Dig the Trenches

Image Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

During the reign of King Joram in the northern tribes of Israel, and the reign of King Jehoshaphat in the southern tribes of Judah, the people of Moab rebelled against King Joram. They refused to continue paying tribute to Israel. Joram asked Jehoshaphat to help him fight the Moabites.

King Jehoshaphat agreed, and along with men from Edom, the three armies set out against Moab. They traveled in the wilderness for seven days and ran out of water for themselves and their animals. With no water, Jehoshaphat suggested they consult God’s prophet Elisha to find out what they should do.

When they got to Elisha, he snarled at King Joram, and told him to go consult the pagan prophets of his parents. Finally, Elisha was persuaded to help, only because King Jehoshaphat was there.

After praying to God for direction, Elisha told the men to dig trenches in the dry valley to hold water the LORD would send. They wouldn’t see the rain, but the valley would be filled with water, nonetheless.

The men dug. God provided.

Sometimes, it may seem as if our lives are one big dry valley. Nothing is growing. It all seems like a parched barren wasteland. That’s how it was for Joram and Jehoshaphat. Before the rain fell, the men had to dig trenches to hold the promised water. Providing the rain was an easy task for God. Before he provided for their need, however, the men had to do their part first.

Could it be that during our dry valley times there is something God wants us to do first in preparation for his blessings? An attitude or habit which needs tweaked? Attention which needs to be spent in a certain area? Willingness to step out in faith to what God’s calling us to?

Elisha consulted God for direction. We need to do the same. Once direction is received, it’s time to get to work. We must dig the trenches in preparation for God’s rain to fill in our drought-stricken valleys.

Where have you seen God fill in your trenches?

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 He said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley (the Arabah) full of trenches.’  For thus says the Lord, ‘You will not see wind or rain, yet that valley will be filled with water, so you and your cattle and your other animals may drink. This is but a simple thing in the sight of the Lord; He will also hand over the Moabites to you. 2 Kings 3:16-18 (AMP)

You can find my May Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Gluten-free Grape Salad Recipe

This super simple delicious Gluten-free Grape Salad Recipe was one of my mother’s favorites. It is great for special events and buffet dinners.

  • 3 pounds green grapes
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Beat together the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth.

Add sugar and vanilla.

Refrigerate.

Blend brown sugar with the pecans and sprinkle on top of salad just before serving.

Enjoy!

You can find my May Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Spread the Love of God

Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash

As Christians, do we spread the love God, or do we keep it to ourselves? Are we guilty of being selective as to who we’ll share the Gospel with? Do we exclude others from our church circle? Are we guilty of being what Rob Cook calls Zombie Churches? You know, churches that look alive on the outside, but are dead on the inside.

Rob has a heart full of compassion for the lost. I’ve been blessed each time I’ve heard him speak. In one keynote at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Rob mentioned many soul-searching thoughts. I’ve listed a few of them here.

Jesus hung out with sinners. We don’t want them in our churches.

Jesus loved his enemies. We boycott ours.

Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples. We make church goers.

Jesus said we would be known for what we’re for. We’re know for what we stand against.

In Rob’s talk he challenged us not to worry with figuring out WWJD — What Would Jesus Do? Instead, Rob asked us to DWJD — Do What Jesus Did.

Rob gave an illustration of how some churches look to seekers that has never left me, even though I heard it years ago.

Suppose you are drowning and see a lifeboat. You struggle to pull yourself into the boat. As you get ready to climb inside, you notice it is filled with vipers and haters. What would you do? Probably throw yourself into the water and take your chances right back in the middle of all the stuff you’ve been trying to escape. Safe haven? Hardly.

What about our churches? Are they filled with vipers and haters?

Closer to home, what about us? Viper? Hater?

Instead of telling someone they are not wanted inside our churches because of the way they look, where they’re from, number of tattoos or piercings, how about we throw open the doors, get out into the streets, welcome one and all, and show the love the Father has shown us.

As the body of Christ, we should spread the love of God, not keep it to ourselves. How are we doing with that?

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Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT)

You can find my May Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Who Is Wise Among You?

Photo by Andrés Dallimonti on Unsplash

Due to my growing interest in ancient Greek history, there was a time during my early teen years where I studied the words of several Greek philosophers. Socrates, (or So Crates if you’re a Bill and Ted fan) was at the top of my list. Perhaps that’s the reason I ask a lot of questions and ponder why.

To the people of the day, and for centuries to follow, the words of these philosophers were considered to be truly wise.

One quote by Heraclitus I discovered during my college Humanities class has stuck with me through the years.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. Heraclitus

Life continues to flow, does it not? We can never snatch back yesterday.

Today we are surrounded by people who claim to be wise. To have all the answers. To be able to solve all our problems. During the time Job endured unimaginable trials – all his children killed, his home destroyed, his livestock and wealth taken from him, his health deteriorated to the point he cried out for death – his so-called friends counseled him with their self-proclaimed wisdom.

They said many things, but their wisdom was anything but wise.

In the Book of Job God tells Job, “To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand, you must turn from evil.” God states wisdom is not to be found among mortals; no human knows its true value. God alone knows the way, knows the place where wisdom is found.

Socrates stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters.”

Well, although I agree we must examine our lives daily to make sure we are following the path Jesus set before us, and I agree ethical virtue is important, I’d have to disagree with ethical virtue being the only thing that matters.

I believe an abiding faith in, reverence and love for, and obedience to the One True Living God needs to top our list of the things that matter most.

What do you think?

Were there any philosophers you enjoyed studying? Any philosophical quotes you’d care to share? Here’s another from Socrates. “Wisdom begins in wonder.” 

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Wisdom is not to be found among mortals; no one knows its true value. The depths of the oceans and seas say that wisdom is not found there. It cannot be bought with silver or gold. The finest gold and jewels cannot equal its value. It is worth more than gold, than a gold vase or finest glass.

The value of wisdom is more than coral or crystal or rubies. The finest topaz and the purest gold cannot compare with the value of wisdom.

Where, then, is the source of wisdom? Where can we learn to understand? No living creature can see it, not even a bird in flight. Even death and destruction admit they have heard only rumors.

God alone knows the way, knows the place where wisdom is found, because he sees the ends of the earth, sees everything under the sky.

When God gave the wind its power and determined the size of the sea, when God decided where the rain would fall, and the path that the thunderclouds travel; it was then he saw wisdom and tested its worth—He gave it his approval.

God said to us humans, “To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand, you must turn from evil.” Job 28:13-28 (GNT)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Getting Rid of the Weeds

Is it just me, or does yard work never end? Earlier, I dealt with the results of our February freeze. Next, I moved on to getting rid of the weeds in our yard. I’ve dug up dandelions, tackled dollar weed, and attacked the sprawling sticky whatever-it-is weed that spreads out all over the place. And then there was the thorn laden vine that wove itself through the azalea. Yeah, that was fun to remove. Not.

Why is it the plants died from the freeze, but the weeds flourished? Tis a puzzlement to be sure.

Getting rid of the weeds is an ongoing, tedious, labor intensive battle I don’t seem to ever win. However, as I worked at getting rid of the weeds in my yard, I thought about how much weeds and sin have in common.

  • If I don’t get the whole root, the weed will just come right back.
  • If we don’t dig out the root of sin, it will just pop right back.
  • Some of the weeds sneaked in under the fence from the neighbor’s yard.
  • If we aren’t careful, our neighbors’ sins can become our own.
  • Getting rid of weeds is a lot easier if done when we first notice them.
  • Getting rid of sin is the same thing.
  • Those weeds I didn’t get rid of last year had time to grow and become tougher to remove.
  • The sins we don’t deal with when we first notice them will be more difficult to remove the longer we allow them to remain.
  • Weeds with shallow roots are easier to remove.
  • Sins we haven’t allowed to get deep into our soul are easier to remove.
  • All the weeds may not get removed in one day.
  • Our sins may not get removed in one day.
  • Pulling weeds and taking steps to keep them from returning is a lot of work. I’ll probably enlist help to complete the job.
  • Getting rid of our sins is work. We need to enlist help from the Holy Spirit.

Got a garden full of weeds in your life? What steps are you taking to get rid of the weeds? Maybe, as with sin, the first step is admitting there are weeds in our garden, and determine to do something about them.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” Isaiah 43:25 (NLT)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Don’t Neglect Our Spiritual Soil

Last month, as I tackled the task of clearing out the damaged plants the February freeze caused, several things struck me which not only applied to my plants, but to my spiritual life as well. The main thing I realized is don’t neglect the soil.

After I removed the dead plants, I saw the soil they grew in. Throughout the life of these plants, I didn’t pay close enough attention to the soil. Sure. I watered the plants, but I didn’t bother too much with the condition of the soil. You might say once planted, those plants were on their own. 

We may not pay close enough attention to the condition of our spiritual soil to make sure it produces a healthy environment for growth. We may throw a few Bible verses or prayers at it, but we don’t invest the necessary time to make sure it is enriched. Just as with my plants, our spiritual soil will only be enriched to the degree we invest in it.

As I cut back the dead foliage, I discovered leafless vines. There was very little to show for their existence. They weren’t productive.

We can have wandering leafless vines in our spiritual soil too. There isn’t much to show for its existence. It doesn’t produce fruit as evidence of the Spirit living in us.

Some of the plants reached outside the flower pots and sunk their roots into cracks in search of a better place to grow. 

If we don’t tend to and nourish our spiritual soil, we may decide to go hunting around in the cracks for some place else to grow.

It took a deep hard freeze to make me pay attention to my plants’ soil. Sometimes it takes a deep hard freeze in our life to make us pay attention to our spiritual soil.

Jesus tells us he is the true vine. We can do nothing apart from him.

The best way I’ve found to stay attached to the True Vine is to make sure I don’t neglect my spiritual soil.

What do you do to make sure you don’t neglect your spiritual soil?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject.

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Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing. If anyone separates from me, he is thrown away like a useless branch, withers, and is gathered into a pile with all the others and burned. John 15:4-6 (TLB)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Ruth and Boaz

Photo by Bruno Kelzer on Unsplash

The story of Ruth and Boaz is a familiar one. It is a story of loss, bitterness, redemption, love, and joy. The main characters are the widow Naomi, her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth, and the kinsman redeemer Boaz.

Throughout the Book of Ruth we see God working. I love how the Bible says, as it happened, and as it turned out. Naomi and Ruth didn’t just happen to arrive in Bethlehem at harvest time, and Ruth didn’t just happen to end up gathering grain in Boaz’s fields. The fact Ruth is King David’s great-grandmother, and Boaz is David’s great-grandfather, putting them both in Christ’s genealogy, is by no means mere happenstance.

If you are familiar with Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz’s story, you remember Naomi’s family moved from Bethlehem in Judah to the land of the Moabites during a severe famine. While there, Naomi’s husband and both sons died, leaving behind three widows.

When word reached Naomi good crops were once again growing in Judah, she decided to return. At first, both daughter-in-laws decided to go with her. In the end, only Ruth left her homeland of Moab to join Naomi on her journey.

First off, this was no leisurely stroll to the market. These two women left their home and walked approximately 50 to 60 miles for 7-10 days. They descended from the mountains in Moab, entered the Jordan River Valley north of the Dead Sea, ascended to Jericho, and climbed an additional 2,500 feet near Jerusalem, before walking south to Bethlehem.

Two women traveling such a great distance alone definitely would not be without its dangers. Wild animals and thieves topped the list.

We know their story ends well. However, I’d like to point out a couple things we might miss by just looking at this as a nice love story between Ruth and Naomi,  and between Ruth and Boaz.

Ruth was from Moab. The Israelites did not like the Moabites for a number of reasons, going all the way back to their wilderness wandering days. So Ruth’s willingness to embrace the God of the Israelites and live among them was huge.

Boaz’s mother, Rahab, was the Canaanite woman who hid Israelite spies right before the people of Israel circled Jericho, and God leveled it.

There was the very real possibility Ruth would be treated roughly if no one protected her.

As the son of an outsider, Boaz understood what being an outsider meant, and was willing to protect Ruth.

Ruth’s devotion to God wasn’t inherited from her family. They were pagan-worshiping child-sacrificers. Ruth chose to worship God.

Boaz was a close kin who could redeem Ruth according to the Levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). He chose to redeem Ruth.

In this story, we see a God who works in our lives to achieve his plan whether we are aware of it or not.

We are shown God invites everyone to be a part of his family, regardless of where they came from or what their previous beliefs were.

Before the kinsman redeemer can redeem, he must be related by blood to those he redeems. He must be able to pay the price of redemption. And there has to be a willingness to redeem. 

Just as Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, Jesus is our kinsman redeemer. Through his sacrificial blood we are related to him. Jesus was without sin and able to pay the cost. He willingly paid the price for our redemption.

What is your favorite part of Ruth and Boaz’s story?

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Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot.

The neighborhood women started calling him “Naomi’s baby boy!” But his real name was Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. Ruth 4:116-17 (MSG)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Pause for Poetry – Beside My Cottage Door It Grows

Beside My Cottage Door It Grows

Taken from Streams in the Desert

Author Unknown

Beside my cottage door it grows,
The loveliest, daintiest flower that blows,
A sweetbriar rose.

At dewy morn or twilight’s close,
The rarest perfume from it flows,
This strange wild rose.

But when the rain-drops on it beat,
Ah, then, its odors grow more sweet,
About my feet.

Ofttimes with loving tenderness,
Its soft green leaves I gently press,
In sweet caress.

A still more wondrous fragrance flows
The more my fingers close
And crush the rose.

Dear Lord, oh, let my life be so
Its perfume when tempests blow,
The sweeter flow.

And should it be Thy blessed will,
With crushing grief my soul to fill,
Press harder still.

And while its dying fragrance flows
I’ll whisper low, “He loves and knows
His crushed briar rose.”

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Be Still My Soul

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Within the past four weeks, four people I am connected with in some way died. Be still my soul.

March 13 our neighbor across the street died. We knew Howard for almost twenty-one years.

Two weeks later, the mother of a sweet friend died before she saw her two-week old grandson.

One week after that, the brother-in-law of another dear friend died. His wife came home from work and found him unresponsive.

And then two days ago, my sister-in-law’s sister died. Dee was scheduled to go into Hospice care at home the next day if she lived that long. She didn’t.

If you are wondering, none of these deaths were COVID related. Only one was expected.

During that same period of time, a baby was born. Our next door neighbors celebrated their first child’s two-month birthday. I was able to hold my friend’s five-month-old baby for the first time. New neighbors moved into the other house next to us.

Also during this four week span of time, Pilot and I celebrated our twenty-ninth anniversary and the Church celebrated the Resurrected Christ.

Life. From birth to death, and everything in between. Be still my soul.

I do not know what you face right now. Health concerns. The health concerns of loved ones. Job uncertainties. Financial worries. Relationship difficulties. Personal struggles. Doubts. Fears. Insecurities.

What I do know is this. Nothing reaches us God didn’t plan or permit. It all passes through his hand first. When the wars of life attack us, and they will, Jesus is as close as our skin. He stands ready to lead us through our battles.

In closing, I leave you with the song I requested be played at my mother’s funeral. I hope it brings you peace in whatever stage on life’s spectrum you currently find yourself in. Be still my soul.

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 “When you go to war and see before you vast numbers of horses and chariots, an army far greater than yours, don’t be frightened! The Lord your God is with you—the same God who brought you safely out of Egypt! 

“‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Don’t be afraid as you go out to fight today! For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you the victory!’” Deuteronomy 20:1, 3-4

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here.Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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When No One’s Watching

Photo by Gabriel Meinert on Unsplash

The other day, I drove through the neighborhood as the elementary school dismissed. I chuckled when I noticed one particular boy. Once he was out of sight of the police officer directing traffic, he removed his bicycle helmet and hung it from the bike’s handlebars.

However, after he turned onto my street, things changed. He placed the helmet on his head. A few houses later, he pulled to the curb and tightened the straps under his chin.

When he believed no one was watching, he acted one way. When he knew there was the possibility his parents might see him, he acted another. Obedience had nothing to do with it. Doing the right thing had nothing to do with it. Getting caught had everything to do with it.

While I found the incident rather humorous, it led me to wonder. How often do I, do we, behave one way when we believe no one’s watching, and behave another way when we believe they are? Not really out of obedience to God or out of love for him, but out of the fear of being reprimanded for not wearing our helmets?

We don’t need to look further than the third chapter of Genesis to see this played out in the lives of Adam and Eve. After they were deceived by the serpent, they tried to hide from God. Things did not work out as they thought they would.

When the LORD told Abraham he and Sarah would have a son in a year’s time in Genesis 18, Sarah laughed. She thought God wouldn’t hear. Guess what? God heard.

Before we leave the book of Genesis, there’s the story in Genesis 37 of Joseph and his ten older brothers. Out of jealousy, and believing no one would find out, they threw Joseph into a dry cistern. They planned on leaving him there and concocted a wild story to tell their father Jacob about how Joseph died. But then some Ishmaelite merchants traveling to Egypt arrived. The older brothers sold their younger know-it-all brother into slavery. The going price? Twenty shekels of silver. They didn’t think anyone would find out. Boy were they wrong. What they planned for evil when no one was watching, God planned for good.

The Bible is filled with stories like these where people thought they could do whatever they wanted when they believed no one was watching. The Israelites and that golden calf of theirs recorded in Exodus 32. Jonah and the large fish he found himself taking up residence in recorded in the book of Jonah. Ananias and Sapphira and their land deal recorded in Acts 5 shortly after the New Testament Church began.

Regardless of the situation or reason, when we act as if no one’s watching and do wrong, we forget a very important fact. We can’t fool God. God sees. God hears. God knows. We show our love for God through our obedience, whether anyone sees us or not.

Instead of removing our helmet when we think no one’s watching and then putting it on when we think they are, what say we act like God’s watching? Because, you know, he really is. Not as someone looking to punish, but as someone who loves us too much to allow us to harm ourselves through disobedience.

Which story in the Bible about someone doing something when they think no one’s watching is your favorite?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and my Father and I will come to them and live with them. Those who do not love me do not obey my teaching. And the teaching you have heard is not mine, but comes from the Father, who sent me.” John 14:23-24 (GNT)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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