Burden Or Blessing?

birds flying at sunsetWhen God allows something difficult into our life, do we view it as a burden or blessing? As with many things in life, we might answer, it depends. But what would happen if we looked at everything God allows to reach us as a blessing, no matter what the cost? How might our perspective change?

Recently, I was diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear. Burden. After six weeks of physical therapy and an MRI, turns out it isn’t a tear. Blessing. The problem is autoimmune related. Burden. God’s in control. Blessing.

Maybe when the orthopedic doctor first told me I had a tear, I should have just skipped straight to remembering God is in control, and counted it a blessing. Maybe. But that’s not how I looked at it at the time.

As I shifted from thinking rotator cuff tear with a possible treatment plan, to yet one more autoimmune-caused ailment without one, I read a devotion in Streams in the Desert. I would like to share what J.R. Miller wrote with you. Perhaps after reading it, you will see the hard things God allows into your life as more of a blessing than a burden.

There is a fable about the way birds first got their wings. The story goes that initially they were made without them. Then God made the wings, set them down before the wingless birds, and said to them, “Take up these burdens and carry them.”

 

After hesitating a bit, the birds picked up the burdens, and set them on their shoulders to carry. For a short time the wings seemed heavy and difficult to bear. But as the birds carried the wings, folded over their heart, the wings grew attached to their bodies.

They quickly discovered how to use them and were lifted by the wings high into the air. The weights had become wings. 

J.R. Miller continued, “We look at our burdens and heavy loads, and try to run from them, but if we will carry them and tie them to our hearts, they will become wings.”

No matter how overwhelming, any burden God has lovingly placed with His own hands on our shoulders is a blessing. Frederick William Faber

How do you look at the difficult things God places in your life? Burden or blessing? I’m striving to slide my burden/blessing meter closer to the blessing end. Will you join me?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

You can find my August Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Photo by Rohan Gupta on Unsplash

Learn to Be Silent

forest treesAs you might imagine, when I taught elementary-aged students, I spent a lot of time talking. A lot of time. Once I stepped out of the classroom, one of the biggest transitions I needed to make was to learn to be silent.

I’m not a telephone person. I don’t like spending time in long conversations on the phone. I just don’t. So the minute Pilot walked in our front door after work each weekday afternoon, I talked non-stop, asking him about the minutiae of his day.

I longed to hear another person’s voice. I needed another person to hear my voice. Through the years I’ve learned to temper that impulse, so it isn’t as bad these days.

To fill in the absence of human conversation, during my day I talked to the inanimate things around me. Of course there were the dogs. I talked to them all day long. I talked to the computer when it refused to perform as I commanded. I talked – well, more like yelled – to the crazy drivers I encountered on the road.

Hey. I’m a fiction writer. We fiction writers talk to the fictitious characters in the books we’re writing all the time. We work out scenarios by talking through them. Depending on the genre we write, the search histories on our computers could prove quite interesting.

Ask any of us. You’ll see it’s true.

But in all of this, one thing I learned is to sit in silence before God and listen to the sounds of his creation. I marvel at the fact God allows us to be a part of that  creation. Don’t you?

Creation doesn’t need to use words to display God’s glory. It doesn’t matter where we live or the time of day, creation tells a story. It tells the story of a Creator God, Elohim, who spoke the world into being. All we have to do is learn to be silent to hear it.

Creation tells of an All-Powerful, Omnipotent God who loves us enough to speak to us through his creation. If only we will pause long enough from our busy life, learn to be silent, and listen.

What are the ways you listen to God in the silence of his creation?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom going to his wedding, or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race! The sun crosses the heavens from end to end, and nothing can hide from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6 (TLB)

You can find my July Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

Lord, Make It Right

dark nightWhen life events seem confusing and beat down on us, we might cry out, Lord, make it right.

When we aren’t sure which is the best path to take, we might cry out, Lord, make it plain.

When things seem a little muddled and fuzzy, we might cry out, Lord, make what is so clear to you, clear to me.

Whenever we cry, Lord, make it right, we can be assured God is aware of what we’re going through. Sometimes we see his hand move as he works on our behalf. Other times we don’t. Whether or not we see God at work, it doesn’t change the fact he is working.

When we believe God is good, God is in control, God will never leave or forsake us, and trust in his sovereignty, we are better able to lay our needs at his feet while we wait for him to work in his way and in his timing.

This may not be an easy thing to do, but the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

How have you seen that to be true in your life?

“Being perplexed, I say,
‘Lord, make it right!
Night is as day to Thee,
Darkness as light.
I am afraid to touch
Things that involve so much;
My trembling hand may shake,
My skilless hand may break;
Thine can make no mistake.’

“Being in doubt I say,
‘Lord, make it plain;
Which is the true, safe way?
Which would be gain?
I am not wise to know,
Nor sure of foot to go;
What is so clear to Thee,
Lord, make it clear to me!’”

Streams in the Desert

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

O our God, won’t you stop them? We have no way to protect ourselves against this mighty army. We don’t know what to do, but we are looking to you.

2 Chronicles 20:12 (TLB)

You can find my July Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Photo by Vincent Chin on Unsplash

Have Our Spiritual Tools Become Dull?

axe in block of woodAfter the past year we’ve had with the very real effects of COVID, I’m wondering. have our spiritual tools become dull?

Most of us avoid using dull tools to accomplish our work. If you’ve ever tried cutting a piece of wood with a rusty saw, or snipping a vine with a blunt pair of clippers you know using dull tools requires extra work and extra time. Work that could be avoided if proper care was given to the tool beforehand.

Those who cut out fabric to sew a garment usually guard their sewing shears with a vengeance. Sewing shears are not to be used to cut paper. The fastest way to blunt a pair of scissors is to cut paper with them. Or worse. Cut open a plastic bag. (Speaking to my family here.)

In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon spoke of planning ahead. He advised keeping our axe sharpened before it became dull. Smart advice. I’ve not had much experience chopping wood with an axe, but I have thrown dull axes at wooden targets. From that experience, I can attest to how inefficient a dull axe is.

We may not own an axe or throw them at targets, but what about the spiritual areas of our life? Have we grown lax, and allowed our spiritual tools to become dull?

With the recent social distancing protocols in place, we may have slacked off in our church attendance. Virtual or otherwise. I know I did.

As things begin to return to the way they used to be, this is a great time to get with other believers and worship together.

Along with getting back in church, do we need to make the extra effort to join a Bible study group?

Studying God’s word on our own is important and necessary. However, when we discuss Scripture with others, we often gain insights we might miss when we study on our own.

If we’ve stopped reading our Bible on a regular basis, now is as good a time as any to get back in the habit.

Has our spiritual tool of prayer become dull? I am so grateful for those in my life who come alongside and pray for me. I am also grateful for people God places in my path to pray for.

Meeting together with other believers, group Bible study, and daily Scripture reading are all important spiritual tools we need to keep sharp. For me, though, praying and being prayed for is one spiritual tool I don’t ever want to let become dull.

Have our spiritual tools become dull? If so, let’s get busy sharpening them to be more effective for God’s work.

As Solomon said, it is smarter to plan ahead and keep our tools sharpened so we don’t have to work harder to use them.

What ways have you found to keep your spiritual tools from becoming dull?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

If your ax is dull and you don’t sharpen it, you have to work harder to use it. It is smarter to plan ahead. Ecclesiastes 10:10 (GNT)

You can find my July Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Unsplash

Pause for Poetry Only Jesus

meadow lakeOnly Jesus

by Frances Gregory Pasch

Who knows each moment how you feel?

Whose love for you is always real?

Who cares for you and guides your way?

Who holds your hand so you won’t stray?

Jesus!

Who’s there when others turn their backs?

Who helps you get your life on track?

Who always wants to be your friend?

On whom alone can you depend?

Jesus!

Who’s there for you both day and night?

Who soothes your pain and makes things right?

Who walked the road to Calvary

And gave His life, so you’d be free?

Jesus!

Who is Our Savior and Our King,

Our Counselor-Our Everything?

Only Jesus!

©Frances Gregory Pasch

Frances Gregory Pasch’s devotions and poems have been published hundreds of times in devotional booklets, magazines, and Sunday school papers since 1985. Her writing has also appeared in several dozen compilations. Frances’ latest book, Greater Than Gold is available on Amazon. Her first book, Double Vision: Seeing God in Everyday Life Through Devotions and Poetry, which was published when she was eighty years old, is also available on Amazon. Frances has been leading a women’s Christian writers group since 1991 and makes her own holiday greeting cards incorporating her poetry. She and her husband, Jim, have been married since 1958. They have five sons and nine grandchildren. Contact her at http://www.francesgregorypasch.com.

Opportunity for Faith

Photo by Dušan veverkolog on Unsplash

Author Susie Larson says, “The locked gates before you are nothing more than an opportunity for faith.” Do you believe it? King David did.

David was thirty years old when he became king over Israel and Judah. Once all the tribes of Israel recognized David as king, he headed for Jerusalem, or Jebus, as the Jebusites called the city. Side note: When Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, they never did conquer the city of Jebus. That’s the reason it remained in  the Jebusites’ hands.

When the Jebusites saw David and his men approach their walled city, they told David he would never get in. Nevertheless, David got in. He not only got into the fortress, he conquered the city. He renamed it the City of David; Jerusalem, where he reigned for thirty-three years.

David saw the obstacle in front of him as an opportunity for faith. He trusted the God who delivered him from the paw of the bear and paw of the lion, and might I add, the spear of Saul, to make a way.

How often, I wonder, do we look at the obstacles and see them as an opportunity for our faith to grow? Speaking for myself here, maybe not as often as we would like or as often as we should.

Many times I look at the fortress and don’t notice anything else. I head out to conquer the city and run smack into the wall, and that wall is all I see.

Although David may have thought otherwise, the City of David wasn’t all about him. Jerusalem is where our Lord and Savior was falsely accused, illegally tried, and brutally murdered for a crime he did not commit. Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave in that city. His Spirit was poured out on his disciples in that city fifty days later at Pentecost.

Just as with David, any fortress we might conquer is not all about us. If it is something God calls us to conquer, he’ll provide a way and the power for us to make it so.

So just how did David and his men capture the city of Jebus? David told his men to enter through the water shaft. He used an unconventional method and took the opportunity for faith to overcome the obstacle before him.

What opportunity for faith are you facing? Keep searching for the water shaft.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him. 2 Samuel 5:9-10 (TLB)

You can find my July Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Photo by Dušan veverkolog on Unsplash

Keeping Our Eyes On Jesus

courtesy pixabayWhile the island of Santorini Greece is a marvel to behold, I found it can also create unsettling situations. One such situation is the bus ride from Fira to Oia.

Santorini is an island that formed a caldera in its center after an enormous volcanic eruption, approximately 3600 years ago, destroyed the center of the island. The volcanic eruption is considered responsible for the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete 68 miles to the south.

The central lagoon of the caldera is surrounded by 980 feet high steep cliffs on three sides. Buildings on the island cling precariously to the sides of the island overlooking the lagoon. And this, my friends, is where the bus ride comes in. Most roads on Santorini also cling precariously to the cliffs they are built on.

Upon boarding the bus for my ride from Fira to Oia, I slid across the bench seat, and found myself pinned next to the window when another passenger sat next to me. Fortunate for me, I thought. Better view, I thought. Until we left Fira and started the uphill climb to Oia.

I looked out the window to my right and gasped. Oh, no, I thought.

Nothing separated me and the rest of the bus riders from tumbling over the side of the road and plunging to our deaths. I’m not exaggerating.

Nothing except the bus driver, that is.

The way I saw it, the man behind the wheel knew what he was doing. At least I hoped he did. He knew just how close he could get to the edge of the road without careening off it. So, instead of looking at the potential danger to my right, I decided to look straight ahead. At the bus driver.

He delivered us safely to Oia. He even returned us safely back to Fira in one piece. On the return trip, I once again found myself next to the window. This time, however, my view was the rock wall next to the road we pressed against.

How many times in life do we look out the window and only see the steep drop-off of the cliff we’re on? Or the wall of rock that has us pressed so tight there is nowhere to turn?

We see the job uncertainties. The health concerns. Financial worries. Relationship disasters. World unrest.

Instead of staring at the scary stuff, perhaps we should keep our eyes on Jesus. The one who has it all under control. The one who knows where he’s taking us. The one who isn’t about to let us fall. The one who will bring us safely to our destination.

In the story of the Apostle Peter when he walked on the water to meet Jesus, he did fine until he saw the storm he was in, and took his eyes off his Lord.

Same with us.

We do fine as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, so how about we keep them there?

Leave your comments below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

But when Peter saw how strong the wind was, he was afraid and started sinking. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Matthew 14:30 (CEV)

You can find my July Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Delayed Blessing

office building

A devotion in Streams in the Desert talks about delayed blessing. The story is told of a man led into the Lord’s treasure-house, where he discovered the Delayed Blessing Office. This is where God stored the answers to certain prayers until it was wise to send them.

The devotion went on to say, “For some who pray expecting an answer, it takes a long time to learn that delays of answers are not denials. These blessings held in the Delayed Blessing Office are deep secrets of love and wisdom we never imagined.”

Do you believe that? Can you accept that delays of answers are not denials?

Have you ever wanted God to bless you in some way without realizing you weren’t ready for that blessing? I have.

It’s like removing a cake from the oven before it is fully cooked. The cake isn’t ready. It’s not done. It’s raw in the middle. Out of our impatience, we didn’t give the cake the required time in the oven to bake. We end up with something far short of what we could have had if we were patient.

God uses time to refine us, to prepare us, to make us ready for those blessings he holds in the Delayed Blessing Office until it’s time to send them our way. I don’t like waiting. I really do not. Yet, when I take the time to actually consider God’s delays this way, I see, despite how I may want things to move at a faster pace, the wait is for a good reason.

God’s delayed blessings are proof of his love, not the opposite. God knows when we’re ready to receive his blessings. He knows how long to keep them in the Delayed Blessing Office before he dispenses them.

After all, none of us want to end up like a cake taken from the oven too soon, do we?

O you of little faith,

God has not failed you yet!

When all looks dark and gloomy,

You do so soon forget–

Forget that He has led you,

And gently cleared your way;

On clouds has poured His sunshine,

And turned your night to day.

And if He’s helped you to this point,

He will not fail you now;

How it must wound His loving heart

To see your anxious brow!

Oh! doubt not any longer,

To Him commit your way,

Whom in the past you trusted,

And is just the same today.

selected–Streams in the Desert

Waiting at the door of the Delayed Blessing Office? Me too. Remember. God will not open that door one second too soon, nor one second too late. And that’s a good thing, right?

Leave your comments below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day! Habakkuk 2:3 (TLB)

You can find my July Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Photo by Evi Odioko on Unsplash

Five Ways to Build White Space Into Your Day

How much white space is there in your life? You know. Margin. A space without anything in it.

In writing, it’s good to have white space. As contradictory as it may seem, white space draws our attention to what’s important. The same can hold true in life.

Ifwehaveonecontinuous stringofletters, onerightaftertheother, it makes it extremely difficult to comprehend what was written, doesn’t it?

In life it is equally important to leave a little white space. A little margin. If we don’t, we may end up a cluttered, jumbled, unintelligible mess just like that sentence above.

From my observations of our society as a whole, I’d say most of us run full-throttle, barely taking a breath before jumping into the next thing on our to-do list. I know I’m guilty of doing that time and time again.

I leave little white space.

But when we look at Jesus, we see he deliberately took time to go off by himself to talk with his Father. He set an example of putting the press of life to the side for a moment, to reconnect with what was important. He set aside time to recharge, so he could face the next item on his agenda.

Jesus built white space into his life. By doing that, he was able to more fully accomplish the things God wanted him to accomplish.

So how do we create white space?

In writing it is suggested we:

  • Use 3-5 bullet points.
  • Increase line spacing.
  • Shorten sentences.
  • Break up paragraphs.
  • Avoid justifying our documents.

Let’s see how we can fit those five things into our life.

In life maybe we should limit how many bullet points we commit to at one time. I’m still learning but saying no, even when I want to say yes, has been the biggest way I’ve found to keep myself from adding too many bullet points.

Perhaps increasing the line space between tasks will increase white space. We can expect the unexpected and add a little more time to our chores, tasks, or errands.

Instead of shortening our sentences, what about shortening how much we try to cram into a 24-hour period of time?

Breaking up our tasks, just as we break up our paragraphs, makes things more manageable.

Now the last point. Avoid justifying our documents. The definition for justify is: show or prove to be right or reasonable. Oh, boy. How much white space do we waste trying to show or prove we’re right, or even reasonable?

There you have it. Five ways to build white space into our day by looking at how it’s done in writing.

What ways have you found to build white space into your day?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:15-16 (NLT)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Image by Devanath from Pixabay

Obedience Does Not Guarantee Victory

man prayingDuring a battle recorded in Judges 20, two times the Israelites prayed and asked God if they should fight the Tribe of Benjamin. Both times God said, yes. Both times they were defeated, proving obedience does not guarantee victory.

The Israelites couldn’t figure out the loses. They asked. God said fight. They fought. They were defeated.

God didn’t guarantee victory. He just told them what to do.

As the Israelites discovered through this battle, obedience does not guarantee victory. Nor does it guarantee our desired outcome. Sometimes the purpose of obedience is to teach us faithfulness to God’s directions.

After suffering severe losses both days of battle, the Israelites once again asked God if they should fight the next day. God said, yes, adding, “I will see to it that you defeat the men of Benjamin.”

Often, I believe, our default is to expect our desired outcome because we are obedient. Have you ever felt that way? As we see with the Israelites, although they prayed for direction and did what God said, victory was not granted until the third time they went to battle.

While writing this post I thought of Elisabeth and Jim Elliot, missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. For Elisabeth, after nine months of developing a written language for the Ecuadorans in the jungle, her suitcase full of handwritten materials translating the language was stolen as she prepared to leave. Everything she worked tirelessly on so the people living in the remote jungle could have the Gospel in their own language was gone. Elisabeth’s obedience did not guarantee victory.

Then there is Jim. For nine months he repaired three dilapidated buildings, and constructed two new ones at the Shandia mission station in the eastern jungle of Ecuador. In addition to all that, he had five hundred hand-planed boards for future buildings on hand. Those boards represented five hundred day’s work. Regardless of his obedience to spread the Gospel to the people of Ecuador, the entire station of Shandia was demolished in a flood. It literally washed away. Not long after, Jim died at the hands of the Auca Indians at the age of 29. Jim’s obedience did not guarantee victory.

There are many more stories where the obedience of God’s people did not guarantee victory, both in Scripture and in the lives of those around us. The important thing, I believe, is to be obedient. And in that obedience, God brings victory.

Victory may not look as we imagine, or happen in our timing. Who knows? Victory may not come until we hear Christ say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

How do you handle times when your obedience does not bring the victory you expected?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

The men of Israel asked the Lord, “Shall we go out again and fight against our brother Benjamin, or shall we stop?”

And the Lord said, “Go, for tomorrow I will see to it that you defeat the men of Benjamin.” Judges 20:28b

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash