I Got Nothin”

Twirling a pen in my hand I just sat there. I stared at the card in front of me, waiting for an idea, for something, anything, to say. A few words popped into my brain but they seemed trite and shallow. So I sat there, staring at the card waiting for the right words but I got nothin’.

Over the past couple of weeks I have had to sign way too many greeting cards. Generally I like choosing and signing cards but this most recent batch were all for the unhappy occasions of life: Get Well, Thinking of You, and the saddest, With Sympathy.

What is there to say when the news is bad/sad? When you know the person receiving the card is struggling and in pain, physically, emotionally or both? What do you say when the person is standing in front of you with tears in their eyes?

Other peoples pain can take us by surprise, leaving us at a loss for words, uncertain how to acknowledge their sorrow, how to support, not knowing what to say or do. My heart hurts for the other person and I have that sinking feeling of frustration; that any words I might say trivialize their pain. There are times when silence is best, a hug, a comforting touch might be all that is needed and wanted but there has to be some verbal or written response, some words of understanding, some acknowledgement…

In the midst of pain our hearts cry out for comfort, for an answer or reason, for hope that the pain serves some purpose and that life is not meaningless. I always pause; I don’t want to say or write anything stupid and I don’t want to make the situation worse. I want to be sincere and genuine; I can’t know exactly how the other person feels but I do know what it feels like to lose someone, to be afraid, to worry. I want my few words to be comforting, positive and hopeful.

The Bible has a lot to say about pain and suffering. Jesus is described as a man of sorrows; He knows what if feels like to be lonely, rejected, mocked and tortured. Many of the psalms are vivid descriptions of the authors’ fears, despair and pain. Many of those who wrote and are written about in the Bible experienced great loss and prolonged suffering.

Through all of the sorrow and challenge in the Bible runs a long and unbroken thread of hope; the hope of a better life, of an eternal home, of a promised Messiah, of blessing, of purpose. The hope spoken of and demonstrated in familiar Bible stories is not just a vague wish but also the absolute certainty that God has permitted every experience, good and bad. It is a sure hope for those who trust Him and believe in Jesus that God has a plan and His plan is for our good.

But, sometimes God’s Word is not welcomed or wanted and even openly opposed. It makes me profoundly sad that His words of comfort and strength cannot be shared and that is why it has been so difficult to sign the cards, to say the words. All the “acceptable” words, the “politically correct” words (whatever those are) have no real meaning or substance and everything the world offers is only temporary.

When I cannot share the hope of heaven, the love of God, His plan, His comfort, His peace, His presence, His eternal and greater purpose there truly is no meaningful hope I can offer, no words of lasting comfort.   Apart from God, from Jesus and His Word,

I got nothin’…

 

Whom have I in heaven but you and besides you I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25, 26

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Your World Quakes…

Before…

Routine keeps me on time, on task, nothing forgotten.  Mental to-do list of who, what, where, when and how.  Small warning signs of trouble may be ignored but this time, God was speaking, preparing for the test and trial.  I knew something was coming, I did not know what.  Easy to praise the Lord when life is going according to my plan but much too easy to coast and think, “I got this…”

During…

The major interruption.  The unexpected, unplanned, unanticipated event; not on my schedule.  All routine out the window, calendar useless, reminders, lists, obligations, email alerts all ignored.

The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. Psalm 18:4, 5

Trying to breathe, to remain calm, to put two coherent thoughts together.  Who to call/text?  There is one, the One who is above all others.  In these moments, I can only fall at His feet.  Heart pounding, I open His Word…

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.” The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. … In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple,
and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.Psalm 18:1 – 3, 6

This enemy is bigger than any ever imagined and foundations are cracking, rendered powerless, without knowledge, adrift without a schedule or plan to follow.  Refusing to dwell on what might happen, what could happen, what is the worst that could happen; choosing to focus on the One Who gave His permission for this trial, this test.

Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, … He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. Psalm 18:7, 9 – 10

God rushes in, He allows every earthquake to accomplish His purposes and He stands at the epicenter with His arms wide.  He gives strength to bear my burden, He sends Aarons and Hurs to keep my arms strong and heart lifted to Him.

He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:16 – 19

The quake was strong, intense and thankfully short.  There were aftershocks that occurred without warning; they were accompanied by shortness of breath, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and ability to focus, a constant sense of anxiety.  God, His character, His Word, His Truth needed to be repeated, often, and deeply planted to recognize and reject the lies, to slow the breathing, to quiet the mind.

As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. Psalm 18:30 – 36

After…

Back on schedule with minor, manageable, interruptions; they are welcome after all the rocking and rolling.  God chose to deliver and give what was requested, He was gracious and merciful to me.  Ultimately He gave the one thing He always and consistently gives, His gave according to His will and purpose.  Would I be praising the Lord as much if my request did not agree with His will?  Difficult to say, I like to think I would and I know I would trust Him to lead me through whatever He allows and I know there will always be another quake. Lord, help me continue to sing…

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation, … He delivers me from my enemies; surely You lift me above those who rise up against me..Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name. Psalm 46 – 49

Snap Out of It!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

In one my all time favorite movies, Moonstruck,  Ronnie (Nicholas Cage) has just professed his love for his future sister-in-law, Loretta (Cher).  In this classic scene she looks him in the eye, slaps him and yells, “Snap out of it!”

We all need a good dose of “Snap Out of It!” from time to time.

  • Are you having a little pity party because you didn’t get your way?  Snap Out of It!
  • Feeling grumpy today cupcake?  Snap Out of It!
  • Just not “feeling it”  at work?  Snap Out of It!
  • Don’t want to tackle that sink full of dirty dishes?  Snap Out of It!
  • Nobody noticed you got a haircut?  Snap Out of It!
  • Angry at getting caught doing something you shouldn’t?  Snap Out of It!
  • Jealous of your friend’s cute boyfriend?  Snap Out of It!
  • Complaining about grocery shopping?  Snap Out of It!
  • Disappointed with having to shop at thrift stores?  Snap Out of It?
  • In love with a person who is wrong for you?  Snap Out of It?

We put a lot of emphasis on our feelings and emotions and we can easily mistake feelings for reality.  I never “feel” like doing the laundry but I do it every week because I like having clean clothes and cannot afford to buy new ones all the time!  Life lived on feelings and not facts is a roller coaster you don’t want to ride.

There is no question life can be disappointing and frustrating.  Many things happen that we cannot control and did not cause but we can always, ALWAYS control how we respond to disappointment, frustration, betrayal and loss.  We can choose to respond honestly. focus on the lesson learned, and turn it back to praise.  Don’t bury the emotions but don’t dwell on them or let them define or identify who you are.  Find the help and support you need, remember it is not about you, ask God to correct your thinking, pull up your big girl (or boy!) pants, pray, a lot, and move on.

Sound too simple for you?

Snap Out of It!

Silver Screen

Assigned Parking

“Anything you can do I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.”

Some of you might recognize these lines as song lyrics written by Irving Berlin from the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”.  The song is a musical duel between the competitive leads, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.  The words are all too true, no matter how good you are or think you are, someone is always better.  Competition can be energizing, it causes some people to work or train harder, to study or practice more, to do whatever it takes to be the best.  Competition can be discouraging, someone will get a higher score than you, someone else can do what you do faster, better, easier and it can make you think it is just not worth the effort.

When I started to blog I discovered an important aspect was connecting with other bloggers, reading what others were writing and thinking, commenting on other blogs and receiving comments on my own posts; this is a part of blogging I am enjoying very much.

It did not take long to discover that some of the people blogging are really, REALLY GOOD!  Way way better than me at expressing themselves and their posts are really REALLY informative, thought-provoking and helpful!  Reading and following these accomplished and gifted people make it easy to allow discouragement to overshadow the inexplicable urge to write and continue blogging.  So you cannot imagine how happy I am to be reading the book of Numbers in my Bible.

Now if you have ever read the book of Numbers it is not exactly the most exciting book in the Bible!  it is one of the first five books of the Bible or the Pentateuch.  Numbers begins with God instructing Moses to take a census of the nation of Israel and counting people and things is the predominate activity in the first 7 chapters – maybe exciting to an accountant but not so much for the rest of us.  But the Bible is full of truth and treasure and in chapter 2 God had a gem for me and for anyone else feeling over-looked and discouraged.

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the tent of meeting at a distance.” 

In the books prior to Numbers, God had given detailed instructions to the Israelites about His tabernacle, His laws and how He is to be worshipped.  Now He gives them very specific camping instructions; who is to camp where.  God tells Moses which tribes are to camp to the north, south east and west of the tabernacle, who is assigned as the leader of each tribe, and, He repeats the number of men (the census totals) for each tribe.  God assigns each one their parking space.  No one is omitted, everyone knows where they need to go and everyone has a specific spot.

I love what I see about God here:

  • God is a God of order and not chaos.
  • God is not random or capricious.
  • God  has a perfect plan.
  • God has an assigned place for everyone.

Yep, I may not be the best blogger or whatever else I attempt, but God has a plan, a purpose and a place that I only I can fill and He has the same for you!  My challenge and encouragement to myself and to you is to keep on keeping on; whatever God is calling you to do and wherever you are – hang in there and don’t stop.  Do it to the best of your ability, ignore the “competition”, and keep putting one foot, or keystroke, in front of the other.  God’s got me an assigned parking spot, it is right where it needs to be and I’m parking there!

20/20 VISION

Today’s post by Guest Blogger, Tiffany Barnett.  My friend and sister in Christ whose love for the Lord burns bright!

Why is it so easy to see the worst in others while being blinded to their best? Our inner, hypocritical struggle plants little seeds that harvest a garden of hatred. We tend to forget God created all of us from dust; and what we despise in others is actually a reflection of what resides in our selves. It may not always look the same, but its’ origins never differ. The origin is this: we all have fallen short of the glory of God.

Christ died for all, not some, so that those who believe in him can be reconciled to a Holy God, who we all have sinned against. What a humble reminder when God lovingly but sternly removes us from our man-made pedestal, reminding us He bore our sin and shame. How quick we are to see smudges on the windowpane, as the beautiful view behind it goes unnoticed.

Out of all of Jesus’ disciples, Peter always comes to my mind as an example of placing the focus on a person’s failures and forgetting the glory of God through their life. Peter walked on water with Jesus but quickly sank when he tried to swim in his own self-sufficiency. Jesus rebuked him, even calling him Satan, for having his mind on the here and now rather than eternity. Many times Peter seemed to have it all figured out; yet his actions demonstrated that the depth of Jesus’ words was like a shallow puddle evaporating in the summer sun. There was one incident in Peter’s life that stands out so profound, it has attached to him like a title, a last name. Peter denied Jesus not once, not twice but three times. The disciple who said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:35), later said, ” I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:72). This outspoken follower of Jesus, cowardly turned on his heels back the way he came; turning his back on Jesus.

How easy we remember the ugliness of Peter’s failures, quickly forgetting the beautiful totality of the outcome. The beauty in Peter’s life wasn’t about Peter at all; rather the immeasurable love, grace and forgiveness of God shown to him. The worst possible outcome was not the denial, but would have been the absence of return. But God, being so great in his love and mercy, encouraged Peter to turn back to Jesus and not walk away. Jesus later built the Rock, His church on Peter! Wow, what an amazing comeback for Peter through the power of God. We fail to see the love of God, when we only see the things in which He died for in others. Is it not our selves we see when looking at Peter? We all have denied Christ at one point or another, and many times we deny Him daily. God never asked us to be perfect, so why do we demand it in others?  Perception through our own eyes fogs our vision, unable to see Christ’s clear, 20/20, loving view of them. The Bible says to encourage each other, considering your brother better than yourself; to love as Christ has loved us, forgiving each other as he has forgiven us. Oh, how wonderful the world would be if we encouraged each other in the gifts God has given those around us, building them up; rather than creating blueprints for their reconstruction and renovation, tearing them down. How is it that Christ saw all that was evil in us and still died for us? The answer is simple; He loved us.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 
Colossians 2:2

…the good old days…

Is there a period in my life I would consider “the good old days”?

The short answer? No.

My early childhood years were carefree and fun.  As I look back, I realize our family had very little in terms of money and stuff but I had everything because I had a family that loved me and made me feel safe and valued.  I recognize not everyone receives such a rare and special gift.  But kids have no control over their own lives and I always wanted to do my own thing!

The teen years, lots of awkward nerdiness – don’t wanna go back there, don’t hardly even want to think about it!

Twenties and thirties – a time for spreading my wings and making my own decisions, some of them very wrong.  There were lots of changes, and some major life bumps, marriage, divorce, learning how to live a single life, then re-marrying and starting a family.  I was overwhelmed with joy to have a baby, then two years later another baby and three years later a third baby!  Early years with kids were unbelievably busy with little sleep but much joy and happiness.  I became a Christ-follower at 39.

Forty – that number felt like hitting a wall, a big number, the realization that my life, statistically, was more than half over!  These years were good as kids grew and my world got bigger, God sent friends, allowed some challenges and different opportunities for learning and growth.

Fifties, sailed by, full of work, really enjoying the years of raising teens and young adults, celebrating my kids steps to independence. Working full-time brings increased income and freedom to travel and enjoy more of what life has to offer.

Sixties, another big number!  I am in the final years of my life. Although I do not know when God will call me home my body reminds me that it’s all downhill from here.  But so what – I’m just getting closer to heaven!

I am blessed with good health, I get to live in a beautiful part of the world, the beach is 15 minutes away and the sun is shining most days.  I have the love of family and friends, I eat every day, I have a home to live in where I feel comfortable and safe.  Compared to most of our world I have it all and I am humbled by this and grateful beyond words!

As I look back over the decades of my life it has just kept getting better and better.  Not because of stuff but because God has been so very gracious to me.  I feel more secure about who I am, my talents and abilities, more confident with each passing year.  I care less what others may think and realize more and more the value and importance of the people God brings into my life.  Stuff, achievement, acquisition, position, recognition, power – all of these are less important to me daily.  I realize I brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out with me; that I need to invest my time, energy and talent into doing what I love with the people I love.  My desire is to leave a vast legacy of happy memories, to ease the burdens of as many as I can in some way and to share the joy and wisdom God has given me with others.

Is there a time in my life I consider the “good old days”, that I would like to return to?  Nah!  Right now is just right!

Blogging 101 – Dear Dream Reader

Today’s assignment – create a post that addresses your “Dream Reader”, the person who hope to reach through your blog and do something different.

Dear Dream Reader,

Be encouraged, be inspired…

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37 – 39

With a prayer for you…

Blogging 101 – Introducing…ME!

For the next few weeks many of my blog posts will be assignments for Blogging 101. The goal is to improve my blogging skills – you be the judge!

Todays Assignment: Who I Am and Why I’m Here.

I have always enjoyed writing and have learned to appreciate how difficult it is to really write well and to express yourself clearly.   Many years ago God gave me a love of the His Word, the Bible. I love reading, studying and teaching the Bible and I was able to do that in different settings and ways. Along the way my husband and I were given the opportunity to fulfill one of our dreams – living in Florida. So about 18 months ago we made our final decision and started the process of relocating from Northeast Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast of Florida. We arrived at our new home in January of 2014.

Condensing the past 18 tumultuous months into three sentences make it sound so easy – it has not been; we greatly underestimated the impact of this decision. A big change for me was relinquishing my teaching and ministry leadership positions, something I dearly loved. God replaced this work with time; lots of time, a rare commodity that I had not had too much of for years. God and a few dear ones, encouraged me to write. My blog, State of My Heart, is the result.

My goal for State of My Heart is in the tagline, encouragement and lessons from The Word of God. I believe that God speaks through The Bible and His Word is the source of all wisdom and encouragement. The Bible is the primary way to get to know God, who He is and His character and to know His will for my life. The Word of God is the only mirror that shows me as I really am, sometimes weak, sinful and foolish but also dearly loved and clothed in Christ’s righteous; I am a princess, the adopted daughter of My King. The Bible reveals the true State of My Heart!

I am convinced the Bible is for everyone and is relevant for today. I know many will not agree. My blog is not an attempt to persuade or convince anyone to believe as I do; that’s God’s work not mine.  I write what God has shown and taught me and how His truth applies to my life; my hope is to inspire the reader to read and apply God’s Word to their own life and:

  • Be Encouraged – I am not as bad as I thought I was,
  • Be Inspired – I can do it,
  • Learn Something – I didn’t know or never thought that way, or
  • Be Challenged – I am worse than I thought I was!

Over the next year I would like to continue to improve my writing skill and improve the look and navigation on my blog. I would love to publish a book. Because I have many other interests some of those may also make “guest appearances” here – I love movies, reading, traveling, the beach, time with friends and family, eating, the beach, crafting and the beach – and that’s the short list!

Hope you will read, enjoy, and taste and see that the Lord is good!

Enjoy the Son-shine! Fantastic Betty

PS – the “Fantastic” part is a nickname given by a friend many years ago!  Topic for another post 😉