Category Archives: God

A Heart Like His

My sons have often asked me why I want to know something before everyone else does. I suppose it could be the natural inclination of wanting to be the first to tell someone information they don’t know. Or it could be the chance to tease someone about it. Did you ever say these words as a child? “I know something you don’t know.” This usually resulted in your friend pestering you until you told them whatever information you had. We all have a natural inclination to want to be first so thinking this would be my reason is plausible.

But, for the most part, this isn’t my reason for wanting to know something first. As a writer, I have a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world that demands time for me to think and process what I learn about my world. I need that time to process new information so I can write about it. Some of that writing is just for me, and some of it, I share with the world. The more time I have to think about and process a topic, the better my writing usually is. I understand the topic better as well, and it becomes rooted in my heart. Not only can I write about that topic specifically, I can use my knowledge as I write stories and blog posts further down the line.

I think it’s going to be that way with what I found out yesterday. I went to a ministry leader, shepherd, and staff meeting at my church. I’m grateful that these kind of meetings are open to all whether a person holds one of those titles or not. But, I digress. Yesterday, I found out what our theme for 2018 is going to be. A theme which all the sermons and Wednesday night classes are going to be intertwined with. A theme which, I think, will be beneficial to my own personal faith walk. And before the suspense gets to be too much, let me reveal the theme–A Heart Like His. How do we develop a heart like Jesus’ heart? Interesting question, right? We’ve spent the past year looking at Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus, and this year’s theme will deepen that idea. It’s a good theme, and one I will have a lot to say about in the coming year.

But, for now, some preliminary thoughts. Does having a heart like Jesus mean doing the increased amount of dishes that comes with having everyone home without complaint? Or scraping gum off the church carpet yesterday though I know I looked funny sitting there while people were walking out? What about being willing to sacrifice someone you love to a form of service in the church because there aren’t a whole lot of people willing to volunteer for that particular service? Or being content with what I have and not wishing I would have taken a different path twelve years ago?

I’ll remove the suspense. All of my questions come with “yes” answers, and those answers bring me closer to the heart Jesus wants me to have. Why do I wonder though, and why do I want to be selfish especially with my family’s time? Sin nature, I know, but still, why is it so hard to be the person Jesus wants me to be? Why doesn’t doing these things come automatically to me like they do to so many others? Why do I feel so deficient with my faith when I look at others who seem perfect? We all know these kinds of people. The people who never seem to have anything wrong with them. The people who never wonder. The people who never seem to struggle. The people who are never curious about the things they think are wrong. The people who never think differently.

I think that’s why God gave me that sense of wonder and curiosity though. He wants me to ask questions. He’s not afraid to dialogue with me, and He doesn’t want me to be afraid either. I have to tell myself that over and over, and some days I am more successful than others. But, as 2017 closes and 2018 beckons, I am going to do my best to move forward each day and use the gifts God gave me to bring my heart closer to His.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

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Hope in God’s Promises

It’s four days into December, and our thoughts have gone to having the most “perfect” Christmas possible. It’s what we see in the secular world. It’s what we see in the church. Everything has to be “perfect”at Christmas. It’s when Jesus was born.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the quotation marks I placed around perfect. We all know that life isn’t perfect at Christmas much as we might like to pretend it is. It’s not perfect at any other time of the year either. Why should Christmas be any different? The pictures of people on social media going through life with their best friends can be frustrating to people in a different reality. Social media, in general, can be frustrating to people at Christmas whose reality is far different from what the pictures portray.

That’s where I’m at today. Lack of money, lack of time, wondering what the next day is going to bring with all of the bad things that have happened recently. Trying to stay faithful to God, but knowing that the things I’d like to do just won’t be possible this year. You could say that this month is a frustrating end to a frustrating year.

But, it really isn’t so don’t quit reading. Even with the frustrations and the health issues, I do have blessings. I know I will be treasured on my birthday by my husband and my sons even if no one else remembers. I will be blessed by getting to spend time with my birthday buddy this weekend. I will be blessed when my first son turns 21 later on in the month. And I am thoroughly blessed that my sons know the true meaning of Christmas and that the trappings don’t matter to them.

I am even more blessed by God’s promises which is my point in writing this post today. Even if I had nothing and was homeless, I would still have my Lord and Savior, and that is what I consider the most important!

Here are a few of those promises so you can be comforted as I have been.

From Psalm 119:50, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

Verse 76 in the same chapter says this, “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.”

John 3:16 is the ultimate promise of the Christian faith. “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.”

I like this one from Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I also like the one from Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

But, the one that I treasure the most and the one that I think is appropriate for this Christmas season comes from what Elizabeth said to Mary in Luke 1:45. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.”

So, if your circumstances are not the best this month, don’t look at what the world says about Christmas. Don’t even look at what the church says about Christmas. Go to God’s Word and read the promises He has written to us. They are the best hope we will ever receive!

May we all rest our hope in the Lord’s promises this morning!

(Feel free to add more of God’s promises in the comments.)

New Beginnings

Saw a challenge earlier and realized I could use it as a writing warm-up time. So, for the next thirty days, I will be completing Jeff Goins’ challenge to “practice in public” on this blog. It will be interesting to see what topics I can come up with.

For the past week, I’ve been using journaling prompts from bibleconnection.com as my topics. Today is the third prompt. I learned a great deal from the first two prompts, and I don’t expect anything less from the third one.

First, the prompt. “Beginnings can be exciting! What new chapter in your life are you about to begin? What have you recently started that you are excited about? What are you hopes for the future? Tell God about it—he wants to be involved in your life.”

The topic is new beginnings. Coincidence? I don’t think so. God has been leading me on a journey to trust Him and what He has given me as gifts. My gifts aren’t necessarily what other people think they are and not necessarily meant to be shared in the church.

So, what about that first question? What new chapter am I about to begin? The chapter of being an empty nester. My younger son is graduating from high school this spring. Though he will be staying at home for college, my role with him will change. Homeschooling will be done, and he will be venturing out to prepare for what he wants to do in life. He’s ready just like his brother was two and a half years ago when he graduated from high school. By the time this school year ends, I will have homeschooled them for 12 years. I was 40 when I began and will be 52 when I finish. That’s a lot of life. I am excited about the possibilities, but a little nervous too. I have poured myself into my kids for the last 12 years. I’ve lived in 6 different places and come back to my faith. I’ve lost family members and experienced illness and financial difficulties.

But, I know the next years will be just as amazing. I will have more time to write and maybe get something off the ground with my writing. I will have time to get in better shape. And I will have more time to either volunteer or get a job. My role with my kids will change, but it will be a good change I am looking forward to–relating with them as adults. I am most looking forward to growing in my faith in God. With God by my side, anything is possible, and I know the things I’ve mentioned will be more possible.

Answering the second question has more profound implications. I am most excited about my recent writing and where it is bringing me in my faith. The things I consider to be weaknesses are the things God wants me to focus on. Why weaknesses, I ask? Shouldn’t I be focusing on my strengths? That seems to be more logical. But, if I am transparent about my weaknesses, God has more of a chance to be seen in my life. This is shown in the first part of 2 Corinthians 12:9. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” Paul is speaking here, and I’m glad we have the second part of what he said. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” We don’t generally boast about weaknesses in the church. In fact, we are reticent to bring up any part of ourselves which may be considered badly. That’s not what God wants though. God wants us to be as authentic within our community as He does when we are talking to Him alone.

So now, I have some knowledge of the steps God wants me to take. He wants me to be authentic and transparent. He wants me to show my weaknesses without being self-conscious. And He wants me to be confident in His love. For it is only in His love that my hopes for the future can be realized. They are all intertwined in order to show God’s glory. And that is the best hope of all!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

God’s Gifts

The other day I was sent an email from bibleconnectionnews.com with seven journaling prompts. When I looked at it, I decided the prompts would be good blog topics so I’m making my first attempt at one.

First, here’s the prompt. “God has chosen and gifted you with a wonderful set of skills, knowledge, and abilities unique to you–and he wants you to use those gifts to bring him praise. What talents and skills do you possess? What knowledge would you like to grow in? How are you planning to use this to honor God?”

I think God gives us gifts to use at the different stages of our lives. When I was in my 20’s, I could think of nothing better to do for God than work with kids. My bachelors and masters degrees were in psychology and teaching, and teaching kids seemed to be a natural fit. I would work with them on Sunday mornings, Sunday and Wednesday nights, and during Vacation Bible School. The energy and drive I had for God would sustain me, and I formed many precious relationships during those years.

This time went through the birth and preschool ages of my sons. Then, we left the church for several years. But, God had a plan for me though I wasn’t sharing my gifts within a church’s walls. I was teaching my own kids, and we were growing as a family. I was pouring myself and my gifts into my sons. I also began anew something I had started as a child–my writing. I would pour out my thoughts in notebooks, journals, and on the computer screen. The words I put together blossomed forth in my mind and took me through the good times as well as the bad. When times were bad, I would escape into my stories where I felt happy and fulfilled. God used this time to develop my talent so He could use it for His glory, and I am grateful.

When we came back to the church, I was in my 40’s. I could tell my energy had slowed down, and it took me awhile to find my feet at church. I had to learn to trust again and find out where I fit. I’ve done different things. I’ve worked in Vacation Bible School. I’ve greeted and cooked meals. I’ve formed relationships. I’ve even tried writing. That one didn’t work too well. 😦

In fact, this year has been a year of things that haven’t worked too well. From greeting to working with kids, I’ve been told that things I’ve done at church haven’t been done the way people have wanted them done, or I’ve had experiences at church that I never want to repeat again. (Ask me about the day when I watched  fifteen children from the ages of 5 to 12 by myself for three hours.)  It’s hard to come home crying from doing something in the church for God that used to give me such joy. I didn’t think things had changed that much in the way of teaching kids, but apparently they have so I knew at that point that my gift of teaching kids was gone. Gone like the energy and drive of my 20’s.

So, I’ve had to figure out that maybe I don’t have gifts to share in the church like my husband does. Yes, the ones he gets phone calls and emails about all of the time. I looked back at this blog I started a couple of years ago and thought that maybe my gifts aren’t meant to be shared inside the church. I write in this blog for God’s glory, and there is not a person who can tell me I can’t because I’m a woman or for any other reason. I can talk about my relationship with God and tell truths about what He’s doing in my life. I can also talk about what I’m learning through my studies and my prayer time. In short, share my writing for His glory.

In answer to the last two questions, I want to grow in my knowledge of writing. I want to write consistently with God-honoring words. I want to share my writing with others so they can know God’s love. And I want to do my best to honor God in this next phase of my life as I did when I was younger. Share the gifts He has given me for this time and jump into the unknown trusting God will stay right beside me.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Giving it to God

How many ways have we tried to solve tough situations on our own? Going through a tough situation is against our nature so when it comes upon us, we do our best to get away from it as quickly as possible. We do such things as talk to the people involved and ask others for advice. We feel such emotions as worry, anxiety, and depression. We pray too, but we are mostly just consumed with what is going on. I’m sure all of us have had these same emotions and thoughts and sometimes, more than one at a time which can get confusing.

God doesn’t want our lives to be like this though. He wants us to leave our burdens at His feet and find rest as it says in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Christ’s burden–I like that better than the burden of feeling left out because there was no room in the car or the burden of trying to convince a family member that God loves them even when nothing about their situation changes, and they keep dealing with the same fears over and over again.

Earlier in this post, I wrote a list of the things people do and the way they feel in tough situations. One of those things is beneficial–something that God wants us to do along with releasing the burden to Him. Prayer. Talk to our Lord and Savior about anything and everything. He wants that deep relationship with us, but sadly, most of us just include prayer in a list of things to do in a tough situation and don’t believe there is power in prayer only offering up a superficial prayer, at most.

There is power in prayer though, and I’m starting to think God is wanting me to take it off of the list and depend on it alone.  Jesus says this in Mark 11:22-25. “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.'”

Wow! The power in these verses. The power of the words can be heard when they are said out loud. I want that power in my life. Shouldn’t all of us who are believers want that power in their lives? Now, before anyone says they have prayed and prayed to God and nothing has happened, let me offer some disclaimers. I know I’m not going to get everything I want by praying, and I know for sure that money is not going to pour out of the sky in my direction. Everyone would be a Christian if those kind of “pie in the sky” prayers worked. 🙂

No, God wants our prayers to be honoring to Him. He wants out prayers to honor Him and to honor our faith in Him. He wants our prayers to be the “Even if” and the “Your will be done” kind of prayers. Those are the kind of prayers which have power.

Some of you might remember me speaking of the song “Even If” by Mercy Me several weeks ago, and I think the chorus of the song is the perfect way to end this post.

“I know You’re able, and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.”

My hope is in my Lord and Savior alone, and today, I give everything in my life to Him!”

 

Praying for God’s blessings on you all!

Healing in my Heart

Last week, I wrote about a new Bible study I was starting. A study which talks about rejection and how God can fill those empty places caused by rejection if we would just let Him. “Let go and let God.” We’ve heard these words; we’ve seen these words written down, but do we really practice them? Like I said last week, I fail at practicing them a lot. They seem so simple, but they can be difficult in our Christian walk.

Something happened though as I was dealing with that difficult situation from last week, and I realized that, through it, God has already opened my heart for His healing to start pouring in. My open heart has made me more open to hearing His voice (through prayer and Scripture), to hearing the author of the Bible study as she imparts His truths, and to releasing any guilt I might be feeling for taking a step back. Keeping my eyes on Jesus and not on the world has been the best thing for me as I am listening for what He wants me to hear.

God has also met me with specific words about the situation I was dealing with, and this is where releasing guilt comes in. My Lord has given me many gifts, but dealing with preteen boys is not one of them. I could feel guilty about not doing my “part” at church to help out with them, but it is not my job to acknowledge and use gifts that God has given to other people. That’s between them and God.

I also had some other takeaways related to the Uninvited study. I’m not a popular person at church and won’t ever be the popular person at church. I’m not going to be close with everyone, but Jesus commands me to love everyone. (I’m still figuring out how that works.) Prayer is the most important thing we believers can do as we live out our lives here in this world. Making the effort in relationships is what God wants us to do even if it turns out badly. Pulling back for a season is ok too.

The previous paragraph is a hodgepodge of disparate thoughts, and one might wonder how they would work if a person is in an environment where they are experiencing continual rejection. One of these is covered in the Uninvited study. The session this week talked about going into a situation being filled by God as opposed to expecting to be filled by others. As I’ve studied Scripture and prayed, I have come to realize the truth of this statement. God is waiting to fill us. We only need to ask Him which I think, sadly, not a lot of us are doing these days.

I think the other thing though is a sad statement on all of us who are believers. We have all done our fair share of rejecting people–only seeing our differences and not seeing the things that are the same namely that we who are believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. Personally, if someone is in a church and experiencing continual rejection, I would question the salvation of those believers. Harsh words, yes. But, we all need to know the truth of what God wants from us. Rejecting others is a sin. He wants us to embrace our differences and our similarities as we live out our lives as one body.

It has been life changing and healing to be a part of this study so far. To have God’s healing grace moving in my life has helped me understand what He wants from me as a believer. I’m looking forward to what else He has to teach me through it.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Gift

There’s a lake near where we live. It’s one of my favorite places to go and write. I can look at the waters flow from my perch on the stone bench. It is peaceful in a way that not a lot is right now. The area is green and lush with trees and bushes. I see different kinds of birds on the water and marvel at God’s creation. Essentially, it’s a gift God has given me when life gets to be too much.

But, before yesterday, I hadn’t been out there for a few weeks. Between the high humidity and the rain we’ve been having, it just hasn’t been pleasant to be outside. It was different yesterday. When I was at church, I heard a whisper. ‘You need to go out to the lake this afternoon.’ So, once I got home, I went out there. The first thing I noticed was that the breeze was much cooler. The humidity was the lowest it’s been in a few weeks (and that says something since I live in the southern United States, and it’s summertime). The next thing I noticed was the flow of the water. It was peaceful.

God brought me out there for a reason, and it got me to thinking. How often do we reject His gift to us–the gift of Jesus? How often do we reject His gift of grace? How often do we not extend His gift of grace to others? Sometimes, I have a hard time with grace, and I’m the one whose blog is named Thriving in Grace. 🙂 I’m glad that God lets us ask the hard questions though. If He didn’t, I’m not sure where my faith would be as I’ve had to ask a lot of tough questions.

The gift is always there though. Just like the gift of my place by the lake. I can not go to the lake for a few weeks just like I can try to do things by myself and not ask for God’s help. That doesn’t mean the gift disappears. It just means our focus is not where it’s supposed to be. I want to acknowledge and live out God’s gift in my life. I don’t want to be the person who puts down the gift and leaves it alone.

So, I guess what I need is the ability to focus on the gift and not focus on the minutiae of my life. It is too bad that Satan uses that very thing to distract us. But, God’s gift is too important to lay aside so my prayer, even though I will never be perfect at it, is for all of us to take possession of His gift and leave our burdens at His feet.

God’s blessings on all of you today.