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It’s all about Perspective…

I recently joined my husband on one of his business trips to Sicily and it was incredible. I’m very grateful that I’m able to accompany him and have these opportunities to explore various countries that otherwise would be short of impossible. But it didn’t start out that way.

When we checked into our hotel, we noticed that the covering over the large sliding glass doors were actually metal. We found that a bit odd, but there were little holes throughout that let sunlight in. However, we then noticed we could hear people talking and saw their shoes quite close to our shutters. The ground was wet and we could see the legs of what appeared to be pool lounge chairs.

My first thought was, “Oh great, we are in a room that is directly in contact with the pool area. We won’t be able to open up this shutter at all on this trip!” After a disgruntled sigh, I reminded myself that we were in Sicily for goodness sake, and didn’t have to pay a dime to get there.

No matter what, we would have a great time!

We broke the cardinal rule of international travel and promptly took a nap. Later in the afternoon, we freshened up and went out for a lovely walk along the waterfront and had a wonderful dinner. We didn’t remember anything about our “horrible view” until the next morning.

We listened and didn’t hear anyone by the ‘pool’ yet, so we decided to open up the shutters. We’d since found the electric button that began to slowly reveal something far better than we had imagined. As we pulled all the curtains back and opened the sliding glass door, we were greeted by a large private patio with a balcony…complete with a chaise lounge, a table with two chairs and an L-shaped couch! And the view ~ WOW! We had a view of the ocean and the lovely city that we were in! What a difference it made to open those shutters!

My husband and I laughed (and I repented a bit again for my discontented attitude of the previous day) as we walked out on to the balcony, breathing in the fresh ocean air, thankful that we discovered the true reality of what a gift we had received in this trip. I swallowed hard as tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “What you see isn’t all that God wants to reveal to you. Open your eyes to His revelation and you will experience more joy and contentment that you can ever imagine.”

So many times we see what we want to see, not what we need to see.

Sometimes the Lord places us in situations where we have no choice but to trust in Him, that His plans are intended for our good. Not that we will run about rejoicing when hardship crosses our path, but keeping close to our heart the knowledge and truth that God is always good.

I thought of the verse, Jeremiah 29:11, that everyone quotes with abandon. It’s on t-shirts, mugs, blankets, and those darling wooden painted signs at your local Hobby Lobby:

“ – ‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.”

My friends, let’s not miss the importance of this verse in context. This is in no way a statement from the Lord that our lives will be always filled with earthly goodness and easy paths. We must remember to look at scripture in context to receive the full knowledge of the truths God intends to teach us.

The verses surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 are a reminder to the Israelites who had been exiled for so long in Babylon. The Lord had allowed them to become captives of the Babylonian Kingdom due to their disobedience to Him. He allowed hardship to be heaped upon their lives. It’s difficult to understand how He could do this, but the Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”{Hebrews 13:8}. When we choose to go in the wrong direction, the Lord has to retrain our steps to go according to His will. How many times do we, and ridiculously so, think that our will and our way is better than His? That is a battle we will never win ~ and trust me, you don’t want to win that one!

Jeremiah 29:10 says, “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place.”

The Lord was reminding the people of His punishment.

And also the fact that His promise’s will come to fruition.

The story/lesson continues in verses 12-14, “~’Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. ~ ‘Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ~ ‘I will be found by you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”

Isn’t that beautifully reassuring? Wherever it states in the Bible that God will or will not do a certain thing, it is a promise that we can count on.

When we call out to the Lord, He will hear us.

When we have a deep longing to seek His will for our life, the Holy Spirit will fill us with the truth and understanding we need.

When we come back to the Lord after a period of disobedience, He will welcome us with open arms and restore us to full relationship with Him.

But think about this for a moment, there cannot be reconciliation without some kind of exile.

Whether we are separated from God for a moment in our day, or for a longer period of time, we cannot hear the wisdom the Holy Spirit desires to share with us for our life. When I allowed dissatisfaction to enter my heart about what I thought the view from our hotel room windows would offer us, I shut out God. It was as if that big metal shutter had come down over my spirit, squelching the light of God’s truth.

What if I had never pushed that button to raise up the shutter? We would have been ‘exiled’ in a sense to the confines of our room. I would’ve missed out on part of the generosity of our hosts. Part of their gift to us of having a private patio that overlooked the oceanside of Sicily would have been lost on us. How very sad that would have been!!

When I choose to trust God in the little things {like opening up a shutter on a window} it’s easier to handle the bigger things in life.

When my eyes are on Him, seeking His will, searching His heart, then the view of the world He has placed me in will always be one of contentment. Not because this earthly life is always good, but because my God is always good and He always has a good plan for my life!

Blessings,

René
perspective

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Authentic Joy…

What come to your mind when you hear the word ‘joy’?

Candy ~ Almond joy?

Songs ~ Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

Or different variations of the word JOY ~ happiness? Delight? Pleasure? Enjoyment? Bliss?

Or maybe on a more serious note, you’re wondering when the last time it was that you actually felt joyful?

So much of the idea of success in the world today is based on individualized aspects…What makes you happy? What lights you up? What moves you? What’s your passion? What drives you? Do those things!

But what happens on the mornings when you wake up and the answer to those questions are a big fat nothing? Then what do you do?

John 15:11 says “I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.”

So this is what I want to focus on the blog today ~ how to have joy everyday no matter what the circumstances.

Joy is defined as, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated; the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.”

There are over 300 references to ‘joy’ in the Bible, so I’m going to throw it out there, this is something that is important to the Lord…something that He wants us to understand and embrace for our benefit. As opposed to the word ‘happiness’ which is only mentioned a mere eight times. Joy and Happiness are totally different…even though the definition of Joy contains the word happiness.

Happiness is fleeting and is usually attached to an event or how a person makes us feel.

Joy on the other hand, is a state of being. It is a way we can feel no matter what circumstances we are experiencing.

Oh…but there’s one more word I want to touch on before I share a story with you ~ FEELING.

The most important thing I can tell you about feelings is that many times, okay, most times, they aren’t to be trusted as the absolute in how we respond to a situation. Feelings are temporary. I love the quote, “Never make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.”

Let me tell you a little story ~

In January 1999, we were six months in to living in our dream home in Pasadena…white picket fence and all. My husband had a great job in the entertainment industry, money wasn’t an issue, we had two healthy daughters and decided to try for a third. Life was fantastic. I was so happy because I had everything I wanted. Did ya catch how many “I’s” were in that last sentence??

And then God decided to change the course of our life. It wasn’t horrible, but it was hard!

My husband came home one evening and said, “I’ve been praying a lot lately and I really feel that God wants me to quit my job and open my own company. I know this will mean that we will have to trade in our cars for less expensive ones and figure out if we can keep the kids in private school, oh yeah, and we’ll have to sell the house.”

Well, he told me how he felt, so I was gonna tell him how I felt…

I can still picture the scene in my mind; he was standing by the staircase and I was one stair up so we were just about eye to eye. I non-to-politely (honestly, I was downright rude about it), told him that he couldn’t possibly be hearing from God and I didn’t care what he felt because he was wrong. It was definitely NOT one of my proudest moments as a supportive Christian wife. But my husband truly loves me like Jesus does and he was so patient with me.

He just smiled, asked me to pray about it, and said that when I was ready to talk about it, to let him know.

That made me FEEL so mad!

Had I allowed my feelings to continue to prevail, I would have missed out on experiencing what true Joy can be.

It took the next 9 months to deal with all the things that I was feeling. How my heart ached at the thought of selling our dream home and moving again. How sad I was to be losing a very comfortable salary. Then I started realizing that all the things that were making me sad, were just things. I would still have my family and how could I walk away from doing what the Lord had asked us to do.

To step out in faith requires that we operate in the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23a says, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I love how the Amplified version of the Bible describes peace as being something “inner” ~ and what is on the inside of us is what ends up coming to fruition on the outside of us. Through this passage we can see that authentic joy has nothing to do with our happiness; it has everything to do with where our identity comes from.

The worst thing my husband said to me that night was that we would have to sell our house. It was MY house. I had big plans (literally…we had just finished paying for an architect to draw up remodeling plans a few weeks prior). I had already imagined our future Christmases, our girls coming down the staircase for prom & taking pictures in front of the Batchehelder fireplace, how incredible our back yard would look as we hosted friends and family for their weddings amidst fragrant bouquets of flowers and covered in a canopy of fairy lights.

I felt cheated. I felt mad. I felt slighted. I felt my dreams weren’t important.

And for what….a house?

The last day of work for my husband at his original job, was November 19, 2000. For the next decade, I learned quite intimately how I must trust the Lord to be my strength, my hope, my delight, my joy.

Proverbs 10:28 is quite thought-provoking, “The hope of the righteous [those of honorable character and integrity] is joy, But the expectation of the wicked [those who oppose God and ignore His wisdom] comes to nothing.”

Yeah, the Holy Spirit doesn’t mince words here.

And I battled between spiritual integrity and selfish expectations for a long time. It was not pretty.

On the outside, I would plaster on that happy face. But deep down, and many days it bubbled barely beneath the surface, I was angry. And I’m sure you know this…but you cannot be both angry and joyful at the same time. It’s like expecting to bite into a luscious donut and all you get is tofu…they don’t go together…like at all…ever!

Why did we have to struggle so much? Paying our bills, the mortgage, keeping food in the fridge, and gas in the car….seriously? Didn’t GOD tell my husband to quit a perfectly good job and create a new one? Wasn’t it GOD that whispered to the heart of my husband to do his work for Him?  How can GOD direct us to start a Christian company and not bless it?  I mean, really. I was even dyeing & cutting my own hair (oh yeah…it was not a good look…) and stopped getting manicures.

I knew it was petty. I knew that God was in charge. I knew that we would receive blessings from God that would be nothing less than miraculous. I knew all of that in my head, but my heart was in complete denial & filled with frustration pretty much every day.

Proverbs 17:22 summed up my life, “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

Well, the second half of that verse sums up my life for far too long.

We moved ~ God graced us with a beautiful new home.

We tried for a third child and had a healthy daughter.

Our cars were different but they were great ~ and paid for!

Our girls were able to remain at their private school ~ total miracle.

We had the support of our church community.

And I still loved my husband.

Things were looking up.

Then the ceiling in our kitchen started to fall down…because of a burst water pipe…from the upstairs bathroom…

Really?

Happiness disappeared like a vapor and Joy…inner peace…that wasn’t even part of the plan anymore. I moved into survival mode.

For the next 18 months, the Lord took us down a road that I still look back on in amazement. Within the first few weeks, I realized that I needed to change my perspective real quick or I was going to implode.

Actually, I didn’t realize it on my own…thankfully I have wonderful mentors and friends who spoke hard truth to my deaf ears and hardened heart. God wasn’t punishing me, my husband, or our family. He was using this time to prune out of my heart what didn’t need to be there in order for His purposes to be completed within me and throughout my life as a witness for Him.

I was broken but knew deep down I was still blessed. I had to pray often for my joy to be renewed. Very often in the beginning!

Psalm 16:11 promises this, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Where is my joy? It’s in His presence.

Where are the pleasures of life? In His right hand.

Hello! Life changer right there!

We lived in a local hotel for 6 months then moved to a furnished apartment for one year while our house/kitchen went through insurance denials, mold abatement, insurance stalemates, lots of waiting, finally remodeling, then suing the insurance company and moving back home.

I had to learn how to have joy ~ a joy that didn’t come from anything around me or from anything I could produce. I had to rely on the Lord to move within my heart, mind, and soul to create His perfect joy.

I had to ask Him for it…and He gladly answered that prayer!

Part of my responsibility as a wife was to be a support to my husband however I could…happy wife happy life…but not just happy…joyful. As a Mom, my daughters needed as much stability in their lives as possible. At 2, 6, and 8, none of it made sense.  And sleeping together in a pull-out sofa lost its charm pretty quick!

What’s a momma to do…pray!

So I found things I could be joyful about…

Living in a hotel meant I had room/cleaning service…every day!

Apartment laundry rooms meant I could get 15 loads of laundry done in about 3 hours instead of 12…yeah…Every.Week!

Apartment living meant it only took 45 minutes to clean house instead of all day at home.

In both locations, I brought in photos from home and hung them on the wall with those fabulous 3m hooks. I brightened up the beige walls of the apartment entry way with big colorful maps of the USA and one of the world that I found at Costco. I restored part of my sanity by donning a mask & going to our house and getting my sewing machine so I could be creative. I mean, I had all that “free time” that I didn’t have to spend doing laundry or cleaning, right!?!

One of the best ways that the Lord humbled me to learn how to receive His joy was to receive help from others. I didn’t want to be a charity case. But a very wise friend reminded me of how I felt when I was able to bless others with a home-cooked meal, or free babysitting, or a paid-for date night…people wanted to do that for our family now. It’s hard to be on the receiving end, but it’s so worth it.

My attitude began to change and I began to see our reality through the lens of authentic joy. A joy that is not borne out of circumstances, but out of following Christ and choosing to be obedient to what He calls me to walk through.

Once we were able to move back into our house, our life didn’t suddenly become easy.  The money struggles were still there but my husband and I would pray, “Okay Lord, you love to show off to Your children how well you can provide…let’s see what You’re going to do this time!” And we really meant it! And He would always come through. There isn’t enough time to recount the miracles of how God provided for our family during that decade, but it was phenomenal!

Just one quick story, that is still a bit emotional for me to think about, was how we literally had no food in the fridge. We finished up the last of the cereal, eggs, and milk, and used up the rest of what we had to make three little lunches for our girls to take to school. My husband and I prayed before I left to take the girls to school, that God would provide a miracle for us to be able to feed our family. I won’t lie, we were nervous but we trusted God.

As I exited car line and went down a side street, I pulled over and cried and knew I needed to discard my pride and call my parents to help us…and now that I have grown children, there really isn’t an age where that momma heart doesn’t kick in to want to help out your kiddos.

As I held the phone in my hands praying for God to give me the courage to call, it rang…it was my husband…he said, “Everything is great and I’m fine, but you need to come to the office before you go home.” I told him I was about to call my mom about the grocery dilemma and he told me to “wait. Come to the office.” Fine!

I pulled in and walked slowly to his office. He sat there with tears streaming down his face holding a card in his hands. He held it out to my and said, “Just open it.” It was a beautiful floral design, “Thinking of You” kind of card. Inside it read, “Dear Bancroft Family, You are always in my thoughts. Love, Jesus”. Then my husband handed me another little envelope that had been inside the card.

It was a $300 gift card to Ralphs grocery store, written on it with a black sharpie, “To the Bancroft’s ~ Love, Jesus”.

He provided more than enough.

And I still have the card as a reminder that Jesus sees our needs. And that He shops at Ralphs!

Romans 12:11-13, “never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.”

I learned that there is no “last minute” with God ~ it might feel like MY last minute, but it’s His perfect timing! God has shown up for us every single time.

We have known plenty and we have known want.

But most importantly, we have always known that our joy rests in Him and not in our circumstances.

That is true authentic joy.

To trust the Lord with EVERYTHING! You don’t have to be happy when you go through difficult times, but it is possible to be joyfully content in the midst of the struggle.

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Women's Ministries, Writers

Your View: Windshield or Rear-View…

Are You Looking Out the Windshield or the Rear-View Mirror?

I got the idea for this discussion topic from a sermon I heard the other day on the radio.There’s a reason why the windshield on a car is so large and the rear-view mirror is so small.

We need to have a wide view of what is out in front of us so that we can see where we are going. The point of driving somewhere is to move forward to get where we intend to end up. We don’t drive backwards to get to our destination. Right?

I know these concepts are not mind-blowing or something new…but I think it’s a good reminder every now and then to take notice of where our attention lies.

Rear-view mirrors, and side-view mirrors for that matter, aren’t bad though…they are completely necessary.

When we look up to check the rear-view or side-view mirrors, that’s just it…it’s just to take a quick look to make sure we are not in danger of being in an accident or causing an accident as we move about the road. We are not to allow our focus to linger because if we do, we are bound to run into the car in front of us.

Our past is like those smaller mirrors.

There’s a warning bell that sounds in your heart or your head, when you’re about to veer off course.  It’s the alarm that alerts us to check ourselves. Are we about to make the same mistake for the millionth time? Are we about to say the wrong thing to someone…again…knowing it won’t work? Did we forget what happened the last time? And if the mirror checks don’t work, then when we drive over those little bumpy-things (I’m sure they gave a name!) that’s a physical AND audible alert that we need to correct our path or we’ll soon be in trouble!

When we look into the side mirror, we can see that car speeding up really fast to our left and make that quick decision to WAIT to move over.

When we look into our rear-view mirror, we can see that car speeding up behind us or flashing their lights at us, and decide we need to move over and let that person go on their merry way albeit too fast and not get involved in their crazy. We can also see the red lights of a fire truck or police car, alerting us to move over because there’s trohbke ahead!

So how does that this translate into our spiritual life?

What side glances get you off track?

What kinds of things do you think you should be focusing on in your “front windshield”?

Let’s look at some scripture that talks about looking forward or behind.

Proverbs 4:25-26 (AMP) “Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage] And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity]. Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, And all your ways will be steadfast and sure.”

 Right there in scripture ~ “…look directly ahead…”  When we direct our gaze straight ahead, like through a large windshield, we will see the path that clearly leads to integrity!

Hebrews 11: 23-29 (AMP) “By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt; for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God]. By faith he left Egypt, being unafraid of the wrath of the king; for he endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood [on the doorposts], so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them (the firstborn of Israel). By faith the people [of Israel] crossed the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned.”

 I love that these verses in Hebrews remind us that it is not simply looking ahead & fixing our gaze on the Lord; it is through FAITH that we can accomplish this daily task.

 We are also instructed in God’s Word to take His direction for our life very seriously. When He tells us not to look behind us {dwelling on past sin; obsessing over something you think you’ve missed out on; staying stuck in a cycle of unforgiveness; etc.} then He means it!! 

Genesis 19:26 (AMP) “But Lot’s wife, from behind him, [foolishly, longingly] looked [back toward Sodom in an act of disobedience], and she became a pillar of salt.”

God also shows us through scripture how He provides the way out of a situation. One that is getting a bit frightening or unsettling. In Genesis 22:13 (AMP) we see just that…“Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering (ascending sacrifice) instead of his son.”

 Let go of the past and start moving forward! Maybe it’s an actual physical move out of the environment you’re in (work, neighborhood, state…). Maybe it’s a shift in your heart ~ an attitude you’re having is causing disruption in your spiritual life. 

Luke 9:61-62 (AMP) “Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord [as Your disciple]; but first let me say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Don’t linger on looking into the smaller windows. Look through the bigger lens of God’s Word…through His windshield!

Blessings,

René

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries

Grieving With Hope

There have many things I’ve seen & heard about in the last week that have centered around moments brought on by grief. Friends who are mourning the loss of a family member, the extreme tragedy in Paris due to the terrorist bombings, loss of life in various middle Eastern countries, friends who have loved ones dealing with cancer, and others who have lost jobs. There are a variety of ways we experience loss and just as many ways we grieve those losses.

Like you, I’ve experienced various losses in my life and haven’t always handled the process very well.  My first brother died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) at 3 months old ~ I was 23 months old and I remember that day vividly.  I realize now that the way I processed my “2 year old grief” was to become the little momma…everyone’s caretaker to make sure everyone was happy.  I was blessed with several great grandparents and great aunts & uncles, and a great multitude of cousins ~ which meant by the time I was 18, I had attended about 10-12 funerals.  I remember when I was about 31, I attended my first funeral service where the person was not a Christian.  I almost came unglued during the service when this woman’s children looked up toward the ceiling of the church and said, “Well Mom, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and maybe I’ll see you again sometime.” I cried all the way home.  Deeply saddened for this family who was not only dealing with the loss of their sweet mom, but adding to that grief was the knowledge that they didn’t have the hope and security in Christ’s salvation.  I also cried with relief knowing that my daughters would never have to wonder where I was after my time here on earth is done.

This can be a very touchy subject for some, and I do not mean to offend.  What I want to offer you is Hope.  In Christ, through His salvation, we have a hope that is full of grace and mercy; and frankly, totally incomprehensible.

John 3:16-21 beautifully illustrates God’s promise, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

The latter half of these verses readily bring to mind the Paris tragedies that happened this past Friday.  The people who organized these heinous acts are evil. Pure and simple…they. are. evil.  Because sin came into this world (Genesis 3), satan became the ruler of this world.  Satan’s goal is to wreak havoc over the entire earth; to make every good thing God created into something twisted; to turn God’s Word around to make it sound legalistic and unattainable.

My friend ~ look to the truth of God’s Word here in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

In the book of John, chapter 14, the truth that is celebrated on these pages of scripture fills me with great hope and great joy.  Verses 1-7, Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” 

In verses 15-17 of chapter 14, John writes, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” 

But I think my favorite part of John 14 is in verse 27,Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” 

Let me just say…the entire book of John is an amazing account of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ & I recommend that you take a moment and read the whole book.  It holds a brilliant light up to a dark world, proving that Jesus IS who He says He is.  He WILL do what He has promised to do.  We do have salvation through Him and we will be with Him again someday.

But sometimes you have seasons of doubt, usually as a result of some kind of grief you experience.  This is not a concept that is readily spoken about in the Christian church today, and I personally think this is part of the reason why so many Christians become disillusioned with the Word of God and His promises.  No one wants to take the time to walk that dark road of doubt with someone, encouraging them to persevere and make it out back to the light of truth.  God knew we would deal with this emotion of doubt.

One answer comes in Romans 3:3-4a, What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar,” Just because I may at times doubt in God’s plan for my life or for this world; just because I may at times have a hard time believing that God’s goodness will overcome ~ those human feelings do not in any way nullify the purity and surety that is God.

The NIV Bible version mentions the word “grief”, 32 times in scripture; the word “grieve” or “grieved”, 30 times; and “grieving”, 3 times.   Collectively, that is 65 mentions of grief.  But just like God, He wants to show us His heart and remind us what is true.  Guess how many times the word JOY is used in scripture?  50? 100? 150?  Nope….over 240 times!!!  And the word HOPE is written about 180 times! Mathematically, that’s EIGHT TIMES the amount of God calling us to focus on what is good and truthful, joyful and hopeful…..instead of focusing on the pain of grief.

Psalm 30:11-12 King David joyously declares, You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

 

For this blog post, I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked them, “What does the statement, ‘grieve with hope’, mean to you?”  Here are some snipits of what they had to say:

“The grief of Christians is very different from the grief of non believers because we have hope that all pain will pass away.” 

“I grieve with hope everyday knowing that my mom is with Jesus and I will see her again. Our view of heaven is very different when someone we love so much is there.”

“The hope that I have in Christ, brings me joy and I know that because of Jesus being my hope.”

“My hope is in that which I do not see … Which is a future with no more tears, no more pain. It’s literally too good to be true – and yet, miraculously, it is true, and there lies my hope.”

There are times and seasons when prayers go unanswered – and we have no idea why! When there are doors we so desperately want to have opened wide and God, in His Wisdom, keeps them closed – or slams them shut!! If we remain in Him, if we persist in prayer and stay in the Word – when our soul is anchored in the Lord, we will soon see His purpose and His reasons.”

“In life, it means to me that broken relationships grieve our hearts, but in the Lord there is hope for healing. In death, it means that when we lose another fellow believer we have hope of being reunited in heaven.”

 

Lamentations 3 verse 24

I am so thankful for the input of these dear friends who shared their heart.  My prayer is that through their words, and through the truth of God’s scripture, that you will begin a new journey of turning your uncertainty to surety, your sorrow to joy, and your grief to hope.  There is HOPE!

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

The Power of Words

As soon as I chose the title for today’s blog, I can’t get the Huey Lewis & the News song “That’s the Power of Love” song out of my head.  It doesn’t relate to the topic, well, not really…but it’s catchy and you just can’t get those 80’s songs out of your brain!!  Now that I’ve talked about the song, I can move on…you are now welcome that the song is now stuck in your brain!  You’re welcome. 🙂

The Power of Words ~ more than we realize sometimes.  With our words we can: heal, hurt, comfort, proclaim, defend, defy, build-up, gossip, love, hate, encourage, deny, etc.  So much power that we have and so many times so little consideration of what comes out of our mouth.  When I was a teenager, my mom would sometimes say to me, “Honey, just because you think of something, that doesn’t mean it needs to come out of your mouth.”  And yes, I’ve used that on my own daughters’….good times!  It’s true though isn’t it?  When my girls were little and learning how to talk, oh how frustrating it could be for them.   I could see the determination in their little faces trying desperately to explain something to me or ask me for something.  When it was clear that I wasn’t getting it, I would say to them, “Can you show Mommy?”  Or better yet, when they were having a fit about something, I would try to get their attention and tell them, “Use your words.” As an adult how many times have you said something and as the words are pouring out of your mouth (usually at a very rapid pace) you suddenly have an out of body experience and wish we could gather those words and take them back!  I know I have…but you can’t take them back.

And I really can’t stand that silly adage of “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  What?  Whoever thought of that…ugh!  Really?!?  There are opportunities that we have every day to either build-up or tear down someone with the words we speak to them.

WORDS CAN ABSOLUTELY HURT!

I love how James 1:17 reminds us that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  EVERY gift ~ not just some of them, but every single gift that comes from God, is GOOD!  And what does satan want to do with everything that is good…he wants to turn into something vile and disgusting that brings death and defiance.  So of course, because God’s Word is so good, the enemy uses words to ignite issues between churches, family members, and friends alike.  The more satan can use words to harm, the more he thinks he has won.  But he hasn’t.  We allow him to creep in to our attitudes and develop pride about something, say things we can’t take back and then we are left with the mess to clean up…and satan is standing by laughing.  The great news is that we don’t have to clean up the mess alone!  God is there and His Word is there to guide us every step of the way back to unity in the Body of Christ, with our family and with our friends.  The words, “I forgive you.” are some of the most powerful words in our vocabulary!  Use them!!

The first words to be spoken, we read about in Genesis 1:3 “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”  God, our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe, could have used ANY means to create this world we live in.  He could have snapped His fingers, He could have just thought it into existence.  But He chose to express with His Words what He wanted to create.  He SPOKE creation into reality.  In Genesis chapters 1 & 2, this phrase is used 12 times during the creation story. There are over 100 times throughout the rest of scripture that God spoke to His people about their life, their blessings they would recieve, or the discipline they would recieve because of their sin.

Take a moment to read this beautiful portion of the passage in Psalm 119:97-108,

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word. Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.”

These are exquisite words that paint such a lovely picture of what it means to love God’s Word.  King David of the Old Testament penned these words as they flowed from Holy Spirit inspiration, to teach all those going ahead of him of the magnitude importance it is to keep God’s laws (His Words) in our heart, in our mind, and on our tongues.  When we learn and obey what God has told us, we will have peace in knowing we are living rightly before Him.  There is no where in this passage (or any other part of the Bible for that matter) that promises us a perfect & easy life if just follow how God says to live.  Nope.  It ain’t in there.  But He does promise us that He will never leave us nor forsake us, (Deuteronomy 31:6,8).  His Words are true…His promises are true…His laws are true and they are good.

Another part I love from the Psalms passage is, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Did you catch that?  It’s not 10,000 candle power search light that illumines our path.  It is a lamp.  A simple lamp with a simple light whose wattage is perfectly suited for the path that we are on.  If we could see what was out 10 blocks in front of us, we wouldn’t need to depend too much on the light that was right in front of us.  This analogy of the lamp shows us how we must be dependent on the Lord for every single step we take.  This is not because God wants to be an overbearing, angry guide who doesn’t want us to be prepared for what is coming.  He wants to lead us down the path He has carved out for us that will be most beneficial for us.  Does that path always make sense?  No, it does not.  But it will all eventually be seen as a blessing and as an example of God’s faithfulness in our life.  Sometimes when we feel like we are in a dark place, it is frankly because we have walked away from the protection of the Lord due to the unconfessed sin in our life.  And sometimes that dark place is when God is covering us, to protect us from something far worse.  In any case, we have to rely on the light of God’s Word to show us where to go.

Psalm 57:1 “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

These words I have shared with you are not meant to bring about frustration ~ they truly are meant to be an encrouagement to you.  Life isn’t easy and we don’t have all the answers.  You may be going through circumstances that are extremely painful and confusing and you are wondering where God is in all of it.  In those moments, and probably at a time when the last thing you really want to do is read your Bible or pray, that’s when you need Him the most.  When you don’t have the words to speak the Father in pray, you don’t have to say a word because our Comforter, the Holy Spirit can go before the throne of God and intercede on our behalf.  I have had several occasions in my life where there just weren’t any words that would come out of my mouth because the pain in my heart was just too great.  From my own life I can tell you, that through those unspoken sobs that come up from your toes, God hears them and He understands them.  If you are able to talk with someone about whatever it is that is going on in your life right now, please talk to them.  Use your words to express your emotions.  If you don’t have a confidante, pray and ask the Lord to help you find one and He will.

Psalm 33:4 “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.”
Be watchful of the words you speak just as much as you are mindful of the words you think.  Even if the words have truth to them, they may not need to be spoken right when you think they need to be.  Use your words to inquire of the Lord as to the right timing and the gracious way you need to deliver them.  The intentions of our words need to rooted in God’s love so that they will produce growth in the one to whom we are speaking.  Quick harsh words can last a lifetime if we are not careful.  All of this…I say as an encouragement to you and to me as well.  Every day I have to remember to have gracious words and wise timing.  I don’t always succeed, but seeking forgiveness from those I’ve hurt and from the Lord are always in order.  Don’t let pride stand in your way if you have someone you need to apologize to.  You may not have meant to hurt them, but it happened.  Kick satan back where he belongs, and allow God to light a new path of reconciliation.

Words.

Spoken and silent.

Words carry Power.

Image-1

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Peace Out

It’s been one of those days and I’m finally sitting down to write ~ I’m taking a “peace out” ~ which I should do far more often!  What does this mean?  That moment when you are about to either explode or implode, but you thankfully catch yourself and basically take a time-out.  You’ve either given a time-out, or been given one, either way the purpose is to redirect the actions and attitudes that are leading you down a negative path towards a more healthy alternative.  So how do you give yourself a Peace-Out?

There’s only ONE way to accomplish this….

You have to go to the Lord in prayer!

We cannot ever (yes…ever!) get enough peace on our own that will be able to tackle an attitude change, or a life change, and make it stick.  I know I have fallen prey to my own designs of making everything perfectly line up to make sure that my life goes exactly how I want it to.  “How’s that workin’ for ya?” you ask ~ it doesn’t!  There have been so many twists and turns in my life, if it wasn’t for the grace and mercy of my precious Savior, I’d be in a sad state for sure!

It is most assuredly not an easy task to pray when you are in the midst of a chaotic, stressful, maddening experience.  Praying is sometimes the last thing you are thinking about.  Asking God to give you peace and patience is not always the first request ~ not to punch someone in the nose is probably more accurate of what is crossing your mind in those moments. When I was a young mom, I used to pray for patience with my little one…all.the.time!  Until one day, a more seasoned mom said to me, “Honey, you’re going to need patience all the time as a mom.  If you keep praying for patience, God is going to keep giving you opportunities to learn how to have it.  How about just pray that you’ll remember to pray.”  Wiser words folks…wiser words!

The best part of praying for peace, is that you aren’t praying and asking God for ‘your’ peace.  You need to ask God to fill you with HIS peace!  In the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, ‘peace’ is referrenced 361 times ~ almost once for each day of the year!  Whoohoo!!!

Check out this treasure: John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  These are the very words of Jesus to His disciples, letting them know that He was leaving them with the Holy Spirit who would be their comforter, their peace-giver.  Jesus knew that those folks then, just like us today, would need reassurance in times of fear, doubt, anxiousness, anger, trouble ~ that we would need Peace!  Worldly peace is fleeting and temporary and honestly, it won’t get you far.

So when those troubled times hit you, when you have repeated yourself to your kids for the millionth time that day about picking up after themselves, when that car cuts you off on the freeway, when the job goes away, when you’ve been treated poorly ~ you see where I’m going with this ~ give yourself a ‘Peace Out’ and pray.

Here’s the best part ~ He WILL be faithful to answer you!

Blessings,

René

2 Thessalonians 3 verse 16

 

** All bible verses found through: “BibleGateway.” .com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

 

Women's Ministries

Created for Relationship

Today, I was reminded that even though social media is a great way to stay connected with friends who live far away, nothing beats sitting down across a table and sharing life.  Even more than that, when you meet with someone that you haven’t seen in years (we’re talking like a good 15 years here!), you can still fill up three hours worth of conversation…and still not be finished. This, by the way, absolutely stymies my husband who wonders what the heck we can talk about for that long.  My answer, “What DON’T we talk about!”  But the real icing on the cake is when you are sitting across from a sister in the Lord ~ the fellowship is even more sweet!

Driving home, so thankful for the time with my friend, I was listening to some favorite Bethel music, and the song “We Dance” came on (see the link below to listen to this song on youtube), it made me so emotional.  Well, that’s not very hard to do ~ music is my love language and I love to worship my Lord in song! Part of that song I absolutely adore is “…And remind me of that song, the one You wrote for me…” It made me think of a verse that calms my heart in the midst of any unsettledness I might be feeling. I know I’ve shared this verse before, but I think it’s worth a repeat mention ~

Zephaniah 3 verse 17 - God sings over me

Seriously ~ how beautiful is God’s Word!  My friend, my sister, your Lord God – the Creator of the Universe will EXULT over you with loud singing!  He has a song just for you and He sings it over you. You know that feeling that comes out of “no where” to calm you in the storms that life kicks up…that’s HIM!  The Holy Spirit is the original “Keep Calm and Carry On” agent.

Sometimes that calmness comes in the form of God’s still small voice of encouragement, sometimes through music, and sometimes through the shared fellowship at a local coffee shop.  God created us for relationship ~ with Him and with others.  And I am so very glad He did!

My prayer for you today is that if you are struggling with a friend or family relationship, do not lose hope!  Continue to pray about it and ask God to give you the wisdom on how to move forward ~ and that might mean standing still while God works things out.  I know it’s hard, but so worth allowing the Lord to sort and sift.  And while you wait, put on your favorite worship music and let those melodies wash your heart and soul with the love the Father has for you.

Blessings,

René