Where Did This Year Go?

Just Where Did This Year Go?

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The cliché that “time goes fast when you are having fun” does not apply, not really, not this year. There has been fun, blessings, one after another, but the challenges have been big and hard and the time has still flown by. And yes, I am getting older so that happens.

Things I am grateful for, things I give thanks for:

Jesus – always the same…Hebrews 3:8

                “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and forever.”

Family – my parents, my husband, my children and grandchildren, by biology and by marriage, the loves of my life, the joys of my heart

Church – the community I serve Jesus with, not perfect, just forgiven sinners, of which I am one

Work – my employer and co-workers – through whom God provides for my financial needs

There’s this running list of gifts, things I am thankful for, that I have been keeping since reading Ann Voscamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts.” I highly recommend it. This book changed my life.

 This morning, I was at 9,839. For example, one of my entries is “finding my lost glove” while another is “the multitudes of birds, gathering, swooping, creating pictures in the skies.” Every single entry, a grace from God, a gift. I could write “breath after breath,” because I am not promised an unlimited number of those.

I consider my initial list the BIG ones. Jesus, family, church, work, to list a few. But really, we have no idea what an impact there might be from seemingly small, insignificant “things.” The parking place that shows up at the perfect time, the text when you were feeling down, the unbelievably gorgeous sunset. To look for things to thank God for should really not take very long. He is everywhere, showing His love and care.

Now for the hard stuff. How can I be thankful for things that feel like a kick in my gut and every time I think of them, fear initiates a release of adrenalin that I can’t outrun?   Again I go back to Ann’s book and her teaching about eurcharisteo…

“This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo.

“Why? Why is remembering and giving thanks the core of the Christ-faith? Because remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust – to really believe.” Ann Voscamp, One Thousand Gifts

As I go back through my list, as I sometimes do, I see how the tough stuff yielded great things. For my good, for His glory. Remembering and giving thanks builds trust, builds faith. And this mountain that is in front of me right now, will one day be behind me. God will have moved it because that is what he does when we use but a little of that Christ-faith.

“…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move: and nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus, Matthew 17:20

So here we have it, nothing happens without faith, and faith grows with the thankful remembering. I don’t want to be thankful for hard things, for things that cause me anxiety. But I have to realize that without the thanksgiving, the prayer won’t contain all the elements that bring the peace.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I am not going to understand it, and that’s okay because peace doesn’t need to be understood, it just needs to be felt. And the racing heart, and the twitching and tremors calm, and I’ve actually thanked God for something I never dreamed I would have to face in my lifetime. I can see how my big stuff is small stuff for the God of the Universe. He can do anything. His throne in the heavens will never be moved by anything that can happen here. And I am His. This peace is like a soldier that stands guard at the doors of my heart and mind, to protect them, to keep them safe from any harm that might come knocking.

And this mountain, all of our mountains, can be reasons for thanksgiving. And really, if there isn’t one in our lives right now, are we clinging to Jesus, abiding in Him and growing our faith? It almost makes me want to pray, “Lord, show me another mountain!” But I’m not brave enough for that, not yet.

Yes, this year has flown, because on this side of heaven our days come and go and we are powerless to slow anything down. Time is too short to worry and fret about things we have no control over. It is too short to live thankless and hopeless. Give this a try: the next mountain you face, say to yourself:

“I am going to give thanks to God for this and be open to how He will use it to grow my faith.”

If you are like me, every, single, day – you will have to remember this commitment. Because, every day, that affirmation will be tried. Fears will come, new facts may surface that threaten your peace. You will have to hold fast to the promises in the Bible. God will honor them. If there is anything I know for sure, He will be faithful. You can most certainly give thanks for that.

 

 

 

Upside Down

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Upside Down

Things really aren’t as they seem. Not for those who see through the lens of faith. What looks hopeless to some may be the most hopeful thing ever to someone else. If we could only flip the view. But we’re going to need a lot of faith to do it.

Faith is everywhere, every day. Each time you sit down in a chair, expecting it to hold you, you exercise faith. That exercise usually works out for most of us, but for the tough stuff that tries our grit, we need Jesus. We need His vision that sees that the weak can be strong, the poor can be rich and the last will be first. What the world calls empty, can be really quite full, and the not enough becomes abundance.

In Acts 17, Luke tells about three locations where Paul preaches the gospel, in verses 5-7, envy caused those who refused to believe to do an evil deed. They brought a man named Jason to the rulers of the city and said:

“These that have turned the world upside down are come here also.”

That was his great offence. Paul and his guys taught that there was another king, “one Jesus.” Jason was a friend of Jesus and Paul as well and knew that the view from that position was the right one. Now this guy I’m looking forward to meeting in heaven. He stuck His neck out for the cause of Christ and it cost him. He took the trouble and turned to see the world upside down.

May I suggest you and I try to do this today? Where there is a weakness that we know we have, can we just pray for His strength to come into that? How many, “I can’ts” can we turn into:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

And if we are having a bit of financial difficulty, can we say:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

And if we are experiencing the sting of rejection, can we just say together:

“But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him (her) who is godly; the LORD will hear when I call unto Him.” (Psalm 4:3)

It is upside down from the world’s view, but that’s okay. Because this world is really not our home. We are only passing through it to fulfill the will of God, who created us, in His image, and according to His good pleasure. (See Ephesians 1) When we can’t seem to see the point, remember, Jesus is the point. Anything at all that causes us to draw closer to Him is a blessing. There are no pointless struggles, when they point us to Him.

(Photo by Melanie Lamb)

 

The Power of Love

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The Power of Love

It’s a Monday morning after a stress full weekend, after a stress full week. And so it starts again… but… before he goes out the door, I say, “I love you” he returns, “I love you.” And something happens. It’s like an energy that is unexplainable comes into me and I write my list of gifts faster, they jump into my mind with fervor and the half-blank page I am staring at starts to fill. Why is that?

I think we all know that love can hurt. You may love someone and you are hurting right now because they are hurting in some way and you care. Why would God give us such a beautiful thing that we often struggle with? And today I don’t really have an answer, but I have an energy that does feel better. I feel better because the affirmation of “I love you” caused it.

There is power in love because God is love. It’s the truth. I know it because even if I don’t feel it all the time; the Bible says it in 1 John 4: 16:

“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love; and he that abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.” NKJV

Abiding in Him and experiencing His love does not mean that we live a life void of suffering. In fact, because of His love and the tiniest, minute amount of what we can produce as His followers, we will suffer. Because love causes us to care. And if we care, we hurt when others hurt. We stress about things we really have no control over and we reach for comfort; sometimes in all the wrong places.

I have to remember Jesus. How His great love for us, caused Him to care so much for us that He suffered. All He ever did His whole life on this earth was love. And it led Him to suffering. So much more suffering than I can even imagine. Yet there was a joy that He possessed that gave Him the strength He needed to sustain that love and the task of it. The Cross of it.

The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) And since God is love, the joy of Him is our strength. The Bible says that because of that joy, Jesus endured. (Hebrews 12:2) Love and joy. They have to go together or we won’t be able to sustain love through the struggle, through the suffering.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

When the fruit of Spirit is taught in Galatians 5:22-23, love and joy are listed first. This is important to notice because each fruit grows upon the one before it in importance. We can’t even begin to have joy until we know the love of God. This love, when abided in, brings joy, and joy brings peace. When our own hearts are at peace, we can show patience to others. We can then be examples of the kindness and goodness of God. This causes our faith to grow in a spirit of meekness and gives us self-control that we never knew we had.

I don’t even think I was reaching for all this truth this morning. I just said what I knew. To someone I knew it to be true to. And God did the rest. Say what you know today. It may take a little energy, it may cause you to set some things aside so that it can happen, but it will give you more back that you’ve invested. Because there is power in love.

Rainbows and Covenants

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I am privileged to have permission to share this wisdom with my dear readers today. This came in an email from my daughter-in-love, Emily Bonnette Hendershot, sharing what God gave her heart through her daughter and my granddaughter, Lilly.

Lilly, age 3, lives and breathes the sweet air of Christ. She loves Him with the pure heart of a child and comes up with the most profound statements sometimes. Without knowing it at all, she is teaching us about the love and care of our Heavenly Father. Enjoy and learn from the heart of a child and her listening momma.

 

“Lilly has been scared of storm clouds and thunder the last several months.

 

If there is a single cloud in the sky, she warns Mark and I that it could rain, and it could get windy, and it could get loud.

 

She is cautious. She tells Mark and I that we need to be careful going out in the storm. She also reminds me that my hair might get messed up in the wind and that I should probably fix it if it does. If you know me a bit, taking time with my hair and outward beauty stuff isn’t much in me, and I’m seeing as she gets older that she is going to keep all that in line 😉

 

She’s in tune with the sound of thunder and the thought that the thunder may result in something unknown. 

 

She clinches on tight, gripping for peace. For comfort. My voice doesn’t always assure her, like it used to just last year. Words that assure God sends the rain and wind to wash up, take a bath, and help the flowers grow. She now knows I do not control the rain or the storm or how bright and loud the lightning and thunder may be. She also asks why we water the flowers in the pots if God sends the rain for that. But, why mom? You can feel her beating heart and sense her anxious worry.

 

I feel that way, too, sometimes. Just with the clouds and the storms in life that we all face. The results of what may be coming, the unknown. The questions. I tend to wear my emotions and show them in my body. As if that will bring some sort of comfort/peace… my muscles feel it, forming knots and unwanted tension. I know my husband and my little ones sense that in me, too. I’m praying on this. 

 

Vacation bible school finished up about a two months ago now. We discovered through camping with “moose on the loose” that God’s forgiveness is forever! It was just a beautiful week, all around.  Ones full of some loud thunder booms too.

 

On the saturday after VBS, Lilly helped me clean up and put the Sunday school room back in order after we had gone camping all week. Storm clouds were rolling in, and just the mom in me was expecting her to cling on tight and grip for peace.

 

But, she didn’t. All the back and forth from the church to the van, and back again. She never clinched on.

 

She actually ran out to the edge of the parking, where the grass meets a beautiful rolling field. She danced her goofy, “hey, mom, watch this” interpretive type dance moves. I was really, really surprised because the clouds were pretty heavy. 

 

And then she said, “hey mom, God forgives the storm clouds because He always sends a rainbow later”.

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Wow. That stopped me. She danced on. Fearless of the clouds.

 

I don’t know if any of you saw it, but a small tv station in Georgia shared a video a few weeks ago of some horses grazing in a field. Nothing unusual about that, but then in the background, a large funnel cloud formed and the horses kept grazing. They were not clinching, running, or consumed by fear. They were simply nourishing their body of the harvest in front of them.They were comfortable in the uncomfortable. One of my friends shared it and responded that she hopes to be like those horses in the storms of life, unwavering and assured of God’s eternal covenant. 

 

A covenant is a seal. When man makes an oath or agreement with another man, it’s wise to seal it. This makes the agreement more sincere. It also makes the promises with in the agreement more sure. That’s vital in any relationship. 

 

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath” Hebrews 6:17

 

What is better than a clear relationship? I can’t really think of anything. 

 

A clear relationship stands firm and is confirmed, meaning it doesn’t change. It doesn’t change because it’s end matter is made known. It’s destination is made known. It provides hope and doesn’t instill fear. It’s forgiving and blameless.

 

 

What is the result of your unknowns? Do you have a clear relationship with your eternity? In the unknown of here and now on earth, where is your destination and hope? Do you believe in the promise of His covenant, the one He promised by the appearing of a rainbow and then sealed by the shed blood of Christ? 

 

He assures you. He knows, he chooses you, he purposed you, and wants you for eternity with Him in heaven, just as you are right now. 

 

 

Ephesians 1: 1-14

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment-to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

In him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession to the praise of his glory.”

From Vickie: Let me just assure you, God’s promises never fail. He chose you before He made this world and placed your soul into the “glove” you inhabit while you are here in this place in time. He knows all about you and loves you unconditionally. I know, amazing isn’t it? Let’s dance in the fields with the storm clouds of life trying to threaten our parade. Let’s sing in the rain and stand firm in our battles because we know that His covenant is sure and our destinations settled. If you enjoyed Emily’s post, please comment and I will share them with her.

Get Closer to the Router

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I bought a Versa watch. For those who don’t know what that is, it is a “smart watch.” It keeps track of me, or where this body goes and what it does. It is a testimony to what I love. I love being active. I love my family. My watch face is a picture of my granddaughter, and it’s cool because I can switch it out to give equal time to all my grandkids.

This watch will tell me what my heart rate is, how many steps I’ve taken today, how active I’ve been and, oh yes, the date and time of day. I’ll know when I have a text and can even read it on the watch face! Is that amazing, or what?! I’m still learning about it, but that is not what this post is really about.

It’s about getting closer to the router. You see, when I was going through the “set-up” process for my new “smart” watch, I had troubles. Which is par for the course for me doing anything “techy.” It kept giving me that notice “connection failed” and the little opportunity bar “try again.” So I did. And again. Time for the trouble shooting “help” bar.

“Try getting closer to the router” it said. Okay. So I went to another desk in my home where the router is located and got things done there. I know the tiniest amount about routers and wi-fi, but I learned something new that helped. And it stands to reason that if you need the power of something, you get closer to it.

When I feel like a failure, is it because I am not as close to the Source of my strength as I ought to be? It certainly humbles me to realize that I am small, and weak and lacking. Yet I take heart in this because of what Jesus says in that great sermon.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3.

Somehow, because of God’s upside down economy, when I am at my lowest, I am at the best place to receive something amazing. The kingdom!

I have learned that until I get to the end of what I can do on my own, I will never have the best God has for me. I can compare myself to this device that is absolutely useless until it is connected to the source that will power its functions. Sisters, we are absolutely powerless until we get connected to the God who created us and wants to set us free from all the chains that keep us from an abundant life.

God wants the best for us! He wants to see us smiling, He loves to hear our laughter and He rejoices when we share what He has done for us with others. Think of how your children’s or grandchildren’s laughter is your favorite sound. God delights in us this way.

I am currently very excited about a tool that I believe is very beneficial in training the women of God to be set free from the many issues that keep them from enjoying their best lives. I have always believed in the power of physical fitness because the Word teaches us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, (Romans 12:1), I believe this means that we should strive to be our best selves, so we can do our best in serving Him while we are alive on this planet.

One ministry I have taken note of that is spreading this message is Revelation Wellness, founded by Alisa Keaton. My daughter-in-law, Emily Bonnette Hendershot, is a Certified Revelation Wellness Instructor. Each workout focuses on a word and Scripture. This Truth is reinforced throughout the session and by the time you are finished, you feel like you’ve gone to church and the gym all at once! There is a special “challenge” that starts September 10th, which must be registered for by September 7th. It is entitled “Heir to the Crown” and concerns learning and practicing what God intended His daughters to know about themselves. His plans for them. There will also be tons of health and wellness tips along the way. Free access to RevWell TV and more. Please go to this address: https://www.revelationwellness.org/challenges/heir-challenge  and check it out. Let’s get closer to the Source of our strength together. 

Just as my new watch reminds me, it’s  time to get moving. Let’s get to know the heart of God better, together. It’s the “smart” thing to do. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

What Are You Hungry For?

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What are You Hungry For?

I spent some time with a pregnant daughter the other evening and she was hungry and thirsty for “something” that she just couldn’t satisfy. She tried to make a hot chocolate that would satisfy, but “that wasn’t it.” She tried some yogurt, we fried up a pan of bacon. Still not “it.”

 There are new demands on my daughter’s body as this baby grows and develops, and the messages are being sent so that momma would desire what she and baby need right now. And this is happening. She is wanting red meat, which prior to this pregnancy, was a craving she would never have expected.

 I love how our physical body gives us examples to ponder in relation to our spiritual needs. As a Christian, our spirits need, and should crave, the Word of God. There can be nothing else that can satisfy the longing in our souls which should be hungry and thirsty for more of God.

 Jesus teaches in that great Sermon, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

 David, in that great Psalm 119, exalts the Word of God, with stanza after stanza, verse after verse, exclaiming the power and faithfulness of the Scriptures.

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Psalm 119:130

“Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” Psalm 119:140

“Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.” Psalm 119:114

 In the book of John, we see how Jesus is the Word that came in flesh to show us the way back to a personal relationship with His Father, the only true God that made us. And tells us He was there when everything in the entire creation came to be by His great creative power.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1

“All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.”   John 1:3

 Do you see how the Word gives us what we need when we feel hungry and thirsty in our souls? When the way is dark and we can’t find our way out. When we just can’t understand what our priorities should be. When we need a place to feel safe, protected, hopeful.

 We will find our answers in His Word. By the examples of others that came before us. This is not a book that shares only the perfect parts of people. In fact, it exposes all the ugly while pointing to the beautiful plan of redemption for those who put their faith in the God that redeems and turns all things around for His glory and our good. (Romans 8:28) By the parables that cause us to ponder how the earthly stories of Jesus have a heavenly meaning that can lead, guide and direct us on this side of Heaven. By the probabilities in the Proverbs. The wisdom that can only come from a good God that loves us.

 You won’t be able to satisfy your soul with physical, fleshly comforts. In fact, when we try to fill that soul-need up with more food, more exercise, more material possessions, (you fill in your own obsession), it will refuse to be satisfied and will only want more and more and bring you down. I know, I’ve done it and do it and have to repent again and again. I have to ask myself, “Why? What are you really hungry for?” And the answers is always, “More of you, God, more of You.”

I open my Bible and I find what I really need. I need the multifaceted character of God’s Word. I need the teaching, the directing, the testimony of God about Himself. I need the instructions or assignments He has for me, the permanent and unchangeable regulations that apply to a small girl who tries to walk in a way that pleases Him. I need His judgements, His decisions about my behavior and not someone else’s. I need His revelations about my future, His promises to me about His presence and purpose for me. And His plan to take me to my real home, Heaven.

 God’s Word gives me hope and help, peace and protection, strength and salvation. It fills me again and again because just as this physical body needs to take breath after breath, requires calorie after calorie, drink after drink, my spirit needs renewed, day by day, moment by moment.

 Dear friend, ask yourself what you are really hungry and thirsty for today. And go to the well of His Word, get filled up, share it with others and come back for more. I promise you, it will never run dry.

 

 

 

The Land of the Living

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The Land of the Living

If you are reading this today, this is where we are. Another day in the land of the living. Another cup of coffee, another reaching for the Word and journal. Another day with the chime of a text, or a workout, or a shower. Maybe…

 diapers to change,

breakfast to make for your people,

taking your kids to school,

appointments to attend,

your job to show up to,

or whatever,

because there’s just another day to get through.

“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the LORD.” Psalm 27:13-14

My Study Bible has a footnote that the command to wait should be translated to “wait in faith.” We can either faint… or exercise faith. Faint… or faith? The choice is ours. As long as we are in the land of the living we must have faith. And this faith is certainly not in ourselves. If we put faith in ourselves alone, we will have to be scraped off the floor.

What if we thought that another day in the land of the living was another day full of opportunities to make our lives an example of what a truly abundant life looks like. Why is it that sometimes we have to experience the threat of not being here, in the land of living, before we truly appreciate life? That we look at those things that are mundane and “for someone else” as something we just “have” to do, instead of things we are privileged to do.

I’ve lost some of my people this past week; two godly ladies from my church passed over to Heaven. A little child was hit by a car in front of the restaurant I visited over the weekend. His cries in his mother’s arms were a testimony that he was still in the land of the living. But just think of how close, how quickly he could have passed over. I lost a brother, and a friend that I shared my growing up years with, way too soon. We all have such losses.

Yet we have such promises that death does not have the final say: read them – out loud, hear the hope!

“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” Isaiah 25:8

“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:54

“O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

Have you read the end of the story concerning death? Revelation 20:14 says “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire…”

Jesus tells us, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)  Comfort, along with all the other blessings showered into our lives, only comes in the land of the living. In the brave hearts that trust God to give good things because that is what He is and what He does. We mourn and we can mourn and cry out and lament to Him because this is what we do. And He exchanges it all for comfort. Because that is what He gives.

I realize this is heavy, hard stuff and I won’t pretend to have the answers, but the Lord is teaching me that while I am in the land of the living I have to live this life with my faith in Jesus Christ. And I have to wait for Him in faith, so I don’t faint under the burdens of knowing that there are sorrows to face, battles to fight, pains to endure, and people that I may find hard to love and serve placed in my path. That I have to look for the goodness of God in all of it. I face none of it alone and what I receive from living in obedience is always way above and beyond what effort I put into it. If there were a scale of the hardships I think I face and the goodness of God through it all, it would be so tipped in God’s favor.

I would just have to say “Thank you Lord, for giving me another day in the land of the living.”