Tag Archives: Christianity

Blank Pages: The Best Days Are Yet to Come


Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos

Good-bye, 2016!

The New Year’s Eve parties are over, the last of the New Year’s Day football has been watched, the black-eyed peas (if you’re southern, like I am) have been eaten, and the holiday guests have gone home. It’s January 2, 2017, and 364 more brand-new, unsullied days stretch out before us. Social media is filled with people lamenting how terrible 2016 was. And really, it wasn’t great. We lost too many favorite celebrities and watched the worst mud-slogging political race most Americans have ever seen, to mention just a couple of rotten apples 2016 gave us. 

But that was then; this is now. This is the moment the new year really begins. The day people return to their jobs. The day the Christmas tree is put away, holiday leftovers are thrown out, checkbooks are balanced, and the first tentative steps toward keeping the new year’s resolutions are taken. This is the day that always reminds me of the first day of school, when my crayons stood in bright, fresh soldier rows, my little cigar box held my newly sharpened pencils, and my Red Chief writing tablet lay empty and open on my desk, just waiting to be filled with carefully crafted cursive letters and a good bit of side-doodling. Nothing yet was dirty, crumpled, torn, or marked on. Possibility and imagination sprawled before me, inviting me to write something wonderful. Today is that day. Today is the day to pack away any leftover bitterness, resentment, depression, or hopelessness that 2016 hung around your neck. Today, this day, is full of promise and hope.

Hello, 2017!

As I turn my face away from 2016 and look to the new year, I am reminded of God’s word in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; even now it springs up. Do you not perceive it?” The word perceive is defined as “to become aware of or conscious of something; to come to realize or understand.” So, perceiving, then is the key to understanding this verse. The word of God teaches us that we must walk by faith, not by sight. That is, we must see with the eyes of our heart, where our faith resides, because our physical eyes may not actually see what God is doing. We have to perceive, become aware of, become conscious of, the areas in which He is already working in our lives.

How does that happen?

To do this, we must look expectantly at our future with our faith-eyes wide open. Anything is possible. Miracles of forgiveness, healing, financial blessing, restoration of broken relationships, and redemption. What do you need this year? God says to ask and you will receive. He goes on to say, “Which of you, if your child asks for bread, would give him or her a stone?” Our Father tells us to approach his throne boldly, with confidence, as you would expect your own little ones to approach you, knowing that He wants to hear from you. He wants to provide. We are to ask, expecting to receive because “if you, then, though you are sinful, know how to give good gifts to your own children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7: 7-11)

Make it personal

I am in no way proclaiming that God is the great Santa Clause in the sky, just waiting to fulfill your total wishlist and drop that luxury car in your driveway, but I am saying He desires good things for you, and He sees your every need, both spiritual and physical. And the Father is even now doing a new thing for you, do you not perceive it? If you don’t, if you can’t see past the fog of 2016’s disappointments and hurts, ask God to open your faith-eyes.  Try it out! Tell him your needs and wait expectantly for Him to act. Keep believing that He will act. Stand in faith while you wait.  And if you don’t get around to doing all that today, remember His mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Every day with God is a blank page. Consider carefully how you will fill those pages, whether with faith or with doubt and despair. But if you want to choose joy and faith, let the eyes of your heart perceive what the Father is saying to you even now.


Filed under Spiritual Journey

Peace…Be Still

The Word in Me Today: Peace




Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos



All right, I confess. I’m a worrier. The “what ifs” and the “maybes” and the “I should haves” sometimes start ringing in my mind around 4 AM. I try not to worry, and I know I shouldn’t worry, but it happens. By the time I actually get out of bed, I’ve usually started an action plan. And somehow that plan almost always involves me fixing my own problems.

But that’s not what God has called us to do.  In Mark 4:35-39 we see an interesting account of Jesus and his disciples. The scripture says, “That day, when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down, and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’”

If the disciples had taken matters into their own hands, abandoned ship perhaps, they would have drowned. Instead, they stayed in the boat with Jesus and asked Him to do something to help them. Even though their faith was very young, and they had not known Jesus long yet, they instinctively knew He could change their situation. And He did. Jesus commanded the storm to stop.

In Phillipians 4:6, Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

The disciples made their petition known to Jesus, and He acted on their behalf.

But My Problems are SO Big!

Jesus, fully God and fully human, understood with his man’s mind and his God’s heart that his followers struggled with anxiety. Not only was there the occasional storm in their lives, but they lived in a difficult time when taxes were high and a pagan culture ruled them. And Jesus knew that by choosing to follow Him, his people would suffer the wrath of  Rome. Yet he told them to consider the lilies of the field, and said, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans [Romans] run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Peace Replaces Anxiety

Jesus gave his followers, and gives to us, something to replace worry. In John 14:27 He said, “”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

If peace could be bottled and sold on store shelves, it would be a priceless commodity. But it isn’t something that is offered by this world, and it cannot be obtained. Peace is something to be attained. And there is only one way to attain lasting peace. In a world where the rules change almost daily, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And forever! The peace that comes in knowing the Savior cannot be purchased. It can’t be learned. It can’t be manufactured and bottled and sold. It is a gift from God that comes to us when we learn to take our anxieties to the cross and, with thanksgiving,  leave them there.

I believe we have trouble doing this because we are used to the peace the world gives. The world’s peace is transitory, ever changing and very much circumstantial. Did you get a raise at your job? That peace of mind  is good only for as long as your company doesn’t start layoffs. Did you finish that difficult project you had been so worried about? The peace and relief you feel will  last only until the next project comes along. We have trained ourselves to find peace and comfort in things the world gives, but in the back of our mind, in the dark hours of the morning, there is that nagging knowledge that at any moment, whatever we are taking comfort in can be ripped from our grasp.

On the contrary, Jesus gives peace that is eternal. When the winds blow or the earth shakes or the lay offs come, Jesus Christ still holds your hand. When we learn to stay in the boat and wait for Jesus to act, His peace stills our storm. His name is a strong tower; the righteous run into it, and they are saved. His word is a two-edged sword. His resurrection power quickens your mortal body. If God is for us, who can be against us?

It Can Work For You!

Over and over God’s word speaks peace to us, but we have to seek it. Where do we find it? We can’t find peace in the USA Today over coffee, but we can find it in the living Word of God over coffee…or lunch…or on break from work…or before bed. Whenever the world is threatening your peace, His word is there, and it doesn’t change like the nightly prime-time channel line-up. God’s peace is everlasting, His kingdom has no end, and it doesn’t suffer economic downtimes. God is not out there on a thousand hillsides to see if he owns less cattle than before! His Word endures forever. That, beloved of God, is true peace.

In Isaiah 30:15, God says, ” In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Just prior to that verse, in Chapter 28, verse 16 b, He says “One who trusts will not panic.” What an amazing promise! Here God is referring to the coming of Christ, the foundation stone in Zion. One who trusts that Rock, “WILL NOT panic.”

Finally, in Proverbs 14:30 it says, “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh.”

I encourage you to find a quiet place today and let the peace of God wash over you. His peace is unending, like the waves of the ocean. Find your strength in quietness and confidence, and stay in the boat with Jesus.


Filed under Word in Me Today

Come! Step Out onto the Water!

Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos

With the quickening of the night breezes, the wind shifted and increased until a small fishing vessel pitched and yawed with every punishing wave. The boatmen were exhausted from working all day, and now they had to use the last of their strength to keep the boat from being swamped.  The men must have grumbled. “Why has the master asked us to set out at night after we worked all day?” one might have said.

“We fed 5,000 people today! Wasn’t that enough?” another possibly added.

Perhaps someone tried to still the grumbling and complaining, but the night wore on and the strain began to take its toll on the little company of men. As the long night entered the fourth watch, those last long hours before dawn, one of the men thought he saw someone walking toward the boat. Walking on top of the waves! Impossible! He surely rubbed his eyes and looked again, wanting to be sure before alerting the others. “Look! A ghost!” he cried. And the others trembled in fear with him and took up the cry of “ghost!”

But then, the Master spoke. “Take heart! It is I; do not be afraid!” And though the men saw Jesus with their eyes, they could not wrap their minds around the fact that He walked on water. No one could walk on water…..could they?

So Peter, always the pragmatist, called out to Him, “Lord, if it’s really you, command me to come to you on the water.” And with a quick gesture of his hand, Jesus said simply, “Come!”

Full of brash boldness as always, Peter jumped out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. What did he feel in those moments?  “Look! I’m doing it!” he might have shouted as he stared intently into his Lord’s eyes.

But then the wind rose and the waves came up, and suddenly the man of faith looked not at Jesus, but at the tempest. Fear rose up in him and replaced his faith, and Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, the Word tells us –IMMEDIATELY, Jesus reached out his hand and rescued Peter.

You of little faith!” came Jesus’ rebuke. “Why did you doubt?”

And when the two men climbed into the boat, the storm stilled and the other disciples worshiped Jesus as the true Son of God.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this one little story!

  • Why did Jesus have the men push out to sea after such a long day? Maybe to show them, and us, that when you think you’ve done all you can do, He gives you strength to endure.
  • Why did Jesus wait so long to come to them? Why didn’t he come before the waves and wind became dangerous? We all want to be rescued before the storm starts. It’s human nature. But if we could all sit around on satin pillows, having our every wish and need fulfilled before we even ask, never facing anything difficult or sad or frightening in our lives, what type of people would be? Weak, ineffective and useless to the Kingdom of God, that’s what! It’s the constant battering of wind against trees that strengthen and harden them. Trees that are in dense forests where the wind does not reach them don’t put down deep roots, so they easily topple. God doesn’t want us to be easily toppled when Satan blows winds of adversity our way!
  • Why did Jesus ask Peter to join him? That one simple command from Jesus – “Come!” – speaks volumes. He is open to us. When we call to him, he is there. And He wants us to be effective for Him.  He didn’t say to Peter, “No, this special privilege is reserved for me only.” He said, “Come!” Jesus tells us that we can do all the things he did and even more, if we only have faith.  In John 14:12, He says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Does Jesus need us to walk on water? Probably not, but if we read this passage with a discerning mind, we will know that whatever he calls on us to do, no matter how difficult, He will enable us to complete the task.
  • Why did Peter Fall? The answer is so simple. He took his eyes off the source of his strength and looked at the circumstances instead. Satan will always magnify the circumstances in our minds if we allow him to. When the waves threaten us, and the stormy winds blow in our relationships or finances or health, looking at the storm will only increase the fear. When I was a child and was afraid of a storm, my mother would get me to play cards with her or do something else to take my mind off the situation. Before I knew it, the storm was over!  As long as Peter’s mind was off the situation, as long as he  looked to Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith, he could stay above the waves. But one look at what the enemy was throwing his way, and his faith went  down in one mighty gulp of fear.

And while Jesus did rebuke Peter for his lack of faith, mercifully, He also reached out his hand to keep Peter from drowning.  Jesus wants us to have faith. To look at Him and not to the right or left, but only at Him. Yet he knows we are human, and that we succumb to our fears. So while he gently calls us out for not holding onto our faith, His hand is reaching out in deliverance at the same time.

It Can Work for You!

What are you believing for today? Do you have the faith to get out of the boat, i.e. your comfort zone or security, and walk above the storm toward Jesus’ open hand? “Come!” he says. Come and see what I have for you. Come and see what you can do when you trust me. Tell Him your request, and listen for him to say “Come!”

(Story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus found in Matthew 14:22-23)

1 Comment

Filed under Word in Me Today

When the Going Gets Tough….The Tough Start Praising!

Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos

I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t either singing or playing an instrument. And although I’ve sang and played a variety of music genres and instruments, at the center of my repertoire….at the center of my very being…is praise. I’ve made it through some of the hardest times in my life with praise! We live in tenuous times. Financially and politically, we as a nation, and as a church, are going through some of the hardest times many of us have seen in this country. Our tendency is to talk about it, gather at Starbuck’s and commiserate with our friends while we hash and rehash the problems over and over, but what does that accomplish? What should we do instead?

Get Praising!
I want you to know that when the going gets tough, the tough start praising! God ordained praise to help us overcome the challenges and obstacles that our enemy Satan, who goes about like a roaring lion, puts in our way everyday. It doesn’t matter which form your praise takes, as long as you are worshipping in spirit and truth. Praise can be sung, played, shouted and danced as we see throughout the Old and New Testament.
Where Did Praise Begin?
The Bible indicates in Ezekiel 28 that Lucifer, or Satan, was the chief musician of Heaven before he became jealous of God and aspired to be like Him. In verse 14, we are told that his “timbrels and pipes” were set in gold and created in his very workmanship, or being, on the day God created him. Imagine how beautiful Lucifer must have been! A timbrel is a tambourine and a pipe is a flute or woodwind instrument. Music was not something Lucifer created with an external instrument – he WAS the instrument! Apparently, he had the ability to make orchestral sounds within himself, and his body was at least partly made of gold. But Lucifer despised God and wanted to take his place, so he was cast to the earth because of his war against God. And when he hit the earth, a fire came out of Lucifer and consumed his beautiful form to ash, taking away the music that was meant from the beginning to glorify God.
Worship Overcomes the Enemy
How fitting it is then, that God uses worship music to overcome the enemy! His word teaches us that when we praise, He sets ambushes against the enemy. (II Chronicles 20:22.) It also tells us that God inhabits, or dwells, in the praises of his people. (Psalm 22:3) Now we already know that if God is for us, no one can be against us! So when we praise, we are inhabited by God himself, and the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.
When we praise God, He comes to our rescue!
Paul and Silas
Consider the story of Paul and Silas in prison. (Acts 16:16-25.) The two men had been beaten and abused for their ministry, then chained and thrown in prison. Verse 25 says that at about midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God, when an earthquake caused their chains to fall and the doors to swing open. Not only were they freed, but ALL the prisoners were freed, and the jailer and his family accepted Christ because of this act. At a time when most people would be singing Poor Poor Pitiful Me, these two men of God were praising, and God defeated the enemy’s plan in that moment! And not only did their praise affect their own circumstances, it brought freedom to those around them.
It Can Work for You!
Be assured that no matter how big the wall in your life is, no matter how tight the prison door is locked or the chains are wrapped around you, God inhabits your praise. God ascends to His throne amid your shouts of joy, and he sets ambushes for your enemy. If you have a heavy heart, or you’re facing obstacles you don’t feel you’ll ever overcome, I want you to have hope. GOD wants you to have hope! Worship God with all your heart. Throw your hands up in the air and shout your hallelujahs. Don’t look at the circumstance, but look at the Deliverer and thank him for his soon-coming rescue! Sing songs of praise and let faith rise up in you. Trust God that, just as he did with Paul and Silas, he will deliver you from your chains, too!


Filed under Word in Me Today