5 Ways to Make Valleys of Weeping into Places of Springs

IMG_9778

“As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs . . .” Psalm 84:6a

People have had to travel through tough times and places since the beginning of time. Ever since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, difficulty and suffering have touched our lives.

In the verse from Psalm 84 above, pilgrims on their way to observe the religious festivals in Jerusalem (see v. 5) passed through the Valley of Baca—a valley of suffering. My NIV text note tells me that “Baca” means either “weeping” or “balsam trees.” It goes on to say that balsam trees were common in arid valleys. So whether the meaning here is a place of weeping or an arid place, both paint pictures of difficulty and suffering. The pilgrims didn’t have it easy. They had to travel through tough places.

Today believers are still pilgrims traveling through tough places, through valleys of weeping or struggles. Each one of us is walking life’s road toward our heavenly home. Each one of us faces tough places along the journey. Places and times when grief, trials, or spiritually dry times overwhelm us. Like the pilgrims of old, we don’t have it easy.

But notice how the scripture tells us that these Old Testament pilgrims made their valleys of weeping into places of springs. If you’re like me, you’re wondering how in the world they did that. Again, an NIV text note gives further insight. It says that the pilgrims’ expectations of joy transformed the difficult ways into places of refreshment. The promise of coming joy helped see them through.

So how can we transform our valleys of suffering into places of springs? Here are five ways that might help us:

1. Keep our eyes on the Lord and turn to him for solace. Even during our toughest times, he can supernaturally give us comfort, strength, refreshment, and even joy when we look to and depend on him.

2. Like the Old Testament pilgrims, expect and look forward to future joy. Instead of focusing only on the grief or difficulties we are currently dealing with, let’s keep an eye on future days when joy will be our portion again.

3. Find something every day to be thankful for. Expressing gratitude for something—for anything positive we see in the midst of our struggles—can lighten the moment, lift our spirits, or give us a fresh perspective.

4. Instead of isolating ourselves, stay involved with others and allow them to provide the comforting touch or encouraging word we need. Remember, God uses people to apply balm to our hurting hearts.

5. Read from the Bible every day—even if it’s just a few verses. God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It can provide refreshment and comfort and wisdom and everything else we need on any given day. It has been a lifeline for me nearly all my life.

As we apply these strategies—and others you may be thinking of—I can almost guarantee that God will bless us with moments of refreshment in the tough places of our lives.

God wants to show us his love and he will honor the efforts we make as we look to him. We may not have it easy all the time, but we do have a God who walks with us and is able to transform our valleys of weeping into places of springs. Let’s keep our eyes on him.

“He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;” Psalm 107:35

*Which of these strategies have made a difference in your life during tough times? What else could you add to the list?

*My photo

Midweek Morsel: Winner Plus a “Poopy Life” Quote

5432289886_707feb2bee_z

Now that’s a blog post title you probably never expected to see here, right? Before we tackle the second half of that title, let’s address the first.

We have a “Back At It Giveaway” winner! The lucky recipient of the Barnes & Noble gift card is Debbie! Congratulations, Debbie! I’ll get your gift card in the mail today. Enjoy whatever you choose at good ole B&N. Remember, along with all their books, they usually have chocolate near the check-out :)

Now on to the second half of the post title—I have a quote for us to ponder about the poopy parts of life. That’s right, a “poopy life” quote to consider. Don’t worry, you’ll be relieved (excuse the pun, really wasn’t intentional!) to find out that it is indeed a quote worthy of thought and really quite uplifting. Here we go:

“Like an organic farmer, [God] is able to use the poopy parts of life as rich soil for growing the fruit of the Spirit in us.” Margaret Feinberg in The Organic God

When we get upset or discouraged about bad or tough things happening in our lives, let’s remember that God will use those “poopy” things to help us become more like him. What say we make it our goal to allow the Lord to shine through us even in the bad times. You in?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a

*How have you seen God use something bad in your life to help you grow in the fruit of the Spirit?

*Flickr photo by Daniele Nicolucci photography, Creative Commons License

Quieting Your Heart

8546299184_3fdb989893_z

*This piece about worshipful prayer appeared in my February 2010 Life Notes newsletter. May it inspire you today to quiet your heart and enter into worship as you pray. (The new issue of Life Notes came out the first of the month, but it’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!)

In the midst of busy and stressful days, do you find yourself having difficulty moving into an attitude of worship as you begin a time of prayer? Don’t despair or give up on the possibility of having worshipful, personal prayer times in your day to day life. Try some of the following prayer-time enhancers and see what works for you:

Find a place away from the distractions and pressures of the day—even if it’s just in the next room. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

Music works wonders. It soothes the soul and helps refocus your thoughts. Sing a praise chorus or an all-time favorite hymn to the Lord or just listen to the music of a Christian recording artist. “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1)

Light a candle and watch your stress levels melt away. Begin your prayers by just thanking God for the beauty of candlelight and for the calming effect it has on your spirit. “…he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Kneel before the Lord as you approach Him in prayer. Even if you can’t stay on your knees the entire time you pray, kneeling helps you bow your heart before God, too. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6)

Read a favorite psalm of praise, thanksgiving, or encouragement. Replace the worries of the day with the Word of God. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…” (Psalm 19:7)

Look outside or go outdoors if possible and find something in God’s creation that you enjoy and then praise Him for it. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3, 9)

Count your blessings and see how quickly a heart of gratitude crowds out the concerns of the day. This also reminds you to thank God for some things that you sometimes take for granted. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)

Be quiet before God and meditate on who He is. “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:1)

Praying to our heavenly Father is a wonderful gift and privilege. Treat it like the treasure it is. Take time to lay aside the pressures of the day, quiet your heart, and enter into worship as you pray. Both you and God will be blessed by it.

*Which prayer time enhancers help you move into a time of worship?

*Be sure to enter the Back At It Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. (Central) August 26.

*Flickr photo by Arend Vermazeren, Creative Commons License

Midweek Morsel: Prayer for the Hurting

312526080_75053bd0ed_z

Do we know someone hurting today? Maybe we know someone grieving a heartbreaking loss (loss takes many forms, you know.) Or perhaps we’re thinking of someone dealing with chronic illness or pain or maybe someone wounded by deep disappointment or betrayal. Maybe we are the ones hurting.

We can help the hurting with our prayers. And if we are among the hurting, we can pray for ourselves as well. God hears our prayers and longs to help and heal. Let’s give the hurting—let’s give ourselves—the gift of intercession. Here is a prayer we can pray for those who are hurting today:

Lord, I pray today for a hurting soul you’ve placed on my heart. She needs you, Lord. She needs your strength, your peace, your hope, and your comforting touch. Father, show her your love. Comfort and carry her. Be her balm of Gilead. Be her refuge in the storm. I ask and pray this in Jesus’ precious name.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

*When have the prayers of others helped you through a painful time?

*Flickr photo by allspice1, Creative Commons License

*Be sure to enter the Back At It Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. (Central) August 26.

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Back At It Giveaway Is Back At It!

353455236_0913636a9b_z

It’s that time of year again, folks—time for me to get back to the business of my inspirational/devotional posts. Summer Photo Fun is always, well, fun, but now it’s time to focus on the written word again.

Of course, that means it’s also time for my annual Back At It Giveaway! I always like to kick off my back-to-business emphasis with a fun little giveaway. We can’t leave all the fun of the summer spirit behind, can we?

So what’s the prize? One lucky commenter will win a $15 gift card to Barnes and Noble! Who wouldn’t like the chance to buy a new paperback he or she has been dying to get their hands on or pick up a new journal or some other fun item? Maybe even a gift for someone else!

To be included in the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post by 6 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday, August 26. I’ll announce the winner the next day in my Thursday Midweek Morsel post.

Any comment will work, but to make it a little more fun, tell me what book you would recommend to the winner or mention the best book you’ve read recently. Personal recommendation is one of the best ways to find amazing new-to-us books and authors, isn’t it?

The best books I’ve read the past few months have included Jocelyn Green’s Spy of Richmond, Bob Goff’s Love Does, Susan Meissner’s Secrets of a Charmed Life (a general market book), and Carla Stewart’s A Flying Affair.

So winner of the giveaway or not, we’ll all be winners with some great new titles to add to our to-read lists. Happy reading, everyone!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flicker photo by nicholasjon, Creative Commons License