Author Archives: Mary Agius

Promises, Promises

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Promises as a child often consisted of nothing more than the simplistic motto “cross your heart and hope to die, stick a needle in your eye.” Did you ever encounter death by way of a self-inflicted puncture wound to the eye? Yeah, me neither.  Yet I’m pretty sure I didn’t always keep my promises.

Hopefully as adults we’re a little better at doing what we say we will. But unfortunately, we still fall pitifully short. I know I do.

But there is One who always keeps His promises without fail. He always does what He says He will. He does not need to put His hand on the Bible and promise to tell the truth. He is the truth. And His promises are true.

This is a reassuring anchor for my soul. The Bible calls Him our place of refuge. We can run to Him and trust He will be there for us.

Living in a world that is constantly changing chaos, I find myself in need of refuge more and more often.

Last year was hard. Understatement. In many ways, it was the worst year ever. Pain abounding.

But, it also held many wonderful things. The problem was valleys created deep crevice wounds in my soul that often left me on the injured reserve list.

I spent much time in refuge. And God was waiting for me there. Comforting me, healing me, restoring my strength and then, sending me back out to the front line. Many times I played injured, concealing my wounds, but still I played because the Coach called me to suit up.

I don’t know what this coming year will bring. But one thing is sure. I know I have a refuge and I have a heavenly Father who keeps His promises. And if the world around me falls apart this year, I will choose to take refuge in His promises.

Hate is like leftover meatloaf

“Therefore, be imitators of God and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2

I can’t help but think that in modern vernacular, this would be translated… don’t be a hater!

What is so amazing about God is that even if I think I’m not a hater, He shines a spotlight on lurking attitudes and justified judgementalism fermenting in the bottom of my heart.

I often face these moments in utter surprise like finding that leftover meatloaf that I made last month in the back of the fridge, no longer recognizable. Oooh, how’d that get there? Pokes item suspiciously… And what is that?

Of course, God knew it was there all along. Growing, festering. Needing to be dealt with. Like the perfect gentleman, He doesn’t take it out and throw it at me. Instead He creates a longing in me to be more like Him. This of course, leads to a “okay you asked for it” deeper cleaning.

So, what has He been cleaning out lately? The misconception that I think I love people. What? Of course I do. Generally. Mostly. Except for them. And then not always. Yeah okay, I’ve got a way to go.

What I’m realizing though is God takes His word pretty seriously. And when He says to love all, He really means all. All the time. So, how do I do that?

First, don’t be a hater. Don’t put it in Tupperware and store in the back of my heart for later. It only gets uglier.

Second, as the verse above says, imitate Christ. Well, that’s enough steps for me because that will take me the rest of my life.

Fire in the Soul: What Lasts & What Burns

Fire is once again raging nearby in our state. While the memories of last year’s infamous Waldo Canyon fire are still fresh in my mind, the high heat, dry conditions and wind are a familiar backdrop.

My heart aches for those who have evacuated and others who lost homes and precious contents not so easily replaced.

I remember the evacuation process like it was yesterday. We sold our home and were waiting to close escrow when both the house we were buying and the one we were selling went under evacuation with a fire growing in between the two.

Scary. And complicated.

In sifting through for evacuation items to take, our two children had opposite reactions. One picked up a handful of items and didn’t care about anything else. The other cried and desperately wanted to take everything.

As I stood in each room looking around at stacks of boxes taped neatly shut, I wondered how the sum of one’s life could be reduced to a mound of cardboard.

What was truly important after all? What was not replaceable?

Today I ask these same questions but not of my earthly possessions but of my heart, my life, my faith. What will last through the final fire?

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:7

Scripture reminds me that this world is not my final home. On the day that I evacuate this earth for good, I won’t need boxes or tape, or to pack a thing.

All that is needful, all that will survive the fire is my faith in Christ. All that will come with me will be that which brings Him praise, honor and glory.

With this in mind, how therefore should I be living? What about you – do you have fire assurance?

The Blue Screen of Death

Anyone who’s ever used a computer for any length of time eventually encounters the notorious yet very unwelcome “Blue Screen of Death” signifying that a crash is imminent. Mine happened yesterday.

My laptop, after serving me faithfully for nearly five years, is steadily creeping toward a forced retirement. No big surprise with all the abuse I have put it through. Not to mention that I share it with my teenage son. The poor device hardly gets a break.

There were certainly warning signs along the way. An unhappy fan that runs loud and hot. An operating speed reminiscent of the days of dial-up. The abrupt turn offs that weren’t even preceded with so much as a good night kiss.

Most recently though, my battery died. Not dying, but dead. Not necessarily a big deal. But I’ve replaced it before. And the cords. Numerous times.

So, as I savor my virtual friend’s final days, I realize a few things.

First, I must function in the immediate vicinity of an outlet. As long as my cord holds up and I have a place to plug in, I can operate. If I step away from the juice, my laptop is nothing but a paper weight.

Second, I’ve been thinking lately about how this connectedness applies to Psalm 1, which talks about a wise man who is like “a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Third, although my physical body seems to be decaying at a rate comparable to my laptop, the Bible says that our inner man ( or woman), is being renewed. But that renewal only comes by being connected to the life-giving Source.

I have found that my life lately has been running an uncanny similarity to my computer.

I feel old.

Outdated.

I get overly hot sometimes. (Won’t go there.)

My memory’s too full to be able to recall things easily.

I operate so slowly some days, the best I can do is reboot.

I have more screens open than my limited system can handle.

And lastly, I have run out of juice. I MUST stay connected to power at all times if I am to function at all. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. Because my internal power is kaput.

Like that tree that is not just planted but FIRMLY planted by water, I too must plant, deposit, lodge, take up residence with the Source of my strength. That means not just running over for a drink occasionally, but living in it, letting it permeate me through and through.

Until my last blue screen. Are you firmly connected to the Source?

Write On: From A to Z

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I joined the A to Z Blogging challenge to jump-start me back into the swing of writing. It definitely did that, and so much more. Here’s just a bit of what I gleaned on my journey:

1. I learned to write even when I didn’t want to. Gasp, I know, shocking! There were some days I was just NOT in the mood to put any words on paper. I did it anyway. Which leads to…

2. I embraced the deadline. My past blogging schedule was ruled by a “whenever I feel like it” mentality. Problem was… life, busyness, family, issues, etc… often rob me of warm and fuzzy feelings which led to an abysmal word count.

3. As I blogged, I was both energized to be making progress and losing steam at the same time. Not unlike a race with the last part being straight uphill. However, in the end, every post was done on deadline (on my time zone) but a few were pretty close to midnight. Some were grueling labor, others flowed but I birthed them all.

4. The further along I got, the less I wanted to give up. I’d tell myself, “precious, you’ve come this far. Don’t quit!”

5. The simple act of blogging according to letters of the alphabet spurred on my creative juices. Who knew? I found myself daydreaming about letters and words throughout the day. Yes, I’m weak minded. S is for Squirrel!

6. Short posts are better. Not just for me – the one writing them. But, for anyone out there in cyberspace who happens to want to read them. Shorter paragraphs and shorter overall length means less is more. When I see blogs with non-stop words and very little white space, my eyes glaze over and I click “next”.

7. Pictures are great. Nothing like a visual to go along with the post. I thoroughly enjoyed the travel blogs where the photos help me put myself on a beach in Bora Bora. This was my blog’s biggest weakness. I had no visual. Unless I am the most fascinating writer in the world, I need to work on this. Yeah, need to work on this.

8. Bullet points or a numbered list (like this one) helps give structure. It’s easier on the eyes to scan bits and pieces. It’s also helpful if there are some pointers or suggestions on a specific topic. It’s a concrete take away.

9. I guess this is pretty self-explanatory, but… say something! Have a point and make it. Don’t just ramble on and on. And on. And on…. That’s all I have to say about that!

10. Consider circularity. Check the beginning and ending. Did I say what I said I was going to say? And tie it up in a bow.

11. Have a killer title. Whether peculiar, funny or informative. It entices people. A good title can draw in more readers. My most hit upon blog post of all time was “A Jalapeno and My Nose”. Followed up by “Ikea, Two Men and The Wrong Size”. Need I say more?

12. Try to post at the same time every day. That brings a sense of expectancy for readers. For me, first thing in the morning (7ish) seemed to produce the highest readership. Maybe I was hitting people before they started their day. Who knows, it just worked.

13. Add a bit of personal. A story. A trip. An experience. But make it a snippet not a lifetime memoir. No one’s life is that fascinating.

In conclusion, there are a myriad of blogs and bloggers out there. Everyone with something different to say. Some you will like and agree with, others not so much. That’s okay. Accept that you also will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Be true to who you are and your own voice. Then write on!

Zealous

My husband is truly my best friend.

I absolutely adore that man. And I love to spend time with him. But his interests and mine are vastly different.

That is why I am glad God gave that poor man a son who WILL go with hm ziplining, parachuting, canyoneering, climbing 14ers, playing hockey, etc.. Because until he came along, I was the designated companion for such outings.

Yes, he’s talked me in to doing a few over the years, but I am basically more of an indoor girl. As a matter of fact, I just got some blood work back from my doctor and I am apparently a little low in the Vitamin D department (the sunshine vitamin). I guess I have to actually leave the house occasionally. I can’t just read about it.

But you see, I am an inside girl. I do go outside because, well, I have to. I haven’t quite perfected my eccentric millionaire role yet so I can hide away from the world.

But my hub – he is very zealous for anything active. Or dangerous. Or high. Or fast. I say scary, he says fun.

But if there is any area we share a zeal for – it is for the things of God.

Scripture tells us in Titus 2:4 that Jesus “gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Well, I know I’ve got the peculiar part down, but what about the zealous for good works. Honestly, some days I accomplish this better than others.

But, although, I don’t naturally have a zeal for the same outdoor activities my husband does, for his sake, I do try to join him sometimes. Because I love him.

Even greater is my love for Christ. And deeper is my desire to be pure, to be His and to be zealous for His good works. Each day gives me a new opportunity to stoke the coals of my zeal for Him.

Yield for greater yield

Baking is one of my hobbies that my whole family enjoys the fruits of. Over the years, I have learned a few things.

Number one – high altitude is not my friend. I’ve tried all the tricks – less butter, less sugar (that alone should be enough to cause Julia Child to roll over in her grave) and more flour. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. I go with it. I try to get away with saying, “I meant to do that. I know how much you like your cookies flat and extra crispy.”

Number two – under no circumstances should I consider baking for someone else without a bit of the bounty being left for the family. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “who is that for” as they entered the kitchen with hope. Their pouty little faces upon being left out wasn’t worth it.

So, now I just double everything. It’s called yield control.

I need enough to feed three normal size adults and one ginormous mutant teenage son who consumes a Mass X shake with 1200 calories between meals. There is no such thing as full with him. He gets hungry getting up from the dinner table to carry his plate to the kitchen.

Thus yield control.

I double recipes. Sometimes I triple them. I create a chart of exactly how much flour, eggs and sugar I need at Christmas time to make cookies. No, I am not kidding.

Life is about yield control too. We put the right ingredients in to it to get the final product we desire.

Just like the high altitude causes my baked goods to sink, sometimes issues I can’t control can cause my attitude to tank. The result may be a little flat and extra crispy. That’s okay. I’m a work in progress.

Romans 6:13 says, “…yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”

Interestingly, a life “yielded” to Christ produces a better “yield”. Funny how that works, isn’t it? He does the work through us, we get the benefit.

Learning from Xerxes & an Xtra special lady

King Xerxes was a piece of work. As if 180 days of “displaying the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty” weren’t enough. He then threw a seven-day long party, inviting anyone who was anyone. Finally, when he was good & drunk he summoned for the queen so she too could be on display.

Except she wouldn’t come.

Maybe because she was in the middle of a party of her own. Or, maybe she didn’t like parades where she was the only float.

Either way, it didn’t bode well for her. The king went looking for a replacement. Technically he sent his staff to find his next trophy wife.

Only he got Esther. Appointed by God.

Poor guy didn’t know what hit him.

He not only held a beauty pageant to cream the crop – so to speak. But the top picks were taken to the palace & given a one year mandatory spa membership. Then the contestants each got one night alone with the king so he could choose the winner. Sound degrading? Um, yeah.

Enter Esther. Never to exit. She was not just another contestant. Scripture says that “she found favor” with the king.

But, you see, there was more to her than just a pretty face. What King X got was a young Hebrew lady who was both innocent in beauty & pure in heart. Poor guy didn’t stand a chance.

He was ready to give her half the kingdom if she wanted it. But she didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to receive worldly goods. Although she was certainly entitled to it.

As I look at her life, Esther has become rather a hero of mine. No, not just because of her external beauty. Although that wouldn’t be so bad. But what she was able to accomplish because of her faithful conduct.

• Because of her humble spirit, she found favor & kindness with the king. Not such a bad thing to have with the ruler of the land.

• She saved the king’s life by warning of a death threat on him.

• When her own people’s lives were threatened she put her life on the line. The king could call her in to his presence anytime he felt like it but she, even as the new queen, could not just stroll in there uninvited. But she did.

• She was an excellent ambassador both in her methods & her speech.

• She delivered the Jews by revealing the plot of the evil Haman. He and his 10 sons were put to death.

• After her people had victory over their oppressors, she instituted the feast of Purim. Which is still celebrated to this day.

• Her uncle Mordecai not only received the king’s signet ring but became 2nd in authority in the land – only beneath the king.

Not bad for a young orphan gal living in a foreign land.

She had two things in her favor. 1. Her faithfulness to her God and people. 2. The realization that maybe God had put her in that place “for such a time as this.”

Who knows what we can accomplish by embracing these two things as well.

White Space

My daughter likes to write on her bedroom walls. In permanent marker. And yes, on purpose.

I confess when she first asked me about it, there was a small part of me that shrieked internally that normal people don’t do such things. But then again, she’s not “normal”. But neither am I.

You see, we are both the creative types. And although my husband is probably thankful I haven’t written on our bedroom walls. I’m glad that she did.

My daughter is nearly ready to spontaneously combust with all her creative juices. Her loves include drawing, photography, writing, and just overall creativeness that well, sometimes comes out on her walls.

She started with her favorite quotes along with tidbits of décor. Now, when she invites friends over, they too join. Let me just say, she has some artistic friends. And although I was originally rather leary, the effect has been pretty amazing.

I confess, inwardly I also knew nothing a good can of paint couldn’t fix.

The only thing I suggested to her is that she might not want to write on all of them. Why not? She wanted to know.

Well, don’t you think it could be a little too much? Kind of like living inside a comic strip?

No – her answer came out quick. You see, in her mind, more is more, and that is better.

But I explained to her, even in the nicest looking document we create on paper, we leave a margin. It’s called white space. An area for our eyes to calm down.

I find that white space is even more important in life. To get away from the busyness and constant energy zapping activities of life. A place for our heart to calm down.

Jesus knew this well when He told his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.”(For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) Mark 6:31

We live in busy days. Many people and things coming and going in our lives. I know there are days I don’t have time to eat. So, I can relate well to this verse. Imagine if Jesus said this 2000 years ago, what He would say today.

A secluded place to rest. A quiet break. An electronic hiatus. A Sabbath. Call it what you will. But we all need white space built in to our lives. We weren’t designed to have constant busyness.

When more becomes too much. Then less is more.

How do you create intentional white space in your life?

Vision Check Up

How’s your vision? Since I just went to the eye doctor yesterday, the answer for me is . . . not so good. Then again, that’s not surprising since I haven’t updated my prescription in five years and I spend a lot of time on the computer.

But besides my physical eyesight, I find that my spiritual vision occasionally needs a check up too.

Using our human eyes we naturally tend to have a human perspective on life. We see circumstances visually with our eyes and sense experiences with our feelings. When life is ugly, it wears us down.

If we see a battleground before us and feel like an injured and weary warrior limping to the finish line, we won’t be running any races. There aren’t any victory dances in our step. There’s only the thought, can I get up and take one more step?

Thus what we see with our natural senses control what we think, and how we act. But what if there’s another way?

Psalm 16:8 says “I have set the Lord continually before me, because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

We can’t always change what’s around us. Sometimes all that’s in our view is pain and problems. But we can choose what aspect of it deserves our focus. Like in the above verse.

I HAVE SET implies a purposeful choice. Sure, the Lord is omnipresent. He is before us and all around us all the time. But this is different. It refers more to a focused decision. This is an intentional perspective. Like choosing what goes in the background and what in the foreground of your sight.

BEFORE ME. When you drive a car, although you constantly sweep your mirrors to be aware of what is happening around you, your eyes are primarily fixed in front of you. Why? Because that’s where you’re going. Those things impact you the most. So, if the Lord is before me, then He is directly in my view. Much of life’s issues get blocked by His presence.

CONTINUALLY. Not just today. Or this hour. But every moment of the day. That is the tricky part, isn’t it? I feel like Peter walking on the water. One moment my eyes are fixed on Him, then as I consider the peril of the situation, my focus shifts away and I begin to drown. Thus the necessity of continual.

As a result of doing this, the Psalmist states, we will not be shaken.

How’s your vision today? What are you choosing to place front and center in your vantage point? Is it time for a spiritual eye exam?

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