I’ve got ‘marriage’ on the brain! My garden needs some work!

‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?’

Why does this come to mind this morning? Well, the first thing I read this morning was Prov. 24:30-34, “I went by the field of the lazy man, And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; It’s surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down…”

Well, I am thinking about marriage. My marriage. My marriage is most precious to the Lord. I need to always understand that!

So why do I think of my marriage when I think of gardens? Well, to keep a garden beautiful, you’ve got to attend to it! We all know that! How those weeds grow and grow, and if we don’t go out there, continuously,(not just one time) we will end up with our beautiful garden ‘all overgrown with thorns!’

So Proverbs 24 continues, “When I saw it, (the broken down wall and garden) I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction:     A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest; So shall your poverty come like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.”

‘I considered it well,  not only being lazy, but be quite contrary-will not a beautiful garden grow!

God help us in our marriages! We need you Lord to keep us ‘awake’ and fill us with understanding that we might have the BEST Marriages. Yes, B-E-S-T, that we can be a Blessing to our mate. That we might Edify him or her. Lord that we take the time to Share our hearts and time with each other. and yes Lord, to understand the importance of Touch!

Thank you for giving me understanding to know in my heart that THIS is how I can bless You Lord!

Does anyone know where my gardening gloves are? I’ve got a garden to tend to!

 

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‘Your love has captured me!’

My first thought is part of a song: “Everywhere I look, I see Your face. Your love has captured me, O my God, this love, how can it be.” When I think of the words, “Your love has captured me, O my God this love, how can it be”, I think of my daughter engaged to be married to her best friend in about 8 months. One engagement photo came out and all I could think of is , ‘he loves his girl and she loves her man!’

But my thoughts are much like a collage-they are all over the place.

So, then I think of the verse on the very first page of the Bible:  ‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in our image, in Our likeness…”‘

Then,  I think how  He is the amazing Creator. How He is the most amazing Artist there is, and we are created in His likeness- we love being creative! We love cooking creations and flower creations and painting and drawing creations, music creations- we are obviously created in God’s image (and the animals are not!) And in all of this ‘joy of creating’ I see ‘His face’ so to speak! I see the Lord in all of it!

So, being that God is speaking  to me  like a collage today, I now think of my dear Bette. Bette is my most special mother-in-law who loves art and collage-ing, but so unfortunate, is suffering with  Altzeimer’s disease this present day. But as sad as it is, I have to say, so much of Bette is still so alive in my memory. You see, she saw beauty in so many things. So she loved collecting things and then arranging them in a beautiful way,and  ‘just so’ I might add!  I see the Lord, in her love to create-it brought so much joy to her,(the creator of each of her little creations, and they brought us joy, because she enjoyed them, and they brought beauty in our lives.)

So when I sit with my daughter Carolyn who is planning for a wedding, it is so precious to me how important it is to have the ‘perfect’ dress, ‘just the right’ table setting and ‘just the right’ photographer, because it is all going to come together for a once in a lifetime picture and a forever memory. You see, this is a very ,very important day! This is her wedding day we are talking about!  So ‘everywhere you look’ on a bride’s wedding day she wants you to enjoy every moment- everything matters. She wants the day to be beautiful. ‘Everywhere I look, I see Your face…’ It all reminds me of the beauty of the Lord.

So my thoughts  in my head intertwines song-picture. ‘Your love has captured me, O my God this love- how can it be?’ ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.’ (Eph 5:31,32). (Do we love our Jesus like this! does His love  still capture us?)

This is the great mystery; Jesus perfectly beautiful, loves us so much. And love is what He asks for.Yes, love is what we were created for! Eve ate the apple first, but  Adam ate it after, so he could be with her. And we are stained with sin today, but Jesus paid our debt so we can be clothed in white, and be presented to Him! What a glorious mystery!

This sweet couple just can’t wait to FINALLY be together! What a glorious day it will be!

And Jesus just loves His bride-He just wants us to love Him.

Have you told Jesus you love Him recently?

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

I’m kind of thinking of a song right now!  “I love you Lord. and I lift my voice, to worship You, O my soul rejoice.

Take joy my King, in what You hear,

let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

‘Just do it!’ Metamorph NOW!

So it is clear now, that the reason I write is not because I do anything right, it is actually because I am stubborn and hard-hearted naturally. I am ‘prone to sin’.

In reading Isaiah 8:1, “The LORD also spoke to me again saying,”… I knew that the words to follow were words that were told to Isaiah and he was inspired by God to write them in his book. He was a prophet of God and many, many of his prophesies we sing at Christmas as they spoke of the Christ Child -way before he was born!

But that is not how I read these words this morning. You see, “The LORD also spoke to ME again saying…”

And the word ‘again’ means that He has tried to tell me these things before. So here is what the LORD says:

(Is. 8:1,5)”The LORD also spoke to me again, saying: “Inasmuch as these people refused the waters of Shiloah that flow softly…Now therefore, behold, the LORD will bring up upon them waters of the river, strong and many…”

In other words, God spoke to me, not Isaiah this morning. And He, the LORD spoke to me again,  “Because you have refused the peace that I promised, your soul will become flooded and overwhelmed by a raging river of trouble and anxiety.”

Do you mean to say that God wants me to walk moment by moment each day with a banner of victory, namely Peace?  O God, it is then that I identify with the lowly catapiller  who so longs to metamorph and be able to fly.

But You have taught me how to fly – You have shown me, over and over again, so I say to my soul,
“Be Still my soul, the LORD is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God, to order and provide; In every change, He faithful will remain. Be still my soul!Thy best, thy heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

God has shown me how to walk in peace. It’s kind of like the NIKE commercial, now I  need to ”just do it!’

The Lord is my strength and my song and He has become my salvation.(Ex. 15:2)

Searching for something of worth…no, not the phone, choice pearls instead!

When your phone is lost- what do you do? Yes, you stop everything and think and begin searching!And search you do- until you find it!

After my first chemo treatment, I felt kicked real hard! These can be confusing times, and I just felt like I was searching, searching for answers, searching for hope. But I had friends encourage me in many ways. My friend Joan encouraged me with pearl stories. I will tell you one in my own words:

Well, in Matthew 13:45,46, there is a story that Jesus tells about someone who is searching as well. Yes, searching for something very, very valuable. The someone happens to be a pearl merchant and he is looking for only choice, beautiful pearls.He was on the lookout for quality treasure, he wasn’t swayed by just any pretty round gem; he was looking to invest in the best. When this pearl merchant finally found a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought the precious pearl! He didn’t hesitate to pay full retail price- to go after it sacrificing all.

Today, we spend  a lot of time and energy on what is very important, and we are busy with our work, with keeping our schedules, with school, with recreation, and needless to say, there really isn’t time to find a choice pearl, won’t a fake one do?

Well, it is when you are sitting in an infusion chair getting chemo dripped into your body, or when you go through some other crisis,  that the ‘counterfeit pearls’ just won’t do. All of a sudden when your world comes crashing down and God allows things in your life to come to a halt- when the stillness settles in, all of these very important things aren’t the most important things anymore.

All of a sudden you become a ‘pearl merchant’ on the lookout for choice pearls. Amazing how God can cause a room full of ‘grief and pain’ to be a place of true hope because many of us are searching and looking for something of worth here,and we have the time  to  actually discover, once again, this Pearl of Great Worth!  The Pearl  is Jesus. And it is ‘then ‘when we discover real treasure and we are finally ready to ‘sell all that we have’ so to speak to buy that most precious Pearl!

It is then that we start buying up each opportunity to draw near to Him, the Pearl of Great Worth. Obtain TRUTH at all costs. Then never relinquish it at any price. The truth is as beautiful as a Pearl, the truth is God loves you. (Prov. 23, “The LORD is a strong tower. The righteous run to Him and are safe.”)

Oh, wait, was that my phone ringing?

To my friend who is brokenhearted today…

It is one thing to go through a trial yourself, but in a moment to hear that a friend is suffering from a broken heart- what then? What words can we pray? There are no words we can say.

The God of all comfort, the Father of mercies it is said in the Bible that He comforts us in all our trials,(2 Cor. 1:3,4). “There is a river whose springs shall make glad the city of God…”(Ps. 46:4).”The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.” (Ps. 46:4-5).
Aren’t we reminded that we ‘are the temple of the Living God’:”Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).<strong> “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn…” (Ps. 46:5).

The Psalms speak the right words, “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.” Ps. 119:92).

There is no comfort at all, save the comfort from the Lord at times of great loss. Even the psalmist  reminds us that the reflection of God’s word is all he had at this time of great sorrow and ‘affliction’.   “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.”(Psalm 119: 92,93).

Numerous sorrows can enter a Christian’s life. There is nothing said about life being a ‘bowl of cherries’ after giving your life over to Jesus. But there is one thing that a child of God has possession of that one who chooses to live their life separated from His love does not have: The believer has a ‘present help in time of need’. God is faithful and desires to touch our hurting heart. His presence brings healing, ongoing healing. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3.

Only God’s word can really comfort, but it’s best coming from Him. Maybe that’s why when we are so broken we simply want to be still. Still enough to hear: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39).

I have a friend who is broken-hearted today, but she has a present help to help her as I pray for her. I pray that as time goes on that God will heal her and that He will fill her with His peace and draw her ever so close to Him. If you have the LORD, you have all you need, even if you lose everything else!

But if you don’t have Jesus today, and you are brokenhearted, the good news is, He’s waiting for you to come to Him with a broken heart. God loves broken hearts because He heals. He’s been waiting for you. “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God…” (Ps. 46:4). You may ask Him to move on in, even in the most broken of broken-ness. He will live in you and heal and bind. “God shall help her, just at the break of dawn…The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah (Psalm 46:5,7).

I will pray for my friend. God is faithful. He is with us, even in the dark,cold painful places. “Pour out Your mercy Lord, pour out Your grace, pour out Your love, may the broken see Your face.” In Jesus Name, Amen

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad…”

When I wake, I wake up very little. I wake up with my world feeling literally like the energy and the franetic-ness  of Times Square in NYC.

And each morning I need to have God ‘make me lie down’ and He brings me to ‘green pastures’, but today to a river… He illuminated a verse I have always loved, Ps. 46:1.  “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God…”

(Woke up feeling my life was  like a bustling city),but ‘there is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God’, so I read on: “The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High God is in the midst of her;”

The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High God was in the midst of the children of Israel, and THAT is where God dwelt THEN, and today the Bible says that those who believe on Him that the Father has sent, (yes, that ‘Him’ is Jesus), that WE are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in us.  (1Cor. 3:16.)

Jesus declared,”If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink and out of his innermost being shall gush forth torrents of living water.” (John 7:37,38)  But wait, why are we so thirsty Lord? Fill me Lord, Fill us Lord with Your Holy Spirit! How we need a filling of the ‘river whose streams make glad the city of God. (vs 5)”God is in the midst of her; She shall not be moved.”

So, in the morning when we rise, Lord, transport us from the chaos of our thoughts and cause us to hear Your lovingkindness , to  hear You speak, “Come to the waters and drink, for there is a river…God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.”

Jesus is saying to me, personally, today, “Toni, do you believe?   That ‘there is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,  (and that) God is in the midst of her;  she shall not be moved;    God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.”

Perhaps one moment at a time, I can choose to live by faith and not by sight, because You are my help!

“Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.”Do you have a Pastor Gary in your life?

I am thankful for the verse in the Bible that says, “But speak to one another in Psalms and Hymns and spiritual song…” (Eph 5) because we cannot always gather together to ‘sing’ them.

But today, no matter where we are, together throughout this day, we can speak the words of a Hymn and be united in heart and mind.  The words to the Hymn ‘Be Still My Soul’ are on my heart today as I pray for my dear brother in Christ, and mentor, Pastor Gary.

Perhaps you have a Pastor Gary in your life. Someone who lives his life as a vessel of love.

I believe this is how my dear friend is speaking right now:

“Be still my soul! the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;          Leave to thy God to order and provide;    In every change He faithful will remain.

Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still my soul! thy God doth undertake To guide the future as He has the past.         Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still my soul the waves and wind still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still my soul! the hour is hastening on When we shall be forever with the Lord. When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,                                                              Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still my soul, when change and tears are past, All safe and blessed we shall meet at last. “

Thank you Lord for giving us gifts through each others lives. Yes, thank you for those whose lives  have impacted our lives for good each and every day! Today Lord, I think of my dear friend who is very sick, I think he is saying, “sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored!” And I know he has peace, because You bring  stillness to his soul, and you bring it to us as well, as we wait on You.

He knelt down, a stone’s throw away and prayed…

Many, many years ago feeling ‘agony of heart’ and overwhelmed I turned to Ps. 119. And when I got to verse 50 and read, “This is my comfort in my affliction,”

I stopped and covered the next words trying to think of what those words might actually be. Does it say, “He delivered me from them.”? or does it say, “He took trials  away so I could rest?”  NO!

Ps. 119:50 reads:  “This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your Word has given me life.” Hmmm… that is what the Bible says about being comfort in my affliction: “For Your word has given me life.”

I think of this verse often. God’s Word gives life.

But I want to SEE  how it will work out, I want to BE part of the solution, I want to DO my part. Well, sometimes God brings us to the end of ALL OF THAT- so what next?

Well, yesterday morning, after having agony of heart and being overwhelmed-(again), unable to ‘rest in the LORD’ I was brought to Luke 22 where our Jesus was in agony of heart, soul, mind and strength. He, Jesus, the Creator of all, the I AM,  knelt down, a stone’s throw away from the disciples, and prayed THE PRAYER. The “not My will, but Yours be done” prayer. It reads like this:

“When He came to the place, He said to the, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” and He was withdrawn from them about a stones’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” (Luke 22:40-43).

“THEN an angel appeared to Him from heaven ,strengthening Him…”, it was AFTER the ‘surrender’ prayer. Is that why Jesus went only a stones throw away?So they could watch? But wait a minute-  they fell asleep.

I need to wake up to what’s really going on here.  Why is it so hard? I think Jesus wanted them to watch to see what ‘power’ really looked like. It’s not only a lightning bolts crashing through the sky or the roar of the ocean- power that we need, the ‘overcoming’ strength and  ‘overcoming’ power  that we need – come through  total surrender.

He said, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”and I respond, “Lord keep me awake!”

“We pray, keep us awake, keep us alert, keep us watchful – empty us and fill us with all You are…” in Jesus Name, Amen.

‘lest I be like those who go down into the pit.’ Ever felt alone and in great agony?

Does life sometimes ever seem like one of the battle scenes in the  movie ‘The Lord of the Rings’, or a Narnia movie?

Aren’t you  glad that there is an end to  ‘the battle scene’, and  the scene changes? And the weak were made strong with their united forces against evil, and their resolve to fight to the end.

Well, I am so thankful that the Bible records Jesus’ battle at a place called Gethsemane, where His soul was exceedingly sorrowful. He asked that Peter, James, and John to stay and watch with Him while He went to pray.But they fell asleep.  Luke 22:44 records that, ‘being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ And verse 43, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”

Have you ever felt alone and in great agony? It’s OK, because Jesus knows how you feel.  How do I know? Because it is written. Period. He knows.  It is the truth whether you believe it today or not.

What about the ‘man after God’s own heart’? David, the valiant King! All I can say is, I am so glad he penned words about some of his great battles, and I don’t think they were  battles with swords!

You see, my battle is against Truth vs. the lie. My enemy says things like, “God does not care.” “God has no idea,” the same old lie, but he also lies and says, “This is how it is going to be FOREVER.” Satan actual paints a picture in my mind of a pit in which I am in forever. Wait a minute-

So  if David didn’t pen Ps. 143, I wouldn’t have realized that ‘the pit’ is not the Truth for me.

Ps. 43: “Hear my prayer, O LORD, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, and in Your righteousness…for the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness…Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed…” (this is King David, and the most valiant thing about him was – he cried out to God!)

“Answer me speedily, O LORD; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit.”

The Truth is, I am not in the pit, I stand on the Rock! David’s Psalm continues:

(Ps. 143:11) “Revive me, O LORD, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul; For I am Your servant.”

Yes, I am thankful that the Word has been written, because it shines a light on what is TRUTH. Jesus knows the heavyhearted. David was heavyhearted, and I am not in a pit! Now that is the Truth!

“And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

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Help, I’m in a battle! The Lord Himself will give you a sign…

I am sure I am not alone, but so many mornings, I truly wake up in the midst of a battle. A battle of fear and doubt vs. faith. You see, ‘outside there are fears, and inside there are conflicts, Nevertheless God’! Over and over again, that is the conflict for me.

My thoughts are, ‘How will this work?’, ‘I can’t see a way out of this.’

And then I hear the Holy Spirit remind me, “without faith it’s impossible to please God.” And then I am reminded of that definition, “faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things NOT SEEN.”

“Not seen”, yes, I know that! As the battle with doubt continues.

(And this is how I start my day many a morning! Most pitiful!)

So I get out of bed, in the middle of my mental anguish, pour myself a cup of coffee thinking, “God, I can’t see.” So as I sit down on our sofa with coffe and bible I cry out much like blind Bartamaes, “Jesus, Son of David, (minus the Son of David part) Have mercy on me!”

So today, He spoke.

Yes, it was a verse that I have head over and over again, but today, this verse was for me and it came from the Lord Himself. He spoke directly to me and said, (Is. 7:14) “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign:

Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

OK, so I have a choice now. Truly God is speaking into my most pitiable fret-ful heart and He, Himself is saying, “Toni, I am a God of miracles. Do you remember the Christmas Story?”

(well, yes, I kind of have spent 20 years or so encouraging children to sing and proclaim that story)

Today, God spoke to me personally on the amazing miracle when ‘God came down” and His name shall be called Immanuel, God with us! Today, in faith, not because I can see anything-but because I can’t- I choose to believe that God is with us and yes, He has a plan! (though not always conventional!)

Prayer: “Thank you Lord because You have been a present help in my trouble. Your Holy Spirit helps me to fight and your Word literally helps me to ‘step on the necks of my enemies!’

Today’s song:  “The sun comes up, there’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing His song again…!”