Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Our Provider Never Fails

Sorting through computer files this morning, I unearthed a blog from last year that I never finished. It immediately took me back in time with the opening paragraph:

My life has changed this past year. Inspirational writing and prison ministry involvement have taken a back seat to being home for my husband. As with any stage 4 terminal diagnosis, it immediately becomes a very surreal journey. Every morning the brevity of this life smacks you in the face, as does the fragility of our bodies. Throughout each day there are new struggles; including emotional battles to overcome as you reflect on who this person used to be and prepare yourself for even more declines to come. It’s a delicate dance to be a step ahead of the inevitable changes in them, to assist physically as well as mentally; and remain encouraging throughout. They (understandably) long to keep as much independence as possible, for as long as possible. Staying focused on their care makes it easy to forget that you need to keep yourself strong and healthy, not knowing how long this final chapter together will be....
My husband would live 2 ½ more months after that writing. One of my constant prayers during his illness was that I would be strong enough to care for him until the end, and that neither one of us would get sick, not even a cold. Lots of faithful prayer warriors prayed the same and God honored our prayers. I can look back now with a very grateful heart. Every concern that we took to the Lord, He heard and answered.

During that season of caregiving my husband was repeatedly concerned about who would take care of me in my future time of need. I always responded with the truth, “I’m not worried about it. God will provide.” (Gen. 22:8)

And now one year later, I have been in need many, many times. Most of the needs have been small, but a few have been biggies. And guess what? God was with me for each and every one! From great friends who took care of my dogs when I needed to be away, to caring neighbors who mowed my grass, to loving family who cared for me, to good friends from church who installed some security measures and brought homemade soups when I was sick; time and time again each need has been met. And when moments of loneliness or waves of grief came, the God of all comfort was there.

Our Lord is faithful. He is a husband to the widow, and a trusted friend to all of His children.
 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. (1 Timothy 5:5)

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Underdog Lie

We've all experienced it. Maybe you were one of the last picked for gym class, or one of the few not invited to a birthday party. Those childhood hurts of being left out or unwanted can often stick with us into adulthood. If not dealt with properly, feelings of unworthiness can lead us down destructive paths in life. If we allow ourselves to listen to the lies of the enemy, our choices in life will reflect that.

I've seen it time and time again in prison ministry. Children are raised to believe they don't matter, or that they are losers, and they turn to substance abuse to numb the pain. They have an underdog mentality and fully believe they will never amount to anything. But... there is good news.
Jesus came to earth to rescue all underdogs. Each one of us, especially those who feel forgotten, is not forgotten by Him...He came to earth for every single person. No one is too far gone for His love and forgiveness. None of us is without sin or without the need of His grace in our life. And no one has out-sinned the love and grace of our heavenly Father. (Last para. excerpted from The Christmas Underdogs.)
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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sunrise and Sunset

I was flipping the page on my calendar this morning to September, when I paused to “say goodbye” to the beautiful August photo; a stately lighthouse perched on the edge of a rocky shore flanked by a gorgeous sunset. The scripture attached was, “The Lord hath done great things for us.”(Psalm 126:3)

Staring at the beauty of the parting rays of sunlight, I asked myself how I knew the photo was of a sunset and not a sunrise. What is the difference between the two?

As I contemplated this, I mused that a sunrise is brighter and a sunset more soft. A sunrise is usually concentrated in one area, and a sunset is often spread more across the horizon. Sunrises are typically stark yellow, while sunsets can run the gamut of a color palette.

To me it’s as if the Lord is communicating:  Sunrise! Look up! Let the Son rise in your heart! Give Him praise! Roll up your sleeves and embrace the day!

Sunsets, on the other hand, speak:  Let our hearts fill with humble gratitude as we give thanks for the gift of this day; the myriad colors representing the many blessings we received both great and small. Its breathtaking beauty should cause us to lift our hands to the heavens and praise Him.

As I reflect on August and the short but powerful verse attached, I agree: the Lord has done great things for us. Even in the daily take-it-for-granted happenings of each day (such as promising sunrises and reflective sunsets), if we pause and remember the small stuff, we can see that yes, God HAS done great things for us. He has given us the gift of another day of life, love, and laughter. Did we live it fully? Did we give praise and thanks to God for His many gifts?

As we turn the page of the calendar, let us not forget the giver of the gifts – for He alone is worthy.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

First Things First

I cherish arising early while darkness still covers my little area of the country. The house is serenely quiet, enabling me to spend focused time with the Lord. As my nostrils fill with the heady aroma of freshly made coffee and I gather my study items at the kitchen table, I often say a quick prayer for discernment and understanding.

Most mornings I read several daily devotionals along with a chapter in the Bible. I look up the referenced Bible verses from the devotionals, including the verses before and after, to better understand the context of the message. Sometimes this simple act takes me on amazing rabbit trails where God graciously speaks to me concerning a current trial in my life. I love being reminded that, “He’s got this,” as the Lord lifts the burden I’ve mistakenly placed on myself. I give thanks that He is still on the throne – still in control. Spending this time alone with the Lord and putting on my spiritual armor (especially necessary in these challenging times we live in) helps keep me at peace.

But I have to admit; sometimes staying focused each morning is a struggle. Sitting still and keeping my mind from wandering can be challenging—I have to continually rein it in. Otherwise, it can be impossible to discern His still small voice. Before reading my first devotional, “to-do” lists a mile long can easily be scribbled down. And it doesn’t help that I’m considered to be a “senior” by many standards. My aging brain knows if I don’t capture thoughts as they enter in, forget it. They are history.

This mental struggle used to create frustration and conflict. And then I had a lightbulb moment. I actually...prayed about it. (Yeah, heavy, I know.) Sometimes the simplest answer is literally staring you right in the face.

And God’s response to that prayer? For me to compromise just a little. By keeping a small tablet barely within reach I can quickly jot down the list of to-do items as they crowd in, but I keep my Bible and journal directly in front of me to capture “God thoughts” or “divine messages.” For me this system works. I’m able to keep the main thing the main thing, retaining my priority of staying focused on the Lord.

God created our amazing mind and He wants us to use it wisely. He also created us as spirit beings. He longs to fellowship with us throughout the day. We can do both, and have peace amidst the storm, as long as we remember to put Him first.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

God Moments

While sitting at the hairdressers this week and waiting for my turn, I picked up a  magazine to thumb through. Just then, I overheard the customer ahead of me say to my hairdresser that her husband was involved in prison ministry. She lamented on how few of the inmates receive visits or correspondence from anyone, including from their own family members.

"I was shocked!" She exclaimed. "I can't imagine being stuck in prison, but to not hear anything from the outside world would be an added layer of devastation."

When my hairdresser went to the back room to get a product, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to the customer and share that I, too, was involved in prison ministry. I commended her husband for reaching out to those behind bars and shared how strong the need was for volunteers to visit and write. I then suggested she and her husband might be interested in reading "Stories of Faith and Courage from Prison."

After sharing with her a little about my background in prison ministry and in writing, I told her I co-wrote the 365 day devotional book with a guy who worked for Prison Fellowship Int'l.

"There is a list of prison ministries in the back of the book, too," I added. "You and your husband might find those useful, along with reading true stories from the perspective of the inmates, volunteers, prison chaplains, wardens, family members, and others."

The customer was thrilled and asked if I had any copies. I keep a few of each of my books in the car, just for "God moments" like this. I love the way our amazing Lord connects us with total strangers who have like-minded hearts.

Later that day I reflected on meeting that woman. Hmmm...I usually don't arrive 10 minutes early for my hair appointment; two minutes maybe, but ten minutes, no. And, I am usually engrossed in what I'm reading and don't pay attention to the chit-chat around me...I was just about to open that magazine at the hair dressers and start reading....

Then suddenly, I recalled my quiet time from earlier in the morning.
"Help me to see You at work around me," I had prayed. "I don't want to miss an opportunity to be a blessing to others."

I don't always remember to pray for ministry moments, but after that brief encounter this week, I've been pumped up to stay alert to the mysterious ways our God works around us. How many times have I missed being a blessing to someone by being wrapped up in my own world?

Lord, give me eyes to see who I can help today.

"I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing to others.” (Genesis 12:2 NLT)

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