Stand Firm in 2018

A new year. A fresh start. A renewed sense of anticipation.

 

New problems. Fresh pressures. Resurrected heartaches.

 

I faced both lists in these early days of 2018.

 

A part of me wants to give up, abandon hope, flee from the fortress of faith in certain circumstances, which seem impossible to resolve. In areas where God intervened in the past, I feel shoved back to where I (we) started.

 

Some days I feel alone, misunderstood, unloved.

 

Tears flowed this past Sunday when two different loved ones lashed out at me with angry words and seemed incapable of empathy or understanding. In fact, they seemed banded together against me.

 

The evening before after cruel treatment from one of these loved ones who faced her own struggles and let her negative emotions overflow onto me, God reminded me of a song. I heard these powerful words several times on the radio in recent days. I got my guitar out that Saturday evening and learned the chords to the song.

 

I sang it to myself, the Lord, and even to the enemy.

 

The song spoke of the need to stand firm in the midst of difficulties. I thought of the verse with the words “stand firm” in it: “…stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV).

 

I knew with God’s help I could stand firm. Yes, these circumstances look bleak if I only see them with my human eyes. But as I turn my view to God’s perspective, I remember how in the past He used dark circumstances to bring about His plan and purpose in my life and in the lives of my loved ones.

 

So once again on Sunday in the midst of tears, I determined to trust Him and stand firm in my faith. I recalled His faithfulness, and I felt certain a miracle would soon burst forth like the Florida sun on cloud-filled days.

 

In the “mean time,” I also need to follow the instruction in the verse after the “stand firm” verse: “Do everything in love” (verse 14).

 

A while ago a song by the same singer who sings the “stand firm in your faith” song touched me so much, I made it my theme song for 2017: “Trust in Him” by Lauren Daigle.

 

I decided this new song, “Oh, Lord” will be my theme song for 2018. Yes, I believe for the best in this coming year, but often the best springs from the worst in my life.

 

Both songs center on trusting God, and one goal I gravitate toward each year proclaims, “Trust God more.”

 

I met that goal in 2017. And I look forward to the same achievement in 2018 with the acceptance of this fact: my growth in trust often comes through trials, traumas, and even tragedies.

 

Today I celebrate that God will walk with me every step of the way through 2018. And I will give Him all the glory for every way I become more like Him and grow in trusting Him.

 

“Oh Lord” by Lauren Daigle

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrvHnLNWjpw

 

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My Gratitude Journal for 2017

Each year at the end of the old and the beginning of the new I make a “thank you” list to show my gratitude to the Lord for all the ways He blessed me in the previous year.

This year my annual helpful habit is unfolding a bit differently.

In 2016 a good friend game me a gift of a gratitude journal. I waited for 2017, and each day of the year I wrote in this journal what I was grateful for in regard to the day that just passed.

So now instead of writing a new list of thank yous, I’m reviewing what I wrote over the past year.

Here are some entries from January 2017:

Thank You, Lord, for giving me strength to go on a bike ride. It was 70 degrees, sunny, and lovely.

Thank You, that Julie came over, and we had a nice visit. Thank You for her.

Thank You that I got a good report at the eye doctor.

Thank You that my dryer is fixed, thanks to Lance from Hanson’s.

Thank You, Lord, for a wonderful visit with relatives in Tallahassee.

Thank You, Lord, for strength to fast today.

Thank You, that my brother, John, called.

Thank You for my time at Marie’s Bible study.

As I review all God worked in me and through me, and how He blessed me in so many ways, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. This journal reminds me of blessings I would easily forget if I didn’t write them down. When I keep track of blessings, it helps me to keep a positive attitude instead of focusing on all that seems to go wrong on a regular basis.

Somehow maintaining an attitude of gratitude through recording God’s blessings in black and white works to keep the enemy at bay.

Yes, I still have troubles and trials in my life and in the lives of my loved ones, but I learned over time to thank God for how He works in those situations. Here’s an example from my 2017 gratitude journal: “Thank You that you helped me not to have a negative attitude toward ________” (someone in my life who tends to lash out at me in harsh ways.)

Already, I started a new gratitude journal for 2018 in the journal my daughter gave me for Christmas. The outside cover reads this way: “Be Joyful Always; Pray Continually; Give thanks In All Circumstances 1 Thessalonians 5:18” These are excellent goals for this new year.

Here are a few entries I’ve written for 2018:

Thank You for a good day on Clearwater Beach with Carol, Bob, Amanda, and Destiny—despite the cold. (We booked a number of days in a condo on the beach with relatives who were here from Alaska, Illinois, and Louisiana.)

Thank You for a special dinner at Frenchy’s Saltwater Café with Bob, Amanda, Carol, Mindy, Tam, and Des.

Thank You for a fun time at Countryside Mall with Des, Amanda, Bob, and Carol.

My entries aren’t necessarily spiritual, but I do give God credit for all the good which happens in my life. I feel blessed to continue to have physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial health, and my entries in my journal reflect these.

I realize God bestowed many blessings upon me in 2017 that I’m not even aware of ie, protecting me from dangers I never saw.

I look forward to all the goodness God will show me in 2018. I celebrate His faithfulness over the years, and I feel glad to have a place to record it. My journals are just the tip of the iceberg as far as ways He blesses and all I have to thank Him for.

As I reviewed my journal, I felt led to make another list—an ABC list of ways God blessed me over the past year.

Affirmations, Boldness, Comfort, Direction, Energy, Freedom, Grace, Help, Intervention,

Joy, Kindness, Love, Mercy, Nearness, Order, Peace, Quietness, Restoration, Strength,

Truth, Understanding, Victory, eXcitement, Yearning, Zeal

Lord, thank You for the scores of ways You blessed me in 2017. I pray for help to maintain an attitude of gratitude in 2018. Keep my eyes open to Your goodness and let me continue to record the many ways You show Your goodness to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Thank You, Lord” by Don Moen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sax4aTgZ9dw

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Things Left Undone Repost

Because of a busy holiday season with relatives in town, once again I’m reposting a blog. This came from last year. Much of what I wrote then applies to me today—especially my challenge with procrastination. As I look forward to 2018, I desire to procrastinate less, and accomplish more—with God’s help.

God bless you with joy, peace, and strength in 2018. May you wholeheartedly serve the Lord and do much to advance His kingdom as you draw closer to Him.  

Things Left Undone

First posted on December 31, 2016 by elainecreasman

As the year draws to an end, my mind focuses on a nagging subject which can be described in three words.

Things left undone.

Some of these have to do with the holiday season: I wanted to visit a friend who’s still grieving over the sudden and tragic death of her husband a couple of years ago. I had planned to go to Clearwater Beach and sing Christmas carols to the scores of people walking by. I had intended to send more Christmas cards than I did—especially to those I hadn’t connected with during 2016.

I had in my mind to create a powerful Christmas blog and even work on writing a Christmas song.

House guests and unexpected obstacles like my computer crashing, and feeling wearier than usual, led to me not accomplishing everything I had a mind to do.

Then comes the tasks left undone in the all-year-long areas of my life, ie writing, home care and repairs, my health and fitness goals, my relationships with family and friends, my spending more time practicing the guitar.

As I contemplate things left undone, I realize some are my own things—while others are directed by the Lord. The key is distinguishing between the two.

One day in early December, I dealt with one of those God-instigated things left undone even though I had let months go by since I sensed an urging from the Lord to set things right.

What I knew the Lord wanted was for me to apologize to sales clerks at a local store. One day over a year before, I irritably lashed out at them over a dispute in pricing. I raised my voice and spewed sarcasm. I stomped out in a huff leaving my merchandise behind.

Every time I drove by the store, I knew God wanted me to set things right, not just with a mailed note, but in person. After many months of procrastination, I brought an apology note enclosed in a Christmas card identifying myself as a Christian, along with a large container of gourmet popcorn. I wrote my apology and spoke it out loud as well, thanking them for being kind, patient, and merciful with me.

“This never happens,” I heard one clerk say to another off to the side while they inspected the gift and the clerk in front of me checked me out.

While accomplishing this thing left undone, I realized wrong choices followed by right ones serve as a powerful Christian witness and bring glory to God as well as a release and sense of satisfaction to me.

In this coming year, I’ll be praying to avoid having things left undone, and with God’s help will work on letting go of procrastination. But even if I do delay, as I stay before the Lord I know He’ll give me direction and strength to do all He’s called me to do and let those other “good ideas” I come up with fall away.

Today I’m not just focused on things left undone by me, but I’m also continuing to celebrate all God has done in and through me in 2016.

As far as things left undone at Christmas time, with a little adjustment I can still do each one. It’s my own notion that they can only be done during the holiday season.

I rejoice that I serve a God who doesn’t leave things left undone, even though my flesh insists He’s taking too long, and gets miffed that He’s not doing things my way.

The promise He’s given me relating to this is in Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me…” (AMPC)

Thank You, Lord, for such a wonderful promise. Help me to embrace it fully.

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Repost of That’s Why He Came

Today I’m reposting a blog that I wrote in 2011 and which I posted last Christmas. I put in a new song selection at the end. This Christmas season I and others who face hardships need the reminder “That’s Why He Came.” What comfort I receive as I remember He is with me through every trouble and trial.

God bless you with joy and peace this Christmas season and in the new year.

 

I confess on some past Christmases I have given in to sadness. Celebrating has seemed difficult.

There are two reasons for this. One has been because I have been facing difficult times during the Christmas season. Life wasn’t going according to my plan. People sinned against me in ways I never thought I’d have to deal with.

The other reason I’ve been melancholy at Christmas is because of the suffering of others.

It breaks my heart to see what people go through. I feel this way especially about family members, friends, fellow Christians, and those I minister to in the world of the mentally ill. Some days I ache over what happens to strangers I read about in the newspaper or hear about on the news.

But this year I feel joyful—perhaps more so than I have in quite awhile.

I haven’t been embracing the negative thoughts in my head about all that’s wrong at Christmas time. Instead I’ve heard God whisper four words about Jesus each time I think of something bad that’s happening in my world or in the world of those I love and care about.

He has been saying of Jesus, “That’s why He came.”

Someone died during this holiday season. That’s why He came—to take the sting of death away.

A precious one is riddled with sickness. That’s why He came—to heal all of our diseases.

People are going through loss, hardship, emotional pain. That’s why He came—to heal broken hearts, to bind up wounds, to set prisoners free.

When I think of this phrase “That’s why He came,” an old Christmas song comes to mind.

The carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is based on an 1864 poem “Christmas Bells” written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The last two stanzas go like this:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.

I’m also thinking of the familiar verse that so many of us first heard early in our Christian walks: John 3:16.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Love, giving, eternal life.

That’s why He came.

What about you? Are you or a loved one going through a difficult time this Christmas season? Are you able to embrace the truth: “That’s why He came?” Will you make the decision to celebrate His coming even so and even though? Isn’t it amazing? Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us.  Thank You, Jesus.

“You’re Here” by Francesca Battistelli

 

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Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us

Not long ago someone I l know well and love complained to me about various physical ailments which annoyed him and limited activity, but were not life-threatening.

“Have you prayed about these?” I asked. “God can heal you.”

“I figure God is too busy to deal with my minor issues,” he said.

We discussed God’s role in our lives before, and he told me he saw God as a CEO, who did not bother with, what he called minute details, of his “employees’” daily lives.

I told him how differently I saw God. “He’s my daddy, my healer, my friend, my guide, my Savior, and so much more.”

The difference between this person and myself centered on the fact that I delved deeply into the Word and took every name for God and applied it to my life.

As I thought about what he said lately about God being too busy to deal with his minor issues, I thought of two truths in the Word, which contained the Word “all,” and showed how God certainly concerned Himself with the details of His children’s lives. Yes, we are His children, not his employees or distant acquaintances.

Psalm 34:19 tells me this truth, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.” NASB

It seems to me God needs to be vitally concerned if He’s willing to deliver us “from them all”—afflictions large and small, which includes our physical afflictions.

Another truth Scripture proclaim: He heals all our diseases.

Psalm 103:3 states about the Lord: “…who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” (NIV)

In the New Testament I read about Jesus who carried this out: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. Matthew 9:35 NIV

Matthew 8:16 repeats this fact about Jesus.

What I’ve been taught is what Jesus did back then, He’s willing to do now because He never changes.

So why have I experienced the healing of every infirmity in my life while this loved one feels overwhelmed by his?

One reason centers on the fact that I believe and ask.

James 4:2 tells me: “…You do not have because you do not ask God.”

I think of what someone told me years ago: “God is not a respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of faith.”

When I come to Him in faith and ask–a sign of humility–He acts.

The times I refuse to come to Him and tried to work circumstances out on my own, I remained caught up in pride, and the Word insists God opposes the proud. (See James 4:6)

As I thought about this earlier today, I recalled how often when I want a change in my computer a message will come on the screen asking if I give permission for that change. Years ago in counseling, the counselor asked me if I gave God permission to work on the issues in my life. I believe I need to do that often. I give Him permission through prayer and obedience and believing He is able to do what He says He can do.

One of the key issues in my life centers on this: “Do I believe Jesus truly is Emmanuel, God with us–with me right here and right now–or do I see Him as a distant, uncaring God who lacks the desire to intervene. Ever since I embraced the idea of “God with us,” (and for us) amazing changes came into my life.

This Christmas season I pray my “God is a far-away God” loved one and every other person I know will receive all God holds out—help, healing, a hearing ear and so much more. I pray they will believe God is with us. That’s why Jesus came, so we could see what God is like.

My heart feels overwhelmed today by the fact that Jesus came to this earth to show how much God cares and to open the door for our salvation.

This is my other prayer I’ve had for loved ones this Christmas season: “May they fully embrace the true meaning of Christmas and may they serve the Lord wholeheartedly in the new year.”

God has so much more for us than we can even imagine—both on this earth and in heaven above. I pray for grace for all of us to receive the blessings of Emmanuel, God with us, this Christmas season and throughout the year.

 

 

 

 

 

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I Love The Word “Restore” Repost

Here is a repost of a blog I posted on December 10, 2010. I feel amazed at how God continues to work the miracle of restoration in my life and in the lives of loved ones.

Lately I’ve been meditating on the word “restore.”

Here are some synonyms for the word: reinstate, re-establish, bring back, return, refurbish, renovate, repair, rebuild, fix.  Just reading them lifts my spirit.

I think of the restoration to health I’ve experienced after being sick for long periods and times of celebrating the return to health of my children and grandchild, especially after life-threatening illnesses.

I recall relationships restored. Not long ago a former friend whom I’d had a falling out with years ago, came back into my life in a miraculous way, and we were reconciled.

I think of the countless times God’s resurrection power has restored my love for my husband when it seemed I couldn’t go on in our marriage because of how he had sinned against me. It seems that same restoration has worked in his heart when I have not loved him as Jesus would.

I think of prodigals I know who have come home.

There comes to mind restoring of treasures I’ve lost–like lost journals or a lost pet. What elation I felt back in 1993 when our dog, Buck, came running back to us after jumping out of our van during a trip to Alaska and taking off full speed into the woods.

Restoration also causes me to remember the times things were repaired or renovated in our home.

I marvel at the scores of times God has restored my peace when I’ve felt overwhelmed with fears.

When I ponder the word “restore,” three verses from Scripture stand out. I have prayed these often and experienced God answering those prayers.

He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He restores my soul.  Psalm 23:2-3 AMP

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12

And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten…Joel 2:25

With Christmas coming, God is reminding me Christ’s coming to this earth was all about restoration.

It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them] and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration of favor). 2 Corinthians 5:19

Too often I take for granted the idea of reconciliation with God—that God desired to restore favor with us—with me. He didn’t have to do that—just as friends I’ve hurt badly don’t have to want to be friends with me anymore. But God mercifully chose this. And even if I can’t find one other thing on this earth to be grateful for on any given day, this truth is something for which I can be eternally grateful.

Not only did God restore His favor with me, but He also took me when I was dead and restored me to life. Wow!

Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being (an individual personality); the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit [restoring the dead to life]. 1 Corinthians 15:45

During this holiday season and beyond, I am determined to continue to celebrate the word “restore” and how it has impacted my life.  God is showing me restoration is an ongoing process–that He’s not finished restoring. There are still hurts to be healed and lies to be eradicated from my soul.

My goal is to stop resisting and to remain completely committed to this restoration process. What joy there is in knowing God is more committed to the process than I ever could be.

How about you? Are you willing to embrace the word “restore” and all the promises connected to it? Are you ready to commit to the process of allowing God to completely restore in your life all that needs restoration?

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Deliverance From Exiting

Recently as I composed my ABC prayer list for various behaviors and issues my family members (and myself) needed to be delivered from I thought, What should I put down for the letter “e?”

The word “exiting” came to mind.

Family members—including me—struggle with this issue.

It happens when a person checks out—either literally or in their minds or hearts—of a situation or circumstance they never longer want to deal with.

When I thought about this, a list of circumstances which family and myself battled with in connection to exiting came to mind.

I thought of exiting from jobs. Years ago I exited from jobs quickly several times in a row once something arose I didn’t like about the job.

Then there’s exiting from marriage via divorce or withdrawal of one’s heart and love.

As Christians, we battle with the tendency to exit from church life, prayer, closeness to God, reading the Word.

Two of my family members chose extreme exiting when they decided to exit from life by committing suicide.

So many times over the years I yearned for an exit from painful situations. When it came to my marriage, God gave me a prayer to say in hard times when I felt I wanted to get far away from my spouse—maybe even forever: “Lord, when I want to run away, give me strength to stay and pray.”

Sometimes the need to exit exists. The key centers on checking it out with the Lord. Most wrong exiting takes place on the emotional level. We feel something, and we exit. That’s what I did during my early days of employment.

Years ago, when I battled suicidal thoughts, God gave me an interesting insight: “It’s not your body or your life that you want to leave (exit); it’s the emotional turmoil and torment you want to get away from.”

I pictured myself throwing that—and not my body—over a cliff.

As I began to pray for God to deliver me from the effects of traumas which haunted me from the past and serious conflicts in my present relationships, my desire to exit left me. What took its place was an expectation that God would help me to become the best me I could be in each difficult circumstance in my life.

That’s exactly what happened.

I saw as I stayed—even in hard circumstances—God brought about healing in myself, my relationships (both with people and with Him.) I became a stronger Christian, and I drew closer to Him and experienced intimacy with Him and people I never dreamed could be possible.

Not long ago I heard a radio show where the speaker talked about dealing with discouragement in various circumstances.

“One of the most important actions you can take to deal with difficult circumstances is to just show up,” he said.

Showing up is the opposite of exiting. How often I meet people who refuse to go to church because of hurtful circumstances there. I’ve done it myself, but then I learned about the necessity of showing up. When I showed up, I worked through conflict and allowed healing to take place. I liked what one person told me in the midst: “If you have been hurt by people, you need people to find healing.”

The others who didn’t show up repeatedly and let bitterness grow exited the church, church life, and even their walk with God—including close family members of mine. They made the decision: “I can’t go back to church because church people hurt me so much.” Some blamed God, so they exited their relationship with Him.

In these cases, as I learned more about their circumstances, I discovered they failed to do an important action which helps us to keep showing up instead of exiting: consult the Lord. I like the way my Bible study teacher says it: “Have you asked the Father?”

Of course, the enemy tries to get us so mad at the Lord we have no desire to consult Him. Many people who call themselves atheists are really just people who are angry at their father.

In the past, in the course of a day, when I felt like I wanted to run away from my marriage, I realized I sometimes did it even while I remained in the same house as my husband. I would hide in the bedroom and avoid all contact with him. Bitterness grew, and it hurt our relationship—and my spiritual life.

These days when a conflict arises, I don’t make an exit—unless the Lord tells me to. Sometimes that happens when my husband needs a little time to cool down. And the exit remains short-lived.

In most cases, I stay and attempt to handle the conflict in a godly way—making sure I don’t take an exit from Christlike behavior, which can easily happen in a disagreement or fight.

I rejoice today that God didn’t decide to exit from interactions with human beings. How difficult we must be to deal with for our perfect, righteous, loving God.

Instead of exiting, He chose entering this world for His Son, Jesus Christ, so we could be saved.

What a terrible outcome for us if God chose exiting. I think of the damage done when we choose exiting in an attempt to “save ourselves.” How many lives did we not touch that God wanted us to?

One verse which helps me to stay even when times get hard is Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.” NKJV

I think of the literal name of Jesus and all Jesus stands for as being “my strong tower.” He remains my protector. I don’t need to exit to protect myself.

Today I stand determined to refrain from exiting—except as the Lord leads. I desire to walk through every door He opens and not back out of it until He says so. I want to be like Jesus—humble and obedient. And I want to count on God to protect me and keep me strong through every difficult circumstance I face.

I praise Him for His faithfulness in doing so throughout my life as I call out to Him. What a mighty God I serve.

“A Strong Tower (Blessed Be The Name of the Lord) by Ruth Hanna

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R2AuVYgZsg

 

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