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Good Times and Bad Times

FollowTheLines--AMP

 Consider what God has done:

Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.
—Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

I am blessed with naturally curly hair. The fact that I can call this a blessing shows how far I’ve come in my perception of what God has given me. Since I was about 12 years old, I have hated my curly hair and have spent tons of time, money, and energy on various methods to try to straighten these curly locks. But no matter what I do, my hair eventually ends up curly anyway. Often it even gets frizzy. I guess I’ve finally come to the realization that God made me this way because He likes me like this, so why fight it?

This is a photo of me taken probably four or five years ago. This is a good example of my curly-frizzy look. No matter what I do—or don’t do—my curls frizz up!

AnnaCurlyFrizzy

 

“Who can straighten what he has made crooked?”

I don’t want to make light of God’s Word but the moment I read this verse it made me think of my curly hair. It reminds me how we humans often seem to think that what we don’t have is better than what we do have.

Take my curly hair for example. Recently a sales clerk commented: “I love your hair! Is it naturally curly?”

“Thanks, yes it is,” I replied, then laughed. “I was going to tell you how much I like your straight hair.”

Num11-4-6--IfOnly--AMP

That sales clerk and I both shared a good chuckle over this, but I thought afterward how true this is in our lives. All those if only’s come into play:

  • If only I wasn’t burdened with these illnesses . . .
  • If only I was younger . . .
  • If only I had more time . . .
  • If only I had a better computer . . .
  • If only I had more money . . .
  • If only . . .

Wow, it is so easy to get caught up in the if only’s of life! Look at how the Israelites responded to how God answered their prayers for food as they wandered in the desert:

The rabble with them began to crave other food,
and again the Israelites started wailing and said,
“If only we had meat to eat!

We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—
also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.

But now we have lost our appetite;
we never see anything but this manna!” 

—Numbers 11:4-6

Is this no different that how we usually react?

God has provided both good and bad for us for a basic reason: if we had only good things and good times, we would eventually become so used to it that the good would become mundane. How about taking some of those bad things and stacking them up against the good things in our lives? When I do that, I find that the good side of my list greatly outweighs the bad side because at the top of my good list is my relationship with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

That fact alone outshines anything bad that could be happening to me at any time in my life.

How about you, Beloved? Are you so blinded by the bad things in your life that you find your view of God jaded and possibly fading? Well, I’m here to remind you that He loves you with an everlasting love that will never dim or fade. He loves us enough to allow those bad times so that we can grow closer to Him through those circumstances.

That is the desire of His heart.

Please join me in prayer:

Abba Father, we love You. When we seem ungrateful at times, please help us remember that You always know what is best for us. If the situation seems bad to us it is not that way to You because You allow difficult times in our lives to draw us closer to You so that You can mold us into the people You want us to be. Help us to see that although these pruning times are not easy, You are ever with us to guide us in the way of Your Truth. Thank You for being our Abba Father. Amen.

…..

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In the Fiery Furnace

Dan3-16-17--FieryFurnace

 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to
defend ourselves before you in this matter.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to save us from it,
and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.
But even if he does not, 
we want you to know, O king,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
—Daniel 3:16-18, NIV

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship a gold statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s likeness. They firmly believed God would rescue them from a “blazing furnace.” But their faith didn’t stop there. They refused to worship any other gods or images even if God did not rescue them.

In his fury, Nebuchadnezzar ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace seven times hotter than usual. The intense heat killed several soldiers who were standing near the oven. However, inside of the oven, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were not harmed at all. In fact, four men were seen walking around in that oven, the fourth described “like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25, NKJV).

Do you feel the heat of your own fiery furnace today? Those of us who experience unrelenting pain oftentimes wonder why we are going through this. Will it ever end? Why isn’t God taking away our pain?

There is so much going on in our world today that seeks to divert our attention from God. It is much easier to complain and blame God for everything that is wrong in our lives than to pray for His help in coping with our pain. I admit that I struggle at times with this very thing, as well as the why of the path God is allowing in this season of my life. But when I do that, it turns my focus from God to myself, which keeps me from being able to embrace the joyful hope that is found only in Jesus Christ.

Beloved, God is always with us and fully understands what we’re going through better than any human being ever could. All He asks is that we trust Him to walk with us through our own personal fiery furnaces. He knows our fears and frustrations. He understands our pain. And He will always be there with us and for us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes we hurt so much that we don’t have the words to pray what is in our hearts. But You know what we’re going through and what we need from You without our having to say a word. Help us to always reach for Your hand in our fiery furnaces. Amen.

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The LORD is Your Shade

 

welcome-ImBack

It has been a long, pain-filled summer for me. Thank you for bearing with me as I’ve been sharing some of my old posts with you, mostly by my very close friends and mentors, Pat Knight and Donna Baker. I did not want to completely leave the blogging world for several months, so being able to schedule those precious posts ahead of time really helped.

Thank you again, Pat and Donna, for allowing me to share your hearts with my readers. I love you both so much!

Today I have a new one for you that seems to fit in with how my summer went. 

…..

The LORD is Your Shade

TheLORDIsYourShade--ShadyGrove

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

—Psalm 121

Years ago, I moved from northern Vermont to Phoenix, Arizona. One of the first things I noticed about the Southwest is how people look for parking in any available shady spot, especially in the summer. There might be loads of open parking spaces near the entrance to a store or business, but if there is any kind of shade elsewhere in the parking lot, you can be sure those shady places are the first to be taken. And no wonder, given that average daytime Phoenix temperatures in the summer are at least 105 degrees.

Although most of us enjoy sunshine, consistent sunlight can damage all sorts of surfaces, including our skin, car finishes, and exterior paint. We are urged to use sunscreen on our skin; the color finish on newer cars includes a clear, sun-resistant top coat. As for the paint peeling off our homes, short of using aluminum siding, all we can do is scrape the peeling areas and repaint every few years.

Ten years ago today, we moved to the north country of Arizona, and as wonderful as the sun is, it still can take its toll up here. Temperatures are typically about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix, but it still gets hot up here. And heat truly aggravates my chronic pain illnesses.

I love this Psalm, particularly verses 5 and 6. The Psalmist tells us that the LORD is our shade! Ponder that for a moment. Imagine standing in the middle of the desert with nothing around you for miles. The scorching sun is baking your weary body; you have barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly the area where you’re standing is in the shade, but you cannot figure out why. You can see no trees or other shelter to provide shade but nevertheless you are being protected from the blazing sun.

This is how I picture God protecting us.

No matter what is happening to us each day that is causing us to feel down, if we look to the only One who matters, He is faithful to shelter us from the blazing heat that can sometimes characterize our lives. 

Beloved, let’s see if we can hang tight to that thought when we need it most! Our Heavenly Father can be our shade no matter how hot things get for us here on earth. We can close our eyes and picture His shade as we go through each trial in our lives, letting it fill us with the certain knowledge that only under the shade of our Father’s loving arms can we find protection and relief from the storms in our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us enough to care about even the smallest details in our lives.

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Filled with Joy

 

Psalm126_3

 

Psalm 126

A song of ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

…..

From my Bible study notes:

God’s ability to restore life is beyond our understanding. Forests burn down and are able to grow back. Broken bones heal. Even grief is not a permanent condition. Our tears can be seeds that will grow into a harvest of joy because God is able to bring good out of tragedy.

When burdened by sorrow, know that your times of grief will end and that you will again find joy. We must be patient as we wait. God’s great harvest of joy is coming!

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My Peace, My Comfort, My Hope

Psalm27-13-14--wait

I would have despaired
unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
yes, wait for the Lord.
—Psalm 27:13-14

 

Still Here!

Blog-Break

I put myself on a blog break last month, which you can read about here, but I think I tried to come back too soon and too strong. Our summer monsoon season has started, and for me that means constant migraines—yes, I mean 24/7 quite literally. So for about another month, I’ll continue to lay low to conserve energy for other things, but you’ll still hear from me here once or twice a week as my energy allows.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people,
and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them and be their God.
 
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Then he said, “Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true.”
—Rev 21:3-5

 

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My Hope

 

MyHopeIsInTheLord

 

 

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The Heart of Jesus [repost from Joni Eareckson Tada]

This wonderful devotional from Joni Eareckson Tada is from her Joni  and Friends web site.

Daily Devotional

Joni Eareckson Tada’s inspirational daily devotionals are biblical insights that will enrich,
enlighten, and encourage you in your walk with Christ Jesus.

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.”
—Lamentations 3:32-33

What do you think was on the Lord’s heart when He healed those who were paralyzed? When He opened the eyes of the blind? What was the Lord feeling when He counseled the father of the little boy who was gripped by seizures?

There are those who point to such miracles as signs of Christ’s messiahship, saying, “Jesus healed those people as evidence of His authority as the Son of God. By such power, He was proving He was the Messiah.” And they are right. But praise God, there is more.

Christ did not use helpless people to advance His own agenda. He did not enlist hurting men and women only as audio-visual aids to teach an important lesson about Himself. Neither did He approach blind, deaf, or paralyzed people in an emotional vacuum. Scripture often tells us that He was moved with compassion when He saw the hurting masses.

When it comes to suffering, Lamentations 3:32-33 reveals the heart intent of Jesus. He does not willingly, or that is, from the heart bring affliction of grief. Suffering may be part of God’s larger and most mysterious plan, but God’s intention is always to demonstrate compassion and unfailing love which touches people at their deepest point of need.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness”
(Lamentations 3:22-23).

Lord, may I never doubt what’s on your mind and heart when I suffer. You are full of love and compassion. Thank You for only permitting in my life what I am able to endure with Your grace.  Bless You for Your unfailing love.

Taken from Diamonds in the Dust. Copyright © 1993 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

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Make Music in Your Heart

Eph5-19


Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Ephesians 5:19b-20

Have you ever heard the phrase attitude of gratitude? Ask yourself why it should be an attitude, rather than just good old gratitude. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well, but what about when they’re not? Is it possible to be thankful even then?

So many of us struggle with how to live joyfully with chronic illness or disability. The reality is that trying to find any kind of joy in such situations takes time. What can we do to live with pain and yet truly keep a positive outlook?

I’m sure you’ve met people who struggle with daily pain yet never fail to greet you with joy no matter how they feel. How do they maintain such a grateful attitude when they’re going through such tough times?

ChronicPainFor those of us who are chronically ill or disabled, it is natural to want things as they used to be. But not only is that a waste of precious time and emotions, allowing God to use us where we are now can help us focus on the good things in our lives. And that leads us to remember that God is working everything out for the best, even if it doesn’t seem that way to us.

Beloved, life is not easy for those of us struggling with daily pain issues. The simplest tasks can seem daunting when our bodies refuse to cooperate properly. However, we do have a choice: we can choose to be sad and angry about what is happening to us. Or we can nurture an attitude of gratitude, which usually results in a happy outlook and allows others to glimpse God’s love through us.

I often sing this song by Casting Crowns in my heart to God when I am at my lowest. It never fails to do two things:

  • I am filled with utter thankfulness that He is always, always, always holding me close to His side
  • my eyes start leaking

If you cannot view this video of Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in This Storm,” please click here to read the lyrics.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes it is so hard to sing through our pain, but we know You are always at our side to strengthen and hold us up when we are not able to on our own. Help us remember that giving thanks for everything means we can be thankful for what You are doing in our hearts through our pain. Thank You for always being our All in All. Blessed be Your holy Name!

 

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Time for a Rest

Taking-a-break

I am sad to say that I am in the middle of another FMS/CFIDS flare. When that happens, I need to cut back on all my activities while I ride this out, so for at least the next couple of weeks I will be taking a necessary break from blogging. Those of you who are also bloggers will understand how many hours are consumed in composing each blog post—even the most seemingly simple ones. 

I am so thankful for all of you and look forward to being back with you in June.

Beloved, as always, I praise God for carrying me through these tough times. I really have no clue how I could handle these flares without the perfect peace of His close presence in my life!

Isaiah-26-3

 

Amen!

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