{ My Psalm 139 }

Spotlight+-+cropped

Dear God,

You have searched my heart

  • Inside and out
  • Up and down
  • All the way through

(and that would scare me a little, if the searcher was anyone but You)

Because there are some:

  • Cluttered corners
  • Dusty nooks
  • Untidy spots

In this heart of mine.

But because YOU are the One pointing the spotlight,

I know that you see it all and love me still.

Your searching light doesn’t drive me away…instead it draws me.

So go ahead and search –

(I can’t escape that loving lens anyway.)

If I try to hide under a pile of feeble plans and works

You smile and shine bright on me.

If I disguise myself in one of my favorite masks,

You lift it off and embrace me.

Using toys, tricks, and hopeless distractions

I cover myself.

But you know I’m there.

You saw all my thoughts and future words

even before I was born.

You scrutinized it all when you were:

  • Secretly crafting me
  • Masterfully molding me
  • Uniquely carving out my days and ways

And you keep on weaving, sculpting and sovereignly decorating me from the inside out.

Your work makes me

  • Stand up and celebrate
  • Kneel down and weep
  • Glad to praise you forever

And while You keep shining Your light,

We will keep clearing out the clutter.

I will grip Your hand and

Follow Your path into eternity.

~~~

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

{ Clean }

 

mops5
I don’t dress like this when I clean the house.

 

I like a clean living space, but, cleaning is not a cherished hobby of mine. I generally value clutter-free over dust-free.

Years ago, my Spanish friend Ana invited me into her small apartment. I was amazed at how shiny-sparkly-clean it was and I commented on it.

“Yes, I like to do this!” Ana bubbled enthusiastically. I’ve never forgotten her radiant response; scrubbing the home spotless was a happy thing for her.

My Norwex-selling friend recently educated me on the stunning benefits of micro-fiber cleaning.

I’m totally not going to have a Norwex party, but I appreciated her zeal and knowledge; I really learned something.

grove stuff

 

For a recent birthday, my daughter gave me a cleaning tote, stuffed with Mrs. Meyer’s sprays and other goodies. Was this gift a not-so-subtle hint, because she knows my housecleaning flaws? Hmmm….

Anyway, cleaning is more fun, now that I have Mrs. Meyer’s help.

I will now awkwardly transition to some brief thoughts about spiritual cleaning.

I was reading my Bible the other day and I cannot remember exactly what I was reading. I didn’t feel spiritually dirty and didn’t set out be to be purposefully “washed” that day, but suddenly I truly felt God’s words cascading over me, cleansing me.

As I have chewed on this the last few days, I have felt that reading God’s word is a powerful spiritual cleaning agent because:

  • It reminds me whose I am
  • It purifies my life perspective
  • It shines a loving light onto my heart
  • It pours hope down on me
  • It showers comfort over my soul
  • It cleanses festering wounds
  • It removes destructive thoughts and damaging lies.

~~~~~~~

“…wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

aaron-burden-TNlHf4m4gpI-unsplash

“The Gospel is a cleansing agent, for it is the good news of Christ’s atoning death at Calvary. The Word is a cleansing agent also for sanctification. That’s why it’s important for us to read and study the Scriptures; they are a cleansing agent in our lives. It’s amazing what the Word of God will do with people when they read and study it. — John MacArthur

 

Bible photo:  Aaron Burden

{ God’s Gym }

muscles

Can I look at life trials like an athlete looks at barbells? She can’t weight to lift those heavy chunks of metal…because she knows they build muscle.

Here are 3 bodybuilding terms, tweaked for daily Christian living:

Gains

Gains = progress made. As an athlete builds endurance through hard work in the gym, a Christian builds endurance and patience by being exposed to difficult circumstances and responding in a spiritual way.  It’s not just being exposed to difficult times and people that achieves growth. Gains are made by exercising faith and obedience muscles –especially when it’s tough.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Weekend Warrior

There are people that hit the gym all week long, and there are people that only come a few hours on a weekend. Likewise, there are people sporadically go to church or read their Bibles and perhaps feel stirred…but never really change.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1: 22-25

Spotter

If you lift heavy weights in a gym, you may need a spotter. The spotter is there to prevent the weights from falling down and crushing you. Spotters may also boost the lifter’s morale by shouting encouraging phrases.

We need spiritual spotters — encouragers in life — to stand beside us as we lift emotional and spiritual weights. Spotters don’t do it for us, and they don’t tempt us to escape the gym. They are friends who stand alongside and encourage us to succeed. Their presence is comforting, helps us follow through, and prevents us from feeling crushed.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

Finishing Well

Lord, by your grace and power, may I make consistent gains as I press on in the Christian life.
May I actively look for ways to encourage others.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Trials need not deplete me, they are used by God to complete me.

 

 

 

{ My Psalm 34 }

I will choose to praise God – all the time.

He will be at the center of my words, my whims, and my ways.

My soul is clean because He washed it. Anyone who feels low, or dirty or discouraged– take heart! My God can be yours, too.

matt-botsford-423576-unsplash

Join me in a standing ovation for God!  Applauding, dancing and shouting for joy is not enough!  I want to show everyone how huge, how powerful and how worthy God is!

He’s at the root of everything, and He is the maker of it all.

As for me…I constantly need direction, hope and help.

I often crave comfort, contentment and healing.

That’s when I go searching for God in my thoughts, my dreams and my prayers.

It’s as if He wants me to search for Him,

think about Him and

ask Him for every little thing.

Because when I search with all my heart, I find Him waiting there for me.

And He sends my fears flying.

My soul glows when I think of God– and I’m not ashamed that I need Him.

When I feel poor and needy and unloved, He hears me.

He saves me out of anxious thoughts and guides me out of self-made troubles.

His angels huddle protectively around me.

I will trust God on any pathway and through every valley.

He will always deliver me in His own perfect way.

 

Inspired by Psalm 34:1-7

© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credit:Matt Botsford

{ Fork in Road & Forgiveness }

jens-lelie-15662-unsplash
Have you ever disappointed someone when you changed your mind?

Have you ever known the shame of a damaged reputation?

If so, you have something in common with John Mark – the bringer of good news; the writer of the gospel of Mark.

John Mark traveled as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas, when they embarked on their missionary journey.  Halfway through, he opted out and returned home before they were officially finished.  No one knows exactly why:

  • Sickness?
  • Fear?
  • Exhaustion?
  • Spiritual failure?

Whatever the reason, John Mark’s abrupt exit bothered Paul.  It caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas.

Later, Barnabas (whose name means “son of encouragement”) wanted to give John Mark a second chance.

Paul wouldn’t have it.

So, Barnabas took John Mark one way, and Paul went another way with Silas.

In later years, Paul accepted John Mark as a worthy helper; he not only forgave him but praised him in the pages of scripture.

I would love to know what happened between the volatile rift and the complete forgiveness.

  • What’s the rest of the story?
  • Did John Mark have to prove himself?
  • What role did Barnabas the encourager play?

I think God used Barnabas to turn things around for John Mark with his encouraging:

 You still have worth! I believe in you!  Let’s go!

His support must have been life-changing — without it, John Mark would have just returned home.

With that encouragement, John Mark is down in history as being:

  • “Like a son” to Peter (1 Peter 5:13)
  • “Useful in ministry” to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Author of the efficiently written gospel of Mark

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~ Goethe

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

Photo credit:Jens Lelie

{ My Psalm 30}

 

paul-gilmore-145802-unsplash
Sitting at my desk at dawn /  putting Psalm 30 in my own words /  making it a personal prayer / talking to God this morning/

I will enthusiastically praise You, LORD;

You have drawn me and lifted me up.

You haven’t left me to the mercy of my enemy self, flesh, devil.

Instead, you healed me.

You rescued my soul.

You resurrected me.

Praise God, fellow saints: brothers and sisters!

Give thanks to our God!

God was angry for a time [because of my sin]

Now, His favor stays with me eternally.

Sadness…now joy!

 

You strengthened me with Your favor and grace.

When I do feel distant from You, I am discouraged.

But You always turn my DOWN into UP

You relieve my grieving and fear

You cover me with joy — I can’t take it off, and I don’t want to.

The joy is there so that I will sing your praise.

It’s inside, bubbling out and will not be suppressed!

 

O Lord, you are MY GOD.

I will give and keep giving thanks to You forever

and ever and ever and ever and ever…

 

Photo credit:Paul Gilmore

{ Dying Muscles}

People who love to exercise (and I’m guessing here) often start the day:

  • Running or Working Out
  • Hydrating
  • Eating protein for growth and power.
 bradley-wentzel-604970-unsplash
I am a Christian.
I’m fueling up and getting ready to exercise —
I’m going to exercise my “dying muscles.”
Today, I’m going to do what is harder than a marathon and more challenging than an Iron Woman race.
By the grace and power of God, I’m planning to die to myself.
This feat requires a morning run in prayer.
It takes Growth Food to give me power.
It takes starting every day reminding myself with the basics: “I am a Christian. This is what Christians do.”
It takes gumption and a whole lot of grace to exercise the dying muscles.
It’s easier to sit, veg, and morph into what is around me.
It requires supernatural strength to:
  • Die to myself and put others first.
  • Train my tongue muscles to obey me.
  • Keep running the Christian race.
  • Press on in my marriage.
  • Shun selfishness.
  • Look around and do unto others.
  • Love, love and love til it hurts.
I’m getting ready to die today to self-wishes and sin-centered choices.
Perhaps –like exercise– it gets easier the more I do it.
It won’t make me famous — only God will know.
Today, I’m going to do what is harder than a marathon and more challenging than an Iron Woman race.
In the grace and power of God, I’m going to exercise my dying muscles.
 
“I die every day!  What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?  if the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning…”
I Corinthians 15:31-34
 
Photo credit:  Bradley Wentzel

{ My Psalm 23}

sheep

The Lord is my Leader

I have everything I need.

He causes me to rest in peaceful places.

He guides me along calm waters.

He cleans and fixes my soul.

He leads me on bright and holy paths

That are good for me,

Will bring Him glory,

And will lead me to His Heaven.

Sometimes I walk inside shadowy, scary places.

Even then, I will choose not to fear.

Because God is with me.

His loving discipline, guidance and rules

Remind me that I am His child.

And, those boundaries are strangely

Comforting.

Loving Father, You bring me to a place

Of good things and gifts

Even inside a circle of

Problems, pain, and difficult people.

You have chosen me,

Consecrated me,

And give my life purpose.

I am filled up

and dripping with unnatural contentment.

I have this feeling that

Your grace, forgiveness and goodness

Will keep pursuing me all through life

And someday

Because of your grace

I will find myself in heaven,

And I will call Your Home…

My Home.

 

A vague interpretation of David the Psalmist’s  inspired Psalm 23.

© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credit:Alex Blăjan

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

{ Final Words }

When Ma Ingalls left for a rare outing, she gave a list of instructions to her family.

“Watch Carrie! Don’t forget to churn the butter…and watch out for rattlers in the grass!”

Parents give their “final” speeches just before leaving, hoping to avoid any disaster that would happen during their absence.

Mine would go something like this:

“Don’t use the stove, and watch the little guys. No videos unless all the laundry is folded and put away!”

In 2 Peter 1 there is a passage that also contains Peter’s “final words.” He knew he was about to die, so he gave his beloved brothers and sisters an important “to do” list.

I have heard it before, but overlooked how valuable it is for anyone looking to:

  • know what to do next
  • mature and grow as a Christian
  • find God’s will

2 Peter 1:5-15 is written to believers and assumes that first, they possess faith.  It’s the quality essential to every Christian.  We all are on different places in our walk with God, but the essential is faith. Assuming that starting point, Peter tells us to supplement our faith with the important qualities of:

  • virtue
  • knowledge
  • self-control
  • steadfastness
  • godliness
  • brotherly affection
  • love

“If these qualities are yours and increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

Do you want to be more effective? Want to know what God wants you to do? Want to grow? Start with this list.  Working toward these qualities doesn’t earn you salvation.  But it gives you a goal.

Peter says if you lack these qualities, you may forget where you came from.  (2 Peter 1:9)

Might that, in turn, make us:

  • ungrateful to God for all He has done?
  • self-righteous, thinking we have made ourselves what we are?
  • puffed up and ready for a fall? (2 Peter 1:10)

fernando-pereira-358866.jpg

 

What’s on the horizon for you and I in 2018?  We cannot know for sure.  God has it all in His hands.

But, if you are looking for some New Year’s resolutions, powered by God’s never-ending grace, this list in 2 Peter 1:5-15 is a good place to start.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credit, horizon: unsplash-logoFernando Pereira

{ Who Am I? }

I was ready for Black Friday this year. I bought the:

Instant Pot DUO80 8 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker and Warmer.

instant pot

My tech-savvy son told me the most popular item throughout the cyber weekend zoo was the

DNA Ancestry Test Kit.

dna

With this kit, you can:

  • “Uncover your ethnic mix” and
  • “Connect with relatives you never knew you had.”   (Is that a positive thing?)

 So, people are curious about themselves and their background.

And the Bible is full of background.

It lists more than a few genealogies.

And the records don’t leave out the unsavory relatives. They inventory the kings, the scoundrels, and the heroes.

If church people today were given the task of writing Jesus’ background, we might be tempted to skip a few people on the list.

It doesn’t look holy to include:

  • Rahab the harlot
  • Tamar the schemer
  • Ruth the foreigner

Yet, there they are.

Jesus’ arrival turned everything upside down.

  • He didn’t come to earth in a golden chariot, he came as a helpless baby.
  • He wasn’t born in a palace, but in an animal barn.
  • He didn’t boldly grab power, he chose to give up his life.

 

The Bible tells me about my background.

It says:

  • I’m made in God’s image — Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image…
  • I’m a sinner by nature —  Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 
  • He chose to redeem me — Ephesians 1:7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace… 
  • He calls me His child — Galatians 3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 

So, I don’t think I will purchase the DNA kit. Black Friday is over and besides….

…I already know I’m half Norwegian, a quarter German and a snippet of English, Irish and Scottish.

Deeper than that, I’m a redeemed image-bearer and a child of God.

© Lisa M. Luciano 🙂

Word Prompts:  snippet and zoo