Saturday, December 10, 2016

Looking for a Sign from God This Christmas

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”
(Isaiah 7:14).

There have been times in my life when I have wanted specific signs from God.  Sometimes I have wanted signs concerning my health, such as what doctors to see, what treatments to take, or what medicines or supplements to try.  Other times I have wanted signs concerning financial issues, relationships, or commitments.  Life would be so much easier if God would just send a note, phone call, or text. 

The Biblical Christmas story is full of signs. The Jews were given Isaiah’s prophecy of the virgin birth of Immanuel to come.  Mary was given a message from Gabriel telling her the child within her was God’s Son. Joseph was given an angelic dream allaying his fears about taking Mary as his wife.  The shepherds were given a sky full of heavenly angels proclaiming Jesus’ birth and directing them to go and worship Him.  The wise men were given a star in the east, guiding them to the place where Jesus was.

Those signs can speak to us today.  Like Mary, we can be assured that God knows what He’s doing in our lives, even when circumstances seem otherwise. Like Joseph, we can give our fears to the Lord, remembering He is in control and will be with us through anything we may face. Like the shepherds, we can choose to rejoice and worship the King under any conditions.  Like the magi, we can follow the guidance of God’s Word for living in a world that in many ways is ungodly and full of suffering.

We may be looking for a sign related to something very specific this Christmas season, or we may just want a sign that God is still with us in our joys and sorrows.  Whatever we’re looking for, let’s not ignore the sign sent long ago – Immanuel, God with us, Jesus in us.  He knows our needs.  In His perfect timing and by His chosen methods, He will direct our paths.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, sometimes I am overwhelmed with decisions I face in life.  I need Your divine guidance, and Your Word promises You will give it.  Thank you for the precious gift of Jesus, because with His birth and subsequent death and resurrection, I have the Your Spirit living in me.  Show me the way I should go as I continue to trust, worship and seek You.  Amen.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

When Holidays Aren't So Happy

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul” (Psalm 31:7).

 “Happy Holidays” is very familiar expression at this time of the year.  But pain and illness are no respecters of the calendar and can cause us to feel anything but happy.

We may feel depressed because we can’t be with loved ones, attend events, or decorate, cook, and shop the way we would like.  Or we may be concerned about the traveling, socializing, or hosting that we are scheduled to do.  Either way, we may wish we could skip the holiday season entirely.

Here are a few suggestions from the Grief Share book “Surviving the Holidays”, which, although written for those who have lost loved ones, can also be helpful for those facing health challenges.

Have realistic expectations.  The world promotes the necessity of a perfectly decorated home, the best food, the most beautiful presents, and a full social calendar to be happy.  Even many healthy people’s holidays don’t meet these expectations.

Simplify. Ask others to bring food or order from stores.  Decorate less or rotate decorations. Shop on-line as much as possible.  Choose the social and religious events that will be most meaningful to you and let the others go.

Consider new traditions.  Instead of being discouraged over what we can’t do, we can develop new traditions that are enjoyable now.

Reach out to others.  Taking the emphasis off ourselves helps us put our struggles in perspective and allows us to bless others in need.

Focus on the true meaning of the season.  In Surviving the Holidays, Sue Lutz writes:

“He (Christ) came to defeat the sin and sorrow that overwhelms us at the holidays.  When you focus on this, it helps you get past the everyday trappings of the Christmas season that can tear you down.  When you look at the eternal perspective of what Jesus came to do, it sweeps you up into the lasting things that God is bringing to your life through His coming.”

Pain and illness may keep us from having the happy holidays the world promotes, but they don’t have to keep us from having a meaningful one. And in those moments when we are feeling our losses the most, we can look to our Savior who understands, and whose coming brings joy in the midst of sorrow.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is easy for me to focus on the wrong things at this time of year and only see the things I can’t do or don’t have.  Regardless of what traditional aspects of the holiday season I can or can’t enjoy, may I find soul-satisfying happiness in celebrating Your coming to earth for me and in the hope of my incomparably happy eternal future with You.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Freedom to Trust God's Decisions for Our Lives

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).

For many years, we lived within a few hours of various military bases.  I have often thought of the problems I would have experienced in that career because of my difficulty in following orders and directions without understanding their reasons. This attitude has created numerous problems in both my personal and spiritual life.

Over the years it has been hard to accept the ongoing pain and physical problems that God has allowed in my life. I have felt that if I were given an explanation of why this was happening and understood it, I could accept it much more easily.  Thankfully my faith and trust in God and His decisions is increasing, but many times I still struggle.

As we approach the Fourth of July, I am reminded of why many wars have been fought – for freedom.  In order to reach that goal soldiers had to follow orders and be obedient.  If they were like me they might have said. “Why can’t I go in that direction? Why can’t I be with that division?  Can you tell me the ultimate goal of the mission?” Chaos would have reigned, battles would not have been won, and freedom would have been lost.

My obedience to God brings me freedom and victory.  By yielding to Him and His loving and purposeful plan for my life, I experience freedom from fear, anxiety, hopelessness, discouragement, the need for control, and countless other negative emotions. But I must trust and obey, having the faith to believe that His way is best, regardless of how little I understand it or agree with it at the time.   My “commanding officer” has been through basic training here on earth.  There is no battle He has not fought personally, so He is well-deserving of my unwavering obedience.  Earthly freedom and independence may come and go, but my freedom from sin and its harmful thoughts and behaviors is an eternal independence that I can claim every day.  That’s cause for celebration!

Prayer:  Lord  Jesus, as I thank You for my earthly freedom, I also thank You for the spiritual freedom You give as I walk in trust and obedience to You. 




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

God's Traveling Mercies While on the Road of Pain

“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’ ”
(Exodus 33:14).

Vacation time is here now. Many people pray for God’s traveling mercies on their trips, which may include a safe arrival to and from destinations and freedom from sickness and problems while away.

I recently read this quote from Andrew Bonar:  “If the Father has the kingdom ready for us, He will take care of us along the way”. I immediately thought of traveling mercies.

As Christians, we know that we are traveling through this life to reach our ultimate destination of heaven and eternal life with Christ. But this trip is long and difficult, particularly if we live with poor health. We need God’s traveling mercies.

God has shown His traveling mercies to me countless times. He protected me during a serious accident as child which could have resulted in a life-long disability. He was with me on the foggy roads of painful parenting and the treacherous roads of cancer and mental breakdown. And He has been with me during the 30+ year trip of back pain, showing me the right roads to take (when I listen!) and giving me perseverance and endurance on the ride.

I agree with Bonar’s quote. God has an eternal pain-free home awaiting me. He knows the road to get there is long and difficult – Scripture confirms that (I Peter 4:12). But I have His mercy and protection while traveling. Sometimes I make wrong turns and get lost. There may be some “collisions”. But God is there through it all. He has been and will continue to take care of me until this trip is over. 

There’s no doubt that this road trip is an adventure. So I will enjoy the days of good travel, trust Him on the frustrating and dangerous ones, pray for His rest in the process, and keep making my way home. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, this life of pain isn’t the road trip I wanted to take, but I have seen some amazing signs of Your Presence along the way. Even my “accidents” are ordained by You. As I make my way toward my final destination, I know that I am traveling under Your divine guidance and protection at all times. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Knowing Christ in Suffering and Resurrection

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead”
(Philippians 3:10,11).

Throughout my life  I have struggled with this verse.  I want very much to share in Christ’s resurrection.  Sharing in His sufferings, however, is less appealing.

Until my chronic health conditions began, I truthfully wanted no part of Christ’s sufferings – at least no major suffering.  I thought I could endure the small inconveniences of life and even the more difficult situations related to child-rearing and financial crises.  But when suffering involved physical pain, I preferred to bypass that altogether.

Now that I live with frequent pain or sickness, this passage has taken on an entirely new meaning.  Although my pain cannot compare to what Christ endured on the cross, it enables me to identify in a small way with what He experienced.   In my times of greatest pain, Christ has been the nearest.  I have felt His peace and presence during my most agonizing moments, assuring me I would survive and did not need to panic.  Other times I have felt tremendous power flowing from the prayers of those around me, carrying me through times of trial.

The wonderful aspect of this verse is that resurrection does come.  After the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary, Christ rose in glory and is resplendent in heaven even now.  Our pains and sufferings will one day explode into pain-free resurrection.  We will be perfect and healthy. 

Until then, my trials are a constant reminder of the One who loves me most.  I want to be thankful that I have someone who has gone before me on this journey of suffering.  He understands my pain as no one else can.  He is with me through it now and will one day raise me to my resurrection wholeness.  Hallelujah!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, let me feel the joy of Your glorious resurrection in this earthly life.  Draw me ever deeper into knowing You, in sickness and in health.  Amen.




Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rejoice and Be Glad in THIS Day

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”
(Psalm 118:24).

There is a simple praise song based on this verse which I sang with my children when they were little.   Now that I deal with ongoing pain, at times I have difficulty singing those words truthfully from my heart. 
I once learned something very interesting about this verse from Beth Moore’s Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent.  Psalms 113-118 are part of the Hallel, which were Psalms sung by the Jewish people during Passover and other festivals, even before the time of Christ.  Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover just before His death.  He would have sung these words at some point during the seven day celebration, possibly even on the night of the last supper (Mark: 14:26).

Jesus knew that within a few days or maybe hours of singing these words, He would go through the agony of Gethsemane, betrayal, trial, excruciating pain, and crucifixion.  Yet He still sang with His disciples.  Although He was sinless we know from Scripture that He experienced human emotions.  How hard it must have been for Him to join in song knowing what lay ahead. 

Although my pain and trials cannot begin to compare to what Christ suffered, He understands how hard it is for me to rejoice in a day that may very well be filled with great difficulties.  He is able to sympathize with me in my every weakness (Hebrews 4:15).  Keeping these thoughts in mind, I hope I can believe and speak these words of rejoicing regardless of how I am feeling. 

Even though that first Good Friday brought great agony for Christ, it truly was a day to rejoice.  Death and sin were defeated forever.  Whatever suffering I may be experiencing will also eventually bring a reason to rejoice.  Therefore, I will rejoice and be glad – Resurrection Day is coming.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I thank you for the example You give of praying and praising in times of difficulty or suffering.  Give me the perseverance and desire to rejoice and be glad every day, even as I wait for my own resurrection into new life.  Amen.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Valentine from God

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”
(Jeremiah 31:3).

I believe God loves me. Yet at times I doubt His love, especially during periods of ongoing pain or problems.

But Scripture is full of ways God shows His love for me.

When I feel useless: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

When I feel like no one cares: “The Lord your God is with you.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

When I feel hopeless: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

When I feel I can’t handle my pain anymore:  “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2).

When I’m afraid of future suffering: “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Jennifer Rothschild has compiled a list of 66 ways God loves us – one for each book of the Bible. 

Here is a sampling of them. 

“In Genesis, He fashions you with His hands.
In Psalms, He draws you close & listens for your voice.
In Ezekiel & Daniel, the Lord joins you in the fire.
In the gospels, God puts on human flesh to save you.
In Acts, He gives you His Spirit.
In Peter, He gives you victory over suffering.
In Revelation, He bestows the ultimate honor upon you, as He receives you as His beloved & treasured bride.”

You can download the complete list here:

Yes, Jesus loves me, now and always.  The Bible - God’s Valentine - tells me so.

Prayer:  O Lord, how thankful I am that no matter how painful or lonely or difficult my life is, I have the promises in Scripture of Your love and care for me.  Let me never doubt this love, and let me show my love to You in trust, obedience, and worship.  Amen.
This is a great song by Chris Tomlin - Jesus Loves Me



Monday, February 1, 2016

God Is Our Trust Rod of Strength and Support

“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation”
(Psalm 118:14).

I have been blessed to be part of contemporary worship teams for quite a few years now.  I play the piano, but I recently learned some information about the guitar that I found quite interesting.

Many guitars have something called a truss rod in the neck.  This rod is required for guitars with high tension strings.  Without this rod, the natural tendency of the wooden neck is to bend beyond repair due to the tension from the strings.

Tension is not the only thing that can bend the neck. Changes in environment and temperature can also cause it to warp, twist, or even break.  The truss rod protects the guitar from becoming permanently damaged due to any of these causes.

I thought about how well this concept pertains to our lives.  Pain and illness create a lot of tension.  Sometimes we feel the pressure is too great for us to endure.  We may have circumstantial or environmental stressors as well, but the truss rod of God’s strength keeps us from bending and breaking.  We may seem to be damaged now, but we know it’s not permanent.  Eternal perfection is coming.
The original meaning of the word truss was something that ties or binds, and today it describes a type of supporting framework.  God is the supporting framework who holds us together. And as we bind ourselves to Him, we can keep praising and trusting Him even through the most tense and stressful times.  When we feel ourselves bending, He straightens us. We will not break. 
The word “truss” sounds very much like the word “trust”, doesn’t it?  God is our “trust” rod at all times, enabling us to handle all the tensions and problems we face.  He truly is our strength, our song, and our salvation.

Prayer: O Lord, many times I begin to bend under the tensions of my pain and problems.  Sometimes I feel as though I am going to break from the strain of life’s stresses and my own weaknesses.  But I thank You that no matter how great the tension, the trust rod of Your faithfulness and strength support me.  Amen.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

“What Are You Asking From God?”

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him”
(Matthew 6:8).

I don’t know about you, but many of my prayers are requests of God.  They are not necessarily selfish, but they are based on what I think I need not just to enjoy life more but to serve Him better.

I can across this little writing when I was in college - another lifetime ago that was relatively free from pain and problems. I don’t remember who wrote it, but even then the words affected me.  They have become even more meaningful to me as the years have gone by.

I said:

I need:
Good Health

He said:

Always remember:

All laughter would be monotonous
All wealth would not satisfy
All success would stifle growth
All power would be misused
All good health would be taken for granted
All happiness would grow dull
All sunshine makes a desert”

We may never understand this side of heaven why God is allowing us to endure such pain and suffering. That’s where faith comes in.

But we can be assured that whether we understand and agree with it or not, God really does know what we need most - all the time. So if we don’t always get what we ask for, God has His reasons, and those reasons are rooted in perfect love.

Prayer: O Lord, so many times I think I know what is best for me, but You choose otherwise.  Give me the faith to trust Your decisions. Make me aware of Your presence even in the hard times.  Give me joy in knowing You love me enough to not always give me what I ask for, because in Your wisdom, You see what I cannot.  Amen.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Does Your Soul Need a Spa Experience? Try a Scripture Soak.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7).

Not too far from me is a famous luxury hotel and spa called the Grove Park Inn.  Although I have not been there yet (it’s a bit cost-prohibitive for my pocketbook!), my dream is to someday get a day pass just to soak in the beautiful cave-like pools that look so inviting.

Of course this spa offers various treatments as well. Massages, facials, manicures, herbal soaks, – you name it and they offer it. Given the popularity of spas today, it seems that many people are looking for relaxation, relief, and escape from the tensions and stresses of life.

Soaking in a mineral bath or cave pool may be lovely, but soaking in Scripture has its own benefits.  Here are a few.

Do we need to brighten our look?  “Those who look to him are radiant” (Psalm 34:5).

Do we need to relax and let go of tension and fear? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Do we need to find lasting joy rather than temporary relief? “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:8).

Whatever our pain or problem, there is a Scripture to meet our need.  All we have to do is take time to soak in God’s Word and act on it in faith.

I would love to escape and indulge in a visit to this world-renowned spa, and maybe someday I will.  But in the meantime, praise God, soaking in Scripture is free, requires no reservation, and is easily accessible.  And better yet, its effects remain with me long after the treatment is over.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, so often I want to escape from my pain and problems.  The world offers such experiences, but their relief is only temporary.  You should be my first resort – not my last.  Your Words have the power to refresh and restore me like nothing else can. Thank you for reviving my soul. Amen.