White As Snow

What is your understanding of your salvation?  Have you ever thought about what it really means for you when you accepted Christ as your Savior?  Or, if you haven’t accepted Him as your Savior, have you ever had thoughts about what you think it means for you and your life?

Recently at our home, we had a beautiful couple days of soft snow fall.  I loved looking out my cabin windows, which run all the way around my cabin, and watching the snow.  Everything is covered in a blanket of clean, white snow.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of how Jesus covers our sin through His death on the cross, and we are washed as white as snow.  I had just been reading something that came to mind as I watched that falling snow.  The thought was that our life changes at the moment we accept Christ.  It isn’t just about sin.  It means, that as an example, a new JoAnn is created at the time I accepted Christ, and now God has a relationship with that new JoAnn.  So.. it isn’t just about being forgiven of sins.  It is also about a brand new relationship as this new person.  As this new person, I now have a relationship with Him; not as the old me, but as the new me.  He relates to the new me!  

I love the snow. Always have. But the snow is temporary.  His love for me is eternal.  What a great reminder for me as I looked out my windows to watch the falling snow, and have it teach me a lesson at the same time!  Hearing Him speak to me brings a whole new level of excitement for me in my relationship with Jesus.

Along these same lines, I have been leading a study on prayer.  Boy!  We are seeing some great changes happening in the lives of those taking part.  We have been given nuggets of knowledge that we grab onto as life rafts in what can sometimes be choppy seas.  I am constantly amazed at what God will teach us through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, IF we are willing to spend time in His presence.  It’s kind of like looking in on a genealogy of relationship, and seeing answers to prayer.

  • If we are in His presence,
  •      we are in His Word,
  •         then, we are learning to know Him better,
  •              which means we are learning to discern His voice,
  •                   which in turn means we trust Him more,
  •                        and that means we will become more obedient,
  •                             and we WILL see big prayers answered.

We have also talked in this study about taking steps of faith.  I have been thinking about the idea of stepping in to the water before I see the waters part.  We want Jesus to part the waters so we can go in.  God wants us to step into the water in faith, and then see Him part the waters and bring us through.  

It is my hope that you are beginning to change the culture of your life with Jesus through some of the posts here on the blog.  This certainly isn’t me writing about these topics.  This idea of snow and relationship, and what prayer will do, along with stepping into the water, are all thoughts I believe God wanted me to share with you.  Challenge yourself to make the changes you need, to have the results you want.

May God help you to this end.

To your place of heart and soul escapes…

~JoAnn

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Between Cupcakes

IMG_5966I LOVE cupcakes!!  Especially if they are devils food chocolate with fluffy white frosting!  Oh my!!  They are the best!!  So why do I share this tidbit of information?  Because this week was one of those times where I NEEDED cupcakes; a lot of them!  There is nothing better than those delicate, fluffy cupcakes topped with fluffy not so sweet frosting!  I had such a hard day, that I ate six of them right in a row and smacked my lips with everyone!  As I was eating them, I thought maybe there was something to the name of them.  The devil was sure doing a number on me today and I was eating my way through it with cupcakes!  And…I was careful not to leave any crumbs behind!

Now, it is a couple of days since that time and I got to thinking, “Why is it that we do that to ourselves?”  Do we think that something like that is going to helps us feel better?  Or, that eating them will somehow dissolve the problems that we are facing?  I have to admit, though, they really hit the spot!!  But my problem was still right in front of me.  Sometimes, we do this kind of thing and then deal with the guilt afterwards.  I can’t say I felt the guilt where chocolate cupcakes with fluffy white frosting are concerned, but along the lines of, “Shoot!  I did it again!”

I guess what I have thought about in retrospect is, that in all fairness to great cupcakes, they don’t help much of anything, except taste good at the moment!  When I look back on eating my six cupcakes in a row on Monday, I didn’t care about the reasoning.   But now what I am wondering is, why didn’t I go to the Source of all problem solving and ask for His intervention?  What is it about pride that keeps us from going directly to Him for the calm and peace we need?  Or maybe the insight we need to identify what is really going on, and the boldness to share it?  Maybe, because we would have to be responsible for our reactions, as well as, our actions.  I kind of think so.  It would mean I would have to go to prayer and ask for help instead of allowing my feelings to control me, so I can feel justified.  So…(pause) what?  I am just going to eat those cupcakes because…I CAN?  I deserve them?  I can even tell myself that if I have a bad day, and don’t do it again tomorrow, then I can justify eating them.  Amazing what our brain and heart can figure out between them, when we don’t listen to the Holy Spirit.  We can get SO creative!!

We are always going to have those “things” that tempt us, make us angry, hurt our feelings, or cause us to go for the one thing we love.  Satan loves to put those temptations right in front of our eye gates.  He will even go through the trouble to set up the scenario for you!  He loves to use his expertise to make that happen!  What we are doing may taste good to our emotions at the time, but there are always consequences to not taking it to the Lord first.  Always.

I share this because I know we all deal with this in some way, shape or form.  I want to be able to go the God with anything first, and ask Him to help me figure it out.  I want to deal with it in His way and His timing.  I want to surrender my pride and listen to the still small voice, and take my next steps accordingly.  I can send myself on all kinds of guilt trips, OR, I can go to God and ask for His direction.  His strength will give me the power to say no to what I FEEL like doing.  If I ask Him, He will let me know what I need to do.  We have a free will and can decide to pray about it, or, eat six cupcakes and have nothing change.

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I want to change and be more like He wants me to be.  In the time it took me to eat those cupcakes, I might have been able to totally solve the problem if I had been willing to face the problem, pray about it, and do what I know God would have wanted me to do.  Humm…do I detect a bit of rebellion in there somewhere?  Possibly.   That isn’t the way I want to live my life, and it will not help me live in peace and harmony.

Now, does mean that you can’t eat cupcakes?  Of course not.  But maybe not six of them, and certainly not for reasons and emotions that you alone are responsible for.   I had my time with the Lord to talk this over with Him.  But I kind of get the feeling that I should have done that in the first place.  Duh!  He gently reminds me that He is here with me.  I can always come to Him with anything.   Now that I listened to the Holy Spirit, I have taken action regarding my reaction.  I learned.  I live another day to learn some more.  In learning something valuable, I got to drop another heart in my Gratitude Jar.

Walking the journey with you…

Are Your Life Rings Showing?

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I took a picture not long ago of a piece of wood that came on shore. It was quite large! You could see on what appeared to be the cut end of the tree, all the rings which you can count to see how old the tree is. It had to be pretty old because there were a lot of rings to count!

I have looked at this photo many times and it made me think what would happen if we had to wear our rings of age where others could see…and what if OUR rings were to show how closely we have followed the Lord in our lives each year? I know it might seem far-fetched, but what IF??? How many rings would be showing for others to count? We will have that sort of accountability some day. Now, I am glad my story goes along the way of rings and not wrinkles! Phew! Don’t need any more of those! But think about that for a minute. Do we have enough evidence for it to be counted for the Kingdom? Would you see the wisdom of my life rings as evidenced in my life?

That is one of my goals for myself this year; I want to be counted as one who is a difference maker. A friend of mine shared with me over coffee, that she didn’t have what she used to have to be able to give, but what she DID have, was time. And that was free to give. I agree. I want to spend the time that God has given me for the things that will make a difference in the lives of others around me and for God. I can make a phone call, send a text, mail a card, write a Facebook message, or invite someone for coffee and share life together with them. That is more important in the long run that any rabbit trail I might chase thinking, “I should do this, or I should do that.” I need to be asking God where it is that He wants me most. It’s one of the things that photography has taught me; take the time to “see” what is there all the time.

So I encourage you today to make some life rings of your own. It isn’t like it is about works or doing, but it is about making a difference for the glory of God. We all know we aren’t going to run around with rings on our bodies, but it could look more like those ripples I talked about in my last post, where you can clearly be used of God in ways you never expect! Start now! It is never too late to begin again! Throw the rock and make some rings; rings that later on will show accountability for what God entrusted to you.

Go make a great ring this year! Be sure to have fun, laugh, love and even do some dancing along the way! Walking the journey with you…

Let The Waves And Ripples Begin!

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This weekend when I was out taking pictures, I saw something that reminded me of the word that God gave me for this year. My word for this new year is LIGHT. Light shines in the darkness and it shines for all to see. As is the case when I go out, God uses the things around me to speak to my heart and this picture had a message that went right along with my word for this year. I saw a rock in the water. There wasn’t that much of it that was sticking up out of the water, however as I observed, I saw that even the little part of the rock that was out of the water, caused waves to separate around it. The water didn’t just roll over it, it made its own little waves. As little as the waves were, it still caused a ripple effect in the water that was very large. God seemed to say that I needed to stand firm just like that rock. That if I am seeking Him, I am the rock standing on the Rock.  Even though I may not make a big splash in my life, and may not feel like I can have that much influence over those around me, I will have. I may only make a small waves but the effect of those little waves will ripple out exponentially as He has designed. I need to be just like that rock; stand firm, and let my little light shine! God will do the rest. The “Butterfly Effect” (A Book by Andy Andrews) is in motion.

A couple of minutes later, I took the same shot with a different aperture setting and it change the whole look. God said, just like this shot, you may not always be able to see what is going on or what will happen next. But the rock is still there and hasn’t changed. The water waves are still there, and the ripples are still going out whether I can see them or not. I have to trust. God sees and He knows what I can’t see and what I don’t know. If I trust Him, it doesn’t matter that I can’t see what is going on behind the scenes. He knows.

I am looking for what God has for me this year! I am expecting great things! I can trust Him to show me! The message I got at the beach last week was that I need to shine my light for all to see, however that works out in my life. I make not make a big splash, but I WILL affect people and the ripples will go out! That is what my calling is; encourage people to live their lives pursuing what God has for them, living it out in passionate pursuits, and to honor Him for the gifts He has given us to use for His glory. I hope you find some of that on this blog.

What a great picture story I was given. I was so excited! In what way do you want to be used by God this year? Have you taken the time to ask Him, and then listen to what He has for you? If you are quiet and tuned in, he WILL show you. Let the waves and ripples begin!

Walking the journey with you…

Are You Watching The Road Signs?

Do you ever go through a period of time that has been hard, and when you look back you wonder why it happened or even how you made it through? I know this has been true for me. As I was out on a photo shoot the other day by the railroad tracks, a thought came to me, “What if you didn’t HAVE to go through it like you did? What if you were watching the road signs I put out there for you? I gave you the signs.”

As I walked along the water, I thought about that. How many times has God given me road signs to warn me and I haven’t paid attention. I went ahead on my own steam FEELING like I was doing the right thing or going the right way. I can even talk myself into believing that God told me to go that direction. Well, maybe He did. But maybe He didn’t. God gives us warnings in our spirit when things aren’t quite right. It may be that still small voice that says, “You shouldn’t be here” or “You know this isn’t right”. Or maybe you are where you are and doing what you are doing because you don’t want to hurt someone. God has been tapping on your shoulder to tell you, it still isn’t where you should be, or what you should be doing. Can you relate?

So what can you do to be more in tune with His direction? God gave me a lesson on road signs when I went to a Beth Moore conference. I have adapted what I learned into my life and here is what I have learned. Watch for the STOP in your life where God wants you to STOP doing what you are doing, acting the way you are acting, or sliding in under the radar with things you shouldn’t be a part of. The things you need to STOP are the very things that can really get in the way of a deep relationship with Him.

Maybe you need to YIELD in areas of your life in order for you to hear where God WANTS to take you. It could be warning signs like the case of the railroad tracks where I was that day. He wants to tell you to be careful before you just set off. There could be danger there!

It could also be the GREEN LIGHT that tells you to go! I have given you what you need and now you just need to move forward with Me. Go where I have told you to go and do what I have told you to do. Be bold. Step out. If you listen, you will know the signs.

So ask God today where He wants you to STOP. Where do you need to YIELD? Ask Him to help you listen to the warnings that protect you. Lastly, ask Him for the boldness to GO where He would have you go, even if it might not FEEL like you want to. He says He will never leave us, and so we need to walk with Him and be in tune with His road signs.

I hope that as you journey through these days, that you will realize that you have something to share with someone else that they need to hear. So listen intently to His voice and let Him guide you with His road signs. You will never have to be concerned about a wrong turn; His ways are perfect! But should you miss a sign like I have, He is there to lovingly bring you back to the station! God bless you as you GO!

Does Your Life Need Balance?

The other day, I was out by the water here in Whatcom County and witnessed an interesting situation. Out on the channel there was a log with three seagulls perched on it. They were in perfect balance and enjoying the ride as they floated down the channel. I raised my camera to get a picture when all of a sudden, one decided to take off. What happened next was pretty funny but also an interesting life lesson. One of the seagulls decided to lift off and it left the other two struggling to maintain balance as the log shifted and moved. So I got the picture of the two seagulls who were left trying to work together to save themselves from having to leave the log. They raised their wings to maintain balance as they slowly moved up on the log. However, as they moved to correct themselves, the log also rotated, and so they were doing some pretty fancy foot work as they worked to stay on. Eventually, after each trying to right their position, it failed and they flew off. This whole scenario seemed like a great lesson in a balanced life for me.

We hear so much about the importance of keeping balance in our lives. We have a lot going on, and if we don’t maintain balance, one area of our life can get out of control and take over. We all know the story, right? Let’s think about the seagulls for a minute. Before the “situation” happened, they were just floating along enjoying the free ride down the channel. Then, the one decides to take off. No warning, no discussing it, just doing what that seagull wanted to do. But what was left in the wake of the one seagull leaving were the other two picking up the pieces of that one seagull’s decision. The other two of them scrambled trying to stay on for the ride. It was so easy when they were all together and no one else is messing around. Our life gets like that. One person does something, or a situation comes up, that sends us spinning out of control. Our life balance is totally off and we are dangerously close to upending our log and hitting the water in a belly flop. Oh, we try to adjust our lives at times with things such as time management, charts, clean and organizing our house, quit one thing to free the schedule, but then start something else. We try for a while to have more family time or time for the Lord in an effort to right our log, but it doesn’t last much longer then the float down the channel did for the seagulls. We flap and flutter, trying to do it by ourselves. We do the dance to stay on, flap our arms trying to keep from losing it, and end up leaving the log or, in other words, running away from the truth of what is really going on or how we feel.

So what is the answer? We need to have God on the log of life with us! I mean really. We trust Him with everything that is in us. Are we going to believe IN God or are you going to BELIEVE GOD? Just like He calmed the storm on water, He can calm the storms in our lives. If we partnered with Him to give us balance, we would have a different reaction when one decides to go off on some tangent of their own or life hits us full face. We still have God on our log to help us maintain balance. So we don’t have to do the happy feet to stay on, we can do the happy feet because God is there. He is reaching out to us to say, “keep your feet firm and stretch out those wings, catch the air and slowly move forward with me. I’m here.” You know what will happen?

He will give you a picture like He gave me that day! If our hearts are open to Him, He will speak to us through the simple things in our lives. He wants to remind us of His presence and to help measure our steps and stay on the log of life with Him. Lift your wings and let God be the wind beneath them, trusting that with His help, you can float down the channel of life and enjoy the scenery of life as you go! He may even ask you to dive in with Him! OR maybe you are the one leaving the log of the status quo to be lifted higher with Him!

God bless you as you invite Him onto your log to dangle your feet in the water together!

Will You Sell Out?

I have found it rather difficult lately to watch various people who will ditch their loyalty for the sake of recognition or money. Do those who do this think they will gain any kind of loyalty for themselves?  Oh, they might gain ATTENTION from those who just want to get the story, but nobody really likes a tattle tail. I have always felt that if you worked alongside someone, you were to respect and keep confidentiality a priority with them unless it brought immediate danger to them. They deserve the same when you leave or part ways also. But so many will do anything to gain notoriety or make some money off of someone’s life or circumstance. Do you think the question is ever asked, “Will I enhance or degrade this person’s reputation if I break their confidence?” It saddens me that many never seem to ask themselves that question.

I would venture to say that we all have things we do or say that we would rather not have others know about us. That reminds me of a speaker I heard that asked a great question. He said, what would we feel like if God showed our life on a big screen where everything we ever did, said, or acted like were played there for everyone to see. I don’t know about you, but there would be things I would not be proud to have shared with everyone. It is something that is between God and myself, and with the work of the Holy Spirit, I want to improve. Thankfully, God gives me His mercy for “do-overs and u-turns”.  It is my desire to journey further with the Lord and to edit my life movie so that I am more of what God would see as fitting for the big screen. I want Him to be honored in what I do, say and act like. No regrets. I want to give him the keys to my house and allow Him to clean my darkened rooms.

Now you may be thinking, “I would never say the things these television people and a few others I know, are saying about their friends or boss.” Oh yes, we do! This is key: How many of you have walked out of church, having had a great worship and fellowship experience with fellow believers, and then closed your car door and let fly about something you didn’t like about the sermon, the worship, a person, or something someone said to you? Yes…we DO sell out. I have sold out at times. We just aren’t making money or credit off of the story.

Will you sell out to satan’s plan? Will you justify your words or actions based on some reasoning that you have? Or, will you use your mouth to edify and build up and carry another’s burden by keep their confidences to yourself no matter what? I desire to bring glory to God through my mouth. I turn my keys over to Him. Have I arrived? Nope. Not yet. But am I aware that I need to? You bet! There… is my plumb line.