Saturday, November 2, 2019

Seasons of Life

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace."

         Today's blog is about change and the seasons of life that we go through.  As you look outside, you can see we just went through a change of season, summer to fall.  It is unstoppable, unchangeable, and so powerful because it is God-ordained.  Some of us, may not like this particular season change but our turn is coming back.  The shorter days, the cooler temps, the foliage dying, and heavier clothes are some of my own reasons I have an aversion to fall.  Others may love fall for those very same reasons. 

        Matthew Henry says "these verses show us  that we live in a world of changes, that the several events of time, and conditions of human life, are vastly different from one another, and yet occur promiscuously, and we are continually passing and re-passing between them, as in the revolutions of every day and every year .  Every change concerning us, with the time and season of it, is unalterably fixed and determined by a supreme power; and we must take things as they come, for it is not in our power to change what is appointed for us."

        There are also seasons of our life because life is not all good or all bad.  There are transition times to learn and grow from.  Did you notice that it doesn’t just say that there is a time for good and a time for bad? It also says there is a purpose!  So, what season are you in? Is it a time to prosper or a time to want? Is it a time for sickness or for healing? Knowing the answers to these types of questions can be important to knowing what you might expect from each day.  I don’t know about you but knowing that there is a reason for something means there is hope. No matter how hard something may be, knowing there is a purpose for it makes it a little easier to swallow.

        "It is easy to give into the taunts of the enemy and believe that a season of hardship will last forever. It is hard is to look deep within yourself to find what the purpose may be. Finding an ounce of joy amongst the sorrow is what will hold you together on your darkest days.
       Where do you find that joy? Look within the promises that are in God’s Word. Read the words, pray the words and seek God through them. In doing these things, God will show you how to face the obstacles that lay within your current season." [J. Cannon]
        As for myself, I have sowed the seeds of sorrow over the past year, but now I am reaping joyous rewards.  This year was like a mini-season in my life.  
        If I had to break my life down into 4 seasons, they would be:  Season 1 [age 0-5]= where my life was all that it should be, without concern, Season 2 [age 6-16]= where my life was entrusted to God and physical, health trials tested my faith, Season 3 [age 17-29]= where my life was my own and God took second place to my worldly desires, Season 4 [age 30- present 48]= where my life desires were fulfilled by putting God first and above all.
        When we look at others, we must not be too quick to judge them because we don't know their struggles or the season they are in.  Remember, the valleys are right up next to the mountains and the trek of life is always changing.  Give grace, because if you haven't been where someone is already then you may be soon.  Young or old, sick or healthy, lost or forgiven... we can all relate to each other and still obey the commandment to 'love one another' in every season of life.
4 Strongholds To Remember in Your Season
  1. I am here by God’s appointment
  2. I am in his keeping
  3. I am under his training
  4. He will show me his purposes in his time

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Enduring By The Spirit's Guidance

        Today's blog is about having endurance in this difficult and harsh world.  Paul encourages us in Acts 20:23-24 by saying "I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."   We should all have the same mindset, when our lives become entangled with struggles, stress, and hardships in all areas of our lives.  God isn't surprised by what we are facing or going through, but He gives believers the Holy Spirit to guide them through it all.  Our life mission is stated in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

        "The way that a person responds to hardship reveals his or her true character. And tough situations are the times when God’s children most need to match actions to words. It’s easy to say, “I trust the Lord” or “My God is faithful” when life is good. But unless believers recognize that He is sovereign even in adversity, they may be tempted to complain and seek pity. Christians who trust in the Lord’s faithfulness and supremacy will steadfastly focus on Him and as a result will see their anxiety and doubt subside.  Giving the Lord free rein allows Him to mature our faith, conform us to the likeness of His Son, and fulfill His unique plan for our lives."  []

       "If someone asked you what the Holy Spirit does, how would you answer? Some Christians may not be aware of what He is accomplishing in their life, but the Spirit’s work isn’t a total mystery—Scripture tells us what the role of our divine Helper is.
       Although the Holy Spirit indwells and seals us immediately upon salvation, His work within each believer takes a lifetime. He is our constant Helper, who transforms us into Christ’s image and equips us for our daily challenges so we don’t have to struggle through life in our own strength. In all of our difficulties, conflicts, and heartaches, He guides our way, guards our hearts, and gives us His wisdom."  []

He convicts us of sin (John 16:8). This is the first step in awakening us to our need for salvation. But even afterwards, the Spirit continues revealing sin in our life so we can immediately confess and receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
He guides us into all truth (John 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit teaches about Jesus Christ and God’s Word, and He helps us discern the difference between truth and error.
He fills us (Eph. 5:18). To be filled with the Spirit means that He is directing our path, much like a ship that is driven along by the wind filling its sails. This requires that we surrender our life to Him, acknowledging that He owns us and has the right to lead.
He bears fruit through us (Gal. 5:22-23). The Spirit produces qualities we could never consistently display on our own: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

         How we live comes from who we are, as we cling to the living hope found in Jesus alone, and there we will find strength to persevere.   Philippians 4:13  "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

         As for myself, this past week has not been easy or smooth sailing, regarding my health and comfort.  I do cling to my faith and seek to run the race, set before me by God, to the best of my ability.  When able, I surround myself with those who encourage me and allow blessings to be given and received with one another.  I do not isolate myself or have a pity party, where in which the devil wants to plant doubtful and negative thoughts.  I remind myself of past experiences, where I felt small, but God showed His strength and faithfulness.
         I'll share one of those stories because I shared it this week with a friend:  The second year I lived in Chicago [94-95], I went for an interview.  Driving alone in 5-lane Chicago traffic without GPS back then was scary to say the least, for me.  I got to my interview location on-time, but I discovered it wasn't accessible.  Although I could walk back then, I couldn't manage the steps without a rail.  I called the employer and explained my dilemma.  We had the interview in my van, but obviously I didn't get the job.  It wasn't all for nothing, I gained experience and courage.

In my distress, anxiety, and fear, Lord, teach
me to rely on You and draw close to You. Then I
know I’ll be able to stand strong in Your power
and won’t be dependent on my own strength.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Control and The Lack Of It

Romans 8:28  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

           Today's blog is about control and how little we have of it over most things in life.  Control is really an illusion we have in this life.  We have influence in this world, more than 'real' control.  God is the only one in true and real control over all things, events and beings.  Who controls time, the waves and tides, the sunrises and sunsets, your next heartbeat?  God, and He alone. Job 9:8 "He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea."  We may fool ourselves during our healthiest, wealthiest, or most productive of days but God gives and takes away daily to remind us of His control over us in this world.  Just ask any stroke patient, car wreck victim or tornado did you let this happen and they will say 'it was out of my control."  God never causes bad things to happen, but He allows them to draw our dependency to Him.  

         "Ellen Langer’s 1975 study titled The Illusion of Control examined the level of influence we exert over life’s events. She found that we overestimate our degree of control in most situations. The study also demonstrated how reality nearly always shatters our illusion.  James identified the phenomenon long before she named it. In James 4, he wrote, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (vv. 13–14).  Then James provides a cure for the delusion, pointing to the One who’s in absolute control: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (v. 15). In these few verses, James summarized both a key failing of the human condition and its antidote."  []

       Jeremiah 5:22  "Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it."
      Jeremiah 31:35  "This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name"

          "From the Christian’s perspective, there is no such thing as chance. God is either directly or indirectly involved in everything that happens to us. He can therefore be trusted and obeyed in any circumstance, because even the smallest details are under His control."

Things don't just happen to those who love God,
They're planned by His own dear hand,
Then molded and shaped, and timed by His clock;
Things don't just happen
they're planned.Fields

As for myself, I have had those youthful, naive days where I thought I was steering the wheel of life and had to be reminded of how wrong I was. I've also had days where I thanked God that the situation was known to not be in my control. We influence our lives by God-given talents and opportunities, but ultimately God's will and purposes in each of us will prevail. Praise The Lord, for that.
Every day I am reminded of my lack of physical control that I have over things, but I'm not without, because God is in control and provides for all my needs. I've relinquished control over where I live, over not doing things for myself and over doing things my way always. I do have control over who I will serve and choose to be Lord of my life. I do control who I choose to spend my time with. I do control what I spend my money on, to benefit myself and others. I also control how I react to sin, other people, and adversity.
What I don't control are the number of days of my life, no matter how difficult it may be or become. I don't control the weather around me, outside of my room. I don't control others around me. but hopefully just have a positive influence and impact on their lives. I don't control other's relationship with God, but only help to share the gospel and Christ's love with them.

"If we go through life without thinking about the Lord, reading His Word, or praying, this is evidence that we are living for ourselves rather than for Christ. Before we continue going down this path, we should stop and heed God’s warnings in Scripture so we won’t have to suffer the consequences of rebelling against Him." []

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Current Courage Usage

Be strong and courageous.

1 Chronicles 28:20

              Last week's blog talked about how God has used my life experiences to build courage within myself and trust in Him above all else.  This week I want to continue with the theme of courage and how I use it daily.  I don't intend to use the following examples as a way to give myself a pat on the back, but just to say 'just because I do it, doesn't mean it's easy for me.'  Courage is a daily decision to put your life in the best possible way to show God is working on and thru you, to give you the best, abundantly full life.

              The most obvious and visible display of courage is wearing my mask out publicly, and not hiding inside privately.  I could say it would be easy to hide away, but it wouldn't be for me.  I am out-going and love to do things with other people.  I want to do what I can, while I can.  Other people's looks, misconceptions and judgements are theirs.  This is my life to enjoy, explore, live fully in, and endure.  My mask is not a choice, but a requirement to breathe.  I accept it and move on with it.  Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) said... "One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today."  "When our Father allows painful things to happen, we must trust in His unchanging nature and enduring promises. People and circumstances change, but the Lord’s good and loving character does not." []

            Another area of daily courage is the dependency on others to do things in this life.  I used to be very independent with my activities in normal life, but that is not the case at all anymore.  It takes courage to allow people to not only help you, but to do things for you.  There is a release of power that no one ever wants to let go of.  Courage involves trusting God to send you the right people at the right time to help you.  It's a self dependence that transitions into a total dependence on God.  "God doesn't give us what we can handle, but God helps us handle what we are given."

           Courage also comes into play with just talking with people, friends or strangers.  I know there's an awkwardness when others can't hear or understand me, and I feel the frustration as much as they do, if not more.  I can't stay silent tho, because my mind is sharp and as long as I have breath, I will use it to voice what's on my it or not.  Courage helps me think of alternative words for ones hard to say.  Courage helps me encourage others with my words.  Courage helps me persist and get across the vocal cord barriers that want to silence me.

        "Fear is a hindrance. It creates anxiety in your heart, divides your mind, drains your energy, and gets in the way of whatever you're doing in life."  Courage is the counter-action that we can use to diminish and overcome our fears.   When you trust and believe that God is always with you, working things for your good, and that He will never forsake you...then courage is easier to have and hold on to.  May God bless you with steadfast love and courage all the days of your life.

Lord, give me the courage to rise above fear,
Even of danger, because You are near;
I would be faithful to face any foe
While I am walking with You here below.  —Hess

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Building A Courageous Life With God

Deuteronomy 31:6  "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

         Today's blog is about how God has built courage in me through opportunities of learning to trust in Him, above all else.  I want to give a few examples from my life, without going in great detail of each one.  "Regardless of what today may bring or the trouble you are now going through, don’t forget that your God is stronger than anything in your life. So, be confident! The shadow of His all-prevailing presence guarantees that His power can turn even the worst situation into something good." []

        Let's begin at age 5, when I started showing symptoms of something wrong, like falling and my right foot turning in.  I had a surgical biopsy of my thigh muscle and had to spend the night at Arkansas Children's Hospital.  Way back then, 1976, children were put in a ward and parents weren't allowed to stay overnight with their kids.  My parents say they left, but returned to peek in the window.  I don't remember a lot, other than the surgery and getting 2 stuffed puppies from the nurses.  I'm sure I was scared and it was a courage building and trust in God opportunity to learn from.

       Let's go on to age 10, when I had a real surgery on my right foot called a tendon transfer.  After this surgery, I had to manage on crutches with a cast on my leg for 6 weeks.  I'm sure it was a scary time for both me and my parents, as to whether I would ever walk again.  After an an ample time without the cast and just crutches, my fear had the best of me.  One day when my dad was out of town, my mom put my crutches in another room away from me.  It was a courage-calling and God-calling moment...'Help me Lord, because you are all I have to trust and depend on.'  Do you recall moments like that in your own life?

       Let's skip to age 22, when I was married and living in Arlington, TX.  I got a phone call from my husband at work in the Navy, where they had a Naval Air Station.  He was getting an early discharge from the Navy and we were going to move to Chicago, so he could start working for his dad and his business.   CHICAGO????  I literally thought it was a death sentence with the weather they had up there.  It took a lot of courage to do what I had vowed to do and follow my husband's lead.  It also took a whole lot of courage to find the right college to meet all of my needs to finish my degree and graduate a year and a half later, in Aug. 1994.   I trusted God to provide and He did for all my needs, including courage thru it all.

        There are many, many other life moments that required both courage and trust that have brought me here to age 48.   It has been quite the beautiful ride, sometimes a smooth sail and others a roller-coaster.

       "We spend much of our time working or engaging in pleasurable pursuits of our own choosing. However, God wants our priorities to reflect His purposes—namely, to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love others through a life of service and sacrifice (Matt. 22:37-40).  We can protect our future by yielding to the Spirit’s control and living out what Scripture considers most valuable: knowing God and obediently serving Him. Make sure that you put Him in charge of your mind, will, emotions, and appetite."  []

       "Perhaps we dread poor health, financial problems, the loss of a loved one, or uncertainty about the future. Or maybe we’re afraid of failure because we feel weak and inadequate for a particular task or challenge. Whatever our fears may be, we must learn how to face them as God desires—with courage."
      If you want to profit from struggles, be sustained in them, and come through with joy and victory, you must understand the following truths:  []

1. God’s in full control of the timing and intensity of your trial, and He won’t let it go beyond the boundaries He has set.
2. He has a specific purpose for your suffering, which you may not understand until it is over.
3. This trial will be profitable if you submit to God and trust Him through it.
4. A trying situation is a chance for faith to prove genuine and grow stronger.
5. When you endure extreme pressure with unexplainable peace and joy, the Lord will demonstrate His sustaining power to a watching world.
6. The Father will use your difficulties to produce Christ-like character.
7. God will walk with you through trials.
8. The Holy Spirit will enable you to survive this and to come out a conqueror.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Vacation Destin..ation

             I want to share with you all some of my thoughts from my recent vacation to Destin, Florida.  This was our third trip to  Camp Gulf in Destin and I think it was our best trip yet.  The weather was perfect with sunshine everyday, so there was no worry about having to do certain activities on a particular day.  After a very difficult year health-wise, God was merciful and gave me this vacation with pretty good health overall.  God answered my prayers by not only making it possible for this trip to happen, but it was all in His timing.  We were delayed from our original August date and were unsure about when to leave up until the day before we left.  When the Psalms say, "I will tell of your wonderful deeds", I say, "Amen, Yes, I will too."  I praise God for this much needed trip and for the healing over the past months that led up to it.

        "The Lord knows the kind of comfort we need when we’re grieving. He knows even better than we do. All we have to do is call on him. We don’t need to give him instructions. We don’t even have to tell him what’s wrong. All we have to do is say, “Lord, I need you,” and he will be right by our side.  
        The first step in becoming a truly “good” person as a follower of Christ is to stop pretending that we’re good on our own and to ask God to make us as good as we can be. We will fail many times, but He will keep growing us and changing us. God is faithful and—in His time and in His way—He’ll do it."  []

         I think vacation is like a micro-time of where our fruits of the Spirit, either shine thru or fail.  Fruits of the Spirit are “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  On vacation, we are out of our norm and comfort space, so the test of showing our Christian character begins.  How do we respond to the ungodly, the irritants, the pressures of this failing world?  

       "God not only notices us, He is with us at all times. We are to keep ourselves in God’s love, whether we feel Him or not. By praying and filling our minds with God’s truth, His love will grow in us and through us. Then we won’t be so consumed with wanting others to notice us. We will become people who notice others and let God’s love shine on them. Jude 1:20-21, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (NIV)."  []

       Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (NIV)

        My vacation motto is "Faith over fear and Do It, If Possible."   Our trip didn't go without adjustment, and modification too.  I got to go on a 35 minute helicopter ride with my personal assistant/friend and my portable air machine.  I got to sit in a beach chair with the waves crashing against me, because my feeding tube was protected by two layers of joke.  "with God all things are possible.”  

 “Seven Things That Can Be Done Only In This Life.”
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good reminder of how God wants us to live and what He wants us to do.  []

1. Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44).
2. Walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
3. Love God by enduring temptation (James 1:12).
4. Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
5. Lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
6. Share the gospel with the lost (Matthew 28:19-20).
7. Exercise your spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8).


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Climb Out of That Valley

Psalm 77

"I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
 at night I stretched out untiring hands,
 and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
 I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
 I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
 the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
 My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
“Will the Lord reject forever?
 Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
 Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
 Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
 the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
 yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
 and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Your ways, God, are holy.
 What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
 you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
 the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, God,
 the waters saw you and writhed;
 the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
 the heavens resounded with thunder;
 your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
 your lightning lit up the world;
 the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
 your way through the mighty waters,
 though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
 by the hand of Moses and Aaron."

        If you follow me on Facebook, you know I've been sharing some posts from my past.  It is good to reflect on days that were dark and in the valleys and remind yourself of God's faithfulness to you and how He gave you the  strength to carry on.  My reflections led me to Psalm 77.

        Psalm 77 begins with sorrowful complaints but ends with comfortable encouragements.  "In singing this psalm we must take shame to ourselves for all our sinful distrusts of God, and of his providence and promise, and give to him the glory of his power and goodness by a thankful commemoration of what he has done for us formerly and a cheerful dependence on him for the future." [M.Henry]

      "When I am in heaviness, I will think upon God. Have you noticed how, when you are in heaviness, you are always tempted to think about yourself—your uselessness, your failures, your nothingness—in one way or another? I have known this temptation and have constantly found it tormenting others. To draw one’s thoughts to oneself is a long-tried and most successful wile of the devil. Straight against this is the word we have in this psalm: “When I am in heaviness, I will think upon God.” When we are tried by dryness, dullness of heart and despair, we are very likely to feel alone in that most unhappy state. Perhaps that is why our wonderful Father took care to have such writings as Psalm 77 preserved for us. There suffering, steadfastness, soundness, hope, love—what great words these are, and how arresting is the order in which they are set." [A. Carmichael}

    "I have always noticed that when God has purposes of blessing for some soul, the demon of discouragement, who is one of Satan’s most useful servants, is sure to come and whisper all sorts of sorrowful, depressing, miserable thoughts. He drops these thoughts about, sometimes in one heart and sometimes in another. If they take root and grow into feelings and words and deeds, he knows that a great deal has been done to hinder what our God intends to do. Do not forget that discouragement is always from beneath; encouragement is always from above; God is the god of encouragement." [A. Carmichael]

     Time is a gift God has given us, and we’re accountable to Him for the way we spend it. We need to recognize that time is not ours to fill as we choose, but rather, it’s a trust from the Lord to be utilized in ways that fulfill His plan. Reviewing our schedule regularly will help ensure that we invest this precious resource His way. [

      God is the ultimate restorer of people, hearts and lives. Restoration brings transformation, and the faith to believe our lives truly do matter to God.  We all have lonely, doubtful days where we question our purpose, our journey and ourselves in God's plan.  "Prayer is trading our worries for His wisdom, our pain for His peace and our confusion for His confidence."

       "Believers sometimes quit praying before receiving an answer, because they are fearful of making the wrong request. However, the Holy Spirit’s divine nature prevents Him from going before God with a petition that is outside the Father’s plan. Instead, He intercedes to make the right request. He also impresses upon us the need to adjust our desires. Therefore, we can pray in every situation, knowing the Holy Spirit is our Helper." []

     As for myself, there have been times that I could have penned Psalm 77 because I felt that kind of anguish in life.  God doesn't leave us there, but gives us new people, opportunities, and re-direction in our lives.  So, if you're in a dark valley, climb out with God as your source of light.

'Isolation leads to self-deception which leads to self-destruction.'