Petals of Praise

petals C mfWhile praying this morning, the Lord revealed to me how flowers and praise commingle to form a symbolic representation of the type of communication He desires to have with me.  Flowers are tangible reminders to me of the beauty of Jesus.  As my eye absorbs the natural beauty of flowers, God pricks my heart to praise Him for His spiritual beauty.  When I praise the Lord, I praise Him for who He is.  I’m not just thanking Him for something He has done for me nor am I asking Him for something.  I am only immersed in the beauty of who He is.  The beauty of a flower revives my desire to praise the Lord and to revel in His beauty.

I want to share the inspirational image from the Lord I am sensing this morning.  I envision my heart swelling with the understanding of who God truly is and I see a small rosebud of praise beginning to break through the flesh of my heart.  Initially the petals of this floral bud are tightly encased in the greenery surrounding it, but praise petals begin to unfold as words of praise erupt from my mouth.  (Luke 6:45) Instead of just words being emitted from my mouth, I see flowerets floating heavenward to the Lord.  My “praise posey” blooms fully in the presence of God.  The Lord not only receives my flower of praise, but He chooses to inhabit my personal petals of praise. (Psalms 22:3)  As He reverently receives my sacred syllables of acclamation, He is blessed. (Psalms 103:1) God not only holds my praises in His hands, but He also chooses to return the praise petals to my heart as He inhabits my praise and dwells within my innermost being.  Like a fragrant flower, I now become the aroma of Christ to those around me. (II Corinthians 2:15) God accepts my sacrifice of praise as  the essence of a blessed bouquet. (Hebrews 13:15)

Praise is a beautiful thing to God who Himself is beautiful.  He fully comprehends the beauty of personal petals of praise.  He also sees you as beautiful, my Reader. So, be full of beauty; beautiFULL.  As Julie Marie Carrier says, “BeYOUtiful”!

My Reader, please join me in offering sacrificial  “praise petals” to the Lord today. Feel free to use the following floral images and scriptural references to assist you in seeing His natural and spiritual beauty. However, do not stop with my suggestions.  Your sacrifice of praise must be composed of personal petals from your heart if it is to reach the heart of God.  The aroma of your audible adoration is more beautiful to the Lord than any fragrant flower He has ever created.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

petals C mfPraise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being,
praise his holy name.
Psalm 103:1

petals 3 mfAccept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
Psalm 119:108

petals A mf

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.
Psalm 145:3&21

petals D mfSing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.  Praise the Lord.
Psalm 167:7

petals 8 mfPraise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness
  Psalm 150:1-2

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A Question

question mark in bubble link - wcmarriage hands mfMy Reader, what do you consider to be the most important words spoken between a husband and a wife in their marriage?  Are they “I love you” or “I do” or “I’m sorry” or “Forgive me”?

All of these are phrases marriage partners need to both hear and express. However, I heard this question asked on Christian radio more than a year ago and the answer has resonated in my heart and mind ever since.  None of the answers that I suggested are correct.  According to the source of this question, the most important words that both husband and wife need to hear from their spouse and express to their spouse are “Thank you.”thank you script wc

marriage hands mfIf “thank you” is the most important phrase I ever say to my husband, I dare not express these two words flippantly, but I must utter them sincerely and wholeheartedly.  These words must not be spoken nonchalantly.  I have heard myself saying these words with genuine consciousness numerous times a day this summer while recuperating from a broken arm.  My husband has literally been my right hand 24/7!  I have been overwhelmed with appreciation for his help whether he has cut up my meat at dinner or arranged a mountain of pillows around me in the recliner in the middle of the night.  I have never said the words “thank you” more frequently or earnestly!

marriage hands mf In the June 2013 issue of Guideposts magazine, I recently read the following comment made by Arlene Dahl.  “Take each other for better or worse, but not for granted.”  I recognize the phrase “for better or worse” as being part of the original wedding vows.  A light goes on in my mind when I comprehend how  not taking each other for granted can be just as important as for a husband and wife as pledging their commitment to each other regarding “better or worse” situations in life.  As a wife, I am pleased to fulfill daily tasks for my husband but I feel a special warmth in my heart if my husband occasionally chooses to say thanks in recognition of something I routinely do.  I have noticed how often our son will say ‘thank you” to his wife for a dinner she has prepared.  He is not required to do this, but I am confident that his gratefulness is appreciated by her.  It can be a highlight to have daily tasks acknowledged and not simply taken for granted.  In Ephesians 5, wives are told to honor their husbands and husbands are told to love their wives.  One way to honor and to love is to earnestly express the meaningful words “thank you” to one’s husband or wife.

marriage hands mfThe inclusion of the word couplet “thank you” within the vocabulary of both husband and wife definitely helps to build a strong marriage!  As I am pondering this fact, I begin to sense God whispering insights to me about another type of marriage as well.   In the book of Revelation, Paul refers to believers as the Bride of Christ with Jesus being our Heavenly Husband.   Revelation 21:2 says, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  Also selected words from Revelation 19:7&9 say, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!… the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”  My Reader, if you know Jesus as your personal savior, you, along with me, are part of the bride of Christ with Jesus as our Heavenly Husband!  This is the most sacred marriage and it embraces a commitment lasting for all eternity.  If we perceive our relationship with Jesus to be a marriage, we should remember the primary place of the words “thank you” in our prayers and praises. Psalms 106, 107, 118 and 136 all begin by saying, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures forever.”  Uttering “thank you” to the Lord is equally as important as expressing heartfelt appreciation to our husband or wife on earth. Whether our thankful remarks are made to our earthly or heavenly marriage partner, these words must be spoken sincerely. We must be careful not to simply voice “thank you” as words we feel obligated to verbalize.

question mark in bubble link - wcmarriage hands mfMy Reader, how often does your husband or wife hear “thank you” coming from your lips?  Are you more likely to say these words to your earthly or heavenly spouse?  It is amazing the emotions these two little words can conceive in the person articulating the words as well as the one hearing these words spoken to him or her. God is also waiting to hear you thank Him for specific ways He has intervened in your life.  It amazes me to think that I can actually bless the Lord if I merely take time to thank Him for what He so lovingly does for me every day. I suspect your husband or wife may also be blessed when personally hearing these two words.  Right now I want to consciously express my thanks to both my husband with whom I currently spend every day of my life and to my Heavenly Husband with whom I will spend eternity!  How about you?

thank you script wcJoyfully,golden apple #2(MF)
Cheryl

Challenge for the week: First, look for opportune moments to say thank you to your husband or wife.  Secondly, take time to thoughtfully recite some of the Psalms of thanksgiving as a way to say thank you to the Lord.

There’s a Cactus in My Cast!

There’s Cactus in My Cast!

cactus

cactus 2 (mf)While my arm was in a cast this summer, there were numerous times that I declared to my husband, “There is a cactus in my cast!”  Having a broken arm was not the way I had intended to spend my summer. However, God always has something to teach me no matter what the circumstance might be and this experience has been no different.

porcupine (wc)Having a broken bone was a first time experience for me, but most likely some of you can identify with what I am sharing today.  During the healing process, I felt many different sensations within my arm.  The one I want to blog about today is what I called its “prickly personality.”  There were times when my arm felt like it was being pricked and poked by plenty of porcupine quills.  No matter how I held my arm I could not convince the porcupine to crawl out of my cast.  I knew these quivering quills would eventually quiet down, but in the meantime it did not mean that I liked these sensations.  I was reminded of Paul’s words in II Corinthians 12:7-10. 

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a
thorn  in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times
I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my
weaknesses, so that
  Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why,
for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,  in insults, in hardships,
in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

thorn black (mf)Although my experience has been very minimal compared to what Paul endured, I find comfort when I think about my “porcupine quills” and Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  Both were uncomfortable, yet both could be used by God for His glory.  I have had to rely upon God and other people to do for me what I have not been able to do for myself with only my left hand.  When I am weak, God is strong and He often provides help through other people.  At other times, God simply gives me the grace and patience to endure the limitations.  Now the cast has been removed and I am having physical therapy, I definitely say that when my arm is weak, God is strong.

thorh  white (mf)How about you, my Reader?  Are you currently experiencing an uncomfortable situation in your life?  The intriguing factor regarding Paul’s thorn in the flesh is that we are never told what his specific thorn was.  Since we do not know what Paul’s thorn was, it makes it easier for us to personally identify with the sufferings of Paul.  We can each give our thorn the name suited to our need. Most likely my thorn or porcupine quill has been different from yours, but that does not matter to God.  He is willing and able to help in any situation.  Your cactus spikes may be annoyances such as the neighbor’s dog that barks every time you go outside in your yard. The quills may be the words of a co-worker who always has to have the final say in any work related discussion or the words of an egotistical relative.  Your cactus spikes may be caused be bigger issues such as health concerns, financial burdens, loneliness, fear, disappointment, etc.  You may be wondering why God has not delivered you from your misery.  You may be wondering why God does not release you from your constant irritation just like I had to endure the continual prickliness in my cast.  My Reader, be assured God’s strength is there for your weaknesses and struggles just like He has been there for the irritation I have felt.

cactus needles link (pd)Some of the pricks you may be feeling could actually be from the Lord. He may be teaching you a lesson or showing you something you need to change in your life.  In my case, the sensations of pins and needles in my arm were a good thing.  And you know what?  When my cast was removed, there was no cactus in my cast!  All these sticks and pricks were internal tactical sensations that I was feeling.  Nerves were coming back to life and healing was taking place in my arm. Paul asked God three times to remove his thorn in the flesh.  God did not remove it, but He did give Paul the ability to live with it.  God may not always answer our prayers in the way we desire, but He does always answer our prayers in the way that is best for us.  For me, if God had taken away all the prickliness He may have also had to diminish the quality of healing for my arm.

bible - link (pd)The prickly personality of my arm has disappeared.  I no longer have a cactus in my cast and I no longer have the cast on my arm. However, as long as my arm was wrapped in a fiberglass cast, I wrapped myself in the promises of God found in His Word.  It was like I had Jesus on the inside of my cast working to manifest His power to heal and His grace to endure.  With Jesus on the inside, I was never outside the realm of His presence.  The same can be true for you.

cosmic porcupine release (pd)My Reader, do you have a broken bone or a broken heart?  Can you identify with the prickly personality of a cactus in your cast?  If so, cast all your cares on the Lord because He cares for you according to I Peter 5:7.  Cactus quills and thorns in the flesh may be experiences for all of us, but God is still with us according to Matthew 28:20.  Our weaknesses give God the opportunity to manifest His strength in our lives.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

rose with thorns (mf)Weekly Reminder:  Thorns of the flesh – Thorns of the flowers
Thorns and beauty often go together.  Look for the beauty in your thorns of the flesh.

Smoothies Made Smoothly

Our daughter-in-law has started the tradition of their having fruit smoothies for their family‘s Saturday morning breakfast.  The family looks forward to this nutritious treat.  Right now since it is summertime, something cool and refreshing to drink is especially appealing to me whether it is Saturday morning or not.  I also have a spiritual thirst needs to be satisfied. So, my Reader, I would like to share a couple of recipes with you.  The first is one that Amy has given to me from a cookbook and the second one is found in Galatians 5:22-23 of the Bible.

apple smoothie mfRecipe for Refreshing Apple Smoothie
2 small containers of vanilla yogurt
1 large apple – peeled or not (depending on your preference)
1 cup of apple juice, made into ice cubes and crushed
1 frozen banana
pinch or 2 of cinnamon

Combine the yogurt and apples in a blender.  Add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.

This recipe serves 4 people but can be adapted for more or less servings.

*Taken (but slightly modified) from Super Smoothies by Barber and Whiteford

fruit of spirit link pdRecipe for Fruit of the Spirit Smoothie
love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . forbearance . . . . . . . . . . . . . faithfulness
joy. . . . . . . .  .   . . .  . kindness  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . gentleness
peace . . . . . . . . . . . . goodness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . self-control

Live your life by walking in the Spirit and the fruit listed above will be produced in your life.  No ingredient will be lacking.

This recipe serves 1 person or it can be multiplied many times to serve as many people as desired.

*Taken (but slightly modified) from Galatians 5:16, 22-23 NIV

As I compare these two recipes for fruit smoothies, there are several observations that I want to share with you. The extraordinary thing about the recipe for the Fruit of the Spirit is that the action of walking or blending is the first thing that occurs and then the ingredients are produced.  This is different from any other recipe I have ever made.  Most always ingredients are measured and then combined.  Here the ingredients are the fruit, or the results. I do not know exactly what the fruit of the Spirit looks like compared to an apple, but I do know that this spiritual fruit portrays the multifaceted nature of God. It reflects the spirit and character of God who is holy, complete and perfect. This spiritual smoothie is what is produced in me when I live and walk in the power of Holy Spirit.  This is delicious!

When I picture a fruit smoothie, I think of a medley of fruit flavors blended together to create a unique taste.  Apples, strawberries, peaches etc. – each is good by itself.  However, there is a brand-new flavor and texture when all are combined.  It is the same with the spiritual smoothie.  All nine ingredients, or character traits, are combined to produce a unique fruit.  This personality will be evident in an individual walking in the Spirit.  The outgrowth of this complete mixture is different from a personality exhibiting only one or two of these traits.

While comparing these two recipes, another thing I notice is that although there are nine “ingredients” listed in the recipe for the Fruit of the Spirit, they are referred to as a singular fruit rather than plural fruits.  This spiritual fruit is all-inclusive; all nine characteristics or ingredients are evident.  Caution:  there is no picking and choosing of what traits are found in this fruit.  This fruit is the outcome of living in the power of the Holy Spirit.  With a fruit smoothie, the results are evident after the fruits are blended together. 

I also become aware of another difference between natural and spiritual smoothies.  Substitutions are more readily accepted in the natural realm than in the spiritual realm.  When I asked Amy for a recipe for a fruit smoothie, I asked for one including apples because apples are emphasized in my blog.  However, I would encourage you to try your own substitutions with the recipe.  How about using various kinds of summer berries or different flavors of yogurt?  My Reader, you and I can be as creative as we desire with this type of recipe.

I want to point out one more difference between these two recipes. When the Fruit of the Spirit Smoothie is produced, there are no specific quantities listed for each “ingredient” while there are exact measurements for each item used to make the Refreshing Apple Smoothie.  The consistency would be quite different if the ratios between the fruit and yogurt were significantly altered.  For a fruit smoothie, each ingredient needs to be increased or decreased proportionally.  For the Fruit of the Spirit, I expect that the proportions of the nine “ingredients” may vary according to the personalities of  the people are who make up this particular group.  I Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  If the spiritual smoothie is produced by the body of Christ, some of the people (myself included) may need to be “beat up” a bit to be blended with other Christians to show the true nature of Christ. I tend to think that although all nine qualities will be found in each person in a specific group of believers, each person may contribute a different amount of each facet of the fruit.  For example, I may be more patient than someone else while another person may be more joyful.  These differences in personalities, will make it harder for some people to blend together than others. Hmmm!  I wonder which recipe will need the most blending for the best smoothie that is refreshing and satisfying to the natural body and the spiritual body?  Whether people or fruit are involved, consistency can require patience and time.  These smoothie recipes share some similarities, but there are also many differences.

My Reader, is it time for you to satisfy your spiritual and physical hunger and thirst with both spiritual and natural fruit smoothies?  I have given you a couple of recipes.  Now it is your turn to blend them up.  Enjoy!  

Joyfully,golden apple #2(MF)
Cheryl