A Limited Time to Live

Well here we go again. What a month of revelation it has been. Never before, have I had so many dreams, thoughts, and circumstances open up before me. All of these, I’m sure are God’s way of confirming what I have learned by reading His word, studying daily devotionals, attending Bible studies and church services.

Once again, and I believe it was just prior to my waking, I had another experience. I don’t know anything about dreams and dreaming or when they occur but I suppose it’s always just before waking up because that’s when all of mine seem to have happened. Well anyway, this time my encounter wasn’t a dream but more of a suggestion and recommendations. I wasn’t being addressed by anyone specific but by an invisible voice that just came out of nowhere.  Like you would expect might come from a spirit. Holy smokes, just as I finished writing that last sentence, I realized my first dream was with, The Son, Jesus, my last dream was with The Father, God, and now this one is from, The Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity, all three have now spoken to me at three different times. Not exactly in the order we are used to hearing them presented, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. A while ago I did have a dream from The Father which would place these occurrences in the order of how we address the Holy Trinity. I haven’t written about the first because I am still struggling to share and how to share the content of that one.

This time, I heard, “what if I told you that you only have a limited time to live?” I was speechless. I believe God has a sense of humor but I don’t believe He would joke about death. It was dead quiet (no pun intended). I was a little panicky and a hurricane of thoughts was quickly accelerating in my mind.  Why? What is it? What’s wrong? When? The reply was, “It doesn’t matter why and there’s nothing wrong. It’s time, and it will be today.  Zowza! “I strongly suggest, you get your thoughts in order and carefully plan your time.” I don’t remember being afraid but in a panic, I just couldn’t seem to set any priorities. As quick as I thought of one thing I thought of another that was more important. Many were of no importance at all. Needless to say I woke up a little disturbed. The thought followed me all day long.                                                                                                                                                     

If today were the last day of your life and you just found out about it, what priorities come to your mind?  Okay, here, let’s make this real. An out of control car, comes speeding around the corner, hits you and sends you flying. You’re lying on the pavement, a small crowd of people are gathering around and you hear someone call out, “call 911.” You don’t really notice any searing pain but you know you’re really messed up. Instinctively, deep down inside, you know, this is it. What would be your priorities?   How exactly would you prepare for eternity?                                   

Now is the time to get your house in order. It’s time to get all your ducks in a row. We have absolutely no idea when our number will come up. Jesus can return at any moment, nothing has to be wrong. How long do you have? A year, a month, a week, days. In this scenario a day at the most, possibly only an hour or just minutes.                                                                                            

We’ve got to make this good and it has to be right. Are you going to be thinking about all the material things you’ve accumulated? All that money you’ve invested, in your stocks, mutual funds, bank accounts and in your pension plan. Guess what? You’re not taking it with you. How about your car? You’re not taking that either.  Not your home; your shoes, clothing or jewelry. I think we can throw out any ideas of making material items a priority. How about your career, you know the job you put before your family. How about your gym membership, the “Golf Club,” your baseball team or your booked vacation? Sorry! You won’t be going anymore; your friends and acquaintances will figure it out on their own. So, we can throw out your social life. What’s left?

I’ve given this some pretty serious thought. Without a moments delay I want to be sure that I am right with my savor, Jesus Christ.  Dear Lord Jesus, come down from heaven and please take my hand. I’m sorry for any sins I may have or have committed today. Thank you for giving up your life for the likes of me and thank you for paying the penalties for my sins. Thank you, that my sins have been forgiven. I forgive everyone who has ever sinned against me. I’m yours Jesus and I look forward to following you to my new home up above. Please stay with me until this life ends. In your name, A Men                   

If I still had some time left I would then want to make sure my family and friends were sure of their day of reckoning. If I had the time to go to them or assuming they would come to me, I would ask them to join me in prayer. I would pray that each of them would place their trust in Jesus and on the spot confess their sins, promising to try their utmost to continue sin free. I would pray that each one would offer up their own lives and ask Jesus to become their shepherd, their life coach or manager. I would not want anyone to be sad for me but to be happy and know in their hearts I will soon be in heaven. Goodbyes would be appropriate while there was time.

Spiritually, are you ready? Are you sure of your destination? Will your family and friends be joining you in the future? There’s time.

A Taste of Freedom

This morning I had a short vision or a brief dream, and again I believe it was Just moments before I woke up. I was having a conversation with Abba. I couldn’t see Him, it was more like a telepathic statement received into my mind but I could feel a presence as I sat or stood facing Him. This is out of character with any recorded vision or message in the Bible. Everyone in the Bible who was visited by or came into the presence of God or Jesus, immediately fell down on their knees with their face to the ground. Gosh! I hope that my not bowing before God is because I didn’t realize right away that it was truly Abba. I pray that my ignorance is because of my immaturity as a Christian, that I just never expected God would be directly in front of me, speaking to me.

When His message registered with me I understood Him to ask, why have you not handed over complete control to me. I think it was right then that it dawned on me, this is God speaking. I was at a loss for words and I mindlessly began to babble excessively.  Between the voids in my languishing thoughts I managed to reply, well I know I should, I don’t know why I haven’t, I’ve no reason not to. You’ve certainly proven yourself to me, of course, well, not that you ever had to prove anything to me in the first place. Who am I? Nobody. You’re God.  Man, if this was an interview to get into heaven, I botched it big time.

What happened next was so awesome. A whole slew of feelings came over me. I felt like a huge amount of weight was lifted off of me. The weight that stress, pressure, responsibility, guilt, insignificance, worry, and that sense of just not knowing, lays on you. The weight was gone. As I began to process the numerous weights that were no longer on me, I began to understand, so this is what it’s like to entirely and thoroughly give yourself up to Jesus. Every ache and pain was removed and there was not a grain of negative feelings. There was a peace, a positivity that I had never known before. I’ll be okay, all I ever need will be given, I will succeed at anything God wishes for me to do. I have no fear of rejection, criticism or humiliation. I’ll finding a job, but not just any job. God will make available the one that will be the best fit for me.

I speak out to Jesus, Yes Lord yes, please come into the last chamber of my heart, take it over, I surrender this last piece of me. I want God’s will for me. I’m tired of all my failures and trying to do things my own way. When, I woke. I was still saying, yes Lord in my mind. Immediately, I began to think of all that I had to do. What do I do next? I better make up more resumes. Yes, I have to have a job. I had better begin to research more opportunities to serve God. That’ll prove my commitment. I’m going to go downtown and get the resumes I have, out to possible employers so God can decide on which job to give me. Maybe I should I be baptized again? Yeah! That’s a good one.  

The more I thought and the more I took on worldly thoughts, my ill-conceived thoughts, the euphoric feelings I had, equally begun to fade away. The weight removed from my shoulders was coming back. I was losing the feeling of God’s presence. My freedom was slipping away. Why God? What’s happening? Please don’t take this away from me. How do I keep this? What did I do wrong?  Where are you Abba? Oh my good gosh! Don’t tell me I’ve blown it.

It wasn’t until I initiated applying this experience to paper that I noticed my fatal error. I had barely finished saying, “Yes Lord, I’m Yours, all of me, the last bit of me, I surrender,” and what did I do? I immediately stepped on God’s toes, took charge of my day, lost sight of His graces and began to make my own plans for what I thought  that I needed to do, what I thought I should do to secure my place with Him. I was once again following the world and its way of thinking just like everyone else does. I had it all and then I turned to my own understanding. What a fool!

I was feeling pretty glum and figured that this Thursday was going to turn out to be just like any other Thursday. I started my quite time and read my verse of the day, Psalm 56:4 NLT. Then, the  assigned scriptures for the day, Psalms 119:1-88 NIV. Thank you Abba! Very appropriate for how I am feeling right now. Great advice! Thank you for staying with me and continuing to open my eyes. You didn’t go anywhere, here you are right here in these two Bibles. Next I read the devotionals that I regularly follow. Ahh! And there you are again. I should have known better. You promised to never leave me and you didn’t. Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV.

 In the afternoon I had a dentist appointment and while I waited in the lounge I continued to read Purpose Driven Church by Pastor Rick Warren. It had been weeks since I last read from this book, and what did I read? Spiritual maturity is demonstrated more by behavior than by beliefs and It takes a variety of spiritual experiences with God to produce spiritual maturity.  Thank you Jesus, for your understanding.

Experiencing God

In that pre wake up state just before becoming conscious and getting out of bed, I experienced an incredibly profound encounter or dream. I don’t know the exact time or the duration but it was so realistic that when I awoke, I was still in it. This event accompanied me from slumber into the beginning of this new day. I was fully awake and yet still in the dream. I was at peace, like I had never felt before. I was swimming in joy, contentment and gratitude in a complete state of euphoric bliss. I remember waking up smiling and continuing to smile throughout the entire day.

Allow me to try to describe what happened, to the best of my recollection.

I don’t know where I came from or where I had been and as far as I know this dream just started with me facing forward. I was motionless, bogged down, stooped over. I was carrying so much weight in many backpacks, duffle bags, extra canvas bags, and tarps. There were additional rolls and blankets, tents and baskets with numerous items dangling from ropes. I was loaded up like a pack mule. My pockets were stuffed full and whatever I had in them was pulling down on my sweat stained shirt, my filthy jacket and dirty pants with my knees exposed. My heavy worn out work boots were like weighted, lead divers boots, on my feet. 

It was sunny, hot and dry, my lips were cracked and bleeding. The skin of my face, hands and arms was like checked dark leather. My feet ached; my legs were throbbing, my hip joints burned with pain. There was no comfortable position to relieve the riveting electric pulses shooting across my lower back and around to my protruding ribs. My spine felt compressed, my shoulders were hunched and my neck was stretched forward so tense and stiff I could not turn from side to side. My posture was so poor I was looking at the dusty ground just ahead of my feet. I raised my head up as high as I could muster the strength, so I could face who I supposed, was Jesus.

I didn’t see anyone but hearing him speak, it could only be him.  I’ve no idea how long I had been walking, traveling, drifting.  I’ve no idea where I accumulated all that was weighing me down and no idea how long I had been carrying it.

Jesus said, “come to me, let me help.” “Take it off and hand it all over, I can handle it.”  I didn’t move, I just stood there before him, I was too weak to move. I didn’t say a thing, I’m not sure I could even speak. How I was even able to stand was confounding. I was just frozen like a pathetic statue. 

Jesus stepped toward me and gently began lifting bags off my back and setting them down. I didn’t even notice at first. Gradually, I began to feel that the pressure upon me was being lifted and I was able to move a foot and reposition and stabilize myself.  All the while, Jesus was unloading my baggage, he spoke softly to me.       

I don’t recall what he said at this point, but I can only surmise now after the fact, what he was saying. I imagine he asked, how long had I been carrying this heavy load? I imagine him, telling me he’s going to share my burden. I do remember he encouraged me to let it all go, give it up and trust him. I still didn’t say a word but I remember there was a point, when I started to off load some of the last remaining weights, myself. Finally everything was off loaded and I just silently stood there facing Jesus.  Dirty, slouched, broken and sore, aching all over and tired, oh so terribly tired, exhausted, depleted and burnt out. Jesus spoke again and I remember him saying, he was there for me, he asked me to believe in him and to trust in him. Have faith in me he said, and I will give you rest.  

Finally I broke my silence and I told Jesus, “I believe.” “I do.” “I believe.”  “Take all of this away, I’m so tired, I can’t carry it any longer, I just can’t do it any more, I give up.”  “Please take away all the negativity, the pain from holding on, the mental anguish, the hurt feelings.” “Oh Lord Jesus, please take away the lies, the guilt, the resentment and the hate, the disappointment, the fear, the anxiety, anger, sadness, hopelessness and despair.” “I want  to be free, free of the handcuffs and free of the chains holding me down.” 1 Peter 5:7 : “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”                                                                            

I remember that I was crying and sobbing, my eyes are swollen and my nose running, my mouth was dry and sticking like glue. All the while I continued becoming lighter and lighter as I asked for each sin to be removed. I reached a point of weightlessness and I then realized that my belief and my faith in Jesus was heartfelt and genuinely true. The more I repented the lighter I became. The lighter I felt the stronger my faith. I recall, just knowing in my heart that this really is true. The Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, every bit of it. There is no question in my mind what so ever. It’s all true, it’s real just like the Bible claims it is.

 Again, I don’t know when or how it happened but there I was standing straight, I was clean, shaved and groomed. Next I noticed there was no pain, no pain at all, not a pick, not an itch. Nothing, nada, zero, zip. There was no pressure, no pinch, no tug, pull or tension. No eye strain, no stomach ache, no arthritic pain in my fingers, no joint pain in my hips, elbows or ankles. I could move in all directions, throw my arms up in the air, jump up and down, turn my head from side to side, twist my back and look behind.          Now wait a minute. What’s this? No heartache either, no worries, no negativity, no fear, no panic, no stress, no apprehension. Had I died? Had my life ended? Was it all over? Was I finally at rest? But no, I was alive, I had never felt so alive. I fell to my knees and bowed my head low to the ground before Jesus. Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, you truly are who you say you are. What? There’s more! I became aware that I was engulfed with love, hope, joy, gratitude, peace, satisfaction, awe. It was euphoria and then, I woke up.

It was just before my 5 am alarm was to go off. I’m smiling ear to ear and I say out loud to myself, “so this is what it is to be truly free.” “This is what you get when you’re finally able to turn over the last chamber of your heart to Jesus.” “When you truly believe, when you no longer hold anything back, when you express total unquestionable faith.” I’m in a state of pure bliss. There is no one or nothing, that can wipe the smile off my face.                                          

I threw back the covers and planted my feet on the floor and I prayed. “Dear Abba, So this is what it is to totally give up my life to you. Thank you from the deepest parts within me. Thank you for giving me this incredibly awesome experience. I know now what I have to do and I now know the reward. Abba, I freely hand over every area of my life to you. Accept my life, take over my life, may your will be done in me. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.                                                                                           

Persevering with God and My Altered Plans

I began working with a job help center and have learned why my old chronological resume is not drawing any attention. It’s quite time consuming to construct new resumes but I understand how these new ones are so much more effective than the old.

Looking for a job is a full time job. I pray that each day will be the day when God will give me the perfect job that He knows will suit me best.  It’s so disheartening to apply yourself and get a zero response and it is all too easy to just give up. There have been days when I have done just that and those are the days I am guaranteed that I will not secure a job.

Despite my failure to secure work I have not given up on seeking out God. Without fail I have kept up my morning conversations with our Father in heaven. Each morning I spend time contemplating the meaning of the verse of the day provided by BibleGateway.com. I try to relate it to myself, others, or a past or present situation. I ask myself, what is God telling me? Then I read on average, three chapters from each of two Bibles. This year I am reading the New Living Translation and the New International Version at the same time. Often I gain more understanding when I read the chapters a second time. I read any footnotes for the chapters and follow up on any cross reference that was given.  

After reading the Bibles I read through two daily devotionals that I have delivered to my inbox daily and then a smattering of e-mails and blog prompts to other Christian sites.

At a minimum I spend two to two and a half hours every morning with the LORD. I think it would be safe to state that on average I spend three and a half hours per day. I find it best to start my day this way. I’m given inspiration that last throughout the day and often later in the day there are just too many distractions that interrupt our quiet time conversations.

With the balance of my time, days and weeks, MY plan was to return to Canada, live with my daughter and granddaughter, and help out whatever way that I could. Get a job, find a church and church family then begin volunteering in some way serving the LORD. MY time frame to accomplish this was two to three months.

Now, Abba has HIS plan for me. I believe HE examined MY plan, redesigned it, made a new schedule for it, added crucial elements that I carelessly overlooked or otherwise didn’t even consider, then set it in place. So now, it doesn’t look so much like MY plan anymore but rather, HIS plan.  Psalm 19:7-9 ESV.

Our Father in heaven took note of my total lack of patience, my arrogance that I still think I can do most things myself, the distance still between us, my struggle to fully trust in Him and my lingering weak faith. He’s skillfully worked all of this into HIS plan. First He surprised me by landing me in between somewhere and nowhere (One Season and into the Next Part One/Ponderings and Musings) This was a four month lesson in patience, soul searching and discovery, for me. It seems that God felt it was more important that I grow up than find a job. I did not find work, nor did I join a church or become a volunteer, and as for MY timeline, well that was swallowed up half way through this first stage of HIS plan.

Now, stage two of God’s plan, I find myself in the city. That happened here. (March 30th, 2019/From My Journal) So, great, now it’s back to MY plan. I can finally find a job and the sooner the better. I’m so far behind on My schedule.  Then I can search for a church and a church family, seek out volunteer options, choose one and start ministering for the LORD. Mission accomplished.

Well it’s now two months even further down the road. Step one of MY new revised plan has not materialized yet, I’ve attended two churches (Fitting In/From My Journal) and seem to have been welcomed into the third, “Church in the Oaks”(Church in the Oaks/From My Journal). Finding a job has once again been removed from its first place position in MY plan and been pushed on ahead. Apparently God’s plan is that I now become a member of a church and church family before getting work to sustain MYSELF.   God’s plan has also lead me into a Bible study small group, volunteering at a ministry serving meals to the under privileged and most recently the Men’s Mission group at the church.  Where’s my job? Well, it’s been jumped over three more times and I’m still waiting.

MY plan was to find a church and a church family. God’s plan provided the church family I longed for and three additional support families. I think I can safely say that MY plan for MY life, was lame and its priorities were out of order.  It’s pretty obvious that MY plan carries no weight what-so-ever. On the other hand, God’s plan, HIS WILL for me, WILL be done in and through me, HIS way and on HIS schedule. It’s not about me. It never was. It has always been about Him and HIS perfect Will.

I thought I had a pretty good and responsible plan. I will testify though, that first you have to have a plan so that God has something to work with. Do you have a plan? I believe that to obtain God’s infinitely better plan, you must be connected with Jesus.

God provides all that I need moment by moment day after day. He sees that I am serious about our relationship and He knows what I need to support it. Growing my trust and strengthening my faith, providing spiritual backup and support is more important to Him than having me spend hours learning a new job at this time.

Will I get a job? I believe I will. When? In His own time. Do I just sit back and watch TV and wait for God to find it for me? NO! Just like it was necessary to have a plan for God to work with, I believe I must continue to provide a base of jobs that I have interested me, so that He will once again have something to expand upon and bring into HIS will.

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

House Cleaning with, “The Holy Spirit”

Before seeking Jesus, confessing my sins, asking for forgiveness and asking him to take over my messed up life, it was not uncommon for me to wake up for several hours in the middle of the night. I would awake enraged with anger over some issue that occurred the previous day, week or even months and sometimes years earlier. I would be so upset that it would take me hours to get back to sleep. I could never solve the angering problem and most often I would watch television or read a book until I could be distracted enough or calmed down enough to return to bed and finish what was left of the night.

Sometime soon after seeking and asking Jesus to take charge in my life, I had my first encounter with The Holy Spirit. I didn’t know it at the time but hindsight is 20/20. Now I understand some of the gifts of The Holy Spirit that Jesus gave to me when I reached out to him and accepted him as my Lord and Savior.

The encounter was right after I woke up in a fit of anger. At first I dove right into the problem, swinging and kicking, thinking of what I should have said and should have done at the time, muttering profanities under my breath. Then, when I realized I was losing the battle yet again, I got this idea to ask Jesus for his help. I explained what was going on and that I was the victim and needed his help. What happened next was pretty amazing. That problem dissipated and in no time at all I was lying back down and dozing off to sleep.

What a great idea I had. Why didn’t I think of it a long time ago. I had heard talk about The Holy Spirit but I had no idea where he fit into the grand scheme of things. The only things I understood was God is the creator and Jesus is our Savior. I figured that I had discovered all on my own that the way to beat these Satin antagonized bouts of anger was for me to remember to ask Jesus to help me. I’m not sure who tipped me off that it was not me that thought to go to Christ for help, but that it was actually The Holy Spirit that gave me the idea and prompted me to stop fighting and leave it for Jesus to battle it out. He is my shepherd and protector.

It must have been the better part of the first two years of my becoming a Christian before I stopped trying to deal with my sleep time anger problems on my own. Then realizing that to avoid defeat all I had to do was run to Jesus and let him settle the score. No one has ever accused me of having a thin cranium. There’s some pretty dense bone and matter up there that makes it pretty difficult for knowledge and experience, to break through and take up residency.

At about the two and half year mark as a Christian I had finally learned that The Holy Spirit was a gift from Jesus and that he actually lived right inside of me. I had begun to communicate with him one on one, and prayed, and gave thanks to him right along with Abba and Jesus. The Holy Spirit has taught me to recognize when I am under attack and when Satin has begun throwing old wounds at me. When I fail to react right away The Holy Spirit gives me a nudge. I’ve learned to not even try to resist, but to run straight to Jesus immediately.

Psalms 139: 23-24 NLT : Search me, Oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Up to a point I was always on the defense, reacting to Satin’s ploys. At some point the Holy Spirit turned the tables and we became the offense. I would pray to The Holy Spirit to dig out a piece of garbage that was lingering around inside me. He lived in me and who would know better the gunk that was in there than he. I would ask that he bring to my attention the pieces of baggage that he knew I would be able to handle. Those old unforgiven hurts were dragged out of the closets and presented to me, often in the middle of the night or early pre waking hours. I would wake up, realize what they were and take them to Jesus. I would pray with Jesus that I forgive this person for doing that to me, pray for healing in that person and then mentally with Jesus we would fold up that hurt, tie it up secure and we would throw it in the furnace and watch it burn until there was nothing left but ashes.

One day I tried to remember the hurts that had been tossed out. I planned to count them up and see how many we had gotten rid of. I could not for the life of me remember what the hurts were that we had tossed away. When Jesus takes on a sin it is washed away forever, once and for all.  It is hard to imagine that I had carried all that excess baggage, some of it for decades. Some of it was so old and so insignificant now that I had to laugh at the immaturity of it. How much needless stress did I put myself through by not forgiving these hurts at the time? How much energy and how much of my life have I wasted carrying all this unnecessary waste?

The Holy Spirit has done some serious housecleaning in me. He did not just dig out my hurt feelings but also grudges, jealousy and wrongs that I did to others and never apologized for (OUCH!) This housecleaning exercise is still underway to this day. I hate to admit it but there are still sins so embedded inside that it may be a while yet before they’re dislodged. Wounds and sins so painful that I have made up lies to cover them and to deal with them. Lies that I’ve convinced myself are true. Lies that I have convinced some of my nearest and dearest friends are true. For me, it is very important that I am able to present myself new to my friends and as clean as possible and new to the Lord.

I know Jesus washed the slate clean with his precious blood some two thousand years ago and I am not trying to buy my way into heaven because we cannot. With the help of The Holy Spirit and Jesus I can take a load of heavy weights off and live a much freer life that I am sure pleases our Father in heaven.  

Romans 6:13 NLT : Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourself completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.

Church in the Oaks

A little over a month ago I visited a third church. {See “Fitting In” under the category, “My Journel”} It is much smaller than what I had been searching for. I figured the bigger the church the more opportunities for me to fit in somewhere. So once again, rather than pray for Jesus to guide me to a church suitable for my needs, I took it upon myself to find one on my own. I wasted more precious time and dealt with more unnecessary disappointment and frustration. After praying to be lead to just the right church that Jesus knew would be right for me, I was directed here. When will I learn that all I have to do is ask and it will be given Matthew 7:7. I am bound and bent that I can do everything myself. 

On the very first day, I walked into the foyer and was noticed right away. I was the one that looked lost, was dead quiet, slightly out of breath and a touch sweaty from a combination of both nerves and a twenty minute walk to get there.

Almost immediately I was approached with a, “Oh, Hello!” “You must be new here, I don’t recognize your face.” “I’m so and so and your name is?”  “Well welcome to Church in the Oaks this here is my son such and such and he plays in the music ministry here.” “Oh, hold on a second!” “Pastor, this is Art.” “Today is his first time here.” “It’s been a pleasure meeting you Art, I’ll see you after the service and introduce you to the rest of my family.”

From here the Pastor chatted with me a bit and gathered in some of my interest. He took me into the sanctuary, showed me around, introduced me to three others, told me about what to expect, got me an itinerary and explained I was welcome to sit anywhere I would like. I had no sooner sat down and the man in front of me began chatting like we were life-long friends and introduced me to two ladies in the same row. Just then I heard the Pastor’s voice behind me. He had sought out an Ecuadorian fellow who was a long time member of the church.  He introduced us and suggested that we had a common interest as both of us had lived in Ecuador.  This was like an enactment of Hebrews 10: 24-25

I went into church number three with the same open mind I had for the last two but I was also skeptical after the two previous church experiences. This time was going to be different, I could feel the difference already. By the time the service had started my mind was already made up.  For me, the biggest and most intimidating obstacle in church hunting had already been removed. The acceptance of the people. I enjoyed the service and witnessed the enthusiasm of the parishioners. This was further assurance that this would be the right church for me, I sensed the congregation were genuine and not fake individuals.

After the service I was approached by my original greeter and was introduced to the rest of his family. I met six other people in the lobby before leaving for home.

I felt a heavy weight lifted off of me. I believe it was in God’s plan for me to finish my search and land right here at Church in the Oaks. I walked home feeling that the nagging pulling on my heart to belong somewhere was finally eased off.

  I don’t know what it is about Church websites but they are quickly becoming a nemesis of mine. When I got home I searched my new church’s website to see where I may be able to participate. After feeling that I can fit in and would be welcome my next need, is to be able to participate. There were plenty of ministries listed with descriptions of their intent and purpose but no indication of what day they took place, when they started or finished or who to contact. The calendar was blank except where someone had found the time to add Sunday worship services on every Sunday of the month.  At the next Sunday worship service I learned of the great turnout the church had for an activity that I knew nothing about. 

I mentioned this lack of information to several people but as of this moment nothing has been done about it. I asked specifically about two ministries and after being introduced to the corresponding  people, I  joined both. Every Sunday evening I join in with a few others for a Bible Study, and I started to serve at the “Ark Aid” the second Monday of each month. The Ark is a ministry that provides meals to people who have found themselves in need. Today I attended the Men’s Ministry gathering where I was blessed with meeting several more members of the church.

Discovering and finally belonging to a church and church family checks off another must do, on the list of my plan. Volunteering, checks off yet another.

Before I Write

I truly aim to lay myself bare before everyone who sorts through this site. Anyone reading my post will come to have a pretty good idea of who I was, who I am and where I’m going. It is my hope that readers will be able to watch me grow in Christ. I’m a newbie at only 3 years old now. No doubt there will be many ups and downs, successes and failures, and stalemates such as I am in now. Over all I pray everyone will see a steady incline but who knows what you’ll see.

I don’t know that anyone has ever charted the growth of a Christian before. I believe that it has to start with complete honesty on my part. Let me testify here and now that it is not as easy as you might think. It would be simple if I could be guaranteed that no one I knew would ever find this website because  there are lies that I have told to cover up the deepest, darkest areas in my life. Lies that I have told so often they have become reality in my mind and some of my best friends have accepted them as the truth. Now! I risk losing them or at the very least disappointing them severely.  

I can’t do this on my own; I have to have the support of our heavenly Father, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ and the inward coaxing of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise I’ll just paint another pretty picture of myself, pretend everything is rosy and bright and show you what a wonderful person I am.

 Before I start every posting, I pray three and sometimes four prayers. The first goes something like this.

I tell Abba, I am not blogging for myself but for Him and I ask Abba to refine me with each new post, ranking me as He sees fit. I ask to be put to good use or to suffering, for Him. I ask that I be allowed to post for Him or to be put aside and used for another purpose. I plead to be lifted high but only for Him or to be brought down low, also for Him. I tell Him to do with me and each post whatever He will knowing that He knows what is best.

I pray that God will not let me strive to fill this website but to submit thoughtfully and to genuinely care what I post rather than compete with other sites. I ask for help to seek holiness and not hits on this site.  I confess that I would rather be a follower than have followers.  

My ambition is to fill the website with Abba’s character and grace but keep as low a profile of myself as possible. I pray extensively on this because the site is about me but I ask for help to always exalt Him and humbly place myself below His feet. I pray for the strength to not seek anything from this world but to continually crave all that He is. I pray that all my words will be worthy for Him to read, and express that He is enough. He is the only one I need to please.

 I ask that the Holy Spirit help me to write for Christ smile and not for subscribers and that my daily declaration, not the size of my audience be the certainty of my redemption. I ask that the uncountable graces received from Christ be my identity and never the number of comments I may receive. I pray that the only words I upload are the truth and what I have lived.

I offer to God Almighty ever word, every sentence, every title and every post, every comment or no comment, all to His pleasure and perfect will. Then I confess to Jesus that my only fame is that I bear His name. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. My only Glory is the gift of His grace. The only true readership I seek is His eyes wandering the earth searching to and fro for a heart that is hard after his. I beg Him to make all of this so.

I say, Yawweh, You alone are my God, nothing else receives my love like the love I have for you. I say, Jesus you alone are my savior, I look no further than you. I say Holy Spirit, you alone are my comforter, nothing else can bring me the comfort that you do.

I ask that this prayer will stand today, yesterday and for every post to come. This is my prayer and I wish for it to be legalized in heaven. Amen

Although every prayer I pray is vastly different as I elaborate a little or a lot on each of the points above, the main structure of my prayers before writing each and every blog post, follow Ann Voskamp’s “Bloggers Prayer” A very special thanks to you, Ann. Your prayer helps me to stay focused, remain humble and address every point. It keeps it in my mind where I stand and who God is. Praise God.   

The Grocery Hoard

I have moved back into the city and the few possessions that I have are in bags and boxes and my two suit cases. Since leaving Ecuador, I’m like a drifter carrying all my worldly goods with me place to place. Oh why did I buy that extra-large cast iron frying pan?

Not even settled in yet and after only a few days in my new residence I woke up early one morning and began my quite time. I’m not too sure if was a dream or if it came to me as just a thought but I had this idea in my mind to take all the groceries I had brought with me and give them away.

What a crazy thought! Why would I do that? I brought them with me because I need them. I have to eat just like everyone else. Those groceries I have are to sustain me as long as possible and I have to carefully watch over my spending while I search for a job. After I find a job and I have an income it won’t be a problem. So at that, I didn’t give it another thought and went on with my day. The next morning I couldn’t stop thinking about why I should give away the groceries that I was presently eating from. This thought just wouldn’t go away. Finally I figured well, I can give them away and then just go out and get some more. I can’t really afford it but I feel that this is what I should do, so I’ll do it. There seems to be a lot of “I’s” in this paragraph, huh!

After some time and still thinking about this give away idea, the Holy Spirit within me began to bring to my attention all that God has provided throughout my life. He has always given what was needed and when it was necessary. In fact, He has provided substantially more than what was ever required. Always praying for faith and proclaiming faith in Him. It’s now testing time. Jesus clearly planted the idea to give away the greedy hoard that’s stashed away to test my faith, my trust in him. Is it a lot of hot air that has been being prayed or could this Christian finally be ready to exercise some of that sworn faith.  

Jesus is teaching my faith, to trust in him and to begin living in faith, day by day with the add-on, what it feels like to be truly generous. No more quarters and dollar coins for the poor. This time some new bars are being set. Now, it’s my coveted grocery stash, possibly a hundred dollars cut from a fund that’s quickly running dry.   Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

I headed on down into the basement to gather all the grocery items. I removed any items that were opened. No one would want something that was opened and food banks would throw it away because it could be contaminated. Then I thought to myself, I’ll remove the baking items because poor people most likely don’t have the other ingredients to add, in order to make something out of what I had to give. Then I took out some cans of kidney beans, chick peas, black-eyed beans, and tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. These items can’t be used because unless you have spices and the other ingredients to make soups and chili con carne they would be of no use to the needy. What was left over was not very much. So my solution, I’ll just go shopping and get some things that people in need can use.

At the grocery store I looked at some cans of tuna that were on sale and I noticed that some had pull tabs to open the cans. What a great idea because poor people may not have can openers. This is when God reached down and boxed my ears a good one. That brain rattling set me thinking in a different way.

Of course people who need a helping hand have can openers. I don’t but I can borrow one and so can they if they don’t. I bet they have pots and pans and glasses, plates and cutlery and a stove to cook on too. How utterly ridiculous I’m being. In the way that I’m thinking, there is nothing I can give to anyone because they won’t be able to get into it, cook it or eat it. Thanks for your input Satin!

God put it into me right there and then to add back all the items I had removed and I would buy extra to make up for the items removed because they were open or half eaten.

On Sunday I took the groceries to church. I had no idea if the church had a food bank but I figured they would find some way or someone who could use them. I asked the greeter at the entrance of the church and he told me that the church does not collect groceries.

During the service the reverend announced that in two weeks’ time the church would be starting their spring food drive in support of the local food banks. Hmmmm! Do you think God has been busy? I do not believe in coincidences. I believe that everything is done according to God’s will.

Alright! It’s time to ponder this through. What are the lessons here, for me?

  1. On numerous occasions I have expressed to God, “Whatever you ask of me, my answer is yes, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense to me. You know what’s best”
  2. Initially I completely failed here when I selfishly thought of my own needs and discounted any crazy notion that I should give away any of my own food.
  3. Failing even further when I finally came around and agreed to give away the groceries, I began to claw them back, greedily justifying to myself why I should not give some of the loot.
  4. By thinking, I’ll just go and buy more to replace them, I totally missed the point of this exercise. Jesus wants me to depend on him, he is my provider not my bank account.
  5. When God spoke or in this case planted a suggestion in my mind, again I counted it as my own idea and pushed God aside.  
  6. If I want to hear Him I have to be quiet, focused and not so quick to take over, as I always have. Psalm 143:8 ESV

Will God give up on me? No way! Isaiah 41:10 CSB. When I don’t get it, the Holy Spirit will point out to me and will remind me what God has said. John 14:26 TLB.

Did I pass the test? I think so, and I picked up a few new pointers as well.

Can you relate to this situation? Send me your story, when God spoke to you and how you responded.

My Dog Ginger

Ginger is a Cocker Spaniel mix. She was rescued by a friend from a basket full of forcibly weaned puppies.  Stolen away from her mother, hand selected by a human and separated from her brothers and sisters. She was abducted if you will and taken to a strange new home where there were no other dogs. For her, what a dreadful day it was. It all began with a simple day trip, ironically to Parque de la Madre (Mother’s Park), Cuenca, Ecuador.

My friend’s wife named this new cute bundle of joy, Lollipop. Lollipop required a lot of care. She was not on solid food so had to be patiently introduced to bread and milk. Lollipop had to be taught to chew and lap up her food rather than suck it from a teat. Potty training was a full time job.

Now, my friend and his wife were getting on in their years as we all are and after suffering through numerous sleepless nights of howls and whining, uncountable potty runs, followed up with specialty meal preparations and lots of coaxing, it all proved somewhat unmanageable.

I had only met Lollipop on one occasion before being asked to consider the possibility of adopting her. I discussed the offer to adopt with my roommate and it was decided that she would be a welcome member of the household.

Thank goodness we were told that we could rename her. I dreaded having to take Lollipop for walks and having to call her name out in public. Not a very suiting name that a man would give to his dog. Lollipop became Jengibre, Spanish for Ginger, the color of her fur.

Ginger was truly a rescued puppy and so fortunate to be alive with a long life ahead of her. On the second day I had her we attended a veterinarian appointment. She was started on a health maintenance program with follow up appointments that would make sure she was always in top health. Soon afterwards we discovered that she was absolutely loaded with intestinal worms. I feared for the lives of the other pups as well as the mother.  

To bring this run on story to a point. I believe that God was behind all of this. You see, I was not a follower of God or Jesus. I knew about them but I had no relationship with them, nor did I need one. I have always done as I wished when I wished, until now. It seems that the time had come for God’s master plan for my life to be set into action. God would use Ginger to help ease me in to Jesus who would then work his magic on my heart.

God works in mysterious ways. Little did I know that our Father in heaven had been busy behind the scenes and all that I had ever known, done and worked for was about to come crashing down. Ginger was to be a big part of my recovery and transformation. Our father does not work the way we think He should. He works the way that He knows will be the best for everyone. God used my friend to rescue Ginger and knew that He would also have my friend gift Ginger to me at just the right moment in time to help me to turn to Jesus who would in turn rescue me. My friend and his wife would still be able to enjoy Ginger as we were very close friends. Visitation rights would not be an issue.   

When you’re broken and buried in fear and despair. When you’re pushed down as low as you can possibly be and hope does not exist, I’ll tell you from experience, what will happen. You’ll want to be alone so that you can do the one thing society says that you cannot. You’ll crawl to your bed possibly taking with you something that may provide any little bit of comfort. (Ginger, in my case). You begin a pity party and you start to sob.  Your sobs turn to out and out crying and the tears will flow like Niagara Falls.

Once you realize there is no way out of this mess and you cannot save yourself this time. Once you realize there’s nowhere to turn and no one to turn to, there is only one option left. You cry out to God, you cry out to Jesus, you get on your knees and you beg for mercy and grace. It does not matter how much you refused to believe or how much you rejected the idea of there even being a God, a single creator of everything that exist. You’ll now believe from your heart what you have known to be true all along. You have no other choice.

This is not how we should come to God. Unfortunately, it is how many relationships with God start. How is that? Using God as an absolute last resort, after you have used up every possible option and tried everything else. Thank God, He is merciful, patient and forgiving. If you were to come to me as an absolute last hope, things could have a different outcome for you. I want to be like God but I am not.   

What do you do when someone’s hurting? Do you tell them don’t cry, everything will be okay. “NO! It won’t!” Do you tell them, you’ll get over it. “No! I won’t!” Maybe you can suggest that you know how  they are feeling. “No! You do not!” Here is what you do. You do what Ginger did. Absolutely nothing! You sit with the person quietly and you don’t say a word. Job 2:13 NIV Be humble, patient and gentle Ephesians 4:2 NIV and let them know you are feeling their hurt with them. Cry along with them.  When one member of the family is hurting the whole family hurts together.

Ginger was so patient and so quite. Although she was just a four month old puppy and I only had her a couple of weeks, she had studied me well. Ginger knew my upbeat happy demeanor and she knew this new emotion was not right. She related my pain and tears to her own. The day she was taken from her mother and siblings. You could see the empathy in her face.

This day, Ginger was my landing pad. The first of many uses God has had for her in my life to date.

Chosen

I didn’t set out to be preachy with this blog post but I was just contemplating, how can I tell a nonbeliever that he or she has been chosen by God?  Based on my own experience and what I know, what would I share and how would I back it up with Biblical facts?

God can choose you to spend all of eternity with Himself or He can set you aside for other purposes. He created you and he can use you however He wants. Nothing can change His mind, not you, not your family or friends, not your enemies, not even Satin. Has it ever occurred to you that you have been chosen by God and what a privilege that is?  The first phrase of John 15:16 NIV God says, “You did not choose Me but I chose you,

Why do think that is? Do you think that God was just bored and decided to create little balls of flesh, and give them tiny malfunctioning brains and then sit back and observe what they do? No way, God made you to love you. God wants a family.  

It most certainly wasn’t because He needed us. Acts 17:25 NLT tells us, and human hands can’t serve His needs, for He has no needs….It wasn’t because He was lonely. At the end of every day when God was busy creating, the Bible says that He, “saw that it was good.” But then in Genesis 2:18 NLT it says, Then the lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…… Notice God did not say it is not good for Himself to be alone. Also in Genesis 1:26 NKJV God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. God has his own company He has never been lonely.

Now, all of us are called but not all of us are going to make it. In fact, very few of us will make the list. Matthew 22:14 NKJV “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Wait a minute, something is at odds here! How do I know where I stand? Am I called or am I chosen?

God chose the nation of Israel to be His people but He did not choose the Egyptians. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so much so, that Pharaoh’s pride and stubbornness made him blind to the fact that his decisions were destroying the entirety of Egypt and its people. Why did God call Israel? Because God was making good on a previous promise He made to Abraham.  God always keeps his promises.  

God called on the people of Israel but what did they have to do to be chosen? Israel had to believe that God was real, admit their sins, ask for forgiveness, sacrifice a virgin lamb of perfect condition, turn from their sins, trust and obey God, and express faith in His ability to care for them. Did they? No, not all of them! So were all of the Israelites chosen?  No, only a very few were.

Today we are required to do much the same except God has made it easier. He sent us His one and only son to pay the penalty for our sins. All we have to do is believe in Jesus, that he was crucified and died, and that God resurrected him, confess and ask for forgiveness, believe that he died for our sins, turn away from our sins and invite Jesus to be our shepherd.

Colossians 3:12 NLT Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.   

It’s really quite easy to do, its easier than you think to maintain and rewarding as well.

You’ve been called but have you been chosen? Have you accepted Jesus and given your life over to him?

Or, has your heart been hardened like Pharaoh’s?

Say this prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior.

Congratulations! You are now one of God’s chosen.