Got Plans for 2018?

What kind of plans do you have for 2018? We fill our calendars up and live in a culture that is always on the go. We go from one scheduled event to another. I hope in 2018 to be a better planner! I’m off to a good start using my calendar on my cell phone, I’ve already scheduled something for next December!

Solomon had something to say about our plans: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬ 

Yesterday as I was composing this blog my plans were ubruptly changed as I was putting the finishing touches on a couple hours worth of work and the site crashed, losing all my work! My point here is that we do make our plans, but things happen that we didn’t plan on. What then?

God has His plans for us, He wants what is only for our good. We often like to claim Jeremiah 29:11 which says:“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” The thing is from our perspective we view the things that happen through the lense of our own limitnend human understanding. Can we trust a God who allows tragedy and things we view as horrific? Is He all powerful? What are we supposed to do when things happen that we didn’t plan on?

God sees things from an eternal perspective, what is for our good is not just for the here and now but also for eternity. Let me put it this way. As a parent – especially of a teenager, I can see consequences to my sons decisions that he just can’t quite get. There is a scientific explanation to this, here’s what the health encyclopedia at the University of Rochester Medical Center has to say about the teenage brain: 2018URMC

It doesn’t matter how smart teens are or how well they scored on the SAT or ACT. Good judgment isn’t something they can excel in, at least not yet.

The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.

In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking.

So when it comes to my sons food choices or putting off a job till tomorrow, he’s just not seeing it as his wiser and older parents who’ve been around the block a few times! Although, as a side note, he’s learning that what he puts into his body greatly affects how he feels and is improving in this area as he is getting his own life’s experiences! This is only but a small comparison of why God’s perspective of what’s planned for our good and what we think is for our good is so vastly different! The very same God who holds galaxies in place and planned our body’s innermost parts, right down to the DNA, has an all knowing perspective that we just can’t grasp!

I’d like to share a personal experience that has showed me that God really does care and that He plans things in our lives unbeknownst to us! Last June I was told by my cardiologist that I have (what I call) a leaky heart valve. When I received the news I was concerned, but didnt think too much about it. We were leaving for vacation and who wants a ruined vacation thinking about medical stuff? After we returned home and I was doing some yard work, my mind went there. I began to worry. A brief medical history, 3 years ago it was discovered that I have an aortic aneurysm coming up out of my heart. So that, coupled with the leaky heart valve thing, led me to fear. I began thinking, “I’m a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.” I came into the house and cried then I dropped to my knees and cried out to God. I asked God to heal me but then I said, “God, if you choose not to heal me, pleases give me something, I don’t even know what, please just give me something!”

The very next day was Sunday and I was scheduled to work in Children’s Church with my friend Karen Ollis. As we were talking before the kids came back we were discussing her sons up coming surgery on an aortic aneurysm and a leaky heart valve. She even called me later that day, to allow me time to vent my anxieties. She was able to offer comfort as only someone whose received comfort by going through the same thing. ‬‬”He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Monday, the very next day, I’d made plans to meet with a lady who wanted to meet with me to talk and for prayer. As we finished up, I began to share my own personal concerns about my medical condition. Come to find out she too, had surgery on an aortic aneurysm and a leaky heart valve! I did not seek or try to manipulate any situation to meet with these two ladies, two days in a row! I knew in my heart, that God heard me, answered my cry for something and that He’d already had this stuff planned!

So yes, we can make our plans, but God is orchestrating stuff we can’t even begin to grasp! I can speak from personal experience that He does use the hardest things in our lives to grow us and these things are for our good. If I’d not dealt with the grief of losing my mom when I was a young mother myself and still calling home for motherly advice etc. I would not have leaned into God for daily help and hope. The same goes for my medical condition! God knows what He’s doing. He’s got plans this year for all of us! Not every plan is BIG and life altering, I do pray we will have open eyes and ears to know when God is working out His plans in our lives.

Simply and honestly thanks for taking time to read my blog! I hope you have an amazing 2018!

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Trusting in God

Preface: This is taken from the devotional writings I have been working on in recent months. I pray it encourages someone in their faith!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am currently in the process of memorizing this verse. I closed yesterday’s devotional with this verse but wanted to give some thoughts concerning it.
If people are watching us, and we claim the name of Christ, we want them to see a difference in us! One very BIG way is in the form of not being worried. (In my own experience, I’d love to do a survey on this- maybe I will!) men seem to have the don’t worry thing down much better than us women. I don’t know why that is, but it just seems to be more often the case than not! But ok so this maybe more for women than men, but we need to show the world that we choose to not live in fear. That we will not let worry cripple us! And I would challenge myself as well as anyone reading this, when the thoughts that cause fear creep into your mind, to squelch them by remembering how GREAT a God we serve. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” II Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬ Those anxious thoughts- they are arguments against the knowledge of God’s power!

You know the expression, “You are what you think.”? We are or emulate what we think about. I don’t know about you, but when the world is watching I want them to see a person who has faith! And the amazing thing is, we aren’t putting our faith in some made up myth or something that is powerless. We are putting our faith in a God who is with us, a God who, with His very own words spoke life into existence! He became human flesh to show us how to live. While on this earth, He spoke to the winds and the waves and they obeyed Him! So when those worrisome thoughts creep in, may we remind ourselves that God is still God! His power isn’t depleted because of the enormous needs all around us! He oversees millions of people, and yet knows each one of us intimately, whether we as humankind recognize Him or not. He is our reason for HOPE! He is the God of HOPE.

So, as we choose to put our trust in Him, He does something amazing to us. He takes away our fear and fills us with JOY and PEACE! Think about it. If you have Joy which is an anchor whether good or bad things are happening in your life. You have the realization that in the end God will take care of the needs, this in turn gives what Paul describes as the, “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7) It’s a great thing to realize that our act of trust in God brings God’s work in our lives, powered by the Holy Spirit. He fills us with a joy and a peace that really does set us apart from the wold. When we live this way and people see our response with a simple trust in God, they see something they want! This also goes hand in glove with I Peter 3:15b “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Last of all, we overflow with this HOPE that can only come from the God of hope.

Action Step:
1. Ask God to help you trust in Him.
2. When those negative thoughts creep in, take them captive and remind yourself that God’s got this!
3. When people are talking about the negative events happening in the world or in their personal lives, let them know that God cares and that you will pray for them. Sometimes people are open to being prayed with, so be prepared to pray with them. This is actively sharing your HOPE in GOD with them!
4. Ask God to fill you with joy and peace and to help you overflow with hope powered by the Holy Spirit.

Getting Rid of the Excess

Yesterday I summoned up the will to tackle the job of organizing my very messy, overfilled, corner cabinet! In all honesty it really wasn’t as hard as what Id’d been dreading it to be. It’s just been one of those things that I’ve put off doing for so long that the  longer I procrastinated, the bigger the problem became-  in my mind! 

Once I got into the job,  I began to see I’d accumulated too much stuff that I REALLY didn’t need. All that stuff just gets in the way every time I need something from this corner cabinet.  I also began to see that with a little organization I could totally make it much easier to get to the things I need and easier  to  put things away! When I got rid of the excess and organized what was left I felt a great sense of accomplishment and relief!

 Simply and honestly,  how much is that like what God wants to do in our lives? We accumulate “things ” in our lives before we come to Jesus for forgiveness from our sin. Then, as we grow in our walk with the Lord, He begins to change us for the better.  Instead of fear,  He gives us His peace, instead of trying to please people we seek to please Him, instead of selfish ways we become giving people.    He takes out the old and makes us new. As the apostle Paul said:  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Also in regards to that organizing project of mine,  now it is much easier to access stuff. I wonder as God cleans us up,  from the inside out,  does it make it easier for Him to use us? I know that is the case! God has plans for us. After He forgives our sin and we allow God to get rid of those problem areas by throwing it out or as its called, repentance. We do  a complete turn around and stop doing those things that have tripped us up.  God begins to fill us up with His love. This puts us in a position to do the job He created us for! 

The cabinet I worked on is now so much easier to use! Stuffs not falling out when I open the door.  The stuff that is in there is useful and easier to get to! When God calls me to action,  I don’t want stuff getting in the way of God being able to use me! I want to be clutter free,  I want to be accessible – obedient to God’s call! As the main person using this cabinet,  I’m so thankful to be able to find what I need quickly and easily! May it be that way when a God wants to use me!

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.

Ephesians 2:10 

God create me anew! Fill me with you so that self will not get in the way! Help me to do the work you made me to do with joy,  as an offering to you!


The Journey the 11th time around

Tomorrow will mark eleven years since Mom breathed her last breath here on this Earth. Usually this time of year brings waves of tears that come out of nowhere. I know at least one person has said they’d be praying for me this week in regards to the upcoming anniversary. Earlier in the week I was waiting to hear back about the results from a biopsy and I had reached out to several people asking them to pray. Fear of the results being cancer, which has run through my  family, had me unsure of what was around the bend. God has been working on me helping me to see that reaching out to others for their prayers is a beautiful thing! I don’t understand the whole prayer thing, but I do know there is immense power behind many people praying for a need, verses just a few. Maybe it’s the culmination of all the prayers.  Maybe it’s having the right person with the faith to believe God for the answers. Again, I don’t claim to understand the mystery of prayer.  I just know it does work! God still answers prayer and God has all power to meet our needs!

I recently reread the account of the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua when they had miraculously crossed the Jordan River the account is found in Joshua chapter 4. Joshua, under God’s direction had one person from each of the 12 tribes of Israel go and get one stone from out of the middle of the Jordan River. It was to be a memorial of what God’s mighty hand had done. Picking up in verse 6: “We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ” What do theses stones mean?’ then you can tell them, They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the LORD’S covenant went across.” Theses stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” (Josh. 4:6-7 NLT)

When I had the fears of the Biopsy two weeks ago, I thought in the back of my mind, great timing, with the anniversary of Mom’s death coming up. I was simply planning to keep it to myself, but the day of the biopsy I felt very impressed to reach out to others for their prayers! It was in part due to my devotions that morning which I will share here:

Taken from the Devotional on the You Version Bible Ap.  Devotional plan entitled Remembering All God Has Done. This was from day one’s reading: “… God wanted the Israelites to forever remember the miracle He performed for them and what a mighty and powerful God He is.  Think back for a moment.  God has done some amazing things in your life. He may have performed a miracle of healing or delivered you from the bondage of an addiction and into your own Promised Land.  Take time today to remember the mighty things God has done for you. …”

After reading this I thought back, to a time when I had a medical emergency and was with a group of Christians away from home. God orchestrated so many amazing things that day, down to having my Father  and my Husband, Steve there when the incident happened. (They were both there from other locations out of state.) All I know is after bleeding internally for 2 weeks and all of a sudden loosing all of that blood in a few hours time, I did not need any blood transfusions. NONE!  A week later, the same thing happened and I had not lost nearly the amount of blood as the previous time and I needed two transfusions! The difference, a lot of people were praying the first incident. The second time around happened at 12:30 a.m. and not many knew. All I know, is God does more, the more we cry out to Him. He still took care of me that 2nd time, but there was such a difference!

I shared that story, because I personally reflected on that when I went in for the biopsy. I felt God showing me that asking others to pray and be a part of His work in my own life is what He wanted. Now, looking back on this week before the anniversary of Mom’s death, I realize that I have not had those waves hit me out of nowhere! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been bawling while writing through this. But as for this past week, God has put people in my life that have texted the very moment I needed words of encouragement the most! Thank You Pam!!  But even more, people have been praying! I firmly believe, even though they were praying about the biopsy and results, the point is, they were praying for me! God through the Holy Spirit does interpret our prayers and does what is right according to His will.

As I mentally prepare for tomorrow, I am comforted because God is right beside me!  He is the Author of HOPE. Recently, I  memorized Romans 15:13 which says:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I am hanging on to that verse! Any laughter that comes from me, any sense of joy is because I know that I am God’s and He is mine! I know that one day, Mom and all of us will be reunited! We have hope, more than any wish or fairytale. We have HOPE, because we have Jesus!

Thanks for taking time to read my journey through grief this 11th time around. God is so good! I owe everything to HIM!! By the way the words from the phone nurse regarding my biopsy were,” There is absolutely no sign of cancer. ” Thank you yet again God for hearing and answering prayer!!

 

Putting My Hope In God

SO many bad things are happening now. No, let me rephrase that, so many catastrophes are happening right now! They’re coming in the form of, Earthquakes, Tsunomies, Hurricanes, Devestating fires in many parts of the world.  All of these things are taking a toll on humanity, taking lives, destroying homes, crops and animals and people’s livelihood. And if you’re one of the few people who read this blog, you are probably well versed in what Jesus said would be the signs that we would see before He would return.

For a point of reference though, here’s what Jesus said in His own words: “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬ So this is referring to the natural disasters that are happening and will happen more and more as we get closer to when Jesus comes back to take all who have believed in His name and have asked God for forgiveness from their sins.
Now with all of that in mind, how many of us have been praying fervently and continuously for hurricane victims in Texas and Florida and the Islands that have been brutally hit by Irma, and Harvey? Here’s what one article I received on Facebook had to say about Irma: It looks bad. Meteorologists are shocked at how quickly Hurricane Irma has been increasing in strength. Weather researches and authorities are now warning if it hits the United States as a deadly Category 5 hurricane, the destruction would be biblical. It could wipe entire coast cities off the map.

We haven’t heard nearly as much about the devastating fires out West- Sept.6, 2017 edition of  The Washing Post says this about the fires: “Countless numbers of out of control wildfires are creating apocalypse-like conditions in numerous Western states, blotting out the noonday sun  with thick  blankets of smoke and depositing ash like freshly fallen snow. So much smoke has been generated that images from space showed it spreading over large parts of the Lower 48.”

IMG_0435

This morning as I was getting my day started, I began praying for these tragedies and the people in the world who have no shelter or food. I then began praying for individuals I know on a personal level who are grieving the recent loss of loved ones- not related to these tragedies. My heart was so low that I was feeling paralyzed by the deep sorrow of these different situations. It became overwhelming. I was honestly battling with a depressed state of mind, so focused on the needs and the problems. I just wanted to stay in bed and do nothing!

It was in desperation that I asked God to help me! I need help. With all these horrible things going on, I can’t sit on the sidelines and just hunker down in a fetal position and do nothing! I know from going through the grieving process and from counsel I’d received during that time, that you have to just do things, One. Step. At. A. Time. And as what happens so many times in my life, God brought the words of a song to mind,

TAKE ANOTHER STEP: BY STEPHEN CURTIS CHAPMAN:

“. . . Take another step, take another step
When the road ahead is dark
And you don’t know where to go
Take another step, take another step
Trust God and take another step
And another step and another step
Take another step and another step and another step

We walk by faith and not by sight we know it’s true
We say it and sing it and love the way it sounds
But none of us can even begin to truly understand
What it really means ‘til all the lights go out
And there we are nothing to hold on to
But the promises God’s made to me and you

Take another step, take another step
When the road ahead is dark
And you don’t know where to go
Take another step, take another step
Trust God and take another step. . . ”

David the King of Israel whom God had called from the lowly position of being a shepherd had this to say to himself when things were hard to deal with:

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” Psalms‬ ‭43:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

With all of that said, by God’s grace, I am able to put aside the sorrow of seeing the things going on in this world and to look to God for my comfort. That does not mean I am glossing over the hurt and the pain going on in the world right now. It means I am choosing to not let it keep me in a ball and chain and I am not a slave to it. I can make a small difference in my corner of the world and so can you! I believe that we have an enemy who will use whatever he can to paralyze us with fear, or any other thing he can use, to keep us from living the life God has chosen for us. Simply and Honestly, we cannot afford to be dragged down by current events. We need to look up and know that Jesus is coming back soon. That there is a work God has called us to do and be faithful to that calling! So with that thought in mind, let’s go and makes a difference in our corner of the world!

 

Is God Listening?

Ever have a struggle hearing someone when they are calling to you, maybe from another room or from upstairs? As much as I hate to admit it,  I find myself hearing words but having a harder time making out what words are being said.

Sometimes I think my memory is an even worse problem. I may get a text, or an email and think, “I need to take care of that”,but other things are going on and I get so easily side tracked!  I am learning to use my calendar on my phone!  Yes! Technology is a good thing!

On a different level, God wants to get my attention, sometimes I can’t hear Him because there are so many distractions. Sometimes God gets the message through loud and clear and still, other times He gets my attention in a gentle way. I go away changed, for a while.

It’s like the person I was discussing how to get out of the pit that our enemy wants to keep us in.  You know, the pit of discouragement, “I’m not good enough”, inferiority and you name it! She kept rehashing the awful things that have happened to her in the past. Not to discount those horrible things, they were terrible and it took the hand of God to pull her from those awful things. The enemy of our soul, wants us to keep going there in our thought life. To go back and look and think and dwell on it, to keep us captive to his lies, to guilt over things that have been forgiven etc. God, on the other hand, wants us to look to Him instead of  dwelling on the past. This would be a great time for my mind to switch gears! ““I destroy every claim and every reason that keeps people from knowing God. I keep every thought under control in order to make it obey Christ.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIRV‬‬

The great news is that we can be more than overcomers – if we can learn to switch gears by asking God to help us.  Again, with His help, we can bring our thoughts back to the good things that God is doing and has done! This affects our actions and our words! Look at what Jesus had to say about how our thoughts affect how we live: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:45‬ ‭NIV‬‬

‭ If God is going to make a change in our lives we’ve got to partner with Him to change our stinkin thinkin to that which is true of a transformed life. God also counsels us in His Word, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.”
Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIRV‬‬

Simply and honestly, God wants to not only get our attention, He wants us to seek Him out!  Ever lose something that you needed? You dropped everything to find it! Looking under things and retracing where you were when you last had said item. Then when you find it, it’s such a relief and you can get back to what you needed to do!  I think God wants us to seek Him out like we do for our cell phones or our keys when we’re heading out the door!  I mean, what did we ever do before we had our cell phones? Or an even better question: Why do we think we can rush through life on our own? So here’s a closing thought from God’s word: “When you look for me with all your heart, you will find me.” Unlike my muffled hearing, God hears us loud and clear when we call out to Him. He listens when we are ready to seek Him! He cares!

It’s a Practice Run

So much can be said being the parents of a teenage boy in these days of information!  He thinks he’s wise beyond his years. We see the frontal lobe still being developed! As parents we felt that he needed instruction from someone other than Mom and Dad and so we dropped our son, Michael off last Sunday afternoon at a small college in a podunk town in Tn. The town of Dayton, Tn incidentally, consisted of a little strip mall, a Hardee’s and Mo Mo’s BBQ. He will be at a summer Biblical studies course offered by Summit (Summit.org).

My husband, Steve and I felt that with all that we’ve poured into our son his 16 1/2 years on this earth, that we needed some extra help teaching the deep, philosophical stuff like, Why Am I Here?, How to study the Bible for himself and getting a Biblical perspective on world religions.

Don’t get me wrong, Michael and I or Michael and Steve brought Michael up having daily times of devotions. It was hard for me to let go of that only, till the past year or two. Now I realize, I’d been a control freak and hadn’t taught him how to study the Bible for himself.  Michael is growing up so fast, he has a good head on his shoulders and we wanted to ensure that in this age of picking and choosing what to believe in, that he hear what God has to say from the Bible, not man’s opininion And that he’d learn how to dig into God’s Word for himself! Ultimately he has to make his own choices. Some may think we are pushing our beliefs upon him.  At his age, however, he is still learning and growing. We are presenting, and then letting him decide. We will not disown him if he doesn’t see things eye to eye with his parents.  We are simply trying to give him a handle on how to make decisions, to use a filter before rushing into the next latest greatest fad doctrine that has flown in overnight.  Let’s face it, we are living in a time when people say there are no absolutes. If 2+2 doesn’t = 4 than I guess they’re right!  but last I checked, when I was getting a head count, 2 +2 did indeed =4.

Right now, people have questions and they are searching for answers. As Christians we have a huge opportunity to share answers. I Peter 3:15 says it this way, ” . . . Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (NIV)  In my 47 years of life, I’ve learned that I have never fully learned all that there is to know about living a Christian life and being real. It takes a close, intimate, personal relationship with God.  That only happens when I spend time seeking Him with my whole heart. Time spent reading His Word and asking Him to show me what He wants me to learn or remember.  That also only happens as I spend time praying/ talking to Him.  Asking God to help me stay close to His side. Asking Him to help others who are struggling or facing hard times in their lives. Remember, I’m an all or nothing sort of gal, and so it’s either seeking God or not, there is no middle ground. Maybe some Christians want to try the middle ground thing, but I’m looking for what will please God and He wants nothing less than our all. Besides which, what if, when Jesus was dieing on the cross He decided to only give some of Himself?  He died to pay an enormous price to right the wrongs of our sins.  He gave His ALL. How can I give any less? Take a look at Romans 12:1.  “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice- the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.” (NLT)

So, back to this whole dropping our son off business. Well, our house was always quiet before, now it’s  even more quiet! I find myself missing our son. I find that my biggest, most important job is transitioning and that I’m not there to meet his every need.  I find that I am allowing our son to spread his wings and that I am having to step back in order for that to happen. I have to go back to that prayer time and just ask God to take care of our son, because for 2 weeks he’s out of sight- certainly not out of mind! And it is a growing time for this Mom of an only child.  Simply and honestly, this is new territory for us as parents. I’m just thankful it’s a practice run and it’s only for 2 weeks!  We will be happy to see him again- and I’d venture a guess that maybe, just maybe, he will admit, he still has some learnin to do! I know I sure do!

 

Anxiously Awaiting!

 

 

Childhood is such an impressionable time in life. Children take things so sincerely and so wide eyed. Jesus did say, unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3) I’ll use my son Michael as an example, when he was four years old, his preschool teacher told him to keep an eye on his paper. She told me that he took her instructions literally and placed his head down on the paper, so his eye could be on it!

Myself, as a five or six year old, I remember my Sunday School teacher talking about when Jesus would come and take those who’ve asked Jesus to forgive them of their sins to Heaven someday. To emphasize the fact that no one knows the day or the hour of when Jesus will come, she even said we could go to sleep at night and wake up and find ourselves in Heaven! So every morning for quite a while before I’d open my eyes, I’d think, “Am I in Heaven with Jesus? “.

Later on as my brother and I attended a Christian school I remember a Chapel service that has stuck with me all of my life since then! I must have been about eight or nine years old at the time. Now as an adult looking back on this, I believe the Holy Spirit must have used what this preacher was saying because of how profoundly it has stuck with me!

The preacher was talking about the customs of the Jewish betrothal and wedding. He explained that a man would make a payment for his bride to be, to the bride’s  father. (I Corinthians 6:20) He would then return to his fathers home and begin building a house that he and his bride would live in. (John 14:2) If he was a considerate man, he’d take into consideration what would  please his bride to be. If she liked lots of  windows he’d built it accordingly.

In the mean time the bride was to be waiting and anticipating her groom’s appearance. His appearance would begin the marriage ceremony. The preacher said she wouldn’t want to be found with curlers in her hair or in disarray. (I Corinthians 1:7, Luke 21:34) He also added for emphasis how much in love the bride would be, that she’d read her betrothed’s letters to her and how amazing it would be if the groom came and found her reading his letters to her! For more in depth details on Jewish betrothal see the link below: 1http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/the-jewish-wedding-analogy.html

Fast forward to today as we sang the song in church entitled Even So Come, it brought back a flood of memories of that Jewish betrothal. The main crux of the song says:

Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing “even so come”
Lord Jesus, come
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come

And so I simply end with this, Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready? If not, Ask Jesus to forgive you of the wrong things you have done

and to help you live according to His plan for you. Begin reading a Bible, start in the New Testament with Matthew, find a church where you can get instruction from God’s Word. And pray for God’s help as you learn and grow.

If you’ve already done all of that, are you living like you love God and are anxiously awaiting Jesus return? Are you telling others about how they can be ready for His return? If not, take time to renew your love for God, spend time in His Word and ask God for the courage and the words to say to point others to Him.  Because, we don’t know when Jesus is coming, who knows, maybe we’ll wake up and find we are with our Lord!

 

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!