Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An Only Child No Longer

Hey Friend,

I am an only child.  When people find this out, they look at me pitifully and ask, "Didn't you miss having brothers and sisters?"  I can truthfully answer, "No" because it's hard to miss something that you never had.  I had a very happy childhood and being an "only" gave birth to a lot of creativity.

When I had my own two children, my perspective changed somewhat.  I saw how my kids interacted with each other.  Sometimes it was good and sometimes, like when Nicole would turn the lights out while Steven was in the bathtub and make spooky noises till he cried, or when Steven would use Nicole as a dummy for checking practice for hockey, it wasn't so loving.  But, let someone on the outside take aim at one of them, the other one would (and still does) rise up like a protective mother bear.

God, in His great love and wisdom, gave me a brother almost forty years ago when I accepted Christ as my Savior.  That was a glorious day, but greater still is the relationship that has been formed and cemented over the years.  It's not about "religion"; it's about a relationship!

The Bible points to Christ being my/your brother if we open the door to our hearts to Him:

And a voice (God's) from Heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17)

"Whoever does God's will is my brother, and sister and mother." (Jesus speaking) (Mark 3:35)

"Yet to all who received him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."  (John 1:12)

I am a joint heir with Christ.  (Romans 8:17)

Christ, my brother, did for me what I could not do for myself. He took my sins/your sins to the cross.  Our sins are the thorns in His brow, the nails in His hands and feet and the piercing in His side.  Yet Christ still says, "I love you."

Easter is the greatest reminder that I have been bought at a great price.  Greater still is the fact that Jesus lives.  He's defeated the grave.  I am redeemed by Christ's blood.  What comfort, peace and overflowing joy that brings me.

I have been reconciled to God through the death of Jesus. (Romans 5:10)

Jesus is my Savior, my friend, my brother.  I am an only child no longer!

May the joy of Easter and the kinship with Christ bless you and keep you.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cookies, Carbs and Fruits of the Spirit

Hey Friend,

I was getting ready to go to lunch with a dear friend whom I've known for years and who cuts, colors and styles my hair.  So, a baseball hat and sweats weren't going to cut it.  Because she takes a long time with me, making me feel new and fresh and perky with the best style possible, I went to great lengths to get myself and my hair ready.  Even the straight iron came out to polish off the look.

It made me think though...what do I do to present myself to God?  He has taken great pains to create me and I confess that I often don't offer my best to Him.  Thankfully He is more concerned about what's on the inside than what's on the outside.

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

Well, what about my heart.  Let's take a little spiritual inventory starting with the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)., joy(not too bad), peace(gaining), patience(not too shabby), kindness(I think I'm kind.), goodness(I brought my friend flowers.), faithfulness(ok), gentleness(good) and self-control (Bingo!!!)

I am, as my mother would euphemistically say, well-rounded.  Basically that means that I can't have cookies and other sweet carbs in the house because I have little to no self-control.  My name is Bev Duncan (Hi Bev) and I am a Stress Eater.  But, I have every rationale...the past few years have been the most stressful of my life.  I take medication that contributes to weight gain.  I have had major knee surgery and have been unable to exercise like I was accustomed to.  I could go on and on, but I still have to face the truth that I am God's temple and how am I treating my body?

God would not have me go on a guilt trip because condemnation is not in His character and guilt is not meant to drag us down, but rather to turn us around.  Even Jesus was tempted.  He is compassionate.

So where do I go from here?? First, I need to realize that when I am weak, God is strong.  I need to call on Him for help.  The fruits of the Spirit are just that - gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us when we call on Him.  It's the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that produces Christian virtues in the believer's will.  It is not of our own doing.

I literally got on my knees and prayed for the self-control that I so desperately needed.  God hears our prayers and for six weeks He has enabled me to have the self-control to not put unnecessary calories in my mouth.  I've lost some weight and feel better, but I have a long way to go.  I realized that the food I was putting in my mouth was not life giving, but was in fact life draining.  Do I fail at betcha.  I'm not perfect.  But, God continues to draw my mind into alignment with what He says about me:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I still have a long way to go, but I am on my way.  I am reminded that it is not in my own power that I will succeed.  Pray for me won't you and if you have similar struggles, know that I am praying for you...meanwhile, pass the celery.



ps.  If you struggle with self-control in some area of your life, don't hesitate to call on professional help.  God put those resources there to help us.  You are not alone.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Run, Don't Walk

Hey Friend,

When my kids were little, I don't know how many times I shouted to them, "Walk, don't run!!"  At the pool, in the house, through the mall, in church, at the airport, any place a civilized person would walk rather than run like a herd of wild horses, I could be heard shouting.

One place where I have encouraged my kids to run ( and where I run to ), is into the arms of our loving Heavenly Father.  When the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you are worn and weary; when the battle rages all around you ( be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual ), where do you run to?

God lovingly beckons us to run to him.  Why? Because God is an expert in fighting battles.  My battle strategy, left to my own strength, resembles something akin to a blindfolded child swinging a stick at a pinata.  Though I am working, and whacking and thrashing with all my might, I can't seem to land a single blow.

The Lord knows our struggles better than we do.  That's why he says, "I will fight for you, you need only to be still."  (Exodus 14:14)

Nothing compares to God's strength and nothing compares to His peaceful, calming embrace.  Perhaps that is why He is referred to as our refuge so many times in the Bible.

I jokingly call my daughter, Nicole, "Polly Pinterest" because, unlike her mother, she actually does the crafts and ideas that she pins on Pinterest.  She made me a beautiful piece of artwork with scripture in block letters set against a blue-purple palette that reads: "Under His wings you will find refuge."  (Psalm 91:4).  I have it hanging beside my bed.  Actually if you back up a few verses it gives the picture more depth...

I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge."  (Psalm 91:2-4)

Ahhh...can you feel the safety and comfort of his wings?  When life overwhelms me, I picture myself tucked, protected, in my place of refuge.

Perhaps life is treating you well.  Even on good days we need to get away from the world and "hide in the shadow of His wings."  (Psalm 17:8)

The Bible tells us, however, that in this world we will have trouble.  So, when life presses in on you and the storm rages around you; when the battle gets to be too much, there is one sure place you can turn.

Meditate on these scriptures and let the sincerity of God's truth sink in:

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed."  (Psalm 9:9)

"How priceless is your unfailing love,  Both high and low among men find
 refuge in the shadow of your wings."  (Psalm 36:7)

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  (Psalm 46:1)

I keep an "Emergency Kit" of scriptures - scriptures that really speak to me especially in times of trouble and oppression.  You can be sure that many of the psalmist's words are among them.  I read them and I run...I mean RUN into the arms of the Father and I know that there, and only there, I will be safe in the shadow of His wings.



Thursday, March 7, 2013

Identity Crisis - Who Am I Really?

Hey Friend,

This week I confess that I have had an identity crisis.  My children are both grown so even though I will always be a "mom", I cannot identify myself as a stay-at-home mom.  I'm not married so, at present, I am not a wife.  I have been sidelined by extensive knee surgery that keeps me from working.  Thus, I cannot call myself a teacher.  I've had a bad cold and I have not been there as a friend or daughter.  Zoe, my dog, looks at me wantingly for a walk that I can't even provide, so I am certainly not a good master this week.  So, what am I?? Who am I??

Perhaps you wear many hats: mother, father, wife, husband, homemaker, employee, coach, chauffeur, referee, therapist, chief cook and bottle washer?  But, what if all those roles were stripped away?  What would you be?  Who would you be?

I believe that God allows us these crises in order that we might examine, or re-examine who we truly are in Christ.  If we could no longer do, strive or perform and had to just simply be, who would God say that we are?  In my personal search for significance, I want to share some of the verses that spoke to me this week.  Perhaps they will speak to you...God says:

"I love you."  (John 3:16)

"You are my child."  (John 1:12)

"You are my offspring."  (Acts 17:28)

"You are fearfully and wonderfully made."  (Psalm 139:14)

"You are not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book." 
 (Psalm 139:15-16)

"You are Christ's friend."  (John 15:15)

"You are a joint heir with Christ."  (Romans 8:17)

"You are my handiwork created in Christ Jesus for good works." 
 (Ephesians 2:10)

"You are my treasured possession."  (Exodus 19:1)

"I have carved your name in the palm of my hand."  (Isaiah 49:16)

"You are my temple."  (I Cor. 3:16) ...and in me you are a new creation."
 (2 Cor. 5:17)

"You are my lamb and I am your shepherd."  (Psalm 23:1)

This is just a sampling of the many verses I found that speak to me being "a branch of the true vine".

One of my best friends reminded me of my own words to her..."We are not human doings; we are human beings."  Perhaps I need to heed my own advice.  It is not what I do that completes me, it is who I am in Christ that completes me and gives me my value and worth.

"I am complete in Christ."  (Colossians 2:10)

My adequacy, your adequacy comes from God and God alone. (2 Cor. 3:5).  He sent His son to die for you because you are far too precious to live without; not for what you do or have done, but simply because you ARE!  He created you to live in loving relationship with Him and even if one or all of your roles falls short or is stripped away, know friend that your true identity is in God through Christ Jesus and that He loves you dearly!!

Live loved this week...


ps.  Shout out for a big catalyst in me starting my blog:  "You're Made for a God-Sized Dream" by Holley Gerth.

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