FaceTime

Redeemer hugging unhappy man, faith in God, spiritual protection, eternity

FaceTime with God?

One frustrating day, I felt no peace. I knew I needed some quality quiet time. Then, I cried out, “I need FaceTime with Jesus!” It made me laugh, but at the same time, I recognized the bold truth I had spoken.

During Covid, I couldn’t wait to FaceTime or Zoom with our kids and their families. I needed that personal face-to-face time with my loves. Though the digital presence of our precious ones wasn’t nearly as wonderful as in-person hugs, it was still refreshing to my lonely heart.

IN PERSON WITH JESUS?

Today we don’t have the privilege of running up to Jesus for a physical hug, or even falling on our knees to worship in his physical presence. But, God assures us in Deuteronomy 31:6, we can be strong because He never leaves us. He explained to his disciples about the all-important Gift he would leave when he went back to Heaven–the Holy Spirit of God would dwell within us here on Earth. (Acts 1)

JACOBNEED FOR TIMEOUT WITH GOD

In Genesis 32, there is a most intriguing scripture passage about Jacob. If you remember Jacob, he was a conniver, always seeking to make himself top-dog, so to speak. He even cheated his brother out of his inheritance through his lies and deceit. Well, God placed dear Jacob in a situation–a situation where Jacob was alone, where God finally had his full attention. In verses 21-32, Jacob wrestles with “someone” all through the night.

With whom did Jacob wrestle? In verse 28, the wrestling man tells Jacob, “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Then in verse 30, Jacob names the place where this occurred, Peniel (which means “face of God”). In his own words, Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” God knew he had to have a face-to-face meeting with his boy Jacob in order to get his life turned around.

BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?

So how does this work in my life? In yours? We know Holy Spirit is available to us if we believe what Jesus said. All we have to do is ask for him to come into our lives. We know God has endowed His word with truths to direct our paths. Holy Spirit, one of the three persons of the Trinity of God, enlightens our minds as we study the inspired words. And … to “FaceTime” with Jesus, you need only pray and listen as you study His Word. Even if your only known words are, “Help!” God hears, draws near, and is with you. In James 4:8, one of my favorite verses, we are consoled: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

I pray your day is blessed as you make time to spiritually draw near to God. We all need Him to give us His peace which passes all human understanding in these days of much striving and contention.

Sending love and hugs … from me to you.

Galatians 6:9 “Don’t be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

[https://www.givehim15.com – a valuable prayer resource]

Biblegateway.com (NIV)

Oh, to Know Him …

Think of someone you love with your whole heart– someone you want to spend time with, someone who loves you too. This is a relationship where you are known, even with your foibles and imperfections, yet loved deeply. That’s how God, the Creator of all the Universes, feels about you. Yes, you. And, yes, me. How do I know? “The Bible tells me so.”

In the book of Genesis, Jacob, the twin brother of Esau, was a guy with a troubling track record. He was a self-absorbed schemer and swindler. He stole his brother’s inheritance by tricking his father as he was dying. Jacob knew there was a Jehovah God, Yahweh. Yet, there was a distance between Jacob and God. No wonder with Jacob’s deceitful heart. He always referred to God as the father of Abraham and Isaac (Jacob’s father). We could describe his view of God as formal, not intimate. I would go further to say I doubt in his early years, he “knew” God at all.

One night Jacob had a vivid dream (Genesis 28). As a child, you may have sung “Jacob’s Ladder” retelling this biblical account. He dreamed of a ladder with angels climbing up and down from Heaven. Then, during the dream, the Lord spoke to Jacob and made a promise to him about his future inheritance and the blessings to be poured out on his descendants. Jacob awakened, knowing the Lord had visited him. Yet, even after this encounter, he had the audacity to say he wasn’t sure whether or not to make Yahweh his God. He leveraged this tenuous relationship by vowing he would make God his God, IF God blessed him. That sounds a little like what we call “foxhole prayers,” those prayers of desperation. “If you let me live, God, I’ll become a Christian.” Jacob obviously did not have a connection to his father’s God. I would add, it’s also good that God Almighty is a patient God with much mercy for his petulant children.

Two decades later, Jacob had a second encounter with God, which changed the dynamics of their relationship. This time God was so personal and powerful that Jacob referred to the place as Penuel, which means “face of God.” Now instead of seeing God as an impersonal ruler, Jacob saw an affectionate Father. The Hebrew word for face is paneh —  presence. We don’t see God’s face in a physical way, but the Scripture tells us again and again that we can live in His presence. Later Jacob finds himself alone with God, and God takes him on — they wrestle! I can’t even imagine. There is much more to the story here, but I will add that God wanted Jacob to acknowledge his selfish heart. God had some big plans for Jacob, but first Jacob had to yield. God wanted Jacob to stop being a selfish conniver, and become transformed by God’s love, wisdom, and grace.

If you have ever had a loving, transparent relationship with another human being, whether it was a spouse, parent, or maybe even a child, you know it is a treasure. I remember fondly how I enjoyed sitting across the small kitchen table with my dad when I was an “adult child.” We had a connection. I understood how much he loved me, and he knew how much I loved him. I wanted to spend time with him, face to face. I enjoyed the pleasure of his company. I yearned to be with him whenever I could, and I miss him now.

The Bible shows us how God made you for a “face-to-face” relationship with Him. Wouldn’t you rather know the pleasure of spending time in the presence of God instead of just knowing about Him? Yield your dreams to the One who made you, and understands you best. Seek Him. Take time to listen and talk to the One who loves you beyond measure and is waiting for you to turn your face to His. He awaits the pleasure of YOUR company.

Choosing Peace

Photo by Becky D. McMillen, Baldwin, KS

Have you noticed how life sometimes runs on parallel tracks? Good things can take place in the midst of not-so-pleasant circumstances. When I saw this image, it reminded me of this facet of life on planet earth. In this photo, we see the beauty of two seasons, complementing each other in color and form. The delicate flowers of a redbud tree are accentuated with the flakes of a late spring snow, enhancing both snow and flowers.

If I imagined myself to be a redbud flower, I might not feel the positive vibes of a blast of cold invading my springtime. Imagine bursting forth in your best show of first blooms, to find yourself shivering under a pile of freezing fluff. Sort of sets you back.

In our daily humanity, we may recognize layers of goodness while being struck with a serious loss or disabling event. Laying in a hospital bed recovering from a painful surgery, I heard a simple praise song in my room. I was miserable, and only half-asleep, but the sweet voice sounded like an angel. A nurse had begun singing along with music I had playing on my cell phone. Her kindness and love deeply touched my heart.

When my dog experienced multiple health crises within a short out-of-state “vacation,” a kind veterinarian (our 5th appointment) spent thirty minutes reading all the health reports and deciding on a course of treatment. We were to leave for home the next morning. When we checked out, he had not charged me for anything except the medication. I felt tears well up in my eyes. It was not the money saved, though that was a blessing. It was his compassion. It felt like a hug from God.

I have found that people who are most successful in navigating pain, loss, and devastation don’t immediately jump up and down to embrace their dark trial. They will say, “It was hard.” However, they pass from grief to gratefulness when they recognize God’s provision along the journey. Yes, we may find a freezing jolt to our once-comfortable life, but in recognizing God’s mercy and grace to get us through, we find hope for the sorrows.

God’s peace is promised to us in Philippians 4:6-9. However, with every promise comes an expectation. True? We are told to not be anxious. How does that work, you ask? “I just lost … (fill in the blank), and I’m not supposed to feel the sad and awful reality?” Your husband (or wife) left you after years of marriage. You husband (or wife) died suddenly without any advance warning. You or a loved one receives a diagnosis of a fatal illness, or a health dysfunction without a remedy. Your child breaks off relationship. You know the list of tragedies goes on and on.

However, if you are one who has stepped over that line of faith as a believer in the Creator God of the Universe, He asks us to pray, to tell him what’s on our heart. He says in Philippians 4:6-7 to pray/petition WITH THANKSGIVING. Then comes the answer: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What a joy to let go of the spirit of heaviness, and release it to Father God, the One who loves you most. Not every woe in this life will have a “happy ever after” ending. In John 16:33, Jesus tells his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Yield, and receive your peace. We know in Heaven there will be no more sorrow, no more tears. Everlasting joy!

The Consequences of Choice

man holding a sign
 Imageu by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Americans are familiar with choice. It’s second nature to people who have lived in a more or less free society, depending on the period of history. We often glide through our days not giving much thought to all the choices we make. Yet, if we were denied the right to decide, undoubtably, we would squeal. Unless our voices are arbitrarily silenced and we had no recourse, we would not be satisfied without this freedom. Yes, we do yearn to be the master of our destinies. We love the freedom to decide what, when and how we do something.

Our Master Designer, God Almighty, gave us that ability to choose … but with “guidelines.” Well actually, ONE guideline. If you examine Genesis, you discover God’s children were provided with everything they needed in a beautiful place without strife or want. God’s nature is to provide. Yet, the “children” chose to do the only thing God asked them not to do. I have to smile because having raised children, I’ve watched them determinedly attempt scaling all established barriers, even if they were meant for their good.

While visiting a more tropical region, I experienced an unusual and uninvited houseguest. One morning, we found a little creature I nicknamed “Larry the Lizard,” in our kitchen sink. Not being accustomed to wildlife in my work area, I freaked out! I refused to do anything in the kitchen until Larry was free again … outside. Lacking gloves or anything which would help remove this intruder, my husband resorted to a property management housecall. “HELP! WE HAVE A LIZARD STUCK IN THE SINK.”

The more I thought about that little guy sitting at the bottom of the glistening, yet perilous-for-a-lizard bowl, I imagined the surprise when he tumbled down its inescapable slope. Each time he tried to climb out, he slid back to the bottom. What led him to explore in the kitchen, I wondered? What enticed him inside to begin with? I had so many questions.

However, the Lord reminded me how similar we humans are. Wandering about on our own, exploring life’s sights and stimulating possibilities, can land us places the Lord never intended for us–situations with emotional, physical, or spiritual risk. Do we always align our choices with God’s Word? Are we even aware of the choices we make daily? Do we pray before we accidentally slide into some inescapable trap?

Have your choices ever taken you somewhere you didn’t want to be, a place where you couldn’t easily climb back into God’s will? Here is the good news. Unlike poor “Larry,” who did not have a happy end of life, we have a Father God who is waiting for us to come to Him for help. Even in our rebellion, God hears our cries. Yes, there may be unpleasant natural consequences for our wandering choices, but He is faithful to hear. In Isaiah 30:18-19 (TPT), we read, “For this reason the Lord is still waiting to show his favor to you so he can show you his marvelous love. He waits to be gracious to you. He sits on his throne ready to show mercy to you. How compassionate he will be when he hears your cries for help! He will answer you when he hears your voice!”

Your Father God is waiting for you to call to Him, even for rescue, if need be. He sent Jesus, His Son, who not only taught, but took the penalty for generations of rebellious choices, past, present, and future. He made a way for us to have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe, even though he is holy and we are not. With this amazing gift, we are forgiven. And, we are loved beyond measure.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him,” (NIV).

Happy Easter!

2021

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Have You Ever Been Loved by a Dog?

selective focus photography of white and tan shih tzu puppy carrying by smiling woman
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com
To Be Loved

I’ve been thinking a lot of about dogs lately. Some people have said the word dog is “god” spelled backwards. I agree with the spelling inversion, but the God of the Bible is Almighty, all powerful, Creator of the universe, and so much more. Dogs cannot compare to my awesome eternal God. But this I know: Dogs do in some small way capture the essence of God’s faithful forgiving nature–love personified. It’s one thing to own a pet, but to BE LOVED by one takes the human/animal relationship to a whole new level.

Attributes

Treat dogs kindly and they will return their love and loyalty without reservation. Have you ever looked into a dog’s eyes and noticed the unconditional love flowing back? “If only they could speak,” I have often said. But honestly, they communicate quite well without our language. In my observation, a dog’s purpose and primary desire is to be near and to love. For this gift of love, I am grateful to God who had us in mind when He made all the creatures of the world.

Why do I spend time pondering the lives of canines? They are only one species of God’s great and wondrous creation. My life has been long and blessed with the abundance of unique animals I have known and loved: dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, and even a very funny goat “kid” we bought when the children were young. Perhaps my recent reflections are stirred because my present two “best doggies” are now old, with aging health issues. I must face the fact they won’t be with us for much longer.

A Time for Everything

Scripture tells us there is a time for everything. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to weep, and a time to laugh. I know how the breath of life draws a final conclusion to even the most vibrant and influential of lives, human or animal (and I do believe in the distinction). No matter how familiar my brain is with the seasons of life, death still shocks my system. It’s like a trick I must grapple with–every single time. “How can it be?” I ask, shaking myself to accept the reality that a living-breathing-vibrant being is no more.

Hope in Loss

Yet I have hope. Because of the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, the sting of death is diminished. Not eliminated, I add honestly. I still grieve the losses of those I love. For my human loves, I have the hope of heaven’s reunion with those who trusted Christ and have gone before me. For my furry friends, I have rich memories of the seasons in which we ran, laughed, cuddled, and exchanged love.

For now, I will hold my aging “puppies,” tell them how much they are loved, and thank God for such a gift–a tiny representation of His even greater love. Love has risks. Without love, life is empty. I choose to love, to endure the pain of loss, and cherish the days of laughter. Now, go hug a person or a pet today, and tell them how much they mean to you.

A Kindle Conundrum

I had a day from “the dark side” this week. It all began with a simple and seemingly benign decision. I ordered a Kindle reader from Amazon! Have you ever had something go awry at every turn? I’m sure you have. It’s part of the human condition, it seems. Earth is not Heaven, and that I’m sure we all have grasped. We await for that heavenly destiny and glory to come, or until Jesus returns for His children.

My adorable little Kindle arrived early in the week, but little did I know where that would lead. After five hours on the phone with five different Amazon customer service agents, I was a frustrated wreck. There were unusual sign-in issues, and after one service rep suggested I eliminate a little used business account, the apparently defective Kindle then became impossible to return. I had unconsciously ordered it from the then-defunct account and no one could seem to go back to retrieve the original order. I was on the phone with our credit card bank at 11:00 p.m. that same night because the first rep tried to charge me $59.99 for registering the device. That was fraudulent, I was later told. He sent me an email form to fill out with my credit information, resulting in not one, but two cards having to be immediately cancelled. I felt my stress level rising as no one seemed to know how to resolve all these mounting obstacles.   As I lay in bed talking to the Lord about my daunting day, I knew it was all inconsequential in the face of so many major problems around us. But, it did make me evaluate how I handled my personal potholes that day. I can share with confidence how God intervened and walked with me through the fires of some major traumas in my lifetime. Why, then, was I so undone over this incident? Of course, I wanted my money back. Certainly, I didn’t like being scammed by someone who was supposed to be a reputable representative. Naturally we were upset by suddenly having no credit cards.   Yet … I have friends facing Covid hospitalizations, livlihood losses, loss of family members, positive test quarantines, and grandchildren struggling to gain a normal in-person education. We see lots of suffering all around us. As I prayed that night, I knew I needed to regroup and let my Father God be my Source of peace again. How easy it is to walk away from His great love and light, to let worry fray my spirit, and weigh my heart.   I am reminded that God’s Divine power has given me (and you) everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him. He called us by his own glory and goodness (I Peter 1:3). In verse 5, we are admonished to “make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” If we have these qualities increasing, it will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.   So, my reminder to self is that I don’t have to let little challenges in life rob me of my joy. Knowing how God was faithful to me in the most daunting of losses and heartaches, He will be faithful even in the small things. He will help me navigate even in the day-to-day junk.

I hope this song by Michael W. Smith will bring joy to your heart as it reminds us God is here for you. This song also makes a beautiful love song if you have a special person you wish to encourage this Valentine’s Day. Take a listen. https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=M-hgLP9YKiA&feature=share Lyrics: When you feel the sunlight Fade into the cold night Don’t know where to turn I don’t know where to turn And all the dreams you’re dreaming Seem to lose their meaning Let me in your world Baby, let me in your world All you need is someone you can hold Don’t be sad, you’re not alone
I will be here for you Somewhere in the night Somewhere in the night I’ll shine a light for you Somewhere in the night I’ll be standing by I will be here for you
In this world of strangers Of cold and friendly faces Someone you can trust Oh there’s someone you can trust I will be your shelter I’ll give you my shoulder Just reach out for my love Reach out for my love Call my name and my heart will hear I will be there, there’s nothing to fear
I will be here for you Somewhere in the night Somewhere in the night I’ll shine a light for you Somewhere in the night I’ll be standing by I will be here for you
I will be here for you Somewhere in the night Somewhere in the night I’ll shine a light for you Somewhere in the night I’ll be standing by I will be here for you
I will be here for you Somewhere in the night Somewhere in the night I’ll shine a light for you Somewhere in the night I’ll be standing by I will be here for you
I will be here for you

Stepping into the Light

cold snow wood landscape

Photo by Yan on Pexels.com

It was a blustery cold morning, and as usual, I was walking my dog. It was what we always did after breakfast. Why, I wondered, did he always seem to stop to investigate a good scent when we were walking in the shade? It felt at least ten degrees colder than when we were in the sunlight! The windchill didn’t seem to bother my furry friend, but it was biting through my parka in a most piercing way.

Since our home sits on the shady side of the street, I decided I needed a course correction. A new routine. Going forward, I took command of my “mostly” obedient German Shepherd, and crossed the street as soon as we exited our cozy home. I made a deliberate choice to walk in the bright sunshine and relative warmth. After a few days of this new plan, I started to sing, like a young child, making up my own tune: “Walk, walk, walk to the sunny, sunny, sunny side….” The more I did this, the more clearly the Lord spoke to my spirit.

The parallel seemed clear. “God is the light …” we are told in Psalms 27:1. When we make the decision to walk in his light, with God beside us spiritually speaking, he does make a difference, no matter what pain and discomfort we encounter. Scripture confirms this cause and effect in James 4:8 (ESV). “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Notice how we are to make that decision first. God is waiting for you.

When you face the raw chill of physical, emotional, or spiritual pain, what do you do? Perhaps you experience the normal emotions of human grief. You want to deny what has happened, at least in the beginning. It feels so impossible. Once reality shakes out the truth, you may feel the grip of anger and sadness. Whenever you feel like a victim and all is lost, choose to run into God’s light. It’s our choice to remain in the misery of the season of despair, or to take steps to draw nearer to God. There, we are assured, He will draw near to us.

Psalm 91:4 provides us with a beautiful word picture: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge, (NIV)” In his refuge, you can find healing. Run toward his light and be warmed. It is there where we will be overcomers.

 

 

 

God is Greater

Witnessing the cultural and political landscape of my beloved America in the past few days, I grieved. It felt like someone had punched me–hard. So many things went wrong, all of which will ultimately hurt our nation. But, this I believe with all my heart. God is greater than any human power, any political party, or any government. He will not be undone. America was his shining light on the hill and God desires it to remain a place of freedom and truth.

lighted pillar candle

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

It is obvious that more recently, many Christians became engaged in the political arena, even if it was only to cast a ballot. For the most part, I don’t believe it was because they became enamored with a charismatic personality. They campaigned, donated, and voted in large numbers for local to national candidates because their biblical principles were at stake.

Those who believe they can politically silence conservative Christian voices are missing something. Our beliefs are not solely political. They are based on our hope and trust in a God we believe formed the universe. We can be expelled from social media, from book contracts, from all forms of media, but we will not be silenced–forever. Why do I say this?

I don’t adhere to my principles because I think I am right. I adhere to my principles because God says they are right. Some feel that makes me a dangerous zealot; I say it makes me a person of integrity, where faith and action align. Biblical principles inform my political and cultural views so they aren’t negotiable. They cannot be changed with the stroke of a pen, with the claim they are outdated.

Therefore, if governing powers designate more progressive laws, antithetical to biblical principles, it is not likely followers of Christ will simply “sit down and shut up.” Although they will bow to the laws of governing authorities, silencing their views has never been a positive solution. This goes to the core foundation of our nation. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are synonymous to America. People left their countries in Europe and struggled immensely to establish a new land where they could live according to their religious beliefs.

Remove my right to speak or write, and I will find another avenue to express what I believe. Oppression has always created an atmosphere of determination. Thankfully, in my lifetime, America has never demanded the ugly choice between silence or death as in authoritarian countries and I pray it will never do so. Let’s return to the founding principles of our great nation and live in freedom to legally express our views.

God is greater and His plans are higher. His purposes will not be silenced.

Pandemic Lessons from Macy McCombs

I had the opportunity to interview Macy Mc Combs, a freshman at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) when the 2020 pandemic hit our country. It is through her personal lens that I bring some insights today. 

So, Macy was thoroughly enjoying her new college life last February–new classes, new friendships, and a new future in accounting. She was busy from dawn to the time she crashed, happy, but exhausted. When the surprising lockdown came, despite everyone’s expectation that it would last only a few weeks, it was soon apparent, all classes were going virtual. But, Macy kept her nose at the grindstone, and  finished from home with straight A’s second semester.

So, what’s the big deal, you may ask, and what changed in Macy’s world? Life came to an abrupt halt in the McCombs household during the Covid-19 mandate to “stay home and stay safe.” A daughter of a pastor, Macy and the entire family was accustomed to being engaged in  church activities. Macy’s father knew he had to do something in order to provide ministry to his flock. Instead of engaging in the many opportunities at church, suddenly, “…church came home and there were no boundaries anymore.”

Macy writes about how the entire family was thrown into leadership responsibilities to make everything run smoothly virtually. Without question Macy and her siblings were eager to their father and mother. Yet, over time, one fact loomed over all the rest. There was no choice. There was no going home to rest. Home and church were one. Eventually, that took its toll. At the time of Macy’s writing a few months ago, she had led worship every single week for 17 weeks straight, and many more after that, I am sure.

The exciting part of Macy’s unique experience is what she learned. That is always the essential component of our life trials. How do we grow from being squeezed from pressures beyond our control? Macy shared a number of things she learned. Among the most important lessons, Macy had time to contemplate her former lifestyle, on-the-go constantly, participating in all the opportunities her young life held. That’s America! In her own words, Macy said, “I have learned that I can never take life for granted. I learned that it is necessary to slow down sometimes and spend extra time with God.” Macy has seen how fractured her days were rushing from one thing to another to make it all fit into her finite hours. She was overwhelmed, though wanting to take in every available opportunity! Learning to slow down in our culture is a big thing, and not easily  done.

Having chatted with many adults as well as young adults or teenagers during this Covid revolution, this is a common theme. Everyone is seeing how a little slower pace has some positive results. If one is a person of faith, it may even help roots go deeper and spiritual strength grow stronger. More Bible study time, more prayer time, more contemplation and reflection can be very nurturing to one’s being. Macy shared her time in a Kelly Minter Bible study called “No Other Gods.” In her words, “God totally rocked my world and my heart through that Bible study, and I wouldn’t have been able to go through it so intently if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.”

Macy, thank you for sharing your heart with me, and with all my Blog followers. You are a light to those around you, I am sure. I will close with Macy’s reflection on God’s intentions for all of us who will gather near Him. “I think God was using this time to make the world lie down in green pastures like it talks about in Psalm 23. He wanted us to slow down and come back to Him so He could restore us and give us rest.”

Macy has taken advantage of this time to rest in God’s love, to be refreshed. Have you?

 

pexels-photo-Bible

Questions, Questions, Questions

INTERVIEW WITH ELLA ROSE, A 2020 HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE:

The current pandemic has shown its influence beyond the curse of illness inflicted on untold millions. We all have stories to tell of the ways our plans have changed in the past few months. Beyond the simplicity of “change,” in many instances, our plans have been dashed. Disappeared. Gone. Have you questioned why, beyond the physical science of a lethal virus? Have you questioned why beyond the lack of candor of China (in generous terms) when they withheld information about the virus? Have you asked God how to navigate your new living reality?

As I continue to interview graduates, they respond in synchrony to this reality, expressed by Ella Rose. “I imagined my senior year in a certain way for my entire high school career. As the quarantine continued, I came to the realization that I wouldn’t have a prom or a graduation ceremony or everything I had been promised since kindergarten.” In many schools across America, no graduates walked across a stage to receive their diploma, signifying their readiness for the next step in life. There was no “Pomp and Circumstance” playing to heighten already profound emotions. No hoots and hollars, whistles and applause, celebrating fulfilled achievements, or even victory over trials. “Traditions,” as they sing in “Fiddler on the Roof,” are important. We look forward to our traditions, which usually are a testament to our deeply held values.

[For a taste of tradition, listen here: youtu.be/wl7BY5y7vP4]

Ella Rose shared how she adjusted to her cancelled celebrations, and things seemed okay. After all, prom and graduation celebrations aren’t the focal point when you are standing on tiptoe, peering into your yet-to-be-revealed future. “Honestly, for me this wasn’t the end of the world. … college was my main focus,” she said.  Having begun college coursework during her senior year, Ella Rose was ready for the transition, in anticipation of bursting forth into her new adultness. But, more challenging was when the pandemic drug on, and still remains. Would it also shortchange her dreams for starting her “new life”?

Where is our loving God when circumstances fail to meet our expectations? If you are honest, questions often flood our minds when obstacles prevent goals and dreams. Even with a strong grasp of God’s Divine nature and His personal involvement here on Earth, doubts may come knocking. Ella Rose believes questioning is an important aspect to growing and developing, ultimately aiding in better decision-making. She responded with candor: “The pandemic has caused me to question everything in my life.” Yet, she also finds hope in a higher plan than she can control or even understand: “…no matter the reason for this, it was always destined to happen.”

In self-reflection, Ella Rose states she learned some things during this quarantine. As a whole, Americans tend to live busy, distracted with the whirlwind of duties, family life, friendships, and social activities. In being always “on the clock,” there’s no time to reflect on the choices you make, or the value of any of it. Young adults are not exempt from this common suppression of inner emotions and spiritual dimensions with unending to-do’s. The Bible says human life is like grass. You may not like that simile, but it is a reference to the brevity of our existence. Should we not take time to evaluate how we spend these precious days? Surely none of us, if we grasped how quickly our physical lives go, would choose to squander it.

Not being surrounded by her burgeoning social relationships, Ella Rose “was forced to truly feel my emotions instead of escaping and distracting myself.” Ahhh, so insightful, Ella Rose. So often we are uncomfortable with our feelings, so we wiggle away from confronting them. Keep busy-busy-busy, and you won’t have to figure out anything important. You can just keep moving from one thing to another and never stop even to breathe, let alone evaluate the meaning. If you pause, you may find you do have some questions. What in the world is this existence all about? Are you a some kind of cosmic accident? Or do you have a higher purpose and design? Questioning is a good thing if it takes you to truth instead of denial. It’s good to ponder, ask, and then choose wisely how you will live.

God holds the answers. When you ask “Why?” remember even more importantly, “What can I learn from this?” We may never understand every eternal purpose, but God never fails to listen earnestly to his seeking children. I have many questions for God when we meet face to face. For now, I will rest in peace as David writes in verses 13-14 of Psalm 27: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord,” (NIV).

Finding Hope and Peace

Interview with Allison Hicks


So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? When life throws a curve ball, which it always seems to do at one time or another, we do have a choice. We have the choice to yield to an enduring despair, or we can figure out how to move forward.

Allison Hicks, a high school honor graduate, experienced many losses in her senior year. Covid-19 had its way in her personal world as it did in the lives of untold millions of people. She writes: “In the craziness of Covid-19, it was impossible to make plans that had a good possibility of being carried out. … I began to let go of all expectations since everything was constantly changing ….”

So in these times of “craziness,” how do we live out each day with any kind of peace? In Hebrews 13:5, we learn a foundational promise from God. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That’s an enormous truth to hang your hat on if you are a Believer, isn’t it? Drill down, and you end up with this truth from Psalm 46:1-2: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Do we live like we believe this? Or do we feel like we are abandoned by our Creator to deal with our losses alone?

During Covid-19, it seemed everything was cancelled. Used to a supportive cluster of friends, family, pastors and teachers, she couldn’t even meet with them. Allison was cut off. What? No Sunday morning and Wednesday night events? She said, “Biblical community is so important for spiritual growth.” That is a loss. A big loss.

Allison also had plans — good plans. All cancelled. She was going on a mission trip to Mexico this summer. She had also planned to attend a conference with speaker/author Jackie Hill Perry. So, how did Allison find her compass in this time? She discovered something many adults sometimes don’t grasp in their dark times. Allison says, “The only thing I could do was let go and put my trust in God. He is a consistency in an ever-changing world. His peace is not found anywhere else.” Such wisdom, Allison.

As 2 Corinthians 12:9 so clearly states, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” We don’t always have the courage or strength for the challenges before us, just as the disciples truly expressed their fear in the storm-tossed boat. But, as Allison so aptly put it, “I have learned a lot more about trust. I’ve learned that I have to surrender control in order to truly experience the peace of God. If I try to maintain control over my life, I will never experience the plan that God has for me.”

May we all learn and grow in faith so we might become brilliant lights in our dark world, sharing our hope in Jesus Christ in all seasons. Thank you, Allison Hicks, for sharing the lessons God has been teaching you as you learn to walk closely with him, no matter where the road leads.

When Dreams Are Dashed

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As an author of a historical fiction novel set at the cusp of The Great Depression, I wondered if many contemporary youth could relate to it. Why? Not because historical fiction isn’t relevant, or even interesting to compare to current events, but because of our nation’s overall wealth and good fortune during their entire lifetime.

For many years now, America has prospered beyond anything my parents and grandparents could have imagined. The main character of my historical fiction, entitled His Gift, Molly White, has high expectations for her future. She believes she knows her life purpose. She has persevered and sacrificed to achieve her dreams. It seems clear God has prepared Molly for this destiny and her plans seem inevitable. Then, like a design of standing Dominoes, one by one her dreams crash to the ground. What will she do and how can she go on? Will she find hope for her tomorrows?

As many of us, I have reflected about how life has changed in this 2020 season of Covid-19. Suddenly, everything we knew as our plans and futures, came to a stop. I wondered how young people are coping with their milestone events cancelled. Adults have also had to reconfigure their life plans, but some life miletones are difficult to recapture, like high school and college graduations.

I asked some young adults and teens to weigh in. Where do you go for hope when everything you’ve expected to happen is CANCELLED? How do you reframe life when your lifetime dreams disappear? Some of these young people have written about their losses, their feelings, and how they are regrouping. Today I share the thoughts of one young lady named Emma, who would have experienced her senior year and high school graduation. I pray that as she considered the interview questions, she was blessed by the process of reflection.

Emma, like most seniors, expected her senior year to be the very best of all her high school experiences. She anticipated her senior prom and all the excitement it would bring. “I envisioned graduation, walking across the stage with my best friends,” she said. In the back of her mind, I imagine she also would have imagined some cheers from family and friends. Everyone would have congratulated her for academic accomplishments as she walked forward to accept her diploma. At first, Emma says, “I was extremely disappointed and heartbroken that my time in high school with my friends and teachers was cut short.” Opportunity lost.

Looking more introspectively, Emma also learned “not to take your stage in life for granted. … I wish I had cherished the season I was in before it was gone.” Such wisdom for such a young age. I affirm Emma’s principle for every single human, no matter what “stage” a person is in. Thank you for digging deep and realizing this truth now as you stand on tiptoes, peering into your future, Emma. I pray that you will never miss the importance of any season in life.

Emma shares how she cried out to God asking the universal question so common to all of us. “Why? Why me? Why at this time in my life?” Emma asked. Realizing she has not received a direct answer from God to all of her questions, she affirms these lessons. “I am beginning to understand part of the ‘why.’ God has allowed me to take this time for personal growth, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have evaluated the properties in my life and grown so much closer to God. In a way, I am thankful for this quiet time of introspection.”

i encourage every reader to look for answers for themselves, to read, to pray, to seek the One who holds all of our futures. If you don’t have a relationship with God, I pray this bold interruption to your plans will cause you to question and perhaps wonder if there isn’t something more than your own plans as you live your days.

Thank you, Emma, for your wisdom and we pray your future will always be filled with a close relationship with the Lord Your God. I’m praying for a beautiful future as you walk into the “next season.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where do I find hope?

The Lifter of My Head

Where do I find hope?
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So many life changes have occurred since I last wrote, and by now pastors, singers, and people gifted to share faith have offered abundant advice, truths, and prayers to help us handle our catastrophe. When we first heard about Covid-19, fear ripped across our land. What untold millions would be impacted by this new and deadly disease? We listened to the news ad nauseum; enormous numbers of people would succumb, they said, calculated on little known reports coming from other countries.

We were vulnerable. As the curtailing of a “normal” American lifestyle became our status quo, I prayed and read my Bible. I found scriptures which calmed my own troubled heart, and wanted to share them. Yet, I felt scattered, and struggled to think I had anything of value to add to this conversation.

I was suddenly thrust into the quest for basic supplies: Sam’s Club in the wee hours of the morning, online shopping (forget the sales) requiring curbside pickup, discovering many items were limited for purchase, or there were none at all. Finding toilet paper became a central topic of conversation among friends and family, sometimes as a joke, sometimes as a serious point of desperate need.

I prayed for America and its leadership daily. I prayed and still pray for our nation to seek God’s will in this time of stopping our usual endeavors. Yet, in agreement with others, I don’t pray for us to return to “normal.” Why? Because as a whole, our culture has turned its back on God. The Biblical roots of our nation have been replaced by secular humanism and “tolerance” of most everything … but Christianity. Long held truths and foundational American beliefs have been challenged as wrong, outdated, or simply problematic.

So where are we in this limbo state? American life = busy. Everyone is busy. If we are busy, life is as it should be goes the mantra. Children are busy. Parents are scrambling to keep up with jobs and “busy children.” Even many seniors keep busy. Some are chasing all the to-do’s on their bucket lists or looking for ways to find comfort in their final years. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us busy. Then there is no time to ponder the deeper things, the things that truly matter when nothing else does.

When this life is over, will you have a relationship with the God of the universe? Are you grounded in a faith that assures you will live your eternal life in a heavenly place, a place where there are no more tears and sorrow? Your spirit will live eternally. But do you know where? In Psalm 46:10, God speaks his truth over us busy ones: “Be still, and know that I am God.” One day when you face your own mortality, this will be the only thing you need.

As I face the Coronavirus head on, I know it has been a disrupter. On a lighter level it has stopped me from pursuing some of my present goals. I halted what had been pressing projects to sew masks for family and friends. It caused me to learn how to maintain relationships through technology. It forced me to learn new ways to gather food and supplies without entering a store. It has temporarily stripped our economy, and while the government prints money, we wonder how it will ever be repaid. And, most deeply, my heart aches as I grieve the loss of a sister-in-law who was struck down by this dreaded contagion. But, God. He has her in his care at this very moment. Because of her relationship with Jesus Christ, I can peacefully release her. 

Yes, I have hope. God is sovereign over all things. If you believe there is a Creator, He is a power we cannot fully grasp: omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal, for starters. But, we know a lot about Him, and His will is for our good. Will this pause in life be something God can use for good in my life? What will I do with this pause in life? He makes clear from the beginning of scripture to the last page, he desires a relationship with the people he created. He made us for relationship. He loves you. He loves me. It is God himself who is the “lifter of my head” when sorrows make me downcast. He is for me, not against me. He has a good plan for my life, and promises an eternal home filled with beauty and joy. He calls me to come near; he awaits patiently when I am lost in earthly “busyness.” He calls us to come now.

“So do not fear, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

Green Pastures – Still Waters

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Are You Listening?

The other morning, I walked outside to the soothing sounds of a cooing dove. I looked up to find the little creature balancing on a power line. I smiled with gratitude. Flashbacks flooded my mind with the times God has comforted me with that same peaceful coo-coo … often when I needed it the most. I’m not superstitious about signs in nature, but I know how His magnificent creation often speaks to my heart. Many writers address how we can best get through the tough times. And, it’s true that we will experience trials. What about the times we feel the presence of God? What about the quiet, still moments when the “noise” of life doesn’t demand every inch of our attention? Do we take time to listen? Are we even aware of the Creator’s desire to have communion with us, His children?

Trials May Come

In 1 Peter 1:6 (NIV) we are told “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3 goes even further by telling us we are destined for them (these trials). That’s certainly not the kind of good news I relish, but it seems to be a natural flow of life … for me, my family, and my friends. Yet, I take courage in knowing this earthly dwelling is temporal, and for this short time, our spiritual enemy has domain. We can rejoice knowing there will be no more sorrow, no more tears in our eternal home, Heaven. We will forever enjoy a beautiful intimacy with Father God, our Creator.

Where Is God?

Recognizing this dichotomy, I have taken a deeper look at the 23rd Psalm. It reminds me again that God will be with me as I walk through the valleys on earth. He assures me He is present right in the middle of the mess of my life. It is my job to look for and listen for Him. In addition, Scripture says, God as my Shepherd “makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, (Psalm 23:2, NIV).”

Restoration

First of all, I love how God makes me lie down. I still remember as a little girl when my mom insisted I lie down, especially on a hot summer day. Didn’t she understand how busy I was? I had serious playing to do. Books to read. Friends to see. Skating. Biking. Yet my mom knew how I was made, and how much happier I would be if I rested. God knows when I need to have a “timeout” from my circumstances. What happens when He leads me to those still waters? Big stuff. He restores me. I become refreshed, and renewed from the chaffing of the rougher situations. I become stronger and more able to live victoriously even through the troubles.

As I take stock of my own testimony of faith, I stop to think about the times when God has intervened and set me in a quiet place. They may not have looked like still waters, but they were evident and restorative. A deep breath of peace. They are times when I sensed God’s presence. Sometimes, such experiences are as fleeting as the song of a dove, or a hug from a child. But regardless of the time, those memories linger as reminders of God’s care.

He is Speaking

Think for a minute about your own life. Everyone has ups and downs, mountaintops and valleys, joys and sorrows. I would encourage you to look for those precious times when you have been able to stop to breathe, even in the midst of chaos. I pray that you have felt reminders of God’s love and comfort. Look for Him to show up when you need Him most. He may want you to lie down in green pastures. Listen for Him speaking to your heart.

Christmas Presence

Christmas in much of America overflows with celebration: gatherings of friends and family, decorations, lights, music, food, gifts to give and receive, and special programs at church. In the midst of all the gala events, those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ also diligently try to prepare our hearts for the meaning of Christmas. We don’t want the priceless “reason for the season” to get buried in an avalanche of gift wrap, bows, and parties. Sometimes we become desperate for a moment of quiet reflection while busily completing our to-do lists. Cards? Check. Gifts? Check. Food prep? Check. Gifts wrapped … well, maybe by midnight Christmas Eve if all the toys and bikes are properly assembled?

I will never forget an unusual Christmas I experienced eight years ago. I learned more spiritual truth in that unique celebration than any other in my lifetime. It was Christmas Eve. I was all alone … well almost. I was with my eighteen-month-old grandbaby, but she was barely talking, and her bedtime was at seven p.m.

I can still hear my daughter’s voice on the phone  just a few days before Christmas. Sadly, we were across the continent from each other, from the east to the west coast. Her baby boy had been admitted to Children’s Hospital with congestive heart failure. He was born with a sizable hole in his heart, but the cardiologist was hoping he could grow a little more before surgery. “Mom, I need you. NOW,” she said breathlessly. Our eighteen-month-old granddaughter needed care. Her parents needed to be with our six-week-old grandson who was now immediately scheduled for open heart surgery.

I hopped the next flight out while my husband stayed home to welcome another daughter and her family who were driving from out of state to spend Christmas with us. It was hectic. It wasn’t planned. It was scary. So much was at stake, and naturally, our attention was diverted from the usual Christmas traditions. We fervently prayed Psalm 91 prayers for our baby whose life was on the line. We asked everyone we knew to pray for this tiny one, his mommy and daddy, and the medical team into whose hands his life was entrusted.

Christmas Eve arrived, and my adorable little toddler’s scheduled naps, meals, and bedtime negated a church service. At dusk, I loaded my little blonde bundle in her wagon, and we began a Christmas Eve walk through the neighborhood. In the simple expression of the Whos of Whoville (from The Grinch) when Christmas was stripped of its busyiness and trappings, I still had worship for the One it was all about. In simplicity. I sang every Christmas Carol I had ever learned — one baby girl, me, and songs of worship from ages past. My heart was full, and I felt the peace that passes all understanding. Not my peace as my heart was anxious. His peace.

Why did I have peace when our circumstances were filled with such scary possibilities? Just as Mary sang, the young mother of Jesus, my heart was filled with praise for the Mighty One, my God, my Savior. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46-47 NIV). Christ’s coming so I could have a relationship with Holy God was the greatest gift ever. What we were celebrating wasn’t dependent on traditions.

As one with family scattered across the country, it’s easy to reminisce. There were once hectic holidays with large family gatherings with our own little ones, their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I remember the chaos and fun with fondness. Yet, sometimes it takes having all of our usual customs stripped away to see the greater treasure.

I will never forget the love and quiet reflection I felt on that unusual Christmas Eve. It helps me step back into time, and imagine the fear mixed with blessing that the young Mary experienced. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14 NIV). May you also know His peace and presence this Christmas.

 

 

 

“STOP!”

grey white clouds
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Most of us, including me, love sunshine. The old John Denver song (for those of you old enough to remember) comes to mind: “Sunshine on My Shoulders” of course … makes me happy! Somehow the sun has the power to transform a cold winter day from dreary to cheery. Sunshine delights the eyes as it illuminates and accentuates the early blooms of spring. Sunshine intensifies the glory of crimson and yellow fall leaves, leaving an onlooker breathless from its vibrant display.

However, in real life, not every day is so perfectly beautiful and filled with light. Your “skies” may turn dark. Storm clouds might roll in hard and fast.  If you are from Tornado Alley, like I am, you may run to take cover as the green-gray cloud soup drapes itself over the land, and tiny funnel-shaped structures dip and dance overhead. There are certainly vivid Bible stories depicting the fears and consequences of storms at sea. Think of dear old Jonah who was trying to escape God’s directives. The Lord sent a great wind and a storm so wicked that the sailors were all afraid their ship would break up, leaving them to drown in the sea. God needed to get Jonah’s attention. And, he used that storm to speak to Jonah’s heart. When storm clouds threaten, do you call on the Lord?

When Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, a sudden and furious squall arose. (Mark 4:35-42) Waves crashed over the boat, nearly swamping it. The disciples thought they might die, yet Jesus slept in the stern of the fishing vessel until they awakened him. He fussed a bit at their unbelief. “Do you still have no faith?” he asked. But, before he spoke to the disciples, he got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Wow. Just like that. The storm subsided. The disciples were in disbelief even though they had been following him for awhile! Yet, they feared death and destruction in that moment, when they couldn’t see the sunshine, but felt the wind. Yet, Jesus was right there. He was with them in that boat. Do we ever doubt where He is during the storms, or do we remember He is with us?

I know we cannot always rebuke every storm in our lives and see it instantly dissolve. Yet, I want to take this analogy one step further. Oftentimes, our storms are not physical or environmental. Sometimes, they take place in our heads and hearts … a heaviness, a loneliness, a lack of joy, a grief that doesn’t seem to end. I want to encourage you to take heart. Though you may not see miracles every day, Jesus did tell the disciples in John 14:12, “,,, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” 

When you feel some torment from your spiritual antagonist, Satan himself, put on your spiritual armor and stand your ground. In James 4:7 we are reminded to submit ourselves, to God. Then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” 

I had a bad dream a week ago and it was a reminder of this principle. A dark and shadowy cloud formation was following me. I noticed it but kept walking. Then, I began running. It followed relentlessly. In this dream, I suddenly turned around to face that fearsome thing, and shouted, “STOP!” And, it did!

I know. This was a dream. There was no real threat to me or my loved ones.  Yet, I do believe the Lord speaks to us in dreams. The dark cloud stopped in its tracks, and I, in joyful amazement, praised God. It was only a dream, but symbolic, no doubt.  I will wear my spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). When I feel the darkness of the Enemy discouraging me from fulfilling God’s purposes, I will boldly proclaim, “STOP! In the name of Jesus!” I pray this imagery will be an encouragement to you as well. I pray that you won’t be overcome by the one who wants you to lose hope in the storms of life.    

The Virtue of Vigilance

architecture beautiful bloom blooming

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2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT) “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I have always loved flowers. From my earliest memories of planting marigold seeds with my sweet mama, flowers have been a beautiful part of my life. They make me smile on the gloomiest of days. Flowers have long inspired poets and artists. The great artist Claude Monet said, “I must have flowers, always, and always.”  Henry Ward Beecher, a clergyman and abolitionist of the 1880s said, “Flowers may beckon towards us, but they speak toward heaven and God.”

Scripture also refers to flowers with frequency. Close your eyes and imagine a flower adorned garden in which God placed his first children. I’m sure it was decorated with an abundance of variety and a vast array of colors. In Luke 12:27, Jesus tells the disciples to consider how the lilies grow. He points out that even Solomon with all his wealth was not dressed like the beautiful flowers God created.

However, unlike the Garden of Eden, with its natural mist to maintain moisture, my flowers must be tended. One hot summer day, as I watered my front flower beds, I glanced up to where once-bountifully blooming flower baskets were hanging.

“Oh, NO! Look!” I cried to my husband. “They looked fine Friday!” I cried.

My husband surveyed the damage, and suggested we soak them in a revival attempt. Sadly, the soaking was “too little, too late.” I knew it had been hot, but we had received three inches of rain mid-week. The last time I had assessed the baskets, they seemed healthy. Apparently, I had not been vigilant.

We had been studying 2 Peter 1:5-8, Peter’s “formula” for living well as followers of Christ. Basically, Peter tells us if we attend to his plan, we will have certainty of being “productive and useful” to the Kingdom of God. We will grow spiritually strong, he says, when we add moral excellence to our faith. Peter unpacks other essentials that we need to achieve God’s promised blessings: knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and LOVE for everyone! Oh, how I long to have these virtues growing in me daily.

The Lord spoke to my heart with a spiritual application from my pitiful dead flowers. It appeared that my plants went from thriving to dying “almost overnight.” I was shocked, in fact, with their quick demise. My judgment had lapsed when I assumed they didn’t need immediate attention. The result? Disappointing consequences.

My loss of my flowers is a minor consequence compared to many of life’s unexpected detours. To live in a spiritually effective way, to receive the blessings God has prepared for me, I need to be watchful, attentive … vigilant, in fact. A person can’t simply throw together Peter’s hefty spiritual goals and expect instant attainment. Maybe this is what our Christian fathers have referred to as the “spiritual disciplines.” Goodness knows, my self-control needs hourly monitoring! Perhaps my lesson is that to acquire spiritual strength and blessing, I must tend to my daily progress.

This does not equate spiritual growth  (sanctification) with “good works” to somehow earn salvation. “Earning salvation” is not Biblical. Eternal life in Heaven is freely given by grace through the gift of Jesus Christ. He took the penalty of my sin, providing a way for me to have a relationship with Father God.

However, Peter admonishes us to “make every effort” to respond to God’s promises. My dead flowers remind me to be vigilant in this task. Join me. Pledge to yourself to be vigilant in seeking Holy Spirit empowerment. Why? so you can “finish well” in this race of life. I aim for the greatest of all treasures, to grow in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

 

I Have a Choice?

Liv, did you know? You really DO have a choice to make. If you are not ready to parent, and you believe it is in your best interest not to try, there is still another option beyond abortion. You will not be parenting now, and you can continue working or going to school. You can continue the goals you had before this unplanned pregnancy. It IS a significant decision that involves loss and grief, but not one that ends a life. You can even experience the joy of knowing your child if you choose to do so.

“What choice?” Liv cried out. “There is a no good choice!”

Twenty-year-old Liv had just found out she was pregnant, which was certainly not in her plans. After taking multiple pregnancy tests, she knew she needed help.

“I sure don’t want HIM in my life,” she said to her friend Talia.

“Tell me about ‘him,‘” Talia said, prompting another tirade from Liv.

“He completely misrepresented himself on social media. This guy is so mixed up. Last week, he even said he was thinking of suicide.”

Talia didn’t interrupt, but listened intently.

“He seemed so together and strong, when we first met, but I really wouldn’t want him to parent. The irony of it all.  You know how I’ve wanted to have a child. So now I have one. But, I will have to do this alone, and you know, I’m not really financially ready for that.”

“This is something to take your time with, Liv. Your choice is going to have long-lasting  effects for you … and that little one,” Talia replied.

“You know, Talia. I’ve always wanted to feel what it would be like to having a baby growing inside me. But, I really can’t take on raising a child right now!”

“Do you know anything about adoption?” Talia asked.

“No, not really.”

“In some ways, it offers the same relief as an abortion,” Talia offered.

Liv sat quietly for a few minutes.

“I know it would give the baby a future. Most likely a better life than I can give it,” Liv said thoughtfully. “But, could I go through with it?”

“You are a brave, Liv, to even think about these possibilities,” Talia said, giving her friend a big hug.

Dear Lord, I pray for Liv and all the young women facing her decision. Help them to see beyond the moment of turmoil they face. Open their eyes to the reality that you have purpose and meaning for this little life. Let Liv know that You will be there through it all if she puts her trust in You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

 

 

Stories Behind the Debate: Life Choices

The Untold Truths

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As a freelance writer and retired educator, I have written extensively across the spectrum: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and curriculum for multiple public educational publishing markets. I also helped develop children’s Bible teaching literature for twelve years as a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. I have written for various Christian magazines, such as The Christian Leader (Regent University Alumni magazine), SpiritLed Woman (Strang Publishing), ParentLife (LifeWay), and High Adventure for teens (Gospel Publishing House). More recently, I completed a young adult historical fiction novel, which is currently in the capable hands of my Christian publishing agent with Word Wise Media, David Fessenden.

Another book for young adults and teens is in the planning stages. Over the past few years, I have had the challenging, yet rewarding, experience of working as volunteer patient advocate for a pregnancy center. I feel called to share the heart stories of young women raised in a culture where sexual freedom, outside of the parameters of marriage, is the norm. By removing the topic of abortion from the intellectual debate between pro-life and pro-choice advocates, I invite readers to step into the hearts of those who experience life-altering decisions about their unplanned pregnancies. These scene snippets are based upon true events, but fictionalized. Some situations are prevalent themes while some are more rare and unique. My purpose is to help readers grasp the truth of countless untold stories and to counter the cultural claim of abortion being inconsequential. Most women do not readily share their abortion decisions, or their emotions before or after. Many hope no one ever finds out.

Politicians, the courts, news media, and Hollywood have all proclaimed a woman’s “right” to abortion as a resolution for an unplanned pregnancy, sometimes going so far as to suggest we should “celebrate” it. Why not, they ask? After all, we are told, this genetic package of life is not life at all, but merely cells that are a part of the mother’s body. I invite my readers to learn from those who are most deeply impacted as they wrestle with the physical, emotional, and spiritual impact of abortion in our culture. I understand that some readers will disagree with my viewpoint, but this is a reality that is often ignored.

In the folder on this Blog named “Science and News about Life,” I will also post informational facts about the preborn which will rely on science discoveries over recent years. The toll young women carry in their hearts from this aberration from God’s plans is incalculable, without accounting for the millions of human lives that have been destroyed. May these stories shine God’s love and forgiveness to heal those who have been caught in this deception, and help others to thoughtfully consider the path that God intends for His children, “plans to give them a future and hope” (Jeremiah 19:11).

In the Day of Trouble

The image of the flag of United States of America on the cracked dry ground

In the Day of Trouble

My heart is in anguish at the brokenness of my beautiful homeland. Once generally agreed-upon foundational truths, morals, and laws are no longer embraced, and are, at least, marginalized. Even being “patriotic” toward our America, or recognizing our history as one of the most generous of all the world nations, is disputed by many. America was never perfect, of course. It always had flaws, some egregious, but now we are expected to feel shame for the very fabric of our history.

A Nation Divided

However, I don’t. Instead, I feel sadness for how young minds are being taught to hate America despite the “light” it has been, and the causes it has fought for over its history. As Abe Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Our government cannot function because it is so polarized. Ideologues cannot compromise for the good of the people. Oh, no.

I believe we are “reaping the whirlwind” for removing God from the marketplace of ideas. We’ve lost core beliefs which people once agreed upon. Why? Many have turned their back on God, but have put humans in His place. Biblical truths are replaced with new cultural ideologies by those who are opposed to Christianity. We are expected to have “tolerance” for everything except biblical values and beliefs.

Finding Hope in God

What can we do when division and hatred overwhelm? I take comfort in the lessons gleaned from scripture. In Isaiah 37, we learn of a certain King Hezekiah who became aware of his enemy, King of Assyria. Oh, that one was a God hater, for sure. He wanted Hezekiah to believe God would not help him, and Jerusalem would be overtaken by enemy forces. To be honest, Hezekiah was also a bit complicit in this downfall because of his own rebellion. He was humbled in his difficult situation, and should have been.

However, his first reaction was not only humble, but wise. He went to the house of the Lord to seek God. Then, he sent some representatives to Isaiah, a prophet who personally heard from God. Hezekiah used a perfect word picture about the calamitous situation. “This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them,” Isaiah 37:3 (NIV). That is dreadful, is it not? Either the mother or the baby, or both may be lost! Hezekiah knew things were grim.

Good News

But some good news came back from the Lord: “Do not be afraid of what you have heard,” Isaiah 37:6 (NIV). Even after that the enemies attempted to persuade Hezekiah to doubt God. They said God would ignore their pleas. Hezekiah did what Believers in America should do at this juncture in American history. He took all the evidence (a letter), spread it out before the Lord, and prayed as earnestly as he knew how. He declared, “…You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth,” Isaiah 37:16 (NIV). “Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear.”

Though there were some years of resulting consequences for Hezekiah’s earlier rebellion, God did answer his cries. God was determined to preserve the remnant out of Jerusalem. “For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake,” Isaiah 37:35 (NIV).

Pray

I encourage you to pray with me over our nation. Pray to the One True God to have mercy even though America has turned its back on God as a collective. As we humble ourselves like Hezekiah, we can have hope, hope that God will spare the remnant of believers in America, though many have rejected Him. America was once a light to the world, “a city set on a hill” for others to see as a beacon of hope for the world. In Matthew 5:14-16, scripture tells us, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” I pray for a return; I pray for America to be a light again.

Here is an older song by Chris Machen called “Bow the Knee.” It’s beautiful and the lyrics are a perfect fit. Listen and enjoy as you lay out your heart’s concerns before our God. Yes. “You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.” We ask in humility for you to forgive our nation, to heal our land, to pour your spirit out in revival so those who hate you cannot stand. We will glorify you and give you the praise. Amen.

FALL GIVEAWAY of books

For younger to older readers …

Today, I have a fun surprise to share with you … I’ve teamed up with 60+fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of Middle Grade & Young Adult books to 2 lucky winners!

Oh, and did I mention the Grand Prize winner gets a BRAND NEW eReader? 😁You can win my historical fiction novel His Gift (pictured on the first row), plus books from many other genres. There are some good reads in this compilation of 60 books. Gifts perhaps? Donate what you don’t want and still have a chance at a new eReader!

bit.ly/MiddleGradeYAFic-Sep21

ENJOY!

Joan

Something Fun for You Book Lovers

TO WARM YOUR HEARTS in the chilly  winter blast, here’s a chance to win a $500 gift card! This is a book promotion by Celebrate Lit, and I want to invite you to check it out! Just use the link to fill out the forms.
 
The event and giveaway is going on now through February 20!
We want you to have a chance to win 40+ books or a $500 Amazon card to buy a ton of books yourself in Celebrate Lit’s We Love our Readers Giveaway!
 
Click here or paste the link into your browser bar to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/105b6/3rd-annual-we-love-our-readers
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