Saturday, December 26, 2009

Twas the Day After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Everyone was still sleeping, yes even that mouse.

The gifts were all opened, and some already forgot.
We couldn't remember just why they'd been bought.

The wrapping was stuffed in trash bags stashed outdoors,
And ribbons and bows saved for next year's gift tours.

It was early that morning when I woke and arose,
The house was still quiet, a time for repose.

Just I and the dogs sat in quiet remembrance
Of yesterday's fun, food, and gift-giving dance.

Of family and friends, of cards and phone calls,
Of lights and music, ornaments and decked halls.

It was fun, to be sure, and a wonderful day,
But now I wondered, has it all gone away?

For Christmas was over, another year past,
And as always, it seemed it just didn't last.

But what to my wondering heart did appear?
A thought reminded it was more than time of year.

No, Christmas was not over, and never would be.
No, Christmas was celebrating our Savior, you see.

And Jesus, who lives in believing hearts, I can say
Is always and ever alive, no matter the day.

Through crisis, through suffering, through joy and through pain,
Through good times and bad times, through loss and through gain.

No matter what life seems to bring through the year,
We can know, without doubt, that our Savior is here.

So as decor comes down and is stowed for a while,
Remember Christmas isn't over, and think with a smile,

For unto us a Child is born, to us the Prince of peace.
And in remembering, may your joy and peace increase.

(c) 2009 Sauni Rinehart

Friday, December 18, 2009

Counting Down

Christmas is just a week away! And I have to say...I have somewhat mixed feelings. Part of me is so looking forward to our church's Christmas Eve service and honoring the birth of Christ.

But another part of me is feeling quite melancholy.

It's our first Christmas without Ruth, and for the very first time, we won't be with any family on Christmas Day.

It's going to be strange. We've been invited to have dinner with a dear friend of mine, but it won't be the same.

May I encourage you? If you're going to spend time with family on this special day, cherish them. Don't let the stress of the season weigh you down. Just enjoy being with the people you love. You'd miss them if you weren't with them.

Believe me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Beginning to Look...

I can't help it. I'm a Christmas geek. Certifiably. I'm one of those who decorates the day Saturday after Thanksgiving and envelop the entire first floor of my home with decorations.

I really can't help it. And I really don't want to!

As I sit here in my living room looking at one of the two trees in my home, I just love how having all the fuss around me gives me such joy.

There's something about this season that speaks to my heart--and the hearts of many others. Something joyful. Something peaceful.

But there's something about what's happened to this season that hurts my heart. We live in a culture that doesn't seem to understand that Christmas isn't--for many of us--just another holiday.

Celebrate what you will, but would it be okay for me to celebrate Christmas for what I believe with all I am is the right reason? Is it all right for me to wish you a Merry Christmas? Would you mind if I celebrate because I believe Christmas is Christ-mas--a celebration of Christ?

Just wondering.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

This has been quite a year ... lots of challenges, some really joyful times, many really painful moments. But today, I know how blessed I am, and I'm filled with gratitude.

I'm thankful for ...

... grace
... Russ and a healthy marriage in a society where "'til death us do part" has morphed into "while love lasts"
... waking up knowing that "His mercies are new every morning"
... family so far away in body but close in heart
... dear friends who pray for me and love me in spite of myself
... my bed (!)
... my dogs with their unconditional love
... a great job at a Christian company
... dark chocolate (!!)
... dark times that draw me closer to God
... a church home where I can serve God and others
... a ministry about which I'm passionate
... gluten- and lactose-free products that actually taste good (!!!)

So many blessings. So many reasons to give thanks.

May your Thanksgiving be one of blessing, love, and gratitude.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Home Improvement

We've been doing a bit of home improvement the last few days. A tile floor is being laid in our master bath (after seven years of carpet--yuck!). We'll be painting this weekend, changing out the lights and mirrors, and then hanging new window treatments. It'll be just like having a brand new bathroom! And it's going to be gorgeous . . . so excited!!

There's something almost cathartic about doing even the simplest upgrades or changes to our homes, isn't there?

I don't know about you, but sometimes I think I'm due for a little "home improvement" in me. Definitely, I need a bit of an upgrade to my physical self (can anyone say, "Get off your duff and exercise!"?).

The last few weeks, I've felt the need for some improvement to my heart. It's been rough for a lot of different reasons, and a couple of weeks ago, I felt pretty much at the end of my rope (thus no blogs since late October). If you've been keeping up with my blog over the last year or so, you know it's been quite a year in the Rinehart home, and it just got to the point where I was done . . .

Fortunately, God isn't done with me yet! I mentioned in my last blog how much I love the book of Philippians. And again, verse 1:6 was a great comfort to me as I remember that I'm a work in progress. I may not understand everything that happens, but when I ask myself if I trust God, I have to say yes. And when I ask myself if I believe He's lovingly in control of everything, I have to say yes again.

And so, I continue to (I pray) "improve" my heart and soul . . . now if I could just get moving on that "strength" part of me!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hard Pressed

My favorite book in the Bible is Philippians. There are so many wonderful verses of affirmation or conviction or encouragement.

I love the reminder that I'm a work in progress (1:6), that I can do all things through Christ (4:13), that He'll give me a peace beyond understanding (4:7).

Two of my life verses (3:13-14) come from this book.

Lately, though, my heart has been resonating with a handful of verses from chapter one. You're probably familiar with these verses, but maybe you, like me, can relate more and more with them as this world continues its downward spiral.

In chapter one, verses 12-18, Paul writes about the confidence he has that everything that's happened to him has been for a purpose: so that Christ is preached (v. 18).

Paul goes on to pray that he will never be ashamed of sharing the truth of Christ and that his Savior would always be "magnified . . . whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (vv. 20b-21).

He recognizes that as long as he remains on earth, it's because God has a purpose in his remaining, and he's content to remain. But he makes his heart very clear . . . and this is where my heart resonates.

"For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better" (v. 23).

I mean, I'm perfectly content to continue to do God's work here on earth, but more and more I know that this world really isn't my home (to paraphrase from an old gospel song). My heart longs more and more for my real home, that place where I really belong (3:20).

Can you relate?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thank Goodness It's Friday!

It's been a loooooong week!

Started on Sunday night with a quick flight to Oakland, CA, where I met my dad and his wife for dinner. I was up there to host an event for ECCU on Monday in Livermore. I love hosting these events, and it's such fun to meet ministry leaders. And I get a real kick out of being the emcee.

But even fun stuff can be exhausting.

I flew home Monday night (a slightly delayed flight) and fell into bed, only to get up Tuesday morning to host the same event at ECCU's headquarters in Brea. Ditto all of the above.

But even fun stuff can be exhausting.

Wednesday was an in-the-office day, and by the time I got home that evening, I was completely wiped. Completely. And yesterday? Let's just say it was only by the grace of God that I had any energy to get anything done.

Ah, but now it's Friday! Time to relax and rest. And a weekend ahead to rest some more (well, except for seeing Robin Hood at Lifehouse tomorrow! So excited to see some of my friends! And church on Sunday, of course!). Thank goodness!

You know something? Friday's are a gift from God. Really. He gave us an end to our workweek, and since many of us "work" on Sundays, Friday really is the end of our work. We're given the gift of Sabbath rest. But how often do we not accept that gift? Sabbath is a break from our work. A day to enjoy rest and rejuvenation (and for me, that includes going to Lifehouse!).

Can you say "Thank goodness it's Friday" knowing that tomorrow you can really rest.

You have my permission. More importantly, you have God's permission.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Too Tired to Type

Ever feel that way? Just too tired to do much of anything??

It's been a hectic week at work as I prepare for a couple of events next week. And although my new dosage of medication does seem to be helping the pain, the fatigue is just at maximum levels.

So, my few faithful readers, I'd love to share words of wisdom or some pithy comments . . . but I'm just too tired to type.

But one thing I'm not too tired to do: I'm praying for you!!

Have a great weekend, and may you (like me) get some rest!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

His Mercies Are New...Every Morning

We've been experiencing some unseasonably hot weather here in Southern California. Triple digits for over a week. I'm not a hot-weather gal. I prefer the coolness of autumn or the fresh breezes of spring. Triple digits make me want to find the coolest place and just veg.

Autumn is coming, though. The mornings have been cool (yea!), and I've awakened feeling more refreshed. I love it!

The coolness of recent mornings remind me of God's promise in Lamentations. His mercies keep me from being "consumed" (as the New King James Version puts it), and His "compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (3:23-24)

What an amazing blessing that is! No matter what happened yesterday, His mercies and compassions are new. They don't fail. He is faithful.

Every morning. He never fails! Never.

So the days may be hot, but the mornings will always bring new mercies from my faithful God.

Amen. And amen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Staying in Bed

You know those days when you wake up and wish you could just pull the covers over your head and just stay in bed?

I've had quite a few of those days lately. I've been feeling pretty lousy the last four weeks (a severe flare up), and I've pretty much wanted to crawl into bed and hibernate . . . for a really long time.

Of course, this isn't possible. Life continues even when I don't want it to.

I've been learning a lot about trusting God over the last few months, and He continues to use my chronic health issues to keep me focused on Him. I don't always like it--right now, in fact, I've been praying that I'll just learn the lesson so I don't have to have this daily pain.

But there's a purpose in everything. I have to believe that.

Anyway, back to the wanting to stay in bed. I was going over one of the talks I'm giving at a retreat in October, and I read a verse that kind of gives me permission to do just that.

Psalm 4:4b tells me to "Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still."

Hey! I can do that!

Seriously, even in the midst of any pain or crises, I need to make sure I'm meditating on God's word. And the being still part? Physically, it's almost a given. I'm pretty still these days. But I know it means more than just being prone on my bed. It's being still in God's presence, something I need to do more of.

But, I do love it that I can meditate on God's word and be still in His presence. All without even leaving my bed.

In fact, I think I may just head upstairs early tonight and spend some time with God--before I pull those covers over my head.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

You Just Have to Love 'em!

I usually write about what God's doing in my life and heart, but today, I just have to say that dogs are some of God's greatest creations!!

You just have to love 'em!

Now I know there are some of you that don't like dogs, and frankly, I wonder about the health of your mind (just kidding . . . sort of).

I've always loved dogs, but we really didn't have them when I was growing up. My sister had two chihuahuas, but they weren't MINE.

I had my first very-own dog when Russ and I adopted an adorable blond Cocker Spaniel in 1993. Todd was the sweetest thing, and he loved me unconditionally. A few years later, we adopted another Cocker (Gidget) to keep the first company (it didn't really work--Todd barely tolerated Gidget).

Then tragedy--one that only true dog-lovers understand--struck. We lost both Cockers within 8 weeks of each other in early 2004. It was heartbreaking.

Time passed, grieving abated, and in January 2005, we adopted our Labradors that you may have seen on my Facebook page. They're sweet and loving, and coming home to them at the end of the day brings such joy. You dog-lovers know what I mean!

I'm sitting here on a quiet Saturday morning (Russ is out of town), and I'm so grateful I have these precious four-legged "kids" to keep me company. Annie, the older black Lab, is dreaming, and boy, what a dream she must be having! Woofs. Grrs. Quickly moving feet. It's quite entertaining! Then Luke, the younger yellow Lab, sidles up beside me and rests his head on my lap. "Just love me," his eyes tell me.

And I do. God has created so many wonderful things, just for our enjoyment, just to bring us pleasure. And my two sweet Labs do just that.

And you just have to love 'em!!

Friday, September 04, 2009

An Everlasting Love

I journal every day, and the journal I'm writing in right now has verses of encouragement at the bottom of every page. Today, the first page I wrote on has Jeremiah 31:3 . . . "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." (NIV)

That's God speaking to me . . . and to you.

Do you sometimes forget how much God really loves you? Do you get so caught up with His sovereignty and His power that you forget He's your loving Father? Your Abba? Your Daddy?

I have to admit, I do sometimes. Then He brings reminders through His servants--ancient and modern. How grateful I am that He loves me with that everlasting love. I love how the Message puts it:

"I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!"

Bask in those words. Let them flow over you like a gentle rain. No matter what you do--what I do--He'll never stop loving you! He'll never stop loving me! We can "expect love, love, and more love!"


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another Challenge

A few weeks ago, I offered a "simple" challenge to my few, but faithful readers!

I have another--possibly more difficult--challenge for you today. Or should I say, I'm inviting you to join me as I continue to strive to become the woman God created me to be.

I've mentioned before that I read a daily devotional from In Touch Ministries. And I was really, really convicted when I read today's.

The focus for the last few days has been Elijah's journey of faith as described in 1 Kings. Today, part of the Bible reading was 1 Kings 18:21 where Elijah says, point blank, to the people of Israel, "Whom are you going to serve? You know about God of Israel, the one who continually saved your forefathers, and now there's this false god. Are you going to serve the God you know to be true, or this other one?" (This is my paraphrase.) In a tragic understatement, the people were silent.

Choosing the true God or an idol.

I know today we don't often think of choosing between an idol and God. We think about idols as being small figures we have on a shrine, and few of us actually have such a thing.

But what about this definition? "When we depend on--or give priority--to anything besides the Lord, it becomes our god." (In Touch, 8.27.09, emphasis mine)

Hmmm. Anything besides God.

So I had to ask myself:

* Do I "cherish the gift rather than the Giver"?
* Do I "reserve a part of each day for God"?
* Do I keep my focus fully on God and seek His will--every day?

I want to answer yes to each of these questions. I want to, but I can't always.

"If we really believe that the God of the Bible is the only true God, we ought to give Him our whole life, follow Him faithfully, and serve Him with all our gifts and abilities." (In Touch, 8.27.09)

I do really believe, so I pray: "Lord God, please reveal to me anything--anything--that I'm putting above You. Help me to cherish You. Convict me to spend part of each day with You. Draw my focus fully on You. And do Your will in me, today and every day."

That's my challenge to myself. Join me if you choose.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Mountain and the Valley

We all know that our life's journeys take us to the top of the mountain at times and to the depths of the valley at times.

Yesterday, I made it to the top and the depths all in one day.

My day started with working at my God-given job that allows me the flexibility to work from home. I'd taken a few hours off the day before, so I really needed to get caught up. I love what I do, so even work sometimes gives me almost-to-the-top-of-the-mountain moments.

Then I took an early lunch to go speak and sing at a local women's club, something I always love to do. Afterwards, the Lord led me to the top of the mountain with some really affirming words from some of the women. Words that reminded me of the gift God's given me by allowing me to speak His words. Words that reminded me of how He uses me to encourage others.

A mountain-top high!

I came back home and worked some more, finishing several tasks ahead of schedule--always a good thing!!

And then the valley.

I've mentioned in other blogs that I've been part of an amazing cast performing a fun, encouraging play. It's been so much fun, and such a wonderful haven from "real" life.

I received a call last evening that the remaining performances have been canceled. It doesn't really matter why, but this call put me in the valley depths.

All that work. All the dedicated people. All the time invested.

It's all over . . .

I'm so sad for the leadership of the playhouse. I'm grieving for the cast and crew. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't the worst thing that could ever or will ever happen, but it's still a loss.

I know I'll get out of this valley relatively soon, but for now . . . I just have to pray for my dear friends and pray we'll all make it to the mountain.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Will I Ever Learn?

Just last week, I wrote about how much God touched me and gifted me with exceeded expectations.

Then this week . . . I began to feel very discouraged. I'm in a play at a local theater, and we open on Saturday. For the last five weeks, I've had this off and on throat thing going on, and it's on again. My voice is scratchy, and my role requires some singing.

My desire is to always serve God with excellence, and I've been fretting about letting Him down. Letting my director down. Letting the cast down.

Fretting. Worry. Anxiety. Discouragement.

Things I know I shouldn't feel. Things I know I don't have to feel. Truly . . . when will I learn?

Fortunately, I have a very patient Teacher. I'm studying Isaiah right now, and yesterday, as I sat stewing, the Lord showed me this verse in chapter 41:

Fear not for I am with you;
Be not dismayed for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

(v. 10)

Aren't those awe-inspiring words? I don't have to worry about anything. I don't have to fear. God is (and always has been) my strength.

So, today, I know that no matter what happens this weekend, God will uphold me.

Now I'd like to say I've finally learned the lesson for good, but I know my humanity will kick in every once in a while.

Perhaps it's enough that I've learned the lesson a little better for this day.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Exceeding (Unexpected) Expectations

I'm sitting in the airport in Charlotte, NC, having just finished a wonderful weekend. I visited my brother and his family, had coffee with a friend I hadn't seen in about 15 years, and had an amazing time at the She Speaks conference.

I have to admit, I came on this trip with expectations. And some of those expectations were met. I had a great time with my family. I loved reconnecting with my friend. I enjoyed the beauty of one of my favorite places on earth (it's just so wonderfully green here!).

Then came the conference. I came with certain expectations for that as well. And my original expectations were met.

I learned about marketing my speaking ministry more effectively.

I connected with other women throughout the US who have a similar calling on their heart and made friends with a couple who will probably become true friends.

I had a chance to meet with a couple of publishers about a writing project, and at least, they're interested in seeing proposals.

Yes, those expectations were met.

But then a couple of expectations I didn't even know I had were not just met. They were exceeded--amazingly so.

The Lord used a couple of presenters to truly break my heart--in a good way. I spent time (more than once) on my knees, in tears. It was a blessing beyond, well, expectations.

I recognized yet again how great God is, and how weak and inadequate I am. And the fact that He chooses to use this flawed vessel to do His will is so humbling.

I don't know what the future will bring. None of us do. But what a blessing it is to know that He knows.

To all my sisters who attended this conference, to all my sisters who've felt God's calling on their hearts to serve Him in any way . . . I pray for you. I pray your dreams will be exceeded beyond your (perhaps unexpected!) expectations.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Quiet Time Enforced (or the Value of Plane Travel!)

On Thursday, I was sitting on a plane winging its way to Charlotte, NC, truly one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been blessed to visit this area several times, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I’m here to visit my brother and his family, and to attend a speakers’ conference.

I spent several hours sitting in my tiny coach seat. Several quiet hours.

It’s not often I have time to just sit, quietly, uninterrupted. It was kind of nice! I had time to review my “talks” I’d be giving during a couple of evaluation sessions. I had time to think. And I had time to pray.

Wednesday morning, during devotional time at work (yes, we have staff-wide devotional times weekly—at work!), one of our executive vice presidents talked about solitude and focused time just listening to the Lord’s voice.

And yet again, I was convicted.

I advocate solitude. I talk about it. I encourage others to do it. And I know—beyond doubt—that spending focused time alone with God blesses me so much. God has spoken to my heart in amazing ways when I just sit and listen. I so often walk away from these times feeling refreshed.

So why don’t I take this time every day?

I’m committed to spending time every day in God’s word, and I rarely miss reading, studying, and meditating on biblical passages. I’m usually going through at least one group Bible study. I don’t write these things to boast; I’ve learned that I easily drift from an intimate relationship with the Lord if I don’t take this time.

And I pray a lot. I talk with God about what’s going on in my life and in the lives of those I love. I praise Him for . . . just being Who He is. I ask for healing for my hurting friends and family. I ask for direction and provision.

But I don’t listen to His voice anywhere near as often as I should.

So as I sat on the plane—with all that quiet, uninterrupted time—I tried to listen. And as soon as I finished writing this, I listened again. And I felt refreshed and blessed.

Can I encourage you to make time with the Lord a priority? Will you join me in a renewed commitment to times of study, prayer, and solitude?

Let me know how you’re doing! And I pray for you!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A "Simple" Challenge

I've been going through a chronological reading of the Bible this year, and it's been interesting to see how this amazing book flows together. I've also enjoyed running into verses that have encouraged or affirmed or convicted in the past--and which do the same yet again.

One such verse is Micah 6:8. You may be familiar with it.

He has shown you, O man [or woman!], what is good;
But to do justly,
To love mercy [some translations say "kindness"],
And to walk humbly with your God.

Sometimes, after years of walking with the Lord and desiring His will and His plan, I still wonder what I should be doing for Him. Should I give more of my time, talents, and treasures? Should I volunteer at the local skilled nursing facility? Should I mentor more?

I get caught up with what I should be doing.

Then I read--again--a verse like this, and God reminds me. All He wants for me is:
  • To "do justly"--follow His commandments
  • To "love mercy"--be kind and merciful to others
  • To "walk humbly" with Him--acknowledge that He is sovereign and give Him honor, praise, and worship

It's pretty simple--or so it seems. But really, the human side of me doesn't always want to be kind or humble.

So I'm convicted again. Am I willing to take up this "simple" challenge? I pray I am. I pray you are as well.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Joy and Sadness

It's been a week since Ruth went home to be with her Savior.

There have been moments of joy. We've received cards and letters and calls from so many people who loved and supported Ruth. Russ and I have been enveloped by arms (both literal and figurative) embracing us and letting us know that we too are loved.

There have been moments of sadness. Walking into Ruth's house for the first time since her death brought a tear to my eyes. Russ thinking of picking up the phone to call her, or leaving work and thinking he needed to visit her--then realizing he wouldn't speak to her or see her on this earth.

No matter how "prepared" you think you are--you're never fully prepared for the loss of someone you love. I've been told by several people that moments of sadness will come upon us at unexpected times and unexpected places.

We can't prepare for those either; we can just know they'll come.

Joy in the memories. Sadness in the memories that will never be.

I can't say much more than this . . . I just miss her.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grieving with Hope

In December 1984, a young man transferred to the restaurant I worked at. I didn't think much of him, at first, but along with him came his mother.

She was a nurse, and she'd come into the restaurant before or after her shift a few times a week. I got to know her quite well. Charming. Witty. Caring.

We all really enjoyed her, and she became my friend.

She continued to be my friend, even as I began to date her son (I eventually began to think quite highly of him!). And then in April 1988, she became my mother-in-law.

Over the years, we've had our times of joy and of sorrow, times when we adored each other, times when we didn't want to be in the same room. But I've been blessed to call her my friend for almost 25 years and my "mother-in-love" for over 21 years.

If you've been reading my blog, you know my mother-in-law, Ruth, has been in ill health for several weeks. I'm blessed to write that yesterday morning at 6:30, she ended her earthly battle and was ushered into the presence of her Savior.

And even though I've lost loved ones before, Paul's words to the Thessalonians became that much more real to me. I don't have to grieve as those without hope. I have hope in the knowledge that Ruth is with Jesus and I'll see her again.

When Russ and I went to pick up Ruth's personal things yesterday, the case worker, Mary, told us how, when she'd gone to "pay her last respects," Ruth had such a look of peace on her face and even had a slight smile. In her over 20 years in long-term health, Mary had never seen such peace.

What joy, what hope it gives me to know that Ruth really is at peace . . . and maybe that slight smile was because, just as she left her earthly body, she saw Jesus, waiting for her with arms wide open.

So I'm sad at losing this woman who's been an important part of my life, but I have hope. And a lot of it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A New Insight

I may have written this before, but don't you just love it when you read something you've read before and see something new and wonderful?

That happened last week for me. I was reading Proverbs 3, and kind of rushed through verses 5-6. I knew them by heart, so why linger? Then I read verses 7-8, and something struck me that hadn't before. Those four verses go together and provide a wonderful guide for living. In case you don't know them:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear [revere] the Lord and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.

This is what struck me anew, this guide for living (for me, at least!):

  • Trust in the Lord. Look at how He's worked in your life, and remember His faithfulness.
  • Don't try to figure it out yourself. His ways and thoughts really are higher than yours!
  • Give everything to Him, and He'll direct you. He loves you and will always lead you and protect you.
  • Don't try to be self-wise. You may not know as much as you think you do!
  • Give reverent awe to God. He is sovereign and worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.
  • Turn away from anything that isn't of God. Don't even give the enemy a toehold!
  • Focus on Him and be spiritually healed and physically refreshed. Trust Him to give you daily strength, and He will (I speak from experience!).
I pray you spend time in God's word every day. I also pray for new insights for you as well.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do Not Delay!

I sense a theme lately in my entries . . . lots of talk about roller coasters and complaining . . .

It's been a really, really rough season, and it continues.

I've never experienced walking alongside someone in her last stages of life, so each day is unique. The medical professionals can only "guess" at what's happening because each person ends his or her journey differently. There have been many times lately when I wonder what God's doing. What could the purpose possibly be in Ruth's struggle?

If you're new to my blog, Ruth is my mother-in-law, and she's terminally ill. For the last three months, we've watched her improve and decline, improve a bit, then decline a lot. She's very confused now, and her mind isn't functioning well. It's really hard to watch.

I feel like a small, tiny worm for saying what I'm going to say next. In light of what she's going through my "temporary affliction" is minor. But even though medication is helping my own health issues somewhat, the stress of watching Ruth struggle is exacerbating the symptoms.

It's just hard, and those of you who have been through something similar know exactly what I mean.

It's times like this when I know I need to delve deeply into the Bible and stay in constant contact with the Lord. If I don't, I risk becoming distant from Him. I know myself all too well. So I'm being diligent about my time with Him. I've been spending a lot of time in the Psalms lately, and I so appreciate how the psalmists, especially David, had no fear of crying out to God. I recently read Psalm 70, and I found myself meditating on verse 5:

But I am afflicted and needy;
Hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not delay.

That's exactly how I feel. This is my prayer for both Ruth and me. Hasten to me, Lord! Please, do not delay!!

Maybe you're going through something really difficult. Feel free to share my prayer.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

God has Heard

I really try not to whine . . . at least not too much.

But sometimes, life really kicks me to the curb, and I can't help wondering if God really hears me. You know those days when you pray, and you realize the old cliche is really true: Your prayers don't go any higher than the ceiling.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had more than one day like that.

I watch my mother-in-law decline physically and mentally, and I pray for her suffering to end. But it doesn't.

I wake up feeling like a huge weight is pressing me down, and I pray for supernatural energy. But I don't get it.

I hear my husband talk, seemingly still far from faith, and I pray for his heart to soften. But nothing changes.

And so I whine a bit. I wonder, does God really hear me? And then, because I try to continue any Bible study or reading even when I don't feel like it, God reminds me: He really does hear me. He's just working in ways I can't see.

He also reminds me of His past faithfulness to me. It's times like this when I have to look back on what He's done and see the purpose in everything that's happened in my life.

I still watch Ruth with sadness. I still have daily fatigue and pain. I still grieve for Russ's lack of faith. That's my human side. But I just have to believe, although I don't see the purpose today, a day will come when I'll better understand today's suffering and frustration.

I'll leave you with some verses from Psalm 55. These touched my heart this week. I hope they'll touch yours too.

Come and hear, all who fear God,
And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard wickedness in my heart,
The Lord will not hear;
But certainly God has heard;
He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer
Nor His lovingkindness from me.

Friday, May 01, 2009


I'm really, really blessed. Really.

Although, on the surface, it doesn't necessarily look that way.

As I've mentioned in past entries, things have been tough, and it looks like the next several weeks (months?) are going to be just as tough. My mother-in-law's health continues to slowly decline, and only the Lord knows the number of her days. The roller coaster continues to take us up and down and around those emotional curves.

I've felt more pain and weariness lately, and I've had to take a step out of a few areas of ministry, which has been really hard for me.

Yes, it's been hard, but I'm really, really blessed.

Just this morning, I was reminded of how blessed I am with wonderful, caring, sincerely loving friends. I know they're praying for me. They share my burdens.

What a blessing!

And then I found out that my fight against the insurance company for a medication is over . . . and I won!!

What a blessing!

Oh, and I'm going to be an honorary grandma again!!

So even with the slow loss of Ruth, even with ongoing health problems, even with the uncertainty of just living, I'm blessed.

Thank You, Lord, for each splash of joy You bring to my life. Thank You for blessings that far outweigh the difficulties. You are so good. Thank You!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Our Refuge and Our Strength

David knew a lot about the need for a refuge and for strength. He wrote quite a few psalms about this very topic. And each time, rather than finding a refuge in something--or someone--here on earth, he found his refuge in the Lord. Rather than deriving his strength from himself, he found his strength in the Lord.

One of my favorite psalms tells me that "God is our refuge and our strength, a present help in trouble." (46:1)

I've been needing a refuge lately. My roller-coaster of a life continues, and more moments than I can say have had me crying out to God and seeking shelter in His arms. I've found great comfort in knowing His arms are ready to envelop me with His love.

His refuge offers a shelter from the storm.

I've written before that there are days when I just don't think I can do it on my own, and on those days, I reach out my hand and ask for a supernatural strength. This verse affirms that I will receive that strength--even if it's just enough to get through one day at a time.

His strength gives the ability to walk through the storm.

I don't know about you, but this reminder--from a well-known and well-loved verse--was exactly what I needed this morning.

I pray it encourages you as well.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Roller Coaster Ride

I love roller coasters as much as the next person. The anticipation as you go up, up, up . . . and the drop of the stomach--which is a good thing!--as you plunge at the speed of light . . . or so it seems. (For those of you who hate roller coasters, I apologize!) The curves, the loop-di-loops.

It's a rush of adrenaline and a touch of fear all wrapped up together. But all but the most diehard eventually want to get off the ride.

Sometimes life feels like a roller coaster, but one without an end.

The last few weeks have been that way for me.

My ride started a few weeks ago with a severe virus that kicked the stuffing out of me. Just as I was beginning to recover from that, Ruth, my mother-in-law, who's battling cancer, experienced some pretty scary complications. The stress from my illness and her declining health triggered a flare-up of a chronic condition I struggle with.

Over the last 12 days, we've watched Ruth decline and improve and decline and improve. It's been painful. We're still not sure what the prognosis is, but it appears the cancer may be winning.

Up and down. Lefts and rights.

The roller coaster continues, and for now, there's no end to the ride in sight.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hope in God's Word

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And I cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
Psalm 119:147

Mornings can be tough for many of us. I know they can be tough for me sometimes.

A sleepless night.

Anticipation of a stressful day at work.

Do you often wake up, pause for a moment, and then just turn over and pull the covers over your head? Well, maybe not literally, but certainly figuratively?

What do you do when you wake up with fear, with worry, with concerns?

The Bible tells us. We can hope in God's word. But here's the catch: You need to know His word.

When you know what God says about protecting you and providing for you, you can have hope. When you know verses that say that Jesus has overcome the world, you can have hope. When you know that the Bible says that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble, you can have hope.

The more you know of God and His word, the more you can have confidence that, when you wake in need of help, you can have hope in God's word.

From Hope: Devotions for Finding Hope in Every Situation (c) 2007 Sauni Rinehart.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I Love the Lord!!

What a day this has been. I mentioned a blog or two ago that I'm going through Beth Moore's Esther study, and it's been pretty wonderful.

This morning's study was an eye-opener: She compared us with Haman.

Yes! Haman!!

If you know the story, it's not a compliment!!

As I continued meditating on her God-inspired words, I realized that a weakness of mine--pride--could make me into a Haman. Gasp!! Some of those words cut straight to my heart.

Over the last year or so, the Holy Spirit has really been working on my heart regarding pride, and this morning, I prayed fervently that the Lord would continue to refine me in this area. As I was praying about a particular struggle, the Spirit revealed something to me that was a total breakthrough. It was so amazing, it made me cry.

I know I'll sometimes fail, the flesh will sometimes prevail.

But what an amazing answer to something I've struggled with and prayer for . . . for so long! God is good, and I just love Him!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Disappointed, but Not Discouraged

I regularly listen to a podcast produced by In Touch Ministries, and recently something Charles Stanley said really stuck in my mind.

He said that it's okay to be disappointed, but it's not okay to be discouraged.

In the last couple of weeks, I experienced first hand what this means . . . twice.

I won't bore you with the details, but two times, something I really desired and had prayed for didn't happen the way I wanted. And I was really disappointed. I would rather have had things turn out differently, but because I know God is in loving control and is completely trustworthy, I didn't become discouraged.

Many times in the Bible, we're told to take courage. In fact, that's really what "encourage" means: to give or instill courage. And thus the opposite--discourage--is to take or lose courage. So when I feel discouraged, I'm losing courage in the love God has for me. I'm failing to trust Him.

And that's sin.

Being disappointed is human. We can't help feeling a bit sad when something goes against our desire or plan. But we can keep from being discouraged by going to the Lord, expressing our disappointment, and thanking Him for His faithfulness.

If we trust Him, really trust Him, we can handle any disappointment with the assurance that, if we didn't get what we wanted, it was for our best.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Warrior Princess

I usually don't include quotes from other writers or speakers in my blog, but I'm going through Beth Moore's study on Esther with women from my church. I've read the book of Esther many times, and I often include parts of her story when I speak.

I love how God reveals new things, though (that's why I never tire of reading and rereading His word), and I just had to share with you what I learned in today's lesson.

It's week four, day two if you're familiar with this study.

Mordecai has learned of the king's edict, and he's torn his clothes and put on sackcloth. He's mourning the coming annihilation of his people. Esther is told about his wailing, but doesn't know why. She sends the king's eunuch to give him clothes to wear--she doesn't (yet) take the time to find out what's wrong. She just wants to solve the problem. (Sound familiar?)

Beth writes, "If people around us helped us avoid [our problems], we'd quit learning how to deal with difficulty. We'd forget how to cope and we'd crush under the least inconvenience . . . strength comes from muscle, and muscle develops with a workout. This is as true spiritually as physically. What we don't use, we lose."

I've written in previous blogs that we are works in progress; we're being refined as gold. We may not like it, but we know that the end result is worth the pain and suffering.

"As painful as the process may be," Beth concludes, "that which shatters our superficiality also shatters the fetters of our fragility . . . We are not the fragile flowers we've considered ourselves to be. We, like Esther, are the warrior princesses of God."

You are not only a beloved daughter of our Father, you are a strong "warrior princess" being refined and grown into the woman God has designed you to be!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be Still

I've committed Psalm 46:1-2b to memory. It's one of my many favorites, and I love knowing that God is my refuge and strength.

I forgot, though, that another verse I quote often is also from this psalm. Verse 10a says "Be still and know that I am God" (NKJV).

The New American Standard says to "cease striving," and I love what it says in the notes of my study Bible: cease striving means to "let go" or "relax."

I can let go of my worries. I can be still in the moment. I can cease striving to do it on my own. And I can relax knowing that God really is my refuge and strength. He is my very present help in times of trouble and I don't need to fear.

In these uncertain times--a new administration, a stock market that continues its roller coaster ride, lost jobs and homes--it's comforting to know that I can trust Him.

Lord, help me to be still knowing You are God. You are in loving control of all things, and I need not fear. Amen

Friday, January 09, 2009

Brand New Year. Same Old Stuff.

Isn't it the truth?

For some reason, every new year, I somehow think things will change.

Sometimes they do. We plan to exercise more, and guess what? We actually pull the old bike out of the cobwebs in the corner of the garage. We say we're going to eat better, and we add a salad a day to our diet.

But often they don't . . .

Here it is, the 9th day of 2009, and I'm having a really bad day healthwise. I was feeling pretty well for a few weeks, thanks to a new medication that seems to be helping to manage my symptoms . . . But yesterday, I had a migraine (haven't had one in a while), and it triggered a flare up.

Part of me asked, "Why?"

Why didn't it "stick" this time? Why can't I just feel better . . . all the time.

It's interesting how God works. Our theme for the year at work is "Trust."

And I was just telling the Lord that I do trust Him. I trust Him with everything, since it's all His anyway. And if I trust Him with everything, I have to trust Him with my health too. He is worthy of that trust.

And just two days ago, I read a devotional that talked about how we can look at God's fingerprints on our lives to see His faithfulness. And He has been amazingly faithful to me.

So, even though it's a brand new year, and even though I'm faced with some of the same old stuff, once thing remains the same.

The Lord God will never change. His grace and mercy and love will never change. Never.

Happy New Year!