Psalm 143:8

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143:8

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

God's will for you...be joyful always....

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18  NIV

17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

There's part of this scripture that I didn't add on at the beginning of this little series of blog posts, so I would like to add it now....

 16 Be joyful always, 

 Be joyful always.  Joyful.  There's that word again.  Funny how one day, you wake up and choose joy.  And the next day...that joy seems so far away.  You must choose it again.  And again, and again.  Why is it so hard? Seems simple enough, doesn't it?  Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.  Easy to say, not so easy to do when we let all the little annoyances of our days take up space in our minds.  When we let those things dim the light that is Christ Jesus in our lives.

Choose joy.  Then pray often, continually.  Give thanks - all the time.  When we pray, when we give thanks how can we not be joyful?  How can we not see what God is doing in our lives if we are thanking Him for the daily blessings he bestows, the silver linings, the gifts?  And when we see He IS at work, and see what He offers, the joy overflows.

But then those words, "for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." It is His will that we join in relationship with him.  That we rejoice, that we pray and talk to him, that we live our lives out of the gratitude that comes from what He offers us.  And when we do this...we will find joy.  Not necessarily day to day happiness and a life of roses.  But deep down joy that can only come from God's love for us.  Joy that overflows and gives us strength.  Joy that helps us withstand suffering.  Joy that gives light in the darkest places.  It's God's will for me...it's God's will for you.

I choose joy!  I trust in Jesus, my great deliverer!

 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Give thanks in all circumstances...

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18  NIV

17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Give thanks in all circumstances.  All?  Really?  Yep, that's what it says - in all circumstances.  It's easy to give thanks when things go well.  When we are being treated well, when good things happen, when we receive above and beyond our expectations, when the sun is shining and there are no storm clouds on life's horizon.  It's easy to smile, or jump up and down in joy, lift our hands to God and say "Thank you, God. Thank YOU!"


But what about when things aren't so great?  What about when life seems to be about tearing you down instead of building you up?  What about when those bad things that only happen to other people happen to you?  What about when your family members turn their backs on you or your friends suddenly don't want to spend time with you any more?  What about when you lose your job all of  sudden or your car is gone?  What about those times?


How can you say thanks for the times of pain and suffering?


Have you ever looked back on one of those times and realized that in the end, it was a blessing in disguise?  That you learned something big that will affect how you live your life in the future?  What if, through that difficult experience, you gained knowledge to help someone else who might be going through the very same situation?  What if it opened your eyes to see things from someone else's point of view?  What if it taught you something about yourself that needed to change?


"In all circumstances" doesn't mean just the good times, but also the not so good, and yes, even the bad times.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  Hate doing those humdrum chores around the house?  At least you have a house....or dishes to wash...or food to eat off those dishes you have to wash. What about when the car breaks down...AGAIN...but you have friends you can call who will give you a ride, or loan you a car, or even just listen to your frustration and empathize.  The chronic pain you suffer makes you tired and maybe a little blue...but maybe someday someone will cross your path who you can help through the same kind of pain.


We don't know where all these situations and circumstances will ultimately take us.  But we can still give thanks for God's presence, for His undying love, for His foresight and knowledge of how He will use all these things for good in some way.  Jesus came to our earth as a human being to share in all these things with us.  He's been there.  He understands fully what it means to be human, to hurt, to fear, to worry.  He understands the emotions we feel.  He gets the anger.  He knows.  And He is there to help us get through all those things.


So give thanks in all circumstances...and trust Him.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pray continually...

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18  NIV

17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

As I go about my day...do I talk to God continually?  Um, no.  Much as I'd like to think I have a pretty good ongoing conversation with my Father...I'm thinking I don't pray continually.  In fact, some days I realize I've gone several hours without giving Him much thought at all.  Pray continually.  As in all the time.  Each breath in and each breath out.  He who formed us from dust, breathed His very own life into us, He who sent his son...Himself...to breath his last human breath on the cross for us, He who provides, who comforts, who guides, who lifts us up when we stumble, He who created all things, who was and is and is to come....He deserves our full, prayerful, attention.  Not just once in a while, but continually.  So, if I am not talking to him continually, how can I pray constantly?  Perhaps the way I live is a prayer...  Do I live my life as a prayer to Him?  If I look at what I do during the day...are all my behaviors in some way a prayer to my God?  Uh oh.  There are some things I don't really want to be saying to Him, right?  Was that my "out loud voice?"

I started out this post with the thought of thankfulness.  I had a whole different direction I was going to take this today.  But then I got stuck on those two words at the beginning of this verse.  And now, I find I have something entirely different to ponder today....


Monday, September 19, 2011

I choose JOY

I've been thinking about joy today.  Elusive sometimes, isn't it?  And yet, it's within our reach.  It's within the moments of every day.  It's there for us to choose.  "To choose?" you might ask.  Yes, to choose.  When you wake in the morning, do you say to yourself "Today I am going to have a crummy day?  Today I choose to be grumpy.  Today I choose to look at the wrong side of the fabric and live my life with fear, anxiety and desperation.  Today I will let bitterness and anger rule in my heart."  Of course, you don't.  Who would choose to have a bad day?

On the other hand, however, how often do you get up in the morning and say "Today, I choose joy!  Today I will look at the brighter side of things.  Today I will trust God to direct my footsteps.  Today I will look on Him for all I need.  Today I will say "Yes" to His purposes for me.  Today I will be grateful for the things I have, the gifts I am blessed with, the people who grace my life."

Ok, so the first one is a little extreme.  But what if you wake in the morning and open your eyes, take a deep breath and say "Today, I choose joy."  How would that change your outlook?  Maybe just try it right now.  Breathe in deep, and as you slowly let it out let your heart say these words...."Today, I choose joy."

Today I choose to trust in God.  Today I choose to give all my trials, fears, worries to Him.  Today I choose to live a life of thankfulness.  Today I choose to love those around me with the love of God...not my own weak version of it.  Today I choose to forgive and let go of the things that hurt me.  Today I will let those who matter to me know it.  Today I will give as God would have me give.

Today, I choose joy.

P.S.  I read one of my favorite blogs today and the post there was also about joy...Oh how I love the way the Lord works.  Here I am thinking on this very topic, and one of my favorite writers was also there.
Here is a link to her page...it is a beautiful post, even though a little heartbreaking.


A Holy Experience

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Called to pray...

...not now, Lord.  I have so much to do.  I don't have time to stop and pray.  Come on, Lord, I've been thinking about that person all day, and I know they probably need prayer, but isn't this good enough?  God, you know I am worried about this...and that...and how will I ever get through everything?  Oh and I think I forgot to eat dinner....  I want to talk to you, Father, but can we make it quick? 

Do you ever feel the nudging from the Spirit that tells you to slow down and pray a little?  To stop what you are doing and just rest in the Lord?  To tell Him about your day, and your worries, and the people you care about?  Are you called to pray?   Jesus took time out of his day to go to a quiet place and pray.  Jesus, who was already one with the Father, took time to pray.  He gave us example after example.

Sometimes, I realize a whole day has gone by and I haven't taken much time to talk to God.  Or I find excuses to put off the conversation.  I will even admit that right now, as I write this blog post...I am feeling pulled to pray.  To turn off the noise, the computer.  To just stop, sit down, close my eyes and come quietly before the Lord. And yet, I am avoiding it.  WHY??

He's been nudging me today.  Sending thoughts that say..."Hey, I want to talk with you.  Won't you take some time with Me?"  And I've been busy.  Busy, busy, busy.  And looking back over the day...I can't say I have accomplished a lot.  Except maybe worry, fret, forget to eat and take time to rest.  I am running behind and running late.  I need to go to bed, but have things that are unfinished that need to be done for tomorrow. 

What's keeping me from talking to God?  Maybe I am afraid of what He might say to me.  Maybe He has a task in mind that is too much.  Maybe He has no answers for today, but only that quiet, dreaded word...wait.
Why do I grieve His heart by keeping my distance?

Do you need to pray?  Do you have concerns to share with Him?  Is he putting someone on your heart who really needs intercession?  Are you worried about something?  Is your schedule too hectic? 

Stop. Rest in Him.  Give up all the feeble excuses and MAKE the time to talk with your Father.  He certainly has time for you.  He is waiting.  He will give you peace.  He will give you the strength you need.  He will give you a balance to help you get done what is important and know what can wait.  Stop.  Turn off the noise.  Sit with Him.  Seek His face.  Seek His heart.  Pray....

I'm going to spend some time with Him right now...will you?

Sidewalk Prophets - Live version of "The Words I Would Say"

From my heart to yours...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What makes you smile?

The little things in life...those things that just make a day that much better...the things that make you smile.  What are they?  Let's think on those little gifts today...little gifts from a big God who loves you.  Here are some of mine...

  • birdsong first thing in the morning
  • the smell of a crisp autumn morning when the air is just a little chilly and clear
  • hearing others laugh
  • the sound of a cello
  • singing at the top of my lungs
  • the moment the sun tips up just over the horizon and paints the sky bright
  • the smell of good food cooking
  • the feel of waves brushing over the top of my feet
  • the warmth of the sun on my face
  • the voice of a good friend or beloved family member on the phone
  • praying for someone else
  • knowing someone is praying for me
  • a card in the mail - NOT a bill!  haha
  • the sweet smile of a baby
  • the feel of a child's hand in mine...trusting
  • sharing time talking and laughing
  • warm socks on a cold day
  • quiet time on the patio with a cup of coffee and my Bible
  • the sound of a stream or a fountain
 Just making the list makes me smile!  And there are so many more things that can be added to it.  So how about you?  Smile today and know that those moments are precious gifts to hold and remember!

Friday, September 16, 2011

When you're shaken...

I woke this morning to a chill in the house.  Nothing like the chill in my heart the last couple of days.  I can't seem to find peace.  Can't seem to feel the closeness to God that usually keeps me warm.  Can't seem to feel His presence anywhere around me.  My Bible sits across the room...I go and pick it up and sit it in my lap, hands on the cover.  It has an old name tag from a mission trip stuck on the back...memories of serving the Lord in a community where love covers so much and brings smiles to the faces of children.  It has marks on the cover from being carried in my purse and suitcases.  It's gone on trips, retreats, vacations, walks and bike rides at the river, to my back patio.  It has notes inside from Bible studies, and sermons - all written down the edges of the pages and squeezed in between the columns of words.

Words.  God's words.  God's voice.  Will it speak to me today?  Will my heart hear it?  Will it give me some measure of peace?  The peace, the confidence, the filling of the emptiness that I crave today?  Almost I am afraid to open it.  Almost I expect silence...I fear.  What do I fear?  Why do I think God will leave me alone?  Why do I listen to the words that say I am nothing, I have nothing to give - and nothing to receive?  That I am alone and will stay that way?  Why do I listen to that voice that shouts at me that I am worthy of nothing and no one?  Why is it so loud - grasping me by the shoulders and shaking me til I can't breathe?

And yet, slowly I unhook the band that holds it closed...I hold it in both hands, my thumb running over the edge of the pages, silver and smooth.  My heart pounds just a little...anticipating, fearing, daring just a little to hope...   There are bookmarks, index cards, slips of paper, notes stuck in among the pages...  What will God say to me today?


Oh, Isaiah.  I love the book of Isaiah.  I've opened to Chapter 35 - there IS actually a bookmark there...but these words catch my eye immediately:  "say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,..."

     ....and I feel those hands on my shoulders loosen....
                              .....and that nasty voice starting to fade away....

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."

and further down the page....
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

One last sigh to let out the sadness, one new breath to let in a little bit of joy.  Straighten up just a little, take in another stronger breath, read the whole chapter.  The title says "Joy of the Redeemed."  Is that me?  Am I redeemed?  Me?  Just a little warmth creeps in now, and I feel my Savior push those other hands away as he puts His strong arm around my shoulders and quietly whispers "I AM here."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wait, what?

Again?  Again and again I find myself at the bottom of my strength.  At the end of my rope.  The "last" straw.  Another kick.  When my strength is gone...that's when God is strongest.  He promises His grace will be sufficient.  And I must remind myself to put my all in His hands.  His big, capable, strong hands.  He is over all, in all, through all.  My fears, my lost hopes, my anxiety all get placed at the foot of the cross.  What's He doing with me?  I have no idea. 

Just trust.  Repeat that...just trust.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is it God's voice?

I should never be amazed...and yet I often am...at how things turn up in life just when you need it.  Coincidence?  No.  God?  Yes.

I've been thinking a lot lately about hearing God's voice, and His silence.  I recently ordered a book called What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst.   I have only read the first two chapters so far...and oh my...how it pertains to my life right now!  This book was something I needed to read right now...at this point in my life.  Thank you, God!  Here is a sentence from the very first chapter that jumped right out at me...it's underlined!!  "Being a woman who says yes to God means making the choice to trust Him even when you can't understand why He requires some of the things He does."  Wow.  So fitting.

And the second chapter encompasses how to discern if what you are hearing is God's voice.  A perfect complement to the thoughts I've been sharing on my blog lately.  How do you know if what you are hearing is God's voice?  So often I wonder...is that really His voice?  Or just mine...pretending.  Is it the voice of the serpent making things sound good when they really aren't?  How do I know?  Lysa gives us five questions in her book to help us know.  Ask yourself if what you are hearing is backed up by scripture - of course, you must know scripture...so get out your Bible and read it!  Next, ask if it is consistent with God's character - she gives the fruits of the Spirit as a measuring stick...see Galatians 5:22-23.  Then look around...is the message you are hearing being backed up in other areas of your life?  Have you ever noticed that sometimes a particular issue is in every song you hear on the radio, or in that week's sermon, or pops up in the scripture you are reading that week, or a friend will mention it out of the blue?  Uh huh...God's talking!  Next look at this question...is what I'm hearing beyond me??  Will it take the strength of God to accomplish?  Does it ask you to go out of your comfort zone...step out of the boat???  And finally, would it please God?  If you feel led to do something...is it something that would please God?  Then chances are good that the nudge you are feeling is from Him.  If it will please Him, then do it!

I can't wait to read more in this book.  It is giving me a lot to ponder as I walk this journey of trust.

Friday, September 9, 2011

God's Silence - Part 3

Today I am pondering the things I pray for and the way I pray.  Might it be that God seems silent because of those things?

God tells us in His Word to ask.. "So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knowck and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11: 9-10  Am I asking Him for things I need?  Perhaps I am not.  Perhaps He is not answering my needs because I am not asking for what I need - or for the right things to fulfill those needs.  Have you ever thought about that?  If you don't ask, why should He answer?  If you ask for the wrong things, maybe He is telling you no.  Maybe He is waiting for you to ask, and to ask for the things that properly align with His will for your life.  Big things to think about.  Sometimes I am afraid to ask for things for myself.  Why?  I don't know really.  But there it is.

And something else to think about....when I ask, what is my motivation?  How am I asking?  Why am I asking? Am I asking for something out of a selfish desire or want? (And remember, want and need are different things!)  Is it because I think I know better than God what might be good for me?   Or am I asking for something that aligns with His will and His plan?  Do I ask in Jesus' name?  John 16:23-24 "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."   In His name.  Perhaps there is a silence because I am not asking with the right heart or the right motivation.  Perhaps, my plan doesn't mesh up with God's plan.

Perhaps it's time to take a look at what I am asking for through the filter of Jesus' eyes and see if it fits as a godly request.  I bet there are a few things that I need to leave to His will....and not mine.  I bet that some of the silence is of my own making because of my own desires.  So today, I will consider the things I need, the things for which I will ask...and I will ask for those things that I can honestly ask for in Jesus' holy name.

Look around you today...where do you see answers from God in your life?  They may be unspoken, or found in a circumstance, or through the words of a friend, a gentle touch on the shoulder to let you know you are NOT alone....He is NOT ignoring you....He is there....always.

Be blessed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

God's Silence - Part 2

There are some things that are just harder to write about...like the silence from God. 

What am I doing in my life that disconnects me from God?  What's happening that is putting up a wall between us?  I was on Facebook this morning and saw this from Anne Graham Lotz:
"I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer." Song of Solomon 5:6 -- Sin disconnects our prayer line to God.
 Sin disconnects our prayer line to God.  It gets in the way.  The more we allow ourselves to sin...the bigger the disconnect.  Ever noticed that?  When I take a good look at my life and think about the things I am doing....I realize "how can God get in?"  How can I possibly hear His voice when my sin is basically creating ear plugs?  
It's when I let go of those things, repent of my sins, and truly turn back to Him...then I hear His voice again.  Then my heart is open to what He has to say.  Then I see Him at work in the world around me.  I hear Him talking through my friends who love me and care about me.  I take more from His Word and it nourishes me.
So what have you got going on?  What do you need to turn from?  Who do you need to turn to?  He's there...always there.  Even in the silence.  Patiently waiting for you, and me, to seek His grace and mercy, to accept His forgiveness, and walk in His light.  He's there.  He will never leave you, nor forsake you.  Never.
Have a blessed day!