Struggles? Concerns? HOPE!

Just a short note this morning from the hope I found in Scripture this morning.  Hope in the Bible means confident expectation for good.

The struggle in your face?  

  • God’s got it.  Just like Joseph, we need to remember that evil is turned upside down in God’s hands! (Genesis 50)

Our task?  

  • Respond rightly:  Refuse to indulge in the fruits of the flesh!  Feast on and share the fruits of the Spirit.  (Galatians 5)
  • Be noble like the Bereans:  Examine the Scriptures.  (Acts 17)
  • Focus well:  Look at what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4)

 

More than what you see…

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

What we don’t see matters more than what is glaringly obvious.  Battling weight issues has taught me much over the years.  Made in the image of God, we human beings have three parts as well:  body, soul and spirit.  For health, all of those parts must work together.  Weight and health are body issues that have helped me delve down to glimpse deep truths!  (You’ll find the physical world info at the end of this if you are interested…spiritual stuff always interests me more.)  At my age, dieting for appearance sake does not captivate my attention.  Serious health concerns help me listen up, but understanding eternal truths is what gets me excited and keeps me focused over the long-term.

Type II diabetes seethes through my family health history. Recently, I spent some time learning about the hidden processes of diabetes.  While I knew my eating and exercise habits allowed me some control over the disease, it shocked me to learn that my eating habits literally changed the physical processes in my body.  A light bulb went off for me:  The longer I choose to ignore the needs of my body—and the God-designed purposes of food—the greater the damage I cause to myself.  My body is designed to utilize food and even enjoy occasional treats; it is not designed to do whatever it desires.  Repeatedly stressing my body with excess foods damages the actual function of my body.  Whole-health demands that balance in the body, soul and spirit!

Discovering hidden processes is the first step to understanding and personal growth. We are not at the mercy of our habits, our family inheritances or our culture.  As Christians privileged to have the very Spirit of God dwelling in the center of our being, we can exercise dominion over all that!  We are designed as human beings to be directed by the Holy Spirit—from the inside out.  When we fail to live that way, natural law kicks in and outside in consequences help us seek a better way!  We are to deny ruling power to our physical bodies, lusts, habits and even generational curses.

Heartaches, anger, and earthly battles seek to direct our thoughts, emotions and even actions.  Those feelings and actions become habits that can dig trenches of pain into our souls.  Just as repeated times of elevated insulin convince our bodies this is the ‘new normal,’ poor habitual responses to trouble eat at our souls.  Efforts to escape the pain without treating underlying issues bring more destruction.  A change of diet and activity reverses negative trends but long-standing patterns often necessitate a multi-faceted approach.

The Spirit, aided by tools such as the Word, other Christians, and circumstances, shines the Light of God into our troubles to show the way through them.  As we walk in the ways of the Word (in faith of His goodness), we become reflectors of His light instead of reactors to the world.  We enjoy the peace of His presence and the victory of faith.  His Light begins a healing process in our dark places.  It may not change the actual circumstances but the pain eases as Christ enters the suffering with us.  The love we absorb from Him then flows into our world bringing healing to others.

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Just in case you might be interested, here’s what started me on the info above :).

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has always been a struggle for me.  As part of a family of diabetics, age intensifies the struggle and the concern.  Physical activity is the easiest control device for me.  Being active fits my personality.  Greater challenges to my weight come from a love of eating (and a tendency to indulge that love!), poor time management and emotional stressors.  I consciously need to remind myself to use food for right purposes.  While I’m still working on that, lately my battle has been different.

To reverse the climbing scales, I enlisted a computer program to monitor my food intake. Despite keeping the calorie count in line, my weight held firm.  Even more shocking, the breakdown of my diet into carbohydrates, sugars, vitamins and proteins revealed a poor nutritional profile.  Hidden sugars (mostly from white flour products and fruit, seldom sweets) bumped my sugar intake well above healthy levels.  That was an ‘ah ha’ moment for me: this weight issue is more than calories in, calories out!  Clearly, hidden processes were at work in my body. I went sleuthing and find some interesting physical facts—and fascinating spiritual parallels.

A very non-technical summary of my physical ‘finds’ is that excess sugar in the blood stream triggers the release of insulin.  Insulin then acts as a ‘street sweeper’ cleaning the blood by stuffing everything in fat cells and ‘locking’ the cell door. Once the pattern is established, the body perpetuates the system and healthy realignment (including weight loss) becomes difficult.  As I began to learn the hidden processes affecting my weight, the reality that the truth of hidden processes applies to personal habits, family legacies and even cultural mores excited me!  While I am still trying to work my new knowledge into my nutritional arsenal, I must admit the inter-personal stuff fascinates me far more.

 

Chosen Parents

This is actually a piece I did some years ago for another venue.  Sharing today because parenting has been the topic in a number of interactions.  And sharing with thankfulness that God chose us to be the parents of our precious kids.  Sorry, guys…but trust God has a plan :)!  We love you!

You are the parent God chose for your child. Isn’t that a puzzling, sometimes overwhelming concept? As we begin walking the labyrinth of parenting, the paths ahead are blessedly shrouded. The parenting journey includes delights beyond imagination and thorny passages which instill fear and frustration. God’s Word tells us the Creator Himself shepherds those with young and guides them on the paths; yet, it doesn’t always feel that way. At times the complexities of parenthood give the illusion that God stepped off the throne as challenges were assigned or that perhaps He confused us with a wiser, more loving and experienced parent. The reality is more incredible than we can begin to grasp. In His infinite love and wisdom, God chose each parent and each child as unique, perfect gifts for one another. The blessings are mutual; the plan perfect.

God uses the tool of parenthood to craft His family likeness into earthly moms and dads. He longs for His glory to be revealed in the parenting privilege. Nearly a decade and a half 12657360_10207170306008051_3018063976232311083_oago, we brought our baby home from the N-ICU with overwhelming joy, awe, fear and a numbing sense of inadequacy. The ability of a five-pound baby to bring a prideful heart to its knees is powerful! God continues to use the University of Motherhood to draw me unto Himself, to unveil the reality that His strength is revealed in my weaknesses and what a superb reality!

My pride had rejoiced in meeting the challenges of life head-on. The magnitude of the responsibility for nurturing this precious life shattered every competency I had ever relied upon. Parenthood has taught me I do not need to be in control and managing every detail perfectly. It has taught me that struggling is okay! It is not a sign of defeat to be engaged in a battle. Struggles simply strip away the deceits which have hidden the doorway to God’s strength. The inequities and burdens of life create opportunities for God to transform parents and to begin drawing our beloved children to Him. Struggles are to help us embrace His presence in our lives with confident hopewith certaintythat His plans and purposes are perfect. As we hold fast to that hope, the very image of God begins to shine forth in our liveschanging us, lighting our children’s paths and touching all those around us!

Beyond the challenges of parenthood lie mountains which dot the landscape of our children’s future–mountains woven into the design of our children’s lives by their loving, heavenly Father. His love for our children is greater and more perfect than ours. 12657229_10207170304128004_2826006339242221287_oGod would never allow a mountain for which He has not provided provisions for conquering. Parents are a key part of those provisions. The parent God chooses for a child has the strengths and the weaknesses to guide their children to the Shepherd Himself. God longs to take the hands of our children and guide them in life. Leading our children to the One who provides abundantly is the key task of our parenting assignment. Treasure the challenges on your parenting journey as the doorways to Christ. There is a splendor possible through embracing God’s presence in the trials of life which will produce faith that perseveres and moves mountains aside.

Extra Insights
Being chosen as a parent is a life-transforming gift from a loving God. We have been chosen to receive another precious gift from God:  eternal life. God longs for each of us to embrace His plan for us to become His child–to be made perfect through faith in His son, Jesus Christ. Becoming His child is the key to becoming the parent your child needs. If you do not have a loving relationship with the heavenly Father, choose to change that today!
SCRIPTURES: Psalm 127:3; Jeremiah 29:11-14; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 10:35; 2 Corinthians 3:18; James 1; Matthew 17:28

 

Originally written for Handivangelism, Heart-to-Heart Magazine

Ever feel like ‘Nothing is quite enough?’

Do you have a situation–or a person–in your life who makes you face the ugly feeling of being ‘not enough.’  Maybe that feeling comes from your own view of yourself:  you simply can’t rise up to loving yourself.  Maybe it is something that you care desperately about–something you want to fix or do–but it is out of your control.  Can you bring yourself to give thanks for that situation or person?

give thanks

Before we look at the thanksgiving part, there is an important truth we all need:

You are enough.  God says so!  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Walk outside on a starry night and look at the sky.  The One who made all that, who keeps it in place knows your name–and He says, “That person is so special, I sent my son to suffer and die to save her/him.”

So whomever or whatever makes you feel that way–it’s a lie from the devil meant to stop you from living like your loved.  Throw the lie out and prepare to give thanks.

In the midst of that feeling of being not enough are two truth treasures that can transform lives–our own and others.

First, none of us is enough for another person.  We are not meant to be! If we–or they–try to live off the connection we have to each other, our personal relationship with God is threatened.  The typical response generated by ‘not enough’ seethes with resentment and bitterness.  Those things block our own connection with God.  Our response comes from the fact that the person who is creating our ‘not enough’ feeling is pouring out their own resentment on us.

We don’t have to react that resentment; it is just their mistaken attempt to meet their need.  We can respond with compassion because it is not our failing at all!  Being a child of God gives us the option to resist the temptation to return unpleasantness with more unpleasantness.  Being a child of God allows us to choose to let the life of Christ within us respond in love.  What a joyful way to ‘fill up in the flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.

The second great thing about ‘not feeling like enough’ is that it reveals this truth:

we are never enough when it comes to living like Christ.

If mankind could have disciplined itself into holiness, Jesus Christ would never have needed to suffer and die.  It is Christ in me that is my hope of glory.  Sometimes we need a solid reminder that we are not enough in this Christian life.  No one lives without sin.  Jesus freed us from the penalty and the power, but the presence of sin–in us and around us–is part of the human experience. That piercing sorrow of not being enough to fix a problem or help someone–it is the time to fall in reverence before the One who has it all in control!

Humility is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.  A reminder that we are not enough serves to draw us to the One who gives generously and beyond anything we can think to ask.So, whatever it is that has you feeling less than enough, give thanks to God–and let Him be your sufficiency!

Sun will Rise!

Some days the hurts of the world–and the sin that causes those hurts–darkens my view of God.  This morning was one of those days.  That is always a time to chase God hard.

There is so much joy in simply taking the time to seek the face of God.  He faithfully reveals what blocks our view–if we seek Him.  The truth for me is that I get in the way…or rather, sin in me gets in the way.  Seeking Him means humbling accepting my failings. It isn’t about the sin I am seeing in others.

The sweet admonition the Father led me to this morning is in Malachi:

Set your heart to honor my name.

When I fix my eyes on the stuff of this world and allow it to interfere with giving holy awe to the King of Kings, I dishonor His Name.  God is not uncaring or inattentive.  He is on the throne and working out great good.  Malachi reminded the children of God that the covenant of life and peace calls for reverence.

There is a companion admonition to this that God gave me this morning:

Let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.  Zechariah 7:10b

We are all impure in this world.  None are righteous.  Christ gave Himself for the Church and is busy bringing it to maturity.  At the last supper, Christ said he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until He drank it new in the Kingdom.  We can and need to fellowship with Him as individuals all the time, but there is a glorious fulfillment of the Kingdom coming.  He is the vine; our lives produce fruit.  He is waiting until the fruit is ripe; who am I to do less.  As we drink of the fruit in this life, we are to remember Him.  His purposes.

My prayer is that this restores YOUR view of the Lord as it did mine.  As I wrap out and head out to enjoy the day, I leave you with this promise and a video to encourage you to leap and frolic for the King is on the throne!

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

 

The Source of Love – not a sample of love

For more than half of my life, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated with one man:  my husband, Craig. His love has been a blessing and privilege I could not earn and often don’t deserve.  It has shown me what the love of God looks like.  His love brought stability to me–and created two more loves of my life:  our children Rusty and Riesa.  But this really is a piece about the source of love…not just lovely samples of it!

God, in His infinite wisdom, actually led us to have this poem read at our wedding.  We didn’t honor God in those years, nor did we understand how true this is.  But accepting truth doesn’t make something true.  It either is true or it is not.  The love of God as a necessity is truth.

Marriage Takes Three

Human love is fraught with problems that come from our human nature–selfishness, self-centeredness and a lack of faithfulness.  We say “I love you” and really mean “I love how you make me feel.”  The only way we can really love is to receive the love of God and let it pass through to others.  True agape love–the love that is God–is beyond our human abilities.

It intrigued me to discover that only Peter expressed his love directly to the Lord.  We often talk of ‘loving Jesus’ but the Scriptures do not record many such expressions.  There are many commands to love God and discussions of love, but stating love directly is a different story.   You may recall that the disciple Peter saw himself as totally committed to Jesus prior to his arrest…and then he betrayed him three times. It’s also interesting to note the kiss Judas betrayed Jesus with came from ‘phileo’ love–the love that is based on shared interests.  When Jesus restored Peter, he asked him:  “Do you (agape) love me?”  Three times Jesus asked about Peter’s love.  Twice he asked Peter if we agape loved him, and Peter replied, “I phileo love you.” Finally, Jesus asked him if Peter phileo loved him.  Jesus knows our limits and he agape loves us…he meets us where we are at!

And that brings me back to this Valentine’s Day.  Craig’s love changed my life…changed who I was because it gave me a glimpse of the faithfulness of God’s love.  Make no mistake:  love matters.  We are called to love but true love only happens when it flows from the Creator.

We love each other because he loved us first.

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer,[c] that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

1 John 4:19-20

Celebrate those who love you.  But most of all celebrate the One who is love and made it all possible..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Fixing Our Eyes on God

It’s so helpful to hear the views of another on products. Thank you, Abby Kelly, for reviewing this book!

Going Beyond Belief

Do your prayers always start with, “Dear God … ” or, “Our Father in heaven … “? “Fixing Our Eyes on God: An A-Z Journey Through The Names of God”, will broaden your understanding of the God who calls you His own, will strengthen your faith showing you how God applies Himself to every aspect of your life and deepen your prayer life.

Maybe you see God kind of one dimensionally. I mean, even when we think hard to give our children meaningful names that represent the person or personality we want them to honor or express, we still only give them one name. And for the rest of their lives we call them by that descriptive. Often, they grow to fulfill that name.

So have you ever wondered why God introduces Himself throughout Scripture using many names?

In her book, “Fixing Our Eyes on God,” Billie Jo Youmans will…

View original post 214 more words

Light Over-rides the Dark

Reality includes ugly, hard truths.  Mistakes, evil and hardship touch every aspect of every life.  But contrast creates beauty…and against the backdrop of darkness, glory shines!  I am always looking for stories that illustrate such Truths of God.   Recently, I saw such a story at a local state park.

Every story, whether that of a business, a country or a person, has a mix of good and bad in its history–and its present.  A walk around Chester State Park reveals some incredible good that came in the midst of both sin and stupidity.  I take great encouragement in stories like this because darkness can sometimes deceive us into thinking nothing good is happening.  As a Christian, the Park story reminds me that ‘stuff happens’ but my good and powerful God has a way of bringing good in the midst of bad.  Take a stroll with me through the history of Chester State Park and be encouraged!

According to history documents, in the 1920s, the land of Chester County was severely over-farmed.  Some say South Carolina had the dubious distinction of having the most15742990546_5cbd1c4f35_m depleted, eroded land east of the Mississippi.  Undoubtedly, a lack of knowledge and a surplus of greed joined forces to mine the land for every cotton dollar available.  The result paralleled the mid-west experience and the great Dust Bowl horror.  The present day park land was a prime example of the dark reality of those years.  An old cotton field with a history of crop failures, it was worth little.

Into the darkness came the flickering light of a dreamer.  Carlisle White looked at the
dried up property with two trickling streams converging into one and envisioned a lake-side housing development.  He set about sharing his vision, purchased the land and formed Lakeview Corporation.    The corporation built a dam, created a lake and sub-divided the property into building lots.  However, no homes were ever built there; no lots were ever sold.  The Great Depression crashed down and the developers’ dreams never materialized.  Instead, necessity forced them to turn the property over to the federal government.  The light of the dreamer wavered precariously.

But darkness can never overcome light.  A new federal government program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was about to fuel the flame that would redeem that plot of land.  Part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the CCC put people to work re-building the infrastructure of America.  The State Park system across the US owes its beginnings to the CCC.  Chester State Park is one of the treasures that shines out of the dark years of the 20s and 30s because of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Darkness, though, does not surrender easily.  The first CCC crew sent to Chester actually abandoned the project because of the severity of the erosion.  Their inability to see beyond the difficulties joined forces with the darkness of another community to deliver the right team to Chester.  The work crew which did most of the work at the park was originally assigned to another county.  The ignorant racism of that community led them to reject the crew based on the African-American heritage of its members.  The fortitude of that CCC Crew, Unit 4475, conquered the darkness and became the primary tool of restoration for the land we now enjoy as Chester State Park.

Unit 4475 built an impressive array of structures–some of which remain today: the roads, a larger dam, shelters, a boat house and a residence for the rangers.  All of that construction was on top of the ‘camp’ the members built for themselves to live in while they created the Park!  Sadly, per federal law, every camp structure had to be removed when the CCC crew left.  Their camp included a chapel, store, barber shop, barracks, mess hall and administrative buildings.  This same crew also initiated several other projects to combat further erosion, including planting 400,000 trees and building additional dams.  Almost a century later, their labor continues to bless the County and countless visitors.

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Debbie Blakley, Photographer

Today, the Park is a picture of abundance and beauty.  It serves as a place of recreation and respite for many.  But its history includes a mixture of good and bad:  vision, discouragement, greed, racism, fortitude, foolishness and hope.  Goodness and light won out because that is how God designed this world.  The law of sowing and reaping means there are consequences from every action.  In the goodness of God, He deemed that curses are limited to four or five generations while blessings pass on for thousands.  May this picture of sowing, reaping and redeeming encourage you to rejoice in the goodness of God.

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’  Hosea 10:12

The Key to a GREAT LIFE!

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  One thing that assures a life of security, bounty and fruitfulness.  I believe it is true, and I am in good company.  Look at what Solomon–the wisest man who ever lived said after his various attempts at figuring out life:

Let us hear the conclusion of the matter.  Fear God and keep his commandments:  for this is the whole duty of man.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

It is often said that Scripture says ‘fear not’ 365 times–once for every day of the year.  I can’t document that for you, but I can tell you–thanks to my precious E-Sword–that the KJV of the Bible has the word fear in 385 verses.  The bulk of the usage is in the Old Testament but 84 verses mention fear in the New Testament.

The gist of all that is this:  we have two choices in life:  fear God or fear everything else.  I’m not even going to bother with talking about the other fears, I want to share some of the awesome things I found about FEARING GOD!

By the way, the roots of the word for fear in the Bible

speak of reverence, awe and trembling.  

That helps us understand how in Scripture FEAR OF GOD is all of these things:

  • Governing force for actions.
  • Foundation for life and leadership.
  • Purpose of testing.
  • Source of deliverance and power. Man in awe
  • Command of God.
  • Desire of God.
  • For our good.
  • Purpose of ordinances, studying of law, obedience, rebuke.
  • To be taught, learned and lived.
  • Response to seeing God.
  • Aspect of worship.
  • Counter to fear.
  • Source of life, knowledge, wisdom, provision, protection, courage, identity, mercy and worship.
  • Foundation for serving and pursuing holiness.
  • Equivalent to hating evil.
  • Basis for unity.
  • Impacts others.
  • Strong force in the early Church.

Fear of God is reverence for who God is–it is thankfulness for all He does and how He loves us.  Fear of God cancels out all other fears and comes from a right relationship with the Father.  Fear of God is the key that produces an awesome life!

There are only two paths in life…choose the one that leads to all goodness:  

Fear of God!

 

 

 

Joy in the Journey

I’ve been talking about it for weeks!  The Spiritual Journaling book–that morphed into more.  I am so excited to say:

It is almost ready for release.  The files are submitted for review.

Joy in the Journey: Tools for Spiritual Growth: Journaling & More

The promises of a life of faith are full and enticing. Yet sometimes life feels futile. Joy in the Journey offers tools and hope for those who want to see the beauty in every day. Healing for the past and hope for the future are real promises from Jesus Christ. This books helps individuals see both!

Don’t miss out on the announcement.  Sign up for Glory Glimpse today!

Unsplash Journey