Category Archives: Hope

Do You Need Some Help?

“I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1-2

Hi, sweet friend!

What are you going through today? Has it been a hard one?

Some days can just be difficult. Current circumstances…past failures…future uncertainty. These can all lead us to a place where we feel helpless—maybe even hopeless. Like we’re left out in the middle of an open field–defenseless, alone, exposed–with no help in sight.

Texas Field
But take heart. When those days come, there’s something you need to know and remember…

You are not alone. You are not defenseless. You are not without hope. 

THE LORD YOUR GOD IS WITH YOU!
 

Psalm 121

Look at this beautiful promise in Psalm 121…

1I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
2My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3He will not allow your foot to slip; Your Protector will not slumber.
4Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.
5The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side.
6The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.
7The LORD will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
8The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

You are not alone. Your Lord is with you—right by your side.

You are not defenseless. Your Lord protects you. He is your shelter—all day, all night.

You are not without hope. Your Lord never sleeps. He is always watching over you. Every moment of every day. And He is in control of everything. He will not allow you to be overtaken. He preserves your life.

So whatever you may be facing today, lift your eyes up and see the One who can help you. Run to the shelter of His loving arms and find comfort in His strength. Rest in the joy of His presence and protection.

And never forget…Almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is with you. You are loved. You are watched. You are protected. Always.

May you be filled with His joy and hope today!

Grace and peace,
Sabra


Precious Lord, we praise You for Your mighty power. How unworthy we are of Your love. Thank You, Father, for Your constant presence with us. Help us to lift our eyes up to You and away from the circumstances of our lives so we can live with joy and hope each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 
Linking up today with my friends at www.MissionalWomen.com. Just click on the link to read some of their inspirational words. 

Scripture from Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2010.
Images by Sabra Penley.

 

 

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Filed under Comfort, Encouragement, God's Presence, God's Works, Help, Hope, Loneliness, Love

Got Some Dry Bones?

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
 

 

Have you faced times when you just couldn’t imagine things would work out? Those times when the situation was so dire and the odds so bad you lost all hope? Maybe you’re going through one of those times right now. And you’re scared. You want so badly to believe things will be okay…that they CAN be okay.

Have I got a story for you! You’ve just got to read this for yourself—right here in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

But if you’re in a hurry, let me give you the highlights.

The prophet Ezekiel is led by the Spirit of the Lord to the middle of a valley…and it’s filled with dry bones. That’s right—bones! Not skeletons—just scattered bones. No skin. No flesh. Bone dry bones.

mountainvalley

God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” And he answers, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

So the Lord tells Ezekiel to talk to the bones and tell them to listen to “the word of the LORD.” He tells them God is going to attach tendons and put flesh and skin on them and breathe life into them again.

As he was saying this, he heard a rattling noise and these scattered bones came together, bone to bone. He saw tendons and flesh cover the bones and skin on top of that. And then the breath of the Lord entered the bodies and those dry, dead bones came alive and stood up on their feet, full of life.

God said, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it” (Ezekiel 37:14).

Oh yes! The Lord did it, for He is God of the impossible.

Does this story give you hope that your situation may not be as lost as you think? What could be more impossible than dry bones coming back to life?

Ezekiel’s response to God’s question speaks an important truth. Only God knows what the outcome of any situation will be. But the word “can” in the question demands the answer “YES!” For anything is possible with God!

havehope

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” — Matthew 19:26

So, when you’re discouraged with the way things are going or you’re in a situation that seems hopeless, never give up. Following these biblical steps will help you stand firm as you wait upon the Lord…

    • Listen to the Word of the Lord.
    • Hold on to His promises.
    • Continue to pray for God’s intervention.
    • Be still and know that He is God.
    • Rest in His hope.

You never know what God will do. But you can be assured that He is ABLE to do ANYTHING—even the impossible.

Precious Sovereign Lord, we praise You for You are God of the impossible. Help us to believe..to never lose hope…to be still and rest in who You are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessings!
Sabra
 
All Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1984.
Image 1 by Sabra Penley. Image 2: bones by fredsharples via flickr 
(CC BY 2.0), cropped, effects and text added.

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Filed under God's Works, Hope, Trust, Waiting

Where is God?

What do you do when the hard times come? The really hard times. The ones that leave you so scared you can’t catch your breath. When the what-ifs are screaming so loudly all you can see and hear is your desperate situation. Do you wonder where God is? How do you keep going when it just seems hopeless?

I read this the other day in 1 Kings 19:4–I’ve had enough, LORD…Take my life.”

Wow! I didn’t expect to hear those words from Elijah. I mean, this was the strong, faithful man of God who just stood up against all those prophets of Baal and showed them who the real God was, with water and wet wood and calling down the Lord’s consuming fire. God had just used him in a mighty way. Yet now he cries out for God to end his life?

Okay, so he was in a tough place. (You can read all about it in 1 Kings 18-19.) Queen Jezebel, consumed with rage, was out to have him killed. So he ran…ran for his life…out of fear. But, fear? Elijah? What happened? Where did his courage go? Where was his faith? His trust in the Lord?

100_6099 Truth is, I’ve faced some hard times myself. I’ve known that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach and wrapped my arms around my ribs, thinking it would somehow hold me together. Felt the tears well up and threaten to pour down my cheeks at any moment…barely able to breathe because the fear was choking me. And I’ve wondered if life would ever be good again.

Where was my faith? My trust in the Lord? I’m no Elijah…but I sure can relate.

In those moments, all I wanted was relief. And I couldn’t see it. Is this what it was like for Elijah? Is this what it is like for you when those frightening times come?

What do we do with it? This fear…this desperation…this near panic?

At first glance, it looks like Elijah crawls up into a fetal position under that broom tree and tells God, that’s it…he’s done…enough already. We see a man running away—yes. But looking closer, we realize he’s running away from danger and running toward God. Alone Elijah runs into the desert and cries out to the Lord, for He desperately needs Him.

I’ve felt that way, too. Alone. Scared. Desperately needing God—needing His presence with me. Can you say the same? But here’s the thing–what we see and feel in those moments of fear is not real. For we are never really alone…not any of us. God’s powerful presence is always there…in those moments…in that darkness.

So why can’t we see Him? Why don’t we feel He’s there? Because we are too focused on the trouble surrounding us. We can only focus on one thing at a time. And everything else becomes a bit blurry. Even God. Especially God.

When you can’t see God, change your focus.

changeyourfocus

He’s there. Oh boy, is He there! He never leaves our side. He watches over us, provides for us, leads us—all the way to where we can finally see Him.

God sent angels to tend to Elijah’s needs and keep him moving on his journey. And so he was able to keep running—forty days and forty nights. All the way to the mountain of God. And there Elijah finally found Him.

Not in the great wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire…not in the fear, not in the worry, not in the desperation. But after all those things…in the quiet stillness. Then Elijah heard it–that gentle whisper. That still, small voice. The Lord God Almighty—the all-powerful God. He revealed Himself in the quiet.

Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

Oh, how we need to remember this verse! And that’s the key, isn’t it? Being still when the storm is raging? Remembering His promise to never leave us or forsake us? Trusting in His unfailing love and faithfulness? God sees. God knows. God is there. And He’s got this—whatever this is. So the next time you feel like running away, run right into the arms of our loving Father, who is always with us. Be still and focus on His powerful presence, trusting Him. And I will, too. He is God Almighty, and He’s got this!

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your constant presence. Thank You for watching over us and providing for us. And thank You for answering our cries—even when we want to give up. You never give up on us. You just draw us right back into Your loving arms—right where we belong. Help us to be still and trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

All Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1984.
Images by Sabra Penley.

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Filed under Faith, God's Presence, Holy Spirit, Hope, Overwhelmed, Peace, Remember, Trust, Worry

When You Want to Give Up

Hey, friend.

Do you ever feel like giving up? Like you have given it all you’ve got and you just can’t go on?

I was there Tuesday morning. Stepping onto the elliptical machine, I had finally decided to take control of my body’s inflating fat cells and lack of energy. I was pumped…ready to go. But the dim light over the machine kept my aging eyes from seeing the control panel well. I could just make out INTERVAL. So I punched that button and took whatever workout was previously programmed. (Hey, I figured I could handle it.)

Elliptical

I was going great that first minute. Then…whoa. Suddenly it was like trying to trudge through a pool of mud. I had entered the work interval. And to my utter dismay, I saw it was going to last seven minutes. Seven minutes!

C’mon, Sabra. You can do it. I did my best to cheer myself on. But each and every step was growing more difficult and my muscles started screaming. Watching that timer only made me more aware of my weakness. Just two more minutes…keep going. I put more effort into my arms to ease the pain in my legs. And just when I thought they’d give out, the blessed rest interval rescued me. But it didn’t feel like much of a rest. Just slightly less work. And when the next work interval reared its ugly head a mere two minutes later, the thought of having to endure it again was overwhelming. I just wanted to give up.

No way, Sabra. It took you too long to finally get on this machine. You can’t stop now.

So I kept going and tried to focus on why I was there—to make my body healthy and fit. Knowing I had to keep moving in order to reach my goal and realizing I wouldn’t make it without help, I started praying. I needed more than my strength to keep me going. I needed God’s.

Philippians 4:13 popped into my head: I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

And I prayed more. Lord, help me keep going. Give me strength for each step. Get me through this. I’m so weak. I need You.

Does this struggle sound familiar? How often does the same scenario take place in your life?  Trouble comes and you go on for a while okay. But then the difficulty kicks up a notch or two or a hundred, and you become overwhelmed. You feel you can’t go on, and you want to give up.

When you want to give up, give it to God.

Isaiah40.31

God promises to supply you with strength to keep going, one step at a time. And those steps, one by one, will get you where you need to go.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 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 40:29-31

God takes our efforts, no matter how weak, and adds His strength to bring about His purposes. By trusting in the Lord to supply all our needs, we grow stronger in our relationship with Him and in faith to depend on Him the next time troubles trample us.

Hopefully with each struggle we face, we will more readily go to God, seek His wisdom, and rely on His strength to attack the problem head-on. The quicker we do this, the greater the possibility we won’t cave under pressure.

The Lord will help us not give in, not lose hope, not give up. He will keep us from crumbling when the pressure gets too great and seems it will never end.

Giving it up to God—letting go of trying to do it all on our own—allows God to do what He does best. He works by His strength, through our weakness, and lets His glory shine.

God kept me going on that elliptical machine. After twenty-five minutes, my wobbly legs stepped off…victoriously. They were worn out, but my soul was doing a victory dance! God supplied the strength I needed to go each step of the way. And I know tomorrow when I start all over again, He’ll be there. I just need to remember that!

Heavenly Father, thank You that we don’t have to face struggles on our own. Help us to turn to You for strength to overcome every difficulty. Keep us from giving up. Help us to persevere and trust in Your provision for all we need to be victorious. May Your glory shine through Your work in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May you be strong through His strength today!

Blessings,
Sabra
 
 

Other Scripture on God’s Strength and Provision:

Psalm 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Habakkuk 3:19 – The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. 

2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

 

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

 

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Filed under God's Works, Hope, Overwhelmed, Prayer, Strength, Success

Lord, hold me together…

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.


The cracks started appearing quickly in my comfortable little world.

I didn’t recognize them as such at first. My husband’s flu-like symptoms. Weakness. But as the evening rolled around, I could see them becoming clearer, more pronounced…growing.

By the time we reached the hospital, those cracks had become so large, my comfortable little world starting breaking apart. Piece by piece.

Then, just like a hammer blow, I heard those words: “He has a slim chance of survival.”

And I started to fall apart from the inside.

It was as if my heart was breaking, crumbling, and there was nothing I could do about it.

But in that moment, when I thought I would completely break with no hope of repair, my Hero came to the rescue.

Jesus.

He was there. At just the right moment. Before it was too late.

My Lord Jesus was the one that picked up all the pieces of my heart that had started falling apart and put them back together. HE was the glue that patched me up. He wrapped His bandage of love around me to keep me whole. While the forces that caused the cracks and fissures kept pounding away, Jesus would not let them do permanent damage.

I held onto Him tightly as He held on to me.

And the most wonderful thing about the way He mends our broken pieces? We come out stronger than we were before. A bonding agent that gives strength to the weak places—making them greater than before the cracks appeared.

Psalm 147.3

 

Jesus held onto me and drew me close to Him during many long days of pressure and new cracks that formed. He kept me from falling apart. He was the glue that held me together.

Those pressure days have passed. My husband, by the grace of God, is alive and well. Things are not like they were before. Lasting changes came into our comfortable little world. In many ways, it isn’t as comfortable as it used to be—by worldly standards. But, oh, the comfort of having the Lord by our side…on our side…holding us, mending us, making us stronger so that we may be more useful to Him and bring Him glory.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being the glue that holds us together. Thank You for providing peace and strength and the comfort of your loving, healing hands holding us close. You are our Hero—the One with the power to make the broken whole…stronger. May we give You all the glory for the mighty work You do in our hearts and in our lives. Oh, thank You, Lord.

 

I’ve linked up this post with Five Minute Friday at www.lisajobaker.com. The prompt today: GLUE. These are supposed to be five minutes of writing. Well, I’m a little over, I must say. But it gets me writing and sharing. Hopefully, someday soon I’ll be closer to the five minute mark. Click on the link below to read Lisa-Jo’s post and many others. I’m always amazed at how one word can bring so many different thoughts.
 

Five Minute Friday

Beginning scripture - Psalm 28:7.
All Scripture from NIV, 1984.
Image by Sabra Penley.   

 

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Filed under Comfort, Five Minute Friday, God's Works, Healing, Hope, Jesus

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.

?????????????

 

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