Tag Archives: Bible

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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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

9 Ways to Take Hold of Hope

sunrays blog picMy friend Amy and I caught up on our progress over dealing with our husbands’ depressions. Smiles lit our faces as we related with one anothers’ feelings of relief–our husbands’ depressions were lifting! We praised God together. We both agreed it felt like sunshine was coming back in our lives. As I have dealt with my husband Jeff’s depression and my own subsequent depression over his depression, I realized a lot. I understand depression is a very complex issue, but here are some ways I learned to take hold of hope when my husband was in his valley of depression and I felt helpless to do anything.

1. Reach for Real Comfort-A cookie fresh from the oven can bring comfort for a moment. So can two or three. But I know from experience after munching down a few too many comforting cookies, my waistband begins to pinch on those pants which used to fit so nicely. The real comfort of God’s life-giving Word makes even the most delicious cookie crumble in comparison.

Take Hold of Hope: Find a book study with lots of Bible application questions. Or try a Bible study on a favorite book of the Bible (Philippians for example). As you study, ask questions. “What does this say?” “What can I learn?” “What can I apply to my life and circumstance right now?” Write these questions down along with the answers. Keep a prayer journal where you write out your prayers like letters to God. Just be yourself, and tell God every single thing on your heart.

2. Reach for Real Friends-For a time, when Jeff’s depression was worst and it rocked my soul to the very foundations of my faith, I and several friends took part in a book study by Stormie Omartian called “Power of a Praying Wife”. I felt their support. We grew together as we studied. It helped so much to have Christians emotionally close and in tune with my struggles. It helped to pray for one another.

Take Hold of Hope: Pick up the phone and call or message one or several real Christian friends today. Schedule that time on your calendar when you can get together. Join an area Bible study. Bible Study Fellowship International offers a great support mechanism. Find a class near you at https://www.bsfinternational.org/

3. Reach for Real Discipline-It will seem counter-intuitive to fight depression with self-discipline but, from experience, God has taught me it’s important. 2 Timothy 1:7 in the NIV says “For the Spirit God gave us… gives us… self-discipline”. The KJV uses “sound mind” in place of “self-discipline”. I’ve found there is a real connection between these two. I know depression is a complex issue, but discipline does help. It helps to take my vitamin D and B12, limit sugar, and get up at the right time. Exercise also stimulates the serotonin levels in the brain. Another area of self-discipline is upkeep. This may be as simple as doing a spa day from time to time—condition your hair and wrap it in a warm towel. Do a pedicure or better yet, have your friends over for a spa night. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can use things like brown sugar, for a revitalizing facial scrub or mayonnaise to condition your hair. Drinking enough water is also an important discipline. About 48 ounces is my goal, although I feel good to get in my 32 ounces with my morning treadmill workout. And one of the important areas I don’t want to neglect is disciplining the thought life and the mouth. Philippians 4:8 says, “… whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]” (AMP). What we think flows from our mouths. But it can also work the other way around. When we say something negative, we cement it further into our minds and magnify the negative thought in the other person’s mind. Thinking faith filled thoughts takes effort. But Matthew 9:29 seems to indicate that God rewards faith when he says “according to your faith let it be done to you”.

Take Hold of Hope: Select one area discussed in this section and take action today.

4. Reach for Your Real Potential-What are your gifts? Are you using them? No? No wonder you’re depressed! I know the feeling of un-fulfillment and dis-satisfaction. Not using our gifts stems from several issues. For one thing, many don’t know what they are. If that’s you, I urge you to find and take a spiritual gifts survey. This will help you identify your gifts and boost your faith that God has indeed gifted you. Everybody has gifts. Some are behind the scenes. Some take center stage. Once you know your gifts you can start developing them.

Take Hold of Hope: Ask your pastor to administer a spiritual gifts survey to you. Then from the results, ask him where you can use your gifts in the church and beyond.

5. Reach for Real Mentors-With giftedness comes development. You may know how to sing but need to build your stage presence. You may have a lot of talents for songwriting but you may have a lot to learn and you need a better understanding of the process and discipline involved. Someone very wise once said, “When the student is ready, the teacher shows up”. Pray for mentors, not people who you admire from afar, but people who will get into the nit-grit of your life and guide you over the rough spots where they’ve already been. In my case I felt God’s strong leading into music, songwriting, and writing for publications. I had already written a drawer-full of songs and self-published CDs. I had a decent sized clip-file of published ministry materials, yet there was still much I didn’t know. As I turned my worries into prayers and asked God specifically for mentors, mentors came into my life. Talk about bright rays of sunlight! They saw my hurt, my pain of underachievement and underdeveloped gifts. Taking my hand, they led me to needful resources and organizations. My writing mentor Arlene urged me to develop my public speaking skills through joining Toastmasters International. She also supported my leading an area writers’ support group, she helped me learn new skills, she provided emotional help along the way, as well as prayer. My music mentor Laura helped me get to my first songwriting conference and this led to meeting people in the field and learning under their wise counsel and godly leadership. I actually attended my second songwriting conference, bringing CDs to sell in order to pay back Laura for hotel bills and gas. I sold a lot of CDs at the conference. I gave many away and just offered them for a donation. A leader in the music world actually bought a copy of each of my CDs. I wept as I told him my story of trying to pursue my gifts when my husband had lost his job and was uber depressed. It was so humbling to have this great leader in the Christian music holding my songs in his hands. I can’t even describe the feeling in words.

Take Hold of Hope: Pray for God to send mentors into your life.

6. Reach for Reality-Row-row-rowing your boat through life without stepping out on faith hurts. That kind of life is not a dream. It’s closer to a nightmare. Your life-span, if you’re blessed, may be ninety years. When you get halfway to that point, mid-life may seem daunting if you haven’t started to live and really started to give of your life and talents to help others. Why is realizing the brevity of life so important? Because with this understanding comes courage. You and I aren’t guaranteed one more breath, one more heartbeat, or one more welcome-home kiss for our spouse.

Take Hold of Hope: Ask yourself what’s the scariest aspect of using your gifts? Now ask yourself, “how would I want to live if this were my last opportunity?” This always gives me courage to take the stage and sing my heart out for Jesus! It can give you courage to use your gifts too.

7. Reach for a “Life’s Really not About me” Attitude-Ouch! This hurts. I knew this in my head, but my heart didn’t understand “it” wasn’t about me until later in life. Often society teaches us to be “me” centered and to look out for number one. That’s not reality. My life is not about me. My gifts aren’t about me. My words aren’t about me. They are about others, and God. When I began to learn this, the magnifying glass shifted from my needs to others’ needs. I could be happy with the blessings God had given me.

Take Hold of Hope: Find someone in need and meet that need for them by using your God-given gifts.

8. Reach for the Real God Who Loves You with an Everlasting Love-One of my favorite verses is “…We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Depression has helped me see how fragile I can be—an “earthen vessel”. How humbling yet how beautiful to know that God’s all-surpassing power is available to me, through every moment of life, for better or for worse, God is mine and I am His!

Take Hold of Hope: I challenge you to flip to the topical index in the back of your Bible, locate several verses about God’s everlasting love. Write them out and place them on your mirror. Start memorizing them today.

9. Reach for real Hope from God, not Circumstances-Expectations are like a balloon. If you lose hold, expectations fly away, leaving you empty. Hoping in God, our Rock is solid hope. Sometimes doubts come to our faith because we expect certain things from God. We expect him to check the yes box. When he says no it can feel like he’s betrayed us. But God goes deeper than our unmet expectations. I remember praying to receive certain things that I never got. However, later down the path, I saw that when God said no, it was the best thing ever.

Take Hold of Hope: Sometimes in order to take hold of hope you need to release your expectations. Ask God for strength to let go.

10. Reach for Heaven in our Real World-The word heaven gets tossed around. I know the title promised “9 ways to take hold of hope”. Ten is a number symbolizing perfection. The world has never perfect since Eve bit the apple in the Garden of Eden. Yet fairytales seem to live in our hearts. Why? Our hearts were not made for this sin-tainted existence. We were not made for this broken world… we were made for heaven. When we feel disappointed from unmet expectations, we can choose to reach our hearts toward heaven. As we, by faith, take hold of the hope of the perfection only heaven will bring, we can let the broken pieces of our life fall into God’s hands. And the wonderful thing is, as God comforts us, he can use the most painful trials to help others find hope. This is a little bit of heaven in our real world.

Take Hold of Hope: Place scripture around the home. Hope verses are taped on my calendar, written on chalk boards in my kitchen and laundry room, even inside my bathroom cupboard. Here’s one for this one this week: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement), Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, AMP).

If you reach for real hope, and take hold of it, you’ll find real hope has a name. His name, Jesus.

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).