Listening (TOSOF60)

Could be because I have no idea what I’m doing, and partly because the words don’t come or they come too fast, but I have really struggled to get this second podcast done. Let me just say life is chaotic right now. And, it has been for a few years. Instead of looking for a significant word that will define my year (Hope, Love, Yes) mine has been more of a theme. And, this last five years….”it is what it is.” Most times I can hear God’s voice in the chaos of life, but more often than not it’s the Enemy’s voice who comes first. I reckon it’s because his voice is accusing, lying, berating, quick and LOUD. In this in between world, that resonates most with me. Maybe you, too? I don’t understand it, but it is what it is.

I read once that the person you have the most conversation with on a daily basis is you. Constantly, throughout the day we’re feeding our selves information. It’s not neccesairly the truth either, could be true, could be lies. We are either openly or unknowingly listening to the enemy, who by the way, has only hated humans since they were created, first and If you’re like me, you have to STOP to hear the voice of God.

The voices battling for prominence during my day are: mine, God’s and Satan’s. There is a battle. (see Ephesians 6) But, we -God and I will win. To be able to move beyond lazy listening….there’s a process for me.

When I’m a lazy listener, I will remain, or maybe become , more defeated and depressed. The first ‘thing’ that comes into my head is what I go with. And, for whatever reason, it’s usually an unhealthy thing. Lazy listening brings with it a defeatist attitude that would be easy to sink into. Like a mud pit. The Bible challenges us in a few areas about listening – lazy or otherwise. (This is why it’s important for me to get back in the habit of memorizing scripture! So it’s in my heart and I don’t have to go to the phone or my bible). In Hebrews 4:12 it says, His powerful word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to LISTEN and OBEY.

If we are Jesus’s followers, we should have great hope that he himself has said, he is our shepherd and he KNOWS us, and we KNOW him and KNOW his voice. (John 10:27) At the end of this great promise from him he says, No one can steal them (his sheep – us) out of his hand! So, no matter how loud the enemy roars, no matter what he says, it has no other power than what we listeners give him.

Here’s what I’ve learned to listen to God:

Be quiet, be still, be intentional. Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer with an ALERT mind and a thankful heart. Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. It’s going to take building not just on our faith, but our time.

Talk less. Proverbs 15:28 – The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking. Also, it’s hard to talk when you’re listening.

Be honest in your relationship with God. This is kind of a challenging one for me. In the book of John Jesus says he goes before his sheep and his sheep follow him, because he knows his sheep and they know his voice. (see John 10: 1-17) In verse 4 He says, After he has gathered his own flock, (talking about the shepherd who has collected his sheep from the protected group of sheep behind a gate) he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.

Ask questions: one of the most challenging things for me is to move beyond religious speak and ask exaclty where I am in my relationship with Him. Is it close? Am I honest with Him? Have I asked Him to search me and show me my wrongs so I can be redeemed? Uh, usually the answer is no. My spiritual muscles of listening, learning, loving etc are getting stronger but I’m a long way from where I need to be. It’s painful to ask these questions, and to listen to the answers and to DO SOMETHING to change, but our beautiful God, who loves us so much, is mercifully grace filled when He answers. He promised He would never leave us or forsake us and in this promise, we can confidently go to Him with all our ickness and sin and questions.

In addition to these things, I would love to give some resources that have absolutely helped me in my journey on the other side of 60. (Landed on 61 this month!)

Daily Devotional: New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp.

Music: I listen to the Apple contemporary music playlist which is often updated. But, my favorites are Mercy Me, Big Daddy Weave and Crowder.

Podcasts: Y’all…this is an easy one: The Brant and Sherrie Oddcast. My number one podcast that I eagerly look forward to.

Ok. Hope I made sense. Y’all be blessed and thanks for listening.

Fairy Floss Faith or Mustard Seed Faith

festival-2471118_1280
Cotton candy (U.S., India, Canada), candy floss, or candyfloss (UK, Ireland, New Zealand, India and South Africa), or fairy floss (Australia) is a form of spun sugar. Since it comprises mostly air, a small initial quantity of sugar generates a tremendously greater final volume, causing servings to be physically large and voluminous. A typical serving on a stick is approximately 1 ounce/30 grams. (Wikipedia)

mustard-231302_1280
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” and the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6)

I’ve noticed a trend recently where strong faith, built on a firm foundation is being disregarded for a more superficial feel good kind of thing. The sort that is not really built with a small grain of mustard seed, which is small, tough, and prolific in its growing, but rather the sweet fluff of fairy floss. Light and wispy, nicely colored and sugary sweet.

What triggered my concern was a little meme I saw. It said, “Jesus doesn’t care how many bible verses you have memorized. He cares how you treat people,” this time instead of a quick chuckle and moving on, I paused because this meme is spreading a dangerous concept. How the devil must delight in this sort of thing! I reckon he’s not immune to using social media to twist and pervert God’s words, or mislead God’s kids. Am I a little too tightly strung? I really don’t think so.

While it’s true that Jesus does care about how we treat people, it is also very true that we, as his kids, must know his Word. So one does not have to be exclusive of the other. In fact, the two should go hand in hand.

I know some folks like to wield the word like a, (well, I was going to say sword, but it is indeed the sword of the spirit, Ephesians 6:17), so we’ll say instead hammer to hit a point home, and sometimes Jesus’ grace, mercy and love is entirely missing. But, we can’t let some people’s bad behavior prevent us from knowing Him completely.

To know Him is to know his WORD. Jesus himself quoted scripture when Satan, in the wilderness, tempted him:   Matthew 4:3 – During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But, Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, People do no live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a  stone.'” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.'”  (Matthew 4:5) Next, the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  “ I will give you it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him, “For the Scriptures say, ‘ You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'”  (Matthew 4:8-10).  And the result? Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus. Matthew 4:11 (NLT)

So that’s a whole lot of Jesus answering Satan with the Word. Does this mean we should do the same? Yes! Consider the Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Finishing with Psalm 119:16 “I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.” These two verses indicate the Word is important to have so well learned that we won’t forget them.

We all know the most famous verse for memorizing his Word; Deuteronomy 6:5-7 -‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your might. And, you must commit yourselves whole heartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talks about then when you are home and when you are on the road, when you are getting up and when you go to bed.’ How’s this going to happen if you’re just tripping along in your walk with him feeling good and treating others nicely? How will you determine the true needs of yourself and others if you don’t know how to apply His Word to your life or to their life? There’s hope, peace, love, truth, life and rest in His Word; you do yourself a huge wrong if you don’t know it.

A recent twitter from a famous Christian author said, “God is not surprised when hard times hit, he is surprised when you quit.” Really? God is taken by surprise when I do something? Well, maybe the author didn’t know about Joshua 3:1-15, which tells us that God is already in our tomorrows. And, Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and hope.”, or, Romans 8:28 -“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” How can we surprise Him if he has it all worked out? The trouble is we too often go to popular authors works instead of going to the Word to get our doctrine and our answers, and the problem with that is – Authors are wholly human. God is not.

I had a conversation once with a sister-in-him who was struggling with a life issue. After talking and searching the word, we prayed, and she quoted something she had read from a book called, “Jesus Calling.” I had never heard of this book, but even if I had, I would still have advised her to go to the Word. Her response? “I don’t know how to read the Word.” Really? If you know how to read a book, you know how to read THE book. And are directed to do so. In Acts 17:11 – ” And, the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.”

God gave us a book full of direction, hope, and love so that we could survive in this temporary life. It is a love letter to us. Maybe because the days of getting a hand written letter in the mail is long gone we don’t really appreciate what this means. But, even still, getting an email from a loved one is often received with joy and read repeatedly. We eagerly read to see what the person’s been up to, what they think, what they want, how they feel. The same should be for the Word of God.

I’m afraid if we don’t know the Word we’ll be like the man who built the house on the sand and when the storms of life wail against us our house (we) will fall. Or as Ephesians 4:14 says -‘Then we will no longer be immature children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth’.

Jesus says that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed (which is about the size of a pinhead), we can tell a tree to uproot itself and plant itself somewhere else and it will, and we can tell a mountain to move and it will, but if we don’t know his word, have it planted in our hearts and minds, how will we have such a strong faith?

Fairy floss faith requires nothing more than sugary sweet thoughts, and performing warm loving acts and deeds. We eagerly believe each ‘big author’ that puts out a Christian book or a podcast which can lead to spiritual  stomachaches and soul cavities from the overly sweet fodder.

Yes, it is important to show His grace, mercy and love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 it says, ”Three things last forever-faith, hope, and love -and the greatest of these is love.” Let’s strive to have a full and rich journey with Him, knowing His Word while loving those in this temporary world.

Linda Mae Baldwin

Baldwinacres

Be still and know … and then what?

IMG_3577

It’s April,  May, 2019. In January,2019 I attempted to write what God had impressed on my heart for 2019. What word He was giving me for this year.  For the past three years the phrase for the year has been, ‘it is what it is.”  The only thing I was sure of this time was that wasn’t the phrase. But, what WORD was it? Still wasn’t sure in February, or March. Then I got an inkling that maybe my word for the year was JOY. Or in a phrase – Choose Joy. Life events collided and seemed to make that word and that phrase a feat of incredible fortitude and strength.

Come and muse along with me…: In January I was finishing up my school bus driving career of approximately three months. Honestly, I wasn’t sure why God had directed me to drive a bus. I totally killed the written tests and the driving tests, so good in fact that my trainer was using me as an example of an excellent driver and encouraging others to follow my lead. Yet, I was a little hesitant. Seems I was right to be.

My first time out on my own I took down a carport parking structure with the bus’s big right mirror, while maneuvering out of the way of an oncoming speeding car – and while my supervisors and trainer blamed the incident on the non-assistance of my assistant and the other car, I knew it was ultimately my responsibility. At one point I got lost with very spirited kindergartners on the bus….while they flipped over the backs of seats and ran up and down the aisle, I missed a turn on the route sheet and got completely lost. We weren’t allowed to us a gps or a cell phone, and I had zero idea where I was, so I kept driving. I didn’t venture far…mostly driving in a big square, but soon the kiddos were yelling things like, “where are you taking us?’, ” I wanna go to school”, “we’re lost”, “can we go to the pool?” Finally, I pulled over and gathered them up by me and told them I was lost and needed their help. We needed some good team work…they changed, “team work, team work!” I looked up their school in my phone and using team work,  they were going to tell me if the phone was telling me the right way to go. If I had been previously familiar at all with the area I would have known I had only to make my square one block shorter to arrive at their school. We walked up to the door, they hugged my legs before going to class. I explained to the teacher what had happened and she, bless her, was more concerned about the kids wayward behavior than the lateness of us getting to school. She said she knew I was obviously intelligent and I would get them there. Driving home that day I was sure I should quit. It was then the anxiety attacks and insomnia set in.

On my route I had a particularly challenging middle school group. They were mostly ESL kiddos living in a big trailer park and hotels by our Costco. Some of them didn’t understand English and unfortunately I don’t speak Spanish. Some were very loud and just as mobile. The turning point  for this group came when we left school in the pm and one of the students dropped onto the aisle and sat there. On the floor. I was  at the stop light and told her to get back in her seat. She didn’t move. She probably didn’t understand me. The light turned green and the kids screamed – “Go! Go!”. I calmly told them I couldn’t go until everyone was safe in a seat and asked her to please sit in a seat. She didn’t move. The kids continued to yell- “go, go”. I repeated that I couldn’t go until everyone was in a seat. They yelled a few insults and called me some not very nice names….I explained that I couldn’t go until everyone was safe  and I could stay there all night if need be. The light turned red. Then green again. “GO!GO! We want to go home!” To which I replied, “me, too! Everyone get in a seat and we can.” The other kids turned on the aisle sitter and said, “she’s not kidding, get in the seat.” (There was also a lot of Spanish but I have no idea what they were saying.)

All this this time, I cried, a lot. And I have such an ugly cry face. Seriously, it scares children and small animals. Finally, the compilation of driving the bus, but getting lost, no GPS, unruly kids and very little disciplinary aids available, Lance and I decided I should quit. I prayed a lot about it, because I was sure, initially, I was preparing myself for what God had prepared for me – to be a bus driver, but the anxiety was so overwhelming…it was untenable.

My resignation was refused. My supervisors were kind and explained away all my problems so that nothing was actually my fault…(while that feels good, I know that a portion of the issues were indeed on me.) After my refused resignation they put me on a different route. It was in a suburban area where the garages are in the back of the houses so everyone parks in the streets. It was like driving down a very narrow alley. One day I squeezed down a street and I moved slightly to the right to let a car pass (when you’re driving the bigger vehicle, don’t be polite. It’s always easier for the smaller to move out of the way. ) I sideswiped a parked truck and took out his extended mirror. I was devastated. When I got back to the depot, my boss asked a trainer to go out with me and review some driving strategies. We drove my route and came up on the road construction. He asked if I told the bus depot about the construction. I said, “No. Was I supposed to??” He replied yes. ( Even thought the truck and I had met blocks over). I have nothing but good things to say about those supervisors. They wanted me to succeed in the best way.

DSC_0334.JPG

Be anxious for NOTHING. I knew the scripture well, but anxiety was having a hay day with my brain and heart while I struggled with should I quit or not…or be an assistant….I had some heart troubles and ended up in the ER. I and the folks at work, were attributing the heart discomfort to the stress. But, a subsequent visit to a cardiologist and the testing showed some blockage.  And, with this news, my sweet boss accepted my resignation.

The very next week I received a call from Home Depot asking for an interview. I had applied to Home Depot a year earlier. I had worked for them before we moved to Australia and really wanted to go back to them, but they hadn’t called. I was hired and started the next week in the gardening department.

I love working at Home Depot. I love the interaction with customers and the management at my Home Depot is excellent. From the store manager on down, I feel like I matter.  Come see me at the Wiley, Texas store!

The heart thingie still exsists. I have been on new meds, had some new tests that revealed new stuff and I am scheduled for an angiogram which will reveal if I need a stunt or not.

So, as God does, He chose this time to have me move into a position I NEVER thought I’d have…Back Up BOOK KEEPER! (When I was about in the third grade I developed a real nemesis with the maths.) But, I am determined to accept all that God puts before me.

God keeps laying out the challenges and I keep trusting and hitting them head on….but I wonder, honestly, what is He preparing me for?

First, drive a bus. Pass all the challenging tests, get a job, then FAIL….and next?Get a job you love. Do it for two months and get ‘promoted’ to the vault as a part time book keeper (aka a career I AVOIDED at all costs) and for what??

Well I guess we will see! The Man said a couple of weeks ago that God is preparing me for something He has prepared for me.

My heavenly Father is a GOOD GOOD FATHER and I will trust and try and love everyone to Him as I go along.

328707_10150554684532932_378227801_o