If only.

I want a redo.

Truly.  Sometimes I think back over my life and I would really love a chance to live parts of it over again, but differently.  I’ve lost friendships, said words I regret, been angry when love was what was needed, let my feet take me places I knew better than to go, and much much more.

Regrets.

Maybe you feel the same way.

If we just had a time machine, or a magic lamp to rub.  Wouldn’t that be something?

My dad always told me that “if” was the biggest word in the dictionary.  It’s true if you think about it. “If I just hadn’t done that”, or “If I just hadn’t said that”.  Or how about “If I had just gone ahead and done that thing” or “what would things be like if that hadn’t happened to me”? We torture oursleves with “if”.

Big sigh.

If only.

Willow Lake

We all have regrets.  Each of us can think back on our lives and remember circumstances that we’d like to change. Those things can keep us up at night.  The wish to redo situations knowing what we know now is strong.  Regret and shame can hold us prisoner.  The enemy of our souls uses those emotions to trap us all the time. In order to keep us from experiencing peace, forgiveness, and joy, he will bring up the wrongs we have done in our life, over and over.  He will often play them on repeat in our minds. So much so, that the truth of scripture can’t get in.  

The voice in our head from our own shortcomings is so loud that the gentle whisper of God’s redeeming love almost can’t be heard.

And since we can’t redo those things, despair can set in.  But despair is the opposite of hope. 

The disciple Peter had regrets.  You will remember that Peter followed Jesus with everything he had.  He had a front row seat to everything that Jesus did.  All the miracles, all the teaching, all the humility and all the joy of being in the presence of The Messiah.  Peter saw it all.

In fact, Peter was closer to Jesus than some of the other disciples.  He was part of the inner circle.

But when the rubber met the road, Peter bailed.  Peter’s faith was fierce, but his flesh was fiercer still…As they led Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest, Peter followed at a distance.  You can imagine that the entire time, Peter was contemplating his next move.  As he walked along with the others who were following to see what would happen to this Jesus, Peter was there.  He would likely have been thinking over the past few years and all that had changed in his life because of Jesus.  He would have been recalling fireside talks, feeding thousands of people with just two small fish and a few tiny loaves of bread.  He would have remembered when Jesus changed the water in some giant clay jugs into the best wine they had ever tasted.  It was there in the courtyard of the high priest where Peter denied that he even knew who Jesus was. 

And Jesus heard him.

Jesus turned to make eye contact with Peter, and the guilt and shame that Peter felt drove him from the courtyard in tears. Luke 22:62 says,  “And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”

Regrets.

For Peter, the sting of regret was monumental.  Denying Jesus was not something that Peter did flippantly, or in the heat of the moment.  He had been with Jesus all day, and into the night.  They were together preceding Jesus’ arrest.  Jesus had warned Peter of what was coming, and Peter had sworn his loyalty to Jesus.  Fiercely. They had gone together to the Mount of Olives where Jesus asked the disciples to stay awake and pray, but they could not.  Jesus went a stone’s throw away to talk to His Father about the suffering he was about to endure.  The disciples fell asleep many times during Jesus’ time of prayer. Yet each time Jesus came back to them and admonished them to stay alert. And Peter was there, the entire time.

Peter would have given a lot of thought to his association with Jesus during that grueling day.  

Denying Jesus would have been the last thing on his mind. So when it happened, the regret was instant.

But later, in Matthew 16:18, Peter is offered restoration by Jesus when He declares that Peter is foundational to the church of God moving forward.  “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”  Peter was restored in his faith by the very One whom he had denied!  In a way, Peter got a redo.  He got the chance to do things right.  

Me (at Willow Lake)

When the pain of regret and the sting of shame begin to edge their way into our thought life, it’s time to intentionally turn the page on those feelings. We are taught throughout scripture that God loves us unconditionally, that He made a way (in Jesus) for us to share eternity with Him, and that He desires a relationship with us.

Jesus was unwilling to let Peter drown in guilt and shame.  Even now, maybe He is using these words to express that message to you too.

Take to heart these truths that come from God’s love letter to us.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 tells me that God loves me. “God loves you and has chosen you to be His own people”.

1 Peter 2:9 reminds me that I am chosen.  “You are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.”

1 John 2:12 tells me that I am forgiven.  “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus”.

Galatians 5:1 states that I am free.  “So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure you stay free…”

2 Corinthians 5:17 declares that I am made new.  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is GONE; a new life has begun!”

Promises like those in scripture give me the confidence to let go of regret.  They give me hope for a future where shame and regret no longer hold me captive.  They encourage me that today is different already because the Lord is in my life.  With His presence in me, regret and shame  have no room to reside, because that space is now taken up with faith in Jesus and His hope!

You guessed it, Willow Lake

Peter knew regret.  Shame drove Peter from the courtyard. Fear caused him to run away.  But Jesus restored him and gave him purpose!

Jesus offers the same restoration to you and me.  No matter where we’ve been.  No matter what we’ve done.  No matter who we were yesterday.  Today is the day of salvation!  Today we are offered new life!

Today there is hope!

Peter admitted his shortcomings and sin to God.  He was forgiven, and able to be used by God in a mighty way.  You and I have the same opportunity.

When the ugliness of my past mistakes rears an accusing head, and calls me out, I can declare confidently that I am forgiven and free!  That I have been redeemed and restored.  

The only “if” I want to entertain these days is “What will God do in this situation if I am faithful to Him and press forward?  I try to be careful not to focus for too long on what is behind me, I am not headed that direction anymore.     

And, by faith, neither are you my sister.

Jesus, I want to lay my past out before you now.  (tell Him here those things that are holding you hostage, don’t hold anything back, He already knows).  I want to lay all of these things at your feet Lord, and I beg you to break the chains of the enemy that tell me I can’t change.  They tell me I can’t be forgiven.  They tell me that I need to fix myself before you will love and accept me.  Give me the holy courage to remain in the truth of Your word that declares that I am a new creation! I no longer need to carry that weight, You have taken it from me.   I love you Lord.

Purposefully,

Shelli

The sun in my eyes

This time of year, as the temperatures rise earlier in the day, getting some walking in means, I need to go early.  So, I don my walking shoes and head out as the sun is coming up!  (Go ahead, call me crazy…. I already know!)  It is still crisp and cool then, and there’s very little traffic and very few people out then.  It’s a peaceful time to walk and think.

Recently I decided to start challenging myself, and I began to jog.  Little spurts at first, and then longer spurts.  I continued to do this repeatedly until I could go a fair distance jogging before returning to walking.   I like to look ahead on my path and choose an object as a goal, a place to stop jogging.  I tell myself, “I won’t stop until I get to that car up ahead.”  I keep pushing myself to go a bit further each time I do this.  I try not to stop until my heart is racing, and my breathing is heavy, and then I return to walking.  By doing this, I am able to build up endurance and to go farther before I stop.  It feels amazing!

On a recent walk/jog, I was feeling particularly good. So, I decided to see how far I could go without stopping.  I kept my eyes down, watched my feet so I didn’t trip, and forged ahead.  At one point, I thought I should be pretty close to the end of the street I was on, and almost to the corner (my goal). So, I kept jogging. But the sun was in my eyes, and I couldn’t see that corner up ahead, so I kept going.  And going.  And going. 

Each time I looked up to see how close I was to that corner; it didn’t seem to be any nearer at all.  The early morning sun was shining brightly in my eyes and kept me from seeing where that next corner was.  All I could see was that sunshine.  I kept jogging forward, knowing that the corner would come up eventually. But because the sun was shining so brightly, I ended up jogging farther than I thought I could.  Seeing only that sunshine, kept me from only seeing my struggle.  When the sun was in my eyes, I wasn’t focused on the hardship.  I was focused on the finish line, that corner, my resting place.

Having that sun in my eyes was a gift! 

The words of Hebrews 12:2 help to shape a fitness goal into a spiritual one.  “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…”

Jesus came to earth with one goal.  To provide a way of redemption for mankind.   He did that through his death on the cross, burial and resurrection three days later.  But while He was fulfilling His earthly ministry, He had trials.  Trials that he completed without sin, and to the glory of God the Father.  But He suffered.  And Hebrews 12:2b tells us, of Jesus, “for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross….”  He knew the corner was ahead and He kept going.  He focused on the joy, or rest, that was coming. 

Maybe you feel that’s an unfair comparison, since after all He is Jesus, and we are not.

Okay then, how about Peter?

In Mathew 14:22-31, we read the account of Peter walking on the water to Jesus. 

At this time in history, John the Baptist had just been beheaded, and there was much anguish and grief amongst the disciples.  They were broken in spirit and undoubtedly fearing for their lives.  But there was always work to be done.  They must keep going.  Jesus was teaching and performing miracles, and they had just witnessed the feeding of the 5000.  Jesus then wanted some time to be alone and pray, so He sent the disciples ahead to the other side of the lake in their boat. Then during the night, Jesus wanted to join them. Now the fastest way to do that (if you’re Jesus) is to just go ahead and walk out on the water. 

Can you just imagine the disciples sitting in the dark, on the lake in their small boat?  Here they are grieving the impact and loss of their friend John.  They have just witnessed another miracle, and their heads are spinning from it all.  And here comes Jesus.  WALKING ON TOP of the water.

They flipped! 

But Peter, after seeing that it was Jesus, wants a try.  Peter wants to emulate Jesus by walking on top of the water too.  So, Jesus invites him out. And as long as Peter kept his eyes steadied on Jesus, he was able to stay on top of the water.  He was able to avoid fear and avoid sinking underneath the dark waters. As long as he kept his eyes on the Son.

But the very second that Peter begins to shift his focus away from Jesus and onto the wind that is causing the waves to lap against the side of the boat, he sinks.  Peter lost focus and that made his problem seem bigger than it was.  

All Peter could see was his struggle, not his solution.

Peter called out to Jesus for help, and immediately Jesus reached out and grabbed him.  Jesus pulled Peter back into the safety of the boat.  But first Peter had to shift his eyes back to Jesus.

When I think of Peter, I think of me.  I too, tend to easily focus on my problems instead of remembering that Jesus wants me to focus on Him.  He wants me to embrace the fact that He is the “sun in my eyes”, and He is jogging alongside me toward the goal. 

I know how it happens. 

Life presents a challenge, an issue, a trial.  And for a time, the natural thing to do is to try to fix it ourselves.  To worry about all the difficulties we will face because of the issue we are up against.  It may even feel overwhelming.  But I want to encourage you today to shift your focus. 

Take your eyes off your struggle and to look toward the Solution.

Hebrews 12:1b-2a “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Keeping my eyes on Jesus, acknowledging my need for Him, and asking for His direction in my life, will make running this race of life joyful.  When the Son is in front of me, encouraging me forward, I can go farther!  When I choose to place my attention on where He is leading me, I am less aware of the hardship and more focused on the finish line.

No matter what we face, we have help in Jesus.  But we must choose to have “The Son in our eyes” (see what I did there)?  This will help us to have the courage to get to the next corner.  It will take our attention off our burning lungs and tired feet. Purposefully pointing our eyes at Jesus will help us see the solution and not just the struggle! And it will grow our endurance in the faith.

James 1:3 says of trials, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Lord, thank you for the truth of scripture that tells me that you are always with me.  Your word continually points out Your desire to have a relationship with me.  I always want my endurance in faith to grow, and I always want to walk on top of the water with You.  But often I forget that you are ready and waiting to guide me as I step.  I forget how big You are, and I let the size of my struggle shrink the size of my solution, which is You.  Help me when I worry, to remember Peter.  Lord, I want to choose to trust you, especially when the waters of my life are a bit choppy, and the corner ahead seems far off.  I know you are with me always.  Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

Spiritual Amnesia

I have this dog.

He is a mixed breed of some kind.  He’s pretty aggressive and has a big bark.  He’s the kind of dog that makes me feel safe when I am home alone.  He’s the kind of dog that we don’t allow kids to pet when we’re out walking, just to be safe.  He’s good with the kids that are part of our family, those he is around regularly. 

For the past 11 years, he has managed to keep us safe from intruders, like the UPS man, the mail carrier, and the neighbor bringing Christmas cookies.  What a relief right?  I have joked for years that his main job is to keep all the elephants out of the yard, and I can assure you that he is 100% successful!  I have yet to have a single elephant take up residence in my yard!

But what I find so interesting is that this aggressive, protective, burly dog is terrified of lightening and thunder.  This time of year (summer) is a challenging time for Chomper (yes, Chomper like The Land Before Time movies….).  In Arizona, we get summer thunderstorms.  Sometimes they produce rain (I’m still waiting this year).  But, more often than not, they just threaten to storm with big winds, lightening, and thunderclaps.  These are the kind of things that send my burly dog running to the other end of the house.  He shakes, he whines, and he cowers.  During those times when the storm goes into the night, my poor hubby ends up sleeping on the couch to comfort this big baby.  Chomper will pace, pant and whimper until the storm passes.

I find all of this hilarious!  How can such a brave, often fierce dog be such a chicken about something outside?  Now, this is not his first year with thunderstorms.  He has lived with them his entire life; they come and go every year.  He has never once been struck by lightning, never been left to fend for himself unprotected while the rain beat down on him, and no windstorm has ever picked him up and carried him away from our home.  And yet, he acts as though at any second, any or all those things could happen to him.

I wonder if God ever feels that way about me…

Williams Arizona~~

Psalm 46:1 (ESV) says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  I wonder If you’re like me.  Sometimes I forget, I get spiritual amnesia.  When trouble strikes in my life, I am immediately thrown into a tailspin of sorts.  “How could this happen?  Why is this happening?  How am I going to fix it?” 

My default is to “freak out”, (even just a little bit).  I want to duck and cover.  I want to make “it” stop.  I try to tackle the issue and figure out a way to end the trial immediately.  This is normal right?

Sometimes we forget about Psalm 46:1. This scripture reminds us that we do not need to tackle our issues under our own strength.  God is our refuge and strength.  He is our very present help in trouble. 

When Chomper hears a thunderclap, he assumes that the worst is ahead, he can’t recognize that our home is his refuge.  He doesn’t know that he will not be subject to the volatile effects of the storm on his own.  He runs to cower and hide because he feels scared and alone.  He doesn’t fully understand that, as his owners, we are there for him.  We are close by; we are very present in his fears.  He’s a dog, he can’t be reasoned with.

But you and I are different.  We have the ability to think differently.  We have the ability to take our fears and struggles and place them directly into the mighty hands of God. 

Our best response in the face of difficulty is to pause and pray.  Not falter and fidget.

In my heart, I know that when hardships come, there is always purpose.  I know that God is at work and that He is doing something in my life that will change me for His glory.  I know that I will come out better for it.  And I truly believe that my pain can be used by Him to ease the pain for someone else down the road (when I seek Him and come out on the right side of it).   But oftentimes, these are the thoughts that come second.  After the “freak out” session has ended.  After I have settled down and come to the end of myself, and my limited resources to handle things. 

Romans 8: 38-39 (NLT) carries another pertinent truth straight to my heart.  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Those are some powerful words, friend.  (Read them again, slower this time.)  Nothing can separate us from God’s love!  Not death, not fears, not worries, not trials of life.  Sometimes we feel that way, but it is not true.

Each time that a crisis arises in our lives, we have a choice.  We can pause and pray, and elicit God’s direction within the crisis.  Or we can freak and fidget, and take things into our own hands.  We always have that choice.  God is faithful and compassionate though.  He wants to help us maneuver through our current difficulty.  Through relationship with Him, we can have peace in the middle of a struggle, even if the struggle doesn’t go away quickly. 

Knowing that God the Father wants to be there in the storm with me, gives me much peace and comfort.  I’ve learned that sometimes He stops the storm around me, and sometimes He stops the storm within me.

There is no way to avoid storms in this life.  Storms are completely a part of being human.  We can’t change that.  But what we can change is our response to the storm.  By trusting God in the storm and remembering the He is a very present help (or ever-present help, in the NIV), we cando our part to stop the storm within. 

The next time there is a thunderstorm, and the lightening has Chomper running for cover, my hubby will be there.  He will sleep on the couch.  He will pet him while he whines.  He will talk to him and try to alleviate his fears.  He will stay with Chomper until the storm passes, and he can rest.

The Lord will do the same for you and me.  He will stay with us through the night.  He will comfort us with His loving embrace of peace.  He will draw us to His word where we can find truth to calm our fears.  And He will not leave us to weather the storm alone.  He’s a good, good Father.  Remember that the next time the winds of difficulty start to blow in your direction.  God is our refuge and strength.  Will you freak and fidget, or will you pause and pray?

Lord, it is so easy for me to worry.  Sometimes life gets difficult, and I don’t always respond the way that I want to.  But Lord, I trust You.  I know that You are always with me.  I believe that You want me to lean into You and that You will fight the storms of life with me if I’ll just acknowledge my need for You.  I pray now and ask that You will remind me of this truth.  That the next time the wind howls and I feel scared, that Your spirit will remind my spirit, that I am not alone.  That You are my refuge and my strength. 

The one and only Chomper!
No dog that looks like that should be scared of thunder!

On the other side of it

Last summer I went on a long-distance trip.  My hubby and I ventured to Colorado, and on to Indiana to see relatives.  It was a wonderful 17 days away from home exploring, hiking, driving across large parts of the country, and visiting family!  Neither of us had been to Colorado before, and I fell in love with Summer Colorado.  (I’m not interested in Winter Colorado…..snow is a four letter word in my book!)  When we got to Indiana, I saw Lightening Bugs, or fireflies, for the first time!  All in all, it was a terrific trip, one we’d like to do again someday.

Before we left on the trip, we spent months planning it.  We mapped and re mapped routes.  We viewed our hotel options along the way.  We checked into what sights we wanted to visit as we traveled.  We looked to see the freeways and highways we would use to make our route the fastest and most direct. We checked the weather.  And we considered what cities to stay overnight in that might be the safest as tried to avoid the “big cities” as much as possible.  We ultimately planned out as many details as we could foresee needing to, ensuring that everything was “just right” for our big adventure.  That seems logical and smart, doesn’t it? 

But when it comes to the adventure that is our faith, being logical and smart is only a part of the equation. 

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.  We can take courage from those words.  But verse 2 provides us with some inspiring words as well.  “This is what the ancients were commended for.”  Let’s look at one of those “ancients”. 

Abram.  You may best remember him as Abraham, the father of many nations.  Father Abraham, as the song goes, had many sons.  There was much that God wanted to do IN and THROUGH Abram.  But before God could truly work in Abram’s life, he needed to relocate.  Up until that time, Abram had a decent life.  He lived with his immediate family, in his homeland, the place where he grew up.  He had roots in the community, and he had extended family there.  He had work, a full life, and he was comfortable.  But in Genesis 12 God speaks to Abram. “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”  It’s that last line that gets me. 

Go to the land I will show you.

WILL show you.  Not HAVE shown you.  But WILL, future tense.  I find this part of scripture astounding. Abram didn’t have a map, he didn’t check for stops along the way, he didn’t check the weather. He didn’t even know where he was going!  He just went.  God said “I will show you” where you’re going.  He started out on his journey without even knowing his destination ahead of time!  Let that sink in for a moment.  Consider how very different that is than the kind of planning you and I put into a vacation.  But this trip was far more permanent and important than any other vacation or trip Abram might take.  This was his calling.  He was on assignment from God.

Remember, “ faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.  Hebrews chapter 11 is also known as the Faith Chapter in the Bible.  Many heroes of the faith are listed here and are commended for their faithful actions, or their obedience.  Try this; in the following examples from Hebrews 11, replace the word faith with the word obedience, as you read them.

By faith, Noah (when warned about things not yet seen)…built an ark.

By faith, Abram…went, even though he did not know where he was going.

By faith Moses parents hid him for three months.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.

By faith the prostitute Rahab…welcomed the spies.

Now go back and read each one and stop to consider what might have happened if they had NOT obeyed in faith but held back in fear. There would have been huge consequences to their lack of action.  Those of us in the future (like right now!) would be living a different life.  It is a fact that when people of God obey His call, the chain of events that occurs because of it, changes lives.  Moving forward, the ripple effect that takes place, can literally change the course of history!  Translation: your obedience can have a lasting effect on the history of your own family and possibly even further than that.  Future generations (like you and I) are changed and blessed because of events in the faith life of believers, centuries ago!

What’s important to note is that those heroes not only heard the call, but they followed through.  They didn’t have it all spelled out for them ahead of time.  There was no map for Abram, no blueprints for Noah, no promise of safety for Moses’ parents, and no bridge for the Israelites that crossed the Red Sea.  I like my plans all tied up neatly with a bow, sealed and guaranteed for me ahead of time.  I use the map app on my phone for directions, I choose hotels with free cancellation, and I prefer to know alternative routes in case of traffic. 

But that’s not faith.  That’s having a plan. 

Having a plan is smart when you travel, in fact it’s smart for a great many areas of life.  But when it comes to our faith life, things change a little.  When we feel that God is placing something in front of us with intention (sometimes referred to as being called) we need step out “in faith”.  We may need to move forward with our direction from God before all the details are mapped out and secure. We shouldn’t always wait until all the unknowns are known.    We can have peace knowing that God’s plan is always for our best.  That if He has placed something in or on our heart, He will make a way.  He did that for the heroes of the faith, and there is no reason to think that He won’t do the same for us!  When we step forward in faith, what happens is that we see blessings on the other side of our fear.  Blessings that God has been waiting to show us!  Remember that God told Abram “Go to a place that I WILL show you” and Abram went.  What happened in Abram’s life after that time of faithful obedience was that he THEN became the father of many nations.  And now, thousands of years later, you and I can be encouraged as we read the story of how God blessed him AFTER he obeyed. 

I want you to grasp the truth that Abram didn’t leave AFTER God laid out the entire plan and route for him.  He didn’t obey AFTER God showed him all he would receive as a result of his obedience.  He WENT because God asked it of him. He went when he simply believed that God knew what was best for him. And THEN God blessed him!

Have you felt like there might be something that God is tugging on your heart to do? Have you struggled with knowing what that feels like?  Or if it’s all in your head?  Here’s some things that I have learned.  That leading from God can feel like something that you are excited about or interested in (like a ministry to get involved in?).  Sometimes it feels like a purpose that tingles just below the surface your skin (like something you are passionate about that could help people).  Usually, it requires a risk or change (is it a new job or a location change?).    Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense (with regard to what others expect of you, or even financially).  Often it is something you just can’t stop thinking about!

Pray about those “feelings”.  Pray about your fears.  Tell God about it, and then listen.  There’s no need to rush.  As you pray and seek God, the Spirit will keep bringing that thing to your mind.   As you pray, listen to how often it comes up in your conversations.  Consider how you just can’t get away from it.  As you pray and seek Him in this, He will show you clearly if you listen intently.  Proverbs 3:5-6 in the NLT says it beautifully.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” 

It may feel “safer” to stay where you are, to avoid risk or change.  You may feel “safer” when you choose not to get involved in that new thing.  But when God is in it, He directs us, and He blesses our obedience.  Romans 8:14 tells us; “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”  I want to be led by the Spirit of God!  I want to walk in obedience as His child!  Psalm 128:1 also tells us this: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.”  You and I are BLESSED when we walk in obedience!  Blessed when we follow what He asks.  Even when we can’t see the entire route.  Even when we don’t understand the whole picture. 

We don’t’ have to.  Abram didn’t. 

God does not want His plan for us to be a mystery.  He desires to bless us through the purposes He has planned.  And He wants to use you to make a difference!  Having a different future starts with obedience through faith now!

Step forward in faith! 

Be blessed!

Father, there is nothing that I desire more than your blessing over me. I confess that in my humanity, I often try to figure everything out before I step out in faith. I trust you when you say that you have my best interest on your heart. I trust that you will lead and direct my steps. And Lord, in this moment , I know what you have put in my heart. My desire is to be careful not to get ahead of you as you lead, but I know I can’t stay put any longer either. I am asking you now to show me which path to take. And I am trusting that as I follow your lead, that you will shine your light brightly on my path!

Dare to share

Have you ever felt like you were the only one that struggles with something?  Like what you are going through is unique to just you and no one else could understand?  Or maybe you’ve felt that even though others have been in a similar situation, they surely “handled it” better than you did?  Like they were far more spiritual and steady than you are, and therefore, you are failing…..maybe even failing in your faith?

Photo credit: Krissy Basham

I recently sat in a room with some women as they shared their stories.  They talked about their life experiences and their heartaches.  One was raised in an abusive home, and experienced years of pain and grief.  Another became pregnant at a very young age.  Another wandered from the faith she was raised with as the years of life grew on her.  Another has experienced addiction.   

As I listened to their stories, I couldn’t help but to be in awe of them!  Sharing their stories took courage!  But something else happened when they shared.  The others in the room had the courage to also open up about their own struggles. 

God promises that we are never alone in our trials.

Isaiah 41:10 says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

God assures us many times in His word that He is always with us.  That He will never leave us.  That we do not need to walk this life alone.

But the enemy likes to isolate us and make us believe that we are alone.  He whispers the lie that “No one struggles with this like you do.” And “Her faith is stronger than yours is, so this is easier for her to go through.” How about this one, “If you share that part of your life, they will think badly of you.  It’s better to keep it to yourself until you fix it….”.  Lies.  

The enemy is constantly trying to keep us from community, from fellowship with Jesus and with others.  I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “strength in numbers”?  There is such truth there.   When we choose to be connected to the body of Christ through church, small groups, and bible studies, we are exercising that principle.  We are placing ourselves in community with others for support and encouragement.  When we do so, we have others around us to love, support and remind us of God’s love and faithfulness.

Photo credit: Krissy Basham

When we choose to be honest and open about our stories, it not only helps us, but it truly helps others as well. 

Think of it this way; When you are experiencing a difficulty in your life, isn’t it easier to talk it out with someone who has been down a similar road?  It is our shared experiences that bind us.  Often our situation is not exactly the same as our sister’s.  But just knowing that she also wrestled in her heart and faith to get through something can help us feel less like the failure that the enemy wants to convince us that we are.  Hearing her talk about it opens up a place in our souls for healing to begin. 

2 Corinthians 1:4 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  The idea here is that we share our struggles to encourage each other.  This way no one needs to feel alone.  Too many women feel alone in this life.  But as we share life, we realize that not only are we united in our struggles, but in our strength as well!

The women I spoke about today are beautiful women of God!  Each one has changed and continues to grow in her faith and trust in God.  The beautiful thing about our stories, is that The Author still has the pen in His hand.  If your life and story is not what you want it to be, take heart!  It is not over yet!  As long as there is breath in our lungs, there is time to grow.  And there is time for God to work.

If you are currently in a struggle, don’t keep it to yourself, share life with your faith community.  If you are without a faith community to plug into, I strongly encourage you to seek one out! Share gently, and within the walls of trust inside your connections, but share.  You are not alone.   Don’t allow yourself to continue to be isolated in your trial.  Help and healing begins when we bring the truth into the light. 

If you are “on the other side” of a struggle, someone needs to hear from you.  Someone is hurting and isolated.  Someone needs to hear how God brought you through.  God WILL use our trials for good.  Nothing is wasted with Him.  He can use the fragments of broken pieces in our lives, but we must share them for that to happen.  He didn’t bring you through the pain just for yourself, He wants to use it in the lives of those He connects you to. 

God, I know you want to use my story for your glory.  Lead me to share where you want to shine.  I trust that you will draw my heart to another who needs to see your face reflected in mine.  I want my life to bring you honor as I share all that you’ve done for me.  Please give me courage to be transparent.

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (again!)

A gentle whisper

Sometimes life is noisy, isn’t it?  There are often times when the noise of life is just plain loud. 

Loud noise in life sounds like stressful situations; job loss, financial shortcomings, relationship struggles, issues with adult “children”, divorce, moving, trauma and so on.  Sometimes, the noise of life is all we can hear.  It’s easy to hear only the noise when it speaks so loudly in our ears.  But what’s challenging is to hear the voice of God in our hearts when the pressures and noise of life is so loud.  In those difficult situations in life, when we most need God’s help and direction, His voice is often quieter than the noise.  So how do we hear it over all the loud?

photo credit; Krissy Basham

Where I live it, is often windy, like a lot windy.  And when the weather is warmer, I like to get out hiking.  Hiking in the wind is not difficult, in fact I am often grateful for the breeze as it keeps me cooler as I go along.  However, when I am hiking with someone, having conversation can be tricky.  The wind can make it difficult to hear each other well enough to effectively communicate.  Try as we might, conversing in the wind is difficult.  The best way to hear someone’s voice when there is loud noise all around, is to lean in when they speak. 

As I have grown in my faith and in my relationship with God, I have tried to get closer to Him, I desire to hear Him speak into my life more clearly.  It isn’t always easy.  There are times when life is so difficult and loud, that all I seem to be able to hear is the noise.  I imagine that you can relate.

In the book of 1 Kings, we come across a curious but understandable (from a human perspective) situation for the prophet Elijah.  Elijah has just defeated the prophets of Baal.  This is an amazing and true story of God showing His almighty power and authority! (read 1 Kings 18:20-40) Next, Elijah’s life is threatened by Jezebel, and she was no one to be trifled with!  She was the wife of king Ahab (a truly wicked king) and is well known in scripture for being a wicked woman herself.  Elijah had good reason to be worried when she promised that within 24 hours she was going to kill him.  This was no idle threat. 

Elijah flees to Judah, heads into the wilderness alone, and prays to God that he might die.  This seems pretty desperate, right?  He tells God, “I have had enough”.  But the angel of the Lord comes to him, feeds him, and instructs him to head out on a journey.  Elijah obeys God and heads out on this journey that lasts 40 days and 40 nights.  Here, he comes to a cave and spends the night.  And we pick it up in verse 9, where God says to Elijah “what are you doing here?”  I can almost imagine Elijah rolling his eyes!  “OBVIOUSLY, I am hiding from Jezebel!  This is all too much for me to handle!” 

1 Kings 19:11-12 says this, “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord (noisy), but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake (noisy), but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire (noisy), but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”  The implication here is that God was speaking through the whisper!

So many times, all we hear in life is the noise.  We assume that God is speaking to us in the noise.  But the example here is that after the noise, there was a gentle whisper.  I think that maybe Elijah was more in tune to hear the whisper of God because the noise of the wind, the earthquake and the fire had been so loud. In the quiet that followed, he was able to hear the voice that the noise had made impossible.

Difficult and stressful situations in life can be noisy.  All consuming.  Loud.  But if we pause and lean in, often the gentle whisper of God follows. 

And it is in those times, when we pause the noise and listen, that we receive the leading and direction from God that we are truly desiring.

In my life there have been many times with so much noise.  I have been confused, hurt, distraught and lost, not knowing what to do with all that was troubling me.  I can resonate with Elijah when he told God that he had had enough.  Maybe you can too.

Have you ever “heard” the voice of God? I have. For me, it was not audible, but I heard it none the less. It came in as a gentle stirring in my soul and grew to be surer and clearer as I continued to lean in and listen for it. I found that the more time I spent in the word, and in prayer, the closer I drew to Him, and the more confident I was that the stirring voice in my heart was in fact, from God. Sometimes as Christians, we say things like “God told me…” or “God confirmed in my heart…” and it can sound a bit odd to those outside the faith. Sometimes it even sounds odd to our fellow believers who have yet to experience it. But don’t let that stop you from listening. Knowing that you have heard God clearly on an issue, brings so much peace and purpose. For me, it has brought into my life the drive and forward motion I have needed. Even when what I was seeing in front of me made me question going forward on the path.

The example of Jesus is clear for us in scripture.  Jesus got alone with God often and spent some time in prayer.  He was listening.  He very much needed to hear from His heavenly father.

Just after feeding the 5000 in Matthew 14, we see Jesus needing some alone time.  Verse 23 tells us, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.”  I almost get the sense that Jesus lost rack of time as He was with the Father.  I am certain that His time with His Father was something that He needed, desired and prioritized.  I don’t think Jesus had to write “do devotions” on his daily to-do list.  I doubt that Jesus had to discipline Himself to make that time. His time with the Father was something He looked forward to.  And if the son of man needed time with the Father, so do you and I.

Spending time with God through reading my bible and praying is part of my (almost) daily routine.  In the last year I have become very intentional about that, and I have grown so much because of it.  This past week I did something new though.  I took my Bible, a notebook and Bible study that I am working my way through, and I went to the park.  I found a quiet picnic bench and spread out my things.  It was a warm evening, and the breeze was perfect.  And in the hour or so that I spent there, I heard from God.  It was so good for me to take the time away from home, to really focus.  There were no chores calling my name there at the park.  It was different and refreshing in a way that I didn’t fully anticipate!

I encourage you to take some time alone, to get away with God, and really listen.  He won’t disappoint you.  He has so much He wants to share with you, but He won’t force it on you. If you will make the time, you will likely hear Him whisper to your heart the very peace, purpose and direction that you need.  You don’t have to leave home to do it but finding a quiet place or time alone will surely make a difference.  Get away from the noise of life, the pressures and to-do lists.  Be intentional about it and He will meet you there.  Jeremiah 29:13 makes it plain, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  He desires to be found by us. 

Are you wrestling within your soul over something?  Are you facing a difficult time and are unsure of God’s leading there?  Maybe things are pretty peaceful for you, and you wonder what God has next for you.  Whatever the situation, get away with God, and listen for His whisper.  He’s ready, He desires for you to hear Him, and He has the answer you want. 

Lord, my prayer is simple today.  I want to know you more.  Show me and give me a pocket of time soon where I can meet with you.  Help me to prioritize some time with you so that I can hear your gentle whisper away from the noise of life.  Help me to see it and to seize it when it comes.  Amen.

Pursposefully,

Shelli


The Quiet Within

Once in a while, I come to a passage or a verse in scripture that, frankly, I just don’t like.

The verses in 1 Peter chapter 3 are some of those very ones.  “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.  You should clothe yourselves, instead, with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”  The concept here is not that we should be plain, or not care AT ALL about our appearance.  Rather, the idea is that we should not ONLY care about our appearance.  That we should prioritize the beauty that comes from within.  When my children were growing up, I always told them “It’s more important to be pretty on the inside than the outside”. 

Ok, inner beauty over outer beauty.  Check.  Got it.  That seems simple enough.  But that’s not the part I struggle with.  It’s the next part.

“…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”  Boom.  Drop the mic.  That’s where I have to stop every time and say “Well, I guess I’ll never get that one right.”  Gentle and quiet (especially quiet) is not me.  It’s almost the exact opposite of me.  I wonder if maybe I will never truly live up to what I think God expects of me. 

Growing up, my report cards in school were fairly consistent, especially in elementary school.  “Shelli is a good student, a pleasure to have in class, but she talks to much.”  Ask my mom, this was on more than just a few report cards!  One teacher explained to my mom at parent conferences, that she wanted to help me learn better in class.  Since my constant talking was a problem and often a distraction, the teacher decided to move me away from my friends.  She seated me with the boys in class, thinking that would quiet me down.  Nope!  I talked to them too.  Then she had the bright idea that if I were seated right next to her desk, that I would certainly have to be quieter.  That was also a no go.  I just talked to HER!  She eventually gave up and simply moved me back with my friends and shushed me more often.  (In 5th grade I also got kicked out of choir at school for, you guessed it, too much talking, but that’s a story for another day…)

So, you can see why a passage of scripture that says I should be quiet, is a struggle for me.  If you know me, you know that “quiet” is not in my DNA.  No one I know would use that word in describing me! They will usually throw terms like “sassy” and “funny” out there.  But never quiet. You can usually tell when I am in the room.  I am not a wallflower, fading into the background.  I often have something to say, and I will typically say it.  So, when I thought that scripture was telling me to be quiet in volume, or with my words, I wrestled with that.  The enemy was using my perception of what I THOUGHT the scripture was saying, against me.  What I heard in my lack of knowledge about the truth scripture here was, “you need to change, you can’t be YOU anymore, God can’t use you the way you are…” and so on.  I was uneasy.

I decided to do the only smart thing I could think of, to dig into the study notes in my bible as well as other sources and teachings on the subject.  When it comes to scriptures that we do not understand, there are so many other study tools to help. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds me that when I don’t understand, that He will direct me.  Some passages simply require further study and resources.

What I found when I looked further, was a huge relief to my heart!  I discovered that, in this passage, God is not asking me to just be a quiet person with my words.  He isn’t telling me not to talk, or to talk less, or even to talk quieter.  The phrase used here is a quiet SPIRIT. 

The “quiet spirit” the apostle Peter is referring to here is actually about one being peaceful, or a peaceable person.  It suggests a tranquil quality of life.  The woman who is quiet in spirit does not spend her time “freaking out” about life!  She understands and trusts that God is in control of all things.  This is the kind of peace that we display on the outside, even when life is tumultuous all around us.  It means that when situations in life happen to cause us stress, and concern, we intentionally recall God’s faithfulness in the past.  Our spirit is quiet because we recognize that “God’s got this” essentially.  This kind of spirit makes each of us a joy for others to be around.  This quiet spirit draws others, with less peace in their own lives, toward us like a magnet.  Therefore, giving us an opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus!

When our spirit is quiet, our life is able to declare loudly that we trust God.  Peace is not the absence of struggle, rather it is absolute confidence in The One who brings an end to the struggle.

Imagine that you are walking out in nature, and you come upon a flowing stream.  This peaceful stream invites and calls to you to come and sit on its shore and rest in the calmness of the sound of the water flowing gently by.  While you are resting there, you can hear birds chirping, leaves rustling in the breeze, and the soft sound of the water pouring over the tops of the rocks in the stream.  You can feel yourself being refreshed, like in Psalm 23.  Your desire is to sit and rest here as long as possible! 

Now imagine that you are out walking in nature, but you come upon the same stream in a place where the water is crashing loudly over the rocks.  The force of the water is powerful and strong. You can see the white caps that seem to be declaring “danger” with their noise.  You can’t hear the birds chirping or the leaves rustling.  All you can hear is the tremendous sound of the water demanding your attention as it rushes powerfully downstream.  This is not a place where you’ll want to sit and rest or take a break.  It is a stressful scene. 

In both scenarios, there is power being displayed within the water. 

At the part of the stream where the water is furiously crashing and moving, there is great commotion on the surface.  There is visible turmoil and sometimes deafening noise.  All the fury of the water is seen and demands attention.  You cannot rest here, and you are compelled to move away to a quieter place!

At the peaceful place in the stream, the surface of the water is calm, and seems to be barely moving.  But underneath there is a great strength forcing the water downstream.  You are able to relax peacefully here.  You can enjoy the beauty of the softly flowing water, not fully realizing the strong current underneath the surface that keeps that water flowing.  There is rest and peace here!

It is the same when the spirit of God is at work under the surface in me.  His power in us is displayed on our surface, in what others see reflected in us.   Am I “freaking out” on the outside, causing white caps in my own life?  Or am I trusting Him and allowing Him to do His work underneath while displaying calm on the surface?  God is not asking me to be quiet with my mouth, but to be quiet in my spirit. 

There are plenty of times when God asks His people to speak up, to boldly proclaim His truth and to spread peace.  I am best able to do this when I have a quiet (or strengthened) sprit within me.  Having a gentle and quiet spirit comes when we, in faith, obey God’s word.  That obedience builds trust, and trust promotes peace and faith.  The lessons we learn through obedience to His word result in our becoming more like Christ.  And after all, that is the goal, isn’t it?  Becoming more like Jesus? 

This quiet, or peaceful spirit, will give us the voice to speak.  To declare the goodness of God.  Having a gentle and “quiet” spirit will speak “louder” than any other rationale or “argument” that we could ever have for our faith!

There will be times when I do need to be quiet before Him.  I may need to be quiet instead of offering my opinion in every conversation.  I will always need the Holy Spirit to guide my words, and keep my mouth closed at times.  But I do not ALWAYS need to be a quiet person, it’s okay to speak out and speak up.  It’s okay to make a joyful noise!  What a relief for my soul!  I can now, in confidence, carry on being ME.  I can be myself, and let God use me the way He made me.  The change I need to make is within myself, and in my spirit.  God can use my outgoing, “sassy”, slightly less than quiet personality. 

Dear Lord, remind me of the water in the stream.  Remind me that your spirit can continually move and work underneath, while there is a calm presence on the surface.  Help me to trust you always and to display that trust through my quiet spirit in this life.  Let my quiet spirit be of great value in Your sight.

Purposefully,

Shelli

Faith in action

As a warm weather girl, I always look forward to the spring and summer months.  Like many things in nature, I really “come alive” when the weather turns warmer.  And when it does, it’s time to get outdoors again!

On a recent hiking venture, I came to a bridge.  This bridge was not long, but it was a bit high, and it did cross some water.  The bridge seemed stable enough, and I was certain that many people, even that very day, had probably gone across it before me.  But what if?  What if the bridge wasn’t able to hold me?  What if it was trustworthy for all the others but not for me? 

I held back and observed a while.   

Where I was hoping to go was on the other side of the expanse that the bridge crossed.  I had to cross that bridge to get there.  There was really no other way, but the what ifs had me trapped in doubt.

Sedon Az.

Faith can be a lot like that. 

Hebrews 11:1 tells us this, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.

Hebrews 11 is affectionately known as the “Hero’s of the faith” chapter.  Here we see a list of some of the big-name heroes of old, whose names we easily recognize and associate with faith.

By faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months…

By faith…Noah built an ark…

By faith, Abraham went to a new place, even though he did not know where he was going…

By faith, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry land…

And on and on. 

So, what makes the difference between big faith, and not so big faith?  How do we measure faith?  When you consider the faith life of those you know with “big faith”, what is it that makes them different?  Why is their faith bigger?  I’ve got one word for you.  Obedience.

Sedona Az.

What if we trade the word faith for the word obedience in the hero chapter?  “In obedience Moses’ parents hid him.  In obedience Noah built an ark.  In obedience Abraham went to a new place.”  The correlation between faith and obedience is striking. 

It’s easy for me, and probably you too, to talk about faith.  We have faith in God about many things.  We have faith that God will care for us and for our family.  Faith that He will meet our physical, financial and emotional needs.  Faith that He will help us in our trials and difficulties.  And faith that He will lead us clearly in the decisions we need to make.  But sometimes it is easy to toss the word faith around as if it were a supernatural power, too lofty to grasp.  But what if…. what if we switched the word faith for obedience? 

Let’s consider it this way.  Great faith is faith in action.  Each of us knows someone to whom we attribute great faith to.  I’m willing to bet that the reason you feel that way about them, is because of the way they ACT on their faith.  The confidence and ability they have to really trust God with their hurts, struggles, decisions, and the changes in their life.

Often, we say “I want more faith!”  We want greater faith in the One who loves us.  We desire the faith to move mountains as in Matthew 17:20-21.  I suggest to you today that what you really want is more obedience! 

Faith transitions to obedience, and obedience deepens into trust.

When we act on our faith with obedience, our faith deepens.  When we put “feet on our faith” and step out in trust, we allow God to work.  From the examples given in Hebrews 11, what we see is faith in action.  God did not supernaturally build the ark for Noah, or hide Moses Himself, or even pick up Abraham and move him while he slept.  Those faithful followers of God obeyed.  They believed God would do what He said He would do, but they first had to act.  Their faith meant nothing until they acted on it.  Their story in scripture would not be listed in the “Faith Hall of Fame” if they had not actually stepped out and acted! 

Obedience can be scary. 

Very recently I was wrestling with faith and trust.  I had been feeling like God wanted me to act on my faith, and for a while I was excited and ready.  But then…I got scared.  I began to back peddle a little bit.  I was trying to “be really sure” that I was hearing God correctly.  I was fairly certain that I had heard Him clearly a few months back, but now that it was time to actually obey, I put the brakes on.  Through my doubt and apprehension, when I thought I was “making sure” of Gods will, what I was really doing was holding back.  What I lacked was obedience.

After some study of scripture, and much more prayer, I heard God again, loud and clear.  So loudly and clearly, in fact, that it left me full of joy and faith!  I can’t explain to you the amount of peace and fulfillment it brought me to truly arrive a place of perfect peace with God and His plan for me!  I was ready to step out on that bridge, so to speak.  Ready to trust His ability to keep me safe as I headed to the other side.

Is there a situation in your life where you feel God calling you to action, but you are fearful?  Are you holding back right now because you are scared about the outcome?  Is there a phone call you need to make?  A relationship that needs healing? A friendship that needs to end? A move you need to make?  A ministry you need to step into?  A job you need to change?

If the Israelites had not obeyed God and stepped into the wind tunnel of the Red Sea, they would have been overtaken by Pharaoh’s army.  If Abraham had stayed in Ur, God would not have fulfilled His promise to him that he would inherit the land.  And if Noah had been too scared to obey God and build that ark, then sister, you and I would not even be here today!

I’ll remind you now, that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.  Can you trust God where you do not see?  Can you trust Him with your heart?  With your finances?  With your relationships?  The answer is yes!  A very loud and confident yes!

Pastor and Author Larry Osborn says this; “Faith looks at God and says, “I know your character.  I can trust you.”  And then it steps out onto the bridge.”

God honors our obedience! If I truly trust God, then I will display faith in action.  I will step out onto the bridge, and I will be blessed! 

Father God, I know I can trust you.  I know that you are always working for my good.  Please forgive me for not stepping out in faith and obeying you when I clearly hear you leading me.  Give me the faith to believe.  Speak to my heart and remind me of the heroes of faith and their obedience to you.  Remind me of the fabulous life of faith and blessing they led because they fully obeyed and trusted you.  Thank you for not giving up on me while I deepen my trust in your plan.  Amen.

Near Prescott Az.
My oldest daughter and I, in Sedona!

Even if…

Time is a funny thing, isn’t it?

One minute can seem so short, or so very long depending on what’s occurring within that minute.  If I am hugging my friend goodbye and she will be returning to her home far away, that one minute of hugs can pass so quickly.  But if I am anxiously standing by my coffee maker at 5 a.m. waiting for it to finish my wake-up juice, that same minute is LONG.  Watching my grandchildren play at the park for one minute seems far shorter than the one minute I spend jogging around that same park.  Uncomfortable and painful situations take longer to change than happy ones, or at least so it seems.

2019 was a very difficult year for me.  My heart, my faith and my strength were tested in a powerful way.  That year seemed like the longest year of my life.  (even after all the trials of 2020, 2019 was longer for me by far).  It was a year of difficulty and heart break.  It was a year of struggle and hurt.  And when it was over, the new year emerged almost as a breath of fresh air. 

I learned so very much that year.  I learned to truly trust the process, the way that God works.  Like you, I want God to work faster, more on my timetable.  Because when I hurt, I want it to end quickly.  But I learned that year, that some things can’t be rushed.  That, in order for there to be beauty from ashes, something must first burn.  I learned that refining fire is a real thing, and that impurities rise to the top first when heat is applied.  When the “heat” was applied in my life during this time, I became more aware of some of my own weaknesses.  I came face to face with trusting God in a solid and fresh way.  The rubber met the road, metaphorically speaking.

During that time, I was encouraged by a friend with this scripture from a Psalm by King David.  It is Psalm 27:13-14 “I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; take heart and wait for the Lord.”   I was especially encouraged by this because David was trusting God for His help in a circumstance, and he was counting on seeing God’s goodness here on earth. 

Near Bell Rock, Sedona Ariaona

King David had many trials and many foes.  It seems like someone was almost always going after him.  He cried out to God often for His help and guidance.  In the beginning of Psalm 27, we find David in a struggle of some kind.  Here, David seems to be reminding himself that he need not fear his enemies. In verse one he says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”.  And again, in verse three, “though war break out against me, even then I will be confident”.  He is remembering where his strength comes from.  This is a definite strength of David’s.  He understood well that God alone could rescue and save him.  And that his enemies were greater than him and his men could handle without God’s divine intervention.  It’s possible that David was in exile here.

But whatever the case, it’s clear that something was causing him great anguish.  I understand that feeling wholeheartedly.  Over the course of this Psalm, David developed a kind of “Even If” mentality.  “God, even if my enemies surround me, God is my helper.  Even if my family forsakes me, God will receive me.  Even if trouble finds me, God will keep me safe in His dwelling.”  

For me, in 2019, I embraced some “even if’s” as well.  For me it looked like, even if things don’t turn around with this situation, God is with me.  Even if things are never good again (regarding this issue), I can still trust God because He isn’t finished yet.  Even if I continue to hurt and my heart continues breaking, it is because of evil in the world and not because this is God’s plan.  Those even ifs were tough to swallow, I can promise you that.  They did not slide down easily; they choked and scratched their way into my soul.  But the Lord kept bringing many scriptures to mind, and Psalm 27;13-14 was among them.

I held on to the promise that God was not done writing that story, and that someday (and most days, someday felt very far off) I would see His goodness here, in this life.  The Psalmist remained confident of that, and I chose to do the same.  There were times that I struggled to believe it, but I clung to that verse like a life raft.  Verse 14 told me to “wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait……”  So, I waited.

And prayed.

And sought His face (vs. 8)

And waited some more.

And one day it happened.

I looked up and realized I was seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  And day after day, I kept looking for it, and it kept coming!  And before I had stopped to realize it, two years had passed, far more quickly than I ever thought they could.  It had felt, for a while, like time stood still.  Like nothing was happening.  Like things were not getting any better.  But when God is at work, things are changing behind the scenes, even though we may not see it from our point of view.   John 5:17 “But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” 

Bell Rock, Sedona Arizona

He never stops working.

Maybe you are in a difficult season.  Maybe you find yourself doubting that things will ever turn around.  Maybe you feel trapped and discouraged, but you are never without hope. Charles Spurgeon said that “Hope is heavens balm for present sorrow.”  I can always put my hope in the Lord and His ability to right wrongs, and to mend hearts.

We serve a God who is not intimidated by situations that seem impossible!  The Israelites crossed The Red Sea, David won against Goliath, the walls of Jericho collapsed with just a shout, and Jesus Christ came back to life after death on a Roman cross!  There is still hope when all seems hopeless. 

Be strong and take heart sister.  While you are waiting, God is working.  Seek the Lord, keep trusting Him when it’s the hardest, and someday you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. You can remain confident of that!