What Will I Do When a Storm Descends

*I pray this encore post from April 2011 blesses you today!

A potential health crisis threatened our family a few weeks ago. A cancer scare. Like storm clouds hovering overhead, thoughts of “what if” cast their shadow for days. We deliberately tried to shove them aside, but they were still there, hiding just beyond the surface.

I won’t go into specifics of who and what, but the scare did not involve an extended family member, but one within our immediate family. Yes, that’s right. It hit close. Too close. And too unthinkable — though I had to remind myself, like so many others have had to do, not to ask “Why us?” but “Why not us?”

Thank God, benign test results relieved our fears, but those days of waiting gave rise to countless thoughts, feelings, and ultimately a few overarching questions: If it proves to be cancer, what will we do with our faith in God? Will we stay faithful and continue to trust him even if the news is devastating? Or will we pull away — and stay away — from him, losing faith that he is good and that he loves us? In other words, will we run to him or away from him?

Mercifully, God spared us from having to live out the answers to those questions in full, but we tried to prepare ourselves for the worst. We remembered the truths of God’s love for us and of how he can bring something good out of a heartbreaking situation. We reminded ourselves that he would be with us every step of the way. You might say we were preparing ourselves to be faithful, preparing ourselves to trust him, no matter the outcome.

One day a similar life test will go differently. One day we’ll have to live out the answers to these faith questions in full. Some of us reading this today have, in fact, already faced such a crisis, but even so, will we be ready for the next one? Join me today in considering, “What will I do with my faith when the unthinkable happens? What will I do when the storm descends?”

“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge…” Psalm 141:8a

*What helps you stay faithful to your faith in God when times of heartbreak come?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*My photo

Midweek Morsel: Short but Powerful Words from Jesus

6774808573_ca3a759623_z“‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered.” Mark 11:22

Jesus was known for using stories/parables in his teaching, but sometimes his instruction was short, direct, and power-packed. The above exhortation is one example.

These four short but powerful words from Jesus—have faith in Godcame from him after one of the many times amazement was expressed over what he could do, over the power he held. But Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised when he acts in power or does what he says he will do. His response here shows us that he wants us to have faith, to believe.

Do any of us have a special need for this message from Jesus today? These words he spoke so long ago are for us, too. Let’s hear and heed his words. Let’s have faith in God.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

*Is there something in particular you need to trust God in faith for today?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early May. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Khanah Hmoong, Creative Commons License

Leap of Faith

4267296698_32c6a5871b_z

As I opened the blinds and looked out into the backyard one winter morning, a neighborhood daredevil unknowingly treated me to his early morning leap of faith.

With the trees still leafless, a darting movement in the branches quickly caught my eye. As I looked more closely, I could see that it was a squirrel — though he quickly proved he was not just any squirrel. He must have thought he was Wonder Squirrel or something. He skillfully zoomed higher and higher and then boldly ventured out on the tiniest limb. Before I could finish thinking where is he going? I bet he’s going to jump, he did it, hesitating only ever so slightly before his leap.

After sailing through the air to the closest limb of a nearby tree, he landed his leap with the sure-footedness of . . . well, a squirrel. He completely trusted that limb. He seemed to know it would hold his weight, that it would catch him. And he was right. It bent, but it didn’t break. It seemed to bounce back at just the right speed, allowing him to keep his balance and continue on his frenzied little journey.

Watching this little daredevil’s leap of faith, I immediately thought of the times we are called upon to jump into our Father’s arms. You know, the times when God wants us to trust him. The times when he wants us to go where he’s calling us to go or do what he’s asking us to do, even when it means stepping out into the unknown. He wants us to believe he will catch us and help us maintain our balance as we journey on with him. He wants us to trust him completely.

I want to be ready to do just that—to trust God completely. How about you? Any other daredevils out there?

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

*When have you taken a leap of faith?

*I hope this slightly revised encore post from March 2008 blessed you all and provided just the word of encouragement someone needed today. May it be so, Lord!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Maxwell GS, Creative Commons License

Midweek Morsel: Radical Faith Prepares for Answers

4929686241_05a2e2dc5c*May this encore post from November 2011 bless you today!

“And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.” Philemon 1:22

Radical faith. The apostle Paul demonstrated it on numerous occasions, didn’t he? When he wrote the words above to fellow believer Philemon, he wrote them from prison—a place he frequented because of his bold displays of faith.

Being imprisoned didn’t dampen Paul’s faith, though. In fact, he made plans to visit Philemon based on his hopes of answered prayers. He encouraged Philemon to act in faith as well. Paul exhorted him to prepare a room for him—to behave as if the answer to prayer had already been granted.

When Paul told the Corinthians to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), he not only doled out instruction, he lived it himself. His instruction to Philemon shines as just one example.

What kind of faith are you and I demonstrating in our lives today? Could someone point to us and say, “Look at how she lives by faith. Look at how she trusts God.”

Are we like Paul? Are we living in the hope of answered prayer? Let’s think about what we can do right now to live in expectation and to prepare for the answers that God will send. Let’s show some radical faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

*The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is underway. Details are in my Oct. 19 post and sign-up is to the right under “Free For You.” Deadline is 6 p.m. Nov. 11. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

*Flickr photo by familymwr, Creative Commons License

Guest Blogger RJ Thesman: Finding the Shepherd within Alzheimer’s

1206975922_bff23dabc7_z

While visiting my mother at the assisted living facility, we decided to go to “church.” A visiting pastor would present a brief service and offer encouragement – making Sunday a special day at the “home.”

Although Mom is now in Stage Five of Alzheimer’s Disease, that sacred place within her where God resides has not been forgotten. So she picked up her Bible and we walked down the hall to the reception area.

I wondered how many of the residents would gain anything from the service, but I watched as they sang some of their favorite hymns, their faces aglow with the memory of other places and decades past when they sang with their families sitting next to them in wooden pews.

The pastor asked if the group would help him recite Psalm 23. I suppressed a snicker, certain that none of these folks, including my mother, would remember an entire Psalm, much less be able to recite it. Alzheimer’s is, after all, the memory thief.

But I didn’t realize how deep that sacred place is that resides within the soul, how the word of God digs in so intensely that not even a brain disease can disrupt it.

So I watched and listened as these dear souls, in various stages of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease recited the Shepherd Psalm.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

They quoted the King James version, with none of them missing a beat.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

How many of them prayed that God would restore their lives, do a miracle in their bodies and release them from this disease, this long and tragic goodbye?

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

A righteous life includes reading the word of God and hiding those words in their hearts so that when the end of life comes, when those final years flip over onto the calendar, they hang on to what really matters.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; they rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

These saints understand better than I because they live in that valley. I could see it in their eyes, in the faces accessorized with various shades of gray hair, the shining baldness of the men. This valley they knew and only God could help them walk through it unafraid.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Food no longer provides comfort because the appetite is gone, the taste buds have forgotten a favorite flavor or the joy of family meals. Yet smiles surfaced around the group – maybe a dim remembrance of God’s anointing on a life, the cup of joy that once ran over and now waits for its fulfillment.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life….”

My mother, her voice clear, her eyes bright – solid in her faith and waiting for her timeline to end.

“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Amen.

RJT - pic for 2nd book (3)RJ Thesman writes as a daughter whose mother is disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. The Reverend G trilogy, published by CrossRiver Media, uses a fictional story to encourage caregivers and help readers understand how the Alzheimer’s patient might be thinking as she journeys through the Long Goodbye. Thesman’s books are available from her publisher at CrossRiverMedia.com and also on Amazon and Kindle. You can follow Thesman’s blog and sign up for her newsletters at RJThesman.net.

*The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is underway. Details are in my Oct. 19 post and sign-up is to the right under “Free For You.” Deadline is 6 p.m. Nov. 11. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

*Flickr photo by Jon Ragnarsson, Creative Commons License