Where Does My Help Come From?

Only when you lift your eyes to the face of Christ and allow Him into your pain and suffering will you truly be set free to live a life where that weakness will become your strength.

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Young beautiful girl emotionally prays to the god of a wind

     “You are living in a ‘rainbow and butterfly’ world that is not reality” and “How can you always be positive and only see beauty” – these are just a couple of the phrases that have been spoken at me during the last few years BUT are far from my living reality. I too, live in a world full of struggles – physical, financial and emotional stressors tug daily whispering doubts and fears that could easily derail me. Every day I make a choice – my eyes look up – the only place that my strength can be found.

     The last 19 months have been some of the most difficult of my life as physical disease robs and steals my sleep, thought processes, every day movements, abilities and even my hopes and dreams. Many days I have been to weak to get up from a bed where I have barely slept due to pain that nothing releases – willing myself to push up and roll off the side to begin my day. BUT in the midst – I look up – I make a choice to see the beauty in a new day, a flower, a butterfly – all of life that buzzes all around me.

     I make a choice to look up – not down, inside or even around me (though I admit I have done all of these over these months) BUT I look to Christ – He has me, carries me, loves me and is ALWAYS there for me. He is GOOD all the time – even in the darkest most difficult places.

Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

     During these months I have found that His strength is my strength – when mine is totally gone – THEN He comes in and gives me hope, purpose and direction where there has been none.

     Through Christ – His strength floods in and I can always be positive, I can see only beauty, I can love living in a “rainbow and butterfly’ world – for it is a specific decision to lift my eyes to the hills and to be strengthen by His loving hand in the midst of my own weakness.

     If you too, are living in the midst of pain and suffering – begin to look up for your hope – not down, in or around. Only when you lift your eyes to the face of Christ and allow Him into your pain and suffering will you truly be set free to live a life where that weakness will become your strength. You will step into a world where living a ‘rainbow and butterfly’ life can be a reality.

II Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Where is Your Trust?

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     Fear has become a constant whispering companion as destructive acceleration surrounds us…global warming, earthquakes, famine, increased hate and violence as well as the rumors of a possible approach of nuclear war. It is so easy to “buy in” to that fear and panic, that “be prepared” mentality that is erupting all around us. Here – in the midst of this chaotic surge – is our place to walk in a different spirit.

     It is now that the LOVE of Christ is needed to dispel that fear. It is now that FAITH in Christ can shine in the darkness – teaching and building hope in the confused. It is now that the HOPE in Christ within us must stand firm, declare and encourage in the midst of what is seen.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.              Psalm 91: 1-6 (ESV)

     Let these words infuse in you today the strength to stand firm. Find rest under His wings – find peace in His refuge as you trust in Him. Remember in HOPE the goodness of your God, remember in FAITH you are called to proclaim that goodness, and remember in LOVE all that Christ did for you and those around you.

     Fear not what you see with your eyes and hear with your ears – look only with your Spirit to the promises of His faithfulness. Breathe easy today as you walk in peace in the midst of this storm, finding refuge in Christ – for there is where your trust dwells.

Fluff & Stuff

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     The perfectly un-scarred teddy bear is unceremoniously opened from the center as stuffing is revealed. Then to my horror the insides are pulled out as if a search is on – looking for the unknown, down inside that fluff. Piles of “fluff and stuff” begin to accumulate – down into the hard packed head, arms and legs the search continues as the pile grows. Then I hear it – “thump, thump, thump”! I can see a small pulsing red light that corresponds to the sound and realize it is a small-computerized heart that had been placed inside long ago but had stopped being heard. Over time its sound had disappeared in the midst of the all the “fluff and stuff”.

     This was just a dream the other night but as my morning and day progressed it soon became a very real analogy that God was speaking into my own heart. All our “fluff and stuff” builds up, packs down tightly, stifling the beating of our heart – the love inside has a hard time being heard, felt or extended anymore.

       We need our own un-stuffing process. How do we get there? It sounds like a big project but it’s the easiest surgery you will every have – just look up, see His face and say YES.

       Our Heavenly Father is faithful to hear. He will reach down and open us up as the Holy Spirit begins un-stuffing all that we have packed in around our hearts. All the hurts, worries, and distractions; along with past regrets and future anxieties – physical and financial burdens – unproductive activities, ministries and relationships – wow and the list goes on. That unpacking can look overwhelming but the process is rather simple. Once His unpacking is complete, the renewal and restoration of Jesus will instantly flood back in – His love saturates and you begin to hear “thump, thump, thump” as the small pulsing red light comes back to life.

     All our “fluff and stuff” – stifles and wears out the pulsing movement of His love in our lives. We have made this journey complex – the reality is as simple as just loving God and loving those in front of us – everything else really is only more “fluff and stuff”.

   Look up, ask and in an instant you will be able to see those you encounter, with renewed love – all the “fluff and stuff” gone as you hear the beat of His heart – His love for each one of them as it begins to pulsate again within you.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (ESV)

An Eternal Friend

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Proverbs 17:17A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times.(Voice)

     The Bible story and friendship between David & Jonathan is one of love and faithfulness that began with a “spirit” directed bond and covenant. When we read this story we often think of David, and God’s eternal plan through him. This covenant of friendship was one that God used to provide protection, training and placement for David’s ultimate purpose; it was part of his journey to the throne, but what about Jonathan?

   Jonathan was a loyal son, an heir to the throne who willingly stepped into a friendship with a very young, poor shepherd boy. That friendship was one, which in the natural made no sense. Jonathan was number two in the kingdom, in line for the throne, and had the constant “ear” of the king – he had it all. So, why make such a friendship?

     I believe we get a glimpse of the why, as we look at the character of Jonathan through his life and choice in befriending David. He was loyal, observant, humble, compassionate, faithful, wise, spiritually inclined and he was a listener. All traits God used and surrounded David with for his encouragement, protection and growth.

     There was something that Jonathan saw in David that drew him beyond the natural. He chose to lay aside his rights in order to continue that friendship even in the midst of his father’s displeasure and desire to kill his friend. He was faithful to his father, standing in battle, honoring him as a son, but there was a point where he had to choose to stand on behalf of a friend. A time he chose to stick closer than a brother – a time he chose sacrifice – to protect his friend at all cost. Jonathan chose love.

     Once Jonathan sent David away, we don’t hear much else about him until he is killed along side King Saul in battle. But, David’s response to that death is one of great loss – the love they shared in friendship went beyond a short-term acquaintance – it was an eternal friendship.

     Is there such a thing as an “eternal friendship” today? In our society friendships seem to exist in fast paced short-term acquaintances – very little thought is even given to the relationship. It often has to do with “what is best for me”, or “does it work in my schedule” and if an offense arises – well – that’s it – “done with that person”. The word friend is thrown around with the click of a button – the “friend” button, the “unfriend” button and the “like” button can be flicked with a keystroke without a thought about the person.

     But, God still desires us to walk in covenant friendship with others. LOVE is the key. With love, Jesus laid down his life for each of us; that is covenant (eternal) friendship.

     How do we walk in that type of relationship with people – with our friends? We listen and move as the Spirit of God nudges us – one person at a time. Choosing to love – choosing to sacrifice “our” schedule, “our” plans or “our” rights in order to protect, to love, and to “stick” with a friend.

Is it easy? No.

Will you be hurt? Probably.

Will you be offended? Absolutely.

     But, through it – you may find a pearl of great price – a hidden jewel of friendship that is not about you, it’s about them – BUT in the end it becomes one of the greatest gifts you will ever be given – an eternal friend.

     Take a chance, listen and reach out, because your next acquaintance just might become an eternal friend.

Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)

John 15:13 And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends;(TLB)

I Samuel 18:1 By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David—an immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend. (MSG) 

 

 

Run to Win

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     Recently I had the pleasure of cheering on the sidelines of a middle school track- meet. My favorite runner – my grandson – was barreling down the track, passing them all – leaving most in the dust. This, the final meet of the short season was a test to win – to beat all previously run times – his own and all the others. Oh, and run he did – with everything in him. With single focus, pointed directly toward that finish line, he pushed with every fiber, every cell, and every breath to WIN! The sounds around him – the cheers of the crowd, the track at his feet and even the pounding of his own heart – were not heard. Every concern, discomfort and thought was set aside for the joy of the run.

     What we don’t see at this track-meet is all the physical conditioning that is put in before today’s “pop” of the starters gun; the daily pushing of those muscles and their throbbing pain in the night watches, the pounding headaches from over exertion and rapid dehydration, as well as the skinned, torn, twisted tissue and tendons as the track often reaches out to win those trial races. These times – hidden from the cheering crowd – are the times where the decision to endure are won or lost.

     We too, are on a similar track, a similar race – our life journey – our race. Our WIN is already promised – it belongs to us through the cross of Christ. But, our race is not an easy one, it is meant to be RUN with endurance. It will require times of determination and physical conditioning. We must cross that finish line. We must have a single focus on that prize! We must not hear or allow all the distractions, concerns and discomforts of daily life to overcome us. We must endure – push past the relational hurts and disappointments, financial struggles, physical illness’ – all those throbbing, pounding, torn and twisted pieces that are part of this race of life. Jesus already promised us the win – the decision is IF you will endure to the finish line – IF you will focus on the prize – for this is the time where you decide to obtain it! Decide to run your race with endurance to receive the prize that is waiting at finish line – and run it well – with every fiber, every cell, and every breath you have been given.

Run to WIN – run for the joy of the run!

I Corinthians 9:24. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives he prize? So run that you may obtain it, (ESV)

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (ESV)

Thankful Simplicity

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As a little girl I was constantly skipping and singing. Wherever I went I didn’t walk, I skipped. It was just more fun to get anywhere that way. Between skipping and swinging I was always on the move.

I wasn’t raised in a home where Jesus was priority, in fact I only thought bible stories were just stories, not real; we went to vacation bible school in the summer as an activity and church on Easter as a dress up experience.

But, some how when I was skipping all by myself I would sing a little song of thanks. This little song was never the same because everything I saw was different every day. This little song wasn’t even directed toward God since I really didn’t know him. This little song was one of thankful simplicity. It went something like this – thank you for my eyes, thank you for my feet, thank you for that bird, thank you for that bug…..etc. As I skipped along I simply called out simple thanks about all that surrounded me.

As I was reminded of this my heart swelled; even then the love of Jesus was obvious to me when I didn’t know him. Today I find myself contemplating the importance of that thankful simplicity in our lives.

Ps 118:1. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

In a society of constant sound and busyness we move through our lives without seeing the beauty around us; thankfulness is not part of our chaotic day. But to live and walk in the peace of Christ that is part of our inheritance, a thankful rejoicing heart is a priority. Even in the midst of the hardest circumstances we are promised that peace. It starts with a simple thankful response.

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It’s a choice! It’s a decision! In the midst of tough times and in the center of your busy lifestyle His peace is always available – it will still your anxious heart and settle your racing mind. But it all starts with refocusing your eyes – looking up and realizing the key is in simply being thankful.

Be child-like again – try moving through your day (even skip if you like) with an attitude, a song of thankful simplicity.

Two Faithful Caterpillars

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The unexpected loss of two friends yesterday stirred an emotional fitful sleep but as I finally rested in the peace of Christ, I dreamed,  and from that dream I found comfort in it’s analogy. So here I share it with you my friends,  as you too, walk the path set before you – it’s joys and it’s tears.  

    I dreamed last night of two beautiful fuzzy caterpillars. I watched them faithfully plod along the path set before them. They traversed the wet thick grass and the stony hot ground; they climbed straight up the slippery leaves, and triumphantly crawled over barriers of debris. Always moving up and over the most difficult of terrain, always moving forward – side by side, without hesitation on this journey of life. Then, as the sun rose on one “set apart” morning they woke to a “suddenly” in their short lives.

     Today there would be no pushing forward.   Today the journey had changed. The sun’s warmth, shining upon them, stirred something within as they rose slowly on the gentle breathe of a breeze. Together, they looked below at the path they had traveled. It looked so different from above. That journey – that yesterday life, had been so full of wonder as they had fully lived each new day,  but in an instant it was new. They now had been transformed – from a caterpillar to a butterfly. A transformation that now allowed them to rise high above; to walk into a new eternal home where the caterpillar journey of short duration would now be used for an eternal purpose as a butterfly.

     We too, will someday be transformed from this life to a more glorious eternal one. We know not when or how that will come to pass, but in faith, we daily walk out our journey – plodding along the path set before us, traversing the thick, hot, slippery terrain we call life. We live each new day fully, and in faith we slowly, faithfully move forward toward the ultimate prize – our own “suddenly” where in that one moment the sun will warm us and we will rise on the breeze – to look below at what no longer will matter. For in that instant, our eternal journey will have begun.