Tag Archives: God

A Christmas Greeting…

It’s Christmas time!  Everywhere you go people are rooting around for gift giving, holiday baking and party planning.  I really feel like something is wrong with me this year. My melancholic other side has really kicked in. Normally I am the sanguine, dress me in red and send me off all smiles and laughter…but now it’s different.  Oh, I don’t think I am depressed, just rather reflective.  I’ve been peering hard into the nativity, listening to the various teaching programs present the story of Christ’s birth and well, really soaking it in.  Can it really be that after 28 years as  a believer that it has suddenly hit me…that the baby born in a manger…God’s only son…came to die for me and I am just getting it, I mean really getting it?  No, I know these things, however it is remarkably different as I just seem to be looking beyond the surface, pondering the very stark reality of this event that we make fuss over year after year. 

It has been so good for me to see just how very teeny tiny I am in light of who He is.  I am barely capable of even trying to comprehend this God that I am somehow deeply in love with.  Itsy, bitsy me knows that the Maker of heaven and earth loves me, desires my affections, and continually walks with me to bring Kimberly His very best, every day.  Not only that, the King of the universe, the One who hung the stars in the sky even sings over Kimberly when she is sleeping.  I can barely contain myself when I think of that!

The very understanding of these verses in John are so remarkable as they reveal Christ Jesus to us from the first five verses in the book of  John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of Men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” 

These verses are proof that the Majesty came to invade our world of darkness so that we would no longer be in darkness.  He came to provide  life where there was only death!

When we read the Christmas story and get to the part of shepherds witnessing the revelation of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2, I am in awe!   

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” 

I listened as the Bible teacher from a program we carry on the radio talked about the fact that these shepherds who received this revelation were really the lower class of society in that day.  Dirty, stinky, sweaty and probably pretty course in their language, yet God made them privy to the realization of a story told hundreds of years before.  They were some of the first to witness this baby born in a disgusting cave filled with animal refuse  and dirt.  How can it be?  And how can it be that God has allowed one like me or even you, to come to know Himself as Trinity?  This amazing event gave us the reality of the Creator Himself!  If that doesn’t humble you just a bit then pinch yourself to make sure  you are really here! 

My past has been an ugly stumbling block to receiving God’s amazing grace.  It has held me captive with unbelief that God could love me because of _________ (go ahead and fill in the blank if you can identify.)  Maybe this Christmas is a year where after almost 29 years of having known “Christ as my savior”, that I  am able to freely receive what was given to me over 2000 years ago.  Not because of something I have done, but because I now realize that my Creator invaded my messy life and pierced my heart with His love.  Like the unlikely shepherds who were given the revelation of Jesus birth, I too am the unlikely to receive this gift of love. 

It could be that you have gone through the motions year after year like I did without really internalizing the actuality of God becoming flesh, to dwell among us, then to die so that we might live.  It is simple yet complex and as one song puts it “what a strange way to save the world”!  I have looked at myself as the most unlikely and accepted His love which completely invaded my messy life and this has given me hope for my tomorrows!  Peer deeply into the manger scene and ask God to give you His perception of what this “Christmas celebration” is really all about.  Then like me you can truly rejoice in the Savior that has come.  May His Christmas blessing be yours! 

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” 

So Much to be Thankful For!

Thanks Fam
From our family to yours!

 

As a child of the King, I am so grateful for new life in Christ! The Lord has saved me and I did not even realize I needed to be saved or rescued.  But, He restored me and is making me whole.  He looked down on this lost lamb and claimed me for His very own. 

I am thankful that I have a Father who has given me more than stuff, He has given me life which He promises in abundance! And on most days I feel full to overflowing with His love. 

I am most thankful to have free access to my Father and whenever there is a need He is there to help me.  He even lets me share Him with those who do not know who He is. 

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, And the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”  Psalm 95:1-6

Not only has God given me life and in abundance but he has given me love and people to share that with, family, friends and even strangers who need to see God’s love in action. 

You see like King David said,

” I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”  Psalm 27:13,14 

I can be thankful for all kinds of stuff for I have so much but I am most thankful for the sacrifice of Christ which made a way for me to know God as my Father, Provider, Redeemer, Peace, Healer…stuff is temporal but this life in Christ is eternal! 

A Blessed Thanksgiving to You and Yours!

A New Kind of Normal at My House!

Mom & Elsa
Momma and her grandpup Elsa

Have you ever wondered and asked, “How in the world did I get from here to there?” Boy oh boy, I am shaking my head lately and asking God, “Huh, God, how in the world did you do that?”

Every day over these past few months I find myself amazed as I look around my home and the changes that have taken place and I am in awe! I suppose there is a part of me that has realized that life just ain’t what it used to be—not at all!—but also it is a new kind of comfortable. As I try to find the pattern for this new kind of normal in my home.

In July my sister brought my mom up for another ‘few month’s’ summer stay (or so mom was told.) My sister and I had been discussing that if she could stay up here for good it would be better for my sister and for my mom from the stand point that she would have more one on one time with her love ones. (My sister has a very pressing job that takes way too many of her hours!) While she was still here we looked at and discussed some options for where our mom could stay that would be financially feasible and the best fit for her and her minimal needs.

Fast forward to late August…mom was informed that she would be staying up here instead of returning to Orlando where she has lived for almost 18 years. We have asked her over the years when she stays in her ‘trailer’ for summer months to consider staying permanently to which she abruptly retorts ‘no way, too cold for me!’ You see this little five foot tall woman is barely 84 pounds! No body fat to help keep her warm. However…she is here and for her, this was a pretty rude awakening for her to “be told” that she would not be returning ‘home’.

Fast forward to October…my mom moves in with us!  And really, except for the cold, she is in a good place. Enough said.

This is a move that would never have taken place if not for a husband who has a soft spot for elderly mom! He was pretty close to his own mother who hasn’t been here for quite a few years now. So he was 100% on board with having her move in with us or believe me it wouldn’t have happened. We all know how the son-in-law, mother-in-law thing goes and the animosity that can build in those situations. No, not my guy who has been over the top kind and loving (well he can be a bit gruff at times but she knows how to read him) not to mention willing to adjust to accommodate her needs!

August end and September kept me very busy, trying to figure out where to put a room full of stuff so mom would have her own space. This and a few cupboards in the kitchen and pantry and drawers in the bathroom…oh my, what a chore! But…we have accommodated this dear woman as best as we can and she has now been in residence with us since October 10th.

For the most part I am over-the-top thrilled to have her here with us. My mom and I haven’t ever been this close (well maybe when I was a child, then it was just the two of us!) I am thrilled to be here for her, to ‘minister’ to her needs and have her see Christ in me, my hope of glory. And I want to make this adjustment for her as smooth as possible and it is going well. But there is also a part of me that looking back, forced me into an adjustment I might never have been ‘ready’ for. Caring for an elder person is time consuming. It is so not about me and my needs right now which means I find myself doing a lot of things quite differently. So in the process of laying me down to take up the needs of someone else has—let’s say—been very interesting!

Some of you know exactly what I am going through and some of you might say that you would never get in a situation like this. But as I talk to my Father about this big adjustment I have heard Him speak to my heart that this isn’t about Kimberly…this is to show Joan who I am. I have made the decision to lay down 80% of my ‘me’ time to take care of, minister to and just be there for this little woman of 83. She doesn’t know Jesus! One of the biggest confirmations that we were doing the right thing was one evening when she looked over at me and said, “You know, this really feels like family” and I had to hide my tears.

I may be doing things I haven’t done in years or never done before, like watching the “Voice” (a weekly TV program mom loves to watch), or rubbing her back with lotions and fixing a different kind of menu because of her own dietary needs. But I know that God has this all planned out. For such a time as this my calling is to be Jesus to my little momma.

Father, sometimes you call us to go to the ends of the earth to bring the Good News to those who don’t know You. And sometimes you call us to adjust our comfort level in our own home to bring the Good News to one who doesn’t know You. When we surrender our wants, desires and plans, you pour out grace where needed and help us to make the uncomfortable adjustments to accommodate all you are doing in the midst of a ‘new kind of normal. Help me to continue embracing the change and trust the outcome for Your glory and in Your Name!

Going ‘Round the Mountain

DSCF2860
Love Joy Peace Faith

Do you ever find yourself sick and tired of going around and around the mountain and making the same mistakes over and over again and again?  Wow, I sure do and I get so frustrated with myself when I do thinking ‘haven’t I gotten this lesson yet?’ Thankfully this has ignited my desire to draw closer to God.  I knew that God had something so much sweeter for my life but that I would have to jump some hurdles to get there. 

For me, it was a matter of learning to lay down my pride, and acknowledge that I could no longer rely on my own resources to keep from making the same mistakes over and over again.  Don’t you just hate it when you are in repeat mode?  You self-talk asking God to never let it happen again and then boom, repeat.  It is embarrassing to continually do, react or forge ahead and then realize that you have been on this pathway before!  For instance, my marriage was not going to improve unless I was willing to work on me.  My tendency to be judgmental and critical  of others was not going to stop until I realized that I had to make a very purposeful choice not to look at others comparing myself with them and criticize.  My ministry was not going to go forth until I was willing to be honest with my struggles and work on allowing the Lord to refine me in the furnace of His love, being content knowing that He would use me right where I was.  You see, God really wants us to flourish and grow and go forth in His name and for His purposes.  And finally that I would stay committed to relationships with Him, my husband, children, work and friends to the best of my abilities and most of the time.  Not in my strength but in His. 

Where God was and is concerned, I had to make a choice (and daily make that choice) to spend  time with Him first and foremost!  This is where I have learned the answers to the hard things involving all my relationships.  Learning to love my husband in a fresh way unlike I never had before.  Friends, it has changed our relationship!  I suppose realizing that I cannot control anybody but me is nothing really new but God made it fresh for me as I focused on what I could do to better our relationship instead of expecting and demanding that my husband needed to change.  I am only able to change me!!!  With my children it was similar in that I could not control their lives like I used to try to do to keep them from learning the hard way like I had to do. They have to learn their life lessons in the same way I have, through their own choices and mistakes. 

Work was merely a matter of being content where God had placed me.  I am not one who enjoys confrontation and a few years back we had a lot of confrontation going on and frankly I wanted out.  Not realizing that God was up to some big and exciting things that I could have very well missed out on.  So every interesting job posting that became available in town I would apply for.  But God certainly had something else in mind.  He has kept me at Psalm FM Radio to serve in the capacity of the office administration and on air for over 23 years. And I have now been part of a very exciting ministry including the “Vertical Connection”, my radio program.  For almost ten years I have hosted a two hour radio program to encourage listeners to draw near to the Father’s heart.  A side note of thanks to a former employee who saw something in me that I never dreamed I could do, and I thank Gene!  We just never know where God is going to take us and sometimes He takes us kicking and screaming while saying “I can’t do that!” 

These tests and trials that come through our relationships with others, whether they be Christian or not, really matter to God.  We are members of a body.  We are not all the same (thankfully) and we have so much to offer each other but more importantly people are the litmus test of getting this God-walk right!  I know we are all in process and we do not have it perfect this side of glory, but, how we treat each other is crucial from the stand point that the outside world looks at us in expectation that we know how to do it right.  I think the song says that “They will know we are Christians by our love…”  and we do know how to do it right.  But the question is will I choose to do it the way I have been instructed and shown from God Himself through Christ? Loving God and loving others? Or will I continue to circle around the mountain again and again never taking the next step upward? 

We can always justify our actions whether anger, jealousy, injustice or whatever other reason that is out there.  But as my dear friend and I were sharing recently, the bottom line is we are responsible for making the right choice.  By doing so we deny the flesh and by doing this we allow the flow of the healing balm of reconciliation to be applied to whatever the offense was that tore us apart. Our Father and Creator, is fully aware of our short comings and struggles.  And although we will continue to make wrong choices it is certain that we will make less wrong and many more correct as we purpose to serve and spend time allowing the Lord to change who we are into the image of His Son Jesus.

I know how hard it is, believe me, but for me I am now at a place where I have tasted the sweet rewards of my Father when I do it right and I would rather take that next step up the mountain than let my frustrations and disappointments continue to hold me back because of repeating the same mistake time and time again, keeping me at the baseline.  Henceforth, going round and round the mountain!

Ephesians 5:1,2

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Father, You know the sorrow that plagues me when I mess up.  I can only imagine the disappointment that You must feel when I have to take the same test over and over again.  I truly have set my sites on You and I really want to show others just how much You love them by the way I live my life and treat others.  To be Your representative I ask that You give me the courage to change me and I surrender my frustrations and all that I think is justified in exchange for Your grace and ask that You would help me to humbly wear and put on Your love for others…in Jesus’ Name.

God’s Amazing Grace

At one point I found myself reading through Paul’s book of Romans. I confess that I haven’t been there for quite a while and upon revisiting especially chapters 6-12 I have been halted for further contemplation. 

The first week found me intrigued by Chapter six and pondering the marvelous grace of God yet the warning (in Paul’s fashion) to not take advantage of it! With an aire of sarcasm he says, “what shall we say then? and, what then?” several times to get our attention. Followed by the phrase, “may it never be!” Below are some of his well known quips to help us understand that by God’s grace our sins are covered but not so that we can continue in sin but so that we can be free from the bondage of sin. (From NASB)

:1,2 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

:12-14 “There fore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts…but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”

:15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

I like the wrap here. Paul says that we are to be obedient from the heart. God knows the heart doesn’t He. We can’t hide a thing from Him. We can ‘do’ all the right stuff we want but unless our heart’s motive is pure it doesn’t mean nothing. 

One of my weaknesses is dealing with the issue of food and how it affects my body. I honestly enjoy food and the tastes it has to offer.  But, I have struggled with weight issues even as a kid and since my early 30’s. It is a struggle but over the years I am working on taking off the poundage I have acquired along the way. 

In later years as part of my weekly ritual of being involved in a prayer and worship night on Tuesdays, I would fast. I believe in fasting and it really is an incredible thing when done with a pure motive, but I have done it with and without pure motives. When the Lord spoke to me one morning as I was preparing to begin my fast (sometimes no food, sometimes fruit, or sometimes no evening meal) He simply said to my spirit that I was really fasting to maintain my weight instead of to seek and draw closer to Him liked I tried to maintain.  This was a real slap because I had reasoned it out that I was doing a very godly thing by denying my food for the day. To have my Father tell me that it has many times been for the wrong reasons was like, well, getting busted. I was rather amazed at how this ‘good’ thing became sin because I was not doing it for its original intent. So how could Kimberly, who died to sin still live in it? How contrived we can become! 

Well, the lesson here is that I need to check my reasons for doing what I do. I was doing a good thing that became a tool to help keep my weight in check and to ‘look good’ or impress those who observed my denial. Wrong motive! I was so embarrassed by the obvious game I was playing with myself and God that I have been very hesitant to fast since then and I don’t very often as a matter of fact. I know that God has forgiven me and really, I am grateful He did! I was becoming enslaved to sin. And here is the beauty of God’s amazing grace, by my own admission of that sin, God has gently corrected me and helped me to move beyond it so that when I do fast it truly is for the right reasons. God is glorified when I am operate out of obedience and a desire to present myself as a living sacrifice. I still have a long way to go in regard to my eating issues as I learn to eat to live and not live to eat but that is just part of the process that I am going through to be more Christ-like.

Here is the basis of my gleaning in Romans six:

obedience = righteousness (right standing with God)

righteousness = sanctification (set apart for God)

sanctification = eternal life (to be forever with my King) 

Chapter six concludes beautifully stating that we have been freed from sin, and enslaved to God (whom we willing serve with a pure heart) with the outcome of our obedience being eternal life.

Lord, I thank you for your amazing grace that sets us free from the life we live in sin. This process that we must endure hurts especially when the truth is pointed out and we have been living enslaved to something that doesn’t glorify You. I love the final verse of chapter six where Paul tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I don’t understand it all completely but I am getting a glimpse the picture and I just ask that You would continue to show me when I am not serving You with a pure heart. I love You Father and I want Your smile when You look at me and I love what Paul Young put in his book “The Shack” when he wrote of You saying that You are particularly fond of that one.” May ‘that one’ be me!

Love, Your girl!

 

It’s the Right Thing to Do!

I recently received a revelation dealing with relationships. More specifically in dealing with relationships between believers. I am pretty certain that we all have been in the situation where we have either had an injustice done to us by a brother or sister-in-the Lord or we see these things being done to another. I don’t know about you but my first reaction is “how could they, and they call themselves Christians.” Honestly, like it or not we have all been on either side of the situation.

Before I continue, I want to put in a disclaimer. As I was laying in bed last night the Lord prompted me to do so because some of you are going to react negatively to this…I am not referencing people who have issues with being abusive, neglectful, or controlling. I do address the issue of confronting one caught in sin later. I am saying that all of us at some time or another have either mistreated or observed one who has mistreated or taken advantage of a brother or sister-in-the-Lord. If you want to discuss this further with me please feel free to email me personally. I do understand!

It really takes a person that is mature in their walk to respond correctly–in love and with grace–to a situation like this. Most of the time we begin to rally the troops, spread the scenario around like jam so it gets good and sticky and makes the offender out to be a horrible person. Even though they really aren’t horrible but have treated another horribly.

You have to love when the Holy Spirit does a number on you as you enter into the battle zone and suddenly you are heavily impressed upon to see the error of the way you are thinking and responding toward an offender. (I will call the person an offender simply because they mistreated another brother or sister-in-the-Lord.)  In a particular situation, my first reaction was to stir the pot of gossip…do you know what so-and-so just did…I can’t believe they treated _______ like that!

Don’t we typically think that Christians wouldn’t treat each other that way? Come on, that es a wrong assumption. Let’s face it, we all walk in the flesh from time to time but the bottom line is we shouldn’t. Here is a passage of Scripture that hits this on the mark:

Galatians 5:13-16

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

And the fruit of the Spirit is, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…It is so easy to ignore some of the fruit, “longsuffering”, “kindness” and especially (for me that is) “self-control”. If we believe our instruction manual, it rather looks as though we have an obligation to one another, don’t you think?

Let’s go to an interesting story in the Old Testament where we see Noah enjoying the fruit of his labor, from his vineyard.

Genesis 9:20-24

Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.

At this point Noah has done something foolish and been found out by his youngest son Ham. Ham then goes and make issue of it with his brothers Shem and Japheth. But they, instead of embarrassing their father, chose to cover his nakedness. As a cross reference to verse 21 we read in Proverbs 20:1 that “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” The two brothers were looking out for their father’s reputation and they wouldn’t even look upon him in his embarrassing state.

Let me ask you, have you done foolishly as a believer? There are many scenarios in my mind that I can replay that I sure wish weren’t there. Times where I opened my mouth and inserted my foot and wished I could take back what was said. You see, if we love God and love others then we need to take this new command and live it out, first with our brothers and sisters. In our own eyes we might look better, we might be a better “Christian” or maybe we are the somebody that really needs to set that person straight! This from Proverbs really speaks loudly to me

Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers”.

Now I can hear someone say wait a minute. Are you saying that we don’t expose their sin? There is a mandate on how to handle that. In Matthew 18 it talks directly of confronting one caught in sin. But before I go there I better be sure that the log is out of my eye and my motives are only out of love and for the betterment of my brother or sister.

I wonder what happens when a non-believer witnesses the correct response to the outrageous behaviour of another beleiver? I would like to think they see one who loves God and loves others. Not bringing shame to the offender and not being antagonistic or a false witness. Although, I confess that this is still not easy stuff to appropriate! For the worldly way and our natural tendency is self-motivated but the Christlike way is selfless. The world says to expose, embarrass and sling the insults because it makes us appear better and they the fool. Christ’s way is just the opposite, we do not damage the reputation of our brother or sister.

So I’m certain I won’t pass every test that comes along in this area. But, when I do act correctly and look out for the well-being of a brother or sister-in-the Lord, as obnoxious as they can be, I have peace with myself and God.  And interestingly enough even with that offensive person.

Father God, these aren’t easy lessons to learn but this is a battle I want to win for Christ’s sake. I ask for wisdom and discernment to quicken immediately within me so I can see when I am headed in the wrong direction with my thinking. When I feel like I have every right to be angry at someone for whatever reason, let me hear Your still small voice speak “not I, but Christ..” We are not in this to win battles but to win others to Christ and to exhibit Christ’s love in all kinds of situations in life. How else will they know we are different? Like the old song says, “they will know we are Christians by our love…” Thank you for teaching me these hard lessons and giving me the heart’s desire to love You and love others. I surrender once again my right for Your will. In the powerful, life-changing name of Jesus!

Identifying Blocked Goals in Our Life

Strongholds, although this word can be seen as a save place or refuge, it is also the opposite where a certain mindset is used to hold us captive and when used as in the latter a stronghold just might be preventing us from living the abundant life.

Let’s begin by thinking about blocked goals. You know, the times when we set our sights on something like marrying our high school sweetheart but then he ran off with your best friend.  Or maybe like me you always wanted to be a teacher, even as a little girl, but things got in the way and when you finally decided to go to college your husband said no (not to college but to traveling over 200 miles each day to attend classes.) And maybe your child had such a caring heart for others and you really saw them becoming a missionary someday but they got into trouble along the way and have yet to find their way back into the church body. These are things that can really take the wind out of our sails and cause some deep-seated resentment toward God or others. The story of my prodigal has served to teach me many lessons that have been extremely painful and even drove me to temporarily delve into unbelief and hopelessness. 

My youngest son was difficult from the get-go. By kindergarten he was already having problems on the bus and with all authority figures. It is a long story but to bring you up to speed and when I suffered the biggest disappointment was over six years ago now. While sitting in jail and under my influence, he opted to see if the judge would let him go to Teen Challenge, in hopes of getting the help he needed to get his life straightened out. The judge court ordered him there and we were holding our breath thinking that this is it, this kid is finally going to turn things around. Teen Challenge is a twelve-month plus program that I really do believe in because they have proven very successful at helping anyone who is ready to help themselves recover from whatever it is that got them in the program! My son pulled himself out after seven and a half months and it was just like I was socked in the gut. I just knew this was the answer for my guy and that it would bring him back to the Lord and I was devastated. I wanted to throw my arms in the air and tell God that I give up, that’s it and that he is hopelessly lost. I really hope to never revisit this place again. 

Let me say that pitfalls like the blocked goal described above can turn into your times of preparation!  It can be a time of tilling the hardened soil around the heart. In a Bible study that I did many years ago called “Trials, Don’t Resent them as Intruders” the author, Juanita Purcell said this and it has stuck with me:

“Faith does not grow on a smooth road without obstacles.  However, we must view trials as steppingstones—not stumbling blocks.  Each trial we pass through should help us climb a little higher and draw us closer to Christ.”

We all have dreams that have been soured. And my prodigal’s situation is a perfect example of obvious disappointment. It is situations like this that the enemy uses us to render us hopeless! When we are in a hopeless mode it can lead to depression and depression is many times anger turned inward, a blocked goal. The plan didn’t develop the way that I thought it should have or would have if only…He had taken the road I knew would bring healing to his wounded spirit. What I found though, was that this was a lesson for me. You see God wanted me to know Who was in charge. And it wasn’t me! 

I am very grateful for an amazing little group of people who I pray with almost every week and we have met for going on eleven years. They are my prayer partners and accountability group and I thank God for them often. They played a big role in helping me to get back to believing that God would make a way where there seems to be no way.  For a good couple of months it was like I was numb. With their tough love and words of encouragement I soon found myself back on the journey of faith. It is certainly easy to see how I could have continued on the downward spiral of unbelief and become very bitter and angry. I could have missed out on walking in my kingdom purpose. 

Faith is where I need to rest when it comes to my goals being prohibited. 

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJ)

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Do I trust God with the unknown?  Can I trust Him when circumstances take a different path than I anticipated?  Will I be able to admit that I am not in control and that there is Someone much greater and more trustworthy than I could ever be?  Who knows the beginning and the end and what is best? 

Father, I am so guilty of trying to step in and take charge but then so disappointed when my way didn’t quite turn out as I expected.  What I need to do is take a deep breath and then open the Word and look at the many times You were faithful to those whom You called Your own.  Faithful even when they didn’t deserve Your favor but Your judgement.  It is rock solid truth that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Right now I am choosing to trust in You.

Spiritually Barren

We all have dry times in our lives when there is just nothing happening for us spiritually and it just seems as if we are crawling along in our walk. Everything is just as it always is and it can seem alright for a time but then we sense the growing barrenness in our life. The old feeling of walking alone and out of sync with the flow. Everyone else seems to be alive and excited to be serving God but for some reason, I feel blah spiritually!

I  have been there so many times and frankly I do not like being there. Traveling that path for any length of time is very weighty and I certainly mean that to say with a load of sorrow. I have never been in a sand dessert but for a time I did live in the northern part of New Mexico. It is not quite the same but there are some similarities with the hot dry, summers. In a sand desert, there is some life but not a bustling flurry of activity as in a thriving forest. It is simply too hot and dry.

This ugly cactus plant of mine is rather similar to the plants that grow in the desert. It tends to thrive on very little water and it is so ugly that I almost wish it would die so I could get rid of it. I think it is about 45 years old and as you can see it doesn’t get huge. What grows (very slowly I might add) are these ugly long fronds or whatever you call them with their prickly little edges (although not like the usual cacti with its thorns.)

It sits rather lopsided in my pot and obstructs my husbands view of the television if I don’t turn it around the other way.

My dry times are rather like that old cactus, dry, barren, lonely and fruitless. It really is a terrible place to be. I am not even nice to be around because I have no joy, motivation or energy. I just want to hang it up. Interestingly, it even causes those that I am around to get cranky, like my husband. My hard places don’t just effect me, they also have an impact on those around me. My co-workers know when Kimberly Dawn is going through rough times because I am generally a joy-filled person. (Praise God!) But not with the weight of the world on my shoulders, pressing me down! Or a mind preoccupied with relationships gone awry.

It is difficult to own up to but these dry times are usually caused by my own poor choices. If you are a relational person like me, you know how important people are in your life and you need them to interact with and fellowship with and just to enjoy life with. Thank you Lord for creating fellowship with one another. But then the offense comes along and steals the joy. I usually make provision for the flesh and react by harboring bitterness or jealousy in my heart and wham, there I go down in the desert for some rounds about the mountain. My thoughts are possessed with wrong thinking. My reactions are very “me” centered around all my thoughts and hurt feelings. Woe is me, they don’t understand, what about my feelings on the issue and don’t I have a “right” to feel the way I do? Just look how they have hurt me! You really can try to justify almost anything!

When I go to bed at night, I want sweet thoughts and pleasurable memories of my day or week. I want to reflect on the goodness of the Lord and to be able to see His hand in motion throughout my day. If I am in the midst of a desert experience I can’t see any of that, just miserable, poor me. If I dwell too long in that place I become dryer, harder and more and more lifeless because I am getting more and more bitter in my own defense. What an icky place to be!

How in the world do I come to an end of my desert journey? Thanks be to God for the power of the Holy Spirit in spite of quenching His Spirit with my “me-ness” mentality. Something jogs my heart and I begin to see that I am the problem not the other party. I’m the one who is holding on to the bitterness, unforgiveness, anger and resentment because all I can see is how mistreated I have been. God’s Word has sooo…much to say about the above list of excuses we use to stay in our desert land:

This Scripture from Matthew 5:23,24 really sheds a spotlight on relational issues out of sync:

“So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

I am believing that my offering to God is not going to amount to anything with resentment at the root of my heart. And I have worshiped and wondered why I couldn’t sense His presence and wondered why He seemed so distant from me.

From Romans 13:14 Paul tells,

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

And this includes along with all sorts of immoralities, strife and envy.  And once again from Mark 12:25

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

You have to admit that forgiveness is a huge issue in God’s eyes. I guess that means that I better make it a priority also. He says (God says) 70 times 7 and that if I cannot forgive then I too will not be forgiven. God forbid I don’t get a grasp on this one! So, what is my excuse now? Can I really justify my situation any longer? I don’t think so! Okay Holy Spirit, show me how to get myself to the watering hole ’cause I am so thirsty and so dry and desperately longing for Your presence once again.

 You see, with enough sunlight and just the right amount of water, that ugly old cactus does an amazing thing every once in a while. It unpredictably blooms. Sometimes only one or two but these huge gorgeous blooms come out of the most unlikely places. And like that blooming cactus, I too need adequate time in the “Son” so that I can produce fruit that will please my Father and bless others. How’s your heart today? Are you filled with bitterness and anger? Unforgiveness and resentments? You may know what the fruit of the Spirit is and that is what I want to exhibit in my life towards others. It is through a victorious life that this fruit grows and is used to show others the love of Christ.

Galatians 5:22,23

“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.”

Father, will You show me my unpleasantness and its root? I don’t want to be there anymore. I want the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in my life so that when others look at my life they see You. Help me to root out all the negative things like anger, resentment, bitterness, envy and strife that is keeping me in bondage. Set me free and even if I need to go to someone for forgiveness will You give me the grace to humble myself and approach that one so that we might be restored to fellowship with one another and with You? I will trust that You will work out all the details of this in my life and that You will receive all the glory, honor and praise due Your Name. I will lean on Your promises and trust this to be resolved in Your perfect timing. Restore me Lord to Your presence and fill me with Your precious Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ Name, Amen

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Lu5udXEZI]

Do You Fight Anxiety?

A flat tire on a Mercury Villager van.It was back in February that we said goodbye to our older Bonneville and welcomed a Fusion into the family. (When the kids leave, vehicles and animals become your kids — sort of.) I had only driven the new vehicle a couple of weeks when while I was driving to town the low tire-pressure warning came on. I thought I would just go to the post office and then stop to get air when I returned.

But when I parked at the station and looked at my right rear tire, it was flat. How in the world could a brand-new tire be flat? I asked the attendant, Davey, to put enough air in the tire so I could park and he could fix it for me later. But the tire wouldn’t even hold air, and that’s when he discovered there was a hunk of metal in it. When I picked up my car, he said there was a utility knife blade stuck upright in between the treads and there was no holding air. But he got the job done.

It was only a week later that I went to get in my car and saw the low tire-pressure warning again — another flat tire. What’s up with that? Well, last year we re-shingled our house and garage and a leftover shingle nail eventually found that tire. God, why in the world are we dealing with this stuff? Oh, how He must laugh when I say things like that. Of course, stuff is going to happen, always. I am not exempt from difficulties; I live in a fallen world.

In the fall of 2011, I began speaking for an organization called Stonecroft. Most of you might recognize the name if I say Christian Women’s Club or Connection, which is what many of the clubs are calling themselves today. My trips take me on some pretty far journeys since I live at the top of Minnesota in the “Icebox of the Nation” and to go anywhere seems like a journey of several hours. My longest trip has been to the North Dakota circuit of Harvey, Minot and then down to Bismarck — lots of miles.

Naturally I prayed that my tire would hold its patch job since I would be in the middle of unfamiliar territory and alone. After six days I was set to return home and was pretty anxious to see my husband after he had gallbladder surgery while I was gone. I was rolling right along from Bismarck early one morning when suddenly my low tire-pressure warning once again came on. I started to get nauseous and fretted because there was nothing that looked like a gas station as far as I could see.

I am thankful that God reminded me of Philippians 4:6, which I immediately put to practice: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

As I recited that verse, I felt God’s presence and care for me. I didn’t stop but began to pray for a station that would be alongside the freeway so I could check the tire. I looked with my mirrors to see if the tire looked really flat, and it didn’t, which puzzled me. But I made the choice to trust the Scripture I recited instead of giving in to my anxious thoughts. Philippians 4:7 says: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I relaxed in knowing that God would provide for my request, and I had an unusual peace that also flooded my uncertain thinking. It wasn’t right away, but a nice truck stop appeared fairly soon afterward and I was able to check the tire (not the rear patched one but my front driver’s side.) and put in air. I then praised my God for His immediate care for me, all alone in North Dakota on a big freeway. Isn’t God just so good to His children?

I made it all the way home, only stopping two hours from home to check the air. None had leaked out. Well, our neighbors repaired that tire and found another nail. I guess it is inevitable when you work next to the transfer station road where all kinds of construction waste are hauled.

But I’ve used those two verses often recently to conquer fear and anxiety and to strengthen others who are in situations of similar uncertainty. Write those verses down and memorize them. Just get them in your heart so that when times of unrest come you will have some ready ammunition to defeat the enemy’s tactics of fear and anxiety. To all who are in Christ: You are armed and dangerous. Now use it.

Eternity in My Heart…

TreasureOne of the wisest men ever was King Solomon.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that God has set eternity in our hearts!  That is a profound statement.  I cannot imagine what that invokes in you, but for me it exposes a lot of wasted time and energy that I have spent trying to ‘fit into’ the world around me.  I am learning that eternity does not describe most of my world thus far.  Too much concern for the peripherals of life.  Too much emphasis on the world’s definition of fulfillment, love, happiness, etc.  Let’s face it-too much ME!

God, Who is continuing to bring healing to my soul, is revealing a mound of insecurities that the enemy has used to keep me pressed down and ineffective.  However, I have found and can proclaim that ”Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world”…ah, ha!  For that I praise His name.  Now the key is to discern the difference.  Like so many, I have had a skewed perspective on life and what it is all about.

Line BreakThere is a hymn titled “This World is Not My Home”, written by Albert E. Brumley, that sure puts it straight, as the first couple lines of one stanza read:

This world is not my home I’m just passing through

my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue…

(and then it finishes with)

I can’t feel at home in this world any more.

So where are we laying up our treasures?  This is a question worthy of our personal reflection.  You may be familiar with this Scripture from Matthew 6:20,21:

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I have heard some well known Bible teachers mention “just look at your check book if you want to see where you are laying up your treasures.”  Solomon tells us the truth when he says that God has placed eternity in our hearts, but most of us are not… Click To Tweet Dare I say most of us are living as though this world is all there is.

Let me ask you (as I question myself), what treasures are you investing in?  Worldly or heavenly?  You see if I am going to be overly concerned with fitting into the worlds ways (which my insecurities tend to push me toward) then I am forsaking looking beyond today to gratify immediate worldly (or as the Word puts it ‘fleshly’ desires.)

Have you ever thought of the perspective between our life on this earth and eternity?  I think it is an amazing picture of contrast much like looking at a model of the solar system as we compare the size of the smaller planets to the sun.  Or our galaxy to the rest of space, a bit difficult to put in perspective.  But that being said, for myself, I need to keep tracking on purposeful living, with an eternal perspective!

Let me close with one very simple thought that God has used to spur me on to the right path, “Love God and love others.”  Not that it is an easy transition, but I can be intentional about simply loving God.  Daily spending some time with Him, enjoying His presence and then freely letting Him mess with my old patterns of living as He shows me my world through His lens.  The rest is up to me to willingly begin to lay up my treasures in heaven for His glory!