Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings

2020 started out as a promising year. and many were looking forward to milestone events when our hopes were dashed by a microscopic virus. The whole world came to a stop and a “new normal” slowly evolved. There were some very real losses – of loved ones, sports and awards, graduations – once in a lifetime events. We are all feeling the emotional weight of trying to adjust to this new reality and there is a lot of fear, sadness and stress. The Scriptures remind me to look back and remember His faithfulness and it encourages me to look forward in faith and with hope. God is Sovereign and in control. This pandemic knocked us off our feet but God was not surprised and He wants us to trust Him.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea……The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!….. Be still, and know that I am God! Psalms 46:1-2, 6, 10a (NLT)

When we are feeling disappointed or experience a great loss it is easy to focus on what we don’t have. Our sadness can over shadow our thinking and darken our hearts. We need to make ourselves still and focus on His promises.

 He provides: And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others 2 Cor 9:8

He is faithful : The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lam 3:22-24 (NLT)

We can trust Him: Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. John 14:1 (NLT)

He gives real peace: I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)

I grew up going to a small Baptist church that loved singing hymns. There is often a story behind the hymns and the words convey deep meaning. I remember feeling such joy when we would sing a peppy favorite like Count Your Blessings. These words ring true to our situations today.

Do you feel tossed around by life- Are you discouraged thinking all is lost- Are you burdened with your load of care – Do you look around you thinking life’s not fair –  If  this is true: “So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you ‘til your journeys end.   Count your blessings, Name them one by one Count your blessings, see what God has done! Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God has done!”    (song by Johnson Oatman Jr. & Edwin O Excell)

This holiday season will definitely be different! Gatherings will be smaller and you may even find yourself missing the familiar clamor and drama. God is not finished with you yet! This is not the end of your story because every day, week, season holds a new chapter. No matter what situation you are in these ending days of 2020, be grateful for the blessings.

Rushing or Trusting

Rushing or Trusting

Every year it seems the holiday commercials, decorations and sales start earlier and earlier. This pushy commercialism actually takes away from our joy because we all know that money buys toys but not happiness. This fall it seems my friends are pushing towards Christmas not to celebrate but just to decorate. One friend did most of her shopping this summer and another put up all her Christmas decorations in the yard right after Halloween because it made her happy. But will it really?

This year has been filled with anxiety, depression and fear due to the Pandemic. Our daily lives have been turned upside down by something we never experienced before. I am just wondering if we are trying to rush through the holidays to reach 2021 hoping that when we turn the calendar everything will be “normal”. If so, it will only bring more pressure to our weary souls.

Dr. Libby Weaver has published a book called, “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome”. Rushing through tasks is actually killing us. We get overwhelmed, fatigued, eat poorly, don’t sleep well and then wonder what’s wrong. We were not designed to live at this pace . Everyone is given 24 hours a day, seven days each week and God gave us the Sabbath to REST, which most of us don’t take.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matt 6:34 (ESV)

I feel the pull to rush and it makes me anxious. So I am trying hard to enjoy little things each day as they come. In reality, with Covid 19 restrictions, I have plenty of time and no where far to go. When I look out the window to watch the birds activity and the leaves change I try to see a world bigger than just myself. Our attitude needs to be one of gratitude for what we have right now, not worrying about what might happen. Joy is stolen by worry and worry blocks trust.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Matt 6:26-27

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: Eccl 3:1 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Eccl 3:11

Our Heavenly Father is watching over us and knows exactly what is going on down here on planet earth. He hears our every prayer and sees every tear and tells us that we can lean on Him when we don’t understand the circumstances around us. (Prov. 3: 5&6) God knows when a vaccine will be ready and this virus gone. We know this years’ holiday season will be very different from the past in many ways. Gatherings are limited, parties will not be happening and for some a loved one will be missing this year. But we can use technology for our benefit and enjoy the little blessings along the way.

There is no need to rush. Life goes by too fast. So let us pause and breathe and trust and rest in His love and grace for each day.

Comfort From the Psalms

Comfort From the Psalms

King David is probably the most famous of all of Israel’s ancient kings. The youngest of his family he began life as a shepherd – a lowly occupation. David was a very talented musician, poet, leader and warrior. He was dependable, a loyal friend, kept his promises and was very zealous for God but in his personal life blew it big time.

The Psalms contain a collection of 150 poems and songs of which 75 are attributed to David. They are not compiled in chronological order but put together by themes. Davids’ poems are rich with emotion whether begging for protection and mercy or in praise to God. We can learn a lot from studying the life of David in these hard days and we can take great comfort reading about God’s faithfulness to him. David’s feelings are not sugar coated but sometimes raw and that is why we can identify with this “man after God’s own heart”.

Needing Assurance and Comfort – Psalm 23 – written by a former shepherd, David shares that God is the Good Shepherd who cares for, leads, heals and provides for His people in all circumstances. A favorite psalm in times of trouble or grief.

Dysfunctional Family – Psalm 2 was written when Absalom, one of his sons, amassed an army to kill him and take over the kingdom. David had 8 wives and 7 sons listed in 2 Samuel which was against God’s command and a pure recipe for jealousy and conflict. He showed favoritism, failed to discipline his children and did not show love or justice toward them.

When Life Isn’t Fair – Psalm 37 encourages us to stop looking at “the other guy” and comparing what seems unfair but tells us to keep doing the right thing. God sees our hearts and actions .

Praising God for Protection and Victory – God is our Rock of refuge in the most difficult circumstances – written after Saul dies and David secures the throne (see also Ps 27 – Our Confidence is in God)

Guilty as Charged A Prayer of Repentance – Psalm 51 – David really blew it! He was where he shouldn’t be, lusted after Bathsheba, committed adultery, got her pregnant and then had the faithful warrior husband killed in battle. How low could he go? His sin greatly affected others. He pours out his heart asking forgiveness and restoration – and God granted his request but there were still consequences – the child died. Psalm 103 is praise for Forgiveness.

Feeling Alone – God’s Omnipresence – Psalm 139 – We cannot run from God or hide from Him. God is our Creator Who knew us before we were born. God cares about us and will bring comfort to our hearts.

These are only a few of the many passages that speak to our very own experience. The Bible is not a dead book but is living and powerful. No matter what circumstances you are facing today there is a message from God, a life lesson or a promise for you within the pages of His Book. Take a look for yourselves and see !

Are You Weary?

Are You Weary?

Somedays I am so weary – not necessarily sleepy, although a nap wouldn’t hurt. I am just “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”. Although I do have underlying health issues, I am sleeping okay and not to achy. I think it is this “Covid fog” we are all experiencing. The new normal is not normal – I feel stuck! I wear my mask, wash my hands and try to be cautious in where I go. We took day trips but missed going on a few real vacations we were looking forward to. I know that I really shouldn’t complain because all of our needs have been met. Life really is good – I think I am just weary.

What is a weary person? 1:exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness. 2: expressing or characteristic of weariness a weary sign. 3: having one’s patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted – used with of soon grew weary of waiting. ( http://www.yourdictionary.com) It is someone who is bushed, burnt out, drained, drowsy and dog tired; Frazzled, fatigued, pooped, sapped, tuckered out and wacked. I am sure many of you can identify with these feelings.

The 2to1 conference explains the difference between tired and weary. “A weary person deserves to rest. Weary implies the subject is tired because they were beaten down by something. Tired implies you didn’t get enough sleep. Weariness is a temporary feeling of low energy and tiredness.” The book of Matthew promises that you are not alone. If we confess our weariness to the Lord He will send comfort. This doesn’t mean our circumstances will change but we may feel a supernatural peace to help us push onward in the face of weariness.

Here are five promises for weariness:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matt 11:28-29

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. Isaiah 40:28

 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal 6:9

Why Are We So Angry?

Why Are We So Angry?

Why are we so angry in a country that offers so much? We have much to be thankful for but our news and social media is filled with anger and violence. There seems to be less tolerance, respect and restraint while everyone is quick to blame someone else for their problems.

Anger itself is a normal emotion experienced by all humans from time to time and can serve as functional for survival. It can potentially boost determination to correct wrong behaviors and facilitate social justice and redress grievances. Uncontrolled anger however can negatively affect personal and social well-being and negatively impact those around us. In its strongest form, anger impairs one’s ability to process information and to exert self-control. Anger, if not dealt with, can become very destructive.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift,5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Gen 4:3-8

God warned Cain that his anger needed to be controlled and that he had a choice to do what was right. Instead he chose to kill his brother out of jealousy and hurt feelings. We always have a choice in how we respond no matter how great the perceived or real provocation, hurt or threat. Jesus taught about judging others and dealing with anger. We need to look at ourselves first to see if we caused any conflict and be the peacemakers.

Jonah is a well known prophet with an amazing whale of a tale. Jonah did not believe the Ninevites deserved a second chance. He finally dragged his feet to the city proclaiming their eminent destruction. He watched for the fire and brimstone to rain down but when it didn’t- he became angry. Jonah waited some distance from the city while God provided a leafy plant for shade. Jonah was happy for his personal comfort but then God provided a worm to eat the plant.

 “Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” Jonah 4:9-11

Jonah was self centered and forgot how God forgave and protected him. Jonah had been given a second chance and God reprimanded him for his uncaring attitude for all those lost people. The book of Jonah is the only book in the Bible to end in a question. God cares about people and how we respond to others.

People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.
30 A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones. Prov 14:29-30

26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,. Eph 4:26

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Cor 13:4-7

It is not a sin to feel angry but how we respond to our feelings can be. We need to recognize it, control it, deal with it and do the right thing. We always have a choice!

A Call to Remember

A Call to Remember

I am sitting at my desk writing this blog on September 11th – a day of remembrance. What started out as a very average day, when people went to work, school, shopping or began a trip away from home became a day of horror, fear and survival for millions around our Country. Anyone who is 5 years or older can remember where they were and what they were doing that fateful day. I solemnly watched part of several memorial services across our country – names were read and the bell tolled. We are called to come together as One Nation and remember the day when an unprovoked and undeserved attack struck our land killing thousands of innocent people and causing unprecedented mass destruction. Memorials have been placed in many locations to help us not forget.

God Himself instituted a Memorial Ceremony called Passover to help His people remember their last day as slaves in Egypt and how they were called to be a the Nation of Israel. The blood of a perfect lamb needed to be placed over the doorposts of believers to escape the Angel of death that night. Soon after, they marched out to freedom as God lead the way performing incredible miracles of salvation, provision and protection.

Jesus was celebrating Passover with His disciples on the night He was betrayed and sentenced to a cruel death He didn’t deserve. What started out as a joyous feast became Jesus’ last chance to enjoy time with all of them. Judas left early but the others followed Jesus to the Garden. They left the feast singing, but their eyelids heavy from a big meal and so they fell asleep instead of praying and watching. The following events recorded in the Gospels are a shocking mix of betrayal, unprovoked brutality and unexpected horror. Jesus knew everything that was going to happen yet submitted to The Fathers’ will.

Christians around the world are called to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection power. Whether in a small group or a huge Cathedral, all denominations that call themselves Christian celebrate Communion. Jesus gave His disciples simple directions to follow that hold profound meaning.

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it,28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Matt 26:26-28

I ask all of you to stop and remember September 11th , 2001 . Where were you? What did it cost you? What were your reactions? How has life changed? If you are a Believer of the Gospel – do you remember a particular day when you realized what Christ had done for you and asked His forgiveness? Do you remember asking the Holy Spirit to take control of your life? How has life changed?

Then REMEMBER who you are: I am a son/daughter of the King of Kings – I am forgiven – I am worthy (He paid a great cost) – I am free – I am LOVED – I am never alone – I belong – I am part of the family of God

REMEMBER WHO HE IS: He is The Creator and Sustainer of heaven, earth, seas, sky and galaxies beyond – Giver of Life – Provider, Protector, He sees you and knows your name – He is everywhere – He knows everything and He is All Powerful – Never failing, Never tiring, Never ending. He alone is God.