Category Archives: As I look at my life

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Life’s Currents and God’s Oars

It is late at night; I’m sitting with this computer in my lap and am almost asleep. . .

In my mind’s eye it is mid-morning, and I am standing on high ground beside the bank of a flowing river. I gaze at the water, and see different currents coming together, then parting. Turning my head to the left my eyes follow the currents tumbling at a point of land that thrusts itself into the river; some go to the left, others to the right.
Oh! That land jutting out into the river, creating a division point, is new.  The last floods must have created it.

On the bank below me my small boat is pulled up onto a narrow beach, the oars inside. No motor on this boat, baby! When I go out onto this river, I am at the mercy of the currents flowing by. Using my oars, I will be able to guide that little boat to some degree. But the current is always on-flowing . . . and any decision I make, will have thousands of ramifications. As I think about the all the choices, my mind goes numb. Too much! it silently screams at me. Overload! This is more than I can handle.

I do NOT want to go back out on that river! But, I have no choice. The forest and underbrush crowd me where I stand. The only way out of here is heading out into those currents. But which branch should I take at that new Y in the river; the left or the right?. This is an unexpected decision and I hesitate to make it.

However, my time is limited. There are storm clouds on the horizon. If I stay here much longer I will be drenched with rain, which means I’ll be wet and miserable and unable to see clearly through the rain.

So, what do I do???
I’ve been traveling on this river many years
, and it is constantly changing. I know I’m now standing on a plateau that will soon end and I will be going through rapids. Because of the unexpected heavy rains, I don’t know how rough the water will be. If I’m hearing correctly, there is the thunder of water falling somewhere ahead. In the distance what am I seeing?  is that a cloud of vapor from a falls drifting above the trees? Which branch of the river goes to the falls? Oh, Lord! Help my thoughts to have clarity! May I see things as You see them!


I pick up my unwilling feet, and head down to my too small of a rowboat. No answers in my mind, but I must go out onto that river again, praying as I go.

My dream ends before I get to my boat…I realieze  it describes where we are today.

  • The currents of life brought us back from Brasil to Portland. Joe will be 84 in September, and wants to be where he can speak and understand English…
  • We are seriously considering a move to Georgia in the next couple of months, to live with one of my daughters.
    She’s traveled heavy waters as her husband’s life ended from leukemia: she is presently remodeling her home to make it practical for us to move in with her.
    She also loves Brazil and speaks fluent Portuguese.• We are hopefully planning on more time in Brazil later this year, Lord willing.• We are discovering the reality of our bodies’ physical limitations that come from aging. Difficult lessons. Different currents and rapids we had not expected.• We, like you, can hear the roar of the falls ahead, as the US – in fact, the whole world – is going over a cliff.

What are we doing in our small boat on this too rapidly flowing river?

The only thing I know to do today, in these strong life currents, is to keep rowing with the oars He’s provided.
What are these oars?

  1. Walk daily in obedience to the Lord in all the small decisions.

  2. Daily immerse myself in His Word.

  3. Talk to God, asking for wisdom and ability to hear Him.
    Constantly request Him to help me on the path He marked out for me.

    Proverbs 3:5–8 Amplified Bible
    5. Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
      And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
    6. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,
      And He will make your paths straight and smooth
      [removing obstacles that block your way].
    7. Do not be wise in your own eyes;
      Fear the Lord [with reverent awe and obedience]
      and turn [entirely] away from evil.
    8. It will be health to your body [your marrow, your nerves,
      your sinews, your muscles – all your inner parts]
      and refreshment [physical well-being] to your bones.


May He not allow me to open doors He has closed, and when He opens a door and I hesitate, I ask for Him to push me through.

         4. Learn to TRUST HIM MORE.
This is still a daily deliberate choice… to trust.Why in this rolling, turbulent world do I want control over my own life?
I look back over the years and I see where He protected and blessed me, even in the midst of horrendous rapids.  Don’t I trust Him to care for me in the future?

Hebrews 4:14
Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him].

     5. Thank Him!  In and for all things. This helps me forgive and it increases my trust level.

Eph 5:18-20
Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV

1 Thess 5:16-18
16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. NIV

 

Once again I face a choice: to believe Him? Or not believe Him and travel alone.
I think I will ask Him to ride with me and pilot my small boat, thank you!
What about you?  How are you doing on this river of life?

What kind of oars as you using?

  • Voni

 

 

 

Puzzling Puzzles

hands_jigsaw_puzzle

 

 

 

 

 

I stand, looking at the puzzle.

The outside border is done:  you know, all those pieces with at least one straight line that eventually give the physical limits to the puzzle.  On the table are groupings of different colors and designs, carefully separated.  Inside the border, pieces locked into place, the puzzle is taking shape, coming towards the center at all sorts of different angles.

Those doing the puzzle must have the patience of Job.  It is certain I don’t have it!

As I stand, gazing, I remember years ago . . .1977  –  the first time my husband separated from our children and me. . . and what I learned from God about puzzles.

We are living in Belo Horizonte, our house on the side of a mountain overlooking the city.  I love the view of the sky from our big veranda.

This evening, I sit and watch the changing colors in the bowl of the sky that hovers over a valley and the heart of a city of 3 million. While the sun is rapidly disappearing behind the hills on the left, to my right the dark night sky is creeping up from behind the mountains. This is home. Adventures here?  Many!  Laughter, along with tears bathed in prayers.

I am still, watching the sky; feeling the breeze and the change of temperature as the sun disappears from sight and night is suddenly here.  I feel a slight chill, but don’t want to go in. I have much to talk over with God.

The house is emptier.  Our older son married in the states.  Our oldest daughter married in this living room, behind me. Our second daughter is preparing to go to the states to study, leaving our three younger ones at home.

But this is only a house, not a home.  My husband put it on the market to sell, and my younger three and I must find a place to live.  He would rather not live with us.  I prefer not staying in Belo Horizonte, for what kind of an example are we now: but where do we go?  I have no idea.

Ideas of different places chase each other through my mind as I face a new reality.  One day, I’m sitting in utter desperation in the car, talking to God.  I hear a voice (in my mind or outside my mind, I don’t know – but it is audible) and it is telling me “go to the United States.”

God knows I don’t want to go to the states.  I tell Him:  “Ok, I’ll go, Lord, if You really want me to go, but You know . . .” and I then give Him a list of things that have to happen for us to travel.  I think I’m safe– for, although they are realistic needs, I know they are absolutely impossible!

God’s answer . . .

Four months later, the house is sold, I’ve packed and stored some things in

the attic (with the new owner’s permission), sold most of the furniture. Lanae and our youngest son, leave on a plane for the states while our two youngest daughters and I continue camping out in the house as I finish their travel papers.

The day finally comes.

My estranged husband* drives us across the city to the airport. I pray all the way that God will not let us get on that plane: for the motor to die or something!  His answer is to get us safely to the airport.

The two girls and I board the plane to Rio, then another plane to Miami. Another plane to Dallas/Ft Worth, then the last plane to Portland.    It’s a long trip…into the unknown, especially since I do not want to be here!

 

What does all of this have to do with a puzzle?  

A trip like this is exhausting, and questions are battering my mind.   Why, God!?  What is going to happen?  And Lord, there are lives in Belo Horizonte that I’ve been sharing with about YOU?  What is going to happen to them?  Why do we need to leave? ? ? ? ? 

In my mind, I see a puzzle on a table. The outer borders are in place, some of the puzzle filled in, pieces spread out on the table, awaiting their turn to be fitted into their places.  The Holy Spirit ** shows me that these pieces have to be placed in their proper order.  There is no way to simply put a piece in the middle unless there is a specific place to lock it into…              puzzle piece and hands

 My Father, God, is taking me out of that puzzle for now.

Some of the other pieces have to be put in place before He can use me there again.  I can yell, kick and scream; or I can trust Him, relax in Him, let Him use me where and when He wants to.  It’s my choice.  I’m the one who decides. 

This is still true today in 2015.

He continues using you and me in the puzzles of life.  There is much I do not understand! He is the designer of each puzzle and knows where the pieces belong.  I don’t. My role is to put myself, my life in His hands, allowing Him to place me where He desires. 

It’s a challenge at times, yes!  However, the longer I live, the more joy I find in loving and trusting God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each day, some of joy, other times with tears; in all of them HE is here with me.  He challenges me – in His Word and in my life – to trust Him. When I do, I discover joy and peace unimaginable!  When I don’t trust Him, I’m miserable. Believe me, it is worth learning how to trust Him!

What about you?  Where are you in your life’s puzzles? Is He moving you from one to another?  Do you need to let go of an old puzzle, to be used in a new one? Are you hurting, as you learn to trust? 19095279-two-3d-people-are-putting-the-last-puzzle-piece

2 Cor 1:3-4  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  NIV

Voni

* estranged husband – I am not using his name. He is still living and I respect his privacy.

** Holy Spirit – I’m not being super-spiritual.  He has different ways of speaking with each one of us.  Are you aware of how He speaks with you?

 

Psalms 23 – Spiritual Antibiotic NEEDED

Memories from the past:  MAY 1987 My husband of 40 years is gone.

I am desperate!  Without hope.  I can barely think logically, as my thoughts whirl in circles.

My husband has been telling me in actions; now it is in clear words: he does not love me –
and he is GONE! This marriage of 40 years is DEAD, FINISHED, OVER.
How can I put my mind and thinking process together? I don’t even have words to pray, except for “HELP!”

The Holy Spirit hears my cry, and a memory creeps into my terrified and numbed brain .
Jesus-Good-Shepherd-guides-me

“Psalms 23 is a spiritual antibiotic.”   This is true, whatever the problem one is facing.
As I remember this  lesson , I  begin writing it down.

Directions:
Copy out the words of Psalms 23 onto several pieces of paper.  Put one of them on my nightstand, one of them on the mirror (or next to it) in the bathroom, one on the fridge, one in my wallet,  one in my pocket.

Dosage:
Pick up paper and read verbally (this can be done quietly or LOUD – dependent upon me) all of Psalms 23, thinking about the words.  That is all… just read it verbally.  Not to study – just read.

Frequency of dosage:  every 4 hours or as follows –
Early morn, before or when getting up
Mid-morning
Noon – during meal
Mid-Afternoon
Supper – during meal
Before sleeping:  I sit on the side of the bed while taking the dosage (so I won´t fall asleep.)

IMPORTANT!
As with all antibiotics, when one starts feeling the results of medication, one wants to quit the medication. KEEP ON WITH THE DOSAGE FULL 30 DAYS.
When you start to feel better, do not stop dosage!
If you miss a dose, pick up on the routine at next time due.

Patient can repeat this antibiotic as needed.

                                   *            *          *          *           *          *          *          *
I take the anti-biotic.  In about two weeks I feel  better: still in sorrow and anguish, but beginning to think more clearly and have more clear-cut goals. 
I think about stopping the dosage, but keep on.  Good thing that I did!

By the end of the 30 days, God’s words in Psalms 23 become part of my daily life.  They pass from my brain to my heart, soul and spirit; then they start changing me.

My primary focus is now upon my God and Lord; not upon my husband.
 That sheep Jesus is carrying – is me!

This was in 1987.      It is now 2015.
I´ve used this antibiotic many times in these intervening years.  Each time, it changes my life, brings new understanding, always brings more spiritual health, which also affects the health of the physical body.

TRY IT FOR YOURSELF

And let me know the results.

–  with love,
Voni  

GOD – AND COFFEE

Copy of teacup[1]

I’m sitting at the table in the kitchen nook.  The sunshine is streaming in windows as I look out at our small back yard.  I love this little corner of our home.

Crazy as it sounds, this little corner is my “retreat”, especially so at this time of the morning.
My three older children left about 15 minutes ago, going to school. My two youngest are still asleep, my husband has gone to class, and I am actually by myself in a quiet house – at least for a few minutes, and I an happy!
breakfast table
 
After clearing the table of family breakfast debris, my cup of coffee is ready, as I pop a slice of raisin cinnamon bread into the toaster setting on a corner of the table.  My notebook, Bible and commentary are opened , taking up most of the space.  I managed to squeeze a saucer in (the table is small) and it’s waiting for that toast to butter, then some honey and a slice of cheese.  Ah! my breakfast is ready. I take a bite of that delicious toast, a sip of coffee, then open the commentary for the comments on the next scripture in my study on PRAYER.  I read the verse, look it up in the commentary, then write the summation of my own thoughts in the notebook.  I’m in the process of going through the New Testament doing this.  It is rich!  I’m learning so much… and simply by writing down my thoughts, they remain more permanent in my mind.
My coffee and toast are about gone (the coffee got a little cool as I was writing, so I had to put it into the microwave for 30 seconds, so I can enjoy it to the end .)  I debate about another piece of toast, but hear some noises upstairs. The smaller children are awakening… I quickly pick up my study material and put it up high enough little hands can’t reach it.  (This time I use the top of the refrigerator.)
Wiping my hands on my apron, I run up the steep stairway and start my day, praying as I go.  I’m going to need His help: I’m so thankful I can talk to Him. . .I wouldn’t make it without these conversations.
Pray without ceasing … talking to the Lord all day. Much better than talking to myself!
Portland, Oregon 1966
 older woman in rocking chair reading - cartoon
Portland, Oregon 2015  49 years later
It’s morning and the apartment is quiet: a sharp contrast to most of my years as wife and mother.  My husband didn’t sleep well last night, so he’s getting a little more sleep now.  I’ve fixed my morning coffee, am sitting in my rocking chair, my computer on my lap, my journal beside me, and reach for my Portuguese Bible.  I’m trying to read the Bible primarily in Portuguese.  I want to continue improving in the language – yes.  But the best part is that  when I read the verses in Portuguese, it gives me an added depth of meaning/ a slightly different slant as I look at the words.  I love doing this.  I read more slowly, for I’m also learning more of the grammar as I read.  I smile as I remember that, in the colonies in the U. S,  the children’s reading textbook was the Bible.  So my reading textbook in Portuguese is the Bible.open Bible g
This morning, I go to Ephesians… oh! what a joy to read the promises that Paul states are ours.  I still – after all these years – do not have a clear understanding of predestination that Paul writes about.  I know the meaning of the word, but have read too many different opinions, and not yet clearly formed mine.  Which is ok…
I’ve learned that reading the Bible is like peeling an onion.  One understands (removes the skin) of the first layer, then returns and reads the same passage again, and one glimpses another depth (removes the second layer) then discovers more still there!

One of the facts of reading God’s Word is –  every time I read it – I learn something new.  I smile – after all these years, I’m still peeling that onion.

Comfort, strength, security, challenge – always something new.  And now, I have Bible versions on my Smart Phone, so I can read the Bible at night in the dark if I wake up.  Reading it quiets my mind, giving me rest.

The stability I have in my life – through all of the times of hecticness, joy, grief, laughter, beauty, weariness, change after change  after change . . .  the stability comes from God’s Word (His love letter to me) and the privelege of conversing with Him, day or night.
 Have you discovered this?
Would you like some ideas from what I’ve learned?  
Did you know you can use Psa 23 as a spiritual antibiotic?
Do you know how to read Proverbs so you can acturally absorb it?
Just leave your comments, ideas and or questions in the comments.
Grab your coffee and start in.
Love you!Copy of teacup[1]
 
-Voni

 

 

TRUST – OR FOOLISHNESS?

barn bTen years old: she stands on a humongous pile of freshly cut hay piled high in the hayloft, at one end of the barn.

The small girl looks across a space to see another humongous pile of hay at the other end of the barn.  In her hand she is tightly grasping a rope that is linked to a pulley high above her head.  The pulley is on a metal track that runs the whole length of the barn, from one end of it to the other.  She and two or three other children confer on the best way to hold the rope (It’s a little difficult to see them, for the barn’s light filters in through some of the few windows plus an area high at one end of the barn.)  But the voices ring clearly, through the streaks of sunshine filled with dust motes that fall in a varied pattern on the hay.

“Be careful.”  “Hang onto the rope tight!” “Keep your eyes open so you’ll know when to let go before you hit the wall at the other end.” “Don’t jump too soon. You want to be sure and land in the hay over there.”  “Swing hard as you take off so the pulley will go clear to the other end.  You don’t want to let go where there is only a little hay below you!”

The excitement is building as the girl hesitates – then she takes a deep breath, clasps the rope tightly, tries to move through the loosely piled hay, then jumps!

Swinging on the rope that is stretched tight from her weight and that follows the pulley high above her, she whizzes through the air (what a strange and delightful feeling!) sees the other pile of hay coming into her line of vision below, and lets go of the rope to fall, tumbling into the fresh sweet-smelling hay below her; well before she hits that other wall.

She scrambles to the top of the pile of hay, smiling and proud, as the other children erupt in yells of victory.  She did it!!!!  What fun!  Then awaits her turn to repeat the journey of swinging                  back to the other pile of hay.  She learned she can trust that rope and pulley – and is ready for more.

I was that small girl, along with my brother and some children from the neighboring farms.  This was a game we played every year after the hay was brought in from the fields, and put into the barn. (Which is why that rope and pulley were there in the first place.) We would play it occasionally on Saturdays until it got too cold or until the level of the hay lowered too much from feeding the cattle, and the jump became too dangerous and our parents said: “No more!”  We were almost relieved that they put up the barriers to our playing “the game”, for we’d begun to feel the hard thumps of falling into less hay.

Were we foolish for playing that game in the hay?

We’d watched that rope and pulley being used to lift heavy burdens of hay out of the horse drawn wagons – and later years tractor pulled wagons – then observed it pulled up into the barn and dropped into the haylofts.  We understood (without understanding fully) the mechanics of the rope and pulley and the metal track it rolled on.  We could trust it.  And if we followed the rules, we were okay.  Disobey those rules, and we’d be hurt.

open Bible s

Is this somewhat like our walk with Christ our Lord?  We’ve read His promises in the the Bible..  We watch others walking and trusting Him, and how God uses them.  We decid we’ll take the risk of trusting Him, and discover that it is a strange and delightful feeling to step out into the unknown with Him.

To obey Him takes TRUST.
He tells us to forgive (when we don’t want to) and we have to trust Him enough to obey.
We discover the freedom of stepping out from under the bondage of unforgiveness. This startles us as it liberates us, and we gain more courage to trust Him.  We learn more about love . . .
He also places limits, giving us boundaries to not cross: to protect us from hurting  ourselves or others.  We learn through experience that His boundaries are valid.

We’ve all learned that even those we love fail us.  But WE CAN ALWAYS TRUST HIM

Sometimes we misjudge and  hit a barn wall and get bruised, or jump and land in shallow hay.
Or we are surprised and hurt by attacks against us; betrayal, lies.
But we have a Hand to hold that is stronger than a rope, and God tells us:                                   

                                 

                                If the Lord delights in a man’s way,
                                He makes his steps firm;
                               though he stumble, he will not fall
                              Psalms 37:23   NIV
                                                  for the Lord upholds him with His hand.

 Jesus walking with small child

It is incredible to me how we are loved in this “hayloft” that we call life!

The mystery of the Trinity: God (our Father),  Jesus Christ (our Lord), and His Holy Spirit (our Counselor and Teacher), is Who picks us up each time, dusts us off, puts us on our feet again, then holds our right hands,

swinging us across empty spaces,
watching over us as He walks with us,
rejoicing with us over our victories,

holding us when we weep.                              

9 I took you from the ends of the earth,
From its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isa 41:9-10      NIV

  I have found Someone in whom I can trust – always.
     I want you to know Him also!

                                                                                                                     – Voni

Who or what is the rope you hang onto in your life?
 Do you know?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

Package of 3

3 Boxes whiteSeptember, 1987

I like the number 3; but I never thought of the number as applying to psychological, mental and spiritual principles.  Yet, look at this . . .

  1. Forgiveness: I must learn how to forgive if I want to walk free and be. (I’m studying more on this from doctors. I’m amazed at some of the info I’m reading that illustrates how forgiveness affects our bodies. I will share more about this later.)
  2. Thanksgiving: Another step that releases me from the pain in my past
  3. Blessing others: This blew my mind.

The midnight darkness 0f a tropical night drops around where I am packing and closing up the house I had called home.  Relentlessly, bit by bit, I sell some things, pack more boxes, and give other items away.  The pain of moving slows down my body and mind.  I do not want to do this, so each step I take is a battle.

One evening, as I work, the word “blessing” enters my mind.  This shocks me. Once again, I say “God, You have to be kidding me!  Bless the people who betray me???

I begin thinking.  Jesus tells us to bless our enemies.  Although I thought my “husband” was a friend, he has treated me as an enemy. People do not do this kind of thing to those they love.

Luke 6:27-29
27 But I say to you who are listening now to Me: [in order to heed, make it a practice to] love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred,
28 Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you [who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you].
AMP           open Bible d             

I blanch as I read this.  How am I supposed to do this???

I re-read the verses several times.
Vs 27 – love my enemies? This is not the friendship love. Rather, it is agape love, wanting the have love for them?  If I work through it, step by step, yes I can.  I do not wish them evil in their lives.
Vs 28 – this  is more difficult!  Invoke blessings upon them? Pray for their happiness?  Implore God’s blessings and pray for the happiness of those who curse or revile me?
 God, How do I pray for their happiness when I hurt and am in anguish because of what they have done to me?

  1. What is the thing that is the most important for their happiness? What is the greatest blessing God can bestow up them? Wouldn’t it be that they come to walk with Him , recognize and own the hurt they’ve caused others, dealing with God for forgiveness, and spend eternity with God?

But, Father, I do not want to bless them!

Again, I am face-to-face with a choice: obey what God says to do if I want His blessings. The need for God’s blessings to survive motivates me to search for further understanding.

A thought comes into my mind: the realization that, for anyone to receive God’s blessings, he has to deal directly with God, and recognize the seriousness of his actions.

Therefore, the road people walk who betray anyone won’t be easy; but it will be necessary if they want to receive God’s blessings.  And . . . I can trust God and leave the details with Him.

Several hours pass before I make my final decision.
I begin praying for those who destroyed my family; that they might know the blessing of walking in obedience to God.

and I discover that the value of the third part of this package is greater than I’d dreamed. . .
For blessing others lightens my own anguish and pain, and begins to bring me a new perspective. . .looking_out_on_green_open_window_view_with_trees_ coffee-cup
 – V0ni P

Why do you think blessing others would make a difference?  Could it be of value in your own life?

Lord, Are You Sure?

I am having a running conversation with God.

praise

Well, really: it may be more one-sided?
 I’m talking to Him about Ephesians 5:17-2o
I keep re-reading those verses…trying to figure out how  to thank God for everything.
It makes no sense to me.
Eph 5:17,18,20
17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.  [Prov 23:20.]
20 At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.  
AMP
Then in a different version:
Eph 5:17,18,20
17 Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
18 Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life.  Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him.
20 Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
I keep on talking and asking for wisdom, trying to get around that word everything,
However, it doesn’t matter what I say to God my Father, the words that are written do not change, and still sound impossible for me to do.
From what I can understand,  I am to thank and praise God for everything.
 
But God, that involves losing my marriage.
 It involves betrayal.
The list of things it involves seem endless and keeps growing.  I learn more of them each day.
 And I am supposed to thank and praise you for these?
That  my children no longer have a father – and my grandchildren don’t have a grandfather?
For my “husband” has totally abandoned us.  We are no longer an important part of his life.
No longer will I have a home for my kids to come to . . .
I have to leave Brazil,  this country I love and is now my home;
and return to the United States where I do not want to live.
Oh God! Help me!
praise-god planted treasure.wordpress com.
The words in God’s Word still do not change.
After a couple of days, finally, I am quiet… not arguing any more.
 
Ok God.  I will have to do this as I do the forgiveness:  out of obedience, for my heart only hurts.
 
I start.
Father, I thank You, I praise You for my husband’s actions, his betrayal of our children and I, for . . .        the tears run down my cheeks.  . . I thank you for his children from that relationship … I thank you for the woman whom I thought was my friend I break down, begging my Father for help.
Every time I  thank God – the tears come.  I  learn three important things.
1. Thanking God – even with tears – cleanses my heart.  I take these different situations that involve so much hurt,  talk about them with God, give thanks and praise for each one:  it’s like a  balm that heals as it goes over my  wounds.  It becomes easier to forgive those involved.
 
2. What is “high praise.”                                                                                                                                  Ps 66:16-19
16 Come and hear, all you who reverently and worshipfully fear God, and I will declare what He has done for me!
17 I cried aloud to Him; He was extolled and high praise was under my tongue.
18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me;  [Prov 15:29; 28:9; Isa 1:15; John 9:31; James 4:3.]  (So I must forgive, to keep my heart clean.)
19 But certainly God has heard me; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

AMP
I come to the conclusion that high praise is when I  weep while I thank God . .  I wonder how long it will be before I can thank Him without tears?
 
3. What is a sacrifice of praise.  
Heb 13:15
15 Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.  [Lev 7:12; Isa 57:19; Hos 14:2.]
AMP
 When I praise God for all things, it truly is a sacrifice of my will for my life, as I choose to obey Him; and tears flow.
 However, the result ? I am blessed  with a deeper quietness in my spirit., and I need  that quietness and peace.
 
I am living with an anguish I never imagined.  At the same time, I know I am not alone.
There are some things one cannot explain.
I do not know how to explain what is happening to me, with me.  But changes are happening.
I only know I will continue fo obey God to the best of my ability, even when I don’t understand.
I  thank God for all things, and forgive those who have hurt me so deeply.
I desire to be free  from the past, free to walk into my future.
So, I hang onto God’s hand and His Word.
This verse helps me with God’s promise for me; He will handle those who have hurt me and the children through their disobedience of God’s principles.
Isa 41:12-13
12 You will look in vain
for those who tried to conquer you.
Those who attack you
will come to nothing.
13 For I hold you by your right hand—
I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996,
2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
Then there are these promises to me – to anyone who is attempting to walk with God.
I hang onto them, for I know they are true!
He is doing it on a daily basis for me, as I do my best to walk in obedience.
At times, I have to hang tightly onto His hand to have the strength to follow.
But He IS HERE.
Isa 43:1-3, 19-21
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
.       .         .          .
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
. . .
20 . . . because I provide water in the desert
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
NIV
 These promises hold me together as I hang onto His hand for dear life.
 open Bible s
July,2015
It is still difficult for me to even write this today, although 28 years have passed since then. The deep anguish is gone; however, a profound sorrow remains.  I am still hanging onto His hand, and continue to learn how to thank Him for everything  
 I have questions for which there are no answers – yet.
 
Life is a challenge and, at times, a battle for survival. Yet, in all of it, He keeps His promises.
If you are walking in anguish, full of anger, or lack peace and joy:  please experiment with these first two steps: forgiveness and thanksgiving.
Just remember, we can trust Him – totally! even though we don’t understand.
         -Voni
               In next post, the third challenge He gives me  –  just as big as the first two.
The result?  BLESSING!

 

God! You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

It is evening.  My body is exhausted from sorting and packing.  My mind is tired from thinking.

I reach for my Bible to see if I can find some verses to  bring me peace.  I open my Bible and start reading . . . Suddenly, I read a verse that stops me in surprise. open Bible gI look at the verse again, and the words hit me and dig in deep.

….always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Eph 5:20

I shake my head in disbelief.  How many times have I read this verse?  But it never hit me like it is now.

I thought that forgiveness is a challenge? Even as  I’m learning to forgive out of obedience, not emotion, and beginning to see some changes in my attitudes.

But this?  Thank God, and praise Him, for all the tears and hurts?  Thank Him for my husband being unfaithful?  Thank God for the betrayal of a woman I’d thought of as my friend?

ohhh, I know Romans 8:28 says …in all things  God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. . .

but to thank Him for things that are wrong?  How in this world can I do that?    This is too much!

 

I turn back to the two passages I had just read.
1 Thess. 5:16-18      “Be joyful always.  Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  and

Phil. 4:8-7   “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

OK  … I ponder over these verses again.

 

Be joyful always does not mean be happy always.  Happiness comes and goes. It’s a surface emotion.  Joy is something deep inside me.  I can have a quiet joy, even when things are wrong. because I know that God is with me.

Pray continually.  My God knows I’m talking with Him all the time.  I couldn’t make it without Him.

Give thanks in all circumstances. Thank Him in all circumstances is God’s will for me as I follow Christ Jesus.  I can see that.  I am to trust Him and know that all things work together for my good.   And His Will is that I do this . It’s difficult, but I can learn how to do this.

.

Rejoice in the Lord… again, there is the joy  – and Paul says it two times, so he is extra serious on this one!

Now why did He say: Let your gentleness be evident to all.  Perhaps, because if I follow these instructions, I won’t be full of anger and rancor, and can actually be gentle in my approach with people, not wanting to hit them over the head?  hmmm maybe I wouldn’t want to hit them over the head  if I obeyed these instructions?  Good thought!

The Lord is near.  I am so thankful for that!  To know that He is here, near me!  That helps!

Do not be anxious about anything That definitely goes against my personal tendencies.  I worry about and for my kids, and their kids. I sorrow over the hurts of others, their losses. My heart sorrows about so many things… and Paul continues with his thought. . .

but in everything,, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Paul is telling me to take all my worries and frustrations to the Lord and turn them into words, and present them to God.  But, look, here he says that when we do this, we are also to thank and praise Him. Thanking and praising God are very important to Him – which means they should be important to me.

The promised blessing when I do this?  the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

OK God, I think I get this.  It’s sinking in – and in whatever situation I am in, I can obey this and have peace. . . and if I don’t have peace about something, then I need to take it to you in prayer, with thanksgiving.

It’s going to take work – and I see the logic.

 But what about Eph 5:20

….always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.   

I do not get this one.  I see no logic in it?  Thanking you for things that are totally against Your will?

How can I do this???          

Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/481683
Image credit at http://www.stocksy.com/481683

        Next post – I share HOW.

        – Voni P.                                                                                                                                     

Forgiveness 202 How to Come Out on Top

ON TOP rock on top of each other

This post is a little different.  I start out by describing a scene of hurt, then attempt to apply what we learn from it.

 

It’s now the correct time to unpack your imagination.  Are you ready? Let’s go!

Imagine a wide staircase.  You and a friend are standing together on one of the steps, relaxed and talking. You say something.   Unexpectedly, your friend turns on you and begins spewing out verbal garbage about you, at the same time jabbing at you.

You’re in shock. You don’t believe it, even as it is happening!  You almost stumble, then grab onto an arm and hit  back, yelling above that voice you used to enjoy hearing  The two of you stumble and go down one step, then another step; hanging onto each other.

STOP!  FREEZE THE FRAME RIGHT THERE!
Look at the scene.   Both mouths are wide open yelling
The body language is aggression!

Can we identify with this scene in our daily lives?? . . . People we love turn on us or fail us? Or we are with people who are hurting, have become bitter, and then cut at us?    What can we do?
There are the countless daily irritations, plus emotional betrayals, crooked business deals, family problems – with spouses, children, and more. The thing in common for each item?  Each one tightens up our bodies in anger or fear.

How can we live in peace and forgiveness when all this wrong stuff bombards us daily?  That’s what we’re going to talk about.

First, let’s go back to that scene and let it roll. It can end in several different ways.

Today, we’ll look at a couple of them, one at a time.

Two friends, one creates an offense (a form of betrayal) , the second uses offense in self-defense. They stumble to a lower step.  If this continues to go as it is right now, they will continue pulling each other down, from one level to another, until they part in anger and bitterness.

The frightening thing about this situation is that even after walking away from each other,they are still connected emotionally in a negative way.  Words were uttered along with actions that will continue to fester and create an inner moldy substance. Regardless of distance or time, they will be linked emotionally until at least one of them learns how to be freed from the yoke of bitterness, which keeps increasing in weight with each passing year, destroying whoever carries it in their heart, as well as all others with whom they come into contact.

Bitterness is an ugly root that can entwine itself around our emotions, twisting how we see the world around us.  If we let it, it will completely take over our personalities, poisoning us on the inside: affecting our emotions, our health, our families, and our world.  I am not being too dramatic about it;  that is what bitterness is.

Hebrews 12:15Amplified Bible (AMP)

15 Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it—

I’ve watched bitterness destroy others: I had my own personal battle with it in my 20’s over a very unimportant incident. I learned I never want it in my life again.   Bitterness is horrible; it strangles the life out of one. But if I want things my way, and am not willing to let go of “my rights”, I open myself to resentment and bitterness. I painfully learned that nothing is worth hanging onto if it opens the door to self-destruction.

The second result of this scene is a little more complicated to explain, but I will try.
I want to stress this is an opinion – something I have thought about – but I am not teaching this as a theological truth.
Here we go . . .

There is mystery in God’s Word…
God does not exist within a time frame, right?  But something that happens here on earth (for example Christ dying on the cross for all of our sins), is, for us who are living now within the frame of time, an event that happened a couple of thousand years ago.

But, if it’s placed in the frame of eternity, where there is no time,  is it still happening?
In one sense, I think the answer may be “yes.”  If Christ died for every one of our sins from the beginning to the end of time, and I live within that time frame, then don’t the sins I commit today give Him a heavier burden of sin and pain on the cross.?

If I mistreat others, does it all continue increasing on the balance scale in eternity?  Is this the outcome I want in my life, causing more pain to Christ on the cross?  Or do I want the load of pain upon my Lord to be less.

Is it possible that a simple unforgiven offense can reap untold sorrow and pain down throughout the centuries?

How long will this momentl from this scene be frozen in the universe, even as these two walk away from each other in anger?  How can this negative bondage be broken? Is forgiveness absolutely necessary here? Who forgives whom?  And when?

Matt 6: 14-15     The Message

Jesus said:  “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Let’s examine forgiveness a little more closely.
A definition I  read the other day about forgiveness:  it is releasing my right to demand justice and revenge against a person.   Ouch!
Can I trust God to carry through with my protection in this situation?  Will He defend me from wrong if I release my rights? Do I really believe it when He says He is my fortress?

This is the decision each one of us faces, Daily. In all circumstances.  We have to work it through in our minds. Then,  if or when, I decide that I want to forgive,  how do I do it?

Now is when we can  go back to that scene when you were attacked verbally and/or physically by the person you thought was a friend.  However it was expressed, it was a betrayal of trust.

This time we’re going to put our Lord in the midst of the scene (and He IS always there,we just don’t think of His presence.

You are standing there; your “friend” becomes your enemy, hurting you deeply. You respond in self-defense. The two of you are standing, yoked together by your hands on each other’s bodies, each one with the purpose of hurting the other.  Awareness hits, you  remember what the Lord teaches us about forgiveness.  You pull your hand away, giving up your right for revenge and  justice; instead, you give your enemy to God for Him to handle.

When you do this, God removes your enemy’s hand from you,  holding his hand away from you. You are free to walk away, free from the yoke of bondage to that person.
You may be hurting, in sorrow and confusion. But, you are free! Free to heal. Free to learn. Free to be blessed.

One important thing:  Each time the sorrow, hurt and confusion begin to move into your mind, go yhrough the process we just went through.  Visually think of standing on those steps, and forgiving,  giving that person to God. Then able to turn and walk away free.

Why did I place this scene on the steps?  Look at what  happened.  Your enemy  wanted to degrade you. But what happens when you forgive?” God lifts you one or two steps above the person who tried to “put you down.”  

We choose on a daily basis.

a) I can be a slave to my emotions of anger and bitterness, which then lead to a constant downward spiral or,
b) I can forgive, and  forgiveness frees me.  I do not have to crawl in the dirt of anger and horrid memories of when people purposefully hurt me.

When I look at it like this, I wonder: Why do I sometimes hesitate before forgiving?
A good question.

 

A thought to take with you:

Following our Father God’s instructions, He begins giving wings to my spirit, along with His peace, and teaching me how to fly.

I like that.  How about you?    

    Eagle-Flying on top of clouds.         

 

For more on why I’m writing this blog, please read ABOUT ME .

– Voni P. 

 

 

 

The Train December 1987


Rain_against_train_window__by_Alex_Hay

I sit on the train looking out the big windows at the landscape slipping past me
: tall evergreen trees interspersed with the lacework of leafless trees thrusting their branches against the grey sky, all anchored in a natural forest undergrowth.  Raindrops splashing and runnng  down in small riveluts, causing the landscape to blur in front of my eyes…. or is it tears in my eyes?  Maybe both..

I’m returning to Portland, OR, from Bellingham, WA, close to the Canadian border  where my parents live .  They’re in their late 80’s, and becoming fragile.  I did some food prep for them and put it in the freezer; things they enjoy.  It’s strange to be at their comfy trailer home and me do the cooking.  All my life, my mom’s cooking is a highlight in our home. . . and now the roles are reversed.
I leave Bellingham early this morn. a train change in  Seatlle WA, arriving in Portland OR. around dusk. It’s early afternoon: I won’t know that without my watch, the sky is dark with clouds.  We just went through an area that I know well, where my former husband was raised.  So many wonderful, crazy memories of two kids who fall in love and planning their marriage. Driving in a blizzard near Tacoma WA., going to a huge state fair in Puyallup WA, , canoing on Greenlake (near the University) in Seattle, a stolen kiss riding in the rumble seat of a friend’s car… (rumble seat: that may be another word you will need to look up.  Believe me, it’s unforgettable!)
MEMORIES! MEMORIES! flowing though my brain on my mind’s screen.
My Lord and Father God.  What happened over the years to change all of that?  What did we do wrong?  What did I do wrong?
Too many questions with no answers…Will I ever have any answers?
I continue to look out the window.  I should be seeing palm trees, clear blue sky, rolling hills at times with sharp peaks… and why am I hearing English instead of Portuguese?
I pull my warm sweater more tightly around me (I need to go to a thrift store and look for more warm sweaters.) and reach for my Amplified Bible.  I haven’t yet read today’s Proverbs. Let me see: today is December 3, 1987.  So it’s Proverbs 3.  I open my Bible and read.
 
Proverbs 3 Amplified Bible (AMP)
1 My son, forget not my law or teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments;
For length of days and years of a life [worth living] and tranquility [inward and outward and continuing through old age till death], these shall
shall they add unto you..
Let not mercy and kindness [shutting out all hatred and selfishness] and truth [shutting out all deliberate hypocrisy or falsehood] forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them upon the tablet of your heart.
So shall you find favor, good understanding, and high esteem in the sight [or judgment] of God and man.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil.
It shall be health to your nerves and sinews, and marrow and moistening to your bones.

I stopped reading.  Wow.  I know I’ve read this before, many times, but this afternoon, it is exactly what I need.
I let my body relax and more memories of these past months come as a flood when I open the dam restraining them.
I look out the window,without seeing the trees and rain. 
Scenes of slowly packing and closing the house in Belo Horizonte and the day I give the keys to the realtor.  Him telling me how sorry he is for all that is happening, also sharing with me other things he knows of that my husband had done.
Getting on the plane; flying to São Paulo where my younger son is serving as an interpreter for a Jimmy Swaggert Gospel Campaign: going to the soccer stadium filled with 20,000 or more Brazilians. Thankfulness to see my son there on stage, translating. The absolute joy as hundreds stream from the surrounding stands to come to the Lord!  Then flying to Rio de Janeiro for the second campaign: experiencing the same awe of what God is doing!  My kids attempting to convince me I should stay in Brazil until after their baby is born.
The DIFFICULT flight from Rio de Janeiro to Portland, Oregon. Looking out the window at the ground miles below; wondering if I would ever get to “come home” again.
Arriving from Brazil, stepping off the plane in Portland, Oregon,  wondering what is reality?  The only reality I have is I know I can trust is God’s promises and what He is teaching me about forgiveness, thankfulness and blessing my enemies.  I still have much to learn!
 
My teenage daughter and I are in a small two bedroom apartment, our mattresses on the floor. We are on the second floor of an older building with the laundry in the basement. (Good exercise!)   We have a small kitchen, living/dining room with a gas fireplace, inexpensive carpeting, and two bathrooms. (Important!)  

We are near the Columbia River, so the frigid wind from eastern Oregon comes whistling down the gorge.  Many nights I lay awake,  warmly snuggling under a pile of blankets, listening to the whining of the wind around the building as it battered against the windows, sometimes managing to come in through an ill-fitting casing.  I lay there, warm, thanking God for His protection, my daughter and I are safe and there is peace in our little apartment.  No fighting. No drama. Peace.
 
                              
At this time, I have no idea how we will make it financially, but my mind is too “washed out” to think straight or try to find work. I don’t think I even have skills to find work.  My pastor did a psychological test on me: he was shocked when he saw my score on self esteem – zero!
 
My Father knows exactly where we are, and what we need, and He provides for us.  In a “strange land,” the apartment begins to feel like home. We shop garage sales and thrift stores: I’m amazed at what we find and how it all fits together.  I am proud of my daughter.  This is also being tough on her!
 
Proverbs 3, Psalms 23, Psalms 91, Psalms 139… They all take on new depth and meaning, and I thank God.
I thank Him . . . and wait to be able to walk through the dark tunnel I’m now in. I hope it won’t be long before my mind and emotions are out of this dark tunnel,  and out – once again – into the light and warmth of day.
 
I awaken out of my thoughts as the train begins to slow down, the conductor coming through the car calling out, “Portland! Portland”.
I gather up my Bible and the papers I’ve been writing on,  hurriedly put them into my carry- on bag, run my hand through my hair, and prepare to step off the train, wondering who will be  there to meet me.  
                                                    – Voni
 
 

Next post: Forgiveness Begins to Make Sense