Be Careful Who (or What) You Worship

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It’s been one of those days.  I had a plan.  It was a pretty straight lineup of things.  Tonight as I look back over the day, the path, instead of a straight line, took on the look of a crazy squiggly line, up, down, around, and around, up and over and back again.

Once again I am with my elderly parents, 500 miles from home.  My Mom had a heart attack a week ago.  She’s home again thankfully after six days in the hospital.  God has been so faithful in healing her, in holding my Dad in His palm, and in lifting me up by the prayers of the saints back home in my church.  It’s been a difficult week but we’ve made it.

This morning we ended up back in the emergency room.  Mom wasn’t sure about sensations on her right side and we had to make sure we weren’t dealing with a clot.  After four hours, numerous blood tests and a EKG she was released home: all was fine.

Well, you know or can imagine, I’m sure, what this morning might have felt like for my Mom, Dad and me.  All my plans for the day went flying out the window as fear attempted to rush right into each of our minds.

Being in a different town, away from my husband, home, and my church family leaves me in a sometimes precarious place.  More than once this week I’ve had to face issues I’ve never dealt with before.  In spite of moments when everything in me wanted to either panic or cry uncontrollably, I got through.  Wait.  Correction.  In spite of those moments GOD strengthened and brought me through!

Tonight I decided to attend a prayer and worship time at a church we attend when we are in town at my parents’.  I attended last Sunday when they announced this special time but evidently I got the time wrong – I arrived an hour early!  Sigh.

I sat down to listen to the worship team practice and decided to take a look at my devotional today, the one I missed due to rushing off to the emergency room right after breakfast.  I was met with this verse:

“Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!  There is no want for those who fear Him.” Psa. 34:9

Tonite I’m realizing that fear has been trying oh so hard to throw me off track.  Every day for the past eight days I’ve been confronted, in one way or another, by fear.  So many questions and doubts, all laid into my Lord’s lap because I don’t know where all this is going for my Mom.

No, I must wait for each day to unfold as it will.  And here is where I must choose.  Will I fall into fear’s waiting arms?  No, not this time satan!  I know where that path leads – more fear and torment.

Instead I’m choosing to fear God.  I know He’s not happy when I succumb to the enemy’s ploys.  Why?  Because He has provision for me, no matter what I face.  Tonight I’m choosing to fear my God, as one of His beloved children.  And what does the Word say about that?  Back to Psalm 34, where David tells us that there will be no want for those who fear the Lord.

That’s all I need tonite.  I’m not going to be tripped up by fear!  Instead, I’m here with fellow saints, getting ready to worship our God.  His provision is here tonite, just as it has been all week long!  Accept my offering Lord, of my love to you as I lift my voice in worship to You!

Oh, it’s so good to be in the house of the Lord!  And it is here I’m provided for in whatever comes my way.

 

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YES!

as-343456_1280Take a good look at this picture.  What does it say to you?  Does it seem silly, perhaps even a little bit trite?  I hope you will pause and really look at this picture for a moment before reading on.  Ask the Lord to reveal to you some truth about this photograph.  Go ahead, it just might be the exercise you need to do right now!

I read a post from someone today that put my mind to remembering.  I’m not sure where it all began, perhaps in the story I wrote about in Step Over the Fence.  In what I want to share with you today the context is different from that example, but the theory is much the same.

There came that point in my life, somewhere in my 20’s, that I wanted to do something but my thought pattern automatically went to, “I can’t do that!”  It was the moment when I dreamed a little and wanted something I currently didn’t have or hadn’t experienced yet.  Why exactly my censor/flesh/thoughts seemed to automatically go to the place of can’t I’m not sure.  But this was a thought pattern that was very, very familiar to me.

OK here’s where the above photograph comes in.  See the opening way back there, the space where the arm has entered?  I’m going to liken the thinking process of what I just described as that place, the spot where the idea first occurs to us.  Now imagine with me that you leaned down and looked into that hole, wondering where it led.  All kinds of thoughts might come into your mind:  eeuuww, that’s a dark hole, or I wonder where that hole goes, or I’m not putting my arm in there because there might be spiders/snakes/scorpions in there (humor me, I live in the high desert!).  Can you relate?

I have a cousin who, when we were kids, might have looked at this hole and it would have immediately represented the makings of an adventure, something that had to be conquered.  I never looked at things quite like he did, but I’ll tell you something; when he decided to go on an adventure and his sister and I were invited along, we indeed found adventures galore.  There were sometimes scary adventures (the time we were following the creek behind their rural property on a hiking adventure and kids on the other side decided to bombard us with rocks) and there were also exquisite quests that left us breathless from the daring thing we just pulled off (the time we dug a tunnel more than just a few feet and it didn’t cave in on us)!

Back to the hole in the photo above.  Life is kind of like that hole.  We look at something in our surrounding lives and make all kinds of assumptions, without much thinking about what we’re really saying about the situation.  To a risk-taker like my cousin, this hole may provide a sense of adventure.  If this hole is the only opening in an otherwise solid wall, the risk-taker sees a question:  what lies on the other side and can I see it through this hole?  My cousin would have stuck his arm right into that hole and I can imagine him giving that thumbs up signal once his hand reached the other side.  To me, the wall appeared a barrier and the hole seemed a taunt, nothing more.

There came the day in my life that something shifted. I was working at a struggling-to-survive alcoholism treatment center.  I was the bookkeeper and well aware of the financial state of the place.  I knew we needed a rabbit pulled out of a hat.  I was a brand new Christian, and Jesus Christ was wooing me to conquer fears; I didn’t know how to do this risk thing, but He was about to show me.

I thought one day, “we need a big name person to come and put on a benefit fundraiser for us.  But who?”  I labored over that until one night as I lay in bed reading a book by a well-known author, it came to me.  Why can’t I ask this man, the author of the book, to come and do a benefit for us?  My censor told me, “no way girl!  You can’t do that.  It’s impossible, and he will think you’re nuts if you ask.”  But then something very foreign, a timid form of wisdom spoke through my thick wall of objections and the place at the other end of the tube, called to me in a whisper, ever so softly:  “You can certainly ask because you know what?  What’s the worst thing that can happen?”  And I had to answer that question.  The worst thing that might happen?  He might say no.  And then I had to ask the question, “if he says no, will my world end?”  Of course it wouldn’t.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  And that was the point it all changed.  That was in 1977 and I still have a copy of the letter I sent to this famous author.  (By the way, he said no!)

I’ve applied that truth to oh so many seeming obstacles in my life and do you know what I’ve found?  In most instances, I experienced the surprising success that I thought impossible!  I came away from so many situations, shaking my head in disbelief at the ease in which the solid wall of the impossible came tumbling down, right before my eyes.  I got jobs I never thought I’d qualify for.  I was able to try things that my experience certainly didn’t add up to.  My husband and I held a rock concert we thought impossible with a well-known performer.  Successes went on and on but I always had to go through the process of asking.  It was absolutely a case of stick-your-arm-into-the-hole and WA-LAA!  There was a freedom waiting on the other side of no way — YES!

So go through the process today and see what happens!  Go ahead and ask.  The worst they can say is no.  And your world will go on.  I promise!

It Was All Carter’s Fault!

Sometimes the most wonderfully unexpected things happen by means of surprising circumstances!

Our grandson came to stay with us this past summer.  He’s 12 1/2 years old and quickly approaching the age when it just won’t be cool to hang out with Mamaw anymore.  At least this is what my logical mind keeps telling me.  I cherish my time with this young man for he is quite wonderful and amazing.  We both love to laugh at things.  When he was little, I would often launch into absolute buffoonery just to make him and his sisters laugh.  Carter has the greatest dimples and when he laughs long and hard, he often says he’s having a dimple freeze meaning his face hurts from so much laughter.  That’s what I always hoped for; dimple freezes translating into we are having laugh attacks together.

Well, during that week he showed signs of wanting to hang out with Papa some and so they did some landscaping work with a bobcat tractor that Carter got to drive for the first time.  He was loving it and I might add, he took to it more readily than grandpa did when he learned!  Not surprising with today’s youth who grow up on technology, video games and joysticks.  He rambled around the yard with absolutely no problems!  Then Papa gave him a few lessons in the art of the golf swing and they spent a few hours throughout the week up in the shop, swinging away at the little white ball into papa’s golf net setup.  Seems Carter has his daddy’s natural ability to have a pretty hefty golf swing; Papa was impressed.  They also shot at targets with a 22 pistol and all these things added up to wonderful “guy time” for Papa and Carter.

As usual Carter and I had a few laughter moments (the old girl still has the knack!), but sadly, I had to work a bit harder to find the silly space between us.  My moments with him came in dreaming up meals that I knew he would appreciate or at the very least like, helping to plan out what we were all doing, and in confounding the boy by trying to turn facts into secrets or silly untruths.  He’s got me figured out pretty well at this age!

Then came Saturday.  Papa was going to be gone at a golf tournament that had been planned prior to our knowing Carter was coming to stay with us.  What were we going to do for the day?  Carter was pretty agreeable to most anything we discussed and then he had an idea.  “How about we do another one of those treasure hunts Mamaw?”  This statement caused no small amount of contemplation on my part.  You see, a treasure hunt is something of a spiritual exercise.  You pray beforehand and ask the Lord for clues to help you find people who need prayer.  Clues can include such things as colors, locations, body parts (meaning a limp, a cast on a wrist, a brace of some sort, anything physical that can be seen), specific articles of clothing, or any other thing to help you find God’s treasure (the person) for prayer.  We had done one of these with all three of our grandchildren about three years before; the results were pretty outstanding and the day made a lasting impression on these kids.  Shucks, they made a lasting impression on us adults as well!

So, Carter wanted to do another treasure hunt.  As wonderful as they are, treasure hunts can cause issues.  Issues like fear, insecurities, and other such distracting things to surface.  And, since it had been quite awhile since I had participated in a treasure hunt, all the uncertainties of treasure hunts started screaming in my head.  “Oh my goodness, I have to muster up courage to approach people!”, “what if someone yells at me?”, and a myriad of other objections wouldn’t leave me alone.  And yet, here is this 12-year-old looking at me with all the confidence in the world that his grandmother is going to take him out on a God adventure and we’re going to pray for people’s needs.  I simply could not let this moment and opportunity pass.

So, off we went into town, armed with our individual lists of clues that included mostly colors, articles of clothing, and a person with a limp.  First we went to one of the grocery stores in town that is situated in a strip mall.  We took our dog with us since she usually is a people magnet.  No one approached us; the dog was not working her charms that day!  We spotted a couple of people with the right color or piece of clothing, and even a man with a limp, but I couldn’t bring myself to chase them out in the parking lot as they approached their cars.  With much frustration, we commented to each other that this was turning out to be harder than the last time we did this.  Finally, we saw a friend leaving in her car and we promptly waved her down to talk.  We told her what we were doing and she told us we could pray for a need she had this day.  With our pump primed now, she drove off and we decided to go to another store in town.

We left Sophie in the car and went inside.  Looking down the aisles, we finally noticed a woman with a gray sweater, two of the clues on our sheets.  We approached.  I excused my intrusion and waited for the woman to acknowledge me.  She continued staring at the shelves of items in front of us.  Inside, I was dying!  “Oh my gosh, this woman thinks I’m a fruitcake!  We should just walk away,” I bemoaned to myself.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see Carter, waiting for his grandmother to launch into action.  How could I bolt with those eyes upon me?  And so I launched into my speech: “Hi, this is my grandson and we are on a treasure hunt today from the Lord.  You are wearing a gray sweater and that was a clue He gave us this morning as we prayed about how we were to find folks who need prayer.  We believe you are one of God’s treasures.  Do you by chance have a need today that we could pray about for you?”  The woman had remained looking straight ahead at the shelves until I finished talking.  She finally turned to look at me, smiled, and said, “oh I don’t think I have any needs today.”  I thanked her, apologized for interrupting her shopping trip and wished her a blessed day.

As we walked off, Carter said, “well, that was awkward, wasn’t it?”  I couldn’t have agreed more.  I felt that this was a bust idea, but for Carter’s sake I never let on how insecure I was feeling at the moment.  We looked for more treasures for another ten minutes or so and I finally said we should head for home.  I was so disappointed.  I had been sure the Lord would use us because He knows how tentative a 12-year-old’s faith is and I didn’t want the enemy to win.  Somehow my disappointment was quickly being transformed into thoughts of failure, all tied up with my fears and doubts about my own courage in this experiment.  We slowly walked out the door.  Off to my right was a pharmacy walk-up window and there, standing against a short wall waiting her turn at the window, was an older woman in a blue shirt and a flowery, knitted cap, more of our clues.  I knew in my heart that this was a woman going through chemo and the hat was covering her bald head.  I motioned to Carter that she was one of our treasures and he agreed; we approached the woman.

Once again, we introduced ourselves to her and told her of our purpose; “…you are wearing a blue shirt and a flowery cap, two of our clues this morning as we prayed and we wonder if you have a need we could pray for today?”  She looked at us and quickly answered, “I do have a need.  I have cancer.”  I asked if we might pray for her there and she told us yes.  And just like that, the day was transformed from an awkward personal challenge into a total victory for the Lord.  Did He heal her?  We don’t know.  But did He touch her?  I think so.

My day began as most others save for the fact that our grandson was visiting with us.  Carter, with a childlike faith to be used by God and his trust in his grandmother’s ability to lead the way, transformed the day into something magical.  I have every confidence that the Lord smiled down on all of us that day.  The woman in the gray sweater may or may not have had any needs, but I’m positive God will use the moment to cause questions to rise up in her thoughts about people, their willingness to reach out, and about this God who gives them courage to do so.  For the woman with cancer there may be healing or any other number of possibilities only He knows, the least of which could be encouragement on a rough day from two strangers.  For a grandmother with a very trusting grandson, I am humbled.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the treasure hunt.  Once begun, I felt I was failing God miserably with my fears and lack of courage.  But in the end, the Lord turned it all into victory.  A glorious, full-of-God possibilities, wonderful, victory for two women, a hesitating grandmother, and a brave hearted, God loving 12-year-old.  It was all Carter’s fault!

Step Over the Fence

Today a friend called. She was struggling with fear and hoped I might have something to say about the subject. Yes, I had something to say. Fear is a monster, brought about by our own false notions. I love what Dr. Henry Cloud has to say about the matter:

“Make sure you scare yourself today by stepping out of your comfort zone somewhere.  Life only gets bigger by walking through fear.  Fear is a fence.”

Fear is a fence. Does that say it all or what? If allowed, fear rules us. It confines us. Strips us. Stops us. And I believe that is exactly what the enemy of our lives had in mind when he created fear. Fear has this incredible strength to stop us dead in our tracks.

I’ve had a lot of fears in my life. Some were actually quite silly but they stopped me nonetheless from doing or accomplishing various things. I’ll never forget the sage wisdom of a counselor in my life many years ago. My problem concerned a job I was working in at the time. This job, while fulfilling at first, became my nemesis. I allowed it to eat me up inside because I didn’t know how to handle the stress of the job. And after doing it to the very best of my abilities at the time, I wanted a change. But, I didn’t know how to make a change.

I sought out and went to this counselor. Saw him exactly one time. I told him the dilemma.

“So what do you want to do about this?” he asked.

“I want to quit the job.”

“And so why don’t you?”

“I’m afraid to. I’m afraid of disappointing my boss and leaving her with the mess of finding someone else to do the job. I’m afraid of disappointing my parents and family because they’ve been so proud of me for my accomplishments in this job. I’m afraid of disappointing my husband,” and my voice dropped off.

He looked at me. “So if you quit your job, what would be the worst thing that could happen?”

“Well, I wouldn’t work there anymore,” I replied.

“And what’s the worst thing that can happen after that?”

“I wouldn’t have the money from working there?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s true. Can you think of anything else?”

“Um, no, that’s pretty much it,” I replied.

“So, if you quit and these things happened, would you die?”

I was shocked by his question. What kind of a nincompoop did he think I was? “No of course I wouldn’t die!” I stated.

“Then what’s the problem?” he asked.

And that was it. The crux of the problem. I was allowing fear and probably a bit of pride to stop me from doing what I wanted to do. Of course the financial ramifications were something that would have to be worked out between me and my husband, but we had already talked it over and I knew we’d get through that part. Fear was stopping me. Fear had indeed fenced me in as Dr. Cloud so eloquently stated.

The reality became clear. Fear was nothing but a thought that I had given permission to mess with me, a notion I wrongfully gave too much power to and it was smothering me. And it was that thought, that lost power of mine that gave the enemy permission to torment me with this job. I’ve never forgotten this lesson in my life.

Remember truth. Fear is a thought. Fear is not from God. God loves me and He wants the very best for me. He says it over and over, in countless ways throughout the Bible. God is for me, not against me. When I allow fear to rule, I’m trapped within the confines of the thought. Frozen, unable to move. Fenced in.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Step over the fence and see what happens. Will you die? More than likely not and you might just find the freedom you’ve been looking for. Brilliant! What’s the worst thing that might happen? Power…to live a life full of all the possibilities!