You Were Made To Shine
What a wonderfully blessed time we enjoyed this past weekend at the ladies’ retreat in Buena Vista, GA. You Were Made To Shine was such an inspiring theme as we delved deep into places the Lord was compelling us to examine. We hope to continue receiving testimonies as all of us seek even deeper healing in the days to come.
We enjoyed the warm hospitality of Mr. Walker Williams, Innkeeper of Sign of the Dove Bed & Breakfast. Praise and worship time was led by Katie Alexander and our lovely hostess and leader was Jennifer Thomann.
Friday evening and all day Saturday were filled with teaching, prayer, fellowship and worship. Saturday evening we caravanned to the Hope is Alive Church at Mauk. Words can’t really express how beautiful it was. Pastor Ray and the Thomann clan had outlined the church drive with luminaries, glowing against the night sky. Inside this lovely church built in 1910 with it’s original wooden floors, were luminaries burning on both sides of the center aisle (the only aisle), across the altar, kneeling benches, baptistry, and so on; no other light but candles.
A large cross was standing in the left corner of the church. Soft music played. One by one each lady knelt at the altar, wrote on a small paper what she was truly giving up to the Lord, then went over and nailed it to the cross. The sound of the hammer echoing there was so like we imagine the sound of Jesus being nailed to that cross. After everyone took their turn, we laid hands and prayed over each one. The Holy Spirit was so powerful. He spoke to us, gave words of knowledge, healing words for the very broken. We found it difficult to leave the very heavy Presence of the Lord in that place.
Sunday was a true celebration. Pastor Ray conducted the church service at the B&B and cooked and served us lunch. In fact, he did much of the cooking throughout the weekend, which was another treat for us all.
We are continuing to give thanks and praise for all that was accomplished during the retreat weekend. Jennifer is truly gifted in leading and loving. Her little touches to every detail were treasures for us all. I am so grateful to have been a part of this endeavor. The Lord has many plans and purposes for the HIA ministry and we are excited and expectantly looking forward to what comes next.
When life doesn’t turn out the way you planned
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
I lie in bed at night, listening to the nocturnal sounds of my house, like the refrigerator humming, my husband’s bipap machine blowing air, and frequent thumps on the deck outside, that I know to be the arrival of our local raccoon family. The peacefulness that comes just prior to midnight is sometimes the only quiet time of my day. It’s a good time to talk to the Lord. It’s a good time to reflect upon the day’s activities, and to wonder what comes next. When I’m really exhausted, it’s good to soak up the peace. If I’m not careful though, it becomes a time to feed doubts and fears about what’s next.
Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we planned it. I planned to continue in the career I loved, pastoral counseling, until I was too old or the Lord told me to quit. I had envisioned my husband and I travelling, serving in some community projects together, writing, and spending our retirement doing ministry and things we hadn’t had time for while working. Then cancer arrived at our door.
This isn’t about the cancer. It’s not about my disappointments. It’s a reminder to you that you might have all kinds of wonderful plans for your future --- and they just might get toppled into the waste basket in a day. How do we get past what ‘ought to be’ and really live in ‘what is’? I want you to consider this question, just in case you may need to know.
We can spend all our lives attending church, quoting scripture and being the nice Christian. The real test is when life turns upside down and nothing makes any sense. Nothing is as you had envisioned. Where do you go from there? It’s so easy to fling out scriptures to others who are facing tough challenges, but what happens when you are the one standing in those shoes?
The reality is that for those who don’t have a firm foundation in Christ, all those memorized verses will just fly right out the window. Despair hangs heavy overhead. You hit the bottom line really hard: you either trust God or you don’t. He understands our disappointments and all the emotions that accompany shattered dreams. He’ll comfort us and redirect our thoughts and plans, if we let Him. But to live in His perfect peace, you will not get there without knowing Him personally, believing His Word and testing Him out in it.
I am still a work in progress. I don’t pretend to have it all together--sometimes I cry and shout at God and say it’s not fair. But...when I’m lying there in the dark, soaking in the quiet of the night, I know that I know that I know, that He still has a purpose for my life. It’s not what I planned at all. It’s not fun, or pleasant, or enjoyable. I’m just being honest. But I understand how He molds us and refines us and then uses us, because, after all, it’s not about me. It’s about Him: Jehovah, Emmanuel, Yahweh, Yeshua, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Whatever He chooses to do with my life, it’s His to do. It’s mine to surrender to that and find peace and joy, knowing I’m bound for the Promised Land. This world is not my home. What I do and who I am while I’m here is only fruitful, is only valuable at any level, if I am rooted and grounded in Him. He is my salvation. Be sure you know that more than you know anything else. Know who you are...in Christ. Rock solid. Work on it now. You’ll never regret it.
When Your New Year Isn’t So New
This first day of 2016 is an icy, overcast, bitterly cold one here in the mountains. As I stand here in my fuzzy socks, sipping steaming coffee, I wonder if the sun will ever break through that thick veil again. When I got up this morning, it was 18 degrees out there. Patches of glassy smooth ice make driving down our steep driveway a challenge. It’s been shoveled, salted, and scraped several times over the past few days, but continues it’s stubborn resistance to leaving. The sun is our only hope at this point, and so far today, it’s failed us. Guess we can hope for tomorrow.
A new year brings new hopes and dreams to most people. It’s refreshing to wipe the slate clean from the last 365 days, and open a new calendar. I find it cleansing in many ways to toss old calendars into the trash, and hang up a fresh, new one covered with new photographs and new possibilities. Every new year’s day I look forward to doing just that. It is a symbolic gesture that signifies the replenishing taking place on the inside as well as the outside.
The trouble with celebrating a new year with fresh possibilities is that for some of us the icy patches, like those in my driveway that prevent us from going anywhere, are still looming and must be dealt with day by day.
My life changed drastically this past year. Not only did I have to face my husband’s cancer treatment for the fourth year, but I had to watch the treatment completely reduce him to someone I hardly know. Radiation to the brain kills cancer, but it damages the brain in the process. We can certainly praise God that the cancer is declared in remission, but it’s difficult to keep praising while dealing with the effects of a damaged brain. Just as the sun is the only hope for my driveway, the Son is the only hope for my husband.
In this life we do have tribulation. Many are the troubles that come. I grieve in different ways on different days, but I also observe many others who have much more difficult situations than I. I do praise God for every blessing, great and small, as we travel this journey. I have no answer for why my husband has not been healed. All I know is that the Lord does sustain me, sustains us both, as we find new ways to do things each day.
I try to post positive and encouraging blogs each week on this site. This one is not meant to be a downer at all. I simply feel that being open and honest, sharing struggles as well as victories, is what we should do as fellow travellers down the roads of life. I know that many of you are believers and I definitely desire your prayers. Though some days are harder than others, I always know the Lord is with me. Sometimes I feel a burst of joy and peace and feel stronger, and I know someone is praying for us. The Lord said He would never leave us nor forsake us and that’s a promise I stand on. I cannot imagine walking through this without Jesus. He truly is the Light and my strength. He fills me when I’m empty and sometimes even puts a song in my heart.
This new year I will be sharing some struggles and I hope you will pray for us when we come to your mind. Please share yours with me as well. I will pray for you and yours. We can rejoice in the fact that this world is not our home---we’re just passing through---and God has given us each other for support and encouragement all along the way. I hope the sun comes out tomorrow up here in ice-land, but I know the Son never leaves, and He will shine on us with whatever it is we need this week.
Happy New Year to you all! I love you and pray blessings over your lives this year.
Will Judgment Purify Us or Destroy Us?
Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly. Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you---protect you from his anger on that day of destruction. Zeph 2:3
“Zephaniah warned the people of Judah that if they refused to repent, the entire nation, including the beloved city of Jerusalem, would be lost. The people knew that God would eventually bless them, but Zephaniah made it clear that there would be judgment first, then blessing.This judgment would not be merely punishment for sin, but it would also be a means of purifying the people. Though we live in a fallen world surrounded by evil, we can hope in the perfect Kingdom of God to come, and we can allow any punishment that touches us now to purify us from sin.” (Life Application Study Bible)
We can have faith that our God will protect us from the evil that befalls a nation, our own nation. But, many are nonchalant and think that they can live in sin, call it something else and be blessed by God. It doesn’t work that way. We have been given warning after warning to repent, to get right with the Lord, and live holy lives. It seems to fall on deaf ears. There is always a more tolerant, more politically correct way to get around sin and still call oneself a Christian. Where is the awesome fear of Almighty God? It has been reduced by people to a wishy washy state of grace that excuses everything because after all, we are not supposed to judge. What a very slippery slope this nation is on! Refusing to repent and call sin what it is, will result in God’s judgment. Scoff all you want, there will not be any joking when that judgment hits. Oh how foolish to ignore the powerful magnificent God who created us and think He will just sweep things under the rug. Make no mistake about it--His rug is woven in purity and holiness and the ugliness of sin cannot reside underneath it.
Judgment---and then the purifying. Judgment’s effects will purify us and cause our hearts to tremble at His Word, at His Name, and in His Presence. Then and only then will we be in the place of readiness to receive all He has prepared for us---all He longs to share as He blesses, protects and refines.
Read the book of Zephaniah. It offers a parallel to today’s Babylonian systems. The people were terrified as the judgments fell, but in the aftermath the ones who remained realized a rising Hope, grounded in the knowledge of God’s justice and His deep love for His people. He said “I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you...those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.” (3:11-12)
The Lord is our Redeemer, Restorer and our only Hope. We must wake up and ready ourselves for His work of refining and purifying His people. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10
Holiday Harmony--Fighting the Blues
Well, December has arrived and we are now bombarded with sales ads, nonstop Christmas music, and wish lists. There are so many beautiful facets of winter, December and holidays. I feel such gratitude for all God has blessed us with this past year. I’m thinking of having a little evergreen tree with the ornaments being things that signify all of God’s miracles and blessings we’ve enjoyed in 2015.
I’m going to make a confession. For many years, I have not liked Christmas and sort of gritted my teeth, prayed and sludged through it, looking forward to the new year. I have celebrated it mostly to please and appease my family. I do try to make it fun and special, though my heart tends to yearn for the end of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I love to celebrate the birth and life and resurrection of Jesus. I simply do not like the commercial hype, going into debt, and on and on.
This year I’m attempting to do some things differently. We always have our nativity as the focal point.This year I hope to garner more passion from all my family on gratitude for our blessings and giving only things from the heart that encourage thankfulness and praise to God. Family is so important and I think showing each one what they mean to us is more special than unwrapping expensive techie items.
For those of you who find the holiday season difficult from losses this year, financial stresses or other factors that block your joy, I want to pray for you. I think that instead of allowing depression to seep in and set up camp, it’s imperative that you go to the Lord and openly pour out your heart to Him. Release your tears, shout your anger, whisper your fears---whatever you need to share with your Lord. He knows it anyway. You will find healing in placing them all in His capable hands. Then, make a decision to leave them there. You can. It’s a matter of will. Trust Him even when you don’t feel like it.
I hope you will then get up, dust yourself off, and set your face like flint, to focus on Jesus. Make a list of things you usually don’t do during the holidays that you would enjoy or that would bless you and your family. Give that list to Him as well. Figure out which things you can go ahead and begin working on. Do just a small thing each day toward your goal. New ideas will come. Make an intentional decision to make this year different….and good. New traditions can be inspirational for all those in your circle. If you have no family, step out of the boat and make your home a sanctuary that brings you peace, then reach out to others who might be in your same or a similar situation. Invite someone from work or a neighbor or other person God brings to mind. Or, stop being stubborn and accept invitations from families who want to include you. Whatever your case, decide that this year you are taking the reins and making a blessed holiday happen. Yours does not have to look like anyone else’s. It’s special to you.
These suggestions are what I have done for myself. I’m still a work in progress. If you need prayer, please contact me. I will be happy to pray for you. We can do this folks!! Because...we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us! We’re celebrating His birthday, so it should be a happy and fun celebration.
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