Faith and Our God Most High

As I read through scripture, I choose to focus on the amazing names of God. With the craziness happening in our world—how encouraging it is to read “God Most High”. The Hebrew word for most high is Elyon. Combing it with El Elyon, it becomes the divine title our God deserves. He is the ruler of not only the universe but of everything that touches us. There is no other God that reigns over Him. He is the MOST HIGH God! Yesterday, amid some stormy situations, I called on my Most High God. It brought such peace and trust. My mind calmed as I rehearsed many of the things that are under His feet.

Often in the Psalms we find the phrase the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (Jehovah Sabaoth). When Hannah prays for a son in 1 Samuel 1: 10, she uses this name to cry out to Him. It expresses the infinite power and resources which God acts for His people. Her situation had gone on too long and she needed to make her God bigger. He answered. When I read and meditate on this title, God becomes bigger and more firmly established as the Most High God. Psalm 80:19 Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. He is in charge, my friends, no matter what things may look like. When you are feeling small, call out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. It will stir your soul. No demon in hell can stand against Him. He is Lord.

Need healing? Cry out to Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. Jehovah Jireh is the God who provides. All these titles describe an aspect of our amazing Lord and Savior. The most precious name of all to me is Abba Father. Adopted into His family, by the shedding of His blood, opened the door to a relationship with this Most High God! Add these titles to your prayer communication and you will grow in faith and maturity. There is nothing better than curling up in the Father’s Presence during struggles and disappointments. His Comfort is there. However, I can’t stay there and see things change. I must join with Him, using His powerful Word to bring the needed change. During these darker and difficult times, we must grow in our understanding of God’s power and the authority we have as His children. Through prayer we can watch things change, but only if we release our faith and cry out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

Let us join to pray for our world. Do not let discouragement take over your life. Stand strong as a member of His Army. No victims here, but victors. Pulling down strongholds. Watching doors open, and lives changed and healed, in His Name.

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 Thoughts on The Gift of Encouragement

Have you ever wanted to do something “significant”? There is a very simple way you can touch people’s life: become an encourager. Become a person who adds hope to the hopeless. Courage to the weak-hearted. Add confidence to those who are full of self-doubt and support to those who need a hand at their back. This gift, when freely given out of love and care, yields so much fruit. I encourage you to look for the struggling ones and encourage them, but also for those who are working hard to do well. Everyone can use encouragement.

I Thessalonians 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up. Paul gave this exhortation to each one of us! Not one person is exempt, but it is also something we can all do. If you can speak, you can encourage!

One thing I have had to do lately is navigate helping Shield of Faith Ministries after my friend Bill, the president, passed. This led me to deal with some lawyers in figuring out what all needs to be done. As I was talking with them on Monday, I was also carrying the heavy situation of my brother-in-law, who suffered a massive stroke and was in his last hours. I could tell I was distracted during the conversation, so I finally mentioned it to them. The chief lawyer, Sidney, confessed to me that his wife had passed in December. I knew the other lawyer had lost his brother-in-law just a few weeks before. So we just encouraged ourselves with the fact we all understood grief. Ruben, the other lawyer, did not leave it there. He texted me encouraging words this morning. I responded, and then he called. The Holy Spirit led him to call and share some scripture and his story. We don’t even know each other—but God stepped in and through him, strengthened me. He didn’t have to make the call, but he went out of his way to do so.

But the back story to his phone call, was a group of ladies (my life group) praying for me last night, asking God for help and encouragement. I reached out to my daughter this morning, and as she was in the midst in the middle of praying for me, Ruben called. I had called out to the Lord, help me please, and He sent people to encourage me. I opened the gift of encouragement they gave! Sometimes in our own times of hopelessness, self-doubt or weakness we struggle to receive his encouragement. We must be open to surrounding encouragers, for they are there.

I will honestly admit sometimes others have tried to “encourage” me, but in my pride, my hurt or misunderstanding, I did not let it touch my heart. God sent them, but I kept the gift closed. Then felt sorry for myself that I didn’t have encouragement! How silly, it took the Holy Spirit’s grace to show me where I was wrong. One time, I actually asked the Lord to show me my expectations, and I realized they were not realistic! As I prayed, He gently realigned my expectations for encouragement.

The gift of encouragement comes alongside to bring strength, hope and confidence that you can accomplish the task at hand. It does not take over and do it for you. Friends, let us determine to both give and receive encouragement.

Father, I thank you for the gift of encouragement. I ask you to help us, as we learn to be encouragers. I ask you to help us receive encouragement, even if it is not exactly like we think we need. I thank you for the Holy Spirit working your encouragement through your Word and through your body so we can be strong in your ways. I speak against discouragement in any shape or form, and release hope, strength and confidence in you and yours ways. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and The Blessings of Holiness

Congratulations on opening up this blog. The word ‘holiness’ is oft putting for many. I think we see it as restrictive and difficult to achieve anyway, so why try? But I think our carnal mind along with strategic satanic lies have robbed us of the blessing that comes from holy living. Holy living is a decision to choose to surrender your life to the Lord and live separate from the world. Our salvation was a free gift that we receive by faith. Holiness is something we choose to partner with the Holy Spirit to accomplish. 1 Peter 1: 15: as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.

Our salvation is a gift from our precious Savior, while holiness is almost like a gift we give back to Him. It is something we, as believers, are all asked to do, but it is our choice. A choice not everyone makes, and that is sad. Holy living is a decision to live our lives set apart for His use. It is a decision to put off the things of this world and wear our robes of righteousness in a way that pleases Him. We must change our mindset that walking in holiness means all the things we can’t do–like the old saying ‘you can’t smoke, cuss and chew or go with girls that do’. We know that smoking is bad for you, that cussing substitutes for bad communication skills, and chewing tobacco can give you cancer and walking with those who are like-minded will help you go ahead in the things of the Lord than walking closely with those who don’t care. But it is so much more than those type of restrictions.

One blessing of holiness is it forces us to rely on the power of God. We learn to lean on Him and His ways. Drawing near to Him, in faith, that He is there to help you, not condemn you, is the beginning of enjoying your relationship with Jesus. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 16:11. You will show me the path of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. The closer we draw near to Him, the more we get to enjoy those pleasures. Remember, God encompasses all the fruits of His Spirit. By walking close to Him, we get to partake of those fruits in our lives.

Life with Jesus can be an adventure. During our wedding, the pastor exhorted us from John 2 and the wedding at Cana. Jesus’ mother told the servants, “whatever he tells you to do, do it”. We took that as our life verse and marriage direction. We began by seeking to read the Word and obeying it. When we had decisions to make, we sought the Lord and His will. Following Him and His ways opened doors we never imagined could have happened. Meeting people and experiencing the cultures of Jamaica, England and Ghana plus getting to know varied regions of our own country are results of learning to follow Him and His ways. It started by choosing to live a holy (separate) life unto Him.

His holy ways lead you away from harmful activities and into healthier ones. Learning to forgive, letting go of bitterness and hatred, staying away from addictions all lead to a happier, healthier life. Do not fall for the lie that a holy life is a boring life. It actually opens up opportunities that actually fulfill your purpose in life. When we choose to be “set a part” for Him, it causes us to trust Him more. Trust in the Lord, and do good, dwell in the land and feed on his faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:7 Yes, we turn away from the ‘bad’ things like selfishness, greed and the other works of the flesh but we reap the benefits of the ‘good’ things.

If you find yourself hesitant to try the blessing of holiness, could it possibly be because you have not taken the time to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’? Feasting on His word and His ways lead us to understand His heart and His purpose in our life. As we learn to walk in this holiness, we become people who glorify Him more. We all want to be around people who are trustworthy, exhibit the fruit of the spirit and share the love of God freely -we can all become those people. Remember, we do it with His grace and His mercy, and of course His power. Let’s make holiness great again!

Father, please help us not be afraid of the word “holy”. Please teach us to trust you as we move toward this amazing calling. Help us in our weak areas, in Jesus Name, amen.

Faith and Servanthood

One of the amazing and often puzzling things about the Christian life is titles. Moses, an outstanding leader who led 600,000 men plus women and children out of slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness and up to entering the Promised Land, was called the servant of God. Abraham was called the friend of God. These are not lofty supreme titles, on the contrary they are humble and, unless viewed from God’s perspective, rather bland. I think our culture thinks oh, well anyone can be a servant and a friend. No big deal. But that is not how God views it.

But dear ones, they are actually the two best titles that, as believers, we can all achieve. Moses learned to serve the Lord His whole life. Jochebed (his mom) and Amram (his dad) must have done something very right during the few years they had direct access to raising Moses. They installed an identity that did not disappear when he moved into the palace. It is true that he had lessons to learn about how to be a leader in overcoming his insecurities and fears, but he did it! Granted, it was not always easy for him, but he learned and grew. We can too.

Can you say out loud, right now, ‘I, (Martha) am a servant of God’? How does that sound to your ears? Good? Bad? Difficult? Maybe elevate it to ‘I, (Martha) am a servant of the Most High God’? I will listen and obey. I choose to serve Him. Did you put your name in? Did you say it out loud? Now what? Whew ok, that’s good. I can do that. I can serve Him. He is loving, faithful and patient. But then He begins by asking us to serve others. People we may think don’t deserve our service. People who may have hurt us. People who don’t act lovely or much less appreciative. Then it begins to be a bit more difficult. Reality sets in. Serving can be hard. Moses served when the people rebelled against him. He served when they turned their backs on the True God and made false idols. He served when they did not trust God enough to enter the Promised Land, and it cost Moses forty years of leading them in the wilderness. He did not stop serving them.

Luke 22 sets the scene of the Last Supper. Jesus is sharing difficult things about betrayal and suffering. The disciples (his close friends) began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, In this world kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

Our culture disdains servants. It is imperative to change this perspective. How do you treat those who serve you? The servers, baristas, receptionists at the doctor’s office—do you see them as beneath you? Or do you respect their position and honor them as they serve you? If you struggle in this area, ask the Lord to help you. It will also help you in your service to Him.

We must become learners. We must learn that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Yesterday I felt prompted to make a phone call, even though I knew I did not have all the information I needed to give the individual. I struggled a bit, but as I obeyed, I discovered the phone call was an answer to prayer for that person. God gave me the words he needed to hear, outside of the topic I called him about. Simple obedience left us both blessed. We must learn to put the Master’s voice above our own thoughts and our own ways. Difficult, but doable. Servants must set themselves to be learners. Learn about those He has asked you to serve. Hear their hearts and learn to trust Him in the process. Are you ready to serve those He asks you to serve the way He asks you to do it? No matter who they are? No matter their situation? Are you ready to serve your children? Your spouse? Your employees? Your employer? You church? With great attitudes? Get ready to learn some lessons, but also be ready to reap much fruit.

Father, I ask you to teach us about what it means to be a servant. Help us trust that serving you, no matter how difficult, yields much fruit. As we serve others, I thank you that we will be examples of the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. (I Timothy4:12) That you will help us not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but we will see ourselves as you see us. I thank you for raising up servants that represent You and Your Kingdom well, in Jesus Name Amen

Faith and Remembering to Be Child like!

Have you ever been under the weather? Feeling out of sorts and out of control? This past week, my body succumbed to a cold virus shared by my grandchildren. It has left me feeling weak, wimpy and frustrated. As I prayed for myself and my other afflicted family members, I was so grateful to know we weren’t fighting Covid. While I knew and know that recovery is on its way, I battled with my mind about the “right” way to walk when you aren’t feeling well. Guilt and shame come too quickly with condemnation and discouragement attempting to take up space where rest should be. The battle is often, ‘if I only had more faith…then I wouldn’t be ill, or I would speak the word and get up and go, etc.’ I normally write this blog on Thursdays. Yesterday, I couldn’t. My brain wouldn’t focus. So I had to put it aside and trust it to another day. I chose to walk in peace and the needed rest I had to take. I realize we (I) often make things too complicated. Maybe all we need to do is walk in childlike faith.

When my children were small and not feeling well, it was hard. I wanted them well quickly. It was hard to watch them suffer. As a mother, I would encourage them to rest, give them any needed meds, pray for healing and trust their bodies would recover. Thinking back, they just trusted me. They weren’t worried about the why’s or the wherefores of being sick, they just trusted the process. It is true, by God’s grace and mercy, we never faced long-term illnesses, but we had bouts of mononucleosis, a broken arm and some ear infections that stretched my faith and my patience.

Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. (Mark 10:14) Learning to put our childlike faith into practice during sick times, may be the best lesson we can learn. Having childlike faith does not mean that you cannot ask questions. Ask any mom or dad of a small child—they ask questions all the time! They trust their parent to give them the truth. We should trust the Lord to lead us into His truth about our health issues. He may show us areas where we need to make changes, and we need to be careful that we don’t react with childishness!

As an adult, with this passing illness, I choose to rest in His love. When small children are ill, they come to their parent. Snuggles and comfort are often just what they need. It is the same for me. As I rest in His love, I am allowing His healing presence to move in my mind, my soul and my body. I trust Him to show me what to do. Call the doctor? Drink water? Take a nap? Let my friend bring me some soup? I am choosing to humble myself and trust Him, while remembering His healing power and His healing promises. I am much better today. Just need to build back my stamina. His words of wisdom for me are to walk in His rhythm of grace and trust. I have nothing to prove. I release my faith and simply walk with Him.

Faith and Careful Instructions

Life is a balance. I constantly look for the plumb-line of truth and the balance between not being anxious, but also being careful. Wary caution marks one definition of ‘careful’. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament encourage us to be ‘careful’.

As the children of Israel were approaching the Promised Land, Moses clearly warned them: But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them onto your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 If we are going to navigate this world with wary caution, we need to remember what God has done for us as well. Do you remember the joy of your first salvation? Maybe the freedom you felt and the closeness to the Lord? Do you remember how He has answered your prayers? Perhaps how He kept you safe during crisis times? As we remember His faithfulness, it will help us be careful to keep His commandments and walk in obedience. Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 4:28

Being careful does not mean we hole up, scared and fearful. His word tells us: Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Joshua 1:7. It is through careful obedience that gives us the confidence that He is with us. As we listen to His voice, obeying those instructions, we will be assured of great success.

1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us about us! If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptations to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. We must be careful about not walking in any of the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Galations 5:19-21 We don’t like to think about these things, but if we do not walk with wary caution, we can fall into any of these sinful desires.

We also must be careful how we live our lives, because we influence others. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weak conscious to stumble. I Corinthians 8:9 I am strong in my own conviction about not drinking alcoholic beverages. The Holy Spirit told me I liked it too much, and for my own good to choose not to drink. This was back in 1972. I have kept those instructions because I trust His wisdom more than mine. Others have to come to their own conviction in the matter. Alcoholism runs in our family’s history, so rather than take that liberty, we’ve chosen to abstain. I pray it is one example we can give our grandchildren.

We also must be careful how we live our lives, because we influence others. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weak conscious to stumble. I Corinthians 8:9 I am strong in my own conviction about not drinking alcoholic beverages. The Holy Spirit told me I liked it too much, and for my own good to choose not to drink. This was back in 1972. I have kept those instructions because I trust His wisdom more than mine. Others have to come to their own conviction in the matter. Alcoholism runs in our family’s history, so rather than take that liberty, we’ve chosen to abstain. I pray it is one example we can be to our grandchildren.

I Corinthians 10: 12 If you are think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptations to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. This is a promise to us a way out of temptation. But unless we use wary caution, may fall into the works of the flesh. The New Living Translation describes them as sinful desires. Galations 5: 19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Whew, that is a lot. Some are easy for me to avoid (like drunkenness) others are more subtle like jealousy, anger or quarreling. No matter which one is your weak spot, we need to walk carefully around these pitfalls.

Hebrews 2:1 instructs us: So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. Drifting is very subtle. It is not a deliberate action, but just a subtle slipping away from the truth you once held dear. Our culture is working to re-write history and re-interpret scriptures that were long held true. Please do not let go of the truth. Cling carefully to it.

Hebrews 3:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. Let us remember the price He paid for our salvation. Let us choose to walk with Him so we can know Him and bring Him all the glory He deserves through our lives.

Faith and An Easter Prayer

Father, as many are getting ready to celebrate “Easter”, I ask that you help us turn our hearts toward you. I thank for opening our hearts, ears and eyes to see the work of the cross in fresh new ways. We may know it is not about bunnies and eggs, but still not fully comprehend the power that was released in us and ultimately through us that eventful day. Forgive us for giving lip service, not heart service to you. Even those who are walking close beside you can get so caught up in presenting the ‘perfect’ Easter service—sharing your love with others, but forget to really embracing that love and power themselves. Lord, I thank you that no matter where we are in our relationship with you, you are there. I pray for you {us!} asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called-his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:16-20. I ask you, Father, that you will continue teaching us how to walk in your power and might. I stand with everyone who is facing difficulties asking for courage to be imparted a fresh and anew in their lives. I thank you that you are as strong today as ever. Your heart is towards your people and waiting for us to release our faith in every difficult test and trials.

I ask you to release that confident hope Paul prayed for into our hearts. Many are facing marathon struggles in so many areas of life. From fighting drug or alcohol addictions, caring for disabled loved ones, watching prodigal children turn away from you—help them remember your love, mercy, and hope still applies. I thank you for refreshing everyone who is growing weary in their marriage, parenting or careers. I thank you for renewing that hope today, dear Father.

You asked your disciples in Luke 9; who do people say I am? They gave various responses, but then Jesus turned to them and asked a very personal response: but who do you say I am? I ask you, Father, to help us be able to answer that question in our own hearts. Please continue to show us who you are in reality. Let us continue to grow in our relationship with you.

Father, as we hear the story of your suffering on the cross, let us remember it was our sin who put you there. You did it willingly because of your love. After Peter replies to Jesus’ question: You are the Messiah sent from God. Jesus told them of his coming suffering. Then he told them if any of you want to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Father, I thank you for giving us the grace and mercy to pick up our cross and follow you, even when the way gets tough, knowing we are not alone.

Thank you, dear Savior, for your suffering. Thank you for your forgiveness. We need it. We have it. Help us apply it to every dark and shameful place. Thank you that your finished work on Calvary frees us for all sin and shame. Give us fresh eyes to see you. Give us fresh ears to hear you. Give us fresh voices to thank you, In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and the House of Mourning Part 2

Ecclesiastes 7:2 It is better to go into the house of mourning, than to go into the house of feasting. After writing House of Mourning last week, some feedback and my own pondering led me to write part 2. This is much more of my own personal journey.

Most homes, when entered by the main entrance, have some sort of foyer or meeting place. I think it is true for the house of mourning as well. Fear, pain, and confusion keep many people from truly entering the house. They linger there, but do not really embrace the opportunity it affords. Sometimes we want to escape our deny our grief, so we run to the house of feasting. But somehow it doesn’t bring the expected relief. Others turn to alcohol, drugs or even unhealthy relationships to dull the pain. Prescribed medications or a glass of wine may be good for you, if it doesn’t turn into an addiction.

Years ago the Holy Spirit warned me against the use of alcohol because of family addictions (my biological father was an alcoholic); so I stayed away from that. (Even though the temptation came!) A more socially accepted escape is busyness! Just keep going until you can’t go any more. One of my “escapes” was binge watching TV shows. Netflix was my friend and filled the quiet of my home. I couldn’t do movies, because TV shows were about all I could focus on. It is in the “foyer” time that listening to the Holy Spirit is very important. There came a time where He showed me I needed to balance television with other things. As we follow Him, there is never condemnation, but only the loving teacher and guide that shows us what is best for us. This is where we must release our faith and our trust.

As I allowed Him to lead me past the foyer and teach me about my grief, greater peace came. I had to silence the television and listen to the Spirit. Worship music filled my home and my heart. As I turned to Him through journaling and prayer, I could feel His restoration taking place. I will admit, it was a much slower and harder process than I expected. I asked Him one day, can’t you just take this pain away, and He said no. I want you to learn from it. So I said, fine, then teach me and help me. I felt alone often, because there is a balance between wanting people to help and reach out to you and being (in your head) the “needy” one. I think pride gets involved in some ways as well, which keeps you from asking for help when needed. I also was concerned for my children, who were walking their own grief journey as well. They were concerned for me, and I for them. I am so grateful the Lord was by my side through all my ups and downs. I took comfort in David’s honesty and bared my soul to Him, which helped me learn many things about myself, some that weren’t easy! I learned there are many emotions that arise, and I had to accept that the house of mourning was a safe place for each of them; because often they are really jumbled.

One gift God gave me was a dear friend whose wife passed five months after Darryl. We could listen to each other with understanding. It was an immense help to both of us. Because we knew each other’s spouses and had history, it made it easier. One revelation the Lord gave me as I stumbled along in the house of mourning, was that He had helped many others through their grief times. I wasn’t the first person to walk this path with Him. He knew what He was doing! Somehow that helped me release my faith—which is soo needed in the house of mourning.

I also learned that not all my questions will be answered in the house of mourning. Many remain in the ‘I choose to trust you realm’, and probably will be until we see Him face to face. I’ve learned to be content with that in the house of mourning.

Please be patient with those in the house of mourning. It is not a simple place to be. Please be patient with yourself if you are in the house of mourning. He is always with us, but when I actively brought Him into my grief and allowed Him to help me navigate the house of mourning, it became much easier. “Help me Lord” was a common prayer; but when I actually looked for the help—expecting it to be given was when I entered into more of His rest.

I am not finished visiting and learning from the house of mourning by any means; but I do not fear it nor try to avoid it. It is difficult to explain the benefits of the house of mourning. The good news is He promises never to leave us, nor forsake us—and that includes the house of mourning.

Father, I ask that you walk close with those who are getting used to the house of mourning. It is hard, but you, my Father, know it is hard. I ask for courage for all of us. Courage to learn the lessons found in the house of mourning. I thank you that your Spirit is there as a comforter and guide. I thank you we will discover not only the blessing of your peace and presence, but will learn about ourselves so we can help others. Thank you for your loving care and concern. Thank you for teaching us how to live fully the life you have given us, before someone enters the house of mourning because of our passing. Please teach us how to comfort those that mourn. In Jesus Name, amen.

Faith and The House of Mourning

Eleven years ago, the Lord started me on an intense journey to learn about grief and mourning. Even though both of my parents passed many years before, I really hadn’t taken the time to learn much about it. There is a small and to me an ignored verse in Ecclesiastes 7:2. It is better to go into the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, For that [day of death] is the end of every man, And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning, Sorrow is better than laughter for when a face is sad (deep in thought) the heart may be happy; because it is growing in wisdom]. The heart of the wise [learns when it is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is [senseless] in the house of pleasure. I lost twelve people this past year. Recently a friend of over forty years joined the heavenly hosts. A blessing for him, but grief for those of us who will miss him here on earth. Once again, as I enter the house of mourning, I choose to learn from its wisdom.

My flesh does not like the house of mourning, but I have learned to embrace it, instead of fighting it. Fighting it does not change it. There is no choice when you enter the house of mourning. It is something that life sends you.

In the house of mourning, you learn that life here on earth has an ending. There will be a time when your life and mine will be over. This is a fact. Unless Jesus returns, we all will die. One of the obvious lessons I’ve learned is not to take this life for granted. It is a gift and how we choose to use it is up to us. It is up to us whether we live a life full of love, forgiveness and generosity. Or choose to live with bitterness, revenge and grudges.

One choice that confronts you in the house of mourning is a time of reflection, which often leads to consider regrets. Do you regret the things you said or did? What about the things you left unsaid? Once you enter the house of mourning for an individual, there is no going back to them. It has been eleven years since my husband suffered a severe stroke and our former life together was no more. He loved a burn pile. The one he used in our house in Connecticut was a distance from our home, but my concern for Lyme disease and ticks kept me from spending time around that fire. I wonder what dreams and discussions we could have had if I had joined him there. I will never know. Small regrets, but so real.

Another lesson learned in the house of mourning is to choose to celebrate life while you have it. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” becomes much more real. Socks on the floor, cupboards left open or dirty dishes on the counter are regulated to “small stuff”. Enjoying the person, rather than worrying about their foibles, becomes much more important.

The house of mourning can become a place of comfort. A time of growing closer to the Comforter as we allow Him to lead and guide us. They become much more than just sentimental words; they take on a fresh reality. When we choose to ask Him to help us navigate grief and loss, He shows up in amazing ways. Sometimes He sends others who come alongside us. Sometimes He just sends His Presence with His peace that passes all understanding, but if we look for Him, we will find Him. One day, a year or two after Darryl’s passing, I ask Him to help me turn my mourning into joy. Psalm 30:11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. I knew it was time, but I didn’t know how to do it on my own. I spent the first year recovering from the exhaustion of caregiving and coming to grips with the reality of my widowhood. It wasn’t a ‘bad’ year, and I definitely had some joyful times (like the birth of a new grandbaby!) but I knew there was more the Holy Spirit wanted to help me with. It was a deliberate and good prayer to pray, which I know He was waiting to for me to ask!

One joy that comes in the house of mourning is when we choose to lean on the Lord and His help we find Him. The house of mourning is not always entered with a death of a person, but it can also come with other type of losses. Loss of friends, marriage or even dreams can cause us to cross into threshold. Another thing I learned is the house of mourning is full of people. Many are there. Many are suffering alone. That is not God’s best plan. It is true a part of grief is very lonely and individualized. This is our opportunity to draw closer to our God. But His Word tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I think the body of Christ needs to get better at both! Entering the house of mourning brings a greater awareness to others who are grieving as well. It is then that we can comfort others with the comfort we have been given.

The house of mourning gives us the opportunity to grow up and grow down. Maturity happens as we grow to understand this facet of life. Digging deep into God’s Word and His promises brings heaven closer. The reality of heaven becomes clearer and dearer. Sometimes we find disappointment in the house of mourning. Disappointment in ourselves and with others. We may discover our weak areas of trust or faith as we struggle with our understanding. Sometimes we are disappointed when others don’t seem to understand our pain or loss. Growth happens when we learn that those around us may not meet our expectations and heal our hurts, but we still choose to love them. Only God really knows how to touch those hurt places in our souls. If we keep pressing on and on, we discover that hurt part of our souls restored. The house of mourning is a place to learn to forgive others and ourselves.

The house of mourning brings an understanding of walking through the shadows of death. It challenges us to not fear any evil that dwells in those shadows. We must learn to silence those dark voices that taunt and torment us about the regrets and actions that are too late to change. We learn to embrace our own need for comforters and forgiveness. Walking as a widow after many years of being a couple, I had to accept and believe that I was enough as a single. This was one of the harder lessons for me to grasp. Our culture values couples. But as I grappled with this lesson in the house of mourning, I learned to accept God’s love for me as an individual in an even greater depth. I understand Paul’s wisdom in the blessing of singleness and the opportunities it gives me.

Friends, I’ve learned a lot in the house of mourning. I know I have even more lessons to learn. Please do not fear it. It is very hard at times, but also joyous. Learning to walk through hard times is difficult, but doable. Let’s help each other by sharing the lessons we each learn in the house of mourning. Grief is easier together.

Faith and THE Voice

Last week I joined my family in celebrating the birthday of my wonderful granddaughter. They visited Woodland Park Zoo as part of her celebration. Twelve of us braved the chilly 45 degree weather in the rain to give her an adventure! Through foggy glasses and wet masks, we wandered through this amazing place. Some exhibits were closed because of Covid (the inside warm ones) but it excited us when the baby giraffe came out from its barn to entertain the kids, the orangutan turned and greeted us out from under his blanket and then promptly turned over again covering himself up from the chill. Aside from a few birds chirping, the animals were quiet.

As we wandered toward the snow leopard’s encampment, someone told my daughter, ‘oh, they are in their den’. Curious to see what they could see, they stepped closer to the viewing area. Around the building came this majestic cat. He stopped and opened his mouth—but not to roar! (Apparently snow leopard can’t roar!) The best way I can describe it as an extremely loud, screechy wail, sort of like he was saying a very long “ow”. The sound resonated throughout the zoo. My daughter-in-law was at the zoo’s entrance and heard it and wondered what it was. The sound definitely caught everyone’s attention.

As I listened, I pondered if this creature, created by our God can make such a penetrating sound, what will the voice of our God sound like, thundering from heaven? Psalm 29:3-9 declares: the voice of the Lord is upon the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 2 Samuel 22:14 The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. I’ve read these passages, but rarely really focused on the power of these descriptions, meditating on what that voice would actually sound like. After hearing this snow leopard’s voice, I can only imagine the intensity, decibel level and attention grabbing that sound it will be.

We are so blessed to have access to God’s voice as He leads us by His Spirit. The still small voice that spoke to Elijah still speaks His comforting words to us as His sheep. But I wonder if that still small voice that lovingly calls us may get drowned out by our own voice, or the voice of others? Do we give that Voice the reverence that we should? Just as a mother’s voice whispers in comfort to soothe her child, they can also raise it with danger warnings. They train their child to recognize their voice, as does our Heavenly Father. We are in His training period now.

Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet. I am sure it caught John’s attention! This is the same Voice we hear in our hearts. We discover in reading through scripture that it describes His voice as the voice of thunder and the sound of many waters. Hebrews 12:26 declares His voice shook the earth. It is hard for me to comprehend a voice that powerful, but I know it’s real.

I believe as we are moving towards globally tumultuous days, we must get a greater grasp on who our God really is. One day He will appear. One day every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. One day we will hear His voice in ultimate authority and power. Let’s practice listening now. Luke 9:35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him. It is great to hear His voice, but much better to listen and obey it.

Father, I ask that you open our ears to hear your voice, no matter how soft or loud it is. We ask you to speak to us and as Samuel once said, ‘speak, and we will listen’. I acknowledge it is a privilege and necessity to hear the voice of the Creator of the Universe in the quiet places of my heart. You are THE Voice I want to hear and obey. Thank you, dear Lord.

Faith and Respectful Speech

Our dear brother Paul wrote some very clear, but encouraging words to the church at Colossae. He gives us direct instructions on how to influence those around us. You know, those things which are so basic we all go, “oh of course”, but then find it difficult to really put into practice? Those instructions that we want others to do for us, but maybe struggle to implement ourselves?

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

Last night I had the privilege of listening to Eleah Tercero, an Assemblies of God missionary to Indonesia. She is a young woman who has been ministering to University Students for three years on the island of Java. As she was sharing, I could feel the respect she has for the young men and women that she has met. She shared stories of patient relationship building over coffee, dinner and English practice as they watch the Holy Spirit change lives.

How do we influence others? By respectful listening and then respectful speaking. This takes growing in self-control. Not easy. It starts by developing an others centered heart. It truly is not all about us. “If they respect me, then I will respect them”; not Biblical. As we develop Christ-like qualities, we learn to love the unlovely. Matthew 5:44 states: You have heard the law says; ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

There are many layers to sharing Jesus with others, but I believe we must begin by respecting them, if for no other reason than our Heavenly Father created them. He loves them. When I pray for those I struggle to respect and love, God changes my heart. Do you have a family member that isn’t acting ‘right’? Pray for them, ask the Lord to do a work in your heart first. I admit it is hard, but it is doable with the Holy Spirit’s help. Do not keep focusing and rehearsing their offenses against you, but ask the Lord how He sees the person; you may find their splinter size problem, is being enlarged by the beam in your eye.

My friends, I encourage you today to think about your speech. Is it wholesome? Is it uplifting? Encouraging? Life-giving? Remember the words of life come from our heart. Guard your heart, feast on God’s truth and His love, and it will become easier to use respectful speech, even with those we disagree.