Valley of Vision

This wonderful devotional was written by Joni Eareckson Tada and included in her Pearls of Great Price book. Joni has always been an inspiration to me, and I hope you are touched by this as much as I am.

Valley of Vision

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Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 

—Psalm 84:5-6

In the days of the conquest of Canaan, the Valley of Baca was known as a dry, waterless place where only balsam trees could grow. Some have called it “a place of weeping.” However, when we trust God during dry, parched times, we can turn our valley of weeping into a refreshing “place of springs.” 

My favorite Puritan prayer about valleys has seen me through many a dry place in my spiritual journey:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision… Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine; Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty,Thy glory in my valley.[1]

Psalm 23:4 says, “… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” We fear no harm in the valley because death can only cast its shadow on us. Evil has no grip on us. Truly, we find God’s brightest glory in our darkest valleys. 

Lord, You are the Great Shepherd who leads me through every dark valley. I trust You to turn my valley of weeping into a place of refreshment and encouragement.

www.joniandfriends.org

[1] Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision… A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, The Banner of Truth Trust, Pennsylvania, PA, 1997, Preface.

Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Reblogged from Lynn Mosher: Encouraging the Heart-Uplifting the Soul.

This wonderful post from my bloggy friend, Lynn Mosher, goes along with my JOY and FAITH themes this year. Lynn has a special way of making a story come alive, and I know you’ll appreciate this as much as I do.

Thank you, Lynn, for allowing me to share this with my readers.

The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Once upon a time, twin sisters, Joy and Sorrow, lived in the same house with their Father, whose name was Comfort.

Joy skipped along her way enjoying every moment, savoring the sights and sounds of her everyday life, as her heart overflowed with praise and thanksgiving to her Father.

Sorrow, on the other hand, was somewhat defiant, rebelling against her Father, grumbling because of the pain in her life.

Nevertheless, they both experienced the same trials and heartaches, and yet, they each went about their day singing a different tune.

Read the rest here.

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Prayer When I’m Overwhelmed

 

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Many of us are struggling with so much these days. Health problems. Financial troubles. Maybe the need of a job or a place to live. Perhaps our children are not living as they ought to be. Or it may be that we have no idea where our next meal will come from.

I hope you will be blessed by this devotional that I wrote for the anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. This particular devotional was included in the section titled Prayers of Supplication. 

 

When I’m overwhelmed by cares . . .

I will relieve your shoulder of its burden;
I will free your hands from their heavy tasks. 
—Psalm 81:6 NLT

 

When the cares of my heart are many,
thy consolations cheer my soul. 

—Psalm 94:19 RSV

 

Cast your cares on the LORD 
and he will sustain you. 
—Psalm 55:22

 

The LORD lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads. 
—Psalm 146:8 NLT

 

Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is 
always thinking about you and watching everything
that concerns you. 

—1 Peter 5:7 TLB

 

. . . I will pray.

Precious Lord,

From my window, I see children playing in the yard next door, soaking up the warm air and bright sunshine. I still remember those carefree childhood days, filled with simple pleasures—but that seems so far away now. Instead I feel as though I’m buried under a flood of cares: bills to pay, personality conflicts at work, family disagreements.

My life seems to be buried under an avalanche of responsibilities to be met and problems to be solved. My cares cover me like a cloak, blocking the sunshine from my dreary heart.

Help me lift my head, Lord. Fill me up with Your Spirit. Help me to throw off my cloak of sadness and let in the sunshine of Your love.

As an act of faith, I close my eyes and reach out to You—the Giver and Sustainer of life. I release my cares to You, one by one, piling them high at Your feet. The disappointment at work, the unexpected car repair, my aching joints, and on and on and on . . . until every burden is transferred from my shoulders to Yours.

Thank You for being my Burden-Bearer.

Amen.

Tell God all that is in your heart,
as one unloads one’s heart, 
its pleasures and pains, to a dear friend. 
Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you. 
—Francois Fenelon

 [From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

AnytimePrayersForEverydayPeople

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FAITH for God’s Promises

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God has never promised to solve our problems.
He has not promised to answer our questions …
He has promised to go with us.”
—Elisabeth Elliot

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The Lord Brings JOY to My Soul

This is a story I wrote several years ago. It is pure fiction except for one thing: millions of people live with physical pain—or emotional pain or financial difficulties or _______ (fill in the blank)every single day…

The Lord Brings JOY to My Soul

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When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your love, O LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought JOY to my soul.
—Psalm 94:18-19

“Good morning!” Sherri smiled and waved, then hurried to help Macy up the ramp.

“What’s so good about it?” grumbled Macy. She stopped and leaned hard on her cane as she struggled with her shoulder bag.

“Here, let me.” Sherri slid Macy’s purse strap up higher, then gave her friend a hug. “Can I help you with your shopping?”

Macy’s eyes filled with tears. “I’d be so grateful. Today has been a pile of things gone wrong.”

Sherri helped Macy into the store’s motorized cart and then pulled a shopping cart out for herself. They moved from one aisle to the next as Sherri tried to keep the conversation light. Macy just responded with grumbles or shrugs.

At the checkout, Sherri placed Macy’s items onto the checkout counter before unloading her own cart. In the parking lot, she stashed Macy’s grocery bags in her trunk and then turned to help Macy out of the cart.

“There you go! Do you need any help getting this stuff put away at home?”

Macy’s eyes widened. “How can you be so nice when I’ve been so rotten to you?”

“I figured this wasn’t a great day for you when you couldn’t even appreciate the beautiful blue sky,” Sherri replied. She lightly touched Macy’s shoulder. “The pain is pretty bad today, isn’t it?”

Macy nodded. “Yeah, but I had no choice. I needed so many things and I’ve been putting this off for days.” She struggled into the driver’s seat and looked at Sherri. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“You know. You look and sound so joyful when you must be feeling so bad yourself,” Macy said as she gestured to Sherri’s leg brace and the splint encasing her right wrist.

Sherri smiled. “I just picture God’s comforting arms around me, holding me close. Just the thought of that brings joy to my soul.”

Macy regarded Sherri for several moments. “You know, I should probably try that too.”

Beloved, life is not easy! But I’m sure you already know that. Please understand that I am not saying that thinking differently will change your circumstances. What I believe to be true is that changing our thinking can affect how we perceive our circumstances.

Trying to find joy in our circumstances is not easy, but I can attest to the fact that it can be done. I fail at this a lot but I’m thankful that most times I remember to reach out to the only One Who can bring true joy into my life: my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

May I pray for you about this?  Please reply in the comment section below this post or shoot me an email: faithlhj777 at gmail dot com.

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JOY and FAITH

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For the past few weeks, I have been pondering the word JOY. Such a small word for such a huge and amazing emotion.

How can I describe JOY?

How can we feel any JOY at all while in those valley places?

And why do we feel JOY in the first place?

Stay tuned, beloved!

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So the natural progression—in my mind at least—led me to next think about the word FAITH. Hebrews 11:1 (above) was given to me years ago during a particularly stressful time in my life when God showed me that FAITH in Him can carry me through any situation.

FaithBraceletsCollage--AMPI have always tried to live by that kind of faith, and this Christmas I received two special bracelets from my Rick that were faith themed. As you can see in this photo, one of them says “Keep the Faith.” The other reads “Faith Hope Love.” They look really nice worn together, and are serving to remind me that my FAITH is found only in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary.

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Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said,
“Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,
even as You gave Him authority over all flesh,
that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.
This is eternal life, that they may know You,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
I glorified You on the earth,
having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself,
with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
—John 17:1-5

This year I hope you’ll join me in exploring JOY and FAITH, especially as it pertains to each of us individually. I don’t think this subject can ever be exhausted because God fills us up with unending amounts of JOY and FAITH. It’s up to us to grab hold of both of those and never let go!

Heavenly Father, we need You more than we can ever imagine. We so need Your JOY and Your FAITH. JOY that You think of us as the apple of Your eye. JOY in and through every single circumstance in our lives. FAITH in the mercy and saving grace of Your Son, Jesus Christ. FAITH that we can always count on You—and only You—to see us through those inevitable valleys in our lives. Oh, Abba Father, we are so utterly thankful for how much You lavish Your JOY and FAITH upon us!

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A Child is Born [Repost]

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6

I’m sure most of us have been the recipients of birth announcements from friends and family. We get excited when we read the good news, but have any of those been as exciting or answered such a deep need as this one from Isaiah?

We announce the birth of our sweet, cuddly and cute newborns with clever sayings amid pastel colors and pictures of bunnies, kittens, teddy bears, and the like. But just look at how Jesus’ birth is described by the prophet Isaiah:

WonderfulCounselor

Wonderful Counselor … Mighty God … Everlasting Father … Prince of Peace

Beloved, this is not a mere birth announcement. It is a heavenly proclamation!

I cannot think of any other gift that means more to us than God’s special gift to mankind: His Son, Jesus Christ. All over the world, people exchange presents in commemoration of this ultimate gift, which is the only means of rescue from our sins.

Before we realize the need for Jesus in our lives, we are in a deep darkness of doubt and anxiety. After we ask Jesus to come into our hearts as our Savior, we leap from that lonely, dark void into a glorious and joyful anticipation of eternal life with Him at our side.

Just as Jesus’ death on the cross changes our darkness into the radiant light of eternal joy, a close relationship with Him is the only thing that can help us find joy and thankfulness amidst our daily struggles and pain. Jesus understands what we’re going through and wants us to lean on Him for comfort, support and spiritual nourishment. His birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophetic message of hope and in the same way, we can look forward to this realization:

our ultimate hope is a perfect heaven in which there will be no pain or suffering

HopeWasBorn…..

Beloved, I’m thinking that after going through this earthly time of pain and anguish, we will be dancing with joy and delight as we step into that glorious heavenly light! This is what we should be celebrating as Christmas approaches!

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Not Everyone’s Merry at Christmastime [repost from Abandoned to Christ]

Life here on earth is admittedly hard. It seems like it’s never only one thing at a time that is a difficulty. That one thing turns into a host of problems, and we wonder if we’ll ever see that light at the end of our long tunnel.

Maybe there are things we remember from a not-so-great time in our past that intrude and try to replace our happiness and joy during Christmas.

Or perhaps we’re missing some precious people who have already gone home to the Lord.

Could it be that the sadness is a combination of all of the above?

Today I’d like to share with you a recent post from one of my favorite blogs—Sunny Shell’s Abandoned to Christ. This post speaks so well about all of this. Thank you, Sunny, for helping us recognize these feelings in ourselves and those around us.

 

It seems everywhere we look and every place we go, there’s Christmas music playing, people shopping, commercials filled with laughter and gaiety; sparkling decorations and hearts filled with merriment and hope. But it’s not that way for everyone. There are a silent few…or a silent many who are not merry at Christmastime.
 
Some people have lost loved ones this year through death, or by sin that always separates. Some, like orphans, have no one to lose, but have constant dreams of finding parents who offer the sacrificial and eternal love of Christ rather than the self-centered, ephemeral love this world settles for. Then there are those who are alone in adulthood: widows, divorcees, and those struck with depression. The list goes on…and so do their sorrows. 


Read the rest here

http://www.sunnyshell.org/2014/12/not-everyones-merry-at-christmastime.html

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To Those Hurting This Christmas [Repost]

So many of us are hurting, mostly in ways not easily understood by our friends and family because we put on a good front. We don’t want to bother our loved ones with the details of how much pain we endure each day. Or we’re so busy caring for others in dire physical circumstances that we don’t have the time or inclination to think about how much we go through as we care for these dear ones. Perhaps we don’t know how we’ll pay the bills this month. When or how will we get our next paycheck—or meal?

Oh, we may have a deep and abiding faith in God because we know He loves us and cares about every single little detail of our lives…but these days we are clinging to that faith by our fingernails.

We are understandably so focused on our own pain and suffering or that of our loved ones that we’re afraid to confront our frustrations about a situation that never seems to end. How do we get through this Christmas season of joy when everything around us is in shambles?

Beloved, I’ll be writing more about this in the next days before Christmas, but today I want to share something with you that arrived in my inbox this morning. I pray you will be blessed by this as much as I am, and I will be praying for each and every hurting heart who reads this.

To Those Hurting This Christmas

by John Knight | December 9, 2012

TheWorksOfGod-John9-3-desiringgod.org

I know some of you are praying you’ll make it through Christmas—just make it through—not anticipating anything good will come from gathering with extended family and friends. It has become a cliche—right next to the article on what second-graders are excited about for Christmas is the article on the rise in depression during this last month of the year.

You know the sadness is real. While you change the diaper of a teenager, or administer complicated medications, or prevent your non-verbal ten-year-old from hurting himself again, or explain yet again the complicated life of your five-year-old without a diagnosis for her disability, your nieces and nephews and young friends are playing and running and eating, happily talking about the toys they want or travel they’re excited about or things they are doing in school. They easily do things your child will never do, no matter how many therapies or medications or prayers are offered.

Or maybe the disability in your family member means you can’t gather with other loved ones, and the heartache is almost more than you can stand.

Jesus knows.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, italics added)

More than that, he endured and is victorious!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, italics added)

And there are some of you who can’t see it. There is still hope!

From Pastor John’s book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy,

It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought of his own strivings. He said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). The key thing to see in this verse is that all Paul’s efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ’s grasp of him. Never forget that your security rests on Christ’s faithfulness first.

Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That’s true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his. Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian — and yet still be one. (216, italics added)

Jesus understands. Jesus is victorious. Jesus is the answer. May you find him, and in finding him, find hope and peace in these hard days.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

John Knight is Director of Development at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/to-those-hurting-this-christmas

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Grateful in All Circumstances [shared from Abandoned To Christ]

Can we truly be grateful for every single thing in our lives? The good and the bad? Today I decided to share a wonderful post about this from Abandoned to Christ. It speaks about this better than I have read anywhere else. Thank you, Sunny Shell, for showing us that it is very possible to be grateful for all things in our lives!

Grateful in All Circumstances

What does it mean, to give thanks in all circumstances?
 
In First Thessalonians chapter five, the Apostle Paul closes with a list of things that every Christian ought to do (vv. 12-22), but can’t do in our own strength or by our own sheer will. Perhaps we can accomplish some, or all that’s on this list, but it would only be a temporary appearance of godly character rather than a faithful and continual walk. For we know if we do not abide in Christ, we will not bear His fruit. And any true godly quality we exhibit is a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit within us (1 Cor 2:5), not from our flesh that continually desires the ways of this world.
 
I often refer to my physical trials as a gift from the Lord and something He has seen fit to work in my life for my greatest benefit. And often, I get questions and comments from people who are outraged by my proclamation that a good and loving God would bring pain into my life. They tell me I’m rather foolish and audacious to claim God would do anything besides make me healthy, wealthy and happy. But that’s not what God says.
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Read the rest here.

 

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