Category Archives: Encouragement
Have you ever had one of those moments when the phone rings and on the other end is someone in desperate need of consoling? You know, like a family member or friend with a shocking message of being diagnosed with cancer or some other terminal illness, or news of a horrible accident with a seemingly hopeless outcome? Perhaps you, yourself, have had a frightening diagnosis, injury, or circumstance.
Needless to say, it’s not an easy situation to respond to. It is usually uncomfortable, because most of us immediately feel incapable of doing anything useful, no matter how much we may want to help.
Many times over the years I’ve been asked to pray for someone. And I always did. But for a long time, my prayers were more in the form of begging God to “please help”, and I’m not really sure that there was much faith in my heart that God was even listening.
As I studied the bible more, my relationship with God began to change. I started to trust in Him more, even though I couldn’t always understand everything. And my faith grew stronger. This had an impact on my prayers as well. I stopped begging, and started believing. I started believing in the power of prayer, and I started believing in miracles.
Now I need to explain something here. For over half of my life, I lived apart from God. I knew a little about God when I was young, and I had a little bit of faith. But after praying for healing for my grandmother (in my begging and unbelieving way), she died the very next day. And I lost my faith, not understanding, and I chose to turn my back on God. But, thankfully, He didn’t turn His back on me. I won’t go into all the details, but over time, God continued to speak to my heart, calling me back to Him.
I want to share a few scriptures that have had a very strong impact in my faith since then.
The first one, “Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths”. (Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP) From these verses, I began to learn more about trust, which is an issue I have always had struggles with. I finally understood, there will always be people that will mislead, deceive, and disappoint me, but God is ALWAYS faithful.
The second verse is, “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]”. (Romans 12:2 AMP) After living apart from God for so long, it took a while for me to understand that there were many “worldly” influences that had filled my heart and my head, lying to me about who God is, and limiting my faith in Him. But this verse taught me that I need to ignore what the world says and does, and to constantly renew and refresh my spirit in God through prayer and reading His word. And having a pastor that is dedicated to teaching and preaching God’s truth has been not only helpful to me, but necessary.
The third verse, and perhaps the hardest for me to grasp was “Jesus glanced around at them and said, With men [it is] impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God”. (Mark 10:27 AMP) To fully understand this verse, I had to go back to the beginning, to how God created everything. I had to try to picture it in my mind, to imagine such an awesome power. And I had to choose to believe it in my heart, which caused me to feel very humbled by His majesty.
As I said earlier, I now believe in the power of prayers, and I believe in miracles. Not only because of the stories told in the bible, but because I have witnessed them personally.
Many of you may have read my book, “Faith, Hope & Miracles”, where I shared the miracle of what happened to my youngest son when he was killed in an accident, and then brought back to life and fully healed. As thousands of people were praying for a miracle for us, the doctors said there was no hope for my son’s survival, let alone recovery. But when an 8 year old boy comes back to life and tells you what it was like to sit on Jesus’ lap in heaven, things change!
That was a few years ago. More recently, I received a call asking for prayers for a 1 year old girl that had been diagnosed with the probability of leukemia. The first blood test indicated a very low white blood cell count. A second test was done a few days later, and the results were much worse. So a bone marrow biopsy was requested. In the meantime, a network of thousands began praying for this little girl and her family. Before performing the biopsy, a third blood test was ordered. This test came back perfectly normal, no indication of leukemia was found!
At the same time, many of us were also praying for a woman with issues regarding her uterus. At first, x-rays showed a couple of “spots”, so more tests were ordered. These spots were found to be 2 medium sized cysts. Further tests a short time later using a microscopic camera revealed that the cysts had grown to large fibroid tumors. This woman went in for surgery last Monday to have the tumors removed, but the tumors had just disappeared!
There were no medical explanations for how these three individuals were healed. But the bible gives a perfectly clear explanation…Divine Intervention.
I have personally witnessed many other miracles aside from physical ailments. There have been financial matters, legal troubles, marital and relationship struggles, all with seemingly impossible odds. Some have been resolved instantly, others over time. But in all circumstances, there was prayer and faith.
There is one thing that I must make perfectly clear, in order to prevent any misunderstanding. God does indeed perform miracles, and they are all around us, every day. But we must remember and understand, He is God, holy and righteous and all powerful. He is not a “genie at our command” that grants our every request. This is what I did not understand when my grandmother died. Sometimes we do not get what we ask for. God does things according to His ways, and in His timing. Though I cannot explain the ways and the whys of God, I can say with all confidence and certainty that He knows what He is doing, and it is all good. His timing is always perfect, and He is always faithful. We can and should trust in Him completely!
One mistake that is often made is the “I’ll give Him a try and see what happens” kind of attitude. If the wish is not granted as soon as asked, then we say there is no God, or He doesn’t listen. It is the perfect excuse to give up on Him.
I admit freely, it is not always easy to believe and have faith. In fact, sometimes it is downright hard! But it’s not about getting everything we want. It’s about knowing that there is One that loves us so much and wants for us to be with Him for all eternity. It’s about knowing that we don’t deserve to be in His presence, and there is nothing we can do to earn the privilege, but that by His mighty love for us, He provided a way for us, through repentance, baptism and receiving the gift of His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). We can choose to live with Him, on purpose, following in His ways.
We all have a choice. We can be like the world, unbelieving, scoffing at, mocking and rejecting what the bible says. Or we can choose to believe what the bible says, believing in the power of pray, trusting in His answer, knowing Jesus is the one true God, and we can choose to believe in miracles. What do you believe?
I am pleased to announce the new release of Trials and Triumphs: Hope Beyond Circumstances.
This book is a compilation of forty authors, all members of FaithWriters, sharing true and life changing experiences that are sure to inspire and encourage anyone that may be facing impossible situations.
Since I first began this blog, it has always been my mission to share hope and encouragement with others, to spread God’s word and love, and let people know that we are not alone.
That same mission is the purpose of Trials and Triumphs. Each author shares personal experiences from their heart, describing how they have overcome situations and circumstances through faith and trust in Jesus.
There are three categories of testimonies in this book, including stories describing how Jesus came to be a personal Savior, stories of tremendous faith through overwhelming circumstances, and stories of people that gave inspiration and hope to someone when they needed it most.
Trials and Triumphs is sure to be a blessing to everyone who reads it, believers and non-believers alike.
And for a limited time only, FaithWriters is offering an opportunity to read Trials and Triumphs for free, in exchange for an honest review.
I highly recommend this wonderful book, and encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to read it for free. And don’t forget to give it an honest review. Even if you don’t buy it on Amazon, you can still leave a review for it on their site, as well as at FaithWriters. And please help me spread the word too.
Thanks, and God bless! – Amber
P.S. I am one of the forty authors, and it has been a true privilege to be a part of this project, and I pray that it will give honor and glory to the One most deserving it…Jesus.
I recently came across an article titled “6 Things About Chronic Pain You Didn’t Know You Knew“. While reading I thought, “This is a fairly accurate description of my life for the past 12 years”.
I have 4 different types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia and several old injuries from indiscretions of youth, including a few spinal injuries. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest, my average daily pain level is between 3 – 4. Then there are times like this past week after my back went out again, the pain jumps up to 15+.
Trips to the ER bring cocktails of morphine and valium which zonk me out for a day or 2, and usually makes me sick. Chiropractors won’t touch me anymore because of the degeneration of my spine, and the latest physicians recommended surgeries only give a 40% chance of success.
So I use exercise, diet, homeopathic and herbal remedies of every kind, along with massage and pain pills, hot and cold packs, and rest. But mostly, I pray.
I pray for strength, healing, courage, and determination. I pray for a cure, to end the suffering. I pray for miracles, and I give praise and thanks for the good days and the mobility I have left. I also ask to be used as a blessing to others, in sharing hope and encouragement. That’s one of the main reasons I created this blog.
When my lower back went out last week, it caused immediate waves of intense pain which dropped me to my knees. I knew what was coming next, as I’ve been through this before. The spasms started just above my left hip and radiated in every direction from there, with the muscles playing a sort of tug-of-war with my spine. As I started to feel somewhat dizzy and sick, I cried out and began to pray.
In times of intense pain, I’ve noticed my prayers also become intense. In between the short gasps for air were short cries of “Dear Jesus”, “please, no”, and “help me”.
Eventually, with the help of my 11 year old son and a cane, I was able to get to my recliner and got seated. After getting an ice pack on my spine and taking a muscle relaxer and pain pill, I cried. And I prayed hard. Once the valium took effect, I drifted off to sleep for about an hour.
In the past when my back has gone out like this, after about 3 days it starts feeling a little better. This time was different. For one thing, there was some slight paralysis in my legs. And the muscle spasms were pretty constant, continuing to cause waves of pain through my spine, hips and legs.
Since I had run out of muscle relaxers and the only pain pills I had left were ibuprofen, there was not much relief from the pain and I couldn’t move very much. But from the lack of movement, stiffness began to increase throughout my entire body, causing even more discomfort. I continued using ice packs and heating pads, and generic arthritis rubs, which did bring some short term relief.
All in all, the whole situation caused a lot of stress, discouragement and fear. Thoughts were racing through my foggy mind of “what if” situations. Things like “what if I become fully paralyzed”? Or “what if the pain doesn’t go away”?
Since I couldn’t do much of anything else, I did a lot of reading from the bible. And as my mind was drawn to the subject of suffering, I decided to read the book of Job. It definitely gave me a different perspective on the subject. For one thing, it made me quit feeling so sorry for myself.
I also read from the New Testament, several passages regarding suffering for the cause of Christ and how it should be considered a blessing and privilege. (2 Corinthians 1:5, James 5:10-11, 1 Peter 4:12-13, Philippians 4:11-13) I know that those references were more along the lines of suffering from persecution, and that is not what my suffering comes from. But still, pain is pain, regardless of what is causing it.
While I was reading these scriptures, I remembered when I had read them before, and how I admired these people for their courage and commitment. I thought about how I would respond to being tortured for Jesus’ sake. I thought, “I could handle it” (referring to being put to death by stoning or beheading). I’ve always been tough and stoic, and able to handle all sorts of different types of pain and injuries, in the past.
But in dealing with this current episode with my back, I found myself pleading, “Either cure me, or kill me! I can’t handle this pain anymore.” That’s when I realized that even though I may not be facing persecution in the ways of the apostles, I am facing persecution, of pain. That’s why I could identify so well with the description in the article about chronic pain. I knew that there was no way possible that I could deal with that intense pain, not on my own. I remembered the bible promises that God will never leave or forsake me. And though there may be times when I feel alone, if I start to pray with my whole heart, I can feel His presence with me.
It’s been over a week now since my back went out, and I’m happy to report that I am slowly regaining movement and feeling. There is still pain and spasms, but not to the degree that it was. My physical condition is improving, but even more importantly, my spiritual condition is improving. While my body may deteriorate, my spirit will continue to grow stronger, as long as I keep my heart and mind on Jesus.
I thank Jesus each and everyday, because He is the only reason and the only way I can make it through these pains and keep going. I know He will heal me, if not here on earth, then when I get to heaven. I know there is a way through the storm, there is hope. And His name is Jesus.
To everyone out there who is suffering, whether it is from physical, mental, or spiritual pain, please know, you are not alone. Don’t give up! No matter what illness or disease or affliction you may have, put it in God’s hands. Trust Him. In the end, He is the only One who can help us.
I will keep all of you in my prayers. God bless, Amber.
* For more information on arthritis, please check out The Arthritis Foundation.
* I’d also like to introduce a new partnership with Endless Pursuit, a faith based Multiple Sclerosis nonprofit based in the Pacific NW.
A Thanksgiving Day Contest – What Are You Thankful For?
Today is Thanksgiving. I woke up at 4 am with a heart filled with thanks.
It is cold and snowing outside, but I have a roof over my head, and I am thankful.
I have aches and pains, but my body still works, and I am thankful.
I have lost loved ones and have many heartaches, but I still have family and friends that love me, and I am thankful.
I don’t have everything I want, but I have what I need, and I am thankful.
I am not perfect, I make many mistakes, but I am blessed and saved, and I am thankful.
Most of all, I am thankful for the perfect love of Jesus. If that was all I had, it would be enough.
What are you most thankful for?
Everyone that leaves a comment sharing something you are most thankful for, before midnight Friday, November 29, 2013 (Alaska Time zone) will be entered for a chance to receive a free signed copy of my book, “Faith, Hope & Miracles”. (This is a small way of sharing my thanks for all the blessings I have received.) The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, December 1, 2013, and will be notified by email. So please be sure to leave your contact information.
Wishing you all a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving! May it be filled with love, peace, joy and hope. – Amber
I’ve been working on a mini series of articles concerning daily issues for our young people, and how they cope with these issues. It is my hope that God will work through these posts to reach out to those in need of hope, encouragement and guidance, to let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. God cares about each and every one of us, and He wants to help us.
If you or someone you know has any ideas or suggestions about future posts, or are interested in doing a guest post, please leave a message in the comment section. As always, I’d love to hear from you!
I am very pleased to share with you the following guest post from Stephanie Kehr, a fine upcoming young author. Her article is on peer pressure, a subject that can be quite troublesome for us all. Please share, like, and leave a comment for her, and be sure to check out her blog, “Musings of a Creative Spirit”.
Thanks, and God bless! – Amber
Peer Pressure: What’s Your Strategy?
by Stephanie Kehr
The sound of twenty pleading teens echoed off the trees, collecting at my ears in a mash of noise and confusion.
“You should try it.”
“You’ll love it.”
It was just a swing. Well, a large swing. I’d be strapped in with harnesses and fitted with a helmet and protective gear. But having already tried such a stunt at a previous event, I knew the high swing wasn’t quite my cup of tea. In fact, if I’d had any tea before that attempt, it would have been instantly regurgitated.
“Look, we even got Bethany to do it,” someone nudged me.
I looked to see Bethany climbing the swing, her face as white as Elmer’s glue.
“You’re the only one who hasn’t tried! C’mon, don’t you submit to peer pressure?”
I paused a moment, evaluating myself. “No,” I finally said aloud. “I don’t.”
I’m a pure-bred homeschooler. If it weren’t for the kids I babysit, it’s likely I never would have been introduced to the popular video game, Call Of Duty. Unfortunately, I was introduced. But through the blood, gore, murder, and weapons, Call Of Duty actually taught me quite the lesson during my impromptu babysitting adventure.
If you don’t have strategy, you’ll be shot down.
You waltz into a room unguarded, and the enemy’s standing behind the door. He fires his gun. The bar turns red. Your man flashes and disappears. “End Game” appears on the screen. You toss down your controller, frustrated.
With peer pressure on the rise, teens and young adults are more and more often thrown at the mercy of their more popular (and often less intelligent) fellowmen. On the invisible battlegrounds of school, sports, parties, and even churches, the young adults striving for righteousness are often unguarded, caught by surprise, and slowly, but surely enticed by the people and things of this world.
Before we step out into society, it’s important for us to realize that if we don’t enter the battle alert and with strategy, we’ll be shot down.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” [KJV]
If we aren’t ready with our weapons, we give the enemy the opportunity to shoot first. If we’re not wearing the proper protective armor, our bar will turn red. If we don’t know how to jump out of the way, we’ll blink and fade. We’ll perish. End game.
Peer pressure’s pretty scary for a teen living in a big, ungodly, unknown world. The most frightening thing about peer pressure is that it sneaks up on us. You don’t realize you’ve got the disease until it’s too late. We’ve already been shot. We’re already following the wrong crowd. How do we make sure we’re firing first? How do we set ourselves up to make it through the teenage years alive?
While I can’t speak for every teen out there, I can speak for myself. Below I have listed five little “strategies” I’ve used to combat peer pressure in an attempt to “shoot first.”
1) Always, always, always, go back to the Bible.
You know that group of girls always hanging out by the water fountain at church? They like to gossip, slander, talk about boys, laugh at inappropriate jokes, flirt, and evaluate everyone’s outfit. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Not really. You could find worse.
So, what do you do when an adult or fellow teens urges you to join their group? You go back to the Bible. Even if the girls may look relatively harmless, Proverbs is cram-packed full of warnings against hanging out with gossips, slanderers, and fools. Don’t be like them, the Bible says. Be called. Be chosen. Be different.
Likewise, Ephesians 6:17 says, “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” [NASB]
The Bible is a weapon. If you’re constantly feeding on its truths, you’ll guard yourself against being pulled away by the lies of the world.
2) Keep your feet from evil
In other words, be wise. Don’t pack your head full of video games, dirty music, zombies, murder mysteries, and other garbage that has a bad effect on your mind and carries zero eternal value. Take Philippians 4:8 as an example:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” [NASB]
If you don’t allow yourself to become interested in the things of the world, you’ll be less likely to be pulled astray.
3) Set your own standards and stick with them
I don’t tend to go to extracurricular youth get-togethers, because they often promote flirtatiousness, which isn’t something I want to get a heavy dose of. I strive to live set-apart. I don’t spent a huge amount of time with worldly friends. Mostly, when I don’t particularly want to participate in an event, I don’t allow myself to give in to the pressure. Think about Call Of Duty again. You only have a set amount of lives, right? Every time you give into some small and “harmless” pressure, you’re setting yourself up to give into something that might not be so small and harmless. You’re setting yourself up for the loss of that final life. The red bar. The flash. End game.
Everyone has different God-given standards. What kind of standards have you set for yourself? Do you stick with them?
4) Evaluate your influences and choose your friends wisely
If I notice myself beginning to slip spiritually, the first thing I do is look at my influences. I look at who I’m hanging out with frequently, and I ask myself who I’m looking up to most. Usually, evaluating, pinpointing, and dealing with the issues in my influential relationships solve half of my problems.
5) Find older mentors
There’s no way to avoid peer pressure if you’re constantly hanging out with, well…peers. I often try to spend quality time with younger teens and kids in order to be a good influence and a blessing to them. However, I also make a point to spend a decent amount of time with older influences, too, whether they’re in their twenties, fifties, or seventies. We learn from older people, it’s true. The Bible talks about having older mentors and Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of council, but with many advisors they succeed.” Older councilors have been through peer pressure before us and can offer advice. Sometimes they catch our faults, too, and things we don’t see in ourselves.
When we learn to put together a strategy to avoid peer pressure, we need to plan with the understanding that without prayer and a genuine relationship with God, our strategy will ultimately fail. He is the light in a dark world. He is our strength when we are weak. No matter how tough it may be or how far into the world we may venture, it’s important to always remember our God is faithful, loving, compassionate, and He wants you to lean on Him and Him alone.
Stephanie is a seventeen-year-old dreamer, child of God, and story crafter. She began penning novels as a twelve-year-old and completed her first book at fifteen. In 2013, Stephanie signed with Ellechor Publishing House as a teen author. The release date of her Christian fiction novel, Reaching Home has not yet been announced.
If she isn’t too busy dreaming up kingdoms and reciting poetry, Stephanie plans to graduate with an English degree before her nineteenth birthday. Currently living with her homeschooling family of eight, she hopes to get married one day and move to an isolated cabin by the sea.
Visit Stephanie’s website (www.stephaniekehr.blogspot.com) where she talks about writing, publishing, being a teen author, and her crazy everyday life.