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Overcoming Fear

Vern was enjoying the freedom from the leashes and restraints he had to wear while in his neighborhood. Out here in the country, his human family trusted that he would come when called, so he was left to roam around the acres of woods and pastures of Person County, North Carolina.

On this particular day, while his humans were some distance away, he spotted something skirt across a green scummy surface. Not knowing that water was below the discolored slime, he jumped up to catch the flying bug, but instead of being able to run across the water, the French bully plunged into the pond, several feet from shore.

Vern had never been in water before and didn’t have the physique to swim. He was able to keep his head above the green algae but couldn’t propel his body forward towards the edge. Fear overcame the little dog and desperation to reach the rocks seemed impossible.  

I can only imagine what Vern must have felt as he worked with all his might to push his body forward. As I arrived on the shore, I witnessed a look of fear on my dog’s face that shook me to my bones. But I also had a fear. Fear of what was below the green scum that coated the pond. Fear of how deep the water was and what reptiles might be there to greet me if I was to jump in.

I cried out to my husband, praying he was close by so he could retrieve Vern. But he was nowhere to be found and Vern appeared exhausted and ready to dip below the surface. So without further pondering, I jumped in and sank to the bottom where a mushy texture covered my shoes. I then walked the several feet, took hold of Vern’s harness and thrust him onto the shore.

As I looked up, Vern was disoriented and out of breath. Still concerned about his welfare, I climbed the rocks that bordered the edge and made my way onto the grass. And for those first couple of minutes, I stood watching my dog and contemplating what had transpired.

This morning as I was reading over verses pertaining to fear, I discovered Luke 14:27. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

I can’t imagine how I would be feeling right now if I hadn’t jumped in and watched my little dog sink to the bottom of the pond. The peace I feel now comes from overcoming the fear that I felt before I jumped in. And boy did I have a bunch of them. You see, I broke my leg a couple of months ago and was questioning if I would be able to get out of the pond. But I believe God took care of me and my little dog. He gave me the ability to climb up the rocks on the edge without a single lost step and as for Vern, he’s just fine.

Lingering

Vern didn’t want to get up this morning. He lingered on the bed until I lifted him down, only for him to retreat to the doggy bed. Once situated, the weight of his head was almost too much. His eyes closed and he just sat there in a stupor. Thankfully, he was willing to move when my husband asked him if he wanted his breakfast. If he hadn’t, he would have missed his favorite pastime, a walk around the neighborhood.

How often do we linger in one place too long? Lot, Abraham’s nephew was known for his lingering. Genesis 19:16 states only three words. “But he lingered.” Everyone has read the story of Lot’s wife looking back and turning into a pillar of salt. But rarely do we hear about Lot and the choices he made.

Years earlier, Uncle Abraham gave Lot a massive number of livestock and even gave him the choice of where to take them to graze. Lot chose Sodom for the lush green pastures. But Sodom was also known for the wickedness of its people.  Apparently Lot didn’t seem to mind. War broke out against Sodom and he was taken captive. Once he was rescued by his uncle, Lot chose to go right back to his life in Sodom.

Again and again, Lot lingered in this place of wickedness for way too long. Finally, angels come to town and warn Lot that the Lord is getting ready to destroy the city. But even with the warning, Lot lingers. It isn’t until the angels take Lot and his family by the hand and force them to leave, that Lot finally moves.

I wish I could tell you that Lot lived happily ever after, but he doesn’t.

Lingering is when we stay in a place longer than necessary because of a reluctance to leave. This state of mind can reach beyond the physical and even be spiritual or emotional. Is there a decision you need to act on but you are lingering in the present? Have you hesitated and become stuck?

Lingering can hinder our wellbeing and keep us from the purpose God has set before us. Let the story of Lot help move us on. As for Vern, his decision to get out of bed allowed him the opportunity to experience his walk and enjoy playing with his sister Bee.

Struck Windows

For the last few weeks, a bluebird has charged into my window. Over and over again he’s been flying head first into the pained glass. As annoyed as I’ve become, I’m very concerned about the beautiful bird’s physical condition. If he doesn’t stop, he could become injured or die.

After a little research, I discovered the blue bird is very territorial and wants to make sure other bluebirds aren’t setting up residence within a certain amount of space from their nest. This information is valuable to understanding the problem, but doesn’t help with resolving the issue.

Have you ever known someone who is stuck in the same pattern of life, striking at their own window with no possibility of changing? No matter how often you try to help them see beyond their own reflection, they keep charging into the same spot.

Denial of the reality of certain circumstances can cause us to strike a window. Expectations of how we perceive how life should turn out is another window striker. Both conditions usually cause the same depressing outcome.

Jesus came to set us free from continuing to strike our windows. In the fifth chapter of John, Jesus comes up to a man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. Every day, the man makes his way to the Pool of Bethesda, waiting for the movement of the water. Every evening he leaves, with no change to his condition.

Then Jesus arrives and asks the man if he wants to be made well. Of course the man wants to be healed. But this is where it gets tricky. Jesus asks the man to pick up his mat and walk. You might ask what is so unusual about this request. Well, it’s the Sabbath, a day that work is totally forbidden by the religious community. And believe it or not, carrying a mat was considered work.

Also, by getting up and walking will change everything about this man’s life. Instead of spending every day at the pool, this man is walking into the unknown. Everything he puts his security in will be gone. Instead of going to the pool, he will be spending time sharing about his healing. His family may turn on him and his life will be filled with new experiences. All he knows will no longer exist.

But we do know one thing about this man. He was willing to leave his denial and expectations in the past and walk in faith. And because of this, his story has been recorded for eternity. Are you living in a certain state of denial that is keeping you from the life that Jesus wants for you? Are expectations chaining you to a life of fear and doubt? If so, look at Jesus, and take up your mat and walk.

Easter at the Well

Vern has instinctively learned when we will be leaving our home. He has noticed when we pack a bag or start to place items in a bin, it means we will be leaving. In response, he spends his time pattering around the house underfoot, following our every move. As much as our Frenchie knows our movements, Jesus knows every move we have ever made and our future. He knows the wrongs we have committed as well as the humility in our hearts.

Just recently, I was reading in Genesis 16 where Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai, went out into the desert, headed for her Egyptian home. She was pregnant and alone, with no hope to go on. On the verge of starvation, An Angel of the Lord appeared to her, encouraging to go back to Sarai and have the son she was carrying.  Hagar responds, “You Are The God Who Sees, for she said, “Have I also here seen him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13)

At first, I didn’t see a connection between this encounter and the woman at the well in John 4. As I was reading both interactions side by side, I saw an incredible parallel between the two passages. First, both women were alone, with hopeless situations, and no one that truly understood them. Both were desperate for love and to have their own families. With Hagar, Jesus creates a well for her survival and with the Samaritan woman, Jesus meets her at a well.

But it was the responses of both women that made my head spin. Hagar calls Jesus, the God Who Sees,(Genesis 16:13) while the Samaritan woman drops her water pot and rushes back into her city urging everyone to come see a Man who told me all things that I ever did.” (John 4:28)

What an incredible God we have in Jesus. He knows us, with all our sin, and still was willing to die on the cross so that we can have a relationship with him. And on this day, over two thousand years ago, rose from the dead, pronouncing that He continues to live forever and ever.

Finding God

Vern and Bee have been away from home for the most of three weeks. During our stay at Carolina Pines, we have been residing in a cottage right next to the dog park. Every day, the two bullies witness the many breeds of dogs strutting past as they pull their owners behind them.

It has been difficult for the two bullies to let their four legged friend walk by without barking and sharing with them how tough and fearless they are. It appears to them that it is their right to let every dog know they exist, no matter how irritating it can be for their human friends.

Vern and Bee have picked up some bad habits which hopefully will disappear once we arrive back home. Just like our canine friends, we can also emulate the community we are in, particularly when we feel like we are on an extended vacation.

During extended times of relaxing and enjoying ourselves, we can neglect to spend time with God and strive to grow spiritually. This is what happened to Abram when he left the desert and went into Egypt to get away from a famine. Instead of reaching out to God, he relied on his feelings of fear, causing all the people around him to be cursed.

“From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 13:3-4)

There have been times when I’ve felt far from God. And given I’m a human, I’m assuming you have also felt this way. When this happens, Abram directs us in the direction we should take. If we can return to where we found God and repeat the actions we did when we initially encountered him, then more than likely, we will experience his presence.

I’m hoping that Vern and Bee will also return to being the mellow bullies that we are so accustomed to. But until then, we will continue to discipline them so that all the other dogs visiting the dog park can enjoy their time without a lot of ruckus.

Our Offerings

Lesson Three

Genesis

Beverly cried out to God with pure anger over the situation. She had been brushed over for the job she believed she was perfect for. Beverly had two small children and this job was going to allow her to move out from her abusive husband. She had done all the right things and still she was without a job and a way to support her kids. Why would God want her to be treated this way? Didn’t he know that she had been a good mother and wife? And what about the sacrifice she had made to ensure her children were in church every Sunday? Even if she didn’t feel like going, she took her kids. If God was so loving, why wasn’t he helping her out?

The anger was growing by the day. Instead of the kind woman she used to be, she was short with her children all the time. And when her husband came home with his six pack of beer, she would clench the kitchen knife whenever he walked over to touch her.

Background Information: Once God finished creating the world and mankind, he stated that it was very good. He took Adam and placed him in the garden and then took a rib from Adam and formed a woman. The two were given everything they could ever need or want, including the freedom to make a choice.

Little did the couple know the spiritual battle that had been taking place in heaven? Satan, a fallen angel, was given the earth as his domain. And he didn’t waste any time. He knew what he wanted and he was going to get it, no matter the method. So being the craftiest in the garden, he went after the woman through planting a seed of doubt about the goodness of God. Twisting the words of God around, he convinced the woman that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was pleasant to look at and good to eat. And after she ate, she gave the fruit to Adam and he ate.

Sin had now entered the world and changed everything. The two were banished from the garden and given clothes to hide their nakedness. Then in Genesis 3:15, God shares his plan of salvation for the world.

Read Genesis 4:1-5

  1. Who was Eve’s first born? __________________________________ 
  2. What do you think Eve hoped for when she proclaimed that she had received a man from the Lord? ___________________________________________

________________________________________________________

  • What is the difference between the offerings that Abel and Cane gave to the Lord? _________________________________________________
  • Why did the Lord respect Abel’s offering? _______________________
  • What kind of offering do we usually give to God? _________________

_________________________________________________________

  • Why did Cain become angry? _________________________________
  • Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.  Paul has written a letter to the Corinthians that has caused them to experience sorrow. He explains two types of sorrow, godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. How can we tell when people are experiencing godly sorrow? _____________________________________

____________________________________________________________

  • How can we determine if people are experiencing worldly sorrow? ______

_____________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 4:6-7

  1. What does God ask Cain? ________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

  • When does sin crouch at our door? ________________________________
  • Why did Cain kill his brother Abel? _________________________________
  • What is our tendency towards others when we are angry with God? ______

_____________________________________________________________

  • Have you ever been angry with God? ________  If so, did you lash out on someone close to you? __________________________________________ 

Read Genesis 4:9-15

  1. What did God ask Cain? __________________________________________
  2. What was Cain’s response? ______________________________________  
  3. What was Cain most concerned about? ____________________________
  4. Why do you think God wouldn’t allow someone else to kill Cain? _____________________________________________________________
  5. How is God’s mercy towards Cain different from a man’s judgment of this situation? _____________________________________________________
  6. What do you think the mark was that God placed on Cain? _____________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 4:16-24

  1. What do you think this scripture means? “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord?” __________________________________________________
  2. Where did his wife come from? ___________________________________
  3. What does vengeance mean? _____________________________________
  4. Why do you think there was no penalty for killing a man? ______________

_____________________________________________________________ 

Read Genesis 4:25-26

  1. Why do you think Adam had a third son? ____________________________
  2. What are the differences between Seth and Cain? ____________________

_____________________________________________________________

  • What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord? ___________________

_____________________________________________________________ 

Digging Deeper:

How can we tell when someone is truly sorry for their wrong doings? _______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

What keeps people from wanting to confess their sin and changing? _______________________________________________________________

Take Away:

Is there anything in this lesson that struck you? Anything you learned that you didn’t know before? Is there anything you need to change? _________________________ ________________________________________________________________

The Gift

Lesson 2

Doris had very little to give to her daughter for Christmas. Money had been tight and every bit of her small paycheck went to paying the bills and putting food on the table. So instead of spending money on herself, she saved every bit of change she could to purchase scraps of fabric to make a quilt for her daughter’s bed. Given the cold temperatures and her daughter’s threadbare blanket, Doris believed this would be a perfect gift. Every night for weeks, Doris sat up late into the night and hand stitched the quilt, smiling over the thought of how much her daughter would treasure the warm blanket made with love.

When Christmas came, Doris smiled as she handed her daughter the wrapped present, hardly able to contain herself at showing her the individual squares and the meaning behind each one.  But instead of the response she was hoping for, her daughter tore through the paper and threw the blanket down, demanding the toys she knew her friends had received. Doris was crushed. All the time and energy she had spent creating her daughter’s gift seemed to be for naught.

Background Information:

God had spent eternity waiting for the moment to create an earth for the humans he would make into his image. He took six days to make the home ready for them to live with him in harmony. He even created an extra day for the humans to rest and spend time with him. It was a beautiful world and it was good. But once he created man, he believed it was very good. God then set the man and woman into a beautiful garden where food was abundant and the views spectacular. He gave them everything they could ever need or want.

God then gave us the most incredible gift of all, freedom of choice. He doesn’t want us to worship him because we have to, but because we want to. Earlier, before mankind, God made angels. And out of his mercy, gave them the freedom of choice. And to this day many of his spiritual beings are doing God’s will because they choose to. But then there are others that didn’t want to worship another. Instead, they wanted to be worshipped. Lucifer is one such angel. He has his sights on being God and having us mortals worship him and him alone. So how does he do this? Through deceit. Notice how he changed what God says ever so slightly in Genesis 3:1. And the rest is history.

Read Genesis 3:7

  1. What did God state would happen if they ate of the tree of knowledge of evil and good? _______________________________________________
  2. Once Adam and Eve ate the fruit, what did they do? _________________
  3. What do you think it means to have their eyes opened? ______________

____________________________________________________________ 

  • What are the differences between before and after they ate the fruit? ____________________________________________________________ 

Read Genesis 3:8-13

  1. Why did Adam and Eve hide from the Lord?________________________
  2. Who did Adam blame for eating the fruit? _________________________
  3. Who did Eve blame? __________________________________________  
  4. Do you have a tendency to blame others or a situation for your actions? ___________________________________________________________
  5. How did Adam and Eve’s actions hurt God? __________________________________________________________ _

Read Genesis 3:14-15

  1. What was the serpent’s life going to be like due to his deception? ____________________________________________________________
  2. Some say that Genesis 3:15 is the foundation of the rest of the Bible. When I first glanced at it, I was totally perplexed by all the pronouns and sought the help of several spiritual women to help me make sense of it. So please don’t feel overwhelmed by it initially.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.”

  1. Who is I? _______________________________________________
  2. What is enmity? _________________________________________
  3. Who is you? ____________________________________________
  4. Who is the woman? ______________________________________
  5. Whose seed is “your seed”? ________________________________
  6. Whose seed is “her seed”? _________________________________
  7. Who is He? ______________________________________________
  8. Whose head? ____________________________________________
  9. Who is you? ______________________________________________
  10. Whose heel? _____________________________________________
  11. How has this scripture been fulfilled? ____________________________

___________________________________________________________

  • Why do you think God would set up a plan for our salvation so soon after Adam and Eve sinned? _________________________________________
  • How do you feel towards someone when you have been sinned against? ___________________________________________________________ 
  • How does this make you feel about the God who created us? _________

___________________________________________________________

  • Does this change your view on the eternal nature of Jesus? ___________

___________________________________________________________  

Read Genesis 3:16

  1. What were the consequences of sin for Eve and all women to follow? ____________________________________________________________
  2. What do you think is meant by “your desire shall be for your husband”? ____________________________________________________________
  3. What do you think is meant by “and he shall rule over you”? ___________

_____________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 3:17-19

  1. What are the consequences of Adam’s sin against God? ______________

____________________________________________________________

  • Why do you think Adam carries the majority of the weight of the sin? ____________________________________________________________ 
  • Because of Adam’s sin, the physical earth changes. List several of the changes. ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________

  • Why do you think God speaks of Adam being dust and that he will return to it? __________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 3:20-24

  1. What is the difference between how Adam and Eve clothed themselves verses how God clothed them? ________________________________
  2. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, would animals need to be killed? ____
  3. Who is “Us” in verse 22? ______________________________________
  4. What did God do next to Adam and Eve? __________________________

___________________________________________________________

  • What did God place at the entrance of Eden? ______________________
  • How does God guard the way to the tree of life? ____________________
  • Why did God have to push Adam and Eve out of the garden? __________

____________________________________________________________

Digging Deeper:

What are the consequences of sin? _______________________________

God told Adam that if he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he would surely die. What is your interpretation of this statement? ______________

________________________________________________________________

Take Away:

Is there anything in this lesson that struck you? Anything you learned that you didn’t know before? Is there anything you need to change? _______________ ________________________________________________________________

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The Study of Genesis

For the last three years, I have been creating lessons and facilitating a Bible Study for women, first at my home, and then once Covid began, on line. This past January, we began the book of Genesis. What I didn’t realize at the time was how relevant this book is to what is happening right now. After much prayer, I decided to place these lessons out for my audience to have as a way to see the power of God as we step forward into our unknown. I will place a lesson out each week for you to have as your personal study.

Lesson 1

The fog rolled in from the main land, blanketing the waters and small coastal island. Instead of a clear view of all that surrounds me, all I see is a mist which reminded of what it was like from God’s view. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)

Read Genesis 1:1-29

  1. List the places where there is evidence that Jesus and the Spirit were present during creation? ________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

  • What revelations did you learn as you were reading this chapter? _________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

  • What did God proclaim after he had made man? _________________

_________________________________________________________ 

Read Genesis 2:1-3

  1. What did God do on the seventh day? __________________________
  2. Why do you think it is important for us to rest on the seventh day? __________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 2:4-7

  1. How were the plants watered? _________________________________
  2. How did God make man? ______________________________________
  3. What was the difference in how God made man verses all other animals? ___________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 2:8-14

  1. Describe the Garden of Eden. ___________________________________

___________________________________________________________

  • Do you believe that the Garden of Eden is an actual physical location? ___________________________________________________________
  • If so, where is it located? ________________________________________ 

Read Genesis 2:15-17

  1. Write out exactly what God told Adam pertaining to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. _____________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

  • Why do you think God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden? ___________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 2:18-25

  1. How was Eve formed? __________________________________________
  2. What did Adam say when he saw Eve? _____________________________

_____________________________________________________________

  • What is Eve referred to in verse 25? _______________________________
  • From these verses, what is your view of marriage? ____________________

_____________________________________________________________ 

  • Why do you think Adam and Eve felt no shame to be naked? ____________

_____________________________________________________________

Read Genesis 3:1-6

  1. What does cunning mean? _______________________________________
  2. Why do you think the serpent first approached the woman? ___________

____________________________________________________________

  • What was the first question the serpent asked? _____________________

____________________________________________________________

  • What was Eve’s response? ______________________________________

____________________________________________________________

  • What is different between what Eve said and what God commanded in verse 2:16? __________________________________________________
  • What did the serpent assure the woman would not happen if she ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? ______________________________
  • Why did the woman eat the fruit from this tree? ____________________

____________________________________________________________

  • Why is this act considered sin? ___________________________________

Digging Deeper:

Why should each of us take personal responsibility for our own sin? ______________________________________________________________ 

Do you believe you would have done the same thing Eve did if you had been faced with the serpent in the Garden of Eden? ________ Why or why not? __________

______________________________________________________________

Take Away:

Is there anything in this lesson that struck you? Anything you learned that you didn’t know before? Is there anything you need to change? _______________ ________________________________________________________________

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A Small Blessing

The sand was difficult to walk in. The wet substance and tides rolling in made it hard to continue. But for some unknown reason, we trudged down the shore. Strangers walked in front of us. A man and woman headed in the same direction at a slower pace.

It’s impossible to remember the first comment that connected us for this moment in time. Whatever it was, it drew my husband into a conversation with the younger man and for me to converse with his wife. And in those minutes in time, we told our life story with all its fears and desires to push on.

The two Carnival ships stood in the waters of Amber Cove as we shared what was on our hearts and minds. Was this a coincidence or a moment that was purposefully given to each of us? I believe it was the later. People attracted in time and space for a divine reason.

Minutes clicked by and words flowed. Unexpected tears streamed down my cheeks and hugs exchanged.

We may never see these two individuals ever again. Life will move on. But on this beach in Amber Cove among thousands of strangers, my husband and I met two people that we needed and they us.

As I write this entry, a day has passed and my heart is full of gratitude for the Creator that fashioned this particular time and place for the four of us to meet. And I believe if He can give us this small blessing, he will give us more. We just have to look for them.

The Power of Stillness

Vern has only been out for short walks in the last few days due to the cold temperatures. Instead of spending time outside chasing the ball attached to a rope or rolling on the road when he wants to extend his walk, he spends his time in front of the fire, still. So still.

It’s incredible what you can learn from the animals that God places in our lives. Vern has taught me the importance of being still. As Moses led the Israelites up to the Red Sea with the Egyptians at their heels, he shouted for all to hear, “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.” (Exodus 14:13)

So often we want to act. Do something. Anything. I’m sure the Israelites wanted to run away or swim across the Red Sea on their own power. I can imagine the grumbling and chaos among the millions of people. But God had a plan and he used Moses by commanding them to be still and allow Him to do his work.

I have to confess I’m a fixer. I want to act on my own understanding and get the problem resolved. Place the check mark beside the solution and move on. Recently, I’ve discovered through my own personal trials that I can’t fix everything. And in these times, I shout out to the Lord, “Show me the salvation you have in store for me!”

And in response, he provides a sense of peace through his word. Ecclesiastes 3:11 also spoke to me. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” In other words, I need to be still and allow him to make everything beautiful in his time, not mine.

As we go through the trials of this life, it is imperative for us to be still and know that God is God, and we are not. (Psalm 46:10)  Only when we can do this, will we be able to be still in His goodness.

As for Vern, he continues to find peace in front of the fire, trusting that we will provide for him. And if Vern can trust in his imperfect humans, how much more should we be able to trust in a perfect God?