A Walk With a Gnarly Twist

Family and friends are here for spring break.  The house is in disarray.  There are two dogs instead of just one.  There have been some very surprising conversations to this point, but God has been right in the middle of them. The grandchildren and a friend have been delightful, offering help (well, maybe willing to act on our suggestions at least but that works for there have been no arguments!), adding their whit and whimsey to the wonderful mix of generations here this week.

family-outing-421653_1280All nine of us started out for a walk this morning, only to find that they had made a plan to hike about four miles away, onto a neighbor’s property.  I’ve been trying hard lately to get back into my walking habit, but this one I wasn’t quite ready for.  So, I marched part way with them and then took a turn to come back toward home alone.

March mountains

As I walked, I listened.  No noise, just a very slight whisper of the wind through the trees as I rounded corners in the trail.  The sky was pure azure this morning and not a single cloud in the sky, quite the contrast from the past few days.  I closed my eyes and thought of lazy, summer days at my favorite mountain lake and for a few seconds I was taken to that spot by the lake, looking into deep blue waters.

God is amazing.  He can take an otherwise regular day and turn it into something very special.  I didn’t think about the possibility of Him speaking to me in the ways He did this morning.  He spoke to me, not loudly, but as gentle as the rolling winds through the trees.  “I like what has taken place these past few days Linda.”

“Oh my, thank you Lord.  You have inspired me and you’ve helped me not react to a couple of potentially challenging situations.  Communication has just rolled lightly off my lips this week, as I realized I needed You to be in the center of these talks.”

I continued walking, feeling the warmth of the spring day flush my entire body.  This walk was definitely going to get my pulse up.  I came around a turn and noticed an old stump to my right.  It reminded me about life and how fragile it can be at times.  We can easily be uprooted in life by the unexpected trauma that sometimes awaits just around the corners of our lives.  We don’t see them, but they are there, awaiting the proper time to unfold.  Does God cause them?  I don’t think so.  I do believe, however, that He sometimes allows them to come, just like the story of Job. At other times, I think they come as the result of our own decisions tree stumpor unfortunately, as part of living in a fallen world.

The gnarly twists and turns of the stump reminded me that we can’t control how our lives will form.  The unexpected accident or injury might leave a scar or new alignment in our fragile body.  The hurts and emotional pains of our past may form some dark spots deep inside.  We often have a tendency to try to cover up those dark spots or perhaps even ignore them in the hopes that if we don’t acknowledge them to ourselves or others, perhaps they’ll go away.  The truth is, they don’t go away at all, but can become physical or emotional wounds that scab over eventually, but the reality of their presence remains with us.

“Oh Lord, this stump is working on me today.”

“It’s good Linda.  You need to look sometimes, because while the scars and twists represent pain in your past, they remind me how much I love it that you are willing to look at them now and, with my help, you are ready to move past them.  I won’t remove the scars, but I will heal their effects in your life and you will realize the true freedom I have for you on the other side of pain.”

Wow, I didn’t see that one coming!  I have often looked into the mirror and wasn’t sure I liked what I saw in the reflection these days.  Lines where there used to be none.  Spots of discoloration, a bump here, a flaw there, all representations of a life lived.  I didn’t want those marks and changes yet they came on their own, some marked by the passing of time, others as unexpected things happened in my life.  I realize I’m feeling more comfortable in my skin than ever before, lines, bumps and all.  I guess they, like the twists and turns of the stump, represent in their own ways the paths of my story.

woman-361541_1280A walk in the high desert on a beautiful spring morning.  Didn’t see Him coming toward me and yet He met me on the path today, bringing insight, love and understanding.  I so often forget that my Lord loves everything about our journeys with Him.  Whether I’m in the middle of baking raspberry crisp for dessert tonight or taking a walk with Him in nature, He is always there, willing to show me yet another slice of wisdom about my trek called life.  Thank you for a glorious walk through your garden Lord, walking with you in the bliss of this beautiful day!

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. Psalm 16:11 (MSG)

What Do You Expect to Leave When You Enter In?

and-tag-main-page-659796_1280Photo by Pixabay

Years ago a friend made the comment, “Before I walk into church every Sunday I ask God, ‘who do you want me to spend time with today Lord?’.”  That really caused me to think.  Did I ever offer myself to the Lord on my way into church?  To that point, no!  But that one question changed up the rules for me.

I have to admit that prior to this important question, I went to church for me.  I wanted to worship, I wanted to get fed, and I wanted a bit of time away from my child so I could think.  I was so self-focused and church was my time.  But that day, God chose to speak to me through a friend’s comment.

I next found myself in a wrestling match of sorts.  I had to face the fact that I’m not very good in crowds.  Put me one-on-one with someone and I can banter and carry on for hours.  But, a crowded room presents some issues.  What if the person I choose to talk to doesn’t want to talk to me?  How do I begin a conversation with someone I don’t really know?  What on earth should I say?  On and on my thoughts went, pushing up against my own self-imposed limits having to do with self-worth.  Thankfully the Lord has helped me over the years to basically get over myself and realize that I can be used, in big ways and in small ways, to speak into others’ lives.

So I want to challenge you today.  When you go to church, or into your office, perhaps into the grocery store or the coffee shop, would you please consider that God might want to use you in someone’s life?  When you enter in, what exactly do you plan on leaving behind?  I believe God wants us to realize that we are His hands and feet to this dying world, and if someone needs a touch from God, it’s going to have to come from us Christians roaming around town!  Could He do it another way?  Well, He’s God, of course and He doesn’t need us, but I believe He really wants to use us for such purposes.

The procedure is really quite simple.  As my friend did, simply ask God before entering the workplace, store, church service, etc., “who do you want me to touch base with today Lord?”  Give Him a few moments and I believe He’ll tell you.  If you’re not impressed immediately, go ahead and go in but be alert to His still, small voice that may direct you as you encounter various people.  Also, realize that this encounter may not be profound; but then again, it may not only change someone else’s life, it could actually change yours as well!

This simple little exercise is going to stretch you, but stretching never hurt anyone and it is actually quite good for us.  After I heard my friend, I began to allow myself to be stretched.  When I enter in, I look around the room.  I don’t always hear from God; sometimes I just observe until I see someone I haven’t met yet, someone wearing a look that tells me they aren’t happy, or perhaps feeling a little intimidated at being there.  Watch for the signals and be aware that God might be speaking to you.  And then step out.

I never used to think about what I left behind.  I’m praying these days that I’m leaving a good taste in someone’s life when I walk away from them.  It may only be a “hello” but it just might be the most important hello you’ve ever spoken.  God wants to use you.  As you enter in this week, what are you going to leave behind?

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

hand-644145_1280Photos by Pixabay

This photo reminded me of the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands”.  This was quite a popular song when I was young and I loved to sing it.  Seeing the photo reminded me of the truth of the song; indeed, He has the whole world in His hands.

Today I listened to a mp3 about hope.  Oh my, it stirred up something in me that kind of turned my world upside down.

Let me start at the beginning.  I had some time today with a dear friend and she asked me how things have been in my life recently.  Well, that question kind of unlocked something in me and what came pouring out without any thought on my part was the stress and heaviness of the past few weeks.  In other words, I dumped on her.  She prayed with me.  All was good.

I ran home to start a pot of chicken soup to share with a sick neighbor.  As I chopped up veggies for the soup, I turned on the message about hope.  An hour later, not only was my soup gently simmering on the stove-top but my spirit had been transformed.  Not two hours earlier I had been caught up in details of life, worn down, and weary from the fight.  Now, my spirit absolutely soared!

In this recording, I was reminded that while the messages of the Bible seemed heavy as you take them one at a time, we were given the Bible, the written Word of God, as a testament of hope.  There’s hope in every story.  Period.  I don’t care where you land in the Word of God, each message bears hope.  People faced with dire circumstances, we are told, ended in victory.  Was the victory necessarily that which was prayed for?  No.  Often the victory was a total surprise.  Sometimes the victory was something so far from the where the story began, it seems almost ridiculous.

Noah, a believer in God, told to build a boat in a time when there had never been rain.  And not just a boat, but a container for a zoo of all creation!  Rahab, a prostitute, the only one saved from a city of non-believers because she believed in some men who broke into her condo!  Abraham, credited as a friend of God, chosen as the father of more people than the counted stars and yet, he was a man with no children when the promise was given.  Esther, a Jewish woman, chosen as the queen of a king in a hostile kingdom, receives favor from her husband against all odds, and saves her entire nation.  I could go on and on.  Dire circumstances all to each involved and yet God turned each one into a victory.  And that’s just four stories out of the Old Testament!

The Bible.  A book given to us as a source of hope.  And yet, it is so easy to become completely entwined with our own circumstances and fall into the trap of believing there is no way through.  Oh what a tale the enemy of our souls can spin!

As I listened today to this message of hope, I found my spirits lifting.  Why?  Because the God of the Universe has the whole world in His hands!  I haven’t taken the time to discover how many stories of hope are contained in the Bible, but I know there are a lot.  My story, and your story, are each just as much a part of the unfolding tale of God’s people as those told in the Bible.  No matter what we face, there is hope.  Why?  Because God has us in His hands.

hand-505277_1280Whether we believe this or not, it is true.  He absolutely has you and me in His hands of love.  It is the unfolding story of love between a Creator and His creation.  My current situation, and yours, is an opportunity for Him to show His abounding love toward us.  He has a way through and probably, just as soon as I can muster the strength to realize the hope of the situation, He will bring about an amazing end.  It’s His way.

When the mp3 was over today, I felt both elation and disappointment.  Elation in being brought back from a place of believing the lies the enemy had been telling me about my situations.  Disappointment that I had been believing such things as,  “you can’t help”, “you don’t have very much faith, do you?”, “you’re not very good at helping others”, “I don’t know what to do”, and so on that had been hammering away at my soul lately.

Today my spirit screamed back, “NO, my Lord is watching over me, and He is absolutely going to help me through this place of uncertainty because that is His nature – He loves me, He cares for me, and He will turn all this to good,” because He loves me.  I am part of His creation and the Creator loves that which He creates!

Today, I pray Lord, that You will forgive me for sinking into myself.  I lost sight of Your hope in my situation.  While I don’t know the outcomes Lord, You do.  And all my outcomes are hopeful in You because You love me, You always have my good in mind, and You care about all involved, probably more than even I do if truth be told.  Thank you Lord for sending this message to me today.  It was the slap I needed to jolt me out of the dark and dire plans of the enemy and back into a place of realizing that nothing catches You by surprise.  You are for me and even this is something You can certainly handle.  Help me Lord to always remember there is hope because You have me in the palm of Your loving hand!

I Can’t Change, Can I?

imagePhoto by Pixaby.com

I’ve written before about my attitudes in the past about change.  I didn’t like it.  There was nothing about change I liked.  It was disruptive, it usually wasn’t friendly, and I spent a lot of my time avoiding it.  Funny thing was that no matter what I thought about change, it still happened.

I wonder what would happen if us humans were to embrace change completely.  I believe the Lord wants us to change our minds about change because, well, things are changing all the time.

Take my parents for instance.  They were born in the 1920’s.  My goodness, think about all the change that has taken place in our world since then.   Airplanes and flying were still in their infancy.  Television hadn’t come onto the scene yet.  Movies were still black and white.  Computers hadn’t been thought of (well, perhaps someone was thinking about it, but they didn’t make it onto the scene until much later).  Folks were still dying of measles and smallpox, routinely.  Food was all prepared in the home because there were no prepared foods.  I could go on and on.

When we come face-to-face with change we often balk.  I can’t quite figure out why this seems to be the go to attitude for so many of us but I see it over and over. We just don’t seem to be very friendly with change and yet change is all around us, day after day, as a regular part of our lives.

Today I had occasion to talk to a banker about the ways we can get our money to another person.  I wanted to know if there was any way I might not be aware of that we could receive cash without actually going anywhere, as in without leaving our home (it’s a long story!).

We are indeed quickly becoming a cashless society.  We can have our checks direct-deposited into our checking or savings accounts.  We can, if computer/Internet savy, pay our bills via billpay.  We can wire money to others.  We are now able to text money to others – I didn’t know about that one.  We can also email money, another version I’ve done only once.  It seems we can get money to people fairly easily but you must still be able to get to a bank or at the very least to a cashier at a store to be able to receive cash for yourself.

The point is, the world is an ever-changing place.  We see it all around us, we live with it everywhere, and yet we fight it’s existence and get downright testy sometimes if we perceive we are expected to change in some way!

In my last post I wrote about my choices.  If change is inevitable, and everything about life seems to indicate that is true, then I have a choice to make.  I can either go with the things that are changing around me and learn from them or, I can hang onto my old ways.  In my past, I hung onto my old ways.  Sometimes I hung onto them until it hurt.  Sad but true.  I spent a lot of time hurting back then.

Once again I come to the fact that when I’m facing a change, I get stuck in my ways because somehow I don’t believe God can help me.  “This thing is way too big for you God!  I certainly don’t know know what to do with it, so how could You?”  When I state it in this way it sounds just ludicrous!  As I wrestle and fight over this thing that I don’t know the answer to, I find I’m actually holding the problem hard to my chest and I seldom allow anyone into the problem.  Even as I write this, I’m realizing just how stupid this attitude is!  And yet I’m guilty of this thinking.

These days I’m attempting to have a looser grip on change.  I don’t want to hold onto my ways so tightly that I’m stupid about the changes coming.  God is so much bigger than me and He knows the end from the beginning.  If that is true, and I believe it is, then He knows the best route out of this dilemma.

Just like that, what pops into my mind but the children of Israel wandering around in the desert.  They didn’t like the changes going on in their world either.  They started grumbling to Moses almost from the outset.  Here was God providing for them in new ways (manna, water from rocks, the promise of a new land) and they were holding hard to their chests the old ways.  “We want to go back to Egypt.  We may have been slaves but at least we had garlic and onions to eat!”  They were an ungrateful bunch.  Funny, it’s so easy to see it in them, so hard to see it in myself.

Now let’s look at the truth of the matter.  God had a place for them.  It was a fertile land and they would be free from captivity.  They would be able to thrive in this place.  All they had to do was trust God.  The problem was they couldn’t see His provision any more than we can when faced with change in our lives.  But God hasn’t, nor will He ever, change!  What we so easily see as His provision for our ancestors, He certainly has the same in store for us.  The provision is there, waiting for us, we just have to go with the change and trust Him!

God wants to show us marvelous things!  Did you hear me?  He has absolutely wonderful things in store for us – because He loves us!  But the catch is we have to go through the changes in order to realize them.  Just as the children of Israel had to get to the promised land before they could realize the wonderful place it was, so do we have to get through the change before we’ll see His provision in our lives.image

 

If we’re ever going to become a butterfly, we must stop crawling around, go into the pupa stage and allow the wondrous change to occur!  It will be a marvelous change.  It will be a brand new day.  Help me Lord, I wanna fly!

I Am Choosing…

imageThere are just too many choices!  I can go to an agency and ask questions.  I’m good at that sort of thing.  But when you don’t really know where to go in the first place, everything gets instantly complicated.

I called one place.  Got a machine.  If you want…, press one.  If you want…, press two.  On it went, all the way through choice nine.  “If I knew what I wanted for crying out loud, I would just tell you but you have to answer the phone first!” I wanted to scream at no one in particular.  I finally pressed one of the choices.  “Please leave a message and someone will call you as soon as we can!”  Right.  That was yesterday.  Am I counting on them calling me back?  Not so much.

I saw a post yesterday morning.  It stated in part, “stress is a choice”.  That caught my attention.  Stress is a choice.  At first something in me bristled.  “How can that be?  I didn’t ask for all this.  I didn’t cause the stress I’m feeling at this moment.”  And, for a short time, I continued in my fretting about all the stressful issues on my plate.  But that post just kept niggling at me and I found myself really pondering it, whether it could be truth or not.

Last night we watched a DVD by Graham Cooke.  My mind had difficulty staying with what he was saying in the beginning.  But then, as the video played on, I began to take notice of his theme.  While he certainly wasn’t addressing my issues, he was addressing the truth of the Word and that’s when my ears began to hear.  I began scribbling notes as the ah-ha’s of his words settled over me.  By the end of the video, I felt like someone had come to me and wrapped a very warm blanket around my shoulders.  My loving Savior was attending to my frazzled nerves.

There was one thing in particular that stood out and ministered to me.  “Our current circumstance is the ideal soil for our next breakthrough,” said Pastor Cooke.  Was this it, the defining moment of all the stresses I’m currently facing?  I could suddenly see truth.  While the enemy of my soul wanted me to become tormented in the situations at hand, my loving Papa has other ideas.  The Lord’s provision for me is one based on His love for me.

When we come to the place of realization that God loves us, will never leave or forsake us, then there becomes space for us to break through into His provisions.  What is God’s plan for each of us?  To make us more like Him!  In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let Us make man in Our image…”  Who is the Us God refers to?  It is He, Jesus and Holy Spirit.  They, the holy three, are having a conversation.  “Jesus, Holy Spirit, how about we make man (which includes both men and women) in Our image.  Let’s make them like us, shall we?”  And that’s exactly what happened.

God is drawn to His only Son in us.  When we receive Christ, He comes to reside in us and it is that residency that attracts God.  It is the divine plan of redemption, that we would become more and more like the One in us.  When you add to this the fact that God tells us that He’s seated us in heavenly places with Christ, we have the makings of that perfect soil for breakthrough Graham Cooke spoke of in the video!

God is for me.  He loves me.  He’s not interested in tormenting me, but He is interested in helping me learn to respond to all situations in the same ways that Jesus did when He was here on this earth as a man.  The Bible tells us that Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing and said only what He heard the Father saying.  That’s the plumb line God works me toward.  Why?  Because He only wants my success, not my downfall.  As I learn to lean into Him more and more, I am better able to discern His plans for my next breakthrough!

I have a long way to go in this process.  But, praise God, I just happened to have in my possession last night a DVD by Graham Cooke that helped me see God’s plan better for this time in my life.  Do I know exactly what to do about all the stresses yet?  Um, not exactly.  But this I do know.  God is for me in this and every tough situation I face.  He has an outcome He hopes I’ll press into Him to find out.  And His outcome will contain a breakthrough for my growth, something I would be so happy to find.

Is stress a choice?  I suspect it is because last night I heard truth and I’m choosing today to not look at all the circumstances.  Instead I’m attempting to lean closer to my Father in order to hear what He’s telling me about this.

Father, I pray You’ll give me ears to hear and eyes to see You more clearly today.  I want Your provision for this circumstance.  This is the ideal soil for a breakthrough Papa.  And boy am I ready for a breakthrough!  Today I’m choosing not stress, but You!

A Night In the Emergency Room

imageEmergency rooms at 3:00 a.m. are  interesting places.  As I sit here with my mother, I’m in the perfect spot to observe. Mom is quiet and stable, thank you so much Lord.  We came because she had a shooting pain in her head and dizziness.  All this after my dad was discharged from the hospital earlier this week.  Mom, being the caregiver, was so concerned to have to wake us and for me to bring her here.  My husband is at home with dad.   In a short time, as the minutes have turned into a couple of hours now, I’ll have to perhaps leave her here to run back to their house, collect my dad and get him to his post op appointment.  Mom worries about such inconveniences as this for me. How can I assure her that I’m just grateful I am here?

We’ve seen a lab tech, a tech who ran the CAT scan (ruling out stroke or bleeding of which there was none), a nurse who has cheerfully attended to everything from bathroom locations to warm blankets, the ER physician, and a tech to run an IV setup for fluids.  The diagnosis?  Unsure but possibly a sinus condition causing equilibrium issues.  Oh Lord, you are so kind and caring!

All these people have been smiling and kind and done their various jobs quickly and professionally.  I am so grateful for folks who turn their lives upside down in order to man emergency rooms in the middle of the night when I need them.  Mom is resting for a few minutes now, the intensity of earlier moments waning.  I’m not so sure my dad is as relaxed yet but he will be as soon as we get home and he sees his bride of 67 years again, safe and sound.

This has been a good week with my parents.  To be here with them, especially during times of stress, has been a bit tense but, at the same time gratifying, knowing I’ve been here to help them ease the issues.  Do I like it they have to be in distress right now?  Of course not.  However, being here is loads better than sitting at home, 500 miles away and hearing about such dramas secondhand.

This is is a hard time for all of us.  My parents have been, thankfully, fiercely independent for 89 and 88 years.  We’ve lived away from them for almost 40 years and so our lives are equally independent.  I suspect we’re going to have to learn to be more dependent on each other now.  At any rate, God has been good to us all.

We are home again.  The emergency room has been left behind, everyone is breathing easier again.  The sun is up and the birds are singing.  It’s another new day Lord and I thank you for helping us through a trying night.  Lord, you are so faithful to us.  Now off to the doctor visit with dad.  Thanks Lord for all your provisions!

God, Where Did You Go?

binoculars-358032_1280I’m alone…with no thoughts, no inspirations, no sense that God is here.  Can you relate?  It causes me to look off into the distance, wondering if I’ve missed a turn somewhere.  Did the Lord go right while I definitely took that left turn?  How could I end up here, feeling like a door has closed on my relationship with Him?  Why is it that some days feel like this?

There are issues looming ahead of me.  My elderly parents and some health issues, the ministry focus of my life right now that needs attention, taxes need to be done, the dog needs to get some shots updated, renter issues that need attention, family members making questionable decisions that I don’t agree with (do you hear the edge of judgment there?  Oh, I must beware of that one!), friends leaving shortly for a mission trip to Africa whom I need to be lifting up in prayer.  Then there’s a topic I want to study up on and prepare a talk around, a schedule that seems to have little room for any of this, and oh my gosh, the dog just threw up and I have to figure out what that’s all about!  It just seems to go on and on, and I can’t see God in any of it at this moment.

At these times, I just want to crawl up into a corner with a good book and let the world go by.  It all feels so, so like life just picked up a shotgun, loaded a shell full of peppercorns, and let it blast at me.  I’m being peppered to death it seems.  So many things to think about.  So many people with needs.  So much in the world that I cannot affect.

These are days that I must call upon something else in my spirit, these days when I can’t seem to get my feet flat on terra firma and I’m being tossed to and fro.  I always think of the verse in James 1 that says being tossed to and fro is the worst place to be as someone who believes in Jesus Christ.  That particular verse doesn’t much help me feel a lot of confidence in myself on days like today!

Has God left me?  No, I don’t think so.  Is He punishing me for some unknown sin?  Nope that’s not it either.  Is He torturing me by just being silent at this time?  Absolutely not, for that is not in God’s nature.  So if this isn’t some plan of God’s to make me see something in particular, what exactly is this all about?

I need the confidence of the Lord for times like these. Where do I get it?  These are the days when I have to pull deep to my past circumstances to find what I’m looking for.  This is one of those days that I have to go to what I like to call is my “knower”.  I know that God is madly in love with me not because of anything I’ve done or because I’m such a wonderful woman of God.  No, He just loves me because I’m one of His kids.  I know God is for me.  I know God will take any adverse circumstance of my life that I might be going through at this moment and He will use it to help me grow stronger.  I know God will never, ever leave me nor forsake me.  I just know all these things at this point in my life.

This, I believe, is the point of such times.  God uses silent times to help us so we might come to a place in our ever-changing lives to realize that just because He is silent, He is no less close to me.  “Oh but God, it’s so much better for me when I sense your presence, when I absolutely see you in the midst of my day,” I might cry.  Yes, I love being on the mountaintop with God.  Those are sweet, sweet times of refreshing, full of joy and wonder at His known presence.  But just like a small child learning to be weaned from the comfort of her blankie, I must come to a place in my walk that I can comfort myself in knowing that while I might not sense Him, He is always near.  This particular lesson took far too many years for me to figure out, but I think I’m there.

This day, in my distress over the unknowns and all the uncertainties of my life, I am able to find comfort in the sheer knowledge that I know my Savior is here.  He’s quiet, but He’s here.  And, praise God, I’m good with that.  Tomorrow is another day!