Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year's Prayer


A great way to start the new year is by praying Scripture. This devotional is a prayer for New Year's based on verses from Psalm 90, written by Moses.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.  Lord, I will need Your wisdom for so many things in this new year, whether they are related to my health, relationships, circumstances, or simply life in general.  Help me to seek Your guidance daily and trust You for the outcomes.  Help me also to be wise in the use of my time, staying focused on what is truly important in this life, rather than being caught up in the priorities of the world.

“Have compassion on your servants”.  Lord, you know my struggles with pain and problems.  You know how much I can bear.  I pray for your compassion and mercy through any difficult times that lie ahead.

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days”. Father, as I begin each new day, open my eyes to Your presence around me. Remind me that no matter how intense my pain or problems may be, I can rejoice in knowing that You love me and will carry me through all things.  Make me aware of the countless ways that You show Your love and presence to me each day.

“Make us glad for as many days as we have seen trouble”.  Lord, You said this world would be full of trials, but to rejoice for You have overcome the world.  Thank you for the assurance that even if my circumstances or health do not improve in this life, the glad days of eternal health and happiness are coming soon.  Help me persevere until then, and make me thankful for the blessings and gifts You give now.

“May your deeds be shown to your servants”.  O God, make me aware of opportunities to display Your glory in the coming year.  May I be a testimony to others of Your power and strength in my weaknesses.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us”.  Lord God, may pleasing You be the greatest desire of my heart this year.  Whatever plans You have for me to accomplish, I pray that You would bless me through them.  Let me remember that no matter what my limitations are, I can still be used by You and am important to You and Your kingdom work.

I pray these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas Note to Readers


Dear Readers,

I have posted the following devotional in previous Christmas seasons, but of all my holiday writings, this one always speaks to me the most, so I am posting it again.

Whatever you are struggling with this Christmas, remember that with His first coming, "Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it.  He came to fill it with his presence" (Paul Claudel).  He is with you now.

His second coming will remove our suffering - and He IS coming again! So stand firm and don't lose heart.  I pray that you will be filled with Christmas peace and joy now and through the coming year.

Merry Christmas,

Bronlynn

Christmas Peace and Joy

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47).

As I prepare for Christmas, at times I am filled with conflicting emotions.  I praise God for the celebration of Christ’s birth and for loved ones with whom to share it. Yet my heart is also heavy for those who suffer.  Life is full of struggles - grief over the loss of loved ones, hurt from broken relationships, loneliness due to separation from family, and discouragement with physical limitations during the season’s activities.

There have been moments when I have wondered how I can possibly be joyful and peaceful when this world is so full of pain, yet I also realized that if the world were not hurting, there would be no need for a Savior.  I reflected on that first Christmas.  That time was far from peaceful and pleasant.  Roman rule was oppressive and life was a struggle to endure.  Mary and Joseph faced ostracism, pain, homelessness, and separation from family.  Those who anticipated the birth of the Messiah were expecting to see a conquering king, which was not the case. 

Yet we on the other side of the cross know the significance of that first Advent, and because of it, we anticipate the second one.  With the second coming, all pain, suffering, and disappointment will end.  We will truly be able to rejoice without sorrow, and perhaps my joy this year will be more in anticipation of Christ’s future coming than in His past one.  Whatever we are facing this Christmas, may we remember the victory and eternal life that Christ’s birth and subsequent death and resurrection bring.  May that knowledge bring us peace, and may we rejoice. “I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to this earth so that I may one day live with You in heaven.  May I truly rejoice in and celebrate Your birth this Christmas season, even as I long for Your return. Amen.

 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Finding Signs of Hope, Encouragement, and Joy in the Sights and Sounds of Christmas


“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

When my girls were young, they enjoyed the I Spy books.  The Christmas book was one of their favorites.  Each page contained a delightful scene filled with objects hidden in various ways, along with a list of specific ones to find. The girls were persistent, but many times I gave up in frustration!

Health challenges may keep us from experiencing many of the traditional sights and sounds of Christmas, but there are hidden signs of hope and encouragement that can bring us joy in the midst of our pain and problems.  Think about the following “hidden” messages.

Candles and lights: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Celebrations and decorations: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Christmas music:  “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music” (Psalm 98:4).

Christmas tree:  “I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me” (Hosea 14:8).

Food:  “He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

Gifts:  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son” (John 3:16).  “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15).

Star:  I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).

If your pain and problems are limiting your enjoyment of the season or you are feeling hopeless and discouraged, why not play your own I Spy game?  See what verses of hope, encouragement, and joy you can find hidden in these and other signs of Christmas.  Don’t give up!  Keep looking.  Scripture is full of these hidden treasures – a perfect gift from God to you this Christmas!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you for the way you reveal Yourself through the sights and sounds of Christmas.  These are treasures I can find and enjoy regardless of poor health or difficult circumstances.  Fill me with hope and joy as I seek and find the gifts of Your presence and Your promises to me. Amen.

 

 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Redefining the Perfect Holiday


See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ”
(Colossians 2:8).

Have you ever thought about how today’s culture portrays the perfect holiday?  Magazines and movies depict a perfectly decorated house inside and out, perfectly wrapped gifts under the perfectly decorated tree, perfect gourmet meals with not a dirty dish in sight, and perfectly shaped bodies wearing the perfect seasonal outfits while attending perfectly enjoyable social events and family gatherings.

I find these hollow, deceptive, and unrealistic ideas of the holidays tempting.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying the traditional trimmings of the season, but when I become depressed because my pain or circumstances keep me from having or doing all that the world says I should, I lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

In her book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young says:

“Remember that you live in a fallen world: an abnormal world tainted by sin.  Much frustration and failure result from your seeking perfection in this life.  There is nothing perfect in this world except Me.  I have planted longing for perfection in ever human heart.  This is a good desire which I alone can fulfill.  But most people seek this fulfillment in other people and earthly pleasures or achievements.  Let Me fulfill your yearning for perfection.”

The only perfection I should be seeking is to be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) – a goal I will never reach until heaven, but one that I should be striving for out of love and obedience to Christ for all He has done for me.

The truly perfect holiday doesn’t require perfect decorations, fancy food, beautiful clothing, or a full social calendar.  All it needs is a heart that rejoices in the significance of Christ’s birth, thanking and praising Him for His blessings, and showing His love to others - all of which can be done with imperfect health.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I pray that my celebration of Christmas will not be based on worldly philosophies or perfections, but rather on Your birth and what that means to me, both now and eternally.  Let that be enough – because it is.  Amen.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Significance of a Satisfied Soul


“I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you”
 (Psalm 63:5).

Have you ever noticed how many holiday and social events revolve around food?  Thanksgiving is probably the most obvious one, but usually any special day involves eating.

Food has become challenging for me.  Certain foods aggravate my pain, and I feel that others are not the best for my overall health.  Sometimes these restrictions, whether medically or self-imposed, make it hard to enjoy holidays. I end up feeling dissatisfied and discontent.

Some translations of Psalm 63:5 replace “I” with “my soul”. The Psalmist compares the spiritual satisfaction of his relationship with God to the physical satisfaction of earthly food. Having a personal relationship with the living God is like having the best spiritual meal ever:  “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8); “He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

I need to consider whether I am spending as much, if not more time, satisfying my soul than my body.  Making choices to nurture my relationship with God requires self-discipline and sacrifice, just as my food choices do, but my spiritual and physical health are better for it.

Holidays and social gatherings aren’t just about food.  They’re about the blessings of relationships and the significance behind the celebrations.  So this Thanksgiving and the remainder of the holiday season, I need to focus on all the blessings God has given me, including being thankful for what I can eat and the fact that I even have alternate choices. 

Above all, I need to remember that in God my soul can be completely satisfied here and now, even if my taste buds are not. That blessing will stay with me long after the brief satisfaction of a tasteful meal is over.

And so with singing lips, I will praise Him and give thanks.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, it’s so easy for me to look for contentment and satisfaction in earthly things.  I can easily get my priorities out of balance, spending more time trying to satisfy my physical needs than my spiritual ones.  This Thanksgiving and holiday season, let my primary focus be praising and thanking You for Your blessings in my life and for the eternally satisfying fulfillment that comes from knowing You. Amen.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Reflecting on the Goodness and Mercies of God


“Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this” (I Timothy 2:7).

Not too far from me is a picturesque lake surrounded by beautiful mountains.  I enjoy going there to walk, read, think, or pray.

As I was reading one of David Jeremiah’s devotionals, I thought of this lake.  He describes reflecting lakes as God’s mirrors, because we can view His creation from two perspectives at once.

The word “reflect” can refer to casting back an image as well as meditating on or re-thinking about something.

The following words from Dr. Jeremiah’s devotional apply to any season, but they seem particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving.

“This is a good season to review your life and reflect on God’s mercies. Take time to ponder the mountaintops of His unchangeable nature, the treetops of His lofty reign, the colors of His grace, the clouds of His anticipated return.  Take time to meditate on a verse He’s given you. Reflect on all this, and the Lord will give you fresh insight for living.”

Placid lake water beautifully reflects the landscape surrounding it.  Sometimes I become so consumed with my problems that I don’t see the many reflections of God’s goodness and mercy through my suffering.  I don’t spend time pondering His greatness and beauty, and I lose sight of the wonders that await me in eternity.

Reflecting on God’s attributes and Word calms the ripples and waves that pain and problems bring. Then I can more perfectly see the reflection of His power and presence in my life and respond with a thankful heart.

If you are struggling with a thankful attitude, find a spot that you enjoy and meditate on how God has and still does bring goodness and mercy to your life.  And who knows?  Perhaps you will have opportunity to be a beautiful reflection of Him to someone else this Thanksgiving season.

Prayer: Gracious God, sometimes it is hard to have a thankful attitude when I am in pain or suffering. I don’t take time to see the reflections of Your goodness and mercy in my life.  As I think on these things, give me a heart of thankfulness, and let me reflect this thankfulness to others.  Amen.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Is God Using Your Pain and Problems to Repurpose Your Life?


“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”
(Philippians 2:13).
 
I enjoy reading books and magazines on decorating, and lately I have noticed the term “repurposed” quite frequently.
 
If an item is repurposed, rather than throwing it away after it becomes, old, defective, or useless, it is given a new purpose or use.
 
Living in area with many local artisans, I have seen some amazing products made with repurposed materials - picture frames and cabinets made from old wood floors, jewelry made from old paper, sculptures made from trash metal, garden d├ęcor made from kitchen wares, cloth pumpkins made from old quilts, and nativity figures made from antique textile thread spools.  With some creativity, the possibilities are endless.
 
I can relate the concept of repurposing to my health problems. I don't have the same capabilities that I had in healthier years.  At times, these changes have left me feeling useless and purposeless.
 
Repurposing is accomplished by modifying something to fit a new use, and God has and continues to repurpose my life through the modifications that my health changes bring.  I may not be doing my previous work, volunteering, or church ministry, but God has led me to usefulness and service in other ways which are just as significant in His eyes as what I did in healthier times.
 
It takes creativity and effort to repurpose materials, but the results can be unique and quite useful.  Our disabilities may keep us from doing what we used to do, but with hearts and minds that are open to God's leading, and some creative thinking on our part, we can be repurposed in unique new ways for His glory.
 
Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the assurance that You will never discard me, and I will never outlive my usefulness to You. Although my body may not be what it once was, give me the direction and creativity to see new possibilities in serving you as I am now. Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Preparing Ourselves for the Day


“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13 NASB).

Awhile back, I made a list of certain things that I struggle with on a daily basis and ways to deal with them.  My goal is to prepare for each day by giving these requests to God. 

To see my life with a heavenly vision rather than an earthly one.  I can become so consumed with my earthly limitations that I lose sight of what awaits me in eternity.  Remembering my eternal future keeps things in perspective here.

To notice signs of God’s presence.  Every day God reveals Himself to me if I only take time to see Him.  Whether it’s through nature, an activity, a person, a Scripture, or a song, God is with me.

To love those in my path.  My personal problems can cause me to ignore the needs of others. I interact with someone every day, and they all need God’s love.

To not feel inferior to others.  I have always struggled with self-confidence, and health problems exacerbate this weakness.  I need to remember who I am in Christ – a person of worth and value with specific gifts given to me by Him.

To use my time wisely.  I don’t want to use my pain as an excuse for not serving where God is calling, but I also don’t want to unwisely over-extend myself.  I need God’s direction each day.

To be content with God’s decisions.  I don’t always understand why God allows what He does in my life, but I do know that trusting and surrendering to His plan is the only way to lasting peace and contentment.

To put on the armor.  Whether I’m fighting pain, the world, or my own sinfulness, each day is a battle.  I can’t fight without the proper protection. 

As I lift these requests to God in humility and faith, the day may still be difficult, but I’ll be much better prepared for whatever comes. 

Prayer:  “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3).  Thank you Lord, for hearing, and answering.  Amen.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Your Biggest Problem Can Be Your Greatest Potential


“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen” (Psalm 77:19).

The history of the Israelites is one that I continually refer to for hope and comfort. With their struggles and cycles of belief and unbelief, they remind me of myself.  Their biggest problems provided the greatest potentials for God to work miracles.

We can imagine how hopeless and overwhelming it must have seemed to face an impassable sea on one side and a life-threatening army on the other.  Sometimes the magnitude of our health problems and the difficulties and challenges of life can leave us feeling trapped and panicky, wondering how we can possibly survive.

In one of his sermons on the power of God in our lives, my pastor made the statement, “Your biggest problem is your greatest potential”.  I have remembered that.

Getting across the Red Sea and away from their enemies was definitely a big problem for the Israelites.  Yet it provided potential for them to see God’s amazing power and a reference point for trusting Him on their new life journey.  Although they could not see Him, God brought them through those challenges.  And with each new difficulty they encountered, He continued to do so.

Currently I am trying to escape an army of depressive thoughts waiting to take me captive, along with feeling trapped by seas of discomfort, weariness, and discouragement.  But these seemingly inescapable problems provide the potential for me to grow in faith, see God’s miraculous power in my life, and provide a testimony of that power to share with others.

Yes, our pain and problems may be great.  But let’s not waste the potential for them to grow us in faith and action.  We have a God who still parts and walks on water.  He’s calling us to step out and go with Him, and the potentials in doing so are miraculous.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, today I choose to see the pain and problems that surround me as potentials for You to show more of Your power in my life.  Give me the courage to follow You in faith, even when there seems no place to go. Amen.

This is one of my favorite songs that goes well with this writing.  Perhaps it will encourage you. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2PNTq_-mZs

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

By God's Power, I'm Still Standing


“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 5:22).

My husband and I recently visited a nearby tourist attraction called The Blowing Rock.  Legend says that an Indian maiden and warrior fell in love.  Torn between her and his duty, he jumped off the rock in desperation.  She prayed to the Great Spirit, and one day the wind blew the warrior back to her.  Since then a continual wind has blown up onto the rock, causing even the snow to fall upside down. 

Of course this is just a story.  The wind blows the way it does because of the topography of the land and weather patterns.

Several days after our trip, I was hit with a severe bout of depression.  It was a very dark and desperate time, but God brought me through it – yet again.

I thought about the blowing rock.  Many times I stand on the edge of hard times – times of pain or depression or difficulties.  Sometimes I jump off in despair. Other times those problems push me over the edge.

I fall for a while, but the power of God and His Spirit keep pushing me back up. 

Pain and problems may cause me to fall for a time.  But in the words of the Barnes Notes Commentary, “he (God) will not so appoint, arrange, or permit things to occur, that the righteous shall be "ultimately" and "permanently" removed from their steadfastness and their hope; he will not suffer them to fall away and perish. In all their trials and temptations he will sustain them, and will ultimately bring them off in triumph.”

God’s power is not just a story.  When life pushes me over the edge, His winds keep blowing me back onto His solid rock.  I will stand again. And the view from the rock is victorious.

Prayer:  Lord God, sometimes Your idea of falling and mine are not the same, and I don’t feel that I can keep standing through my problems.  Yet Your Word says that if I cast my cares on You, I will not fall. Thank you that You sustain me through all of my trials, no matter how overwhelming they may seem.  Amen.

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Two Sources of Comfort During Difficult Times


“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24).

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97).

Everyone has coping methods for difficult times.  These may include eating, drinking, escaping into movies or books, venting to a friend, taking a trip, taking a pill, staying in bed, or looking to God.  Obviously some of these choices are healthier than others.

What do we do in our most difficult times - when we get no relief from the pain; when the treatment is grueling, or when there is no treatment; when friends and family misunderstand us; when we must give up yet another activity or event.  All of these scenarios can lead to discouragement, depression, and despair.

Based on verses from Job, David Jeremiah suggests two sources of comfort for any trial – creation and Scripture.

When I was at my lowest with thyroid cancer, depression, and anxiety, I found solace in nature.  Just sitting on our lawn swing or looking out the living room window was helpful.  I would occasionally buy a flower bouquet from the store, and I looked at picture books on gardening and decorating with nature. 

We now live in an area full of mountains and waterfalls, and they both have a positive and calming effect on me.  God’s creation does that.

Scripture is also a huge comfort.  There are Bible verses that relate to any circumstance or condition. Sometimes I search a concordance or other resource, using key words relating to my problem or emotion.  When I find a relevant verse, I read it and seek how to apply it. Then I claim it in faith and keep bringing the words to mind.

There are many ways of coping with our suffering.  But creation and Scripture are two available and powerful ways that God speaks to us and brings us His comfort and peace. Let’s thank God for them and benefit from them.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I am suffering, the beauty of Your creation and the power of Your Word are able to restore and refresh my soul. Thank you for revealing Yourself in these amazing ways, and may Your Spirit prompt me to look to them as sources of encouragement when I need it.  Amen.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Passive Action of Waiting


"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him" (Psalm 62:5 KJV).

"In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly" (Psalm 5:3).

Life is full of waiting periods.  There are the positive waits to reach certain milestones or longed-for events. There are the annoying waits in shopping lines and traffic lanes. And if we live with ongoing pain or illness, there are the seemingly endless waits for medical appointments, test results, treatment plans, and hoped-for relief.

In addition to waiting countless times for treatment and results concerning my own health problems, my husband and I have been waiting for years to find treatments for his tremor and nutcracker esophagus that would be effective without intolerable side effects.  We are currently working with more new medicines, waiting and seeking.

Waiting can be frustrating and difficult because we want action and results now.

Charles Stanley describes waiting as passive action.  In one sense we passively can do nothing. We can’t speed things up or change God’s ordained plan for our lives, including our suffering.  But we can change how we wait.

Instead of waiting in anxiety or frustration, we can wait in peace and hope. We can choose to believe in faith that God’s timing and control are the best for us.  When tempted to give in to frustrations and fears, we can lay our requests before the Lord and wait in expectation. 

This life will always involve waiting. If nothing else, we are waiting to go home to God.  But while we wait, we can act. Will our actions include bringing God our requests, meditating on Scripture, claiming His promises, and looking for signs of His presence – actions that will bring calmness and peace?  Or will our actions of fretting, complaining and anger keep us tense, exhausted, and hopeless?

Waiting can have purpose. It can be an opportunity to strengthen our faith, grow in self-discipline, and show the power of God in our lives to others.

Prayer:  O Lord, You know how tired I get of waiting.  I want relief from my suffering.  I want answers to my problems.  And I want these things sooner rather than later.  Give me the grace to see and use these times of waiting as ways to know and rely more on You.  As I do, replace my frustrations and worries with Your peace and hope.  Amen.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Creation Declares the Power of God in Our Lives


“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding” (Job 37:5).

“O Lord God Almighty, who is like you?  You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you” (Psalm 89:8).

I recently enjoyed a day that I will treasure forever. 

We live in an area full of waterfalls.  Because of my back and fibro issues, I am not able to see many of them. But on this day, thanks to God, my husband, a hiking stick, and pain medicine, I made it.

There was a succession of six waterfalls on this trail.  The trail itself was lovely although challenging. The mountain laurel was in full bloom, and falling petals carpeted our way.

Parts of the river contained huge boulders, and the water surged around them and over them into beautiful and powerful falls. But the water between each falls, although filled with smaller rocks, was fairly calm.

We were the only people there and were able to get very close to several of the falls.  I was able to sit on the rocks for a while, listening to the roar and watching the swirling water.  As I did, I thought about my life with God.

Sometimes my life is relatively peaceful.  The small rocks of difficulties and annoyances aren’t too difficult to handle.  God’s waters gently flow over them, nudging me along.

Other times I am faced with huge boulders of pain and suffering, which seem impossible to navigate.  Just as the most powerful sections of the falls were the ones flowing over the largest boulders, so the bigger my problems, the more God pours His power and strength over them, moving me through and around them. 

God’s power is strongest when I need it most. 

Those waterfalls were a spectacular word picture from God, reminding me that no pain or suffering is too big for His mighty power to handle. 

I thank God for the beauty of His creation, and how He uses it to speak to me, if I will look and listen.



Prayer:  O Lord God, I praise You for Your creation and how it displays Your great beauty and power.  Thank you that there is no pain or problem in my life that is too great for Your mighty waters of strength to carry me through.  Help me always to be listening and looking for the ways that You reveal Yourself to me.  Amen.

 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

How Are You Fighting the Battles Against Pain and Suffering?


“May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands” (Psalm 149:6).

Independence Day is approaching here in the United States. Some signs of the holiday include televised war movies, historical re-enactments, and fireworks displays. These are all reminders of battles fought for freedom.

In our war with pain and suffering, we fight battles every day. So how are we fighting these battles? This verse mentions a very important weapon of warfare – praise. Praising God is a double-edged sword. A double-edged sword wields greater power than a single-edged sword because it can strike in several directions simultaneously. And many times we do face multiple attacks at once from which we long to be free – attacks of physical pain, depression, insecurity, lack of self-worth, fears, and many others, including the normal difficulties and problems of life.

Although praise is certainly not the only way to overcome these enemies, it is an important and powerful one. I find the best way to apply this concept is to have some favorite Scripture verses of praise on hand at all times. When I am in the midst of a difficult battle - whether it’s pain-related or not - I speak these words of praise and pray for the faith to believe them. God will honor that. I may still be wounded but I will not be defeated.

I don’t know how many soldiers have used praise in their battles for freedom, but I do know that in my life battles, it’s one of the most important weapons for attacking the enslavements that pain and suffering can bring. So I will lift my sword of praise and be, as one commentary described it, a blend of chorister and crusader. And I will persevere in the knowledge of the eternal freedom that is coming.

Prayer: O God, You know how I long to be free from my pain and suffering and how weary I become fighting my battles with them. I ask for the diligence and desire to praise You in these battles. And I ask that You strengthen me and keep my faith strong until my war is over. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Are You Growing Weeds or Flowers Among the Rocks of Pain and Illness?


“See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many”
 (Hebrews 12:15).

Near our back yard is an unsightly storm drain for our neighborhood. It was overgrown with weeds when we moved in last summer. The Homeowners’ Association placed a load of large rocks over the grate last fall to improve its appearance, which I greatly appreciated.

This spring, big weeds began growing up among the rocks. Some of these weeds had stems and roots the size of small tree branches. As I was pulling them up recently (resulting in several days of back pain which I should have known would happen!), I thought about how much easier it is to grow weeds than flowers.

Those rocks remind me of my health issues. Pain and suffering are like big stones that weigh me down. It is easy for me to allow weeds to grow through these stones – weeds of bitterness, discontent, anger, envy, hopelessness, faithlessness, and many others. 

Some of these roots are quite large at times. Thankfully the Holy Spirit continually prompts me to adjust my attitudes and pull these weeds out so they don’t overrun my life.

Not too far from these rocks are another group of rocks. There are weeds there as well, but there are also a few flowers that have managed to push through the rocks and bloom, showing that it is possible for certain flowers to grow poor conditions.

The rocks of pain and suffering are heavy to bear. Unsightly weeds of negativity can grow up easily through these rocks. Flowers of faith and beauty are more difficult to sustain, but they can be grown if we persevere and keep reaching for the Son.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather live with flowers than weeds.   

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, You know the weight of my pain and problems. I confess that in my attitude toward my suffering, weeds are much easier for me to grow than flowers. Help me to persevere and push through my stones of suffering with faith and not bitterness. Amen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Kind of Tree Are You?


The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God” (Palm 92:12, 13).

“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8).

Have you ever taken a quiz to determine what kind of animal, flower, or celebrity you resemble?  These results are based on fun, imagination, and opinion. But Scripture says that believers are like certain trees.  So what is the significance of these trees, and how can we apply these concepts to our lives?

We are cedar trees.  In Biblical times, the cedar tree was used for cleansing and purification.  It was a symbol of glory, growth, and might.  As our trials help to cleanse our hearts and purify our faith, we can help others by sharing our examples and testimonies. We can also continue to grow spiritually through the many Christian resources available today.

We are palm trees. The palm tree was used for shelter and food and was a symbol of righteousness, beauty, and victory. We can provide a place of shelter to others by offering empathy and encouragement.  We can feed the Word of God to a spiritually starving world.  We can have victory over despair and fears by claiming God’s power in us and reflecting the beauty of Jesus through our words and actions.

We are olive trees.  The olive tree was used for cooking, beauty products, and temple service.  It was a symbol of health, flexibility, endurance, and peace.  Although our bodies may not be physically healthy, anointing our minds with God’s Word maintains our spiritual health.  We can serve the Lord with the temples of our bodies through prayer and praise.  And Christ’s strength enables us to endure whatever suffering may come and maintain peace through it.

So no matter how we look or feel, let’s see ourselves as God sees us, branch out in faith, and live as the trees we are!

Prayer: O God, many times my pain and problems distort my view of the purpose and potential You have given me.  When I am feeling weak or useless, I pray that Your Spirit will bring these trees to mind – a beautiful description of what I am as Your child.  Amen.

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Being Blessed with Less


“Praise the Lord, O my soul . . . who satisfies your desires with good things” (Psalm 103:1, 5).

I once read the story of the great financial loss the Englishman William Wilberforce faced because of his efforts to abolish slavery.  He missed his books and gardens most of all, but when he walked through someone else’s garden, his heavy loss led to “the solid and great increase of (their) enjoyments”.  In other words, he gained greater appreciation for them as a result of his losses.

I thought of this as I read one of Charles Stanley’s devotionals.  He mentioned that Christians typically associate God’s blessings with more, but sometimes God blesses through less.  Stanley wrote, “In some situations, the best thing He can ‘give’ is to take something away”.

It is very easy for me to dwell on all the “lesses” and losses of my health problems, but blessings have come with them.

Years ago I didn’t think twice about walking around an amusement park for hours, sitting on a chair all day in class or at work, or reading and studying for long periods of time.  Now, when I am able to take a short walk, I’m much more observant of God’s handiwork.  My sitting issues have driven me to my knees – quite literally!  I’ve learned to let go of my pride, carrying my seat cushion to public places and entertaining friends on my knees. Since my eye problems limit my reading time, I am more careful to read what is positive or edifying.  I am continually learning humility, contentment, and dependency on God.

Do I still want to be blessed with more?  Yes. Do I still envy the “mores” of others?  Sometimes. But God has and is showing me that the “lesses” and losses of pain and illness can bring their own unique gains and blessings.  And the greatest blessing of all is that of hopefully becoming more like Jesus.

Prayer:  O Lord, how often I assume that You can benefit me only by giving me more of what I want and enjoy.  Change my way of thinking, and make me more aware of all blessings that come through the lesses and losses in my life.  Amen.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Who Are Your Stretcher Bearers?


This post is in honor of my mom, who at 89, is one of the strongest stretcher bearers I know.

“Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ ”
 (Mark 2:4, 5).

I recently finished a book on the life of Jesus called The Way by Adam Hamilton.  The chapter on Jesus’ healing ministry referred to the story of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to be healed.

The passage doesn’t say it was “his” (the paralytic’s) faith that healed him.  Rather it says “their” faith, which may have included the paralytic himself, but certainly included his friends.

This man’s friends had faith enough to do whatever it took to bring him before the Lord.  They carried him, and they were not discouraged by the obstacles in their path. They dug a hole in the roof and lowered him right in front of Jesus.

Do you have any stretcher bearers in your life – people who have expended effort and time to carry you either literally or spiritually through your health challenges?  I do, and I thank God for them. 

During my worst season physically, mentally, and emotionally, I asked my mother why things weren’t getting better if people were praying for me.  She answered, “You don’t know how bad it would be if they weren’t.”  I made it through those agonizing months due, at least in part, to the faith and support of my stretcher bearers.  They carried me before the throne of grace when I lacked the faith and ability to carry myself.  And they continue to do so.

Not only do I have stretcher bearers, but I can be one.  Although I am not physically able to help these people because of my own health issues or distance between us, I can pray for God’s strength, comfort, and healing, believing in faith that God will carry out His perfect will in their lives.

Praise God for the stretcher bearers who carry us. And praise Him for the blessing we have of carrying others.

Prayer: O God, thank you for the stretcher bearers in my life who have carried me to You in faith when I have been unable or unwilling to carry myself.  Bless them Lord.  Show me how I can be a stretcher bearer to others, even through my own weaknesses, and give me the strength and desire to do so.  Amen.

 

 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hope for Hard Days – Jesus Alive in Me


“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  No, I’m not referring to A Tale of Two Cities. I’m referring to the season of spring as it affects me.

Spring is a beautiful time of the year and a vivid reminder of the new life that God brings to all of creation.  The grass is greening, the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing.

Spring is also my most painful time of the year and a vivid reminder of my chronic health issues.  My bones are hurting, my pain is escalating, my exhaustion is overwhelming, and my depression is debilitating.

My mobility is challenged by increased stiffness and back pain.  Regardless of what I do or don’t do, I am tired all the time.  And the spring rains are a reminder of the depression that showers me with discouragement, discontent, insecurity, and self-absorption.

One of my favorite songs is “Bones” by Hillsong United:  “You can take my dry bones.  Breathe life into this skin.  You call me by name.  Raised me to life again.  Oh Jesus, alive in me.”

If Jesus is alive in me, despite the morning stiffness and pain, I can sing words of praise (Psalm 34:1). When exhaustion and discouragement come, I can find strength in the Lord my God as David did (I Samuel 30:6).  When depression tries to rob me of my joy, I can think on what is true (Philippians 4:8).

Yes, there are hard days, weeks, months, seasons, years.  But just as Jesus was raised to life, He raises me to life, not only eternally but daily. That is my hope, my strength, my joy, and my victory.  Jesus – alive in me – now and always. 

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, as Your child, I praise You and thank You that Your Spirit lives within me. Breathe new life into me today, filling me with hope and power, so that I can face whatever challenges may come.  Amen.
 
(You can listen to "Bones" here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1Zq_oQTuq8).

 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

God Brings New Life Out of Ruins


“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22).

When you think of ruins, what comes to mind?  The crumbling foundation of an historical site or buildings devastated by a natural disaster?  Ruins are the remains of something that has been destroyed, collapsed, or decayed, and our lives may seem to be in ruins due to chronic health problems.

I have had times over the years when I felt my life was in ruins:  back problems that forced me to give up many physical activities; a post-cancer mental and emotional breakdown; fibromyalgia that caused me to give up my job; eye problems that began limiting my reading and writing. 

But God has brought new life out of my ruins.  A weak back has strengthened my self-discipline, priorities, and adaptability.  Prayer, Scripture, and Christian books continue to teach me the healing power of a Holy Spirit-controlled mind, which I can share with others.  Not working has allowed me more time for other God-given ministries.  Eye issues have caused me to divide my time more evenly between activities, which has actually helped my overall pain.

With Christ’s death on the cross, the disciples must have felt that their lives were in ruins.  Jesus appeared to be dead and gone.  And from a spiritual standpoint, it seemed that Satan had triumphed.  But out of the ruins of Christ’s death God brought resurrection victory and eternal life. 

Because of Easter, we are new creations.  That means new ways of looking at things.  The same power of God that brought life out of death can bring new attitudes and adjustments in us, and our ruins are the perfect opportunity for Him to do it.  So let’s expect to see new life come from those ruins as we claim the victory of Easter.
 
Prayer:  O Lord, You know how health problems seem to ruin my life.  Yet You bring good out of all things.  Let me see my ruins as opportunities for You to do a new work in me, and let me never lose sight of the victory that is mine because of Easter.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, March 20, 2015

What Should I Wear Today?


 “Clothe your-selves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature”
(Romans 13:14).

Spring and summer are coming here, and one of the things I like about four seasons is wearing a variety of clothing.  However, one inconvenience of my fibro is being overly sensitive to cold and heat.  Some days, deciding what to wear is very challenging.  

The heat of summer doesn’t always mean I can wear less.  Depending on air conditioning settings, I may have to wear long underwear in the summertime.  In winter, I wear at least three or four layers so I can take something off if I get too hot.  When we travel, I may end up in the back seat shedding clothes while my husband guards the car doors!

Given my enjoyment of (and problems with) clothes, this verse in Romans interests me. How do I “wear” Jesus?

Various commentaries identify at least two explanations.  One is to remember that we are clothed with Jesus’ righteousness, including His grace and forgiveness.  The other is to imitate His example, following His commandments and responding the way He would.

As I get dressed in the morning, I can thank God that no matter how many times I fail in my Christian walk, in God’s eyes my spiritual wardrobe of the day will not be stained with spills of anger, guilt, or faithlessness.  I’m wearing the righteousness of Jesus.

Each time I put on or take off a sweater or coat (or long underwear J), I can examine my current attitude and see what needs to be changed.  Perhaps I need to take off complaining and put on praise, or take off worry and put on peace.

It may require some energy and attitude adjustment to change my spiritual clothes throughout the day, but “wearing Jesus” is a beautiful wardrobe that fits any season or temperature year-round.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, as I experience the physical discomforts of my days, give me the awareness and desire to clothe myself with Your attributes rather than my attitudes.  And thank you that even when I “wear” the wrong thing, You see me as righteous and perfect in Your sight.  Amen.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Living Significantly as the Salt of the Earth


“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).

Recently I was battling a virus for several weeks.  A neighbor was kind enough to bring me some soup, but when I tasted it, it was missing something – salt.

Salt has at least three purposes.  It brings out the flavor in foods, like my soup.  It preserves, keeping food from spoilage and decay. It purifies and heals. And as Christians, we are called to be salt in the world. 

My life seems very insignificant and limited.  How can I possibly be salt?  But Jesus says I already am.

I can flavor the lives of people around me with encouraging words and God’s love. I can share the hope I have of an eternal body free from decay. I can share the healing God brings to my soul, even through my suffering.

I can sprinkle salt through email, regular mail, Facebook, medical offices, support groups, or individually in person. I can do it through prayer and praise.

In one of Charles Stanley’s devotional booklets, Winn Collier wrote the following:

“I am amazed by the simple lives I encounter – people living in quiet ways, often unhurried and unnoticed, as they seek to devote themselves to the way of Jesus and be loyal to the kingdom of God.  With our zealous addiction to gusto and our fascination with brilliance, we often forget . . . it is ordinary faithfulness – ordinary presence – that makes the deepest impact.”

Yes, I live an ordinary and sometimes very contained life.  But God has given me a sphere of influence, and He created me to be salt in it.  Even in my pain and problems I have purpose – to sprinkle the world with the gift of Jesus – and that’s pretty significant.

Prayer: O Lord, thank you for giving me significance in Your kingdom, and let me not miss the opportunities You give me to flavor my world with the knowledge of You.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The "Work" of Living with Chronic Illness and Pain


“See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord”
(Colossians 4:17).

Typically one of the first questions people ask someone new is what kind of work they do. In our society we are identified by what we do, and it’s easy for much of our self-worth to come from our work. Pain or illness may prevent us from having a full or even part-time job, but have you ever thought of them as the work God has given us? 

The job of handling chronic pain and illness is a challenging one.  We work 24/7, 365 days a year.  We have no vacation time.  Our co-workers may or may not understand our issues, so human relations can be difficult. We may be more sleep-deprived from pain than those who commute long hours to their jobs. And a promotion to something better in this life may not come. There is no doubt about it – managing pain and illness is hard work. 

But this work is something we have received from God, and we are to complete it. Our boss is the most faithful, forgiving, loving, and compassionate Being in the universe, and this job is conforming us more into His likeness. Our work provides unique opportunities to share our faith that we would not have in other situations.  Our current paycheck may not be the greatest, but the retirement plan is phenomenal.

We don’t have to feel inferior to those who have “regular” jobs. Living with pain and illness is a full-time job.  We work hard trying to manage our health issues and maintain our faith and testimony through them. This God-given work matters.  We are valuable employees of the kingdom of heaven.  So let’s complete the work well.  Our promotion will be worth it.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I must confess that oftentimes I don’t want this job of a living a pain-filled life.  Yet I know You are using it for my good and Your glory.  Give me the willingness and diligence to complete this work, and to remember that the long-term benefits will more than compensate for the temporary discomforts.  Amen.