Category: <span>thoughts by Karen Woodard</span>


“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Mark 1:35

Jesus needed to get away from all distractions to prepare for another day of serving others’ needs. Maybe Jesus had a lot on his mind that he needed to talk to the Father about. Whatever his reason, he had a limited time to do so. In fact, the following verses tell us that his disciples came looking for him, and said, “Everyone is looking for you!” (verse 37).

As I sit here in my chair by the window of my home, I am alone. But I can hear my son playing a video game downstairs, and since I have sat down, my phone has buzzed several times to let me know that I have messages. These things distract me as I try to listen to God’s Spirit. If I had a lot on my mind that I wanted to talk with God about, I would have to go somewhere more “solitary” than this!

A day of ministry lies before each one of us. It may not be healing or casting out demons or preaching. It may be wiping little noses, washing dishes, fixing meals, caring for an elderly parent, or serving people in some other way, but just as Jesus knew his purpose for being on this earth, we also have work to do. And just as Jesus did, it may be necessary to find a solitary place to pray before the busy day begins, and “the whole world” comes looking for us!

Father, thank you for sweet times of solitude and prayer that help us prepare for a day of serving others! Help us to bring you all of our worship and concerns, as we head into whatever you have called us to do today. Amen.

By Karen Woodard
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For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves… if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:5a ,6

I have always been a fearful person. I have even experienced panic attacks.

What does it mean to “give way to fear?” I believe that it is a progression of thoughts that we buy into, little by little, to the point of being paralyzed emotionally.

What is the “right thing to do” in response to fear? I think that for the Christian, we have a choice, as indicated in this verse. Fear does not have to overwhelm us if we put on a submissive spirit, placing our hope in God.

It is choosing to “dress” ourselves with humility, acknowledging our vulnerability, but it is also God’s love for us and power to protect us. When I am fearful, I tell myself this truth: God is with me and I can trust Him to keep me safe.

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, sometimes felt unsafe, but she “did not give way to fear”. She put her hope in God, submitting herself to him to keep her safe. She was already a beautiful woman, but she “wore” submission to God like fine jewellery or a lovely scarf.

There is an inner beauty and peace that radiates from all those whose hope is in God, whether they are men or women. Submit yourself to God, and put on humility.

Father God, thank you that I am safe in your care and that I do not have to give way to fear. Remind me how much you love me and how powerful you are whenever fear threatens to overwhelm me. Amen.

By Karen Woodard
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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

My husband, Mike, and I were invited to Nepal to speak about marriage in a couple of churches there. Emails flew back and forth, discussing dates, locations, logistics, and goals for the trip. Flights were booked, suitcases packed, and speaker notes assembled.

I also made it a point of keeping myself healthy in the weeks leading up to our departure. I was excited, anticipating that every detail had been covered, knowing that I had done everything I could to prepare for this trip of a lifetime!

What I didn’t know was that before I got on the plane, I had contracted a virus of some sort, and during the flight, my knees and ankles would start to swell to the point that movement was difficult. This condition continued throughout my time in Nepal, and although I checked in at an international clinic, there was nothing that could be done except take maximum doses of ibuprofen while the virus ran its course.

This is not the first time I have had to ponder the truths of this verse, that “all things work together for good.” In my logical mind, it seemed like God would want me to be healthy in order to do his work. It was very humbling for me to go through this, but the amazing thing was that God used me even in my weakened state!

What do you know for certain in your journey of life? You can plan and prepare as much as possible but remember that, no matter what, it is all in God’s hands.

Father, help me to trust you with the difficulties I face today, and to believe that your goodness is at work, even when it does not feel good to me. Amen.

By Karen Woodard
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The women said to Naomi, “Praise be to the Lord who this day has not left you without a Kinsman-Redeemer.” Ruth 4:14

Naomi’s story is one of personal tragedy and feeling alone, without hope. But it is one that encourages me when it seems like everything is going wrong in my life.

Naomi’s husband had died, along with her two sons. All she had left were two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi had nothing to offer either of these women, so with the encouragement of Naomi, Orpah returned to her family and country. Ruth stayed with Naomi, but had to adjust to living in Naomi’s country and among Naomi’s people, herself a widow as well. She also had to go out and gather leftover grain in the fields in order to provide some food for her mother-in-law and herself.

Naomi must have been filled with grief and despair, because when she returned to her people, she asked them not to call her Naomi anymore, which means “pleasant” but Mara, which means “bitter.” She told them that the Almighty has made my life very bitter (Ruth 1:20).

But God was at work behind the scenes. He did not leave Naomi without hope. God sent salvation for her in the form of Boaz, a relative of hers. In a very symbolic ceremony, he redeemed the “lostness” of Naomi, giving her a future and a hope. When Boaz and Ruth married, they had a son who would be part of the lineage of Christ, the ultimate Redeemer.

No matter how lost you feel right now, God is at work on your behalf in ways that you may not be able to see. God’s very nature is one of Redeemer, of buying back lost or hopeless causes. He may seem far away at times, but he has not forgotten about you. He sees you in your grief and in your disillusionment with life. Help is coming!

Redeemer God, you know the despair I feel at times. Help me to believe that you’ve already made a way for me, and that you are going before me, even if I cannot see what you are doing for me right now. Help me to trust in Jesus, my Kinsman-Redeemer! Amen.

By Karen Woodard
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“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

In 2017, there were two divorces in our family. We had been aware of the difficulties these two couples faced, but never dreamed both marriages would fail within the same year. The rest of our family tried to help these two couples, but it put a tremendous emotional strain on all of us as we dealt with the hurt, frustration, and anger that marriage break-ups often bring.

I have to confess that I will always look back on 2017 as the year our family became a broken one. But I also have to believe that because of our great God’s awesome faithfulness, our family is, and will continue to be, blessed by God — even in its brokenness.

When Jeremiah wrote Lamentations, he was surrounded by grief (3:32,51) due to circumstances that the Lord had allowed to enter his life. He cried out to God in his affliction and bitterness of soul, but chose to daily place his hope in God’s great love and compassion.

Like Jeremiah, I am choosing to “wait quietly” (Lamentations 3:26) for God to bring a season of healing to our family. I will never understand why he allowed us to have such a devastating year that still continues to spark grief in my heart, but I keep claiming those mercies that are “new every morning”, because I really need them!

How about you? Will you also wait quietly for him to work in your circumstances?

Faithful God, when I am discouraged, help me to lift up my eyes to look beyond my present grief to the gift of hope that you give all of us, on a daily basis, and to choose to trust your loving and faithful nature rather than despair. Amen.

By Karen Woodard
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Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

Do you ever feel like just running away? In the whimsical children’s book, Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz, Alexander wants to run away to Australia. My husband and I sometimes say to each other, “Let’s run away to Australia”, but we know that it is not the solution to our problems.

Israel was having a “bad day”. Their enemies were threatening them, and they were fearful. Rather than being willing to wait for God to act on their behalf, they wanted to take off. They were turning to their swift horses to save them, not to their sovereign Lord. He tries to reassure them in verse 15, In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength”.

Repentance, Rest, Quiet, Trust. There is something about these words that appeals to me. They are contrary to human nature, but calming when I am stressed or fearful. In order to repent, rest, be quiet and trust, I need to be willing to submit myself to God and His will, whatever it holds for me.

This is really hard, but there is a reward when I do wait for God. Through waiting, I experience His grace, compassion and justice. Are these things worth waiting for? I think so!

Do you need to repent of any sin so you can deliberately choose to rest in who God is right now, trusting quietly in His will?

Sovereign Lord, help me to wait for you to act in the challenges that I face in life today. I choose not to run away, but I need your grace, compassion and justice in a big way today. Amen.

By Karen Woodard
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Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain my own ways before Him. Job 13:15

I remember sitting in a seminary class with 6 or 7 other students and my prof, discussing the book of Job. I asked the question,

Can we really trust a God like this, someone who allows a person like Job to suffer incredibly?

Human nature would say to forget about a God who would agree to inflicting pain and then abandon a man like Job when he needed God the most. Questioning God in the midst of suffering is natural, and Job did struggle with the question, “Why me, God?

Job knew truths about God that allowed him to trust God and “maintain his ways” before him, just as he always had done. Suffering did not change how he lived or what he believed, but it did cause him to know God more deeply than he ever had before.

The book of Job is my favorite, not because it is about suffering, but because it is about knowing God in a deeper way to the point that I can trust Him and say with Job,

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though worms destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” (Job 19:25-26).

Do you know that your Redeemer lives and that he will come again to receive you into eternal glory, even though your earthly body will be destroyed? Trust means looking beyond the present suffering in this earthly life to see what lies ahead.

Father God, help me to know what a wonderful God you are and to trust you no matter what happens in my life. Amen.

By Karen Woodard
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