Mountains and Valleys

20170225_150149The top of the mountain is such an amazing place to be!

I love mountains and I love to go hiking! Nothing is better than the feeling of making it to the top of the mountain after a long hike! The  reward is in the views that  are beyond description! To get the whole birds eye view of a place is just amazing! Even pictures do not do it justice! At the top of the mountain we forget about the hard hike it took to get there!

Metaphorically speaking, I tend to want to live on the mountain top!  To sit back and look at the accomplishment of the climb and take in the magnificent views. The mountain top is where everything runs smoothly and nothing goes wrong, again, metaphorically speaking. The mountain top is the place of celebration, its symbolic of success, pleasure, comfort and happiness! And God DOES allow the mountaintop moments in our lives to let us know, that He is pleased and that He loves us.

You and I both know though, that  living every day on the mountain top is not real life! Yes, there are seasons where things tend to run smoothly and seasons of celebration. There are goals that are achieved and plans that really do work out! In those seasons, or sometimes those fleeting moments, we savor the taste of victory ! We are on the mountain top!

But the valley, oh, the valley!  That’s where things grow! That’s where the hiking is all uphill and it’s a climb that stretches us! When I’m hiking I try to keep my eyes on the path ahead! Little by little the trail leads up higher and gradually when stopping to catch a breathe, I look down and see the progress. But looking up, it’s a bit overwhelming, that is, until you get close to the end! Then the adrenaline kicks in and it’s a race to the top!

I’ve made comparisons in previous blogs about life being a journey. The thing is, our journey, more often than not, is about the hike up the mountain as opposed to the top of the mountain. We long for things to run smoothly and everyone’s medical test results to come back good. We pray for God to keep our loved ones safe and for the stress to be over. We cry in our grief and look to God for answers that we find elusive. I’ve heard the expression that God is not a vending machine. He is not God , who is a genie in a bottle.  He is God  and He allows things to happen to grow us. God sees the whole picture of our lives and He wants us to seek Him.

I’ve heard Proverbs 3:5-6 quoted so much throughout my life that’s easy to just gloss over it and miss the meaning of the words.  “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” God WANTS us to acknowledge Him! Have you ever been in a gathering of people and there’s someone there out of the many faces that you know. You are the visitor and you hope that the person you know will at least acknowledge you! Imagine God is there with you in life’s journey and He is waiting for you to acknowledge Him! Not only does He want acknowledgement from us, God wants us to trust Him and to rely on Him for wisdom, not our own selves. I take that word  acknowledge to mean that I should invite God into every area of my life!  He’s already there and He’s waiting for us to seek Him!

‭‭In our own understanding we want the mountain top, all the while God knows that in order to grow us, we need the Valleys.  God is not concerned about our comforts in the here and now. He IS concerned about our eternal destination. This entire earthly  life may be a valley! Consider this, that those valleys are places where God calls out to us.  The question is, do we seek Him out? On the flip side,I believe that the mountain top will be Heaven . Heaven will be worth EVERYTHING! A couple of  reminders  from Gods Word are: “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NLT Also Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:13 NLT

There is a day coming when we WILL live on the mountain top! Keep your eyes on the path in front of you! Don’t get discouraged if everything seems to be in the valley. God is with us and in Him we do have victory! In the end Heaven will be worth it! “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The words to the song entitled Blessings by Laura Story say the same message, I have been trying to convey. I hope you and I find Hope in our times of need and seek God.  He’s waiting!

Blessings

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise
‭‭

Where to Begin

20170224_133146This is a Glance at the trip I was privileged to take with 12 others from our church to the Dominican Republic.

Lots of people ask, “How was your trip?” and I find it hard to put into words what this trip to the Dominican has meant to me personally.

For starters so many big and small things happened that it is hard to pick just a soundbite that is afforded in passing conversation. And to be totally honest, since my blog is titled Simply & Honestly I will be just that.

Team devotions were amazing! Everyday, we would have devotions twice a day, together as a team, morning and evening. Devotions consisted of each of us taking turns sharing a personal experience that God is showing Himself to us in our daily experiences or something God is showing us in His Word, or both!

I remember the night I shared about God having His hand on me as I was going through some uncertainties with no real answers but felt I still should go on this trip.  Psalm 97:1-2 says,

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice! Let the farthest coastlands be glad. Dark clouds surround him. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
When I read that it sounds as though God is unreachable, too GREAT to be bothered with my little concerns.  Yet the chapter ends like this: “You who love the Lord , hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked. Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord and praise his holy name!”
Psalms 97:10‭-‬12 NLT

That sounds to me like a God Who is not only approachable but a God Who loves His children!

So one day as we ladies were painting I was woefully aware that I was outside of my giftings. (Skilled labor/craftsmanship is just not one of my fortes) The thought ran through my mind, “What are you even doing here on this missions trip, you’re no good at this painting thing?…” I believe that was the enemy whispering to get me discouraged. But we were listening to worship music at the time and I began to sing along.  The song, Good Good Father came on and as I sung it,  I  literally had to stop or I would have cried right there on the spot! These words caught in my throat and God’s presence just flooded my heart:

I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone
You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you…
Knowing that God is pleased, even with my lack of experteise, that He loves me,means more than I can convey! I needed that encouragement at that exact moment. How much like the Good Father that our God is, to reach down and lift my spirit up when I truly felt like I wasn’t good enough!
I’ve shared this next story with several people. The church we were working on was back off the main road in a community.  On Wed night when we held the celebration service I saw the church, literally in a whole new light.  As we arrived, it was dark, there were no city lights and you could look up and see so many stars! Then we looked across the road and there was the church lit up!
As the local pastor had chairs and the sound system brought in, more lights were wired up and the church became brighter! Jack, a member of our team said he went out during part of the service and stood on the dirt road.  He said it lit up the street and the music filled the air! Praise God, this church is literally being a lighthouse in a darkened community!
On another occasion, Kent, another member of our team, was leading our devotions in the morning.He gave us all a gospel tract and challenged is to find someone to give it to.  I took it and prayed that God would lead me to whom I should give it to. As I was painting, minding my own business and Italian restaurant owner named Alfonso, who spoke broken English came in.  We began to talk and I KNOW God directed me to know what to even say to him.  We talked about church.  I asked if he went anywhere, he said he did but wasn’t satisfied with it.  I asked if he prayed to God not to any saints or a priest, but to God? He said every morning he thanks God for a new day.  I encouraged him to keep praying to God and to read his Bible.  And then I felt nudged, this was the time to give Alfonso the gospel tract.  He knows there is a church in his community that will help him know God and he indicated an interest in attending.  I still think of and pray for Alfonso and his family will REALLY come to know the Lord and grow in Him as a result of a new church building, filled with believers in Christ.
Lastly, I saw other Christian brothers and sisters who know what it means to live out their faith.  Though we could not converse because language separated us, we were connected because we serve the same Lord and Savior! I could tell as they got up to sing, there was a sweet spirit about them and as I saw several of them pray fervently before the service I know they were touching the heart of God.  Building His kingdom is of importance to them, as it is to us.  Not just a physical structure, but reaching the lost for Christ!
There is more I  could share, but I think I’ll close here! Thanks for stopping by and letting me share some of the highlights!

 

 

 

 

Live it to the Max

My son has turned 16, so for this Mom, Christmas is looking at a teenage, man-boy who wants to be all cool and nothing to do with being childish. He’s growing up and turning to a man- far too soon!  Sixteen years ago after fighting infertility and hoping and praying God would give us children- even if only one- God answered that prayer!  For the first time that Christmas in 2000 I finally understood what it meant, that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only son. (John 3:16)

I can’t help but wonder how Mary must have felt when her Son was maturing and becoming a man. She must have known that her time with Him was limited and she’d have to let go of Him- far too soon- from a mother’s perspective. Without trying to sound too much like the song, Mary Did You Know, I wonder if she knew He would die to pay for the sins of the world. Died to pay for  your sins and my sins too. I’m thinking she would have thought He was coming to be the Messiah to set their people free from the Roman bondage. That He’d be an earthly king.

God’s ways are higher than ours (Isiah 55:9) He knew we needed help! Desperate help! An earthly kingdom wouldn’t cut it.  God’s plan to set us free from sin meant that Jesus would have to pay for the sins of the whole world. His plan included Jesus leaving Heaven, breaking centuries of silence to live among us. To experience the pain of life- sickness, pain, death and the effects of sin as seen in the example of the tight fist of the Roman rule. He came to set us free from sin.

He offers the gift of Salvation that frees us from the bondage we find ourselves in. The bondage of addiction, the bondage of abuse, pain, grief, of divorce and … I could go on and on. You get the picture. We need someone to save us from the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, or in many cases the mess that we were thrust into because of someone else’s sin. Either way we need help! Desperate help!

We find ourselves again at a time of centuries of silence. No more books of the Bible have been written in a couple of centuries. The world is in a deplorable state. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are famines, and earthquakes and horrible, horrible things happening.  We see it every day in the news. (Matt. 24)

Simply and honestly I cannot bear this life without Jesus walking by my side. Having His Words abiding in me, bringing me courage and hope, challenging me to give my best to Him. I am thankful there was a day when I was 10 years old and realized, I’d sinned and I needed forgiveness. I found myself at an altar in my home church praying for God to forgive me and give me a clean slate.  And He did!  It’s as if God turned a light on in my life and filled me with this incredible desire to live for Him!  No longer chained to be a slave to the altar of self!  Not to say it happened instantaneously, but God is growing me day by day. Filling me anew with His love. A love that sees a need and offers help or  a meal or a card or encouragement or prayers or whatever!  It’s not because there’s anything good in me. It’s because Jesus is King of my heart. He’s the SOURCE of everything good in my life!

I believe He’s coming back soon. Once again breaking centuries of silence. Like the people of the time when Jesus was born, I want to be watching and waiting for the Messiah!  If you find yourself in need of forgiveness and feel like your life is missing something- ask God for forgiveness and to come into your heart!  It’ll make this Christmas like none other! He’s come to set us free from bondage, what have you got to lose?!

If you, like me find yourself in a relationship with God most High because you’ve asked Jesus’ into your life, then live it to the MAX for HIM!  What have you got to lose!? Someday, soon- He’ll be back! Luke 19:26 NLT “Yes, the king replied,’ and to those who use well what they are given even more will be given.  But from those who do nothing even what little they have will be taken away.” Simply and Honestly, I’ll say again, live it to the MAX!

Have a blessed Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving: May I Never Forget

dsc_0257“What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” I’m pretty sure I’d be homeless and without a lot of really special people in my life and a lot of stuff that I take for granted!  But looking at it on an even deeper level, where would you and I be in this journey called life without God’s work in our lives ?  And,when was the last time we thanked God for growing us into who He wants us to be?

Steven Curtis Chapman states in his song Remember Your Chains:

“There’s no-one  more thankful

to sit at the table

than the one who best remembers from his pain 

And no heart loves greater

Than the one that is able

To recall the time when all it knew was shame…”

I have had the opportunity to know someone whom God has delivered from Crack Cocain. This person is not perfect, and she’ll be the first to admit that. Yet she is full of praise and thanksgiving to what God’s power has done and is doing in her life! His transforming power is making her into a person who wants to do what is right and wants to reach out and help others who are down and out.

Do you remember the story in the Bible about the 10 Lepers. Jesus healed all 10 of them but only one came back.  This story has always challenged me to not be like the 9 who went back to their lives after Jesus healed them, and didn’t  bother to come back to say , “thank you ” to Jesus.(See Luke 17:11-19) Yet the one who came back gave glory to God’s transforming power to heal him.  Which one of those 10 do you want to be like?

As I’ve gotten to know this one whom God delivered from crack cocain, I’ve had to think to myself if it were not for God’s grace in my life, if it were not for the parents that God gave me and the protection that come from all these gifts from God I would surely be in the same boat that she was in.  But THANK GOD for the gifts He has given!

Simply & honestly, I’ll leave you with this challenge:   1. Let us thank God for the things He has done.  ” He does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10 NIV  2. Let us thank God for the things He is doing in our lives right now. “…And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” II Corinthains 4:15bNLT               3. Let us thank God for what He is yet to do. “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25NIV

Oh and don’t forget to THANK God for ALL His blessings in your lives. (I’m challenging this to myself too). “Let all that I am praise the LORD, may I never forget the good things He does for me.” Psalm 103:2 NLT (see the entire chapter for a list of some awesome things that God does is doing and is yet to do for us)  He deserves to be THANKED and glorified!  Let us, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues through all generations.”Psalm 100:4-5 NIV

His Beauty Seen in Us

img_0076This day as I opened my Bible to several eclectic places, there was an amazing link between the passages I read!  That is not coincidence!  God speaks today through His word.  It’s just when God really gets through to me He has the same message show up several times until I relent and say, “God, you must be trying to show me something here!”

Here’s how my reading took shape:  I turned to Ephesians 2 to read  a passage that my husband and I are reading together. The verses leading up to the first verse  I will share talk of  God redeeming us through the work of Jesus’ death and resurrection and how God extends His grace to us who have been saved. Here’s verse 7, “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Vs 8-9 talk of God’s grace and that our salvation is a gift, that we can’t earn this salvation.  Then V 10: “For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” NLT

The phrase, “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us… stood out to me. Wow, God can use us as His examples?  It says ALL future ages. So, yes, that means here and now. In this day and age that we live in right now. Not only that but the end of v.10 says “… we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Again, that applies to today, this age that we are living in, near the end of 2016.  Looking ahead to an uncertain future as our nation is going to the polls today to cast their vote for who will be the next President of the U.S..

As I look at the beauty of God’s creation I am in awe of his beauty and originality.  So many different types of beauty that testify of Who God is and these are things He has made!  Mountains, valleys, autumn in all of it’s splendor, flowers, deserts & oceans! These do not say a word and yet they speak volumes if we have ears to hear and eyes to see!

Then I turned to a devotional I am reading entitled: 7 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. The word for the day is  nephesh: Which means soul or life. What connection could the word soul have to do with the message of God’s creation? The Scripture used is Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” NIV   Quoting the author,”How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory… no speech or words are used, no sound is heard; Yet their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth.”The author of the devotional asks, “Have you ever considered that your life is supposed to send this same message?”

In conclusion I couldn’t help but think of the passage in Romans 1:20 that talks about creation making it clear that there is a God and He can be seen through his creation. “For ever since the world was created people have seen the earth and sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisable qualities-His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

Friends in Christ, is your life proclaiming God’s workmanship in you?  I pray that as we are in this day and age, possibly the generation that sees our Lord’s return, that our lives are a testimony to God and His unfailing love and grace. That we will attract unbelievers to Him.  Not necessarily with words, although they can be used, but even more so, with how we live.  The attitudes we reflect. Our reactions to things that come our way.  Am I, are we living the way He wants us to live? May we point others to Him because of His beauty that is seen in us!

Simply & Honestly

This is my first blog on a website that I’ve been dreaming about for some time now! Thanks to Steve, my wonderful husband, my dream has become reality! Now that’s saying something when your spouse helps make a dream come true! Thanks, Hun!

So as a Christian, growing in my faith is something that kind of coasts along like a car on cruise control. You go through the motions, you go to church, you read your Bible, you pray- sometimes on the run, your serve, you tithe and it all just kind of comes together! Right?!

Well, yes, and no. Yes, following along in obedience and doing those things faithfully helps keep my eyes on Jesus, “…the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Heb.12:2 NLT

But it’s not all about just going through the motions. It’s about where my heart is when I’m “cruising along”. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says it this way, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV I’ve come to learn that God isn’t just wanting Sunday morning Christians that pay Him lip service on Sunday and go about our lives as though we have not invited Him to be THE guest that lives our hearts.

When Jesus met the Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4:23-24 he describes what kind of worshipers God is looking for: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Simply and honestly is the title of my Web site/ blog because as I dug around the definition of spirit and truth I found the meaning to break down to this: spirit is our internal self it is in essence who we are. God sees right through any pretense or facade we may be able to put up to please Him or others. He sees the real,true person that we are. So why not come to Him simply as ourselves and be honest with ourselves and with Him? The following blogs and the essence of this web site is to help myself and other believers who are seeking to know God in a real and genuine way. Seeking Him with all of my heart and living it out in everything thing that I do, including, reading my Bible, praying for revival and giving the first fruits of my income, serving because God’s done so much that I can’t help but show my gratitude to Him by what I do, so I do it unto God. May this site be dedicated to the spiritual growth of believers journeying to our eternal home.

Ready, Set, go!

img_20161029_230654

“Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬ http://bible.com

These times we are living in surely are leading up to our Lord’s return! The news is all gloom and doom. As a Christian living in this western culture it’s easy to get to fretting about the outlook of the future. Persecution is possibly coming our way. Let’s face it our Christian brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe are giving their lives for their faith.

Yet I turn to God’s Word and I read over and over again of how He cares for those whose hearts are walking in His ways. Consider these verses:

“The godly will rejoice in the LORD and find shelter in him. And those who do what is right will praise him.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭64:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬ http://bible.com/

“Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭35:4, 8-10‬ ‭NLT

“The sinners in Jerusalem shake with fear. Terror seizes the godless. “Who can live with this devouring fire?” they cry. “Who can survive this all-consuming fire?” Those who are honest and fair, who refuse to profit by fraud, who stay far away from bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong— these are the ones who will dwell on high. The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress. Food will be supplied to them, and they will have water in abundance.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭33:14-16‬ ‭NLT

Can you tell I’m reading through Isaiah? Call me crazy if you want. IF we Christians here in the western side of the globe are called on to take a stand for our faith or be persecuted, I believe God will care for His children.  He is faithful and He is God.  His power is not diminished because of the evil that exists in this world. Now is the time to be into God and His Word!  Now is the time to shine for Him!  He’s coming back someday and He wants a church that is living it out.

Be encouraged!  God is with us, He is for us and He will be with us to the very end of the age. Stay plugged into Him!

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:25‬ ‭NLT