Waiting on the LORD

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Part One of Three

Part 1: A brief look at three women and one man who experienced great loss and the raw emotions they displayed during their pain. In this three-part reflection, we will begin to answer these questions:  Is there purpose in waiting on God?  Does God love me and care about me? Why do my prayers seem to go unanswered?

Waiting for the LORD to act on our behalf or answer our prayers can seem unbearable at times. And I believe even more so in this high tech, instantaneous world we live in.

I’ve been studying the life of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both women were widowed and experienced feelings of abandonment, great loneliness, poverty, and an uncertain future. Any one of these emotions can evoke fear and a sense of hopelessness, let alone the combination of multiple struggles and hardships.

Possibly you can relate to some of these emotions or others that seemingly hit without much warning, or at other times, seem to linger much longer than we’d prefer. I know that I can relate to most.

It became clear to me that Naomi’s deep grief stemmed from not only the death of her husband, but also the death of her two sons. I personally can’t fathom the intense sorrow and pain of these multiple losses. I’ve been told from close friends who have experienced a death of a child, that this is the greatest pain they’ve ever experienced, even more so than the death of a spouse or parent.

Marriage of my mom and dad. Rev. Alvin Mueller, pastor who led my mom to Jesus during her battle with cancer.

My grandmother, grandfather, and me

I do know that the pain of losing my mother at age seven was severe, but as I look back, I realize that my pain paled in comparison with that of my paternal grandfather. He experienced the death of his only child, (my father), the death of his wife, his parents, and my mother, all within seven years.

Me and my grandfather

Being raised by my grandfather following the loss of my mother, I observed what I thought to be peculiar behavior in my grandfather, especially around certain holidays. At the time, I didn’t understand why my loving and doting grandpa would often remain in bed on Christmas mornings. Much later, as an adult, I realized that my  grandfather suffered intensely during Christmas, as he recalled cherished and happier memories of his deceased son and wife. This time of the year was also a trigger for his pain, with the birth and death dates falling during the holiday season. I now look back with great love, compassion, and empathy for my tenderhearted grandfather.

I suppose this is why I can relate to Naomi. Her anguish was intense and the way she responded was real. The following is Naomi’s response to her hometown, as they exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” Her Hebrew name means “pleasant.”

Returning to Bethlehem, after being gone for ten years, and following the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi expresses her heartache to the crowd and to God.

 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Mara in Hebrew means “bitter.”

Some who haven’t experienced the same type of suffering may be quick to judge Naomi for her direct response, and this is understandable. It’s often difficult to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes unless you have worn the same shoes.

For me, it’s easy to relate to Naomi’s raw emotions because of my personal experience and the observation of my grandfather’s response to great loss.

It’s amazing how God helps us to identify with those who have experienced the same or similar losses. I believe He does this so that we can offer hope and encouragement to those who He brings into our lives.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Throughout this fascinating love story filled with a plethora of drama and suspense, we learn a lot about two women who learned to wait upon the LORD… for His divine and providential plans to unfold in their lives. From the account of Scripture, Ruth possessed a humble and faithful spirit of servanthood and obedience. Observing these attractive character traits first in her mother-in-law, Ruth began to emulate Naomi’s genuine faith. Doing so, Ruth placed her faith in the One True God, which ultimately led her to her kinsman redeemer and future husband, Boaz.

Over a relatively short time span, we see how Naomi’s trust in God revitalized as she passes along words of wisdom to Ruth.

Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18). This refers to Ruth waiting to hear back from Boaz, to learn if he could legally purchase Naomi’s land, and in doing so become Ruth’s husband. (Ruth 4 describes this God-ordained transaction.)

Waiting on the LORD for answers to our prayers and for a much-desired miracle can seem like “forever” in some instances. And there are times that we may feel like giving up and even blaming God for not “coming through” for us. If you’re human, you have probably felt like Naomi at one time or another. And this is perfectly okay! God understands our heart, even more than we do. He created us with a full range of emotions, and He is big enough to handle our outbursts resulting from inner strife and pain.

God also knows that waiting on answers to our prayers can be a true test of our faith. In fact, God often uses the time of waiting to strengthen our faith. Here are a few examples from the Bible of those who found themselves in a time of waiting on the LORD.

  • Jesus had to wait until He was 30 years old (Luke 3:23) to fulfill His mission on earth, performing miracles and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Then 3 years later, Jesus completed His mission on the cross, for the redemption of the world. (John 3:16)
  • Jesus then waited 40 days after his resurrection from the grave before He ascended to the Father. (Acts 1:3)
  • The apostles had to wait 10 days after Jesus ascended before they received the promised Holy Spirit in the upper room. (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Moses, at age 80 (Exodus 7:7), had waited in the desert for 40 years (Acts 7:30) before he was sent by God to rescue the children of Israel from Pharoah.
  • The Israelites waited for 430 years before God delivered them from the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:40)
  • Abraham had to wait 25 years for the birth of his son Isaac. (Genesis 21:5)
  • Noah had to wait for 120 years from the time God told him to build the ark until the time of the flood. (Genesis 6:3)
  • And Mary and Martha waited a gut-wrenching two days before Jesus came to heal and ultimately raise their brother Lazarus from the grave. (John 11:5-6)
  • An invalid for 38 years waited by the Pool of Bethseda to be healed. (John 5:1-16) (See link to The Chosen, “The Perfect Opportunity”)

When hardships and new obstacles come our way, do we instantly turn to God for guidance and provision, or do we fret and worry, and try to fix problems with our own means and within our own time schedule? Scripture teaches that our trials teach us to trust in God and strengthens our faith in Him. It also teaches us that our trials produce a deeper intimacy with the LORD (1 Peter 4:1-2). When we accept that hardship is a part of the Christian life, we can lean on God and grow closer to Him.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

When, (not if) we find ourselves in a time of waiting, God promises to be with us and to give us His power and wisdom to navigate through these difficult seasons of life. All God asks of us is to take hold of His outstretched hand of mercy, grace, and unconditional love, and rest assured of His perfect timing. The following passages of Scripture are encouraging to me, and I hope they will be to you as well.

“For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.…” (Romans 8:24-26).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (Romans 8:35)?

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

As we wait upon the LORD and trust that His way is better than our plans and desires, and that He understands our needs better than we do, we will be able to rest in His perfect love and provision. Our heavenly Father sees what lies ahead and knows what He wants to accomplish in every situation of our life. And as we spend time in His Word, we will discover that our trust in God is growing as we discern His ways and plans are for our good and not for harm. (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Chosen TV Series (Season 2, episode 4) “The Perfect Opportunity” – offers a heart-wrenching rendition of someone waiting on the LORD for healing thirty-eight years, and the dance of victory he receives through Christ alone.  (The link below will give you directions for watching The Chosen.)

May be an image of 3 people and text that says 'The CHOSEN SEASON2 WATCH NOW ON THE "CHOSEN" APP ANDROID APP ON Google play Download the App Store'

https://thechosensupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360045859754-How-Do-I-Watch-The-Chosen-On-My-TV-

Watch for the next blog post: Part Two: Reasons for Waiting—A Time of Testing

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“When We Fall Apart” – Songs of Hope

While driving to work I heard this song playing on the radio: “When We Fall Apart.” I don’t recall hearing it before, but the words caught my attention. A portion of the lyrics:

“When We Fall Apart” by Ryan Stevenson, songwriter, musician

You were 43 when you got the news
Life will be changing, nothing we can do
The clock is ticking now
All I can think about
Is knowing I have to move on without you somehow
And I just can’t believe
That you’re the one whose keeping it together
As you hold my hand and say

It’s okay to cry
It’s okay to fall apart
You don’t have to try
To be strong when you are not
And it may take some time to make sense of all your thoughts
But don’t ever fight your tears
‘Cause there is freedom in every drop
Sometimes the only way to heal a broken heart is when we fall apart

Ryan Stevenson penned these words ten years after the death of his mother. His personal testimony:

I remember the last words my mom spoke to me. She said on her death bed in our last conversation, ‘don’t ever think that you need to have it all together. Don’t ever think that you need to fight back your tears because sometimes the only way we see clearly is when we look through our tears. Sometimes our greatest act of strength is really our weakness. It’s in our surrender. And sometimes the only way we heal is when we just let go, crumble and fall apart.’” – Ryan Stevenson

To listen to this song, “When We Fall Apart,” see the  video at: https://youtu.be/xUPgzd3nwMo

Following nine years as a paramedic, Ryan Stevenson signed an exclusive agreement with Gotee Records in 2013 after capturing TobyMac’s attention by co-writing the No. 1 and Grammy-nominated single “Speak Life.” In 2015, Stevenson’s full-length album “Fresh Start,” featured the RIAA Gold-certified single “Eye of the Storm.”

“The Eye of the Storm” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sx8wTnnfSc

“I’m so thankful that songs sneak past us and our boundaries and penetrate to the heart. I just want to encourage everybody to be bold, speak out about your brokenness, speak out about things that are actually going on in your life because that is what makes what we are doing special and sets people free – that is our testimony that truly starts revival.” – Ryan Stevenson

Arriving at work, I began to research more about Ryan Stevenson. Wow! I’m not sure why I hadn’t learned about this Christian music artist before, but I have heard many of his songs on the radio. Some which include: “Eye Of The Storm,” “Speak Life,” Amadeo.” Each one has an amazing story behind it.

TobyMac and Ryan Stevenson

God took a tenderhearted little boy from Bonanza, Oregon, and shaped his yielded spirit to follow Christ…through various means. Childhood and teenage insecurities, seeds of faith planted by his parents, church attendance and his youth pastor, as a caretaker for his mom who was diagnosed with cancer during his sophomore year in high school, a ‘chance’ encounter with a woman struck by lightning while working as a paramedic, the death of his mom, his wife’s miscarriage of twins, and a special unexpected meeting with TobyMac.

Without going into detail of each one, I encourage you to listen to the amazing God-filled testimony of Ryan Stevenson on the Billy Graham Association website: https://billygraham.org/audio/how-ryan-stevenson-found-peace-with-god-in-the-eye-of-the-storm/

Abbreviated testimony of Ryan Stevenson talking about his songs, by CCLI – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQPQcy9nzJk

Each of us will encounter storms in life…death of a loved one, job loss, cancer diagnosis, divorce, infertility, wayward prodigal, financial hardship, and the list goes on. And some of us may face more and even greater hardships than others.

Because we live in a fallen world (Genesis 3), because of sin, we will all face difficult and painful circumstances. However, there is good news for those who have placed their trust in the LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“One glorious future day, the curse of corruption and decay will be lifted for all eternity: “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:19–21, NLT; see also Revelation 22:3).” (To read more see: Got Questions, What Does The Bible Say About Corruption? https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-corruption.html  

During our women’s Bible study, our teacher wrote on a dry erase board all the bad things we could think of. It was quite a list! But then she added: Starvation, the Rwanda genocide (where Hutu extremists murdered at least 800,000 Tutsis over the course of 100 days), mass shootings where gunmen shoot and kill children, youth, and adults. Then she said, “And, yes, God is still the comfort for ALL those who mourn.” Our feelings may tell us otherwise, especially in the moment of great despair. Just like our Bible study teacher tearfully recalled, “There was a time when I didn’t believe God could comfort me, when my daughter passed away (from a very rare illness caused by a waterborne amoeba that attacks the brain).” She went on to say, “But God understood my pain, and He was and is faithful to be my comforter.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

I pray that these testimonies and songs of hope will encourage you today. And for those who are going through a difficult journey, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

With the love of Jesus,

Charmé

“Wildest Dreams” Album

Ryan Stevenson –  https://www.ryanstevensonmusic.com/

“Eye of the Storm” book

 

Ryan Stevenson and his family

 

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Fleas and Lice a Blessing? Overcoming Hate Through Christ

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom – Holocaust Concentration Camp Survivor,  Humble Heroine, Vessel of Forgiveness

Cornelia Arnolda Johanna “Corrie” ten Boom was born April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, near Haarlem. Carrie’s grandfather, William ten Boom, opened a watchmaker’s shop in Haarlem 1837, and led prayer services to pray specifically for Jewish people who were being discriminated against in Europe. William passed this faith tradition onto his son, Casper ten Boom, Corrie’s father, who inherited the watchmaker shop.

Mr. Casper ten Boom

Ten boom Family

 

 

 

Ten boom Legacy of Faith in Christ

Mrs. Cornelia ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom House — Kevin & AmandaThe ten Boom family (Casper and Cornelia ten Boom, Corrie, her brother Willem, and two sisters, Nollie and Betsie) lived on the second floor, above the watchmaker shop. Mrs. ten Boom nurtured her children’s faith, teaching them to love and obey Christ. Mother ten Boom made a ‘blessing box,’ instructing her children and their friends to drop coins into the box to help the poor and missionaries. And as her children matured, she instructed them how to lead Bible studies for their neighbors. Corrie’s mother died in 1921. Throughout the years (1920s – 1930s), the ten Booms cared for many refugee children and orphans.

World War II

On September 1, 1939, World War II began. And in less than two years, on May 10, 1940, the German army invaded the Netherlands and within five days of fighting, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands.

Corrie, who was 48 at the time, helped her family turn their home into a safe haven (Hiding Place) for people trying to escape Nazi tyranny. Mr. ten Boom and his daughters, Betsie and Corrie, risked their lives hiding Jews and others in their home for a few years. The ten Boom family helped save the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and other refugees.

Large wall clocks camouflaged a false wall that opened up to a secret hiding place. The secret room was only about two feet deep by eight feet long, but could hold six or seven people. The hideout was very successful, but on February 28, 1944, a traitor led the German police to the ‘hiding place’ and thirty people, including several of the ten Boom family were arrested.

Betsie and Corrie

Corrie, her father, and her sister, Betsie, were taken to Scheveningen Prison, where Corrie’s dad died ten days later.

Ten months later, Corrie and Betsi were shuttled to Ravensbruck concentration camp near Berlin, the largest camp for women in German-controlled regions. Thousands of women were executed there.

The living conditions were harsh, with little food and severe discipline. Betsie and Corrie led secret prayer services in their barracks, using a smuggled Bible.                                                                    The following story is one of my favorite ‘faith over fear’ narratives. 

Ravensbruck Concentration Camp Women’s Barracks

Fleas and Lice a Blessing?

When Corrie and Betsie entered the filthy flea invested Ravensbruck prison and they were starving, they cried out to the Lord to help them.

While laying on a bunk with several other women, Betsi turned to Corrie and shared these words, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Corrie asked, “What on earth can we give thanks for?” Betsie said, “We are together in prison and we have a Bible that wasn’t confiscated.”

Then, Betsie prayed, “And thank you, Lord, for the fleas.” Corrie told her sister that she could never give thanks for fleas, but Betsie reminded her that it is God’s will to give thanks in all circumstances.

Betsie Ten Boom and the Key to Making a Lasting Impression

Betsie ten Boom

While lying on their flea-and lice-infested beds, they gave thanks for the fleas. After several weeks passed, they noticed that the soldiers rarely came into their barracks. Initially, Betsie and Corrie did not know why, but it allowed them time to share the love of Jesus with other women. One day, Betsie asked a supervisor to come to the barracks for assistance. Betsie told Corrie, “‘The supervisor wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the other guards. And you know why?’ Betsie boasted of their unusual blessing: ‘Because of the fleas!’ That’s what the supervisor said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

On December 16, 1944, Betsie died at Ravensbruck of starvation and lack of medical care. Corrie recalled Betsie’s last words:

“… (we) must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

Two weeks after Betsie’s death, Corrie was ‘mysteriously’ released from the prison due to a “clerical error.” Corrie always referred to this as a miracle. Shortly after her release, all of the other women in her age group at Ravensbruck were executed. 

Remembering her sister’s last words to go and tell, “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still,” Corrie spent the rest of her life sharing their story and the gospel of Christ and his forgiveness around the world. During one of her speaking engagements, she recognized one of the guards who had cruelly mistreated her, Betsi, and the other prisoners.

Corrie Retells Meeting Her Enemy

corrie ten boom - The Tiny TwigIt was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.

The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

My Memes of Corrie ten Boom's Quotes » The Faithful WandererNow he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

The Word For The Day • For if you forgive other people when they sin... |  Forgiveness quotes, Corrie ten boom quotes, WordsAnd I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.

“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

Louie's Lair: LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND BLESSINGIn our deepest pain and suffering, God reaches out to us with His love and compassion. How can I do less, to those who Jesus died for on Calvary. The only true enemy we have is satan. As Jesus died on the cross, His last words stick in my mind, every time I’m tempted to withhold forgiveness to someone who has hurt me. “Father, forgive them…” (Corrie ten Boom)

Inspired by Betsie’s example of selfless love and forgiveness amid extreme cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a post-war home for other camp survivors trying to recover from the horrors they had escaped. She went on to travel around the world to 64 countries as a missionary, preaching God’s forgiveness and the need for reconciliation.

Jay Hicks on Twitter | Inspirational words, Corrie ten boom quotes, Faith  quotesCorrie ten Boom died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. She was buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California.

 

 

You will find these stories and many other inspiring incidents from the life of Corrie ten Boom in her own book, The Hiding Place, released in 1971. And later, the book made into a film in 1975 by World Wide Pictures, Billy Graham Association. https://www.christianbook.com/the-hiding-place-corrie-ten-boom/9780553256697/pd/56696?event=ESRCG

Other Favorite Resources:

Tramp For The LORD, https://www.christianbook.com/tramp-story-begins-where-hiding-place/corrie-ten-boom/9780875089867/pd/089867?event=AAI

Torchlighters DVD, The Corrie ten Boom Story: https://www.christianbook.com/torchlighters-series-corrie-ten-boom-story/pd/015385 and for other Torchlighter resources for kids: https://torchlighters.org/

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Grateful During Suffering?

“A grateful spirit is what enables people to view and respond to the most painful circumstances in life with thanksgiving. As one person observed, ‘Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.’”

I borrowed this quote from Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth, who has touched the lives of millions through Revive Our Heart, True Woman movement, and through her books. (Please see Nancy’s bio at the end of this post).  

I don’t know about you, but having a grateful attitude doesn’t always come easy, especially when facing difficulties. Sure, I’m thankful when all is well and life is free from any struggles and heartache, but these times seem to be few and far between, at least for me. Oh, see there! —‘at least for me.’ I believe I need an attitude adjustment!

I recently ‘stumbled’ across a video by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth titled, Nancy Shares Her Gratitude Wall, and her article, The Attitude of Gratitude. To be honest, I didn’t just stumble across these, but rather, I located them online after learning of Nancy’s husband’s cancer diagnosis.

A brief background:

Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth

Nancy surrendered to God’s will early in her adult life, to serve the LORD as a single woman. Then, in her mid-fifties, God brought “the unexpected” into Nancy’s life. Robert Wolgemuth, a friend, whom after the loss of his first wife, Bobbi, began corresponding with Nancy. At first, Nancy hesitated to reciprocate, but as she sought God’s guidance and the counsel of close friends, Nancy and Robert began a courtship, which led to their marriage, November 14, 2015. This is a grace-filled story in its own: The Unexpected Grace: Nancy and Robert’s Story: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/videos/unexpected-grace-nancy-and-roberts-story/

Nancy continues to surrender to God’s will in her life and marriage. In March 2020, Robert was diagnosed with melanoma, and in August 2020 Robert received a second cancer diagnosis of B Cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

There are times in life when we are faced with a vitally important question. Will I choose to trust in God and His providence for my life, or will I falter and succumb to overwhelming fear and disillusionment, leading to despair and hopelessness? Nancy and Robert are choosing to trust in the faithfulness of God, as He writes their life stories. (See link below to the co-authored book by Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.)

I hope that you will find encouragement through Nancy’s Gratitude Wall. I know I did. I’m known as the Post-it queen in our family (I use post-its everywhere…on my car dashboard, mirrors, refrigerator, and at work), so I totally love this idea. And most recently, our eight-year-old granddaughter, Emeree Faith, started leaving post-its for me and her Pappy.

As you watch the Gratitude Wall video,* I hope that you will find the blessing God desires for you, whether in plenty or want.  https://www.reviveourhearts.com/videos/nancy-shares-her-gratitude-wall/

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Additional Thoughts (from Charmé)

While reading through the Bible this year, I found myself in the story of the ‘grumbling Israelites’ during their forty-year wandering in the wilderness. They always seemed to be grumbling about something! Does this sound in any way familiar, possibly in today’s culture, in your life and mine?

I chuckle embarrassingly under my breath when I think of how often I grumble about the smallest inconveniences in life, like having to wait in line at the grocery store because I’ve run out of creamer for my coffee. I can’t imagine going to bed hungry or not having any shoes to wear like so many in our world. Yet, this is how the Israelites acted when they ‘forgot’ how God delivered them from the tyranny of Egypt’s Pharoah. Did they not remember the ten plagues, and how God miraculously pushed back the waters of the Red Sea until all the Israelites escaped to dry land, and then how God instructed Moses to wave his staff, releasing the waters, and swallowing up the Egyptians?

For forty years the Israelites complained about not having ‘enough’…enough water and food, the right menu, the right leader, and so on. Yet, in God’s grace and mercy, He provided for all their needs. In Exodus 16:4-5 the Bible says God provided manna (bread) from heaven daily. Each day they collected enough for that day, but if they collected more, it rotted by the next morning! God wanted to teach His people to trust Him to provide for them. God also provided quail for the people so they would have meat to eat and later he provided water to drink (Exodus17:5-6). What’s amazing to me, is that even when the Israelites grumbled, God still chose to provide for their needs. Such a loving and compassionate Father!

The Israelites’ complaints didn’t originate in their surroundings or their circumstances, but rather, in their hearts. Their ungrateful spirits really were a result of spiritual amnesia. They neglected to recall and remember God’s gracious deliverance from bondage.

During Holy week, leading up to Easter, the celebration of our resurrected Savior, I encourage ‘us’ to take time to thank God for His daily provisions, and most importantly, the provision of His Son, Jesus Christ, who became our ‘substitutionary atonement.’ This refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:23). And that the penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, I encourage you to NOT wait another day. Please click on the above tab in the header of this blog, Private: Receive Jesus.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth Bio:

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them FreeSeeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband) https://www.reviveourhearts.com/books/you-can-trust-god/. Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

The Attitude of Gratitude* article, by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth, may be located through the Gratitude Wall Video, and here: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/articles/the-attitude-of-gratitude/

  • Nancy Shares Her Gratitude Wall video and The Attitude of Gratitude article is used by permission.
  • Copyright Revive Our Hearts. by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Used with permission. www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

Closing Thoughts

Now don’t get me wrong, I realize there are times that the severity of pain and suffering warrant a definite, “Help me God, I can’t do this” or “I don’t understand why!” God understands our human frailty and limitations apart from His mighty hand and outstretched arms. God is desiring this type of response, so that He can prove Himself faithful in our lives, for ‘His love endures forever.’

I’ve included Psalm 136 at the end of the blog, to read, meditate on, and to make it your own, as you offer praise and thanksgiving to our loving Heavenly Father who cares for you.

Let this act of remembering awaken in you joy in God and a deep sense of gratitude that God loves you, knows you, and keeps you.

Psalm 136 (NIV)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

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God Was Purposeful in Our Pain

Personal Testimony of Natalie Faith Johnson

natalie-pic-1Growing up, I sang many songs that assured me it was “so sweet to trust in Jesus” and “God can make a way when there seems to be no way.” My favorite movie as a kid was Sister Act 2 (don’t judge!) and I would sing along with Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount as they sang “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” I sounded exactly like them!

The lyrics of all these songs are so beautiful and TRUE…but sometimes they are hard to sing. What if you’re not happy and things don’t feel so sweet? What if you don’t feel free but instead are trapped in a life you never saw for yourself? What if you know God is watching but you don’t feel Him actively working?

Deciding to be a Christian is life changing. However, as you the reader knows, it doesn’t spare you from all the junk that can happen. I love the verse:

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

The word rampart means “a protective barrier.” God is faithful and even though life can throw some pretty crazy stuff our way, we are sheltered under His wings and can make it through any storm!

I’m about to tell you a story about becoming a mother that has the best ending. Just you wait! However, I do want to preface the story by saying that for years I thought over and over again that I was in the lowest valley I’d ever walk through…but then it would get lower. I thought circumstances would get better but then they got worse. Has that ever happened to you? I’ve heard ‘bad things come in threes’ but sometimes it seems like bad things come by the dozen!

Martin Luther once said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” His quote was pertaining to temptation and our thought life. There will always be storms that come, dark valleys we walk through, and squawking birds over our heads. We were never promised that this world would be fun or easy. However, we can find shelter within our Refuge (the Lord!), we can walk beside Him through the valley (He promises that!), and we can take every thought captive in Jesus’ name!

When I was younger my parents got divorced. It was painful, messy, and didn’t end well. My dad, who was a pastor and charismatic man lived a double life by having multiple affairs, abusive behavior, and strong mental health issues. My mom wrote a book about her healing process called “Secrets in the Sanctuary*.” Their marriage never recovered, and in fact, my dad went on to have even stronger issues over the years and he sadly passed away when I was 19 years old.

What’s bizarre, is that growing up I knew very little of my dad’s unhealthy behavior. My dad was extremely intentional when he saw my sister and me. He took us on the best vacations, had thought provoking conversations, and challenged us to be strong in our faith. I can look back on my parents’ divorce and grieve over the things that were destroyed and at the same time be thankful for the years I had with my dad and the good seeds he planted in my life. We don’t have to be 100% happy with how things turn out. We can have joy and pain at the same time. Let me repeat that…joy and pain can coexist at the same time. It’s what makes us strong and makes us long for Heaven.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I really hoped that growing through my dad’s death and the divorce of my parents would be my full testimony. I wish hard times were like lightening striking once, but like we all know, we need God every hour to help us through this life!

natalie in hospitalLike I said earlier, sometimes bad things come by the dozen. My parents’ marriage began to turn toward divorce when I was 4 years old. In the thick of their struggles, I was having some health issues, and through multiple doctors’ visits, led to the unexpected. I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in my pelvis. It was wrapped around my organs and blocked my body from functioning like it should. Thankfully, through two years of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and a great team of doctors, I was healed at 6 years old from cancer!  My mom, sister, and I started a new life with the help of our family, church, and the Lord’s provision.

The doctors warned us that there would be limits of how my body would function as I grew up, but every single limit they gave was surpassed and overcome!

God was faithful over the years and eventually I met and married Adam when I was 20. We started a fun life together and moved to Spring Hill, KS in 2009.

Confident of what the Lord had done in my body, I became pregnant at 24, and I knew this was another victory of His healing touch. Adam and I were so excited to share with everyone about our baby! I was getting ready to graduate dental hygiene school and Adam was established in his job as a Worship and Creative Arts Pastor. We were thrilled to start the next chapter of our lives.

Unfortunately, I miscarried our first baby at 9 weeks and a year later I miscarried another baby at 14 weeks. Both pregnancies started off great but because of the radiation treatment to my pelvis during my childhood cancer, my body would not stretch enough to make room for a growing baby. We would have tried to keep getting pregnant but both miscarriages revealed that my body was unable to clot blood normally and I would be hospitalized for days to stop the bleeding. I was told the next pregnancy would end in a hysterectomy.

I never kept any of our journey to be parents or the grief that I felt a secret. My poor mother, sister, and best friends heard it all! One day, Katie, my closest friend, graciously offered to try surrogacy, since carrying the baby was our main battle. With prayer and research, we decided to go for it!

“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

The first surrogacy attempt failed, and we had depleted all our money. With encouragement from our friends and family, surrogacy fundraisers were held, giving us another opportunity to try again. By this time everyone in our circle and Katie’s knew about our journey. It failed again.

I started going to counseling. The idea of carrying a child myself was gone, and now the idea of having a biological child was also gone. My heart was not ready for any other option. Grief was a daily friend.

But God can make a way when there seems to be no way. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. A family at our church that we didn’t really know heard our story and invited us to a birthday party they were having for one-year-old twins, a brother and sister. The twins had come into their lives through foster care. Our new friends hoped we could be the twins’ future parents.

In one fell swoop, these babies wiped out every stigma I had toward fostering. It was easy to connect with them. God was changing my heart on how I could be a mom.

We decided to get our foster care license and after taking classes the twins became a part of our lives. But then several months later a family member stepped in to be their guardian and they left our home.

I couldn’t take anymore loss. The idea of never mothering, of never feeling this way again was sounding like the best idea…but God had a different idea in mind.

Aren’t you thankful that God is always working behind the scenes and knows the desires of our hearts?

  • In 2013, when I miscarried my first baby, Jaedyn Faith Johnson was born.
  • In 2014, when I miscarried my second baby, Neila Kate Johnson was born.
  • Because of our surrogacy fundraising event, a couple who had attended mentioned our names when a relative of theirs was looking for adoptive parents for Jaedyn and Neila.
  • Katie, our dear friend, and surrogate was the connecting person to that couple and called to ask if we’d be willing to meet the girls.
  • We met our daughters on Adam’s 31st birthday. God was about to show us the most incredible gifts he had ever made.
  • Years before we met the girls, we got our foster care license. We needed this license to be candidates to adopt them.
  • There were 12 couples who wanted to adopt the girls. We were the only ones out of state and yet we were picked as one of the final two couples.
  • When the board (Best Interest Staffing) met and interviewed us and the other couple, the majority of the board was going to vote for the older couple with a child. One woman on the board, however, swayed the whole vote toward us when she said that when we spoke, she could feel God’s presence and assurance that we were supposed to be the girls’ parents.

judge And in December of 2018, we became the overjoyed, emotional, grateful parents of two of the coolest girls we have ever known. Every detail of who they are, from their personalities, their interests, and even their eye color meshes with our family as a beautiful reminder that God was working. God was purposeful in our pain and nothing was wasted. He redeems and restores what we think is beyond his control. God is faithful!

Johnson family

The Johnson Family. Neila, Natalie, Adam, Jaedyn

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113:9).

Natalie and Mom*Book written by Natalie’s mom, Julie E. Davenport, “Secrets in the Sanctuary” – https://julieedavenport.com/

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God is Faithful in All He Does

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things” (Isaiah 25:1).

My personal testimony from 2020:

Looking back over 2020, my one word.

Surrender…to God’s healing in my life, trusting His methods, doctors, medicine, physical therapy; and accepting things I couldn’t change…including COVID-19. I praise God for bringing peace to my heart and mind.

I started the year (February 2020) with extreme pain in my left shoulder. After visits to doctors and trying several medications, the pain continued to severely affect my sleep and daily routine. At the same time, my blood pressure began rising to stroke level. After consulting with my physicians, Jeff and our daughter Jennifer took me to the ER, where they admitted me and ran tests for two days.

Prior to my cardiac stress test, Jennifer asked the technician if she could pray for me before they started. I immediately felt peace and assurance that God was with me. After running all the tests, they said everything looked good, but they still couldn’t regulate my blood pressure. Finally, my cardiologist was able to stabilize my blood pressure with two new medications.

After being released from the hospital I saw an orthopedic doctor for my shoulder, which I couldn’t move without severe pain. He quickly diagnosed me with Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder) and ordered physical therapy. I was skeptical, but at this point would try anything. God knew exactly what He was doing!

After a few sessions with my physical therapist, Mike, I started to see some results. Mike not only treated me for frozen shoulder, but he also attended to my emotional and spiritual needs. He recited Scripture over me, prayed, and encouraged me. At the end of my treatment Mike said he felt that it was amazing that my recovery went so well, and then he told me about the One Word* book ministry.

After listening to his passion for God during my eight weeks of therapy, I decided to remember the One Word ministry. I also shared with Mike about our Family Legacy Day* and he said that he would like to start doing this with his wife and two daughters.

Almost a year later, I had kind of forgotten about the One Word ministry until just prior to the new year, January 2021. God kept impressing upon me the word “faithful.” Then I kept seeing the word faith and faithful show up in my daily devotions and Bible reading. I also re-read my prayer journal which testified to God’s faithfulness over the years (in my life and life of our family). So many answers to prayer over twenty years of journaling.

2 Timothy 2:13 Faithful God — Tell the Lord Thank You

Faithful! Yes, God has always been faithful to me and to His Word and promises. I desire to be faithful to God because He’s been so faithful to me. Even when I’ve been unfaithful, God has showered me with His love, mercy, and grace.

Grandpa, Me, & my Mom

As a child, God was faithful to care for me as an orphan (loss of both parents by age seven). God placed me in the home of my loving grandparents. Faithful to heal me from so many illnesses (two life-threatening) over all these years. Faithful to bring me into a personal relationship with Jesus as a young wife and mother, faithful to watch over our three children (protecting their lives, sparing them from serious illnesses and accidents, etc.) And faithful to bless me with six wonderful grandchildren.

I’d like to clarify that God does not always show His faithfulness to me by answering my prayers in the exact way or timing that I’d like. Yes, God does choose to intervene in this way at times and I’m forever grateful. There are other times, however, when through His divine sovereignty, God chooses not to remove or exclude hardships from my life. Instead, He has used these difficult times in my life to help me learn to trust in Him and strengthen my faith. I’ve come to relish and recognize God’s faithfulness through His loving and caring hand of comfort, inner peace, and unconditional love in the midst of suffering and pain. His ways are greater and higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9), and I am thankful God knows what’s best for me.

This Year: Faithful – My One Word

Scripture: Psalm 145

My One Verse: Psalm 145:13

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.”

God is teaching me the importance of living a life of faithfulness to Him and His Word. So, I’m excited about spending this year meditating, contemplating, and living out the word “faithful.” 1). God’s Faithfulness And 2). God equipping me to be faithful to Him.

This blog site, Holding His Hand, is dedicated to my mother, Audrey, who learned to trust in Jesus as her personal Savior during her battle with cancer.

On occasion, God will direct my attention to others who have personal testimonies of God’s faithfulness in their lives. And from time to time I will post their stories on this blog site. Please watch for upcoming testimonies.

Upcoming Testimony

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is natalie-pic.jpg
Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson, a worship pastor’s wife, and mother of two precious daughters will share how God’s faithfulness walked her through the most dark and painful days in her life. God’s hand of grace has lovingly held Natalie close throughout her life. Her story will move you from tears to joy as she bravely and openly details living through childhood cancer, the divorce of her parents, and an infertility journey that included miscarriage, surrogacy with a close friend, and foster care. If you’ve ever been sorely broken in life, you won’t want to miss reading Natalie’s testimony of God’s amazing faithfulness. It will encourage you to seek God during heartache and suffering because God’s promises are true. He promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), give us His strength when we are weak (Isaiah 41:10), and He promises to carry our burdens (Matthew 11:28-30).

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Happy New Year? (A Rewrite from 2018)

Priority. This word will define the person you are and who you desire to become. It will also determine what kind of year you will have.

Many of us set goals for the new year. Or what some would call, resolutions. I suppose I’m more of a goal-setter. One of the gifts God gave me is being an organizer, or planner. But unless God oversees this gift it can become more of a burden rather than a blessing, to myself and often to others.

Distinguishing between the two, a blessing or a burden, depends upon priority. The word priority may seem like such a simple word, but it can become extremely complex as a person wrestles with its meaning. In fact, the personal definition truly defines the person we are or who we desire to become.

Brother-Lawrence-in-KitchenNicholas Herman (1611-1691), better known as Brother Lawrence, found this to be true following his conversion to Christ at the age of eighteen while serving in the military. (To read more about Brother Lawrence, his conversion and life, go to: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence Serving in menial roles, mostly in a hospital kitchen, Brother Lawrence became known for his quite remarkable and serene faith, and his simple but dynamic experience of “the presence of God*.” Thousands of lay persons and clergy desired to know the secret to his life filled with unquenchable joy, peace, love, and humility.

Happy New Year?

Brother Lawrence gave the same answers to all who sought after these inner virtues. “Stop putting your trust in human rules, devotional exercises, and acts of penance. Instead, exercise a living, obedient faith in God. Live as though he were beside you and with you all the time—as indeed he is. Seek to do what he wants, as and when he commands it, and make his command your joy and chief pleasure. The person who lives like that will be fully human, completely Christian, and genuinely happy.”

More about Brother Lawrence a little later.

As I approach the year 2018 (now 2021), I am particularly aware of a personal need to prioritize my life (once again). For me, this is an ongoing journey, of which I suppose is true for most of us. Being fully human is the easy part. Ha! It’s the other two I seem to struggle with–being completely Christian and genuinely happy. Just being honest here.

Oh, did I mention that I’m a list keeper? Sometimes a gift and other times a burden.

This new year’s list includes (the left side from 2018, the right side this year, 2021): After reflecting on the 2018 list, I decided to be more specific in my goals for 2021 and to be more intentional in my spiritual life.

  • Eating healthy and exercising regularly          Same
  • Plan/have annual Family Legacy Day             Same
  • Pre-planning funeral arrangements, etc.        Order grave marker
  • Ministry and Missions                                        Lead a discipleship group
  • Medical and dental appointments                    Take care of physical body
  • Retirement (future and ongoing…)                   Trust in the LORD for future
  • Vacation and family outings                              Same, according to God’s will
  • And so much more!                                             Faith to fulfill God’s purpose*

Of course, most if not all these things are important, but they’re not really going to ensure that I have a happy new year, even if I am able to put a checkmark next to each one. (Only the genuine abiding daily presence of God in my life will ensure my true happiness.)

So many “things” and people vie for our time, and as Solomon so eloquently penned, “there’s a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

The modern world seems to throw everything at us, so to prevent us from living a spiritual life, one that pleases the LORD. Think about all the high-tech machinery replacing hands, computers replacing minds, psychotherapy replacing prayer. And while these things are not bad in themselves, taken together along with the accelerated advances in science, the turbulent rhythm of life, and the external tensions of world events (recently in 2019/2020 with the Coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest which is sadly continuing in 2021), they tend to produce a society that has little time for personal relationships and even less time for God.

How then, can one “practice the presence of God?” A silhouette of a young boy praying against a brilliant sunset sky.

The basic spiritual disciplines remain our core: prayer and Bible study. But how must we compete with a world full of noise? The concept of silence is foreign to much of this generation, with cell phones, Facebook/Instagram/TikTok, tablets, movies on watches, and so on. Then adding to the social media, we find ourselves, as Solomon did, “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1). Many families find themselves running from one activity to the next, and purchasing things that will only ensure longer work hours or require a second job. And to be quite honest, it’s not only our young families who have fallen prey to “this world’s system,” many older adults are chasing after the wind as well. Thousands of dollars are spent on finer lifestyles, while yearning for retirement days spent listening to the ocean waves rather than the voice of our Creator. Again, there’s nothing wrong in planning for retirement or caring for our personal well-being, but if these things take on a higher priority than God’s design and purpose, then we may need to re-evaluate our goals and or resolutions for the new year. Think about (no, pray about) how you might prioritize your life this year in ways that will help to ensure a happy new year according to the sweet pleasure of our LORD and Savior.

In closing…

From a letter written by Brother Lawrence:

“We can, in fact, learn a great deal about the love of God from the way we treat our friends (and family). For example, it would be very discourteous to invite a friend to our home and then leave him to sit alone in a corner while we go ahead with our own activities, ignoring him completely. Yet that is what we do with God. We have invited him, in his Son, to enter our hearts and live there—but often we neglect him, almost forgetting that he is there at all, so distracted are we by other things and other people.

The Christian’s biggest, most important job on earth is to live and die with the LORD. He can hardly do that if the slightest diversion drives all thoughts of God out of his mind. It is all a question of priorities, really.

Yours in the LORD,

Laurie (Brother Lawrence)

Two final thoughts recorded from Brother Lawrence’s conversion experience:

Trees“Suddenly I saw what ‘providence’ is all about—it’s simply believing that God has the power and the will to do all things well for us, if we will only submit to his loving, patient rule. And that nothing we can do—beyond trusting him—will speed up his will or make things happen that he isn’t ready to do in us.”

“At that moment, sitting there on the grass, my acts of worship, my attempts at discipline—all the effort I had put into trying to please God—were swallowed up in an enormous sense of love for him. The One who patiently led the trees and the plants through their seasons would also lead me, if I would only submit to his loving and powerful hand.”

The Practice of the Presence of God—the title given to the collection of “conversations” and letters” by Brother Lawrence.

New Year Faith Challenge:

Prayerfully evaluate your life. Look over the past year and take an honest inventory on how you spent the time God blessed you with. After a time of personal reflection, determine to spend more time this year in the presence of God, at home, school, work, on vacation, and definitely “in the kitchen.” If you’re not intentional in prioritizing your life according to living in the presence of God, you will find yourself simply “chasing after the wind.” And think about it, no one ever catches the wind.

Have a very blessed New Year, trusting in God. My personal goal for life.

*”Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:13)

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“Come on! You can do this!” 2017 World Series Game #2

I love watching baseball, especially when it comes to the World Series.

Ozzy 2
Ozzy Smith, St. Louis Cardinals, 1982-1996

As a young girl, my grandparents took me to watch the Decatur Commodores, a professional minor league baseball team that played in my home town, Decatur, Illinois. These were great memories, eating all the popcorn and snow cones I wanted, cheering for the hometown team, keeping an occasional foul ball; and an endearing memory of watching my grandpa pencil in all the plays on his scorecard. And on occasion, we drove about 2 hours to watch the St. Louis Cardinals. Another fond memory is recalling my grandfather listening to all the Cardinal games on his little transistor radio.

Fast forward just a “few” years. I found myself feeling the same adrenaline-fueled emotions watching game 2 of the world series last night.

Verlander pic
Justin Verlander

Being down 3 to 1 in the 6th inning, the Astros tied the Dodgers in the ninth. The Astro’s comeback had just begun. Scoring 2 runs in the top of the 10th, I’m sure the Astros thought perhaps the game was theirs to keep. But no, the Dodgers scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th to tie it up. At this point in the game I really thought the Dodgers would take it to the bank, as I think many of the Astros had the same gut feeling. That is, until their starting pitcher, Justin Verlander rallied his team onto victory. “Let’s go, let’s go, we can keep scoring runs. We can do this!” Sure enough, the Astros scored 2 runs in the top of the 11th and won 7-6.

Waking up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Astro’s comeback and how possibly the stirring words of Verlander inspired his team on to victory.

During our lives, there are times when we feel like we’re losing the game and are down to our last out. Possibly an illness has zapped our energy, or someone we love deeply has thrown us a curve by walking out. In one form or fashion, we’ve all been there, right? And what often makes the difference in whether we’re ready to throw in the towel or not, is having someone who is willing to step in and “yell” at us, “Come on! You can do this!” Well, maybe not yell…although at times, this is exactly what we need. An in your face reminder, that God is in control, He loves you, and you can be victorious with His love, grace, and power in your life.

I’ve recently been praying for several children who are battling some form of cancer. It breaks my heart to think of the agony and pain they are going through as they fight this horrible disease, and likewise, their loving parents and family. While these life-threatening battles have seemed insurmountable, I have observed how the power of God infuses hope into the lives of these children and their families, through the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, and their communities.

The scripture that comes to my mind is from Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Closing thought:

Charlie pic
Charlie Cox

Think about how you can be an encourager to someone in your life. Maybe it’s a neighbor who is going through a difficult time, or it could be a family member who simply needs a hug around the neck. (One of our greatest encouragers who gave the tightest and most sincere hugs went home to receive his reward from our Heavenly Father three years ago. His name is Charlie Cox.) Possibly someone will remember you after you have breathed your last, as someone who cared enough to “yell” into your life, “Come on! You can do this!”

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SO, WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN YOUR LIFE?

At the Home of Martha and Mary – Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We are all given the same amount of time each day to live it in any way we choose (for the most part).

Twenty-four hours to determine how we will spend our time. Mmmm….

Approaching the age of becoming a senior, the purpose of my life is taking on greater urgency.

Old Age / Senior Adult (Definition)

The last period of human life, now often considered to be the years after 65. Whew! A little ways to go.

In most cases, dogs can be considered senior between five and ten years old. Jeff and I recently watched the movie, A Dog’s Purpose,* a family-friendly movie with some human-life applications. Bailey is reincarnated several times, becoming a different breed each time, and finds himself in various homes. He keeps asking the question, “What is my purpose?” “Is it eating, playing, sleeping, working as a police canine?” At the end of the movie, Bailey returns to one of his original owners, the one who loves Bailey simply for being his companion.

So, what’s important in your life?

For me, at this stage in life, spending quality and quantity time with family and friends, and everyone else God brings into my life is very important.

I never considered myself an extravert because I enjoy my “personal space.” Space to simply relax, read, work in my yard, meditate on God’s word, etc. I don’t typically like large gatherings as much as I do just hanging out with a few people who want to simply hang out with me…just to be in the moment, sharing life together.

Martha often gets a bad rap because Jesus seems to reprimand her for her busyness. I don’t think Jesus thought any more of Mary than he did Martha, but simply made the distinction of what is “better.” Taking care of the necessities of life is important, but taking care of relationships is better.

I don’t let anything keep me from sitting at the feet of Jesus during my morning prayer and Bible study. Spending time with Jesus is my highest priority. It took a few years and a few more reprimands from the LORD before I realized what a joy it is to simply live in the moment with my God and Savior.

The Scripture clearly shows us where Martha was amiss. She was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

What are the distractions in your life, that keep you from “the better?”

Earnestly evaluate your daily/weekly activities. How are you spending the gift of time God is entrusting to you? As you reflect upon these, you will no doubt be able to determine what’s important in your life.

Holding God’s hand most often leads to holding the hands and hearts of family and friends.

*For movie review of A Dog’s Purpose, go to Focus on the Family’s Plugged-In: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/a-dogs-purpose

 

 

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When all the world is loud, God whispers.

dark cave“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” 1 Kings 19:12.

Listen…so you may hear His loving and gentle voice.

For me, His voice whispered through a Bear Hugger.

Nearly nine years ago, at age 51, I experienced severe shortness of breath. Undiagnosed for a few months, I became increasingly more anxious and frightened with reoccurring incidents. Two that stand out to me:

Playing outdoors with our young granddaughter (4), I found myself gasping for breath, while wondering if I would even live through the moment, or get to see my granddaughter grow up. (She’s now 13.)

On another occasion, I found myself clinging to a sales clerk’s counter at Walmart. She probably should have called for an ambulance. Well, maybe not, since God’s timing is always perfect.

A few weeks later, I was finally admitted into the hospital with a suspected coronary artery blockage. My family surrounded me while I awaited my turn for a heart catheterization. I remember my biggest worry was not so much the impending procedure, since I desperately wanted relief from the inability to breath, but of being cold. I’m always cold!

After my family prayed with me, the nurses wheeled me into the surgical room. It’s there, I knew I was being cared for, not just by the medical staff, but by God.

After being transferred onto the surgical bed, I immediately experienced being embraced by a comfy warm apparatus. It was a large inflatable blanket-type device which blew warm air onto my cold body. Wow! I couldn’t believe my simple fear of being cold was eliminated in an instant. The nurses later told me the technical name of the device: Bair Hugger, or as I now affectionately refer to it as Bear Hugger.

I ended up having a stent inserted into my artery, which was nearly 100% blocked. And nine months later, a second stent was placed in the same artery. I think of it as God giving me double protection.

God held my hand during some serious health issues over the years and it gives me great joy to share this one with my blogger friends.

Holding His Hand:

I believe we will always experience God during fearful moments of life, if we will simply listen and watch for His unfailing presence in times of darkness. Recently, I was trapped by myself in an elevator during a storm. It was pitch dark! I couldn’t even see my hand in front of me. I began to panic, thinking I would be stuck for hours…and possibly plunge to the basement floor. Then, within minutes, the doors opened and I was free to escape the darkness. God often allows us to experience darkness in our lives (illness, a job loss, sin, etc.) so that we will experience His undeniable presence. A presence of peace, calm, and warmth…all culminating in God’s perfect love and protection during our fear.

Take Elijah for instance. Elijah had demonstrated courage before Ahab in the king’s palace and on Mount Carmel. He had also witnessed God’s supply by the brook, in the home of the widow, in the years of famine, in the fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice, in the coming of the rain, and in the ability to outrun Ahab back to Jezreel. However, when faced with the threat of Jezebel and the obvious fact there would be no immediate revival in the land, he suddenly became fearful and discouraged. Elijah was exhausted, and found himself in a dark cave, hiding from Jezebel’s death threat. But wait! It was in this dark and quiet place that Elijah heard God’s voice.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

For a deeper understanding of this Scripture passage, I invite you to follow the link to Bible.org ministry.

https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18

Possibly you have found yourself in a dark place like Elijah or like me, facing a life-threatening situation, or it could be another fear that’s gripping your heart. If so, I encourage you to quiet your spirit and listen for God’s gentle whisper. It’s not easy in this extremely loud world, so it will take intentionality. Turn off all social media devices and find a place of solitude. It may not be a cave or a surgical room, or it may, but wherever it is for you, know that God’s presence is with you…just listen.

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