KNEE DEEP ~ in the 23rd Psalm


A path sunny

The Living-Word jumped out at me in a way I’d not seen before.

The 23rd Psalm has been my go-to for perhaps twenty-five years. That would be since I was saved. In that time, I’ve always thought ‘paths of righteousness’ would look something like this lovely photo. I thought those paths would have been put there by God for me to follow and they’d have sunlight and birds singing.

Today the words ‘paths of righteousness’ jumped out at me in a new way. They became living words, or rhama words. That is specific words from the Lord that sort of explode in a person’s consciousness and have special meaning. This is something that can happen to any believer, every believer. I think it most often happens during private devotions when reading and meditating in Holy Scripture, or some other devotional literature, or when deeply listening to worship music.

A path trees

Today I saw ‘paths of righteousness’ as paths other Christians have walked, perhaps even blazed…and I have followed in those paths where these righteous brothers and sisters have trodden. They may not always be bucolic paths where songbirds flit here and there filling the air with their song. Those paths could have hills, bumps, ruts, places where stalwart believers stumbled and got up again, places where the enemy lay in wait.

I got saved during a time of conflict in my husband’s family. Neither he nor I came from an idyllic Christian home where hymns were sung and where family members prayed together. This particular Sunday there was a huge and tumultuous family commotion, mostly in the kitchen. People had been running in and out of the house. Voices had been raised. I retreated to the living room to get away from it, started surfing channels, and found Gloria Copeland. She was smart, obviously extremely well versed in the Bible, and she didn’t have big hair. At the end of the program, I put my hands on the television and gave my life to the Lord. That was twenty-five years ago.

So, this morning, I’m thinking who blazed those paths for me? At that time, I didn’t know anything about Christian churches. I kept watching Christian TV and came under Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Kenneth and Gloria have had the greatest influence upon me in my walk with God. They are my parents in the faith. I soon bumped into a local woman who was under their ministry. Lillian and I began sharing cassette and video tapes (the dark-ages of audio and video). I’d go to her house and she’d come to mine, and we’d be so excited about the Lord.

Very soon, I learned that Oral Roberts was Kenneth’s father in the faith and I began listening to Oral Robert’s Ministry teachings. Of course the prime message at ORM is “God is a good.” And Oral always said, “Something good is going to happen to you today.” I took a course in the Holy Spirit from ORM and received a certificate. In those days, they sent you the lessons by snail mail. You returned your answers by mail, and they sent the corrected lesions back to you. Well, we’re talking 24-25 years ago. So, Oral Roberts became my grandfather in the faith.

I wish I could say there was a local minister/ministry, in that time, that blazed a path for me, but I can’t. I lived in an area where almost all of the charismatic churches had had church-splits and none of them had recovered from that. So, Christian television became my lifeline.  I met another woman who believed the Word as I did and Theresa and I also began sharing and praying together. She and I became volunteers in the Protestant Chaplain’s Office at the local Veteran’s Hospital and attended Sunday services there. We also attended a weekly Bible study and a weekly prayer group there.

Back to trail blazers. I soon found Joyce Meyer, who to me is the Mother of Independent Women of Faith. I particularly liked her practical preaching because she didn’t come from a wonderfully serene Christian home. She came from a nonChristian home with turmoil. I said, okay, I can relate to that.  I was then, and still am now, the only member of my immediate family and almost the only member of my large extended family who knows the Lord. My cousin and his wife on the other side of the county are believing Christians, and I am in contact with them electronically.

Today, I live in northeast coastal Florida where I attend Destiny Church. I’m waiting for the church to reopen from Covid 19. I so want to “do church” again.

Who are your spiritual fathers and mothers in the faith? Whose footsteps have you followed? Who has helped to shape your faith?

Just Say No ~ to some things

A birdYes things…objects

I knocked my head against the wall until I realized that Chip and Joanna Gaines aren’t the only ones in the “Fixer-Upper” business. The Holy Spirit invented inner transformation…and He’ll get into what’s in your house too. After a lot of kicking and screaming…mostly whining…I’m really good at whining, I allowed Him to show me and teach me about deep issues that were confirmed in God’s Word. I say, “allow,” because the Holy Spirit will not impose Himself upon anyone. I had to be ready, and I had to be a full participant in the journey. And I also allowed Him to do some housecleaning.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7, King James Version [KJV]

I’ve seen Chip and Joanna throw away dysfunctional, non-useful, objectionable, eyesore things/objects when they renovate. The Holy Spirit showed me that I had things, yes things in my house that brought pain.

Say No to Things! ~ The Holy Spirit started teaching me…and I didn’t want to hear it…about some objects/things I owned that were toxic, and I didn’t realize it. Well, that’s not being totally honest. I often felt bad when I looked at the object(s), but I wanted to keep them anyway. They’d been given to me by someone I ‘hoped’ would be able to treat me better, a relative, maybe. Or, they’d been given to me during a special time in my life that I wanted to remember fondly, but the giver had been a wet blanket, had been begrudging. The event I wanted to remember was wonderful, the gift might’ve been lovely, but the giver was toxic, and the object brought a pang of pain when I gazed upon it.

A fairy house

So, the object had negative “soul ties” attached to it. ~~  Biblically, what is the soul. It is our mind, will, and emotions. This is what the Bible calls our soul. It’s not at all the same thing as our spirit, which God breathed into us. Our spirit is our essence and is the very image of God. Yes, we are born with a mind, will, and emotions but they can and will be shaped by exterior things and occurrences. We can have negative soul (mind, will, and emotion) ties to things, to people, and to places.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog article that my mother was born with juvenile diabetes and back then the disease was a sure killer. However, my grandparents were brave and decided to try a new treatment at that time…insulin. She lived, got married, had a family, but was extremely, exceedingly negative all of her life. Untreated chronic depression. Christmas could be difficult for her. She loved bird ornaments. So, I gave her a bunch of them. However, over the years these ornaments were central to some deeply painful moments. I can recall her lips slipping into that all too familiar gash of a frown. When she passed, I got many of her Christmas decorations, including all of the bird ornaments. Every year, when I hooked them on the branches of my tree, I recalled the love I put into buying them, and then I’d feel pain. Finally, my walk with the Holy Spirit had deepened enough that when I felt him nudging for the third or fourth time (I’d ignored the nudge for a few years), I gave them all to a thrift shop. A year or two later, I was putting up my tree and realized that I was pain free. I was fully enjoying my tree. Praise the Lord.

That is not a put down of my mother. I honor her and her struggle with two wicked diseases: juvenile diabetes and untreated chronic depression. She was also an ethical, decent woman. I have numerous other things/objects that belonged to her that do not have a painful-pang attached to them. I hope somebody purchased those bird ornaments who will love them. I hope the money the gift shop received will go into helping those in need in the community.a vase

That said, I not suggesting that everyone run around their house throwing out, willy-nilly. I’m suggesting that when you feel pain over an object, pray about it, and listen to the Holy Spirit. Is there strife and dysfunction attached to it? On the other hand…He might not tell you to get rid of it at all. The object might have been given to you totally with love by someone who has moved far away, or who has passed away. That isn’t necessarily a toxic pain, but a reminder of love. Sometimes genuine love hurts, but it’s part of a healthy, spiritually maturing life. We have to discern. Discernment is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and reflection, we can allow Godly discernment to flow in our lives. It will illuminate the way we are to go.

Hope You’re Rockin’ Around ~ the Christmas tree

J's Biker Jacket

In the new old fashioned way.

When I got up to feed the strays it was 40 degrees in Jacksonville (with a feels like of 38). That’s when Floridians start thinking of wintering in the Caribbean. It had dropped to the mid 30s overnight. It was cold and damp…a breeze coming off the Atlantic and up the St. John’s River. I’m closer to the river than the beach.

I had been meaning to give my late husband Joseph’s biker jacket to Goodwill since I only wore it once last year. That was right before Christmas, when I went to see Deck the Chairs in Jacksonville Beach with my daughter Victoria and Lynn Woods Rix writing as Dalyn Woods. It was cold that night This year, I wanted to let someone get some use out of the jacket, but Joseph had loved it even though he didn’t have a Harley, not even a motor scooter. It made him feel a little like James Dean. I must confess, when I wear it some of that James Dean spirit rubs off on me too. There’s just something about a well-worn, broken in biker jacket.

Joseph passed away on December 8th three years ago. I’m seeing a lot of memes about how to treat a person who is mourning at Christmas. Should you bring up the loved one who is gone? Should you tip-toe around it? If you care for your loved one who is in mourning, they will know you care. You might say the wrong thing. If you’re a believer, you might say, “He/she’s in heaven with Jesus,” when all your loved one wants is for them to be back here, even for a moment. We all say the wrong thing in situations like this. Your loved one knows that. Your loved one has also said the wrong things. It means you’re human.

So, what should you do? What should you say at Christmas to a loved one who’s heart is aching (and mourning goes on for years)? Say, “I love you lots.” Call them, tweet them, private message them, email them, send them cute, light-hearted memes, send them a Christmas card. For a person in mourning, the hours can creep slowly by, feeling empty. Fill some of that empty space up…in a gentle, gentle way saying “I love you.” “I’m thinking of you.” Don’t pressure them to be part of the holly-jolly spirit of Christmas, but leave the door open to them if they’d like to join in. You might be surprised. They might have no place to celebrate and would love to be part of your Christmas.

…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

JDC Xmas 2013-3
Joseph, Christmas morning 2012, before coffee
JDC Waldorf Astoria-Boca
Boca Raton, vacay 2011

Celebrating Thanksgiving ~ and purposing to enjoy it solo

Thx Pix 1
The fun of adding pumpkins, Pilgrim figurines, and a harvest angel to my baker’s rack. Oh, yeah, and a pesky cat got into the shot.

When Joseph was alive I prepared a huge Thanksgiving feast for family and a friend or two. I was known for my super moist turkey, and it was so simple. I’ll let you in on the secret. I got it years ago from Cooking Light magazine. You mix equal parts of maple syrup and unsweetened jarred apple sauce and smother the bird in it. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it. But the whole mess, and it is a mess, cooks away and you have an apple/maple glaze and a really moist and tender bird. I always cooked my bird at 325 degrees and it’s really good to use a meat thermometer to know when it’s done. Nothing is worse than eating raw poultry. I made the a traditional giblet stuffing recipe from the back of the stuffing package and added chopped dates and chopped, peeled apples and stuffed the bird. Of course, you also have to bake a pan of it, and the trick there is to pour broth over it so it’s not dry. I can’t give a recipe because I don’t cook with recipes, as a rule. I’ve spent years enjoying myself pouring over cookbooks, especially holiday cookbooks, trying different “tricks of the trade” my mother, grandmother, or a friend passed along. It got to where I cooked by eye and by taste. Yes, you have to keep a teaspoon or two or three at the stove to taste or you can get in real trouble. Add a little spice, butter, whatever, then taste. You can always add more but you can’t take out.

Thx Pix 2
My mantle and another pesky cat. She’s annoyed because I disturbed her nap.

So, now it’s just me, Sophie the Wonder Dog, and as as Sophie refers to them, “those pesky cats.” About six months ago, a series of circumstances occurred and it hit me like a tidal wave that I was basically alone on this planet. And yes, I stewed and whined about it. If you know me at all, if I didn’t admit to whining, you’d know I wasn’t telling the truth.

Of course, it goes without saying, so I almost didn’t say it.,,I have God. I have Jesus. And of course, I have friends and associates. However, as I get up in years, I find that my friends have issues they are dealing with, some excruciatingly serious. So, I really do have to exercise my “spiritual chops” and lean in to God, follow Him, rely on Him, and seek His face.

One thing I keep hearing Him say in a variety of ways is, “Live life. You are fearfully and wondrously made. Don’t stop celebrating life.” I recently heard Joyce Meyer say on a broadcast that we humans are the closest things to God. We have been made in His image and likeness. And we should act like it. We have to choose to do that. It’s a decision we have to make and sometimes re-make.

So, I’ve been invited to a huge southern family Thanksgiving Day dinner in central Florida. I’ve been informed (forewarned maybe) that it will be an experience. Looks like God has a new delight in store for me.

Thx Pix 3
My mantle at night. Now I’m anticipating decorating for Christmas!!!

 

Patterns and People that Bind ~ negative soul ties

Gate, Old City, Jerusalem
A remaining gate in the Old City, Jerusalem

 

And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. ~ Acts 3:2, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

 

We all have (or have had) patterns in our lives and relationships with people that bring (or brought) no, or very few positives into our lives.

This man in the Scripture was lame all of his life and was carried every day to the Gate they called beautiful in order to beg. He could not go into the Temple because he was not whole and in those days there were strict rules about wholeness and health. He had no access to what ‘normal’, successful people had access to, the inside of the Temple.

Usually we look at the man himself, but I wonder who were the ones who carried him every day to beg for alms? Were they corrupt greedy men who got a portion of what alms he acquired every day? Or, were they family and friends who could only see him as lame and with good intentions brought him to do what they thought was the only thing he was able to do? In either case, these were enablers with negative soul ties to the man.

This man had a negative pattern. He allowed himself to be carried to the gate to beg. Jesus came to him to break that pattern that had him bound. We all have or have had patterns that bind or have bound us. For some it’s alcoholism, gambling, pornography, self-mutilating, allowing physical abuse to continue, over eating (something prevalent in the church), anorexia, compulsive spending, overwhelming credit card debt. For others it might be excessive cleaning, or excessive running every morning even though pounding the pavement is injuring legs and feet. In these last two, the operative word is excessive.

What people do we have in our lives who enable us to be less than, support a very limited self-concept of ourselves? What patterns do we have that put walls up around us that might even look like a safety net, but keeps us bound. We all know, or secretly suspect what those things are. And before we take a step and do anything about them, we should ask the Holy Spirit to clarify who and what they are. We should pray about this, and whatever steps we take to get free of the limitations placed on us by others and the limitations of our own negative patterns should be done under the leadership of the Lord. And that will mean, there will be Scripture that supports what direction we feel led to take.

If a person has one of the patterns listed above, it’s quite possible the Holy Spirit will lead you to break the behavior off immediately and to speak with your pastor or a trusted leader in the church. The Holy Spirit may lead you to a treatment program, to Alcoholics Anonymous, to a weight loss group, to an accountability partner in the Church, or the like. Go, go, get help to break whatever pattern/habit/addiction is binding you. Take a step and then another step and then another out of bondage.

In the case of people who are enablers…if you are an alcoholic and a person is giving you alcohol, tell them to stop. If they won’t, cut them off. The same applies if you’re addicted to pornography or gambling, etc. and all your friends are into it too. Cut them off. These are super-negative soul ties. The end of the road with these ‘major’ addictions is sad, very sad. Often it’s jail, insanity, or untimely death. If you’re bound by one of these major addictions you must take immediate, firm, committed steps to get free. You also should have a human support system and the Holy Spirit can lead you to a good one. Please do NOT expect perfection from your human support system. Expect very human, caring support, capable of mistakes or being in error…while they hope they are supporting. There will be people in support groups who have become Pharisaical. Just pray for them.

Forgiveness is key. I’ve had to forgive people who were enablers, manipulators, and controllers in my life, people who sought to use me, people who were toxic. I’ve had to forgive them to be set free of them. This will be a constant. We will also have to forgive good, supportive people we add to our lives as we grown. They are only human. Remember, the final word on situations in our lives are not people, not matter how supportive. The One with the final Word is the Lord.

For perfect love and guidance turn often to the Lord.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~ Matthew 6:33, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

Come Out of the Shadows ~ the shadow of death

Woman Free, Field

He’s gone, or she’s gone. Sometimes the difficult memories with some guilt attached come easier than memories of the happy times. That’s because the loss of a spouse is so great, sometimes the remembrance of the happy times is too painful. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Widow and widowers know what I’m talking about.

He or she will never laugh again. Or, I fell in love with him or her the first time she or he smiled just that certain way and I’ll never see that again. Strange as it is, the self-condemning memories almost feel better, less painful. ~~ It might not be self-condemnation. It might be that the loss is so deep, the pain actually feels good. These feelings are normal, but should only last for a season. The time must come when you allow gentle joy to come at the memory of your spouse…that your memories are couched in sweetness.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. ~ Romans 8:1 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

But what if the marriage had problems? What if it wasn’t ideal? Yet you still miss him or her, still love your spouse? That’s also normal, natural, not unusual, not stupid. What if because the marriage had problems, now that he or she is gone, you, the surviving spouse have guilt. You tell yourself, “I could’ve been nicer to him or her. Could have been more present in the marriage, more understanding.” Maybe so, but it still stands this is only a season during the mourning process. The Lord wants his children free of condemnation. Confess what you have to confess. Forgive your spouse. Forgive yourself, and come out into the light. Forgiveness is intentional. You may have to forgive your spouse and/or yourself over and over as you walk through this journey back into the light. And that’s okay.

In the light of Christ, work on relationships with people who are in your daily life now. What can you do to make the relationships you are in become more joyful, healthier? Can you let the little things go? At home, at church, at work…what are the small things that annoy you? Make a short, easily manageable list if you have to. Don’t make a list so long it will overwhelm you and make you further heap coals on yourself.

What’s really inconsequential in the long run? Pray over the list and intentionally let those things go. Let yourself see your own freedom in letting the angst go you’ve felt due to the little things on that list.

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. ~ Psalm 23:4 [King James Version, KJV]

The Benefit of Marriage ~ sustainable prosperity

wedding ringsStatistics tell us divorce is financial devastating for the wife and children. So, the solution must be: let’s just live together. Just live together. Just. Doesn’t that imply something lesser?

Well, just living together , most times, is even worse for the woman and the children when there’s a permanent breakup. So, many single mothers, without benefit of marriage, are on public assistance and food stamps.

Without benefit of marriage. That’s an old sentiment. We don’t think of marriage that way any more. Maybe we should. The benefits of marriage. How about looking at marriage as the beginning of a family legacy, the beginning of joy and lasting prosperity (something two people intentionally build together). It’s not robbing or cheating your spouse of your time, your energy, but most importantly not reneging on your shared dream(s).

Intentional, sustainable prosperity in marriage is so much more than money in a bank account or a portfolio of stocks and bonds. It’s building a dream together. It’s financial security, emotionally healthy relationships within the family, the family home as a safe place to be…all this over a lifetime. It’s getting to the end and looking back with satisfaction, with happiness, with wonderful memories.

That would be a whole knew way of visualizing marriage for so many today. If couples went into marriage that way, that would be revolutionary in a very good way. It would also mean picking your spouse wisely. The wrong somebody is not a good choice.

13-15 And here’s a second offense: You fill the place of worship with your whining and sniveling because you don’t get what you want from God. Do you know why? Simple. Because God was there as a witness when you spoke your marriage vows to your young bride, and now you’ve broken those vows, broken the faith-bond with your vowed companion, your covenant wife. God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. And what does he want from marriage? Children of God, that’s what. So guard the spirit of marriage within you. Don’t cheat on your spouse. ~ Malachi 2:13-15 The Message Bible (MSG)