Saturday, December 29, 2012

Beginning of the Year Until the End.



“The land you are going to take is not like Egypt, where you were. There you had to plant your seed and water it, like a vegetable garden, by using your feet. 

But the land that you will soon cross the Jordan River to take is a land of hills and valleys, a land that drinks rain from heaven. 

It is a land the Lord your God cares for. His eyes are on it continually, and he watches it from the beginning of the year to the end." - Deuteronomy 11:10-12

Well...here we are...we have come to the end of another year and we have reached the threshold of a new year...a new period in time. As I look back over the past 12 months I see a year filled with days that held some tough struggles and days that brought me a few troubles. I also see lots of precious days shared with friends and family that brought laughter and cheer...as well as tears. It's been a busy year.

As I look ahead to the new year...I pray for God to give me the desire...to give me a heart... that anticipates all that He has planned to come. 

 After reading the above Scripture from Deuteronomy...I couldn't help but feel grateful for God's presence throughout this past year...and feel encouraged and hopeful in what God promises yet will be. 

Isn't it comforting to know, "God's eyes are continually upon us from the beginning of the year until the end?” (Deuteronomy 11:12)

This past year has been one of the hardest for so many people I know...perhaps its been a tough one for you too. There are some who will look back over this past year and say, “I have lost a mother." Another will say, "I have lost a friend." Yet another says "The divorce became final." "I lost my job and have too little money", says another. "I have been frustrated at work....underpaid and over worked." says still one more. 

While all these things are true...wouldn't it perhaps be better to look at the year altogether? View all the ups and the downs...recall not only the troubles but the joys too. As your thoughts scan the hills and the valleys of this year altogether...what would you then have to say about this year? 

I pray you will see as I do that God's love provided for your every need. "Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life...” 

Instead of picking out all the bad days...and saying it was a bad year...step back and take a good look at the whole year...let the good days shine...and then judge between the things that differ so greatly from each other. Perhaps you will even recall God's mercy and goodness while in the midst of your troubles...making those "bad"days reflect the glimmer of God's grace in them. After you do this...what then will you say about the year? 

Me? I have this to say about my past year... "Bless the Lord! Oh, my soul, and all that is within me. He has done great things. Bless his holy name!"

If you want to know why my heart sings that all things have been well this past year......a year that has held some pretty hard days for me... it's because I trust that the eyes of the Lord have been upon me all the year.

 Those same loving eyes...they've been on you all year too.

                 Glory! 

Kathy 

  "O Lord, you examine me and know. 

You know when I sit down and when I get up;
even from far away you understand my motives.  

You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest;
you are aware of everything I do.
  
Certainly my tongue does not frame a word
without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it.
  
You squeeze me in from behind and in front;
you place your hand on me.
  
Your knowledge is beyond my comprehension;
it is so far beyond me, I am unable to fathom it.
  
Where can I go to escape your spirit?
Where can I flee to escape your presence?

 If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there.
If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be.
  
If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn,
and settle down on the other side of the sea,
   
even there your hand would guide me,
your right hand would grab hold of me.
   
If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me,
and the light will turn to night all around me,”
   
even the darkness is not too dark for you to see,
and the night is as bright as day;
darkness and light are the same to you."- Psalm 139:1-12




Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas’ Past...Christmas Presence



Over 2 thousands years ago...


 “...some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.”
20 years ago ~ December 22-28 1992...


My family who was scattered across three different states, all got together for Christmas at my parents home in the mountains of Colorado. This was the first time in 5 years we were all together. It was also the first time in countless years it could be said that we all got along really well! I can still recall saying Christmas night as I laid down beside Brad...that this was my favorite family Christmas as an adult. I also remember praying and thanking God for giving me this surprising perfect gift for Christmas as I fell asleep. 

It was a Monday morning... 3 days after Christmas. I sat beside my dad and Brad...each of us laughing and talking while everyone else was either still sleeping or just getting up when my world changed forever. 

In the middle of all our fun and commotion together...I noticed in the corner of my eye that my dad had not only stopped talking but had dropped his head to his chest.  It took me a few seconds to realize something was wrong. I spoke to him asking if he was “ok”...but had no response. 

I didn’t know it then, but my dad’s heart had just suddenly stopped beating...and he was gone. In the blink of an eye...my dad who was full of joy and love had left this world and entered Heaven more joyous and loved than he ever imagined. 

December 2012...Christmastime is here again. This year will be the 5th Christmas I will be without both my dad and my husband Brad. Brad’s death from cancer in 2008 was not unexpected like my dad’s death.
Yet, seriously...I never imagined Christmas in 2007 would be Brad’s and my last together anymore than I imagined Christmas in 1992 would be the last one with my dad. 

Christmastime has been hard on my heart for some time. I miss my two favorite men!  You know...I like to imagine that they miss me too. Both of them loved to surprise me at Christmas with gifts that they knew would bring a smile to my face and a big hug to them! I loved to do the same for each of them as well. Perhaps this Christmas they are asking God with anticipation in their voices the same question I’m asking...“When will we see each other again...soon?”

All those Christmas’ past we shared and the gifts we bought each other...they may have unwrapped smiles and hugs in each of us ...but the best part of the gifts we shared was the joy and love we felt for each other. Unlike any gift we can buy...the gifts of love and joy are ones that last forever...even after those who gave them to us have left our side. 

This Christmas season, when I pray...I have been asking the Lord to help me not to see this season as a reason for me to be so sad. As I ask God to comfort me I also ask that He remind me once again who I am to Him...that I’m His beloved child...and that I’m the bride of Christ!  

Isn’t it something...that as I long for my dad...God reminds me He’s always been and still is my good and loving Father. And when I long for my husband...that Jesus is my Beloved Groom...and I am his cherished bride. 

God is also reminding me He loves to give surprise gifts at Christmastime too! 

I am reminded that God’s gifts are not the ones I’ll find wrapped in paper and set under a tree ...but comes wrapped in swaddling cloth and nailed to a tree. 

God delights to surprise His children and see us smile as He blesses us with just what He knows is needed. His abundant provisions can always be found by having a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.

You know... I think each day God hopes to see my joy as I unwrapped the day He has given me to live. He has many treasures for me to unwrap with Him...but to find them all...I must walk along the path He has set them on. 

He gives all us the choice at Christmastime and throughout the year to embrace His greatest gift He has given...one that will last forever and ever...or to settle on the things wrapped in paper and will one day fade away... 

Oh that we would not leave unopened this Christmas, God’s most valuable gifts to us...The Present of His Presence. The Gift of Jesus. 

I’ve decided this Christmas season to seek and find God’s “surprise” gifts he has set out just for me each day... I can just imagine God is smiling each time my heart squeals with delight as I thank him for giving me exactly what I needed!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

With heartfelt gratitude...Thank You for giving me your gifts of encouragement, love and support in writing this devotional blog...I am blessed by each of you. 

I pray for each of you to be filled with the joy God promises...for you to draw closer to God and “fixing your thought on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1)

Glory!

Kathy 


“I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband.
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”                          ~ Revelation 21:2-5 The Message

Monday, December 17, 2012

Evil’s Weakness


Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” ~ John 8:12
(What I have written today is less a devotional and more a commentary I think.  I just felt the need to write out my feelings...hope you don't mind this brief side-trip with me.)


As we continue to mourn the horrid and tragic loss of the children and teachers at Shady Hook Elementary School…attention has also turned to the killer and what would have caused him to do such an evil thing. One of the prevailing discussions surrounding him is that he suffered from a mental illness. 

In a short time…our nations leaders and the outspoken people in various organizations across our country will step away from grieving. The discussion will focus not only about the type of guns used, but now perhaps for the first time...mental illness will become a more serious debate in how it has played a part in the mass killing across our nation. 

In our human desire to find a logical reason for something so horrifically illogical as killing small innocent children, we have this need inside us to find the fault...and then proceed with it's cure in human terms, hoping we can fix this problem.

The discussion surrounding mental illness and our nation's limited laws and the healthcare system's inadequate response, defiantly needs our attention. There is also a great need to provide help and resources for the family members of those who are suffering a mental illness.

Sadly…however, I fear in all the discussions about what can be done to prevent another school mass killing and the cost of implementing those measures...we will find ourselves again overlooking and ignoring the one thing that is most beneficial and will not cost even one penny. Seek God and follow His moral teachings.

I truly believe that instilling a moral compass through faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ in our children (adults too) can be the beginning of mental health. To teach our young to pray and to turn to God when life seems hard and unfair...or feelings of anger and frustration are too hard to control...may become the pivotal moment that stops the evil that lives in each of us to thrive and grow and react.

I'm not saying because someone is a Christian they can not be afflicted with mental illness...no more than I would be able to say being a Christian can keep you from being afflicted with cancer or any other horrid disease.  However…is it so unreasonable to believe that when God's ways are taught and believed...when God’s love is being lived out in the lives of others nearest them and in their own lives...that the mentally ill person who is harboring the evils of anger and hate...yet has the spirit who knows God...just might hear "that still small voice" of God and not act upon those hateful feelings by killing? How will we ever know the answer to this if we don’t try instilling the knowledge of God’s ways into our lives? 

We are only fooling ourselves if we don't recognize we all have evil thoughts inside us. Christians are no less a flawed human in these things. Yet..sadly for anyone who reject godly thoughts...their evil thoughts become their actions. 

We will always have evil in this world until Jesus returns and makes all things new. Until that day...perhaps we would have a lot less evil acted out here on earth…if we had more Jesus acting in each of us.  

"Dear Lord, Today, please cover the hearts of the broken hearted in your comfort and love. I pray that the deaths of these young children and their brave teachers and principal will produce in the hearts of our nation's people a greater desire and understanding that we desperately need your healing touch in us…we need your Presence in our lives.  

I thank you for all the good in this world and all the protection you give us Lord…for we do not deserve it…yet your compassion and love for us compels you to provide it just the same. I love how you love us Lord.

I trust you Abba Father with what I cannot understand about Your ways. It brings me comfort and a sense of peace to my troubled heart to know that You have not asked me to understand...but to simply trust You and know that You are still very much in control. I do not need to fear tomorrow for you are already there...preparing and providing all that is needed to accomplish the good you have planned since the beginning of time.

I am given encouragement and courage in knowing that no evil can stand in your Presence Lord…that it will flee even at the mention of your name! So Lord…I pray in the name of Jesus…take my evil thoughts and my evil words and deeds from me. Heal my broken heart Lord by breaking it with what break yours. I am drawn nearer to you because You have drawn near to me. May all who are struggling right now Lord seek You and find the peace that only can be found in You.  In Jesus, name I pray all these things, Amen.” 

Kathy 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where to Look for God’s Goodness when Tragedy Strike


When I heard the news about a young gunman entering an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. and opening fire on innocence...deliberately killed little kindergarten children...their teacher, the principal among others...my heart sank and I immediately went to the Lord to pray. 
Perhaps not so surprising...I had no words to express what I was feeling. 
In my horror and utter despair for the victims and the parents I instinctually knew I needed to pray...but I had no words. I tried to put my heartbreak into the simplest terms...but could not. 
 As my thoughts raced around in search for the words to speak...I began to realize that God was not only hearing me...but He fully understood what I could not express with words. 
“...God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves...”  ~Romans 8:26-27 The Message
Today... I continue to pray for all the victim’s families and for all the first responders...and I’m praying for all of us.  This morning, my heart was feeling very heavy as I though about all the horrible acts of violence happening in our world. I was burdened with images of the evil in humanity. 
Although my faith in people’s goodness fails me often...my faith in God’s goodness is firm. As I was pondering how God’s goodness will one day be revealed from this tragedy... I saw a quote from Mr. Rogers that a friend shared. Here is that quote;
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world.”  ~ Mr. Rogers
Thank you Lord for reminding me I need to take time to look away from the evil that is prevalent. To pause and look away from what enticed a young man to kill little children so that I can see the goodness in all the caring people surrounding the frightened and grieving. 
The Lord wants us all to see the helpers who are plentiful...and know that His goodness is shining through them. As I watch the latest news reports now...my eyes are open to seeing the caring people and helpers...and my heart is encouraged and given renewed hope.
So...what can I (we) do to be one of the caring and helpful people? Well, we need to join our nation and take this time to grieve with those who have lost precious loved ones. 
I am also praying that the Lord will help direct our prayers and lead our hearts in how we are called to respond to this tragedy that will bring glory to God and bring the reason we have hope to those who have none.   
May we who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, be found praying and seeking God’s wisdom for our country...praying for all people to come to know Jesus as we do.
Perhaps...by God’s grace, as we pray for the lost, there will be found among them the next angry young man who once thought to kill...but has chosen life because he discovered he is loved by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords because someone chose to share the love of Jesus with them.
“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”  ~ Romans 8:29-30 The Message
For God's Glory...
Kathy 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Longing for a Merrier Christmas?




Christmastime can be such a mixed bag of emotions for me. Like so many others who have loved ones that are no longer with us...it can often be more a season of sadness than a journey of joy. 



As Christmas Day approaches...we are often surrounded by parties of exuberant people enjoying all the holiday festivities. Try as we might...we just can't quite muster up the same level of glee that just seems to come naturally for so many. 


Yikes! I can have so many sad moments this time of year that I just long for a couple of "merry" moments to come...to last...and bring me the joy I use to know at Christmastime. These longings just make me feel sadder! 

Thankfully...I have grown in my desire to keep this time of year more about Christ and not about all the holiday hoopla. 

Yet, I still get so tangled into those moments when I just want "what I had!" I too easily forget about all the blessings I do have...and all the blessings that have come from “not having” what I had.

But, like a guest who has overstays it's welcome...my sorrow enters the room and not only mingles with my happier thoughts..but stays around so long that all the happiness leaves and all I'm left with is sadness and my longing for a touch of heaven to come to earth. 



Ahhh...now there’s a longing God delights to fulfill! 

I’ve discovered the Lord doesn't allow me to remain emotionally secluded in my closet of sad nostalgia. He know exactly where my heart has hidden me and He enters my darkest thoughts. 
Lovingly, He carries me out and takes me with him to the most beautifully lit and spaciously night! He fills my heart with the awe and wonder of His greatest gift ...revealing that true joy is always found in Christ and hope was born in His birth. 

Amazing...

God so patiently loves, comforts and blesses each of His children without any condemnation...even when we have these moments where we make Christmas and this season about us...about our family and friends.

God knows our hearts so well. He sees our longing for loved ones who have left our sight and our side...safely with Him now...and He compassionately understands how much our longing pains our hearts. 



I think God understands so well because His heart knows this kind of longing too...for didn’t He feel it too when His Son came to earth over two thousand years ago? Isn't it possible that God longed for the day Jesus would return to Heaven and be sitting at his right side?  


"Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master." - Luke 2:10-11 The Message 

Just imagine the excitement and joy the shepherds felt upon seeing the face of God! 

Can you even imagine our own excitement and joy the day when we too will see God's face?

I honestly think God is right now longing for us to be with Him too. He completely understands the ache of a heart missing the feel of a loved one’s touch...the sound of their voice and the sight of their face. Doesn’t God longs for us in these ways too?

So this Christmas...just imagine how greatly loved you are by God. Imagine Jesus coming to earth to save you...redeem you... and one day take you home to live with Him...in Paradise! 

Then, imagine the moment when Jesus takes you to the Father and you see God face to face for the first time. Imagine...God’s face as His eyes take hold of you...Imagine... His face as it lights up with joy and excitement in seeing you!  

Oh My! This puts the Merry back in my Christmas! When I think about the delight in God’s eyes and His love shining across His face upon seeing me finally home forever...well...I’m sure that look in His eyes will knock me right off my feet!

Glory!

Kathy
"...I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am." John 14:2-3

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

God’s Will ~ Places You Won’t Find It


While attending the tragic funeral of a 2 year old child, I learned something I’d never considered before about "God's Will.” This really ministered to me concerning both this child’s and my husband’s death. I feel it will minister to many others who have experienced devastating circumstances in their lives as well. 

The Lord's prayer says in Mathew 6:10; “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

We should always pray for God's will to be done on earth as His will is in Heaven. But...let's not confuse believing that God's Will on earth can be found within the sins which bring tragic and dire circumstances upon our lives here. 

God's will is not for a baby’s life to be aborted…or for a loved one to die from cancer ...or for a child to be abused or for anyone to die at the hands of a murderer. Just to name a few.

No, God's will for us here is as it is in Heaven…to be without sorrow, pain, death…without sin. When He created the earth…when He created Adam and Eve...it was as He willed it all to be…Perfect. Yet, God allowed Adam and Eve to choose His will or choose their own.  

We already know what happened next…sin entered this world and began it's corruption on it's perfection. Sin's consequences brought fear, hate, disease, sickness, death, and sorrow. To this very day we must constantly choose between God's will and our own…and sometimes…actually always…we live with the ever increasing consequences of the sins of this world. 

God's Will was not for us to live our lives under these consequences…but His Will has made a way for us to rise above them through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus…God's Will is for us to live eternally with Him forever inside His perfect Will.  




When we pray for God's will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven…we are praying for Jesus's return! Oh glory! What a day that will be...




Sooo… when cancer strikes, or a horrific car accident occurs or even the murder of a loved one happens…these things are not "God's Will for how His children should live...or how they were to die. 

Yet, God in His Sovereignty…knows the number of days we each have here. He knows what will touch our lives and He will either protect us from it, get us through it…sustain us in it...or allow it to be the means in which it brings us home to Him.

But...God’s will is for us to never have been touched by death..no matter how it comes...peacefully or abruptly...in old age or in the womb. God’s will is not in anything that has been born from sin. 

I’m comforted in this. 

God is good and God is love. He certainly does not will for us to suffer and grieve as we do. I believe the heartaches of this world grieves God even more than it grieves us.  

Thankfully…as believers in Christ, when we have troubles and trials and even sin in our lives…God has provided us a way out from under it's oppression. 

God has chosen to give us His Son Jesus as our Advocate and Redeemer and we who believe are given the Holy Spirit as our counselor and guide. God only ask…will we choose His Will or choose our own? 

God's Will for us here on earth…is to live for Christ because Christ lives in us. 




When we are in the Will of God we experience Him and His peace. We have in us “A Touch of Heaven”  here on earth. 

Glory! 

Kathy 


Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.

May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us today the food we need
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Amen   (Matthew 6:9-13 NLT)




Monday, December 3, 2012

The Secret to Blessed Contentment



“But she who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround her.” 
~ Psalm 32:10


Before lifting my head off my pillow this morning I looked over to where my husband Brad once laid beside me and said out loud...”I wish you were still here.” 
I also wished for another time...another place...another life. 

As I slowly got up to face a day I thought would be filled with the weight of these distressing desires, I made my coffee and sat down to read my morning devotions and Scriptures. I found a better answer to my wishes within the first moments of sitting beside Jesus as I read...

...she who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround her. 
~ Psalm 32:10

As my heart took in this promise...I felt the Lord’s mercy covering me. I prayed and thanked Him that I can place my trust so confidently in Him. Then I began to read the following story...

“In her infancy, Fanny Crosby became blind. As a young girl she was once asked by her mother if she resented her blindness, and she replied, "Mother, if I had a choice, I would still choose to remain blind...for when I die, the first face I will ever see will be the face of my blessed Savior."1 

Hers are powerfully convicting words to those who lack contentment in their predicaments. With more than 8,000 hymns to her credit, Fanny remained confident in her visually impaired state, "I don't believe I would have ever written all of those hymns had I been able to see."2
2 Gene Fedele, Heroes of the Faith (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2003), 209.


I couldn’t help but consider my own “blindness” after reading Fanny Crosby’s words. 



I have a choice in how I see my life. For I am given by the Holy Spirit the power to see the joy in my trials...the godly purpose in my frustrations....the good in my pain...and the strength to live each day by trusting that where I am right now...is God’s place for me. May my life bring honor and glory to God alone.  



Glory! 

Kathy 



And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all...” ~ 1 Corinthians 7:17 The Message