Faith and “God Is”

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:2 (ESV)

This Psalm has encouraged so many of God’s people through the ages. It is said that Martin Luther, when in greatest distress, was want to call for this psalm, saying, “Let us sing the forty-sixth psalm in concert; and then let the devil do his worst.” (John Trapp Commentary) One of his famous hymns, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was based on this Psalm. It is said that Martin Luther and his family chose to remain in Wittenburg, Germany during the time of the bubonic plague, to minister to the sick and dying. His wife was pregnant at the time, but they put their trust in the Lord and touched and helped many in the Name of the Lord. We can see that Luther found God to be his refuge and strength, but the question that came to my mind is: who is God to me, in my present? Who is God to you, in yours?

If I know God is (present tense!) my refuge, then I don’t have to fear any storm that rages. A refuge is a shelter or protection in times of danger and distress. Do I take advantage of this refuge during my times of distress? Most times yes, if not I eventually end up there! Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 16:1 NIV

As I ponder on who God is to me I realized that He is my rock–immovable, steady and the bedrock under my feet. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:2 NIV

He is my fortress–another name for refuge–He is my protection, a safe place, a hiding place where I can go to share my fears and my troubles. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18: 2 NIV

He, of course, is my Savior. My Savior who has rescued me from myself–including my past sins, my present battles and struggles, confusion, and insecurities. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25 NIV

He is my Strength. When I am weak, As I ask Him to, He is there to strengthen me in every weak place. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 NIV I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NLT

He is my Father. And I shall be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are. the reason why the world does know us is that it did not know him 1 John 3:1 ESV

He is my Comforter. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

If you find yourself struggling today with focus, confidence or trust in Him, take time to refresh yourself in and through His Word. Remind yourself who He is to you, and if you discover you don’t really comprehend Him in any of these ways (Rock, Strength, Father, Savior etc.) ask Him to reveal Himself to you in those areas. He longs to help us understand all of Him.

He is my Lord. This one, as are all the areas, a work in progress. Fortunately, He helps me learn about it most everyday! ESV And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will se you free. John 8:31-32 ESV

There are so many other aspects of Him to discover and learn about. These are a just a few I drew from Psalm 46. I pray you grow in Him and with Him today.

Father, I thank You for loving us enough to teach us about Your and Your different aspects that You freely make known to us. I ask that You help us to grow in these and every area of who You are. Thank You, for being our Savior and helping us learn about Your Lordship. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “Dealing with Disappointment”

Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Tomorrow I am supposed to jump in my car and drive five plus hours to meet up with two old friends with their friends for a prayer retreat. When I say old friends, these two special ladies knew me before I got married! In fact, they were at our wedding. 48 years ago! What an out of the blue, off the radar invitation. But, I have been fighting a virus this week. The coughing, congested feel like you’ve been drained of every energy type of virus. So here I sit, resting, praying and dealing with the possible disappointment that I won’t have the energy or health to make the trip.

I thought about the phrase “dealing with disappointment”. I pictured someone taking the different “cards” of my situation and spreading them out on a table. First is my emotions card. What is the source of my disappointment? First, there are no do-overs. This is a onetime shot. One friend, Kay, lives in Arizona, the other, Malana, in Alaska! Apparently, they have been doing this prayer retreat for many years. The friend, Laurel who is hosting this event, said yes to my coming and said, “this may well be the last time you see each other”. Kay’s health isn’t well. As I am in this valley of indecision, I realize I was looking forward to being with people that “knew me when, ” and I knew when. Old stories surfaced in my memories, fun, encouraging, and memorable answers to prayer. They made me smile.

My physical health card–am I going to be up to it to go? At my age, the reality is I take longer to recover from illness than it used to. It isn’t a card that I used to give much value to–but not I have to. Will this card trump every other card in the hand? We will have to see.

Another card that surfaced was the desire to just spend time with the Lord in a new place with new people. Hearing their hearts and learning from them. Originally, there were going to be six of us. These are women who know their God and walk with Him. Their lives have not been easy. In fact, Laurel’s husband has been in a coma for over a year, and is now in hospice care. She may not get to even attend the event (and I think I might be disappointed!) So many life lessons to be gleaned from these new and old friends. Both Kay and Malana have endured hard places, but they still choose to walk with Him. Both their spouses are still here, and I am sure my walk through the valley of death has helped them prepare, in case they find themselves alone. There is something special to be with those with whom you have history, and the Lord knows that.

The disappointing other card. My friends want me to come. It will be disappointing if I can’t make it, it is part of the package of living life. I know they will understand. But it will make us all sad. It will have to be played if I don’t feel better. Disappointing others is so hard for me. But I know the Lord will comfort their hearts, even as He will comfort mine.

Another major card in dealing with disappointment is perspective and attitude. I know that ties into the emotion card, but the choice is where am I going to put it? Do I have any other unresolved disappointments that this situation can be added to? Or am I able to look at my life, accept that these things happen and move on? Unresolved disappointment can turn into bitterness and that defiles many, as the scripture says. Not good for you or for others. Would this trip add wonderful memories, insights, and blessings to my life? Yes! But, if I can’t make it, will it really harm me in the long run? Probably not. After all, I surrendered my life to the Lord a long time ago. His ways are higher than my ways. Other disappointments (like my husband’s heart attack/stroke) were not so easy to discard. I chose not to put it in the bitterness pile for myself, my family and my Lord. I admit, some days it tried to sneak back to that pile! But friends, I encourage you to take the time to process every disappointment. For your spiritual, emotional and physical sake, it is worth it.

My perspective card is just that, my perspective. If I can’t go, I will choose not to mope and be sad. I am so grateful they want me to come. Just taking the time to reflect on our memories is such a blessing. Are there other cards in the disappointment hand? At times, yes. Disappointment often is a revealer. It reveals where our hope has been placed. I find out how mature I am, or not! Do I really have self control, or is it an area I need to keep growing? Have I learned to accept God’s yes’s as well as His no’s?

We all encounter disappointments. It’s just a reality we must accept. I am so glad the Holy Spirit helps us walk through every one if we let Him. In Luke 24, Jesus appeared to His disciples after they had walked through his death. He loved them, as He loves us, and wanted to reassure it was really Him that was raised from the dead. Disappointments come, but so does Jesus. Let us look to Him, knowing He walks with us through any dark valley we encounter. Whether or not I make it to the Prayer Retreat, I will be glad and rejoice with my God, knowing He understands.

Father, I ask You to help us learn to deal with our disappointments. Help us not to veer to the left or to the right; but to stay on course with You. Let me bring You into my disappointment, not blame You for it. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and the Joy of Hospitality

Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 (NLT)

For the past two weeks, it has been my privilege to host my older sister Carol in my home. She is eleven years older than my triplet sisters and I. We met when we were about 16 because of God’s amazing miraculous connection. Now she is turning 84 soon and deals with Parkinsons Disease. Her daughter, who she lives with, works for H & R Block. Due to increased work hours, her time to help and be with Carol is limited, so I invited her to visit.

I know it is intimidating for many to even invite someone in their home for a meal or a cup of coffee—so the idea of hosting people for longer can be overwhelming. However, there is a hidden blessing of having the gift of time with someone. When my late husband, Darryl, and I traveled in ministry, we often stayed with others and had many stay with us. It gave us such an insight and opportunity to speak into the lives of those we were with. Was it always easy? No. I am sure we weren’t always the best or easiest guests, even though we tried to be! Having Carol here reminded me of so many marvelous conversations and ministry opportunities that helped strengthen us and others.

Carol’s daughter Lyn, was worried about her mom staying so long. As we talked, we realized she had never stayed with anyone herself! I am grateful for the experience I have had in hosting others. I am grateful for others who, for the sake of the ministry hosted Darryl and I. Our dear friends, Jim and Jean Stephens, invited us to stay with them in Jamaica and later on in England, helped provide an opportunity to minister to others, not just once, but several times. Bill and Darlene Hinckley provided us a home away from home so our ministry could help strengthen local churches in that area. Les and Barb Young let us stay in a “mother-in-law” type apartment above their garage, many times as well. Phil and Ellen Wolf let us stay in their Bed and Breakfast in Vermont, again so we could minister in their area churches. Our Southern Oregon friends, the Simmons and the Schmelzers are the same. They are open-hearted and open home examples. These folks fulfilled 1 Peter 4:9: Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. Because they were willing to share their homes, we could better afford to fulfill our ministry.

Maybe you are thinking, well what does that have to do with me? I want to encourage each of us to widen our hearts. It is easy to justify not being hospitable. My house isn’t perfect or too small. So widen your heart, and invite someone for coffee, or for a walk. There are other ways you can develop a hospitable heart. It starts with listening to God’s voice about others. Hospitality helps get rid of our selfishness. To be good at it, it must be about others, not ourselves. And that is downright hard. But it is doable, scriptural and can be learned. Feeling a bit insecure about it? Team up with someone. Do a potluck, set up a game or movie night. Start with something you enjoy and invite others to join you.

There is so much joy in hospitality. But if you never go there, you will not discover it. I have heard of Christians in Romania, Bela Rus, and Poland opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees. I am grateful for their care and love for these hurting souls. It warms my heart, but also challenges me. Would I do the same?

Father, this is an area we often take as an option in the scripture. Your Word tells us to be hospitable. I thank You for helping us grow in this area. Teach us how to receive not only our friends, and family; but also as Your Word encourages, strangers. We need to grow in this area. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

So can I encourage you to start somewhere? Start by asking the Lord to show you where to begin? I set my home up for others. I have seven individual lamps in my living room so that my Life Group ladies can have light to read their Bibles etc. Do I need that many? NO. Does it look a bit weird? Yes. It isn’t about me, but them. I have many mugs and dishes that I don’t really need, as I live alone, but I have them for others. I am not trying to boast in myself, but I get the privilege of watching God change others through the use of my home. We often count the cost and choose not to pay it (too much time, money or getting out of our comfort zones). But in that counting, we don’t know what treasure we will reap in the lives of others for HIs Kingdom. Simply opening your heart, trusting God’s to flow through you, is the beginning of a hospitable heart. During Carol’s visit, we had much laughter, a few tears and bit of frustration—but all in all, it was priceless. We both learned, grew, and it also gave her the opportunity to spend time with my children, grandchildren and our two sisters who live here, as well. She was able to love on and receive love from my Life Group ladies, too!

Father, this is an area we often take as an option in the scripture. Your Word tells us to be hospitable. I thank You for helping us grow in this area. Teach us how to receive not only our friends and family; but also as Your Word encourages, strangers. We need to grow in this area. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and A United Heart

Teach me Your way, O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. Psalms 86:11 (NKJV)

The phrase “unite my heart to fear Your name” has been rolling around in my heart and mind this week. As we grow closer to this Easter Sunday, I am so aware of my shortcomings in this area. I’ve asked the Lord, “what does it mean to have a united heart?” David’s prayer for his own heart must have come from a realization that he had some divisions as well. For me, a united heart means I am walking as a surrendered follower of Jesus Christ in every way, not something I have achieved!

Why should it even matter if we have a united heart? Amos declares: Can two walk together lest they be agreed? (Amos 3:3 (NKJV) I think it is the same with the need to have unity in our own heart. If we are double-minded in our intention to walk with the Lord, we will not have the peace He promises. Our flesh fights against the Spirit. It struggles to be in charge, at least in my own life! Compartmentalizing our life into different sections does not work. Imagine a lamp with sections blacked out—it wouldn’t be very useful, would it? That is how I imagine my life when areas are not submitted to Him and His ways. It hinders His light from shining forth through us. Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. I think uniting our heart is deciding to choose to let Him be Lord of our life in every area.

The wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit, is that He is constantly working to bring us into unity. Every time we feel His conviction, it is His reminder that we need to repent, turn around and go His way. But that often points out areas where we might not trust His way is better than our ways. Proverbs 12:15 says: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel. Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. I see my own faults and shortcomings and it is often challenging and humbling to admit God does too!

The struggle is real, but also the help. As we seek Him, He shows up and gives us the grace, mercy and strength to follow Him. Remember, Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians: and I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Phil 1:6 NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Phil: 2:13 (NLT) We aren’t on our own in this. We make the choice to allow His Lordship to rule in our hearts and He will help us do the rest. It is not easy, but it is doable and so worth it.

Father, I thank you for Your grace, mercy and strength. I thank You for reminding us of Your best interest for us, is our best choice. Teach us how to walk with a unified heart, In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Faith and The Beauty of Looking Up

I look up to the mountains–does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heavens and earth. Psalm 121:1 (NLT)

My help comes from the Lord, but His handiwork sure inspires me! By God’s blessing and direction, I was fortunate to be born in Washington state. I grew up on Whidbey Island, where when the clouds clear, we can look to the west and see the Olympic range, look south and find the majestic Mount Rainier, to my east is the Cascade range with the spectacular Mount Baker to our north. It is an amazing place to learn to “look up”. This week I got the chance to drive through the Cascades over Stevens Pass with the highest elevation of 4,061 feet. The pristine beauty was breathtaking. There is one section on the highway, where you come around a curve and right before you is a peak of stone—rising straight up from the valley, like a carved monolith. With fresh snow enhancing its rocky features, it was so stunning. I wanted to stop and just gaze at its glory, but there was no place to stop. Looking at it made all the concerns I was carrying drift away.

I couldn’t help but lift my eyes to that breathtaking creation of the Lord. Looking at that mountain, I could not help but think of the Creator, and just worship Him. All those mountains that surround Whidbey Island are beautiful reminders of Him, too. But I confess, I don’t always look up and see, comprehend, or just enjoy the gift He has given me. Can that also be the same with our Easter celebrations? Can we get so busy planning, prepping, and serving that we forget to embrace the fullness of its meaning?

As we grow closer to celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter, it is my heart cry that we will not just “be busy” about our Father’s business….but we will see and comprehend with fresh eyes all the glorious aspects of what it took for our salvation to be purchased. Like the Apostle Paul, it is my prayer that the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.(Ephesians 1:17 (ESV).

There is so so much to comprehend, appreciate and understand what Jesus did for us. Ephesians 1:4 declares: Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit made a plan that included you and me. A plan that was/is good. A plan they foreknew would cost a lot. And they still executed that plan.

For me, I so easily forget the price that was paid for my salvation. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can boldly go to Him during our time of trouble. We have a relationship with God, the creator of the universe! It’s almost incomprehensible! I am teaching astronomy to three of my grandchildren. As we study the vastness of space, the variety of the different planets, I am awestruck that He knows me by name! He knows you by name. Help us take some intentional moments to ask Him for a fresh revelation for us this Resurrection celebration season.

Father, I ask that you help us comprehend with fresh eyes the understanding of just how expensive our salvation was. Forgive us for being so nonchalant about it at times. You are worth of all our honor. Teach me how to appreciate You, in an even greater manner. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and the Question: Who is This Man?

The disciples were terrified and amazed, “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” Luke 8:25 (NLT)

One day, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly, the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed, “Who is this man?” they asked each other. Luke 8:22-25 (NLT)

Several thoughts came to my mind as I read this passage. These disciples had been with Jesus for a while. They ate with him, slept alongside him, walked with him, and observed him. They watched him heal the sick, set many free from demons, and listened many times as he taught the people. They chose to leave their old life, because they knew there was something different about him. But somehow, the realization of how serious this storm was and the aftermath of Jesus calming the storm caused them ask this question? “Who is this man?” Jesus revealed a side of Himself, that amazed and terrified his closes friends, and it was revealed openly because of this terrifying storm.

This storm was fierce, even for the experienced sailors. The boat was filling with water and they believed they were in danger of losing their lives. I think it can be the same with us, when we encounter death or life experiences. We can discover in new ways “who this man really is?”

I enjoy watching natural storms from the safety of my home, but walking through life’s storms is another matter. To be honest, I try to avoid them! But, they still happen. Most of the other stories, up to this point in Luke’s gospel are about what Jesus did for others. We find his disciples watching from the outside. This story became real. I think it is the same for us. It is when we feel overwhelmed and maybe even fear for our lives that we can discover more about this man we call our Savior.

When troubles arise, it is often when the relationship is tested. Does doubt, fear and uncertainty rob us of our trust with the Lord when we encounter troubles? Or do we run to Him, trusting He understands, even when we don’t. Often, the lessons we learn come after the storm is over. We can then see His faithfulness in ways that we may have missed during the storm.

As a child, they taught me about my need for a Savior and that Jesus was His name. I believed and received Him into my life when I was nine years old. Then, I began to know Him as a friend and confidant. He became the one I shared my joys, sorrows and dreams with. I was so grateful that I had someone I could tell my disappointments to–and still do, today!

Growing older, there came a time where I was confronted with His Lordship. Was I going to allow Him to become Lord of my life? This challenged me to learn about this “man” in some new ways. Did I trust Him to know what was best for me? Would I allow Him to lead and guide me, even when I didn’t want to walk His path? I learned that He is good, and His ways are good. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and His ways higher than my ways.

It was the biggest storm in my life that helped me learn even more about this “man”. When my husband suffered a heart attack and major stroke, I learned more deeply of His faithfulness, mercy, supply, grace and wisdom. As I turned to Him, even when I was struggling, He was there. Walking as a caregiver for two and half years was not my plan. But it was His, and again it was hard, but worked out for good.

Living life as a widow has not been easy. But, I have learned more about this “man” because of necessity. He truly has become “a husband to this widow”. Dear Ones, if the storms of life are blowing strong in your world, take time to look for Him in the midst. You may feel, like these disciples, that He is asleep and unaware of how dangerous things are, but He is not. His response to them, “Where is your faith?” maybe that is what He is asking of us, as we navigate our storms! (A possible topic of another blog!). But, turn to Him and He will show you a side of Himself that can only come from walking with Him through these storms. Jesus longs to share Himself with us. He is more than a “man”, He is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd and so many more–are there any of these areas you need to learn about Him? Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NLT. Do not let pride and arrogance tell you, Oh, I already know all about Him…I guarantee you don’t!

Father, help us turn to You in our storms. Show us more of You and Your ways. Help us to come to You to learn from You personally. Reveal Yourself in Your Word and show us Your ways, for they are good, even when our troubles are not. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Obstacle Thoughts

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV)

In last weeks blog, Faith and Obstacles, we saw how three women did not let the perceived obstacle, the stone which blocked Jesus’ tomb, stand in their way. Every time we face an obstacle, we must face it with strength and courage, but usually it is the very time we are feeling anything but strong and courageous! I usually want to find another way out! Fear and dread (which usually includes insecurity) raise their ugly heads, but they too are obstacles that can and must be overcome.

I feel God has been prompting me to put these writings into book form. At first, I tried to ignore it. But then, my children and others began urging me to not only consider it, but actually move towards it. But I had to overcome my first obstacle. My mind and its perception of my abilities. How about you? Is the first obstacle you must face also the perception of your own abilities? Or do you remember God and His abilities?

In Deuteronomy chapter 31, we find Moses giving his last instructions to the people of Israel. He was giving them his most precious advice, knowing that they would be entering the Promised Land without him. He knew they would need both strength and courage to face all the changes that were coming. Remember, these people had been wandering the wilderness for forty years. They had the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of cloud by night to lead them. Manna was provided and miraculously their clothing or shoes did not wear out. But now, not only was their leadership about to change, so was their purpose. Change was coming full on, new things were going to become common. I am sure it consumed many with “can we really do this?” Moses’ advice to every Israelite, to help them overcome these thoughts were: “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them.” Why? Because the Lord, their God, had promised to go with them.

It is the same with us. We must remember it is the Lord our God that is going with us. We are not alone. Once we settle in our own hearts and minds that we are not alone in doing our assignment (which means we have access to His strength and His courage), we can proceed! And I am proceeding. My book is with an outside editor. My son is working on a cover and many of the obstacles are being overcome. But the interesting thing is my mind still faces fear, dread and insecurities! Would anyone want to read it? Will it be helpful? I must continually capture these “obstacle thoughts”. I encourage you to do the same with any obstacle thoughts that bombard you. Do not let them distract, derail, or deter you from accomplishing God’s purpose in your life. For me, right now, it is simply a matter of obedience. It is something, He asked me to do, and I am doing it. I trust the outcome to Him. The purpose to Him and His plans.

Father, I thank You for Your promises, that You will never leave nor forsake us. I thank You, that as we capture these obstacle thoughts, we can proceed, knowing You are with us, we can accomplish Your assignments for each of us. In Jesus’ Name. amen.

Faith and Obstacles

On the first day of the week, as the Sabbath was ending, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jacob (James), and Salome made their way to the tomb. Mark 16:1 (TPT)

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome, were close friends of Jesus. Each of them had a very special relationship with Him. These were women who cared deeply for Jesus. They loved Him so much that even after a horrible day of watching Jesus be crucified and tending to all the Sabbath rituals they had to do; they rose up early the next morning to tend to His body. Perhaps while watching his agony, amid their pain and fear, they made a plan to get the spices and lovingly anoint his body; and they followed through.

The tradition and ritual of the day was to wash the body of a deceased person, anoint the body and wrap it along with many spices in linens. There was a very specific manner in which this was done. Each limb was separately wrapped, the hands and feet tied, and then the entire body was encased in another piece of linen. According to the gospel of John, Nicodemus and Joseph brought seventy-five pounds of spices–including aloe and myrrh, to prepare his body for burial. Because they were rushing to get all of this done before sundown, it was all done in a hurry.

It was very early in the morning as the first streaks of light were beginning to be seen in the sky. They had purchased aromatic embalming spices so that they might anoint his body. Mark 16: 2 (TPT) They had a plan. It was good, but there was a problem. A big obstacle. A giant boulder had been rolled in front of the tomb where Nicodemus and Joseph had laid Jesus’s body. These women knew of the stone, but they did not let it stop them. Did they know who or how the stone was going to be removed? No, but they did not let it stop them.

We all face obstacles. These lovely, loving women could have given up and said, “we can’t move the stone, so why bother?” But they persevered. I know there have been times when I have looked at presumed obstacles ahead and it has kept me from even starting a project. What about you?

What a surprise! But when they arrived, they discovered that the very large stone that had sealed the tomb was already rolled away! Mark 16:4 (TPT) How amazed they must have been! When we do what we can do, in faith, it helps set in motion the moving of the obstacles that seem to stand in our way. If we are on God’s path, we must not be afraid of any obstacles that loom before us. Remembering He who knows all, sees all and has prepared our path is in charge of our obstacles. There are three basic ways, in the natural to get past an obstacle. Move it. Go around it. Climb it. For these women, God totally moved the obstacle for them. Their hard work of preparing the spices was not needed. They discovered such a greater miracle that it far surpassed their greatest hopes. Jesus was alive. It is because of that resurrection we can face our obstacles with faith, rather than fear.

My dear friends, many times in our journey with the Lord, as we draw closer to an obstacle, it looms larger and seems even more intimidating, but do not let that deter you. Journey on, seeking His wisdom and His direction in dealing with said obstacle. Use the time to draw nearer to Him. He uses those times in such a special way, if we allow Him to do it. Every obstacle we face is an opportunity to watch our God work on our behalf and lead to even greater testimonies.

Father, I ask You to encourage us today as we face a variety of obstacles. Let us view them as opportunities to seek Your face for Your solutions. Some of us are facing very big obstacles that only You can handle, I ask You to show up for my friends. Show them what to do. Thank You, that we do not need to fear any obstacles, accept them or live under them as we walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Parenting

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth, Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. Psalm 127:3-5 NKJV

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday. She is an amazing woman. I won’t divulge her age, but I was 25 when she was born, and I am now 72~so she is no longer a young girl. Her daughter turned 17 yesterday. As most parents, I wish I could have some do-overs. She has taught me so many things. Children are a gift to be valued, cared for, and stewarded. Difficult, but doable with our gracious Heavenly Father’s help. They also come to change us, teach us and help us learn about ourselves and Him, if we let them.

She taught me. As a young mom, I had to learn so much. Her presence caused me to call upon the Lord and ask for wisdom and grace. I learned humility, as I had to ask for forgiveness for the times I spoke rashly, in anger, or frustration. When I made small things into bigger things than necessary. Watching her grow and develop into this separate, unique individual was a gift. Discovering my own insecurities, inadequacies, and fears was not fun. But it caused me to lean on the Lord even more.

Parents, I want to remind you today, no matter what age or situation you find yourselves in with your children, that it is a trust walk. Learning to walk in balance between strict discipline and permissive “give them anything they ask for” is difficult. About the time you think you’ve got it down, they grow and change. There are so many voices in your head “do this oh no, you should have not done that” etc…that it can fill you with anxiety. But we must trust Him with them and for them.

Parenting is not simply to birth a child, but it means to steward this child that God put into their life. To take responsibility for not only their physical care, but their emotional and spiritual wellbeing. There are many people who seem to think children raise themselves–without the training to become responsible adults, and then are surprised at their weed like outcome!

For example, Rosanna was 21 months old when her sister was born. Trying to juggle two young ones during our church service was not easy. We did not have a nursery. I took her out of service one day, because she was having trouble listening and I said, “you know you don’t act that way in church”. The Holy Spirit whispered to me, “How is she supposed to know? Who taught her?” I guess I assumed she would have figured it out! What an excellent lesson for me. I apologized and then began teaching her. This lesson carried over in so many areas. Teach first before you get upset and discipline! You think it would have been obvious, but I missed it.

My heart goes out to parents of young children today. Be encouraged. God is available to give you the wisdom you need to parent each of your children. We can’t do it alone, and you don’t have to. When in doubt, remember, charity never fails. You can’t go wrong in doing the most loving thing that you know to do. Teach your children respect, but not in harshness. Do not provoke your children to anger and bitterness by your own selfishness and impatience. Teach them by example and then use words. Ask the Lord for His insight and purpose. He loves to share! Pray for them, pray for yourself. Learn to walk in forgiveness for yourself as a parent. Do not give in to discouragement or the pressures of this world, gird yourself with His strength, wisdom and grace.

I am grateful for my dear daughter and her decision to walk with Jesus as an adult. It was our desire and pray that this would happen, but ultimately we had to trust God to work in her heart the will to obey Him. We did our best to model the blessing of obedience and serving Him. Like most people, we did not do it perfectly. Maybe that was a key–to love our perfect God with His grace and mercy, imperfectly.

If I had some do-overs, I would spend more time listening and simply talking together. Utilizing the wisdom of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV). These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Make it a natural part of your life to talk about the things of the Lord. I would relax and enjoy my children. Releasing my faith to trust Him, that He that began a good work in them, would finish it.

Father, I thank You for all the help You gave me in parenting my children to adulthood, I thank You that You are still helping us navigate our relationship as adults. I ask for an outpouring of Your wisdom upon every parent and grandparent that reads this blog on how to appreciate and add value to the gift of each child in their sphere of influence today. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Suffering

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

One week ago, we woke up to the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. A missionary, Karen Zelfimyan and Ukraine Harvest Ministries, my Connecticut church supports in Ukraine. Karen and his family had to evacuate their home because of the bombing of Kiev and went to Moldova. They and their team are helping the refugees by providing food, clothing and spiritual comfort. These are men, women and children whose lives that have been upended through President Putin’s decision. Not only do we have a concern for our Christian brothers and sisters in Ukraine, but also for our brothers and sisters in Russia. I heard a report that they are weeping because of what their leaders’ decision. There are many other Christian missionaries, pastors and leaders in Ukraine who are working for His Kingdom during this time. They need our prayers and support. I believe God is working to bring a greater unity in His body during this time.

I sit here, comfortable in my home. In times past, as an immature believer, I might have simply been thankful it wasn’t me or my family under attack. But today, I know my brothers and sisters in Ukraine are hurting. They aren’t some nebulous “they,” but they are like-minded brethren who accepted Jesus and His salvation, just like me. Using the word “my” brothers and sisters really brings it home.

As of now, (both Ukraine soldiers and civilians and Russian troops) the Ukraine president has recorded over 9,000 deaths. The number varies according to the reporter, but we do know that many have been killed or injured. With every bombing, homes, hospitals, businesses are destroyed. People’s lives forever changed.

Why does this feel or seem different than the other wars that are happening around the world? I don’t know. But it just does. It might be remembering how World War 2 began with a similiar type invasion. Jesus warned us: You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Matthew 24: 6 (NLT) We must first make sure that we do not fall into fear mode. The New Living Translation says “do not panic”, other translations use the word “do not be troubled”. This is on us. It is up to each of us to walk in trust, peace and faith. Releasing our faith, through prayer, for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Russia. Praying for their leaders to make the wisest choice possible.

Build up your faith. Take time to read the amazing stories of intervention by God, for His people in 2 Kings 19:14-19. The first thing King Hezekiah did when confronted by the impending invasion of the Assyrians was run to the temple and pray. That should be our first plan of action. Prayer. We find God’s answer in 2 Kings 19:35-36 (ESV). And that night, the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when the people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria, departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. Do you believe that the God of Hezekiah could/would still intervene in a supernatural way? I do. I believe we will begin to hear stories of God’s salvation and miracles for His people as we pray in faith and believe. Please do not underestimate the power of God to show forth His glory in this situation.

What about your situation today? Are you in some sort of troubling circumstance. Be encouraged. Seek Him. Ask Him to show you the way out, the way through, or if you should simply stand and see His salvation. He is working on our behalf, no matter where we are. Our brethren in Ukraine are suffering. Let’s believe that the Karen Zylfemyan’s of this world were set in place to help spread the gospel during this tough time in their country. God is going to use this for His good and His glory. People who would never turn to Him are going to turn to Him for help and find salvation. We must not be alarmed, panicked or troubled. If Jesus told us there would be wars, then He has a plan to use them.

Let us pray for President Putin. Is his heart hardened like Pharoah’s? Only God knows. Let us pray for President Biden and other world leaders as they respond (not react) to this invasion. Our God is reigning, we must not forget. Look Up, my friends, for our redemption draws nigh. God has placed His people strategically in these places and wants to use their feet on the ground for His purposes. He wants to use us to help strengthen them through prayer and encourage them with our gifts.

Father, I pray for our brethren in Ukraine and Russia. I pray for Your plan to be worked out for good for Your Kingdom’s sake. Bless, strengthen, and encourage those who are in such hard places today. Multiply their supplies. Give them wisdom, grace and mercy. Comfort the hurting. Thank you. We have the privilege of praying for them. I ask that Your power and might intervene on their behalf, now in Jesus’ Name. Show us what to do practically to help them, as well.