Saturday, December 31, 2016

What Did You Learn In 2016?

As this year comes to a close, I reflect on the year that has gone by. I find myself thinking about the events of the last year, experiences good and bad, and my spiritual journey as well. All of these things have come together with the help of the Lord and shaped me into part of the new woman I am becoming. 

And so the question is this: What have I learned in 2016? At the beginning of 2016 I decided I wanted to learn as much as I could about myself, about living life to the fullest. I feel I have come away with much. Loss, health scares and new disease among family and friends taught me to cherish my loved ones and to let them know how much I love them. I'm learning to overlook the little things that used to be big things to me because in the end they really don't matter. I don't want them to take away from my time with the people I care about. Today becomes yesterday too quickly and we will never have today again. 

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  ~Colossians 3:12-15

I encountered so many with so much less than I and so much worse than I that I learned how very grateful I really am for blessings great and small. My "small" blessings would be big blessings to some. It is this mindset that I want to keep. Holidays for me were much more joyful when I minimized and simplified- I made things easier for myself and concentrated on what was really important, my people! It took me many years and a lot of energy to figure that out!

This year I did multiple online Bible studies and read the Bible all year with my husband. This created a much deeper intimacy with God. It also broadened my journey and has been teaching me so much about myself. I have opened my heart in a way that I don't think I have before and God has been working in me, changing me. He is forming me and shaping me. I find myself thinking in ways that I haven't before, and hearing that still small voice. I truly know how much I am loved by my Creator.

As I walk toward 2017, I know that I can do it without fear. I have diseases that are scary, and many unknowns in my life right now. There is one thing that never changes, and that is my God. No matter what comes along, I can depend on Him. He is my rock. He has never let me down, so I need not be afraid. I will never have too much to bear, because I can lay my burdens at His feet, and all that weight is gone. So I look forward to 2017, with happy thoughts of possibilities and what "might be" and dreams of taking my ministries farther than ever before.

My word for 2017 is "become." I found a simplified version of a few Bible verses which is mine for this next year, "Become all God intended you to be. Love life, love people. Love the life you've been given." ~Matthew 22:36-39. And I realize that God has brought me here, none of this was learned or done on my own. Maybe this was the greatest thing I learned- to let God be God, to let go and give it to Him! 

What did you learn in 2016? What are your thoughts about 2017? Please share in the comments below.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Gifts Christmas Is About

‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’  Matthew 25:35-38,40

A sweet young woman named Alex was diagnosed with the same disease I have when she was eleven years old. I haven't had a lot of trouble with my disease. At 25, she passed away on December 4th. Many of us are still reeling in shock.

An older man my husband and I know from our church is not fully able to take care of himself and is alone. At 73 years old, he suddenly lost almost everything he has, which isn't much, and he doesn't know what to do. I encounter people begging for money and food every few days and I live on the nice side of town.

When I get down about Christmas and the things I can't do anymore or what is lacking, it doesn't last very long when I think about the gifts that I have--the gifts that many take for granted. I have the gift of life. I have the gift of provision: a roof over my head, all the food I need, clothes, a warm bed, heat, even the phone and the internet. I can go to the doctor when I need to. There are so many basic needs that many are without.

Then I think about Jesus who was born in a manger with animals and grew up poor in a lower class working family. His father was a carpenter. He lived in a farming community in Nazareth. He chose to be poor all of his life and spent a good part of his life on the road serving others.

When I think about my Savior coming into the world in such a humble way, living the way he did and then going through torture and death for me, I see life in a different way. The basic needs that are met are gifts and something to be thankful for.

Not only that, but when I see people who don't have those basic needs, I know that God would want me to help how I can. He extends grace without question to us and wants us to do the same for others. Isn't that how we show Christ to others? Isn't that how we bring them in from the storm?

Luke 3:11 John replied, "Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same."

Maybe Christmas is about gifts, but not gifts under the tree. Christmas is about the gift of Jesus coming into the world and us celebrating by giving the gift of ourselves to share the light of God's love.

Whether you buy someone a meal, something to drink, pray with them, adopt a family, or say "God bless you", God's love is to be shared.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thankfulness Is A Choice

The holidays can be a very difficult time to get through. We are coming upon Thanksgiving and for people who have suffered hardships and loss, some have trouble imagining how they can enjoy a holiday like this one. We associate holidays such as this with family gatherings and tidings of happiness and cheer. How does one do that if they are grieving? How does one have a good day among bad days or ill days? What if it takes a lot just to get out of bed in the morning? Then what?

There are things that are completely out of our control. Things that happen to us that we don't have a hand in fall into that category. It could be a medical illness of ourselves or one of our loved ones. It could be loss of a job or a home, or loss of a relationship that was not chosen. What do we do when we fell like hope is running out and faith is running cold?

I have been in that place before- that place where it's so dark and you can't see any light ahead.

Part of how we experience our lives is our perception -how we see it. We have more choices than most people realize. No, we cannot choose what is out of our control. We can make choices involving how receive and perceive it. Is it easy? Of course not. This is where God can help us.

I have been the strongest after I went through something hard. Do you know why that is? It's because that's when I was desperate enough to completely surrender myself to the Lord without holding anything back. That's when I was willing to try anything.

At a friend's suggestion, I started counting my blessings every morning before my feet hit the floor. Every time I felt weak I would ask God for His help. I made myself start looking at positives instead of negatives. Also, I started thinking of my situation as temporary instead of permanent (after all the only thing that is constant is change.) As I put these things into practice, they became more natural. It felt better. It didn't change the situation, it changed me.

It you are one of those people who are dreading the holidays, I challenge you to try what I tried to change your perception. Count your blessings every morning before you get out of bed. Every time you see yourself going down, simply ask God to lift you up. When you go to bed at night, ask God to help you see things in a brighter light. It won't make anything less than it is. But even in the darkest places, we all have a Great God to give thanks to, and we still have blessings we can focus on.

God bless you. I wish you enjoyable holidays!

Put The Christ Back Into Christmas For More Joy

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."  ~Luke 2:10-11

Many people when they think of Christmas, think of decorations, family gatherings, gifts and festivities. The Christmas departments in stores go up quite early in most places, and these elements of Christmas are overemphasized. So Christmas can become quite depressing for many folks who don't have money to buy gifts, have no family to see,  or who are too ill to keep up with decorating, cooking and festivities etc. Loss can be felt in many ways during the holidays, especially when we think of the holidays in traditional terms.

This isn't how we are supposed to think of the holidays. Two thousand sixteen years ago, in a little village in a town called Bethlehem, in a country named Israel, an infant was born in a manger. This baby was the savior of man. He was the "Christ" child who was sent to us by God himself to save us from our own sins. Christmas is supposed to be about Christ Jesus. Some people follow the traditions of Advent, which is supposed to prepare us for Christmas, and go to candlelight services on Christmas eve, but how many have their hearts in it? Many churches don't even have Christmas services anymore, so that families can attend to their "festivities."

The angel brought "good tidings of great joy" on that dark night when Christ was born. That is what Christmas is about. Regardless of what our circumstances are at the time, we have one true great hope that is tied into Christmas, the symbolic day of Jesus' birth. Despite what any of us may be going through, it is a good day to think about the incredible gift that God gave us; one that we can never lose; from a love that is everlasting and faithful. We have been redeemed and set free because of a little baby born to a teenage virgin. He lived his short 33 years to teach and perform miracles while on earth and then take all of our sin upon himself and die a torturous death for us. And, he left the Holy Spirit behind to help us whenever we need.

Each one of us is so loved, we are cherished and treasured. None of us will ever be alone. He always hears us and He has a perfect plan for each of us. I can't wait to see what His plan is for me!

If you have not yet accepted Christ as your savior, these are the things you will gain, for eternity. You will not die, but move on to a perfect life, void of pain or problems, in a new perfect body. All you need to do is pray and ask him into your life, and accept him as your savior- that's it.

I pray that you find the true meaning of this holiday this Christmas, and that your heart is filled with Joy, with good tidings of great joy, for the savior that was born unto us and set us free.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God!  ~Psalm 46:10

Not long ago, I was troubled. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. Every morning I would open my prayer journal and pour my heart out in prayer to the Lord. I had been avoiding it lately. The reason--I couldn't find the words. I didn't understand what was happening. I felt pretty settled, even peaceful. My hubby and I were still reading the Bible together almost every night and praying together before going to sleep. I still talked to God each day throughout the day. But I couldn't understand why I didn't have the words for my prayer journal. Instead I was telling God bits and pieces at different times out loud or in my mind. It seemed that things were coming together lately, and when friends would ask me questions, things that I used to think of as really wrong, didn't seem wrong anymore. I had heard a statement once "Everything in the universe right now at this point is a okay." That is how I felt- content, calm, almost serene. So where were my words?

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.  ~Psalm 62:5-6

It took a while for me to realize. I didn't have to have the words. It was okay for me to have a reprieve from my prayer journal because it was time for me to listen, to hear, to receive. I was at peace. I was experiencing the peace that knows no understanding. My circumstances hadn't changed much, but I was in a part of my own transformation where I was experiencing being still. This was new to me, in fact so new to me that I thought something was wrong. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  ~ 1 Peter 5:7 

The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of still is: 1. devoid of or abstaining from motion 2. uttering no sound; quiet 3. calm, tranquil. Yes, I was not doing the work, God was working in me, renewing my mind; working in my heart. I was quiet, and He was talking to me. Thoughts that didn't come from my own mind were filling my mind. This peace that filled my being was from being still, and from being surrendered to God. Amazingly, I didn't realize I had surrendered to Him, it was more of a process than a motion.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  ~ Romans 12:2 

In Psalm 46, God says "Be still and know I am God" and in some translations it says "cease striving and know that I am God." Cease striving, one of the biggest battles I have had- to stop trying to do so much on my own. I complicated so much that was really rather simple. For me what it boils down to is letting go of everything and holding on to one thing- my God. Laying my burdens at Jesus' feet has become a regular practice for me. On my good days I do just that, and on my not so good ones, I run right back into the arms of Jesus, and thank God that His mercies are new every morning. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Replacing Fear With Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 11:1

Someone recently asked me how my fears no longer become rooted in me. That’s when I realized what a miracle that is. Since I started with chronic, rare illnesses a few years back, the fears have been very real. Life changed very quickly in ways I couldn’t imagine. Other people I got to know with the same illnesses lost their spouses. I started fearing losing mine. As crazy symptoms surfaced which even my doctors couldn’t explain, I feared what would happen to me.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. ~ Psalm 56:3

As all of this happened, I fell to my knees. I turned to God in a much deeper way than I had before.  I went from being so busy to being quiet and still, something I hadn’t done before. My husband was shaken up by what happened too. We started reading the Bible together almost every night and we still do. I didn’t just pray, I talked to God throughout the day. I started prayer journaling. I joined Bible studies, and if they didn’t focus enough on the right things, I quit. The days I stayed focused on God were my good days. I started learning that I was weak but He could be my strength. I started realizing that He didn’t want me to strive, but to come to Him, and let Him work in and through me. These were revelations to me
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  ~ Romans 10:17

I had some real trust issues from trauma in my past. I probably always will to some degree where people are concerned. God has healed my trust when it comes to Him. “He” is the key word for me. I can’t fix myself. I can’t replace my fear with faith, but He can. He does this for me every day when I ask Him to. He is healing me and fixing what He chooses to fix as I ask Him to, as long as I don’t get in the way. I did not think it was possible to stop worrying, not me. I used to be the one that would be up at night scrutinizing my day. I don’t worry anymore, not really. The reason is because I lay my burdens at Jesus’ feet every night. Yes, I do take them back, and then I go back and do it again. The Lord has been helping me to get better at this. He has helped me so much already! One day at a time, for each morning His mercies are new!

Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. ~Lamentations 3:23

I am far from perfect and I do have my bad days.  There are still times I get caught up in the wrong things, namely worldly things. I repent, and I go back to doing what works best and is right. It’s the only thing that is right- because I choose Him.  And I remember my new motto –Not me but He!

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Phillipians 4:7

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Struggle For Acceptance In The Face Of Illness (Repost From 2013)

As I look through my blogs, I can see that writer's block has befallen me for many months now. What once came so easily is now a struggle. The one medium in which I could really express myself has been just out of reach and that has grieved me. I didn't understand why, but lately some things have come to light.

I have been struggling with grieving and acceptance. This past year has been such a test, not only for me, but my family as well. We have been hit so hard in every aspect of our lives. The part I have been struggling with the most has been my own health. 

I have been volunteering in the mental health field for several years now. I have personally experienced the extremes of PTSD, and I have multiple family members who suffer with devastating mental illnesses.  These experiences have motivated me to lend a hand in whatever way I could. 

It is interesting that in the past year, not only did I encounter stigma for my involvement with this set-apart world of people who have chemicals in their brains that have gone awry, but I felt stigma and struggled with self-acceptance involving a rare, invisible set of health conditions that has turned my own life upside-down. Although my health condition is not a mental illness, it has given me a better understanding of being set apart, avoided, turned away from, and the struggles that accompany all "invisible" illnesses.

When I refer to an "invisible" illness, I am talking about illnesses that don't necessarily show on the outside, but devastate on the inside and cause a loss of function in one's life. 

It hurts when people no longer ask how you are, or avoid saying hello and ignore you. It hurts when the people who you thought cared turn out to be fair-weather friends just when you needed them the most. I could go on about the hurt I have experienced, but instead I want to look at what I can do for me and how I can move past the struggle to feel included when I feel like an outsider looking in.

The first thing I think about is the struggle for self-acceptance—how to accept who you are, and what is in your life TODAY. Today, I am not able to work or to do anything for more than maybe an hour without getting exhausted, dizzy, and out of breathe. Even though I take more medications and supplements than I care to name, and I periodically get extremely painful shots in my spine, I still deal with pain most of the day. I always have a degree of pain, but some of it has become "normal." When I say I am in pain, I am talking about the kind of pain that keeps me from being able to take walks, sit up straight, or comfortably assumed any position. I still try to make the best of each day and thankfully I have a great doctor who continues to look for more answers. 

For a person who wants to do so much, but has instead had her passion relegated to the back seat, this is devastating. The hardest part is not being able to be transparent with anyone except others who share the same illness. We seem to be a fairly isolated group of people. People with chronic illnesses lose friends, family members, and even sometimes their spouses. I pray every day that God helps me to handle my illnesses with grace. While I am grieving the loss of old dreams, I am looking for more realistic new ones. There is a false guilt and shame that comes from how others respond to my illness. I dread going to my church because most people I know no longer take the time to say hello, and that is a weird feeling. I have had friends who wrote asking me about my physical condition. When I gave a brief and honest answer I never heard back from them again. How much of their response is because of me? Could they be reacting to my inability to regularly attend church or be an active part of groups or events? I don't have an answer to that question. 

This is where self-acceptance is particularly valuable. It is not my fault that I am sick. I may not be in a wheelchair, or have a terminal illness or missing limb, but that doesn't make my situation any less challenging. I do not want to be on disability and I did not choose to live the life I am living right now. It is a horrible to feel out of control of your own body, and to not have answers on how to get better. Like many I know, I am extremely proactive in seeking answers and trying things to help me get better. It is hard to accept that I don't know how much better I will get. I sometimes feel like I am losing me. 

On the flip side, I clearly know who is in my corner and I value those people more than words can say. I have also learned to depend on God in a whole different way. It is so much easier to go to people first when we are in need emotionally. That is not what the Bible tells us to do. While going to a person can get you physical comfort, the answers you want to hear, and immediate gratification, going to God ultimately brings us the best long-term results. We grow in our faith and our relationship with Him. He uses our trials to develop us into the people He wants us to be. As I do this more, I feel a peace that engulfs me, at least until "I" jump back into the picture. I am starting to see that it isn't really about understanding but more about knowing. 

Someone once asked me how to treat someone who has a mental illness and my answer was to treat him or her just like anybody else. I now realize that also applies to “invisible illnesses” and it is something that we all understandably crave.

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Luke 6:31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trust Through Sustaining Grace

Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be moved. ~Psalm 55:22

Trust has always been a hard concept for me, namely because I have had trust betrayed many times, from the time I was a little girl. I learned while growing up that you can't trust people and yet I kept trying and I kept getting hurt. So I believed that no one was truly worthy of trust. 

Then how could I trust God? We all grow up seeing things happen that we will never understand. I never asked why because I was taught that you don't do that, but I wondered. Then came a time that I was on my knees desperate and knew that I had to trust him. He of course came through. And so my journey began.

I may have come through the back door in my Christian walk, and although I grew up in church, I knew about Jesus but I didn't know Him. It wasn't until I had to call on Him that I learned He was there waiting for me. That was when my true journey started.

Many people do not know what sustaining grace is. Saving grace has certainly saved my life and I am so relieved and happy that I know I will be with Jesus when this life is over despite being a sinner. Sustaining grace saves me time after time during my life here on earth.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you ~1 Peter 5:7

He has sustained me in more ways than I can name. He has provided provision in ways that don't even make sense. When I was a single mother with no child support coming in and no way to make ends meet, somehow they always did, but the numbers didn't add up. I always physically had what I needed when I needed it. So many times it seemed to come from left field. When I have been emotionally weak, He has lifted me up; He has carried me. He invites me, and all of us, to give Him our burdens, to lay them at His feet, and lighten our load. 

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. ~Phillipians 4:19

It is so amazing to me, that when I am not strong enough to do what He wants me to do, I can go to Him and ask Him to help me do it and He will. He sustains each of us by supporting us, holding us up, working in and through us when we are weak. 

All we have to do is ask. I live in His sustaining grace every day because I ask Him to work in and through me; I ask Him for His strength and His help. If I ever miss a day I suffer. 

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. ~Psalm 56:3

What about you? Are you trying to do everything in your own strength, striving to achieve, looking to the world to fill your gaping holes? There is only one without flaws, who is absolute, unchanging, faithful and loves you in a perfect, incomprehensible way. I am trusting Him in a way that I never thought I could trust anyone, but He is not anyone. He knew each of us before we were ever born.

Give Him your life and your will. Make Him your foundation and like a tree, while the winds may blow your branches, limbs and sometimes your trunk, your roots, which are deeply rooted in our magnificent creator will hold you up and keep you from breaking. In other words, you will still have the tests and trials, but He will bring you through and you will be better and stronger than before. Watch as He keeps His promises, every one!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A New Label

It is a hard world that we live in today. People can be fickle and sometimes cruel. When I was a little girl, I lived in the city. There were a lot of other girls that lived on my block, and they were tough like most city kids are. Me- I was gentle and didn't want to hurt anyone. People always told me I was gentle and kind. That was frowned upon by the other kids on my block and I was made fun of and bullied. Groups of the girls would wait for me to come outside and dare me to fight, which they knew I wouldn't. Then they would call me "chicken."

I wasn't made to be tough. What those kids looked at as not being a good thing are qualities that many value in the work and volunteer work that I have done as an adult. My friends love that I am gentle and kind; God made me to be that way. 

We all have unique qualities and characteristics that make us who we are and the special people that God made us to be. We aren't supposed to be like someone else, we are supposed to be like the very person that God made us to be. People have throughout all of our lives given all of us labels of one kind or another. For many of us, certain ones have stuck. They have been reinforced over time, and we have owned them. For some it may be about weight, for others about intelligence, or ethnicity. Whatever it was, it had a negative connotation to it and it hurt. 

As I have been studying the Bible, the more I read, the more I know how very precious each one of us is to our Creator. He would be very sad to hear the names other people have called us and that we have sometimes taken on as labels. I thought of myself as not having courage for a long time because of the events that occurred years ago when I was a little girl. Through reading the Bible and learning more about God and what He has to say about me I know that isn't true. I have prayed that He reveal the truth to me and He does .What beautiful jewels we find in the Bible about how much He loves us; here are a few:
  • In Psalm 139:14- God tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made 
  • God tells us that we are "His treasured possessions" in Deuteronomy 7:6. 
  • In 1 John 3:1 God says He loves us so much that we can be called His children.
  • In Psalm 17:8- He tell us we are the apple of His eye.
  • Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God sees us as his masterpiece.
  • It tells us that God loves us and because we are precious to Him He will meet our needs in Matthew 6:25-34
It is time to get rid of the labels that make us feel like we are "less than" anyone. The truth is You are a child of the Most High! There is nothing better than that. He knew exactly who and how you would be before you were even born! From your size and shape, to the color of your eyes, and the personality traits and talents that make you who you are--these, all of these were predestined! We are all so valuable to Him, and yes that includes you too!

So now is the time go ahead and change your label to one that is true. Choose one that fits your current need and when you lose focus on the one who is always faithful, reaffirm His love for You with your new label!

I am no longer a chicken, or someone with no courage, I am a daughter of the Most High and His treasured possession! So who are you?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

I Love To Tell The Story

"I love to tell the story, 'twill be my theme and glory, to tell the old, old story, of Jesus and his love.
~I Love To Tell The Story, United Methodist Hymnal #156

I have a story, boy do I have a story. My story goes back to long before Jesus became my savior. I grew up in church, I knew all the Bible stories and I knew all the books of the Bible forward and backward. I knew about Jesus, but I didn't know him. Most of all, I didn't understand.

How could I ever be good enough for God? How could I be good enough for God--who was the master Creator of everything including me; God- who sent Jesus to save people from their sins? How could I earn this? How could I ever be good enough, how could I earn what God did for His people? Could I ever actually be one of His people? Really- with all the bad things I had done?

Growing up in a performance based world made it so hard to see what salvation actually means. It made the kind of love that God has for his children that much more incomprehensible to me. All those years I had perfect attendance in Sunday school and church I didn't have salvation because I didn't think I could. I didn't understand that I could. It took me a long time to truly understand that God made me to be who I am right now, flaws and all. I didn't understand that He loves me so much that Jesus covered all of my sins, even my future sins,  He sees the very best parts of me; when He looks at me He sees who I am going to be.

The only thing that stops God from fully living in my heart, and Jesus from walking beside me is me! My sense of insignificance, and my not being able to grasp the amazing love that He loves me with, can pull me away from him.

I have three children. As I had each one, I had that much more love, and still loved each one as much- all of them the same. And so it is with God and His children.

There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing we can do to make Him love us less. He is crazy about each one of us, because God is love. And that makes you what you are: His beloved.

Isn't it amazing that He cannot help but love you no matter what you do or don't do? It's not about what you do but who you are; you are His.

Hear the song I Love To Tell The Story here.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Above The Clouds

Taken by Kim Burnette 9/7/16

Dedicated to my friend Bonnie.                                                                         "For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name." ~ Amos 4:13                                                                                                                It has amazed me the times we have flown on a plane, and it might be dark and rainy outside, but once our plane got above the clouds, the sky had changed-- and so it is with perspective.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I found myself entering a world of brutal, unpredictable chronic illness almost 4 years ago and my life was turned upside down. As I lost more control of my body and my life, I felt like I was losing the best parts of myself, but I wasn't. That was the lie that so many of us buy into when our circumstances change.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                We have a choice in how sickness changes us. I have friends who have made illness their identity. This is the easiest thing to do when you battle illness on a daily basis. When that happens, life becomes more and more about the illness and the misery it causes, and less about the person and the life that is still there.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     There is a road less traveled, and I have a very special friend who by example, has shown me that road. My friend has been battling cancer and a number of extremely painful diseases for years now. Her form of complaining which is very rare, is less than most women complain about menstrual cramps. She seeks beauty in the every day of her children and her home, cloud formations, what she finds along the road, all of God's creatures and even the doctor's offices she has to visit frequently.                                                                                                                                                                                                                "When I consider Your heavens, he work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!"  ~Psalm 8:3-6                                                                                                                                                                                I have learned much from Bonnie and how she makes the most of each day, learning more about our world and appreciating everything it holds; embracing her friends and loved ones, to whom she gives much love.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         And so I keep learning from my God to whom I have grown much closer, but I also learn from my dear friend who really gets it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What If?

How many people have turned back to the past with sadness saying what if this had been different or what if I had done that differently? It is so easy and most likely within our own human nature to do that. When one has a chronic illness we miss the person we used to be. I sometimes miss the things I could do before that I can't do anymore. It is natural to revisit grieving the losses we have faced. I really miss ballroom dancing and hiking.

Some of us can get stuck in the past and the sadness of losing those parts of ourselves. "What if" can be a dangerous phrase. "What if" can also be a remarkably helpful phrase too. When it comes to Christ our what ifs are endless!

What if God were to lead you to a different but better place than before? What if one day he decided to restore part or all of what you lost? With Him, anything is possible. Do you believe that? It's true! What if you started trusting God that He has a grand purpose for your life as you are right now? What if you were to count the blessings you have each day and look for the good, instead of focusing on the past and what has been lost?

So much of one's life isn't about what we have as much as what we do with what we have; in otherwords the perspective we have. This is one thing each of us has a choice about. For those who have been stuck in grieving the losses it may take some practice, but any of us can choose to focus on the positives in our lives and thank God for what we still have, which many would give their right arm for.

We can look up at those who have more, or look down at those who have less. There are many who have less. There is an evangelist named Nick Vujicic who was born with no arms or legs but chose joy in his life. You can look him up on You Tube under "Life Without Limbs," he is quite inspiring. He chose to make the best of what he has, and he is married with a child, and gives his life to bring others to Jesus.

So "What if" your best is yet to come?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

To Him Who Has Ears To Hear

"Whoever has ears, let them hear."  ~Matthew 13:9

Listening is one of the greatest skills one can have. When one listens they are giving full attention to the speaker;  they are not distracted, they are not anticipating their own response. Much of what we hear is filtered through a screen of what we have taken away from our own experiences. It's kind of like adding a couple of tracks to a song; it can completely change how the song sounds.                                                                                                                                                         "So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them." ~Luke 8:18

So when one listens to a Sunday message, or a Bible reading, with a "calloused heart" what one takes away from the message would be very different than what one who prays for understanding, has forgiven others, and has let go of the past would hear. This would also be true for one reading the Bible. Is your heart open to what God has to give you? Have you asked Him to reveal Himself to you? Are you too damaged and hardened to perceive what He has to tell you?

"You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts." ~Matthew 13:14-15

This passage talks about a people that inhabited Israel over 2,000 years ago, I think it also talks about many people today. People who carry anger, unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment; also people who put idols before God such as wealth, material things, position, activities etc. When one knowingly continues to live in sin, that person's heart also hardens. So it makes me wonder, how many people in society today are actually hearing what God has to say? I know I want to be one that hears!

The best way to get to know God and have a relationship with Him is through His word and through prayer. Are you free of the chains that keep You from learning about and understanding God? Are you willing to let go and give the baggage you carry to Him? Are you willing to be honest with yourself and with God? All you need to do is ask Him to take it from you and He will. I want my perception and what I read and hear about God to be unfiltered, unbiased and heard through a heart that is filled with Jesus. I hope you can have that too.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, Please remove anything that gets in the way of hearing and seeing You. Break the chains of the past, heal the wounds, open our hearts and help us all to let go of everything that we no longer need. Replace fear with faith and help us to trust You completely. Soften the calloused hearts that we may understand You when You reveal Yourself to us. Thank You for Your help and forgiveness. In the name of Jesus' I pray, Amen.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Do I Really Put God First?

“You shall have no other gods before me." ~Exodus 20:3  
                                                                                    I grew up in church. My family went to church every single Sunday, I went to Sunday school and knew the creeds, all of the books of the Bible forward and backward, and all of what were considered the "significant" Bible stories. I had the perfect attendance award every year! I knew all about Jesus but I didn't know Jesus. In fact I didn't understand salvation. It was very easy to follow people and to do what they did, but I wasn't a true Christian because although I knew so much from memory, I had no real comprehension of what it all meant.
                                                                                                                                  It wasn't until I was older and in a bad position that I called out to Jesus and then gave Him my life. I died to myself and began a new life in Him. It was a new beginning. I was a baby Christian at the beginning of a new road. I had much to learn and still do; in fact I will have more to learn and more growing to do for the rest of my life. I have a long way to go and always will, for I always be a sinner. There is no cure, we have all been born sinners. I am blessed to be filled with God's grace since believing Jesus to be my savior and giving God my life. It is genuine and He has been working in my heart.

Honestly speaking, it wasn't that long ago that I realized that although I always said I put Christ first, in reality I didn't. My husband and children were put right there with Him. Sometimes, my worries and burdens were put right there with Him, sometimes my wants were put right there with Him, and my wish to be healed of chronic illness was put right there with Him. At times, any of these, I am ashamed to say were put above Him. I realized that the things I put above Him were idols! Idols don't have to tangible things, precious carvings of silver and gold; idols can be anything that we hold more dear than our beloved God. It took a lot of honesty and soul baring to admit how guilty I was and none of these sins were intentional or even realized at the time.

"But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."  ~Matthew 6:33

It is so easy to put other people or things before God without even thinking about it.But when we do put Him first the rewards are numerous-- we can "hear his voice,"  and we can actually lay down our burdens. We are open to receive everything he has for us and can live in his strength and do things through and with His assistance. The list of things that happen when we put God first is endless. He is our creator, He is responsible for all the good in our lives and in us.

How many times do we have to go back to start to learn this?

Here are a few simple questions to help you determine if You are putting God first in your life. I hope that you work on it and ask for His help in doing it (He will) like I do.

1. List the five most important things to you
2. List the order of importance
3. Do you feel like you have been growing in the Lord?
4. Are you satisfied with the amount of time You spend with God and the quality of that time?

Thank You Heavenly Father for loving one like I who doesn't deserve the grace and mercy that I live in! I pray that you help us all to put You and keep You first in our lives, where You belong, for You are the great I Am. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Freedom of Forgiveness

And when you stand to pray, if you hold anything against another, forgive it, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your trespasses as well."  ~Mark 11:25

Forgiving can be such a hard thing to do. When someone has betrayed you, hurt you to your core, how do you just forgive them? Isn't that letting them off easy? How could they deserve your forgiveness? What if they aren't sorry, or don't even see what they did wrong? How on earth can you forgive someone like that?

There was a time when I had those thoughts. I had been betrayed by someone very close to me, in ways that were unimaginable. I didn't understand how I could forgive something that had such a profound impact on my life. But I had the wrong ideas about forgiveness....

Forgiveness is not the same thing as pardon. You are not excusing the other person for what they did. What you are doing, is letting go of the anger and bitterness, and cutting the chains to the past. You are freeing yourself of the effects of what happened and giving yourself a chance to heal and move on. 

It's so easy to think that there are things we shouldn't forgive. When I read the Bible and realize the way my God forgives you and me and all of us every day for our sins, it makes me think twice. 

When I hear stories, like Corrie Ten Boom's story from World War II, where she and her sister were put into a concentration camp because they were caught hiding Jews, it really makes me think.  She watched as they killed her sister. Corrie miraculously escaped only days later and ran into a soldier who was directly part of the atrocities there. She forgave him. That is hard to imagine. You can read more about her story of forgiveness here.

Forgiveness is always possible, maybe not in our flesh, but with God, as He can forgive through us and in us. I experienced this and it is freeing in a way that is beyond description. It also removes a wall that we create between us and God. We are being disobedient when we don't forgive. When we continue to be disobedient our hearts harden.

If you harbor a grudge, if you have bitterness in your heart, don't you think it's time to let it go? It will eat you from the inside out if you don't. God will help you to do it if you just ask. Forgiveness, contrary to what many believe, is not done for the other person but for yourself. It is the best gift you can give yourself. For me, it was like a huge weight was lifted off me, one that had been there for a long time. 

I pray for each one of you who is dealing with this issue, that you will seek to forgive with God's assistance, and experience the freedom and joy that it brings. I pray that you can fill the room it leaves with good things, that will restore peace and bring joy. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

You Are So Beautiful To Me

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
~Psalm 139:14

Do you ever look at someone and think about how beautiful they are? I have. I have admired the waistline or the legs that someone has or the beautiful green eyes that another person has. The thing I find interesting is the more I get to know a person, the more or less beautiful they become to me. That is because what is inside is shining through, and it affects how they look to me.

We worry so much about how we look on the outside, going to so much trouble to keep our bodies in great shape and preserve our youth. The truth is outward beauty makes a great first impression and attracts people. It is not what people value. True beauty does not come from the shape of one's body, or one's complexion. It doesn't come from mesmerizing eyes,luscious lips or gorgeous hair. 

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  ~Proverbs 31:25,30

True beauty comes from a beautiful heart; it radiates from the inside. It comes from someone who is unselfish, loving, content, and spiritual. Some of the most beautiful women and men I know aren't confined by their age. They didn't have any work done, and don't do crossfit. They love life and people but most of all, they love the Lord. It shows! There is a sparkle in their eyes and a genuine smile that lights up their faces. People are drawn to the light within them.

I have friends that are truly beautiful but they cannot see it. They are so worried about extra weight or how different they look now as opposed to when they were younger. I understand, it is easy to feel that way. Their beauty is timeless. It doesn't age, it grows as they grow and mature in the Lord. It is a lovely thing to see. We cannot stop the aging process, but we can renew ourselves inwardly with God's word. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  ~2 Corinthians 4:16

So I pray for every reader, that you find the beauty of God's word and are transformed inwardly by keeping Him in your heart. May His light shine through for all to see.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  ~Colossians 3:12