Watching for Parables

Life flies by so fast!

My earliest memory is lying on a blanket outside as a baby, in the front yard of our house in Whitefish, Montana. We were just 2 blocks from the railroad, where my dad worked. It was a very nice day. The most vivid point of that memory is our family dog licking my face, and I felt so loved. I don’t have a lot of memories from that time of my life; but isn’t it interesting that I could draw conclusions from what was happening to me even while being so young!

Life, I think, is full of parables, if we can slow down long enough to see what’s going on. What expression just sparked through a loved ones’ countenance? Why? Our child just said what? The garden yielded what? My thought life just pondered what? That pot of soup to a sick friend. The joke. The ambulance ride. The hike. The sunset.

Sometimes I think God was “jumping and yelling” and I didn’t tune in enough to see the jewels placed right at my feet. Other times, I just ignored them. After all, if I chose to stop and “see” what God was showing me; I’d have to do something with it. Sometimes I get lazy, or just plain don’t want to change, or act. You?

Jesus spoke often in parables, and did so quite purposely. We hear Jesus Christ say in several places “He who has ears, let him hear…”

The parable is a way to speak to people about God or the “things of God” like righteousness, truth, peace, etc., without using the Name of God or quoting scripture directly. It uses things or situations the receiver easily understands to point to God (His Person, character, or other attributes) but doesn’t directly introduce God into the story. Often they use stand-ins for God, like the woman sweeping her whole house looking for one lost coin.

Lk 15:8-10 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” NKJV

Or, like the book of Esther. God’s Name is not once mentioned, but we understand much about God through the words and deeds of both Esther and Mordecai, as well as the king. We see God as an ardent proponent of His People. A provider, a defender, a long and short-term planner, and a friend and mentor to the faithful. We also see God giving choices, and pausing before His next move – to allow us to choose to follow; to sway us, rather than force us.

Est 4:13-17 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.  NKJV

So, then, the hearer of a parable, once the story is finished, chooses to respond – to engage, or not, but the “teller” has done their job. Jesus spoke in parables to those not in his inner circle all the time. They had permission to follow Him into the Kingdom of Heaven, or to walk away.

Mt 13:34-35 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

“I will open My mouth in parables; 

I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” NKJV

But there’s more…of course there’s more! There is the moment of bliss when you, having chosen to engage with Holy Spirit, have your mind opened to new things. That deeply personal bonding; being drawn closer to each other because God reached out to you in a moment of time, or words from a friend. Maybe it’s a place of renewal as you see something new in a verse you’ve read many times.

Pr 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. NKJV

The parable is a whisper, not a shout, or a direct “hit.” The epiphany that follows can certainly shake you, though!

1 Ki 19:11-13 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NKJV

A parable is a gilded box full of wondrous gifts. You just need the desire, and the drive to open it. To watch, listen, be engaged with what is happening around you.

God is speaking – showing you things every day. Be sure to stay tuned in, watching for His parables.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
September 4, 2021

Re-renewing Our Minds – Fact Checking Tradition vs. Truth

Do we question enough? Do we seek to replace old information – or traditions, with better understandings? Are we re-teachable? Do we re-renew our minds, or stand on old information because searching is work?

There’s an old game with a great lesson – several people line up side by side, then the 1st person whispers a short story to the 2nd person in line. The 2nd person repeats it to the 3rd, and so on, until the last individual tells the group what they heard. The outcome is usually quite amusing, and the longer the line, the more the story changes. Sometimes it is quite unrecognizable from the very 1st whisper given.

Certainly, not all traditions are lies. They can be comforting; meant to be a place of truth or commonality that everyone can share – like Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving, at least at my house. Tradition, however, should be qualified by scripture. The death of a longstanding lie, or tradition, occurs when people realize they have listened and believed without fact checking – without putting the verse in context, so they know that its meaning is the same as when it was originally spoken. That’s one reason God urged early New Testament (NT) followers to write things down. A lot of arrogant, or misinformed people were leading new believers astray, like the Jewish converts that demanded circumcision as an “entrance fee” to the new faith. Paul spoke against this practice as the numbers of non-Jewish people entering the faith was growing rapidly.

Gal 6:15-16 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. NKJV

The civilization of that era was based in many oral traditions, and many stories were recited thousands of times to crowds of people and children, so they learned the lesson by heart, and without variance. They weren’t whispered into a single ear – they were “shouted” to many, and the many repeated back as one, over and over again. That is how their faith remained pure. A single person whispering lies would hit an insurmountable wall of people who knew the truth, and there the lie would fall to its death.

As the world grew and people of faith either went out into it, or resided in that world without a lot of support, and needing a foundation to share by, letters were written to help them understand, remember (Phil 3:1), and share their faith effectively. These “books” (the NT) became the wall that lies would hit, and die.

Even children are called to embrace their faith with personal zeal rather than just walking contentedly in their parents’ shadow, without fact checking. If we only walk in the shade of others, we’ll fall when we have to walk on our own. The “bright lights” of opposing viewpoints never openly dealt with can blind us to truth when we have not embraced it for ourselves. John (the Baptist), and Jesus Christ are examples of children who pursued their personal relationship with God, and were mighty ministers because of it. (Of course, their families, leaders, and synagogues encouraged and participated in their growth.)

Lk 1:80 So the child (John) grew and became strong in spirit… NKJV

Lk 2:40 …the Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. NKJV

Young people are also called to reason with people of faith, to learn, and to share their understanding and respectful zeal.

Lk 2:41-47 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast…Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. NKJV (Special note – I am NOT advocating that you ditch your parents in a crowd! 😊)

At what point do we have the skill to teach? That is up to our own efforts, our elders, and God, who is patient with us. In the NT we see people enter discipleship to teach as late teens (like Timothy in Acts) or much later in life, like Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), depending on when they heard God’s Truth, and pursued it.

For devout Jews, like Paul, who was an expert in OT knowledge, it meant going back and re-evaluating, praying through what he had been taught against the truth of Christ now lain before him.

Ac 9:11-19 So the Lord said to him (Ananias), “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” …So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. NKJV

The truth had to hit Paul (then called Saul) so hard to wake him from his zeal for tradition that Paul was left stunned deep within his soul, “blinded by the light,” fasting and praying, and needing a more mature believer to come to him, to pray with him, so he could heal. God sent Ananias, and Paul became an apostle, a writer of many NT epistles, planted numerous churches, raised up many leaders, and eventually gave his life to this cause.

All from re-renewing. From searching out truth, rather than just accepting the practices and ideas of others. The Bereans are complimented for fact checking Paul’s teachings against scripture after listening to him speak! (Acts 17:11) They “raised the wall” of truth in front of him, and his words proved accurate.

Look – no longstanding, Holy Spirit-filled preacher or teacher of God’s Word won’t occasionally say something like “I used to teach this, but I have studied more, listened to experts, and changed the way I think, act, and teach because of it.”  Our own dear pastor regularly challenges us to challenge her. Who does that? People who are more worried about Holy Spirit being grieved (Eph 4:20-32), than about how they might look in the moment. People who are purposely re-renewing their mind…like Apollos in the book of Acts.

Ac 18:24-28 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.  And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. NKJV

Apollos was doing a good job to begin with, but, because he was still teachable, even though he was already “eloquent and mighty in the scriptures” he was able to go even further and change the lives of even more people in Jesus’ Name.

The active faith in our souls is crying out to God for “more” all the time. God answers. In the bible are many discoveries waiting to enhance your relationship with God. Reading to understand; to be corrected, to discover new truths (Prov 25:2) – it’s a bit like the “date night” a married couple wisely maintains in order to grow together, rather than become stagnant – lost in repetitions (traditions) of their everyday lives.

Let’s question even more – are our local or national traditions Godly? What about traditions or practices in our own homes and schools? Those verses we heard spoken of, but never looked up for ourselves, never pondered – was that teaching complete and in context? How do we know?

Are we allowing ourselves to be led toward Christ, or just led???

Col 2:4-10 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. NKJV

Jesus Christ Himself warned against traditions of men being allowed to override God’s Purposes and commandments.

Matt 15:3-9 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?  For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God” – then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.  Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

“These people draw near to Me with their mouth,

And honor Me with their lips,

But their heart is far from Me.  (heart – kardia #2588, the mind, intellect, thoughts)

And in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” NKJV

Mk 7:13b …And many such things you do.” NKJV

Let’s practice our faith carefully, having good reasons for our actions and beliefs, so the next worldly principal that comes by doesn’t mess with us. Let’s enjoy saying to each other “Where does it say that?” Then, let’s set off together on a mini adventure of discovery in God’s Word!

There is an expanded study on this subject in “Digging Deeper”, for those who want to start asking questions right away!

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
September 4, 2021

Just Say It Already

You have to give credit to Ananias. Really – would you have gone and prayed for Hitler?? At the point that God told Ananias to go to Saul, soon to be known in Christendom as Paul, Saul was well known for being the one person that fought against the new “Jesus” sect most efficiently, and most zealously.

His victims were too many to count, and he didn’t care who they were. Zeal was a constant lifestyle for this up-and-coming young Jew, always had been – always would be. Yes, he was a student of Gamaliel, who taught in the school of Hillel in Jerusalem. To Gamaliel, the call was prayerful peace and standing aside for God to do His Work…waiting on The Lord (Acts 5:33-42). But Saul’s actions more suited the other school of thought in Jerusalem, the school of Shammai, who saw action, including war, as the tool to lead Israel to victory over its oppressors (See N.T. Wright’s “Paul” pg 36). Being from Tarsus originally, Paul had seen closely how Romans behaved, and it reviled him. He chose the path of zeal, like Phinehas (Num 25:6-12) and many others before him, convinced deeply that this was the way to drown this man Jesus out of traditional Judaism in the midst of Israel. To him, these new followers of “The Way” were a pox on their faith.

That is who God told Ananias of Damascus to go visit; who he was to touch and pray for – the oppressor of Jesus’ people.

Ananias did not just say “As you wish” and skip out the door. He was genuinely frightened. He hesitated. And THEN, he questioned. He questioned God Almighty! Even as I write this, I know I have done the same. And yet, I, and Ananias, live! What boundless love our Savior has for us! Worship God, my friends!

Ac 9:10-17 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”  And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

And Ananias went his way and entered the house… NKJV

Basically, God told Ananias “I know who he is. Your job is to pray for him, MY Job is to change him.” Our problems, once stated out loud, become God’s problems. We no longer deal with them alone, nor of our own understanding. God loves it when we hand them over, even in the form of a question. God always has solutions, and He wants to bring you in, and make you a part of them; by your choice – the choice He gave us when He created us. Whether short, or long-term solutions, we get to be a cog in the wheel, instead of being ground into the dirt underneath it.

That begins with us telling God what we are really thinking…openly and honestly. Even when we disagree. Even when we are afraid, reluctant, or confused – find one bible hero who did not go through that – none were worthy on their own. God’s move within them made them capable; Jesus’ sacrifice made them worthy. What we do see is people in the bible having their panic attacks, deep doubts, intense questions, and fears “out loud”, in front of God. They don’t try to hide it, but are open about their doubts and weaknesses. This is a perfect opportunity for God to show Himself Strong – it’s what Holy Spirit is watching for. Humility, with an open ear, and a willing heart.

Jdg 6:12-27 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man…” Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace.

So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. NKJV

Lk 1:30-38 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” NKJV

These few examples can be seen playing out over and over again in scripture, and, if we look carefully, in our own walks of faith. Yes, we have questions, problems, and doubts. God has resolutions, relationship, and strength to give us.

Remember, God knows what you’re thinking (Luke 11:17, among many), so not saying it only withholds resolution, and a closer walk with Jesus. God is near, and waiting.  Just say it, already!

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
August 31, 2021

Having Seconds

I often say that anger is a secondary emotion. We experience anger because we experience some other emotion first, whether good or bad, correct or incorrect. Likewise, actions are based on decisions we have made – the result of our thought processes – again – correct or incorrect. It isn’t always wrong, in other words, to be angry. One can think of many things that make us angry, and rightly so, like someone lying under oath in court. There are also times when anger is wrong, and we can probably think of more examples here. Like someone telling the truth in court…about us.

So, let’s think about the root of some of our behaviors and thought processes, so we can put a nail in them when wrong, and pursue them if correct.

Since we have been talking about anger, let’s start there. If anger is “having seconds”, that means something else comes first. Jesus experienced this:

Mk 3:3-6 And He (Jesus) said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.”  Then He said to them (Pharisees, and others who were watching), “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. NKJV

Some people around Jesus would have held Him to a law they interpreted as meaning that no exertion of one’s self could occur on the Sabbath. Jesus knew God would never wait to heal someone based on the day of the week. It was hard heartedness for them to think so. He was angered by their disregard for this hurt soul, and because of the perverted way they chose to think about the situation, using it to try to hurt Him, while then leaving another in pain. So, Jesus’ first response was the wellbeing of another, and anger at those who put their own agendas before God’s agenda.

When we are set to respond in anger, we need to weigh our actions first. Is it appropriate to the problem, and based on God’s agenda, rather than our own, or someone else’s? If not, time to go to the bible and prayer matt, and find out how God wants us to handle things. That is not to say we leave things unresolved forever, but that we seek God’s Will for resolution, rather than exerting our own will outside of Holy Spirit’s guidance. I can tell you from personal failures, extended silence is not the answer. Neither, however, is immediate response when it takes on inappropriate expression.

What about rebellion? We see it mentioned in the bible all the time, as well as expressed in everyday life around us. We hear about it, and sometimes behave in that manner. But, rebellion is not a “first”. If you are participating in rebellion, you are “having seconds.” (As a review, the word often used for “heart” in the New Testament is “kardia”, which here (below) refers to the mind, understanding, or intelligence. In the Blue Letter Bible App on your phone, see word #G2588, or just tap on the verse, go to interlinear, and tap on the word you want to look up.)

Heb 3:7-14 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.'”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…NKJV

Rebellion is unbelief; a result of hardening ourselves by regularly participating in sin, rather than repenting of it (believing God), which is a test for all of us. Do we choose to walk God’s Way, or to walk regularly in sinfulness, which will darken our understanding and lead us to embrace rebellion; defending our own bad choices?

Obedience can be a tough “second”, but is a beautiful expression of love. Yes, obedience comes from real love. The kind of love that puts God first, then others. An unexpected side effect of obedience is understanding. Understanding who God is, and what God is up to…even why. Participating (obeying) in the work of Jesus Christ, teaches us His Purposes. We can’t see the finish line if we don’t enter the race. From participation comes wisdom, and friendship with God. Wow!

Jn 14:21 “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”  MESSAGE

I wish I could tell you that I am at the point of sleeping through a storm while in the bough of a boat, but I am not. I can tell you I find wonderment in the storm, and am much better at holding God’s Hand while watching the storm unfold than I used to be. Over time, God’s Peace is a place I have learned to seek, and I really enjoy hanging out with God in tough times, reading His Word, and looking forward to God showing me what was going on in that storm. When I have peace, it is second to turning away from the world’s interpretation of trouble, and reaching out to Holy Spirit for guidance, and companionship.

Jn 14:25-28 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  NKJV

“Seconds” can be a good thing, or something to avoid – may God grant us wisdom to discern them, and courageous strength in our choices.

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

August 27, 2021

Personality Test

There are a ton of personality tests, and I have taken many. Some are strictly ridiculous in nature, but some can provide  some interesting windows into the workings of each of our particular natures. 

Many years ago now, the company I was working for was bought out, and there were changes on the horizon. I decided if  the possibility existed that my job might go away, I wanted any career change that I had to make perfect sense for me. I  didn’t want to just go out and grab a job, but wanted it to be something I could honestly “rest” in – something I enjoyed,  that used my particular skill set well, and something that “enjoyed me”. You know, a place where you feel like you are a  piece of the puzzle that was naturally cut for that hole, not one sawed up so it fit, so to speak. In the end, I kept my job,  but the test started me learning new things about myself, and personalities in general. 

I paid good money to take the advanced, full-featured Briggs Meyers test. I had taken a shorter version in college, and it  seemed scientific in nature, accurate, and challenging, rather than a “cutesy” sort of test like some I had taken. The results  showed me to be of the smallest percentage of personalities in the world, which answered one big question I had always  had. “Why don’t people ‘get’ me?” Reasonably, the smaller percentage personality type one expresses, the more  experience is required to really know that person. Since then, I have had a lot more grace for people thinking they know  what I am thinking or feeling. It used to just annoy me. I have also developed a great affinity for those who take the time  to get to know me, rather than assume, and I love them through mistakes, because I can see they are trying. I have a lot of  respect for someone who is really making an effort, even in failure. 

But, does having a rare personality type, or, indeed, one that is common, give someone a “pass” to behave in certain  ways? Do the 10 commandments in Exodus chapter 20, or the Law of Love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 become somehow  amended to allow for the subtleties of different personality types – their likes, dislikes, giftings, or callings? I have come  to believe the opposite. 

If I don’t allow someone time to get to know me, that is a lack of patience, which is unloving. If I am simply an impatient  person on a general basis, that is self-worship, which demotes our Lord, and makes me my own idol. That breaks the  commandment to have no other gods before Jehovah, in Exodus 20, verse three. It is possible to come up with a whole  book full of examples along these lines. 

In short, my personality is no excuse for my sins, bad habits, or shortcomings. But, and we don’t think of this as often as  we should, it is no validation of my achievements either. Whatever gifts I have were given, not taken; not “won”. It is a  responsibility, and privilege, to use them to glorify God, and any success I have there is a gift, in itself, from Holy Spirit;  like the breath of life. Our process, and, indeed, speed of growth as Christians reflects our willingness, or unwillingness,  to use the free will God gave us to cooperate with our Creator in His Plan to mold us further into His Image, all the way to  the day we pass fully into God’s Presence. We are never complete to the point we can just sit and revel in our own  successes. 

Still, those times when you really know that God just used your cooperation through Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s  Purposes are some of the most wonderful in our lives. The euphoria of the knowing makes you want to go out and do it  again, right away. Then, there is peace in knowing that we CAN cooperate with God, and that, whatever is happening  around us, God IS working in us, as well as through us, and the world will be changed by our little episodes of  cooperation to His Glory! 

Our personality type, though evident as we walk through life, cannot stop God’s Plan, but can be used to cooperate with  God’s plan by our own choice. Or, we can refuse, and God will use another, like Esther, to achieve the freedoms He has  for us all. 

In my heart, I want to be like Esther, who chose freeing her people over her own life. 

Est 4:13-16 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any  more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from  another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a  time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” NKJV 

Or like Paul, abandoning the life of a respected Pharisee for the achievement of God’s goals for His people, even at the  cost of looking like a fool to those who had seen Paul as having great (but lost) potential. Truly, they tried to kill him  because of it. 

Ac 9:24-30 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples  took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket…And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and  disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to  Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. NKJV 

Two very different personalities, different lives, at different times in history. Both fashioned by Christ, both used for His  Glory. Both expressed cooperation with God (even in the midst of fear of death) and were used by Holy Spirit in a manner  that expressed their personalities, but, to a much greater extent, expressed God’s personality to others. These expressions  of who they were, cooperating with who God IS, displayed the miraculous work Holy Spirit had done in their lives. 

That is our real personality test. Are we cooperating with God, using who we are, to be who Christ created us to be, rather  than just achieving personal goals based on our own likes and dislikes, and believing we should get the credit??? Are we  reaching toward the goal(s) Christ has set for us, stretching and being stretched, loving because we are loved? 

Php 3:12-14 I don’t mean to say that I (Paul) have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I  press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved  it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the  race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. NLT 

Blessings! 
Leaona Huston 
August 20, 2021

Catastrophe and Overcoming

I like to watch catastrophe movies. You know – earthquakes, tornados, sun explosions – movies where stuff blows up, but then people overcome. I watch a whole movie to see them standing together looking into the sunset knowing there is going to be another day, and they are together, and they have overcome.

What does it mean to overcome? Why is it so appealing to the human soul? Oxford Languages defines it as “succeeding in dealing with (a problem or difficulty). It’s different than succeeding in business, because there may be no other reward except knowing we have stood together, and the battle has been won. No money changes hands, but there is sweet relief.

Catastrophe comes in many different packages. Sometimes physical, sometimes political, sometimes emotional. We had a ripping storm here early this summer, and had what I believe to be a microburst on the property next to ours. We were on the back porch watching the amazing storm roll through when it hit. I have never seen so much debris thrown into the air at once. It came at us in a huge wave, mowing down foliage and small trees in seconds, and it took 2 days to clean up the mess. When I finished the yard work, I felt relieved, and things looked better than they had before the storm hit us. There wasn’t time to pray for deliverance, but overcoming the damage the storm caused left me feeling victorious…and tired.

Emotional catastrophes can take a lot longer to endure, and to overcome. In the middle, there is only faith. Sure, we know things just aren’t right. Sure we can complain (let’s be honest – we complain), seek counsel, shelter ourselves with friends and love, but it isn’t over until it’s over. Catastrophe somehow becomes a breathing organism with a cattle prod with our name on it. Faith gets us through with a sense of victory, rather than just exhaustion from the overcoming. For Christians, there is a sense of calm in the storm that does not deny the storm, but embraces a victory that has not yet arrived, and maybe cannot be seen. We can do that because we have seen God deliver us before, from the moment of our salvation. Our memories of God’s goodness sustain us as we wait for His Purposes to be fulfilled. And we know, because we know how the “story” ends, that God is going to kick evil’s butt. And we know that we get to see it happen, and maybe even participate – to roll up our sleeves and overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21) Many times those who don’t know Jesus see us as complacent, or weak, because they don’t know how faith sustains us, and are unfamiliar with waiting on an unseen purpose, or answer. Sometimes, we even have to remind one another, when the battle is raging. Waiting on God is part of overcoming, and deliverance.

Psalm 116: 1-14: I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary (naïve); when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.” What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

As we wait, we must lovingly remind ourselves and each other that if God is an overcomer, then God’s people will also overcome. It might not look how we think it must be, but God will overcome. Instead of worrying about whether or not He will overcome, we should worry about whether we are helping or hindering God’s Plan. Our fate, after all, is to work together with God for His Purposes. In the meantime, storms will rage. But, we are not alone, or abandoned, EVER.

Romans 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long’ we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are m ore than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Stand with me, ye overcomers!
Blessings!
Leaona Huston
August 7, 2021

The Pit

There are so many pits in life! Very basically, they fall into 2 categories. Ones that are put in front of us, and ones we drive around looking for – then jump in. I don’t mean tests, although there is often a test along with a pit. I mean painful situations – really painful. Unfair, emotionally exhausting, restrictive, stealers of hope, and the list goes on. And, because it’s a pit (however you got there); you can’t just “walk away.” One must climb out. The laws of physics require upward movement to free oneself from a pit. Physically, this makes sense.

Emotionally, it can be difficult to see a way out of a steep, slippery slope; our vision might be clouded by the lack of light in the pit. We may be so distraught that the answer is not totally clear.

I was a police dispatcher for years, and it was a regular occurrence that we had to help someone clear their head enough to be able to properly understand the situation in a very stressful time – and quickly. We did this by helping them mitigate their emotional overload just enough, or just long enough, to get the critical information. “Take 1 deep breath for me, and let’s start again…”  These people were not inherently weak, or feeble minded – they were overwhelmed. It was understandable, but it was also a deterrent to resolution. It happens to everyone. When it happens, someone, or something, must draw our “vision” upward so we can see our way out.

But even then, we are still very much IN the pit. The climb is yet to be accomplished, and for that we need help. IF we look up, and IF we ask for help, there are people ready and waiting. If we don’t look up – if we don’t ask for help – we won’t see the rope dangling from the precipice, waiting to be used; waiting to lift us to safety, where our wounds can be healed. Looking up won’t make the pit go away – it will give us hope to endure, and the ability to see our way to freedom.

So – raising our arms in submission, we grab the rope and help our rescuers pull us up, back into a safe community where people are there to help us tend our wounds, if we let them. If we lash out, we may well fall back into the pit, and have to begin the rescue process all over again, or shrivel and die in darkness and seclusion. For the most part, sooner or later, we grab the rope. We move upward, toward the light.

For me, the first morsel of light is scripture. When life is kicking my butt, either because I dove in or was pushed, God’s light shines through His Word, and then I can see where the rope is. Sometimes it is obvious – right in front of me. Sometimes God has to gently turn me so I can see it. God won’t make us climb; but will give us the opportunity. We can accept help, or lay in darkness.

But when we reach up, we are pulled out. Once out, we get a shower, change clothes, get fed and rested, and rejoin our friends. Later, we might be able to help another who’s fallen in the same hole. We know the terrain, after all, so – once free – we may well have vital info to share to help others. God likes to send people to help people.

As well, once free, we have the choice to either refuse to jump in that pit again, or to look up quickly and seek help if we do fall; maybe even when we find ourselves on the edge, before we jump or slip back in…right?!

Ps 143:1-9

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
In Your faithfulness answer me,
And in Your righteousness.
Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous.

For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in darkness,
Like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.

Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
In You I take shelter.   NKJV

God’s purpose is always His Glory (the display of pure truth and actions of a pure Master, that must be noticed and acknowledged), and our glorious redemption. As His Image bearers, we have been given free will – a deposit of His Sovereignty, meant to be used for godly purposes. We can choose to cooperate, be rescued, and LIVE reflecting His Glory, or we can choose to languish in darkness whether there by our own choice, the choice of others, or by “accident.”

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
August 4, 2021

Gifts

I remember my Dad, many years ago, saying that, when his 3 children were born, he had no idea how many grandchildren, and great grands, would follow.  He was amazed. He loved children so much, and it was a blessing to him to watch them, and to play with them, to fish with them, or just throw them a ball. He actually went to one of my daughter’s classes and helped each one build a bird house, with pieces he had assembled in weeks previous to his visit.

I have 3 grandchildren of my own now, so I finally understand what my dad was saying, with a greater emotional sense, if you get my meaning.  I am walking in his shoes. These children amaze me. My oldest is an organizer, and I am always impressed at the way he sets things up and even his play area is organized. (Neither of my kids had that gift!) The middle grand is an explorer, and likes to work construction. Of course, they are all inquisitive, and I love watching them play.

My daughter had quite a time carrying my youngest grand, as he was busy from the get go. There were lots of times she thought he was going to “dance on out” of the womb ahead of time, he was so active. When he was born, he was the buffest baby I have ever seen.  He had well defined muscles rather than the normal, cute baby pudge. I guess it was all the intra-womb calisthenics. As his momma loved and played music all during pregnancy, music has been a big deal to him from the start, and he absolutely loves to dance. His daddy owns a trucking company…interesting combo…no? At 1 ½ years old, he already likes to sit with daddy in the truck, and digs into the tool box to “help” daddy to make repairs. It will be interesting to watch all that play out! I don’t recall ever reading “dancing” and “trucker” in the same sentence.

Loving music as he does, he hangs out with the musicians at church, helping them play, and dancing.  Deep inside, expressing himself in that way is just a part of him. Recently, he gave us quite a show. His crazy-favorite song is All Star by Smash Mouth. The other day my daughter sent me a video of her encouraging him while he danced with abandon as that music video played, and it was so engaging. The kid was going nuts, and didn’t care who was watching! He was finding all kinds of ways to make his body move to the beat, and when the music ended, he yelled “wow!” out loud. There is no telling what he will do in God’s Kingdom with all that energy and love of music, but it will be wonderful to wait and find out. In the meantime, it is a gift to watch him express himself.

God plants within us many things – different as we are. The question for some is “what is it?”, and for others “what do I do with it?” For all of us, there is a call to follow Christ in character building so He can do the great things He has planned, and watch us blossom in the Kingdom as well as our own soul, which He dearly loves. God builds us as we go, and there is a wonderous feeling when we express ourselves in the ways we are gifted – that feeling that says “this is what I was born to do.” An inner joy and satisfaction. We need to “listen” to our souls for those feelings, so we know what it is and then listen to Holy Spirit to find out the greater purpose of our lives, whatever that is.

We all want to be content with our lives, but none of us want it for ourselves more than God wants it for us. He wants to watch us lovingly exercising His gifts with crazy joy, then saying “wow!” and dropping to the floor for a rest before we start again. He also wants us to happily step back and watch others lovingly express their gifts, cheering them on.

We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139) We are all deeply known by God, and we are all gifted by God. Holy Spirit does not select just a few, but gives to all for the good of one another. Sometimes we even need to look to our church community to tell us our giftings, and to pray for their actualization. Other times we just know, and people around us confirm it as we walk through life. Either way, we can embrace our gifts as presents from God, and for one another.

1 Cor 12:4-7 and 11: Now there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…(11) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.  NIV

Spend peaceful time with Jesus, let Him tell you about your gifts and calling. Learn, grow, be encouraged.  Make mistakes, get up, try again. Hone your skills. Then, get out there and dance…express your gifts with love, encouraging others, and reaping Holy Spirit Joy in God’s timing.

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

July 16, 2021

Shattered

There are those moments – few, but excruciatingly painful. Few, because we don’t let hundreds of people into our inner circle – thank God. Excruciating because the people we do let into our inner circle see our vulnerabilities, weaknesses, victories, and strengths, so trust builds up as we walk together. Trust does not guarantee the results of hope, though. We hope our closest people are totally trustworthy, but people (including each of us) fail, taking others with them as they fail.

Our hopes are sometimes dreams – illusions. Jesus didn’t have those illusions about the people He loved.  He knows us for the sum total of who we are. He knew everyone around him for the sum total of who they were. And, He knew Himself completely, so didn’t let people sway Him.

Jn 2:23-25 During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many…noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. (The Message)

Fully aware that Judas was handing Him over to abject torture and death, Jesus still allowed Judas to kiss him! (Matt 26:49) I would have pushed Judas away! Judas betrayed Christ and sent Him to the cross. Peter denied his friend, Jesus, to keep himself from a cross. All the 12 except Saint John ran from the crucifixion to preserve their own lives, and left Jesus hanging without their protection, or company.

Not enough – to be betrayed, denied, and ditched by His friends. Judas led an army of locals with him, wielding swords and clubs. Were any of them people Jesus had healed??? The local leadership tried Jesus in front of everyone, at night, and people lined up to lie about Him. The same people who had been following Him around town. The whole community got in on the action. To top it off, Pilate let a murderer go free and let Jesus’ own people send Him to the cross. Knowing him innocent of the charges, Pilate, a leader, preserved himself, and peace in the community, by killing Jesus.

Our Lord responded in the moment. He didn’t wait to send greetings from heaven. Jesus prayed for all his abusers as they continued to sneer at Him and mock Him, while raised in the air, arms stretched and aching, gasping for breath, bleeding profusely, with pain so intense His body was shaking, and shock was stealing his life away.

Lk 23:33-37 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” NKJV

The agony of the cross doesn’t really strike a person as the right time or place from which to forgive. It certainly did not take the physical agony away from Jesus to have forgiven. But, He did forgive. He continued on to death, in agony, AND in a state of forgiveness – freedom of Spirit and mind. I said Jesus knew everyone for the sum total of who they were. We must remember! They had demanded His death.  They stood around sneering, and mocking. Mocking! Thinking about it brings me such a numb, horrified feeling. Who would think these cold blooded, or calculating, or cowardly people should be forgiven, let alone seen as ignorant – as lacking understanding or awareness of the pain they cause…by their victim!!!

Lk 23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” NKJV

Know – eido (#1492) a primary verb. To see (literally or figuratively), by implication, to know – be aware, behold, consider, perceive by any of the senses, discern, notice, discover, to understand, wish, or be sure.

When we are shattered; when our closest people fail, betray, cause excruciating pain…even on purpose…they really don’t understand the depth of what they are doing.  They don’t know the full cost.  They can’t feel the intensity of our pain.  Jesus does. He knew it when we were doing it to Him first. Jesus forgave in the midst of the agony, and could freely say “it is done.”

Dear God – help us. Help us to do the same.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
July 14, 2021

Tension

Truth can cause tension. That isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be awkward. Are we okay with awkward???

Jesus caused all kinds of tension.  On purpose. With a goal. God’s goal.

Shocking people into awareness can have a lot of different results.  Hopefully, good results. People can be spurred to behave differently, or to recognize a situation for what it really is, so they can react.

At the well, Jesus caused a lot of tension in the Samaritan woman, who, once engaged, transitioned from sinful outcast to sheep herder and then lead a whole town to Jesus’ feet. (John 4)

Nicodemus, who visited Jesus by night at first, went from a ruler, and Pharisee, who questioned Jesus’ teaching, to a person who caused tension by questioning his fellow Pharisees for the way they treated Jesus and His teachings.  Then, after Jesus’ death, Nicodemus humbly helped provide spices, and burial for Jesus…a very public act right in the face of his peers, who had wanted Jesus to die. (John chapters 3, 7, and 19)

Jesus created tension as He openly prayed to God before raising Lazarus from the grave, to allow all who heard to enter in to understanding the power God has over death, and life. This also flew in the face of Jewish leaders, who considered killing Lazarus because of it. (Poor Lazarus – almost dead twice in one week!) [John 11 and 12]

Jesus seems to have been comfortable with creating tension to achieve God’s goals. I wonder if He didn’t actually enjoy it occasionally. I personally sometimes struggle with the tensions that occur when I am trying to witness to someone, or to explain a biblical doctrine they don’t agree with – like women in ministry. But tension is the very tool that brings people out of lethargy or ignorance and into attention, and even action – if they can be reached – not everyone listens…even to Jesus Christ! That is a tension we must also be comfortable with.

In the end, Jesus paid the ultimate “earthly” price for the tensions He caused…but not before accomplishing all God’s heavenly goals here on earth.

Last week, I was privileged to get to listen to Pastor Mary speak to people at East Haven Baptist church (a beautiful place, btw) about national security. The tension in the room was palpable almost from the very beginning of her speech. Well prepared and riveting as her talk was, when, at the end, it was time for questions, a great one rose right away.  “What can we do about this?” Pastor Mary had great answers, and people went away with new understandings, and goals in mind, not to mention being shocked by all they heard.  (You need to hear her speak on this!) After listening to her speak, and thinking about the differences I want to make, I knew that I would have to learn to better embrace tension, and the effects it has, if I want to really have an earthly impact with the heavenly goals I feel God has for my life.

Do you stand in the same place? We are all called by God. We have all been given something by God we can be nervous about sharing or doing, or that we put off all together to avoid tension or embarrassment. Let’s stand firm, and, with love, embrace our calls, and give our messages, even if it means discomfort.  It is what we are called to do, and reaching God’s goals – knowing we got to partner with The Almighty – is an awesome accomplishment!

Mt 10:24-31 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!  Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. NKJV

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

July 8, 2021

Harsh Pruning

I am a gardener – for the love of watching things grow and eating tasty foods. Not to be confused with the green-thumbed horticulturalist-type who knows the Latin names of their plants, tests their soil monthly, and installs $1,000 worth of sprinkler systems for their perfectly aligned and Ph balanced raised beds. I am the sprinkler system!

Most of my life I have lived in places that welcomed this hobby/life-style to different degrees, and thought myself “gifted” in this general area, if not “talented.”

For a short few years, I lived in Virginia – a great place to garden.  I grew my own avocado tree (yes – outside), watermelon, cantaloupe – whatever I wanted.  Except corn.  The local bugs pretty much formed a line and carried it away.  I couldn’t figure out how to stop them, so I just gave up and pulled all the corn. I became more specialized.  I bought local corn from people who had the problem figured out, and dedicated my garden space to plants I was better at growing. Mmmmm – fresh cantaloupe for breakfast.  I can still taste it.

Zucchini!!  I could grow those puppies! When my neighbors stopped willingly taking them (because their fridges overflowed…), I took to leaving them on their doorsteps with a few other goodies midday while they were at work.  Problem solved! I recently saw a “how to” video pop up on You Tube for ways to prune your zucchini plants to increase production…not even joking! Seriously – I had never before contemplated trying to get a zucchini plant to increase production. That’s almost like pruning your dandelions! I couldn’t help but laugh out loud; no matter what my dog thought. Anyway; she’s sort of used to my introverted-self popping off with random sentences or sounds based on some inner workings of my “twisted mind.” This time, though, I couldn’t help thinking about passages in scripture that talk about pruning. There was an explosion of inner activity comparing my yard and garden, me, and God’s Plan for my life.

My husband and I have both struggled recently to keep up; his work is at peak season with record sales and our 1 acre of weeds, grass, trees, and gardens (in that order) needs a lot of attention.  Hubby is working 12-hour days often, so it’s mostly on me here at the homestead. Lemme tell ya – 6 hours a day of yard work in hot sun takes it right out of you.

We are both studious in God’s Word; joyfully so. But we both cut back the hours per week we studied based on high demand. While it’s true we all have seasons that pull us away from the “great” to tend to the “good” or even the “must,” that video ad  got me thinking. A big question popped into my mind. “Just because you’re good at something, does that mean you can just put it in ‘auto’ and do like you always have, or the way life has molded you, or does God expect even more production from a good producer? Does He expect us to be ready for change? I immediately knew the answer.

Luke 19:15-17 “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ NKJV (Words of Christ)

John 15:1-4 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. NLT (Words of Christ)

We are God’s garden, if you will. As a gardener, I had never heard of “curly top virus” (from the bite of a particular and infected beetle). I’m in my 60’s, and have gardened all my life. It took only a few days for every one of my hand grown (from seed), 18 tomato plants to look like someone had angrily torched them from above.  All my potatoes followed. The local nursery hadn’t heard of it. I don’t know how many You Tube videos I watched. Hoping…I was hoping those once gorgeous, fluffy tomato plants could be saved. I was still tasting fresh spuds. In the end, with tears in my eyes, I had to pull every tomato plant, and cut off most of each plant in my potato patch.

The spuds look like the harsh pruning might have saved them. It was too late for the tomatoes. High mountain gardening is unforgiving and provides a short growth window. They would not have recovered in time to do anything but greet the snow. It’s been about a week now. I have noticed this – the plants that were near the sick tomatoes, though unaffected by the virus itself, have branched into those open places and are maturing more quickly than before. It isn’t that the tomatoes were somehow “morally bad” (and it’s very true that I actively search for growth) but it is true that their death provided space for more growth in other plants. More than I initially intended in my square-foot garden environment. And it will be tasty this fall – I know there is more, and better, to come. It makes the loss of my tomatoes a bit easier as I allow myself to invest in the hope of “great” instead of “good” at the end of the season.

So – can I ask you the same question I asked myself? If you’re good at something, are you protecting the status quo of your performance, or ignoring God’s efforts to call you into greatness through some well-placed pruning, or re-directing? Are you fighting what might only look like death (or a truly needed passing) and thereby unknowingly thwarting the new life, opportunity, or some serious growth God has planned for you?

I have begun purposing myself to look at my time struggles and my performance, or life enhancements, differently – to hold even good things about my life with a looser grip, so God’s pruning doesn’t hurt as much – and remembering to watch for what blooms or grows afterwards, instead of just shedding bitter tears over the loss.

I want to better trust my Lord, and make way for pruning…even what feels like harsh pruning. Will you join me?

2 Co 3:11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! NLT

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

June 29, 2021

A Time to Weep

In the midst of the lack of God’s Perfect Will, on earth, as in heaven, there must be weeping. It is only given to God to store our tears “in a bottle.”.

Ps 56:8

You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.  NLT

We here, now, must not store our tears. Tears stored become idols, and a terrible influence in our lives. There are times we should, even must, weep – tears are purposed to release real pain and agony, or overflowing gratefulness, or joy. Holding them in denies the very wrongness or rightness of a situation, and can harm us. Certainly, if God would have something wept over, and we refuse, then God’s Will in that moment has been thwarted. Sure, there is also a time to act, to celebrate, to be strong in other ways that this writing is not about. Those are also expressions of the experience of what is bad, or very good. But weeping, often seen as weakness to be over-powered or ignored disdainfully, has a specific place in God’s Kingdom and must be accomplished. And when accomplished, we can wait until the needed tears are properly spent, without discomfort or embarrassment, without apologies, and with the understanding that God’s purposes within that soul; and for that occasion, are being achieved on earth.

Jn 11:33-36 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” NKJV

Matthew Henry’s Commentary: John 11:33-44 (1.) …[1.] Jesus Christ was really and truly man, and partook with the children, not only of flesh and blood, but of a human soul, susceptible of the impressions of joy, and grief, and other affections. Christ gave this proof of his humanity, in both senses of the word; that, as a man, he could weep, and, as a merciful man, he would weep, before he gave this proof of his divinity. [2.] That he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, as was foretold, Isa 53:3. We never read that he laughed, but more than once we have him in tears. Thus he shows not only that a mournful state will consist with the love of God, but that those who sow to the Spirit must sow in tears. [3.] Tears of compassion well become Christians, and make them most to resemble Christ. It is a relief to those who are in sorrow to have their friends sympathize with them, especially such a friend as their Lord Jesus.

As you read scripture, really see what joy and suffering looked like. Many times God’s main characters wept: Joseph at the point of being revealed to his brothers; Jesus in the garden where He prayed; Paul over his flocks; Mary just a moment before discovering the empty tomb! Jesus didn’t apologize for His tears, nor did His disciples in their writings. As we weep, we acknowledge the earth’s frustrations.  As we struggle with our own sin nature, the sin nature of others, and the suffering and death that mortality affords, we look forward to the time when heaven takes its place with us here again in full permanence and glory…when we will weep no more, and always.

Rv 21:3-5 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, (and be) their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.  And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. ASV

Until then, for the good of the soul, in expression of the emotions we have been given by God, we must weep, and we must humbly comfort the weeper, without apology, or shame.

Ecc 3:1 & 4 For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…ASV.

Blessings! Leaona Huston June 19, 2021

Shock and Awe

Ever wake up overwhelmed by sunlight so bright it almost hurts your eyes, and shocks you straight from sleeping – to wide awake? It can even be a bit painful. You wonder how you managed to sleep through it, and then get up because you know you can’t sleep any longer. Once past the stinging shock of that wake-up call; you look forward to the day…it is going to be warm and beautiful – made for a new adventure, or at least you know that even the mundane chores of the day will be easier to accomplish.

When you step out – there is the sun. If you aren’t distracted, there is at least a moment of awe as the bright, beautiful day invades your senses. Fresh air, sunshine, birds singing – everything feels new, until you’ve walked around a bit. Then, there’s a lovely comfort to it all, and you say, several times, “what a beautiful day!” Sometimes you think “This is the perfect day. I could do this the rest of my life.”

Haven’t we all said that? But, we’ve said it more than once, right?! When you last said that, either to yourself, or out loud, was it with regret for days gone by, or was it in the moment, and thinking of the future? Were you sorry for every day that didn’t wake you with such brilliance, or just happy for today, and making your way in the sunshine? Did you feel depressed over past days that weren’t as wonderful? No! You moved into the sunshine with a grateful heart, and made your plans based on this wonderous new day.

God’s process of sanctification – showing us “a better way” as we walk out our life with Him, is like that. As we searchingly read God’s Word, see Christ’s examples, and listen to Holy Spirit in our daily walk, God will show us things we haven’t see before…even if we were looking right at them. It is God’s joy to do so.

Pr 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. NKJV

Sometimes, it will come as a shock – either because we just had no idea, or because we were believing, saying, and doing things differently – even the opposite! Our intentions were good, but in a single moment we are shaken into a new understanding.

Remember, it’s God’s Intention to lead us into greater understandings as we walk with Him. From milk to steak. AND – there are varying cuts of steak, too. For instance, most of us rarely enjoy fillet mignon, but a NY strip happens more often. Each steak gets more expensive as the quality increases. It’s like that walking with God sometimes, too. Greater understandings can be more difficult to accept, practice, and share with others. There is even a place where God told His prophet not to share what he had been told. (Rev 10:4)

Here’s the test – how do we respond? Sometimes the new understanding requires only joyful acceptance. Sometimes a slight change of pace or direction. Other times confession and repentance. Occasionally, God shows us things that require big changes – dropping off old ideas, attitudes, and actions. A huge course adjustment. Change can be embraced in different ways, including mourning, confusion, even anger, sorrow, resentment, or guilt.
We might mourn teachings, or mistakes we now see we made in the past. Confusion hits us if we’re not sure how to begin to apply what new thing God is showing us. (Great time to call our mentor.) We might allow anger to be our response to God holding us accountable to updated information. We can steep ourselves in sorrow over past ignorance. We can resent change. We can “invite” guilt to revel with us over what we can now clearly see was a mistake. We can “invite” other people to share our guilt so we won’t have to take the whole blame. (Remember the garden?)

OR; we can shake off the “shock” and just go for the “awe.” We can embrace the new understanding God has given and move in that direction with joy; taking in the fresh start with anticipation for the future, rather than regret of the past. Sure, we will need to make adjustments – that’s okay.

Will everyone follow? Nope. Get used to it – be at peace. Love them where they are. It could be as simple as a dietary practice, or maybe more complicated than that. We can give grace to our fellow believers in matters that are not of foundational importance, as they grow and walk out their faith. For example:

Ro 14:1-9 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. NKJV

Our newer conviction or freedom might be one a fellow believer can’t yet see…like we were, the day-before-yesterday. Love them and patiently wait for them to catch up; but don’t go back. (Sometimes leading can be lonely, but the view away from the crowd is breath-taking. Stay humble and God will show you more.)

Ro 15:1-3 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. NKJV

There are tenants of faith where God calls us to stand firm. I am not advocating all manner of sin be allowed freedom in our gatherings. But there are areas of great theological debate, like Calvinism, predestination, etc. that have had good, solid, believing Christians in disagreement for literally ages. We can and should love our brothers and sisters who may not agree with us on some doctrinal points, to the good of the one body of Christ.

When God “wakes us up” to new understandings, it’s okay to be shocked at first. Then, we can walk in awe, not letting the King’s Revelation overwhelm, or puff us up. He gave it to us for a very good reason! Embrace the new – don’t mourn the old. Beating ourselves up takes time and energy God needs for other things.

An uphill climb is easier without encumbrances. Let’s take only what is needed, and leave the rest behind!

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
June 15, 202

Deception

What good movie doesn’t have a plot twist that leads the viewer to a few different conclusions, to hold them in suspense until the end? But once you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens at the end. Still, a good movie is watched many times, for the enjoyment of watching the plot play out. As you watch repeatedly, don’t you notice things you missed before? Doesn’t that add to the enjoyment of watching it again, and make you feel closer to the characters, and even the writer? Same with a good book. Same with THE Good Book!

There’s a saying – “deception is so deceiving!” We don’t always know the orthodox understanding of scripture, and what is “men’s tradition” or straight up heresy. Today, good and evil are sometimes reversed, or evil is celebrated.
Sexual immorality is an area where the world has embraced what God warns against in the gathering of believers. Marrying outside our faith is another area we may decide to ignore God’s best “for love.”

But, what is the scriptural meaning of deception?

NT:4105: planao (plan-ah’-o); from NT:4106; to (properly, cause to) roam (from safety, truth, or virtue): KJV – go astray, deceive, err, seduce, wander, be out of the way.

Where did it start? Why? What is the purpose of deception? How do we weed it out of our lives, or avoid it in the first place? Where is the power we need to push it out and keep it out?

In the OT, there are many places where people were deceived. Let’s look at a few, and draw some conclusions.

Gen 3:4-7 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. NKJV

Joshua 9:3-6 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.”

Joshua 9:14-17 Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them. And it happened at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them. NKJV

All these leaders had regular, direct access to God, but counted on what others said, or didn’t say, as well as their own “wisdom and understanding” to make decisions. They were aware of a problem at hand, but moved forward into unknown territory without  inquiring of God. It wasn’t their full intent to work against God and for themselves, (at least for Eve and Joshua) but they allowed good sounding words to deceive them. Humans in the garden only had to wait a bit before God came for his evening visit. Joshua just had to walk over to the tent of meeting and ask!

In both cases, the deceivers’ purposes were against God’s people, and to their own benefit above God’s plans.

There are examples in the NT of people either purposefully teaching heresy, or teaching out of ignorance, and those who would “ask forgiveness instead of permission.” Paul himself stated that he had sinned against God out of
ignorance. (1Tim 1:13) There is one great example of how Godly people can find help to avoid being taken in, and some really good words of guidance from our Lord and Savior.

Ac 17:10-13 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. NKJV

We all have a weapon of unbelievable power for our own protection, and for the welfare of those we love. It is God’s Word – our bible. To actualize this power in our lives, we have Holy Spirit. When we read, and become aware of a change needed in our lives, Holy Spirit will work with us – to guide and strengthen us for the journey. We are not left without direction, and we are not alone as we come against deception, or face hard choices – we have the body of Christ as a place to run for support, as well.

In Mark chapter 12, after religious leaders tried to trick Jesus or find fault in him several times, with many witnesses standing in the court listening, Jesus ended their intrigues that day. In doing this, He protected and informed the masses of people watching. His response guides us as we walk from being babes-in-the-faith to the end of our lives. Jesus crushed the enemies of God…once again. His years of study and prayer, then walk of wisdom and obedience, could not be broken down.

Mk 12:24-25 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. NLT

We’re not Jesus, it’s true. But we are to emulate Him as loving children, as best we can with the help of Holy Spirit as each occasion arises. When we fall, we are to get back up, not revel in sin or failure.

Where does our help come from? How do we formulate a Godly response to life’s questions and trials? We follow Christ, and do the opposite of the leaders we studied today.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
June 10, 2021

Gracitude

We must practice BEing who we want to become, right?!? Salvation happens in the twinkling of an eye, but we grow in Christ all our believing lives. What an adventure!

As Jesus Christ lives within us through Holy Spirit, there is change that occurs in our yielded lives. Good change, that reflects the loving image of God and results in our actions and speech praising God, and teaching others. God calls this growth “sanctification.”

We transition from being “babies in the Spirit”, full of hunger and exuberance, looking to learn all we can, to being more and more joy-filled, peace-ruled, still-learning teachers. Our love for others is expressed in ever-changing moments of doing, and/or gracefully receiving.

A big way to keep ourselves in a humbled, learning mode is to remember to be grateful. Thankfulness acknowledges the help of others, and brings us joy and humility at the same time.

“Thanks for the coffee.” “Thanks for picking that up.”
“Thanks for the great advice!”
“Thank you, Lord, for your incredible sacrifice on my behalf. Help me pay it forward.”

Gracitude = walking in a watchful attitude of grace, and openly-expressed thankfulness.

Gracefully acknowledging the help another person gives us first blesses them when we express gratitude, but then blesses us twice. 1) We experience the euphoria of being noticed and helped by another human being, and 2) we experience humility as we see someone lower themselves to do something for us.

Pretty soon we are gracefully expressing thankfulness toward others with little effort no matter who they are, where we are, or what was done – little or great. We are BEing, in word and deed, the Message of the Gospel of Christ.

Col 3:15-17 …let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. NLT

When we practice “gracitude” we will see loving submission grow and change lives. Jesus Christ will be preached, with and without words, to everyone, everywhere, and it will begin right now.

What an awesome way to express the Love of Christ to others, and to learn to constantly recognize it ourselves. Just like a sports professional, we will get better and better at reflecting God’s Image as we purposely practice doing so, while simultaneously making the team – the one body of Christ – stronger and better as well. Win, win!

So – I have a brand-new exercise / challenge for us all – “Gracitude.” Say ‘thank you” to everyone, everywhere, for everything that is done for you, whether small or great. Keep those eyes open, and respond.

Let the Love of Christ flow!

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
May 27, 2021

Let’s Stop Claiming “The Curse!”

Life is not always easy, and Jesus Christ warned us it would be that way. He also told us He had conquered the world.

Jn 16:33 In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” NKJV

Still, I think, in marriage, but other places as well, we walk under clouds instead of walking in the sun. Let me explain.

In Genesis 2, God created humans. Alone, man was “not good.” (Gen 2:18) That was the only thing about God’s Creation called out as less than “good.” Enter woman. After that, everything on the earth was “very good.” (1:31) Before The Attack in God’s Garden, we may think all was perfect between humans, and between humans and God. But there had been no test, and The Attack, and subsequent human failures, proved there were “chinks in the armor.”

Alright, so be it. True – we failed. True – God’s previous warning about losing immortality came to pass, and the earth itself bore the frustration of our scandalous behaviors – God was being merciful to us even then. Humans would be outside God’s Garden, working with mortal bodies. What’s NOT true? That men and women have no choice but to live in a cursed state of unfulfilled desire and/or dominance all their lives, as long as we inhabit this earth? That is not true.

Do we really believe in so little Mercy, so little Grace, that God would not give us the power or direction to live beyond what happened back there? If that is so, how can we be saved from our sins today? Yesterday? Tomorrow? Are we to be saved from all of them except the first? Is that how we’re supposed to live?

Or is Christ’s sacrifice only capable of saving us from CERTAIN sins?

1 Jn 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him (God), and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. NKJV

If we are only free from certain sins; then each day will be worse than the last, as we walk out our lives purposefully embracing a cursed existence. (Not unlike teachings of “karma”)

Seriously, then, why be saved?! From what?! TO what?! What good is following the examples of Christ? Did He not walk without sin to take on all our failures? Or was it just some of them, and NOT the failures in The Garden? No – He bore all our iniquities. ALL. (Hebrews 10:16-25) Praise God!

So, do we just throw ourselves into antinomianism – party on – because Jesus Christ has the keys to sin and death? (Rev 1:18) Psh – seriously!? Who orders huckleberry ice cream, then tosses it to the dogs??? OR: do we learn to BE in  gratefulness, covered with Mercy so giving Mercy, walking in freedom so refusing to chain others (Philemon), submitting ourselves to one another (Eph 5:21) without taking advantage of others’ submissiveness, and expressing The Kingdom of God on earth as we daily refuse the shackles of past mistakes and embrace love, expressed as God always wanted?

Does that exclude marriage? Is marriage the only place where a curse still has authority beyond the efficacy of the cross? God forbid! Marriage was to be saved as well. Jesus brought heaven to earth, making Himself a servant to all who would accept Him, releasing us from the bondage of sin, and from being held under a curse. Unless we want to live that way. We have free will. We can be as miserable as we desire, outside the freedom of the cross.

Look at how Jesus taught us to pray. Why pray for something we cannot have? Jesus would never set His people up for misery and failure. He came to get rid of that. He taught us to pray in a way that blessed us and God.

Mt 6:9-13
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. NKJV

So, is God’s Will to be done “on earth as in heaven” everywhere except in marriage, (or teaching, or pastoring)?

Are husbands expected to dominate, or are they supposed to love and sacrifice? Are wives to live out their days desiring their husbands but getting squashed for it? Are they to live in submission to a man that over-rides the gifts given to them by God Almighty Himself? Are husbands to feel un-manly if they support their wives in their expression of Holy Spirit’s gifts, rather than nudging them aside to express their own? Does that look like The Kingdom of God being mimicked “on earth, as in heaven?”

Jesus walked in agreement with God, out of overwhelming love, and humble submission, based on a relationship that Jesus Himself fostered through daily learning and by separating Himself from everything else to spend time alone with God. No, it was not always easy, but it WAS “good” – “on earth, as in heaven,” rather than under the clouds of a curse, embracing what went wrong in the past. Jesus overcame sin, He did not embrace it, or its consequences, except on the cross – to relieve others; and He was the only One who could do so.

Claim and walk in God’s Promises, not the curse. Have a Christ-like effect on this world, and your relationships.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
May 24, 2021

P.S. There is a longer, more in-depth study of this teaching. It will be in the Bible Study section shortly.

ANT Spray

As we read scripture, one thing we should try to keep in mind is that the early church would have understood, without being told, that the “heart” meant our mind, and our thought process.  Kept in context, this might change the way you think about some key verses.

What we do about negative thoughts (either depressed, or anxious) is a choice that changes our moment, our day, our month – our life.  It changes our relationship with God, and people, in profound ways.  We can simply believe the negative thought, and live accordingly, or we can acknowledge it, and weigh it against situational truths, and the power of God Almighty.  Negative actions come from negative thought processes that are not squashed as a choice of faith. If left unchecked, they become pervasive in our expressions of life.

Ge 6:5-6 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  NKJV


There is actually a lot to learn about our negative thought processes. I took a class on stress recently from Northeastern Seminary, and they discussed the phenomenon of Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT).  Did you know that a normal person’s thoughts are around 90% negative?!? I did not. As well, 85% are repetitive, and of those repetitive thoughts, 90% are negative. We are in a battle, folks! As an introvert, I keep a lot of stuff going inside my head, so this is really good for me to remember. Just because we think it, that doesn’t make it so!

Pastor Mia Richardson of Avon United Methodist Church in Avon, NY, (a class mate of mine) says fighting these thoughts with scripture is using “ANT Spray” against the problem. I love her analogy! Particularly, we discussed using verses from Philippians chapter 4 as a method of identifying and fighting negative thoughts, especially the untrue thoughts (waaaaaay more than you realize). I thought this was great, and am using the “ANT Spray” idea on myself regularly.

So, what does Philippians say about truth, our thought lives, and Paul’s own struggles?

Php 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  NKJV

Php 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. NKJV

First, we must ask ourselves if it is really, physically, true, or if we are making it up, or being harsh.  True problems need to be dealt with, but the recent study I looked at shows the vast majority of negative thoughts simply are not true. They may be a reaction to some truth, but the thoughts themselves are not correct.

Then, we make a choice to “change the channel” of our thought lives, just like we change our mind about a movie we’re watching. We choose to move to a “noble” reaction or thought, to consider a “just” reaction or thought, or to believe there are things in this life that are pure, and lovely. We choose to turn our thoughts in those directions, seeking a positive outcome to a real problem, or to replace a negative barrage of ideas.

We should look around for the blessings we’re taking for granted, like a place to live, or groceries, then move through a list of good things, maybe ending with God’s wonderous creation of US (Psalm 139) or Jesus Christ’s great love and sacrifice for us. If we are having a really bad day, let’s call a friend to “pray and spray” with. Let’s read God’s Word – bibles can make quick work of squashing ANTs.

Don’t give in to negative thoughts – claim your peace of mind! Get out the ANT Spray!

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

May 19, 2021

Self-Actualization: Your Destiny is at Hand NOW

We BE who we are.  What?!

How we walk through life every day is who we have decided to be, moment by moment.  Are we a dog-kicker, a worship leader, a game-player, a life-giver, a phone-talker, a poor-feeder, a love-giver, a porn-watcher, a Jesus-person…who are we? Our destiny is right now, not tomorrow, not later tonight.

Self-Actualization is the drive (free will choice) to become all we were made to be, which is the opposite of self-potential – what we could be. (Bruxy Cavey)

While everyone has potential, walking in our destiny is listening to Holy Spirit, flexing our God given, spiritual muscles NOW to reflect the Image of God, for the Glory of Christ Jesus. It is loving like Jesus loved NOW, as the person we were created to be, not planning or hoping to get there some day.

I have mentioned before that I was in the Air Force.  The military is a volunteer force, as you know. Basic training is the first step of service. Basic training is a human imposed breaking of your independent spirit in order to instill inside of you an identity that makes you part of the team, thinking and acting for the team, and for each member of the team, rather than yourself first. Self-preservation takes a back seat to the preservation of the mission, the team, as well as those you have been tasked to protect. I see these elements in Jesus as He constantly walks a path of self-sacrifice for the Will of God. Of course, Jesus was also so much more. But why He chose to BE that way for us is the question.  What was His motivation (mindset)? Did God force Jesus to come down and sacrifice Himself for us? No – Jesus volunteered out of love, and He knew Himself well to be able to accomplish such an incredible, and difficult feat. But even Jesus started as a child, being trained for greater and greater tasks over time, with understanding of God’s Word, and by the leading of Holy Spirit.

Tit 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. NKJV

Redeemed people are given Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us. By exercising our free will, we choose to BE like Jesus, or not, starting with small decisions in our daily life. God’s Word, along with Holy Spirit, trains us as part of God’s team to be God’s hand of love here, now. Right now. This very moment. But we must maintain the heart (mindset) of a volunteer. God will not treat us like robots. God wants a working, personal relationship with you. Now; and again…now. Not later.

Practice BEing because you want to – as an expression of free will working with Holy Spirit. That’s self-actualization. That’s walking in faith and expressing God’s Image. Don’t practice because you are obliged to; that’s a legal response, and it will dull your relationship with Holy Spirit and expose your free will to guilt and shame, and lead to rebellion, or a religious spirit. Choose (set your mind) to want to do so.

If we stay open to expressing God’s love, whatever that looks like at the moment, we will BE as created to be, rather than something less, something compromised…something eventual. We will BE walking in our manifest destiny, fully self-actualized for the Kingdom of God, not walking in hope for the future, or just plain apathy for today.

Jn 7:37-38 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” NKJV

Jn 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” NKJV

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

Don’t Make the Cut!

What if you don’t make the cut?!

What if you talked to someone – expressed words about your feelings of guilt, or heart ache, tensions, unworthiness, outrageous pain, or unfulfilled dreams instead of letting blood run across your skin?

What if you took that chance – to talk to someone that has walked a little farther than you have?  How do you know they haven’t bled?  I’m sure you know that looks are deceiving. Other people have often suffered more than you know, and Jesus has a heart to save you, not condemn you.

Jn 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. NKJV

What if you’re being lied to, and you really could walk out of the shadows and into the light? You can make your weary bones travel just a little bit farther, into the loving arms of forgiveness and healing. Reach out from the darkness!

Col 1:13-14 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. NKJV

Jesus already did the bleeding for you. Jesus was already bruised, cut, spit on, lied about, rejected, and tortured.  He knows, and because Jesus endured, His people will endure with you – they are there for you.  They are not perfect, but they have the love of Christ for you. They are not psychologists, but they are compassionate; and willing to walk the long mile with you.

Mt 12:20-21 “A bruised reed He will not break,

and smoking flax He will not quench,

till He sends forth justice to victory;

and in His name Gentiles will trust.” NKJV

You think you’re too far gone?  Wrong!  If you’re breathing, ever so shallowly, it’s not too late.  You don’t even have to wipe up the blood.  Just put down the razor, and show up.

There were 2 criminals crucified with Jesus, having been found guilty by the courts.  As they took their last breaths, with blood running down their bodies, one mocked Jesus and the other cried out for mercy.  Jesus gave mercy.  Jesus is always ready to give us mercy.  If He could extend forgiveness from the unbearable, blood-soaked pain of the cross, He will always be ready to be compassionate. Even while being crucified, Jesus was thinking about others, and hoping for their redemption.

Lk 23:39-43 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” NKJV

What have you got to lose?  Don’t make the cut.

Ps 103:8          The Lord is merciful and gracious,

     Slow to anger,

         and abounding in mercy. NKJV

Don’t make the cut!  Make the call.

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

April 28, 2021

“Who I Am” not “What I Do”

Who we are isn’t defined by what we do, BUT what we do “flows” out from who we believe we are. So, we need to really know who we are.  When we’re not sure – the struggle is REAL; the “flow” is, at best, marred with falsehoods but occasionally shining a light on our true potential and, at worst, just a pack of lies we believe and act upon.

As children of God, one of the top ten things we should pursue first is to know who we are in God’s eyes.  The rest of our walk with God – how we choose to see ourselves, to interact with others, how we teach, love, sleep, eat, marry or stay single – all of it, is based on understanding who we are, which will also deeply affect how we see others.  So – who are we? Let’s look at some key passages that show us God’s initial design criteria. Knowing this deeply will allow us to walk in peace with ourselves, and exude peace toward others.

Image Bearing – To Be…

If we are children of God, it makes sense to look to God for our deepest understanding of our own person. We do not define ourselves by our track records of wrongs, or even things we’ve done well.  After all, victory and defeat, in human terms, are a quickly moving revolving door. We must look to scripture – the timeless resource – for proper definition. So – what did our Lord have to say about us?

Genesis 1:26-28 Then God said, “Let Us make man (people) in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  NKJV

Genesis 1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…NKJV

What does it mean to be created in God’s image, or likeness? In the Hebrew:

Image – #1923 “tselem” – resemblance, representative figure/image. Moral/spiritual similarity. Masculine noun.

Likeness – #1823 “denuwth” – similitude, manner, in that fashion. Feminine noun.

Dominion – #7287 “Radah” – to dominate, reign, prevail. Verb.

Fill – #4390 “Male’” – to overflow, be abundant. Verb.

Subdue – #3533 “kabash” – to bring into subjection.  Verb.

We as humans were made to gloriously reflect our Creator to others, and to the earth. Morally, and spiritually, we were meant to look like God, by our own free will, which God gave us.  We were made to co-rule here on earth as in heaven. We were made to be priests.  (Rev 20:6) True, we are not born priests, but it is our goal, and it is God’s goal. We start out beautiful children, learning about our Daddy, learning to speak, walk, and act like Him. God spent time with His Creation in the garden because He loved them, and God wanted them to be around Him.  We become like who we emulate, while still being ourselves – walking in our own given talents and abilities, by knowing that person intimately, and applying their principles to our own daily walk.

A trail is worn down because we each move at different paces, based on our stride, weight, our gaze as we pass, and even emotions at the time we cross that part of the path.  So, even though God’s children are going the same direction, the path is worn smooth, rather than just being “footprints in the grass.” We are made in God’s Image, and each given specific gifts to use as God would use them, to be a blessing to all on earth, and even the earth itself.  We are marvelous creations of God, not a collection of failures or accomplishments.

Psalms 139:14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.  NKJV

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

April 27, 2021

Ode to Kiesha

My dog is a 12 year old, black and white Chihuahua, and triple-dog HATES to get her nails clipped. It’s the only time I have ever had her nip at me.

If I say it out loud; she runs and hides behind my husband, who is widely known to spoil her, and often protects Kiesha when I threaten her with a “b-a-t-h.” It is during these times of duress when she gets called by her whole name – Kiesha Marie. Ear lowering ensues…and, as bad as a “b-a-t-h” is; getting her nails clipped is WAY worse.

And where does a stinkin’ little 5 1/2 pound dog get the strength to fight off 2 full sized humans?!?! Who put that much stubbornness into one tiny package? I can’t afford to give her a needle full of valium every time she needs a pedi! (Just try holding her still for that!) There must be some machine you can put their little paws in that they cannot extricate themselves from, but I haven’t found it. Inventors out there – get the patent and get this into production, please!

Sometimes, I put the pedi off because I’m not up to the fight. Then, she’ll start walking funny, or just stop walking and start laying around. I know I need to “prune the queen,” but I tire of her flexing all 5 1/2 pounds of muscle against me.

It’s hilarious, really, because after the “pruning of the queen” she can walk so much better! She bounces around, chasing her little “stuffies”, runs outside to play, and jumps way higher with so little effort. She is far less focused on herself, and enjoys her surroundings much more – she’s a bigger part of the family, and a better person to hang around with.

But, from one time to the next she forgets all about the massive benefits, and just clings like crazy to 1⁄4” of alpha-keratin. Why? Because it grew there. She’s used to it. It’s hers…or is it? That extra bit of toe nail causes all kinds of trouble she can’t see, and when I tell her they need to go she runs and hides…sometimes behind the toilet! (Admittedly a difficult extraction – she’s no fool!)

Kiesha has been my own beloved pup for 12 years. Twelve years of potty training, fetch, huckleberry picking, sun soaking, and companionship. When I had my foot surgery, she would not leave my side for weeks. She hardly ever makes a mess, and is great at letting me know when a pot on the stove starts to boil. She chases those ravens out of the yard like nobody’s business. She always lets me know when someone is at the door. We walk together, watch TV together…I give her special food on holidays like everyone else. So, why won’t she believe me when I tell her those spiny, pokey little branches jutting out of her cute little toes need to go? Habit, I guess…and her earnest belief that she knows better than me. After all, in dog years, she’s 84 years old. People over 80 tend to keep their own council…have you noticed?

I would never kick her out of the house; I love her dearly…all 5 1⁄2 pounds of cute, cuddly, hard-headedness. I do, though, occasionally sit on her and clip her toe nails, for her own good.

Jn 15:1-2 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. NLT

As we walk through our lives, let’s be sensitive to God’s leading, and His correction.  Let’s let go of those things He asks, and keep the rest in hands that are holding on loosely.  God knows what is best for us, even when we can’t see it.

I Am-Raw Unadulterated Power

Ex 3:13-16 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ NKJV

I AM – OT:1961 – hayah (haw-yaw); a primitive root (verb) meaning to exist, be in existence, to abide, remain, continue, to stand, to accompany, be with.

The meaning of names matters. Then, in Exodus, and now. Beaming parents often chose their child’s name based on meaning, and can normally tell you the story. Most names are nouns; that is, a word used to identify a class of people, place, or thing. But this Name is a verb, people! Our God has to do with action; with expressed love, with manifest power, and with a wisdom that sets up sacrifice rather than let others suffer for their own wrongful deeds, if they will accept that loving, powerful, sacrifice.

But that is just the Old Testament, right?! No. This pure, clean, unadulterated power expressed itself on earth in a timeless act of Manifest Presence. Plus, we don’t have to wonder if the prophecies of His Coming matched the undiluted power of the Old Testament. We don’t need to question if The Name was unaltered; if it still contained the magnificent, pulsating, earth shaking, chain breaking potency that displayed Itself in the burning bush in front of Moses.

John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” NKJV

John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” NKJV

John 10:9-10 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. NKJV

John 10:11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. NKJV

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. NKJV

We don’t have to wonder if Jesus Christ had the virtue required to carry out His task. Non-Jewish people and people who did not know Jesus found him to be without guilt. His virtue in the face of opposition was why some leaders who did know Jesus wanted him killed. He stole their lime light!

Luke 23:13-16 Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. (NLT)

Folks, Pilate had crucified too many people to count. One more would not have been an issue for him. He was used to lies and intrigue. Instead of seeing that deception in Christ, Pilate saw it in Christ’s accusers! So, Who was Jesus?

John 14:6-7I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (NLT)

John 14:9 Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! (NLT)

Holy, Holy, Holy are You – Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God; our Savior; I AM.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
April 10, 2021

Spring – are we there yet?!

I have friends that aren’t gardeners. Seriously…but I love them anyway – you know…in spite of it. After all, we
all have our shortcomings.

We had a hard winter. I can see the ground here and there, but in other places there is still a solid foot of snow. My heart is outside planting things but the ground is pure mud, or frozen. To make matters worse, we recently had to drive down south about 2 hours, and about 2,000 feet lower, and saw daffodils surrounding fruit trees laden with fragrant blossoms full of the promise of baskets of produce, ready to spill their juicy, sweet flavors into my mouth…ready to jump into the canning jars or be spread on toast in the morning.

Part of me wants to switch places with a friend in a nicer climate, but I don’t know of anyone who would volunteer, and forced relocation seems harsh. I want spring, and I want it now!

My husband is getting used to walking around all the plants I have started that are sitting in different places in the kitchen, living room, and study. But, my dog thinks I’m nuts! She stares at the little cups in rows (well, kind of in rows) here and there, then looks at me quizzically, then goes back to napping. She’s an old, faithful sort so no chewing of the plants has scarred my soul.

I am stuck between verses. You know the ones.

Ecc. 3:2b – …a time to plant and a time to uproot…

Prov. 6:6 – go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

Ecc. 7:8 – The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride…

Prov. 20:4 – Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing…

It’s almost time…my engine is running, using up gas, but warm and ready to race. The sunshine is working hard, and promising results if I will only be patient.

As I stare at all the little cups of tender babies, I go back and forth between wondering if I have started them soon enough, or started them too soon. Am I doing the right thing? South facing window…check. Well drained soil…check. Turn them so they don’t lean over and get all scrunchy on one side…check.

But what about storms, or weak seedlings, or just plain old bad seasons? I can prepare; I can study, I can work hard, and all that is great. If I didn’t do those things, a bad harvest would be guaranteed. But, there’s no guarantee that these little cups of promises will actually deliver, either. Things just go wrong no matter how hard you try.

Maybe you have a young dog that eats your garden before you can even get your slippers on. There are birds, and squirrels, voles and gophers, and some people like cats and let them live in their houses so they might get out and wander in and mess up your crop. Tornadoes, what about tornadoes?!?!

Yes, it’s my job to hoe, to plant, to water, and to sew in good soil, but then I just have to wait and have faith. Watch and prepare, but not hover and worry. Then, it’s my job to absorb the fragrance of roses, or munch on perky, sweet snap peas as I wander around the garden, surveying the miracles that have popped up in my yard.

And maybe send a vole to see its maker.

Psalm 62:5 -Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.

Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in The LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
April 7, 2021

Humility as a Tool of Righteousness

If there is a group that meets called “Glad to admit we were wrong,” I have not heard of it. Please let me know…not that I would willingly attend. Maybe if a friend guilts me enough…

But really; humility is a character flaw to many in this world, but a leadership quality required in the service of The King. We need to be prepared to abase ourselves, and the quicker the better. Chewing a piece of meat for a long time just makes it harder to swallow. Humility was the reason God chose and defended Moses (Num 12:3). Even when God mentioned Moses’ mistake and its consequences, Moses did not answer God back (like Adam), but, instead, began providing for Israel by asking that Joshua be made the next leader.

We must display our past mistakes to those who need to learn a lesson from them, so they can understand (if they will listen) the spiritual and physical consequences of sin without paying those debts personally, like we did. I am not advocating to shout it from the roof top, but to listen to God for opportunities to spare our brothers and sisters.

What a blessing to our children, or someone we mentor, to be afforded the opportunity of living through the pain of failure vicariously (2nd hand) instead of physically enduring it themselves!

Ex 12:26-27 And when your children say to you, ‘Why are we doing this?’ tell them: ‘It’s the Passover-sacrifice to God who passed over the homes of the Israelites in Egypt when He hit Egypt with death but rescued us.'” (THE MSG)

Sometimes it’s embarrassing to share these things. In telling their children about the Exodus, they would have had to tell them their great doubts, and sins. They would tell their children about what they suffered because of those doubts and sins. Then they could remind them about God’s great Victory on their behalf after repentance.

As living beings in this earthly realm, we must not forget there are spiritual battles and consequences activated by our rebellion. God understands these spiritual battles and their outcomes, and has given us His Word, and Holy Spirit in our lives to guide us. The question is – do we learn and obey? Or, after messing up, are we willing to humble ourselves to God – to admit our failures, repent, and walk in victory? This is not the same thing as beating ourselves up over the past, but, rather, it is gratefulness to God for His Mercy at such a level that it engages His great Love inside us for others. So much so we are willing to die a little – to humble ourselves – so someone else can live more abundantly if they will.

Part of the Victory of Righteousness is relieving others of a sin-burden by sharing your own, hopefully before they walk into it themselves, but afterwards if needed to start the healing process. Lowering oneself in the eyes of others is a powerful weapon that can only healthily and properly be engaged by those who are embracing humility in their everyday walk. After all, perfect people don’t make mistakes.

As we humbly and lovingly embrace our imperfection, we can hand it up to God to heal and use. Perfection hides error, denying it exists; humiliation displays error, knowing it intimately so it can be given to God for healing and renewal. Allowing a broken pot to be properly mended makes it stronger for service. Left, a broken pot drips messes everywhere it goes. It is still a pot, just not fit for use.

As we grow in our faith, we have so much to offer, and one of the best things we can do with our own stories of bruises, broken bones, and redemption is to keep others from our sin and pain by sharing it with them in a healthy way.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
March 20, 2021

Perfection-The Lie That Keeps on Taking

Few things keep a perfectly good soul in bondage like embracing the lie of perfection (your own, or that of others). It is a stronghold from hell that must be constantly pursued, constantly fed, constantly loved and complimented with our lives. Doing well is a good thing. Perfection is a bone-gnawing, over-sized pet that can’t be left alone or it will eat the furniture.

As a recovering (sigh) perfectionist, I can tell you that the desire to return to performance instead of walking in love for ourselves and others is a screaming, dancing shadow looking for sustenance.

Before beginning my recovery, the verse “Be still and know that I Am God…” (Ps 46:10) was annoying.

Interestingly, it requires much more effort to personally cover our lack of perfection than it does to be thankful for Jesus’ victory over it. As well, when you are on constant guard against mistakes…that is when you make most of them. I have hundreds of those stories.

True, we are to avoid sin, and have been given Holy Spirit as a guide to do so. But living in fear of making mistakes is, in a very real sense, the opposite of trusting God to guide us. Perfection requires life-sapping hyper-vigilance. Obedience to Holy Spirit requires a listening mind and readiness of spirit that are resting in The Lord. Readiness to change course when needed, and, most of all, readiness to allow the gifts of others to engage, to supply and to lead us in areas of our own weaknesses.

At the age of 60 plus years, I can tell you I have never met any person who has every gift of the Spirit. Never. I think God did that on purpose. No one but Jesus Christ is perfect, and we need to remember that our perfection can only come through Jesus. That is a healthy beginning to humility and righteousness. Our righteousness comes from Jesus, and that should make us humble.

Perfection turns us into liars by lying repeatedly until we start to believe it. We begin to embrace the fact that we are imperfect instead of embracing the fact that our God is not, and so leaning in to His Mercy and direction.

I was in the military in my youth. Part of the training of a warrior is to teach them to run into the fray, even though it may well mean death…when others are running away. Perfection is its own kind of death – a long, drawn out, torturous suicide that saves no one. Humility runs to save others. Perfection is the saving of one’s self, sometimes at the expense of others. We begin to idolize ourselves in our quest to please the masses. At the very least, perfection keeps us from displaying to others the Glory of our Savior, as perfect people don’t really need a savior, either spiritually or physically. It is a lonely place.

Single parents know these battles well. After all, if you don’t do it, who will?! As a single parent for about 20 years, I became so good at spinning multiple plates all day, every day, that I didn’t know what life without the struggle was like. It was my reality, and my task master. I get it. My release valve was another Christian single mom. We used to meet at Wendy’s, get 2 things each from the dollar menu, and sit there for 2 hours debriefing so we could go home and be decent moms again. The pressure of perfectionism must be released, or you explode.

Same with work, with marriage, with a road trip (are we there yet?!) or whatever else you want to throw in the milieu of life.

Just don’t EMBRACE the lie! Lean on God’s Word, on Holy Spirit, and on each other. Look for good charactered people with the gifts needed to accomplish goals and partner with them for the ride. Let them shine in those areas and you sit back. Be thankful someone else is doing the job, and practice encouragement.

Look perfection in the face and tell it to “talk to the hand.” Stop feeding it. You might even have to pinch its nose shut…

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
March 20, 2021

Baptism – Our Joy

Baptism is an explosion of heavenly joy, leaping and dancing among God’s Chosen People as Holy Spirit, and angels in heaven, celebrate your salvation!

In Christianity, where actual salvation is a confession and inward acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice to release us from the penalty of our sins and grant us access to God’s Eternal Presence (in a nutshell), baptism is the outward, or public, symbol of our dedication and submission to Jesus Christ in our “becoming.” We openly declare our obedience to Jesus Christ, and that we become a part of the fulness of His People – the Church. We bring to His Church the gifts we have received from Holy Spirit, as well as having full right to benefit from the love and gifts given to others who have submitted themselves to Jesus as their Savior. Further, we then owe a portion of demonstrated love to our personal enemies, and those who have yet to accept Jesus’ sacrificial gift of eternal life in His Presence.

As Christians, Jesus calls us to act like Him in word and deed. John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

So, we as Christians being baptized:

1   Obey Christ as loving followers.
2   Present a public, joyful witness to ourselves, and others, of our forgiveness and commitment.

Both of my children came early into God’s Kingdom, unlike their mother. The church we went to at the time did not allow children under 10 years old to be baptized, thinking it difficult to be sure of the child’s ability to understand their commitment. My daughter gave her life to Christ at a very young age, and was heartbroken for years at this rule. But she never wavered. She led many friends to The LORD. Finally, at a summer camp that I attended, they were having baptisms, and Rhea was watching, tears streaming down her little face as she longed to go forward. Our worship leader, with my permission, publicly witnessed for her testimony as a Christian and asked that she be allowed to be baptized. She was so happy to walk in front of all those people into the lake, give her testimony, and take the plunge!

I have heard it said that baptism is of little importance, and can be ignored. If baptism isn’t a big deal, why put it off? Is baptism salvation? It’s the public part of salvation – our public display of submission to and joyful celebration of salvation’s power in our life. Normally, it is the first decision we make in following Jesus’ examples. Let me ask an intense question of you. Why would you NOT want to be baptized? You don’t have to tell me the answer, but you should pray about it deeply. If you are struggling with doubts about your faith, please talk to someone, but don’t let peer pressure or private doubts keep you from following Jesus. We all have them, by the way.

For those of you who are still under the authority of parents or guardians who are asking you not to be baptized, know that God sees your heart, and you may live at peace walking with Christ as you are able until the proper time comes.

Weddings and baptisms…I always cry.  Always. Such joy is just not meant to be contained. It is meant to spill out, overflow, and get others wet in the process.

Go ahead – overflow!

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

March 19, 2021

P.S. If you want to look at this subject more deeply, there will be a bible study posted shortly in our Digging Deeper
section of the dropdown list.

Scripture Out Loud

Did you know that the Blue Letter Bible app can read scripture to you? I love this, as I read a lot, and my eyes aren’t the best – they get tired quickly. Also, if I want to digest a lot of scripture for a specific purpose, it is much faster to listen than to read.

Whether you use your phone, or blue tooth speaker, it is amazing to be surrounded by Jesus as you drive, walk, run, while at work or just around the house. You would be amazed at how much scripture you can enjoy in just 20 minutes of drive time! It is a great way to be in regular contact with our #1 Friend, LORD, and Savior.

Listening to scripture early in our day shapes the way we think about everything, all day long.

Proverbs 8:32-35:
“Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not disregard it.
34 Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
35 For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the LORD.
36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.” NIV

Listening to God’s Word brings us naturally into God’s Presence, and that means we are listening and talking to God. Prayer as open conversation…God loves that! And our love for Jesus is matured, and blossoms when we hear from God; when we talk to Jesus, and when we live with Holy Spirit shining through us because we take time to listen to scripture.

Who doesn’t need a little more favor, instruction, wisdom, blessing, and life in their day?!

I sure do.

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

February 14, 2021

Carl and Edna-ites

How to handle a difference of understanding as we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word

Carl and Edna Naldrett were 2 of the founders of the church I was saved in and attended for 14 years.

They helped to mentor me, and walked through some tough times with me. Some I created, and some that others brought into my life. They were married over 60 years!

At that point in Christendom, the big, and rather heated, debate was whether or not one could lose one’s salvation, once given. For those of you who don’t remember it, this discussion had people shouting and shaking fists at one another between churches, as well as over the pews. It was normal to hear people call one another heretics and Jezebels because of this debate.

As a wide-eyed newer Christian, I didn’t know what to think about either the question at hand or the way people treated one another because of it.

During a bible study, the subject came up. Carl and Edna gave each other a knowing look, and smiled cheekily back and forth. Rather than go into an immediate study of God’s Word on the subject, which Carl was gifted at doing, Carl told us that he and Edna each held opposite views on the subject!

You could have heard a pin drop.

We waited…

Carl and Edna were both bastions of scriptural knowledge, and respected as parents by all in our church. As a bonus, Edna made one of the best apple pies on earth. Can’t think of one without the other. It was hard to understand how they could read the same bible and see different things, but, at the same time, some of us had seen verses that might make you lean one way or the other. Some things in scripture are pretty clear, but some things take work to understand. I think the farther we get from the resurrection, the more effort is required on some subjects, as well as adherence.

Carl just looked at us all slowly, and told us they agreed to disagree.

Hatred over this subject was never a part of our church. Carl and Edna had squashed it with their love.

Did they believe in absolute truth? Yes, absolutely. Did they ever set doctrinal lines and hold to them? Yes. Were they both saved? Yes. Did they agree on everything as deep studiers of God’s Word? No.

Did they tell us who took which side? No. They just smiled and moved on. I never did find out how each saw the question. They protected one another in love.

And I kind of think they enjoyed watching us squirm a bit.

There are a few really difficult subjects out there that Christians on all sides, and in between, are honestly grappling with. We can’t all be right. But we can walk out our convictions without “calling down lightning” on one another, however tempted we may be.

Let’s remember to be Carl and Edna-ites!

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
January 29, 2021

When Things Are Bad

Right now, things in our nation ARE bad. No one would deny we are in trouble. If you are a Christian, you probably see this more clearly, and worry that we might be in a time of discipline by God, or even that we have entered the time of “tribulation.”

It may be so. I’m not sure. But there are some things I am sure of, and they are all about our LORD (because nothing about mankind can fix this sized mess!). In reading the bible, a pattern can be established from creation on in the life of God’s people, and God Himself in relating to His people.

1. Adultery – God’s people turn away from an open, free relationship with God by embracing that which God cannot embrace, and has warned them not to embrace.

2. Exile – God’s people are sent away, after ignoring God’s warnings that He cannot embrace, or relate with, their idolatry and rebellion. They have taken on an identity God will not share.

3. Chastisement – the world is allowed to have its way with a nation of people who rejected their King. Much suffering is endured rather than the people apologizing and turning back to God, because they are arrogant, and stubborn, justifying their behavior and refusing God’s call.

4. Repentance – God’s people finally recognize that what they called “freedom”, “tolerance”, and “only human” have brought them to a desolate place. They truly miss God in their lives, and purposely reject those things they had embraced from around them that God cannot, and will not. God will not give up His own, true identity to serve others.

5. Restoration – In His nature of Mercy and Grace, God responds to repentance by redeeming His people from their self-made mess into His Presence, and His embrace.

In troubled times, when things are bad, it is easy to focus on chastisement and its results rather than repentance. We become a nation of pain-filled victims, struggling through our days. That is not what God wants. While it is true that repentance is demanded, what God deeply, lovingly wants for us is restoration. He is anxious to give it.

As we continue to see and experience the hardships we are facing, we should not be anxious about them. We should be anxious for God’s restoration!

What will it look like for us this time? Will it be the rapture or a wave of repentance and renewal across our land? How long, Lord?!

I don’t know.

But I know God, and I know this – Restoration Will Come!

Put your faith in Christ!

Restoration Will Come!

Leaona Huston

It’s Not True

It’s not true…

You didn’t ruin everything,

There is still hope,

There is still mercy, 

There is still another chance,

The sun will yet peak out at dawn!

 

Maybe it was bad…

Maybe you hurt others,

Maybe you wounded yourself,

Maybe those thoughts were horrible,

Maybe it will cost a lot to fix,

Maybe life seems really dark right now!

Still…God…

Is attentive to your call: Ps 130:1-2

Help, God — the bottom has fallen out of my life!

Master, hear my cry for help!

Listen hard! Open your ears!

Listen to my cries for mercy

Is willing to forgive: Ps 130:4

As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,

and that’s why you’re worshiped

 

Has a Word of hope for you. Psalm 130:5

I am counting on the Lord;

yes, I am counting on him.

I have put my hope in his word

Wants you to reach up for love and redemption. Psalm 130:7

…with God’s arrival comes love,

with God’s arrival comes generous redemption

Enables His people to rise after a fall!  Proverbs 24:16

No matter how many times you trip them up,

God-loyal people don’t stay down long

 

Leaona Huston

(The Message and NLT)

Headship in 1 Cor. 11

I (Mike Huston) met Pastor Mary Todd in the Spring of 2016, but at the time I didn’t agree with the idea of women pastors, it just wasn’t in my vocabulary. However, I was impressed with her passion for the Word, and her preaching was spot on. With other factors in play, I was already exploring the scriptures to see if what I believed matched what the bible had to say on the subject. To me, that was very important, as I believed in the Bible as the word of God, and needed to align with scripture, even if I was found to be in the wrong.

Since then, I have come to a better understanding of women in leadership, and what the Bible has to say on the subject. Today, it now makes sense that when a woman has the faith, and has the calling from God to preach, she has an obligation to exercise that gift, just as any man would and has. I know that Mary has faced many obstacles in her obedience to that calling, but she has remained faithful to God and the Word.

I would like to share with you what I learned about one of the key verses (1 Corinthians 11:3) that have been used to suppress women from becoming an elder, or a pastor, and a long list of other restrictions too numerous to count.

First Corinthians was written by Paul the Apostle about 55 A.D, while he was finishing up his three year stay in Ephesus, (1 Corinthians 16:8). It is believed that Paul founded the church in Corinth, Greece around 50 A.D.

When Paul penned 1 Corinthians 11:3, he was responding to and reminding the men folk in the church of Corinth, what unity looks like in Christ; and that the women who were bonded together with them also shared in that unity; and then Paul packaged this all up together into one church body through the unity that Christ had with the Father. This is how verse three is laid out with that understanding:

“But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

In America, we gravitate to an understanding that the word “head” is associated with “authority”, and we tend to interpret this passage that way, but how did the original audience understand it? The Greek word that was translated into the word “head” in verse 3 was most often used in reference to one’s physical head, but figuratively as it was in this case, carried the idea of kinship, association, and connection, such as a head and its connection to a body metaphor. Indicating a joint-body, or joint-union of two becoming one.

An example would be a man and a woman coming together in marriage, and becoming one flesh, no longer two, but one joint-union. A legal union. The source or kinship of woman is man, therefore man is head. This has nothing to do with who is in charge.

In conclusion, what Paul is trying to communicate is that both men and women together form the body of Christ, and in all that, they are enveloped within the union that exists between Christ and the Father. No, the idea of “head” as in male headship is not what Paul had in mind.

– Mike Huston