Author Archives: livingwaterdesigns

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 and raised two beautiful daughters there too. 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!

Freedom, Responsibility, & Unity With Christ

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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”

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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

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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

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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

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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!)

Spending Time in Conditions of the Heart

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Spending Time in Conditions of the Heart

Good morning everyone! We are on to verse 7 in Ecclesiastes 3 this morning. If you are following along on your study map (found on my blog post A Time for Everything Under Heaven) you can see we are halfway through this awesome journey in Ecclesiastes 3. I want to thank each of you for reading my blog posts and learning along with me what God’s Word, through King Solomon’s writings, says about spending time and God’s proper timing for everything under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says…

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

Tearing, mending, silence, and speech…

Historically this passage refers to times of mourning and times of coming out of mourning. The Bible gives us many examples of the tearing of clothing as a sign to others that they were in this state. At St. John’s Lutheran, we are studying the book of Esther in our ladies Bible study. In Chapter 4 of Esther, Mordecai opens the scene with tearing his clothes off because he is in deep distress after learning about Haman and King Xerxes’ plot to annihilate all the Jews. This is one example God’s Word tells us about this historical act.

Ultimately the tearing of clothes had significant meaning…outward signs of the state of a person’s heart… shame, guilt, anger, grief, loss, intense pain, deep distress, sorrow, and humility. This was a powerful public expression of such emotions. This outward display of emotions was often carried out in silence but sometimes did coincide with weeping, wailing, and words.

Today, we don’t practice the act of tearing our clothes off when our hearts are hurting. We do other things… crying out to a friend or close family member, wearing dark clothing, screaming in anger… sorrow, pain and distress can be heard in our wailing and weeping, lowering our heads in humility and shame. All of these emotions can also be seen in the silent expressions on our face.

Eventually, when our lamenting is over, our heart begins to mend, just like the Jews would mend their clothes back together when their mourning was complete. The silence is broken with words of comfort, encouragement, and even laughter.

Some of us are in a state of mourning, or lamenting, as I write this blog post. Some of us are in a state of mending our hearts because the trial is over. Is it possible that we could be in both conditions in our hearts at the same time? I believe we can.

We go through so many experiences in this journey through life, all at the same time. We could be mourning the loss of close friend and also be rejoicing in the birth of a child. We can be hurt at a situation with a co-worker, but at the same time, be happy at the way the situation is handled by our boss. We can be proud of one of our children for reaching their goal and be disappointed in another for choosing the wrong path.  We can be severely angry at the way a family member is treating us… but be calm, peaceful, and level headed because we are seeking to display the Fruits of the Spirit that God has taught us.

I believe Jesus gives us the ultimate example of being in the state of both conditions when he was hanging on the cross… weeping and lamenting, crying out in pain and agony, but rejoicing in the task He knew He had to suffer as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind, reconciling us to God.

Where are you today? In a state of mourning and lamenting over the current condition of your heart? Or are you rejoicing and mending the broken pieces back together? Or perhaps, are you in a state of both conditions?

We would love to hear the stories of your hearts… what are you are going through in this crazy thing we call life?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of 123rf.com

 

 

 

 

 

To Keep Or Not To Keep?

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To Keep Or Not To Keep?

Good evening and welcome to tonight’s blog post. We are continuing with our study in Ecclesiastes 3, taking a look at verse 6…

A time to search and a time to stop searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

If you have read my blog post a few weeks back titled The Gift of Gab, you will know that I have been overwhelmed with the amount of things we have accumulated. With adult children in the house it has been difficult to keep up. (One daughter is expecting a baby in Sept. and the other just moved back home after graduating college) Verse 6 has been something that I have had on my heart for a while, especially the keeping and throwing away part. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of has been a challenge but I have left it up to God to show me what is important and what isn’t.

I have lots of books because I love to read. I have an elaborate craft room because I love to create and do art. I have boxes of my “skinny clothes” in the attic because I have been dropping weight and want to fit into them again. (I have gone down almost two whole sizes already! Yay!) I have a lot of knickknacks, glassware, silver, and china that I have inherited or were given to me as gifts. I mean really, who needs two sets of formal china and silver in this day and age?

I have already cleaned out a considerable amount of books. God said… it’s OK, you can go to the library and get any book you need. So out they went. I have gone through my art room, gathered up the things I don’t use, and took them to church for craft supplies. God said… its OK, you are not using this stuff anyway. So out it went. Even though I have been losing weight, I went through my “skinny clothes” anyway, gathering up what I know I wont wear. God said… its OK because your taste in clothes has changed over the last 6 years and some of those clothes don’t go with your new style. Now going through the knickknacks were easy! So bye bye! God said loud and clear…you don’t like to dust them anyway. Now I am on to the glassware, silver, and china. This I was wrestling with. All of these are valuable, whether monetarily, sentimental, or both. Some of the pieces I have are from our grandmothers and were handed down to us when they passed. Some of the pieces were given to us as wedding gifts, anniversary gifts, or just gifts in general…but they all have meaning, memories attached to each one. Of these things, God has said to me…these are things you keep to remind you of memories of special events, special people, and blessings of both.

What about you? Do you have things that you need to decide…is this a time to keep or is it a time to throw away?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of frugalandthriving.com.au

 

Cultivating Time

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Cultivating Time

Hello! Welcome to our blog! Today in our blog post we will be continuing our study of Ecclesiastes 3 with verse 5…

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

I will admit this verse puzzled me at first when I read it in my NLT Bible above. So I looked at what it says in The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson…

A right time to make love and another to abstain. A right time to embrace and another to part.

The Message Bible is not an exact translation, so I went into further study in my amplified Bible and it says…

A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

In pondering different versions of this passage, I couldn’t help but to think of a garden. I love gardening! So much so that I am willing to put my body at risk due to the immense nature of my outdoor allergies. (The patch of eczema on my shin that I can’t get rid of proves it! LOL) This verse makes me think of all the times in the Bible where God’s Word talks about a vineyard. A garden, or a vineyard, are the same in terms of the work it takes to cultivate it. Time to clear away the “stones” in order for the ground to be just right and time to build those “stones” back up again around the perimeter to protect it from invading pests.

As I sit here meditating on these words of King Solomon, I think about the “stones” in my heart that since becoming a Christian I have had to “cast away”… anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, impulsiveness, idolatry… just to name a few. I also reflect on the “stones” I have had to “gather”, to rebuild my heart…love, peace, joy, trust, faith, patience, gentleness, self-control. I thank God every day that He brought me to a place in my heart where I was open to receiving Him and willing to let Him be the captain of my faith journey. After all, He isn’t called the the Lord and Giver of Life for nothing!

So now I think about the second part of this verse… to embrace or not to embrace. It seems there is a time for both of these as well. I remember times in my life when I have had to embrace situations, both good and bad. Along with that, there have been times in my life when certain situations have arisen that I simply could not embrace.

Now I wonder… what do the two parts of this verse have to do with the other?

Relationships!

In any relationship, whether it be with a friend, someone you are dating, your spouse, a family member, a co-worker, or someone you just met… relationships take a lot of work to cultivate. In order to have healthy relationships your heart has to be in the right place, sowing those good seeds we talked about in a previous blog post. Why? Because you can’t grow and produce good fruit in your garden unless you “cast away stones”, just like you won’t have healthy relationships if you have stones in your heart that get in the way.

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, how do you cultivate it to make it healthy? By “gathering stones” of a different sort. Stones that build up, not tear down. Stones that protect your heart and protect the hearts of those who you are in relationships with.

Changing ground, or relationships, to be fertile and produce good fruit, takes time. Sometimes a lifetime. God will help you . His Word contains a wealth of ideas of how to do it. Ask yourself , and God, these questions…

Do I have “stones” in my heart that are affecting my relationships? If so, how can I tear them down and build them back up again in order to cultivate good fruit?

How can I replace those “stones” with ones of a different sort, ones that protect my heart and the hearts of those around me?

Are there certain relationships in my life I should embrace and are worth taking the time to fix? Are there ones I need to turn away?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of makeroomforgreatness.com

 

 

 

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

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God Moments in Ecclesiastes

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, the sun just starting to rise above the tree line, I can’t help but to chuckle and stand in awestruck wonder. I know God has a sense of humor. He shows it to me all the time and right now is one of those moments.

I am not a morning person, far from it by any sense of the phrase and yet I sit here @ 5:45 am writing today’s next blog post in the Ecclesiastes study we have been going through. I have just gotten back from a trip to the E.R. with my 7 month pregnant daughter, Kimberly. (If you have been reading our blog, I talked about her a few posts ago) She has had very severe heartburn with this pregnancy, severe anemia, and started swelling recently so when she woke me up @ 3 in the morning in severe pain, I followed the doctors orders and took her in, worried that she might be developing pre-eclampsia because it runs in my family. As we were running out the door, something told me to grab a book off of my bookshelf and bring it with us.

You see, this was not just any book. It was my second copy of Erma Bombeck’s book Forever Erma. I have two copies of this book for a special reason. The first copy I have was given to me by my mother-in-law, Mary. (Who became my mom when I was 17, when my husband and I started dating a year after my own mother had passed away of cancer) When I went into preterm labor with our younger daughter Kirsten, she had brought the book with her to the hospital and read it to me from my bedside to help take the focus off of the pain and direct it in a positive way. I went into preterm labor a total of 9 times during my third trimester, and each time she would bring the book and read it. We would laugh, we would cry, and she would tell me stories of experiences she had with being a mother, just like the journal entries Erma Bombeck wrote down and recorded for the world to read in this book. Inside the back cover are written all the important phone numbers and notes Mom needed just in case, scribbled in her handwriting. I will never part with this book. It means the world to me, I cherish it. So when I came across a copy at Half Price Books one day for $2, I bought it, for such a time as this.

So, in keeping with tradition, I took it along with us to the hospital tonight and read it to my daughter, to help take her mind off of the pain she was experiencing and turn it into something positive. As I sped up to the emergency room, got her into the nurse’s hands, who just so happened to be outside the door bringing a wheelchair in, I quickly parked the car. As I got out, I paused for a moment and the tears started to flow. I stood there, in the silence of night, and prayed to God that my child and my unborn grandchild would be alright. I quickly wiped away my tears and headed in to join her. As we sat in the labor and delivery room, I read to her. We laughed, she shared her worry, we talked about motherhood, and when the nurse came in and heard me reading to her, she couldn’t help but smile. I was reading Erma’s journal entry from May 12, 1974 (which was written 1 month after I was born). It was titled When God Created Mothers. (If you haven’t read this book I highly recommend it) When Kimberly noticed the smile on the nurse’s face she immediately said, “It’s a tradition in our family.” and I explained why.

As we came home, and I helped get her settled, I told her I loved her, and off to bed she went. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging to me to just stay up and write my blog post now. Because I am not a morning person, I hesitated, but obediently came back to sit down at my computer. (along with a cup of coffee!) As I read the verse I had planned to do for today’s blog post, I started to cry and laugh all at the same time. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says this…

A time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance.

Tonight, God showed me that this verse is certainly true. We can even go through it all in a short time frame, even in the span of a few hours, sitting in hospital room.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of umcrp.org

 

Ecclesiastes 3:3

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Ecclesiastes 3:3

Good Morning! Today in our Ecclesiastes 3 blog post series we are going to focus on verse 3…

A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build up. Eccl. 3:3

OK…i understand that this is a passage that can be a little controversial. Especially with what is happening in our world in terms of guns and mass killings. The politics in our country, and all over the world, are fighting over this very subject, among others things. A time to heal, tear down then build back up again…those are more acceptable, but the real kicker is a time to kill.

I have had to take a great look at this one and decide for myself which view I hold… is it OK for Christians to carry guns for self-defense? For me biblically I have decided that this is permissible. Don’t worry, this will NOT be a blog post about persuading you to be pro conceal and carry. I would not push my views on this, or any subject, onto anyone. I am just writing how I believe God wants us to read His Word.

A time to kill…

Obviously there are times it is permissible by God to kill. God gives us those examples in Scripture… in times of war would be one. To understand this myself I had to do a lot of questioning, a lot of searching Scripture for the answers.

There is a distinct difference between killing and murdering. God tells us in His Commandments in Exodus that we should not murder. The original Hebrew word for murder literally means, “the intentional, premeditated killing of another person with malice.”

I read in another blog post called Cold Case Christianity about this distinction and it says this…

Malice is a form of evil intent that separates “murder” from “killing”. Even today there are acceptable forms of killing that lack this kind of evil intent, and these forms of killing exist as exceptions in the murder laws of the United States. In California, for example, a homicide is justified (according to Penal Code sections 187, 196 and 197) if one of the following conditions is met:

A person kills someone accidentally
A person is trying to defend him or herself and prevent his or her own murder (self-defense)
A person is trying to prevent someone from entering his or her house to commit some violent felony
A person is trying to prevent the murder of someone else (protecting an innocent)

In all these situations, killing is actually legal and justifiable, and exceptions of this nature exist in the Penal Codes of every state in America. Even those who don’t accept the existence of God or the authority of the Bible recognize the necessity for laws like these; laws that allow for deadly force to be used to accomplish some greater good.

With all that is happening in our world today, I am a conceal and carry proponent. After all my studying, I see that it really isn’t the guns that make the distinction between killing and murder, but rather the person’s intent behind the gun.

What are your thoughts? Ultimately you have to make decisions like these based on what you interpret God’s Word to say… and God’s word does say there is time to kill.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie