Life’s body blows hit when we least expect it. The reasons don’t even matter yet the sting is searing, our breath is labored, and we wonder if we can go on. Where is God in all of this? Why now and why me? Why my family?
I found this poem in Streams in the Desert and it gave me comfort and a reminder that the path, at times, will be muddy and hard to see – but He is there!
I love to read and one of my favorite fiction genres is action/thrillers. The story of Joseph in Genesis captures my imagination in a similar way. The twists and turns of the plot keep me glued to the story wondering what is going to happen next between the good guys and the bad guys. Typically, the bad guys are unknown to the hero but in this story, they are his brothers. Jealousy, vindictiveness, deceit, and cover-up define their actions as we watch them sell Joseph into slavery, ship him off to a foreign country, and lie to their father.
Joseph ends up in Egypt, his problems exacerbate, and he lands in jail. What could be a worse fate? And to top it off, his family and fellow prisoners think he is weird because he can interpret dreams. I’m sure this chain of events was not on Joseph’s “to-do” list.
However, the story does not end with doubt but with promise. Joseph trusted God and even when his future looked bleak, his good work habits, industriousness, and loyalty brought him positive attention. Eventually, even Pharaoh was impressed with the young man and his abilities and appointed him as second in command over all the land of Egypt. Without that authority, when a severe famine hit, he would not have been able to provide food for the whole earth, including all of his family in Israel. God does not make mistakes.
At times, we may question what is going on around us. Life is not fair. It’s too hard. I didn’t sign up for this. We question what God is doing but we can’t even see around a corner let alone months into the future.
God alone is the master of our destiny and all He asks is for us to trust Him. Joseph did not expect fame, nor did he seek it. But God placed him in a position of power for His honor and glory. What is God’s story for you? How is He preparing you for the next step?
Pay attention. Your story may be the next best seller in God’s story of faith.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20
The calendar rolled over to 2018 at midnight…we have a new year! I like new beginnings — it energizes me to start afresh and move forward. I’m not one to look back much, for a couple of reasons. One, it can be depressing. Two, you can’t change anything that happened. All those woulda, coulda, shoulda dates written in over the months can sometimes be painful reminders of things done or undone.
My word for the year is “faith.” As I pondered and prayed about what word to focus on, faith kept coming up. But I wondered how it differed from hope, my word from another year. Google gave me some insight and it always referred back to the source as the object of our faith. As Christians, that source is God — the beginning of it all. Faith in Him is the way forward.
One way to lend some understanding is: My son promises his two little girls a trip to Disneyland. They have faith (or trust) in their dad to keep his word because he has done so in the past. But they have hope as they look forward to this new and exciting adventure.
As I look over my calendar for 2018, I can plug in a few dates which give me something to look forward to. But those hopes and dreams may change if God chooses to take me on another path. And that is where the faith comes in. It may not be where I want to go, the people I want to go with, or the mode of transportation. But faith allows me to trust my Heavenly Father to take care of His daughter and and I will follow Him.
I’m not much of a dog person but we rescued Rusty six months ago and he has managed to wiggle his way into my heart. He’s a happy dog and likes nothing better than to lick whatever portion of skin he can find. This is not my favorite quality of his. But, he will also jump up on my knee when I’m sitting at my desk or on the couch and look right into my eyes, tongue hanging out and tail wagging.
“I see you” is my standard response. I’m not even sure that is what he wants to hear but it is enough to send him happily away to find a toy.
Don’t we all want to be noticed…to be seen and accepted for who we are and given a little encouragement for the day?
Hagar got the raw end of the deal after she obeyed her mistress and then was despised by this same woman. Eventually, pregnant and alone, she fled into the desert to escape unbearable circumstances. She had no place to go, no food or water. Only misery and the unknown.
But the Lord saw her in her desperation and gave her instructions for the next step in her journey. It was what she needed most — someone to understand and offer hope.
We never know what a kind word, email, text, note, or even a smile will mean to the person who is having a very bad day. That bit of love and hope may change the outcome completely, just like Hagar. We can also count on God to speak to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit.
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14 (NLT)
For a news junkie like me, this week has left me exhausted. I like order and control and from what I have observed, the politics in Washington, D.C. have neither. The fact is that none of us knows what any given day will bring. We have our plans but a phone call, a diagnosis, a fall, a letter, an accident can turn our world upside down.
Trying to sell our house and move closer to town presents a perfect test for waiting with no control of the outcome. In my morning quiet time, I journal my prayers and have started thanking God for the sale of the house.
I’m reminded of the story of Daniel who prayed, pleading for his people and their deliverance. But God, seemingly failed to hear or answer. Twenty-one days later, an angel appeared to Daniel and basically told him he had been busy but he had heard him. He had been in battle in another part of the world but was now ready to give an answer to his prayer.
God knows our heart’s desires and He knows the timing of this sale. Rather than have the stress of a “must sell date,” we are not even looking at future homes. I know that God is in this move and He will take care of us. He’s got the perfect place picked out. But it may take “twenty-one days” to get it ready.
I read that “Waiting is the hardest work of hope.” Calling us to be brave and courageous, in our verse, makes sense because waiting may result in fear, anxiety, boredom, disappointment, frustration, or even anger. Hope has been my watchword since 2013 — a year that seemed hopeless in so many ways. But God. Because I know that God loves me, has a plan for my life that is good and a purpose even better than I could imagine, I hope…and I wait.
I don’t know what the next step entails — where it will lead or when it will happen — but I do know Who lights my way…one step at a time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, so that the authenticity of your faith —more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
While scrolling through my email, I found a Groupon for a facial located at a distance not too far away. I love massages but I treat facials more like going to see the dentist — every now and then it’s a good idea to check in. The selling pitch was that an arm and shoulder massage were included.
Sans make-up, when I arrived the esthetician gave me a form to fill out. One of the questions was what did I want to get out of the facial. I thought a few moments and then wrote down that I wanted her to take off 20 years.
An hour later, I left after tolerating many layers — cleanser, scrub, mask, serum, moisturizer — interspersed with hot towels, cold towels, and steam. Sensations of stinging, pain, massage, and finally, soothing lotion, alternately applied, reminded me why this is not my favorite beauty treatment.
But, but, but — my face is now so smooth and soft. It was worth it; I may even go more often.
God’s refining often comes in the form of many layers, too. We do our best to hide the imperfections on our faces with make-up, highlighters, and concealers, to name a few. We may try to cover up our sin and hopelessness with busyness, indifference, and addictions.
The trials we endure are like the scrubs and masks that rid my face of all the dead skin cells and clogged pores, finally, getting down to the bare, clean skin. God wants to give us life — abundant life — and it won’t happen if it’s hidden by sin and selfishness. It may take the sting and pain of God’s cleansing to remove the old to reveal the new.
Yet, He doesn’t leave us bare with no covering, an easy target for the enemy. No, He blankets us with the blood of Jesus bringing life. He gives us the Holy Spirit who fills us with love. And above all — when we have endured to the end — HOPE is our reward.
But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hopethat will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.
Have you gotten used to writing 2017 yet? I love a new year — new wall calendars, new devotionals, new Bible studies, new semester. Changing over from the past of 2016 and embracing all that is ahead in 2017— I love it!
Starting from scratch has a particular appeal for me. It gets my creative juices flowing and I begin to look at a project in new ways. Never compelled to operate under the guise of “I’ve always done it this way,” the new year gives me freedom to expand what I already know and look for new and better ways to do it. “It” may be the way I decorate my house, arrange a closet, organize my library, exercise routine, or choose which areas to serve my God, family, and church.
One routine that I began in 2013 is to choose a word for the year. I thought I was being original until I opened my email today and found a devotion from a pastor telling you how to do this very thing. My journey began in sheer desperation because life was hard and getting harder. My word was HOPE. I needed to know that I was going to make it, by the grace of God. And He provided the hope that sustained me then and continues to this day. Always HOPE.
Other words flowed from that original word to include joy and grace. Last year, I though the word would be love but God had another in mind — humility. He kind of hit me upside the head but proved over and over that being humble was something I needed to practice.
This year it’s kindness. I’m just beginning so I’m not sure how it will play out but I know it will affect what I do and how I speak to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.
Our world has become impersonal, impatient, and often unkind. We expect our life to be solved with instant messages, microwaves, emails, and TV episodes wrapped up in 40 minutes. Friendships are “likes” on Facebook. Being kind is not part of the mix and requires persistence and intentionality; two big words that may require spell check because they are not in vogue.
Yet, the outcome of a little kindness may be a new friend, a smile from an overworked employee, a squeeze of the hand or a pat on the back to let someone know you care. It may be a meal delivered in the middle of illness or crisis. Or a simple note that says, “I care.”
To help me focus, I’m always on the lookout when I read the Bible for verses to include in my journal with a focus on kindness. Etsy is a great place to find a plaque that I place on my desk to remind me of my commitment when I glance at it. If you’re artistic, make your own. God is faithful to give you opportunities to use your word and encourages you in the process.
A special blessing happened this year when my grandgirlie, Kate, called a couple of weeks before Christmas and asked me what my word was for the year. Under the tree was a bread board that she had burned in the words, “be humble.”
So…do you have a word for the year? It’s never just a word. What is God whispering in your heart that He wants you to concentrate on for 2017? Let it be a filter that God will use in your heart and mind and add in ways you never imagined.
I’d love to hear what your word is. Feel free to comment.
The Christmas check list seems unending. From decorating the house, shopping and wrapping presents, making cookies, parties and Christmas cards—there always seems to be one more thing to do. If you had known me in my full “go Christmas” mode, it would have just made you tired.
And then life feel apart. Divorce hit and it happened near Christmas. I wanted to ignore the whole season and pretty much did. Long time friends knew that something must be up because they didn’t receive my Christmas card the first week of December. All the joy was drained out and I was left with little hope that Christmas would ever be special again.
I knew that Jesus was with me and He even met me very personally during an especially difficult time. But Christmas…
The traditions had to change and I’m not particularly fond of change. But each year was a little bit better—not great but tolerable. My kids made sure that we kept many of the old traditions and then added new ones. But there was always a little hole in my heart.
Until the big news — I was going to be a grandmother and the baby was due the day after Christmas. Joy, anticipation, and excitement filled my heart.
A good friend said to me one day in early December as I waited for the birth of that baby, “Isn’t it just like God to give you a grandchild now so you can celebrate the birth of two babies at Christmas?”
That was certainly the missing piece for this holiday but it reminded me that the real missing piece was allowing Jesus to fill me with hope and joy every day. He knew what the road ahead looked like and promised to never leave me or let go of my hand.
A funny situation occurred this week when I stopped to get a latte at a new local cafe. It was filled with decorations for purchase and as I perused the shelves, I noticed a tiny nativity set with miniature pieces. I have collected nativity sets all over the word and thought this would be a perfect addition.
When I got home and unwrapped the pieces and placed them in the miniature stable, all were present but one.
I called the manager and told him the story.
“Mmmm, the baby Jesus. Let me check,” he said.
“I found him. He’d been moved to another shelf.”
I picked up my missing piece and the tableau is now complete.
But are you missing something this Christmas? Are you feeling like you’ve been moved to another shelf? Has grief left you wrung out? An injury sidelined you for all the festivities? Depression’s pit just around the corner? No paycheck to cover the gifts you want to give your kids?
Remember that the missing piece is Jesus. Happiness and joy are two different emotions. Jesus will give you joy even in the darkness because of the flicker of light that was lit on Christmas morn.
My screensaver has this verse sprawled across the top with falling leaves blurred in the background. It is the season of Thanksgiving with the holiday less than a week away.
Reasons for giving thanks in year 2016:
The election is over
Family is all back in California
Vision is stable
Grandgirlies are happy in school
New church with new opportunities
Everyone has a job
Mark and Parker are taking it one day at a time
Our pastor often noted in his Thanksgiving sermon that he was thankful for his bed, his car, and his dog, good food, and clothes to wear — so many things we take for granted. In a world of war and confusion, the everyday creature comforts become expected. But just ask a Christian family fleeing from Mosul, having to leave everything behind, what they are thankful for.
Yet, I think the one thing I am most thankful for is hope. For without hope, why even try? Why go to work? Why study for that test? Why take those medicines or go to physical therapy? Why make time to visit that friend in the hospital? Why care about the outcome of that election? Why look for anything different in those hard areas of life?
Because, there is someone and something greater than ourselves who gives us hope and ultimately an eternal home. Christ defeated Satan at his own game because death is not the end — it is only the beginning. His resurrection put the final nail in Satan’s coffin regarding our future.
Fretting and worrying about tomorrow only takes away our joy and peace. God knows what’s next on His calendar and ours. Our job is to trust Him and do the tasks each day that He calls us to do.
Take time to say thank you to those who cross your path. Lift thanks to God for His many blessings each day. A heart of gratitude changes our outlook and makes our heart happy, and this is a perfect week to practice.
The TV and radio are off. I watched a little this morning but I decided I didn’t need the tension created by the commentators. I read through posts on Facebook and Twitter but it was more of the same. This has been a long year of political rhetoric and debate. I normally enjoy that kind of thing but I will be very glad when November 9th rolls over on the calendar. It has been an unprecedented campaign on both sides.
We have seen and read about the lies and corruption that emanates out of both camps. Tabloids share juicy details. Spokesmen attempt to tamp down the hysteria. The sides are so entrenched that emotion erupts in fisticuffs both physically and in print. And that goes within the parties, too. I fear that reconciliation will be difficult for all.
Suggested debate questions are flowing from the pundits’ lips but my question echoes from King David as I ask you, “How happy are you?”