Thursday, March 31, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough

You’ve heard the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But what happens if the going isn’t just tough, but impossible? What happens when you’re giving it all you’ve got, but all you’ve got is nothing? It’s then we often think, “What if I’m on the wrong path? It can’t be this hard, this messed up. God has promised to make a way, but all I see is a wall.”

I think at times God purposefully brings His people to this point. If you have no strength, no ability to move forward, then when accomplishments do happen, everyone knows—it wasn’t you; it was God.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” 1Cr 1:27

In our weakness, then He is permitted to be strong, and the whole world will see Him through our trials. I’ve had times in my life when I was facing the impossible and it seemed completely silly to move forward. Foolish to even try. Yet we see again and again in the Bible that our God is the God of the silly and impossible. Think of the Israelites marching around Jericho thirteen times. That’s pretty silly. But they followed the journey God requested of them, and He tore that wall down.

Think of young David flinging a stone at a giant. That’s not only silly, it’s downright foolish! Yet God brought Goliath down. Think of Jesus, trying to feed thousands of people with just a bit of bread and fish—that’s impossible, too. Time after time we are shown His abilities in the Bible, and historical testimonies since then continue to show His miracles.

Why should today be any different? I speak from personal experience when I tell you that our God is still the God of the silly and impossible, right now in 2011! He is still a God who asks us to go on that difficult journey so that our faith will grow, His grace will abound, and all glory will be given to Him.


“…We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Rom. 5:3-4

So next time you face that impossible wall—perhaps financial trouble, a broken relationship, health issues—whatever it is, know that our God is just waiting for you to hand it over to Him. All He asks of us is that we keep walking.

Keep on keeping on.


Amy Michelle Wiley

(For the personal story of my own “Jericho wall,” listen to my testimony here.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Are You A Fretter?

Well, I am. I steam and stew on a regular basis. Especially right now at tax season, when I’m trying to figure out how in the world the government can expect me to pay more in taxes than I already have, and when I don’t have so much as an extra nickel or dime laying around.

It’s really easy to look at the world through human eyes, look at the unfairness and injustice that goes on every day, and wonder… “Where are you, God?”

Does He hear us when we’re sick, when pain is a constant companion and there’s no relief in sight? What about those folks out of a job and about to lose their homes? What about those facing their supposed golden years who have had their life savings and retirement stolen away from them by unscrupulous people? Why does my sister-in-law, a wonderful, God-fearing woman, face an uncertain future with breast cancer when others seem to sail through life effortlessly?

I just want to sit back and tell God, “You’re not fair!”

People more learned than I have grappled with this through the ages. I can’t even begin to answer for God, because my thoughts and understanding are so far below His. We can have no understanding of this apart from Him.

“When I tried to understand all this,
I found it too hard for me—
until I went into the sanctuaries of God
and grasped what their destiny would be.”  (Psalm 73:16-17)

First, it's only by seeking God out that we can possibly get any type of answer to this age-old dilemma of "justice." And second, how much does my attitude affect how readily I see God’s hand working, even when to all outward appearances, He's gone AWOL?

“When I had a sour attitude
and felt stung by pained emotions,
I was too stupid to understand;
I was like a brute beast with you.

“Nevertheless, I am always with you;
You hold my right hand.
You will guide me with your advice;
and afterwards, you will receive me with honor….

“But for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made Adonai Elohim my refuge,
so that I can tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73: 21-24, 28)

I cannot begin to explain why God allows so many things to happen. All I know is that, like David, I have to say I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their descendants begging bread. God allows things to happen, yet He provides, not necessarily escape, but an understanding that He uses everything that we go through for His glory. 

“But for me, the nearness of God is my good…” 

Thank you, Father, that you never leave or forsake us.
~Hanne

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Words Rolling Off My Tongue

 
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart 
be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NIV)


I find the very thing I struggle with personally, others often struggle with as well. For me it is negative self-talk. God has definitely been working with me in this area. While I have improved, I have not reached the summit, planted my flag and claimed success. But I am working on it. I would like to share some insights I have gained in the area of words and thoughts.

The words we speak: do they lift up or tear down? Do they encourage or hinder? King Solomon says in Proverbs, the tongue can be filled with life or filled with death.
What are the words rolling off our tongue saying? Are they a source of encouragement and hope, or do they tear down and destroy? Give someone a compliment and watch his or her face light up. Say something unkind and watch how they suddenly take on a downcast appearance.

How about our self-talk—do our inward thoughts and words empower us to move forward or are they dragging us down and keeping us from experiencing all God has for us? Our words and thoughts can be our biggest asset or a huge liability. Negative self-talk can make us feel defeated and hopeless, and in return, our words to others become an unkind reflection of what is in our heart.


When our thoughts, words and actions line up with Him, we can mount up like eagles and soar!

Father, I need the wisdom to control my thoughts and words. I desire for my words to be filled with Your love, joy and peace, not anger and discord. I pray my words reflect You so others will be drawn to You. Amen.


You can also visit Rita at her blog or her website:

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Only Hope

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, 
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 NIV)

I’ve been thinking about Abraham and Sarah lately. In fact, for the past couple years, I’ve considered their lives and what it must have looked like to be told, “You will have a nation rise from your seed,” (paraphrased); and then, not see that promise fulfilled. For Sarah, it must have been agony to go year after year waiting for that promise.

To have a baby wasn’t only something God said would happen, but a longing of every woman’s heart in those days. Barrenness was a sign of a curse—a burden most women couldn’t bear to face. Boys, especially, meant that the family line would not be cut off. Men usually followed their father’s occupation in life, so for Abraham, a son meant his trade would flourish and grow long after his death. Is it any wonder Sarah told her husband, “Here, take my slave, Hagar. She will give you the son we long for” (paraphrased)? The suggestion probably sounded reasonable after Sarah’s case was presented. She’s barren. God promised a son. There’s no other way this can happen.

Then problems arose. Strife entered the relationship between Sarah and Hagar. The solution Sarah and Abraham had thought would be the best way to help God whirled around and bit them.

So God waited a while longer. He repeated His promise to Abraham and told him that Ishmael was not the son of promise.

What? Why not? After all, he’s here. He’s Abraham’s son. Can’t God still fulfill His word through Ishmael?

Yes, He could have. But He didn’t. In fact, He waited until Abraham’s body was near death to fulfill that promise. In this manner, no man would ever be able to say, “Look what I did.”

When their promised—longed-for—son was born, Sarah named him Isaac (laughter). Holding that child in her arms must have felt like someone opened her aged lungs and blew fresh wind into them. She could laugh, perhaps a good side-splitting-belly-aching laugh that got the entire household rolling. At 90-years old, her longing had been fulfilled, and in a manner which she and Abraham both knew was God restoring honor to them. No more would the women look at her and shake their heads, wondering what she or her ancestors must have done to dry up her womb.

Fast forward several years. Abraham took his son, Isaac, up the mountain to sacrifice. He knew God had required Isaac be slaughtered like one of the animals as an offering to the Lord.

Did he waver? Did he argue with God? “Hey wait a minute. You said—”

We don’t see those conversations. What we do know is that Abraham obediently led his son to the mountain and built the altar, laid Isaac on it, and raised his hands to make the first cut. Was he crying? Did his heart shatter and shred his innards the entire time? “But this child came from God. Surely God can raise the dead,” (paraphrased). He set his face as flint and went forward.

Then God interrupted. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” He said, “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son,” (Genesis 22: 12).

This is where the TV screen goes blank and the words run across, “This is ONLY a test.” Imagine Abraham’s relief. Imagine Isaac’s. God wanted to reveal whether the promise or the God of the promise were at the forefront of Abraham’s loyalty list.

I have found myself feeling a lot like Abraham and Sarah alternately (and simultaneously at times) longing for those promises, those hopes and dreams, to be fulfilled. I’ve seen the doors begin to pulsate, the knob twist; the One on the other side is getting ready to open them. And then I hear the whisper. “Would you lay it all down for Me?”

The scalpel is in poised and ready. My heart twists. Anguished. Fearful. But, if He can raise dead men to life, create enough food from five loaves and seven fish to feed 5,000 then I know I can trust Him.


What in your life has He asked for total control? 

Would you give it to Him?
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame,” (Joel 2: 26, 27 NKJ)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Answer to Daffodils


As we drove into town one time, my very observant youngest child asked a profound question.

“Mom, why does everyone else have pretty daffodils in their yards but we don't?”

It was like being smacked with a rolled up newspaper.

Being the full-of-wisdom mother that I am (not), I gave him a deep answer. “Because you have to plant them and we haven't planted any.”

The silence in my soul echoed with that truth.

So many times I've asked the same thing. “Lord, why don't I have ____ in my life?”

And God's response is like mine to my son. “Because you have to plant it and nurture it to have it.”

Matthew 7:7 says “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” How many things are missing from my life because I haven't asked God for them? I'm not talking about a whole-foods chef to cater for my husband, or a personal assistant to keep track of the million details of being a mom, among the other things I do. I'm talking about 'spiritual' things. Things that I see in the lives of my sisters and think, 'Wow, I wish I were joyful (or whatever) like she is.'

So instead of whining about what seems to be missing from my life, Matthew says I'm to ask for it. Boy, that's a tough one. I've had a little girl in one of my classes who whined her questions. “So-n-so got a piece of candy. Can I have one?” She's cute as a button, but when she whined like that... um... it just didn't work for me. You know what I mean? How do you think it sounds to God when we whine our requests?

It's so much better when we just ask.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Do you want to want to be an encourager? How about more hospitable? Or do you want to do better with the class you help with?
Ask God.

Just like if we want flowers in our yards, we need to plant them and nurture them.

“If your seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:4-5 NAS

So we ask.
And we seek.
It's so simple. But sometimes the simplest things are the ones overlooked, forgotten or ignored because of their simplicity.

Matthew 7 goes on to say “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” God wants good for our lives. Like a parent gives good gifts to their child, God, who is infinitely good and knows what is best for us. “...how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:8,11 NAS)

So what are we waiting for?
Let's plant some daffodils in our lives!

Let's ask God for those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and excellent. And let's seek and nurture those things in our lives.


Finding the Extraordinary God in our Ordinary Lives

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Paths

Since this blog is part of the FaithWriters' Jewelers "family," we'll be putting a link to each week's General Submissions Jewel Chest at the top of each Saturday's post. Please click on the link here and check out some WONDERFUL posts in general subs.

The nature of sin is to hide. The nature of God is to seek and rescue. While it seems like an easy plan, the Lord doesn't yell…He whispers, and it takes a contrite heart to hear His voice amid the cacophony of forest chatter. One can get lost in a dark woods cluttered with paths that lead in so many different directions, often taking you deeper into the heart of the forest.


There is only one path out.

Listen to the Lord's voice, He'll gently lead you back into the light of His fellowship.

Psalm 119:105 "Thy Word is lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths."

In His Love,

Friday, March 25, 2011

Awe

Last summer I rediscovered awe.

Or maybe I just discovered it. I don't know. Whatever the right way of describing it is, all I know is it feels like the very first time.

(You're welcome for that song I just stuck in your head. Know I am singing it with you!)

Last year about this time I worked my way through Beth Moore's study on Daniel. Oh, how I loved this study! In fact, I loved it so much I actually cried buckets when the last session video ended and there was no more homework for me to do. And then when my husband brought me home a book explaining all the different views on the End Times, I actually eagerly grabbed it and started reading. Of course, being a lot more scholarly than oh, say anything I have ever read in my entire life, I haven't gotten very far. But still, I am excited to study further the things Beth has encouraged me to study.

It wasn't so much the prophecy and eschatology that got me last summer, although I did find all of that fascinating.

No, what got me was one day realizing that while this world isn't all about me/you/us...


...it really is all about me/you/us.

There I was reading a passage in Revelation about how when all is said and done, we saints will be gazing on Jesus with our heads raised, our eyes fixed on His glorious and beautiful face and His name will be written on our foreheads.

His mark left on us.

Since the very beginning, God has been preparing for the very day we bow before Him.

He has been pursuing us, wooing us, loving us.

All so we can know Him.

God doesn't need us to stroke His ego. He doesn't need us to be in a relationship with Him.

But He chose to make us for relationship anyway. Even though so many will choose our own way, will choose to reject their Maker, will choose to deny His very existence.

He chose to make us so we can know Him.

That just blows me away.

That He, the Holiest of Holies, would make me just to know me?

There are no words to really describe how that makes me feel.

And Lovelies, He did the very same for you.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. ~ Revelation 22:3-4

Thursday, March 24, 2011

She's Still a Classic


We passed by it every day on the way to school. It sat in the driveway, a big white hunk of metal with a dent in the side. Nobody could accuse my neighbors of living a lavish lifestyle with a clunker like that in their front yard. For months my daughter and I ignored its presence, going about our business as if the car wasn’t there. Every now and then my thoughts would wander over to their yard. How did that weird dent get there? What’s with the scratch on the other side? It looks like someone took a giant fish hook and dragged it along the door. Those tires look so shiny- why would they spend so much money on good tires and ignore the body? Why do I get the nagging feeling that there is more to this car than what I see?

Then one day my suspicions were confirmed. As I walked my daughter to school like I have so many times, I noticed the car was backed in the driveway this time, exposing the logo on the hood- Rolls Royce. I nonchalantly tiptoed around the car, stealing a glance at the grill, the backseat, the dashboard. This is a nice car! What is a classy car like that doing in a middle-class, suburban neighborhood like ours? No wonder the thing looked out of place! It was parked in the middle of Middleclassville! The more I thought about that car, the more intrigued I became. I went home and googled Rolls Royce. Not only was this car a staple among the rich and famous, Lawrence of Arabia used nine of them during his battles in World War One. The car was also featured in several James Bond movies including “Goldfinger” and “Licence to Kill”.

Apparently my neighbors had a lot of ‘splaining to do. I vowed that as soon as I had the chance, I was going to get to the bottom of that mystery. In the meantime, I found myself in my own interrogation room with God. “When am I going to feel useful in your kingdom? Does anything I’m doing even matter? Who notices anyway?” I realized that I had a lot in common with that car. On the outside we were both pretty beat up. We had visible scars of a life filled with accidents and wrong turns. Inside, we were just waiting for someone to come along and see us for the classic beauty we really were.

Then I came across a note from someone I admire. It said, “You often wonder if God notices anything you do. The answer is yes. He notices everything you do.” During the next few weeks odd things would happen that left me scratching my head. An old friend reconnected with me on facebook. My husband brought home a bag of my favorite chocolate “just because”. At the last minute I was invited to see my favorite performer live in concert. All of these seemed to be little reminders that God was taking a good look at my interior and he liked what he saw. Although I felt like an old clunker sitting in someone’s driveway, I was starting to understand that I had value anyway. All the dents and dings in the world could not erase the workmanship that my creator built into me. I was still a classic in my own right and I didn’t need the world to notice. God already did.

Now when I pass by the white car, I make sure I take an extra second and admire its beauty. I know it’s just a vehicle and it’s probably silly but I feel a kinship with that machine. I know that it was created by a master, that it was meant for royalty, and that it is incredibly valuable, whether anyone notices it not. Just like each of us.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
The Mighty One will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17


Joyfully Praising Jesus,
Sherry

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Got Worries?

I wish I didn't worry, but I do sometimes. I must admit, I'm not quite as bad as my mom who used to worry that she worried too much. (Did you follow that?) In our world today, we do have many concerns and it would be foolish to assume that, without God's help, we can face every problem.

Knowing that I can give God all my worries has ministered to my faith on many occasions. At one particular time in my life, when I had a problem that I couldn't solve by myself, I kept on the wall in front of my sink this verse:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (I Peter 5:7 NIV). With this reminder, tears of gratitude to God for His faithfulness would drop into the dishwater.

I can't remember a time when I have seen so many in need of being reminded that God is in charge. Nothing happens that He does not know about or even care about for those who belong to Him. He is ever aware of our concerns for our nation and for all of the nations in His world.

If you are out of work, suffering, lonely, brokenhearted, in need of a job, burdened with concerns for others, or fearful for the future, just remember that God knows every problem you have. He has not forgotten you.

I rejoice in the knowledge that I am a daughter of God. As a young girl, I felt safe when my dad held my hand. I knew he was strong and he loved me. How much more do I feel safe now, knowing that my all-powerful Heavenly Father is in control and He loves me? May it encourage your heart today to know how much God loves you and that He wants you to give your every worry into His keeping.

Verna Cole Mitchell

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Promise You...

My birthday celebration, complete with hat, o joy:)
How can we have an encouragement blog here at Joe without talking about friendship? There is no way! I am very blessed to have a core group of friends at home and online. My girls at home try to meet once a month. Recently, one of my friends from this group had surgery, and the awesome thing about it is that I've been feeling good enough to help her out so we've got to spend lots of time together.  I'm the one that was blessed through it all because I get so lonely for some physical contact because...
The FW Jewelers:)

so many of my other friends are online through Faithwriters and Facebook. I have an awesome core group of Christian friends who I can't imagine living my life without.  We 'talk' and tease and work together all the time online and by text and we encourage each other in our walk with the Lord.

With that said, I must talk about one person in particular who God placed in my life who knows me inside and out and in spite of that - still loves me.  I would say she probably knows me almost better than I know myself.  Her name is, of course, Mari.  That is Marita Thelander, to be exact.

For some reason...some very strange reason...a reason neither of us can fathom, we 'found' each other and bonded closer than we've ever bonded with any other friend in our lives.  We needed each other 'for such a time as this.'  God gave us both a gift - a gift of each other.  My gift was a middle-aged west coast Christian married mother of three with the same values as mine and we were even born in the same year, 19** (Mari's hand covering my mouth.)

A last day together before run to airport:(
She helped get me through so many health battles, you can't even imagine.  I don't know how many procedures and surgeries she had to endure waiting through while I blissfully slept.  From thousands of miles away, she knows when I start to go down hill.  At her insistence, I call the doctor and get some help but to her utter dismay and annoyance, I usually wait until it's too late and end up in ER.

I've been there for her, in all that pastor's wives go through, plus menopause - she still has yet to go through that with me (can you say payback?) The only thing that deters us is a mere 2,000 miles, but what is a few thousand miles when God is in it, you know?  :)

This week, my B90X (reading the Bible in 90 days) has been in the Gospels.  I read the account of Jesus and His crucifixion four times and it really truly sunk in that Jesus loves us desperately and showed it by dying for us on the cross.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay 
down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13 NIV)

I would do anything for Mari just like she would do anything for me and if one of us needs to be 'corrected,' we do that, in love, too.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one (wo) man
 sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

We all have had friends who have walked out of our lives, sometimes after a cruel betrayal.  Mari and I are forever friends.  I've promised I will always stay, and in turn, she has handed me her heart, in complete faith, trusting I will never knowingly hurt her, and she holds mine.  God completes our friendship.  We look to Him to understand what it means to be true Christian friends, and it is an amazing ride!  

I found this awesome Lucy & Ethel Tribute video on YouTube.  They are true blue women friends both on screen and off who most remind me of us:  happily married (on screen) who know how to have FUN and get into SCRAPES and LAUGH at each other and at themselves.  The only difference between them and us is that they were neighbors **tears**   Hope you enjoy, maybe have some tissues ready, especially you, Mari.

By the way, I pick up Mari in just two days for a nine day stay with me for spring break in Illinois! Probably a chilly, wet spring break but we won't care.  Watch til the very end of this video - and you'll get a clue what we will look like at Midway Airport, Chicago, Illinois.

The song lyrics can be found here: Amazing  I loved it. Just amazingly perfect...I am blessed to overflowing to have so many amazingly awesome wonderful friends in my life!





Monday, March 21, 2011

When the Wind Blows



Years ago a farmer who owned land along the Atlantic seacoast constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the coast because of the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.



Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farmhand?" the farmer asked him.


"Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man.



Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer was well satisfied with the man's work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!"

The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."



Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm.
 To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, the doors were barred, the shutters were tightly secured, everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away.



The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.



MORAL: When you're prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear.



Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? 

The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm.

 We, as believers in Christ, secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don't need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the midst of the storms.

-Author Unknown

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ” Matthew 11:28-29

"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace." Ephesians 6:14-15



SUNNY

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cheer Up

From FaithWriters' Free Reprints

The bag looked like an appendage attached to his back. It contained all of his earthly possessions. Its weight caused him to bend over and shuffle when he walked. He grimaced with every step. Sadly, this poor soul's plight depicts the way many people feel today -- dejected, discouraged and in despair.

Jesus said in John 16:33 (NIV), "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world."

photo from Dreamstime
Jesus had just finished telling His disciples some things that, at that time, they could not fully understand. But, He didn't leave them clueless. He made a statement of fact: "In this world you will have trouble." He doesn't say our troubles will go away. He doesn't say we will no longer be plagued by fear or doubt. Instead, our solution to a troubled heart, is to find peace in Him. But, He takes that a step further by saying something strange. He tells us to, "take heart," or, "cheer up."

So, when we are lonely or depressed, have doubts about our faith or feel the weight of the world pressing us down, we are to "cheer up"? This makes no sense until we read our Lord's last statement: "I have overcome the world."

We win our battles when we surrender to Jesus who has already fought them for us. We free ourselves from a bag full of burdens when we lay it at the cross and leave it there. We find peace, in the midst of life's storms, when we rest in the One who walked upon the water and said, "Peace! Be still."

He, who was rejected and despised of men, is now our Overcomer. That is definitely something we can all cheer about.

Copyright 2011 by Bob Valleau. Bob has over 25 years of writing experience for the Christian market. He was once named Christian Writer of the Year by the American Christian Writers Association. Currently, he freelances and lives in Texas.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.com-CHRISTIAN WRITER-MAKE A WEBSITE

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Strong Redeemer

Since this blog is part of the FaithWriters' Jewelers "family," we'll be putting a link to each week's General Submissions Jewel Chest at the top of each Saturday's post. Please click on the link here and check out some WONDERFUL posts in general subs.

I hate to admit how often I feel frustrated and even hopeless when my life isn't rosy. I grumble and complain. I wonder if I will ever get out of my current funk. I have myself a full-blown pity party and invite everyone I know to join the celebration.

I forget, in a word, that I'm God's, and that He is fully able to pull me through, and even get me out of my situation, whatever it may be. Despite the countless times He has done it in the past, I think that this time He's just gonna let me suffer, or that He's (gasp!) not strong enough to get me out of whatever my issue is (whether major or minor). Well, I may not say it - but my actions certainly make it look like I believe it.

I was having struggles with this just yesterday, as related to at least three different issues--all incredibly minor. So, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when my daily Bible reading found me lingering on a couple of verses in Jeremiah that I'm certain were not there the last time I read that book.
This is what the LORD Almighty says:
"The people of Israel are oppressed,
and the people of Judah as well.
All their captors hold them fast,
refusing to let them go.
Yet their Redeemer is strong;
the LORD Almighty is his name.
He will vigorously defend their cause
so that he may bring rest to their land,
but unrest to those who live in Babylon.
Jeremiah 50:33-34 NIV

A paper jam, potty training struggles, and writer's block are nothing compared to what the people of Israel were going through during the time of this writing. Babylon had just taken Judah captive and had removed them from their beloved land. Note - "all their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go." Now here, it seems, was a time to be hopeless, to whine and wallow in self-pity.


But that's not what happens. In this time of hopelessness, "their Redeemer is strong." What other hope do they need?

You know, the Redeemer hasn't changed. He is never too weak to handle what we are going through--and He always will handle it. So leave the whine in the cellar, and cancel that pity party.

Your Redeemer is strong.


Joanne Sher An Open Book




My Blog
The Barn Door
Jewels of Encouragement

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Audition

Last October I published my very first article on A Softer Voice (thanks to Patty’s great teaching and a generous measure of perseverance on her part). It might just as well have been typed, stuffed into a tin can and buried in the back yard. Well, maybe nothing that drastic. After all, the other members of the Clearing the Blog Fog class knew it was there. It was also tagged with a few words that would draw some unsuspecting surfers to this new endeavor.

The name of my blog tells the story. I’ve always struggled with whether to remain invisible or step forward. Do I audition for a solo or wait for one to drop into my open rehearsal folder?

About four weeks ago this hide-and-seek dilemma resurfaced. I had been posting to my blog, adding buttons and pictures, tiptoeing through the blogs of others and leaving calling cards. Suggestions of sites from other bloggers led to following and being followed. Still, I had remained comfortably seated in the back of the room.

It was time to “audition” once again. Facebook was the next obvious choice for baring my heart and soul publicly. But would that be self-promotion or a genuine desire to witness through writing? It all came down to the right motivation.

Occasionally, when I’m seeking an answer from God’s Word, I just open my Bible and begin to read. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. On this particular Word search, my Bible opened to James 3:13-18 (NASB). Verse 14 addresses “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart” and warns that arrogance lies against the truth.

Ruling out bitter jealousy was easy. It was the “selfish ambition in your heart” that put my Facebook debut temporarily on hold. I continued to read:

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist
there is disorder and every evil thing.
But the wisdom from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and
good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in
peace by those who make peace.”

Once again, Satan was taunting me: “Be safe. Don’t put yourself out there. What if someone thinks you’re just looking for attention? What if someone doesn’t like what you’ve written? Are you sure you want to be called a hypocrite?”

Do I measure up to God’s heart standards? Not by a long shot. But I know my heart’s desire: Share God’s love and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Armed with God’s Word, I was able to say, “Get thee behind me,” to the discourager and, “Facebook, here I come,” to cyber space. The invitation to join JoE soon followed. Coincidence? Maybe.

Is there something that’s keeping you in the shadows when you should:

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your
good works,and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NASB)

-Nancy K. Sullivan
http://www.asoftervoice.blogspot.com/

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walking Among Dandelions



THE LOWLY, BUT LOFTY “DANDY”

In January of this year, our church did the series of studies developed by Bill Hybels called, Just Walk Across the Room. The basic idea behind the series is to encourage believers to take simple steps to embrace those who don’t yet have an intimate relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. At the end of the four weeks, I was asked to summarize the whole program in a celebration service—what we called in Venezuela the, “broche de oro” (golden clasp).

A creative twist was what was called for, and the coordinator of the event suggested that I could do something along the lines of the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23). So I started thinking seeds. What seed has the greatest impact? A light switched on—a quirky one, I’ll admit—but a light nonetheless.


The lowly dandelion probably holds the record for the most aggressive seed sowing in the universe. My summary wrapped itself in that simple yellow flower that everyone loves to hate, but that has worlds of divine lessons to teach us about God’s mission (and ours) to a lost world.

Take a walk with me through a field of dandelions. You might be surprised what you discover.

According to Wikipedia: “Taraxacum officinale, the Common Dandelion (often simply called "dandelion"), is a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).”

The Dandelion is common.


It’s not an exotic Orchid, a delicate Pansy, a mighty Oak, or a divinely scented Lilac bush. A Dandelion, if you’ll pardon the expression, is “as common as dirt.” God uses the exotic, the delicate, the mighty, and the smelly (don’t ask!) but He mostly uses just ordinary folk like you and me. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NIV) says:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 

In the spiritual world it looks like the lowly “dandelion” person trumps the more admired, appreciated, and applauded person. God picked me, and you, just common folk, to be His hands, feet, voice, and heart in this world. We’re the rule, not the exception; the norm, not the abnormal; the desired, not the undesirable in God’s eternal plan.

The Dandelion is perennial.

The Dandelion keeps coming back. It’s persistent, determined, and undeterred—just ask anyone who has a lawn! Perseverance is a key characteristic of a Christ-follower. So, if it could, the lowly “lion” could relate very well to James 1:2 (NIV):

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

We need to remember that what God allows in our lives is not meant to destroy us, but to grow us stronger and better. The dandelion always comes back, and so should we—it’s the only way to win.

The Dandelion belongs to a family.


The Dandelion is kin to the aster, the daisy, the sunflower, the dahlia, and the chrysanthemum, among others. Pretty noble relatives for our despised little friend. God has placed us in a very prestigious family. The kinship we share with God through Jesus Christ, the relationship of faith that makes us part of God’s family places us in exalted company. Paul writes in Romans 8:15-17 (NIV):

 “…you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba,’ ‘Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” 

We can lift our heads high, not because of who we are, but because of Who we belong to.

I find a lot of encouragement in knowing that as ordinary as I am, I am desirable to God, so much so that I belong to His family and that His greatest desire is to encourage my growth so that I can be the best “me” that is possible.

Go, Dandelion, go!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Confidence


Imagine a perfect morning, you know—sun outside, pretty birds singing, and a nutritious breakfast that doesn’t taste like wood as every other little detail lines up so perfectly. You can feel it. It’s going to be a good day. You have time to brush your teeth, your shoes are where they should be, you have clean socks and your mind is so clear, you can see the relaxing atmosphere in the rearview mirror as you’re driving down the street at the corner stoplight.

Then you realize you’re still in bed.

Everything in your head was a dream and you have to actually get out of bed. Your brain kicks into overdrive as you realize you’re fifteen minutes behind—because you hit snooze once—you’re out of milk for the cereal you wanted to eat, you forgot to put your presentation together last night and you have to give that presentation within the first half of the day.

It’s going to be a lousy day.

Any happy-warm fuzzies you had ran screaming in terror in the face of reality. As your feet hit the floor and you force yourself to start moving, energy drains away from you. Why? You don’t want to be up. You don’t want to go through the day. You don’t want to do so many things that if you made a list, it’d be endless. But most of all, you wish that you didn’t have to go through the day—because you don’t feel ready.

You feel unprepared, frustrated, and doubtful.

If you’re like me, you’re out the door, whining, fretting. and grumbling just a little bit as you drive to point A. On the way, some things might stand out more than usual. The sun isn’t shining directly in your eyes, because the sun visor actually works. You aren’t stuck at a particular stoplight as usual. Someone lets you cut in front of them—with a smile. Your favorite song starts playing on the radio and there’s no traffic. You arrive at Point A and your lousy day is looking up.


Little details.

That’s where I stop whining and realize that my day flip-flops when I make it all about me. When I understand that it isn’t—something different happens. The warm fuzzies come back. They bring friends. My world brightens.

I stop doubting myself, my gifts, and my talents when I remember that God doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t. Period. It’s a whole new flavor of confidence.

God-Confidence.

When I give my day over to Him, He gives me a little spike of flair, a colorful spark, a good kick in the pants—right where I need it. It’s a strength He’s offered the entire time, patiently waiting until I was ready to acknowledge and accept it. When He stands beside me, it doesn’t matter what kind of day it is, I already know it’s going to be good.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1 : 6 NASB


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Living With the Heavy Weight of Guilt


I have a confession to make. I feel guilty bringing up the subject of guilt on a blog that's all about encouragement. It just seems wrong. But bear with me...

Over the last &#@! months (who wants to be reminded of how terribly slow their spiritual walk is, huh?) the Lord has been gently washing away layers of the sticky grime coating my heart and mind. And as dark as that may sound, those merciful and loving actions of my Saviour are perhaps the most encouraging thing I've ever experienced.

Do you live with guilt? Are the words "I'm sorry" emblazoned on your tongue? Do you constantly strive to please people no matter how it affects you?

Are you compulsive? Do you throw yourself into busyness in an effort to reach... something ever unattainable? Can you remember the last time you felt acceptable or good enough?

I'm with you.

And you know what? Apparently this is not how God wants you to live. How do I know that? You see, there's this book that God wrote...

Try doing a keyword search for "freedom" in your Bible concordance. My favourite result...

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Cor. 3:17

Honestly, I still haven't figured out what freedom tastes like. I'm only beginning to smell the aroma of liberty pie coming from the Lord's kitchen. But I'm getting pretty tired of my strict diet of heavy guilt and incessant striving. I'm ready to indulge in what God has for me.

Hard as I tried, I could never really do enough to take away the guilt. Burnt out emotionally more times than I can count, in many cases the only thing that brought me out of that place was a new idea, a new compulsion, another path to run down in headlong abandon.

So I asked the Lord what He wanted me to do.

In my exhaustion the still, small voice hit with the gentleness of a warm spring breeze.

Relationship.

"But God, don't you want me to work hard? To do the right things? To be a good wife, mom, friend and ministry worker? To stop making all of these mistakes?"

Relationship. And faith.

"But, but, but... what about assuaging this guilt? How will I ever scrub it away? What can I actually DO?"

Relationship with Me, dear child.

Verses are beginning to come back to me through the fog of busyness and guilt. Scriptures about a righteousness through faith, about God removing my sins as far away as the east is from the west, about becoming a part of God's family.

And God is teaching me that what I have to do is concentrate on my relationship with Him. (Well, obviously I'm expected to do laundry, kiss my husband, read to my kids and file my taxes as well, but not with the same motivation that has driven me thus far.)

God is revealing that much of what I have been carrying around as part of my emotional wardrobe is false guilt. And I'm getting an inkling of what Jesus meant when He announced that Isaiah 61 was fulfilled with His coming -

"He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."

Sigh. My spirit is getting lighter already.


thanks to sxc/secureroot (shackles), sxc/luzdesigns (pies) for the photos

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Big Ear



When I was a child I noticed something about myself one day that I didn’t like. I noticed I had one ear bigger than the other. While I looked in the mirror, that ear seemed to grow. It got bigger and bigger! I became obsessed with hiding my big ear. I wouldn’t allow my mom to put my hair up anymore. Even though she insisted I looked cute in a French twist, I just couldn’t let anyone see my big ear.

The years passed and still I was self-conscious about my big ear. Then one day, while my sister was giving me a perm, she said “Why don’t you get your hair cut so your ears show. It would be cute.”

“Oh no! Then my big ear would stick out!”

She tilted her head, a puzzled look covering her face. “What? You don’t have a big ear!”

“Yes, I do.” I pulled my hair off the offending ear. “See?”

“You’re crazy! There’s nothing wrong with your ear.” She went on to finish my perm.

 After she left, I rushed to the mirror. Could it be true? Could it be that I really didn’t have a big ear? I examined my ears from every direction. Maybe she was right; my ear wasn’t really bigger. Well what do you know? I had wasted all those years trying to hide something that wasn’t even there!

How about you? Is there something you’re hiding in your life…something you’re afraid others will think is too big for God? Are you afraid God can’t handle that part of yourself you think is so offensive?  Does it make you feel ugly and uncomfortable? Maybe the way you see yourself is through a mirror of self-doubt or colored with things from the past that God has promised He has already wiped away. Let the Lord’s grace clothe you in beauty! Let His spirit shine through you so when others see you, confidence and acceptance of God’s power in your life is revealed.


“For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

I gave up trying to hide the ear that wasn't any bigger than the other one. I became confident that what my sister told me was true; so much so that I even wore my hair up on my wedding day!





My Heart's Dee-Light :
http://deeyodersblogspot.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today is a New Day!




"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."   Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)


Did you “spring forward” last night? Today is the first day of Day Light Saving in much of the Northern Hemisphere. Stealth-fully, in the wee hours of the morning, clocks moved ahead one hour so as to take advantage of increased sunlight. The days will seem longer because the sun sets at a later time. 

However, because of the time change, you may have lost an hour of sleep. Did you awaken feeling rested or are you still tired from that lost sleep?  Did you begin the day refreshed in your soul or are you carrying the burdens you went to sleep with?

Over the last few months, I’ve had stressful issues at work, and it seems that my supervisory skills are lacking in sound judgment. Generally, I enjoy my job, but lately I feel that dumb mistakes and poor decisions are causing me to fall out of the good graces of my supervisor. That may not even be true but my inner being grieves the idea that I’m not good enough in my work.

I feel that I have failed my supervisor but it’s comforting to know that I cannot fail God. Even more reassuring is that God will not fail me. When I make mistakes, it’s okay, because God is merciful and He will always love me. When I awake in the morning, it is a fresh start in the Lord. He does not carry over his mercies from the previous day - they are new every morning.

Longer days provide the opportunity to work and play later into the evening. They also present greater chances of doing something dumb. This day (no matter the amount of sleep you were able to get) is a new day in the Lord. You can start over again. Yesterday's blunders are insignificant.  Be encouraged because today is a clean blank page.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your mercifulness, and that you won’t love us less when we make poor decisions. Today, Lord, you are faithful, and will provide newness in my soul. Great are you, Lord!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Sweetness of Surrender

Since this blog is part of the FaithWriters' Jewelers "family," we'll be putting a link to each week's General Submissions Jewel Chest at the top of each Saturday's post. Please click on the link here and check out some WONDERFUL posts in general subs.

Have you ever felt like things are so far out of your control that you have no choice but to surrender?

It was one of those times. My whole weekend had been upended by a three-year old with a cold, who was feeling awful, and needed Mommy desperately. There was so much I needed to get done. So many commitments I’d made that couldn’t be kept if I spent the day indulging my toddler in full-time cuddles.

I hate to admit I had to make a conscious decision to spend time with my son. But I’m stubborn and when someone or something tells me that I can’t do things my way, I resist. The good news is, God’s been working on this with me for a long time, so it’s getting easier to keep things in perspective. I knew my long list of to-do’s wasn’t more important than my son. I knew that at the end of my life, I wasn’t going to regret the time I’d spend with him. I also knew it was an opportunity to let my son know his value to me, and ultimately his value to God.

I knew what I needed to do, so I did what I could to patch up or pass on the loose ends of my should-be-doings. Then settled onto the couch downstairs with my son.

I put in a music DVD that my son received in the mail the day before from his grandparents. You see, not only were my plans ruined, but my sick little peanut was suffering a cold on his birthday weekend.

We sat there and watched the video while I stroked my son’s sweat-dampened hair.  He hardly moved. And though he was feverish and miserable, I knew all he needed was my comfort and some time to get better. I knew I’d made the right choice, and as if on cue, this song came on:

God is so good,
God is so good,
God is so good,
He’s so good to me.

I didn’t try to stop the tears. I realized the blessing of that moment and thanked God for it. I had surrendered my need to control to God’s love.

God's love is never wasted when it's shared. That moment was three years ago now, and I can't begin to tell you what items were on my to-do list then. But I do remember the tenderness of that time shared with my son. 

Consider the sparrow…she does not reap or store away in barns, 
and yet our Maker feeds her. Are you not more valuable than she? 
Truly, I tell you whatever you did for the littlest of these, you have done for me.

-Matthew 6:26 & Matthew 25:40 (Lynn-ified)




Friday, March 11, 2011

Chosen

The first two kings of Israel were chosen by God and anointed by Samuel. Neither man was looking for honor, let alone looking to be a king. Both men were going about their father's business. Saul was searching for his father's donkeys and David was tending his father's sheep. Sounds rather everydayish to me.

When Samuel anointed Saul king in I Samuel 10, he also gave him very specific signs as confirmation from God—right down to how many loaves of bread and young goats men would be carrying and the specific instruments the prophets would have along. God made it abundantly clear to Saul that it was He who had chosen him as king. He gave Saul solid evidence of His hand.

But Saul, as he was, wasn't ready to be king. God took care of that detail, too.
The the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man. ~I Samuel 10:6

That phrase jumped off the page to me—and be changed into another man. God equipped Saul to assume a king's responsibilities just God enabled those chosen to judge Israel before Saul's reign.
God doesn't choose those who are qualified
...He qualifies those He chooses.

How many of us have stood before God with our knees knocking and said, 'I can't do that!'? If God calls you to do something He will enable you to do it! Rest in that.

Even after God confirmed His anointing, Saul slips back into his everyday life. When Samuel calls the people together to choose a king, and Saul is chosen, the man is hiding in with the luggage. We do the same thing! God chooses us for a task, and we say 'I can't!' and then run and hide, forgetting, or refusing to believe, that God will enable us to do what He has called us to.

When it was time for Saul to step up, it says “God's Spirit fell on Saul” and he was able to rally the people and lead them as a king. God enabled him to do what he had been called to do. God does the same for us.

He will enable you to do what He called you to do!
Rest in that knowledge
and get to work.

He who began a good work in you
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 1:6


Finding the Extraordinary God in our Ordinary Lives

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