For All the Beauty All Around Me

Today is the third week I have not been able to make it to church.  Two weeks ago I was in too much pain to go.  Last week we were all snowed in and church was cancelled. Today I am suffering again from pain.

Feeling a little down – I miss my church family, I miss the corporate worship and most of all I miss hearing the sermons my pastor shares.  Although I am sure I am a little prejudiced because my pastor is my daughter, she is one of the best speakers I have ever heard and I always seem to find something to encourage me or challenge me when she speaks.

My husband and I did our own devotions.  As I thumbed through my Bible afterwards I came across this beautiful old song.  It reminded me that whether I am in church or at home,  whether I am in pain or not, whether my spirit soars or descends – there is so much beauty around me.

So I choose to remember all the goodness of the Lord and reflect on these words:

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies.  For the love which from our birth over and around us lies. 

Lord of all to thee we raise, this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of the hour, of the day and of the night.  Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light.

Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child.  Friends on earth and friends above.

Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For each perfect gift of thine to our race so freely given.  Graces human and divine, flowers of earth and buds of heaven.
Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: JOHN RUTTER
For the Beauty of the Earth lyrics © WORD MUSIC, INC., HINSHAW MUSIC, INC., HINSHAW MUSIC INC (CHRISMON MUSIC DIVISION), OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS UK

The Day I Let My Pain Go!

Thirty-eight years ago my beloved husband and father of my two daughters was killed in an accident.  Only those who have suffered the loss of a loved one know what sorrow I felt.

In that first moment when I realized I was a widow at 33 with two little girls to raise, the first thing I did was cry out to God.  Since a small girl I have based my life on my faith in Jesus Christ so it was only natural that my first thoughts were “God help me!”

Immediately a verse from the Bible came to my mind.

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In the days and weeks ahead God gave me the strength and courage I needed to make so many decisions.

Things I had never thought about:

  • What funeral home do I use?
  • Where do I bury him?
  • Will I have enough money for the expenses?
  • How will I provide for my girls on my one income?
  • How far will his life insurance go?
  • Since I have to keep working, who will watch my girls before/after school?
  • Do I continue to live where I am or move closer to family for support?
  • What do I do with all his clothes, his guns, his personal stuff?

But the biggest decision was “how do I get through a day without him?”

While everyone talked about how strong I was, only God knew how many times I fell to my knees and cried out for strength.  One of my friends had recently recorded this song, “Praise the Lord,” and when I felt I could not go on, I would play this song and as I began praising the Lord, peace would come once again.

 

But slowly, as the months, then the years went by the burden of my grief became almost more than I could bear.  While the love for my husband did not diminish, I confess I became very lonely.  The idea of all the years stretching ahead of me with no one to share them with me became almost overwhelming.

I began to entertain the thought of finding a new love.  Yet, I felt so terrible even thinking such a thing.

One Sunday in service the speaker sang an old song “Take My Hand Precious Lord.”  The lyrics expressed exactly how I felt.

“Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand.  I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.”

After the song was finished, the speaker invited anyone who was struggling with a burden to come to the altar for a joint prayer with the church.  While I definitely wanted prayer, I did not want to walk to the front of the church – too embarrassing.  As I sat in my seat debating what to do, a old friend of the family who was sitting in the very front of the church got up, walked back to me, held out his hand and invited me to walk to the front with him.  How could I say no when my heart was crying out for relief of this burden of grief?

At the altar I quietly asked God to please take this burden of grief from me.  I could not go on year after year like this.  It suddenly came to me that God could give me peace, but I had to be willing to let go of my grief.  Like a light bulb going off, I realized that I was holding tight to my sorrow because I felt that was all I had left of my husband.  To be willing to stop grieving, to be willing to laugh and love again, I had to “let it go.”

Praying to God to help me, I felt as if a heavy load had been lifted from my shoulders.

I felt the peace of God that passes understanding fill my heart.

Did I quit missing my husband?  Of course not.  Even today I cannot see a young man fishing without seeing my husband with his fishing pole slung over his shoulder.  I cannot see a police officer without seeing my husband in his uniform as a prison guard.

Did I quit loving my husband?  Of course not.  I treasure his memory and look forward to seeing him again some day in the next life.

But I was able to finally understand that constantly grieving, being filled with sorrow was not how he would have wanted me to live.  He would want his memory to bring a smile and he would want me to live and laugh again.

I let my pain go – and accepted the peace Jesus offered me.

Another song I now love to hear that says it so well:

And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you were never left alone ‘Cause you can always count on Jesus’ name.  And if there’s one thing I pray it’s that Jesus helps you find a way to make a change and listen to your heart.  God will take away your pain if you choose to let it go, if there’s one thing I know.”

By this post I do not mean to sound like Pollyanna and to those who are suffering unbearable grief, I know it is not an easy thing.  But I do hope you will seek the peace of God and allow Him to help you.

 

Can I Get An Amen?

blessings

Thank God for music!

I love music!  My best times of devotion are when I listen first to a praise song and sit and meditate on God’s presence before I pick up my Bible or my devotional book.  In times of great joy or great sorrow in my life I have often gone to my piano and played a song expressing that joy, that sorrow.

One of my favorite musical groups is Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  This morning listening to one of their songs, “So You Would Know,” once again my mind roamed back to all the times God has been there for me in times of great sorrow or tragedy.

Thank God for help in times of great need!

I have shared in other blogs many of those times God helped!

The Day That Changed My Life

Coincidence or An Act of God?

I’m thankful for those times when God’s presence and help were so needed – and He was there.  Those times when I was weak and He carried me.  Those nights when he wiped my tears away.  Those times when pain racked my body and He sent healing down to me.

When you walked on this problem
Didn’t I step right in on time
When you got weak along life’s journey
My angel carried you

When the pains were racking your body
Didn’t I send a healing down to you

How many days must I be a fence all around you
How many nights must I wipe your tears away
How many storms must I bring you safely through
For you to know just how much I love you

Thank God for the everyday blessings!

However, while I thank God for help in difficult times, sometimes I forget to thank Him for day-to-day blessings, the many things I take for granted.

Didn’t I wake you up this morning
Were you clothed in your right mind
Didn’t I put food on your able
Show UP! when your bills were due

So today I thank God

  • that I woke up this morning still in my “right mind.”  (And at my age, that is a blessing!)
  • that I was able to walk all by myself
  • that I was able to see the colorful fall trees
  • that I was able to hear as I watched the news and now as I listen to the music
  • that I had plenty of food to choose from for breakfast:  bagels, cereal, bacon and eggs
  • that I had a hot cup of coffee waiting for me fixed by my loving husband (and at our age, to still have my husband alive and well is a blessing!)
  • that I have a warm house and warm clothes as these fall days turn colder
  • that while I am not rich by any means, all my bills are paid
  • that I have clean, running water

And the list could go on and on.  Things I just take for granted.  Things that a majority of the world does not have.

Today can I get an Amen?

I want to encourage anyone who reads this to take a few minutes to think about all the things God has blessed you with.  And recognize how many times we complain about our very blessings.

  • We complain about our “busy” schedules instead of thanking God for the children we have or the friends we have that take up so much of our time.  That we have a house to clean or a grocery store and money to buy food for our family.
  • We complain about the weather instead of thanking God for the air conditioning and heating that makes life so comfortable on those hot or freezing cold days.
  • We complain about our jobs instead of thanking God that we have employment (if we are still young enough to work) OR
  • We complain about our aches and pains and loss of energy as we age in retirement instead of thanking God that we have lived long enough to be retired.

Thank God for the greatest gift of all!

But the greatest blessing in my life is not that He delivered me from cancer, He strengthened me when my husband died or all the material blessings He has given me.  The greatest blessing is that as a young child He helped me to see my need of Him and to understand how much He loves me.

When you were lost in sin and sorrow
I died to set you free
So you would know just how much I love you

Can I get an Amen?

Join with me in praising God today for His blessings – both the BIG ones in times of GREAT need but also the EVERY DAY blessings we take for granted.  And as you count your blessings, let it be a reminder of HOW MUCH GOD LOVES YOU!!!

 

What is the “Joy of the Lord?”

Jesus laughing

We hear a lot from Christians about “the joy of the Lord.”  Often a verse from Nehemiah is quoted when speaking of joy.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

But I wonder what does that mean?  What is the joy of the Lord and how does it give me strength?  I have found many times in my life when I was going through a difficult time and struggling with pain or sorrow that well-meaning people would quote that verse to me suggesting if I would just be “happy” I would find strength from the Lord to get me through this difficult circumstance.

If I would just adjust my attitude.

If I would just think positive thoughts.

If I would just “put on a happy face.”

Then, God would give me joy.

So – strength from God depended on me.  If in this time of despair I could just either “pretend” to be happy (“fake it ’til you make it”) or if I could somehow find some inner strength to think positive thoughts, God would give me joy and strength.  Our culture (and many TV preachers/teachers) tell us having the right attitude, having self-esteem, is the road to the joy of the Lord.

Yet we know that many great men of God did not always have a positive attitude.  Look at the Psalms.  They are full of times when David and others even questioned if God cared.

for you are my God, my only safe haven.  Why have you tossed me aside?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

As I look at the verse in Nehemiah what stands out to me is that the joy Nehemiah is talking about is not some feeling I produce by my own ability to “put on a happy face” and adjust my attitude.  Rather, this joy is the joy OF THE LORD.  It is something that comes from God.  True joy, I submit, does not come from within me – it comes from without.

The joy of the Lord is not dependent on me adjusting my attitude or thinking positive thoughts.  I am not disputing that our thinking, out attitude does many times needs some work.  Paul wrote in Philippians:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

And the writer of Proverbs told us:

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

But if having God’s joy is simply me thinking on things worthy of praise, then the joy of the Lord is not really from the Lord.  It is simply having a good philosophy or a good outlook on life.  That benefits those of us who have a tendency by nature to be positive, who bounce out of bed each morning ready for the day and get excited about the new coffee favor we just bought at Target.  However, it puts those who have a more melancholy personality and basically say “don’t talk to me until I have had my coffee” at a great disadvantage.

So – what is the joy of the Lord?  And how do we get it?

Take a look at the times Jesus spoke about joy.

In the Beatitudes he told us:

 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven. 

One reason for joy, then, is the hope we have of what awaits us.  This life is not all there is for us.  Regardless of what is happening to me right now, I have a great future awaiting me and when I realize that I have something to look forward to it can give me a sense of peace and comfort.  This present circumstance may be terrible but it is not the end.

But how do I find joy in difficult times for the “here and now.”  Does this mean my only joy is in anticipating what will come in the future?  Can I find joy in this life now?

The Psalmist gave us the secret when he wrote:

in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

When we learn to stop running about and trying to solve everything ourself, when we take time to be still and quiet with the Lord, when we allow our minds to dwell on Him and His Word, we will find that joy that Peter wrote about that is:

At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to face those difficult circumstances because it is the joy that comes from a real relationship with Him, not from something we can create.  I submit if you are lacking joy, ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time I spend some time just sitting quietly reading God’s Word or listening to a good worship song and just remained quiet and allowed God to speak to my heart?
  2. When was the last time I took some moments to sincerely make a list of all the blessings God had given me and then took some time to truly thank Him?
  3. When was the last time I looked at the difficult situations in my life and asked God to show me where/how I could use these times to grow more like Him?

As we take time to focus on God, to allow Him to speak to us, as we come into His presence, there we will find the joy of the Lord.

Help us all Lord in the midst of our busy and crazy lives to take that time and allow You to minister to us of your love and fill us with your joy.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving – My Favorite Holiday

happy-thanks

Before the costumes for Halloween are off the shelves, Christmas decorations are everywhere.  Now I’m not fussing about getting ready for Christmas too early – or listening to Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.  I love the Christmas season and understand how exciting that time can be.

But sometimes it seems Thanksgiving gets lost in that time between Halloween and Christmas.  What a shame!

I love Thanksgiving!  It makes few demands.

  • No shopping required.
  • No large decorating project required.
  • No large list of parties to attend.

Just a time to enjoy food and family!

Now I know for the one fixing the meal, it does require some labor-intensive efforts.  But, after the meal, what a great time to just enjoy family and friends.

No worries if everyone liked their gift:

  • Did it fit?
  • Was it the right color?
  • Was that the game they wanted?

No decorations to take down and drag out to the garage or down to the basement.

Most of all, I think it gives us all a time to reflect and count our blessings.  (Something we need to do more often.)

While it is my favorite holiday, I must confess it brings some sadness to me also.  Most of my children and grandchildren now live in other states and we are not able to always get together on this holiday.  I miss those days of a table filled with laughing faces.  Still, I’m thankful for the memories I have – and I know there will be more Thanksgivings ahead when we will be together.

So – I count my many blessings and take a moment to relax before I enter that busy Christmas season.

Just a few thoughts on Thanksgiving.

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. ”  Psalm 106:1

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

– WT Purkiser