Conntecting the Dots

Does God Speak to Us Today?  

 

Several days ago, I was immersed in writing materials for a weekly Zoom Bible study I teach when I heard a little whisper. “Do your laundry now,” it said.

 

“What? But I’m in the middle of doing work that has to be finished today,” I said.

 

The whisper persisted. “Do your laundry now.”

 

I’ve enjoyed relationship with God long enough to recognize His voice when He speaks. I also know that arguing with Him is not a wise thing to do. “Okay,” I said. I left my computer and stuffed our towels into the dirty laundry bag. “If this is you speaking, God, then I suspect You have an assignment for me there,” I said as I stepped off my boat-home and began walking down the dock toward the marina laundromat.

 

I secretly hoped that the whisper was going to work for my advantage and I’d arrive  to find all three washers and dryers empty and waiting for me. But that was not the case. The dryers were in use. The washers were also full, but their loads were finished.

 

Most marina residents are okay with their wet laundry being set atop the machines if another resident needs the washers before they come to remove their completed loads, so I did that. Then I returned to my boat-home for the duration of the wash cycle, wondering why the urgency.

 

The mystery was solved when I returned to move my laundry into the dryers. Turns out that the laundry I’d set atop the washers belonged to one of my closest neighbors. She’d been delayed because she’d dropped her only car key into the river when stepping from the dock onto her boat and was trying to figure out how to either retrieve or replace it. Poor thing! She was distraught, and understandably so.

 

A prayer that Gene and I pray frequently is this: “God, make us available when our neighbors need help and give us creative ways to lend a hand.” We stand in awe at the ways He answers that prayer, and this was no exception. That day, He made me available to help my neighbor get her laundry dried, folded, and returned to her boat. This alleviated her stress as she dealt with a far more urgent matter, and I was glad to be there for her.

 

Does God speak to us today? Absolutely. Here are several principles I’ve seen prove consistent:

 

  • God’s voice speaks truth. It will never tell us to do something contrary to His Word. If the whisper we hear does not align with truth as revealed in Scripture, then we need to ignore it. (John 8:44, John 14:6, James 1:13)
  • God’s voice affirms. It instructs us in the way we should live so we can flourish. It speaks life and hope and peace. It convicts when we do wrong, yes, but it never shames. (Psalm 32:8)
  • God’s voice brings clarity. It never tells us to do something that’s confusing or chaotic. Rather, it sheds light and wisdom on our path. (1 Corinthians 14:33, James 1:5)

 

God still speaks to us today, and He does so using whatever method He chooses. Often He uses little whispers to tell us what He wants us to know or do. Our role in our relationship with Him is to tune our ear to listen so we can hear it above the din of so many other voices calling for our attention. Then we’re to respond affirmatively to Him. The more we listen and obey, the more He’ll speak and the more readily we’ll recognize His voice when He does. (Romans 8:14-16, John 10:27)

 

How does God speak to you today? What has He spoken to you recently?

 

#GodSpeaks  #HearingGodsVoice  #bgbg2  #devotions

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Truths to Remember When You Feel Depleted

 

I’ll be honest—I’m feeling a tad depleted. A culmination of things have led me to this place, the most significant being my mother’s death and the necessary busyness during the eight weeks prior. But add to that the craziness of 2020, right?

 

You know what I mean. The pandemic has ripped away normalcy as we’ve known it. We’re left wondering how to move forward when we can barely see past today. The rules have changed, and they continue changing, and we have to change with them. What will they be tomorrow, and what will that mean for us?  It’s anyone’s guess.

 

I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss my church family. I worshiped in my home church a couple of weeks ago for the first time since January. The sanctuary is built to hold six hundred or more, but now it holds fifty. It felt so wrong. It felt wrong.

 

And then there’s the political unrest. So many opinions. So much hostility. Trying to sort it out makes my head throb.

 

I’m developing a fresh appreciation for the psalmist’s questions: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” (Psalm 42:5NLT) Taking time to think about them and write the answers has proven therapeutic. But here’s the thing I’ve discovered: I can’t linger there too long or I’ll sink deeper into discouragement. Instead, I have to resolutely follow the psalmist’s example and choose to place my focus elsewhere—on God: “I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:5-6)

 

I will put my hope in God.

 

I will praise Him again.

 

I will. I will.

 

What enables me to choose this response and follow through? Knowing that God is who He says He is. Here are three declarations about His nature that help renew my strength when I’m feeling depleted:

 

God is Wise  — What is wisdom, anyway? One definition is “the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining that goal.” God alone knows what He wants to accomplish through the world events of 2020, and God alone knows the best means of accomplishing that goal. I don’t know the answers but I can trust Him and the process He allows because He knows everything about everything. “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” (Psalm 147:5)

 

God is Powerful – Just as there is no limit to His wisdom, so there’s no end to His strength. He spoke the universe into being, split the Red Sea, healed the lepers, and raised the dead. I might view a challenging situation as impossible, but hope is restored when I remember this truth—“For nothing will be  impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 ESV)

 

God is Good – God is good by nature, therefore everything He does is good. One definition of “good” is “beneficial.” I find renewed hope when I cling to the truth that God will never let our pain go to waste. He will always make it beneficial to us in some way when we work with Him in the process. “How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.” (Psalm 31:19-20)

 

How about you, my friend? How are you really doing today? Which of the three characteristics of God resonates most with you in your current situation, and why?

 

#bgbg2  #GodisWise  #GodisGood  #GodisPowerful  #Hope

 

A Prayer for Election Day

The U.S. election marks a significant day in world history. I’ll be honest—I feel as though anything I write for today’s blog might sound trite. As a result, I’m going to spend my words on prayer. Would you pray this with me, please?

 

“Heavenly Father, we come to You with humble hearts acknowledging our need for You. You alone know the magnitude of today’s election, and You alone know how the outcome will serve Your purposes in the future. When our limited understanding leaves us prone to fear, remind us that You are in control.

 

If the outcome is contrary to our wishes, help us guard our tongues against speaking evil and engaging in conversations that breed divisiveness. Teach us to walk in integrity and to do what’s right in Your eyes. Give us love for those who don’t share our views. Help us, as Your sons and daughters, model respect and honor when others’ opinions don’t match ours.

 

Grant us a renewed understanding of Your sovereignty over the nations. Give us faith to believe that the man who wins does so by Your appointment. Teach us how to pray for him, his family, and those who surround him in leadership.

 

Most of all, stir a revival within our hearts. For the sake of Your honor and great name, please forgive us for spiritual complacency. Cleanse us from loving self and personal safety more than You and sacrifice. Remove inaccurate thoughts about who You are and guide us in Your truth.

 

Rise up, O God, and reveal Yourself to the nations as the one and only God.

The God of truth and righteousness.

The God of mercy and grace.

The God who became man and walked among us.

The God who promises to draw near to those who draw near to You.

The God who fulfills all His promises.

 

You are the God in whom we place our hope today and always. You are the One in whom we find peace and joy. You are the One in whom we trust because You alone are trustworthy and good all the time.

 

Please hear our prayer and answer our cries. In Jesus’ name, amen.”  

 

#electiondayprayer

 

A Key to Working Through Grief

 

Two weeks ago, I blogged about sitting at my mother’s bedside. The doctor suspected that her remaining time on earth would soon end, and he was right. Mom took her last breath on earth and then moved to heaven on Friday, October 9th. I had the privilege of praying for her and worshiping Jesus in those sacred moments—an experience for which I am beyond grateful.

 

My head hasn’t yet wrapped itself around the fact that Mom’s no longer with us. My heart feels like it has a gaping hole. Grief has run over me like a steam roller, and tears flow at the most unexpected times. But God is good and gives me snippets of encouragement when I need it most.

 

This morning, I participated in my weekly Zoom Bible study with a group of women who are dear friends and sisters in Christ. In the end, the leader reminded us that Jesus was no stranger to heartache. She quoted Isaiah 53:3 – “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

 

As I’ve pondered this verse today, I’ve found encouragement in knowing that Jesus was acquainted with—not controlled by—grief. He experienced it more deeply than we can ever know, but He did not let it commandeer His emotions, cause Him to deviate from His divine mission, or lessen His love for others or for God who ordained the hardships He encountered while in human form.

 

Grieving is a natural and necessary process when we face disappointment and loss. We can walk this journey in a healthy way, or we can stumble through it, hoping to survive the ride. If the latter, we might say or do things we later regret. We might lash out at a family member with whom we already have a tense relationship. We might fall into believing that God doesn’t really love us after all and turn from Him. We might think no one really understands what we’re feeling, so we withdraw and try to handle our heartache in silence and solitude. We might even dive into binge eating. There’s a reason we call certain edibles “comfort” food, right?

 

We’ll all experience grief in some form or other at some time or other. In fact, the year 2020 has given pretty much everyone on the planet a taste of it. Each person’s journey looks different from others, but one truth remains the same: We can walk this path well by looking at Jesus’s example. A man acquainted with grief, He neither fell into despair nor did He use sorrow as an excuse for sin. We can trust Him to help us do the same.

 

 

#bgbg2  #grief  #grievingwell  #WhatDidJesusDo

There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel

 

We’ve all heard the term “the light at the end of the tunnel.” We say it when going through a dark time in life. Circumstances may be extremely difficult but we see rays of hope ahead, and that hope keeps us going.

 

Jesus’s followers in the first century wouldn’t have used this term in their day, but they lived in its reality. They were persecuted and abused for their faith, but they persevered because they kept their eyes on God’s special plans awaiting them.  

 

Peter wrote a letter to these believers. He said, “Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay… So, be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.” (1 Peter 1:3-4, 1 Peter 1:6)

 

As I write this, I’m sitting at my mother’s bedside. The doctor suspects her remaining time on earth will soon end. I’m in a tunnel right now, in a dark emotional place. But I see light at the end of it.

 

My mother placed her faith in Christ for salvation decades ago. Because He rose from the grave and overcame death once for all, Mom will move from this earth to heaven where she will spend eternity in His glorious presence. She’ll finally receive the priceless inheritance God has promised and kept in heaven for His children. There’s wonderful joy ahead for her even though it’s necessary for her to endure the trial of illness and death.

 

There’s wonderful joy ahead for Mom’s family and friends, too. We will miss her like crazy, but we know where she’s going. We grieve our loss but we celebrate her gain. And we see light at the end of the tunnel of sorrow knowing we’ll someday celebrate a great, grand reunion.

 

Are you in a tunnel, too? If so, read 1 Peter 1:3,4,6 again and thank God for the hope He’s given through Jesus Christ—the light of the world who sheds light in our darkness.

 

 

#bgbg2  #heavenwaits  #purejoy 

 Spiritual Distancing and How to End It

 

 

Everywhere we go nowadays, we see reminders to stay six feet from other people. Arrows on floors, signs on walls, markers on chairs, and plastic dividers in public places tell us that social distancing is a thing.

 

I thought this “distancing” concept was new to 2020. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it in Psalm 138:6—“Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.”

 

The humble heart acknowledges its need for God. It understands its limitations, foibles, and imperfections, and it’s totally okay with asking for His help. But the proud heart—not so much.

A proud heart thinks it can manage without God’s help because it believes its way of doing things is best.

 

God favors the humble heart. He draws near to those who draw near to Him. (James 4:6-8) He establishes a sweet friendship with those who honor Him. (Psalm 25:14) But He responds differently to the heart that says, “No thanks, I can do it myself.” That’s when He practices distancing.

 

God will not force Himself into our space. He wants to be in our spiritual bubble, but He won’t shove His way inside. “I’m here for you,” He says. “Will you let Me in?” Then He lets us choose whether or not we want to welcome Him.    

 

Social distancing has been hard on most people because God created us to flourish within community. Lack of human connection creates a longing for the day we’re once again free to shake hands, share hugs, and enjoy unhindered get-togethers.

 

Spiritual distancing can be even more difficult because God created us to flourish in relationship with Him. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. And nothing can fill the void we experience when we’re separated from Him.

 

Is there an area in your life where you’ve said to God, “No thanks, I can do it myself”? If so, turn it around and invite His engagement: “God, I admit my need for You.”

 

Social distancing ends when the powers-that-be declare it over. Spiritual distancing ends the moment we declare it over through our actions and heart attitude. All we have to do is humble ourselves, admit our need for God, and we can enjoy closeness with Him.

 

 

#bgbg2  #spiritualdistancing  #friendshipwithGod

 

Need Peace?

Tomorrow morning I’ll say goodbye to my mom and head back home not knowing when I’ll see her again. My emotions threaten to take me down a sorry path, but I refuse to go there. Instead, I choose to focus on the character of God and on His promises. I’ve found this is the only path to true and lasting peace.

I need God’s peace in this situation. Maybe you can relate. You’re in a tough situation and need a healthy dose of lasting peace, too. If so, take a few moments to read God’s encouragement to you.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3-4NKJV)

Now read it again. This time make it a personal prayer, like this: “You will keep me in perfect peace when I keep my mind on You. I trust in You forever because You are everlasting strength.”

Memorize it.

Meditate on it.

Put it into practice.

And you will experience peace that passes human understanding.

 

Know you are loved,

Grace

 

#bgbg2  #needpeace

 

4 Truths to Remember When the Wind and Waves Rage

 

Living and traveling on a sailboat has given me a whole new appreciation for anyone who makes a living from the sea. Some days the water barely ripples and I’m able to sit in the cockpit and work on my laptop as Sailor Man guides us through BC’s islands. Other days, the wind and the waves rage. I hang on for dear life, or I crawl into the salon to ensure there are no objects flying about because I accidentally left them unsecured before leaving the dock. Seriously—the thought of being tossed into foaming, frigid water leaves me white-knuckled and nauseous.

 

I suspect that’s how Jesus’s disciples felt as they rode out a storm in the middle of a lake in the middle of the night. (Mark 6:47-51) The wind thrashed and the waves splashed, and the experienced fishermen feared they might die. Their terror grew worse when Jesus approached them while walking on the water and they mistook Him for a ghost.

 

Everything changed when Jesus spoke the words, “It’s all right. I am here. Don’t be afraid.” Then He climbed into the boat with His friends, and the storm stilled.

 

We’ve all found ourselves in a storm this year. Some far more than others. I’m feeling the wind and the waves as my elderly mother continues to battle with a benign brain tumor that’s affected her entire right side. Steroids to reduce inflammation have triggered a host of other issues. One problem leads to another, it seems. What will her baseline capabilities be when things settle down? What kind of care will best meet her needs? And how will those details pan out especially during COVID?

 

Trying to keep our heads above water takes all the energy we can muster sometimes, right? When the storm makes me feel like I’m hanging on for dear life, I focus on these insights from this Bible story.

 

  • Jesus is never taken by surprise when the wind rises and the waves roll. He put the disciples into the boat knowing full well what their future held. He knows what our future looks like, too. Nothing happens that takes Him by surprise. (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

  • Jesus was in prayer when the disciples ran into trouble. I wonder if He was praying for these men. One of His roles is to pray for us. When we’re in trouble battling the storms of life, He’s sitting at the Father’s right hand interceding on our behalf. (Romans 8:34)

 

  • Jesus saw the disciples in their situation. He took notice of their needs. (Mark 6:48) Back in the book of Genesis, Hagar named Him “the God who sees,” when He took notice of her needs in the wilderness. (Genesis 16:13) He’s the same today as He was then. We’re never out of His sight. (Psalm 139:2-5)

 

  • Jesus came to the disciples’ rescue. He did so by joining them, climbing into the boat with them. He’s with us in the midst of our storms, too. His promise to never leave or forsake us assures us that we are never, ever alone. (Matthew 28:20).

 

 My friends, keep your minds focused on the Truth as we ride out the COVID storm and any others that churn up the wind and waves. None of this has taken the Lord by surprise. He sees us and He prays for us. All will be well because He’s in the boat with us.

 

Have a great day, and know you are loved.

 

#bgbg2  #JesusInTheStorm  #StormsOfLife

 

 

You Matter

 

 

Sorry for the delayed blog this week! I wrote it on Monday but my website experienced a few hiccups this week. The folks who run my site worked hard to remedy the problem, and they got ‘er done. So, here it is. Have a great weekend!

 

Gene and I are anchored at Thetis Island as I write this, grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the coastal waters once more. We weren’t sure we’d have another chance this year after our engine failure in August, but Sailor Man figured out the issue and made the repairs.

 

One of the things I enjoy about a marine lifestyle is being immersed in an environment that declares God’s glory. Fish jump and seabirds sing. Seals splash nearby. Sometimes orca whales appear and swim a few hundred feet from our boat. And every evening gifts us with free passes to the most incredible dinner theatre—the sunset. What a display of God’s creative genius!

 

On this trip, we’ve ended each day by lying on our backs on the boat’s bow and gazing at the night sky. There are no city lights to compete with the heavenly lights, so it’s easy to spot shooting stars, satellites, the Milky Way, and various constellations.

 

My mind automatically recalls the psalmist’s words: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-6)

 

I suspect the psalmist may have penned his reflection while shepherding his father’s flocks. Can you hear the wonder in his words? Can you sense the awe stirring in his soul as he thought about Almighty God knowing his name and caring about his needs?

 

My friend, take a few moments to reflect on this life-changing truth: The same God who crafted the heavens knows your name. He knows where you are this very moment. He knows what time you crawled from bed and how you felt when your feet hit the floor. He knows your fears for today, your worries for tomorrow, your wants, and your dreams. He knows your needs, and He longs for you to talk with Him about them.

 

Some days you might feel like a little star unnoticed in an endless universe populated by a gazillion trillion other stars. Why would this God ever notice you or care about your needs? Truth is, He made you in His image and designed you for His glory. You are His display of creative genius and the object of His never-failing love.

 

Step outside tonight and gaze at the heavens or google keywords like “view night sky.” Recite the psalmist’s words aloud as I’ve done the past two nights, and spend a few moments in worship. You may even want to watch Lou Giglio’s presentation about the wonders of the universe and then thank its Creator God for holding you in the palm of His hand. Let the wonder of the psalmist’s words become yours.

 

Have a great day, and know you are loved.

#bgbg2  #YouMatter  #GodLovesYou  #Psalm8

 

 

Hanging onto Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 ESV)

 

Does anyone out there remember the poster picture of a kitten dangling from a knotted rope, its claws embedded in the fibrous nub? It’s still a favorite of mine because it represents how I’ve felt on several occasions.

 

  • When we had to make a quick exit from Nepal within days of my giving birth to a wee daughter with a heart defect and hydrocephalus (too much water on the brain). The international airline refused to issue me a ticket because I’d had a Caesarean section and it considered me a high medical risk. Gene took our baby back to the States and I was left behind not knowing whether or not I’d see her alive again.
  • When our family was seriously underfunded while working at a year-round Christian camp. We hit a breaking point when our car’s transmission blew as I was driving out of town with the same daughter, now graduated from high school and bound for Bible college. Cha-ching. The repair job delayed our trip for several days. During that time, one of my molars broke and required a crown. Cha-ching. When we picked up the car, the repair guy noted that our tires needed to be replaced. He was right. Cha-ching.
  • When my dad suffered two massive strokes within three weeks. My youngest daughter was about twelve years old and scheduled for surgery within days of the second event, so Gene stayed home with the kids while I headed to Alberta. I was torn between wanting to be present for my child but feeling I needed to support my parents in crisis. To top it off, we couldn’t afford a plane ticket, so I drove through the snowy Rockies in December.

The picture of the kitten dangling from a rope also describes how I’ve felt occasionally during this pandemic. Life with all its uncertainties can feel scary at times, but I hang onto hope for a favorable outcome by focusing on God’s promises, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty. The world appears out of control, but God is still in control. Nothing can happen to us corporately or individually without His permission. And if He gives permission for something difficult to strike us, then He will give us the grace to endure.

 

Luci Swindoll writes, “Faithful Father, hope is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline between me and you. I receive it as my own and hang on to it for dear life, trusting you will provide all I need for whatever I will face. Amen.”

 

I like Luci’s statement, “…hope is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline.” No matter what happens, we can ride the storm filled and abounding with hope that comes from focusing on the truth of who God is and His promises to us. Let’s receive that spiritual lifeline as our own and hang on to it for dear life trusting that God will give us everything we need for whatever comes our way.

 

#TrustGod  #bgbg2  #devotions