Things to be thankful for during Covid-19

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“Gratitude never comes from avoiding difficulty but from finding yourself sustained through it.” -Randy Alcorn from his book, 90 Days of God’s Goodness.

We’re probably all learning some important life lessons through being isolated in our homes with our families.  These are a few things I’ve taken for granted and have become especially thankful for the past few weeks.

  • Good health

What a blessing it is to be able to walk around outside and feel the breeze and sunshine! I’m thankful that this virus has happened in the springtime with warmer weather and more sunshine. (Also, our electricity and gas bills will be cheaper during this time with so many unemployed.)

  • Freedom

The privilege to be able to freely come and go is something I’ve taken for granted. Until recently I’ve never thought about what a blessing it is to be able to go to a store and just pick up some necessary items or browse around.

  • Fresh air

I’m thankful I can walk outside and not have to worry about the air I breathe.  I’ve enjoyed living in the country my whole life, but I’ve definitely taken fresh air for granted.

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  • A slower pace

I’m a list maker. I like staying busy and getting things done.  That can be a good thing, but it has its negatives too. My dad used to often say, “Gaye, will you please just sit down? You’re making me nervous the way you’re always zipping around.” Slowing down can be uncomfortable for me.  If I have too much time to think, I tend to become sad.  It’s easier to stay busy than to think about some past sins and mistakes, strained relationships, emotional pain, etc. But it’s been healthy for me to have extra down time to process and deal with my bad attitude, what angers me and why, and things I could or should have done better. Now, I can take steps to not repeat those things I regret.

  • Time for completing projects

Do you have projects you tend to keep pushing back because you aren’t motivated to do them?  I have! Well, I can’t use the excuse that I don’t have time now.  So I’ve cleaned out some closets and drawers, organized some messy places, painted, done some much needed yard work, and have sent more cards to people.

  • Friends

I’ve been particularly blessed to have reconnected with old friends during this time.  Some I haven’t heard from in quiet awhile have contacted me and I’ve tried to do the same. I’ve realized how much I’ve missed these people.  I believe God puts every person in our lives for a reason. He has used my friends to encourage me, to laugh and cry with me, to instruct and teach me, and to rebuke me over the years.  They make my life rich and are a gift from God.  God uses our relationships with others to mold us into the people He wants us to be.

  • Family

I didn’t think I could love my family any deeper.  I have found I can. I appreciate them more now than I ever have. I’m so thankful for the technology we have today to be able to communicate with our loved ones. We have cell phones, texting, zoom, Marco Polo, and facebook to just name a few.  What a blessing it is to be able to keep in touch! I think about how life was just 30 years ago.  Families didn’t have any of these ways of communicating.

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My and Scott’s wedding day when the Hammersley and Hughes families joined forces. 🙂 9-1-18

For most people it’s easy to put on your happy face, and be kind and friendly to those we see outside our homes. But we can’t hide who we are from those living with us.  They know all the good, the bad, and the ugly. With this shelter-in-place we’re stuck with each other all day, every day whether we like it or not.  Fortunately, I’m married to the best man on the planet so I’m enjoying having him around, but I realize that isn’t the case with everyone.  Family relationships can get strained quickly when life is stressful, we’re dealing with disappointment, and worse yet, the whole world seems chaotic and suffering abounds. All while the very things that often encourage us: family, friends, worshiping together in church, vacations, going out to eat, etc. have been stripped away.  It’s in these moments we realize how much we need the support of our family. We’ve been given a wonderful opportunity, free of distractions, to learn to love our family well. Let’s be committed. Let’s be there for each other, if in prayer only, when no one else can be. I’m thankful for family.

  • God

I’m thankful for extra time to spend reading God’s words, the Bible. I’ve certainly prayed more. The many encouraging sermons I’ve heard via you-tube have taught me more about God. (One of my favorite preacher is Adrian Rogers.)  This is a good time for us to draw closer to the God we love but are prone to wander away from.

When we emerge from this unprecedented time like a butterfly out of its cocoon, may we be more patient, more kind, more thoughtful, more humble, more intentional in our living and giving. I want to look and act more like Jesus.

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May we not let this time of testing be wasted. We can look at this time of isolation and widespread sickness as training ground to become more of a soldier of Jesus Christ. It’s a time to dig deep, search our hearts, discern what is holding us back from giving God and others our all. May we learn to prefer others above ourselves and become a humble servant. And what better place to learn this than at home with our families? Jesus humbled Himself and became a servant and He calls us to do the same. This is where we will find true joy and peace. And let’s not forget to look for the positive things and thank God for them.

 

Again, I quote Randy Alcorn, “The degree of joy rises to the degree of gratitude, and the level of gratitude corresponds to the level of God’s grace experienced in our suffering.” 

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes Hammersley

 

 

Where Did This Storm Come From?

 Hurricane Harvey just barged through Texas and now Irma is slamming  Florida. Then there are the wild fires out West.  Do you wonder where God is in all this destruction?

Some are of the opinion that one should never question God.  They feel is shows a lack of faith and is a sign of weakness. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with asking, but we should be careful not to blame Him.

When we were in the first stages of  training our little children, we tried to instill in them the importance of obeying without question.  They didn’t have any experience to draw proper conclusions and they needed to trust us as their parents to know what was best for them.

But I was always excited when they really began seriously thinking about things and asking questions about the reasons why we did what we did.  To me it was a sign of intelligence.  Another result was as they began to understand why, they could apply that information to help them in other areas of life.

I know God is a way better “parent” than I’ll ever be, but I think we can sometimes use our relationship with our own children as an analogy of our relationship with Him. Jesus did when He was trying to describe God’s love for us.  He asked in Matthew 7:11, If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

So back to what is going on… Some would say God is judging our nation for the moral decline and general disregard for the principles found in His Word, the Bible. I’m not sure, but there are some things I am very sure about.

  1. Man, not God, is responsible for bad things entering the world.  By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)

God created a perfect world and it was man who messed it all up by sinning against God.  God has been redeeming our messes ever since.

I was following in my car as my son, Nathan, was riding his motorcycle into town today.  I was enjoying riding down this quiet, country road until I suddenly remembered driving on it yesterday.  There was quite a bit of debris strewn across the road that had fallen from a truck. Immediately I thought of all the dangerous scenarios for Nathan on his bike. Should I blow my horn to warn him? No, that might scare him. Should I call him? No, he couldn’t answer his cell while riding his motorcycle.  Then I realized that the debris had been in an open area and could be easily seen and avoided. I also realized I can’t warn Nathan of every hazard every time he gets behind the wheel/ handlebars.  And this was good practice for the next time something is in the road that shouldn’t be there.

Did God cause that debris to be in the road? No. It was there because of some irresponsible human being.  It wasn’t God’s fault. And whether I am a good person or a bad person, I am affected by it.  That is just life in this world.

2. God loves us and made a way to mend our broken relationship caused by sinBy the righteousness of one (Jesus) shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

God loved us so much He gave Jesus, His sinless Son, to die and buy back everyone who ever lived and will live.  A God that loves His creation that much would not take pleasure in watching it suffer.


The people of Nineveh were wicked and God could have zapped them, but He lovingly sent Jonah to warn them of judgement because He wanted them to repent of their evil. They did repent and God was pleased that they, along with the animals, were spared. (Jonah 4:11)

However, if Nineveh had not repented, they would have had to suffer the consequences.  And be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)  We can choose our sin, but we can’t choose our consequences.

God doesn’t like seeing us suffer anymore than we like to suffer.  The fact is, all of us, whether righteous or unrighteous, are living in a fallen world.  God makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends the rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5:45)

3.  God can, and often does, bring good from terrible circumstances.

4. We will never go through anything alone. I will never leave thee. (Hebrews 13:5)

5. Hardships give us a heart to help others in trouble and we are more likely to seize those opportunities when we can relate to their suffering.

Instead of just asking, Why? the better question is, God, where are You in all of this? If we ask that question, we are more likely to have a better attitude, learn to be more like Christ and will glorify God in our trials and tribulations. We should think about how Jesus would respond to the pain in this world and try to emulate Him. I think this is how we can overcome evil with good and find God in the midst.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

My grandson, Destin- June 2017

Calm in the Storm

a-faith-that-hasnt-been-testedI would like to share the lyrics of a song that has comforted me so much over the past few years as I walked the cancer journey with my husband, was then diagnosed myself, and have felt the vacuum of his absence since he went to heaven.

There have been many times that I’ve felt God’s peace that passed all understanding….times when I should have been falling apart, but felt God holding me up.  That is due, in part, to your many prayers. But I am convinced, if I had not a friend in the world, God would not have left me.  He would have faithfully been with me because He never forsakes His own. He won’t leave you either.  He hears every prayer and has our tears in a bottle.

“Thou tellest my wanderings:  put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.” (Psalm 56:8,9)

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“Calm in the Storm,” by Mac Lynch

When your life seems like a tempest, when the waves beat on your breast,
When the wind is hurling ‘round you and there is no place to rest,
Then you look out thro’ the shadows and you see Him looking too,
Saying, “Hush,” not to the storm, but saying, “Hush” now to you.

Chorus:
Trust the One who’s walking on the water. Trust the One who’s leading thro’ the storm.
When you cannot see the shore-line, When there is no goal in sight,
Would you focus on the certainty that all will be alright?

Trust in Him who made the tempest. Trust in Him tho’ tossed and torn.
Trust the One who walks on water in your storm.

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When your life seems overwhelming, when your nights seem hard and long,
When the burdens seem unending and the enemy a throng,
Thro’ the Word the Savior’s saying firmly, calling tenderly, “Peace be still,”
not to the storm, but “Peace be still” now to you,

Hasten now, O weary pilgrim, don’t you fear, and don’t you doubt.
Would you trust your gracious Savior tho’ your life seems tossed about?
Oh, remain within the tempest, seeing Jesus in the way.
May the trial to you be precious as you trust and obey.

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Chorus:
Trust the One who’s walking on the water. Trust the One who’s leading thro’ the storm.
When you cannot see the shore-line, When there is no goal in sight,
Would you focus on the certainty that all will be alright?

Trust in Him who made the tempest. Trust in Him tho’ tossed and torn.
Trust the One who walks on water in your storm.

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“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” Psalm 107:29

 

 

 

Are You in the Furnace of Affliction?

126cbee9c44f9497dcd44895df12620180a7b2bf“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one that feared God, and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) Doesn’t this sound like a fairytale? But it isn’t! Job was a real man who walked on the same earth we do!I’d like to share some definitions according to Webster’s Dictionary….

blameless: without fault

upright: having or showing a strict regard for what is morally right, honest, fair, making a conscious choice and regularly practicing what is right.

shun: to avoid deliberately and especially habitually.

If Job could live this way, without the Bible to read, then  it’s possible for us to live this way today. If it wasn’t for Job’s example, I would wonder if this kind of lifestyle is even possible in today’s world. But Job’s example gives me hope that it is possible to make good choices everyday and please God.

Job was serious about his faith. He prayed often.  He confessed not only his own sin, but for any unconfessed sin his children may have overlooked. He did all the right things and God richly blessed him with a wife, ten children, several servants, land, and thousands of animals.  He was respected and the most influential man in the East.

Life was good! Then in one single day, within minutes, without warning,  the rug was ripped out from under him and he lost almost everything he held dear in his life. Through a series of events, he lost everything except his life, his wife, and four servants.  I think the servants were only spared so they could bring him the bad news.

Job’s response to his tragedy reveals  his character and devotion to God. He fell to the ground, and worshiped. Then he said,

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Job must have been shocked and numb with grief, yet these are the words that immediately came from his lips. First, I’m amazed at Job’s impressive walk with God. Then, I’m blown away with his righteous response to adversity. But it gets even better!

No one can ignore the way all this came about. One day the angels came to present themselves to God and Satan came with them. (Job 1:6) Have you ever thought about Satan having access to God? Anyway, God asked Satan what he had been doing. (The Bible is clear that God is omniscient so He didn’t ask because He didn’t know.)

Satan said he had been walking around in the earth. I Peter 5:8 warns us to be on guard that the devil is our adversary and as a roaring lion, he walks around seeking whom he may devour. He wants to chew us up and spit us out. You can bet he is still doing that today!

God asked Satan if he had considered Job, an upright man that feared God and deliberately avoided evil. God even said there wasn’t another one like him on earth. (Job 1:8) The devil said that wasn’t anything special.  Why wouldn’t Job love God? God had protected him, blessed Job’s work and made him rich. Satan suggested if all Job’s things were gone, Job would curse God to His face. (vs. 11) So God gave Satan the go-ahead to mess with all Job’s stuff, but forbade him to touch his body. This tells us that God has power over Satan.

I don’t know about you, but this is hard for me to swallow. It appears God is ratting Job out. Why? Doesn’t God bless us for loving and obeying Him? He sure does. He had blessed Job. He blessed Abraham, but then asked him to give up his son. God has much bigger plans than we can understand.

So Satan probably quickly and happily skipped away whistling, planning how he could most torment Job. Although Satan had his hay day, Job faithfully stayed devoted to God and did not sin.

We don’t know how much time passed, but there was yet another day Satan appeared with the angels before God and the conversation was almost verbatim. (Job 2:1)

Satan told God a man would do anything to save his life and if Job’s health was gone, Job would curse God to His face. So God gave him permission to touch Job’s body, but ordered him to not take his life.

That’s when Satan gave Job boils that covered his whole body. Job was in constant torment with itching, oozing sores from head to toe.  Many of you know this truth all too well; Continual, poor health can be one of the biggest trials! It wears even the spiritually strongest people down.  It is frustrating and discouraging. But Job knew a better day was coming.  (see Job 23:10 in pic)

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Many speculate why Job’s wife was spared….maybe to further torture him.  At this point, she suggested Job curse God and die. In the first round of tragedy, Job 1:22 says, Job neither sinned or wrongly accused God in it all. However, after round two when he lost his health, Job clearly attributes his affliction to God. (Job 19) And I have to agree with him. God did allow it. So Job wasn’t wrong in saying that.

When Job’s friends came to “help” him, they just made it all worse. They reasoned that Job clearly had unconfessed sin in his life and if he would just admit it and repent, God would quit punishing him. Job assured them he had already done that. Wow! This amazes me! I don’t feel like I could ever say that I could not think of even one unconfessed sin!

In chapter 29 Job verbally makes an impressive list of how he has lived.

  • He made a covenant with his eyes to not sin with them
  • He had earned respect with those who knew him
  • He relieved the poor
  • He opened his home to travelers
  • He helped orphans, widows, and  the helpless
  • He helped the blind, lame, and abused
  • He visited the bereaved
  • He defended the weak

Job couldn’t understand why God had allowed all this turmoil and he was desperate for answers.  Job had two requests from God. (Job 13;20-22) He asked,

1) That God would lay off the afflictions

2) That God would directly address him, break the silence, and answer him

God did both.  Out of a whirlwind (storm), God asked Job a series of questions. Here are some of my favorites….

  • Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? 
  • Have you ever ordered the morning?
  • Do you know where Light comes from and where Darkness lives?
  • Have you ever been where snow is made?
  • Where do I launch the lightning?
  • Who is the father of rain and dew, the mother of ice and frost?
  • Do you know the first thing about how the sky’s constellations affect things on Earth?
  • Can you get the attention of the clouds and command a shower of rain?
  • Did you teach the eagle to build her nest on the cliff?

Job was humbled,  said he was vile, admitted he had talked too much, and would shut up and listen. God went on to say He was in charge of the universe and basically told Job that He was God and Job wasn’t. Job admitted he had second-guessed God’s purposes and was wrong for doing that and promised to never do it again.

Job repented and asked God to forgive him. God rebuked Job’s friends, but He praised Job for his honesty and sincerity. After Job prayed for his friends God restored his health and doubled his wealth and gave him ten more children. Job lived another 140 years and was able to see four generations before he died a contented, old man.

The Bible doesn’t say that Job ever got an answer to why the trials came, but after he heard from God, that was enough to satisfy him. After feeling so alone in his pain, God broke the silence. Feeling God’s presence is enough to get us through the toughest of days.

As Vance Havner said,

God marks across some of our days, ‘Will explain later.’

That “later” is sometimes not until we get to heaven.

Could it be that God knew He could trust Job to come out on top? I think so. I don’t think God just used Job to get one up on Satan. That would be sin and God is holy.  Just think of all the people down through the ages that have been encouraged by Job’s life to keep going when their world crumbled around them! His life has inspired thousands if not millions.

At the time, Job felt like no one understood and not many knew what he was going through.  He even commented, Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! (Job 19:23) Job had no idea that they WOULD be written down and that thousands would read his story, and as a result,  be inspired to trust God and cling to Him during their trials.

Are you feeling the heat from your furnace of affliction today?  Be encouraged and stay strong. God knows you can walk through this fire and come out on the other side a vessel that He can use and be glorified through. Pain is never wasted if we turn to God through it.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

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