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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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I Put My Hope in You

Ps38-15

I Put My Hope in You

Lord, my every desire is known to You;
my sighing is not hidden from You.
My heart races, my strength leaves me,
and even the light of my eyes has faded.
My loved ones and friends stand back from my affliction,
and my relatives stand at a distance.

I put my hope in You, Lord;
You will answer, Lord my God.
—Psalm 38:9-11, 15

Has anyone ever questioned the validity of your illness or avoided you because of it? Perhaps they have wondered out loud how you can look so good when you tell them how rotten you feel.

I’m willing to guess that all of us who suffer with chronic illness and pain have experienced these times, because most chronic illness seems to affect us more internally than externally. When we try to explain our pain level to others, they just don’t get it because they can’t see any apparent outward symptoms.

This used to greatly frustrate me until the day one of my neighbors revealed to me that she had fibromyalgia too. She always looked great to me and seemed to have so much energy. I couldn’t believe she and I had this in common.

Suddenly I realized a horrible truth about myself: what I was thinking about my neighbor is exactly what is frustrating when others think these kinds of things about me! I finally understood their confusion and impatience with me at times.

When someone tells you they understand your pain because they are re going through something similar, don’t you feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders? This is the way God feels about us and our pain—He knows all about it and longs to carry us through it.

In these verses, David sounds weary with his situation, yet he also expresses his certainty that God is at his side and will answer his prayers. We can also have the assurance that God is in our corner even when others are not. He is always there for us. All we need to do is look to Him for His quiet understanding and limitless love.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes I get frustrated when people don’t understand what I’m going through. But You know and show me in so many ways how much You care about me and my situation. Help me to never lose sight of that fact, and to always look to You first for comfort and understanding. Amen.

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For Everything There is a Season

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

—Ecclesiastes 3:1-18

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Faith For What We Do Not See

 

The other day I posted about a time in my life when I served as a counselor at a camp for abused and abandoned children. Several of you commented about how serving children in this way has impacted your life too. Since this seemed to resonate with you, I’d like to share a little bit more about my first year as a counselor at that camp. I apologize for the length of this post but it’s necessary to tell the story.

Heb11-1-things-hoped-for

 

Faith For What We Do Not See

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

 Lord, how can You possibly ask me to do this? I’m not trained to be a counselor!

The words welled up in me as I struggled to understand God’s persistent nudging. Suddenly I could feel His loving arms wrapped around my shoulders like a warm shawl. And then I felt the Holy Spirit’s words in my heart:

“My child, I want you to do this for Me.” 

Well, how could I ignore that? I bowed to God’s greatness and silently whispered my thanks to Him for being so patient with me. And then I prayed one last thing: God, if You really want me to do this, please enable me for the task.

When God called me to be a counselor at a Christian camp for abused and abandoned children, I thought this would be a blessing to some very needy children. Week after week, the Lord pointed my eyes to the announcement in the church bulletin, yet I kept ignoring the urgings I felt that God wanted me to participate in some way. The word “counselor” stood out more than anything else in that announcement, but I felt completely unequipped for this position.  

GodHasAPlanFour short months later I was at camp. One of the little girls in my charge was a particularly tough case. Eight-year-old Debbie* had been shuffled from one foster home to another. She was certain of only one thing: that she could expect abuse or negative treatment on a regular basis. Like so many of these abused children, she learned to bury her true emotions and instead developed a defensive posture, along with the frequent tendency to declare “No!” in response to any suggestions, fun or not. 

Debbie’s stubbornness was not easy for any of us to deal with. Whenever we were to start anything new, whether it was crafts, chapel, or even games, Debbie’s standard response was “No!” She would literally crouch down and keep shouting this over and over again. I found myself praying almost constantly that entire week. My prayers would start, “Please God…” and as the Lord helped me deal with each difficulty, they then became, “Thank you, God…” 

Our goal was to give these children a week of carefree fun, but Debbie’s tantrums kept testing my patience and that of the camp directors. After a couple of days of this negative behavior, we had a discussion about sending Debbie home early which greatly upset me. How could we take away this one week of fun from someone who rarely had the chance to do anything enjoyable? I pleaded with the directors to give her another chance and they agreed. 

That same night, I found myself unable to sleep because of Debbie’s exceedingly vocal night terrors. She tossed and turned as she relived some terrifying experiences, and mumbled words such as Don’t! and Stop! 

I got up to make sure she was all right and found her sleeping on her stomach facing me. I ran my hand lightly over her forehead, then up and down her back in a soothing manner. She didn’t seem to be sound asleep yet she was not fully awake either. As I kept rubbing her back, she continued to moan in a sing-song way. Even when I talked to her in an attempt to wake her out of her bad dream, she just moaned as if in pain. After about twenty minutes of this, I lay back down and tried to get to sleep, but it was impossible with all her moaning. 

I lay wide awake. What to do now? I got up again and tried to quiet Debbie by rubbing her back. Once again, that didn’t work. Tears coursed down my face as I prayed … for guidance … for Debbie to stop … for me to be able to fall asleep again. I was so tired. How was I going to handle the rest of the week? 

Once more I tried to sleep. When that did not work, I went back to Debbie and tried to wake her up. “Debbie, are you all right? Are you having a bad dream?”  

This time she seemed to hear me. The answering groan was different from the others, almost like a real answer.  

“Do you want to get up and talk for a while?” I asked.  

Debbie’s eyelids flickered and then opened briefly. “Yeah,” her sleepy voice croaked as she sat up in her top bunk. 

“Come on, I’ll help you climb down.” I assisted a very groggy Debbie by placing one of her feet at a time on each of the steps. When she was standing on the floor, I led her to the designated play area next to her bed and sat down, pulling her to a sitting position next to me. 

The night air was cold and crisp up here in the mountains, so I put my arm around her and covered us both with a blanket. I looked down at her in anticipation of our little talk. Instead, she leaned her head against my arm and fell asleep again. 

I shook my head in disbelief, thinking that maybe all she had needed was a change of position. I decided to sit with her this way for a while and leaned my head back against the wall and started praying for her again. 

I asked God what I could say or do to help Debbie adjust better because I wanted her to enjoy her camping experience. He showed me that Debbie’s life was full of commands. She was never asked about anything. He then gave me one word: choices. 

Even here at camp, she was expected to adhere to rules and a schedule, which in itself is not a bad thing, but difficult for her to deal with considering what the rest of her life was like. As I prayed about all of this, God showed me that if Debbie was given some limited choices, her responses might be different. 

I sat with Debbie like this and prayed for about two hours. I realized then that I had better get some sleep before this day officially started. I eased Debbie away from me. “Do you want to sleep down here the rest of the night?” I whispered to her. 

She seemed to understand and gave a sleep nod, so I fetched the pillow from her bunk. Lifting her head gently, I placed the pillow beneath it and then tucked the blanket around her better. I stood next to her for a few minutes to make sure she was all right. Now it was time to get back to my own bed. 

It was already 4:30 a.m. as I fell into a light, fitful sleep. I had to be up again in about an hour. This time Debbie slept peacefully. 

Several hours later, Debbie started her usual tantrum when informed it was time for chapel. Before she could get carried away, I told her she had the choice of going to chapel with me or to the nurse’s office. Of course, she chose to stay with the nurse. But not more than fifteen minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and there stood Debbie. “I want to be here with you,” she whispered. 

I smiled at her and nodded to the nurse, who had escorted Debbie to chapel. As we stood to sing, I felt Debbie’s small hand slip into mine. Thank you, God…

Before that week was over, little Debbie asked Jesus Christ into her heart. Matt19-14--come little children

When we returned home, all who had served at camp were treated to a special dinner at church. The counselors each received a certificate inscribed with a Scripture passage our leaders thought best described us. Much to my surprise, I saw that my certificate contained Hebrews 11:1, the verse which begins a chapter all about faith. 

Faith.

I had started out on this journey with a great deal of skepticism. I didn’t understand why God would call someone like me to serve Him in this way, but He kept me going by faith throughout the entire week and left me with a new understanding of His enabling power.

Whenever God resolves to use us in His work,
He will enable us to do it!

The following year, the camp administration carefully asked if I would be willing to have Debbie in my charge again. They were well aware of her frustrating behavior the previous year. “Of course I want Debbie back!” I replied. “She needs some consistency in her life.”

The Debbie who jumped off the bus that year was a totally different little girl. In fact, she helped me work with my other little charge, a girl who had been abused in many ways, including being physically beaten and thrown around. She suffered some brain damage because of this abuse and was very temperamental at times. Debbie helped me keep her calm, which was a huge help.

At the end of that week, Debbie told me she wanted to be a counselor when she was old enough, and a few years later, I heard that she was indeed a counselor-in-training. I’ve since lost track of her but God has had His hand on her all along so I know she is doing well.

Beloved, when you believe God is leading you to serve Him in some way, never forget that He will be right there beside you. He never leaves us alone to do His work. 

Then people brought little children to Jesus
for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
 
When he had placed his hands on them,
he went on from there.
—Matthew 19:13-14

*Not her real name for her protection.

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