Wild Fire

fire-175966_1280The smell of smoke lingers in the air this morning. Summertime in California. Of all the threats of natural disasters we face in our state, wild fire is one of the worst. At the moment, there are several burning. Destroyer of landscape, property and lives, it is a reminder of how precarious life can be.

A few years back, while traveling one of the wilderness parks in our area, I saw firsthand the destruction forest fire can have. One moment we were enjoying the views of a lush green vegetation and then, just around a bend in the road, the stark reality of a devastating inferno came into view. Where there had been life now only barrenness remained. What took decades or perhaps even centuries to create, fire had taken its toll in just minutes.

As I gazed out over the terrain, I was struck by the form of the bare land. Its structure had been revealed because the vegetation had been burned away. All the hills and valleys were in full view. The large rocks and the solid earth which could not be destroyed by the flames remained sound.

Life also has a way of catching fire. We strive to create an environment of beauty, happiness and success. All is going well, then flames seem to engulf everything. They storm across the landscape of our comfortable lifestyles taking with them the security we thought we possessed. Destruction and barrenness, disappointment and grief come. Breathing is difficult until the air clears. But it’s then, we see all is not lost. In fact, something has endured the flames.

The day my fire broke out didn’t actually come as a surprise. There had been signs that something was smoldering long before the flames came. I was having such a great time singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows, I just chose to ignore it. When the blaze finally erupted, it did its work quickly, destroying dreams and relationships in its path. The devastation seared my soul and left me choking on the smoke for months to come.

But what seemed complete destruction was not so. As I came out of the haze, I could see the foundation that God had built into the relationship He and I shared. He had laid the groundwork far in advance, so when disaster struck, there would be something left that was permanent and steady to stand on.

And that’s what I did. As I stood looking out over what had occurred, I realized the fire had given me a new vantage point. My perspective was changed. The things I believed to be a permanent landscape in my life were burned away but a truly constant and firm Presence remained. I could clearly see God’s unbelievable strength and compassion working in my situation.

As with all burn areas, things started to grow again. Life resumed. I recovered. It was during this time that I really turned to God’s word for strength. It watered the new growth that was occurring in my spirit. After a while, it was hard to tell a wild fire had ever burned through. The scars have slowly disappeared from sight as time has repaired the damage. But more importantly, my roots have grown deeper into God’s indestructible foundation.

I imagine there will come a day fire will burn through my life once again. It’s inevitable as the smell of smoke in summer in my part of the country. However, this time when it happens, I will understand its value.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” 

Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭28-29‬ HCSB


August 17, 2016 My husband and I and 82,000 others are currently evacuated from our homes due to the Blue Cut Fire in California. We have been notified all is well in our neighborhood and we are just in waiting mode for the all clear to return to our house. Our grandchildren were very concerned about the house, as you can imagine. They did not want us to have to build a new one. They said we would not be able to make a new one seem old and they like the old. Sweet babies. I think it is the memories the old invokes in them. I would have to agree.

Something to Ponder

Colassians 23

Accepting Christ as your Savior is only the beginning of a adventure of a lifetime. Don’t hesitate. You won’t want to miss a thing Jesus has to offer. Don’t know where to begin? Look here.

 

Open Hands

Bear Our Burdens.jpg


Sometimes I feel like I am my own worst enemy.

Well, maybe more specifically it’s my hand that is the trouble. You see, it has difficultly when it comes to surrendering my burdens. My heart may know that I need to allow God total access to my troubles but my hand keeps them tightly held in its grip. They’re my responsibly after all. If only I had made better choices. If only I had acted it differently. If only I had seen things more clearly. If only, If Only, IF ONLY… And as the if only’s resonate in my head, I hang on to my burdens and continue to carry them along, firmly grasped in my hand.

Fortunately, this is not how God intended any of us to live. There is a way out and it’s literally at our fingertips. In Psalm 81:6 (NLT) it says,

“Now I will take the load from your shoulders; I will free your hands

from their heavy tasks.”

The Psalmist is speaking of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in this passage. We, too, have been delivered from a similar tyranny when we made the decision to follow Christ. We’ve been set free. Jesus unloaded that burden of sin from our shoulders and removed from us the heavy task of carrying our shame. He rescued us out of bondage to live in freedom. Galatians 5:1 tells us–

“It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

This verse urges us to stand firm, to persevere, to persist in living free and never be burdened again by our fear, our shame, or our shortcomings.

One of my friends pointed out this week that if our hands are full of burdens there will be no room in them to receive blessing. I think this is something to consider. In the New International version of the Bible Psalm 68:19 tells us “God our Savior… daily bears our burdens.” but in the American King James it’s translated in a slightly different way—

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits…”

Daily, He carries our burdens while daily loading us with His benefits. Empty your hands. Pry those fingers open if you need to. Let God take your burdens and get ready to receive all the blessings He’ll put in their place.


Make it personal—

What is that burdensome thing in your life you keep lugging around? Why are you still carrying it? Whether you think you deserve to carry it, or you just don’t know who you would be without it, let God take a turn  and see what happens. Maybe the two of you can have a little chat and get to know one another a little better as He helps you out.

 ” . . .know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19

God’s Word in My Heart? Check!

God's Word My Heart

 

You want me to do what? Memorize? Ugh!

Whether it is scripture, stories, or ideas found in the Bible, we need a good supply of them in our minds and hearts to live the life God has for us. There is evidence that the best way to maintain the memory of something is to talk about it. It is not enough to merely hear or read it. You must engage in it. When you hear something, you retain about twenty percent, but when you discuss it, you raise that to over three-fold at seventy percent. When you personally experience it you can add another ten percent to bring you up to eighty percent. But here is the exciting thing. When you teach something you remember ninety-five percent. Amazing! Who knew sharing knowledge would be such a benefit to the teacher as well.

God did. In His instructions given to the Israelites on how to maintain a good life, He built it right in. Here’s what He says in Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Fix these words of mine into your mind and being, and tie them as a reminder on your hands and let them be symbols on your forehead. Teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates so that your days and those of your descendants may be extended in the land which the LORD promised to give to your ancestors, like the days of heaven itself.

 In this little piece of scripture, there is found a whole memorization plan for your faith. If you like checklists, these verses form a very nice one.

  •  Fix these words of mine into your mind and being. . .

The Hebrew word of fix is suwn. It means to put, place, set, appoint or make. The English dictionary describes fix in much the same with an additional idea—to direct the eyes, attention, etc. steadily. What the verse is saying: our minds as well as our hearts should be set in God’s words, not our own. Our attention should be on what He has to say, so that we are familiar with His voice.

  • and tie them as a reminder on your hands and let them be symbols on your forehead. . .

We must allow God’s words to direct our thoughts and actions. The word tie in the Hebrew literally means to tie or bind, but it also has the idea of conspiring or forming an alliance. I love that idea. Now, we take those words your attention is fixed on and put them to action. This will form a good team. James tells us to be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it. . . [James 1:22] James even knew God’s words were not going to stick with us unless we experienced them first hand. Our activity makes an imprint on us that just reading and hearing do not. It makes it personal, thus we remember. Jesus Himself says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” [Matthew 7:24] Taking God’s word and putting it into action creates something that lasts.

  • Teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.

This is the biggie. This is where we get to retain ninety-five percent of what we hear and read. The word teach is lamad in Hebrew means to learn, teach, and exercise in.

I spent about fifteen years educating my own girls, plus a fair of amount of time teaching other children as well as adults. I have to say out of all the students I’ve taught over the years, I have learned the most. Teaching requires the teacher to absorb the subject. Time is spent mulling over information and ideas, strengthening the knowledge they already possess. Teaching also places value on the possessed information. The more value assigned to the knowledge, the more we will treasure it in our hearts.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 NET

  • Inscribe them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

Plaques and pictures loaded with Christian images and sayings are not what I think God is talking about here. Although they can enhance the beauty of our homes and serve as reminders of what we believe, it will be what’s written on our hearts that will tell the world who we are. If we have taken time to store up God’s word, the people we encounter will see it all over our faces and in the works of our hands. They will hear it in our speech. It will spill out into the way we live life.

The payback? Your days and those of your descendants may be . . .like the days of heaven itself. It is saying that if you do these things living a life according to God’s plan can be maintained on into eternity. It will last forever if we just put into practice these simple instructions that will maintain our focus on God while writing His words in our hearts.

My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for they will provide a long and full life, and they will add well-being to you.

Proverbs 3:1-2 NET

Counting the Days

Number Our Days Meme

An end to another decade.

The birthday that is on the horizon will be my sixtieth. It seemed so old when I was younger. Yet now, at this perspective not old at all. Life has been long and short at the same time. I raised adults, buried parents, and greeted grandchildren. I have enjoyed celebrations and grieved disasters side-by-side. The years have brought with them a knowing that life is too short to hold all its lessons in a simple annual counting. We must number our days.

On my birthday, I will have lived 21,900 days. If I live to the age of the last three generations of women before me, I have a mere 7,300 days left. That’s it. What I do with these days invokes within me a feeling of urgency. I want them to count.

So here’s the thing I have learned from the other 21,900—I cannot live well without God’s influence in my life. In fact, if each of us embraced God and lived well, encouraging others to do the same, much if not all that is wrong in the world would simply disappear. The world would be changed for the good. But it will take all of us.

This is where the moans of, “I can never make enough of a difference,” begin to be heard and precious moments are lost on self-focus and chants of “Woe is me”.

Stop with the excuses.

Make your days count.

 

I know that embracing God for yourself is easy, but when it comes to telling others about how they can do the same, well. . .it can be a bit intimidating. Don’t let that stop you. This is really good news and you need to share it. Here, let me go first—


With all the crappiness going on in the world around us, I think there is a solution that maybe we have overlooked. It’s Jesus. You know the guy. He lived and died to give us the option of living life a better way. He is not only the answer to improving our lives and our family’s lives, but the whole world as well.

You may be thinking (at least that’s my hope), “This is really good news, but how can I get in on this better way?”

It’s a simple shift of direction—away from the path you are on to one that follows Jesus. Let me tell you how it has changed my life. . .


So that’s it. It’s all you have to share when called upon to influence others. Not too intimidating and very doable. Use your own words and stories.

If your friends want more, point them to the Bible. That’s where you find Jesus’ story and how people were affected by His life and teaching. We can know why He came, how He lived, and what He valued. And we will read how He died to make things right between us and God, and how He has gone on to prepare a place for us in heaven. The Bible reveals these things and more, like how He did it all out of love for us.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us. . .”

1 John 3:16 ESV

World change will come from each of us living each day in a way that celebrates the life and death of Jesus. The people around us will see, and hopefully hear from us how our lives are better because we follow Jesus. Why wouldn’t they want in on something that will change the world?

Make your days count.

Tell others about Jesus.

(I just did. You can to.)

 

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. … Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us;  yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90:14, 16-17

 

Downsize the Party? Never!

 

“Meatloaf!” My friend exclaimed in amazement. “How did you bake this?”

It was a bit of surprise at our dinner party, I suppose. You see over the Christmas holidays, my stove along with its oven broke. Yep, it just gave up. Surrendered. It had cooked many a good meal not only for my family, but also for pot lucks, large parties, even catering for conferences. It always delivered until the day after Christmas. Good timing. Life was slowing. Cookies had been baked and celebration dinners were past. The thing is, I haven’t purchased a new one.

My cooking now is done on a hot plate. Yes, I know, many months have passed since December, but at the moment things are going fine. Call it an experiment in downsizing, BIG time. [Tiny house living is all the rage after all.] One burner, a crock pot, and a microwave. Well, a couple of other things you might find interesting. The aforementioned meatloaf was actually baked in the BBQ. It worked great.

A few weeks ago, I decided to do cupcakes with my special Browned Butter Frosting. Not wanting to borrow an oven somewhere, I recalled a time when I used a turkey roaster to do baking in my daughter’s kindergarten class. You know the kind. A black enameled, plug in, standalone oven of sorts. A friend had given me one that had belonged to her grandmother. It came complete with the original book copyrighted 1940. Anyway, I dug the roaster out of the storage closet, plugged it in, and voila, cupcakes were baked!

I guess my point in telling you all this is life can still go on without some of the conveniences we think necessary. In fact, many places I have traveled to around the world have had far less than my ‘down-sized’ kitchen and they still manage hospitality just fine. It’s not how the food arrived at the table, but rather who you have around the table that really matters.

I will get a new stove eventually, but for now, things are OK. I haven’t slowed down at all in the hospitality department. If anything, it has made me more creative, broadening the methods that bring good flavors to the supper table.

I love spending time with my friends and family. The simplest things in life give me the most pleasure: cooking a good meal, enjoying my friends.

~Cindy Morgan

20140628_142302

Beautiful table setting for afternoon coffee with friends while visiting in Germany, 2014.

 


Italian Meatloaf

1 ½ pounds ground beef

2 eggs, beaten

½ chopped onion

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

¾ cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup ketchup

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon garlic salt

¾ cup pasta sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

 

  1. Preheat oven [or BBQ] to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Press into a 9×5 inch loaf pan [must be metal for BBQ], and cover loosely with foil.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven approximately 1 hour, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). If using the BBQ, turn pan from time-to-time to achieve even cooking.

Enjoy!

 

He’ll Fight for You

If you were ever in doubt that God has got it covered when it comes to the enemies of your life, then you need to take time to read a little song written by David in 2 Samuel 22. Its lyrics tell us who God is:

a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a stronghold, a refuge and a savior.

It is very descriptive as it paints a picture of just what He is willing to do on our behalf if we allow Him to take charge of the situation.


Please read this song with the most dramatic voice you can muster. Give it all you got.

7 In my distress I called to the LORD; I called to my God. From his heavenly temple he heard my voice; he listened to my cry for help.

8 The earth heaved and shook; the foundations of the sky trembled. They heaved because he was angry.

9 Smoke ascended from his nose; fire devoured as it came from his mouth; he hurled down fiery coals.

10 He made the sky sink as he descended; a thick cloud was under his feet.

11 He mounted a winged angel and flew; he glided on the wings of the wind.

12 He shrouded himself in darkness, in thick rain clouds.

lightning-1056419_1920 (1)13 From the brightness in front of him came coals of fire.

14 The LORD thundered from the sky; the sovereign One shouted loudly.

15 He shot arrows and scattered them, lightning and routed them.

16 The depths of the sea were exposed; the inner regions of the world were uncovered by the LORD’s battle cry, by the powerful breath from his nose.


What a scene. Have you ever imagined such power as being exerted toward those things that are wreaking havoc in your life? Many times we picture people as our enemies, but the truth is it can be sin that wages war with our spirits and our lives. Look at how God responds when we call out for help against that which hurts us the most. He is on it with both barrels seeking to annihilate our opposition. It is explosive and powerful and the best part is He wins!

Please continue. (Remember your dramatic voice.)  

17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.

18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support.

20 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

 

Did you see that? The reason He confronted the enemy? Out of delight for us. That brings tears to my eyes.

I think the key here is, what we decide to do when we are overwhelmed with sin.  Do we ignore the battle raging around us?  Do we hide the sin for fear the Lord will be displeased, sweeping it under the rug or making excuses? Or do we say, “In my distress I called to the LORD?” [vs. 4] Is that what delights Him? Our call for help and the acknowledgement of His power to rescue us gets His attention and His favor.

And trusting Him with our lives is an act of righteousness. We see evidence of this in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans-

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed … Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Romans 4:18-24

If you’re still not convinced, Hebrews 11 has a long list of flawed people who had much in their lives to be ashamed of, yet they were seen by God as righteous because they chose to put their faith—trust—belief in Him.

The rest of the song tells of God’s actions toward the righteous. My favorite part—”He sets me free from my enemies.”

If you are struggling against the enemy of sin today perhaps it’s time to call on the Lord who will “soar on the wings of the wind” with smoke rising from His nostrils shooting His arrows and scattering your oppressor. Choose to let God rescue you from the thing you seem so powerless against. Trust the Lord. He gives great victories.