Wonderful Counselor

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We think of a counselor as a good thing. Indeed, a competent counselor, especially one with a Christ-filled heart, is a transforming helper.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… a light has dawned. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:2, 6 

But anything of value is often copied by Satan who puts his mark on it. 

I was reminded of this when I looked up “counselor” in Strong’s concordance. It predictably means “to give advice, to council, to purpose, plan, plot, conspire against.” What? Plot? Conspire against? That’s when I realized how Satan can take a good thing and twist it. Counsel positively, counsel negatively.

I have shared with you in recent months the trials I’ve had with my mother’s health and the grueling long days going to the hospital then rehab. My energy was zapped; my emotions on edge, my mind amuck. Then the mild stroke hit.

Since then, I have made medication changes and included a few rest times in my day. But frustrations with mother’s discontent at her new place has continued to plague me. 

I worried, held on to anxiety, woke in the night unable to get back to sleep, still trying to figure how to take control of things. The Lord revealed over and over, “Trust me.” We all know how hard it is to let go of things. Little by little, I have tried to release my clutched hands and take His hand.

“For I, the Lord, your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13

He holds our hand, but we must first place our hand in his outstretched hand. 

Then He is able to be our counselor, revealing things we either didn’t know or have let slip by us. Unlike the deceiver, the plotter, the one who conspires against us, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. He also brings a sense of peace into our lives as he holds our hand.

After all, He’s also the Prince of Peace!

May it be so for you in this celebration season.

~ Joyce ~

God With Us

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we looked at the name Bethlehem. (See “House of Bread“) We discovered that “beth” means “house of.”

Today, consider the word Immnauel. We see the two letters at the end, “el” meaning God. Turn it around and we have “God – with us.”

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Let’s look at Mary and Joseph’s story before this great declaration is given. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and reveals; 

“You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

 “How can this be,” she asks. The answer? “By the Holy Spirit.”  

Later, Joseph discovers that she is “with child” and knows he is not the father. Joseph doesn’t buy the story and is ready to divorce her quietly. As he sleeps, an angel appears to him in a dream and assures Joseph that this is all in God’s plan.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, for what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:20-21

I can imagine that once Mary and Joseph are together, they surely share their stories of the two angel visitations. One may say to the other, “I was told to name the child Jesus.” Wide-eyed, the other might say, “I was told the very same thing.” Tears must have come to their eyes with this realization that they have had yet another confirmation of the God’s work in their lives.

We refer to Jesus by many names – Savior, King of Kings, Son of God to name a few. Matthew reminds us of another—Immanuel. Remember the “el” at the end which means God. Look at the verse again.

“…and they [the people] will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

“God with us.” Can anything be better than that? Not God up in heaven. Not God out there somewhere, but God with us.

In Joseph and Mary’s day, the name would be synonymous with Messiah or the Promised One. The promise is quoted in Matthew, but comes straight out of Isaiah. We recognize it as God Himself coming in the earthly form of his Son, Jesus. Think how profound that would be to have God visible, audible, in the flesh. 

We don’t have Jesus audible or visual in the flesh today, but the Holy Spirit ministers to us in similar ways. Look for Him. Listen for Him as you move toward the remembrance of His coming into our world to save us.

~ Joyce ~

House of Bread

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Those of Asian background likely look to rice as their staple food, but in my growing up years, it was potatoes. Mashed, fried, boiled, or baked, we had some kind of potatoes almost every night.

For those in Jesus’ day, the staple was likely bread. Kind of like, “What shall we have with our bread this morning or at lunch or this evening?”

It was such a mainstay of their diet that they often referred to it when talking about having a meal together. “Let us break bread together.” Early Christian believers might think of the last supper and its meaning as they ate. As they gathered together, they…

…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

It may seem strange to us to think of “breaking” bread. Maybe slicing or tearing. But breaking bread?

A few years ago, we visited Nazareth in Israel at a place called The Nazareth Village. A guide talked to us about the customs and ways Jesus talked to the people about the familiar things around them. Those who put this area together intended it to be as authentic as possible complete with a well, people walking about in biblical clothes, a farmer plowing a field, a shepherd keeping his sheep in tow, and a place to eat lentil soup, figs, hummus, and of course, bread. 

I remember watching the lady bent over a somewhat rounded stove of sorts. She kneaded the dough and flapped it on the hot iron for a bit, then turned it over. The flat,  (maybe 10 inch) circular bread was carried on a flat basket to the table. We each broke off a piece to put on our own plates—not quite the texture of crackers, but close, “cracker bread” you might say.

John tells us that one day the people asked Jesus for a sign, a sign like Moses gave the people in the form of bread from heaven, the manna. Jesus explained to them that eventually the manna-eaters died, but the true bread from heaven…

“…is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33

“Give us this bread,” they said. Then Jesus told one of his “I am” illustrations.

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:35

Jesus goes on to explain.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” John 6:38, 40

One last thought—”Beth” means “house of.” Therefore, Bethel = house of God. Bethsaida = house of  fishers. Bethlehem = house of bread.

Isn’t it appropriate that Jesus was born in Beth-lehem? House of (the) bread of life.

Prepare your hearts for the coming season!

~ Joyce ~

Thanks Giving

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Four years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. She encouraged readers to begin a journal to list 1,000 things for which you are thankful.

Easy enough, I thought. I bought a long, narrow, cute little book with lines and vowed to list one thanks a day.

I just retrieved the book and found that I had gotten to number 70. (Remember, this was four years ago—sigh.) So I’m hereby renewing my vow in front of God and all my readers to begin again a daily thanks. Two or three words a day is all it takes, Joyce!

I’ll report back next Thanksgiving.

I do believe that if we gave more emphasis to giving thanks for a friend or family member, for instance, rather than finding fault or, just as bad, taking them for granted, we would come to a greater appreciation for that person.

               

If I’m thinking about giving thanks for something, I have to first be aware of it. It can be as simple as looking at a clock and being thankful that I have a way to keep myself on track. I can look at a sunrise and think, “Good morning, Lord. Thanks for waking me up for another new day.”

I often thank God, as I’m driving down the road, for a car that runs well and a tank of gas to get there. I recently thanked Him for the smooth, newly-paved road.

In my little “Thanks Book,” I saw where I had listed each of the grand kids and something about their gifts or their nature for which I gave thanks.

       

I love giving thanks during peak seasons: new green grass and forsythia in the spring, full-grown trees and roses in the summer, lush yellows and oranges in the fall, and snow-lined trees in the winter. But November is a real challenge. I complain about how drab it is. So my goal this week is to find something worth giving thanks as I drive about this dreary month.

Speaking of dreary, one of the greatest challenges is giving thanks during those hectic times (December, for example), or those heart-breaking times, or those times when things are going so wrong. 

O my strength, I sing praise to you; you, my God, are my fortress, my loving God. Psalm 59:17

He may say to you,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9

My challenge to you is to dig a little deeper in your practice of giving thanks this Thanksgiving day and on into the year to come. Best turkey wishes to you all!

~ Joyce ~

Noah’s Ark – Part 4

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

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12. DON’T MISS THE BOAT. 

Of course, this was one of the most important pieces of advice to heed about Noah’s ark. It was a matter of life or death. We can see the parallel with salvation today. People can make fun of Christians, berate them, or deny their need for the Lord, but it doesn’t change the reality of the need for such a decision. 

How heart breaking it must have been for Noah to hear the taunts of the people outside the ark and then hear their cries for help as they realized they were about to drown.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Romans 3:23   

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13. REMEMBER THAT THE WOODPECKERS INSIDE ARE OFTEN A BIGGER THREAT THAN THE STORM OUTSIDE.

Just picture a woodpecker on the ark, doing what woodpeckers do. “What’s that noise?” Noah might call out. Everyone scatters, searching out the sound. “It’s a woodpecker!” one son shouts. “Well, get him a piece of wood.” Noah says.

Or maybe one of the wives showed herself to be most contrary, always yapping and complaining about something—woodpecker-like.

Well, we do have those people in our lives, don’t we? Jesus warned us that if we only love those who love us, what good is it? Even pagans do that. Instead,

“In everything you do, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12  

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14.  IF YOU HAVE TO START OVER, HAVE A FRIEND BY YOUR SIDE.

The rain finally stopped, but more waiting, feeding, and tending followed before the thump of the ark marked the landing on Mt. Ararat. More months before Noah sent the raven , then the dove to find a branch. More waiting for the earth to dry and finally those wonderful words. God called, “Come out of the ark!” 

Can you imagine the feel of the steady earth beneath your feet, the smell of clean fresh air, and the wide open spaces with the vast sky above. Brother slapping brother in jubilant laughter. “We did it! God has protected us and brought us through.”

How precious for us when we have gone through a long dark time to have a friend nearby, encouraging us, then rejoicing with us on the other side.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother [or sister] is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

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15. NO MATTER HOW BLEAK IT LOOKS, THERE’S ALWAYS A RAINBOW ON THE OTHER SIDE!

“… And surely I am with you to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

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Thank you, Lord for the happy times, the times of peace and contentment. And thank you, Lord, for the turbulent times, for it is there that we still find you, teaching us new lessons, speeding up our growth, reminding us that, even in the midst of turmoil, you are there. Thank you that you walk with us through it all, drawing us ever near to you through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

~ Joyce ~

Noah’s Ark – Part 3

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

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8.  TAKE CARE OF YOUR ANIMALS AS IF THEY WERE THE LAST ONES ON EARTH.

What due diligence Noah must have felt as he cared for the animals. What a weighty responsibility. Future growth depended on it.

Our 21st century animals might include a cat or dog or gerbil. We feed them, walk them, cuddle and play with them. They are our responsibility.

We also have some two-legged “animals” in our homes as well. No matter their age, we are charged with their care. The care list changes through the years but does not diminish. You will always be their mother or father or grandparent or aunt or uncle. Treat them as if they are the last ones on earth. 

“… As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 (That includes family members!)

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9. DON’T FORGET —  WE’RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT

I’m reminded during this political election season that we all have differing opinions about a myriad of issues. The moral decline, however, has caused our opinions to take frightening actions and verbiage on all sides. 

May we remember who we are in Christ and that, just as He has allowed us to live in the land of the free, it comes with a commensurate amount of responsibility to love and respect our fellow American citizens. We’re all in the same boat (country.)

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

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10. STAY BELOW DECK DURING THE STORM

Oh, to be counted as a righteous person “who walks with God” as Noah did. I can imagine that it was during one of those knee-bending times that God spoke to Noah and gave  the command to build the ark. As we yield to Him, He reveals in numerous ways what He intends for next steps in our lives.

Then, there are times when He intends us to just plain use common sense. If it’s storming, by golly, seek shelter! And there in our protected place, we find Him near, comforting and guiding—all the while encouraging us to trust Him. 

Can’t you just see Noah hunkered down receiving this comfort and encouragement?

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

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11. REMEMBER THAT THE ARK WAS BUILT BY AMATEURS AND THE TITANIC WAS BUILT BY PROFESSIONALS

Ah yes, and what was the motivation? Noah was motivated by God and the need to preserve man and animal. The Titanic came out of pride to be the biggest and best.

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends of flesh for his strength… Jeremiah 17:5 But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7

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I find myself back to that word trust again. Trust Him in the storms, depend on Him for our motivation, love our fellow boat friends and family. Good goals as we navigate the waters of life.

~ Joyce ~

 

Noah’s Ark – Part 2

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Let’s contemplate more lessons from the ark.

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4. TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE.

Of course we think of the pairs on the ark, but that was mostly for making more pairs to “replenish the earth.” There are other advantages for more than one head. All of us think in unique ways, relate with different methods, and have distinct gifts.

Perhaps one of Noah’s sons was brawny, able to do a lot of heavy lifting. Maybe another son knew how to think in broad terms—how do we get from this stage to the next and what about the final outcome on down the road? The third son may have had detailed skills to figure out how to make holes and pegs to so that the cypress boards would fit together. 

And, of course, Noah’s job may have been to encourage. He was, after all, the one “who found favor with God.” He would be the one to remind them that this task was given by God.

 Jesus used the “pair” idea as well. In the listings of the disciples names, they are usually listed  in the same sets of twos.

…Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two… Mark 6:6-7

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5. SPEED ISN’T ALWAYS AN ADVANTAGE. THE CHEETAHS WERE ON BOARD, BUT SO WERE THE SNAILS.

Yep, they were tall and small, loud and quiet, demanding and gentle. Sounds like a church, doesn’t it? We are what we are, but there are times when we must get along, whether we’re in a boat or a church or—in a country. Let’s learn from the ark experience that to survive, we must learn to live together.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12

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6. IF YOU CANT FIGHT OR FLEE — FLOAT!

We can’t assume with Noah, three sons, and all the wives plus a barrage of animals that there weren’t times of discord. However, with all the work to be done taking care of the animals and themselves, there was little time to fight and they certainly couldn’t flee. No, they just had to float and make the best of it.

What about your family? Do you have disagreements? Is someone not doing their part? Is someone stepping out of line, causing upset? Fighting doesn’t solve the problem. Fleeing just takes the problems elsewhere. Sometimes, just like the boat or the church or our country, we just have to float and learn to deal with our problems.

Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:6

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So from today’s ark experience, we learn to put our heads together and realize that even though we’re all different, we must find ways to get along while floating the boat of life together.

~ Joyce ~

 

Noah’s Ark – Part 1

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

The blogs have been heavy lately. Let’s have some fun and learn at the same time!

You’ve probably heard of the list from “Everything I need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Well, here’s maybe a new one for you. “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Noah’s Ark.”

I found it in an old children’s leaflet I had saved, source unknown. We’ll cover a few points each week.

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1. PLAN AHEAD. IT WASN’T RAINING WHEN NOAH BUILT THE ARK.

God had told Noah ahead of time that it would rain so he knew what was coming. We’ve all had assignments. We know it’s coming, but it’s easy to put off planning. We think, Oh there’s plenty of time. Or Is that really going to come to fruition? Or Is this really what God told me to do?

For Noah, it took a powerful lot of trust to launch out into the unknown, but he trusted God with what seemed impossible. There’s that “trust” word again!

Blessed are they who put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:12

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2. STAY FIT. WHEN YOU’RE 600 YEARS OLD, SOMEONE MIGHT ASK YOU TO DO SOMETHING REALLY BIG.

We tend to think that the middle years are our productive time of life, but following God’s will doesn’t end when you’ve chosen the right school, married the right person, or landed the perfect job. The Lord often uses years of experience and trial to bring us to greater tasks for Him.

The Lord may lead us into challenging tasks at any given age.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4

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3. DON’T LISTEN TO CRITICS; DO WHAT HAS TO BE DONE.

Whoa, that’s a hard one. Not only was it a challenge to build a monstrous ark when there was no water, but it would have been doubly hard to work day in and day out with critics nipping at your heels.

Instead, we’re to dig in and get the job done in spite of criticism. As we practice with little things, He prepares us for the bigger tasks. 

Be strong and of good courage. Joshua 1:6

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4. FOR SAFETY SAKE, TRAVEL IN PAIRS.

In the case of Noah, he was to take seven pairs of each of the clean animals which would be used for food and later for sacrifices. The pairs of unclean animals would only have to reproduce themselves.

For us, it’s always good to have a friend along, to give and receive, to share ideas, and yes, for safety sake, looking out for each other. In those hard times, we find true friends.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 

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And so, I say thank you again, dear friends, for helping me float my boat during this season.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Trust and Assurance

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Thank you once again for your many comments and encouragements. I will take one more blog to share things learned in this six-week ordeal. 

I had gone several days to be with mother in the hospital from breakfast to supper, then it was suddenly time to make a decision about rehab. The hospital lady gave us a list of places within reasonable proximity of our house.

With minimal time to check, I chose three possibilities. One had no bed available. Within half an hour, here came a representative from each of the other two places with brochure in hand. The brochures were turned over with the reps’ phone numbers on the back. I studied each, not really looking at the front.

I felt like I was at a crossroad, not knowing which way to turn.

Just then I got a text from the memory care director at the place where mom had been living. She strongly recommended one the the two places I held in my hands.

Just to be sure I got the message, the Lord had me turn over to the front of that brochure. There was the smiling face of Art Boone, a family friend from our days in Somerset. It was as though the Lord said, “This is the place!”

Fast forward another three weeks. Since this was another transition, I was going everyday to help mother adjust and do what I feared the aides weren’t doing for her. I began to wean myself away slowly as I tried to discern what might be next steps for her. Many of you offered advice and encouragement through prayer. 

One comment lingered with me. “Perhaps discernment is more about trust.”

On Oct. 1, the devotional book I’ve been using said (as though Jesus is speaking), “I want you to relax today. It’s easy for you to get so focused on your goals that you push yourself too hard—and neglect your need for rest.”

On Oct. 3, (stroke day) my devotion started out, “My judgments are unsearchable, and my paths are beyond searching out. This is why trusting me is your best response.

Oct. 5 began, “I want you to have no fear of bad news. The only way to accomplish this feat is to have steadfast trust in Me.”

Oct. 10, “A troublesome problem can become a idol in your mind. If you constantly think about something—pleasant or unpleasant—more than you think about me, you are practicing a subtle form of idolatry.”

…we take every thought and make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 

Ouch! Do you know how humbling it is for the queen of worry to come to grips with the idea that this worry is idolatry?

The Lord has given me so many lessons in trust through my life, but every now and then He has to give me refresher courses. Thankfully, He turns right around and gives assurances.

We had one more decision to make as rehab was coming to an end—where to go next. It was possible to stay in the place where she presently had rehab though it was 25 minutes from our house. Other places closer had no rooms available. But watch God work.

On a Saturday morning, we were on our way to gather box loads of things from where she had lived earlier to bring to the rehab place when a director called from a place eight minutes away from our house. They had a room open up! We had literally just pulled out of the driveway. So we drove first to the new facility. By Thursday, we moved all the furniture and Friday we moved mother.

We have more days of adjustment ahead in yet another new place, but God calls us to trust and to look for His assurances (and not to worry!)

~ Joyce ~

Act FAST!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Thank you, dear friends, for your many words of encouragement, care, and prayer. (See Hospital) So much has happened that I haven’t been able to respond to all your comments, but know that I have read each one more than once and received great comfort in them.

So many have asked questions about how I knew the signs and what to do. I started to title this blog, “Public Service Announcement!” I will share with you my experience in the hope that should anything like this happen to you, you will have some thoughts in your head.

Last Wednesday morning, while making the bed, I suddenly felt something like a growing high frequency or pressure in my head. It built in volume for maybe 10 seconds. I walked around the bed and realized I could hardly walk; my right leg felt numb and floppy. Jim was in the bathroom and I called out to him, but realized I had trouble getting my words out; they were slurred. I managed to get on around the bed to lay on my pillow. As I went down, I was aware that I felt dizzy.

All of this transpired in a matter of about two minutes—bam, bam, bam!

As I lay there, I thought pressure in my head, numbness in my leg, slurred speech, dizziness—sounds like a stroke to me.

Jim thought the same. We decided that this was too many symptoms to think it would pass. Jim went straight to the internet. Isn’t that where we go to find answers? I said, “What did it say?” He said, “Take an aspirin and call 911.” So that’s exactly what he did.

Within ten minutes I was in a surreal world of four men clad in dark navy, asking many questions and checking vitals. They whisked me off to the hospital where more busy activity took place all around me. Not what I had planned for my Wednesday.

By that time, I was actually feeling okay. I was able to walk to the bathroom. From that point I had a series of tests. The MRI declared it a mini-stroke. I do think the fast action of my sweet husband was vital, thus my title, “Act FAST!”

So here’s my public service announcement; when you feel the signs act quickly. Take an aspirin and dial 911.

The word fast is self-explanatory, but it also helps with an acronym of many possible symptoms. 

F – face (Face drawn, can’t smile, vision gone?)

A – Arm (Arms or legs numb)

S – Speech (Slurred speech, unable to communicate, dizzy)

T – time (Time is of essence. Get help quickly. Make a mental note of the time it happened.)

I am praising God that this all happened at home when Jim was there, that I was close to the bed, and that he called right away (better safe than sorry.) I’m thankful for first-responders, those working in ER, medicines and tests to aid us. I’m particularly grateful that I have no paralysis.

For I, the Lord, your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, “Fear not, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

 Thank you, Lord.

~ Joyce ~