Waiting for God – Chapter 4 – Just Say the Word

When God blessed me with the opportunity to serve as Emma Mae’s writing coach, I never expected He would use her to ignite my faith and free me from the chains of unforgiveness I thought I had broken and left behind me.

Though I believed I had forgiven the people who hurt me in the past, I allowed their behavior to hinder me from moving forward in Spirit-empowered courage and confidence. When I forgave them . . . with all my heart . . . God wrapped me in peace and assured me that He would not be wasting the heartaches.

When I remain focused on the Lord and tuned into His Word, I won’t be so worried about my reputation or bound by what others think about me. Spiritual growth requires the ebbing and flowing of surrendering our wills so we can submit to His authority.

I’m ready to praise the Lord as you share your comments or your answers to the reflection questions in the comment section below.

Reflection Questions

  1. Why is it hard to wait for God to handle our reputations when we’re feeling attacked?

When I feel like I’m under attack, it’s not easy to remember that God is working behind the scenes. The Lord is working all things out for the good of all who love Him. But I don’t always want to care about the “good of all who love Him” when I’m the one hurting and waiting for Him to work things out. If I keep focusing on my feelings, I won’t be able to release my grip on my desire for my definition of justice. But when I focus on Jesus, He will help me cling to what I know is truth‒Scripture‒and help me shrug off the lies I’m tempted to believe.

  1. What lies or opinions of others have you chosen to believe about yourself?

Someone told me that “no one would ever love me” and that I was “useless.” When I first heard the Gospel, I struggled with the thought of Jesus dying for me because He loved me.

 

  1. How can knowing what God says about us help increase our confidence and courage as we wait for Him to work in and through our situations?

When we read the Bible, God plants seeds of truth in our hearts and minds. The more time we spend with Him, the more we get to know and trust Him, the more we will understand He does not lie. Through our intimate relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit can help us believe the unchanging words of Scripture. We can remember the God-breathed words of Scripture are God’s words, infallible and unchanging. Jesus is the Word and He is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hallelujah!

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To find out more about Emma Mae Jenkins, check out her Facebook page and her YouTube channel. You can read the article about Emma Mae’s response to being bullied on CBN.

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If you’re just joining the conversation and would like to share your thoughts on the previous chapters, I’ve posted the links below.

End-of-Chapter Questions

Chapter 1 – The Weight of Waiting

Chapter 2 – It’s Not All About Me

Chapter 3 – Holy Vision

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*** Thanks for joining me to discuss the Waiting for God end-of-chapter questions. Please remain focused on what God is doing in and through your life and refrain from sharing full names or personal information (yours or anyone else’s) so we can keep this blog family a safe place to share. All comments will be monitored and modified to maintain a loving and encouraging atmosphere that is glorifying to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I look forward to growing with you.

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To order your copy of Waiting for God or to love your neighbor by ordering extra copies to share as gifts, please take a look at my book page.

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I look forward to having you join the conversation!

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Waiting for God – Chapter 3 – Holy Vision

When I met Diane, she was a newbie at a Christian writers’ conference. Her radiant smile made me forget my pain for a few seconds. Her contagious joy enthralled me. But her story . . . her story changed the way I thought about my attitude in the wait.

After she agreed to let me share a snippet of her story, I asked God to show me the verses He wanted me to study for the chapter message. The Lord changed my direction for the book as I studied Hannah’s story. He reminded me that my heart settled where my eyes landed. If I wanted to completely surrender my heart to the Lord, I needed to shift my focus.

I’m excited about the stories you’re going to share as we explore the life-transforming impact of Holy Vision.

Please share your comments or your answers to the reflection questions in the comment section below.

Reflection Questions

  1. How does focusing on the holiness of God increase our depth of trust in His motives and mercy?

To be holy is to be specially recognized as sacred, consecrated, entitled to worship. When I recognize God’s holiness, I can remember that He belongs first in my life. God deserves to feared (revered), honored and praised, as we stand in awe of His transcendent power and His intimate presence. He is reliable and trustworthy in every way, so He can be trusted to decide what’s best for me and everyone else. The Lord sees beyond what we can see and knows more than we’ll ever know, so we can count on His perfect will to encompass all we need and more.

  1. What aspects of God’s character affirm His reliability and feed our hope through the twists and turns we’ll encounter in the wait?

God is faithful, just, good, loving, eternal, and constantly present . . . God is with me! He is the way, the truth, and the life, not just one of the ways, or one of the truths, or one of the sources of life.

  1. What is God asking you to release your grip on this week?

I experienced a flare-up of nerve pain and muscle spasms in my back, shoulders, and neck while walking my service dog, Callie. She did a wonderful job caring for me until the pain became manageable enough for me to continue walking home. She stopped and leaned into me when I said, “Help Mama.” She remained still as I adjusted her leash and slowed her pace, stopping whenever I needed another break. My pain levels have increased since that day but are still less intense than they were before my last procedure. Praise the Lord!

Though I became discouraged when I missed a full day of work, the Lord reminded me that He is in control of my schedule. I can rest in the surety of God’s lovingkindness. I may not be able to work as fast as I used to work, but I’m always able to meet the deadlines God places before me. My mighty and merciful Father won’t allow the enemy to stop me from sharing His truth and love to the ends of the earth. Every time I say “yes” to a writing project or a speaking event, the Lord always comes through and gives me all I need to do all He places before me.

Hallelujah!

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I pray the Lord used Diane’s story in chapter three of Waiting for God to encourage you.

Today’s Featured Author, Diane Dokko Kim, has served over twenty-five years in local church leadership. In 2004, her first son was diagnosed with autism and ADHD/ADD at age two, which triggered profound personal, professional and spiritual crises. Since 2008, she has served as a disability ministry consultant, and launched an online ministry in 2012 for special-needs families. Diane and her husband, Eddie, live and serve in the heart of Silicon Valley with their two young sons. She blogs on being wrecked, redeemed and repurposed.

In Unbroken Faith, Diane comes alongside you as a fellow special-needs parent to help you reconcile the premise of a good God with the devastating realities of raising a disabled child. Kim’s biblically-based encouragement will help you understand that you are not alone, that God gets it, and that God’s Word is entirely relevant to the raw and messy yet hallowed spaces of special-needs parenting.

For an extended excerpt of Unbroken Faith, free resources, and more, please connect with Diane on her website.

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If you’re just joining the conversation today, you may want to drop in and share your thoughts for Chapters 1-2.

End-of-Chapter Questions

Chapter 1 – The Weight of Waiting

Chapter 2 – It’s Not All About Me

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Thanks for joining me to discuss the Waiting for God end-of-chapter questions. Please remain focused on what God is doing in and through your life and refrain from sharing full names or personal information (yours or anyone else’s) so we can keep this blog family a safe place to share. All comments will be monitored and modified to maintain a loving and encouraging atmosphere that is glorifying to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I look forward to growing with you.

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Waiting for God – Chapter 2 – It’s Not All About Me

Looking in the mirror can force us to see things we’d like to ignore . . . like our need for growth.

When I wrote chapter two of Waiting for God, I had to do some serious soul-searching. It wasn’t easy to admit my impatience or pride. But I felt a weight lifting when I decided to stop trying to control my life and the lives of those I loved. I didn’t have to do God’s job. Whew! What a relief!

I can hardly wait to hear what the Lord showed you during today’s reading.

Please share your comments or your answers to the reflection questions in the comment section below.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can considering how closely our lives are intertwined with the lives of others help change our perspective regarding trials and the time we spend in the wait?

When I’m struggling with relational conflicts, it helps me to remember that “God’s sovereignty and power cannot be thwarted by the actions or attitudes of the people He created” (Waiting for God, p. 15). But when I’m wrestling with private and personal affliction, the Lord helps me remember He’s not wasting the heartaches or pain. As I trust in Him and share the ways He’s working in and through my trials, He can use my mess to encourage others who are suffering . . . others who are looking for a purpose in the pain and hope in the wait. When I hear how He’s working in the lives of others, their testimonies ignite my faith, too.

 

  1. Why is it often tempting to ask God to change others quickly instead of focusing on the ways we need to change and accepting the time required to make those changes stick?

It’s so much easier to point out where others are needing growth. When someone hurts me, I don’t want to explore how I contributed to the issues. Looking into that mirror, facing my ugly or immature attitudes, and opening myself to the painful process of pruning can be scary. Growth takes time. Bad habits are hard to break. Sinful perspectives are difficult to face and even harder to surrender into God’s pruning hands. But when I remember God’s love for me results in His desire to make me more like Him, I have to trust He knows what He’s doing . . . even when the process hurts and seems endless.

 

  1. How has the Lord used the time you’ve spent in the wait to help prepare you for something you never expected?

Wow! When I picked up that piece of paper in September 2012 and dropped to the floor writhing in pain, I never expected the difficult road ahead and a life of chronic pain and fatigue would lead to ministry opportunities.

As I share how the Lord has held me close and changed me through this painful and ongoing healing journey, I’m in awe at how He uses each moment to point to His unfailing love and grace, to prove His unending faithfulness, to demonstrate His unlimited power, and bring comfort through His enduring hope.

Writing this book‒Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace‒has been a part of my healing process. Even when my current pain, fears, or frustration levels tempted me to feel alone, forgotten, and hopeless, God used the people I interviewed to help me hold on to His promises, to know what He says is true.

I expected Waiting for God to be a devotional about persevering through suffering. But by the time I wrote the last chapter, God showed me so much more . . . so much more.

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If you’re just joining the conversation today, you may want to drop in and share your thoughts for chapter 1.

*** Thanks for joining me to discuss the Waiting for God end-of-chapter questions. Please remain focused on what God is doing in and through your life and refrain from sharing full names or personal information (yours or anyone else’s) so we can keep this blog family a safe place to share. All comments will be monitored and modified to maintain a loving and encouraging atmosphere that is glorifying to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I look forward to growing with you.

 

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Waiting for God – Welcome and Book Giveaway!

Some of you may notice my website looks different.

I’d like to thank Juanita Johnson for sponsoring the makeover and Marty Longe from Umbrella Graphics for working with me to create the new design.

Now that the brand-new website has been launched, I’ll be adding a quarterly newsletter that will include exclusive giveaway opportunities, ministry updates, and new content.

On September 25, 2019, I’ll return to sending you weekly encouragement and prayers.

But from August 19, 2019 to September 20, 2019, we’re going to rejoice in the Lord as we discuss the end-of-chapter questions on my blog.

Those who join the conversation and share their answers in the comment section under the daily posts will be included in the weekly giveaways.

“Together, we will inhale the truth of Scripture, exhale prayers of honesty and belief, and find rest in God’s enduring love . . . all while we’re still waiting and trusting daily in His plan and pace.” (Waiting for God, p. 7)

— Book Giveaway —

I’m grateful for every person who participated in last week’s book giveaway by leaving a comment or emailing encouraging notes.

Rebecca Grabill will receive the signed copy of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace with a free tote.

But to thank you for being a member of my blog family and to welcome new subscribers as we celebrate the release of Waiting for God, I’m also offering a FREE prayer book.

Please take a moment to download Wait Like a Warrior: 1-Minute Prayers to Refresh Your Spirit When the Wait Feels Endless (pdf) from the FREE GIFT section on my Homepage.

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If you know someone who will be encouraged by reading Waiting for God and joining our blog family, please invite them to subscribe today.

I look forward to growing with you!

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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?

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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/

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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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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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