Category Archives: ENCOURAGEMENT

The unseen wind of the Spirit

Image result for royalty free picture of morning in the city“As you do not know the path of the wind”  I stepped from the bus onto the sidewalk and into that strange light of predawn, just before orange enflames the edge of gray sky. I hitched the straps to my purse and lunch bag higher on my left shoulder and glanced at the index card in my right hand.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8, NIV)

The cold wind blew open the flap of my coat, partly exposing a bright pink dress, one of three from my Mom. The pink clashed with the burgundy walking shoes, also a gift from Mom, but I was grateful the dress was not frayed and that the shoes were not tennis shoes, which they would have been but for her generosity.

As I walked, the biting wind whipped across the empty lots here at the edge of downtown, chilling my fingers holding the index card. I found myself wishing for gloves. As a single mom, money was spent with care, as was time. Each hour from pickup to bedtime I focused on my daughter. Bible study and prayer came after she was asleep or before she woke. Travel to and from the office was for memory work.

As I burrowed into my coat, I focused on verse 8. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“Yes!” I thought, “you cannot see the wind, but you know it is there by the effect it has, like moving tree branches. And the same with God’s Spirit. We know He is there by the effect He has!”

I pondered that nugget all that long day at the office. More often than I can count through the ensuing 30 plus years God has brought that truth to mind, just when I needed it. I am grateful for every bit of Bible truth I have hidden in my heart, but I do wish I had been more consistent with memory work. Why is memorizing the Bible so difficult?

Image result for royalty free clip art of hard workWhy does Bible memory seem so hard? Three obvious reasons come to mind.

[1] The enemy of our souls understands and fears the Word of God, so he attacks with all his might to keep us from getting the Word safely inside our heart, where he cannot steal it and where we have it ready to use at a moment’s notice. God’s Word is a blessed shield and sword in battles where the enemy shoots arrows of thoughts that can lead to negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression.

[2] An “I can’t” mind set. It may take countless repetition (especially if you are older, like me!) but we can do it. You did memory work at one time in your life or else you would not be reading these words. Our minds are not as quick as when we were children, but God will help us as we try.

[3] Making new habits takes persistent effort. Again, God will help if we try.

How to memorize. Hiding the Word in our heart is God’s will so we can ask for help, with confidence. “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.” (I John 4:15-16, NLT)

[1] Be strategic. Use a concordance to pick a verse or passage in your area of greatest personal need.

[2] Focus on one phrase at a time. Repeat that over and over until you know it. Do the same with another phrase. Then link the two phrases, repeating them until you know them both. Continue.

Image result for Royalty Free Clipart Of Index Cards[3] Keep the Word you are memorizing before your eyes. Carry your index cards with you and look at them during the day. Post another copy of your verse on your bathroom mirror, over the coffee maker, or the sun visor of your car. This is one modern-day version of Deuteronomy 6:7-9, of talking about the Word all day long and of keeping it visible before your eyes, as a reminder. If you have children, follow God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:7-9 and talk about the Word with them throughout the day.

[4] Be systematic and keep a record. Begin with your area of greatest need and ask God to lead you from there. Maintain a list of the verses you have memorized and review them regularly.

Benefits of memory work. Again, there are multiple benefits of hiding God’s word in your heart.

[1] You can resist the enemy at the outset of temptation or weakness, immediately and in instances where you cannot access a Bible, like Jesus did in Luke 4.

[2] God will bring verses to your mind when you need them, for yourself or for others. (Matthew 10:19)

[3] You will experience greater understanding in your Bible study, because you will have a bigger foundation of Bible facts in your mind. (Isaiah 28:10)

[4] You are obeying God and He will bless you. (Jeremiah 7:23)

My recent experience with memorizing. God has been so very gracious this past year to help me overcome life-long depression and fear. Diligent studying of the Word in my areas of need has made the biggest difference. I had to dig into the Bible for myself, me and Holy Spirit alone, rather than rely on what someone else had dug out of the Word. Memorizing scriptures has been a key factor as well. During my routine at the gym, while watching my grandkids play in a park, while standing in line at the grocery store, throughout the day I repeatedly repeated phrases from notes I carried with me everywhere.

Image result for royalty free picture of grass blowing in the windHis Word bears fruit in the garden of the heart over and over.   I got the idea for this blog post late one afternoon, while returning home after playing with my grandsons all afternoon. Leaving the warmth of family and facing the empty-feeling condo can be hard. But, I noticed the wind gently bending the lush grass bordering the sidewalk. Suddenly, I remembered that morning, more than 30 years ago and how often that piece of the living Word in John 3 had helped. And I found myself repeating the chain of scriptures I had memorized about God’s love and tender care. With my mind turned back to God–and out of the self-pity snare — the Lord, my Barny cat and I had a wonderful evening together.

I urge you: Persist! Perhaps you are like me, with years of sporadic memory work. Friend, you and I must in this, like Paul, forget what lies behind and press on in our journey with God. Ask God for His forgiveness, avoid that deadly snare of regret, and move forward, knowing that God delights in your efforts to draw closer to Him! He will help you. It may be in ways you do not understand and could never imagine. . .

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in the womb, so you do not understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5-6

 

No way? No way!

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Nature does the impossible. The sound of the chain saw ripped the air as savagely as it ripped into the root of the grandfather oak. I thanked God for my friend who was leaning over, holding the chain saw over the exposed root of the tree. That root had travelled ten feet from the base of the tree, under the patio slab and on under the building, finally entwining itself around the water pipe, which had caused my kitchen wall in the kitchen to leak water.

“No doubt” I mused, “The folks who drew up blueprints for this townhome complex thought that they had positioned the buildings far enough away from the oak trees.

But they had not reckoned with the power of nature.

It only takes a little reaching out.  While in a group therapy session for depression, I heard a powerful metaphor about making even tiny efforts.  The illustration was that plant roots have tiny hairs reaching toward sources of water. Growth requires only an almost microscopic root hair reaching out. What a deep spiritual parallel for me!

Image result for Royalty Free Clipart of A Mustard SeedFaith like a mustard seed.  Psalm 103 says God remembers that we are frail humans and that He always keeps that mind. He knows we are weak and that believing things we cannot see is hard. That is why He does not require perfection – just a whole-hearted commitment. (Deuteronomy 6:5; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Micah 6:8). Surely that is one reason why Jesus comforts us in Matthew 17:10 with the promise that, with a tiny bit of faith, no bigger than a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for us. Sometimes my faith feels about one sixteenth of an inch, but God keeps it alive and reaching out.

No way is there no way with God! The Bible is filled with stories of how God did the impossible for His children. Consider the Red Sea, the fiery furnace, Jericho, and Goliath. God made dry land appear in the middle of the sea, prevented three Hebrews from being burned while in the middle of a raging fire, made the walls of a fortified city fall down, and enabled a young shepherd boy to kill a giant with one small stone in a slingshot.

However—and here is the hard part—the Israelites had to step into the sea before it parted. The three Hebrews had to stand up for God and face the consequences. The Israelites had to march around Jericho a total of 13 times, and David had to step toward what appeared certain death. Likewise, you and I must take steps of faith, though we may feel afraid and though it may look impossible.

God will help us. Beloved, no matter how weak our faith, or how seemingly impossible our situation, God will help. He cares for every detail in the life of His children (Psalm 34:23). That means the same omnipotent God who created and sustains the universe, the same loving One who did all those miracles in the Bible,  is working in our lives. Our victory in Him requires only a tiny bit of faith, and stepping out (James 2:14-26).

And how do we get more faith and strength for that step?  Romans 10:17 in the NKJ says: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Friend, let us study our Bible and so increase our faith that we may reach out to take hold of God’s promises with whatever measure of faith we have.

God is our “Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the darkness” as the song by Sinach says. Click on the link below to see the comforting, faith-building words of this worship song and let your faith arise!

https://sifalyrics.com/sinach-way-maker-lyrics

 

 

 

God will always give us a hug

God knows when we need extra hugs.  “Meeow!” I ignored the sad sound and kept typing.

“Meeow!”

“You’re okay Barny. I’m working. In a minute. . . “

On the third meow, I put my laptop on the table, picked up the cat brush, and sat on the floor, pulling my beloved Tonkinese close, resting my forehead on his. His quiet purr revved up to a louder pitch as I rubbed his ears and crooned to him. When I pulled back and began brushing his coat, he pressed his head into my leg, a posture I had learned meant he wanted more face time, forehead to forehead. I put the brush down, leaned over and crooned “Good boy, Barny. Love you baby. You are my sweet friend.” Then he went back to sit quietly on his corner of my desk. My faithful and loving companion had craved just a few moments of my time and my affection, nothing else.

God’s love is available to us.  Because it has been a topic of recent study and writing, Image result for royalty free picture of child hand reaching to parent handsmany scriptures come to mind about seeking God’s presence. Two stand out: “God is with you while you are with Him.” (2 Chronicles 15:2) and “He earnestly imprints on His heart that we are just dust.” (Psalm 103:14, AMP.)  

God really is with us while we are with Him. 2 Chronicles 15:2 in the Amplified is “God is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you.” God is clearly saying that if we seek Him whole-heartedly, we will find Him. Unfortunately, I sometimes ignore my beloved Barny’s  whole-hearted plea for the comfort of my love and affection. How blessed we frail human beings are that our God is perfect and knows our thoughts (Psalm 139)! As our perfect Father, He knows when we need that extra reassurance, and the comfort of being especially aware of His presence.

God has imprinted our human frailties on His heart (Psalm 103:14). Psalm 103 is one of my go-to passages when I have stepped into the snares of fear and worry. Verse 13Image result for royalty free picture of parent carrying child reassures me that just like a father has compassion on his children, or loves and pities them, God “. . . loves and pities those who fear Him – with reverence, worship and awe.” Why is that? Verse 14 says because “He [earnestly] remembers and [imprints on His heart] that we are dust.” Human parents will instinctively pick up a tired child, soothe a crying  child, and feed a hungry child. When a nursing mother hears her infant’s cry, her milk is released or “lets down” – by instinct, automatically, with no effort on her part because that response is imprinted on her heart. 

Friend, our needs provoke a far more powerful response from our loving Father. All we have to do is ask and we will receive His mercy and loving-kindess, which endure forever. (Psalm 136:23) 

God hears our every cry. If I can be mindful of the tender nature and needs of my little pet, how much more is my almighty, merciful and kind heavenly Father aware of when I need some extra love from Him? No matter how low some moments of daily life may seem, I can remind myself that God has promised to deliver me out of all my troubles. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles” (Psalm 34:19, AMP.)

Joy in the secret place

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Christmas carols. What is your favorite Christmas carol? Is it “Silent Night”? How about “Away in a Manger”? One of my favorites is “Joy to the World” because the words, the message, and the melody are all uplifting. Just humming the melody revives my spirit.

Carols for Consecration. I recently finished a booklet entitled “Carols for Consecration: Beloved Truths for Singing to the Melodies of Beloved Carols”. It contains new verses, expressing biblical truths, that can easily be be sung to the melodies of well-known Christmas carols. The booklet is available on this website on the Resources page.

One of my favorites in the booklet is “I Dwell in God’s Own Secret Place”. The recast verses proclaim some of the blessed truths in Psalm 91–and they fit the cheering melody of “Joy to the World.” (See below.)

Personally, the last few months have led me to seek God’s presence more than ever before. You may have passed through a similar process. It is indeed a joyful thing when we (finally) learn to abide in the secret place, with our minds fixed on Him! During this busy season, I pray you and I both will remember to “lean, rely, and trust” our loving Father.

“I Dwell in God’s Own Secret Place” for singing to “Joy to the World”

[1] I dwell in God’s own secret place.
He overshadows me.
His mighty power no foe can withstand. Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of a Fortress
In Him I am at rest,
In Him I am at rest,
In Him, in Him I am at rest!

[2] I say of God, He is my Lord,
my Rock, my refuge.
On Him I lean, most confidently!
I lean, rely and trust,
I lean, rely land trust,
I lean, I lean, rely and trust!

[3] He rescues me, from every trap
because I dwell and trust.
He keeps me from all harm and deadly disease.
I live abundantly,
I live abundantly,
I live, I live, abundantly!Image result for royalty free picture of flying eagle

[4] He covers me with His great wings.
I trust and dwell in peace.
His promises my armor, His wings my steadfast shelter.
In Him I say “Rejoice!”,
In Him I say “Rejoice!”,
In Him, in Him, I say “Rejoice!”

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, on Him I lean and rely and in Him I (confidently) trust! (Psalm 91:2 AMPC)

Love and prayers,
Freda

One key fact about fear

 Fight off the fretting, the worry, the woe!
Don’t give fear a foothold – not even a toe!

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Resist the devil at the outset. When I first awoke this morning, there was the fear–again!–but disguised this time as vague anxiety. Could I do what I needed to today and stay in the peace of God’s presence?

“Okay, Father. I am going to get up, have our devotions and then write while I wait on the car.” Ten minutes later, Barny’s fur warmed my thigh as he lay next to me in the big rocker while we had chamomile tea and honey. I scanned the yellow high-lighted portions in Psalms, testimony to countless times when I had searched the Word for promises about peace. As I dressed, I repeated my basic Scriptures over in my head. (More about this later.)

Soon, I was out the door and into the fresh, cool smell of the gray, 59 degree morning, driving to the family-owned car repair shop I trusted. I sat in the waiting room on the big black easy chair with its cracked leather back and ripped arm rest, and pulled out my clipboard, enjoying the steady hum of the heater. I began pondering what I had learned about mastering fear.

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How Jesus resisted the devil. In Mathew 4:1-11, Jesus demonstrates how to resist temptations. Three times the enemy talked to Jesus and each time Jesus answered with the Word. Jesus did not engage in discussion or arguing; He simply quoted the Word of God, and the devil finally left him. Jesus did not focus on what the enemy said. Rather, Jesus focused on the truth of God, and spoke those truths.

It took many painful lessons before I learned, for myself, that what you focus on grows. Rather than trying to fight the fear, I gradually learned to speak God’s Word when I felt fear and then keep my mind focused on His truth by pondering it over and over all day, as I endeavored to imprint it on my heart, to memorize it so that it would be ready on my lips the next time I felt shaky.

A father’s caring heart. As I sat in the repair shop, pondering how the Bible said to handle fear, I marveled that there was only a faint whiff of gasoline and rubber, unlike many car repair shops I had sat in over the years. It was clean and tidy, a well cared-for business. I felt a quiet camaraderie with the shop owner and his daughter as they sat just beyond the open door of the waiting room, he at his big desk behind a huge counter and she at a lower table next to his.

Fatherly Love

“Janie, do you want the rest of your milk?” said a low, resonant voice. “No, Daddy” came a soft murmur. “Well, we will put it in the fridge so you can finish it later.” This earthly father was taking care of his child’s needs.

A few minutes later: “Sweetie, you have to put this big puzzle piece in before the little ones.” This earthly father was keeping careful watch over what his child was doing.

A bit later: “We have to remember to take this sweater home with us tonight.” This earthly father was looking ahead to the tiny details of his child’s every need.

Meditate on our heavenly Father’s love. As I reflected on this father’s obvious love for his child, I realized that God’s fatherly love was the theme of four Scriptures I had learned to roll over and over in my mind whenever I felt afraid or worried. Four passages remind me that: God is good and He is near, so I can wait, and not fear.

[1] God is good. “The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So, it is good to wait quietly for the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25,26) (NLT)
[2] He is near. “And behold, I am with you and will keep [watch over you with care, take notice of] you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.” (Genesis 28:15, AMPC)
[3] I can wait. . . “Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14 AMPC)
[4] . . . and not fear. “Fear not, [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC.

I can memorize – by grace and hard work! I wrote those verses on folded pieces of paper  and looked at those pages repeatedly– while I cooked, while I exercised, when I sat down to rest a minute on the couch, at stoplights,  and in grocery store lines. Like the velveteen rabbit, those pages are well loved.

After countless repetitions, I had the verses memorized and meditating on them worked every time I did my part and kept them foremost in my mind. But sometimes, I could only remember one of the verses or part of one. Like an actor who knows his lines but needs a little prompting, I needed a prompt for times when I could not whip out my trusty notes.
I learned that if I memorized the headings themselves (God is good, He is near, I can wait, and not fear) I could then repeat all four verses one after another, while I was driving, or going to sleep, or waiting in a doctor’s office. And those four phrases actually spell out another truth: That God is always good, that He is always near us, and that if we keep that in our minds, we can wait and not fear.

By God’s grace, I am learning to use His Word as soon as fear starts and to keep my mind focused on His truth by pondering Scripture over and over. It does take steady, consistent work but being desperate for His peace provides the motivation. Are you desperate for the peace of His presence? I pray God will help you “. . . take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17b, NIV).

Love and blessings,

Freda

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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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.