The Christmas lights sparkle but I do not. Holidays bring out the worst in me. It’s hard to find the joy some years. This year I lost two more important people. Time seems to be going too fast and I can’t hang onto those who hold memories of my past.
Sometimes it feels like I’m held together with glue, my life pieces are stuck together the best they can be but I’m not longer solid. I’m fragile.
I’m not alone. The older I get, the more friends I discover also struggle as I do this time of year.
What makes a difference in how you handle the downs of life? You need faith, not faith in anything, but faith in God, His Son and His Holy Spirit.
I’m thankful that my mother taught me from a young age how important faith is, and how it can pull you through the most difficult circumstances. The ugly kinds of problems that grab you by your ankles, and yanks you further into the darkness.
What happens when you call upon your belief in God? You are released from the darkness. The pain is still present because we live in the NOT YET time. But you’re able to pick up you feet, move forward, and find bits of joy in a grandson’s smile, a husband’s embrace, a mother’s voice on the phone.
God shows you how beautiful you shine though those broken pieces. What people see when they look at you is His light, His goodness and His mercy. For that reason rejoice in your brokenness.
I had this post in mind and then I heard this song by Jason Gray. I pray that it touches you as it did me.
The Easter celebration is a reminder that we no longer have to fear eternal damnation as long as we believe that Jesus died on the cross to save us.
Deep down I know this but I find at times my fingers grasping chainlink staring at the cross, wondering. Did He really die for me? Why?
There’s nothing special about me, not really-sure I have some talents, I love my family and friends–even the cats who annoy me several times a day.
What makes me special enough to save?
In Jeremiah 1-46 NIV We’re told before we were even formed in the womb God knew us! He knew what He was creating and all the faults we would have and the struggles we’d encounter to do what we are called to do. He knew if we choose to accept Him as Our Savior then we will come home to Him.
I’m letting go of the cold chain link and walking to towards the cross embracing what Jesus did for me. I will step aside from the insecure feelings that I’m not good enough. I am His. That’s the Easter Message I need to remember.
Walking through Babler State Park my husband and I discovered this tree.
I’ve never been this close to a tree hit by lightning. I have heard it hit but not seen the fresh results.
The lightning sends its razor hot light onto the tree and causes the water inside to steam, sizzle and pop open the bark. You can see the bark resting on the bed of leaves.
Will this tree recover? Probably. It’s young and new bark will cover the scar. Or it might not be strong enough to withstand the trauma of the strike.
In life we are often hit with lightning bolts of a different kind. Your husband has heart issues, a baby is lost, your child no longer calls home, there isn’t enough money to pay the bills. It feels like a strip of ourselves is laid bare for everyone to see.
Except it’s not. The man at the store who pushes his cart in front of you can’t see the pain, a friend has no idea until you mention what has happened, or we might say “I’m fine” to anyone who asks..
Keeping our scars fresh and hidden can cause them to fester and not heal. Remember when you were a kid and scraped your knees? How you hid the injury under a bandage and tried not to bump it? Then you fell again and the bandage didn’t protect you anymore? Once again you were in pain because the old scrape hadn’t healed.
It’s better to tell someone what has happened. They can protect you from re-injury before you’ve healed enough to handle another bolt of pain. Even better, take it to God because He understands. He sees your hurts, brokenness and scrapes.
Revelation 21:4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I love making goals for about two days. Then I hate looking at them written in perfect penmanship, mocking me for what has been left undone and how far I must go to complete them.
The paper sits on my desk with unchecked boxes next to things like clean upstairs closet, clear out old spices, and read all my email. I don’t even know why I write them, they do nothing for my self-esteem whether I do them or not.
A few weeks ago I read Jennifer VanderKlipp’s blog and my shoulders relaxed, breathing became easier and my goal setting has changed. Jennifer wrote about the difference between values and goals. I know Jennifer personally and the things that have occurred in her life would have flung me to the floor in tears, but not her. She’s my hero. She’s on her knees a lot talking to God, but she’s survived. Her story is pretty amazing, hop over and read it then come back. Oh please come back!
After reading her blog I realized I have a similar problem. My goal making has gone awry, it serves no purpose but to frustrate me. I need to be looking at what I value.
Yes, I still have to clean, grocery shop and clean the bathroom. But those aren’t my goals. They’ve never been something I dream about and can’t wait to work on.
I’m making a new list.
What do I value? It’s beginning to look a little like this:
Now I’m starting my days with, “What the most important thing I value today and what am I going to do to strengthen it?”
By choosing a value as my starting place I think I’ll be a happier person, the frustration of not getting to the important things in my life will fall away….or so I hope.
Tell me in the comments if you think this would work for you?
Does God plant you somewhere and expect you to grow?
I live in a military community and admire those families. They wake up planning their days and weeks only to find out by evening they are moving. Packers, moving trucks, saying good-bye to friends can’t be easy for them. And yet, they do it with grace. But what I find the most amazing thing is that the military families in our church plant themselves.
They walk in the door arms out ready to serve in the church. VBS, (vacation Bible school), Sunday School, take the youth to a concert? No problem.
They take “the grow where you are planted” seriously. Get right in there and get their roots anchored, then one day they are gone.
That’s hard on us who have made good friends. We miss them, but the seeds they plant when they are here continue to grow. Our church has an amazing children’s ministry, our youth group is strong and when we step outside we can see the playground that one young “almost a man” did for his Eagle Scout project before his family moved.
I’d like to be more like them. I’m not moving so have time to act.
OR do I?
Complacency sets in for those of us who have lived in one place for a long time. There’s always tomorrow or next year for us.
It’s dangerous to look at life that way. It’s time for a change. A quick trip in an airplane that disappears, a semi-truck hits an electric pole and takes out several cars, a helicopter crashes next to the Space Needle and someone’s life changes in an instant.
Are you familiar with the story of David in Goliath in 1 Samuel in the bible? If you are skip ahead, if not let me tell you about him.
David was a shepherd boy sent by his father Jesse, to check on his older brothers who served in the Israelite army. When David arrived he watched as soldiers ran from a giant of a man who served the Philistine army. His name was Goliath. He was huge–a giant to the Israelite army and he made fun of God’s army.
David who had slain large animals to protect his family’s sheep took the challenge to defend God’s army. With a rock and and a slingshot he took down that giant and the Philistines became slaves to Israel.
We all have giants in our lives—not usually people and please if you do—don’t get a slingshot and rock to take care of the problem!
Today giants take different forms and we have to learn to take them down. But how do we do that?
Prayer is the best place to start. When I ask for guidance about my giants it seems that God opens my eyes and I discover that not all of my problems are as big as I make them out to be. That God has equipped me to handle the overwhelming to-do list, the big project I’ve begun or just figuring out what I’m making for dinner. *yes sometimes that is the biggest giant of all for me!
Other days my eyes are opened to the heartbreaking problems others have and I realize at this moment my giant is a very small thing.
I have a friend who is waiting for heart transplant for his daughter.
I have a friend with ALS.
I have a friend trained as a Chaplin who heart is breaking because she wants to help those in need but can’t find a position.
When I look at those true giants I know that I’ve faced some of my own– Seeing my first husband die from cancer, losing 3 brothers all before I reached age of 30 and having a father that left us and didn’t come back when I was 15.
Those were hard and yet I survived, I changed and my faith grew.
Are all my giants gone?
I don’t think so as long as I’m leaving on earth as one of God’s people there will always be someone that wants me to go away. There will always be a tragic incident around the corner. It’s what I do with those that will make the difference.
If I choose to be like David and step out with the faith of God the biggest giant of all, the evil one will not win.
We’ve come to the end of the a2zmeme and my choice is Zip. I’ve found there are times in life when I should have zipped my lips and others I wish I hadn’t done so.
So the question is when “to Zip or Not Zip” your lips?
Keeping this verse in mind I’ve made up a list of Zip or Not Zip list.
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart”. (NLT) ( Luke 6:45 )
Don’t mention you can see the dust on a friend’s TV screen.
Don’t ask your friend if they’ve gained weight.
Don’t tell a volunteer they should have done better.
Don’t ask your husband, “Why can’t you love Downton Abbey as much as I do?”
Don’t tell your neighbor not to hang multiple dead deer in their front yard. *this is a hard one for me.
Do offer advice when asked—after searching your heart.
Do give compliments when you find something you admire. *my neighbor has the most amazing row of lilac bushes that I enjoy every spring.
Do not be afraid to offer praises to God when told of something good.
Do tell your family and friends you love them—often!
Do unzip those lips when a friend or family member has put themselves in danger.
I’d like to think evil doesn’t lurk in my heart but it does. It comes to life when someone almost rams their car into mine, or when I feel something unjust is happening to me or my family. It’s hard to beat it back. It takes me at least 10 minutes to realize my lips have come unzipped when they should have stayed zipped tight.
Talking with a friend led me to Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for students. When I went looking for it I also found Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook
Searching with the ‘see inside’ feature I knew it was what I was looking for. I’ve ordered it and wanted to share this find with you. Yes, that’s an affiliate link. 🙂
I’ve been searching for the right book to help me learn more about the bible. I think I’ve found it. Searching inside I found beautiful graphics, charts, word meanings and more. One reviewer says there are maps as well! In the last two years of bible study at church I’ve found having maps help me understand what is written in the bible. How far someone had to travel what kind of terrain and where the nearest water is located helps with an extra layer of information.
Do you have other suggestions for me to look at? Please share!
Today I have a guest host, Ava Pennington. She has graciously volunteered to help me this week because I’m having foot surgery.
by Ava Pennington
How intimate is your relationship with God? How intimate do you want it to be?
I’ve always heard that if I wanted to be close to God, I needed to be intentional about spending time with Him in prayer, reading the Bible, obeying His Word, and fellowshipping with His people.
But I’m the master of the to-do list, and even though I checked those items off my list each day, something was still missing. Maybe it’s because these activities can deteriorate into rituals. I can easily go through the motions of religious behavior with a disengaged heart.
Then I began to think about how people move from acquaintances to personal friends. We get to know them by spending time with them and we listen as they reveal intimate details about themselves.
However, when it comes to intimacy with God, we often depend on what other people say about Him. We learn from our parents, from religious traditions, even from our culture. But we can miss who God says He is.
Problem is, I grew up attending Sunday school and I still had trouble understanding what God said about Himself. I misunderstood many of the names and attributes of God which had brought comfort to countless generations.
For example, what does God mean when He calls Himself Jealous? Or what about when God calls Himself a Consuming Fire? Even the more familiar names and attributes can be misunderstood. The Bible says God is love (I John 4:8). But how do we define love? Hearts & flowers? Terms of endearment?
One characteristic of intimacy is trust. It’s difficult to trust a stranger. But the more we learn about who God is and how He works, the easier it is for us to trust Him.
The foundation of that trust is a complete picture of God. All the names and attributes of God combine to reveal His nature and His glory. We misunderstand who God is when we focus on one name or attribute of God to the exclusion of all others.
Let’s face it. We are naturally drawn to certain names and attributes of God over others. Savior? Merciful? Faithful? That’s how I enjoy thinking of God. Jealous? Consuming Fire? Judge? Not so much.
But those who focus only on God’s characteristic of love often end up with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin. Others who focus on God’s holiness to the exclusion of all other characteristics create a fire-and-brimstone god who is unloving, unmerciful, and uncompassionate.
God is love and He is holy. He is merciful and He is just. He is all these things and more. To intimately know Him we must be intentional about learning all that He is – not just one or two characteristics that appeal to who we want Him to be.
That’s why I wrote Daily Reflections on the Names of God. It’s a one-year devotional that explores 122 names and attributes of God three ways: who God is, who we are in light of who He is, and how this changes our relationships with others.
Ask God to show you who He is. Mine treasures from His Word as He reveals His nature and His ways through His names and attributes. The result will be intentional intimacy Him.
Dig into His Word, spend time with Him in prayer, and learn what He has said about Himself.
Wherever you are, whatever you are facing in your complicated life today, God – in ALL of His attributes – is everything and anything you will ever need.
Ava, Thank you for sharing this with my readers and for helping me with a guest post while I recover. I’m thinking this book would make a great Christmas gift.
How many times do you give up when you think the odds are to impossible to succeed?
How do you overcome obstacles blocking your way?
I came across this song by Mandisa. I knew I wasn’t alone. I have Him who goes before me, after me and lives within me. How could I not overcome?
Like everyone, I’ve had to overcome hard things in life. Grief has been able to grasp my ankles and pull me under many times. Some days I wrestle with dark spaces, and I don’t understand why all of my brothers had to go to heaven so soon. I don’t get to experience the annoying, “Hey you’re older than me,” or “What do you think we should get mom for Christmas–since you’re a girl, why don’t you do it?”
God has helped me overcome the sadness through two men at church who have taken the ‘Brother Role’ seriously. They will do something to make me laugh or annoy me,and I remember that I have brothers on earth. We’re related through Christ. I am grateful to Eric. S. and P.V. for providing a bit of family that might have been.