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