January 20, 2022

One Lifeline

1 Peter 1:3-5 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” I am so grateful that God has made known to us the way to Heaven. He has given us a clear map and an understanding of how we are to live our life so that when the end of our time comes, we have the assurance and the confidence that Jesus Christ was uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between God and humanity and that through Him, He made a way for us to stand before a Holy God even though we are flawed, imperfect and unholy. One of the things the Lord has been challenging me to look at lately is my own selfishness, my insecurities and the lies I believe, not only lies about myself, but lies about God and His intentions for me. The one song that keeps cropping up in my life is “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin, where he says, “Love so undeniable, I can hardly speak. Peace so unexplainable, I can hardly think. As You call me deeper still in to love, love, love, You’re a Good Good Father; it’s who You are and I’m loved by You, it’s who I am.” I don’t know why it’s so difficult to believe. Our salvation is grounded in God’s mercy. It is His act of compassion toward me despite my condition of sinfulness. God has given believers a new, spiritual life that enables us to live in an entirely different dimension than the one our physical birth allowed. He is our living hope; He is our dynamic confidence that does not end with this life but continues throughout eternity. At the end of David’s life, he wrote in Psalm 37:37, “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.” Isn’t peace what we are all looking for; isn’t that really what we all long for? God didn’t say you may have to chase Me down, you may have to climb mountains in Tibet or walk barefoot over hot coals in Bali, you may have to explore the teaching of eastern mysticism or call a psychic hotline, and hopefully you’ll find Me. No, Our God has clearly told us how we can be forgiven of our sins, how we can have salvation and how we can be saved. In John 14:6, Jesus says "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Only one lifeline has been dropped from Heaven and it is Jesus Christ who is the only person to walk this earth who was both fully God and fully man. When He died on the cross for the sins of humanity, He brought us into the throne room of God where we are able to stand upright and righteous before our Good Father. Oh how I long to stand before my Savior and confidently look at Him and say, “You have been so faithful to me.” I have believed the lies the enemy of my soul has whispered into my ear, but God in His faithfulness never has strayed from His goodness toward me. – Melody

January 13, 2022

Shaped and Influenced

Each of our lives is shaped and influenced by those around us – sometimes darkly negative, and sometimes profoundly positive. From some we get just glimpses of new thinking, and from some, samplings of attitude or examples to embrace and follow, or perhaps, avoid. Though there are many who in varying degrees have impacted my own thinking and helped to shape me emotionally, spiritually, and directionally, there is one from whom I have learned, gained understanding, and enlarged my sense of purpose – one who is distinct in the walk she has taken with me over the decades. She taught me how to love, to immerse myself in the oceans of emotion that love ebbs and flows with, and she taught me how to love when love isn’t returned. A love that simply loves because the object of that love is worthy of love, and so much more. She was the catalyst who taught me the all-encompassing forgiveness of God, a forgiveness far greater than any transgression or failure, deliberate or unintentional, a forgiveness birthed by the grace of God, a forgiveness that flows from the very heart of the God who washes us – washes me -- in its eternal cleansing. She taught me that life has seasons and every season has a purpose, and God is always at work, never wasting, never losing control, always purposeful. She helped me understand that sometimes one season is barely distinguishable from the next and the first steps into the second, and yet when I reflect in hindsight, I see the fingerprints of God, loving, caring, giving, teaching, in different ways, deepening the beauty He longs to bring from the ashes. She has given me a heart for others, those who hurt and those who sometimes are deeply wounded by their pain. She has taught me that every life, no matter how brief or how long, is a life created by God, a life with purpose and meaning. She has nurtured within me compassion and empathy, helped me to ask what is most important, challenged me to reach beyond myself, taught me the intensity of desperate dependence on the God who walks with us and who sometimes lifts us to His breast, and carries us in His arms. She has helped to define the circle of life that holds together the good, the blessings, the difficulties, and the heartaches – none of which escapes the watchfulness or the provision of our God. And she has taught me so very, very clearly that our life here is just a prelude to eternity – an eternity of perfection, completion, and total fulfillment – an eternity that celebrates the God who makes it all possible, and an eternity pulsating with the joy of reunion. Her name is Tonia, and really, her name is Tonia Joy. She is our daughter, our first born, the child my arms ached to hold, but she was embraced by the arms of Jesus within that perfection of Heaven shortly after her birth. Instead of my arms holding her, my heart and my life began a journey of grief, a journey for a lifetime, a journey that Tonia has always been part of, a journey in which she has been the heart and the voice of God, teaching me the echos of His heart. How has that been possible? God Himself has made it possible. God Himself is the One who is the comforter of the bereaved, the hope of every desperate prayer, the eternality of every conception, the One who sees and feels every tear, and in time, allows those tears to flow with the tears of another. God makes my impossible journey, possible. He reaches out His arms of love, takes me by the hand, and walks with me, day by day, moment by moment. Even in the dark. Even when I don’t understand. Even when my steps hesitate. My child is real. Heaven is real. My God is real. – Bev (Related Bible reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18)

January 5, 2022

Grateful and Blessed

Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.” It seems sometimes when you hear about a loss, it can stop you in your tracks A dear friend of mine has just lost her husband unexpectedly. I can not get her and her daughters out of my head. It plays like a broken record throughout my day. I am in constant prayer for this family. They are not new to trials and maybe that is why it has affected me so much. I have watched her bury three children, the recent loss of a grandbaby and now the loss of her husband. When Job walked through his trials he cried, “Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow. Why make me your target? Am I a burden to you?” I too am asking God, isn’t this enough? I am calling uncle for her. How much pain can one woman walk through? She has been an example to all who have watched her walk through difficult times. She has clung to the Lord. She knows that Jesus sees and cares about her losses. Even in her losses, she has shared over and over again that there is a purpose in suffering. She has authenticated that by how she has lived her life. She has invested herself in God’s hurting people. Through her suffering she has shown us by example what was meant for harm can bring good. She has shown courage to be victorious. Death is the life alarm that reminds us no one will live here forever. It reminds us each day is precious. Each person who is in our life can be taken from us without any warning. Psalm 91:5-6, Moses speaks of life and how fleeting it is. “You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. In the morning it blooms and flourishes but by evening it is dry and withered.” As I look in the mirror each morning I am constantly aware of my withering. I think that is why the loss of my friend’s husband has awakened me again. As the holidays approach I am aware that I might have so few left. A friend I know always responds to people when they ask how she is doing. She responds, “Grateful and blessed.” What a great response. Even in our darkest days we have so much to be grateful for. Lord, I pray for my dear friend as she walks through another loss. I ask those who read my words to also pray for her. I also pray we all see how blessed we are during this holy season and that we express gratitude to all who bless our days. – Michele

December 29, 2021

Soul Talk

Psalm 62:5-6 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” I had come home from a weekend retreat with the women of our church and the topic was, “Take Every Thought Captive.” There was a beautiful teacher of God’s Word and her name was Cathy Dickinson. She had written a book called, “Taming the Giants – Stripping the Power from Overwhelming Emotions.” As I sat and listened to her speak, I felt the Lord was speaking right to me because she spoke on the topic of discouragement. I have to confess that not only was I discouraged because of the loss of my son, but I had dropped my phone in the hot springs and as a result, it wasn’t working. It was Monday morning and I had a pounding headache and I had just gotten a speeding ticket because I was running late. I could have gotten out of bed at 5:15 and it would have been so easy for me to pull the covers back over my head and just say, “No, I can’t do this. I can’t do life,” but instead, the Lord woke me up before my alarm went off with a song that had been sung over the weekend, “It is Well With my Soul.” Since my computer still worked, I listened to the You-Tube version of the song, penned by Horacio Spafford who had lost his four daughters in a tragic accident when the ship they were sailing on in the ocean, sank. David wrote Psalm 62 at one of his most discouraging times in life. His kingdom had been stolen along with the hearts of his people. David knew his soul needed encouragement and he cried out to God, a lot. David consistently reminds his soul of where his expectations need to be focused; he always tells himself to take his eyes off of his circumstances, and he had trained his soul and his expectations on his God. Psalm 42:11 says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” David had to tell his soul more than once to focus on the living God. David used the word soul over 100 times in the Psalms and he tells us to use “soul-talk.” He knew truths about his soul, such as, “Unless the LORD has been my help, my soul would have settled in the silence.” (Psalm 94:17.) There were three things that Cathy taught us to do over the weekend to disarm discouragement; first, we are to “confess it.” And so I did, I knelt before the Lord and I admitted to Him that I was angry at Him for taking my child, that I had actually felt abandoned and betrayed by Him, that I felt like He had given me a gift and then taken it away and that I was struggling with His promises to me. The second thing she taught us to do was to “examine what I believe and what I do not believe.” She challenged us to really look at the scriptures and tell the Lord what you are struggling to believe, what is keeping me discouraged. For me, it is “modern day healing.” Why didn’t the Lord heal my son when I knew He could? And if He didn’t do it for me, then He certainly cannot and should not be doing it for others. Third, we are to “get into and walk in God’s perspective.” How does God see the situation and how does He want me to walk in it? Discouragement, for the most part, is often the result of the wrong perspective. That is where prayer comes in. So this morning, I am praying for my discouragement and asking God for His perspective. I am making the choice to walk in His perspective and for Him to give me His power to show me what to pray for. – Melody

December 15, 2021

Jesus Left the Familiar

The familiarity was gone. We were living in a new place. We had new responsibilities. A new church. Reaching for new relationships. The familiar was behind us, and Christmas was here. If any time of the year stirs the emotions, Christmas does. We had already done a lot of new things, and those things were good. But the familiar was gone. We even had some new blessings, big blessings, because they had brought us closer to some, although we had said good-bye to others. The reminder though came, boldly outlined, and all lit up, cause that’s the way God sometimes does things. Jesus left the familiar at Christmas. All the perfections and intimacies of Heaven – He left the familiar behind. Why? His Father had promises to fulfill, a plan for His Son to accomplish, a people, loved by the Father, but estranged to Him, a people the Father chose to sacrificially give to so estrangement could become intimacy. The plan was shaped by His heart millenniums before, and now it was time. Jesus left the familiar, and at Christmas, in tiny human form, He was placed in a manger in Bethlehem. He would journey from the manger to a tortuous cross where God’s love would meet His holiness so He could fully embrace the very people He had always loved. Sometimes we lose familiarity because we lose the one we love – a spouse, a parent, a child, a close friend. That one is no longer here, and all the warm and familiar has changed. And Christmas comes in the midst of harshness and pain, brokenness and confusion. The thousand questions silence the Christmas music. Why? When will the pain stop? Can I really, really know His embrace? Can He still give tomorrows that will be good – tomorrows that can still allow me to find a place in His plan? Jesus left the familiar at Christmas. Mine was gone too – and maybe, yours. I faced the unfamiliar when life demanded change and being a newbie. And I have faced the unfamiliar too with loss – deep, searing loss that darkens the Christmas lights, silences the music, brings the heaviness of winter clouds my arms literally ache to push away – and I know others have as well. O Jesus. Precious Jesus. Born a baby. Smelly manger hay, scratchy animals. And all of Heaven gazing. You wake the world to the love of Your Father. O Jesus ........ Thank You for leaving the familiar. Thank You for giving me a love so big, so unchangeable. When my own familiar lies torn and shredded, A distant memory. Remind me of Your love, and help Your love To be enough. – Bev (Related Bible reading: Galatians 4:4-7; 1 John 4:9,10)

December 9, 2021

In My Darkness I Found Light

Psalm 31: 21 “Praise the Lord, for He has shown me the wonders of His unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack.” It was an attack like no other. The darkness I was in just kept surrounding me. I felt no relief from this deep pain I found myself in. I felt I had been forgotten. I prayed for relief but there was none to be found. In Psalm 13, David writes, “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul; with sorrow in my heart every day?” He almost sounds like he is yelling at God when he says these words, “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!” Instead of turning away from God, he does just the opposite. He comes boldly to the One who can restore the sparkle to his eyes. You would think this was the darkness I was in was after the loss of my daughter Katie. The funny thing about this is, it was 20 years after my daughter’s death. Even in my time of grief I felt the Lord’s presence. I knew He was there walking beside me. I trusted in His love for me. Can I explain my dark days twenty years later? I have no explanation. Everything seemed right in my world, yet here I was in some of my darkest days. Depression is real. Depression is scary. Depression is lonely. Getting out of depression takes faith that God is still beside you. It also takes hard work. It requires being truthful to yourself, to others, and to God. We all will walk through dark times. There is no shame in that. Don’t give up! Seek help! Be bold like David and He will point you in the right direction. When I look back at that time, I still don’t understand how I found myself in such a dark time. There is no explanation except we live in a fallen world. What I do know is that there is help. There is a way through those dark times. The Lord kept me safe when I was under attack. He loves me. If He can love me, then I know He loves you too. Lord, You are our strength. You are strong when we are weak. You light a lamp for us in our darkness. – Michele

November 25, 2021

God Rays

It was still early morning as I drove to my appointment, and my eyes scanned the clouds above me as I wondered if rain would fill my day. The grayness though varied in its shading, and I attempted to look beyond the clouds. It was then I caught the brilliance of light piercing the darkest of the gray, and I was mesmerized even as I cautiously drove forward. The light almost seemed to dance, and in its pulsing, the beams of sunlight shouted to me of my God. My heart had been pondering not only what was above, but also, what was within me, and I was dramatically reminded of the God – my God – who can show up so vividly when the clouds of gray want to wrap me in a dismal forecast of drenching rain. My radio was on, and the lyrics I heard, harmonized with the music of the sunbeams, and with the truth of God’s Word. The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. God rays. The one who isn’t really watching or listening simply says they are a sun and some clouds. To the believing, or even searching, heart, God rays speak – they shout! – without a word, and they are heard by those who want to hear. On that day, I so much wanted to hear. I was keeping up with routines, but I was also adjusting schedules as busyness and the needs of others were escalating. Health issues were persisting or suddenly descending. For some I knew, death was taunting, grief sat on the horizon, and the thought that death could be better than life seemed plausible. Questions needing answering. Relationships crying out for understanding and healing. And I saw my God. Not visibly. Not tangibly. But my heart saw, and my spirit was reminded that my God is always, always with me. He never fails. He never abandons me, or those I love. And He gives and He gives, and He gives again. No, He doesn’t always eradicate the turmoil, but He can and does quiet it, and shows me the walkable path He will walk with me on. I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. And God kept speaking and revealing Himself, encouraging and reminding me still more. Notes of encouragement came from others, and even flowers and cookies. I heard the laughter of a friend who was facing her own turmoil. I was reminded of relationships that have given to me when giving didn’t seem possible. The unexpected hugs came, sometimes, yes, with a phone call. My grandson calls Backgammon a crazy game, but playing it with him reminds me God loves even in the seemingly little things. God rays. I want to keep my eyes wide open, and I want to keep on listening. – Bev (Related Bible reading: Psalm 19:1-3; Psalm 40:1-3)