Because Jesus Lives . . . for Us!

Blog - Because Jesus Lives for Us - John 20 v 31 - April 21, 2019Suggested Reading: John 19-20

Stilled by a bout with sickness, I sat on the sidelines as folks prepared fancy Easter outfits and meals, stuffed colorful baskets with gifts and goodies, and planned fun activities for children.

Spring suits and dresses.

Egg hunts and family photos.

This year, all of our traditions remained packed in totes.

The scenery on Easter Sunday didn’t look the same in Wisconsin.

I missed the sunny weather and the fragrant flowers decorating our California back yard.

I missed the laughter as our sons searched for candy and cash stashed in plastic eggs ruthlessly hidden in the nooks and crannies of our two-story home.

Sadness tugged on my heart and nudged me into a full-blown pity-party. I nursed my cold and waved as my husband headed to church.

I wanted to go with him. I wanted to spend Easter with our sons. I wanted to have more energy, less pain, more laughter, less grief, more blessings, less trials.

Discontent didn’t make a cute Easter outfit, so I repented.

As I settled in to watch the live-stream video of the service, the Lord tugged my focus to a different place, a quiet place, a sobering place . . . at the foot of the cross.

Betrayed and abandoned, mocked and rejected, Jesus stood silently before His raging accusers, and endured torture (John 19:1-17). As He hung on the cross, Jesus provided for His mother (John 19:25-27).

I am a face in the crowd along with Jesus’s mother, covered by a cloak of Christ’s unending compassion.

As God in the Flesh experienced excruciating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain, He thought of those He loved before the beginning of time.

He thought of . . . me.

But how often do I think of Him?

Do I ever stop “wanting something else” long enough to consider the weight of the cross on Jesus’s wounded back?

Do I think of the pain caused when the soldiers struck Jesus across the face, when they flogged Him with barbed and splintered weapons?

The punishment I deserve was heaped onto Jesus, the only one who can ever claim innocence.

God in the Flesh allowed the soldiers to ridicule and abuse Him, tearing into His flesh and His heart as they beat Him . . . instead of me.

Do I live like I know the value of each moment the Messiah stood silently, bleeding as mockers spit in His face, accepting the cruel sentence meant for me?

Do I stand in awe of Christ’s holiness as He restrained His limitless power and willingly accepted each blow so that the God-breathed words of Scripture would be fulfilled . . . simply because He loved . . . loves me?

The blood-stained cross, of Christ’s nail-pierced wounds and heart-wrenching cries to the Father, came at a great cost . . . yet, I pay nothing.

Do I “look on the one they have pierced” (John 19:37) with iron nails as the jagged splinters of the cross pressed against the deep-wounds stinging His flesh?

Do I consider the price Jesus paid when chose to take on my sins and be separated from the Father, accepting death and being left in a dark tomb that was truly meant for me?

Do I truly rejoice in the gift of the empty tomb as I proclaim Christ as the Risen King (John 20) who lives to give life-transforming love to the rejected, the forgotten, the marginalized, the doubters, and the worst of sinners . . . like me?

As I read through the gospel of John, do I remember that each word is written that we “may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,” and that by believing we may have “life in His name” (John 20:30-31)?

Today, I didn’t feel well. I struggled with pain and fatigue. I became frustrated with the symptoms of my cold and discouraged because I can’t take medication for cold symptoms. But by God’s incredible grace, I celebrated Easter with my heart focused on the foot of the cross.

As we consider the cost of Jesus’s personal sacrifice, we can learn to appreciate the value of the blood He shed and embrace the sobering reality that comes with believing that Jesus died and rose and lives for us.

Oh, what a gift it is to be loved so much . . . by God!

When Jesus made His way to the cross . . . He thought of us.

When Jesus died on that cross . . . He thought of us.

When Jesus rose after three days in that tomb . . . He thought of us.

Jesus thought of us when He promised to send us the Wise Counselor, His Spirit who would reveal His truth to us and empower us to live for Him and share Him with others (John 20:19-22).

God in the Flesh, the Second Person in the Trinity, Jesus thought of us . . . Jesus thinks of us.

No matter what we’re facing in life, we can rise up in victory, walk in power, move forward in hope, and breathe faith-filled prayers with confidence, because . . . Jesus lives . . . for us.

Hallelujah!

Lord Jesus, we love You and praise You and thank You for the unchanging truth that changes us and gives us an eternal perspective through which we can view the situations we face each day. Oh, how easily we can brush aside Your priceless love when we get consumed with our busyness, when we get overwhelmed by our selfishness, when we get lost in the mess of our fleshly discontent that tempts us to desire something more or something else. Thank You for coming to save us, for dying for us, for living for us. Please help us to receive Your intimate love, to be forever transformed and empowered by Your constant presence as we live in the shadow of the Good News . . . forever freed and victorious in You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—–

How does your perspective on trials and triumphs change when you know that Jesus thought of you when He died for you and rose for you, that Jesus thinks of you every moment of every day?

—-

J9379To pre-order your copy of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace today, please visit my Amazon Author Page. We’ll be going through the daily devotions on this blog after the book releases on August 7, 2019. I look forward to growing with you!

—–

Facebook Twitter Email

S.P.R.A.W.L. Before the Lord

MEME - Blog - S.P.R.A.W.L. Before the Lord - Jan 14, 2019Suggested Reading: Genesis 24

As a teenage runaway, I convinced myself that survival made it necessary to place my needs above everyone else’s.

I demanded my way, dug in my heels until I proved myself right, and prided myself in being independent.

I gave to no one. I insisted I needed no one. I submitted to no one.

I trusted no one.

After repeatedly falling face-first in the mess caused by my foolishness and self-centered sinfulness, I met a King‒Jesus‒who proved Himself trustworthy.

Prayerfully reading through the Bible yearly helped me learn more about God’s character as I discovered how much my personal Lord and Savior loved me, how much He gave for me, how much He promises me.

I began to realize He was and is and always will be the only One worth following.

Falling in love with Jesus changed my perspective on servanthood.

But how could I learn to follow Christ when every fiber in my being still struggled with stubbornness at times?

How could I possibly hear His direction when a war waged between my self-serving heart and my desire to have a surrendered servant’s heart?

Though the concept of surrender filled me with fear, the Lord used a humble servant in Genesis 24 to help me learn to S.P.R.A.W.L. before my trustworthy Master, Jesus Christ.

S.P.R.A.W.L.

Stop.

Pray.

Release.

Acknowledge.

Watch.

Listen.

When Abraham sent his servant to seek out a wife for Isaac, the servant fretted over his ability to complete the task (Genesis 24:1-9). Abraham assured him that he Lord would be with him and equipped with all he needed for his travels (vv. 10-11). Scripture doesn’t tell us how much time passed when the servant arrived in Nahor, but we do know how he spent his time.

He stopped and prayed (vv. 12-14).

He released his worries into God’s able hands.

He acknowledged God’s love and reliability with a simple statement of assurance:

“By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love for my master.” (v. 14, emphasis mine)

Through his honest and confident prayer, the servant opened his heart to the peace of trusting God with the outcome (vv. 15-21).

He watched with expectancy as he waited for God’s answer (v. 33).

And even when others tried to distract him from his purpose and delay him, the servant listened‒obeyed his master‒followed the Lord and started on his journey home (vv. 34-61).

This nameless servant chose to S.P.R.A.W.L. before the Lord when given a seemingly impossible task and became a vital part of God’s plan in bringing Isaac and Rebekah together (vv. 62-67).

The Lord never leaves us empty-handed when He calls us to follow Him.

When the twists and turns in our journey test us and the delays and distractions discourage us, we can still follow our Master with surety and hope.

As we S.P.R.A.W.L. like a servant before the Lord Almighty, He can use us to make an eternal impact in someone else’s life.

 Lord Almighty, thanks for affirming Your unending love for us as You empower us to S.P.R.A.W.L. before You whenever we face challenges.

Give us wisdom to stop when we need guidance, pray with confidence, and release our worries into Your capable hands.

 Help us acknowledge You as our Holy God full of goodness and mercy, as we watch You place every piece of Your plan in place.

Help us listen to You‒to hear You and obey You as we follow You.

 In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—–

How did your life change when you chose to live with a servant’s heart instead of a self-serving heart?

 Is it harder for you to stop, pray, release, acknowledge, watch, or listen to God?

—-

Facebook Twitter Email

The Same Old Story

MEME - Blog - Genesis 1 v 1 - Edited Jan 5, 2019

A strange sadness weighed on my heart as I stared at my Bible.

Why wasn’t I excited about reading God’s Word?

Alan and I had been reading the Bible in a year since 2005.

Each year, we’d been amazed at how the Lord revealed Himself in new ways and used His Word to stretch and strengthen us at the perfect time.

So, why was I struggling with focus?

Why didn’t I feel that twinge of expectation and excitement when I prepared to start the year’s reading plan?

When did I start losing sight of the immeasurable value of each God-breathed word in Scripture?

As I beat myself up over the unanswered questions, the Lord patiently massaged my weary heart and prepared me for an unexpected answer.

When I approach Bible reading as a task, I fail to acknowledge God intentionally provided and protected each word from the time of oracles through the years of transcription and translations so He could place His story at my fingertips.

To the enemy’s delight, I’d fallen for the lie that made me skim through Scripture as if I had nothing left to learn from the same old story, as if I didn’t desperately need to listen to my loving Savior’s unchanging voice, as if I didn’t need Him to transform my heart with His words every single day of this life He’s given me.

I prayed for forgiveness and asked God to ignite my passion for His Holy Word, to help me approach Scripture with a new and more grateful perspective, to strengthen me through the same old story that changed my life on December 14, 2001 . . . the day I surrendered my life to Jesus.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning, before life as we know it started, God existed in all His triune perfection and decided to create something out of absolutely nothing.

God created the heavens.

He designed and gave purpose to every galaxy, every planet, every star, every black hole, every atomic particle in the universe.

The Lord created the heavens, in all its marvelous and mysterious vastness.

He created the five basic elements of the universe. Fire. Wood. Water. Metal. Earth.

From the nothing that existed, God created the earth.

He created the inner core, the outer core, the earth’s mantle, and the solid crust that gives us firm places to stand.

He decided where the land would separate the water, where vegetation would flourish, where desert sands would stretch across miles, where mountain ranges and valleys would be carved by trickling streams and the winds that answer to His voice alone.

The Maker of time decided when this world would begin and when man would be created.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

The mind-blowing implications of that simple declaration confirm our Almighty Creator started His story by providing a place for us to be with Him.

Every God-breathed word preserved in the Bible assures us that we can depend on “the same old story” being the foundation of our faith and the proof of His unchanging and unconditional love.

God’s unchanging story gives us confidence in the foundational truths on which He builds our faith.

Why would we want God to change His perfection, to lead us along a different path so we won’t get bored?

Why would we want Him to change His story, to shake things up so we could have a foundation we couldn’t depend on?

Would we really want to follow Him if He was untrustworthy, if He kept changing the rules to fit our weaknesses?

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Why would He change anything? Why would we want Him to change anything?

As I prepare to read the same old story this year, I’m now excited about the prospect of deepening my faith as He strengthens my confidence in His unchanging Word.

I don’t want to miss one syllable.

I don’t want to skim through one story.

I don’t want to risk giving up an opportunity to hear His unchanging voice declaring His unconditional love for us.

My attitude toward reading God’s Word was a direct result of The Fall. Like Adam and Eve, I listened to the enemy tempting me to doubt the value and surety of God’s unchanging words of truth and love.

Did God really say this or that?

How will we know if we don’t sit at His feet every day and invite Him to share the beautiful story He’s preserved for us in Scripture?

Lord Almighty, thanks for blessing us with confidence in Your unchanging truth. Please ignite our passion for Your Word and help us understand Your truth as we sit at Your feet each day.

Please forgive us for the moments we forget to truly hear what You are saying through Your words preserved in Scripture.

We love You and praise You and thank You for the beautiful love letter You’ve placed in our hands‒the Bible. Please help us approach daily Scripture reading with grateful hearts surrendered in prayer and excitement at the opportunity to know You more.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

In what ways have you struggled with reading the Bible?

How does considering the magnitude of the statement in Genesis 1:1 make reading God’s story more exciting?

 How has the Lord used His unchanging Word to change your life?

 —–

This year I’m using the Our Daily Bread reading schedule to read through the Bible in one year. If you would like to receive daily encouragement devotions and the daily reading schedule from Our Daily Bread, please visit www.odb.org/subscriptions

For encouragement and prayers, please connect with me on my Facebook Author Page, Xochitl E. Dixon at  https://www.facebook.com/Xochitl-E-Dixon-239776362714751/

—–

Facebook Twitter Email

How to Overflow with Hope in the Meantime

MEME - Romans 15 v 13 - Photo by Deb Garland -Aug 8, 2018

This year has been as memorable and filled with answered prayers as it has been quick in passing. For the last few months, God’s been doing a bit of refining work in the lives of my family members.

We’re all dealing with different challenges but, by the Lord’s insurmountable grace, not one of those situations has knocked us out or kept us down. Hallelujah!

The trials have brought us closer to God and one another in ways I never dreamed possible.

Perfectly? Not a chance. Personalities don’t always mesh well within families. Hopeful? Absolutely. God’s note even close to being done refining us through these fires.

When we come up against seemingly endless journeys filled with impossible obstacles, it’s often tempting to misunderstand the purpose of the wait.

Though it’s not always easy, God can clear our perspective about the reasons we can hope with bold confidence.

God gives us the power to recognize the benefits of His planned seasons of stillness, the goodness behind His deliberate pauses, the immeasurable and life-transforming reach of His mercy in the meantime.

The apostle Paul shows us how to overflow with hope, God’s hope, by first accepting that hope is not a momentary or stationary state of mind.

Hope is living and breathing faith that assures us that God’s promises will continue flowing, when needed, as needed, and even before we know we have a need.

We serve the God of hope, the One who bases the guarantee of His promises on His unchanging character.

The Lord Himself fills us with all joy and peace . . . all . . . as we trust Him.

All. As. Such simple words jampacked with the implication of perseverance, continual shows of Spirit-empowered courage and strength.

Why does He do this? Why does the Lord choose to fill us, to energize us, to empower us . . . to hope with expectation that’s solid and strong?

So that . . . we may overflow with hope that covers every trial, hope that runs in and through every one of our relationships, hope that changes our vision and revitalizes the weariest of spirits.

We can praise God in the meantime and trust He is always working in and through the moments we wish would zip by faster. But in His perfect love, He stills our jittery hearts and reminds us that He’s got great plans for us in the wait.

How do we overflow with hope in the meantime?

Stick close to the trustworthy King of kings, seeking Him, surrendering to Him, and being dependent on Him.

Hope anchored in the Sovereign Lord keeps our praises bursting through the atmosphere of despair, fear, anxiety, discouragement, and insecurity.

Because of God’s ongoing consistency, we can face changes and persevere with great expectations through every moment of His ordained waiting.

 Lord, thanks for helping us walk with steps solid in contentment and confidence in Your perfect love and all-around goodness. Please help us remember that trust is a verb that tugs us onto the rocky-edges of mountaintop faith. As You secure our footing in Your infallible truth, we can turn to You and count on Your love to carry us, change us, and cover us in Your healing mercy. Please help us breathe in Your everlasting hope and exhale with grateful hearts as we share Your hope with others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—–

Special thanks to Deb Garland for blessing me with the privilege of using her photo to create this week’s encouragement meme.

—–

Facebook Twitter Email

Does God Want Us to Be Weak?

MEME - Psalm 46 v 1 - EDITED May 20, 2018

(Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:20-31 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

Some questions make us feel uncomfortable. Some questions uncover deep wounds, fears, insecurities, and dashed hopes. Some can’t be answered on this side of eternity.

Browsing through the book of Psalms affirms God understands our need to wrestle with questions, process our emotions, and feel understood and confirmed.

Earlier this week, a reader sent me an encouraging note about a devotion I’d written for Our Daily Bread. After dealing with decades of pain, this reader struggled with the concept of God allowing Paul to live with a “thorn” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31).

“What is somewhat frustrating is that, unlike Paul and other great men and women of faith, I live a very common life and nothing extravagant has happened to me that God has had to purge potential conceit from my life.”

Sorrow filled me as I considered the weariness that led to this beloved reader thinking any life God created would be considered common‒ordinary, unexceptional, mediocre.

Anyone who has dealt with day after day of chronic pain knows perseverance is a gift from God, an extravagant display of faith and breath-by-breath trust in the Lord.

When we can’t take the simple things in life for granted, we may forget the true definition of weakness is lack of strength.

Anyone who has endured decades of pain may feel weary, but they are certainly not weak . . . even when we struggle to take each step.

This reader continued: “When I didn’t have pain and the accompanying anxiety I was a much more peaceful and contented a person than when I feel weak and impotent.”

Hallelujah! Another human . . . just like me.

Who wouldn’t feel more peaceful and content without pain and the anxious thoughts that tag-along with any type of affliction?

I wanted to shout, “Me, too!” But the reader’s next question tugged me into a wrestling match with truth.

“Do you think that God wants us to feel emasculated rather than strong?”

Oh, how a part of me wished I could give this reader a cheerful answer, holding my chin out and declaring with surety that the Lord wants us to feel strong, assured, peace-filled and worry-free all on our own.

That moment of insanity passed quickly.

Does God want us to feel weak and impotent (powerless, helpless, unable, and incapable)?

Does God want us to feel emasculated (ineffectual, feeble, unimpressive, and incompetent)?

I could give useless personal opinions or go straight for the infallible truth-source‒the Bible.

When I struggle with weakness and weariness, I think about the apostle Paul. He lived a “common life” fully aware that his strength came from Christ.

In my experience, there are no “great men and women of faith” who are not fully aware of their complete dependence on God.

Paul reminds us that “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” (emphasis mine,1 Corinthians 1:28-29)

The apostle rejoiced in God’s grandness by accepting the reality of his own lowliness‒meekness, commonness, and humbleness that led to willing submissiveness.

He stated, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (emphasis mine, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

God’s power. God’s strength. God’s wisdom.

If the Lord wants us to be weak, why would He offer to be our strength?

Why would He affirm that His “grace is sufficient” for us; His power “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

God knows we’re weak (Psalm 103:13-14). He knows we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5).

God knows because He chose to experience the feebleness of our fleshly existence (Colossians 1:15-20), without giving up His divinity (Hebrews 4:14-15).

We can “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 4:16)

God knows we’re weak, so He invites us to abide in Him, rely on Him, and submit to Him. He wants to give us all we need to stand strong, rooted in His unchanging truth and love.

Like the brave reader who couldn’t see the great courage and strength the Lord gave him to reach out with such vulnerability, I’ve succumbed to the weariness and worry that accompanies just about any waiting season.

Today, my physical pain has been constant and overwhelming. I’ve been trying to write this article for days, but my body and mind are tired and beat down.

Praying and knowing I’m covered in prayer, I’m finally typing this sentence with eyes half-closed and heart wide-open.

In God’s enduring love and sufficient grace, He is our peace, our faithful power source.

“Do I think that God wants us to feel emasculated rather than strong?”

 I’ll let His Word answer this question:

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.” (Psalm 28:7)

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

“Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they are ever praising You. Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:4-5)

When our “hearts are set on pilgrimage,” we remember this side of eternity is not our final destination. He doesn’t want us to be weak. Our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, and all-faithful God wants us to let Him be our strength.

Lord, please help us stop believing the lie that You will never give us more than we can handle, so we can start living in the confidence that You‒our Creator and Sustainer‒will always be our strength. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

 —–

Facebook Twitter Email

Have a Hope-Filled Mother’s Day

MEME - 1 Samuel 2 v 2 - May 12, 2018

Suggested Reading: 1 Samuel 1-2

On Mother’s Day, some of us will enjoy quality time with our mothers. Some won’t have that privilege. Others won’t even want to speak to their mothers.

People will be rejoicing over the wonderful relationships shared with their mothers, while others will grieve over broken bonds.

Moms will feel loved and appreciated.

Moms will feel neglected and rejected.

Some mothers will be elated and in love as they celebrate the children God has entrusted to them, whether biological, step, fostered, or adopted.

There will be mothers who willingly sacrifice for their children, while other moms leave their children to fend for themselves.

Happiness. Heartache. Gratitude. Grief.

Life doesn’t just stop because a national holiday pops up on the calendar.

This year, I’m still missing my mother after her yearlong battle with Leukemia in 2014.

I’m at peace as I grieve and celebrate the child I never got to hold, as my wonderful husband and I prepare to announce the name we should have chosen when we lost our first child to miscarriage in 1995.

I’m praising God for blessing me with my loving, compassionate, hard-working son, Xavier, who is now almost twenty-two.

And I’m grateful for the ways the Lord is now restoring a relationship with my stepson, who is loving and kind to me . . . though he prefers not to have his name mentioned in my writing.

Happy and sad. Laughter and tears. Sobs of wailing and songs of worship.

Crying out to God. Relying on God. Praying and believing God is with us.

Even though Mother’s Day won’t be a happy day for everyone, it can be a hope-filled day for those who place their trust in the Lord.

Elkana’s wife, Hannah, understood the desire to be a mother and the complexity of motherhood.

Her husband loved her, cared for her, and provided for her. But he couldn’t heal he infertility (1 Samuel 1:1-5). Hannah was ostracized and endured great sorrow as she longed for a child (vv. 6-8).

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10)

She didn’t mask her pain or approach the God’s throne of grace with a superficial thankfulness or praise. She acknowledged her suffering. She begged and bartered with the One who she knew could help her. She showed no concern over those who would witness her display of desperation (vv. 11-12).

“Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.” (1 Samuel 1:13)

She poured out her soul to God and refused to pretend everything was “fine” (vv. 13-16).

After Eli, the priest, encouraged her, Hannah moved forward in faith . . . “her face no longer downcast.” Her situation didn’t flip overnight, but her attitude certainly did an about-face (vv. 17-20).

In God’s perfect timing, Hanna was blessed with the baby she prayed for and loved, cared for and dedicated to the LORD. She cared for Samuel and never gave up on him (vv. 21-28).

If God’s people would have celebrated Mother’s Day back then, Hannah would have experienced joy and grief jumbled into a big lump of hope-filled heartache.

Motherhood includes a mesh of emotions and moments worth celebrating and mourning.

Hannah’s prayer reminds me how much more appropriate it feels to wish people a hope-filled Mother’s Day.

Though her scars of sorrow ran deep, Hannah sang: “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2)

She prepared a gift for the son she would embrace and release, celebrate and grieve, visit and leave . . . year after year after year (1 Samuel 2:18-20).

With our eyes on the Lord and our hearts completely surrendered and secured by the surety of God’s proven faithfulness, we can move forward in faith when life can’t be explained by pat answers.

“The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up.” (1 Samuel 2:6).

Motherhood, a beautiful yet complicated and priceless gift, wraps us in an array of feelings we never realized we could experience.

Thankfully, the Lord remains unchanging, sovereign in power and unlimited in love and grace.

God was enough for Hannah. God is enough for us.

When Mother’s Day or any day doesn’t feel very happy, we can rejoice in Christ’s sacrificial love for us. We can rest in the peace of His constant and almighty presence.

We can thank the Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer, for empowering us to move forward in faith with hope-filled hearts today and every day.

Lord, thanks for loving us, for knowing our names, and for caring about our deepest needs. Please bless the women who are longing for children, mourning children, and trusting You with their wandering children. Please bless the women who are at peace with Your decision for them to be childless, for women who have adopted or fostered children, and for those of us who are doing the best we can to love the children You’ve entrusted to us. Please be our peace, our strength, and our joy, as we lean into Your endless grace and spread Your truth and love with hope-filled hearts today and every day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—–

Please join me in sharing this post and praying for those who need to experience a Hope-Filled Mother’s Day.

To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise!

—–

Facebook Twitter Email

Persevering When God Hits the Pause Button

MEME - Proverbs 4 vv 25-26 - May 2, 2018Blah-days sneak up on me once in a while. The hours pass normally, but time feels like it’s standing still. I feel God’s presence and know He’s working, but nothing else seems to be moving forward.

Today, the morning and afternoon crawled by without a hitch. I wasn’t sad or discouraged. So, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

Sure, I was tired and still battling chronic pain. But today was one of the better days I’ve had in a long time. Thank You, Lord.

Sure, my husband and I are waiting on the Lord to show us the next step in several areas of our lives. But, we’re at peace and on the same page. Hallelujah!

Today was a good day. Praise the Lord!

So, why the blah-feeling?

Why couldn’t I focus? Why couldn’t I get motivated? Why couldn’t I write?

When my husband called, I shared my dilemma with him. In his wisdom, accompanied with his adorable laugh, he said, “Why don’t you just rest?”

We chatted for a bit longer before hanging up. His simple, but profound question lingered in my mind.

Why didn’t I just rest?

I didn’t have a deadline today. I’m ahead of the deadlines I do have. So, why didn’t I relax and enjoy the downtime?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being still in God’s presence. Why did I feel like I had to do something to be productive?

My blah-day gave me an opportunity to ask God to adjust my perspective and replenish my strength.

Perseverance requires waiting, which is an active verb.

Waiting on the Lord and walking with Him demands our attention in the present and is one of the most productive things we can do.

Proverbs 4:25 says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”

We can waste valuable time and energy looking over our shoulders. But stressing over what might be catching up to us, might be ahead of us, or might be coming around the corner will only cause anxiety and extra worry-wrinkles.

My husband likes to say that stress is self-inflicted. I used to think he was crazy when he said that, but now I’m rethinking my approach to stressful situations.

Though sometimes we’ll want to believe we can’t help but worry, Scripture affirms God gives us power over our perspective.

We can “let” our eyes stray to the left or right, or “look straight ahead” and focus on God instead of watching the clock tick-tick-tocking away.

We can “fix” our gaze behind us and fuss over things we can’t change or rely on the Lord’s goodness to be reflected in the ways He’s ordained our steps.

When we’re gazing “directly” at the Lord, we can follow Him in Spirit-empowered obedience.

We can cleave to His unchanging truth, count on His constant and powerful presence, and avoid being ambushed by worry, paralyzed by fear, or distracted by selfish motivations.

Scripture says we should give “careful thought” to the paths for our feet and “be steadfast” in all our ways. (Proverbs 4:26)

“Giving careful thought to the paths” God has set before us can prevent us from jumping ahead of Him.

The Lord knows stillness is a vital part of energizing our faith for the long stretches that require endurance.

Persevering when God hits the pause button in our lives involves patience and stillness, which can cause us to exert lots of energy and show great restraint.

The next time a waiting season surprises us or drags on way longer than we feel necessary, we may tire and even honestly pour our frustrations out to the Lord.

Rather than trying to avoid blah-days, long waits, and pit-stops, we can ask God to help us recognize the value in His deliberate delays.

He’ll secure us in the still moments. After all, He’s already planned how to use these necessary times of preparation for His glory.

Lord, thanks for assuring us that You are in control of the whole journey You’ve planned for us. Thanks for guiding us and reminding us that Your love is enough to carry us through life’s rough roads and tough time-outs. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

How has God helped you deal with a waiting season that surprised you or dragged on way longer than you felt necessary?

 Why is it often hard to feel productive during times of stillness?

 What is the hardest part of persevering when God hits the pause button in your life?

—–

Facebook Twitter Email

No Matter What Comes‒Jesus is Still Enough

MEME - Mark 1 vv 1-3 - April 22, 2018

I’ve been praying over what to share on my blog for the last couple of weeks. When I planned on writing, the Lord led me to wait. I believe in obedience when it comes to following our all-mighty and all-knowing God. So, I waited.

During my time of stillness, life around me sped up and threw a few unexpected punches.

My last back procedure led to the expected four to six weeks of sporadic and high-level pain as the nerves die.

While dealing with elevated pain levels and fatigue, my husband shared some news that left us facing a few challenging situations and seeking the Lord’s direction with a couple of big decisions.

My check-up appointment with my doctor became a painful procedure that led to a glimmer of hope in my healing journey.

My doctor thinks he finally found the root of the injury in my upper thoracic back, which could help him determine a treatment and healing instead of pain-management. Praise the Lord!

God can heal me with a whisper or a thought. He can heal me through my doctors. He can also choose to empower me to continue trusting Him through this physically and emotionally draining affliction.

On Tuesday, a friend asked me if I would “rather be healed or write with great beauty and passion.”

I responded: “I’d rather honor God’s choice and trust His will, not my wants.”

Yet, by Thursday, I still couldn’t write this post.

With so many life-altering decisions to make, so many unknowns, so much pain, frustration, discouragement in my life and in the lives of loved ones, all I could do was stare at the blank piece of paper. (Yes, I still write my first drafts with an old-school pen and pad.)

I opened my Bible and asked God what He wanted me to learn, or re-learn, so I could share.

I leaned into His grace, totally at peace . . . and waited . . . until I landed in the Gospel of Mark.

John the Baptist reminded me of my purpose as God’s beloved child.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make His path straight.” (Mark 1:3)

John the Baptist reminded me who was in charge.

He “who is mightier” than I‒Jesus (Mark 1:7).

He who baptized me with the Holy Spirit‒Jesus (v. 8).

The Father is well pleased with the Son‒Jesus (v. 11).

My Heavenly Father is also pleased with me, His beloved child.

God loves us . . . completely.

No matter how we struggle.

No matter how often we fall short or fall flat on our faces.

No matter how much we feel overwhelmed by our weaknesses, frustrations, discouragement, worries, and even doubts.

No matter how long we’re battered by the winds of worry as we wait in the wilderness of what-else-can-go-wrong.

God remains sovereign, loving constant and caring (vv. 12-13).

He knows we’ll face temptations.

He’s ready to meet all our needs.

He’s not surprised by whatever the “wilderness” looks like in our personal lives.

The Lord empowers us to navigate the obstacle courses riddled with pain, heartache, tough decisions, shaky ground, long lines, depleting resources, and foggy horizons.

His ordained paths lead straight to the center of perfect will . . . according to His well-planned timing . . . not ours.

We don’t have to fear God’s deliberate delays or detours.

We can trust His compass, believe His complete goodness, rely on His proven faithfulness, and surrender to His Word.

No matter when, where, or how we land on this path God has planned for us, we’ll be safe in the refuge of His life-restoring love.

No matter what comes . . . Jesus is still enough.

Father God, thanks for giving us confidence in Your abilities, Your trustworthiness, and Your never ending supply of love. Thanks for reminding us that we don’t need to know what’s ahead because we can trust You no matter what comes. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—-

 

Facebook Twitter Email

We Can Count on God . . . No Matter What!

MEME - Easter - Job 42 vv 2, 5 - March 31, 2018

Suggested Reading: Job 45:10-17

We don’t have to be overwhelmed with life-altering problems, suffering great loss, physically hurting, disabled by discouragement, or overwhelmed with worry to be tapping-our-foot-and-crossing-our-arms-impatient with God.

We can feel desperate for a breakthrough, even when we’re not quite sure what we’re hoping to break through.

How can our weary-of-waiting souls be refreshed when we can’t hear past our own exasperated grumbling, whining, or exaggerated sighing?

How can we glimpse hope when we can’t see past our hand-painted murals of if-onlys and what-ifs?

How can we experience the joy of gratitude and contentment when we’re scribbling comparisons and complaints in tattered wish-my-life-were-different notebooks?

Sometimes, all it takes is a slow drip of discontent to tempt our eyes to wander over our neighbor’s fence.

After my health took another dive, my slow drip of discontent burst into waves of disheartenment crashing against the weathering rock-wall of my resolve.

When will things get better? What else can go wrong now? Will I be able to take much more?

Even the minor inconveniences felt like huge blows.

Yet, with a loving outpour of mercy, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a man of great faith who endured immense personal devastation, who persevered through unfathomable suffering. Job.

When life’s circumstances socked him in the gut, punched him in the jaw, stomped on his head, and busted down the door to his grieving heart, Job spoke honestly to God.

Approaching the Lord with raw emotions and hard questions displayed Job’s depth of faith.

How did the Lord respond?

Scripture says He spoke to Job “out of the storm” (Job 38-41).

God didn’t explain Himself, reason, or promise to comfort to Job. He simply invited Job to reflect on the unquestionable majesty of His Creator and Sustainer of all.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4)

“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” (v. 12-13)

“Do you send the lightening bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” (v. 35)

“Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings to the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?” (Job 39:26-27)

Did Job wrestle with the reality of God’s bigness . . . of his own smallness? I know I have.

Did he cry out in awestruck wonder when the Lord listed the evidence of His glory? I know I do.

Did a humble whisper of worship trickle over Job’s trembling lips as he spoke? “I am unworthy‒how can I reply to You?” (Job 40:4)

Instead of allowing Job to withdraw in defeat, the Lord said, “I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (v. 7)

He affirmed His majesty. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11)

Everything . . . including all of His beloved children. And God cares for those He loves.

Job’s circumstances didn’t change. He didn’t wake up and realize his devastation was just a dream. His grief hadn’t faded or gotten easier overnight.

Though his weariness still lingered, hope glinted as he gazed upon the Lord and said:

“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.” (Job 42:2, 5)

The confirmation of God’s grandness and Job’s smallness both comforted and humbled him.

“Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust in ashes.” (Job 42:6)

If we’re not careful, we can misinterpret this beautiful interaction between the Father and His beloved servant. We can fail to recognize the Lord’s incredible mercy.

After Job submitted to God, the all-powerful, all-merciful, and all-loving God lifted him to a place of honor as a servant, an intercessory prayer warrior (v. 8).

He accepted Job’s prayers on behalf of this friends (v. 9).

The Lord restored Job. He “gave him twice as much as he had before” (v. 10) and “blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (v. 12).

God wasn’t trying to replace what Job had lost.

Even after the Lord blessed him in abundance and empowered him to move forward, Job still had hard days . . . just like all of us.

Some days were harder than others. Some days were merely filled with little frustrations.

The only constant in his life, in this life, in our lives . . . is God.

Whether we’re feeling inconvenienced or crushed by the complications life tosses our way, the Lord doesn’t compare us or our circumstances with others or measure our hurts against the hurts of others.

When we’re feeling forgotten in the wait or beat up by life, when we’re tempted to slip into discontent, our loving Creator and patient Sustainer continues to love us, extends grace, and remains faithful.

Jesus loves us and remains with us through every trial.

He meets our deepest needs and increases our compassion for the hurting.

He strengthens and heals us‒according to His perfect plan and pace.

As Easter approaches, we can reflect on God’s grandeur and the priceless sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

We can rejoice and place our eternal hope in Christ, our Risen King, as we celebrate Resurrection Day.

We can count on God, no matter what, because He is and always will be unchanging, unlimited, and undeniably faithful.

Nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing can thwart the power of our Lord’s sovereign plan or throw a wrench in His flawless pacing.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for giving us Your Word and being the foundation on which we stand, no matter how rough the road ahead feels or how long the wait seems. Please help us rest in the unshakeable peace of Your constant presence. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

 Happy Resurrection Day!

——-

Facebook Twitter Email

Time to Move Forward

MEME - Deuteronomy 1 v 21

(Suggested Reading: Deuteronomy 1:1-10)

Sudden stops, deliberate delays, U-turns, and even moving forward can shake up the firmest foundation of faith.

What’s next? What if I make the wrong decision? What if it’s too hard? Should I wait? Should I walk away? Should I move forward . . . and if so . . . when and where should I go? How long should I stay?

As the Lord helped me through a few more unexpected twists, turns, and time-outs in my healing journey over the last year, I began to feel like I needed to do something.

In an effort to feel useful, to feel needed, to feel like I was a part of something beyond my recliner, I jumped into a volunteer position that seemed so good for me. Maybe if I busied myself, I wouldn’t be consumed with the things I couldn’t control.

I believed in the ministry’s purpose, but the Lord quickly revealed I had slipped into the sidelines of His sovereign plan for my life. The path I thought would lead me to the center of His will ended up stopping me from accomplishing the great things He was preparing for me.

Still, I stayed. Afraid of what others would think of me if I quit so soon after I started, fearing what others would say about me behind my back.

As usual, the Lord allowed a little restlessness to settle in as He shifted the ground beneath my feet.

Then, as my pain increased and my energy decreased, I felt the Holy Spirit drawing me into a resting position.

For months, I prayed for direction as He wrapped me in peace during the wait.

The Lord affirmed my worth wasn’t determined by what I was a part of, what I was doing, or what others thought or said about me.

He reminded me to stay focused on Him, draw closer to Him, and stick to the purpose He had repeatedly affirmed for me.

I prayerfully sought wise counsel from my husband and several writing friends. With confidence, I made some tough decisions and stepped away from a few good things.

As I worked through the wait, enjoying the blessings of serving the Lord by sharing Him with others, I continued praying for direction, clarity, and courage.

God began opening doors widely and quickly.

I embraced the adventure, certain it was time to move forward and step boldly onto the path He’d been preparing.

My waiting season led to a windfall of opportunities to share God’s truth and love with others, while equipping and encouraging other writers to use their beautifully diverse voices for His glory.

If I hadn’t left the comfortable spot where I’d dug in my heels, I would have missed out on all the wonderful things the Lord is doing in and through my life right now.

The Israelites struggled with a poor sense of direction, the longing for comfort and security, and impatient pacing, too. At Horeb, God’s people stood at the edge of their inheritance (Deuteronomy 1:1-5).

The Lord said to His people, “You’ve stayed long enough at this mountain” (v. 6).

The time to move forward had come.

So, led by the Lord Himself, Moses and the people prepared for the road ahead (vv. 9-18).

God gave them all they needed. His unchanging promises secured their path and prepared them for the journey (v. 19).

“See, the LORD your God had given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be distracted.” (v. 21)

When the Lord plants us by a mountain, or even in a valley, He’ll give us the grace we need for the seasons of stillness and preparation.

When He calls us forth, He provides the supplies, the energy, and the pre-ordained steps for the assignment He’s entrusting to us.

We can avoid distractions by being patient as we seek His will and the wise counsel of others. And we can be courageous when we remember we can fully rely on the Lord’s strength, His goodness, His faithfulness, and His unchanging character.

We won’t know what lies ahead in this world. We won’t know how long or how hard the road will be. But we can be certain that our loving Father is always in control.

We can depend on the Lord as He remains with us during every sudden stop, deliberate delay, and U-turn.

God will remain true to His promises as we rest in His presence and when He calls us to trust the firm foundation of our faith and move forward with boldness.

Lord, thanks for being loving as You lead us, one step at a time. In Jesus’s name, Amen.  

—–

Facebook Twitter Email