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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!)

The Lord is in His Holy Temple

Good Morning Precious Women of God!  Today is Sunday, 10/4/20.

My husband and I still are not going to church.  I miss it.  I miss gathering.  I miss normalcy.  Sometimes I feel guilty about not being there. Other times I find myself wondering what it means to honor the Sabbath in these times.  Many emotions are involved in this year of ongoing changes, griefs, and realities.  Both at a global level and at a personal level.  I know you relate.

I am working my way through the Old Testament. I’m slowing down and studying.  And I am very thankful for Bible studies and Bible teachers as some of this is hard to understand!  And I’m only scratching the surface in my “studying!”  I am now in Micah.  Micah is one of 12 minor prophets in the Bible.  (Minor prophets are given that title based on the length of book in the Bible, not based on their message!  And as I learned, “The minor prophets fall into two groups: preexilic and postexilic, depending on whether they ministered before or after the exile of the southern kingdom (Judah) to Babylon from 605 to 536 B.C.”)  Micah ministered before the exile.  In Biblical histroy, the people of Israel were God’s chosen people, and they had been united then they divided and formed two kingdoms – the southern kingdom and the northern kingdom, led by separate kings.  Both kingdoms eventually went the ways of the world around them, and begin worshiping gods other than the Lord God. This evoked God’s anger. These were His people.  All through the prophetic books of the Bible we see warning and hope intermingling.  God can not be unfaithful to His covenant – ever! He sends warnings and punsishment, often events around them that seemed to be bent on destroying them,  yet in the midst of this God always promised restoration at some point in the future.  In the New Testament when Jesus Christ takes people’s sin on the cross, this is the beginning of restoration for all people.   Gentiles (anyone not of Jewish ancestroy) are “grafted in” as God’s people!  So everyone who believes in God and the forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ blood is one of His own people, Jew or Gentile! There is hope for all people then! Revelations, the last book of the Bible, is full of the promise of a new heaven and a new earth that is coming when Jesus returns to this earth and physically rules and reigns and makes all things right!  Oh such a thought!  So much has to happen before that time, yet that time is ever drawing closer.  I used to be scared by the thought – until I grew in knowledge and understanding of God.  For “far be it from God to destroy the righteeous with the wicked!”  And Precious Lady, if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior who died for your sins, nothing can separate you from the love of God, and He bestows on us His rightesousness.  (So awesome!) So there truely is no need to fear. Restoration is coming!

Yet we are not promised there will not be suffering and trials in this life.  Rather Jesus suffered physcially and set an example for us to follow.  We are told “in this world there will be trials.”

This brings me to my study.  I am finding the minor prohpets are a great resource of Truth in our present day circumstances.

I have read Micah before, and I found it a very confusing book, so I have never lingered in it.  So this time, I read chapter 1 at least three times before I even opened my study, and I read it several days apart as nothing grasped me, and studying the book seemed a bit intimidating. So I kept “not doing it.”

Last night, in the middle of the night, I was thinking of COVID and President Trump now diagnosed (which regardles of which side you lean to, the fact that our president has COVID just adds to uncertainties and what if’s), and elctions and politics, life, our world.

I went ino the kitchen.  I opened my Bible. What to read?  Well, I’m supposed to be in Micah.  So I prayed a quick prayer asking for understanding.

And I read Micah chapter 1:2-3 “Hear, O peoples, all of you: Listen, O earth and all it contains, And let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temle.  For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place.  He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.”

I paused.  Learning to listen to God sometimes means not “reading the whole chapter just to get through” – it means stopping when something “grasps you.”  So, this verse is to all people of all the earth.  This verse shows that God is being roused from His holy temple to tread the high places of the earth.  Hmmm.  High Places in the Old Testament were places of idol worship.

1:7 states, “all of her idol’s will be smashed. (Her refers to Samaria, the capitol of Israel)

Hmm.  I pondered.  What are MY idols that God needs to smash?  What are our nation’s idols that God needs to smash?  Hmm. Sobering.  Yet this message is one I’ve heard several times in the last couple of months from several places – the idea of repentence of things that we set up above God. Sometimes not even “bad things” – good things can be idols too if they are above God in our hearts.  My heart cries: Oh God, let us be women who listen to You!  What do we need to hear? How do we repent?  Let us not be stubborn with hard hearts!

When I came to Micah 1:12, I stopped again as I read, “For the inhabitant of Maroth becomes weak waiting for good, because a calamity has come down from the Lord.”  Hmm.  Calamity has come down from the Lord.

I googled calamity (Bible study tip: define words – even words you think you know!).  Calamity according to Merriam Webster is: A disastreous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering.  Or, A state of deep distress or misery caused by misfortune or loss.   I looked at the synonyms too.  These were listed: Catastrophy, Disaster, Tragedy.  And even more interesting to me were the related words: Collapse, Crash, Meltdown, Armageddon, End-time, and Upheaval.

Hmmm.  I pondered more.  Then I looked at the phrase at the bottom of my screen: “Near Antonyms for Calamaty: Godsend, Manna.”  Antoynms are opposites.  So interesting that Godsend and Manna appear.  (Manna – provision from God as seen in the Old Testament).  (Godsend.  We tend to say a gift is a Godsend.)  Hmm. Think, think, think!  Oh Ladies, please think and ponder this yourself.  What is God saying to you?

To me, I see Micah – a prophet to the people of Isreal before their exile. Therefore he was warning them and calling them to repent.  I just read 1 chapter of Micah and this time, these verses “spoke” to me.  (Thank you, Lord!  Bible study tip – start with prayer to understand and persevere even if it takes you awhile on the same verse or chapter).

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Revive our Hearts host, often says: “Anything that causes me to need God is a blessing.”

Anything that causes me to need God.  I can think of a few things: politics, our world, COVID, uncertainties, things in my personal life, etc.  These things cause me to need God.  Could they be said they are Godsends?  Hmmm.  Some of these things I see around me are calamities.  Hmm.  Micah 1:12 – Calamities from the Lord.  Hmmm.  His purpose is to smash our idols.   Hmmm.  He is in his Holy Temple.  Hmm.  What is God saying?  I want to ponder this today.  I want to hear God in this season, in all the unknowns.

Oh Ladies, here is a quick challenge – study Micah chapter 1 for your self and see why God was roused from His temple. Write out your own idols as God brings them to mind.  How can we particpate with God in smashing the idols in our lives?  How can calamities be “from the Lord?”  God is in His holy temple, and he is working to purify a people for Himself.  Pray for your children and those who don’t know Jesus that they would come to know Him!  Pray that in wrath He remembers mercy.  Pray for soft, repentent hearts towards Him and His Word. Pray that God be first in your life.  These are prayers that smash the idol of self focus, and these are prayers that advance the kindgom of God and His rule.  Dear ladies – Press on!

Let it Go!

Anyone younger than 10 years old likely would see the title of my post, and think of the movie Frozen.  Hah!  As a side, I actually really like that movie!  I just think it is a cute kid movie!  This movie came out 7 years ago.  At that time I was a nanny for my niece.  I remember playing with her, and she would have me go into her room and close the door.  She’d then lay down outside the door and put her face to the floor to peek under the door.  “Elsa, Elsa,” she would say.  This was copying a scene in the movie.  And so many little girls love the song Let It Go. In fact my niece and I (when I was her nanny) were inside the store Kidstuff.  This toy and education store is full of fun for children, and many of their items are able to be tried out by the children in the store.  This day we were in this store, and another little girl was belting out Let It Go into a microphone.  Both my niece and I watched her.  I later asked my niece if she’d like to try the microphone out.  She shyly nodded.  She was only willing to whisper the song into the microphone, but it was still cute!  Another day I was walking into the grocery store.  A father was pushing his cart out to the parking lot, and in the front of the cart was his little daughter, probably three or four years old.  She and he were singing Let It Go.  I smiled at the dad as I passed them, as he looked slightly embarrassed to be overheard singing  Let It Go.  I just thought it was cute that he was singing (and connecting) with his daughter!

Letting go — oh wouldn’t it be so nice if we as adult women could let it go as easily as a toddler singing a fun song?  Yet, if you are like me, we don’t tend to let things go easily.  We worry.  We try to fix things.  We try to take control.

I’ve been listening to this podcast on anxiety — if worry is something that you struggle with (which I think most women struggle with this to some level), I highly recommend taking an hour to listen to this:  Strategies for Fighting Anxiety Part 1   and Strategies for Fighting Anxiety Part 2

Just this morning as my husband and I were talking about some things in our lives, I stated, “I don’t know what to do.”  Later in the day, I was alone and thinking about the same things.  I said to God, “I have to give it to You.  I don’t know what else to do.”  And later still, I was getting ready for bed and into my mind came “My Child, What could I do?  You never did let go.”

Those words are part of a poem that I had read and reread years ago.  I’ve since lost the card that had this poem on it, but I used to carry it in my purse way back in high school!  I mulled over this, and my earlier thoughts of giving my situation to God.  Let it go.  Let it go.  Let it go.  My mind mused.  I argued back, “But what if…”

What if?  My mom once asked me in my lonely single years, “What if God never brings you a spouse?”  What if He doesn’t, I had to ask myself.  I had to ask myself that more than once.  Because the easy thing to say is: of course His will is best.  But do I really believe this? In the midst of emotions?  In the midst of wedding announcement number 25 (seriously, my senior year of college I think there were almost 25 engagements at my small Christian college!), in the midst of longings still unmet?

So tonight I looked up this poem (ahh, the benefit of an online database at my fingertips!)

 

Broken Dreams

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my friend.

But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How could you be so slow!”
“My child,” He said, “What could I do?
You never did let go.”            

(Lauretta P. Burns)

 

And, because God loves me and knows I need help hearing Him, as I was typing this post I turned on the radio and “God is in Control” by Twila Paris was just beginning to play.  I haven’t heard that song in ages.  The very next song was “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”  Is God speaking?  You bet!  Am I listening and trusting? That is the better question!

Precious ladies — what do you need to give to God? What is it that makes you say I don’t know what to do?  God is Faithful.  He is Healer. He is Defender. He is Able.  He is the God who Sees. He is Sovereign.  He is Trustworthy.  He can fix anything broken — He can raise the dead, how much more “broken” can something get?  Press on to trust Him! Ask Him what to do.  Give it to Him over and over and over if you need to.  But, precious lady — join me in learning to let it go!

Pruning – A Garden Journey

I LOVE LOVE LOVE flowers! The more I have, the more I like, the more I want next year!  And the thing is, I’m not very sure of what I’m doing.  Some years are more successful.   I actually keep a journal of my flower garden adventures: what I tried, what I like, what happened.  Weird, but it works for me!  I also note the weather conditions, because I have no control over that!  I’d like to share some pictures with you, in my garden journey.

The picture on the left is the end of August last year. I had planted 3 plants in the planter: 2 red calibrachoas (million bells, a cousin of the petunia) surrounding a purple calibrachoa.  You can see some flowers, some growth, some brown.   The right picture is the beginning of this summer.  This time I switched it up and tried 2 yellow bidens with 6 wave petunias.  The bottom picture shows the same planter 13 weeks later.  You’ll notice the bidens barely show, the petunias have taken over en mass!

And I love how full that planter is!  It makes me happy to see pink flowers.  When the yellow ones poke through I love it even more to see the cheeriness of yellow with the prettiness of pink!  And yet these little flowers are teaching me a lesson.

You see, I am not a very good gardener.  I try hard though.  I read about proper care. I have researched planting and the flowers.  I have tried several times, and several combinations.  And I’m getting better!

Are you wanting to say, “who cares?”  Unless you love details of flowers, or my flowers in particular, this could be a so – what post!  I get it!  But let’s get into what God has been teaching me this summer as I care for my little plants. And hopefully you’ll be encouraged as I have been!

One:  God gives beauty on this earth!  I have been struck afresh with the brightness of color, and the pleasant sweet smell of the petunias (which smell more than calibrachoas by the way!).  I have found myself really enjoying the moments of watering these flowers in either the morning hours with birds screeching around, or in the evening with neighbor kids riding bikes down the street.

Two:  Gardening is not hands off.  And that matters a lot.

So last summer, the flowers grew, and did ok.  The end of August they had flowers.  They looked fine, but they were simply fine – not spectacular!  This summer the flowers are much improved in terms of fullness, and it is not even the end of the summer yet!

Lessons: I have had to readjust what I plant based on what I want.  I have had to learn to prune.  The flowers last year maybe had one trim halfway through July.  That’s it. I watered them.  I fed them.  And it was cooler and rainier.  This year I read up on pinching back the petunias, and on the importance of deadheading.  So I stuck with it, pinching and deadheading all through June.  In the beginning of July I decided they needed a trim, so I cut a bunch off.  Two weeks later I cut MORE off, which you see below is no small amount.  I even cut off full blossoms – not with the intent to enjoy them in a vase, but with the full intent to prune my plant!  And I hope you can see: this final picture is 2 weeks ago, and the one above is now.  Do you see the difference in the amount of flowers and growth today verses two weeks ago?  It was when I was re-trimming that God begin to whisper to my soul.

He begin to explain some things to me about my life (and yours). He has an idea of what He wants our lives to look like.  He wants our lives to be eye catching, and sweet aromas of Him so that we point others to Him.  He carefully plants things in our lives here and there.  Sometimes He plants more, sometimes less, all based on the result He is wanting in that season.  And if He knows something can be better, He prunes.  Pruning might hurt, it might include suffering — He might ask a lot to be given up.  He might have to cut out things that shouldn’t be in our lives.  He might even prune areas that look good already so that in a while more growth and beauty appears.  And sometimes He prunes again just when you thought He was done for a while!  He is The Master Gardener!  His hand and work in our lives to prune us will make us better –if we yield ourselves under His perfect (sovereign) green thumb over the garden of our lives!

Precious Sisters — let’s see what God is doing this season in our lives! Is He pruning?  Is He watering and fertilizing?  He knows just what is needed, and what is not, to produce the best crop in each of us.  His goal is that we would showcase Him! And just like these flowers — we might not see the growth until later!

Brad and I like to walk down along some gardens in St. Cloud. ( The Munsinger-Clemens Gardens.  We highly recommend this little day trip!)  We’ve gone several times this Spring and Summer, more so than other years –just to get out.  We marvel at how much time and effort is put into those gardens.  We delight in all we see and smell — which changes throughout the season.  We talk of how that beautiful place pales in comparison to what Heaven will be like.

Ladies, God wants our lives to be beautiful–just as the most wonderful garden.  He wants our lives to showcase Him and His glory.  He cuts, He prunes, He weeds, He waters, He fertilizes, He plants new or different things.  And then He repeats this over, and over, and over with such love and precision.  Oh Ladies — press on, even through the pruning of your life!