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Defined by Our Blessings

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” – James 1:17 (NLT)

When we allow our attitudes, our outlook, our words and our actions to be expressions of the many Blessings God places in our lives each and every day, we not only share His light with those around us but also find that our struggles and circumstances no longer define who we are.

The Isle of Misfit Toys

Dear Lord; Happy Thursday Father!

Ever since I was a little boy Lord, I’ve loved this time of year.  Beautiful lights and decorations adorn our homes, joyful Holiday music overwhelms the airways, and our hearts eagerly await the celebration of that Silent Night so many years ago.  And along with the many festive practices that grace this season Father, December also ushers the return of some of my favorite childhood Christmas shows…

Dr. Seuss’ Grinch once again attempts to steal Christmas…

Linus reminds us of the miraculous meaning behind this Holiday…

Frosty the Snowman makes us yearn for that serene blanket of white…

And Rudolph… Well, Rudolph’s story was on my mind as I drove into the office this morning…

“I certainly feel like I belong on the Isle of Misfit Toys…” I mumbled to myself…

For the first time in a very long time Lord, I’m having a difficult time filling my heart with the joy this Holy Season offers.

As You know Father, this year has seen a great many trials for my family and I; many of which still have uncertain endings.  And although I have faith that You’ll see us safely along this valley path in Your perfect time, the light from that Holy Star seems dimmer through the clouds this year.

And as I look around at the world joyfully celebrating this Season of Hope Lord…

I feel out of place… A “Misfit Toy” stranded far away from You.

And yet Father,

I know You’re with me all the same.

Even in my hurt…

Even through my pain…

And even on the Isle of Misfit Toys.

So Lord, as I make my weary pilgrimage to rest by the side of that Holy Manger this year, I pray that You walk that path beside me.  Give clarity to my sight Father, and resolve to my steps that I may seek this Celebration of Hope with the wonder and awe of a child…

Your beloved child.

For it’s in Your precious name I pray Jesus,

Amen.

~PhatherPhil

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Reminded of the Promise

Dear Lord; Happy Wednesday Father!

Over the past couple weeks Father, I’ve been listening to and enjoying a sermon series called “Times and Seasons” preached by Steven Furtick, the lead pastor over at Elevation Church.  It’s been a powerful series for me so far Lord, and has touched on some areas of my life that are very raw right this moment.  This morning as I pondered the most recent message I’d listened to, You placed on my heart a guest post I wrote for Healthy Spirituality a couple years back.  I chased down the document containing the post, and as I reread the words You’d given me during a very different season of my life it dawned on me that even now, Your Promise still holds true…

The Promise

Stark…

Cold…

Bleak…

Unyielding…

Such is the way many choose to view the winter landscape.

And yet,

I believe that winter carries with it a deeper message;

A Promise from God.

I absolutely love taking long, quiet walks in the woods; spending that communion time with my Heavenly Father, surrounded in the majesty of His bounty.  In that Stillness, I find that I feel powerfully connected to God’s presence, and He’s used those moments of intimacy to bring me some wonderful revelations.

I try to visit our local forest as often as possible, even during the “less comfortable” seasons.  Seeing the many transitions and phases of God’s creation never fails to unveil new truths to me, and whatever the conditions are I always come away feeling Blessed for my time there…

Even in the dead of winter.

Hmmm… The “dead” of winter…

Not a very accurate description in my opinion.

I actually enjoy walking through the woods in the winter months.  Strolling among the leafless timbers, the barren landscape lies in stark contrast to the lush foliage that normally fills the scene.  And yet, while first impressions are that all life has left this place, nothing could be further from the truth…

Life still resides here…

Waiting…

Promising to burst forth and begin anew with the breath of spring…

Just as God designed it to.

And Funny enough, He designed our lives that way as well.  Like that forest, our paths are bound to the seasons God lays out for us…

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time
for war, and a time for peace.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)

Times of abundance, and periods of trial; both are gifts from God.  We celebrate those moments when His Blessings shine brightly all around us, and yet those times of wanting are also cause to rejoice…

When instead of dwelling on our pain,

We give thanks for His promise;

The promise that it is in fact, a season,

And that in the “dead” of our Winters, there is still life,

And there is still love.

Thank You for our Winters Lord, and Your promise of the Springs ahead.

Amen.

~Phather Phil

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An Equal Temper of Mind

Dear Lord; Happy Monday Father!

Over and over for the past several weeks Lord, You’ve repeatedly placed a very specific passage of Scripture on my heart.  And although those verses clearly speak to me in the midst of the situations I’ve been dealing with as of late, I’ve very much had the impression that Your intention is for me to gain something deeper from those words rather than simply finding comfort in them during my time of struggle.

And as I read these words from the Apostle Paul again today Father, I realized You were prompting me…

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

…Not prompting me to simply look at my current situation and draw strength from these verses, but instead to examine other seasons and events in my life, both during good times and periods of trial, and place them against that same litmus test of contentment that Paul describes in his letter.

And when I do so Lord, I find myself lacking Your peace more often than not.

I’ve gone through times of surplus Father, as well as times of want.  But when I look back with open eyes and an honest heart I realize that even when the problems I faced paled in comparison to the resources You Blessed me with, I still quite often felt unsettled…

Waiting for the axe to drop.

And in periods such as those that I’m going through now Lord, where Your presence seems almost hidden amongst the glaring trials all around me, that peace evades me yet again…

Allowing myself to be overwhelmed by my limitations, instead of drawing strength from Your lack of them.

…Certainly falling far short of achieving that encompassing contentment the Apostle spoke of.

So as I dug deeper into Paul’s words this morning Father, I came across a commentary by Matthew Henry that gave me pause to reflect…

“The apostle was often in bonds, imprisonments, and necessities; but in all, he learned to be content, to bring his mind to his condition, and make the best of it. Pride, unbelief, vain hankering after something we have not got, and fickle disrelish of present things, make men discontented even under favourable circumstances. Let us pray for patient submission and hope when we are abased; for humility and a heavenly mind when exalted. It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always. And in a low state not to lose our comfort in God, nor distrust his providence, nor take any wrong course for our own supply. In a prosperous condition not to be proud, or secure, or worldly. This is a harder lesson than the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are more than those of affliction and want.”

In this, I think Mr. Henry aptly described Paul’s state…

Let us pray for patient submission and hope when we are abased; for humility and a heavenly mind when exalted. It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always.”

An equal temper of mind always…

In his times of worldly excess Paul placed his focus on humility and gratefulness to You Lord, to keep his spirit balanced and his heart rooted in Your love and grace…

And in those periods of pain and struggle, he placed his full trust in that love and grace he’d reveled in; knowing that his true life and worth lay in Your sovereign hands, leaving no room in his heart for doubt and fear.

He achieved a balance Lord; by filling his heart with You, the waves of his life were quieted and made calm.

I want that Father;

To be filled with Your love in such overwhelming fashion that true peace becomes the only possible reality…

And Blessed in that state of divine contentment Lord, with earnest supplication I pray that my heart may remain anchored in that peace through all of life’s storms.

Please grant me that special grace Lord, that I may find an equal temper of mind… Always.

For it’s in Your Holy Name I pray,

Amen.

~Phather Phil

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And There Was a Great Calm

Dear Lord; Happy Tuesday Father!

You know Lord, it’s a vicious circle we face.

Storms erupt around us in our lives; casting the shadow of doubt upon our hearts and threatening to draw our focus from the peace You freely offer.  We allow fear to gain hold, and from there we proceed not from faith but instead become driven by our false perception that for some reason, You’re not interested in our current plight.

Eventually, the waters recede as they always do and in our illuminated hindsight we realize that once again You’ve led us through… Unshaken by our circumstances, and unwavering in Your love.

Yesterday as I pondered this recurring tendency to doubt that we all seem to have, You placed in my heart a reminder that we’re in good company…

“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”” – Mark 4:35-41 (NLT)

Now these were men Lord, that had personally witnessed You performing miracles and seen firsthand Your divine Love at work…

But still they doubted.

And over the course of my life Father I’ve seen Your hand in so many places, and experienced Your love in so many beautiful ways…

And yet, I also allow those doubts to cloud my heart.

Thankfully Lord,

You remain unshaken by our fears…

Unwavering in Your devotion…

And stalwart in Your love for us.

So when the storms rage about us and our hearts feel that grip Lord, I pray You help us see beyond those crashing waves; resolute in the knowledge that You’re in that boat with us and that soon we’ll once again be able to state…

“And there was a great calm…”

For it’s in Your precious name I pray Jesus,

Amen.

~Phather Phil

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One Day at a Time

Today’s entry in the “Joyce Meyer: Promises for Your Everyday Life” devotional reading plan I subscribe to on YouVersion.com spoke powerfully to my heart, so I thought I’d share it :

Take Challenges One Day at a Time

I strongly urge you to face your challenges one day at a time. Looking too far down the road only tends to overwhelm us. Trusting God requires that we believe He gives us our ‘daily bread’; that is, we receive what we need as we need it and usually not before.

Sometimes challenges can seem impossible and overwhelming, but God is always with us. We just need to be courageous and receive the strength He gives us. Without thinking too far in advance, we can set our minds to quickly and efficiently do the task before us today.

This principle applies to many other areas of life, getting out of debt, cleaning and organizing your house, solving marriage problems, disciplining your children, being on time for work or completing a project. Whatever you need to do in life, you can do it.

Remember, Philippians 4:13 says you are ready for anything and equal to anything because God gives you strength. Nothing is too much for you when He is on your side.

Prayer Starter: God, even when the challenges before me seem impossible, I know that I can tackle them one day at a time because You are with me. I receive Your strength today.”

One of the things I struggle with regularly is my perception of my needs v/s what God knows my needs to truly be, and His timing in blessing me with the resources I require at the right time.  Joyce nailed this point perfectly here, reminding us that the verse in the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread…” isn’t simply about physical nourishment.

Have a Blessed Day!

~PhatherPhil

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