Beauty for Ashes

 

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             “God makes all everything beautiful in his time.”  ( Ecclesiastics 3:11)

The Bible tells us that God wants to take our struggles and make something beautiful from them. His plans are good for us even in the mist of a storm.  Jeremiah 29:11  tells us “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

If 2016 brought you disappointment, sorrow, or discouragement, this post is for you. None of us are immune to pain. It is part of His plan. But the beautiful part is that he:

Consoles those who mourn in Zion,

to give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

( Isaiah 61:3)

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution? I have and its based on this verse. May God bring beauty from the ashes in my life. I’m trusting this verse to bring me the joy, peace, and love that I desire in 2017.

Why do we go through the fire?

Psalm 84:6 tells us that As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools.”  

Those of us that go through times of mourning and weeping we make a well, so the next person has water to drink from. Their pain is not as hurtful. We are able to encourage, help ,and love on those that are mourning.

If you haven’t thought of a word or phrase to define your journey into 2017 join me in this phrase based on God’s promises!

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Linking up with: Coffee for your heart 

Life is a great Balancing Act

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Balance

When life is filled with so many options, responsibilities, and expectations, how do we find balance in today’s fast paced world ?

 One of my first jobs was working in a restaurant as a waitress. The very first things I had to learn to do was how  to  balance a tray with food and drinks on top. I was wobbly  at first. Through all the busy nights and crowded alleys it was quite a talent to continue to balance that serving tray and make sure it would not fall. And, yes, a few times it did drop. 😦

Although I am not a waitress, I often still feel as though I am balancing a serving tray in my hands consisting of work, home chores, God, family, friends, fun, nutrition, and exercise.

And at times it feels at any a moment everything can come falling down off that tray.

 One insult, change in plans, illness, can cause me to shift into a state that looks just like a pile of dishes and drinks that have just crashed to the floor. That is too much weight to carry…

Knowing that I was never meant to feel so weighted down in life…I find rest in this verse.

 Matthew 11:29 says: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  

I wrote about my life being in the “Waiting Place” a few months ago. And thank goodness I can say that life has speed up in the right direction. I’m so grateful that everything unraveled for the good in my predicament. Now, a few months later, I feel a bit overwhelmed and rushed for time and it can even be hard to prioritize. Reflecting once again on the ever so popular book,  ” Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. The words that resonated the most were:

 “Life’s a Great Balancing Act”  ~ Dr. Seuss

Balance

A heard a wonderful story from a friend describing how we can keep our priorities in order. The story was surprisingly simple but powerful. It involved a jar, rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. Today, I am still gleaning from the wisdom of this story.  As I’m working on my to-do list, I am still trying to find a time and place for everything to fit.

A high school science teacher wanted to demonstrate a concept to his students. He takes a large-mouth jar and places several large rocks in it. He then asks the class, “Is it full?

“Unanimously, the class reply, “Yes!”

The teacher then takes a bucket of gravel and pours it into the jar. The small rocks settle into the spaces between the big rocks.

He then asks the class, “Is it full?”Seek first the kingdom of God

This time there are some students holding back, but most reply, “Yes!”

The teacher then produces a large can of sand and proceeds to pour it into the jar. The sand fills up the spaces between

the gravel.

For the third time, the teacher asks, “Is it full?

“Now most of the students are wary of answering, but many reply, “Yes!”

Then the teacher brings out a pitcher of water and pours it into the jar. The water saturates the sand.

At this point the teacher asks the class, “What is the point of this demonstration?” 

One bright young student raises his hand and then responds, “No matter how full one’s schedule is in life, he can

always squeeze in more things!”

“No,” replies the teacher, “The point is that unless you first place the big rocks into the jar, you are never going to get them in. The big rocks are the important things in your life …your family, your friends, your personal growth. If you fill your life with small things, as demonstrated by the gravel, the sand, and the water…you will never have the time for the important things.

So, what are the “Big Rocks” in your life? Spending time with your children, your parents or your spouse? Taking the seminar or class to get the information and perspective you need to succeed? Making the time to set goals, plan or evaluate your progress? When you are hassled because there is no time, remember the story about the Big Rocks and the Jar!

~Author Unknown

As I continue this year with new possibilities. I am going to think about this lesson that this wise teacher gave to his students, and continue to  hold myself accountable to the “Big Rocks.” First, what are my priorities and why? And then watch how everything else falls around and inside those priorities. With the most important rock being God, I am reflective of this well-known verse…

“Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” ( Matthew 6:33)

The bible tells us in James: ” that are life is like a vapor.” ( James 4:14)  We have a finite or limited amount of time to complete the good work that God has already prepared for us. It can become easy to become distracted from the will of God with the “cares of this world.” I know I watch too much TV and fall short in so many different areas as well. Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to : “… lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..”

 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

(I Corinthians 13:13)

You can’t take it with you–Your stuff !

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So often we chase after an allusive monetary value that we think will bring us happiness. A higher salary translates into the possibility that we can: Buy a new boat, new clothes and accessories, go on fabulous vacations, or perhaps remodel our home from top to bottom. The list could go on and on…you can fill in the blank with whatever you choose.

The truth is that all the riches in the world can’t buy us joy, peace, patience,  goodness, and love. A new thing can bring excitement, and a little bit of happiness, but those previous attributes are what makes life fully satisfying.

Money does not buy happiness, but being true to yourself and your values will always bring a return that is immeasurable.

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http://quotetoremember.blogspot.com/2014/01/ confessions-of-shopaholic-2009.html

Recently,  I watched the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic.  It is a relatable and comical movie. The vivacious character Rebecca Bloomwood played by, Isla Fisher, has a problem with shopping.  And buying on credit– which your probably guessed by the title of the movie. Her debt becomes a rather nagging problem with an intense debt collector who is expecting Rebecca to pay a surmountable amount of money accumulated by her excessive use of credit cards.

Her character is easy to sympathize with… Let’s face it, we all like to shop, and while shopping, we acquire stuff, and sometimes far to much stuff. At the time, we convince ourselves that we must have it. Similar to Rebecca, I have gotten my fair amount of calls from debt collectors and it doesn’t feel good. It is hard to live within your means when every store window, store ad, and commercial is telling you: Yes, you should buy this.

Buying what we need and what we want in proper moderation is hard! My husband and I are currently in the process  of paying as much as we can to eliminate credit card debt. And to not buy things that we don’t need.

Its understandable and relatable that the character of Rebecca Bloomwood wants to feel good about herself and clothes and new accessories will do that momentarily. But the problem is– as Rebecca finds out– to keep this expensive habit she has to lie to her employee, her debt collector,  her friends, and her family.

But the biggest lie she had to tell  was to herself. She believed that she needed these clothes and accessories to make her happy. All it brought was problems, loss of relationships and emotional despair (due to the debt). She lied to herself about what the true definition of happiness is. So often we do this as well…

Money does not buy you happiness. And stuff does not by you happiness either. When Rebecca Bloomwood tries to explain why she shops she has an unsettling response.

Because when I shop the world gets better. The world is better. And then it’s not anymore. And I need to do it again.” (Rebecca Bloomwood, Confessions of a Shopaholic http://quotetoremember.blogspot.com/2014/01/ confessions-of-shopaholic-2009.html .)

Rebecca, finally does resolve her credit debt. With so many high fashion clothes and accessories, she decides to have a sale with her clothes as the merchandise. With help from her family and friends, the sale is a success and she is set free from the bondage of her credit card debt because with her sales money she is finally able to pay off the debt.

The bible tells us  that we are to,

… lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,   looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God  (Hebrews 12 1-2).

We need to let go of every sin, or bondage, if we want to live in the freedom of Christ. We are not equipped to or asked to suffer the way Jesus did on this earth, but we each have our own cross to bear. And that struggle may be an addiction of some sorts, and not necessarily with shopping. It could be drugs and alcohol ,pornography, unhealthy eating habits( you can be addicted to food). Whatever the sin is, it can trap or ensnares us and we need Jesus to help us break free. Our time on earth is finite, so lets run our race well. This includes me too… I have several addictions that I need to break free of myself.

Rebecca Bloomwood is such a relatable character because we all struggle with letting go of the items or possessions that we have acquired.

The things that we acquire in life are nice but they do not define us. They may feel as though they  are an extension of our emotions, character and hopes and dreams. But this is not true it is just an allusion. It is just stuff. And these items have an  expiration date…at some point they will become out of fashion, broken, torn, unworn, and unwanted or unneeded. The things in life will always decay grow old damaged and worn. Just as we grow old these things we own die too, but….

 

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 The richest moments in life may come when we are poor in income but strong in wisdom, friendship, and love.

The bible says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into heaven” (Matthew 19:24).

The conversation was that the rich man asked what was required of him to enter into heaven. And Jesus wanted him to sell what he had and use the money to help the poor. The rich man walked away sad because he could not do this.

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. ”But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich (Luke 18:22-24).

Those that do inherited riches and wealth in this lifetime have a hard path to navigate. Because sin so easily ensnares us and we live in a world that is infatuated with images to make us believe we need more stuff. This story is so sad but true. We see it daily.  The rich man was unable to let go of his earthly wealth to gain true wealth and happiness and eternal life in God’s kingdom.

He was unable to look beyond the here and now because God was offering him treasures in heaven. And how often do we do the same. Our perception remains limited to the here and now and we forget where our treasure should lie.treasuresinheavenorg

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.   For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6-19-20).

More important than buying clothes and accessories, electronic devices, trinkets, and gadgets –which are all earthly treasures– the bible tells us that we should lay up treasures in heaven where moths and rust can’t destroy them. But the good deeds that we do for our family and friends will last for eternity. These types of treasures have value of immeasurable worth because these acts of kindness carry on into eternity. In other words they will last forever.

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The problem with laying up treasures on earth is that they will never really satisfy. And so often the things we buy today becomes tomorrow’s junk. If it’s clothes it gets worn, torn, and eventually may end up as a rag to dust with. Or the stuff that we buy may end up in a pile of junk in our garage.

God has been laying on my heart the importance of storing up treasures in heaven and not worrying about the stuff that I have acquired, because, quite frankly, we can’t take it with us. The things that we acquire in life are nice but they do not define us. As I have been working on going through items in my kitchen, bedroom, and living room etc. I have been finding that I have so many things that I no longer use or need. And  when I packed it all up and gave it to goodwill, I was not only helping someone else, but also myself.  Because it is not good to have too much clutter in your house.  By having less, I feel I am more blessed. Because now I have less clutter and less mess. And peace of mind knowing that I am trying to give to others the things that I don’t use.

The bible tells us “It is better to give than receive”  (Acts 21).

We all have a moral compass and doing the right thing even when it is not in your best interest will bring you happiness as it builds character. In fact, often selflessness, the opposite of materialism, is what makes us happy.  I am always blessed when I am able to do for others. First, I have to take care of myself, my house, my family. But in times when God has been generous to me and I am able to give to others–I feel a very special glow of happiness.

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Furthermore, Luke 14-12-14  states:

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

This verse is a reminder to not just do good to my family, friends, and co-workers who are able to recipicate. But to help the poor and those who are disabled and unable to repay because that is the will of God. Jesus tells us that that even if we give a glass of cold water to another in His name, that we will be rewarded.

And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward  ( Matthew 10:42).

All the money in the world can not compare to a life knowing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How do we know Him? We can spend time in his word and spend time in prayer throughout the day.  I need his grace to help my perception each and everyday. Knowing that my life is but a vapor (James 4:14).  I will try to fix my eyes more on “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

We all know that we can’t take anything with us when we die.  Our stuff will be left behind. And when we die our bodies will remain,  but our spirit will be risen and we will be given new bodies in heaven.  However, our relationships with one another will remain. And the good deeds we have done will have eternal value. My prayer is that God would continue to mold and shape me, as He is the potter and I am the clay, so that I can reflect his Son more each and everyday (Jeremiah 18:6).

 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:12- 13) .

While on this earth we will not have the perception to see clearly. We don’t always realize what is important and what is not. But when we get to heaven we will see clearly. And what will be the most important attribute to have in heaven is love. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). It is our entryway into heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever would believe should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 

 

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