Friday, May 31, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I love my job. I do!
From joking with guests to giving kids special attention to the adrenaline rush of getting through long lines of cars, it's really a great gig.

To be honest, though, not everyone I encounter at work is enjoyable.
Not every person laughs with me, or speaks with kindness, or even smiles back.
And, to be honest-er, with those individuals it's a challenge to maintain an It's My Pleasure! attitude. Because, really, the amount of negativity that some people give off? Whew! It threatens to steal my joy. (And I was up to my neck in it yesterday.)

Thanks be to God, however, that in the midst of the antagonism HE reminded me:

My joy doesn't come from my circumstance, or the people in it.

The relationship I have with God through Jesus is my ultimate source of joy. And nothing - not a rude comment, or a thoughtless action, or an uncaring remark - can take that joy away from me.
Indeed, it is the joy of the LORD living in me which enables me to extend kindness to one who has not been kind, and to speak life to one who has uttered words of contempt. And I am so thankful! 
Because if it was up to me? 
Well, let's just say, "It's my pleasure" might not be the words coming out of my mouth. *ahem*

Ahhhh, but it isn't up to me.
God is my joy, and He is my help. At Chick-fil-A, at home, and everywhere I go. I am trusting Him to equip me for the work He has created me to do, and I am trying to be faithful to Him in each situation where He places me.
How about you? In what ways are you discovering that God is your help?

Karen

Thursday, May 30, 2019

BUT

You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.

~Psalm 66:13

But.
BUT.
It's such a beautiful word, isn't it?
I'm hurting, BUT the pain won't last forever.
This circumstance stinks, BUT better days are coming.
You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, BUT you brought us to a place of abundance.

What would your sentence say???

I think it is interesting to look at the rest of the story we began last week with the Israelites in Egypt.
They were in a prison of sorts, certainly knowing what it was like to have burdens on their backs - when God revealed the BUT.
Take a look at this:
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

~Exodus 3:7-10
What has the LORD seen and heard?
What does He say He is going to do?
How does He describe the land into which He is going to take the Israelites?
Perhaps you know the rest of the story. There is a lot of wandering ahead of God's people. They're going to participate in an abundant amount of complaining, their trust will falter frequently, and sometimes they'll even become so forgetful that they'll long for Egypt again.
At one point, they'll actually go through water. (Just like we were reminded in Psalm 66:6.)
BUT - eventually - after they've gone through trials and suffering, after they've doubted God and had their faith tested, after they have been refined and learned to fear the LORD and trust in His power, then they enter the promised land. A good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey.
Can you see how the story of the Israelites is echoed in Psalm 66:13?

And what about your story, my friend?
How does your circumstance parallel the Truth we see in this verse? In this psalm?
Although refining is never a fun process, though burdens hurt, and fire and water can be frightening, and - if we're honest - we'd really rather just skip it all, I pray you will find hope and comfort in the knowledge that there is a place of abundance ahead.
May God's BUT give you the courage to hold on in faith.

Karen

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Responding to His Nudge

So, Friday I mentioned 11:11 and the joy I have in knowing God's faithfulness. Particularly when He makes that number show up at moments when I need encouragement from Him. And it truly is a delight to my heart when HE provides that comfort.
But the whole 11:11 thing started off as a prayer cue between Brian and me when we were college students - and it remains a prompting God uses to have me pray for my husband.
It is also a story I have shared many times. And as I have told others about God's nudge to have me pray for Brian whenever I see 11:11, I have heard tales about how He has made specific numbers significant in their lives.
So, I began praying for these friends at their "appointed" time, as well.
3:33 for one.
And 4:44 for another.
Well, Sunday afternoon I "happened" to look at the clock at 4:44 and as I prayed for Jody I smiled at the thought of God's amazing love and care for His children. Because I've been seeing 4:44 quite frequently in recent weeks - even in the middle of the night sometimes - and it just makes me so happy to know that HE is thinking of her, and calling me to pray. So I grabbed my phone and sent her a quick text. I figured - if God is nudging me to pray for her so often, perhaps she could use the encouragement to know about it.
What I wasn't expecting was the encouragement I would get in return.
That is, she texted back right away to let me know that she had seen 11:11 and 1:11 on her clock the day before and took it as God's nudge for her to pray for me. She recogninzed that God had us on each other's hearts, and wanted to share the encouragement.
Ahhhh, what a blessing.
To be called on by God to lift up another, and to find that He is calling others to lift you up, too!
God's faithfulness and care will delight me all of my days.

Karen

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Train Up a Child

Saturday I was in the back yard pulling weeds (Getting my flowerbed ready for seeds. The very seeds I harvested from my zinnias last summer. I am so excited to watch them grow!) when I heard deep voices wafting through the air.
I was pretty sure Matthew was the only other person home, so I was a little confused.
And curious enough to get off my knees and search out the source of that other voice.

The scene I discovered delighted my heart.

As I came around the house I found Matthew and Phil in the driveway, with Phil's car.
And a jack.
And the two of them deep in discussion.
I remembered something about a phone call to Brian the previous day regarding car problems, and deduced that Phil had come over to do some investigating with him. However, Brian wasn't home. So apparently Matthew decided to step in and see if he could help figure out the problem.
At first my thought was, Wait a minute. How can he know what to do?
But then I remembered Matthew isn't a little boy anymore. Although sometimes reluctantly, he has gone over car repair procedures with Brian. He has learned how to change tires and brakes, and has even done some repair work on his own. And it would seem that amount of background gave him enough confidence to problem-solve with Phil.
So I looked upon these two young men who were attempting to diagnose an unsettling noise, and I smiled with great joy.
Because I remember when each of our kids complained about various life-lessons Brian or I would try to teach. Specifically - the groaning the boys did when Brian insisted they learn how to do this or that bit of maintenance on their cars. The memories are still fresh of times when I thought it would be easier to just let them have a pass on attaining skills, when it would have been nice to circumvent the whining and - instead - get the "cool parent" award for letting them off the hook.
But Saturday afternoon I was witnessing the fruit of choosing well, rather than choosing easy.
And the scene delighted my heart!

Full disclosure: Many of the life-lessons we have attempted to pass on to our children were painful at the time. Beyond the complaints and whining, I often got discouraged by comments about us being too strict - or feeling like we were asking too much.
(My inner child sometimes agreed with my external children!)
But I'm telling you now, it was worth it. Every last bit of it! To see my children today, adulting and appreciating the lessons we taught - ahhhh! It is such a delight.
So, for those of you who find yourself in the midst of training now - for the times when you question the value of it all - please accept my encouragement to keep going. You'll be so glad you did.
And so will your kids!!!


Karen

Monday, May 27, 2019

Psalm 66:12


You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.

~Psalm 66:13

Karen

Friday, May 24, 2019

It's My Pleasure

Oh, the stories I could tell about the faithfulness of GOD.

*peaceful, grateful, delighted sigh*

See, the thing is, I had a rough day at work earlier this week.
OK. Maybe I'm being too extreme when I say it was "rough".
The truth is, it just wasn't "great" like they usually are.
For starters, it was cold and rainy, and being in the drive-thru window was a little miserable. (PSA: When you're at the window of a drive-thru and it's raining, go ahead and turn off your wipers. Otherwise they *might* repeatedly flick water on the drive-thru attendant and even splash his/her glasses. Just sayin'.) At one point, I handed the wrong drink to a guest and realized my mistake too late.
I felt terrible, she was not happy, and my apology seemed to be meaningless to her.
As the day went on - try as I might - it was just difficult to feel sincere in my enthusiasm. Ya know?
So the next morning as I drove to work I was praying. Asking my Father to help me do things correctly. Recognizing my inability to do anything apart from His grace. Believing HE could keep me from re-entering the funk I was in the previous day.
Amen.
And then, can I just tell you what HE did???
All day long (My shift was 6:30-3:00.) my Father was slipping me love-notes in the form of four little numbers.

1111

I mean, I only saw it on the clock once. But there was an unusual number of people that day whose bill or change due was $11.11. And each time I saw those numbers I smiled as I just knew God was reminding me of His presence. HE was assurring me that HE had heard my prayers in the morning, and HE was helping me. In the midst of taking orders, and handing out drinks, and offering smiles and kind words - God was showing me His faithfulness and HE made sure I knew it was Him.
And each time 1111 popped up in front of me - and I smiled and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving - I could swear I heard Him whisper back to my heart, It's My pleasure.

P.S. If you aren't familiar with the way God uses eleven-eleven to show Himself in my circumstances, click on the 1111 link in the Labels below and you'll be able to read the background and lots of stories.
It's a beautiful thing!


Karen

Thursday, May 23, 2019

HE Did What?

You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.

~Psalm 66:11

Greetings, friend!
Have you been thinking about prison and burdens since Monday?
Are you ready to consider more?
Please take a minute and read from Exodus 1 below:
8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

~Exodus 1:8-14

Are you familiar with the events which got the Israelites to this point in Exodus?
There had been a famine in the land of Canaan, but the sons of Jacob heard there was food in Egypt so they went there to buy some. And ended up being brought to Egypt by their estranged brother (By God, actually!) to live.
(It is a fabulous story. If you aren't familiar with the details, I would highly, HIGHLY recommend reading Genesis 37 and 39-47. It will take a while. But it is soooooo good!)
So, anyway, God brought the Israelites to Egypt.
Then Exodus 1 happened.
Do you suppose when God had the idea to lead Jacob's sons to Egypt, He knew what was going to happen when the new king came to power?
Yet He still did it???
Although the Israelites were being saved from the famine when they left Canaan, I guess some would say God had brought them into prison. And laid burdens on their backs.
Now, take a look at Exodus 3:7 when the LORD was speaking to Moses:
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
According to this verse, what was the response of the Israelites to their circumstance ?
What about you? Do you find yourself today feeling like you are in a prison, with burdens on your back? And what is your response to circumstances which feel that way?
Do you believe God can be trusted in the midst of them?
Even if He knew about them ahead of time and still allowed them to happen???
My friend, I believe HE can be trusted. Even if.
And I encouage you today to ask your Father to speak to your heart about His good purposes for the prisons and burdens that may be presently impacting you.
May HE grow your ability to trust, even in the midst of the struggle.

Karen

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

When Letting Go is the Best Decision

Did you see "To Joey, With Love"?
If you didn't, you should remedy that situation as soon as possible.
And if you did, then you know the beautiful story of Joey and Rory Feek.
Well, one of my Facebook friends posted this video and I couldn't help but watch it. Because I love their story. And now I am really feeling all the feels.
I mean, Rory had no idea that just a few short years after he and Joey made their video - he would be living it. Without her.

Do you realize how very fleeting our lives are?

Sorry. I am not trying to be a downer in the middle of your week, but these thoughts are just flooding my heart right now.
Perhaps because of a conversation I had with a friend yesterday.
She has spent the past 30+ years in a nearly non-existent relationship with her siblings, and yesterday we were talking about it - wondering if there will ever be reconciliation. Thirty plus years! It breaks my heart to consider a life-time of love and family and memories missed because of wrong understandings, stubborn minds, and misguided perspectives.
My friend's heart is broken, too.
Then came this video from Joey and Rory, and the harsh reality that time is shorter than we know.
And the whole package has me wanting to beg the world to forgive and be reconciled to one another.
Because on our last day - or the day after somebody else's last day - I think we're really going to wish we had let go of the burdens, the anger, the pain, even the bitterness onto which we'd been holding.
I believe we will be wishing we had let go of it long, long ago.
In fact, if we're honest, I suspect many of us would like to be free of the load today.
So I have to ask, do you need to seek forgiveness from someone?
Or do you need to extend that grace to another? Even though they don't deserve it???
Oh, would you humble yourself and enter into reconciliation?
Because life is too precious to let resentment rule.

Karen

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

HE is with You

In Sunday school this past weekend, we were playing a game to continue our lesson from large group.
The "game" involved rolling a dice to determine how far each person was to move their playing piece on the board, then answering a question from the pile of cards in the middle of the board.
One of the questions chosen was this: What is one thing you would like to tell your friends about God? And the sweet young girl sitting next to me answered, "HE is with you."
She went on to remind us that the Bible says, "HE will never leave you nor forsake you," and told us that means God is always with us.

I was delighted by this young girl's words and the faith she was expressing, but it wasn't until yesterday that the Truth of what she spoke really settled in my heart. It was in the moments, actually, before I sat down to write this post.
I was feeling unsettled about things and circumstances, unsure of what I even wanted to write.
So I came before my Father to talk about it all.
(I was cold, and I had wrapped up in my favorite blanket. As I sat there sung and warm, I imagined myself sitting right on God's lap, with His loving arms gently enfolding me. Ahhhh.)
I just began pouring out my heart - the thoughts and feelings which had been running around and over and through me.
And as I prayed for the frazzled young mother who I had seen earlier in the grocery store I thought, HE sees you, dear one. HE knows your struggle, and HE is with you.
I prayed for a friend who is facing divorce and I realized, HE sees you, my friend. HE has the power to heal, and HE is with you.
Then I began praying for a young man I know who is lost and trying to find his way in this world, and I was comforted to know God sees him, too. Though this young man doesn't yet acknowledge that God is real - God sees him and loves him and is with him, too.
And the prayers kept flowing. For the one who is struggling with depression. For the one who is stepping out into independence in a big world. For the one whose self-confidence is blinding him to his need for a Savior. For the one who knows she desperately needs a Savior, but is struggling to believe HE could possibly love her. I thought of the promise that my Sunday school buddy had espoused just the day before, and I delighted in knowing my Father's faithfulness to be with us.
And then I sighed, as peacefulness enveloped me, with the realization that just as HE is faithful to be with all of these for whom I was praying - so HE is faithful to be with me.
Little ol' me.
In the midst of my own questions and uncertainties and wonderings about what lies ahead of me.
HE is with me. And that's all I really need to know.

How about you, my friend? Do you know with confidence that GOD is with you in the face of whatever comes your way today?

Karen

Monday, May 20, 2019

Psalm 66:11

You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.

~Psalm 66:11


Karen

Friday, May 17, 2019

It's My Pleasure

Wednesday was an interesting day for me.

That is to say, my heart was feeling heavy because of a couple of interactions I had with not-very-happy people.

The first individual was a woman who came through the drive-thru at work. From the get-go I could tell she was upset about something, because she barely responded to me when I greeted her. She held her lips tightly, she made very little eye contact, and said even less. Everything in me wanted to reach out with grace and encouragement, but her non-verbal communication made it clear that she was not willing to receive any such input from me. So I just took care of her order, and tried to express as much kindness as possible in a situation where communication was all but non-existent.
The second individual was someone I encountered on my way home from work. Actually, we didn't even have a legitimate interaction. It really was just him expressing his feelings to me. That is, I was driving in front of him and - apparently - I did something terribly wrong. Not sure if it was the fact that I had been driving the speed limit, or if I somehow took too long turning into my neighborhood. Either way, when he passed me he cussed me out significantly and thoroughly blasted his car horn.
And since I had been thinking about the first individual while I was driving, my heart felt doubly sad by the anger expressed by individual number 2. Not that I was taking anything personally, mind you.
On a personal level, his actions didn't bother me at all.
Rather, the sadness came from the thought that two people (Likely more than two...) were wandering around town full of so much angst and irritation.
I wondered what burdens they must be carrying which caused them to react so harshly.
What trouble was overwhelming their day?
I deeply wished I could have done something to lighten each of their loads.
But that was not an option.

And, then?
Then I got home and found a message in my email which reminded me that God's love "should motivate us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."
It said, "This is the clothing culture He wants us to adopt and wear every single day. And the most important article of clothing? Love." (Colossians 3:12-14)
With those words God's Spirit reminded me that although I may not always be able to say the words or do the things which will alleviate a person's pain, I can always - always! - treat them with love as I wear Him. He reminded me that when I respond with grace, others may get a glimpse of Him - and that matters so much more than anything I can say or do.

Yes, Lord. Please make me more like YOU so my little corner of the world may experience the goodness of your love.

Karen

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Refine Me, LORD

For you, O God, tested us,
You refined us like silver.

~Psalm 66:10
As I mentioned in my video Monday, I am well aware that virtually NOBODY likes to be tested.
Myself, included!
However, sometime back in 2004/2005 God used Psalm 66:10 to convince me that being tested by Him is, in fact, a very good thing. HE used this verse - and the image of a silversmith refining silver over a fire - to set me on a course of trusting Him, even when times are hard. God spoke to my spirit through Psalm 66:10, and brought hope to a woman who - most of the time - felt utterly hopeless.
And today I would like to spend time with you studying two other passages from scripture which speak to the hope we can have in the midst of hard times.

First, let's look at Romans 5.
3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.

~Romans 5:3-4
These two verses are short, but there is so much good stuff packed into them! And I love this passage because it has me going from, What??? to, Ohhh! to, Ahhhh.
I mean, that first statement. What does Paul suggest we should do?
Does it strike you as strange that we would rejoice in our sufferings?
It is that concept which first had me asking, What???
But a bit of digging led me to better understanding. I think we all know what "hope" means - expectation of what is certain. But do you know what Paul was talking about when he mentioned "character"? Strong's Concordance defines the Greek word for "character" in this verse this way: the process or result of trial, proving, approval. A commentary I read years ago explained "character" as referring to "the quality of a person who has been tested - and has passed the test!"
And I - in the midst of intense mothering struggles - thought, Ohhhh! How I would like to have that quality! But, according to the text, from where does character come?
And what produces that perseverance?
Sooooo, if we're going to have the quality of being one who has passed the test, what is going to be necessary in our lives?
Thus we can say, Ahhhh. Yes. I will rejoice in suffering. Because in the end I will have proven character. I will have passed the test!

So, that's Paul.
James says a similar thing.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

~James 1:2-4
This passage, like the Romans verses, begins with a bit of a difficult statement. Because, do we really consider our trials with joy? Especially pure joy???
But, also like the Romans passage, we learn about perseverance.
What do these verses tell us about perseverance? What is its result?
You might be interested to know that "mature" as it is used in this verse refers to the completeness of Christian character. It is the end-goal of a spiritual journey.
And, "complete"? Get this!
It is "divinely-allotted wholeness".
It's like God saying, Yes! This is just the way I wanted it (her!) to be.

Do you see the hope in these verses?
Can you understand why the psalmist was rejoicing in the testing through which God took him?
Think about the allure of silver. The truth is, Christ-like character - God's desire for each of us - is infinitely more beautiful than silver. And that beauty is what God's testing aims to produce in us.
So I say, Yes! Refine me, LORD.
How about you?

Karen

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I am a Blessed Mom

A lot has changed in our home since Mother's Day 2018.
That is to say, 2/3 of our children no longer call our house "home".
And the difference in the life circumstances of my children led me to have very low expectations for Mother's Day.
I don't say that to communicate that I had bitter feelings about how I anticipated the day would go.
I truly wasn't concerned about it.
In fact, I had found a new recipe which I was looking forward to trying for dinner.
In previous years, when all the kids were home, I *might* have been known to leave Sunday "blank" on the menu during the second week in May. Just so they knew I wasn't planning on cooking for Mother's Day. But this year I was aware that life has taken new directions, and I was ready to bend with it.

My kids, however, had different plans.

They connected with each other and made plans to converge on our house Sunday evening to prepare a wonderful dinner and dessert. (Keto-approved, nonetheless!)
And this is what happened when their plans came to fruition:






After a delicious dinner we sat around the table and talked. (One of my favorite things to do!)
And then, we played several rounds of Spicy Uno. (Another one of my favorite things!)

So, for Mother's Day 2019: I didn't have to make dinner, all my kids were home, and we had a blast enjoying one another's company.
It was a great day!

Karen

Monday, May 13, 2019

Psalm 66:10



For you, O God, tested us,
You refined us like silver.

~Psalm 66:10


Karen

Friday, May 10, 2019

It's My Pleasure

It seems the more time I spend at work, the more I enjoy seeking ways to brighten a person's day.
Even outside of Chick-fil-A.
For instance, the other day I went into the grocery store to get my weekly shopping done after I got out of work. (I love that Chick-fil-A is on the edge of the Meijer parking lot. Sooooo convenient!) And as I was going through check-out I had a very distinct urge to talk with my cashier.
Maybe it was the glum look on his face. I've had this man wait on me before in the check-out lane, and if I had to categorize him as a Winnie-the-Pooh character, he would definitely be Eeyore. Just sayin'.
Maybe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Whichever it was, I felt compelled to act like I was still at work so I asked him, "How's your day going?"
And my poor friend, Eeyore, began bemoaning the fact that he'd been at work all day - and still had a couple of hours to go.
My effort to cheer him up with a comment intended to evoke brightness fell flat.
And he didn't bite on my next attempt.
So I changed my approach and shared with him that I understood feeling tired.
Told him I had reported for work at 6:30 that morning (It was around 3:00 at the time of our interaction.) and had come straight over to Meijer to get my shopping done. I might have said something like, "I feel your pain. But I trust you're going to make it through."
And then the craziest thing happened.
Eeyore and I shared a smile!!!
Like, seriously. Eeyore smiled!
And it was beautiful.
I mean, maybe he knew what I was doing and he was simply laughing at me for my hopelessly optimistic attempts to elicit a smile from him. Maybe that's it.
Or maybe he had an authentic spark of light in his soul for a moment.
Either way, I believe our brief interaction lifted his spirit - even for a minute - and I am so glad God allowed our paths to cross.

Is there someone like Eeyore in your life who needs help in finding a smile today?

Karen

Thursday, May 09, 2019

When HE Protects our "Feet"

He has preserved our lives,
and kept our feet from slipping.

~Psalm 66:9

So this week's verse has me thinking quite a bit about protection. Not only the kind of safeguards I mentioned in Monday's video - where God may have literally preserved our lives - but also the ways He protects our feet. Or, more accurately, our hearts. The psalms contain several verses about slipping feet, and today I would like to look at a few of them with you.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

~Psalm 40:1-3
I do not know what kind of pit David was referring to when he wrote this psalm. Not sure what the mud and mire was in which he had been stuck, but I bet it was something to which we can all relate.
And what do we see God doing for David in verse 2? How did his footing change?
What about you?
What kind of muck have your feet been in? (Or maybe you're in some right now...)
In what ways have you seen God set your feet on a rock?

1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

~Psalm 73:1-3
In this psalm, the writer (Asaph) says his foot had almost slipped. What, according to verse 3, was the cause of his near mishap?
Asaph spends the next 19 verses discussing his struggles and finally comes to this conclusion:
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

~Psalm 73:23-26
Based upon Asaph's own judgment, how did God keep his feet from slipping?

16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.

~Psalm 94:16-19
Psalm 94 is full of lament, and a request for God to judge the arrogant. (You may click on the link to read the entire psalm if you wish!)
Verses 16-17 give you a taste of his distress.
But then we get to verses 18 and 19. How did God respond to the psalmist's trouble?
(By the way, "consolation" could also be translated "comfort".)

And let us close with this beautiful assurance.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

~Psalm 121:1-4

May your spirit rest securely in the knowledge that the LORD is watching over you today. With confidence that HE will keep your feet from slipping.

Karen

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Overwhelming Faith

One day last week I listened to a Christian brother speak passionately about our need to not throw out platitudes when we are suffering. His plea was for us to acknowledge: 1)We're all aware of Bible verses which answer life's troubles. 2)We've heard sermons which address our hardships. 3)We've read books which are supposed to have built an unshakeable faith in us. But that doesn't mean we ought to ignore real pain as we regurgitate biblical truths, acting as if we aren't crying inside.
Less than 48 hours later I listened to a friend weep openly and express anguish over a flood of difficult circumstances which had just overtaken her. And when she was able to catch a breath she went on to confess how disappointed she was in herself for crying - because she believes God is in control, she knows she needs only pray and trust in Him, and she has confidence in His faithfulness. She didn't think she ought to be responding to the flood with such rampant tears.
And for a moment I felt like my head was spinning.
Because on the one hand I had a friend saying, Let us not demand that faith in God preclude vulnerability and the real expression of emotion in response to difficult life situations.
While on the other hand, I had a friend disappointed in herself for following that very suggestion.

And it made me begin to wonder: Is it possible to have it both ways?

What I mean is, could it be that a person who has steadfast faith in God - who believes He is good all the time, He is perfectly in control of every circumstance, and His love and mercy guide His hand - could that person, in faith, be distressed by trouble and hardship? Is it OK for a person of deep, committed faith in a God who is holy and perfect and loving and gracious to express raw feelings of pain and sadness when life gets really hard?
In a similar way, if a person goes through a major trial and`faces painful circumstances yet remains calm while testifying of God's faithfulness, can we trust they're being authentic? Is it possible for a person's faith to be stronger than their feelings, without suppressing said feelings?

With all my heart I believe the answer to each one of those questions is a resounding YES.
I am convinced a person can have steadfast faith, yet grieve in a moment of overwhelming stress.
I am equally confident that someone can be fully aware of and honest with their feelings, while sincerely testifying to their hope in God.
In fact, I think we can see both of those scenarios when we read many of David's psalms.
All that to say, have you ever found yourself wondering about the appropriateness of your level of emotional expression?
Have you doubted your faith because your feelings were so intense?
OR, have you considered yourself a little too much like Pollyanna because you always believed God was going to come through?
If so, I would love to invite you to spend some time in the psalms today - seeing real feelings and real faith expressed congruently by a real man. This one and this one may be good places to start.
May God bless you as you journey into overwhelming faith.

Karen

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Boys to Men

I know I have mentioned here before that I am beginning to experience the joys of having a son who realizes ol' mom knew what she was talking about, afterall!
Well, it happened again.
And it made me so happy, I just have to talk about it. *grin*

That is to say, Josh came over for dinner Friday evening and - besides delighting my heart with gushing praises for my cooking - he made music for my ears with stories about his adventures in adulting.
Time together eating, and enjoying having Josh in our presence was lovely. And it just got better as the minutes rolled on. We sat around the table after everyone had finished eating and shared stories from what's been going on in our lives over recent days and weeks. And, at one point, Josh lit up and told me he found a deal at the grocery store which I would probably like.
He said, "Well, it made me buy five boxes of cereal, and I hadn't planned to buy that many. But it was such a good deal." And I chimed in, "Oh, right! The 'Buy 5, save $5' deal? I took advantage of it this week, too!" (Who would've thought the day would come when I'd be discussing grocery bargains with my son? He never cared how much groceries cost when his dad and I were footing the bill.)
Oh, how responsibility changes perspectives.
After we'd exhausted tales about sales the conversation moved on to chronicles of housekeeping.
Seems Josh and his roommate have come to an agreement that the kitchen sink needs to be empty (That is, the dishes need to be washed.) before the end of each day. Because when dirty dishes get left overnight they tend to pile up for days, and strange smells begin accumulating in the kitchen.
I listened and nodded and smiled and thought, The dishes must be washed every day. What a grand idea! I'm so glad you thought of that!
And I noticed, again, how a young man's perspective changes when his responsbilities increase.
Ahhhh, what a lovely tune it is!

However, for as much fun as it is to see my son coming into agreement with so many of the things I've been trying to teach him for the past 21 years, I think the greater joy is witnessing the man he is becoming. It's just so beautiful to see him growing and maturing in ways that he couldn't when he was living under our roof. And even though it is hard as a mom to let your baby go - it is even more wonderful to see him begin to fly.

Karen

Monday, May 06, 2019

Psalm 66:9



He has preserved our lives,
and kept our feet from slipping.

~Psalm 66:9


Karen

Friday, May 03, 2019

It's My Pleasure

A couple of weeks ago I was working in the drive-thru window in the morning.
As I always do, I asked the guest whom I was serving, "How's your day going?"
That question often leads to interesting conversations, and even moments of celebration - like with one young man this week who had just taken his last final, is graduating from MSU tomorrow, and then is flying to Los Angeles to begin his career.(!)
But the man who faced me at the window on that particular day gave a less-than-enthusiastic response. Honestly, I don't remember exactly what he said, but I could tell his heart was sad. So as I handed his order to him I said, "I know God is faithful. And I pray you will experience His faithfulness today."
And that was that.

Until Monday, when he came through the drive-thru again.

When we were face-to-face for the first time since a couple of weeks ago he told me this: "Hey, I came through here before and I was really discouraged. You said something which comforted me, and I just want to thank you." He went on to tell me that his mother recently died and it's been very hard - but his faith, family, and friends have helped him get through it. And my heart delighted in realizing God allowed me to be a small part of that help for him.

Truly, what an honor it is - what a pleasure! - to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and sometimes even His voice. We can be His instrument anytime, anywhere if we will just listen to His Spirit and obey whenever He nudges us.
LORD, please help me be attentive to Your Spirit's leading so I might serve You faithfully wherever I may be. It's my pleasure to be used by You!

Karen

Thursday, May 02, 2019

What Do People Hear?

Praise our God, O peoples;
let the sound of His praise be heard.

Psalm 66:8
How are you doing with Psalm 66:8 this week?
As I mentioned in the video Monday, this verse has me thinking a lot about what people hear when I open my mouth to speak.
Is the sound of His praise always heard???
I want it to be so. But I know that isn't always the truth.

Do you struggle with the same challenge as I do?

Then let's spend some time today looking at James 3:1-12.
(The link above will take you to the passage on Biblegateway - in case you don't have your Bible close by.)
Even if you're familiar with these verses, take your time and read through them slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully.
According to verse 2, what is a sign of a perfect person? How do you measure up to that standard?
Verses 3-6 provide several illustrations of small things making a big impact. How do these pictures affect your understanding of the power of the tongue?
What paradox is discussed in verse 9-10?
Clearly, the words which come out of our mouths can be troublesome. Verses 6-8 and 11-12 leave me with a feeling that there is little hope for us to be able to speak righteously.
But we know nothing is too difficult for God.
If you, as I do, have a desire to let the sound of God's praise be heard when you speak - yet you sometimes struggle with your tongue - why not spend some time right now asking for HIS help? Ask the One who created your tongue (Who knows each one of your words before they even leave your mouth!) to give you the grace to speak what is good and true and praiseworthy and edifying.
Yes, my friend, let the sound of His praise be heard!!!

Karen

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

His Plans, Not Ours

So, I thought I was supposed to speak for a MOPS group in Taylor, Michigan this morning.
Like, I was really sure that's what I was supposed to do.
As in, it's been on my calendar since last September.
So I requested the day off of work. I made sure my schedule was clear of all other obligations. Got everything ready last night to head out the door bright and early this morning (Just kidding. It was "dark" and early!) and was fully prepared to share my heart with a group of beautiful moms who need encouragement. (And maybe a laugh, or two!)
As I drove, everything was going according to plan. Including heavy traffic and occassional stops along the highway. That's just the way it is in the morning on the way to Detroit. But I had planned extra time in anticipation of the traffic, and I arrived at the church with plenty of time to spare.

The odd thing was, there were only two cars in the parking lot.

And as I walked into the church I learned MOPS had been cancelled.
What???
Because Taylor schools are closed.
Double what???
It's May 1! I have never been concerned about a snow day in May before.
Ahhh, not a snow day. Seems it rained all night in Taylor last night and there is so much flooding around town that someone thought it best to cancel school.
Thus MOPS gets the axe for the day, too.
Which means I am not going to be speaking for these moms today.
Even though I thought that's what I was supposed to do.
Even though that's what I've been thinking since September.

The thing is, as I chatted with the MOPS coordinator (Who had texted me about the cancellation, by the way. But she sent the text after I had already left home, and I don't look at my phone while I'm driving! Actually, I play music and sing to warm up my voice while I'm driving - so I didn't even hear my phone, anyway.) I realized this change of plans wasn't a surprise to God, even though it was to us. When we scheduled this date last September, God knew about the rain which would be coming last night. He knew about the flooding. And He knew MOPS would be cancelled.
The best I can figure, we planned the wrong date and God is setting it right.
Maybe there is a young mother who needs to hear my story and the work God has done in the midst of my struggles with motherhood who couldn't make it today. Perhaps she is the one for whom I have been praying - who needs to be encouraged and needs to know there is hope even when times are really hard - but her kiddo is sick and she was going to miss today. Maybe she won't even be a part of this MOPS group until next year.
I don't know.
But I know God knows.
I know He is in control.
And I am trusting Him.

So, I guess I wasn't "supposed" to speak for this MOPS group in Taylor this morning, afterall.
We're going to re-schedule for the fall, and I'm asking God to lead us to the right date.

In what ways have you seen God change your plans so you do what you're "supposed" to do?

Karen