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Archive for September, 2014

Father God, do you really expect thankfulness from me right now?

~ YES!  “…give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (I Thess. 5:18)

But, Father God, how can I honestly be thankful with _______ going on in my life;  I am just not feeling this at all!  I am a woman who is at the end of her proverbial rope!

~ Dear Child, try remembering that I am always with you, I love you, and I promise to give you peace.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:38-39)  

“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.”  (Phil. 4:6-7)

Thank you, Lord, that even in this difficult time, Your loving Presence and your unfathomable peace is the gift You willingly bestow on me.  But this is still really hard…

~ I know, precious daughter of mine!  Choose to believe that I can turn these negative things in to positives.  Remember Joseph’s story:  “…what was meant for evil, God meant for good…” (Genesis 15:20)

Joseph endured overwhelmingly negative events and yet came out on the other side victorious and free of the hard twist of bitterness. While Joseph didn’t see the fullness of God’s plan immediately, he still faithfully entrusted himself to the Lord through times of loneliness, slavery, slander, and injustice. Joseph didn’t pretend that what he went through wasn’t tragic or hard. He calls it what it is:  evil!  Yet he found peace in the midst of some really nasty stuff, and he eventually rose to a position of great influence because God loves to turn nasty situations (that are intended for evil) in to something that is positive.

Thank you, God, that the things intended to harm me are not a surprise to You. You know it is hard for me to endure, and somehow You are going to turn it upside down and in to something that is good. I am grateful I can trust You with ________.

Editor’s note:  Please leave a comment if you have learned a way to practice thankfulness in the midst of hard times or if there is a specific verse you lean on when struggling with thankfulness.  Perhaps you have a story of a time when God turned something negative in to something good.  We would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

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Like dominos falling, within a few months our lives took an abrupt downturn. Being on bed rest with a difficult pregnancy and having a 3 yr old at home was not easy. Add the stress of my husband’s job being in crisis as the teacher’s union voted to go on strike and ultimately all the teachers were fired. Now add the pressure of having purchased our first house, and not being able to pay our mortgage.

When I miscarried at 5 months, we held each other and cried for it all, the baby, the job, the house. We prayed and did what we knew to do, put the house up for sale, applied for a new job, even as far away as Alaska, and waited for the Lord to show us where to go and what to do. When it seemed like nothing was happening, we had to think, Has God forgotten about us? Does he have a plan for us or is his plan for us to sit on a shelf and wait? It is hard to wait, and anxiety can fill the void quite easily. In the Bible, I read Psalm 46:1,2:  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea.”

Wow, I loved that, no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, God is ever present with us. He will not abandon us, no matter what. Have no fear! We grabbed hold of that truth and buckled it on, to hold us firm in our faith. Two months later my husband got a new job that brought us to Howell, we sold our house and began to build a new one, and he also got a second job in our new church home. And one year later we brought home our newly adopted baby.

Looking back, what we thought of as loss, was actually gain. As we trusted God, we found unexpected blessings. Every time the upsets in life cause me anxiety, I remember “even if the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea, God is my refuge and strength” and it strengthens my resolve to trust God in all things, at all times.

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When God calls you to a specific plan, how will you answer? Yes or No?

Recently, I experienced a unique calling from God – one that I had not expected or welcomed. First, let me give a little background…

I grew up moving. Every 3-5 years we packed up the house and left on a new adventure. We found a new church, made new friends and wound up further and further from our extended family. These moves were a blessing as they came with a promotion for my dad and spurred on personal growth in the rest of us. However, most of the friends that I made had aunts, uncles and cousins in the same town or the next town over. I envied this close family proximity as my closest cousins were 5 hours away and the rest were a full day away via plane. When I reached my mature adulthood and settled down with my husband, I realized that I really wanted a “place” to be mine – a spot where I would have family and be able to put down roots. I finally had it…

Only one other time in my life has God spoken so clearly to me that it may as well have been literally verbal. This other time, I chose to balk against His path for me and fell into a pit of misery. When God spoke to me this time, I knew I had no choice – I don’t want to be a Jonah.

You can read the whole story in the book of Jonah, but for now – here’s the “Reader’s Digest” version. God told Jonah to go do His work. Jonah was scared and ran in the other direction, got on a boat and thought he was hiding from God. A horrible storm came up and knocked the boat around. The crew found out that it was Jonah’s fault that the storm came up and they tossed him overboard. A great fish (most of us assume a whale) came up and swallowed Jonah. He remained in the fish’s belly for 3 days and nights. Jonah prayed and agreed to follow God’s plan. The whale vomited him up onto the beach and Jonah went and did the Lord’s work. It wasn’t easy work, but Jonah did it.

So, here I am… faced with a choice. Do I follow God’s plan, or do I live in the belly of the whale until I give in? God calls us to obedience. I’m taking a bold step of faith and making a big sacrifice. I’m packing up my house and moving to a different state.

God hasn’t given us the whole story, but He has promised that if we follow Him that He will make us fishers of men. Time to cut bait…

“And [Jesus] said to them,

‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’

Immediately they left their nets and followed Him…”

Matthew 4:19-20

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God, are You there when I am overwhelmed? What if this is too much?

My baby is heading off to kindergarten and I am re-entering the work force, all in one fell swoop. In the wee hours of the night, I have wiped away tears and tried to put my worries to bed. The fears, though, still creep in no matter how often I try to abate them. The changes feel heavy.

I know you have been there too. A child heads off to college. You face a life-threatening diagnosis and subsequent treatment. A job change. A relationship shift. A loved one facing challenge. An immense loss. You’ve all had your share of deep waters, waters that threaten to drown you or so you think.

That is why I have determined to stake claim to the verses below this fall. When I read them this morning, they came like breath to my soul and I knew God was speaking to me. He will be with me. This is not too much. He will not allow these waters to overwhelm me:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name; you are Mine.

I will be with you when you pass through the waters,

and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.”

 Isaiah 43:1a-2a

If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the roaring waters that swirl about you, you can relate to these words and God’s answer is clear, a promise that is true and worth claiming. Why won’t these waters overwhelm us? Why won’t this be too much? Because our Savior, our God, has promised to be with us. Our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God is with us. We are not alone. You are not alone. I am not alone. Stop fighting against the tide and start swimming into His arms, my sister and friend!

For further study this week, you can find more encouraging promises in the following verses:

Joshua 1:5-9

Deuteronomy 31:6-8

Hebrews 13:5-6

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Editor’s Note: The authors in the coming weeks will offer insights as they deal with the Real Life questions they have for the Lord God and where they turn for answers in those moments of weariness or confusion and find True encouragement.  

Lord, I Don’t Get This?!?!

Perhaps, like me, there are days, weeks, or seasons when you feel you have faithfully done everything just right and yet life around you is filled with craziness and chaos, messes and failures. After all, you are reading your Bible, going to church, fellowshipping and serving with others, being kind to strangers….on and on, but still you aren’t seeing the victories and blessings that you anticipated or thought God was promising. So, you start doubting God or questioning yourself. Where do we turn in those moments?

Often, we want to run to favorite “comfort zone”— for me this might be food, a great book, a movie, anything that allows me to escape for a time from the harsh realities around me. Might I suggest instead an alternative approach to life’s challenges?

First, we need to recognize who has our “back” and  who is ever present to handle anything life throws at us. II Samuel 22:3 says this, “my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold, my high tower, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.”

Second, when we employ the Word of God it builds a stronghold brick by brick. So, it is important to employ the weapons God has given us to defeat the negative emotions, doubts and fears that can so quickly pull us under during the day. Memorizing Scripture doesn’t come as easy for me as in years past, so I keep 3X5 cards around to remind me:

I am Accepted (John 1:12)

I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)

I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (I John 5:18)

I can find grace and mercy in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)

Employing our weapons against the emotional attacks also means using prayer not just to tell God our needs, but to ask Him to remind us of His love. Fellowship with others—the power of association—also keeps me from surrendering to the negative in the world around me. Just as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to support him, I too at times need others to remind me in tangible/physical ways of God’s presence.

In those times of doubts and confusion, these are a few of the measures that assure me to keep trusting in the Lord God and His love. He has never failed me and is worthy of my unwavering trust. The victory and blessings will come, sometimes through the raindrops of life.

What kinds of things are going on in your life that have you looking up and saying “I don’t get this?!?!  For more reflection this week, take the time to look up these verses and meditate on what God may be trying to communicate to you personally: Psalms 18:2, Psalms 27:1, Psalms 37:39, Psalms 43:2, Psalms 144:2, Joel 3:16.  

 

 

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