Tag Archive | Life

Reclaiming Our Lives: Embracing the Life We’ve Been Given

Can you imagine what it would be like to live on a submarine? According to an article I recently read, some civilian submarines have windows – technically called “viewports” – but when the submarine is deep underwater, all you see when you look out is blackness. Without artificial light, the crew on a submarine would be unable to function.

Trying to live with chronic illness solely on human perspective can be compared to living on a submerged submarine without any artificial light. To make sense of our lives when we are struggling with the pain and limitations of chronic illness, we need the light of God’s Word to push out the darkness. Having God’s perspective is like having a periscope that allows us to see beyond the darkness and obstacles in our path and navigate safely toward our destination.

1AB9DB6C-19B2-45FF-80CF-931053C1E6F1

As we continue with this year’s focus on reclaiming our lives after a chronic illness diagnosis, today I wanted to focus on the truth that sometimes we need to let go of our life plan and embrace the life we have been given. The first steps to reclaiming our lives when chronic illness and the limitations it causes don’t go away are acceptance of what is and trust that God really does love us and knows what is best for us.

As a young child, my dream was to be a teacher. After finishing high school, I enrolled in a state college in my home state of Maryland and graduated with a degree in early childhood education. During this time, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I was confident I was right where the Lord wanted me. My plan was to teach kindergarten, which I did for two years before I heard the Lord calling me to attend Bible college, where I met my husband Mitch.

My life plan was to get married, find another teaching job in Texas where I was now living, and continue living out my dream of being a teacher. But it wasn’t long before we faced a major obstacle.

My husband and I, with our toddler Teresa, were on a trip to see some friends in Fort Worth and pick up some construction supplies for Mitch’s boss, when a drunk driver ran into our vehicle and forever changed our lives. My husband came out with a cracked rib and knee, and lacerations on his face and knees, but Teresa and I weren’t quite so lucky. Teresa did not survive the accident, and my doctor told Mitch that, if I survived, I might never walk again. Though we mourned the loss of our precious daughter, God was gracious and I did survive. Though the injuries I received in this accident were the beginning of a battle with degenerative arthritis and neuropathy, I was able to walk without assistance for many years.

In 1977, our daughter Amy was born, and when she was four years old I was able to return to teaching, this time in a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten program our church started. The following summer our son David was added to the family. We quickly noticed David had an unusual sensitivity to light, but we weren’t worried about his health.

When David was around three months old, we decided to move to Houston where Mitch’s family lived. A couple weeks later, we took him in to see a new pediatrician. She was extremely concerned that something was wrong, and before the day was over David was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital for neurological testing.

To cut the story short, David was diagnosed with Massive Infantile Spasms, a seizure disorder that basically stopped his mental development and left him unable to do anything for himself. Now we were facing an obstacle that was so big we had no idea how we would navigate it. It truly felt like we were in a submarine, deep underwater, and unable to see beyond the darkness and obstacles ahead.

I could go on and tell you about the next thirty-four years, which ended with the Lord taking David home to be with Him last November, but this is enough of my story to help you understand that my life definitely has not turned out the way I planned.

To continue functioning, my husband and I had to release the life we had pictured when we first married and to embrace the life we had been given. So how is this possible? Here are some steps to take, along with a few Scriptures that have helped me navigate this path that was so far from what we had planned. (All verses are in ESV)

• We must choose to let go of the past and turn our focus on the future.

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13b-14‬ ‭‬‬‬‬‬‬

• Remember God more highly values inward renewal above what is going on outwardly.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‬‬‬‬‬

• Do you feel like outwardly your body seems to be “wasting away”? Is chronic illness the “thorn in the flesh” that you’ve begged God to take away? For me, God’s answer, for now at least, has been similar to His answer to the apostle Paul.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

• Scripture makes it clear that life on earth involves warfare and suffering.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:8-10

• Finally, while Jesus has already defeated the enemy, we won’t experience the full effect of His victory until we go to be with Him in the new heaven and the new earth. Until that time, let’s hold on to the promise that it won’t always be like this.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” Revelation‬ ‭21:3-4‬ ‭‬‬‬‬‬‬

Are you still mourning what you’ve lost from chronic illness? Are you struggling to embrace the life you’ve been given and begin moving forward? If so I hope you will join me in the following prayer.

Father, I am choosing to embrace the life You have given me. You know this is not what I had in mind for my life. But for now at least, it is reality. I will not lose heart, even though it feels like my body is wasting away. I believe Your grace is sufficient for me, even in this situation. I will be content with weakness and hardships, because when I bring You my weakness You replace it with Your strength.

Father, I recognize life on this fallen earth is a battle. I have an enemy, the devil, who wants to devour me. Help me to be sober-minded and watchful, to recognize his attacks and resist him as I stand firm in my faith.

Lord, thank You that Jesus has already defeated the devil by His suffering and death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. This time of suffering will come to an end when Jesus returns to set up His Kingdom. Then there will be no death or mourning, no crying or pain. These will have passed away never to be again. Until that time, help me to seek Your will daily, and to walk in the fulness of what You have for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

3132EFF1-38AC-47E9-9ED5-E1FF5CEA60F7

‭‭‬‬‬‬‬‬

‭‭‬‬‬‬‬‬

Thankful for the Indwelling Holy Spirit

“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” Psalms‬ ‭18:28‬

Something unusual happened while we were at church one Sunday in May. We had watched a video teaching on the Bible study we were doing at that time, and I had just finished leading our discussion on the promise of God we were covering that week – when the lights went out. With stormy weather outside, our classroom was really dark. A couple minutes later, the lights came back on, and we were able to finish the class and leave for home.

This morning, as I was preparing to write this week’s Thankful Thursday post, this experience came to mind. While it was just a small inconvenience, it brought to memory God’s promise to enlighten our darkness. And one of the ways He does that in our daily lives is through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit comes to live within us when by faith through grace we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the payment in full for our sins, receive His forgiveness, and accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. And from that moment on, we never have to walk in darkness.

I am currently working on writing a Bible study which I’ve given the working title The Holy Spirit: Stranger or Friend. For many of us, Jehovah our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Savior are parts of the Godhead we understand fairly well. In one of the lessons from the Bible study our iConnect Bible study class at church recently completed based on Max Lucado’s book Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives On The Promises Of God, we read the following quote.

“Ask a believer to answer the question ‘Who is God the Father?’ He has a reply. Or ‘Describe God the Son.’ She will not hesitate. But if you want to see believers hem, haw, and search for words, ask, ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’ Many believers settle for a two-thirds God.”

Yet there are more that a hundred references in the Bible to the Holy Spirit. From the Gospels, where Jesus says He will be returning to heaven but He will not leave them alone (https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.14.26.esv) through the book of Acts, and all the way to Revelation, we learn that the Holy Spirit is central to our lives as Christians.

Today, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit and the many things He does in our lives. Here are just a few of the functions and names of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is our Regenerator. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, He is the one who opens our heart and imparts life. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” John‬ ‭3:5‬

The Holy Spirit is our Empowerer. He gives us power to be witnesses and complete the work He has called us to do. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke‬ ‭24:49‬

The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He encourages, consoles and comforts us when life becomes difficult. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” John‬ ‭14:16‬

The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. As the Spirit of Truth, He shows us the lies we are believing and instructs us in God’s truth. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Guide. He leads us down the path God has planned for our lives. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans‬ ‭8:14‬ ‭

The Holy Spiritis our Intercessor. He prays for us and His prayers always line up with the perfect will of God.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. He works in us to make us look more like Jesus. Like the apostle Peter, we too are among the elect, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…” 1 Peter‬ 1:2

There are many more functions and names of the Holy Spirit, but these seven give you a picture of His important place in our lives as Christians. And this week, I’m grateful for Who the Holy Spirit is and for all He does in our lives. How about you? Have you stopped in your busy day to thank God for the Holy Spirit? Who lives within you if you’ve accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life.

Passing Through the Valley of Weeping

Psalm 84:5–7 (NKJV):
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca (Weeping),
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.”

Our family has been walking through “the Valley of Weeping” since the death of our special-needs son David in November. It has been a time of God’s grace and sustaining peace, but there have also been times of weeping as we’ve said goodbye to the young man who has been such a big part of our lives for the past thirty-four years.

So when I read this familiar psalm this morning as a part of my daily Bible reading, these verses jumped out at me. They were especially meaningful since this isn’t the first time God has used them as a rhema (spoken) word in my life.

When we were walking through a particularly difficult time early in David’s life, one of many where I had been repeatedly in the hospital with our son, our pastor at that time, Michael J. Cave, specifically shared it with me as a word from the Lord for our situation, after a sermon he preached on these verses. Since that time, the truths of these verses have been a clear reminder of God’s strength that is available to continue the “pilgrimage” of life on this earth and turn the difficult seasons into springs of life.

During our “pilgrimage” as believers in Jesus Christ, we will face seasons of weeping. But even in the weeping, our strength is found in God. And as we move forward in God’s strength, the valley experiences are turned into springs of life and blessing. Psalm 107:35 speaks of God turning the wilderness into pools of water and dry land into watersprings. The dry and weeping places in our lives are transformed as we move forward in God’s strength, keeping our eyes on the Lord and on our heavenly destination. When our pilgrimage is complete and we reach the eternal kingdom that is our final destination, our God promises to wipe away every tear, and “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”‭ (Revelation 21:4)

4316AA3E-9035-4131-9DCE-72BF22BD9D13

 

Receiving God’s Truth When It’s Uncomfortable

Today I am grateful for…

Truth God speaks to me through His Word, even when it’s not the specific truth I’m wanting to hear. Receiving God’s truth – not my hand-picked, preferred truth, but what my loving heavenly Father wants to teach me through my circumstances – is a blessing even when it may cause some temporary discomfort.

Earlier this week, I was hurting emotionally. During the same week as our son David’s memorial service, I was diagnosed with an infestation of scabies, with over thirty-five itchy bites around my body, caused by microscopic “human itch mites” (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). I was feeling overwhelmed by yet another problem to deal with on top of working through the grief of losing our beloved son David.

In the midst of agitated emotions, I asked God to speak to me through His Word. He spoke and I almost missed His message because it wasn’t what I was wanting to hear.

  • I wanted a comforting word. God wanted to teach me that He is in charge, He’s sovereign and I need to yield to His decisions.
  • I wanted relief. He wanted spiritual growth.
  • I wanted encouragement. He wanted me to accept responsibility for responding to my circumstances in a way that honors Him.

Father, thank You for speaking the truth to our hearts that is tailor-made for where we are currently walking. When Your truth is uncomfortable, please give us the grace to embrace it and grow.

So how do we walk in an attitude of gratitude when we don’t like what God is doing in our lives? When we wish our circumstances were different? When in our emotions we are anything but thankful?

This requires us to look for God’s truths that apply to what we are walking through. Then it calls for us to A. C. T. (All verses in ESV)

A. ACKNOWLEDGE God is God and I am not

“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46:9-10

C. CONCEDE that His purposes in my situation are for my good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28-29‬)

T. THANK HIM for His character attributes that apply to my circumstances.

For the last five months, as our family has walked through one trial after another as God does a deep work in our lives, one attribute of God has been central in my understanding of what God is doing in my life: the Hebrew word “checed” (חֶסֶד), for which there is no one English word that fully explains it’s meaning. This one Hebrew word includes the ideas of God’s strength, graciousness, loyalty, steadfastness, mercy, love and devotion to His people. The NIV usually translates it “unfailing love,” NASB “lovingkindness,” ESV “steadfast love.” This single Hebrew word is one of God’s most central characteristics, used 240 times throughout the Old Testament.

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Psalms‬ ‭25:10)‬ ‭‬

Is God wanting to speak truths to you through His Word, possibly truths that aren’t really what you’re wanting to hear? Are you facing a situation that makes it difficult to give thanks to God? Embrace what the Lord is speaking to you. Then A.C.T. on what you are hearing.

img_7536

Gratefulness and Grace

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬ ‭ESV‬‬

During one of my times studying God’s Word this week, I made an interesting discovery. The Greek word translated “thanks” in this verse from 1 Corinthians 15 is “charis,” the same word that is translated “grace” throughout the New Testament. This was a reminder to me of how closely related grace and gratefulness are in the life of a Christian.

Grace has been defined as “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” (Blue Letter Bible)

In simpler words, God’s grace is the kindness He shows daily to the unworthy. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace. It is a free gift, given to us because God is benevolent. Giving good gifts is a part of His nature.

Grace is what saves us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9)‬

Grace‭ trains us how to live lives that are pleasing to God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,” (Titus‬ ‭2:11-12‬)‬‬

Grace gives us access to God in our times of need. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews‬ ‭4:16)‬ ‭‬‬

Grace gives us comfort and hope. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:16-17‬)

Grace gives us a future inheritance to anticipate, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:7‬)

As believers in Jesus Christ, giving thanks for the many blessings we receive through His grace should be a daily practice.

Recently, God has been doing a good work in my life, one that has sometimes been painful but one that has always been by His grace. As a result, I’m beginning to walk in victory in several areas of my life where victory is a new experience. And for that, I want to give Him thanks. Will you join me today in giving thanks for what He is doing in your life?

 

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus During the Holiday Season



Keeping our eyes on Jesus is a discipline many of us fail in daily. Yet Scripture teaches this is an important, even essential part of running with perseverance the  race God has marked out for us.

If  you live with the daily challenges of chronic illness, loss, physical or emotional pain, financial struggles or a variety of other issues that are a part of daily life on this earth corrupted by sin, keeping a godward focus becomes even more difficult during the holiday season with its added pressures.

Even though I’ve been doing daily posts this month on the meaning of twenty-five of the names of Jesus, I’ve had some days that it was very difficult just to keep going. Earlier this week, I had a day where brain fog made it really difficult for me to write. By the end of the day my post for the next morning was done, but little else. I was exhausted and on the verge of depression. I knew I needed to do something to stop this downward spiral before it got worse.

The first thing I tried was to relax by playing a couple games on my iPad. In my current frame of mind, that just made me feel worse. So I decided to go in my bedroom, get ready for bed, and read for a few minutes before going to sleep (something I do most nights). This also didn’t help.

Then I remembered what usually helps when I’m feeling discouraged or anxious about something, using worship music to turn on focus off the problems I’m dealing with and onto the One who loves me and is working in my circumstances for my good and for His glory. So I turned on my iPad and listened to some Christmas worship music. This helped me relax and prepare mentally for sleep. And when I woke up the next morning, it was with a completely different frame of mind, one that enabled me to have a much more positive day.

The holiday season with all its extra activities and pressures is naturally stressful. For those who are living with the daily limitations of chronic illness and the often associated financial pressure and emotional pain, it can feel overwhelming. Here is a YouTube link to some Christmas worship music that I’ve found helpful this Christmas season in turning my eyes off the problems of life and back on the One who is our refuge in the hard places of life.

Have you found something that helps you cope with the added pressures of the season and keep your focus on the One whose birthday we are celebrating? If so,  please share what has helped you in the comments below.

Jesus Christ is the Word

Have you even had your plan all mapped out, and suddenly God spoke to your heart and brought a change of direction. That’s what happened to me, as I was finishing a Christian novel I have been reading and a verse of Scripture jumped out at me from the closing pages. The quote that caught my attention said, “The true Light who enlightens every man was coming into the world.”

This probably caught my eye because in addition to writing these daily Advent devotions during December, I have been doing The Light Bible Reading Challenge by Rachel Wojo, reading verses every day about Jesus being The Light. But I didn’t remember ever seeing Jesus referred to as “the true Light that enlightens every man” so I decided to look up the verse. I learned that this unique wording was from the Berean Literal Bible translation of John 1:9, part of a well known passage that speaks of Jesus as the Word. And I realized that I had failed to include one very important name of Jesus in my plan: The Word.

John 1:1-5, the prologue of John’s gospel, establishes some important truths about Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These words that begin the Gospel of John give one of the clearest statements in Scripture of who Jesus is. They clearly say that Jesus (the Word) was present in the beginning, before the creation described in detail in Genesis 1. They say He was with God and He also was God, truly God and yet distinct from the Father. In other words, they identify Jesus as a part of the Godhead. They also identify Him as Creator. They tell us life is found in Him. And finally, they remind us that He is the light that overcomes darkness. This true Light who enlightens every man had now come into the world in human flesh.

When John 1:1 speaks of Jesus as The Word, the Greek word used is Logos. Logos specifically means an utterance or a statement, a spoken word.

The Gospel of John was written to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. It’s original readers were new believers in Jesus Christ and non-Christians who were seeking to know God, both Jews and Greeks.

By using the word logos, John was pointing his Jewish readers back to the Old Testament where the “Word of God” is associated with God’s revelation. And for his Greek readers, he was using a familiar word they associated with being a bridge between the infinite and eternal God and the material universe.

I am very grateful that God has given us His written Word, the holy Scriptures that reveal to us God’s existence, nature and character and that are a guidebook on how to live the Christian life. But I am even more grateful that God has given us the Living Word, His Son Jesus Christ, who came into the world to not only be a bridge between fallen mankind and Almighty God, but to also be the true light that enlightens every man.