Category Archives: God’s Purpose

Do You Have a Blessing Room?

“Above all, love each other deeply…. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:8-10
 

Have you ever had your heart set on something and faced giving it up for the sake of someone else? It’s not easy, that’s for sure. Even if you choose to show love to another person by sacrificing what you desire, you can still struggle with self-pity and grumble in your heart. You might feel pulled in different directions—joy in giving and sadness in giving up—a feeling hard to shake.

Hard to Give It Up

I dealt with this feeling recently. Our son was leaving home for graduate school and his bedroom would soon be empty. What would we do with it? Without giving it much thought, I just named it and claimed it—it was going to be MY writing space. My refuge—my quiet place to read, study, and write.

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But I forgot God often has other plans. And so He did with this room.

Our sweet daughter asked if she could move back home until her wedding in May.  And, of course, we said yes. Just as we have enjoyed our son being home for a year after college, we will enjoy our daughter being with us these last months before she marries and settles in a home with her new husband.

And while excited to spend more time with her, my heart struggled to let go of MY writing space. Lord, this was supposed to be my quiet place, I whined. But God didn’t let me get away with grumbling and self-pity.

He showed me His plan. He gently whispered, “This isn’t meant to be YOUR room. This is meant to be a blessing room. Right now and always.”

A Blessing Room!

I never saw it that way before. And no wonder! My heart was so filled with a room for myself I couldn’t see a room for blessing anyone else.

When our hearts see only from the desire of our eyes, we cannot see God’s perspective and are blind to His blessings.

The Blessing Room

Asking the Lord’s forgiveness, I started to see this room with His eyes, and the excitement inside me grew. As I recognized the beauty of its purpose, all those negative feelings melted away and turned to pure joy.

A blessing room is a place of love, generosity, and hospitality. A place to bless all who enter.

This room will be a blessing…

                …for our daughter to live in until she marries.

                …for us to spend more time with her now.

                …as a guest room for visitors later on.

                …as a quiet place for study and writing when empty.

Who knows all the ways God will use it in the future.

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But here is the key. It is God’s room. It is to be used for His purposes. And He desires to bless everyone through it.

It’s the same with our hearts. They belong to God and He has created us to bless others with all the blessings He has given us.

When you make room in your heart for others, your heart itself becomes a blessing room. Always open, always giving, always full of love and grace.

And that’s the heart of God, isn’t it?

Bless All Who Enter

How to Let Go and Fully Give

So when we’re faced with those unwanted feelings that wreak of self, let’s take them captive and confess them before the Lord. He will whisper just what we need to hear to see our situation from His perspective and guide us to a new understanding. And as we surrender, our hearts will be filled with joy and peace and open to pour out God’s abundant blessings.

Do you have a blessing room?

Dearest Father, how we need to see Your perspective on every part of our lives. Reveal to us where our hearts are closed to loving others. Help us to open our hearts to You fully so we may shower Your love and grace on all those around us and be the blessing You created us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessings to you,
Sabra
 
 
All Scripture from New International Version, 1984.
Images by Sabra Penley.
 
Linking up with my friends today on these wonderful blogs…
 
 

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Filed under Attitude, Blessing, Change, Deny Self, Doing Good, Giving, God's Purpose, Grace, Joy, Love, Sacrifice, Self

When God Says “No”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What do you do when God says “no”?

What do you do when those prayers you’ve been lifting up finally receive an answer, and it isn’t what you had hoped? When the “no” comes at the end of heart-felt prayer about the very thing that makes your heart sing? Your work? Your health? Your relationships? Your passion? Your dream? What do you do when you hear “no”?

 

Three days ago, we received a “no” from God. In that moment, a prayer that has been ongoing for fourteen months came to an end. And I can’t help feeling a dream has died.

You see, my husband is a minister. For ten years he served as a pastor and has been a seminary professor for the last sixteen. Last year, a severe illness left him with a disability of several things needed for this calling. We long ago realized preaching was probably not going to be in David’s future. But the dream of teaching once again in a seminary classroom stayed strong in our hearts. We thought, “Just maybe….” While we knew it was possible that might never happen, we held out hope and lifted up prayers.

Receiving this sad news has, for a moment, taken the wind out of our sails. But just for a moment. For in the quiet stillness of a life slowed, we cry out to God all the more. Through our tears…through our fears.

What does a preacher/professor do with impaired speech, troublesome motor skills, and weakened memory? We don’t know. But of one thing we are sure–God knows. He knows it all. And as the quote above from Jeremiah 29:11 states, this is all a part of His plan. He isn’t surprised by any of it. And it is all in His control. What great peace this knowledge brings!

no wind, no sails

 

My husband’s new weaknesses have halted this part of our journey–that of actively teaching at the seminary, but these same weaknesses are preparing him for another part–one not yet known to us. God is transforming my husband–indeed, both of us–for our next assignment. And in His time, God will breathe new wind into our sails to move us in a new direction. He will place in our hearts a new dream. The dream that is necessary to compel us onward toward God’s new work…a work in keeping with this season in our life.

We may seem to be drifting at this point, but we are in fact still serving, still moving forward with God’s ultimate purpose–for us to bring Him glory in all we do.

sailing forth

 

Our inability to see where this is leading is okay, because God is always with us as our constant companion and guide. As long as we keep our focus on Him and follow where He leads us each day, we will be moving in the right direction.

And one morning, when the time Is right, God will open our eyes to see where He is leading us. We’ll see a new dream on the horizon.

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For now, our mission is the same as that of every believer–to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds…and to love our neighbors with the love the Lord has shown to us. That is true no matter the calling, no matter the gifting, no matter the location or health or life situation. This is the Lord’s will for us–to bring Him glory in everything.

So when God says “no” in answer to a specific prayer request, I will give Him praise. For He has heard my prayer and answered. And He is leading us on to something else–another part of this great adventure.

When God says “no,” it can feel like the death of a dream. But in reality, it is simply the birth of something new.

I love these words from Isaiah 43:18-19: 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

And so we work in the waiting. Waiting in expectation for this something new.

Trusting God…rejoicing always…praying continually…and being ever thankful.

For when God says “no,” He isn’t leaving you without. He is simply saying “I’ve got something else for you.”

In Christ’s love,
Sabra
 
 
All Scripture from NI84.

Images:
"Ships that pass by..." by Gopal Vijayaraghavan via flickr (CC BY 2.0)
"Tucker Thompson sailing ship" by Jakob Steinschaden via flickr
     (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
"View from the bowsprit" by savagecat via flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Morning Horizon by Sabra Penley

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Filed under Change, Expectation, Faith, God's Purpose, God's Timing, God's Works, Hope, Joy, New Beginning, Peace, Prayer, Thankfulness, Transforming, Trust, Waiting

Waiting in Expectation

 

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” – Psalm 5:3

Our life is a journey filled with expectations.

Expectations of where we’re headed…what’s around the corner…how God will provide along the way.

While we can’t know exactly what lies ahead, the very act of moving forward compels us to wonder what we will face.

Each day, we have our schedules and make our plans. Woven into those plans are expectations for the outcome. We run ideas through our minds of how things will go, hoping for the best.

But what happens when those things don’t turn out according to our plan?

One such time happened last year. After my husband awoke from a coma, the muscles in his throat were too weak to swallow. The only way he could get food was through a tube in his nose. Following a week of therapy, he was to have another test. Oh, how I had been praying that God would give him the ability to swallow again! The Lord had blessed him over and over, and I expected this time to be no different. I was so confident that God’s glory would be seen in David’s ability to swallow and eat again that very day.

But instead, David had failed the test. No food, no water, no ice chips for at least another four to six weeks! It was a hard blow, as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I was devastated. And my spirit was crushed.

I was so sure. What happened? Why did it turn out this way? Where did I go wrong in my thinking?

Bottom line? My expectations were misguided. My focus was on my desired outcome, my timing, and my wisdom. Instead, my focus should have been on the Lord’s sovereign will, His perfect timing, and His infinite wisdom. I should have trusted in His love and grace and His promise to work out everything for our good and for His glory. I should not have determined in my mind what the outcome was to be.

Psalm 5:3 says we are to lay our requests before the Lord and “wait in expectation.” But how and what we expect makes all the difference.

Psalm 5.3

If we follow our own expectation, the result will be discouragement, fear, grumbling, and questioning God.

If we follow biblical expectation, the result will be peace, security, thankfulness, and honoring God.

Biblical expectation is birthed in prayerIt begins as we lay our requests before the Lord, asking for His help and provision.

       Expectation is a product of prayer.

Biblical expectation grows from a heart that seeks to know GOD. It comes from remembering that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are so much greater than ours. God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20-21). God is sovereign, and there are facets and unknowns that our minds cannot comprehend.

       A heart that seeks God is an expectant heart.

Biblical expectation embraces waiting. God is working in our times of waiting. We may not see what He is doing, but He is working behind-the-scenes to bring about His plan and will. We must trust in His perfect timing and embrace the waiting.

       Waiting in expectation is easier when we expect the waiting.

Biblical expectation requires trusting in God. We must trust His unfailing love and mercy. We must trust His power and desire to work everything out for our good and for His glory.

       We rest in God when we trust in God.

Biblical expectation leaves the outcome up to the Lord. Our expectation should not include determining in our minds what the outcome will be. That is for God alone to know.

       God answers His way…in His will…in His time…for His glory.

Four weeks following that swallow test, my husband was back for another one. This time, however, my heart was focused on God’s will and His purposes. While I once again prayed that David would pass the test and be able to eat normally, I didn’t have any preconceived outcome in mind this time. I simply went with hope in my heart and trust in the Lord. I was full of peace, knowing that whatever the test would show, God was at work and His glory would be seen. (By God’s sweet grace, David passed this test and began eating again.)

Dearest Father, when we are faced with challenges and difficulties on this road of life, help us to remember to seek You with all our hearts. And as we lay our requests before You, may we trust You and wait in biblical expectation for Your answer, Your guidance, and Your deliverance…for Your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.
Photo by Sabra Penley.

 

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Filed under Attitude, Expectation, God's Purpose, God's Timing, God's Works, Hope, Peace, Prayer, Thankfulness, Waiting

Thoughts Are Not Enough

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” – Titus 3:14

Do you ever make plans to do something and somehow it just doesn’t get done?

In certain parts of the South, we have this saying: “I’m fixin’ to…”

It means we are getting ready to do something. Or at least we’re thinking about getting ready to do something.

“I’m fixin’ to make dinner.”

“I’m fixin’ to go to the grocery store.”

“I’m fixin’ to take the dog for a walk.”

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You get the idea.

The problem is “fixin’ to” just might be as far as we get.

We may have a good intention of completing the task. But often we get sidetracked by other things needing our attention or we procrastinate or something we’d rather do comes along. And our “fixin’ to” doesn’t get done.

I might be intending to exercise right after the morning dishes are washed, but I don’t.

I might be planning to tackle that pile of bills when I get home, but go to bed without getting it done.

I might think I’ll read my Bible right before I go to sleep, but my eyes won’t stay open.

Oh, I’m so guilty of this!

It’s often my fixin’ to doesn’t quite make it to doin’.

This happens with things I need to accomplish for my family and our household. But even more so it happens in doing things for other people.

I can come up with many good ideas for showing kindness to another person. But somewhere between the thought in my mind and the doing with my hands and feet there’s a disconnect.

I think it would be nice to take a meal to a sick friend, but it never gets delivered.

I plan to take cookies to a new neighbor and a month later it hasn’t been done.

I tell myself to write a note of encouragement to a hurting friend and it never gets written.

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There’s an epidemic in me of fixin’ to and not enough follow-through.

Good intentions won’t get things done. They never have. They never will.

And in this regard, the thought just doesn’t count.

Good intentions are a good start. But there has to be a plan to put those thoughts into action. Discipline and determination are necessary to carry out these steps for the idea to become a reality.

Think about it like making supper for your family. You start with an idea of what you want to serve them for dinner. And, if you’re like me, you have a recipe to follow. That recipe will list out everything you need to make the dish— ingredients, items needed for preparation, and step-by-step directions.

The recipe is great. But you have to follow each step in order to have a wonderful meal to serve.

The same is true of good intentions. Once we have the idea of what we want to accomplish, we also need a plan to follow and the perseverance to see it through to completion.

With such busy schedules, we need guidance in order to achieve what is important for each day. It is often difficult to fit in doing good for others when there is so much we need to do at home. But God calls us to do both.

Titus 3:14 says we should “…learn to devote [ourselves] to doing what is good, in order that [we] may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.”

In order follow this biblical wisdom, we need a plan to follow—a recipe.

Here’s one we should try:

Recipe for Doing Good

The Lord wants our good intentions to become reality—to make the thoughts count by putting them into action.

Galatians 6:9 says: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If I’m going to reap a harvest, I need to get busy following this recipe for doing good.

I’m fixin’ to. How ‘bout you?

Dearest Lord, we need Your help. Our schedules are so busy, it’s hard to get everything done we need to do. Father, help us to be determined to do what is good…to be faithful in each task you set before us. Help us move beyond the thought of doing good to putting it into action. May You be glorified, O Lord, in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Recipe card edited from “Printable Recipe Cards for Your Fall Food Gifts,” a free printable from www.liagriffith.com. Used by permission. (If you like crafts, decor, and entertaining, check out Lia’s website. She has lots of great ideas.)
 
 

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Photos by Sabra Penley.

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Filed under Busyness, Doing Good, God's Purpose, Love

A Crazy Week

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

“What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:9-10

“…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

I’ve had a crazy week.

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Last Sunday, I checked out the calendar to see what the schedule held in store for the next seven days. Ugh!  I was not happy with what I saw! Every single day had something extra written into the allotted square. There was a doctor’s appointment, a women’s meeting, a counseling session, helping with an extra dinner at church, two meetings at my husband’s office, getting bloodwork taken, a birthday, a dinner with friends, and a Sunday School party. Those don’t include the activities that were added during the week: an unexpected trip to the dentist, my husband’s lunch with prospective students, and baking a cake for the church dinner. (My husband’s activities are included here because he isn’t able to drive, and I am his driver.)

Now, many of these things would not usually cause stress on their own. In fact, they often can be pleasurable. It’s not that I don’t enjoy dinners and birthdays and parties and getting together with friends; I just don’t enjoy them coming at once. Put them all together in one week’s schedule, and certain things are pushed aside and not achieved. Just the thought of it causes me anxiety!

How does this happen, this overscheduling?! Obviously, I’m the one who writes it on the calendar. Don’t I notice how full the days are becoming before I make the commitments?

Nevertheless, this frenzied week was upon me. And I wasn’t happy.

As I looked at the hectic schedule shouting at me on that calendar, I felt the stress pouring through my veins. My attitude took a nosedive and an overwhelming feeling took over. All I wanted to do was sit and sulk.

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That’s what I desire when I get overwhelmed. I just want to shut down and do nothing. Well, actually, it isn’t nothing. Sulking and sitting are actions…like a little kid pouting when he doesn’t get his way. Yep. That’s a pretty good description. I want to pout…and sometimes I do.

Can you relate?

It seems we need to get a handle on all of this—these out-of-control schedules that wreak havoc . So, what should we do when faced with an upcoming wild week?

I found some encouragement in Ecclesiastes 3:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”  “What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time…” “…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” (Eccl. 3:1, 9-10, 22).

Many times we have more on our plates than we think we can handle. But His Word tells us that if God has allowed it in our day, He has a purpose in it and it is a part of His plan. We must remember this and gain a better perspective. Each activity needs to be seen as a God-given opportunity to serve Him, to find the beauty in what we do, and to rejoice in the experience.

I’ve often heard the saying: “How do you eat an elephant?…One bite at a time.”

This certainly applies here. A hectic agenda can be as overwhelming as trying to eat an elephant all at once. Yet, we can victoriously conquer a busy week by taking it day by day, hour by hour, activity by activity.

In praying about all this, I’ve found some steps to follow whenever faced with an overloaded schedule:

  1. Change what can be changed. Look to see if anything on the schedule can be postponed until a less busy week to allow some breathing room.
  2. Be sure to spend time with God every day. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your devotions with God, thinking you just don’t have time. Find your guidance and strength for the day from the One who has the power to make it all work according to His plan. (Matt. 6:9-11)
  3. Take it one day at a time. Spend your time and place your thoughts on what must be done for this one day only.  (Matt. 6:34)
  4. Keep your focus on the current task. Don’t spend time thinking about upcoming activities. Stay present and do your best to glorify the Lord through it. (1 Cor. 10:31)
  5. Enjoy the moment. Don’t let an oversaturated schedule ruin the joy of each activity. Find the beauty in everything. (1 Thess. 5:16)
  6. Be flexible. As you go through the week, some things may get cancelled; others may need to be added.  Some usual weekly activities may need to be postponed until next week.
  7. Always be grateful and give thanks to the Lord in everything. (1 Thess. 5:18)

When a crazy week threatens to take you down, trust the Lord’s calming grace to help you stand firm and be victorious.

Dearest Father, when we are faced with an overburdened calendar and we start to be overwhelmed, give us Your perspective and guide us in each step. Fill us with Your strength and ability to be victorious and complete each needed activity with excellence, all the while rejoicing and giving thanks. Help us to keep our focus on You, Your purpose, and Your power, trusting You to make everything beautiful in Your time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Calendar photo by Sabra Penley

“I No Want To” photo by Myrrien, licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Filed under Busyness, God's Purpose, Joy, Overwhelmed