It’s OK to be a Weed

Weeds are a tough lot.  We pull them out but often their deep roots keep them grounded so that they can spring back up.  We chop them down, but sometimes this just encourages new, vigorous growth.  We smother them, we stomp on them, we poison them and still they keep on thriving and growing.  When there is barren land, the weeds come in and do the job of holding the soil in place to prevent erosion.  And weeds spread.  They know a thing or two about being fruitful and multiplying.  The weeds help improve the quality of the soil and provide an excellent environment for insects and microorganisms.  Think of the excellent role some weeds play for the beautiful butterflies.  Many weeds have blooms, bringing color and sweet smells and seeds, serving as food for birds and bees.  God knew that the Earth needed weeds to fulfill His purpose.

It just might be that we could learn a few things from the weeds.

  • Stay grounded and rooted to solid values, maintaining a firm foundation on God’s promises
  • When challenges and obstacles come your way, look for ways to experience growth and new opportunities.
  • If we’ve been hurt, and people and things are coming against us, rise above it, don’t let that keep you down, overcome the adversity and thrive despite the difficulties.
  • If you are in a barren place, bring life to it.  Spread your passion.  Prevent further erosion.  Bring color and sweetness to the emptiness.
  • Nourish those around you.  Build up the quality of the environment.  Be fruitful and multiply love, peace and mercy to expand the Kingdom of God.
  • Bloom. Show the beauty that comes from the spirit within.  You never know how much it could benefit those around you.

God knows the purpose He has in mind for you.  You may not be a sought after flower in the garden.  You may not be pampered and protected here on Earth.  But it’s OK to be a weed.  Be amazingly resilient.  Be tough and grow even when things are stacked against you.  …If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

What Have You Learned From Your Father?

Let’s get right to it…on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your father?

Was he there for you, teaching you right from wrong?  Was he hardworking, taking care of his family?  Was he a good example of what a man could be?  Or did he have problems, struggling in life and hurting others along the way?  Or did you have a father who wasn’t around at all?  Maybe your biological father did or didn’t meet the criteria used to call him a great dad.  It could be that someone else stepped up to be a father figure for you.  That’s good.  It’s important, especially for children, to have the right role models.  It shapes who we become or the partners we choose as we grow older.  What we see growing up can have a big impact on our lives as adults. 

There’s a country song by Rodney Adkins from 2006 called “Watching You”.  Part of the lyrics say…

Well, then my four year old said a four letter word That started with “s” and I was concerned. So I said, “Son, now where did you learn to talk like that?” He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?”

Later in the song it says…

He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands And spoke to God like he was talking to a friend. So I said, “Son, now where did you learn to talk like that?” He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?”

The song is a good reminder that children are apt to follow in their parents footsteps.  Genetics and behaviors are passed down to the next generation.  What is inherited could make the child strong, healthy, loving and whole.  This positions them well so that later they can pass on what they received.  Others have lineages with factors leading children to be broken, weak, confused, angry, addicted, abused or abusive.  Things can get ugly.  Many of us have been blessed with wonderful fathers (like I have).  But if you were not blessed in this way, don’t get stuck because of the negative influences of your earthly father.  That father was only human; you needed more than what he was able to give.  Each child, young or old, has a choice on who they follow and who they let define them.  Each child has a supreme role model, the best of the best, Our Heavenly Father. 

God as our creator, provider, protector, teacher, fulfills essential fatherly roles, doing everything in love, with mercy and compassion.  God sets the ultimate standard for how to be a great father.  His words, captured in Holy texts, guide us in the way to live.  Listening to His voice, heard from deep within, He instructs us or comforts us, meeting our needs and leading us in the paths of righteousness.  Seek God’s wisdom.  Ask for His Fatherly advice.  Through your relationship with God, you can set a pattern for living for yourself and those that follow you.  God can fill you with enough good so that you are able to give away what you have received.  You can halt harmful cycles.  By learning lessons from God, you will become who you were made to be—an image of your Heavenly Father.

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The Do’s & Don’ts of Losing Hope

anchor in the clouds

When the storms come, do you find it hard to hold on to hope, slipping into anxious, negative thinking?  Or do you put your whole heart into hoping things will get better, that your problems will quickly be solved or go away?  With all the uncertainty in our world these days, what could be wrong with hoping for the best?  My first thought has been that by knowing God, we never need to lose hope.  But it isn’t quite that simple and that’s not the whole picture.  Does being hopeful help us or could it also hurt us?

An anchor is often used as a symbol of hope.  In ancient times an anchor was associated with safety.  Being anchored could mean stability, security and being grounded.  Yet an anchor is designed to sink, it gets stuck.  The anchor’s function is to hold the boat in place.  It doesn’t allow freedom and progress in your travels.  The anchor could hold you back when it is time to move.  As a storm roars, the waves get choppy and the winds blow fiercely.  On a sailing website (https://sailingbritican.com/anchoring -in-a-storm/), it said “if things get really bad, our best bet is to up anchor and head out into sea away from other boats, land, etc.”  It also said, “To reduce fear and be able to sleep at night, you want to know that you have an anchor that will keep you safe.”  If you are looking for an anchor of hope, God is up for the job.  But He may not hold you tight in the way you expect and He may sometimes ask you to give up your hope for safety as He takes you head-long into the storm.  Even with God by your side, if you hope for smooth sailing, you are likely to be disappointed.  History tells us God loves adventure and surprises, so get ready for a bumpy, exhilarating ride, losing the hopes that are pulling you down and hanging on to the hopes that lift you up.

Here are some things to Do when you are losing hope…

  1. Do let go of intense personal desires – those things that you are begging for.  You might think you cannot be happy without them.  Sometimes our hopes cause us to fight battles we can never win.  Remember that our ways are not God’s ways.  Insisting on having what we want is the behavior of a spoiled child, not a mature child of God. Psalm 62:5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.
  2. Do hold on to God’s Promises – God is good and He loves you.  Hebrews 10:23-24, Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promises.  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
  3. Do take actions which move you in the direction of your hope.  God designed us to have free will; we are not meant to sit idly as a storm hammers away at us.  If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen and you don’t do anything, it will not happen.  (idea from Dutch Philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, lived 1466-1536 AD). God gives signs when we are on the right path, keep stepping out in faith, knowing that God will show you the way.
  4. Do accept things that are outside of your control.  More effort doesn’t always bring greater results. If anxiety, fear, worry and depression pull on you, accept them, stop hoping they will go away and they will lose their power over you.  (idea from tinybuddha.com) Surrender your control to God, letting Him know that you are putting your trust in Him. Psalm 121:2 My help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

Don’t do this when you are losing hope…

  1. Don’t let your hopes be out of touch with reality.  Wishful thinking that is extreme or fanciful will not help your state of mind or resolve your problems.  Gambling with the money you do have, hoping to hit a jackpot, will not move you toward reducing mounting debts. 
  2. Don’t be careless about protecting yourself from harm. You may hope for God’s protection but you have a responsibility to be safe and take care to avoid possible risks to life and limb.
  3. Don’t give God ultimatums.  When you are struggling, you may be tempted to test God.  “God, if you are real and you love me, you will give me the desires of my heart, otherwise I won’t believe.” You only hurt yourself.
  4. Don’t give up the fight against the darkness. God provided a physical world with beauty and challenges, and yet a big part of the journey we are on takes place at a spiritual level.  Battles and triumphs take place in our thinking.  Use your hope in God to resist the attacks that the enemy hopes will sink you.  If you’ve prayed and hoped and nothing is changing, know that God will provide you with the grace and strength to handle it.  Light always wins over darkness.

Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Socially Distant – Spiritually Close

March 2020:  The information is coming at us every day about how to slow or prevent the spread of the virus that is causing a world-wide pandemic.  Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds; do it often.  Sanitize hard surfaces and touch points frequently.  Do not gather in groups; maintain social distance of 6 feet or more.  Stay at home to avoid public places.  We are at war with an enemy too small to be seen.  No one knows where this attacker may be hiding.  Who might be carrying this virus, allowing it to multiply and expand its impacts, place to place, person to person?  Our global situation is quite a significant reminder of how vulnerable we are as physical beings. 

When we put all our trust in science, nature, medicine and the civilizations we have built, our foundations can be shaken in times like these.  Our weekly routines and habits give us a sense of stability and comfort, but now those things our lives revolve around have become uncertain.  If most of our days are spent well connected within our social circles, what happens when we are told to keep our distance?  Do we feel lost and lonely?  We don’t have to feel this way.  God gave us a powerful spirit which lives inside each of us; with that spirit, we are never alone.  God gave us a piece of Himself so that we can always have Him close by no matter where we are or what we are going through.  Do you have that spiritual connection with God that remains strong when everything is falling apart around you?  Does your faith and trust in God outshine your fear and worry in dark times?  God wants to be invited into our lives whether things are going well or going bad. He wants to be spiritually close to us no matter what.  God has taught that the spiritual overrides and outlasts the physical.  Believe this to be true at a time when a nearly invisible threat is wreaking havoc on our world.  Keeping spiritually close will allow us to persevere and give us hope.    

The best way to “power up” our spirit is through prayer.  Prayer is the process that opens the door to a close spiritual relationship with God.  Talk to God often and listen for His voice.  The time spent in prayer results in God’s consul, comfort, strength, peace, power, inspiration, hope, love, rest, courage and more.  God is listening to our prayers and He doesn’t stand back watching and waiting when the situation calls for action.  God is an active force working on your behalf.  Prayer is an important and effective weapon for any battle.  It strengthens us to face the challenges of the day.  As you pray, trust that God will provide you with what you need to get through the tough times.  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).  

If you are struggling with worries and anxiety, and it is hard to find the words to pray, now is a great time to tune into Christian music.  There are songs and lyrics for every mood and every problem.  Today I heard Jason Gray’s song “Remind Me You’re Here”.  The lyrics ask some tough questions of God…

”Are you cruel if You planned it, Or weak if You allowed it to be?”  

Then says “I won’t ask You for the reasons

‘Cause a reason can’t wipe away tears,

No, I don’t need all the answers

Just be here beside me

Father, remind me that You’re here.

I also listened to Love & the Outcome’s song…”Even today, You got this, I know that I know that I know that You got this.”  With all that our world is going through, God’s got this.  He can bring good things out of bad.  Stay spiritually close and trust God to see you and yours through these unprecedented times.

God Bless!

Take Care & Be Safe!

Always Enough

Infinite:  limitless or endless in space, extent of size, impossible to measure or calculate.

(According to The Oxford Dictionary)

Have you ever really thought about that word—infinite?  Whatever it describes means there is always enough, never ending, never depleting.  Like numbers, you can count forever and ever, always able to continue adding more to the sum total. 

Think about if each of us had infinite resources.  No one would go hungry, no one would be homeless.  Even if only one person had infinite resources, that person could give and give to help anyone who was lacking and still always have enough for themselves and for one more person in need.

The world is big, with billions of people, but it is not infinite.  The total population is measurable.  A Google search says there are 7.53 Billion people in the world based on a 2017 measurement.  There are 327.2 million people in the U.S. based on a 2018 estimate.  Infinite resources would always be enough for each and every one of us on the planet.

In the physical world, an infinite amount of anything cannot be realized. 

Luckily though, our God is infinite—without limits!  Think about that!  God helps one person, than the next and the next, never restricted from being able to help many more.  Sometimes people avoid bringing their troubles to God.  They think, “My troubles are small compared to those of others.  God has bigger things to do instead of helping me.”  That’s where their thinking is wrong.  Our infinite God always has enough for all people, for all worries big or small, God doesn’t run out of solutions.  God doesn’t operate in a realm of time the way we do.  God has infinite power over the flow of time.  Therefore, there is always time for listening to each one of us.  God will not run out of resources, never depleting the storehouses, rather controlling physical things. 

There are several events recorded in Biblical times when physical supplies are multiplied to meet the needs of the people.  Elijah asks a widow to use her meager amounts of ingredients to cook her last loaf of bread, but when she does, she finds she still has enough to make more.  She is told there will be enough until such time that the famine in the area has ended (1 Kings 17: 9-16).  Elisha tells a widow to gather empty jars.  She pours from her container of olive oil and she is able to fill jar after jar, the oil runs out when she runs out of jars.  She is now able to sell the oil and earn money to pay the creditors back who wanted to take her sons away as slaves in payment for her debts (2 Kings 4: 1-7).  There is the time remembered and celebrated by Hanukkah when the lamp oil lasted eight days when it should have only been enough to last for one day.  There was enough to fill the need.  Or the time when Jesus broke 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and had enough to fill the bellies of five thousand hungry people with 12 baskets left over (John 6: 1-15).  They ended with more than they started with.  In Luke 6:38 the advice is to “Give and you will receive.”  The gifts we give will be returned to us in full measure, overflowing, with the amount we give determining what we get back. 

Let’s give praise and thanks that with God there is always enough to sustain us in our time of need. Through God’s infinite power, He is able.  Let’s also remember that when we give, God sees our generous hearts and will be gracious to reward us with peace, love and just what He knows we need.  The infinite supply from which God draws from will never run low.  Whenever we have gaps, God can fill us up.  With God, there is always enough.  Amen to that!

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Getting Along With Family Members

It’s hard enough when people are mean to you, but it’s especially hard when those people are your own family.  Unfortunately you may never get family members to treat you fairly or even care.  The good news, however, is that you don’t have to put up with being mistreated.  But to you who want to take action and are listening, follow the advice of Jesus who said love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on your cheek, turn to them, the other also.  If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you.  And if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  The only fighting your family should be doing is the good fight of faith.  Behaving badly is not only disrespectful, it is just plain stupid.  Forgiving this person for whatever he or she has done to you will free up your mental space.  It takes a huge load off your shoulders.

Good things happen when families are in harmony.  We are here on the earth as one big family and harmony begins within.  When families work, it’s because someone takes the time for getting along.  You can be the person who brings peace to your family or tries to.  If not, then don’t hate them and you don’t have to talk or hang out, just love them from a distance.

Lord, let your love take control of our thoughts, actions and words as we interact with each other.  Heavenly Father, I bring our family before your throne.  Please help us to value each other the same way you value us and give us the grace to treat each other right.  In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen. 

Guest blogger… 

Minister D. G. LeVanseler

2-7-2020 

Minister D. G. LeVanseler (2)
Minister ULC (2)

Lives Intertwined

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We make thousands and thousands of connections with others over the course of our lives. We met at school. We are neighbors. We were coworkers. We hit it off while waiting in a long line together. We were introduced by a friend of a friend. We know each other because our kids are friends. He is my great aunt’s step son. She is the girlfriend of my second cousin. She cuts my hair. He coached our team. We started talking at a restaurant and had a lot in common. We served our church and community together.

Each meeting might just bring a smile to the moment or may forever change the lives of the two people who make a connection and for the many other lives that are then touched. Like vines growing, stretching, twisting, intertwining through a forest, there are many touch points with separate vines crossing one another. Do you think the crossing of lives is random? Or could you dare to believe that some or many are orchestrated by God Almighty.

Fruit may come from the connections made by two lives coming together, creating new life, so unique, each so special. Is it all random, simply by chance, a roll of the dice what becomes of the crossing of lives? Or how amazing to think that all the connections made, and what is created, is according to a divine design. Imagine the complex map of relationships that exists with many paths turning and crossing, lives intertwined. And not just on Earth are we following these vines but past, present, future and into eternity, the soul connections remain with new intersections continually being made.

Next time you are tempted to say “Hello” to a stranger or accept an invitation to a party, or go on a date, just do it. You might meet a new friend, a soul mate or the love of your life. You never know what might blossom, a critical connection could be made that changes the world. With God’s divine desires, designs and guidance, there will be beauty in lives intertwining.

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The End is Just the Beginning

The pregnancy starts, life has been conceived with up to nine months of nurturing the precious little one as it grows in the womb.  God has breathed life into His uniquely special creation.  There is excitement and anticipation mixed with anxiety, aches and pains.  The time of birth approaches, the end of being pregnant.  This is the awaited moment, to see and hold the infant child.  The end is just the beginning.

School days, classes, studying and exams, getting an education is hard work.  It will take years to complete and along the way there are decisions to be made.  Time is needed to determine where strengths lie, to figure out the direction to take to chart the future.  God has bestowed gifts to everyone, it is important to discover these gifts and to ensure they are put into use.  The work pays off, finally graduation day is reached.  The end is just the beginning.

An awkward introduction, a chance meeting, or a long-time friendship becomes something more.  A relationship gets serious.  God plays the role as the match maker, aligning lives to intersect.  Two individuals begin to form a bond of love.  Goals and dreams are formed.  Maybe the two are on track for marriage and a life lived together.  The planning, the rings, the clothes, food and flowers and more details occupy their minds.  The wedding day arrives and ends with a legal document to say it is official, the couple is in this together.  They made it to the alter to tie the knot.  The end is just the beginning.

The day of death comes by surprise or slowly but surely, as the physical body can no longer hang on.  Breathing becomes shallow and ineffective.  The heartbeat grows weak.  The light in the person’s eyes and the strength in their voice begins to fade or are lost.  Those that are close to one another feel their hearts breaking as they will be pulled apart.  It hurts to lose our loved ones.  Will their souls live on without their bodies?  God has told us that He has conquered death, and we will live eternally with Him in mansions built in Heaven.  He has prepared a place for us where there is no suffering and pain.  We can be certain that God keeps His promises.  On Earth, we must say “goodbye” as loved ones pass on.  They will be welcomed into God’s Kingdom with open arms by Jesus and by those who have gone ahead.  The end is just the beginning.

Trust that it is not over, even when it seems over.  God knows the end from the beginning.  God is with us from start to finish and on into the next thing.  Like a circle, there is not a point where we stop.  He has plans for us and whenever we reach an ending, we can know that God will provide a new beginning.  Stay close to God through it all and be amazed at what His love does, to infinity and beyond.  The end is just the beginning.

Thank You for My Troubles

There are benefits to being a grateful person, it is good for our souls. Being thankful helps us get through tough times and tends to bring to mind thoughts of empathy for others. Christians may have heard that God wants us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2).  In Islam, believers should be thankful throughout the day. For Taoists, gratitude will automatically move you toward positive power, with some commenting that they can feel grateful for the influence trouble had on them, but not thankful for the pain they suffered. There is a Buddhist prayer “May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion.” When the troubles come, can we find a reason to be thankful and find the good when things are going so bad?  Let’s challenge ourselves to do it:  fight fear with trust, battle despair with hope, conquer weakness with strength, crush doubt with faith, repel hate with kindness, replace anger with peace, honoring God with praise in our struggles.  Never stop praying and always find a reason to be thankful.

Thank you God for my sadness, feeling down is not where you want me to stay, so recognizing this encourages me to seek joy.

Thank you for the problems I have to face at work, at least I am being paid to deal with them and find solutions and make improvements, and you so often provide ideas to help.

Thank you for the times when I feel lonely so that I may find comfort in knowing that you, God, are always there and will never leave my side.

Thank you for the housework and laundry that never goes away, if I had no home, clothes or possessions, my “to-do” list would be different but by no means better.

Thank you for my losses and heartaches. If I hadn’t loved so much, it wouldn’t hurt this bad.

Thank you for my health troubles, these physical ailments remind me to listen and to take care of my body, where your Holy Spirit resides throughout my life.

Thank you for transportation challenges, because I need a ride, friends and family have been there for me to get me where I need to go, or perhaps some days you use car trouble as a way to protect me.

Thank you for disagreements, confusion, only with differences of opinions and times of questioning can we have an open mind for what is new and the desire to learn and understand.

Thank you for my weariness and fatigue, this is a signal that I need to find ways to rest and rejuvenate.  By letting go and letting you carry my burdens, you will renew my strength.

Thank you for the pressure and stress that comes my way, this discomfort may be your way of pushing me onto the path that you, God, want me to follow.  This test may be critical for my spiritual growth.

Thank you for putting us into situations that seem impossible, only then will we be able to experience the miracles that you have stored up for me and my loved ones.  When our hope is all but lost, divine authority can prevail and we can trust that nothing is impossible for you God.

God, thank you for my troubles.  You are in control.  You are good.  You are able to bring me through.

Facing Your Fears

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When I was a teenager, I had a reoccurring dream.  My brothers and I were going to cross an expansive arched pedestrian bridge over a large body of water.  It was a gorgeous, warm summer day.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining.  We were laughing and having fun.  We would decide is was a great day for crossing over the lake.  Once we made it to the middle of the bridge, everything would change.  A storm would come in with dark clouds, heavy rain and fierce winds.  Soon the metal side rails of the bridge would bend and break with large sections of the bridge crashing into the water.  My brothers and I would hang on as long as we could but eventually we would each fall to our deaths.  That was how it seemed to me as I awoke shaken, scared and glad that this was just a dream.   It all happened the same way in my dreams, many times, over a period of several months.  My brothers and I would be fearful about going on the bridge but with the fine weather, we thought we’d be able to make it across without trouble.  I never quite knew why we were so eager to get to the other side of the bridge.

One night, the dream was different.  It was the same bridge and I was with my brothers again, but this time the weather was terrible.  It was winter, we were in a snow squall, the skies were dark and the winds were wicked.  The lake below the bridge was frozen solid.  We were afraid but we encouraged each other and thought that at least this time the weather wasn’t going to take us by surprise, we already knew it was awful.  We would hold tight to the rails the whole time we were making our way along the bridge.  We’d be prepared for the worst.  Just like before, as we made it to the middle zone of the bridge, the storm worsened and the bridge started to rip apart.  We hung on.  A couple sections of the bridge broke apart crashing down, this time breaking through the ice.  We tried our best not to fall but our best wasn’t enough, we lost our grip and went down, one by one.  We each broke through the ice, but instead of death or waking up out of the dream, we lived.  At the time of impact, it was like a protective bubble formed around our bodies.  We went through the ice into the water and the bubble allowed us to breathe underwater.  We could swim and move whichever way we wanted without any pain or discomfort.  We could easily see where we would need to go up through the ice if we wanted to return to the surface.  Soon we were doing flips and having a great time.  We couldn’t wait to tell our parents about the exciting adventure we had.  After that, I never had the dream of the bridge again.

Have you found that your walk with God is sometimes like my dream?  We may be asked to go somewhere that scares us.  There are risks.  We could get hurt or die.  The amazing thing is that if we can trust God to be there as we face danger, He will provide a hedge of protection.  We may fall, but God has us in His hands.  Should we stay on the side where it is safe?  Or should we take the chance to face our fears and perhaps experience something amazing and exhilarating that God has in store for us?  Trust God when you are fearful.  He will never let you down.

Isaiah 41:10   Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.