SOUL RESTORATION

SOUL RESTORATION

My husband and I like to watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS.  It is interesting to watch as people bring in their various collections, yard sale finds and family heirlooms to be appraised.  Sometimes you can just tell that the Appraiser is very excited by a particular piece.  He will begin to explain the origin and history of the find but then declare that the article is quite valuable but if it is properly restored it will be worth far more than ever dreamed.

We have an old bureau that had belonged to my husbands’ Great Aunt.  It was usable but in sad shape. The top was worn and veneer broken. We didn’t think restoring it to the original finish would be worth the work since it was not an expensive wood. Instead, my husband carefully sanded down all the surfaces several times and patched the broken places. It took several coats of paint as the wood was very dry and I ordered new special knobs and handles to replace the old plain ones. It was a process that took time. It is still an old vintage piece but looks better than before inside and out.

The biblical meaning of the word “restoration” is to receive back more than has been lost to the point where the final state is greater than the original condition.  The point is that someone or something is improved beyond measure.

Peter had really blown it by denying he even knew Jesus while standing in the courtyard while Jesus was inside “on trial’. But today you can visit Tabgha, a quiet cove on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. There a church was built called “the Church of Peter’s Primacy” to commemorate Peter’s restoration. He was not restored to go back to fishing but to move forward as “the Rock”, the chosen leader for the disciples and early Church. 

Humans were created in God’s own image and are of great worth in His eyes. No person can stray so far away that they cannot be restored by His grace. Jesus explained that to us clearly in the parable of the prodigal son. God wants to use us for His service and glory despite our faults and failures.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.          2 Cor 5:17 (ESV)

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.      Eph 4:22-24

Maybe you can’t identify with the “prodigal son” but you are more like his brother.  Life didn’t seem “fair” and he was angry. Has your Bible gotten dusty or is your thought life rough around the edges? Are you stuck in old habits and patterns of life that make it difficult to function properly?  Maybe your joy has lost its luster? The past year and a half has been very difficult.  Wherever you are or whatever situation you find yourself in, let God do some deep cleaning in your heart and restore your soul. As long as you have life, God has a plan and a purpose for your life.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.                     Psalms 51:10 & 12

Seasons of Refreshing

Seasons of Refreshing

The ladies at my church recently held a day retreat to come together and share some hard things as well as how God has worked throughout the past year and a half. Now that restrictions have been lifted here in Massachusetts it felt so good to be with sisters face to face. I am an extrovert and love to chat with people and I didn’t realize how much the “Covid rules” affected me until after our retreat. My soul needed this time of spiritual refreshment; the fun, food, laughter, prayer, singing and reconnecting with friends.

In 1 Kings chapter 18 and 19 we read about the prophet Elijah having showdown between God and the prophets of Baal. In a nutshell, God won and the false prophets were all killed. Now the wicked King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel were furious. Elijah is burnt out and very afraid so he runs to the wilderness where God provides a nap and some food. Refreshment. God had another assignment for him but first he needed some physical and spiritual fortification.

The word refresh means “to give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate”. With technology we refresh our devices – we restore their settings and clean out clutter so they function better. We need to refresh and restore our souls so we function better. Everyone around me is looking forward to having vacation or family reunions but now that we are free to enjoy life “as we think it should be” how will you refresh your soul? We dare not jump back on the hamster wheel of life.

Here are ten of my favorite suggestions to refresh your soul I gathered from the internet.

  1. Get outside and enjoy some vitamin C – God’s feel good medicine.

2. Now that we can (with consideration of others feelings) give your family and best buddies a huge hug.

3. Cut out the background noise and the distractions including the phone.

4. Put some uplifting music on.

5. Take a walk and stretch your body.

6. Read a good book and get lost in the words.

7. Take time for your hobby or try something new. Being creative feels good.

8. Pamper yourself.

9. Check Your Attitude! Have you allowed negative or false thoughts to invade your soul? Ask God to forgive and cleanse your heart and mind.

10. Make a list of things you are grateful for.

For a season of spiritual refreshing get your soul into a place where you can receive God’s peace and renewal. Spend time reading scripture, calm your spirit and pray.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10 (ESV)

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, Acts 3:19-20

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalms 51:10,12 (ESV)

…they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

God’s promise to us,

Handwritten Letters

Handwritten Letters

Sadly I believe the art of writing a good letter is almost lost. I used to send handwritten letters to many people and even had a pen pal for many years. But now it seems a Hallmark card is good enough and a printed letter only goes to close friends and family at Christmas time. Facebook and other media gives a way to send a quick thought but there is no substance. My husband and I have been going through many boxes of memorabilia containing letters from our college years. Not only did they express our feelings for each other but information about classes, dorm mates and happenings on campus and back home. I found some letters my parents sent each other while he was in the Air Force and a letter my Grandma sent me before she died the summer I was a camp counselor. These letters hold a snapshot of life in the past but also reinforce the foundation my life was built on.

The second part of the Christian Bible, called the New Testament, consists of the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Book of Revelation, which together describe the life and teachings of Jesus, the efforts on the part of Jesus’s followers to establish the Christian Church, and a prophetic vision of the Second Coming. These epistles were handwritten letters to various young Churches scattered around the then known world and have been meticulously preserved for us.

 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas.15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”18 Here is my greeting in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you. Col 4:14-18

These letters contain names and places of real people that were being taught how to live as Christians in a pagan world. The letters teach deep theology and practical solutions to problems we still face today. Within the pages are words of admonishment similar to, “please get along and take care of each other” as well as words of encouragement for these early saints, “Stand firm in His word.”

In our fast paced instant messenger world we can just read a quick verse on our phone or listen to a podcast at the click of a button. I don’t think we appreciate the time It would have taken quite for these letters to reach their intended readers. That is what we would call real snail mail. I do know that we take for granted our free access to these letters and the rest of scripture. I am old school and personally prefer a printed paper copy to read and re-read the words on a page and let it speak to me like a personal letter.

Did you know we are to live out our personal lives so others can “read” about Jesus even if the don’t own a bible?

Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Cor 3:2-3 (NLT)

I have a challenge for you dear readers and it is three fold.

  1. Send a handwritten letter of appreciation to someone in your life. It will mean far more than you could imagine.
  2. Pick up a paper copy of God’s word, sit and read a whole passage or chapter. Let His word sink into your heart. Think about the people in that passage, the person who wrote it, does their situation apply to your life?
  3. Ask yourself if anyone can read about Jesus by watching how you daily live.

Unmasked

Unmasked

Finally we are breathing a sigh of relief and taking off our masks. A year and a half of living in cautious isolation, distance and covering up to provide a measure of protection for ourselves and loved ones has been very difficult. Humans were created to be interactive using all of our senses. It really is nice to see my friends’ faces in person and not on a screen or half hidden.

A mask is simply a covering for all or part of the face and they have been used for tens of thousands of years for many different purposes. There are many types : Camouflage (to conceal) – Ceremonial (funeral, worship, war) – Cosmetic -Disguise (pretend, theatre)-Natural animal color patterns and Protective (from dust, pollutants and infection). This list represents masks that are changeable, tangible and visible.

But don’t we all wear masks on our hearts from time to time? We try to hide our fears, feelings, faults and failures. But we really need friends and places where we can be ourselves, free to share and feel safe. Unfortunately The Church has not always been that safe place for wounded people to come as they are. The world sees a bunch of hypocrites. False expectations of performance or presentation get in the way of true transformation and growth. We need to remember that The Church is not about a building but it is a bunch of broken and imperfect people who are gathered to worship a big and perfect God. When Adam and Eve sinned they covered themselves, ran and hid. God went looking for them calling, “Where are you?’

The group Casting Crowns wrote a song called “Stained Glass Masquerade” that spells out the feelings of not belonging while everyone else pretends they have it all together.

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles that hide our pain
But the invitations open
To every heart that’s been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

God knows we wear masks of pride, offense, perfection and strength to hide our fear of exposure, inadequacy and failures. These masks prevent us from finding grace and healing. They hide the real us but also keep other people from seeing Jesus. Masks obscure our vision from seeing the needs of people near us and the purpose He has for our lives.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. Psalms 139:1-3 (NLT)

The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7 (NLT)

23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body Eph 4:23-25 (NLT)

Jesus is our living example. He never wore any kind of mask. He had no use for pretenders and called them out. He was exposed, vulnerable and judged. It might be scary to take off a mask you have been wearing for awhile. Find a friend to pray with you for courage and the strength to be real. Encourage one another to let the light of Jesus shine through your imperfection ……. and live mask free.

Free to Be Me by Franseca Battistelli

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I’m so clumsy
But on your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me
And you’re free to be you

Open Your Eyes to Wonder

Open Your Eyes to Wonder

We live in such a fast-paced world so preoccupied by the next thing on our to-do list that we are actually missing out. When was the last time you were awe-struck by something beautiful and amazing? Maybe the birth of a baby? An especially beautiful array of color at sunset? Experiencing wonder can have a positive impact on our health and quality of life. Too many people have their noses buried in their screens and miss what is right in front of them. We don’t need Google to answer all of our questions or Disney to fill our imaginations. And we don’t need to go on a grand vacation (although it is nice). On the contrary, we just need to open our eyes and minds to the marvels around us every day.

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good a dead, his eyes are closed. – Albert Einstein

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the County fair children and adults love watching the miracle of life unfold before their eyes at the chick hatchery. We silently cheer for the baby chick as it wobbles around in its new environment. Talk to a beekeeper and learn how we get honey from an insect. It’s an amazing feat of nature. My father once took a small piece of grass and placed it over the ant hill and told us to watch. Within seconds the ant patrol came up and removed the object blocking their path. How do they know what to do?

A Lesson from the Ant: 6 You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. 7 Nobody has to tell it what to do. 8 All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions Prov 6:6-8 (MSG)

Living in New England, I’ve been to the ocean many times in my life but if I let my eyes gaze to the end of the horizon, it allows me to see past my present place , to imagine what lies past the edges and what creatures live beneath the sea. Rest, relax and imagine. It sounds silly but people actually go to the seashore during storms. They are drawn by the immense power of the winds and waves and want to experience something bigger than themselves.

In the the Sayings of Agur we read: 18 Three things amaze me, no, four things I’ll never understand— 19 how an eagle flies so high in the sky, how a snake glides over a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, why adolescents act the way they do. Prov 30:18-19 (MSG)

We can all look up at the moon and stars but there is such a limited view in the city and suburbs. Instead, go to the country side, away from the lights and noise, where the sky is filled with countless stars, vast and unending . Stand still and be amazed at the beautiful expanse of the heavens.

O, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder. Consider all the works Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power thru-out the universe displayed. Then sings my soul….. from How Great Thou Art

The Pandemic crisis caused many of us to shut down and focus inward. We have been bombarded by negative media and statistics as well as many real losses. As we regain a sense of normality put down your tablets and lists, look up and around. This is an act of soul care that is FREE – to stop, deep breathe and count blessings instead of losses. Do not lose the joy of wonder.

Other verses to read: Job 38, Psalm 104, Psalm 139,

Mom’s Who Pray

Mom’s Who Pray

Being a Mom is a full time responsibility and privilege. Moms who pray know they can’t accomplish all that is required for children to grow into strong, healthy, self-sufficient, law abiding citizens without asking for the Lord’s help.  

Hannah had no children and even though her husband loved her, his other wife made life miserable. In those days, a woman’s worth was measured by bearing children. As a family they went to the Temple where Hannah, being deeply distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. She vowed that if God gave her a son, she would bring him back to serve the Lord.  Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli (the Priest) took her to be a drunken woman and reprimanded her. But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” Eli then blessed her. She became the mother of Samuel who became a great prophet, priest and judge over Israel and she was blessed with other children as well.     1 Samuel 1

Moms who pray know that God hears the cry of their heart.

… For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.     Romans 8:27,27

Moms who pray know they don’t have all the answers and ask for His wisdom and guidance.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.        1 John 5:14-15

Moms who pray will hand over their worries to the Lord in exchange for peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus       Phil 4:6-7

Moms who pray will praise God despite current circumstances because they know He is in control.

Mary was a poor, young, unmarried woman when told she was to become Jesus’ mother. In her small village there would be a lot of gossip and disapproval. Her response to the angel’s message was a beautiful song of praise.

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…”    Luke 1:46-49

Moms who pray, trust in a big God who loves them and their children (grandchildren) far more than they can imagine. Faith accepts that God has a better plan even if the results are never seen. Hannah prayed for a child she so deeply desired. Mary praised God for a child given to her in an unusual and unimaginable way. Both women trusted in their Heavenly Father to provide for their needs.

There are all types of women who fill the roll of Mom; biological, adoptive, foster, grandmothers and aunts but will you be a Mom who prays?