flags went up.

Hero is not a pet. Cole actually fussed at me for naming him (yeah, he didn’t read that post either). Unlike the horses who summer with us and then return to their people’s pastures for the winter, the steer will relocate to the freezer this year.

For two years I have recited the rule daily: never get attached to the livestock. Even so, something endears me to these bigger beings. I now feel sad when the lonely steer runs to the gate every time he sees me – too much like an 1800-pound puppy.

There were times in my life when I could relate to that steer. People hurt me, separated me from my loved ones and then left me alone and lonely. For a long time I too was very careful of upright beings.

Like the steer and most people I too learned that not all humans will hurt or harm us. Still we must watch for ropes – the things that can bind or hurt us.

Jesus knew about ropes – ignorance, fear, intimidation, greed and plain ol’ meanness. He knew about suffering for someone else’s sakes. With His life He demonstrated the best way to live is to forgive those who hurt us.

I want to use my life like that.

Oh, and thank You, God, that I’m not a steer.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37, 38 (NIV)

 

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Faceplant

Kyle Idleman’s book Not a Fan seriously tripped me up at first.

This kind of trip is good – challenging our attitudes. With multiple media pushing and pulling us in so many directions, regular neck up check ups are invaluable.

So on that particular morning what I expected to be an elegant swan dive into the book at the top of my stack became a shocking face plant instead.

“Here’s my point: many of us are quick to say, “Yes I’m a follower of Jesus,” but I’m not sure we really understand what we are saying.*” 

**

Thinking about it I suddenly wanted to explain myself to Jesus.

Maybe you navigate through life effortlessly. I don’t. And typically me getting out of sync with Jesus guarantees a sudden, cringeworthy stumble.

Immediately I realized that by racing to get caught up I had been forfeiting one-on-one time with God. Yet again. (Audible, heavy sigh.)

I suppose that makes me a fan.

I have been a Cubs fan as long as I can remember. Over the years as I moved around the country I half-halfheartedly followed other local teams. Still, I didn’t lose sight of my Cubbies.

So maybe I’m that kind of Jesus Fan.

But then again, Not A Fan later suggested I might be a marginal follower. As I read on my follower rating improved – some. And dropped again. And rose.

I don’t walk around with a Bible under my arm or interject Book, chapter and verse into every conversation. Okay, maybe sometimes, silently to myself. I use a Bible app most every day. But that’s not because I’m so religious (lost in church world or in Mosaic law). It’s because I LOVE people so very much I easily stray into their lives, lose sight of my own course and sometimes wind up offending someone.

Most important, while I maintain that connection with Jesus, I’m good. He sends the alerts I need. As I listen carefully He helps me hear myself, keeping me on track. He encourages me onward constantly, faithfully leading me right where He wants me – with or without my smart phone.

What’s more, He lets me think that I made good stuff happen! Good or bad, when we get together Jesus first shows me how He loves me. Then He shows me how much He loves me. He shows me what I blew up when I veered off course toward my understanding – and where He steered me right back.

And He shows me he’ll make it okay, I should try again.

Maybe without the faceplant.

Have you experienced what a wonderful God He is lately?

“… 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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

 

 

Music video courtesy YouTube

*Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus

**image courtesy Productivetothemax.com

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New Vision

Farther back than I want to admit, I gradually began taking life on a need-to-see basis.

Remarkably, unlike my siblings who needed eyeglasses in grade school, I had exceptionally good vision well into my 30’s.

I remember one First Day of School in our newest neighborhood at the time. I wanted to look cool. I seriously was not, so I borrowed my sister’s new glasses from her. I can’t imagine what I was thinking, but after one morning looking through her glasses, imagining her worldview without them gave me a whole new understanding about Sister.

From then on I was proud of my amazing eyesight.

By twenty-five I had survived a parent’s suicide, became an abandoned spouse and a single, working mom. Blind, raging ambition driving me, I became a force to be reckoned with, and a Tiger Woman in the business world.

As a teen I’d turned my back on the God I’d heard about but didn’t see much of growing up in church. Decades later around the same time my eyes began changing, transformation also started in my stony, little heart.

As my vision began fading, the whole world seemed different.

After surviving a car collision that actually should have killed me, God had my full attention. I suddenly got over being angry at Him. Days later I longed to meet the Jesus I’d heard about years before.

Forget a nonchalant shrug, that day Atlas actually gasped. Sure, I didn’t suddenly decide to change. God had pursued me for years as He gently guided me along, but that’s a different story.

I began to realize all I had given up on as a child – thinking I’d imagined what I had once believed. I was thirty-something and already survived more anguish than most people can imagine.

Once I actually met Jesus I fell completely in love with Him. Weeks later I walked away from my high-paying, misery-generating job and law school. Hours afterward a heart attack pinned me to the floor, but I wasn’t afraid, worried or nearly done yet.

I was saved.

Everything in my life changed dramatically. Everything included needing glasses to read. And then for driving. Soon I needed trifocals.

Certain of God’s love for me and having good spiritual vision was genuinely life changing. I no longer needed to watch my back – for the first time since I was a kid, I knew God did. Like everyone, I continued to experienced more losses. Still, I stopped dreading what each new day might bring. And I no longer need my amazing eyesight to survive.

With God watching me closely, life on a need to see basis actually works for me.

How do you get through hard times?

“He (Father God, my Shepherd) renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23: 3, 4 (NLT)

 

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Wrapping

One of my first thoughts this morning was how quickly my old habit of wrapping Jesus around my stories recently developed.

Some three-plus decades ago, after reading and hearing about Jesus, I asked to meet Him for myself. Bam! Game changer. He was everything I’d been missing.

My thoughts, my understanding, my direction dramatically changed. I began wrapping my life, my thoughts, my being around Jesus.

As great as that is, I’m astounded and a little embarrassed to admit I often revert to many of my former ways. And yet, Jesus understands and waits for me to come back around to Him again.

“…But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” Romans 5:20 (NIV)

Though there have been some dark, lonely valleys along the way, the breathtaking peaks I’ve seen serve to inspire and encourage me onward. What amazes me the most is how often I think,

“It just doesn’t get better than this,”

as well as

“It can’t get worse than this”.

*

It can.

And it does.

But the worst usually sets up for the best.

Throughout my life the most influential people have often said, “just wait till you’re my age. You’ll see”. Now I AM that age! And I’m mostly amazed to see so much of my life, my thoughts, my being remains to wrap around Jesus.

Does your life seem to have unraveled? Whether you are on a peak, in a valley, or somewhere in between, wrapping your life around Jesus can take you farther and higher.

Wait till you’re my age. You’ll see!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Header Image and *image used by permission J.M. Weatherby (c) 2018

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Horse Sense

To live with horses has been my heart’s desire most of my life. I like to think learning more slowly these days has nothing to do with aging (thank you for letting me run with that). In His infinite wisdom God has been teaching me about horses, slowly, gradually by arranging for me to care for friends horses. I suspect that’s so I don’t obsess lose pace with anything else in my life.

When I returned from vacation I noticed the big bay gelding, TheOldMan looking a bit plump. With cooler weather coming I wasn’t terribly concerned about it, but a few days later I noticed he didn’t run to me as he had been doing and there was something different about his gait. Not necessarily bad, simply unusual. Still, my gut told me something was wrong.

I contacted TheOldMan’s people immediately and we arranged for the farrier to visit a.s.a.p. – which was two days later. Meanwhile the dissimilar gait haunted me.

The obvious problem was a thrown shoe, but my gut told me there was more and to not walk him. I felt some relief when Cole moved him to the north pasture where the sweet grass wasn’t as plentiful.

I’ve always been able to “trust my gut”. Thinking about it, I can’t remember a time when harm or at least hurt didn’t result from ignoring my instincts. Soon after I asked Jesus to take the reins of my life I began to learn another way to live – being Spirit led.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;
may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

From that first day I have prayed and studied the Bible every day. I can’t learn enough about Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Over thirty years later there is still more to learn, but God consistently teaches me I can trust Him first and foremost. Essentially He has reconditioned my instincts.

Hanging out with our excellent farrier while he worked I realized I still have so much to learn about horses. Even so, I was right about that gait. The short story is while I was away, TheOldMan gained weight so fast he strained his hooves. He’s fixed up now so we can both walk into a full recovery.

God uses TheOldMan to remind me that as long as I seek and trust Him, He will never lead us astray.

While God uses all of me, I can trust my “gut.”

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)

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Another Sword

I’m too far from town to walk to shopping now, but panhandlers occupying busy corners all over town remind me of a few summers back and

Sword from July 24, 2016

underpass 1

On part of my walk to the local strip mall I go beneath an on-ramp underpass rather than cross the busy highway above it. Somebody lives there – possibly a few people. I always look carefully, but never saw anyone. Still, each time I approach I pray; for safety, strength, wisdom but mostly for insight.

I step cautiously along that rocky, eerie path littered with bedding, clothes and rubbish; mostly empty alcoholic beverage bottles, cans and fast food refuse. I once crossed to the other side but it is dangerously narrow along the blind curve. So – no.

For most of my life I’ve carried a small Swiss Army knife, complete with handy tools – way before anyone heard of L.J. Gibbs or NCIS. I taught my sons to practice the same. Days after describing one of my mostly lovely walks to son Quinn, I found a package at my door – a note insisted I carry the content on my walks.

flipknife

My son didn’t send a tool – it’s a conspicuous, lightweight, gruesome-looking weapon, with a lever to quickly release the serrated blade. I grew up with overprotective brothers and I’ve been through police training. Even with my training I felt uncomfortable about the ominous looking thing – not about carrying it, but having to use it in self-defense.

A few days later as I approached the underpass I realized I typically palm my little knife inside my pocket as I approach. Feeling the new bulge on my belt I distinctly heard from somewhere deep inside,

“…Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.*.”

I kept walking, but thought about the scenario Jesus addressed in that passage. He reminded his apostles His Father was in control and the coming events would actually fulfill prophesies in the coming hours.

underpass 3My walks are hardly prophetic, but I understood the meaning. Shoulders squared, back straight, my empty hands casually at my sides, I began whistling, announcing my presence to whoever might have been hiding in the shadows. The smells were oppressive, the noise from traffic overhead deafening, so I was glad to return to the sunlight uneventfully.

Delighted to find some of my favorite produce and nuts on sale, I filled my canvas bag. But I kept thinking about the people sleeping on the rocks of the underpass.

By the time I finished shopping and set across the asphalt lot toward home heat already rose in waves.

Gazing up the path before me I ran the rules I’d learned over the years through my mind; maintain a safe distance, know where the shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries are in my area and never give strangers, panhandlers, money – “it ultimately prolongs their problems.”

But I also remember being homeless. Stuck by circumstances, I didn’t trade or abuse substances. Still, I doubt I’ll ever forget being sick with worry about my kids, the judgmental looks of people as I sought employment, the desperation, the longing for someone to give a care. More so, there was the reality that I too could be a paycheck away from homelessness again.

Feeling the weight of the bag on my back, perspiration beginning to form, I stopped beneath a shade tree in the middle of the parking lot. I put apples, carrots and some nuts into a separate produce bag and knotted it so it was airtight. Gazing ahead, once more I asked God to go before me and then started walking.

Approaching the underpass, I called out (in the most rugged voice I could muster), “I’m just passing through. I don’t want anything and mean no harm.” As I stepped around the dirty bedding I set the bag of fresh food on it without stopping.

Cars whizzed by yards away, oblivious to my presence as I stepped back into the sunlight.

Sleeping Butte

When I arrived home I was glad Ellie was there visiting with Erin. As I put the groceries away I described the scenario leading up to the first crossing beneath the underpass. Then I asked for feedback. Ellie thought for a while and then said, “This may sound cliche, but I would ask what Jesus would do.”

She confirmed what I felt. Peace returned and I went on about my work.

The state of our society continues to disturb me, but my primary purpose is to pray, pay attention and obey the Master.

I’m not entirely ludicrous. I asked God about a stun gun. No answer yet. So, I carry the knife. But once in a while I tie up a separate bag of fresh food, take the short-cut beneath the underpass. As I walk along the highway side I place the bag on the wall and announce, “I’m just walking here. I mean no harm…”

 

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Matthew 25:40 (NLT)

 

*Matthew 26:52 (NKJV)

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Catchy Phrases

While I catch some rest and relaxation – and a few flights, I’ve enjoyed reading for pleasure, parlor games with the family and working crossword puzzles. Such delight!

This all brings to mind Catching Phrases from April 5, 2016:

alphabet cubes

I’ve been reflecting upon pop language, or catch phrases.

Common catch phrases today:

  • Baby daddy/baby mommy (single parents)
  • Bae (before anyone else/anything else)
  • FOMO (fear of missing out)
  • Troll (the updated, viral version of the essential stalker)
  • #hashtag (anyone not familiar… never mind)
  • Lit (very intoxicated – so, not that much has changed)

This led me to examine what’s changed over the years. I have certainly changed distinctly. For example, I grew up with such phrases as:

  • “Easy come, easy go” (not necessarily good),
  • “Do as I say, not as I do”
  • “Trust and obey”

no time fussing fighting

And a little later on:

white smokeSoon my favorite became:

  • Blowing smoke… (into a body orifice or loose clothing – usage requires a degree of discretion)

Wholly thanks to God, I continued to grow in body, mind and spirit.

Along with three new generations of humans I learned the world has more dimension than the perspectives of our early years.

For instance, what I once considered absolute truth was not necessarily factual. Over the years my interests in history and global current events turned to politics. Later I shouted less, listened more and then saw the world more clearly.

I began to recognize the collation between God and Natural Science. I began to experience true peace. That trend became my normal.

From my present perspective, aside from the draft lottery and cyber space, not that much has actually changed. People continue to be misled, confused and angry. Decades later the scars veterans bear from warfare are ever present – PTSD among other wounded warrior’s statistics steadily rise.

But now I have a new favorite expression (from Bob Goff):

“… how could God think of me as His beloved? But then I remember Jesus said to one of the guys with Him that he was a rock even though He knew this same guy would deny ever knowing Him. I don’t think Jesus was blowing sunshine at Peter when He did that. Instead, I think He was calling something out from inside Peter.” ~

 

Blowing sunshine. I love that!

God continues to be very alive, present and quite visible to those who seek Him. And He reminds me of His promises with each new sunrise.

However cleverly worded, I simply don’t have time anymore for egocentric banality, blowing smoke. With genuine hope for tomorrow now, I can focus upon truth and blow vibrant, altruistic sunshine.

Sure the world seems to be in a horrible mess. I can either obsess over the mess or I can walk in sunshine and trust that it’s all good indeed.

 

Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed! Joshua 23:14 (NLT)

 

Contemporary Pop Terms courtesy The Odyssey Online.com  If they don’t fit, talk to Odyssey

~ Taken from Love Does by Bob Goff: Copyright © 2012 by Bob Goff. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

*I Love Lucy  Television Series 1951 – 1957, “Ricky” Desi Arnaz to “Lucy” Lucille Ball
**Originally from Mission: Impossible, Television Series circa 1966
*** Hawaii Five-0 Television Series from 1968 – Updated version in 2010 (advanced photography, but not quite as cool)

Images courtesy ABSFreePic.com

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