Press On

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I saw it out of the corner of my eye, flittering at the window. I turned from where I was enjoying my morning cup of coffee to see a hummingbird at my kitchen window. It fluttered and then landed on the suction cup feeder right next to me on the window.

I tried not to make any quick movements for fear it would fly away. My hand crept to my phone to open my camera. The bird leaned down in quick spurts to drink and then looked right and left, checking for danger.

Dip, drink, check.
Dip, drink, check.

Its wings fluttered once or twice as it moved to a different drinking location on the feeder, until finally it settled on the middle.

Dip, drink, check.
Dip, drink, check.

But then the hummingbird did something I’ve never seen one do before. First it looked up as if it saw something on the house above it. Then it stretched its tiny neck all the way back, looking upside down behind it. I thought maybe it was stretching at first, but then it didn’t move, staying in that position at least a full minute or so.

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I sat watching it, wondering what it was seeing, when I realized I should move in closer to get a picture. With its neck stretched back, it wouldn’t be able to see me coming.

I continued watching it and chuckled to myself when I thought of how that tiny bird with its miniature ruffled feather neck resembled myself. Sometimes I’m so consumed at what’s behind me, I miss what’s coming ahead.

God recently pointed out how I am so consumed with sharing all He has done in my life, that I have become content to live in the past. “Let me tell you what God DID.” (past tense) Like it’s a one-time thing and He is done. Which, by the way, He is NOT. Not done. At least that’s what He revealed to me.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 The Message

I’m so busy turning around pointing out God’s path in the past, that I’m missing what He is doing right now. He’s still working on me, and as that verse says, He will continue to work on me until Jesus returns.

The Bible has quite a few examples of God saying, “Don’t look back!” Remember Lot’s wife? Lot and his wife lived in a sin-filled city. The city was so vile, God wanted to destroy it all, but He was merciful and allowed Lot and his family to escape. The angels sent to save Lot hurried his family to safety and told them not to look back. “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) Some say God was harsh, but in His Sovereignty, He knew the motive and the heart of Mrs. Lot. Perhaps she was looking back and longing for the immorality of life there. Only God knows.

Here are a few more verses about keeping our eyes ahead.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Philippians 3:13

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

Maybe you can relate. But maybe what you are turned around looking at is not a positive thing. Maybe it’s a hurt or a past behavior that haunts you. Maybe it’s a health scare. Maybe it was a bad financial decision. An abortion. An infidelity. A death.

Whatever it is, sweet friend, it’s time we turned back around. It’s time to look forward and see what God has in store for today.

Let’s press on.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Carol

Dominican Mission Trip Day Two

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Thankfully, our Tennessee team arrived a little before dinner on Friday night. So Saturday morning, we woke early and were ready to start the women’s conference. Maria, one of our interpreters, asked me a question the night before.

“How do you get up in front of a big group and speak like that? Don’t you get scared?”

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I told her that sometimes I do get a little nervous beforehand, but usually once I get started, God takes over. When you work in the strength God gives you, good things happen. But I’ll be honest. I was a little nervous Saturday morning. It was so helpful to have Alan with me.

Sometimes when I get in bed at night and am finally still, I struggle with anxiety. I keep scripture in my nightstand at home for nights when I can’t sleep. But one thing that really helps is having Alan touch me. Just a hand on my back, letting me know he is near, can calm me immensely.

So in the apartment where we were staying, Alan and I were to share a full-size bed. It was the bottom of a bunk bed. At home we sleep on a king-size bed, so I wasn’t sure how we were going to fit. But I have to tell you what a blessing that bed was. Every night when I went to sleep, I was touching Alan – I couldn’t help it in a bed that size. But that touch brought me such peace, that I was able to sleep.

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Isn’t it just like God to work out details like that in advance?

I got showered and dressed early Saturday so I could have a little time to spend alone with God before we left. I made sure I had my notes for my talks, my water, my insulin and my Bible. We drove the fifteen minutes to the church. It wasn’t until I walked into the doors of the church that I realized the one important thing I forgot – my contacts!!

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I could not see! Thankfully, the One Vision missionary, Claudia, offered to take the driver and the bus back to the apartment and get them for me. We started the conference with worship, so she had a little time. And about three minutes before I was to go on stage, she returned with my contacts. Praise God!

I was living out Amazing Grace. “…I once was blind, but now I see.” Ha!

I spoke to the women about how prayer is personal. We each have free access to the Creator of the Universe. He is our personal armor through prayer. The women nodded and responded as I spoke.

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Afterwards, we broke into small groups for prayer. Each of members of our team had a particular topic.
•Marriage
•Finances
•Unsaved Loved Ones
•Children
•Health

Alan and I led the group on marriage. First we played an icebreaker game. The ladies really had fun with that. We had them line up in order of height and then shoe size from smallest to largest, but they only had one minute.

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Then each group leader from the team had provided verses for their particular subject, before the trip, to be translated. So we were able to pass out sheets with a list of verses in Spanish for them to use in their prayers. We had our group read the verses aloud, because we know God’s Word is powerful and active. Then we asked them to split into groups of two or three.

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We spoke a few minutes about how important prayer is in your marriage and then gave them a particular topic. First we told them to pray for communication in their marriage – that lines would be open, that they would be willing to listen to their spouses and would be able to effectively communicate their needs. The groups took a couple of minutes to share their requests with each other and then prayed. We continued with four other topics in marriage.

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Each of the other team leaders was doing the same thing with their own breakout subject. After the breakout sessions, we had lunch. After lunch, I spoke again. This time I shared how prayer is powerful. I gave examples in scripture and in my own life.

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After my talk, we had the breakout prayer groups again, giving the ladies the option to choose another subject this time. So we led the marriage breakout again with a different group of women.

This time our group was smaller, so we decided to get in one big group instead of breaking up in groups of two. The great thing about this was the interaction we were able to have with the women. When they shared prayer requests, Alan and I were able to respond first with some advice and wisdom from what we have learned in our own marriage and from the marriage classes we used to teach. I really enjoyed sharing, and the women seemed to get a lot out of it.

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We ended that afternoon with more worship. I had many hugs and lots of words of gratitude from the ladies. I’m always in awe of the way God works.

We headed back to the apartment to rest before supper. We had a team meeting and prepared for the Sunday worship service and the rest of the conference. Alan played Claudia’s guitar, and we worshipped together and sang songs of praise.

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One of the groups, Rachel and Paula, shared how in their breakout session, the women prayed at the same time instead of taking turns praying together. They got the idea to get in a big circle at the end of their breakout and all of them prayed aloud at the same time. Rachel told us how powerful it was. So she asked if we could do it as a team before bed.

As we each prayed aloud, some in English and some in Spanish, I got chills. It was amazing. Hearing all of those prayers was loud and powerful. Think of how incredible our God must be to be able to hear every prayer that is uttered at the same time all over the world. All praises and glory and honor belong to Him. Amen.

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I’ll tell you about the rest of the conference tomorrow.

Carol

Who is God?

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Have you ever watched a dog show? Or even perhaps seen a hunter with his four-legged partner? I’m always in amazement of how the dogs are taught to heel and fetch, drop and stay with simple commands. If you’ve ever owned a dog, you understand the absolute wonder of this accomplishment.

I used to have a dog – a yellow lab. Labradors are known for their intelligence and are often used for hunting dogs. We tried teaching our dog to shake and speak on command. No luck. And as much as our sweet Comet loved running after whatever we threw in the yard – balls, Frisbees, sticks, toys – she would never return them. Instead, she’d run to a corner to chew on her prize for a while.

The problem wasn’t with our dog; it was with us.

Dogs who can obey on command are wonderful, but the real amazement should go to the trainers – those who can somehow turn obstinate into obedient.

We can all agree that dog trainers are awe-inspiring. Think about how that animal instructor stands in one spot and looks almost effortless as he calls a command or whistles. Now imagine if your doctor had that same trait. When you walk in his office with a sore throat, he doesn’t move from his chair and says, “It’s better.” You swallow and realize he is correct.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Or how about someone who could blink and cause the flowers to bloom or whose sigh could change the seasons.

There is someone who can do all of that.

God.

The further removed we are from the time when Jesus walked the earth, the more we convince ourselves the things of the Bible are fairy tales, and God is mundane. We throw His name around without reverence. See shoes you absolutely love? “Oh my God, I love those shoes!” or “Oh God, you scared me!”

May the Creator of the universe forgive us for tossing his name into our conversations like salt on fries. He is more than a condiment.

He is. That’s it. He simply is.

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Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 NIV

In reading Matthew 8 about Jesus healing people, I almost glazed over the Almighty. I’ve been a Christian a long time. I’ve heard about, read about, watched puppet shows, made popsicle stick renditions of, and sang songs complete with hand motions of the miracles of Christ and the greatness of God.

But today, God stopped me. He slowed me down as I read, asking me to re-read the words.

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. Matthew 8:14-16 NIV

Jesus touched Peter’s mother-in-law and healed her. She felt well enough to immediately get up and cook Jesus and Peter some supper. Earlier that day, Jesus had been in the temple when a demon-possessed man came up to him. The Son of God cast out the demon from the man with a simple command – as simple as the dog trainer’s “fetch” or “leave it.” Jesus said, “Leave him” and the demon did. Word traveled fast, because after supper that night at Peter’s, all kinds of people needing healing started showing up.

And “with a word” Jesus healed all the sick. Do you truly comprehend the magnitude of that? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because his father, God, created the entire universe with words.

Friends, it’s about time we stopped throwing God around like seasoning and recognized Him for the omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty GOD He is. He is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end.

It’s time we showed a little reverence to the true King of Kings. Can I get an Amen?

*photo credit

Carol

When God Uses Your Ordinary to do the Extraordinary

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How often do you do something only to do it again tomorrow? Or in a few hours? Or in ten minutes?

In my house, I have a little white table in my kitchen. It’s for the little people. My children sit there to cut, color, glue, glitter, draw, do homework and eat snacks. Everyday, it seems I pick up the same box of markers, the same pieces of paper and wipe away the same crumbs – over and over again.

It’s what I do. I’m the mother.

Some days, I look at my house and wonder why. Why must I continue to load and unload the dishwasher? Wash and fold the laundry. Vacuum up the dog hair? I’ll just be doing the same thing again tomorrow. Why am I doing these things when I could be doing something bigger for God?

I pray for God to use me. I beg Him to open doors of opportunity. Send me on mission. Take me to the lonely and hurting. Draw me to the prisons.

But most days, He has me sweeping the same dog hair and cleaning the same dishes.

Again. And again.

I was reading the story of David and Goliath. You know, the one you’ve heard a million times in Sunday school.

And something stood out to me. Let’s recount the story together.

You see, David’s big brothers were in Saul’s army. They were camped near the valley of Elah. The Israelite army (good guys) was on one side of the valley and the Philistine army (bad guys) on the other. Every day, a nine-foot Philistine warrior came out and talked smack.

“Y’all ain’t got nobody to whoop me? Come on. If you can kill me, we will be your slaves. But if I kill you, you will serve us.”

You may have already guessed, but his name was Goliath.

David’s brothers were camped out here listening to Goliath every day. They were scared. David, on the other hand, was back at home watching his father’s sheep.

One day, David’s father Jesse told David to take some bread to his brothers and some cheese to their captains. (This is equivalent to sending banana bread to your child’s teacher.) Then he was to report back to Jesse how his brothers were doing.

If I was to send one of my children to take something to the other one and report back, I can expect to hear some complaining. But God used David’s obedience to an ordinary task to lead him to something extraordinary.

When David got there and heard Goliath’s trash talking, he was insulted. Not just for the army, but for God.

Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 NLT

David went to Saul and told him, “I’ve got this. I can take him.” Saul tried to argue but David refused to listen reminding Saul how he fought wild animals to protect his sheep.

“The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” 1 Samuel 17:37 NLT

Saul tried to give David his top-of-the-line armor and weapons, but David turned it down for his regular digs and slingshot – the ordinary.

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We see this throughout God’s Word – He uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.

So, David – a kid armed with only a slingshot and five smooth stones – kills Goliath. David wasn’t a giant, but he had giant faith and was obedient when his father asked him to do the mundane.

What mundane tasks are you doing today?

Sometimes God is waiting for our obedience in the simple things. You never know when your obedience in the ordinary tasks will lead you to slay giants.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:22-24 NIV

 

*Image credit

Carol

God is Bigger than Mickey

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I’ve just returned from a vacation to Disney World with my family. Our last day was spent at Hollywood Studios where we watched the show Fantasmic. Those of you who’ve seen it are nodding and smiling right now, but for those of you who haven’t, it’s a water/light/fireworks/drama show.

At the end of the show, water is spraying high and the music builds as an old-fashioned steamboat drives by carrying every possible Disney character you can imagine. While you’re still all smiles…

Join me today at the Internet Cafe. You won’t believe what I thought of when I saw Fantasmic. Click HERE to read the rest of the devotion.

Carol