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Seeing Through the Fog

A thick fog has settled in over my little corner of the world early this morning. It brings with it an eeriness and distorts the view of my surroundings.

Have you ever experienced a fog settling in on yourself? It’s not uncommon to hear someone say they have brain fog when they can’t think of something clearly or are trying to figure something out. Searching for the right words or trying to find car keys in the morning can sometimes make us think we are in a brain fog. We often address these experiences lightheartedly and brush them off knowing that a cup of coffee or a little time will usually clear our brains and make the fog go away.

What about a spiritual fog? Have you ever had a time when life seemed confusing and overwhelming and you felt like your spirit was in a fog?

I’ve experienced times like this. Because of physical tiredness, uncertain situations or confusion I’ve gone through times when life seemed to weigh down on my spirit so heavily that it felt like I was in a spiritual fog. These times may cause me to become overly emotional, and to not be able to sort through a situation clearly. Often these fogs bring on uncertainty of my position in Christ and how much he loves me and is walking with me to give me strength.

Just as fog on the ground can distort our surroundings and make it difficult to see where we are going, spiritual fog can also distort our view.

So what can we do in these foggy situations when we can’t see our way through?

  • Remind ourselves of our position in Christ. Scripture tells us that we are children of God, we have the spirit of God living in us, and nothing can separate us from the love of God.

    For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

  • Put on the armor of God. Go to Ephesians 6:10-18 and put on each piece of armor carefully and prayerfully.
  • Seek out a trusted friend who will help you process the challenge and find your way through the fog.
  • Praise the Lord! Whether through music or speaking scripture aloud, praise, even (especially) when you feel like you can’t. Psalm 147 says God delights in people who praise and fear Him. Even if you think you are just going through the motions do it! You may be surprised how the act of praise will change your perspective.

The fog that was clouding my backyard view has cleared now and I have a different perspective on the day. If you find yourself in a spiritual fog today, I encourage you to ask the Lord to help you fight your way out of it and see clearly your position in Him. If I can help, please drop me a note.

blessings and peace to you today!

paula

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Will You Take The Risk?

I heard John Ortberg on Focus On The Family today. He was talking about how much easier it is to like/love those who are like us. It can be much more difficult to love someone to whom we can easily relate and who is predictable. Allowing ourselves to open up to someone new, or someone with different interests or a different bent can be risky, and may cause us to step out in faith. It is much easier to stay in our comfort clan, so to speak and not reach out. But something John said really made me think. I wanted to share it with you:

We can only be loved to the extent we are known…and
We can only be fully loved if we are fully known.

This is true in relationships for sure. Reaching out to others toward a complete relationship means allowing them to see the ‘real’ us. It’s not enough to only serve on church committees, chat with the other parents at soccer games or lend a hand to a neighbor shoveling snow. If we want to make lasting friendships with people who will love us fully we must be willing to open ourselves up and be vulnerable, both to  rejection and acceptance. We need to be willing to be consistent with others, allowing them to see the real us – our hopes and fears…and our faults, along with the positive, happy parts of us. This can be difficult, and scary, even for adults!

heart mittens

Do you realize there is one who already loves you this fully? We never need to fear rejection from Him no matter what is in our mind or heart. He will always welcome us and we can be certain His actions will be consistent every time. The love we get from God is not always ooey, gooey love that makes us feel all warm inside. Sometimes He loves us enough to discipline us, allowing us to face consequences for our sins. But even in the midst of hard times and hurting, the depth of His love never fades.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Just as in building and growing relationships with others requires consistency from us, so does our relationship with God. We can only know Him fully when we consistently open ourselves up to Him, honestly sharing our heart, our faults and our fears. We might feel like we’re taking a risk to spend time with Him every day and open ourselves up to Him at all times – not waiting until we feel all cleaned-up and ready to talk to Him. When we take those steps of faith we’ll find Him waiting for us, arms and heart open wide.

Growing relationships with other humans can be risky. It’s important to be sure before we allow someone else to know us fully that they are someone God has put in our path who can love us fully and not someone who will take advantage of our vulnerability. This takes prayer, time, and a little testing of the waters. Thankfully growing our relationship with God is never truly risky. God is a solid rock on whom we can depend to never leave us and never let us down.

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
~ Isaiah 26:3-4

Take the risk and get to know Him better today. You’ll be glad you did!

blessings and peace as you step out in faith…
Paula

 

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Standards ~ Do You Measure Up?

Comparison begins when we are very young. We think our friends have more toys than us or are more talented, can run faster or are more popular. Healthy comparison can make us better athletes, musicians, students or entrepreneurs. But sadly even in childhood we can be bombarded with the idea that our classmates are smarter or our friends are prettier, more talented, etc. This unhealthy comparison can bring us to a place of unhappiness, anger and fear. Sadly this pattern doesn’t change when we hit adulthood. Instead we are faced with a brand new set of standards and if we let the world around us set them for us we will never measure up!

I realized the other day that becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly change our tendency to compare. Too often we wish we could sing like our worship leader or teach like our pastor. Or we long for the gift of hospitality when we’ve burned every batch of cookies we’ve baked! Maybe we even compare our testimony to someone else’s and feel like we don’t measure up.

As I’ve been pondering all of this I came to the determination that it must make our Lord very sad. Consider this scripture:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:10-11

Each of us is created uniquely to accomplish something for God that no one else can. Your blending of gifts and talents is different from mine so we can connect with different people and reach more for Him. Above all we are to use what God has given us to bring Him glory and point others to Him. I am convicted about time I’ve wasted comparing myself to others or whining over what I didn’t have instead of asking God to show me what’s next. I’m going to work on this!

I hope comparison isn’t a pit you fall into often! Hopefully you measure yourself by what God says about you instead of listening to the discouragement and lies of the enemy. If you aren’t sure how God wants to use you, spend some quality time in prayer. He will meet you there and pour out His plans for you.

The next time we begin to compare ourselves to someone else let’s compliment them, thank God for them, then thank Him for what He’s created us to do…then get at it!

blessings and peace to you along the way…

paula

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Walking Out of the Grave ~ HE IS RISEN!!

Reading: Matthew 28:1-8

“He is not here; He has risen, just as He said…”  

Matthew 28:6a

Sabbath was over and the women just had one thing on their minds. They must prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. They left quietly as the men had finally fallen asleep after hours of discussion, debate and devastating sadness over the loss of their leader and friend. The women were also mourning but right now they had to set their grief aside for this important task.

They walked to the grave carrying spices and discussing how they would gain access to the body. A huge stone had been rolled in front of the entrance and sealed with the Roman seal. Even if they could get past the stone, breaking that seal would mean certain death for the women.

As dawn broke and they reached the tomb they stopped in amazement. The tomb stood wide open, seal broken and stone rolled away. Frightened and concerned that someone had taken Jesus’ body the women rushed ahead and found an astonishing sight inside the tomb.

Jesus body was gone!

Before the women could process the thought they noticed there was someone there.

Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’

Then they remembered his words.   Luke 24:4-8

And they believed!!

The women didn’t stop to ask questions or wonder where Jesus was. They ran back, woke the men and told them the good news!!

Jesus is Alive!!

 Jesus is Alive!!

The men followed the women back to the tomb and saw for themselves that Jesus’ body was gone, but the cloths He had been wrapped in for burial remained.

Their sadness turned to wonder and hope that Jesus was truly alive!

A short time later Jesus appeared to His friends, confirming the truth that He had walked out of the grave and conquered death. I pray that this Easter you will allow Jesus to walk into your heart. Whether for the first time or as a renewal of your faith I pray you will know the hope of His gift for us on the cross and allow Him to bring you the joy of His resurrection not only today but every day of the year.

 

 Prayer

 My Savior and my God!! You walked out of the grave and beat death so that I can walk into Heaven with you someday. My hope and joy is renewed on this Easter day each year as I celebrate with others this incredible gift.

Lord, this year may the joy and hope not end with the celebration of this day. As Spring turns to Summer and days turn into weeks and months help me to keep the gift of your resurrection in the forefront of my mind. Help me to remember that each day is a gift give to me because of Your life on earth, death on the cross, and Your walk out of the tomb.

And may my joy and hope be contagious, bringing others closer to You.

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Walking in the Sadness ~ Would I Have Believed?

Reading: John 20:24-29

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

“It is finished.”

They were the final words Jesus spoke on the cross.

Then He died.

Jesus was gone.

All those years spent with His disciples teaching, healing, loving, and helping them to know God in a way they never had before were just a memory now.

Jesus was dead and the Sabbath came so quickly they couldn’t give Him a proper burial. Today was supposed to be a day of rest and worship but all the disciples could do was cling to each other and try to understand what had just taken place.

Together they wept and mourned for the One who was their teacher, their Leader…and their friend. For years Jesus had talked about Heaven and His Father, and even about being betrayed and dying but the disciples never quite understood. He even said He would defeat death and would give eternal life to all who believed in Him and His Father.

Still, it never quite made sense.

Now some of it was sinking in but the sadness was so strong that hope was elusive. What did Jesus say about defeating death? He did talk about dying and being raised to life. (Matthew 16:21) In fact, just the other day before they entered Jerusalem He took the disciples aside and said it again:

“The son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”  Mark 10:33-34

Still it was confusing. Did Jesus mean he would come back to earth or that he would rise again in Heaven with His Father? How could they know for sure?

It must have been almost too much to process.

And I have to ask myself, “Would I Have Believed?”

Would I have expected Jesus to come back from the dead?

It’s so easy to be critical of the disciples and their disbelief when we read about the events of Holy Week. After all through the years they had spent with Jesus He kept telling them these things! Why did they mourn instead of standing strong and telling others to wait & see, Jesus would not stay dead?

Honestly I’m not so sure my Sabbath would have been any different. The reality of what I had seen would probably have overridden any truth I had heard from Jesus. The emotions would have been strong and sadness oppressive.

The truth is that even today with all the knowledge I have about Jesus and the power available to me through the Holy Spirit still I often don’t believe. Sometimes I weep and mourn over what I believe has been lost without allowing God the opportunity to resurrect it in His time.

Would you have believed? When you face losses do you weep and mourn or anticipate a resurrection to come? God can do anything, if we only believe.

 

Prayer

Lord, I know how it all turns out. I know You conquered death and walked out of the grave. But I might not have believed on that Sabbath in the midst of my grief. And like the disciples it can sometimes be hard to believe You can bring good out of seemingly impossible situations in my life.

Continue to increase my faith and remind me of Your power to conquer situations that seem impossible to me. And Lord, as my faith increases please help me to help hold others up when their faith is weak.

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The Long Walk to the Cross

Reading: Matthew 27: 27-56

“Surely He was the Son of God”

Matthew 27:54b

We call it Good Friday, but there was very little good that happened that day. Jesus started His week entering Jerusalem to shouts of praise and “Hosanna to the King!”. Now he stood bruised and beaten before a judge, awaiting His sentence of death.

None of this was a surprise to Jesus as it was the ultimate purpose in coming to earth. But knowing the purpose didn’t make it easy or less painful. Remember Jesus was fully & completely man. He was as human as you and me.

He felt every time the whip hit His skin and broke it open. The air stung his wounds but they didn’t stop. Over and over he was lashed. Jesus felt the thorns press into His scalp, burying themselves into His skin for the duration of the day. He felt each fist that struck His face but He never showed anger towards His enemies. He stood there and took it.

The mocking of the soldiers hurt too. While Jesus had the love of God and knew that the words weren’t true they still had an impact. Perhaps the worst pain of all was watching each of His disciples flee from those who arrested Him, fearing the same fate for themselves. And then Peter. The one who just the day before had declared his allegiance to Jesus had denied that he knew Him three times.

When I think of the physical pain Jesus went through I am so grateful He went through with it all. He didn’t have to, you know.

Then there was the long walk up the hill towards the place He would die. Think of the pictures and films you’ve seen of Jesus carrying, or perhaps dragging the cross to Golgotha. That cross, likely weighing over 100 pounds, pressed down on an already weakened Christ as He moved toward His last hours. At the top of the hill Jesus stopped walking and allowed nails to be driven into Him and be hung on that same cross He carried.

Jesus walked that road for you and for me.

At any time Jesus could have called an end to all of this. He was taunted and teased to save Himself and come down off the cross.  What His mockers didn’t realize was that Jesus could have. At any moment He could have proven He is God and didn’t have to hang there.

But He didn’t.

When Jesus Christ called out from the cross “It is finished!” He was speaking of death’s curse over the earth. The curse of death came when Adam and Eve chose to sin. From that moment on we were separated from God’s perfection by sin. Jesus came and lived without sin, then allowed Himself to be killed as the final sacrifice for each of us.

This is the GOOD that came from Good Friday!! Any man, woman or child who believes Jesus is the Christ and accepts Him as Leader of his or her life will also conquer death and will live forever in a perfect Heaven.

I am so grateful for the sacrifice Jesus made for you and for me.

I pray that if you don’t understand this sacrifice and the free gift of Salvation you will seek out someone who can answer your questions and help you receive it for yourself. It will be the greatest Easter you’ve ever experienced!

 

Prayer

Oh Jesus, how could You have made that long walk to Your death? You were weak from beatings, weary from mocking, and weighed down by both the cross You carried and the sins of every person who ever lived or will live.

I am humbled and so grateful You made the choice to endure this for me. Thank you hardly seems like enough.

Lord, please never let me forget the price You paid and the pain You endured to save me from eternal death. I can never fully comprehend and thank You seems like hardly enough but it’s all I have to offer.

Thank You for the cross. Thank You for the price You paid. Thank You for loving me more than I can comprehend.

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Betrayed, Arrested, Disowned

Reading: Mark 14:43-50

“The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”

In amongst the blessings of life we all have times when things don’t go our way. We face sickness, pain, loss of jobs, days when dreams don’t come true or someone didn’t come through the way we thought they would.

All of this is part of living in a sinful world filled with imperfect people. And we learn to cope with it. But have you ever been betrayed by someone you love? Have you ever had a time when someone you thought would stick by you pretended they didn’t know you? This goes beyond disappointment. It’s enough to plunge someone into despair.

When Jesus finished praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He walked directly into confrontation. He faced a group of His enemies…and one of His closest friends. The kiss Judas greeted Jesus with was not a kiss of affection. It was a kiss of betrayal intended to identify Jesus to those who wanted to take His life.

Jesus was bound as He walked out of the Garden of Gethsemane, led off to be judged. His friends followed at a distance or I imagine some of them slipped away as not to be taken captive themselves. Either way they didn’t stand at Jesus’ side to plead His case to the man who would judge Him.

We don’t know why Judas agreed to betray Jesus, but we do know that he did it for a few pieces of silver. And we know Judas was so ashamed of what he did, sure he could never be forgiven that he took his own life.

As Jesus walked into the temple to be judged Peter followed. I believe in His heart Peter wanted to protect Jesus and defend Him but I also think he was scared.

Whatever the reason, when asked if he knew Jesus Peter denied that he did. He was pressed by someone who saw him with Jesus and still he denied that he did. Three times Peter denied that he had anything to do with Jesus and he never had a chance to make it right before Jesus died.

Have you ever said something and then wished you could take it back? Perhaps you have treated a friend badly or had a fight with your family, then parted before being able to make it right. It is a terrible feeling.

The good news for Peter was that after Jesus rose from the dead He gave Peter an opportunity to redeem himself. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus. Three times Peter said that he did. And all three times Jesus told Peter to go and take care of others, helping them to know Jesus as Peter himself did. Peter didn’t let Jesus down again.

This same opportunity is available to you and me. No matter what we do, when we genuinely confess and repent to Jesus we will be forgiven. It may take time to repair the damage done to earthly relationships but there is hope for those as well.

The same gift of forgiveness and restoration offered and granted to Peter is there for us too. We only need to ask.

Prayer

Lord, it can be so easy to judge Peter for turning his back on You when the pressure was on and at the same time so easy to forget that I have most likely done it too. Perhaps it wasn’t a blatant declaration that I didn’t know you but rather keeping quiet in a conversation instead of defending You. Or maybe it was taking credit when I should have given it to You.

Father, please forgive me for these times. Point them out to me so that I can be more aware and stand stronger next time. Thank You for Your gift of forgiveness and the certainty that while I may deny you through my words or actions You will always claim me as Your own and welcome me back with open arms over and over again.