SHINE!!!

The news today… you would have to be hiding under a gigantic rock to not see what is going on. I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not so out with it, I have been a avid Trump supporter this past election cycle. I’ll admit that four years ago he would not have been my cup of tea, but these past four years he has proven himself, presidentially, over and over.

I have found the censorship on major social media platforms maddening, the left wing agenda driven news media scary, and myself, little ole me, insufficient to really do anything of substance to change any of it. Really at times it can be scary. BUT GOD!!

It just so happens that my husband and I have been reading 2 Kings in the Bible on our YouVersion Bible App Plan (if you don’t have it get it!!!) 2 Kings is a history of the Kings of Israel and Judah as they were a split Kingdom. So you guessed it, division, good kings and then bad kings, actually really horrible kings, are accounted for. Times of peace and prosperity, times of oppression, and horrific injustices, blatant evil are all recounted in that book. In light of our current events in America and around the world, some of the accounts can seem eerily familiar. Which is something my husband and I have been discussing on the regular lately. We’ve almost got to the point, in the Bible, where God’s chosen people have chosen evil over God so much that they end up in exile. Oppressed by foreign rulers and taken away to a foreign land. Through a series of events and several hundred years they end up in the time when Jesus appears on the scene as a baby.

This scene has been playing in my mind a lot this morning. In particular a verse written by the prophet Isaiah centuries before that is about Jesus has been resounding in my heart.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/isa.9.2.niv

Jesus came to the world in a time of great darkness of hearts. Brutality, oppression, injustice, inequality, dishonesty, etc abounded by those ruling a majority of their world, the Romans. Sadly the religious institutions weren’t too far behind them on their abuses as well. But into that scene Jesus appeared. That light broke through and began a revolution that has changed the world and will continue to do so until God’s Kingdom is fully realized. “Your kingdom come, Your Will be done”.

I have no idea where this will go. I have no idea how all this will affect my life, but I also know that the light of Jesus has not been snuffed out by all these events. It cannot be. It goes forward and it fills the earth with God’s glory!

So what does all this mean for little ol me, Midwestern, middle class, mid aged woman in the Middle of the USA? SHINE!!! That light that burst on the scene is still shining and it burns brightly through every Jesus lover on the planet. This is not the time to cower in fear of all the what if’s of the future. This is the time to display the love, the joy, and the peace that won my heart so many years ago. In the end whether Trump is able to prove the allegations of fraud true and the results of the election are turned around or Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the reigns of our country. I am not to fear. God has always had a plan. I must trust it, and I must do what I was created to do by Him all along. SHINE!!

Orphan No More

Back in the early 90’s the world became aware of the Romanian orphan crisis. I remember, as a college student, surfing channels late at night on my parents TV and stumbling across a news report about it. In 1989 communism fell. Things hidden in the darkness came to light as the world watched news reports of hundreds of abandoned children left in orphanages that were poorly staffed. The bare minimum was done to keep these babies and children alive. I was captured by images of one year old infants in institutionalized baby beds rocking themselves back and forth. There was no one to hold them, no one to comfort them, no one to sing to them, tell them stories, or even call them by name. They had adapted to such cruel circumstances by soothing themselves the only way they knew how. Rocking back and forth with a blank stare on their face.

This morning as I spent my quiet time with Jesus, the image of these children came to my mind. So I open my YouTube app and did a quick search of the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. The first link that caught my eye was a short BBC report of a young man who survived the Romanian orphanage. He was adopted at the age of 11 by an American couple from California. What struck me about his interview was a quote that he said, “I could not adapt to a family environment. My mind was just so used to living in an institution. I was desperate to go back to Romania…” Institution, abuse, neglect… that was all he had ever known. A loving family with his needs being met was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. He talked about how easy it is to spot those who had survived the orphanages. “When you see a grown adult, sitting or standing rocking back and forth or doing something only an institutionalized person would do, you can instantly recognize that person grew up in an orphanage.” The final phrase that stuck with me, “I miss the orphanage. It was my home.” The young man in the report went back to Romania to visit his birth family and he had found that his mother wasn’t able to be the mom he was looking for and he went back to the United States.

Everyone has a past. Everyone has things they wished had never happened or that they had never done. We all are very much like the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. Due to the condition of our hearts, before Jesus, we have become used to the methods to self soothe that we developed through the years (addictions and coping mechanisms), and unfortunately we have let the conditions we came out of become our home, where we feel we belong, deep inside of our hearts. The labels we were given, engrained in us, are what we believe we are. So much so that we find ourselves searching back in where we came from trying to find the missing piece instead of embracing the “New” that Jesus died to give us.

I’ve spent the last week reflecting about my own identity, who I am. It’s not an easy task. Because just as that Romanian man looks at himself as an orphan, at times I tend to view myself as a spiritual orphan, left to my own devices. God speaks to me in His word about how I am to renew my mind, my thoughts, by thinking about the truth of the Word. I am not what I’ve felt like I was. I am who He, God, says I am. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession…” or as the Passion Translation puts it “But you are God’s chosen treasure…” When God came to my Spiritual orphanage and found me in deplorable conditions, rocking back and forth trying to feel some kind of comfort for my broken and lost soul, God picked me. He took me out, He cleaned me up and put medicine on my wounds, changed my filthy, sin stained, rags out with His beautiful, righteous garments, and in that very moment Zephaniah 3:17 says the One who Delights in me, God, my Heavenly Father “sings” over me, His chosen treasure. God sings…

It is at this point, the truth of us being His treasure, that you and I have to make a choice. Will we accept the gift we have been given, new life, new identity in Christ, or will we wander about unable to take it all in because we cannot shake the image of ourselves that we have seen for so long? Only to find that what we thought was our “home”, our lives without Jesus, was nothing more than a cold and lonely place far from where God, the one who loves us, wants us to be, with Him, held closely by Him.

I Belong

I’ve been contemplating “Belonging” this morning. I guess it all goes back to my recent start up of the Beth Moore Bible study “Chasing Vines”. There’s much said in the first couple of chapters about being pulled up from where you were planted and transplanted in an unfamiliar land. Boy do I get that. I think any woman my age starts to feel the whole “transplanted” feeling. All the familiar is shaken: Relationship with kids as they grow up, relationship with husband as you have more time together, relationship with friends as we weather the ins and outs of our new schedules, new responsibilities, new season… that’s just a few. When one of the questions in the study asked “Do you feel like you’ve been transplanted?” My reply was, “Absolutely…” Transplanted May be an understatement. “Completely rearranged” May be more accurate.

But there is a constant in an ever changing world, Jesus. And my “Belonging” to Him. My Belonging is not conditioned by my perfection, my position, my situation, or my feelings. It’s just a fact. Belonging brings security and it brings a certainty that no matter the situations we face we are secure and loved.

All this contemplating of “Belonging” brought to mind a poem I wrote several years ago. It makes me think of something I heard years ago in a meeting. “No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, come home.” When I am “at home” in Jesus, it doesn’t matter what my current circumstances may be. I am accepted by Him. “I Belong”.

Originally written in 2009:
(I read the account of a woman who had a double masectomy for breast cancer. She was concerned about how her husband would react to her disfigurement. When he saw her for the first time after the operation he came close to her, stroked her hair, and told her with tears in his eyes, “Oh sweetheart, you are so beautiful.” Like her, I look at my imperfections sometimes with a lot of discouragement, but God holds me as beautiful in His eyes.)




I Belong

You see the disfigurement of my soul.
You see the ugliness of my sin.
You touch the brokenness inside.
Your blood washes,
cleansing the dirtiness within.

I am moved by Your compassion for me.
I am set free by Your love.
I am made whole in the light of Your Glory.
I am not left alone.
I belong.

You have watched me cry in sadness.
You were catching all my tears.
You were there when loneliness engulfed me.
Though I was unaware, You were there.

I am moved by Your compassion for me.
I am set free by Your love.
I am made whole in the light of Your Glory.
I am not alone.
I belong.

I belong to You.
Held by Love divine.
You have called me precious.
You are truly mine.
I am Yours.
I Belong.

King David, Covid, Bob Marley, and of course…ME

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Psalms 37:23-24 NLT

God always has a plan. Even when we think we’re the ones calling the shots, we’re actually not all that. He’s the one at work on the details of our lives. The more I realize this and accept it the more at peace I am.

The past few weeks my husband and I have been reading about King David and also reading his Psalms. Once again I find what was supposed to be a daily Bible reading plan we picked out “by chance”, exactly what I need for the things I’m dealing with. Funny how God just works that out…

David was a worshipper of God. He was a writer. He played musical instruments and his abilities were of the talent level to land him a gig playing for the king, King Saul, in his palace. David was warrior. He was a fighter. If the cause was right and good he would bravely stand in opposition to what appeared to be really bad odds against him and come out the victor on the other end. Just ask Goliath. David was a man with loyal friends, who would hang out in caves and be brave along with him. Men who were willing to go behind enemy lines to fetch a drink from water that David mentioned, just because he mentioned it. David lived in palaces enjoying the finest. He also hid in caves running for his life because his father in law and at one time his own son wanted him dead. David danced in excited jubilation before God and he also tore his clothes and laid out before God in mourning. I think you get the picture after awhile. David experienced the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly in his life. The one consistent is that he went through all of this and concludes that God directed his steps and even in the bad stuff he would never fall. He knew God loved him, and God spoke of David in all the ups and downs of his life as a “man after God’s own heart.”

I find myself identifying with David a lot recently. Not because I’m hiding in caves, having spears thrown at me, or acting like a madman before an enemy king to save my skin. Mainly because things go good for me and I feel like dancing before God. Things go not so good and I feel like putting on my mourning clothes and laying in a pile of ashes before God too. I’ve experienced that love of loyal friends, and the betrayal of others. I’ve had awesome victories, and experienced the pain of defeat. I could go on and on.

Somewhere in my mind I had pictured the Christian life as a cake walk- one blessing to the next and yet I find it is exactly as Jesus told us it would be. A life with “troubles” but also “courage” because He has over come the world.

This past month has been a lot. Our family has dealt with the sickness, death, funeral, and other ins and outs of losing someone we dearly love. But at the same time we’ve found joy in the milestones our grandbaby has reached, birthdays of my kids- as three of them are now in their 20’s, new college school year started for my daughter living at home – that she is enjoying, and the excitement of a 16 year old boy’s social life as he enjoys his high school years. I’ve found myself crying at times, and laughing out loud at other times, sitting in dismay as I try to figure out my next step and then confidently walking things out at other times. I think me and Kind David have a lot more in common than I realized, a lot more than our mutual love for music and writing and dancing an occasional jig.

So today’s curveball that life has thrown at me is a positive Covid case in my home. Yesterday was spent getting the rest of us tested and trying to figure out just how exposed we have been to my asymptomatic teenage son, which I would say the answer would be “pretty exposed”. So far none of us four under the same roof are sick, for which I am so very grateful. But I am also hearing the reports of our friends who also have Covid that theirs is not that same case, they are very sick. Sitting here this morning I’ve contemplated “what exactly can I do?” This situation has made me long for the good ole days when my preteen daughters got headlice. Sure I was busy treating heads and picking nits every night and cleaning the house until my back hurt so bad I could barely walk. But at least the possibility of one of us getting really sick from the little critters wasn’t a big threat. Yesterday, as my 20 year old daughter and I sat in a drive up testing sight for an hour in a line of cars, we tried to make the best of a bad situation. We joked about the car full of college boys in front of us waiting to be tested, and what if they were really cute under their masks. The potential love story that could come from finding your true love while waiting to be tested for Covid on a hot summer day. It’s either laugh or cry at this point, so laugh is what we did. Then today I wrestle with should I use a clorex wipe to clean off the laptop my son has touched to type this blog. The wipes won out, and a squirt of hand sanitizer.

All this being said, my mind turned back to David. He understood, as I am coming to understand, that God has these things. God has directed my steps, and this new obstacle of Covid is not a surprise to Him. Life is going to be like this. There will be good, bad, beautiful, and ugly… And though the unknown, if I admit it, is scary. God is always holding onto me and the ones I love.

“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?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 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 6:26-34 NIV

Or in this case the words of Bob Marley actually can be a comfort as well:

“Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, (“This is my message to you-ou-ou:”)

Singin’: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!””

We are Never Forgotten

This morning my coffee and Jesus time was interrupted by a call from my mother in love from the nursing home. She had a hankering for a breakfast burrito from McDonald’s with mild picante sauce. Since eating has been hard for her and she has lacked desire, I combed my hair, brushed my teeth, put on some day clothes, hopped in my Charger and drove into town to purchase the desired meal and drop it by her room. I left my time with Jesus contemplating a verse that stuck out to me in my daily Bible reading that my husband and I are doing together from the Bible app. Psalm 105:42 “For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham.” The word “remembered” jumped off the page at me, which usually means I need to run it through the Bible Hub App and check out the meaning in the Hebrew with the Strong’s Concordance, and if that isn’t enough to settle the question marks flashing in my mind, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary can shed some light too. There are several references to God “remembering” someone or some promise. Genesis 8:1 “God remembered Noah…in the ark.” In Exodus 2:24 God “remembered his covenant” after hearing the groaning from the oppression of the Hebrew slaves. It hit me. If God “remembers” does that mean He “forgets”. I know that an all knowing, all powerful God cannot “forget”. I know this in my heart, but at times the 18 inch jump of this reality from my heart to my head does not quite make it. I can get caught up looking at circumstances, feeling my feelings. Then the question, “Has God forgotten?” starts to rumble around inside of me.

Webster’s 1828 defines “remember” as “to bear in mind, to attend to”. When God remembered Noah in the ark, He “attended to” or He “thought about” Noah . It wasn’t a case of God looking at other details in the flood and Noah just “slipped His mind.” So He needed to remember Noah. Or when God “remembered” His people who were enslaved in Egypt, He hadn’t been too busy thinking about what was going on across the globe in another land, and happened to let His very own people be abandoned and “forgotten” by His inattentiveness. He was there all along, working out the details of their deliverance. He was bearing in mind their situation, their cries, and their desire for freedom. He was working out His plan of deliverance.

It is easy in a difficult season to feel like God has forgotten us. Our earthly limitations don’t allow us to see everything as God does, and it is hard to understand “the why?”. “Why hasn’t God done something about this?” “Why have I had to struggle with this for years and years and years?” “Why is there pain?” “If God were actually looking at me, He wouldn’t let me go through this. Maybe He’s forgotten me…” But we are assured, God “remembers”. He bears in mind our circumstances and He attends to the details of our lives. He never forgets.

Nine years ago today my nephew was lost at sea while serving in the Navy. It is presumed by the Navy that He fell overboard in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen. I used to close my eyes and picture him buried deep in the under currents created by the large carrier he was serving on. No one saw him. No one knew. His disappearance became known when the daily roll call occurred and he was not present. The ship was searched, and then the waters. Matt was gone. This was not because God had forgotten to keep an eye on Matt and had no idea where Matt was. God was there attending to Matt’s needs as Matt stepped across the great divide from earth to heaven underneath the waters of the Gulf of Aden.

The Memorial Service for Matt aboard the Boxer.

Nine years ago on July 9th my father in love drew his last breath after suffering greatly with cancer for over a year. God had not forgotten him. I’ve often thought of what Gene must have seen as he uttered “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” before drawing his last breath. God had not forgotten him as he laid on his bed unable to speak or move. He was there attentive to his care and bearing him in mind as he took Gene’s hand and led him into the pure presence of Jesus.

God has not forgotten my mother in love as she continues her fight against the disease that has ravaged her body. He has not forgotten me as I struggle to understand. I am assured that the questions in my heart, the anxieties I fight are under His attentive care and He knows exactly where I am and bears my situation in His mind. He is in control. I may not understand or see. but God never Forgets!

Thomas and Me

Opposites attract would probably describe the relationship I have with my husband. He’s direct, I am not. He says what he’s thinking, I do not. He cannot get enough of being a social butterfly, I like it some, but also enjoy being alone. The list could go on and on. The other night we were “discussing” our differences after a stressful day. He aptly pointed out that he was an optimist, I am not. I am much more of a realist. I like to look at a situation and prepare to deal with it. He would prefer to look for the hope in a situation and expect a favorable outcome. In our conversation we came to the conclusion that of the twelve disciples Jesus picked he would be more like Peter, quick to believe, ready to jump out of the boat to walk on water, ready to take action, quick to shoot off his mouth, etc… I on the other hand am more like Thomas, doubting… Or is that really his hallmark after all?

Since that conversation, I’ve been contemplating Thomas. Probably the only thing I really knew about him was his nickname, “Doubting Thomas”. I can remember hearing about him in Sunday school as a kid and shuddering at the thought of being the one to “Doubt Jesus”. As a kid with a lot of fears, the very thought of how mad it would make God for me to doubt terrified me. I never wanted to “tick God off”. So being like Thomas, was definitely not a goal of mine. Until today…

There are three places in the Bible where Thomas is actually recorded as saying something. The first was John 11:1-16. Jesus disciples had just learned of Jesus’ friend Lazarus being near death. He and His disciples also were aware of people in Judea that were plotting to kill Jesus. The disciples tried to convince Jesus that going there wasn’t the best plan, but Jesus insisted. Thomas told the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Optimism of a good outcome wasn’t Thomas’ forte, but Loyalty was. He was realistically aware of the chances of death to accompany Jesus, and he was willing to do it. An attribute that followed through in his later years, Church tradition counts Thomas as a martyr after his extensive missionary work in India. Loyalty… not too bad.

The next place we see Thomas is in a conversation Jesus is having with his disciples in John 14. Jesus is trying to give His disciples an understanding that He would leave them soon, and that He would prepare a place for them to come and be with Him forever. He concludes by saying, “you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas being the thoughtful questioner, said “Lord we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Thomas didn’t just sit there and nod his head “yes” like he got everything Jesus was talking about. He questioned. Jesus didn’t scold him or kick him out of the disciple group either, He replied with one of the more famous quotes that Jesus said about Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I’m sure Thomas took that tidbit with him to bed that night and pondered over and over, “what exactly does he mean?” I’m sure I would have… Desires greatly to understand.

Finally the event that got Thomas the infamous nickname as a “doubter”, Jesus resurrection. I’m not too sure why Thomas wasn’t in the room when Jesus appeared to the disciples. I’d say watching the man you admired, followed, and believed in beaten beyond recognition, nailed to a wooden cross, and die would have probably played a part. The realist in Thomas probably saw his hopes, that he didn’t place lightly on anyone, dashed to pieces. I can’t fault him for wanting to see for himself what the rest of the disciples were excited to proclaim. I’d like evidence too. The thing about this scripture isn’t so much Thomas’ shortcomings, it was about Jesus’ grace. Jesus knew that Thomas had said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) That was an ultimatum that many people would say “lacked faith”. Yet Jesus when He encountered Him didn’t rebuke him for his statement. Jesus didn’t reject him for his doubt. He instead addressed Thomas specifically, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) I take comfort that Jesus didn’t reject “the doubter”. When Thomas saw what he needed to see he stated what was in his heart, “My Lord and my God.” When the realist believes, the realist BELIEVES…

Jesus told us that “In this world we would have troubles, but take courage I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Wind of adversity certainly blow. Considering that all the disciples, with exception of John, died a martyr’s death and suffered persecution, points to this reality. Thomas got ahold of something the day that Jesus had him feel the very things that had killed Him days before. The believing, understanding, loyal realist got ahold of the anchor for when times would get tough on the mission field later in India and ultimately staying true in a martyr’s death. I too have got ahold of Him as well. My questions, my doubts , my realism doesn’t surprise Jesus. Every once in awhile He graciously invites me to feel Him and see Him as He is. It is then that I gain courage as I understand. His love for me doesn’t depend on how much I have it together. His love for me is there period He wants me to feel it in the nail scars that He bore for me. He wants me to touch it in the depths of the hole in His pierced side. He wants me to believe that He is bigger than what seemed to separate us when in darkness I couldn’t see. Because that is who Jesus is, realistically.

Pour Out Your Heart to Him- He Already Knows What’s Inside

I’ve often thought that the Psalms of David in the Bible are perfect examples of how God does not expect us to live in denial for the sake of “Faith”. David had this way of taking the good, the bad, and the ugly to God. At times, his writings were gut wrenchingly honest. He told God about his fears, his doubts, his trials, his anger, etc…and still God commended David not for how perfect his faith was, but how in all things David pursued Him and was “a man after God’s own heart.”

This morning I have been contemplating Psalm 62:8.

I am a “stuffer”. I’ve been one for a long time. Adversity hits and I try my best to push down the feelings that arise from dealing with it. I’m not British, but the whole “stiff upper lip” thing would be my mantra if I could only achieve it, but quite honestly, that isn’t working so well for me. Apparently “stuffing” oozes out after awhile, whether it be in depression or anxiety, or both. After awhile it begins to take it’s toll. It’s the little things, like lack of sleep, loss of interest in activities, etc. that start to add up to the big things and boom, you’re overwhelmed. That is where David’s words written thousands of years ago offers wisdom for a “stuffer” like me. “Pour out your heart to Him”.

I’m not sure what makes the proposition of telling God exactly what you’re feeling so scary. He already knows it. He’s God. Letting it out and leaving it in the open gives Him the opportunity to work with it. Stuffed away it is held on tightly by ourselves and He’s not going to barge in and rip it from our hands to work with it.

Mark 9:14-29 is an account of a man who brings his tormented son to Jesus. He had brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples prior, and they were unable to deliver him from the demons that haunted him. The man says something that does not fit comfortably in the circles of some schools of thought regarding faith. He says, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” to Jesus. Jesus responds with, “If you can?… Everything is possible for one who believes.” The man then says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I don’t know how many times I have sat in this man’s shoes. I’ve tried everything I know to fix a situation on my own. I find myself at Jesus’ feet, wanting to say “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”. All the while, I know Jesus can do anything. I believe, but I need help to overcome my unbelief. The comfort I find is that in this man’s honesty he did not find Jesus turning him away saying, “You didn’t believe right. I cannot do anything for you.” Instead, Jesus cast the spirit out of the boy and brought wholeness and healing to a seemingly helpless situation. The man “poured out his heart” to Jesus. He did not hide what was inside, and Jesus responded.

The words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 have been rolling around in my heart as well this week.

The Passion Translation really struck a chord in me, “Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” “Tell Him every detail…” that includes the areas of struggle, fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, etc. Letting God in on everything, letting the “stuffing” out is the key to peace and answers for the struggles and questions we face.

Tough times are upon us: Nationally, Spiritually, and the daily stuff as well. To be honest, tough times are upon me. Denying the struggle does not make it go away, but taking every aspect, “every detail” to God and telling Him is the key. Letting the feelings out so I can let Him in: His answers, His peace. It is only at that point that I can experience God the way David did, as a “refuge” from the storm and the winds of adversity that blow and rest in His peace.

“There Was Jesus”

July 2nd 1984, 36 years ago at a small church camp, Camp Sharon, was where I had my awakening. It was where I suddenly became aware of God’s desire, not just for me to give my life to Him, but my awakening to His desire for me to be close to Him. It all started when He began calling to me to let Him have everything, my plans, my life, my hurts, etc.

For an 8th grade girl, I’m sure I had become quite a surprise to those around me. I wanted to do this relationship right, and I wasn’t sure how to get there. I went to the local Christian Bookstore and bought a book that talked about how to have a relationship with God. It covered praying and reading the Bible. It said I should read 10 chapters of the Bible a day. So that is what I did. I wanted to experience God. Not just know about Him. I would spend hours in my room reading the Bible and praying. It was such a surprising response that my mom, a faithful Christian, was worried about just how much I was reading and pursuing. She was afraid that I would burn out on it. I was just HUNGRY. Hungry to know more of that feeling of peace and love I felt kneeling and uncontrollably sobbing in the sawdust near the altars of an outdoor church camp tabernacle. I remember telling God, “If you really want me you can have me.” It’s funny how much I didn’t understand. “really want me”?!?! He wanted me so much He walked the lonely road of Calvary and died on a cross to make a relationship with me possible. He tugged at my heart so heavily that night at camp that no matter how hard I tried to walk away, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I’m so glad I didn’t! I left that time of prayer new and free and filled with joy!

Through the years I’ve had my “hot on fire, so close to you” relationship with God, and others I’ve had my “It’s getting cold, where are you at God?” relationship. I’ve had my times of feeling like I had it all together and understood it. I’ve had times when I understood that I will never have it together and I won’t ever understand life. 36 years that Jesus was right there. His Holy Spirit living inside of me gently speaking to me which way I should go even when on my own I couldn’t figure out the way.

Lately I’ve been listening to Zac William’s album “Rescue Story”. I kind of have a tendency to get stuck on a song that speaks to me. Surprisingly to me, the song that sticks out to me the most off that album is a duet with Dolly Parton. “There Was Jesus”.

It hits where I find myself as of late. I’ve been looking at where I am in my life, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. The thing about the lyrics of that song that sticks out to me is that no matter where we’ve been, no matter where we are, no matter where we go, “There Was Jesus”. So the days of blessing that I laugh and smile through, He’s there enjoying the times of joy with me. The days that I struggle to understand and see, He’s there holding me up showing me the next step to take. He’s there with me when I feel nothing. He’s there with me when I feel it all.

I’ve been pretty open on this blog about my struggles and questions. It’s kind of the outlet I’ve chosen to let what I’m think about on the inside come out. You all get a little picture of what I’ve been contemplating as you take the time to read my thoughts. Most of the time I am able to lay out “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, but somehow take the turn back to the only answer I’ve found that resonates inside of me, Jesus. Struggles that we all face, whether they be depression, anxiety, addictions, PTSD, abuse, disappointment, etc. only find meaning and healing when looked at in the light of the presence of the only one who has been there for it all, Jesus, the love of our souls. The only One who is able to speak peace into storms of life, bring the dead things that we’ve given up on back to life, take a broken, wrecked life and make it a masterpiece is Jesus.

I can analyze my hurts, categorize my issues- give them names, and get understanding. These aren’t altogether bad things to do, but I shouldn’t stop there. I need to take the tools I learn to deal with the things I struggle with, and go to Jesus asking Him to heal what only He can heal. Do my part and let Him do the rest.

He has proven Himself faithful. I can trust Him where I’m going, even when I cannot see.

“There was Jesus”.

Jesus is there. Jesus was there, Jesus will be there.

Take Your Hands Off the Wheel

A few years ago my husband came to a realization that it was time for a change.  Three of our four kids had graduated high school and it was no longer necessary for me to drive a mini van. It was time for us to get something a little more “sporty”.  After test driving a Dodge Challenger with a Hemi (probably not a good idea for my lead foot), we settled on a more conventional Dodge Charger with four doors and a V6.  Fun to drive, but not overly tempting for my race car driving dreams.

We took our little beauty home and quickly realized that a couple of miles on gravel to get to our house would not leave it beautiful for long.  That’s when I broke down and signed up for the local car wash club.  $25 for unlimited car washes in a month sounded like a no brainer.  Once again my car would sparkle.

Admittedly my first trip to the car wash was a learning experience.  It’s one of these automatic deals.  Pull the car up on the Wheel tracks, put it in neutral, foot off brake, take your hands off the steering wheel.  The machine does the rest.  My mistake… not following three of the four instructions.  This resulted in frantic waving of hands and pointing to the flashing sign by the employees.  I quickly fixed my mistake, and emerged with a shiny car.  Win Win…

Today was a day for clearing my mind with a little garden therapy. Pulling weeds, thinking about life, and praying.  The scenario of my first trip to the Automatic Car Wash came to my mind and the phrase, “Take your hands off the wheel” kept echoing in my thoughts.  It occurred to me, “There are somethings in life I need to just take my hands off of, relax, and let God work it out.”  The more I try to hold onto the steering wheel and control them, the more harm it does.  In the few seconds I was figuring out my error at the car wash that fateful day, the rollers that typically push a car through were pushing against my wheels with the engine in gear.  It was not in neutral.  It shook the whole car and made a really bad noise.  My holding on to control of certain situations can produce the same effect mentally and spiritually.  Best advice for now… “Take your hands off the wheel!!”  My trying to analyze, fix, and control will only make matters worse. There are some things that will just have to play out, and I will just have to watch the outcome. Anticipating that on the grand scale of things that outcome will be ok eventually, no matter how bad it appears to be becoming right now.  Ultimately God will get me through to the other side, and I will come out shining in the end.

After a couple of years of membership at the car wash, I don’t have the issue I had the very first time I went.  When I approach, I keep in mind what I need to do. Nothing gets shook up, no shouting directions at me is needed. 

I am hopeful that after 49 years I will finally get the lesson of trusting God with my life down to a fine art.  When I approach a difficult situation or circumstance, I will keep in mind what I need to do.  “Take my hands off the wheel.” and let Him be God. No shouting or waving arms at me necessary to get me to do what I need to do.

 

Enough Already…

I’m about done with this whole Quarantine deal. We’ve been at it for about 4 weeks I believe and are only about half done. Although I’m not really sure half done is accurate. It may be more…

I’ve been doing all the “right stuff”. Exercising, projects around the house, gardening, going outside, spending time in prayer and meditation. Honestly, the pressure from the changes of my life are starting to get to me. It occurred to me last Saturday after a day of straightening my pantry, cleaning out cabinets, and probably the most shocking thing to me- alphabetizing my spices (Not a natural organizer, never done before). It hit me… “Enough Already”. I’m tired of this change. I’m tired of the nightly news. I’m tired of the conspiracy theories. I’m tired of trying to get up, show up, and continue doing the same thing over and over again like I’m living the movie “Groundhog’s Day”. And honestly, unlike the majority of this world I really don’t even have it that bad. I’ve got room to roam out in my little corner of the world. Death rates are low, and so far the financial impact of this has been minimal to my family, with exception of a bigger grocery bill. So throw a little guilt on top of all the other emotions I’ve been feeling…”Enough Already”.

Usually at this point in my blog entries I make the turn towards the light at the end of the tunnel, or the deep spiritual point I’m trying to convey begins to become more clear. But if I’m honest, I’m not quite sure how to make the turn this time or turn on the light switch that makes the light at the end of the tunnel appear. Right now the light doesn’t seem to be there, and the point seems to be hidden from me. Not exactly the best place to be, or is it?

It’s times like these in my life that I appreciate David’s Psalms he wrote. I can go to the Bible and see that on its pages are feelings similar to mine. Psalm 13:1-5 The Message expresses these sentiments.

“Long enough, GOD — you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough. Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain. Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me.Take a good look at me, GOD, my God; I want to look life in the eye, So no enemy can get the best of me or laugh when I fall on my face.”

David is saying the equivalent of “Enough Already”. That gives me hope. David saw situations that surpass my temporary inconveniences that aggravate me. He lived through situations some placed upon him without his ability to control, others from bad choices he made. He found God someone He was able to run to and pour out the feelings of his heart without fear. God loved his honesty calling David “a man after His own heart.”

Honesty, laying it out to God is the best policy. He knows it all anyway because He sees what’s in our hearts. If I am afraid, if I am discouraged, if I am angry, if I am… God knows. I am assured of that. Not only does He know, He listens, and He cares. I can take my “Enough Already” to Him, and soon I will find as David did that God hears and He answers. The last two verses of Psalm 13 MSG declares just that. “I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— I’m celebrating your rescue. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.” I can look back on some of the darkest times in my life and see now how God was at work. It may have taken time, but He turned it all around, as God promised in His word: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There I’ve found it again. “The light at the end of the tunnel”, the “deep spiritual point” I can make.

I may currently have the feelings of “Enough Already” rolling around inside of my heart and mind, but God… God is exactly that. He is “Enough Already” for me. He will not leave me here. I may not see the changes that put my world back to where it was before Covid 19. But I will see God’s Goodness in my life as I continue to run with my “Enough Already” to Him.