Tag: hardship

Does it feel like you are missing some blessings?

Sometimes water is let go from a nearby lake and the water level drops. When that happens, the most noticeable thing is there are fewer birds on the water and rocks lay exposed. At first glance the water looks shallow and scummy and the banks muddy and messy. As if the water was the blessing and it had been taken away.

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Do you feel like some of the blessings you enjoy have been removed? For a time during Covid, many of us are missing comforts we had before.

When we have the blessing of good friends and family close around us, meeting together, celebrating together, we revel in it. We immerse ourselves in God’s blessing of good times when we have them. And so often, take them for granted. It seems to lose even a little of it would not be a good thing. Like the water level dropping in the lake. This was my brief conclusion.

Ducks_'n_trashWhere the trail comes near the water’s edge, I stepped off to have a closer look. From there I could see things… the ducks and geese had gathered in this inlet to feast on algae that had grown on the underwater rocks, now exposed because of the lowered water level.  What a blessing they were enjoying!

Many bottles and cans that had stuck in the muddy bottom were also now exposed, and a couple of kids had made their way down to the rocky edge to pull them out.  So, this “clean up” effort was made possible by the lowered water level.

If these benefits were occurring when water was withdrawn from the lake, could there be benefits in our lives when we feel blessings have been withheld for a time?

Would our examined lives reveal hidden blessings we take for granted, or that we usually don’t even notice?

If we take the time to look, the answer is probably yes.

Like the algae covered rocks, can we feast on the growth of our faith in God that has grown in the depth of His blessings but is not fully exposed until the level drops?  Yes.

Trusting God in the good times is building our faith and strengthening it so that when challenges arise, our faith can handle them. It’s encouraging to learn that the trust we have in the steadfastness and faithfulness of God in the good times will carry us through the harder times.

Have we allowed things into our lives under the covering of God’s blessing, that we need to remove when we see their trashy presence in full view.  Undoubtedly, yes.

Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time to every purpose under heaven.”  And if you are feeling like God’s blessing has been somewhat withdrawn in your life, don’t be discouraged.  You have a wonderful opportunity for discovery, feasting and clean up before you.

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Take a moment of quiet, and ask God to reveal a new blessing to you in the here and now.

Ask Him to reveal any attitude, behavior or relationship adjustment that needs to be “cleaned up.”

Appreciate that there is blessing in even this time.

And before long, the depths will return. my-lake

Need some Traction?

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Ever since I heard the word “Paraclete” I have thought of the Holy Spirit as a “pair of Cleats.”

The Holy Spirit gives us traction in our walk with the Lord.

“Paraclete” is the Greek word that translated, is used to describe the Holy Spirit.  It comes from “para” meaning close or beside, and “kaleo” a legal advocate who makes a right judgment; an advisor, or helper.

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It comes to light in a picturesque way in the verse in James 1 where he says “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”

Pair that with 1 Cor 10:13 where Paul is speaking of temptation and says God will “provide a way of escape.”

Now we have a picture of a believer walking with the Holy Spirit, (their “pair of cleats”).  And when temptation comes along and tries to drag the believer away, God has provided these cleats so the believer can dig in and have the traction and power to resist and not be dragged away.  That’s the Holy Spirit!

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With our “pair of cleats” we can go farther, climb higher, get a better grip on the trail of life.  Our “Pair of Cleats” will take us places we wouldn’t be able to get to on our own.

adventure-1850912_640The Holy Spirit will stick by our side no matter the circumstances – through storms, harsh terrain, cold, heat – more literally challenges, temptations of every kind, hardships, even elections and pandemics.

All these things can make our way seem dark and slippery.  But we have a partner on the journey – teaching us, guiding, course correcting, encouraging, strengthening us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

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Praying for you, that you will make use of your Pair of Cleats in your daily walk.  That you will listen to the Holy Spirit and dig in when temptations and challenges come.

That as you walk through life, you will recognize your walking partner’s voice and knowing that you are never alone, you will be encouraged, instructed, equipped, advised, counseled, guided, strengthened and protected.

Where is your Hope?

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I have some friends who are going through some really hard times right now.  Serious illnesses, death of a loved one, prison, financial hardship – almost to the point of becoming homeless.

Some of them are dealing with the stress okay and getting through the challenges with their faith intact.  But a couple are feeling so discouraged, frustrated, and helpless; they are losing hope.  I wonder if you know someone who is losing hope?

When things are going well, it’s easy to show and share your faith.  But when they’re not, it’s easy to wonder where God is.  And as a friend it’s hard to know what to say or do.

Sometimes standing with them and saying “I just don’t know what to say but I’m glad to be here with you” is enough.  Sometimes crying with them, or praying with them, or helping them with whatever small thing you can do is enough.  Or making sure they are connected with whatever professional resources are available can help.

But whatever we can do, we are not the ones they can hang their hope on.  And neither are professional resources able to solve every problem with a happy ending.

Of the friends who are doing okay, and have their faith and hope intact, I have noticed some similarities.

girl-1186895_640.jpgThey pray

They read God’s Word, the Bible

They have acknowledged their need to a small group of friends

They accept fellowship and support from this small group

They continue to focus on trusting God with the outcomes

Of the ones who are not doing as well, I have also noticed some similarities.

They go it alone

They deny their need

They have stopped reading the Bible and praying

They focus on the anger and frustration they feel

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If you have friends or loved ones who are in a hardship or challenge that is too much for them, do whatever you can to be the support they will accept.  When you can’t do any more, or if they refuse your help, pray for them.  Pray for them to turn to the One who has the will and the power to have a positive impact on their lives and circumstances.

Holding on to that faith during a hard season, I wrote this song as God encouraged me to hold on and not give up hope.  Put Your Hope in Jesus

When all seems dark and hopeless Your Word becomes a light

A calming reassurance that dawn will follow night

When your only hope is Jesus, then your hope is strong and true

For He’s the One who is able to care for and carry you

Put your hope in Jesus

You can trust the man on the cross who died for you

Put your hope in Jesus

He’s the One who is able to carry you

When all of life around you is so out of control

There is just One you can turn to

There is just one hand to hold

So take the hand of Jesus and cling with all your might

He’s the One with the power to brighten your darkest night!

kneelcrossPut your hope in Jesus

You can trust the man on the cross who died for you

Put your hope in Jesus

He’s the One who is able to carry you

You CAN survive !

Sailing across the Sea of Galilee was an amazing experience.  When we got to the other side we visited the museum of a 2000-year old boat.

In 1986, two brothers discovered it when a severe drought lowered the water level of the Sea of Galilee.  This boat has been dated to the First Century AD.  It’s about twenty-six feet long and eight feet wide, and has been painstakingly preserved.  It is believed to be the kind of boat Jesus rode in.  It shows us, at least, what boats used for fishing and transportation across the lake were like then.

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So this boat is 2,000 years old.  Yet it survived!  It had not simply sunk, but had been buried in the sea floor – safe from where the minerals, plant and animal life and the erosive effects of the water’s currents could take its toll.  But why this boat?

Evidence suggests that it had a hard life – broken timbers had been reused; lots of repairs and patching were observed.  Yet it survived.

The use of twelve different wood types, and the types of repair jobs, suggests that its owner was a fisherman of meager means.  Yet it survived.

This vessel carried simple fishermen.  It took them where they needed to go.  It kept them afloat.  It provided a base from which they worked.  And it survived.  It may have even been used by the Jews in a battle against the Romans in 67 AD.  Yet it survived!

Think about it:

How many of us, like this boat, have had a hard life?

Been batted about by the waves of life.

Faced storms?

How many of us have experienced brokenness?

Been patched up?

Maybe we even have scars from past battles.

We too, are vessels.  As Christians, we are vessels of the Holy Spirit.  We too, may have been damaged and repaired.  We too, may be of “meager means.”  Yet we can be like that Ancient Galilean boat.  We too, can survive!

It wasn’t the fancy boat of a wealthy man.  It wasn’t a boat made of the strongest wood.  It wasn’t the biggest.  It wasn’t the best.  Why did it alone, survive?  Because it was a boat that God had a purpose for!

Do you know God’s purpose for you?

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He tells you in Jeremiah 29:11.  He knows the plans He has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

Because God has a purpose for you, you can survive!

 

Whatever you are facing now, you can survive.

Whatever you have faced, you can survive.

Whatever you are about to face, you can survive.

Against all odds, because God has a plan for you, you can survive!

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Are you F-I-N-E?

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When my Mom died, then my Daddy, then my own breast cancer came on the heels of a challenging auto-immune disease, these were times I remember saying I was “fine” but I really wasn’t.

I don’t think it was because people didn’t want to know or weren’t willing to listen. It may just have been because I didn’t even know how to ask for help.

 

In saying “FINE” to others, on the inside I was really saying:

“F: Frankly

 I: I

N: Need

E: Everything

but don’t know how to ask.”

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Once a pastor pointed out that when wheat grows, the topmost part of the stalk called the head, becomes larger and heavier as it matures and ripens.  When the head of the stalk is so heavy it is bowed down, it is ready for harvest.

 

People grow and mature also.  But what makes their heads bow down is when they have a lot on their mind or on their heart.  Just looking for that prompts me to ask how they’re doing.

Then when they look up, I can see in their face if they look tired, worn out or discouraged.  Often their posture and face will give away what their words do not. So now when someone tells me “I’m fine,” I take time to go deeper.

I may offer something specific, like bringing a meal, or babysitting, or going out together for a cup of coffee.  But even if none of those seem to be a good fit, I can call on God to meet their needs in ways I cannot.  So I always ask “How can I pray for you?”

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And then I do. 

You could too.

“Carry each other’s burdens…” Galatians 6:2