Saturday, January 30, 2021

Never Stop Praying

Like reading God's Word, prayer is so essential to managing life's difficulties.  In fact, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.  What does that mean?  It is important to have special times of prayer every day, but praying without ceasing means living in a spirit of prayer all day long while engaging in our daily activities.  It means we are aware of the Lord's presence throughout the day, and it is an undercurrent which is influencing all our thoughts and actions.  Prayer is sensing and breathing the Holy Spirit's presence and breathing His life in all that we do.  

Below is a link to an article online about prayer.  I posted this same link about a year ago as well.  I thought is was appropriate to post this link again after the blog post last week about the Psalms and reading God's Word  The article dives into the subject of praying without ceasing.  Although a bit long the article is well worth reading.

Here is a quote from that article to wet your appetite for reading it:  "If prayer is merely an activity to do, then 'pray without ceasing' will sound oppressive.  But if prayer is communion with God-communion with this Father, Son, and Spirit-then we will hear the command differently; 'Enjoy God without ceasing.  Gain strength from God without ceasing.  And find that He is ever near, always faithful'"

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Beauty of the Psalms

We are already in the last full week of January in the year 2021.  If you have not yet made reading the book of Psalms part of your devotions, I would suggest you do that very thing.  I have read the book of Psalms several times the last years-usually following a schedule of taking a whole year to read through them..

The book of Psalms begins with a exhortation to meditate on and love God's Word.  It tells us that happy and blessed is the person who does this.  The last few Psalms and many of the Psalms in between are filled with praise for the Lord.  In between Psalm one and the last Psalm, Psalm 150, is every imaginable circumstance and situation we might experience in our walk through life.  These could include trials, difficult losses, sickness, betrayals, and confusion, but also hope, joys, purpose, peace, and God's precious promises.  The Psalms depict a whole spectrum of life experiences both difficult and joyful.  They also depict God's faithfulness through every step we take in this world.

The Psalms are meant to be prayed, recited, and even sung.  Although it is an Old Testament book of the Bible, no other book of the Bible can compare to it as a basis for daily prayer.  The New Testament explains and expands on the knowledge we have of our wonderful redemption in Jesus.  Yet the book of Psalms has a unique way of processing every possible situation we may face by the truth of God.  Having said this, some of the situations the Psalmists talk about, lament, or pray about have a historical setting.  Hence, it may be best to have a study Bible explaining the historical context, or use a good devotional on the Psalms alongside your personal reading of the Psalms.  

When we walk by faith, depend on God through difficult and joyful experiences, and use His Word as our guide; we end up praising Him.  Psalm 150:6 says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."  This is because we see how God has blessed us in good times and has helped us grow in our character and in  becoming the people He wants us to be in difficult times.  So in good times or difficult times, God deserves to be praised.  He knows what He is doing in allowing the things He allows,  and He is always faithful in what He does.

The Psalms and all of God's Word helps us to see this.  It reminds us of God's love, faithfulness, and wisdom.  Meditating on God's Word is our Anchor in time of need, and is the secret to a sweet relationship with Him.  It is like spiritual living water that nourishes and never dries up.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Things Too Wonderful for me

Psalm 131 is a beautiful Psalm in the Bible which speaks of humbly trusting in the Lord.  So often we try to figure out and manage life and it's struggles on our own.  We employ and seek out our own devices and solutions to try to solve life's problems and trials.  If we do pray to God for answers, we sometimes ask God to solve our problems and heartaches the way we think is best.

Instead, in Psalm 131 the psalmist says, "I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me."  We can't understand God's ways.  We can not fully understand what He has in mind in the issues and trials of life, but He is so much wiser than us.  We can rest in His wisdom.  The psalmist goes on to say, "But I have stilled and quieted my soul."

The psalmist has stilled and quieted his soul "like a weaned child with His mother."  He is content to just be in and enjoy the presence of the Lord.  An unweaned child wants something from the mother.  The child wants the mother's milk.  The weaned child only wants and desires to be in the presence and company of his mom.  He is not looking for what the mother can give him, but he just finds solace and comfort and joy in who the mom is as a person.

So it is with God.  We can find joy in His presence alone and in who He is as our loving and faithful God.  Psalm 131 tell us, "We can find "hope in the Lord both now and forevermore."  

Saturday, January 9, 2021

His indescribable Gift

Christmas of 2020 is past, and we are already a couple weeks into 2021.  The year 2020 was difficult in many ways, but I hope you had a blessed Christmas contemplating the true meaning of Christ's coming to this earth.  I hope you experienced joy and worship in your heart, as you meditated on these things.  More importantly, I hope you are carrying that joy and worshipful spirit into 2021 in spite of recent events in our nation.

During December I read through the Gospel of Luke in the Bible.  A couple days before Christmas I read Luke chapter two which tells of Christ's birth and Luke chapter twenty-four which speaks of Christ's resurrection.  It was a blessing to do so after reading about Christ's earthly life and death on the cross earlier in the month.

I am so thankful that Jesus came as a baby, that He took on humanity for us.  He left His perfect place in Heaven with God to come to this troubled and sinful world for us.  Then He lived a perfect life for us, and finally died to pay for our sins.  II Corinthians 9:15 says, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift."  It is a gift which is precious, inexpressible, and beyond our understanding.  It should fill our hearts with joy and worship and has the capability to carry us through the months ahead in 2021 and beyond.

Year 2021 will have and already has had its own problems and trials.  COVID problems, for one thing are not fully conquered.  In fact, COVID variants are beginning to materialize.  There has also been shocking violence displayed at our nation's capitol.  As I have watched this unfold, I have been struck with the reality of the depravity of the human heart without the Lord.   We also have other personal issues that we face.  For some these issues may include care-giving for a loved one, joblessness, cancer or other serious illnesses, concerns for a loved one who has lost his way, or even homelessness.

Whatever 2021 brings know that the Lord wants to walk with us through life's problems.  We need to trust His plans and not rely on our own plans.  We need to make Him not only our Savior, but Lord of our life.  We need Him in every area of our lives.  He wants to give us peace even if there is chaos all around us.  He wants to turn confusion into clarity, pointlessness into purpose, and worry into worship.  

What a precious gift this precious Savior and Lord  is to us who accept Him into our lives.  Once again we say, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift."  Let's walk through 2021 with joy.       

Saturday, January 2, 2021

God's Faithfulness

We are again entering a new year.  We have left 2020 behind.  2020 was a very difficult year in many ways with COVID fears and trials.  Some of us also experienced other serious trials in 2020.  Yet God was also faithful to us during the long months of 2020.  We may experience new trials in 2021 as well, but we can face 2021 with joy in the Lord and with a certainty of His faithfulness.  

In this blog post I would like to remember and testify to God's faithfulness to me in the past years.  I will speak of the illness and death of my first husband, the events that occurred in the following years, and my eventual second marriage to my current husband, Bob. 

Ten years ago in 2011 the new year ushered in the death of my first husband, Wayne.  He turned sixty-five years old on January 1rst.  The next morning on the 2nd, my son and I found that he had passed away sometime during the night.  This was after four and a half years of him becoming more and more disabled due to his neurological disease.  At the end he was completely dependent on my son and me for everything.  During those four and a half years of caring for Wayne, I also fought my own eight month battle against breast cancer. 

Those years caring for my husband, Wayne, were difficult years.  The years as a widow following the care-giving years also brought grief and sometimes loneliness.  Yet I also experienced so much of God's faithfulness.  I further grew in my love and personal relationship with my Lord.  I grew in my dependence on Him. 

During those years I discovered that "the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;" and that His "love endures forever (Psalm 138:8).  Difficult times does not change that.  God can bring good even out of tragic and difficult things (Romans 8:28).  In fact, He can  "do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us"  (Ephesians 3:20).  He further promises "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

A few months after Wayne's death I started working at a volunteer job which helps caregivers and their loved ones.  Later I wrote my book to encourage caregivers, called Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  

At one point an article about two other caregivers and me was published in the New York Times online.  Later I was also able to have an article written about my experiences in Guideposts.   

All these experiences had nothing to do with any capabilities on my part, but they were all because of God's grace to me.  They showed that God can use incredibly difficult circumstances for His  glory and even for our ultimate good.  They showed that He is always a faithful God.

Then in September 0f 2018 I began dating my present husband, Bob, and in July of 2019 we married.  This was after over eight years of me being a widow, and it was something I never anticipated happening.  It was one of those "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" experiences."  It is part of God's plan and purpose for my life now.  

We had the song, "I will Never Leave You," sung at our wedding.  This song is based on the Hebrews 13:5 passage mentioned above and is a testimony to our belief that God will always be with us in the days ahead, as He had in the past.   A rendition of this song can be found here:  God's purpose, grace, promises, faithfulness, and love in our lives are amazing.

And now later this month it will be 18 months since Bob and I wed.  We did not anticipate not having even a whole year of marriage before COVID issues hit our world.  Yet we have been together through it all.  We also have been a support to each other through difficult extended family issues, and we pray about these issues together.  We have had to adjust to each other's expectations and quirks as well.  Establishing and maintaining a godly marriage requires effort and prayer.  Yet this marriage too has been a wonderful love gift from God to us.  He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He is always faithful.

This also reminds me of another song sung at Bob's and my wedding.  The lyrics of the chorus of this song as sung that day were this, "Through it all, through it all, we've learned to trust in Jesus.  We've learned to trust in God.  Through it all, through it all we've learned to depend upon His Word.  Yes, we've learned to depend upon His Word."