Archives

Living Outside My Comfort Zone

The Five Minute Friday writing community, led by Kate Motaung and in which I routinely post, is writing on the prompt COMFORT this week. This is technically not a Five Minute Friday post – the two guidelines for Five Minute Friday posts are free writing for five minutes and no editing, and what I need to share today cannot be written in five minutes and is too personal and important to post without editing. But seeing Kate’s prompt for the week showed me the direction for this article which I’ve been sensing God directing me to write this week.

 

If I were in charge of my life, I would never step outside of my comfort zone, that place where I feel confident and comfortable and function with ease and familiarity. But many years ago, I turned the control of my life over to another, to Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. One big thing I’ve learned in the thirty-five plus years since then is that God is much more concerned with my character than my comfort.

From the automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter Teresa and left me with crippling injuries, to the birth of our son with severe brain damage and profound mental retardation, to my later development of a long list of chronic  illnesses as a result of the injuries I received during the accident, comfort has not been a word I would choose to describe my life. Yes, in each situation, there has been a measure of comfort from God in the midst of heartache, but my Christian life has not been lived in my comfort zone.

In recent months, my husband and I have been walking through another dark valley, another season of life where in ourselves we can see no way out. It all started on a Saturday in May when we decided to take some much needed family time and have a meal out. My husband, daughter and I enjoyed our pizza and were on our way home when our car broke down on one of the busiest roads in southeast Houston. God protected us from injury and provided a way home, while our car was towed to a shop. Later, we learned that repairing our car – our only vehicle – would cost more than it was worth. We began praying, asking God to make a way for us to buy an affordable but dependable used car.

Fast forward a few weeks, and a series of letters, phone calls, and one visit to the court house opened our eyes to another major problem. We learned that the house and property we had inherited from my mother-in-law, which we thought the probate attorney who handled Mom’s estate had taken care of for us, was still in the name of the estate, and another plot of land on which she owed back taxes and which we had been advised by our attorney to just turn over to the county had been transferred to our name, apparently brecause of an error made by some level of local government. In addition, we learned that the senior homestead exemption we filed in January on our home had been lost by the county tax assessors’ office. Because of all this, we suddenly owed thousands of dollars in past due property taxes and penalties, on property that wasn’t even officially in our names.

It’s now the middle of July, and so far neither the need for a dependable car nor the property paperwork and tax issue has been resolved. We are still in a time of waiting to see what God is going to do.

Yet while our prayers have not yet been answered, this doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been at work behind the scenes. I can’t speak about how God is working in my husband’s life through these circumstances – that’s his story to tell. But God is doing a major work in my life during this season, first in teaching me about the power of prayer, and also in helping me to walk in faith in the midst of uncertainty.

Nothing prompts us to prayer better than a crisis! When circumstances feel over-whelming and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change them, you learn how dependent upon God you really are. What began in my heart as a simple cry to God for help has become a major classroom on the discipline of effective, strategoc prayer. I’ve come to understand as never before the need to hear from God before I pray, and to be honest with Him in sharing the burdens of my heart. I’ve learned the effectiveness of praying God’s Word back to Him. And I’ve learned to keep praying and not give up until the answer comes.

IMG_3028

The last two months have also been a time of taking hold of the fact that I am loved and accepted by God, even when I’m struggling. It has been a season of having my trust in God stretched to the breaking point, but also of my trust becoming stronger as I spend time in His presence and Word daily. Daily prayer journaling has become a way of life, as it my weakness I recognize my need for God’s strength to make it through another day. My relationship with God is now stronger than it’s ever been in the past, and my morning quiet times have become the biggest blessing of my days.

We still don’t know what God is going to do in either of these situations. We have done everything we know to do, so now both problems are in His hands, awaiting His answer in His timing. I want to close with a verse God gave me about a week ago, from 2 Chronicles 20, the last portion of verse 12. It says, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” That’s where we now are, as we wait on God to work on our behalf.

Where are you today? Is God asking you to live outside of your comfort zone and trust Him? If so, let my story encourage you to seek Him with your whole heart and hold nothing back. Even before your prayers are answered, you too may be amazed at the work He is doing in your life.

Advertisements

Five Minute Friday: Walking Steady

As a woman with knees badly damaged from an auto accident and feet crippled from peripheral neuropathy and degenerative arthritic conditions, walking is a challenge. I use a walker daily to keep me steady on my feet, and when I’m going somewhere that will require extended walking my wheechair is needed.

This week, God has been speaking to me about a different kind of walking steady, about spiritually walking steady. Difficult circumstances such as the ones we are currently facing add great stress to our lives, and as Christians this puts us in a battle. Will we give into our emotions, or will be continue to stand strong and walk steadily in the Lord? God’s Word makes the correct choice clear.

IMG_2687

For many years, I’ve had the habit of spending the first part of my day as a type of spiritual prep time for the day ahead. So this week, doing this came naturally. But on the other hand, this wasn’t a typical week in this area. My sense of need to spend time in God’s presence and hear from Him was so intense that it got me out of bed earlier than usual. And each day, God graciously met me in the place I have set aside for this.

On Monday, before I even got out of bed, God spoke to my heart that I was to study the first thirteen verses of Hebrews 12, which was not on my scheduled reading plan for the day. As I obeyed, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths in this passage that I had never noticed before.

Verses 12-13 especially stood out to me: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” Sensing God wanted me to take the time to really understand what He was saying here, I did some word studies in the original Greek. Where the English translation says “weak knees,” the Greek says “palsied knees.” As the mother of an adult son with extremely severe cerebral palsy, this had special and clear meaning to me. And for the rest of this week, during my quiet times God has continued to bring new insights to my heart all coming out of these first thirteen verses of Hebrews 12.

I don’t know what circumstances you are currently facing, but perhaps God is also speaking to your heart of a need to walk steady spiritually. If so, I pray you will set aside an unhurried time each morning of this coming week to hear from God. Whatever the need, God is waiting to open your eyes to exactly the truth you need to continue a steady walk with Him in your current situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Answer is Delayed: Five Steps for Walking In Faith Through the Wilderness

“There is another side to my wilderness. I am only going through it. I am not camping in the wilderness permanently. I am not settling. I am prepared to keep moving because my God is with me.”  – Rachel Wojo

These words caught my attention immediately this morning, as I opened Rachel Wojo’s Bible study Never Alone to begin my devotional time. Why? Because once again our family is in a wilderness situation.

It’s been a week since my husband, adult daughter and I decided to take some much needed family time and go out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. Since they have handicapped parking right next to the door, I decided to use my walker instead of my wheelchair that usually goes with me on all outings. We enjoyed the meal and the time together, but by the time we left the restaurant I was struggling with shortness of breath and wishing we hadn’t left the wheelchair at home.

I made it to the car, and we started on our way to one final stop before heading home. Suddenly, on one of the busiest streets on our end of Houston, the car abruptly stopped and we were stuck in heavy traffic. After one attempt to get the car into neutral so it could be pushed off the street into a nearby parking lot failed, my husband was finally able to get the gear to shift and some strangers pushed us to safety. Then we waited for a wrecker and a friend we had called to arrive so we would have a way home.

We had been having trouble with our car since having some transmission work done several months earlier, so my husband suspected the problem was transmission related and had the car towed to the transmission shop. But once the mechanics looked at the car, they concluded there was no way to prove the problem was related to their work and therefore they would not cover the repairs under the warranty on their work. So we now had a dead vehicle, our only means of transportation, a budget stretched so thin we were barely covering it monthly, and no way we could come up with to either repair or replace our car. 

What do you do when you face a situation like this? My first reaction was to give place to thoughts of fear and anxiety, but I knew this wasn’t the right response. So my husband and I prayed, turning this situation we saw no way out of over to the Lord. And as of today, that’s where it still is, with no understanding of how God is going to solve this problem.

Many years of walking with the Lord have taught me several things concerning how to walk through a wilderness situation such as this one, when in our own understanding we feel trapped and see no way out. 

  1. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Acknowledging we don’t have an answer but He does is the first necessary step, as we commit the situation to the Lord through prayer.
  2. Recognize our emotions will not always line up immediately with our decision to entrust our situation to the Lord. Therefore, we must make a commitment not to allow our emotions to effect our decision.
  3. Spend time meditating on Scripture. This renews our minds with the truth of God’s Word, which we need to stand upon when fear and doubts come in like a flood.
  4. Keep a grateful heart in the midst of the trial. A graphic of one of my favorite quotes on being thankful hangs in my bedroom, where I see it every morning. It is from Ann Voskamp and says, “There’s always, always, always, something to be thankful for.”  This is a daily reminder for me to look for the evidence of God’s goodness in the midst of every trial and to give him thanks.
  5. Remember what God has done in the past, when He has come through for us in similar situations. This builds our faith that He will meet our current need also.

The last time we were in a similar situation, receiving an answer to our prayers took a lot longer than we expected. God is faithful, but He seldom works on our time table. I’ve walked out these steps during the past week, and I’ll probably need to walk them out many more times in the future, both in this trial and in future ones.  

For now, I’m holding onto God’s promise that this wilderness is not our permanent residence. We are passing through, and with His strength and provision we will make it to the other side. I don’t know what you are facing right now, but these principles provide the keys for each of us to make it to the other side. 

Sometimes He Calms the Storm!


Renewing Our Minds

“In the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go.”

I woke up this morning with these words rolling over and over through my mind. I knew they came from a song, but couldn’t even remember which one. A good reminder of how important it is for us to renew our minds daily by reading the Word of God and listening to Scripture-based music. Today, as our family faces a new trial that we have no answer for in ourselves, I’m holding onto this truth that God is with us and He won’t let go.

Asking God’s Direction in My Daily Plans

Lord, what should I do today? This question is a part of my daily prayer time – but this hasn’t always been true.


Two of my favorite Scriptures about seeking wisdom from God make it clear we should seek God for His direction:

  •  “Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.”  (‭‭Psalm‬ ‭25:12‬ ‭NIV)‬‬.
  •  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”     (‭‭James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

Seeking God’s wisdom and direction in the big decisions of life is essential. Few Christians would disagree with this. But what about the small daily decisions that must be made? What about asking Him to help us in determining what tasks we are to work on today?

Until a couple years ago, I saw no reason to pray for direction concerning my daily activities. I knew what needed to be done, and I would start my day by spending some time in God’s Word and prayer and then get busy working on my current list of tasks needing to be done.

But then my life changed. Instead of just living with osteo-arthritis as a result of a serious auto accident, I began experiencing new health problems every few months. And gradually, my stamina and strength ebbed away. What I could accomplish in a typical day a few years (or sometimes even months) earlier would now put me in bed for several days. Trying to keep up with the daily schedule that had worked earlier in my life was now overwhelming. It became obvious that some changes were needed.

In addition to increasing health problems to deal with, I now had more responsibilities than ever. As the mother of a special needs young adult son, the office manager and bookkeeper for my husband’s home-based video production company, and a blogger, my to-do list was unending. I knew it was time for some changes in how I planned my days.

Some of the things God has taught me in this area are especially fitting for those with the reduced strength and stamina caused by chronic illness, but all of us can benefit from seeking God’s direction before deciding on plans for the day. These are some of the things God has taught me.

  1. With wisdom, a life with chronic illness can still be productive. It doesn’t have to mean accomplishing little or nothing during our days.
  2. Begin every day with time in God’s Word and prayer, asking God if He has something special to show you for this day. This is one thing that has not changed in my daily routine.
  3. One major difference: I now end my devotional time with a simple prayer: Lord, what do You want me to accomplish today? What do I have the physical, emotional and spirtual resources to handle today? I’m learning this is a prayer that God is more than willing to answer.
  4. Recognize some days you will accomplish more than others, and be flexible.
  5. Finally, be sure to make room in your schedule for rest.

My life is still busy. In fact, I am now busier than ever, with added responsibilities as a part of the leadership team for a large ministry to women with chronic illness. But I no longer feel like I have an overwhelmed schedule. I am learning to pray and listen to God, and to take it one day at a time. And whether you live with chronic illness or are blessed with good health, you too can benefit from this lesson. It makes for a much less stressful life!

 

 

The Conviction of the Holy Spirit: Six Positive Responses

Recently, I’ve sensed God at work in my life. This hasn’t been a season of great blessing. It hasn’t been a time of receiving big promises of what lies ahead. Rather, it has been a period of having God show me some areas of my life where change is needed. It has been a time of having my eyes opened to a particular sin that God was showing me needed to be dealt with. I was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the area of self-reliance, which God wants to replace with a greater trust in Him.

 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  So conviction of sin is not a bad thing. It is a part of a healthy Christian life. But it is important that we know how to correctly handle conviction of sin, because God does not convict us to leave us where we are. Conviction of sin is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, meant to result in spiritual growth.


First, we need to know the difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and condemnation which comes from the enemy of our souls, Satan.

  • Satan comes against us with usually general thoughts of condemnation. He may use our own thoughts to condemn us or he may use the words of others, but the words will bring guilt and condemnation without sowing us a way out. Hold onto the promise of Romans 8:1, that “there is no condemnationn for those who are in Christ Jesus,” recognize the ultimate source of hopeless guilt and condemnation is Satan, and refuse to give place to him. When we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil, he has no choice but to flee (James 4:7).   
  • Conviction, on the other hand, is always specific and comes as a gentle yet corrective word. It always comes with a way out, through the process of repentance. The Precepts Inductive Bible Study symbol for repentance has always helped me to remember the meaning of true repentance.To repent is to stop the direction I’m going, turn around, and start going the opposite way. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

Once we’ve determined the Holy Spirit is convicting us of a specific sin, we need to take some practical steps to deal with that sin. 

  1. Prayer: Agree with God in prayer. I find the A.C.T.S. prayer method helpful when dealing with sin. A is for adoration, turning our focus on Who God is and on His character. C is for confession, admitting to God we have sinned and specifically naming the area of sin. T stands for thanksgiving, expressing our gratitude to God that He is working in our lives and that He has already made the way for us to receive forgiveness. And finially, S is for supplication. Supplication is simply asking earnestly and humbly for God’s help.
  2. Study: What does the Word of God say about this sin? What character quality do I need to work on to overcome this sin? 
  3. Memorize: Pick one or two verses that apply to the area of sin where the Holy Spirit is bringing conviction, and begin memorizing them. There are many ways to memorize Scripture, but one of my favorite is using the Scripture Typer app, which helps you memorize the verse and includes a built-in review system to continue focusing on it until it becomes a part of your life.
  4. Meditate. Meditating on Scripture is the process by which we begin exchanging our faulty way of thinking for God’s way of thinking. It begins with reflectively reading and rereading of the Word and by reflecting on its meaning. Studying a verse to understand what God thinks about this area, memorizing it, and then meditating on it’s meaning and application in our lives are all a part of the process of renewing our minds to think like God does in this area.
  5. Journal. Another step that helps me to make the needed changes is to journal about what God is showing me through my study and meditation on Scripture. Putting my commitment to change in writing makes it more real.
  6. Practice. Walking out what I believe God is showing me to do, not just for a day but as a new way of life.

Are you sensing the conviction of the Holy Spirit is some area of your life today? If so, praise God. That means God os active in your life and your are growing spiritually. Thank Him for the work He is doing in you, and determine to cooperate with the process of conviction, repentance, and change.  



The Significance of the Empty Tomb

I love the view near the main entrance to the sanctuary of our church. Two symbols stand out: the cross and the empty tomb. A quick reminder of the two central truths of our faith to everyone who enters!


As we celebrate Easter, and especially on this Good Friday, the emphais is on the cross. As Christians, we understand the importance of the cross; without it, we would still be lost in our sins. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the penalty for our sin was paid in full, and a way was made for us to receive forgiveness and a relationship with our Creator God. 

But how many of us really understand the significance of the empty tomb? Sure, we know it proves that Jesus is no longer dead,  We serve a resurrected Lord! But why is that important?

The empty tomb:

  • Proves that Jesus’ death on the cross was enough, that the penalty of our sins has been paid in full.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬)
  • Rendered Satan powerless. “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Hebrews‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Sets those who believe in Jesus Christ free from the fear of death. “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Gives us hope for the final victory over sin, death and Satan.  “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (NASB); “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

The cross and the empty tomb are the foundation of the Christian life.  As the recently released Christian movie The Case for Christ so clearly communicates, our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of primary importance. The cross and the empty tomb together show that Jesus’ suffering was was not in vain.  Or in the words of Bible teacher Kay Arthur: