Vickie's Blog

Thoughts Along Life's Journey


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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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What’s The Password?

In today’s technology, passwords are a must. We need a password to open our computer, do online banking, check our email, look at Facebook, book a vacation, purchase an item, or enter a particular app. We can’t just type in any word that comes to our minds. It must be the exact word in order for us to access what we desire.

It’s the same in God’s scheme of things. We desire His blessings. We crave His peace in the midst of tears and hard times. We long for His guidance to tell us what path in life to follow. What job should we take? What friends should we choose? Where should we live? Who should we marry or should we marry at all? How do we make more money? How should we spend our money? Who do we say ‘yes’ to and to whom do we say ‘no’?

Life gets so complicated. It’s fast paced. Sometimes we’re on a runaway roller coaster, scared out of our wits and having no idea how to get off the out of control pace that we’re on. What can we do?

Use the right password in order to gain entrance to God’s blessings. You see, too often we make the mistake of thinking that we can merely call out to God in a time of trouble, and presto! He will come to our aid, making all things right. When that happens, we subconsciously tell ourselves that we can now get back to living the way we want with little regard for God — until we need Him to come to the rescue again.

I assure you, that’s not how it works at all. That thinking is nothing more than using all the wrong words to retrieve blessings when there is only one correct password. What is it? Surrender. That word makes us want to back away. Something inside of us makes us fearful of surrender, but in the spiritual realm of God, there is beauty beyond words in surrender.

You see, when we surrender to God and His ways, then we are leaving behind our own flimsy attempts at victorious, joyful living. When we surrender to the notion that God must be above all else in our lives, then we leave behind selfish pursuit that always leads us away from God rather than towards Him. Surrender is not a suffocating defeat; it’s a celebration of victory when we say to God, “You and You alone are first in my life.” When we take on that attitude, we gain immediate access to God’s help, direction, plans, peace, joy, courage, and hope — all on a continual basis. When we have the right password, all else falls into proper and peaceful perspective.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33


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Gray and Gold

Earlier this week I watched a news item about a photographer who liked to capture images of the sun rising. In this particular segment the photographer was on a beach long before sunrise. We saw through his lens a beautiful sight already appearing. There was a stretch of sand with large rocks standing tall near a wall of white cliff. As the sun was not up yet, the images were all in shades of gray. Nonetheless, it was an appealing view.

Then, in a breathtaking moment, all shades of gray disappeared, almost instantaneously, as a wash of golden sunlight swept over earth’s surface. What had been beautiful in shades of gray, was now more vibrant than ever with its true, rich colors of creamy sand, black rocks covered in patches of bright green algae, and the whiteness of cliff wall gleaming in dazzling sunlight.

I whispered my thanks to our heavenly Father for such beauty to behold. He whispered back into my heart, “Mankind is the same without me and then with me.” Contemplating the thought, it came to me the revelation of that lovely truth.

Before we come to know Jesus Christ; before we come to accept His gift of salvation, we may have an already beautiful life, but it’s all in shades of gray. Only when the Light of the World — Jesus — is invited into our lives, does the gray change, instantly, into a golden wash of hope and purpose. Our world is always colored more beautifully when Father God shines His light onto it.

It is when God’s own golden touch paints our lives that we can say with certainty, as Apostle Paul said in Acts 17:24-25, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is the Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve His needs — for He has no needs. He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need.”

May your needs be found in Father God today and may the gray places of your world be washed in the Light of His love.


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He’s Always There

One of my favorite authors and Bible teachers is Tony Evans. He said this: “You may not see Jesus in the middle of your trials, but He sees you. Hang in there.”

We’ve all found ourselves in a dilemma that seemed impossible to escape. We can see no way out of the confusion, the pain, the heartache. The “why” question goes unanswered. We call out to Jesus but we don’t hear Him speak into our wounded places. We look for Him in every detail of the situation, but we cannot see Him there. What does that mean?

It means that it’s time to put our faith into practice. It’s easy to believe the words of God when everything in our lives is looking like roses. Strangely, a weakening of trust comes into play when the thorns begin to appear. It’s at such moments that we have a vital choice to make: we may accuse God of abandoning us and plod on in our misery or we may declare that we know He is there. We choose to believe that He is working something out for our good. We know that in God’s perfect timing, He will reveal purpose out of all that is taking place in our lives. It’s a choice. In my own experience, the latter has always proved most satisfying, for when I call out my trust to Him, inner upheaval changes to an awareness of peace. It’s all a choice.

Remember the story of Job in the Old Testament? There he was living the best he could to honor God. He was blessed with a large family and with financial gain and with good health. Then, in the midst of his roses, the sharp, cruel thorns of devastation pierced his world of tranquility. His health deteriorated. Horrific weather killed his children. Did he grieve? Deeply. What didn’t he do? Job 1:22 tells us, “In all this, Job did not sin by blaming God.” In other words, in the midst of his deepest trials, he made his choice. He could not see God but He chose to believe that He was there, working the outcome to his good. Read the story to see the goodness that God prepared for him. Job only received the great blessings that were to come because of his choice to trust God even in life’s blinding storms.

Remember, God has never let anyone down; He’s not going to start with you. Don’t blame God in the midst of pain; reach out and hold on to Him. He is always there.


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Wearing God’s Clothing

Last week I shared thoughts about Jesus being our everything.  Whatever we need — He is.  All that He has — we have, too.  When we begin that practice of placing our focus on Him,  peace begins to settle in the storms of our lives, but something else takes place, too.  It is this “something else” that we need to be aware of and take heed.

You see, the devil will not be pleased at your endeavors.  In fact, he will be outraged at your quest to focus on Jesus because he hates Jesus with a passion.  Therefore, we are warned to be careful of attacks from the devil.  James 4:7 reads, “So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  

This is a most helpful verse.  Let’s look at it carefully.  First, the dictionary definition of “humble” is this: “to show a modest estimate of one’s own importance.”  Therefore, in the light of this verse, we are instructed to focus, not on our own importance, but as we humble ourselves before God, we are reminded once again, that the focus is, in fact, God Himself.  In other words, our own importance is nothing compared to the greatness of God; and yet, even as we are nothing and He is everything, He loves us and longs to fill us daily with His own power and wisdom.

When we focus on that, what happens?  We find that it is indeed possible to resist the devil and his depressing thoughts and lies.  When we resist him, we are found to be steadfast in our faith in God’s care for us.  That’s a lovely thought but there is something else to remember.  Look at the verse again.  It says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  In other words, he will flee for that moment — but beware! He will return at a later time!

When the devil fails at keeping us from coming to accept Jesus as our salvation, the next thing he attempts is to keep us weak.  He doesn’t want our faith to grow strong.  He doesn’t want us focusing on God’s love for us.  He doesn’t want us to realize that God is our everything to get us through anything.  Therefore, he will keep coming back to tempt us, to lie to us, to get a foot into our door of peace in order to throw in his havoc.

We must resist the devil again and again.  What a tiring thought!  How do we accomplish this?  The answer is found in Ephesians 6:13, “Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil. so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.”  Isn’t that a wonderful verse?  What a terrific instruction, reminding us that if we dress in God’s armor, then the evil darts of Satan cannot penetrate; we will be left standing firm.

What is God’s armor?  That’s found in Ephesians 6:14-17.  They are:  the belt of truth, body armor of righteousness, shoes of peace, a shield of faith, a helmut of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the very Word of God.   Satan is strong but God is stronger.  Therefore, when we are dressed in the armor of God, Satan cannot win.

Remember the story of Jesus in the desert?  He was met by Satan who tempted him powerfully.  How did Jesus resist?  He skillfully used His sword of the Spirit — the Word of God.  What happened?  Satan had to flee.  He absolutely cannot stand against God’s Word.  That’s why it’s vital to our daily peace and joy to skillfully use the Word of God.  We must hide the words in our hearts.  We when do so, we will be ready to draw our swords and fight to victory when Satan attacks.

God’s Word is the only way to constant victory.  All other attempts pales in comparison.  May you dress for battle everyday and may you rejoice in every victory!

 

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