Full Victory

Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually;  You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress.  

Psalm 71:3

The day I stood in the funeral home over my husband’s beautiful, perfect, but still body was the darkest day of my life.

I just stood there shocked that he was gone in a mere instant.  Shocked that I’d never hear his voice, feel his touch, see his eyes, never feel his warm embrace or hear his infectious laugh again. As the fierce emotions washed over me, horrified and feeling my heart and my body tear apart, a word kept rising up from the deep dark within me. CHRIST!

I was experiencing the harshest pain. I had so many questions swirling.  I was crying from unknown places.  I was forced to make unfathomable decisions that a thirty five year old shouldn’t be making.

Yet, I just kept hearing a whisper resonate deep in my soul.  CHRIST!

As the days marched on, that whisper turned to a soft low voice.

From the very same spot I was married, I stood talking about my husband to the vast many who were in attendance at his funeral; I remember hearing it a little louder still. CHRIST!

As I shared what an amazing man my husband was, so much more than that one horrific moment, I suddenly knew for sure I needed to claim Christ.  Loud and clear.  Or satan would certainly claim me in this.

As I moved beyond the first days, even deeper pain, confusion, and intense suffering caused me to go to places in my faith I had never gone before.  I grasped rather quickly that this was going to intensely and drastically shake up my walk, and open me up to depths I had never experienced.

As the days, months, and years unfolded I experienced God lead me to find

full victory in Christ

over this horrific thing.  It wasn’t easy!  There were many days this was so ugly, so vast, the pain so pressing, I wasn’t sure I would make it.  I wasn’t sure I could endure and walk this.  I wasn’t sure I truly believed God was in this.  But, I kept walking forward, claiming Christ even when it was through bitter clenched teeth, or guttural screams.  Claiming His name even when I only mouthed the words and felt so little in my heart.

Because I knew that claiming Christ, invoking His name, would protect me from the onslaught of enemy attacks. 

Proclaiming the magnificent name of THE GREAT I AM, would heal me and move to solid ground.  A place where not only would I profess Christ with my mouth, but I’d know Him again, far deeper and more profoundly in my heart.

And YES, He worked!

I stand in full victory in Christ over the suicidal death of my husband.

Trusting God has the most amazing imperfectly perfect plan for us has not been easy, but it’s been so very worth it.

I’m experiencing the wonderful privilege of seeing His name being glorified through this ugly stuff.  I stand in humble awe of the depths of His love and care over me and my kids.  I’ve learned my only need is in Christ, and I’ve grown to love and trust Him from the same depths of my soul that once barely whispered His name.

Sisters, claim full victory in Christ over your tough stuff or the enemy will claim full victory over you instead!
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Father, I thank you for the victory You’ve given me through Your Son. I thank You that I just needed to trust You and cling to You.  I thank You that You never left me or turned Your back on me even when I wasn’t sure, and was in such deep pain that I couldn’t seek You. Lord, I pray for each woman reading this.  I pray You move them and reveal Yourself to them.  I pray when it’s their time, You bring them full victory in You over their unique story.  In Your matchless name, Amen.

 

295163_1927953164696_1418199297_31839733_2097799_nErika Graham is Director of Operations, and an author and speaker for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. She resides in New Jersey with her daughter, twin boys, and her little fluffy puppy. She loves summers at the beach and all things chocolate. She lost her husband to suicide in June 2010. Erika has been called to share the victory she’s experiencing through Christ Jesus over the life God has ordained for her.
If you are interested in having her speak, please contact her via email at: admin@anewseason.net.
Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/erikag

God is Faithful

 

“and if not, He is still good” Daniel 3:18 

How we desperately wanted earthly healing.

Time and time again, we thought it was in our grasp.  We were hopeful that God had chosen to heal Tim here.

Turns out, that wasn’t His plan at all. Nothing would kill the cancerous tumor eating through my husband’s head and neck.  Not the maximum amount of radiation a human throat can handle.  Not the brutal 23 hour surgery on my 41st birthday.  A surgery so intense and complicated, it required meticulous transplantation of a large portion of his forearm into his throat. Then, they grafted new skin to his arm from the top of his thigh.  We resided in that hospital for an entire month of touch-and-go surgical recovery, returning numerous times to the operating room for emergency intervention.

But still the aggressive cancer remained, quickly overtaking the transplanted tissue.

From the point of diagnosis to the time we had exhausted all medical avenues for healing, nearly an entire year had passed.  We spent another eight months enduring nasty chemotherapy in an effort to extend his young life.  We were determined to gain more time for him with our children.  This chemo was so toxic that it was only administered as in-patient and ended up requiring a ten day hospital stay out of each twenty-one days.  It was advised against as too risky by many doctors, but we had a champion in Tim’s oncologist of twenty-five years and he was willing to try.  I vividly remember standing beside the doctor in my husband’s hospital room as the first drops dripped into his veins.  We were both holding our breath.  There was a very real probability that the drug concoction itself would end Tim’s life.  But he was losing the battle anyway, so why not try?

Eventually, the chemo destroyed our quality of life, we were spending more time in the hospital than at home and his time at home was spent weak and bed-ridden.  Chemotherapy was halted and hospice was advised.

Five months later my husband died at the age of forty five; leaving myself and our two children to complete this journey as a family of three.  Our son was fourteen and our daughter thirteen when their Daddy met Jesus face to face.

2012-09-28 16.11.14-32012-09-28 16.33.37-3

2012-09-28 16.26.03-3

It stinks!

I am not one to sugar coat this life; never have been.  I won’t deny the pain or the agony of watching a strong man wither away as cancer claims its seeming victory.  It was horrific.  However, I am also not one to overlook the blessings from our God; never have been.  I equally cannot deny the beauty of watching a godly man lean hard into Jesus as he awaits deaths arrival.  God carried us through one step at a time.  He washed us in His indescribable peace.  He blessed us with His strength.

You see, we KNEW God would heal Tim.  We had absolutely NO doubt.  What we didn’t know was if God would choose earthly healing for him or would choose to heal him in His presence.  We hoped for healing on this earth.  We dreamed of a continued life as a family of four here.  We prayed.  We trusted.

The Kutless song “Even If” was our anthem.

“Even If the healing doesn’t come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone

You are God
You are good
Forever Faithful One

Even If the healing doesn’t come.”

God did not give us the earthly healing we craved.  Life did fall apart.  For the three of us remaining this side of heaven, dreams have been left undone.  It may look ugly and messy from the outside, and it sure feels that way at times on the inside; but God has not left us.

God DID answer our prayers for Tim’s healing.  Tim is healed completely.  God is God.  He is good.  He is faithful.  I have no doubt He will continue to show our family of three His goodness as we venture forward.  That doesn’t mean this life will be all roses and butterflies; His goodness isn’t always focused on the here and now, it has a lens on the eternal.

You see, we can’t always understand His purposes and won’t necessarily fully comprehend His ways, but we can rest in the knowledge of His goodness.

I still dream of beauty in this life.  The dreams are altering without my husband by my side, but I am still dreaming.  I will forever carry the scars of our loss, but I am gingerly learning how to move forward; carried by Tim’s love and God’s faithfulness.

Lori Reynolds Streller

Lori Reynolds Streller is a mother of two who finds herself smack dab in the middle of widowhood.  She is choosing a life of gratitude by intentionally living this new life well.  She answers to Mom, daughter, sister, aunt and friend.  Her sanity is fueled by daily time with Jesus and a lot of coffee.  Boot camp workouts and running are her stress relievers.  As a writer/speaker for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries, Lori uses her sense of humor and her reliance on God’s faithfulness to minister to others.  She boldly claims the goodness of her Lord in the midst of chaotic suffering. 

If you are interested in having Lori speak at your church or function, email her at admin@anewseason.net.

Other articles written by this author: http://anewseason.net/author/loris/

 

For more on this topic see:

Unimaginable Blessings by Sheryl Pepple

Perspective Cures Envy by Erika Graham

God is Good – Even When It Seems Bad – Part Three by a collection of authors

Catch the Foxes!

Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.

Song of Solomon 2:15 (ESV)

I love my mother. She is nearly ninety years old and still loves to paint on canvas. She finds Bible verses to paint onto scenery.  She recently began talking about this little verse in the Song of Solomon. Honestly, as a widow, I avoid this book! I don’t want to read about lovers, I don’t want to watch romantic movies, I don’t want to hear about lovey-dovey couples.  But this little verse has application for all of us.

The foxes were the little destroyers coming into their new relationship. The vineyard was just beginning to take off in bloom and those pesky little foxes were tearing them up. The couple didn’t want anything to interrupt their new love.

We have an opportunity as widows to develop a relationship all over. This time with God. Afresh. Anew. Vibrant. Deep. Believers are the Bride of Christ and He is the Groom. We have the chance to dig into Scripture and get to know our Groom like never before. We have had such deep hurt in losing our spouses, but God can use our hurt to bring glory to Him in new and creative ways.

Except for the little foxes.

What are the little foxes that want to destroy your new, deeper relationship with Christ? I have “foxes” like anger or apathy. “Why would God let this awful thing happen to ME?” or “What good does it do to follow Christ when He takes away such a precious gift?” These little “foxes” can be joy stealers.  Think of the blossoming fruit as the Fruit of the Spirit or characteristics of a Believer in Christ. The “foxes” could be being too busy or apathetic, jealousy or pride. “What does SHE have that I don’t? Why would SHE get that honor?” “Why did her husband experience healing and mine didn’t? Could God actually love her MORE?” The foxes might be murmuring or complaining, impatience or ungratefulness. Those are just the “foxes” in my life! What about your life? What are your little “foxes”? Discouragement, selfishness, false doctrine, doubt, fear, gossip?

How do we fight these little “foxes” and keep them out of our growing relationship with Christ?

I researched the humane way to remove real foxes from a garden and this is what I found:

1)  Remove access to food: Get rid of the rotting food on the ground. In other words, “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,” Hebrews 12:1 ESV Recognize the sin in your life and confess it to God.

2) Remove places of shelter: look for areas where the foxes could hide. Stay in Scripture so you recognize false teaching. Dig into Scripture so you can hear God speak to you personally through passages. John 15 explains about abiding in Christ. Matthew 5:6 shows us we can be filled when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. Little “foxes” can hide in our relationship with God when we don’t spend time in His Word, getting to know Him, not just about Him.

3)  Deter foxes from wanting to enter: put up a fence. You could do this by fellowshipping with other believers and bonding with Christian widows as encouragement. Hebrews 10:25 (ESV)  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Extend grace to those church members who don’t know what to say. Worship is NOT what you get out of it; worship is what we put INTO it.

Have you recognized a little “fox” wanting to get in and destroy the “fruit” in your life today? I certainly have. I have almost made some of the “foxes” PETS!

I need to run…I just saw another little “fox” trying to dig into the garden.

Father God, Husband, Lover of my soul, I love you and want a deeper relationship with You. You know me inside and out, You know my every thought, so help me today to guard my heart and put a stop to the enemies trying to steal my joy. Amen

 

 

Elizabeth Dyer is a elizabeth 325x325writer/speaker with  A Widow’s Might/A New Season Ministries, Inc.. She resides in Oklahoma, amid earthquakes and tornadoes, giving her ample opportunities to trust God! Her six children, large dog, noisy cat, and guinea pigs keep her busy enough, but she still finds time to have coffee now and then with a friend.  Elizabeth lost her husband in 2012 and she loves to share how God is leading her on this new journey.

Want to read more about Battling Satan? How to Hold Thoughts Captive by Kit

 It Can by Erika

 

Don’t Entertain the Enemy’s Conversations

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

Genesis 3:1-4 (ESV)

Do you catch yourself trying to solve your way out of a bog of grief by thinking through it, only to sink deeper? I remember that feeling in those first few years of grief. Sometimes, I thought all I had to do was think about a way out of this sadness.  I would think and think, and find myself trapped in an emotional conversation with my worst enemy–the accuser. If you are there now, be encouraged.  It gets better.  Here is an article I wrote in my fourth year of grief, when I finally learned to identify pointless conversations with the devil.  Once I knew his game, I could break free from it! I hope reading where I was at year four blesses you:

I’m struck by how quickly Eve got trapped by the serpent’s conversation. At first they were just talking. Before she knew it, she found herself twisting what God really told her about the forbidden fruit. How did she get on that conversation in the first place?

Then I thought about the anxious cycles of self-talk that only led me to further unrest. How do I get in those dialogues with myself? And are these conversations with myself or the enemy?

Eve’s first mistake was to underestimate to whom she was talking. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone gifted at talking circles around you?  You end up flustered and unable to keep track of the truths in your own heart!

I have a cousin who is great at flustering people. We got along just great until I became a believing Christian. He became adversarial, initiating conversations about God—not sincere questions, but lures. He’d use his gift of gab to muddle me into tripping over my own words about faith, sometimes leaving me in tears. Then he would laugh at me. It was when my cousin laughed at my crying that I recognized the enemy working through him.

Isn’t that how satan works? He flusters a widow–twists her up in her thinking, until she buys into his lies. In The Silent Seduction of Self Talk, author Shelly Beach describes the inner voices that widows are particularly susceptible to falling prey to. What are yours? How about these…

I can’t go to church alone.

I can’t fix a faucet.

I can’t remember to take the trash out—that was my spouse’s job.

My kids will always be at a disadvantage without a father.

There’s no one else good enough to marry.

Married couples only want to socialize with other couples—no one wants to hang out with a widow.

I can’t manage my finances alone.

It would be selfish to do things for myself—my kids need me.

Do you know what to do when you get in these conversations?  I learned what to do when my cousin provoked me into another debate. I recognized with whom I’m tangling and stop tangling.

To argue with my cousin will fluster me into stumbling over my words.  I’ve learned to keep my conversations on Godly truths with him brief and straight from God’s Word. Jesus did this. Each time satan tempted him in the wilderness, Jesus answered, “It is written….”  Now when my cousin attacks, I simply leave him something to ponder about rather than engage in a long conversation with him.

Why can’t we do this with satan himself?

We can!  Just recognize the danger of letting the enemy worm confusing thoughts in our hearts. Stop him before he gets a chance. Arm ourselves with spiritual truths and reverse the lies. Yes, God will introduce me to new people at church. Yes, anyone can fix a faucet if they clear their minds and take it one step at a time. Yes, taking out the trash is my responsibility. God hasn’t given me more than I can handle.

Father God, please help our sisters to learn how to reverse satan’s lies and turn to You only.  Encourage them to talk over their worries with You and let Your Truth reign in their hearts. Amen.

017_HinkleKit Hinkle is the Founder and Ministry Lead for A New Season Ministries, Inc., and an author and speaker. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now finds her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She loves Pilates and her best friend’s Bosanova Christian yoga-style stretching, and craves more walks through the woods with her chocolate lab.  Her dream is to live on the beach–and Charleston is just calling her!  She knows what it means to be in a new season. She lost her first marriage to divorce when she was very young and lost her loving husband to a heart attack in 2007.  To sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ, brings joy and fulfillment to Kit. It’s such an honor to participate in His kingdom.
If you are interested in having her speak, please contact her via email at admin@anewseason.net. 
Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/khinkle

Would you like to read more about battling satan?  Here are some articles you might try:

Obstacles or Opportunities? by Elizabeth Dyer

Pride is NOT Pretty by Teri Cox

 

Life Coach

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 (ESV)

My pastor uses this verse to articulate a choice we make daily—whom do we use as a life coach? The enemy or Christ?

I thought about how the thief can fool women into twisting our challenges in the wrong direction.

How does he do that, and what would Christ have you do to respond to your struggles instead?

Grief is critical for moving forward, and it’s important to experience it and have patience with the time it takes to process your loss.  But I’ve learned to distinguish between the healthy process of grieving and signals that the thief has come to steal my future using the pain of my loss.  Let me know if you have too. I’m wondering if a run-through of a list of these might help some of us practice looking for these signals.  Here are mine.

1.       The thief coaches you into analysis paralysis. Christ comforts you and then coaches you to comfort others. In the first years of grief, I prayed and journaled about my loss, talking through feelings with a confidant.  All that gave me godly healing and comfort.  There came a time, though, when even though I knew I was healing, I found myself tempted to isolate, as though “thinking through” my loneliness would solve it.  How wrong I was.  The more I analyzed it, the more I started to wonder what was up with me—why I felt worse.  My pastor suggested I try something different— reach out and help someone lonelier than I.  I went to soup kitchens and closets, and began to pay more attention to friends and acquaintances around me who needed comfort in their situations.  Soon I forgot my own problems and found myself lifted and fulfilled.

2.       The thief coaches busyness for comfort. Christ coaches purposeful action—with prayer and time with Him topping your action list. At first I found myself consumed with the desire to organize my house. Some of it was healthy, some not.  I had to discern when God was calling me to put order to something that was interfering with moving forward in my life, and when I was simply rearranging the clutter just to get my mind off of grief.  A signal I was beginning to just rearrange to keep busy was when I found myself making appointments just to fill time so I wouldn’t have to sit by myself.  That was the thief whispering to me, “Stay busy, it doesn’t matter that you’re not accomplishing anything—just stay busy.”  Christ doesn’t say that.  He says, “…my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)  Christ knows how He designed you and what actions bring fulfilling accomplishments rather than futile busyness.

3.       The thief says to go to the phone. Christ says to first go to the throne. I have those moments when the phone isn’t ringing and I’m surrounded only by my kids and I long for adult companionship—someone to talk to who doesn’t call me Mom.  My first instinct is to call someone.  I’ve learned that isn’t always healthy.  Christ says, “Come to Me all who are weary.”  I check in with Him.  Sometimes He encourages me to call a godly sister in Christ. Many times He, Himself, frees me from the weariness so I don’t even need to use the phone at all.  Soon I learned being alone isn’t as hard as I thought.

4.       The thief rushes you into life changes. Christ shows you He’s enough for now. Our world is so coached by the enemy that wants you to believe in quick fixes.  Soon after losing their spouses, many widows find themselves craving companionship and tempted to jump into a marriage. The Lord promises to defend the widow (Psalm 68:5).  If you first learn to accept His Lordship in your life and walk alone with Him for a time, you’ll find that later you’ll be better prepared to take on an earthly husband again.

5.       The thief tells you to be afraid. Christ commands you not to fear. Many of us resist the temptation to jump into relationships so well that we then feel comfortable on our own and wonder what might go wrong if we consider another marriage.  Those concerns are healthy as long as we don’t let the enemy twist those into consuming fear that keeps us alone for life.  Far from being the author of fear, Christ tells us on five occasions in the Book of John not to fear.

I’d love to add to the list if you have areas you’ve come to notice are signals that you need to turn to Christ.

Dear Lord, show our sisters that in these seasons of weakness, no matter how difficult and testing, You teach us to lean on you. Help each sister learn that by leaning on You, she becomes closer to Who exactly You made her to be. Amen.

Blessings, and I pray your week in your widowhood journey is fruitful.

017_HinkleKit Hinkle is the Founder and Ministry Lead for A New Season Ministries, Inc., and an author and speaker. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now finds her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She loves Pilates and her best friend’s Bosanova Christian yoga-style stretching, and craves more walks through the woods with her chocolate lab.  Her dream is to live on the beach–and Charleston is just calling her!  She knows what it means to be in a new season. She lost her first marriage to divorce when she was very young and lost her loving husband to a heart attack in 2007.  To sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ, brings joy and fulfillment to Kit. It’s such an honor to participate in His kingdom.
If you are interested in having her speak, please contact her via email at admin@anewseason.net. 
Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/khinkle

Would you like to read more about hearing God’s voice?  Here are some articles you might try:

My Own Patmos by Elizabeth Dyer

God’s Got Your Ticket by Kit Hinkle

 

Unimaginable Blessings

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

                                    Job 42:5 (NIV)

Another devastating shock.

The third such shock in my life.

In an instant my brother, then my husband, and now most recently, my father are no longer on this Earth. My brother murdered on his twenty-fourth birthday by a random shooting. My husband murdered three years ago on his way to work by a habitual drunk driver. And then just six weeks ago, my father died suddenly of a heart attack. Three deaths of immediate family members, excruciating pain and sorrow, but all three deaths have also been the catalysts for unimaginable blessings.

My brother’s death occurred when I was twenty-nine years old, the mother of two young children, trying desperately to save my first marriage. Although I had accepted Christ as a young girl, I was trying to do it all on my “own” and live my life the way I thought best. I rarely “included” God in my daily life. During the shock-filled days immediately following my brother’s death, I was totally unaware of God’s presence. But He was there. A news reporter caught me at my brother’s funeral and asked for a comment for the sensational headline story. Somehow, in spite of my numbness, the words came tumbling out about how special it was that my brother went home to God on his birthday. God provided an opportunity and the words to show His grace to others. I was so unworthy. God used me anyway. What an unimaginable blessing it is to be a part of God’s plan, a plan where He repeatedly shows us His love and faithfulness!

My husband’s death occurred just a little over three years ago. The pain of losing my sweet, dear husband has been more excruciating than I can put into words. I miss him with ever fiber of my being, every single day. But fortunately, I had drawn much closer to God before I lost my husband. Even in the midst of the initial shock of my husband’s death, I was very much aware of God’s presence. I was even able to worship God almost continually during the darkest of moments. It was during this time God blessed me by reminding me how He protected Job throughout the battle with Satan. It was impressed in my spirit that like Job – everything Satan would throw at me would be filtered by God and, like Job, I could not lose. What an unimaginable blessing it is to know, even in the toughest moments imaginable, God is faithful, we can never lose.

Now just six weeks after my father’s death, I am struggling yet again with sorrow and grief. I sometimes find that I get lost in the grief which is compounded by memories of the loss of my husband and my brother. There are days when I wonder when this pain will end. It’s so hard to even remember what life used to be like before so much loss. And then like a gentle, soothing spring rain, I become aware of God’s presence. What an unimaginable blessing it is to see God and to know the depth of the truth and blessing in Job’s words “my ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

My beloved sisters, I pray you come to know in an even deeper and more intimate way the unimaginable blessing of truly seeing God, even in the darkest of days. He loves you and is with you – always!

 

Pride is NOT Pretty

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1Peter 5:5b-11 ESV

There is a lot of power in scripture.

God’s Word speaks for itself.

It speaks LOUDLY!

What part of this text from 1 Peter stands out to you? Is there a sentence or two that brings you comfort or perhaps makes you uncomfortable? Does part of it make you want to learn more or dig deeper? Is there a truth you need to read, or a reminder that hits you like a baseball bat cracking on opening day?

For me, it is the first 10 words; “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

I have by my own admission, always struggled with pride, and it has become apparent to me that I am often too proud to let others know when I am in real need of assistance.   On this journey of widowhood,  it’s hard to say when I’m pressed physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually.   I am supposed to be strong. 

Pride is not pretty, and it can leave us vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks as he prowls around seeking whom he can devour.  Pride actually makes us weaker, not stronger! Proverbs 16:18 says, Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”ESV Yet, oh the promises of God sisters, if we humble ourselves under His mighty hand, He will exalt us in His time. If we cast our cares on Him, He will shoulder them because He cares for us. After we have suffered, His grace will be sufficient. His mercy and strength will fall on us. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

We are not alone and we DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS ON OUR OWN. Sometimes, it is hard for us to ask for help, or reach out, or seek wise counsel because we do not want to appear foolish. This too, is pride and arrogance. Let it go and seek any assistance you may need. Someone may be waiting to bless you, if you will just ask. God may be waiting on you to say, “I give up, Lord. I can’t fix it, but You can.” That may be all He needs to shout, “FINALLY, I’ve got this!”

So, this is my honest prayer today:

God, I give up. You and You alone can help me fix the messes I have made. You and You alone can bring healing and peace. I step down Lord and long to get out of Your way. Please rescue me, right now. I need Your grace. AMEN!

Obstacles or Opportunities?

In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6 ESV

Becoming widows three months apart was not something my mother and I ever thought would happen.  Our widow journeys are so very different. My parents lived together until they were nearly ninety but my husband and I only had twenty years together.  I was left with six kids at home and her six kids were grown.  But we both love investing in the lives of other widows.  Since her new path took shape, she has been visiting widows in our church, painting scenes on canvas, and driving the “widow car pool” to events at church. She totally supports me in my ministry in A Widow’s Might and gives our devotional book away to her friends.

As we were talking recently, she retold a story of traveling across the USA.  She was constantly running into “bumps” along the way.  Car problems, record-breaking fog, flight delays, military personnel no-shows, etc.  She was driving to California to fly with her five children to the Philippines, in order to meet up with her military husband already stationed there.

In the first place, just being stationed in the Philippines was not as it should have been.  My father broke his ankle playing softball and needed surgery and pins just before he and the family were being transferred to Germany.  The military powers-that-be assured him that his assignment would be saved for him when he had healed sufficiently.  Fast forward a few months and that assignment disappeared.  But something “similar” was available.  Similar?  You call the assignment in the Philippines “similar”?  So off to Clark Air Base they went, dragging their lederhosen behind them!

At what point did my mother think, “Enough. Maybe God just wants us to stay here until Dad is finished with his assignment.”  Families do that all the time in the military.  What if she had stayed in California with family members?  Was she meeting obstacles that meant, “Stop” or was she meeting opportunities that meant, “Keep trusting God for this”?

My mother kept plodding through the obstacles she believed the enemy may have been throwing at her to keep her from going to the Philippines.  But why would the enemy care if she went there?  The Philippines, really?

It was there my parents were confronted with serious Christians who changed the direction of my parent’s lives.  It was there a “switch” was flipped in their hearts – they began to follow Christ in a new, real, life-changing way through the relationships they made with ministry workers.  These friends are STILL part of my mom’s life.  It propelled my parents into full-time Christian ministry after retirement from the military.  It developed character in them like no other assignment in the military.  And, I might add, I was born there in the Philippians. So it obviously was worth it!!

So you and your close friend are sitting, chatting over a latte about your straight and crooked paths.  What do YOU say to her?  Is it an obstacle or opportunity? There are definitely obstacles that CAN be opportunities to trust God, either going forward or turning back.

I don’t believe there is any way to know for sure every time.  I really don’t.  In looking at Scripture, we see many examples of obstacles/opportunities.  These examples show clearly how to acknowledge the Lord in all they did.

I really just want to be so tuned into the Holy Spirit, when I hit obstacles, I will find opportunities to trust God going EITHER direction.

Today, God, I thank You for the obstacles I am going to encounter.  I thank You because You are giving me another opportunity to trust in You completely.  I am trusting You for wisdom to know which direction to take on my path.  I love You, Amen

 

Stolen

Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me. Psalm 31:2 ESV

Was something stolen from you to usher in this new season?

Was it time or energy?

Was it self-worth or dignity?

Was it part of your soul or part of your spirit?

Has something been stolen from you, which perhaps makes you doubt God’s desire to give you His very best? Or perhaps, you feel the joy of this Christmas season has been stolen from you?

Satan is a thief and a liar. He has no other focus, aside from destroying everything God created. If we are created in God’s image, how much loathing must Satan have for us? This world is the best that Satan has to offer, but it is not even remotely close to what God holds for those who are called according to His purpose.

John 10:10 says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Satan may steal from us but God gives abundantly to us.

He gives us hope and purpose.

He gives us grace and mercy.

He gives us instruction and guidelines.

He gives us boldness and desire.

He gives us power and authority.

He gives us eternal life.

You may be asking, “So what’s the catch?” How do we grab hold of all that God has for us, when the world seems to be focused on everything  but Christ? The catch is we have to be willing to give up or give away the things of this world to truly follow God, and allow Him to be Lord of our lives. It is not enough to say that we know God. In fact, Scripture tells us that even the demons know God. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!”  James 2:19 Faith is much more than knowing God. It is trusting Him, loving Him, believing Him, and most of all, laying down everything to follow Him. If that price seems too high, I encourage you to rethink the cost versus the benefits.

Consider the price of not claiming Christ as Messiah and inviting Him to become the Lord of your life, the Boss of you, the One you set aside self for; it would be the ultimate eternal price. He created each of us so we could praise and love Him and He longs to show us how much He LOVES us.

If you want to find true joy and peace this Christmas season, admit Christ is the Son of God, believe that He died so you might have life, and confess Him as Lord. The rewards will be greater than you could ever imagined and they last forever!

Father,

Please give us the courage to come to You and seek a relationship. Help us to be fully restored in You. War for us and protect us, please. Give us back all that has been stolen and most of all, give us eternal life through  Jesus, Amen. 

God Is Good – Even When It Seems Bad: Part One

Part 1

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

  Romans 8:28

Everywhere you turn; it seems there is a sad story…in our lives, on the news, in our schools, churches, at work, everywhere.  As Christians, we turn what the world “worries” about over to Christ and we do that through prayer.

What happens when you pray earnestly, with proper intentions, and God’s answer is not what you prayed for?  What happens when your worst fears are not taken away, but realized.  God is asking you, or someone you love, to bear pain that seems unbearable, unthinkable, un-survive-able.

Is God still good during these times?  Is He still there?  Does He know what He is asking of us?  Does He care?

What do you do when God’s answer is, “No, my child.”?  Or, “Not yet, my child.”?   Or, “Yes, darling child, but not as you imagined it would be.”  The writing team felt called to share with you where we stand regarding the statement, “God is good – even when it seems bad”, in the hope you would be encouraged.

~Sherry Rickard

 

Elizabeth Dyer:  There was a time in my life when so much was going “wrong” that I felt like God had dumped a truck load of manure on my head.  Have you ever felt that way?  Prayers are unanswered.  Peace cannot be found.  Pain grows with each breath.  How is it that I was supposed to believe God was still good?

My faith was shaken to its very core.  I finally came face-to-face with Scripture and had a choice to make.  Either God was still the God of the Old Testament whose name is Elohim, Strong One, who says to me, “Don’t be afraid.  I am with you.”  Either He was the God of the New Testament who silenced the storms and promises to always work our life’s events out to His glory.  Or He wasn’t any of this- He was a fraud and a destroyer.  I couldn’t accept that He was my enemy so I had to accept the other.  I clung to Him as my Creator and Lover of my soul.  It was all I had to hang on to.

When I had only God to cling to, I changed the focus of my prayers.  Previously, my prayers had been really good, but really mine.  I was convicted to change my prayers to simply, “Not my will, but Yours.”  I wanted all kinds of great things, but I dropped all that baggage at the foot of the cross.  I walked away with only five words. Those five words were proof whether I really did trust God fully with my life.

And that’s where I return every time things seem to point to God’s not being good. We probably would never put these horrific events in our testimonies but God has chosen to trust us with these circumstances so we must trust Him with them too.

So do I trust Him or not?  That is what it boils down to.  Sometimes I fight with myself over the answer.  I trust, but… No, that isn’t true trust.  I have to trust completely.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

 

Ami Atkins:  Whenever I’m posed with the question, “How is God good when bad things happen?” I run immediately to the cross where Jesus faced the worst thing.

Yet He was willing to bear the crushing weight of sin, to absorb the fireball of the Father’s wrath that should have been hurled at humanity, to be rejected so that we could be accepted.

How could that possibly have been good?  How could a good God willingly turn away from His Son? How could the Son also willingly offer His life?

The powers of hell thought they’d won. The one called Messiah hung there dead. God lost. He was not powerful, and apparently, He was not good.

But, oh, my friends don’t stop there! The plan was bigger, the goodness of God incomprehensible. On the third day Jesus rose conquering death and hell!

Now don’t miss the radical nature of what Jesus accomplished. He purchased salvation. He satisfied God’s righteous wrath toward sinful men. He redeemed His own, buying back those who once went a whoring after other gods. While we were His enemies, He died for us.

He is good. It is His very nature. From the heart of the Father, flowed the grand plan of redemption before time began. At the cross it came to fruition. God saved men from Himself. God saved men to Himself.

Jesus faced the ultimate bad so that we could know the ultimate good.

Life. Hope. Peace. Grace. Eternity. Reconciliation.

Therefore, if God has already done the ultimate good to me, He will always do good to me.  (Romans 8:32).  I can count on that!