Jellyfish, Riptides, and a Heart Adrift

Early in our marriage my husband and I were rich in love but POOR in possessions. However, we decided early on that we wanted to take a literal “vacation” each year. We would scrape around and save enough to go to Missouri’s vacation Meca, Branson, rent a cheap hotel room, and hit Lamberts cafe on the way home for some of their hand thrown rolls, a must if you’ve never been to one. About 15 years ago we agreed we were a little tired of the whole “Wake Up To Missouri” tourism motto and we wanted to venture out. My husband had never seen the ocean in any way, shape, or form. So we did a little research. Packed up our suite cases, Buckled in 4 little kids into the Suburban. and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a chance to see the Gulf/ ocean.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

We arrived after a 13 hour trip, probably more than that with all the potty breaks we had to take. And rushed out of our Suburban to see the vastness of the ocean. It was awesome. It didn’t take long for us to discover we needed some boogie boards to play in the water with. So we went to a local surf shop and bought 4 of them. One for each kid.

As a small group of Missourians we had a small problem, Ignorance of the ocean. It just so happened that we arrived in the midst of Jellyfish mating season. Our hotel displayed flags for ocean condition in it’s lobby, and happened to have the “dangerous animal” flag on display. That did not deter us. We had come to play. So out into the ocean we went, and we got stung. Several times… The other thing we had not thought about is an ocean is not like the Lake of the Ozark. It has currents… So my, at that time 8 year old daughter, who could barely swim, and I decided to hang out together on a boogie board together. She had no life vest on and I’m not a strong swimmer. As we were floating around she asked me, “Uh mom… can you touch?” I put my foot down toward the bottom and low and behold I could not. So in my usual “I will not panic” voice I said “Laura, let’s swim back toward the shore. Hang on tight to this board.” As we headed back toward shore, I could hear a roar behind me… a WAVE! I held on tight to her, the boogie board, and prayed. It slammed into us hard, but we kept kicking and making our way back to shore. Thankfully we did, and the rest of my stay at the ocean I decided I would rather hang out in the hotel’s pool and observe the beauty of the ocean from the shore. Maybe occasionally wading up to my knees in the waves.

Later I learned there’s this thing called a “riptide”. It’s like a river in the ocean, a current. I also found out that people like me from the Midwest can end up in one of these and not realize they are quickly being swept away from the shore by a current much stronger than we are. The thought of the possibility of me and my daughter ending up on a boogie board in a riptide makes me shutter to this day. God protected me in my ignorance from both the riptides and the jellyfish. But I learned a very helpful lesson. “I am from Missouri. I need to respect the ocean, and stay close to shore.”

Siren of Greek Mythology

I’ve been writing a lot about how God has been overhauling my spiritual life, a very good thing. One of the things He has been pointing out to me is all the voices I have been listening to. Voices have their way of distracting us from the one true voice, God’s word. The voices are like the Sirens of Greek mythology, they lure us away from where God has called us to sail, in the depths of His Truth, enchanting us to go closer and closer to the rocky shore of torment on their island of lies. Kind of like me in my ignorance out on a boogie board with my 8 year old daughter in the Gulf. We think we’re all good and wake up realizing we’ve not been paying attention to what the Bible really says or justifying what we want to believe, and “we can’t touch” because we have become a “Heart adrift”. The voices can also be haunting voices of the past: condemnation, guilt, shame, etc. They play over and over as loudly as they can so you can’t hear the gentle voice of the Shepherd, Jesus, who has assured us that His sheep know His voice and they won’t follow another. Yes there are a lot of voices. BUT GOD!

What voice will you listen to?

I find myself parked in Psalm 18 lately. A very good read for a heart that needs to get back to the basics of hanging close to my Shepherd, Jesus. Listening to His voice speaking truth. Verse 16 -19 says “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

How good it is to know that God sees us! He sees us when our hearts begin to drift. He reminds us, like my daughter did that day, “Uh mom… can you touch?” His desire for us is to be safely on the shore of HIs love with Him. He hears our faintest cry and pulls us out of the “deep waters” that are too much for us.

So much in this analogy of our trip to the Gulf. I haven’t even touched us ignoring the “Dangerous Animal” flag, stinging Jelly Fish, and paying attention to the things we have heard or read from God’s truth. God’s life lessons really are like the ocean in many ways. I’m pretty sure He delighted to watch our young family on the beach that day so many years ago saying, “She doesn’t even know how I’m going to bring this memory back of some family fun. In about 15 years, when she needs to remember how I had her on that Boogie board with her small child, I’ll remind her. I had her then and I have had her these past few years as she struggled to keep herself close to me. I never did take my eye or my hand off of her either time. She’s my girl.”

Flags do mean something. Jellyfish stings are not fun…

Consider it Pure Joy… Anxiety

My husband and I have been doing the church thing for 29 years. We met in church, got married in one, and have attended one on the weekly for the most part of our 28 years of marriage. In all of that 29 years we’ve not really done “Sunday School”. Mainly because the churches we attended didn’t offer one. They offered “Home Fellowships” and “Sunday School” seemed a little “Old School” to me. Around two years ago we began attending a different church that offered Sunday School, and to be honest, I thought, “That’s nice. Not for me.” But a few months ago we decided to attend one. It’s been good for us even if we have to drag our butts in on occasion.(Mainly because we want to be lazy or flat out the enemy of our souls has been working overtime to keep us away from the Family God wants to give us in a church fellowship). This morning was another one of those “drag our butts” in occurrence. Because if I’m honest, of our 29 years of church attendance, there have been ALOT of times we had to make ourselves go, but once we are there and feel God’s presence and the encouragement of those around us it becomes more than worthwhile and we usually leave with the saying out of Psalms 122:1 ringing true, ” I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (You’re not alone if you suffer from “I must Drag my Butt to church syndrome”)

Anyway, back to dragging myself into class, the Bible book of study for awhile in our class is James. Not really a favorite of mine. Mainly because there is a lot of hard stuff in it about controlling your tongue, being patient in suffering, and showing our faith by our deeds. It’s not exactly a “feel good all the time” kind of book. And today’s verse that we discussed would be another not so “Feel good all the time” kind of verses. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 But today it hit me. I need to reconsider my aversion to the book of James. It’s in the Bible you know so it’s gotta be GOOD!

I’d say the past week has been kind of tough. Not because of anything in particular, just mainly I have issues with anxiety, and I’ve been getting tired of having that issue. I can’t think of how many times I’ve asked God to take it away from me. I’d say it’s been an issue of mine most of my life. I have had times I’ve thought, “you’re finally getting somewhere” only to find myself sitting for a few days with my throat and chest feeling tight, for really no real good reason. It’s more than aggravating. Especially when as a believer in Jesus I believe what He did on the Cross paid for my healing not only physically, but emotionally as well. And my inheritance as a child of God does not include in any way shape or form anxiety, fear, or depression. So I bounce back and forth between I should be walking in victory over this, and I know I need to take my medicine or it won’t be pretty… Not to mention the counseling I’ve been going to for the past 3 years. It kind of shrinks you down to feeling like you’re far from a spiritual giant in the kingdom. More like a someone who struggles and struggles, and then struggles some more. Then enters James 1:2-4. Anxiety has been a trial for me, and if I’m honest my husband too. He probably at times wonders what to do with his wife. We pray, we talk, we try to distract, and we keep plugging along. Anxiety has been a test of my faith. Because to be honest, admitting that you have an area of struggle, a weakness, is not fun. It doesn’t seem very victorious or overcoming. However, that testing of my faith, when the feelings arise, is working something in me that I told my husband just this week, “If this is the only way I can get it worked into me, then so be it.” It has produced in me a longing to be closer to God. The only way to experience the peace and the joy that God intended for me to walk in is to be in His presence. Psalm 16:11 says “…in your presence there is the fulness of Joy.” The only place I can find wholeness is in Him, so I have got to be closer and closer to Jesus so His peace and His presence are what I live in. Hanging tight with Jesus is the only way to make me “complete and not lacking anything.” I was thinking about it last night. If I never had experienced the painful things that I have walked through, I would not have reason to look for healing that can only be found in Jesus. If I never had experienced loneliness, I would never had known the need for His ever abiding close friendship. And if I never had known the torments of anxiety and fear, I would never have cried out for the Prince of Peace to rescue me and pull me out of a circumstances that were greater than me. So these light and momentary afflictions, that I hate to feel, are working something in me. In them, I know I need God more and more. He is the only answer and it is only in me totally surrendering to Him and His ways, and hanging as close to Him as I can, will I walk in His paths of freedom and experience the abundant life He promised me as I keep my eyes on Him. (John 10:10)

Maybe James isn’t so bad…. “Consider it pure Joy…”

A Beautiful Mind—A Mind Made New

Life has it’s way of leaving scars on us. No one is exempt. We may like to pretend like we all have it all together and put up a pretty facade, but behind the good exterior is an inside that has had it’s share of struggles. Some scars come because we jumped right into a hurtful situation feet first with eyes wide open. Some scars come because good intentions did not work out and situations were more than anyone could fix. To be a player in that type of play is tragic in many ways, but God… He has a plan to work all things out for our good, even the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Psalm 147:3

Last week I found myself contemplating life’s issues and suffocating with anxiety. As I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the anxiety and the physical sensations that go along with that, I shot an honest assessment of my feelings up to Him. “God, I hate my mind…” There are times in battle that it seems victory is far away. That pretty well summed up my situation at that point, but deep inside the still small voice spoke in a whisper, “You have a beautiful mind”. Though my mind may have scars from times past, scars point to something greater, Healing. Though there may be remnants of the hurts that still need for God’s hand to touch, there has already been so much He has already healed. So my mind, with it’s struggles and sometimes pain, is actually a display of what God can do for someone who has fought a long, hard battle on the inside.

It’s been a long, long time since I have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, and to be honest, I barely remember it. Except for the plot which was about a mathematician, John Forbes Nash Jr., suffered with a psychiatric disorder, schizophrenia. He fought a long hard battle inside his mind, and then finally went on to do extraordinary things in his field of mathematics earning awards in that field. Reading bits and pieces of his story on Wikipedia today has made me think about the struggle we all face, and the tenacity we all need. I, however, fight my battle with an advantage that I am unsure if Mr. Nash knew about. The healing power of the blood of Jesus, poured out for me.

John Forbes Nash JR. And his wife Alicia

There is a popular worship song that comes to mind. It’s wording is fairly easy since it repeats ALOT! “Surrounded”- “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” Some versions throw in “At your table”. There is a place that I can take my mind as it tries to run the show for me with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. That place is at the table that God has prepared for me. It is in His presence that I am surrounded by His peace and wholeness can be found. It is there at His table that I am strengthened to get up, set my mind on what is True, Noble, Right, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) i.e. Get my eyes on Jesus, and It is at His table that I am made new by Him renewing my mind. 1 Corinthians 12:1-2.

This morning as I sat down at His table, my time with God in His word, I contemplated some hard memories that have recently hit me of days gone by. It was there that I sat saying, “God I know, You have said, “I have a Beautiful Mind” because Your word assures me that I have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16.) I can’t imagine a mind more beautiful than His. I pictured the blood of Jesus pouring over my mind again and again, calming the anxiety, healing the hurts, restoring the broken. Because that is exactly what Jesus does. He makes all things new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He is never late concerning His healing, His strength, His power. He is always right on time. At times, I may not feel all the feels about the truth of God over my situations, but I can rest assured that what He started He will complete, and that includes the transformation of my mind into what He had prepared for it to be all along, “A Beautiful Mind”.

The God Who Sees

I got to do the Grandma thing yesterday. SO MUCH FUN!! My grandson is about 1 1/2 years old. So he’s trying to talk and full of personality. Watching him reminds me of his dad, my oldest son. If there’s one thing his daddy liked as a 1 1/2 year old and that my grandson likes too, it would be attention. His daddy refused to play in his room. Every toy he had was brought out to the area I was and played with. Sometimes the mess would be overwhelming and I would wish he would play in his room just once, but NO DICE! For the longest time I thought one of his favorite phrases was, “Look MOM!” Then yesterday, I noticed how much my grandson loved it to realize I was paying FULL attention to him. If I sat down for a second, he would grab my hand. Time to play! There is nothing like having all or Grandma’s attention on you to know you’re valued and you’re loved. The more I thought about this the more I remembered that all four of my kids as they grew just wanted Mom to see them, to see their accomplishments, their needs, their likes or dislikes, etc. There is such security in being seen.

Watching my grandson play at a local nature center.

This morning as I spent time with God I thought about all this and then my mind went to the value of being “seen” by God. As God’s children, there is nothing like knowing that He has His full attention on you. He’s always there, God with us! He refers to us/God’s children as “the apple of His eye”. Zechariah 2:8. Jesus talked about how God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, and we are “worth more than many sparrows”. Then of course, our value in God’s eyes is worth so much more than we can ever fully imagine. He was willing to pay the ultimate price for us, Jesus’ death on the cross, so we could be what He desired so greatly, His Own!

But alas, we live on planet Earth and I’ve got to admit there have been times in my life that I have wondered just how much God was seeing me. Sometimes life’s troubles, circumstances, my personal screw ups, or things done against me have left me wondering, “God did you see that?!?!” “God have you forgotten me?!” Doubt creeps in, and instead of going to God I froze under the weight of it. The thing I love about God is He does not freeze! He’s the One who may have 99 in safety yet still goes after the one!

Genesis 16 has the account of Hagar, Sarai’s slave. She was mistreated and abused and finally she ran away into the wilderness. Afraid and alone, God sent an angel to find her in her time of deepest need. Hagar gives this name to the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me”. Hagar at her lowest sees that God does see her, both in the good times and the bad.

What a hope! The times of loss, the times of abandonment, the times of sorrow, the times of pain, etc. “God Sees”. Nothing is bigger than His ability to See us and not only see us, but be there. I have to become more and more like my little grandson, always looking God’s way to reassure myself that what He says is true. He’s right there cheering me on during the good times, comforting me during the hard. Always holding me and always being “the God who sees me” because He values me enough to always keep His face towards me, His precious child. He sees me! And know that wherever you are, whatever you have done, He sees YOU! His face is towards you and He wants to give you peace and show you how valued you are!

We Are the People of Hope

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

Praise in the Park 7/10/2021

Last Saturday I had the privilege to participate in an event at a park in the town that has been my home for the past 24 years. It was a simple event, but one that I feel reflected the message the family of Christian believers have to share around the world. Believers who wanted nothing more or less than lift a message of Hope for trying times. It wasn’t a large gathering but it represented a small midwestern town’s group of believers from at least seven different churches who came together to spend time in worship, scripture readings, and brief testimonies of what a relationship with Jesus means to those who stood up to share. There wasn’t a drive for recognition of one church over another. There wasn’t a collection of money to be collected for a cause. It was simply some musicians, some songs, some ordinary people, and the proclamation of an extraordinary God.

This 1 hour meeting at the park was birthed out of a group of guys that my husband gets together with on the weekly for a time of Bible study. Once again this group isn’t just one church, different denominations, but a common unity of Love for Jesus and the desire to have more of Him in their lives.

A small clip of the gathering

I was asked to share a brief testimony of who God is to me as a part of a group of 5 people, all from different backgrounds. I said yes, but with shaky legs and sometimes voice. Because I know who I am in my own eyes, but I also know who I am In the eyes of Jesus.

One thing that kept rolling around in my head and heart as I prayed about what to say at the Park was the quote from Pope John Paul II. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Or the modified version I kept thinking, “We are the people of HOPE. We have the cure for the brokenness of our World. His name is Jesus.” With so much going on in so many arenas of our world, it is easy to “abandon ourselves to despair”. When our news outlets focus on hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, etc. , it becomes easy to be consumed by the overwhelming floodgates of sadness and evil, BUT WE HAVE THE CURE! The price Jesus paid to show us His love by His life, death, and resurrection and the Hope we have of Him never leaving or forsaking us is a reality for the one who lives as a Child of God. His promise of the Holy Spirit living in us and the reality of it now fulfilled in our lives also speaks to the truth that “We are the Easter People”/ “We are the people of HOPE”, and we should not be ashamed to proclaim that truth. It is what our nations, states, communities, friends, and families need to hear. God is with us! He is with me. I can walk with Joy in good times and I can continue to walk with peace in times of sadness, because I have Hope. I have Hope here in my daily life of doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, being a mom. I also have Hope in my daily life when tears are my drink and ashes of disappointment are my bread. Psalm 102:9. This life is not the only life I have. I am a part of the “Easter People” I have the assurance of life beyond my final breath in Eternity with Jesus, and the resurrection of things that have been dead in my life due to sin of either myself or others. Jesus makes all things new. That is the glorious HOPE! Hope of a man who testified on Saturday of the power of God that changed his life from a path of destruction to a life built secure in Jesus. Or the testimony of a woman whose life was broken by addiction, pain, and sadness to one transformed to a life of purpose and peace. And the testimony of a man who has known the sorrow of loss of a young child to cancer and the collapse of his marriage, to a life that knows the comfort of God who is close in the good and the bad. Then the testimony of a man who knows the reality of a life unable to rise above guilt and shame to a life of Grace given by the God who knows our weakness. Then of course there’s the testimony of little ol me, a mom, a grandma, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A woman who knows the HOPE of God that overcomes the heartbreak of life on an imperfect planet knowing this isn’t the end. Each day is another day of beginning when Jesus writes the story of our life.

Some of the band
God’s People

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 The Message

We are the People of HOPE!!

Video of my testimony I gave at “Praise in the Park”

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.

The Cross On Good Friday Was and Is Enough!

(Writing has been hard for me lately. There’s been so much going on in my heart and my head that words just don’t seem enough to express it all. It seems like God has me in a season of reflection on where I have been in my Faith, where I am now, and where I am going. It’s all good, just hard to sort through at times. Part of these reflections are what I am writing today. )

Filipino in Pampanga Province allowing self to be crucified for penance

There’s an image from years ago that’s been on my mind. I usually remember it during Holy Week. This year it has some particular meaning, because when I look at the pictures I see how I have often done myself. The province of Pampanga in the Philippines has an annual reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion every Good Friday. It’s not the kind of reenactment of symbolism alone. It is literal reenactment where devotees are nailed to wooden crosses with 4 inch nails in their wrists and feet. They also beat themselves with whips and crawl on the ground for great lengths to pay homage at the local church. They believe in paying penance to God this way, their prayers for healing and blessing will be answered.

How often I have found myself more or less doing the same thing. If I do “x, y, z”, then God will … Performance based Chrisitianity… once installed inside of you it is hard to shake. Whether through a legalistic church or an outright cult, it is easy to fall into it’s clutches and the damage done can affect your view of God for years. The events on Good Friday that happened 2000 years ago were not meant to be repeated. Jesus said it Himself when He hung on the cross, “It is finished”. The sacrifice that gives the right for us to stand in right standing with God was completed and done on that day. Often we are the ones convinced it isn’t enough, a lie conveniently placed by our enemy, the devil. If he can keep us busy trying to measure up and do all the right stuff, something we cannot do on our own, he has us distracted from doing the one thing that Jesus, Himself, said was the work that God has for us, “to believe”. (John 6:29) and in all of our wallowing in our unworthiness, the devil paralyzes us with the “I have to fix myself” cycle. God’s full intention was for us to enjoy being His childrren, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12) Living a life given by Him that is abundant. (John 10:10)

Every time I feel that I need to do something more for God to approve of me, I am no different than the poor Filapino devote who goes to the extreme of being nailed to a cross. Every time I wallow in unforgiveness to myself for past mistakes, I too have taken a handmade whip and beat myself as those in Pampanga do. Every time I think if I muster up a little more kindness, give a little more time, sacrifice a little more of myself…, I too am crawling in to the presence of God looking for a crumb to fall from His table of grace. Grace that is freely given and freely received in abundance if I only open my heart to it.

That is what makes the Holy week so special and Good Friday so Good. Jesus did what I could not do so I could be with Him, a place I do not deserve to be. We are not meant for a “to do” list of Christianity. We are meant for a transforming relationship, where God takes what was broken and stained by sin, us, and washes it clean in the blood of Jesus poured out for us years ago and healed by the very stripes that broke Him on that day. I can stop trying to do it all… and let Him do it all in me, the very things He had planned from the beginning. (Ephesians 2:10)

Filipinos self flagellating with whips on Good Friday

I can drop my four inch nails and my whip for self-flagellation. The Sacrificial Cross on Good Friday was and is Enough.

Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, Dearly Loved

I grew up in a small Missouri town. When I say small, I’m talking one stop light and no McDonalds until I was a teenager. Population 4,600. And I must emphasize, I grew up in town, small house on a lot with neighbors close by. Since I moved away and married, I have ended up living in the country. Some people may term my property as a small farm. I can stand out on my porch and hear cows mooing in the distance. Having never owned cows or livestock of any kind as a kid, I was not aware of the extent of care they could require in the winter months. A few years ago my husband ventured out into the livestock arena. We purchased a few cows, had them bred, and watched the little calves grow. It was alot of fun and a learning experience for me. Things that never occured to me like giving them bales of hay on an extremely cold day and breaking the ice on our pond so they could get a drink were part of the daily norm until we sold them. Yesterday I was scanning my facebook account where I saw a brief video my niece had posted. Her husband is a farmer. They had a little calf that was near to freezing in these subzero temps from the “Polar Vortex” we are experiencing. He came into their house with an armful of calf to be warmed up in their bathroom for awhile. This was much to the delight of her little boy. That calf had achieved prefered status.

The scene from that clip has been rolling around in my head this morning as I have read my Bible. I’ve been spending some time chewing on a couple of sections of scripture. One is John 21:15-22 and the other is Ephesians 4:1-3. The section of John is an account of Jesus and Peter having a conversation after Jesus had ressurected from the dead. Just prior to Jesus’ death Peter had denied Jesus three times in an effort to save his own skin. I’m not so sure I would have done much better in view of the circumstances. Peter had watched Jesus be arrested and hauled off to an unfair trial and knew the hatred the religious establishment had for Jesus and His teaching. When questioned about his affiliation with Jesus, he made it plain to those questioning that he didn’t know Him, the One he had previously said He would fight for and die for, never deny. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Twice He used the term “agape”. Once He used the term “phileo”. “Peter do you agape me, ‘actively prefer me and self sacrifice for me’? Take care of my sheep.” “Peter do you phileo me- ‘ hold me affectionately in your heart’?”

Agape… digging around on my “Bible Hub” app. looking at the Strong’s concordance puts it in a brighter light. It’s a preferred love. A preferred status if you will. It’s placing someone as your priority, your preference that you would give yourself away for. Here’s where the second scripture comes in: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” That term for love comes from “agape” too. Except this time the focus of the agape is from God toward us. It speaks of us being chosen by God, set apart for Him, and dearly loved- preferred, sacrificed for. Kind of like that little calf of my niece and her husband. Quite honestly when I look at myself, I don’t see a whole lot for me to offer God. I’m like a little calf in a “Polar Vortex” freezing to death, but God looks at me as her husband, the farmer, did the calf, VALUABLE. Valuable enought to brave a cold winter storm, pick up the little calf and take it into his home to be warmed and cared for, given preferred status. Not every calf in the field gets the attention that little one did yesterday. The farmer saw the need and sacrificed to meet it.

I believe that from the moment we are born until the day we die, our enemy, Satan, spends his time trying to get us to view God as anything but the One who prefers us, the One who sacrificed for us, and the One who went out looking for us in our most desperate time of need so He could bring us in. Satan tries to paint the picture of God as the one who looks out on a sea of people that are expendible, and a pain in God’s side. Not enough time for us, not enough grace, not enough love, distant, uncaring, tired of our screw ups, etc… But God “agape’s” us. He’s the one who leaves the 99 to find the one. So He can give the prefered status of His forgiveness, care, and constant attention to us. It is when I am able to see myself as that little calf, brought in from the cold, delighted in that I understand God has set me with His “Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, and Dearly Loved”.

Letting the baby see the calf

“Falling Into Grace”

It’s a cold, snowy day in my neck of the woods. Too cold for a walk outside and I’m too lazy to go to the Y so the treadmill it has to be. Walking on the treadmill requires something to keep my mind occupied otherwise it is the most mundane of task especially since mine faces a blank wall in my bedroom. Usually I spend my time watching “Garden Answers” YouTube videos so I can dream up new outdoor projects. Or I occasionally crank music as loud as I can through my headphones. Nothing like a good beat and blazing guitars to motivate the 30 minute walk on the “sidewalk that goes nowhere”.

I think it would work…

Today was a perfect day for loud music and the album of choice was “No Name Face” by Lifehouse. The past few days I’ve had one of their songs running through my mind. “Unknown”. The phrase that goes over and over in my head is “I am falling into grace, to the unknown, to where you are, and faith makes everybody scared it’s the unknown they don’t know that keeps me hanging on and on, and on to you.”

Performance based religion, legalism, when you’ve had that wired into your brain it’s hard to see anything else. There have been times that I have been involved in churches that lived and breathed performance… Fear of not being enough has ravaged my mind and heart. I believe the intentions of the people in those churches were very sincere. We wanted to live what the Bible said, and we would do it doggonit… , but sadly it was mainly in our own strength. That is a recipe for disaster. The truth of the matter is there is no system or set of rules, regulations, standards, etc. that will change the heart. Simply said we can’t do it on our own. Somewhere along the line we have to see ourselves rightly, more importantly see God rightly, and “fall into grace”.

Freedom for me hasn’t been in strapping myself to a list of things that I needed to do to be the Christian God wants. It has been in seeing that me, the one God wanted, was wanted when I was at my worst. As the Bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. And my value is not in how excellent I can be, it is in being the one God valued enough to pay the ultimate price for, His Son’s life and death on the cross. Nothing has hit me harder than that reality. You don’t pay high prices for things you don’t value. For example: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t waste my time paying $1000 for a chewed piece of gum on a sidewalk. It has no value to me. I wouldn’t pay a penny either. But I would happily invest $1000 in a hot tub. Actually more than $1000 if I could find one that cheap lol. Anything to warm these chilled Midwestern girl’s bones… (winter blah…) I value the hot tub. It’s worth something to me. In the same way, God saw something worth something in me and paid a price, His Son, to bridge the gap between us so I could be His. That’s Good News.

Yes Please!! This would be so nice right now!!

The issue for me is “falling into grace” is a bit like tandem skydiving with God as my skydiving instructor. Ultimately, when I take the jump out of that plane, I have to trust. I have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. I have to trust that He will do exactly what He said He will do. Here’s the big one… I have to trust that the parachute will open at the right time. As one who is afraid of heights, this whole example would never happen in the real world unless for some reason you got me on a small plane and something went horribly wrong. Then there would be no other option, but to jump and to trust that the Master Jumper was able to rescue me. Here’s the deal, my life, in fact anyone’s life is like the passenger on that “doomed plane’. There’s no turning around the mess I’ve been in in my own strength. It’s only in taking the jump of faith, and holding on to the One who has ahold of me. Nothing I can do or will do at that point changes things because God is the one who gets me safely to where I am going by whatever means He deems necessary to get me there. He does not let go. Thank God.

“Falling into Grace” is really the only viable choice for my heart.. Sitting there when your plane’s going down doesn’t make any sense no matter how scary the options of life may be. Life is a long series of “unknown” circumstances. I just don’t know how it all will turn out. But if I am jumping tandem with God, I know I will arrive,and His Grace will, as the old hymn “Amazing Grace” says, “lead me home”.