America, America God Shed His Grace on Thee

“America the Beautiful” was written by Katherine Lee Bates in 1893.

Of course, it goes without saying that, the things going on in our country at that time were very different from the things going on now. Yet, these words are still full of meaning and should evoke great emotion from those of us privileged enough to live in this great country.

american-flag-images-12

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

 

As election day draws near, PRAY for our nation as individual citizens voting and for those in leadership. America is truly the only nation ever founded by citizens desiring religious freedom to practice Christianity. How much greater than any other nations demise might America’s be if we do not turn back to the God of our forefathers and founders and cry out for Him to save our nation?!

God, please shed your grace on America!

(If you have never seen the movie “Monumental” by Kirk Cameron – it is a must-see!)

It Really IS Simple!

In the last several weeks, I have continued to be far too busy with LIFE! Although much of my days include good things, there have definitely been some major challenges also. Through these challenges, once again, I have gained some new spiritual insights that I want to share with you.

Because my mother-in-law is in the midst of dementia, one of the things in my life was attending a workshop to better understand her world and how to help her navigate that world. It was fascinatingly sad, but it definitely helped my husband and I to better understand what her world is like. Just after we attended that seminar a friend shared some insightful videos by Dr Caroline Leaf that left me wanting to dig deeper into what the Bible has to say about our minds.

As I studied, prayed and meditated on scripture I was wowed with a common thread I found pointing to the simplicity of living life according to God’s mandates. Two mandates that work!

I trust I won’t offend any of you but…compared to our almighty, majestic creator we are not very smart. I believe that is why He makes things very simple for us regarding everything that has to do with Him and our relationship with Him. Now, lest you misunderstand… I am not saying that living a life of faith following Jesus is easy, nor am I saying that we don’t have many questions that we won’t have answered until we are face to face with our savior in heaven. What I AM saying is that we basically have been given two mandates. The first is on what it takes to become a Christian and the second is how to live a life that is rich and full. Both of these mandates are not complicated.

In Acts 16:31 of the New Testament it says “And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – ESV

This was in response to the jailer, who was in charge of the prisoners where the disciples Paul and Silas were imprisoned, asking what he needed to do to be saved. Saved, in this context, means saved or rescued spiritually from eternal damnation.

Paul doesn’t give a list of good things that the jailer needed to do. He doesn’t give a list of all the things the jailer couldn’t do either, but rather there is ONE THING that Paul tells the jailer. “…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…”.

This is the first mandate. A spirit saving, life-changing mandate that makes us a child of Almighty God, the God of the universe and our creator redeemer and comforter!

I chose to follow that first mandate when I was a small girl and so, I have a sacred identity as the daughter of God. He is pleased to call me His and no one can mess with this relationship. I am safe forever in the arms of my precious savior.

I have walked in this assurance nearly all my life, but it was not until I took the seminar on dementia, and then listened to the videos by Dr Leaf, that I understood the second mandate… and its simplicity. The second mandate is: meditate on God and His word. There are many places in the Bible that tell us to meditate, dwell, think on God and the word of God (the Bible) day and night. The meditation that God mandates is not a meditation of emptying your mind as many eastern religions teach. It is FILLING our minds with God, and the things of God.

In her videos, Dr Leaf shows what happens scientifically in the brain when we think on good things versus bad things. Good thoughts build new pathways in our brains while bad thoughts cause pathways to shrivel up! Let me make a disclaimer at this point: I am not saying that all patients who have dementia, which is indicative of a brain that is dying, thought too much on bad things vs good things. I know that there are many things that determine mental health, genetics included.

However, here is the simplicity of the second mandate: God created us, therefore as as our creator He knows that our brains thrive when we are filling them with good and beautiful thoughts. Even with a predisposition to dementia, medical science is beginning to see that a steady diet of “God thoughts” can stave off mental decline with certain forms of dementia. There are a few parts of the brain that do not die with dementia. One of those parts is where blessings, music, poetry and prayer reside. Isn’t that fascinating?! How much more effective then, is meditation if we never get dementia? God says, in essence, “think on me…day and night” and your brain will continue to thrive. As a fringe benefit those good thoughts will spill out onto everyone and everything in your life.

God in His infinite wisdom, working with His creation sets forth two simple, magnificent life-giving mandates: one if for our eternal life and one is for our temporary life here on earth. Both are simple… both are our choice.
1. Will we believe that Jesus is who He says He is – the son of God, who came as a babe to this earth; lived, was killed but three days later rose the dead AND thus with His sacrifice for sin we can be justified and made pure in God’s eyes?
2. As Jesus followers will we adhere to God’s mandate to meditate/fill our minds, day and night with Him and His word?

Let me close with Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – ESV.  May God Bless You!

Reposturing Spirit Part III

It has been several weeks since I have found the time to share more with you on Reposturing, but my hope it that, as you read, you will find the posture of running exciting and exhilarating.

Recall that the first three spiritual postures I shared were bowing, sitting and standing.

THESE FIRST THREE POSTURES require waiting on the Lord. I think that is an important point to make because, our culture doesn’t like to wait!

Bowing is the furthest position from Running. When we are bowed, we are low before the Lord… we are still and quiet, worshiping and waiting. It would be a hard thing to immediately jump from a bowed position into a full-sprint!

Sitting also requires waiting – because sitting denotes intimate fellowship and it connotes not being in a hurry.

Standing in the power and might of the Lord definitely requires waiting, because moving from a standing position to running isn’t all that hard! Yet, God says stand – AND stand quietly waiting to hear which way you are to run.

So what about the posture of running? Well, running can be done in two ways, both of which are valid in spiritual terms. The first is running to achieve or complete. The second is running as an act of Joy and Adoration as the result of something wonderful. We could also use the word “dance” for this posture. Both ways require lots of energy, but the first is always pressing ahead at full speed while the second one is rhythmic and alternating between fast and slow steps.

AND, both ways of running are the result of Bowing, Sitting and Standing postures – but the first way of running is achieved because of God’s strength and power. This is very important to state because we often feel it is our own works/achievements that allow us to finish the race of life well. Here are seven verses/passages on running. The first five point to the source of strength as being God.

2 Samuel 22:30 “With God’s help I can overcome in this battle; with my God I can run through a wall. God’s road stretches out before me straight and smooth. His words form a good path and everyone who runs towards him makes it… It is God who makes me strong to finish the race well.”

Psalm 18:29-30, 32-33 and 35 “Thank you Lord! You make my feet like the feet of a deer so I can run with you into the high places of your kingdom… You clear the way and give me firm footing so that I don’t fall and get injured… Your right hand sustains me — you stoop down to make me great!”

Psalm 31:1 The Message “I run to you God; I run for dear life.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Matthew 6:32-33 “Do not worry about your physical well-being. People who don’t know any better run after all the things they want, but your Heavenly Father knows your needs. Run for his kingdom and his righteousness then everything that you need will be taken care of.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I [train] my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Each of these speaks of running to achieve or complete the race of LIFE: moment by moment, day to day, week by week, month to month and year to year… until we come to the end of this earthly race and close our eyes in death.

Running in the second respect – because of Joy and Adoration – is something that is often hard to experience because of what the race of LIFE deals us. In fact, some of us may not even be able to comprehend this position of running for Joy and Adoration because of where we find ourselves in life at this very moment. But remember! …Running builds on bowing, sitting and standing. It is after we have been quiet before our Lord, sat and learned in intimacy with our Lord and stood strong in the might and power of our Lord that in the midst of life’s trials and circumstances we can often experience joy in the midst of the storm.

Here are two beautiful verses on running because of Joy and Adoration:
“Thank you, God. Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play.” (Psalm 63:7, MSG)

Yes, Lord, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32)

NO guilt trips here! If you are not able to run in joy and adoration before the Lord right now, I am here, along with your family and close friends, to love on you and support you… not tell you that you should be experiencing something you are not.

I have a friend from four decades ago who has come back into my husband and my life recently. This gentleman was in our local church’s youth group when we were in high school. He has never married, but he has asked two women to marry him. The first time he was engaged was about twenty-five years ago and the second time just a few months ago. The first woman was killed in a head-on collision they were in together prior to the wedding. The second was beaten into a coma by her ex-husband and died a few days later. What a heart-wrenching life story! He is definitely not running in Joy and Adoration because he is broken in every way, for a second time, by this horrific tragedy. Many of our texts (this is how he has chosen to communicate with us at this time) simply say “We have no words but we are here for you anytime”. We are praying for him behind the scenes, but he isn’t ready to hear even that. For now it is enough to just say we are there for him.

Are your bent or broken under life circumstances? I am here for you. You can post a comment with as few or many words as you want to share and I would count it a privilege to enter into a relationship of support for you. You can also send me a private message on Messenger from my Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/caringail

 

Reposturing Spirit Part II

 

This second post relating some of what I shared in Reposturing Mind, Spirit, Body event back in April is going to look at two spiritual “postures” we find ourselves in…bowed and sitting. These are good postures, but there is another that isn’t. How many times a day do you find yourself slouched or bent under the weight of life? Although this is something that is normal and very human, it is not a good posture to be in. The good news is that this is where God meets us and reminds us that we are His sacred daughters – and admonishes us to reposture.

The Lord prompts us to keep “reposturing” a very present thought; because He desires us to have a posture spiritually that shows us God’s glory! (Re-read the last post for a refresher on His glory.)
During daily prayer and Biblical meditation we may be postured in many spiritual positions.

We start our time bowed in humble quietness before Majesty Himself as we pray bringing our adoration, personal concerns and desires, before Him reading small bite-sized pieces of scripture and chewing on it slowly (meditating) we begin digesting what is there for us personally for where we are at that moment.

We are bowed in humble quietness before Majesty Himself waiting for Him!

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

The psalmist says that wonderful things happen when we wait for the Lord. BUT, waiting for the Lord is one of the hardest things to do. Part of that is our own impatience, but I also believe that Satan knows that when we truly wait for the Lord to act and do in our lives – great and mighty things happen! This scripture tells us that waiting for the Lord makes us strong and gives our hearts courage.  That is why the evil one does his best to keep our minds and hearts stirred up, fretting…planning…preparing… anything but QUIETLY WAITING!

Let me share a very long waiting period in my life. I won’t go into a lot of detail other than to say that no one in the Western medicine arena nor in the alternative medicine arena could figure me out medically! When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had five primary tumors simultaneously in one quarter of one breast. This was so unheard of that my doctors agreed that a lifetime of digestive problems must have something to do with this. I was run through a battery of tests and – they found something that very much explained this somewhat bizarre diagnosis. However, as the days, weeks and years went on – it was apparent that they had only found a piece of the puzzle to my health problems. I prayed for healing, I had others pray for me for healing and I trusted God to heal me, but it didn’t happen. I waited another 23 years following cancer to get the final pieces of the puzzles. And they came at a time when I was bowed before God, telling Him that I was willing to keep waiting on Him but really didn’t think we would ever get a resolution. I had resigned myself to this possibly being “a thorn in my flesh” to keep me relying on God as He taught me in the midst of pain and discomfort. It was at that exact same time that a new alternative provider was recommended to me. Like I said, I really didn’t have any strength or desire to investigate any further…but after praying about it, felt I was to make an appointment. Within about 20 minutes of me going into the appointment in late January of 2017, this practitioner made a supposition about what was wrong with me – AND, with some testing she was proven correct. Now, a year and a half later I have been free from digestive pain much of the time and also seen several other health issues get much better. Why I had to wait so long, I don’t know, but even when I had pretty much given up, the Lord continued to encourage me to wait on Him. As I bowed before Him He stepped in and directed me.
After we have bowed, prayed and waited on the Lord, we move to learning and feasting on the truths of the Bible, or perhaps studying a Biblically-based book or doing a Bible study lesson. This is a sitting position – and God, again meets us there! He is Almighty God and His Word reminds us that sitting is a good posture to have spiritually.
* Ezekiel was sitting when God showed him the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37: 1-28
* Mary sat at Jesus’ feet in Mark 9:36-37
* Jesus asks his disciples to sit in the Garden of Gethsemane before he separated himself to pray in Matthew 26:36

Sitting denotes intimate fellowship and it connotes not being in a hurry

When we are in a posture of sitting we can have intimate fellowship with whomever we are talking to. It is easier to be engaged, and stay engaged in whatever we are hearing when we are sitting. Think about when you are being told something uplifting and wonderful. Do you quickly walk away from that conversation or stay engaged, hanging on to every word? OR, if you are being given detailed instructions… and you begin to move mentally to the first step of the instructions instead of listening and focusing carefully on ALL the instructions, it is much more likely you will not be able to follow the instructions properly. That is how I see the position of sitting spiritually.

Between 1986 and 1994 the Lord kept teaching me in a spiritual lesson. That spiritual lesson was that He loved me. He couldn’t love me more and He wouldn’t love me less. It was a wonderful lesson, but because I thought I had learned this lesson thoroughly I tried to move on to other lessons. It seemed to me that I should be moving onto other – MORE PROFOUND spiritual lessons. But, He would not let me move on. He kept me right where He wanted me continuing to whisper “I Love You” each day and at every crossroad.

It was at the end of those eight years that I was diagnosed with cancer. He knew I needed to know He loved me without a shadow of a doubt for the journey I would be taking…so, he kept me sitting, having intimate fellowship with Him. When it seemed that I should be moving on to standing, God was saying “not yet”. I have often described my cancer journey as a romance with God – not because it was an easy, enjoyable time, but because I KNEW HE LOVED ME beyond a shadow of a doubt and would see me through whether that was as a cancer victor… or in glory.

Here is one more thought on the posture of sitting spiritually. Sitting is a prerequisite to standing. No baby has ever stood without first sitting up for many months. That is because sitting develops our spines enabling us to not only stand, but to stay in a standing position for long periods of time. In my next post I will focus on the posture of spiritual standing and running.

Until then, are you are bent beneath the load of life? I would encourage you to exchange that posture for one of being bowed low in God’s presence: waiting and sitting intimately with Him. Time spent in bowed position before the Lord brings about reposturing spiritually. …and best of all, He does the work! It is just our job to be still.

Reposturing Spirit

I am back after being AWOL for the past several months during preparation for a day-long workshop called “Reposturing Mind, Spirit, Body”. I have shared that word… reposturing, with you several times over the past couple of years and felt I needed to create an event that would address the three parts of our beings and how this word relates to those parts. The culmination was a three-session workshop that was unique, relaxing and uplifting. I was able to present the workshop on April 28th and the feedback has been quite a blessing. I have always said that if the Lord uses my words to speak to one person, then it was a success. It has been so exciting to hear how some of the stories I told reached out so personally to women in ways I could not imagine.

Although I am not a stranger to feeling less than prepared when I speak, this time I was ten-fold more unprepared than I wanted to be. It wasn’t for lack of wanting to be prepared. I began this study in January of 2016 and actively began writing the sessions this past January. It also wasn’t for lack of tenacity when I was writing. LIFE simply stole my time over and over in ways that were unavoidable. I won’t go into that in this post because I want to get to part of one of the sessions… suffice to say that some major roadblocks did their best to completely run me off the road.  That is why I KNOW that what the women have been sharing with me about how they were touched has nothing to do with my speaking skills, but rather with my desire and willingness to share what God places on my heart. Several of the personal stories I shared that day were things I had not planned to share. However, each of those stories have been the very thing that spoke directly to someone. God used me as an unprepared, but willing, storyteller. What a thrill!

The next several posts are going to be some parts of what I shared that day… I know that God will continue to use my words to speak loudly where they are needed most.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

In mid-March our pastor, Shawn Peterson, preached on our church’s prayer for this year, Exodus 33:18 “Please God, show us your glory”.  It was such a powerful message! At the beginning he mentioned the Five Solas, something I had never heard of before. I looked them up and want to share them with you. Although each builds on the other so that none is more important than the whole, we are going to look at the last one, the one Pastor Shawn taught on, in depth.

History: The five solas came out of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The Reformers were guided by the conviction that the church of their day had drifted away from the essential, original teachings of Christianity. The Reformation sought to re-orient Christianity on the original message of Jesus and the early church. The Five Solas are five Latin phrases that emerged during the Reformation to summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity. Here we are five centuries later and these essentials of Christianity are still as needed (no…needed more) AND are just a true.

They are:
Sola Scriptura: (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
Sola Fide” (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Sola Gratia: (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
Sola DChristus: (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
Sola Deo Gloria: (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.

In 1994 I was diagnosed with 5 primary cancerous tumors all in just one quarter of my right breast.  I have often said that following that diagnosis I had a real love affair with the Lord. By that I mean that, although my faith was already very strong, I gained a new prospective regarding God being omnipotent and fell so much more in love with Him. This was a time in my life that there was NO denying that God was completely in control of my life because I was totally out of control. I can remember one day shortly after my cancer journey began thinking, “AND, why would I want to be in control during the fight for my life. Do I want it to all be up to me to make the right decisions at exactly the right time? No! God is in control, has always been in control – and I am SO GLAD!”

This was a fresh prospective for me regarding Sola Deo Gloria. In the midst of a potentially deadly disease it was all about His glory!

Four months after that diagnosis, following my first mastectomy and beginning chemotherapy, I nearly died from an allergic response to the chemo drugs. My spinal cord was shutting down from the very drugs that were to save my life. I would have been dead in 24 hours had my temperature not spiked to 105 degrees alerting us that something was very wrong. That fever was the result of a staph infection in the incision where they had taken the lymph node sampling… in other words, God saved my life with a staph infection!

I can remember lying in ICU with tubes going every which direction thinking “wow, once again I am reminded of how out of control I am and that God is in control”. I was living for God’s glory. Not through anything I was doing or not doing but simply by His power showing through my life circumstances.

Every moment of every day we, men and women of faith, live for the glory of God alone!

What does “glory” really mean? It is a hard word for us to fathom because we tend to think it is tied to what we do for God.  Maybe a good way to think of “living for the glory of God alone” is in terms of spiritual posturing. What does this posture look like? It is a posture of bowing in awe and reverence because He is eminent; He is of the highest renown and He IS GOD!

When we are bowing, we are quiet spiritually, meditating – waiting – trusting. We cannot be meditating on our problems when we are bowed before our gracious Lord meditating on Him and His Word.

This gives us a word picture for first part of Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night…” We are meditating on God and His Word day and night when we are in a bowed posture.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I will end this post with a challenge, like I often do. Spend some time thinking about how bowing before the Lord looks for you personally. For me it is generally during early morning hours when the house is quiet when I too can be quiet praying, reading scripture and meditating on that. Often that time is spent focusing on the attributes of God using phrases from songs or parts of Bible verses. Let me give you an example: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” OR “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” – Psalm 139:14

Will you accept my challenge? Ask God to show you His glory in fresh, new ways…and prepare to be blessed!

 

Minuit Chretiens (Cantique de Noel)

O Holy Night

by  French poet Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
from which the lyrics to our beloved “O Holy Night”were birthed

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour
When God as man descended among us
To expunge the stain of original sin
And to put an end to the wrath of his father. 
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night which gives us a savior.
People, on your knees, attend* your deliverance.
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
(*) added by hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com to help some meaning was lost in translation

The ardent light of our Faith,
Guides us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Conducted the Magi there from the orient.
The King of kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your grandeur,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken all shackles.
The earth is free and heaven is open.
He sees a brother were there was once but a slave;
Love unites those who restrain the sword.
Who will tell him our gratitude?
It is for us all that he was born, that he suffered and died.
People, stand up, sing your deliverance!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!

Realistic vs Despondent

Those of you who follow me, or have read any posts of mine, know that I am very transparent in my feelings with you. This post is going to be as open and vulnerable as I have ever been in hopes that, as I allow God to work in me through these words, it will also touch many of you who are in need of a new perspective that I feel has been revealed to me.

I haven’t written a post in awhile…and for good reason. Life has been quite hard and emotional over the past several months due to my father’s health steadily declining. He did not suffer with pain and slipped gracefully and peacefully into eternity to meet his Jesus on Sept 7th.

However, loss is loss…and I have found myself in a bad place emotionally. This is not entirely due to my father passing away. In fact, it really has very little to do with that because, although I miss my father – I would not wish him back on this earth. He would have been 96 on Nov 2nd! He lived “large in life” up until the last year living for others and for God. He began to lose more and more ability to move independently and at the end of the summer became bedridden. It was not my wish to keep him in that state just so I could still have my father with me.

My “loss” began when my mother had her first stroke, now nearly seven years ago. We watched her lose the loss of one side of her body along with struggling to speak clearly.  She and my father should have had more help for everyday activities to help her and spell my father, but they refused. I tried to be OK with their belligerence, knowing it was because they were proud people who still wanted to be capable. Still I would often leave their apartment in tears knowing that I was leaving them in a state of neglect. My mother passed away a month after suffering her second stroke three years ago this month.

That means that for seven years I have been in the midst of watching my parents, other elderly relatives, and residents in the assisted living facility where my father lived, lose every ability they had when they were younger and become “the child” who depends on their children to care for them. I labored to maintain my father’s dignity amidst him losing the battle to having control of his bodily functions. I listened to endless stories (many re-told over and over) by this aging population as they re-lived times gone by…times that were filled with accomplishments, activities, family responsibilities and travels.

I know that many of you can relate to most, if not all, of what I am writing. Anyone with aging family members experiences this loss that I am speaking of. It is a loss that has to do with facing the reality that we too shall traverse this path. Our youth slipped away somewhere a few decades ago and middle age is fast becoming a memory also. We grieve the loss of abilities, energy, accomplishments and much more.

Facing this reality is hard, but necessary. If we face the truth of reality we can find comfort, strength AND HOPE in Jesus as believers, but, it became apparent to me after my father died that I was verging on despondency.

I believe the best definition of despondency is a combination of one from the dictionary plus the italics which are mine: hopelessness and despair from a distorted reality.

I am, by nature, an optimistic person – seeing the good in things and believing that the best will happen. But, when I entered the second half century of my life, I also became much more realistic than I had been prior to turning 50. As I said in the last paragraph, I believe it is necessary and good to be realistic about life and it’s hopes and dreams. However, somewhere in the process of becoming more realistic, I began to get a distorted view of that reality. I was unknowingly listening to Satan’s lies that he subtly whispered to me in my “weakened state”. Every difficult thing in life became enormous in my eyes. I knew something was terribly wrong, but it wasn’t until about six weeks ago that I was able to realize the despondency I was headed into.

So, now that I was aware of what I was dealing with, how could I begin to turn back to truthful reality? Comprehending that I had been listening to lies telling me I had good reason to be self-absorbed with my loss of expectations, placing my entire focus in the wrong place…on me and my circumstances – was a HUGE step forward. I had become morbidly dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction had spread like thick, sticky molasses over most every part of my life, and I needed to share that with my husband. (Until then I had not even been able to describe to him where I was at emotionally.) Once God revealed this distorted reality to me I was able to share with him and gain incredible support and love from him.  What a wonderful blessing he is to me!

I am a “fast twitch muscle” gal and I want everything to move fast, but this will be a slow, daily struggle as I focus on walking in truth with God, my husband, great family and wonderful friends encouraging me.

Our pastor spoke this past Sunday on “The God Who Sees” and this statement especially spoke to me: “I have to change my expectations to accept ‘God sees’. …I must trust despite mystery.” I do not like to think of myself as a control freak, but I must admit I don’t like the mystery that life often is. The question that I must answer every morning as I step out of bed is: “Will I trust God and believe that He sees in the midst of the mystery, or will I fall into a distorted reality focusing on what I know and see?”

My answer is a resolute: “I will trust God and believe Him because he IS the source of life. I will live in a God-focused reality.”

 

 

Prayer Anyone?

I have had the privilege of praying with three good friends this past week over the phone. Each time I am allowed to go before the throne of God on behalf of another I am blessed beyond words!

Here is the irony… My mother was a real prayer warrior and I always rather resented it because I felt it took time away from being with my sister and me as we grew up.   I admit my mother, as a prayer warrior, looked very different than I do. She was quite ill and unable to do a lot outside the house and so she spent hours every day in her bedroom chair praying and reading her Bible. I am overcommitted most of the time, so when someone asks me to pray for them or about something they are facing, sometimes I only have a moment to breathe a quick prayer as I drive or head back to work on the computer. As I am writing this post, I realize that perhaps it was not mother being a prayer warrior that I resented, but rather the fact that she her health didn’t allow my sister and I to experience life with our mother like most of our childhood friends got to. But I have lived a long time really not wanting to ever be a prayer warrior because of these memories.

I have a daily devotional book by C John Miller titled Saving Grace. A few days ago the daily reading scripture was from Matthew 6:9-10 where Jesus says: Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Halfway down the page C John Miller writes, “Prayer is partnership together and with the Father. It’s the most daring thing you can do. The devil wants to convince us that it’s boring, routine, and doesn’t accomplish much, if anything. This is a lie. Prayer is where we… ask God to transform the hearts and lives of us an those around us, and ask Him to reshape the world into what He’s design it to be.”

What incredible words! Praying is the most daring thing we can do because we are partnering with the God of the universe in agreement regarding every potential situation humankind can experience and asking Him to show up and do something supernatural! If the devil can keep us from using this most powerful weapon then we are rendered helpless in the face of life’s challenges. No wonder we are called upon to be prayer “warriors”. We are fighting a war that wages in our hearts and minds telling us not to pray for a multitude of reasons. You and I who dare to pray are prayer warriors!

If I can pray with you about something, please write “pray for me” in the comment section of this post. I will respond to the comment with how you can get in touch with me for prayer.

Let me close with the words to a song we sang in Sunday School when I was growing up. “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone; dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known”. Daniel was known from the time he was a teenage boy as a man who prayed.

He DARED!

images.jpg

 

“My spirit faints…breathe and infuse me with encouragement, Lord!”

This is my ongoing prayer during this chapter of my life. I am quite certain that many of you can identify with the need to pray this also.

“Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.” Psalm 143:4

This verse comes from a chapter where David is being pursued by an enemy. He is literally, and figuratively, at the end of his human strength. I would not presume to believe that my situation is nearly as dire as his because my personal safety is not at risk…but the fact still remains that ongoing major stresses in life can cause my spirit to faint. I have had many times when my throat tightens, tear well up, my heart begins to race and I just want the situation to pass as quickly as possible.

Fainting is a temporary thing! That is the first good news. As believers in Jesus, our souls may faint in the moment – but they do not expire.  …take some time to take that in fully.

The Lord is our encouragement when our soul faints. We do not have to conjure up the strength to encourage ourselves. I can attest to the fact that self-talk to encourage myself it rarely successful. However, when we allow God to breathe and infuse encouragement into us, it is always successful!

How is “breathe” different from “infuse”?
Breathe in this context is not inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. Rather it is a transitive verb meaning “to send out”, as in God sends out His encouragment and we are the recipient of that encouragement.
Infuse is also a transitive verb meaning “to cause to be permeated with something (such as a principle or quality) that alters usually for the better”.

So, although “breathe” is a beautiful word that brings to mind relaxation, joy, peace and – in this case – encouragement… I believe “infuse” gives a better word picture of how God brings encouragement to you. Since infuse means to permeate or be saturated with something outside of ourselves – an infusion of God’s encouragement ALWAYS alters us for the better. It is a literal taking over of our faint spirits via permeating encouragement!

Join me as I pray to – speaking figuratively – wallow (indulge in an unrestrained way) in God’s mud puddle until our spirits are revived!

 

God’s Timing

one-o-clock-12596455I have a confession to make… I still get puzzled and frustrated with God’s timing in my life!  It shouldn’t surprise me that I get puzzled because, as a created being, I will never fully grasp His consummate timing. And, the reason I get frustrated with His timing is because I often think more of myself, the creation, than God my creator!

“Sometimes God will make you wait on purpose, not only so you will know it was His favor, but so all of your critics, friends, relatives and coworkers won’t be able to deny what God has done in your life.”

This quote was recently shared by someone I follow on Instagram and it spoke to me, because most of it is true. I was definitely disappointed to find out that this is something Joel Osteen said, because I don’t agree with much of anything he has to say, but there is truth in this quote and that is what I want to focus on.

I have only two choices possible when God says “wait”. The first is to whine and wimper and act like a spoiled little child whose daddy has told me I can’t have a toy I want at the toy store. The second is to stay on my knees before my heavenly daddy in humbleness welcoming His answer… whether that be “wait”… or “no”. (This is part of the quote that is not truth, because God doesn’t always only make us wait. Sometimes His answer is a definite “no” but even that answer is His favor!)

Favor refers to “an act of kindness beyond what is due”. The creator of the universe, and my creator, take the definition of this word to a new level because His favor toward me is not just acts of kindness, but rather acts of mercy and grace unmerited by me. Sending His one and only son to die and pay the penalty of sin for me is the greatest of all these acts, but He shows me ongoing mercy and grace everyday. Sometimes I am not aware of His favor and other times I am so aware of His favor that I can only cry out “God thank you!”. So, my re-write for the first part of this quote would be “Sometimes God will make you wait, or ask you to accept His “no” response on purpose, not only so you will know it was His favor, but so that…”

The rest of the quote is spot on, but knowing Joel’s teaching I am presuming the focus is in the wrong place. God knows that every part of His plan for your life will be a witness to God’s glory to everyone in your life.

However, to see the glory of God, the focus needs to be on GOD and what HE has done in your life – not on YOU and what he has done in YOUR life.

Last week our pastor spoke of the encounter Mary and Martha had with Jesus after the death of their brother, Lazarus.  In John 11:40, just before He raised Lazarus up from the dead Jesus said “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” The focus at this point in the story was definitely not on anyone except God and what He was doing.

When God is at work in your life “… our critics, friends relatives and coworkers won’t be able to deny what Almighty GOD has done, is doing and will do in your life.”

Glorifying God is our chief mission according to the Westminster catechism. God will be glorified in us, despite us.

Sometimes God will make you wait, or ask you to accept His “no” response on purpose, not only so you will know it was His favor, but so that… your critics, friends relatives and coworkers won’t be able to deny what ALMIGHTY GOD has done, is doing and will do in your life.” – re-written by Carin Hansen

May this bless you as much as it has blessed me to break this apart and digest each part. What A God We Serve!