May Your Skies Be Blue and Your Dark Clouds Be Few!

Wow! I rarely whine but, wow! Have you ever had a week like I had last week? I haven’t felt so beat up in many years as I did coming out of last week. Talking with my friends, I realized that I was not the only one. One friend said she felt like she had a dark cloud following her. Others had times of immense struggle and persecution too.  As I was driving down the highway early in the morning on Friday, the sunrise ahead of me seemed to speak to me. In the far distance, the sun was trying to rise to brighten the sky but just above it, there was a dark wall of clouds that appeared to be pressing down on it from all sides. All you could see was the sun’s little light peering out from under all the darkness. That particular sunrise was a picture of exactly how I was feeling inside that day.

I feel as a Christian, it is my duty in life to let my light shine. I can’t cower because someone doesn’t agree with me or thinks I am false.  Although, it would make life a lot easier!  I have been writing for God for nearly two years now and saying things that some may or may not agree with me. However, clouds of disagreement will not keep me from doing what I have been called to do. God knows I’m not perfect but He loves me and chooses to use me anyways. He knows I will faithfully serve Him in everything He asks me to do. Clouds of judgment will not discourage me because I know He knows my inmost being and that’s good enough for me!

Tomorrow I will be sharing my struggles, pain and triumphs through life with a group of women as I share my testimony of how I came to know Christ as my personal Savior. When I’m not being transparent in my writing or speaking though, I tend to always try to stay upbeat and positive in my Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. Perhaps they paint a picture of a more perfect me than what you get in my speaking and writing—or even real life for that matter!  I just choose not to spew negativity on everyone reading my posts every day, so I keep it happy. In one conversation this week a friend said, “Lori, Christians have struggles too. Life can’t be perfect all the time; it’s not a good witness to be cheerful everyday!  People need to see we have down days too.” I agree to some extent that we need to be real, so that is why I share candidly through my writings and in my speaking. However, I do feel it is more edifying to God when I share what He is doing in my life versus whining everyday about what He is not. It’s when we start to rise and shine so to speak, only to look up, see the wall of clouds above that are pressing in and give up without trying that we are ineffective for the kingdom.

We are currently doing a study in our small group by John Piper called Desiring God. I like John’s statement, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” If we as Christians continue walking around with dark clouds over our heads crying woe is me, how are we glorifying God? But you say, “Lori, you don’t understand. I’ve had a rough life. I have had people hurt me; I’ve made bad choices that are irreversible, everyone’s out to get me.”  I say, “How is God glorified in that? If we have a world of miserable Christians walking this earth, day after day after day, who would want to join us?” I wouldn’t!  I would also say, “Haven’t we all suffered?  What makes your suffering any worse than mine?  However, I will tell you that what you may not see is on the other side of all of those dark clouds is a blue sky! Knowing that, do you really want to stay where you’re at and never get beyond the darkness?”  What do you need to do to push past the uglies and darkness that have been prevailing in your life up to now?

I have learned that when my focus is on the blue skies above all of this mess of ugly clouds we call trials and persecution, I don’t seem to even notice their threat after a while. They no longer are a hindrance or hold power to squelch my daily walk of being satisfied in the Lord and joyful in heart. I do admit that sometimes the clouds can get dark and scary when there are many crowding together instead of just one here and there. I even become weary and downright exhausted at times from their intensity as I did last week. But I have learned the hard way to trust there is not a cloud in the sky or wall of clouds for that matter that God can’t move. I don’t need to worry and fret.

So please, if you’re going to insist on carrying your dark clouds around over your head year after year, please don’t ask me to join you in that. I promise to pray for you, help you through the tough times, and do whatever it takes to get you out of that mess. But don’t ask me to agree with you or insist I choose to hang out under your clouds too. I have learned that not only is He most glorified when I am satisfied in Him; but, I am also most satisfied when I am glorifying Him! I can’t see that it is glorifying to have a black cloud accompanying me everywhere I go. Will there be cloudy days ahead? Sure! Will I struggle through them? Of course! But for today I don’t apologize for this smile on my face or the freedom that I feel in Christ. I praise Him that He has set me free from the bondage of worry, strife and all of the other clouds that have tried to get in my way. It’s all because I choose not to focus on the clouds, but rather on the One Who created them. Won’t you make that choice with me today too?

Proverbs 3: 5-6  (NKJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

No Matter How Impossible Things Might Seem…Never Give Up!

I had the privilege to do a devotion Friday night at a prayer group’s Christmas party. As I prepared the message for the night, I thought about the prayer warriors who would be attending.   They meet on a regular basis together to pray for one another and for the burdens each one carries.   I met some of the women about five years ago when I spoke for their group and I was excited to see how God had answered prayers in the time between first meeting them and now.  Although some of them were still praying for the same issues, same people, and seemingly not getting anywhere with their prayers.

It was exciting to me that the message I had prepared Friday night was one that said, “Never give up.”  After hearing the prayer requests of the women, I realized this message God had given me was timely and pertinent to this group.  Since some had been praying for many years with no answers, I pray that my message gave hope to those who felt like their prayers have been hitting a ceiling instead of rising to the ears of God.

I can certainly relate to those who wonder at times if God is even listening to their prayers.  About two years ago, Jim and I felt God telling us to get our home ready to sell because we were to move.  So we did just that.  We had some delay with the process with my mom’s illness slowing us down a bit, but eventually we got the house on the market.  As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, we thought we had it sold recently and then the deal fell through.  So here we sit again…waiting.  We really don’t understand the delay as we both felt led to get ready when we started the process.  Saturday night Jim and I were questioning why this process has taken so long?  If God wanted us to move, why haven’t we yet?  We’re living with a lot of our treasured possessions boxed up instead of being in our home where we can enjoy them because we have staged the house to sell.  It’s getting really old having to keep everything in perfect condition too so that at the drop of a hat, we can allow someone to show the home.  We’re growing weary in the process and we were questioning, “Why, when we do all the right things, and try to be obedient to God, do we have to go through these times when it feels like He is not hearing our prayers?”

Last week an article came out about my son’s mission in Afghanistan and it said this was perhaps the most dangerous mission that they have sent the Ohio Army National Guard to in all of the last 10 years of the war.  Seeing that, my heart sank.  I knew he’d been training for a long time for this mission and I knew it was dangerous.  However, seeing it in writing just kind of stung a little harder.  Rob’s wife told him that I was worried when I saw the article, which was true; but I’ve been worried since he left.  Not in a way that I am not focused on God and trusting that He’s watching over Rob.  Rather, I just have my mom beware set at high alert so that I am ready to pray him through at any time, day or night.

This week, I got an email from him I’d like to share a part of with you.  It reads like this:  Everything is fine over here, I’m fine, no major issues.  … but don’t worry about me…  Just keep me in your prayers and trust that everything will work out as it is meant to.  What good is it to go to church and pray and blog and everything else Christians do just to end up worrying and getting all worked up about things anyways?

If you can’t trust God’s will to prevail when I’m in combat, and you don’t have faith that His will is divine and perfect, then what’s the point?  I’m not trying to be preachy, but I just don’t want people worrying about me back there.  Celebrate and embrace the fact that I’m doing what I was MEANT to do. 

Then I went to church on Sunday and the pastor’s main message was “Never Give Up.”  Hummm.  I’m beginning to see a theme here.  He spoke about God’s promise to Elizabeth and Zacharias to give them a baby—John the Baptist.  However, if they were to have focused on their circumstances, they would’ve never believed it possible for God to fulfill that promise as He waited until much later in their lives to actually make it happen.  We don’t really know how old they were when John was born but  we know from scripture in Luke 1:18  that Zacharias said … “For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”  I have to laugh when I read that.  I am not sure I would count it a blessing to have a baby so late in life!  She must have been one special lady!

It wasn’t until yesterday when I was sitting in church that I realized the message I gave on Friday night, was just as much for me as it was for all of the women in the group.  Sunday, as our pastor said the exact words Jim and I had been saying the night before, I knew.   He said, “When you are doing all of the right things, living a God honoring life and praying hard for something that just never seems to be happening…don’t give up.”

It’s true.  If we believe God is Sovereign, then we have to believe that whatever happens is His perfect plan when we are praying and trusting Him to get us through.  Who are we to question Him or disbelieve that He is hearing our prayers?  He is God and we are not.  In fact, He is the same God that I have trusted to watch over my son for the last 30 years here in America that I am trusting to watch over my son in Afghanistan today.

It gives me great peace to know that God’s plan is best for me and I need not worry about things.  I just need to pray and trust that He has it all under control.  So if you’ve been praying for something longer than you think you should, think again.   I hope that during this holiday season, you too, will find peace in knowing that since God is God, we don’t have to worry.  He’s got it all under control!  We just need to keep going and never give up!

From my son’s words may I leave you with this:  May the peace of God find its way into your mind during this Christmas season; as it has permeated your heart through years of answered prayers, hardships turned into blessings, and the promise that a throne awaits all who believe, regardless of how we get there.

Matthew 6:34  (NKJV) 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

1 Thessalonians 5:17  (NKJV) 17 pray without ceasing,