Tuscany Evolves…

My first watercolor painting continues to evolve!

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(My continued participation in the Sketch-A-Day Event)

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When Life Sucks, Faith Doesn’t Come Easy

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I chose this photo because it made me smile…no other reason.

I sat down to my computer, wanting to write a more upbeat blog than the last; as the last was kind of depressing.  So, I opened my Bible to Psalms chapter 10, since it’s the next chapter in our series entitled, “Walk Through Psalms.”   As I read, I began to realize chapter 10 was a continuation of chapter 9; which had dealt with the subject of oppression. I  tried to bask in every ray of sunshine within the chapter, but just as I started to warm, the clouds of gloom rolled over to obscure the light.

The chapter opens with David questioning God.   He prays, “Lord why do you stay so far away?  Why do you hide from people in times of trouble?”  The human part of me wants to cheer David on by saying, “Good question, David, I’d like to know the answer too!”   I looked to verse 2 to obtain the Lord’s answer;  however none was given.  In fact, God is silent throughout the whole chapter, making David’s conversation seemingly one-sided.

I hate those kinds of conversations!  Don’t you?  As an introvert, silent spaces make me extremely uncomfortable.  I feel the need to fill the gap; but the problem being, most of the time I fill the gap with something stupid, idiotic and sounding like it came from the Twilight Zone.

Oh, and voice messages are the worst!  I freaking never know how to end my message.  As I ramble on, scenes of the “hearer” laughing at my idiotic message, pop in my head, and I blush.  I actually blush!

Such is the life of an introvert. Phones are not our friend… (except for taking pictures and checking Facebook)   However, in such situations, I’ve learned to laugh at myself and pat myself on the back with the thought of…”…well…at least you made someone laugh.”  It helps, a little, but not a perfect antidote to cover the shame.  Aren’t we suppose to embrace our weirdness!  Weirdos Unite!  ….I digress….

Sometimes, as Christians,  when it comes to our prayer life, the conversations feel a bit one-sided.  We pray and God is silent. Often those silent moments become extremely long, and it’s so uncomfortable.  We want answers and we want them now, but when it comes time for God’s reply all we hear are crickets.  Silence.  What do we do when God is silent?

Of course the answer is: “Just have faith!”  Easier said than done. Having faith can become difficult in any christian’s life.  It doesn’t matter how strong of a christian you are, the bottom line is;  “When life sucks, faith doesn’t come easy.”  We can’t conjure it up on our own; God has to give us faith, but when he is silent…then what?

I remember years ago, when I had a miscarriage; some well-meaning christian quoted Romans 8:28–“…all things work together for good…” or Philippians 4:28–“…I can do all things through Christ…”  Let me tell you, that was the last thing I wanted or needed to hear. The flippant answer of “well…just have faith” is not what someone, who’s life has just been turned upside-down, needs to hear.  Instead, they need someone to cry with them, someone to hold their hand, someone to say it isn’t fair, and someone to say it sucks!   They need someone to “be Jesus” rather than attempting to “talk” like Jesus.  The old sayings, “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words” are very relevant in these situations.  Easy solutions to a broken heart, only serve to “devalue” rather than “diminish” pain.

So what must we do with the silence?   Let’s make it practical…I’ve said before I love “practical Christianity.”  After all, if you can’t use Christianity  in your everyday life then what good is it?  Our salvation is so much more than a “get out of hell free” ticket.   Jesus said, ” I came that [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” He cares about our life…here…right now…on this earth!  He desires a personal relationship with each of us; therefore, he cares about our daily lives.  If He didn’t, he wouldn’t know the number of hairs on our head.  He wouldn’t assure us that He’s ever present, by saying… He even sees when a sparrow falls to the ground.  He tells us all of these things, because He wants us to know, He cares about our life…our everyday life.

Back to practicality…what can we do?  Remember, I claim to be no scholar,  but these have helped me in the past…so maybe, they’ll help you too…

  • Realize it’s okay to question, wonder, doubt or even be mad as hell.  Sometimes we just need to “be”…  Wherever you find yourself, just be.  Validate your feelings whatever they are.  Jesus did this when he spoke these words in the garden of Gethsemane, “…let this cup pass from me,” and again on the cross when he questioned God, “…why have you forsaken me…?”  Feelings need to be validated because it’s the only way in which we work through them.  Anything and everything you and I can feel Jesus has already felt it.  Hebrews says this of Jesus, “…[He] is able to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses…infirmities…temptations, …[He] has been tempted in every respect as we are…”
  • Realize Jesus has overcome.  We have a champion in Christ. Not only has he experienced everything we can ever  experience, but He has made it through to the other side.  Jesus tells us…” In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
  • Don’t expect quick solutions.  Sometimes they occur, but more often than not, it takes time  and a lot of it.  I struggled with my faith for years.   Early on, doubt and fear seeded itself in my mind; it took root, spread, and ran rampant.  It started as a child, and continued throughout much of  my young adult years.  I constantly doubted my salvation and it was horrible feeling.  I never, truly, had peace until I finally saw just,  “who” I was in Christ.  I realized my salvation had nothing to do with me but everything to do with Christ.  I know, it’s a simple concept, but it took me years of God’s silence for me to understand…  “it’s not about me.”   So, what am I saying?  I’m saying, God is silent for a reason, and often the reason is, He’s trying to teach you something, that will make you stronger and happier.  Most of the time “getting to the other-side of a problem” takes time and whole lot of work; and that’s why flippant solutions and quick quotes of scripture, mean near to nothing.  We need more understanding and less quick fixes.
  • Seek out help from those who truly understand…those who have gone through similar trials.  Solomon, one of the wisest men ever to live, wrote, “…  a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”  (Proverbs 27:9)  The key-word there, being “friend.”  A true friend will share the burden rather than trying to quick-fix it. We have a tremendous resource of encouragement from others who have walked the same path.  God encourages us to use that resource and then to give it out as well.
  • Pray.  Just keep praying.  There will be times when your prayers feel as mumbled words falling uselessly to the ground.  Pray any way.  I learned this from my mom.  Know in your heart that God does hear. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”__ James 5:16  Pray and don’t stop, no matter what.  God honors prayer.  God is listening whether you feel it or not.  As humans, the only constant of “our feelings” is change, but God never changes.  He is the North of our compass.  Pray, Pray and pray even more.
  • Stay in the word.  My dad use to say that all the time.  Just as it helps to be diligent in our prayers we should be diligent in studying God’s word.  Often, especially when we’re angry, it’s the last thing we want to do, but faith comes by “hearing” the word of God.  If you’re sick of trying to read and understand scripture on your own, find a good teacher and listen to them.  Joyce Meyer has been that voice for me.  She’s the queen of “practical Christianity,” and as Martha Stewart says, “…that’s a good thing.”  If her particular teaching style doesn’t mesh with you, that’s okay…find someone  who does. There’s so many good teachers out there. The main point is to get the word of God inside of you whether it’s by reading or hearing.  Singing is another good option!

 

I’m sure there are many many other ways to help us navigate God’s silence.  I’m still learning, as I’m sure, I will be for the rest of my life.  We are all a work in progress, and God knows what He’s doing…even if we don’t.  So be kind to yourself!

 

My Prayer:  Lord, I depend too much on feelings, and when I do I’m tossed to and fro like a feather in the wind.  God, remind me that you never change,  that your love, grace and mercy are constants in my life, even when I don’t feel them. Lord, give me faith when you are silent, and open my heart that I may learn what you teaching.  Lead me to those you’ve called to help me and may I also be a help to them.  Thank you Lord, for never leaving me…never forsaking me.  Thank you that nothing can separate me from your love.  All of this I ask in Jesus’s name.  Amen.

 

(A publication of “Walk Through Psalms”)

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God Has Something to Say to the Hurting

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Art by Alina Sliwinska

(Psalms 9/Paraphrased as if from God’s point of view) 

This morning, as I read Psalms chapter 9, a message began to form in my mind.  A message, I believe, to be from God.  A message, He wants all the hurting to hear. And so as I pondered over the verses I began to read it as if God, Himself, were talking and this is what He said to me…

“My dear one, you are my child.  Come to me and I will be your place of safety, and I’ll give you strength in this time trouble.  When you come to me, I will never abandon you.  I hear your cries of affliction and abuse.  I have seen how they despise and oppress you.  Far too many times you are overlooked and forgotten. I’ll never forget you and I’ll always surround you with mercy and grace.  Most of all, my dear child, have hope because one day all will be made right.  Soon I will arise from this throne, I will come; and I will deliver you.  Until that day, have hope and know you are loved.”

I hear the voice of God interwoven between the verses of Psalms 9.  He has so much to say to those of us who are hurting.  I take hope in knowing, he see’s every tear that falls from my eyes. He feels every pain from abandonment and every pain from loneliness.

Sometimes that pain leads me to such despair that I think death would be better.  It’s scary how often the pain can lead me there.  All  who have taken their life because those they love, despise who they are, I feel their pain.

 This is not an easy place to be, and when I am there I truly need the place of safety that God offers.  I need His strength.  I need to know;  He doesn’t abandon me.  I need to know I’m not someone He tries to “fit in” during special occasions and holidays.  I need to know I am not overlooked and forgotten. I need His mercy and grace; for without it I can’t go on.  I need to know, one day all will be right.  I need hope.

I must have hope for without it I die.

For everyone who finds themselves in this space, hear, again, what God wants to say to you…

“My dear one, you are my child. Come to me and I will be your place of safety, and I’ll give you strength in this time trouble. When you come to me, I will never abandon you. I hear your cries of affliction and abuse.  I have seen how they despise and oppress you. Far too many times you are overlooked and forgotten. I’ll never forget you and I’ll always surround you with mercy and grace. Most of all, my dear child, have hope because one day, all will be made right. Soon I will arise from this throne.  I will arise;  I will come;  I will deliver you.  Until that day, have hope and know you are loved.”

My Prayer:  Lord, thank you for knowing the hidden of places of my heart.  The places that hide the pain no one else sees.  Thank you for coming  into those places and abiding with me there.  Thank you,  when I’m lonely, I’m not alone;  when I’m overlooked, I’m not forgotten;  when I am despised, I am loved.  Lord, Let these words find place in the heart of someone who is hurting. Let them know they are not alone, and they are loved.  Give them hope, please Lord, I pray.  Amen.

(A publication in the “Walking Through Psalms” series”)

Personal note:  My apologies the for sharing such personal and raw emotions…however, I felt led to do so…

He Is Risen!

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
 I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

Psalms 9:1-2

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Forever To Thee

Oh Lord, my God,

Oh bless this day!

When in death you arose

triumphant…away!

I too will rise,

from death’s cold grip,

to see you and mom.

 Can’t wait for that trip!

Hand in hand,

I’ll walk with her,

the streets of gold

before us, unfold.

Into your arms

together we’ll flee,

Praises we’ll sing,

FOREVER to Thee!

How Majestic is Your Name

Psalms 8

In song…

O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,

 All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,

 The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

 O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

My Prayer:  

Oh Lord, my Lord…lover of my soul!  How truly majestic is your name!  Who am I, Lord, that you should consider?  And yet you love me!  You loved me so much, you gave your only begotten son to die in my stead.  I humbled before you, oh my Lord.  “Thank you”… just doesn’t seem enough, but what else can I say…there are no words…  Oh lover of my soul, I praise your name.  Oh Lord, my Lord, how excellent is your name.  Selah.

(A publication in the “Walk Through Psalms” series)

Knowing The Enemy

Psalms 7:1-2

O Lord my God, in You I take refuge;
Save me and rescue me from all those who pursue me,

So that my enemy will not tear me like a lion,
Dragging me away while there is no one to rescue [me].

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In any battle it is advantageous to know your enemy.  In order to set up the proper defenses it’s wise to know how and where the enemy will attack.  In our scripture today David speaks of his enemy and likens him unto a lion with the ability to tear his flesh and drag him away.  David knew his enemy.

I am so very hesitate to speak of Satan and the devil.  I’m afraid my friends will assume I’ve totally lost my mind.  So, instead of talking about Satan, I refer to the “sin” or the “weaknesses” that cause me to struggle; and the enemy is cool with that.  He would prefer that most disbelieve his existence because it makes his job easier.  He’s sneaky that way, but be assured Satan knows you and he knows you by name.  Job 1:6-12 tells of the time when Satan came before the Lord in heaven and requested permission to test Job.  He knew Job’s name.  At that particular meeting God spoke to Satan.  Let’s take a listen to their conversation:

 Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them.

And the Lord said to Satan, “From where did you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it.”

Satan told God that he had been busy walking all over the earth, the very same earth that He [God] had created. I ask myself this question, “Why?”  Why is he traversing the earth and what the heck is he looking for?  The answer is given to us in I Peter 5:8, “…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.”  And that’s exactly what he’s still doing today; looking for someone to devour.  Jesus once told Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.”  Satan knew Simon’s name and just as with Job, he specifically sought him out to test him, or as Jesus says, to sift him as wheat. Sifting wheat is extremely violent.  The process beats, bends and thrashes the wheat until it has separated the chaff from the grain.  Surely not a pleasant experience for Simon Peter or us, for that matter.

Satan desires to do the same thing to us that he did to Job and Simon Peter.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  

Therefore, our enemy is not man, but rather Satan along with his fallen angels.  Knowing this, should we cower and be afraid?  No.  We shouldn’t give them that power over us.  God tells us exactly what we need to do, and the first being, to know your enemy and how he works.  After that we need to realize that Jesus himself has already prayed for us; “But I [Jesus] have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  Knowing that God, Himself, has prayed for me gives me so much confidence.  Notice I didn’t say “self” confidence because within myself I have no power over Satan.  Our confidence is “God confidence” because it is God who will come to our aide, God who will bring us through.  Afterward, when our time of testing ends and our faith has been strengthened, Christ asks us to encourage and support others in their times of testing.

So, brothers and sisters, we are not, alone.  We have each other, and we should readily make use of that resource.  What else can we do?  James chapter 4 tells us to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”   Well, that’s all well and good, but just how, does one go about resisting the devil?  Good question!  The answer is found within the very same verse; “Submit yourselves therefore to God… [then] Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”    

We must first submit ourselves to God.  If we do, He promises,“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8)  We have this promise as well; “The Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you look for him, you will find him.” (II Chronicles 15:2)  Jesus tells us to, “…seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  So, Jesus is there,and prepared to help us, all we have to do is knock and He promises to open the door.  How do we knock?  Simply through prayer…we draw close to him through prayer.

Should we fear the devil?  I say no, because, “Greater  is he that is in me than he that is in the world.”  We have God in us.  We are the temple of God.  God placed his Holy Spirit within us when we accepted His free gift of salvation.  Lastly and best of all God has already won the war!  He is on our side.  If God is for us who can stand against us?  No one, not even our enemy, Satan.

God wants us to be aware of our enemy.  To understand that he is sneaky and deceitful, and he will try anything to trip us up.  That is why we must be diligent in prayer to Christ, who is our strength.

To break it down into practical terms…and I love practical Christianity…

  1. Know the enemy.
  2. Submit to God in prayer.
  3. Draw close to God through prayer and his Word.
  4. Resist the Devil.
  5. Help others that are going through trials that you’ve overcome.
  6. Realize we are not alone; we have the support of other Christians.
  7. Know that God has already won the war!

 

Today, Let us pray with David,

O Lord my God, in You I take refuge;
Save me and rescue me from all those who pursue me.”

 

My Prayer:  Dear Lord, I pray as David, be my refuge and protect me from the  enemy. Lord, bless my family and bless my friends and protect them as well.  May I be a help to them and they a help to me.  Go before me this day and show me how to walk in the way that you’ve prepared for me.  Lord, I love you and I want to be as close to you as possible.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Renewed Spirit

“…but establish the righteous; for You, Who try the hearts and emotions and thinking powers, are a righteous God.”  (Psalms 7:9)

My emotions are fickle.  One day I’m confident and then the next I’m doubtful.  One moment I’m in love and the next I’m angry.  Sometimes I’m on the verge of tears for no reason at all and then other times when I should cry my heart is cold.  I used to latch onto every feeling and ride it’s course and then jump train to ride the next emotion going in the opposite direction.

We are not our emotions and we are not our feelings.  It took me a long time to understand this, and so for years I lived on an emotional roller-coaster.  If I awoke in the morning feeling a certain way I would think…   “Well…this is going to be one of days…” and sure enough it was, one of those days; but it didn’t have to be.  I had the power to renew my mind–to actually think in another way– that would alter the outcome of my day for the better.  God has shown me that I don’t have to be subject to my feelings.

Feelings strongly woo us, so it’s wise to evaluate and question their validity; and the sooner we do this the better.  The longer I ponder over a negative thought, the deeper it’s grounded in my psyche and the harder it is to get rid of.  Guess what?  It works the same way with positive thoughts!  The more you nourish and cultivate them the more they take root and grow.  II Corinthians says that our “…inward man is renewed day by day.”

Psalms 84 tells us that it is possible to “go from strength to strength” in our thought life. This meaning that whatever we feed will grow, and the more we feed it the stronger it becomes.

Paul in Ephesians encourages us to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”  

This renewal process, unlike salvation, is not a one time process, but rather something that should be done everyday, and for myself, multiple times a day. Quoting scripture I’ve committed to memory also helps me to renew my mind.  One such verse is Romans 12:2,

“And be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

My goal, and I often fall short, is to try to emulate the mind of Christ.  Philippians 2:5 says,

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

That’s why it’s so important to study the life of Christ.  So many Christians think they know Christ, but haven’t really taken the time to truly learn of Him for themselves.  It’s time we throw away all of our preconceived ideas and come to Christ with an open mind; prepared to meet him for the first time.

God is righteous, and as a righteous God he will ground and establish our hearts if we commit our thoughts and emotions to him.

Let us with David say,

“…establish the righteous, for you, who try the hearts and emotions and thinking powers, are a righteous God.”

We can trust him.

“When you relate to Me in confident trust, there is no limit to how much I can strengthen you.  Remember that I am your Song.  I want you to share My Joy, living in conscious awareness of My Presence.  Rejoice as we journey together toward heaven; join Me in singing my Song.” __ Jesus  (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

My Prayer:  Dear Lord, I submit my mind to you.  Establish and ground me this day, so that I can see and love others, just as you did, when you walked this earth.  Christ I want to know you…please teach me.  Help me to be aware of your presence. Thank you for your unconditional love, a love that led you to take my place on an old rugged cross.  Thank you for the victory we have in your Resurrection. In your powerful name I make these requests, Amen.

(A publication of “Walking Through Psalms” series)

(A participation in Scripture Sabbath event)

(A participation of Devotional Friday event)

We Cry with Brussels

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Brussels attacks: 34 die in 2 explosions at Brussels Airport, 1 at subway station

Oh God with David we cry aloud:

“Lord, I am so weak.
    I cried to you all night.
My pillow is soaked;
    my bed is dripping wet from my tears.
 My enemies have caused me such sorrow
    that my eyes are worn out from crying.

 Go away, you wicked people,
    because the Lord has heard my cries.
 The Lord has heard my request for mercy.
The Lord has accepted my prayer.

 All my enemies will be filled with fear and shame.
    They will be sorry when disgrace suddenly comes upon them.”

(Psalms 6:6-10)

My Prayer:  Dear Lord, please be near to my sisters and brothers in Brussels.  Lord, please rescue, protect and heal all those that are hurt.  Please guide and protect the rescue workers as they seek to help the injured.  Lord, comfort the hearts of those who’ve lost family and friends.  Please, God may we as your children look beyond our disagreements and come together to help a world in pain.  May justice be swift to all those guilty of this atrocity.  Lord, I long for the day when you will wipe away all tears; until then comfort us with your peace.  Amen.

(A publication in the “Walk Through Psalms” series)

Death, On a Walk Through Psalms

We must see death to fully appreciate life.

For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?  Psalms 6:5

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.  Ecclesiastes 9:10

LIVE JOYFULLY FRONT
Art by Karen Fields http://karenfieldsgallery.blogspot.com/

One life,

we live

upon this earth.

When it’s over,

it will be done.

King David of old,

his voice did say,

“The grave awaits, 

 one day

we fill. 

So praise

your God!

While you can

still.”

King Solomon, his son

did say this too,

 “One day

the living

will surely die.

Go thy way,

eat with joy. 

Drink your wine,

with the merriest of heart.

That thing you do,

whatever it be,

with all your might,

see it through.”

Live!

They say.

Live joyfully!

(END NOTE:  The last few days have been dark indeed.  I found myself focusing on what’s breaking my heart, and I didn’t want to live.  In the church service, yesterday, I heard God say, “Please live for me.”)

Thank you, Lord.