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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15 NIV)

Do you have days, sometimes weeks, months, even years, when you find it hard to be thankful? …times when life’s disappointments and burdens weigh you down and you find yourself dwelling and stewing over them? It seems unpatriotic or sacrilegious to mention such a thing now, one day before Thanksgiving, but for many it is reality. Thanksgiving and Christmas bring with them great expectations of family celebrations and traditions… and disappointment over unmet expectations.

I suggest Colossians 3:16 may offer some insight to how we can rise above these situations and cultivate a spirit of thankfulness. If we cultivate the peace of Christ in our hearts, and if we make it a matter of will to keep our eyes on Jesus, we will feel his presence lifting us up even in our disappointments. The Bible often mentions a “sacrifice of praise.” This happens when we praise God in spite of our disappointments, even daring to praise him for the things that cause us grief. In my own experience, it has been the hard times that brought me closer to God. What I would have missed if life had always gone my way – what a spoiled brat I would have become.

Make your Bible your favorite book. A good concordance may help you find scriptures to meet your particular needs for the day. The Psalms are a great place to go when your spirit needs a lift. Spend time in prayer, and sing praises to God. If you listen to Christian music, especially scripture and praise songs, you bring in the assistance of those recorded voices to lift your spirit. Be pro-active in your praise and sing with them. God isn’t concerned over how well you sing, but he loves the sound of your voice when it is praising him. If you feel like crying, then cry your heart out to God. Remember that the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” He cares about your grief. Keep the music playing until you have cried it through, and let the praise songs lift you up into his presence.

A song that brings out how God blesses us through our trials is entitled, Through it All. Click the link and listen to the version I found on YouTube by The Booth Brothers. I hope these words bless you like they do me.

Father God, help us to truly be thankful to you as we experience the Thanksgiving holiday this year. Bless the needy out of your bounty so they can see your face and feel your peace.

© 2009 by Janice D. Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

1 Timothy 6:10 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Timothy warns us against the love of money which causes us to turn our eyes away from God. This principal comes to mind when I watch the flocks of Pine Siskins that have covered our bird feeders this winter. Most of these birds are content to gather together and enjoy the free food. But there are a few in each flock that are determined to claim the whole dish for themselves and agressively chase all others away. We onlookers laugh at the absurdity of it all, as the tiny bird could not eat the pile of seeds in the dish. Furthermore, while the bird so relentlessly defends his claim he doesn’t have time to eat.

God owns everything. He promises to care for us, his flock. If we trusted Him to keep his promises, we wouldn’t have to expend so much energy guarding our posessions. Is God watching out His window in heaven and laughing at our pettiness? Let us keep our eyes on Jesus and allow the Heavenly Father to bless us out of his unlimited supply.

Father God, help us to keep our eyes focused on You. Restore our trust when our anxious thoughts take our eyes off of You, and restoreYour peace. Enable us to be satisfied with Your provisions and to hold them with open generous hands.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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manupmen left the following question under the contact section of my blog: If God loved the cardinal, why did He let it hit the car?

Reference my earlier post: God Cares About my Troubles

Your question is so valid.

We people want God to keep everything rosy and perfect for us. You are concerned about the cardinal as I was. But God is seeing the world through a different set of eyes. His eyes are able to see beyond the tragedies and into eternity. Eternity is our final home, the home that is for keeps, our truest security.

The cardinal is a bird, not like human life. Cardinals and people die every day. God loves the cardinals and the people, He made them. God notices when a bird dies and cares that it died for no aparent reason as happened when this one was struck by my car. But in the world He created, there is a food chain that makes use of everything, even if the bird didn’t die a natural death.

As the scripture says, we are worth so much more than the sparrows. (Matthew 10:28-31) God does intervene on our behalf, though not always in the same way we ask. God looks at a much bigger picture than we are able to see though our eyes in the here and now. Sometimes God is using our troubles to re-shape our lives, to teach us new things, or simply to help us to re-focus our attention on Him.

And God sees past our world into Eternity. Once we are on the other side, our troubles will seem much smaller in comparison to how we see them now. There is a song called Until Then that has a line in it that says our troubles “remembered there will only bring a smile.” Follow the link to listen to it on UTube. Our lives are but a breath compared to the time we have in eternity. Look to Jesus during the troubles in your life and trust God with the big picture.

Romans 1:17 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Where do you find your confidence? your security? your trust? your faith? Are these not one and the same? In this fast changing world we live in it is easy to become fretful when we find the cost of living rising so fast. We watch grocery and gasoline prices rise while our savings diminish and we feel a loss of security.

I am facing what I call a “premature retirement.” My position as librarian in a small school is coming to an end in December. My school has been consolidated with a larger school and we have a new building. I was offered another position at a small school an hour away from where I live, and at today’s escalating gas prices, I refused. But I was able to convince them they needed me through December to help consolidate the two libraries into one. I am now facing an early retirement with less than the number of years required for full retirement and with a sizeable deduction for the fact I’m not quite 65. I live in a very small town with a high unemployment rate. All this is to say I know what it is like to be anxious and nervous about tomorrow.

But all my anxious thoughts and worries are an affront to God who has promised never to leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5) So I must come back to my first question and apply it to myself: Where do I find my confidence? my security? my trust? my faith? My heart tells me I should put my confidence, my security, my trust, my faith in God. In my heart I know this is true, but I need God’s help to take my eyes off my bank account and to keep them on Him. Like Peter who could walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the waves, (Matthew 14:30) I must learn to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of dwelling on the things that worry me.

Our verse for today reminds us to look to the message of the Gospel to find our righteousness. This is where we are to put our faith. We can’t live by faith until we find it in Jesus and in his teachings.

It helps me to look at the ways God has intervened for me in the past. I can recall several critical times in my life when He pulled me out of a crisis at the last minute in a most unexpected way. If He did it then, He can do it again.

So here I am looking to Jesus to pull me out. Something is still amiss. Shouldn’t I be looking to Jesus for the sake of being close to Him? If I’m looking to Jesus only for a rescue of my finances, I’m not really looking to Jesus, I’m looking through Him at myself. It is time to lose myself in Him, time to spend quality time with Him, time to seek Him with all my heart for the pure joy of knowing Him better each day.

Heavenly Father, help me to truly focus my eyes on You and seek to do Your will in everything. Help me to look above the cares of this world to see Your hand at work in everything, and to rest in Your peace.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 5:7-11 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James teaches us to be patient when we go through suffering. How easy it is to turn to fretting instead of faith. We are reminded to think like the farmer who has to trust God to send the rain at the right time and trust God with the timing in our lives.

It is also important for us to remember how God uses suffering to build character in his beloved children. We may feel we are being punished, but punishment and discipline are not necessarily the same. Punishment is often the direct response to outright sin and is intended to cause pain or bring justice. God is always working toward the future. He disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 2:6) to prepare them for service in his kingdom. Discipline may not be in response to a great sin, it may be more like sandpaper working on some rough edges. But the end purpose of discipline is to prepare us for service in the future.

James reminds us not to grumble against one another. It is so easy to give in to grumbling when we struggle with the events around us. Our grumbling stands in the face of developing patience and works against us. God is not pleased when we grumble.

Job was a patient man who held to his faith in God against all odds. By looking to Job and others in the Bible such as Joseph in Egypt, we may find the courage and strength to help us persevere in our times of suffering.

Father God, strengthen our hearts when we are hurting. Help us to trust in you for courage and strength.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:20Matthew 5:3  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

As I read the first of the Beatitudes in Luke I kept saying to myself that this wasn’t the way I remembered it. I searched several translations, but still couldn’t find one that started “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Instead I kept finding “Blessed are the poor.” I finally realized that I learned the Beatitudes from Matthew and not Luke.

So which is it? I could get all uptight over this and say that both should report this exactly the same way, but I have resolved in my heart to not let such minor differences unsettle my faith. In fact, quite the opposite. The fact that two different people reported the same instances with so many details that are the same bears witness to the fact that they didn’t need to consult with each other to tell the story. Both were capable writers and independent witnesses to the historical facts of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

So which is it? I believe that God was present in the Spirit when both accounts were written and both accurately express what he wants us to know. There are blessings that only the poor can know. Life can be simpler when you don’t have to worry about losing your fortune if the stock market crashes. The poor are less likely to have a child kidnapped for ransom. But even more importantly, the poor have learned to trust God to meet their needs.

Comparisons have been made on who is more generous, the rich or the poor, and it is the poor who will give the greater percent of their income to help others. This is perhaps one example of the freedom that the poor experience but that is elusive to the rich. Perhaps this is in part how theirs (the poor) is the kingdom of heaven.

The insertion of the words “in spirit” as seen in Matthew’s account changes the meaning a little, but it is still within the framework of the rest of Biblical teaching. Therefore I believe this is equally valid in the Beatitudes. When I think of being poor in spirit, I think of brokenness. We are a stiff-necked people, we make our plans and expect God to bless them (not the other way around). We tend to think we are in control of our lives, and when things seem to start spinning out of control we panic and fall to our knees making demands on God. Somewhere down in the bottom of all this turmoil is where we come to our wit’s end. This is where our spirit is finally broken, and where we look up to God and ask him to fix the mess we have made of our lives. The blessing God gives for a broken spirit is eternal life as we turn our lives over to him. This is the kingdom of heaven.

I have been worrying over my financial future as I face an earlier than advisable retirement in January. So now that I have wrestled through these scriptures, I need to re-read my own post. It is re-assuring that God has so much to say about trusting him with our tomorrows. Then to consider that I might be more fully blessed if I am poor than if I were rich… that boggles my mind in a comforting way.

I have been weighing out in my mind whether I should spend next week in a Salkehatchie Summer Service camp. It will be a last minute decision, but it is something I’ve been wanting to do for thirteen years, ever since the time I first learned about the program. I think this passage of scripture will take on even more meaning as I work through the week.

Father God, you know the blessings that are the best. Help us to see life through your eyes and not the eyes of the world. Help us to be satisfied, even generous, with what you have given us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Psalm 118:5-9 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 Is the Lord your refuge? When your financial security gets pulled out from under you do you feel secure? If you have experienced the rejection of divorce or alienation from a close friend, did you feel secure? There are many trials that may come across our path that test whether we are putting our confidence in people and relationships or whether we are putting our confidence in God.

I think this is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. It isn’t that I don’t trust in God, I do. But when it gets down to facing the future with abandon knowing that my job will be terminated just before Christmas, I am filled with panic. It seems that this is a pattern that has followed me throughout my lifetime, and I have often given in to feelings of panic and fear. I cannot glorify God when I give in to these feelings.

It is time to step back and remember just who this awesome God is.

  • He is the creator of the Universe and everything in it. 
  • He died on a cross to give us eternal life.
  • He has walked this earth and knows our troubles from the inside out.
  • Death could not keep him in the tomb.
  • He uses sand to keep the ocean in its boundaries.
  • He knows the stars by name.

Read Psalm 139 and be reminded that God is with you in every circumstance.

Recount times in the past when God rescued you in times of trouble and know that he will do it again.

Re-read today’s passage, Psalm 118:5-9, and remember that David went through many desperate times himself, yet he was able to put his trust in God. Read it again with praise and celebration in your heart. If you don’t feel like praising on the second or third time, read it again and again until it finally sinks in. God is faithful and his Word will not return void. Use his Word to lift your spirits.

Father God, who knows me better than I know myself. Protect me from moments of despair by lifting me up and drawing me close to your heart. Help us to truly trust you in every circumstance.

One more note: as I was writing this prayer I had to pause and listen to a song that was playing on the radio that meant so much to me in a critical time in my past. Isn’t that just like God?

The song is He’s Been Faithful by Carol Cymbala.  I did a quick search online for a sound bite of the song. I found this on YouTube He’s Been Faithful by Vicki Yohe. I also found The words of the song on this website.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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A week and a half ago I had cataract and corrective surgery on one eye. As the eye heals my vision in that eye continues to improve so that my once extremely near-sighted left eye is becoming closer and closer to 20/20. Meanwhile my right eye continues to be extremely near-sighted without correction and 20/20 with correction which includes a bi-focal lens.  My glasses have become glasses as the left lens was removed following surgery.

My new “bionic” left eye should be a source of joy to me except that it wants to argue with my right eye. I have been continually evaluating each situation and deciding which eye(s) to use… Driving calls for my glasses and bionic eye, while indoor activities are more pleasant without the glasses.  Reading and using the computer are a draw considering my bi-focals are less effective than they used to be and I have been able to pull my glasses off to read anyway. I now feel cross-eyed when wearing the glasses.

Sunday morning I had a pity party as tears rolled down my cheeks during the worship service. I will not be able to have surgery on my right eye for several months for various reasons, and this could turn into a year or more, maybe never. So I have begun to feel very betrayed by my doctor who didn’t prepare me for this battle between my eyes which has become so distracting.

We have campmeetings this week at Hemingway Campground, so I have been wrestling with my anger toward my doctor as well as wrestling with depression and despair over the possibility that this disorientation may go on for some time. Meanwhile I recognize that I have been continuing to draw more and more into myself.

I feel myself coming under conviction – my attitude has not been bringing glory to God. We sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” and I see my hypocrisy in my complaining spirit. I am allowing my eyes to rob me of my joy in the Lord. Doesn’t God’s word tell us to give thanks in everything? (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I am resolving to praise God for my eyes, and to wear my glasses with greater resolve that my eyes will make the necessary adjustments with God’s help. I also desire to walk more closely with Jesus so that I may sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” without reservations, with his joy bubbling in my heart. As he promises in his word may I draw near to him so that he will draw near to me. (James 4:8)

     22  Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Luke 12:22-24 (NIV)

     This teaching begins with the word “Therefore” which means we need to look at the preceding verses.  Jesus had just told the Diciples the parable of the rich man who planned to store up all his riches for himself, only to have his life come to an end that very night.  So when Jesus tells his Disciples not to worry, he is telling them not to be overly concerned about saving and hoarding to meet our own needs. 

     God urges us to observe the birds of the air and consider how he cares for them.  They only need to gather food every day.  They neither plant nor store up food for tomorrow.  God cares for the birds.  But he values us much more than the birds.  We can trust him to care for us.

     I am reminded of how God provided manna for the Israelites in the desert.  If the people tried to store up extra for the days ahead the manna spoiled.  They were to only gather as much as they needed.  God was teaching the Israelites to trust him to provide for them.

     Likewise, we are to trust God with our tomorrows.  God expects us to work and make a living, but we should not concern ourselves with storing up wealth so we can take life easy and indulge in our own pleasures.  Neither should we worry that we might not be able to earn enough or save enough.  If we are diligent and not lazy, we need not worry about our tomorrows.

     Lord, help us to so abide in your love and care that we will naturally trust you to provide for all of our needs.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:25-26 (NIV) 

     Do not worry – this is so easy to say, but it can be harder to follow through on this command. I suppose every age has it’s own set of things we can allow ourselves to worry about. I’ve been through most of them by now, but still don’t seem to get it at times. I draw closer to retirement and wish and worry all in the same breath.

     But when we fall into the worry trap we waste precious energy that could be channelled into more productive activity. But even more grievous is the fact that when we worry we are subconsciously expressing our lack of faith in God’s ability to take care of us. 

     When I read verse 24 I wonder where we draw the line between worry and personal responsibility. I don’t believe God means for us to throw all caution to the wind and live irresponsibly, expecting God and/or other people to pick up the slack. From the time Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden until now man has been under the curse of a fallen world. Each must labor and deal with the thorns in his/her field. Even the birds have to gather their own food.

     But it is one thing to have to work and quite another to render ourselves unable to work because of undue fretting and worry. We can trust God to be faithful and to bless our efforts, so that we may eat the fruit of our hands.

     Lord help us always to trust in your ability to provide and your eagerness to do so.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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