Friday, May 20, 2016

God: the only answer to the world's heartache

I see them on Facebook, meet them in the words of their blogs, watch them in the middle of the grocery store, and even encounter them sitting in a pew at church. Their heart is breaking under the load they have to carry.

They just found out their husband is involved in pornography. 

Their wife is having an affair with one of your friends.

Their bills are larger than their paycheck.

Their child is was caught shoplifting.

Their baby died in an accident involving a drunk driver.

Their daughter has an eating disorder.

Their father is fighting cancer.

Their grandson is in jail for a crime he didn't commit -- or one he did.

Heartbreak -- we encounter it everyday. We walk beside it in the mall, drive beside it, worship with it, exercise beside it at the gym. What's our response to the souls whose heart beats cataclysmic grief? Do we have anything to give when the tapes of their head play a tune of failure over and over? What would it take to give new hope to those whose dreams lay in a puddle at their feet? 

We offer them our God. 

Our God who loves.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1). 
Our God who gives rest.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Our God who gives peace.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace (Psalm 29:11).

Our God who gives hope.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Our God who gives confidence.
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Our God is the only answer to those devastated by the hard things life brings. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Shelter the Depressed with Hope

All of us have had friends in our lives who are depressed. Sometimes they admit it, but too often they try to hide their depression behind a masked smile. 

Those who have never struggled with depression find it easy to flippantly tell them to think positive thoughts. They have never experienced the dark hole, a place where light wouldn't dare to penetrate. 

There are endless tears cried in private, sleepless nights, and the call to give up.  

Here are five ways to help a friend experiencing depression:

1. Acknowledge their depression.
Don't try to ignore the obvious, or pretend it's something else. Urge them to see a professional to get help. Gently ask if they would like you to make an appointment for them. 

2. Don't try to "figure it out."
Yes, their childhood might have been dysfunctional. Yes, they may live with a demanding husband. Yes, they may have three kids under the age of four. Any of these could contribute to their depression, but often it can be a hormonal imbalance or any number of physical or emotional traumas. 

3. Reach out to them.
Often depression comes with self worth issues. They think they aren't worthy to be considered. Use, "I'm so happy you're my friend." "Let's go get a coffee." "I have some free time. Can I come over and work on your laundry?"

4. Give hugs freely.
Studies show that a sincere hug that lasts longer than 20 seconds can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and elevate the mood of the giver and receiver.

5. Brighten their environment. 
Move a cozy chair by a window. Drape a soft throw over the arm of the chair. Place a vase of fresh flowers and a lightly-scented candle on a stand nearby. Fill a basket with a journal and colored pens, light reading material, and a Bible. 

There will be days when you feel like you aren't helping, and others when you feel like your friend is regressing. Keep loving, keep praying, and keep making contact. Remember, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Living in Full Color

My mother lived her life in full color. Her life palette embraced them all, mixing and blending until her masterpiece was finished.

Red, my daddy's favorite color, was deep and never wavered. Mom's love for him was always evident and expressed. She kept the red bright with little honeymoons scattered throughout their 60 years. I don't think anyone ever heard her criticize Daddy, even covered with humor. Her example lives on in the marriages of her three children.

Mom was the pink of caring and tenderness. "Bless your baby heart" is one phrase we all miss. Somehow things always seemed better after we heard those words. She had a tender heart towards everyone.

The joy of yellow was apparent in her. "Sometimes you have to make your own sunshine." She saw no reason to grumble and complain. Through the years I've been thankful she taught me joy was not synonymous with happiness.

Blue's peace was her banner. When someone was upset with her she did whatever she could to bring peace between them. Many times if I was present when someone was unkind to her, she came back and said, "Now they asked forgiveness for saying what they did, so we should forgive them." Even when the apology was, "I meant what I said, but I shouldn't have said it in that way." And when we didn't understand why the same person acted ugly repeatedly, she'd say, "We'll just have to put that in the mystery bag." When I told her my mystery bag was full, she said, "Oh, no. The mystery bag is made from elastic."

Mom's robes of purple were well deserved. She may not have come from royalty, but you'd never know it by her rearing. The purple mixed with lavender's femininity, grace and elegance. She was a lady through and through. Her despair for making a lady out of me was often expressed.

Orange's enthusiasm for all my projects is one of the things I miss most. She was always interested in every word I wrote, and in all my craft projects. If I was trying it, she wanted to also. We laughed, and said we had more fun shopping for materials for our projects than actually making them. We wove baskets, macramed plant hangers, cross stitched, embroidered, quilled, even tried the paints for liquid embroidery, scrapbooked and made cards by the dozen. I'd make a royal mess on the craft table, while my mother's spot was as neat as mine was messy. 

Her green generosity reached everyone. She was happiest when tying a bow around a tiny gift, baking a pie for an adult special needs man, writing a letter or card to her friends or someone from her church and conference. She was pen pals with children. She kept a drawer filled with small gifts, so when God prompted her to give she would have something available. Both my sister and I have our own "drawer." 

The brown of hearth and home was at the top of her list. She never went to Tupperware or Home Interior parties in the evening. If it wasn't a daytime party, she ordered something but wouldn't attend. In the years she didn't have to provide transportation for us to get to school, I remember only one time she wasn't home when we got home from school, and that was the day Daddy cut the top of his finger off and she had to race him to the hospital. Our little house in Glen Campbell was turned into a home with her decorating and warm touches.

Modesty's gray was evident in her outward appearance. She believed in stylish but modest. She didn't think you had to be sloppy and out-of-style to be modest.

Mom loved white. It was a blank canvas to add color to. Yet, in her spiritual life, white was reverence to God and kept pristine. She was active in her church, yet when she was elsewhere Jesus shined through her life.

Although black is not a color we like to think about, it touches all our lives. Mom lost her mother while still a young mother herself. Her first grandbaby lived only a short while, and our Sarah only 8 months. She lost her best friend to an aneurysm and a son-in-law to a massive heart-attack. Yet in all these times she mourned through the words of Job, "The Lord giveth and the taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

My mother's beautiful artwork was amazing, but the colors of her soul painted a much brighter canvas. I can only hope to use her paintbrush.

Linked to:

What Joy Is Mine

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Shaping of God’s Word: Thoughts, Attitudes and Behaviors

I asked myself last week, “How deep does my daily reading of God’s Word go?” I receive encouragement from my reading, I’m challenged to be more like Jesus, and even feel God speak to me through it. But, am I allowing the intensity of God’s Word to shape my thoughts and attitudes?

Political news shapes my knowledge of which candidate to vote for. Friends shape my views on cosmetics, clothes, and reading material. Pastors shape my views about spiritual understanding.  But who shapes my motives? What penetrates my thoughts and impacts my attitudes to make me most like Jesus, the lover of my soul?

It is through the beautiful Word of God that we are molded and shaped into God’s likeness.  Each of us must decide how we read the Bible. Do we read it as a duty, something to be checked off our to-do list? Or do we read it with intensity, asking God to let it penetrate through our carelessness and lack of concentration?

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12).

When we give our concentration to Scripture, it follows us around all day. And as we reflect on the precious words, the shaping of God begins. When we memorize the words, they are waiting in our heart to guide our attitudes.  As we sing Scripture songs, the joy of His Words fills our soul and our behaviors are directly impacted. 

John Stott said, “We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” Let the shaping begin.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

5 Ways to Heal Bruised Hearts

Anyone who knows my husband knows what an easy going, gentle man he is -- which is why I was surprised, in the middle of my peaceful night's sleep, to wake up to him kicking me over and over. I have the bruises to prove it. (Disclaimer: He recalls the incident, but only enough to know that someone was chasing him, and he was trying to save his own life; when I awakened him, we both laughed...)

I wonder how many people with whom we come in contact daily have bruises we can't see. Their husband isn't gentle with his words. A self-proclaimed best friend betrays them. A mother-in-law criticizes how they are raising their kids. An ex- husband tries to turn their children against their ex-wife or vise versa. Their adult children ignore them. They live in a drab house, yet long to turn it into a home.

The bruises are hidden. Hidden behind a smile, hidden behind shyness, hidden by wrapping their arms around themselves in self-preservation. I find them in the requests that come in for our card ministry project. I find them in stores where making eye contact unleashes requests for prayer. I find them in churches where they are ignored by those who profess to be like Christ.

How can we help those with hidden bruises?

1. Be Alert: Too often I am too busy with my writing, my ministry, my family, or my friends that I fail to really look into the eyes of those around me. When I do, I can see their emotional pain. When I'm living in the moment, I am more aware of those around me.

2. Be Kind: Speak kindly. The bruised of heart have been berated over and over. They long for a kind word. Is there something you can compliment them for -- a pretty smile, a job well done, or an insightful comment?

3. Be Helpful: Is there something you can do to help? Send a card, listen, suggest professional help. Take her to the hardware store to pick out paint -- then help her paint a room. Buy some flowers and other "pretties" to give her a spot of beauty in the drabness -- the beginning of an inviting home.

4. Be a Friend: How do we treat our friends? We text, call, or meet for coffee. We watch their kids and meet at the park. We make Christmas cookies together. We share our books, and we are real. We lose our own fake smile and share our days when we dropped the eggs and spoke too sharply to our husband.  We don't treat them like a "project," but treasure the blessing they are.

5. Be a Pray-er: Take your friend to God every. single. day. Leave her in God's hands.  Don't let her seep into your conversations with others. Be faithful to pray. Be faithful to praise. Let her know you are praying for her needs.

So there you have it -- 5 Ways to Reach Out to Bruised Hearts. You'll find gems if you allow God to help you heal hearts.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Baptized in Blessings

My new blog -- Shelter: Postmarked

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

When you ask our oldest grandson, Ethan, what he wants for a gift, he will answer, “money.” At Christmas his answer was, “cold, hard cash.” So in order to fulfill his wish, I put his money gift in the freezer and created a treasure hunt to get him there. I had to come up with another idea quickly, because his birthday is January 8th. I bought him an umbrella and sewed dollar bills to the inside. When he opened it, it “rained” cash.

I’ve had some rained “cash” from God these first few weeks of 2016. Rain in the form of blessings. Ethan knows he’s getting money if that’s what he asks for – he just doesn’t know how it will be gifted. I know when I ask God for help, encouragement, or any need, He will answer. I just don’t know the vehicle for the blessings. 

My blessings have been raining from text messages, emails, mail, and friends. I’m overwhelmed, blessed, and humbled that the God of the universe sees me. He not only sees me, He blesses me with daily blessings. Some answers are needs, but my Heavenly Father takes many of my “wishes” and baptizes me with additional blessings.

Today I’m cozy, out of the cold. Yes, it’s a cold in Indiana day, but despite the freezing temperatures outdoors, I’m warm in my soul. It’s like the Holy Spirit tucked a blanket around my heart and rained down joy upon my head. I asked. He surprised me with the answers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Check Out My New Blog

Here's the link to my new blog: Shelter: Postmarked. I'll still be posting here, but if you're a snail mail encouragement lover, then come over and sign up for the mailing list. Not only will you find inspiration, but you can count your postmarks with us. While you're there, enter the giveaway of a book choice, note cards, a book of stamps and more.