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What does your reflection look like?

2 Corinthians 3:18

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord, who is the Spirit, makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.

Reflections. What stares back at us as we look into the mirror? Or take a selfie? What do we see? What do others see?

So often our vision is tainted by our life’s experiences. The way we view ourselves, the way we view others, and even the way we view God has been warped by circumstances and trials of this life. Oftentimes, we put God in a box because our vision cannot see any further than right now.

Have you ever watched a show on HGTV? The designers walk into a home that is outdated and often dirty and worn, but they see the potential for more. The home buyers seem discouraged and overwhelmed at the possibilities of a remodel. However, under the direction and vision of the designer, a transformation takes place. Instead of being content with the way the things look now, there is a greater vision of what could be with a little work.

Our lives are the same way. We are overwhelmed and discouraged at the place where we are. But God, looks at the potential we have. He can work through all of our mess and re-construct a new and better life for us. We must get a vision for what God wants us to do. There is much more than this for us. Let’s pray, “God give me the eyes to see what you see.”

There is a spiritual realm about us right now. The angels are constantly working on our behalf. If only our eyes could be opened.

Take the time to read 2 Kings 6: 8-23. It tells the story of when The king of Aram was at war with Israel and the prophet Elisha kept telling the king of Israel where the attacks were going to happen, so the king of Israel could be prepared. The king of Aram got so angry that he wanted to destroy Elisha. He sent chariots and soldiers to attack him. Elisha’s servant discovered the enemy surrounding them and cried, “what shall we do?”

Elisha famously replied, “There are more on our side than on their’s.” Now the servant knew there was only him and Elisha facing all of these soldiers. He was confused. What did Elisha mean? Elisha prayed for the servants eyes to be opened, and when they were, he saw horses and chariots of fire surrounding the enemy.

There was a spiritual army ready to fight and aid in their battle. If only we could see what God sees. We have a spiritual army fighting on our behalf, as well.

God has equipped us. God created us. There is nothing that we cannot accomplish with God’s help. Seek the Lord. The more time you spend in His Word, the more you will reflect Him.

You will see your situation more clearly. Others will see God when they look at you. Your reflection will change.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

In last weeks blog, I referred to the term “po cat”, which was recently brought to my attention as not even being a term at all! The actual skunk reference is polecat. The polecat is an animal species in the weasel family, found in Europe, and only associated with our common skunk in that they both secrete a stinky smell from their anal glands. Isn’t it interesting how we can mishear a word or phrase?

For me, po cat was not my first mishearing, nor my last. As a young girl, I enjoyed singing along with country music at the top of my lungs. Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits was among my favorites list. And, I’m sure you remember the song, “Lucille”. The chorus went like this:

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille

with 400 children and a crop in the field

I’ve had some bad times, lived through some sad times

this time the hurtin’ won’t heal

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille

Well, maybe it was four hungry children, but not to my ten year old ears.

Perhaps, I haven’t grown much because I still tend to mishear. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not prejudice, at all, however, if you walked in on me singing Gwen Stefani‘s, Hollaback Girl, you would hear me saying, “I ain’t no Harlem black girl.” (Disclaimer: don’t google the lyrics because the gym version is much tamer than the real version 😳).

So, as you can see, we often don’t hear things the way they are intended. As a matter fact, I’ve heard it said, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” Perception altars views. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look from a new angle. I experienced this recently. For 29 years, I have had a false impression of the following picture:

Do You See What I See?

Our past experiences have a way of warping our views. Our perception can be skewed because much like a cataract, our past hinders our vision. We need the cataracts removed and healing to take place, so we can see clearly.

In 1988, I went off to college. Footloose and fancy free, I was young and naïve to the ways of the big city (to me, Tyler was a big city). I met new people and forged new relationships. I attended some college parties & encountered a different scene. I dabbled in alcohol drinking games with some of these new “friends”. It seemed innocent enough at the time.

After a few weeks of college, one of the upperclassmen asked me to go out a couple of times. We would just hang out together. Once, he even went with me to a football game at my alma mater. So, we had been dating exclusively for a few weeks, when he invited me to a party at a mutual friend’s house.

It was at this party, he date-raped me. I didn’t tell anyone. In the late 80s, date-rape was not a common term. And I always felt like it was my fault because I attended the party. (I will share more about this experience in later writings, but today I want to focus on this picture of Jesus standing at the door knocking.)

This portrait hung on the wall in the bedroom where I was raped. I don’t have a great recollection of the night’s events because I was drugged, but I plainly remember this picture of Jesus. For 29 years, this picture has brought me feelings of condemnation and shame. My mind told me that this was my way of escape. I would think of the rape and imagine Jesus there saying, “get out of this room”. As if, the portrait should have been a warning sign.

This past week, however, I had an epiphany! I have been researching during my Bible study time about our eyes and how we see (2 Kings 6:8-23, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Revelations 3:14-22). I have been asking Jesus to let me see how He sees.

The relevance of Jesus’ portrait in the room completely changed in my eyes. I no longer see a condemning Jesus, but I see that Jesus was with me in the room the entire time. In that dark moment of my life, Jesus was right there. In the midst of my pain, Jesus never left me. When I was blind and could not see, Jesus was still present.

He is here all the time. He never stops knocking. He just waits for us to open the door.

What a revelation! That portrait was not ever meant to be a source of condemnation! That portrait was meant to assure me that I was never alone. Jesus was there!

Mark 4:22-23 (NLT)

For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.

Dear Lord, help us hear and see with our spiritual ears and eyes, so we can understand Your love for us. Amen.

Skunk Perfume

2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Our lives are like a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are life-giving perfume.

“Oooo po-cat!” I have never forgotten that phrase. Driving down country roads with your car windows down, you are certain to encounter skunk smell. Either a threatened skunk has sprayed an enemy or met his misfortune traveling the same country road and becoming what’s lovingly known as “roadkill.” My dear friend, Amy Drake, never called the skunk by his name but the phrase “po-cat” instead. I suppose that’s short for poor cat since the cute, but smelly, creature favors our common house cat. Skunk smell is difficult to shake. There are numerous home remedies such as bathing in tomato juice, but thank the Lord I avoided being sprayed while growing up in the country.

Now, my grandfather, Papa, had a different opinion than most. He actually liked the smell of the skunk spray! He often said he wished they could bottle skunk scent for perfume. I’m thankful I did NOT inherit my Papa’s sense of smell. I much prefer mint, cinnamon, spice, and everything nice.

But, that’s my point, isn’t it? What’s nice for one isn’t necessarily nice for another. During the fall season, I love the smell of pumpkin. My friend, however, cannot stand pumpkin, but she chooses apple pie for a favorite scent. Another friend of mine adores rose scented candles, but that’s not a favorite of mine.

Similarly, our walks with the Lord are not all the same. A sinner, one who doesn’t know Christ, may be offended and wrinkle up their nose when you present your faith. Condemnation and ignorance play a huge part in their resistance. That is why it’s so important as Christians to temper our walk with Love. We want our fragrance to draw others to Jesus not repel them like Raid! Live a godly life, be a good example, and hopefully you will attract others, who are seeking, with an irresistible fragrance.

Running on Empty

How many of you know that you cannot run on empty very long? Have you ever ran out of gas in your car? You hear the warning signal; you notice the red gas light; yet, you continue to push your luck until it’s too late. You’re stranded. There’s nothing you can do. Whether you drive a Porsche or Pinto, an empty car simply will not function.

It’s the same for our spiritual life. It’s one reason why church attendance is so important. Consider church your filling station. We need the word poured into our lives to propel us into the world we face throughout the week. Attending a church service isn’t enough, however. Just as your car requires other maintenance in addition to gas in the tank, to live a fulfilled Christian life, requires time in prayer, study, and devotion to God on a daily basis. The better the upkeep of maintenance, the better the results.

Pastors have a difficult time finding a working filling station. We were traveling to New Mexico to my husband’s aunt’s funeral. We stopped in Amarillo for the night. The next day we found ourselves about 40 miles outside of Amarillo and realized our gas gauge was near empty. Now, there isn’t much in the way of stops out West on that stretch of road. I typed “gas stations near me” into my phone, and just 14 miles up the road showed a Phillips 66 station on the old route 66. Thankful, we took the next exit, and to our dismay the antique station appeared to have closed in ’66. We drove to the overpass just before the on ramp, and thank the Lord, there was an open filling station on the opposite side of the road. We gassed up, used the facilities, and I told the lady at the register we sure were thankful to find a station in the middle of nowhere. She responded, “We’d like to think that we’re halfway to somewhere.”

We religiously checked our gas gauge at every stop after that scare. On our way home, we were caught in a snowstorm. Traffic was crawling at less than 10 miles an hour for ages. Thankfully we had gas. Nearing Amarillo, we decided to exit to use the restroom at “our” filling station. It was closed. I’ll never know if the workers just couldn’t come in for work due to the snow, or if perhaps the Lord provided the station just for us on our coming trip. I like to think of God’s provision in that moment! That lady behind the register very well may have been an angel. It sure taught us a lesson to keep our tanks full.

Spiritually, I filled my tank last week at a pastor’s conference. I gave myself a mental peptalk: try to receive; have an open mind; let God speak to you. So often, I’m so preoccupied with others and doing my “job” that I neglect to hear the Lord for myself.

One thing really spoke to me above all else I heard last week. I want to see like God sees. The preacher said, “Remove the filters from your eyes with which you view yourself, your church, and your ministry. Leave the filters at the door. All the things from your past that jade the way you see reality. Lay them down, and see through the eyes of God.” Wow!

He also said, “God is not concerned with the past. God is a God of the future. God wants you to live NOW, so you can see to walk through the doors he has opened for you.”

Sometimes we get so caught up on the regrets and pains of our past that we miss the glories and mercies we are experiencing right now. We are living today. Life today cannot look like life did yesterday. It’s literally unfair to today when you dwell on the past. It’s time to refuel. Learn from those empty experiences, gas up, and move forward.

Change

2 Kings 20:5b-6a

“…I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: …And I will add unto thy days 15 years….”

Malachi 3:6 tells us a wonderful promise from God, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” God is. We can hold fast to everything He has ever promised. Hebrews 6:18 tells us it is impossible for God to lie. God fulfills His every promise through His son, Jesus.

Upon stating this truth that God does not change, I would build your confidence and faith by telling you that God can and does change His mind. Never confuse these two statements. James 5:16b: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” You are not stuck in your present situation. Destiny has not dealt you an evil hand. Stop moping and start praying!

Hezekiah turn to God and God answered! Your prayers matter; my prayers matter; our prayers make a difference to God.

Hebrews 4:14-16

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is past into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly into the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Pray with boldness and faith today. Seek the face of God. He will hear. He will answer. God is good. God is love. His character never changes, yet His mercies are new every morning.

High-Tech Simplicity

Expectations often differ from reality. My thoughts run wild imagining a life with no electricity, cell phones, or automobiles. When I hear the term Amish, I conjure a picture of pioneer days with log homes and rustic homesteads. I imagine life is an everyday reenactment of days gone by, but much to my surprise, my Amish ideas are far from reality.

As we drive the country route from Philadelphia to Denver, PA, the landscapes amaze me. Fields of crops such as corn, soybean, and alfalfa separate the rolling hills into picturesque views. Immaculate homesteads, complete with barn and silo, set the stage for the avid farming commerce of this lush state.

Anticipation builds as we pass farm, garden, and buggy. I’m eager to learn more about this set apart community. The towering multi-level homes, complete with stonework, shutters, and gorgeous, blooming flower beds, surpass any vision I had for the Amish country.

You can easily spot the Amish homes because there are no electric wires attached to the houses. Most have buggies parked tidily in the drive or the barn. Full size horses, tiny horses, donkeys, mules, cows, sheep, goats, and pigs pepper the pasture land, and beautiful personal gardens accompany each plot. On occasion you see a woman adorned in her full length dress, apron, and bonnet mowing the lawn or tending the garden. You might pass men and boys with teams of horses working the fields. There are gasoline powered combines to cut the corn and shoot it into the adjacent wagon, yet no motor for the vehicle itself, only actual horsepower.

You learn that although the homes have no electricity, they do use propane and solar panels to light, heat, cool, and operate household devices. Each home does have running water; and, although they must hang their clothes out to dry, the clothes line runs directly into the house using a pulley system. Quite impressive indeed.

Out by the road you find a small building which serves as the phone booth. Amish are allowed use of a phone for business and medical reasons. Only, it cannot be inside the home. Some even use cell phones that can be recharged using solar panels. This practice differs from district to district.

About 25 families make up a district. These families attend a private Amish school and worship together. Amish families are large, and their homes not only must house the immediate family but have a space for around 150 people to gather for church service. Most families only host church services once a year due taking turns. A usual service consists of two hymns, one 30 minute sermon, one 90 minute sermon, and a light lunch. There are storage buggies located in each district that house the benches needed to accommodate the services. Drawn by horse, these extended length buggies arrive at the host home a couple of days early, so the family has time to set up. The Amish have been worshiping in homes for hundreds of years due to the persecution of their faith. Fear of radical prejudices kept them from building church buildings.

One bishop is in charge of two districts, so they can only meet every other week to accommodate the availability of the preacher. Services are spoken in German. All Amish speak three languages: Pennsylvania Dutch, German, and English. However, Amish children only receive an education for first through eighth grades.

On the off-church Sundays, the families spend the day “frolicking”. They play games, visit with friends, and fellowship with the community. No work is done on Sunday. You will see people out on leisurely buggy rides, playing volleyball, riding scooters (for bicycles are not allowed), and spending time with neighbors.

Many of the practices seem contrary to one another, but the elders greatly consider all the effects of their decisions upon the individual family lifestyle. For example, the use of electricity might lead to television which would rob them of their family time. In many ways it’s a hard life working the farm, but the balance comes with the simplicity of family time.

When an Amish teen turns 16, they enter a season called Rumspringa, in which they are allowed certain worldly experiences. They must choose to be baptized into the Amish faith or not. Contrary to popular believe, they are not shunned because of their decision. The teens remain in their household, and if they leave, they are welcome to visit their family. Amazingly, there is an 85 to 90% rate of people who decide to be baptized and live the Amish lifestyle. Many give back cars, cell phones, and other “English” practices to return to the Amish way of life. Once baptized, however, if you decide to leave the Amish way, then you are not allowed back in and that is when you are shunned.

Philippians 2:12

“… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Experiencing a taste of the Amish ways has taught me not to judge. They are a happy, resilient, and faithful people. I hope they trust Jesus and call Him Lord. There are some ways I envy the Amish, and I pray they follow Christ whole heartedly as they live by their convictions.

Acts 20:24

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

Luke 9:24

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

Whatever you choose to give up for Christ’s sake is not done in vain.

Love

(Left top: figurine from Aruba, top right: print from Philadelphia, middle: wall hanging from Costa Maya Mexico, bottom left: love in Hebrew from Israel, bottom right: handmade hearts from Jamaica)

I Corinthians 13:1-13

Please take time to read the entire chapter.

I love “love”. I am the romantic. My choice will be romance over thriller, action, sci-fi, etc. Every time! As we travel, I look for souvenirs that say “love” in any language or form. It’s my thing; my calling card; it makes me smile. Love ❤️ 😊

So, I must include the “love” chapter of the Bible in my blog. What exactly is love? How should the action verb “love” look? All you need to know can be found in I Corinthian’s 13.

This is my paraphrase:

Without love, I would be nothing. (Vs 2)

Without love, my works are worthless. (Vs 3)

When I practice patience, kindness, and humility, that’s love. (Vs 4)

When I prefer others, give of myself, control my attitude, and forgive others, that’s love. (Vs 5)

When I tell the truth and stand up for truth, that’s love. (Vs 6)

When I fall but try again; when I continue living even in pain; when I expect the best even when I see the worst, that’s love. (Vs 7)

Even when all else crumbles, love remains. (Vs 8)

I don’t understand my circumstances, but as a child of God, I endure, knowing God’s got me. (Vs 9-12)

You just can’t beat love. (Vs 13)