My three and a half year old granddaughter Ruthie came to me one day recently requesting I do a painting for her.
“Nana, I want a flower picture that you painted for me” Ruthie said this with her big eyes gazing earnestly at me.
“What kind of flower do you want me to paint?” asked.
She shrugged her little shoulders and responded “I don’t know. Just flowers.” Between this exchange and the fact I had painted lilies for her sister Lilias a few month earlier I readily agreed.
Pansies are my favorite flowers. They look like expressive faces in flower form and come in so many colors. I immediately decided pansies would be perfect. Pansies while beautiful and delicate are so bold and resilient and reminded me of Ruthie. As a little one she was tiny and frail looking and needed oxygen and feeding tube but in the last year she has been thriving without either.
I began drawing and painting pansies and below is the final result of pansies for Ruthie.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8
Every December I begin praying and seeking God for the word to be my focus for the coming year. “Flourish” was my word I began this New Year as my focus for 2020 with Jeremiah 17:7-8 as my theme verse.
I never dreamed how much this would be needed as my focus when 2020 began. Pandemic, unrest, riots and political battle more heated and intense than have seen before in my life, as well as so much fighting and offense everywhere you look. This year looked like anything but a flourishing environment. 2020 feels more like a desert with searing hot winds blowing. Life has been disrupted in numerous fronts,, many jobs and businesses lost, loss of physical contact with the pandemic limitations and so much social and political upheaval.
My goal was to flourish and to not merely be surviving but thriving, growing and being fruitful in various areas of my life. The challenges of 2020 have cause me to run to my Abba God much quicker and more frequently, as well as seeking more fervently to be rooted in Him and His Word. When I do that, the “what if’s” and fears of the future disappear and I gain an eternal perspective. Sadly there are days I look to the circumstances and my faith begins to wither until return to Him and His living water. I am praying whatever the last 2 months of 2020 hold, I will continue to grow in Christ and my faith, to be quick to be loving, kind and compassionate and not give into the fear, worries and unrest all around us. I desire to be a flourishing tree with green leaves that bears fruit even in drought with my roots drawing my nourishment from God’s living water.
Waiting is a part of everyone’s life at some point or another. For those like myself who deal with chronic illnesses, we spend much time waiting. We are waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for test results, waiting for insurance to approve a procedure or treatment, waiting to get into a specialist and waiting to feel better.
Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and shield. – Psalm 33:20
One thing I will say is God has always met us, sustained us and caused us to grow and be refined in many ways through seasons of waiting.
I have learned more about God’s sovereignty, His faithfulness, having joy and gratitude in hard circumstances during seasons of waiting. The lessons learned in one season build up what we lean on in future seasons of waiting.
While I waited nearly a decade to get some of my issues diagnosed, I have walked through a couple more challenging seasons of waiting that I can look back and see how God really uses them to train me in His character, to grow my faith and dependency on Him and gain a greater eternal perspective than I would have had without them.
The first challenging season of waiting was from March 30, 2011 to June 7, 2011. For over two months I did not know if I had chronic blood cancer or an acute leukemia with a short time to live. God allowed dear friends Earl & Nancy to be visiting the first week of this season. Nancy had just completed chemo and radiation therapies after a mastectomy for recurring breast cancer. She and Earl sat in our living room recounting the ways God met them in her cancer and crying tears of joy. Their example showed me I wanted to be known as a women of joy and gratitude regardless of which diagnosis I received and to bring Christ glory. As I lived in the Word, I learned lessons on faith, counting it all joy, gratitude and dependency in a deeper and richer way than I had ever experienced prior to this. I realized whether my life was cut short or merely changed and long, I wanted my life to count for Christ and eternity. To share all I learned in those weeks would be a whole volume.
5 I wait for the LORD, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the LORD more than watchman for the morning, more than watchmen in the morning. – Psalm 130:5-6
The second harder season of waiting was from August 30, 2018 until March of 2019. This was not health related though the stress of it flared my health issues up. It was a nightmarish season of false accusations against my husband and two other pastors at our church. We were dealing with the hard reality that somebody we loved dearly and had been a very close friend was the one making these charges. Our relationship has not yet been restored since they continue to believe the lies about us. My husband and the the other two pastors were cleared of all wrong doing last March and commended for their faithfulness. This was a really hard season of seeking God and looking for His care and for treasures in the darkness. During this season, I dwelled in the Psalms and learned lessons of lamenting as well as praising God in the darkness of betrayal, false accusations and uncertainty. Somehow this season was much harder than awaiting a cancer diagnosis. But again we grew in trusting a faithful God who works out His perfect will even in situations that seem so counter to His heart of love and grace. And we still continue to wait for restoration of this relationship.
I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. – Isaiah 45:3
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. – Romans 12:12
How has God met you in seasons of waiting? Which verses or passages most encouraged you?
I am an artistic soul who loves creating and beauty and the idea of minimalism never appealed to me. I think I always viewed it as stark, cold, sterile and uncreative. I read an article on minimalism lately that had a quote that got me considering it differently.
“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”
As a Christian, I can see so many ways this can apply. What things or activities distract me from worshipping and serving God fully? What are the passions and gifts God has given me and what things are extras that detract from growing those? What things benefit me for being intentional in promoting my love and service to God and using the gifts and talents he has given me? What things detract from those?
I have been pondering these much in my heart and am not sure all that it will entail yet. I do think one area is what do I spend my time on, does it glorify God or have eternal value or am I wasting the days God has given me?
Once I begin identifying those time wasters I am praying God reveals to me what things and activities I need to be rid of to simplify my life to promote the things I most value and God most values for me.
At this point I am not sure what all this will mean but am looking forward to God revealing things to me and making it clear. I am praying for His Holy Spirit to guide me and show me how to simplify my life to more fully embrace things of eternal value. I know I want plenty of seats around my table and dishes needed to practice hospitality as well as enough living room seating to host small groups and Bible studies and we will want a place for guests to stay in our home. So I am seeking what God has called us to and how to best fulfill that by diminishing unnecessary distractions. I am not looking to make a stark empty home that hinders loving and serving others. In several months or a year I will update on what that will mean for us.
Here are some resources I am reading that are looking into minimalism from a Christian perspective :
I tend to either go to work on something that needs done and see six other things needing done so I flit around doing them. Meanwhile the thing I was trying to accomplish is still not done. Or I hyper focus on something and stay immersed for hours in it when other things truly need to be done. This can impact my spiritual life, physical well being, keeping up on my home, or being creative.
Focusing has been a challenge all of my life. My teacher had me spend much of third grade in a corner all by myself so I would be less distracted by other kids and quit socializing. I know I have ADD and am easily distracted. Couple that with chronic health issues that cause me to be “consistently inconsistent” because I never know from day to day or even hour to hour how I will feel is the perfect storm for distraction.
A prime example is the fact I have to take a medication 30 minutes before eating to manage my mast cell disease. I can put the water heating to be slightly warmed in microwave and in the 25 seconds decide to clear the table or check something online and 20, 30, 40 minutes and several different things later still have not taken my medicine making my meal later.
It is 4:30 in the afternoon and realize have not planned dinner again. I now go with what can thaw quickest in microwave. This happens SO many times unless on the weekend I write out a meal plan and shopping list for the week.
Another example would be when I am working on a creative project like sewing, gardening or watercolor painting and I am so immersed in the project and hyper focused I do not realize how much time has passed and can be lost in it for hours upon hours at a time.
Lists and timers are my best friends. To-do lists help me prioritize and accomplish what is needed rather than doing what is distracting me. If something is distracting if I write it on today or the next day’s list I know it won’t be forgotten and can leave it to sorta stay on task. If something is niggling at my brain and distracting me during my time in Bible reading and prayer I write it down on a tablet kept nearby. Over the years with consistent training and asking God to help me focus on Him it has gotten where need to do that much less often. I have found when have scheduled appointments or zoom meetings that my calendar app on my phone set with reminder alarms at 2 hours and again at 30 minutes before travel time help me to be ready on time.
Another way timers help me is with my various medications. One is taken four times a day 30 minutes before eating and at least 2 hours after last meal and at least 30 minutes after any other medication. If not taken this way, this medication is rendered ineffective. Lately, this has been helped by my hubby wanting to eat lunch with me so I set an alarm to take it and make myself follow through. After each dose I set a timer for 20 minutes to leave me 10 minutes to prep my breakfast or lunch. Dinner dose taken half hour before meal should be finished and I am usually in kitchen cooking. Also I have meds to take between dinner and bedtime and again at bedtime. Setting alarms on my phone has really helped me stay up on these.
Because I am easily distracted, we sit up front at church so no cute kids or movements of others to distract me from the worship team or pastor’s sermon. Because I know I am not an oral learner I take copious notes during the teaching because I retain what I write. I do the same when attending conferences or seminars whether on the Bible, gardening or any subject. Knowing my weaknesses and preparing to counter them becomes a strength.
My best weeks are the ones where I meal plan and discuss the coming week with my husband on Sunday afternoon or evening. Meal plans help me shop appropriately rather than just buy things that look interesting and either have too much of something and/or missing items to make meals. I know what is important for my husband, for us as a couple in the coming week and we often pray for God to order the coming week. These weeks work best if no mast cell reactions or flares, which can knock me down physically and give enough brain fog to add to my distraction and forgetfulness.
I have been praying for God to “teach me to number my days so I may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). For Him to enable me to use my time more wisely and prioritize what I do based on what He desires and what has eternal value. I am reminded God created me and knows every intimate detail, every minute molecule about me. Even with an ADD brain and chronic health issues I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and that He knows what all the days of my life will be like and has them written in His book long before I existed. (Psalm 139:16) Nothing I do, say or think surprises God because He is aware of it long beforehand. (Psalm 139).
So my timers and lists and praying for God to show me His priorities for the day help me to number my days and have more of a heart of wisdom. Will I continue to be easily distracted? Most likely. Will I get priorities messed up? Undoubtably! But I know my God loves me, cares for me and leads me and when I blow it, in His mercy, He is ready to forgive me when I confess my sins
Are you easily distracted? What has helped you be able to stay on task? I welcome all insights and wisdom from you, my readers so share away in the comments.
Psalms 23 is such a familiar psalm that it is easy to recite it and move on without seeing the rich blessings of love, care, protection, and guidance our Good Shepherd provides for us. I remember in VBS the summer between second and third grade getting a prize for memorizing Psalm 23. I could recite it by rote, but did not grasp the rich meanings of it. The Lord is MY shepherd!!! I am HIS lamb in HIS flock. He personally cares for me and each one in His flock. My shepherd is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Because He is our Shepherd, we shall not want. This want is not speaking of physical or material riches. Phillip Keller writes in “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”—“yet amid such hardships he can still boast ‘I shall not want… I shall not lack the expert care and management of my master.’” Sheep will not drink if water is moving or lie down if there is any fear of danger. The shepherd finds still pools of water that quench and refresh and green pastures of refuge and safety where He watches over them. Sheep are dependent on their shepherd to find the water, nourishment, safety, care and rest they need.
How tenderly our God cares for each of us as His sheep! He gives us His living water and meets our needs. We are blessed with a refuge where we can safely lie down, rest and be at peace in His presence. Our Shepherd leads us on righteous paths to grow us into conformity to His image (Romans 8:29)—to become more like Him. When we go through seemingly hopeless situations, where death seems to lurk nearby, we can have peace and comfort in His wondrous presence rather than be overcome by fear of evil. Lord, may we, as Your precious sheep, never forget to rejoice and express gratitude to You, the One who shepherds us through all our life until we reach eternity. Thank You for being the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, Your sheep. Enable us to recognize and remember to ever praise You for Your care, provision, protection, comfort and peace in both the green pastures and the dark valley of death. Thank You that in You we shall not want but can rest content in your perfect care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Deb Peabody
What areas of your life are scorched places, where do you feel you are unable to grow or thrive or are feeling is a complete disaster? Are you in the midst of relationship issues with a spouse or wayward child, or struggling to make ends meet or maybe your health is failing and every faltering step forward feels too hard. Or maybe you are walking through the charred barrenness overwhelmed with heartache and grief without an end to it in sight.
When in a scorched place, do you not desire God to guide you and enable you to have all you need to grow or thrive like a watered garden with an endless supply of fresh spring waters?
He promises in this passage that He is continually leading you even when in those hard scorch places. And in the midst of those hard dry disastrous places He will provide and satisfy our desires. This may happen in ways we do not expect and situations where we least expect it.
We lived in Arizona for six years and some areas of the dessert are beautiful and full of things to look at but others that are parched and scorched by heat or fire have very little to draw our attention. One redeeming quality of being in a scorched place is that there is very little to distract us from God and our need for Him. We thirst for God like a man living in a desert without water.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
– Psalm 63:1 ESV
After my health tanked in late 2009, I found so many of my true heart’s desires have been provided in the heat of suffering and deserts of loneliness or great need. He has continually lead me step by step and my path has taken many unexpected turns. In the heat He refines me and teaches me to be more dependent on Him and to worship Him in the dark and dry places as well as in the well watered areas of my life. My faith has grown, as has my trust in His sovereignty, faithfulness, goodness and wisdom so much more in the seasons of disaster or in the heat of suffering.
Running to God and resting in Him I find a refuge, a perfect oasis of comfort and peace in the barren desolate scorched places.
“Nothing has more powerfully shaped me — my theology, my character, my love for God and for others — than suffering.” – Vaneetha Randall Risner Read her article here:
Hudson Taylor, the well-known missionary to China in the 1800s, has this to say, “The deepest, most precious, and most abiding spiritual lessons, which God has been pleased to teach me were learned in consequence of enduring my various experiences of sickness. . . . I feel it would have been nothing short of a calamity to have missed the physical suffering thro which I have passed. . . . I am positive that I have sometimes met with God’s refusal to heal when I have been most in fellowship with him.“
God has met me, satisfied my deepest inner longings and lead me continually in the scorched places. My well watered garden, watered by His living water, is growing fruits of the Spirit like love, joy and peace and so on as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. I pray I will ever be fruitful even in the most severe droughts of suffering or hardships. I also pray this for each of you who read this.
Scorched Places – Isaiah 58:11
My soul has dwelt in scorched places where day and without rest.
Yet, my God met me with His peace, joy and strength for each test.
My LORD continually guides me to His oasis in the scorched place
Where He ever satisfies me with the living waters of His grace.
– Deborah Peabody February 13, 2020
My husband and I at an oasis called Papago Park in Phoenix, AZ in March 2011.
Chapter 40 of Isaiah begins with familiar words of our coming Messiah which are included in Handel’s Messiah, ”Comfort my people.” Verse 8 reminds us that “God’s Word will stand forever,” while verse 11 shows the tender shepherd-like care God has for each of us. The middle section from verses 12 -27 recount the greatness of our glorious God and Creator and how far He is beyond our limited comprehension. But I want to focus on the last few verses beginning with verse 28 through 31.
I love how verse 28 reminds us of the Everlasting God who is our Creator with boundless energy—He never faints or grows weary. Just knowing this about our God and knowing of His ability to empower us increases our faith and makes the following verses so much sweeter.
Because of who God is, His character, He can give power to the faint and increase strength in those with no might. Think about how circumstances and challenges in your life that have rendered you feeling faint or so weak. We have a strong, compassionate Shepherd who can give us the increased strength we need. As He reminded us in verse 8, “His word stands forever” including His promised resources of strength in Isaiah 49:29–31.
But how do we access this renewed strength? Verse 31 says we wait on the Lord to renew our strength. We are relying upon Him in expectant hope and faith for the strength to bear our burdens and for deliverance in due time. With our God, we can wait expectantly to soar with the eagles and run the race set before He has set before us.
2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. – Psalm 57:1-2
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.
Every time I read this passage God reminds me of how He so vividly illustrated this to me. I grew up in Eastern Washington where we did not have earthquakes or tornadoes but after seeing lightning strike a tree as a young child, I developed a terrifying fear of thunderstorms. Ironically God had us stationed at Offutt AFB near Omaha, NE when I was a mom of two preschoolers. That day in July 1988 we had been under tornado watch all afternoon. As I watched the skies turn green and gruesome, I prepared a shelter for the three of us in our only interior room which was our bathroom. (We did not have a basement). When the sirens sounded, the three of us hunkered down into the bathtub with quilts and pillows to protect us. I read/prayed this passage with my children,and we sang several worship songs. After a few minutes, they both fell sound asleep while the sirens still sounded for over 45 minutes.
Their childlike faith and confidence in God as their refuge and safety until the storms of destruction pass was convicting to me. Yes, I quoted verses and sang calmly on the outside while terrified on the inside.
Now this story is one of those reminders of God’s faithfulness in my life and that I can fully rest in Him as my refuge regardless of the storms that come in my life.
Storms have come in natural disasters, lost jobs, miscarriages, loss of parents, relocating, loss of health and by His grace and faithfulness I have weathered them all. He faithfully uses all of these to fulfill His purposes for me.
Lord, today in our storms of 2020, enable us to see how You are being our refuge and fulfilling Your purposes in our lives. Amen.
Our world around us is full of strife and outrage. It is easy to cause offense or be offended. There are so many things that need changed or fixed in our world that we can get so caught up in it all that we become frantic, fearful or irritable. When we only consider all the grievous things happening in our world today among a pandemic and social injustice we can be overwhelmed and/or anxious.
Yesterday while watching our church service on Livestream they opened the service with Psalms 131 as the call to worship. Our pastor went on to say after reading it that we need to be like weaned children with our Savior who are quieted and content.
1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. – Psalms 131
Today I did a focused study and meditation on verse two. I first looked up the meaning of “I have calmed” from the Hebrew and it means to agree with, composed, smooth and stilled. Literally to have composed, hushed or rendered silent my soul.
Benson’s Commentary had this to say about it:
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself — Hebrew, שׁויתי ודוממתי נפשׁי, I have composed and hushed, or, rendered silent, my soul. When my mind was provoked to any irregular passion or temper, I restrained and subdued all such sinful motions or dispositions. As a child that is weaned of his mother — As void of all that ambition and malice, wherewith I am charged, as a child newly weaned; or, rather, as wholly depending upon God’s providence, as the poor helpless infant, when it is deprived of its accustomed food, the milk of the breast, takes no care to provide for itself, but wholly relies upon its mother for support. I have levelled my mind to an equality with my condition; and resolved to acquiesce in the present state of things, committing myself wholly to thy care, being content to be disposed of as thou pleasest.”
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers said this:
We thus get: “Surely I made my soul as quiet as a weaned child upon his mother, as a weaned child upon me, my soul.” Instead of fretting after what is too great for him, he quiets his ambition, and his spirit lies calm and gentle, like a child in its mother’s arms, that after the first trouble of weaning is over is soothed and lulled by the maternal caress. Perhaps the opposite idea, expressed by the common phrase, “to nurse ambitious thoughts,” may serve to illustrate this somewhat unwonted image.
So as I pondered this verse and thought about how this applies, it reminded me how instead of fretting about everything I need to run to my Heavenly Father and let Him be the quieting force in my soul to supernaturally enable me to be quiet and content and fully trusting in Him to provide for my every need as my loving Father. As I meditated on this verse, God gave me a poetic response to it.
Things in our world have shifted so much in recent weeks all because of a tiny microscopic virus. Our enemy is unseen. Life seems unpredictable and precarious, jobs and economy look uncertain and scary, and the future is clouded with unknowns and what-ifs. Most areas have restrictions for social distancing so many of us are also alone or just with our immediate family. How do we as Christ followers navigate this uncharted waters and still be salt and light for the watching world?
As flawed humans with a sin nature, it is easy to run into the ditch of fear and paranoia or to the opposite ditch of complacency or disbelief the threat is true. Even Christians can be overcome with anxiety or fear when watching the many news reports of COVID-19. How do we trust God and find peace in the midst of all of this?
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 ESV
First of all I need to remember this is not a surprise to my God. He is over all diseases, infections and viruses even COVID-19. He is with us, helping us, strengthening us and upholding us. I often imagine my Abba Father holding my hand with his right hand when I read this verse. I want to have the child like faith that my Daddy can make it all good. And Our Abba can!!
3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. – Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV
These two verses in Isaiah 26 show that our peace comes from trusting God. Remind yourself of past incidences where God has shown Himself faithful to you personally and in His Word. Because of His character and God’s past workings in my life and lives of others I see that he is faithful, sovereign, good and wise and worthy of my trust regardless of the circumstances around me.
I pray that we can each fix our eyes on Christ rather than get fixated by the negative news reports and social media. May we trust in the only One worthy of our trust and when we struggles to believe and trust ask Him to help us with our unbelief. ( Mark 9:24b I believe; help my unbelief!”).