May 29, 2017

Summer Days

My husband and I are empty nesters and our calendar doesn’t revolve around a school year calendar as it did when our daughters were young. Yet every summer I feel it anyway. Summer is different. People go on vacation or come to town to visit you. Routines of others change and it changes you. Everyone scatters and nothing is quite the same until school starts and normal routines resume.

But there is one thing we need to pay careful attention to and that is our time with the Lord. Don’t take a vacation from quiet time with Him. It may change and look different through summer months due to changes in schedules and travels. But find something that will keep you in the Bible and praying and talking to the Lord and not getting to the end of summer having let it all totally slide. 

It is easy to let it slide, which is why it is important to make choices that will keep a quiet time in our summer plans. If it is shorter, this is better than skipping altogether. The important issue is to maintain a level of consistency permitting us to remain spiritually healthy during a season that makes it easy to forget to nurture our spiritual growth.

Part of what makes summer special is that it is a break from the regular routine. We should have the opportunity to take vacations and be on a different schedule in the summer. Whether we have a house full of company or are vacationing at the water’s edge or in a mountain cabin, our most important need remains to be our close walk with the Lord. We cannot afford to take a vacation from our relationship with Him. Let’s invite Him to go with us this summer wherever our travels take us.

With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.  ~ Psalm 119:10-11

Photos above were taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. After I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in Asheville last week, my husband and I spent some time in this beautiful part of the country.

May 22, 2017

The Heart That Draws Near

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

Worship. God makes it easy. Sometimes, we make it hard. Sometimes, we make it too complicated. But it doesn't have to be. I have not yet heard a definition that I think is fully correct or fully adequate. Some things can't be described. I think worship of our Lord is one of those. Prayer would be another one that is hard to explain and define. Both are so personal. Both are essential to our walk with the Lord. Both are a privilege we should never take for granted.

Sometimes worship is made hard by distractions. God makes it easy with a simple invitation to be still and know Him, to seek Him with all our heart. Busyness gets in the way and too much activity in our lives can pull us away.

He still beckons us to be still and know Him. Out of His love for us He pursues us to draw near, and He will always be there waiting. There will always be the distractions, the busyness, the countless activities, the continual pulling us away from what our heart most needs.  The heart that draws near...will worship.

I want the quiet stillness that draws me near to You,
I want the calm serenity that lets me enter in.
With a heart of worship I come to You,
I accept Your invitation to be still and know You.

Jeremiah 29:13
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

May 14, 2017

Stop and Pray

When I hear troubling news, I cannot believe how quickly my heart fills with fear, followed by a sensation of dread washing over me like a drowning wave. My body and my emotions seem to naturally want to overreact and carry me away, until I remember to pray.

I have learned that when I start to worry, that is when I immediately need to stop and pray. I think about how important prayer is even though much about prayer is a mystery to me. Yet even in the mystery of prayer there are some things I know.

Prayer is our privilege and prayer is power.
Prayer is confidence in our Lord and in our walk with our Lord.
Prayer is comfort and peace, and resting in who He is.
Prayer is His invitation to us not to be anxious –
Prayer is faith that God is in control.

Prayer has grown my faith-
Built my trust,
Kept me in awe of a Sovereign God.
He is God and the answers are in His hands.
The timing and the methods are His.

Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Romans 8:26-27
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. 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.

Philippians 4:6-7  
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

James 5:16
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 

May 10, 2017

Will You Make the Exchange?

When we have worry, doubt, and fear clutched tightly in our hands and our hearts are ruled by anxiety, God wants to say something to us of this effect,

“Let go of your burdens and give them to me. I will put in your hands that are now empty and open...

and Freedom.”

All we need to do is give God our burdens and He will give us rest. He will give us joy, a fullness of indescribable joy we have not known before.

From my own experience, I can tell you it will not happen if we keep holding on. We have to let go of one to gain the other. I know what He has to offer is so much more than what we are holding on to, and I know this because I have walked that road before.

The joy I now have is because I finally made the exchange. When I grew weary and tired of my burdens, I finally trusted and obeyed My Father’s voice. I finally let go and I was amazed.

I don’t ever want to walk that road again. The road that says it is too hard to let go. If you want to walk in joy, make the exchange. Open your hands to Him, let go, and place your burdens in His hands. Soon you will know what it is to walk in His peace and joy. Soon you won’t be weary under the load of burdens you were carrying on your own. 

It starts with a step of faith and a heart of trust and emptying your hands of the burdens God asks you to lay in His hands.

Will you make the exchange?

Come to Me, 
all you who labor and are heavy laden, 
and I will give you rest.
- - - - -
Matthew 11:28

May 1, 2017

The Thorn

I walk slowly when I pass this tree on the dirt path at the edge of the woods when walking by the creek near my home. Some of the branches overhanging the path are just a little too close for comfort and so I proceed with caution. Because I remember what it feels like to have a thorn painfully piercing the flesh of my arm when I was a little girl.

I don’t remember the specific details of an ordinary afternoon playing in some woods with neighborhood friends, but I do remember it happened when I was six years old and a sharp thorn ended up lodged in my arm, close to my elbow, and I remember my mom and dad coming at me with tweezers to pull it out. I have not forgotten how much I dreaded that pain and clearly indicated it with fierce screaming, on top of the crying I was already doing because a thorn was stuck in my arm.

They had to firmly hold me down, forcing me to be still because I didn’t make it easy for them to remove the painful object. But once it was out and the wound had been cleaned and medicated, the pain eased, and I was up and playing again in no time. The thorn was gone.

Holding onto pain is like living with a thorn lodged in your heart that needs removed. Sometimes that means intentionally choosing to let it go even when that seems the most difficult thing to do, and yet you know for your own well-being it has to be done.
It isn’t healthy to keep a thorn in your arm, and it isn’t healthy to hold a hurt in your heart. God wants you to heal. This is His desire for you. He doesn’t want you to go through life handicapped by a neglected wound He wants to heal.
The place where you let it go—is the place He comes in and heals you, and the deep wound becomes a place of healing. God replaces the past and present pain with present and future wholeness...and hope.

He can do that for you because God has healing in His hands.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~Psalm 147:3