Listening

These past few weeks I have been listening to a wide range of perspectives and attitudes. The range of beliefs and “truths” is mind-boggling. The range of experiences are eye-opening. And, as expected, there are a lot of suggested solutions out there.

Something has to change. There is death and destruction in this world. And, yet, there are good things happening in the world, too. It is important to see both because only seeing the death can be heart-wrenching and lead one to hopelessness. However, if one only focuses on the “good”, the picture is incomplete. There is clearly a wide range of both.

We are clearly not there yet. And where is there, anyway?

We can dream for this — take a listen…. but it isn’t based in reality.

From my perspective, we will never get to the place where this world is perfect and safe for all.  This is Earth, after all. Unfortunately, all people in all stages of life will not be cared for and protected. And, sadly, there will always be hunger. While our “technology” is advancing in amazing ways since the beginning of time, our interpersonal skills have not. Our hearts are wicked. Sin abounds. We haven’t figured out how to stop murdering one another and retaliating wrongs. But that doesn’t mean we stop working towards it.

“What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV

We should not be surprised how quickly avenging can turn to revenging. Nor should we be shocked at the bitterness stored up in the hearts of people.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV

We should take a long hard look at ourselves. Cumulative and lasting change comes when our hearts are reconciled with God. And, even then, there will not be true “peace on Earth”. But, as people are reconciled to God and recognize their propensity toward sin and seek to turn away from it, there is hope. As we each walk towards God, from wherever we are in the world, we are headed in the same direction. And God changes our hearts to be more like His. And we can work with God to bridge the cavernous divides.

There is no true healing apart from the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It starts with me and my heart — when I let God take away my “justified response” and my anger. There are many, many ugly things that happen in life to many of us. If we choose to harbor unforgiveness, we are choosing a life of bondage.  One great book that I have read and re-read through the years is by R.T. Kendall, Total Forgiveness. I have bought multiple copies and given them away. I don’t do that very often for books.

As I listen, there is hurt, loss, injustice, and anger as well as a lot of justification for violence and further killing. Dwelling in an ugly place with people who are angry only brings more ugliness. I continue to listen to a wide range of perspectives, but I will hear them through God’s Word. I can’t listen to the voices of the day without hearing the words and the proposed solutions and comparing them to what is in God’s Word. There is, and will always be, a lot of false prophets out there — wolves in sheeps clothing. But there are a lot of voices who, though human, who offer a lot of Godly insight, rooted in Scripture.

This is Part II. Hearing was the first post.

May God reveal His wisdom and perspective as you examine your own heart today!

 

 

 

 

Disrupted

I had just discovered a daily routine that I could base off of when my travel schedule interrupted. And then, the coronavirus hit. And just like that, every routine I had was disrupted. There are a lot of unknowns. Things are not going as I had planned. And it seems we still have a long way to go. I think this is just the beginning.

We all go through times when our lives are disrupted:

  • a diagnosis
  • a pregnancy
  • a run-in with the law
  • moving
  • an accident
  • a new job

And we make adjustments. We grieve. We do what we need to do to move forward. It’s more on a personal level and our people circle around us and support us.

But, sometimes there are regional, collective disruptions – things that affect multiple people in your circle or location

  • a death or diagnosis in your family
  • tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, or flooding in your neighborhood
  • your workplace shuts down

More people experience the stress. Those who might have encouraged you in the midst of your personal struggle are caught up in this group catastrophe. You work together to figure it out but everyone is in various stages of grief. It’s a time to support one another and walk together.

And now, nearly everyone is impacted in such a variety of ways with the coronavirus pandemic — people all over the world. If they haven’t been exposed to the virus they are feeling the effects of it. Supply chains are impacted. This is huge. It’s like coming to the scene of a really bad accident and trying to make triage decisions but without the blood and twisted metal.

How do we start reconnecting and deciding what is a part of our new routine? How do we make sense of the disruption? How do we find peace in the midst of all of this? Will those times on our knees become a part of the new normal? Will the breath prayer “Lord, I have no idea what this day is going to look like but walk with me,” continue to be the start of our days?

For me, I can’t even say what the new normal will look like but I do have today. And that is a fine place to start. I may not know what tomorrow will look like so I will just be present today:

 I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.

 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.
Psalm 59:16-17

Shades of Death

There are seasons in life where we find ourselves in the shades of death; where trouble or discouragement or illness have surrounded us and we have not felt joy. We are simply sitting in darkness or under the cover cold, dark, and moody clouds of circumstance that drain our ability to smile and laugh.

Honestly, that feels like a typical February for me. I hate not seeing or feeling the sun. Day after day it is gloomy but when there is a moment — even just a sunny hour or the thrill of a sunny day. My goodness. It is so exciting!

Sometimes my soul gets trapped under the weight of discouragement, doubt, and distortions of reality. It needs to be in the presence of the Son — to feel the warmth and encouragement and to feel the Life only Jesus can bring to us.

After sitting in darkness, it takes time to readjust. The light can be bright. Sometimes even overwhelming for eyes that have not been exposed to it recently. Go slowly. Practice absorbing the light.

Heavenly Father, Bring Your light to me. Let it shine in the dark places and bring life to where there seems to be only shades of death. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

“The People That in Darkness Sat”

The people that in darkness sat
A glorious light have seen;
The light has shined on them who long
In shades of death have been.

To hail Thee, Sun of Righteousness,
The gathering nations come;
They joy as when the reapers bear
Their harvest treasures home.

For Thou their burden dost remove
And break the tyrant’s rod
As in the day when Midian fell
Before the sword of God.

To us a Child of hope is born,
To us a Son is given,
And on His shoulder ever rests
All power in earth and heaven.

His name shall be the Prince of Peace,
The Everlasting Lord,
The Wonderful, the Counselor.
The God by all adored.

His righteous government and power
Shall over all extend;
On judgment and on justice based,
His reign shall have no end.

Lord Jesus, reign in us, we pray,
And make us Thine alone,
Who with the Father ever art
And Holy Spirit, one.

by John Morison, 1749-1798

Time

I pass it, mark it, don’t take it, mind it, waste it, honor it, keep it, tell it, push it, ignore it, stretch it, squander it, and I savor it. Sometimes it passes slower than molasses and sometimes it flies!

But whatever I do, time is always on the move, whether or not I keep up with it.

It is a constant.

How we deal with it is up to us. Do we ever have enough? Do we use what time we have wisely?

I have been guilty of using my time to complain, argue, sulk, seethe, and criticize. But the older I get, I am more interested in using my time to encourage, explore, connect, listen, uplift, laugh, learn, and love until it is my time to die.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV]

God’s blessings as you consider your time!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: DESOLATE

Dwelling Places

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Another incredible view in Transylvania

Why am I here? …And why are you there?

Yea, yea, yea….some of it may have to do with the choices we made and all that, but sometimes we have done some of the exact same things and yet one of us is living out some challenging consequences and the other is not.

Sometimes where we are has nothing to do with our own choices. In fact, many times it has nothing to do with what we have done. We might experience the benefit or the consequence of someone else’s doing.

We didn’t choose the family or circumstances we were born into nor did we choose our ethnicity or our race. We had no choice about whether we were born into poverty or crazy wealth or a barely functioning family. We didn’t even choose the country we were born in.

And yet all these factors play into our early years, which, in turn, can create a path for our lives.

Life is hard and it definitely isn’t fair.

Some “advantages” aren’t actually advantages but it takes some time to sort that out. And sometimes what we think we see isn’t accurate at all… our own perspectives are often skewed.

Good deeds go unrecognized. Bad behavior appears to be rewarded. Illness doesn’t care if you have the sweetest heart or the most meager of bank accounts or even if you live in a remote village, away from any modern medical services.

I can’t dwell there.

Loss and death and disease are universal and trusting in God’s provision and comfort is the only way I survive. Sharing God’s love and compassion in practical ways is one of the ways I cope and move forward in a positive direction. If I think too much about the injustices of life on Earth without a plan to give and serve, I dwell. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by your situation, I have included some Bible verses that are good to memorize. If you are going to dwell anywhere, God’s Word is the place to do it:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

On the way,

Liz

A Time for Peace

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Sunset in Vermont

A Time for Everything 
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 NIV

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.


At one time or another we have all surrendered our “right” or our position or our opinion in order to keep the peace.

Of course, there are some who are more than willing (maybe too willing) to give in. And on the other end of the spectrum there are others who act like every discussion is a hill they are willing to die on.

Ever notice that some people stoke the smallest disagreement so it develops into a huge battle? These situations may be based on a small misunderstanding but one party cannot back down or have a reasonable discussion. Sometimes this happens with friends but it is particularly devastating when it happens within families. The rift in the relationship grows so large and involves so many people that it impacts generations of relationships. Some of these issues last decades and lifetimes.

And then hardship strikes.

Often death, diagnosis, or disability comes along to remind us all how fragile and precious life really is. Life is short. Life can be really hard. Ideas and principles are important but people and relationships are even more important.

There are times a tragedy can be a catalyst for healing in relationships.

Don’t wait for some disaster to offer the olive branch of peace in a strained relationship. If you feel you have been wronged, let the Lord avenge it. Your interpretation of the situation or what “offended” you might, actually, be a bit off base. Feelings often lead us astray. And there are many sides to a story. We are, hopefully, changing and growing every day and learning more about ourselves and the world around us. What was worth battling about five years ago might just be a blip now, considering the circumstances. Lost time cannot be recovered but we can move forward together and in peace, making memories along the way.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. [Romans 12:17-19 NIV]

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. [Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV]

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold. [Ephesians 4:25-27 NIV]

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. [Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV]

On the way,

Liz

A Time to Die

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A Time for Everything 
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 NIV

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.


As a young child, I experienced a bit of trauma when my father died. I was only six years old and I don’t remember a lot about his illness or death but I do remember watching my friends have dads and wondered what that was like. Of course, because the main wage earner was not around, we experienced financial hardship. And sure my mom was exhasuted by the four of us! As I moved through different stages of life, I knew I missed out on something. But, it was simply a fact in our family and we moved forward in life.

Years went my and I married a great guy and we started having our own children. When we were pregnant with precious child #3, I started to get nervous. When my husband’s mom was pregnant with her third child, her huband died of a heart attack. I thought for sure that would be my future. Of course, I was wired for something like that since I grew up without a father in the home. My mom raised four kids by herself and I figured that was going to be my lot in life. I actually thought far more about the day I would be raising children on my own due to my husband’s death than I ever thought about my mom leaving this earth.

Moms are immortal, aren’t they?

It didn’t happen that way. Don’s still here and my mom died ten years ago. (She was the best!) And it has been so much fun to watch my kids have their dad in their lives! Watching my husband be such a great father to our kids has been a great thing. So many of the things I feared would happen, in fact, have not happened. But they were fears I simply had to face and move through.

There are days we feel like we are dying because of the agonizing heartache or the anticipation of pain or paralyzing fear of the future or the prospect (or certainty) of a challenging treatment plan. And yet, those are not the days our bodies die. We are all marching toward that final day but we don’t really know the circumstances surrounding our final breath.

We know it will come, eventually. It always does. Are you working on those things you’ve hoped or dreamed about? If you knew you had a short time left on this earth, what are the things you would focus in on and do?

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. [Psalm 90:12 NIV]

I am at least halfway through my life. When did that even happen? I don’t fear death itself as much as I wonder about the pain that might be involved in the process of dying. But, no matter, I don’t know any of the circumstances surrounding my final breath.

But what if this is what I am facing in my remaining days?

  • Life without a special, precious someone
  • A difficult diagnosis
  • Financial hardship
  • Disability
  • Chronic Illness

I will cling to His promises. He is the God of all comfort. He sees the bigger picture. He knows this life is temporary. He knows and uses every trouble and trial for faith building  either in me or in others.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.        [2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV]

I trust that God is with me, strengthening and upholding me! And I trust He is with you too!

On the way,

Liz

Isaiah41_10

His strength. His peace.

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There are so many people I know and love in the middle of situations that are very challenging and yet they persevere. I know it is because they are relying on God as their source of strength even if it is just one step at a time, one day at a time.

How easy it is for us to think, at least initially, that our strength, education, bank account, or resilience will get us through every situation. “The world” chides us for being weak or dependent both directly and indirectly. If we are indoctrinated by that garbage for too long it can seep into our souls and cause some problems. We might try to “power through” or “make it on our own” but it really can only get us so far.  We might look down on others for needing assistance but, if we live long enough, we will eventually find ourselves in circumstances that can bring us to our knees:

Aging parents. Disabilities. Death. Broken Relationships. Job loss. Natural disasters.

When I am on my knees it seems I am better able to see and hear the things from God that I need to know. I am not quite as distracted by the other nonessential things because my focus is on seeking the strength for the day. In some situations we might find we need assistance from others and it helps us get along. In other situations, we might find ourselves completely alone, with utter dependence on God and His provisions.

When we are smart or strong or physically able or have “enough” do we let God be our strength and our salvation?

strength1wThat is a challenge for me. Sometimes I get confused about how I am making it through life or a certain situation. It is very difficult to shut out the world’s way of thinking that everything is up to me and my efforts. The more resources I have at my disposal the easier it is to think that I am handling it all. Once I think it is all about what I am achieving, I get frustrated when things don’t pan out according to plan. But have I really dreamed up the best plan? It seems rather empty to chase after physical things and try to control all the things that happen in my life. The thought that I have control (and even make the best choices in situations when I can exercise control) is an illusion. Life is not all about me. Life is not all about you. My life is not my own. And neither is yours!

Have you been in a place where the outcome is out of your control and you just need to trust God to give you His strength?

Heavenly Father ~ give us your strength for this day and bless us with your perfect peace! Amen.

On the Road,

Liz

strength2w

 

PrayerPoints ~Wednesday, March 16th

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Today’s PrayerPoint ~ Psalm 49

“Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.” Psalm 49:16-17

People often pursue success relentlessly.  There are many different perspectives on what is considered successful and many of them have to do with money, position, and power. It is very easy to get caught up in the world’s definition of success because we are bombarded with so many messages about what the world considers successful.

Think for a bit about what you consider successful. Then take a few minutes to evaluate the path your are on and how it aligns with what you value. Then take some time to be in prayer and God’s Word to see if there are some adjustments you need to make. For me, it is easy to be swayed to believe what the world says about success because there are so many images and messages that are out there, trying to influence me.

Riches are not the problem….but riches at the expense of others definitely can be.

It is easy to look at others and think about how I would live my life differently if I was in their shoes. It is much more difficult to consider where I am and what I have and how to align my path to the things God considers of value.

I will be praying for God’s wisdom and discernment as I think about how I define success.

 

 

 

 

 

CrossRoads

Today’s PrayerPoint ~ CrossRoads

Every day I find myself at intersections where I am called upon to choose how I will respond to my day and to my circumstances. Are there challenges? Of course there are. But I do not want to be accused of blowing momentary troubles out of proportion by whining and complaining. Much of what I deal with is momentary. It’s just that some moments last longer than others! Every day I see heartbreaking stories of really difficult circumstances. I have lived through a few myself as I am sure you have. Life on Earth has joy and pain. Thankfully, as we trust and serve an amazing God we also have the opportunity for His perspective and His life transforming work in our every day.

We all come up against crossroads. Sometimes we travel through accident-prone crazy intersections and some of our journeys take us to easy and relaxed places but each crossroad leaves us with a choice — not necessarily in the outcome of a situation but our response to the circumstance. Unfortunate and disheartening struggles are common in this life — death, disability, abuse, job loss, unplanned pregnancies, critical illness, violence, financial crisis, family feuds, etc — and while they may shape a perspective, they do not have to define a person. It is understandable for it to take time for people to work through difficult situations ~ grief and healing are not processes to race through. God’s work in my heart is more like a crock-pot than a microwave. It takes time for me to work through things.

Here is how I would ultimately like my crossroads to define me ~ that I would be found trusting and relying on my Heavenly Father to meet my every need. That I would follow His lead, rest in His love and provision, and let Him infuse any circumstance with His forgiveness, grace, mercy, and peace.

Do you know someone at a crossroad that needs prayer? Have you considered quietly but deliberately praying for them and their decision-making during this time? Sometimes we see people at a crossroad before they realize they are there. If you have been given eyes to see that kind of situation I would encourage you to lift them up in prayer!

See you at the CrossRoad!
Liz