When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

“Choose Joy!”

It’s a slogan that is popping everywhere from journals to key chains to wall decor. It’s a feel good slogan and a lifeline to many. But it doesn’t seem enough when life takes those detours.

What do you do when life takes a sudden turn and …

… you end up in a hospital bed with all sorts of scary tests being run.?

… you discover a hidden issue with your child that rips you to your core?

… you get that pink slip out of nowhere with a family to feed and bills to pay?

… that true love of yours is caught in a web of untruths that breaks your heart and your trust?

… ______(you fill in the blank) ______?

You “Choose Joy” right? Nope, it’s practically impossible in those shattering moments. Besides, joy doesn’t have answers for us. Joy is a fleeting emotion hard to hold onto. So what do you do?

You choose Jesus. He has the answers. He knows what lies ahead when you can’t fathom where to go and what to do next. He has the power to restore the devastation and broken things. He can redeem people, relationships, and things. He is the source of true life and true joy. He loves you!

Choose Jesus through the tears.

Choose Jesus through your fears.

Choose Jesus in your pain.

Choose Jesus in your darkest hour.

When we choose Jesus at those unexpected turns, joy comes with the package!

CHOOSE JESUS!

They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love

Years ago there was a popular Christian song that stated, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,… and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It was heart-warming and was sung by youth groups all around to promote unity and love among us all. I imagine many of you sang it at some time.

We live in a very fragmented state here in the US. Differences in opinions over political issues, social issues, health issues, and a hundred other things have led us down a path of separation, antagonism, division, and claims of intolerance and hatred. Are we still Christians who are known by our love, or are we people who are known by our fear, judgment, and condemnation?

We seem to have forgotten that we can have different theological and political views and still love people. Biblical values must be upheld if we call ourselves Christians. The way we hold up our beliefs is what we are considering today. If we aren’t careful, we tend to hold up some sins as horrible. We judge and condemn people who do “those sins.” While at the same time we overlook or take lightly sins that don’t seem so horrendous to us. Sin is sin. God condemns all sin, and He expects us to flee sin, to avoid every appearance of evil, whether it is big or little, murder or lying, robbery or harsh words.

As we Christians operate in society, it is good for us to follow God and declare sinful behaviors wrong. I would not be following Christ if I didn’t. But affirming that homosexuality, abortion, politically correct tolerance, etc., are wrong, does not require me to be hateful or condescending toward the people who believe the opposite of me on these issues. In fact, the love of God compels me to treat these people honorably, with love and gentleness.

At the same time that we stand up against the sin of abortion, do we equally stand up against sins that have broken families down and created environments where people turn to sex outside marriage and end up in a position to desire an abortion? When we boldly condemn homosexuality, do we just as boldly condemn pre-marital sex and adultery? Or are we less verbal in condemning those sins we find tolerable? When we verbalize our opinions on masks or vaccines, do we do so in a way that allows others to hold their own opinions without feeling that we consider them an enemy? When we (rightly) confront our child’s teacher over inappropriate or ungodly material being used in the classroom do we dialog with them with kindness and respect or do we come in like gangbusters demanding and threatening?

I’m reading a wonderful little book by Josh and Sean McDowell called The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth & Love. It has pushed me to examine how I handle issues that go against scripture, and how I treat people who believe differently than I do. In one chapter Sean talks about going to a Christian conference on homosexuality and how he stood firm on God’s Word, yet expressed his theological beliefs to them in loving, acceptable ways.

We need to learn to do that, to express our beliefs based on God’s Word in a way that does not tear down and cause arguing, anger, and hatred. Are we willing to get into discussions and respectful, straight-forward dialog without throwing insults, slurs or jabs? It will be challenging. Are we willing to discuss hard issues without anger and judgment. It will take us out of our comfort zone. It will require us to develop relationships with people very different than we are. But it will open up a door to show God’s love and stand firm in His principles, and will take us as Christians from being seen as judgmental, haters to being respected as people who stand firm but love others unconditionally. It’s a challenge I want to embrace. Will you join me? Let’s let the world know that we are Christians by our love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John13:34-35

Reading The Word in 2022

Have you gotten started? Reading God’s Word this year that is.

Our church, GFBC, is strongly encouraging every member to let this be the year of the Bible and to commit to making reading God’s Word a daily habit. You are invited to jump in and be a part of this! Will you join me and hundreds of others?

You don’t have to necessarily read the whole Bible.

  • You could focus on reading the New testament all the way through. That would involve about a chapter a day.
  • If you’re an ultra-busy mom of littles, you may just want to read the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, over the course of a year to get a glimpse of Jesus each day. Just read as you have time, mark your place, and pick back up the next day.
  • Perhaps reading slowly through a particular book or books of the Bible and taking notes of what God shows you through His Word is more your style.
  • If you’re a retired empty nester with plenty of time you may want to read God’s word cover-to-cover or chronologically all the way through. That usually takes reading about three chapters a day.

There are so many options. The important thing is to have a plan or goal for the year. If we don’t plan up front and set aside time in our busy schedules we usually don’t get a thing done. Check out Bible Gateway for reading plans, or get the YouVersion App, it has dozens of options. Or just google “Bible Reading Plans.” Whatever you choose, the point is to go to God’s Word each day for your spiritual daily bread.

We can do this! We are all in this together. Let’s read God’s Word faithfully, encourage one another to be diligent, grow in our relationship with Him, and end this year full of the wisdom we have gleaned from His Word!

“…the Holy Scriptures, … are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-17

Want to SURVIVE or THRIVE in the New Year?

Alone. Ten-thirty p.m. New Year’s Eve.

The ballgame was over. My sleepy husband and daughter had called it a night, but I was wired up from the exciting game. As I scrolled channels looking for anything entertaining and waiting for the ball to drop, I felt sad.

Extroverted me would’ve loved sharing the evening with family. Friends. People. Any people. I was alone and mopey, feeling sorry for myself. As I sat there in the dim glow of the Christmas tree lights and TV screen I knew I should be happy and content, but I wasn’t.

I wasn’t terminally ill. I had a warm place to live, family, and friends. I was in relatively good health for some over the hill. Why couldn’t I be grateful? I knew so many people who had so many more struggles than I currently did: cancer, Covid19, broken marriages, addicted kids… For several it was their first Christmas without that child, spouse, or parent; death is a thief.

So why did my limping knees and my husband’s sciatic pain send me into an emotionally dark place? I don’t know, maybe I’m just a selfish greedy person. I should be able to put my woes into perspective.

Sitting there, tears blurring the TV screen, I desperately said to myself “What do I need to do to fix this? I need hope. But I need to trust God, too. And I need rest – real rest. My soul is weary.” As those words came out, I thought of those three particular words: Trust, Hope, and Rest. Yes! That’s what I need more of in 2022! The first letters of each word came to my attention: T… H… R… and the word THRive came to my mind. I knew in that moment THAT was my word for 2022 – thrive.

A few minutes later when the ball dropped, I was at a place of peace and able to doze off.

The next morning I got up pessimistically wondering what catastrophes this year might hold. I don’t like myself when I think that way. I really wanted to have a good day, and that required a good attitude which I didn’t have in the moment. So I set to my normal morning routine: coffee, Bible, journal – sip, read, listen, pray.

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I’m so grateful that godly people and the Father Himself have taught me the importance of spiritual habits. Bible reading, praying, journaling to listen, and scripture memory all used to be hit or miss activities in my Christian walk through life. I usually did them when I was needy, depressed or emotional, kind of as a bribe to get God to do something for me, I guess.

But after 40+ years of walking with God, He had convinced me to come say Good morning! to Him each (and every) morning no matter what I was feeling or had to do that day. At first it was hard to develop that habit. Laundry, computer work, or the network news shows vied for my attention first thing in the morning. But month by month over the years, I slowly came to see that having that relationship with Him, that routine of meeting with Him, during happy or mundane times would be a lifeline to me in my sad or tragic times.

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So New Year’s Day 2022 I set about my morning routine.

Our pastor encourages us to find a watchword and a scripture verse each year. Every year for the past five or six years I’ve known my word going into the new year. Father God has brought it to my attention in the last few weeks of the year, and I’ve been able to start off day one with a focus word and verse. Perhaps that was part of my gloominess the year, I had yet to receive a Word from the Lord and I felt… lost, adrift, sailing into the new year.

As I sipped my peppermint mocha coffee, I thought over the word I’d had dropped in my mind last night. I believed it was my word for the year, but I always pick a word that is found in scripture, and I doubted I’d find the word THRIVE in the Bible. So opening my Bible and journal, I started off a bit skeptical.

And guess what I found! It’s there! The word “thrive” is in God’s word in several places! Who knew?! It is translated as thrive, flourish, or prosper. But the idea behind it is to blossom, break forth, grow, increase, rise, grow fat, push forward, germinate, or bear fruit! Yes! That’s what I wanted for this year, to break out of the dark soil of depression and weariness and grow into a thriving, fruitful vine! A vine pleasing my Maker and bearing fruit that nourished other believers.

Ezekiel 17:24 is the verse God gave me. “Then all the trees of the field will know that I am the LORD. I bring down the tall tree, and make the low tree tall. I cause the green tree to wither and make the withered tree thrive. I, the LORD, have spoken and I will do it.’ ”

Though we may feel like a small, withered tree – the Lord will cause us to THRIVE – to Flourish! God has spoken good for His children in His Word and He will do it! He. Not I. I can’t make myself into a tall, thriving tree, but Father God can. I cannot fix my weary soul, but He, the LORD will do it. I can take joy in that. It doesn’t depend on my trying, fixing, or controlling. Whew!

So what is my part? Nothing and everything. Nothing. Nothing to manipulate or fret over or manage or worry about. But everything. Every single day I must come sit at His feet, read, pray and listen to Him, coming into a closer more intimate relationship that will sustain me through everything: the discouragement, heartache and fear. A relationship based on Trust in Him, Hope in Him, and Rest in Him. A relationship where I Thrive.

That is my prayer this year, for me and for you as well. May we not just survive another year, may we Thrive, germinate, break forth from the dark, and bear fruit.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ Jesus

John 15:5

Almost Missed It

I Almost missed it. I was too worried about myself to even be aware of him. Too busy being about my own business. 

I hardly noticed him sitting across from me, elderly, past retirement age, Bible open in his lap, head bowed in thought and prayer. 

I was looking at my phone pouring over a Google search. His Bible was worn and used marked and highlighted. It fit snugly into a Bible cover. He would turn the pages with a gentleness and ease that I watched intently. I am a page flipper, no grace, no careful touch, just a ferocity and clumsiness that tends to be my nature. My Bible reflects such a nature.

This man though took such care with his most treasured possession, a pang of conviction came over me. He wore no expression of shame and he did not dare attempt to hide his Word. I noted as he read he was towards the back. I assumed a letter from Paul and I fought the urge to ask him what he was reading, what nuggets of truth he was finding in those soft pages. Moments before, I was too worried about myself to even be aware of him and as I sat now enamored and intrigued, I realized for the second day in a row, I’d almost missed something, someone rather, because I was consumed with myself and my own circumstances.

The day before I was frustrated, my day began with a broken pipe that led to a broken ceiling and a broken wall. I am no contractor but I knew it meant trouble. Expensive trouble. As I exited the interstate I was grumbling about the cost of such things and how I was heading into work after crying all morning and I didn’t really want to go but no I had no choice and if God could’ve just not let this happen that would’ve been great and also could that car in front of me just GO!!! 

I was angry and I was so consumed with myself that I almost missed it.

A person sitting on the ground, head down, knees pulled in, arms around them one frail hand raised, but just barely, holding one of those foam trays, meat comes on and written in neat all caps black letters, the word “Hungry.” The sign one of desperation, the posture, one of shame. 

As I sat across from the unashamed Bible reader I realized that I had almost missed them both, the ashamed destitute least of these, and the unashamed Bible reader because I was looking down instead of up.

I had been so focused on me and my stuff that I failed to look around and see the world around me. 

Another pang of conviction and I began to pray. A prayer of repentance and petitioning, I asked for eyes to see others as the King does and to see  less of me and my circumstances.

I looked up after my silent amen just as The Bible reader began to doze.

I’ve done it myself many times, my intention to spend time with my Lord but fatigue takes over and my head once bowed in Prayer now is bowed in slumber. I used to feel bad about that, used to be upset that like the King’s friends, couldn’t I just stay awake and pray, until one day a friend of mine told me she felt sure that the Father would much rather me climb up in His lap and fall asleep than to have never met with him at all. 

Happy New Year!

From the bloggers at Priceless to each of you – May you have a blessed New Year!

We hope to offer encouragement for you each week. To remind you to pray and stay in the Word each day. May your faith and understanding of our Lord Jesus grow as each day passes.

In the words of the apostle Paul, our prayer for you is…

May “…the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. [We] pray 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 his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” and we “…pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And [we] pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Amen

[Excerpted from Ephesians 1 & 3]

HAPPY