All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus

Scripture for the day: 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

I have always cared about my physical appearance. My hair, my nails, my body were always important to me. I fell for all the ads about using certain products to make my hair shine, my nails grow, my body look great. It was an obsession when I was a teenager, and it consumed a lot of my time. I even remember “needing” a certain lipstick so badly that I charged a tube at the drug store where my parents had an account. I felt certain my tiny little charge would go unnoticed when my dad paid the bill at the end of the month. Wrong. I was in big trouble, and I learned a lesson. I never liked that lipstick and felt duped by the advertising. It was a first in a long line of lessons about wants vs needs.

And then along came cancer. First it started consuming my body, stealing precious nutrients to grow tumors inside of me. The tumors grew and crowded out major organs of my body. The body that had served me so well was under siege, and it was losing. In order to save my life, a skilled surgeon removed the tumors and other damaged areas of my body. In a few weeks, my body started to recover from the assault. I started to feel like me again. Almost. Then chemo was tossed into the mix of things. The person I had been: the hair, the nails, the body were simply gone. I saw a pale, sick, depressed person in the mirror that I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to know her. But God saw His child. He loved me, and He had a plan.

I grieved for the person I had lost. I couldn’t see that God was making a new creature. He was taking the old me and creating someone new, someone more in His image. I remember returning to my church for the first time after chemo. I didn’t wear my wig, testing out the new “me” in a safe environment. A little girl whose mom had been a real prayer warrior for me asked “Who are you?” I thought it was a very good question, and I started trying to find the answer.

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” All through my ordeal, God had protected me, guided me, guarded me. I realized how totally dependent on Him I was for everything. And He was all I needed.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I was so sick and overwhelmed by cancer and the treatment that I simply submitted. Totally. I didn’t have the energy to worry about tomorrow. I simply knew God was with me. He gave me the strength, the joy to face each new day.

God had to knock me flat to enable me see Him, trust Him for everything. And I am so glad He did.


Immanuel, God with Us

We talked yesterday in church about being asked “Are you ready for Christmas?”  It seems to be the question of the day.  My thoughts usually go to shopping or cooking.  I’ve been buying gifts for a couple of weeks now, and they are wrapped.  Mostly.  The baking starts today, and I will cook for the next several days.  But am I ready for Christmas?

Isaiah 9:6 says “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  The truth is, we are getting ready to celebrate a birthday.  So perhaps the answer to the question “Are you ready for Christmas?” should be “Yes, I have Jesus in my heart.”  When you plan a birthday party, you invite people you know.  You don’t, as a rule, invite complete strangers.  So will I be invited to His birthday party?  Do I know Him?  The answer is YES.  I know Him.  I have a personal relationship with Him, and He is all those things to me.  Wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, prince of peace.  But there is more.

Isaiah 7:14 says “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”  So, while Jesus is all those other things in my life, my favorite name for Him is Immanuel.  That is what I celebrate this Christmas.  God is with me.  He’s not just a baby in my nativity scene.  He’s not just a person I sing about in church.  He is real, and He lives inside my heart.

So I rejoice at Christmas about God’s perfect gift to us, His Son, Jesus,  Immanuel, for He is with me.  May you celebrate not only His birth this Christmas but the fact that He is with you.  As you exchange gifts with friends and family, remember that perfect gift given so long ago.  May His birth and life fill you with joy this Christmas, and may His resurrection fill you with hope and promise.

Merry Christmas.

Heavenly Sonlight

Scripture for the day:  Proverbs 23:7  For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…”
My pastor gave an excellent sermon Sunday about our thought life.  It was very relevant for me.  Sometimes in my mind I am critical of something someone does or says, but I just smile and say nothing.  Sometimes those little thoughts take over my mind and multiply.  It’s pretty obvious they don’t come from God but from satan.  They are poisonous to me, but too often I don’t run from them.  I tolerate them.

They start innocently enough, small, seemingly harmless but quite deadly.  From that little thought comes a decision to act on the thought or not.  I usually don’t act on them, but the poison is there.  The problem is they can grow, become a habit.  Once they are habitual, they have a home.  I become comfortable with them, hardly notice them, and they settle in.

I spent some time in prayer and decided it was time to clean!  I took out my broom and dust pan and got busy .  I not only swept the main hallways of my heart, but I checked the nooks and crannies.  There were several nasty thoughts hidden there, and I caught them off guard.  I swept them into my dust pan and tossed them into the trash.

I took a look at the windows of my heart.  They were a little cloudy from negativity, so I started cleaning and polishing the windows.  Soon, they were clean and glistening, and the heavenly sunlight was flooding in.  In 2 Corinthians 4:6 it says “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Negative thoughts are sneaky little critters, though.  They’ll climb out of the trash and try to sneak back into my mind.  They will cover my windows with a gray film and block the light.  I’m armed now, though, standing on God’s Word.  Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”  I want God’s peace in my life, and I want to think on His things.  My cleaning today was good.  I will keep my Bible handy, though, just in case any of those negative critters try to make a comeback.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”  A stronghold is simply a devilish idea and I must attack it with the sword of the Spirit and fight. It is an ongoing battle, but I will be victorious in Him.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”  I will win.  I will bring my mind, heart and soul under the control of God.  Those little dust bunnies can just stay in the trash.

Song for the day:  “Heavenly Sunlight”

God’s Will or My Will?

Scripture for the day: Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

I strive to do God’s will, but I sometimes struggle with His call on my life. Is it His will or my own? Am I listening to the voice of God or the crowd? Am I being obedient or self-serving?

I have learned through experience that I am happier when I am in God’s will than when I am not. I tried life without Him after my father died, and I was miserable. I was happy at times, but the deep abiding joy that only comes from a relationship with the Father was missing. I returned to Him on my knees and will never leave again.

Through my cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery God has given me a special purpose. I am able to understand, at least partially, what cancer patients are dealing with. Some patients have it much worse than I did, but I have a better idea than someone who has never been diagnosed with cancer. I thank Him daily for my restored health and the ministry He has given me.

Sometimes, though, His will for my life is vague. I don’t have a clear sense of direction or purpose. It is at those times that I remember this scripture and go to His Word. On a daily basis, I am to love the Lord my God. I am also supposed to love my neighbor. Not just the neighbors I like, but all of them. He also threw enemies in the mix, although I’m not aware of many of those in my life. I’m to be generous with my time and my talents, my money. I’m to let the Holy Spirit work in me, control me.

Goodness. Maybe I don’t need a specific task! I think I have enough to do just from His Word. Maybe I just need to study my Bible more and be obedient to what I find on those pages.  It seems like a good place to start.

Song for the day:  “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”

How Great Thou Art

Scripture for the day:  Matthew 11:30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This has been my summer of busyness.  I’ve had volunteer responsibilities and the joy of keeping my granddaughter two days a week, in addition to trying to feed us well and stay healthy.  This week is quiet, with only one obligation at the end of the week.  I am needing this quiet time to rest my body and my soul.

Last night was not meant for sleep for me, so I got up at 4:00 a.m. and went outside.  The super moon was so bright that I could see everything around me, and yet it was very quiet.  The chairs were illuminated on the deck, but no one was sitting in them.  The hummingbird feeders were by the deck, but there was no humming and buzzing about.  Even the crickets and cicadas seemed to be taking some time off from their normal chatter.  I simply stood and looked up at the heavens.

Psalm 46:10 says:  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  I took some time in the quiet of the morning to just look at the majesty of the heavens.  Psalm 8:1 says it well, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!”  I was transfixed by the beauty of His creation, and I praised Him that I could be a part of His majesty.

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?”  In the quiet of the moment, I wondered why God would care about me.  But He does.  He wants a relationship with me.  My life matters.  My soul matters.  He cares.  Deeply.

And so I humble myself before Him today.  I thank Him for his countless blessings, past, present and future.  I thank Him for sending Jesus, His only son, to die on a cross to save me.  I thank Him for His divine intervention in my life and for the forgiveness of sins.  I give Him praise, honor and glory.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Forever.

Song for the day:  “How Great Thou Art”

My Therapy

Scripture for the day:  Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created . . .”

I went outside early this morning and watched the sunrise.  I listened to my world slowly awaken with the sounds of birds singing, calling to their mates.  The crows were loud, shattering the silence with their piercing caws.  The hummingbirds were quiet as they came to feed, their only noise a whirring of wings.

The grass was sparkling with dew, each blade dressed with shimmering gems reflecting the new-day’s light.  The flowers were fresh and bright, enjoying their overnight respite from the sun and wind.  I sat still and listened.  I breathed in the fresh, cool air.  For the moment, I just was.  No need to talk.  Just inhale, exhale, enjoy.

My yard became busy with breakfast.  Cowbirds came to the feeders, eating hurriedly, with great commotion.  A turkey hen came to scratch and eat under the feeder, turning occasionally to look at me .  The chickadees, titmice, sparrows all took their turn at the feeders, but then the real show began.  It was time for the buntings and finch to eat.  First came a male goldfinch, all dressed in his bright yellow plumage, ready to brighten any day.  Next came a pair of Lazuli buntings.  They are not supposed to be in my area, but they’ve been here all week.  Apparently they didn’t read the book.  Then, right on time, came a pair of Indigo buntings.  All that was missing was the painted bunting, but he was elsewhere today.  My eyes feasted on all the beauty around me.  What a glorious way to start my day!

I read the first chapter of Genesis about creation, and I was so humbled, so thankful, so blessed by all God gave to me.  I’m thankful today for every blade of grass, every flower petal, every wild creature, every weed.  As God said repeatedly in Genesis “It is good.”  Take time today to sit outside and take in the beauty of God’s world.  It is the best therapy in this world.

Song for the day:  “Majesty” by Michael W. Smith

God’s Protection

Scripture for the day:  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

Early American Indians had a unique practice of training a young brave.  On the night of his 13th birthday, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away to spend the night entirely alone.  He had never been away from the security of his family or the tribe before.  When he removed the blindfold, he was alone in the middle of a thick woods.  He was terrified!  Every noise was menacing!  After a very long night, dawn broke.  He looked around and saw flowers, trees and a path.  Then to his utter astonishment, he saw the figure of a man standing just a few feet away holding a bow and arrow.  It was his father.  He had been there all night.

To me, this is the perfect illustration of God’s protection.  God is love!  He sent His Son to die on a cross to save us. He protects us in ways we cannot fathom.  We’ll never know the number of times God has protected us — stood watch over us — all night.  If we accept Jesus, our spirit is protected from eternal damnation.  That is God’s ultimate protection, but He protects us daily in small ways.

John 16:33 says “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Trials will come.  We will feel alone in the wilderness at times, but Jesus is always there with us.  Like the young Indian brave, we are never alone.  Jesus is standing watch close by.

Job 1:10-12 talks about protective hedges.  Satan accused God of protecting Job, so God allowed the protective hedge to be removed from around Job.  His family, servants, wealth and health were all threatened, harmed, taken away.  God allowed Satan to attack Job and all he had.  Sin can create a void in the protective hedge in our lives, but only God can allow Satan to harm us through it.

Proverbs 1:33 says “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”

I can pray believing in God’s protection for my family because He promises protection in His Word!  He is our refuge, our strength, our hope in times of trouble.  We are never alone!  And so today I give every circumstance to Him, knowing that He loves me and will protect me and those I love.

The Bible tells me so.

Song for the day:  “In Christ Alone” by Kristian Stanfill (Newsboys Version)

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