Calming Life’s Storm

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13 NIV

In the midst of a world pandemic we are surrounded by scary statistics, rising death tolls, overcrowded hospitals, limited medical supplies, etc.  We’re told the safest place to be is home.  People wear masks and other personal protection equipment when they have to go to public places.  Personally, I have even resorted to “washing” my groceries before bringing them in the house.  Why?  Because our world is fighting against the spread of a scary and unpredictable virus that continues to wreak havoc and steals our hope and our freedoms.

Life, as we know it, has been put on pause for an indefinite time period.  People have temporarily lost their jobs due to businesses closing down.  High school seniors lost the last few months of their high school careers because school buildings closed in mid-March and have been ordered to remain closed for the duration of the school year.  Spring athletes like baseball players and track stars will have no season this year.  Weddings have been cancelled or rescheduled.  Family gatherings are halted.  Grandparents can’t see their grandchildren except through their picture window or via video technology.  It’s as if the world itself has stopped turning and is standing still on its axle.

For many, this sudden change in lifestyle, cancellation of plans and loss of  tradition has brought much despair.  Others wrestle with anxiety while trying to hold their family together with little or no income.  Still for others it brings anger, resentment, sadness and even fear.   Watching TV or scrolling through social media only adds to these emotions due to the barrage of false and overly exaggerated information that pours through both media channels.  Even in the comfort of our homes we cannot escape the eerie silence and chaotic noise of COVID-19.  It’s almost like that dreary calm in nature when the skies are dark and the trees are motionless just before the madness strikes as a destructive storm blows through.

I can imagine the disciples knew that exact dread and fear when their boat sailed right into a deadly storm.  Mark 4:37 describes it as a “furious squall…that broke the waves over the boat making them nearly swamped.” (NIV)  I  imagine twelve men scurrying around, panicked doing everything that can to keep the boat from sinking.  Although verse 38 tells us they ran to Jesus asking Him to save them, based on their history of unbelief, I think they tried to save themselves before running to Jesus.  Here’s the kicker of this story.  Jesus was in the stern, SLEEPING!  When the disciples woke Him, He stood up, “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ (verse 39) Then He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I think Jesus could be asking Christians of today’s world these same two questions-Why are we so afraid?  Do we still have NO faith?  Does His word mean nothing to us when we need it most?  Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that “in this world [we] will have trouble. But take heart! [Jesus] has over come the world.”  In Deuteronomy 31:6, God told His chosen people to “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake.”

We do not have to be afraid or in dread of a deadly disease.  We can be at peace through this tumultuous whirlwind the Coronavirus has brought upon us.  We do not have to entertain anger, despair, grief or fear.  We can choose joy, gladness, gratitude and hope.  How? Taking His word for the very truth that it is and standing on scripture that combats every negative emotion that floods our spirits.

Are you angry because your plans have been ruined and you feel stuck at home?  God’s word says “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:20.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 warns to “not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  Instead of anger, God tells us to “Consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds because…the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)  We combat anger with choosing joy.

Are you anxious because you’ve lost your job, maybe have no income and unsure how you will meet your family’s basic needs?  God is our Provider.  In fact, in Matthew 6: 25-27 (NIV), we are told this; “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body…is not life more than food…? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet [our] Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are [we] not of more value than [those birds]? Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Worrying doesn’t grow a money tree or put food on your table.  But prayer and faith can.  We don’t have to have big faith either, just the faith the size of a mustard seed.  Isn’t that ironic?

Have the cancellation of milestone events (graduations, weddings, etc.) left you grieving what you or your loved one are missing out on?  Are you crumpled in a pit of despair?  Grab on to hope and don’t let go.  1 Peter 5:10 promises us this: “The God of all grace, who called [us] to His eternal glory in Christ, after [we] have suffered a little while, will Himself restore [us] and make [us] strong, firm and steadfast.” Milestone events may not happen exactly as were planned or even in the traditional manner we looked forward to.  But that doesn’t mean they will not happen.

If it’s a part of God’s plan, it will happen.  Sarah and Abraham are the perfect example of that.  Sarah’s dream of becoming a mother fell to the wayside as she grew to be past the child bearing age.  She “thought outside the box” even and tried manufacturing her own family using Haggar. But God’s plan was for Sarah to bear a child, not adopt one.  Even though Sarah laughed at God’s promise, Hebrews 11:11 tells us that “by faith…Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who made the promise.”  Sarah laughed at God-clearly her faith was the size of a mustard seed.  BUT-God is a god of His word and He always keeps His promises.

Lastly, have you been paralyzed by fear-fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of this virus itself?  Then memorize these scriptures and follow these commands!

     1.) “Do not fear..when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not [even] set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

2.) “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discourage for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

3.) “Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” (Isaiah 35:4

4.) “Do not be afraid…The Lord your God Himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22)

5.)  “...do not be afraid, just believe.” (Mark 5:36)

God is in control.  God is bigger than COVID-19.  This pandemic did not surprise Him.  I do not know His “why” for this world crisis but as He tells us in Isaiah 55:8; His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways the same as our ways.  He doesn’t call us to find the “why” in every situation.  He calls us to trust Him and take Him at His word. He also calls us to obey His word.  Right now I believe, He is telling us to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)

In the end of this terribly long pause, God will be exalted among the nations.  Until then, we can stave off anger, despair, grief and fear by  setting our minds on things above and turning off the earthly things.  When the news and social media posts feel like cataclysmic waves crashing into you life’s boat, remember these strategies and trust that just like he did for the disciples, Jesus is calming this life storm too.

A Year of Faith in Review….

“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”                                      Isaiah 43:19

Although Christmas will be celebrated tomorrow I can’t help but reflect on the fact that there are only six days left of 2018.  Hard to believe that another new year is right around the corner.  I ask the all to common question of “Where did the time go?”  So I thought I would use this post to reflect on God’s work in my life this year and the hope I have for whatever 2019 holds.

A week before 2018 began, I received an unexpected blessing and endured an incredibly expensive car repair.  The blessing was greatly appreciated-the car repair so close to Christmas, not so much.  But God was faithful and provided transportation for me while my vehicle was in the shop as well as means to afford the cost.  My vehicle was back on the road and driving safely before January 1st, began.

I rang in 2018 singing karaoke with my high school best friend.  Our friendship will celebrate 30 years next year.  In high school and our early twenties we were inseparable.  I even kept a toothbrush at her house because I was always there getting ready for our next adventure or outing.  A falling out divided our friendship for many years but God restored it several years ago.  I am truly grateful.  Although life’s busyness keeps us from getting together as often as we’d both like, I cherish the moments, like New Year’s Eve celebrations, that we can share together.

In February, I was gifted a five day vacation to Las Vegas.  I’m not a gambler nor am I into strip clubs so imagine a pg rated Vegas vacation.  I say pg because I was with more high school besties (friends since 1989) and we did enjoy some adult beverages one evening while site seeing on the strip.  The rest of the time consisted of budgeting buffets, and being the typical tourist taking pictures of everything.  Aside from having 5 days spent with women I adore, my favorite part of this trip was being on the strip at night, watching the fountains “dance” to Dean Martin.  Dean Martin makes me swoon so you can imagine the rush of seeing this elaborate light and fountain show move to Dean’s “Luck be a Lady”.  Pretty sure I was frozen in awe smiling ear to ear.

Sadly, while I was on this trip, much demise was happening at my job.  I learned people had lost their jobs as well as our contract had been threatened.  That job was a contract based job and if it had been pulled would mean me without employment.  It was a very stressful and worrisome time.  Those of us that still had jobs walked on pins and needles wonder who was next.  When I returned from my vacation I actually cleaned out both of my offices just in case I was next on the chopping block.

In March my employer learned that our contract would be valid for one more year but many changes had to be made.  As the months progressed our work environment grew more and more dismal with increase in work load, no room for error or delay.  My whole demeanor changed and it effected my personal life.  I had prayed for years for new employment with many closed doors.  As work grew more intolerable for me, I finally resolved that no matter what, I would not be working at that job by summer of 2019. I knew that mean I would need to reduce my debt in order to explore the idea of taking a lesser paying job but I set a goal and prayed for God to deliver.

In April my dog, who was ten years old, underwent surgery.  This was another expensive out of pocket expense as well as four weeks of feeling like I was caring for an infant again.  She is a very small dog and seeing her in a fragile start was difficult for my children and me because she is not just a pet but a member of our family.  God once again provided the means for her surgery and she recovered fully.

June brought more car repairs.  This time my faith was worn out.  Not because of the financial strain-God provided the means to pay for it very quickly.  However I had to wait two weeks before I could get it repaired and it had become unsafe to drive.  So for two weeks I relied on other people to commute back and forth to work.  This I’m sure was a test of pride for me because I am not one who enjoys asking for help or being a burden to anyone. Thankfully God used friends with more than willing hearts to be my chauffeur until my vehicle was repaired.  God also gifted me a mechanic who not only repaired my vehicle in the time he said he would but also fixed the error of another mechanic’s work for free.

In July my daughter endured a minor out patient surgery.  Although her surgery was a success the first week of recovery was rough for both of us.  She endured a great deal of pain.  The pain made her lose her appetite so she would end up taking pain meds on an empty stomach.  A couple of times this led to vomiting because as most know, many pain meds can make one sick if you take them without food.  Three nights in a row we both endure minimal sleep because the pain would wake her up and then she would wake me up for ice packs and meds.  Add to this many sporting activities for my son who’s a three sports kid and had games, camps, practices and tournaments for all three throughout the summer months.

Fall brought mourning as our community lost two members only a month apart.  One had cancer.  The other, took his own life.  Watching my sixteen year old daughter walk through grief after losing a friend to suicide is not easy.  There are not words of comfort that can help or heal.  You just have to watch, comfort and be readily available whenever and however they need.  Suicide also opens the door to have the hard, difficult and not always comfortable conversations with your children about depression and self harm.  But God especially shows up through tragedy.  In fact, my daughter, who has questioned God’s very existence clung to faith to hold her through her grief.  Through the first week after her friend’s death, including attending his funeral, she showed very little emotion.  When I asked her about it she simply said, “I’m said but I know that I will see him again so that is helping me get through this.”  Although my heart was broken for her it smiled knowing her faith was being restored through this.

Fall also brought a serious injury upon my son.  One ER visit after a football practice and a cat scan later we learned he sustained a serious concussion.  This injury caused him to miss school, get behind on school work and all together be out of football for three weeks.  It was a very tough season for him as it brought much frustration, anger and impatience.  Not being to even attending practices made him feel like he was no longer a part of the team.  To an athlete, sports are your life.  Going without them for even three weeks can seem like an eternity.  Thankfully God healed my son in time for him to play his last two football games of the season. He’s since moved on to basketball season and still doing well.

Late fall brought a job opening in my children’s school that I was encouraged to apply for.  Reading through the job description, I wondered if I was even qualified for it.  It did have a lot of office duties I was already skilled in but it also detailed things I was not familiar with.  I hesitated to apply because I felt under qualified.  I also expected it would lead to yet another closed door.  In fact, I waited until the very last day they were accepting applications and I scanned mine and my resume to the employer.  I told only the person who had encouraged me to apply.  Two days later I was called to take their pre-hiring exam.  A day after I completed the exam I was called for an interview.  One day after the interview, I was offered the job.  I was over the moon with shock and excitement all in one.  I started this new job last month and it is everything I have ever prayed for and so much more. God has completely wowed me!

It’s now the day before Christmas and although my cup runneth over, the enemy still keeps throwing curve balls.  This month alone I received word that my biological father was on a ventilator, hospitalized, and not expected to make it.  It happened the same day another family crisis was going on.  Two of my siblings shared they were going though divorces.  A community member endured a life threatening stroke.  Other families I know have endured other health scares, financial difficulties or relationship struggles.  The enemy has even attacked my own home with discord between one of my children and me.  I have wrestled with great anxiety over much of it.  But God remains faithful.  As much tragedy that has struck, no matter how many curve balls get thrown, God’s hands can be seen in each circumstance as He performs many miracles and answers prayers in an epic way.

2018 has been a roller coaster year.  But through it all my God has been my one constant.  His faithfulness remains.  He is unshakable.  His word is true.  Through all of this I have learned that I have two choices-I can worry or I can pray.  When I worry, nothing gets done.  But when I pray,  I mean when I actually stand on God’s word and pray it over my circumstances, God moves my mountains or He moves me further up the mountain.  I am thankful for very good and bad experience this year because each one has molded my character and drew me closer to Him.  Character building and deepened faith is all anyone of us can ever ask for.

Happy Endings

“I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭118:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I love Christmas movies. I love them so much I start watching them before Halloween. Although the storylines are predictable, each one is heart warming, romantic, filled with hope and an unshakable belief in miracles. Each one always has a happy ending also. Who doesn’t love that?

This may sound ridiculous and a little like I see the world through rose colored glasses, but our real lives can very much be like a Christmas movie. I’m not referring to an eternal state of winter, homes decorated with Christmas trees and stockings hung 365 days a year. Life isn’t always heart warming or romantic either. What I’m referring to is the hope, the belief in miracles and the happy endings that most Christmas movie storylines encompass.

In the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey is down on his luck. He’s facing bankruptcy, poverty and loss of his family business. He’s in such despair that he contemplates taking his own life. At his lowest moment, he meets Clarence the angel, who shows him what life would be like if George never existed. George realizes just how much his life choices positively impacted his family and town and chooses to live. What he later learns is, the whole town came together to help financially sustain the family business. In the end, George is reunited with his wife and children with a restored faith and Clarence the angel earns his wings.

The Bible is full of happy endings too. Every trial and tribulation, every story of captivity ends with God’s deliverance and victory for those who obeyed and trusted in Him. Abraham goes from childless to the father of all nations. Moses is an abandoned child raised by Egyptians. He spends 40 years in the wilderness after murdering someone and then is used by God to deliver His people from the very Egyptians Moses was raised by. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, thrown into jail because of a lie and raised up by God to be the Governor’s right hand man saving multitudes during a famine. Daniel was taken into captivity and elevated by his captor. Even when he was thrown into a lions den, God delivered him and elevated him once again. Jesus Himself was tortured and murdered but conquered death when He rose from the grave three days later.

Why did all of this happen? Because God’s victory is inevitable and He clearly loves happy endings. Don’t just take my word for it, feel free to check out each example in His word and read about His victories first hand. The Old and New Testaments are full of testimony showing God’s ultimate power and victory.

I have no idea where you’re at in life right now. Maybe you’re at the top of the game and you think life couldn’t possibly get any better. Maybe believing in happy endings comes easy for you because you’ve never experienced anything shattering or disappointing. But maybe you’re in a constant state of chaos and unrest. Life keeps throwing you one crisis, heartache or disappointment after another and you’re barely holding on. Maybe you’re like George Bailey and have even contemplated taking your own life. If that’s you, stop right now and pray. Pour out all your hurt and sorrow to Jesus and ask Him to comfort you. He may not change your circumstances immediately but he can take away the hurt and pain if you seek His comfort. He is with all of us in the best and absolute worst of times and He’s always ready to comfort us in our time of pain.

When you’re done praying, resonate on this: what you are going through is a season. It may feel like a lifetime. It may even feel like a curse. But it’s honestly, just a season. Recognizing that your situation is temporary can strengthen you to persevere. It can also increase your hope in God’s ability to deliver you. God didn’t stop delivering His children when the Bible was done being written. Every person’s redemption story is merely an extended version of His word. Our testimony is a living chapter of the Bible. Instead of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John-these books are titled by our own names and hold the stories of God’s unique work in each of lives. But living books don’t come in print-they are books filled with stories that can only be told by the one God wrote the story for. No matter how many twists and turns your story holds. I am confident it holds a happy ending. God needs you to endure the conflict so you can live to tell the story of His happy ending for you.

Some of you reading this have experienced tragic endings. You’ve lost loved ones in horrible ways and you’ve experienced things no human should ever go through. The idea of a happy ending may even anger or enrage you. All I can say is, I’m living proof that God can turn any tragedy into a happy ending. Death is a permanent loss that leaves a huge void. The idea of living without your loved one brings no idea of a happy ending. But God is faithful and can still produce one. It comes down to healing, believing and surrendering.

Happy endings come when we allow God to comfort us and heal our wounds. Happy endings come when we stand on His truths and believe Him at His word. Happy endings come when we surrender to His will and His way. If God promises to fight for us, we have to believe He will no matter how long it takes. When God tells us to be still we have to obey. Trying to manufacture our own miracles only delays His promise. Getting in God’s way produces Ishmael results when God promises us an Isaac. Surrendering takes great discipline and a trust to know that God always keeps His word. But the obedience of surrender also brings great reward including God’s happy ending.

Keep in mind one thing: although Christmas movies have predictable happy endings, God’s happy endings aren’t the same. God may allow a loved one to die from cancer. But their happy ending is perfection in eternity. God may allow a marriage to end. But he may bring provision as your happy ending making the transition back into singlehood a little easier. God may not give you the job you’re hoping for. His happy ending may be in the form of a different job that exceeds your wildest dreams. God may not heal you from a chronic disease. His happy ending may be in the strength and ability to prevail in spite of chronic pain. God’s ways are not our ways. But His ways are always perfect and victory is always His. That happy ending is 100 percent guaranteed!

Lord Above, I Need A Miracle

There’s a Third Day song titled “I Need A Miracle.” The chorus goes like this: “Well no matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, there will come a time when you can’t make it on your own. And in your hour of desperation know you’re not the only one, praying Lord above, I Need a Miracle.”

Hour of desperation is a pretty powerful lyric. How many have experienced such a time in their life? What does desperation even look like? Hour of desperation is that moment when your circumstance or situation seems completely hopeless. Maybe your jobless and you just ran out of money with rent due tomorrow. Maybe you’re in an abusive relationship and your partner just got drunk again which means it won’t be long before the angry words fly or holes get punched in another wall. Maybe you have a child who’s wandered away from the Christian foundation you built while raising her and says she has no belief in God. Maybe you married the wrong person and you feel stuck because God hates divorce or maybe you’re going through a divorce after marrying a person you believed was from the Lord but turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe just maybe, you’re fighting a chronic illness or was just given news of cancer with only moments left of this life and told there’s nothing modern medicine can do. All of these situations and many others not listed are hours of desperation and definitely needs for miracles.

When we pray-God answers. He doesn’t always answer exactly the way we hope or expected, but He answers. Sometimes His answers are provision, redemption, transformation, healing or reconciliation. But sometimes His answers involved a painful refining process where our world is turned upside down and it feels as though He answered completely opposite of what we asked for. What we don’t realize is that refinement is a transforming, redeeming and healing answer that molds us deeper into His image and changes us more into who He designed us to be.

Whatever your Miracle is know this-God is with you. He hears you. And He will answer in His time and His way. When you can’t see His mighty hand moving, cling to the cross-lay your burden down at the alter and trust His way and His timing. Meditate on His word and remind yourself of these words from Jesus Himself:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:1, 6-7, 10-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If I can pray for you, please email me at http://www.thewrightwordblogger@gmail.com

The Promises of Christmas

I’m a child of the 80’s.  I love 80’s music, the fashion trends, old 80’s sitcoms and especially the brat pack movies like St. Elmo’s Fire, Breakfast Club and my all-time favorite, Pretty In Pink.  My kids are so aware of this that whenever we hear the song, “1985” by Bowling for Soup they both tend to yell out, “Hey mom, here’s your song!”  Ironically there’s a classic 80’s song that’s come to mind this Christmas season and not because it’s a Christmas carol of sorts.  In fact, it’s one of peppy Madonna song called “Material Girl.”  I think it’s prevalent right no, because Christmas is the best time of year to get caught up in materialism and totally miss the true meaning of Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, the song is a fun tune and if heard on just the right day (like when I’m home alone with no audience) you could catch me dancing to it just like Madonna in the actually video.  But the chorus lyrics say it all when we get caught up on the retail side of Christmas: “We are living in a material world and I am a material girl.”  To be honest-I am definitely guilty of being caught up in the “material world” especially at Christmas time.

I love Christmas.  It’s my favorite holiday. It’s the only day I truly love winter because it doesn’t feel like Christmas without a blanket of snow covering the yard.  I love decorating the tree, hanging the stockings and enjoying the glow of twinkling lights on a cold December’s evening.  Because it’s my favorite holiday, I long for everything to be perfect right down to the gifts I purchase.  And that’s where I get caught up in the material side.

I have two children and everyone knows I am an equal opportunity gifter.  That means I make sure each of my children have the exact number of gifts and buy them similar gifts so neither thinks I favor one over the other.  As a single mom, I also feel like I need to compete with gifts they will be receiving at the other parent’s home.  Not because of the other parent.  They’ve never made it a competition I suppose.  It’s just something inside of me that feels I need to give the same kinds of gifts even though that kind of competition is not fiscally possible for me.

I was raised by a single mom in a Christian home.  Christmases were always very modest and any gifts I received were valued blessings because money was not a luxury in our home.  I remember one Christmas the furnace broke in our tiny apartment and my mom and I slept on a mattress in our kitchen using the electric stove as our source of heat.  We opened presents in an ice cold living room and then spent the rest of the day in the one room that was warm.  I never got the latest or most expensive toys, my clothes were usually hand me downs or hand made by my mom.  But one thing my house was always full of was independence and love.  And love is the greatest Christmas blessing I believe we can offer. Love is God’s Christmas promise to us.  He said so in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son…” 1 John 4:19 says we love because God first loved us. His love for us is unconditional and has no end.  And His love calls us to love others, even our enemies.  He promises love to us and desires for us to show His love to everyone He puts in our path. But love isn’t the only Christmas promise God gives us.  I believe there are five more that include, peace, joy, comfort, belief and miracles.

Peace is the second Christmas promise.  God’s word shows us this promise when the angels greeted the shepherds with “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) Philippians 4 tells us that God’s gift of peace is the kind that surpasses all human understanding, a peace that will guard our hearts and minds. (Vs 7.)  Isaiah 26:3 tells us He keeps us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him. In John 14, Jesus told His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  Godly peace is truly a gift from our Creator that is unexplainable.  But if you ever experience it, you will know the Source of which that peace comes from.

Another Christmas promise is Joy. Have you ever found laughter amidst your sorrow?  Have you ever smiled in spite of the fact that everything around seemed to be going wrong or falling apart?  That’s joy.  It’s like although you’re surrounded by mass chaos your heart can’t stop smiling.  And why?  Because you’re filled with joy that only comes from the Lord and you fully trust that He is in control.  It doesn’t come naturally and just like all of our emotions, joy is a choice.  No matter our circumstances we can choose joy.  Christmas time always seems to bring a supernatural happiness that isn’t seen the rest of the year.  Strangers smiling at each other, “Merry Christmas” wishes offered to even our enemies, and people “paying forward” blessings in a far more generous way.  Why? Because Christmas is joyful.  But joy is a promise of God we can choose year round.  Part of that comes from being content in all circumstances.  Not an easy thing to do but what a world of difference it makes when we choose joy instead of anger, bitterness, rage or unforgiveness.

Comfort is the fourth promise of Christmas.  The bible has many verses about the Lord being near to the broken hearted.  But do you know why Jesus was sent to the Earth?  To be our Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6.)  What are counselors best known for?  Comforting those who are brokenhearted. You see Jesus’ birth was prophesied thousands of years before it came to pass to a people who was at war, enslaved and suffered great hardships.  Even though most died before Christ’s birth, those who heard the story were comforted knowing redemption would happen.  David understood God’s comfort best when he wrote Psalm 23.  In verse 4 he boldly decrees, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”  God never leaves us nor forsakes us.  He is always with and He is our Mighty Comforter.  Personally I’ve climbed up on my Heavenly Daddy’s lap many times in my life sobbing and pouring my grieved heart out to Him because I know He collects all of my tears and even grieves with me.  When someone walks along side with you, collects your tears and grieves with you, that’s true comfort.

Belief is the fifth Christmas promise.  The movie Polar Express has a great message about belief even though it’s about believing in Santa Claus.  A little girl is taken through quite a journey to the north pole only to learn that she should believe in herself and her ability to lead.  A little boy, traveling on the same train learns he can only hear sleigh bells when he chooses to believe in St. Nick.  For us, belief works the same way.  We go a lot further in life when we believe in our ability to be great and to do great things.  Our kids are far more successful when they have parents, teachers and communities supporting them, encouraging them and believing in their ability to be the best.  My home town alone showed that this football season when the entire community gathered to send off our local varsity football team with a police escorted parade as they traveled to the state semi-finals.  In fact, a travel trailer sized sign was posted that said, “We Believe” in letters the size of a billboard.  Even though our team didn’t win I believe those boys will go far in life knowing hundreds of people believe in them.

Just like the boy couldn’t hear Santa’s bells until he believed, we can’t hear God’s voice unless we believe.  Belief is the biggest factor of faith.  You can’t have big faith if you don’t believe.  And what is faith?  It’s “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Another word for confidence? Belief!  If you want to go far in this life you have to believe in the One who gave you life and believe in His ability to lead you in a journey that will exceed your wildest dreams.

The final promise of Christmas is the gift of miracles.  The Christmas story itself is an epilogue of miracles-from Elizabeth getting pregnant with John the Baptist at a very old age, John leaping in the womb when Mary visits Elizabeth because he knew he was in the presence of Jesus, a virgin birth and even the wise men traveling a different route home (away from Herod) to prevent Herod from killing baby Jesus.  Jesus’ ministry was all about miracles too-from his first miracle of turning water into wine to walking on water and his greatest miracle which was conquering death, not once, but twice (don’t forget He raised Lazarus from the dead before He raised Himself.)  Christ’s birth, the real reason for this season, is the miracle that reminds us to believe in miracles for miracles still happen today.  We are God’s vessels He uses to perform His miracles today.  Just last night at a candlelight Christmas Eve service I learned of a white helmet squad who miraculous saved a baby that had been trapped under concrete for 16 hours in Aleppo which is a war stricken are in the Middle East.  That’s a miracle.  This time of year also circulates stories of underprivileged families receiving financial blessings after praying for a miracle.  Personally I can tell you I have been blessed with miracles many times at Christmas.  One year I was anonymously gifted with $400.  Another year, after praying for God to give me provisions to bless a family in need and not seeing any room in my budget to give, God literally dropped a $200 prepaid visa card in my hands. And miracles don’t just happen in monetary instances.  Miracles happen through healing, restoration and other provisions too.  God is our Miracle maker.  And they’re called miracles because they’re things only He can bring to pass.  Christmas is a time to increase our belief in His miracles.

No matter what you’re facing this season, no matter whether your house is decorated or not, please don’t lose sight of these Christmas promises.  Love, Peace, Joy, Comfort, Belief and Miracles are the true meaning behind Christmas.  Keep your focus on His promises and you will carry Christmas in your heart all year through.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!  May God richly bless all of your lives in this Christmas season and especially in 2017.

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3…

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1

Ever find yourself waiting endlessly for an unfulfilled dream?  Perhaps it’s something you prayed for and believed God to give, maybe even a desire you believe God planted in your heart.  No matter how close you get to achieving that dream, the door seems to shut each and every time.  If you’re like me, you’re left wondering why?  You may question if you heard God correctly.  You may even think God must want the complete opposite for you (yep, I’ve thought that one many times too.)

Whenever the desire of my heart becomes a deep longing ache that seems like it will never be fulfilled, I think of Abraham and his dream of an heir.  God promised an heir to Abraham before He changed Abraham’s name.  But the promise didn’t happen overnight.  It didn’t happen 9 months from the day God spoke to Abraham.  It didn’t happen when Abraham tried creating his own miracle by sleeping with Hagar and producing Ishmael.  It took 25 years for God to give Sarah and Abraham, Isaac.  He was nearly 100 years old when he finally received God’s promise specifically for him.

There are a lot of studies on the lessons learned from Abraham’s waiting:  trusting God without questioning, undying faith, refinement through the process of waiting.  But the greater lesson learned is not Abraham’s waiting, it was the test God put him through after he received his promised heir.  Abraham’s waiting for 25 years, moving to a strange land, separating from his nephew, fathering a child that wasn’t God’s promised child-all of that was enough testing to break the average person’s faith.  Even though Abraham remained obedient, God still tested him further by asking Abraham to sacrifice his promised heir.

Some of you not familiar with this story might be thinking “Are you kidding me?  What kind of a God would not only take away the promise He gave but ask someone to kill their own child?  Is God playing mind games with Abraham?” Some might even think God was cruel to do that? But it wasn’t about cruelty or mind games, it was about opportunity.  The opportunity for Abraham to show who he loved most-God or his promised son, Isaac?  And Abraham proved his greater love for God.  Because of Abraham’s faith in that final test, God spared Isaac.  Abraham’s obedience brought the rest of the promise to fruition for we are all descendants of Abraham.

What is the desire of your heart?  Has God fulfilled your desire or are you still in the waiting season?  Have you received the promise but suddenly faced with the possibility of losing it?  God may even be calling you to sacrifice the very thing He gave you, the dream or person you prayed for and love most in this world, merely to see if who or what you love more, the dream, the person, or Him? If the promise came from God, no matter what happens, God will provide the ram, just like He did for Abraham. He will give you the desire of your heart.  God always keeps His promises.   So don’t doubt Him, just obey.  Obedience is the best way to pass God’s tests.  Abraham was the picture perfect example of that.   For greater details on Abraham’s faith read Genesis chapters 12-22.

What is Your Testimony?

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17, 18 NIV

Anyone who has ever experienced a hardship can certainly say, “I have a testimony.”  But what is that testimony?  Is it the hardship?  Is it the trial and the suffering endured?  Is it the wound we suffered?  No it’s not.

Someone in my life, a mate whom I deeply love, is engulfed in darkness-experiencing a hardship so foreign to them and no clue how to handle it.  The enemy is attacking hard, at times even giving this person no opportunity to catch their breath let alone have a clear thought to stand on God’s truth.   If you knew the details of the circumstance you’d be in awe at how ruthless the enemy truly is.  The devil clearly takes all as a prisoner and doesn’t hold back when you’re a huge threat to him.

A beautiful sister-in-Christ struggles with an undiagnosed illness that causes severe abdominal pain. She’s been in and out of the hospital and frequented doctors but still left mystified as to what is going on with her body.  Her dream to grow her family was even threatened by this illness. I use the word “was” because she is currently expecting her second child.

Another beautiful sister-in-Christ has a child struggling with a newly diagnosed illness also-one that could bring a lifetime of health issues including severe pain. I know a brother-in-Christ struggling with a brutal cancer and was recently told by one doctor there was nothing more that doctor could do for him.  Although I don’t know every detail of his cancer I’ve seen the ups and downs physically and through prayer requests that remission and growth in the tumor have brought to this man.

I too have faced darkness unknown to me and no idea how to handle it.  I have battled with unknown health issues and know what it feels like to see my child struggle with health issues also.  At this point you may be asking-what does all this have to do with testimony?  The answer-everything.

A few days ago, I was listening to some praise and worship music.  I was thinking a million thoughts at the same time because well, that’s just how my brain works.  I was thinking of my own health issues, my mate’s dark struggle, my friends’ struggles, and I just started praying.  I laid my hands on my throat and prayed for God’s healing touch because He has gifted me with a singing voice and the enemy has attacked it.  I prayed for my friend suffering with cancer, my other friend’s fears regarding her unknown health issues and the effects to her unborn child, my friend’s daughter suffering with a new illness and of course, for my mate and the darkness he is currently enduring.

While I was praying, the song “Overcame” started playing.  I was filled with the Holy Spirit and began declaring victory over each person’s struggle, including my own.  I literally heard myself yell out, “This situation will not defeat him/her/ me.  This situation is not his/her/my testimony-God’s deliverance, God’s redemption, and God’s almighty healing will be our testimony.  And then it “dawned” on me (I really don’t use this phrase a lot considering my first name is Dawn but saying it “Holy Spirited” on me isn’t grammatically correct.)  Our struggles are NOT our testimonies.  How God gets us out of the storms life brings to each of us, that is our testimony.

The book of Daniel is a prime example of testimony using a fiery furnace and a lion’s den.  Captivity was not Daniel and his friends’ testimony.  God’s protection and deliverance was their testimony. (Daniel chapters 3 and 6.)

In Genesis we learn that Joseph’s brothers assaulted him and sold him into slavery.  This was after he dreamt that his brothers would bow down to him.  He was promoted to the Pharaoh’s right hand, then falsely accused of sleeping with Pharaoh’s wife, and imprisoned.  But THAT was not his testimony.  He was promoted again to governor (Genesis chapters 37, 39, and 41.) In Genesis 42 we learn that a famine brings Joseph’s brothers to Egypt seeking food.  Verse six tells us “Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.”  Joseph endured a lot of unjust suffering, but what an amazing testimony he was gifted because of it.

The best example of testimony is Jesus’ Christ himself.  If you’ve ever watched The Passion (which I have yet to view entirely because I can’t stomach watching my Savior brutally tortured) you get a visual of what Christ endured.  But His suffering, the beatings, His barbaric death, was not His testimony.  We don’t celebrate Easter for His death.  We celebrate Easter to honor His life!  Christ’s resurrection was His testimony.  Victory over death WAS. HIS. TESTIMONY.

Are you stuck in a pit so dark you think you’ll never find your way out?  Are you or a loved one facing an illness that feels like it’s sucking the life right out of you?  Whatever hardship you are enduring-it does not define you.  It is NOT your testimony.  When you surrender it all to Jesus, when you cry out to Him and trust Him in the process, His deliverance, His redemption, His provision and healing WILL. BE. YOUR. TESTIMONY.  How do I know?  Because God delivered me from abuse, near homelessness, scary health issues and he even delivered my son from a life sentence of asthma.  I know because my life is a living, breathing, walking testimony and I give God all the glory!!!