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Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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Jesus

The Intimacy of Life Within

Owen and his Mom...the newest member of our family.
Owen and his Mom…the newest member of our family.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God has God living inside, and that person lives in God. (1 John 4:15 NCV)

The experience of having another live inside of you is the most intimate of all human experiences. When I was expecting our first child, during those first few months, I knew I was pregnant, but my body told me little else. This was long before ultrasounds that allow expectant mothers to see their unborn child, to hear the heartbeat and see tiny kicks weeks before feeling those movements. One August afternoon when I was lying down for one of my frequent naps, I felt and then saw my unborn son move. A ripple within in sync with the slightest flicker of movement across my belly. The reality of the life within me took hold both of my head and my heart

So it is when the Holy Spirit comes to abide within the believer, from the moment of confession of faith in Jesus Christ, the moment of conception, He enters with a life force that will grow within, that will change forever the believer and that the believer will not be able to contain. In a sense, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, we, who are Christians become Christ-bearers. The Holy Spirit, unlike the unborn child, who will grow and be born a separate being, the Holy Spirit resides within forever, gradually transforming and maturing each Christian until we are born into Heaven.

During the process, like with pregnancy, the changes become more visible, less easily disguised. Like a baby-bump expands, so do the workings of the Holy Spirit within show. The intimacy of pregnancy does not stop, when a child enters the world…the mother and the child remain bonded…forever.

Certainly there are changes in the relationship of a mother and her child as she turns him loose for his first steps and continues to let go as he matures until to all those watching his independence seems complete. Ah! but as a mother of three I know since the first quickening within my womb to now, I have never completely turned loose.

God calls each of us to Him, but when we accept Jesus as our personal savior, He enters the core of our being…AND He never turns loose as He molds us from within, as He quickens our hearts to be like Jesus, as our spirits become entwined with his…even when we try to run away..He remains. We are His and He is ours!

My prayer today is that all will come to know the intimacy of the Holy Spirit within.

Blessings to all who are expecting babies today and to all new mothers, as they marvel at the wonderful miracle of life.

Lines in the Sand–Graves in the Making???

“A line in the sand can become a rut. A rut can become a ditch, and a ditch can be worn into a pit. There’s not much difference between a pit and a grave, Miss Becky,”
BREAKING TWIG, Deborah Epperson

As a child I watched the Disney series on the life of Davy Crockett…king of the wild frontier. I can still remember the series theme song and I suspect many others growing up in the 1950’s can…

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee
Greenest state in the Land of the Free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree
Kilt him a b’ar when he was only three.

Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier

Did I care that the history was flawed? No! The great thing about a series like this was the interest it aroused in me about history and the people who carved out this great land. For someone like me it sent me searching for more information about for example the ALAMO, which had not been introduced in the 4th grade curriculum at Frederick Central Grade School. Ten Facts About the Battle of the Alamo

In the last of the Davy Crockett series he had joined the ill fated tattered group of fighters* defending Texas against the powerful Mexican army under the command of General Santa Anna. As the end is in site, Colonel William Travis, co-commander of the Texas Republic troops at the Alamo, gives the troops a chance to leave. He takes his sword and draws a line in the sand. One by one the men on the other side cross over vowing to die for Texas independence. So I learned at age 9 that certainly lines in the sand can become graves, but I doubt I really thought about that much at the time.

Decision at the Alamo
Decision at the Alamo

This past week news programs have tossed about and questioned President Obama’s or the countries with 98% of the world’s population’s “red line” regarding the use of chemical warfare and the appropriate response to such actions. No one questions whether Syria has used chemical warfare on their own people, even Syria acknowledges that. No one questions whether or not the use of these weapons represent atrocities, the video record of 400 children injured and killed in these attacks is compelling evidence. The line has been crossed, and it would seem the Syrian government has leaned over and with blood dripping from their fingertips drawn their own red line.

I do not claim to know what the correct response should be. Certainly, a plethora of opinions among political and military leaders here in the United States and around the world are being expressed. The line in the sand gapes with the graves of the innocents.

History demonstrates this over and over. Hitler marched throughout Europe, gathering the innocents to be slaughtered, drawing red line after red line until the threat touched home. Graves upon graves lined up until to not respond would have allowed evil to triumph.

As a Christian, I know that Jesus warned us that there would be wars and rumors of wars. I know when he knelt to write in the sand as the crowd stood ready to stone the woman caught in adultery, his lines in the sand dispersed the crowd and left the woman alive and uncondemned. I know that we are told to overcome evil with good. What I do know is that as a Christian I am to care for the lives of others, especially the orphans and widows. I know that being a peacemaker is not the same as being a pacifist.

What I don’t know is whether air strikes on Syrian national forces are the good that will defeat evil; I don’t know, if the Syrian rebels are the good guys, or whether airstrikes will stop chemical weapons used on civilians or even soldiers. I also don’t know how many more graves will result from the lines human beings draw in the sand, but Jesus told us to expect this and to live as children of light in a world of darkness.

And so,

I pray for our leaders, our military, and our missionaries who face enormous dangers and challenges everyday. I am thankful for the civil freedoms I have because our military forces have sacrificed to keep us safe, but I am most thankful for the spiritual freedom I have because Jesus Christ died for my sins. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide my prayers and my actions so that in whatever small way, I can stand for good and against evil.

cross in sand

And I pray that like Jesus if I kneel to draw lines in the sand that they bring life and forgiveness, not death and destruction.

*ethnicity among the Texan defenders, 13 were native-born Texans, with 11 of these 13 being of Mexican descent. The rest of the Alamo defenders consisted of 41 men born in Europe, 2 Jews, 2 blacks, and the remainder were Americans from states other than Texas. Santa Anna’s forces were a conglomeration of former Spanish citizens, Spanish-Mexican mestizos, and indigenous Mexicans–wikipedia.org source:. Flores, Richard R. Remembering the Alamo (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002)

If There Are Ten?

Abraham's Prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah
Abraham’s Prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah

Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:23-25

 Abraham’s only tie to the great cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was his nephew Lot and Lot’s family, so it makes this passage all the more poignant as he bargains, that’s right, bargains with God for their salvation.  He knew God planned to deliver Lot and his family, but surely in these large cities, surely among the families, good fathers, husbands, men of integrity existed.  And so Abraham bargains.   If there are 50 good men, 30, what about 10?  Let’s say there are 10 good men, will You not destroy these cities?  God hears Abraham’s pleas and assents to his bargain.  Undoubtedly, God already knew there were not even 10, but I sense He was proud of Abraham for considering with compassion these two cities, for praying there was a seed of hope within their walls that could turn them around from self driven destruction.

Paul wrote, that where sin increases, so does the grace of God(Romans 5:7).  I don’t have to go farther than my bedroom mirror to find a sinful person.  Thanks to Jesus, I am also a forgiven child of God.  If I am not careful, I might rest in His Grace and ignore the thousands upon thousands, who continue to wander as Jesus said, like sheep without a shepherd.  

I might become like Jonah, who really wanted God to destroy Ninevah and its 100,000 inhabitants expressing his anger first by running from God’s call, and then heeding God’s Call with foot dragging compliance.   Poor old Jonah, who ended up sulking because in spite of his half hearted call to repentance, the Ninevites did and God spared them.  

Am I like that about certain sinners, thinking them not worthy, too wicked to save?  Or, do I turn a blind eye in the name of tolerance to obvious sin that damages individuals, confuses families, and sends society on a slippery slope to destruction, avoiding personal discomfort of calling for repentance?  Will we one day as Christians find ourselves bargaining with God for the world of the lost? Surely there are at least 10 righteous men?  Or will we work, will we stand up, will we pray, will we love the lost, will we be Jesus’ agents of salvation?

“There are two kinds of people both in life and in death:  the saved and the lost.  Jesus is the only agency of salvation.”  Lucy Kinya

How Shall I Respond to the Lost in the World?
How Shall I Respond to the Lost in the World?
Genesis 18: 20-33 (Old Testament Lectionary Reading for July 28, 2013, Proper 12, Year C)

Homelessness in Galilee and USA Luke 8:26-39

Homeless Man Wikipedia
Homeless Man Wikipedia

We were in Nashville today for a doctor’s appointment at Vanderbilt.  As I pulled off I-40 to the stoplight at Broadway, I saw a familiar sight, a   man selling newspapers.  From our ten weeks at Hope Lodge for Terry’s radiation and chemotherapy treatment, I know these men hocking these newspapers and these newspapers are not ordinary.  These are newspapers published for and about issues of homelessness.  The folks selling them are homeless or have been homeless.  

“Street Newspaper” is a term for a newspaper that focuses on the issues surrounding homelessness and poverty and is sold by homeless and formerly homeless individuals on the street. [1]

Across the United States there are a growing number of individuals and families living without benefit of a place to call home.  These folks, including children, live without benefit of a permanent address. . .while the overall number of homeless decreased slightly between 2011 and 2012 by 0.4%, the number of homeless families increased by 1.4%…62% of the homeless were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing, but 38% were unsheltered, living on the streets, in cars or abandoned buildings, places not intended for or safe for human habitation. [2]

Many of these folks are ordinary individuals and families who hit a really bad patch, some are victims of domestic violence, some made really bad choices, but whatever the reason they live in poverty with no place to call home.  Some are mentally challenged or mentally ill individuals who have been discharged from hospitals or simply left.  These individuals face even greater perils as they wander.  Homeless, baffled, tormented they become easy targets and some of them traumatized, carrying a war zone between their ears, become dangerous to themselves and others.

Move back in time with me as we explore the scripture in Luke.  I think this event exists for us to read and consider today, because God intended it so that we would understand the problems of poverty, homelessness, and tormented souls have always been with us.  God wants us to be more like Jesus everyday, so how did Jesus approach and help the man at Gerasenes?

Now, just so you know where I stand, I believe the man at Gerasenes was possessed by a Legion of demons, but I want to approach Jesus response to him from a slightly different angle.  Jesus and the disciples had experienced a rough night at sea and the disciples, no doubt, were still in awe over his calming of the wind and waves.  Face it folks, they were one exhausted company, when they stepped on shore to be greeted by, WELL!  A wild naked man, ranting and raving.  Not a pretty, nor a welcome sight.  Easy to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear, well maybe a little difficult, what with the man running directly at Jesus, shouting at the top of his lungs, flinging himself or being flung into the group of men dragging themselves out of the boat.  Okay, NOT that easy to ignore, but possible.  Point being Jesus did not choose to ignore him.

Let’s stand off from the scene on the beach, not too far, because we want to hear and see what happens.  What happens, what does Jesus do?

He sees the man.
He assesses his condition.
He takes action.
His action creates an adverse reaction in the man.
He probes deeper.
He perseveres.

Too bad for the pigs, but wonderful for the man.  Not so great for the pig farming economy, but restoration for the man.  An indication here of God’s regard for human beings, human rights, the human soul.  Clearly, one man’s welfare outweighed the welfare of a herd of pigs.  Clearly, the results viewed by the community were miraculous.  Here clothed, hair and beard trimmed, talking sense was the naked, violent, insane fellow who lived in the caves.  He cleaned up really good, once Jesus took hold of him.

Still, once the astonished town people started looking around, dead pigs bobbing on the water, frightened workers, the loss of income, the adverse effects of this man’s healing, they got together and asked Jesus and his disciples to leave.  It doesn’t say, “And don’t show your face here again.”, but you get that feeling.

As Jesus leaves, the restored man attempts to follow, but Jesus has another ministry for him.  He sends him back, to live and work among the people in his hometown.  His very presence is a constant reminder of the power of God, but Jesus instructs him to do more…Use your new voice, your ability to reason, your knowledge of God’s action in your life.  Be a living testimony!  And so he did just that!

In light of this scripture what am I, what are you called to do in this world where, just as Jesus said, “the poor you will always have with you.”?  Seems a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it?  So much need, so many poor, so many hurting, so many unsaved…I think I will take a nap….I mean, pray about it!

Look instead in prayer to Jesus–one deranged man healed, when surely there were many others in similar states.   I need to look right in front of me, wherever I happen to be and ask God to let me see as He sees, assess as He does, take action, and if thwarted at first, pray again, look again, probe again and persevere. . .One by one!

And then be a testimony to all God has done.    Live as a restored sinner saved by grace!  As D.T.  Niles once said, 

 “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”

Blessings,

Carolyn

References:

[1]  http://thecontributor.org/ [2] The State of Homelessness in America, 2013 http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/the-state-of-homelessness-2013

Hard to Hug a Stiff Child

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It is easier to hug a dirty child than a stiff one.  The child who has been running through mud puddles all day long, who hears Mom or Dad calling, perks up, and heads filthy and full force into their waiting arms may transfer some dirt, but as his small pliable body willingly yields, a hug comes easy.  Not so, with a stiff child, a child who refuses to come when called.  A child who exhibits disrespect for her parents, disobeying their rules right in front of them.  A child who considers the folks as “just not good enough”.  Even if you manage to get your arms around them, you might as well be hugging a board.

In Isaiah 65:1-9,  I hear The Lord lamenting a nation of stiff children.  They ignore his offers of help, they ignore his voice, even though he stands with open arms ready to accept them, even though they are dirty, ready to hug them and to bless them.  He knows the road they are traveling down will lead to destruction. But, no!  They taunt him, run from him, yell, “Stay Away from Me!”  I cannot help but see them as defiant teenagers.  

As a parent I hurt for God.  As a sinner, I realize how my rebellion and defiance have hurt God.

A friend of mine had a daughter who at sixteen packed a bag, left a note and disappeared for over a year.  No phone calls, not one postcard, nada, nothing for over a year.  My friend and her husband lived as she put it like dead people walking.  After the initial tears and recriminations neither could chance allowing any emotion in their life, lest they destroy each other. They became wooden faxcimilies of real persons. At night they lay beside each other like wooden people, staring at the ceiling, not talking, not loving, consumed with the loss of their daughter.  Their two other children received wooden care and learned to make themselves invisible at home, seeking tenderness from thankfully church friends and other family.

Then one day she called, broke down and cried, begged for forgiveness.  They packed their bags and flew across the country to pick up their daughter who was no longer stiff, but covered in the mire that a life on the streets can foster.  They wrapped her in their arms and took her home.  But it took many years for this family to heal.

My friend said she never wanted to know the whole story of her daughter’s year on the streets.  I can understand that.  As I read this scripture again, I am reminded God does know.  He sees.  He crys out to us.  He doesn’t close his eyes even when he wants to do nothing else.  Fortunately, he doesn’t throw us away.  Even though he let punishment come to the people of Israel, He did not desert them.  

In my young adult years I walked away from God, ignored his people, ignored his Word, struck out with my suitcase packed and didn’t even leave him a note.  I was one stiff child!  Funny thing was as I entertained sin, I considered myself a more evolved “Christian”.  Talk about delusional dangerous thinking, I flirted with it and know what, “I got burned.”  God let me travel the road I chose, not seeking Him or His help.  I pretty much let God know that I could handle my life by myself….Stiff, Stiff, Stiff child!!   

Then when my whole world seemed to be crashing around me, I called home.  I ran dirty and broken into His arms.  He led me to His Word.  He restored “all the years the locust had eaten”.

So when I read Isaiah 65:1-9, I see myself in every line, but even more than that I see Jesus taking all my dirt, filth and rebellion on his back for me.  Jesus, always obedient, clean, accepting my sin as His own, so I could be free.  I still get dirty, but I know the one who will wash the dirt away.

He didn’t fly across the country to pick me up and bring me home.  He went to the Cross!

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Picture References:

http://izismile.com/2009/06/25/dirty_children_16_pics.html
http://wwwphoenixlyrisis.blogspot.com/2011/06/lost-soul-of-child.html

Before and After–The View from Right Now 1 Peter 4:1-11

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“It seems so much smaller than I remember it.”  How did the yard, I played in as a child, with its enormous expanse shrink just as the house never large miniaturized.  The distances between home and school, between home and downtown shortened.  I recall my surprise as an adult revisiting old haunts, amazed that I remembered it so MUCH larger.  How could this be?  I was an adult 18 years old when I went away to college and it is true I never really lived there again.  No, I met my man, moved to the big city and only went back for short visits. Those short visits became farther between after my parents moved to be near us, consisting of a few highschool reunions.  Each visit, my hometown dimished in size.

The 1 Peter scripture looks backward and forward at the life of a believer.  After reading it, on my first morning walk with the dogs, I considered the shock–and yes, that best describes my reaction–when I revisited my hometown for my 15th class reunion.  In my memories I had imagined it so much bigger than the reality.  In most cases our pasts, including the actual places, diminish with time, but not so the rememberance of our sins.  NO, those memories revisited inflate into monsters.  Oh, as Christians, The Lord has forgiven us, removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, yet still I find them, mull over them, let them grow larger in my head, give them control they should not have and for HEAVENS SAKE!  It is time to stop.  Time to stop feeling guilty.  Time to let those memories shrivel and shrink, become minatures just like the old home place. So we can live in the Spirit as God lives.

It really doesn’t matter when the end of time or my end of time comes.  What matters is living freely in Christ into the New Future He has for you and me.

The Lord says, “Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land. (Isaiah 43:18, 19 NCV)

So 1 Peter 4: 1-11 sums up how our response to Jesus should be.  Stay close to God, Pray, LOVE, Be open, Show hospitality, Speak as God directs, Serve as He enables….all this builds the Kingdom of God in Enemy territory…and do it all to the Praise and Glory of God.

If I keep my head clear
If I keep my mind set
My prayers will target God’s will

If I love deeply
If I love without fear
Forgiveness will blanket much sin

If I open my home
If I show hospitality
Grace will be manifested to all

If I speak God’s word
If I serve with God’s strength
In all I am. In all I do

God, the Father, God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit WILL BE PRAISED!

Carolyn

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P.S. All grammatical, spelling, etc. are my own due to my poor skills as a proof reader.

In the Company of Women

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Luke 7:36-8:3

The woman was a known harlot, she had no standing at all among the people of her village, but she especially was unwelcome at the home of Simon, the Pharisee.  I am not sure how she even made it into the dining room, perhaps disguised as one of the servant girls.  Certainly, even women of standing, wives, mothers, sisters did not dine with the men when their was a dinner party.  Her presence tainted the whole event, she was unwanted, and yet she dared the possibility of being humiliated and thrown out to approach and minister to the man, Jesus.  Why on earth did she risk so much?

Simon invited Jesus but did not make him especially welcome.  Perhaps any hospitality he might have shown faded when he saw THAT WOMAN standing at Jesus feet, weeping, pouring expensive perfume to cleanse the dust and soothe the aches.  Perhaps he froze in distain as he saw her touch Jesus feet with her hair–how disgusting that this so called prophet would allow a woman, any woman, not his wife or mother, to touch him, but especially THIS WOMAN.  Simon puffed up in all his self-righteousness could barely speak when Jesus addressed him.  Can you hear the venom dripping from his mouth when he responded to Jesus, “Teacher, tell me.”?

Can you see Jesus’ eyes moving between Simon and the woman at his feet, who continues ministering to him, her tears still flowing?  Simon obviously considers Jesus’ little riddle simplistic so he responds sarcastically.  Really, how easy, of course the more grateful person would be the one who had the greater debt cancelled.  You can almost see his eyes roll.  But Jesus doesn’t let him bask in his own brilliance or self righteousness for even a beat.  Jesus confronts him by comparing Simon unfavorably with the prostitute…”Impressive, isn’t she, Simon?”

And then while Simon’s mouth drops open and his Pharisee buddies huddle and mumble, Jesus forgives her sins, which are many.  He frees her from bondage and sends her away in peace, ignoring Simon and the other dinner guests negative commentary.  I wonder do you think he turned back to the other guest, took a bite and asked Simon to pass the salt?

What became of the woman?  Well there is a clue in the first 3 verses of the next chapter for Luke tells us that the 12 apostles and several women traveled with Jesus.  Women, who Jesus healed, forgave, delivered.  Some are named, others are not, but these women provided from their own means the money for the ministry.  Jesus honored women in a time when culture did not.  I find myself in these women, girlfriends of mine, though centuries divide us.  For I, too, have been forgiven much and I follow Jesus knowing that when I crawled to his feet and poured out my sins, He took my hand, lifted me up and said, “Follow me.”

GET OUT OF THAT STINKING BOAT. . . and dance?

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Just had to share the text and devotion in total from http://shereadstruth.com/ written by Sarah Matheny.

Text:  1 Peter 1:13-16, Romans 12:1-3

“Peter is one of those Biblical figures that I just get. He’s just living his life, doing his thing, working hard at what he does, when he encounters Christ.  And then everything changes. Because Jesus doesn’t just see Simon Peter as a hard-working fisherman, crusty, focused on the tasks he’s got on his own horizon and, more than likely, a little smelly. Jesus sees him as a rock. A fisher of men. Jesus sees Peter as holy.

When Peter writes in 1 Peter, we get the advantage of knowing his story. We know he himself wasn’t always prepared for action (1 Peter 1:13a, NIV). We know he himself has lived in ignorance (1 Peter 1:14, NIV). And we can believe him when he says we too can receive grace and be holy in all that we do (1 Peter 1:16, NIV), even when we fall short, as we know Peter himself did.

The Lord doesn’t call us to be something we cannot be. We cannot be perfect.  But we can be set apart, just as Peter was, despite his crusty, smelly, self-interested ways. Being holy, though, has less to do with being without fault and more to do with the state of our heart once we’ve come to know Christ. We can intentionally cast our nets, steer our boat and ask Him to wash off as much of our stink as we possibly can with the resolve to invest our lives in the work of His kingdom.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Jesus raised the bar for Peter, and He raises the bar for us. He wants to be your all in all, in every part of your life.

All you have to do is let Him help you out of your stinky boat.”

Carolyn’s Comments:

From The Message in the Romans 12:1-2 passage: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”   Well that one hit me right between the eyes.  How often do I just go along to get along?

Then I read Sarah’s devotional and pow again, right off, something I don’t often consider.  Jesus saw Peter as not perfect or ever likely to be perfect, that is before Heaven.   He saw him as HOLY, set apart to represent God in his world and his culture. Today, He sees you and me that way.  Not perfect, but perfectly HIS!  Called to make a difference, not just slide along with the whims of societal changes. 

How easy it is to cocoon ourselves and simply wile away our time in safe places, church, SRT, our homes as long as the TV is off! 

Or to enter the world to creep along the fringes of cultural needs and even atrocities, like the wallflower I was in High School. Silent, hoping not to be noticed. 

Or simply to keep our faith as something “personal” and maybe not dive right in to the crowd, but certainly to drift along in that direction. 

In the Old Testament God called a people the Hebrews and set them apart to be Holy unto God…not so they would become a clique but so they would be Light to the World. They didn’t get it, or at least most of them didn’t. They were supposed to make a difference in the world. 

In the New Testament God gave His only son to die and then to rise so that WE could be Holy unto God…not a clique, a beacon, not bland, but salty, seasoned with his grace and love. 

We are called to SHAPE THE WORLD not BE SHAPED BY THE WORLD! 

I cannot do that hiding in the walled city, or skirting the walls at the dance of life. 

If God sees me as Holy, set apart, then I need to see myself that way and look to where He is working in the world, take His Hand and join the DANCE even if it uses new steps no one else is using. 

I am leaving you with the verse that really hit me from three different versions. 

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. (1 Peter 1:14 NLT) As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. (1 Peter 1:14 MSG) Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, (1 Peter 1:14 NET) 
Abigail