A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK

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SIDEWALK . HOLE
When you are tempted, He will also provide a way out

so that you can stand up under it.
I Corinthians 10:13

Some things you read, are just imprinted on your mind like photographs. And every so often something you experience or something you observe brings them back to your mind’s eye just as vividly as when the first impression was made. Such is this essay I read by Portia Nelson. It reads, “I walk down the street. There’s a hole in the sidewalk and I fall in. I’m lost; it isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to get out. I walk down the street again. There’s a hole in the sidewalk, but I pretend I don’t see it, so I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place; still, it isn’t my fault. I walk down the street again. There’s a hole in the sidewalk I see it, but I still fall in ~ it’s a habit. But now my eyes are open and I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately. I walk down the street. There’s a hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it! Finally, I walk down another street!”

Oh, My Friends, I don’t know whether or not you can relate to this, but I think it’s been the story of my life and has caused me so much sorrow, guilt and pain! Let me give you my translation. “I am walking through life. Temptation is in my path and I fall in its trap. I’m devastated, but it really isn’t my fault. Satan tricked me! It takes me forever it seems to get over the guilt and shame. I am walking through life again. I am faced with the same temptation, but I PRETEND I don’t see it, so I fall into the trap again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place; still it isn’t my fault (so I say!). Satan tricked me again! I am walking through life. I am faced again with the same temptation. I see it, but I still fall in ~ now it’s a habit. But this time my eyes are open and I know where I am. It IS my fault! The choice is mine alone. I get out immediately. I am walking through life. I am faced with the SAME temptation. I recognize it as the same trap the enemy has used before. I resist it through the power of the Holy Spirit. FINALLY, I take another path through life!”

Those of you who are acquainted with me are wondering what that temptation is. I say IS, rather than WAS, because I am still faced with it on occasion. Suffice to say, I have a strong tendency to try to find security on my own, rather than depending on the Lord. It can lead to problems. But it is not in my best interest to declare that temptation in this blog.

Those of you who are my close friends probably know what it is, for you have been there beside me the whole time, helping dig me out of the trap and regain my self-esteem. Jesus knows, for He too, was right beside me all the way. But YOU know what that temptation is for you. Is it a trap that you keep falling into repeatedly? It may be what some people would consider a small sin, such as a bad temper or a stinking attitude. It may be something with far more lasting consequences such as alcoholism, drug addiction, chronic lying or sexual impropriety. I don’t have to know, but if after reading this you recognize it, then you are at the last stage of this analogy. It’s time that you recognize it as a recurring trap of Satan, a habit and something that only you can resist through the power of the Holy Spirit. Habits are not easy to break, even with God’s help, for as the Apostle Paul says, the flesh with its desires has a mind of its own. But it is not impossible, for ALL things are possible with God! If there is something in your life that is making you miserable because you keep falling into the same trap, leading to guilt and depression, it’s time for you to repent, turn around and take another path of the Holy Spirit’s leading!

I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me!
Philippians 4:13

THE GAME’S NOT OVER

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HOMERUN
SONG: MY LORD WON’T LET ME DOWN

Everyone who competes in the games
goes into strict training.

They do it to get a crown that will not last,
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
I Corinthians 9:25

One, two, three strikes…you’re out… in the ole ball game! The line from that old song is about all I know about baseball. So why I started thinking about the analogy between baseball and life, I do not know! But often times, the Lord just brings something to my mind that I would not have thought of myself.

In baseball, the goal of the pitcher is to strike out the batter before he can hit the ball and make any bases. (Now aren’t you impressed with my vast knowledge!) The pitcher will throw a fast ball (cutter), a curve ball (deuce), a split-finger fast ball (forkball) and many others in order to catch the batter off guard. (Isn’t the internet just a trove of trivia?!) Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on how vigilant and tuned in the batter is. It is not a game of chance, but of skill, persistence and heightened awareness. Are you starting to get my drift?

Life is often referred to as “the game of life”. Actually there is even a board game by that name. The Apostle Paul likens our spiritual walk in this life to an athlete running a race to win a prize, that prize of course, being ETERNAL LIFE! He talks about the stamina, focus and determination required to do it successfully. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

In any sport, we have to discipline our body to perform to its highest potential. Does my body want to be disciplined and trained? Of course not! Did you get what Paul said, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave.” I know from experience, if you don’t master your body with its carnal desires and motives, it will master you and the result can be devastating! Sometimes I actually look in the mirror, look myself in the eye and say…“Stop it, Nancy! You are NOT going to do that! You are NOT going to think that way! You are NOT going to give in to that temptation!” The devil bombards your mind and emotions. He is just like that pitcher on the baseball field. If he can’t get you with a cutter, he’ll try a deuce and if he can’t strike you out with a deuce, he’ll try a forkball! And if he can’t send you to the dugout with any of those, he’ll invent something new.

The only chance you have of hitting a home run or at least running the bases is to be wary of his tactics. Look at some of the film footage in your own life. What balls did he throw at you previously? Bone up on your game by reviewing the old tapes and learning from them! Practice your swing until you can knock that ball completely over the fence and into the stands where it can’t be retrieved! Give the devil a black eye! The Book of James says this…“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

And if you do strike out sometimes, don’t quit! Step up to the plate again! Never give up and never give over! The games not over until you’re six feet under and I know you don’t plan on being there anytime soon!

HOPE SHINES THROUGH THE DARKNESS

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O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
    Your glory is higher than the heavens.
Psalm 8:1
HEAVENS

Poem by Sherry Crowson Evans

When You made the stars did they shine like Your face?
They were a brilliant glimmer of Your glory in the dark.
Did the sparkling blue seas shine like the depths of Your eyes?
Do the mighty oak trees resemble Your awesome power and might?
Are the boulders on high an image of Your steadfast stance?
Is the purifying wind like the breath of Your love?
When You created man, an image of You, did You smile or did You pause…
knowing the future and what was to come?
What sadness You must bear to have the beauty You created fall into darkness.
Thankfully, Your patience stretches out like the universe.
What joy You must possess knowing all will be well in time.
Darkness may reign, yet the beauty isn’t overshadowed. The world speaks of Your glory.
The Redeemer has been sent…a spark of Hope for all to see.
One tiny baby…One boy…One man…One God…One King for all…Forevermore.
His light shines like a beacon, guiding us onward. It never extinguishes.
It always endures. He will unite the world one day
to live in everlasting harmony with our Maker.

JUST THE WAY YOU ARE

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HEART CLOUDS
SONG CLIP FROM
YOU CAN MAKE IT

See how very much our Father loves us,
for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
I John 3:1a NLT

It’s amazing how the way we are reared can affect the rest of our lives. I don’t mean this to sound egotistical, for I assure you it is not meant in that manner, but my mother taught us that if someone is not attractive physically, they are “less than.” I know that sounds horrible and I’m sure if you had called her on it, she would have denied it, because she didn’t really say it in words. But the idea was subtly implied in conversations and in criticisms and judgmental attitudes. “Did you see that dress she had on? She could have at least fixed her hair?” She did the same thing to TV personalities.

I think it all stemmed from low self-esteem. She was a wonderful, beautiful and kind woman, but she grew up in abject poverty and so did my dad. But after their marriage, through hard work and a great deal of determination, they managed to bring themselves and their children into a middle-class lifestyle. My father determined that his children would never do without like he did!

But this influence on my life brought me into bondage to extreme perfectionism. Of course, I didn’t really realize it…I just knew I was miserable and always very angry! When I say extreme…I mean extreme! I wouldn’t wear a gold ring with a silver hair clip. Yes, it was that bad! But really, I suffered from that same low self-esteem issue that my mother had. It had been passed down to me and my sister. It was not until I was in my fifties that the Lord helped me to realize what bondage I was in and how truly miserable I was. When I did, I decided to do something about it, for certainly no one else could or would. Now days, I still dress immaculately with everything perfectly coordinated, but it is no longer out of a need for perfectionism, it is simply habit from having done it for so many years. The folks in my office call me “Fancy Nancy”! : ) I told them, when you’ve been here as many years as I have, you have enough jewelry and accessories to compliment any outfit!

My point in sharing all of this with you is to let you know that until I discovered that My Heavenly Father loves me just the way I am, I didn’t have the power to break free from this bondage. Now, I still like to look good, don’t get me wrong, but it is not an obsession. If I have to go out without makeup or being dressed to the tee, I don’t feel “less than.” I just feel normal. What a freeing concept!

Also, as a woman growing up in the South, I was taught that you should do your best to please people and you must always defer to men. Those things are a dangerous combination and caused me many problems in my adult life. But in that also, I came to realize that My Father God loves me and He is the only one I have to please or defer to. And even in that, it is our choice. And you know what…even if I do something that doesn’t please Him, He loves me anyway! His love is not conditional like human love! “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. His banner over me is Love.”

Don’t EVER let anyone make you feel that you are “less than” for ANY reason! “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” by the God of the Universe and He loves you! If you have any bondage from the past that tells you otherwise, break it and annul it now by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ! Walk in the victory He died to attain for you!!!

I just can’t help myself…as a musician, I have to leave you with a verse from a song by Billy Joel:

I said I love you and that’s forever,
And this I promise from the heart;
I could not love you any better,
I love you just the way you are!

DEVIL…MAKE MY DAY!

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CAT FIGHT
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil

walks about like a roaring lion,
seeking whom he may devour.

Resist him, steadfast in the faith.
I Peter 5:8-9a

Here begins another exciting anecdote from the archives of Nancy’s everyday life! You obviously are familiar with my cat family by now…you know…the one that keeps growing as the word gets around that there’s this crazy lady that offers free food just for the taking. Anyway, I wrote not too long ago about the cat fight that ensued between two male cats vying for territorial rights at my place. They were rolling around the yard with fur flying in every direction while I stood on the porch yelling for them to stop! (You can just imagine how much that helped.)

So the other morning, I went out to feed the cats. There, on the steps of my back porch sat the skinny yellow cat who won the fight. He reminded me of a sentry standing watch…ears honed like glistening antennas; eyes peeled searching the horizon for any sign of intrusion by the enemy. He felt like he had won the territorial rights, now he had to diligently preserve them!

It immediately came to me that we, as Christians, should be as vigilant in our watch for the enemy of our souls. Indeed that is exactly what Peter is saying in this verse. Now if we are born again, we should not fear Satan, for the Lord says, “Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.” (Luke 10:19 AMP) But even though an opponent does not fear his enemy, he wants to be ready and prepared in case of an attack. How many of you know that Satan doesn’t announce himself at his arrival? Remember he disguised himself as a serpent when he came to Eve in the garden. And when he acted through Judas to betray Jesus, he even disguised himself as a friend and greeted Him with a kiss. My point is this…we have to be ever alert to the tactics that Satan uses to put stumbling blocks in our walk with God. It doesn’t always have to be big things. Someone can speak a discouraging word. Things just didn’t go right at the office. Someone talked you into doing something that didn’t turn out for your good. Maybe an old habit just keeps cropping up, trying to get you off course. “It’s the little foxes that spoil the vines.” Often Satan doesn’t come at us with big dilemmas, but with multiple little irritations or disappointments, one after the other. He is not overt, but very subtle.

Sometimes the thing that he tempts us with is not necessarily sinful, but is not what’s best for us. If he can get us to make choices that are not in God’s will for us, he can get us into discouragement and even depression.

Learn to recognize his attacks and resist them in the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Like that cat guarding his territory, we need to stand sentry over our souls! If there’s one thing Satan hates, it’s for us to recognize his strategies!

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.
Isaiah 54:17 NKJ

STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH

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ARMOR OF GOD
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:13

Have you ever prayed this verse before? You probably have. I know I have.  It’s a part of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” By the way it’s worded in the King James Version, it  sounds kind of like God would lead us into temptation. Not so! The Bible plainly tells us that God tempts no one…“And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.” (James 1:13 NLT)

The verse from Matthew 6 in the New Living Translation reads this way, “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” And listen to the verse in The Message Bible…“Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” I kind of like that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed, “Father God, save me from myself!”

I know you’ve heard the old saying coined many years ago…“The devil made me do it!” Well, for one thing, it’s not very likely that the devil or anyone else could make you do something that you sincerely didn’t want to do. Now you may know that it’s not the best thing for you. You may WISH that you didn’t want to do it. You may even pray for the strength NOT to do it. But if you don’t exert some restraint on your part, it’s likely that you WILL do it. Even the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest men of all time, who wrote most of the New Testament said this...“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:21-25a)

Don’t get me wrong, God will help you if you really rely on His strength and draw from the power of His Holy Spirit within you. Paul plainly says so. But the fight between good and evil is an age old battle that will not be abated until the end of time, when Satan’s ultimate defeat is enforced and he is banned from roaming the earth.

But Jesus didn’t leave us defenseless when He returned to heaven. He gave us weapons of warfare that we can use very effectively. “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:13-18 NLT)

We definitely are in a consistent battle with a very persistent enemy every day of our Christian lives. Some days maybe more so than others. God’s Word tells us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8 NLT) Then He gives us the antidote in James 4:7, “So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 AMP) We resist him by putting on our armor and “having done all to stand, we stand firm!”

HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN WHO YOU ARE?

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MIRROR IMAGENow we see things imperfectly,
like puzzling reflections in a mirror,
but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
All that I know now is partial and incomplete,
but then I will know everything completely,
just as God now knows me completely.
I Corinthians 13:12

This post by my daughter Sherry Crowson Evans

So…how are you feeling today? Feelings can be crazy. One day you are just fine, and the next moment you are swept off your feet again. Despair creeps in stealthily. Insecurities are amplified. Failure seems imminent.

Have you forgotten who you are? Your feelings have deceived you. The deceiver has deceived you. You are a messenger…a messenger to the world. You have a job to do. God has a plan and a purpose solely for YOU. God has chosen YOU to be HIS light.

When you fail don’t crucify yourself. You are too hard on yourself! Look to God for reassurance and continue working. When your plans fall apart, look to Him. He will guide you. When your mind is confused, look to Him for clarity. When you’re depressed find comfort in the One who designed You.
Remember… it’s His plan and His purpose…for YOU…TODAY!

I know it’s hard to believe, but It is the truth. Take a moment… stop everything…find a quiet place. Now, think of your children. Think of all the love, hope, and dreams that you have ever wished for them. God gave you those hopes and dreams. They are a small glimmer of His hopes and dreams for YOU. Think back to all the times your heart has bled for your children. When they are hurting you hurt. You comfort them. You sacrifice for them. They are your hope and your future. You would die for them. God took His only Son. He sacrificed Him for YOU. His heart bled for YOU. YOU are the hope of this dark world because God’ s light shines in YOU! God loves you MORE than you love your child.

Remember who you are today. Look in the mirror…really LOOK…take off the mask. Don’t look at yourself with disappointment, disgust, or shame. Soften your eyes and look at yourself for who you are. God made you in His image. God is proud of you. He doesn’t see your flaws. He doesn’t see anything wrong with you. He sees your kindness. He sees your goodness. He sees you trying so very hard every day. He knows it’s difficult. He knows your struggles. God sees you making progress and He is PROUD! Believe in yourself. You can do it! God is with you. God believes in you and He is cheering you on!