When things feel upside down…

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“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33

“But all things should be done decently and in order” 1 Corinthians 14:40

The season is Thanksgiving. The holidays are upon us again another year. But when everything feels topsy-turvy, celebrating seems impossible. We now find ourselves between houses, in a temporary rental, living with very little furniture and everything else we own packed away in storage. It has been a challenge. We know we “need” nothing, yet we cannot find anything. And now, at Thanksgiving, we are faced with an approaching Christmas season with no lights, no decorations, no Nativity, no tree. Everything seems chaotic.

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This time of year, we are to feel thankful, blessed, fortunate. And while I know our house will be wonderful and our lives in a new town will be exciting, right now I would be content with a sofa to sit on, a few minutes to breathe, and a cup of coffee. But it is not just the physical environment that is challenging. My mind and heart have not been in a good place. My father recently joined our Savior in heaven, my mother has significant health issues, and there are other family members with serious health concerns. Unfortunately, I have allowed the overwhelming chaos and sorrow steal away my peacefulness.

For the first time in many years, I am grasping for God, knowing He continues to extend His hand to me. I am praying that I can reach far enough out of this chaos to grab hold of His hand. Praying that He will pull me along, one foot in front of the other, with my head up looking toward our Lord. I am constantly searching through the Scriptures, listening to Christmas music, providing as much kindling as I can to light the faith fire in my heart.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand Proverbs 19:21

The most difficult part of these past few months has been finding the faith in my heart and mind to trust that this is His plan. To trust that somehow, this chaos makes sense, and it is for a purpose that I cannot see from here. It is at this point I came to realize that trust is perhaps the most important aspect of faith for Christians. When believers have trust, there is faith. When we have faith, we have hope.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you Psalm 56:3

The idea that trust, faith, and hope are all connected, brings a sense of order into my chaotic world. With trust, faith, and hope, I feel thankful for the joy and peace that we have as Christians. I am thankful for the love of family, the warmth of sunshine in the world of our Creator, and the smiles that greet me on this Thanksgiving day. And most of all, I am thankful for the love of our Savior, who first loved us, and in whom I trust with the plan for my chaotic life.

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope Romans 15:13

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Out of the pit…

 

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, not crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away Revelation 21:4

As Christians we know that death is not the finality. We learned this long ago. We know it in our hearts. Yet, when a loved one dies, rather than feeling joy for the rebirth of loved one in heaven, we feel sadness. There are feelings of our own deadness and misery when our loved one leaves us. Even though we know that the person we knew on earth, the one who suffered with an illness that could not be cured, is no longer in pain, we feel worse than ever.  We know we should rejoice, but instead we feel deep relentless sorrow. Days pass by and there we are, in the pit of despair for so long.

“And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:26

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Ever so slowly, day after day, we may plod along still feeling the sadness. We attend the ceremonies, speak with family, friends, and others offering sympathy. We read the cards, we try to read Bible passages, but somehow, everything still isn’t quite right. Things just feel so sad.

Then, from nowhere, God sends us a message of hope. It might be from a kind word that friend said, a deed that someone did for us, or a passage from the wonderful written words of God. For me, it came from a Facebook message sent to me by someone I never met. Perhaps it was the timing of the message. At that moment, God knew I was ready to hear the message and find hope: “Wishing you well and hoping your days are getting better since the loss of your dad. Isn’t it great knowing we will see them again one day!” And my only thought was “Yes, that is great! We will see them again one day!’ I sent a message back telling this wonderful person that she had no idea how much the message meant. It meant I was going to look upward once again and get out of the pit.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live John 11:25.

Today is the first day of hope. There is still work to do, errands to run, and writing to complete. Intermittent tears continue. But there is a sense of calmness and purpose. Finally, today I have a feeling of hope and peacefulness. I am climbing out of the pit. It may take time, but I know with God’s love and support, life on earth will move forward once again.

And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise‘” Luke 23:43.

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Disappointments…

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Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil Ephesians 6:10-11

We have all had them…disappointments in others. The disappointments can happen with friends, family, and co-workers. Disappointments can result from misplaced trust, unfulfilled promises, or even due to false hope. We may be left feeling dejected, overwhelmed, rejected, or just plain sad.

These feelings of disappointment can happen because we are under the misconception that others feel as exactly as we expect or hope they feel. This can mean we believe co-workers will put forth the same amount of time and effort in a project that we will. We expect a friend to react as we react and feel the same way in a relationship that we do. As Christians, we always have standards of behavior that we assume other Christians have… like honesty and compassion. When Christians do not live within these standards, we are often shocked. When people have other ideas about how to resolve issues or events, we feel disappointed.

If disappointment is allowed to smolder and fester, it can become anger and resentment. It can consume our mental energy, especially if disappointment follows months of planning or years of friendship. So, what can Christians do when people let us down? How to we get past these feelings? First, we must be patient and not react quickly. Quick reactions may result in saying or doing things we regret later.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger Proverbs 15:1

And after we wait a bit, we should turn to Scripture for guidance.

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All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness 2 Timothy 3:16

Patiently waiting, patiently studying the word of God, and praying for guidance will put us on the right path. Consider talking with the individual about your disappointment. Pray for the individual and ask God to help you to forgive the person so that you are living your life as Christ expects you to live.

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive Colossians 3:13

And finally, we remember that it is always better to rely and trust in God rather than man.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man Psalm 118:8

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In the pit…looking up

The road we travel is full of pot holes. This cannot be denied. There are days when we are traveling down the road as planned, then abruptly, there it is: the pothole, the sink hole in the road, the pit. On these days, we spend too many hours asking why. Why me? Why us? Why did this have to happen? And on these days of asking why, we are in the pit.

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When we are in the pit, we ask God, “Why did you put me in this pit? Why didn’t you give me a river to swim across? Or a boulder to go around?” We may believe that any other challenge would not be this severe, this impossible, this tragic.

You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak Psalm 77:4

The difference between a pit and a river or a boulder, is that when you are in a pit, you can only look up. While you can swim through water or walk around a bolder, in a pit, you must look up to escape. Rather than asking why we are in the pit, we should examine where we must look to resolve the situation. Putting us in a pit requires our response of looking up. It may take us falling into a pit to get our attention. And then it is clear, although we are in the pit, God is always with us there. He extends His hand to pull us out.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present not things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, not 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

Through prayer and Scripture, we find energy and strength to make the climb out. It may take time and a full “all-in” commitment to God, but we can get back on the road of life again.

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Once we are back on our way, we can reflect back on where we have been. We can give praise to our Lord for never leaving us and giving us the hand up we needed. Will we have other pot holes in the road? Maybe… probably. And getting out of one pit in the past can provide us with hope when the next one sneaks up on us.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!    1 Chronicles 16:34

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Fellowship…

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In towns and cities everywhere, there are groups of people who regularly get together for no reason other than to enjoy each others’ company. Perhaps after a happenstance meeting, they have known each other for years. Or maybe they have some common experience in their past that forever bonds them together. Regardless of how they first met, they enjoy weekly or daily visits with no purpose except to spend time together.

There is a group like this where my parents live. Each morning, without fail, they gather around 8:00 am to share a cup of coffee and their favorite donuts. It is not that they have a donut addiction, although the donuts at this specific shop are delicious confections, but they start each morning with embellished stories and multiple rounds of laughter. They even give “The Story of the Year” awards for the most embellished story! They never comment to remind each other of the “same time tomorrow,” they just show up. When my parents are planning their day, the gathering is included by the statement “Have to go to donuts at 8:00” and is a priority before all other errands.

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Other groups meet in coffee houses, waffle shops, and pancake restaurants. As a visitor to a new town, you quickly notice the regulars as a large group at the back table who greet each one as they enter the establishment. These are the meetings where the town news is spread like melted butter on a hot biscuit.

What is it that draws us together in such a way? As it turns out, it is in our nature as humans and more importantly as Christians. Think about Jesus and His disciples. They supported each other in everything. They traveled together, ate together, preached together, found new believers, and established new churches together. Paul wrote to the new believers in Thessalonia instructing them to meet together and support each other. In Christianity, this is referred to as fellowship.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing                     1 Thessalonians 5:11

Fellowship includes having relationships with individuals who have common beliefs and values. It also means helping each other when problems arise. This group can offer advice on complicated family problems, or simple problems like moving a piece of equipment or finding a local service provider to help with chores around the house. One thing is certain, these individuals are there for each other and count on each other when needs arise.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works Hebrews 10:24

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind 1 Peter 3:8

So in good times and bad, Christians join together to hold each other up, provide for each others’ needs, and share precious time. We love one another following the example Jesus set for us. For anyone who questions whether there is time in the day to meet with a group such as this, remember the commandment Jesus gave us.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you John 15:12

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