Sunday, April 24, 2016

Drain Out, Fill Up

"You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence."  
(NIV) Acts 2:28

It's amazing how something as simple as washing dishes can make you think about so many different things (okay, it made ME think of lots of different things).  As I watched the water drain from the sink, it reminded me of the many times I felt like that water, draining, draining, and draining.

Reflect with me. . . have there been those times when you are just physically drained?  Yes, that usually happens to me when I leave the gym (I suspect that means I've done something correct)!  Maybe it is when you have worked physically hard on a project that leaves you totally exhausted or spent the day running after children, doing laundry, making dinner - just physically drained.  I know we have all had those moments in our lives when being physically drained has left us with little left to give.

How about the times when we are emotionally drained?  I know I've experienced many of those times.  I have had situations where something has been so upsetting that all I can do is just cry.  Not just the small tears, but those large crocodile tears - the uncontrollable sobbing.  I've also experienced the extreme worry of a loved one or friend and all the emotions of fear and frustration that goes with that - knowing that no matter what I do, think or say, I'm never sure it is the right thing.  Then, of course, there has been heartbreak, the kind that we feel in our hearts for a long time.  That certainly can drain us from everything we have.   

The most difficult type of draining that I have experienced, though, is the spiritual draining.  These are the times that I have questioned God, wondered why He has guided me through a path of difficulty.  I feel at those times that I have lost my Lord - why would He let me go through such difficult times?  There have been a variety of occasions when I have felt this way - miscarriage, cancer, divorce, etc.  During these times, I have lost my will to pray.  Those have been the times when I felt as if my faith was draining from me - when I didn't want to pray.  

As I reflected, were you reflecting too?  Have you experienced times when you have been physically, emotionally or spiritually drained?  Times when you felt like there was nothing left - nothing left to give.  Maybe you are there now?  These are very painful times, times when we question, times when we wonder, where is God?

Well, let me share with you one more thing that has drained from each and every one of us - our sin.  Let me FILL YOU UP with good news.  We have times when it seems like life is draining from us.  Yet, we can rest in the comfort of knowing that the greatest thing that has drained from us - greater than being drained physically, emotionally or spiritually - has been our sinfulness.  Jesus took that from us, took every ounce of sin away, when He died on the cross.  When that was removed from us, we can have the space to be "filled up" with the goodness of God.  

The goodness of God, His Holy Spirit, is in us every day, every minute.  The Holy Spirit is there to fill us up when we need it most - when we are completely drained from everything this earthly life brings upon us.  When we turn to God, during moments of physical, emotional and spiritual draining, He helps us to realize that we weren't supposed to be able to do it all, to feel it all, to be all to everyone.  He helps us to realize that without Him, we will be drained.   With Him - we are filled up - to the brim - with His grace, mercy and love.  

During those times when we are drained, we need to remember that those are especially the times that we need to give to God.  He may not fix it today or tomorrow - but He will bring joy back into our present day.  He will fill us with everything that we need - and give us the most important thing of all, His love.  Feeling weak?  God will make us strong.  Feeling like an emotional heap?  God will bring us love.  Feeling as if we've lost our faith?  God will give us all the grace we need to turn to Him with joy.

So, on those days (or maybe even weeks, months, and years), where we find ourselves drained, remember the one who TRULY drained us - drained us from our sin.  Remember that Jesus can fill us up with more than we will ever need - fill us to the brim!  

"Dearest Jesus, this world can bring us to deep and dark places - places where we can feel completely drained.  I pray, Jesus, that you fill me up!  Fill me with all that I need, with your grace, mercy and love.  Fill me with the joy you want for me.  May I focus on you.  I know that when I do, you will bring me out of the dark and into the light.  Thank you, Jesus, for filling me to the brim!  In your name I pray, Amen."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Never Leave

"All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever come to me I will never drive away."  (NIV)  John 6:37

Fifteen years is a long time!  Lots of things happen in 15 years.  An infant attends elementary, middle and is half way through high school in 15 years.  A career can truly take hold in 15 years.  A relationship can move through good, tough and good times again in 15 years.  One can survive cancer for 15 years.  A puppy can grow into a mature dog.  I have been fortunate to have experienced many of these things in 15 year periods!  Yet, Saturday, another memory took on a 15-year timeline, the passing of my dad.  It is so hard to believe that he has been gone 15 years.  He has missed many earthly momentous occasions.  

As I looked over the many 15-year periods I have had in my life, I have come to realize that many things come and go.  Childhood friends can come and go.  Relationships can come and go.  Careers can come and go.  Our health can certainly come and go.  As well, important people in our lives, like my dad, can come and go.  The saying goes, "Nothing Lasts Forever."  When we view so many earthly things, that is very true.  There is so much that leaves our lives, or at the very least changes dramatically.  Family dynamics can change.  This past weekend, I reflected so much on our family and how our home as gone from one of much hustle and bustle to a bit more quiet and serene.

Not all changes are bad and it is God's will that we experience all of these changes.  He wants us to live fully during our time on earth and enjoy the people and situations He has so gracefully put around us.  It is my goal to take the time to experience all that God has planned for me.  The good times and the difficult times.  The happiness and sadness.  The joy and the pain.  I am doing my best to do that!!

How about you?  What have you experienced during the last few 15-year periods?  I pray that it has been filled with many of the blessings our earthly life can offer - including those of goodness and well as challenges.  For it is in ALL of those experiences that we can truly appreciate the one thing that will never change, the one thing that will never leave us.

It is in all of those life experiences that we get to see, and feel, and hear the goodness of God.  As He shares in our verse for today, once we are His, we are His for eternity!!  Nothing we can do (or not do), nothing we can say (or not say), will stop Him from being there for us.  Nothing will stop Him from hearing our prayers.  Nothing will stop Him from guiding our paths.  Nothing will stop Him from preparing that heavenly room for us in eternity.  NOTHING!  God is the ONE that Does Last Forever.  

I don't know about you, but I need to know that - I need to know that among all of the change (in 15 years and in 15 days), I have someone that will never change, will never leave me.  I have God.  I can count on Him no matter how tough my days are.  I can rely on His saving grace.  I can be assured that He holds me in the palms of His hands.  I can be assured that He will always love me.  I know, because He told me so - in this blessed verse for today.

When life takes us for a tumble of change, and it always does, please gain comfort and peace in knowing that when God says we are His, He means we are His for eternity - not just a lifetime!  I miss my dad so much, and many others who have left this earthly life.  Yet, I know that when I get to see my heavenly home, I will get to see Daddy again, and THAT makes me smile.

"Dearest God, thank you for always holding onto me, regardless of where my life takes me.  Throughout 15+ years, you have been walking with me, carrying me, shielding me and guiding me through this earthly life.  As changes occur, may I always know that YOU are the constant, you will never leave, and YOU will bring me home.  Thank you, God, for always being there - ALWAYS!!  Amen."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Being a Homebody

"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."  (NIV)  
Psalm 27:4

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to be home.  I believe that characterizes me as a homebody.  That's not to say that I don't enjoy a nice vacation every now or then or even an evening out.  Yet, when push comes to shove, I enjoy my home.  I'm a "sweatpants and sweatshirt" kind of gal, and the picture above is the view I have each time I sit down to write, to read, to enjoy a fire in the fireplace, or a cup of hot tea.  This room is probably the least used room in the house.  Yet, it is definitely my favorite.  It's warm, it has pictures of our family, it has stained glass pieces that my father labored over, and artifacts from Costa Rica.  I look around this room and I am at peace.

When I read this verse this week, I lingered on it for a while.  In doing so, I realized why this verse drew me in.  There are many aspects of this verse that resonated with me.  I pray that they will do the same for you.
  • "Dwell in the house of the Lord" - This can have so many meanings.  For me, I don't see it as a materialistic house.  I envision the house of the Lord as anywhere I am when I am with our Lord.  This can be at my home, but it can be so many other places - my car, work, church, outside in our yard, etc.  Dwelling with the Lord, for me, means that my focus, my heart, my mind, is with our dear Jesus.  It could be singing a praise song, praying, reading His word, etc.  It means BEING with Jesus.  I realize that when I dwell with Jesus, I am at peace (like when I am in my living room).
  • "All the days of my life" - This great verse helped me to realize that when I do focus on Jesus each and every day, my life is in perspective.   Notice that I didn't say my life is perfect - far from it many days!  Yet, I do know that the days I have Jesus in my heart, there is a peace that I can't explain.  I know that everything will be okay.  Again, I am at peace.
  • "Gaze on the beauty of the Lord" - What's not beautiful about our heavenly Father?  That beauty can come in so many different ways.  Whether it is the beauty of our world, the beauty of another person's heart, the beauty of music - our Lord has created such beauty in our world!  Most importantly, it is the beauty that the Lord has created - just for me.  The beauty of my sins being forgiven and a place in His heavenly home.  Now there is beauty I can't wait to see!  That beauty provides me peace.
  • "Seek him in his temple" - Our Lord's temple can be anywhere.  Yet, when I think of His temple, I truly see myself in church.  It can be communing at the altar, reading His word, singing His praise, praying with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, or listening to the sermon learning how I can more deeply bring Jesus into my life.  Any one of those ways, and so many more, is how I am able to see Him.  The Holy Spirit gives me such peace.

Maybe that's where the association lies - between my living room being a homebody and my journey with God - IN PEACE.  Dwelling with God gives me the peace that passes all understanding.  It gives me hope, it gives me strength, it gives me joy, it gives me love.  It is within that dwelling that I know that my redeemer lives.  I pray that as you seek peace, that you consider this verse and may you become a homebody - a homebody with God.

Dearest Heavenly Father, help me to dwell with you all the days of my life.  Wherever I may be, I pray that my heart turns to you, that I see your beauty and seek a closer relationship with you.  For I know if I do those things, I will have the peace in my life that I need, the peace that passes all understanding.  May I become a homebody in God.  Amen.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Secrets Revealed

"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open."  (NIV)  Luke 8:17

Secrets can be fun - when you know a secret of something good that is going to happen to someone and you know the joy that the person will receive when the secret is revealed.  It's fun waiting for the element of surprise, and all the happiness that will be shared once the secret is revealed.  I think of special gifts that produced such happiness after the surprise was shared.  These secrets put a smile on my face and the moment the secret was revealed is now was treasured.

There are also other secrets - secrets that are not as "wonderful", secrets that are not as "joyous", secrets that are filled with shame or disgrace.  I have had them and I'm sure others out there have had them as well.  Those type of secrets are difficult to live with.  The "fun" secrets have a sense of anticipation.  The "shameful" secrets have a sense of anxiousness.  What if someone finds out?  What if when someone finds out they won't like (or love) me anymore?  What if a friend doesn't talk to me anymore?  Secrets are difficult to live with.

I have taken the plunge, on occasion, to release a secret - to tell a secret that I have harbored to another.  It was a risk, a huge risk.  There was so much emotion that went into that decision. All the "what ifs" that were listed above (and then some) overwhelmed my days.  I went back and forth, should I share or shouldn't I share?  It literally kept me up at night and consumed my days.  When the guilt and the indecisiveness weighed so heavily on my shoulders, I went to the one that knows all of my secrets - I went to Jesus.  I asked HIM what I should do.  I asked HIM what the outcome would be.  I asked HIM to give me a sign of what to expect.  Ultimately, I turned to Simple Faith.  I had to believe that if God was putting this so much on my heart, that it was on my heart for a reason.  I shared the secret.  

I am happy to report that the person I shared the secret with still talks to me, still loves me.  I stepped out in faith and, as always, Jesus caught me.  He provided a soft landing for my secret.  He provided grace and mercy to be shared with me by another.  I wish I can say that every secret revealed had that pillow-soft landing, but it hasn't.  Those that didn't land well, I have learned from.  Not that I shouldn't share, but that I should take better actions and make better decisions up front.  

I learned more than that.  My greatest learning came from the verse above.  Our Dear Lord knows all - all of our triumphs and failures.  He knows our strengths and our weaknesses.  He knows our good and our bad.  He knows it all.  When the weight of secrets that are hidden is too much, HE is the one to turn to.  As I read that verse, I realize that secrets are revealed.  Some of the revealing produces wonderful results.  Sometimes the revealing produces heartache.  When secrets are brought into the open, light shines down on them.  That which is concealed, is revealed.  That which is revealed, is lifted from our shoulders.  Secrets could be fears, actions, sins, etc.  When secrets are revealed, they become truth.

We all have secrets - some that we have been hiding from many years.  I'm not asking you to go out into the town hall, stand on a pedestal and shout from the mountain tops.  I'm asking you to go to the one who knows all your secrets, who knows all your fears, and talk to HIM.  Ask HIM what you should do.  Have the simple faith He wants us to have - in all aspects of our lives - including our secrets.

"Dearest Jesus, thank you for knowing all my secrets, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Thank you for loving me no matter what my secrets may be.  As I may make decisions to reveal secrets, help me to have simple faith that grace and mercy will persevere.  Help me to release the weight that may be on my shoulders and bring light into darkness.  Thank you, Jesus, for always showing me love."

P.S. - I want to personally thank everyone who continuously reads my blog on a regular basis.  Today marks the 3rd anniversary that I have been writing - every week.  Three years ago I averaged about 5-10 readers (mostly close family and friends).  Now Simple Faith Today logs almost 120 readers a week, from all over the country.  Thank you to those who share the link with others.  Thank you to so many who write back to me and share what a certain message has meant to them.  Many have asked if I plan to write a book.  Secret Revealed?  I believe that the book is the true calling God has put on my heart.  I have many fears, many moments of anxiousness about writing a book.  I continue to pray that God will give me the right time and the right words that He wants me to share.  Until then, I plan on continuing with this blog.  Many thanks to all of you!!

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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.