Stirring Spoons by Beth Smith (My Mom)

When you simmer stew, if you don’t stir the pot, food can stick to the bottom and ruin the dish. Stirring also lets you check on what’s in the pot, culling anything that doesn’t belong.

  • Oops! That carrot got too brown. It must have stuck to the bottom.
  • Too much flour. Look at those lumps! Out they come.
  • My goodness! What’s that tomato stem doing in there?

God often stirs us to keep us from sinking down to, and sticking at, our lowest level. Or he may allow us to be stirred in order to remove what doesn’t belong.

What does God uses as stirring spoons? People and circumstances. A stirring may go like this, in your head, that is:

  • “If she asks me one more time to clean the garage, I’m going to throw something.” What’s in that pot? Anger?
  • “If he doesn’t clean that garage, I’m not going to cook for a week. He’ll starve.” (Hmmm, is that a little revenge floating to the top?)

Try to find what’s being stirred to the surface in the life of this fictional lady:   

“I’m never early, never late. Jane always admires my perfect timing when I pick her up. Ugh! I told those kids to bring in their bikes. I’ll be late now because I have to do it. I’m going to ground them for a week.

“Hi, Jane. Get in the car. No, I’m not late. You must have come out early. Well, good grief! Look at that stupid, careless driver! He didn’t stop at that stop sign, and look at him on his cell phone, thinks he’s so important. Humph! Where’s a cop when you need one? Well, if we just had a good governor, things would be different. Man! Politicians! Lazy bunch of no good…I hate that guy on the City Council, you know the one who…”

Stir. Stir. Stir! What came to the surface, provoked by nearby people and circumstances? Impatience, judgmental attitude, meanness, self-righteousness, pride, covetousness, anger?  We surely don’t want those stuck in us. So…

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV) tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses stirring spoons, often those irritating people and circumstances to show us our weaknesses and to help us become more like him.

What do we do? Here’s a hefty starter list:

  • Thank God for whoever or whatever brought a sinful reaction to the surface. (We have to see it before we can get rid of it.)
  • Ask God to bless the person he used.
  • Give the reaction to Jesus with open honesty. Hatred, self-righteousness, pride…there’s no need to disguise it or analyze it. Just acknowledge that Jesus died for that sin.
  • Repent, be truly sorry, and desire to change.
  • Ask God to replace what the stirring spoon revealed with the fruit of his Holy Spirit.

This week when a stirring spoon comes along, let’s all follow those steps and rejoice that we aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. We’re getting rid of a lot of junk. God is working on us for our good, and that’s worth the stirring.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Rocks

ashland creek Suttonlee pixabayLithia Park is one of my favorite places in the whole world. It’s lush, tranquil and inviting. Deer run through now and then. Mothers spread blankets on the lawn for their napping babies. Couples walk hand-in-hand down shady paths. In the summer, a circle of small children sit on upturned Home Depot buckets, honing their skills on tiny violins to the delight of those fortunate enough to pass by. Perhaps best of all, Lithia Park is punctuated by Ashland Creek, which runs down the center of that 93 acre garden.

Ashland Creek is my favorite part of the park. It’s full of fallen trees and giant rocks, making the liquid landscape even more beautiful than it would be on its own. Those rocks disrupt the water’s surface and create little cascades, providing a natural music that calls out, “Relax! Enjoy!”

I wonder, though, did anyone ever decry those rocks for slowing the flow of the creek? Or perhaps, did someone point out the hazard those rocks can create as they become moss-covered and slippery?

We have rocks in our lives. We tend to call them stumbling blocks or obstacles. But, I wonder, do we always have to see those rocks as something negative? Maybe we weren’t meant to move so fast. Maybe a path that isn’t quite so smooth is more interesting, more beautiful by the end, and even more glorifying to our Lord. Maybe if we’d only relax a bit, we’d hear the music of trust created by our troubles.

Are you frustrated by the rocks in your life today? We’re called to be content. (Short Bible study included below.) So, I hope you’ll step back for a moment and slow down enough to see that the One allowing our rocks can use the slower pace, the disrupted path, to make something beautiful. Your money belongs to him. Your time and energy belong to him. Let him spend them in the way he sees fit. Relax a bit, and let the rocks make music!

Verses on Contentment

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (Psalm 131:2).

The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23).

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).

Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).

Photo by  Suttonlee on pixabay

Kicked Forward by Beth Smith

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We all have troubles in our lives, but take a look at the life of the Apostle Paul:

  1. Given thirty-nine lashes five different times
  2. Beaten with rods on three occasions
  3. Stoned once
  4. Shipwrecked three times
  5. Adrift on the open sea for a whole night and a day
  6. Exposed to danger from flooded rivers, robbers and those who hated him
  7. Imprisoned
  8. Denied needed sleep
  9. Plagued by hunger and thirst
  10. Cold because he lacked proper clothing

Pretty horrible, right? Yet here was Paul’s response:

I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me. (I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me. I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency)” (Philippians 4:13 AMP).

If Paul had quit, had lost his faith in God’s power because of his difficulties, we would be missing ten books of the New Testament. But Paul knew a secret about his strength. He had a “thorn in the flesh.” No one knows for sure what it was. He begged God to take it away, but God’s response was, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Then Paul said, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT).

We all have problems, and plenty of weaknesses, but we can be strong in the Lord. God never tells us to do something without giving us the power to do it. And he uses our hard times.

  • Four of Paul’s letters were written when Paul was a prisoner in Rome.
  • Martin Luther translated the Bible while forced to hide in a German castle.
  • John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison in Belford, England.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote monumental Christian literature from a concentration camp.

What might God do with us if we use our misfortunes to draw close to him?

Dr. E. Stanley Jones wrote this about the Apostle Paul: “If Satan was to kick him, then Paul would determine the direction in which the blows would take him—forward!”

It’s during the difficult times of life that we get kicked forward. Those are the times we draw closer to God.

When Paul wrote that he had the strength for all things through Christ, he was in prison. Still he knew that God was using him and empowering him. Nothing can happen to us that won’t “kick us forward,” if we are determined to depend on and trust in our loving, heavenly Father. I can just see us as making the devil cringe when we say, “Go ahead! Make my day! Kick me forward!”

 

Photo by Jason Briscoe @Unsplash

 

 

Stop and Start

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Well, he did it again! My growth group leader taught a lesson last week that was so good, I’ve just got to share it with you. So, in the edited words of Jim Harris, I give you “Stop and Start”.

What do we need to do when troubles come?

STOP thinking that God is angry with us. Romans 8:1 tells us there’s no condemnation for us. Our sin was dealt with at the cross.

STOP trying to take control. God is sovereign. He’s in control of the day of our birth, the day of our death and everything in between.

START trusting in God’s ways even when you don’t understand them. (That’s what it means to walk by faith.) Isaiah 55:8 tells us why: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”

START believing God’s promises. You’ll find hundreds of them in the Bible. It’s a fallen world. Life is not fair. Bad things happen. But God promises us good. Joseph waited in an Egyptian prison. Peter slept many nights in prison. Look what happened! God’s people were saved from starvation. Christianity was spread.

God has a reason for every trial or trouble, and he wants us to depend on him!

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

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Now and then, when I was a teenager back at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, I was given the honor of turning down the lights in the sanctuary just as the congregation got to the last line of this great hymn. Picture this: The pews are filled at the Sunday night service. It’s dark outside, but bright inside, as the final hymn begins. Then the lights go down just as all in attendance sing, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” The backlit cross at the front of the church now stands out in stark focus as a hush falls over the room. A little dramatic? Maybe, except that I still see that cross in my mind’s eye and feel that hush in my heart, often just when I’m about to forget about God’s glory and grace.

We can’t dim the lights on the rest of life as easily as I could turn that rheostat back then. Would that we could! Maybe instead, we need to shine greater light on the glory and grace that surrounds us. He is everything. Our full supply. That’s what Helen Lemmel was trying to convey when she penned these lyrics.

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Are you, like so many of us, troubled by “the things of earth” today? Is your heavenly vision a bit blurred? Take a breath. Take a moment. Remember whose you are and who He is. Enjoy the right you have as a child of God to fellowship with the Creator of the universe. And let those things that trouble you fade in the light of his glory, with the realization that, while you may not be able to see how right now, his grace is and always will be enough.

Corrie

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Corrie ten Boom.

I hope you know that name. Already an older woman when World War II began, she and her family risked their lives to provide refuge for Jews, hiding some of them in a closet-sized room when the Nazi’s raided their home. I grew up reading The Hiding Place, then watching the movie that carried the same title, then re-reading the book as an adult. Her account of the many ways God worked before, during, and after her stay in a concentration camp inspired me, spurring me on to greater faith in the Lord who loves us.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Today I headed to the gym, Kindle Fire in hand. I know I need to work out, but I don’t like to work out. Watching videos as I sweat on a treadmill makes it all more tolerable. Today, thank you Amazon Prime, I came across Corrie ten Boom: A Faith Undefeated.

I had been listening to the radio as I drove to our neighborhood fitness center. It proclaimed all the awful possibilities facing us now and threatening us in the days to come. Some of those threats are very real. Even now hardship abounds at home and abroad. I was saddened. Then I began to listen to Corrie. I’m keeping this blog short in hopes that you’ll click on that link and watch a bit of the film that documents her story. Spoiler alert, though, here is the closing quote:

Look around and be distressed.

Look within and be depressed.

Look at Jesus…and be at rest.

May you be at rest this week!