And it was Completely Calm

[Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. — Mark 4:39 NIV

The rain poured down, the leaves were ripped off of the trees, branches twisted, cracked and fell as the trees swayed while the flower petals flurried through the air from the high winds. I did not expect this type of weather Saturday. As I witnessed these events from inside the safety of our home, the lights flickered, flashed off and on twice until all electricity finally shut down. We were just about to brew a pot of coffee and get dinner started, suddenly plans changed so quickly. No longer were we able to enjoy a hot comforting meal, instead, cold sandwiches would be our dinner.

These two hours of inconvenience brought unexpected time to slow down. My mother-in-love and I sat in the darkening living room observing through the floor to ceiling windows as the evening grew dark. She reminisced about her childhood, lighting gas lanterns when the sun set. Often, her dad would peel potatoes for their supper and he’d say to her mom, “If I peel some apples would you bake a pie?” In some ways, those days seem simpler than ours. No tv, computer or iPhones to be distracted by. Only the necessary chores to keep the farm and home going.

I wonder if God allowed this storm to happen for us to be still and quiet. Sometimes, He does allow storms in our lives so that we can focus in on Him. Perhaps, you have a sort of storm in your life right now. It may be His way of saying to you, “Quiet! Be still!” Grab your Bible and read His Word. He wants to speak to you. He wants to calm the winds in your life. The storm may continue, but you will begin to feel His peace in the midst of it. “I have told you these things, so that in me [Jesus] you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear loving Father, thank You for loving us so much that You bring peace into our lives even in the midst of a storm. Thank You for Your words of truth in the Bible that comfort and encourage us. May we seek You during all types of weather in our lives and may Your grace and peace rain down upon us! In Jesus’ name, Amen!


The Righteous Will Flourish

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Psalm 92:12-15

All around us the trees are brilliantly proclaiming the Creator’s majesty. In the Fall, the hues of red, orange, and yellow golds of the deciduous trees are striking. But then, they release and descend to blanket the ground. Left standing to face the rain, wind, snow, and ice are the evergreen trees.

Some days I feel like a strong evergreen able to face the windy storms. Yet, there are days that I feel like the deciduous tree that has lost all of its leaves and I am left to feel bare and vulnerable. I am certain you have felt like this at times too. What do you do to gain strength again? What do you do to prepare to grow your leaves and proclaim God’s glory in your life? Or, what do you do to remain strong like the evergreen and flourish like the palm tree?

The Scriptures are filled with ways to flourish and grow. When we read the Bible daily, attend church services, take part in Bible studies, participate in life/home groups, volunteer, or share His Word with others, we can grow strong and flourish. We will stay fresh, green and bear fruit, fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Yes, like the deciduous tree, we may lose our leaves and feel inadequate, but this is a great opportunity to depend on the Lord for strength. He works in our lives to accomplish His purposes through us to display His glory. Let’s encourage each other through the seasons, stay firmly planted in His Word and reflect our Creator wherever we go.

Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings all around us. Thank you for the reminders of your Majesty in the glorious colors of Fall. Help us to fix our eyes on you and allow us to grow and flourish through you. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen

Soar and Be Renewed

“Let the spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Ephesians 4:23 “But those who 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 be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Working as a counselor, much of my time spent with clients is focused on thoughts and attitudes. First, I ask the parents many questions to get to the root of the issues that they are having with their child. Sometimes, mom and dad are so overwhelmed that their patience, understanding, and compassion have gone out the window. They quickly react to their child’s misbehavior instead of calmly responding in a way that helps shape appropriate behaviors.

Along with addressing attitudes, we look at thought processes. We reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts, whether it is regarding how they perceive themselves as parents or how they view their child. Therefore, I typically begin helping families through parent training: giving the parents tools to effectively shape positive behaviors and thoughts. Initially, progress is slow and steady as long as the tools are used consistently. The greatest tool that I have and can share is prayer.

As a Christian counselor, I pray for my clients. I bring their struggles before the Lord and I seek His wisdom within His Word. When my clients are able to release their concerns to the Almighty Counselor, the Spirit moves, renews, and brings hope. I read the above verse today and thought, how wonderful it is that we do not need to change by our strength and doing. Christians have the power of the Spirit of God within us. He can help us clear our thoughts and modify our attitudes. When we lean into the One who provides clear instruction in His Word and by His Spirit, we can have hope, soar, and be renewed.

Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear Father, thank You for all of the many ways you renew us and give us hope. Help us to continually counsel with You throughout our day. Thank You for caring for and loving us so very much! In Your Son’s precious name, Jesus. Amen.

For further reading: Isaiah 40

Learn from Me

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

There is this lush little green patch of grass along the highway exit. Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing sweet ducks. A male and a female mallard enjoy this little oasis between the cement roads. At different times, I have seen just one of the ducks and wondered where the other was. Yet today, I drove right by the strip not even taking time to look because I was focused on getting to my destinations. I missed out on this delightful moment of blessing.

I love animals and it always brings a smile to my face and warms my heart to see God’s creatures. What I love the most about this location, is that it is so odd. Why have these ducks chosen this little area along the highway exit to be their home or place of rest? Because they see it has most of what they need. Dare I say, they have learned the blessing of what has been provided for them. They tuck their sweet little feather-covered head down and rest while the chaos of traffic and life flies by.

What can we learn from God’s creatures? God’s message to see the good in all things, enjoy life, and take time to rest. We may be in odd places, stages, and uncomfortable situations with busy lives, struggles, and challenges; nevertheless, listen to God‘s instruction to find time to rest no matter where you are, what you are between, or what you are doing. Rest in Him. Be renewed. Be encouraged.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to keep our eyes on you and your blessings. Help us to see the nourishing green strips of pasture that you provide us each day among the chaos. It is through your Son that we may have peace through it all. In His precious name, Jesus. Amen.

For further reading: Matthew 11

The Wondrous Word

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Psalm 119:17

Are there days when you open God’s Word and you just don’t understand it? Maybe you’ve found yourself in the book of Numbers and you are overwhelmed by the many names of the tribes and their numbers and locations. Maybe you are just spinning with these facts and don’t know quite what to do with it all.

When feeling confused, lost or just overwhelmed while reading the Bible, just stop and take a minute to pray Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, [Lord], that I may behold the wondrous things out of your law. God wants us to understand His letter to us and He has given His believers the Holy Spirit to help us.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephesians 1:17

Our Lord wants us to know him better! How sweet is this that the very Father of the universe who created all things and every one of us wants us to know Him. How can we possibly understand Who He is? By studying His Word. Woven throughout the Bible is the beautiful story of our God, His Son, creation, and all the individuals and cultures that have had challenges that we can glean wisdom from.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for scripture that guides us closer to you and for your Spirit of wisdom and revelation. Help us to dig in deeper each time we read your Word so that we can behold the wondrous things within in it. In Jesus’ Holy name. Amen.

For further reading: Ephesians 1

Enjoy Life

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. …. So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

Work, work, work, it seems never ending! We are hoping to put our house on the market soon, so we have been working nonstop to get our house looking its best; while of course trying to keep up with our current jobs.

Several months ago we scheduled a trip to rural Alabama to see family. We had no idea at the time that we would be knee-deep in house repairs, with a target date to sell the house just a week away, but the Lord knew.

We worked right up to the last minute, barely allowing time to pack and hopped on a plane early the next morning. Oh, what a joy and a pleasure it was to relax and enjoy time with family. We would sit on the back patio, absorbing the beauty of nature as we gazed at their sparkling pond and our energy and spirits were refreshed.

Of course there will always be work to do, and that too is a gift of God, but the Lord is pleased when His children take time to enjoy themselves, to eat and drink and celebrate life.

And let me tell you, my son is a fabulous cook! When we visit, they totally spoil us with gourmet delicacies. We always arrive home well fed, well rested and well loved. We count these times as truly gifts from God.

So my encouragement to you today, is to take some time to rest and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Your work will still be there when you get back.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,  thank you that there is a season for everything under the sun, including time to rest and gaze at nature. Thank you Lord for our work, and thank you for the ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

For further reading: Ecclesiastes 3

Strength and Stability

I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalm 119:16

When I am wrapped up within the Word, it feels like a soft, fluffy, warm blanket on a cold day. The Scriptures warm the insides of my soul like a hot cup of Chai spice tea. His Word comforts, fills, and refreshes me. I am His, He is mine.

When I am wrapped up in busyness, distractions, or just troubled, I don’t allow myself to delight in His Word. It is a chore that I don’t make time for. Yet, I know, that once I do, my spirit is lifted and I ponder why I didn’t seek Him sooner. I know that the evil one is always near and wanting to distract me from the Lord.

Had I started my day delighting in God’s Word, my angst, bitterness, frustration, anxiety would have disappeared sooner or I could have been armed to not stumble. His Word is full of encouragement that gives us strength and stability:

But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:2-3

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to meditate throughout the day on your Word, so that I may declare to others who you are and how you have impacted my life. Help me to encourage others to delight in you too. Thank you for your loving forgiveness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

For further reading: Psalm 1

A Firm Stance

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

“Oh, I can’t do this!”

“I can’t write.”

“I don’t have anything really good to share.”

“I’m so grumpy right now, how can I be encouraging?”

The enemy causes us to think negatively about ourselves, to question who we are, and uses others to bring us down, to divide, tear down, devour and destroy. He comes to steal our peace to cause stress and anxiety to distract us from our relationship and walk with God. The evil one likes to trip and push us off of our path.The enemy can even place fun things in our path to steal our time from God. How many hours have we binged tv shows versus reading the Bible? I know that I have let my guard down in a few different ways. Have you?

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith, be courageous; be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

How can we protect ourselves? Our stance must be firm and ready for defense. We can not do this alone. Therefore, first and foremost, we must accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. We must ask Him to forgive our sinful ways. He will be our firm foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). Then, we must be reading the Bible daily, praying throughout the day, memorizing the commandments and as much scripture as we can. Because, it is during the times that the evil one comes to devour or slightly detour us that God’s Word will give us a firm stance against the enemy. Be strong.

Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear Lord, how encouraging it is to know that you love us so much that you have given us the Bible to teach us and guide us away from the enemy. When negative thoughts and distractions occur, help us to see the red flag of warning to turn to you for strength and courage to live life to the full. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

For further reading: John 10

Persevere Under Trial

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised those who love him. James 1:12

We all have seen many trials whether firsthand experience or what we see on the news or in our communities. It is how we handle these trials that is so important. God calls us to persevere. Lean into the Lord for strength and wisdom and see how God will shape and conform us to be more like Christ. Keep in step with His ways that are blameless. Seek Him with your whole heart.

Do not let fear creep in and paralyze you. We need to be strong examples of Christ to those around us. We may be the only light they will see. How does God want to use us to help each other during the trials of life? Think of one person that could use some encouragement and reach out to them. Send a text, email or a card in the mail. God most likely will be using you to help encourage that other person. Be ready!

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear Lord, open our eyes to see how to help others during their trials and stregthen us during our own. Thank you for always being there shaping us along the way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

For further reading: James 1

Seek After God

“The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” Psalm 14:2

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

Remember the days when your children were little and they loved to play hide and seek? Remember when the little darlings would patter off only to “hide” in plain view because they hid only their face? Oh, what fun it was to seek them and tickle them into fits of giggles!

The Lord loves it when we seek Him. There are several ways that we can seek Him. We can pray to our loving God, day or night, standing, sitting or kneeling. We can even pray while driving; just keep your eyes open! We can read the Bible by flipping through its’ pages or swiping through the pages on our smartphone.

We can gather together with others and study His Word with an Aspen Place Ministries Study.

We can listen to the audio Bible or to someone reading it aloud. We can seek God in His house, at our church. We can seek God in nature, as we explore His creation. We can seek God in Christian friends as they encourage us with His Word and through His love.

To seek the Lord with all of our heart and soul is to believe in Him, learn about who He is, and fall in love with Him. Let’s seek Him to understand Him in deeper ways this week, spending more time with our Heavenly Father who adores us!

Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, may we delight in You as we seek You wholeheartedly this week. Help us to grow closer to You and honor You in all that we do. In Your Son’s name, Jesus. Amen

For further reading: Psalm 14:2