What Can We Do?

When disagreement or controversy arises, I am usually a “Hey, I can see it from both sides,” person because A. I detest conflict lol and B. because I honestly can usually see both sides, or at least see valid points from both perspectives.

With this Covid-19 situation, we’ve heard numerous people say things to the effect of, “I don’t know what/who to believe,” and many of us have been forced to make difficult decisions and feel like we are “picking a side,” based on biased sources, differing views, and incomplete data.

What can we do?

1. Ask God for wisdom. There is a verse that flat-out says that we can ask God for wisdom and He will give it to us. Maybe you knew that already, but I finally discovered that verse existed when I was well into my 40’s, and now I sometimes wonder how I got this far in life not knowing it! James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  Wow – If we ask Him, He doesn’t just give us wisdom, He gives it generously!

If we took time to ask God for His wisdom while sifting through the information we are being bombarded with, what might happen? We may feel compelled to research something further, we may decide to reserve judgment on other news, and/or we may feel led to share some information with others. Whatever the case may be, God is willing to give us His wisdom on how to process and deal with it. He is also willing to pour His peace into our lives even in the midst of the conflict and division surrounding these circumstances. This crazy time in our world would be a perfect time to consider taking advantage of Godly wisdom and “beyond-anything-we’ve-ever-felt-before” brand of peace.

2. “And let all that you do be done in love,” 1 Corinthians 16:14.  Sometimes we need reminders that the love this verse is referring to is the Christlike,  sacrificial, genuine love that God created and personifies. It’s deciding if the way we treat others, the words we speak to others, and the tone we post on social media with follows that Christlike kind of love example. Side note: calling people idiots or uneducated or saying that they have no compassion aren’t words that fit in the “Let all that you do be done in love” category.  Friends, all of it….how we present ourselves to the world, and Who we represent to the world…all of it should be done in love. I know we can get through this without questioning people’s hearts and intelligence.

I hope and pray that we can all choose to believe the best about everyone’s motives. And if you see me failing at that, please call me out – in a kind, considerate manner, of course. 😉

Dear Lord, help us to take a deep breath and put forth a genuine effort to see where people with differing views are coming from. Please give us Your wisdom to help us discern truth. Lord, help our actions and our words to be dictated by our relationship with You instead of fear, resentment or negativity. Grant us Your perspective as we navigate through this time and show us how to display Your love to others. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Prayer During a Confusing Time

Lord, thank You for being right beside us as we walk this unknown territory, and remind us that You are also in front of us. We don’t know how this situation is going to pan out, but You do. Help us to focus our minds on what we do know: that You are in control, You love us, and You have a plan. Help us to increase our trust in You as we watch You work through these circumstances as only You can.

Your Word says we can ask You for wisdom and You will give it to us. Please give us Your wisdom as we navigate how to make the best decisions concerning our families, our jobs, and our daily lives. Reveal to us how we can best reflect You in our words and our actions during this trying time. 

Your Word also says that You keep in perfect peace all those who fix their thoughts on You. Lord, please help us focus on who You are – on Your power and Your purpose. Help us obtain clarity as we pursue Your perspective. We ask You to replace our doubts and fears with Your matchless peace.  

We ask in expectancy, knowing You hear our prayers and that You love us more than we can imagine. Lord, increase our trust in You and help us follow You every step of the way.

In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

Perfect Peace

Raise your hand if you would like to experience God’s perfect peace.

Isaiah 26:3 tells us that God gives perfect peace to those who “keep their purpose firm,” and “put their trust in Him.” In addition to perfect, the Bible also describes His peace as transcending all understanding in Philippians 4:7.

God’s peace sounds like something worth pursuing, doesn’t it? Continue reading “Perfect Peace”

When Expectations in Marriage Take Over

This is an “In case you missed it” post that I would like to share with you. Last month, I had the honor of being a guest contributor on AWifeLikeMe.com where it originally appeared: Link to original post     (***I would love hearing your feedback on this…this was a tough topic to share about.)

 

When I was twenty, the future I dreamed of included a loving husband and four kids. By the time I was twenty-nine, my husband and I excitedly welcomed our fourth child into our home, and we were living that dream life.

 

However, in my early thirties, my feelings and my reality were not in sync. Looking back, I can safely say I was in the midst of a mild depression. The blessings in my life were somehow not enough, and I felt something was missing. I began to look for and expect that missing piece to be found in my husband.

 

One memorable morning, my husband and I sat on the edge of our bed. Tears streamed down my face as I once again expressed that I was struggling with nearly constant sadness. I will never forget the defeated look in his eyes.

 

Numerous times before that day, he had lovingly pointed out the positives, embraced me, and prayed both for me and with me. But on this particular day,  when my tear-filled eyes locked with his, I realized he was weary and out of ideas about how to satisfy an unfair expectation I had unintentionally placed on his shoulders. Somewhere along the way, I had started looking to my husband to be the solution to my feelings of emptiness.

 

Confiding in my husband about my lack of joy was part of the covenant of marriage, but looking to him to be the solution was not contained in the vows we made to each other back in 1992.

 

Like the line from the movie, “Jerry Maguire,” I was looking to my husband to complete me. In this famous scene, when Tom Cruise’s character declares to Renee Zellweger’s character that she completes him, many viewers see it as the ultimate romantic gesture.

 

But in real life, it is an extraordinary amount of pressure to thrust upon anyone; especially someone we deeply, dearly love. Not only this, it is unfair to ask a person to be for us what God can only be. But here I was, seeking to find in my husband a fix for my empty.

 

I wish I would’ve known that as a wife, looking to my husband for my source of purpose, joy, or identity would only bring disappointment and frustration. And in my case, a low-level depression.

 

Friends, we have a promise-keeping God, and one of His promises is that we can indeed possess complete joy.  God’s Word assures us that our journey to complete joy starts by remaining in an obedient, loving relationship with Jesus.

 

John 15:9-11 (NIV) says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

 

God goes above and beyond, because a different version of the bible (the NLT) reads, “our joy will overflow.”

 

Let us never burden our husbands with the impossible task of completing us. How wonderful it is that God truly wants us to look to Him to do that. Let us rejoice that He is willing to fill us to overflowing!

 

This truth is freeing and life-giving. God has what your heart longs for. Turn to Him, and see your heart come alive.

 

A note for anyone struggling with depression: the church has historically not been an advocate for mental health. We do not want you to read this and think there must be something wrong with you, because you are looking to God for joy, but still not experiencing it. Please know that sometimes, like in my case, my feelings (of low-level depression) were due to my misplaced source of joy. But for you, it may be due to a chemical or hormonal imbalance, or due to a traumatic brain injury, which may possibly require medication. If you believe you may be suffering from depression, we encourage you to seek the care of a professional to help you seek the Lord in navigating your own unique journey of healing.

 

Wife Step: Spend five minutes alone with God, sharing your heart with Him. Tell Him how you desire new joy in your heart and in your life. Bare your soul to Him and tell God how you’re struggling with your expectations of your husband. He wants to hear, and He wants to fill you with His presence and joy.

 

Waiting Well

Tuesday morning, my prayer ended with me crying out, “God, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to start praying for a different result? Am I supposed to ask You to give me a new plea, a new prayer, a new passion? Or am I just supposed to continue to wait?” His answer was a deafening silence.  

Now God does not answer me audibly, so silence is not new. When I hear from God, it is a new thought, a new impression upon my spirit, a new sense of direction; accompanied by peace. Those responses are how I have always known that God answered my questions. So when none of the above happened after my heartfelt, hollered, hopeless, “What am I supposed to do…?” inquiry, it hit me like a ton of bricks: If I am not sensing the Holy Spirit’s prodding to pray in a new direction, then I am to keep praying and continue waiting. 

I know how to keep praying; I have done that many a time. I have frequently assumed God thought I was similar to the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. Jesus’ disciples urged Him to send her away when they became annoyed with her repeated requests.  But I am always encouraged that the story ends with Jesus blessing her because of her faith. 

I wrestle with the waiting. Although I am pretty good at impatient, irritated waiting, waiting well with an uncomplaining, unfazed, unwavering spirit is not a talent of mine.

Waiting well takes a conscious and intentional effort. Psalm 31:24 (ESV) says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” Maybe part of the courage He expects from me is in returning to Him over and over with the same prayer and believing that He is not getting sick of me or my request. Maybe the other part of that courage is believing that His silence is not avoidance and boldly believing He is working in unseen ways. 

On Tuesday, I chose to wait well. By Wednesday, I experienced some moments of not waiting well. And on Thursday, I felt led to start my day in front of my computer writing about what I had been contemplating. 

I asked God to speak to me about what waiting well truly means. At that very moment, my eyes directly went to a “Verse of the Day” email in my inbox. I opened it, and it happened to be Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

My first thought was, “Wow, God, thank You for an unbelievable direct answer to my prayer!” My second thought was, “Wow, God, if only You could answer this other prayer so quickly and directly.” My third thought was, “It is up to You, isn’t it? I’ll continue working on this blog post and learning how to wait well, and You continue being God. Thank You for showing me that verse when I needed it and teaching me how to wait well.” Between you and me, I spent entirely too much time dwelling on my second thought.

Apparently, God still has some work to do in my heart. Thankfully, doing great works in our hearts is one of His areas of expertise. 

As I continue to wait for God’s response, God will continue to work in my heart, and I will continue to have a choice on how to wait. Waiting well may take more discipline than waiting with impatience, but it will always afford more opportunities to watch our powerful God work in ways that only He can. 

 

I Thought I Heard God’s Voice

I heard God’s voice. Loud and clear.

I had been praying unceasingly for a breakthrough in a difficult situation, yet I had such an unsettled feeling about how it was going to turn out – until that day. God replaced my tension with His peace. I heard God voice the reply I had been waiting for: “I’ll come through.”

As time moved on, I continued to tell myself, “There is still time for God to come through; I know I heard Him correctly.” However, time kept moving, and then time ran out. The breakthrough I had fervently prayed for did not come to pass.

Then doubt crept in. Did God really say what I thought He said? Was it my imagination? Was it wishful thinking? Perhaps Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known,” was meant for someone else. Maybe it was meant for EVERYBODY else. Except for me.

Then the questions started. “God, did You forget what You told me? Did You forget about this situation? Did You forget about me?”

I got frustrated that God did not do what I expected Him to do. I considered giving Him the silent treatment, at least temporarily. Then I had guilt about being frustrated with God and also about avoiding Him.  

While I tried to sort through those confused feelings, I came to the realization that I DID hear God’s promise correctly. However, I filled in the blanks as to how He was going to accomplish it. When He did not do it the way I supposed He was going to, I doubted He was going to do it at all. 

I had happily accepted His assurance, but I had assumed His approach.

If we compiled a list of adjectives to describe God, the words predictable and conventional would not make the cut. Our unpredictable God frequently employs unconventional methods. 

When God grants us His unmatched “calm down, I will come through,” peace in relation to a promise He has made, our jobs are to 1. accept the peace, and 2. allow Him to choose how and when He will bring the promise to completion. What a blessing to know He is a promise-keeping God who always comes through.

Prayer: Lord, help me hear Your voice and trust Your ways. Help me feel Your Presence as I wait in confidence and expectation. Amen.

My sheep recognize my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (TLB)

Does God Care About Our Happiness?

Our temporary circumstances frequently seem to dictate the level of our happiness, but trust in an everlasting, eternal, and enduring God brings genuine joy.

Friends, this is my July contribution to devotableapp.com, a website I write for monthly. Check them out on their website, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter for daily inspiration!

A quick internet search on, “Does God care about our happiness?” displays titles of blog posts and articles that provide positive, negative, and “somewhere-in-the-middle” answers to that question. Some declare that God definitely wants us to be happy. Some assert that our happiness is likely not on His list of top concerns. And others make the case that He absolutely does not care if we are happy or not. 

Personally, I am going with the “somewhere-in-the-middle” answer.

Am I saying God does not want us to be happy? Not exactly. Don’t get me wrong. God cares deeply about each one of us, and Zephaniah 3:17 says He takes great delight in us. I certainly do not think He wants us to be unhappy!

I AM saying that in general, we have become a society that places our happiness (which is a feeling that wavers and waffles) as way too high of a priority. Statements such as, “I’m just not happy anymore,” “You no longer make me happy,” and “I just can’t remember what it feels like to be happy,” often precede unhealthy, self-centered thought patterns which can result in selfish, destructive decisions. It is not our spouse’s, kid’s, co-worker’s, friend’s OR God’s responsibility to make us happy or to keep us in a happy state. That is an unfair amount of misplaced pressure to put on anybody! 

I AM saying that joy and happiness are not the exact same thing. It makes me happy when I wake up to sunshine, breakfast in bed, or an encouraging message. My happiness may be affected if I wake up to dark skies, complaints, or a sharply-worded email, but I have a choice about whether or not I remain joyful in the midst of it all. Our temporary circumstances frequently seem to dictate the level of our happiness, but trust in an everlasting, eternal, and enduring God brings genuine joy.

I AM saying, “Friends, let’s be aware of what we are truly seeking!” If we seek happiness, our fickle feelings will prevent us from reaching the point we are striving toward. But knowing God is in control, and that He is willing to walk with us through anything we face brings a joy we can depend on to be an anchor in our life throughout all situations, even disappointment or disaster.

Enough about what I am saying…what does the Bible say? In God’s Word, it tells us that being in His presence and remaining in His love produces joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” And John 15:10-11 says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

If we change our internet search and our focus to instead wondering what God truly does care about, we will find His concern is not whether or not we feel happy, but rather that we are seeking joy in His presence. That is definitely a joy worth searching for. 

Home Sweet Home

Years ago, whether our family was arriving home after a week-long vacation or a day-long excursion, our kids could accurately predict that the words out of my mouth as our car pulled into the garage would be, “Home sweet home.”

I have always loved going away. However, when it was time for a family trip to end, an undeniable joy would grow inside of me as our car neared our house. As much as I love family time in exciting locations, and even though these trips provide treasured memories to reminisce about, the truth is, I love being home even more. I feel comfortable, content, and cozy. I feel “at home.”

My husband and I have four children and two daughters-in-law, and all six of them are in varying stages of their college or career pursuits, which means “coming home” has an entirely new meaning these days. 

When our adult children come to our house to stay for a day or two, they open the refrigerator for refreshments and are aware that they are more than welcome to use any household items. It feels natural to them as they “make themselves at home,” and I would not have it any other way.

John 14:23 says, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  Ephesians 2:22 says, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Clearly, God’s Word reminds us that we are to be a dwelling place for our Lord – that He is eager to make His home in us with His Spirit. 

What an unbelievable blessing that Jesus chooses to abide in us and take up residence in our lives. Regardless of the fact that we are unworthy of such a gift, He sincerely desires that our hearts will be His home. Friends, our Lord longs to “make Himself at home,” in us!

What are some ways that our hearts can be a more welcoming place for Him? Are we striving to live our lives in such a way that it will feel natural for Him to dwell in our hearts, as He opens our eyes to His plan for us and uses us for His glory?

As we boldly love Him and bravely live for Him, let our prayer be that we will be a “home sweet home” for Jesus Christ! 

Purposely Falling On Your Face

IMG_EB8A45BD7AEF-1When you are in the midst of a trial, do you ever purposely fall on your face?

Although it may sound crazy, I recommend it. Allow me to explain.

Sometimes breathing a quick prayer of, “Lord, please help,” is all we seemingly have time for when we are facing problems. As we go about our everyday lives, short, to-the-point prayers are occasionally all we can manage. He certainly hears those kinds of prayers.

But how about making time for frequent fall-on-our-face type of prayers?

Would you agree that we are living in a world that has forgotten the awe with which God deserves to be revered? Making time to come into God’s presence in a literal or figurative flat-on-our-face, prostrate posture reminds us how amazing He is and who we are in comparison to Him. It reminds us that our prayer is being heard by the One who is not only in control of the situation, but also cares about the situation and the people involved to a degree that nobody else is capable of.

When we pour out our heart’s cry and also take the time to listen to what God is telling us, it is an exquisite exchange, and eventually we will come to the point of being enfolded in His perfect peace.

That peace is described in different Bible versions as “surpassing, transcending, and exceeding” all understanding. Stop and think about that for a moment. It is an overwhelming blessing that assures us that God is in complete control of the very situation that is causing us to feel powerless.

That peace does not necessarily mean that He is going to answer our prayer exactly as we hope. It can sometimes be a peace that prepares us for the possibility of Him answering it in a different manner than we prayed for. A peace that says, “I’ve got this, Child. I’ve got you, Child.”

I will not forget the times God has granted me that gift of peace. Two times stick out above numerous others. Once, before the answer to my prayer came, I had seemingly cried every tear I was capable of crying as I prayed in desperation. And then suddenly in an extremely memorable moment, which can only be explained by the Holy Spirit completely doing an overhaul of my emotional and mental state, I came to a point of indescribable peace that even if the worst possible outcome occurred, He was going to keep His promise to never forsake me. I had absolute assurance that He was going to walk me through it. When all was said and done, He answered my prayer in the way I hoped, but He also taught me that there is no circumstance that I will ever have to face without His loving arms embracing me. Regarding the other situation…you guessed it, the worst-case scenario did happen. What I was praying against, because I did not know how I would ever, ever handle it or ever, ever get through it – it happened. And here I am on the other side of it, stronger in faith and hopefully character as well. God helped me handle it and get through it, just like He said He would. Were there moments of pain and sadness? Definitely. Was God carrying me through it with His tremendous peace? Definitely. He is a promise-keeper.

My hope is that when you face your next trial, you will fall down on your face, pray until you reach the point of His powerful, perfect peace, and then rise up prepared and primed for any possibility, knowing you will withstand it, because God will stand with you.

Lord, thank You for Your matchless peace.

 

Reminders

Sunday morning, I woke up to some dark clouds in the sky, and it was a perfect visual to match my emotional state. Discouragement and doubt clouded my mind right off the bat.
The night before had been filled with love and laughter as my immediate family gathered in our home. Times of togetherness are becoming fewer and farther in-between now that our kids are moving out of the house and on with their independent lives. That evening I went to bed with a full and thankful heart after my husband served up a deliciously grilled supper and we all visited for several hours.
However, the next morning it was as if I had no recollection of the night before. Nagging challenges advanced to the forefront of my mind even before I fully opened my eyes. I dreaded going to church where I was scheduled to be the song leader, because leading a congregation in upbeat songs of praise while feeling down seemed to be a difficult task.
Most mornings, (not all, and I am working on that) I make the effort to have Scripture be the first words I read, before emails or social media. On Sunday, when I opened the Bible app on my iPhone, the first verse to appear was Ephesians 3:20:  “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
I especially appreciate the way the Message version says, “God can do anything, you know…” Why yes, I DO know that. Sometimes, I forget or act as if I don’t know He is bigger than the difficult situations I am facing. Yes, I DO know He can do anything. I just happen to be in need of reminders sometimes.
Was it a coincidence that those words appeared on my phone screen that morning ? Nope. I am convinced that God does not deal in coincidences!  I believe He designed that moment so that those two sentences from His Word would be the first thing I read that morning. He knows exactly what we need, and He knows precisely when we need it.
God sees us when we are hurting. In the midst of our hurt, I believe He wants US to see HIM instead of our hurt. He wants our focus to be the God who “can do anything.” He wants us to focus on the Problem-Solver instead of the problems. To focus on the Burden-Carrier instead of the burdens.
I did lead music in church on Sunday, and I told the congregation about the beginning of my day. A few people thanked me for the reminder that our God knows what we need when we need it. Aren’t you glad we serve a God who orchestrates our days so that those divine reminders come at just the right time? Me too.FullSizeRender