30 Days of Gratitude – Day 28 God’s Unmerited Favor

Today I’m grateful for the unmerited favor the God has shown to me.  I’ve been living in a dark whole for many months and though I know that God was with me in that whole, today the light was visible.  It  was like I was lost in a dark forest, unable to find my way out and today finally the light shown thorough the branches of the trees.

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Where there was once despair there is now hope.  I’m back in God’s Word, after being away for more than four months, which has filled me with such joy, hope, inspiration, a kick in the butt (greatly needed), grace, and blessings beyond measure.   Today’s readings have not only reminded me of God’s grace, and hope but the truth that He is always there and so is His Word and the richness there of.

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During my times of depression when it was all I could do to get up watch TV, figure something out to eat and take care of my dog, there were times when I knew God was with me.  Most of the time I had to take that as a step of faith, that God was still there no matter how alone I felt, occasionally and these where rare but I’m oh so grateful for them, there were times when I could actually feel His embrace.  It was in those times that my faith was faltering that God was so kind as to shore up my faith and bless my wounded heart with the warmth of His embrace.  It is something I will never forget or take for granted.  Maybe it’s a sign of my own weakness that He came to me in such a physical way but weakness or not He knew what I needed at that very moment.  I was all alone and desperate and needed to feel loved.  I’m not saying that I’m anyone special because of that embrace, honestly more likely I’m someone less special.  I would love to say that my faith is so strong that I don’t doubt or cry out to God to show Himself, but sadly that is not the case.

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In this area and in many other areas God is molding me and making me into the Christian that He would have me be.  Some days I’m a more willing piece of clay than others and because of that I’m so grateful for His grace.  I would love to say that I meet my trials with courage, fortitude and a strong faith, but more often than not I fail, fall to the ground, stay there a while and then figure it out to call on God to help me out.

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This piece of clay is not only hard, so it needs a lot of water and pressure from the Potter, it also has far too dry parts that need to be removed completely in order to work the clay properly.  The more the Potter works with this clay the more evident the hard dried out pieces become and the painful process of removal must take place.  Thankfully even with these pieces the Potter has not given up on this piece of clay.

If you’re like me and have your off days as well as your on fire days.  Take hope in the fact that God’s grace (unmerited favor) is limitless.  His love is unconditional as long as you are His child.  So, if you haven’t accepted what Christ did for you on the cross, which was paying the penalty for all our sins and that penalty is death, ask forgiveness of your sins (anything short of perfection), accept what Christ did on the cross for you and ask Him to come into your life and help you life the kind of life He wants you to live.  It’s as easy as that to become a child of God.

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 27 Blessed Sleep or Insomnia

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Today I’m grateful for the blessing of restorative sleep.  I’m so grateful for it now because as it sometimes does it eludes me tonight.

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Sleep gives our body time to regenerate itself.  It helps in weight loss.  The effects of insomnia on our body are harsh.

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Who wants to be irritable or  impaired morally or have hallucinations?  Who wants problems with their heart, type 2 diabetes, tremors, or risk of obesity?  I don’t want any of those and unfortunately am already struggling with some of these.

I found this article by Dr. Mehmet Oz that helped me realize some of the things I was doing wrong when it.  If your suffering with insomnia like me maybe some of these things might be helpful to you as well.

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Rubin Naiman, getting a good night’s sleep is critical for our physical, spiritual and emotional health—yet more and more people suffer from sleep disorders and insomnia. Dr. Naiman urges us to slow down, unwind and embrace the spiritual side of sleep, and he says most sleep problems can—and should—be treated without medications. Dr. Oz talks to Dr. Naiman, who is also the sleep specialist at the Miraval Resort in Arizona and the author ofHealing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming and Awakening, about the importance of sleep and ways that you can reclaim the night:

  • Dr. Naiman says that if you fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow, you are most likely sleep deprived and excessively tired. Give yourself 10–15 minutes in bed, in the dark and alone with your thoughts before you fall asleep, he says.
  • If you consistently need an alarm clock to wake up, you’re not getting enough sleep. “If you get enough sleep, you’ll just awaken naturally,” Dr. Naiman says. The simple solution: Go to bed earlier.
  • If you’re using excessive stimulation during the day for energy, such as caffeine, high-glycemic foods or running on adrenaline, you’re probably not getting enough sleep, Dr. Naiman says.
  • Be sure to sleep in complete darkness—that means turning off the TV, night-lights and bright alarm clocks. Dr. Naiman says that even a small amount of light at night suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle and plays a vital role in other important biological processes.
  • Dreams are extremely valuable to the human psyche, Dr. Naiman says, not only from a spiritual standpoint but from a health standpoint. In fact, he says evidence suggests that “the chronic loss of dreaming may be the most critically overlooked factor in clinical depression.”
  • The process of preparing your mind and body for sleep is a valuable spiritual process, Dr. Naiman says. “It’s an opportunity to literally practice this fundamental art of letting go, of surrendering,” he says.
  • Rest is just as important as sleep, Dr. Naiman says. People often confuse rest with recreational activities like bowling, reading or drinking alcohol, he says. Rather, learn to engage in things like meditation, yoga or prayer. “Rest informs most approaches to healing and I think we underestimate how powerful it is,” he says.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/oprahradio/The-Value-of-Sleep#ixzz2OATHwiQu

I pray this is as helpful to you as it has been to me.  Then we can all be praising God for a good night’s sleep.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 26 Beauty in the Storm

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Today I’m grateful for the beauty that comes from both the weather storms and the storms in life.

My boyfriend and I are on vacation and for this So. Cal. girl snow is an oddity.  We knew the storm was coming and had had hints of it the day before but when I woke up at 4:30 in the morning my first thought was of excitement.  Not of inconvenience or of being snowed in.  As a matter of fact this is what I saw outside my cabin this early morning.

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Ron’s car at 4:30 note that you can still see the license plate.

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Notice the snow is minimal on the branches of the tree.

Then I went back to bed with no concern of the storm or of what it would farther cause.  It later got me thinking are there storms in life that I’m so comfortable with?  Do I ever actually get excited about a storm?  I think not excited but may be  complacent.  And that is when the enemy has won.  He wants  me complacent as the storm brews so that I don’t run to God and that the blessed maturity that can come with storms doesn’t happen.

If I never struggled with anything then I would have no cause to run to God for help and direction and wisdom.  Without the storm I’d never have any need for the cross and then what a sad state I’d be in.  But because of the storms in life I have run to the cross for forgiveness and salvation and now I have a relationship with my Lord that I’d never give up.

That is why I’m grateful for storms and their beauty.  Now granted not all weather storms are what one would consider beautiful they are more frightful.  But God can make good out of anything and even if we don’t see that good this side of heaven, we can stand in faith that He is making it for our good.  That is the beauty that comes from the storms of weather and life.

We can know that God loves us and has His best planned for us.  Jeremiah 29:11.

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To give you an idea of what a few more hours of light snow can do for those of you not familiar with snow here is Ron’s car a little later this morning.

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That tree with the light amount of snow on the branches?  Well here’s a tree outside my bedroom window to show how much more snow there is.

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Yes this storm brought with it instant beauty some other storms in life take longer to see the beauty behind the storm.  But keep your eyes and heart open to it and most likely you will be able to see it this side of heaven and if it is one of those storms that is a faith stretcher don’t loose hope and wait for the other side of heaven for your opportunity to see the beauty God has created out of your storm.  Sometimes we don’t get to see the forest through the trees until we have the right vantage point.

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Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude Day 25 – Loving God’s Mercy

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Today I’m grateful for the glory of God’s mercy.  You see I also struggle with my weight.  I’m going to Weight Watchers and have days when I do program better than other days, but I must confess I still do not like the way I look over 44 pounds lighter than when I began.  That’s because I have about 100 more to shed.  I’m fully aware that this is vanity on my part but I grieve the face and body I once looked at that was so much thinner than this present form before me.

My boyfriend says I’m beautiful and that it grieves him that I feel ugly, mostly because he sees the hurt that causes me.  In that he reminds me of my heavenly Father and this quote I got from a devotional:

But no matter how far off the path or how long we are on it, God is patient with us and loves us as a dearly beloved chid – part of His family (Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 4:7).

This reminds me of a touching story shared by my friend Karen Ehman, who lost over one hundred pounds in the first stage of her journey toward health.  Her friend, Tammy, saw a “before” picture and was encouraging Karen enthusiastically when Karen’s young son, Spencer, walked in.  Tammy said, “Wow, Spencer, can you believe that was your mom?  She’s lost so much weight.  Doesn’t she look great?”  In  confusion, he looked back and forth between the photo and Karen and said, “Hmmm, they both look like Mama to me!”.

Out of the mouth of babes.

We are loved as God’s special girls!  No matter where you are in your struggle with healthy eating.  God looks at you and says, “She still looks like my precious  daughter to me!”  He loves you just the way you are.  But God loves you too much to leave stuck in defeat.  You were made for so much more.  You were made for victory.

This comes from, “Made to Crave Devotional: 60 Days to Craving God, Not Food” by Lysa Terkeurst.

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It’s so good to be reminded that God’s mercy extend into any area of our life that we may be struggling with.  Struggle with food?  God loves you and in His love He’s unwilling to leave you stuck where you are.  Alcohol?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Workaholic?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Shopaholic?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Gambler?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Sexaholic?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Have I made my point yet?  It doesn’t matter what you are struggling with even if it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, or diabetes whatever your struggle God loves you and wants you to live at your full potential.  Now the last two there is only so much that can be done and then it’s learning to live with it.  But both can be helped with healthy eating and exercise.

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God in His mercy doesn’t allow us to be stuck where we are in bondage to anything.  He wants us to live victoriously.  He promises an abundant life and that starts by allowing God to work in our lives and help us out of the muck and mire of our struggles.

Won’t you join me in surrendering our struggles to God and His almighty power.  With Him all things are possible including standing clean on firm ground.  Wouldn’t you prefer that to the muck and mire of the pit that your struggles currently have you in?  I know I would and that is why I cry out; “Abba!  Father!  Rush to my aide and pull me from the pit and set my feet on firm ground and cleanse me from my sins.”

Let me clarify something before I get angry comments in no way am I inferring that bi-polar disorder or any other chemical imbalance of the brain or diabetes are sins.  But if you know that eating healthy and exercise (and I’m talking to myself as well here because I’ve been blessed with both) will help symptoms and we don’t do it, aren’t we sinning?  Missing the mark?  Missing the best for our bodies?  Just something to think about.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 24 Legalism & Grace

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Today I’m grateful for the grace that God shows me when it comes to my legalism.  This is something that God has been working on for many decades and I’m pleased to say that I’ve come quite a way, I’m also sad to say that I have a long way to go.

It saddens me when I read things like Galatians 5:2-4:

Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.  3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  4You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Bare with me here, I see my legalism as a form of circumcision because it obligates me to the law and negates the grace of Christ and stand in the way of my relationship with Him.  For those reasons I take firm warning from Galatians 5:2-4.

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As much as I struggle with legalism it breaks my heart that I’ve allowed it to come between me and my Lord Jesus Christ.  I long for a relationship with Him and the last thing that I want to do is fall away from grace.  I want what Galatians 5:1 states:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.

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I want the freedom that Christ offers and I don’t want to allow myself to be burdened again by the yoke of slavery, mainly my legalism.  So I ask God to continue working with me in this area of bondage.  That He make me keenly aware of when I’m struggling with it.  So that I might ask forgiveness and wisdom in how to get out of it.

I’m grateful that God is gracious with me in this area of sin.  I know He wants to see progress in this as much or more than I do.  He is so loving and patient with me when I come to a verse that seems one I can perch my legalistic hat on.  These days knowing His grace those verses cause me confusion, with questions like, “How can that be when God says?” or  “I don’t understand wouldn’t that mean?”  When I hear those questions I can usually assume I’m struggling with that ugly old friend legalism.  Being that I want to rid myself of that friend and things still get caught in my head, I seek wise counsel and that helps to quench the old demon.

When I’m in the midst of legalism my relationship with Christ suffers but if I ask the Holy Spirit to help me find the truth to find grace my relationship with Christ is restored.

God is gracious with us as long as we are earnestly seeking His will.  He is patient and long suffering for our sake.  What an awesome God we serve.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 23 Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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Today I’m grateful for the fact that God knew me before I was born and loved me just the same because He was the One that knit me together.  Because of that I actually love who I am because God doesn’t make junk!

Sometimes I feel guiltier for what I’m not than thankful for what I am.  I now in the light of Psalm 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

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believe that since I’m made in the image of God to believe that I’m guiltier for what I’m not is a sin and rather than guilty for what I have done.  God decides what I will and will not be and I can take pleasure and gratitude in what He has chosen to create in me.

It is not for the created to tell the creator how it should have been created.  I love to sing but I’m never going to be a great singer on this side of heaven.  That was not one of the things I was blessed with.  I can however sign to a  song and touch people in that respect, as long as my mouth is shut or at least silent.

Although I love the blessing of these verses it is often easy for the flesh to get in the way of remembering exactly who created me and for whose pleasure I was created for.  For that reason I love this prayer:

Dear Lord, You made me in Your image – and that is something I seem to forget daily.  Please help me remember to celebrate and live in who You made me to be, and not dwell on what I wish I were.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

By Lysa TerKeurst, from “Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress”

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 22

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Today I’m grateful for my Valentines.  I was single for 22 years and during that time I only had one Valentine, my Lord and Savior.  I figured that since I was the bride of Christ I would conduct myself as such and think of myself as married to Him.  I even wear a ring on my wedding ring finger reminding me of this position.

So when Valentines Day would come around I would be content most of the time with my Holy Valentine.  The times that I felt lonely and wishing for a Valentine with flesh and blood I would pray that if it was God’s will that He would bring one into my life and if it was not that He would fulfill these feelings I was having.

Now I still have my Holy Valentine and God has seen fit to bless me with a flesh and blood Valentine as well.  I feel so blessed to have both.

My human Valentine was so good to me and I’m so grateful to have him.  He sent me a beautiful bouquet and wonderful card.  I was sick Valentines day but he was so patient and kind with me, especially since I brought the sickness on myself.  I’m diabetic and had consumed so much sugar the day before that I had sugar poisoning.  Not smart and not something this addict is going to do again I pray that I’ve learned my lesson once and for all.  Anyway that’s another story.

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The next day I was feeling better and we took a lovely trip down the Pacific Coast Highway from Huntington Beach to Dana Point and came back home through the Majestic and Silverado canyons.  This day trip was beautiful and fun just talking and watching the third love of our lives Tessa my dog looking and sniffing and all the new things she was experiencing.  She was exhausted once we got her home.

Should you have felt alone this past Valentines Day my heart goes out to you.  I know all too well how that feels.  But may I encourage you to think of yourself as having a Holy Valentine and falling in love with that Valentine until He sees fit to give you an earthly Valentine?  Trust me it’ll be the best love affair of your life.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 21 Grateful I Can Change

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Today I’m grateful that I can change with the help of God.

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Max Lucado puts it well in, “Grace for the Moment: A 365 Day Journaling Devotional” in January 21st entry called, “A Heart Like His”.

God wants us to be just like Jesus.  Isn’t that good news?  You aren’t stuck with today’s personality.  You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.”  You are tweak able.  Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life.  So what if you were born a bigot?  You don’t have to die one.

Where did we get the idea we can’t change?  From whence come statements such as, “It’s just my nature to worry.” or, “I’ll always be pessimistic. I’m just that way.”…Who says?  Would we make similar statements about our bodies?  “It’s just my nature to have a broken leg.  I can’t do anything about it.”  Of course not.  If our bodies malfunction, we seek help.  Shouldn’t we do the same with our hearts?  Shouldn’t we seek aid for our sour attitudes?  Can’t we request treatment for our selfish tirades?  Of course we can.  Jesus can change our hearts.  He wants us to have a heart like his.

What a blessing it is to know that change is possible.  If we are living with the cancer of bitterness we needn’t die with it.  Jesus can give us a heart of love and forgiveness that will kill the cancer of bitterness.  If we are hanging on to things of the past Jesus can help us to live in the present and let loose of the past that only hurts and interferes with our todays.  As the poem says, you won’t find God in the past He isn’t, I was, and don’t look for Him in the future He isn’t, I will be, look for Him in the present because His name is, I Am.

I’m so grateful for where God has brought me from already and I look forward to where He is going to bring me to in my journey to become more and more like Jesus.

Let Jesus do the work He has in store for you to bring you into His likeness.  We all must remember our place at the wheel.  We are the clay and He is the potter, longing to mold and make us in His likeness.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Jesus Wants An Intimate Relationship 30 Days of Gratitude – Day 20

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Today I’m grateful that Jesus wants an intimate relationship with me.  He doesn’t just want to hear from me on Sunday’s or Wednesday nights, He wants to know and be invited into every part of my life.

He is omnipotent (all knowing) so He knows all about my life but that isn’t enough for Him.  He wants to hear it from me.  He wants me to open my heart to all the areas of my life that I might like to call secret.  How do I know this?  John 14:23

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

“We will come to them and make our home with them”, that is a pretty intimate relationship.  It’s a relationship of love.

We obey His teaching not because it will make us acceptable, we were made acceptable by what Christ did on the cross.  We don’t obey his commands because it will make us worthy.  Christ obeyed the commands of God and that didn’t make Him any more worthy than He had been at the beginning of time, nor did it make the perfect more acceptable.  He obeys God’s commands out of love for the Father.  A love so perfect its hard for us mere humans to understand.  But all the same that love is offered to us and out of an outpouring of that love we should obey His commands.  “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5  If we can live up to this commandment and the other that Jesus gave us “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Then we are obeying His commandments.

I must admit that I’m not always the best at loving the unlovely.  For that I’m truly ashamed of myself.  I don’t always follow through on actions as best as I could.  Sometimes I wonder what they are going to do with the money they ask for and then other times I think there but for the grace of God go I and figure it’s none of my business what they are going to do with it.  My duty is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and do as He guides me to do.  The rest is their business between them and God.  But maybe you struggle with me on this and maybe we could go to the Father and ask for His help in this matter.

Lord God, make me a more loving person both to You and to my neighbor.  I long to bring you pleasure.  Help me in that desire. Amen.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 19

Today I’m grateful that the enemy is defeated.  The Serpents head has been crushed.  Christ is the victor and we can live victoriously as long as we rely on God and remember that the battle has already been won.  Something Satan would like us to forget.

I love this quote from, January 14th of “Joy of My Heart: Meditating Daily on God’s Word” by Anne Graham Lotz, it so fittingly portrays what is going on spiritually in our lives.

Although I can remember killing only one snake myself, I was present several times when snakes were killed by others.  Each time I observed a fascinating phenomenon.  After the snake was killed, its body invariably continued to twitch until sundown.  Even though the head was crushed, rendering it powerless, the dead snake’s writhing body was enough to keep me at a distance.

We need to remember that ever since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Satan has been a defeated foe.  His head has been crushed.  As we seek to climb higher in our faith, what we are confronted with is merely the twitching of our defeated foe.  But sundown is coming!  One day even the twitching body of that old Serpent, the devil, will be destroyed.

Now if that isn’t something to be grateful for, I don’t know what is.

Lord help me to always remember that when the enemy attacks he is merely a defeated foe and all I need to do is turn to you.  Don’t let me be fooled by the twitching body of a dead Snake.  Amen.