About livingwaterdesigns

I have been married to my high school sweetheart and pastor husband, George, for almost 23 years. We are currently serving St. John's Lutheran Church in Newark, Ohio which is a part of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations. We were both born and raised in Maryland, raised two beautiful daughters there, and now we have a granddaughter! We are both active in the Vineyard Via de Cristo chapter in Maryland. I have published writings on this blog, The Lutheran Ambassador, and the AFLC bulletin devotionals. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I pray that my writings glorify Him and inspire others along their journey of faith!

The Legacy You Leave Behind

“What matters in the end is the legacy that you leave behind. It is neither your wealth nor your various accomplishments that are the deciding factors but the seeds of love that you sowed. People will remember you for your acts of kindness, compassion, benevolence, piety, sympathy and the thoughtfulness that you had in your heart for others.”
― Latika Teotia

I recently had my first grandchild. It makes a person think even more about the legacy you want to leave for your family. The most important of these is a deep devotion to God… piety. I want my children and grandchildren to think back when I am on the other side of eternity and remember my love for God and my love for them. I want them to remember me singing songs of praise, reading Bible stories with them and applying what we read to how we are to live our lives. I want them to know that being kind, compassionate, caring, and thoughtful aren’t just things we SHOULD do…they are things we do because God shows those same things to us. All we have to do is love God and love our neighbors no matter how hard it may be. For all God has done to redeem us, it’s the best thing we can do to show our gratitude.

 

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of howtoadult.com

Quote courtesy of latikateotia.com

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Learning to Count It All Joy

One month after my husband graduated seminary, I got the worst phone call of my life… my brother, my only sibling, had committed suicide. I quickly hopped on a plane to Florida to be with my sister in law and the four young children he left behind.

So many questions ran through my mind…and I turned to God for strength. I knew I couldn’t change the situation but I asked God… what can I do to glorify you in this awful mess? God reminded me to be the light of Christ, and no matter what, He was there to be with our family. The last two years since that day, I have tried to show my family that no matter what we face in life, God wants us to always remember that all things work together for His good, to those that love Him, and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

As I have looked back on that part of my journey, I know why God had me rooted in the book of Philippians at the time… God wanted to remind me how to count all trials and tribulations in my life as pure joy. The book of Philippians helped me to understand that having the joy of the Lord is so important and vital to our faith walk because God’s Joy is our strength and power.

Both the Apostle Paul and James tell us when we are enduring trials count it all as joy… because when our faith is tested, our endurance grows, and when it fully develops we will be strong in the Lord and ready for the things life throws at us. The pursuit of deepening our relationship with God is continual because our world and our surroundings are constantly changing and little by little we increase the reflection of Christ in our lives.

Living a life of joy is a choice. You want to know the truth of how I got through… two important factors…

…with the help of some awesome ladies whose husbands were also in seminary with us… ladies who became my friends, ladies who are my sisters in Christ.

…and because deep down in my heart I have chosen to wholeheartedly trust that God’s promises are true…He loves me, He died for me, he doesn’t want me to be perfect but to be faithful and obedient, he wants me to share His love with the people I encounter, he wants the joy of the Lord to be my strength, and he wants me to always focus on Him. Sometimes it is hard to count your life as joy, I still struggle with it, and that is when I cling to God even more… so he can help me to find joy in the suffering.

I cling to Philippians 1: 9-11… “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation- the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ- for this will bring much glory and praise to God”.

God says that he has set before us both life and death. I say choose life. Live your life as God intended, counting it all as joy. Listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

Freedom, Responsibility, & Unity With Christ

Good morning! Today is July 4th. It’s a day that we, in America, celebrate our country’s independence. We celebrate with cookouts, spending time with family/ friends, and of course fireworks.

As I sit and think about the idea of gaining independence, my mind gravitates to thinking about the responsibility that comes with it. Being independent does afford us freedoms, but are we truly, 100% free? The answer is no. We are still under the authority of our government, in fact three branches of it, at national, state, and local levels. We are all under the authority of the law of the land and we must obey it. If you are still finishing your education, whatever level you are at, you are still under the authority of your school and your teachers. In the workplace, we are subject to the rules and regulations of our superiors. If you are still living in your parents house, whether you are an adult or not, you are bound to your parents rules and the way they choose to run it.

When we become adults, we feel as though we are free to do things we once weren’t allowed to do…drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, going to clubs, having a credit card, going into X-rated places, parading around at all hours of the night, buying your own car, buying your own house, marrying whom you choose to marry, speaking the way you want to, dressing the way you want to, acting the way you want to.

All of our freedoms come with great responsibility. Just because you are allowed to do things you once were not, does NOT mean you should. Each choice we make in life comes with consequences, both good and bad. Our choices don’t just affect us, but they affect the people around us as well. Let me give you some examples…

  • you can choose to drink alcohol (and that’s fine) but it comes with the responsibility to not become so intoxicated that you harm yourself or other people
  • you can smoke cigarettes (perfectly legal) but you are choosing to harm your body physically and harm the bodies of those most closest to you by breathing 2nd hand smoke
  • you can choose to do drugs but once you take that first dose of poison into your veins the craving for it becomes stronger and ultimately leads to death…leaving behind love ones to pick up the pieces your brokenness has caused
  • you can go to a club to go dancing (this can be pretty harmless) but it comes with the sexual responsibility of not hooking up with a different person each time
  • as an adult, to gain credit worthiness in our world, you must have a credit card… but it comes with the responsibility to NOT live outside of your means and NOT to become loaded with a huge lump of debt that you cannot pay for
  • you can choose to look at pornography or go to a strip club, but ultimately you hurt yourself and your relationships… both now and in the future… because those images are ingrained in your mind and lead you down a path that is very difficult to come back from (Just watch Ted Bundy’s last words and interview on YouTube, with Dr. James Dobson, before his death sentence was carried out… eye opening!)
  • buying your own car and house are things we all have to do, but comes with the responsibility of paying your bills on time and maintaining your property
  • Speaking how you want…dressing how you want…acting how you want… these are things that can be good, but come with the responsibility of being respectful of yourself and other people

All freedoms come with the price of responsibility, whether we like it or not. The responsibility we have keeps us in check, and ultimately keeps us from pushing the boundaries of sin. Freedom and independence are really about our relationship with God. If we are in an intimate, growing relationship with God, seeking to be more Christ like in our thinking and our actions, the more we understand the great responsibility we have and the price that was paid for it.

Jesus paid the ultimate price for ALL mankind when he took OUR sins, on HIS shoulders, and died on the cross. As sinners, saved by Grace, we have a great responsibility… and an immense freedom that comes with it.

Romans chapter 6 talks about freedom, responsibility, and being unified with Christ…

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves 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. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is THE ultimate freedom, THE ultimate independence, THE ultimate responsibility.

Are you living a life foundationally grounded in the freedom found in Christ alone? Are you unified with Christ so well that you understand the great responsibility it comes with? Or are you a slave to sin and have lost that freedom?

Ultimately, it is your choice… but I say CHOOSE CHRIST! There is no better way to live your life, no better freedom, no better responsibility, no better unification, than in an intimate, growing relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ! I pray that if you haven’t already, today you will choose Christ, and ultimately choose an eternal freedom found only in HIM.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of christbiz.com

 

 

Spending Time with “God Questions”

Good morning! Sorry about not posting the last two days but when you have severe wind and hail damage to your roof and it is leaking, it becomes priority! LOL! On to today’s post and the conclusion of our blog study on Ecclesiastes 3… today we will take a look at verses 16-22…

I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.” I also thought about the human condition—how God proves to people that they are like animals. For people and animals share the same fate—both breathe and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust. For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die.

Wow! There is a lot going on in this passage of Scripture! Solomon is a writer who writes about what he observes and the experiences he has. I am very much like that. I, like Solomon, see such corruption in the world in places there ought not be. You probably do as well. The corruption ranges from the highest levels of government down to local magistrates. We see it in our homes, on our T.V.’s, on the internet, at school, while shopping… we even see it in the church.

You can tell Solomon is upset about his observations, rightly so. But he reminds himself that in due time everyone will be judged when they come before the throne of Grace. He is also reminding himself that he can’t right every wrong in the world, that is God’s job. Continuing his observation of destructive and evil behaviors, he reflects on our human condition, and concludes that we are not that different than the animals. We are born, we breathe, and then we die. Then he asks a question… How do we really know that humans go to heaven when they die and animals return to the earth? Solomon ponders this question, and comes to the conclusion… We only get one life so we might as well make the most of it, and enjoy it, while we are here.

I wonder if he realized he had answered his own question in one of the previous verses! Verse 11 says…

Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

We differ from animals because we have the hope of eternity… God has planted it in our hearts! To really grasp the magnitude of this we have to understand that we were put on this earth for a purpose. We (humans) are instruments of God to carry out His divine plan for life. We have to understand that the only way to know God’s plan for our life is to continually seek His face. We can’t do it by ourselves. We have to be in an intimate relationship with God, through Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to be our compass. It takes building a relationship and openness with the Triune God to figure out our purpose in life.

Spend time asking yourself… Do I grasp the immensity of the hope I have in eternity?  Am I in communion with the Triune God, building an intimate relationship? Am I living the life that God wants me to live? Do I see my life as a gift from God?

Then ask God…Why on earth did you create me for such a time as this? What can I do with my life to bring more of you to the world?

God loves you and so do I?

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of mycongregationalchurch.com

 

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

Good morning everyone! Welcome to today’s blog post on our Ecclesiastes 3 series! If this is your first time joining us please go into our archives and read the other posts for this month. They are awesome! I thank all of our regular readers for following along with this Bible Study series, planted in the words of God through King Solomon! Let’s get going, continuing with verses 14&15…

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

This is what I see in these verses…

God’s has the last say and things will happen exactly as He has planned.

Our main objective in life is to fear God… to respect and stand in awe of who He is.

The things that are going on in the world are not new concepts and neither are the things that will happen in the future.

History repeats itself.

Wow, this is mind-blowing! But then if you think about it…is it really? Reflecting on my life, there are things that I experienced that I can clearly see as God’s plan. As hard as they were to be faced with, I know deep in my heart that it was God’s purpose for my life… the things I suffered in my childhood, my mother dying of cancer when I was 16, the year of torment I suffered following her death, meeting my now husband at the end of that year, gaining a new mom in the process (my now mother in law, Mary), having children at a younger age, almost dying giving birth to our younger daughter Kirsten, being advised after her birth that I should not have any more children, the devastating finality of having my tubes tied at age 23, learning to navigate through my marriage and being a parent when I harbored so much anger and mistrust (all at the expense of my family), overcoming addictive habits, being estranged from my father for 9 years.

Then God took hold of my life, at just the right time. He gave me a new life, a new family, made the family I helped create become stronger and more unified, helped to mend the broken relationship between my dad and I, solidified my marriage with Him at the helm, made me a better parent, helped me to grow quality relationships with my daughters, help me to also grow quality relationships with other family and friends.

I couldn’t have done it without looking at the world through my “God goggles”, changing the lens by which I view the world around me. And for that I stand in awe… God leaves me speechless a lot. I can see the intricacies of how He works, how He operates. And sometimes all I can do is just smile.

Now, when I experience life, I am well equipped and those experiences don’t cripple me like they used to. History has repeated itself in my life, all part of God’s plan. But the peace… the strength… the power I have to get through those trials, comes from a mighty God, the love of my Savior, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I continually stand in awe of God… remembering the great works He has done in my life… remembering that I need to look at my trials as great joy, because when my faith is tested, my endurance has a chance to grow… and God says when my endurance grows and is fully developed, I will be perfect, complete, and need nothing else. (James 1:2-4)

And to always stand in awe, just like the Apostle Paul did when he wrote to the church in Ephesus…

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. Eph. 1:5-11

How about you? Do you understand that everything happens according to God’s plan? Do you fear, respect, and stand in awe of who He is? Can you look at your past and determine how you will be changed when history repeats itself? Do you count your trials as great joy? Do you embrace your faith being tested and remember that your endurance is giving you a chance to grow? Do you understand that when your endurance to navigate this life is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing else? Do you realize that God chose you in advance to make everything work out according to His plan?

God loves you and so do I?

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of imgrum.org

 

Spending Time With God’s Perspective

Good evening! I have had something come up unexpectedly and wont be able to blog post tomorrow…so I grouped the verses together. Our Ecclesiastes 3 study continues tonight with verses 9-13…

What do people really get for their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

How do we stay content in this life with so much negativity, so much violence, so much grief. Do we ignore it? Do we keep it in the back of our minds like it doesn’t exist? Ignoring, or pretending the reality of the world doesn’t exist, or doesn’t affect us, is not a healthy state for us to be in. That is why Solomon shows us here in the first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes 3 that everything exists and operates in a proper balance. We cannot ignore that hate exists. We cannot ignore that war exists. We cannot ignore that killing, death, grief, and sadness exist.

What we can do is change the attitude of our hearts. The only way for us to find true contentment in our lives depends upon our attitude. If we constantly focus on the negative things, or on the contrary, ignore them all together, then we live in a state of disillusionment. It happens when we lose our sense of purpose…the purpose God put us on this Earth to accomplish for His Kingdom. When we keep our eyes focused on the work God has for us, we begin to realize the fruits of our labor are gifts from Him. Everything we do, everything we possess, every single minute of everyday we have is because of Him… the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Ultimately, we can never be satisfied with “earthly pleasures”. Maybe for a short window of time, but after a while the pleasure fades and we are right back to reality. Of all the people I have encountered, I have never heard any of them say that being addicted to earthly pleasures was fun and gave them hope. Maybe for a split second at first, but that “high” soon wears off and doesn’t help us learn how to change our lives for the better. Most of the time it only makes our situation worse.

God wants us to enjoy life, to live it to its fullest, to experience the beauty of His creation… but to do it in a way in which we don’t lose the proper perspective, His perspective. Then, and only then, will we discover that our joy and happiness comes from using the gifts God blesses us with, not in the stuff we accumulate.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of Proverb 31 Ministies

Love Through God Goggles

Welcome to today’s blog post on Ecclesiastes 3…we continue with verse 8

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

Such a contrast between these… love/hate, war/peace… But, God’s Word says, through King Solomon, that there is a proper time for both.

The first thing Verse 8 made me think of when reading it was the saying “love the sinner, hate the sin”. There are many people I know that live in sin… living together/sexual immorality outside of marriage, drug and alcohol addiction, people who are continually dishonest, cheat, or steal. I have friends who live in alternative lifestyles, people who have shopping/spending addictions, I have a friend that is addicted to food, I have people in my life that are dealing with abuse of some kind, friends who have anger management issues. Some of these people are Christians and some of them are not. But they all have one thing in common…my love.

If you have read some of my blogs, or you know me personally, you know that I love people! I have been a people person all my life. I was modelling my love for people, the way Jesus did, before I ever even gave my life to Him. I have always wanted to love people.

Growing up, I got into a lot of trouble. Some of my own doing, but some because of the company I kept. I always gave people the benefit of the doubt, never understood how someone could be cruel to someone else, and I always stood up for people that were picked on because I knew how it felt.

I had a lot of heartache in my childhood. I was picked on, made fun of, called names, had cruel jokes played on me more than once, and not just by kids at school but my own family as well. I never felt as though I really belonged anywhere. I always felt like an outsider and always felt like the “black sheep” of the family.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that Jesus started to change my perspective. I realized how to look at people through what I call, “God goggles”. My opinion of others behavior didn’t change but I was able to look at them with a new filter. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that people who are angry, bitter, committing crimes, abusing others, trying to escape reality with drugs, alcohol, or alternative lifestyles…they are people who are hurting… just like I was when I have displayed some of those traits in my own life. People express the hurt in their hearts in so many ways.

And so that is why I am friends with all types of people. I don’t discriminate. People have asked me “How can you be friends with so and so?” And I tell them, “Just because you can see their sin doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with some of those same sins, you just don’t see it.” With some people I do take more caution for obvious reasons… I can now love them but hate the things they do. How can I do this? I’ve learned something as a Christian that I wished I had learned a long time ago… boundaries. I stick to my boundaries and guarding my heart above all else.

The second thing verse 7 made me think of was war and peace… no, not the book! I thought about war and peace in my heart. There are times in my life when I have been at war with myself, at war with God, at war with other people. There have been times in my life when I have had extreme peace in my heart, contentment within myself, my relationships, and my faith. Like I wrote in yesterday’s blog post, it is possible to be in a state of two opposite conditions of the heart simultaneously.

One for me that comes up often is spiritual warfare. As a warrior in God’s army, I am constantly fighting to protect myself from the devil’s attacks but I am at complete peace because I know that no matter what fiery arrows come my way, God is walking alongside of me. He is my heavenly father, my protector, my healer, my counselor, my provider, my comforter, my strength, and my power. That is where my peace comes from. Without it I would be lost, just like I was before I found it. Without it, I would be just like the lost, hurting people I know, who have no hope.

I love to sing! If you know me, you know that about me too! There is a song that I love to sing when I am praising my Savior for all He is for me… Because of Who You Are by Vicki Yohe. She is my favorite gospel singer. In fact it is one of the songs I have been practicing to sing at church. These are the lyrics…

Because of who you are, I give you glory
Because of who you are, I give you praise
Because of who you are, I will lift my voice and say
Lord, I worship you because of who you are
Lord, I worship you because of who you are

You see your Jehovah, Jehovah Jireh, my provider
Jehovah Nissi, Lord, you reign in victory
Jehovah Shalom, my Prince of Peace
And I worship you because of who you are

The words to this song remind me that I am His and He is mine. He is my everything, just because of who He is.

Who is God to you? Is He your everything? Or do other things hold a higher place in your heart? Are you spending more time with God or with the things of the world?

How about those “God goggles”? Do you look at others through the eyes of Christ? Or do you sit in judgement at the speck of sin in the eyes of others, meanwhile forgetting the log of sin in your own?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of hannahhelpme.com

(and by the way, my chihuahua looks just like this pic!)