Is there a storm in your life?

I have spent the last month on a road trip out to Arizona and Texas,  visiting several beautiful grandchildren. As I sit here this morning, drinking my coffee and reflecting on our trip and the number of times that God protected us from disaster, I stand amazed at His power and His faithfulness.  Time and time again we drove a stretch of highway that would have some kind of natural disaster, but we felt none or few of the effects.

After we left our daughter in Tucson, we drove over 300 miles to El Paso through some pretty remote desert area, only to discover that several hours after we had passed through a stretch of I-10 East on the Arizona and New Mexico border, a 25 car pileup had occured because of a sand storm. Yes, a sand storm! Several people were unfortunately killed during this storm, because the visibility was zero.

As we continued on our trek home, we were surprised to see that a tropical storm named Cindy was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, heading towards the very path we were on. That storm was heading straight for the entire gulf region, a stretch of road over 1000 miles long and we had no way to avoid it. It actually made land fall in the exact area we spent one of our nights at a hotel. But amazingly enough, apart from a little excitement in New Orleans where we met some pretty heavy rain and a tornado warning screeching at us over the phone’s alert system, we remained almost unscathed. It seemed that once again, we were protected from a natural disaster that unfortunately took the life of a little boy on vacation in Alabama.

As I sit and think about the level of protection given to us during this drive home, I can’t help but remember a story in the gospels similar to what we just went through. The story is in Matthew 4:35-41 where Jesus and His disciples are in a boat during a great windstorm and the waves are beating down on them and it feels like a perilous time. But Jesus is sleeping! Finally, after much fear, the disciples wake Him up and ask Him “do You not care that we are perishing?” Ah yes, I can certainly understand the question and why they asked Him that. But His response is not what they expected. I think they were hoping He would help them bail out the water because what He did next, shocked them! He gets up from his place of rest, and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And there was a great calm. But then He turns and says to them “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” I’m not sure they really heard Him, because what they did next is almost comical. They became even more frightened, and looked at each other and said, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” They had just seen the mighty hand of God and it terrified them, because yes, even the wind and the waves obey His voice! After all the miracles they had seen Him do, and what frightens them the most about Him? When Jesus makes the weather obey Him!

I remember at the beginning of our journey home when I first heard about the tropical storm brewing in the gulf, heading towards the road we were on, and I felt a twinge of fear. Ok, fine, I was afraid. That’s a long drive through a tropical storm and all its various effects. But as I sought the Lord I heard Him say to me “If I can protect you through Hurricane Matthew, don’t you think I can protect you through this as well?”

Hurricane Matthew. I remember it too well. We live on the coast, between a winding river and our house is in a deep flood zone because that river flows straight into the Atlantic Ocean!  Not cool. That hurricane was coming straight for the area we live in off the coast of Georgia. I remember the terror of having our phone screaming alerts at us to evacuate now. Mandatory evacuation was the term they used. And we listened. We left town just like millions of other folks and huddled in our hotel room, waiting for the horror to pass. We sat there in that hot, dark hotel room with our cat, playing Canasta because we had lost power and internet and cell phone service with the storm. The morning we were finally able to return home, I sat and prayed because I was afraid of what we would find when we got home.

That Saturday morning the Lord spoke words of encouragement to me giving me His peace. He gave me the following words from Job 5:17-24:

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole. He shall deliver you in six troubles, Yes in seven no evil shall touch you. In famine He shall redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes. You shall laugh at destruction and famine, and you shall not be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For you shall have a covenant with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you. You shall know that your tent is in peace; You shall visit your dwelling and find nothing amiss.

And nothing amiss is exactly what we did find that sunny morning after the hurricane passed through our area. Our house was protected. There was no damage and no flooding. We had seen a couple of Turtle Doves sitting in front of our house a couple of days before we left and it appeared that they were a sign of peace because peace is what we found. I had never seen those doves before and I haven’t seen them since.

The street behind our house did not fare so well, because they had lost a lot of trees and I do mean a lot, during that storm. But our street had nothing. God had protected us.

If you read Psalm 91 you will understand why God protects those that trust in Him. This Psalm goes on and on about God’s protection for those who love Him and trust Him. King David tells us in this Psalm in verse 2 that the Lord “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

So I would say to you, that if you are in the middle of a storm, or perhaps you see one coming on the horizon as we did on Highway I-10, make the Lord your refuge, your strong tower, make Him your hiding place! Talk to Him and tell Him that you are trusting Him. He always protects those that are His!

What are your hopes and dreams?

I remember when I was a young girl, I had so many hopes and dreams for my future! When I look back I realize that although some of them came to pass in some form or fashion, most did not. I didn’t dream about my baby dying or my marriage falling apart. I didn’t think about the time when my then husband was unemployed for almost two years. I never once dreamed about being alone in my fifties, without a husband, a career, an education or the ability to take care of myself. No, those things were not on my agenda or on my radar. I dreamed about falling in love, being a stay at home mom, having children who grew up and growing old with my husband while seeing our grandchildren being born. Happy dreams and a happy life is what I thought about. But unfortunately, for anyone who’s been around on this earth long enough, we realize all too soon that life never happens quite the way we had hoped or dreamed. And when things happen that we don’t understand, it is easy to become angry and frightened and blame someone. Sometimes we blame other people, sometimes we blame ourselves and often we blame God. After all, doesn’t He have the power to fix all things, to prevent all things and the power to stop bad things from happening?

If ever there is a story in Scripture that shows us the devastating effect of a life that didn’t turn out quite the way someone had dreamed or planned, it is the story of John the Baptist.  When life takes a nasty turn, one we didn’t see coming, it can take even the strongest person down to a place of hopeless despair and complete loss of faith.

Now let me give you a little background about John. He was born after his father, a priest, had a supernatural encounter with the angel Gabriel while serving in the temple. His dad is struck mute by the angel because he didn’t believe Gabriel when he told him that he and his wife would have a baby. They were old and Zacharias, John’s father could not believe that they were physically capable of becoming pregnant. (You can read the story of John’s birth in Luke 1.) But sure enough, John was born and things seemed wonderful. Fast forward and John who is now about 30 years old is preaching and baptizing in the wilderness of Israel. He sees Jesus and announces to everyone that Jesus is the coming Messiah, the Savior of the world. At this point, things must have seemed wonderful to John. He has a thriving ministry, thousands of people are being baptized by him, lives are being changed and at one point Jesus calls John the greatest prophet that ever lived. See Matthew 11:11. What could possibly go wrong you might ask?

John manages to offend King Herod and Herod has him thrown into prison (Matthew 14:3). This is where things begin to get tricky for John. We are not told how long John’s ministry lasted, but it clearly did not end the way John had envisioned.  John, now languishing in jail becomes thoroughly depressed and loses his faith. How do I know this? In Matthew 11:2 John is in prison and he hears about the works of Jesus so he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus the following question: “Are You the coming One, or do we look for another?” Say what? This is the same man who just months before tells people the following when he sees Jesus in John 1:29: “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This man knew who Jesus was!  How could he possibly have fallen into such despair that he no longer believed?

Jesus Himself tells us the answer. In Matthew 11:5-6 Jesus answers John’s disciples with the following: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Did you catch it? Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me!! There it is. John is offended with Jesus and in that cloud of despair, anger, blame etc. etc. John loses his faith and doesn’t even know who Jesus is anymore. That’s sad, really sad.

So what can we glean from this story and how can it help us? Let me go back to the beginning of this post. Stuff happens in life, bad stuff, stuff we don’t expect, anticipate, dream about or hope for. Ministries are cut short, jobs end, marriage fall apart, people die or get sick, the list is endless of stuff that can and does go wrong. But just like John, when stuff goes wrong, we have a choice. We can choose to look at our circumstances and the shattered dreams and lose faith and become offended with God or we can choose to look at what Jesus has done in the past in our lives, what he is doing in other people’s lives and the promises that He has given to us, and we can choose to trust Him.  I’ve heard it said that it doesn’t take faith  while we are on the mountain, when things are going great. It takes faith when we are in the valley, when things are falling apart and nothing makes sense.

Trusting God is a choice. I have been in that valley far too many times in my life when all I could see was darkness. I had to choose each and every time to lift up my eyes and trust Him. Sometimes in my darkest hours, I would remind myself like Paul in 2 Timothy 1:2 “I know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him… I would remind myself that God is good and He is good all the time. Like David I would encourage my soul and choose to trust my Father, my Friend and my Comforter.  If you are reading this and your dreams have been shattered, look up and choose to trust Him. He is a rewarder of those who do.

What is truth?

Jesus uses the word truth several times in the gospels. He tells us that He is the truth (John 14:6), He tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32) and then He tells Pilate while waiting to be crucified the following in John 18:37

“…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Pilate then replies to Jesus in verse 38 “What is truth?” I am certainly no philosopher and I can’t possibly answer that question but I can share with you some things that I have personally learned about truth and how it has set me free.

Perhaps the truth has actually caused more harm than good in your life. Maybe you have found that speaking the truth has caused you to face rejection and loss. So how can it help you? In my own life and just from my own understanding I think that there are two kinds of truth. There is what I will call a general truth, which applies to all mankind and then there is a personal truth, one that is tailored to fit each individual.

The general truth is foundational and very simple. It is the gospel or the good news. God sent His only son Jesus to die for you and me on the cross. If you can accept that he died for your sins, and can receive Him as your Lord and Savior and confess this truth to others then you will be saved from your sins and spend eternity with Him. Although this is very personal I call it a general truth because it applies to all of us. It is His free gift to all mankind.

The personal truth also comes through Jesus Christ, but it is unique for each individual. Often times this kind of truth comes in stages and takes many years. For me it took most of my adult life before I was able to face truth in my life. I had to find inner courage to face some difficult things. For example, I had to face the truth that I had made denial an idol.

There were many painful issues in my life that I didn’t want to face, because facing them would force me to deal with them. It was easier therefore to deny them. So how did denial become an idol for me? I found comfort in it, I found security in it, I found peace with it, I found counsel from it, and I found strength with it. The funny thing with idols is that even though they may make you feel better for a season, they also require a sacrifice. That is the nature of idols. And unbeknownst to me, I was giving that as well. I had sacrificed the truth, my children, my happiness and myself in order to serve this idol. It did not want to let go easily however and I found it incredibly difficult to let go of it. It proved to be a powerful force in my life.

The truth that I had denied was that there were people in my life, people who were family and therefore should have loved and protected me, that did not. I had been neglected both as a child and later in a loveless marriage that I felt trapped in. But by denying the truth of my situation, I was in fact sacrificing both my right to be loved, and my children. That is a tough truth to come to grips with.

The process of finding  truth in my life also required me to come to grips with sin. There were sins  that had become a lifestyle for me and although at first they appeared to be small and insignificant,  they were issues that I needed to deal with so that I could get right with God. I needed to repent for those sins and ask for His help in overcoming them.

As I found courage to face various truths in my life, each one became a stepping stone towards being set free. First I had to accept Him as my Savior. Then I had to go through the inner journey of facing my idols and my sins and making Him Lord of my life. As I faced the painful truth of circumstances beyond my control, I found that each truth brought me closer to freedom. As I let go of my anger and my bitterness, I was able to forgive those who had hurt me. Forgiveness is never about the other person, it is always about setting you free from bitterness and anger which is like a cancer growing inside your soul.

Jesus was the one who gave me the courage and the love to face these painful truths in my life. Without His help I would never have been able to look at them and deal with them. But when I did, the truth did indeed set me free.

 

 

 

A paradigm shift

I love it when I learn something new. I especially love it when it completely changes my way of thinking. I guess you could call it a paradigm shift. Have you ever spent years believing something, and then one day, bam, you realize that you were wrong and nothing is ever the same again? Now I know that sometimes that new revelation can be really bad, but this time I’m not talking about a bad thing, I’m talking about something good. Something really good. Something so good that it has the potential to change your life forever? It’s like your eyes are opened, your mind becomes clear and the funny thing is, that when this happens, a lot of things fall into place! Well that’s what happened to me this morning.

A few months ago I made the decision to purchase a new bible. It was one of those bibles that you could download on your iPad and most importantly, it had a built in concordance. A concordance is this wonderful gadget that allows you to touch a word and it gives you the original Greek or Hebrew. In other words, instead of just reading what some translator wrote, you have the wonderful opportunity to see what the writer of the book actually said. It always amazes me when I touch one of those words and the translation is no where near what the original writer intended to say. I think that we really have to be careful when we just take someone’s word for it, no pun intended. LOL I think so often words are translated into another language and the translator will impose his or her own bias, understanding or lack thereof, or even beliefs on that passage and by tweaking just one little word, it can change the entire meaning of what the author meant to say. If you don’t have a concordance, get one. It will be worth it, trust me.

Anyway, this morning as I was reading, still in the Gospel of Luke, but this time in chapter 6, I had one of those paradigm shifts in my thinking. For years, okay, I’ll be honest, for decades, ever since I became a Christian my desire and prayer in life has been to be like the disciples and have the power to heal people. This has been especially on my mind lately, having just lost a sister in law and friend to cancer. I have lost others to this dreadful disease. I have another friend who is battling this disease and I feel very helpless. So what was my paradigm shift? In Luke 6:40 it says the following:

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

Notice the word trained. That word makes it sound like something I have to do, something I have to learn, right? Well, that word does not exist in the original text. It simply isn’t there! What is there is the word “perfectly”. And that little word means this:

To mend (what has been broken or torn) to repair, to restore. To make one what he ought to be.

Oh. my. goodness! Now that is a completely different concept isn’t it? If I am restored to what I was meant to be, then I will be like my teacher, Jesus!!! In other words, when I am healed myself, when I have the mind of Christ, when I am delivered and made whole, I can do miracles, because that is what Jesus did!

So how do I become healed, whole, repaired, made like I was meant to be? Well, there’s the rub, isn’t it? I don’t know. But now that I have this revelation, I know that there is hope. I know that there is something that the Lord is going to do in my life, that will transform me into someone who will be like her teacher. And I will share as He heals me.

Early morning

I love getting up really early. The house is quiet, it’s still dark outside and I feel very much alone. But in this case, alone in a good way. What I’m really saying is that I love time to myself. That first cup of coffee is always so good, Jack is sleeping peacefully behind me on the floor and I am alone with my thoughts and with the Lord. My favorite time of day!

This morning I started reading in the book of Luke, chapter 1. This chapter is all about the angel Gabriel coming both to Mary and telling her she is about to have a baby and then going to her cousin Elizabeth’s husband and telling him that they are about to have a baby as well. Now when you read this story, their reactions are interesting. Both Mary and Zacharias, her cousin’s husband, ask basically the same question. How is this going to happen? I mean come on, I’ve not been with a guy before or in Zacharia’s case, my wife and I are both old. Good solid questions, right? But notice that these questions come from two different hearts. Mary believed Gabriel, Zacharias did not. Oh, my. May I please never be of the “I don’t believe you God” kind. I’m not sure how I would react if I was suddenly told by an angelic being that I’m going to have a baby. I might just be a tad bit skeptical myself, since it is no longer physically possible for me either.

At any rate, as I continued to read this story, something else jumped out at me and it was actually very much related to their reactions. After both Mary and Elizabeth are pregnant, Mary goes to visit her cousin. No doubt to give herself some time to consider the implications of being pregnant out of wedlock. But that’s a whole other story which we won’t delve into today.  When she enters the house of Elizabeth, her cousin says to her that the baby in her womb jumped for joy when Mary (now pregnant with Jesus) walked in. It is what Mary says next, that got to me. She says the following:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior”. Luke 1:46

That word magnifies just jumped out at me and I began to consider what it means. When I think of the word magnify I immediately think of a microscope or magnifying glass. Does my soul magnify or enlarge the Lord? Do my emotions, my will and my mind enlarge, enhance, expand, intensify or make to appear larger, the Lord? Because if my soul does, then shouldn’t someone else be able to see that in my life? I couldn’t help but notice something else as I read the above passage. She is using a present tense and a past tense in the same sentence. Her soul magnifies the Lord, present tense, happening right now and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior, past tense, happened already. In other words, my spirit has to have an encounter with the Lord, and rejoice in Him, my Savior before I can magnify the Lord through my mind, will and emotions. There has to be an awakening of my spirit before I can magnify Him through my soul. And if my soul is not magnifying Him, then what needs to change in my life?

Looking at this made me wonder if perhaps this is the explanation for the two very different heart reactions to the angel Gabriel’s announcement. Mary’s reaction even though in the form of a question, came from a heart of faith, because she believed God. Zacharias’ reaction, also in the form of a question, came from a heart of unbelief. Gabriel even says to Zacharias the following: Hey dude, I’m Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God. You’re not saying another word (read struck mute) until this stuff happens because you didn’t believe me. (translation mine) Luke 1:19-20

My desire in life is to magnify the Lord, to glorify Him, to show Him to others so they can see how wonderful, amazing, kind, loving, and faithful He truly is. Perhaps that fulfillment has to start with a heart of faith. Perhaps it has to start with a daily encounter with my Savior, which brings joy to my spirit. So I want to encourage you this peaceful morning, to spend time with Him. Rejoice in Him. Trust Him. Receive His words and His plans for your life. You will never be the same.

Hello there

I’ve thought about doing this for years, but I just never got around to it. I’m a paper and pen kinda girl, so I wrote my thoughts on paper and wasn’t really sure I wanted to share with the world. I love writing short devotionals, but inevitably after they were done, they would end up in a drawer, where no one would see them. I tried sharing them with a pastor one day, and he smiled at me and told me it was too bad I was a woman, or I could share them from the pulpit. Yup, that day was fun. And so the devotionals piled up, unseen and unread by anyone but me and perhaps a close friend that I dared to share them with.

Over the course of the past few months I really felt the Lord Jesus was telling me to start a blog but I didn’t want to. Frankly, I’m lazy and I have commitment issues. And worse, what if no one reads my blog or people say terrible things to me. I’m a blog reader however and I know that everyone, even those who have wonderful recipes, great crafts, awesome tutorials and amazing things to share, get rude comments. I guess it’s just par for the course. You put yourself out there and not everyone loves you.

So here goes. My first blog post. I pondered on what to call it and finally decided on the name cards coffee and God. I wanted the g in God to be a capital but they wouldn’t let me. It is however the God of the universe, Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords that I am referring to. And it is from His word, the Holy Bible and His Holy Spirit that I will share my thoughts and revelations from.

So you might be wondering what do cards and coffee have to do with God? Well, every morning when I get up, after I feed the cat who shall be called Jack hereafter, I go into a room that is set up as my craft room. It is my sanctuary because it is also a place that I pray, read the Bible and yes, drink coffee. Every single morning, coffee. Sometimes more than one cup.  I love to sit in this lovely room, with a window overlooking my deck, where I see birds and trees and sunshine, and create beautiful handmade cards out of paper. Most of my supplies are from Stampin Up but I’ve been known to cheat on them and buy things from Hero Arts and Tim Holtz and heaven forbid, even Michaels and Hobby Lobby. This little room with a view is my relaxing place, my place where I shut out the world and play and refresh myself. It is a place of peace and rest and joy, great joy. For it is in this place that I so often hear His voice, feel His presence, find answers to my questions, and find His peace. And it is from this wonderful room that I come to you today to share with you my heart and my thoughts. I will leave you this morning with this word from Jeremiah 29:11-13.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

These verses are pretty profound when you think about it. God has thoughts about you, and they are good thoughts. Not bad ones, not evil ones, not I’m going to give you a disease or destroy your home, or kill you thoughts, but good thoughts. He wants to give you a hope and a future. He wants to bless you. But notice that He says that once you realize that His thoughts are for good toward you, that the responsibility is now on you. You need to go and call upon Him. You need to seek Him with all your heart. You need to search for Him. And it is then, when you search for Him with all your heart that you will find Him. Be blessed my friends. And don’t forget to spend time with the Lord. He wants to share those amazing and wonderful thoughts with you. But you have to ask.