God’s Guaranteed Grace

MEME - Hebrews 4 v 16 - Dec 4, 2018My heart ached as I recalled a friend saying, “I know my pain isn’t as bad as yours, but would you please pray for me?”

I grieved when I remembered the various apologies and fear-filled prayer requests.

 I’m so sorry to bother you with this prayer request.

 I know others are worse off than I am, but do you think God will help me?

 Is it okay to ask God for help when so many others are hurting around me?

 Is my request too small, too personal, too self-centered to bring to God?

How many precious children of God fear or avoid asking for intercessory prayer because they feel their needs are not as important as someone else’s?

How many beloved brothers and sisters in Christ keep quiet, ashamed of wanting to ask for their needs to be met because their neighbors’ problems seem bigger, more severe?

God cares about every single detail of our lives.

Our compassionate Creator wants us to come to Him, whether we’re suffering from illness, trudging through seasons of grief, or battling discouragement, fear, insecurities, or doubt.

How often have I been afraid to be accused of whining before God’s throne of grace instead of being confident in God’s amazing grace?

What would it take for me to be assured of God’s limitless love, perfect faithfulness, and immeasurable mercy?

Would the Lord care if I’m weary when someone else is fighting for their lives?

Yes.

Would He care if I’m discouraged when someone’s family is falling apart?

Yes.

Would God care if I need courage to work towards a dream when someone’s struggling to make ends meet?

Yes.

The Lord doesn’t minimize or neglect any of His children.

He doesn’t compare us to one another, because He knows He created us as unique individuals.

He orchestrated every twist and turn, every mountain-top moment and every step through the dry and lush valleys.

MEME - Quote - God's Guaranteed Grace - Dec 4, 2018Our Wise Counselor, our Good Shepherd, our Mighty God is prepared to equip and encourage us through the paths He’s planned for us.

He uses His unchanging Word to arm us with courageous and persevering faith.

“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

God changes us as He challenges us when we walk with Him daily.

He purifies our hearts and minds and motives, aligning our thoughts and adjusting our longings until we mirror Him, by the power of His beautiful grace.

We can’t trick our Father, pretending we’re mature just because we’re good at looking polished and presentable.

He knows when we’re broken, when we can barely breathe.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

He knows about our sins, our selfish thoughts, our self-centered jealousy.

He knows about our wants, even when we’re afraid to admit them.

He knows about our struggles, even when we’re drowning in denial.

He knows about our joys and our pains, our hopes, our dreams, and our greatest fears.

Because Jesus is the great High Priest, who has ascended into heaven, we can hold unswervingly–without fear, without hesitation, without a single doubt–to the hope we profess (v. 14).

Our mighty Lord understands everything we’re going through, as He showers us with compassion and magnifies His loving perfection and limitless power in the midst of our weaknesses (v. 15).

With these truths anchoring our faith to His promises, we can trust Him, surrender to Him, walk with Him, and embrace the freedom of His forgiveness when we repent and turn away from our sins.

“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 4:16)

When we need rescue, relief, or rest, God cares.

When we need encouragement, God cares.

When we need a miracle, God cares.

In our personal time of need, God cares enough to promise us that He’s approachable and abundant in grace.

God’s plentiful love for us gives us the confidence we need to come before Him with our needs, to pray for others and for ourselves as an act of worship and a brave display of our trust in our Savior.

—–

Thanks for assuring us that You are our Great Physician, our generous Provider, our gallant and good Shepherd, our Almighty King.

Thanks for never comparing our circumstances to the circumstances of others, Lord, for never minimizing our feelings, for never belittling us for struggling.

Thanks for reminding us that You care equally about every little detail of our day-to-day living and every overwhelming burden that weighs heavy on our minds.

Good Father, please give us courage to come to You for all things. Help us know You’re not randomly picking or choosing one concern over another.

Empower us to trust Your timing and Your plans are perfect in every way.

Please help us rely on Your ability to love without limits, to extend immeasurable grace without running low, and to be fully present and caring with each of us without neglecting any of us.

 Thank You, Lord Almighty, for the privilege of loving You as we learn to accept the unconditional life-changing love You have for each of us.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Have you ever been hesitant to bring your prayers to God when you compare your requests with the requests of others?

How does knowing God never compares us with others increase your gratitude for His loving care, your courage in prayer, and your depth of faith?

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Hope is Worth the Risk

MEME - Colossians 3 v 2 - Nov 23, 2018Hope can hurt.

I learned that lesson firsthand this week when I started physical therapy in hopes to strengthen my core and back muscles while waiting for another nerve ablation.

I realized just how weak my upper body is when my therapist, Marea, introduced the first steps toward my slow healing process.

 

But in that weakness, I also discovered a strength I had no idea still existed.

Surprisingly, my muscle memory was still intact . . . somewhere deep under my extra layers of not-muscle.

Marea called me strong.

Her affirming words encouraged me to believe in the glimmer of hope that my strength could be renewed after over twenty years of debilitating pain and over compensation, which damaged other areas surrounding the original injury. After giving me a few exercises to work on at home, she reminded me that the healing process would be slow.

So, I decided to accept her help, expect the inevitable setbacks, and embrace the pace required to build up what had been destroyed.

Still, when my secret cravings for instant-gratification were denied, I struggled with discouragement.

I fought frustration when my progress didn’t go as quickly as I’d hoped. I expected slow . . . but not too slow.

I wrestled despair when it hurt to hope, when it ached my heart to endure another delay, when I began to doubt. What if physical therapy didn’t work? What if nothing worked?

For years, I’d tried to protect my back from further injury and lived a hindered-life. My hurting body affected my relationships. And as I began to draw nearer to Christ, I sorrowfully admitted my relationships were damaged by my wounded spirit, too.

I approached my physical healing the same way I often approach emotional or mental healing from hurtful words, from grief, from betrayal . . . the list goes on.

I wanted to stop hurting, to get over it, to feel stronger, to be healed . . . immediately.

Impatience nudged me toward discouragement, which threatened to drown me in despair.

Past pain drove my decision-making process.

Fear of pain, disappointment, and failure kept me from risking my hopes being dashed and tempted me to avoid the much-needed work that would strengthen me.

I needed God’s help and the support of others, as I accepted that healing would take time and hoping could hurt when facing setbacks.

The process wouldn’t be easy. The fix wouldn’t be quick . . . but the rewards are worthwhile now and in eternity.

If I was going to persevere, I needed to place my hope in something bigger than physical, emotional, or mental healing.

When the apostle Paul was in a Roman prison waiting for his trial before Caesar, he wrote to the “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” in Colossae:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, emphasis mine)

Because we have the power of Christ in us, we no longer have to live a hindered-life limited by our weak spots.

True life, the only unhindered life, is “hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Our weakness withered away when the Lord washed away our sins by giving His life for us (vv. 5-6). When He rose again, He empowered us to thrive in freedom, no matter what our circumstances.

Jesus holds the answers we need, the peace we long for, the hope we desperately seek. When He appears again, we will be with Him in glory. Our hope is wrapped in assurance, in the promise that fuels the persevering faith we’ll need if we’re going to walk away from the life we lived before Jesus (vv. 7-8).

As we ask God to help us nurture healthy relationships with Him and others, He frees us from our old ways of thinking.

We can grow stronger as we’re immersed in our “knowledge” of the Creator of our “new self,” our no-longer-self-centered self, our no-longer-alone self, our no-longer-controlled-by pain-or-fear self (vv. 9-11).

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,” we’re no longer controlled or limited by how we feel physically, emotionally, or mentally.

This doesn’t mean our feelings aren’t valid. The Lord never minimizes our feelings. He only affirms we don’t need to allow feelings to drive our actions or determine how we interact with others.

We can choose to be kind to others, forgive others, and love others (vv. 12-14), even when they don’t choose to be kind, forgive, or love us.

We can live at peace with others and at peace with ourselves, be thankful and content . . . no matter what our circumstances (v. 15).

We can nurture heart-deep joy as we encourage one another and intercede for others as we point each other to Jesus (v. 16).

“And whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed,” we can “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v. 17).

As we focus on things above, seeing beyond ourselves, we can recognize how small our biggest mountains are in comparison to the bigness of God.

We can begin to understand how we’re all connected, how every one of us makes a difference in the lives of others, how our trials can actually be used for good as God grows us spiritually and uses us for His glory.

We can sharpen our Kingdom Vision and learn to trust He’s working in and through all things for the good of all who love Him . . . not just us, but all people . . . even those we don’t know, agree with, or understand.

And as we surrender each moment of our slow-as-He-determines healing journey to our loving Father, we can risk hoping in Jesus‒who is and always will be our eternal hope.

Lord, thanks for reminding us that You are our only true hope, so we can never truly lose hope. Please fuel us with the peace of Your enduring love. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

How can placing our hope in Christ, who is unchanging and faithful and just, help us when our current situations feel hopeless?

 In what situation have you been afraid to hope or hope again?

 Who has God used to encourage you to hope again?

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Announcing the Winners of the God Hears Her Book Giveaway

God Hears Her with Swag pic for giveawayI thank the Lord for each and every one of the amazing members of my blog family. Yes, that means you!

Thanks for subscribing to my blog, for showering me with God’s love wrapped in kind words of encouragement, and for joining me as we dig deeper into His Word and draw closer to His heart. Thanks for being radiant lights for Christ in my life and for allowing me to encourage you by sharing what the Lord teaches me in my day-to-day walk with Him.

Today was a great day, as I rejoiced in another unexpected and exciting ministry opportunity. God is working on the details. I can hardly wait to share more as He reveals His perfect will in His perfect timing during this day-by-day adventure.

Today was also a rough day, as I struggled with pain management and the frustration of caring for our 15-year-old senior dog battling arthritis and losing her “housetrained” status.

Isn’t the Lord so wonderful, as He gently reminds us that each day is filled with reasons to worship Him, surrender to Him, and rely on Him?

He gives us countless opportunities to trust Him and welcomes us to cry out to Him in prayer and praise Him with reckless abandon.

What a blessing it is to know that God is keenly aware of our weaknesses. He understands when we get frustrated.

God . . . gets . . . us.

Our patient Lord isn’t surprised or disappointed when we fall short or fall flat on our faces.

Our loving Father simply remains constant and true to His Word, fully prepared to wrap us in mercy as He loves us unconditionally.

Our Almighty Maker and Sustainer refreshes our spirits and strengthens us with compassion that exceeds all expectations.

Our Good Shepherd extends grace freely and consistently, waiting for us to realize we can count on Him time and time again.

Our faithful Redeemer and Restorer gave me so many reasons to shout praises of joy today. So, why did I focus on shaming myself every time I got upset because I was stumbling again, struggling again, and failing again?

As I grumbled my way through another fumble, after losing my cool when my faithful old dog made life a bit more inconvenient, I prayed.

That’s when I realized the time had slipped away from me. I was late in choosing the winners of the books I was scheduled to give away on my blog.

Just as I started with the self-inflicted forehead-slapping guilt trips, our gracious and generous Father overwhelmed me with His all-encompassing grace and a healthy serving of gratitude.

I thanked Him, in awe of how His love flowed through your beautiful souls as I read your comments.

God’s grace was more than sufficient . . . again. His power was made perfect in my weaknesses . . . again. And His perfect peace, His eternal hope, and His endless joy prevailed . . . again and again and again.

Hallelujah!

I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for us as we continue nurturing our relationships with Him and others.

The responses to this post blessed my heart beyond measure. So, I decided to give away an extra copy of God Hears Her with that sweet swag.

I am pleased to announce our three winners and am already looking forward to planning another book giveaway.

Today’s winners are Judy Picton, Jana Engelmann, and Patricia Kohn.

Congratulations!

Please email your complete mailing addresses to Xochi@xedixon.com at your earliest convenience.

Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement.

I hope you’ll return to join me in praising our Almighty Lord and Savior, as we seek Him in His Holy Word and rest in the peace of His constant presence.

Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement. It is my pleasure and privilege to serve You as we grow in love for Him and others.

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Lord, we’re so grateful for Your everlasting love. Thanks for affirming that You hear our heart cries, even before we can manage to whimper or utter an incoherent word.

Thanks for assuring us that You’re already ahead of the game, already prepared for the unexpected twists and turns that will often punch us in the gut and bring us to our knees.

Thanks for confirming You are delighting us, rejoicing with us, and working in and through us, sweet Savior.

Make our praise genuine and infectious as You make Your name glorious!

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“Keep me safe, my God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.'” (Psalm 16:1-2, NIV)

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God Hears Her - Discovery House - 2017 - Book CoverYou can purchase more copies of God Hears Her on the Discovery House Publishers website. This beautiful Our Daily Bread 365-Day Devotional includes devotions written by my fellow ODBM sisters in Christ. I’m grateful that eleven of my devotions are included in this book, which is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer and a lovely just-because gift. Thanks for supporting Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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God is Moving in the Wait (And a Book Giveaway, too!)

MEME - Lamentations 3 vv 21-24 - Nov 11 2018During the last three months of blogging-silence, life has been anything but quiet. My husband and I followed God from California to Wisconsin . . . yep . . . Wisconsin.

As native Californians, we should have been freaking out when Alan received the job offer in July.

But we’d been praying for years, waiting for God to show us the next step He wanted us to take after Alan graduated. We anticipated a move, but never imagined the Lord would provide my husband with a job he never applied for . . . at a university we’d never heard of . . . in a little midwestern town we never knew existed.

Well, God did all of those things.

Filled with an unexplainable peace, we packed with the help of our two grown sons and said goodbye to friends and family in less than a month.

20181109_132527The Lord provided a home with a fenced yard, an oh-so-rare amenity in our area but perfect for our senior dog, Jazzy (pictured here), and the new pup we adopted the day after I arrived in Wisconsin, Callie (see photo below).

We waited for blessings upon blessings to flow after such a big step of obedience.

A few days after our move-in date, nine tornados touched down in our new small-town.

For the first two months of our Wisconsin life, the Lord gave us plenty of opportunities to get used to midwestern thunderstorms. While He spared our home from flooding (Thank You, Lord!), a few of our neighbors didn’t fare so well.

The torrential rains transformed the creek next to our yard into a river and, for the first few months of our residency, Wisconsin experienced the worst infestation of mosquitos in over a decade.

During this life-altering adventure, my chronic pain has been constant and often difficult to manage. My husband is still recovering from his back surgery, so his pain levels often cause complications. We’re still living in totes and, after our first snow-day on Thursday, realizing California-Winter clothes are not Wisconsin-Winter clothes.

This move has challenged us physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.

But every time frustration bubbles up, every time we begin to wonder if we heard the Lord’s direction correctly, He reminds us He’s moving in the wait.

20181109_102543The Lord blessed us with Wisconsin friends who welcomed us before we even stepped over the threshold of our new home. My husband loves his new job and his colleagues. I’m grateful for the great team of doctors who are working to help me begin to manage my pain again. We can’t thank God enough for our fabulous veterinarian, who happens to be an Our Daily Bread reader with a staff that loves both of our doggy-daughters.

So, we’re at peace as we adjust to Wisconsin Life.

We’re waiting expectantly for the Lord’s purpose to prevail as He works in and through our new experiences and helps me finish my book.

What book?

Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace will be published by Discovery House Publishers in the fall of 2019.

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

Though we’ve faced many obstacles, our heavenly Father has been faithful and good through every moment of our transition.

As we face changes or delays in life, we’ll encounter tough times. We’ll grow weary, grieve great losses, suffer from afflictions, and maybe even battle bitterness in the wait. But we can count on God to be with us and for us . . . no matter what’s behind us or ahead of us.

In Lamentations, traditionally ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah, the writer admits his bitterness over past afflictions, confesses his wandering ways and recalls his disheartenment, but calls to mind the countless reasons for his hope (Lamentations 3:19-20).

Whether we’re moving into new territories or stuck at a stand-still during the seemingly endless waiting seasons in life, God’s love will strengthen our resolve.

His compassions never fail . . . never. When we feel we have nothing left to give, the Lord’s mercy revives us. (vv. 21-24)

“The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (vv. 25-26).

God’s loving care isn’t dependent on our feelings of worthiness or our check-list of good deeds. He remains faithful because He is God in all His perfection and goodness.

When we’re right smack-dab in the middle of a waiting season battling trials left and right, we may begin to question ourselves. Did we hear God correctly?

We may feel misguided or cast aside, but we can be sure that we are far from forgotten.

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (vv. 31-33).

We don’t need to fear change or hesitate when God calls us to move toward the unknown. Our loving Master goes before us, remains with us, and stays true to His word.

Lord, thanks for assuring us that You will never lead us in the wrong direction. Give us wisdom and discernment as we seek You and courageous faith as we follow You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—-

Why is it tempting to fear change or hesitate when God calls you to move toward the unknown?

 In what situation did the Lord seem silent, but later proved to be moving in the wait?

BOOK GIVEAWAY:

God Hears Her with Swag pic for giveawayAs I prepare for the Fall 2019 release of Waiting for God, I’m giving away a copy of God Hears Her, an Our Daily Bread 365-day devotional that includes eleven of my devotions.

You can purchase copies of God Hears Her, along with some sweet swag, on the Discovery House Publishers website today!

To enter for your chance to win a copy of God Hears Her with this beautiful swag (a notepad and pen), please comment below. (Winner will be announced at 8 p.m. (PST) on Thursday, November 15, 2018, and must live in the United States.)                                                                                                                                                         —–

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Another Christmas of Faith-building Mishmash and Miracles

MEME - Merry Christmas to share with photo credit - Dec 2016As my husband, Alan, and our son, Xavier, helped me hang ornaments on the Christmas tree this year, I reminisced about the precious moments attached to each decoration.

The homemade ornaments brought back sweet memories from Xavier’s childhood. When he was only two years old, he brought home his very first December craft from school. Every year, he created a new ornament that I hung with joy. And every year I carefully packed away each priceless treasure so we could place them on the tree the following Christmas.

We have souvenir ornaments to commemorate our travels. Each one triggers conversations about our trips.

We remember. We laugh. We thank God for the countless blessings symbolized by those souvenirs.

Friends have given us ornaments. Some of those friends we still embrace like family, some we miss but haven’t seen in years, some are no longer a part of our lives, and some have gone to be with Jesus. Hanging those gifts fills my heart with both joy and sorrow, as I thank God for bringing those people into our lives . . . even if only for a season.

Tears streak down my cheeks as I admire the ornaments my mom sent Xavier, every year since she bought him his very first ornament in 1996. Now that she’s gone, we buy him a yearly ornament that we hope he’ll enjoy hanging on a tree in his own home one day.

But my favorite ornaments are the ones I bought after I received Christ as my Lord and Savior, after I learned the true reason Christmas was worth celebrating.

A beautiful shiny heart proclaims the Lord’s name and reminds me of His perfect love. A delicate slice of Olive wood with three crosses carved in its center celebrates Christ’s victory on Calvary. A jeweled cross that we used on a display at my mom’s Celebration of Life service hangs on a satin ribbon, comforting me with the hope of eternal life.

Almost lost in the branches, a simple nail hangs with a yellow slip of paper attached on a fading strand of curling ribbon. Inside, a poem by an anonymous writer declares Christ as Savior and the nail as evidence of His intimate love for each of His beloved children. The last two lines of the poem read:

“ . . . I know it was His love for us that held Him to that tree. But when I see this simple nail, I know He died for me.”

This Christmas, our family is rejoicing over all the wonderful ways God has worked in and through our lives. We’re also placing our heart-wrenching prayers at His feet.

We’ve endured great losses and faced difficult obstacles, but our Lord continues to fill us with peace and hope. Though we’re grieving much, we can’t stop counting the ways God has blessed us, ways that have nothing to do with material blessings.

We’re struggling with complications in my healing journey, as well as with finances and family strife. But we’ve also witnessed the Lord restoring relationships, giving us wonderful opportunities to serve Him, and giving our family all we need to continue trusting Him in this moment . . . one step . . . and sometimes one breath at a time.

Like the ornaments on our tree, this year and this Christmas is filled with faith-building mishmash and miracles that represent God’s proven faithfulness, sovereign goodness, limitless love, and endless grace.

As we approach the holiday that shines a light on Christ and consider the ornaments on our Christmas tree, I realized we’ve been celebrating Jesus all year and every year.

The circumstances we’re in currently won’t decide the measure of our love for the Lord, or the measure of His boundless love for us.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for affirming You are with us always and worth celebrating every day of every year . . . not just on Christmas. Help us acknowledge the wonderful ways You’re working in and through our lives every single day. Please help us accept the tears and the cheers in life as priceless opportunities to experience Your constant presence, rely on Your limitless power, and surrender to Your immeasurable and trustworthy grace. Please, Lord, help us look beyond ourselves and our current circumstances, so we can love You and others with joy. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

What faith-building mishmash and miracles has God entrusted to you this year and this Christmas?

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Living with Surefire Faith: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 33 v 22 - Photo by Lidia Hu

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 33)

Staring out the window of our hotel room, I scowled. We were supposed to be celebrating my husband’s birthday while in Kauai. Instead, I remained bedridden for the first few days of our vacation. My frustration quickly nudged me into a funky mood that triggered a full-blown pity-party.

The more I complained about my unfair circumstances, the more discontent I became. My grumpy attitude began to rub off on Alan, who had been doing all he could to nurse me back to health and improve my usually positive perspective.

While my sweet caregiver braved the rainstorm to pick up dinner from one of my favorite restaurants, I crossed the room and stared out the window.

Who was I to be complaining when my loving spouse was driving through the storm to make my evening a little brighter? Who was I to think I deserved better than the incredible blessing of celebrating my husband’s birthday in Kauai? When had I allowed discontent to demolish my hope?

By the time Alan returned, the Lord had given me a much-needed attitude adjustment. I apologized and thanked my husband for the delicious meal. We watched a movie that night and were able to enjoy short outings for the rest of the week.

Whether our lives are going well or we’re right smack in the middle of difficult trials, griping can blind us to the wonderful glimpses of hope God places right before our eyes.

We can miss the opportunity to experience peace in the presence of the only One who can offer a foundation of everlasting hope.

No matter what kind of day we’ve had, even when our circumstances feel bleak, we can find reasons to celebrate God, to rejoice in the surefire hope He’s placed at the tips of our fingers, to enter His presence with a joyful song of praise (Psalm 33:1-3).

Why? Because “the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” (v. 4)

Every infallible, life-transforming word of Scripture affirms God was and is and always will be “faithful in all He does.”

The sound of God’s voice holds eternal power to make and maintain everything in the world, yet He makes time to hear us and care for every detail of our lives (vv. 6-7).

When we gripe about our circumstances, we’re telling God that He isn’t enough for us.

But God is enough.

As the psalmist proclaims the evidence of God’s divine power and supreme greatness, we can confidently place our hope in the Lord and submit to His authority. He’s proven to be worthy of worship and reverence (v. 8).

The Maker of all secures it all (v. 9). His plans for each of His beloved children are ordained before we took a breath.

Still, we doubt Him when things don’t go our way?

We can stand firm on God’s purposes and promises, because we can count on His unchanging character (v. 11).

He who formed our hearts, knows our hearts and all we think, say, and do (vv. 13-15). The greatest leaders of the world combined are no match for our God (vv. 16-17).

So, why do we push Him away or feel betrayed when things get rough?

We can’t run away or hide from Him. We can’t make Him stop loving us, caring about us, or pursuing us.

We may feel far from God, forgotten by God, or even failed by God when the days are long and hard. But we can be sure that “the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love” (v. 18).

Fear, meaning to revere, honor, acknowledge His majesty, know and trust His sovereign goodness and limitless might.

Hallelujah!

God’s trustworthiness ensures our hope in His reliability, so we can live with surefire faith and join the psalmist in singing:

“We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (v. 20).

Even when we feel rushed or anxious to lunge forward, we can be certain God works at the perfect pace for our personal journeys.

He longs for us to sing: “In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name” (v. 21).

We can rely on El Shaddai‒Lord God Almighty.

We can cry out to El Elyon‒The Most High God.

We can lift our hands to Adonai‒our Lord and Master.

We can rest in the arms of Jehovah Shalom‒the Lord is Peace.

We can follow Jehovah Raah‒the Lord our Shepherd.

We can trust the heart of Jehovah Jireh‒our Provider.

And we can wait expectantly for Jehovah Rapha‒The Lord that Heals‒whether our healing comes on this side of eternity or when we’re welcomed into the arms of our Savior.

When we’re self-focused or dedicated to self-help, it’s too easy to start losing our joy, shattering our peace, and dimming our once radiant light of hope. Even the blessings seem a little duller when we’re devoted to seeking self-satisfaction.

But when we cry out to the Lord, asking Him to empower us to live in surefire faith and grateful joy, we place every ounce of our hope in the infinite and immutable power and promises of His name.

“May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in You.” (v. 22)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Photo taken by and used with permission by Lidia Hu.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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When There’s No End in Sight: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 86 v 7 - Photo by Jeanne Doyon

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 86)

With a heavy heart, I endured another bout with weariness. Though discouragement crept up on me, God continued to help me trust Him with my troubles. Over the last few months, He’s blessed through interactions with some amazing people who minister to others even though they are enduring great suffering.

Their passion for serving God and others as they praise Him in all circumstances deepens my faith and my desire to serve the Lord with every breath He gives me.

God has given me numerous opportunities to focus on Him as He allows me the privilege of praying for hurting friends. I’ve been participating in an online group of believers who are interceding in prayer, as an infant and his family wait in a hospital for a miracle of God’s healing mercy.

Witnessing the bold faith of this forum inspires me to praise God as I press onward.

This week, the Lord refreshed my spirit with a call from a friend who shared how He’s using this series to help her through her seemingly endless season of trials.

Praying with her lifted my eyes toward God’s undeniable trustworthiness and majesty.

How could I have fallen into the ditch of doubt so easily after all the times I’ve seen God come through, sometimes in miraculous ways and other times in ordinary-yet-divinely-extraordinary ways?

While thinking about the pain and heartaches that others are experiencing is difficult, praying for them is one of the most empowering and faith-building gifts and privileges we could ever receive.

When the weight of emotional or physical suffering feels like oversized boulders on our backs, it may seem impossible to shake off discouragement, doubt, and despair.

We may begin to feel as if pressing on is useless, as if fighting is futile, as if persevering is an endless cycle of disappointment. That moment is when we have the opportunity to be the strongest we’ve ever been.

As we lean into longsuffering, fully accepting the reality of our utter helplessness, we are ready to trust our mountain-moving deliverer with confidence proven by His past faithfulness.

We don’t have to fear falling to our knees and begging God for help. Like the psalmist David, we can embrace our weaknesses like warriors.

In Psalm 86, David’s words echo with desperation, as well as determined confidence in God’s character, faithfulness, compassion, power, and love.

“Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1)

By admitting his dependence on God, David displayed steadfast courage and faith. His persistence in prayer, as he called to God “all day long” (v. 3), proved his belief in God’s compassion as well as His nearness.

David’s tenacious trust of the Lord’s goodness and love (vv. 5-7) confirmed his willingness to rely on the extent of His limitless reach (vv. 8-10).

With a spirit of surrender, David devoted his life to following the Lord with an “undivided heart” (v. 11). His commitment never faltered, even when he struggled with obedience. He placed every detail of his existence in his Lord’s capable hands, even when he doubted.

No matter what obstacles met David on the road ahead, he remained motivated by gratitude and love toward the One who loved him beyond compare, the One who renewed his thinking and changed his life (vv. 11-13).

Though David’s problems didn’t go away (v. 14), he continued to hope in God’s consistent track record and immutability (vv. 15-17).

When the walls seem to be closing in on us and we’re trembling with uncertainty, God remains steady and sure.

When we feel as if persevering has zapped the last ounce of our strength, God offers to carry us.

Our faithful Father created us, cares for us, remains with us, and promises to sustain us. He is the same yesterday and undoubtedly today and forever, so we can count on Him to be true to His Word.

When we’re tired of marching down the treacherous roads of the unknown and the uncontrollable, the signs of God’s goodness can be found in our rearview mirrors and in the God-breathed words of Scripture He’s placed within our reach.

When there’s no end in sight to our rough roads, God will help us take one stride at a time . . . starting with the first step of crying out in confidence: “Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1)

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for hearing our prayers and reminding us that we can count on You, no matter what we’re facing or how we’re feeling. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Photo taken by and used with permission from writer Jeanne Doyon.

Meme created by and quote written by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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When We Can’t Hold On: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 18 v 2

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 18:1-18)

October cleared the charts as a tough month seasoned with plenty of opportunities to lean on and praise the Lord. It’s been three years since I lost my mom to cancer. I entered the sixth year of my healing journey and am still experiencing severe muscle spasm flare-ups that lead to debilitating headaches. Physically and emotionally spent by the end of the first week of October, I considered cancelling the vacation we’d planned.

By God’s grace, I was able to travel. I spent the first few days of our vacation recovering in our hotel room and could only endure short outings each day.

Still, I thanked God that we were able to enjoy our time together as we continue to adjust to our “new normal.” But adjusting is a process.

After returning home from our trip, I spent a few days drowning in discouragement.

The Lord blessed me with some amazing people who offered encouragement and prayer, some were readers I haven’t even met in person. But during a few of my darkest valley moments, their attempts to lift my spirits fell on deaf ears:

“You can do this.”

“Stay encouraged.”

“Keep hanging on to Jesus.”

“Hold on to your faith.”

Though people meant well, those phrases reminded me how weak I felt.

My depleting strength made it impossible to believe I’d be capable of doing anything, staying encouraged, hanging on to Jesus, or holding on to my smaller-than-a-mustard-seed faith.

Some days, all I could do was simply rest in God’s presence.

On the good days, I’d read my Bible between unplanned naps or bouts with chronic pain. I’d let worship music pour over me and let my sighs . . . and sometimes my tears . . . be the prayers I placed at God’s feet.

I couldn’t depend on my own strength. I didn’t have all the answers I needed. Self-help failed me every time. As always, the Lord comforted me and strengthened me as He carried me through the prickly patches of adversity.

When I couldn’t cling to hope, when I couldn’t imagine pressing on or persevering, God never failed me, never disappointed me, and never let me go.

God held me close and embraced me with His endless supply of grace.

Like the psalmist David, I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t just give me strength. God is my strength (Psalm 18:1).

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

We can call on the One who is worthy of all our praise, no matter what we’re up against (vv. 3-6). When everything around us feels like it’s falling apart, when it seems as if we’re losing our grip, we can trust God to rise up in majesty and fight for us (vv.7-15).

God reaches down to take hold of us, to pull us out of the depths of discouragement, despair, depression (v. 16). When we feel outnumbered, outmuscled, or out of chances, the Lord turns our eyes toward His promises and rescues us . . . often first from ourselves (v. 17).

Many of our fiercest foes and our toughest critics face us in the mirror each day. But whether we’re battling the lies we tell ourselves or our circumstances are jabbing us until we fall to our knees, the Lord will support us (v. 18).

As we draw nearer to Him daily in prayer and seek to know Him intimately through Scripture, God confirms His love for us remains unconditional, unmatched, and unending (v. 19).

We may not be able to see the light at the end of our current tunnel of adversities. We may not be able to feel the ease of relief today. But we can trust God hears us, cares for us, and will always be there for us.

Almighty Lord of Lords, thanks for reminding us that we can cry out to You in prayer and stop trying to flex our muscles to prove we’re strong enough to hold on. Please help us trust You will never let us go. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from my foes who were too strong for me.” (Psalm 18:16-17)

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Photo taken by and used with permission from my husband, Dr. W.A. Dixon, Sr.

 Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Counting the Ways

MEME - Psalm 150 v 2(Suggested Reading: Psalm 150)

During my last appointment with my doctor, I thanked him for helping me improve over the last five years. Although I still struggle with chronic pain, I’m better than I was when I started this trek in September 2012.

I rejoiced over the little things I can do now, like writing for longer periods of time. I reveled in the small victories and even appreciated the battles that God used to strengthen my resolve and remind me how much I need and depend on Him.

It haven’t always embraced His peace. Sometimes, I struggle with discouragement, weariness, and doubt. But God’s been patient as He helps me experience the endless hope of surrender and contentment founded in knowing His ways are good because He is good.

After my appointment, I suffered another bout with severe spasms and a debilitating headache that lasted over 14 hours. The next morning, I praised the Lord. Why? Because those painful flare-ups have lasted for days in the past.

As I thanked the prayer warriors who interceded for me, even before they knew I was struggling, God reminded me about the power of praising Him through all circumstances.

When we begin to count the ways God’s been good to us and practice honest praise, it’s harder to drown our hope in discouragement.

The psalmists practiced honest praise.

They processed their emotions and shared their struggles. They recounted God’s merciful and mighty acts, always returning their focus to His unchanging goodness, unlimited power, and unhindered demonstrations of love.

The Lord doesn’t expect us to stuff our feelings or minimize our hurt. He doesn’t want us to pretend we’re perfect or act as if we never struggle.

He knows us, inside and out, and wants us to be real with Him . . . and others.

God can handle our mixed emotions. He can change our confusion to clarity, as we seek Him in His Holy Word. He can replace our anxiety with confidence, our uncertainty with wisdom and discernment. He can meet us in our weakness and empower us to stand firm in faith.

When we’re feeling weary, battling doubt, or ready to quit, God beckons us to lift our chins, inhale His peace, and exhale a whisper of praise.

The more we breathe in the countless ways the Lord has been good to us, the more we can sing His praises and trust His unchanging goodness.

A praise list begins with one thing that we can be grateful for, one thing we’ll choose to give thanks for. That one thing can incite our endless worship and gratitude as we praise the Father of Compassion, the Maker of the Universe, the Sustainer, Redeemer, and Deliverer whose love transforms us and changes the way we approach life.

One thing.

We can praise God for the heavens, the starry skies that light the darkest nights, the sunsets that make us gasp in awe of His creativity, the puffs of clouds and rays of sun that warm our hearts with hope (Psalm 150:1, NIV).

We can praise God for His miracles, as well as the quiet moments when He simply makes His presence known (v. 2).

We can praise God for His greatness (v. 2). Oh, how the list goes on when we count the ways that God is great. Hallelujah!

Nothing compares to the magnitude of God’s love for us, the depth of His compassion for us, the measure of His sacrifices for us.

His greatness is revealed in His unchanging character, the perfection of His God-breathed words, and the dependability of His faithfulness.

We can praise God with the music we make and as we enjoy the songs nature sings for us (vv. 3-5).

We can count the ways He is great as we appreciate every detail in His vast creation, from the sweetness of honey to the intricate paint strokes on each flower petal He decorates.

Our great God listens to us, even when our prayers are silent tears that slip down our cheeks. Hallelujah!

Our great God remains with us, even when everyone else seems to have deserted us. Hallelujah!

Our great God understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves. Hallelujah!

Our great God loves us . . . He loves us.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

When we’re counting the ways God loves us, the ways God has been there for us, the ways God has provided for us, the ways God has protected us, our praise will flow.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for the opportunities to reflect on who You are, what You’ve done, and how much You’ve given us. Please fill us with gratitude as we consider all we have, instead of what we feel we lack. Help us appreciate every breath we take as a priceless gift to be treasured. Help us recognize every morning we wake up as another chance to praise You, to get to know You more, and to share You with others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Ivonne Vargas.

Meme created by X. E. Dixon.

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God Doesn’t Forget Us

MEME - 2 Corinthians 4 v 17To respect my husband’s family tradition, we visited the cemetery on Memorial Day and brought new flags, in honor of his father’s service in the military. Although we know we don’t have to visit the cemetery to honor or remember his dad, although we know he had accepted Christ as his Savior and that his spirit is secured with the gift of eternal life, we place new flags on his headstone once a year.

On the way back to the car, I noticed the raised words on a sailor’s gravestone: World War I & II.

Weeds crawled over his name and dying year . . . 1975. No flowers. No decorations. Just weeds.

I glanced at the faded flags we’d taken out of my father-in-law’s marker a few moments earlier.

Every year, we drove to the cemetery to pay our respects to my husband’s dad. But there would come a time when no one would visit, when everyone who knew him would be gone.

The sailor’s headstone reminded me that there would come a day when all of us are forgotten on this side of eternity.

I’m sure we won’t be worrying about being remembered by other people when we’re praising God in eternity, but the thought of anyone being forgotten grieved me.

Kneeling before the sailor’s headstone, I twisted and pushed the wooden dowel until I’d secured the flag in the dry, cracking dirt. “Thank you, Sir,” I said.

Alan knelt beside me, without saying a word. He took the second flag from my hand and planted it deep into the ground.

I gazed across the yellowing grass dotted with grave markers and small waving flags and sighed. A group came every year to remember and honor veterans. We’d seen them before, placing new flags on the military headstones. The fresh flags waving in the slight breeze affirmed they’d finished their yearly task. Still, even they’d missed this lone sailor with the weeds covering half of the identifying words under his name.

I began plucking the overgrowth. “It’s sad,” I said, “the idea of being forgotten.”

My husband nodded. “We’ll bring extra flags next year.”

“I’d like that very much.”

And so began a tradition.

Even though there could be people who remembered these veterans without visiting the cemetery, and even though we believe our spirits live forever in eternity when we place our trust in Christ, we committed to bringing extra flags for those whose stories had long since stopped being shared with eager ears seeking to learn more about their families’ history.

We would be more intentional about thanking God for those who had given their lives to protect our freedom, those who had served sacrificially, those who had probably never imagined having weeds over their headstones, those who had never dreamed of the day they would be forgotten.

As the reality of my mortality sank in, God comforted me with the assurance that He knows each of us by name and loves each and every person He creates, even when we reject Him.

God knows us, cares for us, and will never forget us. He wants none to perish, and all to be restored in His love and grace (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter  3:3-9).

Gratitude filled my heart as I, once again, received His truth on a deep and personal level: God knows my name. He is always with me. He will never leave me, never forsake me, and never, ever forget me.

I never imagined there would come a day when I was concerned about being forgotten, until an injury and an extensive recovery time led me into a season of isolation.

These have been the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced.

When feelings of loneliness and sorrow threaten to destroy every bit of my joy, peace, hope, and faith, the Lord comforts and strengthens me with His constant presence and His infallible Word.

He’s increasing my compassion for the forgotten ones, the lonely ones, the hurting ones in the world.

He refreshes my hope by empowering me to live and love each and every day, in honor of our Savior Jesus Christ . . . because even when life is hard, this world is not where our lives end.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we know there will come a day when all of the people who knew us will be gone. That’s no reason to lament.

Because of our new life in Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith that points others to His everlasting hope.

Lord, thank You for empowering us to make a lasting difference in this world by living and loving in the name of Jesus‒praying for others as we share Your Holy Word, and serving selflessly as we lead others to You‒the only One who can truly promise You will never leave us, never forsake us, and never, ever forget us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children‒with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

The LORD has His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:13-19, NIV)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

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