Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fresh Start - Happy New Year

 
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

In just a couple hours, we'll welcome in a new year - 2016. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

With that said, let's all leave behind the mistakes and failures of 2015. Let's forget about the many times we found ourselves lagging behind, learning lessons slowly, taking a step forward and then two steps back. Let's forget about the many disappointments, faulty expectations, unhealthy comparisons and many tests we may not have passed. Yes, let's leave them all behind and press beyond it all as this new year offers us a clean slate, a brand new, fresh start. 

Let's make up in our minds, as we step into a new chapter of life, that we will press on. We will not quit. We will not stop. We will keep walking. We will move full-steam-ahead into the new areas God has planned for us. We will fulfill the purpose He has called us to. We will make a difference in the lives of those we touch. We will allow God to move and work through us. Yes, it's a brand new, fresh start.

Let's dedicate our lives to the Kingdom of Heaven, let's surrender our wills and rights to whatever the Lord might have for us. Let's submit ourselves and plans to Him, let's pray for more of Him and less of us. Yes, let's make a change this year. Let's put our best foot forward and be consumed with Him. Let's put off distractions and run away from discouragement. And, when we fall, let's take advantage of God's mercy, grace and forgiveness; let's get right back up and keep striving for Heaven.

Happy New Year and may God bless you as you walk with Him. Our Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our Savior who loves us too much to leave us like He found us. 

Just a little bit longer...get ready for a brand new, fresh start. Ready. Set. Go.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Grab a Cup - the Sun's Coming Up

"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  Ps. 30:5

So, if you've read any of my posts from December,  you will have read about the JOYING game. I have struggled with the word JOY for a long time. Yes, I've beat myself up on quite a few occasions for not displaying it readily. I've contemplated on why the Lord didn't install a triple-dose-JOY-button on my melancholic personality somewhere. You know, like they do the extra "pumps" at your favorite coffee house? I'll take a triple dose, three times a day, please! I know, that might sound comical to some, ridiculous to others and still others will have their own personal views of joy. That's OK.

I went through the Christmas season sharing JOY pics with a friend. Why? Simply because I knew I needed to be reminded to find some - to consistently look for it - throughout the season. And, I thought it might be a nice reminder for her as well. Yet...much to my dismay, I still found myself floundering about grieving and in a pit of despair on more days than not. Yes, I can sympathize with those who find it difficult during this time of the year. Anyhow, I won't get side-tracked riding that rail right now. 

By the time Christmas was over, I found myself the happy new owner of three wonderful JOY cups...and a new perspective. Now, as you can tell by the picture above, each one is quite different. Different sizes, colors, depths, textures, and so forth.

Hmmm...maybe that's a reminder for me that joy comes in all shapes and sizes. After all, does JOY look the same on everyone? Why, maybe joy can even be a mixture of feelings too. You see, this morning when I woke up, my heart was light, I felt good in my body and mind, I was able to get out of bed and start organizing for a special project. At this time last week, I was having a difficult time even pulling myself out of bed. Would I realize this was a great morning if I hadn't been so down during the passing days? Maybe all these emotions go hand-in-hand.

True. Some days my joy might be a bit more obscured, but it isn't dormant. It might look a bit different, sort of like my cup collection. And, sometimes I allow it to be covered up with frustration, misunderstandings, and the busyness and stress of life. I've got to watch that! Yes, sometimes I might have to dig deep, like I'm mining for oil...but it's there...somewhere. Yes, it's a promise. For while we may go through times of weeping...JOY comes in the morning.

So, I've decided to spend 2016 learning more about JOY. I've chosen it as my Life word. I've ask God and intend to allow Him to work on me and open my understanding. I want to be a better person by the end of this new year because God has worked on me in this particular area. What about you? 

Now, if you seem to be in a dark night right about now, hold on, morning's coming. This too, shall pass, my dear friend says. Let's join around the table and share our own cups of joy...grab a seat (even if you're still in your jammies)...we're in this together and the sun's coming up.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thoughts & Dominoes

After a very low experience, one can often look back and learn much from the moment. Remember, they say "hindsight is 20/20." You see, it doesn't take must of anything but a simple push to start a ball rolling downhill. The further downward it goes, the faster the pace becomes. That, my friend, is where I've found myself. At the bottom of the hill, the pile, or whatever you want to call it...flat on my back...in need of someone to help me back up. All because of THOUGHTS.

Here's a couple examples to begin with: My mind (see? thoughts!) views a table top set up with a path of perfectly spaced black-and-white dominoes. You know, all it takes is a slight push in the right direction on the very first one and...chain reaction...one by one, every domino will fall. Or perhaps, attempting to make a "house" out of a deck of cards. Same issue, one slight bump on the table and a chain reaction begins...one card falls, then two, until the house you were trying to create is leveled. 

It's amazing how that applies to our thought processes too. One wayward thought, if not counter-acted, will lead to another, then another, and before we know it, we find ourselves in a stressed out or depressed state that could've been avoided. (Yes, I'm talking to me here! Lord, help me. I'm sure I'm not the only one though.)

 True, it's easier said than done. It takes discipline and practice. Consider this: My New Year's goal is going to be to become better at putting down my imagination when it could be hazardous. So, on January 2nd, I have a little pesky thought come into my mind. I have to replace it with a positive thought. I do. OK, happy dance, I'm on a roll! "Going to get this whipped by February," I think to myself. Then on January 15th, I find myself thinking about the fact that all my children are soon going to be out of my home. (Some days I'm completely alright with that fact.) With that thought, I start thinking about how quiet the house will be with just me and Pops at home. Then, I wonder what we'll do to keep ourselves busy since we no longer have to fight with teenagers to keep their bathroom tidy. Well, what if they end up going off to college or entering the military? What will happen to them? Will they be able to make it? Have a I taught them enough to help them live a good moral and productive life? What if I haven't been all the mother I was supposed to be? What if...and before you know it, I find myself worrying about stuff that hasn't even happened and might never. Case closed. 

See? It's ever so easy to let our minds run away in the wrong direction. Needless stress; harmful to our spiritual, physical and social lives. Yet, it's a tactic the enemy of our soul knows how to easily tempt with nonetheless. And most often, we're not alert enough to realize it's a trap. Oh, one more thing, not to mention, now that I've failed that New Year's resolution, I'm probably going to blow the other ones too. I'm such a failure! See? The domino effect rules!

The Lord knew what He was talking about when He told us to cast down imaginations and take every thought captive. He knew the impact just a single thought could make. It can become devastating to our lives if we don't replace it with a positive thought or a scripture from God's Word. Like I said, this is easier said than done, it takes discipline. And yes, this is truly one of my New Year's resolutions. I'm asking God even now before January 1st gets here, that He will help me overcome and conquer this issue in my life. I sit here right now with a pile of strewn dominoes scattered across my table.

I don't want to allow myself to be tempted in this area, I don't want to go through yet another depressing day when I don't have to. What about you? It's certainly avoidable and God will be our helper. And, no, I'm not going to get it all right the first time. Neither will you. I probably won't have it whipped by February either. I'm going to flounder and have to pick myself back up on occasion, but that's what overcoming is all about. Taking one step at a time and if you fall down, just getting back up and trying all over again. That's how we become disciplined. Practice makes perfect. Life could be so much more victorious if we get there in our minds first. Such a simple concept.

Let's all work together, reminding each other when necessary, to make this new year a fresh start and to keep our thoughts on the right track. As we begin 2016, let's focus more on the promises of God. Let's not get so low that we can't help ourselves or someone else up. Let's take one day at a time, one thought at a time and deal with each in a constructive way. Let's build a domino masterpiece! Together, we can do it. Now, hand me a domino~

Lord, help me to make better choices
in my mind. Help me to throw away thoughts
that will be destructive to my life. I want
to replace them with your promises.
Let me not give up when I fail. I want to 
persevere and overcome.
Amen~

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lights. Candles. Action.

"I am the light of the world..." John 8:12 

Christmas lights decorating yards. Candles placed in windows. Stars shining in a midnight black sky. 

What do all these have in common? Lights. They beckon to us. They invite us to draw near, to come near and see the wonder. 

Many families bundle up in their cars this time of year, wander about throughout neighborhoods which aren't their own, and peer through frosted windows as they take in the wonder of twinkling Christmas lights and lighted nativity scenes. There's something about those tiny lights which dance about! Then, there's the tradition of leaving the candle burning in the window...welcoming a loved one home. It's true, lights get our attention and we simply must go check it out. They are something which cannot be ignored. Our eyes continually seek out light.

Long ago, it was a special star in the sky which beckoned shepherds and led the magi to the humble birthplace of baby Jesus. Light played such an important role in that first Christmas drama. Just imagine, a drama playing out without a spotlight to guide the eye toward what's happening. Without the light...all is dark.

Enter Jesus. (stage right) He is the light of the world. He beckons to us from Heaven to draw near to Him. He continually invites us to follow along as He leads us toward our heavenly home. Oh, the awe and splendor of our King!

So, enjoy the lights of the season. Don't forget in the middle of it all to allow the light of God's love to shine through you and also draw you closer to Him. Pause and sense the wonder of it all. Lights. Candles. Action.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Play the Game - JOYING

 "...send portions unto them..for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:10

So, maybe it's a simple no-brainer for you, but it was as if a light bulb went on in my head and my heart yesterday with the whole idea of this JOYING thing. (If you'd like to find out more, click here)

For years I've wondered, "What exactly does JOY look like?" You know, us humans like to see results. Right? We all have to work at the faith aspect. It's easy to see and believe, but seeing without believing is....you know, much more difficult. (Hey, I think that's in the Bible somewhere, isn't it? lol) 

So, when I tell you I'm JOYING, when I think about joy now, I realize that it's not just something that we passively accept. No, it's something that we actively pursue. Something we must do. The joy of the Lord is our strength! OK, I accept that. But if I turn up the volume in my life and take a look up close and personal, I think that to feel that strength, I have to take joy in doing the things He suggests. 

No longer am I sitting around waiting for JOY to come to me. Who out there doesn't feel a bit more glee, get a little bit more satisfaction out of life, than when you're giving yourself away? Yes, I know there has to be some kind of balance. True. However, the Bible does tell us it is more blessed to give than to receive. Why? That's JOYING!

It's amazing the effect a picture can have on the brain. They say a picture paints a thousand words. I challenge you today, start playing the JOYING game by taking a picture of something with those three, simple little letters: J O Y. Send that photo to a friend or loved one via text or email, then tell them to send you one the next day. Start this little game and see what happens. Sometimes, we need to slow down and take notice. This simple game will remind us to do just that. JOY.

I know I might be a late bloomer, realizing this at the old age of....well, I'm not going there. Better late than never, right? Jesus started the JOYING game thousands of years ago. Oh, come let us adore Him. Stop. Take a moment to realize the things He has given us. Himself, our families, friends...there is so much to be thankful for, even during Christmas seasons. Half the JOYING game is about finding things to be thankful for and letting others know. JOY to the world. 

Go snap a pic and start playing. It's a delight. It's simple. It's a wonderful time to share a little reminder. Look for JOY as you go about today...and don't forget to share. Blessings~

Thursday, December 3, 2015

JOYING!!!

There are so many negative things going on in our world these days. From terrorist acts to neighborhood robberies, etc. I'm not focusing on those types of things in this post so I won't continue listing them, just enough for you to get the gist. With that being said, sometimes we have to give it extra effort to find JOY in the journey. 

Our days get so filled to the brim with to-do lists, work duties, places to go, appointments to keep, as well as children or the elderly to look after. Sometimes we completely miss so many important little things God has placed in our lives to bring us joy. We find ourselves overwhelmed and under-satisfied. We think to ourselves, "This is not how my life is supposed to be!" We remind ourselves about the phrase "abundant life" in God's Word and wonder what that's all about.

I, too, have found it difficult more often than not to find JOY during days in my life. What? Where is it hiding? "Here, JOY! I give up. Where are you?" It's kind of like a Hide-and-Seek game, you see. I have found though, that there are opportunities for joy all around us on any given day. 

Sometimes it is found by simply stopping to take notice of the simple things that we often overlook and take for granted. When we awake in the morning, we can take JOY in the mere fact that we are alive and loved by God Almighty. Simple things. Next, we can often find JOY by giving to others. It doesn't have to be big, just simply giving of our time, prayers and simple things. Finally, we can find JOY in taking notice of the small things others do for us. It's really simple when you think about it. 

I think that is why Jesus gave us the commandment to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He knew if we'd do that, we'd notice the little JOYS associated with living for Him. And the second great commandment: love others as ourselves. He also knew the JOY that we could bring into each others lives if we would take an extra moment to go above and beyond. 

It doesn't take any big ado. A simple text to a friend could brighten their day and bring an extra ray of sunshine and JOY. (The simple picture I shared above was texted to me from a dear friend one morning. It touched my heart and brought a smile to my day.) Sharing something God gave you with a neighbor or co-worker could be just the thing that sparks something big in their life. We are called to be witnesses to those we meet...do we witness that there's JOY to be found? 

So, there's a new thing I'm doing in my life and I challenge you to do the same. I often find that my days are much brighter when I'm JOYING with someone in my life. JOYING! When I'm giving myself to the the Lord and being about His business and making Him big to others. When I'm sharing, caring and loving others more than myself and doing something about it.  I know, that can hurt and stomp on the toes a bit, but it's so true. Why wait for someone else to bring JOY to our life when we could step out and touch others first? That's God's way!  God so loved that He gave...

This holiday season, let's reach out to bring, and find, JOY in the midst of the season. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That's JOY! And it can be found in any season, in the midst of any circumstance.  

Please stop and leave a comment below...and share how you found JOY or how you brought JOY into someones life today. What did you do to bring God JOY today? Thanks in advance for sharing. Bless you as we cultivate the art of JOYING!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Are You Sure?


Every time we have an "aha" moment with God and feel like, "Hey, I finally got it!" - as sure as there is a God, there's going to be yet another test from the enemy of our soul...the "Are You Sure?" test.

Grabbing tightly onto Phil. 4:13, "I can do ALL things through Christ...", and hanging on to the truth of Romans 8:37, "I am MORE than a conqueror!" 
 
If you find yourself in the proverbial test-taking room with me today, grab my hand and let's do this together. Blessings upon you!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Naughty or Nice List

 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our
                                       sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  
                                                                          I John 1:9

He's making a list, checking it twice....gonna find out whose naughty and nice...


We all do some good things. We do some not-so-good things at times. We all make mistakes. We all have these things in common as well as one other undeniable thing: we're HUMAN. We all sin.

During this time of the year, we often hear about being on Santa's list: Naughty or Nice. Everyone wants to be on the "Nice" side of the list so they will receive their Christmas wishes. The truth is, we've all had our names posted on both parts of the list at some point throughout this year. I know, we don't believe in Santa as adults, but you know what I mean, don't you? We all mess up. We're none perfect. 

That's why I'm so thankful that I don't have to believe in Santa. I don't have to rely on him for my Christmas wishes to come true. Sure it's fun, holiday tradition. There's nothing wrong with that. Yet, I'm so happy that I don't have to rely on him to give me the desires of my heart. Why? Well, because I choose to believe in Jesus. Here's a little secret too...He already knows the desires of my heart. I don't have to make Him a list!

I know that in Him, I have hope and assurance that WHEN I find myself on the Naughty List, I can simply ask forgiveness and my heart can be clean again. He is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me. There's one catch though - I must realize I've messed up...and must 'fess up and be willing to make changes! He won't forgive me if I don't admit I'm wrong and ask for His help in getting right again. 

Sure, we all make mistakes, however that never keeps us from being able to make it right. Jesus came to that manger thousands of years ago for the sole purpose of making sure He did His part so that ..we could be on His list...in His book. It's our choice, let's choose to believe that He WILL forgive us. No matter how bad we've been, there is hope in Jesus. 

And while we might join the fun singing, "Santa Claus is coming to town..."; one thing's for certain, Jesus is coming too. Now, let's all check that list and see where we find ourselves. Lord, let our hearts be ready to receive You and we will definitely be singing "Joy to the World" this Christmas season. Glory, glory...glory, to the new born King!




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Our Thanksgiving Spread of Thankfulness


Today...the day before Thanksgiving...while I'm enjoying the aroma of sweet potatoes wafting through my home. I'm counting my blessings and my heart is overflowing with gratefulness and thanksgiving for God's many blessings which come in all shapes and sizes

Sometimes we wonder in the midst of the darker days, how God could ever intend for this to be something for which we should be thankful. And, on those bright, crisp, sun-shiny days like today, when all appears well, we tend to feel it much easier to give thanks. The truth is, the Word says, to give thanks in everything and the reality of it all is that God is the same on both kinds of days. And so are we...blessed. In the good, the bad and the ugly.

So, today, I know there are those out there who are cheerfully going about preparing a festive day tomorrow and also those who will mourn, yet...in all this, no matter what this might be...we can find something to give thanks for. We are instructed to do so by our heavenly Father.

I'd like to share some of the things I'm thankful for on this beautiful autumn Thanksgiving Eve. First, I'm thankful to belong to Jesus! There's no better place to belong I might add. Second, family and friends. What good would life be with nobody to share it? I'm thankful for my humble home and the possessions God has allowed me to be a good steward of. I'm thankful for my senses...to be able to touch, to smell, to taste yummy-ness, to see beauty and to hear laughter and music. I'm thankful for beautiful days, for rainy days, for the ups and downs, for the mountains and for the valleys. I'm thankful for the air I breathe, health, strength, joy, peace and most of all hope.

You see, there's so much to be thankful for. God has blessed us each in His own special way. If you're not feeling very "thankfully" today, my friend, be encouraged. If it's not looking like a fluffy pile of whipped cream sitting atop a piece of warm pumpkin pie for you, take heart. Kind of reminds me of that big, kettle of dumplings my Mamaw always prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes we just have to put forth a little bit of extra effort and be willing to scrape the bottom of the pot to find what we're searching for. You know, scrape the bottom if you can't easily skim the top for those delicious dumplings. Or should I say blessings? They're definitely in there!

And one more thing, you know those dreaded Thanksgiving foods which always seem to make it on the menu every year? The ones you're not overly excited about? Maybe it's a tart cranberry salad your taste buds don't care for, maybe your mom's dressing or your aunt's famous squash casserole. Remember, it's all part of the bountiful fair which helps make up and complete your unique Thanksgiving table spread. 

So it is in life, those "side dishes", you know, the ones that we don't care for? They help make up, and complete the spread God has prepared for our lives. They serve their purpose...we don't have to like how it tastes, just enjoy it as part of the bountiful table full of God's blessed goodness. (I know, I'm still working on this daily. I challenge you to slide up to the table right beside me. We'll partake together.)

This Thanksgiving, let's savor the goodness of our Lord who blesses us abundantly EVERY day. Just to be able to enjoy His presence, to know He is near, is something to be thankful for. God's blessings upon you and yours. May God open our hearts and eyes to see the bigger picture...now, say "cheese"...we're gonna need pics of this to remember this one for years to come. 

Thankfully yours, Steffanie Russ


 

Monday, November 16, 2015

EMBRACE GRACE


 "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I Peter 5:7
 
A tiny foreign particle enters the life of an oyster bringing pain and discomfort. The oyster embraces this and prepares for the moment. It secretes a liquid substance from it's shell which covers this unwanted particle. This reduces the pain a bit. This coating process goes on again and again until a beautiful, smooth pearl is formed. No longer is there any pain or discomfort, only something of beauty.

Our lives can be the same way. Circumstances can bring pain and discomfort. We must choose how to handle it. We can try to go it on our own or we can embrace it with the help of a loving God who loves us beyond imagination. The part of the oyster which secretes the soothing liquid is called the mantle. My mind immediately thought of Elijah's mantle, his covering, which Elisha waited for. Our covering is the mantle of God's anointing. 

In times like these, we can turn to God and He will apply a coating to our heart. Each time the wound may hurt or be re-opened, He will gently apply a healing balm to our tender places. He doesn't tire of taking care of us but will be there to do it over and over again until the hurt is gone. He never leaves us like He finds us; He always leaves us better. 

When we allow God to work through the hard places, we will one day look and see a beautiful pearl where there was once pain and hurt. God specializes in taking our ashes of ugliness and making something beautiful. In His time He makes all things beautiful. Even in nature, God shows us His will is for us to turn to Him, for us to cast our cares upon Him and allow Him to do what only He can do. 

I'm on a quest to remind myself daily, EMBRACE God's plan. He doesn't want to see us suffer, but when times of suffering come He wants us to give it to Him and allow Him to work through that situation until we can see something of beauty. It all comes down to us being submissive and obedient to His will and plan - not ours, to being patient to trust in the process and the One who can do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think. 

So, my friend, until the pain subsides, trust God to do the work. Embrace the opportunity to be held by Him and run to His arms over and over again. Something beautiful in the making ~ EMBRACE GRACE!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Shells in My Batter

 "And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD..." 2 Kings 3:18

Mixer out, cake mix ready, eggs, oil, water...let's do this. Oh, in case you're wondering, I'm baking chocolate cake today. Yummy!

So, here I am while I'm waiting on the oven to work its magic...writing...because God dropped something into my heart while I was preparing the batter. 

You know that wonderful moment when you're cracking eggs and a stray shell falls into the batter? Uugh! The dreaded fish-it-out moment...that sometimes turns into more than mere moments. The slimy little critter is really difficult to get out on occasion! Well, that's what happened.

Thankfully, it didn't take but a few moments to rid the batter of the unwanted crunchy participant. However, the Lord brought this to my mind..."And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD..."

God so graciously added an extra ray of sunshine to my day, an added burst of hope and faith in my heart. No matter the situation...EVERY SITUATION...is but a light thing with God. Just like I dipped that piece of eggshell out of my cake batter, so can the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, reach His all-powerful hand into my life and pull out the "problematic shells" at will. Nothing is too hard for Him! 

I don't have much more time to share before the timer beeps, but I wanted to share this bit of inspiration for anyone who is in an undesirable situation. I also wanted to journal this for me to read at a later date...as with all my posts. Never give up on God. At just the right time, in His perfect timing, He will step in. He might not get the shell out the way you had anticipated, but He knows best anyhow. Have faith, keep trusting, deal with the heart issues, and keep turning it over to God until His timer beeps. He is ever faithful.

Now, to remember and apply that to life each and every day...that is the challenge...just like baking a cake...one ingredient at a time. None of the ingredients taste good on their own...but all of it together is able to be savored and enjoyed. In His time. Thank you Lord for taking the shells out of my batter (life!).

Now, back to baking. Blessings on you~

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lessons: Candles & Sweet Tea


My son surprised me with a beautiful, delicious smelling pumpkin candle the other night. He made me go through the whole routine of closing my eyes while he placed it in my hands. Did I mention in the midst of all the presenting that he bumped my tea glass and doused me a good bit? And I managed to keep my eyes shut through it all! After he cleaned up the mess, with much anticipation, I was finally able to open my eyes and accept my surprise with glee. I could hardly wait to get it lit. Oh! The wonderful aroma that wafted through the room...as the tiny flame danced about cheerfully splashing light here and there.

There are some days in life when it's just hard to put one foot in front of the other; it's hard to see the way. Why? Simply because life happens. Whether it be relationships, finances, sickness, loss or a number of other issues. In these times of darkness, when it's hard to see, when we question, doubt, fear, second-guess God's timing, etc., we have one assurance: the Lord will bring light to our darkness. It might be dark at the present...but He WILL bring light.

Psalm 18:28, "For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness."

Often times we try to fix it ourselves. I know I do. We try to stay strong, keep going, out-run the darkness, have faith, trust in God, and so forth. You know, all the things that the heart knows to do. Yet at times, in certain seasons, we'll inevitably find ourselves in dark times when we're weak and can't do a single thing but WAIT upon the Lord. Only He can bring light to our darkness. When He does it, I'd like to think He doesn't only bring the light, but a sweet aroma, like my candle. 

You see, even with my eyes closed, I cannot help but to notice and enjoy the delicious pumpkin fragrance when the candle is lit. That's the way the Lord works. Not only does He bring light to our situations, He goes beyond the call of duty and blesses us with His sweet presence...and I'll say without hesitation, there's nothing better than enjoying and sensing the presence of the Lord.

During times of darkness, those times when we have to learn to wait upon the Lord to bring light to our dark spots; let us wait patiently, hoping only upon Him - the One who can turn our darkness into light, who can turn our mourning into laughter, who can transform our doubt into faith and turn our weaknesses into strengths...He won't be content to leave us like He found us. Even if we find ourselves sitting in the dark with our eyes closed as he gently cleans up our sweet-tea-stickiness mishaps...He will make us to shine again and we'll once again emit the beautiful aroma of His presence - a testimony that others won't be able to deny. 

Close your eyes, hold out your hands and wait for God to bring light to your darkness. Can you sense His presence?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Your Miracle...It's Waiting in the Bush

"And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold 
behind him a ram caught in a thicket..."
Genesis 22: 13

It's there...waiting in the bush!

I've been thinking a lot lately about Abraham. Remember the trip he and Isaac, his son, made up the mountain at God's command? They carried in their hands the wood and fire, ready to sacrifice...but Isaac asked, "Where is the lamb?" His daddy replied, "The Lord will provide..." A bit later in the story, we find the sacrificial altar ready and Issac himself being laid upon that altar.

It's a gruesome story at this point, for certain. Abraham had followed God's command. He had done everything right. Maybe it was a sort of nice breezy day, and everything was smooth sailing with no trouble in sight...after all, Abraham had trusted God to provide the sacrifice. He had been in control, had held it all together, up until this very moment. Now here he was with a knife in his hand ready to sacrifice his own promised child unto the Lord out of an act of obedience. One that wasn't required!

Most all of us know the rest of the story...how a ram was found caught in a bush and Abraham sacrificed it in Isaac's place. What a miracle! Even Abraham, although he had faith in God, couldn't SEE God's perfectly planned miracle. How God had set everything in motion for this ram to be available at just the right time, in just the right place! He couldn't see the anticipated outcome that God had in mind...and neither can we.

We go through the same types of tests in life as well. We might not be asked to sacrifice our children; however, we're asked to trust God, to go through tests and trials, and to be obedient, even when we don't understand. He wants to see if we're willing to press on even when we can't see the miracle He has waiting nearby in the bush. Always remember, He sees the big picture - we only see a snippet of it. The challenge and answer it always to trust and obey. Carry on, following His lead.

"...in the mount of the LORD it SHALL be seen..."(Genesis 22:14)  Hold on, trust God, move forward following the Him. Your miracle, your promise SHALL BE SEEN...it's there...waiting in the bush.

 

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Coin Toss - Make the Call!

"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live..." 
Deuteronomy 30;19   

The coin flips through the air, "Head or tails?" the black-and-white striped shirt official shouts, "Make the call!"

It's football season! The notorious coin toss made at the beginning of an American football game. The team which makes the correct call may choose whether they will receive or kick the ball. It's a simple coin toss, head or tails, can it make that much of a difference we might ask?

I'm sure the men folk have their opinions and theories. I was thinking about it though - on a completely different level. Away from the turf of the field, beyond the noise of the crowd, far away from the smells of buttery popcorn and sticky cotton candy...and into the spiritual arena of our lives. God is a gentleman and will never force us into anything, we must make our choices. It's up to us to...make the call. There is no virtual whistle-blowing, no yellow flags being thrown out on the field, no referee calling for penalties. We are responsible for the choices we make and we must live with the outcome...whether good or bad.

Heads or tails. Think about it. We make choices every day. We decide what to eat and what not to eat, what to wear, who to hang out with and what to do in our leisure time. We have a choice whether we will make investments in things which are eternal or whether we will turn our focus to temporal things. 

We make important decisions all the time: will we open God's Word or turn to the pages of a sensuous novel? Will we listen to positive uplifting music or to worldly garbage that comes across the air waves? Will we choose to partake of unhealthy substances which will harm our bodies or will we choose to keep our bodies clean? Will we destroy or build up? Will we cause hurt or bring peace? 

You see? The choice is ours. While the coin of decision flips through the air, we quickly make very important, life-altering calls. The teenager who decides to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, the grown adult who decides to browse off into the uncharted, evil waters of the internet, the gentleman who decides, "Just this once", the woman who says, "Nobody will know"...never stopping to realize the power of one bad choice. A ripple effect of bad choices carries far beyond us at times, much like a stone being tossed upon the waters. 

We're none perfect. We all make bad choices in life and have to suffer the consequences. That's part of growing. However, if we find we're in a constant down-hill slide, there is still hope if we'll make the ultimate choice to turn our broken lives over to God. Make the call! Do we continue down paths which will lead us to destruction? Or will we hand God our mess and repent? It's our opportunity. Our Lord is full of mercy and grace, however, He is also a God of judgement. Isn't it amazing that He even gives us a choice of how He responds to us? It all hinges upon our choices.

So, I suppose, while HEADS or TAILS might not be such a deciding factor in who wins a ballgame;  when it comes to our strategy of living life abundantly, blessed or cursed...when it comes to deciding where we'll spend eternity...it's up to us. We choose to make the call. If you listen closely,  Heaven is cheering you on, God is waiting on your choice, you can do this. Choose wisely...the coin is in the air, "Make the call!"

*If you know someone who may be struggling right now, 
someone who might be making wrong decisions, hold them up in prayer. 
Ask God to open their eyes. 
Share this post offering hope to them and point them to the Word of God
and His amazing grace. 


Saturday, September 26, 2015

No More False Labels

" So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning..."  
Job 42:12

She's the woman who...
She's the wife of the man who...
She's the mother of the kid who...
She's the type of friend who...
She's the daughter of the woman who..

How many times have we been labeled or defined by words which simply get under our skin? We all have had "issues" and circumstances in our lives with which we'd rather not be associated with. Maybe it was a reputation we were suddenly highlighted with at the hand of someone who started a devilish line of gossip concerning us. Or perhaps it was the light in which we appeared after something quite unfortunately, beyond our control, defined a particular season of our life. Whichever the case, the words attached to the end of those sentences can often carry a giant sting and we attempt to hide ourselves away until the pain ceases.

There are people everywhere who are hurting by the sting of life. The Bible says we're only in this world a few days and we're full of trouble. (Job 14:1) In fact, while we're talking about  Job, think about all the words and phrases that could have been added to the end of his name. He went through tumultuous times during his life. He lost just about everything. Had he sinned? Had he been the cause of his own pain? Was he labeled as the "father who lost all his children in just a single day?" I wonder how others looked at him? What might have been said behind closed doors? Did they wonder what had he done, what terrible sin, to cause such devastation to come upon his life? Did they size him up according to what things looked like?

Yet, he was a man who God referred to as "...my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil..." (Job 1:8) He had done nothing wrong! He was simply going about his business doing life and the problems were brought to him served upon a silver platter from the very source of darkness itself. Job loved God, tried his best to live righteously, yet he had to live with the knowledge of knowing people were sizing him and his situation up. Not only did he have to deal with tragedy and loss within his life, he had to sort through all kinds of mental garbage that piled up as people would look on his life and define him as "Job, the man who..." I know, it was the same way in the Bible days, that's the nature of humans.

Yes, Job had to get himself back on track at times, but God was there through it all. Even when it seems almost impossible to do, let's not allow the labels of our circumstances to cause us to doubt God or who we are in Him. Let's not become distracted by the labels others place upon us. Though it may cause deep pain, when the wounds are carelessly ripped open again and again...know that those labels won't last always. It came to pass...there will be a time of mending. 

We have the promises of God to stand upon. We can press on knowing God is fighting for us and that our end will be just like Jobs. The LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning...that was a reflection of Job's TRUE label. My friend, it can be yours too...don't be discouraged by a temporary label...after all, it should really say: She's the woman who...is a child of the King. Her latter end will be greater than her beginning! I don't know about you, but I don't want to be sized up any other way, NO MORE FALSE LABELS FOR ME!

Dear God,
Help me to remember that 
no matter what comes into my life,
You are more than enough!
No matter what others label me as
You have great plans for my future
And only You can bring them to pass.
Help me to be patient and stand
upon your unfailing promises.
Remind me who I am in 
YOU!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Perfectly Planned - Autumn

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..."  
Ecclesiastes 3:1

The warm sun shone brightly through the windshield, soft melodic sounds of classical strings streamed from the radio, beautiful autumn-colored leaves made their descent through the air...here I was peacefully driving along the back roads taking it all in. I might add, at my favorite slow-paced, relaxing speed of 45mph. On a funny note, other drivers DID NOT share my joy or the speed in which I expressed it. Proved by the constant stream of cars in the passing lane. However, this was one of those days in which I could've traveled on at that leisurely pace until the last drop of gasoline in the tank had been sucked dry. That, my friend, sounded like the perfect plan. 

I love autumn. It's my favorite season. It's rich colors, the crisp, crackling sounds of leaves underfoot as you enjoy a short walk with friends and family, the nippy feeling of cooler temperatures outside, the smells of fire pits, pumpkin and spices, the taste of S'mores around a campfire or sweet treats baking in the oven...it seems the perfect time to slow down and enjoy life to the fullest. To unwind. To rest.

Autumn follows a hot, busy summertime so we almost welcome it with open arms as we ready ourselves for Mr. Winter who is waiting quietly just around the corner. We embrace the changes. God designed it this way. Safe to say, "It was perfectly planned."

God blesses us with different seasons in our lives because, as much as some of us hate change, we need them. If you're like me, life can get really busy and hectic and there are days when I just need to take a "time out". Yes, on those days, I, and those blessed (or not so) to be around me, will readily admit I NEED a time out! Why do we get so wrapped up in the cares of life and let them overwhelm us so? There always seems to be "one more thing" we need to do before turning in, before sitting down to rest, before spending time with someone special, before...until we find ourselves running on fumes. Pure exhaustion.

Hello Autumn! There is a purpose for each season we go through. In this one, let's commit to slow down and enjoy each day for exactly what it is: a gift from God. Enjoy the journey...that phrase keeps popping up everywhere I turn. It's so true though. Let's invite this season into our lives with joy and thanksgiving, with a mind set that no matter what we're going through, this season...it was perfectly planned. Enjoy the blessings it brings and its God-given beauty.

It was perfectly planned by He who cannot make a mistake, who cannot lie and whose promises are forever settled in Heaven. Let's rest in knowing that. Enjoy His presence and what each day looks like. Enjoy the gift of time, "time out" and the presence of one another. No matter what any given day may bring, let's choose to slow down just a bit and find something beautiful in each, as well as in each other. This season...it's been "perfectly planned" just for us.  Blessings~

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Security Blankey

Can you picture Peanut's comic strip character, Linus, as the little guy wanders off with his baby-blue security blanket in hand? 

Maybe you have an adorable toddler in your life who dares to part with their special blankey. You know, the item that is worn, maybe frazzled or raveled a bit more than you'd normally accept as "keepable." It may have a rip or a patch or two where repairs have been made; nevertheless, it is a special item and thus you make allowances for its presence. Instead of disposing of it, you take special precautions to be certain it isn't somehow forgotten at a neighbor's house or carelessly left behind in a grocery store cart.

A blankey is a "comfort object"  which provides psychological support in difficult situations. Believe it or not, children aren't the only ones who have them. They are given to elderly and survivors. Oddly enough, college students and even us "normal" adults might take something special (not necessarily a blankey) with us when we leave home. It helps to serve as a reminder of comfort and security.

During prayer, this verse came to mind: "...and his train filled the temple..." Isaiah 6:1

Immediately following came this mental picture to my mind: me, hanging on tightly, with all the strength and determination I could muster up, to the bottom of a white garment which flowed down out of the heavens. My security. My peace.

I thought of my own wedding day almost 25 years ago. My nephew, probably about 3 years old, was to walk behind me, carrying the train of my wedding dress. After being pronounced, "Husband & Wife", my husband and I started down the aisle during the recessional. There I was, beaming from ear to ear, walking down the aisle on the arm of the love of my life. Somehow or another, my nephew thought he was supposed to "pull the train"! So, all of the sudden I found myself "fighting against the current" as the tug of the little guy, who was supposed to be coming to my aide, pulled for all he was worth. 

You know, life can get pretty scary at times. Trials, circumstances of life, tragic events...somehow they all tend to weigh us down a little heavier at times. We can quickly find ourselves rocking and reeling from the effects of setbacks of things which bring about shock, disappointment and feelings of failure. It's during these times that we have to struggle, or make more of an effort, to move forward down the aisle on the arm of our Love. 

Yes, its during these times that we can graciously grab a armful of God's train and hang on for all we're worth. I think its sometimes called a "bulldog grip." Our eternal security blankey. What a loving Father we have who would not only make earth His footstool, but would allow His presence to be so real in our lives, so saturating, so completely consuming, that we can literally grab hold of it in times of distress and be comforted with assurance and peace of mind. 

No matter your age or circumstance, whether you're brave or afraid, there is a security blankey available to you...grab on and don't let go.

Dear God,
Thank you for your presence,
for filling my every day with You.
Thank you that you're always near,
as close as the mention of your name.
Thank you for being what I can hang
onto during times of distress.
My trust is in You!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Valley Re-Runs

 "...and came unto the valley...and searched it out."  
Deuteronomy 1:24

In my mind I can see a little girl running through a waist-high field of grass, her red hair blowing in the breeze, as she makes her way toward...somewhere - Little House on the Prairie re-runs. Don't we just love the old classics?

And there I sat in the darkness, puddles of fresh tears made tiny ponds in the carpet and the pile of wadded-up tissue surrounded me like a miniature mountain-scape scene - my very own rerun. My heart felt desperately heavy, my mind sort of dazed and confused as my faith weakly wavered a bit. Yet, there I sat, at the feet of the only One whom I knew could satisfy my soul and faithfully lead me out of this valley and make me whole. 

I've learned that sometimes the Lord takes us through deep valleys to teach us more about Him, about ourselves and about things in our lives which may need attention. I've been in those types of valleys and have learned to embrace those experiences knowing that I must be "tried" in order to come forth as gold. (Job 23:10) Some valleys shape (to give a particular form) me.

Then there are times when He takes me through certain valleys again...it seems kind of like an old re-run. I've already walked this valley before, learned valuable lessons and God brought me through. And...here I go again. "What?! Seriously?! A re-run? Now? Why?" These re-run valleys hone (to make more acute, intense or effective) me.
I know the Lord is a good Shepherd though and He always knows best for me. This valley is a refresher course, I know what it's all about, that it won't be as intense as last time, but I find there is more I must glean from this valley than I could handle the first time through. You see, my Shepherd knows how much is sufficient for me in one dose.I must trust and rely solely upon Him. 

You've probably been there-done that and even muttered those same words to yourself during one of your own low times, "I should be over this. This is old news. Why is it affecting me so?" You might not care for re-runs either, but God always knows best. His desire is to bring us out of every valley and place us back upon the mountain, but as my pastor puts it, "We can't live on the mountain-top." Not many things grow on top of the mountain, that includes you and I, but there's always growth in the valley. 

I suppose in all reality, we should sit back and relax during these particular times - trusting our Shepherd to keep us. Don't fret. Let's pick up on what we didn't before and travel on. It's comforting to know that we don't have to STAY in this valley. Yet, He knows what is best for our good, where we will be restored most completely, and just the right time to bring us through with good fruit to show forth. 

Yes...there IS a purpose for this valley. We're going...somewhere. And while I wouldn't want to watch Little House re-runs every day...this particular "re-run" is going to be a classic!

Dear Lord, 
help us to be willing to move from the mountain top,
and into the valley below and search out the good things you have
for us to glean there. Help us to look at our valleys
as "good land", where we can grow in grace
and gather all the good fruit we can.
For your glory and honor.
 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lessons in the Frozen Food Aisle

"...greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 John 4:4

As I made my way through the frozen section of the grocery store, I heard a child speaking. I thought nothing of it, because I was child-free that day. I continued browsing, minding my own business; however, the little voice continued to get louder and louder. Now, mind you, I'm an introvert and have no problem minding my own business, especially when I'm out in public. 

So, I decided to ignore the voice - until I got a bit closer to where the voice originated from.  He-eey-yy!" she exclaimed. I turned in the direction of the louder-than-necessary voice and finally realized this little girl sitting in the cart was trying to get MY attention. Oh my goodness!  For the last minute or so, this precious little one had been trying to get my attention and I had been oblivious to the fact, no I had ignored her - wrapped up safely in my own little world.

I immediately made a connection with this dear little one as she offered me a sweet smile. Next, she asked my name. She had my complete attention now, so I replied. She smiled and seemed perfectly contented to have my undivided attention. Then, her mother pushed the cart on down the aisle and that was that. 

As I continued shopping, I heard yet another voice cautiously exclaiming, "You're not 'posed to talk to strangers!" I smiled. I knew it was the big-brother who had glared at me while I spoke to his sister a few moments earlier. He didn't say it just once, he said it over and over. I chuckled to myself and continued shopping. As I neared the front of the store to check out, I had to walk right past these children. Something within me decided that they'd have a blast in our Sunday school; so, I fished a church card out of my wallet and walked right up to their cart.

The little girl's eyes sparkled with joy as I introduced myself to her mother. It didn't take but a moment for the little boy to break out a smile and begin talking to me either - a stranger. I looked down into his chubby face after I finished talking to his mother and replied, "Now, we can talk to each other. We're not strangers anymore." He grinned from ear to ear as we giggled and chatted for a few more moments. There were no walls standing between us now, no obstacles standing in the way. I said goodbye and walked on toward the check-out, having satisfactorily completed the task at hand. 

Isn't that exactly what the enemy of our soul tries to do? He tries to intimidate us and tell us all the reasons we can't do something. We CAN'T talk to strangers. We CAN'T __________. I know, it might not be as simple as this example, but you get the point, don't you? What does he tell you? What does he hint around to you that you can't do because of this or that? What does he imply that you won't be "good enough" at because you have a this certain personality type? Though he cautions you, it's not intended for your good. It's actually a lie and it's always meant to hinder you from doing what God has called you to do. Think about it.

Next time you hear that voice falsely "cautioning" you, walk right up to the situation anyhow. Put on some holy boldness and do your thing. Let's tear down those barriers, walls and any obstacle which are constructed to block our paths to God's will. We can do all things through Christ because greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. It will get easier each time we press through our doubts and fears. We are intended to do so much more than we do. We are over-comers! From now on, remember this:  Let's boldly face any "challenge", pass the aisle of any hesitant circumstance, check-out of any hellish hindrance in the frozen section and chalk each one down as a victory in Jesus. Can I get an "Amen!"?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Don't Take It For Granted


God so graciously places special people in 
our lives to impact it, 
to make an unmistakable difference; 
these people help us grow and encourage us to be 
all that He wants us to be. 
If you have that kind of person in your life, 
you're blessed. 
If you're strong enough to allow that type of 
relationship within your life, 
you're wiser than most. 
If you're smart enough to value that 
relationship and grow in it, 
you'll soon realize you have a priceless treasure.

Don't take it for granted.



Friday, September 4, 2015

More...Our Trademark

 "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power
may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; 
we are perplexed, but not in despair; 
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed...
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
 As a Christian, I long for more of God. I'm sure you do too. It's our trademark! I don't think a person can ever get close enough to satisfy that God-placed longing in our soul. Thus, we're continually seeking Him. To know Him more. To grow spiritually. For our relationship with Him to be more intimate. To show Him to others. To love like Him. When we desire more, there are times when we won't understand exactly what is happening in our lives.

For, as sure as we acknowledge the desire for more, the devil quickly takes notice and immediately goes on an all-out rampage to cause chaos with the sole intention of distracting and discouraging us. He once had the opportunity for more of God, but he overstepped his boundary, he wanted more of the wrong thing and ended up losing his position forever. He wants us to follow in his footsteps.


Believe me, the devil isn't going to just stand around and do nothing while we grow into mighty warriors. Not without a fight anyhow! He's going to wage all out war on us through our relationships, finances, health, etc. Whatever it takes to sidetrack us from seeking more...that will he do and on a magnified scale.

What just happened? Why did I suddenly have those thoughts or feelings? Where did that come from? How in the world did that slip up on me? 

My friend, the devil is slick. He is an impostor. He'll slip in at the most inopportune times, in the places of our weaknesses. He'll even be bold enough to wage an all out war on areas where we feel strongest. Remember, he's afraid of the power that works within us because he knows the magnitude of that power. He's been up close and personal with it himself. He also knows God has us in the palm of His hand...and He hates us for it.

God's power is at work within us when we're seeking more of Him. We may be troubled and perplexed by what is taking place, persecuted for taking a stand or cast down at times...BUT God. He won't allow our troubles cramp us up in a corner only to leave us there to die, He'll never forsake us or make us fight on our own and He will NOT allow us to be destroyed no matter how weak and hopeless we feel at times. Be encouraged, be courageous.

The treasure that lives within us will perform the miraculous and will sustain us. We will be victorious in battle with God by our side. He will get all the glory in every situation that badgers us if we'll keep close to him and be true, bona-fied Christians. Let's intentionally draw closer to Him each day; only He can fill that longing in our soul. Let's take our trademark seriously, let's wave our banners high...let's seek after more...it's our trademark.




Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What if...


"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be
accepted of him. For we much all appear before the judgment seat of Christ;
that every one may receive the things done in his body,
according to that he hath done,
whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:9-10

What if...
  •      today was the last day we had to serve God?
  •      today was the last day we had to make a difference in this          world?
  •      today was the last day we could share the Good News with         someone who is lost?
  •      today was the last day...

Would we do anything differently?
  •      Have we lived our lives out today as unto the Lord?
  •      Have we kept Him first? Were our priorities in order?
  •      Have our lights shone brightly in this dark world?
  •      Have we walked the walked? Talked the talk?

You know, it's something to definitely think about...each and every day. We know not when it might be our last. Only the eternal things, what we do for Christ, will last and count for anything on the day of judgement. Everything else will fade away to nothingness. It's all worthless. 

Lord, help us not to get wrapped up in the cares of life and miss the most important event in the history of mankind. Jesus is coming soon! Will we be ready? Only what we do for Christ will last~  



Monday, August 31, 2015

The Last Mile

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things..."
  Revelation 21:7 
It's the last mile, my friend, it's passing quickly by. Don't be afraid, discouraged or ashamed; for you do not walk alone. Though the path may seem dark, what's ahead may seem unclear and you may feel unsure at times; hold on, keep the faith and finish this course. This is it, the last leg of the journey, there are those behind, beside and ahead of you - each with a different story. They're hurting, searching and merely trying to survive their last mile as well. 

It's the last mile, my friend. There will be danger, forces unseen pulling at your feet, trying to knock you down. They hide in the darkness of the night for their deeds are evil, their actions are stealthily planned in the highest-ranked quarters from the evil abyss below. Their commander, the one who is viciously jealous and hates you has sneered out his personalized, tactical orders. The army of voices screech out your name, as they mock and taunt you. The ultimate goal is already determined - to wound you, to cause you to fall, even to paralyze you. Each effort meant to cause you distraction, fear and uncertainty...to freeze you in your tracks and halt your progress. To surrender you hopeless.

It's the last mile, my friend, you definitely do not walk alone; for the good Shepherd never leaves even a single sheep to wander alone. Though you cannot see through the dense fog ahead and the pathway seems dark as midnight, your next step is always visible...for he is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. If you're following obediently; he has promised to make the way straight; keep walking, keep trusting. Although you cannot see clearly at times, though it seems dark and evil abounds, be assured his grace much more abounds - walk by faith. At just the right time, in your weakest moments, he'll make special stops just for you. There, in green pastures and beside still waters you will be restored and regain strength to endure the wiles of the enemy. 

It's the last mile, my friend, you're supplied with everything you need to finish this course. You have every piece of armor needed to withstand any attack against you. There is no weapon formed against you that shall prosper. You can finish this race because he is your strength and hope. In him the weak will be strong, the frightened will be at peace, the faint will run on. The darkness has no hold on you, every chain can be broken, there is no lock which he doesn't hold a master-key.

It's the last mile, my friend. Be encouraged. Grab the hand of someone along the way. Two are always better than one. There is strength in unity, togetherness, being in one mind, with one accord. You were never intended to fight alone. Your commander has beckoned you to bind together for additional fortitude even more so during this last leg of the journey.

It's the last mile, my friend, be encouraged. He always leads in the right path, toward a heavenly home, designed and builded by him. Keep your eyes focused. Keep your lamp trimmed. We're almost home now.