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Hitting the wall of Desperation (Finding Joy in the Midst of My Life)

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Psalm 107 describes 4 desperate groups of people.

  1. People wandering in the desert who are thirsting and hungering until their lives ebb away
  2. People in iron chains of bondage/labor because they rebelled against God and his counsel
  3. People who became fools and suffered affliction because of their sins
  4. People out on a fierce raging ocean, whose courage has melted away

In each situation, when “they cried out to the LORD in their trouble” “He delivered them from their distress” (vs. 6, 13, 19, 28).

  1. For the parched and hungry wanderers, God led them by a straight way; he satisfied their thirst and filled the hungry with good things (v. 7 & 9)
  2. For those in bondage, he brought them “out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains” (v. 14)
  3. For those who were foolish and suffered affliction because of their sin, “God sent forth his word and healed them; and rescued them from the grave” (v. 20)
  4. For those out on the sea, at their wit’s end, adrift on waves that seem to rise to the heavens and go down to the depths, whose courage had melted, “God stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (v. 29); God “guided them to their desired haven” (v. 30)

Have you ever found yourself in a desperate place?

I have. I remember the way it felt to be overweight. I weighed close to 200 pounds. I had an addiction to food. I overcame that addiction through prayer and by God’s help. At my weigh-ins, from 197 down, I wrote over the charted weight loss, the verse from Philippians 4:13, which declared my dependence upon God to help me get out of my desperate situation.

Years later, as I had gained some weight and tried to get it off again, I hit a wall. I couldn’t seem to get myself motivated enough to get back into the discipline I needed to get healthy again. Until I admitted my inability to do this on my own, and asked God for his help, I couldn’t seem to get myself motivated for the long haul and committed to the changes I needed to embrace.

I had maintained my weight loss for over a decade; I had slipped into an attitude that I could somehow do this on my own. I had grown proud and forgot that God had delivered me. I had forgotten to be thankful to God.

As I approached my need to lose weight, only when I admitted my powerlessness over it, and my need for God, did the answers start coming.

I think this is what the Psalmist is referring to here—the joy of dependence upon God, and our need to daily remember it’s not us who has gotten us out of the desperate situations. It is God. Thankfulness is the key to remembering what God has done in our lives and sustaining lifelong changes.

Today, take a long look at the pathway of victories behind you. Remember all the ways God has been faithful to you. Remember his love endures forever and is great (vs. 1-2, vs. 43). Give thanks with joyful songs (v. 22).

Are you facing another desperate situation? He will make a way. He is the same God. But first, you and I must humbly come to the end of ourselves and cry out to God for help.

Prayer: God, I know. I know your ways are mysterious. I confess my pride before you, and lay my life bare before your holy gaze. I lay down my defenses. And I humble myself. I turn from my self-interest, my thinking I can devise my way through. And I turn my empty hands toward you. You are my redeemer. God, help me. Thank you for your enduring and great love for me, and for never giving up on me. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Needing a HUG on Valentine’s Day?

I was recently talking with the LORD in everyday conversation. “God I know it sounds silly or immature, but I need hugs…lots of hugs”.

If you’re like me, you sometimes feel like you need a hug. Maybe you need the LORD to reassure you that he is there and he is able to take care of you better than anyone.

Maybe you think you can’t bear this place where you are right now. You want to cry. You want to scream. You want your life to come back, and you want the “want to” to come back to you. You want to feel love, the way you once felt it.

In those moments…when it feels too hard to cry. Let me encourage you to let down your guard. Go to a secret place…in your heart of hearts
and…Ask (Matthew 7:7).

Just tell God how you feel as though talking to a friend. As though he is right in the room. Ask God to help you know what it is you need. He has a way of helping us sort our feelings and figure out what’s at the root of the heartache.

I know it’s hard to let the guard down. But just tell him what you need and let the Holy Spirit interpret for you to God…

In that place where hope and fear collide, is a sacred place of faith. And when we reach out in faith, in honesty, God is there.

And God has promised that he will supply all yours and my needs through Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Have you let Jesus be your enough? Have you let him fill your heart to overflowing?

Draw near to God. Let him come near to you. Let him hear every hurt you feel. Let him see your tears. Give him the space and time to cherish you, to reassure you that every tear that falls down your face is seen by him. He is close to your crushed spirit, your broken heart.

Let yourself be loved… by a God who kept nothing back from you. Ask him to help you. Ask him for what you think you need. Ask him for what you want. Let him sift through your requests. Don’t try to edit your prayers, just speak to him. He knows you for he created you so he could love you as his own.

Here’s my prayer for you this Valentine Season:

“I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in…the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” From Ephesians 3 (MSG)

 

A Sense of the Miraculous

sunrays blog picAlbert Einstein said that there are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

I choose faith. It is the path of joy and wonder.

To choose to view the world as if nothing is a miracle, to me is to approach life with a pillow case over my head, asleep to the wake-up world God created full of sense stimulating beauty!

Since we live on a huge rock, suspended in the midst of nothingness.
Since we float, swirling through the galaxy.
Since the world is filled with complex life from a tiny micro-organism, to a seashell, to a massive whale…to a tree, vegetation we can eat, fruit sweet to the taste, birds which fly through the air, fish that swim…

Since we have these beautiful complex human bodies with all their delicate systems….
Since I have the deepness which can only be called spirit within me…
Since the Holy Spirit has proven his love over and over and over again to me…

Since I have seen answers to specific prayers answered, sometimes immediately and dramatically…

I see the world differently.
I choose to look at a puppy and marvel at its playfulness.
I choose to look at the seasons and marvel at God’s faithfulness.
I choose to look at the ordered world of plant and animal life and see too, that God can order our lives, if we choose to live according to his law of love…

I choose to see the world as a miracle…
I see life as a fearfully and wonderfully and lovingly created workmanship of a magnificent and personally present God.

I see a creator God who didn’t stop creating after he made the world. I see him active in the world, daily ordering and making beauty from chaos, something from my nothing, hard at work causing all things to work together for the good of all who love Him.

And the miracles continue all around us, every day, every night…all the time…God, wake me up, to the miraculous. God, help me rediscover the wonder of it all.

The Story Behind our Blue Chair

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Our blue chair has a story behind it. I still remember the day we selected it. It didn’t come from a furniture store. Rather we saw it on the way home from a speaking contest. I was dressed like a princess (because I was speaking about my fairytale marriage, and how letting go of the things I thought I wanted (temporal things) enabled me to hold on to the things that really mattered most). I wore a dark blue flowing silk gown, high heels. I even had a tiara.
As we neared our home stretch, I saw this blue chair, sitting by the road. “Oh Jeff, look! A chair just like I was praying for, for our family room.” With little money, we couldn’t just go out and purchase furniture.
Jeff rolled his eyes and giggled at me as I hopped out of the car, in my blue flowing dress and high heels. “Do you want your tiara princess?” He joked, extending his hand my way with the crown.
I glanced back at him and smiled, dodging mud puddles, and keeping my eye on the chair. As I neared it, I noticed a rip in the fabric, down from one of the decorative front buttons. But I could fix it. I glanced at the legs of the chair. The fabric had come unhemmed. But a needle and thread could do that up nice. There was some obvious soiling beneath the arm rests, but I had faith that with some scrubbing and old fashioned elbow grease, it would come clean.
“What do you think?” Jeff hollered out the car window.
I glanced at Jeff. “I think we can fix it up. Let’s take it home.”
I grabbed one side of the chair, Jeff grabbed the other. Together we placed the chair in the trunk.
He skillfully managed the car down the streets and to our driveway. We scurried out and lifted the chair from the trunk, and walked it back to the patio. Jeff drove off to work. I went to task.
First I sprayed the chair down with disinfectant. Then I lathered it with antibacterial soap, scrubbing off all the layers of soiling. I rinsed off the suds and let the chair dry in the sunlight. I soaked and scrubbed the cushion. I laundered the cushion cover and then dried it on the clothesline. After the chair had dried, I threaded a needle and carefully mended the upholstery.
That night, when Jeff arrived home, we added our “new” chair to the family room. It not only worked, it matched our decor perfectly. It has become one our favorite comfy spots to enjoy.
My chair story reminds me of my marriage story. As a woman whose husband experienced job loss and depression, I know marriage is not easy. But I want to offer hope. Christian marriage is a cleansing process. With a lot of prayer, and following the Bible’s principles, God’s mending and scrubbing at the stains of the hearts of imperfect humans, marriage can be a treasure and a comfort. Maybe we’ll think of the little blue chair next time our marriages challenge us.

Jump into Fall

 

jumping with sun 2I confess, this is the time of year when I struggle a little. It’s not that I’m not in touch with Jesus. It’s just that season… leaves fall, the wind blows, temperatures get colder (unless you’re blessed enough to live in a warm climate year round). So what can you do?

  1. Try on a new attitude-spring doesn’t have to be the only time you get a fresh start. Fall can be a starting point instead of the ending just as the Jewish tradition has looked at the night as the start of the new day. We can choose to look at fall as a sort of beginning, a prologue, or an introduction to all things new! By the way, that’s one of my favorite verses “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone” (NIRV).
  2. Re-arrange the furniture-I once met someone who admitted, “this is the only way I can arrange my family room.” Okay so to some this may sound radical… but what would it hurt if you moved that armchair into another corner and placed a cabinet in its place? Sometimes rearranging furniture can really add zip to a room. Check out some fun ideas at Better Homes and Gardens. Just remember where you put things so you don’t do a Dick Van Dyke over the ottoman!
  1. Add a little paint- (paint you may already have just waiting in a can, around the house)… There are new methods to paint like these vertical striped walls which place your seal of style on any room.
  2. Thoroughly clean everything- from the walls to the curtains to the carpets … who says spring is the only time to clean? Check out Real Simple for ideas. It just makes sense to get your house ship shape for the holidays now before the rush. Cleaning can be a lot of fun, put on a favorite Christian Praise CD and pump up the volume! Although many verses in the Bible talk about cleanliness, the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness isn’t in the Bible, rather it was a phrase apparently coined by the founder of Methodism. But surely our God is a God of order. As we look at the changing of seasons, and the intricate systems he has designed within plant and animal life, we see his beautiful orderly mind. God is not a God of chaos, but of order.
  3. Set some goals before the new year approaches-weight loss and exercise can lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Walking, an aerobics video, or even dancing to the songs on Christian radio stations like Family Life Radio and K-Love for 30 minutes can really add uplift to your day (your family can even join you).
  4. Join a Bible study-chances are you may have some Bible study groups in your area you didn’t even know about. I benefited greatly from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). When my husband Jeff was going through long term debilitating depression, my friends at Bible Study Fellowship were my life-line of encouragement! God used my teaching leader Bonnie, to speak God’s words into the places of my life that needed it most, reassuring me and helping me know the joy of perseverance. I actually served as a BSF small group leader for a few seasons because I saw the benefits. If you are well-grounded in the Bible, you can also ask your pastor if you can start a Bible study at church. You don’t have to write it. Many Christian publishers specialize in Bible study material. Publishers such as Discovery House  and Lifeway have some great Bible centered book studies from which to choose. Think about this time as a gift to you and your group! When you grow close to friends through Bible study and praying it creates bonds that just may continue not just through the fall season, but for the rest of life.

This is by no means the entire list of things you and I can do to jump into Fall. I invite you to add your ideas to this blog so others can benefit.

From my heart to yours,

Tammy Bovee

Letting Go of the World to Hold on to God

man at sunrise“…the peace I (Jesus) give is a gift the world cannot give.” John 14:27 (NLT)

It’s better than a life insurance policy. It’s stronger than a Hefty garbage bag. It tastes better than your favorite dessert yet has no calories. It surrounds you like a fluffy down comforter. God’s peace. It cannot be bought or sold with the world’s currency. It can be yours even when you’re living on a shoestring, about to take a transcontinental flight, or facing a firing squad at work.

There have been moments… when you’ve felt peace. A seaside sunset washing over the water-smoothed sands, painting the sky with a hush of colors so vivid you couldn’t speak. Maybe for you it was walking through a garden at sunrise as the first daylight chased the mist and the dew clung to the flowers. Maybe you felt peace as you walked one night through the forest on a mountain roadway, and looked up through a clearing at the dark sky. You saw stars so brilliant it felt like you could grab them if you stood on your tiptoes and reached far enough. Or maybe it was holding that little baby, those tired eyes looking up at you, drinking love from your face– that tiny mouth suckling the bottle– those soft watery eyes slowly shutting– as that little precious baby bundle lay resting… in your arms.

Isaiah 40:11 snapshots God as he “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” This is the place of peace, near to God’s heart.

What is threatening to undo you? Name it right now. Speak it aloud. Whisper it… to Jesus. Psalm 34:18 says “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted…”

Have you ever focused the lens of a camera? What happens with a camera lens also happens with your heart. God gives you the ability to focus the lens of your heart. Though the problem seems enormous, is it bigger than God? Or does the problem look so big because your heart is focusing on it?

Right now, God is here—Comforter, Creator, eternal. He sees you. He knows your pain. He feels it. He also felt the blows of the nails that went into his Son Jesus’ hands. Yet he loved you so much that he gave his son so he could be close to you. James 4:8 says “come near to God and he will come near to you.” God longs to be closer to you than the trial you are facing. He desires to hold you, to gather you in his arms and comfort you with a peace so real that it blurs the problems into the background.

Peace comes from knowing the One who paints each brilliant sunrise and sunset, lights the starry skies, creates babies with the desire to rest in their parents’ arms. Yet peace is more than that. It is being held in a love relationship with God, the Creator, whose love is everlasting and whose hope is real.

Are you weary, bewildered? Do you wonder how long this trial will last? Are you hope-sick for answers that just won’t come?

God offers his peace, a peace the world cannot take away. Why? Because this kind of peace doesn’t come from the world, it comes directly from the Source, God himself. Today he says to your heart, “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.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Blossoms of Love

spring blossoms 2Jeff took my hand and led me through the woods where he used to walk when he was just a child. “This land belonged to Grandpa, or Dr. Bovee, as they called Grandpa throughout Port Huron”.

Several months into our relationship, the sensation of Jeff touching my hand was still new. He wanted to hold my hand! It sent ripples of joy through my heart. He led me across a little dock under which a brook flowed. Over there to the side of the dock, and a little behind, where we had just walked, lay the pond, edged by weeping willows whose boughs brushed the water’s surface like feathers, and reflected so softly, their branches seemed to float on the mirrored water.

“Watch your step” Jeff said, as he led me across a tipsy board that gave us dry footing. We stepped on to the path now which led into the woods. The air felt cooler beneath the tree cover. Birds chirped, winging from treetop to treetop. Lacey sunshine filtered through the canopy above us.

We passed an open meadow and walked through a blackberry thicket. We picked a few juicy berries, cherishing our small meal together. Then we walked for what seemed miles. “Do you hear that?” I said. We stood still for a moment listening to shimmer of the summer wind breathing through the leaves. “That is a sound I remember from my childhood. We grew up in woods much like this”.

We continued walking. I stumbled for a moment on a stump as a branch snapped back and smarted on my leg. “Sorry about that”. Jeff looked back at me a little embarrassed. “It flew out of my hand.”

I smiled at him “you’re forgiven”.

Around the next bend and off the path a way back amongst some ferns and brush, stood a dilapidated old structure. “This is what they call ‘Stubie’, Jeff said. “A hermit used to live here.”

I had heard Jeff’s family talking about this place. I bent down and looked through splintered wood at what was once a wall. A remnant of a window stood as testimony of someone’s spending time there.

I had also heard Jeff’s family mention Johnny Appleseed may have tromped through these parts at one time. Could this have been a place Johnny Appleseed stopped along his way?

Jeff stopped to catch his breath. I followed his lead and stood very still as he came closer. “Are you enjoying yourself?” he said, looking at me with those eyes so blue they looked as if dipped from the depths of Lake Huron. He drew close to me, wrapping his arms properly around me, he looked in my eyes. My heart raced. I felt his breath on my cheek and the softness of his kiss. He held my head in his hands and laid his lips on mine. When I opened my eyes, the air seemed aflutter with pink butterflies. How had I not seen it before? We were standing in the middle of an ancient apple orchard in full bloom! God was in that romantic moment, drawing close to a young prince and his princess as love blossomed. I think God knew that years later, as we came through financial reversal and Jeff’s job-loss-related depression, we would need to remember when our love blossomed. God has since brought springtime back into our relationship, after a winter, flowers once again fill the air. He can do that for you too. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV).