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Are you losing your song in the night?

He Who Began A Good Work in You

From Philippians 1:6 this phrase of hope and encouragement lifts up my soul and puts a smile back on my face. I thought you would enjoy this song and these words of encouragement. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter, God-breathed, to a suffering church. If you can imagine for a moment the Roman Empire during the time of Nero who hated Christians with a brutal hatred, and see Paul sitting in a prison cell writing these words.

He is more concerned about what was going on in the Philippians walk of faith than what he was suffering at the moment. He gives several clear, pointed instructions to keep the fellowship of believers on the right track. Be humble. Rejoice in the Lord always. Give thanks in all things.

When we are down in the muck of messy life, almost sucked under by the load of pain, or the huge pile of extra responsibilities on our shoulders, God is still busy doing a good work in the lives of each of His children. He is going to be faithful all the way from now to glory. I am banking on that faithfulness. Many have gone before me who have testified that God has carried them through the darkest trials. I know my desperate weakness. It will be His strength and faithfulness I need to cross the finish line in faith.

Hope the song link works on your end. I am working on learning new techie skills. So, let me know if it worked for you! Blessings on your week!

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Attitude Adjustment: Week 15

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Ever feel like you are down in a deep mud pit and cannot seem to climb out? 

When I spoke to my friend, faithful spouse of a chronically ill husband until his death, about guest posting for me, she said, “Oh, but I didn’t always have the right attitude!” I assured her that every single wife of a chronically ill husband I have ever talked to has had the same struggle. Husbands and wives, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, all experience this battle. Married, celibate, rich, or poor — loving one another well goes against the grain.

When you walk in the door, tired from work, and your husband greets you once again with the true tale of his sufferings for the day…

How many of your husbands are mostly positive and upbeat about their illness? How many are very intentional about doing the best they can to function to the best of their ability however limited it may be?  Or do you find stretches of days or weeks where the shadows outnumber the light?

Well, I can tell you, as the months turn into years and the body continues to break down, the emotional, mental, and physical battle with daily chronic pain is wearing both for the sufferer and the caregiver. Rejoicing in the Lord always is like running the middle stretch of a marathon.  If you haven’t faced this type of battle before, don’t judge!  Even if you have, don’t judge! Your situation is/was different in some key way.  Christ does not crush the bruised reeds.

When you have to remember and keep up with all the important dates, bills, and responsibilities…

My lovely neighbor told me about how her husband of thirty years had a massive heart attack and was told by his doctor if he did work of any kind it would kill him. Suddenly she had all the responsibilities of  her husband as well as her own normal duties. Months, maybe years went by before he did pass away.

“Some days I just longed to have someone take care of me again. It was so hard.” Now she is married to a kind man who cares for her in so many ways. It is beautiful to see.

When your husband puts on his game face for friends, but you see the crash and burn coming…

Like today! My husband made it to church, was chipper, and stayed late to enjoy the fellowship. He looked and acted pretty normal. But, he slept most of the way to church and most of the way home while I drove. He crawled into bed as soon as he got home. I paused a few moments ago to massage his badly cramping leg and find a med for him. “I guess I stood around for too long talking.”

Or the weekend recently when he attempted a car repair with a big burly friend. Having a friend help made the talk and laughter flow. Hours went by. I’m sure the friend thought my husband was just fine. But he did not see my husband load up on pain meds before, or the days he spent in bed afterwards.

Reminding yourself that God will not leave you or your spouse alone in your suffering will adjust your attitude.

I told a friend recently that I wished there was a daily saint pill I could swallow. Ha! Not so…

Somedays my heartfelt prayer is just this: God, you know all about this. I can’t fix it. It is more than I can handle on my own. Then I turn to the lives of the saints in the Bible.   Almost every single one failed to respond in faith and gratitude at some point in their life. But God was faithful. God is faithful. God always will be faithful. So, I am reaching out a weary hand to my sisters who are down in the mud pit with me. Climb out! Reach for the light, joy, and strength found in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

 

The Maze of Suffering: week 11

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When life seems like a maze and you wonder what is going on, you are not alone.

I am going to give you another book recommendation. Thanks to the kindness of a friend, I have been reading The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament. Author Nancy Guthrie must be no stranger to suffering as she and her husband cohost a GriefShare video series. I don’t know her story, but I am going to post part of her devotional for your encouragement and mine. Her March 6th entry is titled, “Fruitfulness in Suffering”.

” At the very beginning of his covenant relationship with his chosen people, God told them about the tremendous suffering that was ahead for them: ‘You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.’ (Genesis 15:13)

God’s people would suffer, but it would not be wasted, meaningless suffering. It would be fruitful suffering. They would emerge from Egypt with great wealth and great in number. How would they become ‘strangers in a foreign land’? Through the suffering of Israel’s beloved son, Joseph. 

Joseph suffered the abuse of his brothers’ jealousy as they sold him off to a caravan of slave traders heading for Egypt. There Joseph worked as a slave until he suffered as a result of the false accusations from Potiphar’s wife that put him in prison. He suffered being forgotten in prison for many years before he emerged to become second in command to Pharoah.

But, when he was released, his suffering did not leave him embittered. In fact, he celebrated what God had done in his life through his suffering in the naming of his sons: ‘Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family. Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.'(Genesis 41:51-52)

Joseph was able to look at his suffering and see that it was not wasted; it was fruitful. God was accomplishing something good through all the hardship and hurt he experienced.

Likewise, Jesus, the greater Joseph, was willing to suffer, confident that his suffering would bear much fruit. The writer of Hebrews captured the fruitful suffering of Jesus: ‘Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.’ (Hebrews 5:8-9)”

I had already mentioned my hero Joseph in another post. His statement in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good,  in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” This is the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament! All those years of pain and hardship did not make him arrogant or bitter.

Remember, dear sister in Christ, you are not alone. Praying God grants you faith and encouragement today in the middle of the maze.

 

Week 7: “He shall give His angels charge over you…

…to keep you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11

Three different road trips this weekend and three terrible accidents in full view brought this comforting Scripture to mind. You heard a bit about my broken down car a few weeks ago. The rest of the story is that my husband and I had just traveled the “NASCAR” beltway to the big city. Our axle broke as we gently and slowly rounded the corner on a quieter city street near an alley. Obviously it was not our appointed day of death! Despite the fact that our only car became a total loss to us — the weight of the broken axle ended up damaging the transmission — we were blown away by the miraculous protection.

Even more touching was the outpouring of love by a few of God’s people. We are up and running with another old vehicle kindly donated to us. Ladies, I know all about the financial strain that frequently accompanies any sort of health issues. Chronic illness has many ways of draining your bank account. More posts of encouragement on the topic of finances will follow.

Before I knew what or how God was going to provide for our desperate need for a vehicle, I had written a note stating Jehovah-Jireh which means: the LORD will provide. I found great comfort in that promise based on one of the very names of God.

What is your dire need in this moment? I realize I am a little behind in posting this tonight, just as running a few minutes behind spared me not once, but twice this weekend from potentially being involved in a bad car accident. I feel very comforted by knowing God can take these words and mostly HIS Word to be just the protection and comfort you need. When Satan hisses in your ear that God has forgotten you, shield your heart and mind behind His faithful promises.

“He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” Psalm 91:4

 

Week 5: Better Than I Deserve

As I sit and write this, my car is in a city dead-end nook waiting for a moonlighting mechanic to replace vital parts so that we can have wheels again.

I had already scribbled down my thoughts of encouragement, good thoughts from God’s Word that encouraged me this week, as it was not a week on my favorite list. I can point you to Genesis and the life of Joseph, first of all.

“But as for you, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good…”(Genesis 50:20)

This statement of Joseph to his brothers who had literally sold him into slavery has continued to bless my life when times are tough. God’s covenant grace and promises are a golden thread weaving through the Old Testament to the New. He is the SAME yesterday, today, and forever! For an amazing read, check out Genesis 37-50.

We all struggle with anxiety, doubts, and ingratitude when trouble strikes.

We are never really told of Joseph’s inner battles while sitting in Pharoah’s prison for more than two years. No family or friends  were nearby to comfort him, but the Bible gives us this insight: “But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…(vs. 21) …the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it to prosper.” (vs. 23)

Whatever comes my way, it is better than I deserve!

Really! That is hard to write and even harder to get a grip on at times. We live in a me, myself, and I era. Entitlement runs rampant — like the homeless man on my front porch who recently refused a bowl of my homemade chili or even a sandwich. He wanted ROYAL FARMS chicken or nothing at all. But what do I mean? The Bible clearly tells us our hopeless, wretched heart condition in the sight of a perfect God and Creator. If you do not know what I mean, Romans is a good place to go after reading about the fall of man in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1-3.

“There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.” Romans 3:10 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

That is the bald, naked truth about each of us. Not good! But the God of covenant mercy and grace did not forsake us in our desperate need.

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Romans 5:6-9

I am now encouraging myself so that it is hard to stop! I want to reread all of Genesis and Romans. Our car is still sitting there broken. We were still ripped off by our local mechanic who replaced this axle in January of this year. But, we could have been in a terrible accident. We are sitting warm and well-fed in my brother’s house. Of course, I would love your prayers that this repair would go smoothly this afternoon!  I hope you are encouraged today in whatever hardship you are facing. You and I, if you are a believer in Jesus, are recipients of eternal mercy so undeserved. If not, read and pray over the Bible words that I have shared. You do not want to face this life and the next one alone.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

 

Week 4: My Tears in Your Bottle

“You number my wandering; put my tears in Your bottle; are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know because God is for me. ” Psalm 56:8-9

For you ladies who are in my shoes, I think you will understand when I say that I have lived at this Psalm address for the past year especially. The past twelve months have rocked our personal world. We were used to living in that uncanny rhythm you develop with chronic illness. Survive through the rough days and make the best of the good days is how we roll. I plan my house projects around times of year when my hubby perks up a little.

The pain of this past year has made it hard to breathe at times. Not one but three devastating diagnosis for my husband have been delivered at intervals with barely any time to adjust to the ramifications of the prior news. On top of crushing, inescapable reality, financial hardships and family stresses piled up like a mountain.

“This I know, because God is for me.” This pile of trouble upon trouble has proven to me over and over again that I am God’s beloved daughter cared for so personally by Him. “He shall send from heaven and save me…Psalm 57:3” When I have felt lonely, overwhelmed, forgotten, His love and provisions have come just when I needed them. Yes, even before I knew I what I would be needing, His help appeared!

Let me tell you about my fifteen minute mad dash through Wal-mart this past summer. I had just a few things I really needed and just a few minutes to get my errand done. Five minutes in, I recognized a lovely mother of three littles that I had not seen for a few months. We exchanged hurried greetings, but she expressed a great desire for company for the two hour round trip to the homeschool conference we were both attending in the coming week. My attendance was required so that I could tutor to offset my daughter’s tutorial fees for her classes. Voila! We exchanged phone numbers, and she planned to pick me up on Monday.

A few aisles later I ran into another friend. He told me that he and his wife would pray for us — my husband had a blood clot in his leg at the time. Also, he expressed a sincere wish to help in any way they could.

The very next day five minutes into our trip to church, we knew our only car was in need of the ER! I was being shuttled to the needed conference on Monday as my husband got the news that our car needed open heart surgery, basically. For eighteen days I barely had to worry about transportation because friend number one and friend number two had already offered their help. Despite having an exterior water leak that required my sister and I to dig down three feet so the pipe could be repaired, despite my husband’s incapacitation at the time, I knew I was loved and cared for. Alone? Forgotten? Not for a moment! An accidental meeting? No way!

Maybe that is why you found my blog. Our Heavenly Father knows we need companionship and comfort in our trials. My hope is to share His comfort with you. How is God comforting and caring for you? I would love to hear your story.

 

Week 2: Don’t Let My Mind Fall In the Sewer (a.k.a., …”lead us not into temptation”)

 

“Your mind is a sewer, and only Jesus can keep the lid on it.”

A crowd of restless, hormonal teens were listening so intently that you could almost hear the war raging inside of them. This was NOT the message that pop culture constantly flooded them with. As the older, wiser, twenty-something counselor,  even I held my breath and bowed my heart under the truth of my inner sinfulness. What I did not know was how many times this little phrase would convict me, and help me stay the course with the light of Scripture to guide me.

But when you got married, you didn’t sign up for celibacy, right?

I’m right there with you. Most likely, your spouse didn’t sign up for chronic illness either.  Cancer, illness, and injury all stem from the effects of death entering the world after the fall of man in the garden. And, no, I am not advocating a celibate marriage. All too often chronic illness robs marriage of many things, sex life included.

Christ was in ALL points tempted, yet He did not sin.

Think about it with reverence and awe. Quite clearly, Christ was single, and was tempted to sin in this area. Thirty-three years of vibrant manhood, and he did not cave in to temptation in body or mind. If you are His child you are a joint-heir with Jesus, and His divine power is able to keep you from falling.

Three powerful ways to keep from falling:

  1. Flee temptation! Like Joseph in Egypt, leave your very garment behind, because Satan still is in the business of ruining lives. Think of those whom you would devastate by your unfaithfulness. Keep the sewer lid closed by avoiding books, movies, and music that would fan the flames of unfulfilled desire. Get out of Dodge!
  2. Cry out to God in prayer! “God, help me in Jesus name.”  Think of Christ sweating blood in Gethsemane in agonizing prayer. Ask for cleansing. (I John 1:9) When a lurid thought crosses your mind, send it back to hell where it belongs. You are a beloved daughter of the King. You don’t need Satan’s junk food.
  3. “Love the Lord YOUR God with all your mind.” Find time in His Word daily. Jesus defeated Satan after 40 days in the wilderness by answering with God’s Word. Remember His Day to keep it holy. When we give one day in seven to the Lord, He meets us and strengthens us through the Word to face this sinful world. Delight in the beauty of God’s lovely world, art, beautiful music — whatever is good, true, and lovely.

Did I mention prayer already? Find a prayer partner. Ask for prayer. Pray for a prayer partner. With a sewer in our minds and a battle every time we face the world, we need some serious prayer coverage,  you and I. If you comment here, I really do pray for you. Pray for me. I’ll take all the prayers I can get.