Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving in Despair

". . . always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name o four Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:20 

So hard to believe that Thanksgiving is already here.  It seems like just a few weeks ago we were celebrating Easter.  Yet, here we are with a joyous focus on giving thanks for all the wonderful blessings we have been afforded.  Yes, I love Thanksgiving for all the wonders of the day - the gathering of family, the reminiscing of the goodness of God, and yes, the food and football!  This year, though, my thoughts have taken me to people and a world who don't seem to have much to be thankful for.

This past year, albeit gone so quickly, saw many tragedies.  Horrible natural disasters from earthquakes, to floods, to fires.  Dissension among people.  Destructive mass shootings.  It is hard to say "Happy Thanksgiving" when we think of all of those horrific events that have taken place during 2017.  Alongside of all of those events, we have the despair of our own lives - relationships that have been broken, health concerns, and economic difficulties.  So here we are - at Thanksgiving.  What is there to be thankful for?

Throughout all of the news footage of those that have been so drastically effected by the areas listed above, I find that there are people who are saying, "Thank you, Jesus."  Thank you, really?  Thank you for what?  As I listen to these folks speak, I am in awe and admiration of their faith.  For it is their faith that brings them to the table of thanksgiving in despair.  To have that level of faith in God is something I aspire to.  

Having faith when things are good, and thanking Jesus for all the good things, seems to make sense.  Yet, as our verse for today shares, we are to give thanks to Jesus ALWAYS.  Not just when things are great, but when things are tough.  What are we supposed to thank Jesus for during despair?

We thank Him for life and for death, as we never know when death occurs what life would have been like for that person.  We thank Him for difficulties, as it is our opportunity to get closer to God, in prayer and petition.  We thank Him for losing everything, as we know that what we have is truly His anyhow, and He will always provide.  We thank Him that through the despair, our faith in Him is truly most important.  Thanksgiving in Despair always takes me to Job.  Now there was a man with despair.  Yet His faith was there, deeply rooted, for all of us to see.

Do you have someone who you know is dealing with difficulty?  Maybe you are having tough times?  Now is the time, dear brother and sister, to give thanks.  Give thanks to God who listens to your prayers and provides you a blanket of love.  Give thanks to God who blesses you in small ways each moment of the day.  Give thanks to God that He never lets go of you, no matter how bleak - NEVER.  During this Thanksgiving, may we give thanks under all circumstances, even in despair.

"Dearest Jesus, help us to remember to give thanksgiving in despair.  When life seems so difficult, may we remember your love for us and the way you continue to bless us when life is dark.  Help us to go to you, in faith, and know that you have all situations covered.  Thank you Jesus, that your love is eternal and your help is forever.   In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Grumbling to Gratefulness

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.""  Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV)

It started early in the day.  I went to get a cup of coffee, and there it was - two people complaining that the line was too long.  I got my coffee, went back to my car, and began the drive to work.  Along the way, I noticed the car next to me was distracted at a red light.  The car behind them began beeping like crazy.  All I could think to myself was "I can't wait to get to work (how often do we say that)!"  Once at work, though, it didn't stop.  It seemed as if the entire day was filled with people complaining.  I heard complaints ranging from something not being done fast enough to being done too fast.  I heard grumbling about the weather, the food, the way people were being treated, etc.  It seemed no matter which way I turned, the grumbling words were gaining momentum.

Have you ever had a day like that?  What I found was that by the end of the day, guess who felt like joining the crowd?  Yes, sorry to say, me.  It seemed that if everyone else was miserable, I might as well be miserable too.  At that moment, three words came to my mind - STOP, CHECK AND ACT!  
     STOP - stop the grumbling.  Just stop the words and thoughts that were coming to me.
     CHECK - check to see if what I was grumbling about needed attention or was I chiming in with the people around me
     ACT - take action and accountability for what I was feeling and saying.

Sure enough, after I stopped, checked and acted, the words and complaints stopped.  I realized that I should be full of gratefulness for all I had - grateful for a good job with great people; grateful for my health; grateful for a wonderful family; most importantly - grateful for my heavenly Father.  It was amazing that the three or four minutes I took to stop, check and act, put a completely different perspective on my day.  As the great Billy Graham said, "Grumbling and gratitude, for the children of God, are in conflict.  Be grateful and you won't grumble.  Grumble and you won't be grateful."

Life can be difficult!  Our days can be filled with so much to be frustrated about, angry about, and we may believe we have every right to complain.  Add into the equation social media and gossip corners and before you know, we have a full-fledged grumbling session going on.  What we need to remember, what "I" need to remember, is that if we changed our perspective - just a little bit - we will see so much that we have to be grateful for.  If we change our grumbling to gratefulness, God will take center stage!  Isn't that a far better way to live our lives?  It certainly will prove healthier for our minds, our hearts and our souls.  The next time there is a grumbling session being started, why not "stop, check and act"!  Change your words, your thoughts and your deeds to ones of gratefulness.

Heavenly Father, so many times during my day I can hear words of grumbling.  It is easy to get caught up in the complaining and join in with those around me.  I ask that the Holy Spirit moves me to Stop, Check and Act.  Change my mindset from one of grumbling to one of gratefulness.  Help me to find those one or two items that I should be grateful for - beginning with you!  My sins are forgiven and I'm going to paradise - that is the greatest thing to be grateful for!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Turn Back Time

"'I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.'  So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down."  Isaiah 38:8 (NIV)

Today marked another year that we turned back the clocks.  Of course, there is much debate about "why" we do it, but nevertheless, most of us turned our clocks back.  Doing so always make me wonder, "What if we could turn back time?  What if we could go back in time and undo things that we had done?"

As I sat on my front porch this morning, it was a reflective type of day.  There was a bit of chill in the air and many of the trees have begun the process of shedding their leaves.  Days like today make me ask, "What would I undo if I could turn back time?"  I know, many people say that they have no regrets.  I'm not stating that my life is full of regrets, but there are certainly times when I said something that I wish I hadn't; as the words came out of my mouth - for a split second - I wished I could have turned back time.  There are also times when I should have said something that I didn't - again, wishing I could have turned back time.  Last, but not least, are those times that I did something that I wish I hadn't.  Well, you have the picture by now.  All of these times I wish I could have taken back - turned back the hands of time ever so briefly so that I made a different choice.

Today's verse truly took me back.  I had no idea until I was researching for today's post that there was a reference of turning back time.  Although it was in a very different context, it helped me to reflect. Turning back time on earth doesn't happen.  Yet, what we do have, is God's grace and forgiveness when we would like to turn back time to make different choices.  God is there for us to help us realize that although time cannot be turned back ten steps in the sun, God is there to help bring me forgiveness.

God's grace is so great.  He is there for us in every situation.  Yes, even the situations when we would like to go back in time.  The next time a word comes out of my mouth that I would like to take back, I will reflect on the Good Lord who is always there to provide me the forgiveness I very deeply need.

Dear Lord, your love, grace and mercy can bring me forgiveness when I would like to turn back time and reverse choices.  Please help me to quickly see those situations and immediately ask forgiveness - from those here on earth as well as with you. May I learn from those moments for my future.  Please bring me reflection always.  Amen!"


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Winds

"He  got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet!  Be Still!"  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."  Mark 4:39  (NIV)

Lying in my bed with the window slightly cracked, I heard the wind.  It was the wind of autumn.  The wind seems different in autumn to me.  Maybe it includes a bit of a chill as compared to the wind of summer.  Maybe it includes a smell of the leaves.  Yet, it even seems to sound different.  Almost like a calling of, "It's time".  It's time to slow down a little, and actually listen to the wind.  It's time to enjoy all that autumn brings.  

Winds can bring so many things into our lives.  Many times, we see the "winds of life" as being the activities that come into our lives that can turn our worlds upside down.  Maybe it is the wind of a health concern.  Maybe it is the wind of job issues.  Maybe it is the wind of relationships.  So many times, the winds that comes into our lives create anxiousness and anxiety.  

This was the case of the disciples while they were on the water with Jesus.  All in a boat heading out across the water.  Jesus rested.  I'm sure with all the teaching, healing, preaching, etc., that Jesus did, there probably wasn't a lot of time for that.  Yet, He rested.  While on the water, a storm began brewing and the winds were coming into the disciples lives.  They called upon their teacher, their friend, their Lord, and He rebuked the winds, told them to "be still", and it became completely calm.

I love this Bible story as it teaches us so much:
  • As believers, the winds of life will stir up our lives.  We are not immune to difficult times.
  • As believers, we don't have to endure the winds of life alone.  
  • As believers, our first call should be to The One who can calm our winds.  This is an area I consistently need to work on.
  • As believers, we need to have simple faith that Jesus will calm our winds, when it is time.  So often, I want Him to calm my winds during MY time - we certainly know better!
  • As believers, we need to respond to Him calming our winds with thanks and praise.
The winds of life will blow.  They may knock us off our feet.  Yet, we have One who will not only stand beside us during these times, but will calm the winds.  We need to go to Jesus during these times and watch the goodness He can bring to us.  Have faith, simple faith, that Jesus can calm our storms.

Dearest Jesus, how often we forget when the wind rolls into our lives that the One who can truly calm our storms is a prayer away.  May we reach out to you, Jesus.  Fill  our hearts and our heads with the simple faith that you are waiting to hear from us, and that you will making "everything still".  Jesus, I ask that you calm the winds of those that are facing fierce winds in their lives.  Help them to reach out to you so that you may help them.  In your wondrous name I pray, Amen!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Reaffirmation


"I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him."  2 Corinthians 2:8  (NIV)

To reaffirm - state again as a fact, assert again strongly.  That is autumn for me.  Waiting every year for October to arrive is a reaffirmation for me.  Reaffirming what you may ask?  Reaffirming God's presence.  I see God in so many wonderful every day events year round.  Yet, for some reason, during Autumn, it seems as if He says, "I'm Back!"  The brilliant trees, the cooling weather, the gathering of family through apple picking or pumpkin carving, all remind me that God is present and close to me.  This time, it made me think of our own reaffirmations.

You believe you have heard a calling.  You follow your dream.  Head on.  You work hard, make plans, evaluate the plan, execute on the plan and then Satan comes in - with DOUBT.  Not just the kind that makes you "wonder" if this was really your calling, your plan, but the kind that says, "Are you kidding?  What were you thinking?"

I'm sure I'm not the only one that has had this happen.  Maybe it was the dream job.  Maybe it was the ultimate project.  Maybe it was __________  (you can fill in the blank).  All I know is that the certainty of the path has turned into the uncertainty of tomorrow.   It can feel as if the balloon you blew up had a pin poked into it.  All the air comes pouring out.  It can all come to a halt and we can feel paralyzed.

This has happened, on more than one occasion to me.  It can be defeating.  Then God comes in - and reaffirms His presence (just like the Autumn leaves).  How so?  Through an encouraging word of a friend who, all of the sudden shares with you that what you are doing is making a difference.  A kind note from a coworker who let's you know you are headed down the right path.  Warmth fills your being and you experience the glow of reaffirmation.  I was blessed to have this happen during the past couple of weeks.  It changed my perspective - it helped me to continue down the path I have chosen.

Please, let us all take the time to reaffirm someone close to us - a family member's love, a friend's dream, a co worker's efforts.  Reaffirmation fills us up when the air is out of the balloon and turns our uncertainty of tomorrow back to the certainty of the path.  It doesn't take much - a quick chat, a few words in a note, maybe even a small drawing on a post-it note.  The few minutes can restore some one's faith, and God will be shining through YOU to another.  Here is to the reaffirmation of Autumn, and of others!!

Dearest Jesus, help us to take the few minutes to reaffirm someone today.  Help us to see who needs to see YOU in their dream.  May we be the one to reaffirm their journey so that they can see you, Jesus, on the path.  In your heavenly name we pray, Amen.

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."

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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.