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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prepare for 2014

What are your plans for this coming year? New Year's Resolutions? Devotionals? Vision? Verse?
When my vision for this year came to me about this time last December, I wrote it down with a mix of trepidation and excitement. 2013 would be a year filled with challenges and opportunities to step out into God’s plan for us!

I heard God speaking to me as my family and I stood at the top of a hill looking down over a shrouded valley. My daughter and her husband stood a little away from us and I understood that their journey would be just as challenging but would be on a different road from the rest of us.  They would move out and begin their journey of a new family together.
I could not see any of the events. I’m glad I could not see them. It was almost too much just to go through them. I barely hung on for the ride through the year.

I started the year creating daily devotions based on my studies of the verse given to me, Joshua 1:1-9. Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed. For I, the Lord God, am with you wherever you go.

I studied verses in the Bible that had to do with strength and courage. I studied verses that had to do with not fearing, not being anxious, not being afraid. I saw that many were. I studied verses about not being dismayed, not being discouraged, not giving up.

And in July, the avalanche of events began. Some were happy and joyful. Some were full of sorrow. Some I didn’t understand and some I may never understand. There was loss. There was change. There were visits and excitement and deep sorrow.

In the midst of these things I held onto one truth. God is always with me. He holds me in his arms. He cuddles me. He looks into my eyes and understands my sorrows. He guides me through my days. He waits patiently for me to come to him. He helps me stumble through my days. He gives me the strength to keep moving. He gives me the courage to take a step, to make a stand. He gives me the strength and the courage to allow someone else to follow their path to God, find their place in this life, without interference from me. He gives me encouragement and peace when there is no encouragement or peace to be had.

This New Year will be filled with the consequences, the endings, and the culmination of the things that began in 2013. There will be excitement. There will be intense sorrow. There will be great joy. There will be hard work to do and strength needed to accomplish it all. In the midst of this storm called life, there is peace. There is joy. There is grace. There is mercy. There is kindness. There is gentleness. There is patience. And there is love. God is the center of my life and the source of my strength. He is the reason that I go forward.

So what is the vision for this year? I cannot see a vista In front of me. I can barely see my family around me for the fog of life that surrounds us. We are in the midst of a battle or a storm. At times we feel lost and angry. Sometimes we are joyful in the small spaces of light and clarity. We seek peace and hope in a world seething with angry impatience and dissatisfied souls.

I return again to the verses that have sustained me for years.
Matthew 11:28-30Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Philippians 4:6-7 – “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 – “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed
.”  God’s Decree.
Deuteronomy 31:6-8Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”
Then Moses summoned Joshua. He said to him with all Israel watching, “Be strong. Take courage. You will enter the land with this people, this land that God promised their ancestors that he’d give them. You will make them the proud possessors of it. God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.

Scriptures are from The Message.  Guest blogger is Anna K Payne, our daughter.  Brent, Anna and their three grown children live in Orange County, CA.  Anna continues to be an inspiration to me in her faithful outlook to each day that holds me accountable to Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!  Psalm 27:14

Waiting is hard for me when I don’t know the ‘when’ of waiting.  Remembering a question from a stranger across the picket fence when I was about 4 years old.  “When is your birthday?”  I thought about that question, and sighed from the remembrance of the long wait, “I don’t know, it was on Sunday last year.”

Life is filled with many ‘waiting fors’.  And time passes so slowly when one waits.  Waiting to grow up to begin living, waiting for the prince of my dreams, waiting for desires and hopes to be fulfilled, and the waiting for nine months for the arrival of babies that are a gift from God.  Waiting to hear news of a loved one, waiting for answers to prayers, waiting for what one hopes for, waiting...  If there is ever a difficult time, it is the time of waiting.

It is difficult to wait and even more difficult when we forget what it is that we are waiting for.  When I was a child, I didn’t know what “advent” meant.  When I learned that God’s people waited for the Messiah to arrive, and many did not recognize the Only Son of God, born in a manger, I was sad. Then I hear the words, ‘Second Advent’.  No candles need to be lit or named, for this Advent is a heart-wait for the Second Coming of The Lord Jesus Christ. Celebration of the Second Advent has no day designated, but a waiting and watching each day for the arrival of the Son of God, Jesus,  who conquered death, and through whom we are assured of a resurrection.

Never before had I considered Mary’s waiting time for her baby boy to be born. What did she think, this young lass, as she waited? Did the time of waiting seem slow for her?  Or did it pass quickly? Whom did she talk to besides Elizabeth, her cousin?  How did her relationship with God change? God busily prepared his Son for a life on the earth in Mary’s womb. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13

Mary didn’t attend a baby shower.  Instead there was a long journey to Bethlehem.  There were no conveyances, but a bumpy ride on a donkey, mile after mile.  Did Mary’s back hurt?  Did the baby Jesus turn somersaults or lie quietly in Mary’sd womb?

Did Mary wonder if she should have said, no, to the man who told her about the coming baby? But she said, “Yes!” In reading “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp, she words it this way. Mary became a space… Beneath her heart -- in one yielded space -- beats the drumming love of God. 

Ann continues writing, There is no need to produce, or perform, or perfect -- simply become a place for God. That is all.

So this Christmas I do not wait for earthly gifts or riches that can quickly be gone in an instant, but I wait for the Second Advent.  For my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, I pray for an eternal ‘YES’ to Jesus.

How will we know Jesus?  Will he come again as a tiny babe in a manger, announced by a star and angels in the sky….Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14. 

This is how Jesus returned to Heaven.
  And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

These are some of the verses that tell us of the Second Advent:
 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,  for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. I Thessalonians 5:1-2
• Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. Revelation 19:11
• In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. I Corinthians 15:52.

 Is it any wonder that the verses that bring me the most peace and assurance as I wait. Whether I live or die, they are true….

  “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me.  There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you.  If this were not so, I would tell you plainly.  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-4

And while waiting for that instant to come, I will serve Him with all my heart and mind and soul. I will make space for Him in my heart and life.  Everything I do here on earth, I do to the best of my ability and to His glory. Waiting does not mean a cessation of labor, but it is a focused, alert watching for the eternal. 

As we celebrate Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child, let us celebrate the coming Advent and rejoice in the waiting as we make a ‘space’ for Jesus in our hearts and lives.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reality ~ GOD IS!

Since I was little, I believed.  Believe what?  I believed that God IS.  One morning one of my sixth grade students asked where God came from.  Without hesitation I opened the Bible to Genesis 1:1 and read the first for words….”In the beginning God…”   God gloriously is.  He simply IS.   Every time I see the design of a flower, a baby’s smile or experience a new season I know God IS.  When I watched the plethora of snow flakes land on the deck, I am amazed, for I know the design of each snowflake is designed by God.  When I study the intricacies of the brain and see the effects of dementia first hand or a brain tumor, I see God is in the delicate balance of order He spoke into being with only His Voice. 

During conversations of creation VS. evolution, I could see the fallacy of belief if creation itself is discounted.  I also knew that the pull of gravity, the distance of the stars and their path in the sky, the depth and order of the universe or the ‘why’ of the migratory pathway of a bird cannot be explained through the shallowness of evolution. Years ago, I read in a book of dinosaurs a picture of dinosaur bones with the confession from the scientist that the head had been on the tail end for several years before someone realized.  The thought came, since God IS, could He have placed dinosaur bones in the earth to keep ‘his children’ busy with the puzzle of dinosaurs? 

My daughter sent me a website concerning Laminin.  I have not heard of it before.  It is the glue that holds us together and is shaped like a cross.  Really.  Before we knew what a laminin was, Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15-17 - For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER  (

When God created (spoke man into being) after he created all else, he declared, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a 

In His Holy Word, God has plainly given us a pathway, a life-way to make our journey on this earth easier and sweeter with Him.  He not only created our environment, but he created the essence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).   Living through the screen of these qualities of the fruit of the spirit is not easy when competiveness, anger, jealousy, strife, ugly words rise in our hearts and our minds, wanting immediate expression. 

Each time I read His Words, I am filled with wonder and joy.  From the beginning His Plan was, is, will be to continue a living relationship with His Children -- those who choose Him.  A living relationship that is without these:  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,   envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Galatians 5:19-21

With the coming of Christmas, I wonder how Mary felt when she faced the journey to Bethlehem, being great with child.  Or when these strange men came to peer at the new baby.  Or when they fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod.  Or when her son, God’s One and Only Son, died on the cross.  Or seeing Jesus rise from the dead.  Or when Jesus left this earth in a cloud.  Did she understand all that Jesus was, is and will be.  That Jesus IS, and through His Grace we have the promise of Eternal Life! 

Then I see more clearly that each day, through every event in my life, I must remember where strength lies. What I live, what I feel has all been felt over and over before in this world that God created.  It is how I respond to the challenges and the opportunities to grow is what will be remembered.  Will it be a testimony to the reality of God IS, or will it be a denial?

The first over-arching fruit of the spirit is Love.  The all-encompassing mystery of sacrifice and acceptance of God is Love.  I walk with Him as a child with my hand in His.  And when I can no longer walk, He carries me through the mire of disappointment and hurt.  It is my choice.  A choice I make over and over in a day.  I hold his banner high.  The banner of the cross is ever before me. 

In this day of cynicism and doubt, we wonder what is real.  I wonder how Abraham could know God is real.  Or his son, Isaac, or grandson, Jacob?  Where did David’s faith come from?  How were the disciples so sure of Jesus?  Then I remember the verse, But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26.

My husband was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in April 2012.  Even though he cannot remember short-term memories, sometimes his foresight is amazing.  One day, as we prayed for our eldest son, Dan, and his battle with a cancerous brain tumor, Ed asked, “What makes you think he is going to die?”  His question was timely since Dan has been placed in Hospice.  God again filled me with His hope, always remembering all is in His power and His will.  Our reality is that God IS.  Each day is filled with God-Reminders of His Grace and Mercy.

Today the forecast today is for sunshine, and as I write, it is snowing huge billowy flakes.  Even so, the reality of God is always filled with surprises.  The reality of God IS and always will be.  We may hide from the God IS, but He is more real than the bread we eat.  We may run away and hide from God, but the world of His Creation is all around us, a sign posts at every turn that God IS Real and lives.  We may deplore the hurt around us, but it is simply the pathway to GOD IS LOVE! Joy is the silver lining of the clouds of Suffering.

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!”  Revelation 19:1b


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God Provides

December 10, 2013
God Provides!

For there is a time and a way for everything, although man's trouble lies heavy on him.  Ecclesiastes 8:6

Where is the laughter in life?  Where is that anticipation in life that seemed to come from the recesses of my heart in an ever-flowing stream?  This is too much.  I had just learned that the damage of brain tumor, that his life is tenuous.  I listened for his voice over the phone, held by his wife; it is all that connects us.  I heard a deep intake of breath and his voice came strong, “Hi, Mom, Hi, Dad.”  What was the cost of that gift of greeting?  He fell asleep, soon after.

Where is the answer to our prayer?  What happens when a prayer for healing is not answered?  Isn’t there some kind of unwritten law that a parent must die before their child can die?  My mind is a jumble of questions.  

Several years ago, in a RCC Bible Study we discussed with surprise an answered prayer.  Then one of the ladies, in a quiet voice said, “Isn’t that what we prayed for?  Why is it a surprise?”  Our doubt and unbelief lay revealed on the table before us in that small room, rebuking us.

Several days ago, my friend taught a Bible Study from II Corinthians 12:1-10, concerning the Apostle Paul who prayed three times to God to remove the ‘thorn’ from his flesh.  An unanswered prayer reveals the working of God to answer in a more all-encompassing God-Way.  This revelation gave me hope and peace and a readiness to accept God’s answer that my finite mind cannot fathom. Trusting is not always easy.
Now I am faced with the reality that the God’s answer may not include my deepest desire, the life of our son – through a miracle that only God can provide.  

It is then that I remember a dear friend had sent a book of devotions for the Advent of Christmas that very day.  I opened it to Day 7, and found the title – “God Provides” – with the Old Testament story of Abraham, ready to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah.  When Isaac asked where the sacrificial lamb is, Abraham answered – “God will provide.” Learning to trust God as Abraham did, is a moment by moment, step by step process that lasts a life time.

In her thorough fashion, Ann Voskamp brings home the deeper message of those three words – “God will provide.”  Jehovah Jireh.
Ann writes, “Worry is belief goes wrong.  Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.  Peace is belief that exhales.  In the thin air of Advent you may not even know how to say it out loud: ‘I thought it would be easier’.  And your God comes near; ‘I will provide the way.’  You may not even know who to tell ‘I thought it would be different’.  And God draws close: ‘I will provide grace for the gaps.’ You may not even know how to find words for it: ‘I thought I would be …More.’ And your God reaches out: ‘I will provide Me’.

Ann continues, “God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives.  Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need, God gives God. God gives God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time: time in His Word, time in His presence, time at His feet.”

Romans 8:32 - He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Even as Abraham named the place of his testing on Mount Moriah, The Lord will Provide, we call where we live, the moment we live and learning about God, Our place – of Provision.  We call our home – The Lord Will Provide – Jehovah Jireh!

To Provide means ‘to see’ and God sees and He will always see to the matter.  The act of God’s seeing means God acts.  (Thank you, Ann Voskamp, for your words in: “The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas”

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Psalm 37:3

From "Streams in the Desert" by L.B. Cowman:

There is a peace that springs soon after sorrow
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fullfilled;

A peace that does not look upon tomorrow

But calmly on the storm that it has stilled.

A peace that lives not now in joy's excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;

But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,

Of conflicts won while learning to endure.

A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passion free;

It's not the peace that over Eden brooded,

But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.

Jehovah Jireh!  


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Anticipatory Hope!

Happy, happy, happy!  That phrase has been emblazoned on a flag that is raised over our land.  Happy and Hope begin with the same letter and are entwined in a bow that decorates life.  Playing hide and go seek was accompanied by that intense expectation of will I or won’t I be found when I was young.  Birthdays and Christmas are enjoined by the same tingly expectation, What-will-happen-tingles make me alert to the day and its surprises.  Later I experienced the same feeling as a teacher when a ‘snow day’ was announced.  A surprise day to spend at home!

As I journey through this life, I have a different hope, a lasting hope.  And I read, “O, Lord, you alone are my hope.  I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood.  Psalm 71:5.  David, the the one who slayed wild animals and Goliath.  I can see young David, a shepherd boy, standing with his 5 smooth stones for his sling, trusting God.  I can see the stone fly through the air and find its mark.  And as I read Psalm after Psalm, I know that David knew God with his heart and being.  David knew God as His Lord, as the creator of the universe, his Protector when David fled from King Saul’s men.

And I wonder…as I read the book of his writing…did he feel the hope that God gives?  Did David know that hope when he played his harp?  How did he grow to be such a man of God?  It wasn’t over-night, it was one praise at a time for this God who led David.  It was searching the stars at night while watching over the sheep.

When David erred, he was caught in a trap of sin.  He was not perfect and yet he knew how to repent and seek that glorious feeling of walking with God again. - Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Psalm 32:1-3

Yes, David knew, just as we learn in this life.  Sin creeps in and our life is wasted unless we confess our sin and pray for forgiveness.  Without forgiveness, there is no hope for a life of joy, for the expectation of hope that wakes up our souls every morning.

In reading an e-book, Happy Every Day by Bryan Hutchinson, I read how to be happy every day.  Wake up in the morning with verbalizing the expectation that something good is going to happen today!  At the end of the day, the instructions were to journal the good thing(s) happening that day.  I read every chapter – all great ideas.  But for me, the portion left out was that God is good and in control.  Without Him, nothing good -- of eternal import -- will happen. 

Yes, it is a matter of choosing what you will be.  Choose to be a victim and you will be. Everything you touch will crumble. Choose to be sad and you will be.  Tears will flow night and day.  Choose to be critical and you will be. You may have all the answers but being critical does not give you peace. Choose to be happy and you will be.  People will cluster around you, because others can flourish in a relaxed cheerful atmosphere of encouragement.  Choose to have hope – know who the Author of Hope is and you will live with anticipation that lasts a lifetime and beyond.

There are no words to explain the sum and total of the expectation of hope I see in the flowers of the spring.  The expectation of new life in the trees as they clothe themselves in hues of green.  The faithfulness that is evident in every sunset and the sunrise the next morning.  The power that exists in every wave of the ocean as it carries the fish of the sea.  The golden hues of harvest and the glorious riot of color of the trees in fall.  The shimmer of the moon, silver on the reflection of snow glistens quietly and serenely.  Yes, this is what God has created.  My heart is filled with anticipatory hope of what is beyond this life because of the beauty of his creation.

God created Man in his own image.  The mystery of that statement in Genesis keeps man wondering.  At times man tries to become God and de-throne God. Yet, God awaits our choice to be His.

A portion of the lyrics we sang last Sunday echoed the wonder of God’s words, Genesis 1:27 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;  male and female he created them.
“You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us
.”    Michael & Lisa Gungor
Anticipatory Hope is ours no matter what comes before us in this life when we choose Jesus’ Way.  Because He conquered death, we know that we will not be separated from God even in death because He is life. 

Verses to think about:
- Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22
- Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.  Psalm 42:5
- By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas Psalm 65:5
- Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2
- Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
- May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
- So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13;13
- Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace 2 Thessalonians 2:16
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began Titus 1:2

- but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.  I Peter 3:15