Inevitable: Temptation

I’m still hanging out in James, the first chapter. If by chance you’ve read it, you know by now I skirted around a certain passage. It told myself it was for continuity and I’d return to dig deeper into it. Here I go, James 1:13-14:

“No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

James 1:13-15 CSB

I find this passage both practical and quite daunting. First, we aren’t to accuse God of tempting us, it is not in His character. Simply stated, He can not be tempted and He does not tempt us. That’s pretty straight forward and something I have accepted by faith and it has proven true in my life. So where does temptation come from? According to James, our own evil desire entices us; draws us away from God’s way or will. Could this really be true? Could we really be our own worst enemy when it comes to temptation?

As I’ve pondered this over the last several days, three examples have come to mind.

  • The fall of man in The Garden of Eden
  • Satan’s temptation of Jesus
  • Jesus time in the Garden of Gethsemane

How was it Eve found herself tempted? What did the serpent say? How did that bring temptation? Genesis 3, enter the serpent and he spoke to Eve:  “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”” CSB

He followed up with an answer: “ “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will bell opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” Genesis 3:4-5 CSB

  1. He questioned Eve’s understanding of what God had actually said.
  2. The serpent worded his answer deceptively; he implies that God purposefully is keeping them from the fruit so they will not be like Him (God).
  3. The serpent implies God is holding out on them and keeping knowledge from them that they need to know.

Is it possible, in the quest to please God and a desire to be like God, Eve’s own desire(s) are what tempted her to do exactly what God had instructed the not to do. We were told, and perhaps even Adam and Eve, though it is not specifically said; they were created in the image of God. Both were already like Him, created in His image. Perhaps, because God is sovereign and His ways are higher than ours, He was protecting them by keeping them from this tree of “Knowledge of Good and Evil”. Keeping them innocent of the evils that were possible in this new world. Was their sin allowing their desire to be like God to tempt them to disobedience? Were they placing their will above God’s will? Were they snared by the serpents deception or were they really trapped by their own desire to be like God? Maybe it really was because of there own selfish desire for more.

Temptation of Jesus

“Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone. ” So he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The devil said to him, “I will give you their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. If you, then, will worship me, all will be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. ” So he took him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: He will give his angels orders concerning you, to protect you, and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. ” And Jesus answered him, “It is said: Do not test the Lord your God. ” After the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.”

Luke 4:1-13 CSB

The Bible tells us Jesus was tempted in every way we have been, yet was sinless. This is a great example. How was Jesus so strong and resistant to sin? Possibly because He was in constant communication with His Father and He was determined only to do what His Father said! He focused on His purpose and His goal not His own selfish desires or His hunger. He realized something higher was at stake. This is pretty good proof that though outside forces can bring on the means of temptation, they are not responsible for us falling into the snare that was set before us.  Rather it is our own selfish desires that over come us and cause us to fall into the trap.  

Lastly, Jesus in the Garden, a mind anguished but firmly set on the prize set before Him!  

““He went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he told them, “Pray that you may not fall into temptation.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me — nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he got up from prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you won’t fall into temptation.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a mob came, and one of the Twelve named Judas was leading them. He came near Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?””

Luke 22:39-42, 44-48 CSB

We find Jesus example here exemplary. Anguished to the point of sweating drops of blood, He remained true to the course set before Him until the very end when He was arrested, mocked and beaten, judged wrongly and executed.  We also find a different example in the disciples. Jesus asked them to watch and pray for an hour so they would not fall into temptation. They failed, though they may have tried; their tired flesh had it way. Though Jesus awakened them to remind them; they fell into the temptation of sleep each time.

I’ll be the first to say though I’d rather not admit it; “it’s not the devil made me do it” (a throw back to Flip Wilson comedy); and it certainly is not God tempting us. It might be considered a test but ultimately bottom line we make a decision and we are responsible for our actions. Even in not deciding, we have made the decision to let what happens happen. 

Tough saying this is:  “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

May God give us grace and strength to decide wisely and set aside temptation and choose life; keeping our focus firmly set on the prize set before us. When we fall, may His beautiful forgiveness, grace and mercy surround us!

May His grace and peace be with you and keep you.

Inevitable: Loss

For the third day in as many days, I have awakened with a specific thought on my heart and felt compelled to write. I’m not sure why that is; perhaps it is a reminder of something I will need in the coming days or there is someone that God in His infinite grace, wisdom, and mercy already knows will stumble across and find some comfort and companionship in what they are going through. Whatever the case, here goes!

Last night in passing, my hubby commented that today was a “special” day. Just for a moment or two I pondered his statement noting that the date would be November 7. Then recognition set in. November, though it contains one of our favorite holidays, has tended to be  hard month for our family. By that, I mean hard things tend to happen in November. November 7th is the day my Mom passed away. It has been 23 years this year and honestly very few years have passed that I didn’t have some kind of memory of that day on this 7th day of November. Certain days you just remember- birthdays, holidays, special shared occasions, missed special days when they would have been there if possible; like weddings, graduations, etc.

Do I still miss my Mom? Oh good heavens, yes! Her passing was fast and unexpected- almost out of the blue. She transitioned into eternity at a young age of 59, when her grandchildren were just ages 10 and 13. my youngest had just turned 10 ten 9 days earlier. She would miss my sons 14th birthday coming in just 43 days! Thanksgiving and Christmas would be different in the years to come; something would always be missing without Mom’s presence. In a similar way, my Dad entered eternity just seven years and a few weeks later; also in November. Remember, if you read this blog, a couple of days back- James 1 talks about trials in our life and makes it clear it is when they come, not if they come. Loss of a loved may be one of the hardest knocks life gives us! Even to those of us who are people of faith and have the beautiful hope of eternal life and being reunited one day in heavenly places; Loss is hard! Whether it is sudden and unexpected or it is gradual during a long fought battle with disease; it is never easy and you are never quite ready for it. Yes, your loved one may have been through a painful battle and it may be a relief that their pain and suffering has come to an end; but it is still hard. We still miss them and their presence and influence in our daily lives.

Perhaps it is because the holiday season is upon us and depression and anxiety always seem to escalate during this season. We face shorter days with less sunshine; grief and losses still come; increased and even unmet expectations are all around; for many, holidays mean financial stress; cold weather brings increased bill expenses; risks of colds and flu that come around in the fall and winter increase. Regardless, people struggle more this time of year and perhaps that is why this topic is weighing heavily on my mind and heart. It could it be remembering my first childhood memory this morning; a fall day when I was around 3, (I was almost four since my birthday is in December)?

 That memory was of the family gathering after a funeral. I don’t remember the funeral, I probably stayed at my great aunts with my slightly older cousins and a sitter. It stands out because we were together, the whole extended family. Also, because I lost my new and beautiful golden birthstone bracelet. It disappeared among all the fallen leaves on the ground, never to be found. Superficial, I know but I was 3! I only share this story to let you know from that day to the day we buried Mom, I had been to almost as many funerals as years I had lived. (We tend to be a close knit family, and people of my grandparents generation tended to larger families).

I guess the point I’m trying to convey is loss is hard (at the risk of being redundant); you aren’t alone; no one knows how to navigate it well; each loss is different and yet the same; whether through death or by other means, it is still loss and it is still hard; I have never found a proven way to navigate loss, though there are some ways that may be healthier than others; and finally, we all deal with it and the associated grieving differently. It just looks different on each of us. In my life, focusing more on the treasured good memories has been helpful. Some folks find talking about it helpful; others find it painful and hard. We are all different but we are not alone! Faith and our Heavenly Father are a great help in getting through the tough times associated with a loss and there are many comforting scriptures to sooth our troubled souls in such times.

If this is you, my prayer is that you will find comfort, peace, and in time that your joy will be renewed and refreshed! May His grace, mercy and comfort be like a blanket around you as you navigate these roadways! There is life beyond loss!!!

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Inevitable- Part 2

Back to James chapter one! What a great and needed reminder of Who we need to go to when we face trials.  Who better to go to for help than our Creator? He knows us better than anyone! God has given us each a measure of faith and He has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11); a hope or knowing that there is more out there than what we see all around us. A deeper desire and longing that we may not even be able to understand or explain. Then there was the reminder that every good and perfect gift comes from our Heavenly Father who never changes or shifts like shadows! It’s no wonder I never got past verse 19 just meditating on His goodness!

Now., as I read, I find it interesting the very next section begins by saying: “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”

James 1:19-20

I’ve got to wonder, why talk about about anger on the heels of faith? Perhaps anger is one of the biggest hindrances to our faith? Anger comes in many forms from injustice to deep wounds to our soul. Some of us go as far as experiencing deep seeded anger at God Himself because of our wounds and grief. It is easy to feel anger when we are treated wrongly, or someone we love is treated unjustly; when we experience losses we don’t understand; when we feel neglected, ignored or invisible; when we feel our prayers go unanswered or are answered differently than we’d hoped.

Let’s look at each of these things James mentions and see how they might fit:

  • Quick to listen:  We live in a world today of sound bits. We get lots of small bits of information all day through texts, media, and many other sources. Yes, we still have some full conversations but  I believe on some level, the sound bites of life tend to damper our listening skills. I believe we get rusty and if someone is too long winded, many either interrupt or zone out. James tells us it is important to be quick to listen; be a good listener.
  • Slow to speak:  I think James is advising us to be careful. Listen and be present; take a few minutes to really think about what is being said. Hear It out and ponder. Don’t get all fired up, planning your response but truly hear what was said and think about it. Respond instead of reacting. Because you have Listen to the actual heart of what is being said.
  • Slow to anger:  This is pretty self explanatory. When you are really listening and taming the impulse to react without thinking and trying to fully understand the person, their situation or concerns, and their heart; it is much easier to have an objective and less emotional or angry response. It also helps us to move from opinion, selfish desires, and tunnel vision. When we truly try to see the bigger picture and that there may be multi-facets to the situation or problem and unknown variables— we have a better chance or reaching reasonable outcomes that better serve everyone involved and hopefully avoiding anger outbursts in the process.

There sure is a whole bunch of wisdom in James and we are just 19 verses  into the Book! Who says an ancient and timeless book can not be relevant today?!!  I’m just a simple lady. I don’t claim or pretend to be a scholar or have any expertise beyond sheer life experience and maybe the school of hard knocks. I can say that I haven’t found many, if any, situations in life that I haven’t been able to search God’s Word and find passages that were relevant and helpful and often times bringing peace and comfort to the situation.

May God bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace!  -Numbers 2:24-26

Inevitable: Are Trials Unavoidable?

Interesting how life ebbs and flow! Writing is something I have enjoyed for quite a while, whether personal journaling or blogging. Lately, it seems I have been in a season of distractions when it comes to the inspiration it takes to get me writing in either area. Maybe that’s a thing of the past…perhaps I’ve just been letting those distraction have too much power in my life.

Today, I began my day earlier than usual. It is still very quiet and peaceful, my favorite condition to find myself in; especially for pondering important stuff and for writing. In our modern, fast paced lifestyle, it is often illusive and hard to find. Determined to do just that, I got up early, settled in my reading chair and opened a new Bible-fresh, unmarked, clean slate. Because a passage in James has come up several times since late September, I began my reading there. First, I ran across a devotional about James. It intrigued me and pulled me in. At the end, it asked three great questions. Basically the paraphrased version would be:

How can you see God’s hand of blessing in your life today?

Have you seen God go above and beyond your expectations? How?

In this season, how is God asking you to be a blessing to someone?

Wow! Answering those questions challenged me to think, to answer, to pray, and to get busy reading.

Blessings: A loving and faithful God who knows everything about me and call me worthy because of Jesus; a terrific family; answered prayers for resolution of a couple health issues; just to get started.

Exceeded expectations: Going through a recent surgery with only a few hours down time and very little pain. Which because of the other circumstances happening, was a blessing way above and beyond anything I could have asked or imagined!!

Season to be a blessing: Approximately 36 hours after surgery, a very close family member in my husband’s family graduated to heaven. Together we are being called to a season of more responsibility and caregiving; hopefully to be a blessing and not a stumbling block.

Back to James! Verse 2 is a show stopper! This gets me every time. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”. James1:2 Most everyone who has heard a sermon on this portion of James has heard a pastor say, “notice that it does not say IF you face trials.” In every version or translation I have ever read, it clearly states that we are to consider it all joy or pure joy when or whenever trials come. Stated this way, it becomes clear that in every one of our lives it is inevitable (certain and un-avoidable) we will encounter trials. Yet when one comes our way, it seems to surprise us or even shock us. Human nature I suppose.

Familiar with this passage since early adulthood, it still strikes me fresh and anew every single time I read it! Perhaps that says as much about me as it does the actual verse, however I think it really shows us how counter-intuitive it is to our human nature. God sees the end of the situation even before it begins. We humans do not. It is a stretch for us to look beyond the initial aggravation of whatever trial presents itself to us and search for a lesson to be learned as we go through that trial that will bring us out on the other side better than we were before we went through it.

When the trial or struggle comes, what will we do with it. We may not be able to keep it from coming. We may not be able to avoid it. So, what next? I personally think it comes down to what we do with it. Do we just wrestle and struggle with it; do we fight against it; ignore it; give in to it; become overwhelmed by it; or go into problem solving mode to fix or solve it? Some would say we should ask what we are supposed to learn from it.

Responses vary probably as much as people. Scripture seems to be saying it is an opportunity to be joyful or choose joy; not because we have the trial or the problem. Because God is faithful and if we turn to Him in the circumstance and trust Him to see us through. When we take our struggle to Him, it tests our faith; producing endurance in the trial. Can we get through this situation? Will God answer our prayers about it? Will He answer them the way we want Him to answer? Is there a reason for Him to answer differently that we can not see/understand? Do we trust when the Word says that Gods’ ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts?

” because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

Trials, bring about the testing of faith according to James. Testing of faith leads too endurance. Endurance when fully acting or in full effect brings about a maturity; completeness. Is it possible that faith could be compared to a muscle and the more exercise it gets, the stronger it gets. Could it be the stronger your faith gets, the less we panic or worry when another problem hits and the sooner we take it to our Heavenly Father in prayer?

Please know in these questions and ramblings, I am not trying to oversimplify. Life can be difficult and overwhelming at times. Sometimes it seems problems come in waves as often and as rhythmic as the waves hit the shoreline. I do find comfort that the very next section assures us that when we need wisdom all we have to do is ask God. It assures us that He gives wisdom freely, generously. James also warns us. Ask in faith. Don’t doubt. Be single minded, sure that He will answer. Find yourself doubting? I do, and find myself praying… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I also find a great deal of comfort that the endurance of trials come with a promise or a reward if you will. James 1: 12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” I hope that you find this as encouraging and helpful as I did this morning. I certainly needed this reminder and though I didn’t make it through a whole chapter these words breathed fresh life into my heart. Finally, I would like to encourage you with the following words that James penned many years ago:

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.” James 1:16-18

Grace and Peace to you!

Welcoming 2019

It’s been a while! I haven’t disappeared off the face of the planet, but I will say, writing has been almost the last thing on my mind for a season. Honestly, it has been a challenging season. It was a time of distracting myself from the usual flow of ideas by reading or pretty much anything that would keep my attention and thoughts off the very things that were troubling me.

A season of distraction.

Distraction in the Word, distraction in prayer, the voice of the enemy distracting me with fiery dart thoughts of worry and the diversion of all the things the world throws our way; sickness, disasters, storms, and evil deeds. A medicine change aimed at improving health that actually for a season sent it spiraling.

Circumstances.

As I began to say goodbye to 2018, things had started to look up, and I had been feeling better than I had in months. I actually had lots of energy and felt ten to fifteen years younger. Then it happened another set of circumstances. A hurting loved one; a death of a friend; family colds; a basement leak at two family members home; a roof leak from this year’s storms not covered by insurance; another medical issue; and another loved one in crisis. All were back to back.

Circumstances.

Somewhere in those last six while looking back over the year, I distinctly heard the word joy ring out in my head. Now I have done a study on joy and the difference between joy and happiness in the past. Happiness is often, if not always determined by our – you got it; Circumstances.

Joy, however, can be found even when our circumstances are not the best. Joy comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. It comes from the blessings in our life. Sometimes the blessings and joy take a back seat to the immediate circumstances and imminent crisis that arise. Our perspective has a lot to do with what wins out. It is much easier to keep joy our focus when there are no problems or when they come along one or two at a time. Not so much when an avalanche of things come all within six months or a year. That is when we must work hard to keep our perspective right. God’s Word is full of promises, and they are sure and true. our focus should be on those promises. We also have warnings and if we are wise we will also heed those. Let’s look at John 16:33:

Jesus warned us, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

James, Jesus brother, warned us: “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:1-5 NASB

So, with new and greater determination, my word for 2019 is Joy. James clearly says it is possible to have joy in the midst of trials; suffering if you choose to. Fear and distraction are the enemies of joy. They come to steal, kill and destroy our joy. This year my plan is to pursue joy and with it peace. My goals: 1. Whatever happens, to ponder the better things; the blessings that are unshakeable and not let myself lose sight of them even when times get harried and sticky. 2. To do my best not to allow the enemy to steal that joy. Somehow, I’m sure it sounds easier than it is but with determination, it can be done, and I am betting that the year will be much more productive and fulfilling when it is all said and done.

May Grace, Peace, and Joy be yours!

Psalm 34:4-5 CSB
I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and rescued me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.

Galatians 5:22-23 – NASB
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.

Psalm 5:11 – NASB
But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You.

Psalm16:11 – NASB
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.

Psalm 59:16 – NASB
But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.

Whose Kingdom Are You Building?

““The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

“Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.”Matthew 6:7-13 MSG

I have to admit; this translation is very different sounding than the one I memorized as an elementary school child! On the other hand, it states its intent very succinctly and clear. We who have chosen a life in Christ are sons and daughters of the Most High God. To function as He created us to function, we need the revelation of Who He is, His true character and who He says we are. We need to understand His power and vast ability; His just nature; His restraint; His mercy on us-His grace. His Kingdom is perfect – no pain; no suffering; order-no chaos; no death. We are instructed to pray for His Kingdom to come to earth as it is above which brings me to today’s blog title: “Whose Kingdom Are You Building?”

These words came to me this morning while listening to the last session of the 2017 Passion Conference. You see I’d been struggling with some questions both personal and some that were not about me at all. Yesterday, I had listed them during my quiet time asking God for answers, and during the last speaker’s message today, I began to realize a few things.

  • I have peace in the midst of the questions with which I am wrestling.
  • Do those struggles mean I’m out of sync with God? Not necessarily!
  • I realized I couldn’t experience that peace if I were out-of-order or not at peace with God.
  • Struggles are part of life, but not necessarily an indication your outside God’s will. Maybe He’s revealing something new or fresh; no it doesn’t necessarily have to pertain directly to you. But you may find it helpful in dealing with your struggles

This lead up to the poignant question: “whose Kingdom are you building?” We all have hopes, dreams, goals. That is a great thing! God also has goals and plans for us. (Jeremiah 29:11, plans for a hope and a good future.) But whose Kingdom are we building? Please hear my heart, this isn’t a judgment for I am asking myself these questions as much as anyone. If we are indeed sons and daughters of God, how much time do we actually spend praying this sincere and powerful prayer or thinking about the fact there is a higher existence; a greater kingdom? I realized that a lot of my thought life lately had been focused on the questions I was struggling with when I should have prayed more and reasoned less. The reasoning doesn’t accomplish much! Prayer is powerful, and it moves the heart of God! All the logic in the world cannot achieve change or a difference BUT the moment I laid my questions out before God asking for His help; His perspective and positioned myself to hear; He sent an answer to an even greater question through a simple yet powerful question, also bringing several scriptures to my mind. One was the Lord’s Prayer. Another was Seek first His Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33) Also, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) ““This is GOD ’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as GOD: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’” Jeremiah 33:2-3 MSG

These are but a few of the promises we can rely on when we have times of struggles, questions or problems! They all came about because of a simple prayer, crying out for wisdom and understanding, and patiently waiting for His answer in His timing when it would have the most profound effect in my current walk with Him. It was the result of seeking His Kingdom first rather than reacting on impulse or assumption in a situation. You see, I didn’t understand why a situation was happening over and over. The answer was all about whose kingdom was being built.

Tags: Questions, Struggles, Answers, Promises, Kingdom Building

Categories: Prayer, promises, Perspective

BitterSweet

It’s good to sit down to write again. Life has been quite busy and full of surprises both good and challenging. This year has been lightening fast, and it is hard to believe November is here. November is a bittersweet month around our house. We love Thanksgiving and all the traditions, celebrations, and family times. At the same time, it is a time we remember some dear family members who graduated to their heavenly home; many whose home-going was during the month of November. November is also the month my husband and I have the pleasure of celebrating our anniversary.

I remember as a little tot; it was November when I attended the funeral of my Grand-daddy and my Great-grandmother. I’m not sure why the time of year stands out in my memory. Many years later, we also buried my husband’s beloved brother in November 1985; followed by my Mom and Dad in 1996 and 2003 respectively.

Today it has been twenty years to date since my Mom took her heavenly voyage way to young! (Just a few years older than me) As you might imagine, I have been reminiscing a bit as the day has approached. I have remembered special times and fond memories, thinking how much she would have enjoyed her seven great-grandchildren and looked forward to the new little one soon to be born.

Today also marks another special day in November; another reason to be thankful for all the Lord has done in our lives. It marks the end of a season, a labor of love that has resulted in the birth of a dream. Conceived in childhood, implanted in 2014; finally a reality today.

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Now available at Amazon.com or  https://www.createspace.com/6544403. I can’t help but wonder just what my Mom and Dad would think…

By God’s unfathomable grace, I am able to hold tight to Him and His grace to face all that November brings into my life; both good and challenging! Every single month for that matter. Life is full of wonderful and wonder-filled moments and it is important to remember each one! It is also filled with many challenging times when we must hold on to our faith, His grace and all that is good in our lives just to take our next breath! His grace is sufficient for every situation!

Be Blessed and may His grace and peace fill your days!

Waves of Majesty

This isn’t new, but is original to me. Remembering that peaceful fall l day at the beach almost three years ago.

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Waves of Majesty

Gazing on the Splendor You have placed before me.
Captured by the churning power, my eyes delight.
How can one doubt Your existence?
Your Presence weighs heavy.

You have set the boundaries on this forceful body.
You alone coax these waters…
Waves leaping, waters dancing,
Your breath stirs them, and they respond joyfully!

Each creature within its depths there at Your request,
By Your design and desire.
How amazing Lord is Your creation.
How awesome are You, it’s Creator!

A glimpse of the power amassing before me;
A mere foreshadowing of Your true greatness.
An exhibition of Your magnificence,
Only a tiny example of Your Power, Your Might!

You surround us with Your beauty and favor.
Entice us with Your majesty and goodness.
Bidding us come, quiet ourselves,
Be lavished by Your Presence.

Will we be persuaded?
Heed Your soft, persistent call?
Wisdom to seek Your refuge;
And joy, peace and love behold.

Adonna Smith

 

Trusting God

Today, actually yesterday now, has been a gloriously challenging day! Why? My husband and I had to say goodbye to our furry friend of almost fifteen years from 444 miles away. Now as the day has closed and I prepare to close my eyes, I find my mind running at warp speed as my body begs for rest.
I find myself tracing God’s hand through our experience and realizing now more than ever that when I can not understand the reason things happen the way they do that God is still in control, and He always works things out for our good and His glory. I also find myself wondering why this lesson is one that it seems to keep coming back around.
Just a brief backstory, Cinnamon (our Pomeranian) came to live with us as a wee puppy in September 2001. She was quite precocious and lovable at the same time! Eighteen months later, a quieter more sedate Abby joined our family and Cinnamon adopted her as her baby. This past fall we had to limit Cinnamon’s use of our deck and stairs due to failing eyesight. Being a creature of habit, she, however, decided to sneak away and go up the stairs. She misstepped which resulted in a very long fall for such a small dog. We were surprised and pleased when she recovered as well as she did.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago. We were invited to participate in a powerful leadership conference along with a group from our church. As we began to make plans to attend, Cinnamon’s health deteriorated. The vet exam determined she had an infection, but her heart was strong, and she had a lot of life in her. Again, she seemed to rally. We knew she would need more personal care than a kennel would be able to give if we were to go out of town for the conference; so we prayed “Lord if you want us to go, help make provision for Cinnamon’s special care needs.” If He opened a door, we’d go; if not we would go another time.  He opened a door, and we knew she and Abby would receive wonderful care.
Yesterday (Thursday) the conference began and back home, Cinnamon began a battle for every breath. Our sweet friend called about an hour before it began telling us Cinnamon had taken a turn for the worse during the night. She compassionately took care of Cinnamon for us for the next three hours. Sadly, we have to say goodbye to our long-time companion.  We find peace from knowing our friends were lovingly caring for her. Even so, I wonder about the timing and wish we had been there for Cinnamon; not that it would have changed the outcome. In fact, God in His wisdom may very well have orchestrated the timing. Perhaps it was to help ease the blow of the loss a beloved pet or to teach us to be gracious and accept the help of others to carry our burdens. Is it possible it is just life, and it was not part of His plan? I suppose that is possible as well.
Whatever the case, I am reminded that God is faithful, and He is good even when circumstances would challenge that in our human understanding! He redeems our lives and our circumstances when we allow Him to. There will be no more questioning or blame here. If or when regret at not being there tries to creep in, I will rest in Him and not in my understanding. I resolve to trust Him and His timing beyond my understanding and in knowing this, I will find peace as my heart grieves. I will choose to remember that He is faithful and He is my peace and my joy even in the midst of troubling or hard circumstances.  His grace is always sufficient!!

May you also find in Him grace, peace, and joy! Blessings to you this day!

Why Struggles?

     Over the past few days, I have been looking back at life. You see, my husband and I have been asked to be a part of a relationship conference this next weekend. It will consist of a brief testimony from five couples about marriage and then will be followed by a “rapid fire” question and answer period. The groups will be divided into unmarried, married under ten years, married over ten years. Then all the groups will reunite for an overview and more q&a.  We are blessed to have four couples with over 35 years experience participating!

     I have to say the secret to our longevity in marriage is most likely tenacity. That put plainly; stubbornness.  We are both stubborn people and come from stubborn people. We also started our marriage out with the mindset that this is forever. By beginning from the faith perspective and from a Biblical world view, that means our perspective was to make it work; fix what was broken.  Have we ever felt like quitting? Yes. Thankfully, when one was discouraged the other usually picked up the slack and we muddled our way through by prayer, God’s help and sometimes sheer determination. Has it always been easy? Not at all!  We really were just babies starting out; though we’d never admit it then.  I remember one couple in their sixties who were friends with our parents declaring, “they will never make it! It’s puppy love and they are too young to get married.” I wonder what they’d say today…

     I spent some time this weekend looking back at the things we have been through together.  I was amazed to see how quickly the challenges began in our marriage and how those struggles were clustered together; back to back, and sometimes year after year. Many were heavy duty challenges, not just the typical adjusting to life together or financial issues.  Those can be difficult enough. We experienced a number of deaths of loved ones close in succession; some following long term illness and some sudden.  It was  a little shocking to look back.  It was also pretty gratifiing at the same time seeing all that we have come through and how it changed each of us; how we grew through those times.

     The thing is, often it is those very struggles in life that cause us to grow, mature and strengthen.  They push us to do something other than just get by.  They force us to look for answers, to seek wisdom.  Hopefully they lead us to seek out God; His wisdom and understanding; and godly answers.  Even when that is not the case, we are able to learn what not to do the next time and what does not work.  As we grow and mature through these times, it puts us in the perfect place to help others who go through similar situations.

     “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV  

     I could’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and amazed as I glanced the highlights of the years.  Just the major events, both the good ones and the hard ones.  Would we have ever signed up for this if we’d known what was coming?  I really don’t know. I would hope so!  I have to say as good as the good has been and as hard as the hard has been; I wouldn’t change a thing! There are times we each wish we had done better or differently but the truth is it has all worked together for good to get both of us were we are today.  We are better for those struggles because they have changed us. They have stretched and matured us.  Fears are fewer; faith is stronger. Best of all, our Heavenly Father is so very real and present in our lives.  He is the true reason that we are here today!  If our stories can help others coming along behind us, all the better.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

     By His mercy and grace, we have and continue to hold fast in both our faith and in our marriage.  Love deepens with both the good times and the struggles we face when our hearts are set on Him! He is the unifier and the glue that holds this relationship together on the sunny days and on the stormy seas.

 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1b-3a ESV

May God’s mercy, grace and peace surround you this day!