Friday, January 24, 2020

YOUR Love Story! Please Share!

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony."
Revelation 12:11

Just a reminder —
if you are planning to send us your love story, we would like to have them all in by tomorrow, January 25th, if at all possible!  If you can't get them in to us by then, please email and let us know that you are still definitely planning to submit your story.  There are still some of you who have mentioned that you would like to share your story that we haven't yet heard back from, and we just don't want to leave anyone out who may still want to participate!

Graphic design by Zach Smith

We are so enjoying the entries that have been coming in and so look forward to sharing them with all of you beginning February 1st!!

It is amazing to read of how God has worked in the lives and stories of others!  I never cease to be amazed at His providential care and how He orchestrates the finest details of the lives of those who put their trust in Him.  

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

For those of us who have been married for a long time, it is so easy to look back and see how God has done that very thing, and it is an encouragement for the younger generation to see how faith in Him has been the source of the longevity of our marital relationships.  

So, please, do pray about and consider sharing your story.  You just never know who needs to read it or who will find the exact help and encouragement they need by reading how God has blessed and brought you through!  God has a way of turning our tests into our testimonies, and someone out there needs to hear how He has turned YOUR tests into the shining testimony the two of you live out today!

We hope to hear from you soon!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Contrary Winds

"But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary."
Matthew 14:24

Greek word:  ἐναντίος
Meaning:  opposite, hostile, opposed, intensifying, set against,
"in the sphere against," adverse to, antagonistic in feeling or act, to do something against one

As I spoke with a very dear friend recently and was telling them how sorry I am that their life is so difficult right now, their response to me was, "It's all a part of my punishment."  This is truly how they feel.  God-forsaken.  Abandoned by His help.  Completely hopeless.  Severely punished by God and not being able to pinpoint or identify why.  The winds that are blowing into and through their life are completely "contrary," and it feels like everything is against them.  There is absolutely no good thing on the horizon, and they have nothing to look forward to. 

Having nothing to look forward to is never a good thing.  We all need at least a glimmer of hope to muster the strength to press on.  Looking at my friend's situation from my viewpoint, I don't believe for a second that God has forsaken them or that they are being punished.  I don't believe God punishes His children for doing right, and I happen to know the depths of my friend's obedience and all it has cost to follow Jesus with their whole, entire heart.  Just as Kevin and I would never in a million years punish Zach for being on his best behavior, our just and loving, faithful Heavenly Father would never in a million years punish one of His children for being as obedient as they could possibly be.  I see this, but it is hard to make my friend see that when they are inside the boat, far away from shore, in the midst of a pounding storm full of contrary winds that shows no sign of slowing down.

Perhaps you find yourself in such a place?  If you do, I want to offer you some lessons I recently learned from Matthew 14:22-33.  This passage of Scripture has profoundly encouraged me, and I hope it does the same for you.  I humbly suggest you to take out your Bible and read God's Word as you read the thoughts below.

1.  God always has a plan.
  Jesus directed His disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake.  Nothing escaped Him.  He knew the storm was coming.  He could have gotten into the boat with them, but He chose to send them into the storm and come to them later.

2.  Jesus made prayer His top priority and did whatever necessary to make it happen.
  Jesus needed time away from everything to be alone with His Father.  We don't know what time it was when He sent His disciples away from Him or what time He started praying, but we do know that when evening came, He was still there, alone with His Father.

3.  Jesus is interceding while we are struggling.
  As Jesus prayed, His disciples had made it a distance out into the water, and they were fighting a contrary wind. 

4.  No matter how much we doubt Him or His intentions and ways, our questions do not change God's faithfulness.
  Sometime between 3:00 am and 6:00 am, Jesus came on the scene of the disciple's terror.  I don't know what time they left Jesus and got in the boat, but let's make a timeline based on what we know.  It was before evening when Jesus and His disciples parted ways because the Bible tells us that evening fell as Jesus was on the mountain praying.  So, we can safely say that it was before evening when Jesus sent His disciples on ahead of Him.  We do know that the disciples had had enough time to make it to the middle of the water.  We don't know what time the storm began, but we know that Jesus did not reveal His presence until "the fourth watch of the night" which is between 3-6 am.  It sounds to me like they may have struggled for quite some time before Jesus made an appearance.  They must have felt God-forsaken.  If I had been on that boat, some of my questions and comments would have undoubtedly been, "Why did He send us into this?  He had to know this awful storm was coming.  He knows everything.  All that touches our lives passes first through His hand.  Why didn't He come with us?  Why did He send us into this alone?  Where is He?  Does He not see what we are going through?  We are going under, and He doesn't seem to care.  I can't believe He would abandon us like this.  Haven't we been faithful to walk by His side?  Haven't we done all He asked us to?  Look how hard we worked at the feeding of the 5,000!  Then, immediately after, He sends us into this?  We are going to drown, and there is no way we can keep fighting this storm.  This is too much.  I can't take anymore.  Lord, where are you?  Why aren't you helping us?"

5.  We can be so blinded by fear and our own preconceived notions of how God will work that we do not recognize Him when He does.
When the disciples did see Jesus walking into their storm, they didn't recognize Him.  They thought He was a ghost.  They were so focused on the violence of the pounding, they did not identify that His presence would change everything.  Of course, they had never seen anyone walking on water, and that must have been the most incredible part.  How could a man walk on top of something as unstable as water?  Only a ghost could do such a thing, right?  To see a ghost produced even more fear in their hearts.  They certainly did not take comfort in the thought of a ghost walking toward them on the water!  So, it looked like their situation was only going from bad to even worse when they saw Jesus.  They were so far into panic mode that they were completely missing the miracle happening right in front of them, and seeing Jesus walking on water only escalated their fears.  He wasn't coming to them in a manner they were expecting.  His ways are so far above our ways, and walking on water wasn't even on their radar of probability.  They had never heard of such a thing.  No one had.  It wasn't even possible for someone to walk on top of water, so the thought could not have even entered their minds that this was Jesus.  A "ghost" was all they could see.

6.  Jesus' voice always sounds the same and is the only proof we need.
 Jesus immediately calmed their fears in the only way that would have been effective and penetrated through their terror.  He spoke.  Oh, that voice!  It was something they could recognize!  He know how blinded by fear they were, and He knew that the only thing they could conceive walking on water was a ghost, so He did the only thing that would have convinced them that it was not a ghost—it was Him.  He let them hear His voice.  His voice was familiar to them.  They would only recognize or believe that it was Him by hearing Him speak, so He spoke.  "Be of good cheer.  It is I.  Be not afraid."  The only way they could identify Him was through His voice.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me:  and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."  John 10:27-28

7.  God works outside our boxes and beyond our limited expectations.
 Of all of the people on the boat, only one of His disciples answered.  It was Peter.  He still wasn't convinced that this was Jesus.  He knew Jesus' voice, yet this did not look like Jesus.  This was not an expected method of doing things.  It sounded like Jesus, but how could it really be Jesus?  If it really was Jesus, wouldn't He have come to them in another boat?  Walking on water was something that only a ghost could do, right?  None of this made human sense, and Peter couldn't wrap his mind around how this could possibly be Jesus.  So, he did what Kevin and I, with our background in banking, would have done.  He asked for proof of Jesus' identity.  Jesus knew how absurd walking on water would be for His disciples to comprehend.  He knew they had never seen anything like this before.  He knew that their minds worked only in the natural, the expected, the status quo.  They were not accustomed to thinking out of the box.  They weren't expecting anything beyond what they could explain and analyze.  Phenomenal was not in their realm of consideration.  Even though they had just witnessed one of the greatest miracles of all time and they must have still been wrestling with HOW Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and turned it into enough food to feed over 5,000 people, walking on water was not on their minds as something Jesus would be able to do.  So, hearing Jesus' voice and recognizing it fully, Peter asked for a sign that this really was Jesus.  "Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water."  Peter knew Jesus' voice but since Jesus did not appear in a way that Peter would expect Him to, He needed further proof and confirmation that this truly was Jesus. 

8.  God's answers to our prayers sometimes stretch us far past our comfort zone.
Jesus gave Peter what he asked for but it required great courage on Peter's part to comply with his own request.  "And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus." 

9.  It is never wise to take our eyes off Jesus.
 Peter was okay while He was listening to Jesus' voice, but when the full realization swept over him of how absurd it was that he was doing something so impossible to do, he began to sink.  He was afraid.  Fear took over.  He had heard Jesus say, "Come," right?  Had he really heard his voice?  Asking him to do something so off the wall as to walk on water?  This was not the norm.  This did not make sense.  This did not fit into anyone's box.  Peter spent much of his life on water.  He knew water.  Water was not something you could walk on.  None of this was making sense.  Surely he must have misunderstood Jesus' directive.  Why did he ever ask for this?  In that moment, Peter must have been completely overcome by so many facets of his situation.  His knee-jerk reaction to the overwhelm was to turn to Jesus for help.  His urgent plea for Jesus' help proves that He knew it was really Jesus.  "But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me."  When he saw the wind - when he took his eyes off Jesus and started looking at the wind - that's when he started sinking. 

10.  God never loses control—ever.  He is always, always in command of every storm and situation.
  "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"  Don't you just love that word in this verse, "immediately?"  I do.  I love how Jesus didn't stand there and scold or take delight in seeing Peter squirm and struggle in such a state of panic.  Jesus understood Peter better than Peter understood Peter, and there was no harsh rebuke.  Just a gentle admonition to bring Peter's lack of faith to his attention.  Jesus had it all under control all along.  His timing was impeccable, even though it felt like way too long to His disciples.  They were never going to perish in that storm.  He would never have allowed it.  The only way they would have ever been in any real danger was if Jesus had not been in control, and the reality was, He never lost control at all.  While they were struggling, He was not only praying, He was making His way to them.  "And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased."  As soon as Jesus was on board, everything became calm.  The wind died down.  The storm was over. 

I don't know what you may be facing today, but I want to remind you that you will get through this.  God is able to bring you through anything, no matter how violent the storm.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)  

Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father, and He is praying for you!  
"It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."  
Romans 8:34 (KJV)
Though it may appear that He has forgotten you, that could not be farther from the truth.  Stay the course, and keep your trust in Him.  He will never leave your side.

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

This song!  Oh, how it is encouraging my family and me right now.  The words are profound and I have loved it since Zach first introduced it to me.  I hope you will find comfort in it, too, as you listen.

Remind Me You're Here - Jason Gray

In closing, just a reminder—
Don't forget to send us your love stories!  

Graphics by Zach Smith

It is not too late!  We would like to have them all in by January 25th to allow time for us to edit and get them all ready for publication up until Valentine's Day!  
To read all about it, please click HERE.  
We hope to hear from YOU soon!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

A New Writing Opportunity —For You!!

"But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Mark 10:6-9

I mentioned in this post and also this post that the Lord was leading us do more of the sharing/guest posts similar to the Christmas Memory Sharing posts.  Today, I get to tell you more about that!

Now that the blessed season of Christmas and New Year's Day is behind us, we look forward to the day we celebrate our love stories—Valentine's Day 2020!

 SO, can anyone guess what we are looking for next?

Graphics by Zach Smith

We want to hear your love stories and the way God has brought the two of you together!  
How did you meet?  What were some of the most significant ways you saw God's hand in the orchestration of your being brought together?  What kinds of storms have you weathered?  How has God seen you through challenges?  Have there been times you almost gave up on one another?  How has God redeemed your relationship?  How is He using the two of you together, as you walk out a lifetime of love for Him and each other?  How has the blood of Jesus made a difference in your life together?

Perhaps you are still in the dating stage or maybe you have been married 50 years!
Regardless, we'd love to trace God's hand with you and hear how He has blessed your time together.

To enter, all you need to do is email us your beautiful love story!  
You can either include it in the body of the email or in a Word document attachment.

Make sure you include at least one photo of the two of you together, and feel free to share as many additional photos as you would like!

You do not have to be a blogger to participate but if you do have a blog, website, or online business, we will be happy to promote it in the post and direct readers to you.

Please keep everything aligned with Biblical values and all content family-friendly.

We will edit and add artwork at our discretion.

No monetary compensation will be given, but we will share your stories in Homespun Devotions blog posts and promote them on social media. 

Number of posts in the series and starting date will depend upon number of participants.

If you feel led to participate, please email your love story to!

And, please hurry!  We need to have all entries in by January 25th!!

We can't wait to read and share your testimonies and stories of the goodness of God!!
To HIM be all the glory forever and ever, amen!

This is one of Kevin's and my favorite songs to listen to while we were dating.  
It was released in March of 1987 - the very month we met!
Hint - that is also the very month I fell madly in love with the man of my dreams...more to come on that subject!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

This is a Test ~ This is Only a Test

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."
James 1:3

When I was a little girl growing up in Ohio, Mom and Dad used to regularly listen to Moon Mullins' bluegrass radio show on a station called WPFB.  They also loved to listen to a station called WYSO on Saturday nights, when a bluegrass show came on every week.  Our house was full of old-time country, gospel, and bluegrass music, with Dad often taking out his five-string banjo or guitar, as he and Mom and I would belt out those old bluegrass, gospel, and country tunes.  As Mom drove me back and forth to school, she and I would often listen to country music on the car radio.  I still love some of the old songs I grew to love back then - some of my favorites being
John Conlee's 1978 "Rose Colored Glasses,"
Merle Haggard's 1980 "The Way I Am,"
Dolly Parton's 1973 "My Tennessee Mountain Home,"
Mel Street's 1975 "Smoky Mountain Memories,"
Glen Campbell's 1968 "Wichita Lineman,"
Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash's 1970 "If I Were A Carpenter," just to name a few.

And let's not forget the music of my still-all-time-favorite singer, Ricky Skaggs, whose music was first introduced to me while he was a member of Emmy Lou Harris' band.  In fact, it was on Moon Mullins' radio show that I first heard Ricky's voice with Emmy Lou singing background harmony.  I'll never forget that moment or the song, "Could You Love Me One More Time."  Kevin later bought me the album that had that song on it while we were on our honeymoon in Nashville shopping at the Ernest Tubb Record Store.  During our honeymoon trip, imagine our thrill when we also got to meet Ricky and his wife, Sharon White, during a live taping of "Hee Haw!!!"  Kevin and I were SO excited as Ricky so graciously stopped and took time for Kevin to take this picture of us. 😁

Here's a video I found of one of the songs Ricky and Sharon, along with her sister, Cheryl, and her Dad, Buck, sang during that Hee Haw taping the very day we met them!!!

As Mom, Dad, and I would listen to that music coming through our house stereo or car speakers, we would sometimes hear an annoying, loud, alarm, siren-type noise, accompanied by a radio announcer's voice saying, "This is a test.  This station is conducting a test of the emergency broadcasting system.  This is only a test."  It was like the announcer was wanting to let listeners know as quickly as possible that there was no imminent danger or cause for concern—it was simply a test to make sure equipment was working that would be used should there ever be a real emergency of which we all needed to be made aware.

Those words have been coming back to me a lot lately as I have considered the fiery trials that come into the lives of those who follow Jesus.  Sometimes, they can seem to be way too much, am I right?  Sometimes, they stretch us to the very limit of our endurance, and then some.  Sometimes, the overwhelm feels like a tidal wave that knocks us off our feet and threatens to hold us under until we drown.  It is hard to find our footing after such a bombardment.

The word "trial" means -
test to assess suitability or performance

In a nutshell, trials are tests, and I got to thinking and wondering how it would affect us if each time one was presented to our lives, we would immediately hear God's voice say, "This is a test.  I am conducting a test of your endurance and faithfulness.  This is only a test."

I don't know about anyone else, but if I audibly heard God's voice saying that to me, I believe it would completely transform the way I walk through the tests He allows to come into my life.  Let me tell you why.

1.  I would immediately know that there is no cause to panic.
Just as relief washed over our minds when we would hear the voice of the emergency broadcasting system's announcer letting us know there was no imminent danger, that it was only a test and not the real thing, my mind would be quickly set at ease to hear God telling me He was merely conducting a test, and there was NO threat for me to be concerned about.

"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy."  I Peter 4:12-13 (NKJV)

2.  I would be reminded that God is the One who is in control.
Not the person who appears to be the root of the trial.  Not the devil.  Not the overwhelming circumstances.  I would know that even though it feels like the whole world is reeling out of control, every, single thing is still under His feet and nothing can operate outside of His permission and command.

"But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts."  I Thessalonians 2:4 (NKJV)

3.  I would know that the trial is only temporary.
Those tests of the emergency broadcasting system didn't last very long.  It was relieving to know that the annoying sound would soon stop, and life would resume normalcy.  Being told that at the onset of the noise made the irritating commotion bearable.  When we are walking through a season of testing, it can feel like it is going to last forever.  We look ahead, and all we see is more of the same, with no way out.  We aren't given an ending date for the testing season, so we have no idea of its duration.  The truth is, this life, every season, and everything about it, is temporary, and there is a beginning and an end to every trial.  Tests start.  We walk through them.  They end.  Life goes on.

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
I Peter 1:6-7 (NKJV)

4.  I would realize that my profession of faith isn't worth its salt if it is never tested.
Even though those emergency broadcasting sirens were beyond irritating, they seemed to be so unnecessary, and they interrupted what we would rather be doing and listening to, there was a reason they happened.  The person administering those tests was not just causing them to happen to punish us or make us miserable, but in reality, the testing was for our own good and benefit.  Those tests were to make sure all of us could hear and make necessary preparations in case they one day needed to sound that alarm for real.  What if a real emergency had happened, and due to inadequate testing, the emergency broadcasting system's alarm had an undetected malfunction that was never discovered?  What if this negligence prevented innocent, trusting people from being duly warned of real impending danger?  What if they hadn't performed those regularly-scheduled tests and just assumed that because they had been told all was working properly, there was no need to test their equipment?  We can sing, "Living By Faith," lift our hands in worship, and raise a hallelujah all day long, but can't anyone and everyone do that?  What good is a testimony that hasn't been adequately tested?  When life is going along unruffled, it is an easy thing to praise God and rejoice, but can we still rejoice when the Teacher is completely silent during the test?  Do we still believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him?  (Hebrews 11:6)  Do we really believe what we say we do, and how will we really know unless we are put to the test from time to time?  Don't we really want to know if what we have on hand is real before we face God on Judgment Day?  Isn't it better to have it tested now while there is still time and space for repentance and adjustment before the REAL thing happens one day and we find ourselves standing one-on-one, face-to-face with Almighty God?

"Examine me, God, and know my mind, test me, and know my thoughts.  See if there is any offensive tendency in me, and lead me in the eternal way."
Psalm 139:23-24 (ISV)

5.  I would remember that at the end of testing, there is a guaranteed reward.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3 (Berean Study Bible)

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."  James 1:12 (ESV)

"The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne."  Revelation 3:21 (ESV)

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Hebrews 12:11 (KJV)

As I was seeking God earnestly in prayer recently, He took me to Genesis 22:1-14, and OH, the lessons He began and continues to teach me through that passage!  Truly, Abraham was presented with the ultimate test.  God told him to take his son, his only son, Isaac, the son God had promised and given him at a ripe, old age, and sacrifice him on an altar!
Can you imagine what Abraham must have felt like and the questions that were swirling through his mind?  After all God had promised him, now He was asking him to lay down the son whom the very promises hinged upon?  Seriously?  But, without hesitation, we see Abraham begin to make preparations to make the three-day journey to the specific place where God wanted to conduct this test.

Looking at this remarkable story from the vantage point of history, we know that it was NEVER God's intention for Abraham to kill his own son!  But, when God presents us with a test, we do not know His mind or intentions.  All we are given is a specific set of instructions and a choice as to whether or not we will be obedient in that test.

After Abraham and Isaac made the three-day journey and climbed the mountain God specifically designated as the test site, Abraham bound Isaac, just like he would have bound an animal sacrifice.  He then took the next natural step and raised the knife to kill his son, as God had instructed.  At the moment his arm was raised, the testing period was over.  Abraham had completely followed God's plan, he had proven that he would walk out obedience to God no matter what the directive, and he had aced the test with flying colors.

God said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."  Genesis 22:12

And, the next verse is the one that has been ringing in my head for days—
"Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son."
Genesis 22:13

Only after his test of obedience was 100% complete, did Abraham see the ram—what had been God's plan from the beginning.
I believe that ram had been there all along.  Abraham just couldn't see it because he was in the middle of a test.  Had he seen the ram, he would have known God had everything under control, and even though it looked like he would be required to kill his only son, he would have known that couldn't have been farther from the truth.

What are you going through?  I'd like to ask you to stop and consider your current circumstances and identify any test(s) you are currently walking through, and as you think about that, may I please encourage you?

This is a test.  It is only a test.  You are not going under.  You will not be overcome by your circumstances.  There is a ram.  It is caught in the thicket by its horns.  You can't see it, but it is there.  It has been there all along, and once you reach the point of proving complete faithfulness to God, in HIS time, He will say, "Enough!"  THEN, my friend, you will do this —
You will lift up your eyes and look, and there behind you, (something from your past that is behind you, something you have not seen before) will be a ram.  Caught in the thicket by its horns.  Unable to move or be shaken or stolen from your grasp.  God placed it there.  He orchestrated the "catch of its horns."  He caused it to become lodged in such a way that all of earth and hell below cannot wrench it away from its designated purpose—YOUR DELIVERANCE!  Your reward for being faithful to walk out God's plan and the sacrifice needed to substitute for what it looked like was being taken from you.  When the ram becomes evident and visible to you, you will courageously go and take the ram and use it for its God-ordained purpose.  "Taking the ram" may require some work on your part.  God did not loose the ram, pick it up, and place it on the altar for Abraham.  God placed the ram there and allowed it to become lodged and rendered incapable of leaving the very spot most visible to Abraham, but once Abraham saw it and recognized what God was doing, he had to put forth the necessary effort to free the ram's horns from the thicket, so it could provide for his needs.

In verse 14, we read,
"And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

I am not sure who God may be talking to through this post, but I know without a doubt that God has a ram for you!  Stay the course until the ram becomes evident.  Walk in obedience to the path of testing God has placed in front of you.  Don't quit.  When God hits the "Stop" button on the test timer, you will look behind you and see the ram.  When you do, go and place full trust in God's plan of deliverance.  Take the ram and enjoy the blessing of it providing exactly what you need.

This is only a test.  It will come to an end.  Keep trusting God and walking forward in faith and watch as God amazes you with what has been His plan all along. 

P.S.  Remember how in this post we said we wanted to do more of the sharing posts similar to what we did at Christmas?
Please STAY TUNED!  In just a few days, we will be making an announcement about our next Writing Opportunity here at Homespun Devotions!  You will NOT want to miss being a part of it!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year, Some Humor, & The Sobering Significance of 2020

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:19

Our God is doing something NEW on this brand-new New Year's Day!!
He is making a way in our individual wildernesses.  He is making rivers in our deserts.
He is the WAYMAKER.

I cannot get enough of this song lately.

Waymaker - Michael W. Smith with Vanessa Campagna & Madelyn Berry

I wanted to say a big, huge thank you to all who sent such kind, thoughtful birthday wishes to dear Zach.  They meant so much to all of us!  I am still in shock that our dear boy is 19 years old.  I haven't been able to even talk about the ending of our homeschool journey this past summer because I am still trying to absorb and accept it.  Some things are just too hard to talk about, and while we are beyond proud of him and all of his accomplishments, it was an exceedingly emotional moment to hand him his diploma and watch him graduate from our precious 13-year homeschool journey.  I will never forget it, and how I praise God for allowing me to be this dear boy's mama and for blessing me to homeschool him from day one of Kindergarten to the very last day of 12th grade!  Raising and homeschooling Zach are absolutely the two crowning achievements of my life, and I do not have words to praise my dear Lord enough for every moment He has given and still gives me to spend with him.  All glory to Jesus forevermore.

I am also so very grateful to all of you for your comforting words concerning my up-close-and-personal-meeting with the bottom of our stairs!  The more I hear from others, I realize even more how very blessed I am that "The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them."  Psalm 34:7  

Oh, how faithful He has been and still is to me!  The things He has spared me from and helped me get through!  As I pondered this most recent fall, I recalled that a similar thing happened to me a while back.  It was dark, and I, in complete rebellion to my dear husband's and son's warnings and pleas, was trying to carry a box down our two outside flights of stairs IN THE DARK.  Yes, I know.  Completely ridiculous and SO unwise!  But, I was doing my utmost to "help" our minimizing endeavors and was attempting to take a box of things to put in the trunk of the car.  Well, you guessed it.  I missed that bottom step AGAIN, but this time, the fall was on to our concrete outside landing AND to top it all, there were two very large columns - one on each side of the stairs, each one with a sharp, pointed wooden sculpting at the bottom.  The only explanation for how I didn't hit my head on one of them was the pure mercies of God.  Kevin has often remarked since then how amazing it was that I did not hit my head on the pillars and get hurt or worse.  As I relived the mishap right after the fall, I remember thinking how blessed I was to be able to stand up and find NO broken bones or serious injuries at all.  I am eternally grateful to God for His kindness to me in spite of my complete lack of wisdom and foolish decisions, at times.

Speaking of falling—does anyone else find it humorous when they or someone else falls?  Sweet Karen commented in my last post about this, and it got me thinking about a couple of funny stories I should share with you to lighten things up a bit.

All.  My.  Life.  I have had an issue with finding it abundantly comical to watch someone fall.  I know.  It is very weird and it probably has a clinical name, but it is what it is.  My dear Mom had the same problem, and she and I experienced this "disorder" one time in a very embarrassing, cringe-worthy way!  Let me explain.

My Papaw had moved to Oklahoma a few years earlier, after marrying a woman who was from there, and as he began to suffer from declining health, he decided he would like to come stay in our home for his remaining days on earth.  Mom, my uncles, and I loaded up in a motor home and made the long trip from Ohio to Oklahoma to pick him up and bring him back to our home.  One day, after getting him settled in, a minister who Papaw had mentored and had been friends with for years, came to visit and spend some time with him.  It was the dead of winter, we had a huge snow on the ground, and our sidewalk was covered with ice.  After saying his good-byes to Papaw, Mom, and me, the minister walked down the couple of steps at the end of our front porch and was walking down the sidewalk toward the driveway where his car was parked.  All of a sudden, as Mom and I looked on from the open front door, his feet went straight out from under him, flew upward into the air, and he found himself sprawled on the sidewalk!  But, not for long!  I had never seen him move so quickly as he literally jumped back up on to his feet and hurriedly walked to his car without so much as a backward glance —at least not that I can remember.  Mom and I?  We stood in that front doorway literally laughing our heads off.  We could NOT stop laughing —even as Mom attempted to open the front door to call to him and ask if he was okay.  All we could do was laugh.  The mere sight of him losing his composure like that, well, it was just too much.  We were overcome by our very warped sense of humor, and simply could not hold back our laughter.  Embarrassing, indeed, but totally unpreventable.

Another time, it was actually Mom who was on the receiving end of my laughter.  It happened like this.  She and I were walking across a parking lot toward a restaurant, chatting away, and not really paying close attention to where we were stepping.  All of a sudden, Mom's foot stepped into an indentation in the parking lot, and down she went.  Right there.  In front of the passing cars and onlooking shoppers.  The worst part was, I didn't notice at first that Mom had fallen.  I was so absorbed in our talk, it took me a bit to realize Mom was no longer walking beside me.  I turned around to see her sprawled on the ground, struggling to get back up on her feet.  Praise the Lord, nothing was hurt except her pride.  It was a hard pill to swallow when a family saw her fall, then circled the parking lot to come back around to check on her.  As soon as possible, she was back on her feet, and she and I were hustling to get inside the restaurant where she could put the unlikely event behind her.  I felt SO bad —laughing at Mom like that.  Bless her heart.  Thankfully, she fully understood since she had the same odd sense of humor herself!

On a more serious note, I can't believe another year has passed and gone and is now in the history books.  It is unbelievable to me how quickly time flies by.  I try to cherish each moment.  I do my utmost to cling to them with all my might.  But, while I try to hold on to them for dear life, they slip right through my fingers, and then they are gone.

Does the impact of that number hit anyone else as hard as it is hitting me?

God has been showing me lately that He is extremely interested in numbers.  If you think about it, dates and numbers are all through the Bible.  I never paid real close attention to that fact until some recent, very personal events in our lives unfolded where He made numbers and dates SO blatantly visible to us there was no mistaking how important they really are to Him. 
I'll save that story for another day, another time, another post —maybe?😉

I keep seeing things about "2020" being the year of "perfect vision," and it occurred to me that my longing for perfect spiritual vision is more heightened and pronounced than I ever remember it being before.  If ever we NEEDED a clear spiritual vision, it is NOW.  If ever we needed the Holy Spirit to have more control and a broader spectrum of reign and guidance in our lives, it is surely today.  I feel such a need for clarity - a clear, precise spiritual vision—20/20 grade vision of what has always been and still is the perfect will of God.

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."  Romans 12:2 (KJV)

I think often of the Scripture found in I Chronicles 12:32,
"Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command."  (ESV)

A clear understanding of the times.
Wisdom to know what ought to be done.
A unified body of Christ working toward the common goal of preserving truth.

It is the truth that is in peril of being undefended if we lose our spiritual vision, my friends.  We can no longer sit on the sidelines hoping someone else will pick up the mantle and carry the torch forward.  True Christianity, its values, and the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Christ is under violent and relentless attack.  Those we thought would never cave, crumble, and compromise are changing course, re-thinking long-held convictions, and coming up with their own "version" and modern "brand" of what it means to follow Jesus.  Watered-down, sugar-coated cheapening to better suit the palates of those who want to "be called by His name only to take away their reproach" (Isaiah 4:1) will never stand the Judgment shock.  We cannot allow our vision to become dimmed and clouded just because it feels like the whole world around us is weakening and blurring the lines.  We cannot afford to conform to this world.  God is depending on us to prove and live out His will in our daily lives, regardless what it costs us or how hard it is to swim upstream.

Jesus gave His ALL to redeem us and enable us to live holy lives.  If we lose our vision of what that looks like, if our spiritual vision becomes clouded and out of focus, we are at peril of following those who are veering off track and never even realizing we have become deceived.  "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."  Proverbs 29:18

The enemy of our souls never sleeps, never stops scheming, never stops pacing, never stops trying to find the weakest link and way of inroad.  "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."  I Peter 5:8

My prayer for 2020 is that we, the collective body of Jesus Christ, take heed to Revelation 3:18,
and "anoint our eyes with eye salve, that we may see."  May we seek God for a renewed revelation of what holy living truly is.  May we allow Him to correct our vision in all necessary ways and bring our eyesight into clear, precise focus of pure heart holiness.  May we "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."  Jude 1:3

If our vision becomes 20/20 perfectly aligned with the original intent of Jesus, our Lord and Master, we will walk as He walked.  We will talk as He talked.  We will cry out against sin as He did.  We will refuse to bow to anything inferior and less than the perfect will of His Father.  We will pick up our spiritual weapons and fight against pressure to conform, no matter where that pressure is coming from —even if it is coming to us from the inside walls of "the church."  The enemy is sly.  He will work through any channel —even any person who will allow him to.

God is doing a "new thing," and I am pretty sure it involves spiritual revival like you and I have never personally seen or experienced.
May it start right here—in my heart—and yours!

"And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."  2 Kings 6:17

"Open our eyes, dear Lord!  Give us 20/20 vision for 2020!
In the name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen."