Category Archives: Encouragement

Good Student

Bible PicAre children the only ones who need to be learning? One might think it a silly question as we are always learning throughout life, though not always in a formal classroom setting. Our learning doesn’t just include what we need to know to live in the physical world, but also the spiritual one – 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) tells us “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” said with exasperation and dramatic flair while flopping onto the bed or back in the chair. This is a statement from my grandson now that schooling has transitioned to home;  where he would rather be playing video games or with his dog. So, anyone ever tell the Lord you want to be a good student and ask for help with tendencies to be distracted by other things? If so you’re not alone, the prayer just happened to be mine as I began daily devotions. I have such good intentions to study or be in prayer when I am suddenly bombarded from various angles. The cat wants attention, the phone rings, the birds are chirping, thoughts pop in of things to be done or remembering this and that.  Yikes! Where does it all come from? Does it lurk in corners like dust bunnies just waiting for opportunity?

Back to topic, after asking for help in this area I go to read; what do you think the first scripture my eyes see is… Hebrew 12:11 ESV, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hmm, is this my day for instruction? Discipline seems painful…but it yields…to those who have been trained. So do I discipline the lurking dust bunnies (distractions) or myself in how to deal with them?

I think there may be wisdom in going into a closet (figuratively speaking) to pray (Mathew 6:6), besides private prayer time, a closet also blocks distractions, it shuts the world out. When time for schoolwork it makes my grandson unhappy when I put the dog out of the room and close the door. He likes the dog with him but he’s a big distraction; running in and out, barking at anything that moves outside the window, chewing on toys, or nuzzling in for attention.

The only way for undistracted study (or prayer) is, for a time – to be separated from distractions.  “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Nope…perhaps it’s another reason we are admonished to – be still and know that He is God. When we are quieted before Him, is it not easier to hear and learn?

Lord, I want to be a good student of yours, help with my tendencies to be distracted. I want to be disciplined that I might know the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Amen

Clearing Focus

The stars, clear and bright, twinkling in the night sky as I gaze through the window; what a delight. To put things into perspective, I live in city, though small, the lights and some pollution do not give the best of views. I have become accustomed to the way I normally see the night sky so having a clearer view is a delight. I see more stars than normal with a blacker backdrop for them with the absence of haze.

   Having this time of rest (aka quarantine) can allow us down time for reflection and refocus. How often do we get caught up in the busyness of life or the journey we are on, rushing here and there – for this or that, that we do not see other things around us as clearly as we ought?

   I was thinking of the Wise Men following the star, we read in Matthew 2 where they stopped in Jerusalem to ask “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East”? After hearing from King Herod “they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” Why did they stop in Jerusalem, did they lose sight of the star they originally saw in the midst of their journey? Why after a time of rest in Jerusalem, while waiting for the answer, did they once again see the star which took them where they wanted to go?

   I don’t want to suggest anything into the Wise Men’s story beyond what is intended, just comparing it to some of my own journeys where I started with focus only to lose sight of it along the way, then needed down time to gain proper focus again. Some of those times were not of my choosing, caused extra frustration in the beginning, none the less it was needed and the Lord worked it out for my good.

   I’m certain during this time in our history we are all – all over the place, from time home alone, to being extra busy with children out of school, to a wide range of emotions, missing normal socialization, birthday and celebration gatherings. A question to consider – Lord, what do you want me know, to learn, in this time? Who do You want to be to me, or for me to know You as, in this situation.

   Like the night sky which is clearer and stars more visible, possibly due to decreased vehicle traffic, are we able during this time with decreased activities also see more clearly what is before us? Is this a good time to evaluate life, family dynamics, relationship with the Lord, activities, what we can live with or without, where are we headed from here; what do we want to change? How are we letting the Lord use this time for our good?

Exciting Times

Rita - church top  Is this not exciting times? Who would have thought Facebook would be a place you would see an abundance of gospel messages. I rarely looked through facebook streams because of the post content.  Now I see scriptures and encouraging words posted all over, you could almost do a daily devotion from them.  When contemplating this article I chuckled thinking – I could just use facebook posts.

      All of our lives have been affected in some manner by the coronavirus, COVID-19. We as people who follow Jesus have the opportunity to shine, to not let COVID-19 be a bushel over our light.  To walk in peace with calm assurance in our Savior and not give into panic, fear, and irrational decisions; to not consider just our needs and hoard everything for ourselves, instead to reach out to others in their need. It reminds me of the early church, where they were, from their own resources, meeting the needs of each other. It’s an exciting time for the church to be the church outside the church walls.  To demonstrate what we see in the Bible; to not just read it – but to do it. Hmm, have an extra role of toilet paper or bag of rice – drop it on the front porch of someone that doesn’t have any.

   The phones not dead; let’s celebrate its invention and brighten someone’s day with a call. It’s great we don’t have to lose contact with our family, friends, or neighbors. Perhaps it’s time to reach out to those we’ve lost contact with to reconnect. We can let others know they’re being thought of and prayed for; leave them with encouraging words to ponder. Perhaps our own day will be brightened and gloomy clouds dispersed.

   The Lord told us He works things for good; just look at all the churches that are now streaming services online for their congregates, and the world, to watch while staying home.  The internet is being flooded with the Good News, which is going around the world. Is that not exciting! My church had talked about streaming our services but never got there, well…we are now. Adversity is a good motivator to propel us forward into doing things.

   Then there is the prayer. Everyone is calling for us to pray, from the President down. What a time for us to humble ourselves, pray, and seek God.

   As we rise above the negativity, kicking doubt and fear to the curb, we’ll be able to hear God speak more clearly and view things in a better light. This time shall pass, let’s make the best of the opportunities we have.

The Lord bless you and watch, guard, and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you; The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you and give you peace (tranquility of heart and life continually). Numbers 6:24-26 AMPC

I Hear Your Prayers

I love you much, I hear your prayers, they do not fall on deaf ears. There is a perfect timing for all things. I am opening the doors before you from long ago prayers and some current ones. As you prepare yourself and are dependent on Me, you are now entering a place where you can operate in those areas without them being too much for you to handle.  I don’t want to give you what will cause you to fall because of not being ready to carry it or walk effectively as you and I desire. Your trainings and preparation time have not been in vain; nor are you through with all you need to learn – it is a lifelong process. Continue searching to know and understand Me, My ways, My heart, and the answer to those puzzling and mysterious questions. Continue with a hungry heart, open ears and yielded spirit. Be careful of being too busy to have time with Me or in My word. You are a delight, I take delight in you.

I Know

Dove and featherI have not forsaken you. I know your plight. Continue trusting in Me and you will see My glory manifested in you.

Why Fret

Lizard BuddiesWhy do you fret? Am I not trustworthy? Leave it in My hands, I know your desires; remember how much better My ways are.

Good Grief

Heart sculpture - onlineNormally when I hear the words “Good Grief” I think of Charlie Brown, not a reference to mourning.
Years ago, I heard a gentleman speak on losing three family generations in one accident: his mother, wife, and daughter. He tells of trying to hold on to the way things were, not wanting to face change, but found it was like chasing the setting sun; no matter how hard you run after it – eventually the sun will set, then you will have to face the dark night. However, if instead we turn to face the night – the dawn of a new day will arrive much sooner. I tucked away those words of wisdom.

My family were emotional stuffers. I never saw emotions over a death and those gone weren’t spoken of afterwards. It was like the person never existed and their life never mattered. I, too, learned to keep emotions in check, not realizing that the suppression of negative emotions also affected my ability to express the positive ones.

Why is it okay to express happy emotions over good things, yet not the sad emotions when hurtful things happen? Both are normal valid responses. To me to deny one emotion would seem to say God didn’t know what he was doing in making us emotional creatures. Jesus felt secure to publicly weep; why shouldn’t we?

I didn’t emotionally deal with my parents’ death for 13 years; once I did a heavy weight was released. With my husband’s passing I reasoned, I didn’t ask for it; But like it or not life will never be the same; that I would face the dark night and do this “grieving thing well”.

How does one grieve well? I have learned we all grieve differently; there is not a right or wrong way, or a designated time period. Grief is normal, natural, and necessary; grief provides a healthy way to cope with loss and what that person meant to us.

I’m learning good grief includes allowing ourselves to grieve, to be honest with where we are, acknowledging the loss – that it hurts, that our world has been turned upside down. I’m learning to embrace the emotions in a healthy way, giving myself time and space to cry, to mourn my loss; freedom to politely say “no I’m not okay” when a friend inquires; to not isolate myself, yet not over commit myself. To allow encouraging safe people in who are supportive; relying on the Lord for help; talking with others, reading encouraging material, attending bereavement and GriefShare classes. To give myself grace when I make mistakes and to well-meaning people who unintentionally say the wrong thing.
Though we may not like this season, let’s try to look forward with hope to the day mourning turns into dancing. Moving forward does not mean leaving the person behind, we take them with us in our hearts and the special memories we hold dear.

Trust the words of Jeremiah 29:11.

I’m Ready!

Bible PicWhat do you do when your loved one say’s they’re ready to go home – ready to be with Jesus?

   Even when you have heard the doctor’s report, know the test results, and see health declining, it does not fully prepare you for the moment when your spouse says they are ready to stop treatment and to be with Jesus.  It was no more a subject I wanted to discuss then, than I desire to write about now, except that hopefully someone is encouraged. The weight of the statement implied that I would become a widow; something difficult to contemplate. Nevertheless there was a white elephant, figuratively speaking, in the room that must be addressed, to ignore it – though not fully possible, would create its own issues, an uneasy tension, or even shut down communication at a time when it’s needed.  Death is an individual experience, yet, the dying process affects all those connected with the person; and just because they are nearing the end of their earthly life does not mean their feelings and opinions are no longer valid, that they are not concerned for loved ones, or have matters to settle.

   It’s prayer time! Time for a frank one on one conversation with the Lord regarding what’s going on, all the wild emotions, concerns, questions, doubts, and fears;  a time to hide nothing and a time to listen. Then to take time to bask in His loving presence, to receive His encompassing peace, being assured of his promises and faithfulness, to gather strength, courage, and guidance to face what is ahead. I find when I’m at peace it’s easier to have the difficult conversations; to clearly address concerns and know better how to pray for and with others.

   Having first settled matters with the Lord, I was able to discuss all that was on my husband’s heart with relative calm. I was able to see from a different perspective, not by looking down from my point of view at the situation, but from a knelling position in prayer and humbleness, looking up to see from his; with God’s grace I found the strength to say it was okay for him to leave if he was ready to go. For some individuals facing the end of life it helps having permission to go, it lets them be a peace instead of struggling between wanting heaven and feeling they have to remain because of loved ones. A hard prayer is – Lord, you know his hearts’ desire, be gracious to him, please don’t let him suffer; keep him in peace.

   Is it easy? NO! But, scripture tells us God will be our strength: ex: Ps 29:11, 10:17, Isaiah 40:29, 40:31, 41:10, 58:11.   In difficult times we must “Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding” Prov. 3:5, and believe God works for the good of those who love him…. Rom. 8:28.
What now? Pray, trust God, love unconditionally.

How To Pray?

  Pray - onlinePray? Yes… I believe that as long as there is breath and life there is a plan and purpose.
  We heard the Oncologist report, did not dismiss it, however – wanted to also look for the Lord’s report. My friend Tammy adds a perspective “did God say he had 5-6 months? God is the one who determines when his children enter this world, He number their days. He is the one who determines when they will be with him on the other side of the physical world. It may be five months or five years, each day is to be lived in Him and He will be there for each day.”
   Most of us have heard stories of individuals given a year to live and passed away in one year, some given a few months then in a couple of weeks breathed their last, yet others given two months were still doing well two years later.
   I appreciate doctors and happen to have a wonderful personal physician who is a believer. I value the wisdom God has given doctors; I respect what they do and how they try within their abilities to help.  I am also of the mindset if I am going to follow man’s instructions to take a prescription three times a day – I should also be praying three times a day to the Great Physician for healing; who knows – perhaps the situation we face is the perfect set up for a miracle.
   The question is how to pray, a broad and varied territory. Praying in great faith has not always been easy, when my faith and belief lacks confidence I pray as the father did in Mark 9:24 “I do believe, help my unbelief”. We are all given a measure of faith, it grows by exercising it. Pray how we know and watch it grow.  Find scriptures to pray that apply to the situation at hand.
   Sometimes my prayers are simply those of tears – but the Lord understands them. Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words”.
   With changing prognosis and passing time it broadened my spectrum of prayers, no longer simply for healing but strength equal to the day, for the plans of the Lord to be fulfilled, peace in the midst of the storm, wisdom in decisions, the ability to show grace, to have an understanding heart for what the loved one is going through, to not become bitter or impatient. When at a loss on how to pray there is a powerful but simple prayer Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:10 “‘[Father let] Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven”.
   What do you do when the loved one say’s they’re ready to go home – ready to be with Jesus?
   Next month…

What To Do

Sherry fb picWhen there is an unfavorable diagnosis it’s surreal, after all I believe God still heals today; in April we celebrated the sacrifices Jesus made, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. My Bible says that by Jesus’ stripe we were healed. He did it once before but why not, yet, this time? I have experienced personal healing, witnessed others healed, prayed for individuals who received healing, including cancer; so what’s different? It is certainly an age old question but of this one thing I am sure, God’s word is true, he hears our prayers, and does heal.

   God desires to heal as he desires to save. Psalm 103:2-3 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:  Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases…” We know not everyone is saved but it doesn’t change the fact He desires no one be lost; not everyone is healed but it doesn’t change the fact that He desires to heal. There are some things that may remain a mystery in this life.

    So what to do? That is an enormous question! I can only attempt to offer thoughts that are not all inclusive and based on where I am and have been when a step-daughter and parents passed; facing each one brings different challenges – as it does now with potentially a spouse.

   Trust and hope, a great place to start, even in the dark night hold on to them; even if the outcome is not what we may prefer God promises to always be with us, the thing I have found is I have to let Him into the situation and not hold him at bay or blame him.  One scripture tells us to comfort others as we have been comforted, another says He sent the Holy Spirit to give comfort; if we were never going to need comfort I doubt He would have told us these things. Sometimes his comforting presence is tangible, other times he sends people to us to give comfort, to be strong when we are not. I find being vulnerable in some situations not easy, in part from being in a leadership role or when others need encouragement; I think, but not that they do, they expect me to be stronger and grounded in faith, yet at times I find my eyes moist with a tear escaping; but God can’t help or send me help if I put up a facade that all is well. Hebrews 10:25 is taking on a personal meaning “not forsaking our own assembling together [with other believers], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another”. I am grateful for my brothers and sisters in the faith, we need each other.  When we face difficulties – it does not always mean it is not well with our soul.

   Pray? Yes!

   Pray how?

   …continuing next month