Making My Plans

“(1-3) We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives. Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.

(8-9) Better to have little, with godliness, than to be rich and dishonest. We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

(16) How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver!

(19) Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.

(33) We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.” – Proverbs 16:1‭-‬3‭3 NLT

I see a pattern here. My plan was to marry a man who would take care of me, who would cherish me and provide for me and our children. My plan was for a White Knight, a Prince on his charger to sweep me off my feet, and we would live happily ever after. Ha. Then reality set in. My ‘Knight’, turned out to be controlling, abusive, and unfaithful. Some ‘Prince’. To prove just how stubborn I could be, and because I didn’t believe in divorce, I stayed with him for most of 8 years. When I finally had enough, I left him, and promptly fell for another ‘Prince’. He made so many promises, only to break them all, and my broken heart was just collateral damage to him. Still thinking I could make better decisions than GOD, I married my best friend. He had a daughter, and was still emotionally tied to her mother. Not the way to start a marriage, but a good way to end one.

A couple of years passed, and a good friend from my past contacted me. Ron was divorced, too, and our friendship thrived and became a deep love. We were involved in the local church, we had adventures and loved life together. GOD was important to us, but He wasn’t number One all of the time. With Ron, I knew I was loved, and I was confident he wouldn’t leave me. He was far from perfect, but then, so am I. We had a number of good years, then an injury brought in drugs and addiction. I had to leave for my physical safety, and it broke my heart. Of course, I blamed GOD for not keeping him – and me – safe.

I became entangled in another relationship, and another, and another. I was searching so hard for another ‘Prince’ of this world, I was neglecting the True Prince, the Prince of heaven, JESUS. Even though I was attending church, I felt judged and condemned by my peers, and eventually left that church because of it. Another broken relationship. I was batting 1000 with my plans and decisions! There was a recovery program at my sister’s church, and I began to attend it. Not for me, of course, but for my new husband …. another one of my plans, to redeem him. He couldn’t handle the program, because he would have to stop using drugs and alcohol and sex outside of our marriage. He bounced back in and out of my life for almost three years. I found out that the program was for me, and I began to rely on my LORD, my JESUS, rather than my husband – who was completely unreliable. My pastor told me several times that once I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, I would do something about it …… and until I reached that point, I shouldn’t complain. Harsh? Perhaps, but it was – and is – the truth. My husband was arrested and was tried for a horrific crime, and my breaking point was when he confessed to me that it was true. He went to prison (for life, I pray), and I immersed myself in recovery.

I’m very cautious now about making plans. Everything gets prayed about, and although I don’t always get the answer I want, I’m working on accepting them. Yes, no, or wait ….. it’s not an easy thing to wait on the LORD, and I’m sure I don’t always hear Him correctly. I think that when I don’t get a clear yes or no, the answer is to wait, and I am not very good at waiting! Sometimes I find myself feeling anger at Ron for falling into his addiction and allowing it to tear apart our life together, and then dying on me. We were supposed to grow old together! No matter what we plan, or how well we plan, things – and people – go wrong. In the Scottish poem “To A Mouse,” Robert Burns writes:

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Yep, the best plans go awry….. It’s certainly been proved right in my life! Whatever the plan, no matter how small or how big, it will go better if we let GOD have the reins. We may think we’ve got it handled, but I know from experience that whatever we do, it’s always better when we include GOD in the process!

(from TV Tropes ….. )

Guilt Is An UGLY Thing

Guilt is built into us from the moment we begin life. From a two-celled zygote (I remember my high school science!), to a fully-formed baby, to a 100+ year old person, we are guilty of sin. It’s in our DNA, thanks to the decision made millenia ago by the first man and first woman, and it is furthered by our upbringing. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself!’ ‘I can’t believe you would do such a thing.’ Even, ‘You’ll never amount to anything.’ There are hundreds of variations on this theme. Even David, the great and renowned king of Israel, had guilt about his actions. Only one man has ever lived a guilt-free life on this earth, and that man is called Jesus.

“Have Mercy on me, O GOD, because of Your Unfailing Love. Because of Your Great Compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against You, and You alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in Your sight. You will be proved right in what You say, and Your Judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But You desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; You have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O GOD. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your Presence, and don’t take Your HOLY SPIRIT from me.” – Psalms 51:1‭-‬11 NLT

There is a release from guilt that can only come when we surrender it to the LORD. It’s an incredible release to be free from that burden! My prayer today is that whatever guilt you are hanging on to, no matter what it is, you will let it go. It’s never easy, because we are taught guilt from an early age – but it can be done! Sometimes, too, guilt is caught up in unforgiveness, which makes it doubly difficult to shed. We need to remember that forgivess, or asking for forgiveness, is what we have to do in order to gain freedom ftom guilt. Read David’s song as your prayer today.

Listen to Natalie Grant sing “More Than Anything.”

One day

Have you heard Jeremy Camp sing “There Will Be A Day”? It begins like this:

I try to hold on to this world with everything I have
But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that tries to grab
The many trials that seem to never end…..”

There are days when my head and body ache, and my eyes are gritty like they are full of sand. I’m tired. My mind wants to shut down and sleep, but instead of rest, the instant my head hits the pillow my brain is caught up in a maelstrom and swirls around in an avalanche of random thoughts. I want to get up and go and do things, but the wind sucks away all of my strength. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. My desire is to fight, but life weighs so heavily on me.

“Fight the good fight for the True Faith. Hold tightly to the Eternal Life to which GOD has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:12 NLT

Am I alone in feeling this way?

All I have to do is open a social media site, or turn on the TV or radio, or pick up a paper to see the misery and anguish that permeates society. We are surrounded by complaining, grasping, whiny people, who often drown out the muffled cries of the ones dealing with real suffering and tragedy. No, I don’t count myself as someone who has real cause to cry. Most of my issues, physical and emotional, can be attributed to decisions I’ve made without waiting for GOD’s answer.

The song goes on to say But I hold on to this HOPE and the Promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering…”

I pray that when things, when life, looks and feels hopeless, you will raise your eyes and look to JESUS. He walks beside us, and He will carry us when we need it. He will take our burdens if we’ll just let go of them – picture this: your hand is gripping the handle of your baggage, then loosen your fingers and move your hand away from it…. Flex your fingers. It feels so good, not having to lug that heavy load!

I long for the day when JESUS returns and the enemy is conquered, because then we will have a new heaven and a new earth; a place where GOD Himself willwipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelations 21:4 ESV

Conclusion? Life sucks sometimes. I can blame others, I can claim victim status and vie for sympathy, or I can lay myself and my burdens at the foot of the cross of JESUS, and carry on with His help. What will it be for you? What a friend we have in JESUS! Amen!

Does It Take Love To Achieve Peace?

That is a question I have grappled with most of my adult life. Does it? As a young adult, I rebelled against the discipline and structure I lived with while growing up. I was a rebel; following the path of my older brother, whom I idolized. Geographically, I didn’t stray as far as he did, but as for the rest….. but it wasn’t a contest then, and it isn’t a contest now. I threw myself into the quest for ‘love’. My brother didn’t love me, at least, not in the way I needed. I rebelled against the strictures of my parent’s teachings, searching for someone who would love me and protect me againt the world. Someone who would have my back. Remember the song, ‘Looking For Love’, sung by Johnny Lee?

I spent a lifetime lookin’ for you …..
I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces
Searchin’ their eyes
Lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreaming of
Hoping to find a friend and lover
I’ll bless the day I discover
Another heart lookin’ for love ……

The basic cause of both crime and war, of turning our backs on those who do love us, is the inherent sinfulness of human nature. The world cannot be reborn until men are born again and are at peace with God. I couldn’t be reborn and at peace with myself, or anyone else, until I could be at peace with GOD.

World peace. Who doesn’t want it? I know we won’t see any real, lasting peace until JESUS returns, but I pray for wars to cease, just as I pray for crime to stop. We can have at least a partial peace, if we can individually be at peace… And the only path to true peace is accepting Jesus as your Savior.
I know this from personal experience.

Reckless Love, by Cory Asbury, says:

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me ….

GOD is fighting for me, and He is fighting for you, because He LOVES us and wants the best for us. Heavenly Father, I pray for all the people who are searching, looking for love in all the wrong places. It is YOU Whose heart we are so frantically searching for. I pray for the peace of the world through individuals surrendering to Your Son, Jesus Christ. Bless all today who are spreading the Gospel, in their homes and workplaces and neighborhoods, as well as those working around the globe. I pray that we can all see that it is only through Your Love that we can acheive any measure of Peace. I pray for the rebel, that they will experience Your divine, inimitable Love, and understand that You are the source of true Love and ultimate Peace.

And JESUS said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the Authority of His Name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up to heaven.” – Luke 24:46‭-‬47‭, ‬51 NLT

“Therefore, since we have been made right in GOD’s sight by Faith, let us have Peace with GOD because of what JESUS CHRIST our LORD has done for us. Because of our Faith, CHRIST has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing GOD’s Glory.” – Romans 5:1‭-‬2 NLT

Lies, Deceits, Untruths

“Rescue me, O LORD, from liars and from all deceitful people.” – Psalms 120:2 NLT

I’m angry.

Nope. Try again.

I’m ANGRY!!

Better…..

One lie I’ve heard over and over is that we are where we are by our own choices. NO. I did NOT choose for my late husband to spiral into a pain-filled opioid addiction, exacerbated by VA doctors, which led to increasingly irrational, irresponsible, erratic, and dangerous thinking, and ultimately his death. I did NOT choose to lose our business as a result of his illness. I’m angry because he left me here alone, to deal with life on my own. I’m angry because he lied to me when he said he wouldn’t leave me, that we would face the world together. Even 20 years later, the hurt sometimes tries to overwhelm me.

Nope, it’s just not right. How can we pledge “to have and to hold … for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part,” never knowing when sickness will strike? When death will take our partner? We did them all, but death? Death is too final. When we say those vows, I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority don’t even register the ‘death’ part. I didn’t, because I knew he wouldn’t leave me alone. He pledged all those things to me, but it wasn’t true. He did leave me. I guess I lied to him, too, because I put my physical safety over him and left him to face his last year on this earth, alone. I’m angry about that, too. I deserted him when he needed me most.

Most of all, I’m angry at the serpent, the belly-dragging, dirt- eating deceitful creature we know as the enemy. The father of lies, the false accuser, adversary…. I won’t even give him the satisfaction of saying his name here. This lowest of the low, this creature introduced lies and deceits, trickery and untruths, ugliness and evil, into our world. He resorts to these tactics to pull us away from GOD. I’m angry at the illnesses, the evil, the creature has introduced into our beautiful world. The Liar has perfected his methods over the millennium to the point where he knows what to do to cause us to doubt GOD; to doubt the TRUTH that JESUS is LORD, and that the HOLY SPIRIT will carry us out the muck of lies, deceitfulness, and untruths…. IF we allow Him to.

I find the strength to forgive Ron through the work of the LORD in my life. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. Sometimes, like today, as I reflect on my life, I remember the anger and sorrow and the feeling of being deserted, even before he died, because of the illness and addiction. I miss him and the things we shared; the laughter and the adventurous spirit, the incredible talents he had. I miss his willingness (and patience!) to work with me, to answer my questions, and teach me. I miss his strength, and I miss his presence. I don’t miss the frustrations of his illness and addictions.

Jesus said, “Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me….” – Matthew 16:23 NLT

Thank You, JESUS, for putting the deceiver behind me! Listen to “Point to You by” sung by We Are Messengers at https://g.co/kgs/eJqUCB

Overwhelmed By You, LORD

Big Daddy Weave sings,

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

We are faced with problems on a daily basis, some as trivial as what to wear or frustration with our hair, others huge and in our faces like dealing with cancer or another life-threatening issue. (I HATE cancer!) Honestly – and I’m preaching to the choir here – the idea of being diagnosed with cancer is overwhelming. Two of my five siblings are currently living with cancer and one is considered cancer-free at last (that’s three out of six…. what are the odds?) I’ve had several procedures to remove pre-cancerous cells. When you hear the word ‘cancer’, the ‘Big C’, in the same sentence as your name, it is overwhelming, and NOT in a good way! How do we deal with such a diagnosis?

Having a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, waking up the loss or paralyzation of limbs; a special needs child with illness, losing your livelihood…. the list goes on and on, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are many overwhelming things in our lives, many without cures or solutions, so how do we deal with them? Natalie Grant sings “Help me want the Healer, not the healing….” I want to be overwhelmed by GOD, not life. Is it even possible? Yes, absolutely. Letting go isn’t easy. Holding tight to the problem, we think we can control the outcome. We think that we can eliminate the problem; we rely on doctors to solve the issue. Only the LORD, the GOD Who created everything, can take away our pain.

“The LORD hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.” – Psalms 34:17‭-‬19 NLT

GOD doesn’t always provide an earthly cure to whatever is causing our pain. What He gives us is Peace; something that can’t easily be explained in words. I certainly can’t describe it adequately. Look into the eyes of someone who is at peace in spite of their circumstance, and you see someone who has JESUS in their heart; someone who is overwhelmed by GOD, and in the arms of the Healer. You do know that Jesus is called the Great Physician, right? He can take away our fears and our frustrations, if we allow it.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

(Written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, 2001)

Hello, Are You Listening?

What do you hear right now?

Is it children playing and laughing (or squabbling)? Office noises – keyboards clicking, phones ringing, conversations going on? On a construction site, hammers and drills, and saws screeching through the air? At the airport, muffled conversations in every language, constant announcements over the intercom, the roar of jets taking off and landing? Is the television on, blaring mindless programs, or the radio playing R&R, R&B, country, rap….? Traffic roaring, trains blaring, sirens rushing by? Or do you hear the deep silence of an empty home, punctuated only by the ticking of a clock and the hum of the refrigerator?

How often to we stop to listen? I was sitting in traffic yesterday when I heard a siren, then watched as a fire engine blasted through the intersection, lights flashing. For once, everyone had stopped and left a clear path. Too many times I have pulled over to allow an emergency vehicle to pass unobstructed, only to helplessly watch as other vehicles remain in the path, oblivious to their surroundings, causing the emergency vehicle to slow or even stop until they can safely proceed. I can’t help but say a quick prayer for whoever is waiting for help to arrive. Is this ignorance of our surroundings indicative of our world today? To me, it’s a good analogy for the ways so many people are living, so immersed in themselves, they don’t have any idea what is going on around them, completely self absorbed.

Turn off the radio or TV, pull out your earbuds, lay down the phone / tablet / laptop. Step outside, go to a park, and LISTEN. What does life sound like when your attention is outside of yourself? Can you hear birdsong, some small animal in the bushes, squirrels chattering? Can you hear the rustle of the trees as the breeze flows through them? Most importantly, when you aren’t wrapped up in yourself, can you hear the Voice of GOD, or are you too busy to listen? The LORD wants us to talk to Him, to have real conversations with Him. Think on it. That means that not only do we pour out our problems and our needs to Him, it means we listen to Him. Why do we need to tell Him our hurts and desires if He is truly Omnipotent and Omniscient? We talk to Him to indicate our willingness to hear what He has to say for us and our situation. He always – always – hears us, and He always answers…. just not necessarily the answer we want to hear. Talk to Him anyway. Start a dialogue with Him, and prepare yourself for listening for His answer. It can be yes, or it can be no, or it can be wait (my least favorite answer!)

“Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly.” – Psalms 5:3 NLT

“For GOD is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Do everything without complaining and arguing…. ” – Philippians 2:13‭-‬14 NLT

Turn off, unplug, do whatever you need you do in order to listen to and hear GOD, and be prepared for His Will to be done instead of yours. It ain’t always easy, but definitely worth it! Listen to “Walking On Water” by NeedToBreath, and then LISTEN to GOD!

Photo credit: The American Historian – The Art of Listening