Refined

Think back to when you gave your heart and life to Christ.  Did you think that it would be easy?  I was 7.  I hadn’t really known struggle or hardship.  At least not what REAL struggle and hardship is.  I sort of floated through life and honestly, I didn’t even understand what it meant to truly live the Christian life.
Fast forward to college and it was more of the same.  School was hard; I have to really study to make good grades.  I was away from home for the first time and I knew no one at my college when I first got there.  I had my heart broken for the first time, both of my grandmothers passed away my Senior year, and time management was hard.  I thought, in my early 20s brain, that these things must be what people meant when they said that life would be difficult sometimes.  After college, the level of difficulty in life waxed and waned.  There was job loss, my father’s cancer and death, more job loss, financial pressures….
You get the idea!  It really never seems to end.  I have a precious friend who says the difficulties in life are just sanctification and refining.  Since I’m 40+ years into my walk with Christ, I know that she is right.
And the fact that scripture tells us that He refines us also confirms it.  In Jeremiah 9: 7, the Lord says:

“Behold, I will refine them and test them, …”

And in Zechariah 13:9 we find these words from the Lord:

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”

Here’s the good news.  The result of this “refining” is shared with us in Malachi 3:3 where it is said that those who are refined “will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.”  I love that.  He refines me and out of it comes righteousness in my life that I can offer back to him.

I have no idea the amount of refinement that needs to be done in my life.  But I trust that the Lord knows exactly what I need.  I am being pleasantly surprised that in the testing, in the refining, I find myself a little stronger…a little more brave.  I know that it is His steadfast love holding me up…giving me courage.  Such a blessing!

Sometimes it’s the little refinements that make the most impact.  That might seem crazy but it has proven to be true in my life.  As mentioned in my last post, life in our house is changing.  This changing is proving to be a refining process for me.  I pray that I can offer praise to the Lord for the difficulties as well as the victories as we go.

Until next time.

Joy to You!

ALSO:  As I am tweaking the look and feel of my site, some things are a little odd.  Please bear with me as I am editing and adjusting in preparation to change the look of my blog in the near future.  Thank you in advance.

The Words of My Mouth

When my son was just a little guy, he spouted out a curse word in the middle of Walmart! I was mortified.  I quickly looked around to be sure that no one I knew heard my sweet boy’s words.  15+ years later, I still am not sure how he knew the words most less how to use them in context.

As soon as we got home, I made him eat butter….(which may seem strange but he literally gagged at the taste of butter back then).  After a spoonful of butter and a good explanation from me as to why we don’t use words like that, I went to the Bible looking for a verse that he – and I – could memorize to remind us that our speech should honor the Lord.

This verse has been one that I have never forgotten.  Since he was around 3 at the time, I simplified it for him but I can assure you that over the years, I have reminded him of our learning the meaning of this verse.

Recently I have been reminded of the importance of this verse.  I try not to be careless with my words but sometimes, well…it just happens.  God’s Word tells us that our words are to encourage and lift others up.  The old saying about stick and stones – I just don’t believe it.   But did you know that it’s been around for a very long time? Since 1862!! That’s 155 years of taunting on the playground.  I’m blown away.  Here is the other thing that got me.  It is reported that it first appeared in The Christian Recorder which was a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Here’s what Wikipedia (I know, please don’t judge me) says about the phrase, “The rhyme persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured.”  But it’s just not true. Words hurt!

I just have to say it again…..words HURT!!

Psalm 64 is a plea for protection from an enemy, from the wicked.  But verse 3 speaks the truth of what is on my heart here.  It says “…bitter words like arrows,”.    And when they pierce us like an arrow and forgiveness is sought and given, there are times that those hurtful words are like a branding on our brains and on our hearts.  I have four words that haunt me.  For over twenty years now, these four words have effected me.  And not in a good way.  Because someone who, at one time was very important to me, said something hurtful I struggle with self-esteem. It’s a hard truth for me to type out loud.

I love what Proverbs says about our words.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

~ Proverbs 16:24 ~

Isn’t this what we should strive for?  Giving “sweetness to the soul” of those we love? Of course, there are times that truth, that is hard, must be spoken.  But God’s Word addresses that too!  In Ephesians chapter 4 when Paul is preaching to the church at Ephesus, he shares that “speaking the truth in love” helps us grow towards Christ.

I’m on a journey in this life.  I am not perfect but I praise the Lord for laying things on my heart that I need to give attention to.  The words of my mouth are something I need to pay more attention to.  I need to let my “yes be yes” and my “no be no”.  I need to use my words to give “sweetness to the soul” of others.  And if there are hard things that need to be said, I need to say them “truthfully in love”.

Until next time……

Joy to You!

 

 


Embrace ~ A FMF Post

Friday is the day that many other precious bloggers join to together to write about one word – for five minutes.  Despite the fact that I’ve not joined in this exercise in a long time, it is one of my favorite kinds of posts to write.  The link-up is hosted by Kate Motaung.   If you’d like to know more about it, click here.

Today’s word hit me as something that I definitely needed to consider.  So here goes…

I love to look up the meaning of words so, of course, I had to see just what the word EMBRACE really means.  Here are a few of the meaning that I found on dictionary.com:

hug…to take or receive gladlyaccept willingly…to encircle…surround…enclose…to include

I like those meanings.  Especially the last five.  It reminds me of the church and how we are directed by God’s Word to treat others.  You know in good times and in hard times.

Thinking about God’s Word, I did a little digging to see if the word EMBRACE is found in scripture.  It is. Sixteen times in the English Standard Version.   Most of the verses that include EMBRACE speak of friends and family embracing, or hugging.  But one passage jumped off the page.  It’s one that I have considered many times as we have navigated our ministry journey.  The entire passage is Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8.  Right now, I’d like to focus on a portion of the last part of verse 5.  It says:

a time to embrace,…

You may wonder how that phrase relates to ministry?  For our family, as God has called us to new ministry opportunities, we had leave people we love dearly.  That’s where the “hug” (EMBRACE) comes in.  We’ve had to look at what God was calling us to do and “accept willingly” (EMBRACE), stepping out in faith and to do what He is asking of us.  We’ve had to go to the new places and people and “include”(EMBRACE) them.  But that’s not just in ministry.   I believe that as followers of Christ, we are all called to EMBRACE others.  We are called to “receive gladly” (EMBRACE) what the Lord asks us to take on or go through.  We are called to “encircle” (EMBRACE) the people that God allows to cross our paths, even if it’s only for a short period of time.

My time is up………but, of course, I find that 5 minutes just isn’t enough. {smile}

Let me say that I, in no way, think that our call – or our family – is anymore special than the call God has placed on others.  We are all called to minister to those around us.  I am keenly aware that God has a purpose for all of us.  The one for our family happens to have included being in three wonderful congregations.  It’s a bonus for me as now I have more people to EMBRACE (hug).

I have no idea what – or who – the Lord is allowing in your life that He is asking you to EMBRACE.  Whatever…whoever….it is, know that it is the Lord’s time for that in your life.  EMBRACE it!

Joy to You!

This post is linked up with Kate Motaung.  Please hop over and read what others are saying about the word “EMBRACE.”

Unabated Vigor ~ Not Your Typical Valentine’s Post

During my morning quiet time with the Lord, for a few months now, I’ve been camping out in the Old Testament.   First I was in Deuteronomy and now I am in Joshua.  These two books are full of the confirmation that we have a promise keeping God.  I love Deuteronomy 37 where Moses goes “from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, …opposite Jericho.” (Deut. 34:1) and the Lord shows him all the land that He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

In verse 4, the Lord tells Moses that he will not enter this promised land.  And in verse 5, Moses died.  I wish I could remember the first time I learned that Moses didn’t make it to the promised land.  I imagine that I probably felt disappointment for him.  I mean, he’s the one that led the people for all. those. years.  He’s the one that faced Pharaoh.   He’s the one that was chosen to write the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone.  To me, Moses is pretty special.  So I wonder, was he disappointed that he wouldn’t reap the benefit of his efforts?

Verse 7 actually gives a little clue to how Moses reacted to not making it to the promised land:

deut34_7

Being the word nerd that I am, I wanted to be sure that I understood the meaning of “unabated.”   According to dictionary.com, it means:

with undiminished force, power, or vigor

That led me to being double sure I knew what “vigor” means.  Again, according to dictionary.com, vigor is:

active strength or force…healthy physical or mental energy or power; vitality…energetic activity; energy; intensity

So here I am, reading about Moses not reaping the benefits of his proverbial sowing.  AND THEN God’s Word tells us that Moses died with power, active strength, force, vitality, intensity.  He died knowing that he had received his inheritance.  And I personally think he was probably very satisfied.

This has me wondering if I would be?  My human, and sinful, nature desires a reward when I’ve worked hard.  I’m not one for fanfare but a subtle pat on the back goes along way with me.  I venture to say that there’s a little of that feeling in all of us.

Anyway, what does all this have to do with Valentine’s Day?  Hang with me – please – I promise I’m getting there.

As I have been studying Joshua, I have marveled (my word of the year) at the keeping of God’s promises.  He is ever faithful!  He was to His children as the crossed the Red Sea, the dessert, took Jericho, and more.  And He is faithful to us today.  Once we get to Joshua 22, the land that God promised to Abraham has been divided among the tribes – the promise fulfilled – and the people were settling in.  Challenges still arose and that’s not really that surprising considering all the grumbling in the desert.

One of the verses I underlined in chapter 22 is verse 5.  Joshua gives these instructions to the Israelite’s as they settle in:

joshua22_5

Joshua could’ve just said, “be like Moses.”  But he spelled it out.  He reminded them of the commandments.  He reminded them to walk…and keep…and cling…and serve….with ALL their heart and soul.  These qualities – to me are a beautiful explanation of the “unabated vigor” that Moses had.

I often cruise along in my Christian walk.  I wax and wane in my Bible reading and prayer time.  But this!  This is how I want to be.

So as Valentine’s Day comes to a close, I am just plain blessed.  God gave me the most wonderful man to be my husband.  We’re into our 23rd year of Valentine’s days (22 of those married).  And we have 2 beautiful children.  The stores are full of cards and flowers and balloons.  Facebook and Instagram are full of Valentine wishes and dates and gifts.  In our house, every day is full of love that is just plain special.  Some years we pull out all the stops for Valentine’s Day.  Some years we don’t.  This year, we chose to celebrate as a family.  And I’m really good with that.  But I began Valentine’s Day reading Joshua 22:5.  I began my day reminded of the love that I am to have for my Heavenly Father and the promises that He still keeps today for me.

So this isn’t a typical train of thought for Valentine’s Day but it’s what the Lord laid on my heart.

I hope that you had a wonderful day with your special someone. And I pray that every day you love the Lord with “unbated vigor.”

Joy to You!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

NOW ~ A FMF Post

It’s ironic that the Five Minute Friday word of the week is “NOW.”   The irony is that it’s Saturday and I am just writing.  The link-up stays open for a few days and well, I felt like what I have on my heart is worth posting past Friday.

For anyone not familiar with the purpose of Five Minute Friday, Kate Motaung hosts this link-up where many women come together and write about one word – for 5 minutes.   As mentioned, this week’s word is NOW.

Here goes:

In the last 4 months our family has two friends to pass away in their sleep.  Both have left my heart broken.  Not just for the loss of this friend in our lives but for their families who unexpectedly went to their heavenly home….without warning.

Both had a personal relationship with the Lord.  Praise God for that!  I know where they are.  I even kind of envy them.  I mean, can you imagine, Christmas in heaven?  Worshipping at the feet of Jesus for eternity!!! What an eternity it will be.

now2

Oddly enough, over the past several weeks, our church has been going through Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love.    In one of the chapters, Chan tells of how we never know when God will call us home.  He tells of a man who gave a eulogy at a friend’s funeral and died immediately after he sat down from speaking.  He was at a funeral when he died.  In the eulogy, he told the attenders of the funeral that they need to be ready for the Lord to take them home.  He told them of the importance of accepting Christ.  Then he died.

Last week, we attended the funeral of our second friend who passed away.  The pastor at the funeral clearly presented the gospel.  He shared with the friends and family of our friend that he (our friend) would want every one of them in heaven some day.

(STOP) …. (But, of course, I’m not quite done!)

The time is NOW.  We can not afford to delay sharing with those we love about Jesus.  I’m guilty!  I’m not very vocal about my faith.  I mean I live it out…or at least I try to.  My goal is for others to see Christ in my.  But I’m not perfect! I still mess up.  That’s called sin.  The cool thing is that Jesus continues to offer me grace and mercy.  Daily.  Sometimes minute by minute.

I have no idea how many days the Lord will allow me to walk on this earth but what I do know is that He has me here for a purpose.  And part of that purpose is to share His love with others.  To share the gospel and to walk alongside of new believers.

I pray that I don’t let the opportunity I have NOW slip away.

Joy to You!


This post is linked up with Kate Motaung.  Please hop over and read what others are saying about the word “NOW.”

He’s In Our Midst

My 31 Days of Encouragement from the Lord series is over.  And I’ve had a little break.  I’m ready to see what the Lord would have me share here in my little corner of the internet.  A few years back, I did what I affectionately called “Monday Meditations”.  These were lessons I learned during the sermon on Sunday, verses the Lord had brought me to during my quiet time, or simply things I had on my heart.  I’m giving them a go again.  I’d love to hear what the Lord has taught you on Sunday or the previous week.

Mon_meditations_revdI’ve been working my way through Psalms for some time now.  My process is to read the passage, list attributes of God that are mentioned, write down verses that stand out, and then I pray those verses back to the Lord.  One morning last week, I was in Psalm 74.  The Psalmist is asking the Lord to remember His people and then he describes destruction of God’s sanctuary.  He speaks of the people of God being treated badly.  He pleads for God to destroy the enemy that is reeking havoc on the temple.  Then in verse 12, he says:

Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

I had to read that one again.  I’m burdened by so much that goes on in our world today.  I don’t want to list events or details but the bottom line is that there is much to be concerned about.  And I certainly don’t want to go down the political road, but our nation needs prayer right now for the election tomorrow.  Psalm 74:12 gave me comfort.  A reminder that He is still on His throne…in control.  He calls us to Him.  We just have to answer.  He compels us to pray.  We just have to obey.

A few weeks ago, one of the high schools in our town held a “Fields of Faith” event.  It was sponsored by the school’s FCA group.  They held it on a Wednesday night and invited all churches to bring their youth there for service that night.  There were over 250 kids, and a handful of adults, on the field that night.  I listened to high school students lead worship and share their testimony about who God is in their life.  It was very encouraging.  I felt the presence of the Lord on the field that night.  I left there wondering what would happen if these kids really stood up for their faith.  What difference would it make in our city, county, state?

Later that day, I saw a video come across Facebook.  I love the song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.  This video is Matt and his band playing in Times Square.  I was brought to tears watching thousands of people worship the Lord.  I can only imagine that the presence of the Lord was felt right there, in the middle of Times Square.

As I’ve thought about both scenes for a few days, I’ve considered that I don’t give enough consideration to Him being in my midst all the time.  Not just in the walls of the church.  Not just at a concert.  Not just on a football field when teenagers are praising the Lord.  And not even in Times Square.  He’s with me all the time.  I want everything in my life to be based on being in the presence of the Lord.

How about you?  I’d love to hear how you have experienced the presence of the Lord in your life?

In the mean time…

Joy to You!


 

Upside Down Hearts ~ A 31 Day Post (days 30 & 31)

31encouragment

For 31 days – okay, really only 22 because I missed a few – I’ve shared my heart and I’ve learned more about myself.  I’ve also learned more about my Heavenly Father.  I have more to share but don’t we all.  As we walk and with the Lord, we grow and we are commanded to share His love, grace, and mercy with others.  In this, my final post, I wanted to share a few more verses and quotes that have been key to me when I needed encouragement.

I have a wise and dear friend who always says just the right thing at just the right time.  Over the past year, as we were seeking the Lord for what He had next for us, I naturally felt a bit unsettled.  I’ve shared that I felt a mix of emotions about leaving a place and a people that were dear to our hearts.  At a point when I felt at my lowest, my friend said these words to me:

upside-down-hearts

This resonated with me.  It’s how I felt.  Like my heart was “upside down.”  Once again God had provided a word of encouragement for me that would make a difference in my life.  Of course, that’s not surprising!  He’s in the business of making a difference in the lives of His children.

I think of what the Lord said to the Israelites through Isaiah when they needed reminding that He was still in control.

Fear not, for I am with you.  Be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.      ~ Isaiah 41:10 ~ 

Psalm 94:19 says, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”  Isn’t that comforting?  My paraphrase of this is that “when our hearts are upside down, His joy (and peace) heals me soul.”  Thinking back over losing dear loved ones to illness, times of uncertainty with finances or job or school, I can confidently say that God had my heart in His hands.  I can also confidently admit that I didn’t always respond well to the pressure that came with those hard times.  I’m so thankful for grace!!!

As I wrap up this series, I just have to share something that my 17 year old said to me one day.  At this particular time, we had just been made aware of something very difficult that good friends were dealing with.  The wife of the family felt like there was no light at the end of the preverbal tunnel.

“Remember, even when the road seems darkest, when the tunnel we’re in never seems to end, and when hope and comfort are far from our hearts, God is still good.”  

He’s pretty wise, that boy of mine.

I pray that you have received encouragement through the words that God has laid on my heart to share this month.  Thanks again for joining me and I do hope that you will visit often.

Joy to You!