Sunday, March 11, 2018

God sends those quail...

This morning as I was getting ready for church, I was thinking over situations in my life and those of my loved ones for which I am praying. I then thought about how the Lord had provided truly HUGE answers to prayer and how in the midst of those particular needs I had felt despaired, desperately needy, and frantic. In the midst of the storms, I cried, prayed, struggled with acceptance of non-instant gratification and the possibility that the answer would not be what I desired and vowing, with tears, to trust Him anyway. Standing now where I'm looking backward at those needs and how the Lord has answered prayer, I can just mouth a  big breathy, blown-away "WOW!" I want to bottle this. I want to carve it into my very skin and bones so that I don't ever forget that God answers prayer. I want to remember this so that the next time "troubles come in armies" that I will *not* freak out. That I will *not* try to rely on my self. Funny thing about us humans, though, we do forget and the next struggle that comes, we start whining and worrying. In Psalm 77:11-12 David says, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

The 77s song, "God Sends Quail,"
You fail
You try half-hearted and fail
One foot drags behind you
One foot tripping in front of you
You fail
You spit out manna, God sends quails

That's how the Israelites were. God delivers them mightily.  Get a little further down the road.  Wail and moan about the first "problem" they confront. Forget about the God who just set your free. Wait! He hears your whining and answers again.  What? Something else upsets you? Wail, whine, throw in some disobedience...and forget your gratitude.  God sends quail.  That's right, God sends quail. So, why, why, why don't we remember and trust?

When I went to church today, my pastor was preaching on Exodus 17 and the church's need to be a praying church. He asked, "Will we look to God or look to ourselves?" which is exactly what I had been pondering this morning. Reading the passage about the battle with the Amalekites and how when Moses' arms were lifted upward in supplication that the Israelites prevailed, so Aaron and Hur came alongside him to keep his arms lifted. The Lord was with them, they won. My eyes zoomed in on verse 14a, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it."  AND there it was, summing up what was on my mind this morning.  Baby, write this down!  Not only do I need to commit to memory what the Lord has done, but I need to share it with my prayer partners.

Note to self: Next time - and there usually is a next time (John 16:33 " In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world") - pull out those memories, talk about the things He has done in mighty ways, and instead of despair, instead of frantically trying to figure it out in a self-reliant way, TRUST. Cast those anxieties on Him, trust (can't say it enough), and obey. I definitely have some answer to prayer that are amazing to remind myself what a mighty God I serve and that He definitely does NOT give a stone when I ask for bread.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A dog returns to his vomit...

"As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness." Proverbs 26:11

"For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.

For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."  2 Peter 2:20-22

A fool lacks moral fiber and discipline. A fool lacks integrity, that "doing what is right even when no one is looking." (Completely forgetting that the Lord is indeed looking). God does not want us to be fools.  He provides us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to guide us in the way of righteousness.  It is a sickening thought to think of a dog returning to eat what he just barfed up. Going back into sin, failing to repent and repeat the same sins - these things should be as repulsive to us as the thought of eating vomit. Being overcome with sin, being unrepentant and unholy, leads to a worse end than the beginning. That should worry us! 

The Father has set a lavish feast before us - why eat vomit?  He's washed us and clothed us in Christ, why go roll in the mud?



Monday, February 12, 2018

God Sends Quails



You fail
You try half-hearted and fail
One foot drags behind you
One foot tripping in front of you

You fail
You spit out manna, God sends quails
Dry bones pile up behind you
More wet mirages in front of you

You can't go back
You can't go back

You failed
You sunk like Jonah to the whale
Big mouths follow behind you
Still small voice swallowed up by you

You failed
You picked the right time to fail
Got your past behind you
Got your future in front of you

You can't go back
You can go on


Sunday, February 11, 2018

The lie that people comfort each other with...

The lie that people comfort each other with:  God will not give you more than you can handle.
This is absolutely false, faulty theology turned into tragic mythology - one of the clever ways the enemy takes a nugget of Scripture, strips away what it really says, and twists it.  God will most certainly give you more than you can bear...why? Because He doesn't want you to bear it. He wants you to recognize your need for HIM and that Christ's power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9-10).  The twisted scripture where this myth that God won't allow trials that are more than you can "handle" comes from is 1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." That's it folks - He will not allow you to be TEMPTED TO SIN beyond what you can withstand. You are always left with a choice: to sin OR not to sin.  However, when it comes to struggles, trials, persecutions.  In 2 Corinthians 1:8b  the Apostle Paul reports, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself."  It was THE LORD who delivered Paul and his companions from each and every difficulty. In the next verse, Paul tells us, "Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." Why? To show us that He is with us - that HE is in control. Next verse: "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us."  It goes on to say that this will cause many to GIVE THANKS to Him for His gracious favor. 

How conveniently  the scripture has been reworked into foxhole Christianity mythology from God always providing a way out of temptation, a way to refrain from sinning!  Humans want excuses to sin, we want to blame something/someone, we don't want to take responsibility. 

I could pour out here a huge offering of scripture to the believer about how God uses struggles/trials to perfect us, to lead us closer to Him, to remember our first love should be for Him, to build godly character, etc.  But to the unbeliever or the "casual" believer who "believes in God" but doesn't have a life committed to Him (even the demons believe and shudder), God uses these things to show your need for a relationship with Him. He alone can give peace. He says, "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  He wants to make you more than a conqueror - not just for today's overwhelming troubles - but for tomorrow's. If you have believed and shared that lie, that God won't give you more than you can handle and if you are feeling overwhelmed, perplexed, exhausted, confused...  don't stop at the realization that false comfort was just a pretty story.  Go to the One who conquered death, loves you and badly wants you to draw near to Him. THERE IS HOPE. He will deliver you if you submit yourself to Him.  There are really only two choices in this world. You are going to serve someone or something:  Choose God or Choose Sin.

Romans 8:31-39
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Resilience...

This week I created a lesson on Dr. Ben Carson for Black History Month.  My goal was to show to these  children how Dr. Carson applied Leader in Me Habits s such as "put first things first," "begin with the end in mind," "synergize," and "be proactive."  (Aside: they were VERY engaged, made me so happy. I combined it with discovering their talents and helping others find theirs). 


Ben Carson wrote this: “Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.”   This quote really spoke to me.  Then it hit me:  RESILIENCE.  If I think of poems, stories, movies, etc, that I have  been drawn for my whole life, the vast majority of them paint pictures of resilience.  My favorite poem of all time, "IF--" by Rudyard Kipling exemplifies resilience. The Childhood of Famous Americans series that I read through as a child featured biographies of resilient men and women. The Lord of the Rings, Song of Albion, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbroken, Invictus. The people I've always admired - John Adams, Robert the Bruce, Winston Churchill. Steadfastness in the face of uncertainty, stalwart determination, stick-to-it-iveness. Endurance. Intestinal fortitude. Keeping a stiff upper lip. All great, but there has to be HOPE, there has to be something bigger that keeps that lip stiff and that head up. 

So it is not surprising that the Bible verses which have spoken to me most all speak of resilience and where it comes from. 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.

Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.


No doubt that I've always been drawn to this quality of determination and strength - but I've seen in my life that it is nothing without Christ. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." That's where the strength comes from.  

The instant I heard "In the Eye of the Storm" in chapel last year, it became one of my favorite songs...


"When my hopes and dreams are far from me 
And I'm running out of faith
I see the future I pictured slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache are pouring down my face
I find my peace in Jesus' name

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm"


What a beautiful picture of resilience. An anchor. What is an anchor for? To  prevent a craft from drifting due to wind or current. To keep one on course. Headed in the right direction. Prevented from going adrift and making a shipwreck of your life.  Ephesians 6:19 "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

There needs to be a "course"...but that is writing for a different day. :) 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Good mornings make for good mornings...

Way back when I was working on my Bachelor of Science in business administration, I took a morning job at Sheetz as the coffee hostess. It was Mon - Fri, 6am to 9am. It involved making many pots of coffee, making fancy coffee drinks,  keeping things clean and well-stocked, and being a friendly face. This was back when Sheetz still had rows of pots. I had homeschooled my kids, was teaching fitness classes and personal training, but I wanted something on my resume that showed recent customer service experience. God blessed me with a great manager who was extremely helpful with information and direction for my marketing classes. He also gave me a great assistant manager who I could talk politics with, as well as a team of fun, friendly co-workers. I was shocked when my sister told me she thought the job was "beneath" me - nothing is beneath anyone. Any honest work for honest pay is admirable. I believe that "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might," and to "whatever you do in word of deed, do it all for the glory of God."  This was, and I'm quite serious, one of the most fun jobs I have ever had. One thing I took very seriously was the responsibility of being a friendly face. You have no idea how many people start their days in a bad way and a smile, a kind word, or a combination of both can really turn their day around. I made it a point to be the bearer of those gifts, to try to get to know people, and to make the most of those 3 hours each weekday morning.  Fast forward a few years and I've got  Master's degree and I'm teaching school.  Guess what my morning duty is? For 30 minutes every day it's standing at the top of the 2nd/3rd grade stairwell to make sure there is no tomfoolery on the stairs as the kids come in to the school, head down to the free breakfast, and come back up to get started on morning work. But it is more to me - and I take this very seriously - I have the opportunity to greet each of those students with a friendly smile and a kind word and hopefully, help them start their day on the right track.  You can see when they come up those stairs who is already having a bad day, who is already off to a good start, who didn't get enough sleep, or who might need encouraging.  I take this just as seriously as lesson-planning.  There are enough people in these kids' lives to yell at them, what they might need is someone who is happy to see them when they arrive. I have to discovered in this first week that while I could keep the stairs safe by yelling and barking orders, I can do a BETTER job keeping the stairs safe y being a welcoming presence and  kindly and firmly enforcing the rules. Today was day 6 of this duty and I'm already seeing not just a difference in stairwell behavior but in how a smile can be contagious or encouraging.  Proverbs 12:25 says, "Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." Proverbs 16:24 states, "Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."

Monday, January 8, 2018

An alteration of my being...

Another widow said this today, " I'm trying the 3 A's- Absorption, Adjustment, Acceptance.---an alteration of my being." She admitted struggling with all three as she stands at 8 months since the passing of her beloved.  Here I am, almost 18 months down the road and I, too, have had to face the 3 A's and somehow assimilate into my reality. Early on, I knew that acceptance was a given because when I looked backward my life was gone and when I looked a head, there was nothing but an empty road beckoning me with irresistible force.  I grit my teeth like before plunging into the cold water of a pool and accepted the shock to my body and forced myself to swim. I've never liked that cold water and I'm not a big swimmer. But I had to tell myself I'd become accustomed to it. It's a process. There is new adjustment, new accustoming nearly daily. I've been altered - yes, I'm not the same woman I was 18 months ago. I'm wiser to the fact that life is not tamable, that things happen that you absolutely cannot control and that sitting still, hoping the world will stop spinning, is not an option.

Sometime after you grit your teeth and dive into an icy pool and then experience the "getting adjusted" to the water part, you find that you begin to chill again and your teeth begin to chatter.  That's when you discover you need to get out of the pool. There was a time when I had to take the plunge into the bracing water of widowhood and let my body face the shock of the cold head on.  After wading about and making a go at swimming for a good long while, it occurred to me that I can climb out, grab a towel and allow myself some time to get warm.

My heart has bled a few times this year when I've see other women I know suddenly find themselves in this difficult predicament.  How we face an icy pool is different for everyone.  Some put a toe in at a time, sit on the ladder, worry over inch after inch of skin which must be slowly submerged. It's okay. We all have our own way of adapting to the chilling baptism of a widowhood. How we react when we find ourselves standing on that ladder and facing bitter waters is deeply personal. How long in takes to get in and how long it takes before we are able to step out of it is going to vary from individual to individual.  Take your time, rely on God, and do what feels right for you. Don't let anyone tell you that you cry too much or too little, that's you're moving on too fast or aren't letting go quick enough.  Widowhood is altering *being* and that work will be done on the timetable that is right for you, not for outsiders.

The reality of the alteration me and my world have undergone struck me today while I was painting baseboards and trim. Last time the bedroom was painted, my husband painted it. It was the color of coffee with two or three splashes of cream.  I sat on the floor painting the baseboards antique white to compliment the granite grey of the freshly painted walls. I thought - he sat here. He was the last person to sit in this spot and paint this. With every brush stroke I am covering over his work. I had sorted, sifted, bagged and removed things - I had rearranged furniture. Was I obliterating him from the room? It will no longer look like the space his handiwork had completed; inwardly, I flinched. But then I understood that beneath the fresh layer would always lie his work. His touch was forever on those walls and on that trim. Every brush stroke sealed beneath mine. As for me, I  no longer can live my life as Pat's wife but I will always be Pat's widow. and there are layers to me, albeit unseen, that will always bear the brushstrokes of our lives together.

"God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others." (2 Corinthians 1:4)