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Hold On

Our tree stood tall, magnificent, and beautiful in the living room. Only the day before, the kids and grand baby had been ripping open Christmas gifts with childish giddy and excitement, in my cute cozy forest home. To my surprise, the following night a storm set in with an unusual amount of snowfall for our area. It was about 12:30am when the house shook and I awoke to a loud mysterious SWOOSH outside. 

A gigantic oak tree had fallen and swallowed up our entire backyard, smashing everything in its path, and stopping just short of the house. The next morning revealed snapped power poles, downed lines, and fallen trees across the snowy roads. Seeing we had no power and no heat, I packed the things that were truly important to me, loaded the car, and drove away. In the back of my head was the idea of possibly never even returning.

When life gets us down, sometimes it seems the easy thing to do is just walk away from a difficult situation. You know, to just throw up our hands. To leave. To start fresh somewhere. To start over. To seek those greener pastures on the other side of the fence somewhere. 

BUT GOD. His Word teaches us not to quit, but to persevere. In spite of life’s curveballs, we are to push forward with the strength we find in a relationship in Christ. Philippians 3:13-14 tells us, “…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” It is He that gives us the ability to keep going when we just want to walk away from a challenging life situation. 

Sometimes it takes time to work through or recover from a difficult situation. It can be anything in our life that is upsetting. Whatever the challenge may be, God is what will carry us through and be our strength. All things are passing by. Our life is made up of seasons that are always shifting and changing. Nothing ever stays the same. And when we are struggling and life is hard, if we can just remember that things won’t always be that way, and hold on to the promises of Christ, eventually life lets up and things change up! Phillipians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

When times get tough there is always something in that season that the Lord is wanting to teach us. The key is being able to embrace that by asking the Lord to reveal what that lesson is. Trust issues, faith, perseverance, overcoming fear or worry, whatever the case may be, I believe there is always a lesson there, within, from the Lord. James 1:2-3 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Anything the Lord allows to happen in our life has a purpose for our growth and the Lord’s eternal plans and purposes for us. James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

We were out of our house for nine days due to no power or heat. I prayed, searched my heart, and considered other living situation possibilities. Nothing turned up, and I felt the Lord prompting me to return to our home. We did, and it took another two months for a return to normalcy. During that time we were still in the midst of property restoration and clean up. And, no internet! 

My lesson was that of perseverance and some things the Lord wanted to change up for me. With no internet, life was different! He taught me new habits and gave me new hobbies that are actually much better and healthier. Although it was uncomfortable and a challenge, I am so thankful for all the Lord has changed in my life. 

It is spring now and I once again am enjoying our cozy little cottage in the forest. The sun is shining, the birds are visiting, the flowers are blossoming, the trees are budding leaves, and I am living life differently and am much more thankful for all we have here. The Lord is so Faithful and He knows just what we need and when we need it. He also knows just how to reach us so we can learn those lessons He has for us. He is our Father, indeed, and I am thankful we have a Heavenly Father that is looking after us, teaching us, making a way for us, and loving us for who we are and who are not. 1 John 4:16 tells us, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

When life gets you down and you just want to run in the other direction, trust in the Lord and just how much He loves you. Press into Him. Psalm 18:2 says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” And, remember, He wants the very best for you!

For a little extra encouragement and to get stuck in your head, LOL, I have included the link for Toby Mac’s song, Hold On. https://youtu.be/CBVQEt04gxg

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Our Thoughts

“Think good thoughts,” she exclaimed, when I asked what her secret was to living a long and happy life. This was coming from a woman wise in her years. She knew from her 89 years of life experience that it was key to a peaceful and victorious life. She had come to the point in life where she understood the harm that can result when we dwell upon worrisome, fearful, or disturbing thoughts. Our mind is the control center for our body. When our mind is upset so is our body. 

If we can commit our situations to the Lord, trusting Him for His very best purpose in our life, even when things are hard or scary, it will free us to think good and hopeful thoughts in the midst of the storm. If we can walk in peace we will live longer, happier lives. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

According to researchers at Penn State University, only about 8% of the things people worry about come true. This statement by Winston Churchill rings true. “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” It is easy to fall into the worry of the what ifs in life. But, when we turn to God’s Word we are told to do the opposite. In faith, we are to think, trust, and expect God’s very best. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

We are actually not in control of our life circumstances, even though we struggle with wanting to be in complete control. We all want a certain outcome in life and we may even have a plan we formulated in our mind to reach that hope or dream. Perhaps we have even played out just what that dream looks like and how it should go! But when things don’t go as planned and life gets uncomfortable, scary, or stormy, we need to remember that the Lord has us.

If we are walking in surrender, embracing all that He is doing, it comes down to a matter of trust. He has His reasons for allowing hard or challenging times, which we just cannot fully grasp or understand while we are in the midst of them or looking at them in someone else’s life. But, Psalm 62:1-2 tells us, “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken.” He is always working things out for good.

In Matthew 11:28-30 we are told, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” We are to keep our focus on God, being confident of who we are as we walk in truth.

If our minds are bent on thinking negative, unhealthy, worrisome thoughts, there is still hope in the transforming of our minds. This can be done through the redeeming power of our Lord as we believe and receive our true identity in Christ. When the mind goes down a rabbit trail of negativity, one thing we can do is STOP and do what I call a TRUTH check. Ask yourself, are these thoughts based on truth or are they based on fear and the what ifs of life? Anything not factual needs to be thrown out and our mind needs to refocus on the truth of God’s promises. I have found the following quote by Andrew Murray to be both powerful and life changing: 

In time of trouble, say, First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in his love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as his child. Then say, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons he intends me to learn, and working in me the grace he means to bestow. And last, say, In his good time he can bring me out again, how and when, he knows. Therefore, say, I am here by: 

1. God’s appointment 

2. In His keeping 

3. Under His training

4. For His time

It is our hope in Christ that sustains us through the storms of life; Those things that don’t set right with us, cause us stress and unwanted drama, things we can’t change, things causing us pain or confusion, or whatever our worse fears may be. We belong to Christ and He is our peace. In Joshua 1:9 it says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

When we belong to the Lord, we can rest assured that He is keeping us for His purposes. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 tells us, “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” Through Christ we can overcome. Those lies from the enemy that are meant to break and destroy us, are just that, for 1 John 4:4 speaks of the victory we have in Christ!  “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” The Lord is with us and He will fight the real enemy through us. We are victorious in Christ, always.

Ephesians 4:1 tells us we are to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. If you are a child of God, saved by the blood of Christ and walking in surrender to Him then you are not your own, and, neither are you alone. You belong to the Holy Spirit who dwells in you. And, regardless of difficult situations, God is always there, taking care of you. You will never face a mountain on your own. The Creator of all things is helping you and He is faithful, forever, to the end. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

We are empowered by God’s Spirit. We are to walk in faith and freedom, not being bound by fear of the unknown. We are to live life fully unto the Lord, following the leading of the Holy Spirit and being confident in His care and chosen purposes for each of us. And, we are to be thinking good thoughts of hope in Christ. We can transform our minds when we focus on the promises of God and stand on the truth, not the what ifs or lies of the enemy. 

Jesus Christ told us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give to you; do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” Rest and trust in the Lord and He will give you the peace you need right here and now. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 

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God’s Got IT

Jumping and pulling and playfully barking, the pup pulled on the leash. She was excited and wanted to go play with the dog who was running freely across the green ball field. As I reigned her in, I thought about how we, too, often want to just run off, in pursuit of our own plans and ideas in spite of what is actually best for us.  

It came down to a battle of wills, as this pup was not being obedient. Bottom line, she saw what she wanted and sought to be in control of her circumstance. How often do we pull and tug and press-in for what we want? The will of a dog can be broken. But, what about us? God does not want us to have a broken spirit. Instead, He gives us freedom to make choices in life, be they good or bad for us. He gives us free will, unlike a master and his dog.

Holding back from what we desire is a challenge! Our flesh is really good at demanding what it wants, right… NOW. The power of our flesh can so overcome us that we are incapable of determining the consequence of a choice we are making in the moment. This is why it is so important that we bring everything before the Lord before making a decision. There are many choices to be made in life that demand our attention. We are to walk in obedience with the Lord by first bringing everything before Him. Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I recently watched a survival reality TV show where the guy got so hungry he decided to kill the little critter that he had befriended. The squirrel had become his only source of companionship on the lonely and isolated tundra island. He had gained its trust, so it would hang out with him and keep him company. He would talk to it as if it were his friend. However, when his hunger overcame him one episode, he killed it and ate it to satisfy his ravenous appetite. The result was him falling to pieces, an emotional wreck. He was so overcome with guilt and misery for eating his only little buddy that he resigned. He quit the game in a puddle of remorse and tears, and went home utterly defeated. 

Psalm 56:8 tells of Christ’s empathy, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Sometimes I have to chuckle, thinking about my tower of bottles in heaven! But, it also makes me realize how much Jesus cares about my troubles, sorrow, and pain. He never misses a single tear I shed. He is always aware and always there. Nothing is hidden from the Lord. Psalm 32:8 tells us, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” He has purpose in our hurts and disappointments. Nothing happens to us that is a surprise to the Lord. Anything that happens in a believers life is approved and done with the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father. He never gives us more than we can handle. He only permits what will ultimately be best for us and also bring Him glory. 

So when we are hurting, frustrated, confused, or just don’t understand why we are going through something hard, it is important that we acknowledge who we are before God. We belong to Him. We are the clay that our Potter is molding into something much more beautiful than we can ever imagine. And, that can be a painful process. But, in spite of our discomfort, we are to embrace what He is doing in our life and rejoice in the Lord. We are to be giving God glory in our joyful moments along with times of sorrow, disappointment, and pain. The Scriptures tell us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In spite of whatever hardship we are facing we still need to acknowledge the goodness of God in our lives by thanking Him for all the abundantly good things we have and are blessed with. Anything we have is a gift from the Lord. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” Many think that all they have is because of the hard work they have put in during their life to obtain it. Yes, but, ultimately, God is our Provider. He is the One who makes things happen for us and shines His face upon us, making a good way in life. 

Ever feel like you have exhausted all your resources in a situation? It’s like we try this and that, using our knowledge and logic, hoping it will solve or end a certain problem. It can be difficult when we don’t understand what we are to do in a particular situation we are dealing with, even though we are obediently waiting upon Him. We have sought the Lord on it, yet, we don’t see anything happening or feel the Lord telling us what to do. Try as we may, there can seem to be no end or answer in sight! The battle actually belongs to Jesus. To allow for that, we need to get before Him and give Him our problems. We must surrender to what God is wanting to do in our lives, to the will of the Lord.

If we are bringing our issues to the Lord in prayer, seeking Him for wisdom, guidance, and answers, He will work on our behalf. We can receive His perfect peace in the midst of the trials and challenges we face. Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” And when we can’t change things and nothing seems to be working, we must continue to press-in to the Lord and wait upon Him for how he is moving in our lives. God is Sovereign. God is Just. God never changes. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME. We are not in control of the situations in our life. God is. There is a point where we need to understand and accept this fact in order to keep our peace. Then, we must walk in faith.

This is a hard season to be in. BUT GOD. I like to look at it as if we have put in our request and know that the Lord is working on it, even though we cannot see any changes. It gives me hope knowing that He is taking care of things and I am not the one that needs to figure things out all on my own. Instead, my focus is to be on Him each day, not the problem, and be faithful in that day for what He asks of me, all the while waiting for His leading and prompting. There is peace in knowing and trusting that the Lord is in fact working all things out for our best good. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Our life is not a game of chess where we strategically plan our moves until one day we are in check and BAM, life is perfect and it is all that we ever wanted. We have a winner! It just doesn’t work that way. Life is completely unpredictable. Ecclesiastes 10:14 reminds us, “No man knows what is to be.” 

Having a humble heart before the Lord is key if you want to walk in obedience with the Lord. Not our will, but His. We must trust Him with our life and that of those we love, knowing He loves us and wants the very best for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” We are here for a purpose. We need to be open to living out the plans the Lord has intended for us. If we are seeking the Lord and walking in obedience then we can be confident in Proverbs 16:9, which tells us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” 

So no matter how hard life seems or how overwhelming a situation may be, we are to remember that God is in control and we just are not. No matter how much we so want an answer or understanding, or something to change, it truly is not our call, but the decision of our Maker who knows what we need and when we need it. His timing is always perfect.

Bottom line is, God’s got this. YES, HE HAS ALL OF IT. Whatever you are facing, just know if you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, then you are not dealing with IT alone. We are to lay it all down at the foot of the cross in an act of surrender. Not our will, but the will of God in our life. It is a daily surrender. We have to be able to walk in peace even when we are uncomfortable in our present situation. The apostle Paul said it well in Philippians 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” 

Even though that green ball field looks inviting, and we can be head strong, let’s not run off and try to take care of things in our own make-sense, selfish, I’m tired of waiting, disobedient kind of way! 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 tells us to, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God has a plan and a purpose for each of us, despite the challenges and difficulties we are facing. We are to join Him by embracing all that He is doing, even when we don’t understand and feel uncomfortable. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” And so, we must be patient in faith and trust the Lord for what He is doing. “… What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 The Lord is Faithful, always. Trust in Him. His ways are BEST.

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Alert Bold and Courageous

autumn dawn daylight environment

It has been said, cats have nine lives. Upon adopting our little cat, who had outlived his previous owner, we came to find out he had barely survived being hit by a car. He had sustained much injury, and, as a result, he had poor vision, and head bob, was underweight, and very timid. However, as the months went by and we prayed for his healing and loved on him, our little Buddy got stronger, healthier, and became quite assertive, all the while maintaining his gentle sweet spirit.

Buddy was not a hunter, as he had no aggressive behavior within him. While our other two cats were out hunting it up, little Buddy could usually be found quietly sleeping in the safety of our home. However, as the months past, he began venturing outdoors during the day. He enjoyed our front porch and we had begun to grow accustomed to his company as we would come and go. At nightfall though, he always made his way indoors. He liked keeping us company, and seeing that his name was Buddy he got nicknamed all kinds of cute pet names depending where he was. When he was on our desk he was Study Buddy, while in the restroom it was Bathroom Buddy, on the couch with us… Snuggle Buddy.

One particular evening this little guy was out late with us. My son and I were hanging out in the bed of his new truck, chatting it up and enjoying the cool of the evening and admiring the beauty of the twinkle in the night sky. Tailgate Buddy was with us. His motor was running as he purred and rubbed and happily hung-out with us. Our conversation turned to Buddy and how he would make a great Truck Buddy.

Buddy was not a cat who stayed out at night. We were especially careful with him due to his poor eyesight. He typically was not even outdoors in the evening. However, on this particular one things went differently. Since he was ALWAYS indoors at bedtime, it did not even occur to us to double check that he was in. Apparently, he had wondered off while we were talking that night. We came in, and didn’t realize Bedtime Buddy was missing. The next morning, I immediately realized that Bathroom Buddy was not around.

That was a sorrowful day as a terrible discovery was made later, by my son. It was so devastating to see. In complete shock and dismay, we stood, crying together. Buddy had been attacked and eaten by a mountain lion. Never have I seen such a thing as that. We were devastated.

Everything happens for a reason. Why did such a gentle spirited animal succumb to such a death? I don’t have the answers, but do feel it was definitely a warning to us. Mountain lions had been sighted up and down our road in weeks prior to this attack. Was it the Lord’s way of getting our attention and alerting us to the danger lurking around in our very backyard? Perhaps. But, even more than that was a spiritual lesson.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” I can’t help but think of this. There we were, enjoying ourselves just the evening before in quiet conversation beneath the stars, making fun loving plans together. We did not realize there was a dangerous predator lurking in the shadows of the night. Our guard was down. We were naïve and unaware of the peril right there on our property.

How vigilant we must be in our lives and Christian walk! We must ALWAYS be seeking the Lord. How important it is for us to read His word, commune with Him, and ask Him the questions that bewilder us in this life. His leading and guiding is of utmost importance. If we become complacent in our walk with the Lord, we risk the enemy sneaking in and devouring us. May it not be! James 4:7 tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

As Christ followers, we are to be of a gentle spirit. In God’s word, it mentions what is referred to as the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. There are nine attributes which are found in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  It is important that we have such characteristics as these. May the Lord be our strength and help to attain such Christ-like qualities!

In addition to these qualities of gentleness and most noble character, we are also instructed in Joshua 1:9-11 to be bold and obedient. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I thank the Lord that He has given us an instruction manual for life!

Our cat Buddy had escaped previous death. However, he was naïve and ill-equipped for the dangerous enemy that stalked him as prey. May we learn from this, the spiritual responsibility we have. May we, ourselves, BE AWARE of the adversary that prowls around looking for someone to devour. May we submit ourselves to the Lord. May we stay strong by reading His word, communing, and seeking Him in all things. May we be gentle, yet ALERT, BOLD and COURAGEOUS. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

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Run Your Race

trailflower

A good solid run is satisfying, as it is both mentally and physically challenging. It clears the mind, strengthens the body, and refreshes the soul. There are parallels in the physical exertion of running that can be carried over and applied to living life closely with Christ.

Running hills are strenuous, and depending on the elevation and terrain involved, can be down right grueling. Breathing heavily with muscles that are screaming, runners press on. They overcome by not giving in to the pain and exhaustion their body is feeling. They endure. And with every hill they climb their bodies get stronger. These are like the trials and tribulations of life. We must stay strong even when something in life appears to be too big, overwhelming, or daunting. We must choose to stay the course, trusting in Christ to keep us strong in Him. And with each trial He brings us through and each giant He has us overcome, our strength will increase. Philippians 4:13

Mountainous terrain can be dangerous. Rocks, loose granite or shale, sand or mud, creeks and cliffs, lizards that jet beneath moving feet, and snakes that slither are all a par for the course. To navigate such a trail you need a sure footing, or what the Bible refers to as hind’s feet. This can only come with time and continued experience out on the trail by logging in distance and overcoming challenging variables. It is easy to lose a footing or catch a toe on a rock, resulting in a fall that is physically painful or a hit to our pride. And, so it is with the Lord. As we run our race through life with Him, He leads us through perilous times that are difficult, hard to navigate through, painful and often times, humbling. With each challenge we grow and learn to persevere just as runners do on the trail, ultimately receiving spiritual hind’s feet as we stay on our life path with our Lord and Savior. Habakkuk 3:19

Whether it be on a damp foggy trail or parched desert terrain, the threat of dehydration is on every runner’s course. It can sneak up quickly, causing weakness and confusion, and can put a stop to even the strongest of runners. Totally preventable, every runner must hydrate. And, so it is in life. If we don’t quench our thirst, if we don’t drink from the Living Water of Christ, we will soon tire and lose focus as spiritual dehydration sets in. As you run the race of life, continue drinking in the truth found only in God’s word. You will stay the course and finish strong. John 4:14

The spiritual parallels between the physical run and the spiritual run of life are genuine. As hard as it may be, embrace the hills in your life. Better yet, conquer them! Keep a sure footing by gaining your hind’s feet. And, most importantly, stay strong in the Lord by drinking in His word. Let the Lord renew and refresh your soul. You will be glad you did!

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