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A Southern Gal



1 Corinthians 2:9
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.

I think I’m a Southern gal.  I gravitate toward the passion of authors and speakers with Southern roots – spirit filled and showing it!  Not all the time, but some days I’m so full of God’s spirit my heart could burst and I find myself soaring on eagle’s wings.  I can’t describe it any other way.  Those Bible writers knew what they were talking about.  I run and don’t grow faint!

This breakthrough happened just before this blog started as a simple email sent to 8 friends.  I had just finished a study that required daily guided Scripture reflection with a few questions to ponder.  As a rule follower I thrive on an assignment and deadline, so (almost) daily I spent time really thinking about and applying God’s Word.  Not just learning, but using it.  That assignment was life changing.

I began to feel a very real connection.  God had already prepared me with lots of knowledge through study, but something changed.  I believed the knowledge enough to trust His promises and little by little, to lean on them.  And true to His Word, God filled me with more than I could have imagined. 

And all I want is for you to experience the amazing life He has prepared for you too!  I’d like to place my hands on your shoulders and shake you!  God has exciting, fulfilling, beyond amazing plans for you!  Even if I keep quiet, the stones will cry out!  Let’s bring a little passion to New England!

I love to hear what you’re thinking!  Please leave a comment to get the conversation going.  If you’d like to comment privately, you can email me at [email protected]

A Pile of Stones

When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe.  Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan.  Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”
Joshua 4:1-3 (NLT)
 
What’s with the pile of stones?  All through the Old Testament, stories end with the people erecting a pile of stones.  I used to think God would be angry about them
worshiping these monuments.  But they’re not worshiping the monument!  They’re
worshiping God at the monument which serves as a reminder of His action on their behalf.
 
The odd sight of smooth, round river stones piled one on top of another would have
drawn attention.  People would wonder, providing an opportunity to recount the story of when their powerful God parted the waters and led the Israelites into the Promised Land.  Many generations would remember that God generously provided.
 
God knows us well.  He knows we forget quickly and need physical reminders of His work in our lives – maybe a photo or trinket instead of a stone monument.  Remember often.  Then use the memories as a weapon to combat worry.  When your mind begins to fret, remember your powerful God has worked things out in the past and trust that He can and will generously provide again.

Puttering Along

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him.  This is the same mighty power that raised
Christ from the dead.
Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)
 
In God is Able, Priscilla Shirer paints an image of “a little old grandma-looking woman with gray hair and slumped shoulders that barely makes it over the steering wheel” putt-puttering along in a late model Mustang at 20 mph.  Got the picture?
 
It’s kind of cute and sweet, right?  But what a waste!  Think of all the untapped power, excitement and fun just waiting to be set loose in that car!  Instead of wowing admirers, the car and driver summon quaint, nostalgic thoughts – perhaps a bit sad.
 
The illustration could be a snapshot of what you and I look like as Christians.  But I’m not a gray haired old lady (yet)!  Shirer says we are:
 
Endowed by God with an enormous amount of power, yet tinkering along at a spiritual snail’s pace, taking up a lane but not really letting Him take us anywhere.  Trading adventure for what feels to us (deceptively) like complete control.  As
a result, not only do we miss out on feeling the wind of destiny and abundance
in our own hair, we also potentially clog up the pipeline of blessing for others coming up behind us.  We forfeit opportunities to show what happens when His foot is on the accelerator of our lives.
 
We were created to floor people when they see God’s mighty power at work inside us. Our juiced-up spiritual engines were made to purr with the joy and strength He provides.  We were meant to wheel into each day’s traffic with His high-octane ability and supernatural power coursing through our fuel lines.
 
What are you driving today?

No Worries!

Matthew 6:25-27 (NLT) -That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you
have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear… Look at the birds.  They don’t plant or harvest or store food in
barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. 
And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to
your life?

I struck a chord with yesterday’s
post.  Worry.  I haven’t received so many responses since launching this blog.  I hear you.  You worry! 
I understand because I’m a work in progress too.

God prepared me with a response in
that I’ve read several devotions about worry recently.  So let me pose a
few questions for thought:  Do you believe Jesus’ crucifixion saves you
from sin?  Do you believe God loves you
and has this power? 

In the Bible, God himself tells us
His power is infinite, limitless, and beyond our mind’s capacity to
comprehend.  Do you believe Him?  If God is able to forgive sin and has
infinite power, is He also able to provide for all your needs and save
you from
your little messes too? 

There’s a difference between
knowing intellectually that God is all powerful and living a life based on that
Truth.  Trust increases in baby steps as
you hand over one worry to Him and see that He resolves it (perhaps in a
surprising way – perhaps in a better
way).  This experience strengthens your
faith so you might consider allowing Him to guide you through another stress or
two.  Gradually you realize that God
really is in control.  He does
care.  He is involved in the details of your life.  Your knowledge is becoming belief, allowing
you lean harder into the Truth that God is able and you don’t need to worry so
much.

Fixing My Thoughts

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one
final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and
pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and
worthy of praise.
For the
most part, I don’t worry.  Maybe that’s a
character flaw, but I’m a glass ½ full kind of gal.
Oh, I
used to worry!  I’d lie awake all night
stewing.  I’d concoct what-if scenarios and
imagine the worst.  I’d play out
potential reactions and solutions.  I was
stressed and I was tired and everyone paid the price.  At some point (I was probably in some Bible
study) I consciously decided to start trusting God – believing God was good and
capable and in control. 
I
decided I wouldn’t worry about anything that was out of my control – like other
people’s actions.  When I lay awake with
my head spinning, I prayed myself back to sleep and hoped God didn’t mind being
used as a sleep aide.  When I started thinking
about a problem, I determined to pray about it instead of stew.  Every time my mind wandered away from prayer,
I pulled it back into conversation with God. 
I fixed my thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, and pure.
It
worked!  I slept better, but over the
long term God changed me.  I am far more
relaxed about life now.  It’s not that I
don’t care about things, but I trust that God has a plan and eventually works everything
for good.  I try to see the silver
lining.
Do you have
more thoughts about what you lack than gratitude for what you have?  Are you more focused on your problems than
you are on our God who is able to work all things for good?  Can you see past a person’s flaws to see the
good?
Stop
staring at your problems and think about things that are excellent and worthy
of praise!

Mind Control

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of
your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their
needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Matthew 9:4 (NLT)
Why do you have such evil thoughts in your
hearts?
My
Bible has a huge arrow highlighting Ephesians 4:29 with a bold, all caps note “MY
GOSSIP SCRIPTURE”.  When I need
reminding, a quick flip through the New Testament does it.  I truly, truly try not to gossip.  I’m not perfect, but I just steer clear of
those conversations.  Is this good?  Absolutely! 
Is this enough?  Not by a long
shot, because what goes on in my head is a completely different story and just
as evil.  
Jesus raised
the bar of the Ten Commandments by saying the person who thought lustfully had already betrayed their spouse.  Jesus chastised the law abiding Pharisees for
being shiny clean on the outside but filthy on the inside.  Jesus cares more about our hearts and minds
than he does about appearances.  I think
Jesus’ example about lust is intended for all
the things we shouldn’t do.
I’m in
trouble!  You too?  How can we stop the not-so-Christian mental soundtrack?  Don’t be discouraged.  We’re human. 
We can’t do it alone.  Only the
Holy Spirit can transform our hearts so we look at others differently.  (We can help by changing our soundtrack to
play back God’s Word too.)  When we see
ourselves as undeserving recipients of God’s love and forgiveness, it’s then
possible to see God’s other imperfect children through His eyes – with undeserved,
unconditional love.
Transform
your heart first and you won’t have to worry about appearances. 

Our Soundtrack

Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as
unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are
evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but
understand what the will of the Lord is.
My last
words to you posed a somewhat rhetorical question:  How do we learn to rely on God’s wisdom and
not our own?
Scripture.  Scripture. 
Scripture.
We draw
closer to the heart of God by getting to know Him through His Word (and prayer).  God reveals Himself to us in the Bible.  Jesus is the very image of God.  To gain wisdom, we must have His words on the
tip of our tongue and at the forefront of our thoughts.
This
was my own, matter-of-fact answer.  But
God had more to say about that so it is no coincidence that I came across #TheJesusProject
by Ann Voscamp yesterday.  She writes beautiful
words about storing Romans 8 in her heart:
Memorizing His words, turning them over in our minds, in our mess,
like raw-cut, unearthed diamonds, this is what rotated us…
. It
is only the turning the lines of Scripture that turn me around.

Nothing else has the sheer
strength to do that.
Every line of God’s Word is like an axle — turning the soul
around, moving the soul forward.
Getting me
there.
Without it, my life has no forward motion — I just ram
hopelessly about in the same ruts.
For a year, I
worked at not letting time or tasks get in the way of letting the axle turn…
Come summer, Romans 8 was a
soundtrack playing loud and steady and sure in my head
: “There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus…”
To-do lists could
yell at me at the end of the day. Emails lingered, piled unopened. Resolutions
splayed neglected. But
what the heart knows by heart can heal and hold the heart
, and
His Word would come again like the lullaby of a strong, rhythmic heartbeat to me
laying there wide awake… would come pull me close to thrum of the very
heartbeat of God: There is
therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…
To stay on track, every heart needs to know a soundtrack by heart.
Laying a life up against the chest of His Word, and hearing the
steady beat of His heart, is the only soundtrack that strengthens the human
heart.

Wise Guy

Ephesians 5:1 (NLT)
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly
loved children.
I am following an
online study from Good Morning Girls about being intentionally focused on God.  It just started yesterday, but God has added
messages from sermons and videos and conversations to lead me to think about
wisdom.  Haven’t we already been
observing how different our innate thinking is from God’s?  I’m sure this is no coincidence.
My study Bible sent
me flipping pages through Job, Proverbs, Psalms and Colossians.  Much is said about wisdom, but briefly (from
the notes):  God created wisdom and it is inherent in the created order.  God alone knows where wisdom dwells – no other
living being possesses this knowledge. 
For humans, the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom is to
properly reverence God, the giver of wisdom. 
All the treasures of wisdom are lodged in Christ, the image of the
invisible God.  Phew!
How do we learn to
rely on God’s wisdom that seems so illogical and not our own?

Faith is a Crutch for the Weak

1 Corinthians 1:18-28 (excerpts – NLT) –  I know very well how foolish the message of
the cross sounds.  God saw to it that the
world would never find him through human wisdom.  This foolish plan of God is far wiser that
the wisest of human plans.  God deliberately
chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they
are wise.  God chose things despised by
the world and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

Christianity
is a crutch for the weak.  Only people who
can’t think for themselves believe that nonsense.  Have you heard these statements?

Jesus’
teachings don’t always seem logical.  The
Bible says God can best use us when we are weak.  When we give our lives to Him, we receive a
more abundant life.  You can’t understand
these truths until you actually experience them.  No, it doesn’t make sense.  It’s faith. 
People who operate completely by worldly wisdom don’t get it.

This
world thrives on recognition, admiration and importance.  A person who believes the Bible is considered
a weakling in need of a religious crutch to cope with life.  While meant as an insult, it’s actually quite
true.  Believers recognize their
inability to help themselves and lean on Christ to give them strength.  We admit we are not God.

God is
not looking for great and impressive people, but for weak, humble servants who
know they need Him – for whom Jesus alone is their strength and wisdom.

Upside Down

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
 
Sometimes Jesus doesn’t make sense.  Not only do His ideas directly contradict worldly values, they seem completely illogical.  Turn the other cheek.  Bless those who curse you.  You are stronger when you are weak.  Jesus’ instructions don’t make sense because we can’t experience the benefits of living His way until we step out in faith and actually do it.  Only then do we understand God’s logic (which, by the way, is higher than ours). 
 
The world told me, and for years I believed, that successful people were in control and could take care of themselves.  Only weak people needed help.  Pride told me I didn’t need counseling or medication.  Pride kept my past mistakes and ongoing suffering hidden.  I wore the mask of a strong, capable, self-reliant, model church lady.  And I was secretly miserable.
 
It was only when, with a shaky voice and pounding heart, I opened up to some trusted friends that I began to see the logic in Jesus’ teachings.  My friendships deepened because I was truly known (and still loved!).  Humbling myself was terrifying and risky, but I felt the immense freedom of authenticity.  Doesn’t Scripture say the truth will set you free. 
 
That was an enormous turning point in my faith journey.  Being honest with my friends enabled me to be real with God.  I am a mess.  I need Him every day.  And when I am humble before God, He fills my life with more strength and joy than I can describe.  Who would guess?  I am strong because I am weak.
 
May you also experience God’s upside-down wisdom.

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Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

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