Breathe!

One of summer’s special gifts that I enjoy is the fragrance of flowers filling the air. In May I sense the smell of lilacs and in June I fill my lungs with the aroma of roses. I love to sniff the sweet scent in the air. Respiration is an automatic function of my lungs but when I smell a delicate floral fragrance I become aware of my body’s task of breathing.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7

The ability to breathe is a God-given gift. Through His breath, God gives life. If I can breathe, I am alive. If I cannot breathe, I am dead. These are facts relating to the human body. We know there is life in a newborn baby when he cries and inhales oxygen into his tiny lungs. I wonder what it was like for Jesus to take his first breath as a human being. He was God and He participated in the first act of breathing life into mankind. Then when he was born as the son of Mary, like all babies, he took his first breath of oxygen. Inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is essential for all of mankind.

And with that He breathed on them
and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20:22

While living on earth, Jesus breathed the atmospheric air. When He died upon the cross, He quit breathing. After His resurrection and before His ascension, He breathed a new life into His disciples. He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. They received a presence and power of the Trinity never before experienced by mankind. In this passage of scripture Jesus extended peace to those around Him and He still offers that same peace to us. If I am uptight and anxious, I take a deep breath to calm down. I am actually inhaling the peace of God. Then as I let our my breath, I am exhaling the worries of the world. In both cases, I am breathing spiritually as well as physically.

Just as there are physical and spiritual benefits of breathing, there are physical and spiritual ramifications of breathing. Paul refers to these in his second letter to the Corinthians.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us
as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma
of the knowledge of him everywhere.
II Corinthians 2:14

Rochester, New York is known as the Flower City and Highland Park is internationally famous for its wide variety of lilacs. When we go to see the lilacs in bloom, the aroma of the various shrubs leads us from one bush to another. While the flowers vary in colors from light lavender to deep purple, we are also aware that some bushes are more fragrant than others. The entire park emits the floral fragrance of lilacs. The bushes seem to lead us in a procession just as Paul tells us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Christ. I like the conclusion of this scripture in the New Living Translation, “Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.”

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved
and those who are perishing.
II Corinthians 2:15

Several years ago we were in Melbourne, Australia for an extended period of time. While my husband was working, I had free time. Since this city is known for its many gardens, I spent time wandering in these beautiful spots. The roses were in bloom and their fragrance would overtake me at unexpected times. I would simply stop and breathe in their perfume because I was not in a hurry. As the saying goes, I took time to smell the roses. Just as the rosy aroma in the air was pleasing to me, Paul informs us that we are to have the same influence upon those around us. The beginning of this verse in the New Living Translation says, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” We are to be the aroma of Christ infiltrating the world around us.

Currently, I become aware of the gentle breeze blowing through the window near my computer desk. The breeze is breathing on me and the room is being filled with floral scents of the rose bushes outside. While I inhale the fragrance of the atmosphere around me, my mind is filled with the aromatic scriptures I have meditated upon.

My Reader, I extend to you the perfume of a bouquet of posies and promises. Breathe in the breath of God while you inhale your required oxygen.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Heavenly Father’s Day

This coming Sunday we will be observing Father’s Day. How do you feel about that day? For some of you, it will be a time to get together with your family and celebrate dads. While others of you may try to forget that the day even exists. Are positive or negative images reflected within your mind when you think about your biological father? Will you feel lonely on Sunday because this will be the first Father’s Day that you do not have your dad beside you? Or, maybe you are excited because this year will be your first opportunity to celebrate fatherhood with the birth of a baby. Personal circumstances and experiences affect our outlook towards Father’s Day.

Our relationship with our earthly father not only affects our attitude towards Father’s Day, but it also can influence our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. If you feel like you cannot trust your biological father, it may be hard for you to trust your Heavenly Father. However, no earthly father’s feelings or actions can compare to the holiness of God. Our Heavenly Father invites us into a relationship with Him that is more rewarding than we can ever imagine. A healthy understanding of God as our Heavenly Father is essential to having this relationship with Him. Allow me to help you get better acquainted with your Heavenly Father by creating for you a portrait of your Heavenly Father’s heart through a few specific scriptures.

And, “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
II Corinthians 6:18

God is love.
I John 4:8

the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
I John 3:1

Love is patient, love is kind
I Corinthians 13:4

The LORD is like a father to His children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:13 NLT

your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Matthew 6:8

Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

We must remember that earthly fathers will disappoint us at some point in time. Only our Heavenly Father is perfect. May we fulfill Ephesians 3:`4-5 that says,I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives it name.” Whether or not you are able to celebrate Father’s Day with your earthly father, I want to encourage you to celebrate Father’s Day with your Heavenly Father because in Psalm 68:5 God promises that He will be, A father of the fatherless.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Anchored to Hope

While HOPE is one of my favorite topics to blog about, I have chosen to emphasize it today in honor of a dear friend of mine, Judy, who went to be with Jesus a year ago in April. June 17 was her birthday on earth, and while she is celebrating that day in heaven now, I want to honor her with the following insights regarding HOPE. She anchored her faith to hope throughout her illness. The anchor with a yellow ribbon pictured above, was given to each of us at her celebration of life service. I still cling to this anchor pin as well as to the spiritual promises of hope.

In the bigger picture, the view from which Judy now experiences it, hope is the eternal full manifestation of eternity with God. Our eternal hope is promised in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” But in the meantime, we walk by faith and not by sight because according to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

My Reader, what comes to your mind when you hear the word HOPE? Do you perceive hope as a fluffy, flimsy desire floating through your mind or do you picture hope as an anchor uniting with faith in your heart? We often have trouble describing hope because it is invisible. There is an anonymous quote that says, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” A scriptural definition of hope is found in Romans 8:24-25, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Although HOPE is invisible, I want us to envision the anchor as a picturesque image of hope.
Hebrews 6:19 states, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Sarah Young says in Jesus Calling, “A good way to remain anchored to Jesus is to whisper His name as often as needed. We can pray and proclaim “Jesus, You are my HOPE!’”

With this in mind, I have created an acronym for HOPE that elaborates upon four descriptions of the Lord that will help us understand why He is the One in whom we must put our hope and trust.

H.O.P.E.

H = Helper – Zechariah 4:6
John 14:26 NASV says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” In this verse, Holy Spirit comes from the Latin term paraclete that means advocate or helper. II Corinthians 5:7 tells us to walk by faith and not by sight, but as human beings this is hard for us to do. We tend to want to follow what we see and what we know in our heads, so we need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help us secure HOPE deep in our hearts.
In Zechariah 4:6, the Lord Almighty declares that victory is attained “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” So, with this assurance, we can assume that Helper is an accurate word for the letter H in our acronym for HOPE. Only as the Holy Spirit helps us, can we grasp the assurance of hope.

O = Omniscient – Isaiah 55:8-9
Omniscience is defined as “the state of having total knowledge, the quality of knowing everything.” Although God is beyond our full understanding, He is omniscient. He is sovereign and knows all about all His creation. We serve a God who thinks about our lives, our world, and Yis creation on a completely different level than even the smartest human being can think. Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”
With this in mind, I have chosen Isaiah 55:8-9 as our scripture to describe how the omniscience of God is appropriate for the letter O in our acronym for HOPE. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

P = Perfect – Jeremiah 29:11
Psalm 18:30 begins by saying, “As for God, His way is perfectand Deuteronomy 32:4 declares,His works are perfect.” God is the only one who is perfect, being without sin or weakness. As I looked for a definition of perfect I read such phrases as “complete and right in every way; having nothing wrong” – “exactly right for a particular purpose or situation” – “being entirely without fault or defect.” I also think of the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy that describes the Lord as being “perfect in power, love, and purity.” God is the only one who is perfect!
When I want a reason to have hope in God, perfection is a good choice of words to use for the letter P in the acronym for HOPE. Jeremiah 29:11 supports this by stating, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

E = Emmanuel – Deuteronomy 31:8
When the angel announces that Mary will conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and have a son, it is declared in Matthew 1:23 that they shall call His name Emmanuel which is translated “God with us.” This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. In Genesis 28:15 the Lord says, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” Not only does He promise to be with us but He also promises to watch over us! So, if God is with us, we can rely upon His help because of what we previously said about the Holy Spirit being our Helper. And, we can trust His help because God is omniscient and perfect, also based on previous statements.
T
he choice of Emmanuel as an applicable word for the letter E of our acronym for HOPE is supported by the scripture found in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” It has been said that “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”

The anchor of HOPE prevented death from having a hold on Judy. I desire the anchor of hope to prevent hopelessness from having a hold on me. To us, our situation may look hopeless, but according to Mark 10:27, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” I like the New Living Translation of Hebrews 11:1 that says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” These are the words upon which I desire to anchor my heart to God’s heart.

I want to conclude by extending to all of you the message of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The Peace of God or A Piece of God

peace-2piece-of-pie-2In his book I AM, Steve Fry says, “Peace is the evidence that we have submitted to God.” Scripture talks about a peace that surpasses all understanding. I can only experience this kind of peace when I completely trust God with everything in my life. This included the good, the bad and the miraculous. Steve Fry goes on to say, “The rule of peace begins when we no longer want answers, but only want God.”

In other words, I cannot just have a piece of peace. This concept is contrary to what I perceive when I think about a piece of fruit pie. If I had baked an apple pie that was setting on the kitchen counter and I wanted some to eat, I would cut a piece for myself and leave the remainder of the pie. A whole pie would be too much for me to eat. This is not how the Lord does things. I find His spiritual fruit pie in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I notice that Paul says it is “fruit” – not “fruits” – of the Spirit. In other words, I cannot simply cut myself a piece of peace without also having a serving of self-control and seven other things. God serves me with His sovereignty. I must not question what the Lord puts on my plate.

God wants me to understand His rulership and authority over my life. His sovereignty goes beyond my knowledge, and even goes beyond my sense of His presence. When I grasp this concept, I will be able to experience true peace. This peace comes only when I trust God and submit to Him not because of what He does but because of who He is. With this in mind, I want to share some scripture verses that describe the kind of peace available.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are
steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may
have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take
heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body
you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

And the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 ESV

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
II Thessalonians 3:16

As I look at each of these pieces of peace, I see that surrendering to God’s sovereignty is significant to my experiencing the peace of God. I cannot allow my own understanding, or lack of understanding, to allow me to cut out pieces of the whole pie God prepares for me. One piece of apple pie may satisfy my hunger, but my spiritual hunger will only be satisfied when I accept without question all that God hands me. The peace of God comes when I submit to each piece of His personal plans and purposes.

So, Lord, take me into a deeper understanding of your ways. And, Lord, give me your peace. I do not want to settle for just a piece of your peace!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

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Memorial Day – A Day of Honor

On Monday, May 29, as Americans, we will celebrate what has become known as Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Numerous cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day but rregardless of the exact date or location of its origins, we do know that Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, originated after the Civil War with a desire to honor our dead. May 30, 1868 was the first Decoration Day. General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery while 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington.

Over the years, this special day has come to embrace not only Civil War soldiers who lost their lives but to also remember and recognize all those who have sacrificed their lives, living and dead, to serve in our military forces. When we celebrate Memorial Day, we take time to recognize those who are willing to protect us. Today I want to suggest that we expand our perception of those who protect us to include our first responders. These are people who are actively involved in our everyday homeland security.

When I think of our military, I imagine men and woman dressed in uniforms representing the Army, Air Force and Navy. However, I also see our first responders in other types of uniforms. I see police, firefighters and ambulance crew workers in attire signifying their form of service. Our military forces are stationed in countries around the world where they are put in harm’s way. In a different yet similar way, the members of our police force are in harm’s way when they respond to certain calls. I am not diminishing the right for us to take time to honor our military forces. However, I do feel these people are also worthy of our recognition and thanks for their services.

First responders include many people in numerous capacities. Approximately two months ago, we became particularly aware of another specific group of first responders who helped our area. We had a wind storm with 81 MPH wind gusts that resulted in over 100,000 people losing electrical power in  homes. Utility crews were the first responders to this situation. Their uniforms were orange vests and hard hats, Not only were all the workers of our local utility companies working around the clock to restore power, but 290 other utility crews came to aid the restoration process.

I want to highlight three scriptures that remind me of our first responders. When I read I Corinthians 16:13, I think of our National Guard. The verse states,Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” However, all of our first responders definitely show courage and strength. John 14:27 records Jesus saying, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace Jesus offers has a spiritual depth not offered by anyone else. Only the peace of God can enable our hearts to not be troubled or afraid. However, keeping peace within a city is the goal of the police force. There are certain locations within many cities where it is hard to live free of trouble and fear, but our police strive to provide us a peaceful environment. Jesus concludes Matthew 10:8 by saying, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Especially in smaller communities, many firefighters are volunteers who freely give of their time to help others.

Romans 13:7 is a good scripture for us to be mindful of regarding all those who are or have been part of our military forces and civilian responders.Give to everyone what you owe them: … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” These individuals deserve our respect and honor for their commitment to serve our nation and our citizens. Memorial Day is a good opportunity for us to set aside time to publicly recognize and thank those who protect us around the world and at home. However, they are also worthy of our support and gratitude every day of the year. Our freedom depends upon them.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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A Pocketful of Promises

pocketMy Reader, is there anything in your pocket? I encourage you to fill the pocket of your heart with the promises of God. These promises are good stuff to find in your pocket because Joshua 21:45 says, “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” If His promises did not fail the Israelites, neither will His promises fail us. II Corinthians 1:20 also assures us that, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

God wants you to accept His promises as personal words that He whispers to you when you need encouragement or direction or forgiveness or strength. These are reminders of His love for you and His interest in your life. II Peter 1:4 NLT says, “He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” The Lord wants you to have His promises close in your heart pocket so you can pull them out at specific times. If His promises are hidden in the pocket of your heart, you will not have to get out a Bible or concordance to hear His words of wisdom.

Be ready to pull out a promise from your pocket and apply it to your present circumstances. The Lord gives you His promises to transform you as well as to inform you. It is valuable for you to know His specific promises, but it is of even more important to put the power of His promises to use in your life. At the time of creation, God spoke “Let there be…” and it happened. When God speaks His promises to you, He is saying “Let there be” whatever the promise provides for you personally.

Let me help you fill up your heart’s pocket by sharing a few promises spoken personally by Jesus.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives;
and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

Luke 11:9-10

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,
that He may be with you forever;

John 14:16

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

Today, I challenge you to fill the pocket of your heart with an abundance of God’s promises. Do not let doubt create a hole in your heart that could cause you to lose the power of the personal promises spoken into your life by the Lord. Allow these promises to overflow from your pocket but never lose them.

I want to close on a lighter note by sharing my adaptation of the Mother Goose rhyme about Peter Piper.

Personally pick a pocketful of precious promises;
A pocketful of precious promises please pick;
If you pick a pocketful of precious promises,
What will the pocketful of precious promises provide?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

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Jesus, Chickens and Mothers

mother-and-child-2chickens-1Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Proverbs 31:28

With this coming Sunday being designated as Mother’s Day, I want to take time to honor our mothers and fulfill Proverbs 31:28. However, I am pondering what qualifies a female to be a mother. I believe any woman who reflects a lifestyle of nurturing and caring for others is a mother. Motherly characteristics are exhibited not only by human beings, buy also by animals and birds. Jesus described His love for Jerusalem (a symbolic representation of all believers) as being like that of a mother hen. I am not saying Jesus or mothers are chickens! However, I think there is a revelation of Jesus’ love and a mother’s love when we look at the life of a chicken. I grew up on a farm and we had chickens, so maybe that is why I am attracted to this image today. Let’s see how we can tie together the hearts of Jesus, chickens, and all women who function in a mother role.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
how often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
and you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37

When I read this verse from Matthew, I not only see a mother hen drawing her little chicks close to her body but I also picture Jesus doing the same with each of us as His children. I am reminded of the refrain of the old hymn Safe in the Arms of Jesus by Frances Crosby, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast; There by His love o’ershaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest.” Psalm 91:4 NLT says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” This image is similar to a picture of an earthly mother holding a baby in her loving, caring arms. There is a feeling of warmth and security as well as love when a baby chick, a believer in Christ, or a young child is snuggled near to the body of the one emanating love. 

As a young girl, I remember seeing the chickens running around in their open space while I was swinging on my tree swing. One of my recollections is of a mother hen leading her newborn chicks out for a walk. With the mother hen in the lead, five or six fluffy little chicks followed in a parade. The new hatchlings followed their mother wherever she went. They trusted her to lead them along the right path. Mothers of young children also lead and instruct their children. Proverbs 22:6 instructs moms (and everyone else) to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” David says in Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.”

While living on the farm, there were occasions when I remember hearing a lot of squawking from the chickens. Usually it meant that some predatory animal, or even another chicken, was trying to attack a brood of young chicks. The one making the most noise was the mother hen who was trying to protect her defenseless chicks. If the attack was instigated by another chicken and her squawking was not enough of a deterrent, she would ruffle her feathers and attack. Psalm 121:7 says, The LORD will keep you from all harm– He will watch over your life.” The Lord watches over our lives, a mother hen watches over the lives of her chicks, and mothers watch over the lives of the children entrusted to them.

Jesus, chickens and mothers are not synonymous words, but it has been fun to search for similarities. While exhibiting love and compassion, mothers are also protective and defensive of their children. Their goal is to help their children grow and mature to be who God created them to be. Any woman who finds herself in the role of a mother is worthy of honor on Mother’s Day and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

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