A Happy and Blessed 2020 to You!

This was our Christmas card for 2019. The pictures show some of the bright spots of our year. 

2019 passed much too quickly for us but it was a year of great joy in our family. Although Rick and I have considered ourselves grandparents to twins Austin and Alex since June 2016, their adoption became final on April 3, 2019. They will be 4 years old next February and are the light of our lives. Their cuteness and energy keep Alan and Denise very busy. It’s not easy keeping up with twins!

Although Rick and I are both dealing with health problems these days, we want to do more traveling and enjoyed a trip to Morro Bay last month. Morro Bay is a sweet town on the central California coast, one of our favorite places where we used to camp when we lived in California.

We have much to be joyful and thankful for this Christmas. In the busy-ness of our lives, let us never forget what the birth of Jesus means to us. Let us echo the angels in praising God.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Why is Giving Thanks so Hard?

Sharing today from Precept Ministries.

Why is Giving Thanks
so Hard?

What are you grateful for? I realize most of us have the same basic answers. We are grateful for Jesus, salvation, family, spouses, and children. If we are really honest a few of us will say we are thankful for coffee, warm beds, comfortable chairs, and chocolate.

But, in this day and time perhaps the question should not be “What are you grateful for?”, but “How in the world can you be grateful?” With so much change, so much uncertainty, and the whole world being turned upside down how can you be truly grateful for anything?

In our world worry, fear, stress, and anxiety seem more natural than thanksgiving. But, worry and fear are the cancer that destroys thankfulness, and at the same time thanksgiving is the cure for worry and fear. What do we do? Where do we find an anchor to hold us so we can look trouble in the eye and still give thanks?

The short answer is Romans 8: 28-39. The longer answer is the whole counsel of the Word of God.

The fundamental truth behind the ability to give thanks in all circumstances is this –

God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. – Romans 8:28

The simplicity of the statement is a little unnerving.

God causes ALL things…..

All means all. Whatever circumstances you face, God is at work causing those circumstances to work together for your good.

What are you facing? Cancer? Death of a loved one? Financial struggles? Job loss? A child walking in sin before God? Rejection from the one you love? You can trust the Father because all of these things are covered under that little word “all”.

God causes all things to work together for our good.

Did you notice that “things” is plural? All things – each individual thing – are working together for good. The stress and troubles of life are all working in concert together under the direction of the Master Conductor for our good. God is orchestrating the events of life so that they work together for our good.

This happens in such the grand scale of life and it is not necessarily seen in the moment by moment or day to day events. We all know that days, weeks, months, and years can be painful and heart breaking. But, even when I can’t see how God is working I can trust that He is working, and that He is causing all of my pain and suffering to work out for my ultimate good.

It is important to point out here that Paul did not say all things are good. Clearly not everything that happens to us is good. But God is at work

And in this, we can give thanks regardless of what we face.

Read the rest here.

God Never Changes

I am the Lord, and I do not change.
—Malachi 3:6, NLT

Here in our part of the Southwest, we don’t enjoy the same drastic change in seasons as those who live in the North. I was born and raised in New England and have many fond memories of crunching autumn leaves underfoot. Raking those leaves was a chore but jumping into piles of raked leaves was certainly fun.

Right now our autumn daytime temperatures are starting to fall below 70. In the high desert area of Arizona where we live, we don’t have the privilege of viewing the brilliant autumn hues without traveling further north.

Sometimes the seasonal changes up here are subtle, but most of the time our hot summers are followed by warm autumns which change to chilly winters that make us shiver. Most winters we even have snow up here that only lasts a few days. And the re-emergence of warmer temperatures heralds the arrival of spring. 

There isn’t much in life we can count on except for one: God never changes. He is the same yesterday as He is today and will be tomorrow. My pain levels ebb and flow, sometimes in tune with the change of seasons. I can be in despair one minute and joyful the next, but I can always be sure that God is unchangeable. What an assurance that is to me.

How patient and loving God is with us! Even though we constantly strive to do things on our own, He patiently waits for us to remember that He is in control and will help us through our days. That part of His unchangeable personality soothes and reassures me as I struggle to understand and deal with the constant change going on around and inside of me.

No matter how much things change in my life because of what I can or cannot do, I can rest on the promise that God is always with me. He holds me close to comfort me as I lean on Him in faith—no matter what is going on in my life.

I am so utterly thankful for my Lord of the past, the present and the future!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!

—1 John 3:1

Great Expectations

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Great Expectations

By Pat Knight

As I gazed out the window at the bleak winter landscape, I detected a definite lack of color, a bland outlook with no life stirring. With barren expectancy, we prepare our hearts for desolation, reflected in our attitudes and conversation. Are we so mentally programmed with gloominess that even our anticipation of future events is dulled?

Comparing heart focus with environmental conditions is risky, thwarting inward hope and personal growth. It is easy to be affected by the lack of sunshine and warmth in winter. Let us not permit exterior influences to eclipse the radiance with which Jesus penetrates darkness by reflecting His light through our lives. Joy is quickly extinguished by despondency.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). After Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, conquered his disbelief at Christ’s post-resurrection appearance, Jesus taught the eleven disciples, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have  not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). In today’s vernacular we would explain Jesus’ teaching as “blind faith.” In spite of our circumstances, our beliefs don’t change; they are locked securely inside our hearts. Faith in God is the consequence of trust; trust the outgrowth of belief.

If we constantly focus on the negative, our hearts will languish with despair. We’ve all been exposed to a curmudgeon who  projects a pessimistic approach so hopeless that black clouds spontaneously open, dispensing chilly water on a new idea. Cynics have an intimidating influence on positive thoughts, much like the austere environment in winter.

With whom do we communicate to enliven a joyful spirit? God is the Author and Creator of all things good. “Jesus answered, ‘No one is good except God alone’” (Mark 10:18). The good God constantly imparts to us is a reflection of His own divine character of purity and holiness.

After gazing outside at the monotonous winter panorama once again, rather than a change of scenery, I discovered the need for an attitude adjustment. God has the ability to change our perspective with His gifts of joy and peace. Man is unable to conjure up sovereign gifts independently with the power of positive thinking, as some assert. We must depend upon our Lord to supply us with His limitless gifts, always available to those who seek Him. “Take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:24,The Msg).

We are commanded to fellowship with God, the glorious, victorious Creator of life and peace, joy and light, grace and love. In the new year, let us establish enlightened priorities, recognizing the capacity to alter our lives forever by placing them in God’s care. “Submit yourself, then, to God. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7a-8).

Winter, with its unique season of dormancy and hibernation for many living things, is also a period of refreshment, preparing for regrowth; for a magnificent burst of beauty and fragrance that identifies the imminent season of spring. Let us not bear winter grudgingly, but joyfully use the time to develop attitudes pleasing to God. There is beauty during winter unseen at other times of year. Shadows on snow peek around trees, marching like toy soldiers as the sun manipulates the imaginary forms. Sunsets of magnificent proportions and beauty light up late afternoon skies with unequivocal displays of prismatic colors. The deep green of softwood branches and the silhouettes of stark hardwoods in the foreground of high, pristine snowbanks create fantastic visual delights. A full moon illuminates light blue blankets of snow when the dark draperies of night are pulled down upon the world.

What do you envision in the winter season of your life? The bleakness of financial, health, or employment woes, or the unprecedented power, protection, and provisions offered by God Himself? The new year holds unimaginable possibilities and victories. Seek an attitude that reflects Jesus’ submission, humility, and obedience toward His Father. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus could release His deepest hope to His heavenly Father, assured that even at such a late hour God could perform the impossible by cancelling His Son‘s crucifixion. Yet, Jesus believed that His Father’s perfect plan would be accomplished. Christ was convinced that His hope wasn’t misplaced by cross-your-fingers wishful thinking, but as confident expectations resting on God’s promises, free of worry and nail-biting. Jesus trusted in God’s sovereign ability to answer his prayer custom designed for His Son alone. He does the same for us.

Hope is like an restraining anchor at the bottom of the sea. The Christian anchor rises up into the heavenly realms, guaranteeing our personal security. We are sheltered by our sovereign refuge.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

It is essential for us to value God above all else in our lives. He freely extends joyful delight, anchoring hope and unconditional love. Ask God to transform your priorities. He will lavish you abundantly with the righteousness of Jesus. To live right before God (righteousness) is His ultimate goal for each believer. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

Hope is expressed when we turn toward God with confident expectation during times of trial.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). With inner tranquility, believers relinquish their worries to God and dwell on them no more. Then the victory of God is theirs to enjoy. The full dimension of God’s love and provisions are beyond our comprehension, motivating us to trust Him explicitly.

During one final peek outside, I focused on the glory of God’s creation. Just as the outside world perpetually changes, believers also experience consistent growth and renewal deep within their hearts. We learn patience and perseverance, but most marvelous of all is the imperceptible growth in hope, trust, and faith our Lord accomplishes by His power at work within us, transforming our lives. Expect the unexpected from an exceptional, extraordinary God!

A Happy and Blessed 2018 to You!

2017 has been a year mainly filled with illness situations that have caused me to change the content of my blog to mostly reblogs from other sites that I trust. However, I believe that if we stay open to Jesus’ leadings, He guides us—through the Holy Spirit—to show us when and how He wants us to change direction.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Pat Knight for contributing her wonderful devotionals to this blog. I am thankful that our God-centered relationship has lasted so long in spite of us never having met in person.

I am also very thankful that Jesus always walks with me every step of the way. May you all enjoy a new year spent finding ways to seek a closer relationship with Jesus too!

Now may the God of HOPE
fill you with all JOY and peace in believing,
that you may abound in HOPE
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Happy 2017!

Thank you for sticking with me
in spite of all the blog breaks I needed to take this year.
I am so thankful for each of you!

happy-2017-amp

Now may the God of HOPE
fill you with all JOY and peace in believing,
that you may abound in HOPE
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

What Does It Really Mean to Be Blessed?

This is an excellent post by Sarah Walton from Set Apart.

What Does It Really Mean
to Be Blessed?

I often hear statements such as, “I am so blessed to have three healthy children!” or “I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for…I feel so blessed!” or “We just bought the home of our dreams. We are incredibly blessed!” or “We are blessed to live in a country of such comfort, freedom, and opportunity, aren’t we?”

But what happens when you don’t feel so “blessed” in your current circumstances? For example, all of my children have Lyme Disease and one of them has several disorders that have often left us devastated, broken, and uncertain about the future. Are we no longer considered blessed?

My husband lost half of his salary, forcing us to lose our home and all we had worked for. A year later, he lost his job altogether when his position was eliminated, leaving us with the burden of paying for 5 people’s Lyme treatments with no income. Are we no longer considered blessed?

I have battled multiple health issues for most of my life and finally discovered I have been ravaged by Lyme Disease. Did I just happen to draw the short stick and miss out on the blessings that so many others seem to have been given?

Why do we most often associate being blessed with positive circumstances, wealth, comfort, and the absence of problems? I believe it’s because many of us have a very short term and shallow view of what it means to be blessed.

This begs the question – what does it mean to be blessed?

Read the rest here.