Category Archives: DEVOTIONALS

A Haunting Question. . . Did My Father Make It To Heaven?

Treasured Memories of my Earthly Father

I was sitting with the Lord, enjoying a second cup of coffee, replaying in my mind the rich, soothing baritone of Ed Ames I’d listened to last night. Suddenly, tears were streaming down my cheeks. Baritone voices always reminded me of my Dad.

Daddy’s voice had been strong, deep and marvelously resonant. Though every inch a man’s man, when he talked to me his voice was always gentle.  Just the sound of him talking  – about anything –  soothed whatever was wrong.

Though Daddy passed in 1986, the pain of missing him still burns.  I was a new believer back then.  I had studied, diligently, how to witness to people and I tried talking to Daddy, but I did not do very well  Daddy had not gone to church the last few years of his life and did not seem to want to talk much about God with me.

So, when he passed the question of whether I would see him in heaven began haunting me.  I have talked about my Daddy in previous posts, http://bit.ly/1SIexOu.  But truly, words are inadequate to say how much he meant to me.  Daddy and my daughter, Sharon, shown below when she was 10, remain the two great human loves of my lifetime.

Daddy and Sharon, My Two Great Loves
Daddy and Sharon, My Two Great Loves

Treasured Truth from my Heavenly Father

God sends a comforting thought every time I wonder about Daddy’s eternal home.  God promises when I get to heaven, there will be no more tears, no more sadness. . . that somehow I will see things from God’s perspective.  So that means if Daddy did not make it, the pain of missing him will be gone, which is another mystery of God far, far beyond my understanding.

But I accept this truth by faith.

And the several times each day when  I think of Daddy, I thank God that Daddy showed me what a strong, loving and tender father is like.  The love of my earthly father, Fred Farmer, prepared the way for me to walk in grateful closeness with my beloved Heavenly Father.  That is a priceless gift, and a deeply cherished treasure.

Thank you, Father, for my Daddy and his love for me and all his family.  May those who did not have the good fortune of a Daddy like mine be able to feel the same tenderness from You and the security of a close walk with You.  And if they have hurtful memories, You are the Great Physician.  Please heal those past hurts and put in their place a deep, deep love and passion for You.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunrise . . . Sunset, Proclaiming God’s Power and His Tender Care

God Changes Our World to Focus Our Thoughts and Give Us Hope

My windows face west so I cannot see the horizon change as the day dawns.  But God changes the world for us twice each day. At sunset, as well as at sunrise, the beauty is beyond words.

As light dispels all darkness, so His love dispels all fear
As light dispels all darkness, so His love dispels all fear

Late into sunset, the lacey black silhouettes of trees stand in sharp contrast to the rosey and flamed  hues visible just above the horizon.  Above that, those rosey hues merge into brighter hues of blue and then finally  fade to deep indigo, as God puts this half of His earth to sleep, so the plants and animals – and His beloved human beings — may rest.   The following  link displays sunrisings and sunsettings, with reverential, worshipful music.  Look at it and ponder God’s great love for you, as an individual.   http://bit.ly/1OYcq4B

Gazing long at the western sky comforts me. It reminds me that God controls the entire universe, the unseen as well as the seen.  The beauty of sunset also reminds me that the mighty One, the God of angel armies, is taking just as much care with my one little life as He is with keeping the planets in balance.  What an unspeakable treasure to ponder!  How can it possibly be?  But, yet, I know it is true.

God Encourages Us Through the Beauty of Nature

The books of Catherine Marshall played a key role in leading me to Jesus.  One of my favorites of her books was ” Christy”.   (Here is a link to purchase a copy of the original 1967 book, which later became a television series.  http://amzn.to/1Vyi5A2)  In “Christy”, a man struggling with doubt is advised to arise while it is still dark and watch the sunrise, every day, until he hears from God.

It worked for him, and it has worked for me for decades – without fail, no matter the current challenges in my life. My heavenly Father’s comfort and peace never fail to calm my soul and soothe troubled emotions as I watch His mighty hand paint the sky.  Being alone with God like that feels like a gentle hug from my big, strong earthly father, whose calming presence was one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Psalm 19, verse 1 in the Bible says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (NIV)

For transcendant thoughts on this passage by Bible scholars, click this link – and be blessed! http://bit.ly/1nFhWAv

"The heavens declare the glory of God. . . " (Psalm 19:1,a NIV)
“The heavens declare the glory of God. . . ” (Psalm 19:1,a NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six No-Cost Ways to Encourage Yourself

We All Need Encouragement

Every human being  has some ho-hum days and some days when they just feel down.  It is part of the human condition.  Sometimes, such days are indicators that we need to take time to consider how we are living and whether we need to make some changes.  Other days are just those ho-hum days.

God Longs to Give You Comfort and Hope

Here  are five cures for those days when you just feel your life is blah, though you know it is not.

  1. Simply talk to God, out loud , just as if He were a human being and could not understand you unless you spoke in actual words. Putting words to our feelings always calms us down because it prevents wild thoughts from spinning around and around inside.  God wants us to bring each detail of our life to Him, the good and the bad.  He tells us that in I Peter, chapter 5, verse 7:  “Cast all your anxiety on Him [God] because He cares for you.” [emphasis added]    It often helps to write out your prayers to God.
  2. Count your blessings – literally. Start making a list.  Here is a link to several versions of the beautiful hymn that says to “Count your many blessings, name them one by one. . . and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. ” Listen, really listen, to the words.   http://yhoo.it/1SHAXP0
  3. Get the focus off yourself by calling a friend who is going through hard times and give them the encouragement you wish you could hear for yourself. Do this in a conscious effort to obey God by helping to carry each other’s burdens. (Galations 6:2) http://bit.ly/23vE1lk   You simply cannot “outgive” God.  He always rewards obedience.  Try it and see.
  4. Soak your heart in the Psalms, or your other favorite Bible passages. Here is a link to a list of six Psalms that will encourage you, along with comments by a pastor, Zac Poonen, of a church in Colorado. http://bit.ly/1NCSfoR
  5. Listen to uplifting music. Try some of the 30  uplifting  Christian songs listed at this link.  Whether you feel like it at this moment, you ARE  an overcomer by the power of the blood of the spotless Lamb of God! http://bit.ly/1PUWUEr
  6. Get outside and look at the beauty of God’s creation.  Nature has power to soothe  and to heal.

    Nature is everywhere - because God loves us!
    Nature is everywhere – because God loves us!

If You Feel Down Often

Dear reader, if you consistently feel down, you may be depressed and not realize it.   Go to this link  http://abt.cm/1CBrYso    There is a quiz at the top of the page you can take.  If you are consistently feeling down, you most likely are depressed and you need to talk with a counselor.   Please, please do so.  If you do not get help, you will keep feeling worse and worse.  I was in that position many times over my lifetime until I learned to reach out for professional help when I needed it.  Depression is dangerous and hurts you as well as  everyone around you.  If you do not get help, it gets worse each time it happens.  Please get help. Do not try to do it alone. 

The Magic of Love

The Power of Love to Give Joy and Hope
The Power of Love to Give Joy and Hope

The first time I held my baby daughter in my arms I felt courage and determination flow into my heart.  The hospital window framed the faint pre-dawn light as I nursed her and then snuggled her close. It was a moment I knew I would remember for all my life.  I had never loved this fiercely before, ever, and I would do anything to protect her and take good, good care of her.

Not only did I feel an infusion of courage to face my dominating in-laws, I also felt totally, thoroughly happy.  Blissful is the word.  And that bliss endures to this very day whenever I see her.

This experience of falling in love with our children is common to most parents. And once our babies are all grown up and gone from our nest – but never our hearts – we have time to reflect on how giving love to our children changed us and how it benefitted us as much as them.

Why?  Love floods the lover with warm and tender feelings, whether you are feeling love for your baby, a child, a pet, or another adult.  There is a scientific basis for this that I did not know  way back in the mid 1970s when my precious little baby girl was born.  A hormone called oxytocin is released into our bodies when we experience love.   Here is one explanation of this blessing God has given us.

This Bliss Hormone Can Heal Your Body: The Many Benefits of Oxytocin

A special chemical in your body, called oxytocin, helps to create the feeling of falling in love.

Sometimes referred to as the hormone of “forgetting oneself,” oxytocin plays an important role in birth, lactation, bonding, and orgasm.

The hormone of love, oxytocin, influences the digestive system as much as it influences the brain. Oxytocin has been proven to cool gastrointestinal inflammation to alleviate food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and even Candida infections!

Oxytocin can act like a psychological buffer. Nature wired both men and women to experience an oxytocin surge (or several) during moments of bonding with each other or their children.

Oxytocin naturally enhances a sense of:

  • Optimism
  • Trust
  • Mastery
  • Self-esteem

(retrieved from   http://bit.ly/1Ph4e2E   on January 20, 2016)

Simply loving my daughter for all these years has helped  me far, far more than it has helped her. Being in love with my daughter has healed hurts so deep I did not know they existed. And trying to take good care of her has shaped my decisions for the good.

What is the source of all love?  Chapter 4, verse 8 in First John tells us “Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.”  (New International Version) [emphasis added].  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

How like our loving Heavenly Father to make what He tells us to do be so beneficial for us.  And how can we not love Him for loving us?  Loving Him floods us with an even more intense feeling of bliss that truly transcends the power of words to express.  Thank You, Lord!

Join me  in returning this love to Him as you listen to the song “The Love of God” by Mercy Me.    http://bit.ly/1V8qxWD

How Much God Loves Us
How Much God Loves Us

 

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is the love of God for those who fear Him.”  Psalm 103:11 (NIV)

Think about it.

 

 

Daddy called me “baby doll”

Words can hurt

Words can hurt and words can heal, as we all know.   Bullying labels from childhood can sting long into adulthood.  As a six-foot-tall teenager back in the 60s, my constant greeting from one boy was “Ho, ho, ho.  Here comes the jolly green giant.”  You can see the commercial that led to this emotionally crushing moniker at   http://yhoo.it/1KaYAHH

It took decades, literally decades, before I could accept that God did not make a mistake when He made me six feet tall.

Words can heal,  encourage, and nurture the heart

Fortunately, although I had the painful experiences common to all teens,  I also had a loving, tender father.   On the outside, and in the outside world, Daddy was a John Wayne kind of man – masculine, no-nonsense, strong and often silent.  He was the superintendent of a rock mine and in that role as a leader of men, he had to be strong.

1john wayne

But as soon as Daddy came home each night, my world was complete and my heart was at peace, just because he was there.   Daddy called me “baby doll”, a term of deepest endearment I still use with my own grown-up daughter.  And it is a strange thing – whenever I call Sharon “baby doll” I still feel Daddy’s love – and that feeling gets richer and warmer each passing year.

A father’s love – a priceless inheritance for his family

My parents both did a wonderful job raising their family.  They taught me values that have shaped my life for the good.  As a Daddy’s girl, the tender love of my father was the greatest of all possible gifts.  That love helped me accept the concept of a Heavenly Father who was loving and tender and who would take care of me and keep me safe.

This unfathomable love of God for us is described in Psalm 103, verses 11 through 14.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His [God’s] love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. [emphasis added] (New International Version)

I am grateful beyond words for an earthly Daddy who showed me what my Heavenly Father’s love is like.  And I am so very grateful I get to pass that love on to family and friends!

1montana sky

 

Trees. . . so pleasing to the human eye!

1treesPEACEFULforestSCENE

Few things are as calming to my soul as trees.  All kinds of trees, in all seasons, in all locations – they all comfort my heart and, “magically”, make me feel secure.   And I can explain why.

Pleasing to the eye

In telling us about creation, God says in Genesis chapter 2, verse 9:

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye [emphasis added] and good for food.” (New International Version). 

I have always loved the outdoors, though I’ve been a city dweller all my life.  Maybe that’s one reason I’ve always loved trees – they are a part of nature that is in cities and yet remain much as they would be in the woods.    Their branches reach outward from a trunk in the same way, their leaves sway with the wind in the same way, and they stretch their branches up toward heaven in the same way.   Trees do this whether they are in a city or in a wilderness where no one but God sees them.

The Bible tells us that God called all that He created “good”.  I believe God thinks trees are beautiful, too.  I believe that they are pleasing to His eye, just as they are to mine.  Our all-powerful Father in heaven, our Creator and the Creator of the universe, could have made earth obtain its oxygen in an invisible manner.  But He chose to cover the earth with beautiful flowers, bushes, and trees. . . majestic, glorious, upward-reaching trees.

1autumn_trres_PANORAMIC

Whether you live on a mountain with a panoramic view all around or, like me, in an urban area with one tree outside my window, I pray you will pause and let the beauty of trees bring you pleasure, as God intended.  Let them remind you to lift your heart towards heaven, just as the trees lift their branches to heaven.

“The heavens declare the glory of God. . . ” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

Together with all of creation, let us praise and glorify and love the wonderful One who made us and gave us such a beautiful earth to call our temporary home.

1TREE_ONLYONE_LOOKING UPINTO IT

 

The Best New Year’s Resolutions – Gratitude and Trusting God

obstacle

Christian Values and Goal Setting

My personality type constantly plans and sets goals, sometimes to excess, I admit.  Below are two good links about making goals and plans.  My two main goals for 2016 are to be more grateful and to trust God more.  (Along with trusting God, of  course, goes worrying less!)  I encourage myself often by remembering that nothing is impossible with God.   As Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed (New International Version.)

This fist link regarding goals is entitled “Personal Goal Setting:  Planning to Live Your Life Your Way.” Although this webpage is not about setting goals as a Christ follower, you can adapt it for goals related to your life with God.   http://bit.ly/1LabpRU

The next link entitled “Five Tips for Setting Christian Goals” focuses specifically on spiritual goals.   I found it personally highly  useful and thought-provoking.  http://bit.ly/1Zw3B6P

And Have Fun Planning and Anticipating!

dog jumping obstacleIf you have ever watched the amazing things dogs do during obstacle course competition, one thing is clear:   the dogs are having a great time – doing what they are meant to do.  We, too, are made to be overcomers.  Let’s enjoy the journey!

Trusting God

Dear Father in heaven,

I ask that You would graciously guide each of us, as You promise in James 1.   As we trust You, give us wisdom in setting goals for the next year.  Help us not to get  caught up in the process or  start depending upon ourselves.  Rather, keep reminding us that You are  in charge of our lives and that You have everything in control.  All we need to do is serve you with our whole heart, and soul and mind and trust You for the results.  We love You, Jesus!”

 

Merry Christmas – and Happy Birthday, Jesus!

If you are like me, Christmas brings back childhood memories and, so often, Currier and Ives pictures of Christmas, like the beautiful one below.

currier and ives christmas 1

However, I am sure that no one will have a completely perfect day today, like we long for when we see such happy, wholesome scenes.

We do have reality.   Kids (and adults!) will get cranky waiting on the Christmas dinner,  brothers and sisters will fight over the new toys, someone will say something hurtful, and on and on with our all too human imperfections.   That is reality.

The far greater reality is that Christmas is about Christ, the greatest gift  that has ever or will ever be given.  Reality is that God loved the world so much that He sent His son Jesus to be our Savior and our Redeemer, to show us the way to live as God would have us live.  (That’s the famous “John 3:16” verse.)

How wonderful if we cultivate a grateful heart — in the midst of Christmas day imperfections.   We can, if we choose, focus on thanking and praising our loving Heavenly Father for loving us so!

nativity

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus into this broken world, to show by His example how we are to live.  Help me to be a channel of Your love to everyone I see.  Help me please You with the “words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart” on this, the most beautiful day.   Happy birthday, Jesus!  I love You!

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (New International Version, 1973)

Cardinals on My Christmas Card – A Loving Pat on the Head

My daughter sent me the most beautiful Christmas card ever this year.  She knows I have loved cardinals for many years.

cardinal card 2012 from b

Inside the card was a photo of my daughter, her husband and my two darling grandsons, 2 and 4 years old.   Just getting them all together and looking good and sitting still for 10 seconds all at the same time and all together for that photo was a true labor of love, I know.

Her personal note (which is, uh, personal) was also beautiful and the kind that delights every Mother’s heart.  How blessed I am!   But just being reminded that she notices what I like and remembers and gets and does things to make me happy is a priceless gift in itself.  Again I say, how blessed I am!

So. . . why do I adore cardinals?   For two reasons – one, they always remind me of my earthly father, Fred Farmer (yes!  I was named after him : – )    He passed away many, many years ago,  creating a hole in my heart that only God could heal.    Daddy liked cardinals and always pointed them out to me.   Anything my father liked, I liked, too of course.

The Northern Cardinal is listed as one of the 100 common birds in Tennessee, my Dad’s native state.  So I’m sure he saw many growing up, just as I did growing up in Florida.

cardinals in snow male and female

Of course, the ones Daddy saw were possibly seen in snow, like the picture above.  And snow just hardly ever happened in Central Florida!

The second reason I love cardinals is that they remind me of my Heavenly Father’s unending love and presence and tender care.   I gave my heart to Jesus in 1981, and Daddy passed away in 1986.  I think somehow in my mind, the two thoughts and all the feelings associated with cardinals and Daddy and God were woven together in my heart.

All I know is that ever since I met Jesus, when I see a cardinal, even a fleeting glimpse, I feel like God has just given me a loving pat on my head and said, though not audibly, “I love you, Freda, and I am taking care of everything.  Everything is going to be okay. ”

It never, ever fails.  I can be in the bluest of moods or frustrated or stressed or whatever other negative thought pattern we humans so easily fall into, but the sight of a  cardinal works a true miracle in my heart.

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for loving me and reminding me in so many, little ways constantly of that love.  Thank You for such a wonderful earthly Daddy.  You know Daddy was a big and strong “man’s man” but he was so tender and gentle with me.    I know his love prepared a place in my heart for Your love, Father.  Thank You, Lord, for my father and for the way cardinals remind me of both of you.  I love You, Lord!”

cardinals

 

What the World Needs Now. . . A True Fortress

autumn leavesI

I was pondering what would be appropriate to say about Christmas in general, as the days of mid December fly by.  Here in central Texas, the golden and red-hued leaves are starting to fall off the trees, all at once it seems, as the wind blows, and sometimes blasts, through the branches.

In the last post, I included a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long.  I think the best thoughts I can offer you today about Christmas are in the link below.  In it, Christy Nockels sings a beautiful rendition of the classic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God’, which is based on Psalm 94:22.

In the middle of this stress-filled world we live in, at this time of year when so many are troubled by what they do not and cannot possess, what better thought can there be than this simple unalterable fact:   the God Who created the universe is with and tenderly watches over His children?  He truly is our fortress, no matter what comes.

Let this video help you keep your eyes and your heart on our loving Creator during times of personal unrest and distress.  And remember the comforting words of Jesus to those who have decided to follow Him:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. [emphasis added]”   (John 10:27-28, New International Version)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRQp1bUJkBE