Graze: To feed on growing grasses.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

-Ps. 23:1-6

Growing up on a farm, I used to watch the cows, sheep & horses graze in the pasture. Each morning we would open the gate to the barnyard and they knew there was freedom from that small pen they were in. They also knew there was nice green grass beyond the barnyard. Once the gate was open, look out because those animals wanted to get where the tall, green grass grew – the pasture! They would take off sometimes even running up the old fenced lane that went up over the hill through the cornfield to the lush green pasture on the other side of the farm. There they would graze for a while then lay down and rest for a while then graze some more. They did this all day long. Come evening we would go over to the pasture’s edge and call the cows – 'come boss, 'come boss. They would gather at the pasture gate. Sometimes we would have to go round up a few stragglers and when all were accounted for, we’d open the lane gate and back over the hill they would go to the barnyard for the night. The next morning was the same routine, day after day.
What a life, huh?!

Oh that we could just graze and rest in shady green pastures all day long! But we can rest and graze in God’s green pastures and restore our souls . . . The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Ps. 23:1) I believe God wants us to slow down and “rest” and “graze” and “feed” on His Word. Life throws so many things our way and we are so busy – busy doing good things. But are we running on empty a good share of the time? Are we feeling stretched to extreme? Are we content with who we are in God’s divine providence? Slow down and take some time to just leisurely graze, rest a while, then graze and feed on the good things God has provided for you. Graze, rest, and enjoy the “shady green pastures” of God’s abundant love, grace, and mercy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beyond the Storm

It was evening as I climbed aboard the jumbo jet. I was tired.

It had been a hectic, emotionally stormy week. I had endured more than the usual schedule changes, telephone calls, interruptions, childrens activities, and arguments.

I settled into my seat, relieved to see the plane was nearly empty.

Maybe I could get some much needed rest. The giant plane took off and climbed up over the condominium complexes hugging the white stretch of beach bordering the deep blue sea of the Atlantic Ocean.

As we passed over Fort Lauderdale, I looked down at the twinkling lights reflected in the many canals and waterways and realized why our city is referred to as the Venice of America. I never tire of the beauty of South Florida.

I settled down, grateful for the quiet, Suddenly I noticed dark, ominous clouds off the left side of the wing. Soon bolts of lightning began to streak across the dark clouds.

I sat mesmerized by this vicious storm only a few miles away.

It was frightening, yet fascinating. It brought to mind many of the tempests I had experienced in my life. Financial storms, physical storms, emotional storms, relational storms. So many different types of storms with varying degrees of intensity.

Some had been as fearful and terrifying as this large thunderhead, others had been sudden. Some storms had resembled a weather front that moves in and wont go away.

As I sat there contemplating the severity of the weather outside the window, and the storm that had raged within my own life, I suddenly saw beyond the storm.

There, along the horizon, was one of the most magnificent sunsets I had ever been priveleged to witness. Brilliant gold blending with deep crimson fading into multiple shades of yellow, peach, apricot, and rose. What absolute, breath taking beauty.

I watched with wonder and awe.

From the vantage point of 42,000 feet up, I knew that at any moment this formidable thunderstorm would probably hit our home west of Fort Lauderdale. But I could also see beyond the storm, and knew that in just a short space of time, those who would be hit by the storm, would also experience incredible beauty.

I was suddenly aware of how God must look upon the storms that hit our lives.

Often I have been in the midst of a fearful squall, and like the disciples, cried out, "Lord don't you care? Don't you see that I can't take any more?"

Of course He cares. In 1 Peter He reminds us that he cares for us.

That we are His personal concern. But, from His vantage point, He also sees the glory that is to follow. His message? Don't be discouraged in the midst of life's storms. Be assured that God cares and that his plans for us include a future and a hope.  (Unknown)

Have you ever been there in the midst of the storm - waiting to see what is on the other side?  Maybe you haven't been able to lift your eyes above the storm, so you can't really see beyond today?  If that is the case look "to Him"  Jesus is the answer to any storm that lies ahead of you whether large or small.  Turn it over to Him and He will restore and renew a bright new future in rays of brilliant gold, crimson, yellows, reds and roses.  Let go and let God take care of your storm right now!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Being a Christian is Like a Pumpkin

Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin. God lifts you up, takes you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. He opens you up, touches you deep inside and scoops out all the yucky stuff-- including the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside you to shine for all the world to see.  (unknown author)
Now just let your light shine all around you!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just Being There

Just be there when someone around you needs a shoulder to cry on, a listening heart - hear them out, a laugh from deep within as they share their inner most thoughts, feelings, and dreams!  Just be there for those times when you can give insight and thought and encouragement.  Those special times when you can point the way to HOPE!  When nothing seems possible there is always HOPE! And let us never forget that!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Get Out of the Ruts of Life
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. – Nelson Mandela
Lackluster. Dull. Uninspired. Sometimes these words best describe how we feel.

While we try to live an inspired life; a life full of promise, love and meaning, the reality is it’s hard to keep our spirit consistently positive. Tires go flat, appliances breakdown, relationships struggle and the good news we were hoping to hear comes back less fantastic than expected.
These disappointments cause ruts – ruts that derail even the most optimistic attitude.

Ruts cause us to veer off course. We see them and the natural tendency is to swerve. By getting off track, we lose sight of the direction we are heading. When this happens, our journey gets delayed.
Ruts can be repaired, however. We can stop and fill the grooves with methods that will get our spirit back on track. Feeling like you are in a rut? Here are 25 soulful ways to get out of a rut and back to your journey.

1.     Love the imperfect you. Love everything about you. You were not made to be perfect; you were made to be you – warts, blemishes, ruts and all.
2.     Clear your mind of negative thoughts. Toss aside the head trash about what you should be doing and focus on what’s right in your life.
3.     Compliment more; complain less. You create positive energy by being, well, more positive. Replace negative talk with words that are more encouraging and then use this positive energy to fill in the ruts.
4.     Give yourself a break. When will you stop beating yourself up? Give yourself what you give to others – the right to be human.
5.     Smile. You can take away a rut’s power with your smile.
6.     Seek the company of positive people. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who drink from glasses that are half full. Let these folks inspire you to keep moving forward – no matter how deep the rut may seem.
7.     Save yourself first. Give yourself permission to take care of you, first. Breathe from the oxygen mask before helping others. Being at full strength is you best chance of getting out of a rut.
8.     Find an accountability partner. Seek a friend, a relative or your partner to help you navigate the ruts by asking them to make you accountable to never give up; to keep trying and to believe you have the strength to get back to where you want to be.
9.     Stay strong. Don’t forget who you are and don’t forget you are stronger than the deepest rut.
10.  Join a cause. Sign up for a cause that speaks to your heart. Fight hunger, shed light on domestic abuse or walk for a cure. Being passionate for a cause will help you rekindle the passion needed to address your personal circumstances.
11.  Take action. It’s your choice: Live in regret or embrace your life and begin steering it in any direction you choose. The choice begins by taking action; it begins today; it begins right now.
12.  Do one thing each day. Change doesn’t always happen in gulps; change can be sipped, too. Begin with one small sip of change.
13.  Change your routine. Take a different route to work; turn left, not right, on your evening walk or order from a different menu. A change in your routine can provide the spark to begin thinking differently about how to get moving again.
14.  Do what inspires you. Read, write, exercise, hang out your partner, do whatever inspires you. From inspiration comes action and from action comes progress.
15.  Appreciate what you have. When our focus is on gratitude, the ruts seem more conquerable.
16.  Challenge yourself, when you say, “I can’t.” Think back to a time when you said, “I can.” Confront self-doubt with and dare to say it again.
17.  Find a new environment. When you fell the rut growing deeper, walk away from where you are and go to a new place. A new environment can lend a fresh perspective.
18.  Upgrade yourself. Take a class, learn a new skill or begin a new fitness routine. When you invest in yourself the payoff is always more than you expected.
19.  Rest. Fatigue can cloud your thinking. A fresh mind begins with a fresh, renewed body.
20.  Remember the reason why. When it feels like you are simply going through the motions, pause and remember the reason why you do what you. Often the reason lives in a dream that just needs to be dusted off.
21.  Lean on hope. When things feel bleak, know this: You have come too far to lose your way now.
22.  Nourish your spirit. Wherever your personal tabernacle, spend time there to reconnect your mind to your soul and your soul to your spirit.
23.  Make a list. Make a list of the things you need to do to climb out of your rut. Select one item each day and make that your priority. When an item is completed, mark through it. When the entire list is completed, save it. The list will serve as a reminder of what you are capable of doing.
24.  Celebrate.. When things appear off track, celebrate what will always be front and center in the Universe, and never hidden in a rut – you. Celebrate the beautiful you.
25.  You are free. You are free to make mistakes, to have bad days and to fall into ruts. You are free from the pressure to have to get it right all the time. When you trip, you are free to fall flat on your face. And when you’re ready, reach for the hand that will be waiting for you.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~ 
Most of all trust God to lead you and sustain you.  It is He that CAN and WILL carry you through the ruts that come your way. We can't control all of the ruts ahead of us but we can look beyong them to see what we can learn from them and then practice these 25 ways to get back where we should be - where God can use us. 

4 Layer Cookie Bars

4-Layer Cookie Bars
Thanks to Angela Hunker of Toledo, Ohio for sharing this yummy recipe with us!

16-oz. pkg. rectangular buttery crackers
1/2 c. margarine
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. milk
2/3 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. peanut butter chips

Line the bottom of a buttered 13"x9" baking pan with a single layer of crackers; set aside. Melt margarine in a heavy saucepan; add sugars, graham cracker crumbs and milk. Heat over medium-high heat until sugars dissolve, stirring often; spread over crackers in pan. Arrange another single layer of crackers on top; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; heat over low heat until melted, stirring until smooth and creamy. Spread over crackers; set aside until firm. Cut into bars to serve. Makes 2 dozen.

Give these a try for a "yummy"!!!