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In a Parched and Weary Land …

WEATHER:  I don’t have to tell most of you that this country is in an extreme heat and drought situation. Living in farm country, every day the news tells us how much damage the crops are suffering because of the lack of rain. It’s easy for the untrained eye to see it as the corn stalks wither and brown in the heat. Farmers struggle to keep their hogs cooled. Gardeners  usually fight Japanese Beetles this time of year are also struggling to keep their gardens watered sufficiently. It’s not “fun” to be outside, especially in the sun. And at night we can’t even enjoy a fire either because of the heat or the burn ban restrictions. When a cloud appears in the sky or there is the slightest breeze or drop in temperature our hopes soar that rain and cooler weather are coming.

NEWS:  It’s very discouraging to listen to the news these days from two innocent girls missing in Iowa to the inexplicable shootings in Colorado, suicide bombers, robberies, life-altering illnesses – the list continues.  We look for any glimmer of hope in the tragedies.

In a dry and weary land where there is no waterDavid was in a similar situation when he as in the wilderness of Judah. He was feeling totally drained and L-O-N-G-E-D for God’s presence.  David lived a life being hunted by the king, hiding in the desert and not being able to go to the Temple to worship God. Psalm 63 describes some of that longing. David remembers that he has seen God in the sanctuary and gazed upon God’s power and glory. He praises God for His unfailing love and care.

Have you ever been in a spiritual wasteland where you are struggling for nourishment? I have. Following my husband’s heart procedure and other issues, I felt drained. I KNEW God was there caring for me and even carrying me through the tough times, but I couldn’t FEEL Him. Somehow the inner assurance seemed to have evaporated in the heat of trials. After I wrote Practice! Practice! Practice! a dear friend reminded me of a simple book that I hadn’t looked at for a while – Invitation to Solitude and Silence, by Ruth Haley Barton.  I picked it up again and have been enjoying my morning time with God just BEING in His presence.

There is such a blessing that occurs from spending time with God – not on the fly as our guest pastor said Sunday; praying on the go, listening to Christian music, quickly reading a 2 minute devotional – all of which are good. But there is an importance of being thoroughly drenched and refreshed by BEING in God’s presence. Whether it is simply picking up His word and reading a verse or a portion of scripture and then just sitting there, thinking about it, thanking God for His word, listening to what He might have to say.

As much as we are physically craving rain to water the earth these days, how much more should we be thirsting, longing, craving for God to fill us spiritually?

I want to encourage you – and myself – to spend that much needed time IN God’s word, WITH Him – just BEING in His presence and letting Him minister to your needs.  It’s not easy and it’s not just sitting there. It is actively waiting and listening for what God will place on your heart.  Watch, pray.  It’s incredible how God blesses, not only in those moments, but continues to shower you with His love, grace and care in the hours and days following your time with Him.

I thought I’d share a song from one of my favorite musicians is Fernando Ortega. He has captured Psalm 63 beautifully in O God, You are My God.  I pray that you will be blessed with some time this week just BEING in God’s presence and letting the Holy Spirit fill you to overflowing so that you are spiritually refreshed and nourished ~ Faye

I am linked with Good Morning God and Beholding Glory.

How Can I Keep from Singing Your Praise?

It’s Spring in Iowa. Actually one might even think it’s been Summer with temperatures in the 70s and 80s for over a week instead of 30s and 40s. All of the plants and trees have been budding and bursting forth their beauty. I’ve been working in a garden center and am blessed that the owners allow me pretty much free reign of the property to take photos.  Every where I turn something else seems to herald its praises to God.

When I see how God has blessed me throughout my life, how can I keep from shouting His praise? Funny, as I’m writing this, Chris Tomlin’s How Can I Keep from Singing? is playing in the background. God’s timing is so incredible. I turned on Chris Tomlin’s CD this afternoon after I needed a spiritual remake and a lifting up of my spirits. I ran into some people who pretty much are able to only see the glass of life as half empty. They’ve had many difficulties in life, but after talking with them I just felt so sad and sorry for them. When I got home, I knew I could wallow in their self-pity or I could crank up the music and praise God for all He has given to me. These friends have been stuck in the past dreading the changes life offers. Now I don’t like change either, especially when it comes with trials – chronic illnesses, infertility, floods, tornadoes, broken water pipes, health concerns, etc.

But then I look at these beautiful plants and flowering trees. They’ve been hibernating over the Winter after dying off in the Fall just to be able to withstand the harsh winds, snow and ice. Then when the sun comes out, temperatures warm and the Spring rains come, they burst for their glorious color and intricate beauty. Look at this Magnolia blossom, it’s beautiful before it even opens. The white, pinks and purples all gracefully coming out of the base of the bud. There’s not even leaves of the tree when the bud is showing off it’s glory. It doesn’t care if the sky is cloudy and overcast, it’s ready to praise its Maker. It’s not worried about any possibility of weather changes and even the “danger” of frost. It just obeys God’s command to glorify Him.

My  heart grieves for these friends who are struggling to see God’s beauty in their lives. I am so grateful to be deeply content in You alone, for You have been there for me through all of the trials and blessings of life. Help me to keep these words in my heart and mind:

How can I keep from singing Your praise? How can I ever say enough, how amazing is Your love? How can I keep from shouting Your name? I know I am loved by the King and it makes my heart want to sing! ~ Chris Tomlin

So abundantly grateful for the blessing of being able to give praise and glory to God! ~ Faye

I’m linked with Good Morning Girls and Beholding Glory.

W-A-I-T-I-N-G

I was reading through our Maundy Thursday worship service and was just humbled by what Jesus has done for us.  The service is first person readings of accounts from Gethsemane to the crucifixion. One portion is Jesus telling how He was praying alone in the garden after leaving Peter, James and John a little farther away to pray. After praying an hour, he returned to find his closest friends asleep instead of praying for Him. Jesus say, “Why now, Father, I need comfort and support from my disciples and Satan lures them into sleep.” After it happens the second time, Jesus is portrayed as thinking, “My Father knew I needed support as I prepared for what was coming. Yet Satan was determined that I should walk this path alone.”

 I’ve learned from a lot of people who suffer with chronic illnesses that there are so many times they feel alone. It gets old when someone asks, “How are you doing?” and you have to decide how much to tell them. The meds have changed again. The weather is affecting how your body responds today. You overdid yesterday and you are paying for it today. Dealing with insurance claims and payments are more burdensome. People who used to be close friends have distanced themselves because they don’t know how to help. … The list goes on. These types of thoughts and feelings lead those who are suffering with an incredible feeling of facing life alone. I know, I’ve been there. Fortunately, it’s only been for short periods of time.

I have learned that no one can give me the support and understanding that I need 100% of the time. My husband has job stresses. My daughter is busy with her family. Friends are dealing with their lives. I have learned there is only ONE CONSTANT, and that is God, my Heavenly Father. I’ve shared about the job loss two years ago, and sensing every time I prayed for new clients, a new job, what to do, God kept leading with – WAIT! Two years can go by quickly, but when you are waiting for something and you don’t know what it is, it can be forever.  However, when we wait relying on God, we are filled with a calm (that Satan will definitely try to steal) that goes beyond understanding and human logic. Reading this perspective of what Jesus went through and the cry of, “Why now God, when I need You so much, do You seem so distant and my friends can’t support me either?”  

Almost every time I’ve had a “waiting from God period” it has turned out to be a blessing that I couldn’t see. God was using that time to prepare me for what was to come. Recently, He showed me that even my obedience in writing this blog has been a learning experience for what is to come on the job He provided 2 years later. I’m bowled over by His planning, providing, leading, preparing. He is the master life-coordinator. If I just surrender to, listen and obey what He is telling me to do, it would happen without so much doubt, pain, frustration, impatience, etc.

I remembered the part of the Holy Week story where Jesus is “abandoned” by God on the cross. Where Christ suffers hell for us. But I guess I hadn’t really thought about His understanding that He knows the pain we feel when answers aren’t coming easily, when friends don’t support us, when family members aren’t there for us, or even when God is silent. He knows our pain and hurt.  So He holds us closely when we cry to Him, “How long?” “Why?” “Where are You?”  He knows the pain in our heart and empathizes in ways we can never show.  When you’re struggling with feelings of being abandoned, alone, unloved, unsupported – run into His loving, open, understanding arms.

Praying you may be filled with God’s peace as you listen and wait for His leading ~ Faye

I am linked with Good Morning Girls and Beholding Glory

Worshiping God

I’m just back from another worship rehearsal. I thoroughly enjoy the team God has put together for me to serve with.  We enjoy spending time working out the kinks before Sunday and not taking ourselves too seriously. We enjoy who God created each of us to be. I recently purchased a beautiful calla lily and had fun taking photographs of it. When I got it home I realized that one of the blossoms was actually “deformed” with a second petal. I had spent about 1/2 an hour taking photos and never saw the flaw. Why? Because I was so captivated by the beauty of the plant from its multicolored leaves to it’s inviting blossoms. God doesn’t care if we sing off key, hit wrong notes on the piano, can’t get the sound system to pick up the guitar, or miss the timing of a slide. God doesn’t care about the little details. God just wants our worship. We were made to serve an Audience of One. Just enjoy praising God with your heart today! I was searching for some quotes on worship and came across these two:

“As John 4:23 says, Its time, as worshipers of God, to give him all we have. For when he is exalted, everything about me is decreased. So many times we stand in the way of really stepping into the secret place of worship with God. Just abandon tradition and the “expected” ways of Praise & Worship and get lost in the holy of holies with the sole intention of blessing the Fathers heart.” Jessica Leah Springer

“When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.” Lamar Boschman

Praying that your heart may be blessed with the fullness of God to lift up your hearts in praise to worship Him! ~ Faye

I’m linked with Good Morning Girls and Beholding Glory.

Praise the LORD!

Psalm 148Psalm 148 – What a beautiful Psalm of praise. The Psalmist calls for all of God’s creation to praise the LORD because God is GOD. God is glorious. God has blessed His people. God honors His faithful ones. God desires to have all creation praise and glorify His Holy Name!

Praise the LORD

  •             from the heavens!
  •             from the skies!

Praise Him,

  •             all His angels!
  •             all the armies of heaven!
  •             sun and moon!
  •             all you twinkling stars!
  •             skies above!
  •             vapors high above the clouds!

Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for He issued His command, and they came into being. He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked.

Praise the Lord

  •             from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths,
  •             fire and hail, snow and clouds,
  •             wind and weather that obey Him,
  •             mountains and all hills,
  •             fruit trees and all cedars,
  •             wild animals and all livestock,
  •             small scurrying animals and birds,
  •             kings of the earth and all people,
  •             rulers and judges of the earth,
  •             young men and young women,
  •             old men and children.

Let them all praise the name of the LORD. For His name is very great; His glory towers over the earth and heaven! He has made His people strong, honoring His faithful ones – the people of Israel who are close to Him.

 Praise the Lord!

I can’t imagine the wonder and awe the writer felt as he penned this Psalm. It reminds me once again of the indescribable awe of God’s majesty, His unfathomable ways, His unconditional love and grace to each one of us, and so much more. We are so incredibly blessed.

Join with me today in the blessing being able to openly and freely Praise the Lord!  ~ Faye

I’m linked with Good Morning Girls and Beholding Glory.

Incredibly Blessed

I don’t have a lot to say today. I’d like to share how I experienced abundant blessings from God Friday after a beautiful snowfall during the night. I was up early and reflecting on Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than ALL we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout  all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”

I dressed warm, grabbed my camera and headed outdoors right at sunrise. It was pristene white, peaceful, and quiet. God blessed me with His beautiful creation. I saw eagles closer than I’ve been to them before in the wild. I’ve been praising God all weekend for the way He blesses us over and over again with the beautiful from His creative hands.

I pray you will be blessed by these photos as well. I especially pray that you will be able to see the beauty of God’s love and grace all around you ~ Faye

Guilt vs. Grace

I was in a discussion recently about worrying, feeling guilty and God’s grace.  Sometimes we can drive ourselves nuts by worrying about how we raised our kids, or whether we said the right thing to someone, or doing what we should be doing day to day.  I tend to think women definitely fall into this pattern of worrying if they are “being or doing enough.”

Romans 5:1-2a

God’s word is full of reminders of His abundant grace and love. Yet we allow Satan to grow the seed of doubt in us. We let it fester and feed us to the point where we worry about what we are doing, are we good enough?  We forget – it’s not about us – it is about God’s Grace!

Sin ruins our lives. Our relationships suffer. Our health declines. It robs us of our happiness. It steals our peace and joy.  God gives us a way to put the past in the past and experience the incredible blessing of His love and grace. We simply have to believe and receive. We can’t do enough, be enough, say enough. We just have to open our hearts to be washed clean with His amazing grace. We need to quit looking at the past sins and mistakes and KNOW God has washed us clean with His grace. When we hold onto that baggage of guilt, we negate the gift God freely gives us.  And we lose out on the gift of PEACE that comes from walking hand in hand in God’s love and being filled with His grace.

Bask fully in the love and grace God lavishes on you ~ Faye

Linked with Good Morning Girls and Beholding Glory

A New Perspective on Prayer

What a blessing we have to pour out our hearts to God. We can go to Him with our praises for answered prayers and how He provides. We are often quick to go to Him with our requests, particularly in times of trouble. In a group setting, we listen to prayer requests and praises, and then we lift them up to God. Sometimes those prayer requests are easy to do and remember even outside of the group setting.

When we get together in a group or are on our own with the LORD, it’s relatively easy to ask for prayer for our physical needs – a job, health issues, raising children, traveling safety, marriages, etc. Sometimes, when we know the people well and there is a healthy measure of trust, we can ask for emotional support as well. But rarely do we reach out and ask someone to pray for our spiritual health. I know in my life, I’ve not even prayed this on a personal level often.

Paul is so grateful (sitting in prison) for his fellow brothers and sisters. He brings them before God in thanksgiving and in prayer for their spiritual welfare. He prays for their understanding of the immeasurable richness of God’s love. Every time he thinks of them he prays that they will be filled with a confidence in what they hope for and an assurance of what they cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).

Ever since I heard of your STRONG FAITH in the LORD Jesus and your LOVE for God’s people everywhere, I have NOT STOPPED THANKING GOD FOR YOU. I PRAY FOR YOU CONSTANTLY, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, TO GIVE YOU SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND INSIGHT so that you MIGHT GROW IN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.  I pray that your HEARTS WILL BE FLOODED WITH LIGHT so that you can UNDERSTAND THE CONFIDENT HOPE He has given to those He called – HIS HOLY PEOPLE WHO ARE HIS RICH AND GLORIOUS INHERITANCE. I also pray that you will UNDERSTAND THE INCREDIBLE GREATNESS OF GOD’S POWER for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now He is FAR ABOVE any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come.         Ephesians 1:15-21

I finished my reading on these verses challenged to 1) give God continual thanks for the abundance of friendships He has placed in my life through friends and family; and 2) lift up in prayer those God has placed in my life that they may be filled to overflowing with the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of how awesome our God is, and that they may grow in their understanding of His love and grace.

Praying that you may be filled with blessing of confident hope in God ~ Faye

God’s Plans

For I Know the PlansI really appreciate Jeremiah 29:11 and even verses 12 & 13. These are GREAT words of assurance – knowing God has plans for us. But if these verses are read in context, this is from a letter from Jeremiah the prophet, to the people who were going to live in exile for 70 years! I’m sure there were days they wondered if God had forgotten His chosen people. I’m sure there were days they wondered if God really knew what plans He had in store for His people.

To know that God intentionally exiled His people and told them to multiply, plan to live there and be productive and after 70 years He would come and do all the good that He had promised. God warned the people to stay away from the evils of the land.

I’m “only” 55. I can’t imagine knowingly living 70 years in a land of exile that was planned by God. Going forward only with the promise that He would come after 70 years and “do for the Israelites all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.”

I’m grateful God is in control of my life. I’m grateful He has a plan for my life. As you read verses 12 and 13 it becomes clear that God wants His people to draw continually closer to Him.

As I said in my previous post, life has been a roller coaster ride the past couple of weeks. Some of the tension was due to the fact my husband gets about 10 days vacation over the holidays, and I’m used to being home alone all day ;-). There was a day this week I was at odds with everybody, including my husband. I finally asked him to let me have some alone time / God time. I realized I needed my “exile time” from everyone else, except God. The busyness of the holidays, family get-togethers, travel, a medical procedure all created tension and didn’t allow for much individual quiet time with God. Oh I spent time talking with Him – on the run. I read His word – quickly. I just hadn’t spent time just relishing in God’s presence; being filled with God’s embracing of my heart.

I know God has plans for my life – but there are times when I would really like to know God’s plans.  Prior to my husband’s medical procedure, I’d like to have known the outcome (which was good). After losing a significant income source, I’d like to know God’s plan for our financial future. After dealing with relationship issues, I’d like to know how they will be resolved. But if I knew those plans ahead of time, I’d also know ahead of time that I would be living with chronic illnesses long before the symptoms appeared. Would it have helped? Maybe, but maybe it would have made me rely on what I could do instead of what God has done through me as I’ve learned my strength to handle the illnesses comes from Him.

God’s timing is always perfect. He knows fully the plans He has for us, even before we were created. We are blessed He is in control of all things.

Jeremiah 29:10-13 ‒

10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Enjoy the blessings of God’s perfect plan for you, and precious times of exile with Him! ~ Faye

Face to Faith

Years ago one of my favorite songs, was Face to Faith by Sandi Patti.

David was small but no giant could take him. And Daniel was doomed but there was not a wound when they raised him from the lion’s den. Simon Peter, in chains, brought an angel to the rescue. Paul and Silas, in jail, were guarded to no avail for their shackles were loose and the doors just flew open. “Now, what is the catch?” I asked one day I was readin'; it must be an age old mystery. Then, takin’ a second look I discovered a strikingly clear consistency

Chorus: (It’s) meetin’ disaster face to faith, puttin’ God’s promises into place, tendin’ to trouble with a little taste of what God will do when His people start callin’ His name. He anxiously awaits to give the word to release the power that prayer creates, so we gotta learn to meet every problem that we face to faith.

Now, now, now, now, people I’ve learned that God’s word can be tested. Just trust Him, you’ll see, for those who believe He’s still a God of mighty miracles. So, when troubles hit hard, turn to God and be patient. Just stand strong, don’t run, for there isn’t anyone that He’s ever let down when their lives have been faithful. It’s easy to go half-way and not really do it. But that makes the consequences rough. The more the catastrophe, the sooner you see that you’re so much better off Chorus

He will deliver us if we only learn to trust (We gotta start… ) Chorus 

I learned very much to rely on God in a very difficult situation recently, and God has incredibly blessed. Not in the way I expected, but He used some totally unexpected ways and people to bless me during the troubles.  I want to encourage you to bring your troubles, pains, struggles to God. Continue to trust Him even when a situation seems hopeless. He hasn’t failed to let me know in many ways He’s miraculously in control of all things. When I let “disasters” become the focus, life hits hard, and soon I am filled with worry and doubts. When I meet each struggle with faith in God, I am made stronger in my faith and blessed by how God is at work in all the details.

So, when troubles hit hard turn to God and be patient

Just stand strong, don’t run, for there isn’t anyone that He’s ever let down

when their lives have been faithful  

Praying you are filled with God’s blessings when you meet your “disaster” face to faith ~ Faye

Love Lifted Me!

God's love lifted me!My husband and I enjoy a walk along the river near our home. However, since God has blessed us with a very nice winter so far, the ground is sometimes not frozen. This has left us sinking in the mud and slipping around on the trail. The mud clings to our boots making it much harder to walk. My husband lovingly takes a stick once we get to the rocks and scrapes the majority of the mud off our boots so our walking is easier.

I woke up singing a mix of a few old songs – “He lifted me from the pit and from the miry clay, He set my feet on a rock establishing my way. … From sinking sand He lifted me, with tender hand He lifted me, from shades of night to plains of light, O praise His name, He lifted me. … Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else would help, love lifted me!” Those songs mixed through my mind and heart causing me to contemplate what God was trying to tell me. Two thoughts seemed to come from those song lyrics:

1) I am a sinner. Too often I turn my back on God. I let anger, jealousy, rejection and worry fill my mind instead of surrendering completely, trusting God to guide me and fill with His peace. No matter how many times I break God’s heart, and get stuck in the mud and mire of sin, He lovingly comes along and draws me close to Him. He tenderly, yet firmly scrapes off the mud of sin that is stuck to my heart and makes it easier to follow Him closely each day.

2) Relationships.  During Christmas we focus on the blessing of Christ’s birth to give us the gift of salvation through His sacrificial death. It seems that the need to tell others of Christ’s love is even stronger. However, with broken relationship and others who don’t want to hear of Christ, it isn’t always easy to share who God is. It seemed like God was reminding me as I walked that He is working tenderly, gently in the hearts of the people I care about who don’t know Him personally or aren’t living lives that put Him first. Instead of worrying over a lost loved one, I kept hearing – When nothing else will help (not my nagging, impatience, anger or worry), it will be God’s love that lifts them to Him. God seemed to be challenging and reminding me I need to be a reflection of His love to those in my life. I also need to be available to be used by God to gently help scrape away the mud and miry clay if He so leads.

3) Also, in my worrying over the absence of a loved one, He reminded me of His ways of turning around a heart filled with despair through David’s Psalm 40

 1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord, …

5 O Lord my God, You have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.

11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let Your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me. 12 For troubles surround me—too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage. 13 Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me.

16 But may all who search for You be filled with joy and gladness in You. May those who love Your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”

May you be filled with the abundant blessing of God’s love lifting you from your cares ~ Faye

Soaring on Eagle’s Wings

Just praising God for His blessings this morning. Went for a 3-mile walk before breakfast with hubby and family. We were blessed to see eagles along the river – God’s magnificent creatures! It was 19 degrees and sunny with just a little breeze. We enjoyed blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers and a variety of other birds and cats.

God so lovingly provides such incredible diversity in His creation. It’s really fun to take the walk with people who study plants for a living. They were looking at mosses, tree-varieties and thinking of the vast variety growth that will be prevalent in the spring.

I am so totally rejoicing and praising God, because just a few years ago I would never had made a 3-mile walk in 80 degrees and definitely not below freezing. God has blessed me with meds that help my body move, and I’m celebrating His blessings.

Isaiah 40:28-31 came to mind after seeing the eagles

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Praying you are seeing God’s blessings in the ways He provides strength physically, emotionally and definitely spiritually. Praying He lifts you high on His wings so your heart may soar closer and closer to Him. Praying that the hope of His coming again and the assurance that Emmanuel, God with Us! blesses you today.

Soaring on the abundant blessings God provides ~ Faye

Filled with True Hope

Not everyone eagerly looks forward to the holidays because of the hurt that comes with family and friend gatherings. Sometimes behind a smile, there can be hidden a heart that is burdened for someone else, over a broken relationship, or grieving a loss.

I was reviewing my journal from December 2009. At the time, I had been reading Psalm 33 and was struck with the thought, “If God is in control of ALL things, how can I question my faith?” Or maybe it should say, “How can I question God?” We were dealing with a long lapse in communication with our son. I had been pouring my heart out to God over the situation when God seemed to break down His word almost verse by verse.

Here’s a portion of what I wrote back in 2009 along with some current thoughts:

vs. 1-3 – Praise the Lord, be filled with Joy! That’s really hard when one is full of worry. Worry is doubting in God being in control of ALL things.

vs. 4 – God is faithful in ALL He does. The New Living Translation (NLT) says, “we can trust everything He does.” He’s in control. He knows what’s going on – all the details. He loves our son so much more than we ever can.

God’s word IS true. We can trust everything He says. God’s word tells us “I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence!” (Psalm 139:7) These words give assurance to a mom and dad who worry over their child’s long absence. God is with us! God knew us when we were formed in the secret place, knew us before we were born, and will never leave us. He knows our pain and He knows what is happening in our son’s life.

vs. 5 – The Lord’s unfailing love FILLS the earth. Wherever our loved ones are, God’s love is there reaching out to them.

vs. 8 – Let all the people of the world revere/fear Him, for He is the God who created and ordered all of creation.

vs. 11 – But the plans of the Lord stand firm FOREVER – the purposes of His heart through ALL generations. It seemed like these words jumped off the page. God’s plans are for ALL generations, even an absent child. The NLT says, “His intentions can never be shaken.”

vs. 20-21 – Keep hoping in the Lord. He is your help.  Don’t stop lifting up your loved ones to God, but keep hoping with hearts overflowing with joy as we trust in Him.

vs. 22 – May Your unfailing love rest upon us (surround us), O Lord, for our hope is in You alone. “Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

My  hope isn’t supposed to be on the relationship or the issues surrounding it. My hope isn’t waiting for the phone to ring, or the email to come. My hope is to be founded firmly in the Lord. I’m supposed to surrender my worries and REST in Him; abiding JOYFULLY in God!

Don’t let Satan steal your joy in God. Be filled with His love. Abide fully in God’s word for the truth. Let your Hope be in the Lord, especially when it comes to the difficult relationships and losses you may endure, particularly during the holidays.

Praying you will be abundantly blessed with God’s unfailing love ~ Faye

 

Blessings Overflowing

God pours out His blessings on us every day. However, it seems during the holiday season we notice the blessings even more. I noticed this Sunday how I was blessed with hugs and warm greetings from numerous people, even ones I didn’t expect. I have been filled with God’s love through others since early yesterday morning. Those simple acts of caring were a reflection of God’s love and care and have left me filled to overflowing

There are days when I can be in a room filled with fellow believers in Christ and leave so alone. Was it them, or was it me? A quote I read yesterday challenged me, “…our behavior and heart condition do determine whether we receive the fullness of God’s blessings.” Is my heart and my attitude ready to openly receive? Or do I stay to the fringe of the room, talk to the same people always or keep too busy so that I don’t allow anyone close?

Yesterday God worked through so many people to bless me. And it wasn’t just happening to me.  I saw several small groups gathered listening, encouraging, crying with, hurting for, celebrating and sharing the love of God.

Isaiah 55:1-3 says,

Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to  me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to Me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

I was blessed yesterday to be filled with life, abundant life in Christ; shown through others who believe in Him. I’m not sure if it’s the season, or the fact that we focused on the Lord’s Supper and our brokenness being restored through Christ’s blood. Whatever it was, the Holy Spirit was moving among His people and working at filling them. What a blessing to be filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, freely given to all who believe, and easily shared when we are focused on Him.

May you enjoy God’s overflowing love and presence ~ Faye

Then Will the Very Rocks Cry Out


Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! For the LORD Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth. … God has ascended with a mighty shout. The LORD has ascended with trumpets blaring. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King over all the earth. Praise Him with a psalm. God reigns above the nations, sitting on His holy throne.   Psalm 47:1-2, 5-8

While vacationing out West this summer, I was often amazed at the beauty and textures of the rocks. It seems like even the rocks lift their praises to God with the brilliant color and amazing richness of textures. As I prepare for worship services, I’ve questioned myself often, is there enough opportunity to “Shout to God with joyful praise!” It’s rare in our church to hear an “Amen!” shouted out. However, the praises of the people as they join together in singing praise to God is sometimes overwhelmingly beautiful worship. Of course, there are days where I struggle with feeling the depth of worship in my heart. Sometimes I’m tired, my body is in pain, the troubles of the world are distracting and draw me away from giving God the glory.

Years ago our choir sang a piece Then Will the Very Rocks Cry Out.

From the corners of creation, come the people of the Living God. Ev’ry tongue and ev’ry nation gather now to praise the Lord!  If we keep our voices silent, all creation will rise and shout. If we fail to praise You, Father, then will the very rocks cry out.

From a world of tribulation come and let your voice be raised. Join us now in congregation. Let the Living God be praised.  If we keep our voices silent, all creation will rise and shout. If we fail to praise You, Father, then will the very rocks cry out.

Words and music by Gary McSpadden, Bill George, John W. Thompson, and Randy L. Scruggs.

A few years ago God encouraged me to share how He had been working in my life through chronic illness and the flood. I argued with Him about doing so. He reminded me very clearly of the passage in Luke 19:40 where Jesus says, “If they (Christ’s followers) kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

Looking at the beauty and splendor in the rocks, I remembered the passage in Luke, and was challenged to lift my voice, AND more importantly, my heart in praise to God, through the good and the bad times. I don’t want the rocks to praise God for me – I want to thank God for ALL He has done. “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises!”

Praying you are able to lift your hearts in praise to God today ~ Faye

God’s Gracious Blessings

From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. John 1:16 NLT

Christmas is the time for celebrating, anticipating, hoping, baking, cookies, presents given and received, special worship services and parties with family and friends. The holiday season can be a wonderful time with many blessings. But for some it is a time of loneliness, stress, tension, broken relations, unmet expectations and/or loss.

As Satan tries to steal my joy during this holy season with concerns over family relationships and dynamics, I have to continually counterattack him with reminders from God’s word that God knows my hurts.

Think of it. God grieves when His creation sin. He loves us so much and yet we willingly turn away from Him.  God sent His Son to suffer, die, be rejected by his earthly family and while in the depths of hell His heavenly Father. He had to deal with loss and betrayal of friends so He could save us and give us eternal life. Jesus knows personally the pain that comes from broken relationships and sin in this world.

When Satan attacks your heart and tries to steal your spiritual JOY, make sure you turn it around – remember how much God the Father and God the Son LOVE you and understand where you are. God wants to have His children talk to Him, rely on Him, bring their hurts to Him. He will pour out His gracious blessings from His abundance.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.   Romans 5:6-8 NLT

During the difficult times of the holiday season, I pray you will be filled with the abundance of God’s gracious blessings so that you are deeply content. Rely fully on God so that nothing can shake you.

I am blessed by a quote of Nancy Guthrie in her new book, Abundant Life Day Book.

“In the midst of the trouble and struggle and sorrow, you find yourself deeply secure, profoundly content and happy in [God.] To know [God], walk with [Him], and share life with [Him] – that is the essence of blessing.”

Praying you enjoy God’s abundant blessings of grace and peace ~ Faye

Joy to the WORLD!

Sing a new song to the LORD, for He has done wonderful deeds. Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy! Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King! Let the sea and everything in it shout His praise! Let the earth and all living things join in. Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the LORD. For the LORD is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with fairness.                                                                                                                            Psalm 98:1,4-9 NLT

We were blessed to sing Joy to the World! yesterday in church. Afterwards, a friend said to me how much he loved the slide I had for the background.

He said how much it reminded him that people from every tongue and tribe in churches around the world were gathered together to praise the LORD. His enthusiasm and awe were very transparent and catching. He wondered what it was like for God to hear the praises of His people rise to heaven to give Him glory in a multitude of tongues, hearts bursting with joy.

This beautiful song was written by Isaac Watts. I have a book on the background of songs written by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace. Osbeck shares the emphasis of this Christmas hymn is the “reverent but ecstatic joy that Christ’s birth brought to mankind.” During Advent we focus on Christ’s birth on earth so that He could save sinful mankind from their sins and enjoy eternity with Him. The last part of Psalm 98 is a paraphrase of Joy to the World! Advent also focuses on Christ’s coming again to judge the world with justice and fairness.

As part of the background, Osbeck writes, “this psalm was intended by Watts to be a New Testament expression of praise.” Joy to the World was originally titled The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom. So glad it was renamed. But I wonder if it were known by the old name if we wouldn’t sing it more throughout the year. We sing it as a Christmas hymn, but don’t the worlds reflect what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. Our Heavenly Creator gave us a Redeemer to pour out His blood for our sins. His grace and mercy wash away our sinfulness. When the LORD rules the world, the curse of sin is broken and truth and grace shine throughout the world. Truly this is a song that should be sung year round because it tells the wonderful story of the Messiah’s coming and His kingdom.

During this holy-day season, when you sing Joy to the World remember two things 1) Christ came for you, to save you from your sins and give you eternal life when you accept Him as your Savior and LORD, and 2) you are privileged and blessed to join with millions throughout the world lifting your praises to the LORD for He has done wonderful deeds, when you lift your hearts and voices to sing

Joy to the world! the LORD is come! Let earth receive her King; let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth the Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.

Praying you thoroughly enjoy the blessing of knowing the LORD is come! ~ Faye

Content in Waiting

It’s Advent – a time of anticipating the coming of Christ’s birth; actually remembering and celebrating Christ’s birth more than 2,000 years ago.

I just finished my Bible study of 1 John. God loved us so much (even before we were born) that He sent His one and only Son so that we may have eternal life. The Apostle John is so persistent in wanting us to know this that he repeats it in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 1 John 3:16a – “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. …” 1 John 4:9 – “God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

John wants us to know all we need to do is believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as our Savior and Redeemer. We will be saved. And one day, we will receive the gift of eternal life.

Advent is also a time of anticipating Christ’s coming again.

I was studying the bride of Christ recently and learned the future groom comes to the future bride’s father and gives a dowry as a betrothal that is a vow/covenant with the promise that he will come again to claim his bride. The man then returns to his father’s house to prepare a home for his future bride. Not until the man’s father says everything is ready for the bride does the groom return. He doesn’t even know when until the Father tells Him.

Comparing the church to the bride of Christ, it struck me that even Christ is anticipating His return. Christ has to wait – actively because He is preparing rooms for each one of His believers when He brings them home to eternal life.  Christ has to wait because He doesn’t know when He will return, only the Father does.

Our waiting should be active as well. I think one of my favorite and goal-setting verses from 1 John is 4:17 – “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” I CAN’T WAIT to see my LORD face to face. And I want to be able to boldly and confidently approach His throne because I have lived for Him filled with His love. There are many days I’m afraid I would be ashamed if Christ returned at that moment. However, if I remain in /abide in /belong to Him, I will live for Him and like Him. That will allow me to be bold and confident to approach His throne because I am filled with His love and humility.

Too often I find myself worrying about tomorrow or thinking of regrets in the past. I need to live in today loving and serving my God and King. I am being challenged by several readings lately to be content. A quote I read recently said “Contentment is a hallmark of living fully in the present, not in the past or future”. At first I totally agreed, especially if looking at the past involves regrets or the future worries. But I believe God has been challenging me to be content in all times.

Content in the past – It’s done. I continue to learn from what has happened.

Content today – Because God provides for all my daily needs.

Content in the future – even with all its uncertainty because I know Christ will return. I live with the anticipation from Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask of the LORD and this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.”

Praying you may be blessed while you wait with anticipation for Christ’s return ~ Faye

Too Busy?

Come and see what God has done!

Am I too busy to notice God? Sometimes it is very clear to see God’s hand and other times it’s a struggle to see Him with physical senses.

We’ve had to tighten our spending habits in the past two years due to a change income source. Part of my “job” is to watch for ways to make the best use of the resources God has provided.  I went shopping for an Angel Tree gift and had a store coupon – spend $50/receive a $10 gift card on your next purchase.

I made my purchases; however, they came to $35. I began asking myself if there was anything else I actually NEEDED to bring the total to $50.  I didn’t. The lady in front of me at the checkout obviously had been Christmas shopping. I handed her the coupon and said, “Merry Christmas!”.  She was very grateful and asked a few times, “Are you sure about this?”  “Yes,” I said with a sincere smile.

I proceeded to talk with God while I waited to check out. It went something like this, “God, You provided that coupon – I thought for me. Obviously I missed the focus, since I thought it was to stretch our dollars, but in reality it was to bless someone else. Thank You for using me.” (I’ll admit there was some, “seriously God” thoughts going on as well, but for the most part, I kept turning them back to thanking and praising Him for an opportunity to bless someone else.)

Well the lady was checked out and just about to leave when she turned to me and said, “Here, you take the gift card, Merry Christmas.” I said, “Thank You,” to her and praising God at the same time! Laughing at how awesome God is in the ways He provides – especially when I surrender my “self” to Him. Now I didn’t have to spend the $50 to save $10 on a return trip! I saved the $10 on $35. He had a better plan for me.

I am sure He put the idea into my head, nudged my heart to give the lady the coupon. Had I been so focused on my finances, myself, the busyness of all the things I had to do, I would have missed an opportunity to be used by God and to have Him turn around the blessing back to me.

Praying that in the busyness of life, especially during the Christmas season, you take time to be with God.

Thanksliving Blessings

I am abundantly blessed!  I know this because I’ve just spent some time reviewing my journal.  It’s the time of year to prepare the annual Christmas letter. So reviewing some of the blessings and ways I’ve seen God’s hand has been such a wonderful reminder of His providential love and care.Remembering God's Blessings

For several years I’ve kept a journal in a planning calendar that gives me just enough space to fill in thoughts for each day.  Usually I don’t miss a day unless there are some health issues that keep me from it. There are days where the praise of seeing God’s hand at work just flow on the page. And there are days where I haven’t “seen” God, but I know He is providing for my needs. Thankful for a “warm furnace on a cold day, a bowl of hot soup, energy to exercise, or medicine to help improve lifestyle through chronic illness.”

However there was a period this year where I went from mid-May to July of not journaling. Some of this was because we were abundantly blessed to spend 5 weeks with our active 7 year old granddaughter who took up a lot of time. But most of it was a time of introspection, frustration and anger at God for “not being there,” at least not in the way I wanted Him to answer my prayers and show Himself to me. There were several big changes and losses that had happened from January on. I just wanted God to “give us a break” when it came to health, finances, relationships, etc. It seemed like we were living on a perpetual rollercoaster.

In retrospect I realize I didn’t want to write things down on paper that I was grateful for or ways I’d seen God because I was mad at Him. I was angry that God, Who is in control of all things in my life, was allowing these things to happen. During a time of vacation and rest with friends’ who live on a lake, I did a lot of thinking and praying about why I was so angry at God. I realized that wasn’t how I wanted to continue living. One of the first ways to change that was to pick up my journal and start noticing the blessings again.

Thoughts began with the simple things like “air conditioning, a bed to sleep in, and granddaughter cleaning up”. But quickly came the “see Your hand guiding me toward words of encouragement.” Things didn’t automatically get better because 3 days after starting the journaling, I had news that the meds to help the RA symptoms were potentially damaging my liver, and so had to change meds once again. But this time I stayed focus on the blessings. The first week back to journaling ends with “For the blessings of seeing people worship you – How Great Thou Art!”

We have a great and awesome God. We are abundantly blessed to have God’s Word to fill us, refresh us, encourage us, and draw us back to Him.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one—for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.   –  Romans 8:31-39

Thank You God, I am abundantly blessed that You do not leave me nor forsake me even when I turn my back on You in anger. You continue to hold out Your arms for me to come back to You. Thank You!

 Abundantly Blessed by God ~ Faye

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. www.Biblegateway.com

Transformation

New BeginningsWe are so blessed!  We are filled with “the surpassing riches of God’s grace” in His kindness to us (Ephesians 2:7). God loves us. When we turn around and love God and believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are given an incredible gift.

1 Corinthians 15:51-57 tells of this gift:

“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have the incredible blessing of receiving this gift, but also the important responsibility of sharing this gift with others. The Advent season begins this Sunday. We are remembering Christ’s birth and anticipating His Second Coming.  Share this wonderful news with others around you, so they too, may enjoy the blessing of being transformed through God’s grace.

Enjoying God’s abundant blessings ~ Faye

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving

Now thank we all our God with  hearts and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
 
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in His grae, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills of this world and the next.
 
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
the Son and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven.
The one eternal God, whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
 
-Martin Rinkart, 1636; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1863

Consider the Lilies

I’ve been struggling lately with worrying about tomorrow. Recently some symptoms have been showing up that have me concerned that my rheumatoid arthritis is progressing and treatment isn’t working like it has in the past. Having been down this road a few times, I’m ready to let my mind race ahead, search the Internet for what the symptoms might mean. Many of us live with chronic progressive illnesses that mean continual drug and treatment changes. Often it seems like the professionals are only guessing what will happen. Our bodies change frequently in ways we don’t want them too. Life gets very frustrating.

Some of us live with financial stresses. The paycheck doesn’t go far enough to meet the bills these days. Unexpected car repairs. Job layoffs and cutbacks. How can we be thankful when it’s so hard to get through each day? How in the world are we ever going to have a fun Christmas if we can’t pay what we have already?

God’s word tells us in Matthew 6:25-34

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birdsGod Provides. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew reminds us that God Provides for ALL our needs. He makes sure the birds and lilies are provided for. Imagine how much more God who loves those who believe Him will provide for us.  Psalm 23:1 says “The Lord is my shepherd; I have ALL I need.” I have all of my NEEDS met. I will rest on that promise, assured that He has today and tomorrow in His hands. He’s bigger than anything that I face in the future.

I find I’m singing the old song – His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Why do I feel discourged? Why do the shadows come? And why does my heart feel lonely, And long for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion; A constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.  I sing because I’m happy. And I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.

Enjoy the day remembering God provides for all your needs ~ Faye 

Anticipation and Unconditional Love

I was reading 1 John 4:7-21 which focuses on – God is love, God’s unconditional love. When we are filled with His love, we have to share that love with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can’t keep it to ourselves.

As I was reading and reflecting on verses 17 and 18, I was filled with thoughts of what a wonderful blessing to even think of let alone imagine being the bride of Christ. When I read, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.” All I could picture was a honeymoon night where a couple comes together for the first time – somewhat shy, with anticipation but fully in love. That love overlooks the body faults and blemishes. Being the bride of Christ, I will be able to BOLDLY and CONFIDENTLY approach the judgment day because God sees me through LOVING EYES and the GRACE of Christ’s blood shed on the cross. He doesn’t see my sinfulness. I can’t imagine what it will be like to be in the ultimate experience of unconditional love, but I am SO READY! Come, LORD Jesus, come quickly!

The real focus of those verses are very challenging, at least to me. Mark 6:31-35 tells of Jesus talking to a crowd of people when His someone said His family was outside to see Him.

Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then He looked at those around Him and said, “Look, these are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and my sister and my mother.”

After reading that, I have to admit I have a large family in Christ that I need to be loving unconditionally. That includes loving some who have hurt me deeply. I need to surrender to God, seek His forgiveness, follow His will and leading. Then filled with His unconditional love, turn to others and love the people who are my family in Christ. I’m so grateful through God’s grace, forgiveness and love, He can change any heart – including mine.

In just a week and a half we will begin the Advent season. The anticipation of celebrating Christ’s birth and looking forward to His coming again are exciting. These thoughts fill me with longing. But then I look at verses 20-21 – “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.” I realize it is really easy to get excited about anticipating Christ’s return, without looking at the responsibility of changing me. I love God! I can get lost in worshiping and glorifying God. But if I really LOVE GOD, I need to be showing this openly to my brother and sister in Christ.

I like the notes from my study Bible on our love grows more perfect  (v. 17).  It doesn’t mean flawless, but mature and complete.  It doesn’t mean I will be able to love perfectly and completely unconditionally as God. However, as I mature in my relationship with God, God’s love transforms me into the person He wants me to be.

Praise God as I grow in my love of Him, my fears are set aside for judgment day. I mature in my love for my family in Christ, and I eagerly anticipate the day I am taken as His bride in heaven.

I ENJOY singing And Can It Be by Charles Wesley, particularly the last verse: 

No condemnation now I dread, for Christ, and all in Him, is mine! Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine, bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ my own. Amazing love, how can it be that You, my LORD, should die for me?

Enjoy the wonderful blessing of knowing we can BOLDING approach the throne of God through His Grace and LOVE!

God’s Abundant Blessings ~ Faye

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20john%204:7-21&version=NLT

God of the Impossible – Part 2

Often life hands us difficult circumstances. There are times things seem impossible to deal with.

As a Christian we are blessed to have Someone to turn to in those difficult situations. God’s word tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26) I can’t imagine my just thinking a prayer and the Holy Spirit taking those thoughts before the throne of God; pouring out my heart to Him. What a wonderful assurance and blessing.

A recent devotional asked How do we go to God in prayer? What do we ask Him?  At first glance that seemed strange. I figured I open my heart out to God and He hears my grief, pain, worries, etc., But the author was saying, too often we come to God with an Oh God, what am I going to do? Basically focusing on us. Instead he suggests our focus should be God, what are You going to do in me, through me, in this situation?

Impossible situations are opportunities for God to teach us valuable lessons.

Ones that we would likely not learn any other way but yield ourselves completely to Him.  Surrender hasn’t been easy for me. Those who know me have called me stubborn, strong-willed, focus, driven and independent. I’d like to say that the majority of those words describe who I was. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect—I’m still a work in progress. But through the years of learning to deal with health issues, medication changes, a body that works sometimes and not others, I have spent a lot of time with God. He’s been changing me. I’ve not always liked it, most often I’ve dug in my heels or argued with Him. But when I’ve surrendered and asked Him, Ok God. What are You going to do through me, in me, with me? He has bowled me over.

I’ll try to give a “short” example. I was involved in youth ministry of some type for around 30 years. I LOVE teenagers! God made it very clear (literally woke me three nights in a row at 2:00 AM with the message, “It’s time. Everything will be okay.”) I knew He meant it was time to step down from youth group. I was devastated. I argued. I prayed. I looked to others for guidance and advice. But God continued to say “Trust me and obey.”.

During the last year of youth group I had begun having progressive health issues which were later diagnosed as Rheumatoid Arthritis. I spent the next year getting used to a new medical regime as well as finding out what my body would and wouldn’t do. I also continued to pray, “Lord, You’ve gifted me, and I want to serve You. How? What do You want me to do? For almost two years God continually said, “Wait. Be patient. Trust Me.” There were days I succeeded in doing that, and too many other days where I argued frequently with Him.

Then came the Midwest Flood of 2008 that hit our community. God placed me in a position with the gifts and abilities needed to help with flood recovery. By that time, I had grown in my dependence on Him. The medications were definitely helping with the RA. And in a pattern of circumstances that can only be called God’s providence, I spent the next two years aiding in flood recovery. The amazing thing is that not once did I have an RA flare. My body never acted up with either unmanageable pain or fatigue that I had dealt with in the previous years.

God is the God of the Impossible!  When I surrendered my heart and life to His will. He took it, ran with it, shaped it, formed it, and made it useable for others. He knew two years ahead of the flood that if I were still in youth group I would not have been available to help my community in such a specific way. I am continually working at surrendering my plans to His hands, trusting Him and being obedient to His leading. When I do this, He blesses “immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine.”

Praying God abundantly blesses you, too ~ Faye

The Blessings of Belonging

I was working on my Bible study from 1 John 4:1-6 where John speaks of being aware of false prophets. Christians need to know and test what they hear to make sure it is from God. 1 John 4:2 states, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.”  John speaks often of former Christians who have once belonged, but have left the faith and now share a distorted view of God looking at half-truths.

I  was blessed by how the New Living Translation phrases verses 4-6:

4 But you belong to God, [emphasis mine] my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5 Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6 But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.

I grew up in a Christian home and was taught from early on the assurance found in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong–
body and soul,
in life and in death–
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to Him,
Christ, by His Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.

Thinking about belonging to God, made me decide to Google “belonging to God” to see what others thought of the blessings of belonging. What a surprise that the first website that came back was someone who had belonged to God growing up in the Christian faith but somehow became disenchanted with God. This person IS one of the people John is warning about. He talks very intelligently about the Christian faith and other religious beliefs and backgrounds. Even as he quotes God’s Holy Word, he claims that he fully believes the sayings of “God’s Prophet.” Careful reading shows that he fully believes in Muhammad. He believes “God is the Olive Tree…” It’s no wonder John WARNS us to watch out for false prophets. This person quotes from the Qur’an and many of the verses are minor twists to God’s Word. If we don’t stay in God’s word, we can’t compare one with the other. Does part of the responsibility in belonging to God come with being in a close and growing relationship with Him? Most definitely.

Belonging has a sense of being enveloped in someone’s arms. What a wonderful picture to be held tightly in God’s grip of grace. I only have that sense of belonging because I believe in my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. God’s only Son, our Lord. Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. Died and Rose again!

So what started out as a look at belonging because of the words of 1 John 4:4-6, ended up with the reality of the importance of staying true to God’s Word and being filled with the Spirit of God to be able to discern the false teachings and prophets. I think I came away from this study with two meanings for belonging – 1) the blessing of belonging to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, as God’s dearly loved child and 2) the blessings of belonging in God’s Word.

Praying you enjoy fully the blessing of BELONGING TO JESUS CHRIST, OUR SAVIOR ~ Faye

Contentment

I seem to be surrounded with this topic this past week from Bible study, to worship planning, to family questions. So thought I’d share what I think contentment means to me. A quote from Dr. Billy Graham reminds us that we can be content within, even when everything seems to be very difficult:

The happiness which brings enduring worth to life is not the superficial happiness that is dependent on circumstances. It is the  happiness and contentment that fills the soul even in the midst of the most distressing circumstances and the most bitter environment. It is the kind of happiness that grins when things go wrong and smiles through tears.  

The Apostle Paul says he has learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12). Those words sound simple, but look at Saul/Paul’s life. He spells out some of many things that have happened to him (2 Corinthians 11:23-30 – imprisoned, beaten, left for dead, stoned, shipwrecked, always in danger, hungry, sleepless), yet later he says he’s learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

But is it always that easy? My nephew asked a questions this morning on Facebook, Why doesn’t God heal amputees?” There is no easy answer. God does what He decides in His timing. But when we rely on Him, we are filled with a calm assurance He is in control. He knows the bigger picture about what is best for us. Not necessarily what we want or desire, but what we need to help shape us into the person He wants us to be.

I think too often I focus on me, my pain, my discomfort, my fatigue. I don’t step back and look at the bigger picture – my faith has grown during my life, but it has really GROWN during the deepest trials.  I’m not content with the trial, but I am content knowing that God is with me. He’s living in me, guiding me ahead each day, giving me strength for what comes next.

My husband is a men’s quartet fan, and so we have listened many years to the Cathedral Quartet. Years ago, George Younce read this poem by Red Foley

 

Today, upon a bus, I saw a lovely girl with golden hair,
I envied her….she seemed so gay….and wished I were so fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch; but as she passed….a smile!

Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs. The world is mine!

I stopped to buy some candy. The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him. He seemed so glad. If I were late, t’would do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me, “I thank you. You have been so kind.
It’s nice to talk with folks like you. You see,” he said, “I’m blind.”

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes. The world is mine.

Later while walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play. I stopped a moment,
When I said, “Why don’t you join the others, Dear?”
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears, the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I’d go, with eyes to see the sunset’s glow,
with ears to hear what I would know….

Oh God forgive me when I whine.
I am blessed indeed. The world is mine!

After the poem, they would end with We Are So Blessed, by Bill and Gloria Gaither

We are so blessed, by the gifts of Your hand we just can’t understand why You loved us so much. We are so blessed, we just can’t find a way or the words that can say, “Thank You, Lord, for Your touch.” When we’re empty You fill us ’til we overflow. When we’re hungry You feed us, and cause us to know. We are so blessed, take what we have to bring, take it all, everything, Lord, we love You so much.

We are so blessed by the things You have done, the victories we’ve won and what You’ve brought us through. We are so blessed, take what we have to bring, take it all everything, Lord, we bring it to You. When we’re empty You fill us ’till we overflow. When we’re hungry You feed us, and cause us to know. We are so blessed, take what we have to bring, take it all, everything, Lord, we love You so much.

A lot of contentment is just about perspective. Take time to see how God is pouring out His abundant blessings on you today. Have you seen Him? Please share, I love His divine appointments, encouragements, acts.

God’s abundant blessings ~ Faye

Showers of God’s Blessing

Showers of Blessings

God’s blessings are so wonderful. I am so grateful I was able to enjoy so many of them in the past 24 hours.

Friend 1 – cancer is “only” Stage 1. So much better than spread throughout the body. Now the planning and preparation for the treatments begins.

Friend 2 – treatments have helped in treating the cancer. Spreading out the follow up tests and treatments.

Friend 3 – heads for surgery to remove a portion of the cancer. They, too, are rejoicing it’s not more extensive.

My heart breaks for them all as they have to face more treatment, but God has answered a multitude of prayers to make these cancers be on the treatable side. Now prayers will continue for them all in the days and months ahead.

Thought I’d be a blessing to the church secretary by filling in for her a couple of days so she could enjoy some vacation time.  God is SO Awesome! While cleaning old files, I went down memory lane of the church’s 39 year history. I saw how far God has brought the church and scattered so many people who have worshiped with us throughout the United States and even the world.

I ended up being richly blessed by conversations with several people who came through the door. What incredible gifts God blesses us with – smiles, eye contact, touch, hugs, tears and laughter. God has made us so incredibly wonderful.

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet each other with Christian love.       2 Corinthians 13:11-12

How wonderful it is to stand and receive the multitude of blessings showed upon me from God today!

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.       2 Corinthians 13:14

Enjoying God’s Abundant Blessings ~ Faye

God’s Providential Care

Esther. What a great reminder of God’s providential care!

Here’s some points of God’s Providence:

  • Queen Vashti is deposed when she refuses to appear before King Xerxes.
  • Esther, a worshiper of God, is chosen as Queen.
  • Mordecai overhears a plot to kill the king and saves his life.
  • Mordecai doesn’t bow to Haman and so Haman plots to kill the Jews.
  • Xerxes can’t sleep and wants to read a story, out of all the history books, it’s the one which records Mordecai’s saving the king’s life. The king remembers Mordecai wasn’t rewarded and asks Haman how to reward such a wonderful man.
  • Esther appears before the King and is welcomed instead of killed.
  • There’s special timing of Queen Esther’s two banquets and Haman’s plans to kill Mordecai.
  • Mordecai ends up being honored and first Haman is humbled, then killed on the gallows intended for Mordecai.
  • The Jews survived and overthrew their enemies.

We’ve heard the passage from Esther 4:14, where Mordecai asks Esther “…And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”  What about us? Are we willing to be used by God in whatever way He has planned?  Do you ever wonder what God has planned for you – in the future? today? this hour?

 Jeremiah 29:11 says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Before Haman even had the idea to wipe out the Jews, God had placed Esther in position to be used to save His people. She didn’t know it. She had to go forward in trust to King Xerxes.

Listening & Worshiping God

She prepared herself before she did that by fasting and prayer.

In the Bible study book Following God-Women of the Bible – Esther, the authors write, “God wants to accomplish His purposes through us, but if we do not cooperate, His plan will still be carried out. He will simply use someone else to do it. “ It takes listening to God, spending time in His word, talking with Him, and once again, listening to God’s leading.

To the unbeliever hearing the story of Esther, they would describe what happened as amazing coincidences, but the believer sees the hand of God’s providence through the timing, people, places, circumstances.

Coincidence … when God chooses to remain anonymous.

Have you seen God’s abundant blessings through His providential hand throughout your life? He’s always there. Make sure you take some time to look for Him today!

God’s abundant blessings ~ Faye

Love One Another

Love – what a simple and precious word. 

What a blessing to have been in the fellowship of believers yesterday. I say that mostly from hindsight. I started the day so tired, the cold weather affecting my body with fatigue. I was on the worship team and usually have an increased energy that only comes from the Holy Spirit, but yesterday I was drained. I was grateful we had planned another leader and the pastor to take the majority of the service, because I couldn’t get my mind out of the Fibro fog. Yet I ended leaving the church filled with the blessed love of God’s grace given to me by others.

When love happens in the framework of Christians, an amazing thing happens. God’s presence flows from one person to another. It may be with a look, a hug, laughter, or tears. Encouragement comes from people who are listening through God’s ears. Even people that we don’t always get along with, that we’ve had major disagreements with, can be seen through the eyes of love. Because as a Christian, we are looking at others through Christ’s eyes of compassion.

1 John 3:11 & 12 (NLT) says, “This is the message you  have heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.” My first thoughts were,  “I agree. Love One Another. Good words.” Then I read vs. 12 – “We must not be like Cain, who belonged, to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous.” I found myself thinking, “I’ve never killed anyone. So this doesn’t apply to me.” WRONG! Ok, I’ve never physically taken someone’s life, but how often have I struggled with my temper, anger, or a desire to get revenge. I have caused pain to others by what I’ve said or done. I’ve torn hearts apart by not looking at someone with the eyes of God’s love.

I have a card I keep posted in my office. I wish I would remember these verses more often:

Perfect Harmony

“You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the LORD forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”  Colossians 3:13-15 NLT

Living in Harmony

I was recently out taking photos of the changing leaves. I came across a park where the differences of colors blended and added a beauty that seemed to enhance the other trees in the area. As I reflected on yesterday morning’s blessed friendships with other believers, I realized that’s what I was seeing in my fellow Christians. When we are reflecting God’s love to someone, we help God’s love shine through them to us as well. We live in a harmony of colors.

One of the best things that happened yesterday was seeing how God has been at work in a relationship where there was hurt in the past. Once we opened our hearts to forgiving each other, God poured out His love and grace on us. We have been able to encourage each other and laugh with each other.

Love One Another – three simple words with such important meaning.

Praising God for His blessings from my sisters and brothers in Christ ~ Faye

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