Imago Dei

Do you think you are beautiful? Has anyone ever told you that you are beautiful? Do you think of the beautiful person that God has created in His image; Imago Dei, in the image of God, as you?

Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t. Maybe you are struggling at this very moment to believe that you are beautiful. You feel ugly. You believe those feelings and you start to think along with being ugly, you quite possibly are unlovable. Maybe even God is disappointed in you. Others are beautiful, desirable, lovable. You might believe the lie that somehow even God doesn’t love you.

Maybe your parents even told you these lies. And you can’t help but find plenty of other people to hold up as the beauty standard; the lovable standard. The magazine covers and social media post that unashamedly use filters that are the goals according to culture. Maybe you were abused or objectified. You thought it was love, but it was just a short- termed lie. It left you feeling worse about yourself.

It probably started while you were young; when the people closest to you made comments that you took to heart. Comments that you believed about yourself. Or maybe it was abuse and you turned on yourself, hating what God had made. Your prettiness. Your handsomeness. You felt the blame fall upon you and maybe you tried to harm yourself. To make the pain and hurt go away.

I feel you. I get it. I’ve felt it too. The ugliness that I believed about myself. That I was not worth love. I was scarred from an accident as a child. It left me different than the others girls. I was also born with a birth mark. I hid my body. I was ashamed. I certainly did not think of myself as beautiful. I never heard it from my parents. Just once I remember overhearing a conversation my mom was having with someone and heard her say I was beautiful on the inside. Was that a complement? It’s hard to register as a middleschooler going through that awkward stage. it took me years into my adulthood before I could look into the mirror and declare that I was loved by God. The hurt and the wounds were deep.

What brings me to write this today was an article I read online from a Christian author. It was her opinion that we should stop telling women they are beautiful and focus on how we are all so fortunate that given our miserable state as sinners that God should even offer us salvation. She also added that we should stop telling the women at women’s conferences that they are special and loved by God. That to do so is all wrong and we should shift only to the spiritual elements of Christianity. This is not word for word of what she said, but the idea of it. She believed we are not so special. We should not feel we are. But, wait just a minute. Then why does the Bible speak so much of beauty?

To dismiss that we are created in the image of God is an affront to God. Read the first chapter of Genesis. God said His creation was very good. Body shame and the need to cover up came after the Fall, (Genesis 2:25, 3:7).

After the Fall, Adam and Eve looked at themselves and knew they were naked. They felt shame. They wanted to hide. This was the beginning of body shame and the beginning of death. Our bodies fall prey to old age and disease. And if you are older like me, you know this all too well. But we still try to cover up this aging process and look to make ourselves beautiful by the world’s standards.

I think that is what was troubling the writer of the article I read. Too much focus on the outward appearance and not meeting the world’s standard. But, for some people, myself included, we need to hear that we are loved and beautiful. It is not a sign of weakness. We all should be reminded that despite how we look, God finds us beautiful. He creates us and knits us together (Psalm 139). Some of us have scars. Some of us are born without limbs, or hearing, or sight. But. We Are Beautiful. And our physical bodies should not be treated with any contempt.

When we die, we will be resurrected in real bodies. Not floating, wispy, cloudy images. Jesus resurrected and has a real body. Read the end of the Gospels. He still ate with His disciples.

The Romans believed the body in its physical sense was evil. Women’s bodies were deemed worse than a man’s. It was a real shock for the early church in Ephesus to read Paul’s words that “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” Ephesians 5:28, NIV. Paul added that the husbands should care for wives as the husbands cared for their own bodies. The body as Paul reasoned was not bad and would be resurrected to new life, a belief the gentiles did not hold to.

Should we treat our own physical bodies as if they do not matter? Should we ignore the millions of people who want to hear that they are loved by God? That God has created them with beauty and they can look into the mirror with confidence that they are beautiful, despite their less then social media perfection bodies. and that they can agree with God that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and He declares it very good.

We should celebrate and Praise God for freeing us from sin and shame, even body shame. And celebrate that He did love the world so much that He sent His very Son to redeem it. We are in the world. He loves us. He declares that the physical body is worth redeeming along with the spiritual body. It is not bad; it is beautiful. You are beautiful. – God Bless You Nancy,

Hills And Valleys

My morning song selection seemed very fitting today. As soon as the song began it brought me anxious thoughts for this day as well as memories from long ago. It was Tauren Wells singing “Hills and Valleys”. It is a great song that reminds us that God is always with us in those lows and highs of our lives.

This morning had been one of those low moments after my mother in law called with news about my husband’s younger sister and her medical emergency. She was okay now, but it was a very unexpected event. The kind that could have gone very badly. Thankfully she is better now, but it definitely put everything into perspective. Life is so uncertain and we never know when we will go from a hill top to a valley.

I grew up in northern New England. Its an area of the United States, named after its mostly English settlers and is known for as being part of the Appalachian Mountains. These mountains were formed from glaciers that melted and dug across the area, leaving behind tall mountain peaks and deep valleys below. Many of the towns are either located in valleys or along the sides of the mountains. The terrain is not flat between these mountains but is more rolling with hills and small level spots that were build able along the rivers and lakes.

As I was thinking about Tauren Wells’ song this morning, I was brought back to a time in my childhood when my mom started a 4- H club for the community youth, mostly farm families, in our home town. The young farm kids learned good citizenship, good animal husbandry skills and team work. But, because there weren’t that many farms in our actual hometown, many of the kids who belonged were from the neighboring small towns. Towns that were scattered along the valleys, mountains and hillsides.

To start the club, my mom needed to give it a name, and as all the adults were brainstorming for ideas, I, as a younger than the official age to join the club, made a profound realization and I spoke up, “Why not call it Hill and Valley” since that describes the variety of places the kids were coming from? I may have been too young to join, but the adults, including my mom liked it and the name was officially chosen. So shout out to anyone back in my hometown who knows if it still is going strong as a 4- H club. I know it was for a while.

The song also brought to mind the 23rd Psalm. About walking in shadows of the valley of death. If you follow the psalm it shifts to speak of the good things God does- anointing the head with oil, spreading out a banquet, goodness and mercy, dwelling in God’s house. It seems quite the contrast when you think about it. The valley of the deepest despair, when you think you’re going to die , to the point you can enjoy the full, over-flowing cup of God’s mercy and goodness.

We usually reserve Psalm 23 for funerals, but I’m not sure why. Whoever is dead is not passing through the shadows of death. They are already dead. But, it seems more fitting for this life. We will go through valleys. Through shadows of death. When we have despair. When we cannot see our way out of the valley. The mountains are too high. Our sadness too overwhelming. But God is with us. He has not abandoned us. He is there in the valleys as well as those amazing mountain top moments. The moments with the celebrations and banquets when our joy is over flowing.

We all like those moments. We wish that we had more. But what if what we think our valleys now, are really mountaintop moments?

I’m sure my sister in law, thought nothing of her routine procedure yesterday. It was just another thing on the schedule. Another evening like the ones before to come home from work, make dinner and sit down with her husband. We all do the same or similar. We wake, go through our days, spend time with our families, our spouses, our pets, our co -workers. And we have anxiety. We have stresses, We have high food prices, and high gasoline prices. We worry about measuring up at work or school. We know we should pray more, read our Bibles more, serve more, share more. But, in these simple moments- stressed filled and all, what if these are mountains? What if they aren’t the valleys we think they are? Life is short. Our days are numbered before they begin, but through it all, God. God is with us. Through the days when we think we are falling into the shadows of the death. When we are lifting our hands in praise to God for the awesome answers to prayer. He is there in it all.

I have been in those deep valleys, praying and crying in the hospital room while a loved one lay in a coma, dying. I have been on the mountains when the praise from the worship band was so amazing, Heaven came down, and the presence of God fell down. To the point at which the worship lead stopped singing and fell to his knees as I too stopped singing. There were no words that could describe His presence.

God was not any closer in that moment, than at the moment in the hospital as my own mother lay dying. He was there. With me. In the hills and in the valleys, -God Bless You- Nancy

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

Psalm 23:4-6, NIV

When They’re Gone

Her children rise up and call her blessed – Proverbs 31:28

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mother’s Day this year. I am amazed how difficult this day is for me. Oh, I am very happy when my own adult children and my husband remember the day and share their love and appreciation towards me. But, after almost 8 years since my mom died; its still really sad for me. I wish she were here.

I wonder when and if it will ever be just another day for me. Will there be a time when I don’t find all of the advertisements bothersome? This year, I thought I was handling everything so well. I could walk past the Mother’s Day cards without feeling sad. I even searched through the cards looking for one for our daughter, who is expecting her first child. I was looking for a card for “moms to be”. And yes that is a thing, in case you are looking for a similar card and sentiment. To me, a mom becomes a mom, the moment she is pregnant. She nourishes and grows a child within her womb, who is completely dependent on her. This definitely qualifies as mom to me, not just when the child takes her first breath of air. Just ask my daughter and she will confirm this very much alive child who is already keeping my daughter awake with her gymnastics in the middle of the night, is her baby and she is her mother.

So, as I was looking for the right card to give my daughter this year, in the dollar tree store of all places, I was suddenly overcome with memories of my own mom. The words I could hear her speak, and the image of her face, began to flood my mind. I found the perfect card, though, but I was doing everything I could not to completely break down in a full blown ugly cry right there in the store.

My husband was with me, but had gotten off to some other part of the store, so I quickly walked away from the rack of Mother’s Day cards, to escape to another aisle. And also went on a mission to find my husband so we could check out and leave before the tears fell. In a moment of relief, my daughter texted me and told me a present had arrived from us and how much she and her husband loved it. It was perfect timing and brought me a moment of joy, but also quickly turned to sadness as I thought about my mom, not being able to be a part of her first great grandchild’s life. That made me sadder , and also a bit angry, feeling like both my mom and me had been robbed of this opportunity.

I know my mom is healed and happy, but it doesn’t mean that I still don’t wish she were here. She would love all the excitement around the new baby. She would probably make her a knitted blanket or sweater, or maybe even a quilt. She was amazing at handmade gifts. I still have many of the things she made for my own children when they were born. She would love the baby shower planning as well- she was amazing as a host and cook. She would make meals for anyone who stopped by her house at lunch or dinner without any stress or checking her schedule first. She simply served them and made it look so easy.

But, I have to admit, I did not always appreciate my mom and recognize the neat and generous ways she served others, including me. I thought the homemade clothes were simply just a way for her to save money, and I felt self- conscious at school around my classmates with store bought designer clothes. When I was married, she would send me past issues of magazines, old store coupons and school papers from my childhood. I thought she was just cleaning out her house and giving me what she didn’t want any longer. And at other times, we just didn’t agree on issues. I thought she was too old fashioned.

Sadly, it took me many years and her passing to realize just what a blessing I had. The old school papers she saved and sent, would have been lost and my kids would not have gotten to see my first grade class picture. The magazines were great for when my kids needed to cut up pictures for school projects. I used the coupons at the store. The homemade clothes gave me design and style sense, that taught me how to be creative, look for bargains instead of paying full price, and not conforming to cultural expectations- In other words, to think for myself. Her throwing meals together from simple ingredients, helped to learn hospitality.

And her difference of opinions, taught me how to listen to others, and to come up with counter arguments. However, the biggest part of my life that I appreciate the most is to provide an opportunity to hear the Gospel. It was her prompting to go to church, watching television church serves, and the gift of my first Bible that led me to my relationship with Christ. For this, I will always be thankful and praising God.

I just wish I had opened my eyes to appreciate her while I could have told her. I talked her while she was she was in her coma, but it just wasn’t the same. I hope she heard me.

But, if there is anything I would like to share with you as Mother’s Day is approaching- please, tell your mom you love her. Look for ways to show her. Look at the ways she has helped you become the person you are today. She may have made you angry, she might have made crazy requests, she might have been annoying at times, she might have not liked your choice of friends or politics, she might not talk with you, she might have disowned you or abandoned you, she might have hurt you. But, she is your mom and she gave you life.

If your mom is still alive, you have the opportunity to enjoy her now. But, I will have to wait until my mom and I are reunited in Heaven, but I can guarantee it will be amazing! It will be like the most amazing Mother’s Day ever. And will be able to thank her for my life and called her blessed. – God Bless You – Nancy

To Everything

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

The changing of seasons is an amazing thing. It displays God’s creativity in His creation and His careful arrangement of nature and weather. Here in the southern United States where I live it is Spring- more affectionately called by locals as Pollen Season. If you happen to visit the area during these months of our Spring from mid February to the end of May, you will encounter quite the scene. Sniffling noses, watery eyes, raspy voices, foggy minds and the “I just woke up and feel tired already” groups of people. It is like we have all just watched the saddest videos on our phones for all the sniffles and watery eyes you’ll witness.

And we all empathize with each other and compare our symptoms and the various remedies. We search out and Google every possible option for relief and seek the advice of complete strangers in the medicine aisle of the grocery store. The advice is as wide of a variety as the flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans- which means quite a number!

As one who suffers from these Spring pollen explosions of symptoms, I sometimes feel quite miserable. I find it very easy to get caught up in the whole “My symptoms are worse than yours” conversation in which we all try to describe in detail, how we are feeling. The real reason is of course to find out what the other person is taking for medicine to relieve their symptoms. To be honest, though, there seems to be no perfect medicine to relieve the allergies, just basically something to control the symptoms. Allergies must simply be endured until, the pollen of the particular flower or tree lessens. It is about the same time the humidity kicks in- about mid to late May for the South.

So, I have a choice to complain about the pollen and then switch to complaining about the humidity, or to find the beauty in it all. There will always be something to complain about.

After living all over the globe, thanks to my husband’s career in military service- I can tell you one great insight about places and weather- there is simply no perfect place in which the sun shines every day of the year. We all have rain- we need it- we all have seasons of storms, and if we have plants- we will have pollen season. We must take it all as a part of life, much like stages of our lives. We all go through various seasons in our lives, as the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us.

There are times when we are growing and sowing in our lives, when we feel pretty good about life. And then there are seasons of harvest when we are content and happy. And then there are seasons of sadness and mourning when we let go of someone or something. There are season of hardship and difficulty. Seasons of uncertainty. But in it all, we can find the beauty of God.

As I have mentioned many times before, life is constantly moving forward. Our lives and are faith are always moving forward and growing and we will be challenged at times. We have the choice to look for the beauty in what God is doing or remain bitter and see only the difficulties. I can look out my window and admire the beauty of the flowers as God could only create their intricate blossoms. Or I could only see the pollen floating in the air and complain about Spring. Without the pollen, the bees and butterflies could not survive. The honey that sweetens would be missing if the bees could not harvest the nectar from the blooms. The fruit trees producing their delicious fruit of late Summer could not bloom without the help of the bees and the Spring winds blowing the pollen from tree to tree.

In life we will have problems, the pollen of our lives, so to speak, but it can bring the fruit and growth later on that we can enjoy. Pollen season is a brief time. It doesn’t last all year- thankfully- There is a season for everything- we must find the beauty in the season we are in- even if it means watery eyes and sniffles. -God bless you- Nancy

Why Not Jesus?

As I’m writing today it is the beginning of Holy Week, the week when the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Prayer and arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, the trial, the crucifixion, burial, the Resurrection, and the discovery of the empty tomb are celebrated by Christians worldwide. The celebrations look different, depending on the church and country, but for all it is a time to reflect on the enormity of what Jesus did.

For some people, it is just another holiday to celebrate. In the US, most people attend church on Easter with their families, enjoy a large dinner and fill Easter baskets for the children with chocolate bunnies and toys. Candy filled plastic eggs are hidden for a search by the eager youngsters. Often these Easter egg hunts are hosted by community organizations with no ties to any religion. We’ve gotten so used to celebrated holidays that the real religious significance is overlooked, much like Christmas.

Last week, I was sorting out some books in my office and came across one entitled “Why Jesus?” It is a great book written by the apologist Ravi Zaccharias, but it made me ponder for a moment the question; “Why NOT Jesus?” I mean, why not believe in Jesus?

As some of you know I am a Christian apologist, as well as a writer. So, giving answers like why NOT Jesus is right up my alley. That is, after studying for my Masters in apologetics, I really can not understand anyone who does not believe that Jesus is the Savior, who died and rose again. The history, not just from the Bible, but other historical sources, is just too true not to believe. Yet, many still continue to resist the idea. Its like believing the earth is still flat, despite the evidence to the contrary.

I suspect, the reason why so many resist Jesus is because of their encounters with His followers, not with the evidence for the historic Jesus. Or it might also be that they like it when they agree with one of Jesus’ teachings, but not all of them. They like to pick and choose which ones to follow and which ones to ignore. It’s like they enjoy the chocolate Easter candy, I mean who doesn’t?, but they do not like the Easter story. It’s too complicated. They fear that they are not good enough, like God won’t love them or approve of their life choices. Or they fear they might have to give up one of their bad habits, you know the stuff God calls sin.

So , they enjoy celebrating for the chocolate, the food and the party, but do not commit to Jesus. Sadly, they miss that Jesus died for those sins, the ones they think God doesn’t see or is mad at them. They miss the big picture of what Jesus did. Jesus didn’t die for perfect church going people, He died and rose for those who fall short- way short- like me. His death demonstrates just how much God, Yahweh, loves us and the lengths He will go to redeeming us, coming down from Heaven and taking on the physical body, dying a real physical death, but defeating death by resurrecting. Jesus is not in the tomb, He is living. Christians do not follow a dead guru, like other religions, but a living God.

Or maybe they let the fear of change keep them from trusting Him completely. Instead they want to continue in this tension between trying to live this life on their own, without the secure knowledge of what happens after we die, and with the letting go of their trying and uncertainty and trust Jesus’ death and resurrection for themselves.

This world has enough tension already, so why live in this tense state? Why not trust Jesus this Easter and experience your own death to life spiritual transformation, instead of coming to the party just for the chocolate?

The writer of Hebrews offers this hope; “So also Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews 9:28, Berean Study Bible)

And the apostle Paul adds; “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10, NIV)

So, let me ask again what are you waiting for? Why not Jesus?- God Bless – Nancy

Listening For God

How easy is it for you to listen for God? Does Heaven seem silent at times? Do your prayers appear to hit the ceiling and just stop there? I struggled a bit to decide on this week’s blog title on whether or not I should substitute the word for with the word to.

When we get right down to it, sometimes God is speaking to us, but we just don’t like what He’s saying. We want Him to speak with neon signs or billboards or maybe in this time in history; Instagram posts or Facebook. We are waiting for these big moments in our lives that will answer our questions and prayers. We seek God for answers of what we should or should not do. What person to marry. What job to accept or decline. What home or car to buy. What to say to someone. What not to say to someone. Everything. And most of the time we hear the Holy Spirit nudging us in one direction or another. Or giving us the right words to say at the right time.

That is usually how we hear God’s direction. But sometimes for the really big decisions it just seems quiet, too quiet. Have you been there? Me too. And it can be frustrating.

I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I just wanna get it right. Not step out and find out, but more like shoot a dart and have it land perfectly on the bullseye on the first try.

Today I was reminded of the Prophet Elijah’s encounter with God. Elijah was hiding in a cave awaiting God to pass by. Reality was, he was hiding because he was scared. And lonely. He felt like he was the only one left who was following God and serving him. He was discouraged and complained to God. God told Elijah to wait and He (God) would pass by the opening to the cave. And then we are told, “A great and terrible wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.After the earthquake came fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13, NIV).

After all that, in the end God says to Elijah “What are you doing here?” Like get up stop fearing everything and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Wow.

I mean I would be done after the earthquake and wind. But yeah fire too. And then the whisper. I suspect all the other natural phenomenon was to simply get Elijah’s attention and bring him out of the cave. But, also I doubt if there was much cave left after God broke apart the mountain with wind. And poor Elijah thought he was scared of what people could do to him.

We all have those moments in our life when it does appear that our whole world is falling apart and we need God so desperately. And then something happens to us. When we get rid of all of our distractions and reduce down what really matters, when our lives are shattered and our protections are removed, we are forced out to the entrance of our own caves, and there in that moment God whispers to us. The earthquakes, windstorms and fire of our lives, get our attention and prepare us to draw nearer to God and listen.

I would prefer to do without all the storms of course to hear God. I can sometimes be stubborn like Elijah though and want the billboards and neon signs, but most of the time I am only waiting to hear from God what I want Him to say. And I always want the message on my time table, not God’s. It is at those times I have to still my soul and be quiet to listen for that gentle whisper of God. And then get up, leave the cave of waiting and go where He leads me. God Bless You – Nancy

Beautiful Feet

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15

I’ve never thought of my feet as beautiful. In fact, I’ve kind of had this love/hate relationship with my feet. They keep me balanced, enable me to walk from one place to another, and give me a place to put my socks and shoes. That’s the love part. But they also bring me problems like blisters and plantar fasciitis, a broken toe, and my least favorite- finding shoes that fit. My foot isn’t considered a wide size or a narrow size according to shoe manufacturers, but it is a bit of both; a narrower heel and a wider toe area. And don’t get me started about size. Shoe sizes in the US are measured roughly in inches, but are not so accurate and all the cute women’s shoes are found in smaller sizes and not in my larger shoe size. My husband always tells me that I have a popular size, since it is usually the one size that is always out of stock in the stores. Maybe. Either way, I’m not sure if my feet are beautiful, just functional.

But God thinks they are. At least from the viewpoint of sharing the Good News. As Paul wrote the verse from above in his letter to the Romans, he was using it in the context of those sent to reach others with the Gospel; the Good News. The news that would give the people hope and joy. He referred to a passage from Isaiah 52:7 which prophesied the coming Messiah.

We probably don’t think about messengers traveling about on foot, bringing news- good or otherwise- as was common in Isaiah’s time or Paul’s in which letters were written and then hand delivered and read aloud. We are use to messages being sent through the internet or text. Oh we still have deliveries in person, like the mail (or post), or Amazon, or Doordash, or Uber eats or similar delivery and we get excited for these good things brought to our doorstep.

We might even look forward to these special deliveries, either the delicious food we are anticipating or the long desired items we ordered. As in Isaiah’s day, the people looked forward to someday being delivered from their bondage, delivered from sin, when the messiah would come. Isaiah’s Good news was the redeemer was coming; Paul’s Good news; He had come.

Our Good News he has come to deliver us and will come again. For now we can have peace with God through belief and trust in Jesus Christ. We can overcome being in bondage to our sins- the stuff we struggle with, it does not have to have power over us any more, thanks to the leading, directing,instruction and even comfort of the Holy Spirit. We also can look forward to the time of Jesus’ return with great anticipation when everything will finally be made right. A time with no more death or crying. No more wars.

We, as believers are all called to share this Good News, this great hope we have that the future is not dim, but hopeful. We all have beautiful feet! Not just those with the cute, small feet that fit into those perfectly cute shoes. Not just those who are pastors or missionaries. But all feet.

It is the message that makes the feet of the messenger beautiful. Let us keep on sharing this Good News, and encouraging one another on this faith journey. -God bless you, Nancy

Road Work

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. -Isaiah 40:3, NIV

I remember vividly the first time our daughter drove us up the mountain near her university. At the top was a beautiful vantage point to look out over the valley below and even the smaller mountains that were around were dwarfed by this much taller peak.

The views were breathtaking, but that wasn’t the only thing taking my breath away… you see the road up to the top was anything but a peaceful drive on a country road. There were steep inclines and multiple switch backs with no guardrails, nope, nothing but a hundred foot drop on the side. Driving down was even more exciting as she had to shift down the car to prevent from using her brakes too often and having them overheat.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing the views from the top, but I just don’t like the the winding roads to get there. Why can’t there just be a more direct route? Too steep probably, I get it.

Lately God has been impressing upon me those straight paths Isaiah talks about, like from the verse above. We find it also in all four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It of course is speaking (in Isaiah) prophetically of John the Baptist, who was he “voice of one crying our in the desert”. His mission was to announce Jesus coming as the Messiah. His message was one of repentance and baptism.

Those who came out to the wilderness to hear him speak were a mixed group. Some were looking for more in their own spiritual life, and others were curious, in particular members of the Jewish religious leadership who had heard that his preaching was having a big impact on people, probably much bigger than their impact with their long list of do’s and don’t s that held the people in bondage and without hope that they could ever be good enough for God. People were responding more to John then them. They probably were getting a bit jealous.

They questioned John about his purpose and mission and this is when he quoted from the book of Isaiah. Matthew’s gospel gives the reader a bit of more insight into John’s view of his mission and it wasn’t very kind to the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7-10). They were very religious, but had no fruit to show a true heart that had repented. They were a hindrance to the people when they should have been leading them towards a closer relationship with God.

There are still many hindrances today, to a closer relationship with God, like religion, bad experiences with church and church people, doubts, fears, pride, and maybe over rationalizing, for a few examples. I’m sure if we got together, we could all add to that list. These rough roads to belief in God or trusting God more, if we are already believers, sometimes keep us from knowing God in a more personal way.

It’s like that windy mountain road. It’s rough and we just want to turn back sometimes. It can be scary to place our faith in God. We look around and see the potential drop offs – like maybe people will think we are weird, or worse, our friends will leave us. Family might think we are crazy for starting this journey of faith.

Or maybe we have been so hurt before, we already know its difficult, because we tried to start up the mountain, but turned around. We are still licking our wounds from the hurtful things that church people said to us, or worse, did to us. We don’t believe we can do that again, I mean what if we get hurt again?

John would have liked to talk with you I bet, see he knew the religious leaders did not have fruit, he called them out on it. He called them snakes. John was not teaching another religious way, but what he was proclaiming was a new way- the kingdom of God way. Jesus’ way. The way people should be, repentant of their sins, and turning away from them to produce good fruit. He describes this good fruit in Luke’s gospel chapter 3 verses ten through sixteen. Sharing, treating others fairly, not for dishonest gain, in others words, loving your neighbor as yourself would demonstrate your love for God. A life that realizes they have sinned against God and no amount of religion fixes that, except trusting in Jesus as the payment. Nothing more, nothing less. This is what changes a man (or woman or child). Followers of Jesus are not perfect, we still need work, but God works on us and helps to smooth those rough places in our lives. He directs our path and keeps us going on this journey of faith. Will you allow Him to make those straight paths in your life? Start the journey and let Him drive the car. God Bless You – Nancy

Bankrupt

Modern conveniences are great until they aren’t. Let me explain what I mean. I was discussing the issue of bank postings with my husband the other day after we had realized that our bank had made an error in which it posted a balance different from the one we had written down in our check book register- yes, I’m old school but I still write my expenses- debits- from my checking account down on paper. I realize there are many apps that will do the same, but trust me- sometimes apps can mess up.

It seems that banks can debit then remove debits from your checking account at random for what ever reason. If you are a bank person, I’m sure you understand all of this better than I do. But, if you just check your balance from your bank’s app, you’re likely to get an inaccurate balance at times. I know because I have had this happen. You check the balance and it gives you a false sense of financial security of the amount you have available so you might make a purchase. But, the amount is only a snap shot for that minute, for an hour later the amount changes and you might find yourself overdrawn. Please tell me that I am not alone in this. I know it happens to others as well. See, this is why I like the old school ways. I have had this happen with auto debits as well, They do not always post from your account on the specific day- even when you set them up that way- So, you find yourself at a loss to pay a bill. Bankrupt, so to speak.

As I write this post, it is the first day of Lent. A season in which we are to give up something so we can focus on Easter coming. A time to give up from our plenty, something simple like, candy or sweets, or meat or social media. We might feel good about our pursuit of giving up for a time, but sometimes it tends to look more like our New Year’s resolutions, if we are honest.

The first week we’re good, but in a little while, we might sneak in a candy bar, or a steak on a Friday. But, what is it we are seeking to do? Are we practicing some religious obligation? Or, are we really spending more time in prayer and reading of the Bible? Maybe we are trying to grow our faith, or feel closer to God, or just maybe we think it will make Him like us more if we concentrate on Him more and less on ourselves. But, does God need this from us? There simply isn’t enough of what we can give up that will make Him love us any more than He does now. Being closer to God means surrendering our lives to Him, not just our candy.

God doesn’t need us to give up candy. He needs us to give Him our lives and our hearts. No amount of money or good works or good deeds, even those done in His name will ever accomplish restoring the broken relationship between man and God- We simply do not have enough to pay. We are bankrupt when compared with what God requires to restore that broken relationship. The only payment that counts is death, and that is precisely the payment made by Jesus. He redeemed us, made the payment and rose to life to sit at God’s right hand, having accomplished His task. He gave it all for us. Our response is to accept it.

So, maybe this Lenten season, instead of giving up anything, we should focus on receiving God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. But, if you feel that you must give up anything, give up your sin debt, your anxiety, your worry, your problems, your desperate situations, your selfishness, your unforgiveness, your pain, your hurt, your plans, and cry out to God- who loves us so much that He gave us His Son. -God Bless You- Nancy

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Jn 3:16 ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1, NIV

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13, NIV

Desiring Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -John 14:27, NIV

I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, my biggest desire at the moment is for peace. Peace for the world, definitely, but peace in my life as well. I believe we all are feeling angst and a bit uncertain as to what the future holds. We have come out of a world wide pandemic- or at least we are hopeful we have, but just when one difficulty passes, another seems to always take its place. It seems as if we are always on the edge of a cliff , or at the top of a roller coaster, about to plunge into the depths of difficulty, whether health, finances, war, or supply shortages.

As long as we live in the world and take a breath, this world will never be at peace for long. But, as noted in the verse above- our peace isn’t supposed to be found in this world. The peace the world gives is temporary. The peace of Jesus is different. It is His peace. But, what does that mean? In context, Jesus was addressing His disciples about events that were about to take place, namely His death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven. they were about to experience a lot of trouble- but He promised them it would be better. For He would be leaving them, but sending the Holy Spirit to comfort and teach them. We as believers also have this promise from Jesus with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as Savior.

Jesus knew the disciples would be upset with His death and would probably not fully understand what was happening so He prepared them. If you want to read the passage in context, I suggest reading the entire chapter fourteen of John’s gospel.

Chapter 14 begins “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is a powerful verse. Too often I find myself letting my heart (and my mind) wander from peace and confidence to trouble. The kind of trouble that occupies my thoughts, choking out the peace, faith and confidence that Jesus offers. To get back on track, I stop, take a breath, and pray. Then I pick up my Bible and read God’s truth. And I am reminded that He has a plan for the world. A plan that restores the world to wholeness. To bring shalom. To heal the broken relationship between man and God. To heal the land. To heal creation that suffers as well. Real peace. Amen. God bless you – Nancy