Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Do you ever have times when a particular theme keeps reoccurring? Maybe you just read about a topic and then you see a sign about it or hear a song on the radio that reminds you again. God has been whispering in my ear… “Child, pay attention”.

I just finished a month long study on the book of Philippians. One of the main themes is Joy and another is Peace. Joy is not a fleeting or a superficial and soon forgotten feeling but a deep inner emotion that lasts and is remembered. Russell M Nelson stated, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

In this pandemic crisis and world of social distancing it is hard to feel joyful. Instead,we are afraid, depressed, sad, overwhelmed and over worked. Our brains are tired from adjusting and trying to live with new restrictions, changing rules and new expectations. Remember, the apostle Paul was writing from prison when he challenged the early Church.

                    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice        Phil 4:4

We are to make the Lord our focus and not our circumstances. He is the source of our strength in each new day.  Our relationship with Him needs to take higher priority over anything else. It’s easy in times like this to reverse that order but we will only feel more exhausted. When I am “too busy” to read my Bible and pray I end up with a bad attitude and more stress.

Contrary to popular opinion, Christians do not have to have it all together. It’s okay to feel burnt out, confused or frazzled….or whatever emotion you may be feeling. And it is okay to have good days and bad ones. That is the only thing normal right now. Most Moms weren’t planning to run their own one room schoolhouse. Most service people weren’t expecting to be facing a health risk on the job. We were created for community not isolation. Every day we are facing a lot of uncertainty and it is stressful but we can choose our focus and adjust our attitude.

Anxiety is a joy robber. It’s been said that “worry is like sitting in a rocking chair – you think you are moving but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.      Phil 4:5-7

Remember “the Lord is near” : we need to live with an awareness of God’s presence (read Psalm 139:1-12 and Joshua 1:8,9)  Other translations for “reasonableness” are; be considerate, gentleness, forbearance, work together. God gave us our emotions so it’s okay to talk to Him about how you are feeling. Get it off your chest – He already knows anyway. When we leave our fear and doubt at His feet we exchange those negative feelings for inner peace. He will guard our hearts and minds – our attitudes, emotions and thoughts.

Our problems are real and won’t go away instantly but our hearts can change. Faith is exercised when things cannot be seen. We can have peace and joy in difficult circumstances when we remind ourselves that God is Sovereign and in control. We choose to trust in His faithfulness and promises for each day – one at a time.

 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you       2 Cor 13:11

 

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Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

During this Lenten season the much beloved movie, “The Ten Commandments”, staring Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner will be on television at least once.  I could not help but compare our current situation to the plagues that infected Egypt and our responses today.

Pharoah430 yrs. after Jacob and his family came to Egypt in good standing, a Pharaoh rose to power that did not know of Joseph or His God. God saw the oppression and cruelty the people faced and commissioned Moses to face off with Pharaoh. There was no way Pharaoh would let his slave labor force just walk away. So God sent a succession of plagues to annoy and exasperate all the Egyptians into letting the people go. The first two plagues affected everyone in the land. Can you imagine having frogs in your bed or to open your cereal cupboard and have frogs jump out?

The next seven plagues were sent to make a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptian people. The last plague – the death of the first born – showed God’s ultimate Sovereignty over all life. Passover is a remembrance of His power, presence and the protection of His people.

The Egyptian gods were silent. They could not help, heal or protect from any of the plagues.  Pharaohs’ heart just became harder as he refused to believe and bow to the true God of Heaven and Earth. Out of grief, anger and frustration he finally ordered the Israelites to leave the country.moses part red sea But he later recanted and sent his army to chase the people to the edge of the Red Sea. (My favorite part in the movie)

 

 

The succession of plagues may have lasted up to a year. As soon as one plague got better God sent another. God’s people survived all of the plagues, took riches with them and walked through the Sea on dry land. But after all these incredible miracles we read that it didn’t take very long for them to start complaining.

I do not believe God sent Covid-19 as a punishment but does He have your attention? During this National crisis the gods of this world have been silenced. Our celebrity sports precautions hospitalare closed down, mega star musicians silenced, meeting places emptied and we are left with a lot of unknowns. Our God is not silent! His Word has a lot to say about trusting Him for today and the future. We are facing an unprecedented worldwide crisis. This virus and its global spread was a huge surprise to physicians and governments but is not a surprise to Him.

One of my favorite scripture passages tells us to be reasonable, focus our minds on the good and not negative media. We will experience true peace when we pray about our concerns and leave them with Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.    Phil 4:4-7 

 

Our friends and family are watching to see how we face this crisis.We can share that we are not alone and God is in control. Let us share the hope we have because of Easter- the ultimate love of God.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.                                                                                                                                                     Isaiah 43:1-3 

No matter what restrictions may be put in place and the uncertainty of the future economy, our God is in control. Especially during Lent, let us thank God as we remember His faithfulness  recorded in The Bible for us. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.                                                                                                                                        Isaiah 26:3 

 

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A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  Decluttering, downsizing and organizing guru’s share the latest tips to contain the mess.  Every year we make the same or similar new years’ resolutions because we want to do better, be nicer and feel healthier.

We often deal with the stuff around us but what about dealing with the “stuff” in our hearts? The classic booklet “My Hearts Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger weaves a story of inviting Jesus in and giving a tour room by room of our “house”. Each room represents a place in our lives but the host balks at letting Jesus see the hall closet.  The stuff in that closet is old and smells bad ; like bitterness, bad habits, past secret sin we hang on to. Only Jesus can help us clean, reorder and restore this closet of our heart.

DSC_0927 (1)  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper? We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug or hide.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. He is the God of second chances! Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) there is nothing impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

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Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work on those areas. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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Parking Lot Prayers

Parking Lot Prayers

We were unloading our groceries into the back of our cars. I casually remarked, “I’m trying to finish shopping and get home before it rains again.” The woman next to me womentalkingreplied, “I wish this was all but I have to go to the hospital to be with my sister. Her Dad had a heart attack and she’s a mess”.  She continued to tell me that it has been a bad year – she herself had open heart surgery in January. I had stopped loading my car by this time and focused on her. I told her she looked great and then thoughtfully asked “Could I pray with you?”  She reached out her hand as I asked her name and we prayed right there in the parking lot.

In the book of Acts chapter 3 we read that Peter and John were heading to the Temple to pray and preach the Good News.  A man lame since birth sat at the gate begging for money….

4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money.6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened.8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.      Acts 3:3-8 (NLT)

AB-Simpson-quoteThis woman was a total stranger. I simply listened to “H” share what was going on in her life. I couldn’t solve her problem but I offered what I had…a listening ear and a connection with The Father.  As she got into her car I reminded her that God would be with her…she replied, “God is good all the time”.

I sat in my car and thought, “what just happened?”  Was I just used by God to lift up a sister in Christ?  I didn’t ask her about her faith. The conversation went so smooth and natural. This interaction was a Divine appointment.  It wasn’t something I specifically prayed for that morning but God used me as an instrument of His grace and peace.

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.                   Col 4:5-6 (NLT)

 I’ve always appreciated the power and privilege of prayer. When I was in college, I had friendspraying.jpgan open door policy. The girls on my dorm floor knew I was willing to pray with them about their concerns.  Over the years I’ve had opportunities like praying with a co-worker going through a divorce and another caring for a sick parent. My neighbor appreciated my praying with her when her husband had dementia – though years  before she had said, “I have my religion”.

My previous blog expressed how God is available 24/7. We can come to him in a break room, at a kitchen table or in a parking lot.

Be Ready

Be Able

Be Willing

Be Blessed!

 

 

God Doesn’t Put Us On Hold

God Doesn’t Put Us On Hold

woman-onphone“Put on hold again”, I muttered. I tried pushing 000…nothing but music. In our day of instant information and communication it is so aggravating to have to wait on the phone for some strange live person to answer on the other end. Worse yet, when my call is answered by a robotic voice telling me to push more numbers to get to a certain department, to finally get a living person, to hopefully answer my question.

Being put on hold makes me feel frustrated and somewhat insignificant. I just want good old fashioned customer service from a real person. I have never put a person on hold to pick up a “call waiting”.  I don’t want someone to think that they aren’t important to me.  When I call someone to talk with them, I want a direct connection. Do you know that God will never put you “on hold”?  The scripture tells us that He is available 24/7.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.                  Psalms 121:2-4 (ESV)

God wants us to draw near to Him because HE is fully accessible. And He gets “it” manprayingwhatever that may look like in your life.  Nothing surprises God. He has seen and heard it all throughout the ages and already knows our situation.  We can come before Him with broken hearts and wounds too deep for words and He understands. There is no perfect time or place. Instead, He tells us to come as we are, wherever we are.

 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.          Heb 4:14-16 (ESV)

 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.       Romans 8:26 (ESV)

scaredboymomThere was a small boy who was terrified of thunderstorms at night. Whenever the lightning and thunder would begin, he would invariably end up at his parents bedside, saying “I’m scared”  One night his father told him, “You don’t need to be afraid of the storm, Jesus is there with you”.  “I know he is,” the boy replied, but I need a Jesus with skin on”.

When I’m on hold  with a computer voice, I’ll often say “representative please”.  friendsprayingWhen I’m going through a rough time, even though I know God is listening and that He does love me…. sometimes I need “Jesus with skin on”.  I need a fellow believer to listen, remind me of God’s word and pray with me.

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.          2 Cor 1:3-4 (NLT)

It is so comforting to know Our Father hears us when we pray. But then we need to trust Him because He may answer YES,  NO  or WAIT.….   The following lyrics are from a  “Madea” movie. The story with its crazy twists focuses on God’s power to change lives, betrayal, revenge, mercy, hope and forgiveness.

 Father Can You Hear Me  ( from Diary of a Mad Black Woman by Tyler Perry)

Father can you hear me
We need your love today
I know that you are listening
You hear me everyday
Father please hear us
And we will be ok
Father we need you
You heal families everyday

Father can you hear me
I’m calling on your name
Not Buddha nor Muhammad
But it’s Jesus we cry out loud
Father just forgive us
Hear us when we say
We’ll give ya, give ya, give you everything our lives and souls today

Father you know we need it
I’ve never seen so much pain
We have the faith for now
Your victory we will gain
Father you know we mean it
There’s no more heart of stone
We’re ready for your power
Now the sin is gone

Lead: Father
Choir: Can you hear me now
(Repeat 4x)

 

 

Look to the Mountains

Look to the Mountains

My husband Paul and I just returned from a “bucket list” trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ to celebrate our 35th anniversary.  People from around the world make the journey to visit and explore these marvels of creation. We were amazed as we drove up… literally UP and UP from Phoenix to Williams. The vastly changing topography and increasing altitude were something in themselves. We even drove through a snowstorm!  From 7000 feet we viewed the Grand Canyon and all of its splendor from day through a sunset tour.

We learned of its ancient people, flora and fauna, geology, and of course its conservationIMG_1534 and preservation. At every vantage point we saw something new. It is true that you have to actually see this place with your own eyes. It is hard to describe to someone and photographs can only capture a small portion of the depth and breadth of the Grand Canyon. The colors change with the sunlight as you view high and low. How awesome is our God!

In Sedona, we drove throughout the Red Rock Country on our own.  Taking our time as we viewed this amazing landscape we were reminded of God’s infinite power through the beauty in nature.  Breath-taking.  Our favorite spot was the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Built to a twin pinnacle spur, about 250 feet high jutting out a thousand foot rock wall, solid as the “Rock of Peter”, the building was completed in 1956. It took 25 years from the dream of the original donor, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, and after much research, to find the place and gain permission to build this beautiful chapel. People from many countries were there. Many entered the chapel to pray, as did we.

redrock3A quote from the benefactor,  “When we consider that just as the soul inhabits a human frame, and the house is built to shelter that frame, it is the mission of the church to shelter and inspire both soul and body. It therefore should not be only be a monument to faith, but a spiritual fortress so charged with God, that it spurs mans’ spirit godward!”

In the bible, Psalms 120-134 formed a hymn book used by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Booths. As a child I remember my father reading Psalm 121 to us before we left for vacation each summer. We tried to do the same with our children.

Psalm 121     A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

1 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there?2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
7 The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.          Psalms 121:1-8 (NLT)

redrock1As we traveled through the plains along the highway, the hills and mountains seemed small, grayish and distant. But as we drew closer to them we could see color and dimension and beauty as they towered above us. Sometimes our view of God is the same. He seems fuzzy and distant. God, our Father, beckons us to draw near and see Him in all of His splendor and majesty. We grow closer by reading His word, praying and building a relationship with Him.

The pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem often had a long hard journey to make. They planned and prepared but I’m sure they got weary. Reciting the psalms gave them encouragement and hope to continue on. We too can plan and prepare for life but often the twists and bumps in the road make it long and hard.  No matter what troubles you may be experiencing today – look to the hills and remember the Creator of heaven and earth. Our God is bigger than any mountain and greater than any sea and yet He cares for each one of us. He is our help and strength for every step of the way.

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