Vickie's Blog

Thoughts Along Life's Journey

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No Words Like His Own

Yesterday I phoned a friend to share a burden that’s in my heart. I knew this friend would pray diligently, but she also did something else that blessed me so very much. She read a portion of Scripture from Philippians 4. As I listened to her read over the phone, a sweetness touched me very deep, and then it rose and spilled over into peace of heart and mind. My friend was reading from a Bible version that I’m not all that familiar with: The Message.

When it comes to needing comfort from God, there are no words like His own. I share with you now those words from Philippians 4:6-7 that have blessed me so much:

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

If you’re feeling troubled today, filled with a sadness, or weighed down by a burden, I invite you, too, to meditate upon these words from God. Really think about them, letting them go down deep into all the hurting places. There’s no greater healing balm.

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To Laugh And Laugh And Laugh Some More

So, there I am in my car. I’m driving to my destination. My mind wanders, and I have no idea why, but a particular incident that had happened some time ago, surfaced from my memory file. As I recalled the incident, which was extremely funny, I began to chuckle. Then, the chuckle turned into laughter. Then, the laughter turned into absolute hilarity! I even wondered if I would have to pull to the side of the road! By the way, I was alone in the car when all this laughing was going on. When I came up to a red light, my laughing out of my control, I wondered what any onlookers might think. Therefore, I kept glancing down at the passenger seat in hopes that, anyone noticing my hysterics, might think a child was in the seat next to me! I could not make myself quit laughing!

I continued on my way, and finally, the laugher began to subside. That’s when I noticed something. It sure felt good! That laughing episode was like a tonic reviving all tired and mundane feelings in body and mind. At that moment, I felt I could have jumped out of the car and run a race; that’s how good all over I felt! Don’t worry — I stayed in the car!

When I got back home, I went on the internet and found a fascinating article by Psychologist Steve Wilson of the USA. He wrote, “The effects of laughter and exercise are very similar. Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate.” Another laughter researcher, William Fry, reports that it takes an average of ten minutes on a rowing machine for the heart rate to reach the same level after one minute of laughter. Isn’t that amazing! Also, laughter has been found to burn calories. A study was done at Vanderbilt University, in which it was discovered, that 10-15 minutes of laughter burns 50 calories. Wow, that would be much more fun than the treadmill!

I found the results of my research exciting, because it reminded me of the wonder and magnificence of our Creator God! He made laughter. He made us with the capacity to laugh. God, in His infinite wisdom and intellect, knew the physical and emotional benefits of laughter, long before any doctor or psychologist discovered it. What a wonderful, helpful, and joyful gift God has given to us.

Perhaps, when we’ve got the blues or the blahs, it might just help to use that wonderful gift God has given to us. Think of something funny! God reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that, while there is a time to cry and to grieve, don’t forget the time to laugh and dance! Also, our wonderful God told us long ago what doctors are now discovering. He tells us in Proverbs 17:22, A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

Enjoy your day, and may you use God’s gift, and have a really good laugh about something!

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Who Knows The End From The Beginning?

I was just reading the story of Ruth in the Old Testament. As I did so, the thought came to me — Who knows the end from the beginning? Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at one of the characters in the story. Naomi.

Naomi was married and had two sons. There was a terrible famine in Judah where they lived, so Naomi’s husband took the family to the land of Moab. I wonder how Naomi felt leaving family and friends to go and live in another country with foreign customs? It might have been a lonely endeavor, but perhaps Naomi took some joy in her daughters-in-law, because both her sons married in Moab.

However, whether Naomi found joy or not, it would have been short lived; there in that foreign land, her husband and sons died. Naomi was left alone with no one to care for her or her daughters-in-law, because it was the culture of the time for women to be cared for by the men. When a woman did not have the care of a man, she was in a very difficult position.

News came that crops were now better in Judah; the famine was no more. Therefore, understandably, Naomi decides to return to her homeland. One of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, insists on going with her. We read in the first chapter that, as Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, the entire town took notice. Everyone was talking about it, spreading the news that Naomi had come back. The people of Judah were so happy. They were shouting, “Naomi has come home!” Although the people were happy, we read that Naomi was not happy at all. In Ruth 1:20-21, the words of Naomi are recorded, “Don’t call me Naomi. Instead, call me Mara (that means Bitter) because the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Wy should you call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”

Does that attitude sound familiar? Have you ever walked Naomi’s path, finding yourself in an undesirable situation, and blaming it all on God? Why has God done this or that? Why has God taken my joy? Poor God, He gets blamed for lots of life’s mishaps. We tell ourselves that God isn’t interested. He’s not helping me. He’s leaving me to suffer alone. Have you ever felt that way? If so, you’re not alone, and take heart; God understands. How can He understand? One, because He knows the frailty of our minds, and in this instance, we are reminded, too, that, He knows the end from the beginning.

As our story continues, we see how Ruth meets a distant family relative named Boaz. Boaz comes to love Ruth and goes through the proper, cultural custom, to marry Ruth. Very quickly, Ruth has a child. Read what the story tells us in 4:15-17. The women are talking to Naomi and they say this, “May this child restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you so much and who has been better to you than seven sons! Naomi took care of the baby and cared for him as if he were her own. The women said, ‘Naomi has a son again!’ And the baby was named Obed, who was the father of Jessie, and the grandfather of David.

How about that! There was Naomi suffering terribly, blaming God; but all along, because God knows the end from the beginning, He knew His plans were to bless her above all she could ever dream. God did bless magnificently — Naomi’s grandson, Obed, was in the direct line from whom Jesus would be born. Isn’t that amazing? If only Naomi could have known, but no one sees into the future. Only God knows the end from the beginning. The next time life brings suffering, remember how God works in our lives. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Therefore, no matter what we are going through, we may grab hold of hope, because our God is working on our behalf. After all, our God knows the end from the beginning.


Bending But Never Breaking

I’ve been enjoying a two week stay in Wales where I’m house and dog sitting for friends who are away on vacation. Their home is in the countryside. Every morning, Buddy the dog, and I stroll along the River Wye. It’s a lovely start to the day.

Most of the days have been filled with the warmth of sunshine, but during two days, the sky turned grey with clouds. Rain fell on occasion and the wind picked up, whipping through plants and trees. During one particular afternoon, I stood watching the power of the wind. It was lashing out through the trees, causing branches to go swirling in all directions. What drew my particular attention was the affects of wind among the smaller plants. The wind was mighty, and the rain pelted down; at times bending the plants over, causing the tops to scrape the earth. That’s when I remembered something that I had once read about plants in a storm.

I read about a group of botanists who conducted experiments involving plants. They put the plants in glass containers so they could easily see the roots of each plant. Then, in their garden laboratory, they created storm conditions, sending water and wind thrashing down and whipping about the plants. What they saw, I found amazing! When the storm had become its most ferocious, the botanists could actually see the roots move and stretch down, going deeper into the soil. Isn’t that amazing? Yet again, we see how our magnificent God has woven His truths into the fabric of all His nature.

You see, what God writes within nature, reflects His truth in our spiritual worlds. Haven’t you had times in life when storms of turmoil had reached a point that, like David in the Psalms, you cried out, “How long, Lord, will you wait? When, Lord, will you come to my rescue? Are you ever going to change my situation? How long, how long, how long? It’s a continuous, agonizing cry!

The storms of despair blow so ferociously, that the leaves of our content are plucked right away. Branches of trust are stripped bare! Winds of doubt bend us to the earth in our mournful plight. How long, Oh Lord, how long? But wait, our Lord has not forsaken us. He has not left us without means to grasp strength, courage, and inner peace. There is no storm that can literally blow us to bits. Nature shows us that truth. Like the plants, we can also, as it says in Colossians 2:7, Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all He has done.”

It’s so easy in a storm, to focus on what we see: winds of discouragement and rains of despair, threatening to rip away our peace and drown all our joy. It need not be, if we focus, not upon what we see with our eyes, but upon what we know in our hearts. Go to the root of the matter, and stretch your weary roots, deep into the soil of God’s love. Draw upon His nourishment. Remind yourself of His guidance in past storms. Winds and rains of frustration and tears of heartache may batter and bend you, but they need never break you. Let your roots go down deep, and draw from the richness of God’s own wisdom and guidance. He is there in the sunshine of our lives, and He is there in the storms of our lives. He is the very soil in which our roots go down deep, and they hang on, bending but never breaking.

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Asking, What? Instead of, Why?

I love the story of Paul and Silas. These two men, giants in their faith in God, knew the secret to inner joy, no matter the outer circumstances. Do you remember the incident when they were beaten with wooden rods, then thrown into prison and chained? It’s recorded in Acts 16:11-40. I wonder how you and I would feel in similar circumstances? There they were, doing all kinds of good things: helping people, sharing God’s love, and telling the true story of Jesus everywhere they went. In the very midst of all their good works, what happens? They get falsely accused, beaten on their bare backs with wooden rods, thrown into a dark prison and chained.

We would understand if we read of how Paul and Silas lamented their situation. We could appreciate if they cried out to God, “why have you let this happen to me?” Instead, they did something most peculiar. The Scripture tells us in verse 25, “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” I’m sure the other prisoners were listening. What must they have thought? Perhaps they thought, what nuts! Perhaps they wanted to know how Paul and Silas maintained peace in their predicament.

There is nothing wrong at all with being totally honest before God with our feelings; He knows what we’re thinking anyway. However, I find a sadness when Christians get mad at God for allowing some hardship into their lives, and then ask the question, “why me?” The question “why” often has no answer. Rather than, “why have you allowed this?” perhaps the question, instead, should be, “what?” What do you want to show me or teach me through this? What do you, God, want to reveal about Yourself through this? What do You want to build in my life through this?

In the story of Paul and Silas in prison, there is no indication that they asked “why?” Instead, there is every indication that they were trusting in the “what?” The very fact that they could pray and sing in such a situation let’s us know that, while they couldn’t know what God would do; they knew He would do something. When we focus on the why, it leaves us looking more inward than upward. When we focus on the what, it brings our sights heavenward, where we trust in our God who does all things well. It increases our anticipation as we eagerly wait to see what God will do. The knowing why fades into irrelevance as we press on and wait for the what.

If we choose, as Paul and Silas did, to pray and sing when we don’t know “why” some woe has fallen upon us, the anticipation of “what” will shake the foundations of our anguish. It will break the chains of our despair. It will open the doors to hope, freeing us from the prison of our inner torment. We will walk through our troubles in the joy of “what” God has done and of “what” He will continue to do. Mulling over “why” may only lead us into further introspection where doom and gloom await us. Asking “what” leads us to The Potter’s door where holy molding takes place.

Never forget, too, as verse 25 reveals, when we are first thrust into a prison of suffering, the other prisoners will be listening.” Perhaps your anticipation of “what is God going to do?” will fill others with hope in the midst of their own chains of despair.

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Dissecting Jesus

In our world there seems to be a cure-all for all sorts of situations. When our hair turns grey, there is dye to change its color. When wrinkles appear, there is anti-wrinkle cream to help them fade away. When a tummy roll appears, there’s purpose designed diets and exercises to rid us of that excess. There are alleged cures for cellulite, lack of energy, and even pills to help our memory. The world has definitely given us a cure-all mentality.

In our physical worlds, we are disappointed, time and time again at failed cure-all attempts. All too soon, we realize the wrinkles may appear to fade — but in reality, they are still there. Even cosmetic surgery lasts but a little while in comparison to all the days of our lives. Perhaps we hide them away for awhile, but they always make their presence known to us, especially in the mornings!

Is it the same in our spiritual world? Is there a cure-all for our disappointments in life?Indeed, we have hope that never fades. The answer to our spiritual problems, or our emotional worries, lies not in anything temporary, but in the eternal Word of God. Only this week someone told me, “I like to think about Jesus and say a prayer when I’m worried, but I don’t have time to read the Bible and pay much attention to it.” My heart sunk for them. They had missed the whole point; not only of solving difficulties and finding strength to get through them, but of knowing full joy in their everyday lives. Subconsciously, this person is treating Jesus like a daily anti-worry cream to smooth away the wrinkles of their discontent. To say we will think upon Jesus, but ignore the Word of God, is the futile and foolish attempt to dissect Jesus — it can’t be done. How do we know that? Because in I John 1:1 it says, “He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. Later on in that same chapter, verse 4, it says, “We are writing these things so that your joy will be complete.”

The Apostle John wrote this letter to remind the church of just what we have when we have Jesus residing in our lives. In this first chapter alone we are reminded that Jesus is The Word. Jesus is Eternal Life. Jesus is the Light that dispels all darkness. It is only as we truly come to understand what we have in Jesus, that we also understand and know true joy. Too often, we confuse happiness and joy, believing them to be the same thing. Not so! My father, Dr. Chuck Blair, wrote concerning this matter, “Happiness depends on circumstance — is temporary. Joy depends on relationship — is permanent.” There are many circumstances and situations which will provide us great happiness for a time, but the joy of Jesus stays with us no matter what takes place in our lives. I love the verse in Jeremiah 15:16 which says, “Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” Jeremiah understood the importance of relationship with God and that the very Word is God. One cannot dissect this truth without walking in error which will only lead to temporary happiness, and never to lasting joy.

Now, here’s an important point: Having relationship with Jesus is the key that unlocks the door that leads to joy. However, never forget, that once relationship is made, it is fellowship with Jesus that cements His joy in our hearts. To know Him and ignore Him will not bring joy. To know Him and plunge in to know Him more, all the days of our lives — that is the guarantee to joy, no matter the disappointments and hard times that life gives to us.

Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” Ask the Lord to help you remember that, it’s relationship and fellowship with Jesus, who is the Word, which brings complete joy. Anything less is only a fading happiness at best.

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Cleaning Out The Closet

I wonder how many reading this have an attic or a basement or a spare room that’s full of — just stuff! It’s easy to fill a room to a point, that in no time at all, it’s so full that we can’t even remember what’s in there. When we do finally take the time to sort through everything that has gathered, we surprise ourselves at having so much clutter. We discover that we have many things that we do not need. So, we have a spring cleaning and we get rid of all that we haven’t used in a very long time. When we’ve finished, we stand back and admire the beauty of the space; all clutter is gone. Then what happens? We begin to fill it all up, yet again, with things we don’t need. Perhaps in time, we clear all the clutter out once more. We repeat this process countless times throughout our lives. Of course, for those who horde, the clutter gets worse and worse until there’s barely anything in the room that’s recognizable or even useful.

We do the very same thing in our spiritual world. It’s our mind that becomes the storage closet where we keep things that we do not need. We throw in worry. We throw in bitterness. We throw in loathing of ourselves and of others, too. We throw in distrust in God. We throw in guilt. The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. Why do we collect so much garbage in both our physical and our spiritual worlds? Worst still, why do we keep it for so long? Garbage will only, with time, rot and stink. When we clutter our minds with garbage and leave it there, our thoughts begin to rot and stink, too. It’s not fun. Garbage covers our peace with the thick dust of despondency.

Apostle Paul encouraged us in Philippians 4:8 to “Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are worthy of praise.” Do you notice that it’s a command? It doesn’t say to try and think about things pure and lovely. It says to do it. In other words, the moment you realize that a piece of garbage has been stored in the closet of your mind — throw it out! How do we throw garbage out of our minds? By choosing and training our minds to think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. For example, when worry gets thrown in, replace it with reminders that God never makes mistakes and He cares for you immeasurably. When self loathing gets stored in a great big box, replace it with the fact that you are so precious to Jesus, that He willingly died so you could have life. When loneliness ends up on a shelf in your mind, replace it with God’s truth that says He will never leave you or forsake you. God’s Word is the best cleaner of all. It removes every stain and piece of dirt in our minds, and replaces the stink of garbage with the sweet fragrance of God’s love. God’s Word purifies.

Where God’s Word lives, no garbage can survive. Therefore, let’s do spring cleaning all year round. Peace will thrive in an uncluttered mind.


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