Sunday, September 25, 2016

Turned Backs to Turned Repentance

"...They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, 'Come and save us!'"  (NIV)  Jeremiah 2:27

It is hard to not get caught up in the media hype of issues.  When the news portrays certain situations, they have the ability to put their own spin on it.  Many times, after watching their reports, it is hard to determine whether what they are sharing is the actual truth or truth that has been stretched a bit.  Yet, that is the world we live in.

Such was the news a few weeks ago when a football player (sorry, his name escapes me), knelt during the National Anthem.  It was all over the news and so many had opinions on whether what he did was right or wrong.  Many felt that he was disrespectful to our country - and in a way - had turned his back on the USA.  Others felt it was his right to do so.  I am not here to get into whether he was right or wrong.  For those of you who know me, you know I am not a issue driven/politics kind of gal!

What I thought was interesting was something my husband said during our Bible Study last week.  He shared, "So many people are talking about this player who, in the eyes of many, turned his back on his country.  Yet, we Christians turn our backs on God all the time."  WOW - that was a very powerful statement and has had me thinking ever since.  At first I thought, "I don't turn my back on God!", but do I?  

Do I follow God's commandments every minute of every day?   The obvious answer to that is a resounding NO.  Yet, turn my back on God?  I love my Lord and always want to do what is right in His eyes.  Yet, I truly have to admit, I have turned my back on him.
  • When somebody needs my help, but I'm too busy - I've turned my back on God.
  • When I begin to pray, and my thoughts turn to my "to do" list - I've turned my back on God.
  • When I should be reading my daily Bible verses, but turn to Facebook - I've turned my back on God.
  • When somebody says something that is hurtful to another, and I don't say anything - I've turned my back on God.
  • When my patience runs low and I snap at a loved one - I've turned my back on God.
God's love for us is unconditional - thank our Dear Lord!  Although I may turn my back on Him, and He would have every right to ditch me, He is always there with outreached arms to invite me back.  When I turn to repent, His forgiveness is unconditional - just like His love.  All those time I turned my back on God are completely forgiven and forgotten. What an awesome God.

Before we start pointing fingers at those around us whose behavior we may not agree with, let us turn to ourselves to see if we believe our behavior is without reproach.  I know that when I did that, I found I had some repenting to do!  Turning to repentance after turning my back on God has helped me to "check my behavior" and see that I have some work to do.  Can I ask you to join me on checking to see if you have been turning your back?  If so, know that our Lord is waiting for you to repent, to forgive, and to completely forget!!  What joy we have in His love!

"Dearest God, when I take the time to review and reflect on my behavior, I realize that I have turned my back on you and your will for my life on more occasions than I care to admit.  Today, I ask for your forgiveness.  Help me to see when I behave in such a way.  Help me to not turn my back on you and your will but to find grace in repenting and a renewed focus on You.  Thank you, God, for always being with me - waiting for me with outreached arms.  Amen." 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Light Among the Dark

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 8:12 (NIV)

Sunsets are the amazing parts of days when we realize the sun that had been brightening our world for roughly the last 12 hours or so will be coming to an end.  I have yet to see a sunset that I haven't loved, whether it is sitting on my front porch, in an exotic setting like Costa Rica, or here, with friends, at Cape Cod.  They are such a sight of beauty and can bring such joy, calming and peace.  I know I am not alone - I have seen many pictures and have spoken with many people who enjoy that particular time of day, when the sun sets.  Aaahhhh . . . .

Sunsets bring us the evening and the darkness that goes with that.  As bright as the sunshine of the day and the beauty of a sunset is, the darkness, for many, can be hauntingly difficult.  Yes, there may be a beautiful Harvest Moon, but for many (and I was one of those many at a time in my life), the darkness can mean many things.  

  • An inability to sleep due to insomnia
  • Racing of thoughts that you can't turn off
  • Actual work for people who work the 3rd shift
  • Sense of despair that can come with the darkness
  • Lack of sleep due to a newborn
  • A quiet that can be deafening
I have been there, where as much as I love watching the sunset, I knew what would be coming - a night where I couldn't sleep, a night when so many thoughts would run through my head that by 3AM I had solved world peace.  Sometimes these things can happen to us every now and then.  Yet, when it goes on for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, it can make one only want the sunshine and not the darkness.  Let's face some other facts, my friends.  There are probably times when the sunlight of the day can still feel like darkness.  It can still bring about feelings of loneliness, despair and a lack of hope.

Please let me share with you, there is Sonshine in the darkness.  Regardless of how dark our lives may get, Jesus promises us that he is light of the world.  If we follow Him, listen to Him, delve into His world and let Him guide us through our life, His light DOES shine upon us, regardless of the time of day.  I'm sure some of you are saying, "Ya, ya, ya, Susan, but He's not HERE with me."  Oh yes He is!!  

I  don't disagree.  Wouldn't it have been wonderful to be around when Jesus was here on Earth?  To be able to go where He was teaching and preaching - to know that He was living among us?  Yet, He is, my friends.  He is here.  He is here when the sun rises in the morning, at every beautiful sunset, and even in the darkest of nights.  He is Here!  You can see Him in everything, in every sun that shines and in every star that twinkles.  He is not only with you, He is IN you, through our Holy Spirit.  Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we would never be alone.  Next to the gift of Jesus himself and all of His wonder - what an incredible gift!!

Yes, the sun and all its glory can be wonderful.  Yet, so is the darkness.  Whether the sun is shining or the darkness prevails in our lives, we have Jesus who brings us the constant light - the light for us to see our way through the journey of life.  The light during the darkest of nights.  The light through trials, tribulations and despair.  The light of hope that nobody or nothing else can give us.  Remember this, pray for this, and know that Jesus, the light of OUR world, is with us always!  And a little side note, to the wonderful women I had the honor to be with this weekend - thank you for helping me to see the light in my life (these women are truly gifts from God)!

"Dearest Jesus, we thank you for being the light of our world - even during the darkest of times.  The light of the day and the light of our lives can many times bring us much happiness.  When the darkness arrives, life can be difficult and it's hard to see the good.  Help us to be reminded, Jesus, that you came so we would have light always - to see through the difficult times to the light that only You can give us, Jesus.  For those people who are in darkness today, we pray that you will fill them with hope, with love, and with light.  In your name I pray, Amen."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Where Is God???

Image result for 9/11 cross in rubble
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  (NIV)  Deuteronomy 31:8

It's hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the horrific events of 9/11.  I am sure each one of us remembers, in great detail, exactly where we were and what was rushing through our minds when the events unfolded throughout the day.  The horror, the fear, the anger, the sense of urgency, the need to be with our loved ones - to touch them, to hold them, to tell them we love them.  The myriad of emotions was overwhelming for all of us.  Then there was the waiting when we couldn't reach those we love.  I remember my mom was travelling (no surprise there) and she was in Las Vegas.  I couldn't wait to hear her voice and get her home.

The country reacted in so many different ways that day.  The greatest response was people going to church.  Churches saw a 47% increase in attendees the following Sunday.  Prayer meetings were happening in every town.  I find it amazing that when things are in turmoil, the focus turns to faith.  People gathering together to worship can be a powerful thing!!

Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, asked the question, "Where was God?"!  Where was He when the planes struck the towers?  Where was He when the plane hit the Pentagon?  Where was He when the plane went down over a Pennsylvania field?  Where was God?  Aren't these the same questions we ask when things go array in our lives - when traumatic events occur.  Where is God when my health deteriorates?  Where is God when a loved one passes (especially a child)?  Where is God when my marriage falls apart?  Where is God?

He was right next to thousands of people on September 11th, 2001.  He was there for the ones who miraculously survived.  He was also there for those who didn't, walking them to His heavenly home.  He was there for those who cried out to Him - for the first time in their lives - asking for forgiveness, and He granted it.  He was there to give strength to the responders who didn't think they had any strength left.  He was there for all the families to give courage in the face of darkness and hope in the days to come.  He was there!!  We even saw that oh so strongly in the picture above.

I have good news for you as well - He is also right there for you.  He is providing you miracles every day, continuing to bring you out of difficult health situations.  He is also there for those whose time it is to join Him in his heavenly home.  He is there to give strength and courage when we don't think we have any left.  He is there to provide us peace and even joy.  Yes, JOY when things are tough.  JOY when life is hard.  JOY when we hurt.  We have the JOY and PEACE that others can't comprehend because we know we have a God that is right beside us, loving us each and every moment of the day.

The next time you ask the question, "Where is God?", know that He is with you.  He is before you, beside, you and behind you, guiding and supporting you with each breath you take.  The next time someone asks you that question - let them know your story, let them hear your faith, share with them your hope, your joy, your love and your peace.  For God is right there with us all.  Blessings and peace to you all.

"Heavenly Father, please help us to be reminded that you are always with us, regardless of the situation.   Keep your Word safely in our hearts so that we can be reminded in a moment's notice of your grace and love.  When times get tough and discouraging, and we know that they will, please let our thoughts and words turn to you, and give us exactly what we need to continue on our earthly journey."

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Eye of the Storm

"He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, "Silence!  Be Still!"  The wind settled down and there was a great calm."  (NIV)  Mark 4:39

It's hurricane season.  This week we heard of much activity throughout the US - from Hawaii to North Carolina - on hurricanes and tropical storms.  Certainly, in recent years, we have seen so much destruction from hurricanes - Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy - to mention a few.  Many of us, at one time or another, have experienced the wrath a hurricane can bring.

We can do much to prepare for a hurricane.  We board up our houses; we buy water and food; we get our flashlights ready; we tie down or put away anything that can blow away; and then we wait!  We wait for what we know will come - high gusts of wind and torrential rain.  Experiencing a hurricane is a scary situation.  Although we may prepare, the inevitable comes.  The wind howls and blows and the rain comes down in sheets.  The aftermath of a hurricane can be just as destructive.  Although the hurricane may pass, it leaves remnants - flooding, wind destruction, and cleanup.  

So we prepare, we wait, we experience and we cleanup.  The part of the hurricane that has always fascinated me is the "eye", the middle part of the storm where everything is peaceful and calm.  Scientists say that there is even glimpses of sun in the eye of the storm.  I find that amazing - surrounding all this source of destruction, there is peace.

Isn't that our lives, though?  We work hard to prepare for what life brings us - we find good jobs, build good relationships, have solid homes and apartments, and eat healthy.  We wait as we know that although we may prepare, we will have times of turbulence.  We experience trials that life brings us, no matter the level of difficulty.  Then we clean up, we grow from the experience and move on.  Yet, in the middle of all of this, there are times of PEACE - the eye of the storm.  Even as we may go through difficult situations, there are moments of peace.  I'm not saying hours or days of peace - but just a brief moment - that let's us know we can get through the rest of the storm.  

I found this to be true as I was struggling with cancer.  Throughout the experience, the treatments, the medicine, the countless doctor appointments, there was a moment of peace.  I remember that day well, so many years ago.  For that one moment I found peace and was able to move forward.  

Who provides the peace among the storm?  Our Dear Lord.  With His guiding hand and loving arms, He brings the peace that I needed, the peace that we need, to move through the storms in our lives.  He is there to remind us that when we experience our storms WITH Him, that He will bring the peace to sustain us.  It's hard to see all of that when we go through storms in our lives.  It's hard to see or feel the moment of peace among the chaos.  Yet, it's there.  We have to rely on our Lord and He will not only lead us to the moment of peace, but He will also lead us out of the storm.  

As we prepare, wait, experience and clean up for the storms in our lives, remember the EYE - remember the PEACE - remember our LORD.  Look for the eye of the storm and for that moment, know that everything will be all right!  My prayers and blessings to you if you are in the middle of that storm now - and rely on our Lord for peace.

"Heavenly Father, we thank you for the peace you provide during the storms of our lives.  We may be able to prepare, wait, experience and clean up - but with you by our sides, we can experience the peace.  Thank you for being our "eye of the storm" and for your ever-present reassurance of hope.  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.