Behind the Clouds

I first posted this a couple years ago, but I feel the need to share it again.  I have many friends and loved ones going through hard things right now, and in the light of Easter coming this weekend, I pray this post will be an encouragement!

This past Saturday morning I headed out early to purchase the last items I needed for my Easter dinner.  I was filled with excitement as I anticipated Easter Sunday and the joy of worshiping and remembering the empty tomb! The sky was kind of gray and cloudy as I headed out, but I needed to get this done.

As I drove into town, my mind went to the first Easter Saturday – that very day after Christ had been crucified.  I thought about the disciples, the many other people who had heard Jesus and believed He was Who He said He was, and of those that had seen His miracles and had turned in faith to Him as their Savior.  How must they have felt on that day after?  I’m sure many were filled with mixed emotions.  They had seen Him suffer, some had buried Him.  He was dead. Many must have felt hopeless, gloomy and discouraged.

“Oh!” I thought, “if only they could know what we know now they would never have doubted!  They would be as excited as I am as I anticipate Easter’s arrival tomorrow!”    They wouldn’t have been filled with sadness, gloom or despair if they could know what we know!

It was then that the Lord whispered in my heart,

“If you could know what I’m at work doing right now in your life, you wouldn’t be filled with despair in your trials either.”

How right He is!  Why do I doubt Him?  Why am I filled with sorrow in difficult days?  It’s because I believe the enemy’s lies when he says – “Nothing good could come from THIS!”  “Your life should be happier!”  “This is never going to get better – give it up!”

No!  My God is at work fulfilling His great plan for my life – to make me into the image of His Son.  It may take cloudy days, days of pain or suffering, but He’s got a reason, and I must trust Him!

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Still in my car and carrying on this dialogue with the Lord, I looked up to see that the sun had burst through the clouds in splendor and beauty.  It was a visual of the lesson He had just spoken to my heart.  Something lovely is behind the dark clouds; wait and watch!

What dark cloud of difficulty are you staring at today?  Keep your eyes on Christ! He is at work on a plan that will leave you speechless!

With love,

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Why I Attend Ladies’ Retreats When I Don’t Feel Like It

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I’m going to be really open with you here – being away from home is not my favorite thing.  I’m really, completely a home-body.  I could stay within the walls of my home for a week or two and be totally content!  But there are times that I choose to push past my tendency to stay where I’m most comfortable and go places, even when I don’t feel like it.  One of those times is when Christian retreats are offered for women.  I speak at retreats, so that probably sounds really odd, right?  Let me explain:  I love it when I’m there at the retreat.  I bask in the fellowship, the teaching, the worship, the encouragement, but it’s all the stuff beforehand that I struggle with.  I’m talking about:

  • Packing
    • All those decisions!
    • All the things I have to remember to take…just in case!
    • What if I don’t want to wear that when I get there?  Better add another outfit!
  • Getting the people in my house ready for my departure.  Even though it’s now just my husband, he has needs I must consider.  When my girls were home, it was even more difficult to go away.  They weren’t always crazy about being left behind, and that was another issue that had to be dealt with.
  • Finances – It’s sometimes hard to get the funds to go.  I’d ask myself if we could afford it, but my husband would always insist that God would provide (and He always did!).
  • Fatigue – Let’s face it, weekends away are exhausting!  You’re usually up later than normal, the routine can be rigorous, and the hours of rest are few.  Did I really want to give up my sleep to go?

HOWEVER, in the last 16 years that we’ve been close to The Wilds, I can only remember a year or two that I didn’t get to go to the ladies’ retreat. I also started attending the Ladies’ Prayer Advance  two years ago.  Let me tell you why I’ve pushed forward and have gone to these retreats, even when I really didn’t feel like it.

  1. I go because I need the teaching of God’s Word that is specifically directed to women and our needs.  Last weekend there was a session for Pastor’s Wives that I needed to hear!  Two sessions I heard spoke to my role as a wife.  Still another topic was about women reaching women for the Gospel.  The Lord gave me Truth in every single message!
  2. I go because I know it will help me to grow spiritually.  Yes, I go to church each week. Yes, I read my Bible every day, but there’s something about a weekend retreat that causes decisions to be made that advance me as a child of God.
  3. I go because I need my sisters in Christ.  The fellowship, the sharing, the praying, the knitting of our hearts together will not happen at church.  It has to come from times outside worship services at church.  It comes on the van as we share our burdens.  It takes place at lunch when we talk about the last session.  It stirs in our hearts as we grasp hands and pray together.
  4. I go because I know it will make me a better wife, mom, daughter, friend, light in this dark world.
  5. I go because I remember that I have never regretted going and spending time in God’s Word and with His people.  Never.  Ever.

That’s my testimony and my heart.  Can I challenge you to consider attending a retreat this spring – or next fall if that’s when it’s available for you?  Something really special is going to happen there and you don’t want to miss out on it.  The laundry will be there when you get back.  Your family will survive without you.  No one notices what you’re wearing.  Your church group needs you there!

Boones Creek Bible Church ladies, I’m extending an invitation to you to attend the Ladies’ retreat at The Wilds April 20, 21.  Sign up before it gets filled up!

Look at your excuse and ask yourself it’s really valid?  Don’t let your enemy keep you from a blessing!

Where do you go to “retreat?”  What blessing did you receive?

Lovingly,

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Do you have a Teachable Spirit?

Little toddlers are becoming independent little people and they will often struggle trying to accomplish a task and do it the hard way.  Have you ever tried to step in and show them an easier way?  Their response is often,

“No, I do it!”

and they push away the very counsel that could make their task easier.

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Toddlers aren’t the only ones who push away help.  Often when we are making our way through our Christian life, a pastor stands to preach, or a teacher gives God’s Word in a Bible study, or a friend pulls us aside to speak Truth to us, and we become stiff and resentful instead of teachable.  We like others to think that we’re just fine.  We don’t think we need someone to tell us what to do,  or how to live!

Are you like that?  I must confess that I’ve fought with this very kind of spirit over the years.  How about  a little check-up to see if we’re teachable or not?

When you hear Truth given by a wise, godly person, whether it’s one-on-one or in a group setting, do you…

  • Turn a deaf ear?  – Proverbs 13:1 a scorner heareth not rebuke.
  • Hate the instruction itself? – Proverbs 5:12 – And you say, “How I have hated instruction and my heart spurned reproof.”
  • Hate the one giving it?  Proverbs 9:8 – Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you.
  • Think about how you’re going to defend yourself while the other person is speaking?  Proverebs 18:13 – He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
  • Stiffen up when you hear it?  Proverbs 29:1 – He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

If these traits are true of us, here is the sad result…

  • Destruction – Proverbs 29:1
  • Punishment and Death –  Proverbs 15:10 – This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, but it could bring that or spiritual death, death to relationships, death to fruitfulness, etc.
  • Broken fellowship with God – Proverbs 1:24, 25
  • Unanswered prayer – Psalm 66:18

If we continue in sin after we’ve been admonished, we can be sure we are headed for destruction.

The flip side of all this is that there are wonderful blessings from heeding Godly counsel:

  • Increase in learning – Proverbs 1:5
  • There is safety –  Proverbs 11:14
  • Wisdom – Proberbs 12:15, 13:10, 19:20
  • Happiness – Proverbs 3:13
  • Gained a friend – Proverbs 27:6
  • Gained precious treasure – Proverbs 20:15
  • Deliverance – Proberbs 28:26

If we want to be wise, we’ll all lean in, and not away from the one who desires to instruct us in godly wisdom.  Pride is the culprit that whispers in our ear, “You don’t have to listen to THAT!”  Rather than being like an unteachable youngster, let’s keep a humble, mature heart that listens and then responds.  Even if you don’t think the person is on target about what they’re saying, listen, and then talk to God about it.  He will always give the right counsel!

When is it most difficult to receive godly counsel?

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Organizing Your Bible Study Tools

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The best way I could ever start any day is by spending the first part of it in the study of God’s Word and prayer.  I know that without the instruction in His Word, I would be desperate.  I would have no wisdom, order, no direction, no hope for today.  Therefore, it is my practice to spend the first part of my day in a place pulled apart from everything so that I can focus on what God wants to say to me.

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.  Psalm 63:1

Most times, I am seated in a comfy chair in my bedroom.  I chose this spot because it has few distractions. I like to have everything I need in one place so that I don’t spend 15 minutes trying to find my Bible, a pen, my journal, and so on. I noticed recently that the tools I use to study with had gotten disheveled, causing my non-distracted space to become distracted!  So I set out to fix that problem, and I’m so much happier when I sit down each morning.  I can get to my books easily, I have pen ready and waiting, and it’s not a cluttered mess!

I wondered if anyone else might be struggling with the same problem of how to organize your study tools – your Bible, a  journal for notes, a prayer journal, other Bible study books, markers, highlighters, etc.  It can literally take over a corner of a room, can’t it?!  I’m going to show you pictures of how I organized my things.  I hope it will give you some ideas, so you can focus on God and His Word, rather than a mess that’s surrounding you!

I didn’t want to add a large bookshelf or even another piece of furniture to my room, so here’s what I did with my books – first, I used a table with a tray on top.

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You’ll notice that not everything is “out.”  My tray holds the items I use every day.  The pen holder is on the tray, but kind of tucked back out of the view, but within reach.

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My extra books and larger Prayer journal notebook are in two book bags on the floor, beside my chair.  They, too, are tucked out of view, as you can tell by the first picture on the post.

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No longer am I staring at a huge pile of books.  It’s all easy to reach, and is organized according to priority.

Maybe you have a great system that works for you, but if you need a little help, I hope this inspired you a little!

Stay refreshed in God’s Word!

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Spiritual Leftovers

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I spent a good deal of time early this week cleaning out the fridge – not one of my favorite jobs to do. After the fridge being crammed to its limit with all the Christmas dinner, plus extra cheeses, whipping cream container, refrigerated desserts, etc. there was a lot to contend with. There are crumbs to be wiped out of the drawers, shelves that must be wiped down from dripping this and sticky that, and then the leftovers that have to be dealt with. Why didn’t we just eat the whole ham on Christmas day? Oh, yeah, I bought an extra big one because I wanted leftovers. The blessing is that I can make several good meals with those leftovers I came across. Why one evening we had ham biscuits using the last of the Angel Biscuit Dough and ham pieces. Yum! The ham bone is safely tucked into my freezer ready for soup beans in the future.

My spiritual life is nothing like my refrigerator. “Duh!” you say. You didn’t need to read this blog to figure that out, right? But wait – don’t we often act as though they are similar? Let me explain:

We get filled up with good things on Sunday. We hear a great Sunday school lesson and a sermon that stirs our heart. We may even walk to the altar and make things right with the Lord. We return on Sunday night and are challenged by testimonies and the Word again. Our “shelves” are full.

We get up Monday morning and rejoice in all that we heard on Sunday, and know we need to be in the Word, but we slept in a little longer than we’d anticipated, and now we’re short on time if we’re going to make our morning appointment.

Tuesday finds us on the Internet with our morning coffee, then putting in a load of laundry, and before we know it the morning is gone with us trying to just live off the leftovers from Sunday.

By Wednesday we’re spiritually hungry, and those crumbs on the shelves are getting more and more crusty and dry. When we return to prayer meeting we have no testimony to share because our cup hasn’t been filled all week. We sit and listen to others and wonder what happened and why God doesn’t speak to us like He does to Mrs. So and So.

Living off of the leftovers cannot make one spiritually healthy. We need fresh manna every day, just like the Israelites. They had to gather that heavenly food each morning; so must we.
So, how’s your fridge? Is it full of yummy leftovers? You’ll enjoy some good meals! Just remember you can’t live off of spiritual leftovers – they’ll never satisfy the longing in your heart.
With love,

Friday Favorites

What a great week this has been. These days before Christmas are so much fun. Yes, they are full, but full of  blessings! Here are some of my favorites –

What I’m reading:
The Four Streams Bible Reading Plan

I’m almost finished reading through my Bible in a year. What a blessing it’s been to read through the “Four Streams” plan on You Version! It takes you through the New Testament four times, Proverbs four times, the Psalms twice, and the Old testament once. As mentioned here, I’ve been listening to the audio as I follow along in my Bible. That’s been a great addition!

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Projects I’ve worked on…
A blanket scarf.

I bought shirting flannel for $4.50 a yard. I frayed all four sides and folded it in a triangle and tied it in the front. It’s perfect and perfectly warm! I wore it yesterday when it was in the 20’s and it kept me toasty while I was outside!
I did another scarf in a long rectangle, cutting it in half, lengthwise and putting a seam in the middle.

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These were fun projects that gave me two flannel scarves for under $10!

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The most surprising thing I’ve seen…
An Elf!

It’s not every day you see an elf walking down the street! If only I could’ve gotten her to come home and help with the rest of my gift wrapping!  =)  This was at Dollywood where we went to see the Christmas lights and the shows.  Dollywood gives the Gospel in every Christmas show!  It’s wonderful!

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She so sweetly posed for my picture!

What’s been cooking in my kitchen…
Santa Munch

This is a mix of popcorn and pretzels, covered in white chocolate and M&M’s added in! Popcorn is my very favorite snack. This stuff is heaven!

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The cutest recent picture of Liza

Helping me wrap gifts…you know, since the elf couldn’t help!

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It’s not the huge things that stand out – it’s the little blessings God allows that make the days and moments special.  A special verse or chapter of Scripture, a laugh, a crafted treasure, a treat, a curious kitty.  They’re all gifts from my loving Father and I thank Him for each one!

It’s also going to be a great weekend and I’m super excited about what’s planned!
What has a highlight in your week been?

Stay refreshed!

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Time for a Check Up

You put on your favorite jeans and notice that you have to take a really deep breath in to get them to button up.  An alarm goes off in your head telling you that a couple pounds need to come off!  So, you turn down dessert, say “no” to your coffee treats, and eat salad for lunch for the next week or two. You make another trip into the closet to try the jeans on again and you smile as they button up just fine.

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That little exercise is necessary, if you don’t want to have to buy the next size up in clothes, and you’re going to stay the same healthy weight. It’s a “check-up” that can pay off, if you pay attention.  It’s up to you, isn’t it?  No one is going to tap you on the shoulder and tell you not to eat potato chips and chocolate bars.  We do it for ourselves, if we want to stay fit and healthy.

What about spiritual check-ups?  How do you know when you need to lean away from the worldly influences and lean in harder to what will contribute to your spiritual health?  Reading and hearing God’s Word is one way we determine that, and I pray that even this blog and its simple posts will serve to push you a little closer each week to the God who made you and loves you.

That said, let’s try to “button up your spiritual jeans,” if you will.

  • Do you have an appetite and longing for God’s Word, or is it a duty you’re checking off each day?
  • Are you spending time truly interceding in prayer for your burdens and for others’?
  • Do you love to be in God’s house, or are you making excuses to avoid attending?
  • Are you serving the Lord faithfully at your church and with a right heart (not out of duty or with a critical spirit)?
  • Are you regularly seeking opportunities to share the Gospel with others?
  • Are you spending more time reading/listening to, and watching things that are of no spiritual benefit than you are things that will encourage your walk with God?
  • Are your friends and close companions pushing you closer to the Lord?
  • Are you aware of your sin – mental, attitudes, actions and words?  Do you feel the Spirit of God convict you when you sin?
  • Is your heart and attitude pleasing to God today?

These are questions that I ask myself regularly.  I am reminded that, just like a day or two of eating poorly, it only takes a day or two of disregarding spiritual things to get me away from where I should be – where I want to be, and where God wants me to be.  It’s then that I refocus and I:

  1. Confess the areas the Spirit of God points out to me.
  2. Ask for the Lord’s help to turn away from the things that pull me away from being close to my Savior.
  3. Make changes and say “no” to myself.

Mind you, these things don’t get me to heaven – I have an assurance of that based on God’s Word, that when I called on Him, He saved me from sin, eternal death and hell. But as His child, when I feed on spiritual food, I live out the truly fulfilling, joyful life of a child of God! That’s even better than fitting back into my jeans!

So, have you done some checking up on your spiritual life?  If you don’t have a relationship with God, that’s the starting place!  Here’s a great video that can explain what that means.
I’m so thankful to be a Christian – it’s the joy and delight of my heart!  How about you?  Are you enjoying your Christian life today?  If not, it may be because you need to do a little checking up on your spiritual waistline.

With love,

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