Learning to Rest in Trials

No one likes to go through trials but one reason I don’t care for them is that they reveal things in my heart that I would rather not see. I like thinking of myself as a strong woman of faith who praises God in every circumstance. Yet, when the storm comes, wham! That all blows away.

I don’t know why it is hard to trust God. He has never been anything but good to me and yet I tend to think I know better than Him. If He would just _________, then I could serve Him better. And yet God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect through your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And He’s always right!

I am currently going through a trial which I know is, in part, to bring me into a greater place of trust and surrender, but I confess this has been hard for me. I console myself that this trial is light and momentary and is a sign that God will complete the work He has begun in me, but it is taking me a while to rest in that.

Part of the problem is that I have plans. I have ideas of how life should work out, and when my plan doesn’t turn out, I don’t handle it well. I can quote Proverbs 16:9 (“A man’s heart plans his way; but the Lord directs his steps”), but knowing it and really embracing it can be two different things.

I’ve stated it before but it’s been a while so I’ll say it again. I don’t write because I have all the answers. I write because there are things that God is teaching me, and I expect I’m not the only one who needs to learn these lessons. Maybe not every post will speak to you but, if you read my writings long enough, I’m sure some will.

Life is not all mountaintops. And it’s really not all valleys. The fact is you will have some of both. The key is, in whatever state you find yourself, to press on, keeping your eyes on the Light, not looking to the right or the left.

Things I am reminding myself and, therefore, reminding you:

1) Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is not always easy, and I don’t believe this means that we need to thank God for the trial, but it does say we need to give thanks. There is always something to be thankful for, so find that.

2) God’s plans for you really are good. You don’t have to doubt. They may not be the plans you made, but your plans may not have been for your best. You need to trust Him.

3) This is the hardest point for me right now, but I’m learning that sometimes God does what He needs to do make us slow down and spend more time with Him. I don’t realize how much I am rushing through my prayer and Bible reading times until God rearranges my schedule to where I can’t do many other things. I’m learning that resting is more than just sleeping or not doing anything; it is making your mind and heart rest in accepting God’s will, even when it isn’t easy.

Lately, I’ve been singing “The Potter Knows the Clay” by the Perrys. You may be going through a difficult time but, one day, you’ll be able to sing:

Friend, I just came through that trial not too very long ago
And looking back I can see why and that my God was in control

I also think of the song by Jamie Owens Collins:

Don’t give up; don’t give in; Give it all to Him
For He cares so much more than you know
When it seems who you really want to be is someone you’ll never become
Just look how far you’ve come

When I Need Love (A Poem)

  • July 14, 2016 at 1:40 am in

When I need love, I look to the Lord
For His is the love that I really long for
A love that is full and that never will end
When others desert me, He’ll still be my friend
I know I’m unworthy of this kind of love
But I gratefully receive it from my Father above

When I lack peace, I look up to my God
His peace like a river comes in like a flood
It’s not based on circumstance or what I see
But on the assurance God knows what’s best for me
Some days I must fight for this peace that I crave
But God is so faithful to comfort and save

When joy eludes me, I praise my dear Savior
For pouring out blessings and undeserved favor
His mercy is so great that it’s overwhelming
Which helps me refocus and turn to thanksgiving
How can I be down when I’ve been given so much
Now I am required to tell others of His touch

And so, dear Father, I ask Your forgiveness
I’ve been so ungrateful, forgetting Your kindness
Your love and Your peace and Your joy are all there
If only I would cast on you every care
I’m sorry for trying to make it on my own
Thank You for reminding me I’m not alone

Thinking of Steve French

  • July 13, 2016 at 9:11 pm in

You have probably heard by now that Steve French (the former manager and baritone singer for the Kingdom Heirs) passed away a couple weeks ago.

It’s never easy when a person dies but unexpected deaths are the hardest for me. When I see a person suffering, as much as I miss them, there is also relief that their body is no longer racked with pain. This holds true for every Believer, but, when a person seems to be in good health, or when I didn’t know they were sick and then they die, it hits me harder.

I’ve been watching old YouTube videos of the Kingdom Heirs and thinking back to the years I attended the National Quartet Convention. I never spent a lot of time at the Kingdom Heirs’ booth, but I always tried to catch their sets. I loved watching them.

The last song I remember seeing them sing on stage was “He Locked the Gates.” I loved it!When Steve left the Kingdom Heirs, I knew I’d miss him but I miss him even more now. Prior to his departure, I did email him periodically to tell him how much I enjoyed his last couple CDs. I’m thankful I did that.

Although it’s been a couple weeks now, I still pray for his family. May they find peace and strength during this time.

Bridle Your Tongue

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Gracious speech is something that many struggle with and something that I strive to attain. It is true that you cannot take words back after you’ve said them. How many words are said in anger and then regretted for the rest of one’s life?

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

This verse tells just how important controlling the tongue really is. It’s easy to think we are right with God but, if we don’t control our tongue, James tells us our religion is worthless. This can be shown by temper, cussing, anything that is the opposite of self-control.

“If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body (James 3:2).

We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect person and yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye, therefore, perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” If we are to strive for perfection, we must strive to control our tongue.

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:6-10).

Wow. There is a lot in these verses. I encourage you to meditate on these but don’t come away with the conclusion that, “See? It’s hopeless.” The call goes out to challenge you to control your tongue so that God is honored in everything you do.

When I was in school, I learned how two-faced people can be, especially girls. They would tell you they like you one minute and then turn on you the next. I expect some of that came from insecurity but it was deceit, and I hated it.

Unfortunately, I sometimes see this in adults too. Instead of using words to build up others, we may be nice to a person’s face but then we stab them in the back, killing them with our words. They may or may not ever find out but the damage is done just the same.

What are the primary things that come out of your mouth? Gossip? Slander? Profanity? Curses? Tearing down others?

Or are you speaking words of life, blessing, encouragement, and joy to everyone you encounter? You are the only one who can control your tongue. Or maybe I should say the Holy Spirit in you is able to control your tongue, but you have to let Him. Sometimes you may have to literally bite your tongue to keep from reacting the way you usually would but do that if it helps.

Today can be a new day. When you find yourself going back into old habits, get on your knees, ask God’s forgiveness, and start anew. Do that 50 times a day if you have to. But don’t give up. God can give you a new, uplifting vocabulary if you want it. Won’t you start incorporating that today?

Thoughts on Suicide

Last week, I found out that an acquaintance committed suicide. This was not a close friend but it affected me as I’ve pondered why people take such extreme measures when, more often than not, the trials of life are only temporary afflictions.

This is only the second time I can remember someone I know dying by his own hand. In the other case, the motive seemed to be selfishness: getting back at someone else.

In many cases, the motive is extreme hopelessness, and this makes me sad. Where there is life, there is always hope. It is only after death that nothing can be changed. At that point, not only your past, but your present and future are determined forever.

I wonder, though, if sometimes people commit suicide due to guilt. Could people honestly have done something “so bad” that they don’t think even God would forgive them, so they take the “easy way out” instead of humbling themselves in repentance and trusting God’s saving grace?

This last thought concerns me even more than the others. There is no sin that God won’t forgive IF a person is willing to repent and turn from that sin. The problem is that many don’t want to do that and so they live with the guilt of the life they are living until tragedy claims that life.

I understand discouragement, and I have been down to the point of wanting to die. But I remind myself that there is a reason that I am still alive, and it has nothing to do with me. The God who placed me on this earth still has a plan for my life and, until that plan is finished, I must be faithful. There is no “easy out” for a Christian. We are called to take up our cross daily and follow Him.

The thoughts going through my mind right now are many. First of all, my heart goes out to those who think the only way out of their problem is to end their life. But I also wonder how many people I know are struggling more deeply than I would ever imagine. We live in a world of “happy” faces, where people don’t want to be burdened with others. Therefore, there are a lot of lonely people in this world. As Christians, we should never be so busy or unconcerned that we don’t take time to listen to someone who is struggling. If someone is willing to open up and talk to you, it may be because they are hoping you will show them the Hope they need.

If you are one who is down and suicide has even crossed your mind, please find someone to talk to. I realize that you can’t trust just anybody but ask God to show you someone who would be willing to pray with you and check on you periodically to make sure you are okay. Although there will always be trials in this life, they truly are temporary, and God can give you the strength to walk through them if you allow Him to.

Don’t become another statistic. Be a victor! And help others to be victorious as well.

CD Review: Undivided (Master’s Voice)

I just became aware of Master’s Voice a couple months ago. Their CD is a mixture of OK lyrics to really good ones but the good ones are worth listening to. A variety of songwriters contributed to this CD but of special note are Joseph Habedank and Daryl Williams.

The songs I like are:

How Long a Lifetime Is – written by Joseph Habedank and Rachel McCutcheon. I often think of this concept. Life is so short. You never know when this will be the last time you see someone. Please don’t take today for granted.

Here I Am Again – How many times have you had to go to the Lord and ask forgiveness? Maybe for something you thought you had victory over but yet had reared its ugly head once again. I’m so thankful we serve a loving and merciful God!

Somebody is Me – an uptempo, toe-tapping song of testimony. I love it!

The tempo slows down for This Same Jesus, a song of reminder that this same Jesus that ascended up to Heaven will come back again.

Other songs included are:

I Can Hardly Wait to Fly, Goodbye to Goodbye, Lord of Mercy, I Know What He Did For Me, Things God Doesn’t Know, Send Somebody, Ain’t it Good, and Everything the Blood Touches Lives.

Reminiscing

My southern gospel journey started back in the early to mid-1980s. My mom bought an aerobics tape which included a variety of styles of music, but among the artists featured was The Happy Goodman Family. It was love at first sound and started me on a journey to learn all I could about the music, as well as the groups who sang such wonderful harmony.

Within a year or two, I found a radio station out of Winchester, VA that played Southern Gospel music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I listened to that station all the time and began to know all the songs and recognize the artists by sound.

In January 1991, my family moved and it was harder to find a good station so I lost touch with group changes, new releases, etc. I still loved the music and listened to the CDs I had; I just didn’t stay up with anything current.

Somewhere around 2005 or ’06, I met a young man who became one of my closest friends, maybe in part because he was also a southern gospel fan. Up until that time, I don’t think I had met another young person who was into the music as much as I was. He was part of a southern gospel forum and, before too long, I joined my first forum.

I started out slowly, as this was all new to me, but I soon came to enjoy just chatting with other southern gospel fans about anything at all, not just music. After a while, we became like family. When one member hurt, we all hurt. When one rejoiced, so did the rest of us. I used to think about about the fact that that’s how the Church should be, but I expect I’m not alone in feeling more faith that my forum friends would be with me through a tragedy than my local church would be.

It would be easy to think that this is a classic case of neglecting those close to you and feeling close to those afar off since they aren’t “there.” I used to wonder about that too, but when we got together, it really was like a family reunion. Only we liked our family.

Yesterday, one of the members of that forum passed away. It had been a while since we talked but I would see her on Facebook and always thought fondly of her. She had a lot of health problems and pain, yet she stayed positive. That always encouraged me.

It really is true that each life touches other lives, many times when we don’t realize it. You may think your life counts for nothing but you may be surprised who feels a void when you are no longer around. I’ve reminded my readers often to let people know what they mean to you before they can no longer hear you. I reiterate that today.

Life is so short. You may think you have tomorrow, but you never really know. We don’t always know the plans God has for us, but I do know His plans are good. I also know that every person that touches your life, whether for good or bad, does so for a reason.

Have you told the ones you love the most how much they mean to you? Have you taken time to talk over coffee (or tea) and really heard their heart? Have you prayed for those who are struggling, that they would have the strength they need to walk through their trials victoriously? I was listening to The Rambos sing, “I’m Gonna Leave Here Shouting” today, and I hope that, when I’m ready to go, someone is there to “lift up my dying hands.”

I don’t think I can say it too much. Take time to tell someone you love them. Go do it now before life becomes too busy and you forget and then it becomes too late.

True Friendship

Throughout most of my life, I have wondered how many true friends I really have. It’s easy for people to say, “I’m praying for you” or “I think of you even when I don’t write,” but I always wondered if that were really the case (although I am guilty of thinking of people more than I write as well).

Lately, I have realized that I do have a few close friends, and I sometimes wonder why since many seem to have none.

John 15:13 tells us: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

I used to interpret this in terms of dying, but that is not the only way to lay down a life. I have been blessed lately by friends who are willing to serve me, going far and above the call of duty, and I’ve decided nothing says friendship like that does. I am very blessed to have a family that loves me and does so much for me but I’m not sure how to handle it when others do those same things for me. At the same time, I’m very grateful when they do.

I am also thankful for friends who text and email me just to see how I’m doing. This takes a bit of time and thought on my friends’ part so speaks “care” to me as well.

And last but not least are the friends I know who pray for me frequently. I know this is often what gets me through life. Without this, I’m convinced my struggles would be greater so I do not take this for granted.

True friendship can be measured in different ways. What means a lot to me may not mean a lot to you but the point is that the world is in need of people who really care. Christians should radiate love to everyone around them.

Christians should be trustworthy, not given to gossip or slander. Too often, people suffer in silence because they don’t know who to trust, and the fact is they may not have anyone to trust. This is so sad.

You are called to be a Light in a dark world. Part of being that Light is being different. The only one you should be comparing yourself to is Christ. He epitomized love and care and compassion, and He wanted His children to extend that same love, care, and compassion to others. Instead, we tend to focus on ourselves and our needs that we forget about those who could use a kind, comforting word.

If you have a true friend in your life, someone you can lean on in your times of trial, who will pray with you when you need it and never make you feel like a burden, take time to tell that friend how thankful you are to have them in your life, and be sure to pray for them in return.

If there are people that God has put in your life to be a friend to, be faithful to be that true friend that points them to Jesus and shows them His love. After all, you may be the only true friend they ever have.

Willing to be Broken

It seems no matter how long I walk with the Lord, there are things that are difficult for me to accept or understand. Especially when my body is under attack, I don’t handle it well. And yet I know that my God does all things well.

Not long ago, I realized that I had fallen into the trap that so many in ministry do: that of being too busy serving God to have a lot of time for Him. This bothered me and I determined to do better. After all, I can’t do what I do without His help. Well, God granted that desire, just not how I would have chosen and, honestly, I’ve struggled with it.

I don’t know why I still fight God sometimes. In my heart, I know His way is best but my mind does not always want to accept it. I hate limitations. But right now God is using these limitations that I despise to draw me closer to Him. I’ve needed this time but it took God intervening, mercifully helping me to slow down and acknowledge Him and allow Him to direct my paths.

The fact is that, even in the valley, God is good. Our job as His children is to be still and know that He is God. He desires to be exalted in our lives and will do whatever He needs to do to accomplish that. I, for one, am thankful. I don’t want to get so far away from my Savior that I don’t realize I’ve strayed.

I’m not through my valley yet but I am learning to rest in the fact that I am where He wants me for a (hopefully short) season.

No one likes being broken. Our pride rebels at the first sign of weakness or not getting our way. And yet Scripture tells us that a broken heart He will not despise (Psalm 51:17). If I want to please Him, I must have a put away all haughtiness and stubbornness and be willing to be broken for Him.

I don’t know what all God is doing in my life right now, but I know whatever He does will be for my good and His glory. I pray I come through this stronger than ever before. And that is my prayer for you as well.

Christians are not always strong. We need God to make it through this life. Storms come. Trials bombard. But we still serve a loving God. He is right there with arms outstretched waiting to comfort and hold and wipe away your tears. All you have to do is ask.

Reach Out

A friend and I were talking recently, and it seems like a lot of people have a hard time truly getting close to others. Maybe they would consider themselves having close friends but, when it comes to deep conversations about spiritual things or what is going on in their lives, they feel uncomfortable. Maybe they are afraid of losing that friendship or maybe they were raised in a home where “what goes on in the home stays in the home.” There is a place for that, but I feel like there are a lot of lonely people because of this mindset.

Several years ago, I found myself saying, “I don’t need more surface friends; I have plenty of those.” I was looking for friends I could be real with, who would bear with me if I wasn’t always “up.” Looking at my life now, I realize God answered the cry of my heart. I have many friends where the extent of our relationship is catching up periodically and praying for each other as God brings them to mind. But I also have some that I believe truly love and care for me and who would do anything for me if they were capable of doing so. These are friends who will take time to listen to me when I’m up and when I’m down. On the days that I can only cry, they are there to encourage me and make sure I’m OK. This is priceless to me.

I realize not everyone has this, and many are afraid to be real because they don’t want to risk rejection. I understand this but I also know we live in a world that is longing for love. You don’t know when you might reach out to that person who will walk with you in good times and bad.

We were not meant to be alone. Sure, there are times that God brings us through deserted valleys to draw us closer to Him, but many times we are there because of our own decisions and our unwillingness to trust. I know because I’ve been there.

God is obviously the best friend you could have and the most important friend to go to in time of trouble. However, if you do not have someone in your life that will encourage you and pray with and for you when these times come, ask God to show you who may be willing to be that person in your life. Is there anyone you have a burden for that you could reach out to and be that kind of friend for them? It could be a neighbor, a relative, someone at church … whoever it is, follow God’s leading and trust Him to bless.

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