Look Up

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard.
 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
    and their words to all the world.
~Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)

Recently, in my morning devotion, the emphasis was on how God speaks to us through His creation.  For me, this is very true.  He doesn’t speak to me in an audible voice, but I feel His presence and sense His voice when I am paying attention to the created world around me. If I quiet my mind and open my heart to the possibility, I encounter God in the roar of the ocean, the chirping of birds, a gentle breeze on my face, the majesty of the mountains, and in the sky above.

I agree with what David wrote in Psalm 19:1. “The heavens” do, indeed, “proclaim the glory of God.”  Think about it. Have you ever felt the promise of a new day when watching a sunrise, or heard the whisper of God’s calming presence in a sunset?  I have. When a rainbow appears in the sky, are you reminded that God is a God who keeps his promises? Do you see God’s consistency and faithfulness in the waxing and waning of the moon? My answer to these is, “yes, sometimes.” And what about the stars?  Do you, like me, find reassurance and hope in the stars?

Many years ago, I had an encounter with God through the beauty and mystery of a nighttime sky that I still remember today.  I found hope in the stars.

Shortly after graduation, I spent a few months with my dad and stepmom at their home in the mountains of Clayton, Georgia.  I loved spending time with them, but I missed the rest of my family and my friends.  One night, after several days of rain and dreary skies, I was feeling sad and lonely. I noticed that the rain had stopped, and I felt led to go outside.  I wandered on to the deck behind the house and as I did, something told me I needed to look up.  So, I did. The clouds had all disappeared and the clear night sky was full of stars.  I laid down on the deck and looked up in awe at the heavens above me.  It’s hard to describe how may stars I could see on that cloudless night in the mountains, away from any town or city lights.  I could even see parts of the Milky Way.  It was amazing and powerful, and I could “hear” God telling me not to be discouraged because He was with me, and I would be okay.  Yes, when I looked up that night, I had a special encounter with the Creator, and I found hope in the stars.

Here is a quote from Max Lucado that I would like to share:

“Welcome Jesus into the midst of this turbulent time.  Don’t let the storm turn you inward. Let it turn you upward.”

It’s easy to feel discouraged, sad, angry, and confused with all that is going on in the world today.  But we can’t let those feelings take over.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to look up to the heavens. There is hope to be found in the stars and the Son.

Be blessed, my friends!

Does My Faith Story Matter?

You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it.  I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors.  But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to meso that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.  ~Galatians 1:13-16

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  ~2 Timothy 1:5-7

The Apostle Paul had a dramatic story to tell. He had an encounter with the risen Christ that completely turned his life around.  He shared the story of his conversion with others to explain why he was so passionate about sharing the Good News—especially with the Gentiles. I imagine he also used the story to show how transformative the love of God could be.  He had been changed from a passionate persecutor of the early church into a passionate apostle of Christ, and a preacher and teacher in that same church.  What a powerful story Paul had!  It needed to be shared.

Timothy, on the other hand, had a different kind of story.  He was raised by two strong women of faith—women who were committed believers and followers of Christ. They had been sharing their faith with Timothy since he was a child.  His story is less exciting than Paul’s, maybe even a little boring.  Did Timothy have a story worth sharing? Could he also spread the Good News about Jesus with authority?  Yes. Was Timothy unsure of himself and his qualifications to pastor the young churches?  Possibly. Paul wrote letters encouraging Timothy to continue the work he was doing.  He reminded Timothy of his faith heritage and its value in his ministry.

Did you ever wonder if your story is worth sharing?  Could your story make a difference in someone else’s life? 

I sometimes wonder about that myself. As a writer, I’m encouraged to share my story with others, but I often have doubts about whether my story matters.  Like Timothy, I was raised in a family of faith.  I don’t have a powerful conversion story, or a testimony filled with drama or trauma. Can my story make a difference?  The answer is “yes.”  I can use my life experiences, my faith background, my education—everything that makes me who I am—to tell the story of how God worked in my life in the past and is continuing to, work in my life today.

You can share your story too, because your story, no matter what it looks like, can help you to spread the Good News.  God will equip you with what you need.  So go share your story and, in doing so, share God’s story too.

Be blessed, my friends!

A Walk on the Beach with God

My husband and I spend a weekend at the beach 3 or 4 times a year.  We relax in our hotel room, eat great seafood, read, shop, explore, and take walks along the shoreline.  I love walking on the beach—sometimes with my husband—and sometimes by myself.

On one of our most recent beach trips, my husband was reading, and I decided to take a walk by myself.  I like to look for fun shells while I’m walking, so I glanced down frequently to see if I saw any shells worth collecting.  As was often the case, I saw an abundance of cockle shells, which are quite common at the beaches we visit.  I picked up a few for closer inspection but didn’t find many that I wanted to keep.

While I was walking, I was also talking to God.  Watching the waves roll in and hearing them crash into the shore, observing the birds as they searched for food at the water’s edge, feeling the ocean breeze, and looking at the multitude of shells spread across the sand, all made me feel more connected to our Creator.  And so, I started to pray.

I frequently find myself second guessing my calling as a writer and podcaster.  I do believe God has called me to do both, but my confidence in that calling is easily shaken.  During my walk that day, I was talking with God about my doubts and weaknesses, my lack of discipline, and my struggle with inspiration.  Was I still being called to write? And what about my podcast? Should I focus on just one or should I continue to do both?

I continued to glance at the shells while I walked and prayed, and suddenly I noticed a different kind of shell nestled in with all the cockle shells.  I picked it up, studied it, and added it to my collection.  I wondered if I might find more like it.  An idea began to form in my mind.  I could ask God for a sign that would let me know If writing and podcasting were still what He wanted me to do.  And I could ask Him to use the seashells as that sign.

In the book of Judges, Gideon asked God for signs that he was really being called to rescue Israel and God gave him two.

Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew. ~Judges 6:36-40

Even though Scripture talks about God giving signs, and even though I know people who have asked for and received signs from God, I have never been comfortable with the idea.  However, I couldn’t help thinking that, if I was on the right path and should continue to write and podcast, maybe God would let me find another shell like the one I had just found.

I walked a few feet and looked down.  Right there in front of me was another one of those shells.  I picked it up and walked only a few more feet before I spotted another one.  I was stunned.  Did God just use two shells to tell me to keep doing both things?  Was I reading too much into the situation?  I wasn’t sure what to think, so I prayed more.  I told God that I wasn’t sure I was supposed to ask for signs, but it sure seemed like He had given me two.  I asked for clarification and walked back toward my hotel.  On the way, I found 4 or 5 more of those shells.  Why hadn’t I seen them before?

I believe God had, indeed, used those shells to give me answers to my questions and assurance in my calling.  I don’t think God reached down and placed those shells in my path, but I do believe He focused my attention on the areas where I would find them.  It was an amazing experience.

Have you ever received a sign from God or heard him speak to you?  If so, please tell me about it.

Be blessed!

What Should I Wear Today?

“What should I wear today?”  I don’t know about you, but that’s a question I ask every day.  Sometimes, if I’m thinking ahead, I’ll start planning my outfit the night before.  And even though I give my clothing choices a lot of thought, there have been several times I’ve gotten dressed and then completely changed my mind and started over.  Sometimes my husband even teases me by asking, “Is that what you’re going to wear?”

For some of you, deciding what to wear may not be a big decision, but for me it is.  One reason I put a lot of thought into what I wear, is that my clothing is one of the ways I express my personality and creativity.  Along with self-expression, there are other things I consider when choosing my attire for the day ahead.  What is the weather going to be like?  What am I going to be doing?  Who will I see today?  Is the outfit flattering?  I know this is a weakness, and that it shouldn’t matter, but if it’s a Sunday when I’m singing with the Praise Band, I take time to consider how I will appear on the livestream.

I don’t know how much thought you put into your everyday clothing choices, but I do know this: If we only worry about how we clothe ourselves physically, than we are missing the most important part of our daily attire—our spiritual clothing.

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul wrote these words:

1 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For weare not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

What is this spiritual clothing—this armor of God and why is it important?

Paul used the images of the armor worn by the Roman soldiers to describe what our spiritual armor should look like and pointed out that we need to wear all of it.  The first piece Paul talked about is the belt of truth.  For the Roman soldier, the belt was a vital part of the armor.  It held his breastplate, or body armor, in place and gave him a place to attach his sword.  As part of our spiritual clothing, the belt of truth is as important to us as a belt was to a soldier in Rome.  When we incorporate the truth of the gospel of Jesus into our daily lives, it provides an anchor that allows us to stand firm against the evil forces of this world.

Next Paul talked about the body armor, or breastplate, of righteousness.  A. soldier’s body armor protected his heart and other vital organs from an attack by the enemy.  We need to wear the breastplate of God’s righteousness every day to protect our hearts and souls from the advances of the devil.  Embracing the righteousness of Christ and living that righteousness out in our daily lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will give us the protection and security we need.

Paul than went on to talk about putting on the shoes of peace that comes from the Good News so that we will be prepared.  If a soldier’s feet were injured, he would not be able to stand against his foe.  If we are injured by the world and lack the peace we gain from the Good News of Christ, we will not be able to stand up against any evil forces that try to come against us.  We need to understand, embrace, and let our lives be governed by the peace of God so that we are ready to stand firm and to share the Good News with the world.

After we put on our belt, our body armor, and our shoes, it’s time to pick up our shield of faith.  The shield used by the Roman soldiers was large and protected his entire body from the fiery arrows aimed at him by the enemy.  Likewise, our belief that God, through Jesus, has wiped away our sins, protects our body, mind, and soul.  Our shield of faith protects us from the schemes that Satan throws at us in an attempt to bring about spiritual devastation and death.

Lastly, we pick up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.  Our assurance of salvation and eternal life protects our minds from the evil thoughts and lies whispered to us by the devil, just as the soldier’s helmet protected his head from injury in battle.  When we know we are saved and who has saved us, we can hush Satan and block his attacks on our mind.

The sword used by a Roman soldier was his weapon—his defense to stop his enemies.  Our sword, or defense, is the Word of God found in the Scriptures.  When we read and understand the Scriptures, we can use God’s Word to respond to Satan’s attacks.  Jesus did this when we quoted Scripture each time Satan tempted Him in the wilderness.

After describing the armor we should be wearing to prepare ourselves for our daily battles, Paul continued by saying we need to do one more thing.  In verse 18, he said, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

And in Philippians 4:6-7, Paul wrote, 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we need to pray about everything, and we should be using all kinds of prayers—mental prayers, spoken prayers, public prayers, private prayers, etc.  We need to turn all our worries, fears, and concerns over to God—He can handle all of it. And our prayers should not only be for ourselves, but for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are to win the battles we face every day, then prayer needs to be a way of life.  When it is, we will experience God’s peace, and that peace will guard our hearts and minds against the strategies the devil tries to use against us.

We are in a very real battle against the spiritual forces of evil and when you look at everything happening in the world today, it often appears that we are losing that battle.

But take heart!  In John 16:33, Jesus gave us this reminder, I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  We know Christ will defeat all kinds of evil and He has given us the armor we need to face the enemy.

Are you ready? Do you know what you are going to wear today?  Choosing just the right physical clothing may be important to you but choosing your spiritual clothing matters so much more.

So, let’s put on the armor of God every day. Let’s be alert and persistent in our prayers.  And remember, we can find hope and assurance in the knowledge that we belong to Christ and He has overcome the world.

Be blessed!

Success disguised as failure

Several years ago, my husband and I bought a business—a scrapbook store named Scrap Heads that was located in a small downtown.  I’ve always been a crafter and I strongly believe in the importance of creative expression. I had also recently begun scrapbooking, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity.  It just felt right.  In fact, I believed God was leading us to buy the store.  So, in the summer of 2005, our adventure began.  I was excited about the possibilities and discovered that I loved running a business, especially one that I was passionate about.

We continued to carry some of the original products and offer similar classes and scrapbooking opportunities to the ones that were in place when we bought the store.  We also did things to bring about change; to make it our business, and not just a continuation of the previous owner’s business.  We brought in new product lines and developed new classes.

We homeschooled our children and they helped me run the business when they weren’t doing schoolwork.  My husband helped when he could, but he was working two jobs—one full-time and one part-time.  I was confident that we would be successful.

And yet, by the world’s standards we were not.  Our store location wasn’t good for that kind of business, and I’m sure I made some wrong choices about products and marketing.  After two years, we had to close the store.

I was heartbroken and felt like a failure.  I had wanted to build a profitable business that would be around for many years—one that would allow me to continue teaching people how to find creative expression through paper crafts.  I also wanted to help people pass on their stories to future generations through scrapbooking.  Instead, we were closing our store and ending that amazing dream.

Was our adventure with Scrap Heads really a failure?  From a business perspective, yes, it was.  But how about from a spiritual or personal growth perspective?  Did anything good come from owning and running that business?

My answer to that is, “Absolutely!”

In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul wrote these words, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” 

I believe that God brought many good things out of our experience, even though we had to close the store.  Here are a few:

  1. We had the joy of learning and working together as a family toward a common goal.
  2. Our daughter gained confidence, blossomed in her creative pursuits, and developed strong teaching skills—all of which she uses as an adult.
  3. Our son learned some good business skills and further developed his natural entrepreneurial spirit.  As a teenager, he mowed lawns and did a variety of odd jobs, and now as an adult he recently started his own business.
  4. I believe God used my experience at Scrap Heads, to plant a seed that would grow into a passion for women’s ministry and a continued desire to teach creative expression. I have been a women’s ministry leader for 15+ years now and I still teach cardmaking classes from time to time.

I don’t know that I would have become a women’s ministry leader if I had not run a creative business that catered primarily to women—a business that taught me confidence, speaking and teaching skills, and the value of each customer and the stories they shared with me.

So, yes, our amazing God brought good out of our “failed” scrapbook store.

I have a friend named Micah, who is a first-time author.  When she began her adventure, she didn’t know much about writing, editing, or marketing a book, but she believed God was calling her to write one anyway.  So, she wrote the book and had it edited and published.  Since she didn’t have a strong marketing plan, the book hasn’t sold as many copies as she had hoped it would.

Does that mean her book is a failure?  In the traditional, worldly view, it might be.  But how about from a spiritual or personal growth perspective?  Did anything good come from the writing of that book.

I believe the answer to that is, “Absolutely!”

Micah exercised obedience to God, even when the call to write seemed frightening and outside her comfort zone.  This strengthened her trust in God and required her to rely on Him to carry out His call.  And God has used Micah’s book to change people’s lives for the better.  She has had several people tell her how much her book has meant to them.  So even though her book hasn’t reached as many people as she had hoped, Micah’s book is making a difference to the people it has reached, and that matters. 

Micah is now writing her second book. I believe that God has been, and still is, using Micah’s experience with the first book to teach her lessons that will help this next book be more “successful” and reach more people.  He is bringing good out of what some people would call a failure.

God is a good God, and He can bring good out of anything.  Don’t be afraid to step out and do what you believe is the right thing to do.  Even if you misunderstand His call, or you battle unexpected obstacles, or things don’t go the way you imagined they will, God can use it for good.  Yes, God can turn our “failures” into successes.

Be blessed.

We Are the Church

We Are the Church

I’ve been listening to the Book of Acts using the Bible App on my phone.  The other day, I heard the following two verses in a fresh new way:

So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.  And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.  Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” ~ Acts 6:2-4

Although I’ve read these verses before, something jumped out at me as I heard them, that had not occurred to me before.  The apostles needed help.  They couldn’t carry out the whole mission of the church by themselves.  In order for them to devote themselves to preaching and teaching, as they were called to do, they needed assistance from other trustworthy followers of Christ.  In other words, these pastors of the early church needed help from the laity.  (The laity are the people of the church other than the clergy.)

Fast forward 2000 years and we find that the pastors of the modern church still can’t carry out the mission of the church alone.  In order for them to fulfill their calling as preachers, teachers, counselors, etc., they too need help from the laity.  Especially now.

The year 2020 has brought about some dramatic changes to the way we do church.  Worship doesn’t look the same.  In-person gatherings are hard to manage safely.  Social distancing seems counter to our idea of what fellowship means.  Much of our contact with fellow believers is being done through some type of technology.  I know that my church doesn’t look at all like it did a year ago.  Does yours?

In the midst of all this, pastors and church staff are facing many challenges.  Stress and anxiety levels run high as they endeavor to keep their people connected and spiritually fed, while worrying about day to day operations and making sure the bills are paid.  They can’t do it alone.  We are all the church and they need us to step up and do our part.

Ephesians 4:11-14 says:

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.   Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.   This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 

The job of the church leadership is to equip us, the laity, to do the work of the church in the world, in order to build up the church and bring more people into the body of Christ.  Too often, our idea of being part of a church means attending worship, participating in an occasional class or Bible study, and enjoying fellowship dinners together.  But being part of a church means more than that.  We are all called to be representatives of Christ to the world.

Together, let’s be the church and show the world that the church is alive and well through its people.

Be blessed!

P.S. My podcast, The Thoughtful Spot, is now available. I hope you’ll check it out on my website, on Apple Podcasts, on Google Podcasts, or on Spotify.

On Wings Like Eagles

The last few months have been challenging for most of us.  Our routines have changed; our social lives are very different than they once were; and for many, the economic situation has been difficult.  What used to be normal isn’t normal anymore.  Even our worship experiences are no longer familiar.  I know that there are at least some of you who are feeling lost and disconnected.

I, personally, have been struggling with writer’s block, creativity block, and lack of motivation.  I’ve been procrastinating about working on projects—even the ones that I actually want to do.  There are some days that my feeling of being disconnected works its way into my relationship with God and makes my faith feel flat.  I need to be re-energized in my faith and in my calling as a writer and teacher.

Fortunately, Isaiah 40:31tells me, and you, that we can move beyond our current challenges and be re-energized:

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

This is great news!  If I put my trust in God, He will re-energize my faith, and give me new strength to pursue my calling without growing weary or faint.  If you put your trust in God, you too will be given the strength you need to travel through these difficult days.  We can soar on wings like Eagles.

Be blessed!

Note: In a couple of weeks, I will be participating in a special conference designed for women who are called to be writers and speakers.  I’ll be taking a break to re-focus and prepare, but I plan to return to blogging sometime in August, possibly with a new schedule and plan.  Thank you for your faithful support.  Please pray for discernment and clarity about how God wants me to use my gifts for His glory.  I know He has a plan and I need to put my trust in Him.

Anchored in the Word

In the 27th chapter of Acts, we are told that Paul, along with several other prisoners, was placed on a ship headed for Rome.  After several days of slow sailing, the weather changed abruptly.  A light breeze quickly turned to gale force winds, and then strengthened to a wind of typhoon strength.  The storm continued for many days and the crew and passengers of the ship were filled with fear—except for Paul.  An angel had appeared to Paul one night, offering words of assurance from God that they would all survive and arrive safely in Rome.  Paul confidently shared the message with the ship’s crew, telling them that things were going to be rough, and the ship would eventually go down, but everyone on board would be okay.  But the storm continued, and as the ship grew closer to land the sailors were again filled with fear.

29 At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight.

30 Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. 31 But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away. ~Acts 27:29-32 NLT

In the morning, the ship made its way toward the land.  It ran aground too soon and began to break apart, but everyone aboard either swam or floated on debris, and made it safely ashore.

Paul knew that the sailors needed to stay with the boat and trust the anchors to keep them away from danger, while they waited out the long and difficult night.  How could he be so sure?  Paul’s confidence came from his trust in an even greater anchor.  He was anchored by the words of God, sent to him through an angel.  Paul knew that the words, and the Sender, could always be trusted.

We are living through some very challenging times right now and many of you may feel like you are adrift at sea, facing a long and stormy night.  You may feel like the winds are going to overtake you, the waves are going to wash you away, or that your ship is breaking apart as it crashes against the turmoil you are facing daily.  It’s time to drop anchor, and trust that anchor to keep you safely afloat until the morning comes again.

Where can you find an anchor you can trust?  In the Word of God.  Scripture is filled with promises and words of hope and assurance, such as these:

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. Hebrew 6:19a NLT

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.  ~Romans 15:4 NLT

Many of you may have special Bible verses that bring you strength, comfort, hope, assurance, or courage.  You may have memorized them, so that when things are tough, you can call on just the right verse to keep you securely anchored during whatever storm you’re facing.  Here are a few that I find especially relevant right now:  Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31; 41:10, Joshua 1:9, Romans 8:35-39, and Psalm 28:7.  I hope you will take the time to look them up.

What are your anchor verses?  Are they holding you in place during your storms? If you don’t have any verses to anchor you right now, ask a friend what some of her favorite verses are, or search for verses related to what you’re going through (Google is great for this).

Yes, we are in the midst of some serious storms.  Let’s be anchored in the Word of God as we face these storms together.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. ~Psalm 119:105 NLT

 Be blessed and be well.

Faith and Friendship

In my personal experience, faith and friendship often go hand in hand.  My faith is what it is today because of friends who, being strong in their own faith, were able to nurture me and help me grow in mine.  I have friends in my life who became friends because of a shared faith in Jesus Christ.  I have friends in my life who are there because they needed me to mentor them and help them grow in their faith.  And I have a few special friends in my life who, when my faith was weak and wavering, were willing to share their faith with me.

Paul tells us we are to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  [Galatians 6:2]. Friends are there for each other when times are tough; providing courage, strength, hope, encouragement, or whatever else is needed.  When I was about 9 years old, a friend helped me through a frightening situation by reminding me that God was there, and He would take care of us.  She shared her childhood faith with me when mine was wavering, and I have never forgotten that loving act of friendship.  There have been many times in my life that a friend has helped me through a difficult time by sharing their faith and helping me carry my heavy burden.

In Romans 12:10, Paul writes, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”  Friends love and respect each other.  They treat each other with kindness and compassion.  Friends find joy in honoring each other and in lifting one another up.  I have many friends who encourage me and build me up when I’m unsure of myself.  I’m blessed to lead a women’s ministry that includes some truly amazing women who have faithfully offered me their friendship, support, and time.  They willingly share their faith with me which helps to strengthen mine.

Proverbs 27:9 says, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.  Good friends compassionately offer wisdom and guidance to one another.  They help each other make difficult decisions.  They lovingly offer a nudge back on track when a friend wanders off course.  My best friend has always been there when I needed a word of wisdom, and I have tried to do the same for her.  We’ve been through many life changes together, and gently offered a listening ear or a word of advice when needed.  We’ve helped each other discern God’s direction for our lives and offered a hand when we’ve struggled to stay on the right path.  There have been many times she’s shared her faith with me, and I hope my faith has been there for her too.

Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer. ~Charles Finney

Friends pray with and for one another.  Praying for our friends is important.  Asking God to bless them and watch over them puts them where they need to be––at the feet of Jesus.  It helps us let go of what we cannot take care of and turn it over to the One who can.  Praying with a friend can be quite powerful.  It can create an even stronger bond of friendship as we open our hearts to the Father and to each other.  I have been blessed with many praying friends and I know they pray for me.

I believe, as women of faith, it’s important for us to develop and nurture friendships with other women of faith.  God created us to live, work, and worship as a community of believers; therefore, we need each other.  Let’s invest some time and energy in our friendships––we don’t want to walk our journey of faith alone.

Be blessed!

Take Heart!

The world has changed and it’s going to keep changing, but God never changes; so we are safe when we cling to Him.  ~ Charles R. Swindoll

The world really is changing.  In the last few months, we have seen changes we never imagined and never wanted to see.  Hardworking people have lost there jobs through no fault of their own.  Businesses are making the difficult decision to close permanently because they couldn’t survive their temporary closing.  A virus that we can’t control has made it’s way around the globe.  Friends and family are isolated from one another.  Fear and distrust abound.

And, yet, there is good news to be found in the midst of the mess.  God doesn’t change.  God is in control.   And God will bring us through this challenging time.  Read with hope and assurance these words of Jesus, written in the Book of John: 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

I find those words quite comforting.  Do you?  Although they were spoken and written down long ago, they are incredibly appropriate for our current situation.  In this world we do have trouble.  In fact, the world we live in today is facing a variety of troubles.  But take heart, Christ has overcome the world.  Christ can overcome whatever we are facing today, and whatever we will will face tomorrow.  Through Him, we can become people who overcome.  Through Christ, we can become beloved children who know God’s peace.  And through Him, we can become disciples who share God’s words of assurance and peace with those who desperately need to hear them.

Yes, it’s a weird and challenging time we are living through, but if we remember Who is in control, we can push our fears and worries aside.  And when we do that, we can begin to see the world a little differently.  The light of hope will break through the darkness and we will be able to find all that is still good and beautiful and right.  So, take heart.

Be blessed and well!

Matthew West is one of my favorite Contemporary Christian artists. He recently wrote a song of encouragement, based on John 13:33, and I want to share it with you. I hope you will take the time to listen.