Take Courage

Years ago I wrote a little song about courage. At the time I was intrigued that a verse in the Bible didn’t say, “Have courage.” Instead it read, “Take courage.”

“Be strong, and let your hearts take courage, all you wait for and confidently expect the Lord.” Psalm 31:24 AMP

I could see God holding out all the courage I needed to face the troubles and tasks in my life as He urged, “Take courage.” So that was the title of my song. Here are the words:

I will take courage–

the courage of the Lord.

I will take His courage;

my faith will be restored.

When my fears are all around,

I will take the higher ground.

Yes, I’ll take His courage—

the courage of the Lord.

Not long ago I heard another song by the same title. It was sung by someone who definitely needed courage. Her husband had early onset dementia and had not long before become violent and had to be admitted to a locked facility.

I never heard this song before, but she sang it with such conviction that it really touched me. The words spoke to my soul. The singer sang about taking courage and about how God is in the waiting. I realized that’s when I really need courage—when I’m in an extended trial—like this loving wife whose husband’s brain continued to malfunction. Because the dementia is early onset, and he’s otherwise healthy, this couple and their family will suffer for many years.

I, too, face situations which require courage and waiting.

But this song, obviously a comfort to her, comforted me in my long, drawn-out trials.

Not long ago I looked up the word “courage” in the dictionary:  “strength in the face of pain or grief” and “the ability to do something that frightens one.”

In some translations of the Bible instead of “take courage,” the verses say “take heart.” The “cour” in courage means heart. The opposite of take heart is lose heart, which I see in Galatians 6:9, a Bible verse that has lifted me up over the years. “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” NAS 1977

Some people have asked me, “What’s your word for the new year?”

I decided mine is courage. In 2017 I’m determined to do what this song and many verses in the Bible implore, “Take courage.” I also choose to remember that my God is right here with me in the time of waiting to supply the courage I need.

I also want to urge others to take courage: “Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage; fear not…’” Isaiah 35:4 NASB

And when I face yet another trial, I will remember John 16:33: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

I thank God for His generosity to give me courage to face every difficulty of life and as a bonus bring good from each of them.

Lord, I receive Your courage.

Kristene DiMarco  “Take Courage” Bethel Music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r49V9QcYheQ

 

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Two Lists for a Happier New Year

In place of my blog this week, I’m posting the link to my latest article titled, “Two Lists for A Happier New Year,” published in the January 1, 2017 issue of The Lookout. I’m busy finishing up my two lists and encourage you to consider making two lists of your own.

http://www.lookoutmag.com/two-lists-for-a-happier-new-year/

happynewyear

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Things Left Undone

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.

The song for today is one I called my theme song for 2016, a year I’ve truly learned to trust God more.

“Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv-SXz_exKE

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Reminder: That’s Why He Came

Today I’m reposting a blog that I wrote in 2011 with a 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.

 

Song: “God With Us” by “We Are Messengers”

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

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Still Feasting On God’s Faithfulness

For my blog this week, click the link below to view a blog I posted last year that will be on CBN.com Sunday, December 11, 2016 as a devotional.

http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/feasting-on-gods-faithfulness 

Since I wrote that blog a year ago, God has intervened miraculously in the family crisis I faced then. Although different challenges have presented themselves, I’m still feasting on God’s faithfulness.

Also, I found and bought a plaque recently which echoes the theme of the blog. Here are the words on the plaque: “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” sung by Chris Rice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKZ0xmkUtUo

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More About Rejection

Lately as I continued reading an excellent book about rejection and contemplated the issue, I focused on how a certain person repeatedly rejects me. Then God suggested a question I need to ask myself.

How have you been rejecting him?

Over the years I tended to look only at how I felt rejected and how this individual needed to straighten up and stop rejecting me so often.

But as I looked at my own actions one evening, I saw how easily I slipped into rejection mode.

It doesn’t matter if he rejected me first. What’s essential to embrace is that sometimes his rejections of me came in response to my rejection of him. Other times I answered his rejection of me with rejection, which only makes matters worse and dishonors God.

I can’t keep others from rejecting me, but I can choose not to have a negative response when they do.

As I made an inventory of the people in my life that I felt had deeply hurt me, I saw that I also mistreated most of them in some way. I found myself making excuses for my hurtful ways while magnifying theirs.

Two verses came to mind as I meditated about this matter.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9 NIV

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Routinely I reject the Lord by neglecting to spend time with Him, failing to obey Him, and refusing to receive all He has for me. Yet He does not reject me in return.

Isaiah 53:3 says this about Jesus:

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

Although Jesus didn’t reject others, He was rejected—here it says “by mankind.” But even on the cross where rejection from others led to His death, He forgave instead of answering rejection with rejection.

I’ve discovered I tend to be blind to my rejecting ways, and I don’t respond to rejection like Jesus did.  I respond naturally when the Lord desires and requires a supernatural response.

Another truth that God showed me lately is that I often have a bitter, hardened heart toward those who have hurt me. I conclude my hard heart protects me from further hurt. Instead it keeps me from getting close to others and to God. This truth hit me in regard to hard hearts: Hardened hearts can only reject. Even if my rejections aren’t acted out, they still hurt the relationships in my life, and when my heart is hard, I’m not being like Jesus.

Just as I can be blind to my rejecting ways, I can also be oblivious to the hardness that is taking place in my heart.

In Scripture hardness of heart is described as “stubbornness and perversity.” (See Matthew 19:8 Amplified Bible Classic)

It breaks my heart to see that I still battle stubbornness and perversity which the dictionary defines as “a deliberate desire to behave in an unreasonable or unacceptable way; contrariness.”

What I want to be is to be more like Jesus: “gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart. (Matthew 11:29)

The only way for that to happen is to spend more time with Him and in the Word, so He can transform me, continuing the process to make me more like Him.

Lysa TerKeurst gives some instruction on becoming more like Jesus in her book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely:

“Though my circumstances may not change today, my outlook surely can. I will not run. I will rise above. I will trust God’s will above my desires. I will let truth free my soul from past hurts. I will step into today’s destiny. And in the doing of this, I see His flicker of light, and a pulse of divine hope courses through my heart. (Kindle 4001)

She also says, “The most frustrated people are those who feel their lives can only improve when others put forth the necessary effort to make things better.” (How often I’ve been stuck there.) That’s problematic since we can’t control others. A more productive view of change is to look at ways we need to change.”

God knows I want to change. He’s already brought me so far. Yet I long to stop answering rejection with rebellion. My desire is to rise about bitterness, pride, and excuse-making.

Yes, I’ve made some progress, but God continues to take me down some of the same paths, so I can see that I’m still not finished learning—that I have a ways to go.

I’m praising Him that even as I learn the hard lessons He shows me, He overflows with mercy toward me. He understands my weaknesses. And He wants me to view others in the same way.

God help me. And let my hope be in You alone.

“Rise” by Danny Gokey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dqwpli3On2U

 

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Have A Grateful Day

For my Hearts Set Free blog this Thanksgiving week, please check out a blog I posted in 2015 which is on CBN.com today. I’m praying God will help me to maintain a grateful heart–not just during this Thanksgiving season but throughout the year.

http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/have-a-grateful-day

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