God is good…all the time

Even today.

God is good, not because today’s circumstances are good, or I’m happy, or content…not because I have everything I want or need…not because my children are all walking in truth…God’s goodness is not hinged on my circumstances!  Do you get that?  Have you ever been fooled into thinking that because you do not have adversity, that you are seeing a picture of God’s goodness?  This is a half-truth…it’s a clever lie straight from the pits of hell…if you don’t believe me, see Job.

God is good.  All the time.

He is good because it is His nature to be good.

Even when:

  • we are disobedient – He is good
  • finances are tight – He is good
  • we are abused and rejected – He’s still good
  • we are falsely accused – He is good
  • He chooses to not give us what we ask for – it doesn’t take away His goodness…His nature has not changed by His withholding of what we consider a blessing
  • we suffer financial loss…or our children walk away from the Lord, and reject everything we have tried to teach them…He remains good

There’s an old gospel hymn that comes to me in my times of sorrow and adversity, and I’m singing it today.

…and the God of the good times is still God in the bad times.  The God of the day is still God in the night!

 

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ACT before you ASK – Contrition/Confession tab

Do you have a routine for your prayer time?  I’d love to peek in on your prayer closet.  I’m still tweaking this system, and still haven’t made up my mind if I want to continue to use a bound book, or go to a three ring binder.  I’m leaning toward the 3 ring binder for a variety of reasons, but have committed to keep the beta version until school supplies go on sale…what is that, August/September? I may do a trial run of a 3 ring binder at that time…one of the perks of that system is that I can add pages at will, and in a bound book, I’m bound to the number of pages I allotted myself at the beginning…I’m running into that issue right now in my journal.  I’m trying to be patient with myself for now, and ride it out.  What do you think?

Anyway…back to the journal:

As you may have guessed, I also have made a tab for my Contrition/Confession section (note:  My tab says “confession” on the front, but if I had it to do over, I’d use the word contrition instead.  When I was making it, I could not for the life of me remember the word “contrition”, which I believe is a better word for the “C” part of my system, as it involves confession but goes deeper, and brings about a godly sorrow over sin and it’s effects.

Put off Put on

Spirit fruit

This is my “confession” tab.  I chose the verse from Psalm 139:43 and a word picture from a recent study of Colossians chapter 3.

Since these are areas that I personally struggle with in my everyday life, I like to have a visual prompt of what each looks like.  I envision a literal removing of an old, tattered and dirty garment, and the putting on of a new, shiny, valuable one.

On the backside, I have a prompt for the fruits of the Spirit.  If I am in a place of being continually filled with the Spirit, my life will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, and self control.  If I’m finding myself lacking in any of these, and I do, often, then I know and remind myself that this is not from the Spirit of God, but works of my own old nature, and/or willful sinfulness, and I want to confess and rid myself of that right away.

After the adoration portion of my quiet time, while I am focused on who God is, and His attributes, I become keenly aware of the striking contrast of His glory and the state of my heart.  I am convicted in my spirit of the areas that I fall short, as I focus on His faithfulness, and see my unfaithfulness; as I focus on His patience and lovingkindness, and remember my impatience and harsh tone taken with my loved ones…see what I mean?  It is a very vulnerable time…open before the Maker of the Universe, the King of kings, and the One I bow to and call “Lord”; the One of whom I live to imitate, the One I wish to be like.  While I am here, in this revelation of the areas that I fall short, and those areas that He wishes to transform to His image, I become contrite; that is full of sorrow and remorse for my failures and sins.  I weep over my inadequacies, and lack of holiness, and I fly to Him who I know is full of mercy and pardon; here in my private prayer closet, at this time, I pray:

O Lord, You know how many and how great are my failings. You know how often I sin, from day to day, from hour to hour, in what I do, and in what I fail to do. O Lord my God, I resolve no more to provoke You, and to desire nothing more than You, for You are alone truly lovable. If I should offend You again, please grant me the strength to find favor anew in Your eyes and to lead a life more pleasing to You. Amen.

I know that the Lord forgives me when I ask, because I am told so in His Word (1 John 1:9).   I also know that there are deep seated habits and reasons for my failings, there are areas that I need the accountability that comes with confessing our sins to one another.  When the Lord reveals these to me, I write them down on a sticky note, that I take with me to Reconciliation.  If I don’t write it down, I forget it, and that sin or weakness or stronghold and its memory gets buried.  It might not show up again until I am in a similar situation, and because there is sin that has not been reconciled to God, I can trip over it again.  Going to confession and bringing these weaknesses into accountability with another is embarrassing, and a deterrent to the sin in itself (at least for me it is).

When I have confessed, and done my penance, and received absolution for my sin(s), that sticky note has completed its task, and is destroyed.  Burning it, tearing it into tiny bits, or even flushing it are effective ways of visualizing that sin has been purged and removed from my life.  I am forgiven, and it is no longer held against me.  I think it’s important to mention here that God does not hold it against me, but He often does not remove the consequences of those sins from me.  While I enjoy sweet fellowship with God, I may still have the consequence of a strained relationship with someone who I have hurt with my choices, or other consequences that come from my missing the mark.

Act Before You Ask – Adoration Tab

Adoration:  noun

  1. the act of paying honor, as to a divine being; worship.
  2. reverent homage.
  3. fervent and devoted love.
  4. (as it was defined for me as a child) praising God for who He is.  Actually, the definition for adoration that I was taught at summer camp is a better definition for the word “ascribe”: though, as an adult, I can see how the two of them can go hand in hand, so maybe I missed something in the translation done by a 12 year old mind.

We are commanded in Scripture to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name”.
Ascribe:  verb
 (used with object), 
as·cribed, as·crib·ing.

  1. to credit or assign, as to a cause or source; attribute; impute.  ex:  The alphabet is usually ascribed to the Phoenicians.
  2. to attribute or thing of as belonging, as a quality or characteristic.  ex:  They ascribed courage to me for something I did out of sheer panic.  Source:  Dictionary.com
When we ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name (1 Chron 16:29), we remind Him who He is…as He has revealed Himself to us, and when we adore Him, we pay Him special honor, and homage (bowing down to Him, recognizing His position and authority, placing ourselves in submission to Him as subservient), and respond to Him in love and devotion.  In a simple term, we “worship” Him.I use a couple different tools to prompt me during this part of my quiet time.The first is music.   It is said that when we sing, we pray twice.  I love that thought.  I have collected about forty minutes’ worth of songs that lead my spirit into a time of worship and adoration.   The songs that I have on my playlist are songs about the attributes, glory, and names of God.

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The second is a tabbed divider.  On the front, I have listed some of the Hebrew names of God as He has come to me.  I love to use the names of Jehovah that describe His attributes.  There are a lot more than this, and one of these days I’m going to break down and do a whole study on them.  On the back, I have the ABC’s of worship…which is just more of God’s attributes that I can take with me in my Bible or bag if I’m going to be away from home.

I keep my journal at home in my prayer closet, and I only take it with me if I’m going to be away from home for any length of time…for the most part, it is a tool for private, devotions in the privacy of my own home.  My adoration section is at the front of my journal, and I have labeled the first thirteen pages with the ABC’s.  On page one is A and B, page two is C and D, and so on through the alphabet.  Underneath each letter’s heading are names of God that I have found in my quiet times.  While my playlist is playing, I read through these attributes and names of God, and praise Him in worship for who He is.  If he has answered a prayer of provision, I may be stuck on the name “Jehovah Jireh”, which means “The Lord will provide”.  If He has answered a prayer for healing, I may focus on the name “Jehovah Rapha”, which means “the Lord heals”.  Often, attributes will come to me through my Bible reading, or through music I”m listening to (outside of my quiet time), and I will pull out my book and add them in to have on hand next time I am in the adoration and ascribe zone.

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy,

I wish I was twelve years old again.

No bills, car repairs, or commitments.  Limited expenses, appointments and responsibilities, and a set curfew and bedtime every night…STRICTLY ENFORCED.

I remember those summer days like it was yesterday; You’re out in your garden, tying up and pruning your grapevines, and pulling weeds from the enormous vegetable patch.  Mom is in the kitchen, whistling a tune while she washes home-grown produce.  Sister is on the phone with a friend up the road making plans to go for a bike ride after chores are completed, and I’m impatiently waiting for my turn on the phone to make some plans of my own.

Life was relatively simple then, although I didn’t appreciate or even recognize it yet.  How I’d love to be able to travel back in time and re-do some things.  

Let me clarify that.

I wish I could return to the past with my present knowledge and experience…some things I would re-do in exactly the same way…and other things, knowing what I know now, I could re-do in a whole different way.  One thing in which I would love to have a complete “do-over”, is how I related to you as my Daddy.

Since this is June, and Father’s Day is just around the corner,  you are on my mind, and I am missing you a lot!   Sometimes, when I’m in that twilight zone of not quite asleep, but no longer awake, I hear you talking and laughing.  I miss your smile, your uproarious laughter, and your loud, bold, extroverted personality.  I miss your old time classic country music, your off-key hymn singing, and your bold witness of your love for Jesus.  It’s funny, the things I miss most about you today are the very things that drove me nuts and embarrassed me so much when I was a kid.

Our relationship was tumultuous, to put it mildly.  We, two headstrong individuals, both with stubborn wills and impatience,  were prone to selfish demands, loud, angry outbursts, and profound dysfunction.  Poor Mom.  She really was so very patient with us, wasn’t she?  After I left home and we began building our relationship as adults, you let me in on some secrets that shed light on your personality and habits.  I got hints that there was more to learn, but unfortunately, your time with us was shortened and my brain did not engage in time to ask you the questions that I would ask today if you were here.

What were you like as a child?  What kind of temperament did you have?  What did you like to do?

Tell me about your own relationship with your Daddy and Momma.  How did they show their affection, approval or disapproval?
You had eight siblings, local grandparents, and a handful of aunts and uncles…tell me about those dynamics.
Were you allowed to disagree with those in authority, and hold an opinion of your own?


How were you trained to handle disappointment, fear, and bullies?

Where did you learn your work ethic?  What kind of examples did you have?
How were you taught to show compassion, love and tenderness?  Did you have good/bad examples of this? 

What was your biggest fear as a child?  What did you do with that fear?  How did you cope?
Did you ask a lot of questions?  Were you given the answers, or shown how to find the answers?  What did that process look like?
Did you like school?  Why, or why not?  Did you enjoy your childhood, or were you in a hurry to grow up and be independent?

Tell me again, how you met Mom.  I love that story.
What did her parents think of you?  What kind of relationship did you have with them?

As a husband and Daddy, what was your biggest fear?  Your greatest accomplishment?
You worked away a lot in your early marriage, how did you guard your love and commitment during those times?

How did you develop your rich prayer life?  
Tell me about a time when God showed up in a miraculous way for you.
Did you struggle with sin?  Did you learn how to master it?  If so, how?

If you could go back in time and fix one thing, what would it be?  How do you think life would be different as a result?

I often wonder if only I’d have had the presence of mind to pick your brain when I was young, how different our relationship may have been.  I wish I’d have learned how to communicate effectively with you  instead of kicking against the goads that you used to guide and protect me.  I know you weren’t perfect, but I never doubted your love for me for a minute.  I believe you did as we all do, that is, you did the best with what you had where you were, and I’m a better person because of it, hard as it was, Dad.  I am so thankful for your love, perseverance and prayers for me.  I like to think your prayers continue with eternal perspective.

Thank you.  I love you and look forward to that wonderful day when we will meet again.

Your Daughter.

 

 

 

 

Spicy Crackers

This snack  is fast becoming a staple here at Grammie’s house.  When we were in Alabama, my niece shared the recipe with me, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  It’s tasty, simple, and inexpensive…three of my favorite things!

Here’s how I do it:

I measure 1 1/3 cups of canola oil in a pyrex measuring cup, and add a package of ranch dressing and 2 tsp. red pepper flakes.  Mix it all up well and set aside while preparing crackers.  Open and place a box of the least expensive saltine crackers available  into a gallon sized ziplock baggie, pour seasoned oil over the top of crackers and seal the bag.  Let it set until oil mix accumulates at the bottom of the bag, then turn the bag over so it can continue to soak into crackers evenly.  I turn my bag over a few times, just to make sure the crackers in the middle get the good stuff on them 🙂

20140605-194135-70895086.jpgIf you can wait, they taste the best after 24 hours…but I can never wait that long.

Here’s a picture of my latest batch…try them at your own risk.  They are VERY addictive.

The essentials

I’ve had my share of these aha moments myself.

Pilgrim Chronicle

One of the things that surprised me since becoming Catholic is how often I come across a passage in the Bible that I thought I was familiar with, only to have something leap out at me from the text that I never noticed before.  I am not talking about merely interpreting a passage differently than I did as a Protestant; I am talking about a forehead-slapping “Why didn’t I notice this before?” moment.  It happens quite a bit.  Today’s readings had one of these. St. Paul is speaking to the Ephesian elders/priests prior to his departure and said this:

And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.

As a Protestant in the evangelical milieu (though by culture and temperament I have never…

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Ephesians 5:17-21

As promised from part 3, some of my favorite memorization tips:

  • Read it in context for proper understanding.  Read the whole chapter, at least once every day.  If you can swing it, read it in the morning when you first wake up, and again before you retire for the night.  It’s a great way to start your day, and if you read through it last thing before you fall asleep, your brain will continue to process the words.  What a way to fall asleep, listening to the Lord speak His precious words to your heart.
  • Read it out loud.  You might even record yourself reading it, and play it back to yourself and say it out loud with the recording of your own voice.
  • Write it down – I have found that the act of writing out my verses is helpful all by itself.  Seeing the verse go from the page of my Bible to a note card or other surface causes something to connect in my brain.  While I’m writing, I engage three of my natural senses;  I look at the verse in my Bible, so I see how it looks.  Then I say the verse out loud, and I hear it.  I handle it, looking back and forth, making sure I am copying it correctly, and I write it and see it again in my own handwriting.   I like to think a fourth sense is used, that of spiritually tasting the Scriptures.
  • Refer back to it often.  I have been known to have Bible verses posted on my bathroom mirror, on a sticky note that can travel with me from room to room, even on my hand.  You want to put this passage where you can see it.  And when you look at it, read it, say it, read it again.
  • Get a buddy to memorize with you.  Take turns reciting them in order…you say a verse, your buddy says a verse, and so on.  It helps to have camaraderie and if you’re lucky, you can throw in a cup of coffee and call it fellowship.  🙂
  • Sing it.  Make a new song with your verses…or read them out loud with background instrumental music. Pick a piece of music for your whole passage and use it when you work on memorizing.   God’s Word and music are natural companions.
  • Last, but not least, and this is a new practice that I have recently started:  Pray over it.  I have my passage written in a section of my prayer journal, so that when I am done adoring the Lord for who He is, confessing my sinfulness and human failures, and thanking Him for His forgiveness and provision, I can read it again in prayer, asking that He would cement the words in my heart, and teach me through this passage what He needs me to know to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

The last passage ended with an exhortation to be careful how we live, to be wise, and to redeem the time, because of the evil days in which we live.  This week’s passage picks up…in that context with further encouragement and instruction:

17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,

19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,

20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

I actually learned a song in that private school I attended that was taken word for word (in King James Version) from verses 18,19. I still hear that music when I read these verses.  I can’t count the number of Bible verses I have in my memory bank that are set to music.  I use some of them in my personal quiet times, just singing God’s word back to Him.

Interesting, how singing and making melody goes hand in hand with giving thanks to God at all times for everything.  Thanksgiving is the key to a joyful and contented heart.  And isn’t it much easier to be thankful when you have a song in your heart?  Well, it is for me.

The last verse in this cluster really should go with the next thought, I’ll include it there when I get to it, but for memorization’s sake, it’s here.

More to follow.  Do you memorize Scripture?  I’d love to hear your memorization tips.

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3