Signs and Wonders

I find it easy to get caught up in my day to day life and forget about the awesomeness of God. Routine takes over. Prayer and scripture keep me in touch with Him. It’s my sense of awe and wonder that wanes. My brain knows, but my heart could use a reminder that God still performs signs and wonders.

My schedule has been extraordinarily full. Spare time for my family has been hard to find let alone time for ministry work. It’s the time of year when I begin preparing my teaching for a women’s ministry I work with (Best Life Ministries). However, I have no time. In fact, my workload and finding time for the things I feel called to has been a constant prayer discussion between God and I. Mostly, I tell Him to show me what to let go of to find needed time, but nothing is apparent. I genuinely feel like I’m in a holding pattern waiting for the next move. 

I got to my desk on a Monday morning and there was a letter waiting for me. We have an adjunct faculty who is a great encourager. He often sends cards with excerpts from a book or reading that encourages me to continue on. This time it was a list of scriptures related to change. My teaching next year is on growing through change. My heart leapt. This was exactly what I needed to begin forming the teaching. 

how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:3-4 NIV).

This was exactly the sign and wonder I needed. It was a delightful little gift from God. It reminded me He knows my heart and my needs. It sparked a sense of awe again. 

God is at work reminding us of His care for us through little signs and wonders. He uses us to speak truth and love into the lives of others that remind them of Him. He takes joy in delighting His children. That was exactly what I needed, and it’s a great reminder of his love and care for me. Me, a grain of sand in the cosmos. 

How does God remind you He is caring for you? What signs and wonders have you seen? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Grief and Hope

It was a simple faculty retreat. A morning of encouragement and new ideas on how to improve instruction. Then she started talking about work and faith integration. She shared about the loss of her niece. She shared the the helpless feeling when unable to bring healing as a doctor. She shared the depth of the grief her brother and sister in law as this mother cradled the ashes of her child and sobbed. She shared how the cross became a symbol of immense grief and profound hope. She shared her story in great moving detail. I felt kicked in the chest.

My heart flooded with grief. It was overwhelming and surprising. I was surprised at the depth of sorrow I felt. I was reminded how grief comes in unexpected ways. I was not only feeling the grief of my own recent losses, but I was feeling the grief of the parents of those gone. I was seeing my brother and his wife cradleing the ashes of their daughter. A grief no one should ever have to carry. 

The cross represents grief and hope. Jesus’ death on the cross encompasses all the grief and sorrow one can bare. But, it doesn’t end their. Death, grief, sorrow don’t have the last word. It doesn’t end on the cross. It ends with life. It ends with resurrection. It ends with hope.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c] (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV).

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

As hard as the road of grief is, I am not dismayed. I trust the One who knows my grief. I trust strength will come again. I trust that I am being held in His right hand. And, it is my continual prayer for my brother, his wife, daughter, and dear friends that they know the hope of Christ and trust His strength to carry them through. 

How do you find hope in grief? How has Christ strengthened you? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

With Us

God with us is a difficult concept to embrace. God always with us. We are never alone. How does that work? How do I feel close to someone who’s not here? My son taught me a little about this.

It was move in day. It was time for my eldest to move into his college apartment. It was a wet, rainy day on campus. Parents and their students were scurrying up down the sidwalks with arms full. In typical mom fashion, I started hanging up his clothes in the closet and organizing his stuff only to have him say, “Mom, I got this.” 

He was ready to head out, get his books and do his thing. I didn’t want to leave him. My heart suddenly hand these pangs. I didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want to leave him, but I do want him to fly. 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9 ESV).

God is always with us. We are never alone. He has impacted my heart, my life so much that I do have the sense that He is always with me. That knowing comes from building a relationship. It comes from spending time together. It comes from knowing that love is always there no matter what happens in life. He whispers in my ear when I need to make a decision. He reminds me what love does when I see someone in need. He IS always with me.

There have been times when God has felt distant. I know it is becuase I have not been paying attention to our relationship.  God promises to always be with us, so if I’m feeling distant, I’m the one who needs to go home and visit. Getting involved at church, Bible study, and prayer all bring the closeness back. It really is that simple.

Okay, it’s true. I hope my son always has the sense that I am always with him. More importatnly he knows God is always with him. That is what puts my heart at rest.

Do you know that God is always with you? What do you do to keep Him close? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Giving Up

A trip to Boston brought me in touch with the idea of giving up. I know that sounds strange. We walked a lot in Boston 27 miles in four days to be exact. Nine of those miles were on the last day. The day that was supposed to be more relaxed. The last mile brought a whole new level of fatigue. I just wanted it to end. Could we please call an Uber? 

I wanted to give up. I wanted to through in the towel, call it quits. There have been many times when giving up is all I wanted to do. Work, relationships, health all have given me reason to quit. Difficulties have worn me down. Time takes a toll. Distance wears on a soul. I start to lose hope. 

God never loses hope. God never gives up on us. Instead, God walks with us through it all giving strength and courage to continue on.

In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” (Joshua 4-9 MSG).

When I hit that low place, I call on the one who can give me strength. Then I can persevere a few more steps. I can go on one more mile.

Life throws us difficult challenges. Life is hard. We wonder how to get through the challenges. God gives us the courage to take one more step, to get up the next day. Calling on God gives hope. 

What do you do when giving up feels like the best option? How do you perservere? How has God given you strength? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Fasting

Several years ago I was asked to enter into a time of fasting and prayer for a breakthrough in ministry. My initial thoughts, “Prayer-fine. Fasting -are you kidding me-why would anyone do that voluntarily?” I felt like I needing to do this. Everyone else was readily on board. I was succumbing to peer pressure. The person in charge went through a variety of ways we could fast. My thought was, “Thank you God, I can do a liquid fast not a water fast.” My commitment was one day a week for a couple of weeks. 

I had known fasting was in scripture, but I assumed it was bad for the body and therefore something they did “back then” and not today. Oh, I was so wrong. Johns Hopkins chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience says this, “Cutting your energy intake by fasting several days a week might help your brain ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while at the same time improving memory and mood.” A study conducted at Harvard and published in Cell Metabolism shows that fasting can lead to a longer healthier life. Unfortunately, I could go on. New research continues to be done on the benefits of fasting including benefits for cancer patients. 

It really shouldn’t surprise me that something that is practiced in scripture repeatedly is actually good for me.

33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” (Luke 5:33-35 NIV).

 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3 NIV)

I survived my previous fasting experiences, but I’m not sure they accomplished what was intended. I struggled to focus my prayer time while focusing on the clock and when I could eat. I have taken up a weekly fast again. This time with a better understanding of blood sugar and ketones for energy. (I suggest Googling it for information if you are interested). Now I am able to do it with minimal hunger and have a focused time of prayer that goes beyond, “God, please get me through this.” :0) I am embracing the health and spiritual benefits of a fast. I believe I’m growing through it. 

Have you experienced fasting? What works for your? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others. 

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Unanswered Prayer

My son was lamenting a prayer he has been praying for about a year now. He was frustrated that it had seemingly gone unanswered. It is a lament my heart has expressed many times around many aspects of life. In fact, I have had a similar lament going on in my prayer life these past weeks. He was looking for answers and hope as we all are when prayers seem unanswered.

How often do many of us feel like the woman in the parable badgering the judge for what she wanted (Luke 18)? I beg God to change my circumstances, bring loved ones to know Him, and remind me that prayer matters. 

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. (Psalm 6:9 NIV).

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV).

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).

Unanswered prayer leaves us questioning, as my son did, “What’s the point?” These are just a few scriptures that remind us that God wants to hear our prayers, wants the best for us. For my son, as he shared his lament, he also shared a change in his circumstance. It was a small change. One, he didn’t notice until I pointed it out to him. God had answered his prayer in a small dose.

I’m reminded that the answers I want are not always the answers I get. It maybe a baby step in the direction of my prayer request, The answer might be no or not now. I don’t get to see the big picture. I may think only positive will come from my request, but I can’t see those consequences.  It may be that I need to take a different perspective on the situation. It may be that the free will of others is slowing progress. It all comes back to trusting the one who says, “Ask and it will be yours.” It’s not easy. As I heard Erwin McManus say, “Faith doesn’t make things easier, it makes you stronger.” I think he’s onto something. It’s hard. No doubt. We anguish and wrestle. I believe God is faithful, is listening and cares about what pains my heart.

How have you struggled with unanswered prayer? Have you missed answers from God? Have you been looking in the wrong place? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others. 

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Making Changes

The other night my son was lamenting his frustration with the phrase, “We’ve always done it that way.” He didn’t understand people’s resistance to doing things differently whether at church, school or work. He wasn’t bashing tradition. He was frustrated with those who resisted making changes when needed.

Changing the Sunday morning worship service, upgrading to a new software system, and painting the living room are all changes that we have to face. As someone who loves to improves systems, functions, and my environment, I am the one at the front advocating for the changes. I’m the one on the committee who is ready to try something new unless the change needed is mine.

Personal change is so much harder than changing a system at least for me. I am one of those people who has food allergies. Monosodium glutamate and gluten are already on the “do not eat” list. Recently, my system has gone into chaos again. Dairy has been added to the “do not eat” list at least for the meantime. That and a few other dietary adjustments are meant to get me back to optimum health. It has been so hard this time. I am fighting making  these changes with every ounce of my being.

I am playing the “why me” card. My prayers have turned into negotiations with God. I continually ask for cheese to be able to come back into my life with an occasional dose of cream. Is that really too much to ask? God has walked me through many changes. Many times this scripture has been my praise. I know this. I trust this and yet, I’m still lamenting making the change.

You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can’t thank you enough. (Psalm 30: 11-12 MSG).

I take baby steps toward health. God holds my hand with each step. When I feel whiny and small, He reminds me that He’s got this. He reminds me of the many times he has brought me through changes that felt hard and overwhelming. Then I take another baby step and remind myself that this isn’t the hardest change I’ve had to make.

Making changes are never easy. They challenge us to grow and transform into the persons God is calling us to be. They bring us health and a fullness to life we could never achieve on our own. In the end, we thank God for every aspect of the process especially the final result of that whirling dance with Him.

How do you make changes? How do you transition through the tough aspects of life? How do you lean on God? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Loving Deeply

I was asked to officiate a wedding ceremony for a couple I had never met. I have only done a couple of ceremonies and prefer to know the couple. So, the dilemma began. What do I say to a couple I have never met?

The couple wanted a brief ceremony. I reminded them that 20 minutes is brief, and that they still want it to be memorable. The pieces of the ceremony started coming together. Yes, sand. No, songs. They finally landed on this scripture and God gave me a few brief words to share on loving deeply.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.( I Corinthians 13:4-8 MSG).

“As this scripture says love is hard. It takes intention and a deep level of trust. It challenges us to be more than we imagined. To love deeply means a willingness to be vulnerable with each other, to share the parts of yourselves that you like the least knowing your spouse will hold them with care.

Loving deeply means offering the grace, the benefit of the doubt and forgiveness first. It is a willingness to take those moments of misunderstanding and disagreement and pull closer to the other, listening with great intent to hear and understand.

Loving deeply is staying thankful for the other in all times, difficult and easy. Both are a gift that help us grow.

And, yes, loving deeply means celebrating with each other as we are today and cheering each other on, along with appreciating the quiet ordinary moments of day-to-day life.

At times, it will be hard, so choose to always grow together. But from someone who’s about to hit the 20 year mark, it’s the best adventure of your life.”

The message became a thoughtful reminder to me of what love is, how God loves us, and how we are to love one another. I wish I had fully understood it twenty years ago. Love is a gift that I need to continue to embrace and share.

How are you at loving deeply? How has love changed you? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Chaos

Today started organized and well planned. I knew exactly what I needed to accomplish. It started as good, productive day. Then the emails started rolling in with various needs and of course, they were all urgent. Within in an hour my day had been upended and resembled chaos. 

Once in a great while, I will take on a puzzle. It’s a nice rainy day alternative. However, the one pictured here is it’s own form of chaos. No straight edges on the perimeter was a challenge that took days. Now, that perimeter is barely visible underneath the remain pieces. This view of chaos and disarray was what my day felt like within an hour of starting my workday.

Within a short amount of time, I was juggles many needs. Prioritizing was a challenge and I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I have learned over the years that when details start to spiral and I have too many “to do’s,” I need to make some lists. The number one priority on the list becomes pray and focus on God.

Prayer calms my heart and reduces my stress level. It allows me to think more clearly. Suddenly, the overwhelming “to do’s” fall into place. Chaos subsides and the needs of the day are accomplished even the emergent ones.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 17:6 NIV).

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

God calls us into communication and relationship with Him. Prayer is the language. God promises to guide us during all of life’s events, but if we haven’t developed our prayer life, our relationship, we will miss out on that guidance.

Prayer allowed the chaos to end. Reconnecting with God allowed me to focus. The puzzle pieces are now in place. Organization and order have resumed. It doesn’t matter what my days bring as long as I stay connected to God through prayer, I can face all things.

How do you get through the chaos of daily living? How do you calm your soul? How has prayer brought you peace? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Enough Faith

This sign hangs by our dining table. I see it everyday, but this week it has been stirring within me. What does it mean to have enough faith?

I hear statements such as, “pray harder,” “you didn’t pray hard enough,” “you need to have enough faith,” etc. These are often said by well-meaning people who don’t know what else to say, but they always make me cringe. We hear these phrases when we don’t get the miracle we are praying God will bring us.

I, recently, watched a dear young couple lose their daughter pre-term. My heart broke for them. I found myself asking a question I ask a lot, “Why God?” While I don’t have the answer to why, I do know that God didn’t do this to them. It didn’t happen because they didn’t have enough faith or pray hard enough.

20 “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy- seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (Matthew 17:20 MSG). 

I will always want to ask God, “Why?” It doesn’t mean I didn’t pray enough or have enough faith. Don’t get me wrong faith and prayer matter. Prayer makes a difference. It’s how we communicate with God an important aspect of our relationship. God cares deeply about what is on our hearts. But, the reason I didn’t get the miracle I prayed like crazy for is not because I didn’t have enough faith.

It is about having faith even the faith of a small seed. It is about growing in our relationship with God in the midst of difficult circumstances that we don’t fully understand. God loves each of equally whether our faith is a seed or a mighty oak.

As hard as it is to understand why these things happen, I still choose faith. Faith makes things possible not easy.

If you wrestle with this as I do, here is my prayer.

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 1:6 NIV).

When do you ask why? Do you feel like you don’t have enough faith? How has God encouraged your faith? Share your experiences here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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