Finding God

Chaos.

In the first month of 2018, I’ve lived a chaotic life. My family has endured sickness, unexpected delays, car problems, financial setbacks, unexpected obligations, personal sadness, disappointments, and a general uncertainty about the future. It’s enough to make me throw up my hands and cry, “Why, God? Why me?”

Have you felt like this?

Elijah, the prophet, did. Throughout King Ahab’s reign in 1 Kings, he had been a thorn in the king’s side. Elijah delivered messages from God to the king about Ahab’s disobedience, soundly defeated the prophets of Baal in an epic showdown at the altars on Mt. Carmel, and made an staunch enemy in Jezebel, the queen.

When Jezebel had most of the prophets of Israel killed and promised to kill Elijah as well, he ran and hid. But, Elijah couldn’t escape the presence of God. When God confronted him, Elijah began to whine.

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:10-12 NLT)

Whining. I have a PhD in whining. It’s my most unattractive quality. It happens when I forget my gratitude for all that God has done for me. Elijah misplaced his gratitude as well.

In a display of natural forces that only God could orchestrate, Elijah watched as a violent wind demolished parts of the mountain. He felt the earth tremble and shake. He witnessed the raging fire as it swept past.

After all the chaos of the natural elements, there remained the only thing that could possibly give Elijah peace: the gentle whisper of God.

God is not in the chaos of our lives. Don’t look for Him there. Chaos belongs to Satan. He reigns supreme in lies, disappointment, and chaos. He deals it out to us daily. And when we lift our hands and cry, “Why God? Why me?,” Satan thinks he’s won.

But that still, small voice. The voice of reason. The Source of peace. The Presence if the Almighty.

Father, help me to remember during the chaos of life to stop and listen for Your voice; for Your whisper. Help me always be grateful so that I don’t have time to complain. Thank you for your peace that passes understanding. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Who is the King of My Heart?

As much as I would like to say that there is nothing above God in my life, I cannot. I fail miserably each and every day in giving Him first place.

So what kind of things do I place ahead of Him?

Family

Friends

Personal Desires

Frivolous Activities

“Me” Time

Sinful Thoughts and Actions

Preoccupation with Worldly Things

I was hit full force with this realization as I reached for my phone and my Bible this morning. I am in a Bible study of 1 & 2 Kings on my First 5 app. (Go to first5.org to check out this wonderful study tool from Proverbs 31 Ministries.)

As I clicked on the app, I thought, “I’m going to hurry through this and check out my social media apps and see what’s happening today.”

Then I read the scripture from 1 Kings chapter 16. The entire chapter is about God’s people choosing everyone and everything over God. I thought, “Don’t you people ever learn?”

And then God’s still small voice said, “But Sandy, do you?”

Whitney Capps wrote the commentary on 1 Kings 16. This is profound: Self is a terrible king.

What do we relinquish when we make ourselves king of our lives? We trade God’s riches which are great blessings for the paltry things we collect in the physical realm. We trade His omnipotence for the measly strength we can muster. We trade His omniscience for narrow-minded, short-sighted, limited wisdom of our own brains. We trade peace that passes understanding for fear, hopelessness, and uncertainty.

I am married to the world’s biggest baseball fan. Something happened the year we were married that I’ll never forget. In 1987, the Detroit Tigers baseball organization traded up-and-coming pitcher Greg Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves for Alexander Doyle. While Doyle did help Detroit get to the postseason games, he was sidelined in a play and never fully recovered, eventually retiring in 1989. John Smoltz went on to team up with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and their “triple threat” pitching for the Braves is legendary.

In the end, it was a wonderful trade for Atlanta but not so much for Detroit. While no one could have predicted what happened to Doyle in postseason play, we can be certain of what will happen in our lives when we replace God with self.

Whitney closes her commentary with this:

When we dethrone God, we set ourselves on a path to hard times. It might not look like it now, but the spiral is coming and like this chapter, it will be hard to get through. I want to learn Israel’s lesson. I know my heart, and I know just how selfish I can be. I can’t be trusted with a throne, but He can.

I’m making a new effort starting now to insure that God is the rightful King of my heart.

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Living in a Material World (When You’re Not a Material Girl): Part 2

So, the world is obsessed with our weight. (It’s also obsessed with our age, our youthful appearance or the lack thereof, our incomes, and our political affiliations.) It has its own opinion of us, but we have to embrace that, while other people may hold their opinions of us, those opinions are not facts.

I wish the world was more concerned with the condition of our hearts, but that’s not the job of the world. That’s God’s job. In part one of this post, I shared what the world says about us in regard to our weight. Now, I want to share some descriptions that God, who made us, has used about us. These are not just my imaginings…they’re from His holy scripture. If you click on the words (underlined and highlighted in blue), you can read the scripture that addresses each of these descriptions. These are God’s opinions of us, and His opinion is the only opinion that is a FACT.

God does not make worthless thing

If Jesus is our Savior, each of us is God’s child. We are friends and confidantes of Jesus. We have been justified and redeemed by grace so that we are blameless. Because we are set free from the laws of sin and death, we are fellow heirs to God’s throne. God has called us saints (God’s holy people) who have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.  God loves us so much that He has sent His Spirit to live in us. We can live in victory and triumph over all things because we belong to Him — there is no such thing as defeat when you are a child of God! We are part of God’s plan and He has made us promise keepers! We are chosen, holy, and loved.

If you grew up in Sunday School, I’ll guess that you were taught the story of creation many times in your life. There are reasons we read, re-read, and re-study God’s word — there are lessons to be learned every time. There are nuances that we may miss or that God chooses to reveal to us at different times in our spiritual lives. I want to share something that I believe God revealed to me in a study of Genesis while I was teaching a class for three-year-olds about two years ago. This was not an accident. This was an on-purpose, God-delivered, simple revelation that He sent to me right before my own health crisis was revealed during a medical appointment in June 2015. It changed my whole perspective about how God sees us, His creation…His handiwork.

I love that, after God made each part of His creation, He surveyed His work and declared it good. Of course it was good! God made it.

On that sixth day of creation, God made humans. He wasn’t arbitrary about our composition. He didn’t wing it and hope He came up with something that was pleasing. He made us in His own image! And when He had made us and surveyed his work, He didn’t just declare that we were good, He said that we were very good.

Why is that important?

It’s important because who we look like in our physical selves is a defining factor about who we are individually. If you observe parents with their children, especially after a baby is born, someone is always trying to see who the baby looks like. Sharing physical looks with parents or other family members helps us know who we are and to whom we belong.

Despite all the physical factors that come together to give us our facial features, body type, and body components, we ultimately ALL look like God because we were created in His image. To be fully and completely His, is to accept how God’s made us physically and become like Him spiritually by becoming more like Christ.

Thomas-Merton-Quote-To-say-that-I-am-made-in-the-image-of-God-is

The world will never get that. It’s why we cannot be agents of this world, conformed to its ways and slaves to its obsessions. It’s why I will never be a material girl, even though I live in this material world. I am God’s masterpiece, His very good handiwork. So are you, friends.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, else matters.

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The God of All Things

I love a good bargain, especially children’s items because children grow fast and outgrow things just as quickly. I am not opposed to purchasing gently-used items for my granddaughter, Joshlyn. I am a member of several online groups where other members offer used items for sale in a variety of conditions. I don’t buy just anything. If one item is purchased by someone else, another item that is similar will come along in a day or two. I have learned to watch and wait for a bargain. Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to bargain-hunting.

The night before we left on vacation, I saw a nearly-new bicycle on my Fayetteville Online Yard Sale group that would be perfect for Joshlyn, but it was midnight and I was leaving at 5:30 a.m. the next day, so there was no time to make the purchase before we left. Sales online go swiftly and I would never ask a seller to hold something for me for two reasons: one, most do not know me personally and don’t realize that when I say I’ll come get the item, I mean it; and two, if something were to happen that would prevent me from picking up the item, I would cause the seller to miss a chance to make a sale, and that’s just not fair.

I commented that I liked the bicycle and if it were still available when I got back from vacation, I’d contact her and make arrangements to pick it up. She said she understood completely. On our second day of vacation, the seller posted that the bicycle was no longer available. I was disappointed but, as I said before, bargains come and bargains go.

Let me share with you one of the scriptures that accompanied my daily devotion on that Tuesday morning:

Take delight in the Lordand He will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4 (NLT)

Now, let me insert a little information about my dear friend and neighbor, Jerry Ann. She has two precious fur babies that I walk three times a day while her husband, Richard, works and she visits her daughters and grandbabies in Georgia. Since I keep my granddaughter while my son and daughter-in-love work, Joshlyn always goes with me to walk the dogs and has become quite the helper in this endeavor. We have just decided that Sasha and Pixie are part of our extended family because they’re the sweetest little dogs in the world.

Wednesday morning, I got a message from Jerry Ann, “When will you be home from vacation?”

“We’ll be back on Friday,” I texted.

“Well, I purchased that bicycle for your granddaughter,” she replied.

WHAT?

“The bicycle I was following on Facebook?” I asked incredulously. “Thank you! I will pay you for it when we get back.”

“I saw your note, called Richard, and had him pick it up.” she offered. “You owe me nothing. You and Joshlyn love our girls and we just wanted to do something nice for the two of you.”

Just like that, God took care of the desire of my heart. I didn’t know that He was going to do it and I certainly didn’t expect Him to do it in this way. In fact, I was willing to accept that this bicycle was just not in God’s plan for us.

Some of you reading this will say, “But it was a BICYCLE…do you really think God cares whether your granddaughter has a bicycle when there’s so much going on in the world.”

To that, I answer, “Yes! I do think He cares.”

I have a little poem that explains how God cares for us:

God is the God of big things and small things;

God is the God of all things.

God has answered so many prayers in my life that I cannot count them all. Some have been huge answers – such as the adoption of our three children or bringing my husband, Kelly, through leukemia into remission (and keeping him there for five plus years). Some have been very small answers – like finding a parking space upfront when I’m having a terrible back pain day or when someone buys a bicycle for my granddaughter completely out of the blue, just to be nice.

God spoke this to Jeremiah:

Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come. Jeremiah 33:3 (NLT)

If you are in the midst of waiting on unanswered prayer, God may bring that answer to you through something or someone unexpected. And never, ever assume that because it’s something little or seemingly insignificant, that it’s not God’s concern. If it’s happening to one of His children, it’s His concern. To believe anything else, is to put God in a box and take away His great power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can I Pray for You?

Pain. It’s my constant companion. Sometimes, it’s containable. Sometimes it runs roughshod and I get beaten up in the process. I am thankful for doctors who have guided me along the way with therapy and medications that allow me to function as normally as I possibly can. God sends blessings to me from every direction.

In this pain, I found that I must go on with what lies in front of me because I cannot curl up in a ball and wait for it to go away. I used to look at this chronic pain as a curse. I was angry with God for many years. Then He opened my eyes and showed me all the things that I’ve been blessed with because of this condition. It took me a while, but I began to see how God has moved in my life because of this pain — how it’s made me a more compassionate person who feels the pain of others deeply. Being able to show my empathy is a great blessing. I’ve been called to reach out to others, as we all have, but God has taken this pain of mine and made it a source of LOVE instead of LOATHING.

Image Source:  www.fbresearch.org

There are other kinds of pain that have come along with my physical pain. I have also recognized that this is a blessing because it has made me more aware of the hearts of those who are hurting in ways that cannot be seen. I have learned to be kind to everyone I meet because there are those who are bearing their own burdens. If a word or smile or touch from me can make a difference, then I ask God to put me in the path of those who need it most.

Image Source:  www.juxtapost.com

Throughout the past twenty-two years in this journey tinged with pain, Jesus has been my anchor EVERY SINGLE DAY — even on those days when I couldn’t speak the words out loud. Jesus knew my heart and He could hear the prayers of my heart.

My dear friends, He knows your heart as well. He sees your hurt and fears. He longs to comfort you. Your name is on His lips.

Image Source:  www.endtimeprophecy1012-2013.blogspot,com

Each Friday, some wonderful prayer warrior friends and I hold a prayer service.  (FRIDAY AT THE ALTAR (11am EST/8am PST).)  Can we pray for you?

If you just want to be added to the prayer list just leave your name here or go to “Loved by the King” (my companion Facebook page) and click LIKE. If you have a specific prayer request, leave a comment with a the request. If it’s an intensely personal request, you can email me or message me on Facebook. Most of all, I ask that you join with me in corporate prayer for everyone who’s asked for prayer.  The list is long and I never remove a name unless an answer has been sent or unless I’m asked to remove it.  And you don'[t have to know who is on the prayer list because God does and He knows their needs. 

Will you join us?

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I Will Rise” (Chris Tomlin)

Fighting Fear with Faith and Hope

Bone.  Marrow.  Biopsy.

Three words I hoped I’d never hear again.  But that’s where we were on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at the UNC Cancer Hospital when Kelly’s blood work numbers came back askew.   Not all the numbers were bad.  In fact, all the numbers were in the normal range — except for the one number that really counts, his absolute neutrophils.  Neutrophils are white blood cells that fight off infection.  Kelly’s neutrophil number was 1, meaning he had about 1,000 of those cells to fight off infection in his body.  That’s a problem because normal absolute neutrophils will range from 1.8 to 7.7.  In July, his absolute neutrophil number was 4.2 — the best it’s been since he went into remission.  When he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, his neutrophil number was 0.

Neutrophils.jpgNeutrophils (The most abundant white blood cells in most mammals.)

Image Source:  www.wikipedia.com

When we were discussing options, Dr. Foster looked at Kelly and said, “Another bone marrow biopsy is an option.  I know a biopsy is uncomfortable.”

Uncomfortable,” Kelly replied wryly.  “Is when your underwear rides up.  Bone marrow biopsies are excruciating.  But it’s the only way we’ll know for sure what’s going on, so let’s do it.”

So, this past Monday, two years, ten months, and 27 days from the first time he had a bone marrow biopsy, he lay on a gurney at the UNC Cancer Hospital having his sixth one.  He was face down, waiting patiently while Dr. Van (his other cancer doctor) was preparing the site where the needle would be inserted.  I was holding his hand and it just didn’t seem like it was enough, so I got on my knees by the gurney and laid my head next to his so that we could be face to face.

Image Source:  www.riversideonline.com

We prayed.  We cried.  He gasped in pain as they numbed his hip.  Silent tears rolled down his cheeks as Dr. Van used three separate vials to aspirate marrow samples.

Image Source:  www.bing.com

It’s hard to watch the man who is your earthy rock go through so much pain.  It makes you feel so small.  And I remembered several scriptures and began to pray them:

 All you who put your hope in the Lord be strong and brave.  (Psalm 31:24, NCV)

Always respect the Lord.  Then you will have hope for the future, and your wishes will come true. (Proverbs 23:17b-18, NCV)

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.  (Roman 12:12, NCV)

When I had no more words, I sang.

I sang “How Great is Our God*” by Chris Tomlin.

I sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness*.”

I sang “He is with Us*,” by Love and the Outcome.

I sang “Amazing Grace*,” which led into “Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone*,” by Chris Tomlin.

We were holding each other’s hands so tightly that our fingers were white.  So I poured out my tears, a language that only God truly understands.  And in near silence, Dr. Van continued to work.

Image Source:  www.bing.com

And Kelly broke the silence, not with a gasp of pain, but with these prayerful words, sung so softly that I might have missed it if I hadn’t been so close to him:

In seasons of despair and grief, my soul has often found relief… I’ll cast on Him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.*”

Almost immediately, Dr. Van said, “There is power in the Blood.  And I know that you both know that God has this — either way.”

I usually write something about weight loss on Wednesday — physical weight loss.  Today’s post is about losing the weight of a spiritual burden.  I took a great deal of fear with me into that procedure room, but I came out feeling light and full of hope.

What will the biopsy show?  We don’t know.  But we know God’s got this — either way.

*To listen to each song, just click on the title.  “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is sung by George Beverly Shea, who for years was the voice of the music at all the Billy Graham Crusades.  Kelly loves Billy Graham and loved to hear GBS sing.

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Faith It Forward: Tricia Edwards Smith

O death, where is your victory?  Where is your power to hurt? (1 Corinthians 15:55 ERV)

Thursday, October 17, 2013, the angels came to collect my friend, Tricia, and escort her home to Jesus.  Her long and arduous fight with cancer was done.  After years of praying for it, she was finally healed.

Todd & Tricia

Image Source:  www.facebook.com/tricia.smith

But her fight has not been in vain.  In her fight to live, I saw an extreme display of faith that has forever changed me. I watched as her family, her church, and her community rallied around her to offer her strength through prayer and an outpouring of love through deeds of kindness.  The irony of it all is that while we were offering Tricia our strength, she was giving us hers.

Her husband Todd, and sons Carter, Aaron, and Nathan brought her such joy and she was the light of their world.  Her parents, Nancy and Landon Edwards, raised Tricia in a Christian home, full of love and laughter.  Todd and Tricia established the same kind of home for their family.  She had a close, loving relationship with her brother and sisters, Mike Edwards, Pamela Edwards Pritchard, and Teresa Edwards Pritchard.  Her nieces and nephews adored her.

Her friends were another source of joy to Tricia.  A Facebook page, “Friends of Tricia,” was established so we could share with her our thoughts and prayers.  Hundreds of messages were added each day.  She was never far from my thoughts and when I had even the smallest bit of time, I would read each and every message (many of them prayers) and lift them up to God as well.

Never one to think of her own needs first, she was constantly looking out for the needs of others and it led her into healthcare.  As a critical care nurse, she loved caring for others and she was good at her job.  She worked well into her battle with cancer, refusing to let it keep her from the profession she was so obviously made for.  It was not only her medical knowledge that she imparted to her patients — she shared the love of God and joy of serving the Great Physician. Even if you didn’t personally know Tricia, you could take one look at her and know that she was warm, giving, and selfless. She had a million-watt smile that could light up a room and she always had a kind word and a hug to share with everyone she met.

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Image Source: http://www.klove.com/encouraging

Tricia’s greatest source of strength and joy was her relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s why, even in the last days when Hospice was called in, she wasn’t afraid.  As others tried to comfort her, she sought to comfort them — to let them know that no matter the physical outcome, she was spiritually ready.  She took satisfaction in the knowledge that this world was a temporary residence for her.  She trusted completely that she was just biding time on earth, simply in transit to her true home — Heaven.

I love what her niece, Erica, shared:  “I’m praising God for the life of my Aunt Tricia. So jealous of the angels today. Thank you for your many prayers. Our family appreciates each one. Please pray for continued strength as we go through this arm in arm and only through the grace of The Lord Jesus.

I heard a loud voice from the throne. It said, “Now God’s home is with people. He will live with them. They will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain. All the old ways are gone.”  (Revelation 21:3-4 ERV)

We will grieve mightily because we will miss her happy, humble presence — a woman with a gentle spirit and a heart as big as all outdoors!  Her family will especially miss her.  On special days to come — holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and the days her grandchildren are born — there will be a yearning for her physical presence. There will be an ache that cannot be soothed because those will be days when there would have been memories to be made with her — that she would have loved to make.  But she leaves such a rich legacy behind that it will almost seem that she is here — and she will here, living in the hearts and accomplishments of those who loved her.

Today, Tricia is rejoicing because she is in Heaven, completely healed, and in the presence of our Lord.  Tricia can finally say, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have served the Lord faithfully.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ERV)

I have seen glimpses of faith in my life, but life-altering portraits of faith have been few and far between.  Faith has a new face for me now.  Faith looks like Tricia Edwards Smith.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Tricia Smith Charitable Fund, send your donation to:

Fayetteville Community Church

2010 Middle Road Loop

Fayetteville, North Carolina  28312

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Celebrate Me Home” (The Perrys)

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