Social Deterioration: Our Time to Shine!

My husband and I lived in a suburb of St. Louis for the first 4 years of our marriage. That was enough time for me to come to the full assurance that a boy from the country and a girl from a small town (less than 5000 people) needed to not live in suburbia. Thankfully the Lord heard our cry and my husband ended up with a good job in his home town. So we moved.

The first few months we were stunned by the difference of the more rural news outlets evening news and the evening news we were used to in St. Louis. Rarely was there a murder or any violent crime. Things that were reported was more about the crowds at pumpkin festivals, local high school football rivalries, and if the Farmers Almanac would be accurate in it’s weather predictions for the winter. MUCH more our speed!

Ecclesiastes talks about how there is nothing new under the sun. I agree with it. The heart and intent of the human race has been what it has been since the first sin in the Garden. Thank you Adam and Eve. But it’s not hard to notice the social deterioration. This week has been a prime example of it to me. First there was the trip to a local Walmart, where I was approached 3 times in the parking lot for a hand out of money by people that looked pretty desperate. I’m not thinking getting money for gas was their real agenda. Then there was waiting in line to pay for gas at our local gas station. A young man stood next to me, sores on his face, hyped up and aggressively licking a tootsie pop he had bought. He was jittery and his eyes were crazy looking. He started telling me about how delicious the tootsie pop was and how I needed to try the new flavors. I listened to him while we waited in line thinking to myself, “you have got to be on Meth” , “you’re probably my son’s age” , “God, is there anything I can say to him to help him see your love?” Then that evening, a group of men that my husband goes to Bible study with put together another time of “Praise in the Park”. The idea behind the gathering is to unite fellow believers to spend time in worship, sharing the word, and individuals giving testimony of what Jesus has done in their lives, open air, in the park, in the middle of town. While setting up, a couple ,who apparently spent a lot of time in the park, possibly homeless, started to argue loudly, and the man became aggressive to the woman. One of the guys from the Bible study went over and offered the woman a ride somewhere and tried to diffuse the situation. Then last but not least, my husband and I get up this morning, hop in our truck and head out for Sunday School at our church. Since we live in the country, we drive a stretch of highway that is rural before we arrive at our church that is in a local small city. As we drive along admiring the blue skies and sunshine, my husband points out a large presence of sheriffs department vehicles, highway patrol, and some ambulances, and a fire truck. I turn my head to momentarily see an arrest going down on the side of the road. Four officers, subduing and handcuffing another desperate looking man. All this going on in my quiet country community in the Midwest. Oh yeah and I forgot to mention a significant drug bust this week within a couple of mile radius of my home. Crazy stuff!

A few years ago my husband and I worked with a ministry that had as its goal to reach those who were bound up with addictions, struggling in broken marriages, and hurting from the lifestyle of sin they had been held captive to. For 4 years we ran an accountability group/ Bible study for this ministry. We also worked in a local youth group that bussed in kids from a high school that lived in desperate situations, kids of addicts, prisoners, and other sad situations. Since I follow the local Sheriff’s Facebook page I see their mugshots they release. On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone from youth group, someone from the Bible study has been arrested. That happened this week too. So really all this stuff has been running through my mind. It would be easy to get discouraged, roll up in a ball, and shut ourselves off to the world. Because as I’ve heard it said more than once lately, “It is really getting bad out there…” But for some strange reason, when I run into the Young man strung out on Meth with the lolly pop, the woman asking for $3 for gas in the Walmart parking lot, and some homeless/ addicts hanging out in a gazebo at a local park, I can’t help but think, “What can a middle aged wife, mother, and granny do or say that might help these broken people for one moment to come to their senses and see the Love God offers them?” and “What can be done to make that change lasting?” Then I go back to a quote from the book of Esther when she faced a challenge in the darkest of times for her world. “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

Now is not the time to cower. It is the time to shine! It is the time to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again, we who are in Christ have the remedy! We have the answer! We must not hold back!

Results of our efforts may not always show up where we see them right then and there, but that is not our responsibility. Ours is obedience to whatever the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or say as we do our daily life and to keep doing it, over and over until our work here is done. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, not the depth of depravity we see around us.

In short, Go where Jesus would go, Do what Jesus would do, Be what Jesus would have us to be. SHINE!

This!!!

Moses and Me – “Love Broke Through”

My senior year of high school I got a job as a volunteer DJ at a small Christian radio station. Friday nights were my nights. Being a child of the 80’s- Rock and Roller, I was less than thrilled with the approved music for the evening, with exception of the 10 pm-12 pm time slot. It was then I could break out all the Stryper, Rez Band, and Petra a girl could play. The rest of the time the rule was two Contemporary Christian music songs to one Southern Gospel (my least favorite type of music). Most of the slower CCM music didn’t particularly excite me, but at least it didn’t repulse me. For some reason, one of the songs that I played during the before 10pm slot was a song that was released in 1977 by Keith Green, “Love Broke Through” has been going through my head lately along with my record spinning nights at KMMC – Mid Missouri Christian FM 96. Here are the Lyrics:

Like a foolish dreamer, trying to build a highway to the sky
All my hopes would come tumbling down, and I never knew just why
Until today, when you pulled away the clouds that hung like curtains on my eyes
Well I've been blind all these wasted years and I thought I was so wise
But then you took me by surprise

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love broke through

All my life I've been searching for that crazy missing part
And with one touch, you just rolled away the stone that held my heart
And now I see that the answer was as easy, as just asking you in
And I am so sure I could never doubt your gentle touch again
It's like the power of the wind

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love, until your love, broke through

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I’ve joined a local Bible study that is using the book by the Kendrick Brothers “Defined- What God Says You Are”. In the 3rd chapter they talk about Moses in the Bible and his encounter with the burning bush. This paragraph stood out to me. “Moses was a man who struggled with identity issues. Born to Hebrew parents, who was given an Egyptian name and then raised by Pharaoh’s daughter as her adopted son. After secretly murdering a man in defense of his own people, Moses was questioned by his Hebrew brethren: “Who made you a prince or a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14) Fearful for his life, he fled Egypt while Pharaoh tried to kill him for what he had done. Now a fugitive alien in the foreign land of Midian, he embraced the low-key life of a wandering shepherd for forty years.” It wraps up with this observation that “then one day God came down to meet him and speak directly to him.” It was at that exact moment that God’s “Love broke through” for Moses.
It’s funny how I’ve viewed this story for most of my life. I grew up in church so I heard the story of Moses and the burning bush over and over in my childhood Sunday School classes, but until this week I’ve always looked at it as a scary/ terrifying encounter with an unapproachable God- thus the need for Moses to take off his shoes. But finally I’ve seen something new. God wasn’t trying to prove how unapproachable He was. He, in fact, was proving quite the opposite. As the Kendrick brothers point out, “God called him by name, spoke his language, was fully aware of his past ancestors and his present siblings, and informed him He created him and was calling him” Hardly a “Don’t you come near me” approach from God. Much more of a “Moses come over here and look at this… don’t forget to take off your shoes. You are in my presence, Holy Ground.” As Keith Green’s song puts it. God’s love broke through. Moses could hide all he wanted on the back side of a desert and try to get away from who he had been and who he was, but God wasn’t content with leaving him there like that. God loved Moses, in fact later on Moses and He talked face to face as a man talks to a friend. (Exodus 33:11) Hardly a God who just wanted to come down rebuke Moses, scare him into submission, and send him out to do a burdensome job.

I’ve had several times in my life that Moses and Me have could have been best buddies. You know the drill. You get hurt. You want to get away. You try to hide from who you were and who you are on a back side of a desert. But then God’s love Breaks through. The thing is that God’s plan all along was for close, intimate relationship, and having His kid hiding away from Him and His plans won’t do. God has a way of putting a “burning bush” of sorts in front of you from time to time to get you to come closer out of curiosity just to see what is up so He can speak to you and remind you that He never left you. You are standing in His presence you better take off your shoes. That’s exactly when His love breaks through.

There Be Bears… No Match for Our God!

My neck of the woods that I live in includes around 30 acres that my husband and I own and 80 more next to it that is forestry land. It kind of gives the illusion that we are somewhat secluded when I look out my back window of my house. Earlier this spring my husband and I were taking an occasional evening stroll around the back half of our property. It’s wooded but he mows a nice path around it. This half is what butts up against the Forestry land. While back there we noticed some tracks, not our usual deer track and occasional scat. It was bigger. I noted to him that if I didn’t know better I’d think there was a bear in our woods. I’m a Missouri girl. I know bears are possible, but in my 50 years of living here and spending lots of time on back roads, walking in woods, and camping in state parks, I have NEVER seen a bear in the wild here in Missouri. We joked about how we must have either a really big dog running around or Big Foot is real.

Probably a bear and not Big Foot lol

Fast forward a week… The biggest rumor on the local Facebook pages are “pictures” of a bear spotted digging in someone’s trash about a mile from our house. Our possible Big Foot Evidence more than likely was that bear. Not a happy thought for me because as a lover of the “I Survived” animal attacks series. I had just watched an episode where a Grizzly in the Rocky Mountains had nearly killed a man hiking in the mountains. Needless to say, our strolls through the back half of the property have stopped for a little while.

Bear, a little too close to my neck of the woods…

Each morning when I get up I look out my windows towards the Forestry land and strain my eyes looking for a bear. Then as I contemplate my usual early morning flower and garden maintenance around the perimeter of my house, I think, “What if there is a bear in my yard.” I know the likelihood is slim and the bear is probably more scared of me than I am of him, but the thought goes through my mind. If I let it, I would find myself sitting in the confines of my house with the occasional dash to get into my Jeep to head to town. I would miss out on my usual summer enjoyment of Gardening, fresh air, and sunshine…

So this afternoon I found myself struggling with some anxious thoughts. Nothing about a physical bear. It was more about a “spiritual bear” or you could call it a “lion or tiger or bear Oh MY!” Anything you want to name it, it seems big and it seems ugly. As I was doing some house work and thinking about this “bear” I started thinking about a verse in the Bible about someone being afraid to go out because of a lion. Proverbs 26:13 says “A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” The sluggard uses it as his excuse to lay around be immobilized. I picture this kind of “Ho Hum…” attitude that the sluggard has with an “oops… can’t go out the door” reply. But sometimes it’s not because we’re lazy that we let the possible lions (or bears) keep us from venturing out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe we’ve been bit before or watched one too many episodes of “I Survived my animal attack” to step outside our door.

Then it hit me, there was a young man named David that was faced by something ugly and intimidating, a giant and he didn’t cower in fear because he had already taken on a lion and a bear some time before he saw the giant. He didn’t end up the poster boy for the next episode of “when animals attack” He took it to the animals and killed them both. 1 Samuel 17 gives the account of David trying to convince the King he could take on this giant. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them… The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Gutsy words, but He knew who His God was. David spent a lot of time with God, praying, singing, writing about Him. God later refers to David as a “Man after God’s own heart”. He knew his God and He knew his enemy was no match for his God.

The same goes for me and for you too. It really doesn’t matter what size our Giant has grown to or how intimidating his threats are. The truth is the same God who gave David the strength to kill a physical lion, bear, and Giant. Is the same God that fights for us. No matter how loud the anxiety shouts and the situations loom it will meet the fate as David’s opponents did. Because God rescued David from the hand of the Philistine Giant, He will rescue us from the hand of our enemy as well. Because as Jesus so poignantly displayed on the cross when He died and then rose again from the grave. He considers us to be “after His own heart” as well. He Loves us! Nothing can separate us from that truth.

The God Who Can Do All Things BUT Fail

Every once in awhile life rattles my cage. It may be more than every once and awhile. In fact I bet everyone gets their cage rattled more than every once and awhile. My life the past two days has been like an 8.0 earthquake to my cage. Once again medical issues involving my husband’s heart have hit him. This has involved several calls to the doctors, a Mother’s Day trip to the ER , and finally an appointment for a cardioversion on Wednesday. For one who has a history anxiety and one who admittedly prefers to play it safe over taking risks this has challenged me. But God’s timing, as always is impecable.

I’m in this small online (Facetime) Bible study with a few friends that we started up when COVID hit. We’ve been studying a Fisherman’s Bible Study called “When Faith is All You Have”. This week happens to be about “When Faith Faces Death”. Let me clarify, I’m not thinking my husband is going anywhere, but stopping his heart for even a second, on purpose, is not my desired treatment for the issues he’s been battling with AFIB. An easy peasy pray and it is all good would be my preference, but so far it’s not what’s happened. The Bible study is covering the account of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. One aspect of the account has been echoing in my heart since I read it last week:

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” Exodus 14:13-15 NIV

My Answer to the first question of the study. Just being honest here. lol

The Jewish people, who had lived in slavery their entire life subjected to the cruel overlords, never allowed to fight back, trusted God enough to follow Moses out of Egypt. Admittedly they had seen awesome miracles that God had done on their behalf as God unleashed the plagues on Egypt to soften the Pharoah’s heart so He would let them go. But they had made it out only to stand with the Red Sea in front of them, the Egyptians coming hot on their heels. Looking at their situation the Jewish people quickly forgot all the miracles God had already performed on their behalf and started to immediately cry out about how they wished they had never left, they were going to die, and they wanted to go back to Egypt. Not exactly how I would say a group of people should display their faith in the God who fights for them. God tells Moses “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” The time wasn’t to freeze up with fear, cower in a corner, but to step out knowing God was going to meet them there with a miracle. Which happened to be a split sea, dry ground, and eventually the total destruction of the Egyptian Army who wanted to enslave them again-FREEDOM.

Red Sea before Egyptian Army Behind. “Move On”

Fast forward to a verse in Hebrews 11, God’s Hall of Fame of Faith, verse 29 “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were drowned. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” This is where God’s grace amazes me once more. A group of people who were afraid, begging to be able to quit, doubting, were listed in God’s Hall of Fame of Faith. They were commended for their faith to walk through the Red Sea on dry land. They may have let circumstances shake them up, but they had the courage (however small it was) to take a step toward the sea in front of them where God met them with a miracle that was heralded with singing and dancing on the other shore- safe and secure from the enslavement of Egypt.

Yesterday, I went to town to go to the store to buy some toilet paper. Code words for “Get alone, to think, cry, pray and vent”. Most of the time spent talking about how I’m not enough for the path God has me on, and I’m not happy about the direction either. I don’t like the oceans of “trip to St Louis” complete with the Armies of “Afib, heart issues, and procedures for my husband” breathing down our necks… Especially on a day I’m supposed to be celebrating with my kids…”Mother’s Day”.

Then this morning after a scary to me moment in the middle of the night, my husband twitching in his sleep due to a weird dream, but me interpreting the twitching to be heart related. (Fear always makes things look so much bigger than they are) I got up, went to my recliner and looked for a worship song to focus myself on Jesus and get my eyes off my ocean and army threats. I stumble across the song, “Never Lost” by Elevation Worship. The chorus goes, “You can do all things, but fail. You’ve never lost a battle and you never will.” There you have it. God’s Grace on my life pumping some faith into my heart. He knows for me with my short sighted humanity, things look scary. But He also knows to remind me that God can do all things. He can work miracles on our behalf whether supernaturally or with the aid of a physician. He can work all this out for our Good simply because we love HIm and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8. And NO Matter how Wednesday goes, He can do all things, BUT fail! Because the truth is time and time again when I’ve faced the battles bigger than me, God has never lost them as He fought for me, and HE NEVER WILL! He is the God who can do all things but Fail as He shows Himself strong on my behalf over and over again.

Grandpa- 101 Years of Example

I have to admit.  I have been a little down the past few days.  The reality of the change we are up against with regards to the Corona Virus has hit me more than once.  I’ve found myself thinking about how easy I’ve had it the past 49 years, and now it seems my world has been grabbed by one end and shaken out like a dusty rug at the entry way of a house.  Dust is flying everywhere and I’m not sure when the air will clear enough for me to breathe.  I was complaining to God about my feelings the other morning.  “My world will never be the same…” Then I was gently reminded, “Is that what you wanted? Did you want your world to never change?”  Good point.  Maybe my comfort levels, my ease… that would be good to leave them alone.  But the very changes I have prayed for in my world, those would be good to adjust. 

Here’s the deal… Change is a part of life.  You can’t dodge it or escape.  It happens and you have to just go through.

My Grandpa was born in 1914.  He died a few years ago just a few days shy of his 101st Birthday.  When he was 4 years old the world was in the midst of another infamous pandemic, The Spanish Flu.  I never heard him talk about it, so he may have been young enough to not remember it much, but I do remember hearing stories about his life during The Great Depression. How as a boy he hunted and fished, not for pleasure, but to help feed his siblings and himself, so much so that he wasn’t much a fan of either when he got older. He just went to the pond and watched us fish.  He witnessed World War I and II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War, the war his oldest son fought in and was faced with uncertainty of how that would end up for him, he came home.  He had loved ones born and loved ones die, among which were infant grandbabies.  He lost a great grandson, my nephew in the Gulf of Aden- lost at sea while serving with the United States Navy.  He saw marriages in the family, he saw divorces.  He stood at the side of the casket of his only lifelong love of 60 plus years gazing at her and commenting on how young she looked, like the days before they had moved from Kansas decades before.  He outlived all his siblings, 7 of them, and most of his friends. In fact towards the end, that fact kind of hit him- “I’m the last one left.”

He saw changes, but I never saw him fearful or complain. In fact, I’ve only mentioned a portion of the challenges he faced in his 101 years on earth, but the memories I have of him are not of a man filled with fear. Instead it was a quiet man, who would always greet me with a hug and ask me, “How’s my girl?”  Grandpa just adjusted to it all somehow.  He had Faith in Jesus, evidenced to me by his presence in his spot every Sunday and Wednesday at church in the back right hand corner pew all the years of my life until he couldn’t drive to church any more some time in his 90’s.  He lived his life, and he went on. He did what he had to do, and he enjoyed what he had, his farm, his business, his family , his God, and his life.

Grandpa never escaped the changes, and neither will I.  Some will bring joy, some incredible sadness. I guess what matters most is how I end up going through them.  I look at the current situation of my world, and I can’t see a way that any of it is going to get any better any time soon, but I’m certain there were times my Grandpa must have felt the same way. But he made it through with stories to tell of the better times of life. Stories of drag racing Model T’s and boat racing with “The Tub”. In his older years, playing “The Game” and Mowing his lawn gave him great joy. Grandpa rarely talked about the bad, the hard, the sad.  He had many stories to tell of other times, which is probably what helped him to live so long.

I’ve often said I wanted to make it to at least 90. I have a lot of living I want to do.  It’s easy to forget that in order to make it that long, I’ll have to live through the good times and the bad.  But the main thing is to live life with joy.  I must experience the life that is before me now, do my best to live my life with my Faith in Jesus as my guide, enjoy the good things along the way and know that even when things are painful, God is there to hold me close as I go through.  Ultimately I will make it through the ups and downs of this life and some day live free in heaven.  That’s what my day of contemplating Grandpa’s life has taught me.  101 years of his example has spoken a lot more than what his words could have ever said.

 

 

Lessons Learned: the Birds, the Flowers, and a Stare Down With a Deer

What a evening for a sunset walk! It felt so good to listen to the birds singing as I walked by our pond. It reminded me of when I was a kid and went fishing at my Grandma’s Pond. Such a happy place of peace. As I strolled by our garden plot and looked over the fence to the Federal Forest land. I saw a deer watching me from a distance. So I decided to watch it. I’ve never really been in a staring contest with a deer before until tonight, and I have to admit. The deer won. It hit me as I watched the birds flying overhead and listened to the animal sounds. These animals don’t have a care. They do what they need to do for today and they don’t worry about tomorrow. Jesus talked about this very thing. He talked about how the birds don’t plant fields or store food in barns. Yet God takes care of them, and the beautiful flowers of spring and summer don’t work hard to clothe themselves. God does and He dresses them magnificently. He talked about how we aren’t to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own. If God has the birds and the flowers, and my stare off challenging deer, He has me.

My staring contest opponent

It’s Tuesday and it’s already been a week. I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be where I am during our national crises. But it is still hard not to let fear, anxiety, and worry creep in. I had to make a journey to town today. (Not that far away. Just 8 miles.) My daughter who is staying with us has a bad tooth ache. I was blessed to get ahold of our dentist, who called her out an antibiotic for the infection. It’s kind of unnerving not feeling like you can just take her to the local walk in clinic and have it looked at whenever you need to. Now it feels like a life and death endeavor. As I drove through town, our town had a large sign informing the residents of the Covid-19 threat. Displayed for all to see at the only roundabout in town. We’ve had an outbreak here. Not a whole lot of cases, but for a small town, too many. I’ve never been germ conscious in my life. But today I was not pleased to touch the gas pump handle, and pick up some necessary items at a local store. Not to mention go through a drive thru pharmacy window to pick up my daughter’s RX. Even though my social isolation with my husband and three of our kids hasn’t been that bad, (actually at times it feels like a vacation) I’m starting to feel the fear and paranoia of touching things in public and running the necessary errands. I have contemplated the hardships in New York as they struggle with their outbreak, Italy, and others. Then the weight of the heart break a family we are friends with as they struggle with the possibility of losing their husband, son, and dad as he fights to stay alive in the hospital 30 miles from my home. (Not covid related). So much weight…

Thus the walk… blue skies with light fluffy clouds and my prayer floats up too. “God everything seems to be just going on as normal. These are the same things I saw, the same sounds I heard a year ago this time on the walk I did back then. Nature has no idea the hardship and pain in our world right now. It just goes on.” Birds are preoccupied with singing and finding a worm here and there, and my deer friend: he’s concerned about whether a middle aged woman could be fast enough to bolt across a field and catch him so he’s going to keep an eye on me. All living in the moment. All taken care of by something much bigger than themselves, God.

What about me? The weight of the events that surround my heart could easily smother me if I let them. But I know I need to leave them in bigger hands than I have. My running ahead trying to figure out how this will all end up is futile. My looking back at how I could have, should have, would have done better at sanitizing everything around me is probably futile as well. Although I am a proponent of doing what you can.

Somewhere along the way I have got to just trust. I have to know that the same God that orchestrates the seasons, watches the animals scurry, and keeps the planets in their orbit so we don’t end up in an interplanetary marble game, with us riding on the blue and white ball. He’s the same God who numbers the hairs on my head (which happens to be a lot, thick hair) and watches me when I wake and when I lay down to rest. He will take care of me. He loves me. He has the current events. I must keep my eyes on Him and trust Him.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:26-31, 33-34‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Is Jesus Enough?

What a week!  News nationally, state wide, and locally has gone from bad to worse.  Our small town that seemed to be so isolated from it all has developed five local cases of Covid-19.  I took comfort thinking, “At least I don’t live in the big city…” Now not so much any more…

Last night we decided to video chat with some friends we used to have a home fellowship with on Messenger. It was like water to a thirsty soul.  For about 15 min or more we laughed at each other as we, a group of 40’s/ 50’s year old’s, tried the different effects out and lamented how we wished there was an app for playing “Village Idiot” card game so we could play once again together.  It felt good to look at the faces of friends we have been doing life with for years, some of them for almost 20 years. After a while we started asking each other how they were holding up.  In our group, we have a pharmacist, a nursing director for a nursing home, a nuclear professional, a building contractor, and a couple of stay at home moms.  My heart ached as we talked about the fear people have and the measures we have had to go to in order to try to slow the spread of this dreadful disease.  My friend who worked in the nursing home talked about how they have had to limit the old people to their rooms in hopes of isolating them better, families bringing dry erase markers and playing tic tac toe outside of their windows and exchanging smiles.  My friend who works at the pharmacy talked about the extra orders of medicine and the lack of Tylenol for people who actually have something else, like the flu because of the panic buying.  We rounded off our evening with praying for each other and specific situations we are aware of, such as a mutual friend in the ICU currently hanging on to his life while his wife is praying not only for him to live, but that sh0e won’t have to leave his side because of Covid-19 protocol that has to be enacted.  Hard times…

As I laid my head on my pillow last night, I kept hearing the words, “Is Jesus Enough?” rolling around in my head.  It seems quite unfair for all these bad events to culminate at once, and these are just the few I know of in my little corner of the woods.  The more I thought about those words, “Is Jesus Enough?” The more I concluded, “Oh yes Lord, I know you are more than enough.”
Although these are crazy/ hard times, I have seen crazy/ hard times before.  At age 21, I lost a precious friend in a tractor accident while working at a church camp.  The very camp I came to know Jesus in.  I’ve watched loved ones suffer as cancer slowly, but really not so slow, took it’s toll on their bodies.  I’ve experienced the pain of miscarriage, loved ones deaths, limiting illnesses of those close to me, friends struggling with infertility, unfair abuse being heaped upon the innocent, etc.  And in each of those situation, I have seen Jesus be enough. 

My first and only experience with watching someone die has been my father in law.  For a little over a year,  he suffered as an aggressive form of prostate cancer ravaged his body, but with each visit, even up to his very last he never failed to grab ahold of us and pray for God to bless us. On his last day, I sat by him on his bed. As I watched him gasping for breath and then breathing so shallow, I saw him utter words after a complete day of saying nothing and showing no response. Moments before he took his last breaths. He suddenly began to speak, “Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…” and then he was gone.  It was in that moment that I felt something that I’ve never felt so strong.  It was God’s presence in the room.  The most heartbreaking, gut wrenching moment of our lives was made peaceful by a moment and a truth that is engraved in my heart. “Jesus is enough.”

I am a creature of comfort.  I would rather laugh, than cry.  I don’t enjoy pain. I have no desire to walk through difficulty, but I know that no matter what may come in the days, weeks, months ahead, “Jesus is enough.”

Psalm 16 has been rolling around in my heart today.  “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing… Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”” This Psalm was written by David.  David was a man that God describes as a man “after God’s own heart.”  David pursued a relationship with God.  He wrote many songs and poems expressing His love for God, at times rejoicing, at times lamenting, at times happy, at times sad.  David expressed it all.  He had times of great victory and times of great defeat, times of overwhelming joy and times of overwhelming grief.  But in it all He said, “God you are my portion.”  “You are my everything.”  David didn’t allow fear to rule over him because he had confidence that he would see God’s goodness.  I can be confident of the same.

Things may go well,this virus quickly passes by, and my life returns to normal.  Or, things may never be the same, pain, sickness, and death may come to me or those around me, but I have this confidence, “My Jesus is Enough!”

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am practicing social isolation with four others, my husband and kids ages 16-21, here in a home that a few months ago seemed too big for us because it was often empty as we all ran our different directions living our lives. Now it seems too small as we all hunker down in one place together and it continues to rain outside… To lighten the mood we have posted some crazy videos of us singing “La Bamba” and rapping a rap I wrote 30 years ago in college about accidently hitting a cat with a car: Purely a joking/ crazy song intended for laughter, not violence against kitties.  (I have one I dearly love living in my house right now.)

I’ve posted these videos on Facebook and had friends from decades ago, laughing and sharing crazy stories of fun times passed by.  It was one comment that my cousin I haven’t seen in years stuck out to me as I laughed at the different replies.  “Had to share your post with pride– this is history and you are handling it with some awesome sauce instead of panic that is out there.  Making the best out of our situation.”  I thought about what she said, and contemplated what has made the difference.  Once again I come back to the answer of why I can have peace and joy in the midst of times of fear and sadness.  Jesus is enough!

(I’ve not really went here before on my blog, because I usually write as a therapeutic aid to my soul.  But I want you to know you too can experience this hope, peace, and joy. I would be happy to point the way and pray for you in the things you are facing.)

 

Nothing But Blue Sky Above the Storm

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2 NIV

Wow! What a week! At the beginning of the week, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a meme that said, “Time change, a full moon, Friday the 13th…What could possibly go wrong?” I laughed at the pile of superstitions heaped onto one week, and scrolled on. I don’t believe that any of that had any weight to bear on where we are after this week of frightening announcements and unprecedented actions of our leaders. Gazing at the “natural realm” after the past week could make it quite possible for a person to be left shaking in their boots. But I can assure you that when I laid my head on my pillow last night I slept with perfect peace. Because I am assured that my God is in absolute control, and I know He cares for me.

I’ve openly shared in this blog that I struggle with the thoughts in my mind.  I think that’s pretty common for the human condition. It’s a struggle that I have, at times, felt very defeated in. I have tried so many different techniques to try to conquer the fears, anxiety, and at times torments that have existed in my mind. Some successful, some not so much… Recently, I have been approaching the fight with an all weapons out approach. Everything from uplifting music, self-care, and exercise, to Bible meditation, Bible study, prayer, counseling, etc. It really seems to help. One of the videos I watched recently on focusing our thoughts has had a profound impact on me.  Especially after taking the little gem of information it held and combining it with what the Word of God says.  

The video pointed out how our minds are like the blue sky. Occasionally we see a peaceful little cloud float by and that doesn’t bother us so bad because we can still see the blue.  However, there are times that storms rage and it seems the blue sky has disappeared, but just like an airplane can rise above the storms and see the blue again we know the blue is always there.  

I like this illustration better when I put God into the equation.  My mind focused on Christ is like the blue sky.  It’s the mind “set on Christ, Things above.” Occasionally cute little white clouds float by and get my attention.  They may be daily interactions with loved ones that are seemingly unspiritual, enjoying a cookie, laughing at a funny meme on Facebook etc.  I notice them, but over all the blue sky (Jesus) is the main focus of my mind.  Occasionally a storm starts to blow.  As it comes in, I find myself unable to see the blue sky (Jesus) and focus on it.  I know deep in my heart He is there somewhere.  But the Holy Spirit has given me the power to rise above the storm of my mind. He is the airplane that can help me to fly above the clouds and once again see the blue sky, Jesus, having confidence that the storm will pass in time.  But HE, Jesus, the blue sky will never leave me. 

I went grocery shopping Thursday morning, as the fears of COVID 19 were starting to ramp up in my area of the Nation. I was amazed at the similarities in the over all moods of my co-shoppers that were with me and the moods of the co-shoppers I felt the evening of 9/11/2001 when I went to Walmart, the somberness, anxiousness, etc. It seems that the over all feelings of uncertainty, panic, and being out of control had hit everyone. As I was checking out, I heard an older gentleman talking to his checker and discussing the current situation. After a few words, he said, “We don’t have to fear. God is in control.” He had his mind set on the “Blue sky- Jesus” that reigns above the storm. That impressed upon me the importance of this moment we live in. While talking to my kids that remain at home, trying to give them a sense of stability in a tumultuous week, where their social lives and school lives have been wrought with changes, not to mention, dad coming home to work for several weeks (something they have never seen), I quoted a Bible verse. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

This is our time to shine! It is the time I can point out how I have found peace in a mind that struggles. It is a time that I can speak peace to my neighbors, friends, and family that surround me. Jesus is the blue sky above the storm, whether it be anxious thoughts in my mind, or a global pandemic. I can rest in Him. Could I or someone I love suffer in the upcoming weeks? Yes, that is a possibility, but I know that Jesus is the healer. Whether HE steps in a physically heals our afflictions, or I stand face to face with Him in the time of my death. (Not that I’m afraid I’ll get sick and die). I am with Him. I can be at peace. I can let my mind rise above the clouds that try to keep it constrained, and fly high in the blue sky of God’s love knowing that He cares for me. I can be free from fear.

God is Faithful!

The view off my front porch this morning. God’s faithfulness is never ending. As long as I can remember and before, the sun rises and as long as I can remember until I am no more,it will continue. The sun seems pretty faithful. But even it will some day fail. God is bigger than the sun. He made it, and He has set His affections on me and you. So if He is orchestrating the faithfulness of sunrise and sunset, the God who loves us will so much more work in our lives to demonstrate His faithfulness. Trust in Him!

Leave It All Behind

Genesis 12:1 MSG “God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.”

While growing up in the 70’s/80’s, one of my favorite TV shows was “Little House on the Prairie”. If I listen closely in my mind, I can hear the theme song starting up with the view of a covered wagon being pulled along. The TV show is a classic. I could watch the reruns over and over. There’s something about the Ingalls family arriving out in the vast openness of unsettled territory and building something of their own against opposition that strikes a warm feeling in my heart. The bravery and unity makes it a novelty to the adventurous side of me. Leaving it all behind and starting out fresh. That’s an adventure.

The Bible is full of stories of people who left the familiar behind to pursue the extraordinary. From Abram, later Abraham, to Moses and the Jews, to the disciples and their fish nets, to the prostitute brought to Jesus to be judged and then executed, but was told to go and sin no more. Leaving behind is a concept that God championed from the moment Adam and Eve decided to pick up sin in the Garden and began the burden carrying of the human race. It would take a “leaving behind” of sorts to really be free.

I’ve often thought of the courage it took to hop into a covered wagon with husband and kids and traverse such a long distance that seeing family and the town you grew up in would become virtually impossible. That is truly leaving it behind. That’s the kind of courage that Abram needed to get up and leave all the familiar to pursue the promises in the vastness of the Call of God. Abram did what God wanted with full assurance that the One who called him out was taking him to a better land. He believed he would see a “city whose architect and builder was God” Hebrews 11:10.

There are places, in our minds, that are very hard to “leave behind” Anxieties, Guilt, false responsibility, fears, etc. I have wrestled with walking away from them on the daily. I try to imagine how it would be if I were to hop on a covered wagon and travel for days to a new place far away from them. It would be impossible to pick them up or entertain them in the least. I would be “forced” to entertain the factors of the New Life. The truth of the matter is that I do have a New Life, and I am not “forced” but invited to leave behind and travel far away from the land of captivity I have lived. I can leave behind the anxieties and pick up trust. I can leave behind the guilt and pick up my freedom from fault. I can leave behind all the false responsibility I have carried and accept what is truly mine to maintain. I can leave behind the fears and pick up the courage to accept what is. I can drop off the chains because I am free.

When the crushing weight of what I was never meant to be tries to weigh my mind down, I can get out from underneath it all. Because I am a new creation that is free.  God has called me out. 

I love Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” God wants us free. He wants us to know a life without the burdens we carry, some self-imposed, some others imposed. As it says in Psalms 40, God has lifted us from a pit and set us upon a rock. He has filled our mouths with a new song of praise to God. So that many will see just what God can do and put their trust in Him. Our leaving behind the old to pursue the vast newness of God’s Freedom Frontier is a testimony to all those behind us struggling in their own pits. It speaks of how you can be pulled out and move on to the Land of the Blessed Life that Jesus died to give. The land of freedom for which Christ in His great love has set us free to explore and enjoy.