Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Tale of Tears and Timbers

Hey Friend,

"The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth.  It broke his heart.  And the Lord said, "I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth.  Yes, I will destroy every living thing - all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky.  I am sorry I ever made them."  But Noah found favor with the Lord.  (Genesis 6: 5-8)

It occurred to me that ever since I was a little girl and heard the story of Noah, I had fixed my mind on the fact that God wanted to destroy every living thing.  If you really wanted to sum up the story...I may have told you, "The whole world was wicked and so God wanted to destroy it all." 

The part I kept overlooking was the sentence, "It broke his heart." 

I can think on times as a parent that my children, whom I love dearly, did things that broke my heart.  It wasn't that I was angry with them, it was more that I wanted the very best for them and by their disobedience they wound up doing things that ushered in harsh consequences.  It was at those times that my heart grieved. This wasn't what I wanted for them. I wanted so much more. My heart of love wanted abundance for them.

I am learning that God has a heart...and it hurts.  It hurts with what hurts us.

Perhaps the Great Flood was millions of tear drops of sacred ache.  Maybe the expanses of water that covered the whole earth were slow drips of sadness from the omniscient eyes of God.  Perhaps the floodgates of God's grieving heart burst open and every crevice of the earth filled with the sheer weight of His brokenness. 

The Flood was the flood of God's grief born of love.

God in His love and goodness, had mercy on His creation and so He made a way with the rough hewn timbers of the ark for Noah, his family, and two of every creature He'd created, to find their way to safety and salvation.  

God's love outlasted His grief.

God could have wiped the world clean and washed His hands of the mess, but He chose to keep suffering along with His creation.

God then gave His people the Covenant of the Old Testament.  On tablets He gave His people laws to obey that would lead to freedom.  Keep the ten commandments and be able to live in communion with the Alpha and the Omega.  

But no, His people grieved His heart, not once, but many times.  God, instead of sending an ark, fashioned a cradle of holy timbers that would hold this God-made-flesh Savior in its arms. 

God looked at the world and once again, His heart broke.  Tears fell and He knew He had to bring heaven down to earth.

God chose to come and live among His people as Jesus Christ the Son.  He put on human flesh and He endured human pain and suffering.  As an infant Jesus wept.  He knew pain from hunger and cold.  He grew to know the pain of being ostracized and hated.  When His friend died, Jesus didn't preach...He wept.  

In His ministry Jesus was mocked, betrayed, lied to, forsaken, abandoned, beaten, broken, hated, forgotten...He experienced heartbreak from a complete human perspective.  He cried real human tears.  

God the Father grieved once again.  He had sent His Son, but the world rejected Him.  He sent a Savior and the crowds yelled, "Crucify Him!"

Jesus was stripped, beaten, flogged and inhumanely nailed to the timbers that made the cross.  While His Son died the cruelest death, God wept.  The love that poured down from God's broken heart was like holy water to our parched souls.  The flood of Christ's blood made white our sinful stains.

Ann Voskamp writes, "On that Cross, they speared His side and pierced straight into His heart, filled with pain, and it was the water and blood of His broken heart that gushed right out, a flood of love."  (excerpt from "The Greatest Gift")

In everything God has done, the motivation has always been love.  Love that came not in sparse drips, but in raging and fierce floods.  Because we broke God's heart, He opened up the ark, the cradle, and the cross.  Because He loves us so much He allowed His holy heart to break in two and make a way for us to draw near.

It's a tale of tears and timbers from a God of love who cannot deny Himself.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your heart of love for me.  Thank you for hurting when I hurt.  Thank you for being willing to grieve the loss of your precious Son so that I could be with you forever.  Forgive me for thinking that you are an angry God that keeps score of my sins.  Let me see the God of love that would flood the earth with water and flood the souls of man with Christ's blood so that we would be saved.  From the cradle to the cross nothing can hold you and no expanse is too great to encompass your great love.  Let my own tears remind me of all the tears you've shed over me and lift my head to gaze into your eyes of love for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about God?  Do you see Him as a God of anger or a God of love?  Do you believe that God grieves over you and all of creation; that He endured the pain of sending His Son for us because of unfathomable love?  How does that change you this Christmas?

Be blessed...

ps.  Congrats' to Amy D. and Judy K. - winners in the "Women of Courage" book drawing.  It's still not too late to give the gift of love, joy, and hope to the children of Redeemer Christian School.  No amount is too small to make a huge impact.  Visit our Giving Page...thank you.


Have you enjoyed what you've read, here, today?  Subscribe and get my weekly blog (and nothing else).  Just click on Subscribe above.  Enter your contact information.  Then be sure to click the CONFIRMATION LINK that will come in email form (check your spam filter if you don't see it).  You can unsubscribe at any time.  Thanks for reading...Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 2, 2019

My Heart Yearned For the Light

Hey Friend,

I checked my gear one last time, switched on the lamp on my helmet, and glanced back over my shoulder one last time, squinting at the sunshine streaming into the entrance of the cave. 

One by one we headed into the opening in the rocks.  As a camp counselor at a Christian camp, this was a pre-camp opportunity.  I'd always wanted to try spelunking, but until now, hadn't had the opportunity.  I listened intently to our guide's instructions, lest I be labeled a "cave-buffoon" for doing something utterly stupid.  We would all have to work together.

We repelled down rocky crags that took us deeper and deeper into the belly of the cave. In some passages we belly crawled, like a long, slow moving centipede, snaking our way through the narrow tunnels.  We deliberately and meticulously chose our steps in order to push through tight openings.  

Just when I thought we had to be heading into a dead end, the narrow artery opened up into a huge vaulted chamber.  I pointed my headlamp around in order to take in my surroundings.  The clusters of sharp pointed daggers (or stalactites) hung precariously from the ceiling above me.  Millions of slow calcium carbonate drips had crystalized over time, forming these ominous structures.  

The waterfall-like limestone flows varied in size and looked eerily translucent and radiated a certain blue-green fluorescence when the light shone upon them.  

The presence of light illuminated this dark underworld and made the widely varying speleothem (cave formations) come alive.  Stalactites, stalagmites, gypsum flowers, helictites, cave pearls, water-filled sumps, popcorn, and a whole host of artistic creations left me breathless. 

At this point in our journey we took a break and our guide invited us to gather around in a circle.  His voiced echoed off the walls.  "One by one I want you to turn off your headlamps.  Go slowly," he directed.  

When only one or two lamps went dark, it didn't make a huge difference, but halfway around our circle of light-going-dark, the light in the cavern noticeably dimmed.  Finally we were down to one lamp still lighted.  As long as this lamp stayed lit, there was hope.  We could see our guide, each other, our way out.

The last lamp went out and our guide said, "You are now experiencing absolute and complete absence of light...utter darkness."  I felt my chest tighten a bit and my breathing became more shallow.  The longer it remained dark and I felt the nothingness envelope me, I heard mysterious sounds and began to feel discomfort that bumped up against fear.  My heart grew anxious for the light to return.  

Anxious anticipation grew into yearning and desperation for the light to shine once again. Seconds seemed like hours. How long was I going to have to remain in the dark?  I wanted the light.  I wanted it NOW!  

Our guide's deep voice broke the silence. He spoke deliberately, "Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12) 

He continued, voice calm and authoritative in the darkness, "The Light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it."  (John 1:5)

"Know this," he continued, But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

By this point, I was literally shaking.  I wanted the light back.  I yearned for the light that I too often took for granted.  It struck me that I have "The Light" (Jesus and His Word) always available to me, yet, I ignore Him and I get sidetracked and forget to pick up my Bible.  I choose darkness. That thought scared me.

I needed to yearn for "Jesus the Light" like I was yearning for light to break the unbearable darkness in the cave.

This Advent season, I NEED the light of Christ in my life.  I look around me and the world is becoming more and more like utter darkness and absence of light. The headlamps are going out.  I've become somewhat numb to the evil that prevails in our culture.  Wrong has become right, evil has become good, death has become life, and "true north" has ceased to exist. I need to do my part to not let the light be snuffed out...

Dear Jesus, please come.  Make your home in my heart and teach me to abide in You.  Teach me your precepts.  O how I long to dwell in your holy word.  Let me hunger and yearn for it like I yearn for the light in the darkness.  Your word is a lamp unto my feet and your love is hope for my dying heart.  Renew in me a spirit that is on fire for you and that revels in the joy that your salvation brings. Let me bask in Advent - the glorious moment before the miracle. Jesus, I adore you.  Have mercy on me.  Thank you for being God with me...Emmanuel.  It's in your precious name I pray.  Amen.

What about you? Are you actively choosing to live in the "Light"?  If not, what keeps you from doing so?  Do priorities need to change?  What does Jesus coming into the world mean to you, personally?  Will you share...

Be blessed...

ps.  If you have enjoyed what you read, here today, might you consider SUBSCRIBING to my weekly blog?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above and enter your contact information.  Be sure to check your EMAIL for a CONFIRMATION LINK you will need to click on to confirm your subscription. Be sure to check your SPAM FILTER. Thanks for reading...

Sign up by Dec. 5th and you will automatically be entered to WIN THIS:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A Personal Story of Gratitude Rediscovered

Hey Friend,

As we head into November, I would like to share a popular post from around this time last year.  We hadn't yet experienced a pandemic, but we probably took some things for granted that we'd love to have right about now.  I'm still working hard in book publishing bootcamp...hope you enjoy this post!

The last thing I could remember was the bright lights of the operating room almost blinding me, even though it was ten o'clock at night.  The room was sterile and cold. The two kind nurses were running through the drill of what was going to be happening.  It was a drill I'd heard many times before.  

The next thing I knew, as I tried to wake up and somehow shake off the fog I was in, was that two different nurses were looking at me, hovering, and talking.  My eyes followed my arm to my hand that was holding the warm hand of my husband standing at my side.  The lights were low and all was quiet around us.  

"It's 2:30 in the morning, Bev," my husband whispered to me.  I scrunched up my face in disbelief.

"Can I get you some water to drink?" the one nurse asked gently.  "Do you want some crackers with it?" Even though I hadn't eaten anything for over 20 hours, my throat was parched and scratchy.  All I wanted was water and to sleep.

When the aid came in my room the next morning, boy was I happy to see her.  "I've got your coffee and some eggs and toast...you hungry?" she chirped as she whipped off the metal cover keeping it warm, and smiled.

"You bet," I replied.  I held the coffee in my hands.  It felt warm to the touch, but I didn't smell the usual coffee aroma.  I sniffed it again...nothing.  One of my very favorite things is cradling a hot cup of coffee in my hands, early in the morning, and inhaling its distinct, somewhat nutty aroma.  

I couldn't smell the eggs.  I couldn't smell or taste the orange juice.  The nurse reassured me that losing your sense of taste and smell could be a side effect of the anesthesia and that it would probably wear off soon.  It didn't.

For three weeks, I gagged on what I ate and drank because it tasted like metal nothingness. I didn't even want my beloved coffee because it actually made me start to cry because I couldn't enjoy the whole "coffee experience."  It was gone and I didn't know if it was ever coming back.  

How could I have taken the simple gift of smelling and tasting for granted?

Each day I hobbled around smelling things with distinct and powerful odors, hoping and praying that my senses would wake up.  Perfume, garlic, flowers, vinegar...nothing. I began to lose weight because there was no joy in eating.  I ate only to sustain myself.

Days passed, and I still couldn't taste, or smell, anything.  Depression crept in like a gray fog and settled over me.  How could I have been so ungrateful for these simple pleasures?  I didn't like my new normal.  I wanted those gifts back.

Then, one morning heading into the fourth week, I clutched my coffee in my usual pretend routine and I made my husband jump when I shrieked with excitement, "I can smell it!!!  It's not real strong, but I can smell hints of coffee!!!"  You would have thought I'd won the lottery.  I sat there, wiggling my nose, like a bunny in a field of clover, inhaling between sips.  Tears ran down my cheeks.  There was hope. The blessing was being renewed.

Slowly but surely, over the next several days, my sense of taste and smell returned.  I scurried around smelling and tasting everything I could stick under my nose or put in my mouth.  It was enchanting getting reacquainted with the senses I'd desperately missed.  

I remember praying - O, Lord, you are so good to me.  Please don't ever let me take the gift of taste and smell for granted ever again.  Don't let me take any gift you give me for granted ever again.  

I wish I could say that I was forever grateful for everything from that moment on. But much like the Israelites who mercifully came through the parting of the Red Sea, it wasn't long before I was whining about something I didn't have or that wasn't going how I thought it should.

A writer friend of mine queried in one of her recent posts, "What if we lost everything we hadn't thanked God for?"

That stopped me in my tracks.  I thought of all the people, places, things, joys, experiences, miracles that I had failed to thank God for.  

In my exuberance I had run off skipping, like the healed lepers, and I had failed to go back and thank the Healer. 

Lord, let me make Gratitude a priority in my life because it honors You and in doing so, it ushers in joy.  In order to make Gratitude a priority:

1.  Let me thank you God, in advance, for what You are able and about to perform.

2.  Let me pause, in the moment of blessing, and praise Your holy name. Don't let me hurry to move on until I've fully taken in Your blessing.

3.  Let me go forward in confidence and courage because I have looked back, with gratitude, to all the times You've been faithful to me, Lord.

Let praise for You, O Lord, always be on my lips...Amen.

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.  (1Thessalonians 5:18)

What about you?  Are there any blessings in your life that you have taken for granted?  Would you lose a lot or a little if what you hadn't thanked God for suddenly disappeared?  How can you make gratitude a priority in your life?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

Want to do some early Christmas shopping?  The newly released devotional "Take Heart - 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay" (in which I am a contributing writer) makes an excellent Christmas gift for friends and family as they embark upon a new year.  Available on Amazon and most booksellers.


ps.  Like what you've read, here, today?  Perhaps you might want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog and nothing else?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and then be sure to look for a CONFIRMATION LINK THAT WILL COME IN EMAIL FORM.  You will need to click on it to confirm your subscription.  Thanks for reading...

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On Giving Gifts With Eternal Benefits - GIVEAWAY

Hey Friend,

I purposely saved the huge box, wrapped in smiling Santa paper and a big shiny red bow, for last.  

My tender young heart knew deep down inside that Santa would not disappoint me.  As I ripped open the wrapping, as only a child can, I saw the picture and the glorious words...Easy Bake Oven!!

I knew Santa would come through.  It was my long wished for and anticipated Christmas gift.  Nothing could contain my excitement in the moment.  I couldn't wait to get "baking"...

Many years have passed since I received that gift.  It's long since gone the way of the trash heap (even though it's now considered a "vintage" toy and is a collector's item lol). 

What about YOUR gift giving list?  Are most of the gifts you'll be giving bound to wind up on the trash heap some day?  Are you giving any gifts with eternal benefits?  If not, here's your chance...

Nisha came to Redeemer Christian School five years ago.  At the time, she was nine years old, and was cleaning houses in order to get food to survive.  She is just one of many orphans and destitute children that Redeemer Christian Foundation serves.  

Nisha's life has changed dramatically and her spirit has been transformed.  Once unsure that there was a God who really cared about the awful conditions in which she lived, she now leads a children's weekly Bible study.  She has been surrounded with the love of Jesus in Redeemer Christian School, which is nicknamed the "House of Hope".  She knows her identity is found in Christ and she is assured of her salvation.

What an awesome gift to give a child?!  Salvation, and the hope that an education affords.  This is what YOU can give today...

This year, I invite you to join us in the gift of giving back.  Every year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, we celebrate Giving Tuesday - a day to extend kindness by sharing with those in need.

Your Giving Tuesday gift of kindness will ensure a future for children like Nisha.  Please join me today in keeping these children in school and off the streets, sparing them from the entrapments of poverty, child labor, human trafficking, extremist recruitment, and more.

Are you ready to literally change the life of an impoverished child?  Your donation will go directly to ensuring these children receive both the Word of God and an education.

As a special incentive, I am providing a FREE GIVEAWAY for those who donate because you read this blog post.  You read that correctly.

TO ENTER: Go to our "Share Your First Fruits" Giving Tuesday donor page.  PLEDGE ANY AMOUNT (all gifts matter) and NOTE IN THE COMMENTS THAT you gave because of "BEV'S BLOG". 

All gifts with this special notation will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of:

DaySpring's latest book:  "Women of Courage: a Forty-Day Devotional."
Lean into the strength of the Lord when your own strength is not enough. MSRP  $16.99. B&H Publishing.

Here's the link to the GIVING PAGE:  

Be sure to mention "Bev's Blog" in the Comment section when asked why you gave.

Prefer to write a check??  Fill out and send to:  RCF, Inc., 103 Silver Lining Lane, Cary, NC  27513.  Write "Bev's Blog" in the Memo line.

You'll automatically be entered to win. US and Canada only. 

Drawing will take place on: December 5th.

Be sure to visit our website:  www.redeemerinc.org
All gifts are tax deductible.  We are a registered 501c3 with excellent standing.

Be blessed by giving the gift of eternal life this year....don't wait...give today!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Are Self-Care and Soul-Care Mutually Exclusive?

Hey Friend,

There seems to be an ever increasing debate as to whether we need self-care or soul-care?  I thought I'd add my two cents to the discussion.

Our long weekend in Pittsburgh was fun-filled and fast paced.  First stop, my MIL's place.  We combined catching up with her with a wonderful walkabout of the city that we love.  

The next day, we headed up the highway to visit my college alma mater and I gave my hubby a tour of my old stomping grounds.

Day three had us getting ready for a 40th high school reunion.  "Hey, I sat beside you in Algebra...Do you remember the time when?"...conversation...catching up...laughter...condolences...lots of pictures...so good to see you my good friend.

Next day church and lunch with all the cousins.  

Home. Exhausted. No words left.  Desperately needing God's word.  Earnestly seeking my own comfortable bed.

I hadn't had my daily quiet time with God for five days.  I missed Him.  I needed the refueling from His word.  But first, I needed sleep.  I needed the self-care of sleep before I could even concentrate on the soul-care of His word.  

I believe that God understands that we need basic self-care in order to pursue soul-care.  Sleep, good nutrition, shelter, exercise.  Do we need a massage and a mani-pedi first?  Probably not.  Are massages and manicures evil.  No, I don't think so.

I think the whole debate comes down to:  What or Who are we seeking first?

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.  (Matthew 6:33)

Signs that self-care is all about YOU:  You are the controller of your destiny and your happiness.  The whole "self-care" industry would love to have you buy in to the notion, that it IS all about YOU.  You deserve to be pampered; you deserve to have your needs met. You NEED all this in order to survive.

Is your desire to be healthy and maintain a temple fit for the indwelling of the Spirit, or are you more concerned about your pant size and how you look to others?

Is your pursuit devaluing the image of God within you? Do your pursuits of the "ideal" keep you from being content with who and how God has made you?

Does you pursuit of self-care look more like beauty appointments and vain pursuits that distract you from the work God would have you be doing?  

If your answer, to these questions, is "Yes" then perhaps "self-care" has become an idol in your life.

Soul-care, on the other hand, centers on GOD as the source of your strength and being able to "make it" through life.  The self-care movement centers on YOU being that source.  Big difference.

While self-care and soul-care call us to respect our limits and rest, the motives are very different.

Self-care:  Calls us to respect our limits and rest as a means to replenish and protect OUR reservoir of comfort, happiness, and mental peace.  It's a recognition that the world is not safe and that one must look out for oneself as a means for survival.

Soul-care:  Calls us to respect our limits and rest as a means to worship the One who exists without limits.  It's a recognition that our strength to live in the world, with all it's demands and pain, comes from the Lord. 

I have always struggled with my weight and have tried every "diet" known to man.  The problem was, my motivation was all wrong.  Yes, I wanted to look better and feel better, but the motivation was all about me.  "Me" wanted to fit into a smaller dress size.

It wasn't until I was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic and the Dr. told me, "50% of those who are pre-diabetic will have full blown diabetes within five years."  This jolted me to my senses.  I realized I was not taking good enough care of the temple God had given me and I was not thinking of my husband and family who may want to have a healthy me around for many more years.

Also as one who struggles with anxiety, is a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), tends toward people-pleasing, and am an introvert at my core, I have had a bad habit of relationally and emotionally overextending myself.  

God calls us to live our lives "sacrificially" - serving others, but, get this, He DOES NOT ask us to do it to the detriment of our spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental well being.  

Self-care is not only okay, but necessary - so long as "Self" does not become your master.

Soul-care is paramount, but cannot be done without taking care of basic needs.  

When in doubt, turn back to the greatest commandment:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."  The second is this, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."  (Mark 12: 30-31)

Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last...J-O-Y...a great prescription for self-care and soul-care.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that you care about ALL my needs.  You are the ultimate provider of everything that I need.  Help me to check my motives in order to determine priorities in my life.  Give me the desire to seek first YOUR kingdom, knowing that you will take care of the rest.  Let your word and not my own selfishness be master of my life.  Thank you for the Sabbath rest you command me to enjoy - let me take this precept seriously.  Sustain me, Lord, so that I can be about doing Your will.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you tend to over-extend yourself?  Is God calling you to self-care, soul-care, or both?  What are your thoughts on self-care vs. soul-care?  Will you share?

Be blessed....

ps.  If you've enjoyed what you've read, here, today, you can SUBSCRIBE to my weekly posts at the SUBSCRIBE tab above.  Enter your contact information and then be sure to look for the confirmation link that will come to you in an email.  Click the link to confirm your SUBSCRIPTION.  Thanks so much for reading!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Marriage Troubles? Time to Apply & Integrate Your Identity in Christ - Guest Post

Hey Friend,

While I'm off to my 40th high school reunion (am I really THAT old?), my good friend, Beth Steffaniak, is stepping in to guest post.  I never miss a post on her blog "Messy Marriage."  Beth keeps it real and her posts on marriage are firmly based upon scripture.

Beth's story is not what you'd expect from a pastor's wife and life coach.  Beth admits that she came into marriage with emotional wounds and unhealthy patterns.  She admits that her baggage made her marriage messy in no time. 

Beth writes from a position of a life and story redeemed.  I've been blessed to attend She Speaks writers' conference with Beth.  She's the "real deal" and I am grateful to call her friend.  Beth is a new, gushing Grandma to Samson and since she'll be having major surgery on Oct. 24th, I encourage you to leave her some lovin' in the Comments on her blog (but know she may not be able to respond).

Marriage Troubles?  Time to Apply & Integrate Your Identity in Christ...

Staying in an unrelenting and difficult marriage can really take a toll on your sense of identity, making you feel as if you don’t know who you are apart from what you do.

People often try to fix this problem by doing more or different things—like exercising more so that you feel and look better. Though that’s a good thing to do, it should never be what you base your identity on. Those are roles and actions that can temporarily encourage, but do nothing to establish your identity in Christ.  Click HERE to join Beth at her blog, "Messy Marriage" for the rest of this post...
Just an aside...God does not ask you to stay in a verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive marriage.  You are God's precious child and He does not want you to endure such treatment.  Do seek professional help (even if your spouse won't).  God loves you!
I'll be back in my writer's seat in a couple weeks.
Be blessed....
ps.  If you have enjoyed or benefited from what you've read, here, today, might you consider SUBSCRIBING to my weekly posts?  I never share my contact information or bombard your inbox.  Just click on the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your email address, and BE SURE to click on the link that will COME TO YOU IN EMAIL FORM to authenticate your subscription.  You can unsubscribe at any time.  Thanks for reading...

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Are You Struggling With Suffering?

Hey Friend,

What is the most asked question on Google?

I stumbled upon an article on this topic and was curious.  What was the burning question on everyone's mind???

If you know me, you'll know why I didn't even understand the question...it is:

What is my ip?

I admit that I didn't know that "ip" stands for "internet protocol".  Over 3 million people ask this question every month.  This question doesn't keep me up at night, but another one used to:

Is there any good purpose to suffering?  or Why do good people suffer?

My life story is marked with joy, but it's also been marked by A LOT of suffering.  I remember people telling me that God comforts us in our suffering, and my response was, "That's nice, but I'd rather be comfortable without the suffering...thank you very much."

I remember thinking that God had truly abandoned me.  There is nothing so awful as thinking that the God of the Universe has given up on you and you are all alone in the mess.  It's agonizing.

I went to get my flu shot and before me was a little girl getting her shot.  Understandably, she was terrified.  She wanted nothing to do with that needle.  The more her mother tried to console her, the more she grew anxious.  Upon injection, she let out an ear-piercing scream.  It hurt!  Why was the nurse hurting her, and why was her mother holding her still and just looking on?

Her mother didn't relish the anguish that her daughter was suffering, but because of her child's health concerns, she KNEW that the painful shot was the BEST thing for her delicate daughter.

Through suffering, I have learned that God is more concerned about my character than He is about my comfort. 

He never wanted me to suffer, most of my life, with mental illness, but I have been plagued with anxiety and depression as far back as I can remember.  I have had several despairing experiences wherein I seriously contemplated taking my own life because ANYTHING would be better than the intense suffering I was experiencing.

So what have I learned from this suffering?

1.  How to pray for strength to endure.  I KNOW what it is to persevere.  A counselor once told me, "If 'Perseverance' was a course in school, you'd get an A+." 

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.  And HOPE does not disappoint us...  (Romans 5:4-5a) 

Hope is a byproduct of suffering, ironic, but true.

2.  I've learned compassion for others and developed an intimate relationship with the Lord.  Having gone through a season of six years marked by six major surgeries back to back, I have a compassion for others, that I know I would never have, had I not gone through such trials.  Suffering has born in me an empathy that allows me to speak the love of Christ into other people's lives when they are suffering.

I also know, that suffering is the necessary crucible that refines me and it has taken me to the deepest levels of my faith.  I know, without a doubt, that God is faithful to His promises.  He is good.  And, He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I can look back and see how His righteous right hand has held me through it all.  I would not have this confidence had it not been for the seasons of suffering.

3.  It has built my hope in the future.  Romans 12:12 foretells a time when "no resident will say, 'I am sick.'"  A day is coming when God will cure chronic illnesses that are beyond the power of modern science to solve.  We will be returned to our "youthful vigor."  

I don't have a "bucket list" because I know that this life is fleeting.  I'm not putting all my stock in the limited years I walk this earth.  I know that the real living will be accomplished in eternity.  This life is practice and a time of learning for what is ultimately to come.  

4.  It has helped me to experience true joy.  God graciously gives me glimpses of the joy to come.  After the suffering that came from being abandoned after 25+ years of marriage, I have joy and gratitude that I never could have experienced in my marriage of 5 years, had I not experienced the dark days of sadness.  I thank God every single day for the blessing of my husband and the second chance at living in a covenant relationship that He's given me.

5.  Struggling/suffering indicates the presence of Christ working in my life.  When Christ is vibrantly at work in and through me, the enemy is furious.  He wants to take me out.  I have never felt so persecuted as when I have been doing the Lord's work.  Working as the Executive Director of a Christian School that is bringing the hope of Jesus to orphans in the Middle East...you better believe I'm constantly under attack, but I'm called to take up my cross and follow Him.  

If we follow Christ we will share in His suffering as well.  

The dark brush strokes of suffering make the bright brush strokes of joy stand out more brilliantly.

God's omniscient and all-knowing mind knows everything.  He is above ALL things, even evil.  Even though some suffering "seems" to have no good purpose, an "all-good" God has a good purpose for everything.  

God never desired suffering for us.  He created a perfect world and man ushered in the presence of evil.  We may suffer because of consequences of our sin or we may suffer for apparently no reason at all.

I DO KNOW that God can and will redeem every moment of suffering we experience and He will catch every tear that falls.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that you are an all-knowing and good, good, Father.  Your plans are plans for me to prosper, not to bring me harm. Help me to know, that even if I suffer, you will bring beauty from the ashes.  Enable me to lean into you and to know, with all confidence, that you will never leave nor forsake me.  Give me the strength and perseverance needed to walk THROUGH these trials with you.  I cling to your righteous right hand.  Thank you for the joy that you want to restore unto me.  Give me faith and trust when I have doubts.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you...do you question why you or others you love suffer?  Do you want God to replace your doubts with belief?  If you are suffering, what might God be at work accomplishing in your life?  Do you trust His goodness?  What lessons have you learned through suffering?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you have appreciated what you've read, here, today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog posts?  That's what you'll get (and nothing else).  Just click on the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information, and BE SURE to click the confirmation link that will come to you in EMAIL FORM.  Thanks for reading...

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Finding the Narrow Road to Life

Hey Friend,

Even our GPS seemed perplexed...

My husband and I had been winding our way down and around country roads for close to a half hour.  We could see our destination marked on the GPS system, but when we got to where we thought we could get to it, there was no road.

We made a right and traveled on what we thought was the correct road, but it didn't lead to our destination.  Frustrated, we turned the car around as a few cows lazily munched on grass and looked at us curiously.

We made another pass by and still we couldn't find the way in.  Finally, creeping along the main road, we saw a narrow gravel road leading off the road we were on, into the tall oaks.  It looked like the proverbial "road to nowhere."  We decided to follow it out of utter curiosity.

We wound around a few curves in the road, going deeper into the mix of pines and oaks, until we finally came upon a narrow gate.  The sign read, "Lavender Oaks Farm."  We'd found it!!  

Five hundred feet on ahead, the gravel road opened up to reveal a gorgeous lavender farm that was beginning it's spring bloom and burst into beauty.  What a gorgeous oasis out in the middle of nowhere.  

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

I have had to ask the Lord to open my eyes to the emptiness of this world - the broad road.

One of the allures of the wide road is self focus.

Yes, we need to take good care of God's temple - our body - but there is a shallowness to the whole booming business of self-care and self-pampering.  I love a good massage as much as the next person, but when my spiritual tank is empty, instead of a mani-pedi, I need to get into God's word and hang out with Him for a good stretch of time.

Those that seem to "have it all" often die unhappy, unfulfilled, and separated from God.

Another allure of the wide road is idolatry.

The world idolizes actors, actresses, models, singers, and sports figures.  There is a big difference, however, between fame and success.  I pray that I will not be tempted by the wide road that leads to destruction.

Instead of idolizing the shiny new car in my neighbor's driveway or how perfect her kids appear to be, I need to focus on thanking God for what and who He has put in my life.  Gratitude is a great cure for the green-eyed monster.

In my life, I want to be continually transformed into the likeness of Christ.

The real purpose of life is not to be "entertained," but to walk with the Lord and serve Him and serve others.

In my quiet time, I found this profound and alluring piece of scripture that I don't remember reading before.  It really spoke to me about finding the narrow road to life.  

In it, it refers to a narrow road that is called "The Holy Way".  I invite you to read it slowly and take it in:

A road will be there and a way;
It will be called the Holy Way.
The unclean will not travel on it,
but it will be for the one who walks the path.

Fools will not wander upon it.
There will be no lion there,
and no vicious beast will go up on it;
they will not be found there.

But the redeemed will walk on it,
and the redeemed of the Lord will return
and come to Zion with singing,
crowned with unending joy.

Joy and gladness will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee.

(Isaiah 35: 8-10)

Dear Heavenly Father, enable me to find the small gate and the narrow road that leads to life.  I know only a few will find it.  Help me to not be lured by self focus and idolatry and all the other shiny things the world has to offer.  When my spiritual tank is empty, let me come and drink from your springs of life.  Let me have a thirst for your Holy Word.  What a glorious road it will be into Zion.  No sin, no beasts will walk upon it.  Fools will be turned away and only the redeemed made righteous in Christ's blood will find it.  What joy and gladness will overtake me and my tears will be wiped away forever.  Thank you...in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  How does the world lure you away from "The Holy Way"?  How is God calling you to redirect/change your ways in order to find the narrow road to life? How does this scripture speak to you, personally?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you have enjoyed what you've read, here, today, might you consider subscribing to my blog.  You will receive my weekly blog (and nothing else!).  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above and enter your contact information.  THEN BE SURE to check your inbox for an email that will contain a confirmation link that you HAVE TO CLICK.  This is to insure your subscription and confirm you aren't a bot.  Thanks for reading!!