Vickie's Blog

Thoughts Along Life's Journey


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When Your World Gets Noisy

Doesn’t the world get noisy at times, loudly shouting out that — burdens are heavy, situations are out of our control, people are demanding what we cannot give, work grows more stressful. Our once peaceful world suddenly spins uncontrollably, and in our heart of hearts, we fear we may fall into the abyss of emotional turmoil where peace will never be found again. Such realizations of our personal worlds crashing in on us can cause sleepless nights, short tempers, feelings of despondency, and self loathing for our weakness in it all. How do we crawl out of this melancholy quicksand of gloom and despair?

God gives us a wonderful gem of help in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” The dictionary definition of guard is: to watch over in order to protect. It stands to reason then, that if our hearts affect everything we do, then, of course, we must watch over it and protect it.

How do we do such a thing? When we guard something, we pay attention to it. Therefore, we must take great care what we put into our hearts. What goes into our hearts, affecting our daily course in life, comes in through the eyes and the ears. We must take care what we let our eyes watch. We must take care what we let our ears hear. In other words, we must pay attention to our habits. For example, if our habit is to feast our eyes upon ungodliness, then our hearts will be filled with everything that is not of God; therefore, everything that is unkind, unlovely, selfish, loathing of others and of ourselves. Despondency is most certain to take control when we leave our hearts unprotected against such darkness.

Equally, in contrast, if our habit is to feast our eyes upon things that are counted as holy, then our hearts are filled with everything that is of God; therefore, everything that is kind, lovely and loving, generous, honoring of others and of ourselves. God’s own inner joy and peace is most certain to take control when we protect our hearts, pouring in the very light of God’s truth.

The attitudes that claim our hearts are results of what we feed it. Remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan himself for forty days in the wilderness? Jesus was tempted with power and riches that all came from the darkness of this world. What did Jesus do? He guarded His heart, knowing better than any of us, that He must protect it in order to stay in the light of His Father’s joy and truth. The story is told in Matthew 4. There, Jesus gives us two instructions on how to guard and protect our hearts. He said in verse 4 that, “People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every Word of God.” Then He said in verse 10, “You must worship the Lord your God; serve only Him.”

What happened when Jesus followed those two instructions? The answer is found in verse 11 where we read, “Then the Devil went away, and angels came and cared for Jesus.” The results of guarding and protecting our hearts will be the same for you and for me. The force of evil will have to flee. Oh, that evil will come back another time, trying again to plunge us into the despair of darkness, but the attempt will fail every time, if we follow the instruction to guard our hearts, knowing of a certainty that it affects everything we do.

Yes, the condition of our hearts affects everything we do, everything we say, everything we feel. Let us determine, with God’s own help, to guard our hearts. Let us take careful notice — everyday — upon what we focus, for God’s own Word also says in Philippians 4:7, “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” May Jesus be our everything. Such a focus, coupled with feasting on God’s own Words, and worshipping Him above all else, will guard and protect our hearts.


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Surely This Can’t Be The Way

Last week I had the joy of visiting the northern coast of Devon, England. How boldly beautiful are its rocky cliffs with great boulders and stretches of rock elongated along the shoreline. I felt as if I could have sat for hours just staring out at the grand and majestic beauty before me.

As part of our journey, my friend and I visited an ancient coastal town — Clovelly. Literally built down the cliff side, there are only narrow, cobblestoned footpaths to take residents and visitors to the harbor below. Having mastered our way down the path, we decided to have lunch at the little restaurant along the harbor.

We passed through what appeared to be an obvious way to the entrance. There was indeed a door just under the archway but it was old and heavy looking. Surely this can’t be the way, we agreed. Making our way around the back of the restaurant there were steps leading to the reception. Ah, this had to be it, but no, what our eyes beheld was a room that was not inviting at all. It was cold and sterile looking; it was not the warm and friendly atmosphere, with delightful smells of good food, that we were hoping to find.

We descended, and coming to the unlikely door again, we decided to give it a try. Pulling the door open, what greeted us was an ambience of warmth and coziness. A friendly lady working there welcomed us in. A fire filling the whole of one wall gave us warmth. The food was hot, tasty, and filling. How wrong we had been in our judgement of the unattractive door.

It’s no different in our spiritual world. So often we judge God’s leading in our lives by outward appearances. He whispers into our hearts, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.” (Isaiah 48:17) However, the way doesn’t seem attractive. Perhaps it even looks scary so we convince ourselves that — surely this can’t be the way.

Eve did the same thing in the Garden of Eden. God clearly gave Adam and Eve His perfect directions. Understanding what they could not, He forbid them to eat the fruit of a particular tree, knowing it would bring them harm, but Eve did not see that as an attractive prospect. The fruit appeared delicious. In Genesis 3:4, we see Satan telling his blatant lies, “You won’t die, the serpent hissed. God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.” In listening to this lie and taking time to consider this lie; then deciding the lie was more attractive than God’s way, we read the sad words in verse six, “The woman was convinced…so she ate the fruit.” Unpleasant consequences followed. Veering from God’s path never brings lasting joy.

Sadly, we have all, at various times in our lives, heard the lies of Satan as he points out a seemingly more attractive path for us to take than the one we see God revealing to us. Never forget that Satan only ever has desires to bring us harm and shame and disaster. Satan has been a liar from the beginning and he will always be a liar.

Equally, never forget that God only ever has desires to bless us and bring us joy of heart and peace of mind. God has been the epitome of truth from the beginning and He will always be truth. As Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me.”

The path God leads us to may indeed appear unlikely, unattractive, scary; even so, let us open the door of His leading. There will always be a glad welcome for us, the warmth of God’s love for the path ahead, and nourishment from His own Words to sustain us along the journey. If God is leading, then surely it is the way.


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The Joy Of God’s Sovereignty

Like many, I love the Psalms. It is a treasure chest of comfort and encouragement. This week I was reading in Psalm 115. When I came to verse 3 my heart quickened in excitement. I read the words, “For our God is in the heavens, and He does as He wishes.” Why did that make me excited? Because it reminded me of the sovereignty of God.

The dictionary definition of sovereignty is: one that exercises supreme, permanent authority.

I’ve heard it said by some, that to think of God as supreme, makes them feel afraid. They mistakingly see God as a huge thunderbolt in the sky, looking for some reason to strike in anger. This is a misconstrued view of our Holy God who loves so perfectly and deeply, that He sent His only Son to pay a price that sets us free from our sins; a price that you and I could have never paid. That’s love in its purity.

You see, when we accept God’s undeserved love, and when we understand that indeed, “our God is in the heavens, and He does as He wishes,” then we grow to realize the joy of what that entails. Since our God is supreme and has permanent authority, then our God has authority over all that comes into our lives, and over all that crosses our paths. Since He is a God of perfect love, then His authority over us is always, without exception, exercised in perfect love toward us. When we realize that our perfect, loving God, is making plans for our lives, taking what was meant for bad and turning it into our good (Romans 8:28) then — that’s reason for great joy.

When our joy grows because we live under the authority of the one and only, perfect, loving God, then our confidence in Him becomes steadfast. When our confidence is steadfast, nothing wavering, then peace that passes all understanding floods our souls, easing away the anxieties that beset us, and gently fills us instead with a holy joy. Why? Because our Sovereign God is in control and He does as He wishes, and He wishes to change our quivering hearts into courageous determination, undaunted by the troubles of this world.

One of my all time favorite hymns, It Is Well With My Soul was written by Horatio G Spafford in 1873. Here is the first verse:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

How truly wonderful and loving, that the one and only, supreme God in the heavens, does exactly as He wishes — and He wishes to bless us with everything we need to face anything at all — always.


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Growing What We Plant

This morning, just as the sun was rising, Molly, a lovely, gentle labrador, and I were making our routine walk around the little lake near my home in England. Two ducks had arrived only last week. They glided along the water’s surface with elegance. In patches along the bank, flower bulbs that had been hidden through long winter months are now making themselves known. Purple and white crocuses, and bright yellow daffodils are all bursting in splendor through the grass, lifting themselves toward the sky in grand announcement — “Spring is coming! We are the proof!”

As I gazed upon the beauty surrounding me, I was reminded that quite simply — we grow what we plant. In our physical worlds, if we plant a rose bush, then we will grow roses. If we plant tomato seedlings, then tomatoes will grow. If we plant a daffodil bulb, then daffodils will grow. None of us are surprised by this fact. We all know that whatever we plant, that is what we will grow. Let’s not forget that the same thing takes place in our spiritual worlds.

If we want to be more Christlike, then we must remember that we grow what we plant. For example, if we want to grow faith, then we must plant our minds with faith, and how does faith grow? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Therefore, we saturate our hearts with the seeds of God’s own Word, believing that faith will grow as a result — and it surely will. If we want to grow hope in our hearts and minds, then again, we plant in our hearts and minds, God’s own words.

Our hearts are the soil. God’s Word is the seed. When we plant the truth of His Words into the soil of our hearts, then godly characteristics will grow within us. Of course, we must water our soil with prayer and praise and thanksgiving which keeps a holy desire within us to hear and do all that Father speaks to us.

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” We can plant nothing of godliness on our own. We can act in kindness without Christ, but pure and holy love only comes through Jesus. It is only through Jesus being planted into our lives that we will then grow a godly kindness, truth, thankfulness, generosity, forgiveness, and above all — a godly love that the world cannot give.

Therefore, let’s be careful what we plant in our hearts, because what we plant will surely grow.


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Free Falling In Pain And Grief

This week a dear friend wrote to me sharing her concerns — not the least of them — grief for her Marine son killed in action. She wrote, “I feel I am in free fall.” I looked up “free fall,” and this is what I found as defined by Wikipedia:

“A skydiver’s free fall, after reaching terminal velocity, produces the sensation of the body’s weight being supported on a cushion of air.”

When I read that last phrase, that the body feels it is supported by a “cushion of air,” I immediately thought of that lovely verse in Isaiah 41:10 when our Father says, “…I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isn’t that a comforting picture? As we fall in our pain, God Himself is there holding us up, like that cushion of air, comforting, protecting, easing us back to earth where we may stand again on solid ground. For the Christian, our solid ground is upon Jesus Himself, our rock in any storm.

In November, 2013, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Observing Grief.” To all of you who are hurting today or grieving some loss, I repeat this for you now. May you be blessed with the balm of our Father’s peace even as you “free fall” in your pain.

Observing Grief

For the Christian, handling grief has been misunderstood — by other Christians. I have met Christians who somehow manage to brush aside all sorrow with a sweeping declaration that we must rejoice and give thanks in all things. I cautiously suggest that these well-meaning Christians have missed something very real, such as:

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, Christians mourned when Stephen was stoned to death, Peter cried bitter tears at his own sin, Christians cried deeply when they knew they would never see Paul again on this earth. The list goes on, in both the old and new testaments, of followers of God who grieved, cried, and experienced great sorrow in life. Why then, is there such misunderstanding today?

The answer is nothing at all sinister; it’s just fellow Christians, deeply desiring to “rejoice in all things and again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4) without fully understanding the whole of the picture. Too often, I have met Christians who actually feel guilty that they feel the emotion of sadness. Somehow, they feel they are not honoring Jesus, are expressing weakness, and are not trusting Father to be their everything. If that applies to any of you reading this, it is my prayer that this blog will be of good help to you.

You see, we are created in God’s own image. It stands to reason then, that our ability to cry was also created by Him. Our tears are actually very precious to our Father. That’s why it says of Him in Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” The pain, grief, sadness, and sorrow that any of us feels at any time, is precious to our Heavenly Father. He counts them, each one, and He lovingly pours in His own healing comfort to gently ease our pain away. As we realize more and more, that God Almighty, Himself, cares when we hurt, and that He wipes our tears away into His bottle, then healing and peace seeps into those hurting places. When that happens, that is when we say with joy and wonder, “rejoice in all things and again I say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4). Knowing that our Father loves and cares so deeply is what makes us rejoice. We don’t rejoice in the thing that caused sorrow — we rejoice that no matter the sorrow, our Father cares.

When we realize that, and accept the love and healing that He has for us, we are able to more quickly and easily move away from abject sorrow. Then, we walk in the light of His love. Never deny your grief, but never resign yourself to sorrow all the days of your life. Instead, know that your Father cares. He is holding your tears. He is pouring in His own comfort, and He always has new plans to unfold for you, to bless you and bring you much joy.


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Is It Really That Hard?

I’ve often had conversations with people who are discouraged because they can’t seem to discover God’s will for their lives. Sometimes they feel a nudge to do a particular something but that particular something doesn’t make sense to them, so they ignore the holy nudge and continue on in their discouragement of not knowing God’s will for their lives. Have you ever been on that roller coaster? Good news — it doesn’t really have to be that hard.

You see, most often, God reveals His will to His children one step at a time. It’s performing those “one steps at a time” that takes the most faith on our part. We like to see the whole picture but if we saw the whole picture, maybe we would forget that our focus must always be on God in order to accomplish what He wants of us in the first place. If we saw the whole picture, we might just want to run ahead, ignoring the thrill of the race, and simply cross the finish line. What joy we would miss along the way if we could jump ahead to completion.

Last week I wrote about Moses and this week I’m still pondering him. What a man of great faith, but how did that faith come about? He wasn’t born with faith. It wasn’t his lack of fear; he openly admitted to God his fear and personal short-comings. Moses would have gladly stepped aside and let someone else do all that God had planned for Moses to do. If Moses had done that; stepped aside, what joy he would have missed in experiencing the likes of him to accomplish something mighty.

Take a look at Exodus 4. God told Moses to go to the people of Israel and announce that God had chosen him to lead them out of captivity. Moses was once again shaking in his sandals. “They’re not going to believe me!” Moses exclaimed in verse 1. Then God asked Moses a question in verse 2. “What is that in your hand?” Moses replied, “A Shepherd’s staff.” God then tells Moses to throw it on the ground. Now, Moses could not have known what in the world was going to happen by throwing his shepherd’s staff on the ground. In fact, he may have wondered why on earth God would instruct him to do such a thing! It made no sense. Why, Moses needed guidance and courage to perform the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. He needed to jump to the finish line! He didn’t need to waste time throwing sticks on the ground! Or, so he may have thought.

God, knowing us perfectly, understood that at that moment, what Moses needed was to develop some faith for the journey ahead. Developing that faith would bring Moses and the people he led great joy along the race toward the finish line.

Moses obeyed. He threw down the shepherd’s staff which became a snake. Then, of all things, God told Moses to grab the snake by the tail! Moses obeyed again, and the snake turned back into the shepherd’s staff.

Imagine what this must have done for Moses on his own journey of learning to trust God, and then basking in the joy of obedience to Him. Moses didn’t understand why God said to throw down his stick. He didn’t understand why God then told him to pick up the snake by the tail. He didn’t understand, but he did it anyway. Learning to obey God at the onset of his journey prepared Moses to stay focused on God; to trust God even when he didn’t understand His instructions. Learning the aspect of absolute trust in God allowed Moses to revel in the joy of what God did before his eyes.

It’s no different at all for you and for me. God knows the plans He has for you and His plans are good — all the time! He will lead you one step at a time to accomplish those plans. He will ask you as He asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?” If you answer, “All I have is a stick in my hand,” and God then says, “throw it on the ground,” that’s not really so hard to do is it?

It’s daily obedience in the seemingly little things that leads us to the bigger tasks. Trust God in what is little today, and then relish the outcome when one day you finally cross your own finish line.


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Because Of God’s Name

I overheard a bit of a conversation this week. One woman was explaining to another the names of God. “God has many names,” she said, “but what does He call Himself?” The two drifted away and I never heard her response.

In my own mind I was drawn to the conversation between Moses and God in Exodus 3. God was just explaining to Moses that He had a very important task for Moses to accomplish. The task was to go to the Pharaoh of Egypt and demand the immediate release of the people of Israel who had been in captivity, living as slaves among the Egyptians. What a task! I sympathize entirely with Moses as he was shaking in his sandals.

Moses tried his very best to get out of the situation but failed in every attempt. You see, when God has a plan for us, every other plan we can think of, just isn’t good enough. There is no better plan for your life or for mine than what God Almighty has designed. His perfect plan doesn’t mean it won’t be scary along the way, but it means it will also be filled with God’s own peace and joy and courage and guidance. How do we know that? Because of God’s name.

Look at Exodus 3:13. Moses says to God, “‘If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what should I tell them?'”

Now look at God’s response in the next verse. God says to Moses, “I Am who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.”

That is an amazing statement! Why exactly? To better understand, let’s take note of what God doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, I Was. Nor does He say, I Will Be. He says, “I Am.” Why is that so encouraging to us today?

Like Moses, you and I get nervous at some of the things God asks us to do. Perhaps, like Moses, we point out to God how someone else would be better suited for the task. Maybe we even argue with God. It’s possible we even hint to Him that He got it wrong this time. Of course, God never gets it wrong, and we know that in our heart of hearts. Therefore, God reminds us of His name for our great encouragement.

You see, when God says, “I Am,” He is saying: If you need comfort today, then I am comfort. If you need courage today, then I am courage. If you need guidance today, then I am guidance. If you need wisdom today, then I am wisdom. If you need joy today, then I am joy.

Do you see the beauty of His name? If His name were, I Was, then all hope of what we need for today would have already passed us by. If His name were, I Will Be, then all hope of what we need for today would be just a painful wish. How delightfully perfect that His name is indeed, “I Am.”

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