Sunday, November 29, 2020

When There Are Cracks in Your Soul & "Take Heart" GIVEAWAY

Hey Friend,

I'm still clicking away at the keys during publishing "bootcamp."  I am bringing this popular post out of the Archives - it was written in Nov. 2018.  Some things have changed, but others remain the same.  May you find some hope in these words...

I don't know about you, but the holidays, for me, are often bittersweet.  Our Christmas season doesn't resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and I find myself becoming envious of those who seem to have those perfect family holiday Facebook posts and Christmas cards.

Thanksgiving was filled with tears for more reasons than one. Surgery, family illness, unforgiveness, adult child issues, life struggles, then add in missing those who have passed, and a new "normal" has been thrust upon me that I'm not willing to embrace.  I realize I have cracks in my soul that need filling.

But, as I make this pilgrimage toward the birth of Jesus in a manger, I am drawn to the Psalms of Ascent.  These are Psalms, or songs, that the Israelites sang as they made their way back to Jerusalem for the various feasts and celebrations. 

I as read the Psalms, I was drawn to the verbs or actions of those making their way home:

1.  "Call"      Out of the depths I call [to the Lord]... Psalm 130
2.  "Wait"     I wait for the Lord, I wait...Psalm 130
3.  "Bless"    Lift up your holy hands in the holy place and bless the Lord...
                   Psalm 134  
4.  "Trust"    Those who trust the Lord are like Mt. Zion...Psalm 125
5.  "Fear"     Happy are those who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways...
     "Walk"    Psalm 128.

6.  "Rejoice"  I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let's go to the house of the                        Lord." Psalm 122
7.  "Pray"     Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem... Psalm 122

And perhaps my favorite:

8.  "Lift"       I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come
                   from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and
                   earth.  (Psalm 121:1-2)

My "help" does not come from better health, restored relationships, lack of struggles and trials, no, it comes from the Lord.  Through it all, I cling to the fact that God is good.  He is faithful, and His grace is sufficient in all circumstances.  He will never leave nor forsake me.  

So instead of looking around me to my circumstances, I lift my eyes to the mountains and I call, I wait, I bless, I trust, I fear the Lord, I walk, I rejoice, and I pray.  

God is gracious and He will fill in the cracks if we simply call upon His name and ask.

God not only fills the hole in our heart, He fills the cracks in our soul.

I think sometimes I get a little greedy and I want it all (all good and no bad).  The rain, however, falls upon the just as well as the unjust.  I need to realize that God has already given me every good thing. I need a renewed perspective.

He has given me Himself and He has given me the gift of salvation and Sonship through the sacrifice of Christ, my brother.  He's also given me the gift of a holy guide and counselor.  I have it all...everything else is just the cherry on top. 

God can take the broken pieces of my life, fill in the cracks with His love and grace, and build a beautiful mosaic of my life that points directly to Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me please to adopt a more eternal perspective as I view life.  Let my joy be in my salvation and in my relationship with You.  Give me the strength to count my blessings with gratitude instead of counting my sorrows.  I give thanks for this Advent season as I wait, with expectant anticipation, to celebrate the good, good gift of Your Son.  Thank you for filling, with love, the hole in my heart and the cracks in my soul.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

IT'S GIVEAWAY TIME!!  Could you, or someone on your Christmas list benefit from the newly released devotional:  Take Heart - 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay??  I'm giving away a copy of the devotional (I'm a contribuing writer) and the companion prayer journal in a TAKE HEART CHRISTMAS DRAWING.  Retail Value:  $32.98

To be entered to win, all you have to do is SUBSCRIBE to my blog (and nothing else) or leave a COMMENT saying "Enter Me!"  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your information, and then be sure to look for a CONFIRMATION LINK that will come in an email to your inbox.  Click on the link to complete your subscription.  You can cancel at any time and I never share my contacts.  Drawing to be held Saturday Dec. 19th - just in time for Christmas.  Share this post and invite friends to enter!  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Heaven's Looking Better and Better with Each Passing Day

Hey Friend,

I don't know about you, but Heaven is looking better and better with each passing day.  I dug this pre-COVID post out of the archives as it seems increasingly relevant as I look at the world around us. Maybe you've had some heavenly homesickness as well?  So what can we expect?  I did some digging among scriptures and theologians to get a better grasp, and here's what I found...

I think I had a vision of heaven that many of us, unknowingly, share.  I envisioned that I would be some sort of ethereal, angelic type being with no real human-like features.  I'd be sitting among the clouds, and I would be strumming a harp and singing praises.  Yes, I would be with Jesus and with God which has huge appeal, but beside that, honestly....heaven sounded kind of boring. 

Actually, the final destination of believers is not an ethereal place somewhere out in space.  Our final destination is the renewed heavens and earth that Revelation 21 speaks of.  Heaven will be a very physical and concrete place.  The Bible has over 600 verses that speak to what heaven will be like, but we, too often, get our ideas from movies, literature, and television.

Revelation 21 talks about how heaven and earth will not be brand new, but instead will be this creation renewed.  We forget that when God made heaven and earth, He pronounced it good.  Earth was not just good, it was perfect.  That was, of course, until sin came in and messed it up.  

The type of "newness" that the Bible speaks of in the Greek translation is kainos which means a "newness in quality" - something that is, is made better or different.  It's quality has changed.  

God will renew, transform, improve, and refresh His creation.  It will be a kainos heaven and earth.  

Actually this makes sense to me, because I have seen some things that I have had to believe were glimpses of heaven.  I've seen views from mountain peaks that have taken my breath away.  I've had the unconditional loving licks from my dogs.  I've smelled the newborn heads of my children.  I've seen animals, birds, fish, and flowers - large and small - that just ooze of the creative nature of God.  I've seen colors that have dazzled my eyes, heard music and seen dance and art that have made my heart leap with emotion. I've felt kindness in someone's smile, and love in an embrace.   

I believe that all things good in this world will continue to exist in the next, but they will be transformed and improved in the renewed creation.  It will be THIS creation, renewed. 

So...what can we expect in Heaven?  There will be:

*  Physical bodies (Yes, I'll finally be a "10")
*  Emotions and relationships (joy, happiness, peace, love, but no drama!)
*  Nature with daily cycles of day and night and weather
*  Animals (including pets)
*  Work (Gen. 2:15)
*  Learning (1 Corinthians 13:12)
*  Science
*  Arts (Rev. 14:2-3)
*  Entertainment and Activities

"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."  (John 6-39)

So to answer my son's question, from when he was ten, "Will there be ice hockey in heaven?"  I think I would now have to definitely say, "Yes!"

What will not be present:  no evil, no curses, no brokenness (emotional or physical), no more sin, no sickness, no death, no more suffering or sadness, no war, no famine, and no temples.  This last one made me pause for a moment, but in heaven we will be in God's presence continually so there will not be a need for a separate house of God.  

The closeness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit 24/7...Wow!  Most glorious will be that heaven will be a place where Jesus (the very definition of "love") will be present and we will bask in His love.  

So what does heaven mean to me now?  It gives meaning to this life - as in it is a preparation for the life to come. God is about building our character for our eternal life to come.  Therefore, hard times now, will reap future rewards.  It reminds me that in those very hard times, there is more to life than this world.  If we persevere and finish the race, we will receive a glorious crown one day!

It gives me hope for my future destination and strength for life in the present.  It gives me something perfect to hope for when this life is far less than perfect.  

It reminds me that this world, and its present troubles are but a blink of the eye in God's timing.  Heaven (perfection) will be eternal.  There will be no sorrow, or regrets, or guilt.  Rather, love, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, and other emotions that will be felt with new heights and depths.  Relationships will be all we can imagine and more. 

Heaven, however, is more than just a hope for the future, it is the very heart of God's plan for creation from the very beginning.  It is also at the very center of the human heart. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for the plan for creation that you have had since the very beginning.  Thank you that your desire is not to leave us in this sin-filled world.  I bless you for the hope and even the homesickness that lives in my heart and yearns for eternity with you.  Your creation is not evil and we look forward to when you will renew, transform, improve, and refresh what sin has tainted.  What you began in Eden you will fulfill in Revelation.  Oh, what a glorious place heaven and earth will be and how awesome it will be to kneel before you in your presence.  Thank you for this hope that keeps us/me going.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about heaven?  Do you have any heavenly homesickness? What do you most look forward to in heaven?  How does the knowledge of heaven get you through today?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you enjoyed what you've read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to receive my weekly blog posts (and nothing else)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and then, in order to confirm your subscription LOOK FOR A CONFIRMATION LINK THAT WILL COME IN A SEPARATE EMAIL IN YOUR INBOX...CLICK ON IT TO CONFIRM.  It's simple...Also, I'd love it if you would share this post on social media.  Thanks for reading...

Monday, November 16, 2020

Keep Sending Out and Receiving Messages of Hope

Hey Friend,

My husband and I were watching some special t.v. programs on Veterans Day.  One, in particular, told the story of veterans of the Vietnam War.  It detailed their journey of being detained as prisoners of war in one of the worst POW camps imaginiable - The Hanoi Hilton in North Vietnam.  In this camp, known for its inhumane conditions and its horrific torture, prisoners were kept isolated from each other and were beaten and tortured regularly.  It was enough to demoralize even the hardiest soul.

One prisoner, a US pilot, wanted to keep the hopes of his fellow prisoners alive and to encourage them to persevere.  He began by using his tin-metal drinking cup to tap out messages of hope to his colleagues that he never got to see.  When guards were not patrolling, he softly tapped Morse Code messages on his decaying cement block walls.  G-O-D  B-L-E-S-S  Y-O-U was just one of the messages he sent.  Other inmates, farther down the cell block, would continue tapping out the message until all the prisoners heard.  

Among the other messages the pilot regularly sent were: "Rescue Will Come," and "Hang On."  Eventually, he was able to smuggle messages out of the prison using spy tradecraft. When he received messages back, he would tap out more messages of hope to the then weakened, beaten down, and emaciated soldiers...  H-E-L-P  C-O-M-I-N-G, K-N-O-W  O-U-R  L-O-C-A-T-I-O-N.  The code miraculously met its intended purpose.  It kept the men hanging on until finally most of them were rescued at the end of the war. A simple hopeful message can mean the difference between life and death.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  (1 Peter 5:10)

During these turbulent and uncertain times, we can feel like prisoners in our own homes.  The four walls begin to close in and though we're not being tortured, as days drag on, even the sturdiest of us begins to lose hope that one day things will be better and some sense of normalcy will return. Many are suffering from depression due to isolation and loneliness. Though weeping endures for the night, joy WILL come in the morning.  We need to get to the morning!

I encourage you to think about people to whom you can send out messages of hope.  Here are a few practical ideas to consider:

*  Call friends and family more often - particularly those in nursing homes or those living alone.

*  Send a humorous or uplifting text to several people you know at random times and let them know you're thinking of them.

*  Sit down and write a good old-fashioned "snail-mail" letter or note.  

*  Drop off an unexpected small gift of homemade treats or a potted plant to someone who is struggling.  

*  Pick a day of the week and make it a habit to email 2-3 different people each week.  If contacting older people, ask them to share a favorite childhood memory.  Revive the art of story telling.  When there's not a lot of new news to share, everyone loves telling a favorite old story.

As you continue to send out messages of hope, be sure to take in or receive messages of hope. We can't pour out if we're not being poured into. 

*  Make Bible reading and quiet time a non-negotiable priority each day.  Get up early if necessary.

*  Put on praise music at home or make your SUV a sanctuary in which you sing songs to the Lord as you run errands.

*  Take a devotional with you when you go to medical appointments.

*  Post a different scripture each week, where you'll see it often, and challenge yourself to memorize one new scripture each week. Do the challenge with a friend and share your memory verse for the week. Mine are posted by the coffee pot lol. 

*  Start a gratitude journal in which you write down 3-5 things you're grateful for each day - simple works well! 

Remember that God is not flummoxed or frustrated by what's going on.  Nothing can thwart God's sovereign purpose.  Ask Him what He would have you learn in this "wilderness season."  Look around for blessings you've experienced that will help you "flip the script" on 2020.  It's all there and is ours for the asking.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the messages you send me each and every day - for the way that you answer prayers before they've even left my lips.  I praise you that your will is sovereign.  Enable me to pray that your will, not mine be done.  Help me to be bold in sending out messages of hope to those who need to hear...not just hope for today, but for eternity.  Let me make spending time with you a priority and let me seek to know what you would have me learn from these days.  Grant me your peace, strength, and mercy.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Who do you feel God calling you to send out a message of hope to today?  What blessings are you thankful for in 2020?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you enjoyed what you read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog posts (and nothing else)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and then be SURE TO LOOK FOR AN EMAIL THAT CONTAINS THE CONFIRMATION LINK YOU MUST CLICK ON in order to complete your subscription.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

How to be More Inspired by Christ's Birth - Guest Post & Giveaway

Hey Friend,

When I flip the calendar to December, one of my very favorite things is calming my spirit by reading an Advent devotional or doing an Advent Bible study as I prepare my heart for the coming of my Savior.  While I'm still "bootcamping" it, I'm excited to have my good friend and writer, Beth Steffaniak, sharing here today. Will you welcome her, with me, and leave her some lovin' in the Comments?

Beth is a pastor’s wife, empty-nester mom and grandma—“Bebe.” She fills up her days with blogging at as well as authoring, life-coaching, and speaking at workshops. She would love for you to connect with her on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and also hopes you’ll take advantage of the resource library on her blog that offers over 40 free resources to subscribers.

How to be More Inspired by Christ's Birth~

We all could use a little more inspiration in 2020! Wouldn’t you agree?


But even more important than overcoming pandemic fatigue is our need to connect more deeply with Jesus, especially during the season of Advent. It certainly could help usher in a more Christ-honoring 2021, not to mention preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s birth and birthday.




So, allow me to share with you one resource and idea for preparing your heart for Christmas and the Christmas season. I truly believe that if you put into practice what I’m about to share, you’ll find that your life and relationships will grow stronger and more encouraged as well. You’ll be able to weather seasons of challenge, like what we’ve endured during 2020, better. And it just might inspire you to live more for Christ all year round.


Many years ago, I discovered the powerful impact that studying God’s word had on my marriage and life. Back then, the messes in my marriage were what inspired me to name my blog “Messy Marriage.” Thankfully, my times in God’s word began to correct my distorted motives and draw my heart closer to God, eventually lessening my marriage messes.


Those precious times in God’s word continually transform me into a different person—a better spouse and more devoted Christ-follower.


At some point, the Lord inspired me to develop a Bible method based on the word WORTHY, with each letter representing a particular prompt. This method will remind you to welcome the Lord into your study. And it will also hone your ability to glean truths from the passage, form an application, pray your application, as well as live it out throughout your day.


WORTHY stands for . . .


W – Welcome the Lord.


O – Observe what Scripture says.


R – Recognize what is noteworthy and true.


T – Thought to take.


H – Help from the Lord.


Y – Yield to the Lord.


About five years ago, I began to share my WORTHY Bible studies with others in private Facebook groups, where I found even more inspiration and encouragement from those who studied along with me. One of the studies I wrote and shared there was based on the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 2:1-40. Now, you can find that Bible study—Messiah in a Manger—on Amazon, and better yet, buy it while it’s on sale until 12/6/20! The paperback was $6.99 and is now $3.99, with the Kindle on sale for .99 cents—down from $2.99.


Perhaps you’re afraid to dive into a study during the busy Christmas season. If so, this just might be the perfect study for you! That’s because it’s very brief—only ten days-worth of notes/chapters that you can read in about five or six minutes each day. Even though the readings are short, they are also packed with my research and personal insights, giving you the context and depth to understand the text more completely.


If you’ve got the time and motivation, you could also study the passage on your own each day. Then come back to read my notes to compare our combined insights. You might find some truths and perspectives that I didn’t and vice versa.


But if you’re like me and you love hearing other people’s thoughts on the readings, know that you’re invited to join me as I host another Facebook group doing this study very soon. It will kick-off the week of 12/6/20 and finish up on 12/18/20. Click here to request to join and I’ll add you ASAP!


Allow me to share with you one “Thought to Take” from the Messiah in a Manger study . . .


“I’m struck by how many historical details the Lord lined up in order to confirm the prophecies of old regarding the Messiah’s coming. God certainly is the Master Weaver, who orchestrates with great precision every detail—not just since Christ’s coming, but also of every current moment on into eternity. Most likely, Joseph, and many others at this time, could have viewed the requirement to travel for this census as a costly burden and inconvenience. But this passage serves to remind me that God weaves His divine purposes into every circumstance in life—orchestrating them to bring about His best and most redemptive outcomes even in the mundane things we consider problems and/or annoyances. So, I will trust Him with each detail and not grumble or view these inconveniences as unwanted nuisances or frightening threats in my life.”


This entire study will give you an up-close and personal look at all the details God used to weave His story of redemption and love! It will give you a greater sense of wonder for the Father’s plan and will inspire you to love and thank Jesus for coming in such a humble yet profound way, as a Messiah in a manger.

Now for a fun GIVEAWAY!!  SUBSCRIBE to my blog before Nov. 20th and automatically be entered to win a FREE Kindle copy of Messiah in a Manger!!  To SUBSCRIBE, just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above.  Enter your contact information and then BE SURE TO LOOK FOR THE EMAIL THAT CONTAINS THE CONFIRMATION LINK YOU NEED TO CLICK in order to confirm your subscription.  I never share my contacts!!

Be blessed...