Treasures In The Darkness

Have you ever read Psalm 23 and thought that it didn’t pertain to you? After all, you aren’t in the shadow of death. But have you really read it closely?

I am doing a study by Aimee Walker on Psalm 23 titled, The Good Shepherd

One of the things that has come around full circle for me has been the beautiful truth of God as a caring shepherd. The past couple of years has been excruciating for me personally. I have known the valley. I have dreaded the valley. Amidst the valley my soul felt surrounded by darkness (shadows). But God in his goodness has taken care of my soul.

A couple months ago I realized the gift of the valley. Much like many others, my view of it was skewed. I saw it and thought I shouldn’t be there. Some days I questioned it’s fairness. But there are treasures to be gained in the valleys. There are treasures stored in secret places, in those dark places. If you are willing to press into the shepherds cloak and stay near him the valley will become a gift to you.

While there it can become your invitation to a deeper intimacy with the Lord. Still waters, and lush green grass await you (v. 1,2) . Even amidst enemies as stated in verse 5, it says that he prepares a table for you and anoints your head with oil. This is all in the valley!

Did you know you can find rest amidst it all? Yes, you can. “He makes me lie down” (v. 2) can be a command and an invitation to rest. I didn’t know it was possible to enjoy rest with horrific and exhausting circumstances still occuring. But in my valley the Lord has taught me how. It is one treasure I found in the darkness.

He is a good Shepherd. He takes good care of his sheep. The valley is often the place we dread but He has prepared it to be a place where you find strength again and increased hope. It is the place of intimacy. Great treasures are stored in this place. It is the place that even your enemies will look and wonder why you are protected and receive the victory.

Come close to your Shepherd. He loves and cares for you. Let his healing oil drench you. Drink from the waters and rest.

.

Do you need rest? What circumstances make you feel like you are unable to rest near your Shepherd? Please share with me and I will pray specifically for you and your situation.

Enjoy. Pt 2 of God’s Steady Heartbeat

In my previous post, God’s Steady Heartbeat, 2020 , I wanted to go into further detail about one paragraph:

Let us not give up what has yet to happen in 2019. Let us enjoy our favorite holiday beverage (coffee anyone?), sit back and see what God will do. As we pray, as we go to the front lines of intercession, the Lord has made a table amidst it all for us. He has done this for us to learn to enjoy and walk in the victory that is ours even if we have yet to see it.

Finding enjoyment in our darkest hour or our darkest season is not something that happens on its own. There can be moments of such extreme pain and heartache that we often turn to God and ask, “Why must suffering occur?” Nothing about the struggle and pain makes any sense when you are in the thick of it sometimes.

Several months ago a situation intensified so much I thought my family might not survive it. It felt so painful, intense and the people who were supposed to help this situation allowed continued injustices to occur. Nothing made sense (it still doesn’t).

The lessons I have learned through this journey have been priceless. Here are a few of the ones I continue to learn from:

1.) Let Go Of Control

There is very little we are often in control of anyway. The circumstances and people in it are often not following your lead. Forgive, let go and praise. God already knows the details and letting go reveals your trust in him.

(Scriptures to look up: 1 Peter 5:7, Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 4:6)

2.) Respond With Praise

What we are in control of is our response to our circumstances and others. We can either fight it or embrace the truths of God and praise him through it. The enemy cannot touch you when you have your praise on. Praise embraces heaven and pulls it down. Eventually Earth must be moved by Heaven so keep praising even if tears keep streaming down your face (and snot running out your nose). Battles aren’t pretty.

(Scriptures to look up: Jeremiah 20:13, Psalm 75:1, Psalm 99, Psalm 100)

3.) Rest

This can look different for everyone but the basic truth is being able to knock worry out and lean back into Gods big arms. Let God love you. Be still.

This is hard to do amidst a battle because it feels wrong to stop when all around you swords are clanking and the wounded are crying out. In God’s kingdom, battles are won differently. He fights for you which is why learning to let go of control is a crucial step in being able to rest and declare victory.

(Scriptures to look up: Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 4:8, Psalm 37:7, Philippians 4:6-7)

4.) Declare Your Victory

It does not matter how dark, how bleak or how intense life is. Nothing, absolutely nothing can change truth. When you know that God is a loving, powerful, dead raising, promise keeping, miracle working God, then let your voice be heard!

(Scriptures to look up: Deuteronomy 20:4, John 16:33, Romans 8:31-39)

Dear reader, grab a cup of hot coffee and sit back and rest.

I am.

Dog Lessons

This dog sure has given me a lot to keep up with this week! He was digging himself into a hill of mud while barking at the neighbor dog that he could not get to (instant bath even if I had no time for it). Then it was head in a trash can one day, stealing bread out of a bag the next and yesterday it was squeezing himself into the area with cat food and gorging himself.

Yet, he comes back after having done all that and looks at me like this:

Did you know that no matter what, you can come to God like this and ask for help? Too often we rob ourselves of the mercy and forgiveness that is ours when we choose not to go to God anymore. Put pride, stubbornness, guilt… Whatever it may be aside and come back to God. He won’t push you away. He loves you and only has the best in mind for you.

Do not be like my dog though. He will go right back out onto that mud Hill (I had to go get him off a couple times after that muddy incident) and get messy all over again. He will keep trying to get to the trash, head covered in wrappers. He needs to change and those changes come slow because I cannot always be there to guide, offer discipline and teach him new ways.

But God is always there. Yes, there are consequences to our actions but he is not there with a lightning bolt. He is ready to meet us when we are willing to change. He offers mercy and grace despite our lack of understanding or our lack of desire to follow him. He fondly looks upon us when we look up and ask for his forgiveness, his help.

Be Unafraid

When life looks uncertain God is taking care of you. You do not need to be afraid. He has coordinated your victory before you get there.

Raise your head. Set your shoulders straight because of hardships. The enemy views you as a threat. Your worth is immeasurable.

Love is unafraid.

Take more ground rather than retreating back. You are a force to be reckoned with because of God within you. He makes your path straight. You are surrounded by him.

Dear Reader, God has got you.

Be unafraid.

What My Dog Taught Me

This is a picture of my dog while I am gone. To some it may look like a dog who is in deep sleep. What this is, is a dog incredibly sad that I am gone. He almost looks a bit defeated.

I have been thinking about my sweet dog and this picture the rest of this week. He has separation anxiety because he believes the lie that when I leave, I will not come back. He lets that lie defeat him. I am also told that while I am gone he is mopey and sad. When I return he is renewed and exudes a joy that he is unable to contain.

We are not much different (forgive me for comparing us to a dog but the reminders from him are good to note).

This is what our souls look like when we don’t make time to be with the Lord. We get depleted. Ever so slowly we are exhausted by life circumstances and our souls become heavy laden. We want to give up. Sometimes we give in to the surrounding darkness. This is what happens when we believe lies about ourselves and about our circumstances.

If we could only remember the truths about our King. He will never leave us or forsake us. He has won our victory. He is always present. He loves us with an everlasting love. He waits for us to let him into our lives. Our growth and our joy is our choice because he will never force his way on anyone.

I encourage you to spend more time in prayer. Read more of the Bible. Get to know who God is. In his presence lies are destroyed, faith grows and hope rises.

There is no better way to live.

“God, thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for giving me strength to love through the storms. Thank you for helping me remain steadfast no matter how much my heart may break. Thank you for the gift of joy. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I cannot and will not live life without you. I choose you. Thank you for choosing me first.”

Get Out Of The Way

In our instant gratification type world, the process within our lives can often be a struggle. We doubt our faith. We doubt our actions when results do not occur quickly or within the time frame we might expect. Why are we so quick to doubt or even begin to complain about the process? Are we just whiners? The world does not revolve around us.

I feel that most often we desire results without much work or sacrifice. We think that we must feel a certain way all of the time or that certain things must be in order, otherwise God is not good. Are you kidding me? Have you looked at the life of Jesus? He was outcasted, slandered, ignored, considered crazy, betrayed, lied about, and murdered for other people’s wrongdoing. Do you think that Jesus thought that through all of that, that his Father was not good? Absolutely not!

God is good and he wants to give us good things when we ask him. What we get caught up with is the fact that we often think that we know what is better for us than God does. Too often we want someone else to be blamed for our sin, our apathy and our selfish desires. All of this decreases joy because we are the ones choosing the opposite of it.

My prayer is that it would become normal to ask God to have his mind and desire what he wants, rather than getting caught up in selfishness or pride, thinking that we know best. It can be so easy to cast blame if that is what is normal. In our culture it is normal and has come to be accepted in several large circles. Those in leadership are applauded when they do so.

But do not applaud so quickly. Ones own pride comes at a price. Sin comes with a price. It is too heavy for one to measure.

Let us return once again to repentance. Let us return to asking, seeking and knocking without complaining after “too much time” has passed and you have been outside the door waiting.

God is good. He has the best waiting for you if you get out of the way.

The Peace Within. Do You Have It?

Are you anxious about anything?

The past several years could have easily been years full of anxiety and sleepless nights. The more that difficulties have come the more that peace settles in my soul. I didn’t used to be this way. Anxiety used to rule my day and caused many sleepless nights. Fears used to dominate everything I did.

Not anymore.

Peace resides in my spirit. I still grapple with injustice. I will never understand evil acts against those I love. I have to process through every stage of grief. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed after a long day fighting for precious ones. But peace resides within me. It is the reason I can and will get out of bed. I trust God. He knows my name and cares about the ones I love more than I do.

I know that the mighty Lions roar of justice and victory is coming.

What do you need prayer for? What victory are you waiting on God to help bring? Please write in the comment section or send a message to me directly and I will pray for each one.

Good Intentions

Crushing. Pressing.

It is in these moments where heaven is close even if it may feel like hell.

It is too easy to focus on what is not, too easy to focus on the negative.

It is time to pick yourself up and celebrate what is, before it has come. Victory is yours. Do you not see the reason for the battle? Your enemy wants you to give up. He knows that the only way he can win is if you let him.

Suit up.

Believe that the intentions and plans from God are always good. Trust Him. He wants the best for you. He is always there. He never fails.

It is this truth that helps us get up and get on our knees to do holy battle. It is this truth that helps us when we may be surrounded. It is this truth that leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. It is why joy bubbles from deep within us. It is the reason we press on.

He is good. He is sovereign. He is love.

You are on His mind. Your kids are on His mind. Every thought that may be going through your head He already knows. He has already been tending to your cares.

Trust Him, you will not be overtaken.

Just Be

One of the things that I’ve realized more fully is the busy state of Americans. Anytime that I go overseas I struggle greatly upon returning because our culture is not my preference. Busyness, programs, sports, cellphones, money and a lot more all dictate our time. I promised myself that I would not succumb to it again.

But here I am strategically trying to figure out how to change.

What I do in and of itself is not bad but longterm it definitely takes a toll. I long for the days of solitude where I sent letters in the mail and I knew my neighbors well. A phone would be for emergencies or to catch up with a friend. As much as I would love cellphones not to consume people’s lives, here I am writing my blog on one (there is a balance to everything I suppose). Busy has become a badge of honor and I am over here ripping it off yet failing to overcome it.

There is a song that Kim Walker Smith sings called, “Just Be”. It has become a soothing way to start my day for the past week and a half. All I want is Jesus. Everything is right, good and safe with him. In his presence everything either makes sense or there is a reassurance that someday I will understand.

No matter what load I carry, Jesus is all I need. He is all I want. When the load is heavy and I feel like it will overtake me (I see a flat version of me under the boulder even though I know that image is not a true one) I take a moment to let Jesus come and fill me again with his vision and hope.

Click the link below to listen to the song:

“Everything else can wait

I’ve come to seek Your face

So everything else can wait

I’m here for You

I want to

Just be, here at Your feet

Just be, here on my knees

Here in Your presence I am complete

Jesus, you’re all that I need.”

He is more than enough. When we do not understand what is going on or when we cannot see in front of us, He is all that we need.

Take time to slow down.

Put your phone down. Embrace the one’s you love more than the time spent with your phone in your hands or your eyes looking at a screen.

Write a letter and send it in the mail. Bake a meal as a family rather than getting fast food. At your meal sit down and talk about your day. Keep phones, TV’s, and devices turned off in order for connection to occur and love to grow. Look your children and spouse in the eyes as you talk and laugh. Make family your first priority.

Busy is not a badge of honor but loving Jesus and loving others well, is.

Slow down long enough to be filled with new breathe.

Lord, help us.

“Everything else can wait”

Leaning In

Will you lean in?

Every Sunday my favorite thing to do is pray with kids. During prayer I place my hand on their heads. If a child is new I will always ask permission first before doing this.

On one particular Sunday morning as I laid my hand on one child’s head they relaxed and leaned in. I went around the classroom and one child after the other leaned in. The response of leaning in is not a new response but having as many children do so like they did, was.

This action of leaning in conveys trust. In the context of the heart it often can signify surrender and the action to receive. For others they simply hunger for more of God.

As I witnessed these children do this it dawned on me how important it is for us to lean in. When we lean in we are expecting more. We can expect more because we know that God wants to give more.

How many times have we ignored God? How many times have we rushed prayer or decided that enough time was spent with him?

Greater treasure awaits us in the quiet moments of waiting, listening and leaning in.

God is a good God. He always wants to give us more. He loves to give good gifts.

I have to wonder what have we missed out on for being too busy or rushing our time?

What is even more extraordinary to me with children is they know and will lean in no matter what is going on. They will lean in when they are happy. They will lean in when they are sad or hurt.

How often do we stop leaning in when things are good and we don’t feel the need for God? Or maybe it is the opposite and instead of leaning in when things get difficult, we blame Him instead?

Whatever season we are in we become the inconsistent ones. God remains faithful. He is always ready to help and to bless us if we are willing to receive from Him in those still and quiet moments.

Lean in.