The Possibility of Blessing

Do you remember being in your school’s cafeteria as a child? I remember being in 2nd grade and standing in line outside of the cafeteria as I would wait my turn in line for lunch. My parents would send me with four quarters which would buy my meal as a child in the late 1970s. I would squeeze my oval shaped, thick but bendable plastic pouch as I waited in line to be sure that the quarters hadn’t escaped. The shiny coins would always look back at me through the opening in the pouch. I knew that if I would eat lunch, I would have to have the right amount of money to give the cashier. Being able to eat lunch and pay was the first experience I remember having where I paid because normally, at age 7, my parents always would pay at a store.

These days, as a teacher, I am sometimes summoned to monitor the cafeteria as students arrive in the morning and eat breakfast. We are fortunate to have universal free breakfast now. I am grateful that anyone can come to eat breakfast without having to remember their coins. Someone funded the breakfasts for kids. It helps start their day on a positive note with tummies full of muffins, milk and juice.

This morning, a six year old needed help opening her bag of cranberries. One Kindergartener had managed to poke an opening in his foil covered orange juice lid and was placing his spoon in the juice to get some out. He didn’t realize that he could have poked his straw through the foil lid and been able to drink it through the straw. Instead, he continued to dip his spoon in the crooked place to get out just a little juice.

When I saw the child trying to get into his juice cup in an inefficient way, I wanted to help so I asked him if I could show him how to place the straw in the juice. He loved being able to not have to spoon it out but instead drink it out! The little boy enjoyed getting to drink his juice to wash down his food instead of sipping it out of a spoon.

I feel that many times I’ve sat at the table, grateful for what had been provided for me, but unable to enjoy the meal. Kind of like the little boy who had fumbled with the orange juice lid, I have tried to enjoy my blessings, but somehow, something wasn’t just right. Instead of directly accessing my blessings, I haven’t always known how to get into them. I have watched as others enjoyed their lives and blessings, but have realized that I too need to be aware of how to best access the blessings given to me by God. I need a direct way into my blessings.

I want to try to enjoy my many blessings directly so it is important to remember that I am in charge of my response and my attitude.

I am an ambassador of Christ.

I have the Holy Spirit of God living in me. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills where my help comes from. My help comes from the Lord.

God reaches down and gently supports us as we try to enjoy the blessings that He has provided.

I hope that you will look to Him and ask Him, like I will, to help me directly enjoy all of the relationships and gifts that He has provided. Sometimes we can just go about it the wrong way like the little orange juice opener child. God will open new possibilities and cause me to grow, enjoy and be fully aware of my blessings.

God gives us special blessings like the coins in my lunch money pouch; ones that will provide blessings for us and for others. My friend, I pray that you will also find ways to bless others and enjoy the blessings that have been provided for you.

Captured, Changed and Choreographed

Pumpkins and pansies freshly placed on my porch and in my flower bed transform my view of my house. The flaming orange and yellow dots of color falling from our maple tree are forming a patchwork quilt in my yard with contrasting scarlet leaves. I feel surprised each time I drive up and see the way my home has been transformed with the look of fall.

The season of fall in the South is really a time to just notice and note the world. Squirrels scurry through the yard gathering their final nuts for winter. The cooler breeze dances with the falling leaves. Sunshine illuminates the remaining green leaves on our pin oak tree in the backyard. Maple leaves stick to the driveway after a night of rain.

As if they are waving goodbye, the leaves cling to the tree limbs as they move to and fro. Their final moments of glory are happening. This is it. They have captured carbon dioxide, changed it into oxygen and now choreograph their final dance to the ground. This Autumn Change has begun and will continue until this fall season concludes when winter begins. My view in my yard will soon be a memory due to the change that will happen in the fall foliage; change comes, the leaves fall but not before their radiant red, orange and yellow hues fill the yard ushering in a new season.

While reading about the events that took place in the life of Paul in Acts, I’ve noticed that there are brilliant descriptions of change. The way that Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus has always startled me. Paul was persecuting those who followed Jesus. He thought he was right. He needed an awakening so Jesus sent a light from heaven which blinded Paul and allowed him to have an encounter like never before with the very one that he had despised. He changed and saw Jesus as The Way.

Later on in his life after his conversion, we read of how even the cloths that touched Paul were used to heal people. Over and over, I read about Paul sharing about The Way as he traveled and endured many false accusations. God changed Paul and Paul changed the world.

After his conversion, he left Jerusalem and visited many geographical locations. He later would travel back to Jerusalem then back to Cilicia and Rome. His location changed a lot during his life but at each city he visited, He had listened to the leading of God as to where to even go and when to move on. Change in location and life circumstance became Paul’s norm.

Like the leaves, Paul captured the waste in the air; the nasty accusations, the plotting against him and the news that even the leaders weren’t fully supportive. In every case, he accepted the change and planned his next move after praying about it.

I am amazed that Paul produced tremendous texts that to this day still contain truth even though he was under duress while undergoing continual change. God used him to write, to encourage, to correct, to clarify and to compel others to be a part of The Way. God choreographed the events in Paul’s life to rescue him from total destruction and revive him out of uncertain and unsettling moments.

We learn so much from our brother Paul: he didn’t fight the change but accepted it and kept becoming an even better version of himself. In the Spring, the leaves will bud again and come forth as new green life. It will take time for us to see seasons, but Paul just kept having new seasons and rolled with it. He, like the leaves on our trees, captured the poison from the mouths of his enemies, changed the atrocities directed at him like the leaves change the carbon dioxide into oxygen and choreographed new positions geographically, like the leaves travel to new locations, to handle the enemies.

Listen in below on just a few events from Acts 22 about how Paul handled change. These events play out like a motion picture full of intrigue and excitement which inspire me to capture the change moments in life and choreograph my next steps and words very carefully. The Holy Spirit provided the necessary wisdom to help Paul in his states of change. In our lives, the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom to handle our change moments and to guide our next steps.

As you read this passage from the Bible describing Paul’s life, look for moments of change and how he handled each one with the help of the Holy Spirit. I pray that you will sense how God helped Paul and will also help us as we encounter change.

Acts 22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.

25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Decided

Exodus 36:7 “…what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.”

Giving thanks in a season of Thanksgiving may or may not come easy. He has sustained us, provided and deserves to be given all of our thanks and praise.  Even while we wait on God to answer our prayers, I am deciding to keep on thanking and praising Him for all that He has done in the past and all that He will do in the future.

I give God my praise, my thanks, my concerns, my heartbreak, my stress, my disappointments, my victories and my what ifs.  He has shown His unfailing love to me so it is my desire to speak and write thanks to God.

In our current season of applying to universities and waiting, I am learning to give Him my praise and thanks and to expect Him to open the right doors of opportunities for my child. He has a grand plan for each step that she will take on a college campus and on the major for which He has designed her. I am trusting Him to take what my husband and I have brought to Him, our dedication of our child to Him, our thanks for the miracle of life and praise for His Provision and Character, and to build the future for my child that only He can design.

The Bible gives us a visual on how God works regarding what people gave to Him.  Consider how God provided for His multi-million dollar Sanctuary dream in Exodus.  He arranged the details of materials and gifted people in the building of the Sanctuary.  After Moses spent sacred time with the LORD on Mount Sinai, he assembled the Israelite community and shared the materials/needs list with them which would be needed to create the Sanctuary in Exodus 35: 5-9.  

God told them what was needed and commanded those who were willing to bring the materials so that work could begin on the Sanctuary.  The people whose hearts were stirred and willing brought what they had as an offering to the LORD.  They willingly brought the materials so that they could build a Holy Place in which His Presence would dwell. He already knew how his Holy Place would look so these materials would be used specifically.  In addition, he had given skills to tradespeople who would use the materials to build the sanctuary to the exact specifications.  

Eventually, the workers told Moses that what they had was more than enough to do all of the work. God’s pattern was to provide so that His Presence would be welcomed and potential outcomes became possible.  

When I see how God supplied the need to build a Sanctuary for His Presence to dwell, I notice God’s pattern and provision in planning.  If he provided more than enough back then, I am confident that he will keep providing today for us.  As a Believer in Christ, we are the Temple of the living God so he cares about how our lives are planned and how provision is implemented.

In the building of the Sanctuary, it was the people’s obedience that paved the way for the work that lay ahead.  In our lives, as we bring our will and resources to Him, He sees the building blocks to craft his dream for us and our children.  Obedience opens our Father’s opportunity preparing us for His Best Plan!

Those who were willing decided to bring what they had and it made all the difference in accomplishing the purpose of God.  He wants us to also bring what we have to Him because it really matters. He wants our heartbreak, the gut wrenching groans, the tear stained face.  He knows that as we give what we have, even giving our brokenness to Him, He takes it and uses it in the journey toward healing. It matters what we share with God.  He will provide a sense of help, wholeness and restoration when we have welcomed Him and given Him our truth.  

I may not feel that I have a lot to give, but I choose to give Him my thanks for all that He has done in my life. Make no mistake, I need to thank and praise Him so much more, but know that when I have stopped to give Him what I have, even if it was my thanks on hard days, I have experienced His presence and witnessed His building of my spirit when it was torn down.  

I can trust God to move mightily and provide more than enough to see me through difficult moments.  The people in Exodus couldn’t see the finished Sanctuary when they were bringing their supplies to the builders, but they had faith in the ones who could bring a dream to a reality.  I also have full faith in God to take my thanks and build His vision for my future and for the future of my family.

What will you decide to give to God in this season? All I know is that when you make the decision to bring and offer what you have, He takes care of building His vision for your life. Make no mistake, the God who used what the people brought to Him in Exodus, is the same God who is using what people today offer back to Him. He is our Provision, our Protector and our Peace Maker.

My Prayer Today:

Father,

I praise you for your unfailing love. Your gift on the cross has redeemed my life and given a lifetime of grace. I appreciate you and honor you with my life and words.

I love that you show us stories of how you acted mightily on the behalf of your people throughout the Bible. Your pattern is to provide so that your Presence will be welcomed. Potential outcomes become possible because of your plan. Lord Jesus, I offer up praise and thanks as a mom who wants your Holy Spirit to walk with my children every day of their lives and to open the right doors for them.

I will admit, the waiting on the college acceptance letters and wondering how it will be paid for is consuming my thoughts. Please, Lord Jesus, allow your peace to stand at guard around our hearts and minds as we wait on you. We have dedicated our child back to you and honored you by teaching her your Word both at home, in the car and at church. I know that you are working and helping her see that the next year will be a new beginning as she begins college. Please help her to make the best choice and provide for every single need that we will have. You make streams in the desert. I know you are a good God, giving good gifts to your children. I just ask now that in the strong and mighty name of Jesus, you will guide us into all truth and provide for her as you unfold your perfect plan.

We don’t deserve it, but still you are so good to us. I thank you and praise you for the way you provided in the building of your Sanctuary. Many people used their talents to build it and others brought what they had so it could be built. We are giving you what we have, our praise, our thanks and our requests, so you can open the doors into the future for our child. We welcome your Presence so that potential outcomes can be revealed in your timing.

And, Father. Help this Momma’s heart. As we’ve visited Universities in the past year, my heart leaps for joy over the college life that awaits our child while also making me feel a bit uneasy. Help me to not be upset or anxious. I give those kinds of thoughts to you now. I praise you and thank you for helping us as parents and for helping our child. Now, please stand at guard around our hearts and mind so that your peace that transcends all understanding will protect us.

It is in the strong and mighty name of Jesus that I pray.


Guarded

While sitting in church during a Monday night prayer meeting, I noticed an old friend a few rows up from me. As I remembered how we had met years before, my mind flooded with memories of when I faced sadness and disappointment.

This person had been my Christian counselor who listened to me and prayed for me. The wise counsel given by this God appointed counselor to me helped me realize that I could get through anything knowing that God was with me right then, guarding my heart. At the end of each and every counseling session, he would pray for me and end the prayer with these words: “In the strong and mighty name of Jesus.” As I sat in church on that Monday night, my eyes filled with tears as I thanked God for my Christian Counselor and how God had used him to not only guard but to restore my heart.

When you don’t feel strong, it helps for someone to remind you that He is strong and mighty. Jesus stands ready to help and guards us as we encounter unexpected and heart wrenching moments. His Holy Spirit will again provide peace that passes our understanding.

In Philippians 4:6 -7, we are told what we are to do in the event that anxious thoughts try to invade and then told what God will do for us.

Philippians 4:6-7 ESV: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is clear. His protection will encamp around your heart and mind after you request your need and thank God in advance for how He will help.

Anxiousness causes an uneasiness. Prayer can point us to the One who already knows the solution. He made a way for us to not live in constant uneasy and tumultuous times and is wanting for us to seek Him to save and protect. Even though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, He soothed me and guarded me from harm.

God knows that trouble will come and harsh realities can exist. When everything seems to be going wrong, it is time to pray. If anxious thoughts come in a person’s mind, there is a way to handle them. We must approach God with our needs. When we pray, His peace stands at guard around us and will protect our hearts and minds.

Prayer is a communication line with God. It gives us the ability to express our innermost feelings and desires. Here are the steps on praying if you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious from Philippians 4:6-7:

First, pray. Petition God which means you need to ask Him to help you.

Next, give Him thanks for all that He has done for you.

His peace, personified as a guard in Philippians 4:7, will protect you and make the agonizing moments bearable. This special Peace is one that transcends human understanding. When the weight of a situation tries to drag us down, His Peace lifts us back up.

I know that God provided my counselor to provide peace when I felt far from any form of peace. God knew my fragile heart needed someone to listen, to care and to pray for me. I am so thankful for the Peace that He gave to me through my sessions with my counselor.

The Holy Spirit is our comfort and counselor who helped me and with the help of my human counselor, I learned how to climb the mountain and overcome. God’s peace traveled with me and brought me through. Isaiah 9:6 ESV …and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

I appreciate the way that God guards our hearts and minds. He wants His children to pray, to thank Him for His many blessings, His goodness and faithfulness and to ask for Him to intervene and help. I know that when we do speak to Him, thank Him and ask Him, he will guard our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.

I am thankful for my family and friends who prayed for me during a very difficult season in my life many years ago and for the godly wisdom imparted to me through my Christian Counselor. I am most thankful for God who in His great mercy and grace lifted my head. He was my shield around me and my glory as I forged ahead. Psalms 3:3 ESV: But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Many thoughts tried to bombard my mind, but the Holy Spirit shielded me from the damage that could have happened without Him. Oh, I am so thankful for the way He guarded me!

God provides His peace in ways that we may not even quite understand but He will help. He will restore and heal us as we keep our hearts and minds in prayer with the Peace Maker. He is guarding us so that peace and restoration can return. His hedge of protection allowed me the time and space to function in life even though I would cry multiple times in a day. I finally let go of the past and allowed the newness of my life in Christ to settle into my heart.

The old has gone; the new has come. Praise God for bringing me through and allowing newness to come! When I faced very difficult times, I appreciated how reading God’s Word poured strength and life into my weary heart. His Word and His Holy Spirit renewed my heart.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In life, there will be ups and downs. If you ever need a counselor, Focus on the Family provides counselors and can recommend counselors in your area at their website: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/counseling-services-and-referrals/

My prayer today is that you will always reach out to God in prayer and never lose hope. He is with you and will never leave you. Keep trusting Him, my friend. Pray for Him to work it all out and guard your heart in the process. He did it for me and He’ll do it for you.

Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Invited

For a week, I had been cleaning out a messy room in our house filled with old toys. I wanted my daughters’ friends to have a tidy place to gather when they came over for a Friday Night Fun Night at our house. We had invited them and they had responded with a Yes, but then both girls had an unexpected family event occur which prevented them from coming. I had worked hard to clean but the fact was, the visitors couldn’t make it.

I’m glad that when I invite the Holy Spirit of God to move in my life, He shows up. He doesn’t have other plans and desires to be invited into our hearts to help, strengthen and create new things.

I love how the prophet Ezekiel called on the wind to come and blow life into an army that had just been raised up. The wind of God represents His Holy Spirit. In the valley of dry bones, no life existed until Ezekiel spoke to them after God told him to speak and the bones came alive. In order for the army to have breath in their bones, God told Ezekiel to call on the winds to blow into them.

Ezekiel invited the wind and it came. It accomplished the purpose which was to awaken and allow the army of people to breathe again.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary faith. Ezekiel had the faith needed for God’s work to be done. He invited God to move and expected an answer from God.

Ezekiel knew that the situation looked hopeless with bones scattered throughout the valley, but he believed in the possibility that God could do something on a grand scale. He believed God and spoke. I believe that we too must look at our situations and speak life to them. The circumstances must not cause us to forget all of what God has done in the past and all that He is able to do in the future.

In my church’s Monday night prayer meetings, we have been inviting God to be with us as we praise and worship him through songs. He is pleased with our worship then we pray and ask him to heal bodies, broken hearts and bound lives. I know that as we invite Him to move and work in the lives of our family and friends, we will see great things. We will experience what previously had seemed impossible.

On the night of October 21, 2019, our pastor told us to mark this date down as the night that we prayed fervently for all of the men in our church to be spiritual leaders in their homes. This is part of the prayer that the pastor prayed over the men:

“On this day we are asking God to help you and deliver you so that you will not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Be done with whatever it is. You may need to start something new. In the name of Jesus, I renounce this thorn, this snare and this trap. I want Jesus and to be filled with the Holy Spirit and used by the Lord. Help the men to be leaders of spiritual things in our homes and to pray with their wives. Help the men to be a peacemaker in their homes and spread the love of Jesus. Jesus will applaud you and devils will run. In the name of Jesus!”

We have invited the Holy Spirit to move mightily on all the men in our church and specifically on our husbands. I sent my husband this prayer because he was driving to the prayer meeting from work. Once he arrived, the pastor prayed more over the men and we sang praises to God. It was so sweet to worship alongside my precious husband and to lift up Jesus.

As I stood next to my husband with our arms embracing each other from the side, we sang the “Shout to the Lord” song. One of my favorite parts of the chorus is when we sing, “I sing for joy at the work of your hands.” I remember singing this song while being pregnant with my second child and praising God for how He was forming her in my body. Now, I am praising Him for how he is placing a hedge of protection around my children and my husband to protect their minds and hearts. Another song was a short chorus which had these words repeated: “To Him Who Sits on the Throne and unto the Lamb. Be Blessing and glory and honor and power forever!”

I have invited the Holy Spirit to be welcomed in my home and heart. I ask that you consider how you are inviting God into your life. He is waiting for us to open our hearts and minds to the possibility that there is a new thing, a new hope just around the corner. Invite the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and watch as He answers your prayer.

Promised Peace

After I arrived at the mall with two boxes of shoes and three shirts to return on a Thursday evening, I handed the receipt to the cashier in the shoe section. She stated, “Uh, these had to be returned within three days.”  It was Thursday and I had bought the shoes last Saturday. I would have had to return them by Tuesday to get a refund but it was Thursday.   

Two days late.  The irritation began.  “I can’t believe this!” I thought.  I had bought the shoes for one of my daughters who wasn’t shopping with me on the previous Saturday since they were selling for 80 % off regular price, but she didn’t like them once I brought them home.  Now, what was I going to do with shoes that couldn’t be returned?

I rode the escalator to the clothes department, handed the shirts with tags still on to the same woman who had sold me the shirts last Saturday and she blurted out, “Oh these had to be returned in three days.  It says so on the receipt.” At that point, I thanked her for her time, turned and left the store. I had been too busy to try on the shirts at the store last Saturday, but once I tried them on at home, I didn’t like the way that they fit.  Again, the news was not what I had expected.

Normally, at my local mall, items can be returned.  I don’t return much but it is never a problem. At least it hadn’t been a problem until then.  

The clothing cashier’s words reverberated in my mind like a gong as I walked out of the store.  “It says so right on the receipt. It says so right on the receipt.”  

Now, I had worked all day as a teacher, prepared spaghetti meat and noodles, picked up a dress that had been altered and walked into the mall around 7:15 p.m.  My body and mind had almost reached their limit for the day of any form of weird and crazy, but the two rejections jolted me. They tried to remove my peace.  

It’s so easy to give in and allow our peace of mind to be pierced by words of others. The peace seems to evaporate like steam as the irritation pot starts boiling.  Although I stayed calm during my encounters with the cashiers, I also felt mad that I hadn’t realized that I only had three days to return reduced merchandise. It said so right on the receipt, but I had stuffed the receipt down in the bags.  I couldn’t know the truth because I had ignored the truth. 

The calmness and peace that I had entered the store with had now been leaking out of my mind.  I had to just face now that I will no longer have the money that I had spent on the shoes and shirts.  Even though my peace faded for a moment, I allowed myself to not stress over and dwell on the unfortunate turn of events.  

In that unexpected place, I had to remind myself that the peace that Jesus promised is still with us today.  It may feel like chaos, like utter destruction, like unthinkable difficulty, but there is still peace.  That sweet peace may still be waiting by my bed where I read the Bible this morning or at church when the music and message seeped deep into my heart last weekend, but I have to remember where it is.  I have to return to peace or I will be aggravated, irritated and sad.

I may not be able to instantly arrive back to my Bible by my bed or sit in church, but I can call on Jesus wherever I am on Earth.  I can release the anxiety and pray. I list out my issues in prayer and let Jesus carry them. On my own, I struggle beneath the weight of the burdens.  When I know that He has heard me in prayer, my mind begins to reconnect and remember His peace.  

I know that Jesus left behind peace for his friends before he ascended back to heaven to provide comfort for the restless hearts who would soon walk on Earth without his physical presence.  He knew that we would also have a need to think back to where we had peace and remember it is still there. The God who took time to tell us that He was leaving peace for us wants us to remember to seek peace when nothing seems peaceful.  

We can notice when our peace begins to fade and get peace back through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  As soon as peace appears to have left us, it is time, right then, to take a moment and recall that Jesus said He was leaving us peace.  Pause and pray for that peace, the kind that passes all understanding; the kind that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus; The calm that is needed for our moment.

Right in the middle of the turmoil, our hearts must remember the path leading back to peace.  Jesus left His peace here on Earth. This deliberate action on His part gives me extreme comfort knowing that I can reach for His peace and it will come; that peace that Jesus gave me when I read his Word this morning at home or when I shared my heart with him in prayer; the assurance that He’s got this, He’s with me and He’ll never leave me.

Remember these words of Jesus right before he went back to be with His Father: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 (ESV)

Strengthened and Helped

While I noticed my two cats were not racing through my house one weekday morning, I could tell that it was just too quiet. Normally, one of them says “Good Morning” by rubbing against my legs over and over while the other one stays nearby. But on that particular morning, the lack of cat commotion alerted me to a problem: the cats weren’t there. I wondered if they had been accidentally shut up in a room in my house, but then I heard a faint “Meow”. I opened my back door and in walked one of my black cats with no collar. I can’t tell them a part without their red and blue collars. But just one cat walked through the doors. He immediately began greeting me with his rubbing against my ankles. I thought it was Bruce but wasn’t quite sure.

I jumped outside to start looking for the other cat. No matter where I looked, there was no sign of him. I yelled for my husband when I sprinted back into the house to let him know of the issue. He bolted down the stairs and leapt out the door on the hunt for the cat.

In a few minutes, he returned with the cat with the blue color, Bruce. This meant that the cat who arrived first was Randy. My husband found the red collar in our neighbor’s yard. He had jumped the fence to get to Bruce who had been purring and unwilling to jump back over the fence to our yard.

All night our two sibling brother cats endured the coolness, the dark and the unknown. They have rarely been outside during the day and are inside cats. Just the thought of them being outside all night pierced my heart.

We realized that they must have escaped the previous night when we let the dog out right before bed time. They seem to want to creep toward the door in hopes of getting out almost anytime any door is open. Their nature is to explore and be curious, but this time, their curiosity could have killed the cats.

I hope that in our lives, we don’t try to run out and away from the safety that God provides. If our hearts wander, like the cats, then there is no telling where we will end up. Like Bruce, we my be hunkered down on the other side of a fence, tired, scared and crying. I know that our loving Father, like my husband, reaches out to save. He will bring us back. It just may mean an extended stay in the dark.

The cats slept a lot upon their return. Sometimes coming back means a time to recover. A time to let safety sink in. A time to reflect on how good Grace feels. A time of being strengthened.

God really does care and continues to think about us if we wander down a path of doubt, a racetrack of uncertainty or a dirt road full of dust and debris. He is always ready and waiting with open arms to receive us.

If one door opens, like it did for the cats, it may not mean that we should go through that door. It may be enticing as to what may be on the other side, but if one goes through it, there may be a time of living in the dark, feeling estranged and lost. I pray that we would stay in the space of Grace and not become entangled in the snares that can exist not far from home.

As we face each new day, God gives strength for the journey, help and his protection even if we have made a decision that proved to be unwise. He provides and allows events to change. Our cats probably felt like their new normal would just be the way it would be while they spent hours upon hours in darkness. As the dawn of a new day uncovered a pale pink glow, they could see things differently. They could see how to get back home.

I hope that they didn’t stray too far from our house during their night outside, but even jumping the fence to the neighbors’ yard meant that they had gone on a small journey. I can imagine the hope that cried out in each of Bruce’s purrs as he sat waiting on the opposite side of that fence. He could see my husband but would not budge. My husband had to reach down and save him, bring him back home and love on him. Our good Father also sees us in our wanderings and is always ready to pick us up, strengthen, help, rescue, redeem and restore.

I pray that you would know the Grace and the love of our Father and continue to remain in Him.


Restored

“I had a rough day and was just reminded of Psalm 23. #HeLeads”, texted my friend, Charlene. During the previous weeks, she and I had been talking about the deep truths found in the 23rd Psalm. We had coined the hash-tagged phrase “#HeLeads” to remind us in our texts that God does the leading while we learn to follow Him. As I prayed for my friend once her text arrived, I pictured Jesus telling her to come to Him and bring her burdens. I prayed for God to restore Charlene as she laid her burdens down.

Her text had reminded me of the Psalm 23 truths and the restoration that David describes with, “He restores my soul.” Only He can put our lives back together and fill in the empty spaces with His presence. He is the giver of rest and a grand designer so I ended my text back to her with, “#HeRestores”. 

Hashtags help us in social media to organize and follow topics and conversations about a variety of subjects. After using #HeRestores with my friend, Charlene, I began to envision future texts with her to see how God had restored her soul.

I know that in my own life, God has restored my heart and body as I continued to believe His Word. His Spirit has confirmed the direction that I needed to take. What if we encouraged each other with hashtagged truths in texts or in social media as reminders that God is a God of action? 

#HeConfirms

#HeStrengthens

#HeEstablishes

#HeLoves

#HeRestores

What if we focus on the truth instead of the doubts and draining moments? When our jobs and responsibilities drain us, we have to first come to Jesus then lay down the load. Sometimes, just simply coming to Him is hindered by our other distractions, but still, we have to come to Him and believe that in His time, He will design the best action for us. It may feel like it has been a day of suffering, but it won’t last forever. 

Lean into these truths, my friend. God will “himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Lay those burdens down as you pray and read His Word which is your first step in coming to Him. Once you are meeting with Him, the Holy Spirit will do the work in you breathing life and comfort, restoring and strengthening your heart.

Keep reading His Word and believing in your heart that He will restore, will confirm, will strengthen and will establish you. 

It wasn’t long after my text to Charlene that she texted back, “#HeRestores”. She had received my encouragement and was allowing God to renew and restore. Oh, yes, my friend, let these words go deep and wide into your heart too: #HeRestores

Followed

Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (ESV)

When I was a small child, my Southern, Christian church congregation would sing from “Hymns of Glorious Praise”, a power packed anthology of hymns with a brown cover and a cross. Being a lover of words and music, I loved to sing the songs between the covers of this hymnal and later would learn to play many of them on piano while the congregation sang. I learned to comprehend truth from the Bible by singing the lyrics of old songs such as “At Calvary”, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Surely Goodness and Mercy”. The saints belted these songs which still live deep in my heart as an adult.

I also remember just singing the word “Surely” for years, without even realizing that “Surely” actually would mean “for sure, without a doubt and absolutely”. As I got older in church, I realized that as I sang the words to “Surely Goodness and Mercy“, that it meant God would be with me all the days of my life.

Recently, in church, we sang a modern version of those lyrics called “Psalms 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy)”. I love the tune and how it reverently wafts into my heart causing me to want to bless the Lord as the verses state the truth in Psalm 23.

God’s truth has lasted now for thousands of years. We find Goodness and Mercy in Psalms 23:6, both of which are emphasized in the hymn and the newer version of “Psalms 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy)”. Now, I usually view God as guiding me into all truth through His Word and prayer. When I read in Psalms 23 and sing that Goodness and Mercy follow me, I wondered why I am followed by, not lead by them.

As one who loves to study word origins, I decided to dig a little deeper into the original meaning of the Hebrew words that make up Psalms 23:6. “In the original Hebrew, the word for goodness and mercy is “che-sed”. “It is a derivative of the verb ‘chas,’ which means ‘sparing’ and ‘having mercy.’ The contextual meaning of this word is precisely: ‘refrain from killing, injuring, or distressing.’ In today’s fruit of the Spirit, che•sed is translated as ‘goodness.’ God’s goodness is with us to help and guide into truth. ” 1

So, God is sparing us from harm with his Goodness. I imagine that He spares us moment by moment when situations arise that would try to harm, but I also think that His goodness must continue to spare us even after an event has happened that could have brought injury. He is still working on our behalf long after a situation has tried to disturb and hinder our lives.

While walking into a business recently, a stranger, who happened to arrive at the same time as me, spoke some words to me which to him were probably harmless because he was thinking that he was joking. However, as I entered the building, my heart became overcome with sadness that he would have spoken to me in a way that could have been construed as a joke OR as a put down. I’ll be honest, I saw a friend later and told her how his words had jolted me. She gave me a hug and told me he most likely was joking.

Nevertheless, his words continued to ripple in my heart. Like a stone dropped into my heart lake, I sensed that these words would stay with me. And they did. I felt disturbed, irritated and aggravated that someone would use words in such an irresponsible way. After singing the “Surely Goodness and Mercy” song in church two days later and studying the word meanings, I can say that God’s Goodness is protecting me. Even if the person meant the words as a put down, I know that God is sparing me from their effects. He is helping me release the hurt and causing me to appreciate how His “sparing” also helped me to not respond in anger to that person. I am also thankful that he provided a friend soon after this encounter with the stranger to hug me because I really needed it and her words of encouragement.

Goodness and Mercy together are blessings of the Lord and will follow us. “The Hebrew verb translated “follow” pictures these two virtues—goodness and mercy—as actively pursuing David. It can be said that these twin components of divine love are like two sheepdogs that help the shepherd corral his flock. They shadow the flock in order to steer them in the right direction. When the sheep go astray, these sheepdogs bring them back. When we slow down, they spur us on. So it is with goodness and mercy that pull up the rear. They are constantly driving us closer to the Good Shepherd. ” 2

What a great mental picture to see the dogs steering the sheep. Oh, how I need the steering of God in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. It is comforting to know that God is guiding even if from behind because his goodness and mercy will lead me closer to Him, to His Comfort and to His Truth.

After words are spoken to us, God spares and points us into truth. The words that the stranger had issued to me in the parking lot, didn’t define me; only God’s view of me is the truth; Not the view of a stranger. I am thankful that the effects of his goodness and mercy sunk deep into my heart lake causing the ripples of the word stone from the stranger to dissipate and dissolve. Only His truth remains. His goodness and mercy continue to be there, to follow me and rectify the issue.

On more occasions that I realize, I know that His mercy has provided the start-over that I needed when I made a mistake. God’s goodness and mercy have spared my life from destruction. I notice that God allows His attribute of being good and merciful to also clean up my messes. He gives us free will and at times, well let’s just say, we blow it. We make mistakes. Thankfully, he not only sees our chosen path but is helping to recover us when we haven’t listened well to Him.

I want to listen to Him so that I will feel his direction as to what to and how to speak and interact with people. His goodness and mercy aren’t just for this generation or the previous one. They are for all of us in each generation both now and forevermore.

Psalms 100:5 “For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (NKJV)

I hope you will think about the goodness and mercy that God has provided to all who trust in Him.

1 https://hebrew.jerusalemprayerteam.org/goodness-grace-charity-mercy/

2 https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2018/08/surely-goodness-and-mercy-shall-follow-me-all-the-days-of-my-life/

Established

2 Thessalonians 2:16 – 17 ESV
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

You’ve seen it before on a sign. Est.1988 or Est.2002. Est means “established”. The point of being established is to have a distinct beginning.

On September 30, 2019, our pastor called a special prayer meeting over all of the children in our church. He prayed over babies, toddlers and all other children. He told us to remember the date as the day when God’s Blessing was spoken over all of our children.

God moved on my pastor in mid September to call the meeting for September 30, 2019. God established this date before time began knowing that our duty would be obedience to Him to bring them and have them Blessed. As parents, it is our job to instill the Word of God in the hearts of our children. It is our job as parents to train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. My husband and I dedicated them back to the Lord when they were babies, then they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior when they were small children. They love Him so I was thrilled to get the chance to bring them to church for a special night of blessing.

When we see God at work in ways that could only have been orchestrated by His Hand, we will know that the gifts that they have are being stirred up. He mentioned that Paul told Timothy to stir up the gift that was within him and that he received this gift with the laying on Timothy of Paul’s hands.

The elders of our church were called to be positioned in the aisles then every family moved to the nearest elder to be anointed with oil. My children were anointed on the forehead and so was I in the shape of a cross and with the words “In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost” spoken by Joe Cherry. I believe that after we prayed in agreement with Pastor, God accomplished a special calling and purpose in the lives of my family members.

My pastor quoted Scripture.

Exodus 20:13 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

He prayed for each child to be strong, knowing that greater is he that is in them, than he that is in the world.

We sang and rejoiced in the power of God’s word and Blessing over our children. We agreed together that God has special gifts for each child. It was fitting that we asked God to develop each child’s gifts so that they would choose to honor Him and bring glory to His name.

My prayer:

Let your will be done, Heavenly Father, on Earth as it is in Heaven. The date of September 30, 2019 will forever be in our hearts as a day that my children and I were greatly blessed and highly favored by you, called for your purpose and established for every good work in Christ Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 2:16 – 17 English Standard Version
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.