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You know those name tags that we wear at corporate get-togethers or at certain parties or other functions? Those that say, “Hello, I am,” and then you write your name. Does that ever embarrass you?

It seems we are all too willing to tell all manner of people what we are doing on today’s social media sites, but there’s still something about being up close to another person and letting them know your name. Am I just imagining this?

Well, at any rate, I got to thinking about those tags. (Weird, I know.)

What if instead of our name we wrote how we felt or viewed ourselves?

“Hello, I am:” and then you put Lonely, Sad, Addicted, Depressed, Selfish, Argumentative, Opinionated….   You get the idea.

Wow, you say, who would ever want to do that?!? Nobody would fill out a tag like that! You’ve got to be kidding.

hellomynameis

But….

Wouldn’t it make our relationships more real, especially in church? I mean, church is the place where we are supposed to find solace and peace and acceptance.

Isn’t it true that too often we hug ourselves close and don’t have any intention of letting people know who we really are. Especially at church. We are supposed to be perfect at church. Right?

You do realize that God knows exactly who you are and how you feel? Every second of every day. There is no hiding our true selves from Him.

And do you realize what else? God loved us BEFORE we became lonely, or depressed, or addicted. He DIED for us before any of our days came into being (Romans 5:8-10).

And…ready for this?

God MADE your personality to be what it is. He has a purpose for you–to use you to reach someone else that only YOU can reach.

There is sure to be someone else at church who is also lonely, depressed, sad, angry, addicted or….you fill in the blank. How will they find help unless someone reaches out to them and helps them.

I urge you to grab your inner self and drag it to the surface of who you are and LOOK for that other person. The Bible tells us to comfort others with the same kind of comfort by which we have been comforted (2 Cor. 1:4). That’s not just a tongue twister statement. It’s a statement for the purpose for our lives and for everything that has happened in our lives.

Pray that you will be a seeker, not just of what God can do for you. A seeker of others, that you may be a blessing to them!

by Cindy Best

If you’ve ever tried to comb through a child’s long hair after a shampoo, you know it is tangled, sometimes into seeming knots, in various places. Conditioner and de-tangler is the only way to comb it without pulling the little one’s hair.

Tangles also come when they have decided to “re-do” their own pony tail or braids during the day. Yikes! Those knotted masses can bring tears and gnashing of teeth. We have to have them sit in front of us and then we can see the knots of hair and go ahead and work to untangle them.

Even my own hair gets matted into a nest when I have put it up and then sit in a recliner for a while. Ouch! When that happens, I have to carefully reach back and edge out strands of hair until I feel the lump begin to loosen. Then I continue to budge more and more hair loose as I feel around without being able to see it.

tangled

I thought about this as an analogy to our spiritual lives when I read a devotion written by Sarah Young in the book Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. She wrote, “Let the Spirit take control of your mind, combing out tangles of deception.”

Sooooo right, isn’t it? When we try to untangle whatever has caused the knots in our gut, or emotions or head, we find we cannot do it. Our mind quite often is so messed up with what to do, how to do it, when and where, we simply can’t see a way clear.

Jesus told us to be like little children. We only need to sit in front of Him and let his Spirit rid us of the tangles of deception that have stopped us from having a clear view of Him.

God provides the way our feet should go on His path, and He gives us His strength to walk that distance with Him. He will hold our hands and guide our minds. His infinite knowledge has seen the future, and He knows the way we should go–whether we can see it or not. In fact He promises to make the path straight and smooth.

I pray that you will try to focus your mind on God and the fact that He has all things under His power and gives the Spirit the knowledge of how to help you in every situation you might find yourself.

Let Him untangle your life!

by Cindy Best

I watched a Discovery Channel program the other night about how our brain “sees” color. It was very interesting. One of the things our brain does, all on its own, is interpret what we are looking at according to the knowledge we have. In other words, as a child you were told that the leaves on trees are green, and that is how you will see them even if there is no sunshine illuminating them. Many people who have been asked as witnesses in an accident or other occurrence at night testify that they saw green trees, even though that is impossible. Our brain “sees” what it has been trained to see.
The neuroscience behind this is fascinating. Our brain is more than just an organic computer (info that goes in turns into knowledge). It processes the information input to a level that is not only split-second, but can make our bodies react in split seconds, too. Saving us from disaster at certain times.
But what I found fascinating was the explanation of how we see “color.” All our vision comes from the light that is reflected on what we are looking at. If you have ever been deep in a cave, where absolutely no light reaches, you will see absolutely nothing….not even your hand right in front of your face. It is impossible to see because there is no light at all.

color
Colors are created by the type of light from the sun that is in the atmosphere. Besides the polarized light that bombards us, there is ultra-violet light, which humans can’t see without special lenses and adaptations, being emitted all the time. Many cats, however, can see ultra-violet light, and if you notice a cat staring intently off into nothing, it could be they are looking at something you cannot see.
The “color” white is in actuality the reflection of the entire visible light spectrum. Black is not a color at all: a black object absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum and reflects none of them to the eyes. When you paint with water colors and dip your brush into one color, then clean that color off your brush in a bowl of water and get the next color and do the same thing, over and over, eventually the water will turn black because it has absorbed all the colors you have put into it.
Spiritually speaking, no wonder heaven is described as needing no sun or moon because God Himself is the light…He is the epitome of ALL the reflected light there is or ever could be. In fact, He is blinding in His radiance. Therefore, Heaven will hold beauty we cannot fathom, nor has “eye ever seen.”
Hell, with Satan the father of all Darkness, will be the exact opposite. Many people argue whether there will be flames that do not consume in Hell or not. Okay, debate that. What I do know, and our science confirms, is that without the Light of God, wherever Hell is, it will be totally pitch black. Twenty-four and seven. For eternity. I cannot think of a worse place than that. Never being able to see anything, anyone, forever.
That is why I know the darkness that fell over the earth at the moment our Savior died on the cross must have been terrifying. The moment God’s light was removed from the earth.
And that is why I praise God’s Mercy and Grace for loving me enough to give me eternal life with Him. He has provided perfect light and a perfect place for us to see His Glory. And we are to enjoy that Glory with Him, forever.

by Cindy Best

Am I ever glad this is a new month, a new week, and a new day. The past few weeks have been frustrating to say the least. You know how that is at times, right?

My Internet router went kaput a month or so ago…after I had gotten a totally new one in January. A visit with an online tech got it going again. Then three weeks later off it went, and this time the tech couldn’t get it running, so they ordered a personal visit from a repair person…in another week. Argh!

While messing with the router’s settings, something happened to the computer which totally messed up everything so that my writing documents were not showing up, and even worse, the word processing software was not showing up either! Yikes.

On top of that, the printer wouldn’t work, and still is not. Joys!

Then last Thursday evening our water heater had a pipe that broke (not found until Friday morning) and a few inches of water had sprayed into the basement. Luckily our 115-year-old basement floor tilts toward the drain, so most of the water was already running out; and it is not a finished basement, so no damage there. Just no hot water. We got a plumber to come out late afternoon on Friday and fix the broken pipe and fitting; however, he said we needed a new water heater since the bottom of this one had gotten wet and would not light and heat safely (this one was only 3 years old).

working water heater

Then Saturday morning (remember the record-setting cold air that swooped down last weekend?) we found out the furnace had apparently had some water spray onto it and it would not work. (House temp was 55.) We toughed it out–with the help of our gas fireplace and its blower and lots of blankets and a few floor heaters in the basement keeping the pipes from freezing–until we called a furnace repair company to come out. They got here on Tuesday, assessed the actual damage and said a new furnace was needed (this one was 15 years old).

On Wednesday, a new furnace was installed.

Thursday, got us a new water heater. And a new router.

So…..despite my husband’s right arm being in a sling from shoulder surgery three weeks ago, we are doing okay. But am I ever glad we have had electricity and gas throughout all this. Counting blessings despite the adversity of modern life conveniences.

But let me tell you, in the midst of all that turmoil, my attitude took a nose dive. Especially my inner desire to continue writing. I was at the point where I threw my hands up and said, “Okay. I’m just not going to write anymore. And computers are too much of a hassle. I’ll do email and Facebook on my phone and that’s it.”

And frankly, if it weren’t for my husband that may have happened. But I knew he really wanted a Wi-Fi network for his computer. So I trudged along waiting for the repair tech to get here on Thursday.

Sometimes life just gets overwhelming, doesn’t it?

Sometimes no matter what you do, things fall apart.

Sometimes you want to crawl back into that couch-cushion pillow fort with your coloring books.

But day-by-day, hour-by-hour, my “world” got straightened out. And I praised God that we had the financial ability to do what we did. We lifted prayers for all those who did not and for those who have problems so much greater than ours. We had “first-world” problems. Hot water, heat, and computer problems.

As the season of Lent is upon us, you may want to consider what you can do without in this First World. Some of my friends are giving up Facebook until after Easter. Some are going without sweets of any kind.

I wasn’t raised in a church that urged a “denial” of anything leading up to Easter, so it is really a foreign concept to me. But what I have focused on is what I need to ADD to my spiritual life.

I need to add a truly thankful heart for every single thing I have. And a big, extra-thankful heart for me is that my computer documents are all back again! Whew!  But I’m not thankful for just family and friends and “things;” but forgiveness, grace and mercy.

Without God being perfectly Merciful, full of Grace and showering His creation with Forgiveness, I would have no hope.

No hope.

None.

Zip.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!”

by Cindy Best

My grand-daughter has begun participating on her school’s archery team. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her! She and her mom began archery skills almost two years ago…when she was just seven. Their biggest enjoyment came from doing something together outside or inside…either at targets in a field or at an archery range.

And I learned a lot about the sport I did not know. There are re-curved bows, crossbows, and “guideless” bows. She has learned how to shoot bows with sights/guides and without. Her form has to be different for each one.

The fact that she wanted to join the school’s team when she was only 8 years old blew me away. She has gone to three competitions so far and scored better each time. This Saturday she will participate in a State of Iowa meet at Johnston High School. Two weeks ago, she participated in the Greater Des Moines Metro meet with over two hundred other kids.

When I saw her picture at her first meet…8 years old…standing between kids who were a good head and shoulders taller…my heart swelled with pride. That takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there where everyone in the stands can see how you do, or don’t do. It’s a solitary sport, even though you are part of a team from your school. You stand there, by yourself, aim the bow all by yourself, use your own strength and steadiness of eye and hand and let the arrow fly.

And she had to shoot FORTY arrows…at targets put out at varying distances. That’s a lot of pulling back against the “pull strength” of your bow string. And a lot of aiming. And a lot of remembering your form and stance. All by yourself.

That takes a lot of guts…fortitude…confidence. And she did it!

taking aim

Her mom did a great job in telling her that first time that the goal was simply to shoot forty arrows. Hitting the target was not the object. Just being able to pull that string and get those arrows down the lane was the goal. We were proud of her simply for doing that.

Also, her mom gave her something she could repeat to herself as she stood on the line, “Back to the Basics: S (stance) T (target) A (anchor) R (release)…STAR.”  And when one round of arrows didn’t quite go where they could have, mom saw her moving her mouth telling herself, “Back to the basics.” Then she turned and planted her feet in the correct stance, and went on from there. What a great thing, to know you know inside yourself what to listen to and succeed!

The Olympics continue this week, and I feel for those athletes who are skiing down a mountain…on their own. Figure skating…on their own. Cross-country skiing…on their own. The luge and skeleton competitors, hurtling down an icy track…on their own.

When I look inside myself, do I think I have to do this thing called “life” on my own? Do I have to pick my goal and plan my path and practice what I’ve chosen…on my own? Thank God, the answer is, “No!”

Life takes guts, no doubt about it. But I am not alone. I have not gotten off on the wrong path and left God somewhere behind me. He is with me every step of the way, and He can give me strength, guidance, a calm spirit and the insight to get me through. I only need to quiet myself and listen.

by Cindy Best

I’m not a big fan of shoes. Oh, I like them to protect my feet from splinters and rocks and keep my toes warm in winter snow. Sandals are my favorite, I think because my feet can still feel “free.”  But my all-time favorite thing to wear is cowboy(girl) boots.  They are absolutely the most comfortable thing on earth for your feet…but they have got to be sized just right.  When you slide your foot into a boot and it gets “sucked down” into the heel, it is an “Ahhhhh” moment!

However, when you have many miles on your old “hoofs,” the cowboy boots can be a thing of the past.  Foot surgery, tears in the achilles tendon, hours of physical therapy…plus the problem with shoulders and arms that just don’t have enough strength to get the stupid boots pulled back off!  Am I whining?

Well, at any rate, the whole shoe thing made think about my mom.  She had more shoes than any other person I’ve known.  A pair for every outfit almost!  And she loved to shop for shoes.  When we’d go shopping at the mall, she would invariably stop and try on shoes at two or three places.

When we had to clear out her house after she’d died, we had boxes and boxes of shoes.  I’m getting to the point, I promise!

Mom’s shoe boxes held every-day flat slip-ons–some were well worn and you could see smudges on the leather, the wear pattern on the heels–others were gently broken in.  And at the far back corner of her closet there were boxes of what I’d call “Dressy dress” heels.  Not the normal heels you’d have for Sunday.  They were fancy enough for a dinner party or wedding and hardly had a wear mark at all.  In fact, a couple pairs I am not sure she ever wore once.

But they were there in that closet with all the rest.  And they were just as important as all the well-worn shoes.  Even if they’d only been out of the box once…they’d done what they were supposed to do–made Mom happy with a little extra glow on her cheeks because they were her shoes and she felt proud to wear them.

shoes

Sometimes I’ve felt like a pair of shoes.  In a box.  In the back corner of a closet.  In the past I felt useful…when I was younger and got out a lot and did all sorts of walking and nothing stopped me or zapped my strength.  Now…not so much.  Will I ever do that again?  Will I ever be useful again?

Nothing you ever read or learn is wasted.  Your brain remembers absolutely everything, but often we can’t access it because of the overload of so many other things that crowd daily living.  And as women, we put ourselves last as we serve family and friends.  It’s okay to admit it, ladies, we DO put ourselves last.

One thing I remembered a few weeks ago was that years ago someone had mentioned being “put on a shelf” and waiting and waiting for God to use them.  It struck me then how similar it was to the boxes of Mom’s shoes.

We don’t get to choose when and how we will be active for God.  He is the one Who plans our gifts, talents and strengths.  Sometimes I will feel like I know exactly where I’m headed and what God is doing.  Other times, I’m that pair of pretty dress shoes, feeling I’ve been forgotten.

But God knows exactly where I am and what I am good for and when He will use me and how pretty I will look.  And He will be so happy and proud that I am His.  And He will say, “Ahhhhhh.”

by Cindy Best

With this cold weather blowing in, I must admit I’m thinking of sun-drenched places…a beach, or a visit to Arizona!  Or how about being drenched in the glow of flames from a fireplace?

Then there are thoughts of how rain-drenched I was a couple times this past year.

Being “drenched” is quite a word picture, don’t you think?  I immediately picture kids caught in a rainstorm running up to the door clamoring to get inside and out of soaked clothing, sloshing water on the kitchen floor with every step. Almost makes me shiver! Of course, being drenched in sunshine gives me feelings of warm sand on my toes. Warmth and the comfort that comes from that make me smile.

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photo by Kallie Yearick

So, the word drenched is simply descriptive of a state of being. Our circumstances determine how we feel about the word at a given time.

I’m thinking now of how it might feel to be “drenched in the Spirit of God.”

Have you ever felt that?  Do you know anyone you’d say exhibits that as their lifestyle?

In my 45+ years of understanding what it means to be a Christian, I’ve met only a few–maybe 5–people who have lived that kind of life “out loud.”  Know what I mean?

There are lots and lots of people I’ve known who are Christians and serve the Lord with gladness and joy and thanksgiving. But there’s something spectacular that shows up in the life of a person simply drenched in God’s love.

I’ve long thought that the reason we see so few miracles today is because there are not many who are willing to give. Up. Every. Thing.

The Apostle Peter was married (Jesus healed his mother-in-law). Yet, Peter gave up “that” life and followed Christ and proclaimed Him until he was killed for his faith. There are few willing to do that today. The Apostle Paul said it was better to be single and be able to preach and travel than be tied to a wife. I’m not saying marriage and family are not important…no way…children carry on the heritage of faith to the next generation!

What I mean is that it takes someone very, very special to be drenched–soaked to the skin–with the love of God. So thoroughly soaked that God just pours out all over when they are around.

I pray that God will reveal some of those people to you.  They are special.  I feel so blessed having known a handful.  And I have seen Jesus through them.  We need “Jesus with skin on” every now and then because we really are weak in faith so many times.  Can I get an “Amen” on that?   At least, I readily admit that I am weak.

Think of your life and who might have shown you a glimpse of Jesus….even if you didn’t know it at the time, or didn’t know them very long.  I don’t mean great preachers. Just think of Jesus and then put a face with that name. Most of those you think of will have had their own world of troubles, short-comings and strife. They will be the first to tell you they are far from perfect and struggle every day.

But that’s what makes them special…at least to me. I hope you think of someone. But if you don’t, now is the time to start looking. And when you see them, share with someone close to you!

by Cindy Best

A couple things have bonked me on the head this past week…spiritual things, that is.  Does that ever happen to you?  You know, when the same thing/issue pops up in several different places or is mentioned by a couple people out of the blue?

This week, it’s been the idea of trusting God.

Several of my friends are facing rather tall mountains right now.  A couple of friends have mentioned being down in a valley.  All of them need to trust God, and they know it.

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BUT it is sooooo hard. Even when we KNOW God will never fail to honor His Word and promises to His children.

Lots of praise and worship songs are written around this concept, too.  Think about some of your favorite songs.  What do they talk about?  One of my favorites has the words, “I will praise You in this storm.”   And another, “Bring on the rain.”  No sunshine and roses in those words, huh?  Yet, those songs bring me comfort.

Whether we read scripture or listen to music, just hearing words of comfort and trusting God brings peace.

Why is it so hard to trust God?

Truth is, I don’t know.  And I wish I had the answer.  I wish there was a pill we could take that made us immediately TRUST GOD!

Once I read a quote which said basically, “If you could hear Christ praying for you in the next room, would you believe that He loves you and has plans for you?  Distance makes no difference. He IS praying for.”

Jesus Christ IS praying for ME in front of His FATHER GOD!

That has stuck with me for years and years. I find this week that I need to remind myself of it once again.   Distance makes no difference.

Sometimes I ask God for a special “sign” that He is doing something…that He is at work on a problem I’ve prayed about. Rarely, I get a sign.  Mostly, He reminds me of what has NOT happened.  And that is about the best thing He can do for me.

What if you think of your “answers to prayer” in that way?  Does it help?

What has NOT happened that could have…maybe could have made things worse?  Easiest answer is if you are healthy, walking, talking, and able to think, then you are way ahead of hundreds of thousands of people in this world.

God also tells me He HAS given me a “sign”….it’s in His WORD.  When I go to the Bible, His answers stare me right in the face.  No extra signs needed.

He’s already TOLD me His plans for me are for good and not evil; He is perfecting me until the Day of Christ; I can hide in the comfort of His Wings; I can go to the Rock of my Salvation; He has provided access directly to the Throne of God where I can go without fear; He will give me wisdom if I just ask it. He HAS written the last page of the book.

And Christ IS praying for me.

Distance Makes No Difference!

by Cindy Best

Here in our state, we see acres and acres of corn and we know it is one of the most important crops in the entire world.

Sweet corn that is so delicious you swear you’re eating candy.  Feed corn that is used to feed animals and help them grow.  And seed corn… sent over the oceans to countries that use it to grow their own crops of corn to feed their people or animals.

Corn

Corn is used in a multitude of ways.  I can only think of a few, but they are amazing.  Corn oil is used to fry veggies and chicken.  Or corn is used to ferment and make alcohol. And with new technology, corn can be turned into Ethanol to help power engines.

And corn is a symbol of so much of fall.  “Indian corn” with its multi-colored kernels adorns many tables in centerpieces of harvest blessings.  And corn shucks are tied to fence and light posts to decorate our gates and doorways.   And then there’s “candy corn” passed out as goodies for fall celebrations…the yellow, orange and white candies sold in bags and bags at the grocery store, all based on CORN!

candy corn

If you’ve lived around a farm, or driven by one throughout the year, you know the hours of work involved in planting corn.  First, there’s the preparation of the soil, making it soft and rich with nutrients to give the seeds an environment to grow and be healthy.

Then there’s the hours spent planting each one of those seeds.  Can you believe that dried up seed will grow into that awesome ear of Peaches and Cream sweet corn???

Following that there’s watering, weeding, and praying a hail storm or strong wind doesn’t destroy the plant.  Harvesting goes on in billows of dust and into the night.  Ever see those harvesting machines with headlights on working into the night?

God bless our farmers!

Much the same routine goes on for all sorts of produce.  But think for a moment about tomato plants, peppers, green beans, peas, squash, zucchini.  Do you plant those in your home garden?  How many tomatoes do you get per plant?  How many peppers, beans, peas, etc.?

produce

And for an apple tree, or cherry tree, or citrus tree of some sort…how many fruits pull at the branches?

You plant, water, weed, fertilize…harvest.  Same kind of work for each plant, right?

But most varieties of CORN–each stalk so lovingly tended to–yield just ONE ear, maybe two!   Did you know that?  That is why we see acres and acres of corn in order to get bushels to be used in so many ways.

How many of us are willing to do just as much work for ONE thing as we are to get MANY things?

Do you know that Jesus would have gone through ALL he did, being made fun of, taunted, hated, lashed and crucified for ONE person?  For YOU?  That is how important you are to God.

Don’t forget it.  YOU are His child…the fruit of His labor.  YOU!

by Cindy Best

Water is essential for life.  Simple and obvious statement, right?  Without drinking water, our bodies will only  survive about three to four days.

And water provides us with so much enjoyment as well.  Swimming pools, fishing ponds or lakes, ocean fishing, even little fountains in our gardens which make beautiful sounds to help us relax.  Then, the practical side of being able to cook pasta or boil eggs and take a shower or bath, wash our clothes, make our coffee and tea.  And on and on.

water

But water in the WRONG place is awful.  Right?

This past spring and summer, Iowa had waaaaay too much water.  Flash floods, river flooding.  Then much of Colorado was destroyed by floods (after burning with forest fires in early spring). Yuck!

You might have had water issues in your basement, too.  Sump pumps working over time.  Or water breaking through foundations.

Water overflowing drain spouts and leaking into the basement.  Ruining our carpet, furniture, drywall, etc.  Ruining all the work we did bringing in good stuff to enjoy.

What can we do?

Well, the only way to stop water being where we do not want it is to prepare and prevent.  Cleaning out gutters regularly–that most mucky and dreaded of jobs at least for those of us who hate ladders–is vital.  And to tell the truth, it’s a job that gets put off until the first downpour, right?  At which time it may be too late to keep the water from seeping in.

Why do we put off something that we know has to be done?

Out of sight, out of mind, huh?  Maybe that’s the simple answer.  If we don’t have to face what we really hate to do every day, it just falls to the back of our “to do” list and maybe falls off the paper altogether!  But, when the forecast is dire, we scramble to find the ladder and then find ourselves on the stupid thing as the first drops of rain fall.  Double yuck!

Well, I’m thinking the gutters of our spiritual life sometimes need to be cleaned out, too.  All sorts of riffraff coated with worry, fear, frustration and disbelief floats through the air and falls into our minds.  They can easily overflow with all that junk, until it starts to seep into our soul and ruin the “good stuff” we have. The good stuff we worked so diligently to build up in our spiritual life.

Keeping tabs on what falls into our “gutters of life” will help.  We can’t stop everything, but we can pay more attention, more often…before the massive storms come and flood us out.  We need to keep a check on what we let fill our minds and hearts.

Water is good.  Water is life.

Just be sure to keep it in its place.

by Cindy Best

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