Searching for God’s Answers

by guest blogger, Amy Krulish

“ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”

John 10:27

So it’s come to this?  Lovely. I’m now an official “dumpster diver”!

I was searching through bags of trash for a check. It hadn’t arrived like clockwork as it had for the last two months .

I figured it had to be among the household waste—the most logical among other possibilities which barreled through my mind: Was it lost in the mail? Was it stolen and already cashed?

dd4No, I must have thrown it away during one of my brain fog moments!

Finally I finished inspecting every trash bag. No way it had been thrown away.  It was time to navigate my way around the issuer’s website.

But when even the website search didn’t work out so well, I threw in the towel, thinking I’d wait until Monday to find out what was going on.

A simple call on Monday showed me two things: 1) The company sending me the check had a system I did not understand and 2) the information I was looking for WAS on their website.

In my haste to look for what I needed, I didn’t take time to see what information the website contained.  It also didn’t take long for me to remember, oh yeah; early on someone did tell me how and when the checks would be issued.  To top it off, I had not explored all of the “tabs” on the website.  Had I listened to what had been spoken to me or taken the time to fully look at the site, I would have saved myself an afternoon frolic through the rubbish.  I had to admit, it was my own fault, so I looked for a greater lesson to be gleaned from it all.

There was. I heard that still small Voice in my heart beckoning me to listen…

In our relationship with God, it is not different; we have to understand how the “system” of His “Government” operates.  We do this by spending time reading and studying His Word and through intimate time of prayer and worship.

I am so thankful that as we keep ourselves grounded in Him, immersed in His written Word, and sensitive to His Spirit, we can hear His voice!  If there is one time in my life I need to hear Him, it is now!!!…do I move?…do I buy a place or keep renting?…do I home school my children again?…how do I help my children, who are so different from each other, heal?…how will I know when I’m to take my wedding rings off?…The Father already has the answers to all of our questions.  Some will come sooner than others, but it is up to us to ask them and then quietly wait and listen for Him to answer.

Father, as a citizen in Your Kingdom, I thank You for being our Source.  It is You we turn to first; there is no plan B.  I thank You that through Your righteousness in us, we have access to all that is Yours; that we don’t have to try and figure things out; that we do hear Your voice because we spend intimate time with You. And when the voice of circumstance tries to infiltrate our minds and negatively influence our actions, we recognize the voice of Truth, speaking peace!   Everything we have need of, Lord, is found in You.  We thank You, Father, that we don’t react or make decisions based on how we feel but respond according to the Word. You are the Word, Lord, and You cannot fail. As our Shepherd, we hear Your voice, recognize it and follow You.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. 

Drilling Him into Your Heart

by Rene Zonner

 

“…you are precious to me. You are honored and I love you.”
Isaiah 43:4 (NLT)

I realize these words are true. I know God loves me. Still, there are times in which I feel unlovable, unworthy…even alone. Why?

Friends, I recently penned a post for A Widow’s Might entitled “Chosen,” in which I shared how, for many of us, the deaths of our spouses stir up feelings of no longer feeling special, set apart, or chosen by another. But through scripture we are able to see truth. God tells us time and again we are indeed treasures, precious to Him. We are loved and chosen.

However, knowing the truth and actually living it are two separate things. How do we transition from head knowledge (the knowing) of God’s love to heart knowledge (the feeling) of that love?

There are many ways, I’m sure. The following works for me. I want to share it with you, sisters. I call it DRILL and it has become second nature to me in this personal journey to feel truly the depth of God’s love. DRILL stands for

Dive in, Record, Invoke, Look Around, and Look Beyond:

 

Dive In!
First and foremost, dive into God’s Word. Think of the Bible as God’s personal love letter to you. Surrounding ourselves with the words of love He gives us is an important beginning step.

Record!
I keep a green leather journal with me at all times, small enough to fit in my purse. When I read a scripture and it touches me, as if God is speaking to me personally, I write it down.

The journal’s not just for scripture—if a song, or a quote from a book, devotion, or sermon touches my heart and gets my attention, it goes in, as well.
It’s always close by. When God speaks to me through every day happenings, I immediately write it down.

Invoke!
If I ever doubt my place in God’s heart, or feel loneliness begin to weigh me down, I simply pull out that journal. Each time I read a “note” from God, I take one more step beyond knowing His love in my head to truly feeling it in my heart.

Look Around!
By writing in my journal, I have gotten into the habit of looking around for examples of His love in my everyday life. When you begin truly looking, you will be astonished—it’s everywhere! Talk about overwhelming evidence….
I love Mandisa’s lyrics from the song, God Speaking….

Who knows how He’ll get a hold of us
Get our attention to prove He’s enough
He’ll do and He’ll use
Whatever He wants to
To tell us “I love you”.

 “God Speaking” by Mandisa

Look for God everywhere! He can be found in a phone call from a friend at just the right moment, a devotion speaking exactly to your feelings—He can even be seen in the timing of a check in your mail. Rest assured! God’s thinking of you and loving you.

Look Beyond!
It’s not just the good things happening to us. Looking at disappointments, or hurtful actions of others from the right perspective can show you how God protects you, takes care of you. Choose to see all as evidence of His perfect love, even when, in the midst of those moments, you may not be able to see the good. When you actively seek God, you will be overwhelmed by what you find!

 

Dear friends, we have a unique opportunity in this season of widowhood. We can really focus on God in ways we couldn’t when our loved one was still with us. None of us would have chosen this journey—nevertheless, allow God to make the most of it.

If, like me, you identified your self-worth and validation by your husband and your marriage, losing that safe sanctuary is difficult. It’s also a chance to build your confidence through God’s unwavering love for you. The process takes time and energy from you–but the reward will be worth it.
I believe someday God may bless me again with marriage. Before that happens, I must learn to seek validation and self-worth only from God. For me to be my own person, the person God wants me to be, I want to go into future relationships—friends, family, possibly marriage—enjoying the full pleasure of what they are meant to be.

Why don’t you take this journey alongside me? Let’s become secure in God, first and foremost, so that no matter what else the world throws our direction, we have assurance in both our heads and in our hearts. We. Are. Chosen.

Heavenly Father,
I pray my widowed sisters in Christ will not just know with head knowledge about Your love for us, but also truly feel it deep in their hearts and souls. Speak to each of us through Scripture, music, and the words of others, so we may hear Your personal message to us. Help us to have open hearts and minds to the evidence of Your love all around us in the events of our lives. Flood our souls, dear Father, with Truth, so it becomes not just something we know, but something we feel. Thank You in advance for the confident, secure and chosen women we are becoming in You.
Amen

Talking to My Teen about Reading Scripture

Don’t you just love when you have the right people speaking into your life?

I’m writing this post more for my own purposes, so that I remember these lessons learned. When the younger boys get to these teen years, maybe revisiting this post will be a help for me! 🙂  So if you’ve come to visit and keep up with my blogs–just know this one is a bit longer and move on to another one if it doesn’t interest you!
 
I’m glad for my pastor’s insight.  He and his son noticed my fifteen year old shifting his focus from God to academics.
 

My son had been homeschooled his whole life until this year. I love the lifestyle and the close family ties we’ve enjoyed, but that wasn’t the only reason for homeschooling this son. I was told early on that he suffers from auditory processing.  It’s not a paralyzing problem, but causes just enough issues with learning that the special attention at home helped terrifically. Specialists have told me that in his teenage years much of the difficulties in learning will naturally dissipate has he develops.

 
Now he is in a public school–a really good one that challenges him.  It’s going pretty well, mostly because he and I have attacked his studies together as a team.
 
Problem is, there was a cost.
 
I got a call from my pastor, whose son is best friends with my son. “My son came to me and told me he’s noticing your son seems to have lost interest in the Bible.  They used to support each other, read it together. Now when my son asks him about it, your son says he’s too busy with studying and sports.”
 
It was my bad.  I confessed to my pastor that I had set aside encouraging my son to spend time with the Lord because I was so anxious to have my son perform well in school.
 
Martin Luther spent hours a day in the Word.  When his colleagues noticed they couldn’t access him for over four hours each day they criticized him. “You can be putting that time into your work.  Think of the productivity gains.”
 
Luther rebuked them. “I accomplish what I do because I give my first four hours to the Lord.”  I knew I needed to change things.
 

I told my son he’s doing great, and let him know how sorry I am for leading him to put school over God. I should have more trust in the Lord. From now on, he and I have agreed to begin homework by first getting into the Word.  Since his circle of friends are going through the Book of John together, chapter by chapter, and commenting together on a blog they’ve formed (here’s a link to that blog— this month my oldest son is running it), we had the perfect reading plan to go on.

 
But even though fifteen-year-old was agreeable to get back into the Word, he’s a gut honest kid, and he has repeated gut honestly, that he can’t seem to get the same zest out of it that he had before.
Now that academics is so stepped up, he’s putting so much energy into his performance with school that he’s probably tired out.  Now I’m relaxing the academics a bit and trusting God that if we invest the time with Him first, He will help my son with the academics. 
 
Besides, isn’t it better for a teen to have a less scholarly resume but know the Lord than to get into Harvard with no love for the Lord?
 
As we talk about the Word, I help my son go deeper.  Soemtimes I wonder if the auditory processing keeps him from receiving or retaining what I have to say.  I asked him if it’s alright if I recap what we talked about and send it in an email to him.  He said yes, and I’m thinking as long as I keep private information out of it, it might be okay to share here.  (Besides, the teens really aren’t interested in this website).  
 
Here is my letter to him on John Chapter 16. If it comes across as one sided, please know it’s only because I’m jotting notes here and that’s not how my conversations with my boys go.  I do less of the talking and just listen.  I’m recapping some of them like I do here, but remember that my son was involved in the discussion and had his own contributions.  
 
So here are my thoughts about John 16. I totally get why you just don’t seem to have the interest like you used to have in the Bible.  A year ago you were reading it on your own every day and loving it.  You would come to me with interesting questions and talk to Nathan about it a lot.
 
Now you’re reading it along with the other highschoolers, but you don’t comment so much on the blog, and it doesn’t seem to draw you in as it used to.
 
I totally get that.  I think it’s because since you started at public school, the stresses of the academics has gotten both of us focused so much on school that we haven’t had much time and so we’ve pushed the Word out of your life.  
 
Pastor Rob suggested that I begin each school study session with both of us by first reading in John where the other high schoolers are reading and then working on your homework. I know in time it will help, but I get it when you admit it just doesn’t hold your interest like before. 
 
Yesterday we were reading John 16 where Jesus was telling the disciples he’s about to leave them, but that he will be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them and that the Holy Spirit is really part of Him, and that the Holy Spirit will guide them and comfort them and counsel them.
 
This didn’t seem to affect you much, so I tried to explain it this way.  Just like the Holy Spirit (as part of the Trinity) is also Jesus, the Bible, Scripture, or Word, whatever you want to call it, is actually alive.  John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  In Revelation (19:13), John talks of Christ coming down from the Heavens and defines Christ by saying, “His name is called the Word of God.”  So, in many places in the New Testament where it describes the Word becoming flesh, it’s speaking of Jesus.
 
So what I said last night is that the Word is alive– it really is an extension of Christ, Himself.  When you immerse yourself in it, you become more relational with Christ, Himself. You had been immersing yourself in the Word for a year when you were 14, and it made such a difference–you were seeking, asking questions, being very intuitive about faith.  

I love your discernment last Spring when I told you I discovered someone’s faith wasn’t on solid ground as he had tried to claim. You were absolutely unwavering–“Mom, don’t see him anymore. He’s not a Christian.”  You’re right, and that wisdom came from the Holy Spirit, and you were really in touch with the Holy Spirit because you had been immersing yourself in Jesus–immersing yourself in the Word which is Jesus Christ. That made it easy for the Holy Spirit to guide you–speak into you so that you could speak into me.
 
But since school started, I saw you backing away from it and immersing yourself instead, in studies, and sports, and just holding your own in school.  I was talking to you last night about the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life.  I said, “When you choose not to hang out with the kids who cuss or talk about drugs, why do you do that– Who’s guiding you?”
 
“That’s my decision,” you answered, matter of factly, “because I know it’s bad for me to.”  
 
If that is true, then you’re missing something important that John talks about in Chapter 16. It’s Holy Spirit driven discernment. Maybe you are using the Holy Spirit to make choices, and it just comes so naturally that you think it’s your own choice, not the Holy Spirit’s.  I only encourage you to really pray about it, because it does matter whether you’re doing things because of your own will or because you’ve surrendered your will to Christ’s.
 
There are so many traps students can run into and one of them is doing the right things on their own strength and thinking they’re good with God that way–that’s works driven theology.  If you hang with the right people because it’s your choice because you don’t want the bad influence, that’s great, but that’s not winning you points with God.  God wants your heart, not your actions.  God would rather that you chose not to hang with the wrong people because you’re trusting Him and He’s guiding that decision and you’re obeying.
 
Why the difference?  Because eventually the difference between a wise and unwise decision will be that you have to give up something you don’t want to give up, and then, if it’s on your own strength, you’re own strength can fail you.  But if the difference between a wise and unwise decision is that you trust God and want to please God and you believe He has your back, you’ll be willing to make the wise decision, even when it’s hard, because you love God more than you love the thing your giving up. 

Remember my tears when I decided it was best that I not marry that man even though we knew giving him up was the right thing to do?  If I did that on my own strength, I might have failed, and we would end up with an ungodly man, just so that I wouldn’t have to be without a husband anymore.  It was a lot to give up, but because I didn’t do it on my strength but because I was obeying the Holy Spirit, it was easy to make the choice, painful, but easy–it was like I had no choice– I couldn’t do the unwise thing.  
 
To put into practical words, if you choose not to hang with the crowd who cusses or does drugs on your own strength because you don’t want the bad influence, what if there is a pretty girl in that crowd and you really want to hang with her, but you can’t if you don’t hang with that crowd?  Now, choosing the wise decision has a big cost.  And if it’s on your own strength, you might start to rationalize– Satan might come in and attack– tell you “hey, cussing’s not that bad.  just because they talk about drugs, doesn’t mean they do it, and even if they do, doesn’t me you have to.”  Wow can that be a dangerous lie.  Do you see the danger and the difference? 
 

Be encouraged that there is strength to be won out of digging into the Word.

 
I feel  your frustration. It seems like you want to be into reading the Bible again, but this time, it’s not coming so easily.  What I was trying to explain to you about the Bible last night is that if the Word is alive and relational, then when you were spending daily time in It, It spoke to you, pulled you in.  Now that you’ve been away a while, it will take time for It to have that rejuvenating power again.  But it will come.

Garden Delight by Julie Reed

He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat (trouble) comes; its leaves are always green.

Jeremiah 17:8

Spring is one of my favorite seasons.  I love to sit out on my patio doing a morning devotion and take in all the wonderful creations from God.  I can see all the new growth on the trees, bulbs peeking up from the earth,  and hear the birds singing melodic tunes through the air and the feeling evoked from all this “newness” is a happy, content feeling, that life is just good.

Since we have moved to our new home, we have been so busy fixing things and trying to organize box after box that I haven’t had time to think about the state of our yard much.  My daughter has been faithfully nagging me about our garden.  At our “old” house, we gardened together all the time.  We planted sunflower seeds each fall and we wrote out the word “LOVE” for Christmas in impatiens.  I love to garden with her.  She notices all the little things that I sometimes take for granted.  The sprout of carrot that is just barely peeking through the soil.  The tiny worm wiggling around and helping our plants get “really big.”  So, after a few weeks of hearing her wishing about our new garden, we went shopping.  We decided to tackle a small veggie and herb garden first.

We hit the store and got all the veggies and herbs that we liked the best and a few for brother too.  We prepped our soil.  We made sure all the rocks were gone and we added in a really nice brick border.  We carefully mapped out our plan and then we started putting in our plants and seeds.  Sheer delight was across both of our faces as we stood back and enjoyed our hard work after giving our new garden a good, long drink of cool water.

The next morning, she was the first one up and headed out to see how things were “growing.”  She watered everything again.  She informed me that things were looking good and I needed to be patient.  God would take care of it for us.

She was right.  Within a few short days our green beans peeked out along with some lettuce, carrots and cucumbers.  The tomatoes and herbs were happily stretching up toward the warm sun as well.

It has now been almost a month since we planted our garden and blooms are everywhere.  We have blossoms on our peppers, blueberries, cucumbers and beans.  Our tomatoes have nice green fruit on almost every branch.  Spring is officially here and we can’t wait to partake.

Now, what on earth does this story have to do with widowhood?  It’s simple.  We are all like the seeds or small plantings that we so carefully took care of and watched over.  As widows, we need to be sure that our “roots” remain close to God and planted in good soil (His Word) so that we will have a firm and deep foundation when the thunderstorms come our way.

I think of our tears as the rain water that the plants need for growth.

It says in Revelations that He will wipe every tear from us.  He knows our sorrow.  He understands our sorrow.  He allows those tears to flow as part of the healing and growth that we need to keep drawing ourselves closer to Him.

I think of the fertilizer used to help bring some strength and extra nutrients to the new growth and plants as our friends.  Those people who have come along side of us and prayed with us.  Held our hands.  Brought us meals.  Provided for us monetarily or through gifts.  Those who have just sat and listened with us or offered that hug or smile that we desperately craved in those long, lonely days, weeks or months.

And finally the sun.  Plants need the sun for warmth and growth and quite frankly, we need the Son, for the exact same reasons.  The Son comforts us in those deep, dark valleys and reminds us that the Sonlight, ALWAYS overcomes the darkness.  The Son helps us grow in our faith and in our beliefs that there is more to this life here on earth.  The Son makes us look up.  In order to see that goodness and feel that warmth, our faces need to be turned to Him, just like the leaves in our garden.

My prayer is that you will plant your roots deep in His Word.  Cry the tears of healing and growth whenever you need to.  Reach out to your friends and allow them to be the fertilizer that you need them to be.  But, most importantly, don’t take your eyes off of the Son.  He’s always “tending” to you, whether you feel Him or not, He’s our ultimate gardener.

But we had hoped…

Three words.  The Easter story begins and ends with three words.

The agony of ‘It is finished. ‘

The glory of ‘He is Risen.’

But in between, the skies darkened.  Heads hung in disbelief.  The crowds turned from the cross, unable to bear this twist in God’s redemption story.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

He was to be their King riding in on a white horse to save the day, not crucified wearing a crown of thorns.

He was meant to dispense justice and conquer evil, bringing peace, finally bringing peace.

Now their hope for the future was buried in a borrowed tomb.

Disciples trudged along the dusty road, reliving the agony of the past three days.

Four words give a glimpse to their agony:

‘But we had hoped’, they whispered.  (Luke 24:21  NIV)

It was not supposed to be like this, was it?

This was not part of the plan.

‘But we had hoped’, they cried.

My thoughts exactly.  You too?

Trudging along the dusty widow’s road, reliving past agonies and present difficulties, it is often hard to glimpse the possibility of a future still wrapped up in a shiny tidy bow.

‘But I had hoped…’, we cry on lonely days and quiet nights.

When Jesus came walking alongside the two, quietly listening to their hope-less, fear-full conversation,

they were so busy wondering and worrying over it all, they didn’t recognize Him.

They couldn’t see that ‘He is risen’.  They were still stuck on ‘it is finished’.

Me too.   So often, this is me, too.  How often we let hope be eclipsed by fear.

When the disciples anxious torrent of words finally subsided, he quietly interjected “How slow you are to believe, do you not see?  I am right here walking beside you. “

No answers as to how it would all play out.   No shiny, tidy bow on His story.

Simply ‘believe’ and ‘I am with you’.

I am with you.

Lord, this Easter week, please help us to see you even when the road seems long and lonely.  May we quiet our questions and confusion and choose to simply believe.

Help us turn our cries of ‘but we had hoped’ into ‘my hope is in you, Lord’.   In between the now and the not yet, help us to see you walking right beside us. Death is defeated.   Hope has arisen.   You stand strong and mighty as Lord of all!     Amen.

‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It leads into the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where we dwell with Him’ Hebrews 6:19