May 31, 2015

Life Storms

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 

Are you overwhelmed by a flood of difficult circumstances? Are you drowning in waters that are way too deep? Is there a raging river out of control in your life? In Texas this past week there have been dangerous floods, drowning waters and raging rivers.

The photo above is the creek near our house out of its banks after the three hour deluge Friday morning which followed a very rainy month of May. We are safe and high and dry and yet others have lost their lives and lost loved ones and experienced damage to their homes due to flooding.

Many of us haven’t been through a literal storm like the ones some of us have seen with the weather this past week. But we have been through other storms in the form of difficult hardships. They come in all shapes and sizes and they bring to the surface how we deal with life storms.

The greatest storms in our lives will lead us to a choice. Will we choose to believe that even through a difficult trial - God is sovereign and He is working things we cannot see? Will we allow Him to teach us to trust Him in all things and to not lean on our own understanding? 

We will still have to go through the storm, but when we choose to go through it with Him, we can know He will take care of us each step of the way and He will draw us close and we will find refuge and healing in His hands.

What if instead, I choose to let disappointment take me down a road of resentment that God allowed this storm in my life and thoughts that this never should have happened consume me. This attitude will change my relationship with God as the resentment grows and causes me to distance myself until I have moved so far from where I was, that the relationship I used to know grows cold and lifeless.

It is scary to even think about making that choice.

The hardest storms in our lives become refining moments, forcing us to choose how we will respond to the painful circumstances thrust upon us. 

It is my prayer that we will choose to stay with God and trust Him as He goes with us through the storm. 

1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Also see: 
Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, James 1:2-4, 
1 Peter 4:12-13, 1 Peter 5:10

May 28, 2015

Before I Pray

By the time I arrive at what I call my official prayer time, I have already been praying many things. I have already engaged in much conversation with the Lord who hears my prayers before I utter them and knows my thoughts and words before I express them.

Before I sit in my favorite seat by the window for this special time of prayer, I have already welcomed a new morning and thanked Him for this new day. Before I sit here to pray, I have already placed the day in His hands and asked His blessing on all that I do.

We’ve already started our day together and His rhythm of grace is already beating strong in me. I heard His whisper as soon as waking moments brought me out of night’s slumber and I eagerly welcomed the break of yet another dawn.

Through the motions and routines of the beginning of a day I have invited Him fully into mine and drawn near to Him, but a special set aside time and place still waits for me and that is when I lay all my cares in the Lord’s hands. That is when I call upon Him to intercede on the behalf of loved ones and anyone I know who has a specific prayer request.

This designated, intentional place of prayer has long been a habit of mine. My day wouldn’t be right or complete without it. I cannot deprive my day of this.

Even before I pray, I have already been in conversation with the Lord. Before I pray, I have already been praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 exhorts us to “pray without ceasing.” Prayer - like words - can fall like breath from our lips and from our hearts. It is the language God most readily hears. 

Romans 8:26-27
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

May 27, 2015

A Self-Imposed Fog

I read someone else’s devotion the other day on trusting God through the fog, the writer recounting a difficult drive down a foggy mountain road and trusting God to take her safely home.

I have not had that experience of driving down a foggy mountain road. And yet, recently…I created my own fog on a bright sunny day.

Nothing had changed. A blinding fog did not roll in and obscure my view.

I just took my eyes off what God can do and let circumstances overwhelm me with doubt and fear. I was not a friend to myself. I was a saboteur of my own journey.

For a while I let a thick fog swirl around me and swallow up my hope and faith and pull me into a dark place where discouragement filled my heart.

We all have those days when praying, waiting, and working toward something are met with discouragement. We often find we derail our confidence in the Lord with our own weakness and wrong thinking because for a while we took our eyes off of Him and instead let a fog of doubt and worry surround us. It is a miserable place to be because we feel like we have lost our way and can’t find a clear solution.

There are multiple possibilities for our discouragement. Here are just a few:

  • We become impatient because we have already waited a very long time for answers.
  • We might convince ourselves we have asked for too much or too big and back down from our asking.
  • We don’t see any signs of change in our difficult situation and hopelessness leads to great frustration.
  • Our task looks too complicated to complete and we feel like giving up.

We will all go through discouragement when faced with the above type scenarios. But will we let discouragement rule our lives, or will we place our trust in God to work those things that we can’t comprehend? Will we remind ourselves how He has worked for our good in other difficult times?

When I realized that all the negativity I was experiencing was a product of my own doing and that my reasons for discouragement were based on feelings and emotions run amuck, the fog began to lift and clear thinking prevailed. I stood my ground with faith and trust and let the sun break through all the fog.

When my self-imposed fog lifted and I experienced the fresh air of hope and faith once more, I truly felt a wave of energy surge through me-body, heart and soul. God’s indwelling spirit renewed me and I welcomed His faithfulness to me as His strength overcame my weakness and I felt strong and whole. The sky was blue again, the sun was shining and all fog had lifted away.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

May 22, 2015

God's Garden of Variety

I think (know) that God our Creator loves variety. He didn’t make us all the same. He didn’t use a cookie cutter so we’d all turn out to look like clones of each other.

He doesn’t want us to compare ourselves to others. He doesn’t want us to be pushed into a mold by others. He loves individuality and this individuality is a gift He gives us.

Our looks are different. Our personalities are different. Our interests are different and our talents and skills are different.

I love the mountains. My idea of a perfect vacation is a cabin on a hillside.

My friend loves the ocean. She collects sand from different beaches and saves it in cute containers.

I love to pick wildflowers and put them in a mason jar. Another friend would rather have an artsy vase with elegant blooms.

We are all different.

If you look at the pictures I have used with many of my recent posts you will see the evidence that God loves variety. I have pictures of poppies, honeysuckle, a magnolia and a sunflower, irises and azaleas. The picture above is a field of different wildflowers all growing together side by side and what a bouquet I could collect from those flowers!

They are all beautiful creations and they each portray their own unique beauty according to God’s perfect design.

Just like you. Just like me. We are each God’s unique creation, fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Psalm 139:13-16 
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

May 20, 2015

Nehemiah's Strength

The story of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem after the Israelite kingdoms had fallen and were taken into captivity is full of valuable lessons that have taught me a lot about prayer and persistence and believing God will provide and take care of us. 

One of my favorite verses emerges from this story. Nehemiah 8:10b For the joy of the Lord is your strength.

I think for Nehemiah, he lived this verse and it is why he accomplished all that he did.

While in captivity and in the king’s court as a cupbearer, the joy of the Lord was his strength.

When he diligently prayed for months and sought God concerning what to do about the report of the broken walls and gates in Jerusalem, the joy of the Lord was his strength.

When he risked his very life and courageously asked King Artaxerxes if he could go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, the joy of the Lord was his strength.

When he asked King Artaxerxes for all the supplies and everything he would need to do the job, the joy of the Lord was his strength. 

When he surveyed the damage to the walls and devised a plan, the joy of the Lord was his strength. 

When Nehemiah and his group of workers were ridiculed for their efforts and threatened with trouble, the joy of the Lord was his strength. 

When Nehemiah armed the workers with swords in one hand while rebuilding, the joy of the Lord was his strength. 

When the work was finished and everyone in the city gathered to worship the Lord and be thankful for the job that was done in rebuilding the walls, Nehemiah admonished the entire congregation with the words of Nehemiah 8:10.

Is God the source of your joy? Is He the source of your strength? I want to pray these words for you today: May the joy of the Lord be your strength.

May 17, 2015

What Refreshes You?

I hear from so many people around me that they are running on empty. Tired, stressed, weary. It could be a busy work schedule, too many activities within their family, a pro-longed sickness or other difficult situation. Some are more tired than others and some have heavier burdens. But a lot of people are tired and weary.

If you had a few moments to stop and hit the refresh button and do something for yourself, what would you do to recharge and lift yourself up out of the weariness? I hope you are kind to yourself and find just the right thing that works for you. It will be worth it.

I want you to give yourself permission to do something nice for yourself and I want you to also believe that it will genuinely help with the fatigue that is plaguing you.

Maybe you will still be tired again tomorrow and the difficult situation will still look the same.  But, maybe you will face it differently if you are good to yourself today and do what refreshes you.

Today, treat yourself to a walk around your neighborhood or a nearby park. (Yesterday I treated myself to a walk in a park with fields of poppies.  I am so glad I did.)

Today, listen to your favorite music and sing along with your favorite song. Call a friend and invite them to have coffee with you. Go out to your flower beds or garden and do some tending that is good for the flowers and plants and good for the soul.

Today, pick up that craft you started a month ago and enjoy it once again. Start reading that book that has been sitting on your nightstand, or continue from where you left the bookmark weeks ago.

Whatever it is, whatever gives you enjoyment and relaxation, take time today and do that thing. God will use it to refresh you. 

And give yourself permission to do it as often as needed. You definitely have my permission. Now, give yourself permission. 

Jeremiah 31:25
“For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”