Sunday, May 27, 2012

Treasure the Small Harbors God Provides

“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.  They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” (Psalm 107:29, 30).

A few summers ago we took a trip to Maine. I enjoyed the beauty of the coastal towns, particularly the many boats in the harbors or out on the water.  The weather was much different than my previous visit there, when a northeaster was passing through.

I came across a quote in a devotional book that reminded me of the beauty of those harbors.  “We may not always have time for grand departures to wonderful retreats or resorts where we can be refreshed.  That is why I treasure small harbors.  They are all around us waiting to let us catch our breath before the next wind carries us away” (Sheila Walsh).

Chronic health problems are like storms in my life, tossing me on the waves of pain and fear.  Sometimes they only cause ripples but other times they crash over me, pulling me under.  How I would love to escape to some quiet haven of respite, free from these struggles. 

I am becoming more aware of the small harbors of peace that God brings in to my life.  Whether they last minutes or days, they help me renew my faith and trust in God and prepare for the next wind that comes.  These small harbors can come in many forms – a verse of Scripture, a church service, a support group, a talk with a friend, time spent in nature, a book I read, a song I hear, times with family, day outings, or vacations.  Any of these can be God’s little retreats where He restores and strengthens me.

One day I will reach the desired haven for which I was created – the final harbor of eternity.  No more storms of pain and suffering.  Until I reach that harbor, how thankful I am for the small ones He provides here. 

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, open my eyes to the small harbors of refreshment You bring into my life.   And when I am trying to hold on during the storms of suffering, thank you that You are in the boat with me.  Amen.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lessons Learned from a Woodpecker

“He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed” 
(Isaiah 50:4b).

Most of us probably long to hear God’s voice speaking directly to us.  In our lives of pain we want answers.  I believe God does speak to me but not always in the ways I expect, and I had a humorous example of this recently.

Each morning I pray for the Lord to satisfy me with His unfailing love, because I quickly allow the fears and concerns of my health to rob me of this Biblical truth as well as others.  One morning I was apprehensive about some dental work to be done that day as well as some ongoing concern about my eyes. 

I love hearing the birds in the morning and I open my window while praying.  We have a red-bellied woodpecker that comes to my feeder.  Each spring he also enjoys drilling on our drain pipes, and this year he is drilling more often than usual.  Sometimes I get quite annoyed with him!  That morning as I was praying rather desperately about my teeth and eyes, he began drilling loudly. 

In that drilling God spoke very clearly to my spirit - “How many times do I have to drill into your head the truth that I love you, that you don’t need to fear anything because I will be you through it, that my grace has been sufficient for 54 years and always will be?  These physical problems are my ways of drilling these truths into your head until you learn to trust me completely.”

I laughed out loud.  God can be quite creative in His teaching methods.  I was still not looking forward to the dentist but I knew I would make it through.  I also knew God would direct me concerning my eyes.  Now I am praying I will learn my lessons completely and move on.  I am ready for a break from the drilling and God probably is too!

Prayer: Lord how thankful I am that You love me enough to keep teaching me even when I am a slow learner.  Help me be aware of the ways You reveal Your love and grace to me and may I learn my lessons well.  Amen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You" May Not Be True, Physically or Spiritually

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
(II Peter 3:18).

I have intolerances to many things so I have started examining food labels carefully.  Recently I was going to make something for company and discovered an ingredient that was not good for me.  I was telling my mother how hard it is to find things that I can eat.   She laughingly said maybe I should not check the ingredients and what I don’t know won’t hurt me.  She wasn’t serious of course, but it made me stop and think about that expression in relation to my physical and spiritual health.

There are times when what I don’t know won’t hurt me, but when it comes to food, that is not the case for me.  Checking labels on everything I buy requires time.  Not buying and eating certain foods requires self-discipline.  When I do these things though, I feel much better.

I can apply this concept to my relationship with God as well.  Of course there are aspects of God that my finite mind can’t comprehend, but not learning and growing in my knowledge of Him will affect me negatively.  If I don’t take time to study God’s character and attributes I will experience unnecessary doubt and fear, because I will not be viewing my problems in the light of His goodness, mercy, and sovereignty.  If I don’t learn more of Jesus and the way He lived, I will not grow in becoming more like Him.  If I don’t practice self-discipline spending time with God and making godly choices, I won’t have the knowledge and strength to fight my battles. 

What I don’t know can hurt me.  Conversely, what I do know can help me, and spiritually I can never know enough about God.  I will have all eternity to keep learning, but I can get a good start now.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me the ability to learn and grow. Thank you for Your Word and the wealth of other Christian resources available to teach me more about You.  Give me the wisdom and self-discipline to keep growing and to make wise choices for my physical and spiritual health.  Amen

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

As We Refresh Others, We Are Refreshed

“He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed”
(Proverbs 11:25b).

There is a lovely home in my city that lifts my spirits each time I see it.  I drive by it intentionally because it makes me feel happy and refreshed just by looking at it.  It is separated from the street by a white wooden fence, and each summer this fence is covered with beautiful flowers.  The house is very neat and cozy-looking, giving the impression that anyone is welcome to stop by for a visit.

I also know a lovely, godly woman who reminds me of this house.  She is a delight to be around, and although I’m sure she has problems, the joy and refreshment of her presence is like those cheery flowers.  She is a model I would like to imitate. 

Living with pain can dampen my joy for life and even for the company of others at times.  My personality has also never been an outgoing one and tends to be more pessimistic than optimistic.  Yet God has the ability to enable me, and each of us, to refresh others.  He is not limited by our limitations.  Sometimes it may simply mean a kind word of blessing to a store clerk or an encouraging Facebook or email message.  Other times we may have the strength to minister to someone in greater depth.  Whatever refreshment we give though will yield returns to us as well. 

Interestingly enough, the King James Version of this verse says that he that waters shall also be watered.  When we willingly pour out the water of God’s encouragement and love to others – no matter how briefly - He revives our spirits and fills us with more of His life-giving water to give.

Even during the winter months the memory of those flowers at that house seems to linger, continuing to give a delightfully welcoming impression.  In the same way, during times when we have nothing to give, the memories we have given may linger and leave lasting impressions of blessings to others. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, we are all Your vessels of refreshment to someone, somewhere, at some time.  Thank you that when we allow You to refresh others through us, we are in turn refreshed by You.  Amen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Why Persevere through Pain and Trial - Because God Perseveres with Us

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance”
 (II Thessalonians 3:5).

Perseverance – that word may trigger varying emotions, some being negative.  When I think of perseverance,  I think in terms of me persevering, not God. I get tired of persevering, even though I know His word says it is accomplishing a good work in me. Then I read a thought-provoking statement in one of my books. The author said that when we want to give up we need to persevere with God because God perseveres with us. 

How does God persevere with me?  When I doubt Him over and over again, not learning my lessons from previous situations, He continues to show Himself faithful.  He does not give up on me when I give up on Him.  At times He may be my last resort but I am never His. When I disappoint Him, He never rejects or abandons me.  He keeps forgiving, keeps loving, keeps strengthening and protecting.

Aside from the fact that perseverance is beneficial for spiritual maturity, I want to choose perseverance out of love for all God has done for me.  When I get tired of waiting for medical appointments or test results, I remember that God persevered through countless years of problems with humanity, waiting for the appointed time to send Christ to earth for me.  When I feel I can’t endure any more pain or sacrifice, I remember that Jesus persevered through life and death on earth because of me, suffering more than I can comprehend.  When I’m tempted to give up on God, I think of the way the Holy Spirit perseveres in drawing me back.

When I persevere I am working together with God.  Remembering that fact will give me the persistence I need to keep going until the work is finished.  Then God and I will rejoice together, and that’s worth persevering for!

Prayer:  O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life  I owe, that in Thine ocean’s depths its flow may richer, fuller be.  (Hymn O Love That Will Not Let Me Go) Amen.