Hark! The herald angels sing . . .

 

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(To the tune of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley, music by Felix Mendelssohn)

Look! The Lord my God is near. He will keep me safe from fear.
Though the enemy roar, God is king forevermore.
I submit to God’s great hand. He will lift me up to stand.
Casting all my care on Him, on His love I can depend.
Look! The Lord my God is near. He will keep me safe from fear.

I can keep my self controlled. God Himself indwells my soul.
I’m alert, and I watch out for the devil prowls about.
I resist him, I stand strong though the trial might feel long,
In my weakness, He gives grace, so I rise and run my race!
I can keep my self controlled. God Himself indwells my soul!

My God covers me with peace, all my fears and worries cease!
He will keep me in His rest as I think on what is best.
In my weakness, He is strong. He will keep me from all wrong.
I will walk with Him in love. I will keep my mind above.
My God covers me with peace. All my fears and worries cease!

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God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!
He will give me grace to fight. We will win o’er darkest night!
Nothing that attacks me stands, for He holds me in His hand
God is faithful. He will save! This the banner that I wave!
God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!

Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,700 hymns. In his book “Amazing Grace, 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions”, Kenneth Osbeck comments that many of Charles Wesley’s hymns “clearly present biblical doctrine in poetic language.” (p. 374)

I have earnestly prayed that the words I have written to this beloved Christmas carol accurately reflect biblical doctrine. I also pray that the living Word of God will speak to you and have His way with your soul, for we know that His Word is “. . . alive and full of power—making it active, operative, energizing and effective” (Hebrews 4:12, AMPC) May God’s miracle of music help imprint these truths deeply in your heart.

Love and prayers,
Freda

Jesus laughs, ho ho all the way!

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(To the tune of “Jingle Bells”)

Living daily life, in this crazy world,

sometimes is so hard, that my heart grows weak!

but Jesus lives in me, and in His joy I’m strong,

so I say to you, my friend, come laugh and sing alo-ong!

Chorus: Jesus laughs, Jesus laughs, ho ho all the way!

Jesus loves to laugh and play, every single day!

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 When the day starts out dark (A little pun there!) When I woke up this morning, the last thing I felt like doing was laughing. As I thought of the day ahead, and my life ahead, everything felt dim and discouraging. But, as I lay in bed, I repeated several basic passages about trusting God that I have memorized, by virtue of desperately reading them to my anxious heart over and over and over again.  Once out of bed, I sat in the rocker, stroked my cat, and read Psalm 71.

 

“I am feeling a little better,” I thought grudgingly. “Thank You, Lord. Please help me get my attitude right!”

I began texting a dear friend. I stated briefly that I felt discouraged and I intended to indulge my feelings by texting her about my troubles. But, lo and behold!!! I found myself texting that I was going to trust in God and thank Him for this day, keep my mind on Him rather than my problems, and look for ways to bless everyone He put into my path this day. I then texted another friend, who is walking a hard path right now, and that time I managed to only be encouraging and uplifting.

I listened to the bird perched in the tree by the window as the deep blue-black of night began fading to a softer blue. And I just sat and waited on Him, looking out the window at the miracle of a new day.

The Word changes our minds. “Wow, Lord! Thank You!”, I prayed. “All this time of pondering the comforting truths of Your Word really have renewed my mind. It really worked! You have done a deep work inside my heart, I know, because even though I feel discouraged on the surface, You are keeping my thoughts focused on the truth of Your Word and I am not sinking down into despair, like I used to do. You are guarding my heart and keeping me in constant peace as I keep my mind fixed on You! (Isaiah 26:3)

You have lifted me out of the pit, I have your reassurances that You are always with me and will never fail me, and somehow, You are teaching me to truly enjoy each day and to laugh with You, even when things are difficult.

Ho ho all the way! Then I was out and about, taking care of the business of my day, with my mind set to enjoy this day that the Lord had made and prepared especially for me. As I drove through morning traffic, I heard a good teaching on Psalm 71, the same psalm I had been reading earlier. Coincidence? No way! I know Jesus loves to reassure us that He is with us every moment, no matter what we feel like and no matter if we feel we have failed Him, I know He has a sense of humor, and I know He laughs with us –ho ho all the way!

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Finding peace, in a park

Time to stop fretting myself. “Yes, darling, you can run ahead to the playground. I’m right behind you.”

My grandsons, six and a half and almost eight, ran at top speed toward the play equipment in the center of Garrison Park. I swung my big green bag to my left hip, holding the big thermos of cold water in my right hand. The bag—the same type of nondescript, reusable grocery bag I used for years as my “Nana” day bag when I spent weekday mornings with my preschool darlings—contained a snack for the boys, my cell phone and a lime green folder. The folder contained three different bunches of paper, paper clipped together, filled with margin notes, crossed out lines, and numbered points, the fruit of a two-month struggle to write the second in a series of blog posts about seeking the presence of God.

The boys raced over a field of grass lightly browned from lack of rain. Soon, it would be truly brown from the frost of fall mornings. I sighed as I trailed slowly behind them. I was not ready for change, for the boys to continue growing up, and not ready for autumn, my favorite season. I had planned to have so much more writing done by now!

I had been counting my blessings all morning, struggling to maintain a positive attitude as I had struggled at the computer for four hours.

“Thank You, Father, for the idea to take the boys to the park. How sad it would have been to miss this good time with them because I was cooped up, fretting about my work for You.”

I paused in my thoughts. Wow! In that moment, truth shifted my perspective and my feelings. I knew God did not want any of His children to stress about doing their work for Him, whatever that work is. Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30. KJV) And God tells us to rejoice always, so that means each minute of our day, which includes work of all kinds.

After seeing that Ben was on the slide and Ansel was on the ramp, I sat on the fully shaded wrought-iron bench. Wind blew, gently, starting at the top of the old oaks bordering the playscape. Like an invisible curtain, the wind swirled around and downward, small brown leaves polka dotting its movement and making the unseen visible.

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Accepting change. Autumn was in process. Change was coming, no matter how much I wished for delay.

Cars whizzed by on Stassney, which bordered the park’s western edge. Swings creaked, back and forth. Creak, c-r-e-a-k. Cool air caressed my cheek. Children shouted and laughed and yelled, each of them all at once, a soothing, happy sound. The hamburgers for the birthday party folks at those three picnic tables smelled tasty. A father in a red shirt goo-gooed at a tiny toddler in a white-laced playsuit as he pushed her on the baby swings.

I ponder. In the last seven years how many memories have I stored up from this park, memories of collecting rocks and acorns, building fairy houses out of twigs, marking our path in the dirt with a stick as we took an adventure hike on the trails. How many? I recognize the distinctive sound of Ansel laughing and wonder how close humans come to the capacity of sheep and other animals to distinguish the cry of their own young from others.

The heart of a child about my work for God. I brought the boys here so they would have a fun outing. I also brought my request to God, a request as tangible as the green folder holding the paper-clipped pages.

“Father, keep speaking to me, as I look at the trees and children and listen to the birds. Speak to me about peace regarding my work for You. Lately I always feel I am not doing enough or doing it well enough.”

I watched Ben huddle with three other boys atop the monkey bars, pointing and, as usual I was sure, giving directions. My eyes roved over the whole playscape, gazing at kids running after each other, jostling to climb up ladder to the slide and sitting on the ground, splitting up a crinkled Hershey bar.

Do these children fret about their work, this task of growing up that they are eagerly doing this moment? No! Why? Because it is in their nature to trust their parents and to enjoy each moment as it comes.

“Okay, Lord, I get it. Thank You! I know our work for You will sometimes be difficult but You never want us to fret about it. You tell us to approach You like the little children we are and to trust You. I do know how often You warn against worry and fretting and I know Your Word is filled with reassurances against fear. Oh, Father! Give me the heart of a child about our work! Help me remember Your many reassurances – that You work everything out for our good, that You busy yourself with each detail of our lives, that You show us the way to go if we ask You, that You make our plans succeed if we commit them to You, and so many more life-giving promises, Lord!“

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Ansel walked slowly toward me,  flushed from running, sweat on the edges of his hairline, face filled with the frustration of being little brother. I patted the seat beside me, handed him the thermos of cool water, and he leaned against me. I took out some clean paper from the folder, drew a tic-tac-toe square, and handed him the pencil. Soon big brother walked towards our bench, sat on my other side, and took big gulps of water. I gave him a sideways hug, and kissed the top of his head, inhaling deeply.

His hair smelled of sunshine, fresh air, and a healthy little body, exactly like his Mother’s at that age. Impossibly sweet, touching memories. Ben took his turn with the pencil next, drawing stick figures and asking how I draw feet for stick figures.

A beautiful dance. I wish I could have a picture of us, an older woman in black shorts and stretched out turquoise tank top, support stocking on her left leg, a young boy with straight brown hair pressed against her right side, his small hand resting on her arm and another boy on her left side resting halfway in her lap, drawing.

I cannot take a picture, but, as I have learned, I can deeply imprint this memory on my heart by being fully present and letting love engrave the sights and sounds, the feelings and thoughts.

I smile, listen to the wind rustling the leaves, and enjoy the treasure of feeling cuddled.

“Thank You, Father! Thank You so much for these precious moments today. Help me remember that You care far more about me than about any work I can do for You. Help me trust and rest in You more. And Father, help me accept change. I know that as I yield to Your plans for my life, like brown leaves in this autumn wind, we will make a beautiful dance. I love You, Lord, and I trust You!”

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I need You, my Lord!

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Thank You, my Father, my Beloved, my One
for all You have given, for all You have done.
You stopped all the fighting, my struggling within.
Your love set me free from deliberate sin.

No more do I struggle with wanting to stray,
for Your spirit within me shows me Your way,
the way I should walk to glorify You,
to show Christ to the world in each thing that I do.

Let that be one offering of thanksgiving and praise,
for I am so grateful my Comforter stays. . .

. . . that Your Spirit indwells and evermore stays,
and comforts my heart through each of my days!
Your presence to stay and never to leave
is almost too much for my soul to believe,
for Father, I need You, oh! so desperately!
I need You, My Lord, to abide with me!

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Fresh hope and cheer for daily life

Need comfort? 6:40 a.m. So tired, like always it seems. With the overcast sky, the light coming through the window is soft and muted. I prop up sideways and stretch my legs out full length, on my big brown corduroy couch. Although I really want to lie down, I need to stay vertical for two hours after eating because that tummy problem has returned. I tuck the cell phone partly under my right hip so it will not fall off the couch. I have already texted parts of Psalm 91 to two friends who are walking through crisis situations and, as I do every weekday morning, I texted with my son-in-law to see how he and my daughter and two grandsons are today.

I clutch my well-worn copy of the New Living Translation Bible to my chest, repeating verses 19 and 22 of Psalm 94 over and over. By God’s loving grace, I just happened to see those two verses after I texted my friends. This moment, I need God’s living comfort in verses 19 and 22 for my own soul. I need to hear: “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. . . But the LORD is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide.” I pause as I sit on the couch in the soft morning light, and I pray, earnestly, because I need His help.

Dear Father, I need You so much! Help me make this day what You want it to be. Oh, Father! Help me work on the writing today. Help me keep my mind on You and helping others so I can stay positive.”

When doubts fill our mind. I want so much for you, dear friend, and me too, to know, to be convinced of, and cling to the following truth about this day of our daily lives, yours and mine:

The same awesome God who helped miraculously over and over again in the stories you and I read in the Bible and in the testimonies we hear, that very same God Is helping you and me, today, this very moment and He has a wonderful, victorious day planned for us both.

You may, like my two friends, be facing dire health or financial trials today. Or maybe it is the seemingly little things that are troubling you today. My own challenges today, the little things I face that are hard, are to do the work of establishing this writing ministry and to do the work of staying free from depression and anxiety.

As I think about these personal challenges, I remind myself, and you, that God loves us just as much as He does the people in the Bible and the people in the testimonies we hear, and that He is working for us this very moment, to give us what we need today as we follow Him, no matter how imperfect we are.

Regarding my personal challenge of establishing this writing ministry, since school started and my job ended a month ago, my days have felt empty. I miss my grandsons and I miss my part-time job. I do not like being alone but solitude is necessary to write. It is a daily struggle to discipline myself to sit down and write rather than run away from my little home and flee the loneliness. This in spite of the fact that God so very graciously touches my mind when I write. I am so very weak and human and so grateful that God “does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. . . Psalm 103:10, NLT)

Is my not writing “sin”? Yes! It is certainly missing the mark of God’s best. That is the point! On the days when I cannot discipline myself to write and on days when I let other things distract me, I ask God for forgiveness and I ask Him to help me change and do better. And then I trust Him and try my best to do the “good” He has shown me. (Psalm 37:3) As I do that, I “feed on His faithfulness” and He faithfully calms my heart.

“Just to know” (as my grandsons say), here is a picture of my darling Barny. As I was faithfully sitting down, writing this, my furry writing buddy jumped to the desk and curled up in a cubby. Ah, so comforting to have him close enough to touch, saying he loves me in his own sweet way. Beyond all doubt, the loving eye of God is on each of us each moment and He sends us little reminders like this of His love all day if we look for them with expectancy. As He says in Genesis 28:15, “And behold, I am with you and will keep [careful watch over you and guard] you wherever you may go and will bring you back to this land. (AMPC)”

Rejoicing in trials. Regarding my other pressing personal challenge this day–maintaining freedom from depression and anxiety–I am choosing to rejoice that this trial continues. I choose to rejoice that it still requires much daily effort on my part. Why? Because, as He says in John 15:1-8, God uses trials to cleanse our hearts and make us more fruitful. God and I have demolished many strongholds of wrong thoughts and beliefs and I have far more joy and peace, but much remains to be done.

Some days are still really hard and I still often forget, or fail, to do the things I know keep my heart peaceful. But I am getting better and I want my loving Father to continue making me more whole and more healed. Psalm 94:12-15 in the Amplified Classic Bible reassures me that I am blessed because God is still working in my heart, to train me so I can keep myself calm in hard times.

I reassure myself with the message of verses 12-13 “Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.”

So, I sit down and deliberately ponder the whole of Psalm 94. God clearly says He is working with me, for my good, so that I can learn to keep myself calm in the storms of life. He promises He will fight for me and that His comforts will “cheer and delight” my soul, even when my mind is filled with a multitude of anxious thoughts.

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Facing the challenges of your daily life today. I urge you, dear friend, whatever your personal challenge is today—toughing out another hard day at work, caring for a loved one in the hospital, or believing God for rent, groceries, or your next breath—let God comfort you with renewed hope and cheer as you ponder Psalm 94, verse 22. Say out loud, “The LORD is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide.”

God’s promises in Psalm 94 are working for the challenges of my own daily life this day, as I try to do “the good” I know God has shown me for today. And God’s promises will work for this day of your daily life. As the great hymn “Trust and Obey” says, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus. . . “ Just trust God and do good. You will live in His promises and, as you sustain yourself with His faithfulness, you will be fed abundantly! (Psalm 37:3)

God’s promises never, no never, no never fail! When I was on the couch, eight hours ago, clutching my Bible to my chest like the security blanket it is, I doubted I could get up, start writing and keep myself in peace. However, by His great grace, I have finished this blog post, gone to physical therapy for my feet, run some errands, and tidied up a bit. I will soon be off to Bible study tonight.

God loves YOU and He promises in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His grace is all we need because His power “. . works best in weakness.” (NLT). Just trust Him and try!

Hope from a horse race

Image result for Free Picture OF Secretariat“Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray.” (Job 39:19-21, NIV)

Beauty inspires us. Is anything more beautiful than a running horse? Its muscular chest thrust its powerful legs forward while its mighty hindquarters propel the rear legs in perfect symmetry. Power and poetry. Beauty beyond the telling.

Beauty inspires us. God designed us that way, and He filled the earth with beauty so that wherever we look in His creation, we see His touch and feel pleasure in what He has created for us. Horses, in particular, inspire me, and one famous horse race in particular never fails to stir the embers of my hope, no matter how discouraged I may feel.

A most famous race. On June 9, 1973, a race horse named Secretariat (or “Big Red” as his multitude of fans called him) won the Belmont Stakes in a world record time of 2 minutes 24 seconds. His record stands today. Secretariat’s speed averaged 37.5 miles an hour. And he finished 31 lengths, or 82.6 yards, ahead of the closest horse.

To see this famous race, search the internet with the words “Secretariat at Belmont”. As you watch the race, you will notice that the other horses stayed fairly close to Secretariat at the start. Then, however, that legendary horse pulled ahead. Then he kept stretching his lead until he was way, way out ahead. Then, as the announcer said, he was “. . . alone. . . moving like a tremendous machine!”

How can I not have hope? I liken Secretariat’s race to the way the enemy of our souls tries to outrun and defeat us in this race of daily life we are each running. He may keep up with us for a little while, just as Sham kept abreast of Secretariat for a bit, but when God’s power surges up in our hearts, we pull ahead further and further and further. The enemy is totally defeated. No contest whatsoever. He is not even in the running. And God longs to do this for us every day!

So, when the bills add up, when the body complains, when the everydayness of life gets me down, or when a trial goes on a looooong time, I sometimes watch Secretariat run his unbelievable race. And I ponder the omnipotence of my loving heavenly Father. And I find fresh hope. The One who created and sustains the universe loves me dearly. With Him on my side, the enemy does not have a chance to win. I am confidently expecting to win because I know the powerful One who lives on the inside of me.

What does hope do for us? To hope means to expect or to trust that something will happen. My confidence, or expectation, that I will be victorious is based on God, not on circumstances or on my own or someone else’s ability. The Bible does not use the word hope in the flimsy, half-hearted way we often do in our culture. You may hear someone say, “Well, I hope I can get a better job”, or “I hope my child does not get the flu.”

Bible teacher Joyce Meyer defines hope as “a positive expectation that something good is going to happen.” That is the kind of hope God is talking about! That is the hope I feel surge up as I watch Secretariat pull away from the other horses and finish nearly a football field length ahead of them.Image result for free clip art of hope

God’s truth about hope. There is a beautiful chain of truth about hope in Romans 5:1-5. The verses in this chain of truth reassure us that we can and will have hope. Here is that hope-giving chain of truth.

In the NIV, Romans 5:1-5. Romans 5:1 to 4a, tells us “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Switching to the AMPC for verse 4a and continuing through verse 5, we read “. . . And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”

The process that leads to hope. In looking at Romans 5, verse 1, we notice the word “Therefore”. The “Therefore” in verse 1 tells us that what came before that verse is linked with and sets the background for what follows. So the lessons in Romans 4 are the foundation for the lessons in Romans 5. And what does Romans 4 teach us? That we are made right with God through our faith, not through “observing the commands of the Law” (Romans 4:13, AMPC). That means we do not earn our right-standing with God. It is a gift, so we do not have to be perfect!

So, because of our gift of right-standing with God, or “therefore”, we have the promises of Romans 5, verses 1-5:

[1] Verse 1: We have peace with God, and we are right in His sight, through Jesus being our Lord.
[2] Verse 2a: Because we have believed in Jesus, we are already standing in God’s grace, which the Amplified Bibles defines as “the state of God’s favor”. Remember, we do not have to work to earn it!
[3] Verse 2b: We can rejoice and exult because we hope—we are expecting– to experience and enjoy the glory of God. The AMPC says “And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God”.

[4] Verses 3-4: Moreover, we can be full of joy now, while we are IN our sufferings, because God says that our suffering will produce—through a process–something wonderful for us. The process that leads to that something wonderful is given in verses 3-4: sufferings produce perseverance, which produces character (mental and moral qualities), which produces hope. The order of the steps in that process is: suffering, perseverance, character, and then hope. The AMPC tells us that character of “approved faith and tried integrity” is what “. . . produces [the habit of joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.” In other words, if we keep persevering in hardships, God will eventually develop our character so that we habitually are joyful and we will confidently hope in our eternal salvation, which begins for us as soon as we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

[5] Verse 5 promises that hope like that never disappoints us because “. . . God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:b, AMPC)

I strive to remember one special fact in verses 3 and 4, which is that we can be joyful now, smack in the middle of suffering, because we know that the hardships are creating in us the kind of character that makes us habitually joyful and confident as we anticipate our eternal salvation.

Hope of eternity helps us NOW. I wish it were not true but I must confess that for a long time when I heard teachers and preachers and friends talk about problems in this life and then say, “But one day, all the troubles of this life will be over and we will be with Jesus” I felt somewhat disappointed—because I always wanted to hear some solution to my troubles here on earth, now.

As I have become more mature, more healed, and more whole, I find that thinking of heaven does indeed make me happy now. Precisely because of the trials I have walked through with God during that long season of depression and anxiety, I now value unseen things like love and peace and joy, which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18), more than anything that happens to me here on earth. But it was the suffering that made me desperate enough to seek God with my whole heart. And it was because the sufferings persisted that I had the opportunity to persevere. And it was because I persevered that Holy Spirit, my Strengthener (John 14:26, AMPC), had the chance to form in me the characteristic of seeking God whole-heartedly–until it became a habit. And as I have continued living life, with this habit as a daily part of life, I have begun experiencing great joy and great victory over the very trials that formerly stole my peace and joy. No, I have not arrived at perfection but I now press on toward more maturity with daily joy!

God wants you joyful! Dear friend, let me urge you to study the Word to gain deeper understanding into how God uses problems for our good. Three Bible passages provide comfort and guidance for us in this regard:

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[1] John 15:1-8 – our loving Father uses trials to cleanse our hearts and make us more fruitful,
[2] James 1:2-18 – trials and temptations are blessings from God, and
[3] Hebrews 12:1-33 – God trains or, “disciplines”, us for our good so that we can become more like Him.

Surpassing abundance. As I watched the movie “Secretariat”, I learned that the jockey never pushed Secretariat, that he never really asked the horse to give him more speed. Secretariat was just running his own race. The jockey gave Secretariat his head, which means the rider lightly holds the reins and lets the horse be in complete control. Secretariat just ran like he wanted to, for the joy of it.

And dear friend, that is another picture of what our beloved Heavenly Father is like for us as we live our daily lives, as we run our individual races here on earth. Without our even asking Him, He makes our lives far and away better than if we stayed back in the pack with most of the world. That is because God is “. . . able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond all we ask or think according to His power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). Now, that gives me hope!

A personal note from me to you—what I experienced as I wrote this

I initially wrote the first part of this blog post in 2016, when I first began blogging and when I first began dreaming of finally writing the books I had carried in my head for many years. However, three years of emotional healing and further maturing needed to happen first. I can look back now and see what God was doing, but dear friend, during much of the last three years, I felt like I had failed in many areas and that I would never be able to write. However, during that time, while I was struggling so long with depression and anxiety, the desperation drove me to seek the Lord and His Word as I never had before.

Even now as I struggle and stumble on my way to resume the habit of regular blogging and writing, God is teaching me more about the importance of leaning on Him, not myself, and of the need to dig deeply into the Word. I was straining to get this blog post finished – so I could “get something on the website”. But, as usual, once I finally got the seat of the pants in the chair and began actually typing and then studying the Word for the topic I was writing about, God kept leading me deeper and deeper into the Word.

I began revising this blog post a few days ago, intending to add a little bit beyond the point where I ended it in 2016, which was just above the heading “What does hope do for us?. When I was writing in 2016, this blog post would have been finished at that point. But every time I write now, in 2019, God keeps putting Bible truths into my thoughts. So, the writings are far, far stronger and more helpful to you – and me, too!

As an example, the post as it was in 2016 had only the one Scripture from Job 39 about the beauty of horses. But when I started revising it, Scriptures about hope came to mind. As I studied versed three through 5 of Romans 5, the passage about hope that God put in my mind, I saw I had to explain the first two verses. Then I saw the “therefore” in verse 1 and knew I had to address Romans 4. So, when I write now, in 2019, it is Bible study for me and more of God’s beautiful life-giving truth for you.

I am so, so, so grateful to our loving Father for carrying me through three years of healing and pruning. I am equally grateful He taught me that He requires patient and careful study of His Word, giving it my best and thorough effort, before I dare try to share my thoughts with you.

He is also using my effort to serve Him, through writing, to mold me and give me a happier life. For instance, I began revising this post a few days ago in the morning. That same afternoon, I muddled around the house for 30 minutes, wondering whether to take time to stretch my sore back. I was fighting a headache and feeling frustrated the whole time. I began to fret (DANGER, DANGER!) about how I will ever make writing a regular habit. Then I realized it was just plain old fear knocking at the door.

Murmuring “I will not fear, God is near, I will not fear, God is near” I sat down, unscrambled some sentences, and resumed studying Rom ans 5. Then, the headache disappeared as I saw the promised joy in Romans for you, and for myself, too, the very thing I needed at that moment! How good God is when we just try our best to do our part!

So, friend, as you ponder the path ahead of your own life, as you run your own race, as the Apostle Paul puts it, be confident that you will win. Remember that you have The Champion in your heart and He is opening up the lead over every obstacle in your life moment by moment as you trust and obey Him (Proverbs 4:18). Run your race to win, and enjoy it!

Be blessed as you bless others in your own daily world today!

Love and prayers, Freda

P.S.: Please tell me whether this detailed look into my own life is useful to you. If it is, I will add personal notes like these sometimes to the blog posts.

Hope when you fall down

 

Encouragement from 12 words. The picture in the frame is actually a greeting card I found more than 15 years ago. I framed it then hung it in the graduate students’ office I shared with three other students. The picture next adorned the wall over the desk in my own office where I worked as an educational researcher.  Now it hangs next to baby pictures of my two grandsons.  The card reads “I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.”

For me, returning to school in mid life had included hard work, many bumps and many missteps. I needed daily, sometimes hourly, encouragement to persevere! Fortunately, by that stage in life I could find “joy in the journey” so I savored the process of learning, though those years were hard.

“Be strong and courageous”  Potholes and pitfalls also abound on my current path — becoming an established author. I think often of God’s words to Joshua, who faced the challenge of leading the nation of Israel into a land occupied by enemies. God told Joshua “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them [the enemies who occupied the land], for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6, New International Version.

” … hope and a future.”  How wonderful to be reassured that God is with us! How encouraging to remember that He has good plans for our lives, as He says in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  When I remember that God has promised to always be with me, and that He has specific, wonderful plans for my life, I find the strength to get up, brush myself off, and keep enjoying this wonderful life of obeying and trusting God.

In hard times, keep dancing! Though I’ve rarely danced, I adore movies of older times when men and women in elegant attire glided around gilded ballrooms, swaying in flawless synchrony to a lilting waltz. I like to think that, when I get to heaven, I’ll dance with Jesus. And our first dance? A waltz!Image result for free clip art of waltz

Desperately Seeking – Part 1

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Consider the heavens!

Consider the heavens, so far up above, consider and see the height of His love.

In that great truth, what truth I now see: That my Father in Heaven, He loves even me!

Psalm 103, verse 11, kindled the above thoughts. By “great truth” I mean that God’s love for those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens. By the “truth I now see”, I mean that His measureless love includes me.

The heavens declare His glory and His love for us. (Psalm 19:1) Whether I look at the inverted bowl of indigo that is the night-time sky or the majestic clouds that float, like mountains, in the celestial blue of the day-time sky, the distance between me and the Creator of the universe discomposes my soul. How can God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, love me? How can the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob say to me “Behold, I am with you, and will keep (watch over you with care, take notice of) you wherever you may go. . . “ (Genesis 28:15) (AMPC)

He is looking for those who desperately look for Him. Psalm 53:2 tells us “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, who sought (inquired after and desperately required) God.” (AMPC) Note the word “desperately.” How wonderful to think that God is looking for people who desperately seek Him. That includes me!

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These last few months, I have needed awareness of God’s presence more than ever before. I have sought God, needing His strength to calm my emotions, to help me think the right thoughts, and do things I need to do as He and I reclaim the life the enemy tried to steal through months of dark depression. Learning to remain aware of my loving Father’s presence has brought emotional stability. He is always with me, I know, but for far too many months, awareness of His presence was as changeable as waves in the wild wind. So I have been seeking Him–desperately requiring Him–every day.

            “Seek” means to inquire and require God. The Amplified Classic Bible includes words and phrases (set off by parentheses, dashes, commas, and brackets) that speakers of the original language would have implicitly understood as part of the meaning of the words. In Psalm 24:6, the word “seek” is followed by “. . . [inquire of and for Him and of necessity require Him] As I explored how to seek God, I pondered these words in brackets. I saw that seeking God means to inquire of Him, to investigate, or ask for information from God. Seeking God means to ask God for God Himself. And, seeking God means to require, or actually need, Him.

This is what I have been doing in recent months. Because fear and gloomy feelings often seemed so close, I was driven to:

  • Inquire of Him–asking Him questions through exploring His Word,
  • inquire for Him–asking for Him to be with me, and to
  • actually need Him–telling Him I must have His presence as my “greatest need.” (Psalm 22:26)

Ways to find God’s presence. Do I do seek Him perfectly? By no means! Do I still get stuck in feelings sometimes? Yes! However, desperately seeking His presence has provided training in some habits of hand and heart that consistently bring the blessed peace of His presence. It still takes a while sometimes to regain my peace, but He never fails.

I strive to keep these ways of seeking God’s presence sincere and authentic, lest they become mere ritual or tradition. I also strive to keep my heart pure as to why I seek God–because I love Him, need Him, and want to seek Him for the sake of others, not to avoid tasks I know I need to do or to avoid consequences of my actions or failure to act.

Below is a list of some ways to find God’s presence that I have discovered so far. I plan to write more about each of these ways in the coming days.

You will find God’s presence in:

  1. Meeting His requirements. Have clean hands and a pure heart, do not worship idols (be sure God is first in your life), and never tell lies (Psalm 24:4, NLT) Such people, Psalm 24:6 tells us such people may seek God and worship in His presence. We have to meet God’s first requirement first, before we seek His presence.
  2. Trusting, obeying, and doing good. Psalm 37:3 in the NLT says, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.” Our work, as a Christ-follower, is to actively trust God and to do good. Regarding trust, God teaches us about trust over and over in His Word. Regarding doing good, no matter the limitations of our life, there is always some good we can do for others if we will ask God to show us. And as I have heard so often and found to be so very true, doing good for others helps me because it gets my mind off myself. When I focus on doing something good for someone else, I am living like Jesus and that pleases God.
  3. Asking for His presence. Ask Him for awareness of His presence. 2 Chronicles 15:2 says, “. . . the Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring of and for Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you . . . “
  4. Absorbing His Word. Devour God’s Word and think about His Word all day long. (Psalm 119:97) Read all of Psalm 119 to see some of the benefits of loving the Bible and keeping God’s truth in the forefront of our minds all day long. Psalm 1 promises if we “. . .delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. . . “ we will be like “trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. God says our “leaves will never wither”, and we will prosper in all that we do. Some effective ways to get God’s Word into your heart are to read the Bible, STUDY the Bible, listen to sound teaching and preaching, ponder it as you go about your daily life, memorize as much as you can, and talk with God about His Word.
  5. Talking to Him. Just talk to Him—all day long! Perhaps you have heard of the classic book “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence? Written in the 17th century, this small book shows us how to be aware of God’s presence throughout the day. A big part of that is simply by talking to God as we go about our everyday tasks of life.
  6. Thanking Him!. Give God the thanks He deserves! Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” When I remember to thank God, for even the tiniest things, it gets my mind on Him and reminds me of His love for me and of His indescribable power. My attitude always improves, no matter what the situation might be when I sincerely look for ways to tell my loving Father thank you.
  7. Praising Him! Psalm 100:4 tells us “Enter His gates with thanksgiving. Go into His courts with praise (NLT).” And Psalm 22:3 tells us that God lives in the praises of His people. Praising is saying good things about what a person does or is. Praising God is expressing our love for God and our awareness of His flawless character.
  8. Worshipping Him! Praising and worshipping God are both essential. Praising is to love God with our words. Worship, however, is to love God with our life, to love Him so much that we are devoted to Him. You have likely heard “He worships the ground she walks on,” or vice versa. That is how we are to feel about God—passionately, crazily, head-over-heels in love with Him.
  9. Music, ah, music! God touches the human soul through music. Ephesians 5:19 tells us to “Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voice [and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord.” Listening to and singing along with music affects our emotions. I recommend listening to music often during the day and singing along, with all your heart! I have found that singing and humming to the Lord makes me happy. Though I am by no means a gifted singer, I know God delights to hear my voice, as a parent delights in the sound of a child’s voice.
  10. Enjoying nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV) Few words are necessary about this topic. We all respond to the beauty of earth, sky, sea, and God’s creatures. Connect often with nature, in whatever form it is available to you, even if it is just sitting on your apartment steps and gazing at the stars in a sliver of sky or pausing to observe a black-capped sparrow chirping in the bushes outside your office building. Ask and God will reveal  tokens of His beauty and His love revealed in creation no matter where you are. Image result for Free Picture of Sparrow in Bush
  11. Taking care of your health the best you can. I have learned, the hard and painful way, that when I neglect to care for my body, including getting adequate rest, I have a hard time being aware of God’s presence. That is also when it is difficult to lift up my shield of faith against the flaming arrows of the enemy. When I neglect my body, which is God’s earthly dwelling place, I dishonor and disobey God. And surely it must make Him sad. Have you seen small children frantically resisting the nap they desperately need? God, the perfect parent, longs to take you in His loving arms and give you rest—for your body, mind, soul and spirit. And He wants you to follow a healthy lifestyle.
  12. Pressing on in your personal spiritual growth. This last is related to the first item in this list: keep God first in your life. I have found that in doing things God has shown are important, I feel His presence. If I neglect those things, a downward spiral starts and it becomes harder to find His peace until I go back where I disobeyed, repent, and start over. Hebrews 12 tells us that God trains us for our good, that we may “share in His holiness.” (Romans 12:10b, NIV)

God will help us! In 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT), God tells us “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him . . .” To me, that means that no matter where you are on this earth, if your heart is fully committed to Him, God is searching for you, to strengthen you. What a comfort! Image result for free clipart of child in father's arms

As we explore these ways to draw near to God, we can know He will strengthen us and help us. What a loving heavenly Father we have! I say with the psalmist in Psalm 34:1 (NIV) “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips!”

 

 

Four truths about those pesky feelings

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A beautiful morning but . . .  This 42 degree, overclouded morning, I stood with my daughter and son-in-law as my kindergartener grandson, costumed as Ralph S. Mouse and my first-grader (Tock the dog), along with 200 other schoolchildren marched around the freshly-mulched schoolgrounds for the Book Character Parade. Parents sipped coffee from go mugs and shared stories of last-minute costume disasters. I silently thanked God for the blessing of being close to my family. Happiness warmed me from the inside out. But it began to fade as I parted from my family. Those old self-doubts and fear began to spin. Uh oh! By God’s grace, I stopped them as I recalled four truths about feelings.

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[1] Negative feelings are part of normal life. Having negative feelings does not mean you are not healed. Every human being has problems. I so appreciate Joyce Meyer and other great Bible teachers who share that they, too, battle thoughts and feelings – daily! When negative thoughts and feelings surface as we move away from entrenched mental and emotional habits, we may think: “Oh, no! I am still depressed (or anxious, or whatever else) But the truth is every human has normal ups and downs, positive and negative feelings and everything in between. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that every temptation and problem we face is something other humans do, too. This morning, I remembered to remind myself: Thoughts and feelings like this are normal. Everyone feels a bit sad when parting from loved ones. This little sad feeling does not mean anything is wrong. Calm down. Feelings cannot hurt me.

[2] Living by feelings brings darkness and death but living by faith brings light and life to my soul and spirit.  Psalm 34:5 explains that “Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy. . . ” (NLT) I can focus on one thing at a time. If I think about God and His goodness, I experience His joy. If I think about myself, my mind is not on God and easily sinks down into fleshly habits. While in the pit, I made two mistakes in handling feelings:  constantly checking feelings, and letting feelings determine what I did. I am tearing down those strongholds!

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[3] Monitoring feelings keeps you stuck in them. When I left my family this morning and faced the rest of the day alone,I felt sad.Out of habit, my mind at once focused on the sadness. I wondered “How am I feeling? Down? Fearful?” Like being tied to an anchor by a chain I had grown numb to, my thoughts circled, going nowhere, looking downward into my inner self.

But by God’s grace, He is exposing this habit day by day for me. He is helping me do what I cannot do myself. As I do my part, He is doing His part. As I have been faithfully looking into the mirror of God’s Word, He is showing me what needs to change. (James 4:22-25.)  and He is giving me His strength to do what He tells me to do.

[4] Feelings should not determine your actions. Philippians 2:12c-13 tells us: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. (13) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (NLT) Now, when I see I have focused on feelings, I choose not to let them control my life.

I deliberately start repeating a Scripture, out loud if possible, I remind myself of His promises to care for me and I look for something to do for Him, no matter if I still feel afraid or sad or whatever. I smile at the person standing next to me and say something positive, I do the next task in my hands at work as unto Him or, if alone, I smile up at God, pray for someone and choose to honor God by trusting Him to take care of my heart (and its sometimes pesky feelings) as–in proportion to—my depending upon Him! Psalm 33:22 “Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.”

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It still takes effort but keeping my mind fixed on Him gets easier every day. I pray it does for you, too, dear friend, no matter what may try to steal your joy! May we both be radiant with joy as we look to Him for help!

Run at fear – with praise and thanksgiving!

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Facing fear exposes it. All day yesterday, I struggled with anxiety, painfully unlearning the wrong way and relearning the right way to respond to fear. When I got to work, I knew I felt anxious but I kept vaguely thinking about it all day long. I remembered several times to quote a Scripture but fearful thoughts popped up repeatedly, thoughts like “You are never going to be really free of fear, your health is getting worse, your finances . . ..”

As evening approached, I was weary and still thinking about (and thus feeling) the fear. Yuk! All day long, that stinking fear had dived back into the depths of my thoughts, like some oversize fish running around the bottom of an aquarium stirring up all the dirty stuff hidden by gravel. Because I had not clearly identified fear and exposed it, it had grown.

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What you focus on grows. Thinking about something grows it, as surely as water grows plants (or weeds!). For most of yesterday, I repeated a mistake made for many months. I actually meditated, or pondered, the fearful, negative thoughts, and they had grown. Yuk again!

Identify the negative then run at it!  One technique I learned during group counseling was to be mindful of, or to face, negative feelings, rather than automatically running from them and then doing something to numb the emotion. It is like David running at the giant Goliath. (I Samuel 17:1-54).

For me, as a believer, facing fear means stopping to talk to God about it. So, this morning when I got up and began to feel shaky again, I prayed:

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“Dear Father, I confess I am feeling afraid again. Please forgive me if I have done something to cause this fear and show me how to change it. Yet, I know You died so that I might have a blessed, joyful, wonderful life (John 10:10), so I thank You for that, Lord! I praise You that You have made the way to conquer all my problems. Lord Jesus, You said I will have problems in this world but I am to rejoice and be happy because You have overcome the world! (John 16:33) Thank You, Lord, for teaching me how to have right thoughts. Thank You for helping me meditate on Your word. Thank You that I can go to the gym this morning, be friendly, pray silently for everyone I see and know my prayers make a difference. Thank You for enabling me to exercise and keep my earthly tabernacle healthy, thank You, Lord . . . “

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Two powerful spiritual weapons: (1) Praise, and (2) giving thanks. God inhabits the praise of His people. Psalm 22:3 tells us that God is “. . . enthroned on the praises of Israel.”(NLT) God is with us when we praise Him. What a privilege! I believe one reason God tells us to praise is that when we talk about how powerful and loving and faithful God is, it reminds our human minds of truths that our all too human flesh tempts us to forget.

And in First Thessalonians 5:16 God tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT).  When we choose to trust that God has good plans for us even when our circumstances seem hard, it makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms.

Long-standing problems can be overcome.  In learning from my mistakes, God is mercifully training, or disciplining, me (Please, please study Hebrews 12:6-13!) He is training me because He loves me and wants to “ . .  strengthen and harden me to difficulties” (Isaiah 41:10).

Truly, as the song says, He is a good, good Father!

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