Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Simplest of Faith

"So, as I sit on my special rock, I pray for many things:
  • for healing; physically, mentally, and spiritually
  • for love; love of family, friends and others
  • for hope; the hope I'll never have to do this again
  • for peace; the peace that truly passes all understanding"
The above was taken from a journal I wrote 18 years ago - a journal that I kept as I went through my journey with cancer.  Eighteen years ago this past weekend, I was diagnosed with cancer.  It certainly was not expected - no history of cancer in my family.  Yet, it was my journey to take.  So it began.  That journey is an entire blog series all in its own.  There were many things I learned on that journey.  I believe that is when I started learning about simple faith.

During this time of my life, I took to writing in a journal.  Who would have known all these years later that I would find inspiration from that journal in many ways.  At this time every year, I make it a point to read that journal and remind myself of something - that when times get hard, having the simplest of faith creates a journey of hope.  For those of you who are reading this and have gone through a struggle similar to this, you know that you come out the other side a different person.  I believe that has happened to me.  Throughout the surgeries, the chemo treatments, the loss of hair, the radiation, the burns associated with that, and then the recovery, something became increasingly clear.  

I knew that God was with me.  In anxious-filled thoughts, in moments of despair, in anger and frustration, in sadness of what life would never be like again, and in hope for moving forward, God was with me.  Sometimes, I would do as the entry above shares, I would sit and pray.  Other times, I felt like I had no more prayer in me.  To God, either situation was okay - He was always there for me.  

I look back at that time and realized that many of the God-filled moments in my life had been put aside - teaching Sunday School became infrequent, going to church was built around moments when I felt well, there weren't any Bible Studies, I rarely picked up my Bible, and my prayer life was inconsistent.  Yet, God didn't give up on me.  I talked to Him, He talked back.  Through people who graciously helped me during this time.  Through cards and letters.  Through hugs and kind words.  God was talking to me - and I was listening.

God knows us, He understands us, and above all, he loves us.  When we believe and have the faith that He is in control, He fills us with hope, joy, and peace.  He doesn't just "sprinkle" those things on us, He fills us up - to the brim!  Yes, that even happens during times of struggle and despair.  Remember, just have faith that He will provide.  Go to Him with your thoughts.  Live your life in His light.  The rest is an incredible journey that brings us to the other side - a different person - one that is embraced with God's love.

Heavenly Father, we know that by living our lives with the simplest of faith, your blessings will adorn us.  Help us to always remember that - even when life gets hard.  May we come to you with our faith, that you may see our struggles and bring us to the other side - one that is filled with your grace, mercy, peace and love.  In your gracious name we pray.  Amen."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Changing Colors

"For he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness."  Psalm 107:9 (KJV)

Many of you know how much I love autumn.  It is truly a season that I wait for all year.  Once the last days of August hit, I'm ready to bring out all of the autumn candles and decorations and try to wait, patiently, for the beautiful colors to surround me.  I believe it is one of the main reasons I live in New England.  I can't imagine October without the colors of autumn.

This year, I waited.  And waited.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed that leaves seemed to have a different hue to them, but I wasn't seeing the radiant colors of autumn.  So I waited.  And waited.  To be honest, there was even a slight sadness to my demeanor.  Was autumn going to pass us by this year?  Were the leaves going to move from green to brown without the beautiful autumn colors of red, orange and yellow?

It reminded me of many times in my life when I have waited for something - truly longing for something, as our verse for today shares.  It could have been a time when I longed for our family to be all together - for a meal or just to talk.  Other times, it was when I was struggling with health issues and longed to feel better - desperately wanting the pain and discomfort to be lifted.  Whatever the wait was, it seemed to feel like it was going to take a lifetime.

Then enters God!  As He always has, He comes into my longing world and fills it up!  Maybe it is a quick family dinner when everyone is available - time cherished around the table with lively conversation.  This always fills my soul with goodness.  Maybe it was finally having a day when I felt good after many months of chemo.  That certainly filled my soul with goodness and provided the hope needed that better days were coming.  

God fills our longing souls.  As always, it is in His time, but He always delivers!  Whatever we may be longing for, God will share with us what is good and right just for us.  Although our times of longing may seem like an eternity, God will provide.  God's love for us promises us the goodness that He wants for his children.  When He provides, we are satisfied - our souls are filled to the brim!  Alleluia!

So what about autumn?  As always, God delivered.  What seemed like overnight, the trees changed from brown to beautiful colors of red, yellow and orange.  This has certainly filled my soul!  I am in awe every autumn at the beauty God provides for me, for us!  He takes that broad paintbrush and covers us with autumn hues.  My hungry soul is filled with goodness.  What does it take?  Just a little simple faith that my God will always deliver!  Praise be to Him!!

"Heavenly Father, thank you for filling my soul - just at the right time.  May all of us who may be longing for something so dear to us have simple faith that you will fill our souls.  On those days, may we give thanks to you, God, for remembering us, your children.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Laser Focus

"Then Jesus declared, "I am the one speaking to you - I am he."  John 4:26 (NIV)

I have many areas of self improvement, but one that I struggle with the most is thought racing.  Let me explain.  I will be speaking about one topic and then my mind will quickly shift to something as a thought races into my mind.  Or I may be listening to a person and thinking about other things that need to get done.  I tend to be better at focus when I am at work than when I'm at home.  You can ask my husband.  We will be driving in the car having a conversation about something and within five minutes I will have changed the subject three times.  Yep - just a bit frustrating for the person I am with (again, just ask my husband!).

I'm not sure when this struggle started.  If I look back, I think it was when I became a mom.  Mothers out there - you know the struggle.  You have fifteen things that need to get done so thinking about them all at the same time makes it more efficient - right?  Yea, probably not!  I used to think that was the case, but in all reality, I know it isn't so.  When I lack focus, I usually disappoint the person I am with.  They thought that they had my full attention, and they deserve my full attention.  Yet, when my mind races, they truly don't have my full attention.

Let's shift to Jesus for a moment.  If there was a person on this earth who had a lot on His mind, I would say that Jesus gets to top that list.  He certainly knew his mission and He went about teaching, healing and modeling behaviors that all of us aspire to.  Of the many characteristics that Jesus portrays, the one that I really admire was His focus.  Whenever he speaks to a person or listens to a person, He focuses just on them.  There is no "changing of the subject' or lack of listening skills with Jesus.  

Whenever I read excerpts from the Bible where Jesus is speaking to someone or listening to someone, you truly sense that He is there just with that person.  Whether there is a crowd of people around or not, that person He is speaking to is the only one that matters at that time.  Wouldn't you like to be on the receiving end of a conversation like that?  To truly have some one's laser focus, laser attention?  My friends, let me share with you.

You DO have some one's laser focus.  Just as Jesus focused on each person when He was on earth, He does that for each of us today.  When we go to Jesus in thought and prayer, He is listening just to YOU.  When we go to Jesus and ask Him to talk with us - He does, just to YOU.  Jesus' focus with those he traveled with many years ago is the same focus He provides for us today.  By going to Jesus in thought, word, and deed, He will provide us with the attention that we are looking for - each and every time.  Yes, even with all that Jesus concerns himself with, YOU become his number one focus.  Please, remember this as you seek His counsel.  He will always be focused on you.

Dearest Jesus, we thank you for your laser focus in our lives.  As we go to you, we know that you are listening and speaking just to us.  Your mind doesn't race or wander with random thoughts, but hears our every words and speaks to us with love.  Help us to have that same focus as we speak and listen to others.  In your gracious name we pray.  Amen.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Why God, Why??

In times of trouble and turmoil, as much as I would like to admit that I have never questioned God, I have.  Yes, in the beginning of the difficulty, I typically try to handle it on my own - no need to bother God on THIS one!  Yet, as the situation becomes more and more difficult, I begin praying.  For those times when it was grave, I would pray and pray and pray.  When those prayers weren't immediately answered, I would begin to question.  "Why God, Why?  Why are you letting this happen?  Why aren't you answering my prayers?"  As we all know, God answers our prayers in His way and in His time - always to our needs.

The other day I was on my way to work.  The air was crisp (always makes me happy).  I thought about my family and realized that for this moment in time, things were good.  Everyone was working.  Those who were physically challenged were getting better.  In that one moment, there was peace.  It was a really nice feeling.  It made me think.  Why do we question God when things are tough, but never ask that same question when things are good?  When was the last time, when things were going well, we raised our voice to God saying, "Why God, Why?"  It certainly had never happened to me before.

Yet, I did.  I raised my voice and said, "God, I know things are going well for my family, while others are suffering.  Why God, Why?"  Then I was quiet.  I listened for God's answer.  As always, it wasn't right away.  This thought continued with me throughout most of the day.  It was positive, yet inquisitive.  This thought helped to bring me to today's verse.

God's with us, in every step of our lives.  He doesn't leave us when things go "south", and, even more so, He is with us when we are blessed.  When we ask, "Why God" when things are tough, the answers are usually very clear.  We need to go through those trials and tribulations to fully appreciate God's awesomeness.  We need to experience the pain to fully rely on Jesus and give our problems to Him.  With that level of faith, God is happy.  It isn't a bother to go to God when things are difficult.  He WANTS us to approach His throne with our worries and burdens.

He also wants us to approach His throne with our praises of thanksgiving.  Not just when our prayers are answered, but in everyday living.  God allows for the tough days to strengthen our faith.  God also allows for the good days to ALSO strengthen our faith.  For God is there for it all, for all things in all times.  How blessed we are to have such an awesome God!  

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your presence - in trials and goodness.  Many times, I ask "why is this happening to me" when I am in difficult times.  Yet, I typically don't say, "why is this happening to me" when things are great.  What I DO know is that you are there for it all, because you love us, care for us, and guide us with each step.  Thank you God for walking with me on this earthly journey.  I look forward to the heavenly journey!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

No, No, No

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."  1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

I am sure we have all been around a two-year old who, in a moment of independence, screams, "No, No, No".  Of course, these times always seem to happen in the middle of a grocery store or during a church sermon.  It's always difficult to navigate through these situations, but eventually, the independence moves on and the sweet child returns.

Move forward 13 years and the independence returns.  Now, our child is a teenager and those words seem to return back to their vocabulary.  Maybe we are asking them to clean their rooms.  Maybe it is to attend a family function versus going out with friends.  Whatever the situation, the words of, "No, No, No" return, now in greater defiance.  Yes, we manage to navigate through these situations as well.

Funny, though, as we grow older, how those words become more difficult to say.  What was once so easy to come out of our mouths, even at a young age, becomes difficult.  Work asks for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  Friends ask for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  Family asks for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  Church asks for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  We are supposed to do good, correct?  We are supposed to help others, correct?  Yet, what happens when, by saying yes, we find ourselves over-extended, stressed to exhaustion, and feeling resentment each time the word "Yes" comes out of our mouths?

I have been in this situation multiple times.  I am certain that all of you may have found yourselves in these times as well.  It is so hard to rationalize saying No.  People come to us for a reason - because they need something, they need help.  That is why I love this verse so much.  We are tempted for many reasons to say yes in all situations.  Helping others makes US feel good.  There is a sense of pride that comes with "doing it all".  These are all common reactions.  Yet, when the"yes" overcomes us, we can fall into many negative behaviors that are not Christlike.

When I get overextended:
  • Sleep evades me
  • Happiness turns into constant seriousness
  • Worry takes over 
  • Resentment sets in
  • The tone of my voice can be bitter
God will never give us more than we can handle.  Many times, especially during times of trial, it feels like He does - but He always provides a way out - a light that shines on us.  The same happens when we get to the "no" point.  What am I supposed to say "NO" to Jesus?  Talk to our Jesus, let Him know your anguish and pain.  HE will tell you, He will provide you with the words.

  • "I wish I could, but my plate is a bit full right now.  I wouldn't do your request justice.  Maybe there is someone else on the church council that can assist."
  • "I would love to take on this work project.  Maybe you can assist me in prioritizing my work so I can ensure a quality job."
  • "Gee sis, I just can't get together this weekend - but let's make a date for next Wednesday".
Saying "no" can be difficult, especially for us "yes" people.  Yet, in can be freeing.  In saying no to certain things, we will be able to do the "yes" things with our full attention.  God doesn't want worry and resentment in our lives.  He will guide us to a less-stressed life with His power to say no!

Heavenly Father, I don't find it easy to say, "no".  I want to help others and be of aid.  Yet, when I over-extend myself, I know the stress of the situation can become unbearable.  Help me and guide me to go to you FIRST before saying YES.  Guide me to situations where I can say "no" with greater confidence and in love to all.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No Secrets

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  Hebrews 4:13 (NIV)

We were sitting around the kitchen table with all the kids, now young adults.  We reminisced about days gone by and how those "teenage years" weren't exactly moments of heaven, for them or for us!  As each child shared things that were done "against the rules", there was a bit of a pride factor they has that us,  as parents, never found out about their secrets.  They had actually gotten away with going against the rules and us parents were not aware.

It made me think of my teenage years.  Certainly as a teenager, I as well, did things that I would be less than proud of and also didn't tell my parents (statute of limitations is up Mom!).  I guess, down deep, there was also a sense of pride that I had when I got away with breaking some rules.  Of course, there were plenty of times that I didn't get away with breaking the rules!  

Fast forward a few years (okay, quite a few years), to my life today.  Even today, there are thoughts that I have or sins I have committed that I think, "well, at least nobody is aware of those sins."  I breathe a sigh of relief and move on.  Yet, I don't move too far.  For I realize very quickly that there is someone that knows about those sins.  As in our verse for today, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight".  He knows everything that I do, everything that I say, and everything that I think.  Therefore, with God, there are no secrets!

No Secrets?  Don't we all wish that there were some secrets that don't need to be shared?  Maybe, but with God, there are No Secrets!  There is no ability to run and hide, no ability to think that I got away with something, not ability for someone not to find out.  I have to share, that verse has come into my mind many times when I was thinking thoughts that may not be desirable or about to say something that I shouldn't.  Knowing that God is watching my every move and knows my every thought does make me stop in my tracks.  It has stopped me from doing or thinking something that was of a sinful nature.  I sin; I know that!  God certainly knows that even better than I do. 

So, if God knows everything and I sin all the time, then what is it worth to not sin and not try to be a good person?  Why don't I just live in sin all the time?  Because, with God, there is forgiveness.  No matter how bad my "secrets" are, God knows them and forgives them.  "For God so loved the world that he fave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16.   Although I might want to have secrets in my life, the Dear Lord sees it all - there are no secrets.  Better yet, though, there is forgiveness!  

Heavenly Father, help us to remember that there are no secrets in our lives.  You know all of our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Help to guide us to do as you direct, Jesus.  When we fall from your path, please help us to remember that you provide us unconditional love and forgiveness so we may get up the next day to do your will.  In your name we pray.  Amen

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Missing You

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."  Isaiah 66:13 (NIV)

It's that time of year when children go back to school.  Some are entering grade school, others heading back to high school; still others are off to college.  When the children headed off to school, there was always a piece of my heart that went with them.  I have to say, when they went off to school through high school, it wasn't too bad - I knew they were coming home at the end of the day.   

College was a bit different.  When we dropped off our children at college, it would be days/weeks before we would see them again.  Yes, it is different now compared to when I was a kid.  Through modern technology, we can "see" our kids (when they choose to answer our Skype)!  Yet, again, we knew that at the end of the semester, they would be home again.  Although those times, as they entered adulthood, were harder to navigate, I still knew they were coming home.

These days, our goodbyes are more difficult for this mama's heart.  As we move our children from our home into their new homes as they begin their adult lives, I know that they are moving on with their lives.  Yes, I still long for the days that they would be coming home.  Bottom line?  I miss them!  I miss the rowdy conversations around the dinner table.  I miss the picking on each other.  I miss the laughter.  I even miss taking care of their needs, cooking meals for them, and hearing about their heartaches.

I thought about my role as a mom this weekend, and how that role is changing.  Will my children still need me?  Will they still find time to talk to me, tell me about their days, the good stuff and the tough stuff?  I pray for each of them and hope that their lives find time to come home and chat~~  When they call or stop by, I am certainly comforted.

This reminds me of our Dear Lord.  Does He miss me?  Am I coming home to Him each day?  Does He get to "see" me?  I am certain that Jesus' heart longs for us, just as a parent longs for their child.   When we 'move away' and are not coming home to Jesus like we should, I am very certain that His heart pains for us.   Life today can be busy - very busy.  Much can interfere with our time of devotion and worship.  Yet, we need to remember how much Jesus gives to us; everything we have is a blessing from Him.  Going home to Jesus, talking with Him, telling Him how your day went, sharing the good and the difficult, gives us the comfort that we need.  

During these days, as our children head off to the next chapter in their lives, whether kindergarten or adulthood, may we be reminded of the days when we say grace together, have devotions together, and pray together.  We need to have simple faith that our Dear Lord is there with them, when we can't be.  We need to have simple faith that Jesus will be their "go to" person if we aren't available.  We need to have simple faith that God is with them, and in them, as they head off to their days.  We may miss them, but God's got them!!

Dear Jesus, as our children head off too school or work, we ask that you be with them.  We may miss them, but we know that you have them Jesus, in the palm of your hand.  Walk beside them as they go through their days and let them always know that we are a phone call or visit away.  May we, as parents, have simple faith that you will guide us all on this journey.

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.