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SUMMER MEMORIES
The memory of the righteous is blessed. Proverbs 10:7

That restaurant. That flight. That beach day. We have our ‘thats’. Those specific memories etched on our hearts that become family lore. We collect them. While making memories is ongoing, the ones we make in summer are different. Life is freer. School is out. Vacations abound. Different schedules are in play. We get to slow down and create special memories, and then recall them.

When life slows down for individuals due to illness, old age, in-juries, and grief, memories come floating back to mind. Often it takes stillness for ‘thats’ to surface. But they are there. When memories return—unbidden—they help us to recall a different time and place with affection, gratitude and even remorse, which can bring healing.

Memories can be wonderful. Memories can also be challenging to revisit. For those who have suffered serious life changes and losses at specific times, certain remembrances are difficult to navigate. With time, healthy counseling, and faith, challenging memories can be weathered and healed. As always God redeems.

Tricycles, surfboards, golf clubs, and sandcastles can be spotted everywhere as summer memories are being made by folks young and old. The Lord grants the riches of His grace so that everyone can get out and enjoy time while there is time to enjoy. The lad that rides a tricycle for the first time knows as much glee as the man who uses his golf clubs again after an illness has passed. The Holy Spirit threads the initial memory with its later remembrance. Gleeful or challenging, looking back on the living of our lives has its merits and benefits. With time and God’s precious touch, He reveals those merits and benefits—in ways we could never see without God.

Ice cream cones, strolls on the boardwalk, amusement rides, and fishing rods are part of summer’s fabric. In every form of recreation experienced in summer’s stay, the Spirit of the Lord is there to make the most of our memories, the most of our lives.

Ever our Redeemer, Thank You, Father God, for all the joyful times of summer. The lightness of hearts as well as the heaviness of hearts still healing for reasons You know, fill Your heart. For You are with us day and night. Thank You for the numerous blessings that You bestow on Your children. Thank You for softening our spirits with summer memories. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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A MATTER OF RESPECT
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Each summer in Cape May, NJ, there is a lowering of the flag ceremony that takes place at dusk. Vacationers in Cape May are familiar with the tradition. It is especially geared toward teaching children about the flag, patriotism, and honor. Typically military veterans are asked to participate in the ceremony. Recently I watched this conducted on a lovely summer evening. At the point when the flag was lowered and was being folded, a young child assisting the procedures, asked one of the military men, “How come you cannot let the flag touch the ground?” and he replied, “It is a matter of respect..”

Flag Day comes and goes each June, yet many of us have an American flag flying outside of our homes all year long. I do. It is a symbol of patriotism and remembrance that signifies freedoms we hold dear; freedoms that have cost human life. Right now we have military stationed in different parts of the globe, particularly in the Middle East, defending freedom and allowing those of us at home to go forth in our sacred liberty.

A matter of respect is why the flag is honored. It is a symbol of respect we uphold for those who fought for us—and fight for us—near and far. Freedom is costly, and it is not maintained without certain costs. There are those who lay down their lives to defend this nation. There are those who grieve because of loved ones who have died in battle. There are those who pine for dads and moms far away who are not there to see firsthand prom dresses, graduations, and little league games. Those who serve our nation by wearing a military uniform and giving of their years of service, pay with their heart. So do those they love.

Jesus came into this wounded and needful world to be the ultimate sacrifice that saves us from our sins, and from an eternity separated from Him. Jesus’ death on Calvary cost Him everything so that you and I would have spiritual freedom and everlasting freedom in the sacred Home of Heaven. Jesus is our risen proof of giving all that He had and giving up His life for others. Sometimes our military, law enforcement, firefighters, and EMT’s have to give up their lives. As the flag is lowered in Cape May, at military bases, and every funeral, we remember their sacrifices. The United States came into existence with sacrifices, and requires still more to maintain the nation. We look at our flag and remember all it represents. We look at the Cross and remember Jesus, the Saviour who died so that we could live—forevermore.

Lord, Thank You for the men and women everywhere who defend the United States and the freedoms that we have. Jesus, You gave Your all so that we could be with You forever. Thank You, Jesus, for all that you did. Your love for us is clear and cherished. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

ISSUES
Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23 )

The first time I heard the phrase I have issues was when I was out to dinner with two friends. We were talking over a topic, and the gentleman disagreed with a particular point. After stating his reasons why, he said I have issues. It was a peculiar phrase to me. Now it is part of mainstream nomenclature. It is a phrase so familiar it hardly raises an eyebrow.

The Scripture above uses the word in direct relationship to the heart. Since the heart is the center of thought, so often the stands we take and actions we make are heart issues before they are ever lived out. It is interesting that the Bible gives us a warning about the heart and issues. The Lord instructs us to be especially mindful of our interior selves and give attention to heart matters since thoughts and intentions of the heart will be revealed.

Hearts break over loss. Sometimes those breaks are hair-line fractures. Other losses can produce a complete shatter. Depending upon the connection to the person or thing that is no longer there, the heart needs a certain amount of time to process what has occurred, adjust to the vacancy and life change, heal, and approach life anew. This takes time.

During the time of such a process, being gentle with ourselves and/or those we love who are experiencing loss is essential. Taking extra time to tend to heart needs is healthy and wise. Proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, hydration with water, and engaging in constructive uses of time are all benefits that aid one to restoration and acceptance of what has transpired. All of these daily and consistent practices will lend structure to days even when grief is present. Gradually grief will ebb and the heart will heal.

In a time when having issues is a common theme, having faith is a far more certain foundation. Faith in Jesus Christ, the unchanging One, who promises to be with all who believe in Him, is the faith that overrides grief and sorrow. Jesus promises to be with us in times of loss; to walk with us through grief. He is the great I AM; because He is, whatever He has promised means He will do it.

Having issues is part of being alive. Having the Lord Jesus to carry heavy or light issues is an act of wisdom. The Lord cautions us to guard our hearts with all diligence. Asking then allowing Jesus to be our burden bearer and shield in all of our issues, is to exercise wisdom. It is the way to protect the heart and let it heal so that one can invest new seeds of hope and promise that grow into beautiful gardens of faith and encouragement. For ourselves and for others.

Loving Lord, Thank You again and always for Your Word, which is Your heart. In it we have strength, guidance, and power to bring us from strength to strength and glory to glory. Thank You, Jesus, for walking with us in whatever issues we face. We ask You, Beloved Saviour and Lord, to be the shield of our heart and the life force within it. In Thy Name, Jesus, Amen.

VANTAGE POINTS
For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
1 Thessalonians 4:16

Vantage – a position giving a strategic advantage or a commanding perspective:

….the dead in Christ shall rise first. Some promises that the Lord gives to us are more riveting than others. While everything He has said in His Word shall be, certain promises capture our imaginations more than others. This promise that the dead in Christ shall rise first is especially stirring. Perhaps because when we think of those who have gone before us, we want that rise for them—and we want to be a part of it, too.

Resurrection Day lets us be a part of the fullness of the resurrection promise—no matter where we are in it now. Some are on the other side and some wait here. Whatever our position, those who believe in Jesus as Savior are certain that a rise is coming. A personal resurrection will occur. Easter reminds us to remember the individual pledge inherent in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. It belongs to every believer in Jesus.

The vantage points in this life that believers in Jesus have are not in people but in spiritual truths based on the Truth found only in Jesus. Daily activities, special events, and family traditions take on an entirely different look and feel in seasons of grief and transition. Yet, the singular and paramount vantage point for the Christian is Calvary and the rise of Jesus three days later. This is the greatest encouragement to which to take hold. It assures people that Jesus will be with us on good days, low days, and all other times until He take us to be with Him in Heaven, and rejoin others who have gone ahead.

For those who suffer loss of loved ones, the removal of pillars of familiarity can be particularly difficult for life can feel empty and meaningless. Additionally, the world is shifting and shaking in serious ways. The daily news delivers this fact. Even though personal worlds and the world at large are changing, we are not to let go of our grip on God, His promises, and His power. Nothing that happens in this life will ever stop the surge of God’s power and promises, and the certainty of the vantage point we have because of Jesus.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus is the only way to live through all the seasons of our lives. Bereavement seasons are challenging and exhausting. With every goodbye we send a little bit of ourselves along with the person who left. But Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us to give us comfort, help, and sterling reminders that believers in Jesus are not alone and never without hope. The One who died for our freedom from sin also lives for our freedom from despair and sorrow. The dead in Christ shall rise first, when the trumpet sounds. For now, the same loving Lord Jesus will continue to raise our spirits to new life as we live out this life with Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.

Lord Jesus, what was done to You on Calvary was treacherous and beyond words. You endured the crucifixion for the sins of everyone. Lord, a deep Thank You for what You did. Thank You for what is ahead for the dead who rise first, and for all who make You their personal Saviour and Lord. The spirits of believers everywhere are filled with jubila-tion and anticipation as we raise voices to proclaim the Easter Truth—Jesus Christ is risen. So shall all who believe in Thee, Lord Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, and for Jesus, Amen.

THE WORTHY SACRIFICE

Jesus the Almighty came to the world
Innocent and poor, the royal infant.
His distinction and purpose in the manger,
Were still quite unclear and distant.

Raised by Joseph and Mary with love,
As a carpenter’s son, Jesus worked with wood.
Later He would hang on a cross of the same
So that no sinner ever would.

Jesus moved about Israel ministering to all
Praying and fulfilling miracles to astound.
Turning water to wine, making lepers’ skin shine,
From a lad’s lunch did food for five thousand abound.

Jesus the Passover Lamb died a tragic death
Three days later His resurrection was complete.
Life’s tears and transitions are hard to bear
But Jesus’ promises and hope these cannot deplete.

Whosoever will receive Jesus’ salvation
Is forgiven and in them Holy Spirit resides.
Now one is safe from Hell and equipped
To guard against Satan’s strategies and lies.

Satan moves about the earth so wide
Seeking to kill, steal, and destroy.
Jesus protects from the adversary’s lure,
And steadily sends His angelic convoy.

Jesus holds the keys to death and Hades,
He is the Advocate for those who believe.
Only Jesus the Saviour prevents the second death
The highest of heights one can hope to achieve.

Jesus promises to return one day
To gather those who accept Calvary’s price.
The blood of atonement shed for all sin
By Jesus—the Worthy Sacrifice.

Beloved Lord Jesus, You poured Yourself out in love on the Cross for our sins. May Your heart be filled and encouraged as many and more accept Your sacrifice of love, and pledge their love and fidelity to You, Israel’s Passover Lamb. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Dolls and Dollhouses
God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11)

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was play with my dolls. I still remember sitting with my dolls around me, talking to them, changing their outfits, and combing their hair. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress and often when she made a new dress for me, she would take extra fabric and make an identical dress for one of my dolls. It was a world unto itself when I was playing with them, and making up their daily activities in their dollhouse. When I was an adult, my parents still commented about how happy I was as a child with my dolls.

Fast-forward to adulthood and this year’s Super Bowl to be held in Phoenix, Arizona. While there are all sorts of fun events and gatherings with family and friends on Super Bowl Sunday, the city where the game is hosted is a magnet for sex trafficking. Users of these young girls are from all walks of life; sports, business, and professional circles. Users can look like perfectly acceptable members of society, hiding their sins from members of the community—and from their own families. Demand for use of these girls increases at the Super Bowl. Shared Hope International is an organization committed to stopping sex trafficking. This year the organization will set up life-size shadow boxes (7 feet high) and put on display inside of the boxes a life-size mannequin of a girl. In large letters on top, the box reads FOR SALE at the top, and at the bottom it reads AGES 10-17. The display will be at the Super Bowl in Phoenix, and also set up on several college campuses in Arizona throughout Super Bowl week. This is a dramatic visual that has received much attention.

The methods used to get these girls into the flow of sex-trafficking are sophisticated, sinister, and well financed. These girls are used as throw-away dolls; taken to hotels and houses for the selfish recreation of men. No matter how it is made to look, it is rape. The criminal violations are veiled because the lure to get the girls involved are not seen or known until after usage has begun. Consumption for these girls is high; as a result, so are profits. A great murder is taking place in the exchange; the killings of innocence and morality. We are warned in the Bible that Satan is out to kill, steal, and destroy. There are various kinds of sexual sin that reveal Satan’s presence. Sex trafficking is among the horrific.

Men who seek to use these girls do not see these girls as their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, or wives. They compartmentalize these girls and usage such to think that “those” girls hired for sex are in a different category. They are. They have been manipulated, bullied, and shamed into sexual acts from which they may never recover—physically and emotionally. The spiritual and emotional ramifications these girls suffer are tremendous—if and when they escape this life. The loss of innocence, self-esteem, and honor are losses that take great sensitivity and wisdom to navigate; only accomplished with the help of skillful counselors and wise individuals.

God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11). God is holy and righteous and nothing escapes His watchful eye. When God sees young girls and teens being used by men in this awful way, it makes one think that this kind of sin stirs up a greater anger in our Lord. The Blood shed by Jesus Christ on Calvary cleanses all sin; even the vilest. But there are prices to be paid and consequences to face. Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord.

The remembrance of my childhood fun and fondness for dolls makes me want children to have the same. Therefore, when I see the packaging of a life-size girl in a display box as a doll for sale for wrongful use, I am stirred by the Scripture that tells us our Lord is angry with the wicked every day. Such a violation against children incites deeper prayers and abiding faith in the God who rights all wrongs. He shall fulfill every facet of His promises—to the letter.

Lord, who sees all, I pray that You will intervene by Your Spirit to extract girls (and boys) held captive for use by sexual users and predators. Holy Spirit, as only You can, convict the spirits of those committing these vile sins, and guide these young girls into the care of those who will honor them and develop them into all that You intended for them to be. Lord, Thank You for being true to Your Word and for never changing. In
Jesus’ Name, Amen.

NOTIONS
Put my tears into Thy bottle . (Psalm 56:8)

It didn’t look like much. In fact, it appeared to be too ordinary to be practical. But my grandmother said it was, so it was. Whatever my grandmother believed to be right and good, it had to be. So when she referred to a zigzag shaped seam binding to be sewn on the inside of a dress she was sewing, I shrugged my shoulders, watched her work, and knew that it was part of the plan. Once the garment was completed, I could not see the seam binding, but it was firmly placed underneath to reinforce the hem, and to complete the garment correctly.

Whenever my grandmother was talking about items she required for her sewing projects, she spoke of notions. Notions included seam binding, buttons, thread, and needles: basically the hidden yet necessary elements to hold a garment in place and make it serviceable. When my grandmother and I were out shopping and she was choosing her various items, notions were on her list. I found myself eager to look at the fabrics, and see the colors and patterns of fabric bolts. But she would look at the totality of a project. Even when she was choosing the pattern and fabric, notions were essential to the process and she included them in her design and planning.

The Bible tells us that God places our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He saves them. He saves our tears shed from sorrows and afflictions imposed and/or self-imposed. He captures and contains them. Tears do not evaporate. When we weep, we dry off our faces and carry on. But the liquid proof of our pain has been lodged in the storehouse of God. In Revelation, we are told that the Lord will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). Could it be that the collection of our tears will be poured into Heaven’s Crystal Sea, and turned into living water that flows unto God’s glory? Water is a powerful sign that God uses. Our tear-drops are relevant in this earth realm, and in Heaven they are kept to withstand time and remain secure with God.

What notions are to sewing projects, teardrops are to the faith life of a believer in Jesus Christ. In God’s estimation tears are quite valuable. Tears are cohesive. They connect to the heart and all things true. Everything that touches the hearts of God’s children touches God’s heart. God sees the tears cried, and He feels the pain. Losses in life produce tears. Sometimes tears are deep and riveting; sometimes soft and quick. Whatever the reasons for tears, the Lord blends the experience of sorrow with His Spirit, to bring comfort and refine character conformed into the likeness of Jesus.

This process to console and strengthen in life losses is ongoing. It will not cease until we are in Heaven with the Lord. Only then will we comprehend the depth of development that it took to produce a likeness to Jesus, which is God’s overarching goal for each of us. Notions in life are essential to build us, i.e., tears, laughter, challenge, decision-making, grief, faith, obedience, trusting God, and even disappointments, serve to fulfill God’s plans. In the process, God works all things together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His promises (Romans 8:28). The God of perfection and purpose knows how to do this—and He shall.

When my grandmother finished sewing a garment, the seam binding could no longer be seen. Similarly, when our seasons of tears pass, we enter a different season and tears that once were are no more. However, the tears that fell are held in trust by God. We can trust God to do all things well. Knowing that God has captured tears and holds them can only mean that we never cry alone or in vain. God knows and heals. He is lovingly and wisely with us. His Spirit is our handkerchief. His promise is our balm.

Lord, Thank You for making it clear in Your Word that You see tears that flow and You save them for Your perfect reasons. Lord, our lives are a walk of faith, and we learn that the hardest trials often produce the deepest faith and meaning. Lord, please grant strength and peace to those who hurt and shed tears. Send a spirit of encouragement. Be glorified in our tears, and be glorified by our continued walks of faith through painful seasons. All this is asked in Jesus’ Name and for His precious sake, Amen.

THE PRICE OF MEMORIES
The memory of the righteous is blessed. (Proverbs 10:7)

The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article about the history and hopes for the costume worn by the cowardly lion, Bert Lahr, in the The Wizard of Oz. The classic film celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and one man seeks to take advantage of the focus. The owner of the 60 pound lion skin had put it up for auction at Bonhams Auction House. He hopes for a seven figure bid.

The sale of the lion skin will enable its owner to expand his museum in California that features Hollywood nostalgia. In addition to the cowardly lion costume, he owns Burt Lahr’s script with the actor’s handwritten notes, and the Play it, Sam piano from Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Berg-man. Sale of the costume will enlarge his collection and maintain the other items he rotates from storage units in CA.

Most of us have our top ten list of favorite movies. The Wizard of Oz remains on mine and still holds first place. When I was little, I recall that whenever The Wizard of Oz was to air on television, it was announced for several weeks beforehand. It typically aired on a Sunday night, and that meant my mother and father would let me stay up late to watch it even though it was a school night. Those were days before you could record a broadcast. If you wanted to watch it, you had to be right there in front of the television. I was. My mother would make special snacks and our family would watch the movie.

At the end of the movie, when Dorothy hugs her little dog, Toto, and says And, oh, Auntie Em, there is no place like home, I would always cry. My mom and dad would smile affectionately. What a comforting feeling to go to bed after the movie was over and feel the love of home and family. As much as those childhood memories mean to me, what happened as an adult stirs me also. When I was away at college, and after college when I had my own home, when the movie was on I would watch it. At the end of the movie I would get a phone call from my mother and father asking Are you crying? in a warm way. I was. We would laugh over my tears. They knew that even as an adult, the final scene went straight to my heart.

Seven figures for the lion’s costume? Quite a sum. But there is not a price high enough to match the value of precious memories a heart holds. Physical symbols mean much, and we all have sentimental items that trigger memorable times and places. Dear as those items are, what lives inside of us is beyond measure. At Christmas, we are especially sensitive to the memories we have made with certain people. And, we are mindful of making new memories to be added to the life story that it is our own.

Christmas, other holidays, and routine days, may be challenging when life changes and certain people no longer share our lives for reasons such as death, estrangement, dementia or military service. Their absence can be painful. Longing for what was, laughter remembering times gone by, and pangs of regret, can surface at different times—unbidden. Jesus is the One, the only One, who can take our yesterdays and make them meaningful. He does what His Word says He will do, Work all things together for good for those who love Him, and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Some memories are wonderful; some require the synthesis of the Holy Spirit to bring them to maturity and acceptance. The Lord knows what is needed to make the difference. By faith we trust Him to do so.

If I had seven figures to shower out donations and meet needs of many kinds, I would have lots of fun. There are people and organizations I would get a thrill out of blessing. Acquiring a famous cowardly lion’s skin would not be in my plans. But someone out there may have a deep purse and a spirit that would like to own the costume. As for me, my childhood and adult memories of the movie, and my parents and their love for me shall
forever glow in my heart and be more than enough when I think of The Wizard of Oz. For most of us, the glow of memory is the priceless treasure we get to keep; a treasure that seven figures or higher could never buy.

Lord of Bethlehem, we come before You humble and thankful for all the grace that You have given to us that lives on in memory. Thank You for countless memories of love. We pray Your peace and comfort for those who do not have warm memories and for those who grieve. Because You came down to us from Heaven, we celebrate Your closeness and rest in faith that one day we will be with You in Heaven, and with all those we love that You called Home before us. Until then, Thank You for the gift of Your Presence, salvation, memory-making in this life, and the grand tomorrow promised to all who believe in You by faith. Thank You for Your promise that the memory of the righteous is blessed. In You, Loving Jesus, Amen.

TABLES OF GRACE
“He is before all things and in Him all things hold
together.” (Colossians 1:17)

Where do we begin to express gratitude for all the blessings in life? For those who have accepted Jesus as Savior, Jesus is first in our hearts because He is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Col. 1:17). Everything of worth is in Jesus. This fact does not change when lives change; especially when losses, disappointments, and set-backs bring emotional challenges that blur reasons for gratitude. Losses in life can do that; dull vision and expression—for a time. Gradually it comes back. Not as before, but little by little there is a new ability to see the Lord’s faithfulness in times of change.

Thanksgiving is a time of year to ponder the truth that our giving God never changes even when our lives do. God is The Great Giver who is always with us. Facing life without someone we love means that grief touches us. Memories of Thanksgivings gone by and pangs of missing are real because of the beauty and joy shared while creating memories with those we love. When special occasions come and certain people are no longer there, apprehension can accompany the approach of holidays rather than happy anticipation. God, our Giver, sits beside us, as He always has.

God knows the tables of grace that we come to because He prepares them. These include Thanksgiving tables as well as the many kinds of tables we sit at throughout the year. Other tables of grace include the laughter over coffee with a friend, dinner with a college student who is swamped with coursework and missing home, breakfast with a military father home on leave, feeding a baby in a high chair as he plays with toys on his tray, and feeding turkey and stuffing to an elderly patient in the hospital. God is at all these tables. He is present each day and season of our lives; not only on the highlighted occasions, but every day. Why? Because God loves you and me. He wants to share life with us. That means the lighthearted days and the heavyhearted nights. Come what may, God is with us at the tables of life. Because He is there, His Presence makes them tables of grace.

There is much to be thankful for as I look around my life even though it looks differently this year because precious people have died. Yet bushels full of memories remain, which grow more treasured with time. What also remains is the embellishment of character woven into me because of these extraordinary people, and the gratitude for all the tables of grace we shared while we were together in this world. Faith in Jesus assures reunion.

It is my hope and prayer that this Thanksgiving season you look around at your life and consider the many tables of grace where you have been seated and the people with you. Some people may still be in your life; some may not be. For certain, God is still with you. May you be with Him, and sensitive to the year ahead and all the tables of grace where you will sit. Humble or posh, God is there. May we remain mindful that each day we have the opportunity to make a memory with God, the Giver of our tables of grace.

Lord, as we ponder the many blessings that You have given to us, may You be blessed by our thankfulness. In times of change or steadiness, be glorified in all we are, and all we are becoming because of life’s transitions …more like You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE SLOPE
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever. Psalm 30:11-12

Miniature golf may seem like a gentle pastime, but the Spirit of God can use any activity to drive home a strong insight. Recently He did. It happened when I was playing miniature golf with my ten-year old nephew. We were at the sixth hole and he was leading the way through the course. After completing his swings and as I was getting ready to take my turn, he said, Remember, take advantage of the slope. I did my best to yield to his counsel and completed the hole, but his words stirred me.

No doubt he had heard this from his father when they play golf. He remembered it. Not only did he remember it, but he applied it when it was his turn to swing and he communicated it to me. Slopes, upward or downward slants, may not appear to be advantageous, in golf or in life. However, with closer examination and the right touch, slopes can be of benefit when taking strokes. They can also prove instrumental in advancing us through the course of life.

When we suffer sorrow in life, emotions follow. Our sorrows can be slight or deep. Whatever the degree of sadness, it prompts feelings that can move us closer to God or move us away from Him. An experience that causes sorrow is an opportunity to see God’s faithfulness and grow a deeper faith. Slopes in life direct us to go up or down. Tough times in life come with a slope; they can cause us to trudge up through a difficult transition and strive to get on even footing again. Or, they can look too high and too hard to navigate and prompt apathy, which sets in motion a stagnant or downward trend. For a while, this has its place because grief gives allowance for some lack of effort and fatigue. Eventually, we can see the trial of suffering as a test of faith. It is a time to employ everything we have believed to be true about God, or hoped to be true. God will always prove Him-self to be faithful to His promises. Staying the course of belief in Him will reveal His faithfulness to us in a personal way.

God loves you. God loves me. He wants each person to make it through life dependent on His faithfulness.  When we apply His promises found in His Word, we will gain insight and momentum that is supernatural and able to carry us through to a better day, to a level place again. God has given to us a book full of His strength and promises so that they would be  activated. We make the strength of His Word and their inherent power a part of us when we read them and apply them. Trials are a primary time in life to apply His counsel. When we come through certain challenges, we reinforce the power of God’s promises for the next time we face something difficult. Until we get to Heaven, there will always be trials at various turns in the road. But the God of Israel declares I Am God, I change not (Malachi 3:6). Therefore, His power to save is steady.

Miniature golf was an unlikely place to receive a nugget of truth from a little boy. But it was a time to bear witness to the Spirit of God coming to offer a reminder about faith and building it up by taking advantage of slopes. How good to receive this reminder. In our every trial we have the opportunity to see the faithful and perfecting hand of God.

Lord, You know our trials before we meet them and the pains that they bring. You feel them with us. You stay close to soothe and help us through sorrows we face. You offer strength from Your Word. Holy Spirit, Thank You, for staying at work in our lives as we negotiate slopes and when we are on even ground. Thank You for deepening our faith in all of life’s peaks, valleys, and plateaus. In You alone we can trust.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.