Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home for Christmas - a book review

Recently, I was given a complimentary copy of Home for Christmas, Stories for the Young and Old by Plough Publishing. I was asked to review the book and share my review with my blog readers. I was excited to receive the book, especially since it is almost Christmas! As I began reading, I found the book to be cozy and comforting.

Inside the book are twenty different stories. Some of the stories are written by well known authors and some are from newly discovered authors. Some of the stories have been passed down from generation to generation and have become well known favorites, and then there are the new stories...the ones that will soon become old favorites.

One story I particularly enjoyed was The Christmas Lie by Dorothy Thomas. The story is told during pioneer days when things are hard and everyone works to make ends meet. The details in the story are filled with visual imagery and you can almost feel as if you're right there with the characters as the story unfolds. A tiny lie explodes and affects an entire family but in the process reconciliation comes. There are many other warm and interesting stories in the book, but this was one of my personal favorites.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely. I found that although there were many different authors from around the world, they all shared one sentiment, that Christmas is a time for sharing with those you love. I can imagine sitting around a fireplace reading this book, story after story, to my grandchildren as they conjure up images from the descriptive writings the authors have shared.

This book, Home for Christmas, Stories for the Young and Old, compiled by Miriam LeBlanc, would make a treasured edition to your family library.

©bonnie annis all rights reserved

Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold - a book review

Recently I was given a complimentary copy of the book, Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold, by Handlebar Central and asked to review the book. As I began reading it, I found that it was filled with practical, timely resources for living in today's modern world.

As a Christian, it is both challenging and rewarding to stand firm in your beliefs. Being a disciple of Christ calls for strong commitment and dedication. Amid the world's views, being a dedicated follower of Christ seems odd and laughable, but the book Discipleship offers practical helps to aid believers in managing awkward and difficult situations.

There are a wide range of topics covered in the book by J. Heinrich Arnold. Some of the subjects addressed are Purity, Trust, Surrender, Forgiveness, and Unity. Mr. Arnold takes these complicated subjects and helps shine light on the truth by revealing falsehoods.

This book is filled with tough love. It is love that reveals the heart of Christ and how we are to walk after Him in all we say and do. Mr. Arnold uses Scripture references to guide the reader along the path to truth. His words compliment but do not overpower the truth of God's Word. Mr. Arnold says "Discipleship is not a question of our own doing; it is a matter of making room for God so that he can live in us."

Discipleship would be a great addition to any believer's library. It would also make a wonderful and practical gift. Mr. Arnold writes in easy to understand words as he guides the reader into following after the footsteps of Christ.

I would like to thank Handlebar for giving me the opportunity to review this book. It was a joy to read and has enriched my understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

©bonnie annis all rights reserved

I was given a complimentary copy of the book Precious Children of India by Life Sentence Publishing recently. As I read the book, I was filled with so much emotion. My emotions ranged from anger to disbelief to hope. Each child's story was unique and told with gentleness by the author.

This book helps readers understand more about the hardships and difficulty that people of India face on a daily basis, but more importantly, it focuses on the lives of the children. The beautiful stories portrayed resilience and optimism even under the most difficult of circumstances.

In America, we take our basic needs for granted - having clean water, access to fresh food, and good, safe shelter. In India, none of these needs are readily available and fighting for daily survival is the norm.The children learn to fend for themselves not only due to circumstances beyond their control, but in order to just live from one day to the next.

Precious Children of India allows the voices of the children to be heard. Their stories, though painful to read, give a clear picture of their reality. The children, most of them under the age of 8, have experienced and witnessed more than their little eyes should ever have seen.

To have a clear understanding of how blessed we are in America, please take time to read this book. Prepare your heart before you do read it though because you'll never be the same afterwards. I would like to thank Life Sentence Publishing for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

The blog tour page for Precious Children of India is at: http://www.lifesentencepublishing.com/precious-children-of-india/

©bonnie annis all rights reserved

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Never Ever Give Up - A book review

Recently, I was given a copy of the book, Never Ever Give Up by Erik Rees. This story was about a young, teenaged girl who valiantly fought two brain tumors. During her fight with cancer, Jessica, also known as Jessie, finds purpose in her fight and wants to help others.

Through a project Jessie called "Joy Jars," she is able to bring a little bit of joy into the lives of other children struggling with cancer. Jessie enlists the help of not only her family but also her friends as they take time to compile large plastic jars filled with toys and other small items for the children in hospitals all over the country. The Joy Jar project helps Jessie have something to look forward to each day. 

The book is written from the viewpoint of Jessie's father, Erik. He is very candid about their family dynamics in the book. He allows readers the opportunity to become instantly involved in the very raw and real emotions they experience during the time of Jessie's diagnosis and progressing illness.

Faith is a key aspect of the book and readers will see that the Rees family believe in God was instrumental in helping them understand and accept the fate of little Jessie. The love and support of their church members helped make a very difficult time bearable.

I think you'll enjoy this book as I did. When I received the book, I had just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Reading the book gave me hope and I know it will you, too.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Healing Quilt by Wanda Brunstetter (a book review)

I received a complimentary copy of the book, The Healing Quilt by Wanda Brunstetter through Handlebar publishing to read and review. The book is an easy read and provided good wholesome entertainment. The book begins with a young, newlywed couple, Emma and Lamar Miller. They have just purchased a home in the village of Pinecraft. After only two weeks in their new home, Emma finds herself bored and lonely. She longs for the familiar of family and home. Emma's husband, Lamar, knows Emma is unhappy and he suggests she begins to teach quilting lessons. Emma is shocked and doesn't think Floridians would be very interested in learning to quilt since they live in such a warm climate. After several conversations, Lamar convinces Emma to try it. Emma agrees to teach classes only if Lamar will assist her. They've "tag teamed" before in the past and Emma thinks it will work well again. Emma posts notifications for her classes and waits to see what happens.

Much to her surprise, Emma begins to receive calls regarding the classes. As Emma opens her home, she finds that God brings an interesting group of people to learn quilting from her.  Soon she is welcoming BJ, a man dealing with Cancer, a young teen named Erika, who is confined to a wheelchair, Kim, a woman who has given up on love, and others.

Eric teaches the fundamentals of quilting but along with those lessons, come some valuable life lessons. Each member of the class learns to deal with their problems and find ways to heal from hurtful situations. They learn not only to help each other but learn more about God's love in the process. This book would make a great gift and would be a wonderful addition to any Christian's library. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Who's your Daddy?

A popular song from the late 1960's has a line in it that says "What's your name? Who's your Daddy?" As I contemplated those questions, they prompted me to write today's blog post.

In Biblical times, a male was identified not only by his given name but also by his father's name. For example, Simon bar Jonah meant that Simon was the son of Jonah. Often times, there were many people sharing the same first name so it was important to know exactly which person was being referred to at the time. The use of the father's name helped with that clarification.To the Hebrews, a name was not a label, or just a tool to distinguish one person from another; a person's name was viewed as equivalent to the person himself. A person's name signified their person, worth, character, reputation, authority, will, and ownership.That is why names given at birth were so carefully chosen by the parents. But while a child's name was very important, the Father's name was even more so.

As Christians, it's important for us to know who our Father is and what His various names mean. By understanding the names of God, we can know more about His character and His attributes. When we understand more about God's character and attributes; we can understand more clearly who we really are too! We can truly understand our identity! God wants us to know who He truly is and He wants us to understand His nature. So let's look at the names of God and see what we can learn about our, Abba - Father, which translates "Daddy!"

  1. El Elyon: this name of God means "God most high" and indicates that God is the creator and possessor of heaven and earth. He is the "head honcho" and is in control of everything! There are no accidents where He is concerned. He orders all of our steps. 
  2. El Shaddai: this name of God indicates that God is Almighty! He is all powerful and all sufficient. (The Hebrew word for this name of God comes from the root word "shad" which means breast. Just like a child is fully satisfied at his mother's breast, so God is all we need for our sufficiency!)
  3. Yahweh/Jehovah: this name of God means "I AM THAT I AM." God is sovereign and never, ever changes. 
  4. Jehovah Jireh: this name of God means "the Lord who sees to it." He is our provider! He will see to it that all of our needs are met according to His plan for our lives.
  5. Jehovah Rophi: this name of God means "the Lord who heals you." The root word means to fix or mend. God wants to heal/mend us completely - mind, body, and spirit.
  6. Jehovah Nissi: this name of God means "our banner of victory." God wins our battles for us!
  7. Jehovah Shalom: this name of God comes from the Hebrew meaning completeness and finished. It implies a state of rest. God wants us to rest in Him and find our completeness in Him. 
  8. Jehovah Rohi: this name of God comes from the Hebrew word that translates "the Lord my Shepherd." God is our shepherd, the one who guides and protects us just like a sheep herder protects and guides his sheep.
  9. Immanuel: this name of God means "God with us." God is always with us. He never leaves us unattended. 
  10. Jehovah Shammah: this name of God means "the Lord is there." God is constantly present. His presence will be both in and on his people. 

Now that you know your Father's various names, let's take a look at some of His Attributes:

  • Omnipresent: God is everywhere at all times. No one can ever escape His presence! (reference 1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 139:7-10, Acts 17:28, and Matthew 18:20)
  • Omniscient: God knows everything past, present and future! Nothing surprises Him ever! reference Job 37:16, Isaiah 41:22-23)
  • Omnipotent: God is powerful and mighty! The word "omni" means all, and the word "potent" means powerful! So God is ALL POWERFUL! (reference Genesis 17:1, 28:3)
  • Immutable: God is unchangeable. For something to change, it has to change for better or worse doesn't it? Since God is perfect, there's no need for Him to change since He can't change to be better and He can't change to be worse, right? He doesn't change, ever! (reference James 1:17, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 1:12)
  • Holy: God is perfectly pure. He is separated from all evil and He is distinct from all others in that fact. He is entirely holy. (reference Exodus 3-5, Leviticus 19:2, Psalm 5:4-6)
  • Righteous: Everything God does is right. Everything He sets into motion is perfectly moral and just. Because of God's nature, His ways are always perfect. (reference Isaiah 45:21, Zephaniah 3:5, Romans 3:26)
  • Truth: God is truth. He cannot lie. (reference John 17:17, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18)
  • Loving: God's character is full of pure, unconditional love. (reference Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Jeremiah 31:3, John 3:16)
  • Good: Everything God does is good. He is morally excellent! (reference Genesis 1:31, Deuteronomy 8:16, Psalm 107:8)
Now do you see that you come from really good stock?! When someone says, "who's your Daddy," what are you going to say? Are you going to say that you are the daughter/son of the MOST HIGH GOD?  You should because it's true! Your Heavenly Father is ALL MIGHTY, ALL POWERFUL, ALL KNOWING, EVER PRESENT, ALL SUFFICIENT, LOVING AND KIND. He is all you will ever need. He is your PROTECTOR and your PROVIDER. He's the very best, most perfect Dad you could ever imagine! He never leaves you alone. He sees you clearly and knows your future. He always wants the best for you and His ways are always perfect.

Your identity is found in your Father. Never forget who you are...a child of the King!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A great lesson learned

This is a very personal, true story, but I want to share with you. Hopefully, it will help someone else. Back in 1991, I was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident where both bones in my right leg were crushed below the knee. Doctors thought they would have to amputate, but thankfully I had one orthopedic surgeon who wanted to try something else. He manipulated and aligned the bones in my leg under general anesthesia and then placed what I called "my satellite dish" on my leg. The contraption was really called an "external fixator"and through a variety of plates and long threaded screws (pins) positioned the bones correctly so they would be able to heal. I had 5 of those long, threaded screws or pins, as the medical team called them, drilled into my leg and attached to the fixator. 4 of the threaded pins were over a foot long as they had to pass through both bones in my leg and out the other side while still leaving enough length to thread through the fixator. The other threaded pin extended straight through the center of my fibula and outward (similar to a Unicorn's horn.) Needless to say, it was not a pretty site and was extremely painful. (Warning: Graphic picture follows, you may want to look away!)

After being discharged from the hospital, I went home to be with my four children, ages 15-2.  I did the best I could to manage caring for them and had to learn how to do things much differently now that I was temporarily handicapped. I found out rather quickly how hard it is to take care of little ones when you're confined to a wheelchair and the chair won't fit through doorways.

I'd always been a "clean freak" and was proud of the fact that I kept my house spotless at all times. Was I going to let this minor inconvenience thwart my cleaning record? No I wasn't. I was determined that my house would continue to be neat and tidy even though I couldn't fit the wheelchair through the doors of my home! It was a huge struggle and a job that would normally take a few minutes, often times took several hours. Still, I was proud that I was able to do it myself.

One day, God wanted to teach me a very valuable lesson on pride. You see, I never really thought that I was full of pride...oh, I knew I was proud of myself for being able to keep my home running smoothly and spotless with 4 small children but I didn't think there was anything wrong with that, afterall...I worked hard at it. But, in God's eyes, there was something very wrong. Before my accident, we had been attending a small, country church close to our home in Gainesville. The people there were very kind and loving. We had grown to be a part of their little community and enjoyed getting to know their hearts. When the church family heard about my automobile accident, they quickly made plans on how they could each help me. They talked and planned at the Wednesday night service. Some of the members decided they'd cook meals, others offered to chauffeur, each person wanted to do whatever they could to help out this divorced mother of 4. (Little did I know this until days later when I received a knock at my door.)

Friday morning, I heard a knock at my door. All of the children were at school except for the youngest one. As I opened the door, I was surprised to find an elderly lady from our church standing there in front of me. She said, "I know you've been hurt in the car wreck, honey, and I know you probably haven't been able to mop your floor...so I came to help you today. May I come in?" I was totally dumbfounded as I motioned for her to come inside. We sat and visited for a few minutes and she asked me about how I was feeling and then stood up and said, "now if you'll just tell me where your mop is, I'll get busy." I looked at her as if she were crazy and said in my most matter of fact voice, "I'm not going to let you mop my floor! I can do it later." (can you hear the pride that was welling up inside of me..."you're not going to mop my floor! How dare you! I keep my whole house spotless and you, you want to come in and mop my floor???") She looked at me and said (in the sweetest little old lady voice you've ever heard) while she humbly hung her head, "are you going to rob me of a blessing?" I couldn't believe my ears...rob her of a blessing? Whatever did she mean? The puzzled look on my face prompted her to respond, "you see, Bonnie, God told me to come to your house today. He told me to come mop your floor. "That's why I'm here. In my 87 years of age, I've learned to be obedient when God tells me to do something. Now you're going to rob me of the blessing that He had set aside just for me." As she said the last word, she walked toward the front door and slowly walked out.

I watched her drive away in her little car...this sweet, almost 90 year old, hunchbacked, woman who'd come to bless me that day. It didn't hit me until she drove out of the driveway that I'd crushed her spirit with my pride. I'd stolen a wonderful blessing that God had intended for her to receive as she was obedient to His command. Tears welled up in my eyes and I longed to call her back and apologize to her for my stupidity. I could feel God speaking to my heart, "oh, my child. You failed this test today. I sent this precious woman to teach you that pride does indeed go before a fall. You have been so full of yourself and your abilities to keep your family and your home in order since your wreck and you have not allowed others to help you even when their hearts were willing." I was so ashamed of myself and for the remainder of the day, I prayed and cried out to God asking for His forgiveness.

I've never forgotten that day and I never will. What a hard lesson that was for me to learn. Now when someone offers to do something to help me, I never refuse! I am so grateful and thankful. When I offer to do something for someone else and they refuse, I share this story with them. Have you ever robbed someone of a blessing by refusing to allow them to do something for you? Perhaps God spoke to their heart and gave them specific instructions on meeting a need for you. He honors obedience.

The next time someone wants to bless you, accept graciously and humbly. Remember that in Acts 20:35 that Jesus said Himself: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Sometimes we need to be "knocked down a few pegs," as my Daddy used to say, so we can understand the important things in life. Don't let pride cause you to stumble and especially don't let it rob someone of a blessing.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Grace for today

I'm a long range planner. I have been for years! When I come back from one vacation, I'm busy planning the next. Even in my daily life, I'm always thinking ahead...wondering what tomorrow will bring. Is it wrong to plan? No, I don't think so, but it is wrong to worry about what tomorrow holds.

This morning, as I was reading my Bible, I was studying a verse that I've read thousands of times before - Matthew 6:34. Listen to what that verse says in the Amplified version of the Bible: "So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble." As I pondered that verse, I was reminded that God only gives us enough grace to get through each day. This made me think back to an interview I'd heard with Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom. Ms. Ten Boom was speaking on how God had provided everything she and her sister had needed during their time of interment. Corrie used an example from her childhood to help others understand God's grace. She told of being a little girl and how excited she was to be going on a trip with her father. They were going to take a train and she'd never been on a train before. She kept bugging and bugging her father about the trip, and as she did, she would constantly ask him when he was going to give her the ticket for the train ride. As she told the story, she told the listeners that her father said, "When you and I go to Amsterdam--when do I give you your ticket?" She sniffed a few times before responding with "Why, just before we get on the train". Her father then went on, "Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie." There is much wisdom in the snippet of conversation that you just read, isn't there? If you really think about it, God, in His wisdom, only gives us enough grace for one day...for this day. He doesn't give us grace to face the next few days or grace to face the next week or month or year...He only gives us enough for today.

There's another verse that may help you understand a little more clearly. It's found in the book of Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16 and this is what it says, "Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]." Read that verse again and this time, ask a few questions:
1. To whom is that verse written?
2. What is promised in the verse?
3. Where can we find grace?
4. When do we receive grace?
5. Why does God give us grace?
6. How are we supposed to ask God for grace?
When you supply the answers to the questions above, you will see that God gives us mercy and grace because He wants to give it to us! He wants us to come before Him with courage and boldness asking for what we need. He wants us to feel comfortable enough to be open and raw with Him. Nothing we ask for is a surprise to Him...He knows everything, but in our asking, we learn to trust Him for His answer.

Tomorrow when you wake up, don't think about what's going to happen the next day or the next week. Focus on learning to live one day at a time. Trust that God is going to give you everything you need to get through THIS day. There's no reason to let worry and fear rob you of the joy set before you today. God's grace will carry you through whatever you face today...whether the day is smooth sailing or rough waters, He will be there.

I read a plaque in a craft store yesterday that applies to this devotional so well. Let me share it with you. This is what it said "I'm not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and love today." Even though I love to plan ahead, I'm going to work hard at learning to live one day at a time. I'm going to remember that God's grace is sufficient for THIS day and that He won't give me a surplus of grace to carry me through the next week, month or year. I have to trust Him to know exactly how much grace to give me for today. He knows me and He knows what this day holds for my life. As I trust in Him, I can rest knowing that He's got it all under control. That tells me that I can just sit back and enjoy the ride! Thank you Jesus, that this is going to be an awesome journey as I trust in your love and your grace to carry me through each day!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Father knows best

This morning, when you woke up, were you happy with the circumstances of your life? Wow, you say...that's a monumental question to ask...who wakes up thinking oh, my life is just wonderful...I'm happy with things exactly as they are...I wouldn't change a thing? No one I know wakes up that way! Most people wake up thinking about all the responsibilities and challenges they will face throughout the day. Many people are burdened by financial pressures, health issues, family problems or other weighty woes. As creatures of the human race, we are naturally predisposed to complain and worry. When we focus on our immediate circumstances, we become narrow minded and often can't see the forest for the trees! 

Some people see things through rose colored glasses and always look for the good in their circumstances...we call those people Optimists. Others tend to find the negative in their lives and we call them Pessimists. Most people tend to have a little of both in their lives and hold a good balance until something sends them teetering toward the other end of the spectrum. Do you ever feel like you're on an emotional seesaw?  Have you ever felt you were stuck in the quicksand of life? 

When we look directly at our circumstances it's easy to become overwhelmed because we realize that we can't always control our situation. Oh, we try to control our lives and many of us work very hard each day to maintain some semblance of order. Like many people, we find security in knowing that things are going according to plan; but in all actuality, we have no control over any aspect of our lives...we only think we do! 

God orders and plans our lives. He knows what will happen every second of every day. He knows what will happen even before it happens! Of course we make plans and we do our best to carry them out, but God orders our steps. He uses both the positive and the negative in our lives to mold and shape us into the one He desires us to be. He uses those things to teach us and cause us to be more like Him.

Charles Spurgeon says it best: "Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, God would have put you there. You are put by him in the most suitable place, and if you had had the picking of your lot half-an-hour afterwards, you would have come back and said, “Lord, choose for me, for I have not chosen the best after all.” You have heard, perhaps, the old fable in Aesop, of the men that complained to Jupiter, of their burdens, and the god in anger bade them every one get rid of his burden, and take the one he would like best. They all came and proposed to do so. There was a man who had a lame leg, and he thought he could do better if he had a blind eye; the man who had a blind eye thought he could do better if he had to bear poverty and not blindness, while the man who was poor thought poverty the worst of ills; he would not mind taking the sickness of the rich man if he could but have his riches. So they all made a change. But the fable saith that within an hour they were all back again, asking that they might have their own burdens, they found the original burden so much lighter than the one that was taken by their own selection. So would you find it. Then be content; you cannot better your lot. Take up your cross; you could not have a better trial than you have got; it is the best for you; it sifts you the most; it will do you the most good, and prove the most effective means of making you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God." 

 So tomorrow, when you wake up, no matter what your circumstances are at that very moment, know that God has purposely allowed you to be right where you are experiencing exactly what you are experiencing for a good reason. God's timing is always perfect. He knows what is best for us. He knows what we need and when we need it. He is the giver of good and perfect gifts! He is the lover of our souls! He wants only the best for us because He loves us with an everlasting love. Do you believe that God, our Heavenly Father, knows what's best for your life? He does! After all, He created you exactly as He designed you to be...complete and lacking nothing in His love. Aren't you glad that we have a Father who knows what's best for us? When we realize that we can look at things from His perspective, we see things in a whole new light. We can then learn to accept both the bad and the good things He allows into our lives knowing that He has a reason for them. Let Him teach you to see things from His point of view - you'll gain a whole new perspective on your life!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why bother blogging anyway???

Why bother blogging anyway? Those were the words that Satan placed in my mind this morning. I know it was him because I've learned to distinguish his voice over the years. He's the one who always tries to make me feel unworthy of God's love...the one who lies and deceives...the one who worms his way into my life through tiny cracks in my armor. Usually, I don't give much credence to what he says...usually I call him out and shut him down immediately...but today, I listened to that ugly whisper in my spirit and almost let it's gnarly roots take hold. The more and more I thought about it, I came across some pretty good reasons to continue blogging and here they are:

1. Jesus has done an undeniable work in my life
Just like the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well, my life has been radically changed by Jesus. Since my life has been so radically changed, I can't help but share that joy with those I come in contact with either in person or through my blog. My stories of faith are real and they need to be told. If even one of my stories helps someone else, then I know God receives the glory. Therefore, I will tell it.

 2. God calls all of us to go into all the world and preach the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:19). 
Who says that blogging can't be a ministry? Being raw and real is what most people want, isn't it? It doesn't tell us in the Bible that we have to be perfect Christians before we can go into the world and share Christ with others, all it says is that we are to "GO." If we had to be perfect, I would be the first to tell you that I am not perfect! Perhaps my writing will influence millions around the world or perhaps only one precious soul will be touched...in any event, it will be worth it in the long run! I've determined that since God made my mouth and has transformed my heart to long after Him then He can make the words I write speak to the heart of others. He wants me to tell my story, so I will tell it.

3. Through my life experiences of pain and suffering, I can help comfort others.
I am a firm believer that God allows pain into our lives for a reason. It may be so that we are able to learn and grow from it; or it may be to humble us. Often times, God allows pain and suffering to give us a heart of compassion for others. Learning to comfort others teaches me more about God's love. So if something I write eases the pain of another, then I know God is honored and I will keep writing.

I am not the most eloquent of writers. I hold no degrees in English Grammar or theory. I do speak from my heart and share what I've learned with humility and honesty. I've learned some hard lessons and I've been given an abundance of mercy and grace from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So today I will choose to squash those lies from the pit of hell that tell me I'm "not good enough"...the lies that scream "no one reads your blog anyway!" I will choose to keep on telling my story. I will choose to keep on writing and I will choose to trust God for all the rest. After all, He is my sufficiency and He supplies everything I need. (Philippians 4:19 "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.")

Friday, May 2, 2014

Drifting away

When I was growing up, summers were always my favorite time of the year because it meant that we'd be going to the beach! Every June or July, we'd load up the old station wagon and head to the beach. My brother, sister, and I were so excited we could hardly stand it! We loved playing in the sand building castles and chasing crabs, but we loved being in the water more than anything.

There's one summer that I'll never forget. After a long, hot ride to Florida, we finally arrived at our hotel. We unloaded the car and soon were donning our new bathing suits. We could hardly wait to get to the beach. Although my father was tired and would have loved to have spent the rest of the day inside the hotel room resting; he agreed to take us down to the beach. After driving a short distance, he slowly parked on the sand.

My brother, sister, and I had new inflatable rubber floats, a rare treat for us that year. My mother went down the beach to spread out a blanket and Daddy began the daunting task of blowing up each of our  floats. My sister was the first to receive her float. She was so proud of it and hugged it to her chest. My father began blowing up the next one and out of the corner of his eye, he watched my sister running toward the water. Our parents had warned us to wait until they were ready to get in the water with us, but a few minutes later,  my sister had somehow managed to get her float into the water and was sitting proudly on top of it. My brother and I were dumbfounded and jealous at the same time. We wanted Daddy to hurry and get our floats blown up so we could get in the water too.

I don't remember who saw it first, me or my brother, but one of us screamed that my sister was going out too far into the ocean. Although we didn't know it at the time, we learned later that she had been caught in an undertow. The current was whisking her rapidly out toward the horizon. The sheer fear that washed over my father's face is forever etched in my memory. In a split second, he was racing toward the water and diving in. My father did not know how to swim, but on that day, he dog paddled with lightning speed and managed to get to my sister's float just in the nick of time.

When they reached the shore, my sister was bawling and my father was as white as a sheet. The commotion had drawn quite a crowd of onlookers. As we all gathered around my sister, we were silent realizing that this day could have ended quite differently.

The undertow had taken my sister several hundred yards out into the water. To this day, I still don't know how my father got to her before she'd fallen off the float and drowned. It had to have been purely by the grace of God that she was saved especially since my father didn't know how to swim. Thinking about that day made me realize that we are often in a hurry to run ahead of God, choosing our own way, instead of listening to His loving guidance. We, in our selfish ways, want to do things when we want to do them and how we want to do them. Often times, we find ourselves thinking that everything is okay even when we've been warned not to do something; but then, we find ourselves floating out to sea with no rescue in sight. We are suddenly drifting toward disaster. We get caught in the undertows of life...the powerful undertow of lust or temptation, the relentless tug of materialism, the undertow of social acceptance...there are so many currents out there that can carry us in dangerous directions. There are undercurrents of false doctrines and all kinds of teachings that don't line up with the Word of God. These are some of the most dangerous of all.

Do you ever find yourself drifting? Do temptations often overwhelm you? When you find yourself aimlessly drifting, remember to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus! He is the anchor that will keep you tethered and safe from raging tides. Ephesians 4:14 says "We will no longer be babies in the faith. We won't be like ships tossed around by the waves. We won't be blown here and there by every new teaching. We won't be blown around by the cleverness and tricks of people who try to hide their evil plans." 

It's so important to know the truth of God's Word. It is a compass to guide you in every situation. Don't run ahead of God and try to do things in your own strength. Let Him navigate you through the rough and murky waters of life.  Don't be tempted to climb up on the float of your own wisdom for you may soon find yourself drifting out to sea.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Got questions?

Retirement. Most people dream of the day they can stop working and enjoy their lives by doing whatever they choose, whenever they choose; but retirement brings huge changes to the lives of people who have found security in their daily routines. I speak from experience. I never dreamed that I would retire so early in life but, through unexpected circumstances, that's exactly what happened to me. The first few weeks were exciting! I was free at last! Then the months began to follow and the excitement wore off as all my family and friends continued to work. I found myself often alone and lonely during the day...and that's when the questions began to creep in. Did I do the right thing in leaving my job? Could we make it on one income? Should I volunteer somewhere? Why do I feel so useless? What am I supposed to be doing with my life right now??? Silly questions to some but they were important to me.

Those questions also brought about doubt. Satan began to tantalize me with the fear of the "what ifs." What if your husband gets injured on the job and can no longer work? What if he dies suddenly? What if you're left all alone with your family so far away from you? What will you do then? How will you survive? What if the bills mount and you're unable to pay them?

People all over the world have questions. What about those mothers whose babies are born prematurely? Through tear filled eyes, they watch their tiny infants hooked up to machines that breathe life into them. They sit beside their isolettes day in and day out waiting for the word that they can take their babies home. They wonder day to day if their child is going to survive or if the next breath will be their last. Their souls cry out in deep agony, why??? What about the young woman who is suddenly thrust into widowhood when her brave soldier is killed in action? I'm sure she has many questions for God. What about the single parent who struggles to make ends meet...to feed a family of four and wonders where their next meal is coming from when there's no more money left in the bank account? What about the Olympic athlete who suffers a tragic injury that totally shatters his career in the blink of an eye? So many questions but God in His great mercy doesn't condemn us for the asking. 

Does God get angry when we ask Him questions? No! Look at Job...Job asked some pretty tough questions of God. He even asked God why He didn't let him die at birth! Can you imagine asking God something so bold and blatant? I would be scared to death that He'd send a huge bolt of lightening to strike me down! But God didn't do that with Job. He allowed him to ask as many questions as he wanted to ask.  God remained silent and let Job fire away. Did God answer each of Job's questions? Not really. But what He did do is tell Job that He was God and Job was not!

If God had answered each of Job's questions, do you think Job would have been able to wrap his head around the answers? Sometimes it's better for us not to know God's plan for us. That's how He teaches us to trust Him and have faith in Him. We're always going to have questions because we're human and I think God understands that, afterall...He created us!

In the book of Romans, Paul gives us an answer that we can hold on to when he says "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts, or who has [ever] been His counselor? 35 Or who has first given God anything that he might be paid back or that he could claim a recompense? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever!"

In other words, God is God and we are not. With that being said, we will continue to have questions. He knows we will want to know the answers. Sometimes He will choose to give us the answers but most times He will not. We must learn to rest in the fact that He is holy and just. He knows what is best for us. He knows what we need and when we need it. He is in control. 

Will I still have questions for God? You'd better believe it! Will I be afraid to ask some of those questions? Probably...but, I know God won't condemn me for asking. He is loving and patient and understanding...just the way any Father should be. I am thankful that He expects me to be an inquisitive child even though I'm rapidly approaching 60. God is the same as He was yesterday, the same as He will be today, and the same as He will be tomorrow. If He didn't throw lightening bolts at Job, then He won't throw them at me either! So go ahead and ask the hard questions, it's okay! God is on your side. He understands and He already knows what you're going to ask anyway. After all, He IS God.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jesus sticking out all over

The greatest compliment I have ever received was from a dear friend who told me one day that she saw "Jesus sticking out all over me." At first I wondered what she was talking about and the puzzled look on my face must have led her to explain herself. She told me that I was so full of the love of Christ that it was evident in my eyes, my face, my smile, my actions...just all over me! I thought about it for a few minutes and was extremely happy to know that my love of Christ was flowing from my inside to my outside. As I looked toward my friend, I couldn't help telling her about a story I'd heard as a teen. The story begins with a little boy attending a tent revival. At the end of the service, the preacher gave an invitation telling folks they needed to ask Jesus to come into their hearts. The little boy walked down the aisle toward the preacher and when he got close, the preacher bent down to speak to the boy. "Did you ask Jesus to come into your heart tonight, son?" The little boy began shifting back and forth shuffling his feet as he looked toward the ground. “Well, I’d like to,” the boy said,"but I got to figurin’….I’m so little and Jesus is so big – He’s gonna stick out all over!” Smiling at the congregation, the preacher said, "that's the point son, that's the point!"

Most people have heard Christians talk about asking Jesus to come into your heart. It's a simple way to help others understand the concept of salvation. When someone does accept Christ as the Lord of their lives, Jesus immediately comes to dwell within them. Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) In other places in scripture we learn that His Holy Spirit is within each believer (John 14:17) and His word is to fill our hearts and our minds (Luke 8:15, Psalm 119:11). With all that Jesus in us, He should be oozing from our very pores!

So why don't we see Jesus coming out of all the believers we know? Don’t get me wrong, I do know some people that seem to ooze Jesus on a daily basis. Most of the Christians I personally know don't. Why is that? What gets in the way and how can we change it? It seems to me that we have prioritized the things of the world and put them over the things of the Lord. That greatly hinders the flow of Christ in our lives.1 John 2:15-16 he says this, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world.”

In the Bible, the apostle John warned Christians that many who claim Christ are not really His followers. He admonished them to be ready to examine their faith to see whether or not it was genuine. He wanted them to understand that Christ followers show evidence of their faith in the way they lived. He explained that we are to love God the Father and His Son, Jesus, more than we love the world.

Often times, we care more about what people think of us than what God thinks of us. We are quick to cover our own mistakes and slow to defend what others see as mistakes on God’s part. We are slow to forgive others even though we've been greatly forgiven ourselves. For many of us, the only thing that's coming out all over us is pride and selfish desires.

My number one desire is that Jesus would continually flow out of me. I want others to see how grateful I am for all He's done in my life. I want His love to flow out of me like an endless river. I want my words, my deeds, my actions to reflect Jesus and Him alone. In fact, I'd prefer if others would only see Jesus and not even see me.

Oh look! What's that I see? Is that Jesus sticking out all over you too? If He's filled you completely with His love, His mercy, and His grace, it can't help but leak out of you! Don't let your pride get in the way and block the flow...let others see Jesus in you today!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are there "high places" in your life?

During Bible times, high places were usually natural elevations in land such as hills or mountains, but sometimes they were man-made places such as tall towers or buildings. These were places where people worshiped or made sacrifices. Most prophets worshiped the one and only True and Living God atop these mountains or hills. The Canaanite "high places" were notorious for pagan worship where pagan idols were worshiped and wicked practices often occurred. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were commanded by God not only to have nothing to do with high places, but to destroy them because they would be corrupted by their presence - a command that was largely disobeyed, to their regret.

  As they were about to enter the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, God instructed the Israelites to demolish the idolatry in the land:

"And The Lord said to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, "Say to the people of Israel, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places; and you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it." (Numbers 33:50-53 RSV)

Only two kings in Israel and Judah's history followed God's command to tear down the pagan high places of sacrifice. What was it that motivated them to carry out God's order when so many of their predecessors and successors did not? What can we learn from their example in order to tear down our own spiritual high places in our hearts?

If you're at all familiar with the history of Israel and Judah, then you probably know that most of the rulers were pretty ruthless.The good rulers were small in number. They tried desperately during their reign to reverse the evil their predecessors had introduced to their kingdom. They smashed idols and killed false prophets. They renovated God's temple and reintroduced true worship to the people.
Of the 39 rulers in Israel and Judah after the time of Solomon, only eight of them (all exclusively from Judah) attempted to make things right. Only eight saw the depravity around them and decided to do anything about it. And in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, only eight kings are described as "doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord."

But those kings had failures too. The overwhelming majority of Judah's eight righteous kings have their histories tarnished by one common shortcoming: They failed to take down the high places. Before entering Canaan, the Israelites were commanded to "utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things" (Deuteronomy:12:2-4). Instead of obeying this command, the Israelites adopted these pagan high places as additional centers for worship.

Some of them were honest attempts to serve God, but they were on man's terms. God mentioned only one location where He wanted His people to make sacrifices and that was in His tabernacle. (Leviticus:1:2-3). The Israelites' way of responding was to continue to use the high places. It was as if they were saying, "Okay, but...what about here too?" God had spoken! He had issued a decree! His people broke it by choosing to continue worshiping at the high places. Their disobedience resulted in sin.

We aren't told why six of the eight righteous kings of Judah left the high places standing. Perhaps they didn't see them as a serious problem. Maybe they were exhausted from the effort of eradicating the other forms of sin rampant in their country and decided not to bother with the high places.
Whatever their reasons, we can look at the recorded history and learn that stopping short of destroying the high places was not enough in God's eyes. Their stories are all tarnished with what equates to, "They did what was right before God, except..."

So what does this mean for us? We're not kings and we don't have the ability to tear down the "high places" of our world today. Did God make a point of recording this fault of the kings for no reason at all? I think not! God tells His children, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, [which] is in you, [which] you have from God, and you are not your own" (1 Corinthians:6:19). As God's temple, it is our duty to stay wholly dedicated to Him and not allow ourselves to build any spiritual high places in our hearts.

The Israelites fell prey to the idea that they could serve God through any means they wanted -in any way they wanted—that they could serve Him along with other gods or in locations of their own choosing. So they went to the high places, with "every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes" (Deuteronomy:12:8). Without continued vigilance on our parts, we, too, can fall prey to that idea.

What high places do you have in your heart? Take a close look. What altars have you set up there, and what gods are you serving at those altars? Maybe you pay homage to money and possessions...Maybe you've chosen to set yourself up as an idol, allowing God to only touch certain areas of your life...And what ways do you worship God that detract from how He wants to be worshiped? Maybe you've fallen into vain repetition in your prayer life or present your works to Him as if they are earning you your salvation.

The only two kings in history to follow God's command to tear down the high places left us an example to follow for dealing with our own spiritual high places. Hezekiah, the first of the two, made such an impact that the Bible records, "After him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him" (2 Kings:18:5). Hezekiah "removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent" (2 Kings:18:4). Why? What prompted him to do this, when the kings who had come before had fallen short?
To Hezekiah, nothing mattered more than God and His commandments: "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel...[He] held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him but kept His commandments" (2 Kings:18:5-6). So when he saw the high places standing in defiance of that same God, the only logical action was to tear them to pieces. What matters most to you?

Many years later, Hezekiah's great-grandson, Josiah, would take the throne. He found that those before him had rebuilt the high places and reintroduced Israel to idolatry. How did he respond? He "made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul" (2 Kings:23:3). Josiah's priorities were clear. God came first, and Josiah devoted himself to following Him. His whirlwind campaign to rid the land of all things pagan (see 2 Kings:23:4-25) was a natural consequence of devoting himself to God. 

What are you devoted to? Seek out every obstacle that stands between you and God—and when you find them, follow the example of Hezekiah and Josiah. Smash them to pieces. Tear them down. Grind them to dust. Obliterate every trace of all opposition to God, every speck of resistance.

Spiritual high places are much harder to destroy than their physical counterparts. We can't destroy them on our own, but only through turning to God. By prayer, fasting, Bible study and meditation can we expect to tear down what separates us from Him. For "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians:10:4-5). Don't let those high places remain in your life. It's time to start tearing down those walls!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hope for a hurting heart

Pain. No one likes it. Pain can be a small, nagging feeling or it can be a deep, throbbing sensation that consumes our entire being. Which is worse, physical pain or emotional pain? That's a hard question to answer since physical pain can often be measured by degrees. Physical pain is usually on the outside of our bodies and we can learn to ignore it or distract ourselves from focusing on it. Physical pain can be calmed by medication or other remedies...but emotional pain, that's a different story.

Emotional pain is an "inside pain." It usually effects the mind, the heart and the emotions. Mental anguish, resentment, bitterness, and even a dryness of the soul can hound us. These pains can often cause us to fall into a spiritual vacuum. While we can describe physical pain to a physician, only the Great Physician can know our inside pain.

God in His great wisdom often allows us to experience inner anguish. When we experience "inside pain," we're forced to deal with the problem because those inside pains bombard our thoughts continually. God can use "inside pain" to capture our attention. He can use it to purify us in ways that physical pain can not.

Have you ever had an argument with a sibling or mate? Have you ever felt that nagging feeling deep in your spirit that you needed to apologize? Often pride kept you from going back and immediately making things right, but God, in His gentle, loving way kept pricking your heart for days.

Inside pain can be purifying if we remember the verse in 2 Corinthians 10:5, "...take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ." Those feelings of worry, fear, anxiety or spiritual dryness can all be used to help us learn to deal with the real issue at hand. When we deal with those issues, we're learning to be obedient to Christ.

Maybe you've recently remembered an unkind word spoken against you...maybe a hurtful situation arose between you and someone you love...maybe it's a situation over which you no longer have any control...whatever it is, choose not to carry it alone. Give that situation over to God in prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we are to cast ALL our anxiety upon Him because He cares for us.

If the inside pain is the result of an unconfessed sin or unresolved conflict don't wait any longer! Bring that wrong attitude into the light of God's Word. Ask for forgiveness and allow the healing balm of God's love to wash over you. If you are willing to humble yourself, God will accept you with open arms. You'll find that nagging, inside pain melting away. Jesus is the only one who can offer a cleansed heart and pure mind. He doesn't want us to have troubled hearts. He wants us to live in joy and peace.

Examine yourself and see whether the pain you're experiencing is a true physical pain or if it might be an "inside pain." Jesus was acquainted with grief. He understands. He wants to heal you but you have to be willing to do your part, too.

Whatever the reason God's allowing you to go through a painful situation, trust Him that His ways are not our ways. If He's allowed you to travel a painful road right now, maybe it's part of His perfect will to cleanse and purify you making you more Christlike. Remember, He loves you like no other and even times of trial at His hand are for our good. Introspection is a good thing when you're looking inside your own heart and spirit for things that are unpleasing to God. He wants you to experience freedom from the pain of unforgiveness, bitterness and hurt.

This poem may speak to you today:
Lord Jesus, King of Pain,
Thy subject I;
Thy right it is to reign:
Oh, hear my cry,
And bid in me all longings cease
Save for Thy holy will's increase.
Thy right it is to reign
O'er all Thine own;
Then, if Thy love send pain,
Find there Thy throne,
And Help me bear it unto Thee,
Who didst bear death and hell for me.
Lord Jesus, King of pain,
My heart's Adored
Teach me eternal gain
Is Love's reward
In Thee I hide me; hold me still
Till pain work all Thy perfect will.
~William Bathurst

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

As seen on TV

While visiting my mother at the nursing home recently, I observed many elderly residents who were either in wheel chairs or bedridden. The ones who were ambulatory were very frail and weak, barely able to get around. As I watched them, I realized that even though they were in poor physical condition, many of them still wanted to maintain as much of their independence as possible...my mother included.  

My mother is among the bedridden residents and without someone in the room to help her, she is often unable to reach things she needs. While we were visiting, we could easily hand her things as she asked for them, but what would she do when we were gone? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we had to find a solution. 

Later that day, when I was home cooking dinner, I heard a commercial on TV for a new product called a Grabber. I listened intently as the announcer explained the usefulness of this remarkable new tool. It could help reach things up high or down low. It had suction cup grips and while it looked very unattractive with its oddly shaped metal, it seemed to be a handy gadget. I made a mental note to find out where to buy one. 

The next day I was out doing some shopping. As I rounded the corner, something caught my eye.  I saw one of those grabbing tools they'd advertised in the commercial! It was marked with huge red letters across the top "AS SEEN ON TV" so I knew it was the one they'd been talking about. I took it down from the display and tried it out.  I tried to reach something that was on a higher shelf...the suction cups worked quite well when the metal arms were extended outward. I took a box and placed it on the floor beside my feet and then tried the tool again. It took a few minutes to grasp and pick up the box, but it was do-able. Neat! This might be a worthwhile investment. 

At the register, the cashier rang up my purchases and gave me a strange look when she came to the grabber tool. "It's for my Mom," I explained, as an embarrassed blush spread across my face. "Yes, many elderly come in to buy these," the cashier responded. 

On our next visit to the nursing home, I presented my mother with the grabber tool. I showed her how to use it to reach things she needed. She tried it several times and was quite pleased with it. This inexpensive tool was going to afford her a little more independence. As I watched her using the tool, I thought about how God uses us. 

Often times, I think God has to mold and shape us into useful tools that He can use. He may take hurt, bitterness, or pride and use those to shave off areas in our lives that need to be refined. He may use challenging circumstances to mold is into more caring and loving tools of His mercy. Whatever He designs us to do, He will bend and twist and shape us into the perfect vessel...one that's able to accomplish His purpose and His plan. What a joyful thought to realize that we are chosen tools of God and we are perfectly suited for His use. 

"In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay: some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanse himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." 
2 Timothy 2:20-21

Even a Grabber can be a noble tool when placed in the Master's hand. Noble is defined as "grand, splendid, magnificent; having greatness of character and excellent qualities." Wouldn't it be a joy to be one of God's chosen vessels for noble use? I know my mother appreciated and now treasures this weird looking metal tool because she knows how helpful it is to her. It allows her to extend her withered and frail arms enough to reach things that fall out of the bed onto the floor. Having just the right tool for just the right job makes a huge difference! What will you allow God to use you for today? Will you allow Him to mold and bend and shape you in a vessel for noble use? It might be fun to see what He'll use your willing heart to do in the lives of others!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The best kept secret

Life...it's hard. Have you ever struggled and worried because your life wasn't going the way you wanted it to go? Do you feel that way right now?

You have legitimate needs and desires. You know what would make you happy and you pray for it with all your might, asking God to help you get it. But if it doesn't happen, you may feel frustrated, bitter or disappointed.

Sometimes you do get what you want, but then you find it doesn't make you happy after all, just disillusioned.

Many Christians repeat this cycle their entire life, wondering what they're doing wrong. I should know. I was one of them.  Did you know there is a secret that can free you from this cycle? It's really easy to understand and to do! All you have to do is trust God. Yes, that's it...trust God. Ah, you say, that's no secret!

But in actuality, the secret lies in putting this truth into practice, by making it such a powerful theme in your life that you view every event, every sorrow, every prayer with the unshakable conviction that God is totally, spotlessly trustworthy.

That's where we mess up. We want to trust in anything rather than in the Lord. We'll trust in our own strength and abilities, in our employer, in our money, our doctor, even in the airline pilot. But the Lord? Well…

It's easy to trust in things we can see. Sure, we believe in God, but to allow him to run our life? That's asking a little too much, we think.  The bottom line is that our wants may not agree with God's wants for us. After all, it's our life, isn't it? Shouldn't we have the say over it? Shouldn't we be the one who calls the shots? God gave us free will, didn't he?

The world tell us what's important: a high-paying career, a head-turning car, a drop-dead-gorgeous home, and a spouse who will make everyone else green with envy.

If we fall for the world's idea of what matters, we get trapped. The new car, relationship, promotion or whatever didn't bring you the happiness you expected, so you keep searching, thinking "Maybe next time." But it's always the same, because you were created for something better, and deep down you know it.

When you finally reach the place where your head agrees with your heart, you're still hesitant. It's scary. Trusting in the Lord can require that you abandon everything you've ever believed about what brings happiness and fulfillment.

It requires that you accept the truth that God knows what's best for you. But how do you make that leap from knowing to doing? How do you trust in the Lord instead of the world or yourself?  

The secret lives inside of you! The secret is the Holy Spirit. Not only will he convict you of the rightness of trusting in the Lord, he'll help you do it. It's too hard for us to do on our own!

Because the Holy Spirit knows you better than you know yourself, he'll give you exactly what you need to make this change. He's infinitely patient, so he'll let you test this secret—trusting in the Lord—in little baby steps. He'll catch you if you stumble. He'll rejoice with you when you succeed. It's going to take effort to trust. Let me give you an example...have you ever played a game as a child where you were blindfolded? Maybe someone led you around from room to room and you had to guess where you were...you had to trust that they wouldn't run you into a wall...or maybe you were blindfolded and told to fall backward while someone was there waiting to catch you...you had to trust with all your heart that they would actually stay there and be ready to catch you and not let you fall, didn't you? That's how it is with God...you have to be willing to trust that He is always going to be there, even if you can't see or feel Him...He's there!

As someone who has gone through cancer, the deaths of loved ones, broken relationships, and job layoffs, I can tell you that trusting in the Lord is a lifelong challenge. You never finally "arrive." Each new crisis calls for recommitment. The good news is that the more often you see God's loving hand working in your life, the easier this trusting becomes.

When you trust in the Lord, you'll feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. The pressure's off you now and on God, and he can handle it perfectly. He is trustworthy!!! 

God will make something beautiful of your life, but he needs your trust in him to do it. Are you ready? The time to start is today, right now.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Behold, I make all things new!

Moving from a house I'd lived in for over 20 years wasn't easy for me especially since we were moving to a much smaller place. When my husband told me that it was time to downsize, I felt fear suddenly rising up inside my heart. Little did he know that I'd grown quite comfortable and secure in our current home. I knew every inch of that house inside and out. I knew which door was opened or closed by the specific squeak it made; I knew where someone was in the house by the sound of the floor boards creaking beneath their feet...yes, I knew every inch of this house so well, that I could easily walk through it with my eyes closed. How was I going to pick up and move over 20 years of memories and familiar things in less than a month?

I was determined to be obedient. The Bible tells me that I am to submit to my husband and so, I submitted my will to stay to his will to leave. I began packing one room at a time and ask I packed, I cried. I cried because I was leaving the home I loved so dearly. I cried because I wasn't quite ready to move away from all of my family. I cried because I was afraid to journey into parts unknown (even though the city we were moving to was just over an hour away from our current location).

As I packed, I knew I wasn't going to be able to take a lot of the material possessions we'd accumulated over the years. Our new home was much smaller. I decided to make three piles...one to keep, one to donate/give away, and one to throw away. Each item would fall into one of the three categories and would help me select the things that I really wanted to take with me to our new house. Starting out was hard! As I came to an item, I asked myself which one of the three categories it fell into and at first, I didn't want to get rid of a thing! But as I continued, it became easier to purge. I looked at things that I'd loved for years and thought to myself, do I really need that anymore? 9 times out of 10, I could answer NO.

I think I surprised myself at the number of boxes I'd set aside to donate or give away. Even my husband commented on how many things were in that pile. "Are you sure," he said, and emphatically, I answered, "yes!" It was getting easier and easier as I continued. I could hear my grandmother's voice in the back of my mind saying, "honey, you know, less is more!"

When we arrived at the new house with all the boxes I'd packed. I was shocked! With all the things I'd gotten rid of, how could I still have this many?! Every room in our new house was filled to the brim with box upon box. As I began unpacking, I began a second purge and lo, and behold, I was able to get rid of even more.

As I went through each box, I no longer cried. I suddenly felt a freedom! I was feeling much lighter! God was removing my desire to hold onto the old things and was creating a desire in me for new things. Now I don't mean that in a strictly material sense because I'm not a materialistic person at all, so please don't misunderstand...God had blessed us with a brand new house and yes, it was much smaller, but we didn't need a huge house any more. All the kids were grown and gone...now it was just the two of us.

Our home was brand spanking new...everything glittered and gleamed with the newness! And as I unpacked, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of not wanting to put things that reminded me of my old life in this new house. Suddenly a verse of Scripture popped into my mind! "...Behold, I make all things new...." Revelation 21:5. Now I know that God intended that verse to help us comprehend the new work that He was doing in the lives of believers, but it was as if He was saying, it's okay. I understand how you are feeling...you have a new home and you don't want to put old things in it because this is a new start...a new beginning.

It really was a new beginning for my husband and I! When we'd married over 21 years ago, I already had 4 children and a home. My husband walked into a "ready made" family and instantly became a father. For 21 years, we had never been in that home alone. There was always someone there with us...children, grandchildren or friends. The realization that it was going to finally be just the two of us hit me square between the eyes and scared me to death. I don't know why, but it did! All I'd ever done for since I was 18 was be a mother. Being a wife always came last.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and that's very true! As I look back, I know that being a wife should have come first and being a mother and grandmother should have come after that. Blending families is always a hard thing to do and sometimes you just have to "make it work" in any way you can. That's exactly what we did...we made it work. But now God was impressing on my heart that it was time for my focus to shift. It was time for me to be a wife first and be a mother and grandmother second. This is where the fear crept in. I didn't quite know how to be a wife first.

Most of our boxes are unpacked now and we're beginning to settle into our new home. I'm slowly but surely learning how to be a wife first as my husband and I are able to sit down and talk without interruption...we're able to go out to dinner and enjoy each other's company...we're finding that God indeed is making all things new! Can you have a honeymoon after 21 years of marriage? I think you can when you allow God to show you that He has ordained this time. He is restoring the years we devoted to the kids and giving us this season to just enjoy each other.

You'd have to know me to understand how difficult it is for me to shift my focus from being a full time mother to being a full time wife. My children have been my world for so long that I can't remember a time when I wasn't a mother. Now instead of dinner conversations being interrupted by an excited child, the phone will ring and one of the kids will tell us about their day. It's not quite the same as it used to be...it's different and new. Where the house was once full of activity and noise, now it's extremely quiet. This will definitely take some getting used to, but I think I may learn to like it! God continues to remind me that He is making ALL things new...in my heart, in my mind, in my soul. I know that He wants to teach me to be an excellent wife and though my children aren't close by any longer, I'll always be a mother. I'll always drop what I'm doing to answer that phone call and hear one of their sweet voices on the other end of the line. My husband knows that it's going to take some time for me to learn to put him first, but he's seen evidence that I am really trying.

As I unpack the last box today, I am amazed to find our wedding album. How appropriate, God! You always amaze me! I hear His voice reminding me of our wedding vows and how that special day 23 years ago was filled with excitement and newness. Looking around at my new house, I realize that I'm going to have to learn the sounds of it....learn to walk through it with my eyes closed....learn every nook and cranny...and I will...with time. "Behold, I am making all things new..." says the Lord. He is! He is giving me a new perspective! A new joy! A new outlook on life! Thank you, God, for loving me despite my short comings and my downfalls. Thank you for loving me through the silliness of tears for what once was in the past. Thank you for being willing to teach me to be a good wife and for allowing me to start fresh and new.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tools of Satan

Lies, deceit, mistrust, division...one or more of these enter our lives on a daily basis. Some of them come boldly and some come disguised...but they do come. Why you may ask... well, that's an easy question to answer. It's because Satan wants us to focus on the things around us instead of keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. He knows if he can get us to pay attention to things that speak to our flesh- emotions, physical needs, etc. that we won't focus on the things that truly matter...the spiritual things...the things of God.
Satan is the great destroyer. He gets satisfaction from causing pain and anguish in our lives. He is a manipulator who plays on our weaknesses and causes us to make rash decisions based on what we feel instead of on what we know to be true. He is a master of trickery and often uses temptation to bribe us into acting upon it. Don't be deceived into thinking that he doesn't understand our fleshly desires because he certainly does! He observes our behavior and uses that to devise evil plans custom tailored for each of us. But don't lose heart! He does not have "absolute power" over us! He can only affect our lives in areas that God allows him to touch. He is on a short tether and God ultimately determines how short that leash is and when it will be reigned in. 
 One of the key areas that Satan loves to attack is our minds! One of his best tools is to plant seeds of doubt and mistrust. He loves to inflict jealousy, lust, and fear into our minds and as he does...he keeps our eyes focused on our immediate circumstances. How many times have you had a thought come into your mind that was not a good thought? You may not have recognized the thought immediately as being a tool of Satan. You may have just imagined something or felt a small bit of panic or fear for a moment, but remember this...God is not the author of confusion or fear! The Bible tells us that we are to capture every thought...in 2 Corinthians 10:5 "[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One." Every thought that comes into our mind is not from God! The mind is the gateway to both good and evil. We can choose whether we want to dismiss those unpure, fleshly thoughts or whether we will act on them. We have the power to choose!
So how are we to know which thoughts are from God and which are from Satan? The Bible tells us exactly what to think about! In Phillipians 4:8 we read, " Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." So any thought that is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable is not from God! Those thoughts of jealously, lust, hurt, fear, division, mistrust...those are all thoughts planted by the father of lies himself...Satan. The best way to combat those lies is to know the truth! The Bible says in John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." And how can you know the truth? Only by reading the word of God, the Bible.
We are in a war daily and that war takes place in our minds. Our mind is the battlefield! So we need to be well equipped to fight in that battle and the first place the battle begins is at the door to our mind. Stand guard at that gate and hold every thought captive. In doing this, you will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and you can combat those lies with truth! Stand firm and be on guard because those lies straight from the pit of hell are bound to come your way in subtle, deceitful, sneaky ways today and in the days to come. But take heart! You are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ, your savior! Satan has no power over you because He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."