Faith and Pressure

Lately it seems like many people I know are struggling with many different pressures of life. Financial challenges, relationship issues, physical struggles seem to be attacking so many of God’s people. Life seems to be harder for so many people right now. The winds of adversity have been blowing hard. The temptation is to want to find a way of escape from their relentless blowing–at least that is my initial response!

What is your reaction when adverse things begin to take place? Why is this happening to ME or my family? Does fear raise its ugly head and try to take root in your heart? Life here on this earth, comes with adversity. It just does. If we keep being surprised by them, then maybe we need to grow in our understanding of life on this earth versus life that will be in heaven. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer because He has overcome them.

But how do we handle the pressures of adversity? First we must understand we do not face them alone. Our God is with us, working all things together for our good. When natural winds occur, they clean the air, help distribute seeds for new plantings, and they help birds complete their migration. Strong winds test the roots of trees, causing weak rooted trees to be blown over so younger trees can take their place.

Winds of adversity in our lives often reveal our stamina or lack thereof. When things get hard and we want to quit, we have to “dig deep” as they say, and choose to stay the course. Choosing to continue on God’s path when these winds are blowing contrary takes perseverance, trust and tenacity. There are some things in life that there is no choice but to push through. I remember in the middle of laboring my son, I just wanted to quit. Since my body reacts differently than most women, I did not have the “urge to push”, so I just quit. I was tired and I didn’t want to “do it anymore”. In the midst of the pain, I lost sight of the goal. The wonderful nurse whispered in my ear, “in just a few more pushes you will be able to hold your baby, and we will all go away!” I don’t remember which was more motivating, the idea of seeing my child or the fact I could get rid of the annoying people telling me what to do, but soon our dear son was born. In reality, I had no choice but to finish that race. Other times, we must choose to renew our commitment and walk on.

When the pressures of life begin to assail, we need people around us to remind us of our purpose and plans. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that brings us hope and encouraging stability, but sometimes I need people who have been there and done that, to come along side and remind me that I, too, will make it! Storms do not last forever. As I walked the difficult journey after Darryl’s stroke, trying to come to grips with my new normal, I would have to stop and remind myself not to worry about the tomorrows. Matthew 6:34 so don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. For you young parents, remember the current season your infant, baby, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary child, high schooler–is in will pass. The night feedings, the toddler tantrums and the angst of growing up, though difficult, are best done in the present–with an eye on the future. His grace is sufficient for our today issues. If you are facing storms in your marriage remember your vows and the reason you married in the first place. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of God’s love and that He is with you in every day circumstances. Seek His wisdom and His ways. Do not let your thoughts run rampant. Capture them quickly.

If things seem overwhelming and you need help, ask for it. Somethings are too heavy to bear alone. Humble yourself, if need be. Many times just talking about how you feel will bring perspective and understanding. This is why God has placed pastors, teachers and leaders in His body–if they can’t help, they can lead you to someone who can. Too many suffer in silence in their own island because they are embarrassed to reach out. Do not be one of those people, listening to the lies of the enemy telling you no one cares. It is not true. I am available! Reach out to me, if you need a listening ear. Many times I have shouted out my prayers to the Lord, or taken time to write my thoughts and prayers in a journal.. Simply taking the time to name your feelings (cares) and then cast them back to Him brings the relief and hope needed.

In the midst of so many facing adverse circumstances I have also been amazed at how many prayers God is answering as well. He is not far off, but a very present help in time of trouble. Do not be jealous, or disappointed if you see others getting their prayers answered, but be encouraged He is not a respecter of persons! Your time is coming.

Faith and Freedom Thinking

One of the aspects of the Good News of Jesus Christ is the ability to enjoy freedom from sin, shame, guilt, fear and the torment of regret. Unfortunately even though His death secured these amazing freedoms, so many still spend too much time enslaved in their bondage producing effects. Why? Partly because it takes work. Yes, it takes a decision to choose to believe its true, and to determine to follow Romans 12:2. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that is good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Or as the NLT says, Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you in to a new person by changing the way you think, Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. At times fear of really knowing how free we can be holds us back. Look at the description of God’s will for us! It’s good. It’s acceptable (pleasing). It’s perfect. Doesn’t sound bad does it?

Our Life Group looked at Philippians 4: 8 last night. Paul instructs us to SET or Fix our thoughts on what is true. I began to meditate on what that would look like if I simply captured all my thoughts for one day that did not fall under the category of what is true! Including the thoughts I think about myself–which, sadly, I can find more challenging. Studies have shown that we think somewhere between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those thousands of thoughts 80% were negative. Of those thoughts 95% were the same repetitive thoughts from the day before! (TLEX Institute). Obviously, we are falling short of applying Philippians 4:8-9 into practice! Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

During this difficult times we are facing, we must more than ever learn how to quickly capture ungodly thoughts that would lead us astray, or distract us from His perfect will for our lives. Mulling over regrets, shameful feelings or sinful actions that are under His blood keeps us on a hamster wheel of bondage. He paid the price for our freedom, but again we have to receive it as truth. I encounter people who have asked Jesus into their hearts years ago, know some scriptures, but still are bound by fear. Satan does not want God’s children to walk in His power, because it keeps us ineffective. When we choose to trust Him and His ways we are free to bring that freedom to others.

Brothers and sisters, let us make the decision to capture those thoughts which keep you living less than He has called us to. Let us embrace His freedom, because we can! The early believers turned their world upside down! It is the same power given to us.

Here is a thought. What if by changing your fearful thoughts to faithful ones will change the fears of those around you? That your faith filled thoughts would encourage those you influence to believe for their God given freedom and destiny? We must not just rattle off platitudes of faith, but genuine walked out truths if we want to influence our world. We must practice freedom thinking!

Faith and Struggling in our Weakness

Have you ever seen a video where a person or animal is stuck–in water, mud or quicksand? Rescuers come to help and the person is so scared they actually fight against their own rescue? I think many of us are reluctant to admit to soul weakness or spiritual weakness. The Lord sends someone with advice and we choose to continue to struggle by ourselves and with ourselves!

When we find our self feeling weak–we must first humble ourselves and admit it. Not easy for our prideful souls is it? But once we admit our lack, we can appeal to the Lord and others for help. It may be health struggles, emotional issues, lack of confidence in your ability to make right choices, these are all areas where we can lean on Him.

So many times believers try to muster up the strength they need to overcome in their weak areas instead of inviting the Holy Spirit to come where they are and lead them out of their struggles. One of my “weaker areas” has been walking through grief. I’ve learned to make friends with it. At times I have tried to ignore it. At times I have tried to “shame” my way out of it–it’s been so long, shame on you for dealing with this again. I’ve tried to “suck it up” and put on a happy face. But it is not until I sit down with the Lord and ask Him to walk with me in it, that I find the rest and strength I need. My body has a weakness. Years ago I made a mistake and mixed ammonia and bleach together to make a DIY cleaning product. I learned the hard way after I damaged my lungs breathing in the fumes. So now I deal with asthma. It’s humbling and at times embarrassing. But until healing is manifest, the Lord and I walk together with it.

It is freeing to know that He is with me–both in grief and asthma! Surrendering your expectations of living a perfect life is so freeing. That is why we needed a Savior in the first place–please my friends, do not try to do life with your own strength! He is there waiting to help you and me. But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Our God stories will increase, His name will be lifted up as we rely on His strength, wisdom and power more and more.

Faith and Sharing

Reading through the book of Kings, we find so many leaders who themselves did not honor God or His laws till we come to Ahab. It says He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him. He deliberately bowed down to Baal and led his people to do the same. God was so upset He sent His prophet Elijah to make this declaration in 1 Kings 17. As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives–the God I serve–there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word. Wow, not even dew to bring its refreshing. (How would you like to be Elijah, giving that word??) We must remember that our acts of disobedience affect many. The good news is that God made provision for Elijah. He sent him to live by a brook and be fed by ravens. Not sure what that looked like–how much food could a raven bring? Were there a lot of them???

But one day the brook dried up. More instructions given. Go to Zarephath. Find a widow, for I have instructed her to feed you. So obedient Elijah heads to Zarephath, finds a widow gathering sticks and asks her to bring him a little water in a cup. This unknown widow, in the midst of a drought, goes to get it for him. Then Elijah asks her to bring him a bite of bread also. Then the truth comes out. She has no bread. Only a little bit of flour, and a bit of oil in the bottom of the jug. Her plan was to use up the last of what she had to cook a last supper for her and her son, and then die. But that was not God’s plan. He told her to use what she had to make him some bread first, trusting that she would not run out.

As I was reading this story this morning, I began to remember some of our “leaner” seasons as pioneer pastors. I would pray, Lord I don’t know what to fix for dinner. We are out of food. He would say, NO you are not. Look at what you have. It was like he took me by the hand and led me to the pantry and showed me how to put together a decent meal for my family. He showed me that not only did I have one meal worth of food–but several! Maybe we had used up all our “favorite” things, but there was never a meal I was embarrassed to feed my children. Supply would come and we would rejoice.

In this season of struggle, maybe it is not groceries you need. Maybe it is wisdom, may be it is patience, maybe it’s hope–but no matter what it is, God sees and wants to supply. For this widow lady, her supply came in her willingness to share. I wondered what she thought as she began making Elijah’s first bite. Would there really be enough for her and her son? Yes! She began to make theirs, and low and behold there was enough! Every day they experienced the miracle Elijah promised her. How amazing it must have been. Do you think her neighbors heard her story? Do you wonder if she shared some of the flour and oil with them? We aren’t told if she shared, we are only told the faithfulness of the Lord to meet her needs.

I want us to focus on what it is we have–not on what we don’t have. If you have time, share it. Make a phone call to encourage someone. If you have extra food, share it with someone in need. Maybe you have a talent or skill you learned, look around for opportunities to pass it on. My sister, who is good at sewing, made many many masks for her church, family and friends. She shared her talent. My daughter had a pastor friend whose church wanted to help meet needs in their area. They were a small church and could only put together 3 boxes of food, which definitely was not enough to help many. The pastor called a friend who through his contacts, they were able to give away 200 boxes a week! The widow and her son was not enough, Elijah on his own was not enough–but together they lived. We may not be enough on our own, but with two or three gathered in His name, we will have enough to figure it out! In the book of Acts the fledgling church looked after the needs of others. They shared what they had. They church grew. I think it makes God smile when we share!

Faith and Always

I have lost count of how many times newscasters, pastors and others have used the phrase “in these unprecedented times” during this Covid 19 pandemic. It means “never done or known before”. And it is true, we as global citizens have never lived in such a season as this. So many unknowns and upheavals to our normal is very unsettling.

I came across this small little word the other day as I was doing my Bible study. The word always–at all times, forever. As I meditated on it–it was so comforting.

Psalm 16:8 I know the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Psalms 102:27 But you are always the same; you will live forever. The children of your people will live in security. Their children’s children will thrive in your presence.

Matthew 28:20 I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

These scriptures are so comforting. We can depend on them. We can go back to them for stability when we are shaken. But, as believers there are also some strong instructions given to us about “always”. These are admonitions that, if followed, will advance the kingdom of God, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. I know we think–I can’t always be consistent–but we can certainly try!

Psalm 52: 8 I will always trust in God’s unfailing love. I will choose, no matter what my circumstances look like to trust in His love for me. I will silence the voices in my head that tell me the opposite, for He has proven His love through Calvary.

Psalm 106:3 There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right. Please understand this is not done in our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a mind set where we choose to live our lives with the fruit of the Spirit flowing out of our hearts. We do what is right because of His righteousness, not our own. In fact, we don’t even always know what is right without His wisdom! Setting our minds and hearts on doing the right thing even when it seems to be to our hurt is a by-product of our trust in His love.

1 Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. This takes some preparation. I read in Acts 7 the other day. Stephen was arrested and taken before the council to defend himself. Two thoughts struck me as I ready his response to the leaders. This man knew his stuff! We know he was a man full of faith and the Spirit when he was chosen to be a deacon to help serve the widows. He was prepared. Fear, intimidation and insecurity grow when we feel unprepared. I also thought, Stephen knew how to rely on the Holy Spirit. He learned to trust Him to fill His mouth! We, as believers need to learn how to rely on Him to word our mouth during difficult times, but it comes with practice. If you struggle with talking to different types of people or situations, study. 2 Timothy 2:15 (amp) Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial) a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. This means we, as believers, choose to grow up in Him. We put off childish excuses (I can’t, I don’t know how, I’m not smart enough) and we make the choice to learn. We have the best teacher–the Holy Spirit who longs to come along side us to strengthen, teach and enable us.

As you read through the Bible, take note of the word “always”. What a comfort it is to know God is always with us, helping, strengthening, convicting and changing us to be more like Him. Thank you Father for helping us to become more like you.

Faith and His Workmanship

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

In these times of troubles and trials it is good to be reminded that first of all, if you have named the name of Jesus you are His. You are not an orphan trying to figure out life on your own. You belong to Him. Really, truly without a doubt–whether you feel like it or not, you have a place in His family. You are important to His family. You are included in His family. You have a Father who listens, responds and cares. These are facts.

But as a member of that family we also have responsibilities. The good news is that we are created to do good works, not to earn our salvation, but to show forth the glory of our God. His love, His joy, His peace to a desperate world. It is time we allowed Him to work deep in our hearts. It is time where we truly allow our Savior to be Lord in our life. The tools God uses in shaping our lives are not always enjoyable, comfortable or seemingly to our benefit. It calls for us to trust His love, mercy and purpose even more.

If we are His workmanship, then He has the right to mold, shape and change us as He will. The Greek word is poiema and it means masterpiece, poem or work of art. God is making us into His masterpiece. Remember He has a plan for each of our lives. This masterpiece he is working has a purpose. That purpose is for good works. Not so we can earn our salvation, but so He can show us off to the world! I don’t know about you, but hatred, prejudice, lawlessness, pride or envy are not very beautiful. These are things that are the works of the flesh that need to go.

We look at what is happening in the United States today and we see how the actions of one man doing the wrong thing has affected our whole country. His actions have put every other police officer in jeopardy. His actions have tainted the works of those police officers who are caring, sharing and go above an beyond in their duty. It is the same when a Christ-follower falls into sin. Our sinful attitudes affect all As clay in the potter’s hand, we must submit to His working in our lives. He has many tools in His toolbox that He uses. The Word, of course, is His main tool. As we seek to apply its truths to our lives, it begins the work of conforming us into His image. Through His Word and His Spirit working in us we are enabled to do the good works He has called us to do. Not all have learned to rest in the Potter’s Hand. Many think their ways are better.

I have watched potters work with clay. They, like silversmiths, remove the impurities which would mar the finished work. It isn’t easy to admit to these flaws and allow Him to lovingly remove them. The tools He uses are not always easy. Tests, trials and suffering are not enjoyable, but they are part of life. As we allow Him to use them to conform us into His image then we begin to understand how He works all things together for His good. This world needs to see God’s workmanship displayed. How He does it while we are still a work in progress I don’t know. All I know is that He that has begun a good work in us desires to complete it. Remembering that He is not only Savior but Lord isn’t always easy. At times I have wanted to jump off the potter’s wheel and do my own thing. But I always go back to the understanding that if He created me, then He knows me better than I know myself. I have found a resting spot on the Potter’s wheel. I truly want to be a vessel He can use–when He wants to use it. The flaw of pride pops up and once again I humble myself and say with our Lord, “not my will, but your will be done”.

There is nothing like being used by Him–completing those good works for His glory–whether big or small, they are important. Allow His conforming work to take place. Paul says, follow me as I follow Christ. Be an example of the believer today in this hurting world. Love your neighbor. Be patient, longsuffering, gentle, kind and peaceful with those who are different than you. If you find it difficult–climb back on the Potter’s wheel and let Him work!

Faith and God’s Hurting Children

God has a family. His Word tells us He has a Son, and we who call on His name have been adopted into that family. It is a BIG family. Lots of variety here in His family. Red, Yellow Black and White–we are all precious in His sight, but what about our sight. Do we see each other as equal siblings? It is fairly obvious this week in our nation that we do not. Our Black siblings are hurting. They have been hurting, but even though many put on a good front, they are grieving in their soul. Proverbs 14:13 Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains. Let’s let our Black brothers and sisters get the attention and help they need because prejudice still exists (even though in my mind I hoped it didn’t). Economic disparity is real. Listening to the stories of my black sisters has brought me to tears. These are stories that happened to them and their children. Stories right here in the Pacific Northwest.

I will readily admit to ignorance. I am gaining a bit more wisdom as I dialogue with my black friends. A few years ago, I sat down with my friend Bernita. We had the most difficult conversation I have ever had with a person of a different race. We were not angry or hurt at each other–but I took the time to really listen to her. I laid down my “I already know it all attitude” and really listened. We had a dialogue. It gave me the beginnings of understanding where the phrase “black lives matter” originated and white privilege.

It is my hope to share an analogy I feel God gave me yesterday. As I was talking with my friend, Ava she mentioned that her father took her to the hospital when she was little because she had pneumonia. My mom took me to the hospital when I was little because I had my tonsils out. We were both sick. None of the other children in our families went to the hospital. We got the attention. In God’s family right now, we have some very hurting brothers and sisters. They need our attention and God’s attention to bring healing to their souls. To listen to their painful stories of discrimination and not try to justify and explain it away, takes courage. Friends, name calling still goes on. The N word is still thrown out at little kids and grown adults by strangers. This ought not be.

I don’t know why God created us to be different skin colors. It was obviously His plan. He loves variety. He loves all cultures and died for everyone. The blood of Jesus flowed for every skin, no matter what. He loves Asians, Latin’s, Mexicans and Ukrainians. I am praying that God’s people, who are called by His name will begin to honor their brothers and sisters no matter where they come from. Jesus prayed that we would be one, and that they would know we are in Him by the love we have for one another. We have a long way to go.

We need to examine ourselves in this light and ask Him to baptize us with His love. Repent of not loving like we should. Ask Him to teach us to love those who are not naturally easy for us to love. It is obvious that black people in our nation have not been treated fairly. Disparity over jobs, business loans and other economic issues is real.

I am sorry for the wounds people of color are still receiving and enduring in our nation. I am appalled by it actually. But I can only change me. If I can be a bridge to helping others understand this reality, then so be it. My friend is worried that her black son could be a victim like George Floyd. It has never occurred to me that my son would be in that situation, but my mother’s heart has prayed a lot for her son to be safe.

Part of my soul wants to be an ostrich and bury my head and say, “its not that bad”. I am sorry to say, it is that bad. I am sorry that discrimination and racism is a cross our black brothers and sisters have had to carry for far too long. The sin nature in all of us draws us toward prejudice. Jews, Native Americans, Irish, Italians and others have had their share (and still do in many places) of this cross carrying. It is time to honor one another, receive one another as God’s children and walk in peace.

God’s word has some very clear direction for us. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9 We who name the name of Jesus need to remember we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is almost seems an impossible task, yet we can do it. I was on the tipping point of despair, discouragement and hopelessness this past Sunday. I listened to Life Church’s Sunday message about hope and I chose to apply hope to this situation. God has solutions, we can find them. It will help. Maybe we can’t, individually, touch every person of color in this nation, but we can love and listen to our neighbors. I know there are many disenfranchised classes in our nation–let’s begin by seeing, hearing and loving on those around we can. Do not focus on what you cannot do, but only what you can. As you do, you will find that what seemed to be a little turns into a lot.

Father, Please help us. Help our nation. I pray for my Black brothers and sisters who are carrying wounds from childhood where they were truly bullied, harassed, ignored or overlooked simply because of their skin. I pray for parents who have to explain to their children why things are different for them. I pray that we will stop an think before we stereotype groups that are not like us. I ask you to forgive me where I have inadvertently not understood the hard journey others have had to take or have added to their pain. In Jesus Name, amen

Faith and Regret

Regrets. Not fun to have. What are they? They are defined as distress of mind, or sorrow for what has been done or failed to be done. We just celebrated Memorial Day here in the U.S. A time to remember those who lost their lives in serving our nation. When I was a child, I just thought it was another day to have a picnic. It took maturity and wisdom to understand that it was a day of sorrow for many families. A time for them to ponder their loved ones choices and their own responses to those decisions.

We have been dealing with this Covid pandemic for several months now. Our leaders made decisions that have affected us all for many years to come. The shelter in place decisions which caused job loss, construction delays, airline disruption–which will impact our economy for many years. Will they have regret for the decisions they made? They did the best they could with the best information they had. Will historians laud them or deride them? Only time will tell. All I know is that I made the best decision I could with what they told me.

I’ve come to realize in my older years–that it is probably impossible to live without regret. The goal is to limit the numbers of those regrets, while also limiting the range of those regrets.

How? First of all become a listener. Listen to those who have gone before. Pay attention to their advice. God is my first source, so reading His Word gives me a base of good wisdom to follow. I try to follow his advice.

Pick the experts you choose to listen to carefully. Not all proclaimed experts are that! I know that sounds obvious, but be careful.

Practice responding, not reacting. Read 1 Samuel 25, a story of David’s reaction to Nabal’s reaction and then watch as Abigail chose to respond! She saved David some serious regrets. He would have destroyed a whole household for one man’s derision. Often when we feel slighted, misunderstood or belittled, we react quickly without wisdom. Learning to control our emotions and be led by the spirit limits our regret.

Choosing to walk in love–no matter how hard it is can limit our regrets as well. Scripture tells us charity never fails. It may take patience to see the fruit rewarded, but this too will reduce excess regrets.

Live your life with intention. Take time to intentionally, yes on purpose, think through how you would like your life to count. Personally, I struggle with “goals” at times, but my mission and core value is to add value to those I meet. To encourage them in whatever way I can. Be it a word, a prayer or an action–I desire to help people know they are seen, heard and regarded by now only “someone” but by our God. This mission leads me to put myself second, and others first. Not always easily or accomplished, but it helps!

Accept that regrets will happen, but seek to learn from them. Seek to figure out what if anything you could have done differently. Make them count. Titus 2 encourages us to teach those younger than ourselves. Many times by sharing our losses, we help others win. It is often this way that God turns everything out for His good.

When regret occurs, do not linger on them. Identify what they are, repent if necessary and then move on. Let them lie under the precious blood of Jesus. Do not let them torment or condemn you.

Jesus came so that we can have life that that more abundantly. He did not intend for us to live with abundant regrets–but with His freedom. He paid the price, lets enjoy it!

Faith and The All Purpose Gift

What is one thing that you could give everyone you meet? Old friends, new friends, ancient friends, young friends–happy friends or sad friends? This gift never expires, never goes out of usefulness. It doesn’t take up shelf space, nor does it go bad and fill up the land fill. The package can be as unique as the person. This gift can literally change lives. Without it many wither, but with it most flourish. What is this amazing gift?

It is the gift of encouragement. The interesting thing about the gift of encouragement is turns our eyes from ourselves and onto others. Learning to become an encourager seems to be easier for some than for others. The good news is that everyone can become an encourager. It is a powerful gift that helps in our family life, our work life and in the kingdom life.

Encouragement gives us energy to complete a task or objective. It can help change our perspective about ourselves and others. It can help restore our self-confidence when we are beginning to self-doubt. I read a story yesterday about a man who stopped by McDonald’s for the first time during Covid. As he paid for his order he noticed the young man’s wrists had several cuts. When the young man handed him his order he began to speak encouragement to him. This gentleman was so burdened by this young mans condition he pulled over into the parking space and began to pray for him. A few minutes later the young man ran over to his car and thanked him. He said it was the first words of hope he had been given in four years. He felt seen. He felt heard and he gave his life to Jesus that day. The power of encouragement is real.

To really use this gift to its full potential we need to turn our focus outward. We can’t stay selfish or self-oriented, we must become others centered. Jesus always looked outward. I believe the Holy Spirit will help us become more sensitive to the needs of others as we ask him to help us have eyes to really see. We will become aware of body language, nuances in tones of voices, or word choices that will clue us in on others needing encouragement. We must slow down and become better listeners.

Why do we struggle in this area? Sometimes we don’t know what to say. Sometimes we may judge that the person already knows that they are doing a good job, so why would they need us to affirm them? Maybe we are afraid they will become prideful. I have found that words of encouragement, when given from a sincere heart are never inappropriate. There is a difference between flattery and encouragement. Encouragement is given to build up the other person, flattery is given to get something from the other person. Checking our motives helps us stay in on track. We must give this gift from a heart of love and compassion with sincerity, humility and honesty.

Parents, acknowledge when your children are doing things right–especially those whose love language is words of affirmation. Be patient when they are learning something new. Encourage those small steps. Spouses encourage each other when you are struggling as a couple–we will get through this. Come on team mate, we can do this!

Choosing to be encouraging during times of strife, instead of accusing takes definite will power and restraint, but it can yield much better fruit. If you remember words are like seeds, they grow what you plant it is easier at times to plant words of encouragement versus words of discouragement.

For those of us who use Social Media–take the time to post a comment on somebody’s post that is encouraging to you. Ask the Lord to show you who to encourage this week, leave a note on their page. Encourage your pastor and leaders, your boss, your wife or husband with something you noticed. Speak words of life to your children–that will help them through this struggling time.

Worry weighs a person down, but encouraging words cheers a person up. Proverbs 12:25

Faith and Expectations during Covid

Are you expecting? I have heard of sad and embarrassing stories where well meaning people ask other women if they are pregnant? When they awkwardly say, “no”, it is embarrassing to everyone. The questioner and those questioned. A tummy bulge does not always mean a baby. As we navigate another week of shelter in place many find it difficult to keep on expecting or what they are expecting is negative. More boring days, more difficult times negotiating peace between siblings or getting children to stay on their home schooling tasks. Perhaps as tensions have been building they expect discord with their partners and more complaints about the food. Divisive discussions about the wearing of face masks, who or when should shopping be done and who controls the remote. It can be challenging to keep stirring up good expectations–but that is exactly why we to do it!

We are waiting in expectation for the different “phases” of our state getting back to our old normal. We are in Phase 1 which is for our family, a blessing. My son in law is able to get back to his landscaping business! But there still is so much uncertainty in even knowing when we can expect phase 2, 3 etc. Do we have faith that this phasing in scenario will work, or are we putting more people at risk? I expect we will see a rise in numbers as we move toward more phases. It is my expectation that people will have a difficult time keeping social distancing as they long to be together with their friends and family. I expect it will be hard for some restaurants to keep a watch on their servers and clients to obey the protocols that have been set out. All these expectations are definitely my reality. But what about Godly expectations during this continued Covid challenge?

If truly, Jesus Christ the Same, Yesterday and Today then His thoughts, which are higher than our thoughts are still for us and not against us. His purpose for us to be the Light in this dark world is still His expectation for us. He who has begun a good work in us, has a plan for us to be perfected through this virus. My expectation is that He is using this situation to help conform me to His image. It is my expectation that I will be, as I choose to follow Him, to become more like Him through this situation than ever before.

I must continue to stir myself in Him. It is not easy. There are days when I would prefer to “turtle up” and simply forget about life outside my four walls. However, once again my love for Him and the years of discipline provokes me to seek Him–and there are times He just says, “rest, my daughter”. Enjoy yourself! His yoke is easy and His burden is light. My dear friends, as we seek Him, He will be found. As we knock the door shall open–the door to His wisdom, His certainty, His direction and His grace will open for us to a new season of life. I know I have written on this subject recently, but I feel we (I) need to be reminded once again. We really are blessed to be able to pick up the phone and call our friends and family. To connect through Zoom and video chat is really amazing. Instead of being frustrated when our technology fails, or our knowledge of technology is lacking be grateful we have it at all. Snail mail would make it really difficult to stay as connected as we are.

Once again, I encourage us all to rise in the morning with expectation that He will give us the wisdom we need for the day. We will learn and grow in Him. Our character in this season is being revealed–not always a pretty sight. Let us choose to eat of and manifest the fruit of the Spirit. The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked perishes. Proverbs 10:28.

I am not expecting a baby (that would be down right weird!), but I am expectant that God will bring us through this season with His purpose fulfilled. Every expectant mom experiences some good days and some difficult days–so it is the same with our walk with the Lord. Adjusting our expectations to accept there will be struggles is real. But we can do it–who knows what He is going to birth when our time is fully come! Those of you who are quarantined with children, use this time to train them, love them and enjoy them. Married couples spend time together enjoying each other. This is a good time to be alive, as we trust Him.

Faith and Brave Moms!

Proverbs 31: 28 Her children stand and bless her. This is my attempt to honor my two brave moms!

This coming week end in the US is our special day dedicated to Mother’s Day. A day to honor our mothers for birthing us–but for many of us sooo much more. I have two moms. My birth mother, who through no fault of her own and the intervention of the state of Washington, had to relinquish her rights due to mental illness and other issues in our family of origin. I want stand and honor her. With no prenatal care and having birthed five previous, precious children she gave birth to my sisters and I (triplets). Our birth story is unique. We were born in a two room mining camp cabin. My biological father was an assayer for Holden Mines on Lake Chelan. This place was accessible by boat or seaplane. One of the stories we have been told is that she told our dad she thought she was pregnant, and his response was “no you are just getting fat!” She was 40 at the time, so I’m sure it was just difficult to comprehend another child. Because they lived up the lake, she would have had to purchase a ticket on the Lady of the Lake boat that connected the other towns to the main city, Chelan where the doctors and hospital was located. With meager funds and five mouths to feed money was tight. Two of my older siblings were living elsewhere at the time. Our mother did have diagnosed mental illness in which she had been in and out of different mental hospitals. I wonder if my father just did not want her taken away again, so just tried to keep a low profile. She gave birth to us in that cabin with the doctor arriving in time to deliver the last one of us. Then he put us in the seaplane which had brought him and flew us to the Chelan hospital, without her. I can only imagine how hard and brave she must have been to entrust us (we weighed just around 3 lbs. each) to this doctor. I don’t know if she ever saw us again until we were in our late 20’s (another story). She never forgot her “three gems”–she had planned on calling us Ruby, Opal and Pearl. I am sure God heard and answered her prayers for us.

After some months, our perspective adopted parents received a phone call from Medina Children’s home saying they had 11 month old triplet girls who needed a home. Would they agree to bring them into their hearts and lives? They had to answer quickly! One day I asked my mom–how/what did you do after that phone call? She said, “I fell against the fireplace mantel and hung on so I wouldn’t faint!”. My mom was a strong woman, not given to fainting, so that must have been quite a challenge. They said yes and drove the 90 miles to Seattle, where they picked two of us up–my sister Marie was in the hospital at the time. It was such a quick turn around that they had no beds for us–and called the local furniture store at 11:00 p.m. to bring cribs!

My two brave moms–one who trusted God and prayed for us, even though she didn’t see us, hold us or instruct us. One who willingly chose to take us on against the advice of family and friends and taught us so many life skills. (Amazingly, both our moms are named Bertha!) Bio Bertha knew Jesus–and prayed a lot even in the midst of her mental struggles. My Adopted mom came to know Jesus much later in life, but did her best to raise us to be capable wives and mothers. Adopted mom, incidentally was also 40 when she became a mother of three eleven month old lively girls. We’ve all turned out well. I rise today to bless them. They weren’t perfect and that is OK. My adopted mother passed away in 1990, Bio Mom 1991. I live in adopted moms house–so her presence and memories are all around. I am grateful. It has taken me time to appreciate all she taught me, for we struggled in our relationship–but as I grew up and saw the bigger picture of her life, I can only marvel at the woman she was. She was brave to take on three babies, late in life and do it well. She focused on what she felt she lacked as a child. Making sure we were equipped to cook, clean and run a home. These were things she missed learning as she hoed and picked cotton with her father. I miss her. I think we could be good friends if she were still here–I’ve grown up Mother. I thought I appreciated you before–but as the years go by, it is more so. Thank you brave mom 1 and brave mom 2 you shaped my life well.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you brave moms who are still writing your stories. Take a deep breath to continue on–for your efforts will not be in vain.

Proverbs 31: 28 Her children stand and bless her. (NLT)