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Category Archives: Living Naturally

The Recipes of Victory

When does the end begin when the end is really the beginning?

That’s where we are in Esther’s story.  Haman (her enemy) thinks the end of the Jewish nation is about to occur.  Esther, however, has run to God to pray for God’s direction.  That action was the beginning of the end (the Victory of Deliverance)—and Purim—which is this Saturday –  Sat. March 15.

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Hawaii-Israel Alignment

The rest of Esther’s story will continue after Purim because it is so interconnected with the Passover.  But on to the story and a few Victory Party Recipes:

Post 5 of 10. Recipe for Wisdom

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom

 

Xerxes’ pitiful example illustrated how decisions made in haste, or anger usually ends in regret.

Realizing she had no ability or power of her own, Esther chose to trust God on behalf of her people, telling Mordecai to ask all to fast and pray with her for 3 days to seek God’s direction.

Too often, only when all our options are exhausted, do we run to God. From Esther and Xerxes stories, we learn to run to God first, trusting Him to work through me, or someone else.

The combination of prayer and fasting is mighty. Esther’s example, to step back, evaluate, and seek God’s wisdom instead of reacting, continues to serve us well in our life of constantly impending threats and crisis.

Esther’s people were delivered when Haman’s plan to exterminate all Jewish peoples backfired, and the celebration of this event is Purim.  I hope you will be celebrating Purim this Saturday!

Prayer Chain - prayers for us by women who didn't know us.. Reminding us our struggles give us basis to pray for our sisters on the same journey.

Prayer Chain – prayers for us by women who didn’t know us.. Reminding us our struggles give us basis to pray for our sisters on the same journey.(from TrueWomenConference inspires me to make a prayer chain for the women of Israel

What I like to Do BEFORE Purim

Have some type of fasting to remember Esther’s preparation. 3 days or 3 meals, or 1 day to fast of 3 things you usually have every day (coffee, soda, or can be other than food like phone, TV, internet)

What to Do ON Purim

* Pray for Israel -

* Give gifts to poor people.

* Read the Megilla, the Purim story (the book of Esther)

* Eat a festive meal, or seudah and Hamantaschen (tri-corner cookies evocative of Haman’s ears!)  Gluten Free recipe at JewessesWithAttitude

* Give food gifts, called mishloah manot, to our friends.

…and more

Hebrews4Christians_Purim

1-StarblueCelebration of Deliverance 2014

Sunset on Saturday, March 15, to Sunday evening, March 16

I’d love to hear if you found a Messianic-Jewish congregation, a synagogue, or begin your own Purim tradition and prayed for Israel.  http://int.icej.org/pray (The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem) or Christians4Israel-PrayerLetter

 
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Posted by on 03/10/2014 in Living Naturally

 

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Hearing My Shepherd’s Voice

You are in a crowded room and out of all the cacophony of voices would you recognize your spouse’s or your crowdparent’s voice? Would that one voice stand out?

In Spain last summer, Lara (one of the missionaries) was driving a few of us home from an outing. The sun was setting, and she willingly pulled over every time we saw a Kodak moment. On a pullout near a country road, we took one last picture as the sun slipped away. Standing in the soft darkness we heard the soft clank of approaching bells, and a shepherd calling out.  Quickly, Lara turned the car, trying to locate the herd with the car’s headlights.  We snapped pictures wildly for several minutes as at least a hundred sheep approached the road where we’d parked, the bells clanking louder until we saw them, softly lighted at the edge of the headlights glow, then continued up a hill and slipped into the darkness.  None of our pictures turned out but the vision was still unforgettable.  A lone shepherd dressed in loose pants and shirt, leading and talking to his flock. At least a hundred sheep, their bells swinging and clanging, followed their master through the darkness.

 

I couldn’t stop thinking of the sight and the portions of scripture that talked about the shepherd and the sheep – especially Psalm 23 and John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. sheep

 

I have a little sheep on a shelf by my desk to remind me to listen for my master’s voice. And to follow – even – no, especially, through the darkness.

 

My Spain experience was brought to mind and the lesson magnified recently through a story from Oz Hillman in a TGIF devotional.  He says:

 

 

A friend of mine told me a story about an experience he had in Israel. They were in the country visiting some of the famous biblical sites when they saw a group of sheepherders. A shepherd brought his flock of sheep into a round pen for the night. Then, a few minutes later, another shepherd brought his flock into the pen. Then, a few minutes later, yet another shepherd brought his sheep into the pen. There were three groups of sheep in the pen with no identifying marks among any of them. My friend wondered how in the world they would separate their sheep the next day.

The next morning, a shepherd came over to the pen and made a comment to his sheep. One by one, the sheep filed out to follow him. Only his sheep followed his voice. My friend said it was an amazing scene to see only that shepherd’s sheep follow him and the others remain in the pen. What a picture of Jesus’ words spoken centuries earlier.

Hearing and responding to Jesus’ voice is the key to having a two-way relationship with God. It is the difference between having religion and a relationship.

Can you recognize God’s voice in your life?

Are you listening to the Shepherd’s voice?

Do you respond when He calls?

Ask Jesus to help you increase your ability to hear. Give more time to spending quiet moments in His presence to hear His voice. He wants to be your Good Shepherd.

 
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Posted by on 01/27/2014 in Living Naturally

 

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What’s Your Listening Style?

Bear – Deer – Porcupine – or Puppy? AA027448

Mama bear’s fierce protection of her cubs is well known.  Mama can growl about and discipline her cubs, but don’t you dare get between Mama and her baby!

I can relate to that fierce loyalty and protective instinct – the motive is always good, but acting out before evaluating can be misdirected.  Totally focused, Mama Bear’s plan (for itself or for its charges) is simple, constructive, and not to be deviated from at your own danger.

Bear’s listening style: Act first, listen later. My lesson: Stop and run to the Lord for direction first…and listen for instruction before acting.  One of the disciples in this “clip” had the right idea…asking – “Lord, should we…” but one of them just acted on emotion. Emotions are good, and a gift from God, when controlled by God. But let loose, that rubberband bouncing ball of emotions can lead to havoc.

Luke 22:49 And when those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”
Luke 22:50 And a certain one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
Luke 22:51 But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.

Bambi – wide-eyed and innocent – and digitally enhanced so much that  all I see are those big innocent chocolate eyes. it is easy to lose sight of her quick analytical skills –  observant, alert, and self-effacing, the deer is sure-footed, finding peace and fulfillment from a distance – in the background.  It’s greatest ability is also the point of its greatest vulnerability.  Thus the deer’s plan is to intentionally place itself at risk – the Paul Revere of the forest. First response may be I’m not sure if I can do that, but once committed, totally loyal and exacting to the finish.

Deer’s listening style:  Guarded and from a safe distance. My lesson: Remove my ego from the circumstance. View the situation from a distance, listen as though I am watching a movie – hearing someone else. Evaluate what I see and hear. When I have the facts, I can commit to respond instead of react.

Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

j0302829Porcupine appears unapproachable – even dangerous, but in actuality its entire body could be looked at a disguise of self-preservation.  Blunt, sharp words can be wounding or life-saving depending on the delivery and the circumstances. While the Porcupine’s plan seems emotionless and “pointed” at others, it is only protecting its tender heart from expected misfortune.

Porcupine listening style: Sefl-defense – always on alert – thinking of a sharp answer instead of listening. My lesson: Turn off my defensive self-talk by asking questions. Will my words wound others? What if this were my issue, my question, how would I want others to react to it?  I can protect my heart by choosing not to be offended, and responding with the grace I’d like to receive.

Matt. 12:37 Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.

Did you see the movie 101 Dalmations?  All those adorable puppies were not in competition with one another but blissfully happy to simply “be” in existence and to bring joy to others.  That visible joy and open personality (especially vocally) could be a difficulty for others who seek reasoning behind action.  The Dalmation’s “plan” doesn’t really exist because it is totally spontaneous, totally flexible, and always fun!

Dalmation listening style: Don’t! Just have fun!  My lesson: Be cautious to not get carried away with teasing or jesting.  What starts out as fun can get out of control and hurt someone.

Luke 6:25     And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.

There are many other examples of how we listen – or don’t. I pray these examples from God’s creation will speak to you as they have to me.

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Inspired by Scripture, God’s Creation and life lessons

 
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Posted by on 01/17/2014 in Living Naturally

 

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Varied Grace . . . and some unabashed joy

Vive la différence!

This term is often used as a humorous exclamation, such as a man appreciating an attractive woman, so you can imagine my “Say, what?” when I saw the word varied (multiple, diverse, wide-ranging) connected with grace in the ESV version of I Peter 4:10:

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”  – ESV

Here it is used in reference to each one – each creation of God – receiving and utilizing our unique gift.  God’s grace, it indicates, is individualized and, like us, comes in a variety of forms!

God knew my gift from Him would be a delight to see and write the stories around me. I love writing, and though IMG_6763I have had times in my life where I wished I had others’ gifts, I finally understand that my very personal designer-creator chose this gift for me.

I completely understood this when my friend Jan encouraged me to attend a drawing class, and though I enjoyed some weak attempts, I more enjoyed the relational activities. I was glad each night when class was done and I could go home and write about the teacher and the characters in the class and the stories they shared. When I explained my pleasure of writing Jan exclaimed that words would not be for her – she loved practicing shading something a dozen different ways.   We laughed at our differences and marveled that the different (varied) gifts we were given were not drudgery, but uplifting and completing for each of us.

I began searching then, and found many other verses to encourage me that any inclination or talent I have that lets me say, “I am a writer!” is purely a gift of love —part of my design— that came as no cost to me. (Though loving my gift means I want to be nurturing the seed – developing it, and taking time to utilize it to serve and bless others) which, by the way, brings the greatest joy.

Ecclesiastes 3:13  confirms this happy fulfillment: “moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor — it is the gift of God.” (a present, a gift without cause (no special occasion – a ‘just because’ gift of love), a gift received without your paying anything (no cost to you), a sacrifice, offering, or bestowment (something given from the heart of the giver).

What a precious thought to realize that this “calling” within that draws me, makes me it’s captive audience with the seduction of chocolate and the addiction of an avid collector, and fulfills me as though it were made for me, was indeed made for me.  And your gift, your calling, was as personally and intimately designed for you.

The original meaning for this word gift comes from two words – Abba (father/daddy) and blessing.  It’s a “Daddy blessing.”

From God’s heart to yours. What is that calling He so marvelously tailored just for you?

Have you identified it?  Are you developing it?  Have you found ways to utilize it in the service (to the benefit) of others?

This is my prayer for you…. we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.

If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely. (2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12)

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-Unashamed Personal Advertisement -

Some unabashed joy came my way this past week in the form of nomination for blog of the year from The Book Club Network.  If you have not yet joined this wonderful free club, treat yourself, and join.  You can join here at BookClubNetwork, then, if you will, scroll down on the far right side of their page to the Blog of the Year voting, and place a check mark in the box next to Be The Miracle!

 
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Posted by on 12/10/2013 in Living Naturally

 

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My Hanukkah Shamash

As a grandmother, you’d expect it from me, I know.  To hear me tell you that my 1menorahgrandson was the best, the bravest, the inspiration to us all, does not surprise anyone.  Even our David would roll his eyes at Gramma’s praise – for what did he really want, but to live, to be a boy, to grow to be a man and yes, to be a Shamash.

Neither David nor I are Jewish, but those of you who are know what a Shamash is – the servant candle of the Menorah – the one that is used to light the others. David’s brother Michael was quick to remind me what David said himself – he was just a man – one who did not want the pain he endured, but one who was willing to search for and find the worth in it – quietly, valiantly.

I too had heard the story many times of how the oil was lit to celebrate victory, and the pure oil sufficient to burn only a single day lasted eight days. Yet we seldom think about the candle that lit the victory oil.  The Shamash was the one kept ready – prepared to light the other candles.

Whether small and reserved and ready at the right hand, or elevated at the center, the Shamash – the lighting candle on the menorah  – reminds me of our David.  It gives me courage in our struggling economy and soothes the fears of what may lie ahead for our country, for the world, for me personally, and for those I care about.  It speaks to me of what God has already done, assures me of the unexplainable He is capable of doing, and gives me courage to guard my own little flame from the winds of unbelief.

Some might think David’s faith (and ours) was in vain, for didn’t he suffer, and isn’t he no longer with us? Others know better and continually testify as to his flame in their lives and now in others that continues to illuminate their paths and point the way to peace despite life’s turbulence.  And isn’t this a miracle too, that one so young completed his calling while even his grandmother struggles with obedience and living love restrained only by unselfish motivation.   So what can I do?

I can listen and then I can speak.  Softly, to fan the flame of hope in others who bear similar pain.  I can weep.  In joy as well as sorrow, I can weep with others for like-experience brings comfort and living-evidence brings assurance.  That “knowing” like the purest oil, brings health and strength from within when the clear vision of victory and purpose is held aloft.  I can accept.   Understanding the darkness and unknowing, I can accept others fears and doubts, relieved no one need depend on me to do what I cannot, yet rejoice that David’s candle has lit my heart so that its flame can spill over onto their path.  I can give.  The knowledge we gained researching his disease was for him, and also for others yet to live. The bonding of our hearts is a gift impossible without the mutual journey through deep waters. The receptiveness to others’ needs I would not feel as deeply had I not known both desolation and the joy of receiving.

Times of hardship are here for some and coming for others. Things will get hoarded and spoil or shared and used up.  We may run out of heating fuel or gas for our cars, power for light or money to purchase those supplies, but the enemy only conquers when hope is gone.

I hoped to carry that flame to our offspring; instead David passed the torch of hope to me. He carried a flame that ignited the source – creating greater light than by glowing on his own.  Sometimes for me the cold wind of fear accompanies sharing myself, wondering will my light go out?  Will my light diminish?   Will I have the strength to survive? Surprisingly, I continually discover that instead of depending on my own light to guide others, every small selfless act (giving-up and trusting in the Source of miracles for the strength) begets a flame that is fed by the breath of life, designed and destined to reignite warmth and hope from generation to generation.  Left to itself, my light flickers at every breeze and cringes at every weather report. But God’s eternal light does not fail.  Giving in His strength does not fail to give hope to the receiver as well as to the giver.

Fear of loss outlines our future, for none of us are exempt.  Already our pension has been lowered; our bank account is smaller.  Greater losses than possessions – of someone dear, of our own health, our freedoms, loom on the horizon.  Remembering what God has done through David helps me to know that whatever my experience will be, it can also be a Shamash for those in my circle of influence. I can speak the words of eternal hope.  I can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  I can accept fear in others because I too ran to God in weakness and found that He will be my strength. And whatever I lose in this uncertain future, I will still have whatever I gave away.

As Dave shared through his 5 years of trials and pain, his questions always ran the same pattern – What are you doing, God?  What can I learn from this?  How can I help others through this?

His answers were revealed through his daily life and faith as one kind person wrote that ‘many are watching and wonder’.

Dave Fly1Here’s to you, Dave.  May my questions be as unselfish as yours, may my life be a light of willing service, and above all may others see in me your gift of unexpected hope.  May I be a light in the darkness.

 
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Posted by on 11/28/2013 in Living Naturally

 

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Sticks, Stones, and Words

Sticks and Stones will break my bones, and Words can wound my soul. IMG_1304

 

Not quite how we heard it growing up, is it?  I’ve been hurt physically and emotionally, and have to admit the most searing have been the words…  Words sometimes said in anger or in haste without thought of another’s feelings.  Words that accompanied the physical pain or were insinuated as the reason for the affliction. Words of strangers, of friends supposedly said in jest, hasty or painful words of family (physical family and spiritual family) seem to hurt worst of all.  Many of you know my mother was abusive and I recall thinking if my own mother cannot or will not love me, how will anyone else?

Much of my attention was on what was thrown at me, and too little on how I reacted.   I used to focus on a verse out of context – Matthew 15:18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

Therefore, I would think, if that person said it, it means it has been simmering in their heart for a long time, and it is their truth about me.

 

Not necessarily.

 

My wise husband, knowing about my painful past, helped set up some rules pre-marriage. The first was that we would never name-call. The second was not to use always or never in a negative way because “permanent-izing” the words made them exaggerated, accusatory, and actually impossible.  The third rule was to make a loveneibcharbrownpact to agree and realize that we would never intentionally hurt one another, but being human, acknowledge that it was bound to happen.

 

At that point, it is our choice what we do with the perceived wound, or what guidelines there are encouraging me not to wound others with my words:

 

“How about if I forget that ever happened?” usually brings a huge sigh and a thanks.  But what about intentional barbs from those difficult people in our lives? And what if I choose to accept the offense and brood about it? Spiritual heartburn and constant upset stomach causes the expected physical reaction:

 

Matthew 15:11 It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”

 

What?  Getting back to the verse above, things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…is followed by

 

Matthew 15:19-20 It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes.

 

So pollution is less about what I “swallow” or take in, and more about if I choose to let it simmer until it boils over. The original word for “vomit” comes from spew: to eject violently or abundantly.

 

Most pain-inflicted words come from spewing abundantly or violently.  It took me a long time to realize that the person I allow to make me angry, is the one who controls me, but it is still my choice to give the offense to God or to chew on it until I spew (the same garbage) out.

 

The Message very clearly expounds on what spewing words looks like:

 

Eccl. 5:2  Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think.Bibleheart

Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear.

God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.

 

 

Yep.  Sticks and stones can break my bones.

 

And words – Jeremiah 15:19 says, This is how God answered me:

“Take back those words, and I’ll take you back.

Then you’ll stand tall before me.

Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining.

Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.

Let your words change them.

Don’t change your words to suit them.

 

God’s rule:  Don’t respond in the same vein – don’t step down to the level of those who would wound.

My prayer:

Psa. 19:14       Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

Be acceptable in Thy sight,

O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on 11/12/2013 in Living Naturally

 

What Do You See?

I love to look at the world like a toddler.  As a matter of fact, rather than being a “young-at-heart” senior, my incessant detailed examination of my world has caused some to liken me to a “very mature toddler!”

Have you experienced a toddler’s constant and minute observations?  Closer proximity to many tiny things is, of course, one advantage of their super-inquisitiveness, but really, I wonder if they don’t see more in a few months than some of us do over several decades.  The same flowers, feathers, and colorful nuances in a cats-eye marble– the same incredible detail they see – is right before us too, if we aren’t too busy scanning future’s horizon to see it.

Mudnicebrown03Next to this paragraph is a photo I took at a Native-American trading post in Arizona.

What do you see?

My husband backtracked to ask me that very question, and to satisfy the curiosity of his wife aiming her camera toward the muddy and morning-frosted parking lot.  In the mud and ice I saw, appropriately I thought, a feather.  What do you see?

I recently climbed a hill near a mountain (I think anything under 2,000 feet is still just a hill) and looked over it imagining what a toddler might see.  That imagination does three things for me:

1)   The lower view removes jadedness – everything is viewed as a new observance, and in relation to my (smallness).  I appreciate the grandeur in the details.

2)   It stimulates questions – What is that?  Why is that?  Who are those people?  What is so wonderful here that brings hundreds of people every day?  Do those birds have names?  Where does that hole between the trees and shrubs lead?  Who made the path that leads to the hole? Will someone go with me if I step down there?

3)    The experiment draws me closer to the creator of all these tantalizing things, and bringing God into the equation often greatly changes my perception of what I think I see.

Someone has said: “It is not enough for a gardener to love flowers; he must also hate weeds.”  I find some of the weeds of natural plant life very beautiful. But some of those beautiful weeds are poisonous. Unchangeably so.  There are many lessons of gardening the toddler questions – why the weeds, why the pruning?  Why is there such a battle to produce healthy unspotted fruit?  Our world today has the questions muddled, mixed up, and would tell us to love the weeds and the flowers the same, or that if we hate the weeds, we must also hate the flowers. (Don’t get me wrong – you, no matter who you are, are in this analogy, a flower and the weeds are anything that would hurt you, or stunt the fulfillment of your created purpose). My ears and my heart are weary of the word hate. It is hard having a toddler-heart in an adult world. A toddler heart wants to give my puppy whatever it wants, be it weeds, chicken bones, or chocolate – whatever will make it happy. But my adult heart knows those things will cause grave harm, and so I reject them despite the wistful begging chocolate brown eyes that say, “if you love me….”

Toddlers easily weep for hurting people, like John Bunyan’s character, Christian, and Hannah Hurnard’s character, Much Afraid, climbing to conquer real fears (and outrun imaginary fears like a stick which I thought was a snake or lizard).  I pray that when people see my passion to route the world of the weeds, they will see only love and concern for them (the flowers).  I pray too, that I would be cautious to sift that passion through prayer, producing gentle actions that would not in any way be seen as unaccepting or rejecting for I also have been and am susceptible to the weeds, and  I can give no less than the same extravagant grace I have been given.

Many toddlers shyly hide in fear behind their assumptions. Most, though, in my experience, are friendly, meeting each new soul and seeing its place in God’s creation.  They are matter-of-fact, yet open and caring. They are often completely trusting of God to take care of their own needs, accepting scriptures as what they are – God’s words to them.

As you go through the rest of this week I challenge you to look with the fresh gaze of a toddler, then listen to the Spirit asking you, “What do you see?”  Just as God asked Samuel, Jeremiah, Amos, Zechariah and so many more (Hag 2:3, 1Sam 28:13, Jer. 1:11 and 13, Jer. 24:3, Amos 7:8 and 8:2 and Zech 4:2 and 5:2)

Az08 2280Then document one thing you see each day, and write what God tells you about that thing. You will feel younger, because your spirit will be.

What do you see?

 
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Posted by on 10/22/2013 in Living Naturally

 

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