Saturday, August 1, 2020

Hello August!

Selective Focus Daisy Flowers photos, royalty-free images, graphics,  vectors & videos | Adobe Stock

Welcome to August! It seems like this year since March things have been in a constant state of chaos. So many things in our world and lives are changing daily, there in no consistency and we are forced to try to stay abreast in the midst of constant change. Fear and apprehension always seem to be lurking behind ready to pounce. We question - 'when will things get back to normal?', or 'what will normal even look like?'. We may feel simply stuck, overwhelmed at the problems we see around us and not sure how to go about being productive. 

So let's talk about the weather a minute. Summer in Florida can be brutal.  The heat and humidity are oppressive. They zap the energy from you to where even the simpliest of tasks are put off if they require being outside. One of the things I love about August is that it gives a glimpse of hope that fall will be coming. In our area, there are at least two solid months left of heat, but we are turning the corner and if we look waaayy ahead, can see, taste and smell pumpkins, candles and cozy gatherings. 

My Scripture reading this morning was from the book of Jeremiah. I am slowy making my way through reading the Bible, taking time to read and grasp the context and meaning, especially in the Old Testament. There is a familiar verse I love in Jeremiah chapter 17 but reading it in context opens up a whole new perspective. 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8

These beautiful verses follow verses which share the consequences of following anything other than the true God. Here is a short commentary...

He who puts confidence in man, shall be like the heath in a desert, a naked tree, a sorry shrub, the product of barren ground, useless and worthless. Those who trust to their own righteousness and strength, and think they can do without Christ, make flesh their arm, and their souls cannot prosper in graces or comforts. Those who make God their Hope, shall flourish like a tree always green, whose leaf does not wither. They shall be fixed in peace and satisfaction of mind; they shall not be anxious in a year of drought. Those who make God their Hope, have enough in him to make up the want of all creature-comforts. They shall not cease from yielding fruit in holiness and good works.

As we trust in God, even in the midst of times that feel like that oppressive heat that encompasses us, we don't have to feel anxious, but we can flourish. Our roots - focusing on Christ and putting our hope in Him allows us to be productive, and allowing us to be conduits of hope, grace and love.  The season we are in may be hard, but we can draw from the never ending well of God's goodness and sink our heart in Him to find help and hope. 

Jeremiah 17:7-8 - Creation IS Science

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Word Filled Wednesday - God of Hope

Romans 15:13 - The Carolina Blonde

This is one of my favorite Bible verses.  It is a beautiful message of blessing and hope, but it came alive to me in the midst of a crisis. 

Several years ago, a loved one was in a bad spot. With life choices that were cascading in a downward spiral, every resource had been used up with no help in sight. I sat in a chair with the Bible open in my lap and found this verse. A desperate situation needs hope to begin the steps toward healing. Hope is a spark of light in a dark space, it is a tiny flutter that begins and builds into confidence. An idea that jumps in the heart and compels you to action.  As vital as hope is in life, this verse tells us that God not only offers hope, but that He is the God of HOPE! It is not something that He does, it is truly who He is. 

His presence and promise of hope in any situation builds faith and secures our trust in Him. A promise like this calms our fears and gives us strength to carry on  But this promise doesn't stop with HOPE - it is a prayer that God would fill us with all joy and peace.  So much so that we may abound or overflow with hope!  

I love the word picture of overflow...especially from the heart. Think of it, putting our hope in God with the benefits of joy and peace in such abundance that they run over!  Overflow occurs when the container is so full, the contents have no where else to go but over.  May the God of HOPE bless you like that - may joy and peace be yours in abundance so that they run over and flow into the lives of all you see. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Do You Set Manageable Goals or Seek Kingdom Goals?

Fitness trackers are a tool to help people in their journey to be healthier. I wear a little device on my wrist called a Fitbit. It looks like a watch but helps keep track of every step taken through the day, tells about my heart rate, sleep patterns and probably many more features I haven't explored yet.

My favorite feature is tracking steps. When the fitbit is set up, it asks you to set a goal for daily steps. 10,000 steps per day is a good, healthy number, so that was my goal. Due to having a few distinct advantages - I love to walk and have short legs, I take many steps, my daily step goal is always met. The step goal is a little low and if you throw in a few long runs, the weekly step average is fabulous! 

A friend introduced me to a fitness app to meet your step goal and I was immediately ready to crush it! But, instead of setting my own goal, this app calculated my average steps and set a daily goal for me, which was waaayyy over the low, manageable goal I had set! Loving a challenge, I 'stepped' head on towards this crazy daily step goal.  Walks were squeezed in, steps taken at every opportunity, I was hardly ever still. This step goal stretched me to a new level of fitness. 

Before the week was over, I became intentional about making every step count. With my low set goals, steps 'just happened'. With higher goals to reach, planning time for walks was implemented as well as conscience efforts to step toward the goal.  Numerous trips around the yard in the evening were made to meet the goal if the days activities were not enough. When that high goal was met, I knew I truly worked towards it.

As Christians, it is easy to go through the 'steps. We can make manageable goals - reading our Bible, prayer, church attendance, helping others and 'do' things in our Christian walk. But low Christian goals don't bring much to our faith life. The Bible talks about Hope and how it is a stretch..."but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?" If our purpose and mission in life is easily attainable, we may simply be walking thorugh life aimlessly. 

A recent sermon preached in our church found in Luke 5, shared of a sick men and his friends who brought him to see Jesus.  Because of their great desire to help their friend, they had a big vision, they made big plans, they tore through the roof in faith that Jesus could heal their friend....and He did! 

Our church was asked... What kingdom dreams do you have? In our prayer life, it is imporant to pray for our daily bread - provision, protection, wisdom. But what about the desires in our heart we long to see, but seem out of reach? What things in your life are you thinking about? And you’re dreaming about that are moving you in such a way that you’re not just living for the moment, but you’re living for eternity? That you’re saying to yourself, God, if this doesn’t happen, I don’t know if I could take another step. What are the things in your life that are welling up inside of you for eternity’s sake that are driving you and pushing you forward?

Jim Cymbala, he pastors a church called Brooklyn Tabernacle. He said, “I despaired at the thought I might let my life slip by without God showing Himself mightily on my behalf.”

When we turn our eyes on the things of the Lord - knowing He has great plans for each of us, we move from our goals, to the goals He has set for us. And as we walk toward those, He meets us, guides us, opens doors for us and shows Himself mighty. 

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

June - A Month of Emotion

Holey, Wholly, Holy.: Pastoral Prayer for Father's Day

The month of June has come and is already on the way out! The months seem to fly by, but June is one month out of the year for me that holds an entire year worth of emotion. In the span of a few weeks in June some momentous anniversaries occur. First the anniversary of my father's death, then my wedding anniversary and then the holiday of Father's Day. Many posts have been written sharing our family story. They can be found under 'Crisis" and "Grief" labels on the sidebar. 

Through the years, these dates that hold utmost significance in my life cause me to pause and be thankful for the fatherly influences that have come to a beautiful fruition.  

My father - no words are needed to what a father means to a girl. Her hero, protector, friend, advisor and the one influence that can fill her heart with love and acceptance.  No father is perfect and mine made some choices that negatively affected our family, but I never doubted his love for a minute. 

My wedding - our wedding day was 8 days after my father's death. We made the mutual choice to keep the date and proceed with the wedding and it truly was the best choice! Making a new life together helped ease the grief and loss and every year moved us toward establishing a new legacy.
*As a bonus gift, I gained a wonderful father in law who is steadfast and faithful in the lives of his children and grandchildren, preparing a rich legacy for years to come.

Father's Day - what a beautiful day to remember my father and his love, to celebrate and appreciate the father my husband is to our children.  Past influence, present celebration and anticipated future blessings. 

This weekend is all about the men in our life. A godly, Christian man is truly one of life's greatest gifts. May our words and actions demonstrate love and respect for them and may our prayers be heartfelt as we seek their best all year long. 

How appropriate it is to pray for our men on Father's Day.

A quick note for those who may experience different emotions on this day:
"Father's Day can hold many emotions for both men and women - those who had a loving father that passed away, those who never knew their dad, those expectantly waiting to become a dad soon, and countless other situations surrounding the father-child relationship. God can use this special day to draw us closer to Himself - the one true Father who remains faithful and full of unconditonal love. Use these Father's Day prayers to bring God's peace and glory into your home and life today."

Lord, we pray specifically for fathers and fatherhood across our land. Your Word clearly instructs fathers to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). God, we thank You for the men who are leading according to Your statutes and the ones that are laying their lives down for Your purposes. We pray that You will continue to use these men to lead their families and other men. We pray You will strengthen the fathers of our nation and that You will continue to empower churches, organizations, and individuals to invest in fathers and fatherhood for the sake of our children.  

Bless every father and every grandfather with the best of your spiritual blessings today. Let him know he is not alone in the tasks you have given him to provide for and support those under his care. Show him how much you delight in his work, and affirm the value of whatever You have given him to do—both as a father or grandfather and as a child of Yours. Confirm his worth daily so he has no reason to doubt whether he is loved in the eyes of his Heavenly Father.

Create in him a deep sense of trust in You, knowing that He can count on You to help him lead and protect those dependent on him. Let him know that every unselfish act of love and encouragement he has offered has been a gift that You receive gladly. Show him how effective the prayers of a godly man really are, and what a difference he has and can make to those around him, no matter how big or small the assignment.

Give him a passionate faith, a persevering spirit, and a powerful testimony that overcomes any weakness or doubt, as he wears the armor of God daily You have provided for him as a spiritual leader and child of God.

Today, on special days, and for all the days of his life, fill him with the best of Your blessings, so that one day he will stand before you and hear Your ultimate words of praise, “Well done, my son, well done!” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Father's Day Notes

Father's Day Gift Guide: 12 Inspirational Books and Bibles Dads ...

Dads....their day is coming up this weekend. This special day comes just weeks after Mother's Day which is a day mothers enjoy a day of recognition and pampering. 

Father's play an important role in our families, churches and communities. Their leadership affects generations to come as well as leaves a legacy to follow. A godly father is the foundation of the home and his influence can be unlimited. 

While Mother's Day gifts seem to be easy, beautiful and full of meaning and sentiment, gift giving for the fathers in my life is hard. There is no emotion in a neck tie or sporting goods item. Most men are practical and would rather not have another item that is not functional and useful laying around (taking space on the dresser!). 

A perfect gift for dad is the sentiment of appreciation and respect.  Instead of gifts, words are especially meaningful. I found a link that has encouraging messages from Scripture just for dad. 
You can print them off, cut out, write a personal message on the back and tape onto his bathroom mirror (or hide in his car, by his nightstand, or even next to his workout equipment).  Who knows? Maybe it will become a habit to find something to thank him for every day! Find them at Father's Day Notes

Thank you for giving your all at work and at home.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23 NLT

Thank you for making sure we have everything we need.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11 NIV

Thank you for leading our family in the ways of the Lord.

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 NIV

Thank you for teaching us about Jesus.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 NIV

Thank you for making our home a place we want to be.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV

Dad, thank you for showing us how to fight hard and finish well.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV

Dad, thank you for helping us up when we fall.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

Thank you for believing in us and for being our #1 fan.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” Mark 10:27 NIV

The job of an earthly father is to model the love and ways of our Heavenly Father. That’s a high calling! Let’s join together this Father’s Day and make a concentrated effort to recognize the hard work it takes to be a good and Godly dad. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

When Life Is Not So Joyfull

The name of this blog is Joyfull Living deliberately chosen way back when the blog began, it was a busy season of life for our family with growing kids, juggling work, sports, church and relationships. Joyfull Living was chosen as a theme as we made strides to find joy through the mundane minutes of life.

Fast forwarding through those years, we continually sought for joy, but the fact is that life can be tough. Crisis, trauma, death and hard times filtered through our lives, just like they do in yours.

Today, I'm writing from a different spot in life. One that has endured troublesome times, learned that help, healing and comfort come from the Lord. Currently our country and world are in the throes of the COVID 19 crisis. This has left me 'staying safe at home' with more time on my hands than usual. Knowing this abundance of time had the potential to develop some not so good habits, I became diligent to keep some sort of routine - rising early, exercise, using time to tackle neglected household tasks. There was time to spend on this blog, cook more, enjoy time on the front porch. But I didn't want this to be wasted time.

My prayer became asking God to do a work in me while I was quiet and still. I wanted to do less, so that He could do more in my life. A ministry that has held a special part of my heart is comfort for the hurting. Each of us has walked through times of deep hurt, loss and grief. We all have a story, a journey and these are not meant to be wasted times. They can be used to grow our faith and in time encourage others. 

For years I have been aware of a ministry called Nothing Is Wasted. Here is a little about who they are:
"Nothing is Wasted Ministries exists to help you navigate your trials, tragedies, and transitions and find purpose in your pain. We do this by providing content that inspires, community that encourages, and coaching that empowers you to walk through your valley well and come out on the other side equipped with a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. No matter what life may throw at you, God does not waste an ounce of your pain, and we’d love to help you discover purpose in the midst of it."
This ministry was born out of tragedy and grief and seeks to bring help and grace to others walking through crisis. There is a Community Group Section that just launched based on the fact - you don't have to walk through this valley alone. This is a targeted online community based on the unique valley you’re currently walking. I am thrilled to be joining this community as a group host, welcoming those struggling with loss and guiding connection and relationships that bring help and healing.  

Exploring and seeking God for opportunities to minister in this capacity, may change the feel of this blog a bit! I'm all about joy and being 'joyfull', but there is a depth that comes only through hard times that secures that joy deep in the heart. It is a confidence that God is walking beside us not matter where we find ourselves. 

I hope you will stick around and watch for posts about grief and about hope, pain and purpose, trials and trust. If you are currently walking through a crisis, grief or hurting, be encouraged to visit Nothing Is Wasted. There is a community ready to walk this journey with you and help you find peace and a purpose on the road to healing. 

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Friday, May 22, 2020

A Graduation Gift Every Graduate Can Use

25 Best Graduation Bible Verses for 2020 to Encourage Graduates ...

Time marches on and it waits for no one. This fact becomes abundantly clear during the season of graduation. Those adorable babies that quickly grew into children and in the midst of long days and short years may now be saying goodbye to their high school years and hello to a new future and adulthood. 

If you find yourself in this season of life it can be very emotional. It may be a bittersweet time of embracing the balancing act of reflection on the past as well as a time of accomplishment and great anticipation for the future. As a mom who has experienced this precious time through 3 sons, embrace these days! They are times filled with excitement, parent pride and moments which will be cherished forever.

Once this event passes in a family, graduation loses some of the attraction and connection. Graduates may be known to us, but do not have the emotional bonding of family.  It may even be easy to pass this event by.  But, no matter how graduation affects us, it is a wonderful time in the lives of the seniors we may know. 

Whether you have a graduate who is a friend's child, distant relative, co-worker's child or from a local church family, there is a precious gift you can give that will equip them and prepare them much more than a check!  That give is prayer. Prayers for their future, relationships and for opportunities. The graduation ceremony is just the beginning! A new life is ahead for them. How better to be equipped to walk wisely, make good decisions, learn from errors and grow in wisdom.

Here is a sample of prayers that can be used to bless the life of a graduate you know!

Heavenly Father…

1) As ____________ weighs the choices that are before her, let her be filled with knowledge and depth of insight, that she may be able to discern what is best and be pure and blameless until Jesus comes again. In her college, her career, and her marriage, let her be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus, so that everything she does will bring glory to Your name. Philippians 1:9-11

2) Remind ____________ that You know the plans You have for him — plans to prosper him and not to harm him, plans to give him hope and a future. Cause him to turn to You for wisdom and guidance in all things, and listen to his prayers. Jeremiah 29:11-12

3) As ____________ grows and become more independent, teach her to trust in You with all her heart. Do not let her depend on her own understanding, but cause her to seek Your will in all that she does, and direct her paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

4) Cause ____________ to be careful how she lives. Let her be wise, make the most of every opportunity, and understand Your will. Ephesians 5:15-17

5) Teach ____________ to make the most of her time, so that she may grow in wisdom. Psalm 90:12

6) May loyalty and kindness be written on ____________’s heart so that he will find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4 

7) When ____________ comes up against a big decision — whether it is a career choice, a marriage partner, or something else — do not let him look at the things that human beings look at. Instead, cause him to see the world through Your eyes and to respond to people and circumstances with Your wisdom and Your love. 1 Samuel 16:7