Tuesday, December 9, 2014

WHEN IT SEEMS LIKE NOBODY CARES

"Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every
respect like us...so that he could be our merciful and 
faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a 
sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.  
Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, 
he is able to help us when we are being tested."
(Hebrews 2:17-18, NLT)

If you've ever felt forgotten, ignored, rejected, insignificant, worthless, overlooked, passed by, devalued, left out, you may know how easy it is for discouragement, envy, and/or hopelessness to set in.  Maybe even anger, resentment, thoughts of revenge?  Focusing on ourselves and our circumstances can lead to a pit of despair.

This came up in a conversation with a friend, and when I added my own disappointment and frustration over people who make promises they fail to keep, and things that don't move when and how I think they should, it segued right into the story of Joseph (chapters 39 and 40 of the Book of Genesis in the Bible).

In brief, for anyone unfamiliar with the story, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers,  falsely accused of attempted rape, and imprisoned as a result.  Not long after,  two of Pharaoh's most trusted servants--his baker and his butler--were also thrown into prison.  While there, they both had disturbing dreams which Joseph interpreted for them.  In three days the baker would be executed; the butler would be restored to his job.  And three days later, so it came to pass.  Joseph asked the butler to remember him when he was set free, but the butler forgot about the promise until two years later when Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted.

Where was God, you might ask, or where is He now?  Does He see what's happening?  Does He even care?  Yes, yes, yes!

Each one of us is a Divine original, created for a special purpose that no one else can fulfill (Psalm 139:13, 16; Ephesians 2:10).  God reigns over every single detail of our life, and even before the beginning of time, it was He who decided where we would be born, the parents we would have, what events we would experience.  It's all part of our training program here on earth.  What may seem to us like trials and tribulations, are more likely part of God's blueprint that He is using to mold and shape us into instruments He can use.

People may let us down, but God never will.  Joseph seems to have known this, for instead of becoming bitter or disillusioned by his circumstances, he stayed focused on the goodness and faithfulness of God.  He performed every task assigned to him with excellence, giving God the glory, and all the while, unbeknownst to him, God was using these years in bondage to train Joseph for the important position of ruler of Egypt.   When the time was right, God turned things around, and used Joseph to save many lives during the seven years of famine prophesied in Pharaoh's dream (Genesis 50:20).

So whatever situation you're in today, no matter how hopeless or undesirable it may seem, know that you have not been forgotten.  God knows exactly where you are, and He cares, and if you have any doubts about that, just think of the cross.

John 3:16 tells us that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  This gift of salvation can only be received by grace, through faith. It cannot be earned by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). And as much as it is not God's will for anyone to perish, He will not impose His will on us or force us to accept it. The choice is ours.

Jesus stands at the door of your heart, knocking and waiting for you to let Him in (Revelation 3:20). If you have not already done so, I pray you would open the door now and accept His invitation to enter your life, forgive your sins, and make you a new creation.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD

"Ah, Lord God!  Behold, You have made
the heavens and the earth by Your great
power and outstretched arm.  There is
nothing too hard for You."
(Jeremiah 32:17)




Last summer (2013), a friend gave me a beautiful geranium plant that I put out on my balcony.  It flourished for a while and had many beautiful flowers, but then the stinkbugs got to it (as you can see in the two pictures on your left in the collage--or by clicking here or here.)

The infestation was so bad I had to throw the plant out, but before doing so, I saved one small green stem with a couple of unaffected leaves on it. The cutting sat in a pot on my windowsill all winter long, neither dying nor showing signs of growth, but then one day it started to bud, and now is full of flowers again.

Whenever I look at it, I am reminded to keep my eyes on the Lord and to never give up, because nothing is impossible with God.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE LIES

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully
made; ...All the days ordained for me were written
in your book before one of them came to be."
(Psalm 139:14a,16b)

Even though I know I am a Divine original created for a special purpose that no one else can fulfill (Ephesians 2:10), you never would have guessed it had you heard the negativity spewing out of my mouth as I addressed fellow writers around the table last night.  Sure I was smiling and joking, but every other word was a put down of myself and my abilities.  Wow!  How dishonoring to my Creator.

The truth behind the lies is that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).  I am the child of the King of Kings, and I'm special in His sight (Romans 8:38-39; 1 John 3:1).  I am who He says I am, and my identity lies in Him alone--not in how I feel I measure up to others, or in what other might think of me.  It's time for me to stop labeling myself, and refresh my memory by re-reading The Father's Love Letter, which you can read too by clicking on the link.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

WHEN DOUBT CREEPS IN

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not
on your own understanding; in all your ways submit
to him, and he will make your path straight."
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

To trust means to walk by faith not by sight, to follow directions regardless of whether they seem to make sense or not, but how easy it is to be swayed by our intellect or our senses when we take our eyes off our source.

This truth was driven home to me not long ago when I had an errand to run, and consulted MapQuest for directions on how to get there. The instructions were simple and clear.  A long straight stretch of highway, with a left turn at the end.  So off I set, fully confident that this trip would be a breeze.

MapQuest is a source I trust, they have never steered me wrong, and yet when I reached the intersection and made the turn, doubt started creeping in.  Instead of keeping on keeping on, I let my mind convince me this couldn't possibly be right, as I was now on a gravel road leading to a large vegetable farm.  MapQuest must have made a mistake. They must have meant a right turn at the intersection, not a left.

There was a complex of lovely homes to the right, so I turned around and drove towards them.  Confident this was the right thing to have done, I started looking for the address but couldn't find it.  The name of the road was correct, but there was no such number on it.  I drove up that road, and I drove down it, and finally went into the sales office for help.  They consulted a map and told me the address I was looking for was indeed on the other side of the highway, the side I was so sure couldn't possibly be the right one.

And so I turned around again, but made a wrong turn out of the parking lot and managed to get lost trying to find my way back to the intersection.  More time wasted before I got back to the gravel road, and all this notwithstanding, my mind continued to rebel.  It can't possibly be this vegetable farm, it can't be that other farm, it's definitely not that mansion, and on and on and on.  I was so busy listening to these thoughts, I couldn't find the number I was looking for on this side of the road either.

A trip that should have taken no more than 15 minutes or so, had now stretched to an hour, all because I had chosen to listen to my senses instead of my source.  Frustrated, close to tears, and not knowing what else to do, I started praying in earnest for the Lord to help me find my way.  And he did.  A mail delivery truck appeared out of nowhere.  The mailman had me follow him to the address I was looking for, which turned out to be the very mansion my intellect had dismissed, and that I had driven past several times without even noticing the number. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ON TAKING A BREATH AND LETTING GO

"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You."
(Isaiah 26:3)

Sometimes I feel so frustrated I could scream.  What at first looks so promising falls through; I take two steps forward, only to take three back; situations that need straightening out can't be because my hands are tied and I can't get through to the people who might be able to help me.  I don't even know who could help me.  Obstacles, obstacles, and more obstacles at every turn.  Sometimes I get so tired of being alone and trying to fight my own battles, I find myself wishing for a husband, or a best friend, or just anyone who would be my champion and go to bat for me, at least some of the time.

And then this morning I opened an e-mail with the above verse (Isaiah 26:3) in it.  That was all, but it did get my attention and cause me to take a deep breath.  I started reading through the promises in my It Is Written book, and found many gentle reminders of His love for me, reminders that I am not alone, reminders that He is my champion, and that when I relinquish control and place my cares at the foot of the Cross, I can trust that He will work things out for my good and His glory.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

The last few days have been full of reminders that things can change in the blink of an eye.  From news of a friend's husband in hospital with multiple injuries and amnesia after setting out for a bike ride on a beautiful morning; to sad tidings of a former pastor's untimely demise as the result of a fall from a cliff while climbing a Himalayan mountain.

None of us is promised tomorrow.  Even our next breath cannot be taken for granted.  So don't wait until it's too late to tell the people you love that you love them.  Be willing to say you're sorry rather than allow foolish things to tear a relationship apart.  And, most important of all, if you have yet to accept God's gift of salvation, don't put it off a moment longer.

John 3:16 tells us that "God so loved the world (you and me included) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  However, as much as it is not God's will for anyone to perish, He will not impose His will on you or force you to accept it.  The choice is yours.

Jesus stands at the door of your heart, knocking and waiting for you to answer (Revelation 3:20).  I pray that you would open the door before it is too late, and accept His invitation to enter your life, forgive your sins, and make you a new creation.

Monday, June 30, 2014

ADMITTING I'M POWERLESS

"For it is God who is at work within you, giving you
the will and the power to achieve his purpose."
 (Philippians 4:13)

My big aha moment came while I was sitting in the prayer room at church this morning, practically in tears, begging the Lord to help me follow through on my commitments to exercise on a regular basis and keep up with my household chores.  Even having an accountability partner hasn't helped.  I start each day with good intentions to follow through, but then I start procrastinating, get distracted by other tasks, and before I know it, the day is over and I've done a zillion things other than the two at the top of my list.

"How petty," some of you may be thinking.  "Why don't you just pull yourself up by the boot straps and use some self control, for goodness sakes." Well, there was a time I might have responded the same way, but have since had to eat some humble pie, which makes me very, very grateful that God does not think the way we do, you or I.  

The response to my plea may not have been audible, but it was very clear.  I was reminded of Philippians 4:13 (see verse at top of page), as well as Step 1 of all 12-step programs--"We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable."  The problem has to be acknowledged before healing can begin, and it doesn't have to be as glaring a problem as substance abuse.  Nothing is too big or small to bring to the Lord.  Not even my inability to stick to an exercise routine.   

Today, for the first time, it finally sank in how powerless I am over everything.  When things are going well it's so easy to pat myself on the back and believe I'm in control, but the reality is that it's only by His grace.  God alone deserves all the glory and all the thanks for every blessing and achievement in my life.

Maybe my present frustrations are His reminders that, appearances to the contrary, there is nothing I  can do in my own strength.  I can, however, do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and therein lies my hope.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

FAITH AND ELECTRICITY

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every 
situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, 
present your requests to God.  And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding, will guard your 
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Two friends and I have been engaged in a very thought provoking Bible study entitled Soon to be a Major Motion Picture, by Donna Partow.  It has really challenged me to look at the drama I create when I allow my thoughts to run away with me, and see how the resulting turmoil is a product of what I tell myself as my mind interprets my circumstances.  It is never the actual circumstance that is to blame.

So when one of these friends shared the question (from another Bible study), "Do you really believe that what you say you really believe is really true," it made me stop and think.   With my mouth I declare that I really believe God is in control and that He can be trusted to do what He says He will do, but is that what my thoughts and actions convey?

As long as there is drama and turmoil playing in my mind, I am not acting on what I say I believe.  True faith is like the flick of the switch that turns the lights on.  You don't have to know all about electricity, or understand why and how it works to make it happen. All you need do is trust and obey.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I WRITE TO MYSELF

"All the days ordained for me were written
in your book before one of them came to
be," -- (Psalm 139:16b)

Each one of us is a Divine original, created by God for a special purpose that no one else can fulfill.  I write this post to myself as a reminder that this means me too, because I still tend to measure my self worth by how other people react to me, and by what I perceive to be my successes or failures.

I'll think back to friends I went to school with who appear to have lived successful, meaningful lives, and be filled with remorse over the poor choices I made, the squandered talents and opportunities, and what I perceive to be a wasted life with nothing of consequence to show for it.  

That's when I need to pull myself up and remember that an original means one of a kind--not a copy or an imitation.  I am exactly what and where I need to be for this particular moment in God's plan. From His perspective, my life is not the tragic waste I so often think it to be.  If I had pursued my talents and education to their fullest, and been the best mother/wife/daughter/friend I could have been, would I ever have felt a need for the Lord or for His saving grace?  Would I, perhaps, have spent my life chasing after the things the world has to offer, instead of the things that have eternal value?  Would I have missed God's gift of salvation, a greater tragedy by far?

I am still a work in progress, and God does not measure success in numbers.  If I reach that one person He intended for me to reach, allow Him to use me to bring hope to that one discouraged heart, or lead that one soul out of the darkness and to the foot of the Cross, then my purpose will have been accomplished, and my life not lived in vain.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

WHEN EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE GOING WRONG

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into
various trials, knowing that the testing of your
faith produces patience.  But let patience have 
its perfect work, that you may be perfect and
complete, lacking nothing."
(James 1: 2-4)

When everything seems to be going wrong and I'm frustrated by my inability to control situations and make them turn out the way I want them to, I have no desire to be patient.  I want to scream, I want to eat, I want to spend money I don't have to spend, I want to do anything that will help me escape the terrible feeling of powerlessness that overwhelms me.  What I have learned, though, is that none of these things can give me the fix that I'm looking for. The only fix is at the foot of the Cross.

I learned this some eighteen years ago when I made a major life change based on the promises of a man I trusted, a man who prided himself on being a person of integrity whose word could be banked on.  When he asked me to marry him, and offered me a job, I had no qualms about moving, or about burning all my bridges behind me, and when a friend warned me not to be so hasty, I was outraged.

It wasn't long before I discovered that my friend's fears were well founded.  There was no job, there was no marriage, and there was no turning back.  Just one big slice of humble pie, along with confirmation that God's word is the only word that can be banked on one hundred percent of the time.

I was angry at God for letting this happen to me, and wished there were someone else I could turn to.  Of course there wasn't, and my mind was in such turmoil that I seriously considered ending my life on the curvy road of a West Virginia mountain.  I could drive my car off one of its steep cliffs and everyone would think it was an accident. The only thing that stopped me was a fear of being crippled instead of dying.

In a state of helpless fury, I wept until there were no more tears left to cry, and then, suddenly, I felt enveloped by a great peace, as though the Lord were holding me close and quieting me.  A picture flashed through my mind of a wild horse bucking one last time before finally calming down, and in that moment, I was able to release what was in my tightly clenched fists and open them up to receive something better.

When I look back in retrospect to that time of hopelessness, and even further back to the time of anguish and devastation following the loss of my spouse, I can clearly see how death led to newness of life, and closed doors opened to better ones that I would never have imagined possible.

With all these evidences of God's faithfulness, it shames me to admit that I still struggle with doubts and fears when faced with events I don't understand, and I am grateful beyond measure that God loves me unconditionally despite my shortcomings.  He is the only one I can be sure will never give up on me, even when I'm ready to give up on myself.

When everything seems to be going wrong, these are the truths I need to cling to, and when my eyes start fixating on the little bits and pieces of the puzzle before me, I need to remind myself that God sees the whole picture, and is working things out for my good and His glory.  

So once again, I lay my burdens at the foot of the Cross, and put my trust in Him who loved us so much that He sent His one and only begotten son, Jesus, to die for us so we could be forgiven of our sins and enjoy eternal life.

(Click here to read The Father's Love Letter)            

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DID YOU KNOW?

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize
with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, 
yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of 
grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in 
time of need." -- (Hebrews 4:15-16) 

Did you know that you are a Divine original, created for a special purpose that no one else can fulfill? (Job 10:8; Psalm 139:13-16; Matthew 10:30; Ephesians 2:10)

Did you know that you are a child of the King of Kings, and that no matter what anyone else may think about you, you are special in His sight?  (Acts 17:28; 1 John 3:1)

Did you know that you are the apple of His eye?  (Zechariah 2:8)

Did you know that your name is engraved on the palm of His hand, and that He rejoices over you with singing?  (Isaiah 49:16; Zephaniah 3:17)

Did you know that God desires to lavish His love on you simply because you are His child and He is your father, and that He wants to show you great and marvelous things?  (Jeremiah 33:3; 1 John 3:1)

Did you know that when you feel brokenhearted, He is close to you, and that he saves your tears in a bottle?  (Psalm 56:28)

Did you know that no matter how things may look right now, His plan for your future has always been filled with hope?  (Jeremiah 29:11, 31:3; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 2:9)

Did you know that no sin is too big or too terrible for God to forgive, and that when you take your guilt and shame to the foot of the cross and turn control of your life over to Jesus, the slate is wiped clean? (2 Chronicles 30:9; Joel 2:13; Luke 18:27; John 3:17-18, 10:10, 13; Romans 8:1-2, 28, 10:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 3:20; 1 John 1:9)

Did you know? 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

DON'T LET INGRATITUDE STEAL YOUR JOY

"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."
(Philippians 4:8)

I've been reading a book by Ann Voskamp, entitled One Thousand Gifts, which has jolted me back to reality.

I started reading it at a time when I was trying to extricate myself from a bout of depression and my mind was a whirl of negative thinking.  How I wished, in vain, that I could go back in time and rewrite the story of my life, how I wallowed in self condemnation and regrets for the poor choices made that led me to where I am today, and in all that wishing and wallowing, it never once occurred to me that I was indulging in a form of ingratitude.

Ingratitude, that first sin of humanity, that stealer of joy.  Instead of focusing on my many blessings and the positives in my life, I was seeing only what wasn't.  I was hungering for something more or other than what I have, which in turn, was leading to envy, as I allowed myself to fall into the comparison trap.

One of the main themes of this book, the one speaking loudest to my heart, is that thanksgiving precedes blessings, and that leads me to believe it wasn't chance that caused it to show up on my radar screen when it did. The timing was too perfect.

I had already started practicing, to the best of my ability, the advice found in Philippians 4:8 (above), and to help me out, had set up a blog, Glimpses of God's Grace, on which to record all the special grace moments in my day.  Now I was being given confirmation that I was on the right track, confirmation of what I'd already started to discover, that thanksgiving creates abundance of joy.  When we give thanks, we start to experience a miracle of multiplication.  The more things we find to be thankful for, the more we will continue to find.

Ann writes that the habit of discontentment can only be driven out by hammering in one iron sharper.  The stick pin of gratitude.  So in addition to my blog, I have also taken up her challenge to make a list of 1,000 gratitudes.  My joy is returning, and I find that I don't have time for all those gloomy thoughts anymore.  I'm too busy adding to my list.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2/22/2009 REVISITED

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not
consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your
faithfulness." -- (Lamentations 3:22-2)

February 22nd, 2009 was the date of my first post--Why This Blog.  I needed to revisit it today to remind myself of where I was almost five years ago.

Somewhere along the way I seem to have lost sight of what used to be most important in my life.  It happened so gradually, I never even noticed.  Like the frog in the proverbial boiling frog story, I was on my way to being "cooked."  Distracted by the worries of life and a desire for better things, I was allowing the word within me to be choked, just as Mark 4:19 warned it would be.  My eyes were growing dim, and my mind was clouding, as I turned my focus outwards instead of up.

Rescue came in the form of a friend who asked me to do a Bible study with her, a study that soon shook me out of my stupor.

I am very grateful to my friend, Tammi, and also to have revisited my blog today.  I needed this reminder that at the foot of the cross there is mercy and grace. There is forgiveness, healing, and deliverance. This is the place where the slate gets wiped clean and you can have a fresh start.