This Keeps Me Going

One morning I woke up thinking about Grandma. She had written me a note months prior to her passing and it’s something I hold close to my heart. I recently placed it on my desk so it’s something I see all the time now. It reads,

Dearest Nikki:

It was good to be with you yesterday – I enjoyed it! Just want you to know how very dear you are to me. I pray for you. I know God has a wonderful plan for your life. You are precious in His sight. God bless you always.

Love,

Grandma

I began thinking about the times I would drive up from college in San Diego to visit the family and I would head straight to my grandparent’s house. Sometimes I would even surprise them and what a joyous surprise that was each time! I loved sitting with them talking. I would ask them to tell me stories from their childhood and earlier years. I loved it!

Those are times I wish I could get back. After they both passed away, I would drive up from San Diego and become sad because I could no longer drive over to their house to surprise them. They were both very special to me and I enjoyed our precious, numbered time on earth together. I look forward to the day we are joyously reunited in the presence of God. What a spectacular day that will be. I looked forward to hugging both of them.

I was also thinking about what God has asked me to do. He is calling me to write a book. This is something Grandma talked about doing, started, but never finished. I am writing this book for her, with her in mind. I am doing this for both her and God. And when I think about that, it keeps me going in this process. Writing a book is no easy task and it scares me. But knowing I am doing this for Grandma makes it more manageable.

I recently went through boxes with my mom of my grandparent’s things. Most of it are lessons and sermon notes my grandma wrote. I have since made copies of those and are using them to be included in my book. Now I really feel I am writing this WITH Grandma!

Grandma and Grandpa, I love you and miss you everyday. I look forward to the day we are reunited in the presence of God. I cannot wait to hug you again and dance with you and sit and chat with you. Until that day comes, I am living my life for Jesus.

With great love from your granddaughter,

Nikki

I’m Being Pruned!

In the beginning of 2017, God told me this was going to be a year of growth and preparation. I did not know what kind of “growth and preparation” he was going to put me through. I am in the start up phase of my business so at first I pictured the growth of my business. I had dreams of what this year would look like with many clients, creating courses, and such. However, that is not the kind of growth God had for me.

This growth was more of an internal growth and preparation. Let me give you a picture. Think of plants and how they grow. If you let them grow and grow and grow without ever pruning them, they would get out of control. There is a hibiscus bush outside my front door. I get so excited when I see blooming red flowers! But then when the bush is overgrown the landscaper trims it and the flowers are gone. It’s a sad day when I come home and see the flowers have been pruned. However, when the flowers grow back they are more vibrant than ever before!

I see this as the life God has for us. He is the vine and we are the branches that continually get pruned. It hurts and it’s painful, but it’s for the best. I am in a pruning season. Pains I have avoided in the past are coming to the surface and I have a chose to either deal with them and uproot them, or to avoid them. Avoiding has not done me any good so I am choosing to deal with them. And let me tell you, it is not easy. I have been seeking outside help, which has been hard but so good at the same time.

I encourage you to look at the areas of your life that need pruning. We cannot be all God has called us to be if you do not deal with our pains, and our struggles, and our sins. We are not perfect which is why we go through these seasons of pruning. Let me tell you, even when you feel as though you are in the thick of it, God will never leave you. He has told me over and over that he is never leaving me and let me tell you, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit even in my darkest moments. Trust the process and let God do the work he needs to in you. He will NEVER leave you.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

LIFE WORDS vs DEATH WORDS

Most of us are experiencing stressful times in our homes, jobs – even with traffic.  What we are thinking often comes out in words we wish we could take back. I even caught myself the other day using a death word on myself.  “What a dummy,” I said out loud. The reason we started this family blog four years ago was to encourage you to speak Life Words TODAY!!! That is a virtue we all need to work on.

You know that your words can bring life or death to yourself or to another person.  However, the repeated edification of words that build up another person’s perception of who he is, brings life and hope to one who has been beaten down by destructive words.  We see this often in children.  Those who have received encouragement as a child usually excel in school, talents, and careers.  There are exceptions, however to that rule in that some of our most gifted scientists, artists and musicians have overcome years of abuse.  What makes the difference?  Well, for one thing we read in God’s Word that God loves each one of us unconditionally.  When you know that, it changes everything! It changes how you feel about yourself and what your gifts are.

Psalm 139:14 states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each one of us are precious in His sight.  God cares about the sparrow that falls, but He cares about you even more!!!  In knowing this we can live above any death words our ears and heart take in.   You’re probably thinking…”Yeah, right.  Easy to say, but hard to do.”  But, you have worth! God has made you so unique there is not another person like you.

Today, i encourage you to read the Book of Proverbs.  There are 31 chapters.  If you read one chapter every day in a month you will gain wisdom and understanding of who God is…and who you are!

Each one of us have been given a free will by God.  In that free will you can choose to be abusive with your words (and actions), or you can give healing with your words (and actions).  Yes, we are just human after all, but controlling the tongue is a discipline that builds good character.

When you explode with anger you cannot take back your words or actions.  A runaway temper can cause depression, especially when you create a circle of resentment.  You become angry at yourself because you lost your temper……that adds guilt, which continues on in a vicious circle.

Proverbs 14: 17 “A person who quickly loses his temper does foolish things.”

Paul told the Christians in Ephesus, “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are angry.”  If you stay angry it turns into bitterness, even hatred, and that, Paul says, “will give the Devil a foothold.”  That is when anger becomes sin.   Anger starts in the heart and mind.  “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it.”  Jeremiah 17:9

Since I know that about myself, I pray this prayer every day from Psalm 139:23.  Read it yourself this day and sincerely pray it.  God will help you speak life words, not death words!!!

Build on The Rock, not on the sand

Last week I was on vacation with my Mom in Corolla, North Carolina. The beautiful Outer Banks!

We went on a wild horse viewing tour one day in a 4-wheel drive truck. Highway 17 actually continues up the beach on the last 11 miles of the sand where the horses run free! What an amazing experience viewing God’s creation.

While driving over and between the sand dunes, our driver pointed out the tip of a windmill that was sticking out from a dune. He explained that it was part of an entire small town that had been swallowed by sand dunes. For decades it has been buried! And, not only that, but the dune had actually moved several thousand feet over time, with the entire town inside of it! It was a very small town called Seagull with about 120 residents, but all the buildings and houses were and continue to be at the mercy of the migrating dunes!

This, of course, reminded me of the story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builders.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27Let us build our lives on the Rock. The foundation that does not move. Let us not build on the shifting sand where we could collapse or be swallowed and buried!

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
ON CHRIST THE SOLID ROCK I STAND;
ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND.

Edward Mote

Letters From Gladys

I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true …

I’ve seen them vanish at dawn.

But enough of my dreams have come true,

thank God,

to make me want to dream on.

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came …

Though I waited patiently and long.

But answers have come to enough of  my prayers,

thank God,

to make me want to pray on.

I’ve trusted many a friend who failed me,

And left me to weep all alone,

But enough of my friends have been true blue,

thank God,

to make me want to trust on.

I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way for the birds of the air to feed on.

But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hands,

thank God,

to make me want to sow on.

I’ve drunk the cup of disappointment and pain.

I’ve gone many days without song.

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life,

thank God,

to make me want to live on.

(Author Unknown)

old letters in the vintage arrangement

In my mind, retirement always belonged to “those older people” who had passed their most useful days of ministry. We lovingly watched as others entered this stage of their lives, never really anticipating that one day, we too would belong to that group. This past fall, however, my husband and I retired from our pastorate, having completed 46 years of ministry in the Body of Christ, and the Foursquare Church in particular.

As retirees, the amount of concessions afforded us is amazing! Restaurants, parks and hotels give us discounts; magazines are published specifically for us, and the health field directs its attention to us in a constant barrage of new medical plans to supplement Medicare. We are forced to make new decisions concerning our lives and future. Change seems to be a constant for us, and it fills many of the prayers we pray.

Recently, in the apartment building where we live, the need to remain open to change even in the small details of life, was illustrated for me. It was a Monday morning and I had filled the washing machines in our community laundry, when a retired lady came in, looked at me with anger and said, “I have lived in this apartment building for twenty years, and I have always washed first thing on Monday mornings. You have ruined my day!” I returned to my apartment praying, “Oh Lord, keep me flexible. Don’t let me become rigid and unable to flow with life’s changes, small or large.”

In relating to the Church, we are happy to submit to the leadership of the younger generation, for this is right. But at the same time, we are still Salt and Light; Jesus made us that, and that we will be until He calls us “Home.” We thrill when a soul is born again. We rejoice in the victories of the Church, and we encourage the younger pastors who have taken our place to preach the Word, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We also request your understanding. In your ministry to us, please don’t expect us to totally change, for there are some things that we do cherish. We are still moved by some of the old songs that have sustained us down through the years. We love to hear a preacher proclaim those proven truths of God’s Word and stir our hearts with eloquence and anointing. Most of all, we need your care and support as we face what might be the most challenging time of our lives.

The poem which I have included above must have been written by someone who has walked along the pathway of life some distance and learned from that walk the things that are truly important. I know they express my sentiments at this time in my life.

A Retired Shepherd,

           Gladys

(This article first appeared in the “Letters From Gladys” column in Foursquare Advance Magazine, 1989, and again on the LifewordsToday blog in February, 2016 – we are reposting it today because the message is timeless. We are happy to report she was vibrant in other forms of ministry for another 20 years until God called her Home in 2009.)

 

THE GROANING EARTH

Romans 8:19-22 “The creation waits in eager expectation  for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

You’re probably thinking “what a strange subject to talk about on a LifeWords blog.” Hang with me….I’ll get to it.

There have been numerous natural disasters in the last two months.  In fact the Atlantic hurricane season is the worst on record…and it’s not over yet!

Hurricane Harvey, a cat 4 hurricane hit S.E. Texas on August 25 and caused $180 billion dollars in damage, which is more than any other disaster in US history (Katrina was 2nd). It affected 13 million people from Texas to Louisiana.  As of this date it took 78 lives, but long term infections and bacterial intestinal problems because of drinking water systems being damaged, and PTS will take its toll on the health of the inhabitants there.  The flooding was a result of a record rainfall from a single storm in the US of 51.88″.

Since I now live in North Florida I experienced the effects of hurricane Irma.  However, our church prayed and asked God for mercy, and He answered YES!  In other parts of Florida, especially the west coast city of Naples, took a direct hits of 142mph.  The damage of Irma is still being calculated between $100 and $300 billion dollars.  Irma was the most powerful hurricane in recorded history.  This cat #5 made landfall on Barbuda Island on September 6 with winds of 185mph for 37 hours.

The Caribbean Islands have taken a strong hit from three hurricanes in a row, which has never happened before, and Maria is still active at this time.  Barbuda is no longer inhabited, Dominican Republic is devastated, all of Puerto Rico is without power.

Mexico was hit with a 7.1 earthquake.  At this point there are at least 273 lives lost, some were children that were in school.

Dozens of wildfires have enveloped the western U.S. – Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and California.  The smoke was so thick it caused respiratory problems, and the smoke was carried by the jet stream across the U.S.

There were massive landslides in the Alps of Switzerland covering a village, floods in India, Peru, Columbia, and Raleigh NC.  Severe drought in Spain and tornadoes in Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri.

These are all examples of our planet groaning for redemption….and I’m not even bringing up the man-made disasters of terrorism and wars.

Now, I know these things have gone on for thousands of years, and we are much more aware of them now because of social media.  However, my point is…as believers in the risen Christ who promises to come back and take us with Him….we have HOPE.

You hear or read about the predictions of some who say the world is coming to an end…….and sometimes it sure seems that way.   Some even give an actual date because of blood moons, stars aligning, the eclipse of the sun, weather change, natural disasters, terror attacks, etc.

The best book to get the actual facts from is THE HOLY BIBLE…. GOD’S WORDS TO US.   And the good news is…..the back of the book promises WE WIN!!!

Three of the Gospels, Mathew, Mark and Luke, record Jesus’ words…“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Matthew 24:4-8

I don’t know much about prophecy, all I know is…..HE’S COMING, AND I’M READY !!!

How about you???

Who Is Praying You Through the Storm?

One by one, I heard from friends and family after Hurricane Irma passed by them.

“We’re ok. Thanks for praying.”

“It looks like we might have a couple windows broken, but we are safe. Thanks for praying.”

“We don’t know the extent of the damage, but we are all safe. We sure do appreciate the prayers.”

“We won’t have power for several days, but that’s such a small thing compared to what others are facing. Thanks for praying.”

“Our home is intact. We knew you were praying. Please continue praying for our neighbors who have lost both of their cars.”

Our home is gone, but we are safe. Thank you for praying through the storm with us.”

Each and every one of those I heard from had an overwhelming message to send: Thank you for praying us through this storm.

This one was a no-brainer. We saw the storm approaching. We saw the danger. We were helpless to do anything but pray.

Courtesy NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center

So we prayed.

As my friends, one by one, shared their relief that they knew they were not alone when the storm was at its worst because people were praying, God reminded me that this is how life is supposed to be done. Life is filled with storms, and the aftermath of those storms – and yet we are so slow in asking others to pray for us during those times.

Then I turned inward and thought, when life rages against me, why do I not rally the prayer warriors to storm the gates of heaven on my behalf? Are you guilty of this, too? If you are, I’m here to tell you that you are doing yourself a great disservice. Harm, even. The body of Christ is here to hold us up when we can’t hold up ourselves.

In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Ephesians 6:18 (MSG)

So I challenge you – the next time you have the smallest inkling that a storm is brewing, reach out to those warriors who stand ready to do battle for you. Have a trusted group of friends, blast it on social media, or if it’s intensely personal, call your local church and ask for prayer.

Ask.

For.

Prayer.

It’s what will get us through the storm and the aftermath.

 

Entertaining Angels

My grandma would say, “Treat everyone with love and respect because you never know when you are entertaining angels.” And it wasn’t until years later (ok I’ll admit this year!) did I realize this exact phrase is in the Bible! My grandma knew the Bible like the back of her hand and I did not appreciate her knowledge until I grew older.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

When I was younger I did not understand this statement. I had heard about angels but didn’t fully believe they were actually real and around us. This was a concept my head could not wrap around. I was too much in my head. I was trying to think logically. I couldn’t see them, how could they be real? This is where faith comes in.

I have heard stories of people being visited by what they thought were angels. The more I learn about God and the Holy Spirit, the more I become curious and want to know for myself.

Grandma would tell us a story she claimed taught her faith and the provision of the Lord. One day, during the Great Depression, there was no bread for lunches when she and her siblings left for school. Their mother instructed them to come home for lunch, which she recalls was not a short walk. When they arrived at home, their mother still did not have anything for them to eat. At that moment there was a knock on the door and a man stood before them with a loaf of bread to advertise a new bakery in the area. Their mother came in the the house with her eyes full of hope, lifted up the loaf of bread and exclaimed, “The Lord will provide.”

Grandma would tell me this story when I was a little girl, but when she told it she would say the man at the door was an angel. She would say the Lord sent him to provide food for her family. You never know when you are entertaining angels! 

SUFFERING

suffering/synonyms: Acute bodily or mental pain. Distress may be physical, but it is more often mental, referring to any deep anxiety, or the external circumstances that may produce it.  Misery is extreme suffering or abject hopelessness, as from sorrow, great loss, poverty, or the like.

Why is suffering allowed by God?

That question has been asked by believers and non-believers alike…….the difference is, those who know God know that He is a balance of justice and mercy.  Sin came into His perfectly created world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  So because of that first sin, all of creation (including you and me) is waiting for the healing that will happen when Christ returns.

Last Sunday I sang at a church in the Tampa, Florida area.  At the fellowship meal afterwards I met a 43-year old mother of 3 who was still having therapy after a triple by-pass heart surgery 3-months ago.  She had no warning, only tightness in her chest.  She has MS, her husband travels for his job during the week, her father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she has 3 boys ages 5-12 years old.  She thought the tightness in her chest was stress from life’s challenges.  The weekend her husband was home he encouraged her to go to the ER, but she refused….he insisted.  They sent her home.  The pain started then and she went back.  This time she was in surgery within the day with 100% blockage in one artery and 90% blockage in two others.  Post-surgically in the hospital one of her lungs collapsed.  Of course many prayer warriors were lifting her up in prayer…..and she is recovering wonderfully.  But, why would this godly young woman already dealing with MS have to suffer like that?

She is radiant with the love of Christ, and is a strong witness to her doctors, nurses and therapists.  She gives God all the glory for His healing touch.

I have experienced pain physically and emotionally in my lifetime, but I’ve never really suffered.  How about you?  If you have, according to the definition at the top of this blog, how have you handled it?

Right now there is an abundance of suffering in Texas due to the devastation of hurricane Harvey and the ensuing rainfall that is still causing flooding.  I can’t even imagine what that must be like.  There will be human suffering, distress and misery there for a long time.  Our prayers, finances and when possible, physical help, are with them.

There really is no way to end this blog on this subject because human suffering will always be with us.  But I must encourage you that God is a loving and compassionate God, and His heart is broken as He sees the ongoing suffering of human kind.

The Apostle Paul suffered much as he shared the Gospel of Christ.  He wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”

God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to this world; part human due to His birth from a virgin, so that He could feel and understand what we go through as humans.  In the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, we read what was written about the suffering of Christ 700-years before His death on the cross.  Verse 3:  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

Dear God, help us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Photo: Gisela Giardino, Flickr Creative Commons

Ray of Life

I’ve had difficulty writing my post this week. Monday was the great North American eclipse, and the following day, August 22, would have been my friend Amy’s 41st birthday. 7 months after her passing, the physical and emotional anguish I was feeling as her birthday approached was debilitating. I just felt frozen. Add to that all the hatred presently spewing about in our country. I wasn’t feeling “Life Words.”

I decided not to drive south to a place where I could witness the total eclipse. I figured that 98% of the eclipse at my house in Charlotte would still darken the sky enough to see a star or two. I was shocked at how light it actually stayed with just 2% of the sun shining down! I was a bit disappointed, but amazed at the same time. I’m sure the anticipation of Amy’s birthday pushed me toward the disappointed side.

Then, yesterday, I noticed a Facebook friend’s post. Sally had just celebrated a birthday during the eclipse. Her post lifted me in a way that nothing else had for days as I had been locked in a bit of depression.

Please take a look at her Life Words:

“It only takes a little light!!!….it only takes a little love, kindness and gratitude to light up even the darkest situations.”

And here is how God lifted me from my dark place. A person I have never even met face to face posted these words of life.

Immediately I began to thank God for the time I had with Amy. I began to remember her love, kindness and gratitude, which she displayed even in her darkest of times. That little bit of light shined bright enough to illuminate my heart and my mind and pull me back up.

Thank you Sally Goodwin for your words. I hope to shake your hand one day!

Remember, a positive and encouraging word can reach into the darkest of places. You never know when what you say or do will touch someone who needs it. Let this remind us all of the power of our words. Be mindful of what you say AND what you post on social media! Let darkness and death words be eclipsed by light and life words!

“The power of the tongue is life and death— those who love to talk will eat what it produces.” Proverbs 18:21 (ISV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)