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Through the valley

Psalm 23 – “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

It has been a challenging last 4 days. I got a call Friday night that my grandpa had been in a really bad accident. So, the kids and I set out Sunday on a 12 hour tour up to visit him in the hospital. Now, we are on our 12 hour leg back home. I am so grateful that God prepared my path and provided a way for me to go and visit him. He prepared my car. He prepared my son to help drive some. He took care of it all.

But for the second time in his 87 years, my grandpa is walking through the valley. And it is hard to watch him go through it, again. I feel so helpless and confused when I walk into his room and see all the machines and hear all the noises. Suddenly, all the training and knowledge that I have received about medical conditions and prognosis and treatment become a distant memory that I have to work really hard to retrieve. 

It is a challenge to be positive. The devil is right there on my shoulder whispering in my ear all the negative thoughts he can muster up. He wants me to think about the very worst. He wants me to dwell on all the things I see wrong. He fights me when I try and remember that God is in control.

Yet, I know Jesus is in control of it all. 

Let me tell you about the day before I got the call – my tire pressure light came on. For land’s sake, I just got new tires within the last 3 months! So, my husband and I decided to go get it checked out and get the oil changed while we were at it. It was that time. This was Friday afternoon. I got the call Friday night. God knew on Thursday that grandpa would get hurt Friday afternoon and that I would get the call Friday night. He knew that I would want to go visit him and he knew that my husband needed the knowledge that the car was safe to carry his precious cargo 800 miles away without him. 

God knew. God prepared the way. 

So as my family and I walk through the valley, we covet your prayers. Pray for my grandma. She needs it. Pray for my aunt and my mom. They need it. 

But the great thing is that no matter what God chooses to do in this situation, the table before us will be prepared by Him. He will provide everything we need. He will be our rod. He will be our strength. He will anoint our thoughts with His grace and mercy. He will make our cup run over with His blessings. Of this, I have no doubt.

The week before

1 Peter 5:6,7 – “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

Do you ever dread a week? For me, the week before vacation is a dreaded week. I’m working like a crazy person trying to get everyone seen and all their paperwork completed that might be due while I’m gone. I’m thinking and making list after list about what I need to remember to purchase and pack. I’m leaving things out on counters so that I don’t forget them. I’m trying to clean my house because if I die, I don’t want people coming into my house dirty (I know, it’s morbid. I can’t help the way my brain works!). 

But here I am on Friday. One last day this week to get those people seen and get that paperwork done. One more day to get the items on that list. One more day to remember how God has brought me through this week. 

It hasn’t been a bad week. It really hasn’t been a rough week. It has just been a week. And as glad as I am that it is Friday, I’m really anticipating Monday at 2 – when work is truly finished and I clock into vacation mode. 

But God has got it between now and then. He sees my lists. He knows my potential issues and problems. He knows what all needs to happen between now and then. I’m not worried about it. God is going to take care of it. 

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

These are the words I’m claiming and have been claiming this week. I’m choosing today to lay my burdens at His feet and walk away trusting that He is going to make it happen one way or another. And I can do this because He loves me. He, the God of Heaven and Creator of all things and Savior of my soul, loves me – a sinner choosing to give my best by following after Him. 

So on this Friday, I want to encourage you to let Him love on you. Let Him take your burdens. Let Him hold you close. Let Him show just how awesome and amazing He can truly be. Happy Friday. 

On my heart

James 5:16 – “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

This verse has been on my heart and in my mind the last couple of days. 

As with any sermon, there are many lessons that speak different things to different people. And although this specific verse may or may not have been used, God brought it to my mind when I was at church in Sunday. 

We NEED to pray for one another. 

I began studying different portions of my Bible at the beginning of the year. After my Bible study, I began an “On my heart” section of each page. I have found that it keeps growing and growing. As I open my heart to those God lays upon it, my list gets longer and longer. I find myself praying for different people randomly throughout the day. God brings them to my heart and I say a word of prayer for them. 

Now, does that make me righteous and holy? Absolutely not. It does show me that I am being available. That’s what God wants. He wants availability and teachability. He wants me to listen closer to Him in all areas of my life – prayer, decisions, actions and words, just to name a few. 

I want to encourage you to start an “On my heart” list. God wants your availability. The best way to get started is by listening. And once you hear, act. That’s part of being available- the willingness to act. Pray for one another. Let’s see what God is going to do today. 

Another temptation 

James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Usually when I think of temptation, I think of doing something I know I shouldn’t – like eating that donut as big as your head or watching a show that you know you wouldn’t watch if Jesus was physically sitting on the couch next to you.  But let me ask this question- what if self pity is a temptation? I mean, think about it, haven’t you ever just felt the tug to feel sorry for yourself about something? “Poor little me, I have so much to do and I am so under appreciated.” 

I know I feel that way from time to time. In fact, I was there last night. I had thought my week was set. I had a large function behind me, laundry was on its way to the finish line, lunch was ready for the next day – I was set. Then, I get an email about an unexpected practice this week. Boom! Monkey wrench! Suddenly, I’m rearranging and contemplating and becoming more and more anxious because this monkey wrench felt like the Empire State Building had been dropped into the middle of my week. Now, I’m over exaggerating, but that’s what it felt like. 

I could almost see the devil in the corner rubbing his greedy little hands together saying, “Ooh weee, we got her now!” And for a time he did. So sad. I stewed. I cleaned (that’s what I do when I get frustrated). I felt sorry for myself. I was tired of doing and being everything for everyone. 

And then it happened, God started whispering to my heart. He started reminding me that He had provided my husband to help me figure things out. He had provided friends to be there when one of the kids needed a ride. He had provided Grandpa to help on Tuesday nights. He had provided. 

God was trying to grow my faith and my patience. Patience for not only my situation but also for myself. I am constantly learning that I need to chill out and let God do His thing. He must get so tired of teaching me that lesson but praise His name, He never quits. 

Rotten bananas 

1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Sometimes in life, we have to stop and evaluate the people with whom we spend our time. 

Especially as adults, we don’t want to think or consider that our “friends” are really not a positive influence in our life. It’s a lot easier to hand out a bucket of excuses than to say “Yep, these people are the rotten bananas in my fruit salad!”  Admitting that people in your life are a problem is tough because we care about them. We see that we are a positive influence in their life. We know that without us, who knows where they would be. 

But what we fail to realize is the yuck they are bringing into our life each and every day. They bring problems. They bring speech patterns that fail to glorify God. They bring hate and discord. And as much as we think that we can resist these negative influences, eventually they will have an effect on us. If you are around a negative person all the time, there’s a good chance that you too will start to see things negatively. 

Children are especially vulnerable. They just want people to like them. They want to be popular. They want to be accepted by the “cool kids”. But as a parent, it is my responsibility to guard them from times like these. And just like I have to monitor my own relationships, I have to monitor theirs as well. When I see that it may be time to walk away, I need to be there to provide whatever they need to make that tough decision. 

The One thing that we as followers of Christ can give ourself and our children is the gift of having Jesus with us every step of the way. We don’t have to make those determinations ourself. We can let Jesus show is the rotten bananas. We don’t have to have the words to explain our decision. We can allow Jesus to give us what to say in those situations. We don’t have to feel alone when we do walk away. Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us no matter the age, no matter the situation, no matter the level of hurt. 

So let me encourage you to evaluate your circle and the circle of people surrounding your children. Make sure that the influences in your life are wholesome and bring honor and glory to God. 

Under the cloud

Matthew 28:20b – “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

I have been reading a fictional account of a Biblical truth regarding Caleb. It tells of his life and story as it relates to the children of Israel and their exodus from Egypt. While reading it the other day, I couldn’t help but stop and ponder for a moment about how it must have felt the day that the cloud was no longer over the children of Israel. 

Think about it, from the time they left Egypt until they crossed the Jordan river, they had a cloud to provide protection from the hot sun in the day and warmth from the fire within at night. There was an entire generation that grew up under that cloud. They were a generation that knew only of the cloud and its’ movement. They were a generation that had only eaten manna from Heaven. 

Can you imagine what it would have felt like to wake up one morning with none of that there? I tried to find when the cloud left and the manna stopped but didn’t find a specific time. It just seemed to no longer be available. 

Sometimes when we choose to walk away from God, it feels like He is just no longer available. In actuality, it is us that is unavailable. We are the ones who have left Him, not the other way around. 

God never left the children of Israel even when they left Him. He never forgets His promises. He never forgets your name. He always remembers your burdens and successes and faults and highlights. 

So if for some reason or another you feel like you have gotten up and God is…gone, He’s not. You have moved, not Him. 

Search your heart. Identify the sin that has built up the wall that is keeping you from His loving protection and guidance. Tear it down and rest under His cloud. 

Bearing the burden

Galatians 6:2 – “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

It seems to have been a common theme this weekend- bearing one another’s burdens. As I sat here this morning finishing my Bible reading, I wrote out my prayer requests. It was really long this morning. We have several at my church that are definitely standing in the need of prayer. 

You know, when you read this verse, it can be taken a couple of different ways. One way is to see that we need to come alongside and physically assist others that need help. There are plenty of people that need this type of action. They need food or financial assistance or help with a loved one or something like that. They literally need a helping hand. 

Another way to see this verse is through the eyes of prayer. Prayer is an amazingly powerful tool that we have readily at our fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That means there is no time, no place, no circumstance in which we cannot pray. Even in places where prayer is frowned upon or illegal, you can still pray. Speaking from the heart can never be tamed or squashed. We all know and have people in our life that need prayer. 

So, what is keeping us from bearing another person’s burden whether physically or prayerfully?

Ourself. That is the only reason. Our selfishness and self-absorbed behaviors keep us from bearing one another’s burdens. We get so wrapped up in our own life and perceived needs that we block everyone else out. 

God has brought us together for a reason. He sees a need in my life that only you can fill. And He sees a need in your life that only I can fill. We need to be diligently and fervently bearing one another’s burdens – in whatever way is necessary. 

This week, choose to see and open your heart to someone else’s burdens – and share your own. We all need prayer – let someone know how they can pray for you today. And if you are in need of some physical assistance, ask for it. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are there for you. You just need to say the word and allow them to bless you and be blessed themselves by helping bear your burden.