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It Is Well With My Soul

” When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll.  Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say: It is well, it is well with my soul.  Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blessed assurance control: The Lord has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul.  My sin (oh the bliss of this glorious thought): My sin – not in part, but in whole – has been nailed to the cross and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!  And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll.  The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall desceend — even so, it is well with my soul.”

 

Hello dear Sister in Christ,

Yesterday I attended a funeral of a woman who died of Covid.  Yes, she was older.  But still.  This year has been full of trials. Full of sadness.  Globally, nationally, indivudiually.

It’s been three months since I’ve written here.  My journal is full of my own thoughts, struggles, and trials.  There have been good days.  There have been hard days.

Yesterday as we sang, “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come – let this blessed assurance conrol: The Lord has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul,”  I was struck afresh with this truth.  Life on earth is a gift, and each day holds so much goodness.  God offers numerous pleasures and blessings. We have sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smells that are wonderful!  The earth is full of God’s beauty.  Yet Satan fights us.  The final “fight” is death.  Praise God that for the believer “absent from the body is present with the Lord!”  But in our life on earth, we will face trials.

I looked up the word buffet.  It means: “to strike against or push repeatedly,” or “a violent shock or concussion.”

Has not this last year sort of felt like one blow and then another? Haven’t most of us struggled in many ways lately?

Yet, there is a blessed assurance.  A truth.  A reality.

It is this: The Lord has regarded our helpless estate and has shed His own blood for our souls.

Praise Jesus for shedding His blood for us! Yes, there are repeated blows and shocks from Satan.  Praise Jesus, He has already defeated Satan!  Satan may “crush His heal.”  But one day Jesus will “crush Satan’s head.”

I’m learning alot about me, and faith.  I’m learning of God.  It’s been a dry season spiritually.  It’s been a dry season socially.  It’s been a dry season relationally.  But I was reminded of one of the names of God:  Yahewh (Jehovah) Nissi — God is our banner.

This name, God is our banner, comes from Exodus 17:15.   In My Journal, October 2021, by Dr. Youssef, he writes, “When we praise Yahweh Nissi, we are waving His flag.  We are proclaiming to Satan, the enemy of our souls, ‘I am under Yahweh’s magnificent oversight.  I am under Yahweh’s protection.  You cannot destroy me, and you cannot thwart God’s purposes in my life.'”

Ahh! It truely is well with my soul!  I am under God’s protection, under God’s wisdom, under God’s victory.  How?  Because of the blood of Jesus! I claim Jesus’s blood because I’ve asked Him to be my Savior and Lord.  I claim Jesus’s victory — because He purchased me with His blood.

Yes, Satan does buffet, and this year has been challenging on many levels.  For you too, I know, I’ve heard your stories.  Satan pushes, shocks, and repeatedly strikes.

But precious Sister, for those of us bought with Jesus’s blood, we are under God’s banner.  Praise Yahweh Nissi!  Praise Jesus our Savior!  Praise God, for despite Satan’s efforts, it is well with my soul!  Oh sister, if it is not well with your soul, in this moment, may you run to God and find Him to be your peace and your protection.   Jesus bought you, God is over you, and victory is yours.  It might take many battles, but stay in God’s presence until you too can say: It is well with my soul!

Press on!

 

Check out these videos:

Losing Weight While Eating Hot Fudge By The Spoonful!

Tonight I ate hot fudge by the spoonful.  I am not kidding. 

The other day I bought Smuckers Hot Fudge while shopping because I had a recipe I wanted to make.  I made the dessert, ate the dessert, and enjoyed the dessert.  I even ate the last half piece of dessert for breakfast one morning — really.  Just a half piece of dessert: no protein, no fruit, no cereal, no oatmeal.  Just dessert!  And I enjoyed every second of breakfast that day!  (Dear Mom — it is not true that sugar for breakfast spoils my day. Maybe if this is the habitual norm.  But my dessert for breakfast the other day did not harm me in any way.  In fact, it gave me a sense of joy!)  But then my dessert was gone.  The half botttle of hot fudge still waited patiently in the fridge.

So I ate a spoonful one night when there was no other chocolate in the house.  Just 1 spoonful.  Then I placed the jar back in the fridge.

The next night I had another spoonful.  Just 1.  Back in the fridge.

But the next night, I ate 4 spoonfuls.  And I never opened the jar!  You see, I had read a recipe for hot fudge that talked about being so good you’d never want to buy another jar again.  I have nothing against my jar of Smuckers.  Obviously I like it.  But just for fun, I thought I’d do a side by side taste test.  I think the homemade won.  I mean –4 spoonfuls!

By the way, this was after my evening workout!  I’ve been so proud of myself.  I’ve actually been working out lately.  I used to work out, and enjoyed it.  But then life hit.  I stopped working out and for about 10 years, working out has been hit and miss.  The last 7 years it’s been mostly non-existant.  But for the last 15 weeks, I’ve done something most weekdays!

And I’ve continued to eat just how I normally do.  But while eating my delicious spoonful, the nagging thought came:  You can’t lose weight eating hot fudge all night, even if you work out!

I paused after spoonful 3. True.  Likely very true.  But, what if I was loosing weight in another way?

What if the baggage of “you shouldn’t do that” or “eating this won’t help” or “control control control”  needs to be lost.  I’m not advocating for no self discipline.  I’m also not advocating for living only for the pleasure of the flesh.  Of course not.  That is a whole different issue.  But the lies of Satan about pleasure, beauty, weight, what you should eat or not eat, and comparison of what others eat and don’t eat run rampant in our culture.

But I’ve been thinking on this: “…In His right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

The hot fugde was a pleasure.  So was eating dessert for breakfast one morning.  And both did me no harm.  Sure, eating only sugar all the time does harm your body.  We know that.  But when is the last time I ate dessert for breakfast?  And when is the last time I shoveled in the hot fudge by the spoonful with no ice cream?  Can’t remember doing either in a long long time.  And probably won’t do them again for another long long time!

I’m learning some things about life.  We pile on so much pressure.  We let “you shouldn’t do that” consume us.  We compare.  We criticize.  We try to perform. We have weight on us that is not on the body — but on the heart.

And eating hot fudge (by the spoonful) is not healthy.  Agreed.  But neither is the pressure to be that we heap on ourselves day after day.  We just are not aware of it.

So dear ladies — I hope you enjoy a simple pleasure today.  And moms out there … a memory of mine is the rare occasion my mom let us have “backwards day” and eat dessert before the main dish and veggie — how fun!  Press on dear ladies!  The gift of pleasure is a gift!  Isn’t God good to us!

4:30 AM

There are a couple things that you should know about me:  1) I am a morning person to the core.  2) I have always been able to sleep well.  I fall asleep easily, and for the most part sleep the whole night through (maybe waking sometimes for a bathroom break or two, but easily returning to sleep).

This is my norm. So when a few years ago I started waking up starving around 2 – and trying to fight off the desire to get up and eat – unsuccessfully, I got annoyed.  Until I learned to just get up, grab a quick snack, and head back to bed!  Lately though this doesn’t seem to bother me as much — yay! (Maybe a little snack later in the evening has helped?!) It was also a few years ago that sometimes God would wake me up in the middle of the night, not with an appetite for food, but for Him. I learned to love praying in the middle of the night and sometimes spending time in God’s Word when there were no distractions!  This was not an often occurance, but whenever it did happen, it never interfered with going back to sleep or feeling rested the next day.

So, for the most part, I go to bed early (9:00 is my ideal!) and sleep.  My ideal wake time is between 6-7, but sometimes I like to stay in bed and cuddle, think or read.  Sometimes I hop up and get laundry going, or make a can of refrigerated cinnamon rolls that my husband loves!  I don’t like to HAVE to be up and out the door if I don’t want to.  And I like to go to bed later sometimes.  But all this to say, I need and like my sleep!

However, a couple years ago I found myself awake at 4:30.  I was frustrated, crabby, and crying.  I had not been sleeping well on and off for quite a while.  My job was stressful and stealing my joy.  My husband I and felt stuck in life.  And I couldn’t sleep.  I had woken around 3, and was still awake, tossing and turning and trying to get my body back to a comfortable relaxed mode.  I had to be out the door by 6:30 to get to my job that started at 7:00, that I dreaded because of short staff and high stress. Let me tell you, for a morning person, I did not like getting up and out by 6:30.  And not sleeping between 3 – 4:30, knowing from eperience that I’d be exhausted and trying to sleep at 5:30, made the morning all the worse!

Contrast that with one day this spring when one of my 4:30 mornings became a memory morning.  My husband has been working overnights.  So even on his day off, his body still sometimes stays on “work schedule.”  One early Saturday morning, he was awake, and up — likely around 2.  Around 4 I woke up to use the bathroom.  Instead of going right back to bed I found him and said good morning, got my hug, and headed back to bed.  But I was hungry, and craving muffins.  I didn’t have any muffins in the freezer.  So I got back up.  I told my husband I was craving a muffin.  He sweetly suggested we swing by Perkins later and pick up a muffin for my breakfast. (I can make muffins, but the idea of a muffin date was fun!).  But then a few minutes later he said, “Unless you want to go now — Kwik Trip is open.”   Now… 4:20 in the morning?  YES!!!  So I pulled on clothes and we hopped in the car.  The birds were already singing, the air was cool, and the sun was just starting to lighten the sky.  We got to Kwik Trip and I changed my mind, got a donut and juice … and a muffin to take home!  We ate in the car, the sunrise now starting to spill over the sky.  Beautiful!  Fun!  And something I had never done … an unplanned breakfast date at 4:30 in the morning!

What a difference two mornings make!

Why do I tell you this?  No reason really — it was just on my mind.  But really — a morning can make a lot of difference.  The morning Jesus rose from the dead changed the world. If He had stayed dead, he would have been just like every other zealous religous leader.  But Jesus is not a person… but God Himself, incarnate in flesh.  And death could not hold Him!    So each day we get here on this earth is a gift.  “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord!”

So dear sisters in Christ, whatever your day looks like today, whether you woke happy or grumpy — may you praise the Lord and trust in Him!  Press on!

 

 

How Is Your Heart?

“I’m struggling.”  I voice the words outoud that whine and entangle themselves in my soul in countless ways. 

“I don’t know.”  I shrug my shoulders heavily, my body echoing the heavy thoughts that swirl in my head.

Tears escape.  Seems I’m always crying.  Sometimes I can control them (barely).  Usually they just tumble out, and at that point I need the release of emotions, so I let them come, not caring how red my eyes get and yet deep down bothered that I’m bothered.

“Why is this so hard?”  I muse inwardly and often outloud into the dark night around me. Why indeed?  I know that God is Sovereign.  I know that God is good.  So why does this question bubble up so much in conversatons of my mind.  I know Truth.  So why does this curious question refuse to be silent, and why does the need for an answer torment me?  There is a reality that I won’t know the full answer here on this earth.

So I console myself with the words of Habakuk: “How long, oh Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?”

I repeat the words of the Psalmist: “Oh God, be not silent! Answer me quickly!”  “The Lord is an ever present help in time of troube.” “Why are you downcast oh my soul?  Put your hope in God!” (Ps. 83:1, 102:2, 46:1, 42:5)

I wonder why prayer and reading my Bible seems so hard lately.  I don’t even seem to know what to think about some things.  I feel I don’t know what to pray.  How can I pray if I don’t even understand my emotions and thoughts or wants?

And the words from Twila Paris’s song ring in my head, “Life is hard…” They repeat and repeat and repeat, stuck like a record player.

I wish I could say these days happen rarely, yet lately it seems far more frequent than I want to admit.  {Sigh.}

Life.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:12

“I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.   I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Phil. 4:12-13  —  True. I know this.  Yet I find myself having to confess discontentment.  Or I know that Christ is my strength, but I don’t feel strong or content. How long does it take to actually learn this?

“Life is hard —  but God is good.”  The Twila Paris song records again in my mind, this time the sentance finishing.  “God, you are good”  I say aloud.  Then I have to repeat it, because it doesn’t feel true.  In fact it feels not true.  I tell myself that feelings lie and God is good. I find my brain arguing back … well, what about _____?  That’s not good!  “God IS good,” I say louder.  The nagging doesn’t give up and resounds again, yeah, but not in this area of life.   Arrgh!  “God, You are good.”  I say it again.  The nagging whisper of doubt is silenced, but only briefly before coming back to bother me from a different angle on another day.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”  I like the idea of things working for my good. But all things?  Even where I’m at right now, even what we are facing? Even certain things I’m facing.  Good?  They don’t “feel good” and actually it seems like they are not good.

And the battle continues.  Sins in my heart surface.  It is often easy to focus on the external sins, but to God the sins in my heart are also things he wants to change, to purify, and to redeem.   They are what He went to the cross for — to save me, but also to sanctify me.  Scantification — the process of becoming more like Jesus.  And Jesus knows the sins in me that keep me in bondage.  He knows the lies I’m listening to, and He wants to free me.

I know this in my head.  My heart is struggling.  And I blame.  I blame the circumstances around me (God knows the world, politics, and things in my home — and He wants to scanctify me in these circumstances).  I blame people around me.  I criticize.  And then I grumble.

Sometimes I’m just like the Israelites, grumbling when God rescued them from bondage and led them to the promised land… taking them the long way because they were not ready for what lay ahead.  They didn’t know this reason, but they grumbled none the less. They wanted to go back to the familiar bondage and troubles of Egypt rather than trust God. God let them wander extra long on the way to the promised land, partly because they grumbled against him.

The whispers in my soul say,”Good Christians don’t grumble against God.  Good Christians don’t sin.”  LIES!  We have an enemy of our soul who wants to separate us from God. His purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy.  And he is so subtle in his deceit.  He uses things and people, and shoots firey darts of dissapointment, discontentment, greed, feelings of deserving better, and so much more to keep us from turning to God and to keep us grumbling.  Sin on purpose — no, I’ve been rescued and redemeed!  But sometimes I choose to hold onto bitterness, I choose to disobey, I choose to wallow in self focus or self pity.  And sometimes I’m not trying to disobey at all, I’m simply, as the song says, “Prone to leave the God I love”.

And that is my heart.  How is your heart?  It has been such a challenging year.  I talk with my sister.  She has her own emotions and challenges in her own season of life.  God is good,  we tell each other.  He is gracious.

I listen to a podcast and hear, “No good thing does God withhold from them whose walk is blameless.” (Ps. 84:11)  So why does it seem God is withholding good in certain areas of my life?  Guilt rears an ugly head as I think: I am not blamesless (I know my sins and thoughts).  I find myself striving– and performance based theology is not of God. (Lies of Satan again!)

I listen further to the podcast.  “It is good that I am afflicted, that I might learn your statues.”  (Ps. 119:71) God, it’s good?  Affliction is good?  I don’t understand!  I keep listening because even though the speaker was talking about a challenge I’d never faced, I identified with the emotions.  My own challenges felt the same though vastly different.

“God’s ways are perfect.” (Ps.18:30)  I know this.  Again, my heart is lagging behind.  Oh God, you are my Helper! I need You!

So, where is your heart?  This is the cycle of my heart these last months.  It’s been hard.  I’m sure you can relate.  Sweet sister in Christ, press on with me.  I’m pressing on too, right here with you.

God is good. His ways are right.  (Say it outloud!  Say it again.  Tell yourself this.  It might not feel true.  But it is!)

 

It’s Valentine’s Day … Is Marriage All You Hoped For?

Hello!  How are you?  One of my goals in life is to be a mentor to the younger women out there. 

I want to be a godly woman and wife.  I want to become the older woman of Titus 2 that can teach the younger woman to love her husband. Not too long ago my pastor asked me: is marriage all you hoped?

Hmm. Interesting question!  Let’s talk!

No!  But sometimes, yes! How’s that!  That is truth that I think every married woman would state.  Listen up younger ladies! And older ladies — please teach me, and be role models for me and other younger women!  Keep teaching us to love our husbands and children at every age and stage!

We are so prone to the culture’s way of thinking — which comes from the deceiption of Satan, the master at subtle deceit.  We buy into lies of self focus, self-worth, happiness, feminism, greed, and so many others without even really knowing that we are doing so.  We believe in the romance of fairy tales.  We are little girls growning up with big dreams.  We want other’s opinions of us to be good based on what they see, so we think we need more, or have to have things that look nice, or post pictures that portray the perfect and good things only.  And, secrectly, we expect our husbands to be our heroes — perfect in every way from day one until day 21,900!

And oh, precious women — we listen to lies if we are not diligent to know the Truth.  Truth of God and His love and plans for us, for our marriage, and for our husbands as well as our children.  So is marriage all we hoped?  No it is not.  We get married, and it does not take too long to realize our husbands are sinners.  Sins of our own even suprprise us as they surface in ways they may not have in the past.  And while we might acknowledge our own sins a little bit, the tendency is to focus more on our discovery that this man we hold up as a hero, emerges with feet of clay.  Meaning, we see our husbands as who they really are — men made in God’s image but who wage war in this culture of lies too!  Men who have their own insecurities and sin struggles.  Men who are little boys at heart — just as we are little girls at heart. Men with big dreams and dissapointments — just like us.  Men whose masculinity is under attack by the same Attacker of our feminity. This is Satan, the Father of lies and disguise, who wants to see our marriages, our men, our children, and us destryed. We all long to be loved, noticed, accepted.  We expect our mate to do all this for us — perfectly.  And they might do some of this really well — but we don’t always notice the ways they love us well.  We tend to focus on their sins, the negatives, and our feelings.  We dwell on what we don’t have. We sin afresh with our own pride (ignore our sins and focus on theirs), covetness (comparison of our spouse or house or things others have or appear to have), and by creating idols of our husband and things rather than seeking God first.  And when we do this marraige feels less than what we hoped for.  And that marriage vow we all repeat:  “for better for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer,”   — we say these words believing on our wedding day that “for better, in health and in richness” will compromise 99.9% of our days.  All marriages have things, seasons, stressors, and inner and outer circumstances that require time, talking, growth, patience, tears, and even suffering.  All wives have sin issues to deal with, and so do all husbands. The majority of marriage is the same as the the majority of life for the single — days of mundane realities, chores, deadlines, work, stressors, challenges, feelings emotions, and busyness.

Coming to this understanding happens to all of us after we get married.  Guarenteed.  And then when life is the same as it was for us as singles — unmet expectaions, dissapointments, and daily living — we tend to dwell on things that are not true, not excellent, not admirable, and not praise worthy (opposites of what God instrutsts our minds to dwell on in Phillippians 4). We criticise and complain.  We think we need to have something else better — but where do we get the term better and less than from? We wonder what might have been if we made other choices relating to work, kids, spouses, or life in general.  And in all this, we are letting our feelings and flesh rule.  Satan loves to whisper these lies into married women’s souls.  He loves to get us to focus on feelings versus truth.  Well, here is truth: the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). Our culture thrives on being feeling oriented. But here is God’s truth: real love is patient, kind, does not evny, does not boast, keeps no records of wrongs, does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in truth, endures all things, and always perseveres. (2nd Corinthians 13).  And here is more truth: God’s type of love takes effort, takes ongoing choices, and takes forgiveness (again and again.)  It takes large doses of humility.  It takes God’s agape, selfless love in us. It takes God’s help and strength. It comes from understanding the cross of Christ, and allowing the cross of Christ to change us.   It goes against our natural, inner person.  It is hard!

So, is marriage all I hoped? No!  But also yes in many ways! I have a man who shares my belief in God.  I have a man who loves me, is incredibly tender to me, and is genuinely affectionate. I have a man who wants to provide for me.  I have a man who smiles easily and maintains peace. He talks with me about dreams as well as things like the insignificant items I want to shop for.  He even listens to me tell long, detailed, stories — half of which don’t matter to him!  I have a man who blesses me with words of love.  I have a man who turns on the porch light for me at night because he knows I like it, even though the dark doorway or house doesn’t bother him.  I have a man who puts gas in my car for me often, just so I don’t have to on a cold morning drive.  I have a man who backs the car into the driveway so I can drive out forward, because he knows it’s hard for me to back it out.  I have a man who can make me laugh over silly little comments, and if he ends up in giggles I get them too just watching him! I have a man who goes to the zoo with me, because I enjoy it.  I have a very special man for a husband.  He is a gift to me! And I have a man who, like Elisabeth Elliot states, is the only kind of man to marry — a normal, everyday man, a sinner.

And then, many woman are married to non-believers, or men who are not good to them. They find themselves married to men whos sins seem “bigger than the normal average man.”   And if we women who have good and normal husbands get trapped in feelings and lies and seasons where we don’t find marriage all we hoped … well then I expect there are some women whose marriages and situations are very difficult and they feel marriage is not anything like they dreamed.  They say marriage is never what they had hoped for.  Is there hope?  Always! Jesus changes lives — yours and your spouse’s.  May I encourage your own growth in intimacy with God; may I encourage talking with your pastor or a mature older Christian woman; may I encouarge counseling from a counselor who will point you to God and His ways and truth.  Mostly, please talk to God about your specific situation.  He will give you the advice you need for your life. I pray all women in every mariatal season will learn to dig into their Bibles and turn to God in prayer.  In Him is everthing we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  He will tell you what is right.  He will — He promises to.  His love is what marriage is supposed to model.  But again, we have an enemy named Satan who is like a roaring lion, looking for someone and some marriage to devour.  I believe God designed marriage to portray a picture of Himself and his love for His people, it is a gospel picture.  Not all marriages do this well — even in Christian marriages, and Satan loves to pollute anything that points to the gospel.

I believe divorce is not God’s plan or original intent. But as we all know, this whole world system is broken.  There is not one area of humanity that is unscathed by the damages of sin.  So today on Valentine’s day, a day the culture tries to define love and romance, I’d like to encourage women of all ages and stages in life to study God’s Word and what He says on marriage, divorce, remarriage, covenants, love, romance, and relationships in general. He has wisdom for all of these areas.  I believe all women, married or single, need to pray and seek God’s wisdom, and ask the Holy Spirit what to do in whatever circumstance they find themselves in.  I believe that decisions are best made regarding any relationship when we learn to find His heart, determine to obey what He says, repent if need, and humble ourselves before Him.   Growing in godliness in whatever way you need to in your marriage (or in singlenss) is your calling.  And, precious women, may I also honestly say: sometimes suffering is what He has for us in order to grow us.  His plan for us is not just ease and comfort and circumstances going great and happiness based on feelings, and a “perfect” marriage or life.  His goal is our holiness and His glory, whether married or single. (And, when necessary, the church and proper authorities are in place to assist a woman who needs.)

So all that to say — is marriage all I hoped? Well, it has some really great parts and is a wonderful gift that God will use to shape and refine us.  But at the same time it does have some really hard parts and things that can hurt us.  However, it is part of God’s plan — family is His idea and institution!  This Valentine’s Day, may those of us who are married be reminded afresh of God’s love, and may we seek to love our husbands with God’s vision and love!  And may those of you not married, who want to be, never give up praying for a man that is from God at God’s time.  And may those of you who are widows have good memories of former times with your spouse. May those older women among us teach the younger women to love their husbands and children. May the youner women among us determine to be teachable.  And may those of you who know the pain of divorce or the rejection of a man know a powerful sense of God’s love for you, and that He is faithful in all situations. Precious women of God — God is for you, no matter your past or present circumstances or story!

Press on! Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

What Will Next Year Bring?

Happy New Year, dear sisters in Christ!                                                 

What will this year bring?  Do you wonder as I do, I’m almost positive you do.  This past year has been difficult in many ways with politics and Covid, personal struggles, an absence of normalicy, wearing masks that feel suffocating and which remove smiles from our faces, and so many other things.

Over Christmas I read a novel set during World War 2.  World War 2 was from 1939 to 1945.  It talked of food rations, neighbors betryaing neighbors in interest of self-preservation, cities destroyed as bombs dropped, boys forced into adult situations as they were called to fight, women trying to help any way they could, families separated, confusion over who is really on the right side, lies and deceit, girls taken advantage of by soldiers, and other aspects of war that I have never had to face.

I also looked up the Great Depression, a worldwide economic collapse during the 1930’s.  My grandma saved each and every plastic bag she could. As my grandma aged and got dimentia, I remember hearing that Grandpa brought some money home from the bank, and she hid it someplace in the house — was her mind remembering times when there wasn’t enough?  I love to shop at thrift stores — always have!  But I remember telling my grandma about something I got at a thrift store, and she seemed almost offended.  Were thrift stores and second hand clothing symbols of times where clothing was sparse?  I don’t know.  I do know my grandma lived through both the Great Depression and World War 2 years.

I have a confession. I don’t like history.  Never have.  Geography and history were jumbled in my mind.  I didn’t care and I couldn’t keep the dates or places straight.  But mostly, I didn’t care.  I now find myself caring more about history, and what happend previously.  The older I get, the more I find I can understand the fear of “what might come” and the worries of economy and politics.  I read stories from the past and see people as people, just living their lives.  Some of them facing wars and things I can not imagine — and neither could they. They were thrown into things just as we have been this year.  So I now find history a bit more intriguing.  I like museums better than I did as a child and young adult.

I listened to Dr. Youssef teach through Revelatons the other week.  He taught of a political figure who will promise peace, but peace won’t last.  He talked of wars and natural disasters. He talked of woes on the inhabitants of the earth. He talked of the restoration of the Kingdom of God.  And as I listened, I thought that every gengeration has faced the unknowns of what comes next — in our own personal lives, and in the nation and world around us.

I praise God that He knows all things, is Sovereign, and determines each season.  I take comfort that even the end has an appointed time (Daniel 11:35). I know for certain that He establishes rulers and their rise and fall (Daniel 2:21).  I read of Isreal’s histroy (which is the histroy of all Chrsitians), and I see that the kings who did evil in God’s sight outnumbered those who did right in God’s sight by a lot.  I know that for each person God ordains their days, and where they will live (Psalm 39, Acts 17: 25-27).  You and I are exactly in the day and time God decided we should be.

Each day is known to God and Revelations, the final book in the Bible, tells what is yet to come.  It is a strange book filled with symbolism and things hard to understand, yet it was given by God for our knowlege, instruction, and understanding.  And there we learn that the end is full of hope — God’s restored kingdom on earth and His dwelling with humanity in all His glory!  His glory is going to be so bright that no sun will be needed! The Tree of Life returns to the scene (last found in Genesis at the Garden of Eden), healing of the nations happens, and pain and suffering are gone!  The book is about the unveiling of Christ Jesus — the reign and rule of His everlasting Kingdom!  Many, many years ago Isaiah wrote of Jesus that, “The goverment shall be on His shoulders.” And, Daniel 7 shows that “His kingdom is everlasting.” Oh, the time is coming! And it is predetermined.  That gives me hope and peace whatever lies ahead in 2021!

In the mean time, what do we do?  We pray for our children to come to know Christ and walk in His ways, to deeply love Him and determine that they will stand for Him despite any trials that come.  We pray they become a next generation of solid believers who pass on the truth of the gospel to their children and the next generation.  We trust in the Lord, despite not understanding.  We pray that we bear witness to Christ. We remind ourselves over and over the words of this song, “I don’t worry o’er the future for I know what Jesus said, and today I’ll walk beside Him for He knows what lies ahead. Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.”

Press on into a new year! (And ps… don’t think just because I wrote this that the last year has not been hard, or has not been filled with emotional mood swings.  I am writing this to counsel my own heart with truth as well as your heart, for I need the reminder to press on just as much as all of you!)

(PS… my sister sent me this link that puts life in 2020 in perspective in some ways and reminds us that we have so much, even during this pandemic: https://spanhouse.org/imagine-you-were-born-in-1900/)

I Miss Church

November 29, 2020.  We are pretty much one month away from welcoming in the year 2021. Don’t we all hope for a new year — and a different year than this year.

What a strange year this has been.  Socially, emotionally, relationally, economically, educationally, medically, politically, and on and on.

And one thing I’m mising alot is church. Going into a church building.  Fellowshipping with other believers.  Together.

Now, I grew up going to church every week.  We dressed up for church every week.  As a little girl I loved my little black shoes and dresses.  In the winter I wore those thick yarn-like tights, boots, and snowpants over the top!  At church dad had to pull the little comb from his pocket that he always carried, because when I pulled my hat off, my fine childish (product free) hair flew up with staticity! Sometimes I complained about dressing up.  “Why do we dress up?” I’d ask Mom.  “Because we are going to see the King,” she’d reply. She likened it to going to see the president.  I had never gone to see the president.  Didn’t understand why you’d dress up for that either.  Yet we also dressed up for baby showers and bridal showers and concerts.  I liked dressing up — always have.  Don’t get me wrong.  But sometimes I just didn’t want to!  (My uncle who is now close to 80 years old once told me he remembers dressing up to go to dinner parties in the evenings!)

Sometimes I just found church boring, if I’m honest. Once, I remember, I was sitting by a friend and her dad.  I typically sat by my parents, but for some reason I wasn’t this morning.  I had on a watch.  I found myself constantly looking at my watch.  Mr. Lorenzen finally reached over, turned my watch around on my wrist and whispered, “You can check the time when it’s done!”  I got the message – sit still!  So I did.  But my mind still wandered and I didn’t listen to the message.  I confess many times to not listening to the message, even if I outwardly looked like I was.  But sometimes I did listen. And I really liked youth group and Sunday school.  Overall I liked church. And when I started falling more in love with Jesus and with His Word, which I was intentional about in highschool, I actually listened better to my pastor!

As I grew up and went to college I remember my first chapel of my freshman year. (I went to a small Christian college). At that chapel many of the local churches came by and had booths set up, they wanted students to find a new home church. I remember our campus pastor stating that when students got to college and now had a choice of attending church — not required as in their parent’s household, many chose to not attend.  They were encouraging students to find a church.  They said if students didn’t find a church within the first month, it was far more likely they would stop going to church, and eventually fall away from faith.  (And I did see that happen with some students.) Since I didn’t have a car, I was at the mercy of finding a place that someone else also wanted to go to.  I found a small church, and a handful of college students went there.  I borrowed a car a few Sundays because no one else was going.  “Bedside Baptist” became a phrase that meant someone was too tired to go to church. And I confess, there have been Sunday mornings where I just don’t want to get up, shower, get dressed, and get out the door.  Some Sunday’s I have had to force myself to, even though I love being at church.

I have attended Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Free, and Covenant churches regularly.  I have “searched” for churches, and I’ve gone to many styles of churches.  I’ve attended a church where they didn’t believe in any musical instruments, and at a very small church with no song leader and no one really letting their voice ring loudly, let me tell you that worship time was sparse and lacking.  I’ve been to a super small church where everyone but us as visitors wore a name tag, and yet no one talked to us except the greeter passing out the bulletin on the way in.  Let me tell you — that church knew we were visitors but no on reached out and I never went back.  I’ve been to a church that made me so uncomforatable I couldn’t wait for the hour to be done to bolt out.  I’ve been to churches darkened with no lights, candles only.  I’ve been to churches so big that each week I didn’t know anyone I ended up sitting by, and I “met” the pastor three times because he didn’t remember meeting me.  I’ve watched a pastor on a screen (expecting to go to church with a pastor there, but learning he was at a different campus that day.)  I’ve been to one church where the pastor’s wife came in late every Sunday to avoid the singing, because she couldn’t stand the style of music.  I’ve been in churches where the message was topical week after week, and though Biblical principles were expressed, no Bible was ever opened.   So, yes.  I’ve been in quite a few churches.  I have my own ideas and likes and opinions.

As I became a young adult and set out to find my own church, I heard some helpful things. Mainly: Preference vs. Principle.  Does the church meet your preferences?  What are your preferences.  But do these preferences that you don’t prefere not honor God, or is it just something you don’t like? (Sometimes we think our opinon and preferences are the most important, and it isn’t!)  And, what does the church teach?  Is the Bible taught as God’s inspired, inerrant Word? Is the Bible opened and read?  Is the gospel of Jesus preached? Is Jesus taught as the only way to heaven?  Also, are you able to plug in and use your gifts in some way, which were given to you for the edification of the body?

And I also heard Ravi Zachariahs once state, “We have forgotten how to worship, so we must be entertained.”  This made me evaluate my heart and motives.  Why was I attending church?

Church.  So many people.  One head: Christ Jesus.  Yet we find ourselves not at unity with each other.  We find ourselves not staying in one place.  We find ourselves arguing over opinions rather than uniting on the gospel. We criticize.  We complain.  We seek another place.

But this year, I’m reminded.  We have the freedom to worship together.  We are not persecuted when we attend church. We can pick a church, and are not mandated to attended a certain church.  What priveleges that I have taken for granted far too much throughout my years! Shame on me that I squabble over preferences.

This year, I am not attending church — because of COVID.  I have not attended since March.  Watching online at home just isn’t the same.  I don’t dress up.  I lounge on my couch in sweats.  Watching on a lapton screen that I typically work on, shop on, browse on, put down whenever I want to get a snack, am entertained on, and play games on — that makes for my mind to be set up already to struggle to watch church.  Just being honest.  I also am distracted by what is happening outside my window, noises call me to check.  I get up to check on lunch in the oven.  I find it hard to pray and sing cooperately, and sometimes to even focus.  I think “no problem, I can rewatch it later!” But usually I don’t make the time to go back and rewatch later.  Am I the only one?  Surely not!

I once heard that our outward and coorperate Christianity is like a couple’s relationship — what is seen by others, starts in the home and in private.  Dear Christian sisters — in this season, our own personal walk with God that begins in private is so crucial! We can not put our hope in going through the motions, or in serving, or in being at church.  Never can, it doesn’t ultimatly work.  But especially now, your walk with God and your own personal habbits with God are what are going to carry you. Of this I’m sure.

Dear friends and sisters in Christ, I am learning to press on in a new way.  You must be too.  I miss church.  I miss the building.  I miss the people.  I miss the pews and stained glass. I miss dressing up — making an effort.  (Now, not dressing up isn’t the real issue.  It’s a heart issue.  You can worship in sweats, and some who are dressed to the hilt actually don’t have a heart of true worship.  God knows!)  But I am hoping that in the year to come, we can return to church.

I am thankful that at this time we still have freedom to go to church and openly believe in God.

I am thankful for the body of Christ — all of us who believe in Jesus together.  (Remember the old song: I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.  All around the world, all who follow Jesus, yes we’re the church together!”

Press on!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  For His steadfast love endures forever. (Ps. 136:1)

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If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3-4)

 

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing paises to His name, for it is lovely. (Psalm 135:3)

 

I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods (Psalm 138:1)

 

I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless your name forver and ever.  Every day I will bless You, and I will praise You name forever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:1-3)

 

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.  Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.  His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.  How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the opressed; who gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets prisoners free.  The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow.  But He thwarts the way of the wicked.  The Lord will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations.  Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146)

 

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises to our God on the lyre, Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who provides rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. (Psalm 147:7-8)

 

O Lord, You are my God; I will exault You, I will give thanks to You name; For You have worked wonders, plans performed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. (Isaiah 25:10)

 

Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.  […] Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of it’s street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding it’s fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were the healing of the nations.  There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foheads.  (Revelation 21:3-4, 22:1-4)

 

Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.  (Revelation 19:6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear America

Dear America, land that I love.  And Dear Church:

I wonder what God is saying to us in this season of testing: COVID worldwide, and political unrest, unknowns, and many personal struggles this year.  I think this is some of what He is saying:

 

 

I have a case against you, for there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowlege of God in the land.

There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultry. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.  (Hosea 4:1-2)

For blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.  It is I who make peace in your borders. (Psalm 33:12) (Psalm 147:14)

Return to Me, and I will return to you. (Zechariah 1:3)

How good it is when brothers live in unity. (Psalm 133:1)

But a house divided can not stand. (Mark 3:25)

Hear now, heads…and rulers.  Is it not for you to know justice?  You who hate good and love evil… (Micah 3:1-2)

O My people!  Those who guide you lead you astray and confuse the direction of your paths. (Isaiah 3:12)

A voice is heard on the bare heights, the weeping and the supplications… because they have forgotten the Lord their God. (Jeremiah 3:21)

Without holiness, none shall see God. (Hebrews 12:14)

Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! (Romans 6:15)

Put aside all anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech. (Colossians 3:8)

Persue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentlenss. (1 Timothy 6:11)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37, 39).

Hide My word in your hearts that you might not sin against Me. (Psalm 119:11)

Dear America and Church of God,

Judgment begins in the household of God. (1 Peter 4:17)

Let us reason together, though your sin is as scarlet it shall be white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18)

Remember from where you have fallen and repent and do the deeds you did at first. (Revelation 2:5)

Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15)

For because I so love you, and all the world, I sent my Son, Jesus, and whosover believes in Him shall be saved. (John 3:16)

Remember, Jesus is returning.  When Jesus returns every eye will see Him and know Him. (Revelation 1:7)

Oh America and Church, turn back each of you from your evil ways, correct your ways and your deeds. (Jeremiah 18: 11)

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Revelation 22:21)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning about Love

 

November 7, 2020.  Today is my 38th birthday.  Today is my 5th wedding anniversary.

I have learned much about love in the last few years of life.  I’d like to take you on my journey, in part.

 

When I was single and dateless, love eluded me.  I thought love was evasive.

When I started dating seriously, love flowed around me.  I thought love was effortless.

When I became engaged, love overwhelmed me. I thought love was perfect.

When I got married, love surprised me.  I thought love was beautiful.

When selfishness and mundane reality intruded, love started fighting.  I’ve found love is fierce.

When anniversaries started accumulating, love started changing.  I’ve found love is adaptable.

When Satan whispered lies to my married soul, love started coaching. I’ve found love is truth.

When flesh started battling for me first, love corrected me.  I’ve found love is disciplining.

Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, love does not boast, love keeps no record of wrongs.

When I struggled, love rescued me. I’ve found love is gracious.

When differing opinions offended me, love calmed me. I’ve found love is gentle.

When distance separates me from him, love calls.  I’ve found love is bonding.

When I think I have figured marriage out, love laughs.  I’ve found love is marvelous.

Love always hopes.

Love always trusts.

Love always perseveres.

Love never ends.

 

(And some of you have been hurt, and love has felt hard, and marriages have ended.  Take heart, the love of God that is pure is for you, and His love is your and my ultimate story. Earthly love is to mirror God’s love — yet we live in a fallen world.  As the song says, “The love of God is greater far than tongue or man can ever tell.  It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell.  Oh love of God, how rich and pure, it shall forever more endure.”  May God’s love fill you in an unending, pure, truth-giving way.  No matter your story, no matter your marital status, no matter your past: You are loved with an everlasting love!)