Wrestling and Resting

Some days it seems I’m in a wrestling match that has no end. People come against the truths I speak to them. Those I love seem not to love me back. Precious ones I care about deeply make wrong choices and reject the wisdom I offer.

The hardest days can be when I’m in a wrestling match with God.

On those days I’m trying to tell God how things should be and give Him some advice on how to straighten circumstances out in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. He ignores my demands.

At times I demand God explain why, and my encounter with Him is filled with heavy sighs.

I find myself wrestling with doubt, and my mind battles against lies like this one: God must not care as much about me as He does her because she is more blessed than me and has the positive circumstance I’ve been praying for for decades.

I wrestle with God about the tasks He has called me to which seem impossible to accomplish for someone like me who is not qualified to accomplish them—for a weakling like me who some days has so little strength and stamina.

As I contemplated this idea of wrestling, God revealed that it’s good that I wrestle before Him in prayer rather than away from Him where if I wrestle with negative thoughts, they could win.

In Genesis 32 (see verse 22-32) I read about Jacob wrestling with God. His wrestling came when God was calling Him to a task that was difficult and even life-threatening—reconciling with his brother, Esau, whom he had deceived.

The tasks before me seem difficult as well: to love those who don’t seem to love me back, to continue to speak truth to those who often reject it, and to reach out with the good news of the Gospel to a world that is bent on pleasure and resisting God.

Not long ago I wrestled with God about the prodigals in my life. I wrote down my thoughts and my prayers in my journal. Then I asked God, What do You have to say? That’s when the rest came in the midst of my wrestling.

Here’s part of what God spoke to my heart: “Receive my peace. The enemy is tormenting you. Your prodigals will return to Me. Remember I am not in time. It’s not taking years. It’s already answered. Thank Me for their return. Repent of pride…”

As I reread all I had written before my listening, I saw that when I wrestle with God, I’m wrestling to try to gain control. Rest comes as I surrender to Him, the all-wise, all-knowing God who loves me and those I love more than I can even imagine.

Here is a quote about wrestling that I found online:

“Don’t wrestle through the night as Jacob did. Acknowledge God’s perfect, loving ways and surrender to Him. Let His comfort renew your hope (Psalm 94:19*). Cling to Him and stand amazed as you encounter the living God.” (Jennifer Benson Schuldt from “Wrestling With God” on Godtube)

Thank You, Jennifer. I’m determined to do just that.

*When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 NIV

REST = Release Everything; Simply Trust

Here is a song that lifted me up during a time a wrestling recently. It is “Shoulders” by For King and Country.

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Dealing With The Death of Dreams

“Here in this worn and weary land where many a dream has died.”

Not long ago I heard those words in a song, and I started thinking about dreams in my life that have died. Career dreams, ministry dreams, relationship dreams. Dreams for my loved ones. So many issues turned out in ways different than I had in mind—in worse ways, lasting-too-long ways, seemingly impossible-to-deal-with ways.

Recently after hearing someone else who had had a dream fulfilled—one I had prayed and hoped for–I got so caught up in mourning over broken dreams that I started to lose my joy. Self-pity, shame, fear, and bitterness threatened to take over. My faith began to waver as I thought about how God knew what my godly dreams were, I prayed for fulfillment of these dreams, and yet He didn’t fulfill them. And for some of these dreams it’s too late. They must be buried, and I must walk away from obsessive grieving and move on.

Psalm 23 comes to mind when I think of the death of dreams “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (death of my dreams) I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (verse 4)

The good news is that God is with me and longs to minister to me in times of grieving over broken dreams. He reminds me that although what I dreamed was not fulfilled, He has His dreams for me that are being fulfilled and are a reason for celebration. He has others that have not yet been fulfilled—awesome dreams that will change my world and the world of those around me and will bring much glory to Him.

The enemy wants me to stay in the place of mourning over the death of dreams and just settle for trying to survive the rest of my life. But God has a different plan. Despite the death of certain dreams, He wants me not to just survive but to thrive.

Years ago I had the thought Do I just want to survive, or do I want to thrive? in regard to hard times in our marriage. Thriving is the course I chose, and although resurrection of certain dreams for my marriage haven’t taken place, resurrection of my love and my passion for being a godly wife has. I made it to the other side of certain hard times and am stronger and closer to the Lord—because of triumphing over trials, traumas, and tragedies.

I’ve met many wives proclaiming to be Christians who have divorced their husbands for not being godly enough, sweet enough, or even financially successful enough. They allowed the death of their marital dreams to lead them to divorce and looking for a new spouse whom they imagined was the key to thriving and to making all their dreams come true.

This is not God’s path for when it seems our dreams have died. Drawing close to Him and laying our broken dreams at His feet is the better way.

Today I wrote down the dreams that have died in my life.

As I looked over the list, I saw that some of them could not be “rewritten” because of the death of a person or the passage of time. Others I saw were still possible if I would take out a few words and give those dreams back to the Lord. Here is one about a prodigal:

I dreamed she would remain strong in the Lord and would use her giftedness to minister to many and bring glory to God.

Although she hasn’t remained strong in the Lord but instead has said she’s an atheist, I can pray, “Lord, help this precious one to return to You, so she can use her giftedness to minister to many and bring glory to You.”

I can hold on to that dream and choose to let go of mourning over the fact of her wandering away and her renouncing her allegiance to the Lord.

God encouraged me recently when I took a photo of this individual, and in the background there appeared a cross. Where did that come from? I wondered as I studied the photo. The cross was formed by the window frame, but only certain parts of the frame showed up and were lit up. The image of that cross is at the beginning of this blog.

Today I’m determined to let go of grieving over the death of dreams. Instead I choose to celebrate dreams that have come true, to thrive and not just survive, to be grateful for what I have rather than focusing on what I don’t have, and to rejoice for all the ways God has blessed me.

I truly have a wonderful life, and God has given me amazing opportunities to bless people with writing and music. He has given me the gift of speaking words of encouragement as I minister to others who have broken dreams. The bonus is I can speak from knowing how they feel.

I can’t help but think of what my friend said to me years ago as I was back then grieving over some broken dreams: “God never wastes our pain.” How true I have seen that to be as I bring my pain to Him and ask Him to use it for His glory.

How about you? Are you mourning over broken dreams? Does it seem impossible for your joy to be restored? Bring it all to the Lord, and He will restore and show you the dreams He has for you and for your life. He isn’t finished with any of us yet.

The song for today is “Thrive” by Casting Crowns

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His Promise of Peace

Last night I found a “prayer” card on the kitchen table where my father sits. It was familiar to me. Dad received it several days after his cervical fusion surgery over six years ago when the pain he was suffering seemed unbearable. I sat in the hospital room with him when the volunteer came and offered him the card. My reading it out loud helped us both and my mom to deal with the despair of the moment and the wondering if my father would recover from this surgery.

On this prayer card, which is worn around the edged from Dad holding it and rereading what’s on the back, is a rendering of Jesus hugging a man. Only the back of the man is visible, but there is Jesus’ kind, loving face in full view.

On the back of the card is not really a prayer, but an admonition entitled “Peace,” which can be turned into a prayer:

“Do not look forward to
What might happen tomorrow;
The same everlasting Father
Who cares for you today
Will take care of you
Tomorrow and every day.

Either He will shield you
From suffering
Or He will give you
Unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then and
Put aside all anxious thoughts
And imagination.”

As I read the words once again yesterday evening, once more they were just what I needed. Lately I fought a fresh battle with blame, shame, self-pity, and resentment in regard to circumstances I could not control. Just as I had wondered if my father would ever recover, I had been wondering if other loved ones would ever “recover.” Would they make it through this time of excruciating emotional pain which caused me to hurt as well? Would they ever cry out to the Lord as their rescuer and source of peace?

Just a few days before I had rewritten an article about peace and sent it out. The three points I brought out about maintaining peace came back to mind. They were: Focus on the Lord, Make Peace with the Past, and Pray for Peace. I saw how often I did the opposite. I focused on problems, I got trapped in regret and resentments connected to the past, and I failed to pray.

Philippians 4:6-7 came to mind once more—for the thousandth time in connection to these ongoing difficult circumstances. And once again I knew that going to God was the key to receiving peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The song, “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” which I had sung not long ago came to mind as well. I knew that just as I had been failing to pay attention to the instructions on that card my father kept to help him through hard days of ongoing pain, I failed to fully embrace the words of that old hymn written by Joseph M. Scriven way back in 1855.

“Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

So I did pray lifting up my burdens to the Lord, and what followed was His peace, the way it always has. I want problems solved, progress made, and at times perfection. But He gives peace. Lord, I praise You for Your peace. Let me bask in it and in Your presence. Let that be enough.

“What A Friend We Have in Jesus” sung by Kathryn Scott (with some added words)

To listen to the inspiring story behind “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” click below.

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Repost of It’s Pointless blog

This week’s blog is a repost of a blog titled, “Freedom from ‘It’s Pointless’ Thinking” which appeared today on CBN.com. I wrote this a while back, but today God wanted me to embrace in a fresh way the truths He gave me to share. I’m praying God will free you from “It’s pointless” thinking and remind you what the main point is.


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Have A Grateful Day

Not long ago I ran into a young man who is troubled, but yet has a heart hungry for the Lord. He’s a writer, and has some insights that shine through has battle in trying to succeed in life.

I overheard him talking on the telephone with someone. Before he hung up, instead of saying, “Have a great day,” he said something that has been going through my mind over and over since then.

“Have a grateful day.”

How I needed that instruction for my own heart.

I tend to focus on the negatives even though I have a life that has been richly blessed by the Lord. When difficult circumstances arise (I’m going through some right now), I can focus on what’s bad in my life, and instead of gratitude, griping words come out of my mouth fueled by a heart that has given in to self-pity.

After hearing what this young man said, I prayed, “Lord, help me to have a grateful day.”

And God is showing me how.

My eyes are being opened to all that’s good around me and to the good that’s coming from difficult situations.

When I’m outside, I can see the beauty of nature and thank God for that instead of being internally focused and fretting over the latest crises in relationships.

Just days ago I went to the emergency room with some scary symptoms and had to stay overnight for observation.

Even then God helped me to have a grateful day. Instead of spending my time worrying about what was wrong with my body and how much is all of this going to cost? I thanked Him for the kind and caring nurses, doctors, patient care techs and other hospital workers. I thanked Him for how healthy my body has been over the years. I thanked Him for the opportunity to let His light shine through me while I was in the hospital. I thanked Him that He was going to bring good out of the situation—even if I couldn’t see what it was at the moment.

I thanked God for my daughters and husband who kept me company and encouraged me throughout my ordeal of “losing control” of what my body was doing.

Not only did I thank God, but I thanked all the people I mentioned above.

And when the verdict came concerning my symptoms, I thanked God that it was not a more serious issue and that I could go home.

What I discovered as I’ve determined to make every day a grateful day is that my gratitude in the past has often come after a difficult time is over. God showed me that thanking Him and others in the midst of hard times helps me to have peace and to maintain confidence in Him.

When I think of a grateful heart, I remember what God instructs us all to do:

“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

I notice it says “for this is God’s will for you.” When I’m doing God’s will, that’s when I sense how blessed I am and can maintain a deep joy—no matter what’s going on around me or in my body.

Even when things go from bad to worse, there is always so much to thank the Lord for—blessings that never change–like His love for me, my salvation, and His promise to be with me always. And the list goes on.

I’m becoming convinced that the way I handle difficult times is directly related to the gratitude level in my heart. When I’m grateful, hard times can be times I sense God’s closeness and His care for me. Forsaking gratitude brings misery.

Today and in the days ahead, I’m going to take the advice of the precious one God brought across my path to remind me to “Have a grateful day.”

How about you? Do you have a problem being grateful during hard times? Today will you choose to thank God and the people around you no matter what you’re going through? Discover that a grateful day can turn a grueling day into a great day.

Here is a “new song” I discovered today about being grateful.

“Thank You” Lord by Don Moen

Here are links to two more songs if you are still having trouble saying turning from “Grrr!” to gratitude.

“Thank You” by Hillsong

“Forever” by Chris Tomlin

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Answering God’s Call–Part Two

“Clearwater Beach, Clearwater Beach/Jesus loves Clearwater Beach/Every day in every way/ Jesus loves the people on Clearwater Beach.”

That’s the chorus to the song God gave me when I went to Clearwater Beach again on Good Friday to sing some Jesus songs to the tourists walking by. Once again I rode my bike over the Highway 60 bridge and went to the same spot as the week before—right in front of where buses and cars stop to unload people.

It was at least three times as crowded as my last visit.

While waves hit shore many yards behind me, another kind of wave swept over me. I felt overwhelmed with love for all the people walking by.

In years past I saw the spring break crowd as a rowdy group of people I would rather avoid. But as I sang songs to them and over them and around them, all I could think of and feel is, “I love these people so much.” I believe Jesus was showing me how He felt about them.

I found myself making eye contact, smiling, and even saying a hearty “God bless you” with my mike on between songs as people walked by.

While I sang in the sunshine beneath the blue sky which God so graciously provided that day, He healed me of my judgmental attitude toward this crowd of people—even scantily clad individuals, those having too much to drink, and those having as their highest goal “to have fun and get a great tan.” I was that way once, I was reminded.

Some heckled me as they walked by mimicking my voice and mocking my singing or saying sarcastically such things as, “That’s a beautiful song.” With the young man who said that, I answered, “You’re beautiful. God bless you.” This kind of boldness does not come naturally for me. In fact, when people have made fun of me as a singer/guitarist in the past I’ve become silent and wanted to withdraw and proclaim, “I shouldn’t be here doing this. I’m not good enough. I can barely sing and play the guitar. What was I thinking?”

But I realized that whenever someone said or did something to put me down, they were being touched by the song or avoiding being moved by it. I noticed that when a guy who was part of a couple would say something, the girl he was with would give me a shy smile and a look that said, “Pay no attention to him.” I’m sure alcohol was a factor.

At one point a group of intoxicated young men knocked over my stand and my music was scattered. They were too drunk to put the stand back together, but even they touched my heart deeply, and I felt such love and sang for them as they walked away.

The bottom line is that God was absolutely curing me of fearing what people thought of me and of negative thoughts I had toward others. I didn’t care if they thought I sounded awful or were not pleased by the kind of songs I was singing, because I knew I was where God wanted me to be doing what God wanted me to do, imperfect as it may have sounded since I was still adjusting to singing outside.

There were people who communicated they were blessed. Some gave donations. One lady and her male friend were waiting for a bus, and she said while sitting on the curb, “I’ve let two buses go by,” because she said she was so enjoying the music. She had a bird on her shoulder–a beautiful Sun Conure. How I wish I had taken a photo of the two of them.

After a while it seemed the bird was trying to sing along with me. I thought it was just my imagination until she said, “Did you notice my bird is singing along?” The lady was moving in time to the music and said, “I needed that” when I would finish a song while her friend who sat to my right clapped enthusiastically.

The highlight of my time on the beach was when two young men sat down near me. I braced myself for them making fun of me, but instead one of them said, “My grandma would love you. You remind me of her.”

We talked for a while, and I found out James and Brian were brothers in their twenties who were originally from California and whose grandma still lived there. Brian had recently moved to Florida, and James was in the army soon to be transferred to Hawaii.

I wished I was their grandma, I thought as I talked to them. They were so hungry for the Lord, and to know more about Him. Their grandma was a Christian they told me, and I’m sure she had talked to them often about spiritual matters.

“But we still don’t understand,” one said and the other agreed. “It’s hard when you can’t see God.”

We talked, and I gave them my testimony and what led to me receiving Jesus as Savior. I prayed for them for greater understanding of the salvation message and for faith to believe it and receive Jesus as Savior. Another little song had come to my mind moments earlier, and I incorporated it into the prayer I said for them. It came as an offshoot of the song, “Open the eyes of my heart.” It went like this, “Open their eyes. Open their ears. Open their minds and their hearts. Help them to see; help them to hear. Help them to know who You are.”

I gave James and Brian some pass-it-on cards and bookmarks about Jesus that I was passing out, and they thanked me profusely. We hugged before they left, and I felt so privileged to have met them. I wanted to “seal the deal,” but I sensed they weren’t ready, but would be soon. I felt certain they’d come to know Jesus as their Savior before too long and would live their lives serving Him. I encouraged them to talk to their grandma more about the Lord. They said they would.

My contact info was on one of the cards I gave them, and I urged them to write to me. They said “yes, we will.” We’ll see.

I thought I was going to the beach to move and touch others. What an extra blessing God gave me as He moved, touched and transformed me. He is so good.

How about you? Are you continuing to receive an urging from the Lord but have not yet responded? Say “yes” and be blessed.

Here’s one of the songs I sang on Friday—one of my favorites–“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”

Please join me in praying for James and Brian that they will receive Jesus as Savior soon.

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Answering God’s Call

“Well, Lord, I’m here on Clearwater Beach with my guitar, amplifier, microphone, music and a trembling heart.

Having an amp and a mike make this so much scarier.

Help me to sense You right here. May I sense angels singing along.

Calm my shaking heart. Amen.”

That’s what I wrote in my journal this past Wednesday while in the midst of answering God’s call to play my guitar and sing Jesus songs on Clearwater Beach to the tourists walking by.

I had tried to talk God out of going during this busy spring season when traffic and finding a place to park can be horrendous.

Yet hadn’t I just heard a sermon on the radio about going into all the world? Clearwater Beach during spring season does bring tourists from all over the world. That’s exactly when God wanted me to go.

And step by step, He gave me instructions.

Bring the travel guitar. Buy a small battery-operated amplifier to go with it along with an acoustic pick-up. You’ll need something to amplify your voice. (A friend gave me that.)

Find a place to park near the bridge, so you don’t have to drive over. I found an Episcopal church and asked if I could park in their parking lot. The secretary gave me a hearty “yes.”

Ride your bike over.

What? With all of that?

I packed my song notebook, voice amplifier, music stand, and travel guitar in a backpack I borrowed from my granddaughter with the neck of the guitar sticking out and straight up.

I put the amplifier (which was too big for the backpack) in my new Joy FM bag and let it hang from several fingers on my left hand which also clutched the handle bar.

And on Wednesday morning, I made my way over the bridge. I thought of the homeless I see who carry a lot of stuff (often all they own) while riding their bicycles.

The good news is I rode my bike over and thanked God for the crossing which is for bikes and pedestrians, so I did not have to be involved with traffic at all. Once I was on the beach, I found a place to lock my bike, chose my spot along the sidewalk, set everything up, and began to sing with the sound of the waves in the distance and with seagulls flying and the sun shining overhead.

A friend whom I asked to pray for me had said via a text that morning, “You’re courageous.” All I knew is that I wanted to obey. Refusing to seemed much more dangerous than stage fright or worrying what people thought of me and my not-so-American-Idol voice.

Before I finished setting up, a kind man from Michigan stopped to talk to me. He inquired about my small guitar and then turned to talking about where he was from and about Clearwater Beach. He walked away before I could sing him a song.

Scores of people walked by as I sang “What A Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Jesus Paid It All,” and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” along with many other selections. Few acknowledged my presence. I had a smile from a mom and her son, and he kept turning around to look at me as they walked by.

Then a load of young people in one of those double bicycles that looks like a little car rode by and cheered for me. They rode by again in a little while and cheered again. Were they making fun of me? I wondered, but even if they were, at least I got their attention, and perhaps they heard some truth.

I felt alone and ignored at times, but I knew I was being obedient, and prayed the word “Jesus” would touch many hearts even as the people rushed by to get near the shore, to a restaurant, or back to their cars.

I felt glad God instructed me to get an amplifier for my voice and guitar because the background noise was loud. Construction, airplane, traffic, and people noise competed with my “joyful noise.” I realized that any time we witness on a day-to-day basis there’s lots of noise to compete with—not only the racket of this world but the noise in people’s hearts.

As I continued to play, I thought of how I wanted acknowledgement. I texted a friend, “I feel lonely out here—like someone crying out in the wilderness.” I realized that was a flaw in me. I wanted attention when doing something for the Lord. Pats on the back, and some “aren’t you specials?” would help.

As long as I focused on myself, I felt uncomfortable. As I kept my attention on the wonderful truths of the songs I was singing, I felt joyful and content.

When the heat began to get to me, I packed up my gear and went to a local coffee shop for a sandwich and something refreshing to drink.

Then I headed back to my spot, set up again, and played the same songs I had played earlier. I made the decision to stay until 4:30pm.

In a short time, a young woman came up and tried to hand me some money. I pointed to my Joy FM bag. She placed it in there and smiled. I smiled back as I sang on.

I noticed that people sat on the ledge near me. Lord, let them hear the truth.

Around 4:15, I went over to a woman who sat to my left and handed her a tract and pass-it-on card I made with a poem I wrote on one side and Bible verses on the other. She said, “thank you,” and continued to sit near me. Soon two other women joined her. I gave them some “hand-outs” as well.

“We really like your songs,” one of the women said.

I asked them where they were from. “Texas.” A man joined them—a husband of one of them. We talked for a short time because they said they had to leave soon for the airport. One woman who had recently moved to Tampa gave me her card, and I wrote down all of their names on it. They took a picture of me on my phone, and then asked if they could be in a photo with me. The husband took the photo, and within minutes they and my time of bringing truth through song was gone.

God is calling me to go back to the beach on Good Friday—an excellent day to sing about Jesus and all He’s done for us.

This time I’m looking forward to it. I’m grateful God has called me to this adventure—even if I’m still just a novice as a guitarist and a vocalist. I pray people will hear the sincerity of my heart and the truth about Jesus. I think of the saying, “Little is much if God is in it.”

How about you? Is God calling you to an adventure that seems way out of your comfort zone? Be willing to say “yes.” It may be scary, but God always rewards obedience.

Here’s “Jesus Paid It All” (one of the songs I sang) sung by Bethany, an everyday person like me.

Listen to the words and receive them wholeheartedly.

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