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Am I in the grip of God or fear?

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.for: or, of Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  ~Psalm 46:1-2
As I read and pray over this Psalm this morning, I am drawn to the phrase, “Therefore will not we fear.”. I often find myself focusing on the circumstances of my life rather than on God. I let these things cause me to fear and worry. The fact of the matter is I do not have to worry or experience fear about my circumstances. Because God is my refuge, I can go to Him with everything that is bothering me. I do not have to be fearful of the “what if’s”. I can choose to rest in the hand of God. I can choose to rest in Him or let fear strangle my trust in God.
I John 4:18 reads, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.” In the presence of the love of God fear has no place. Many times life will shake us up. Our world will be turned upside down. Will we be paralyzed in the grip of fear or recognize we are in God’s hands? When I feel I am starting to worry or being fearful, this should be my indicator that it is time to focus on God, let Him calm my Spirit, and jump-start my joy in Him.
“Therefore will we not fear…”
I want to live here today!
#psalm46challenge

Only Today…

I have in the past week been on a trek of profound reflection. It could be the fact that I became a great-aunt a week and a half ago. It could be the fact that my friend who graduated from high school the same year I did proclaimed on Facebook that she graduated 30 years ago. Wow. I’m not sure which one did it, maybe it was the combination of the two. However, I began to look over my life of the past, ahem, 30 years and began to take stock of what I have accomplished in those years. On first glance and pondering, it didn’t seem like much. As I looked deeper I realized that I have gone through quite a bit in those years. I have gained a wealth of experience and knowledge. I met and married an awesome man. I had two amazing boys who are Jesus loving, well-rounded, and daily amaze me. My husband and I have served in ministry for all of our married life together (almost 24 years at 3 churches). We have a great family and a wealth of friends. To you it may not seem that much, but that doesn’t matter. What truly matters is have I taken the time the Lord has given me and served Him to the best of my ability. Have I done everything perfectly? Not a chance. On reflection, I feel I have followed the Lord faithfully to this point. Would I have liked to have accomplished some great things? Well, Sure! but I know that this is not the end. I have today. I am not promised tomorrow so I will take the day I have been given and live it out how I know Jesus would want me to do. I can show compassion, I can love Him with my whole heart, I can serve others in the work place and in my home, and I can live out the plan He has set before me for today. No matter what amount of time I have left, I can finish well the course the Lord has for me. Paul wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” This is what I want. I want to be counted among the faithful. A lifetime is made up of what we have done with all of our “todays”. We cannot do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. We have today. Let’s take our today, and put in it all that God would have us to do with it. Serving Him, Trusting Him, Loving Him, Worshiping Him, and Living Life with the purpose of bringing glory to His name will be my goal today. It is indeed a worthy calling!

When Faith Encounters Forgiveness and Love

You have met them at some point in your life. We all have. You have met a person that being in the same room with them sets your teeth on edge. The first word that passes their lips or even their demeanor has your number.  It is someone who you try desperately to like, but it is hard. In life there is always going to be ones with who we struggle to get along. Does that mean we stop trying? Certainly not. So where do we go from there? During these times, I find myself in the need of reflection and praying. Most times I will come to a couple of conclusions.

“Is the reason I struggle to get along something they have done to me or someone I care about?” If the answer is yes, the thought process follows. “Why am I holding on to this anger or hurt or frustration?” Often the reason is “I have to look after me and mine!” “They hurt me so I will hurt them by being angry with them, or finding a way to zing them back so they will feel bad about what they have done.” So if our thoughts take us to this place, unforgiveness is reigning in our heart. Our unforgiveness is coming between us and another person. The disciples were struggling with this too. In Matthew 18:21-22 we read, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” I know the next step in the process. “You have no idea what they have done to me.” You would be correct in that, I don’t know. In these verses Jesus did not give a stipulation on the circumstances. He said to just keep forgiving. Is this an easy task? No way. IT IS A HARD THING, BUT IT IS A NECESSARY THING. It involves getting out of our own way and being willing to give up our right to be offended. Pride often will well up in us and we can’t let go. Pride can be quick sand on the road to forgiveness. It can bog us down and hinder us from doing what we ought to do. I can often bog us down for months, even years. We want to be free of our hurt. The only way to turn it over to God is through the avenue of forgiveness. This person may have hurt you over and over. We can’t be waiting for offense #491 then put the hammer down on them. The principle is to keep forgiving over and over. I have been in such a place so I am not speaking of something that has not been a hard, learned lesson. I know this is a tough subject, but it has been on my heart. When I see others struggling to forgive, I know if the freedom that is waiting on those who are willing to surrender their will to Father God in the area of forgiveness.

The other conclusion I come to when struggling to get along with others is “If they have not done anything to me, what is my hold up? Am I failing to love them as God loves them?” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) God tells us to love as He does. When God’s love is flowing through me it is extended to others. Only my unwillingness can stop that flow of love. In both of these conclusions, the power to get along with others begins and ends with us. You may find at some point you try to follow these things and the other person does not want to be right with you. It happens. You can’t control what others feel about you. But you can continue to forgive and you can continue to love because it is what God requires of you. When you know you have done your best and Christ is pleased with your effort there is a freedom and a peace that is beyond understanding. Then you can let them go continuing to pray for them and reconciliation to come one day.

The walk of faith was never said to be an easy one filled with only sunshine and roses. There are trials and testing to endure. We can be confident in knowing that we have a God who walks with us in the way and will help us through the hard times. We may struggle along the way to get along with others. Let God help you determine your part in the process of what you need to do to be right with Him.

Joy in the Process

‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. ‘ Romans 15:13

Of all the ministry areas the Lord has led me to work in, I find myself enjoying leading Bible Study with the ladies of our church. It actually has not always been this way. When my husband and I first began in ministry together, He was the associate pastor at a local church. He had been serving  in churches for quite some time before we were married so he had his feet already wet and prepared more than I was for the challenges in the ministry. I had served in the church, but had not yet been in a position of leadership. I remember the first time I was approached to lead a women’s bible study. Two words come to my mind, “SHEER PANIC”! I would have to get up in front of other women and lead in a study of God’s Word. I felt so unworthy and then concerned. What if they asked me stuff I didn’t know the answer to? What if they thought my teaching style was weird? I went through every scenario. I prayed a lot. I prayed God would change His mind. Then I realized that God was calling me to do it. So I took a deep breath and jumped in feet first. God did a work in me. He taught me to rely on Him.

When I think of leading a bible study now, I look forward to it. I know I am doing what God has called me to do. It took a little while to find my groove, but the Lord showed me I just needed to be myself and trust him fully. A lot of prayer and preparation goes into it, but I have found joy in all God has taught me over the years. It’s hard to believe that it has been 24 years since that first Bible study. I give God the praise for all He has done in me and through me. Last night, Our ladies finished up the Book, “Why Do I Put So Much Pressure On Myself And Others” by Kathy Collard Miller. Though the Book is a lesson on how God helped our author through overcoming and learning to cope with perfectionism, we looked at a lot of Scripture to realize who we are and whose we are! I had the privilege to go through this book several years ago. This time the Lord taught me some more about how my life goal should not be about making sure everything is perfect, but to strive to pursue Christ with my whole heart. Someone with perfectionist tendencies often never sees the joy because they are more focused on the circumstances. I am thankful that God is willing to take us where we are and lead us to where He wants us to be. If we spend all our efforts focused on things we cannot control we will not have the energy to pursue Christ. We can find so much joy in the pursuit of Christ.

God can fill you will all joy and peace as Romans 15:13 says. The key is we have to be in a position to let Him. Let go of things, and grab Jesus with both hands. Don’t let Him go. Tell Jesus you can not take one more step without Him. To Trust and Rely on God should be our focus. When this happens, Joy will be the product, and Peace of God will be experienced as you never have felt before. We can find joy in the midst of trials. The bible says, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:18) We can learn to hope in God alone. Do you want pure joy? My friend, you cannot find it outside of God. Pursue Christ and find joy in the process!

Blessings to you today!

To Much of a Good Thing…

This dog of mine seems to know how to push my buttons. Most of the time she is a good dog. She minds pretty well. She loves big. She tends toward hardheadedness. Thus, this morning is my beef with her. Annie, the dog, is my rescue dog. She came to our family and fit right in. As she is currently the only dog in our household, so she is very spoiled (my fault, I know). Not long after she came on board, she developed parvo which affected her digestive system. She came very close to dying, but with some quick vet meds and waiting it out she did recover. The illness did leave behind a very sensitive stomach. I have to be very careful that she doesn’t over eat because it will make her sick every time. Yesterday, she got into a new bag of dog food. It went everywhere while I made an effort to get most of the excess up it was more than she usually has access too. I even told her don’t overeat. This morning I woke up to the smell and sounds of a dog tossing her cookies. Yuk! We have hardwood floors in our home. However, her favorite place to do the aforementioned is on the end of the long rug in our hallway.  She forgets, She’s a dog, and She can’t help herself.

Unfortunately, I am like that at times too. My life will get out of balance when I let to many things capture my attention. The fact of the matter is these things are not bad things. They are good things to do. I find myself taking on more and more things, then I find I am stretched to thin and not effective at any of them. I am learning that I am not super woman. I really cannot do it all. We all may struggle with finding balance in our daily lives. Because in all fairness, most of us are more busy than we have ever been. Juggling family, work, church, and friendships can lead to a three-ring circus. I have learned when things begin to feel out of control, I go to Father God who is in control of it all. I take Him my unbalanced, crazy life and we work together on it. In the quietness of our time together, I find a peace and contentment that comes only spending time with Him alone. He knows me so well. He knows everything about me. He shows me what is best for me and what is not. The time spent in God’s presence is time well spent. It is something that I need everyday. Most days, I find a run to Him all through my day. It is in those days that I feel the most centered and the most balanced.

Some may say that having to much of a good thing is the only way, but I disagree. The only way to live it to have all that God wants me to have for that day. God is the one person you can never have to much of. It is indeed the best way to live.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

When you can’t see His hand…

“Trials dark on every hand and we cannot understand all the ways that God will lead us to that blessed promised land, but He guides us with His eye, and we’ll follow till we die. for we’ll understand it better by and by.” ~Charles Albert Tindley (1905)

The third verse of the hymn “By and By” has always been the one I think of first of when singing this song. I am not sure exactly why. The third verse or stanza was probably one of the verses of the hymn least sung in a small rural church where I grew up. Our tendency was to sing the first, second, and fourth (or last). Can I get a witness? 🙂 As I contemplate the meaning of these precious words, I can’t help but think that the message is as true today as it was back in 1905. When we look on our own life and the lives of those around us, we cannot always see what God is doing. The trials and circumstances taking place in our lives can cause us to doubt that He is even working at all. If you were to visit your favorite Christian bookstore, you would find a wealth of options on finding God’s will for your life. While the principles many of these books resonate with us, we must realize that God is the God of the individual, and carries out His plan in each life according to that person’s needs. While there may be some things in common between us, God may also choose to move in another’s life in a way that might be a mystery to them and to us.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t know what God is doing in this situation, but I hope He’s doing something!” Believe me when I say, God is working! Sometimes we only see the trials and the dark places. The places may feel like they are closing in and around us and we are overcome with the gravity of them. We feel weighed down and sluggish as if we were wading through a bog. We cannot find relief and feel our path will never change. We want God to step in and pull us out of the mire of our circumstances. ‘I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. ‘ Psalms 69:2-3  My friend, you are not alone. David felt these same feelings. Let’s see what God did. ‘Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord , in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. ‘ Psalms 69:6,13,18,30 The answer is seemingly simple. David sought the face of God, and God heard and answered his cry.

The Christian life is full of mountain top experiences. Those are the fun times. When we see God move, work, and show all that He can do. Equally, the Christian life has a valley between the mountains. In the dark times, when we don’t understand and have a rough time seeing His hand moving in our life, Stop. Lift up your head and your voice and seek the face of God. In my life’s darkest places, I have learned more about God in the valleys than on the mountains. I have learned He works and moves in ways I cannot begin to understand. Really, it is not my place to understand. It is for me to seek Him and trust the one who sees both the mountain and the valley in a glance. So I with faith will follow till the end of my life. Hold tight to Jesus, my dear friend. “We will understand it better by and by.

Blessings to you!

Jesus and The Homeschooler

What pops in your mind when you hear the word “Homeschooler”? It has been a term that has been coined by those who feel the calling of God to teach their children at home. Some of you out there may only have encountered a home school student at the time of the year when the National Spelling Bee is shown on Television. May I just say in the kindness of your heart don’t judge all home school children by these few. My boys would keel over if they thought the world saw all home school students in this light. My boys were good students, smart, active in the community, active in church, active in county sports programs, and were happy, healthy, “dirt under their fingernails” fun kids. We made our decision to home school our children because we felt it was in their best interest and we did feel called to do it. I will state that if you do not feel called to home school, “DON’T DO IT!” It will be a recipe for disaster.  We all have to do what is best for our families. I do not look down on anyone who chooses to use the traditional system, yet I would like the same courtesy from you! 🙂 Thanks in advance. I will go on to say that this system worked for us, and now that we have crossed the finish line, I am glad that we did it. Can I say also that I have two great guys! At 20 and 21, they are well rounded, awesome guys. I am a proud mama!

You might wonder what brought on this particular post at this time. I spoke with one of my fellow home school friends who has a ways to go to cross the finish line of homeschooling. She has 5 amazing kids, the youngest three being adopted. She needed someone to talk to about her junior in high school. We had a great conversation! We were there for each other. It’s what we Home School Mama’s do! As I began to think on the journey we have taken. I know that when I had moments of doubt, God was there with me to help me through it. I was reading in my quiet time today in the book of Matthew and saw something I had not seen before, or maybe just read over it. Today, I saw it in a new light. In Matthew 11:28-30, we read, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The middle verse of this is what caught my attention. We all need to stop, listen, and take on what Jesus is trying to tell us. We need to learn of him where we are. We do need that corporate worship each week where we meet with other believers, (Please do not stop meeting at your church with your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is needed for all of us) yet, we also need that daily time alone with Him in our homes.  What do you need to know? “Come unto me!” What do you need to let go of? “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden!” What do you need to feel less stressed?” “Come unto me… and I will give you rest.” What do you need to take on? “Take my yoke” Pray over every situation, before you commit to it.  We can only do all of these things by learning at His feet. We need God’s wisdom and guidance. We need to be his student. We need to be his homeschooler!

Okay, maybe you think I kind of roped you in with that last line. I do promise I will not ask when you will be on TV at the National Spelling Bee. Because if you are, Hey, I am okay with that. Seriously though, I have found in my own life that some of the greatest lessons God has taught me was when I was studying and learning from Him in the quietness of my own home. The fact of the matter is we need to sit at His feet every day. Take some time today to “learn of Him”. These lessons will last a lifetime.

I love the song by Jennifer Deibler,

“In the calm of Your presence
I am listening, Lord
I am still, I am quiet
I am Yours

Let Your Word speak to me
Let Your Spirit draw near
I will obey
The truth that I hear

In the calm of Your presence
I am listening, Lord
I am still, I am quiet
I am Yours”

Blessings to you!

Bitten By The Clutter Bug

Ok, I am here to admit it. I think my house has gotten the better of me. It’s time for things to go. So it begins. I have decided to take charge, and de-clutter my house again. Clutter seems to exist everywhere I look. I love to live by the philosophy: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” However, I must say that putting it into practice of late has been a struggle. My sweet friend is having a yard sale in two weeks, and she encouraged me to join in the fun with her. I heartily agreed. So I have found the perfect opportunity to rid the house of the clutter I have accumulated.

I must say that I thrive in a yard sale environment. I love them. If I see a yard sale sign, I will stop if it is at all possible. My husband may think that I have extra sensitive radar where yard sales are concerned, and He would be right. My problem, however, is that I often purchase things because they are a good deal, or I think I can repurpose them in some way. Often I will take stuff home that I don’t need (if that is even possible 🙂 ), and my clutter is increased. I must be very careful to choose only things that I can truly use to make my household run smoother, or to make my home a more comfortable place to be.

In my spiritual walk, I often pass by mounds of clutter that I have let accumulate in my heart. These things are not necessarily bad things, but they shift my focus from the things that need to take priority in my life. We all take on the extra little things. These things can accumulate until there is so much to do that it overwhelms us. We find ourselves focusing more on doing things rather than being who God wants us to be. The Bible relates to burdens several times. One that comes to mind is Matthew 11:

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

How often do we take on burdens that were not meant for us to bear. This is the clutter that I am referring to. God has specific tasks for each individual to perform. This is part of ministering in His Kingdom. Do we have so much clutter built up around us that we can’t see clearly the ministry to which He has called us? Are we overwhelmed with stuff, when we should be overwhelmed with God and His goodness?

It’s time to squash the clutter bug, and begin again fresh! Let’s remove the things in our lives that are causing us to falter in our walk, and renew our commitment to serve the Lord more faithfully. If anyone can help us remove the piles of clutter, God can. He can help us to see what our focus needs to be on, and carry out His kingdom work with a renewed heart.

God bless you in your journey!

Expect the Unexpected

“Things don’t always turn out the way you plan,” is a line from one of my favorite movies. I was thinking about this today as I sit in my recliner with my feet propped up.  I am a planner by nature. When I get up in the morning, I think about all the things that need to get done that day. I schedule in my mind how long it will take me to do each particular task. I make long mental to do lists, and often write them down so I can have the opportunity to cross off the tasks when they are completed. Perfectionist, You may ask? and you would be 100% correct. I just can’t help it; that’s how I roll. 🙂  Even the best of planners have unexpected things happen on a daily basis that throw the to do list out the window. Things carry from one day to the next, so there are days when you just have to let it go.

Here lately, I have the unique perspective of having my daily routine turned completely upside down. My to do list now only consists a few things. 1. Stay put and keep your feet up. 2. Get Well Soon! Expansive I know. If you could see my face right now, you would know that I am smiling and throughly tickled with myself. It’s not that I am upset with my circumstances. It is that  I am learning to take them at face value that it is what it is for me right now. Would I rather be up doing for my family? Of course, Yes, but that is not what God has for me to do right now. I know that this is a part of God’s will for me. Will it always be this way for me? I don’t think so, but I know that whatever I am going through God is with me. He has answered so many prayers for me. He is teaching me so much through this time in my life. I have learned that I can practice patience, and rely on God’s strength rather than my own. God is also teaching me to rely on others to do things for me. I think most women for the most part want to be a “Superwoman” aka “SuperWife”, “SuperMom”, “SuperCo-Worker”, “SuperMinistryWorker”. and “Super______”.(You can fill in the blank.) We want to do it all! Didn’t the Proverbs 31 Woman do it all? Isn’t it spiritual to do it all. I am learning that I can’t do it all. God doesn’t want me to “Superwoman”. He wants me  to follow Him, and be submissive to His will for me today.

I have shared this to say to you that even with my overwhelming schedule 🙂 I am learning also that days like this can also bring the unexpected. An unexpected phone call to let me know that prayers are being offered up for me. I received some flowers from the church where I work that were a blessing to me. Cards that I have been receiving every week from my cousin have been an encouragement. Packages from family and friends have made me feel loved and uplifted.  Even a hug from my 15-year-old while I was typing this post was an unexpected blessing. I could list so many more things that have happened over the last several weeks that I would love to mention, but I wouldn’t have enough room in this post. I know that no matter what you are facing right now God can send you unexpected blessings in the middle of it all. He knows what is best for you and for me, so I am going to continue to expect the unexpected. It happens more often than you may realize.

Blessings to you all!