After The Storm

Note: Although the date at the top of this blog says September 17, 2017, it was posted on Saturday, September 16th. If anyone knows how to fix this problem of the wrong date being posted by WordPress, please email me at emcreasman@aol.com.

Hurricane Irma has come and gone.

As I reflect on the storm, I praise God for bringing me and my family through it.

One thought comes to my mind again and again.

It could have been so much worse.

In our area, it was predicted to be so.

After surviving a storm like this one, all I can think about is how grateful I am.

Here are some gratitude thoughts which came to mind in recent days.

Thank You, Lord, that:

Our home received minimal damage.

Although my parents’ mobile home on Florida’s east coast sustained some damage, their home remains liveable.

All went well in staying overnight at the hospital where I work, and as far as I know, we had no damage to our building. The storm bonded me closer to team members and my boss as we went through the storm together.

Although our power remained off for days, it was restored before the estimated day.

The storm and no electricity caused our family to draw closer together.

The storm brought me and my husband closer to our neighbors.

The storm helped me grow in gratitude for the little everyday things I take for granted.

You used the storm to draw me closer to You.

And the list goes on.

As I reflect on Hurricane Irma, I’m reminded of blessings in the midst of storms in my spiritual life. An important one which always happens–if I keep my eyes on Him–is that I’m drawn closer to the Lord.

It’s key that I keep my focus on Him. Otherwise during the storm and afterward, I turn to complaining and being overwhelmed by negative thoughts. I give in to fear and my faith falters.

On the Christian radio station I listen to, I heard a truth before, during and after the storm which says God is my refuge in the time of storm.

I looked up the verse today and thanked God for how true it has been in my life—through every storm I’ve faced—literal storms and those in my spiritual life.

‘You have been a refuge…a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm.” Isaiah 25:4 NIV

Monday evening after the storm when we had no electricity, my husband, daughter, granddaughter and I sat out on our lanai with lit candles on the table and talked, enjoying just being with one another. If the electricity had been on, we would have been watching TV or in separate rooms doing our own thing. I felt so grateful that evening—that God spared us from what could have been so much worse. I also felt grateful for a loving family and all the other wonderful intangibles I possessed in my life.

“The storm” reminded me of what really matters and all I have to be grateful for.

Note: Continue to pray for those in Key West and the Caribbean Islands who have faced devastating destruction. God is able to encourage them and restore their losses. Pray the people will turn to Him as their continued refuge in the storm and in the aftermath of the storm.

You Are My Refuge-Maranatha! Praise Band

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

 

 

 

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Letting Go of Fear While Waiting for the Storm

Note: this blog was posted on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 10:54pm. Once again WordPress put on the wrong date, and I have not found a way to correct it.

“Dreading the Worst.”

I read the newspaper headline as I jogged past a newspaper in our neighbors’ driveway.

Many people I encounter in recent days seem filled with dread.

“I’m so afraid,” a number of people said to me today.

What brings on this fear and dread?

Hurricane Irma looms to the south of us and threatens to bring forceful winds, lots of rain, and a storm surge.

I believe in preparation for such storms.

But I reject that fear should be our number one emotional response.

Instead of dreading the worst, I pray for the best possible outcome—for the least injury and loss of life and minimal damage to property.

As I focus on the Lord, He urges me not to join in with the fear and fretting going on around me.

One reason for this is the waiting and not knowing.

But isn’t much of life like that?

As I contemplate the choice of fear or faith in the times of approaching storms—even those with hurricane force winds–I know certain wonderful assets these impending storms like Irma can’t take from me.

Some which come quickly to mind are God’s peace, God’s presence, God’s love, my salvation, joy. Also, storms can’t negate the promises God offers to me from His Word.

Yet if I give in to fear, all of these items on my list can seem out of reach and unreal. I can feel alone and trapped in fear.

I realize one reason people give in to fear as they wait for a hurricane to arrive is they spend the day watching TV and see the winds tear through other areas. Those images loom large in their minds.

Yes, I want to know where the storm is and what to expect, but I don’t have to keep my eyes on the problem of the impending storm all day long.

I can focus on the Lord—my provider in the midst of storms—in the natural world and those storms which threaten my heart and soul.

I think of St Maarten where Irma brought devastating damage. Instead of allowing those images to torment my mind, I thought of how the island could be restored—again. On a cruise several years ago, I visited this island with my husband, and we really enjoyed my time there. We had a bus tour with a wonderful bus driver/ tour guide.

He told of a past hurricane which damaged so much on their island. But the wonderful news was they rebuilt it all and once again welcomed cruise ships and the tourists who provided their livelihood.

Today I prayed for that bus driver–that God would keep him strong and help him to grow in faith during this difficult time.

Yesterday I listened to the radio in my car as I ran errands. Uplifting songs lifted me above fearful thoughts of Irma.

One verse the DJ read reassured me: “He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29).  This verse reminded me my God looms so much larger than this or any storm.

At any moment with one word or with one breath, He could dissipate the storm. But for some reason, it seems He allows most to take their course.

But this I know: even when the storm rages around me, He can cause my soul to be still in the midst of the storm, and He can hush the waves inside of me which threaten to mess with me and my life.

The DJ encouraged listeners to continue to tune in throughout the time we waited for the storm to arrive and to let go of fear.

I like what He said at the end of his pep talk to Christians in Florida facing Irma’s arrival: “Let’s trust Him as we go through the storm together.”

That’s exactly what storms do—the hurricane kind and the kind which threaten to ravage our souls—they teach us to trust God.

As I wait for Irma to reach my town, that’s exactly what I’m determined to do—to let go of fear and trust the Lord.

This verse comes to mind: “What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You” (Psalm 56:3 AMPC).

I pray for grace to keep obeying this life-changing directive.

I look forward to all the ways God will continue to assure me in the midst of this storm and others I will face in the future.

No matter what happens, He remains faithful.

 

My Anchor – Christy Nockels & Passion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCymt6cZY5w

 

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We Fall Down

I fell a little over two weeks ago–while I ran.

I fell hard on the cement sidewalk, and hit my knees, my hands, my jaw, my chin, my teeth. It felt like my brain shifted around inside my skull. My sunglasses flew through the air.

I felt startled by the sudden change of position. One moment I jogged along enjoying the morning sun and slight breeze. The next I found myself in a prone positon with pain in many parts of my body.

I cried out, “Lord, help me,” and wondered about broken bones.

I fell several other times over my years of running—each time because of a rise in the sidewalk I didn’t notice. On each occasion I suffered no broken bones. As I got slowly to my feet, I realized once again my bones remained intact. However, I felt pain in my face, my jaw, my hands and especially my knees.

I put my hand to my face, and drops of blood trickled into it. A large scrape on my left knee bled some and hurt.

One thing I knew. I wanted to keep going. I had been doing so well with my running schedule. So despite the pain, and even though I fell near the beginning of a six-mile run, I determined not to abandon it because of a fall.

So I picked myself up and kept running.

Young people passed me on the way to school, and a little girl said cheerily, “Good morning. I hope you have a great day.”

I felt so encouraged by the enthusiasm of her greeting. She didn’t seem to notice the blood on my face or knees. I hurt some, but as I ran it seemed my body dealt with the pain—probably because of endorphins which release during exercise. Once again I returned to enjoying the scenery and my time with the Lord. I thanked God for sparing me any serious injury, any broken bones, and that I continued to be blessed with a full set of teeth.

After two weeks, my knee still hurts and the wound there seems slow to heal. But I have kept up my running schedule and continue to rejoice that when I fell, I picked myself up and kept on going.

My physical fall got me thinking about falls in my spiritual life. Sometimes I’m tempted to give up when I fall and not keep moving on. But just as I picked myself up off of that sidewalk and immediately returned to running, I learned it’s essential to do that in my spiritual life. The enemy whispers to do otherwise, and he attempts to bring shame over the fact of a fall just as I felt a bit ridiculous for not paying closer attention to the rise in the sidewalk and the unfortunate result.

One thing I know about spiritual falls: the Lord wants to assist me to move on after I have one.

A verse I found that speaks of that is Psalm 145:14: “The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”

I could have made another decision after my fall. One choice would be to say, “I never want to run again; I refuse to risk another fall.”

But every worthwhile pursuit in life involves falls and failures. The key is to pick myself up and move on.

I’m so glad God helps me to do just that.

“We Fall Down” by Donnie McClurkin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A5s2feN6Yk

 

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A Better Blessing

I should get some glasses for the solar eclipse, I reminded myself.

The eclipse was less than a week away, and I felt special that the day of the eclipse was also my birthday.

Later that day I read in the newspaper the glasses were sold out in the stores in our area.

Where could I get some glasses? I wondered. Could I share with someone?

I texted a couple of my close friends to ask if they had any extra glasses. One texted me back to say she would be at work that day, and they had glasses at their work place to share.

I didn’t hear back from friend #2.

I’m believing God will work it out for me to see the eclipse, I decided. It’s my birthday, and that’s what I would like for my birthday.

At work on Saturday, a work mate said, “They’re passing out glasses here the day of the eclipse.”

I went to the computer and read the email which stated the same information. The glasses were to be passed out between 12noon and 2pm. Monday was my day off, but I could drive over and get my glasses and then watch the eclipse.

Thank You, Lord.

My birthday arrived, and my daughter and I gave blood in the morning and went to a restaurant where we met my husband and other daughter for my birthday breakfast. It was late morning by then.

I have plenty of time to get to my work place and get the glasses, I thought as my daughters and I left the restaurant and headed to Clearwater–the next town over. It was before 1pm, so we would get there in plenty of time.

When I reached the table where the glasses were to be passed out, I heard a worker behind the table say to someone else who came for glasses, “We don’t have any left.”

I stepped up to the table to hear the details, “We ran out in a half hour.”

Oh no, I thought. What about my miracle, Lord? I was so grateful You were going to provide, but now I don’t get to the see the eclipse on my birthday.

I went up to the floor where I worked to see if anyone had an extra pair of glasses. No one seemed interested in the eclipse. Not one coworker had gone downstairs to get glasses.

My daughters and I walked outside, and I felt disappointment start to well up inside me.

I’m not giving up, I thought. I’m still believing God will provide.

I remembered my friend who hadn’t called me back.

“Julie,” I said when I called her after I got back to the car, “do you have a pair of solar eclipse glasses? Maybe we could get together and share them.”

“I do have a pair,” she said. “But I was planning to go to the college and watch it there. They’re having a big solar eclipse event.”

I arranged to meet her there. My daughters weren’t interested, so I dropped them off and headed toward the college.

I hope I find a parking place, I thought. At a stop light I dialed the school and went on the hands free phone to ask where I should park. It had been a long time since I visited that campus where I took classes years before. The man on the phone told me exactly where to park.

When I arrived there was plenty of parking, and I connected with my friend in a matter of minutes thanks to our cell phones.

Many hundreds of people filled the square in the center of the campus. Music played in the background. Telescopes were set up, and long lines formed behind them.

My friend took out her glasses and looked up in the sky.

“I can’t see anything,” she said.

She handed me the glasses, and I moved my head around and saw the crescent shape of the sun while everything around it remained pitch black.

“Wow,” I marveled, handing the glasses back to my friend. “What a birthday treat. And I get to share it with you,” I added.

“I see it,” she proclaimed, excitedly.

We took turns looking again and again and offered the glasses to people around us who didn’t have any as the college had also run out.

Others came up to me while my friend looked and asked, “Did you get to see? You can use my glasses.”

The atmosphere of sharing lifted my spirits.

At the maximum time of the eclipse the music from “2001; A Space Odyssey” played loudly. People cheered.

After the song ended, this announcement came over the loud speaker:

“If you move over to the sidewalk, you will see reflections of many crescents, thanks to the leaves on the trees.

We went over and took photos of the phenomenon, which seemed like magic to Julie and me.

In the midst of our celebration of the eclipse and my birthday, we met a lady named Laurie and got to know here some. We looked through her glasses which were a bit different and got her to take photos of Julie and me, and then we took photos of her with each of us.

A lady came up and said, “Do you want a photo of all three of you?”

“Sure,” we said and posed.

I thought of how God had a bigger, better blessing for me besides watching the eclipse in the yard by myself on my birthday. If I had bought the glasses at the store or got them at my work place, that’s what I would have done.

Instead I got to spend the time with one of my best friends,–who recently turned the same age as me–and also with a large group of people who cared about what was happening in the sky as much as I did.

I loved the celebratory mood and being with all the children and families who gathered for the event.

As the people began to disperse, Julie and I went inside the cafeteria to get a cold drink. We visited for a while and expressed gratitude to the Lord out loud for the good time we had together and for His arranging for us to be together.

I’m still reflecting on my memorable birthday celebration and looking up to the sky to see the eclipse with a good friend and lots of excited and happy strangers. This verse comes to mind:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17 NIV

I look forward to keeping alert for other blessings God has in store for me.

Thank You, Lord, for the wonderful birthday gift.

“We Are Blessed” by All Sons and Daughters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpjTMIeZ3EI

 

 

 

 

 

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Hearing God Guest Blog

Not long ago, I talked to a man who worked a number of years as a pastor before God called him to another ministry.

“What sermon subjects were important to you?” I asked him.

The two subjects he gave me were, “Hearing God” and “Discipleship.”

Both are near and dear to my heart, but since learning to hear God’s voice changed my life so dramatically, I wanted to learn more about what he had to say.

This week’s guest blog, “Hearing God” comes from that pastor. At the end I have added a link to one of my favorite “God’s Voice” songs.

Over the many years of my journey in Christ and ministry, I have often had opportunity to share my testimony.  Like many of you, my testimony begins with the first time I “heard” Father God’s voice and knew he was talking to me.

(I have qualified the word ‘heard’, because I didn’t actually hear a voice.  In fact, I didn’t hear anything.  Rather, I saw.  God gave me a life-changing vision of myself on that first occasion.  I have since learned that God often “speaks” by vision as well as by words.  But that is a topic for a different occasion.)

This message from God was life-changing because of what it told me about myself and about how God feels about me.  It rocked me and forever changed the direction of my life.  I shall never forget it.

There is a school of thought in Christianity that contends God no longer speaks to his people.  There is no need for Him to speak, they contend, because He has already said everything he has to say in the canon of Scripture.  Aside from the obvious fact that this is counter to the experience of a vast number of Christians all through history, it postulates a very strange kind of love relationship indeed.  Remember, Father God is love.  Not just ‘loving’; He is love!  (1 John 4:8) That is his nature, his essence.

Writing to the disciples in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us…”  (Romans 5:5) What a strange kind of love that would be if the only way it is expressed is in a book.   Imagine for a moment a marriage in which one of the partners, though present, never speaks but instead simply points their mate to the love letters written before they were married because in those letters everything that ever needs to be said was already said.  I think we would all agree that such a marriage has dim future prospects for survival.

Thankfully, that is not the kind of love relationship that Father God has made available to us by the blood of his Son. Jesus said of his relationship to us, his lambs, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…they too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”  (John 10:14, 16)  Surely Jesus is saying that He will talk to us and that we will recognize that it is his voice.

But notice what it is that he will say: “You are mine.  I want you to know me.”  What an amazing and comforting invitation!  And this is exactly what I hear most often as I begin my day each morning with the words, “Father, what do you want to say to me?”  Almost invariably the Lord replies with assurance of his love.  Here are a few daily entries from my journal.

“I love you, son.  Go with me.  Walk with me today.  Walk in peace with me today.” 

“I love you.  I want to speak to you today.”

I love you.  I see that you are working at righteousness.  Let me do it.  Let me clothe you with my righteousness, my power and my joy.” 

“I love you.  People are going to hurt you.  You have to just let it go.  I never will.  I will never abandon you.  I will always be there with you and for you.” 

I could continue many times over, but I’m sure you see the pattern.  Love must find expression.  Father never tires of telling me he loves me.  That is the message that changed my life initially, and that is the message from him that assures me daily.  He never tires of telling me that he loves me, the real me.   That’s good, because I need to hear those precious words often.  His words of love to me heal my insecurity and anchor my soul.

How about you?  Have you heard his voice lately?  Have you taken time to listen?  Try this little exercise:

  • Find a quiet place and time
  • Fix your attention on Jesus. Picture him talking to the disciples, with you sitting among them.  (It’s ok to use your imagination.  God gave it to you so that you can see the invisible.)
  • Ask him a question that’s on your heart. If you don’t have one, begin by simply asking him what he wants to tell you.
  • Tune to words and pictures that come to your mind. God speaks through spontaneous thoughts.
  • Write down what you get that you think is from the Lord. Writing it helps you remember and reflect upon what you heard and saw.  And then you can check later to see if it lines up with The Book.

The shepherd is calling us, inviting us to know him.  Let’s run to him.

“Ever So Gently” by Brian Doerksen and Cindy Rethmeier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHckwBoR1tA

 

 

 

 

 

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Yay! He Gets It

I called a loved one yesterday, and it turned into an exciting phone call.

We talked first about our concerns for another loved one who faced dire circumstances in his life after a series of wrong choices.

Then he shared the good news. He received Jesus as his savior in recent weeks.

He told me of some changes in his life—getting out of an unhealthy relationship with a woman, moving to a city hours away to get away from evil influences, giving up turning to substances to deal with anxiety, going to church every Sunday, and being excited about all he heard there.

He went on to give me details of the sermons.

Wow! This from a man who over the years avoided church because he found it boring.

I recalled years earlier when my husband and I brought him to our church as a teen. When the altar call came, he communicated, “I feel like I should go forward, but I don’t want to miss out on fun in high school.”

Not long after, his pursuit of fun led to many troubles. Still he continued to say, “no” to the Lord.

He recovered some, and went away to college. I didn’t see him too often in the years since, and we had no contact information. But there was a period where I heard he battled drug abuse.

He overcame that, and each time he would pop back into our lives since I would ask him if he was ready to say “yes” to Jesus.

And every time his answer remained, “I should, but…”

In recent years, he sought out my husband and me, and we would go out to lunch. He told us how much he enjoyed time with us, but still he resisted giving in to the Lord.

Now at the age of 37, the “yes” came.

“I used to think you were crazy because you always wanted to talk about God,” he said. “But you didn’t care what I thought. You never gave up on talking to me.

“Now I get it,” he continued. “I want to talk about God all the time now too.”

I rejoiced in that statement and to hear him declare these truths:

“Now I know there’s nothing in this world which can make my life better. Only God can.”

“The reason I battle anxiety is because of sin. I need to deal with the sin in my life.”

“Even pills a doctor gives are not the answer. The answers are in the Bible.”

“If I live a righteous life, that’s where I can find happiness.”

“It’s like I was living in the dark, and suddenly I’m in the light.”

I remember in recent weeks feeling bad that so many people I prayed for over the years continued to resist the Lord. This man was one of them.

Now suddenly God touched Him. His testimony reminded me of God’s power to draw people to Himself. No, I didn’t understand the timing, (it took a long time) but I celebrated the victory. And I rejoiced that God continued to lead me to plant seeds in his life. He expressed his gratitude for that again and again in our conversation.

“I don’t want to hang up,” he said. “I want to keep talking to you about all that’s happening in my life.”

I continue to celebrate this man who was lost and has now been found, who was blind and can now see. Soon my husband and I will go to see him and celebrate in person.

My conversation and the news from him remind me to keep on praying for those on my “continue to resist the Lord” prayer list. Some have been on my list for decades. But God is faithful. In His way and time He will bring them to Himself.

My phone conversation affirms to me the power of prayer and the power God has to soften a hardened heart and draw those who may seem like hopeless cases into his kingdom.

These verses come to mind:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. “ (1 Timothy 2: 1, 3-4 NIV)

I look forward to others on my prayer list coming to know the Lord. The title and subtitle of a book I’m reading comes to mind: God Is Good: He’s Better Than You Think. 

Note: I am also celebrating that in response to a recent blog I wrote, one of my best friends from high school prayed the salvation prayer. Praise the Lord!

This song came to mind after my conversation with my new brother in Christ.

“In The Light” by DC Talk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF-j8PbeuYc&list=RDpF-j8PbeuYc

 

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Run Seven Miles? Impossible! Not!

When my daughter asked me to run with her a number of years ago, I had doubts I would be able to accomplish the task.

I hadn’t run in years, and problems with my feet plagued me when I tried to return to running in the past. My knees hurt a bit as well. Then there was the tingling in my left thigh when I tried to run. Not to mention the pressure on my bladder.

Since that time I entered quite a few 5K races with her, and I even won second place in my age group in one of them. The tingling in my thigh disappeared, my knees hurt only occasionally, and my foot problem improved with better shoes. Also, I’ve worked through the bladder issue.

There was a little whisper of, “That’s impossible,” when Tami asked me to run back then, but I wanted to spend time with her, so I tried it, asking God to give me strength and direction. He helped me do what I thought I couldn’t.

“I could never run a 10K,” I announced to Tami at one of the running events when I saw others getting ready for that race. The 6 mile plus distance truly seemed like an impossibility.

But not too long ago, I ran further than I have in my life–seven miles. I didn’t start out to accomplish what I saw as an impossibility. My goal was to improve my time on the 5K. The instructions I found online said to run four days a week: 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 40 minutes, and on one day 4-7 miles. I didn’t think I could ever build up to the seven miles, but as I added a bit more distance each week, I did it.

When I tell people this, it’s not to brag or say, “Look how special I am.” What I want to communicate is, “Look how amazing God is. I moved toward a task that seemed impossible, and with His help, I accomplished it.”

I remember thinking it would be impossible to keep on running through the summer, but this year I’ve done that as well. I wear a “stay cool” visor with a cooling gel in the part that rests on my forehead. Around my neck I have a cooling cloth, which I refresh with cold water during my run from the bottle of frozen water I carry on my run, which melts along the way. I make sure I get up at sunrise, and I have an energy bar before the run and a protein shake after.

I’ll be 64 soon, and I feel healthier than I have my whole life–not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

Running draws me closer to the Lord. I use the time to pray and worship. I marvel at the beauty of nature–His creation. When I run, I sense Him with me. I think through writing projects and work through emotional issues with Him along the way. Also, I feel less stressed as I maintain my running routine.

Yesterday as I ran my seven miles, (on my long distance day, I do 5, 6, or 7 miles) I thought of other areas of my life which felt like impossible situations. Once I accomplished the goal of a seven-mile run, I realized anew God wants to assist me with every “impossible” circumstance in my life.

Some which come to mind are dealing with certain difficult people, accomplishing my writing goals, and finishing hard, time-consuming tasks around the house.

God also brought to mind impossiblities from the past where I saw Him intervene in powerful ways: the healing of our marriage, deliverance from depression, writing a full-length book, using a computer, learning how to write and post a blog. And the list goes on.

Instead of embracing an “I can’t; it’s hopeless” attitude, I can go to God and be reminded, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 NIV)

My problem over the years centers on my tendency to want to do things on my own or in my own strength instead of “with God.”

Once the weather cools off a bit, I plan to sign up for a 10K race. I look forward to it. And when I cross the finish line, I will give God all the credit for allowing it to happen.

I’m excited to see what other seeming impossibilities God will challenge me with in the days ahead.

“All Things Are Possible” by Darlene Zschech

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

 

 

 

 

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