Friday, July 19, 2019

Huge PRAISE REPORT - Thank You, Jesus!

"Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people."
I Chronicles 16:8

When my family and I started out this year, seeking God about His word of the year for us, we found that the word was to be "favor."  I wrote about it HERE.  At first glance, the word "favor" brought wonderful things to mind, and I envisioned a year full of blessings and void of trouble.  How carefree 2019 would be!  We would glide along and everything would fall right into place, right?  Surely favor meant no worries and fun times all around.

It didn't take long to come down out of the clouds and realize that I had it all wrong.  Favor meant nothing of the sort.  Deep trials descended one right after the other, and it felt like satan had pulled out all stops and unleashed a rampage like we'd never before seen.  The fiery darts were coming thick and fast from so many directions, I could barely keep up.  The job outsourcing that happened in early February of 2018 turned into months-long loss of income, Kevin's health problems escalated rendering him unable to work, Zach's and my health issues worsened, things we had counted on staying the same started falling apart, carefully laid plans crumbled under our feet, and we reached the utter end of our own ability to fix anything at all.  God had told me in 2015 that HE wants to be our all in all.  Funny, but I thought He was, and if I remember correctly, I told Him so.  As I look back over the past 4 1/2 years, I realize that we were far from the position of God being our all in all.  Gradually, He has stripped us to that point, and quite frankly, it has been a painful process.  (Read more about it HERE.)

BUT, back to our "word of the year," even though God has allowed us to be severely tested spiritually, physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally, ALL THROUGHOUT each fiery trial, He has extended unbelievable and miraculous FAVOR upon us.  Over and over and over again, every time it looked like we would go completely under, He miraculously answered prayer, and HERE CAME JESUS, right on time.  

"They sent for Jesus, your friend's about to die,
But tarried He still on behind,
So, they laid Lazarus in a tomb, and said their last good-bye,
But coming down the road was Jesus right on time.

Just hold on, my child, because He's not too far away,
And He knows your need before you pray.
So, when your feet are weary, from the mountain you have climbed,
Look ahead, here comes Jesus right on time!

I've struggled through life's deserts, they were so hot and dry,
'Til it seemed all hope was gone, and I would die. 
I wondered where was He, is He still a friend of mine?
 Then coming down the road was Jesus right on time. 

Just hold on, my child, because He's not too far away,
And He knows your need before you pray. 
So, when your feet are weary from the mountain you have climbed,
Look ahead, here comes Jesus right on time."
Written by:  Charles P. Bosarge

I have been walking through some of the darkest, scariest health situations of my life, and this week has been brutal.  Honestly friends, I did NOT know how I would make it through.  It has felt like a 1,000 pound cloud has accompanied my every step for so long.  On Monday, came a long-dreaded biopsy that ended up being worse than even the dreading ahead of time, and before I could get any answers concerning the biopsy came another medical test yesterday.  Physically, I have been pretty uncomfortable, but the waiting is the absolute WORST.  The mental anguish and torment has been unbearable.  As I waited, still groggy from anesthesia yesterday, the doctor walked up to the side of my bed, and I could not hold back the tears as his words dispelled the lies satan has been screaming for so long.  How I praised God right there in the presence of everyone within the sound of my voice!  One hurdle down, but what about those biopsy findings?  Unanswered questions hung over my every move like a lead balloon.  We returned home to a phone call from the surgeon telling me he wanted to see me to discuss the biopsy results.  Can anyone say full-blown panic?  If it were good news, wouldn't he just want to talk to me over the phone?  Why ask us to make the drive there to get the answer?  Let's just say fear took it to a whole new level.

This morning, Kevin and I sat in the surgeon's office, and as he sat across from me, he spoke these glorious words, "Everything is good.  Everything is BENIGN.  Sorry to worry you.  I just like to tell my patients in person."

BENIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The word we have been pleading to God for and pounding the doors of Heaven about for so long.  There it was.  Handed to me like a most precious gift.  Oh, that word!!!!!!  THANK YOU, JESUS innumerable times over and over again!!!!!!  I do not know how relief could be felt any stronger than what washed over me in the seconds following the hearing of that six letter word.  Several hours later, I am STILL in total AWE of our awesome GOD and the abundant mercy He lavished on me today.  I know, and I told the surgeon so, that this could have turned out so differently.  But, GOD, rich in mercy!  Today, He spelled favor —B-E-N-I-G-N, and I feel like He graciously and so kindly handed me a new lease on life.  How I thank Him!

God did not promise that we would not be sorely tried in 2019.  What He did speak is favor.  Though we are called to suffer, and the full healing has not yet come, we are alive, praise His wonderful name, and this song has become my anthem.  

"But God, rich in mercy
You came to save me
Now I'm alive!
My God, strong and mighty
You reached down for me
So I could rise.
Now I'm breathing in, breathing out
I was in the grave, but God you called me out
Now I'm breathing in, breathing out
I was in the grave, but God you called me out
Now I'm alive!"
Written by:  Zach Williams

When satan went before God and asked His permission to test Job so severely, God put limitations upon what satan could do and told him he could not touch Job's life.  I am SO thankful we serve the same God Who is in absolute control, and satan cannot do anything that God does not allow.  How comforting to know that our dear Lord walks before us and winnows our path, and HE decides what to leave in and what to take out.  "And the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed."  Deuteronomy 31:8

I want to thank each one of you for your faithful prayers, loving friendship, encouragement, emails, cards, and gestures of kindness through our many struggles.  I cannot begin to express what it has meant to us, and I trust God will richly bless each one who has helped to pray us through these trials.  One of you has given up meals and fasted for me this week, and I tell you, that just humbles me and touches my heart more than I could ever put into words.  THANK YOU seems so inadequate.  I am so very grateful to God and to all who prayed.  

Whatever you are going through, God is there.  You do not walk alone.  I am praying for each one of you, also, and trusting God to pour out His richest and best blessings upon you and your life.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  
(Matthew 5:44,45)

Recently, a dear friend, asked me to write an article exploring the question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  I must say, when she first asked, I was stumped because it is a question I have personally wrestled with for many years.  In response to my wondering, the Lord gave me some thoughts that I felt led to share with you today.  I hope they will be an encouragement to you in whatever struggles you currently face.

"A mother of four returns home from church to find her husband’s mangled car, just a block from home.  As she enters her house, the phone is ringing.  It is the hospital telling her to come quick, that her husband has been in an accident.  She asks, “How bad is he?” only to have the nurse on the other end of the line insufficiently cover the receiver while asking another nurse, “Shall I tell her?”  In that moment, she knows he is gone.  She struggles wondering why he wouldn’t stop drinking, how she will tell her children their daddy is gone, and how they will ever make it through.

After the ending of a tumultuous relationship, a sweet, kind-hearted girlfriend takes him back just one more time.  She gives him everything he asks for, including the money in her purse, only to have him return a few hours later to ruthlessly and repeatedly stab her face and body, leaving her lying in a pool of blood.  She is found, arms folded, eyes turned Heavenward, dead, on her apartment floor.

She and I stand beside my mother’s/her great-grandmother’s casket as she begins pouring out her heart.  Addiction, abuse, and bad lifestyle choices have caused her to lose custody of her three children, and the only way she could attend the funeral was by obtaining a special pass from rehab.  She tells me how she has made up her mind to change, and I tell her how proud of her I am.  Just a few weeks later, she is released from rehab and everyone thinks she is finally turning her life around. Then someone makes an offer she can’t refuse, and she decides to go back for one more fix.  Something goes terribly wrong, and her Daddy finds her dead the next morning, lying on his bathroom floor.

This stuff isn’t made up.  This is real life.  Each of these are true and have touched my life and the lives of those I love in a deeply personal way.  I could go on and on.  There are plenty more stories.  You could probably share many of your own.  The human condition is something we all have in common.  Everybody hurts.  We all cry.  Things touch our lives, and we are left reeling, sometimes to never fully recover.

So, the question is, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Why does God look on while such things happen?  How can a loving God allow such pain to be inflicted upon His creation?  We hear of horrific happenings every evening on the nightly news, and we find ourselves asking the age-old, still-unanswered question again and again.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

In spite of the frequency and number of times it has been asked, the question remains unanswered because to answer this question one would have to be able to see into, know, and fully understand the mind and reasoning of God.  We know from Scripture that God is high above us, and His thoughts and ways are beyond what we have the capacity of comprehending.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8,9

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him?”  I Corinthians 2:16

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”  Job 38:1-4

From these verses, we conclude that we can never fully answer the question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but as we look at a broader view of Scripture, we can see that God’s original and never-faltering nature is and always has been purely and entirely good.  Our hearts cry, “Why, God?” when bad things happen because deep in each one of our spirits, we believe that God is good.  We believe He is sovereign, that He is in complete control, and that He can prevent bad things from happening.  So, why doesn’t He?

This world, when first created, was a perfect place where nothing bad ever happened and all was ideal.  Even the concept of “bad” did not exist.  God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a perfect paradise and named it the Garden of Eden.  God said that everything He had created was good, and He gave them one command, “Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  They made the conscious choice to disobey that one command, choosing evil over good, and when they did, they performed the very first exercise of free will.  The choice they made was a bad one, and for the first time, the reality of “bad” was introduced.  In the beginning, “bad” was never a part of God’s plan.  His intentions for His creation were and always will be, all good.  If Adam and Eve had obeyed and stayed in the center of God’s original intentions, “bad” would not have been introduced to their world.

Accompanying disobedience to the command to not eat from that one particular tree, was a consequence.  If they ate of that tree, life would forever change for them, and instead of living forever in an Eden on earth, they would die.  Not just a natural, physical demise, but also a spiritual death.  Their sin would separate them from God and create a barrier to their fellowship.  Because of their disobedience, they were driven out of the utopia God had prepared for them into a world where Adam had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow and Eve had to bear children through agonizing pain.  We can see that their punishment was self-inflicted and caused by their own unwise use of the free will God gave them.  It certainly wasn’t God’s “fault” at all.  He gave fair and ample warning as to what would happen should they use their free will to disobey.

Adam and Eve lived out the punishment for their sin, but their errant actions didn’t just affect them.  How wonderful it would have been for the human race if the repercussions had stopped there!  In reality, because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, each one of us is born with what Bible scholars call the Adamic nature.  The nature of Adam.  The propensity to sin and perpetuate the bad choice and disobedience that started in that garden all those years ago.  No man is an island.  Just as their actions affect us and every other person ever born, our own actions, whether good or bad, affect other people.

Free will is not selective.  It is universal and innate.  Free will when mishandled breeds bad choices.  Bad choices generate bad consequences and repercussions that spill over into the lives of others causing never-ending ripples that affect not only the present but future generations.

In all of the three examples I shared, we can see that unwise use of free will caused the suffering of others.  In each of these situations, God could have intervened.  He could have prevented the grief and heartache of the sufferers and victims, but in order to do that, He would have had to override the free will of another person.  He gave us free will, He CAN override it, but if He did, it would no longer be unbridled and authentic free will.  God obviously did not want to fill the role of puppeteer over our lives.  He created us with a unique will and the power to choose, and He will not revoke that decision or forcefully control our actions.

In situations like the ones I’ve mentioned, it isn’t hard to see what caused bad things to happen to good people.  But, what about the young wife, Sophia, who dies of a congenital heart disease?  What about another young wife, Melissa, who dies of cancer just months after her wedding day?  What about the Christian blogger who suffers horribly from Rheumatoid Arthritis?  We are always looking for a cause, aren’t we?  When nothing makes sense, and we aren’t able to reconcile what is happening, our first impulse is to blame the One Who could have prevented it.

Joseph in the Old Testament was ruthlessly betrayed by his eleven brothers, sold into slavery, forced to move to a foreign land, falsely accused of a crime, thrown into prison, completely cast aside, and forgotten.  At the end of his suffering, God elevated him to the position of 2nd in command in the nation of Egypt.  When he faced the traitorous brothers who were the cause of his deep trials, and they feared severe retribution from him, he said this, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”  Genesis 50:19,20

All along, God had a plan and was in the process of orchestrating it in and through the life of Joseph.  The fact that Joseph could not see that plan through eyes behind prison walls did not negate the fact that God had and was executing said plan.  God always has a plan.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  This doesn’t say that all things will BE good, but it does promise that all things work together for good.  Not just the good things, but the bad things, too.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle.  When you open it and lay out the pieces, you see bright pieces that instantly make perfect sense and are immediately recognizable.  A fuchsia colored flower, a puffy cloud, a fallen leaf.  But, there are also many ugly pieces that seem to make no sense and seem completely out of place and unrecognizable.  As time goes by, you put the pieces together, piece by piece, only to see that the ugly pieces had purpose, too.  What looked like a black, pointless piece turns out to be a gentleman’s hat or a hinge on a garden gate.  Its purpose is crystal clear once the pieces are fitted together.  The beautiful, identifiable pieces sitting right next to the ugly, mysterious pieces in perfect harmony, just like the puzzle maker intended.  When the last piece falls into place, you stand back and look at the full effect, and then and then only, does it all make perfect sense, and you realize that every piece was a part of the plan all along.

I don’t understand why the young wife with a congenital heart disease had to die, was never afforded the opportunity to live out life with her husband, have babies, or grow old.  What I can say is that before she died, she asked him to promise her that he would pursue a musical career.  He faithfully kept that promise, and it opened the door to a ministry that is blessing people all over the world.  In the aftermath of his deep loss, he wrote a book called, “Hope in Front of Me: Find Purpose in Your Darkest Moments” and started a homeless ministry in honor of his wife, Sophia, called "Sophia's Heart", now known as "Better Than I Found It."  His name is Danny Gokey.

I don’t understand why the young wife had to die from cancer, why she was never given the opportunity to live out her dreams or why God chose not to heal her and spare her life.  What I can say is that her young husband drew deep inspiration from his pain and wrote a book called, “I Still Believe: Discovering Hope and Healing in the Midst of Life's Deepest Valleys” and songs like, “There Will Be A Day” and “He Knows.”  I hear they are making a movie about his life that will, undoubtedly touch the lives of millions.  His name is Jeremy Camp.

Joseph Scriven’s first love & proposed bride drowned the day before they were to be married.  He moved from his home in Ireland to Canada, fell in love and became engaged a second time, only to endure the heartache of her death just a few weeks before their scheduled wedding.  His sorrow propelled him to pour his life into helping the handicapped and destitute.  When his mother became ill, and he had no funds to return to Ireland to be with her, the immense anguish in his heart became the birthplace of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.”

After Horatio Spafford lost his young son to pneumonia, much of his business was destroyed in the Chicago fire, the ship that carried his four young daughters collided with another ship, and all four of their lives were lost, he wrote the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Maybe instead of asking the question why God allows bad things to happen to good people, we should be watching to see what happens afterward.  Maybe we should start looking for the good things that were birthed from the point of pain.  Countless survivors of bad things have overcome their circumstances to go on and share their stories and let others know they are not alone.  Their testimonies have resonated with millions who have found hope in the midst of their own heartache.  My Daddy always told me that character is forged in the crucible of pain.  He spoke from places of deeply hurtful personal experience and was one of the most humble, kind-hearted, giving, unselfish, compassionate people I have ever known.  When faced with life’s challenges, we are given the choice of allowing the anguish to make us bitter or better.  My Daddy chose the latter, and it resonated through everything he ever taught me about life.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3,4

From this verse, we can conclude these things:

Our God is the God of ALL comfort.  His comfort extends to every possible bad thing that can ever happen.  We do not walk alone.  Whether it be divorce or painful separation, the death of someone dear, the loss of a job, a stifled or unfulfilled dream, the loss of a pet, disappointment, embarrassment, shame, betrayal, abuse, shock, financial distress, depression, addiction, anxiety, despair, suicidal temptation, abandonment, ex-communication from a denominational sect, slander, or any other life event, His comfort covers it all and is equally effective in every situation.

Our God is the Father of mercies!  He is merciful to us.  The love of God comforts, it doesn’t condemn.  He doesn’t blame us for the bad things others inflict upon us.  He doesn’t shame us for being victims.  His mercy is a healing balm that will wash over every place of brokenness and open wound, if we will only stop blaming Him and open our hearts to His healing.

Once a person has received comfort from God in any particular area of life, they are automatically endowed with a deeper capacity of compassion in that area.  Once someone has walked through divorce, they are much more sensitive, non-judgmental, and understanding toward others who find themselves in that position.  After walking through the valley of the shadow of a mother’s death, a person is far better equipped to empathize with the friend who just lost her Mom.  The recovering addict whose family left due to his out of control cocaine use is far less likely to ever cast judgment on the teenage junkie he meets ten years down the road.  It is amazing how God places specific people in each of our lives who are going through identical pain to our own.  This is not by coincidence or accident but is Divinely-appointed providential care both for us and for the person who is suffering what we have already gone through and survived.  It holds a lot more weight to look a suicidal person in the eye and say, “I’ve been there.  I’m still here.  I made it, and you will, too” than to just be able to say, “I’m sorry you are going through this.  I can only imagine how you feel.”  Bad things prepare and qualify us for authentically compassionate outreach in our own areas of experience and expertise and make us far more effective as we offer that same kind of comfort to someone else.  “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  See how that works?  As you look back over your life and recall the bad things that have happened to you, it is very likely you will therein unearth the area of calling God has placed upon your life.  When you were suffering most and felt God-forsaken, He was furnishing you with the very tools He would one day empower you to use to help and minister to others.  There are few things more gratifying than to witness the power of God’s redemption of your own sorrow and to see how He takes what was bad and transforms it into the impartation of good.

The words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Rainy Day” hold much wisdom and truth.
“Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.”

These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. “  Jesus (John 16:33)

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden, we live in a fallen world where “bad” has been introduced.  To think we will walk through life unscathed by tribulation is unrealistic.  It is all in the overcoming.  Because Jesus overcame, so will we.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  While I don’t feel we can ever fully comprehend the mind of God and our finite thoughts can never be reconciled with the infinity of His, could the answer to this question lie in the fact that God knows good people will use the bad to become better?

Full disclosure – Many of the thoughts I share were born out of a deep, late-night conversation with our dear son, Zach, and he greatly contributed to the thoughts I am presenting here.  Thank you, dear Zach, and may God ever bless you for the continual blessing you are to your Daddy and me.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

In The Middle

"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."
Psalm 27:13

Hello, friends!
I can't believe it has been nearly two full months since I posted anything here.  SO much has happened and is happening in our lives, I truly have not had the energy to sit down and write a post.  I am exhausted and beyond overwhelmed, to say the very least.

If you have lived very long at all, you have more than likely reached the accurate conclusion that life is far from an easy journey.  You have probably learned that if life is going perfectly smooth and you are trial-free, that sort of utopia is short-lived, and you can know with certainty that some sort of trial is on the horizon, and it is just a matter of time before it has descended full-force.  We live in a fallen, very broken world, where smooth sailing doesn't last long.  

Jesus always spoke truth.  Jesus IS the truth, and  He said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

King David went through many hard things, and I believe it was during those times of deep depression, anguish of spirit, and being chased by his enemies that he wrote the comforting words we now call the book of Psalms.  In Isaiah 30:6, we read, "And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God."  As we walk this Christian journey there will be times when we feel no hope and it feels like God has forsaken us.  In those places, we have two choices—we can throw in the towel and give up hope, or we can do as David did and encourage ourselves in the Lord.  Sometimes there is no one around who will encourage us, and the enemy of our souls will come in like a flood and overwhelm our souls.  If we find no external source of encouragement, we must encourage ourselves.  Thank God, we have the Psalms and all of the rest of God's Word to turn to and find that desperately needed encouragement.

As I've worked through the writing of this post, I have shared songs and Scriptures God is using to encourage us, and I hope they will be a blessing and comfort to you, too.

I have often said there is a beginning and an end to every trial.  There's the beginning —this moment of shock and bewildered surprise when a trial is first announced and introduced to our lives.  A time of being caught off guard by being flung into unfamiliar and unpleasant circumstances.  This is where the bad news descends and the nightmare begins. Then there is the end—that moment it occurs to you that the storm has passed, you have lived through it, and you are now on the other side.  Those two points of reference are easy to pick out and identify.  

But, what about the middle?

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places."
Habakkuk 3:17-19

The middle of a trial is a tricky thing because you never know just how long "the middle" will last.  If you had a beginning and an ending date for your trials, at least you would know how long you were going to be in that awkward place called the middle.  But, God doesn't give us an end date for our trials, nor does He always tells us what the outcome will be.  In these places, the only thing we can do is trust.
When we don't understand His logic, it is then that we must trust His wisdom.  

The trials that my family and I are walking through are fiery.  It feels like the furnace has been heated "seven times hotter," (Daniel 3:19) and I have often felt that my strength, and my nerves for that matter, were going to completely buckle and fail.  I have often commented to my husband and son that if we were going through just ONE of these things at a time, it would be completely overwhelming, but to go through ALL of them at once is nearly more than I can bear.  I cry out to God from the depths of my soul to help us.  I plead with Him to speak to me.  There are times He draws very near, and I can hear His still, small voice.  There are other moments when it seems the heavens are brass, and we are left to fight these battles alone.

In reality, I know that God is here.  He is with us.  He has not left us in this uncomfortable, desperate place.  One day, "the middle" will end, and we will see that we have walked through the fire and moved past it.  We will emerge without the smell of smoke upon us, and we will be able to look back over this valley from the Shepherd's point of view.

"Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him:  on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him:  but He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Job 23:8-10

As we walk through the fire, the dear Lord often reminds me that this is all a part of our story, and it needs to be added to the book that I thought I had finished writing.  (I even wrote a blog post with a caption that read, The Book is Finished!)  Ha!  God has a way of putting us in our place and proving us wrong, doesn't He?  As He continues to lead us through such uncharted territory, I am beginning to see the reasons for His delay in the publishing of the book.  How can I finish writing it, when He hasn't finished writing it through the circumstances of our lives?  He isn't finished with it yet, and we are living out the chapters He will one day (Lord willing) lead me to add.  The book, "Biblical Minimalism" will be finished when God says it is finished.  

The other day as I shared with someone on the phone about some of the things we are walking through, it really hit a nerve when she replied, "What this story needs is a happy ending."
I say a hearty AMEN to that!  Here "in the middle," it's really hard to see that there will be a happy ending to that book.  But, I keep reminding myself that just because God hasn't does not mean He won't.  Just because we haven't seen it yet doesn't mean we never will.

Haven't Seen It Yet - Danny Gokey

"Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.…"
Psalm 116:7-9

I don't know what you may be going through, but one thing I do know is that every, single person who will ever read this post is or will be going through something.  None of us escape the human condition, and as Christian fellow-travelers, we each have our own appointed trials.  "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto."  I Thessalonians 3:3

Everybody's Going Through Something - Karen Peck & New River

"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 4:8-9

One of the oldest deceptions in satan's playbook is to convince God's children into believing that life would be easier if they would turn their backs on Him.  What a pack of lies!  What he does not tell us is the fact that life will go on, whether we choose to continue to follow Jesus or not, and life is chock full of trouble.  "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." Job 14:1
That is just the plain facts.  So, to think it would be easier to shut God out of our lives and try to live independently from His lordship and somehow struggle through it all alone is the height of absurdity.
Jesus Christ is our only hope, and pressing in to the comfort of His Spirit is the solace we all need to survive the tribulations of this life.

All My Hope is in Jesus - Crowder

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand."
Psalm 37:23-24

As we walk through such dark places, God is continually reminding me of some universal truths.  I hope they will help you in your own unique battles.

1.  No one can pick up my shield of faith but me.  I have to push through the fear, doubt, and unbelief to take it in my hands, go to war, and FIGHT satan.  It only works and quenches his fiery darts if I am holding it in my hand and using it.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."  Ephesians 6:16

2.  The words that come out of my mouth are a matter of life and death.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  Proverbs 18:21
A word, once it has left my lips, will not return void.  Whatever I speak becomes my reality.
Speaking doom and gloom becomes breeding grounds for satan's lies to become what I believe.  Speaking God's Word out loud activates Its power.  "even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were."  Romans 4:17

Speak Life - Toby Mac

"I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD."
Psalm 118:17

3.  The battle is the LORD's.  This is not my battle to win.  It is His.  When I try to take it on in my own strength, I will fail.  It is WAY too much for me.  I can't handle this.  It is only through His strength, empowerment, and Spirit's infilling that I will ever be able to face the giants in front of me.  Herein lies my confidence.  I fight under HIS battle flag.  I am HIS soldier.  My enemies cower when they see Who I am fighting for.  "They will surrender their stronghold because of fear; their officers will be afraid of the LORD's battle flag." This is what the LORD says--the one whose fire is in Zion, whose firepot is in Jerusalem." Isaiah 31:19 (NET Bible)

Confidence - Sanctus Real

"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
Joshua 1:9

4.  I am weak powerless, but He is strong.  "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  2 Corinthians 12:9  When I am at my weakest point, when my faith is GONE, when I am down for the count, HIS strength is just getting started in me.  Because of Him, I can rise up one more time and fight another day.

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."
Ephesians 6:10

5.  No matter where I am in my battle—whether it be the beginning, the middle, or near the end—He is always there.  He will never leave.  He is walking through the fire with me.  "He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."  Daniel 3:25  

God help us all to lean heavily upon Him and His strength in these trying times.
May we ever be strong and keep the faith!

"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."  Matthew 28:20

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Inner Views of Susan Peck Music

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13 

I don't think we can ever fully realize the importance and worth of a Godly mother.  Their prayerful influence is an immeasurable force that follows us all the days of our lives, and the spiritual teaching and love for God they instill in us from a young age is worth more than all the money in the world could buy.  Though motherhood can seem like a thankless role that is under-appreciated, it is truly the highest and most noble of callings in a woman's life.

We first met the sweet mother I am interviewing today last summer while attending the Karen Peck & New River Homecoming.  She is gentle and down-to-earth and has been so kind and gracious each time we have interacted with her. The imprint she has made on her children's and grandchildren's lives can be felt each time they minister through song as Karen Peck & New River.  When we saw her again in November, I felt such a desire to get to know her better and felt the Lord leading me to ask her for an interview.  She so graciously agreed, and it was such a dear blessing each time I talked with her on the phone during this process.  She is such a motherly, Godly person, and I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better, as you read her inspiring Inner Views.

Sue Peck Music

Cheryl: Please tell us about yourself.

Sue:  I am Sue Peck Music.  I was born in Clayton, GA on September 23, 1933.  My father was James Wilson Tench, and my mother was Myrtie Loue Freeman Tench.  When I was 2 yrs. old, the family moved to Gainesville, Georgia where my father owned a barber shop. My mother was a well known seamstress and home maker. I had 5 sisters and 2 brothers. I came from a musical family. I played the piano for the church at the early age of 13. I walked to have piano lessons. Homer Morris was the pastor of my church. (Athens Road Baptist Church.) The church paid for my piano lessons. 

While in high school, I was a star basketball player at Airline High School in Gainesville, GA. During this time is where I met Robert Ezra Peck. We were married on November 3, 1951 and eventually had three daughters: Sandra, Susan, and Karen.  

Their dad was a very talented singer and Sunday school teacher. Many times in church, I would play the piano while my daughters sang. Years later, it was a very sad time when Ezra passed away at 59 years old, but we took comfort in knowing that he was in Heaven with the Lord. Several months later I had the privilege of meeting a Southern Gospel Promoter, Bill Music, from Mansfield, Ohio We eventually were married. We currently live in Georgia during the winter and spring. In the summer and fall, we live in Ohio.

Bill & Sue Peck Music

Cheryl:  How did you first hear about Jesus?

Sue:  My parents took me to church as a child. When I became a teenager, I began to love reading the Bible.

Cheryl:  At what age, did you become a Christian?

Sue:  After I was married, I realized that I had never really been saved. I accepted Christ when I was 19 years old at Pleasant Union Baptist Church.

Cheryl:  Who has been your strongest spiritual influence throughout life?

Sue:  My Dad.

Cheryl:  Can you tell us about a special prayer warrior who has faithfully prayed for you?

Sue:  My Aunt Estell Tench.

Cheryl:  Looking back, what do you identify as being one of the happiest seasons in your life, so far?
Sue:  When all three of my daughters were born.

Cheryl:  Can you please share something special about each one of your children?  

Sue:  Sandra is loyal and caring. Susan is dependable and kind. Karen is reliable and loving. All 3 have become wonderful wives, mothers, and my greatest accomplishments. I’m a proud mom.

Karen, Susan, & Sandra

Cheryl:  What are a few of your favorite memories from the days when your children were young?

Sue:  Vacations, picnics, camping, singing their favorite songs.
Cheryl:  When did music become an integral part of your family's home life?

Sue:  I played the piano while the girls would sing. All three of my daughters are very talented.

Cheryl:  How did you feel when you realized God was calling your children into full-time ministry?

Sue:  I was very thrilled that they had surrendered to the call to reach people for Christ.

Sandra, Karen, Sue, & Susan

Cheryl:  As a mother, what has been the hardest thing for you to surrender and consecrate to God?

Sue:  The hardest thing was when my children grew up and left home. However, I realized it was a part of life.

Cheryl:  How did you instill such a deep, genuine love and respect for God in the hearts of your children?

Sue:  I always tried to set a good example. I’ve always loved the Lord.

Cheryl:  What advice would you give to parents who desire to see their children develop into adults who are willing to lay down their lives in service to God?

Sue:  Teach them Godly values and always know that with the Lord’s help, you can accomplish anything.

Cheryl:  What are some of the ways you currently support the ministry of Karen Peck & New River?

Sue:  First of all, I pray for them and most of all I pray for the anointing. My husband, Bill, and I try to help out at the product table at the concerts.

Cheryl:  What do you most enjoy doing?

Sue:  We’ve always had a lot of laughter in our family. I enjoy spending time with my husband, Bill. I love cooking for my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Their favorites are macaroni and cheese, turkey and dressing, and peanut butter cake. It does my heart good to watch them enjoying my food and leaving those memories.

Cheryl:  What is your favorite song?

Sue:  "Finish Well"

Cheryl:  If Jesus were to appear on earth in a physical form, and you had the opportunity to sit and talk with Him, what would you most like to ask Him?

Sue:  Why would anybody reject you, when you’ve done so much for us?

Cheryl:  Describe one of the hardest things you have gone through. How did your faith in God sustain you during that time? What were some of the ways the Lord comforted you the most?
Sue:  When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had so many people tell me that they were praying.  I could feel those prayers. The Lord carried me through with His strength and His love.

Cheryl:  What is one of the most pressing needs among God's people in these last days of time?  What can we do to make a positive difference and fill those needs?

Sue:  First, to come together and pray for our nation and pray for our families to be saved.  It’s important that we all live a good Christian life and spread His love and joy.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Sue:  Pray that I can study the Bible more, and that my mind and body will stay healthy.

Thank you ever so much for taking the time to share your heart with us, Sue!  You are such a blessing and example to us all!  
Dear readers, please keep Sue, Bill, & Karen Peck & New River in your prayers as they continue to serve and encourage the body of Christ.

To read previous
click the links below.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Jayden is Home!

"Praise ye the LORD. Praise, O ye servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD."
Psalm 113:1

(To read previous posts about Jayden, click these links:
Please Pray for 12-year old Jayden Cooper
Praise Update on Jayden Cooper)

Here is the latest update from Jayden's Aunt Priscilla:

"Jayden got to come home yesterday evening!! He is no longer on the low calorie diet and has no restrictions. He is on some meds, but after being on them for a short time he will go off of most of them and just have to do infusions through the IV every two months. We are just so amazed at what God has done for him and what he is going to continue to do for him. This is a picture that was taken of him once he got discharged from the hospital and in the car to go home."

You were faithful to pray and intercede for this dear child, now please join his family in praising God together for the miracle of answered prayer!

"The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry."
Psalm 34:15

In a world that can far too often feel so cold and uncaring, what a comfort it is to know that God's eyes are upon us, and His ears are open and ready to hear our cries!  I am SO thankful we serve a living God who is deeply concerned with everything that touches our lives.  Sometimes, He allows things to happen to get our attention and to compel us to search for a closer walk with Him.

"That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being." 
Acts 17:27,28 

Aren't you glad God chose to take on flesh and come down to this sin-darkened world to become one of us?  Otherwise, He could never have fully known how we feel.

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Hebrews 4:15

He is a good, good Father.

May He bless each one of you and meet your every need!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Praise Update on Jayden Cooper

"Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation."  
Psalm 111:1 

(To read the original prayer request about Jayden, click HERE.)

Jayden has continued to suffer from vomiting and has lost seven pounds in a very short time.
In order for the doctors to accurately diagnose his condition, it was necessary for him to drink a liquid before they did further testing.
The poor, little guy couldn't hold it down, so everything had to be put on hold.
He was given anti-nausea meds through an IV, and thank the Lord, he was finally able to have the test and be given a diagnosis.

Jayden has Crohn's disease.
The area where the large and small intestines meet is really swollen and has ulcers.
The wonderful part is that it can be controlled with medication and alteration of diet.
They also did a biopsy, and the results will be back in ten days, but, so far, the diagnosis is Crohn's.
While this is not the best news the family could have received, it is certainly not the worst news, either!

And, there is more great news!

Here is the latest report I received from his Aunt Priscilla late last night:

"They took the tube out today, and they started him out on a nutrition drink.  He wasn't able to keep that down, but later they gave him a cheeseburger and fries, and he was able to eat that, and he kept it down. God is truly working a miracle on him and allowing him to eat, and so far, not having any trouble (as of a day or two ago, he couldn’t even do that). Still looking to the Lord to give him a special touch and that he wont have to be in the hospital much longer and be back home soon. I know there have been many, many prayers going up for him, and there are not enough words that can express how truly grateful we are for all the prayers and everything everyone has done and been doing to help see him through all this."

Praise God, Jayden is now able to eat solid food and keep it down!!!!
This is such a huge improvement!
To God be all the glory!

Many praises are going up to our dear, kind, loving Heavenly Father for all He is doing for Jayden!
The family would deeply appreciate your continued prayers that the biopsy results will be negative and Jayden will continue to improve and soon be back home with his family.

God is SO good!

God is so faithful to hear and answer the prayers of His trusting children.
Sometimes, the road ahead looks so dark and hopeless, but He is always there holding our hand, leading us through the black uncertainties in our path.
He didn't promise we would always understand the things we face or that everything that touches our lives would be good, but He did promise that the good, bad, and everything in between would work together for our good.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28

I don't know what you may be going through today, but whatever it is, I want to remind you that you are not alone.  You have a Heavenly Father who stands by your side and will never forsake you.  He loves you with more love than you can comprehend, and regardless what you face, He will be there.
I want you to know that as I type these words, I am praying for YOU.
May God bless you, supply your every need, and solve every problem in your life, in Jesus' name.
I love and appreciate each one of you dear readers and faithful prayer warriors!