Faith and God's Sense!

I read this amazing scripture in Psalm 119:73-74 You made me, you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands. May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word . I know it isn’t quite New Year’s Eve and the resolutions which we try to make and follow, but I think this going to be mine this year.

I am sitting here with a horrible cold, sneezing and blowing my nose. It is not a pretty picture. But reading this simple scripture brought not only peace but perspective. A great reminder that I was made by Him and for Him. I love this prayer–now give me the sense to follow your commands!

The struggle is following those commands with joy and faith–knowing that they will lead to helping others find in me a cause for joy. I don’t feel very “followable” today–but that doesn’t mean that I cannot become an influencer for our Lord. I am so grateful that He understands my body as well as my soul. I am grateful that He understands and gives me the “sense” to rest when I need it. That is part of His commands. That is part of following Him. He made my body to heal with rest, He made my soul so that it can be restored, and He made my spirit to heal when I am overwhelmed. As we walk through this life–no matter what our season contains we can trust Him. As I am recovering, I am praying for two friends whose parents were unexpectedly taken to the hospital–God knows them and their needs. Another friend is watching their children struggle with their marriage–and yet God is helping them walk through those concerns.

Father, thank you for giving me your “sense”–your wisdom and your commands. I choose to trust your word in every area of my life. You are good.

Faith and Your Stand

Living this life God graciously given to us can be so complex, complicated and confusing. Our Life Group is beginning a study of the book of Ruth. One of the questions that our study of Ruth raised is what do you do when you do not see God’s movement in those difficult areas of life. How do we handle and carry these difficulties when we feel we have prayed our heart out, cried our eyes out and are still having to wait for God’s obvious intervention? It is not easy.

Ephesians 6:13-17 encourages us that when we have done all, stand, after we put on the whole armor of God. When we are weary it is not easy to get dressed to the full. We can find ourselves being a bit sloppy and too tired to hold up our shield or use our sword. But friends, it is especially important during the time of waiting and trusting–when we must be diligent to do the basics. Warfare is real. The battle is strong. But our God is faithful. As we stand in faith and pray for His insights not only will we find our situation changing, but we will find ourselves growing in strength, trust and faith. It is not easy. So what happens when you find yourself wanting to just quit? How can you keep going?

David in his time of struggle encouraged himself in the Lord. Do not be ashamed to back again to the Lord with your petitions and share your heart with Him, openly and freely. Ask for His strength. Do not isolate. Humble yourself if need be and ask for help. Ask for prayer. Gather together with other believers. We are not met to fight alone.

Take a break from the fight. Put it in God’s hands and do something out of your routine. Take a walk, turn on some music, read a book or watch a show. When the weight returns, and it will, thank Him for His help and fellowship in the suffering of the situation. Remember we do not know what He is doing behind the scenes to bring our story to His good end.

My Life group is made up of some very special women who have faced some of those complex, complicated and confusing challenges. One of the amazing things God has done is bring together a subset of women in our group who have relatives with mental health issues. You could actually see the strength they gathered from understanding that they were not alone in these struggles. Their situations did not change, but their hope and strength did. They are praying for each other and their loved ones as only one in the battle can pray. What a reminder that we are not alone in whatever battle we face–there is someone else who is facing it too. I take courage and comfort in the fact that God has helped others through my similar trials. This was especially comforting when I was adjusting to widowhood. I have applied it to marriage issues and parenting concerns as well. It releases faith and trust to know He’s not surprised by our trials!

This Christmas season is meant to be a joyous one–but for my friend whose wife past away last night–it will not be so easy. Let us look around and see who we can help encourage even when we may be in the struggle–we can encourage others. Take your stand and know I am praying for each of you. You are not alone.

Faith and Tops Chefs II

As I pondered the similarities of my own top chefs–people who minister the gospel in such a way the encourages me to “taste and see that the Lord is good”, it occurred to me that it is the heart of the chef that makes the difference. Every minister that I mentioned last week all desire to please Him first–no matter what. Each of their journeys have had their own difficult places in which they chose to keep on following Him, no matter the cost. This caused a tenderization of their heart as well as an understanding of fellowship with Him through suffering.

We each are given the same opportunity to push into Him and His ways in order to learn more of Him, or turn away with a hardened heart. As I look back at my life, I see times of relative peace–simply living life, raising children and enjoying my relationship with Jesus. I also remember my own difficult places where I found myself beseeching Him with fervent prayer desperately needing Him to bring revelation, answers and wisdom. It was during those times that I grew in my understanding of life and Him. I know that my top chefs also faced and conquered their own personal difficulties. It is in those seasons where our faith is tested–especially in when the answers are “no”, when we desperately desire yes’s that are faith is proven. Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego, it is in the fire that our faith is proven. I wonder what their conversations was like in the fire with the “fourth man”!

Dear friends, keep on walking. Keep on trusting. Keep on choosing to “eat the meat” of your life, not just the sweets. It is the Word of God which is the stability of our times. If you find it difficult to read the Word, ask the Lord to give you an appetite for it. Take the scriptures your pastor preaches on Sunday and re-read them at home. Pick a Psalm and slowly read it. This is how you will grow in your own ability to help others taste and see that He is good.

People all around you need hope. If you are walking through a time of difficulty–please turn to Him and His body. Ask for help. Please do not feel you are alone in this life. The best chefs do not prepare the whole meal themselves, but glean from others. We need each other. You are needed.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Although many will gather to eat a meal, I am not sure how many really take the time to be thankful for what they have been given. This season of my life I have chosen to thank God for what is in my life, not what I feel is missing. I am a blessed woman. I am grateful. I am thankful for the difficulties that have brought me to a closer walk with Him. I am grateful for every “chef” who has encouraged me along my way. Many of my encouraging chefs are not even preachers–but simply believers who have walked with Him and proved Him. I thank you for the role model and strength you have given myself and others by simply walking with Him.

Faith and “Top Chefs”

Last week I wrote about Faith and Menus–encouraging us to live a life that will encourage others to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. I spent some time thinking about some of my “Top Chefs”–individuals who have influenced my life for Him, and why they were such an influence in my life.

My first “chef” was my dad–he loved to worship and listening to him play his guitar while I was supposed to be sleeping as he sang “In the Garden” enticed me to want to walk with Him and talk with Him and let Him tell me I was His own. He took us to a variety of church denominations, tent meetings and faithfully encouraged us to live generously. I learned from him to honor God’s family

I have to include Darryl Rodman as another of my favorite chefs. Darryl was taught to be an atheist as a child, but when Jesus made Himself real to Him, He passionately served and shared Him all of His days. Everything he did included His gift of faith. He was authentic, transparent and served up such a real Jesus that it was easy to want to follow Him.

Listening to Jack Hayford and reading his books encouraged me to seek to allow my character to be shaped and formed into His character. I admire this man for his marriage, his heart of worship and his faithfulness to listen and follow Holy Spirit. There are many more I have met through their writings–amazing men and women who have given me hope during my struggling days. Joyce Meyer, John Maxwell, Steve Furtick and others who continue to serve up the Word in such a way that makes me want to grow closer to Him. They give me hope that God can use this vessel of clay.

Some of my favorite chefs may not be as well known–but Harold and Bonnie Harding were close enough in our lives to help mentor us. They modeled hospitality, listening ears and how to overcome when life doesn’t go quite as planned. Their lives exampled perseverance, humility and forgiveness when many would have walked away. Bonnie is still walking towards Him and allowing Him to shape and shift her life as a widow, she is my hero.

Pastor Kevin Wilson of Living Word Fellowship in Voluntown, CT. is another amazing teacher of the Word who also is authentic and inspiring. He always sets the Word in its context of history and that touches my own personal history bent. P.K. is a man who points to Jesus and encourages us to stand taller and pursue Him harder.

Another of my favorite Top Chefs, is my current local chef–Pastor Michael Hurley and his wife Reshaun. They pastor my home church. I trust them to serve healthy fresh bread and meat because he strives to hear His voice and follow Him, not only for those of us who are members of Life Church, but because he desires to be His disciple–no matter where or what that obedience calls Him to do. He shares the pulpit freely with our other local chefs–Pastor Josh Hubbard and Pastor Quin Snyder. He is transparent and encouraging. The meals (messages) served are fresh because he spends time with the Master Chef. I appreciate you Pastor Michael for your humility.

Each of these chefs serve up a Jesus who is authentic and real. They encourage me to read His Word, grow in faith and service. I love these chefs and I am grateful for their impact and impartation into my own life. I hope that using the analogy of a “chef” is clear and will help us all desire to share Jesus in such a way that others will “taste and see that He is indeed good”.

Faith and Menus

What have you been eating lately? Several ladies in our Life Group have been trying the Keto diet. It is a low carbohydrate and high fat diet that seems to help rapid weight loss. It seems to be working for a few–but it takes discipline and determination to stick to the plan. They said it gets easier the longer they are on it. I haven’t joined the Keto team–but I admire those who are working it! I wonder if their taste buds are changing and when they go back to a more balanced diet if food will taste differently.

When I was young our mom would randomly decide it was time to feed us liver. I remember walking with her through the meat section of the grocery store and it was like a lightening bolt hit her–she said “LIVER”! I sure she was mulling over what to fix for dinner, but it was funny at the time. However, liver was not something my mom made well. I did not know this at the time because I had only eaten her liver. It was fried till it was dried and tasteless. I did not like “liver night”. But one day I was at another friends home. They fixed liver with onions, bacon and it was like a whole other dish! In fact it was quite enjoyable!

The difference? It was the chef. Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 King David is encouraging his readers to come and sample the goodness of the Lord for themselves. This past week I in talking with a woman, it was evident that whoever had first introduced her to “religion” had not been a very good chef. The taste she had of the Lord was influenced by rules, regulations, ought’s and don’ts. It’s impression was so strong that she is not willing as yet to try again. However, she is watching those who have tasted and I think she is beginning to get a little hungry for what she sees in their lives. Their lives are helping create an appetite for Him–encouraging her to taste and see that the Lord IS truly good.

I learned from the mistakes my mother made in cooking liver. In fact for awhile it became my oldest daughter requested meal for her birthday! James 3:17 states: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits without partiality and without hypocrisy. As we interact with others, let us remember they are tasting the Lord through us and our examples.

Father, I ask that you help us learn to present you in a realistic manner. Show us how to love others with your love, your goodness and your faithfulness. Teach us how to receive and use your grace, mercy and forgiveness as seasonings first in our own lives, and then in the lives of others. Thank you for your continual working in our lives.

Faith and Family

(Due to travel times, this weeks blog is posted 1 day early!)

This past weekend I had the joy and privilege of joining together with six of my siblings to celebrate our oldest biological sister’s 90th birthday. Due to circumstances within our family dynamics, five of the eight of us were adopted into different homes. By God’s grace and through faithful prayers we have been reunited for over fifty years. With one of our sisters with the Lord, we understand how important it is to spend the time we have together. Though not being raised together it is amazing how similar we are in attitudes and life perspectives.

I am so grateful for the value they have added to my life. Betty, the birthday gal, is not always in the best of health, but is always thankful. She is an amazing example of walking in the peace and blessing of God through troubles and trials. Her life has not been easy, but to watch and hear the accolades from her children, grandchildren and others you know she has lived her life well. She is an inspiration and a role model on how to walk through trials with joy.

Not all families get along like ours, I understand. Growing up and maturing in how to treat one another takes time, patience and maturity. Look at the struggles Jacob’s family had–sibling rivalry to the utmost! Selling one’s brother into slavery is definitely a sign of dysfunction. Parents, it is important to work with your children–teaching them how to get along and how to appreciate the differences in others. Jacob’s gift giving of the special coat of many colors did not help bring his sons together, but only further hurt their relationships. However, at the end of the day, Joseph got where he was supposed to be to help his family. The brothers admitted their wrong feelings and actions to Joseph and God used their situation to further His purpose. Do you ever ponder how their relationship changed after they moved to Egypt??

Those of you with smaller children or grandchildren please work with them to help them learn honor and respect for you as parents, for authority and for their siblings. Respect and esteem does not come easily in our culture. But we can help by modeling it to those in authority, to our political leaders as well as to our spouses, parents and children. As for you Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. Teach the older men to exercise self-control , and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience. Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead they should teach others what is good. Titus 2:1-3 Titus goes on with further instructions for young women and young men. Take the time to read Titus 2 if you are not familiar with its content. Applying these words of life will bring peace and blessings to our soul. It is unfortunate that many people do not ever receive any type of honor or respect from their childhood onward. At times it is definitely not easy to give honor and respect to everyone, but God is able to help us learn to give honor and respect. We may disagree, but learning to do it with respect is key. That takes patience and a willingness to learn! Taking time to pause and really see the person you are interacting with is one of the keys He has taught me. It really helps. God’s family is so diverse. Many think differently, act differently and understand differently than we do. Let’s focus on our common ground and leave the judging difference to Him. Pray for them if you feel they are blinded to the truth you see so clearly. Release your faith that the God who revealed His truth to you, is able to reveal His truth to them as well.

Choosing respect and honor over disrespect and judgement tears down walls, and leads to peace. If there are sin differences at hand, then find the most respectful way of talking with the person. It will help open their ears and their hearts to new truth. I am glad I am part of the Swift family, but even happier I am part of the family of God!

Adding a “please” or “thank-you” to your interactions with your spouse, children or co-workers opens the door for respect. Guarding your tone of voice when making a request softens the heart of the listener, and may limit their triggers! These are all things that we can do. If you need to ask forgiveness or forgive your family members for neglecting to bring honor and respect, do it today. These seemingly inconsequential “niceties” strengthen relationships, soften hearts and open doors for God’s Spirit to move in ways only He can. Practicing kindness is always a good thing!

Faith and “It’s”

We may not get it the first time around, or even after many rounds, but God doesn’t give up His determination to help us get it. Whatever our “it” is today, God is PRESENTLY helping us! This is a quote by Darryl Rodman. I added the caps on presently because it is so encouraging to understand that He is always helping us as we walk this journey called life. Last week I talked about anxiety and some steps to combat it, I had some encouraging responses to those words. Trusting this article will also be a blessing.

Our family was touched by tragedy this past weekend as an extended family member lost her hope and took her own life. I remember her as a child–full of smiles and life. Somewhere along her journey her way got very hard and for some reason felt it was too hard to continue. My heart hurts for her, her mom, dad, daughter and other family plus all her friends. Such events always cause us to pause and wonder how, why or what could we have done???

If one of the “its” He is teaching you is that you are valuable to Him and others? That no matter how far away you feel, He is only one step back? If you are struggling with the the fact He does love you, can I encourage you to just surrender to His words of life and use that little faith you have to choose to believe it! I’ve seen so many fight against the truth of His unconditional love within their own hearts and minds. I’ve done it. I know when I finally made a decision to simply trust His Words–and relax into His love my life changed. What a difference it has made over the years as He has led me into other truths. It really is the gateway to learning His ways and His plans for you. No wonder the enemy fights so hard against this basic of all basic of truths. Friends, He loves you. You are loved by the Creator of all the Universe. Please accept this “its” of all “its”. We do not work for it, earn it or deserve it. It is a gift. Let it sink deep into your soul. You are loved.

If the “it” your Savior is trying to impart into your life is the “it” of the fact you do make a difference in the lives of others, please believe that “it”. Many struggle with this “it”. It leaves them lonely and isolated, full of fear and insecurity. They do not believe that they can reach out from the island of self to help some one else. If this is your “it”, please trust Him as He leads you to reach out to help your friend, your neighbor, your co-worker. Respond to His love.

Let us implement these lessons into our hearts and lives. Sunday a young man came for prayer–his need, “I’m lonely”. We had just sung a song called “You Know My Name” by Tasha Cobbs. It was his first time at our church. I asked the young man next to me to help me pray with him after I heard his need. It was such a God connection. After praying, I mentioned it was God he came to us, as I knew loneliness as a widow and the other young man was also single. They connected after service and I know God is working on meeting his need. We commended him on being brave to come forward. So maybe your “it” is being brave and letting others carry your load of care.

Maybe your struggle is with faith. “Lord, help my unbelief!” is a prayer He loves to answer. Usually He sends you to His Word to grow in those weaker faith areas–after all faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God! So however He is helping you receive your “it”, trust Him. He is a good, consistent, and relentless teacher! There are many “its” in our life. I am grateful He continually desires to not only teach us, but also lead us through our valleys and onto our resting places.

Father, I ask you to help us run to you and all the truths you are helping us to embrace. I ask for faith to believe whatever “it” you are working into the hearts of your children, whether it is new faith, new grace, new hope or other areas of character building. You are a good good Father, and we choose to trust you today.