A Blessing in the Storm

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Lord, You are my hope and my song. Through all things You are there working out Your good, eternal purposes and my trust remains in You.  You are unstoppable. Your plan never fails. Thank You for Your great, great love for each one. In Your blessed name, I pray. Amen

by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro ©2017

 

Yesterday was a watershed day for us. For the first time in over a year there was a relief from some of the difficult challenges which we have faced. Up until then it has seemed as each new thing or worsening thing has just piled up on what was already there. Yes, I do have thyroid cancer again—or perhaps still. (The semantics here are unimportant.) The cancer simply is and we have been in the process since Monday of working with professionals to design and move forward with the best course of action. However, it has been more a bit more complicated than that because for seemingly unrelated symptoms right before Christmas an abdomen CT scan was also ordered and its results were also given to us on Monday. There were two unexpected items which showed up on the scan for which additional scans were recommended. One could indicate the thyroid cancer has spread to my lungs. The other could indicate an additional whole new cancer in another area of the body.

Reports like this when initially received tend to temporarily make it hard to breathe. We have to pause and take stock, remember nothing is a surprise to God and decide how to move forward.

For me the only option is to trust in God. I had my years when I didn’t believe in God and thought I had to figure it all out myself. To live without faith is to live dependent on the hope of random luck in the midst of unavoidable injustice and unfairness. It is to live in a hope which is based on nothing solid and which eventually fails.

My husband and I have been in a fierce and unrelenting storm since Christmas 2015. Some of what we have experienced includes, lies, manipulation and betrayal from someone very close to us and loved by us who has had an extreme change in personal ethics and character, my father’s death, my mother’s sudden serious health challenges, our home broken into (door literally broken down) and robbed. Simple things like having to replace a refrigerator and dishwasher were not simple. Once purchased, they took a solid month and lots of phone calls to get installed. Then between Thanksgiving week and Christmas came the trifecta,  Revelation of the much greater extent of the lies and degree to which we had been used by the person we had trusted (which hurt the most), my husband was let go unexpectedly from his job of 11 years and I was told that my annual ultrasound showed abnormal lymph nodes, meaning a likely resurgence of thyroid cancer.

Through all of this God has been with us. We have been very aware of His provision and care.

There can be a mistaken notion that the existence and presence of God guarantees heaven on earth, but that simply isn’t true. Jesus is our example. He is the Way, Truth and Life and no other. Jesus in His singular pursuit of Father’s will ended up persecuted, tortured, mocked and executed. (And He was God’s only begotten Son!) As believers, we have an obligation to consider our expectations and make sure they are in alignment with the will of God.

I would like to believe in a God who gives me everything I want when I think I need it and Who protects me from everything which is uncomfortable and unpleasant. It’s nice to have these wishes, but they are not based on the reality in which we find ourselves. This is not how God, who is fully and always fathomless, infinite Love, created reality to be.

There will be storms. There will be an end for each of us to these temporary temporal lives. Through it all the Lord cries to our hearts, “Peace. Be still. Do not be afraid.”

Thus in spite of such a hard year, we have been crushed, but He has been our resiliency. By an understanding of who He is, what He promises and the divine, eternal purpose He is working through all things, we have been strengthened to stay upright and keep moving forward one step at a time into whatever is His will for us.  He has been and remains our only solid ground.

This is a critical piece of the understanding needed. To trust God is not to pretend He will answer prayers our way or that we suddenly will experience only what we perceive as good, just and right from here to eternity.

We are following Jesus. Our Master All-Good Shepherd has gone before us to show the Way. Now He leads us from where we are to the brink where He Himself will serve as our bridge from all that has been into all which will be. There and only there will all tears be washed away (by God the Father Himself). For now we follow.

 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23)

He will lead us to walk our own paths of pain through dark valleys, carrying our own unique crosses for here is not the perfection of heaven. As the enemy tries to crush, kill and destroy, the Lord uses all this to draw us closer to Himself, to prune us to be more like Him and more fruitful for Him, to restore and heal us from all that wounds us, equip us to be better ambassadors for His kingdom, and flow through us (when we let Him) to reveal Himself to others for His heart is for them to be with Him forever as well as us. This is His focus. This is His vision—to use all things in this fallen realm through which to do His work of revealing the reality of who He is, what Christ did and the gift of the Spirit now so that others can choose to be in His flock and be led home as well. The Lord is always and through all things about this work.

We can choose to come to rest in His promises from here to eternity (which is to be with us and use us through hard things, not to keep us from these) and walk through them sensing His presence, comfort, provision and work through them, or we can choose worry, fear and despair. It does require a choice just as choosing to believe in Him so we can become His adopted children eligible for His eternal inheritance requires a choice. The choice is not one-time. It is ongoing. The choice is not easy. It would often seem nice if we didn’t have to choose and all could simply be easy and lovely. Again—that’s not how it is.

Thus my husband and I though feeling very pressed down upon by all that has been going on have not been destroyed by it. We understand all this is part of this life. Our prayer has been and remains that the Lord would work His immeasurable good through it, similar to what He did through Jesus’ obedience and submission to the difficulties of His earthly life which eventually led to a horrific death on the cross: Lord, not our will but Yours. Lord, we trust in You and that You will enable us to get through whatever comes. Use us wherever this takes us to expand Your kingdom. Flow through us that people would encounter You more. Do not let one hardship go to waste. We offer these to you to use as is best for the coming to faith and deepening of faith of all the world. None of this is by our strength or goodness, but by Yours. Use us as Your vessels and we know and acknowledge eventually our work and offering will be done here and You will call us home. (Bliss!)

Yet, in the midst of the ongoing storm, He has given us a gift. Yes, I have thyroid cancer again. Yes, it may have spread and that needs to be evaluated. It should be treatable. (Praise You and thank You, Lord.) Yesterday, we received two gifts which instead of causing us to have to choose faith even though we were being pressed down upon more, lifted some of the weighty happenings in our lives. One day after being told I need to be prepared to consult Stanford or UCSF to get an interdisciplinary team together to help me deal with a potentially complex cancer situation, we were informed that the likelihood of a second, different cancer is remote. In addition, my husband was offered a job. God willing, he will get the firm offer sometime this afternoon and be able to wait to begin until after my surgery.

God continues to bless us. He has been with us through the fierce storm of the past year. This storm in many regards is not over—including my pending cancer surgery in late February and further diagnosis, and in regards to the one we love who for now has forgotten who he is. But how thankful we are for relief of a bit of the pressure. Though we have been praising and worshiping Him throughout, it does make it easier to dance before His throne. We are grateful

Thank you to each of you who have prayed for us.  We appreciate you beyond words for He is about the business of answering and doing so gloriously.  Please continue to partner with us in prayer as we will also partner with you in your journey that through ALL things, He will be made known and visible in the way He knows is best and that daily beyond what we can see He will cause there to be eternal good effect in someone’s life because we chose to walk the path before us trusting Him.  To our Lord be ALL glory!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your  own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Prov. 3:5-6)

The End

NUGGETS OF GOD’s WISDOM

God’s Wisdom is more precious than gold.
This blog by Elizabeth Fulgaro helps readers discover God’s way versus the world’s one “nugget” at a time.  http://www.ascendinworship.wordpress.com
 
Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist.  She is also a Certified Financial Planner, Accredited Financial Counselor and financial coach with a heart for helping people understand their money and steward it God’s way. 

For more information on books, worship albums, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro  please visit  www.elizabethfulgaro.com . Music can be purchased and audio clips heard at http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro and on itunes.

Elizabeth also posts brief devotions and prayers on Facebook on her page: Spiritual Armor and Ammo where you will find more posts of God’s truth and His way to help you stand strong against the battles of this life in which we all find ourselves.

Elizabeth is the Founder of Eagles Nest Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit which provides spiritual support & encouragement to military and military families as well as those in physical and emotional battles (such as cancer, long-term illness) as well as those grieving a loss.   

Blessing One Another Honors Our King

You are Light of the world; Your Way everlasting and perfect. Lead us by Your Spirit. We need You. We will follow.

by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro (c) 2012        www.holyspiritpress.org   www.eaglesnestfoundation.org

The following devotion is long, yet the reminder of the importance of blessing one another is critical for us to walk out the Great Commission and see more of His Kingdom come and His will being done on earth now as in heaven.  Find a quiet place and be still with Him as He takes us through some powerful Scriptures.  Note: As you read, please keep in mind, there can be people and situations where for a variety of reasons we need to forgive, love and bless at a distance.  For instance, sometimes it is out of respect for their wishes and sometimes it is out of respect for our own safety and well-being.  Each person must ask the Holy Spirit for direction in each circumstance.  God alone knows what is best.  May He bless you with deeper revelations of how to walk out His love (with godly, respectful boundaries) in your own circumstances. ~ Elizabeth

February is a time of year we celebrate secular love, however, the source of all love is God.  Those of us who know Him, revel in His love for it is like no other.  His love is unconditional, unoffendable, merciful, forgiving, unending, infinite and never fails!!!

God’s love was made most clearly manifest through Jesus.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16 NIV)

It is through God’s love that we were created, have purpose, and can be restored to right relationship with Him which takes us beyond the end of our natural, physical lives and into eternity with Him.

This God who IS LOVE, calls us into relationship, inviting all who will turn and acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord to be adopted eternally into His family as His own.   The invitation stands ready and awaits our response from the moment of our physical birth until the time of our death.

He looks for our response to His love.  If we choose to love Him, too, then He tells us our love will manifest in obedience to Him.  He loves all and desires every single one to be restored to Him. Thus if we love Him, we will choose to love others as well – not in order to get anything in return from them, but because He loves them and asks from us the same.

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us….God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.  (1 John 4:1-12,16b-21)

He tells us that we are each unique and to each of us He has given certain gifts with which He wishes to bless the world and reach even more individuals to give them an opportunity to be adopted into His forever family.  He does this by becoming visible in our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit through us.

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.   14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

   “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Rom 12:1-6,9-21  NIV)

None of us are perfect.  None of us can do it all. It is the way He designed it to be.  We are each like one piece of His Body.  Together, we function under Him, the Head and He accomplishes His purposes through us.  But we must choose to work together.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Our innate nature is to argue and have disputes among us, judging one another, becoming offended, holding grudges, etc. But when we so choose, the Holy Spirit can and will work through us to transform us more and more into the image of Christ….being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18b NIV)

Jesus calls us to this unity. It was His final prayer to the Father before His passion and crucifixion for us. It is through our unity, which He says the world will recognize who He is.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21-23)

This puts a great responsibility on us!  He knew He created us all different.  He is asking us to choose to honor one another and love one another.  It is a choice, yet without it we cannot represent our King.

It is likely one of the reasons He asked us to love our enemies, forgive one another just as He forgives us and bless those who persecute us.  None of us are perfect. This means even when we are trying not to offend and to bless, there will be times we offend anyway!  (Not to mention in our humanness, the times we succumb to the temptation to be unkind, unforgiving, angry, hateful, jealous, critical, condemning, etc.)  Each of us will offend and each of us will be in a position to be offended.  In order to preserve the unity and functioning as one Body to which He calls us, at those times when we find ourselves hurt, we must choose to forgive (which does not condone wrong behavior) and to bless.

The Lord gave us the example in Numbers 6.  He had Moses tell Aaron and his sons (the priests), to bless the people and by their blessing, the Lord would put His name on the people and with it His blessing.  The Lord’s blessing is His favor, His protection, provision and all that is good in Him and from Him.

22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “ Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites.  Say to them:

24 ‘The LORD bless you and keep you;

25 The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’

27 So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  (Numbers 6:22-27 NIV)

The Lord told Moses it was through the blessing of the priests on the people that His blessing would come.  Through Jesus we have all inherited the position as priests before Him.  We need to bless one another – in season and out of season; when we feel like it and when we don’t (as an act of will) in order to honor our King and seek peace throughout the Body that the enemy might not be able to use us against each other to create division (and animosity) which keeps the message of Jesus Christ, His Love and gift of life eternal from going forth.  This is not easy! Especially when we believe we are the one who has been wronged!  And yet, the bigger picture is worth working to preserve the unity in His Body through pursuing peace – as much as it depends on each of us individually.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  (Rom 12:18 NIV)

Granted peace cannot be forced.  We can each only do our part.  We cannot force the other party to pursue mutual peace as well.  Thus as much as it depends on each of us, may He bless us with the courage and strength to love when we are not loved back in a way which we can feel; may He empower us to forgive and forgive again when we are wronged intentionally and unintentionally; and may He give us His strategy regarding how to express His love in godly, prudent, Spirit-directed ways to each person He puts around us.

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

…  13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  (1 Peter 3:8-9,13-18 NIV)

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.  (2 Cor. 2:5-11)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  (Matt. 5:43-47 NIV)

END

Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist.  She is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way. 

For books, worship cds, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org  Worship music audio clips can be found at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro For information on her work for the military and their families please visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org   Eagles Nest Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.