Grateful For the Hard Times

Have you learned how to have a heart of gratitude? According to researchers, there are specific things you can do daily to cultivate a grateful heart. Some are obvious. Some not so obvious. But all are oh, so important.

Like learning to recognize God’s presence in everything. And by everything, I mean EVERY THING. The good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what, you have never walked alone.

Think back. Look for it. You’ll see.

A few years ago, my son was in the hospital for brain mapping for his seizures. I was there with him for a week, because they needed a family member familiar with his seizures to press a button every time one happened. Little or big. I loved getting to know my young adult son on this intimate level. We talked, we laughed. When he had visitors, I’d step away for a break. For the most part, we were captive room mates. It was a strangely enjoyable time.

We had spent family time with my older brother just a few days before entering the hospital, and he had promised to visit Chris that week. It was quite a drive, so nearly every day I would leave him a message describing the traffic, say I knew he had to get up so early for work, and he should wait until the weekend to come visit. All was well.

Except it wasn’t. When my brother didn’t show up to visit Chris by Friday evening, I called him several times. No answer. I called his neighbor, who said the car was in the driveway, but lights were out in the house. I called my nephew, a police officer, to ask what I should do. He immediately drove there, and looking through the window, could see my brother lying on his bed. He was gone.

I know what you’re thinking: WHAT could possibly be good about this situation? How can you be thankful for your brother being found lifeless in his bed?

Clearly, I’m not thankful for the death of my brother. What I am thankful for is the orchestration of all the surrounding events:

* God chose to call my brother Home in the gentlest of ways. He simply took a nap after work, and didn’t wake up. I’m grateful.

* I was helplessly locked in to a commitment of being in the hospital with my son. If I hadn’t been there, I would have driven out to my brother’s house and I would have found him. I’m grateful to be spared from that.

* My nephew is a police officer in the adjoining city and when he called the dispatcher, he knew her. He knew the protocol of what to do in this situation and said to me, “Tami, God arranged for this to happen when I could take care of it for you.” I’m grateful for him and his good heart.

* Officers arrived & they had a common ground with my nephew. When they looked through the house and found no evidence of foul play or suicide, they reported it as such and the mortuary was called to pick up my brother, and not the coroner. This never happens in Los Angeles county. I’m grateful.

There is more, but I think you get the picture. As I think back on that night, I see God’s handwriting all over the situation, and I am grateful.

Since then, I’ve entering into times of beautiful blessing as well as hardship. I see God’s hand in that, as well. And I am grateful.

So very grateful.

Look at your life. Think back. Take some time to see how God connected the dots in your helpless and even hopeless situations. Never once, did you ever walk alone.

I hope you’ll see.

There is so much to be grateful for.

Are you Delighted?

delight [dih-lahyt]

1. a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture: 2. something that gives great pleasure:

When is the last time you were delighted? Reread the definition above and really think about that for a minute. Unfortunately it’s an emotion that may be in short supply lately.  It’s an emotion I truly didn’t enjoy very often until a toddler started calling me grandma.

There is nothing like having a little person in your life who brings joy and wonder. His enthusiasm for EVERYTHING is over the top.

And he DELIGHTS me.

“Watch dis, gramma!” “Gramma, let me show you!” “I wuv you, gramma.”

Such music to my ears.

Every time I find such joy in my little guy, God gently reminds me that he feels the same way about me. And I am amazed.

“For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.” Psalm 149:4

“the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Rejoice over you with singing! Oh! Doesn’t that make your heart just sing?

Let’s take it a step further: If we also delight in Him, God says He will give us the desires of our hearts! What?

Just this morning, I was playing with my grandson Luca & things got really silly. Doing something as simple as throwing a ball back and forth had us in giggling fits. We were delighting in each other. And you know what? There is no desire of his heart I would withhold from him when such delight is going on.

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

God desires that two-way relationship with us. When we take delight in Him, it makes His heart sing and burst with joy. Remember, He actually rejoices over us with singing! imagine yourself as a child with a daddy who is so in love with you that he delights in every little thing you do!

Father and daughter laughing and bonding

Our lives are so filled with trouble and angst that I know it’s hard to think about taking delight in anything some days. But what if we did? Find the smallest thing to start with, and see it with new eyes. Begin to change your outlook. Take delight in God, and He will take even more delight in you. Don’t miss out on walking in that kind of freedom…

And see what happens to your life.

Just Keep Swimming

I think most of us have seen the movie “Finding Nemo” when the character Dori sings “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” In the movie “Finding Dori” we learn why she sings that song. She is a small young fish and sings the song with her parents when she is learning how to swim and she continues to sing the song when she is facing her fears.

We all have fears that we must face. Whether we are a small fish, a child, or an adult, we all have fears. “If you don’t look at fear as your enemy it will one day defeat you” (Havilah Cunningham). You are either driven by fear, or overtaken by fear. What will it be for you? If you let fear defeat you, you will not grow or become the person God made you to be. You can either step forward into growth or step back into safety. What will it be for you?

There is a spirit of fear that wants to dominate everything in you. It is Satan’s way of stopping you from doing the powerful things God created you to do. Will you let him stop you? Will you let him win? What happens when you face fear? What if? What would you become? You will not know unless you do it, unless you take action. It will not be easy. Facing what you are afraid of is NOT easy, but you will never know who you could be or what life has for you if you don’t.

I was asked why I go on so many trips, and do so many activities and adventures. And my answer is this, there is so much on this earth to experience and so many places to go, why not try to do as much as possible?! I said yes to an 11 month Christian mission trip to 11 different countries. I was scared. I was afraid. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I did it anyway and I am here to tell you I do not regret going one bit! I am so happy I was obedient to God. I grew in ways I would have never if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and face my fears.

Our job is to be obedient and say yes to the opportunity in front of us even if it scares us. There is anointing that comes when you obey God. And when we obey the supernatural will happen. And I experienced just that. God gave me an anointing over my life and I experienced miracles, and went on many adventures.

I have run and finished a half marathon, completed a triathlon, hiked Half Dome in Yosemite, training now to hike Mount Whitney (the tallest peak in the continental America), went shark cage diving, laid with tigers, rode an elephant, went on a safari. I’m not saying this to brag of all the things I’ve done. This is a result of saying yes to an opportunity, facing fears and going for it. I accepted the challenge of training, of leaving the country for a year and in return I was able to do all this and more! 

Are you going to “just keep swimming” or are you going to let fear defeat you? It’s up to you.

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You Can’t Earn It

“But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put in on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…” Luke 15:22

You may have heard this story of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance and was living in obscure poverty when he finally came to his senses and returned to his father to ask if he could work as his hired help. The father was so overjoyed his son had returned home, that he restored him to his previous status, including giving him the family ring that would forever give him all the rights to something he did not earn.

That ring, though.

Photo: Jostens

Photo: Jostens

Troy Murphy, a Wisconsin pastor who also happens to be the chaplain for the Green Bay Packers football team, tells a story about when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. A few weeks after that big game, he was running on the treadmill when he answered a phone call that went something like, “How soon can you come here to be fitted for your Super Bowl ring?” You better believe he stopped that treadmill and rushed to the stadium as soon as he could. As he flashed the ring to us and we all ooohed and ahhhhed at its bling & beauty, he said, “I don’t know if you remember, but I didn’t catch a pass during that game. I didn’t go out and make any tackles. I never ran a ball into the end zone.” And yet, here he was, the recipient of a ring that makes him part of something he did not earn.

What a gift we’ve been given!

God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be

~Brennan Manning~

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS ENCOURAGEMENT?

This is the 250th entry of our Life Words Today blog!

Amazing how time flies by!!! What started as an idea, a desire that I voiced to my sister, Tami, as we walked along the beach of Salisbury, Massachusetts, became a reality. She is a computer whiz…..I am not. So she began to do the research on how to set it up.

Here we are, still sharing our thoughts and words of encouragement to you, our faithful readers!

In the past I taught a class for women’s retreats entitled “Life Words vs Death Words.” It is to our disadvantage to speak death words – not only to others, but also to ourselves. The enemy of our souls wants us to think we are worthless and of no value. Then he can persuade us to turn our backs on God. He is a crafty one, and lying is his native language.

Sooooo…..the need for us frail humans to be encouraged is not only biblical, but a basic human need.

We have shared our individual struggles with you and included you in our personal thoughts and meditations. Hopefully you have been encouraged to “keep on keeping on” regardless of your circumstances.

Life is hard, and when you know someone else has experienced similar hardships and has gained strength and perspective from them, it lets you know you are not alone.

Although we have pulled out some of our Mother’s writings from the 80’s, we are also mother/daughter, mother/daughter, with experience ages of 28-74, and we all live in different areas of the United States.  We have shared with you diverse life experiences and views, but all with a biblical base and personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We take seriously the teaching of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Prophets and Apostles who made sure we had the inspired scriptures to guide us through life. There is no greater “manual” for what to do or not do in life than the Holy Word of God.

Even if you have no one person to encourage you, read and re-read the 23rd Psalm!!!  Almighty God said He would never leave you. There are many scriptures that will encourage you on your life journey.  But, seek out a godly person to encourage you and pray with you.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established….that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Romans 1:11-12

BE ENCOURAGED!

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The Walking Wounded

I can’t remember another time in my life when so many people around me are living in a constant state of pain. It’s debilitating. Yes, we can say it’s a choice to react to adversity by accepting the pain. And yes, we can choose joy… but we are human and we are tender and we are WOUNDED.

Our loved ones are in trouble, and we ache for their freedom.

Flags are flying perpetually at half staff these days, in response to the horror of the rash of terrorist attacks on innocent people. We cringe at the news of a new attack almost daily, and we mourn with those who’ve lost loved ones. The air is electric with emotion right now, and it is spilling over into our everyday lives.

The news shows images of death daily. Even if it’s not directly affecting us or someone dear, we still absorb the intensity of a world in mourning. So many in the mainstream population of the world right now are walking through their days in a state of uncertainty. They are traumatized, they are burdened, and they are afraid. A perpetual state of being the walking wounded.

There are days I feel like we are all living in a surreal movie setting. It’s as if reality has been suspended and this horrible new sequence of events has ushered in a new era of fear.

I’ve heard about the last days my whole life. Read depictions of it in books like the Left Behind series, marveled at how movies about the future were always so dark and depressing. And now, here we are in a moment of reality that rivals those fictional depictions. Today, I actually had the thought that I’m fearful of the future my grandson will be facing.

Should I be surprised? I’m not a theologian, and am certainly not here to discuss the biblical evidence of what to look for. That’s what we have Strong’s Concordance and Google for. But it goes without saying that there are some signs we can’t avoid.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.  

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Yes, all those who are brutal and abusive have left in their wake a people who are shell-shocked and hurting, and need to know that Jesus was wounded even as they are wounded. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us in our pain, and bring us hope.

Remembering the promises in Psalms made me lift up my face to the heavens and thank God for today. In spite of everything going on, we do have hope. And perhaps those of us who are able to carry more hope than others are tasked with the job of lifting up those who are still the walking wounded.

Photo: AdobeStock

Photo: AdobeStock

For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.  Psalm 37:9

 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.

Psalm 62:5

 

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

 

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Give Voice to Change

I love springtime. It brings the promise of new life and change. At any given moment, the new songs of birds and vibrant colors of budding flowers saturate the senses. I was granted life in springtime, which may be why I love it so much.

Seasons come and go in life. Like the coming of spring, a new season has been brewing in me for awhile now and just when I’m reaching the age when many women slow down, I’m feeling a desire to ramp things up.

Life. Isn’t it funny? Change is inevitable, and we can either embrace it, or fight it. We can grow with it, or stunt our growth by kicking and screaming our way to oblivion. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic. Think about it, though… don’t you know that person who just wants to quit on life? To just sit and vegetate for the rest of his or her days? I do.

But that’s not me. And if you’re reading this, I suspect that’s not you either.

We know we need to change and grow. It’s a strong desire we think about. A lot. What I’ve found though, is a chasm of disconnect between the knowing and the doing. I know I need to lose a few pounds. I know I need to organize my life. I know I need to allow for some down time to relax and recharge. But do I DO it? Nope. Not whole-heartedly, anyway.

It’s nice to think about changing myself. I envision what it would be like to be my ideal (for me) weight and shop for clothes without disgust. I think about how efficient I would be if my office was tidy. I love the idea of how much my mind would be cleared if I got rid of some of the clutter in my home. I fantasize about taking a day off to play with my grandson without feeling like I have a ton of things that need to be accomplished.

A month later, I’m still thinking. There is no doing. And in all of this thinking and not doing, I’ve learned something very important: I have to speak the change I want to happen. It must have a voice. Thinking about it to myself gets me absolutely nowhere. Goals and visions for my future must be written down and spoken to allow for my  brain to actually get it, and begin moving towards the changes I seek. I need to speak to Jesus about all of it, and ask him for direction.

Jesus said, “The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” (John 10:10)

Maybe your life is busy but not full. Does that make sense? Jesus promised a full life. Actually, He promised the fullest life, but we so often choose to just think about it and not take the action he requires for that to happen.

Okay, so let’s make a deal: I’m in if you are. I turned 57 years old yesterday and I’ve got big dreams and plans that I believe have been planted in me by God himself. We’re talking BIG, setting captives free kind of dreams. Even so, nothing will happen unless I take the leap of giving a voice to those things that must change in order to reach those dreams. I’d like a fuller life, but there’s some stuff in the way. How about we work together on voicing change to a fuller life?

That sounds pretty good.

I just had a birthday and it’s time for a change. I’m giving it a voice. You can follow along on my personal blog, Voicing Change. Let’s do this!

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Walking in Freedom

I just got back from a weekend in Mexico with my church. We turned off our phones and the outside world in order to be fully engaged with the people around us and with Jesus. When you become fully present with Jesus, the supernatural happens.

We would start our day with one on one time with Jesus. Sitting in the quiet of his presence and creating a space for him to speak and for us to listen. In this space your relationship with him grows. He wants to spend one on one time with you just like you would a friend.

We then would head to the church where we would have corporate worship praising and singing songs to our Lord and Savior. One of the pastors would speak what God had placed on their heart and it always ended with a response to God.

One of the responses was thinking of a time that left us in a place of shame, guilt, discomfort, anger, whatever it may be and going back to that time in our life and picturing Jesus there with you. It’s powerful! Try it. You will begin to feel freedom. Chains will start to break off because you have allowed yourself to go back to that time of hurt and pain, but you also allowed Jesus to show you where he was during that time. He was with you.

He wants to heal you from that place of hurt. Whatever it may be he wants you to walk in freedom with him, but he is not going to force you. He is waiting.

Jesus has already set us free by dying in our place on the cross. Now is our time to fully walk in the freedom he has given to us. We don’t deserve it but he gave it to us anyway because that is how much we are loved by the Father in heaven.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

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(I have so many amazing stories from this weekend but I feel this is what God wanted me to share with you first. Wait until the end of the month and I will share more!)

When Heaven and Earth Collide

On Thursday I was worshipping during a corporate worship service and I felt as if heaven and earth were colliding. It was the feeling as if things of heaven were coming down to earth and all the saints were in one room together along with angels. The presence of God was so overwhelming in the room that I was flat on my face lying on my stomach on the floor.

While I was lying on the floor worshipping there was a presence of someone else worshipping with me. Yes, there were many other people physically in the room, but I felt as if someone was with me spiritually. It felt as though someone I dearly love who went home to Jesus about 6 years ago was with me. That presence was my dear Grandma! It was beautiful. I felt as though my grandma and I were worshipping our God together! I had tears of joy streaming down my face. She and I were laughing together and singing praises to our Savior. The moment was wonderful and I didn’t want it to end.

I know for a fact my grandma is in heaven and I believe God gives us gifts from heaven like visits from the ones we love who have gone before us.

This is not the first time my grandma has visited me. Almost exactly a year ago I had a dream that was so vivid I felt as though my grandma was in the room with me. She told me she was sent from God to bring me reassurance and hope.

Before my grandma’s visit last week, I was missing her and wishing she was with me. I want to talk with her so badly about all the things God is doing in my life. I want to sit down over a cup of coffee and have a conversation about Jesus. Even though I cannot physically see her or give her a hug, I was reminded on Thursday that she is with me. She is seeing all that God is doing in my life, and we shared a special moment together in the presence of God. What an incredible gift!

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Hillsong has a song called “Heaven and Earth.” The chorus is

Heaven and earth collide
The Savior for everyone has come
Bringing the dead to life
All for the glory of Your name

This is so true! The savior for everyone has come. He came to this earth and is alive in heaven. He brings the dead to life, which is true in many ways, but in this case, my grandma “died” on earth, but is alive in heaven with Jesus! And I was able to experience her being alive to bring glory to the name of Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to worship with my grandma and see her in a dream.

I hope this is an encouragement to you! That you will experience heaven and earth colliding. Worship God, give thanks to him, praise his holy name, ask for an encounter with him, and you will experience the greatness and glory of the Lord on earth as it is in heaven.

 

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1: 18-19

 

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” Matthew 6:9-10

See, I am Doing a New Thing!

I love a new year! It feels like everything old can be washed away as a clean slate is presented to us for writing a new story. I find this both encouraging and daunting. Encouraging because there really is no limit to what God can accomplish through me. Daunting for much the same reason. What will 2016 bring?

The Bible is filled with rich promises of a new beginnings, and I found it so encouraging to read through these verses the other day, I thought they might encourage you as well. My prayer is that you will latch on to these promises and find the HOPE in new beginnings:

Isaiah 43:18-19 

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Oh, how I love that one! It feels like a love letter from God. He is making all things NEW!

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Lamentations 3:22-24 

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

Let us not be consumed by worry about what the future holds, or what the past has brought. His mercy and compassion is new EVERY morning! What a great thought!

Ephesians 4:22-24 

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Amen! May we put on a new self daily, as we walk through the new year.

Isaiah 40:31 

31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Want to SOAR this year? The only requirement is that you HOPE in the Lord. Whew! That takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?

Matthew 7:7

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

We have not because we ask not. This one hits hard. I’m going to be asking for big audacious things this year – not only from God, but from myself and others as well.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

As much as I’d like everything to happen NOW, I must remember that God makes everything beautiful in its time. In HIS time.

Revelation 21:5

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He is making everything new! Everything. Every. Thing.

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

So why am I trying to do it all myself?

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

My future is secure. What a glorious hope!

Proverbs 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

Yes. We plan our course. In our hearts, on our planners & calendars. After all that planning, what might happen if we gave the Lord the last word on which things to step into and which to stay away from? I think probably the best year ever, that’s what!

Oh, there are so many more! I invite you to explore the Word of God as you plan your year. Let Him direct your steps and chart your course. If you do, I believe you will look back at the end of the year in amazement at how much more God accomplished through you than you ever could have done on your own!