Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scriptures of Endurance ~ Passionate Patience

"Because you kept My Word in passionate patience, I'll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test. I'm on my way; I'll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown." 
~ Revelation 3:10,11, The Message

I want you to imagine something with me.  Let's pretend that you and I have become as a little child. We are wandering along a mountain trail. The birds are singing. Butterflies dance in the sunshine. Trees sway to the rhythm of the wind and drink from the stream that ribbons its way through this natural paradise. All along the creek bank wildflowers grow - daisies, blue chicory, larkspur. You've been looking all day for the perfect gift to bring your Father. He loves the beauty of creation, the splendor of nature. These flowers are the perfect gift.

Tiny hands gather a delicate bouquet. Excitement grows in your little heart because you love to bring special gifts to your Father. But as you start to make your way home, your path grows steep. There are stones in the way. Tree roots criss-cross the trail and thorny briars creep in on both sides. This perfect path has become difficult, wrought with danger and full of obstacles. It's hard to hang on to the special gift you are bringing your Father. Very difficult. But you are determined to make it to the top of the mountain where he lives. 

So you press on.

Finally you reach a clearing and you can see the path clearly again, but the beauty of your gift is now spoiled. Some of the flower stems have broken. Daisy petals scatter with the wind. You think the gift for your Father is ruined. You feel so disheartened you don't think you can go on.

Father sees you climbing up the steep mountain trail. He sees your frustration, your tears. He knows your heart and so he runs to you.

"Child, why are you so distraught?" the kind Father says.

"I brought you a special gift to show you how much I love you and now it's ruined," you answer.

"No, no," said the Father. "It's not ruined. Your tears have caused it to glisten in the sunshine. The broken stems and blossoms show your effort to please me. I see your determination to persevere regardless of the obstacles you encounter. You may think your gift is tarnished, but I see it as a love offering - an expression of your heart - regardless of how hard your journey has become. Thank you for your gift. Thank you for your love and your desire to please me. The road has been long and steep, but look around you. Look how far you have come. Please don't look at the broken bouquet. Look at the view. See what I see. See how far you've climbed."

Sweet friend, sometimes the road becomes almost unbearable. We see only our skinned knees and broken stems, but the Father looks on the heart. He is honored by our perseverance. He cheers us on as we get up, dust ourselves off and continue on our journey. And He delights in our gifts. Though tattered and torn, He sees the heart that is fixed on Him and He responds.

Persevere, dear ones. Persevere. Love, laugh and rejoice in the Lord your God. 

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Scriptures of Faith ~ You Are My Hiding Place

"You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance." ~ Psalm 32:7, NKJV

Screeching tires screamed in my ears; burning rubber stung my nostrils. Like a slow motion video, the eighteen-wheeler careened sideways then arced into a wild fishtail. Smoke billowed from the tires and brakes. The huge bulldozer on its trailer bed bucked and heaved as its carrier fought to gain control.

Our little white Subaru was the target.

The two cars ahead of us were stopped - the first car waiting to turn left. We had maybe five or six feet left before we would also be completely stopped - with nowhere to go. David jerked the wheel to the left and floored it across Highway 221 right in front of a sedan coming at us.

Time stood still.

I remember the frantic clasping of my hands over my eyes. Over my face.

I remember the screams - the eery, gut-wrenching sobs that erupted  uncontrollably out of me.

And I remember David pulling off the road, holding me and letting me release the sheer, unadulterated fear. He held me until there was no more.

Then David did a remarkable thing.

He took my hand and placed it on the front of the dashboard. "Remember this?" he said. In my mind's eye I saw the sign of the cross that we had drawn with anointing oil as we asked God's protection on our little Subaru. God had honored our prayer - our childlike faith.

I cried some more, this time with tears of gratitude. There was no natural way that David and I should be alive. Miraculously, the truck came to a stop, his cab was in the grass on the shoulder of the road and his trailer, with the bulldozer, had swung behind him, stopping inches before crushing the two cars that had stopped before us.

The Presence of the Lord surrounded us, hiding David and me from the evil that sought to destroy us. God is no respecter of persons. What He did for us He can do for you. It is a moment by moment relationship with Elohim, the Creator of the Universe, that places us in the palm of His hand. 

His Son Jesus will show you the way.

Father, I am forever grateful for Your protection last week. Thank You for Your faithfulness, Your love and mercy. Thank You for Your angels that guard us and thank You for Your Presence that surrounds us. You are a Mighty God, Maker of heaven and earth. Nothing is too difficult for You. I praise Your holy Name.
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Scriptures of Hope ~ I Will Awaken the Dawn

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn." ~ Psalm 57:7,8, NKJV

My heart is overflowing. There is so much in these verses that speak life - that teach Truth. My mind races to embrace what the Holy Spirit is showing me.

David wrote these words while hiding in a cave...IN A CAVE. He was fleeing from a sure death at the hands of Saul. The verses leading up to his declaration of faithfulness and praise are wrought with anguish: "My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows...They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down; They have dug a pit before me..." (verses 4 & 6). David begs God for mercy. He cries out for protection as fear threatens to overtake him.

But then things change.
David begins to declare his steadfast love and trust in his God.

Matthew Henry writes this, "David's prayers are, all of a sudden, turned into praise and thanksgiving; his sackcloth is loosed, he is girded with gladness, and his hallelujahs are as fervent as his hosannas. This should make us in love with prayer, that sooner or later, it will be swallowed up in praise." (Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary of the Bible)

Isn't that powerful? "...his hallelujahs are as fervent as his hosannas." I love that. Thorough praise. Steadfast heart. Complete trust.

Can you hear the confident assurance that rose to the surface and swallowed up David's fears? David's heart was steadfast. Firm. He was not overcome by the harsh reality of his enemy's pursuit. He was, instead, focused on God and overcome with praise.

As David enters into praise, he makes a profound statement: "I will awaken the dawn."

Do you want to know what I thought of when I read these words? I thought of how dark it is right before the dawn. Some say the moments before the dawning of the sun are the darkest of the night.

The moments before our breakthroughs are often the darkest of our night.

But David says, "I will awaken the dawn." Think about it. In his darkest moments he declares his allegiance to Almighty God. It is this steadfastness of heart - of trust, of faith - that awakens hope within him. His praise ushers in the glorious light of a new tomorrow. His unwavering, childlike faith turns his mourning into dancing, his despair into hope, his fear into confident assurance of deliverance.

Let us declare His glorious praise, "God, You are my God! I will trust in You and will not be shaken! With my praise, I will awaken the dawn."

Oh, hallelujah Lord! We give You praise. Open our eyes to see and know Your faithfulness. Steady our hearts to trust thoroughly in You. May the cries of our hearts be swallowed up in praise. You alone are worthy of our praise. You are the Great God, Master of everything, Creator of the Universe. We choose to trust You Lord. With our praise we will awaken the dawn of hope in our present darkness. You are so awesome Lord. We love You and we thank You from the bottom of our hearts.

Please take a moment to pray for someone you know who is being overwhelmed by the enemy. Many Believers are under the guns right now. We need to pray for one another. Even if your world is crumbling, I encourage you to take a moment to pray for someone else. In praying for others our eyes become fixed on Jesus causing our hearts to steady in faithfulness to Him.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Scriptures of Encouragement ~ The Starling's Song

"Make a joyful noise unto God,all the earth; Sing forth the honor and glory of His Name; Make His praise glorious! Say to God, 'How awesome and fearfully glorious are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power shall Your enemies submit themselves to You.' All the earth shall bow down to You and sing praises to You; They shall praise Your Name in song. Selah - pause, and calmly think of that!" ~ Psalm 66:1-4, The Amplified Study Bible

The Lord taught me a very important lesson. I walked in its truth for a few days - maybe even a week or so. But then I walked away. I got caught up in the stress again.

So my Father God had to show me one more time.

I looked out our kitchen window as I washed dishes. The grand old apple tree dipped and swayed as the wind from a cold front bellowed through our mountains. It looked like it was snowing apple blossoms as the soft white petals were tossed to the ground.

Something shimmering teal caught my attention. A young starling was perched in the apple tree. The shimmering teal was his belly reflecting the sunshine. This little guy cracked me up. I think if I had been closer I could have seen bony white knuckles hangin' on to that branch! His little head was thrown back. His eyes scanned the heavens and...he was singing his little heart out. In the wind. In the wind that was about to blow him out of that tree. It was so funny. Even his feathers were blowing out behind him like our hair does when we walk through a wind tunnel.

And yet he sang.

He held on to the branch and he sang.

With gusto.

I heard that familiar sweet whisper deep in my spirit. "Nan."
"Yes, Lord?"
"Do you trust me?"
"Yes, Lord."
"Then why aren't you singing? Why aren't you rejoicing in Me? You are so worried about tomorrow that you have forgotten about today. You have all that you need for today. Let Me take care of your tomorrow."

I laughed. Belly laughed. God was so right. My sweet Lord had used a scrawny, young starling with feathers blowing all the way to kingdom come to teach me to rejoice, especially when the wind blows the fiercest.

He has never failed us - never. And He will not fail you. Take hold of His strong hand and draw close to Him. And when the harsh winds of adversity blow, throw that little head of yours back and sing! Sing with gusto to the One who sees and knows all about it.

Praise You Lord! You are so awesome! So Great! Thank You. Thank You for Your remarkable love and provision. Thank You for Your mercy and grace. And thank You for this young starling You sent to sing outside my window. Yes, Lord. I choose to praise You in all things. I choose to praise You for Who You are. I love You Lord. From the depths of my heart I love You.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scriptures of Encouragement ~ A Dandelion Life

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." ~ John 8:33, NKJV


I spent the afternoon working in the yard. I discovered a broken cinder block on a pile of large rocks. A strong, healthy dandelion grew out of the broken places of this block.

It caught my attention.

Of course I noticed that a flower was growing and thriving out of the broken places. I think we can all see the power in this image and apply the paradox to our own lives. But God took me deeper.

The Lord reminded me of the research I have done about the Holocaust for a novel I will write one day. During the German occupation of Eastern Europe, Jews were required to wear a yellow star pinned to their clothing at all times. This labeled them as a Jew and gave license to their tormentors to ridicule, abuse, torture or kill the precious people at will.

Upon arriving at the death camps, the Jews searched to find God in their midst. The dandelion was one such evidence of God.

The yellow bloom of the dandelion was an immediate reminder of the yellow star that branded them as a Jew. We know that this flower grows into a white ball of fluff. When the wind catches the fluff, the individual cottony seeds of the dandelion swirl and dance as they rise toward the heavens. For the captive Jew, the dandelion gave hope of an eternal glory free from the fear, the torment and the pain of their existence. They could see their soul set free as they watched the dandelion fluff ride on the wings of the wind.

That got me to thinkin'. If, out of sheer determination, I can cause my life to thrive out of the broken places and, if out of sheer determination, I can bring glory to God through the brokenness, then a miracle can take place. My struggles can be transformed through the power of Christ. The transformation can set me free to ascend to the heights of heaven and to stand boldly before the throne of my God.

In my mind's eye I see the breath of God blowing my little dandelion life. His Presence sets me free - His breath causes me to dance upon the stiff winds of adversity. My soul is set free to worship Him.

Are you bound by doubt, fear, hopelessness? Are you striving to push through the broken places and live a life that glorifies the Lord, in spite of the pain? Then get buckled up and let the transformation begin. The one whom Christ sets free shall be free indeed.

Father God, Breathe on us Your breath of life. Transform us by the power of Your Holy Spirit and, in the transformation, let us ascend to Your throne to worship You in spirit and truth. Thank You for Your love. I ask that You set us free from those things that keep us bound. We offer them to You, Lord. We choose to join hands with You and dance as a soul set free.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Scriptures of Encouragement ~ The Valley of Vision

"My beloved spoke, and said to me: 'Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth...'" ~ Song of Solomon 2:10-12, NKJV

I sat on the hillside in the grass. In the distance thunderheads billowed - great towers of white fluff illuminated by the sun. At my feet a small periwinkle blue butterfly danced.

Blue. The color used in the Old Testament Tabernacle to remind the children of God to look towards the heavens. In their heavenward gaze they could behold their God.

The graceful blue creature fluttered around me, teasing me, beckoning me to follow it with my eyes - causing me to contemplate its beauty. Its wings, soft as a rose petal, beat against the current of the breeze. Its tiny body lifted higher and higher against the backdrop of cerulean blue. My head tilted back as I watched my small companion; my heart skipped a beat. Out of the ominous clouds came a rolling thunder. It shook me to my core. Not physically, but deep within my spirit.

the Lord spoke quietly within me. "Run to Me. Rest in Me. I am your all in all. Nothing else will satisfy. Give Me your days - your moments. I am the One who orchestrates your life. You can trust Me. I hold you in the palm of My hand. Nothing can come near Your tent without coming past Me first. I am Your security, your Guide. Trust Me. Seek Me and you will find Me. Seek Me with all of your heart and I will reveal My deep love for you. Rejoice in My Presence. Rejoice, I say. Rejoice."

I closed my eyes in amazement. Peace settled upon me. In my moment of frustration - in the place of my valley - my God had loved me and comforted me. He opened my eyes to see Him, my ears to hear His sweet voice.

Our God is faithful.

Father God, Thank You for meeting me at my point of need. Your love amazes me and humbles me. Grace so undeserved. I pray for my precious readers who find themselves in a place of frustration or confusion. Open their eyes to behold Your Presence. Let them feel Your breath upon their hearts. Encourage them, Lord. Thank You. We love You so much. We appreciate all You do for us. Forgive us for when we take You and Your blessings for granted. And, Lord, thank You for the little blue butterfly that led me to Your throne.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Scriptures of Hope ~ I'm In Better Hands Now

"You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great." ~ Psalm 18:35, NKJV

How do we explain our faith, our hope, our peace when it seems our world is crumbling at our fingertips? It is amazing, isn't it? I'm not referring to faith born of religion; I am referring to faith born of relationship with Jesus - our Redeemer, Counselor, Savior, and Lord. I am referring to a moment by moment knowledge that we are not alone, that we are shielded, held and loved by an amazing God.

Life comes at us hard. Bad things happen to good people.

But in the midst of the pain, joy abounds - joy that makes absolutely no sense. Hope rises when the world tells us there is no way - impossible. Peace flows over us like the sweet perfumed oil that anointed our Savior's feet. His grace calls to us. It rescues us from our despair.

Natalie Grant sings, "It's like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down... It's like the breath of Jesus is right here in this room."

What a lovely thought.

God's Presence surrounds us, protects us, comforts us. He is our defender. He is our God and we are His people. We belong to Him.

Precious reader, let us speak these truths into our lives: God is for us. He loves us. He is El Roi, the God who sees. He is Elohim, the Creator of the universe - and yet, He knows us by name. He hides us beneath the shadow of His wings until the calamity passes by. His tenderness heals our broken hearts.

And this Holy God - this awesome God - made a way for us to know Him intimately.

That way is immeasurable love poured out in a crimson flood upon a barren hill called Mount Calvary.

That way? His name is Jesus.

Father, It is so hard to explain what I feel right now. Things have been so difficult and yet You have held me every step of the way. You have never failed me, never abandoned me. You, Lord, are the Great God. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for Your Presence. I ask that You show Yourself strong in the lives of my readers. Let them feel Your breath upon their heart. Fill them with joy overflowing and hope that knows no bounds. Thank You Lord for Your goodness. We love You and we give You praise.

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