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Dusty Trails

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By: Carole L. Haines

Just shake it off, that dust from your feet. Simply shake it off.  This concept, from a familiar passage of Scripture, was illuminated by God for me through a Bible Study I am doing with a small group The Scripture is:

12 Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it. But if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matt. 10:14-15 HCSB)
Its context is the sending out of the 70 disciples. The  author went on to share how that dust of rejection, if not shaken off, can cling to you and really affect how you walk.
“To be given authorization to shake off rejection and disesteem is no small thing, it helps rescue the servant of Christ from a victim mentality. I get to choose whether or not this rejection accompanies me down the road. I refuse it the right to cling to my feet and affect how I walk. Rejection will not be my co traveler. I’m leaving it right where I found it.” (Beth Moore, THE QUEST, pg 119)

Jesus knew His disciples would encounter tough things out on the road. They would either be accepted or rejected. He was sending them out as sheep among wolves, as is stated a little further down in the Scripture passage.
Well, things haven’t changed much over two thousand years later. We are still finding ourselves as sheep among wolves and that dust is still mercilessly clinging to our feet.   The dust gets caught in the grooves of our sandals and hardens into hard lumps, causing us to walk unsteady and twist our spiritual ankles. God has me in a fantastic group of believers where I am learning to share freely, just exactly where I am, what kind of dust is still clinging to my feet, and how, by the Grace of God, to shake it off.  If you are not in a group like that, find one. If you need help finding one, leave a reply and I will tell you which ministry I am a part of for that purpose. Let’s pray together about freedom from the rejection we all encounter on our dusty trails.

Dearest Lord Jesus, I have twisted my spiritual ankles many times from all the rejection and misunderstandings I have experienced. I also know that I have caused others to twist their precious ankles, due to my lack of sensitivity to where they are at times.  You are still speaking those words to us who follow You today.
16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
We need You, dearest King, to teach us how to walk amid wolves, while avoiding becoming one ourselves. Teach us what it means to be shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.  Keep us close to You, gazing at You and following You step by Step. Thank you for the promise that You, who have begun this good work in each one of us, will be faithful to complete it. (Phil. 1:6) Amen

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Taking Life as He comes

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By: Carole L. Haines

I do a lot of thinking when I am doing chores around the house.  I have some real unspoken chats with God while folding laundry or unloading and reloading the dishwasher. This morning’s revelation had to do with my attitude toward adversity. Born and raised on the edges of a bustling and somewhat unstable Eastern City, I toughened up a little too much. I developed a ‘suck it up and move on,” way of living and thinking about life.  When it came to fight of flight, I was on both ends, either running away or fighting, usually the former, because the gal was usually bigger than I was. No one would know this by looking at me, I mean, I think I look fairly Middle-class now. But that was not my beginnings. As I pondered my tendency to “take it as it comes, roll with the punches,” and of course, “suck it up and move on;” God seemed to whisper to me. That whisper spoke so kindly and said, “How about taking Life as I come?”

Hmmmmmm, taking Life as He comes, as sovereignly from the hand of the God who loves me, who sought me out while I sat staring at stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross. To take Life from His hands as the One who formed me in my mother’s womb and knew every word I would ever speak before I spoke it (Psalm 139). Imagine receiving my everyday happenings as, not random and nonsensical things that just happen to me, but as drippings from the Honey-pot of God. Even the hard stuff, the tear-jerking moments, the painful stabs from my fellow humans. Can I embrace those prickly moments, the bloody nosed rags as from God’s hands?  Not all things come from God, but He is Sovereign over all and He makes some pretty amazing promises in His Word to me, like:

17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18 HCSB)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.    (1 Cor. 10:13)

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

And one of the most beautiful and encouraging verses ever penned by God:

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)

So take heart, Dear Fellow-Believer. Our God is mightily at work within us, through adversity, struggle and failure; but also, through blessings and His own loving Sovereignty. Join me in learning to take life as He comes and see all things as trickling through His loving and caring fingers. One of His most overlooked promises is that In this world you will have trouble, but the rest of the verse is priceless.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)

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THE DOMAIN OF DARKNESS

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By: Carole L. Haines

We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. 14 We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. (Colossians 1:9-13)

Clearly, I’m missing something here in this transference from the Domain of Darkness into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son. This transference is our spiritual reality, but some days I feel like I still have more parts of me stuck back there in the Dark Domain, than feeling like a Child of Light. I have wrestled with this truth, as well as the Scripture passage in 2 Corinthians 5:7, about being new creatures in Christ, often in my life. Paul speaks about the battle with his own dark side in Romans 7, concluding that he needed rescue from the body of this battle over flesh and spirit.  He kisses us with Romans 8:1, in the answering of his own question about deliverance: “There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

I have tended to think of verses 9-12, of Colossians 1, as a duty list that I must somehow conjure and keep, as a follower of Jesus Christ. But that is not what it is at all. It is a prayer of the Apostle Paul’s, over these precious believers in Colossae, to experience the reality of this transfer that has already taken place in the Spiritual Realm.

I have used this prayer to pray over my husband and children often, but never thought to speak it over myself, embracing it as my new, solid, and firm foundation. I have failed to fully embrace the new Reality into which I have been transferred. So, I will now speak it here:

God will fill me with His will, give me all wisdom and spiritual understanding. He will enable me to walk worthy of Him, fully pleasing Him. That’s my Spiritual inheritance. I will bear fruit in every good work, growing in my knowledge of God, because He is faithful and will finish what He has started. I will be strengthened with all power, not according to what I can conjure or manifest in my own strength, but according to His power, His glorious might. I will have all endurance, patience and joy available to me as I embrace my New Reality in Christ with every ounce of my spirit, soul and body. I will forever give thanks to my Heavenly Father who has enabled me to share in the inheritance of the Saints of Light. 

I have been, (paste tense-finished work) transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of my sins, fully. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, this is your new Reality. All that still feels somehow stuck in the Dark Domain is, in reality, already transferred. It’s the believing, embracing and walking out of our New Reality in Jesus that enable us to see ourselves as free from this once Dark Domain that ruled over and within us for too long.  Speak these truths out loud to yourself, and any discouraged Christian you may know. We need to rest in His promises, and not our feelings.

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Coming up from behind

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by: Carole L. Haines

And there it is, coming up from behind what was already there. An unexpected bloom, a place of blessing, a new way to minister to others. I have Orchids, and they are such amazingly delicate flowers, yet they do amazing things. They can sustain blooms for up to 4 months or more. Then they go into a time of dormancy that can last up to 9 months. I was caring for one of the four Orchid plants I have when I noticed new buds coming out just behind the current blooms.  I love this because, as the old blooms die, new ones are opening, to replace the color and beauty the old ones are losing.

Isn’t God just so amazing in how He designs life to work, both earthly and spiritually. There are times when our life can feel dormant, or stagnant, nothing new on the horizon. But God is always at work within us and around us. Like a master artist and designer, He is creating new growth that we cannot see yet, but it’s there, deep down, awaiting God’s call to come forth.
18 “Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old.
19 Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 HCSB)

I love that about God, He is always doing something new, bringing us new ways to honor Him and to serve Him.  He delights in surprising us with new opportunities and wonderful paths we’ve never been down before. Following Him is always an adventure .  But there are times of extended dormancy in our lives as well. Times of rest and training. Times of confusion and healing. Time much needed for our roots to grow deeper and our faith to become stronger. Ecclesiastes says it best:

The Mystery of Time
 There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven:
a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his struggles? 10 I have seen the task that God has given people to keep them occupied. 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 HCSB)

Are you in a time of new growth and blessing? Rejoice in it. But if you are in a time of dormancy, wait for the Lord there.  He is deep at work within you and around you, preparing new paths for you to walk, new ways to bring Him Glory. Watch for it, wait for Him. It may come in a very unexpected way, a bloom coming up from behind. An unexpected path into His Joy.

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Our Good Shepherd

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by: Carole L. Haines

Have you ever noticed how much a question mark looks like a Shepherd’s Staff?  I was in a Bible a Bible study the other day about questions in the Bible, and it just struck me how much the question mark looks like the staff of a Shepherd. Why hadn’t I noticed this before and is their a significance to that fact? As I pondered this, I began to see just how much of my life feels unsettled, like an unanswered question. I realized at this moment just how much I need Jesus, in the role of my Good Shepherd, to lead me. Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10:

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10”11-16 HCSB)

The Good Shepherd knows His Sheep. He knows us cover to cover. He knew us before we were even born (Psalm 139). We know our Shepherd, we come to recognize His voice, His leading. We really are blind to the dangers of this world. For me, the Wolf is the World, and the harshness of life. The World can offer us things and entice us with its contrived promises.  But Jesus delivers His own life for us.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. We are safe with Him, cared for, protected. He will fight for us, stand in the gap, rescue us when we have strayed.
The hired man in this passage is all the other people and things we have turned to besides Jesus. These people, even the good ones, can’t keep all the promises, they’re frail and needy, just like us. The other things we’ve turned to have failed us time and time again, leaving us with unanswered questions and wounded hearts. But the Good Shepherd, with His Shepherd’s Staff shaped like a Question mark, is the answer to all our questions.  Are you feeling perplexed, alone and in need today? Does your life feel like one huge unanswered question? Turn to the Good Shepherd, Lean into Him, Rest in Him. He will never leave you nor forsake you, like the other things that have failed you. He will fight for You and He proved His love for you in laying down His life, so that you might have life abundantly. Read all of John 10 today, and marvel at Your Good Shepherd.

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Those Pesky Thorns

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by: Carole L. Haines
One Easter morning, several Seasons ago, I was removing the Crown of thorns from the cross outside my house, and the black drape that had displayed the reminder of His death for two days. I then placed the white flower wreath around the head of the cross and draped the arms in white. As I laid the pieces on the ground, I began to wonder whatever happened to Jesus’ actual crown of thorns. I recently saw on the news, during the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, that there was a relic housed there that is said to be that crown of thorns.
Thorns have been with us since the fall of Creation. The Scriptures tell us this in Genesis:

The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor
all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field. (
Genesis 3:17-18 HCSB)

They are a result of the fall of man.  My Pastor recently said that they represent sin, and as you study them in the Bible, that sure makes sense. They show up in many ways. In three instances in Scripture, they are used as a metaphor for the people the Israelites did not drive out from the land. God says that these people would be thorns in their eyes and in their sides, and that their false gods would be a trap and snare to them. (Num. 33:55, Joshua 23:13, Judges 2:3) In this instance they are the result of disobedience in following God’s command.  In the book of Judges, they are used as an instrument of punishment (Judges 8:4-17). People are said to be entangled in them; they are what overgrows everything when not tended to. They are mentioned often as what is gathered and burned.
Most famously we have the New Testament references of the Crown of thorns Jesus wore, and the thorn in the flesh spoken of by the Apostle Paul.

As I stood there pondering the question of Christ’s Crown of Thorns, God began to weave together for me the picture of each of us carrying a thorn in our flesh from Jesus crown.
As Paul spoke of these thorns in the flesh, he said this:
Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 HCSB)

This picture of a thorn from Jesus’ Crown being given to each of us to carry, as a thorn in our flesh, has blessed me many times in my own personal struggles. Paul said the thorn was given to him to keep him from exalting himself. Even so, I believe our thorns keep us from this same snare. The thorn I asked to have removed early in life was social anxiety disorder. Instead of removing it, God is always placing me in situations, where I am used to speak, teach, share, or sing publicly. Each time, I do it afraid, leaning on Him for the ability and stability to bring Him glory.  Writing is so much easier because I can hide behind this computer alone, typing away. I pray that the Lord will bless you with that picture as you struggle with your own thorns in the flesh. Picturing it as one of the precious thorns that pierced our Savior’s brow, and is tipped with His blood, may just make it feel more like a privilege than a burden.

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That Confusing Saturday

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by: Carole L. Haines

I can’t imagine how depressed those disciples must have felt when they awoke to the reality of Saturday morning. The day after having lived the most horrific day in history.  Good Friday is what we call it, but from their perspective  it was anything but good. For three years they had followed Him. Three Years of transformation, expectation, reformation. Three years of physically being with Jesus every day. Waking up every day to a new adventure. Who would he heal today? What would He say? Where would He take us? Wonderful questions to wake up to. Everyday filled with anticipation.

I can’t imagine the confusion of Saturday, with the glaring reality of His crucifixion still throbbing in their memories. They way a fresh cut throbs, and we wince every time we accidentally bump it. That stab of pain shooting through us reminding us that we are wounded. Heads pounding from dehydration as they cried out all their tears ‘til none were left to cry. Eyes swollen from the constant stream of salty moisture. That broken-hearted realization of knowing there would be no adventure today. No one healed, no new word from Him, no place to go, no one to lead them.  Saturday is barely even mentioned in the narrative of the Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew reveals what happened.

The Closely Guarded Tomb

62 The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive He said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come, steal Him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ Then the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “You have a guard of soldiers,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” 66 Then they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting the guard.

Just ponder those words for a minute.  Jesus is referred to as a deceiver. Th last deception would be worst than the first, they say.  Isn’t it just like satan, the great deceiver of the world, to point the finger at Jesus, claiming he is the one who deceived?

Jesus had told them he would rise again on the third day, but grief and confusion had caused them to all but forget that promise.  They wrapped him up with 75 pounds of spices. They did not anticipate Jesus rising. Do we wrap Him up too? Do we forget his promises on our own Despairing Saturdays?  Let’s sit in wonder of that day of hiding in fear the disciples went through, that day of grief beyond their ability to express. We know the end of the story they forgot that day. Meditate on its dark wonder today.

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