Category Archive: Trust

How do we Give Thanks – All the Time?

How we can stay up in a down world?” Good question. God tells us to “rejoice always;” to “pray continually” (or incessantly), and to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I sure don’t always feel thankful; nor do I give thanks in every circumstance.

How can we be obedient to God’s command to be thankful in every circumstance when:

  • We lose a loved one to death
  • Divorce enters our lives or families
  • Children rebel
  • Pain wracks our bodies or minds
  • Finances are a challenge, or
  • A spouse or child rejects Christ?

Not long ago, my two-year old grandniece fell through a screen, from a second story bedroom window to the cement below. Seeing this little sweetheart very vulnerable in her hospital bed, a soft brace on her neck, and a purple, very swollen eye, hurt me. Thankful that she fell? Of course not. Thankful as we saw God’s protective hand over her, with no neurological damage? Yes. And if she had suffered greater damage? It’s not always easy to give thanks and I don’t think scripture gives us easy answers; but it does challenge us to trust in the ‘God Who is There’.

Years ago, I was targeted by an employee. I did not appreciate her hostility or efforts to sabotage me. However, as I ate my lunch each day, reading the Psalms and looking at a beautiful oak tree across the road, God spoke peace to my heart. He assured me that He would care for and justify me. And He did, when she was later caught stealing from the company. And as I waited for an outcome that I couldn’t anticipate, I chose to trust that God would rectify a situation I could not correct.

In her recent sermon, Pastor Valerie Webb reminded us that we’re not told to give thanks FOR everything. But IN every circumstance we can give thanks. Why?

  • Because we have a God who cares (Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” I Peter 5:7, TLB).
  • Because our God feels with us in our suffering; He wants to carry our burdens (“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens”–Psalm 68:19); and
  • Because He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”–Hebrews 13:5).

And because He is ultimately in charge, we can thank Him–for His presence, His awareness of our need, His promise of faithfulness. God has a way for us, even in our pain, and despite the time and healing we may require to see His outworking.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 expresses the prophet’s commitment to praise.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

When I focus on my circumstances I can get very down, discouraged, despairing. But when I focus on God, I choose to thank Him because He is holy, loving, forgiving, and is WITH ME – Immanuel!

Where do you need Jesus to be your burden-bearer right now?

 

 

How’s Your GPS Working?

Grey clouds hovered overhead as raindrops dropped onto the windshield. Don, his son Dan, and I drove out of Meridian, Idaho and into the town of Eagle.

Don wanted to show Dan a specific property Don’s son Victor owns in the foothills. It had been a long time since Don was last there, so navigation by memory wasn’t working too well. And since there was no specific address, we couldn’t just call it up on GPS. By phone, Victor told us the nearest crossroads, but we had already overshot one of those. We drove in a big square, took a couple of wrong turns, and were uncertain which direction the other road was from our location.  Between Don, Dan and me, a GPS and my Waze, we finally got to the crossroads Victor had mentioned. Recognizing the area, Don turned right and then off the highway and up a dirt road onto a hill where we looked over a newly planted field and the Eagle area valley. The stunning view was worth the wrong turns and difficulty finding this place.

I thought of how often we take wrong turns in life. Maybe it’s a choice to run with people who are a negative influence; perhaps it’s a relationship that promised the moon, but left us in the ditch; it may be getting into drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Perhaps it’s our own selfish “me first” attitude; or allowing life’s challenges to take priority over our focus on God.

The husband of a friend of mine fought cancer valiantly. Now, although cancer-free, he is suffering with an internal infection that requires one surgery after another to clean and disinfect the area so he can  heal. Today is surgery #20. My friend is tired, burned out. But her focus remains on a good Father who loves her, her husband and son. Her posts continue to honor Him, to speak honestly of her weariness while she throws herself on His grace, love, and healing touch. I’m challenged by her trust.

God’s Word says he will “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25).  He calls us back to Him, even when we’ve made wrong decisions or turned away from Him. He welcomes us with open arms, forgiveness and love. And He has given us a reliable GPS–His Word. As we return to our focal point, our God-given GPS, His Spirit resets our path so that we again find our way on His path.

What a gracious God!

“‘Til the Storm Passes By”

Runoff from our hill 

Bills must be paid, despite stormy weather, mudslides, downed trees. Driving to the post office yesterday to mail those payments, Don and I saw four waterfalls, not there before, cascading down the hills on our right.

California has been inundated with storms recently. Two hundred thousand residents were temporarily evacuated when breaks in the Oroville Dam spillways threatened enormous floods. Flooding has overwhelmed parts of Southern California. Mudslides, power outages, and traffic tie-ups have resulted in several deaths.

Trees have fallen across roads, onto houses and cars, and slid down hillsides. Unsafe. Highway 17 has only two lanes open. Our road, a main alternative to Highway 17, is closed indefinitely north of us. The road has already sunk at least eighteen inches in one area, while a sinkhole took out a fourth of the road in another. Unstable.

The storm offers some gifts. Staying home. Burrowing in with hubby and dogs, writing, reading, cleaning, napping.

It also offers challenges. Don has created a good drainage system under the house, and along the road, so the water will not threaten our foundation. He’s checking it and refining it again today. Early this afternoon, Safeway was quite full, people filling their carts in preparation for the next storm, starting later today.

Storms enter our lives in different ways. Years ago I was seriously depressed. No strength remained in my mind or heart. But I had a cassette (I know – almost prehistoric!) of a melodious male quartet. “My” song talked about the storms of life. Every night for three weeks I crawled into bed, depressed, fearful, sometimes crying, and played that song. My prayer was brief. “Lord, I have nothing with which to hold onto you right now. Please hold me.”

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence.
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

‘Til the storm passes over,
‘Til the thunder sounds no more;
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

Hold me fast, Let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

And He kept me. Storms came, and went, and still do. But my hope is in the God who will hold me fast “’til the storm passes by.”

If you’re discouraged, caught in a storm you don’t know how to get out of, I pray this song will minister to you as it did to me. That it will give you hope, and truth to hold onto until your storm passes over. God be with you.

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Love’s Celebration

I trust in Your unfailing love. Psalm 13:5

I long for love. Don’t you? And I both give and receive it in a variety of ways and depths. I love, and am loved by, my husband; family; close friends; even my dogs.

While LOVE is one in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the same word is used in our culture for everything from admiration or appreciation, to a deep, self-sacrificing behavior.

“I love my husband”

“I love Gayle’s chocolate pie”

“I love the Warriors”

“I love my mother … children … siblings …. friends … pets … that song … these shoes.”

But the love that is above all, and is foundational to all other loves, is the love God has shown us in providing a way, through the Cross of Christ, for us to know Him, to enter an eternal relationship with the Creator of all. I’ve written about other loves … but today I want to celebrate God’s love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17, NIV)

I once read a story about a man, let’s call him Richard, who was in deep despair, having rejected God in anger. He was staying with a friend who had challenged his guest to submit himself and give his anger and pain to Jesus. While the friend went out for a walk, Richard wrestled with God and finally released his pain to Jesus. He then sat down at the piano and began to play and sing an old hymn he recalled from his childhood. His friend returned to the house to hear his guest’s rich tenor voice, and knew God had met him.

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”

(Lyrics by George Mattheson, who was inspired to write this hymn in 5 minutes during a time of distress.)

There was a very difficult time in my life when I had no strength with which to hold onto God. I was depressed, weak, and despairing. Hope was gone. But I asked Him to hold onto me. II Timothy 2:13 tells us, “And if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” I pray that this song will encourage you to trust in His unfailing love.

   “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”  (I John 4:10, NLT)

 

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Hairpins and Hope

The dual switchback gave us no visibility to what might be approaching on the one-lane road. What if a local driver comes barreling around that corner? We’re on the cliff side of the road! Much of the drive was enchanting. Every change in elevation exposed different flora and fauna.  Some areas were lush, some covered with red dirt. “Look at this plain,” I said at one point. After climbing mountains and traversing hairpins for miles, the flatland was a lovely surprise. We crossed narrow bridges and stretches where meeting an oncoming car required one of us to pull out or back up, depending on the amount of margin on the side of the constricted road.

Don pulled over at one cliff, where we looked down at the lava rocks below, and spoke at length with the artist recreating the pastel ocean scene. Near Annalise, spread over a rock and colored the same, was a wild pig skin. I didn’t realize it until I saw hooves and a tail … and smelled an odor that was ripe. Some “rite of passage,” according to Annalise.

We drove past a picturesque little broken-down church, heavy tile roof falling in on itself, that was once charming. It sat above cliffs that led down to roaring waves, tumbling waterfalls, and a little village. We’d seen a sign earlier for banana bread so we pulled over at Julia’s tiny green shack.

I stepped up onto the porch behind a young woman who asked about banana bread. “Last loaf,” was the reply.

“Oh no,” I spoke without thinking.

The woman turned to me. “Do you want to split it?” Her husband joined her. “We don’t need to eat the whole thing.”

“Really?” I asked. Really!

I thanked them, and we divided the bread and shared the cost. Waving goodbye, Don and I continued on our journey, enjoying the moist sweetness of the loaf, which almost melted in our mouths.

More hairpin turns. More one-lane passages. More  beauty—orange and yellow-leaved shrubs, magenta flowers atop trees, hot pink bougainvillea, and palm to pine trees. And lava rock, and some small rock slides, and cliffs that plunged into roiling waves below.

And I thought, kind of like life. There’s a great deal of beauty, enjoyment, ongoing blessing as we walk with Christ. At times we need to hear a brother or sister say “You want to share?” … or perhaps we need to offer the shared blessing to others. There is also challenge, and difficulty, and pain, and suffering. Sometimes the road we travel is smooth and lined with blessings of health and love and productive work and hope. At other times the road is dark, the switchbacks prevent us from seeing the next step, and we have to move forward in faith, our hand in the Father’s, knowing He has promised never to leave or forsake us.

Julia’s

I’ve had a few big switchbacks in my life, along with lesser ones. Threats of mutilation while ministering in the ghetto; pain following departure from a work I loved; some health challenges; the losses of a nephew, several dear friends, my father, my first husband. But I’ve also seen the beauty of being carried through those hairpins by a God who loves me and would not let me go; of loving and being loved well by two wonderful men, and by family; of the gift of travel; of the joy of ministering to and encouraging younger women in their faith walks.

And sometimes it’s the hairpin turns, the switchbacks where we can do nothing but pray and trust, that teach us most clearly that our Father is always there, loving, guiding, walking alongside as we navigate  day by day.

So, while there’s no way I want to suffer, I also don’t regret the times my road has been hard. Mixed with the joys, the difficulties remind me to trust and rely on God in both good and bad times. I can’t become an oak of righteousness, rooted and grounded in Him, without His love and pruning and deepening, the same One who promises to give beauty in place of ashes.

The prophet Isaiah recognized his anointing from the Lord …

” … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2b-3)

What’s encouraged you during some of the hairpin turns of your life?

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