The World

Today’s topic wasn’t just random. I believe God planned it down to the littlest detail. Why? Because, in less than twenty-four hours, I will be on a plane to Honduras with a missions team from my church. This trip has been a long time coming. From the time I first expressed interest back in February, getting to go on this trip has been a God thing, pure and simple. There’s no way I would have been able to go on my own. Not from a one-income homeschooling family. But, God worked it out so I know it’s a part of His purpose for my life.

This will be my first time going abroad to do missions work, but I did spend a summer in Maryland when I was a college student. I also took a few one-week mission trips, but it’s the summer trip that has been in my thoughts in recent days. My partner and I worked in the inner-city doing whatever was needed, but mainly, we conducted Backyard Bible Clubs. In my mind’s eye, I see the faces of those children like it was yesterday. They were so excited we had come to where they lived. It was hard work. A lot of times, I was out of my comfort zone, but my youthful self dreamed of changing the world for Jesus. Many times, after that summer, I dreamed of becoming a career missionary.

But, real life intervened, and it’s now thirty-two years later. I wonder, where did that youthful enthusiasm and energy go? What happened to reaching the world for Christ? Oh, I did my best to change my own small corner of the world. I taught school. I married and had my own children. I became their teacher when they were young. I poured into my family. I wonder how much I really changed though. Advocates in the homeschooling community would say I changed a lot for my family, but what did I really do? I’m still working all that out.

We were practicing our faith when our sons were young. Then, we spent time out of the church in their middle years. I’ve written about this before. I became a cynic about the church and the community it’s supposed to offer because of all the bad I had seen. I longed for it still though because God had planted the desire in my heart. Cynicism and longing combined in my heart to make a potent soup.

As I’ve written though, my life has changed over the past six years. Love has come to the forefront, and I have a better understanding of what my faith means. I talk to God often, and He comforts me when the world lets me down. I even have a community that puts up with my weirdness, :-), and that is something, to be sure. I thank God for it every day.

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about and planning for what comes next after my children were done with high school. I’ve chronicled many of my thoughts and feelings in this blog. As you know, this is the year. My younger son will start college in the fall. God has been leading me down this writing path. I know that for sure. But, how and in what capacity, I don’t know. I also don’t know what I will do with the time I used to use for homeschooling. And except for my writing, I’m not sure of the path God is leading me on to serve Him. Thinking of that day in August when both of my children will be in college is a blur right now. I don’t know how my days will go or what will be in them.

I think it’s why God led me to this trip. A week away doing work for Him with no distractions, it’s what I need. God will meet me there. The uncertainty and blurriness will disappear, and my life will be changed!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

PS: I will complete this series on 100 Days to Brave when I return. See you on the flip side!

Perseverance

It might seem funny that I’m writing about perseverance today when I’ve felt like I’ve just been hanging on by a thread for the last few weeks. If perseverance really does build character like it says in Romans 5:3-5, I must have a lot of it by now. 🙂 No, just kidding. I don’t want to brag on myself when I haven’t done the work.

First, though, I want to quote the verses so you’ll know what God says about it. From Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” I don’t know many of us who glory in our sufferings, at least not in the middle of them. Pain is not pleasant for any of us. But, we suffer while we’re in this life sometimes even more than we did before we became believers. And that begs the question–if we suffer more and we don’t see other Christians suffer to know it is normal, why do we become believers? Why is Jesus so important to so many of us?

I believe it is because we can see the possibilities of a limitless love. We can see the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and think that maybe, maybe, we can let Him in our lives to change our story. We can have limitless love in our lives despite the pain because of Who we’ve invited into our lives. Who wouldn’t want limitless love? Who wouldn’t want the grace and mercy Jesus promises to each of us?

That’s why perseverance matters even when we’re hanging on by a thread like I am today. God has put each of these devotions from 100 Days to Brave in my path when I’ve needed them. The Scripture and the songs from the author have been just what I’ve needed for each step of this journey to becoming brave. Today’s song is no different. It’s called Golden Thread, and it’s by Joy Williams. It’s reminded me there might be some gold on the end of that fraying thread which is about to break, and I just might want to reinforce it to see what God has planned next. Let me quote the lyrics so you can see.

Golden Thread by Joy Williams

I’m holding on for dear life, it’s not looking good
Is it now, is it now?
It’s all up in the air and never coming down
Coming down, is it now?

Spinning through my fingers, watch it go
Out of my hands, out of my hands
All over again
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread
Just wanna know while everything’s unraveling
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread

Don’t sew it off; it’s lovely tearing at the seams
It’s what it is
It’s you and me
I’m standing in the in-between of what I was and what I need

Slipping through my fingers, watch it go
Out of my hands, out of my hands
All over again
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread
Just wanna know while everything’s unraveling
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread

Please don’t watch me, please don’t watch me cry
Oh I don’t wanna be this way
It’s harder than it looks, so please don’t watch me cry
And admit that I’m frayed

Out of my hands, out of my hands
All over again
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread
Just wanna know while everything’s unraveling
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread

Slipping through my fingers, watch it go

I especially liked the line, “Please don’t watch me cry.” I know people are uncomfortable watching people cry, and I’m pretty sure the reverse is also true. No one wants to admit they’re frayed. That’s why they want to appear strong even if they’re not. It is my belief though that perseverance can involve crying and hurting and admitting you’re in pain. It’s the best way for God to heal the hurt. And I don’t mean healing where no one knows your pain. I mean healing where we all know it’s okay with God if we are just strong enough.
Yes, that’s the other song which has touched me today, and I want to finish my post with quoting the chorus of Strong Enough by Matthew West.
Strong Enough by Matthew West
I know I’m not strong enough to be
Everything that I’m supposed to be
I give up
I’m not strong enough
Hands of mercy won’t you cover me
Lord right now I’m asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
God, please help all of us, and me especially, to not give up or quit, and help us all to persevere! In Your Son’s amazing Name, Amen!

Faith

There are some basic words in Christianity that can make us think we have it all covered and have nothing else to learn about a certain topic. Faith is one of those words. When I first saw that this was the topic of today’s devotion, I wasn’t sure I could think of anything to write I hadn’t already written, but, as usual, I was wrong. 🙂

One of the verses I first memorized was about faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” There have been times I’ve looked at that verse and said to myself, ‘Faith, yeah, confident, assured, yeah. Check, check. Ok, let’s get to the more important stuff.’ But, God doesn’t mean for us to brush faith off so quickly.

So, what does it really mean to have faith? Here is the dictionary definition. Faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” There’s also a definition related to religion. Faith is a “strong belief in God or in the doctrine of a religion based on spiritual application rather than proof.” Sounds like the dictionary has it covered. But, what does it mean on a personal level to the Christian who wants to increase their faith? Let’s look at what the author of the devotional says. “Faith is being sure. And convinced.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) Sounds similar to the dictionary? It should be quite clear what it means to have faith.

But, we all have doubts and struggles at times. At least, I do. When things are going well, it’s easy for me to have faith. I can see God’s blessings all throughout my life, and I don’t have a problem talking about them. I equated blessings with faith, and as long as I could see the blessings, faith was not a problem.

Of course, blessings are not always present. In fact, bad times come more often than not. What happens to faith then? This is where the struggle is for me. My mind and my heart struggle to hold onto God’s presence when I can’t readily see Him in my life. The devotional I’m reading had new thoughts about how to get more faith. (Don’t ever think you can’t learn anything new about a topic.) I had always thought faith was just there. You either had it, or you didn’t. There were no levels of faith or no way to get anymore if you lacked it. No, that’s not what faith is at all. We can pray to God for more faith when our faith is lacking. Wow! That thought had never crossed my mind, but I can see the truth in it. God will fill us with faith if we just ask. Faith in Him, in His goodness, and in His promises.

We can use the assurance we get from those prayers to fight off the lies of Satan who is interested in impeding what we do for God as much as possible. It’s not easy, and it won’t be easy. Sometimes, I think I’m fighting my doubts about God and His promises all of the time. But, Jesus died on the cross for me. He suffered an agonizing death so I could have the choice of believing in this big and wonderful God of mine. The least I can do for Him is be willing to fight the battle for faith when Satan shoots his arrows of doubt and anguish at me. And I will fight it by praying for my faith cup to be filled by my Lord and Savior. May we all fight that battle well!

Praying God’s blessings for you all today!

 

The Wispy Tendrils of Faith

I’ve been a Christian since I was a teenager–almost forty years, actually, and my faith has seemed to be different in every season of my life. From rock-solid faith to holding on by the barest thread, I have done my best to live according to this faith I say I hold.

Earlier in my life, living as a Christian meant saying the right words, doing the right things, and always putting up a front at church. If someone asked you how you were, the answer was always great. Most people I knew seemed to measure their faith by how well someone was doing–financially, socially, emotionally, mentally, or physically. The ones who were doing the best always claimed to be blessed by God which left me wondering what happened to those who didn’t appear to be so blessed.

Now that I’m in my fifties and have learned a lot of life lessons, I know this isn’t true. God blesses all of His children whether they are rich or poor, and His blessings are not just material ones. Being like Jesus is more complicated than you might think, and people in the church who you respect can and will let you down. I also understand better what Jesus said in John 16:33. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have over come the world.”

I understand now that I will have trouble while I am here. It’s a fact. I’ve had plenty of trouble during my life so why should that change? And because of this, I shouldn’t try to do anything of worldly significance. Rather, I should be doing things that will have eternal significance because, won’t I be in heaven for eternity?

Where does that leave my faith, and what does today’s title mean? I thought you might ask. 🙂 Holding on to faith and trust is so hard these days. I was thinking about this yesterday and realized that the wispy tendrils that come from airplanes reminded me of my faith. You can see them just briefly as an airplane passes, and it’s almost like you can reach out and grab them before they disappear. That’s how I’ve felt like with my faith over the past few months. With all the bad things that have happened and no let-up in sight, I have grabbed on to whatever wisps of strength and encouragement God has sent me. More often than not, I can’t see them, and the parts of me that hurt hold onto the fragments of faith I still have. This helped me think of today’s title which led to this verse from Scripture.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

I’ve always liked this verse, but it means more to me now. It’s confidence in what is to come, not in what is happening now, and it’s assurance in God’s sovereign nature when we can’t see it. God gives us plenty of things we can see, but He wants us to trust Him when we can’t see what He gives us. That, in my opinion, is true faith.

So, I will keep walking; I will keep giving; and I will keep holding on to the wispy tendrils of my faith as God molds my character into the person He wants me to be! Thank you, Jesus!

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Inspirational Quotes and What They Mean to Me

Facebook memories can be a funny thing. They can also be one of the things to inspire a blog post as they have this morning. I was looking over my memories earlier and saw that on this date, four years ago, I published a post about writing quotes, https://writewhatyouknowdotorg.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/writing-quote-thursday/. I looked over the post and smiled. It was a fond memory of where I was as a writer four years ago and how far I’ve come since then.

Learning never stops though, and between this Facebook memory and the challenge issued by the writing blog, Positive Writer, http://positivewriter.com/7-inspirational-quotes-that-could-change-your-life/, I thought I would do another quote post today and talk about different quotes and what they mean to me.

I’ve been working on myself this year and how my faith in God brings me closer to the person He wants me to be. It’s a struggle. All of us come to Him with baggage. Heck, all of us have baggage, period. One of my struggles is believing in myself so the quotes I have chosen today reflect this struggle and how far I’ve come. They were all encouraging to me in different ways. Here is the first one.

“We are all unique, and have our own special place in the puzzle of the universe.” – Rod Williams

This reminded me of Psalm 139 which has become my Scripture reading of choice when my confidence lags and my insecurity reigns.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” – Booker T. Washington

When I think about this quote along with what I’ve had to overcome with my faith, I don’t feel as insignificant to God as I felt on Sunday when my church was doing a ground breaking ceremony. People tell me that I mean a lot to my church, but sometimes I just don’t see it. I know I mean everything to God though, and that is what counts the most.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human experiment.” – E. E. Cummings

I feel like this is what I’ve done with my blogs over the past four years. I’ve published words I wouldn’t ever say out loud, except maybe in my pastor’s office. 🙂 I’m not successful like the world defines success, but I know God has a purpose in the words I share, and that is the success that means the most.

“Always be yourself, and have faith in yourself.” – Bruce Lee

This is so plain it shouldn’t have to be spelled out, but I’ve had to work on it anyway. I’m the person God made me to be, and He doesn’t want me to change though I have tried.

“You are braver than you believe, smarter than you seem, and stronger than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh

This is my favorite of these quotes. It teaches me to reach beyond my thoughts and feelings about myself and live the way God wants me to. God gave us thoughts and feelings, yes, and we are to express them honestly. But, He also wants us to have our value rooted in Him and no one else.

And finally, the last quote.

“We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.” – Tobias Wolff

For awhile, I forgot how to persist. I’ve been so busy trying to make myself into the person I thought God wanted me to be that I lost track of who I actually was. No more though. My words are who I am and writing them down is my best way of honoring my God-given gifts and being true to myself and the person God is growing me to be.

Hope everyone has a great day!

 

Uncomfortable Questions

This post was inspired by two conversations I had on Sunday–one with a nurse who spoke of how family members of certain patients were wanting the hospital to do everything they could to save their patient when it was clear they needed to start letting go and another conversation with someone about death. And it got me to wondering–why are Christians so afraid of death? I wouldn’t think there would be any reason to be afraid of death. Those of us who believe are going to our eternal home with our Lord and Savior. There should be no reason to be afraid.

But, some Christians are afraid so I wondered why they might be afraid of death. Is it the unknown? Is it a fear of being alone? Is it….because they’re just not sure? And those are the questions I want to explore today. Some people might be afraid that when they get to the other side, God won’t be there. I’ll be honest. I admit I have entertained those thoughts. Where has God been through all of my husband’s illnesses? Through all of our attempts to gain stability? Through all of our attempts to provide for ourselves and to give money to the church? To do all the things the church teaches that we’re supposed to do as Christians? I don’t understand. I have seen people at church who seem much more successful than we have ever been or ever hope to be. Have we not been the Christians God has wanted us to be. How does all this work?

I type these questions and realize I’m asking the wrong questions. It’s not what the church teaches us. It’s what Jesus teaches us. They get all mixed up sometimes which is why I get mixed up. We put all these rules on ourselves which Jesus didn’t do. And sometimes, the people who serve in our churches don’t speak the words God would have them speak or they speak the words others want them to speak. They’re not perfect just like we’re not perfect, and that is something we and I need to remember. That is why I need to study the Scriptures for myself and know what they say for myself and not just depend on what someone else tells me. Maybe, if more of us did that, we wouldn’t have as many problems in our churches.

Then, there are the family members of the people who are dying. They are scared to let their family member go because they’re afraid of being without them. They’re afraid of being alone. I’ve talked before about how the church doesn’t really know what to do with the person who is alone in church, who is without a family. And I believe that has contributed to why people want to explore every possibility of keeping their family member alive before letting them go or letting them die with dignity.

These are hard questions, and there are no easy answers, but it’s important we talk about them. Talk about what we want. That’s what I did Sunday night with my husband. I told him that when the time came, I wanted him to let me go, to let me go and see Jesus. Because that is what I want with all my heart. To be with my Lord and Savior in my eternal home in praise and worship forever.

I’m so grateful that God doesn’t mind if we ask uncomfortable questions. I’m grateful that He has been there through everything we have been through. He wants to talk with all of us and have a relationship with us even if we have what we think are uncomfortable questions. I pray that all of us would have the courage to ask God the questions we need to ask even if they are uncomfortable questions.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

God Can Use Anything or Anyone

I came up with this title yesterday when I was writing in my journal and thought I’d see what I could do with it today. The elements of my post may seem disparate, but they are tied together by this title–God can use anything or anyone!

You might be aware of a movie which premiered last weekend–The Shack–based on the book of the same name. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did read the book last year. It was a good read, and I enjoyed it. Some Christians have problems with it because of how God is portrayed or because of theological questions. I don’t, and here’s why. I believe God can use anything as we make our journeys in this life. He created us with an imagination, with creative spirits, and with the ability to ask questions and to express doubts. We don’t know what He looks like, and we won’t know until we get to heaven. So, if this new movie gets people to ask about God and wonder about their relationship with Him, that’s a good thing. Therefore, we, as committed Christians, need to be willing to talk about God and show people what He says in His Scriptures about a relationship with Him. Christians need to be willing to show the love of Jesus to those who are asking questions and not give long speeches on why they think the movie is wrong. Many people already think of Christianity as the religion of “no” so we need to consider any questions non-believers have with an open heart and an open mind.

My thoughts about this movie started forming the idea for this blog post. I truly believe God can use anything. It doesn’t have to be overtly Christian. In fact, it might be better if it wasn’t. Why, you ask? Let me explain. Many of the Christian movies being made today are being made with the health and wealth gospel in mind. This says that everything in our lives will be just fine if we love God enough, pray hard enough, and do everything He tells us to. Life doesn’t work that way, and I think it’s a huge shame there are so many Christian leaders in the west who promote this way of thinking. Bad things are gonna happen. They’ve happened to me plenty so that’s how I know.

The way Christian movies portray it though,  lives are supposed to be fixed by the end of the movie. So, my life should be fixed, but it’s not. According to the people who ascribe to this philosophy, my life and faith should be a failure, but it’s not. Jesus is still in my heart even though its broken and even though my life is broken. Praise God!

I think we forget sometimes who God used in the Bible. They weren’t perfect, not by a long shot. People like Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, Bathsheba, Job, Jonah, Peter, and Paul. I know there are many more. They all did things that were wrong, that are sins, but God used them anyway. I think I would rather be in this class of people than in a group of modern-day Christians who insist you put up shields and never admit to doubts, questions, or wrong-doing. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been in the first group anyway. 🙂

As I conclude this post, my prayer for all of us is that we remember God wants us to build relationships with Him and with each other based on His love and grace and to remember that He can use anything or anyone to accomplish this!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Twilight Time

Every year, I get to this point and think something should be happening during this time, but it never does. I finally decided this year to give it a name. So, drum roll here. The week between Christmas and New Years is known as the twilight time. Yes, some people have to work while others are on holiday, but, for the most part, not a lot gets done. For those who are working, the main thing that is generally said is, ‘Let’s wait until after the new year to get that done,’ while those who are on vacation are in relaxation mode and not thinking about work at all until after the new year.

For me though, this week has turned into a week of consideration. A week to consider what I’ve done right this year and what I’ve done wrong. And I have done plenty wrong as I’m sure you all have. I’ve let down my family and my friends in many ways, and I’ve not let Jesus lead me the way I should. As Paul says in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”

I feel like I have people fooled sometimes. One time I heard someone say, “If people knew what I really struggled with, they wouldn’t want anything to do with me.” I struggle with this as well.”

We received a card during this season which detailed all the ways this person appreciated members of my family, and he didn’t have a whole lot to say about me. Imagine how uncomfortable I was when I saw him on Sunday.

Also, on Sunday, I had another encounter with someone who said how much they appreciated me. My first thought was to tell him I knew how much they appreciated my husband because of all the work he does with the media team, the implication being there wasn’t anything to appreciate me for.

You might see a common theme with these statements and feelings, :-), but for you to fully understand where I’m coming from, I need to go back to this week of consideration. I’m looking out at a dark and cloudy morning. It’s raining, but the overhang to our entrance is sheltering me. This has not been the best year for us. My husband got sick and spent some time unemployed. We moved, and life got more expensive. These things could and have been discouraging. I have wondered at times if I’ve had the strength to go on.

But, then, I flip these discouraging things on their side and realize how much God has blessed us. We have a place to live. Some people don’t. We have food to eat. Some people don’t. Things have been paid for, sometimes anonymously, but they have been paid for. And, my husband has work again. Some people don’t.

I am blessed beyond measure even with the burdens I carry, and I am so very thankful. This twilight time has been a time of reflection so far as well as a time of consideration. It is showing me how I’ve been blessed as well as what I can do better in 2017.

God wants us to have time for reflection. It is when we are most open to hearing His voice and knowing what really matters to Him. He has helped me realize that I have let others define me for way too long. The only definition that matters to Him is that we are His children and that I am His daughter. And, whatever mistakes I make, I can always come back to Him, and He will receive me with the grace He bestows freely.

This is my prayer for all of you–that as we go into 2017, we are able to lay our burdens at His feet and accept the grace He gives to all of us.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Beginning of Building a Foundation of Faith

Ever since I came back to Christ a few years ago, I’ve regretted the time wasted. I’ve regretted not having a history of family faith to share with my children. My husband and I have been the ones to start the foundation, and it can be really discouraging. When you see people come to events with brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in tow, and it is just you and your husband and children there, it is…painful.

I realized something when I read my devotion earlier and then wrote in my journal. I do have a foundation. It just looks different from other people’s foundations. From the people who poured themselves into my life as a teenager and young adult to the grandmother who prayed for me though I was not the best granddaughter I could have been because of family dynamics to the people who are speaking words of encouragement into my sons’ lives now, I have gifts and a foundation that are worth more than a pile of precious jewels. Being related by blood is not the only way of building a foundation. Sometimes, the best way to build a foundation is by being a part of family by choice.

When my sons and their children and their children’s children look back on my life, it is my true hope that, through my words, both written and spoken,  that I have shown how much I love my Lord and Savior and that they have a foundation of faith to draw upon as they build their own faith.

God’s blessings on you today!

Steady Faith versus Mountain-Top Faith

After reading my devotion,  I had some thoughts on these different kinds of faith. Mountain-top faith is usually a faith we all experience when we first experience Christ as Savior. It can also be experienced on retreats we might go on as well as any other situation that brings us into close contact with God.

But, what about the faith that’s there, day in and day out. The faith when you experience financial reversal. The faith when cancer or any other serious illness is diagnosed.  The faith when the dish washer is broken or the child is out of control. I consider this kind of faith a steady faith. This is not a faith I have mastered. I have to work on it every day. I have to get up out of bed and make the choice to have faith in my Lord and Savior no matter what happens.

This kind of faith is spoken of often in Scripture. One of my favorite examples is in Matthew 17:20 where Jesus is speaking. “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ ” Faith as “small as a mustard seed”. My faith is that small sometimes. But Jesus says that is all that is needed.

Another example would be in 2 Corinthians 5:7.  “For we live by faith, not by sight.”  I am learning more and more about this every day as I walk through the days of my life holding my Savior’s hand.

Ephesians 2:8, one of the verses this blog is based on, is another example. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  Faith, not just for the mountain-top, but for always. I thank God every day for the miracle He has given me–for the grace and for the faith.

And finally, 2 Timothy 4:7, a verse that is said often at funerals. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Our lives here on this earth are not meant to be perfect.  That comes later.  But, the faith we display here may make the difference that is needed in someone else’s life.  I pray I display that faith for someone today.

God’s blessings on you today!