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!

You Are Loved

space-624054_1280I’m awestruck.  This morning at our church we showed this video, How Great is Our God by Louie Giglio, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azFFc20_Ub4.  I would encourage you to take the time (about 40 minutes) to watch this amazing video.  Not only does it give testimony of how wonderful and huge our God is, but it also gives a taste of how, in Louie’s words, “incredibly wonderful you are”!

Yes, our God is great and amazing and powerful and mysterious.  And, at the same time, He made each and every one of us to be simply and wonderfully loved.  Right down to the very cells that make us up.  Each cell accounted for.  Unique.  Special.  Profoundly different from every other human being on this teeny, tiny planet hurtling through space.

You are loved.  And you are prayed for.  Really.  Right now I’m sending up a prayer for each and every person who reads this blog.  I want the Lord to bless you.  I want Him to give you the kind of hug that makes you realize just how truly divine you are.

Lord, bless my friends this day and every day.  Give them a sense of You in their coming and going.  Help them see that You are in everything they experience, both the good and the not so good.  You are there, waiting for them to call out to You in every circumstance they find themselves in.  And Lord, would you give them a sense of the good You’re going to do no matter the circumstance?  Your Word tells us you are always working for us and You will turn every situation to our good.  I’ve witnessed You doing that in my life and so I know You are doing in each reader’s life also.  Watch over them, keep them safe.  And Lord, I pray You will utterly allow Your love to explode within them and they will feel it and see it happening.  Bless them, each and every one, Lord.  Amen

Searching Out a Matter

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Hard things keep occurring all around us. This is a difficult time in our world and yet, the Lord has placed you here, in this particular time period because He willed it so. He knew what you would face, the hardships you would encounter along the way, the victories you would experience. Yes, He placed you here and now, because He needs you here and now.

It seems a world gone mad some days. We each have our ways of coping with that which is going on around us; some deal with it well, others not so much. Is any of it a surprise to God? No, I don’t think so because the Word tells us He knows the end from the beginning.

A new situation has risen in my life. I’m not looking forward to this. But as the news of this came to me today, I realize that my reaction is purely and simply up to me. My Lord isn’t surprised by this, He knew it was coming for a very long time. He’s been attempting to prepare me for this. I must turn my eyes heavenward in order to understand, or attempt to understand, His heart in this matter.

I love the verse in Proverbs 25:2:

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (NKJV).

As I search out the root meanings of this verse, my interpretation says, “it is the honor of God (our heavenly God) to hide a matter, but the honor of kings (royal) is to examine intimately a matter. What does that mean? Well, I take it to mean a number of things.

First of all, God is the God of the universe. Can we possibly understand and define a God who can call nothing into something? I don’t know about you, but I struggle with that. Where would I begin? How do I take nothing and create something out of it? It’s the most baffling thing, far greater than the very best magician who seemingly brings something into our sight when moments before there was nothing, without us even realizing the slight of hand. No there is no understanding or defining the things of God.

So it is that He decided to conceal matters from us. Why? To torture us? To show us whose boss? I don’t think so. His desires always line up with the fact that He is for us, He loves us, He never leaves us nor will He ever forsake (abandon or ditch) us. His word says so and to do otherwise would make Him out to be a liar.

No, God is God and He’s decided that He will conceal some things from us. I think it is so we might search His meanings out, look for the deeper things in our relationship with Him, try to determine if we can find out what His heart is in a matter. It is not done out of any other reasoning except that He wants us with Him, always. And as I search His heart out, I often find new understandings and meanings in situations I thought I understood in the past and suddenly, He brings new light onto the subject.

While this verse addresses kings, I believe it is aimed at us today. The root word of kings is melek and it means king, royal. What does the word say about us? We are royalty, adopted into God’s family by our relationship with Jesus Christ. While I feel anything but royal, it’s not about my feelings about this matter. The fact of the Word is that we are royalty, being of the house of God, adopted in, grafted into the main vine by our relationship with Jesus. There’s no word bending there.

So, while this verse insinuates there is mystery surrounding God, our Father in heaven, it also gives us a mandate. Search out the things of this world by comparing what we experience against the solid meanings in the Word. We are to examine our circumstances intimately against what the Word says. In doing this, I have found a truth, perhaps even a key to the Kingdom. As I take my circumstance and search out the scriptures for meaning of it, in spite of the fact that it was written in a day and age that I am totally unfamiliar with, I find new meanings, new understandings, new definitions to overlay onto my life.

So many times we are tempted to believe that the Bible is not for today because it was written over 2000 years ago. But as I dig deep into the Word of God, I find that my flesh, the part of me that experiences this life, here and now, just doesn’t have a clue what this life is about. We only see in part; we cannot see the spirit realm that surrounds us. And it is there, in that spirit realm, that our answers are hidden.

God’s word says He has given me everything needed to walk out this life. To me that means there is provision – but I’m going to have to look for it. It is not present necessarily in this physical surrounding, but it is hidden in the unseen realm, the Kingdom of our Father in heaven. To search for meaning in that unseen realm means that I need the help of my Father for my physical eyes cannot see it until I am trained up in His ways. And the only way in is through Jesus Christ, my Savior.

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Oh Lord, help us. Give us eyes to see, and ears to hear that which is unnatural to us here in this world. I pray somehow that my words today will open someone’s understanding to your mysterious ways. You don’t hide matters from us because you don’t want us to find them; You hide them so we might pull in close to you. Just as a mother will attempt to point across a field and show her child the hidden fawn, lying silently in the grasses, You wait for us to pull in close so you might show us the way through. Open our eyes, open our ears and help us search intimately for your hidden ways. Amen.

It’s Not About Me…But It Is!

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The opening line of “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren says, and if you know it, say it with me here, “It’s not about me”!  Nope, it’s not.  It’s about a multitude of other people and other things…and yet, curiously, it is about me.

God made each of us as a unique human being.  He knew us long before we came about.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

Read that over slowly.  God had a plan for you when He thought about you.  You entered into His plan for you when you received Him into your life as your savior.  The plan comes about by faith — in the One you invite to come live inside yourself.  That’s some heavy plan.

But how can this be, you might ask? “I didn’t ask to be born,” you say. No, you didn’t. But nonetheless, you were thought about and there was a plan in place, just waiting for you to come onto the scene.

And that right there is how things get all screwed up with us. That coming onto the scene thing! We don’t ask to come here, to live this life and yet here we are. Some of us are thrown into horrific circumstances. Some of us have a fairly decent life. But I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned over the years, walking with Christ. The more folks I get to meet along this journey of life, the less I hear that shocks me anymore. I’ve heard it all.

child-594519_1280There are those whose lives were so wrecked, they ran away from home and lived on the streets at 13 years of age. Those who suffered at the hands of abusive parents and lived through unthinkable things that shouldn’t happen to a rock! There have been cutters, alcoholics, drug addicts, murderers and rapists. Those who lied beyond reason, those who quit speaking, those who can barely make it through the day. There are those so wrecked by war that life took on colors so foreign to the rest of us that we just didn’t understand. And those who gave up on life because it was easier than going on one more day.

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What does this all have to do with “it’s not about me”? Well, it’s all about us, those folks who were injured early in life and those injured later in life. God had a plan for each and every one of us. Did His plan call for these atrocities that we’ve all had to deal with? No! God’s plan doesn’t include such things, but I’ve learned that there are few Pollyanna’s in this life. You see, we’ve all been injured in one way or another. And beyond all those injuries, those sad times, those hard places, God had and still has a plan. Honest!

God knew the things we would all suffer through. If He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent as the Bible tells us He is then none of this comes as a surprise to Him. He knew all along that we would suffer – and yet He still had a plan. His plan, as it turns out, is quite ingenious. You see He knew that the enemy of our lives would bring about hard times, some very hard times, and that the enemy would whisper into our ears that if there was a God, then none of this should happen. Oh yes, God was quite familiar with the tactics of Satan. He is the epitome of a bully. If he can get you to believe that God allowed all these things to happen to you, then you won’t be very excited about allowing God into your life. And that’s Satan’s plan!

But God had a better and bigger plan. He knew all that would occur in each of our lives. He planned for it and He planned the way of escape.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

If you are reading this today, you are living proof of my hypothesis! You lived through the horror, the dishonor, the hurts, the abuse. You are still here. You made it!  It was God’s plan all along. And now, if you will let Him, He’ll show you the full power of the way of escape.

I’ve had my share of stuff, things I never in a million years thought would happen to me. But they did. There were times I didn’t think I’d survive. But I did. And do you know what? Those exact hurts, burdens and sorrows became my way through. They became my defining moments. I’m now stronger because of the hurts. I’m wiser now because God showed me the way through. Not only did He show me the way through, He pulled me through!  And it has become my distinct privilege now to share my journey with others who are suffering and trying to find their way through. No, it’s not about me, and yet, it has everything to do with me and my journey. It’s the brilliant plan! Use those scarred by Satan to show the next ones in the crucible the way of escape! Absolutely brilliant!

person-110303_1280If you find yourself in the middle of a jam, look around you. You are not the only hurting person (even though this is one of the prime lies of Satan) and chances are, there’s someone who’s been through a similar situation already in your life. Reach out to them. There is a way of escape and it usually looks like another person who knows exactly what you’re going through! It is one of the most confounding truths of life. It’s not about me…and yet it is, as I share my story and grab another’s hand to show them the way through. Brilliant God, just brilliant!

…and God Answered

alpine-marmot-cave-182908_1280Have you ever been in the bottom of a hole?  Has life ever dealt you so many blows that you felt like you were trapped in a deep, dark hole with no way out?  I have and I know this is a feeling that many of us have felt before.  One day you’re striding along minding your own business when what seems out of nowhere a hole opens up in your path and down you tumble.  Trying to gain an understanding of what just happened, you realize you are indeed trapped.  Feeling along the walls, there are no holds to help you get out of here.  And that’s the exact moment that fear settles in.

Fear is absolutely debilitating.  It blocks your way.  Now the mind races to times in the past that may have been like this and almost instantly, old tapes are racing through your brain, trying ever so hard to convince you that there is no way out.  Remember the last time this happened?  Do you remember what the family all said?  No one was understanding of this and no one was willing to help you.  You could replace the word family with many: co-workers, friends, lovers, and so on.  It sometimes feels like you’re the only one on an otherwise unpopulated island, surrounded by hounds baying in the distance and they too are closing in.

I’ve lived here so many times in the past it almost sickens me to remember.  What I’ve come to learn with the passing of years is that those times were absolutely a lie!  There were ways out, I just couldn’t see them.  Instead, my memories and recollections played tricks on me, intending to lock me into the rhythms of past thoughts.

Perhaps there’s another explanation.  There is the one, the enemy of our souls, who intends for you to get locked up with past failures.  I see him in my minds eye as a ninja of sorts, tossing wicked stars of destruction, one after another after another, so fast I am not able to keep up with their coming at me.  It’s the sheer rapidity of their flying at me that disarms any sense of hope; I’m too busy dodging and defending myself from their slashing edges to even dare to think I can win this battle.  It, in effect, becomes a battle for my very life.

The enemy of our souls wants to throw so many lies and untruths at us that we get caught up in trying to reason our way through.  It is then that the hole closes in around us and our resolve gets injured, sometimes beyond hope.  Yes, falling into the abyss of our minds can be a frightening place.

It is right there, that last attempt to somehow get out of the hole, that our emotions completely overpower us.  I can’t, I won’t be able to, I’m never going to amount to anything, I’ve done it again.  That unbelievable place we find ourselves in when we thought we were making progress and instead, we find ourselves here in the bottom of the pit.  When this happens enough times, we may actually despair and want to give up.

cave-555727_1280But wait.  There is one more thing to do.  Look up!  From the bottom of the pit it appears a long way up there, but I do see blue skies.  How do I get there?  This is the moment, the time when you cry out to Jesus.  Of course!  Why didn’t I think of this before?  It’s hard to cry out to Jesus when you’re so very busy defending your moves, or trying to claw your way back up.  Sit back down and ask Him to help you recall a song of worship.  Sing to Jesus.  I’m convinced that the melodic sounds of our song drift up to His waiting ears.  He’s been there all along, wondering how long it might take us to reach out to Him.  Due to the nature of our relationship with Him, He waits until we call and it is all He’s been waiting to hear.  How do we know this?  Because the Word shows us the way:

“While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him.” Hebrews 5:7 (MSG)

Jesus Himself shows us the way.  Look up dear one.  The pit is dark and its sides are steep but there is always a way out.  Look up!  Ah yes, He’s there waiting.  Cry out!  When we honor God, He will answer.