God Stands Near and Gives Courage

“. . . the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage!’” Acts 23:11 NIV

We’ve all been there—in situations where the stakes are immense and our courage has all but vanished. The life of a loved one may hang in the balance, a disaster may threaten to crush us, or a dream may be crumbling before our eyes. Fear grabs us by the throat and leaves us shaken in every way. We need courage and strength beyond our own.

We find in the Bible that the apostle Paul was no stranger to desperate and dangerous circumstances of his own. The instance from the passage above happened one time when Paul was in Jerusalem. A great uproar had broken out amongst the Jews over Paul and his teachings. He faced deadly mob violence until Roman soldiers took him prisoner. Then when the commander had Paul speak to the Sanhedrin—the supreme Jewish court—the circumstances turned violent again. And again, the Romans intervened and took Paul prisoner.

Just when Paul must have been wondering if he’d make it out of Jerusalem alive, the Lord came and imparted courage to him. Scripture tells us he stood near Paul and told him to take courage, that he had further work for him to do. Whether the Lord stood there physically or in spirit, he came to encourage Paul—in fact, to give him courage. And he drew near to do it.

Will not the Lord also come to us when we are in dire circumstances? Will he not also stand near us and speak courage and peace to our hearts when we desperately need it? Indeed he will. We can count on it. We can count on him. 

“say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come . . . he will come to save you.’” Isaiah 35:4 NIV

*When has the Lord drawn close and imparted courage, peace, or strength to you?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Curtis Simmons, Creative Commons License

Winter and Life Extremes: A Time to Hunker Down

Do you get any of winter’s deep freeze days where you live? You know, those days that start in the single digits or below and if you’re lucky climb well into the teens? We shiver our way through days like that each winter here in southeast Kansas. And I am not a fan.

In fact, I’m not a fan of winter in general, but I must admit, like everything else, winter has its perks. One of those perks for writers like me unfolds as nature speaks something new to us, something we can share through the written word. And sometimes those words come out as poetry.

So here’s my latest poem, friends—inspired and served up by Old Man Winter himself. I hope it blesses you. Even if you shiver a bit while reading it!

A Time to Hunker Down

We all notice the day
when winter blows in,
when autumn’s refreshing nip
takes a frigid turn.
Jackets and sweaters give way
to gloves and down,
and we all settle in
for Old Man Winter’s stay.

And then one night
the cold becomes colder
and we’re plunged into
deep freeze days,
days when nature itself hunkers down,
when nothing moves or makes a peep,
when frozen silence is all we hear.
Yes, nature holds its breath,
shuts down and waits it out.
The bitter extreme calls for a break.

As ever, we can learn from nature.
Let’s take our cues, follow its lead
when bitter extremes hit our lives.
We too might benefit
by stepping back and taking a breath,
by getting quiet and waiting on God.
We too may need to hunker down,
we too may need to take a break.
And one day the sun will come out,
one day sweet life will go on.

“. . . ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” Mark 6:31

*When have you had to hunker down?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

Standing By Our Sides

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength . . . ” 2 Timothy 4:17

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to need someone by his side. He suffered for the sake of the gospel—for the sake of Christ—unlike anything we’ve ever known.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he lists some of the trials he experienced. He spent much time in prison and also faced beatings and floggings and was even stoned. He faced danger from shipwrecks and bandits, danger from the Jews as well as the Gentiles, and also endured hunger and thirst. On top of all this, he carried a burden of concern for all the churches. Yes, I’d say Paul needed support.

Sometimes Paul received the needed support from friends and co-laborers, but sometimes he didn’t. When he wrote the above words to Timothy (in bold print), it was late in his ministry, and he was once again in prison. He told Timothy, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.” (2 Timothy 4:16)

Thank goodness that’s not the end of the story. Thank goodness for verse 17—for the love and faithfulness of our Lord: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength . . .”

Even though Paul had been deserted by those around him, the Lord stood by his side. And that was all he needed. In the last half of verse 17, he goes on to tell Timothy that he was delivered from the lion’s mouth and that he continued to proclaim the good news to the Gentiles. The Lord’s support was enough for Paul.

And isn’t the Lord’s support enough for us as well? Whatever we’re going through, whether anything from desertion to deprivation to depression, our God is enough. He will stand by us and give us strength. He will enable us to go on.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

*Anyone have a testimony of how the Lord has stood by you? We’d all love to hear about it!

*I hope you were blessed by this encore post from Sept. 2011 today!

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Gruenewiese86Creative Commons License

Rock-Solid Words of Hope

Many around the world are in need of hope today. Their situations look bleak if not impossible. They are struggling to hang on to hope.

Right here in our country, countless folks in Florida and Texas are dealing with the aftermath of hurricane force winds, tornadoes, and the floodwaters that came with Irma and Harvey. Some may feel that all hope slipped away with the winds and waters that wreaked such havoc on their lives. And in yet other parts of the country, people are battling wildfires.

Others of us may be in need of hope right now for different reasons. If you fall into that group, this post is for you as well as for all of those struggling to regain their footing after their foundations literally got blown or washed or burned away.

The truest and most powerful words of hope I can share with you come straight from the Word of God. God’s Word is a firm foundation. His promises are rock-solid. May the following scriptures inspire fresh hope and strengthen your faith today, my friends!

“. . . I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“‘There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the valley of Achor [trouble] a door of hope.’” Hosea 2:15

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” Zechariah 9:12

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him . . .” Romans 15:13

Praise God for the hope we have in him!

*Which of these verses speak to you most powerfully today?

*Since September is an exceptionally busy month for me this year, I’m taking a short break and will be back on the 26th. Maybe you can take a look at my list of Favorite Posts (sidebar) and read some posts from there. Blessings!

*Flickr photo by Our Enchanted Gardens, Creative Commons License

Powerful Way to Pray for Those in Ongoing Difficulty

Most of us know someone who deals daily with an ongoing serious difficulty of some sort. Maybe we know someone with a chronic illness or problem with pain or someone in a caregiving situation. We may know someone trapped in an abusive relationship or someone whose job places them in the midst of crisis situations every day.

Whatever the particulars, our friends or loved ones enduring such stress likely feel overwhelmed and beyond discouraged much of the time. If we’ve ever experienced such a season ourselves, we understand how a person can come to the end of his or her physical, mental, and/or emotional reserves and wonder how they can possibly go on.

As their friends and loved ones, we feel helpless to fix the problem, but one way we can always help is to pray. And one powerful way to pray is to pray through the Psalms for them—slowly but surely.

If you’re like me, you’ve prayed the Psalms for yourself at one time or another, but we can also perform this wonderful ministry for those who desperately need to be upheld by our prayers. And if we pray just a few verses or portion of a chapter for them each day, our prayers will be long-term, just like the trial they are enduring.

We can simply start at the beginning of Psalms and read and pray through the verses with our friends or loved ones in mind, personalizing our prayers by using their names and the specifics of whatever their ongoing difficulty. Not every psalm will be completely applicable to suffering or difficulty, but let’s pray those scriptures for them as well. After all, each scripture prayed for those who are hurting will help strengthen them in some way.

Here’s an example from Psalm 3:1-4 NIV.  I’ll list the verses first and then personalize them in prayer for a loved one (using a fictitious name.)

“Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
‘God will not deliver him.’

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Prayer: Oh Lord, how many are Katie’s health problems. How many conditions rise up against her! These health issues seem to taunt her, saying “God will not deliver you.” But you, O Lord, be a shield about Katie, be her glory, the One who lifts up her head. Help her to call out to you and see you answer from your holy mountain.”

Let’s pray the Psalms for our hurting friends. Let’s hold them up with the powerful Word of God.

*Has God brought someone you know to mind? I have been praying the Psalms for a loved one for a few months now and will continue as God leads.

*Flickr photo by shaunanyi, Creative Commons License