It makes scents…

Isn’t it amazing how certain smells evoke strong memories? 

When I was a girl, I was fortunate to have my grandmother live right next door to our family.  She had a real wood burning fireplace in her living room (unlike the fake electric one I have now).  Often my cousins and I would sleep over at Grandma’s house.  On those chilly mornings when the weather had turned, she would have a fire going when we got up.  I can still remember the cozy warmth of her house and the joy filled memories I made there.  One of those memories is the smell of the fireplace burning, beckoning me to crawl out of bed, grab a blanket, and join her on the couch to sit by the fire.

Even now, when I smell a fireplace, or even a firepit, that scent takes me back.  It summons warm thoughts and memories.  The scent draws me back to memories of her love.

2 Corinthians 2:15 says “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea that we carry with us the pleasing aroma of Jesus to those who are being saved, as well as to those who are perishing. 

If you’ve ever spent time around a camping fire, you know that the smell of smoke stays on you until you come home and wash those clothes.  As you unpack the duffle from camping, you get a whiff of that smoke, and suddenly the memories of the campout come rushing back. Here in Second Corinthians, it’s the same idea.

Those around us, inside and outside of the faith, can “smell” us.  We carry with us the pleasing aroma of Jesus.  When Christ is in us, and we are following Him, His “scent” is on us.

Durango, Colorado (my photo)

This idea was played out for me for the first time when I was 16 years old.  There was a girl in my high school, who was just different.  Her family was much like mine.  She had a mom, a dad, and a brother at home.  She was my same age and grade.  We were both on the drill team for our high school.  She had some of the same friends and interests that I did.  But she “smelled” different.  There was something about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

We started hanging out and eventually I asked her to sleep over at my house.  She said yes, that she would come and sleep over, if I would go to church with her the next morning.

There it was.  That was the beginning of my understanding more precisely what it was about her that was so different than me.  She had faith in God.  And though I had grown up with a good, loving, all American family, faith was not a part of our household.  And I wanted it.  I was drawn to her in a way that I didn’t understand then.

And because of her “scent”, her faith in Jesus, I was also drawn to Him.

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

You and I are called to walk with Jesus, to follow His example.  To be like Him.  It is a tall order to be sure, but He left us with the Holy Spirit, who also lives in us.  And it is that same spirit that produces the lingering scent of Jesus in us. 

When Jesus comes into our hearts and lives, we are changed.  Some parts of us change immediately, and others take longer.  But we are changed.  And from that moment on, we begin to “smell” differently.

Like the soft scent of our favorite perfume, we leave behind the aroma of Jesus as we go.

On the train from Durango to Silverton Colorado

My hearts desire is that the aroma of Jesus that follows me as I go, attracts others to the Savior.  Because, just as perfumes can smell differently on the different people who wear them, the scent of Jesus can be attractive, or pungent. 

Are my actions, thoughts, and words pleasant?  Do they draw people to Him with the soft scent?  Or am I too much like the world to be a pleasing aroma?  Am I different at all? 

As we continually grow, and allow Jesus to change us on the inside, that change will show on the outside too.  We have hope, we have life!  Like a fragrant perfume, I want to radiate the aroma of Jesus and let His scent trail behind me as I go. 

And my prayer is that that scent will linger in the air and draw people to Him. 

What scent are you leaving behind?

Jesus, I am drawn to You and to Your love.  I am so grateful for all that You are.  You have given everything for me, and I want to share that love with those in my circle.  Help me to give off the pleasing aroma of Your love.  I want to bring You honor by living in a way that “smells” good to others.  Amen.



Over the top.

I remember back when I had infants.  There were so may happy and fun days!  Those days usually came on the same days when I was exhausted and emotionally spent.  But maybe that’s just me?

I loved it when they were finally ready to start solid foods!  I giggled, making airplane noises as I spoon fed them!   And I remember wiping their little chins as mushy baby food from the jar slid down just about everywhere except into their mouths!  Thank goodness for baby bibs!

One of my babies was a very picky eater.  When babies first start on solid foods, they typically eat fruits.  But not this girl, she only wanted veggies!  It was so unusual.  And not just any vegetables, she ate only three different ones: carrots, sweet potatoes and squash.  These three foods had one thing in common, they are all orange in color. 

At first this was fine by me; I was thrilled that she was eating solids from a spoon.  But over time, I became aware of an unhealthy balance.  She turned orange, just like her foods.  I wish I was kidding.  All my kids are fair, blonde-haired, blue-eyed children.  But as she continued to consume only orange foods, she turned Oopma Loompa orange!  Her blonde hair had an orange/reddish tint to it.  Her skin looked slightly orangey and tanned.   And the topper was the end of her cute little nose looked as though she had mushy squash sitting right on it!  One time in the grocery store, a stranger stopped me to tell me that my baby had food on her nose!  Sigh.

At that point I had to wean her off her favorite foods and onto more balanced choices.  She fought me, of course.  She wanted her favorites, her choices.  She wasn’t able to understand that what she loved and ate exclusively wasn’t good for her.  I had to keep forcing her to eat what I knew was best for her.  It was a battle for a while, but in time, she leveled out and her skin and hair color returned to normal.  Whew!

I often wonder about the choices we make as Christians.  Are we spending too much of our time, consuming things are innately good for us, but at a level that is actually harmful?

I know, I’m obsessed with clouds~~~

You and I have choices every single day as to how we use our time.  And I think mostly, we make good choices.  We spend time caring for ourselves and our families.  We entertain others.  We have coffee dates with our girlfriends.  We serve at church.  We scroll faith-based sites on Instagram.  We keep up with our friends via Facebook and other social media sites.  We relax in the evenings and enjoy our favorite shows. 

But are we out of balance?

To much of a good thing is not a good thing.  I know you have heard that phrase before.  It’s a pretty accurate and deep statement actually.  Just like my daughter eating her veggies.  Veggies are good for us, no one would dispute that.  But too many veggies and suddenly your nose is orange, and you are out of balance!

1 Corinthians 10:23 says this, “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.”  How we choose to use our time is completely up to us.  But are we over doing it in any areas? 

All the options that I listed above are good ways to use our time.  They are certainly not harmful things.  But if we are unaware that we’ve become unbalanced in the use of our time, then those options have become less than good for us.  They may not be beneficial.

Caring for ourselves and our families is good, until it is done in excess.  Are we obsessing about our image, or the image of our children?  Hosting or entertaining is showing hospitality and is good, until it’s done in excess, leaving us physically drained and emotionally exhausted.  Are we enjoying a healthy catch-up coffee date with our BFF, or are we consistently avoiding other responsibilities?  Are we serving at church from a right heart, or are we using it as an opportunity to be seen?  And so on and so on.  Anything done in excess has the potential to do harm.  Anything.

Romans 12:2 reminds us “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

I’m right there with you sister.  I wrestle constantly with using my time correctly.  And, in reality, I’ll never get everything “right” in this life.  But I do want Him to transform me and change the way I think.  I want His plan to be my purpose.  I want Him to direct my thinking right into line with His thinking so that I can better understand His will for me.  How I use my time has a lot to say about those priorities.  I may not always get it right, but I want to make that my goal. 

I encourage you to take a good look at what might be unbalanced in your life.  Are you willing? Are you brave? When you and I seek to honor God with our lives, He gets excited.  He has plans for us that we don’t even know about yet!  He wants to show us those plans, but until we are willing to let Him use our time His way, He waits.  He loves us immeasurably and has our best interest always at the center of His plan.  So, if we ask Him to reveal to us our mis-apportioned priorities, He will.  Honestly, the first thing or two that come to mind when you ask Him to show you, are the areas where He has something different and better in mind for you.  The truth is you probably already know what they are.  

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God’s plans for us could never be bad for us.  He is a holy and loving God.  We just get scared to lose control.

There are so many good things we can (and should) participate in and prioritize in this life.  But as we do them, we should strive for balance, and yearn for His leading. 

All I’m saying is, don’t let your nose turn orange.

Lord, Help me to use the precious gift of time in the best way that I can. Help me to be aware of when “my nose is turning orange” and I am out of balance. Show me where I need to readjust my responsibilities to stay healthy and in the ceneter of your plan for my life. Amen.



Growing Salt

I spent seven and a half years living in Phoenix Arizona.   And while it’s true what they say about it being a “dry heat”, it’s still HOT! 

Summertime is always the worst there.  One summer in particular, I recall the temperature reaching 120 degrees.  You haven’t ever truly been hot until you’ve been in Phoenix in the summer!

Whether it is 72 or 120 degrees outside, life goes on.  There are still places to go, errands to run, and kids to drive around.  You don’t get to simply stay inside in the air conditioning and wait it out.  So I learned some ways to deal with it, some tactics if you will. 

I learned that a good parking spot was not so much about closeness to the store, but where I could find shade.  I learned that seatbelts get really really hot, so I better take along a washcloth to put between the buckle and my children’s skin.  I learned that drinking water mattered more in the desert than it ever did in San Diego.  I learned that the best time to go grocery shopping was early in the morning or later at night so that I didn’t have to take my kids out in the heat.  And I learned that sometimes, you really do need a pot holder to drive your car. 

And for those times when there was just no avoiding the heat of the day and the ghastly high temperatures, I tried to be fast.  I wanted so badly to just get those errands done quickly and get back home.  Home was where it was cool and comfortable. 

I always just wanted to get out of the heat and get back to what felt good again. 

This is true for all of us when it comes to trials in life, isn’t it? 

As soon as something difficult comes into our lives, we just want it to be over.  I know I do!  I desperately want “normal” life back.  I want comfortable.  I want the hard thing to go away, and leave me in peace.  This is human nature.  That’s why when we touch a hot stove, we pull back quickly.  Our mind sends that “get away quick” signal to our hand, and we pull back.  Our brain does the same thing when we encounter trials and hardships in life.  It tells us to do whatever it takes to get out of that uncomfortable situation and get back to what feels good, and safe.  We all feel that way, and no one blames us for doing so.

But what does God’s word say?

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”

I also like the way The Message puts it.  “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Wow.  That’s a tough passage to really get behind isn’t it?  Don’t try to rush the trial, your true faith is being developed under pressure.  Consider it joy.  Let it do it’s work.

If you are currently experiencing a trial, I can practically hear you saying,  “Easier said than done!  I don’t want this trial, I didn’t ask for it, it is painful, and I don’t really see how this is helping me at all”

If you’ve been a Follower of Jesus for more than five minutes, you know that accepting Christ is not some kind of free pass on hardship.  It didn’t happen for the disciples that way, and Jesus warns us many times in scripture that we will endure difficulties.  In John 16:33, Jesus tells us,  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Sometimes, without even knowing it, we are asserting our American way of thinking, into the spiritual realm. 

In the great country of America, if you work hard, and do your best to improve, and become a better you in every way, life gets better.  The possibilities are endless.  Dream big, work hard, give it your all, and in time, you can have the life you want. You can have the ease and comfort you strive for.  But when it comes to our spiritual lives, this is not the case.  We cannot simply improve ourselves to the point of ease.  We cannot try harder and be “good enough” to never have hard times in our lives.  God doesn’t grade on a curve.  Trials are a part of every person’s life.  Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  This is God letting us know that you, and I, and all of humanity, for all time, will have troubles.   

But God wastes none of our pain.  And He doesn’t waste the precious gift of time.

“Let perseverance finish it’s work…”  Tough times change us, don’t they?  Every challenge I have faced has changed me a little bit.   Some have changed me more than a little bit.  But as I have encountered difficulties, I have never encountered them alone.  The Lord has been with me in the fire every time.  And as each one has passed; I have been able to look back and see growth in my life.  I think differently afterward.  I have a greater understanding of the purpose of God in my life.  I am more compassionate toward others. I learned that the “stove was hot” and that I better leave it alone!  And each time, I mature a little bit too. 

If God were to answer every prayer I prayed exactly the way I prayed it, not only would I make a giant mess of things, but I wouldn’t learn anything.  And since I can’t really hurry the trial along any faster, I may as well grow in it.  I think what God is saying to us in James 2:4 is “being miserable and wishing it was over won’t help, but seeing what I’m up to while it’s happening is where you’ll find peace.  And purpose.”

I am certain that if you took out some paper and listed all the trials or difficulties that you have had in your life, and what you learned or how you changed as a result of having gone through them, you  would see purpose.  You could make a road map of your spiritual growth.  And that growth is your testimony.  It’s what God is doing and has done to complete you and make you to be more like the image of His Son.  If we were to graph out our spiritual growth, we would see plainly that in the biggest times of trial, the most growth occurs.

I know that you know this is true.  I know you’ve heard it before.  I know it isn’t new.  But I bet you needed to hear it again.  I bet we all need the reminder that, in our hurt, God is at work.  We need to remember that tough times are a normal part of everyone’s life.  That God isn’t “mad at us” and He didn’t forget about us.  But that there is purpose in the pain.  And that He is working something good through it.

Mark 9:49 says that “Everyone is salted with fire.” Or some versions say, “seasoned with fire”.  Salt, or seasoning, improves flavor.  It also serves to tenderize meat.  It can also enhance the color of food and provide nutrients needed to sustain balance in our bodies.  If we apply the same idea of trials “salting” us, then we begin to get the picture of why they grow us and how that is good for our souls.  Since we know that we can’t escape trials, we need to learn to let them season us, enhance our lives, and tenderize our hearts.  And most importantly, to provide the needed nutrients to cause growth in us. 

Nothing is wasted with God. 

When trials come (and they will) you always have a choice in how you will respond.  Will you allow them to make you BITTER or BETTER?

The first step of faith and trust is up to us.  How will you respond?

Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

When it’s not good

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul is speaking about the thorn in his flesh. Over the years there has been much speculation as to what that “thorn” might be. The beauty of not knowing what his thorn was, is that, we can insert our own “thorn” into our situation. Since we truly don’t know exactly what it was, it is easier for us to receive the wisdom from this section of scripture into our own lives.

God has used the story of Paul to impact the lives of believers around the globe for countless years. Paul can sometimes be a difficult writer to understand, but one thing is for sure. The man had stories to tell. In his life, Paul was:

  • Converted to faith by a voice from heaven and a light that blinded him. He remained that way for some time.
  • He had been a staunch persecutor of Christians, and yet he became one of God’s strongest messengers.
  • He was put in prison (for his faith no less) and flogged countless times.
  • He was shipwrecked 3 times (think Castaway).
  • He was stoned once.
  • He was tired, in pain and often went without sleep.

These are just a few of the trials that he suffered. But those trials are not the only story line in the life of Paul. He is revered as one of the most faithful men in scripture, a strong teacher, Godly man.

As our own lives play out, a story is being written.

I have done some reflection on the story of my life. And there are some ugly chapters. Some twists and turns that I wish had never happened, chapters I would never want to “re-read”. Some painful, heart breaking chapters. But they are all part of a larger story. They are not the only chapters. There are wonderful chapters. There are chapters of great joy! Chapters that tell about adventure and excitement! Chapters that weave a thread of purpose and fulfillment!

I have come to understand that, without the ugly chapters, the power of the wonderful chapters would be lost. Without wandering, I would not have found my way. Without brokenness I could not fully appreciate the healing. God does that for me. He writes my story.

And He is writing your story too.

The best books I have ever read are the ones where the characters have depth, the story is unpredictable, and there are plot twists throughout. Isn’t that true of our lives as well?

Right now, think of someone you know and admire for their faithwalk. Did that person have an easy life? Did their situations that work out the way that they desired the first time they tried? Was life always easy and joyful for them? I bet not.

And yet, that’s how we always try to script our own lives. The “If only” things we think about. “If only I’d gotten that job?” “If only I’d been given what she was given” “If only I had her situation”. We want to believe that if we do all the right things, if we play by the rules, avoid evil, and embrace good, that God will surely bless us with a trial free life. We may not actually say that out loud, but if we’re honest, it’s what we think.

Insert Paul. He faithfully followed God, taught and lived to show people the God they needed. He humbly took abuse for the sake of Christ glorified. His story is remembered as one of faith. God uses the ugly chapters in Paul’s life to draft a story that is worth sharing. One that brings Him glory.

I know God can do the same for you and me.

I have seen some chapters in my life close with beautiful endings. Some of them are still open, but I trust that they too, will have a God-filled purpose and end with flair and beauty. I trust this because I have seen it many times already.

So when I am in a place where life isn’t right, though I still don’t “love it” and I may wish things were different (easier, less painful, more secure) I can know that He is not done with that chapter. How life looks today, is not how it will look someday. Better chapters are coming.

Though it is normal and human to ask God to smooth the difficult things of life for us (Jesus did this in the garden), when He doesn’t, we can know that He is still at work. His pen is active on the pages of our hearts. Our story is still being written. When life is painful and feels heavy, like an ugly chapter in a book, know that The Author is busy at work, creating a beautiful ending.

His grace is all we need, His power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He’s weaving together for us, a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

God is writing our stories, and they are filled with hope and possibility. And mostly purpose.

What story is God telling through your life today? If it’s not good, it’s not over.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay