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 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.....

ps.  Don't miss a single post...go to the "SUBSCRIBE" tab and sign up for weekly posts.  No email addresses are ever shared or sold.  Promise!

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 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?

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. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

All Things To All People

Hey Friend,

First, a quick update for those of you who have continued to lift me up in prayer. At my four week post-op doctor visit, the x-rays looked good.  Things seem to be healing nicely.  Two more weeks of non weight bearing and if I get the green light, I can begin to bear weight with the help of a boot and crutches.  This will be the true test of the success of the surgery.

The bruises from the fall, and the shingles have pretty much cleared up.  No new maladies to report, though I have wondered if a plague of frogs or locusts would be next??

During this down time, I have been spending a lot of time in God's Word, wondering what He would have me learn with this surgery?  With my first knee surgery, I started my blog so as not to climb the walls.  Another surgery birthed the beginnings of a non-profit ministry to serve orphans and impoverished children in the Middle East.    

So what this time, Lord?

“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
1 Corinthians 9:22

I have been reading through the book of 1 Corinthians, and when I came upon Chapter 9, I was struck by this verse.  To be honest, when I first read the part about "becoming all things to all people," that flat wore me out.  "But, Lord," I protested, "how can I possibly be all things to all people?  That's just not possible."

God, in His patient grace, took me on a little journey down memory lane to help me remember all the things that have happened in my life that I have tried to write and speak about openly and honestly so that others might be encouraged.

I've written about being a recovering perfectionist which struck a chord with many and I have developed a relationship online with others who struggle with this themselves.

I wrote about the hell I went through with divorce and how God was faithful to bring me THROUGH this valley to the other side.  By sharing this, along with my faith struggles and doubts as well as God's answers and abiding faithfulness, I was able to minister to several women who came behind me and I believe that God used me in some way to minister to them because I spoke their language.  I knew, firsthand, their pain.

I've shared the heartbreak of a mother's heart for her prodigal child.  In a Facebook world where only the shining successes are hailed, there are a lot of mothers who struggle with the nagging question of "Where did I go wrong? Why, when I tried so hard, did my child have to take this path?"  

I allowed myself, as well, to be ministered to, and like a volley in tennis, we lobbed encouraging words back and forth to one another.  When one was up, we lifted the one who was down.  

I've shared about my perpetual battle with my weight - talk about a lot of women who speak and know the language of emotional eating.  We were/are able to break melba toast together (fewer calories) and share our struggles and victories.

I've been frank and honest about living my life with mental illness (OCD & depression). Do you know just how many people resonate with this and how few truly understand it?  We need kindred spirits.

Lately, through all this surgery - especially this one to hopefully correct years of chronic nerve pain - I have hopefully earned the privilege to speak to others about chronic pain and disability and finding hope in it.  People are fighting battles everyday with chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, joint and nerve pain, mental illness, gastrointestinal illnesses, deafness, blindness, and the list goes on. 

Many fight on more than one front, and they don't need Polyanna platitudes, sermons, or cliche phrases.  Even scripture needs to be served up with mercy and grace so that it will build up the one suffering rather than puff up the purveyor.  

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I see more clearly why God has allowed all these things in my life.  Sure, there have been times when I've adopted the "Why me" attitude, but then God brings to mind the people with whom He has allowed my path to cross, and how He has given me strength to share Jesus with them - the one and only reason for my hope.  Through these bonds, God brings beauty from the ashes for both of us.

God has allowed me to to be all these things to all these people, so that in doing so, I might save some.  

And so as to not get too lofty - that they might save me too!

God has also allowed me to share with others in joy, and gladness, and victory. This spiritual honey is especially sweet...rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

But, no matter what, He continues to remind me to be Jesus to all these people as that is what He has called me (and you) to do.

What things have happened in your life, that might give you an invitation to be Jesus to someone else?  What does "becoming all things to all people" look like in your life? Who has come alongside you?  Who might God have you come alongside?

Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you for your faithfulness to ALWAYS walk with me through the valleys.  Thank you for your promises to strengthen me, and help me, and uphold me with you righteous right 
hand.  Hang on to me always and when I come through, give me compassion to help those who now walk the path I've walked.  Give me patience, and love, and your Truth to share.  Enable me to listen and weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.  Give me a vision of what it means to become all things to all people and let me walk in your ways.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....

Sunday, June 4, 2017

When It All Gets To Be Too Much

Hey Friend,

As I sit here...not able to do much because I am halfway through six weeks of non weight bearing recuperation after a surgery...a surgery performed to repair or make right an unsuccessful surgery on the same foot, I can't help but be frustrated.   

Now add in a bad fall on crutches (hate those things), battles with my OCD, and the mere feel of clothes on my back driving me crazy because I have a bad case of shingles and yes, I am wondering what next?    

I've tried to stay busy with Redeemer Christian Foundation work, but when you simply can't walk at all, days can get long and cumbersome.  Add in the other stuff, and I admit asking God, through tears, "Why me?"  

I have to say when I read this passage in 1 Corinthians 4: 9-13, it resonated with me.  Here Paul is speaking to the church at Corinth about the Apostles' example of humility.

For I think God has displayed us, the apostles, in last place, like men condemned to die:  We have become a spectacle to the world and to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong!  You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!  Up to the present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless; we labor, working with our own hands.  When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously.  Even now, we are like the world's garbage, like the dirt everyone scrapes off their sandals.

Lately, I feel a little bit like a fool for Christ.  I spend a lot of time working for the good of those who are persecuted, yet here I sit disabled while those who pursue selfish desires walk freely about the streets.  

I write so that the world may know Christ, but I am reviled by some and endure slander.  Some days I truly feel like "the dirt everyone scrapes off their sandals."

A couple of good friends have reminded me of some truth as I have occasionally gotten stuck in useless self pity...
1.  For those who persevere God has a special job in Heaven.  

When we get to Heaven we won't simply be sitting on clouds strumming harps, there will be jobs to do and God will reward those who have been good stewards in this world and who have been steadfast through trials.

2.  If you are persecuted, it means you are doing God's work and the enemy is threatened and will come after you with a vengeance. 

Just like the disciples, who were doing God's work and building His Kingdom, were persecuted, so will we be persecuted. The enemy will stop at nothing to thwart holy progress.  If you are persecuted, chances are it means you are making a difference.

3.  There are, indeed, great blessings for those who are steadfast in times of trial.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.  (James 1:12)

Truth is, we may not see the rewards in this lifetime, but as I've gotten older, I've adopted a more eternal perspective.  What I'm doing, how I'm living, why I'm hanging in there when all seems lost is for the crown of life which does not come this side of heaven.

But...O, what joy will be mine when I stand before the throne and pray I hear the words, "Well done good and faithful servant."

Meanwhile, I'll endure these trials for they are but a blink of an eye in the big scheme of things.  These trials build in me compassion, and caring, and a desire to encourage others - and that's not a bad thing at all.  

In fact, trials are necessary, in God's economy, in order to mold us into the likeness of Christ.  So, in this, I will rejoice!

Are you currently enduring a trial?  What do you think God would have you learn from it?  Do you believe He is always present with you and will see you THROUGH and not leave you stuck?  If you haven't out to Him.  He will uphold you with His righteous right hand.

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive me when I wallow in self pity. Help me to know that there is blessing amidst the suffering.  Enable me to know and experience your constant presence.  Encourage me that these trials are not wasted - that you are building in me character for the eternal role you want me to play.  Build a hedge of safety around me so that the enemy cannot keep me from doing your work.  Keep my eyes focused on you so that I may be steadfast and ultimately be blessed with the crown of life.  From my trials, let me learn compassion, love, and caring and give others the gift of encouragement in their hour of need.  I ask all these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Be blessed...

ps.  Thanks to all of you who have prayed for me, sent notes of encouragement, and gone out of your way to let me know that I am cared about.  I am truly grateful!!  You are blessings amidst the trials!