The LORD Goes Before You

Although today’s post is about something that I went through about 18 years ago, the message is still pertinent today.

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But you will not leave in haste or go in flight;
for the LORD will go before you,
the God of Israel 
will be your rear guard.
—Isaiah 52:12

Have you ever needed to be in two places at the same time?

The week before I was to serve as a counselor at a special camp for abused and abandoned children, I received a call from my father. My mother’s heart was acting up and she was back in the hospital. This time the doctors needed to perform surgery as soon as possible.There was no time for the camp staff to find a replacement for me, but I really felt the need to be with Mom right then.

I diligently prayed about this for several days, wondering what I should do. Then one morning I read the above passage during my devotions. The words leapt off the page as I read them again and again, especially the admonition
not to leave in haste or go in flight. I realized that even though those words were originally meant for the Israelites, God was using the same verse that day to tell me to calm down and go to camp as scheduled. He would work out the details and take care of Mom and her surgery.

And as usual, He did exactly that . . . and so much more.

While I was at this camp up in the mountains, I phoned Mom in the hospital after her surgery. After a short conversation with her, I gave the two little girls in my charge the opportunity to talk with her too. They did not know Mom, nor did she know them, but they were excited to be able to talk to “Anna’s mom.”

When we ended the call, one of the girls hugged me around the waist. “Your mom wanted me to give you a hug from her.” And then the other precious child motioned for me to bend down closer to her. When I did, she kissed me on the
cheek. “That’s a kiss from your mom.”

As tears filled my eyes, I hugged both girls and quietly thanked God for allowing them to experience a close family moment with me. These girls—and many others like them—had been bounced from one foster home to another. They had no first-hand knowledge of what it means to be part of a family.

As I made the two-hour drive home at the end of the week, I was struck anew at how well God leads us in our decision-making processes, if only we’ll completely trust in Him and His plans for us. He will always show us the right direction to take!

 

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Sea of Distress

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Sea of Distress

And they will pass through the sea of distress 
and He will strike the waves in the sea, 
so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up; 
and the pride of Assyria will be brought down 
and the scepter of Egypt will depart.
“And I will strengthen them in the Lord
and in His name they will walk,” declares the Lord
—Zechariah 10:11-12

Almost daily we are inundated with devastating news of earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms and severe flooding. Many lives are lost or affected in some way by these tragedies. Even heavy rains can cause everything from roof leaks and power outages to high winds and massive mud slides. Many times these rain storms come one upon another with no time in between to allow the over-saturated earth to dry out. And just when we think we have survived a storm, a mudslide occurs days and sometimes weeks later.

In these dire situations, we are learning a tough fact of life: there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves and our property from the raging storm. Oftentimes we find our property completely gone. How do we start all over again?

In verse 11 above, God parted the Red Sea—the sea of distress—to deliver the Israelites safely from the Egyptians. This miracle was a perfect example of how the Israelites could not save themselves, but had to rely on God for protection.

In the same way, God is here to walk each of us through our own sea of distress, whether that be devastating weather, illness, job loss, or the death of a loved one. Doesn’t it sometimes seem as if we’ll never be able to cross that sea?

We find ourselves feeling as if we’re floundering and treading water for all we’re worth, until we finally sink into our own personal and familiar sea of distress. Each day is a continuation of the pain and anxiety of the previous day, until we finally can’t feel one day ending before the next begins. The frustration and trouble are ever with us.

It doesn’t have to be that way if we have God on our side. He is the only one Who cares for us enough to strengthen us on our earthly journey. We only need to trust Him to do so. The more we lean on Him each day, the closer our walk with Him will be. And the closer that walk, the more we’ll be able to put off the cloak of despair and instead put on a garment of joy in our circumstances.

Yes, we will still be surrounded by the pain of our individual situation, but when we trust and rely on God during those times, we can rest in the assurance that He will enable us to cross our own sea of distress each day, confident in His love and care. That’s the kind of relationship that will bring glory to God.

And in the end, that’s all that matters anyway.

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Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
Look upon my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
—Psalm 25:16-18

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“I love men who can smile in trouble,
who can gather strength from distress,
and grow brave by reflection.”
—Thomas Paine

 

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My Times Are in Your Hands

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But I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.” 

My times are in Your hands.
—Psalm 31:14-15

Once again, I struggled to unscrew the top from a jar but the stubborn cap refused to budge. Just as I was getting ready to call on Rick for help, it came loose.

I hated having to ask Rick for help so often, but the arthritis in my fingers and carpal tunnel problems with my wrists cause difficulties with the simplest tasks. Daily my frustration grows as I witness different parts of my body getting weaker and sometimes even breaking down. These days I can’t even get down onto the floor or up again without great pain and difficulty because of my bad knees.

Why do things have to be this way? I silently ask God, but I already know the answer: “Trust Me, child, I’m always here to take care of you.”

What would we do without the promises of such a loving God who faithfully guides us through the trials of life? He knows everything about us, which means He understands our limitations. He has intimate knowledge about how much we hurt and He is always with us to comfort our painful and grieving body and spirit. He holds us close to His heart in His ever-powerful hands.

I know my God takes care of me—I believe this without a shadow of doubt. I guess my real problems start when I focus on my problems instead of on God. He realizes my pain and frustration and provides the best comfort possible through His Word. How often I have been in despair and found in Scripture the very words I needed to calm my heart.

Imagine the strength in God’s hands. Now picture those same hands pulling you close in a calm and comforting embrace. His strength is our strength and can get us through those frustrating times when nothing seems to go right.

Beloved, our times are in God’s hands because everything in our lives is under His control.

The LORD is Your Shade

 

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It has been a long, pain-filled summer for me. Thank you for bearing with me as I’ve been sharing some of my old posts with you, mostly by my very close friends and mentors, Pat Knight and Donna Baker. I did not want to completely leave the blogging world for several months, so being able to schedule those precious posts ahead of time really helped.

Thank you again, Pat and Donna, for allowing me to share your hearts with my readers. I love you both so much!

Today I have a new one for you that seems to fit in with how my summer went. 

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The LORD is Your Shade

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I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

—Psalm 121

Years ago, I moved from northern Vermont to Phoenix, Arizona. One of the first things I noticed about the Southwest is how people look for parking in any available shady spot, especially in the summer. There might be loads of open parking spaces near the entrance to a store or business, but if there is any kind of shade elsewhere in the parking lot, you can be sure those shady places are the first to be taken. And no wonder, given that average daytime Phoenix temperatures in the summer are at least 105 degrees.

Although most of us enjoy sunshine, consistent sunlight can damage all sorts of surfaces, including our skin, car finishes, and exterior paint. We are urged to use sunscreen on our skin; the color finish on newer cars includes a clear, sun-resistant top coat. As for the paint peeling off our homes, short of using aluminum siding, all we can do is scrape the peeling areas and repaint every few years.

Ten years ago today, we moved to the north country of Arizona, and as wonderful as the sun is, it still can take its toll up here. Temperatures are typically about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix, but it still gets hot up here. And heat truly aggravates my chronic pain illnesses.

I love this Psalm, particularly verses 5 and 6. The Psalmist tells us that the LORD is our shade! Ponder that for a moment. Imagine standing in the middle of the desert with nothing around you for miles. The scorching sun is baking your weary body; you have barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly the area where you’re standing is in the shade, but you cannot figure out why. You can see no trees or other shelter to provide shade but nevertheless you are being protected from the blazing sun.

This is how I picture God protecting us.

No matter what is happening to us each day that is causing us to feel down, if we look to the only One who matters, He is faithful to shelter us from the blazing heat that can sometimes characterize our lives. 

Beloved, let’s see if we can hang tight to that thought when we need it most! Our Heavenly Father can be our shade no matter how hot things get for us here on earth. We can close our eyes and picture His shade as we go through each trial in our lives, letting it fill us with the certain knowledge that only under the shade of our Father’s loving arms can we find protection and relief from the storms in our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us enough to care about even the smallest details in our lives.

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My Peace, My Comfort, My Hope

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I would have despaired
unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
yes, wait for the Lord.
—Psalm 27:13-14

4 Principles for Overcoming Fear [Precept Ministries Repost]

The other day on their Established BlogPrecept Ministries posted this great article about overcoming fear.

4 Principles for overcoming fear,worry,doubt,inductive bible study,precept ministries

4 Principles for Overcoming Fear

Fear unleashes a host of doubts. It chips away at our confidence in God’s goodness. If Jesus can sleep in the storms of the Sea of Galilee, is he asleep in our storms? Does He care? Our minds continue, “If God doesn’t care, then we must take control.” We become control freaks because we perceive a loss of control and somebody has to do something!

The disciples had every reason to trust Jesus. They had heard Him teach the Word and had even seen Him perform miracles, and yet they still had little faith in a crisis, when their lives were at risk.

Read the rest here.

Day by Day Renewal

Saturday

On this Sweet Saturday, please remember that although we may lose heart during very trying circumstances, God does not lose heart with us. He is always ready to enfold us in His everlasting arms and remind us that through the pain we are being renewed day by day.

Day by Day Renewal

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“Coffee Break: Recharge Your Brain”
read an Internet headline and could I ever relate to that! I am definitely a coffee drinker and very thankful that its pick-me-up properties help ease me into my day. I awaken foggy brained most days, but after an hour or two of java sipping, I feel better able to face whatever the day holds.

JustPourTheCoffeeAfter reading that headline, it occurred to me that if coffee can boost our energy levels, how much more could we be recharged by diving into the Word of God?

In this particular Scripture passage Paul is urging us to not dwell on our present circumstances and trials, but rather to focus on God’s grace in our lives.

I am always impressed by how often Paul—who continually praised God in the midst of the many trials, persecutions and imprisonments he endured—encourages us to look outwardly to God rather than inwardly focusing on our daily concerns.

What an example Paul is! He never lost heart over his dire circumstances and in fact urged his followers to use these situations to draw closer to God in order to be spiritually and emotionally renewed. Paul’s close relationship with the Lord gave him the confidence to rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength when things were toughest for him.

Beloved, we can do the same thing! During those times when we feel we positively cannot go on, let’s not let fatigue or pain keep us from drawing closer to God and renewing ourselves with His refreshing spiritual nourishment.
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Our Shelter in the Storm

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Sometimes I write about things that have happened in my life and then put them aside for a future time. The other day I was thinking about my Mom and remembered that I had written something about one of the times I was with her. This incident happened a couple of years before the Lord took her home.

Our Shelter from the Storm

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You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in his distress,

a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
—Isaiah 25:4 

My mother and I watched as high winds hurled the driving rain against the living room windows. We were supposed to leave in a little while to visit Dad in the rehab hospital where he was undergoing physical therapy after knee replacement surgery.

Mom started to get ready but I talked her out of going. Her long battle with congestive heart failure and angina has left her very weak, and it doesn’t take much to stress her. I thought it better for her to stay snug and cozy at home this time, so I went alone.

As I walked out to the car, the high winds almost carried my umbrella away and I was glad Mom had agreed to stay home. She would have gotten soaked in her wheelchair and again while transferring to the car. The stress of that could have caused her to have another episode in which she had trouble breathing.

I felt the assault of the rain and wind on the car as I drove to the hospital, but was comforted knowing that I was protected and dry inside. It struck me how much this resembled living with chronic illness. Even though we are battered by our health problems, God protects us in much the same way. He is our refuge in the midst of the physical and emotional storms we experience every day.

Chronic illness is not easy to cope with but what a privilege it is to be able to lean on Jesus to get through the storms in our lives. Just when we feel we’re going to drown in our pain, God surrounds us with His arms—our refuge and source of joy—especially in the midst of the pain.

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Beloved, when it all gets to be too much, just turn to Jesus and snuggle within His comforting arms.

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The Peace of God

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The Peace of God

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. —Philippians 4:6

“Are we there yet?”

I’m sure many of us have heard these words from our children more times than we care to remember. It’s always exciting to travel to new places and see new sights. But once there, the newness quickly subsides and the children—and probably us if we’re being truthful—long to be back home with their friends. They want to return to the familiar surroundings of their own neighborhood.

That’s just the way we are. While we might want to do something different and out of the norm, we still long to be back in our own homes and familiar surroundings.

Chronic illness in particular takes us out of our comfort zone and places us in an unknown situation. Where before we could rely on our bodies to perform in a certain predictable way, now we don’t know from one day to the next (sometimes hour by hour) what to expect. Will I be able to shake the fibrofog that stalks me most days? And how about simple tasks like the laundry and dusting? Will I need help with those jobs?

God tells us to “be anxious for nothing.” I don’t know about you, but at times that’s difficult for me. I long to be certain that I’ll feel well enough to accompany Rick when we make a date to join friends for dinner. And what about this blog? Will I have enough energy to keep up with it?

But God also tells us to be thankful “in everything.”  To me that means no matter what is happening with me on any given day, I must trust that God knows what needs to be done and will enable me to do the important things.

Phil-4-7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:7

Beloved, doesn’t it comfort your hearts to read that? What this means to me is that as long as I cling to God and His promises—no matter how I feel—He will grant me that special peace that can only come from completely trusting in Him.

The peace of God. I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad I have His peace to keep me calm in my circumstances. What a wonderful promise!

AnnaSmile

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A Cheerful Heart

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All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. —Proverbs 15:15

I read once that even though we cannot always choose what happens to us, we can choose what our attitude will be toward each situation. How true that is.

Our Sheltie, Bleu (who is no longer with us), was a good example of this. For some unknown reason, he would bark unremittingly whenever we started up our truck or trike, or for that matter anything with a motor. When I ran the blender or food processor, he would get very anxious. In any of these situations, he looked around for comfort and reassurance. Sometimes he pulled one of his stuffed toys around the house until the noise stopped. Other times, he would run frantically from one side of the yard to the other while barking.

Every so often, he would come to me and I was able to reassure him with a calm voice and a loving touch that everything was all right and nothing would happen to him. In fact, this seemed to cheer him up enough that he would go find one of his toys to play with or contentedly chomp on a piece of rawhide for a while, even in the midst of the ongoing noise.

I used to find myself acting the same way at times. On days when I am overwhelmed with pain and fatigue, it used to be very easy for me to fall prey to my feelings and just like Bleu did, I would start to panic. Instead of looking to the Lord for the reassurance and comfort I know from past experience is waiting for me, I would get upset and wonder if I would ever feel normal again.

That’s when I found myself taking my eyes off God and focusing on myself and my circumstances instead. Oh, but God is so good! He has shown me over and over again that if I only hang in there and trust in Him implicitly, it doesn’t take long until His warmth and faithful promises penetrate this self-involved brain. I am once again reminded that I can rely on Him for strength and support instead of wallowing in my own anxious way.

It is then that I am finally able to change to an attitude of cheerful hope, knowing in my heart that my Lord has been lovingly caring for me all the time.

Beloved, are you struggling with how to be cheerful in spite of what you’re going through? Life is not easy. We all know that. But we can absolutely trust in God who loves us beyond comprehension and is always here to comfort and sooth us during our most difficult times.

CheerfulHeartA cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. —Proverbs 17:22

BeCheerful

“I am determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have also learnt from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.” —Martha Washington

AnnaSmile…..

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