Fan into Flame the Gift of God

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          It was the thirtieth of May, in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred fifty-four. According to the Order of the Church, pastors and elders ordained and consecrated my father as a minister by the laying on of hands. I can only imagine his mother’s delight—my grandmother who watched many Billy Graham crusades on TV. As I now view the certificate of ordination, I recall precious memories of a faith passed down from generation to generation. 

          Born a preacher’s kid, I attended church every time the doors were open. Sundays and Wednesdays especially found us all at church, even when snow kept everyone else away. My Dad made sure of our presence. While my upbringing has instilled regular church attendance, it’s my dad’s faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I cherish most. What a blessing to grow up in a household that celebrated the gift of salvation through Jesus. To be taught how to grow in faith through Him. 

          But faith-building wasn’t always easy, especially when life appeared hopeless. Ironically, learning to trust God emerged out of our difficulties. Why does it seem we lean in and learn more when hardship hits or when death strikes? Living through adversity tends to shape our lives. Walking through tribulations with the Savior transforms life. 

          My dad’s death shook me to my core. How would I live without him? A broken relationship with my daughter brought me to my knees. I agonized over the discord and dissociation with her. I couldn’t dam up my tears. They flowed like rushing water. Despite the misery, God continually reminded me of the blessed assurance handed down by parents and grandparents. Eventually I held on to salvation in Jesus and experienced peace through the Holy Spirit. 

          Day by day I encountered this peace, but pain came alongside. It’s as if I walked in between railroad tracks with Jesus on one side and agony on the other—peace paralleled pain. Such a bittersweet existence. 

          Over time I became receptive to the revelation of other wounded people, especially mothers with prodigals. I believe God steered them in my direction. I identified with them—their tears were my tears, their heartache my heartache. Seeing them took my eyes off my own suffering. They needed to experience the peace I had discovered. But how would I tell them? What would I say? I felt so uneducated when sharing the gospel. 

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord,” Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 1:8). 

          Paul considered Timothy his true son in the faith, bonded by the blood of Jesus. Because he recognized Timothy’s youth and lack of confidence, Paul reminded him of the faith that lived in his mother and grandmother. And he prompted Timothy to recall the prophecies made over him at the time of his ordination (1 Timothy 1:18-19). 

          “Fan into flame the gift of God,” Paul said. “And know that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

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          Paul didn’t want Timothy to be afraid to share the gospel. He encouraged his spiritual son to join in his suffering, to fight the good fight, to guard the good deposit entrusted to him through the Holy Spirit. With honest eloquence, Paul motivated Timothy to keep the faith by saying, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20).

          God used Paul’s words to speak to me. Being afraid to share the gospel was not an option. I needed to stir up confidence and create a fire storm to burn the worldly knowledge clouding my thoughts and drawing my child away from the faith. With more strength than I could have imagined, God galvanized a fight within me, a fight of faith, the faith of my fathers (1 Timothy 6:12). He formed our group of mothers with prodigals and gave us a Scripture verse to sustain us (Isaiah 43:5-7). Together we resolved to intercede for our children, standing firm on God’s truth.     

          We refused to allow anxiety over choices made by our children to squelch the fire. The embers in our troubled hearts had been deposited by our Heavenly Father. The power of the Holy Spirit fanned them into flame. In unity but with distinct voices, we cried out to the True and Faithful One, Jesus Christ. And He strengthened us. 

          Timothy came from a line of faithful believers. I learned of faith from my parents and grandparents. Standing on a firm foundation, I’m compelled to fan into flame this precious gift of God, passing it on to my children and grandchildren. 

          With power, love, and sound minds, my prayer group and I will continue to keep the faith and share the gospel with a lost and hurting world. For the sake of our children. For the next generation. We yearn to set ablaze the gift of God. We believe our prayers will ignite the flame. 

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.
(1 Timothy 1:8). 

Oh the joy of future generations living in the truth.

When Clouds Gather, Approach His Throne


Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

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          Six humble women confidently drew near the throne room of the King of the universe, interceding on behalf of others. Praise poured from our lips to honor our merciful Savior. As we began lifting up the needs of a fallen world, our hearts ached for the return of our prodigals. Emotion filled the room as our souls reached out to touch His scepter.

          It was a reuniting of minds, the prayers of mothers and grandmothers for wandering children in a lost world. We had allowed the things of life to get in the way of meeting regularly to pray. Now it seemed the world’s ungodliness intensified at a rapid rate. It felt as though clouds of destruction surrounded us. So we put aside any fear that threatened to paralyze us, reclaiming with sound minds the power and love of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:7). Our desire to stave off evil’s powerful influence over our families escalated with renewed potency. 

          Finally we sat face to face with each other, beginning a powerful hour of prayer. Tearfully we pleaded with our Heavenly Father for our families, our nation, and the world. We confidently approached His throne, believing we would receive His merciful grace in our time of need. Talking with Him through the authority of His Word equipped us to sense the presence of His Spirit (Matthew 18:20).   


          We knew God understood the desires of our hearts, and yet we also knew He longed for us to commune with Him through prayer. In one accord but with distinct voices, each of us offered words of adoration, repentance, and supplication. As we interceded for our children, Jesus also interceded for us before our Heavenly Father. With humble confidence we desired to touch the hem of His garment that He might answer our prayers (Matthew 9:20-21).

          Earlier we had reviewed the example of Queen Esther as a way to approach God. Esther’s uncle Mordecai had warned her of a plot to annihilate the Jewish people—her people. As queen she held an invaluable position to possibly stop the plot. But she had to align herself with her people while knowing the king was unaware of her Jewish heritage. She also risked death by going uninvited to speak to the king. Still she and her uncle knew they would all die if she didn’t chance an encounter with the king. Mordecai supposed Esther had come to royal position for such a time as this.

          Understanding the severity of the situation, she requested that her uncle gather together all the Jews in the city of Susa for a three day fast as she and her maids also fasted. Fasting involved prayer and they needed to prepare for her encounter with the king by calling on Almighty God. Would the king show mercy and hear her request or would she be put to death? 

          As time drew near to enter the inner court of the king, Esther donned her royal robes. Covered in prayer, she approached the king with prestigious confidence and courage. When he caught sight of her standing in the court, he was pleased to see her and held out the royal scepter, his instrument of mercy. She moved forward and touched his scepter, accepting his gracious mercy. He prepared to hear her request (Esther 4-5).

          Just as Esther held the responsibility of her royal position, we too are royal priests who have a responsibility to identify with the rest of God’s people. We wear the royal robes of Jesus’ righteousness when we accept Him as our Savior. We need only to humbly bow before Him and receive His mercy and grace.

          When AMEN (meaning let it be so) was proclaimed within our circle of prayer, we stood up, sharing smiles and hugs. Anxiety had been transformed into relief. We had placed our situations into God’s trustworthy hands. Making plans to meet again, we went our separate ways holding fast to God’s faithfulness to each one of us.

          As we have approached His throne and reached out to receive His grace, we yearn for our families to do the same. To take hold of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. To receive His mercy and grace. To live abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. 

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          Have you reached out to touch the scepter of Jesus’ grace? Are you sharing the gospel and praying for future generations? It could be that you have been called for such a time as this. 

          Put on your royal robes and approach God’s throne with assurance. Reach out and receive His grace. The king granted Queen Esther’s request—her people were spared. The King of the universe waits to hear and answer your prayers. 

Have you been called…..FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?

When Clouds Gather, Look to Your Rescuer


Now when the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary.  2 Samuel 21:15 (NASB)

David? Weary? Hard to believe that a wealthy and powerful king could become weary, but it happened. The Philistines were at war with Israel AGAIN, and David grew weary. Their taunts had plagued Israel for as long as he could remember. The death of the giant by young David’s sling and stone only frightened the Philistines temporarily. Once he became king, the Philistines threatened and tormented David again and again.


Are you experiencing exhaustion from a constant battle? Maybe you’re not at war with physical giants, but conflicts meet you at every turn. Disputes and quarrels erode stamina. Arduous, laborious, burdensome—a body is drained when facing mental and physical strife. 

Both angst and fatigue plagued me when my daughter lived according to her own desires instead of heeding our warnings about life choices. Thick tension would fill the air whenever we met face to face, usually ending in an explosive wrangle. When away from each other, intense disagreements would occur over the phone. I grew weary. 


I typically didn’t wait for God to work. No time to waste. I needed to fix the situation immediately. So I would reach out to her with well-intentioned words of advice. Surely I could transform her into my ideal daughter. My guidance only morphed into confrontation, creating more misery. 


One day God answered me through a friend. “You need to cut the cord and quit trying to fix the situation,” she said. “Let go and let God work in her life and yours.” 

Was she talking to me? I wasn’t the one with the problem. Or so I thought until I remembered God’s words from Psalm 46:10—Be still and know that I am God. He was God and I was not. I had a lesson to learn. Maybe I could learn from David’s example. 

David inquired of the Lord. That’s right. David took time to stop and ask God what to do. He recognized God’s power. He understood God’s might. He knew the importance of listening and obeying God’s commands. But he didn’t always wait. He learned the way most of us do—the hard way. 

Many times he acted without conferring with God (like when he lusted after a married woman, impregnated her, and had her husband killed). Whoa. Who does that? How can that be forgiven? 

Yes, King David committed those heinous acts (2 Samuel 11). But when confronted by a man of God, shame filled David’s soul. Remorse brought him to his knees and he repented before God. Then David’s Deliverer rescued him with loving forgiveness. Because he continually yielded to God, God called him “a man after His own heart.”

I wanted to be a woman after God’s own heart. I desired to listen and obey God’s counsel. Humbly in silence, I began to open my ears and heart to God. When I finally removed my will and allowed God’s will in our lives, things slowly began to change. Weariness transformed into gratitude. God strengthened me.

He also strengthened David. This weary, sinful man with a pliable heart peered through the clouds of conflicts in his life and recognized his faithful Lord. Forgiven and strengthened, he penned many expressions of thanksgiving to His mighty Rescuer. He declared his deliverance by God’s hand from all his enemies. His soul delighted with songs of gratitude to his Savior. 

In his weariness, David called out to God and God heard him:

“In my distress I called upon the Lord,
Yes, I cried to my God;
And from His temple He heard my voice,
And my cry for help came into His ears. “
2 Samuel 22:7

David declared who his Deliverer was:

“He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.
“They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.”
2 Samuel 22:18-19

The Lord strengthened him and lit his way:

“For You are my lamp, O Lord;
And the Lord illumines my darkness.
“For by You I can run upon a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.”
2 Samuel 22:29-30

At times gray clouds seem to reign over our lives. Dismal days forecast gloomy outlooks. As hope fades, weariness increases. What do you do? What did David do?

David cried out to God in the midst of trouble. God heard his cry and delivered him from his enemies. David offered songs of thanksgiving to his Lord and Savior. And David’s strength was renewed.

Are you weary from continuous clouds of conflict? Take time to be still and ask God what to do. Allow David’s heart penned in Psalm 18 to penetrate your soul. Recognize your Rescuer. Give Him praise. And He will renew your strength. 

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Lord, how I love you! For you have done such tremendous things for me.

The Lord is my fort where I can enter and be safe; no one can follow me in and slay me. He is a rugged mountain where I hide; he is my Savior, a rock where none can reach me, and a tower of safety. He is my shield. He is like the strong horn of a mighty fighting bull. All I need to do is cry to him—oh, praise the Lord—and I am saved from all my enemies!  Psalm 18:1-3 (TLB)

When Clouds Gather, Humble Yourself and Pray

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:10 (NIV)

Prayer expresses faith in an Almighty God. Earnest prayer connects us to our Heavenly Father where communication transpires with One more powerful than ourselves. It’s a liberating conversation. So why does it seem we seldom pray until trouble besieges us? Are our prayers only pleas for help? Is our communion with God merely requests for needs and wants?

At times our long lists of petitions trivialize prayer. Have you ever repeated the same prayer over and over again, as if babbling repetitively? Believe it or not, God already knows our needs. Scripture tells us He knows us by name (Isaiah 43:1) as well as the exact count of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). He even knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). 

Since God has full knowledge of you and me, we ought to take time to be still and get to know Him (Psalm 46:10). Instead of routine words expressed as prayers, humbly bow before Him with joyful expressions of thanks for who He is and what He’s already done for us.

God loves us more than a parent adores her own child. With sacrificial love, He surrendered His Son to die in our place in order for us to gain eternal life with Him (John 3:16). He yearns for a relationship with us like parents long for loving bonds with their offspring. 

Genuine, loving relationships are full of grace. However, imagine the sound of repetitious entreaties from a child to a parent. Yes, parents wish to please their children. But constant pleading? Sooner or later the demands sound like clanging cymbals. Being a parent myself, I understand the simple delight of being loved for who I am, not for what I can do for my child.

Years ago my family learned a valuable lesson about treasuring the person and not his handouts. My husband’s job required him to journey out of town every week for a year and a half except on Saturdays. Because of his travels, we decided I would be a stay-at-home mom for our two preschool children. Even though it was the best plan for us at the time, our family dynamics suffered because of stress. 

While he faithfully provided for us, my husband experienced extreme guilt because of his absence. He began bringing home gifts for our children to appease his conscience. Before long, they anticipated his presents to the point of neglecting him. His dejected countenance pained me. We knew immediately what must happen or not happen—no more goody bags filled with toys. Oh the tears and tantrums that materialized. Eventually our children forgot about what dad brought home and instead squealed with delight when he entered the door. Oh to be appreciated for who you are!

How often do we neglect adoration for our Savior and instead seek what He can give us? Are we as selfish as little children? Doesn’t the God of the universe also deserve to be loved and appreciated simply for who He is? Remember—His love is greater than that of a human parent. And He desires a loving relationship with each of us. Knowing of His sacrificial love for us should shift our prayers from self-serving to God-honoring. Pride out—humility in. 

Humility? How do we pray with humility? Does kneeling help? Or is it a heart issue? Jesus once said to a crowd on a mountainside, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” 

His statement is included in the list of blessings or beatitudes from His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). These beatitudes speak to the acceptable attitudes humbly displayed before a supreme being, and Jesus modeled them perfectly. So how do we follow Him?

While teaching His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about prayer, explaining the essence of pride and humility (Matthew 6:5-15). He detailed how people stand in the synagogues and street corners to pray. They desire to be seen. He told his audience to go where no one sees and then pray. Standing alone with a pliable heart before Almighty God dissolves self-absorption. It transforms a selfish human heart into a humble one. 

Do you have needs to bring before your Heavenly Father? Have you examined your heart before going to Him in prayer? Start with the perfect prayer modeled by His perfect Son, Jesus. He said, “This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”  Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Following Jesus’ example takes our eyes off of our issues and turns them toward God. Recognizing His power and authority exposes our inability to control anything in our lives. Simply gazing at the heavens He created should cause us to say with the psalmist, “Who am I that you are aware of me?” (Psalm 8:3-4). 

Truly understanding God’s majesty increases wisdom. Daily walking in that knowledge inevitably leads to humility. And God shows favor to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

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If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.  Psalm 66:18-19 (NIV)
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Before we can pray “Thy kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My kingdom go.”
~Alan Redpath

When Clouds Gather, Practice Joy

Dear brothers, is your life full of
difficulties and temptations?
Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. 
James 1:2-3 (TLB) 

Really James? You’re telling your readers to be joyful? How about you? Did you practice joy? What if I told you how sick I am of all the troubles in my life? How am I supposed to live joyfully, James? 

Can you relate? Have you ever felt like giving up? You’re tired of things going wrong. Your mind screams, “Why me?” Covered in clouds, colored in gray—looks like another bad day. 

For almost twelve years, bad day followed bad day as I experienced estrangement from my daughter. The pain of watching her make bad choices and suffer consequences nearly debilitated me. When I tried to offer advice, arguments resulted. My heart ached. My soul worried. Tears flowed. I begged God to intervene.

We’ve all had those kind of days, possibly lasting for months, even years. James, the writer of the book of James, suffered trials and hardships as well. Being a part of the human race guarantees every one of us an encounter with adversity.

James grew up with Jesus as his half-brother, but he didn’t believe Jesus was who he said he was. Who’s gonna believe a relative, right? Not until Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:7) did James believe in Jesus as Messiah. He became such a firm believer in the salvation of Jesus Christ that he was martyred in A.D. 62, killed for his faith in Jesus. What an incredible hardship to face. 

In order to face life’s problems and his own death, James must have practiced joy, the joy of the risen Lord. Practicing joy enabled him to endure under pressure. To have patience when life went wrong. To live in peace when anger and ugliness surrounded him. To face his own death.

His example was Jesus. I’m sure once he saw resurrected Jesus, James remembered humble Jesus who endured persecution all the way to death on a shameful cross. James practiced joy so well he could write about it with confidence, encouraging others to live joyfully.

If life is full of trials and we practice worry, what do we become? Whiny, complaining souls focused on gloom and doom. If we seethe with anger, what do we become? Judgmental and quick to point to all the wrong in the world, lashing out at everyone. If we live in fear of the known or unknown, what do we become? Timid souls afraid to do anything or go anywhere. 

So what if we obey God’s Word through James and consider joy in sorrow, hang onto happiness in the midst of hardship, practice delight in the depths of adversity? Believe it or not, we will experience freedom from our burdens. As obedient children of God, we’ll begin to see the good in people and in life. We’ll begin to persevere in problems. We’ll begin to walk in endurance with hope. We’ll trust God with every moment of our lives.

The stress of my family situation progressed to distress until I decided to read and heed God’s Word. Finally I began to comprehend God’s ability and my inability to change things. Surrendering my doubts and fears, I released the horrible situation with my daughter to Him through prayer. Lots of prayer. In time I found joy in my sorrow, strengthened by a loving Heavenly Father.


Try it. Choose joy in the midst of sorrow. Practice with perseverance. Some days it may take a mental fight to remain joyful. But soon you’ll realize your focus has shifted heavenward. Your burdens aren’t as heavy. Your frown has turned upside down. And you are walking in joy, strengthened by the Lord. 

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12 (NASB)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,
but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

When Clouds Gather, Give Thanks

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  1 Chronicles 16:34 (NASB)

If only. If only I had more money. If only I didn’t have to suffer this illness. If only I had a bigger house. If only I wasn’t confined to a wheelchair. If only, if only, if only.

Do you confront earthly concerns with an “if only” attitude? Not enough. Desiring more. Simply existing. Sounds hopeless, right? It’s like viewing a half empty glass instead of a half full one. 

When things in my life take a downward turn, I get caught up in the half empty glass point of view, drowning in my sorrow. Woe is me. If only I could be more like her. If only I didn’t have back pain. If only I had a better job. If only I had more—of anything. With this attitude, I’ll never be content. What about my blessings? Do I ever stop to give thanks for the joys in my life? 

My lack of gratefulness manifested itself when I read about Jesus feeding five thousand men, plus women and children. All four gospels of the New Testament contain the account so I believe God desired for me to take note of those testimonies (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15). I needed a lesson on gratitude. 

Jesus and His disciples had been traveling from village to village, healing the sick. Tired and weary, Jesus led them to a quiet obscure place for some rest. But they were followed by a crowd of people. Putting others before Himself, Jesus expressed compassion by welcoming them, speaking of the kingdom of God, and healing the sick. 

Meanwhile, evening approached and the disciples worried about what to do with the crowd of 5000+ people. They immediately directed Jesus to send everyone away in order to find food and lodging. Jesus said, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

What? Surely the disciples’ faces exposed their disbelief. What was Jesus thinking? They too were exhausted and hungry. How would they feed such a multitude of people? “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” some of them said. 

Philip added, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 

How many mouths would five loaves and two fish feed? Half a dozen, maybe? If only there was more food. 

“Bring them here to me,” Jesus said. 

Really Jesus, what can you do with five loaves and two fish? Surely you see this hungry horde before you. How in the world are you going to feed all these people with such a small amount of food?

I know I doubt Jesus at times, but how could these men who daily walked with Him, witnessing His wonders, express any hesitation in Jesus’ ability to take care of the situation?  Their experiences alone spoke volumes to the power of God through Jesus. Yet they focused on an if only moment. Jesus stood right beside them, but they concentrated on a huge, hungry crowd of people with a pessimistic perspective. If only they had more. 

Once Jesus held the paltry provisions, He instructed the disciples to have everyone sit down in groups on the green grass. Jesus wasn’t preoccupied with the meager portions. He simply took the small amount of food, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks. He offered gratitude to His Heavenly Father. And then He broke the bread. 

Somewhere between the prayer of thanks and the distribution of food, a miracle happened. Everyone (all 5000+) ate and was satisfied. The disciples filled up twelve basketfuls of left over broken pieces. Suddenly the if only transformed into more than enough. In the midst of a grim situation, Jesus offered thanks and deficient became sufficient. 

Recently, I decided to put the principle of gratefulness into practice as I lay motionless on a mattress while undergoing a CT scan. I had already voiced a few if only moments. Struggling with an infected and possibly blocked salivary gland, I had been experiencing significant discomfort in and around my mouth and face. If only I didn’t have to suffer with this pain. If only I didn’t have to be subjected to a CT scan. 

As the donut of technology took images of my face and contrast fluid ran through my body, I prayed for protection. Gratitude soon replaced anxiety when I understood my doctor would be able to visualize my problem. Gratefulness replaced concern when I realized I might feel better. Thankfulness replaced fear when I knew I rested in my Heavenly Father’s arms. Offering thanks replaced my if only moment. Thank you, Lord God, for provision. 

What is your if only situation? We all face trials—sickness, death, divorce, rebellious children, joblessness, not enough, the need for more. How do we deal with it? Do we allow hopelessness to overwhelm us like gray clouds blanket the sky on a rainy day? Or do we stop, take notice of our blessings, and lift up open hands of thankfulness to our Heavenly Father who supplies all our needs?

When life’s challenges pour in like rain, raise up a covering of gratitude. Focus on sufficiency instead of inadequacy. Fear and doubt will soon diminish. If only there was more will become more than enough. And contentment will reside in your soul with peaceful resolve.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

“Give thanks with a grateful heart......”

~Don Moen, American singer and songwriter
“for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” ~Paul
Philippians 4:11

My Heart's Desire


When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
  Psalm 73:21-28 (NIV)

Letting go of anything is hard. We are worldly. We set our sights on earthly things. Is it even possible to say with the psalmist that earth has nothing I desire besides you

What if we truly believed and practiced earth has nothing I desire besides you? What would our lives look like? How would others perceive us? Imagine the glory God would gain through lives lived for Him. 

The psalmist who wrote #73 in the Scriptures declares God is good, to Israel and to those who are pure in heart. Asaph, the psalmist, knew God and His goodness. Yet he became consumed with the wealth of the arrogant. He almost lost his way. He speaks frankly about being jealous of the prosperity of the wicked. It appeared to him that they had everything, including an easy life. Through the awful trap of comparison, he struggled to understand why life seemed so unfair. 

A right perspective caused his change in perception. He entered the sanctuary of God. Maybe he actually entered the Temple or possibly he went on a retreat. Perhaps he simply got down on his knees and sincerely spoke to God, opening his heart in prayerful meditation. Whatever he did, he found answers. He found refuge. He found peace. 

I’ve been in the place of envy, wondering why other people’s lives look so perfect. They have every material thing possible. All their relationships seem flawless. They succeed and rise to fame in whatever they do. Promotions and salary increases regularly come their way. Why does everything work out for them? Why, Lord, why doesn’t life work out that way for me? 

Oh the bitterness that becomes entrenched in our souls when we focus on others in comparison. We forget about our own gifts and abilities. We forget who we are. We forget what we have. We become senseless. As Asaph puts it, 

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Do we realize we are negating who God made us to be? We are basically complaining to our Creator about His creation. How does our dissatisfaction affect God’s heart? I’m sure He grieves, yet He continues to yearn for His children to be satisfied in Him. 

I look at myself and see that Almighty God has blessed me with gifts and talents, with a loving family and a roof over my head. All that I have, I offer Him thanks. All that I am, I humbly bow before Him in gratitude. I will remember who He has made me to be.

I will praise the God who loves me, no matter what I’ve done or not done. As long as I truly enter His sanctuary with an honest, humble heart, He redirects my path. He holds my hand and walks me through my angst. He strengthens me and gives me peace, even as I face the storms of life. Why on earth would I desire anything more? He IS all I need. 

From this day forward, I will remind myself of what I have learned in His sanctuary. I will let go of the stuff of life and cling only to Him. This is my “letting go” to do list:

Letting go of jealousy and envy

Letting go of debilitating grudges

Letting go of worry and fear

Letting go of resentment and regret 

Letting go of accumulated stuff and material possessions

I could go on and on. I’m so imperfect. But my Father God is perfect and He is all I need in this life and after. He has been and still is my refuge and strength. He has been and still is my Help whenever I cry out to Him. He has been and still is Faithful and True. I am so grateful to Him. I am so thankful for Him.

I will let go of attitudes and things that distract. I will hold onto the One who satisfies my soul. I know He will hold onto me as we walk through life together. I will say with confidence it is good to be near God. He is my desire.

What do you need to let go of? What distracts you from a good God? Humbly enter His sanctuary with thanksgiving. You’ll quickly realize He can be trusted. You’ll know who He made you to be. You’ll know He is your strength. And you’ll be able to say with the psalmist, “Earth has nothing I desire besides You.”

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
  Psalm 63:1-4 (NASB)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

Do Not Fear


What do you fear? Death, destruction, work, joblessness, homelessness, enemies, hatred, confrontation, trials, divorce, discord, quarrels, loneliness—I could go on and on. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. Fear disrupts our lives. Fear comes from the evil one. 

The devil loves to cause us to fear. Fear keeps our eyes on our situation and off of God. God says, “Do not fear.” Over and over again God tells us in His Word not to fear, not to be afraid, not to worry. Do we listen? Do we follow His instructions?

I wanted to post a simple message today using Scripture in a picture. However, I encountered many problems as I tried to simply post the meme. Little irritating glitches with technology plagued my every move. I stopped and reread the verse. I suddenly realized why I faced obstacles in posting. It’s a verse Satan wants to put aside. 

BUT GOD wants us to hear. And He helped me to persevere. 

The above Bible verse has become one of my favorite verses. It is my “go to” verse. God speaks to me through this verse and gives me strength. And He’ll do the same for you. 

Read it over and over again until it strengthens you with peaceful resolve. God is in control. Trust Him with every single situation in your life. It doesn’t matter how big or small your circumstance. God is able. Have faith in Him. 

An Arch of Promise

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I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,  Genesis 9:13-14 (NASB)

When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  Genesis 9:16 (NASB)

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…….And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.  Nahum 1:3 (NASB)

An artist stands before her easel, paintbrush in hand. Impressive scenery takes shape on her canvas. Any bystander can gage the size of the artist to the scene she creates. Using this frame of reference, imagine God before His heavenly canopy placing His bow, His rainbow, in a cloud. 

At any time onlookers can gaze at God’s magnificent scenes in the heavens. When we realize the greatness of our Creator, it becomes easier to comprehend how clouds are the dust of His feet. Those massive billowy forms bear His footprints. He walks among the clouds. He is mighty.

Sometimes those billows bring rain. If they are rolled up ferociously into a hurricane with gale force winds and surging waters, devastation occurs. The southeastern coast of the United States is experiencing such turbulence. My home state of North Carolina, as well as the state of South Carolina, is encountering extreme ruin. Danger, destruction, and clouds surround all residents. Many of my family and friends live there. Intense weather has whipped throughout the area. Everyday life has been stripped away. The normal routine has been submerged. It’s back to the basics of life, the barebones of existence. No fluff, only rough. Where is God? And why has He allowed such disaster? 

I don’t understand why this tragedy has happened. I can’t answer why the God of the universe didn’t stop the hurricane. He is God and I am not. But I do know that He is available to all who call on His name. He meets us where we are. Could it be He wants us to yearn for Him more than anything in this world?

Noah and his family survived a catastrophic flood. They were the only ones who survived. Death and destruction had confined them to the ark. Their old life was gone. They were in survival mode. They lived through forty cloudy days and nights as water swelled around their vessel. Forty straight days and nights of rain and clouds! Were they frightened? Angry? Yearning for their stuff? Quite possibly they were sick and tired of clouds. Did they complain? Did they forget God was near?  

I think I can answer those questions with a resounding YES! If I had been on the ark or if I was on North Carolina’s coast right now, I would be crying with fear. I might be screaming WHY while I wished for my old life back. I’m sure I would see the clouds as just clouds and not the dust of His feet. 

Until the day God sets His rainbow in the clouds.

The rainbow was God’s promise to Noah of an everlasting covenant with His people. The rainbow guarantees a brighter day. Hope for tomorrow. The silver lining in the clouds. An array of breathtaking color.

The rainbow calls to remembrance the covenant between God and man. Its appearance reminds us that we are not forgotten. Its beauty awakens us to the presence of an Almighty God. We can celebrate, not only at Christmas time but every single day, the presence of Immanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ. And Jesus promised He would never leave us or forsake us. He is faithful.

Suffering usually strips us of our pretenses. It brings us to our knees, down to the nitty-gritty. And that’s where we can find Jesus waiting on us. To lift us up in times of sorrow, sickness, and sadness. To help us in our times of need. To offer hope when it’s all gone. As Scripture tells us:God also bound himself with an oath, so that those he promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether he might change his plans.

He has given us both his promise and his oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie. Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.

This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven, where Christ has gone ahead to plead for us from his position as our High Priest, with the honor and rank of Melchizedek.  Hebrews 6:17-20 (TLB)

He has promised to Noah and to us. He will do it. Do you believe? 

Treasure of Truth

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Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.  2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NASB)

X marks the spot…..

     Somewhere over the rainbow…..

                         Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Treasure conjures up many images. A chest full of gold trinkets, beads, coins. A jewelry box containing diamond rings and necklaces. The many irreplaceable things we cling to when loved ones die. Treasures don’t have to be expensive. Where one sees junk, another sees treasure. The value of a treasure depends on its personal worth. 

Since my parents died, I’ve clung to things they left behind. I cherish their belongings more since their departure from this earth. I wear a diamond ring given to my mom by my dad on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It has monetary value, but its worth escalates for me because it was a part of them. 

Through the years I’ve accumulated what I consider precious and priceless treasures. Gifts from my husband, pictures drawn by my children, mementos from my grandchildren, on and on and on. Stuff I embrace. Things I can’t let go. As precious as they are to me, they remain stuff, simply stuff. Why do I cling so tightly to them? 

Questioning the worth of it all, I hear words spoken on a mountain by a very wise teacher. “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus spoke these words to His followers in the Sermon on the Mount. He offered eternal life not material life. The accuracy of His words of wisdom rings true today. Why do I allow myself to become ensnared with stuff that does nothing for me? Why is Jesus not the treasure trove I desire? Lord, transform my trivial thoughts to true treasure. 

Without warning, memories crop up and I’m reminded of a reliable inheritance. Wonderful memories of attending Sunday school and church with my family. Listening to my dad read daily devotions with prayer at the table. Hearing my mom read Bible stories at bedtime. Not only did my parents endow us with material belongings, they left a legacy of faith in God Almighty. My sisters and I were taught about a God who loved us so much that He sent His Son into the world to save us from sin. We learned about Jesus and He is the greatest treasure of all.

Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He came to earth to represent the Heavenly Father. He preached words of eternal life (John 6:68-69). He was, is, and will be the Holy One of God. He is the Word of God that existed with God from the very beginning, the apostle John tells us. He even explains who Jesus is in detail. 

Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it.  John 1:1-5 (TLB)

These words describe true treasure, God through Jesus Christ. He is a firm foundation, ageless advice, trustworthy truth. He is the Light of the world sent into the world to save the world. 

We may possess many worldly goods and personal effects to pass on to our children, but it’s all superfluous. What we consider treasure in this world could get taken from us. It won’t last. It’s replaceable. It’s just stuff.

God has given us Himself through Jesus Christ. He has entrusted us with His truth. We must hold it tightly in our hearts and yet share abundantly with others. Jesus is the heirloom we want to share with future generations. Make Him the treasure you cherish. Make sure He’s the legacy you leave.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.  Hebrews 13:7-9 (NIV)

Clouds of Glory

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Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Exodus 40:34-35 (NASB)

It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 
1 Kings 8:10-11 (NASB)

He is God and we are not. We are minuscule in the grand scheme of things. Consider the vastness of the heavens, the universe. Earth is a small part of the cosmos. Each one of us is a tiny part of earth. Still we belong to a Creator who knows our very hearts. He even desires a relationship with us. 

Moses had the benefit of an intimate relationship with Almighty God while also being a conduit for some of the Lord’s most celebrated miracles. In today’s world he would have made the headlines, gaining instant popularity. Yet Moses wasn’t more special than you or me. He simply chose to follow God and obey His direction for the deliverance of the Israelites. 

Consider the many miraculous events Moses experienced. One such encounter involved the Lord’s glory filling up the tabernacle. When Moses had finished erecting a place for God to dwell, His presence in a cloud settled over the tent of meeting and filled the tabernacle to capacity. It was so awesome Moses was unable to enter the tent. Try to envision God’s presence in an enveloping cloud. Imagine the grandeur of God Almighty holding you back from getting close. How did Moses react? What would you have done? 

It’s hard for human beings to grasp the expanse of a mighty God. Still this powerful God reigned in a cloud by day and fire by night as Moses led the Israelites in the wilderness. He never left them. He doesn’t leave us either. 

Many years later God’s splendor resided in the temple Solomon built. The cloud filled the house of the Lord preventing the priests from performing their duties. God’s magnificence overpowered them. Solomon confirmed he had built a lofty house for God while remembering the Lord saying He would dwell in the thick cloud. Imagine the majesty of the Temple built by human hands. Now consider the resplendence of a God-filled cloud occupying the very foundation of human construction. 

Solomon and the assembly of Israel offered up their praises, dedicating the Temple to the Lord. He lifted his hands toward heaven saying, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or earth below.”

King Solomon understood the greatness of God. He continued, “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” The king felt humility before an awesome God while also understanding that his Heavenly Father heard his prayer (1 King 8:23-29). He hears our prayers too.

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While in Ireland this summer, my family and I felt God’s awesome presence in a cloud. We stood on a sun-draped hill above the ocean, gazing at a distant cloud cover over the horizon. Standing still we noticed it advancing toward us. From end to end this billowing cloud steadily moved over the earth until it enveloped us. Eventually it proceeded over and behind us. Speechless and transfixed we admired God’s glory. We were awed by His presence, humbled by His greatness. When we were able to move again, we simply uttered, “Only God.”

Moses and Solomon understood God’s greatness. They witnessed evidence of His power. I stood within a mighty cloud and felt His presence. Maybe you’ve encountered His magnificence. When we humans are truly aware of God’s majesty, we realize our insignificance. But when we understand how much this supreme God loves and cares for us, we are overwhelmed with humble gratitude. 

God IS great and God IS good. He is a powerful Being who cares for each one of us. He hears our cries and listens to our prayers. Trust and obey Him. Have faith in His ability to take care of your loved ones. He is God and we are not. HE IS ABLE.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infant
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
  Psalm 8 (NIV)

Worship God with Steven Curtis Chapman singing "God is God".......

Hope's Focus, Faith's Promise

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, And I will sing praises to Your name. Psalm 18:1-3, 49 (NASB)

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Boldly I am able to say the Lord is my strength. No matter the troubles I encounter, even if overwhelmed by sadness, I can walk in confidence daily because of my Savior Jesus Christ. With Him all things are possible (Mark 9:23).

However, there was a time I doubted my resilience from day to day, even minute to minute. When I encountered misery from the choices of a prodigal child, heartache and sorrow wracked my soul. At times I felt incapable of moving forward. I longed for bygone days of innocence and laughter with my daughter. But I could do nothing to alter the situation. The more I pleaded, the worst it got. The more I argued, the bigger the fight. The only thing I could do was let go, pray, and let God.

Prayer was my direct line to the One who totally understood my pain. Even though I rendered only cries of torment and screams of anger, He still loved me. He listened with compassion and encouraged me with His Word. Though I doubted His presence at times, He never left my side. He surrounded me with empathetic friends who supported me when I needed a human touch. He patiently waited with open arms for me to embrace His peaceful gift of comfort.

It’s difficult to trust Someone we don’t see. That’s where faith comes in. Bound in hope, faith becomes a certainty. The assurance of expected evidence—conviction of expectation. Faith relies on God.

Now faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped (expected) for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)

Are you struggling to trust God in your circumstances? Are you overwhelmed with weariness? Discover His hopeful message in the Bible. Scripture is full of His promises and He is the promise keeper.

Surrender your worry to Him. Praise Him in your storm. He rides on the clouds to rescue you from fear. Believe that the dust of His feet is in your cloudy situation (Nahum 1:3). Trust Him. And receive the offering of Hs peaceful strength.


And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23 (NASB)

Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 (NASB)

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Within the Cloud

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A cloud covering encircled the mountain, filled with God’s glory.

God called down to Moses, “Come up to Me and remain here for a while.”

Leaving everyone behind, Moses started up the mountain alone.

“I’m coming, Lord,” Moses called out as he trekked the steep peak.

Keeping his eyes forward and upward, he climbed,

Through haze, fog, and cloudy moisture.

Cool, damp air hemmed him in.

Eventually the dense mass distracted him.

He wasn’t sure which way to go.

What if he fell off a cliff?

What if he stumbled over rocks?

What if he confronted a wild animal?

Fear gripped him.

His mind filled with uncertainty.

“Help me, Lord,” he cried.

You called me to come up, right? Where are you, God?” he yelled.

Silence, deafening silence,

Days of quiet, nights of doubt.

“God, I need you,” he screamed.

His mind conflicted with anxious memories of Pharaoh and the Egyptian army until….

Remembrances of rescue and the parted sea rushed in, delivering peace.

Slowly Moses moved forward, clinging to thoughts of God’s faithfulness.

“I put my trust in you, Lord,” he prayed.

Moses continued the journey.

Finally the Lord called out to him on the seventh day.

“I am here,” God said. “Come to Me.”

Immediately Moses perceived God’s presence.

He knew he wasn’t alone.

The glory of the Lord overfilled the cloudy mist.

Love and compassion, mercy and grace soaked Moses’ heart.

Peace exceeding understanding saturated his mind.

He knew, without a shadow of doubt, God existed and cared for His people, for him.

Nothing else mattered but experiencing God.

When the clouds gathered, God’s presence intensified.

Within the cloudy haze, God reigned

And joy bubbled within the man of God.

(based on Exodus 24)

Do clouds hang over you, dripping with doubt and confusion, fear and pain? Are they obstructing your view of God? Do you feel abandoned and alone?

At times in my life, I have allowed dark clouds to muddle my mind with angst. Worry has filled in the empty spaces, causing my stomach to churn. I’ve lived in fear until turning my focus onto Jesus. Only then did His peace prevail in my heart and mind.

Moses, like all of us, experienced cloudy days and defeatist emotions. Can you imagine all the negativity he dealt with, the personalities he struggled with, the responsibility he carried in the desert? He had plenty of time to doubt God as he and the Israelites wandered forty years.

Trekking up Mount Sinai to God’s cloud of glory, he probably fought feelings of uncertainty about God with the assurance he knew about His Deliverer. With intentional trust, Moses positioned his eyes on the Lord. He experienced God's peaceful presence within the cloud of glory.

Are you battling feelings of fear and doubt? Do you feel as though you are confined by storm clouds? Seek the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Allow His Son Jesus Christ to deliver you from worry and uncertainty. Enter into His presence and find joy. Receive His peace.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

[Jesus Appears to the Disciples] While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Luke 24:36 (NIV)

And now receive God’s blessing, given for you as it was to the Israelites:

“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 

‘“The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”’

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Numbers 6:23-27 (NIV)

Pain and Pleasure

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB)

Oh the pain of it all. Words uttered in exasperation over life situations. Sometimes I feel as though I could shout them on a daily basis.

The Israelites possibly proclaimed similar words as slaves in Egypt. Yet in the midst of their painful experiences, God was working to free them from their resistant foe. The Lord had explained to Moses the last of ten plagues that would severely affect the Egyptians and change Pharaoh’s heart. His instructions for the Israelites were to prepare a lamb to eat, along with bread and bitter herbs. The lamb’s blood was to be smeared over their doorway as protection from the angel of death. They were to be dressed and ready to leave Egypt while eating their meal in haste (Exodus 12).

Because of the urgency to leave, the bread was made without yeast. There would be no time for the bread to rise. Made only of flour and water, this unleavened flat bread would provide quick sustenance. It was to become a significant part of the memorial meal called the Lord’s Passover.

Matzah is the name given to this bread and it is rich in meaning. It represents suffering, freedom, and faith. When eating matzah during Passover, the suffering of slavery is remembered while the recollection of newfound freedom is celebrated. All made possible because of a God who is able to do anything. Praise our faithful God!

Suffering and freedom, pain and pleasure—even though opposites, these experiences generally go hand in hand. A step of faith links them. Faith in a God who supplies our needs. Trust in a God who knows our situations. Belief in a God who walks with us, even if in a valley of the shadow of death. Clinging to the Lord God in faith makes a distressing situation bearable.

Over the last fourteen years, I have come to completely trust my Faithful Friend. I’ve experienced the pain and suffering of aging parents. I’ve encountered the agony of their deaths as their souls walked into heavenly freedom. I’ve lived a daily heartache for years with a prodigal child and made a joyful noise when she returned. I’ve walked down two wedding aisles, happily supporting both my son and daughter as they married the spouses God provided them. And the piece de resistance—the births of our two wonderful grandchildren. I was able to enjoy life’s pleasures because the Lord strengthened me through the pain. Oh the pain and pleasure of it all.

Bittersweet happenings—bitter pain combined with sweet pleasure. Two sides of the same coin joined by faith. Faith in a God who never leaves us. He is the God who came to earth to live with us. He is Jesus Christ who experienced the excruciating pain of death for the pleasure of offering salvation to the world. He is the Holy Spirit who lives in us when we believe in Him.

Jesus understands our pain and pleasure because He experienced both. He came to earth to demonstrate how to live through it all as He did. Trust Him as He takes you from suffering into freedom. He is able cause He is faithful.

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalm 16:11 (NASB)

Thy Kingdom Come

Let your kingdom come.
    Let your will be done in earth
        as it is done in heaven.  Matthew 6:10 (GW)

I enjoy cloud gazing. The heavens declare His glory and I’m drawn to the sky. Our Heavenly Artist designs visions of color and clouds in magnificent ways. No wonder Scripture declares the return of the Son of Man in a cloud with power and glory. Even though surrounded by life’s grit and grim here on earth, are we mindful of the signs in the skies?    

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”  Luke 21:27-28 (NKJV)

Wait. What things? What is to happen before the Son of Man named Jesus appears? What signifies the end of life as we know it and the beginning of eternal salvation? 

The twenty-first chapter of Luke contains a rather extensive list of things to come before the fulfillment of time. Jesus sat in the temple with His followers warning of future happenings. He cautioned the listeners not to be misled by false saviors. Or run after those who say the time is near. He said not to be terrified when hearing of wars and disturbances. He gave them notice of nations rising up against each other and kingdoms in conflict. Earthquakes, plagues, and famines were to occur throughout the earth. Terrors and signs would appear in the heavens.

Not only did Jesus foretell these devastations to come, He warned of the destruction of the temple. The people had previously commented about its beauty which had led Him to explain its future ruination. When asked if signs would appear before this wreckage, Jesus told of all the things that would happen, beginning with the persecution of believers. 

He said, “Before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.”  Luke 21:12-13 (NASB)

An opportunity for testimony in Jesus’ name? I wonder if Jesus’ listeners panicked as I would have done upon hearing all these predictions. Even reading the words now, my heart races with fear. Aren’t there more peaceful ways for me to share my love for you? I could witness to my neighbor or the homeless out on the street. I could speak to fellow church members and family members about You. Instead I find myself getting wrapped up in the rifts of life. Before I know it, my focus is me and not You. And quite possibly an opportunity has slipped away. 

It’s hard to stand firm on the Word of God when life seems to be falling apart. People rail against anything godly. Evil clashes with good causing violence. Protests occur because no one willingly listens to another point of view. And fear mounts as the world seems to spiral out of control. Yet there are those people, in the midst of walking through a valley of the shadow of death, who use these opportunities to testify about the love of God through Jesus Christ. Will I be one of them?

Each day supplies ample occasions for reactions to various actions. We can focus on all the evil in the world and be overwhelmed with anxiety. We can concentrate on personal shortcomings and be overcome with depression. Or we can choose to turn to Jesus and experience peace. Whatever we choose, that will be our testimony. Will it be for our sake or for the sake of the name of Jesus?

Jesus came to earth to reveal a glimpse of the kingdom of God. He preached the gospel of salvation by calling people to repent and be redeemed through Him. He said none of us could be saved through our own accomplishments but that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:27). 

Will we allow the clouds of despair to overshadow His glory? Or will we endure through our day to day situations as living examples of the love of God in the name of Jesus? He tells us we need only to lift up our heads and look to Him for strength. He also tells us the clouds are the dust of His feet. He is near.

So when your circumstances appear discouraging, look to the sky and notice the signs. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and receive His power. Let His heavenly glory live in the earth of you for His name’s sake. Your testimony about His kingdom will bring honor to our Heavenly Father. 

He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;  Psalm 23:3-4

Standing in Glory

Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandments which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses arose with Joshua his attendant, and he went up to the mountain of God. And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Remember that Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him go to them.” Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory and brilliance of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day God called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. In the sight of the Israelites the appearance of the glory and brilliance of the Lord was like consuming fire on the top of the mountain. Moses entered the midst of the cloud and went up the mountain; and he was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.  Exodus 24:12-18 (AMP)

God rescued His people Israel from Egypt so they could freely worship Him. Their journey from bondage to freedom required godly guidance. The instructions spoken to Moses by God were designed to protect the Israelites from the consequences of sin. With His commandments, this holy God yearned to draw people to His majestic power in faith and trust. 

God wanted the Israelites to have a written copy of His instructions so He wrote them on tablets of stone. And He called Moses to come up to the top of the mountain to meet with Him and receive them. The plan was for Aaron and Hur to remain behind with the people in order to handle any legal matters that arose while Moses met with God. 

Joshua attended Moses to the foot of the mountain. Then Moses continued up the mountain alone. Imagine climbing a mountain to meet God, the Creator of the earth, the Deliverer of the Israelites. What were Moses’ thoughts as he traversed up the mountain? Quite possibly he shook with fearful reverence. 

Upon his arrival, a cloud consumed the mountain. Moses stood in the glory and brilliance of a magnificent cloud cover for six days. What sensations did he experience? How far could he see? What could he hear? Was the air muggy, damp, cold? Did he sense God nearby or did he feel alone? Was he afraid? Did he lose hope?

Finally on day seven a voice called out to Him. It was God. What a moment. Picture the event that lasted forty days and nights. With God. Oh the emotions Moses must have encountered when he spoke with the Lord God who loved him. 

My family and I experienced a cloud cover that probably pales in comparison to Moses’s, but it was exhilarating nonetheless. We had the privilege of standing on the side of a road at the end of the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. The spectacular sunlit blue sky hemmed in the ocean rolling ashore. The mountain we stood upon overlooked a village. Exquisite beauty laid out before us. Without warning, we noticed a huge billowing cloud sweeping up and over the horizon. It moved rapidly. Within minutes, the cloud engulfed the panorama, leaving us breathless.

We stood still in amazement as the gray mist moved over us. The wind blew, the temperature dropped, moisture filled the air, and all we could see was each other. Before long the cloud moved up and away, over the mountain behind us, leaving us stunned and speechless. But what if the cloud cover had remained, causing some angst about our return trip? 

When I consider Moses meeting God on a cloud covered mountain top, I reflect on my own experience with a cloud at an Irish vista. I staggered in astonishment at God’s amazing creation. The incredible experience left me open-mouthed. Moses had to have been awestruck when God spoke to him from the glory of a cloud. But did he lose hope in the gloom as he waited for God?

As I think back on my supernatural event, I have an amazing visual to help me when times get gloomy. When things of this earth go awry and everything seems like a cloudy gray day, I must remember that God is near. He never leaves me, no matter what is going on around me. 

When it’s pouring down rain, the sun is still shining way up in the sky. When my circumstances are gloomy, Jesus the Son is still reigning within me and nearby. If you stand on a cloud covered hillside in Ireland, the beautiful landscape is still situated beneath the fog. Even if gloomy situations confine you, God yearns for you to trust Him. He wants you to know He is near because the clouds are the dust of His feet (Nahum 1:3).

For I know that the Lord is great
And that our Lord is above all gods.

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all deeps—

Who causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightning for the rain,
Who brings the wind from His storehouses;  Psalm 135:5-7 (AMP)

Ruins, Repairs, and Restoration

Ruins dotted the tranquil landscape. Here a lone tower, there an old fort. Off in the distance four walls stood with no roof. Near the road towered an old cathedral surrounded by scaffolding. Relics from the past loomed in the midst of an everyday existence. The terrain held an ethereal sense of an ancient world stepping into modern day.

My family and I recently traveled parts of Ireland by car. Visual reminders of the past scattered throughout the countryside, in villages, towns, and cities. Archaic designs commingled with contemporary living, linking lifestyles thousands of years apart. For us native born Americans, it was difficult to grasp such historical grandeur. Most of Ireland’s ruins are three times older than our own country. Our stunned minds needed clarity. 

While touring an old cathedral and monastery, we questioned the guides about the ruins. They explained that over 800 antiquities could be found throughout Ireland. Too many to restore. The government owns and decides which relics to repair. The biggest and most famous ones undergo restoration as they bring in money through tourism, which in turn helps to pay for repairs. Both inside and outside of many structures, we witnessed a number of renovations in progress. 

As I stood gazing at the scaffolding for reconstruction inside a cathedral, my mind filled with thoughts of godly restoration. How many people scattered across the world have broken hearts? What troubles have invaded peoples’ lives? Who feels as though their lives are ruined? Whose souls long for godly repair? 

Later that day God gave me a glimpse into lives torn apart by a teenage boy’s suicide. A young lady who served us in a pub opened up and poured out her heart’s pain from his death. She talked about the devastation experienced by family and friends. How a whole village came together to support each other. But she never mentioned God. I told her I would be praying that God healed their broken hearts. These people required more than renovations. They needed soul restoration from God. 

When left unattended, buildings fall into disrepair. Structures collapse, weeds flourish, and creatures inhabit the place. Gloom and doom fills the empty space. Likewise, human beings can experience the agony of abandonment when living apart from the God who created them. 

Life’s hard knocks inflict wounds. Those wounds, if left untreated, can lead to a dull mind, depression, and worse. The ugliness soon covers what once was beautiful. Lost and alone, many people are lead to destruction. 

But God stands ready to restore. He doesn’t look for the biggest and best to repair. He doesn’t want a select few to be renewed. He loves everyone unconditionally and desires relationship restoration with all His people. He yearns to forgive and recreate repentant hearts. 

Has heartache wounded you? Is your life in ruins? Are you feeling lost and alone? There is a God who repairs repentant hearts. His name is Jesus Christ and He offers forgiveness to all who turn to Him. Allow His gracious mercy to renew you from the inside out. Experience restoration with Jesus. 

Our Father

Father, Daddy, Pop, Dad, Papa—names describing a male parent. These titles birth intense sensibilities for every person. The emotions expressed can be good, bad, or indifferent. A father’s legacy, whether present or absent, loving or cruel, can last a long time.  

My daddy loved me and my sisters. We loved him. He dispensed persistent, loving discipline with gracious imperfection. He provided the essentials of life, including a firm foundation of faith. Through his example, we learned about our loving Heavenly Father. Partnering with our mom, he led our family unit. At times our relationships lacked civility, but blood and God linked us. Even though both our parents now reside in heaven, my sisters and I share a special bond because of their example of God’s love. 

While on earth, Jesus exemplified the essence of a father/son relationship. Love and trust bound them together. Through prayer they communed. Jesus lived to demonstrate this love to everyone. Once when surrounded by faithful followers and curious onlookers, He told the story about a father and his two sons (Luke 15:11-24). Through this story of redemption, Jesus articulated the merciful love of a parent for a child. The parable’s earthly example of a father represents our gracious Father in heaven.

As the story goes, a father had two sons and loved them both. He provided for them daily while also planning an inheritance for them after his death. When the younger son asked for his share before that dreadful happening, the father granted his request. Before too long, the son took the money and ran off to a distant land. While suffering extreme heartache over his son’s absence, the father waited with hopeful expectation for his return. 

Meanwhile the son’s lifestyle ranged from reckless extravagance to abject poverty. Not until deprived of everything did he realize what he had left behind. Hungry and humbled, he decided to return home to his father as a hired servant.

On the way home, he contemplated his choices and their consequences. He had learned a hard lesson. He desperately desired forgiveness. What would he say to his father? How would his father respond? 

As he neared familiar territory, he spotted his father running toward him. Uneasiness intensified in his gut. He thought about turning around. But where would he go? He had nothing. Even though he felt unworthy, he continued walking. He would ask his father to make him a servant. At least he could eat. 

Before the son could speak, his father’s compassionate arms hugged away any fear of rejection. Tears of relief flowed from two sets of eyes. The son declared his sinfulness. The father granted amazing grace. A changed heart called for a celebration.

The Prodigal Son is a beautiful story of restoration because of a father’s love. But many people have never experienced love from a father. Celebrating dads on Father’s Day may be agonizing. Even praying the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples can be difficult as it begins with ‘Our Father’. Yet Jesus prayed this way. Why? 

Jesus knew the love of His heavenly Father. He yearned for others to know the Father’s love. When Jesus prayed the prayer now called The Lord's Prayer, He began with the unifying phrase of ‘Our Father’. It connects everyone to the Creator God. We are His children. He is our Heavenly Father. He longs for everybody to know Him as a merciful Father. No matter what we’ve done, He waits in hopeful expectation with open arms to offer grace. Amazing grace. 

We are His children. He is our Father. He loves us. Jesus loves us. 

No matter if your father is dead, absent, cruel, or lovingly alive, you are worthy because you have a Heavenly Father who loves you. He created you. He knows you. He yearns for you, His child. Run to Him. Receive His grace. And build a relationship with Him through daily prayer.

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  Matthew 6:10-13 (NASB)

Surely you are still our Father! Even if Abraham and Jacob would disown us, still you would be our Father, our Redeemer from ages past.  Isaiah 63:16 (TLB)

And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.”  Romans 8:15 (TLB)

And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father.  Galatians 4:6 (TLB)

Amazing Grace with lyrics......

Soothe My Soul, Lord Jesus

I stared out the small window from my seat in the plane. Clouds, only clouds. Without warning, our jet tossed and tumbled. The pilot confirmed we were experiencing turbulence. How could he land a plane surrounded by dense white mist and powerful unsteady air? My stomach lurched as fear gripped me. Am I in good hands?

Oh the ‘what ifs’. What if the pilot makes a mistake? What if we crash? What if I never see my children and grandchildren again? What if I don’t die on impact? What if I’m maimed forever? What if, what if, what if?

I’m sure Jesus’ disciples felt the same way as their boat pitched and plunged in a terrible storm. Waves crashed over the boat, filling it with water. They cried out for Jesus to help them, but found Him asleep at the back of the boat. They shouted, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to drown?” (Mark 4:38)

A swirling worried mind can be overwhelmed with fear. Any sense of calm is completely overpowered by angst. Until we intentionally utter the name JESUS. Jesus. Jesus.  

The Lord is near to all who call 
upon Him, To all who call 
upon Him in truth.  
Psalm 145:18 (NASB)

Come, Lord Jesus. Calm my fears. I cry out to you in truth. You are my God and Savior. I trust you. You are faithful. Amen.

Jesus responded to His frightened disciples saying, “Why are you afraid, men of little faith?” To the wind and sea, He spoke, “Hush, be still.” All at once they sailed on serene water as serenity invaded their souls. The disciples were completely astounded by the man who stood before them.

Jesus replaced my panic with peace. As I breathed deeply, my cloudy mind began to clear. Before long, tranquility resonated within my spirit. Even though we continued to fly into clouds, my apprehension dissipated. Amazing. 

I offered thanks when the wheels of our plane touched the ground. Thank you, Jesus! Smiles washed away worried looks as we landed safely. Sighs of relief expelled around me. In hindsight, passengers could say we were in good hands. I knew whose Hands carried me.

Children of God should confidently say we are in good Hands everyday. We serve a Sovereign God who rules supreme over all things. Over cloudy skies and stormy seas. Over our everyday situations. Can we trust Him? You bet we can! Even when our minds muddle causing cloudy vision, God our pilot sees everything clearly. He is our faithful God who desires for us to have complete faith in Him.

When trouble surrounds you, praise your Heavenly Father. Worship Him in spirit, truth, (John 4:23) and crisis. In the midst of confounding confusion, God can change chaos into order. 

Look past your panic into the peaceful face of your God. He loves and cares for you. You are in good Hands!

Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help.  Psalm 22:11 (NASB)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,  Romans 10:8 (NASB)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5 (TLB)