Faith in the midst of the fire

Let’s face it….life is not easy. Things fall apart….people get sick, Financial struggles arise….people are not perfect. When we rely on ourselves..or on other people….we are going to get disappointed. It is only when we remember to keep our eyes on the Lord that life’s trials wont drown us. When Peter stepped out of the boat, he was able to walk on the water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. The second he focused on the water, and took his eyes off Jesus and began to doubt, he started to sink .

Matthew 14:22-33 (New International Version)

Jesus Walks on the Water

22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

All too often we let the storms of life take our focus off of Jesus, we start to stress and worry, and begin to sink. Feelings of failure, and doubt fill our minds…and we say ” I cant do this alone” ” I give up” …..and we are right, we CANT do it alone….we need to look to God for help. whether its finances, or health, or other issues….without God we are just fighting to hold onto pride, and do things on our own.

The Bible tells us in many places that we should not worry, but Cast our cares upon the Lord, for He cares for us. ( Luke 12:22-34….1 Peter 5:7… just to name a couple) I am writing this just as much for myself as anyone. I have seen first hand numerous times how God provides for his children when we let go and turn our cares over to Him. I also know that prayer is not a big bandaid and sometimes we DO struggle, and the answer to prayer is not always what we WANT…but God is in control, and HE knows what is best. All we have to do is stop relying on our own strength and turn it over to Him. He has promised He will never give us more than He knows we can handle…and He is NOT gonna leave us in the midst of a crisis to struggle alone…..He will provide a way out….and will be there with us in the Midst of it…IF we let Him. Psalm 23: 4 states “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” This is usually read at funerals…however, it is meant for everyday life…..yes we will have trials and hardship….but Through those dark times, God is with us…He does not leave us. He did not keep Daniel out of the Lions Den….but was there with him …and kept him safe from the Lions, and in the outcome, God got the glory, because Daniel held onto his faith that God would protect him.  (Daniel 6). God did not keep  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out of the fire…but he met them there…and they walked out unburned..because of their faith, and God got the glory (Daniel 3).

It is Just as important for us to remember to Praise God when everything is going good…to thank Him for the blessings He pours out on us.  one of the Psalms I can remember my dad reading often…..one that has stuck with me into my adult years is Psalm 34…

Psalm 34 (King James Version)

Psalm 34

1I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

3O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

4I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

5They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

6This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

7The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

8O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

9O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.

10The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

11Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?

13Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

14Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

15The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

16The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

17The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

18The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

19Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

20He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

21Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

22The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

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Mother’s day, TIME and Love

Mother’s day is this weekend….the stores are full of balloon’s, coffee mugs, Teddy bears, Cards, and other assorted trinkets with catchy sayings like “World’s Greatest Mom”……But is that REALLY what mom’s want on mother’s day? Another trinket to fill up space ….another Coffee cup to wash? Or would it mean more if one took the TIME to take mom out to eat….or made a homemade gift that comes from the heart made with  TIME and love?

I was walking through the grocery store late last night, looking at all the trinkets and thought to myself , that this is not what mother’s day is all about. Mom’s put in COUNTLESS Hours of their TIME….changing diapers, cooking meals, cleaning house, washing Laundry, running kids to various activities….all this often with nothing asked in return. somehow some $10.00 trinket bought as a last minute thought hardly seems right.

It took me until I had grown up and moved away from home to really appreciate all my mom did for me…and even then it was not really until I had children of my own that I truly understood. As I look back, I know now that even the things mom and I disagreed on when I was younger….she always had my best interest at heart……and as a Parent, sometimes making those decision that may be unpopular with your child are HARD to make, but necessary.

A mother’s love does not stop just because her child makes a mistake, or screams at the top of their teenage lungs a s a door slams “I HATE YOU!!!!” A Mother’s love does not fade when her children grow up , move away and start families of their own. A Mother gives of her heart, loves unconditionally,  gives her TIME to ensure her children have food to eat, clothes to wear. Mom’s spend countless hours entertaining a toddler, playing games of Tag, Hide and Seek, and Candy Land with an elementary age child. then something happens….that child enters teen years…and its no longer “Cool” to hang out with mom, yet mom does not stop pouring her time into their child….driving them to the mall….or to ball games.

This Mother’s day, I find myself 20+ hours away from my parents, and more grateful than ever for the TIME they put into raising me…..especially the untold hours of prayer. the unceasing prayers of my parents and grandparents is without a doubt why I am able to sit here today and type this.

Yesterday I found myself in an interesting spot…..my Mother-in-law was in the hospital….and had asked if I would go over to her house and cook a meal so that my husband’s step-father would have a home cooked dinner that night when he got home from the hospital. Initially I found myself thinking “but I have to go to the grocery store for my own family” and ” But I need to d some housework” and my “to do list” at home became a list of excuses, until a small voice in my head said “stop! You need to go do this, give your time and be a blessing” I hit my knees and asked for help…for a attitude adjustment and a servants heart. My husband brought me the truck, and off I went. I spent all morning in my Mother-in Law’s kitchen cooking and placed everything in the refrigerator. the thought ” what if this is not good enough?” went through my mind, but I fought back with a quiet cry ” let this be a blessing”. I got finished in time to go pick up my husband for lunch…..and didn’t hear any more about it the rest of the day. This morning as I was getting my kids ready for school, I got a phone call, it was my Mother-in-law. She was home from the hospital, had come home last night ( Praise the Lord!) and she thanked me numerous times for the delicious meal I had left in her refrigerator.

what would have happened if I had said no, I cant go, I have too much to do….if I had gone, but grumbled the entire time?  I don’t know….and I don’t want to know! The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that God loves a Cheerful Giver…

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.” 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
I Will leave you with this thought….what can you do for the Mom(s) in your life this year that is a gift of your TIME? a Gift from the Heart….with Love, and thankfulness for all she does? Or will you rush into the store on your way to her house on Mother’s day and pick up another coffee mug that says “World’s greatest mom” on it?

You are a Promise!

“You are a promise
You are a possibility
You are a promise with a capital “P”
You’re a great big bundle of potentiality
And if you listen, You’ll hear God’s voice
And if you’re tryin’, He’ll help you make the right choice
You are a promise to be anything God wants you to be.

You can go anywhere that He wants you to go
You can be anything He wants you to be
You can climb the high mountains
You can cross the wide sea
You’re a great big promise you see!

I am a promise
I am a possibility
I am a promise with a capital “P”
I am a great big bundle of potentiality
And I am learnin’ to hear God’s voice
And I am tryin’ to make the right choice
I’m a promise to be anything God wants me to be
Anything God wants me to be!”

~The Gaither Trio w/ the Sunday School Picnic Vol. 2~

Have had this song stuck in my head alot lately…been doing a lot of reading. and praying for my children, and how to help each of them realize Just how special they are…especially Dakota, that he is Different…but NOT less…God Made Him Special JUST the way He is…to My three children ” You are a Promise!”

The key to this whole Song though is we have to learn to Listen and hear God’s Voice! We Have to learn to be quiet at times so that we can hear what God is saying. When we wait upon the Lord, He renews Our strength…but when we try to do things on our own we stumble and fall, we grow weary.(Isaiah 40:30,31)

The Bible says :

“I can do everything THROUGH CHRIST who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit;

APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING. John 15:5

There is a Dialogue in the Gaither version of this song that I remember from my childhood that says it doesn’t matter where you live, what your name is, what you look like….short, tall, fat, skinny, holes in your tennis shoes, or freckles on your nose, it doesn’t matter, You can be exactly what God wants you to be.

Did God care that Moses was not a strong speaker? (Exodus 4:10 Moses says to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant, I am slow of speech and tongue”)No, in fact, He says to Moses “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say. {Exodus 4: 11,12} When Moses put his trust not in his own ability to speak, but in God; God used Moses to set the Israelite free from Egypt.

When we take our eyes off Jesus, and start looking at the storms brewing around us in life, then much like Peter in Matthew 14: 22-36…we begin to sink….to drown. As long as Peter kept his eyes fixed on the Lord, He was able to walk on water.

Those excuses, I am too young…too old…I dont speak well….too shy…ect…God doesn’t want to hear those.  Paul tells Timothy in 1Timothy4:12 not to let anyone look down on him because he is young…when your faith is in the Lord, and your listening to His call on your life….HE will give you the strength, the ability to do what HE has called you to do…whether it’s to serve Him in a foreign land MILES from home…or to preach His word….to be a light in your school, to stand up for what is right when its not the cool thing to do, to walk away from the “everyone else is doing it” mentality. He is the Capital “P” in Promise…Jesus is our Promise…the Manifestation of God’s Love for Us…the Author and finisher of our faith.

My prayer is that I am able to guide my children, to teach them to wait upon the Lord, to listen to His plan for their lives.

Bigger is not always better….

I had someone ask me a few weeks ago why we chose Gateway as our church here when there are so many bigger, “Fancier” churches to pick from. They had visited with us and did not seem impressed by the “Casual” attire and seemed to think we should be going to a church where everyone wears a suit/tie…fancy dresses…ect. I disagree, and here is what I told them…..

at Gateway, ALL three of my kids are welcomed and accepted….my special needs son doesn’t fall through the cracks or get ignored….it is “ok” that he doesn’t wear a suit, and is not frowned upon for the clothing that he does wear, or the fact that he doesnt talk much, has issues sitting still and being “seen and not heard”, He is just Loved and accepted for WHO He is…..the way God made Him. For me, this says alot about a church body…when they dont see the disability…just the child. At Gateway, there is no “keeping up with the jones’s” but a sense of acceptance, no matter your income, what type of job you have, race, creed or disability. as my husband put it ” he does not feel out of place there because it is ok that he does not wear a suit….its a Family oriented church.”

Yes, it is true, it is a smaller church comparatively to the other churches around us…but when I visited for the first time…God met me there….something I had been searching for since I left my home church in Upstate NY due to relocation to a different state ….its one thing to go to just any church…and warm a pew…and get that fuzzy “ok I went to church this week” feeling…but its another thing entirely….to be a PART of a church body….to have God meet you…challenge your growth…to be in HIS Presence…to leave after service feeling refreshed and renewed. I am not saying in anyway that larger churches are a bad hing….just that for me and my family…..the smaller family friendly church is the place for us, and I am thankful and blessed to have found that at Gateway.

God uses the small and the weak

A Friend of Mine’s Little Girl asked her mom “how God makes us with all different color eyes, hair and skin if sand is only one color. Then she says…I know, food coloring! He makes a ball of sand in His hand and then adds food coloring as He molds us.”  Children see things differently than we adults do. This simple, Precious statement speaks volumes. The old Sunday school Hymn ” Jesus Loves the little children, ALL the Children of the world, Red and Yellow, Black and White, They are Precious in His sight, Jesus Loves the Little Children of the world”  teaches children at a very young age NOT to see skin color, or differences…..kids have to be taught to hate.

I have mentioned before…..God is moving…and He is using the children, the youth, the YOUNG in powerful ways! It was/is visible in Haiti….my sister saw it on her mission trip to Thailand….It was talked about today at church with Pastor and the team from India returning home.  I have seen it with my own eyes here in the states.

Today’s sermon was on how God doesn’t choose the wealthy person who has his/her act together….He chooses the weak, the poor, the deaf, and blind……the Bible is full of examples. Moses tried to use the excuse that He could not speak well….but God used Him to deliver the Isrealites out of Egypt. David was Just a Shepherd boy, but God saw a king. Esther was just a Jewish girl in a Foreign land, but God used her to save the Jewish people from death when Haman was plotting to have them all killed….

All of these people were able to accomplish great things because GOD worked through them….they put their faith in the Lord and listened.

so I ask you….are your eyes Open? because God IS Moving. To you something like hugging a friend who is hurting might seem soo small…but it might be exactly what they need….something as small as a child’s fist full of pennies may not LOOK like much, but like the 5 loaves and 5 fishes, God can take that simple gift given in love, and multiply it to do Great things.

the message that God uses the small and the weak jumps out at me for so many reasons……I am just a simple farmer’s daughter, mother of three…what can I do…often crosses my mind.  Then I look at my children….one is quiet, shy, doesn’t like to talk much, and making friends is hard for her…add in the fact that she is entering her teen years….a tough challenge in and of itself…but she has a giving heart…and is amazing with younger children. My son is Autistic…..words do not come easy for Him at all….he struggles in social situations, and gets overwhelmed easily. and my youngest…..is a social butterfly…LOTS of friends…and her hugs and smiles and laughter will brighten up the darkest of days. Each of my children is unique and precious, and God has blessed them EACH with their own gifts. I only pray that my best to guide them is enough…but I know that as long as My faith rests in the Lord, He will take the seeds I sow in their hearts and as long as they let Him, He will do great things.

Then I look back over my life….all the things I have done….the things I have been through and I am thankful for God’s Grace. Thankful that when He met me in Boot Camp in one of the darkest hours of my life ( see my post Beauty from Ashes), He did not leave me there…for He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. One of the scriptures read at Church today was ;

Colossians 1:13-14 (New International Version)

13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins.

As I read it…This is how I Heard it in my heart13For he has rescued (Rachel) from the dominion of darkness and brought (Rachel) into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom (she has) redemption,the forgiveness of sins.”

This means that by God’s Grace….I am a New creation, old things have passed away, He has washed the slate clean with the blood of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite songs from my Youth is:

GIVE THANKS
WITH A GRATEFUL HEART
GIVE THANKS
TO THE HOLY ONE
GIVE THANKS
FOR HE’S GIVEN
JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON

AND NOW LET THE WEAK SAY
I AM STRONG
LET THE POOR SAY
I AM RICH
BECAUSE OF WHAT
THE LORD HAS DONE
FOR US

GIVE THANKS…”

It’s a song that I still sing today, and often, a reminder that even when Life seems too hard, with God, even in my weakest moments, I am strong, not because of anything I do …but because HE is Strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (New International Version)

9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Life was never meant to be EASY….there will be hardships and trials….sometimes things just happen…not because we have done anything wrong…….but simply because that’s LIFE! God refines us as Jars of clay…in the fire…its how we grow…we have to die to self in order to live fully for Him…..and I know for a fact, I myself struggle with letting go of self..I find myself saying ” but that’s too hard” or  something to that effect…its only when I let go, and as another friend said , decide that I cant “Carry the milk alone” and turn to Jesus to take over and help me…its only then with His Grace, that my weakness becomes HIS Strength.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (New International Version)

5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

As I have been reflecting this past week , looking back at where I have been, and where I am today, I have no other choice but to begin to bring a sacrifice of Praise unto the house of the Lord, for its God’s grace alone that has gotten me where I am today. Then I have to remember as the old Carman song says when Satan reminds me of my past…I just remind Him of his future.

Remember….The Lord works through the small….its by HIS Grace, not our own strength.