Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Children of the Son

"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 the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

This is the verse that is written on the bottom of the painting that graces my kitchen and is shared with you in the header at the top of this page. Titled Children of the Son, it is very special to me, as my 75 year old friend, Mary, an impressionist painter, created it for me. The oil painting is very large, set in an ornate antique gold frame. It is of my five children, walking on the narrow path through a field of sunflowers (my favorite!), making their way to a church, that represents the Lord Jesus.

Mary is truly a remarkable woman of God. The Lord has used the suffering in Mary's life that He has asked her to bear, to create beautiful pieces of art. All of them are given a scripture verse, and are painted in prayer and an awareness of what God would want her to do, to glorify Him best. Mary has walked through many valleys. Her 4 month old son died in a car accident, and then years later, her only remaining child, a daughter, died of cancer. This summer, Mary was widowed. She knows what it is to suffer and struggle, but she shines with the love of the Lord and encourages me daily by praying for me and reminding me of God's truth.

As I mentioned, it represents my five children and their walk with the Lord. As a mom, it reminds me to encourage my children, to walk with the Lord, along the narrow path, trusting Him alone. As a woman, it reminds me also, of the same, during times of prosperity and times of adversity. I think that we sometimes forget, that in fact, it is a narrow road, with a small gate, that we must walk on. In the painting, the road is broad and the gate wide, that leads to where we do not want to go. But the narrow road is the one that we must stay on to experience the fullness of life that we have in Jesus. It is not easy to stay on the narrow road. It is less defined to the naked eye, and we must pray and trust the Lord to reveal each step to us. We know that it is difficult, because if it was easy, many would find it, but God's Word tells us that only a few find it.

To stay on the narrow road requires alot of faith, perseverance, endurance, wisdom and prayer. We must seek the Lord daily, accept the paths that He is asking us to walk in, and then trust Him for the direction and the end point.

As we come in to the New Year, my hope for all of us is that we would persevere in seeking the narrow road, and not give up and walk without hope and purpose on the wide road. I know that Jesus will meet us on the road that He has asked us to walk, no matter how weak or weary we may be.

"You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." Acts 2:28. May you experience joy in the Lord Jesus this New Year, as you walk closely with Him, in all circumstances, even the darkest and most painful.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Treasures of Darkness Yet Unknown

Oh, dear reader, life sometimes really does seem insurmountable, doesn't it? So many details, strong and formidable road blocks at every turn, and the way up looks steep, treacherous, and plain old, impossible. How my heart aches for better days. It is late. I have been up working on paperwork for 2008, and more paperwork for 2009. I am tired, worn out, and feeling as if this life in the valley is too much.

So, I turned to God's Word, before turning in for the night (or the morning.) It is a stream of living, fresh nourishment that I am in great need of, especially at this late hour. And this is what I found in Isaiah 45:2-3:

"I will go before you and will level the mountains, I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."

I will rest, now, remembering that the mountain of uncertainties that lay before me are His to level, and He will break down gates that I feel are too big and strong to get through. Not only that, He has good things for me -- treasures that are stored in only these secret places. Treasures that could not be found any where else. Treasures unknown to me right now, but promised to me by the Lord Himself.

Lastly, this is all for me to truly know that He is the Lord who summons me by name. What an incredible reality for me right now, as I grieve and fear and weep; and now I shall sleep.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Forcing and Flowering

Dear reader, I wrote this some time ago, and was thinking about it today, needing to remember for me, that God is at work and He is growing me. I wanted to share it with you, praying that whomever reads it, will be blessed.

A forced bulb must first spend a period of time in a cold, dark place before it blooms. So, too, God oftentimes calls us into the darkness first before we bloom to our fullest.
When you force a bulb, you take the bulb that you desire to grow, plant it in a shallow dish filled with soil or a bed of rocks, and place it in a cool place, like a cellar or refrigerator. The purpose of the cold dark time is for the root system to develop. The bulb appears to lie dormant in the lonely, isolated environment. After the allotted amount of time, you bring the bulb out.
On the outward appearance, there seems to have been no progress. In fact, it appears as if nothing at all has happened, and perhaps the time has been a waste. No surface growth. No flowers. No evidence of “green.”
However, over days and weeks, growth becomes evident. At first, stubby little shoots force their way out of the bulb, and grow taller and taller, reaching toward the light. Eventually, buds and then blooms appear, accompanied by a lovely, sweet aroma. If the bulb does not spend time in the cold, dark place first, the experts say, it does not grow as intended. The potential is there, but the growth and the bloom is not.
God knows what we heed to grow spiritually, as well.
I believe that God works on developing our spiritual root system of faithfulness, perseverance, steadfastness, trust, dependence, and wisdom. He desires to grow us to be more like the loveliest of flowers. In God’s infinite wisdom, from time to time, He hides us away. He plants us in a fertile soil, which may not look all that fertile on the outside. He takes us, and puts us in a “cold, dark” place of affliction. We may experience loneliness, suffering, depression, rejection, fears, or abandonment.
It is in this place of affliction or despair that God is doing his greatest, silent work.
When He begins to pull us out of this “place,” it appears to us that we have not grown. Like the bulb, we feel dried up, ugly, without any purpose or potential. We are just bulbs, still sitting in the dirty soil, with no outward change. Perhaps we are not even aware of the strong, wide spreading root system that has been developing below us, grounding us and creating a firm base for our eventual, growth.
Slowly, reaching toward the Light, we begin to grow. The fresh green color may catch us by surprise, as day by day, week by week, we begin to get taller and stronger. We begin to bloom and glorify God, just as He had planned for us. The aroma that we emit is fragrant and reflective of His aroma.
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5. (NIV)
In remembering this, we can rest more quietly knowing that, in submitting to God’s plan for our lives, He has something for us, beyond what we would have ever imagined. The small, ugly bulb does not think or know what it will become. It submits itself to the One who plants it, trusting Him for the outcome.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holding on to Hope

When we are walking through trials and difficulties, to trust is challenging, but to hope seems almost too risky.

I sat with a friend today, our feet soaking in a pedicure tub; her gift to me, along with a little statue of a child holding on to a balloon with the word "hope" in it. We talked about the ups and downs of life, catching up on different things. We have some special things in common, one being that we both lived in and love Nashville, Tennessee, and the other that we both have sons' with special needs.

We talked about hope and how hard it is to do so, when life is full of pain and uncertainty. She made a great point: hope is hard, because it means that we have to take a risk. The risk is that if we hope, and it does not work out like we would want, then we have to deal with disappointment. Hope feels costly.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

When I read Jeremiah 29:11, I think of picture frames rimmed with these words, given as graduation gifts, referring to the future of the graduate, as they excitedly look towards their new life.

But actually, the Lord spoke it to His people, the Israelites, when they were in captivity in Babylon, not when all looked hopeful and exciting. This was not a time of great celebration. They were struggling in a foreign land. They were in exile. But God reassured them that He was in control, and that he had good things for them.

And what about us? Our captivity may be an illness, or a grief, or loneliness. Perhaps it is a difficult relationship or situation in which we feel trapped and unable to escape.

It is here that God gives us hope. Not the hope that produces disappointment, but a hope for a deep relationship with Him and for a beautiful future that He has planned out for us, beyond anything that we can imagine. God has plans to prosper us, not to harm us, and plans for a future in the midst of the exile or captivity that we may be experiencing.

Sometimes, I find myself wondering, "Does God really have something good for me?" "Is all this pain and struggle really going to go away?" "Is this really for my good, Lord?" And yet, as I write this, I remember how God has been faithful to me in the past, and even though it is challenging for me to have hope, I am trying to believe that He does have a meaningful future for me. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I do know that as I walk with God, He continues to show Himself trustworthy and true.

As you read the verse, again, insert your name after each "you" -- and let it settle upon your heart, to encourage you and strengthen you as you take each step on the path that He is asking you to walk.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Truth Amidst Tears

It is late now. The last couple of days have been tear stained, and I am exhausted. But, God continues to be faithful and to show me much about myself, Himself and the truth of my circumstances.

Tonite, I want to briefly share with you a paraphrase of Isaiah 61:1-3. It comes from the book Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge. If you are struggling with wounds and brokenness, and lets face it, who of us is not at some level, I highly recommend this book.

Two and a half years ago, I happened across the book at the Christian book store, and began to read it. It coincided with a time in my life when God was gradually beginning to lift the veil that had been shading my heart, and show me many truths. I wrote alot of thoughts in the margin of the book and dated them. As I picked up the book again today, it was very personal and intimate for me to see what I was thinking, where I was and where I am today, by what I had written at that time.

On one of my most marked up pages (page 95) the authors paraphrase verses from Isaiah 61. They were powerful words for me then and are very much for me today. Jesus says to my broken heart,

"God has sent me on a mission.
I have some great news for you.
God has sent me to restore and release something.
And that something is you.
I am here to give you back your heart and set you free.
I am furious at the Enemy who did this to you, and I will fight
against him.
Let me comfort you.
For, dear one, I will bestow beauty upon you
where you have known only devastation.
Joy, in the places of your deep sorrow.
And I will robe your heart in thankful praise
in exchange for your resignation and despair."

And He says that to your broken heart, too. On a day when it feels like I am surrounded by too much loss, and too little gain, I am choosing to remember that God does have joy for me in the places of deep sorrow, that He is fighting for me and giving me back my heart and setting me free.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peace Within - Merry Christmas

On the night that Jesus was born, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel of the Lord, presenting the greatest birth announcement of all times.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:14.

I could have used an angelic appearance tonite. I wasn't looking for an announcement, but more like some reassurance, that all would be well. I didn't even request a whole host. I would have been satisfied with just one dimly lit heavenly being showing up in my kitchen. I even asked, out loud, for the Lord to send one!

I read the Christmas story from Luke, and have been pondering the whole event through out the holiday season. Somehow, I keep on bumping in to one word -- PEACE. Maybe because I am not feeling a whole lot of it this Christmas season, and the word keeps popping up in story books and Christmas songs and in the scriptures.

But what exactly does it mean to have peace? As I dug around alittle bit I realized more and more that the peace that God talks about is not one of outer tranquility, like a calm, fresh fallen snow that rests upon the trees. But rather it is an inner tranquility that is deep and lasting, knitted in to our hearts and minds, made possible by Jesus. The very Jesus that we celebrate the birth of during Christmas time.

In John 14:27, Jesus says, "Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

There we go with that theme again ... do not be afraid. I said before that the antidote to fear was trust, and I believe that that fruit of trust, is peace.

In Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving to God, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guide your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Do not be anxious ... And the peace of God. I've experienced that peace. I even experienced it, tonite.

I never did get an "angelic appearance" (although some angel like friends of mine bridged the gap with phone calls and drop in visits) but I did get something even more powerful -- the assurance that peace in me is possible with Jesus. It may not always seem like it on the outside, as I attempt to navigate the changes and the pain around and within me, but a deep abiding peace is possible, and God will use that peace to help guide and guard my hurting heart.

And so it possible for you, too, dear reader, to know this peace, amidst the storms of life. I wish you a Merry Christmas. Thank you to all of you who take the time to read these random words and for your encouraging notes to me. I pray that the truths that God is teaching me strengthen and edify you, as you walk the paths that God is asking you to walk.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

At Home

It's almost Christmas Eve (11:30PM) and I am awake much later than I should be. It's been a full day of last minute errands, including a trip to the orthodontist, grocery shopping, picking up a ham, running a child to the doctor, shoveling snow, purchasing some last minute stocking-stuffers and running one of the children to the dollar store to purchase gifts for his siblings.

This year, I decided that it may be special if each child, using their own money, bought each of their siblings a gift at the dollar store, and then attached a "coupon" to the gift, offering the recipient a gift of time. It has been so dear to see what they have picked out at the store, and what they write to each other for their coupon. My five year old daughter is giving my 14 year old the gift of helping him put on his shoes and braces; he has Cerebral Palsy. That makes me smile.

I am snuggled in on the couch with new flannel pajamas that a friend dropped off as a gift, tonite, getting ready to do a Christmas camp-out with the children. They are fast asleep under the Christmas tree. We watched the latest Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, while eating treats and trying to keep the five month old puppy from eating everything in sight.

I don't really know where I am going with this blog tonite, other than that I am thinking alot about what makes a home. A friend reminded me of Michael Card's song "I Will Bring You Home." In the begining of the song, Michael Card sings,

"Though you are homeless
Though you`re alone
I will be your home.

Whatever`s the matter
Whatever`s been done
I will be your home.

I will be your home.
I will be your home.
In this fearful fallen place
I will be your home."

And so, I persevere, in knowing that I am home in the Lord, at all times, whether lonely, or sad, or struggling or grieving. I can still and always will be able to be at rest, in perfect safety and security, in Him.

Home. It is a wonderful place, even when we do not feel "at home" in our circumstances, we can always know that we are "at home" with Him.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Immanuel -- God With Us

Two and a half days before Christmas, and I feel like it is "game on." I don't know about you, but I am having a hard time focusing on ... well, just about anything. Yet, there are still a hundred and two things to do, and unfortunately, life doesn't stop for the holidays. Our trials and suffering do not take a vacation during Christmas. If anything, they feel all the more accentuated and exhausting.

So, what can I do? I was remembering Hebrews 12:2, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith," a long side of Matthew 1:21-23, where the angel of the Lord speaks to Joseph in a dream about not being afraid, He says, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will will call him Immanuel' -- which means, 'God with us.'"

I need to remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior ... God with us. And God is with us, now. Right at this very moment, when I am tired, is the time when I need to fix my eyes on Jesus. Not just the Jesus of the manger, but the Jesus who is the author of my faith, the author of my life, and the Jesus of my ever breath.

I remember that He is all that He is said to be to me, personally. My Light of the World. My Savior. My Redeemer. My Comforter. My Prince of Peace. My Rock. My Fortress. I am trying to recall all the ways that He has shown Himself to me in all of these ways, yesterday, last month and over the last year. And in all of who He is, He comes and binds up my broken heart and sets me free, and perhaps, you are aware of His doing the same to you.

What about you, dear friend? Ask Jesus to show you who He is and has been to you over this past year, as you look to celebrate the greatest event of all time. Who is Jesus to you this Christmas?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Be Fearless

Yesterday, my friend Betsy gave me a little plaque that says "Be Fearless." I have it propped up in a little cubby hole in my car, so that I can see it all the time when I am driving around in my car. (And with 5 kids, I spend alot of time in the car!)

To be fearless means to be calmly resolute in facing dangers. It is to be brave, valiant, undaunted and free from fear.

But how do we do that ? How can we take our fears of the now, or the fears of the future, or the fears of what others may do to us, and become resolute, brave and valiant?

I think that the antidote to fear must be trust -- trust in the Living God. In Psalm 56:3-4, the David says, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid." As I seek God in all the things that are bombarding me, I know that He is trustworthy, and I do not need to be fearful, but fearless.

Proverbs 3:5- 6 says,"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." The paraphrase, The Message, says it this way. "Trust God from the bottom of your heart. Do no try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track."

I must admit, this can be awfully hard to do. I want to figure things out and understand what is going on in my life, in my suffering. When I realize that I can't, then I start to fear. When my paths are not feeling straight at all, it is hard for me to trust. But the path that I see as crooked and treacherous, is the very path that God has for me, and He promises to keep me on track.

Be fearless, dear friend, God is holding you tightly and He will not let go. I need to believe that today, as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

When Faith Goes to Market ...

One of my favorite devotionals is Streams in the Desert. Some time ago, I read in there a quote that has stuck with me, and seems to keep resonating in my soul.

"When faith goes to market, it always brings a basket."

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find it hard to understand what to have faith means. There is something about the visual picture of a woman picking up an empty woven basket, and heading in to her day, prepared to gather what she is certain that she will find in that day, that encourages me. She is actively trusting, full of confidence in the One who is the Provider of all things.

When I am discouraged or scared or overwhelmed or sad or anxious, I try to remember to pick up my basket that God has for me, trusting that He will fill it with all that I need for that day, and that He will fill it abundantly. I desire to head in to my day, filled with the faith, that God has good things for me in the day, even when it appears to be a dark and gloomy day; even, perhaps, more so on those days, than any other days.

Gradually, I am learning that when I live by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) that I actually experience more of God than I would have ever imagined, as He fills my basket with the strength and courage that I need, and shows me His unfailing love.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lonely Places

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:16.

I've been thinking alot about this verse, this week. Jesus withdrew to lonely places. I find myself in a lonely place. A lonely place that I would rather not be in. I do have friends and family who are standing by me, but, dear reader, I am sure you can relate ... suffering is still lonely.

Different versions of the bible translate "lonely" as "wilderness" or "desert" or "deserted places." I don't really want to withdraw in to my lonely place, but maybe, at times, this is the best place where I can meet God alone. Jesus knew that it was important to get away from the crowds, and have time with The Father. I want to learn how to embrace my lonely place to do the same.

I believe that it is in the solitude of our suffering that God teaches us things about Himself that we could not learn anywhere else. We can learn these things through opening our hearts to what God has to say to us in His Word and prayer. In our loneliness, we realize our longings. Our longings for knowing God, our longings for truly knowing ourselves through God's eyes, and our longings for a vision for our life, the special plan that God has for us.

Amidst the crowds and craziness and demands of life, we often do not want to withdraw in to these lonely places. We would rather avoid them or deny them. It can be scary.

But God has special gifts for us in our loneliness. My dear friend, Anne, will often tell me, "Just lean in to the pain." It's hard to do. I'd rather not. However, I have found, that in the leaning, I am learning more of God's love for me. And in leaning in to the pain, I find myself resting in His arms.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beauty for Ashes

Let's face it, some days are better than others. I wouldn't be authentic with you, dear reader, if I shared with you only my lovely "ah-ha" moments, and not the times that I struggle.

Today I felt lonely and angry and sad and hurt. It is a most unappealing flavor of soup, but in time, can be nourishing in its own way. There is always a lesson to be learned.

Today, I felt like I was in a snow globe.

My snow globe did not possess fluffy white flakes, but gray ashes. I saw myself standing amidst the rubble of some sort of devestation. When shaken, ashes whirled around me, and rested on my head. My face pressed up against the scratched up plastic dome, I peered out, pounding my fists and yelling, "I want out! I don't want to be in this anymore!"

As I gazed out, I saw other snow globes. These scenes looked much more peaceful than mine. Some with quaint English cottages and others with groves of pine trees. White, fresh, clean snow fell upon these scenes, when shaken, not ashes. I wanted to be in one of those Currier and Ives scenes, not mine.

I don't mean for it to sound like a pity party. It's just how I felt today. But then I was reminded of what the truth is for me ... I'm really not stuck in a snow globe. I have choices. I have the Lord.

I have the Lord directing my choices, making me in to what He desires of me and creating for me and in me, good and beautiful things in my life. As I remember Jesus and the reason for Christmas, I also am reminded that He has come to bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim freedom for the captives. (I am not stuck in a snow globe!) He will comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve. He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a grament of praise, instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1-3).

And this truly is all part of His unfailing love for you, and for me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Giver of Grace

My friend, Karla, reminded me of something that I hold dear in my walk with the Lord, having seen its truth time again, and now experiencing the power of "God's grace given" last night.

In the book The Hiding Place, Corrie ten boom, writes of an interaction with her father when she was a little girl, as she feared the future, overwhelmed with what she would do when her father would die. She writes,

At last we heard Father's footsteps winding up the stairs. It was the best moment of every day, when he came up to tuck us in. We never fell asleep until he arranged the blankets in his special way and laid his hand for a moment on each head. Then we tried not to move even a toe.

But that night as he stepped through the door I burst into tears. "I need you!" I sobbed. "You can't die! You can't!"

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. "Corrie,"he began gently, "when you and I go to Amsterdam - when do I give you the ticket?'"

I sniffed a few times, considering this.

"Why, just before we get on the train."

"Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run ahead of Him, Corrie. When the times comes that some us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need -- just in time."

Sometimes, when dreams or desires or people or marriages or friendships "die" we can't imagine how we are going to survive without this thing that we hold so dear to us. We cry out, "But I need you!"

But God is a gentle Father. He gives us just what we need when we need it, in all circumstances. As I grieved the loss of something dear to me, last night, I was reminded of how the Lord's gentleness and grace is right there to comfort me. As I sobbed, I was comforted by His loving embrace. I can not understand it. I could not predict what He would do, or how He would do it for me, as I was asked to give up something that I did not want to give up.

He was present with me, in my pain and in my tears, holding me up and unfailingly loving me. Then He was present in my friends, as they came to my home and cried and laughed, ate snacks with me, and encouraged me in the life that God has for me. It was a beautiful thing. God created beauty and joy, even out of my despair.

"My grace is sufficient for you ..." (2 Corinthians 12:9) says the Lord. And He gives it just when we need it, in just the right way. This is truth, as it lies in who God is, the Giver of Grace.

(If you have not read The Hiding Place, I would highly recommend it. It is a true story about a Dutch woman, who with her family, protected the lives of Jewish people during the holocaust of World War II. She was imprisoned in a concentration camp, as a result of what she chose to do forthe Lord, and shares her story in this powerful account of how faith triumphs over evil.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This One is for You!

At different times, I have marked in my bible dates and notes of what was happening in my life.

Today I ran across one of those. Marked in the margin was a date from 2 years ago, and a short note, "This one is for you!" I felt that the Lord was telling me that 2 years ago, and I still believe that today. Although I am not completely sure of its full meaning, as I have walked, I see more and more how He is changing me and growing me in the midst of all things.

And this is what He showed me,

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you. "O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquiose, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your chilren's peace." Isaiah 54:10 - 13.

Today, too, I choose to remember that "this one is for me" and that He will continue to work in and for me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trying to Walk Upright (when it feels hard to walk at all!)

In my devotions this morning I realized that I am experiencing alot of anxiety. It seems like every day there are new developments.

My prayer was, is," Lord, please help me to know how to handle today. Bring me wisdom and insight, along with understanding. Help me to understand who You are."

I found in the book of Amos (5:14), "Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is."

I know that I need to actively guard my heart against bitterness or vindictiveness. I desire to seek how to love others well, in truth; to seek good, not evil. I need to search my heart and ask the Lord to help me walk upright.

That brought me to thinking, what exactly does it mean to walk upright? I went to It is a great resource to investigate different translations of the bible and to get insight in to what the original languages meant when using certain words. I would encourage you, dear reader, to use it as God works in your heart.

I learned that in Psalm 94:15 God says, "For justice will prevail, and all the morally upright will be vindicated." (NET bible) In Hebrew, the word "upright" means "all the pure of heart." The heart is viewed as the place of one's motives and moral character. The "pure of heart" are God's faithful followers who trust in Him and love Him, and as a result, will experience his deliverance. "Upright" does not imply sinlessness, but rather a pure desire to seek Him.

So, as I try to walk upright, even though I am sometimes finding it hard to walk at all, I continue to trust that God will actively work in my life to reveal truth and the right way in which to walk.

Proverbs 2:7 says "He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the ways of this faithful ones."

Walk uprightly as one who is unfailingly loved by the Lord who is your Shield.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Little Bit of Courage

Three months ago, we got a dog. He is a black Golden Doodle and his name is Courage. He is a love.

In retrospect, I think that God knew that I was going to need to be courageous on this road that He has asked me to walk, and every time I call for Courage, I am reminded of that.

Ten times in the Old Testament it says to be "strong and courageous." They are paired together. In Joshua 1:9 it says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

It is interesting to me that instead of being terrified, we can be strong. Instead of being discouraged we can be courageous. Sometimes, in this place of so much uncertainty, I can fall in to being fearful, but God says, "be strong." And sometimes (again, unfortunately, more times than not) I can become discouraged, but God says "be courageous!"

As I begin to focus on who God is, my Strength and my Defender, I can in turn, with His help be strong and courageous. He says that He will be with us wherever we go. That brings me great comfort and courage.

And this is what my little Courage reminds me to do.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rainbow Laced Clouds

Recently, I was driving in my car with my children. My heart was heavy. I was feeling the burden of an uncertain future, and struggling to find hope.

Suddenly, I noticed a most unusual sight in the sky.

Laced along the edges of the scattered white clouds were small rainbows. They looked as if they were crocheted in and along the edge of each cloud, and shined brightly against the blue back drop of the sky.

I removed my sunglasses, confused by what I was seeing. It was the most incredible sight, unlike anything I had ever seen. Without my sunglasses I could not see the petite rainbows. But as soon as I put the sunglasses on, the rainbows appeared.

It was a visual picture of hope for me that day. I needed to know that woven in each of my current clouds was a beautiful tapestry of hope.

I knew that I was going to need my "Son-glasses" to see these rainbows of hope. Without the perseverance of looking at all things through Jesus, I would not see the beauty that God had, just for me.

God placed a rainbow in the sky for Noah, as a sign of a promise to man. These lacy, little rainbows were a reminder of God's promises to me. Promises that I had to remind myself of, like that God would never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6), that I was loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and that He had a plan and a purpose for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Provider

I am always amazed, and I'm not quite sure why, how God does provide us with just what we need and often times with more than we can imagine.

Over the past weeks I started a list of the things that God has given us each day, as we have walked through this difficult time. Sometimes it is a phone call, a meal, a note from a friend, a gift, a moment of silence, God's peace.Last week, a group of friends, affectionately called "the moms" came to my home to help my children decorate for Christmas. They circled around them with love and laughter, inspecting each ornament with each child, before helping them to hang it on the tree, sharing in their joy. They ate popcorn and pizza and placed decorations all around my house, bringing Christmas to our family, when I was feeling overwhelmed with even hanging a stocking.

Today it came in a most creative and unusual way. Friends of ours invited us to their home for lunch and a birthday party for Jesus. My friend pulled up old craft projects that a retired teacher friend had given her, years ago. To my surprise, there were kits of make your own sequin ornaments, and one of them was a kit for a round, blue ornament just like the one that I made when I was sick with the chicken pox, in third grade. I even still have it!

For years I have looked for kits like this one, where you thread a bead and a sequin on to a small pin, then pushing it in to the Styrofoam form to create a sparkling ornament. And I never saw one, until today, and it was the exact same ornament that I had made in the early 1970's.I believe that God really is in the details. Seeing that ornament kit and working on similar ones with my girls this afternoon reminded me that God knows every detail. It brought me joy to create with my children.

Although a very small gift, it was an important one as I was reminded that God even cared to bring up a memory from childhood. He does provide for us. In this season of suffering I see Him in so many ways, big and small, and am learning more about God as my Provider.

Psalm 111:5 says "He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever." Today, I praise Him for His provision of just what I need.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Journey Begins

It's hard to know where to begin my current story, God's story, in my life. Suffice it to say that six weeks ago, my world was turned upside down. A crisis arose, and now I am walking a new path that the Lord has asked me to walk. Maybe some of you find yourselves there, too, amidst a major storm. Maybe you are struggling with minor trials or the dreariness of the mundane. Or maybe you are just in need of encouragement.

It's interesting to me that 2 weeks before my crisis came, I asked the Lord for a verse that would show me the way that I should walk. Oddly, I thought, he gave me Mark 16:15, "He (Jesus) said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." What was this to mean?

I had been wanting to start a blog to encourage women, so, I thought, perhaps that was what He meant. Teaching opportunities opened for me in that week span, and I was asked, rather out of the blue, to consider being a co-host on a radio show for women. The verse was now coming in to clearer view. Go out in to the world and spread the good news.

Little did I know, however, that the good news was going to be even more critical for me to believe, and that God would give me opportunities to share the good news of Jesus to a hurting world, amidst my very own trial of magnanimous proportions.

Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, "Praise be to the God and are Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) My desire is that you will be experience the comfort of the Lord, as you read and learn about what He is showing me about Himself through my trials.

God is so very faithful. I have walked with the Lord for many years. Times of trial come and go. Isn't it interesting that experiencing pain in our lives does not make us immune to experiencing more pain! But in every time of trial, God gives us great opportunity to trust Him and to learn of Him and to walk hand in hand with Him.

This is what I am learning, again. What I know for sure is that God is faithful to teach us and to show us what we need to know, when we ask Him. Over the last several years, one of my primary prayers has been, "Lord, show me the truth." I want to encourage you that I have seen Him time and time again, do so.

James 1:5-6 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." So, dear reader, whatever you may be dealing with today, ask the Lord to show you the truth in it. Wait. Watch. Believe, and then follow God, as He faithfully leads you. You are unfailingly loved.
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