Count Your Blessings

“Count your blessings—not your problems” was the sign I read as I drove by a nearby church recently. Once again I felt convicted that too often I have my focus on problems and not on the many blessings in my life.

How easy it is for me to list in my mind all the problems I and my family members face. Focusing on them can lead to feeling down and at some moments hopeless about the future.

As I write this blog, the thought to list some of my problems here came to mind, but no! what I need to do is list my blessings.

I have a loving husband and a lasting marriage. In 2015 it will be 40 years. Wow! It’s amazing that God has kept our love alive even though we have faced many trials.

I have two loving daughters and a loving grandchild.

My children have jobs that they like and are able to support themselves.

My 11-year-old granddaughter is doing well in school.

My granddaughter was a preemie baby but has thrived and overcome the problems she faced because of being born too soon.

I have a loving mother and father, and we get to spend quality time together on a regular basis.

Neither of my parents have shown any signs of dementia.

God is sustaining my father despite his disability and battle with chronic pain.

I am close to my siblings.

I have a beautiful home.

I have nice neighbors.

One of my neighbors is a close friend and Christian sister.

I have a loving cat who has been a part of our family for 16 years.

I have an excellent, challenging job working with the mentally ill.

I have the privilege of being a writer and reaching out to others with God’s truth and hope, and I have had my writing published in numerous publications.

I get to travel often to wonderful places and to visit relatives, and my employer gives me the time off as needed.

God has provided for all of our financial needs through the years.

God has given me the privilege of being a singer, songwriter, and guitarist despite the fact that years ago I was convinced, “I cannot sing” and “I’ll never learn to play the guitar.”

God is opening more opportunities to sing to bless others including doing music therapy for the mentally ill.

I am in good health.

I live not far from the beach and get to enjoy walks and jogs on the beach as well as swimming in the Gulf.

God loves me.

God has been faithful to me over the years.

God has brought faithful friends into my life to encourage me.

God has sustained me in my times of grief—most recently after my brother’s death from suicide 2-1/2 years ago.

I have a church home with people there who really care about me and about helping me to grow as a Christian.

There is so much more to add to my blessings list. I need to do this more often as I feel uplifted just by remembering the good things in my life. This verse comes to mind:

I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:6)

Now it’s your turn.

Here’s the link to an old familiar hymn about counting our blessings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm_gmEJjHws

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Trusting the Driver

“It doesn’t matter if you can’t see the lines on the highway. What matters is that I can.”

What my husband said recently as he drove us back from Taos, New Mexico to our rented condo in Santa Fe has repeatedly been going through my mind.

We had a great time in Taos exploring the town by looking for treasures in the little shops and eating at a local restaurant. And of course we had to stop at a candy store and buy some treats. Chile brittle certainly was tasty.

Now we were on our way back and suddenly right after it got dark, the black clouds which we had seen in the distance erupted. Fortunately we were on a straight highway and not on mountain roads because the visibility was abominable. All around us cars were pulling over to wait out the storm.

Then the hail started. The frozen balls were the size of peas, but they certainly didn’t help matters.

This was one of the worst storms I had ever been through—even though we’re from Florida where downpours happen often. Driving on through the darkness with the torrential rain pounding down on us didn’t seem like a good idea.

“Honey, shouldn’t we pull over too?” I asked Steve.

“Don’t worry. I can still see the lines on the road,” he said as he drove at a snail’s pace of around 15 miles per hour.

“But I can’t see them,” I answered, trying to keep the panic from my voice.

And that’s when he made the statement:

“It doesn’t matter if you can’t see the lines on the highway. What matters is that I can.”

Even as I prayed pleading with God for a safe return to Santa Fe, I couldn’t help but make a spiritual application at that moment in regard to what he said.

How often I’ve had the same attitude with God.

“But Lord, I can’t see what’s ahead.”

And His assurance has been “Don’t worry; I can.”

But it’s been hard not to worry. Why? Because I haven’t had complete trust in the “driver”—just like I didn’t have complete trust in my husband to make his way through the dark night with rain beating down on us. Even though he had worked for a number of years as a courier—a professional driver—and had driven many thousands of miles more than I had, I still gave in to fear. Also, he had done most of the driving on trips all over the country—to forty-nine states including a trip from Florida to Alaska with me, two children, and two dogs.

Sometimes it’s still hard to trust humans.

But God is perfect. He sees everything. He can’t make mistakes. Yet I still fail to trust Him completely as the expert “driver” in this car called my life. I want to tell Him what to do. I have a fearful attitude of, “But I can’t see what lies ahead.”

And repeatedly He assures me, “I can.”

One of the verses in the Bible that tells how well He sees in the dark stormy nights of our lives is this one:

“even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12 NIV

That verse about God amazes me. The truth of the matter is if I stay connected to the Lord, I don’t have to worry about the darkness or storms in the night because He sees everything.

What a comfort that is as I feel tempted to have dread about certain things which may loom ahead down the road in my life.

I choose to embrace the truth God whispers to my heart again and again when I start to panic with “I can’t see what’s ahead.”

“Don’t worry, my child. I can.”

PS We made it safely back to Santa Fe where we enjoyed the rest of our vacation.

*****

Here’s the link to a song that encouraged me this week:

“You Carry Me” by Moriah Peters

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Deliver Me From Overreacting

Recently a young person I know and love made a negative statement to me. When I began to respond she asked, “Are you going to overreact again?”

At times the two of us have had issues in our relationship, and I realized at that moment this was the reason why. I tended to overreact.

I looked up the word in the dictionary. Here are some of the definitions I found: “to respond more emotionally or forcibly than is justified,” “To be more worried, annoyed, or offended by something than you should be,” “to react disproportionately, act irrationally, or lose one’s sense of proportion,” “to blow things out of proportion,” and “to make a mountain out of a molehill.”

I discovered that because of my propensity to overreact, this young person sometimes backed off from me and didn’t want to tell me things. As I reflected on my years of raising my two daughters, I saw that my children did the same thing at times because of my overreactions.

As we talked about my bad habit of making mountains out of molehills, this insightful young person pointed out what she thought was at the root of the problem. “It’s because you overthink things.”

“I do the same thing sometimes,” she added.

I realized that overreacting and overthinking were tied in with my being prone to worry and fear. Someone says one negative statement to me, and fear rushes in convincing me that that one comment will lead to wrong actions and a sure slide down a slippery slope. And when I’m feeling that God won’t do anything about it, I convince myself that I must keep that from happening, and so I become intense in my reaction.

That’s what I had done in this instance.

I apologized for my overreacting ways, which I admitted showed my lack of trust in God.

Three verses came to mind this week which could help me to stop overreacting—if I fully embrace them.

One is 1 Peter 3:6:

“And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you [not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve you].” (AMP)

Verse number two is Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)

The third verse is 1 Peter 5:7.

“Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully” (AMP)

Instead of overreacting to statements and situations, my goal is to more and more turn things over to the Lord and receive His peace in exchange for my fears. Lord, make me more like You.

This song has blessed me this past week.

“Come As You Are” by Crowder

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Your Word Was Found Part 2

Last week I wrote about how God ministered to me by allowing me to “find His Word” in the form of Bible verses on folded pieces of paper in my cupboard. These verses have been encouraging me as I go through a storm in life that seems to have no end in sight.

To see the first seven verses that lifted my spirits, see last week’s blog.

Here are the verses that I read and embraced recently. You may want to take one for each day of the week and meditate on it.

Day 8 … He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. Hosea 6:1 NIV

When I first read this verse from Hosea, I decided that the way God tears me to pieces is with the truth when I’ve been believing lies. Yet once He presents truth, and it hurts so much, He does bind up those wounds. One of the lies that I have believed is that I can control the behavior of others. He keeps reminding me of the truth that I am not in control. He is.

A quote I read years ago from a fellow writer that goes along with this verse went something like this: “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

Day 9 Fear not; [there is nothing to fear] for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and harden you [to difficulties]; yes I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness and justice. Isaiah 41:10 AMP

This verse is my life verse, and God knows I need to be reminded of it again and again because I so often give in to fear. Lately I find myself dreading what may happen in the future, but when I read this verse I see that God will help me through whatever I or my family have to face.

Day 10 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 NIV

What a wonderful promise that is. I may go through troubles but God helps me through.

Day 11 Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… Hebrews 12:2 KJV

I confess that too often I don’t keep my eyes on Jesus. Instead I focus on problems and become overwhelmed by “what ifs.”

Day 12 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

Too often I try to live the Christian life in my own strength. This verse reminds me to depend on Jesus for strength to accomplish what seems impossible.

Day 13 …Fear not, Elaine, (The Bible says “Zion”) let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:16-17 ESV

Zephaniah 3:17 is one of my favorite verses. When my soul is shouting negative statements based in fear, I am reminded that God will quiet me with His love. And what a beautiful picture this is: God rejoices over me with gladness and loud singing. I think of the joy that a mother has over her newborn baby. God has that joy over me forever.

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him Psalms 30:15 KJV

The day I read this verse, someone had lashed out at me and said cruel words. God reminded me of the truth—that he is the shield that can protect me from receiving those words and taking them to heart.

I want life to be smooth, but often there are rough waters. If I desire to make it safely to shore, I need to depend on the Lord. That’s impossible to do without depending on His Word. Today I am celebrating how wonderful the Word of God is. Most important is that it reminds me how wonderful He is and how much He loves and cares about me.

Here is the link to a song that has lifted my spirits again and again in recent weeks and echoes truths from God’s Word. When I listen I even want to break into a dance of joy. God is so faithful.

“My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective

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Your Word Was Found

I’ve been feeling down about a situation in my life that seems hopeless and beyond my control. (I’ve finally let go of the illusion that I can control any circumstance.)

In the midst of battling negative thoughts and futile attempts to use food to make myself feel better, I decided to clean out a cupboard in the kitchen. In there I found a baggie that had pieces of paper in it. This collection of neatly folded papers had been on that shelf for years.

I remembered that they were Bible verses. Originally I think I may have printed out the verses to encourage myself years ago when I was in a crisis and took one out when it seemed that I had no strength to go on. Also I had used them in a group setting where I had each person pick out a verse to be encouraged.

I certainly needed some encouragement at that moment.

So I decided that for the next week I would pick out a verse each day and apply it to my situation. Here are the verses that I picked out for a week’s time.

Day 1 Is anything too hard for the LORD? Genesis 18:14 NIV

Day 2 Patience. Galatians 5:22 ESV (I remember sticking that piece of paper with that single word on it in the baggie at some point along the way.)

Day 3 I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 KJV

Day 4 For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. Psalm 18:28 KJV

Day 5 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…He restores my soul…Psalm 23:1 & 3 NKJV

Day 6 Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit saith the LORD. Zechariah 4:6 KJV

Day 7 Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Each verse seemed perfect for the situation and just what I needed that day. Somehow having just one verse presented to me instead of quickly reading a chunk of the Bible halfheartedly seemed to make the verse so special. And something about “reusing” Scripture that had helped me in the best lifted my spirits. I prayed that God would give me grace to receive the promise connected with each Scripture.

Another verse came to mind as I thought about finding these Bible verses in my cupboard—especially since I had been busy eating food in recent days instead of God’s Word to deal with my heartache.

Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16 NASB).

I especially like that this verse from Jeremiah ends with calling God “LORD God of hosts.” I remembered when studying the names of God that “the Lord of hosts” was a name that showed our God fights our battles for us. This is what I found online about Jehovah-Sabaoth—the Lord of Hosts that lifted my spirits even more:

“Throughout Scripture we find this LORD of Hosts as our ever present defender, the Sovereign and Holy God over all the universe who sees us, loves us and moves mountains on our behalf. He fights our battles, wins our wars and is the refuge we can run to in time of need. He is Jehovah-Sabaoth!” (Donotdepart.com) Wow!

Because I felt so encouraged after the week was over, I kept going. Next week I’ll let you know what those other verses are.

How about you? Are you going through a time of feeling discouraged? Why not pick out your favorite Bible verses and apply them to your situation. You might take the time to put them on paper and fold them, so you can look at them one day at a time for encouragement later.

Here is a song that brought me encouragement lately as well. God is so good.

“Hope In Front Of Me” by Danny Gokey (American Idol finalist)

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Missing It

“Aren’t you going to hike with us down to the falls?” I asked a loved one while on the Glen Burney Falls trail in Blowing Rock, North Carolina earlier this summer.

“I’m too worn out,” she answered. “I’ll wait for you here.”

We had been hiking for an hour, and it was true that she didn’t have the hiking experience that I and another member of our group did.

“But the falls is what this hike is all about,” I said.

The Glen Burney falls are not spectacular, but they are lovely to me. Perhaps it’s because they reside in the town I like so much. Also part of the beauty is in the getting there on a trail that at times is rugged, but beautiful as the trail leads the hiker to be totally enveloped in trees and other plantlife.

This was the third time I and another person in our little group had hiked this trail together.

“I’m staying with her,” a fourth member of our group said and pointed to Miss I-refuse-to-go-to-see-the-falls.”

“But the falls…” I tried to coax again.

“Forget it,” they both insisted and sat down on a fallen log to rest.

After a fairly short trek down, I and my fellow eager companion arrived at the secluded and serene Glen Burney Falls. The sun glimmered on the water and the rocks. The surrounding plant life was a lush green and added to the loveliness of the scene.

“I feel so bad that they are missing this,” I said aloud.

Then since we had to wait for other hikers to get photos of themselves with the falls in the background, I said, “I’ll be right back,” and hurried on the path to where I had left the other two members of our group to see if they were rested enough to join us.

They were gone.

Most likely they had hiked back to the trail head.

I scurried back to the falls, and enjoyed more gazing at them and the scenery all around followed by some photo-taking time.

For the rest of our stay in Blowing Rock what went through my mind repeatedly was, “But they missed the falls,” and “Seeing the falls was what the hike was all about.”

The feeling I had as I thought about this reminded me of the feeling I have when people proclaim to be Christians but fail to experience the love and presence of God by going deeper into a relationship with Him.

This is what the Christian hike (walk) is all about, I communicate to them and urge them to move closer to God. But like my friends on the hike, they hold back for various reasons and miss the best part.

As I pondered this I was reminded of Luke 10:27:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, andyour neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)

As we do, we experience His love. We draw near to Him, and He draws near to us. (See James 4:8) This brings us to a lovely serene place in our souls where we can experience His presence and His peace.

How sad I feel for those who miss out on all God has for them and lead other to miss out as well.

Some days I am one of those.

Lord, help me to experience all You have for me. I pray for those who are “missing it” that they will continue on the trail until they know You in a deep way and experience Your great love and learn to rest securely in Your presence. Draw me back quickly to priorities when I am missing what the Christian life is all about. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

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More About Brokenness

Lately I’ve been thinking more on the subject of being broken. Too often I have seen this as a bad thing, but again and again God is convincing me that this is a good thing. Brokenness—if we let it—will help us to grow into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes in her book, Brokenness; The Heart God Revives that “True brokenness is an ongoing constant way of life. Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will, and the absolute surrender of my will to the will of God” (page 53).

I’ve discovered that being in a state of brokenness is a humbling. It’s my opportunity to let go of pride and embrace God’s will and way more fully.

I’ve been amazed by the number of songs there are in which I hear the word “broken.” Other songs center on the subject of brokenness.

There are three songs which have spoken to me in these past few weeks. I am embracing with my whole heart the truths that are in these songs.

I want to move away from the delusion that I know it all, can fix it all, or that I have arrived in any way in my spiritual life. Everything I have—including any victory or progress in my spiritual life–is because of the Lord.

Here are the words God spoke to me recently on the subject of brokenness:

ELAINE, I AM WITH YOU. I AM GROWING YOU. I KNOW THAT IS YOUR HEART’S DESIRE. BROKENNESS IS INDEED A BLESSING. CELEBRATE WHEN I BRING YOU TO THAT PLACE. IT IS A PLACE OF DRAWING CLOSER TO ME. IT IS A PLACE OF BEING FILLED (AFTER YOU ARE EMPTIED), OF DISCOVERING MY PERFECT WILL (AFTER YOU’VE LET GO OF YOUR WILL), AND BEING STILL (AFTER YOU HAVE LET ME CALM YOU WITH MY MERCY AND MY LOVE.) IT IS A PLACE TO BE THRILLED AS YOU SEE ME AS I AM AND SEE YOURSELF AS I SEE YOU. AS THAT SONG SAYS, SO OTHERS WILL SEE AND YOU WILL KNOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN “BROKEN INTO BEAUTIFUL.”

Here is the verse God gave me this week to go along with the truths about being broken:

For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite (Isaiah 57:15 NIV)

Here is how the Amplified Bible elaborates on this verse:

For thus says the high and lofty One—He Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, but with him also who is of a thoroughly penitent and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the thoroughly penitent [bruised with sorrow for sin]. (Isaiah 57:15)

One aspect of brokenness is bringing me down from thinking I am the high and lofty one and to admitting once again that I am a sinner in need of God’s grace every moment of the day—just like everyone else.  This happens at the moment of salvation, but we need to be brought back to that place of truth repeatedly during our walk with the Lord.

Today is my 39th wedding anniversary. I’ve experienced many times of brokenness in our marriage, but God truly has brought beauty out of brokenness.  He can do it in any area of our lives as we submit to Him. In fact, He delights to do so.

Lord, give me the grace to be filled. Help me to embrace Your will. Let me be still. And free me to be thrilled at all You are revealing to me about You and about myself. Thank You for the gift of brokenness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Here are the links to those three songs about brokenness:

Sidewalk Prophets—“Keep Making Me”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6p7sDtVoZ4

Ellie Holcomb—“The Broken Beautiful”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J62qayrMcHw

Karen Peck and New River–“Broken Into Beautiful”   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqQotayNafw

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