Here I am…

here 2

Welcome to Wow from the Word Wednesday.  On this day, I hope to share some Scripture that really spoke to me.  My prayer is that God will use what I have learned to help you as well.

So, for my first installment, I will rely upon Genesis 22.  Let me set the stage for you. Abraham is living life, going about his business.  He and Sarah had a child LATE in life, but through his faithfulness to God,  Abraham has been assured that his line will continue for many years.  Everything is fine and dandy.

Until this chapter.  As you see, I am using the first verse.  The Scripture says, “some time later…” God calls out to Abraham, the NIV actually says “God tested Abraham.”  Abraham’s response is our target verse.

If Abraham knew what was coming…I don’t know if he would have said, “Here I am.”  If I were in his shoes and knew what was coming…that would be tough.  You see, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.  The son he and his wife had longed for.  That beautiful, sweet, answer to prayer boy.  But, without question, up the mountain Abraham and Isaac went…

The Bible tells us that Abraham readied his son for sacrifice.  He placed Isaac on the wood and, with knife in hand, prepared to offer his son to God.  At the very moment when all looked hopeless, God gave him a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac.  An angel of the Lord called out to Abraham, and once again, his response was, “Here I am.”  The Lord provided–and that is where we first get the mention of one of the names of the Lord–Jehovah Jireh.

Even when the answer could have cost him his only son, when the Lord called out to Abraham, he said, “Here I am.” Perhaps he remembered God’s faithfulness to him in the past.  Maybe he remembered God’s promises to him. Maybe he simply believed and did what God asked without question (Genesis 15:6 says, “he believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”).  Whatever his reason, Abraham’s great faith has made him a role model.

I want a faith like Abraham’s, so I’m asking you to join me in this.  I have taken on the idea of whatever God puts in front of me, I say, “Here I am.”  So far, it’s been quite the adventure.  I, like Abraham, can look in my past and see how God has worked.  I, like Abraham, can remember what God has done for me.  I, like Abraham, can trust God to lead me in paths that are the best for me.

Have all of my “here I am’s” been easy?  Noooooo.  Have I wanted to say, “I’m not here?”  Yeeessss.

But this is what I’m learning.  When I say “here I am,” I get a little stronger.  A little stronger in my faith.  A little stronger in my bravery.  A little stronger in my self-control.  A little stronger in my prayer life.  A little stronger…

All of us have areas where God is calling to us.  We can find lots of excuses to not answer, or to say not now.  I am asking you, my friend, to stop with the excuses.  Take the time to actually listen to what God is calling you to do. Spend time at His feet, getting more confirmation in that area.  And when He speaks your name, have the courage and faith to stand tall and say, “Here I am.”  Your life will never be the same–and all you have to do is answer Him.

“Here I am, Lord.  What’s next?”

Dear God, thank You for not allowing me to be stagnant, for not allowing me to stay stuck in one place.  These calls that You place in my life are not easy, and at times are even scary.  But I trust You to lead me in paths of righteousness, to keep my steps steady, and to be my constant companion along this journey.  Grant me the courage to both hear Your calls and to answer with complete certainty, here I am.

Soul thirsts…

thirsts

Happy Monday!  Our verse for today is Psalm 42:2—“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

If you know me personally, you are well acquainted with the fact that I always have water.  Everywhere I go, no matter how long I’ll be away from the house—I always carry a water bottle.  In fact, I get a bit crazy when I can’t find it, or I happen to forget to bring one (oh the horror!!).  Why am I so obsessive about this?  I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s because I can’t stand to be thirsty.  If I get a dry throat, it’s so comforting to know that I have something to relieve it.  Maybe my water bottle is a grown woman version of a security blanket???  Let’s not go there…

floor notes

(This is my workspace currently… Notice the ever-present water bottle!)

My aversion to thirstiness makes me really look at our verse.  Do I have the same drive to cure my thirst for God?  Do I long for Him?  Do I want to know His ways?  Do I yearn for His presence?  I wish I could say yes…and a lot of the time, the answer would be yes.  But not all the time.  You see, my sweet, the daily demands on my life sometimes “quench” my “thirst.”  I’m busy enough, I’m away from the house enough, I’m “social interaction-ed” enough, I’m _______ enough.  I have enough “other things” and my soul’s longing don’t always get first billing on my “want list.”

That is, until recently (like seriously recently, like the past few days recently).  God has been working on this chick’s perspective.  He’s uncovering some facts about my life that need changing—or rearranging.  My God is opening my eyes to…thirstiness.  Not the physical kind (I’ve got that covered with my trusty water bottle!).  No, this is a different kind of thirsty.  I am finding myself wanting more from my life with God; and by wanting more, I mean more of Him.  When I read devotionals, I see myself in them.  When I see Christian memes about walking closer with God on that popular pinning site, I’m shaking my head in agreement.  My friend, I am becoming a walking, talking, mistake-making example of our verse.  And…I’ll be honest.  It’s a bit scary.

What will my life look like if I live in soul thirstiness for God at all times?  How will I move through circumstances with such fervor?  Am I capable of living a life of constant yearning for a deeper relationship with my Creator?  I don’t know the answers, but I do know that this is the deeper level into which my Jesus is calling me.  I can’t say no…I don’t want to say no.  But this chick who makes satisfying a physical thirst a priority is nervous about stepping wholeheartedly into an area where soul thirst is constant.  Even in those moments of uncertainty (and there are many!), my God whispers words of encouragement—“I (God) am here,”  “You need more of Me,” “Seek Me and you will find Me.”  My Jesus takes my hand, and leads me down this unknown path of thirstiness—and I only say, “Yes, Lord.”

Won’t you join me, my friend, in this incredible adventure of running after God with zeal?  Come with me as we let ourselves thirst for the fullness of God.  Allow the parched areas of your soul to be drenched with the Living Water that flows from the fountains of our Savior.  Never be satisfied with “status quo” living again…  I’m tired of moving through life routinely; now is the time to yearn for Christ and all that He has planned for me.  Will living in thirst be comfortable?  Nope.  Will running hard after Christ be easy?  Definitely not– the world and our enemy will try their hardest to distract us or get us to slow down.  Can you and I afford to not to pursue Christ with fervor?  Absolutely not.  We were not made to live life without passion, without zest.  Come with me—this is sure to be the adventure of a lifetime!  I am planning to stay thirsty…

…but my water bottle will be there with me!!

water bottle

Confessions…and the book that changed it all…

Hello and welcome to…confessions.

I consider myself a “go-getter.”  I try to get things done in a timely manner.

I follow through with my commitments…most of the time (this is where the confessions start!!).

You see, I follow through with the commitments that I know others will see–church ministry, work, home responsibilities…with (sometimes) just enough effort to get it done.

But friend, here’s what I want you to know.  I don’t always follow through with the things that only I and God know about…yes, I guess you could call me a “closet quitter.”

What do I mean?  Well, let me give you some examples:

  • I make a commitment to eat better–then snack on chocolate (at least it’s dark chocolate! 🙂 )
  • I make a commitment to work out–then call cleaning my house my “workout” (it’s not really!)
  • I make a commitment to read my Bible each day–then spend four hours trying to catch up with the week’s worth of reading I missed.
  • I make a commitment to work on my writing–then leave the blog unattended for weeks at a time.

Shall I go on??  I didn’t think so.

Yep.  I just continued through my “make-a-commitment-then-do-something-else” life, thinking no one was being harmed by my “think-it, not-do-it” attitude.  But then, a book came into my life.

I became part of the Launch Team for 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, and all my thinking changed.

5 habits 1

I started reading this book thinking it would be a good read, I’d have the chance to be on the “inside” of a book launch, and I’d have some fun in the process.  Never would I have thought that I’d find myself on the pages!

Through personal stories, Nicki Koziarz (author of 5 Habits), took me on a ride that I wasn’t prepared to take.  She spoke of things she had started and quit, the ideas behind the quitting, the justifications she made…

She could have just as easily been writing about me…

Oh my!  What????

I’m not a quitter.  I see things through to the end…most of the time.

A section in 5 Habits is called “The Quiet Quitter.”  Though I had seen myself before, from that part of the book onward, I saw my face, my life, my excuses, my “quitter-ness” on the pages.

I was completely shocked!!!

And…might I say…a bit discouraged.  After all, this go-getter chick had never thought of all the things she had quietly left behind as being stuff I had quit.  I had to take a few moments to digest this new knowledge about myself.  I was tempted to quit reading this book (yep, another “quit” in the making…)

5 habits 3

But then, along came my God…

And just like that, He used Nicki’s words again to encourage me.  In 5 Habits, Nicki utilized the book of Ruth from the Bible to counteract those “quitter tendencies.”  I found myself drawn to the points that were made from Ruth’s story. I began believing that I could change those habits and ideals that kept me from being a person that people could count on to complete a task–and by “people,” I mean myself and God (because most of my quitting impacted only me (so I thought), and as this book helped me see, it impacted my relationship with God as well!).

I am so thankful that I read this book.  God used it in a mighty way to show me some truth about myself…but He didn’t leave me there to wallow in self-pity.  Nope, through the words of 5 Habits, God showed me how to become a “woman who doesn’t quit.”  Using Ruth as a guideline, Nicki brought out those qualities that I want to have both privately and publicly.  I want those 5 habits shown in Ruth’s life to be evident in mine as well.  Being able to look at Ruth and see how she didn’t quit–well, this book has totally transformed how I will view her story!  I loved the tenacity of Ruth before I became a 5 Habits girl.  Now I will see the similarities of her life and mine–both stories of perseverance through obstacles and obedience to the great and mighty God!

 

Reading this book has opened my eyes to the wondrous world of possibility–to actually finish things I start!  Are you finding yourself saying, “yes, I’d like to be a ‘non-quitter’ myself”?  Then I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you.  It’s an easy read, with lots of “underline worthy” quotes, practical applications, and a Biblical foundation that will ground you more fully in God’s word.  Join the revolution–became a “woman who doesn’t quit” by reading 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz today!  Finish the book–you’ll be sooo glad you did!

5 habits 2

Until next time, my sweet…

I don’t always listen…

loving eye

Thanks to a sister blog, Promises for the Broken Hearted, for our graphic today!

Welcome to Friday’s post on Be Very Well Fed!

Have you ever really thought about our verse for today?

Yes, we ask God for guidance, for protection, for renewal, for strength, for victory…but do we really think about the fact that He has His “loving eye” on us?

I’ve been reading the book, The Shack, by William P. Young.  An interesting read, a relatively quick read, and a thought-provoking read.  “Coincidentally,” if you believe in those, my devotional reading went right along with the underlying theme of this book.  The main character in this book, Mack, has an encounter with all three parts of the Godhead.  Through this time, our verse is absolutely shown–and made “real” by various situations that are played out in the book.  If you are looking for a book that makes you think a bit, I would recommend The Shack.

Laying the book aside, I began wondering about how I live my life.  Do I always look to God for guidance?  Do I sometimes just think that I can handle whatever is in front of me?  Do I live in such a way that shows utter surrender to Him and His will?  Do I really, really, really, really, listen to His instruction and teaching?  Do I even pay attention to God when I know He’s trying to show me something?  Do I?????

I wish I could answer “yes” to all of those questions.  Truth is, I can answer “no” to some of them.  Now don’t be thinking that I’m some rebellious Christian chick who claims Christ on Sunday but lives like she wants Monday through Saturday–I’m not that girl!!  I realize my need for God–it’s just that I don’t always act on my need for God. For example, I don’t always ask for God’s guidance in personal situations–like a hard discussion with a friend.  I don’t always wait for His words to fill me before I speak–I just speak.  And there are times when I jokingly say, “Lalalalalala…I don’t hear You God!”…but truthfully I just don’t want to hear Him.  Ok, that’s enough confession for today!!

So how does this verse play out in my life?  Well, I can honestly say (I know, more confession!!) that I have been in situations where I don’t know how the words that came out of my mouth came out of my mouth!!  I may have felt one way, but the words that came out were in complete opposition to my feelings (in a good way!!).  I have also spent much time in prayer (some would call it arguing) with God before I have gone into certain situations.  Recently, I have been involved in that prayer/argument time, and God finally broke through in such a way that I could understand–and that led to a real, heartfelt discussion with people whom I love and do ministry.  It was a cathartic, freeing, healing time that my soul soooo desperately needed.

But here’s the kicker, friend.  When we allow God to instruct us, teach us, counsel us, He uses what we are experiencing to help others.  In that prayer/argument/ discussion time, I wasn’t the only one who benefitted from that battle/surrender/release.  No, that’s not how my God works.  He used that time to not only minister to me, but also to minister to others who were there.  Tears and soul-stirring words were also present–and those things were necessary for those involved.  By opening up and surrendering to a passion that I had pushed aside, God came in and worked a mighty movement–all because I finally listened to the instruction and teaching and counseling.  I shudder to think how long I kept that from happening–all because I didn’t like how things were going, and wanted to “take my marbles and go home.”  In other words, I didn’t live in the freedom and knowledge of our verse AT ALL!

Today, my sweet, I ask you to stop.  Stop arguing, fussing, pouting, because something isn’t as you think it should be. Let my situation be your inspiration to make a change.  We humans think we have it all figured out, and we don’t need to “bother” God with our petty stuff.  Through my recent situation, the book, and this verse, I realize that there is no such thing as “petty” to God.  He wants to be involved in our day-to-day–our decisions, our discussions, our annoyances, our frustrations, our pains, our hurts, our disappointments, our jealousies, our chaos.

Truth is my dear, He just wants to be involved with us because He loves us.  No matter what, no matter what, no matter what!!!  He’s there when we encounter “big stuff,” He’s there when we encounter “little stuff.”  He’s just there–all we have to do is be ready to hear His instruction, His teaching, His counsel.   Have the courage, the self-discipline, the humility, to bow before the God of the universe and ask for His leading in your life.  Be ready to give everything to Him, and be ready for an adventure that is yours alone.

Lord, I thank You for not giving up on me.  I know I need to stop relying on myself.  I have seen how You work in my life when I simply surrender to Your teaching and instruction.  I ask for Your counsel to guide me in anything and everything I encounter today and every day.  May my heart, my mind, and my soul remain open to Your leading. Most especially, I ask that You keep Your loving eye upon me–and that I live in such a way that shows my dependence upon You and Your ways. 

Focus…

perfect peace

Thanks to Biblehub.com for our picture today!

What a beautiful picture, and a beautiful image in our minds as we think about being focused on God!

Welcome, friends, to another Friday here on Be Very Well Fed!

So, where is your mind focused today?

I know, tough question to start with, but it is one I need to ask you as well as myself.

It’s sooo easy to let our minds pay attention to what’s right in front of us:  the pile of papers on our desk, the pile of dishes in the sink, the scattered toys all over the floor, the scattered clothes all over the bed.  All of those things seem to demand our attention; so much so, that it’s hard to focus on anything or Anyone else.

Perhaps you have some serious stuff going on in your world.  Maybe you are faced with an illness, caregiving for an aging parent, financial pressures, job insecurity.  Perhaps a child is walking a path that is destructive.  Maybe you are in a relationship that feels hopeless, loveless, unstable.  Or…you just don’t know where to turn.

Oh my sweet.  My heart aches for you.  When circumstances are so hard, they dominate our thoughts.  It’s hard to see beyond…

But my friend, there is a “beyond.”  Take a look at our verse, Isaiah 26:3–“You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.”  Notice our verse doesn’t say to keep our minds on God when the situations are good, whenever we can, when we have a spare moment.  Nope.

Steadfast.  What is that, anyway?  Dictionary.com says steadfast is…”fixed in a direction; firm in purpose; unwavering; firmly established;`firmly fixed.”

Hmmm… so let’s apply those definitions and a few more to our verse (yep, remember I’m a teacher–I like to teach you something!). God will keep us in perfect (excellent; entirely without any flaws; exactly fitting the need in a certain situation; complete) peace (freedom of the mind from annoyance or distraction; serenity) when we are steadfast (unwavering, firm in purpose) in our focus.  Take a moment (or two!) and reread that.  Let the ideas behind those Biblical words sink into your mind and your soul.  It’s a lot to take in.

Now, for the good part.  It may seem impossible to fully and completely put your focus on God.  I know.  Let’s try some baby steps first.

In the morning, before your day begins, fix your mind on God.  I’m sooo serious about this.  Use your time in the bathroom, in the kitchen, wherever you start your day, to talk with Him.  Lay your day before the Savior of the world. Thank Him for the day and everything that comes in it.  Ask Him to give you a steadfast mind–one that focuses on Him throughout the day.

But don’t stop there.  When you have an absolutely hilarious moment in your day, thank God for it.  When you have an absolutely horrid moment in your day, thank Him for it and ask Him to help you through it.  When you have a near-explosive moment, thank Him for keeping the explosion away.  When you have a hopeless moment, cry out to Him.  My dear, there are big and small moments every single day that draw our attention to God.  The question is…will you let your mind focus on Him?

I have found that when I make it a point to find God in the midst of whatever and wherever I am, somehow that peace that dwells within me makes its way to the surface.  That’s how we focus on Him, that’s how we become steadfast.  I’m not perfect–and have missed those opportunities for the peace of God to bubble up.  But how sweet it is to have that tranquility, that serenity, in moments when I want to just focus on the negative, on the here-and-now, on the demands.

So today, I pray that you will begin living out Isaiah 26:3.  It won’t be an instant change, and there will of course be moments when you stumble in this process.  Just keep our verse in mind–make it your theme, your goal, your inspiration.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  Our God is One Who gives and gives, and He will notice what you are doing.

focused

Thanks to Postcards from God for this awesome graphic!

Flourishing…

but I am

Good snowy Friday to you!

I had to feature a sunny picture with our verse today!  From where I sit, I see snow on the ground, and sleet-like wet stuff falling from the sky.  Yep, this sunny-weather girl just needed a little blue sky in her day, so I got my fix through our graphic!

So…what does it mean to be like an olive tree?  This southern girl has no idea, but through the remarkable-ness of the internet I found out a few things.  On Biblehub.com, I read these from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible about being an “olive tree:”righteous persons and believers in Christ; who are the excellent of the earth, are filled with the fruits of righteousness; are fat and flourishing; have the oil of grace, the anointing which teacheth all things; are a perfection of beauty, made perfectly comely through Christ’s comeliness; thrive under him, the sun of righteousness; grow in the mountain of the Lord’s house, the church: their grace is incorruptible, their leaf withers not; they are rooted in Christ, and ever continue; they are the sons of peace, and their last end will be eternal peace.”

Wow!

Pretty cool to be an olive tree, huh?  Except for the fat part…

To continue on in our verse, I have to admit something–I love, love, love the word flourishing.  I hope to be ever flourishing in everything I do.  To flourish is to excel, to thrive, to grow luxuriantly–all of these I want to be present in my relationship with Christ (the “house of God” in our verse).  Remember friends, all other things we do in life should come out of our love and devotion to our Lord.  Wouldn’t it be incredibly awesome to see how God is prompting us to excel, thrive, grow in extravagant ways, through our communion and daily interactions with Him?  Oh sweetie, I pray that you want to live a flourishing life as well!

And our last part…my dear, trust in God is what life is all about.  There will be times when trust doesn’t seem possible, doesn’t seem practical–and it’s in those times when we absolutely HAVE to rely totally on God.  In her book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young calls trust “a staff you can lean on as you journey uphill.”  That is such a vivid description–think of a time when you were climbing a steep hill, literally or figuratively.  That climb could become so much easier with the help of something on which to lean.  That trust that you give in good times and in bad times becomes the trust you can lean on when you don’t think you can.  Trust makes everything else in your relationship with Christ easier.  Trust is what gets you through one day, and the next day, and the next day…until one day you stand face to face with our Savior.

Today my friend, I pray that you will find yourself as an olive tree–rooted in Christ, thriving, trusting.  May your leaf never wither, may you grow luxuriantly, may you lean heavily on the One who will always be there to support you.

This olive tree is headed out in the snow…does it even snow where real olive trees live?  Hmmmm…..

Before you call…

before

Thanks to Just Being Me for our graphic!

Have you ever been so close to someone who seems to know your thoughts?

You know–they can finish your sentences, understand your ramblings, interpret your half-intelligible mumblings.

Someone who knows you and “gets you.”

Our verse today shows that our Creator is Someone Who does all those things and more.

What an awesome thought!

You see friend, sometimes we just don’t know what to pray.  The words won’t come, or we don’t think we are eloquent enough to stand before the throne of God.  For a long while, I didn’t pray in public.  I didn’t want people to hear me fumble over words, get tongue-tied, or listen in silence as I tried to state some request.  Honestly, the thought pretty much terrified me!’

As is the case in most areas of my life, the Lord did a mighty work.  He placed me in a leadership position in a women’s ministry–which forced my quiet prayers to become outward, heard-by-all prayers.  I won’t sit here and say that those first out-loud prayers were magnificent–nope, they weren’t.  But…what I learned is this:  I don’t have to be a polished pray-er to offer my prayers to God.  Yes, in time the words came easier, and God replaced that fear of praying out loud with a simple boldness that certainly comes from Him.

Our verse says that He knows what we are going to say, and hears us even before we finish our thought.  What an incredible truth!

So why do we need to pray out loud?  Sweetheart, I believe when we pray out loud, we are being an example to others.  We can show that vulnerability that comes with placing our burdens and needs at the foot of our Savior.  We can be an encouragement to those who are hesitant to pray aloud.  Mostly, I believe that we are following in the footsteps of our Savior–He prayed aloud many times; and if the Creator of the universe prayed for all to hear, then we should do the same when the situation arises.

So today, I want to encourage you.  If you find yourself in a place where a group is praying out loud, step out in faith. Many times, I have felt my heart nearly beating out of my chest during “aloud prayer.”  I truly believe that is the Holy Spirit working in me, so much so that I have to speak!  His promptings and leadings have opened my mouth and my heart to pray words of comfort, healing, encouragement, support, unity, joy, sorrow.  He will do the same for you.

Become the prayer warrior you were destined to be.  Open your heart to the possibilities–and pray.

Ready???

Welcome to Wednesday!  Let’s dive in!

Mary said

Here we are, less than two weeks before Christmas.  The question from everyone seems to be, “Have you finished your shopping?”

Or in other words, are you ready for Christmas?

I have both asked that and been asked that.  As I was thinking about that today, I wondered–why do we have to be “ready for Christmas?”  Why do we think that we need to do certain things before we are “all set?”

Look at our graphic today.  Mary, the to-be mother of Jesus, didn’t wonder if she was “ready” to be a mother.  Sure she had questions on how all the conception of the Child would happen (and who wouldn’t wonder that!), but she didn’t say, “I’m almost ready for that to happen.  Just a few more things.  Come back in a couple of days.”

Oh to be like Mary!!  Here she was– a young girl, unmarried, pregnant.  She probably endured a lot of harsh comments, judgemental glances, hurtful whispers.  She had plenty of reasons to not feel “ready” for what was happening in her body.

Look at our graphic again.  Mary didn’t say, “Why me?  I’m just a young girl.  I’m not rich or famous or married even.  Why did this happen to me?”  No my friend.  Our sweet girl Mary, she let her soul rejoice in what was happening.  She glorified God–why?

Because He had done great things for her.

Simply put, Mary didn’t let her current circumstances distract her from the abundant life she had been given.

My sweet, we all have stuff in our lives that keeps us from remembering truth in our hearts.  Day-to-day grind, work pressures, home stresses, ministry issues, and so much more turn our eyes from the abundance.

And that abundance??  My friend, our God has done great things for us–we should live in that truth, we should rejoice in that truth.

It would do us well to remember that truth.

Today, put aside all the things you feel you “still must do” in order to be “ready” for Christmas.  Don’t you see, sweetie?  We already have “Christmas” in our hearts.  If we have received Jesus as our Savior, He has come into our hearts and made a difference, just as He came into the world so many years ago.  We don’t need to do anything to be “ready” for Christmas–the joy of Christmas happens every day in our hearts, if we let it.

I challenge you to let that joy come back.  Rejoice in the wonder of Jesus, glorify Him in your life.

Remember, as Mary did, that no matter the circumstance–God has done great things for us.

begins

You’re not done…

Hello Friday!  Here we go…

rear view of woman standing by autumn lake with arms outstretched

Thanks to WomenLivingWell.org for our graphic today!

I know what you’re thinking…what in the world is this verse about?

Glad you asked.

Our verse is found during the story of Paul being in prison in Jerusalem.  He had stood before the governing body in Jerusalem (the Sanhedrin), and they hadn’t made a decision about his guilt or innocence.  What was he accused of, you ask?  Well, that was the question then as well!

Anyway, while Paul was in jail, our verse takes place.  I love how it is stated in the NIV:  “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11).

My sweet, take a minute and picture it.  Our Lord, standing near us, telling us that this trial or persecution is not the end of us.  He says that we have more to do.

Let’s break it down.  There are times in every believer’s life when the Lord’s presence is felt–truly felt.  When I close my eyes, I can see my Lord standing near me.  That image in and of itself is enough to make my day!

Look at what comes next.  The God of the universe stands near His beloved Paul, and speaks to him.  And not just speaks to him, speaks encouragement to him.  My friend, that’s what God does daily to those who take the time to listen.  But we don’t always take that time, do we???

God told Paul that the situation at hand was not the end of his life.  God specifically said that Paul had more to do in another city.

I believe we can take this verse as inspiration in our own lives.  We all have trials, temptations, situations, questions, interruptions, failures, distresses, messes.  It’s part of life.  Listen to the words that God told Paul–take courage.  Be strong.  You’ve got more to do.  Believe.  Keep walking in this path, but do so with the knowledge that there is more ahead of you.  More opportunities to grow.  More opportunities to share.  More opportunities to learn.  More opportunities to help.  More…

Today, I pray that these words spoken so long ago will offer some encouragement to you.  To some, this is just a verse to be read while reading about Paul’s life as an apostle of Christ.  I too have read this quickly.  This time, however, the verse gave me such imagery and such a deep feeling of well-being that I had to share it with you.  Take the time to let the richness, and the truth in this verse wash over you.  Let it become part of your soul, a sure encouragement in times of “imprisonment.”

Keep walking on, my dear.  This “Jerusalem” is not the end.  You’ve got more to do…

What if I don’t wanna give thanks…

Hello again!

give thanks

It’s the time of year where we all stop and remember the many blessings we’ve received.  It should be an easy task–it should…

But what about all the stuff that’s going on around us in our world?  Do we give thanks for that?

Or how about the difficulties that happen in our lives?  Do we give thanks for those?

How about the cold, the hunger, the loneliness that some have to endure?  Do we give thanks for those also?

Oh my sweet.  How I have struggled at times to live out this verse.  How I have allowed circumstances to dictate whether or not I praise my Lord.

I have often thought, “What if I don’t wanna give thanks?”

The world in which we live does many things daily, hourly, minutely to silence our voices of thanksgiving.  Planes go down, hospitals get bombed, places of worship become places of murder, young children die, loved ones leave us too soon…this list could go on for days.  It’s really easy to look at the current state of our world and wonder what could possibly happen to make us thankful.

It’s in those moments when we, as children of God, have to step back.  Turn the tv off, put down the phone, move away from the computer.  It’s in those moments when we have to still the voices of our culture.  It’s in those moments when we need to listen, but not to the world and all its chatter.  It’s in those moments when we need to turn our ears to heaven.   And not just our ears, but our hearts, our minds, our souls.

For you see, my friend, when we allow the chaos of the world to invade our souls, we lose our voice of thanksgiving.  We cannot see the blessings, we cannot see the sacrifices, we cannot see the love.  Our voice of thanksgiving gets lost in all the bad stuff that happens around us.  We become focused on our circumstance…

…instead of our “birthright.”  If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are born-again (spiritually speaking, of course).  We have been adopted into the family of God.  Not for a moment, but for all eternity.  The things of this world will pass away–all that junk that happens will one day fade–and we will spend forever and a day with our Lord.

We live in a fallen world.  Bad stuff has happened, is happening, and will happen until the glorious day that we see Jesus face-to-face.  This world, though created by God, has a powerful enemy that seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  Our enemy will do whatever he can to silence our voice of thanksgiving.  He does not want us to focus on God, and the awesome riches that our Savior gives.  By allowing circumstance to dictate our praise, we give the enemy just what he wants–silent followers of God.

Sweetheart, I have allowed my voice to be silenced.  I have given my enemy permission to change my focus.  I have walked through my life thinking “what if I don’t wanna give thanks?”

But I am here to tell you that I, you, we, cannot walk that way.  Circumstances may be awful, life may be soooo hard, friendships may be hurtful, relationships may be vengeful.  We may be deep in a valley, with little light shining in.  In order for our voice to not be silenced, we have to change our perspective.

Find something, anything, no matter how small–whatever God points out to you as a good thing.  Focus on that.  It may be the smile on a loved one’s face, or the laughter of a young child in the midst of trial, or the phone call that comes at just the right moment.  All of these are small, but are blessings nonetheless.  It doesn’t take some big act of goodness to change our focus.  What it does take, however, is a mind and heart set on the ready–ready to see and receive the blessings, in whatever form they may come.

Today, my friend, I encourage you to memorize our verse.  Our God is good.  In the great times, in the so-so times, in the difficult times.  He is always good.  He is always at work in our lives.  He is always present, always faithful, always loving.  We, as His children, need to both remember those things and trust in those things…

…for when we do, it becomes much easier to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

Happy Thanksgiving!  May you spend your day giving thanks for the many blessings–and have eyes to see those blessings even when the view is less than perfect!