Author Archives: gardnlady

2 Kings 23; Hebrews 5; Joel 2; Psalm 142

24 Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord. 25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 

God wants my complete devotion. There is nothing that should be higher in my life than Him.  However, is that the case for me?  So many times I see my bible sitting in the place I have my quiet time.  I know God is calling to me to spend time with him.  But I just can’t today, Lord.  I got up too late and have to run to get to work.  Not tonight, Lord.  My favorite TV show is on.  What does it hurt to read that book?  Everyone else is reading it.  I have a really big decision to make.  I think I’ll call a friend instead of praying and talking to God about it.  I am feeling lonely and unloved.  I think I’ll eat anything I can to stuff the feelings and numb the pain.

I may not have Asherah poles and statues of animals sitting around my house, but there are so many other things I can put at a higher priority than God. Yet, the joy and satisfaction that comes from the sweet time with I spend with Him, so outweighs anything else.  He will meet my needs, fill the emptiness inside, and direct my decisions. All that and more comes to me when I put Him first, and highest, in my life.  Wouldn’t I love to have it said of me, “She turned to the LORD with all her heart and with all her soul and with all her strength?”  I am a work in progress.

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—     the great locust and the young locust,     the other locusts and the locust swarm[b] my great army that I sent among you.

The first time I heard the verse, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” I was at a women’s retreat. It was the first one I had ever attended and I was a very new believer.  I was in deep pain at the time.  So much had happened in my life due to my brokenness and bad decisions.  I needed hope that a better life was possible.  Towards the end of the retreat, a woman got up and gave her testimony.  One of the verses she quoted was Joel 2:25.  I sensed the Spirit whisper to my soul, “that verse is for you!”  It was almost as if I could audibly hear the promise of the Lord.  He wanted me to know He could restore relationships and rebuild my life.

Looking at the verse now, many years later, I noticed something different. The “locusts” in my life back then were of my own doing.  But these “locusts” were referring to a plague that God had sent.  God purposefully sent them to get the attention of the nation of Judah.  He was calling them to repent. He wanted to be first in their lives.

12“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 

God loves us so much and he wants us all to himself. I have learned over my years of walking with him that he will send “locusts” in various forms to draw me back to him.  As I’ve heard it stated, God is more interested in my character than my comfort.  There have been times he has allowed me to experience the devastation only to build me up even stronger on the other side.  Those idols pull at me and promise fulfillment, yet never deliver.  Those “locusts” force me to my knees in repentance.

Surely he has done great things! 21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice.  Surely the LORD has done great things!

He has done great things in my life. I have every reason to be glad and rejoice. Hallelujah!

Heavenly Father, I ask you to forgive me for the times I do not put you first. My life is so much better when you are in your proper place.  No matter what comes at me, I can handle it because I am not alone.  There is nothing else that will give me the strength I need; nothing else will fill the emptiness inside.  Thank you for never giving up on me. 

Cindy (gardnlady)

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2 Kings 8; 1 Timothy 5; Daniel 12; Psalm 119:49-72

Psalm 119:49-50 – Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this:  Your promise preserves my life.

58I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.

There have been times in my life when the only thing I had to cling to was God’s promises. Those promises got me through some of my darkest days. I remember specifically one occasion where my heart was breaking. I cried out to Him in my distress.  I was driving down the road, tears pouring from my eyes, as I was listening to a Christian radio station.  The song playing had evoked such emotion of a recent loss.  At the end of the song, the DJ started reading scripture.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  Those words were like a soothing balm to my heart.  There are verses I draw from to give me courage when I need it.  They give me hope when I have none.  His word assures me of his presence.  I am not alone.

67Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

Affliction is not something I would ask God for in my quiet time—or any other time for that matter. Yet, so much of my journey with Him has been learning how to live my life as He calls us to live rather than how I did it on my own.  He has used those trials to teach me. God’s decrees are there to protect us not inhibit us. It took me awhile to understand that.  My sinful nature wanted to do what I wanted to do and out of it came a lot of pain for many people.  Nevertheless, God redeems those years even as we live through the repercussions of our sin.  His word has given me direction.

71It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

By studying the Bible, I am in the process of learning how to truly live and find joy in any circumstance. For instance, when I was unemployed for over a year, I learned trust.  When my mother was very ill and in the hospital so much, I learned patience.  When everything in my life seemed out of control, I learned to surrender.  When no one else was there to listen to me, I learned to pray.  Those times were not fun by any means, but I can look back and see how He used them to teach me.  They deepened my faith.

Lord, you know there are times I forget what you’ve told me but you are always gracious to remind me. I remember a song with the lyrics, “your loving kindness is better than life”.  Thank you for always being there for me, for loving me as you do, and for teaching me how to have a better life.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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1 Kings 1; Galatians 5; Ezekiel 32; Psalm 80

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

Christ has set me free! Sometimes I forget that.  There are hurts and habits from my past that Jesus has healed and changed.  I have to admit that my mind can sometimes go back to those places.  I remember what it was like to be a slave.  I remember what it was like to carry the burden alone.  Jesus called me to Himself.  He wrapped his arms around me and held me.  It was as if he said, “Child, you don’t have to do this life alone.  No more striving; let’s do this together!”  Oh the freedom that comes when we give it all to Him.

 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

I love Jesus. I love how he relates to me. When I accepted him as my Savior, I truly felt free. There was a drive in me to know him and how God intended life to be lived—which was not the way I was doing it that was for sure! In my mind, I had a lot of catching up to do.  I was so grateful to him for he truly pulled me out of the muck and the mire.  He set my feet on firm ground and I took off running.  I was studying the bible, praying, having quiet times, and learning so much. He sent people into my life to encourage me, teach me, and pray for me.  I was running the good race.  Then someone from my past, before Jesus, showed up in my life again.  That person “cut in on me” and tripped me up.  That yoke of slavery was lurking.  The persuasion is subtle, the words can seem true; yet you know they aren’t Truth.  There is that “Y” in the road.  The world beckons one way.  Jesus stands there with his arms open the other way. I run to him. His word is truth and can be trusted.  As a popular Christian song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back.”  The race continues.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

 As I watch the news, I see the evidence of this statement. I see people “biting and devouring each other” and the destruction it is causing is growing.  We have an enemy that has set out to steal, kill, and destroy us—and we are helping him.  It grieves me to see Christ followers caught up in the lies. I have to keep my eyes focused on Jesus and not any of the screens (TV, social media) that try to persuade me or I could easily be caught up as well.  Paul is warning us about this through the entire chapter.  We are to be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

I can only humbly serve another in love by knowing how Jesus served others. He modeled an example for us in the story of the last supper when he washed the feet of the disciples, including Judas fully knowing he was about to betray him.  I want to love my neighbor but they are not always nice to me.  I want to react to them out of my flesh but Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, not only give them your shirt but give them your coat as well.  So I have felt convicted to begin to pray for ways to reach my neighbors—my immediate neighbors.  I have no problem going to a rescue mission, a woman’s shelter, or even Africa to serve.  However, I have not reached out to my next-door neighbors.  I trust God will show me how to show love to them.

Heavenly Father, the battle is real. I must continually look to you for my direction and the strength to continue the good race.  Sometimes it feels more like an obstacle course than a race but I have your Word and your Spirit to help me over the hurdles.  Show me how to love my neighbors.  Teach me how to love like Jesus.  In His name I pray, Amen

 

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

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2 Samuel 11; 2 Corinthians 4; Ezekiel 18; Psalms 62, 63

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Brokenness and adversity came into the world with sin.  I have spent the better part of the past 20 years on a journey with Jesus through brokenness and we are not finished yet.  It has not been an easy road by any means.  We have gone through dark places.  Together.  We have peeled off layers of scar tissue built up over my wounded heart.  Together.  He has never asked me to go into those places of brokenness alone. Sometimes he had to carry me. There were times I could not see him and felt lost and afraid.

I went on a tour of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky when I was a teenager. While we were in the middle, the guide turned off the light.  I put my hand on my nose directly in front of my eyes and could not see my hand.  There was not one ray of light. It was the darkest I had ever experienced. At one point of this journey, that was an analogy of how I felt.  I could not see where I was going.  Luckily, I had hold of Jesus and he knew exactly where we were going.  We have “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”  It guides our way.

This life is hard and just because we are walking with Jesus does not make troubles go away. What happens is HE goes through things with us.  That is how we can say: we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  I had to cling to those words as Jesus carried me through the darkness. They are words he gave me in the midst of my despair to give me hope.  The best decision I ever made was to believe Jesus—not only to believe IN him, but to believe what he said was truth.  There is an end in sight; it is just ahead and I can see it because of his light.  The destination has a name:  freedom!  Each step I take with him gets me closer.

8Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Opening my bible is like walking with a friend. It reminds me of the journey we’ve been on together. As I turn the pages I see notes and dates—reminders of conversations with my Lord.  There are the times I prayed, the times I cried, and the times He took me to exactly what I needed to hear at that precise moment.  There are nuggets of truth, conviction of sin in my life, and words of love spoken to me. It is proof of his love for ME because the words become personal.  No one knows me as he does and he allows me to know him through its pages.  He has shown me what true intimacy looks like.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

 Father I thank you that you take such good care of me. You fill me when I’m empty, encourage me when I’m faltering, and pick me up when I fall.  Your love is better than life.  This journey we have been on is difficult and there are times I wanted to quit. But you pursue me and your love draws me.  Jesus has carried me when I have been weak and I will sing praises to him forever.  It is in His name I pray, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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1 Samuel 25; 1 Corinthians 6; Ezekiel 4; Psalm 40, 41

A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.

 23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

We are told in 1 Samuel 25:25 that the name Nabal means fool. What caused him to have that name?  I remember agonizing over choosing the names of my children before they were born—after all, they were going to have it the rest of their life.  My granddaughter had a heart defect the doctors found when she was still in utero.  They knew she would need surgery as soon as she was born so my daughter specifically chose a name that meant “strength” as she knew her daughter would need it to survive. In my mind, she was defining the kind of life she wanted for her daughter.  Did Nabal’s family give that name to him when he was born or was it changed later in life?  Since he was “surly and mean”, did he come from a family that expected him to be that way?

A name like “fool” can certainly shape your life. It seems to me you either accept it and live up to what people expect you to be, or you do the opposite and spend your life trying to prove that you are not what your name implies.  By his own wife’s words, we are told he lived up to his name.

On the other hand, the name Abigail means “father’s joy” or “joy of the father”. I can picture Abigail being twirled around in her father’s arms as a child dearly loved.  “She was an intelligent and beautiful woman” yet somehow she ended up being married to Nabal.  Perhaps her family was poor or had fallen into hard times and her father thought he was doing what was best for his daughter by offering her in marriage to a wealthy man.

28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Abigail knew exactly who David was, that he was running away from Saul, and that he was destined to be ruler over Israel while her husband had no clue. She really was intelligent. Nabal was vain, ungrateful, and couldn’t be bothered when approached by David’s men.  Yet Abigail knew exactly how to act.  She was well prepared to feed David’s army (who has 200 loaves of bread lying around?) as she directed her household to pull all the food together so quickly.  Then, she wisely humbled herself before him.  I think this took David by surprise!  He had his mind set on destroying Nabal and his household—he was not expecting such graciousness!  God saved David from his own “folly” that day by Abigail’s quick actions.

In a way, the story reminds me of the plot of a romance novel. Saul is chasing our hero, David.  While David is hiding out, he provides protection to a local ranch owner, Nabal, as he sheers his sheep.  When his army runs out of food, David sends his men to politely ask for some provisions from this wealthy ranch owner.  The surly, mean husband sends them away—after all, he never asked for David’s help.  In an emotional reaction to his refusal for aide, David decides he is going to kill the males of the household.  The servants come back to report everything to the intelligent and beautiful wife, our heroine in the story.  She quickly assesses the situation and saves her household from destruction—and David from doing something he might later regret.  He recognizes her true value. They have a moment but each goes their own way. Upon finding out the entire story, the husband has a stroke, and then dies.  Hearing of Nabal’s death, David, who was so impressed by Abigail, offers to marry her.  Then she lives happily ever after as the second wife to the King of Israel.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

I know those verses fill me with gratitude as I think of God’s faithfulness in my own life. I know David wrote them.  I wonder if he ever read them to Abigail and she could see God’s hand working in her own life.  Maybe she realized she was her heavenly “Father’s joy” after all!

Lord, I know names are important to you. I thank you for the greatest name of all, Jesus.  He alone is our salvation as his names says.   My name means bringer of peace.  True peace only comes from knowing Jesus.  I pray for the opportunity to bring that peace to others.  In Jesus precious name.  Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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1 Samuel 10; Romans 8; Jeremiah 47; Psalm 23,24

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

This was never clearer to me than sitting on a hill in Rwamagana Rwanda watching a group of 6 to 9 year olds play with beach balls. We were there to participate in a vacation bible school for the younger students that attended the school during the regular school year. They had never seen a beach ball before but quickly caught on to the concept of keeping it in the air and volleying multiple balls from one side to the other. I sat down for a moment to catch my breath and take in my surroundings.  There was joy and laughter that rang through the hills surrounding the Kigali Christian School.  Beyond the hedge that outlined the property was a banana field on one side and farmland to the rear.  Goats ran freely up and down the roads.  While the parents worked in the fields, their children poked their heads through the hedge that outlined the property.  You could tell they wanted to be included in the fun.  While we sang songs and recited bible verses, the children watching us soaked it in.  I have no doubt they went home singing about Jesus.

beach ball

The leaders of the VBS would burst into song and sang many of the same praise songs I knew. As we lifted different words to the same tune, I had a picture of eternity and how every nation, tribe, and tongue would bow before Jesus.  He would understand us all no matter what language we spoke.  The words merged in perfect harmony lifting up as incense before the throne of God.  I knew He was pleased!

After the classes ended and all the students had been dismissed, we did a prayer walk covering every inch of the campus asking God to continue to bless Rwanda, their school, the students—anything that came to mind. Again, there were different languages lifted in prayer but we were crying out to the same God.  We were united as one Body with many parts.

I’ve always heard the term, “God’s Country.” As I traveled to the other side of the world, I was able to see and experience the reality that it is ALL His and the vastness of what He has created.  Each country is unique and has a beauty of its own.

Lord, there are times the beauty of your creation is overwhelming and we can do nothing but sit and gaze at your glory. There is such a variety of plants, birds, wildlife, and people—each unique to its own environment, each created to praise you.  Thank you for sharing it with us.  In Jesus name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Judges 18; Acts 22; Jeremiah 32; Psalm 1, 2

In a few days I will be on an airplane heading to Kigali, Rwanda. We will be staying at a Youth for Christ facility that is so alive with the presence of Jesus.  This is my third time travelling to this country and I know I go back to visit the piece of my heart I left the first time I went.  There is a group of women at YFC who have called themselves the Blessed Ones–they feel blessed because God has provided for them and their families.  They are widows and women with HIV/AIDS who had no way to support themselves but the Director of this facility gathered them out of the slums and they have learned to support themselves and their families by sewing and jewelry.  They have bible studies together and have learned about Jesus.  Most have accepted Him as Savior, though some have not, but we love on them all.  Being around them fills me with joy.  We really have so much in common—we are all broken women healed by Jesus.  Our time together is filled with fun and laughter, hugs and tears, shared activities, and hearts filled with love for God and each other.

This time I’ve been asked to stand before them and give my testimony. There will be a translator there to tell them what I’ve said because my Kinyarwanda is not very good.  In Acts 22, Paul had no such hindrance as he spoke to the gathered Jews in their own language.

“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

Paul begins to give his testimony. The crowd is silent as they listen to him share his encounter with Jesus and how he changed Paul’s life.

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’

19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr[a] Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

I know when I give my testimony it will not be met with the same reaction that Paul faced from the angry crowd.  People react to Jesus. They either love him or want to kill him.  Because we associate with him, we can get a similar reaction from people.

We are blessed here in the United States. We are not treated brutally for sharing about Jesus but that is not so in all countries.  We read about all the times Paul was beaten and put into jail for going from city to city proclaiming Jesus and all that he did.  We think that only happens in the bible, but Christians are persecuted today for their belief in Jesus—even more so as the end times draw near.

My encounter with Jesus was not anything as dramatic as Paul’s, but it was just as transforming. In his first speech to the Jews in the synagogue, Jesus told them he came to bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for prisoners, comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (taken from Isaiah 61:1-3).  When I tell them my story, that is what I intend to share—the impact of those words on my life.  I could make a checklist of those promises:  did He bring me good news?  Check.  Did He bind up my broken heart?  Check.  Did he clothe me with a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair?  Check.  Did he bestow on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes?  Check.  Check.

To the outward eye, these women may look different than me. But in our inner person, we are sisters in Christ.  We have been through trials and overcome them by the love of Jesus.  His presence in our lives has given us value beyond what the world says.  The last time we went, I got to hear some of their stories of how He changed their lives.  I can’t wait to tell them mine.

Lord, I thank you for changed lives. I thank you that I can go halfway around the world and have something in common with other women.  You have given us a connection through Jesus.  May we sing His praises in whatever language we speak.  It all sounds like a choir to You!  In His name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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