July 18, 2018

                                             

Weekly thoughts for the believer's walk with God, a walk that is intended to nurture us on a personal level as we embrace our grief and embrace the God who longs to walk with us on our journey.


The Answer Is Always With God

Living demands answers.  All too often, we look for those answers in the wrong direction.  Psychology, sociology, science, history, and philosophy may provide partial or temporary answers.  Typically, pursuing answers in these arenas leads to a dependence apart from God, and the deepest needs of our souls are never met.  God does have answers for us, and He wants our dependence to be on Him.  God’s ways though are not man’s ways, and, certainly, His answers do not always  line up with my own thinking and perspective.  (In time, I usually find out, that was a good thing!)   How often have I finally broken away from my own self-centered thoughts to find God revealing the answer I needed all along?!  His answers work!  His way is best!  

God’s resources are available to me as His child.  But I must look in His direction to find them.  (i.e. Trust!)  As I look in God’s direction, He will not always change my circumstances. (Sometimes we feel He seldom, if ever, changes our circumstances.) But the promises of His presence and His resources are for me in my circumstances.  Even the practical skill or wisdom that comes through the people or events of my life is available as I search for answers by going to God first.  I am  not discrediting the services and skills of doctors, counselors, therapists, or educators.  Neither am I encouraging an isolationism that does not seek the support of friends, or family members.  “Me, myself, and I” talks are often unproductive, and tend to deepen negative emotions and usually fail to unravel the lies we fall victim to.  What is being said is that God wants to be counted on and we need to depend on Him. 

 “The answer is always with God.”   I would challenge you to record this principle on 3 X 5" cards, making numerous copies.  Display them in some of the many places you tend to “look” during a day -- the bathroom mirror, your desk at work, the refrigerator, the dash or sun visor of your car, your computer, .........  You will find your thoughts turning to God especially during those times you need an answer as you catch a glimpse of the card you made.  Remember too that this is a conviction that needs to be allowed to grow.  It is not our natural tendency to turn to God, even as believers.  We must therefore nurture this conviction as we first of all, choose to believe that God does have an answer and then consciously choose to go to Him for that answer.  Prayerfully you will find yourself going to God “more quickly” as you experience more of the best of His promises and resources.

                                                                               – Bev

(Related Bible reading: Isaiah 40:9-11, 26-31)

July 11, 2018

Thoughts Under the Umbrella

Esther 4: 14   “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 

Each one of us has suffered the loss of a child.  Some of our children were suddenly taken without any warning either through sickness or an accident.  Others had to watch their children suffer with a disease that eventually robbed their children from them.  Some of us have had to deal with the loss of a child through suicide and are left with so many unanswered questions.  Why would God give a mother a child to carry in her womb and just as suddenly take the promise of motherhood away?   “Why” we ask, “does this happen?”  I do not understand, and even if God came down and tried to explain it to me, I still would have more questions than answers. 

What I do know is when a mother cries out in pain because she never had a chance to say goodbye to her child, or she had to slowly watch her child suffer daily and see their health deteriorate before her eyes, we can offer a place of comfort.  We can understand each and every tear that falls from her eyes. We are the soft landing for the mom who never saw the signs of a child who was suffering so much inside that they only wanted relief from the pain, not relief from those that loved them.  Who else can be a sounding board for a mom who never had the chance of holding her newborn baby, but a mother that has felt empty arms full of love to give, but no place to give it?

The loss of our children has in effect created our destiny.  We cannot sit back and be quiet when we come in contact with a hurting mom.  We are especially drawn to those who have walked our similar path of loss.  We are God’s shoulder for others to lean on.  We know we have come to this place for such a time as this.

Lord, just like Esther being called out of her comfortable world to stand up for her people, we too want to be used for such a time as this.

                                                                                   – Michele

June 22, 2018

My Hand in God’s Hand


When things go wrong -- or not according to plan or desire -- my immediate reaction is usually to somehow, someway, control the situation.  But if I am in control, God can’t be.  Acceptance is a key factor in this principle.  It is not however a fatalistic resignation.  Instead, it is an acceptance directed at God that acknowledges His presence and control in the life of the believer.  “Bad things,” whether they are truly bad or we simply perceive them as such, do happen to good people.  It is a part of life which we may or may not find reason for, but in whatever degree of confusion we find ourselves, an acceptance directed toward God is the only way that leads to stability and peace.

Much of the reason for the “bad” has to do with the effects of sin rippling through the generations. There is a future punishment for sin, but in many ways, the consequences of our own sin are experienced within our lifetime and some of those consequences may also be passed down to our children and even to generations beyond them – something that has been happening since man first chose to sin..  Think for a moment of the immensity of that rippling effect.  It spans generations and cultures, and infects the thinking and habits of multitudes of individuals.  Since the sin of Adam and Eve, the perfection God created has been hideously marred again and again.  Don’t blame sin’s consequences all on Adam and Eve though.  Our own parents and grandparents had the potential to add to the ripples of sin’s devastation, just as we do.

God offers a way through the mess sin has created.  We have already seen that sometimes that mess has been of our own doing. Sometimes the mess was dumped on us by others, or was even viciously enacted against us.  Sometimes we see no reason for the mess, and wonder why an innocent child must suffer, or why death seems to prematurely steal a loving spouse.  Whatever the realities of our life are or even in why they are there, Proverbs 3:6 promises a straight, or literally, a walkable path through whatever the mess is.  Note carefully that does not mean the messes, the difficulties, or the realities, will disappear or even change, but it does give complete assurance that there is a walkable path.

Acceptance is not usually easy, but it is necessary.  Your emotions, your feelings, your perspective, and your thinking are all very real.  They are not negated by acceptance, but they will be shaped and perhaps redefined by acceptance.  Acceptance puts your hand in God’s hand, and with quiet confidence in His loving father-heart, says, “I know You were there.  I know You are, and will be here.  I want to walk on Your walkable path.” 

                                                                                          – Bev
(Related Bible reading: Psalm 42:1-11)

June 14, 2018

Thoughts Under the Umbrella

Romans 1:11-12  “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gifts to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

The older I have become the more I am aware of moments in my life and the power that moments have. Moments, whether they are good or difficult, can give us clarity and can change a mind.  A moment can take us in a totally different direction.  It can even save a life. The moment a child is born we become a mother. When our child dies, in that instant our life is changed forever. We, from that moment, determine what and how we will spend the time we have left here on this earth. It is in the flash of tiny moments we have options that can either lead us to a life with abundance or turn the rest of our moments into destruction. God lets us make that decision.

Chuck Swindoll wrote about our each individual makeup and moments.  He wrote, “Because God gave you your makeup and superintended every moment of your past, including all the hardship, pain, and struggles, He wants to use your words in a unique manner. No one else can speak through your vocal cords, and, equally important, no one else has your story.”

Your story needs to be heard.  Your moment in time must be told.  Your story might be the one story someone needs to hear.  It is the cadence and the words only you use that can bring clarity to that one mom who is blinded by grief.  Your words might be the very words that will make a mom decide to live instead of die.  We need to hear your story told in your words about your child.  Come and spend a moment in time with us at any of our future Umbrella Ministries Conferences.  I know I can speak for many moms that it was in the tiny moments of a personal story, in a weekend, that their lives were changed.  I know mine was.

Lord, I thank you for tiny moments, a sincere heart, and a personal story, all of which have the power to change a life.

                                                                     – Michele 

June 6, 2018

God’s Answer in Grief

Grief is that horrendous burden that invades every facet of my being and my circumstances when death separates me from someone I have deeply loved and committed myself to.  Mentally, emotionally, physically, relationally – I am stretched, torn, and broken.  My ability to respond to what is left of life is contorted and minimized.  Grief has been described as a fog, a darkness, a deep hole of sadness, an oppression.  For many, God seems distant and detached.  And the questions scream at us.  Grief can be complicated still more when negligence, guilt, murder, or suicide leave us with extended issues to face and to walk through.  Secondary losses accumulate when a spouse isolates or walks out, when the needs of other family members demand our response and we have nothing to give, when friendships, finances, the security of a place to live or a job are all infringed upon.  Grief brings a keen awareness too of earlier losses and deepens the abyss of loss that lays in the future – loss upon loss.  And for one who has never walked a journey of grief, my words may seem empty, but for the one who journeys with her burden, my words affirm her harsh reality.

Grief is desperate for an answer – an answer that will take away the pain, but still allow for the warmth of memories, a sense of presence, and an assurance that somehow, some way, tomorrow can be different.  The practical answers are there – support groups, a caring, godly friend, even a counselor, taking the small steps and acknowledging them, guarding our own health, even a warm cup of tea, accumulating good nights of sleep, finding a purpose to support, a place to give and encourage someone else who walks their own unique journey of need.  And the practical answers do help and in time, they need to be embraced.  But to fully embrace the practical, and more importantly, to begin to find an inner healing that has the courage and the capacity to walk forward into my tomorrows – those answers come only with God and the hope He promises.  

An acrostic for hope can help us grasp it more fully................. 
H ...... Hope looks Heavenward.
...... Hope looks Heavenward with openness.
P ....... Hope looks Heavenward with persistence.
....... Hope looks Heavenward with expectation.

To look Heavenward is to believe that somehow, some way, God does have answers for me.  To look Heavenward is to have a God-focus and a God-dependence.  To look Heavenward is to realize, I can’t walk this journey by myself and God is the only answer who is fully capable of walking with me.  To look Heavenward with openness gives me the freedom to come to God in the reality and rawness of my emotions, my thinking, my darkness – and to be totally honest with Him with my tears, my questions, my insecurities, my fears.  Persistence is the over and over and over of going to God, knowing He always welcomes me, knowing He cares, knowing He understands, knowing that even if I walk away for a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks, He wants me to come back.  Persistence is the over and over and over of letting God do what I know I can’t.  And to look Heavenward with expectancy realizes God is able to do a work in me beyond my understanding.  Although God is capable of “fixing things,” He doesn’t always do it.  He changes me.  He gives me the expectancy of Heaven itself.  He helps me come to the place of realizing that although life will never, ever be the same, it can still be good.
HOPE.  The Godward look of openness, persistence, and expectancy.  HOPE.  Experiencing God when life doesn’t make sense.  HOPE.  Looking for the good, and knowing it is still there.

                                                                                         – Bev

(Related Bible reading: Psalm 23:1-6)

May 31, 2018

Fear Not

Psalm 139:1-2   “You have searched me, LORD, and You know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise;  You perceive my thoughts from afar.”
  
I’d been tossing and turning for the past two hours, and so I finally gave up and reached over to turn off the scheduled alarm so it wouldn’t go off and wake my husband.  I put on my slippers and head to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and sit down in my prayer room, longing to spend time with my dearest and closest Friend and the lover of my soul.  I’m exhausted; it took me forever to fall asleep and I didn’t sleep well because my head is filled with fear and doubt.  Why is it that when I get into fear, doubt always seems to creep up and rear its ugly head?  I know who I am and I know that my God knows me and sees me, so why do I put myself through these mental gymnastics?  I already know the answer before the question is even posed -- I’m human and that’s what we do -- we fear, we doubt and we continually fall short of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has our best interests at heart.

Isaiah 44:8 says, “Do not tremble, do not be afraid.  Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?  You are my witnesses.  Is there any God besides me?  No, there is no other Rock; I know not one."  Over and over again in the scriptures we are told not to fear, we are told not to be afraid, and we are told not to doubt.  We are also told God knows us intimately better than we know ourselves, that the plans He has for us are for good, that He knows exactly where we are physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally and that He is the God who sees us, who loves us and whose thoughts about us outnumber the grains of sand.  We belong to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, He is the Rock of our salvation, the giver of life and breath, and the One who flung the stars into the sky – He personally knows my name and cares about every single detail of my life.  So if I know all of these things, why do I tremble and why am I afraid?

Philip De Courcy in his book, “Emergency Rations,” says, “One need not fear a known present or an unknown future if one understands that God knows all about us, what we are going through.  Our knowledge of His knowledge of us is a great comfort to the anxious heart and affords the believer a place to stand amidst the swirl of changing circumstances.  To know that we are known to God and loved by God is all we need to know when the chips are down and the problems of life are piling up.”  The truth is that I have a very personal God with unlimited resources who is available to me at all times, but many times, I don’t take advantage of His power, His might and His peace that passes all understanding. Instead, I become fraught with stress, overcome with worry, laden with doubt and awash with fear, hundreds of forms of fear.  When I come to this place, then the enemy of my soul tells me I’m not really loved, I have no significance and that God really doesn’t exist and therefore I have no purpose, no destiny, no future and no hope. That’s really the bottom line, isn’t it?  The devil wants to rob me of my hope.
  
When my child died, my grief took me to dark places of hopelessness where at times I stayed for awhile, but always at those lowest points in my journey, whenever I met with my personal Savior, my closest Friend, He would always remind me He is my only hope and that in Him I know my future, I know my destiny, I know my purpose, I know that my child is in heaven and I will one day see him again. So I must conclude He knows me, He knows when I am sitting and when I arise each morning, He knows my thoughts before they are even formed and He understands exactly why I do what I do, and so He has taught me to daily pray the most important prayer in the Bible, which is this: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24.) Amen.

                                                                     – Melody