The Incredible Power of Memory

Today I walked in the rain, sheltered by my big black umbrella and enjoying a brief time with the Lord in my corner of his creation. My walk took me a half-mile down our country road to Lake Winnebago.

I smiled as I discovered deep blue violets and graceful wild geraniums growing along the roadside. During the months of May in my childhood, I picked bouquets of these pretty blossoms and other wildflowers to delight my mother. Those were sweet times.

Today birds whistling, trilling, and chirruping with all their hearts presented a great symphony that filled the morning air. Again I smiled, recalling all the springtime mornings I awakened to their joyous songs.

Memory is a powerful tool. That’s probably why God invites us to remember those times when he has answered our prayers and helped us. Why bother to remember? Because such memories cheer and encourage us. They help us hang on when life becomes difficult. They remind us that God is good. He deeply loves us and has filled his Word with wonderful promises of all he delights in doing for us.

Has God answered a prayer dear to your heart? Remember and be encouraged. Has God restored your health or the health of someone you love? Remember and be filled with thanksgiving. Has God given you the wisdom or strength to overcome an obstacle in your life? Remember and sing his praises. Keep a treasury of your memories of God’s goodness. It will encourage you to trust him today and in the days to come.

Focus: “I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts” ~ Psalm 77:11-12, New Living Translation.

How about you? What memories of God’s goodness do you hold dear to your heart?

(This blog post adapted from a May 2001 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love with Shoes On.)

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Fear not!

Talk abut fear! On the night Jesus was born, shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem trembled with fear. From what I hear, we would, too, if we saw these magnificent beings.

But to go on with the story …

A mighty angel suddenly appeared–bright against the night sky–to deliver the joyful news that the promised Savior had been born nearby. But first he had to assure the quaking shepherds. “Fear not!” (Luke 2:10, New King James Version). Soon the shepherds were on their way to find this newborn baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Just as the angel from the Lord had told them.

Fear not! During his lifetime on earth, Jesus repeated those words again and again. And they are as much for us today as they were for people long ago.

Yet, I’ll never forget waking in the wee hours one night. A suffocating cloud of fear descended on me. After a few moments of panic, I remembered Jesus’ words to fear not. “Lord,” I said, “I give this fear to you.” Then I quoted aloud every Scripture verse I could recall to deal with that fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7). “Perfect love [that’s God!] casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). On and on I went until the fear dissolved, and I drifted back into a restful sleep.

Here’s the truth. We are not at the mercy f fear–whether it is fear of the unknown or the challenges that life throws at us. We have a God who is bigger than all our fear. We have a God whose tender compassion compel him to come along side us the moment we cry out to him. We have a God who has given us his Word so that  we can speak his truth and be comforted. We have a God who drives away whatever fear we place in his hands with childlike trust.

It’s his promise.

Focus: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you” ~ Isaiah 26:3 (New Living Translation).

How about you? What fear are you dealing with today? What might happen if you trust your faithful God to deliver you from it?

Thanksgiving Living

On Thanksgiving Day in 1942, Dorothy was a beautiful, twenty-four-year-old bride. Over the years that followed, she and her husband raised seven children. They’s didn’t have much money, but they provided a home filled with faith in God.

Every Sunday they took their children to church. Every school year, they made room in their budget to send those children to Christian school. Every evening her children could find her on her knees at her bedside, bringing their needs to God in prayer.

During the early years, Dorothy cleaned, cooked, canned, and sewed to stretch each dollar to provide her family with the best her talents could offer. As the older children entered school, she added a part-time job as a waitress in family restaurants. None of her children lacked for love or care. Neither did her church family. Both she and her husband supported their church with their tithes and their talents.

Fifty years passed quickly. Surrounded by family and friends, Dorothy and her bridegroom of long ago celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary, including the renewing their vows before God in church. Eighteen months later–again in the company of family and friends–she laid her husband to rest.

This year Dorothy celebrated her ninety-seventh birthday. In a world consumed with the threat of an unstable economy, how does a ninety-seven-year-old widow on social security and a small pension manage? Who cares for her?

God cares for her! He not only provides for her needs but delights her heart through her children’s loving care. He surprises her with unexpected gifts, gives her the health to enjoy living in her small apartment in a lovely retirement community, and answers the prayers of her grateful heart. Surrounded by her loved ones, Dorothy lives quite well as she always has–by her faith in the Lord God whom she serves daily with thanksgiving.

Focus: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7, New International Version.

How about you? How have you seen God provide for your needs in surprising ways as you walk in thanksgiving living?

Who’s in Control?

I woke in the middle of the night and starred into the darkness. Would I be all right while traveling half way across the country and navigating huge, unfamiliar airports on my way to a writers’ conference? Would our son and daughter-in-law snag a low-interest mortgage to purchase their first home? Had I measured and ordered accurately so that my husband would have little trouble installing our new kitchen cabinets? Had I …?

Worries whirled in my head, tumbling over one another and gaining speed. At this rate, I would win the Olympic God Medal for worry and finish well ahead of any competitor. Not good!

In his Word, God repeatedly urges us not to worry, not to be afraid.

By worrying, can we change anything?

  • Would worry turn my cross country trip into a trouble-free journey? No, but trusting the details to God and thanking him for his goodness would ensure a trip filled with his good will.
  • Would worry about my son’s first house mortgage make a difference? No. For Pete’s sake, it wasn’t even my business! But I could ask God  to give him and his wife wisdom and the right opportunity. I could give the situation to God and thank him that he loved them and would see them safely through their newest family adventure.
  • Would worry about the kitchen remodeling project make any problems go away? No, but asking God to guide us and thanking him for his gift of wisdom to overcome each challenge would take us safely through to completion.

The bottom line: If we want success and peace, God says we can have it. First, by remembering who’s in control–not us but our God Almighty who loves us. Second, by following his instructions (see below).

Focus: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” ~ Philippians 4:67, New Living Translation.

How about you? In what situations have you overcome worry and experienced God’s peace by turning to God in prayer?

When God Steps In

The crew fought to direct the ship’s course, but a fierce northeaster drove it out to sea. Strengthening the hull with thick ropes, they let the ship run with the winds. Finally, they lowered an anchor, hoping to keep the vessel from being stuck on a sandbar and battered to fragments by the violent waves.

The storm continued through the night and into the next day … and fear set in. Seizing cargo, equipment and anything else they could lay their hands on, the crew threw it all overboard. They could do no more, and the storm raged on until all hope was gone.

Then God stepped in.

He sent a messenger to Paul, a prisoner aboard the ship bound for Rome, to tell him what they could expect. “Take courage!” Paul told the others. “None of you will lose your lives” (Acts 27:22, New Living Translation. Yes, they would be shipwrecked, but all would survive.

Sixteen days after the storm began, the ship ran aground near Malta. Waves broke their vessel apart, but all 276 souls aboard made it safely to shore.

Each of us has faced–or will one day face–at least one storm that will batter us to our knees. Its unrelenting nature may drive us to the place where we wonder if any hope is left.

The amazing thing is that when we finally turn to God in prayer and put our hope in his goodness to bring about the needed change, he steps in. Maybe not the way we prayed or expected, but at the right time and in the best way possible for all concerned. In the meantime, we have no reason to lose hope.

Focus: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” ~ Romans 15:13, New Living Translation.

What about you? In what relentless storm in life have you found God faithful to step in at the right time and the best possible way?

Facing the Empty Nest

Who is like you, O Lord? Your beauty is in all your creation. The words welled up in my aching heart as I sat alone outside my campgrounds tent.

No longer would I hold the hand of a small boy and guide him through life. My youngest son would soon be off to college. His whole senior year had been a series of goodbyes: his last high school drama, his last forensic competition, his last musical play, his last choral concert, his last prom. Then graduation. Would this be our last vacation as a family?

A Great sadness engulfed me. My life was changing, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the empty nest.

But somehow I sensed God reaching out to comfort me in the unfolding beauty of dawn. Dry weeds hugging the sandy soil like a delicate carpet of dusty rose. Oak trees standing tall against a blue sky, their leaves shining in the rising sun. In a flash of black and white, a red-headed woodpecker flew to a nearby tree, its busy rat-a-tat-tats echoing in the quiet of the morning. Below, a chipmunk darted across the campgrounds in bursts of quick rhythm.

Then I caught my breath. A small, fair-haired boy marched up the hill to the bathhouse, shouting, “I’m Jeremy! Follow me!”

His words hung in the air as I remembered a similar call years ago. “I’m Jesus. Come, follow me!”

I’ve never regretted answering His call. Through good times and bad, I’ve experienced God’s unfailing love. One thing will never change. I can go fearlessly into the coming years because my God will go with me.  Therefore, today and every day …

Focus: “My soul will rejoice in the lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, O Lord?’ ~ Psalm 35:9-10, New International Version.

NOTE: This piece first appeared Sing a New Song, an anthology of devotions for women complied by Mary Beckwith (Evergreen Publications, 1991). Funny how, though I wrote it many years ago, its truth encourages me today.

How about you? What gives you the confidence to face uncertain days?

(The blog post adapted from a July 1991 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

Mother’s Day Tears

“I love you, Mom.”

Her thirty-five-year-old daughter’s words entered Sara’s heart in the midst of a pleasant phone conversation. Then the two returned to the subject they had been discussing. Later, before they hung up, her daughter again uttered those words, and Sara knew her child had turned a life-changing corner. A soft joy spread its light through her heart.

In years past, their relationship had gone through hard times. Her daughter entered those teen years, determined to run her own life though obviously not ready. Like many mothers, Sara shed oceans of tears and knew endless nights of anguished prayer as she repeatedly failed in her attempts at mothering her daughter.

Blaming herself, Sara dreaded Mother’s Day and the church service with its inevitable reading of Proverbs 31. The wonderful passage that paints a portrait of the perfect woman in God’s eyes seemed to mock her, especially verse 28: “Her children arise and call her blessed” (NIV). Mother’s Day became a time of deep sorrow.

Nevertheless, she continued to love her daughter and pray for her. In Sara’s heart, she felt the Lord urging her not to abandon her child even as He did not abandon His children. So, she put her faith in God to accomplish what only He could do in her daughter’s life.

Sadly, it’s true. Mother’s Day is not a joy to all. Some endure this day with broken hearts for children–even grown children–who have not yet come to love God and enjoy the wonder of His healing in their lives. Many grieve over broken relationships with their children who make destructive life choices. But for those mothers who choose to stand steadfastly with the Lord on behalf of their children, God has a promise …

Focus: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” ~ Psalm 126:5 (New International Version).

How about you? As a parent, can you relate to Sara’s story and her mother’s heart?

(This blog post adapted from a may 2002 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)