Monday, December 30, 2013

Where do we go from here?

This year has been a challenging one for so many people. The economy has suffered and many have lost their jobs. Families that were once making ends meet are now finding themselves struggling. They wonder when or if things will ever get better. Worry takes over and fear sets in. Uncertainty looms as trust dwindles.

While none of us know what the future holds, we can rest in knowing who holds our future. God tells us that He sees our needs and knows what we need even before we ask. Let's look at one of God's names, the name that signifies His ability to see know us. The name El-Roi means "the God who sees me" and it is found in Genesis 16:13. "You are a God who sees me.”

Hagar, a servant of Sarah, Abraham's wife, served her mistress faithfully. She worked hard day in and day out and even gave Abraham a son when Sarah was unable to give him one. Her days rolled by in a monotone of mindless work. No hope of getting ahead, no chance for marriage or family. She had traveled far away from home for this position and had no intention of jeopardizing her job by messing up.
Sarah wanted a baby but was unable to have one so she gives her servant girl, Hagar, to her husband. No one knows it yet, but Hagar got pregnant! Suddenly, instead of things being better, all of a sudden they grow much worse. Sarah is very unkind to Hagar and very jealous of her. She speaks harsh words to Hagar and threatens her. She tells her husband, Abraham that she wants Hagar to leave. Abraham tells Sarah that she can do what she chooses to with Hagar, afterall, she is her servant Sarah banishes her from their home. Hagar is scared and bewildered. She does not understand why she is being sent away. She has done nothing wrong.
Hagar heads for the hills. She is so distraught that she stops in the middle of a desert road and begins to weep. Suddenly, the angel of the Lord appears and asks Sarah what she's doing and where she's going. He also tells her that she needs to go back to her mistress and submit to her. (Can you imagine Sarah's distress??) Then the angel tells her that God is going to bless her and give her many descendants through her son, Ishmael. That’s when she saw God. Actually, that’s when Hagar realized that God saw her. She says to God, "You are the God who sees me!"
So even though we don't know what the future holds, we know that God sees us and He holds the future. He sees the you that no one else ever sees. He sees deep into your heart and soul. He knows what's coming around the corner. He knows what the new year is going to bring into your life. Aren't you thankful that you don't know what the future holds? If we knew all the things that lay ahead, we might be scared out of our wits! But thankfully, we have a God who is loving and kind. A God who wants to bless us.
There's no cause for need to panic! Rest knowing that you have a God who sees YOU and loves YOU. Step out into the unknown with confidence knowing that He will give you just enough light for your next step on the dark path...all you have to do is be willing to pick up your foot and take the step....
(You can read the Bible story here:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My New Year's resolution: Choosing to give the gift of forgiveness

A new year is coming and as all of us do,  I began thinking about resolutions. As I searched my heart; I had to ask if I was holding onto any bitterness or unforgiveness. Were there past hurts that were still haunting me? Had there been hurtful words that still echoed in my mind? Could I be holding onto something that I should have let go a long time ago???

Forgiveness...the very word evokes pain doesn't it? If you've been hurt or wronged by someone, the wound is probably still very fresh in your mind. It's natural for us to want to retaliate when we've been wronged...that's the fleshly side of us wanting justice, but that is totally the opposite of how God sees it. When we want to hold onto that bitterness and unforgiveness, we inadvertently feed it as it slowly grows inside us. God wants to totally eradicate that pain so we can live in freedom.

Some people choose to replay the wrong done to them over and over in their instant replay on a movie screen. Each time the wrong is brought to the forefront of their mind, emotions swell and the hurt seems to grow larger and larger- festering like an infected wound. The hurt may have taken place many days, months, or years ago but as it is replayed, it can seem as fresh and new as if it were yesterday.

Lewis B. Smedes wrote in his book, Forgive and Forget, "When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself." When we choose unforgiveness, we imprison ourselves in the past. We allow the wrong that was done to us to constantly weigh us down and hold us captive. If we choose forgiveness, by an act of our will, we allow God to release us from our man-made prison.

If we are obedient to Christ, we will choose forgiveness. In the Bible, we are given clear instruction in Colossians 3:13: "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." You may wonder how we can forgive when we don't feel like it? We forgive by choosing to forgive as a heart choice- an act of faith on our parts out of obedience to Christ. It's not in our nature to forgive on our own, so we have to allow God to forgive through empower us to choose to forgive. We can't just forgive in our heads by saying "I forgive you," we have to be willing to forgive from the heart. A forgiveness that says "I choose to forgive you even if you never know that I've forgiven you...even if you never ask for my forgiveness...even if you never admit that what you did to me was wrong."  
 Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. Many hurts will never be forgotten even though they are forgiven...but, God can erase the pain from the hurt if you will let Him heal your heart.  He can set you free from anger, bitterness, and resentment. We are the ones who suffer the most when we choose not to forgive the one who wronged us. Forgiveness isn't going to just happen overnight. Often times, it takes time and is a very slow process especially if you've been hurt over and over again.  Forgiveness is not a one time thing! The Bible tells us that forgiveness is a continual action, did you know that? In Matthew 18:21-22, the Bible tells us that Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother when he sinned against him. Peter wanted to know if up to seven times was enough but Jesus said "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven." In essence, He was saying, forgive as many times as you are hurt.    It's not easy to forgive but if we allow ourselves to see the person through God's eyes, how can we not forgive? When we remember that God forgave us for all of our sins, how can we hold unforgiveness in our hearts? Matthew 6:14-16 tells us "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." And in Mark 11:25, "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

In order to truly be set free, we must choose to forgive. Don't allow roots of bitterness and unforgiveness to strangle your joy and happiness. Don't let the weeds of resentment grow in your heart! Unforgiveness is like a Cancer that eats away at us, slowly devouring our heart. Choose forgiveness and wrap that gift up in the love and grace of Christ. It won't be easy, but you can do it! I am choosing to give the gift of forgiveness in this new year. I'm choosing to release myself from the pain of the past. I'm going to begin this new year fresh and about you? Will you CHOOSE forgiveness? It's your choice after all, choose wisely.

Monday, December 23, 2013

God cares about the little things

It's two days before Christmas and my oven isn't working! I called the appliance repair company today and they are swamped. Perhaps they can get to me today and perhaps they can't...they can't guarantee anything. I'm in full fledged "freak out" mode. I'm going to have a house full of people on Christmas day and I don't know how I'm going to cook for them. My menu is planned and the groceries have been bought, I just don't know what to do! But wait a minute...the Bible says "Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you." It doesn't say cast some of your cares on Him, but ALL of them. Okay, do I really think that God cares about my silly little oven problems??? Yes, I do! I know that He cares about all things, big and small. He cares about what concerns me because He loves me so very much...after all, He is my Heavenly Father and Fathers always want what's best for their children, right??? So, I will humble myself and get on my knees before my Father and ask for a simple request. The Bible tells me that NOTHING is impossible for God and that if I have faith as big as a mustard seed, that I can say to a mountain be moved into the sea and it will be, if that is what the Bible says, then I believe it! I know that God knows my needs and even before I ask Him for His help, He's already providing. As an act of faith, I choose to believe that what God says, He means. Do I think it's a trivial prayer request, I might if I wasn't already aware that the devil certainly wants me to think that way so I won't take time to go before the throne...but since I know the way he works and understand his tactics, I'll just go with what I know to be true...that Jesus loves me and cares about me. He always wants the best for me. Even small things in our lives touch His heart and I believe with all my heart that He cares. No, I don't think that He's a genie that I can command to do this or that...heaven forbid! I would never presume to "tell" my Savior what to do...but, I do know that He hears my prayers and a prayer offered up in faith is subject to His mercy and grace. Even though my trivial little problem might not seem worthy of praying for, I'm going to trust it into the hands of a very capable, loving, kind, and giving Father and see what He chooses to do with it today. Maybe the repairman can fix it and maybe he can't...but either way, I know that I can take ANYTHING before the throne because my God is loving and merciful. He is full of graciousness and if He chooses to provide the knowledge or equipment that the repairman needs to take care of my little problem, then let it be so. If my oven isn't able to be repaired that's okay too, because I know that God works ALL things together for my good. Perhaps it's time for a new oven or perhaps there's another reason that I don't understand...I am choosing to trust Him no matter what so I'm going to say goodbye now and get down on my knees. I can almost smell the Christmas cookies baking, can't you???

Friday, April 19, 2013

Don't you just love a freshly baked pan of Brownies? The warm, chocolate-y goodness just melts in your mouth but the best part is that chewy edge! I love savoring the sweetness of the chewy outer edge of the brownie and letting it linger in my mouth as long as possible.

As I was reading God's Word today, I found a verse that reminded me of that chewy edge of the brownie...a verse that I wanted to just linger over for a long time and let it ruminate deep in my heart. The verse is found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 61:10 - "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

What an amazing verse! When you read it, don't you just get a beautiful visual picture of God's love for us? He loves us so much that He died on the cross to pay for our sins past, present and future. His death provided a way for us to have eternal life instead of having to face the consequences of our sin which was death and separation from Him forever. Just knowing that God specifically chose us before the foundation of the world is amazing enough, but then, He chose to bless us even more with His marvelous love. He has given us the right to be called His sons and daughters. We are heirs to the throne! Our Heavenly Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is all powerful and all knowing.

How blessed we are to be clothed in His righteousness! As I chew on the verse in Isaiah 61:10, I can almost feel the weight of the robe of righteousness on my shoulders. I can almost reach up and feel its velvety rich texture against my skin. I can almost picture God choosing the perfect robe for me...that's just my size. I can feel His love enveloping me as the robe is gently placed upon my shoulders and I can hear His voice in my heart saying, "I love you so much, my precious child. I want to bless you and show you the depth of my love for you."

As the smell of the freshly baked brownies wafts through my kitchen, I am salivating as I think of that chewy edge and how that first bite feels in my mouth. I can't wait to have that familiar taste to linger on my tongue. Just like that chewy goodness of the brownie, I've chosen to chew on God's Word for a little longer this morning. I've decided to savor each word of this verse and ask God to illuminate my heart giving me a deeper understanding of His love for me.

There are so many delicious morsels of scripture in the Bible. As you study the Word, look for those wonderful, tasty bits that speak to your heart. Savor them, salivate over them, let them feed your soul and as you do, remember that God has chosen to give you His very best...His love song written just for you. Remember that you have been bought with a price....that you were handpicked by a loving and gracious God...that you are so special to him and that you matter to Him. He longs for you to understand the height and depth and breadth of His love for you. Taste and see that He is good!
©Bonnie Annis 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

It was only a small pot of English Ivy. I'd received it as a gift on my last hospital visit. It had been one of the plants that had survived weeks of neglect as I healed from my surgery. Now that I was feeling better, I thought the plant might thrive even more if I planted it outside. With a little garden trowel, I walked out into the sunshine and searched for the perfect place to plant my tiny pot of ivy. I found a place in the corner of the yard in full sunlight. Very pleased with myself, I went inside and began my daily routine.

Weeks passed by before I even went outside to check on the ivy, but when I thought about it and looked, it had spread into an area about 5 times larger than the original pot. That's amazing, I thought to myself and I went back indoors.

A few months passed and it was now the middle of the summer. As I was taking the dog out for a walk, I noticed that the little pot of ivy had spread up nearby trees and along the fence! It had crept under shrubs and was working it's way across the back yard. In essence, that little pot of ivy had begun to take over my back yard with a vengeance! I never expect that when I planted that little pot of greenery and now, I was going to have to do something about it.

I donned my garden gloves and got a shovel. As I began pulling at long strands of the English Ivy, it came easily off the trees. As I began to grasp the ivy that ran along the ground however, it was a little more challenging to get it to let go. I pulled and pulled but those little roots had really taken hold in the soft earth. I had to really use some muscle to yank that stuff out! For several hours I worked pulled and tugging. I knew that if I didn't get the root of the plant out then the ivy would just come back again.

As I fought my way through the vines, I began to think that sin is just like English ivy. We can harbor a small, unchecked sin in our lives and think that it won't matter much but if we allow that sin to go unconfessed, it can grow and affect other areas of our lives. The sin, just like the ivy, can start to spread into other areas of our lives and pretty soon, its roots have embedded deeply. When we ignore the sin for weeks and months, it thrives!

In order to keep sin at bay, we must remember what God's Word says "we are to hold every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5). That means whenever we have feelings of jealousy, bitterness, or anger for example, we have to nip it in the bud by holding that thought up to the light of God's Word. If we don't take care of it immediately, just like the ivy, it will start to spread out its ugly roots and take more ground than we intended to give it. 

I was able to get rid of the ivy by diligently spending a day pulling and tugging and cutting the roots. While I never expected such drastic results of planting one small pot of ivy, I am thankful that God allowed me to see that sin is just as invasive in our lives.

Take a hard look inside the garden of your heart and see if there is anything there you might need to deal with today. Do have unresolved hurt toward someone? Do you hold unforgiveness in your heart? You know what needs to be yanked out and if you don't, ask God to show you...He will because He loves you so much and wants you to have a pure heart filled with love.

Believe me, I will think twice before ever planting ivy in my yard again! I'll also think twice before allowing sin to have a place to grow in my heart. You have the power to stop those roots from taking hold...don't be afraid, just get busy and let God show you what needs to be done.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Zipline faith

This morning as I was having my quiet time, I was asking God what his plan was for my future. You see, I've been out of work for almost a year now and that's been very difficult for me. I started working when I was 15 years old and for the last 40 years I have spent every single day working. When you've had a set routine like that for many years and then all of a sudden you wake up and everything has changed it's very challenging. With the economy like it is, it has been very difficult to find a new job. So over the past year I have spent much time in prayer drawing closer to God and seeking his will for my life during this time in my journey.

I'm a very visual person and God knows this because he created me! So usually in my prayer time he gives me little visions to help me understand the answers to my prayers. This morning, God gave me a vision that is so unique that I thought it might bless others and so I am sharing it with you here today. He took me back to a time in my childhood when I was outdoors. Our next door neighbors had installed a zip line between two trees in their backyard. Now it wasn't anything like the zip lines that we have today, but it was very similar. It was "kid sized" if you know what I was about 10 feet off the ground at the highest point and about 4 feet off the ground at the lowest point. It ran about 50 yards long and to an 8 year old, that seems pretty severe! We'd start out on the zip line scared to death and then by the middle of the journey, we'd be squealing with glee because we were having so much fun! With the wind in our hair as we'd go zooming past our friends, we'd be laughing and having a blast!

As I was remembering the fun we used to have on that zip line and how I was so scared to try it for the very first time, He gave me a vision of a very different zip line but you have to understand on this one, I couldn't see the beginning or the end of His zip line. All I could see was the middle. I could see a large hand fastening a carabiner onto the zip line. Now if you're not familiar with zip lines, let me explain a little. Zip lines today are very high up and in fact, most of them go over tree tops! There's usually a platform that you have to climb up to get to the zip line and then when you're up there, you're suited up with a helmet and a type of harness. You are attached to the zip line with a cable and a carabiner type clip to help you slide along the line toward your destination which is usually another platform much further away...even miles away!

God gave me the understanding that the zip line I was seeing represented my journey in life. I couldn't see the beginning and I surely couldn't see the end but He could.  The carabiner represented  faith so when I trust God, I allow myself through faith to travel along the zip line of my life not knowing where it will go or where a will end.

The journey may be slow at first and then pick up speed, it may be superfast and then slow down, only God knows. There may be times along the journey that I just get to look out and enjoy the beautiful view or there may be times when I am sad and discouraged because of what I see. There may be times when the journey takes twists and turns that I did not expect. There may be pleasant surprises or scary situations. There may be times when I unhook my carabiner of faith and disembark from the zip line, these are times when I choose my own path instead of following the path God has  chosen for me. But as long as I stay clipped in and hold on tightly to my faith, I can trust that God will take me where he wants me to go. I can trust that he will allow the good things and the not so good things for my benefit and my growth.

God also reminded me of the verse in Jeremiah 29: 11 "for I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a future and I hope." Since I know that God has a specific plan for me and that he loves me; I can choose to trust him completely. Even though I have no idea where my path will go; I know that God will always be with me because He says in His word, "I will never, no never, no never, leave you or forsake you."

Traveling through life on a zip line of faith doesn't need to be something that frightens us! Instead, it can be a beautiful adventure if we only choose to put our trust in the one who loves us more than  anyone else. I am thankful that God gave me the vision of zip line faith this morning. I know God has a marvelous plan for my life and for your life too. Even though we can't see the next part of our journey, God already has it planned out completely.  He gives us just enough faith for the next part of the journey and when we have completed that leg, he gives us more faith for the next part.

Don't be afraid to clip on your carabiner of faith, step off the platform, and take the ride of your life with God! He's right there with you and He has a marvelous journey that He's planned specifically for you. He'll never leave you...He'll be right there with go ahead, now's the time...take the leap of faith and zoom into your future!