Category Archives: Refined by the Word

Angels among us <3

On Monday I decided to take advantage of the milder temperatures and finish up some yard work. I was also determined to get our Christmas lights out on the front bushes. If you live around here you might remember Monday was warm but rather windy. 

My leaf blowing and raking from under the lilac bushes proved somewhat frustrating. Between having to replug the cord into the blower and the stubborn hold the twisted stems had on the leaves, plus the wind blowing my raked piles hither and yon the whole experience was less than rewarding. 

But I persevered and made a wee bit of progress and then I went to tackle the lights. 

I had created patio lighting this fall by putting all our lights on the back patio so I had to make a run to Menards to replenish the supplies. Armed with three boxes of 300 each white lights, I set about covering the row of Burning Bushes that line one side of the porch. I finished the other side of bushes as dusk was approaching so I attached an elaborate extension cord labyrinth that would probably make the fire Marshall cringe and plugged it in. 

One side glowed with holiday cheer and one was as dead as many of our hopes had been for 2020. I tried different configurations of cords to no avail. Finally I started inspecting the lights on the bushes and discovered that one whole strand of new lights (thankfully the ones closest to the end of the display) was missing every other light! I unhooked the last 300 I had strung and headed back to Menards. 

It’s only a few blocks away but as I drove I fumed at how mad I was with this delay to completing my project. My arms were scraped from the day’s work and my spirit was suffering some chaffing as well. I had just a little light left to finish the job so I hurried toward the entrance and was quickly catching up with a woman older than myself who was using one of those four pronged walker canes to make her way to the entrance. 

There was just enough space between the door and her that if I zoomed past her I would be the physical representation of those mean drivers who gun their engines to pass you when you are, in fact, going the speed limit and just a little above. My impatience and urgency to finish my task took on a severe battle with my empathy for what it feels like to be slow in a fast paced world. So I reigned in my Type A overdrive and stayed behind her, one slow step after another. 

Just as she was about to step onto the entry sidewalk, she stopped. Oh no…now what. With one shaking hand, she reached over and held fast to the metal pole that is stationed by the door. I slid up next to her and asked if she was okay. She was holding a bag with the hand that was keeping her steady and as she looked at me helplessly she told me no, she was feeling unsteady and needed an extra arm. I told her I happened to have one and took her package and let her loop her arm through mine as we made our way into the motorized cart area. I helped her into the seat and headed over to the line.

We both had returns so I offered her to go first but she said no and then struck up a conversation with me. She asked me about my lights and told me how this was her first effort to be out walking again, I assume from a surgery.

I told her I hadn’t been too happy to discover my broken lights but it worked out because I was able to be there for her and she said I was her angel for the day.

I whispered back… no, you were mine. 

Don’t you know it flashed through my mind as I took her arm and we were mask to mask as she leaned on me to get in the store that one or the other of us could have Covid?

Don’t you know that it was my natural tendency to be on my own mission and just hurry past her?

Fear and selfishness are a daily battle for me. So I dare say God sent His own little angel to slow me down and let Him prove to me once again that He has transformed me and is making more and more into the image of Christ. 

Maybe these times of turmoil and testing of 2020 are just a test, Church. Maybe God is just wanting to prove that He is at work in us and has changed us and continues to transform us. Maybe all the chaos is proving our faith is stronger than our fears and our selfishness.

God bless you as you ponder that <3 

Love and hugs…real hugs…

Laura <3 

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It’s not if the glass is half full, but what is in the glass that matters <3

Yesterday I mentioned a sermon from Sunday and this morning it is on my heart to just share with you my notes jotted as I sat under the teaching of B. J. Leonard, one of our pastors. 

The series is called “Overflow” and this particular message had a visual for us. On the table next to where B.J. stood there were two pitchers, one filled with green water and one with blue. There was an empty glass as well. 

He opened with a story of a soccer game played with friends back in his teen years. They were at a camp with no official field and goals marked so they used landmarks. B.J. talked about how he had an awesome game and scored numerous goals only to find out at the end that he had misunderstood the designated goal area and had scored nothing. 

He likened this to our Christian faith sometimes. We are passionate and playing hard, but we have misunderstood the goal and thus at the end have missed the mark completely. 

While Jesus paid everything and it costs us virtually nothing to be a Christian, Discipleship is a whole different ball game. Sharing some facts about even the difference in the label of Christian versus the description of being a disciple; he taught us the name “Christian” is only used three times in the New Testament and then by outsiders of the faith describing followers of Christ. 

The indicator word “disciple” or “follower” is used over 300 times and by Jesus. He reminded us that labels like “Christian” can be vague and misleading while a “Jesus follower” can be clearly defined. It describes a clear action. A Jesus follower follows the teachings of Jesus. 

He said, “We will define the name “Christian” by how we live. By what we do, what we stand for, what we will give up.” It is our Christ-following that defines our label of being a Christian. 

Using Matthew 10: 38 as the price Jesus set for following Him, B.J. reminded us that at the height of Jesus’ popularity with the masses, He busted out this promise for those who choose to follow Him. 

“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you:ll never find yourself. But if you forget yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

Matthew 10:38 Eugene Peterson The MSG

Other translations are the warning that if you don’t take up your cross and follow Him, you are not worthy of Him. B.J.  reminded us that in the language of our day that would be akin to “take up your electric chair”…makes more impact when put that way, doesn’t it? 

So how to we do this? How do we live by forgetting ourself?

Using the pitchers, B.J. reached for one of the pitchers and the glass and explained that the glass represented his life and the pitcher of green represented his self desires and nature. He filled the glass to the brim with all his hopes and dreams and desires for how he is wired. Not bad goals…not bad plans…but self-directed and underneath the humanity that is so frail in all of us. 

As he held the glass full up he described how as he bumps into the inevitable stresses of dealing with others who are also carrying their glass full of self, he will become frustrated, jealous, bitter, angry and as the tension of the reality of life on planet earth took on greater force, he began to shake the glass. Of course the contents splashed out all over the towel he had lid out. 

Green stains soaked into the white fabric as he described how a life full of self begins to spill out toxic waste on the other lives around it. Also the glass was now getting low and so he said he had the option to reach back for that same pitcher of self and refill it only to repeat the pattern again and again and again. 

Or he could empty out the glass and pour out all that in his human capacity to live and exist, and fill it with the other pitcher which represented the Holy Spirit. I thought to myself how often I have realized I need to let God be poured in, but I have not emptied the glass first. 

I thought as I looked at the two pure colors of green and blue, how murky I let my life be when I fail to pour out my “self-centeredness” first and then let God fill me. 

As I watched him pour the green liquid back in the first pitcher and then fill the glass to the tip top with blue, I knew that is what I want. To pour out my rights, my desire to be first, my wants and needs and will and then to be filled with the pure love of God. 

He ended with a simple prayer we all can pray. 

God, show me how to empty myself and show me what actions to take. 

As the Church, now more than ever, we need to be praying this prayer and then moving forward in what God leads us to do in His Name and for His Glory. 

Again, here is the sermon link for this teaching. I hope I did his teaching justice, but a listen to the real thing would do you a world of good.

God bless each of you today <3

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Poured out…poured in…overflowing <3

Remember Paul Harvey and the way he would do those “The Rest of the Story” things? My parents were big Paul Harvey fans so I listened to a fair amount. 

Today I have a kind “Rest of the Story” from a really good and convicting sermon we heard on Sunday morning. You can find it here and I may just touch on it again tomorrow, but one of our pastors talked about the difference between having the label of Christian and being a disciple of Christ. 

He gave a good visual of the contrast of being filled with ourselves and the world verses being filled with the Holy Spirit of God. 

He did some pouring in and pouring out and it helps me cement in my mind what I know in my heart. 

Yesterday I was working on a Bible Study and one of the passages brought the whole sermon into even greater perspective. 

In Philippians 2: 5-7 I found these words:

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when He had come as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.

Jesus poured out all of His omnipotence and glory and allowed Himself, God, to be limited by the flesh and blood of our humanity. He allowed Himself to be dusty footed and hungry and betrayed. Just like us. 

While He lost none of His deity, He poured out all the benefits of position so that He could become one of us. 

And because He poured out all of the fullness of Himself, we can be filled fully with Him. 

Beautiful grace. 

Wonderful mercy.

The Kindness of God. 

Be blessed today – you are dearly loved <3

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