Friday, August 18, 2017

When I Wrestled With God

Hey Friend,

This past weekend I wrestled with God.  It wasn't just a little tussle; we went the full ten rounds.  I am a fairly patient person, but with tear stained cheeks and punctuated frustration in my voice, I aired my grievances with God because, frankly, I was beyond weary....I was physically and emotionally drained.  Nothing left....nada.

I began:  "Lord, I've lived all 56 years of my life with OCD and other variations of an anxiety disorder as well as episodes of depression.  I went through a long, dragged out, painful divorce.  I watched helplessly and prayed fervently as one child went down a destructive, prodigal path that lasted years. I now have another grown child going through many struggles that has put a strain on our relationship. I've had to bury my dad, help my mom - as I am the only child. I've lost my two best four legged friends.  

I've had 4 major surgeries in 5 years.  The 3rd surgery left me with residual nerve pain in my foot that I lived with for three long years until I was brave enough to go through surgery #4.  Now, three months out from that surgery, I am still in quite a bit of pain and most days can barely manage to walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and back.  I wonder if I'll ever walk without pain and, just for the record, I've had it!!"

After the airing of grievances, I went on to remind the Lord what all I had done (my litany of righteous acts).  "Lord, I've walked in your ways for many years and for the most part have walked the straight and narrow.  I honored my marriage vows and I raised my two children, as best I could, to love You and follow Your precepts. I led MOPS groups, taught Sunday School, led Bible studies, did mission work, hosted small groups.  I am in your Word daily and I write about it in my weekly blog.  I started a Christian school in the devil's back yard in the Middle East so that those orphans might know your love.  What more do you want from me?"

"I know people who don't even acknowledge You, yet they seem to prosper."  

"It's just not fair Lord.  In fact it really stinks.  Is this what I get?  I don't even want to go to church this morning because my praise would be hollow.  I deserve better than this...."

To say that I'm stubborn, is an understatement.  This wrestling match (with pauses only because I was exhausting myself) went on for two days.  

Genesis 32: 24-28:

Jacob Wrestles With God:

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip would be wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."

But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

The man asked him, "What is your name?"

"Jacob," he answered.

Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

I notice several astonishing things about this passage.  First, Jacob's boldness in wrestling with God (or a messenger of God).  Second, Jacob's tenacity that he wrestled all night long until daybreak.  Third, Jacob had the audacity to say that he wouldn't let go until the "man" blessed him.  Finally, God did not vaporize Jacob on the spot, but instead gave him the honored name, "Israel" because he wrestled with God and man and had overcome.

After my painful wrestling match with God, I take great hope from this passage....Why?

1.  God is big enough to handle my pain, frustration, and even anger.  Even if
     I become angry with Him, He will not abandon me.  He loves me no matter
     how ugly or ungrateful I can be at times. 

2.  God will let me engage with Him (even if it's wrestling).  If I had truly given
     up on God I would have simply walked away.  God honored Jacob bringing 
     his grievances to God, rather than walking or running in the other direction.

3.  God did not break Jacob.  He didn't vaporize him on the spot, but there was
     a tender spot on his hip that remained because he was touched by a holy 
     God.  

4.  There is a spiritual battle going on, and if you are doing good things for 
     God's Kingdom, the enemy will come after you with a vengeance.  Therefore,
     it often seems like the most faithful often suffer the most.  The enemy is not
     threatened by those who don't work to further God's Kingdom.

5.  God richly blesses those who suffer and even those who wrestle with Him. 
     Unlike the world, God looks on the heart and He knows those who listen to
     His voice and He will bless them because they have overcome in strength
     beyond their own. God will and does give us more than we can handle so 
     we will come to a place of reliance and dependence upon Him.

6.  God is a good and loving Father who cares, ultimately, about our relationship
     with Him.  His patience is long lasting.  His love is long suffering.

To answer the question, "Lord, don't I deserve more than this?"

Frankly, the answer is "No."

I am a sinner and even with all my righteous acts, I don't deserve anything good.  In fact, because of my sin, I deserve death.  But, because God, in His goodness has had mercy on me (and you). He has imputed grace upon us through the death of His Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Jesus paid the penalty for my sins.  Jesus took what should have been coming to me.  I needed this reminder and an attitude adjustment.

I have been given the gift of salvation - a gift I do not deserve and cannot earn.  This alone, is more than enough for me.  I have been given the greatest gift of all.  All else pales in comparison.

And, as for "fair" and life not being "fair".  It isn't.  The rain falls on the just as well as the unjust. As my husband would say, "Fair" is where you go to get cotton candy.  True enough. 

What about you?  Have you ever wrestled with God?  Do you think He's big enough to handle your pain, anger, doubts, frustrations?  What lessons did you learn?  Did God bless you in some way or do you have any revelations you'd like to share?  What did He reveal about Himself to you?

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that you are a God who is big enough to handle all my grievances.  I'm thankful that you are mindful of my frame and know that I am but dust.  Forgive me Lord for when I get caught up in what I don't have instead of looking at what I do have (my many blessings) and say "thank you."  Thank you for the ultimate gift you gave me, which I don't deserve - the gift of my salvation.  Let that truly be enough for me.  This world is but the blink of an eye.  Enable me to cling to you through the trials until I can revel with you in eternal glory.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed.....

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

Hey Friend,

Ever since I was little, I've been dreaming about things I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course, as a very little girl in ballet class, I wanted to be the ballerina center stage in Swan Lake.  Then, there was the phase of loving Dorothy Hamill, and wanting to be a professional ice skater.  Deep down, I knew I wanted to be a wife and have a family.

Throw in the phase of wanting to be a flight attendant, beach lifeguard, and various other professions; there finally came the day of picking a college major. I hated math, so that eliminated some careers right there.  I always loved writing and words, so kind of half blindfolded, I picked English and Communications. (With my Father's suggestion of, "Be sure to take a good typing class," thrown in for good measure).

The emphasis has always been on "Being" something.  The typing class did get me into a temp job that led to being a Relocation Specialist and then a Relocation Director for a large firm.  So I "directed and managed".  

Then came motherhood.  I admit sometimes I struggled with "just being a mom".  It didn't sound impressive until God impressed it upon my heart what a crucial and important profession Motherhood is.  So, I took pride in the fact that I was "molding and shaping" young lives for the Lord.

Then I taught for a period, so I was a "teacher".  I also taught Bible studies and Sunday school so "teaching" was my profession for some years.  That was until the succession of surgeries sidelined me.

Ready to climb the walls during recuperation, I felt called to return to my first love of writing and started a blog (which you are now reading).  I remember the day I proudly held business cards in my hand that said Beverly Duncan (my name at the time) and next to it was the word "Writer".  A writer....after all, this was what I was destined to be.  I had a college degree to prove it.

My blog then led me to start a Christian school in the Middle East (long but interesting story).  So now I was "President and Founder".  Impressive, huh?? You'd think by now, I would have satisfied that question of "What do I want to be when I grow up?"

While recuperating from surgery #4 and being laid up, yet again, I had A LOT of time to spend in God's Word (partially because I couldn't "Do" much of anything else).  I have to tell you that this time spent reading, meditating on, writing down, and praying God's Word began to speak volumes into my heart.  

There was a closeness and presence with the Lord that I have never really felt before.  

Each morning I couldn't wait to dive into His Word to see what He had for me that day.

I could relate to the deer panting for the living water....the more I drank, the more I craved.  

The verse in 1 Samuel 3:9 kind of summarizes what I was experiencing.  Much like Samuel, who heard the Lord's voice in his sleep, I responded:

"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

That was it...I knew what I was called to be and what I wanted to be when I grew up....a professional listener.

Think about it...wouldn't it be great - the next dinner party or back yard BBQ you attend and someone asks you, "So, what do you do?"  And, you respond, "I'm a professional listener."  Wait for it....dead silence.  

Crazy as it sounds, that's what I want to say.  

Every other "profession" I've named is a passing profession.  Even mothering is a profession designed for eventually letting go.

But, what stays?  What remains?  What is something I can do and never grow out of or get tired of?  Sitting at the feet of Jesus and letting His words speak directly into my heart so that I may bask in His presence, be in relationship with Him, and know, without a doubt, that I was made and designed to be fully loved by Him.  There is truly nothing in the world that can beat this.

Wow, it kind of makes my desire to someday write a book, pale in comparison. There's no title I could put behind my name on a business card that could ever compare with "listener". 

Admittedly, most titles are somehow wrapped up in "pride" and "self".  Listening is the only profession I can think of that is truly selfless. 

God's Word gives life.  When I read it, meditate on it, pray it, write it down, and share it....I am bringing forth life.  Life for me and life for others.  

But, before I "Do" something with it, I first have to be willing to listen.

Before I write it for others, I have to listen to it for me.

I know what I want to be when I grow up....a professional listener.  

Beverly Rihtarchik, Professional Listener, LPL  (licensed professional listener)....you have to have a designation acronym.

"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening....."

I'll let you know how it goes when I share that at the next gathering I attend and I'm asked, "So, what do you do?"

What about you...what do you want to be when you grow up?  What is it that gets your juices flowing?  Have you been searching to "be" something when what God wants you to be is right under your nose?  I invite you to take a moment and ask God what He wants of you....what is He saying?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your patience with me as I seek and search and strive to "Be" something impressive.  Help me to understand that the best thing I can be is your disciple - to sit at your feet and listen to your words that speak directly to my heart.  Let this be my greatest desire.  Enable me to set aside my prideful desires and seek what you would have me to do for the glory of your Kingdom. Thank you for loving me so much that you simply want to be in relationship with me and spend time with me.  Give me the desire to never want to stop listening.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....
                                                                Beverly Rihtarchik, Professional Listener, LPL

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ode To Bat Wings, Chin Hairs, & Wrinkles


Hey Friend,

It's hard to believe that it's been a week already since I returned from the "She Speaks" conference sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries in Charlotte, NC.  It was truly a "mountaintop experience" and now I'm back, trying to live out what I learned in the valley.

I HIGHLY recommend this conference to anyone who loves to journal, write, speak, or has a book rumbling around in their cranium that wants to get out.  I have been blogging/writing for five years and I wish I had attended this conference years ago!  

There was so much to enjoy...the keynote speakers (who doesn't love Liz Curtis Higgs) were wonderful and the breakout sessions were so on target for the challenges and obstacles writers and speakers face.  There was also so much inspiration (breakout session by Jennifer Dukes Lee) on hope for the small time blogger in getting a book published...truly inspiring.

My favorite time of all had to be the Spirit moving as 800 women, who loved the Lord, and were sold out on spreading the Good News, joined their voices together in praise and worship.  I imagined that this was how heaven will sound with all the angels singing in harmony.

I do have to share one funny story....I apologize if this is too much information for some of you:

For this 56 year old gal, it's been two, almost three, years since I have had a period. I have officially declared myself through menopause (can I get an Amen?).  I've weathered the hot flashes, the mood swings, the going six months without a period and being on the verge of celebrating only for "my friend" to return :(.

Even my doctor confirmed that after 2-3 years it was safe to say I'd crossed the finish line.  That was until I went to She Speaks.  I don't know if it was the keynote sessions where all 800 women were joined together in one estrogen-infused room?  Or maybe it was the two pregnant women I sat between in a writers' break out session?  

No matter which way you slice it, the Monday morning after the conference "my friend" was back for what I hope will be one last hurrah!  You've got to be kidding I told myself.  I am guessing my body absorbed all those hormones through osmosis and had to say one last time, "I am woman, hear me roar!"

I think it's just a fluke and my body will get back in sync with the gray hairs, bat wings, chin hairs, and multiple wrinkles that tell my age.  

But you know what amazed me at the conference was just how beautiful all the women were!  And, it wasn't because they were young, slender, toned, and had flawless skin and uncolored hair.  

No, it was because they glowed with a beauty that could ONLY come from loving the Lord and being loved by Him. 

There were women there of all ages, shapes, colors, and sizes and they were ALL beautiful!!  I mean it...these women glowed!!  

I admit I used to be all hung up on outer beauty.  I even battled bulimia for awhile in my teens in order to be the mirror image of the models I saw in magazines.  As I've aged, however, I have come to a place of peace with my aging body and I am convinced that a woman who embraces 1 Peter 3: 3-4 is truly a woman of beauty in God's eyes....and after all, whose eyes are we after?

Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments[a] or fine clothes.Instead, it should consist of what is inside[b] the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. (1 Peter 3: 3-4)

I have been having to make peace with each new addition to my "maturing" body...thigh dimples, gray hair, bat wings, chin hairs, varicose veins, jowl formation, turkey neck, and my own personal "inner tube" around my abdomen....have I covered it all?

Each new addition reminds me that I am not the pretty young thing I used to be when I was twenty, but I firmly believe we develop an inner beauty as we age (if we allow God to work on our heart as much as we work on our abs).  

It's a beauty that replaces pride with humility, hurriedness with patience, brashness with gentleness and kindness - it's a beauty that can only be born out of care, compassion, and love for others over love of self.

My identity has shifted from what the world thinks of me to what God thinks.  I am better able and suited to live my life for an audience of One and how relieving that is. Do I still get caught up in the world's idea of beauty - you bet, but God has been continually renewing my mind.

"Search my heart, Lord", is a dangerous prayer to pray, but God is so gracious that in addition to showing me what needs changing on the inside, He encourages me about what is good in me - the good that has come from praying , "Make me more like Jesus, God."

So, as I pluck my chin hairs and see new gray hairs popping up daily, I try to look at them as badges of living.  My eye wrinkles tell tales of much laughter and many tears. They show that I have lived.  If this is how I look having been loved well by the Lord, then so be it.

So instead of singing my ode to bat wings, chin hairs, and wrinkles, let my song be one of praise for the inner beauty God brings out as I continue to grow in likeness to His Son.  

This beauty never fades....in fact it becomes more radiant the more we give our heart over to Jesus.  

What about you?  Would you say you are aglow with the inner beauty of knowing the love of the Lord for you?  What keeps you hung up on outward appearances?  Whose approval are you seeking?  The world's?  God's?  How might God be calling you to let go of old ways of thinking?

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that, unlike the world that looks upon outward appearances, You look at the heart. Thank you for loving me with a love that surpasses all understanding. Enable me to be brave enough to pray, "Search my heart Oh Lord", and if there is anything that is not of you, remove it and give me a heart of flesh like Jesus.  Let my beauty be defined by how I love you and how I love and care for others.  Less of me, more of You....let that be my beauty secret. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...
ps.  This post also inspired by a recent post by Sarah Mae at (in)courage.me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What Does Casting All My Anxiety On Him Mean?

Hey Friend,

Most of us are familiar with 1 Peter 5:7:

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."

As I was reading in 1 Peter, I was struck by what the precursor to this verse was...

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."  (1 Peter 5: 5b-7)

I was convicted that the first step before casting my anxiety on the Lord, was to humble myself before Him.  God doesn't necessarily give grace to everyone (ie: the proud), but he pours out grace on those who are willing to humble themselves.

For me, this means admitting that I can't carry the worry, fear, doubt, and anxiety that come from them by myself.  It means that I've gotten to the end of myself and I know I need a power larger than myself to step in.  It means saying, "I can't do this on my own."

I used to think, that as a Christian, I shouldn't be anxious - that God was somehow disappointed in me if I wasn't blissfully trusting in Him at all times. I've learned the errors of my thinking.  God does not say we won't be anxious. Even the most devout Christian will experience worry, fear, doubt, and anxiety. In fact we will all experience a lot of it in our lifetime.  That's a given. 

God knows this and He lovingly invites us to cast ALL those cares upon Jesus.

Mind you, though, laying your burdens at the foot of the cross or casting your anxiety upon Him is no easy task.

I am the queen of laying my burdens at the foot of the cross and then picking them back up to stew on them awhile longer.  I have trouble laying them down, letting go, and walking away.

Similarly, think about the fishermen when they cast their fishing nets.  The act of casting takes a lot of strength.  Those nets are darned heavy and to heave them out of the floor of the boat and cast them as far away from the boat as possible takes strength, determination, and power (sometimes a supernatural power is needed to lift our weakened arms and cast those nets of anxiety).

Sometimes it takes our very last ounce of strength to lay our burdens down or to cast our anxiety upon the Lord.  

Think then too about the word "cast".  When I think of casting my anxiety, I think of flinging, throwing far, hurling, casting those anxieties as far away from the boat (my heart) as possible. 

If I will but humble my heart before Him, Jesus lovingly bids me to lay my burdens at His feet and let Him pick them up and carry them for me.

He tells me to cast the anxiety (that I will no doubt feel from time to time) upon Him. Fling it as far away from myself as possible so that I will not even be able to pick it back up again.  

Cast my cares and anxiety upon Him....Why?  Because He cares for me!

Jesus cares so deeply about me and about you.  He knows how oppressive our worries and anxieties can be.  The world is filled with them.  But, Jesus doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves.  He wants to take our burdens upon Himself and carry them for us, just like He took our sins upon Himself and gave us salvation in return.  Oh, what a wonderful Savior we have.

What worry, fear, doubt, or anxiety have you been carrying alone?  Do you truly believe that Jesus wants to carry it for you?  Are you willing to humble yourself before Him and ask for His strength to cast those anxieties upon Him and let Him deal with them so that you can live the abundant life He desires for you? 

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you and praise you that I don't have to walk this anxiety-laden life alone.  Thank you for giving me your Son Jesus who took all my sins upon Himself.  Thank you, Jesus, for not stopping there....for inviting me to lay my burdens at your loving feet and to cast all my anxiety upon you so that you can take it and handle it for me. Thank you for exchanging my worries and fears for your peace that passes all understanding.  Help me to humble myself and turn over to you what tears me up inside.  Help me to know deep in my soul how much you love and care about me.  Let this become my truth.  In your precious name I pray, Amen.  

Be blessed....at the end of the week I will be attending the "She Speaks" writers and speakers conference.  I may just take a break from posting next week, or who knows, maybe I will have been so inspired that I'll have lots to say.  Just wanted to give you a heads up :)


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Short-Cut To God's Heart

Hey Friend,

For the past two posts, I have been sharing what I've been learning in reading through 2 Corinthians.  I admit that this book of the Bible is filled with hard truth.  It is the stuff that convicts our hearts and makes us ponder.  It has been a good journey for me to be challenged rather than resting on my laurels.

I can see that while I've been recuperating, God has had a purpose in pulling me aside and making me use my "down" time to go deeper into His Word.  It's made me realize, that as I become more mobile, I still desperately need time for rest, rejuvenation, and just drawing close to Him and seeing what He would have me learn in order that I might bask in His love and continue to grow.

It's interesting, that after the hard hitting truth, Paul ends this book with a rather upbeat exhortation to the disciples and the church at Corinth.  Leave it to Paul to always end on a note of encouragement and the "Basics of Discipleship".

Here are two versions of the same passage of scripture: (2 Corinthians 13:11)

"Be joyful.  Grow to maturity.  Encourage each other.  Live in harmony and peace.  Then the God of love and peace will be with you."

"Finally, brothers, rejoice.  Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you."

I would say that these positive, upbeat, definite choices are like the "Cliff Notes of Discipleship".  We all like a short-cut, so let's take a look:

1. Joy/Rejoice:  Choose joy, and what better way to do that than to look around and rejoice in the Truth that God has shared with you.  "This is the day that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it."  Look around, right now, and find something or someone for which you can rejoice.

2. Growth/Become Mature:  God tells us that we are to "grow up" into the head which is Christ.  We can no longer rest behind the excuse of "this is how God made me so you're just going to have to live with it".  God wants us to be continually open to growing and maturing as believers.  That means putting off what's old and embracing the new creation that we are.

3. Encouragement/Be Encouraged:  Do you believe that you are "Beloved", "Holy", "Chosen"??  Well you are.  Even if you don't "feel" this way - feelings lie. The facts in the Truth of the Bible tell us, time and time again, about the lovingkindness that God wants to lavish upon us simply because we are His.

4. Harmony/Be of the Same Mind:  Don't be divisive or stir the pot.  If these aren't words for today, I don't know what are.  Be of the same mind as God, and seek to live in harmony with Him and with others (believers and unbelievers).  

5. Peace/Be at Peace:  Easier said than done at times, but I believe this is one of the greatest desires of God for our souls.  I think that's why he bids us to "Come" so many times in the Bible.  I know for me, the only way I can find peace is if I truly lay it ALL at the foot of the cross.  When I pick it up and carry it - it's Pride.  When I lay it down and give it over to God, I find Peace.

This is a list, however, that we need to choose.  

This is a list that moves us closer to God's heart....to a place where we can crawl into His lap, rest our weary head on His chest, hear His heartbeat of love for us, and simply breathe.  Let go....and breathe....

This is a short-cut to the very heart of God.  

and....it comes with a promise....

"The God of love and peace will be with you."  Amen!

If your life is feeling out of joint, disconnected from God, searching but unable to find the destination, will you give it a try??  Close to God's heart - that's certainly where I want and need to be.

Are you feeling like you are close to God's heart or far away?  Which of the 5 points above do you feel like God is calling you to choose today?  How would your life look different if, one by one, you chose these short-cuts to God's heart?

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and thank you that you always include encouragement in your Truth.  Thank you for these upbeat and positive exhortations that Paul's words offer to me as your disciple. Help me to embrace joy, growth, encouragement, harmony, and peace. You gladly offer them....let me choose them for myself.  Thank you that you never give up on me and that you always lead me back to your loving heart for me.  I praise you that I am beloved, holy, and chosen. Enable me to live in that reality and if I'm not there right now, pull me into you and your love and allow me to experience your peace and breathe....In Jesus' precious name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...
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Monday, July 3, 2017

Come Out From Among Them

Hey Friend,

I have to admit, there's not much I like to watch on television these days. When channel surfing, I find myself landing back on one of my old favorites - Law & Order. Yes, I was/am a Law & Order junkie.  Maybe it's my sense of justice, by I always love when righteousness prevails.

One of the clinchers in the attorney's case would be if they could get an eyewitness to identify the perpetrator of the crime in a police line up.  

"Yeah, that's him....third from the left."  (attorney and detectives smile)

What if I was in that lineup, I ponder?  Would I stand out, not as the perpetrator of a crime, but as a Christian?  By my words, and actions, my reactions, and how I lead my life - would someone be able to say "Yes" for sure she's the one. She's a Christian??

And I don't mean in the negative sense of the word, that my up-on-my-high-horse piety marks me, but that I live a life marked with love.  Does my life arrow point to Jesus?

I've been reading in 2 Corinthians and this passage in chapter 6 jumped out at me.  I invite you to read Paul's words as he's talking to the church at Corinth. He is telling them that they are ministers and that the message of Christ's love should prevail and their lives should stand out (and have stood out) in all these circumstances:

We give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone, so that the ministry will not be blamed. But as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything:
by great endurance, by afflictions,
by hardship, by difficulties,
by beatings, by imprisonments,
by riots, by labors,
by sleepless nights, by times of hunger,
by purity, by knowledge,
by patience, by kindness,
by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,
by the message of truth,
by the power of God;
through weapons of righteousness
on the right hand and the left,
through glory and dishonor,
through slander and good report;
as deceivers yet true;
as unknown yet recognized;
as dying and look—we live;
as being disciplined yet not killed;
10 as grieving yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing yet possessing everything.....

Therefore, come out from among them
and be separate, says the Lord...
(2 Corinthians 6: 3-10, 17)

I ponder, can people tell that I'm a Christ follower through hardships and difficulties?

Are my words marked with purity and knowledge?

Are my actions guided by patience and kindness?

When I am slandered or disciplined does my faith hold up?

Do I rejoice even in my grieving because of the hope that is within me?

If I have nothing, does my life say I possess everything?

I have never been beaten or imprisoned for my faith, but I think of my brothers and sisters in Christ whom I serve in the Middle East.  If they were to stand publicly and declare that they are a Christian and Jesus Christ is Lord, the law would be on the crowd's side to stone them to death. 

Many have withstood trials, even unto death, because they stood out separately as a Christian.

Verse 17 really convicts me...."Therefore, come out from among them and be separate says the Lord..."

Back to the police line up.  Do I stand out from among them?  In this day and age am I willing to say, act, be described as a Christ follower?  Though the world goes this way, am I willing to say, "I'll go that way." ??

Am I a minister of the faith or do I hinder God's mission with my life?  Do I cause others to stumble, or do I encourage them to walk upright?  

This 4th of July, I have the freedom to choose....what will my life say?

What does your life say about you?  In a line up would you stand out from among them?  When you go through the experiences listed in the passage, what do others see?  What is your prayer for your life this freedom holiday?

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for when it is so much easier to go with the flow than to swim against it.  Give me the strength of conviction to want to "come out from among them" that my life would stand up for You.  Let me not be a stumbling block for others, but let my life arrow always be pointing to You no matter what the circumstances. Thank you for the freedom I have in this great Nation in which I live. Be with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are truly persecuted for living lives that stand apart.  I praise you for loving and forgiving me. Let my life always be worshipful of that truth.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed.....

 ps. Thank you for your continued prayers.  It's been two months....hoping to get the nod this week from the doctor to be able to start driving again. Learning, albeit with frustration, to pace myself in this recuperation.  Next - on to physical therapy.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The God Of Comfort

Hey Friend,

This may seem like an odd way to start a post on a Christian blog site, but as I am sipping my coffee seven weeks into a long and grueling convalescence from oral surgery, then foot surgery, this song came to mind.  

Not that I ever really liked it, but it seems to have a fitting chorus that puts words to how I've been feeling lately.  If you're game, you'll give it a listen and I'll pick back up after you have a sound byte:


Sound familiar?  Do you ever feel this way?  

Just as you are getting your footing from being knocked down and getting back up, the enemy or life comes along and "boom" you're back on the mat again - squirming like an upside down bug that can't right itself.

This has been my experience the past two months.  I've shared some of the details in previous posts so I won't bore you here, but I asked my husband at dinner the other night, "How many times have I had complete meltdowns throughout this whole ordeal?"

My husband looked at me quizzically as if it was a trick question.

"I'd have to say maybe three," he said matter of factly.

"Hey, that's not too bad considering it's been almost two months....that's less than one every couple of weeks," I retorted somewhat proud of myself.

Actually, there's no room for pride.  The only way I've been able to keep getting back up is due to the all sufficient grace that God has given me.  In my weakness it has been His strength-so that I may not boast.

So Why, I wondered, have all these things been happening?  Why all the bad bumps along the way?  Why couldn't the enemy pick on someone else for awhile? My answer came this morning when I read this section of scripture in my quiet time.  I invite you to really read it slowly and let the words sink in.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-7
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction,[b] so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in your endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort.

I admit that in some ways I don't relish the thought that my suffering is for someone else's benefit.  

But then, didn't Christ suffer for MY benefit???

I believe that God allows us to suffer so that we will rely totally on God - the God of all comfort.  He desires to give us His strength in our weakness.  He draws near and comforts us.

I also believe that God allows us to suffer so that we will take it one step further and step outside our comfort zone, into the shoes of others who are suffering, so that we may comfort them with the comfort we have been shown by God.

Last, I believe that God allows our suffering so that others who have similarly suffered, and have been comforted by God, may come alongside us and share the comfort that they have received.

In doing so we realize that though we may get knocked down, we can, indeed get up again, and in God's power nothing will ever be able to keep us down permanently!

I would like to say a big "Thank you" to the people who have reached out to me to lift me up off the mat.  Thank you for sharing your comfort with me because you know what it's like to have suffered.  You know who you are.

I praise God for the people God has given me the opportunity to comfort because of the great and awesome comfort He has given me.  It helps me not to resent my affliction, but to find joy in it because He has given me the great honor of providing comfort to some of His other children.

It's the great seesaw of life as a believer.  One day we will be the one who is up and the next day we may be the one who is down.  

May I always remember the comfort that God has brought me through His children who have suffered, and may I bring comfort in response to others who suffer because I have known the grace and mercy of the great God of comfort.

Claiming God's promise that as I share in the suffering, so shall I share in the comfort.  

Have you been suffering?  Or are you the one standing with others around you who are suffering?  Either way, what do you feel God calling to you to do...to experience...to share?  How does this scripture give you hope?

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You and praise You that You are the God of all comfort.  Thank you for being my strength in my weakness so that I may boast of Your goodness.  Help me to see and not to overlook those around me who are suffering.  Let me heed Your call to be a comfort to them.  Thank You for those who have suffered and have heeded Your call to comfort me.  Because of You and Christ's great suffering for me, I count myself as truly blessed.  Enable me to not just read Your commands, but to act on them so that Your name will be glorified.  In Jesus' precious name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed.....

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Oh To Be On Fire - Take #2

Hey Friend,

In January, I chose a word to be my "watch word" or "guide word" throughout 2017. The word I chose was "Fire" - as in to be on fire for the Lord.  I thought it was fitting since, here we are six months into the year - the halfway point, to take a look to see just how God is working this out in my life.  

First let me share, from my January 2017 post, why I chose "Fire" as my word:

January 8, 2017
So this year, why "Fire"?  Perhaps it was because I was inspired by a quote by the great theologian John Wesley:

"Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn." - John Wesley

It made me think about my life....do I live with a passion - a love for Christ - that is so intense that people would say that I'm on fire for the Lord?  

My greatest desire is that a (wo)man would look at my life, and the passion they saw would point an arrow directly to God.  I want it to be unmistakable just Who is the love of my life. 

Jesus, himself, said that half-hearted, lukewarm, indifferent Christians make Him literally sick to His stomach.  So much so, that He would spit them out of His mouth.  

Is that me?  Do I call myself a Christ follower, but yet have no fruit that would testify to the blood of the Spirit coursing through my veins?
End....

So here we are in June already and I find myself sitting on my butt for six weeks unable to walk.  With a root canal, a fourth surgery recuperation, a bad fall, a case of the shingles, and an incision infection, I now find myself wondering if my foot will bear my weight when I hopefully start walking this week? 

Hmmmm.....doesn't exactly sound like I'm setting the world on fire.  

(Luke 24:32) And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

This down time has allowed me to spend a lot more time in God's Word - in His holy presence.  I have prayed and asked God to open my eyes to His heart through His Word and He has been faithful to do just that.

He has enabled me to read familiar scripture with new insight and fresh understanding. I literally feel His Word burning within me.  I know this would not have happened if I was in my usual rush around mode.  

When you can't go and move about, God can get your undivided attention.

It's kind of sad, on my part, that God has had to sideline me, not one, but four times with surgeries so that together we could stoke the flames of my heart.

Have you ever noticed there are several ways to put out a fire??

You can pour water on it.... (anger, bitterness, resentment)

You can smother it with something else..(idols, other interests, substitutes)

You can remove the fuel....(reading the Bible, practicing the presence of God)

or You can neglect it....(busyness, hurrying around, doing rather than being)

I'm probably guilty of all four at different times, but I know that I was neglecting my fire.  I wasn't poking it - prodding God's Word, digging deeper into what I was reading, questioning and bringing my doubts before Him, asking for answers that went below the surface.

In doing this, God opened my eyes to a new ministry - that of "Ministry born of suffering".  In no other time of my writing have I received more personal emails and notes of encouragement from those who have suffered, who are suffering, and those who are struggling with the isolation born out of suffering.

I look at Jesus, and I realize that so much of His ministry was born out of His suffering.  So how, if I am to grow up into the likeness of Christ, can I avoid suffering?  It just isn't possible.

So, I guess you could say that my passion has been reignited.  God has used this time out to turn up the heat.  

I hope that by drawing into Him, He will cause my flame to burn more brightly and with greater intensity.  I don't know if people will come from miles around to watch me burn, but I know that without this time in God's presence, my flame would have surely burned out.

How is your flame burning?  Would you say you are "on fire" for God?  If not, what's putting out your flames?  What do you think God is calling for you to do or not do?

Dear Heavenly Father,  Forgive me for when I get to scurrying about and I neglect to spend time in Your presence and in Your Word.  Help me to realize that if my flame is to burn brightly for You, I need to be diligent about setting aside time for our relationship.  Thank you that You are a God who cares more about relationship than "Do's" and "Don't's".  Give me a passion to know Your heart more deeply so that I may be a witness to others.  Help me to embrace suffering in my life and to use it to minister to others who are also suffering.  Continue to encourage me to grow and mature and build me up into the likeness of Your holy Son.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....and be sure to Subscribe to my blog if you want to be certain not to miss my weekly posts.