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 ~

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 ~

 

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 ~

 

 

 

Nehemiah – Planning and Action

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

God has given Nehemiah a concern for his Jerusalem homeland. He feels called to do something about the crumbling wall around the city.

During four months of prayer, God led him to make plans. Last week (Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity), we saw that King Artaxerxes dropped opportunity right in his lap. 

Since Nehemiah has been cooking up his plans, he’s ready.

“If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so they will provide me safe conduct until I arrive in Judah?”

Nehemiah thinks logically of what’s needed to get him safely there.

And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?

In his mind, he’s already there, thinking through what he will need. Planners do that! Nehemiah sees that God’s gracious hand was upon him because the king grants his requests.

Praying, planning, and then the action. Off he goes, beyond the Euphrates River, across the desert, to the land of Judah accompanied by the king’s cavalry, no less. 

After this grueling four-month journey, he rests for three days and makes plans to evaluate the crumbling wall. He purposely didn’t enter with a bang or even tell anybody why he was there. He plans to quietly assess the damage at night, by himself.

This is not a one-man job, so it is time to gather the troops. Here’s what we have recorded of his motivational speech to the priest, nobles, officials, and people:

“You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and it’s gates have been burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

He also gave them his personal testimony of how God’s hand was upon him with the king. The result?

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. Nehemiah 2:7-18

What a great formula for us when God lays a task upon our hearts—pray, plan, wait patiently for opportunity, move into action, rest, evaluate, share our own testimony of God’s hand at work, and inspire others to join in the task.

Tuck Nehemiah’s example away in your mind.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Last week, we found Nehemiah weeping, mourning and fasting over the devastation of the wall in Jerusalem. Four months later, he continues praying about the matter and senses that God is leading him to do something about the crumbling wall.

There’s a gigantic problem with this calling. Nehemiah is cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, a high and prestigious position. Only the king could grant such a request and the king’s already listened to complainers back in Jerusalem and commanded that all rebuilding stop. Double whammy! 

Nehemiah faithfully performs his duties to the king, perhaps even serves as an adviser in certain situations. He dare not point blank ask the king for permission to leave for an extended time to build a wall that the king himself  has already put to an end.

It’s hard for Nehemiah to be cheerful everyday when his heart is aching. One day as he serves the king, Artaxerxes asks him,

“Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” 

Fear strikes Nehemiah, nevertheless he draws in a deep breath and takes the plunge. 

“May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad when the city where my forefathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 

There, he said it. He holds his breath wondering how the king will respond. What comes next is more than he could have hoped for. The king asks,

“What is it you want?”

Hardly able to believe how this opportunity has been dropped in his lap, he shoots up one of those quick prayers. You know the ones, “Help me, Lord.” His face is flushed, his breath shallow, but he pushes forward.

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city of Judah where my fathers are buried so I can rebuild it.”

“How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” Nehemiah 2:1-6

“Whew!” I wrote in my Bible margin. Have you ever had an opportunity open up suddenly, one you’ve been mulling over for some time? You may have asked, “Is this really happening?”

Keep in mind that Nehemiah has been praying about this for four months. God provided the opportunity and Nehemiah took the plunge!

Oh the things He has for us when we go to Him in earnest prayer.

Can you share one of your aha moments?

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Life Verses – Hope and a Future

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

For several years, I taught elementary music in public schools.

Singing all day every day eventually paid a toll on my voice, so I backed down to teaching part-time. Still, my voice just couldn’t hold up, so I retired from teaching.

At various churches, I had directed children’s choirs. A position became available to lead and coordinate children’s choirs part-time. My voice could manage these small doses once a week.

After nine years, I considered retiring from that position as well. Working and rheumatoid arthritis had worn me out. Meanwhile, the Lord had begun moving me in a new direction—writing!

Any life change, positive or negative, is a challenge full of hesitation and questions. Is this really the way the Lord is leading? Am I in His will?

One Sunday, in the midst of these “ponderings,” the front of the church bulletin read:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

A few weeks later, I heard a radio preacher teach on this subject with Jeremiah 29:11 as his text.

The day came to take the big step. I sat in church with the resignation letter in my sweaty hands. Part way through the service, up popped the scripture for the day on the big screen. Of course you can guess what it was—Jeremiah 29:11.

I smiled and thanked the Lord for this affirmation.

 He has plans for all of us, wonderful plans, if we only seek His face, whether we’re headed to college, deciding on a mate, considering a job change, dealing with a difficult relationship, trying to make a decision, or yes, considering retirement.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Jesus taught us to ask, to seek, to knock and: it will be given, you will find, and the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9) Pray for it, friend!

~ Joyce ~

Life Verses – Wait on the Lord

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Another life verse:

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles… Isaiah 40:31

This verse became a mainstay for me when we were going through a long ordeal with our son. By “long”, I mean years. My strength waned often as we tried many avenues, only to run into stop signs.

I really prefer the King James Version which uses the word “wait” instead of “hope.” When we hope, it does require us to wait and anticipate, but the message the Lord kept sending me was that I must wait on Him. Wait on His timing.

Waiting is not something most of us do well. We want it today or this week or this month, but waiting for years is a big stretch, especially when coupled with one heartbreak after another.

And so, we hope in the Lord as we wait, trusting (ooh, there’s that word again), trusting that the Lord will renew our strength.

The promise comes next—”They will soar on wings like eagles.”

In the midst of all this waiting and hoping, I did a good bit of study about eagles. Quite interesting creatures. When they are ready to fly, they go up to the highest point they can find and wait for just the right draft of wind. Then they spread their wide wings and soar on the down draft with perfect ease.

It’s a lovely picture, but I knew we had a ways to go before we could soar.

Late one night, I sat (praying) in the dark on the steps leading up to our second floor. Above our front door was a horizontal piece of glass. From my vantage point, I could look out the top glass to see three street lights.

As I sat meditating, I couldn’t help but think of the three crosses long ago that stood at Calvary. I thought about God’s willingness to sacrifice his own son on the cross for our sin. In that moment, I knew that God understood my pain and cried with me. 

Thankfully, the Lord performed a miracle in our son’s life. He turned himself over to the Lord and continues to grow deeper in his faith today as a grown man with five (yes, 5) children!

…but those who (wait and) hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.

May you find the strength to wait and hope and soar on wings like eagles today.

~ Joyce ~

Life Verses – Trust in the Lord

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Continuing the the thought of “life verses” from last week (Life Verses – Off to College), perhaps you have read, or memorized, or claimed this as a life verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6

Oh, how many times have I leaned on my own understanding? Thinking something over and over, chewing around on it, worrying about it.

Instead of taking it to the Lord right away and trusting him with it, I leaned on my own understanding.

After my husband served as a Minister of Music for several years in our town, he received a call to consider another church. We were very happy at our church, our children were well established in school and with their friends. To top it off, my parents had just moved to our town. All was right with my world.

Jim suggested that we may not know if the Lord was leading in a new direction unless we at least visited the other church. The date was set for the visit, but everything within me cried out, “No, no, I don’t want to go!”

I spent hours worrying and stewing over the possibilities. One day, I walked down the hall to our bedroom and noticed, as if for the first time, the little wooden plaque that hung at the end of the hall. It read, “In all your ways acknowledge him.” 

The word ACKNOWLEDGE stood out like a neon sign to me. I fell to my knees, acknowledging God, realizing that He knew best. I confessed that I had done everything but acknowledge Him.

 

When we recognize and acknowledge God, we put ourselves in a place to see the shallowness of our own understanding. We realize our need to trust Him.

Then comes the beautiful promise—”He will direct your paths.”

So, back to my story. By the time the visit came around, I had reached a place of surrender. I fully expected that we would be moving.

We made the visit, but when got back in the car, Jim said he was disturbed by a comment the pastor had made and declared, “Well, we’re not going to this church.”

Why then did I have to go through all that? The Lord knew I needed to learn the lesson of trust, the lesson of being willing to surrender to His will.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Prayer – Let’s Get Practical

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

It’s time to get practical about our praying.

Do you know what it is to turn everything over to the Lord? Allow Him to have the lead? Relinquish the control to Him? Pray fervently to know His will? 

Have you also experienced times when you took the load on yourself. Worried and stewed over it. Got frustrated, agitated, and consumed with it? Then finally realized you hadn’t even consulted the Lord about it?

Okay, time for a personal confession.

A few years ago, the Lord spoke to me in many concrete ways and lead me down the road of writing. While I had written a few Bible studies, devotions, and scripts, I had not written a book of all things!

Little by little, He kept moving me in that direction and even led me specifically to the Bible character who would star in the first book!

I traveled down that road one mile at a time, not knowing what would be next over the hill or around the bend. I learned dependence on Him, because I felt so inadequate for the task.

Unbelievably, I now find myself 37,000 words into book number three.

However, the writing world includes more than putting words on a page. Research and editing take a huge amount of time.

Next is the task of publishing which can take forever. All along the way, I fervently prayed about next steps, aware of my dependence on the Lord’s leadership.  

Do you hear the “but” coming?

But I came to the third tier—marketing! Whether one has a traditional publisher or a self-publisher, the bulk of the marketing is up to the author. “Get on Facebook,” the conference leaders would say. “Have a blog.” (Okay, it will soon be four years, once a week.)

“Get on other social media. Do interviews, speaking engagements. etc., etc., etc.,” as the King of Siam would say.

Can you tell that this is not my favorite leg of the writing triangle? I have admitted, no, complained of my dislike of marketing to any poor soul who would listen. I have fussed and wrung my hands over and over for months. 

Finally, I realized that I had taken this thing on by myself. It was all up to me. Worse yet, I realized I had not really poured myself out to Him in prayer. Instead of being the last resort, prayer should have been the first thing. When will I learn that lesson?

“But seek first his kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow.” Matthew 6:33-34 

God has led me not to worry over this right now, but to put my effort into book three about Matthew. In His time, we will deal with the marketing. “Forget the detour,” he said. “Get back on the road.”

That’s my practical application. What has he taught you lately in seeking Him first? 

~ Joyce ~