Author Topic: Devotions  (Read 35413 times)

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #75 on: January 10, 2024, 03:04:08 PM »
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"Good Friday" Reminders To Keep for an Ordinary Day
April 7, 2023
by Lysa TerKeurst

“'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,' he said to them. 'Stay here and keep watch.'” Mark 14:34 (NIV)

We all know what it’s like to wrestle through those deep disappointments in life that linger on and on.  We’ve all had situations in which we’ve prayed countless prayers, pleading with God to intervene and make things different.  But what I am so quick to forget is that even Jesus lifted up tear-filled prayers of desperation for God to make things different.  First, let’s look at the words from Jesus after He left the Last Supper with His disciples: “‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch’” (Mark 14:34).

Jesus was now in the garden of Gethsemane, feeling the crushing weight of what He knew He must endure. He very much knew what He would soon experience during the crucifixion. Jesus knew that heart-crushing feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it.  During the Easter season, I have found such comfort in remembering the humanity of Jesus in this scene. Yes, Jesus was sinless, but He very much knew the overwhelming blows of being sinned against. Jesus understood betrayal, abuse and abandonment by people He should have been able to trust.  Later, in Mark 14:36, He said, “Abba, Father everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me” (NIV).

I so relate to these words of Jesus as He wrestled with thoughts like the ones I think all the time: God, everything is possible for You. So why aren’t You fixing this for me right now? Why does this have to be the plan?

I don’t want this to be the plan. Let there be a different plan. I mean, God, everything’s possible for You. And isn’t that part of what’s so complicated in our relationship with God? What makes our faith so strong is that we're utterly convinced that God is capable of everything. But what makes our faith feel like it’s falling apart is that we're so hyperaware that God is capable of everything, and we perceive He’s not doing the one thing we’ve begged Him to do.  But here’s the good news we can find on this Good Friday: The cross wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus. Actually, it was only the beginning. And because of the resurrection power Jesus brings, Good Friday is only the beginning for us too.  Suffering may be a part of our story, but it doesn’t have the final say in our story.  Heartbreak may be a part of our story, but it doesn’t have the final say in our story.  Grief may be a part of our story, but it doesn’t have the final say in our story.  Good Friday is our reminder that when everything feels lost, when darkness seems to take over, there is hope on the way. We know a better ending because we know a victorious Savior. Darkness may last for a while, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)  Easter isn’t just an annual celebration. It’s a personal revelation for right now. It’s where the unknowns of today feel less excruciating because of the certain victory of tomorrow. Oh, friend, take heart. Keep holding on to the hope you have in Jesus. He really does understand the depth of carrying sorrow and hope at the same time.  Keep these Good Friday reminders for an ordinary day when you need to be reminded you are not walking alone in your pain. Jesus hears you. He sees you. He understands you.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2024, 04:16:47 PM by Pip »

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #76 on: January 27, 2024, 04:01:51 PM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2023/04/12/hope-for-the-overlooked-heart?utm_campaign=Daily%20Devotions&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=252791563&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-96hfxl7vvaM9GCqoxKHlQcdZxlBeol1fogC6-6X8NF5ZufRyXXWtrI8VlCCfjHCNG4f_7Y-e-UEjx9a3xs20SD-GOncQ&utm_content=252791563&utm_source=hs_email#disqus_thread

Hope for the Overlooked Heart
APRIL 12, 2023
by Whitney Akin, COMPEL Training Member
 
“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” Genesis 16:13 (ESV)

I remember the moment as if it were in slow motion. Every syllable of the word made me shrink a little smaller as he called me invisible.  It happened years ago when my husband was in a ministry that traveled to churches to lead worship. We spent a week at a small church in south Georgia. One of the members opened his home for a hamburger dinner after the last service on Wednesday night. We ate and laughed with his family. We listened to him tell vivid stories with a thick Southern accent.  When it was time to go, I stood by my husband as our host offered a boisterous goodbye to the other guests. But when he approached me, he looked confused, as if he’d never met me before.  “Well, you’re just invisible back there, aren’t ya?” he told me.

It wasn’t said with malice. It was just a matter-of-fact statement. After a week at his church and an evening in his home, I was as forgettable as a stranger.  I felt embarrassed, insignificant and so alone that night, surrounded by all those people.  Feeling invisible hurts. If we could sit down together and swap stories, you could probably share a moment when you felt deeply unseen. Every heart longs to be noticed. Simply open up Facebook or Instagram for proof that people everywhere will do just about anything to be seen.  But for most of us, being seen isn’t an empty ploy for attention. It’s a deep and abiding desire to be truly known. In our attempt to fulfill this desire, we desperately turn to the distracted world around us and wonder, Does anybody really see my heart?

The hard truth is that people aren’t always great at seeing each other. Only when something is loud, exciting, shiny or new are we prompted to lift our heads and notice. That means for most of us the average women we feel the sting of being overlooked.  Our key verse comes from a woman who must have felt much like I did that day in south Georgia invisible. Hagar was an Egyptian servant who was pregnant with Abraham’s illegitimate child and was fleeing the harsh words of her mistress, Sarah, in Genesis 16. All alone in her wilderness, she encountered a life-changing truth: There is a God who sees the overlooked.  “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” (Genesis 16:13)

This is the first time in Scripture we hear this name: El Roi, the God Who Sees.  The name is sweeter because Hagar spoke it first. It isn’t just that God sees but that God saw her. Hagar’s story shows us that God doesn’t just see and love the key players, the ones from the right story line and bloodline and family line, the called and set apart, the covenantal children He sees and loves the overlooked too.  This name, the God Who Sees, doesn’t simply describe what God does; it reveals His character. God is omnipresent, everywhere all at once. He’s also omniscient, knowing everything all the time. So God, by His very nature, cannot overlook us.  When we feel invisible to the world around us, we do not go unnoticed by our Father. We can be sure He sees every heartache, every unspoken word, every sacrifice and every longing. When we lift our eyes to Him, like Hagar, we can declare, “I have seen Him who looks after me.”

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #77 on: January 27, 2024, 04:09:18 PM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2023/04/13/god-sees-god-knows-god-cares?utm_campaign=Daily%20Devotions&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=252790875&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9r-bD-nZMbH3miHqJJ1RxEZoyEAOimW9O3scCnU-sfNV4cRC-yZ1-d2blggmMNm9GH2KxvNu6C0JvEzNfo3fFWW9kV_Q&utm_content=252790875&utm_source=hs_email#disqus_thread

God Sees, God Knows, God Cares
APRIL 13, 2023
by Lysa TerKeurst
 
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 (ESV)

Trying to control your own life is exhausting.  Ask me how I know.  With my mouth, I say I trust God, but in reality, I get overwhelmed by trying to fix and control things myself. “I trust God” becomes nothing but a statement I feel I should say rather than what I’m actually living out.  Distrust settles in. Self-reliance becomes my go-to. And then I wonder why I feel more and more exhausted.  If you can relate to these confessions, there are specific passages of Scripture I want us to look at together today.  Second Chronicles 16 is the last of three chapters detailing the story of Asa, king of Judah. Sadly, though, this chapter stands in sharp contrast to the two just before it. In 2 Chronicles 14-15, we learn that God had given Asa “rest on every side” because of his dependence on the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:7; 2 Chronicles 15:15, NIV). God even gave Asa victory in the face of a massive army. Yet in Chapter 16, when King Asa found himself in a border conflict with King Baasha of Israel, Asa had a sudden and surprising shift in behavior. Instead of crying out to God as he had before, Asa immediately turned to his own means of addressing the situation — misusing the treasures of the temple and placing his hope in an unwise military alliance.  The ultimate result? Unrest for Asa and his people. This king, whose faith meant victory in the past, invited battles into his future because he refused to trust God in the present.  I find his story convicting, sobering and so very important to pay attention to. Just like Asa's, our past declarations of faith are no guarantee that we will rely on God in the future. Faith is a present, ongoing choice for every believer.  That’s why I want us to look at two truths from 2 Chronicles 16 that will help us keep choosing to trust God, not just with our words but also with our actions:

1) God is not blind to our circumstances or our choices to trust Him.
When life gets hard, we can sometimes wonder if God is blind to all we’re facing. But there’s a beautiful reminder tucked into the words the prophet Hanani spoke to Asa in 2 Chronicles 16:9a: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”

We serve a God who sees. He is an all-knowing, ever-present God who is continually aware of every detail of our lives. And not only is God aware, but He’s also looking to strengthen individuals who are willing to wholeheartedly place their trust in Him.

2) God has been faithful before, and He will be faithful again.
I wonder how differently Asa’s future would have turned out if he had stopped to remember God’s faithfulness to him in the past.  Fear makes us forgetful. This is why we must purposefully look back and trace God’s hand of faithfulness in our lives. God’s faithfulness before assures us He will be faithful again. (Hebrews 10:35-36) We see this truth not only as we look back at our own lives but also as we read the story of God’s faithfulness woven throughout all of Scripture.  Oh, friend. Let’s take inventory of any areas where we’re inviting not only exhaustion but possibly destruction into our lives because we’re refusing to rely on God. Do our frantic and controlling actions fail to match our faith-filled declarations?

Let’s not just declare we have faith. Let’s live out loud that we believe God is good, faithful and trustworthy.  Let’s stop running to fix things our way because then we can fix our eyes on God. (Isaiah 26:3) He sees. He knows. He cares. We can rest assured.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #78 on: January 29, 2024, 11:41:19 AM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2023/04/14/when-god-hasnt-given-you-the-desires-of-your-heart?utm_campaign=Daily%20Devotions&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=252829466&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8EvaJahl4h44Aj9Ffx3zTP2HlT6H8aOJWzd1Q-xz9nsbNLr9O7LGhzqJHGRYESVvnQIC3BwfVr8_eML-dyWQ7JBiofIg&utm_content=252829466&utm_source=hs_email#disqus_thread

When God Hasn't Given You the Desires of Your Heart
April 14, 2023
by Grace Valentine

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

God has blessed me with so many good things. A safe place to live, food to eat, people to love and serve yet if I’m being really honest with you, I always seem to desire more.  I want a relationship with a good man who enjoys sushi as much as me, and I want a pretty house, maybe even one with a pool in the suburbs. I would love two goldendoodles who hopefully don’t have any expensive vet bills.  Also, I desire more brunch plans with fun friends, a way to stay healthy while eating fast food every day, and a career I love that pays the bills.  Is that too much to ask for?

The other day, I thought about all the things I desired that weren’t happening, and out of my frustration, I felt a sarcastic laugh bubble up. Ha ha, God, You said You would give me the desires of my heart. But nope, I’m not seeing them. So much for that.  I was frustrated because I thought if I was holding the pen writing my story, my life would be different. I thought if I was “good” good would come my way.  But here I am. I still juggle a couple jobs while I write on the side. My mornings are early, and my small house has an old, white fridge that could die any day. I sometimes feel left out by my friends, but I know it’s probably more my insecurity than their actions. I struggle with my body image and friendships at times, and I am single.  So in response to my frustration that I didn't have more of my desires, I went back and read the Bible passage where I thought God promised to give me the desires of my heart.  Read it with me, friends:  “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:3-6, NIV).

If you also feel like you want more in your life and feel a little disappointed that God hasn't given you some of your want then let's break down these verses together. I noticed when rereading this passage that God calls us to trust, delight and commit. Understanding this changed my perspective and gave me peace in the midst of a season of wanting more.

1.  “Trust in the LORD and do good … ” (Psalm 37:3, NIV, emphasis added)

Notice this verse doesn’t say, “Trust in your plans and do good.” We are called to trust in the Lord and let God be sovereign over it all. Even when we don't understand the chapter, we must trust that the Author of our story is good. We should also do good, but not as an exchange for good to come our way. We do good because God is good to us. While we wait on blessings, instead of sitting around wishing for more, we should be a blessing to others.

2.  "Take delight in the LORD …” (Psalm 37:4, emphasis added)

Before the verse even mentions the Lord giving us the desires of our hearts, it reminds us to take delight in the Lord. When we delight in God, we care more about what makes His Kingdom grow than what makes our happiness grow, and celebrating Him helps us remember our lives were never meant to be all about ourselves. When we delight in the Lord, we realize we don’t need expensive things, a picture-perfect life, or the fulfillment of all our dreams to find joy. We can find His presence and His joy in big moments, sure but also in the little moments. Getting coffee with a friend, watching our child get excited when they pass a hard test, enjoying a sunny day in the midst of winter. When we delight in God, our desires become less about us and more about His will and peace.

3.  “Commit your way to the LORD … ” (Psalm 37:5, NIV, emphasis added)

When we commit to doing life with God, we have a real relationship with Him. Just like when a husband and wife commit and share vows, our commitment to Christ means our lives are no longer our own. We now have a purpose and meaning that's not about being the main character and life going our way. We trust God because He loves us. As a result, even in the midst of a busy Thursday, while running errands, or during back-to-back meetings, His joy shines bright like the morning sun. He gives us peace in the chaos and unexpected hardships.

So today, it is my prayer that you and I will desire more of Jesus and less from the world. With Jesus, when we trust, delight and commit to the Lord, we can find peace in His plan and be OK even when life isn't going how we dreamt it would.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #79 on: February 16, 2024, 06:24:24 PM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2023/04/26/the-unexpected-gift-of-kind-words?utm_campaign=Daily%20Devotions&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=254547246&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-98Z3j3EzuMGB-5E5W2KTN0x2hN74-poSGrHd3cWQdNo0jyv48ZLEoqWIwe7N1d6YpRVd4sd3xgUwetex2lrcdRmDpElw&utm_content=254547246&utm_source=hs_email#disqus_thread

The Unexpected Gift of Kind Words
April 26, 2023
by Carolyn Lacey

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

When my children were younger, I encouraged a “no banter” rule in our home.  While banter is generally considered good-natured and harmless, I know that teasing remarks, even made in jest, can cause deep hurt. After all, there’s usually some truth behind those lighthearted comments that could spark feelings of failure, guilt or worthlessness.  It’s easy, in an unguarded moment, to join in with banter, make an unkind comment, drop a sarcastic reply or quick-witted retort. But we often don’t stop to think about how our words might land.  A few months ago, I broke my own rule and joined in some lighthearted joking with friends. I made a quip about a friend’s tendency toward pessimism, and as soon as the words left my mouth, I knew they had inflicted pain.  My friend already knew she struggled with negativity she didn’t need me to point it out, especially in front of others. She felt guilty and frustrated that she wasn’t as cheerfully optimistic as other women. She didn't need me to use her struggle as fuel for entertainment.  As I saw her face fall and later watched her retreat to another room, I felt ashamed. My words were cruel, not kind. They put her down instead of building her up. They caused harm, not good.  I am grateful that my friend was quick to show grace when I asked for forgiveness. She didn’t hold a grudge or try to make me feel worse than I already did. She spoke words of kindness I did not deserve.  And that’s the thing about kindness: It is always undeserved.  Our key verse, Ephesians 4:32, commands us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

In the New Testament, the Greek word most commonly used for “kind” has less to do with being nice and sweet and more to do with generosity and grace. It isn’t an automatic response to someone else’s good deeds but is an undeserved and unexpected gift. That’s why kind words can have such a deep and lasting impact on those who receive them.  When we know we deserve rebuke or correction but instead are offered patience or affirmation, it makes all the difference to our day.  This is what God does for us in Christ.  We were His enemies because of our sin, but if we place our faith in Him, He calls us “friends” (John 15:15, NLT). We deserve to be shut out of His Kingdom, but He invites us, “Come” (Matthew 11:28, NLT). We deserve His righteous wrath, but He offers forgiveness. (Ephesians 2:3-7)  He consistently encourages our hearts through the Scriptures with words of kindness. To the lonely, He says, I am with you. To the rejected, I love you. To the weak, I will strengthen you. To the hurting, I will heal you. (Isaiah 43:3; Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 41:10; Ezekiel 34:16)  Our heavenly Father lavishes words of kindness on us. And He can shape our speech so that we can learn to do the same.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #80 on: February 18, 2024, 02:19:42 PM »
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Starving Our Scarcity Mindset
April 27, 2023
by Lysa TerKeurst

“These were his instructions to them: ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.’” Luke 10:2 (NLT)

Have you ever wondered if there’s any need for you and the dreams tucked in your heart when there are already so many successful people out there?

I totally understand.  Several years ago, I remember pouring out all the best words I had through pixelated letters-turned-pages-turned-book proposal. I tucked my heart and dreams into a purple OfficeMax binder and hoped for the best.  That summer, I gave my proposal to several acquisition editors. For months after sending out my proposal, I dreamed about the day some publishing house would say yes.  I can’t tell you the number of afternoons I’d stand at my mailbox, holding my breath, praying there would be good news inside. When the rejection letters started coming, I tried to keep up the hope that surely there would be one positive answer. I just needed one publisher to say yes.  Soon, I’d received a no from all but one publisher. And when I got that final rejection, I felt so foolish for thinking I could actually write a book. My dream was nothing but a sham. I had no writing skills. And I must have heard God all wrong.  At the same time, I had other writer friends who were getting different letters from publishers.  Amazing letters.  Dreams-come-true letters.  Letters that turned into book contracts.  In my better moments, I did the right thing and authentically celebrated with them. But behind the scenes, there were hard moments happening inside of me.  Moments where I felt like my friends’ lives were rushing past me in a flurry of fulfilled goals, new opportunities, and affirmations of their callings from God. It seemed the world was literally passing me by. On the inside, I just kept thinking, Ouch that means less and less opportunity for me even though, on the outside, I declared, “Good for them.”

I wrestled, and I processed.  And I decided to get still. But this stillness wasn’t passive. I actively had to make the choice to reject the fears that said I’d been left out and left behind. And I had to starve my scarcity mindset of thinking that opportunities had passed me by altogether.  Then I could see new and life-giving possibilities. Maybe I wasn’t ready yet, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t ever be ready. Now was the time to stop looking around and start focusing on becoming the best writer I could be. And eventually, I wrote something worth publishing.  Looking back on that season, this is the nugget of wisdom that sticks with me: Her success does not threaten yours or mine. When a sister in Christ does well, we all do well. All tides rise when we see her making this world a better place with her gifts.  When I finally started believing this, my stillness turned into readiness. And that was over 25 published books ago.  Even if your dream isn’t book writing, let Jesus’ words in Luke 10:2 sink into the deep places of your heart today: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

And this is where we have a choice to make.  We can look out and see the unlimited, abundant opportunities God has placed before us. To create. To write. To try. To grow. To serve. To sing. To be and become. To harvest for Him.  Or we can stare at another person’s opportunity and get entangled in the enemy’s lie that everything is scarce. Scarce thinking. Scarce supply. Scarce possibilities. And we start seeing another person's creations as a threat to our own opportunities.  Oh, friend, there is an abundant need in this world for your contributions to the Kingdom your thoughts, words and artistic expressions your exact brand of beautiful. Know it. Believe it. Live it.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #81 on: Today at 01:48:06 PM »
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I Was Glad I Went to Church
May 8, 2023
by Anitha Abraham

“Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.’ She said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes’. Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” 1 Samuel 1:17-18 (NIV)

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, I started preparing my husband in advance “I don’t want to go to church tomorrow.”

Tearful, I was in a complete funk.  Graciously, he listened and kindly talked me through what I was feeling. “Where is this coming from?” he asked.

I didn’t have a good answer for him.  The fact that my husband and I don’t have children has never consumed me. However, over the past few years, Mother’s Day has become increasingly difficult. It started when my young nephews gave me a Mother’s Day card at church. I immediately started crying in the lobby. Ever since then, I’ve become more aware of how sensitive I am about this holiday.  By skipping church, I wanted to avoid the tears as much as possible. At least I didn’t want other people seeing me ugly cry. I just wanted to be by myself.  After I finished talking to my husband, I decided to go for a walk. I hit “shuffle” on my music app and immediately heard the words of a worship song:  “My weapons are praise and thanksgiving. This is how I fight my battles ...”

I felt God stirring my heart with these words. Was I fighting my battle, or was I retreating in isolation?

While solitude can be healing sometimes, in my case I realized I wanted to run from the house of God so I could hide, not heal. Really, church was exactly where I needed to be surrounded by God's people in a saturated environment of God's presence.  In 1 Samuel 1, there is a story of a barren woman named Hannah. Her situation was especially difficult because of a sister-wives competition that was going on. “This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat” (1 Samuel 1:7, NIV).

Year after year drama and heartache. Going to the temple was a reminder of what she didn’t have.  Hannah didn’t let that stop her. She went to the house of God and took her heartache to the One who could do something about it.  She poured out her soul to the Lord and told Eli, the priest: “‘... I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’ Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.’ She said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (1 Samuel 1:16-18, NIV).

In that moment, nothing about her situation had changed, but something in Hannah did.  I don’t know what is going on in your world that may cause you to say, “I don’t want to go to church,” like I did.

Maybe it’s a holiday that is a painful reminder of what you don’t have or maybe there are people at church who have hurt you or maybe it's just the opposite you don’t feel like anyone knows you at all.  I want to encourage you to go to the house of the Lord. Position yourself to receive from your heavenly Father and from the saints around you. Both can be a healing balm to our souls if we are open to them.  I’ll tell you I am glad I went to church that day. I worshipped and prayed. I heard a wonderful teaching from a pastor who was grieving personal loss. I enjoyed fellowship with friends and family afterward. We celebrated with our moms. It was a great day.  My situation hadn’t changed, but something changed in me. Does this mean I will never struggle again with these feelings? No. But I pray I remember what I learned that weekend: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1, NLT).