FOMO

Contrary to what you might think, our English language is not static. It is always changing; new words are added because of scientific development as well as societal changes and trends. Within the last few years FOMO came into common use and has been added to our dictionary some time since its origin in or around 2004.

What is FOMO you ask? For those of you my age who may not know, it stands for the fear of missing out. That feeling you get when you hear all your friends got together for a social event you were unaware of, or when you wait to make plans just in case something better comes along.

The term is interesting in itself – an acronym for the phrase that defines it. It is also peculiar in that who ever thought missing out on something would produce fear? This was the line of thinking which brought up the following question: Why is it that there are people we don’t ever care to hang out with, yet when we see them in a gathering with our peers we feel jealous or sad or left out?

This happened recently as I scrolled through a social media account. A picture rolled by of friends gathering. Although none of these were my close friends, somehow I felt left out. What? Why? It made no sense. I don’t even desire to be in a social setting with any of these people. Our values are different. Their humor more cruelly sarcastic than fits my tastes. And the times I’ve been around several of them, I go away feeling somehow sad and like I have been untrue to myself. Do you have acquaintances like that?

men-and-women-standing-infront-of-dining-table-1655329As I contemplated these feelings I realized how deeply the desire to belong, the longing to be a part, and the need for significance runs within each of us. That’s why the drive for success and social acceptance is so prevalent in our society. We all hunger to matter, to be known, to be in community with others.

Isn’t it interesting that God offers us that! Community! Family! When Jesus came to this earth He reconciled us to God, and scripture tells us He gave us the ability to become part of the family of God. The New Testament speaks of God as our Father, us as co-heirs (brothers and sisters) with Jesus, and of treating all believers as family. It’s as if God made us knowing we had this emptiness within us that would one day be termed “FOMO.” Ah surely not, He just created us you know.

What is Jesus’ cure for FOMO and all those left out, I-don’t-fit-in feelings?

Two things. He Himself, our Father, and His church, our family.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob,  he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:38

…Its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

He tells us He loves us, we are His, and we are invited to come to Him. To be a part. When we do come to Him, we find the unconditional love and acceptance and welcoming that we often lack from our human families, and we find that community of belonging.

If we take this to heart it will drive us to a deeper relationship with the Father. If we reject these teachings of His Word, we will find ourselves trying to fill these longings in inappropriate ways to drown out those feelings of FOMO, of lack of acceptance and belonging. So once gain we are left with a choice: to entrust our deepest longings to this unseen Creator of the Universe or to grovel around in the clay with other earthly creations living at the lowest level, covered in filth, and desperate for a Rescuer. What will it be?

Choose wisely. What appears to be meeting our need only meets the surface needs. And what seems it could not possibly be good – to face our desperation and lay ourselves at the feet of or Savior – actually turns out to be the point at which we experience God on a whole new level and find that He is more than enough to meet our deepest longings.

Perhaps FOMO is a term the enemy planted in our hearts to make us feel that God is holding out on us, just as the serpent did with Eve. Perhaps a mind focused on FOMO has no room and no energy to love its neighbor as itself. Perhaps our magnifying lens is focused at the wrong thing: self, not our Savior. Perhaps it’s time to quit buying into this mentality and instead have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5-9)

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“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

                                                                                       – Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)

Search Me, O God

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The beginning of a new calendar year offers a fresh start. Last year’s failures can be stored in the attic with the boxes of Christmas decorations, to be taken out as needed to evaluate and learn from. But self-evaluation is less important than an evaluation from our Creator. Psalm 139 speaks of this evaluation, this searching of our inner man by the Father, a knowing of who we truly are that we cannot control or hide from.

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lordand you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

He sees us, just as He saw Hagar in the desert. He knows us, not just by our appearance or personality traits, but He knows us more intimately and completely that we can even know ourselves. His searching of us is not for evil, but to show us who we are, who He created us to be. He created us so intricately and purposefully!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

And His thoughts toward us are precious! And He will never leave us or forsake us!

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

We may be carrying grudges and seeking vengeance into this new year, but it is time to turn loose of that and turn it over to God to handle.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Since we now He searches us already and knows us intimately, is it not time to invite Him to search us and reveal our true selves to us? Are we willing to invite His testing of your inner motives? Are we ready to face the the inner muck and offensive ways to get them all cleaned out? Are we ready to humble ourselves to be gently led by Our Shepherd?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Begin this new year with self-evaluation and goal setting if you desire. But more importantly, pray the prayer of these last two verses and willingly invite exposure of your whole self to the Father’s scrutiny that He may bring to light what needs to be shown and you may therefore follow Him more fully.

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Present, Present, Presents!

As my schedule has whisked me down the river of life this holiday season, I’ve come up against a thought – that I’m still sorting through – but maybe it will help you too.

I was thinking of how busy-ness has seemed to control many of my waking moments lately. Normal things that keep life busy from January through October continue: laundry, dishes, church commitments, doctor/dentist appointments, planning Sunday school lessons, (Yes I’m old! It will always be Sunday school to me no matter what you rename it!) grocery shopping, quiet time with the Lord. Add to that holiday baking, Christmas parties, meal planning and prep for big family gatherings, shopping for presents, wrapping presents, hiding presents… and every minute of every day seems to be taken, leaving me to fall into bed at night. Instead of visions of sugarplums (whatever that is!) I have stressful dreams of all that’s still on my “To Do” list, and I wake up running to see if I can conquer it all.

I find myself so busy planning it all that I’m constantly thinking ahead.

I had a bit of an epiphany at my grandson’s birthday party. (As if holidays weren’t enough, my grandson’s birthday and our anniversary are both within a week of Christmas!) As I sat for a moment in our local kid’s museum watching my grandson and his buddies run from exhibit to exhibit, I got a text. I glanced at it to find a question about  business details for our women’s ministry. I shot off a reply, realized another lady needed to be in the loop, texted her, and several minutes later “woke up” from virtual world to realize none of my crew were nearby.

It was probably only 2-3 minutes that I was zoned out in another world, but I realized in that moment that I had missed a few minutes of my now 9 year-old grandson’s life. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things. He wasn’t hurt with me. His parents and Papa and other adults were there, so he was safe, but I had missed out on precious moments I could never get back. Had he done something brave or cute or novel that I will never have a memory of because I was distracted? I was so busy living for future events that I wasn’t living in the moment. It was then that my wandering thoughts of the last few weeks became crystalized in the word “present.”

God whispered to me. “Be present. It’s not about the presents. Present to me your heart.”

Although that was His short message to me, it came to my heart with intricate insight and depth. Some of it so personal and intimate I ponder it alone, but the other concepts are needed by us all. So I challenge you this holiday season to those 3 things!

1. Be present in your life. The past is gone, never to be recaptured. The future is yet to come and none of our worrying will change it; only our prayers and our obedient submission to carrying out the Lord’s will can affect the future.

Life is a vapor.

Treasure and savor those precious times with family and friends.

Put the phone away.

Save business times for business hours.

2. It’s not about the presents… or the shopping, or the baking, or the decorating, or what others expectations are…. It’s about Jesus! It’s about His great gift of His Son our Saviour. It’s about His love for us, and by extension our love for the people around us. It’s about peace and a heart fully resting in Him for your joy and affirmation and contentment. All your holiday prepping cannot buy you these intangible gifts of the soul.

3. Present your heart to Him. While many things seem urgent during the holidays, only one thing is needed, to sit at Jesus’ feet. To be loved by Him, to learn from Him, and to experience all he has for us. As Jesus reminded Martha of this, we need to be reminded too.

Mary… sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42

There is a time for preparation, but are we so caught up in the preparation that we are sacrificing time with our Savior? This Christmas I challenge you to focus on Christ. Spend sweet time at the Savior’s feet. Let Him dictate your calendar and schedule. Enjoy! Savor! Let Him fill your empty heart!

The present day, the present moment in time is God’s gift to us. We may never have another, and we definitely will not have one exactly like this. Therefore, let us live in it and use it wisely – loving and participating and experiencing all He has for us! Live this Christmas as if it were the only Christmas. Celebrate the birth of our Savior and live out all that His life represents. Be that light to a world that needs hope, unconditional love, and the light of Christ in their lives. Give the gift of Jesus!

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Jesus: Hope for a Weary World

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

At the beginning of human history, sin came into a perfect world through an act of disobedience by the created toward their Creator. Perfect communion was shattered. Consequences came. But even in the consequences God offered mercy and HOPE. In punishing the serpent God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) The woman’s offspring would crush the enemy and offer restoration to relationship with Creator God.

Generations waited, hoped, longed for this Redeemer-Restorer to come: Noah, Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel through their centuries of ups and downs, the exiles in Babylon longing for home. They hoped in dark times and in silent times, longing for help in their weary world for hundreds of years. Praying and hoping.

And then the Messiah came! The Light of the World! The Hope of the World! The Restorer – Jesus Christ!

Are you waiting, praying, hoping in darkness? Is the silence of yet-to-be-answered prayer weighing your heart down? Hang on to Hope, your Deliverer is coming! God has heard your weeping. He has a plan. His timetable is not like yours. The enemy knows this and  whispers in your ear, “He’s not going to come through for you.” It’s a lie! Don’t believe it.

silhouette-image-of-person-praying-1615776During those times where God seems silent in your situation, think of your Savior. God was also silent when Jesus asked for the cup to be removed from Him. But God did not remove it; He had a plan for our redemption. Also remember this Old Testament verse: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ( Deuteronomy 31:6) God WILL NOT leave you. He is working His plan – timing and all – preparing the way for your next step even when you cannot see it. Hold onto Hope!

This Christmas season, cling to Hope in Christ no matter what you face: a court hearing, financial instability, failing health, broken relationships.

God is working on your behalf even if you cannot see it.

When you hold onto faith and hope going to the Father over and over again in prayer, your faith will grow, your spiritual eyes will be opened, your Redeemer will come through for you – in His time. Don’t grow weary waiting. And when you grab hold of Hope and live it out before this weary world, you encourage those around you to Hope as well.

When Jesus came to this earth He didn’t come through a line of perfect people, He came through a lineage of sinners and flawed, ordinary people just like you and me. Despite their sin and imperfections God used them to accomplish His will for the World. We don’t have to be perfect to be used of God either. He has a role for us to play in His Kingdom here on earth. We need to grasp this HOPE of the GOSPEL. Not just for ourselves, but for this weary world. 

This Advent season and in the coming year – as you await the arrival of whatever your heart is longing for… 

  • May you remember the world waiting for the Messiah to come.
  • May you know the HOPE of Jesus Christ
  • May you grasp God’s great love for you
  • May your longing for His 2nd coming and eternal life be greater than any earthly longing you are struggling with
  • May you meet Jesus in a new way through the silent, dark times
  • May healing, redemption, and restoration arrive this year for you!
  • And may you BE A BEARER OF God’s HOPE in the darkness!

In His time, God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished!

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2 & 6

What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

Part 5 – How to Fight the Good Fight

I do not fight fair. I get angry. I accuse. I threaten. I say “I hate you.” I twist words, and remind my husband of his previous “failures” like this one. I’m really a mean person. I tell you all this to be transparent, all the while holding my breath that I’m not the only one, and that you will give me grace.

The really bad thing is this – my husband is the kindest, gentlest man in the world. He is patient, considerate, and loves me dearly. Our first few years of marriage he wouldn’t even fuss with me. He’d just sit there and take it. But over time I trained him to be defensive and return harshness for harshness. Now we can have a really “good” fuss if we allow ourselves to, and abandon all self-control and godliness.

anger-18615_1280.jpgThat’s what this real Christian marriage looks like.

Sad, isn’t it?

He and I are each flawed, sinful, selfish human beings.

The really good thing is this. My husband and I are both Christ-followers. And Christ never touches anything and leaves it the way it was. He makes all things new! There is hope for our marriage and for yours! We have seen this newness come and this hope take over throughout our marriage. So maybe you can learn from our mistakes and things we have absorbed through the years.

Within the first few years of marriage my husband’s company required all their employees to go through a course on handling conflict. My husband came home from the conference and we got into a fuss that very night because he told me I wasn’t fighting the right way! Yes, you understood correctly! We started with one argument which turned into a fight over how to fight! We learned this important habit that we have developed over the years:

  • Argue using “I” statements, not “you” statements. This helps us to “fight fair.” “You” statements are accusatory. “I” statements take responsibility for how we feel and for our reactions. Quite often it is the reaction, not the action, that starts one of our arguments. The action might have been done innocently, yet it triggered a negative reaction when it touched on an already inflamed nerve.

For my wise mother-in-law who was a first grade teacher for 30 years we learned this truth:

  • Grab a snack or take a nap or both! Her philosophy was that kids misbehaved because they were either hungry or sleepy. It’s often the same with adults. Everyone understands “hangry” behavior. I can testify we often stop the argument to take a nap and wake up not even remembering what we were angry about.

Scripture has given us a wise instruction on fighting fair. It tells us:

  • Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Ephesians 4:25-27 ESV reveals several important things to us. Here’s the whole section of scripture:

“Having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor [or husband – our closest neighbor], for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

  1. Don’t lie, tell the truth. If it hurts your feelings, just say so. If you sinned, just say so. If you just want to be mad, just say so. …
  2. We are part of one body – the church. And one body – husband and wife (the two shall become one, Matthew 19:5). So why in the world would we injure our own body?
  3. “Be angry and do not sin!” It’s ok to be angry at times. It’s the way we do it that can be wrong.
  4. “…Do not sin!” A command. Enough said. We all know how to disagree correctly, and we know when it turns into sin. We can do it correctly with certain people at certain times, which goes to show, it’s our choice. We are giving ourselves the selfish freedom to react in anger.
  5. The word for that angry means “being exasperated with.” But in the following phrase we are told not to let the sun go down on our anger – and that is a totally different word. It is the word meaning “wrath or rage”! So… its normal to get exasperated/angry with someone, but resolve it and don’t go to bed in a rage.
  • Do everything without grumbling or arguing. Quit grumbling. Quit arguing. Just do it. Apply the Thumper Rule from Bambi: If you cannot say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” The entire scripture is as follows:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16

Our witness to the world will be greater as we live out scripture and give up our grumbling and arguing.

  • Last but not least. It all goes back to part 1 Philippians 2:3-4 – Unselfishness.

Now I’m praying that you and your spouse will grow and mature and be far more fair fighters than my husband and I are. May our mistakes prevent you from making some of them. May our experiences be redeemed through using them to teach and encourage others around us.

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The Wedding Supper of the Lamb

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” Revelation 19:9

It is wedding week here! As the Mother of the Groom, I’ve been in the throes of planning a huge celebration for the rehearsal dinner for weeks now. On this, the night before his wedding, I’m up to my ears in satin, candles, flowers, menus, and last minute details. It will be a time of rich, delicious foods, drinks, and desserts to go along with the celebrating, meeting new friends, and making the initial steps toward long and happy family relationships. What a joyous time it is! And what a privilege I have to prepare this feast to honor my son’s beautiful bride to be.

beautiful-blooming-bridal-1702373Taking on this role has taught my heart something of Our Heavenly Father. I’ve caught a glimpse of His joy over us. I’ve considered for the first time His delight in preparing for a celebration of eternal love and commitment. He’s revealed to me His heartbreak over guests who won’t be coming to this wedding feast. I’ve realized the lengths He must be going to to “prepare a place for us.” But most of all I’ve come to understand His great love for His son, Jesus, and by extension, for us, because we are His Son’s chosen, cherished Bride.

Does He, Father God, gently fret over “Oh I hope they love it as much as I think they will?!”

Does God spend His holy energy making sure the whole event is bathed in love and tender remembrances and joyful moments of pleasure that will never be forgotten?

baby-shower-birthday-buffet-587741Does He decorate with gusto and rearrange and consider the seating and double check to make sure the foods are fresh and steamy, seasoned to a T, or chilled to perfection?

Does God long desperately to see that glint in the eye of the Bride that reveals she is obviously thrilled with the Feast, enamored of her beloved, and overwhelmed with joy to the core of her being?

What a glorious celebration awaits us as children of God! What love the Father has for us! We are His beloved bride awaiting that wedding day when we will be united with Him for all eternity!

Revelation 19

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: 

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

 

And again they shouted:

“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

 

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:

“Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God,all you his servants,

you who fear him,both great and small!”

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

banquet-catering-chairs-1395967“Hallelujah!For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be gladand give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

 

 

 

Whirling Storm Clouds

“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Psalm 107:28-29

As my daughter and I started out on our trip a soggy drizzle accompanied by a pea soup fog surrounded the house as we loaded up to leave. We made it only 10 minutes down the road before the bottom dropped out. Traffic was heavy, and the road spray from a constant stream of cars and 18-wheelers on the interstate made visibility iffy. I was nervous. I’m a nervous passenger anyway. But this day had me gripping the door handle and signaling to my grown daughter with my body language that I did not trust her driving.

action-bicycle-buildings-763398.jpg“Do you want me to pull over where you can drive?” she asked.

“No, Sweetie. I trust you. You know me, I just like to be in control,” I replied.

“I know. That’s why I’m seriously offering to swap drivers now,” came her kind response.

I reluctantly declined, determined to be a real adult, and not wanting to send her evidence I was insecure with her.

The truth is I like control. I don’t like storm clouds, dangerous driving, or being out of control in any way. But God is taking me on a journey of faith. Faith in Him lived out by trusting God through whatever situation is going on around me.

As we traveled on God was teaching. Teaching me to let go of control, and more.

We were at the very beginning of a 10 hour mother-daughter road trip. Could I trust God enough to trust my daughter’s driving on a rainy day and thereby set a good tone for our whole trip? At the moment I declined her offer for me to drive, I decided to relax my grip, put on my big girl pants, and simply rest in God. I turned on my seat warmer, leaned back and tried to remain casual. My physical mind swirled as my spiritual heart worked to retain peace.

asphalt-atmosphere-cloudy-sky-2739010.jpgThe rain worsened. It became a full fledged storm with thunder, lightning, thrashing rain, and blowing wind. The battle between spirit and flesh within me was real. We turned on some light praise music. I sought to recall verses from scripture to still my fearful heart. Time seemed to drag on. A minute can seem like an eternity. In reality, in just about 20 more minutes the rain turned back toward a drizzle. We were able to see actual sky instead of just gray haze all around. A definitive line of the edge of the cloud bank appeared ahead with a sliver of clear, sunny sky just beyond. And within 3 more minutes we were out from under the storm clouds, sunlight streaming all around, with the landscape beautiful and refreshed by the downpour.

The other 9 hours and 27 minutes of our trip were perfect: sunshine, beautiful sights and sounds, light traffic, and great conversation. A glorious time for Mom and child, now two adult friends.

Storms in life are the same way. They build up, make us feel out of control, scare us, and test our faith. They force us to choose faith over fear. They seem scary at the moment. They seem endless. We feel helpless and hopeless. Time drags and we wonder if the storm will ever end. The lesson of my storm that day is four-fold:

  1. Turn loose of control and have faith in God. Trust that whatever happens God will take care of you and strengthen you to bear it.
  2. Saturate your mind in God’s Word to calm your nervous heart.
  3. Know that the storm will come to an end. The edge of the cloud is just around the corner. It will come. It will surprise you.
  4. The sunshine is there behind the storm cloud the whole time. God’s answer, His love, and His glory are often obscured by our situation. Don’t trust what you see with your physical eyes; trust what you know is going on in the heavens.

TRUST HIM
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Threads of Thankfulness

by guest blogger Carol Stewart

I just got my lesson from heaven today:

As a seamstress I have thousands and thousands of spools of thread in my sewing room. Four walls full of thread, but I lacked the perfect color for a new baby’s stocking to match his big brother’s. The new mom-to-be and I searched every spool of thread in the sewing room looking for that perfect match. Finally we found an old wooden spool that had to have been my grandmother’s or my mother’s, both of whom have been in heaven for 23467081_1734816529893514_9134393487656663119_omany years. The little wooden spool of thread had never been used previously, and the Vintage thread was a perfect match and still strong, but very small. This was a very important item and I didn’t have any other thread to fall back on, so I couldn’t stitch it out for a trial run. But the little spool of thread came through with only a tiny bit to spare, and we made it through the task.

It made me stop and thank both my mother and my grandmother for teaching me first in sewing to keep all those little items that may be useful one day. But most of all they taught me that even though you may be small you can accomplish great things. I remember sitting in my grandmother’s lap and her telling me that good things come in small packages.

These were just some of the thoughts I had as I was using that spool of thread, just some fond memories of two precious ladies that taught me a lot through life. Most of all they taught me to be thankful for the little things. Today I’m thankful for a little spool of thread. (AND, Mom and Mamo)

Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away I challenge you to find something to be thankful for every day for the next two weeks. Jot them Down and if you’re coming to Thanksgiving at my house bring them with you.

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Running This Race of Life

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

A recent podcast by author and speaker Andy Andrews told the story of a long jumper named Bob Beamon. According to Andrews, Bob Beamon was just an average long jumper, as far as world champion competitors are concerned at least. In the 1968  Olympics, held in Mexico City, Beamon broke the Olympic and World records by – get this – almost 2 feet! Twenty-one and two-thirds inches to be exact!

Can you even imagine? Olympic records are broken by fractions of seconds or inches, not by feet! How did this young athlete break the record by such an extreme?

As the story goes, a fellow competitor and world record holder, who usually out-jumped Beamon, came up and whispered an encouragement in Bob’s ear just before he started the run to jump. He said, “Give ’em 2 inches on the front…take 2 feet when you land.” And Bob did just that!

Often in our lives we face challenges. Not insurmountable challenges, but challenges that  overwhelm us and leave us feeling defeated. Perhaps we can learn something from this record-breaking athlete.

1. Prepare as if it all depends on you. Olympic athletes train diligently for months and years. Are we living our life as if we are in training for the purpose for which God has put us here? Are you growing in the Word, in faith, in prayer, in service to God and men, in love? Are you growing in your talents, skills, and field of expertise?

2. Live fully. Immerse yourself in this race of life. Bob was in the race. He competed with varying degrees of success. Today we often view challenges as win or lose. I’ve heard kids’ coaches say “second place is first loser.” But that’s a lie. Second place to Bob Beamon in that Olympic event could have broken a previous world record; Bob just broke it by more. We must quit viewing life’s challenges as “all-or-nothing” and should instead take the advice of Hebrews 12:1-4:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

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We must choose to run this race with purpose and endurance without giving up.

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3. Listen to uplifting words. Surround yourself with people who speak God’s Word and grace and truth into your life. We must choose not to listen to the negativity and ill-will  of the worldly society, nor even the pessimism and humanistic tendencies of well-meaning church friends. The words spoken into Bob’s ears spurred him to go beyond what he had ever dreamed possible. That is what God’s words of truth and grace do to our hearts.

4. Run the race believing that you can do it. We are capable of so much more than we believe we are. But we have an enemy that whispers lies into our ears. He tells us we are failures, that our desperate situation will never change, that we have sinned too much, that we’re dreaming too big, or, more subtly, he tells us just to give up, it’s useless. But I say – Believe God! He has a plan for you; it will succeed. For with God nothing is impossible! (Matthew 19:26)

Bob_Beamon_1968bThis week as you face the “im”possibilities of life, take a moment to recall Bob Beamon. If no one is around to speak those words of encouragement to you – speak them to yourself! Do as the psalmist David did – encourage yourself. Speak scripture to yourself. Play praise and worship music. Tell yourself the truth of God, don’t repeat the lies of the enemy even in your mind.

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

 

Check out pictures of Bob’s famous jump here.

 

 

 

What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

Part 2

Today, as we continue our look at the hopes and reality of a Christian marriage, prompted by a look at the married couple in the movie Overcomer, we have a singular focus:

Prayer.

One really sweet thing about the movie Overcomer is how it portrays the couple praying together. We see them as people who pray for their own heart and for each other, but also as intercessors for others God brings into their lives. The example set by the movie in this regard is both encouraging and a realisitic example of how to live – if a couple takes the personal initiative and follows the prompting of the Spirit to live this way.

Prayer is a paradox. It is at once an elementary thing, simply talking to God, yet, at the same time it can feel extremely complicated. Any 3-year-old can offer a genuine prayer on behalf of one they love, while we mature, educated, Christian adults often stammer and stall when trying to voice a prayer. At some point in our life, most of us have dreaded praying out loud, probably because of a fear that others listening will think we’re not doing it correctly. But even in our personal prayer life, in those unspoken heart prayers, we may struggle. We may feel at a loss for what to even pray. Our desperation, fear, and need may leave us without words. We may grow weary and give up while waiting for the Father’s timing of His answer. We may pray words in doubt and worry, rather than in faith. We may feel as I’ve often heard others express, that “my prayers didn’t seem to be getting past the ceiling.” The good thing is that they don’t have to get past the ceiling! God is not “up there.” His Holy Spirit is in your heart. He hears.

In the early years of my marriage I felt awkward praying out loud with my husband. I’d been raised a Christian, but prayer had always been private. I struggled to know how to open up to that deep intimacy with God and my husband together. I guess I worried that my husband would see the real, sinful, selfish me if he heard my earnest prayers to the Father, because folks I just get real and talk with God. None of the thees and thous and have-your-own-ways. I just talk like it is my real, fleshly daddy I’m talking to. I have been known to ask God to straighten that person out, to tell the Father how mad I am at someone, or even to gripe about my disappointments with my husband! Not the kind of talk that I wanted my young love to hear. Therefore, I would typically allow him as “the spiritual leader” – at least that was my excuse – to pray first and then I would rubber stamp it with a “me too Lord” kind of prayer.

But through the years as my husband has gotten to know the real me and not just the facade I put up so he would want to marry me, I have opened up in praying aloud with him. And what a blessing it is! He hears my heart’s desire poured out to the Father and joins me in agreement. He is strengthened by hearing what I pray for him as he heads out to work or faces a tough decision or struggles with change. I’ve learned to pray for him just like I pray for myself, and he encourages me when he does the same. We’ve prayed through many a family crisis with tears pouring. We’ve prayed and fasted together for spiritual changes in our children, and we’ve seen God move dramatically. We’ve prayed joyful, laughter-through-tears prayers of celebration and rejoicing. We’ve faithfully interceded side by side for our church body and leaders, our friends and family, and many, many sick, grieiving, hurting, broken lives that are dear to us. Our prayer life has become a rich, valuable facet of our marriage. I treasure it so much that I didn’t even grouch at him this week when he woke me up at 5:20 before going to work to pray over some things going on around us.

arabic-belief-black-and-white-1487953Below are a few concepts to keep in mind about praying with your spouse and 4 powerful portions of scripture that have been the foundation of my belief in prayer as a key component of a healthy marriage.

1 – Intercede for your spouse. Pray for him on your own. In depth. Specifically. Pray scripture. I daily pray Proverbs 3 for my Sweetie. (Praying scripture is a powerful way to pray for your husband, because God’s word will accomplish what He desires and achieve His purposes! Isaiah 55:10-11) Pray for his work, his walk with the Lord, your home, his health, his success, his friendships, and anything else you can think of.

2 – Pray in all situations. Pray when you’re worried, in doubt, sick, fearful, needing answers, seeking the Father to act on your behalf or when you’ve sinned and need to come clean and be forgiven. But also pray when you’re happy, thankful, praising Him, and celebrating His goodness. And especially when you are trying to forgive your spouse.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16 NIV

3 – Intercede together for others. There is no better feeling than praying together for God to move and then seeing Him act! You celebrate together and can’t quit talking and reveling in the mighty acts He performed that you got to be a part of together. It is much harder to be selfish and see your spouse as an enemy if you have experienced tangible answers from the Lord to your humble prayers.

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:16-20 NASB

4 – God’s power and presence are multiplied in your marriage when you pray together. God’s ways are not ours. For some reason there is added power through agreement in prayer. And the bonus as we see in the verse above is that He will be “in their midst” – in the middle of you two as a couple. But His presence isn’t there just to keep us from being a meany as a spouse, Ecclesiastes reminds us of the practicality of including God in our marriages.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NASB

5 –  Pray when you don’t have the words. At some time in your life, you have been so broken hearted or confused or desperate that you simply had no words to pray. If you haven’t experienced this yet, you will at some point. My first experience with this came through a heart-rending, emotional circumstance with one of my children. My deep grief overwhelmed me. All I could do in my prayers was to call out to Him, “Lord!” My husband was in the same place. When we needed to pray the most – nothing. Looking back on this I learned 2 things.

First, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we can’t pray or don’t know what to say. Romans 8:26-27 tells us,

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

We don’t have to have human words. We have a translator for those heart prayers that can’t be adequately expressed.

Secondly, we need a community of believers around us. The Christian man and wife are not a self-sustaining island. We are a unit. But we are members of a greater unit – the body of Christ. As such, we need to have our close community who is willing to know us and pray for and with us. (James 5:13-18) I’ll never forget at that crucial point in our life when I couldn’t pray, I went to a ladies meeting where a godly woman prayed a prayer over our family that I didn’t even like. It was one of those whatever-it-takes kind of prayers. Scary! But that prayer of a righteous woman was powerful and effective and was the turning point in our situation. So I encourage you, wife, have your people to pray with. Husband, have yours as well.

Prayer is powerful and effective, not only in the life of an individual Christian, but also for a couple and a family. Our enemy wants to keep us from the work of prayer to make us ineffective as a family unit. Remember his goal – to kill, steal, and destroy. Your emeny is seeking to destroy your marriage, your home, your kids, and the image of Christ your marriage presents to the world. Besides having our Creator in our marriage acting on our behalf when we pray, another benefit of praying together is that we are strengthened as individuals, as Christians, as husband and wife, and we are woven together with God, that third strand to our rope of marriage that makes it strong!

Take time to pray together today. You can’t take the risk of not praying together.

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