Sunday, June 29, 2014

Walking through the Fire

As I sat by the fire last night, enjoying the incredible evening our Lord had provided for us, I couldn't help but stare at the blaze coming from the wood.  There is something so mesmerizing about fire.  It seems to draw us to it, an alluring feature.  I watched the fire, and many thoughts came to mind.  I thought about the many times I was tempted to do something wrong, how I had taken the wrong path - away from God.  

My thoughts then strayed to others who had gone into a fiery pit - yet it was under very different circumstances.  I am sure many of you remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  I am going to shorten the story quite a bit, but please feel free to refer to Daniel, chapters 2-3.  The king of the day, King Nebuchadnezzar, had  created an image from gold for everyone in Babylon to worship.  Well, our three friends, being faithful servants of God, refused to worship anyone but our Lord.  So Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace.  He even had the "heat turned up", ensuring that they would burn to death.  The guards that were in charge of ensuring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's eventual death died from the heat of the furnace, it was that hot.  Yet, God's three servants were spared - God walking with them through the fire.  They didn't doubt God's power over the fire - they knew He would save them.  He did save them.  They chose God and God didn't let them down.

As the fire in front of me heightened with its heat last night, I likened the experience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to my walk down a wrong path.  I remembered my walk into a fire as a walk full of danger and despair.  Although they did it to glorify God, my walk in the fire didn't seem that way.  Yet, as God delivered them, I remembered how God delivered me from the path I was on, time and time again.  He brought me through the fire into safety, into His world of grace, forgiveness and love.  Even though I have felt the "heat turned up" in tough situations, I have walked through the fire into God's loving arms.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego entered the fire in God's name, knowing that they would be protected.  Yes, I may have made wrong choices, wrong decisions.  I didn't enter those decisions and choices in God's name, yet, I do know that He will always protect me.  The good news is that I continue to learn from my mistakes (at least I try).  The BEST news is that I know God is there for me, to show me his grace will always be with me.  I smile, as I can imagine God saying to me "Susan, I will always be with you through the fire of mistakes and wrong choices - for I love you - unconditionally."

Faith doesn't have to be complicated.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a simple faith - one that saw them through a fiery furnace.  I have a simple faith, one that knows that God will always be with me.  How about you?  Do you believe God has seen you through a hot & fiery walk through fire?  Has He graced you with his mercy and love?  I'm sure there has been one time when you have felt His loving hand on your shoulder - guiding your walk through the fire into His loving arms.  Remember those times, and let's give thanks to our God for being there to rescue us.  Here's to less walks into the fire due to wrong choices, and more walks into the fire for God's praises!  May you have a blessed week ahead.

"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!  They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God."  (NIV)  Daniel 3:28

Monday, June 23, 2014

Frustration Brings Faith


Did you ever have one of those days, weeks, months (or maybe years)?  Well, I am happy to say that, for me, it was one of those weeks (not as good as a day, but better than a month).  Frustration seemed to abound everywhere - at work, at home, in the car - it seemed to follow me through every step of my week.    By Thursday evening, I was exhausted by consistently being frustrated.   Where did it come from?  That certainly is a loaded question!

Before we discuss the question (and subsequent answer), let's chat for a while.  We live in a world where our daily lives can perpetuate frustration.  The daily activities of rushing from one place to the next and ensuring we get everything done on "the list" can leave us feeling a bit stressed.  Add into the equation anything that derails our plans and life can lead to frustrations.  The biggest wrench in my day, I can share honestly, is technology.  I have realized over the past few years, but certainly even more so over the past few days, that with the technology of this world, we really don't shut down.  With iPads, smart phones, laptops, and having "wi-fi" everywhere, we are constantly connected.  Our children are also constantly connected - to friends, to fun, and to challenges.  We don't seem to have the ability to just say STOP and disconnect.  How about YOU - are you feeling any of these similar frustrations??
Living life in today's world can give us many wonderful things, and can provide us many challenges.

So, back to Thursday evening.  After the running around and pressures of work, I thought I would come home to dinner made by my family.  Although they had other ideas and we enjoyed dinner out, once again, my plans were diverted.  I came home that evening and just SAT on our front porch.  It was a beautiful evening and it was worthy of me enjoying it.  I decided to put my life on hold for a few minutes and give God what he so justly deserves, my time and my thoughts.  As I "chatted" with my Lord, I asked the why questions.  Why was I feeling so frustrated (it's not like I don't face similar challenges other weeks)?  Why was my focus derailed?  Why did I feel like I could scream?  As much as I wish I could see God's face as he chatted with me, I could feel His tug on my heart.  Once again, the Holy Spirit was doing the job - helping me to see where my frustrations lied.

I looked over the last few days and had realized that as I entered some of the challenging conversations or situations that faced me, I was missing a huge component, going to God in prayer before I entered the conversation/situation.  When I seek God's wisdom and understanding before going to a tough meeting or responding to a difficult email, a sense of calmness comes over me and my ability to handle the situation is greater.  When I don't do that, I am not putting God first in my day and frustrations abound.  That was it - and it was clear.  As I asked for forgiveness and prayed for help, a sense of peace filled me.  

When I live my Simple Faith, my life is more fulfilled, more at peace.  When I stray from that faith, thinking I am too busy to include God in every moment of my day, life's challenges become evident.  How about your life?  Do you see a difference when you include our dear Lord in prayer for decisions, in discussions during challenges?  Maybe this is your week to STOP and disconnect - reprioritizing your life as I needed to do with mine.  As soon as I took a different look and focused on including my Lord in my day, my frustrations seemed to melt away.  I'm not saying I didn't face difficult challenges on Friday, but I did notice how I reacted to them.  The Lord was with me - holding me - ensuring that the steps that I took and the words that I shared were evidence of my faith in Him.

We have the week ahead.  I ask that you join me, that we begin this week having a strong and simple faith that Our Lord is greater than we are.  HE makes our world better, brighter, and fulfilled.  Ask Him to join you this week, during your day - not just at the beginning or end of it.  Think of Him, pray to Him, talk with Him as the activities of your days unfold.  He would love nothing better than to be part of your day.  As for me?  Yes, we will always have challenges, but this week - I'm facing them with my Lord right beside me - I know this because I have asked Him to be there - and my simple faith helps me to know that it is true!  May your week ahead be God-Filled, less stressed and frustration free.  May your frustrations lead you to a stronger faith in Our Lord.  Blessings~~

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  (NIV)  Psalm 46:1

Monday, June 16, 2014

Providing in Abundance


Father's Day - such a wonderful day for us to remember the fathers in our lives who have provided for us in so many ways.  When I think of Father's Day, I think of three fathers.  Certainly my earthly father, for whom I will be eternally grateful for all the blessings he gave to me, not just as a young person, but as an adult as well.  I think of my husband, who is an incredible father for our children, providing many blessings to them.  The greatest father in my life will always be my Heavenly Father, whose provisions have always graced me, every day.

My earthly father was a great man.  He shared many wonderful qualities of his character with our family, from the time I was little until 13 years ago - when he went to be with our Heavenly Father.  He shared with us that God, family, and country were three areas to always cherish and love.  He had a very simple view of faith - believe in God and He will be with you always.  Not a bad view to have.  He had a very simple view of family - you are with each other always, no matter what, and love each other unconditionally.  Again, another wonderful view to have.  He also believed we live in a great country, and should cherish that always.  On three counts he was very right.  He also ensured that we always had what we needed.  No, it may not have been the latest brand name jeans or sneakers, but we had what was needed - certainly surrounding us with family love.  Our provisions were always met - and even were abounding.

My husband is a great father.  I watch him with our children throughout the years and see what he has taught them.  He is a teacher of humility - always sharing that he might not know everything, but will guide with all God has given him.  He is a teacher of what a strong work ethic is.  He works so hard, at his job and at home.  There is no doubt that our children are the benefactors of his work ethic.  He provides for all, regardless of his personal sacrifice.  His greatest gift is love - he shares his love unconditionally with his family.  There is never any doubt that he loves our children - each and every one of them.  He gives them all what they need, his mechanical skills, his knowledge, his time, but most importantly, his love - and he gives it in abundance.

My Heavenly Father is a great God.  He is there for me, every moment of every day.  Many who have no faith in our Dear Lord say, "How can you believe in something you can't see?"  Really?  I get to see my Heavenly Father every day.  He is in the faces of the people around me, my family, my friends/co workers, even in the faces of strangers.  He is in my job, my home, the goodness on my table.  He is in the air, the earth, the sea and in each living creature - great and small.  He is there, helping me, guiding me, and providing for me in abundance.  He gives me a love only He can, as He gave His one and only Son for my sins.  He provides when no one else can.  When I think that no one can hear me, no one can understand, that I am on my own - He is always there for me.  During the darkest of nights or brightest of days, He provides for my every need.  I would say that is the greatest of abundance.

Having your needs met is one thing - having them met in abundance is another.  I am been graced with my earthly father, my husband, and my Heavenly Father to have all my provisions met - in abundance.  I always had faith in my father and I have faith in my husband.  Yet, the simple faith of believing in all my Heavenly Father gives me - grace, mercy, peace and love - is returned in abundance.  

Think about what you have, in abundance.  It may not be material things; it may not be the fanciest clothes or the biggest house.  With a simple faith in our Lord Almighty, you have an abundance of love, forgiveness and grace.  May we all remember and cherish those here on earth who have provided for us in abundance for the needs we have.  More importantly, may we always have simple faith in our true father of heaven, who provides for ALL of our needs in ABUNDANCE.  Blessings to all.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more more valuable than they?"  Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

With Me, For Me, In Me

Pentacost Sunday - I love this Sunday!  The vivid picture of the Holy Spirit being delivered to so many with tongues of fire helps me to appreciate the boldness of our Lord.  The trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit can be a difficult concept to grapple with.  Yet, today, it is about the Holy Spirit.  As I listened to Pastor this morning share the awesome wonder of the Spirit, it helped me to understand the life I lead and how the Spirit works in me.

This past week, I heard Pastor Rick Warren that delivered the following:  God is with me, for me, and in me.  Those words had a profound effect on me.  I have replayed them over and over again - deepening my love for my Lord and all He brings to my life.  That is when I tied that phrase to the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit gives us the full opportunity to bring tht concept to life.  

God is with me.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit walk with me in all that I do, in all that I think, in all that I am.  To know that God is with me gives me the strength that I need to walk through this journey of earthly life.   God is with me, by my side, in what I say, in what I do.  The comfort that this provides me is surreal, to know that whatever I am going through, I have God who will always be with me, regardless of circumstances, difficulties, or triumphs.  He will always be with me.  This image brings me close to God the Father.

God is for me.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit is in my corner when I take the step of courage to walk in His light.  The image of God as my promoter, showing me the path to take (with me) and then providing me the courage to take that path (for me).  It's as if I have my own personal champion saying, "You Go GIrl!"  The blessings that surround that are truly immeasurable.  When the actions I want to take, actions that are in God's ways, are different than those around me, I know that I have God in my corner, cheering me on.  That knowledge gives me the boldness to do the right things - to say the right things.  He is always for me.  This image brings me close to God the Son.

God is in me.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit is inside of me, inside of my heart and my soul.  The constant guiding of the Heavenly Father in me, helping me to walk the path of righteousness, lets me know that I am forever His.  The grace that only God can provide is in me, to be able to share that grace with others.  The love that only God can provide is in me, to be loving with others.  The joy that only God can provide is in me, to be joyful with others.  God in me - this image is the one that brings me closest to God the Holy Spirit.

Understanding the Holy Spirit can be trying some times.  Yet my image of God in me, the Holy Spirit residing in me, gives me the grace I so desperately need.  Following God's path may not always be easy, but it is always rewarding.  Tresuring the image of a heavenly home gets us through the rough patches, gets us through the tough days.  Strength, courage, and grace can always be found in God, our Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit.  May God be with you, for you, and in you.  

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"  (NIV)  John 20:22

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ordinary Redefined


This morning I woke up and read my Bible Verse for the day (yes, as you would suspect, the one that is listed below).  It speaks of how 12 ordinary men became the extraordinary disciples of Jesus.  Men who were ordinary in their day with ordinary careers - fishermen, tax collector, and Jesus himself, a carpenter.  It is amazing to me how Jesus took 12 men, who never had any intention of following Christ, and changed history.  I can't imagine being Peter, struggling to gain his share of the fish to support himself, and being asked by Jesus to become a "fisher of men".  Incredible?  Well, that's our Lord, isn't he just incredible?

As the morning progressed, I was in church and once again, the Dear Lord emphasized the message of my verse this morning.  Today, Pastor's assistant, Jane, is retiring.  As Pastor himself shared, an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things - supporting Pastor and our church in the mission of sharing Jesus' love.  After many kind, well-deserved words were spoken, our Prayer Quilt Ministry presented a quilt for someone in need - in TEXAS - a long way from New Hampshire.  As I looked at the beautiful tapestry, I couldn't help but think that, once again, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  In this case our prayer quilt ministry team gathers around the table and takes pieces of fabric, puts them together with ties that are knotted by all of us in prayer, to be shared with the recipient - to let them know they are not struggling alone.  Truly incredible.

Yes, that begs the question, what other ordinary people are doing extraordinary things?  Are you one of those ordinary people?  Do you WANT to be extraordinary?  I know, (as my husband tells me all the time), too many questions.  Let's take them one at a time.

Think through your day, your week, your month, your lifetime.  Do you know people who have accomplished extraordinary things?  No, I don't know personally any political figures.  No, I don't know any sports figures or actors/actresses.  Who do I know that has accomplished extraordinary things?  I know moms who have given birth - a miraculous event.  I know people who have survived cancer, and their caregivers who helped them - a miraculous event.  I know people who have listened to someone in need, my needs, and helped those who needed to be heard to move on their life journey - a miraculous event.  I know Sunday School teachers, pastors, parishioners, loved ones who shared the word of God - a miraculous event.

All of these people would consider themselves ORDINARY.  I don't see anything ordinary about bringing life to this earth and caring for it, for surviving unmeasurable odds, and for bringing the love of Jesus to someone who needs to hear that message.  Take a moment and reflect about the ordinary people we know:  the ones that grace our households, the ones that we share as our family, the ones that we call friends/coworkers/acquaintances.  All of these people can bring something extraordinary to our lives.  The special touch when we need one, words of encouragement when we are down, a listening ear and guiding words, the love of Christ in human form - all special ways that I am sure we have been touched by extraordinary people.

Now, the real question.  Are you extraordinary?  I am very-well convinced that the answer to that question is YES!!  We may not always feel as if we are extraordinary, but, once again, think over your week, month, years, and I am confident that you will find moments when you did extraordinary things.  Help care for a loved one, sat with a friend, wrote an encouraging note, told someone you loved them, and yes, maybe even shared Jesus' name and your testimony with another.  ALL of these acts are extraordinary gifts from God.  He uses you, uses me, ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  It is simple, simple faith - this time - God having faith in US to do His will, to walk in His way, to love others as He loves us.  Simple faith in God, in us, in others.

Take time to reflect on the ordinary people in your life - and thank them for being extraordinary people.  Always remember, you may feel as if you're ordinary - but God places extraordinary gifts for us to share.  May you have a blessed week in the Lord!!

"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."  (NIV)  
Acts 4:13

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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.