Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Book Review: When God Weeps




When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty

This book speaks to times such as we are experiencing with the coronavirus. If God is loving, why do we suffer? What purpose does suffering serve? How should Christians respond to suffering? How does God respond to our suffering?

Authors Joni EarecksonTada and Steven Estes offer much to ponder. For instance, they suggest God may let us struggle with the remnants of a sinful nature to remind us of the hell from which we are being saved. After all, when life is easy how much thought do we give to eternity for ourselves and others? They discuss whether God permits suffering or ordains it.

The book is worth purchasing just for the Appendices. Appendix A offers scripture on how God ultimately works for the good of his people, ruling over nature and over Satan and demons. Appendix B offers scripture related to God’s purpose for our sufferings. And Appendix C discusses whether God experiences grief. I will keep the book handy as a ready reference.

The first two chapters by Estes seemed long to me, but I enjoyed Tada’s writing throughout the rest of the book. Since she has lived her adult life as a quadriplegic, she knows of what she speaks. Her challenging trials have drawn her closer to her Savior. May we say the same.

Published by Zondervan in 1997, the book’s message is timeless. A thoughtful read.





The "If Onlys" of Life


Today would be the 45th birthday of our daughter, Christy Marie. Her birth and her death a few hours later greatly impacted my life as I sought to better know the God Who permitted this tragedy. Each year we put daffodils on her grave on her birthday. May this devotional thought offer hope to you during this time of unexpected circumstances. You will survive.

Guilt Trip to Avoid: I am at fault.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s My Fault by Shirley

When I became pregnant, our young sons were excited at the prospect of a baby sister or brother. But I soon experienced early contractions and had to be confined to bed and later hospitalized. Five weeks before my due date the doctor sent me home, saying that even if I delivered, the baby would be fine. He was wrong.

            Christy Marie was born early on an April Fools Day morning, but I felt God had surely played a cruel April Fools Day joke on us. Her lungs were not fully developed, and she soon found heaven’s air easier to breathe. We were devastated, and I felt guilty. If only I had not sat up when company came. If only I had prayed more. If only . . . .

            Life is full of “if only’s,” but events cannot be undone. We must accept that our Sovereign God permits deaths and tragedies. It may take years to work through grief, but the good news is that we can trust God’s grace to use difficult experiences to conform us to his Image.

            Take the Joy Ride: Solomon showed his wisdom when he penned verses about trusting God. That is truly the secret to a happy life. We will never have all the answers, but we can trust the one who does and accept what we cannot change. Write out any “if onlys” you have and tuck them away. In a year, read them to see how God has used the struggles of your life to grow you as a Christian.


#Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Philippians from Memory


Dear Friends,

I want to share with you my 15-minute presentation of the book of Philippians from memory with the hope that some verses encourage your heart as we face this Coronavirus pandemic.

To view the video go to YouTube and search for my name under a photo of Friends of the Heart. Here is a direct link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6L9afGR2ibgbsLMPHZE-9A

Or if you are on Facebook, you can see the video on our Friends of the Heart page or on my personal page.

Trust you are staying safe and well. God is faithful.

Shirley

Friday, March 20, 2020

Five Ways to Face a Pandemic with Faith



Five Ways to Face a Pandemic with Faith

We live in scary times. Wars and rumors of wars. Natural disasters. Coronavirus has struck our nation. Will it visit our town? Our home? Yes, it may. But I’d like to share five truths I’m hanging onto as we walk together on shaky ground.

1.     Remember God is on His Throne.

I’ve been giving this subject a lot of thought as my husband and I navigate the senior years. Can we pray for wellness and expect God to heal us when we are in the final decades of life? Well, we pray, but we also know that we are in God’s hands experiencing an age and stage that He has designed. So we rest in the assurance that He is in control no matter our age and no matter the world situation.

When Job questioned God’s wisdom about his own illness, God never “explained” things to Job. He simply pointed out His Sovereignty: “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness . . . when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’” (Job 38:8-11).

That same God governs nature today, from the most powerful waves to the most potent virus. Calm your fears by remembering God is in control. Pray and ask Him to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

And do your part to halt the spread as well. Wash your hands. Respect boundaries. Be considerate. Look after those in need. This is a great time to represent God to your neighbors.

2.     Remember God is present; He will never leave you.

God has promised: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). Like the song says, you’ll never walk alone.

Sometimes He touches us through the hearts of friends offering assistance, through the hands of medical personnel offering healing, through the wise counsel of pastors and teachers. Sometimes His Spirit calms us as we look to Him in the night. Remember: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7).

As you discipline yourself to wash your hands and care for your family, discipline yourself to look to God for His peace and power to soldier through tough times. Calm your feelings by remembering God is your refuge and strength.

3.     Remember God uses all things to the Christian’s good.

How in the world can something called a “pandemic” be used for good? Perhaps it makes us more mindful of our blessings. Perhaps it forces us to interact more thoughtfully. Perhaps it brings us to our knees as we seek God’s good for ourselves and our nation.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son . . . ” (Romans 8:28-29).

The greatest good that can come of any experience is that it makes us more like Christ. Ask for wisdom and commonsense in caring for your family, going about your work, managing your finances. Watch how God works in your own life and the lives of those around you. Calm your panic by remembering God works in mysterious ways.

4.     Remember God has greater things in mind than our personal comfort.

We want a quick fix. We want “the answer.” We like to be healthy and happy and go our merry ways without a care in the world. And perhaps without a thought about God. Facing challenges toughens us, builds our character and makes us consider what purpose God has in mind for us and our families.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control, and to self-control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, mutual affection, and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:5-8).

Do we not need such qualities? And is this not an ideal time for them to sprout and grow? What if going through this tough time will bring us to a better place in life?

Calm your present discomfort by considering how you may someday look back and say it was worth it all to gain deeper relationships with others and a deeper knowledge of God. God is a good good Father who overcomes even calamities with good.

5.     Remember God offers heaven when life on earth becomes unbearable.

This is not all there is. Like the book title: Heaven is for Real.

Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)

If life on this earth becomes unbearable, Jesus will take us home. Are you ready to meet Him? He came to earth, died to take the punishment we deserve for our sins. Our part is to recognize we need a Savior and acknowledge Him as Lord of our lives. If you’ve never done that, now is the time to pray, ask forgiveness and thank Jesus for showing His great love for you.

When I was a girl, I often pondered a sign posted on the front of a local home that faced a stop sign: “Prepare to Meet Your God.” Are you  prepared? Calm your worries about the future by remembering heaven awaits—now or later. Eternal life begins the moment we leave this earth. Be ready.

If you find this post helpful, feel free to share.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Saturday, February 29, 2020

How to Find Joy in the Journey




Have you ever chosen a word for the year? A word you want to feel, to show, to experience?

“Joy” is my word for 2020. I even found a “JOY” plaque to hang by my computer.

At this age and stage, “joy” is not always easy to come by. Where is the joy when, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “the strong men stoop,” “windows grow dim,” and “the sound of grinding fades”? In other words, our shoulders droop, we lose our eyesight, our hearing and so much more. Where is the joy in that? But the better question is, where is God in that?

In my season as a young mother, joy came from watching first steps, hearing first words, cheering Ted and Terry on at milestones—games, birthdays, confirmations. Frustrated by the challenges of child rearing, I sometimes read Psalms and at times even cried as I prayed with the psalmist. But the time spent praying and reading God’s Word brought me into God’s Presence, quieted my spirit and strengthened me to wipe runny noses and settle sibling squabbles. In God’s Presence, I found joy.

More tears came during years of grief that followed the death of our infant daughter. What happened? Why? I memorized Psalm 42. The psalmist wrote of feeling “downcast,” yet he would “hope in God.” The psalmist wrote of feeling settled one minute and broken the next. That’s grief. While I didn’t feel “joyous,” I felt peace as I determined better to know the God of the psalmist.

In my season of working as a director of Christian education, I found joy in serving God in His house. The psalmist wrote: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord (Psalm 84:1-2). The joy of serving God’s people, leading, organizing, encouraging. What a privilege.

That was followed by a season of searching. I had prepared myself for Christian ministry. What could I now do since I was no longer employed? I pasted a verse to the front of my computer and enrolled in journalism courses. “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). That verse fostered joy in my heart.

As my family grew there was the joy of watching sons find spouses and establish homes. Then of welcoming grandchildren into the family, hosting sleepovers. That joy was sometimes tamped down with illnesses and conflicting schedules that kept us too busy to connect, but those have been fun years that continue—with joy.

As I searched for direction, I discovered the joy of writing and then of publishing a book, which led to the joy of speaking with Kim and Janine as Friends of the Heart. That too poses challenges as we match schedules with invitations and travel to events. But there’s great joy in watching women deepen relationships with God.

Now Bill and I experience the senior years. Some tasks that used to be so easy require all the energy we can muster. Joy now comes from watching cardinals flitting around the birdfeeder, deer running through the woods. From eating crab cakes at The Wooden Nickel. Then there is the deep peace and joy that comes from journeying together through 58 years of marriage, through watching my family grow and most of all through seeing the faithfulness of God at every single turn of events.

Where is God in all this? God is right where he is at every season of life. And He alone is the source of our joy. “In thy Presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). I memorized that verse along with children I taught in Good News Club many years ago. And it’s true. We may not always be happy, but we can always, always, find joy in Christ.

Of course there are discouraging days as we wrestle with everything from colds to cancer. But then I remember my word for the year—joy—and, as I read God’s word and pray, I find joy and strength for the day. Joy depends on your view of God, not on your circumstances.

Where are you on your journey? Are you finding joy? If not, are you looking for it at the right places and on the right pages? Read God’s Word. Pray. And look for bright spots in your day that spark joy. Shift your mind from the problem to the Problem Solver and press on. The ultimate joy for all of us lies ahead in heaven. In. His. Presence.  #findingjoy #friendsoftheheart.us #inhispresence