ARE YOU IN IT TO WIN IT?

I am not a runner. I have never entered a marathon with aspirations to win the race. However, I am in a race. As a Christian I became a long distance runner from the moment I became a believer. I am sure I had no idea on June 10, 1970 when Jesus snatched me out of my captivity that I was preparing for a long-term race for an eternal prize. Now after forty-seven years I am aware that I have a prize waiting for me when this earthly race is over. I want to finish my race well.

Unfortunately, there is are many things that occur in our lives as we are racing toward our prize that can take us out of the race. The enemy of our soul surely wants us to fail! He takes great pleasure when a Christian throws their hands up in the air and declares “I just can’t do this, it is too hard.” But remember he is a liar. He is the father of lies and truth is not in him. So you have a choice you can be a quitter or you can buck up, lace up your shoes and keep running.

There have been times in my own life since becoming a Christian that have offered me opportunity to quit but I could not throw in the towel. Jesus invested too much for me to turn and run the other way. I have had heartache, I suffered from a tremendously crippling spirit of rejection for some years, loss of family relationships, seen my husband lose jobs, watched a son stray from truth he was taught, seen a son struggle to find success in the workplace. I could add more to the list but I prefer to boast in the Lord that He has strengthened me in every circumstance.

I am sure you have things you can share that nearly sidelined you but you are still here. That is a testimony. We are still here! Still in the race and have probably worn out quite a few pairs of shoes too.

I am reminded this morning of many places in scripture that we encouraged to stay strong and complete the race. Here are a few. Proverbs 24:10 “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” Jeremiah 12:5 “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?” Galatians 6:9 “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”  And one of my most favorite verses Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

We have an example in Jesus on how to run the race. He ran His race for the prize and the prize was us! Now we have a race to run and our prize is eternity with Jesus! That is more than a fair exchange. We need not give up. Stay the course. Stay strong in the Word, guard your heart, keep the devil under your feet and practice running everyday. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember you are IN IT TO WIN IT!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

 

 

 

 

NEVER GIVE UP!

I am sure many of you have seen the graphic of the large bird, possibly a crane, with a large frog in its mouth that says “Never Give Up!”  That is our story. What occurred yesterday is the fruit of staying the course even when we felt like we were being swallowed up by hopelessness at times. I would like to share briefly the story.

Our oldest son is by far one the finest young men you will ever meet. He is a 2005 college graduate from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. He knew from the age of seven he wanted to be an artist. He received a full honors scholarship to the University of Memphis. After five years he graduate Cum Laude and fulfilled his dream. However, his degree never gave him the opportunities he had hoped. He soon found out it was not necessarily what you know but who you know. He is so crazy smart it amazes me but in today’s electronic age you never get the opportunity to impress with those smarts to someone face to face until you have sent hundreds of electronic resumes that get deleted before you can ever say hello.

He is like just like his dad. He works hard. Is faithful to his job committment but he has rarely been rewarded enough to make a substantial income. Thus, with the exception of fourteen months, he has lived with us. He was not and is not a slacker but in all good conscience we could not toss him out because of what people thought about our situation. Believe me, both he and I have struggled with the opinion of others many times. He felt uncomfortable so many times and my heart was overwhelmed with concern for him and his self confidence. I wanted nothing but good things for him but felt like he was being swallowed up by defeat.

As godly parents we see such potential in our children. It certainly does not change when they become adults. We are so proud of them and we want people to see that too and for them to be rewarded for their diligence and gifting by their employer. It does not always happen though. When that happens it can crush you as a parent and it can certainly crush them.

Perhaps you have not ever walked in such a situation as we have. I certainly do not know if you have or haven’t. But let me say it can be gut wrenching! For me it became more than that. As Mike and I approached our mid sixties and Matt his middle thirties I began to think God had forgotten us. Were all my prayers ignored? Were we destined to stay on this course for several more years to come? Would I be able to survive all this emotionally and would Matthew’s dreams and desires ever become a reality? I had no answers but deep down in my spirit I knew I had a God that NEVER failed……even when I could not see a glimmer of hope!

Now, let me take you back almost six weeks ago. God began to speak to my heart. He began to reveal to me that my hopes and dreams for my son had become an obsession and that I had linked my future peace and hope as a Christian to whether or not Matt moved out, had a raise or new job, and perhaps meet the future Mrs. Matthew Greganti. I wanted it so bad I was consumed. I was like a dog with its bone and I was not going to let it go! Then on October 9th one of my dear friends and I meet together to pray. God showed us both that I was so tangled up with my dreams for him I had none for me. God showed me that I had to totally release my grip and allow Him to untangle my heart from all the dreams I had for Matt and begin to live my life without it being tethered to what I wanted for Matthew.

I promise that very morning when I completely let go and agreed that I was allowing this to consume me I found FREEDOM! My friend and I finished our prayer time and I started a brand new journey.

That Friday, October 13th I went to our Women’s Retreat. It was an excellent time away. I was able to see even more clearly that God was never withholding…..He was only waiting! He gives good gifts to His children. He knows when it is time to give us things and it was not my business to know the time.

After the retreat was over and I was driving home I called Mike to tell him I was almost home. He said he had some great news to share when I got home. Oh my goodness was it ever great news! Matt had found a little house that he could afford and his offer was accepted!! It was confirmation that when we take our hands off the things that are none of our business we give God the freedom to work. Basically, it is called getting out of the way……COMPLETELY!

So here I am typing on my laptop at the end of very busy day after moving our son Matt into his new house. He is sleeping in his first house knowing that this is the beginning of many good things that God has for him. I prayed over him in my study this evening and he messaged me a few minutes ago that he went through is little house and prayed over it and dedicated it to the Lord. He prayed for angels to guard it and protect him from all harm. The journey has begun. I feel the flood gates are open and many good things will happen suddenly.

Isn’t it amazing to see God move when we get out of the way? Also, I must say God was so good to Matt today. We discovered the washing machine that the seller left was gross so we were in need of a washer and BAM Mike’s brother had a decent Kenmore washer in his garage he had not disposed of yet so Matt got it for free. He also gave us great favor today with the weather.  The forecast was for rain this morning until the afternoon. It did not rain until we finished our second trip and returned the U-Haul at 2:00 this afternoon. When we got the restaurant to eat lunch the bottom dropped out of those clouds and dumped a ton of rain. The move went super smooth and all we had were five adults and one ten year old.

I stand amazed at my Daddy God for His love, patience, favor, understanding and provision. I am thankful for all He has done and I know that my obedience opened the door for God to move! How great is my God!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

 

JARS OF CLAY

Early this morning I was reading from one of my Beth Moore devotional books. She was sharing about how we as finite beings with frail human flesh can have the mind of Christ. That we can have his thoughts if we are so willing to yield our flesh to follow His Spirit versus our own carnal choices. This led me down a whole other path of not only can we have the mind of Christ but we house the very spirit of God within us. He dwells within us His jars of clay!

II Timothy says this, “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.” ESV. The meaning of the word honor is to value as precious, it is treated with dignity. The meaning of dishonor is to disgrace something or allow it to become vile, shameful.

As Christ followers we have a choice how we live our lives. We can forget what God has done and choose our own way if we so desire but we need to consider the immense responsibility we have to live our lives as shining witnesses because Jesus changed our lives. We can bring honor to Him by living our lives as living, breathing stories for people to read each day. We walk around with Jesus on the inside of us and that should be visible to those around us.

Or we can choose to live a life that is dishonorable. We can convince ourselves that we can contaminate our vessel and live for ourselves and nobody else. We can disgrace the precious Spirit of God that lives in us and live only for ourselves but is it worth it? After all that Jesus has done why become a vessel of dishonor. Why become a container for trash when the Spirit of the living God brought you out of darkness to be the light to a dying world?

Jars of clay can all look the same on the outside but the honor or dishonor given to the vessel is determined by what the vessel is filled with. How amazing that we as fragile human flesh can house the King of Kings in our spirits. We can walk around as kings, queens, and priests if we will honor our vessels or we can allow our vessels to dry up and become a waste can for all the ungodly things we were delivered from.

The incredible miracle that Jesus came as flesh to live in flesh by his Spirit is beyond my understanding. But this one thing I know I was a broken and shattered clay pot that Jesus put back together. He took every chard of clay and molded it into a vessel that would be better than it was before. He poured Himself inside of me and said, “Go, let my light shine from your jar of clay and bring honor to my name.”

You may still have a few scratches or dings in your jar just like me but that’s okay because He still uses cracked pots! So go forth and be a cracked pot for Jesus!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn