I Got Nothin”

Twirling a pen in my hand I just sat there. I stared at the card in front of me, waiting for an idea, for something, anything, to say. A few words popped into my brain but they seemed trite and shallow. So I sat there, staring at the card waiting for the right words but I got nothin’.

Over the past couple of weeks I have had to sign way too many greeting cards. Generally I like choosing and signing cards but this most recent batch were all for the unhappy occasions of life: Get Well, Thinking of You, and the saddest, With Sympathy.

What is there to say when the news is bad/sad? When you know the person receiving the card is struggling and in pain, physically, emotionally or both? What do you say when the person is standing in front of you with tears in their eyes?

Other peoples pain can take us by surprise, leaving us at a loss for words, uncertain how to acknowledge their sorrow, how to support, not knowing what to say or do. My heart hurts for the other person and I have that sinking feeling of frustration; that any words I might say trivialize their pain. There are times when silence is best, a hug, a comforting touch might be all that is needed and wanted but there has to be some verbal or written response, some words of understanding, some acknowledgement…

In the midst of pain our hearts cry out for comfort, for an answer or reason, for hope that the pain serves some purpose and that life is not meaningless. I always pause; I don’t want to say or write anything stupid and I don’t want to make the situation worse. I want to be sincere and genuine; I can’t know exactly how the other person feels but I do know what it feels like to lose someone, to be afraid, to worry. I want my few words to be comforting, positive and hopeful.

The Bible has a lot to say about pain and suffering. Jesus is described as a man of sorrows; He knows what if feels like to be lonely, rejected, mocked and tortured. Many of the psalms are vivid descriptions of the authors’ fears, despair and pain. Many of those who wrote and are written about in the Bible experienced great loss and prolonged suffering.

Through all of the sorrow and challenge in the Bible runs a long and unbroken thread of hope; the hope of a better life, of an eternal home, of a promised Messiah, of blessing, of purpose. The hope spoken of and demonstrated in familiar Bible stories is not just a vague wish but also the absolute certainty that God has permitted every experience, good and bad. It is a sure hope for those who trust Him and believe in Jesus that God has a plan and His plan is for our good.

But, sometimes God’s Word is not welcomed or wanted and even openly opposed. It makes me profoundly sad that His words of comfort and strength cannot be shared and that is why it has been so difficult to sign the cards, to say the words. All the “acceptable” words, the “politically correct” words (whatever those are) have no real meaning or substance and everything the world offers is only temporary.

When I cannot share the hope of heaven, the love of God, His plan, His comfort, His peace, His presence, His eternal and greater purpose there truly is no meaningful hope I can offer, no words of lasting comfort.   Apart from God, from Jesus and His Word,

I got nothin’…

 

Whom have I in heaven but you and besides you I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25, 26

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Your World Quakes…

Before…

Routine keeps me on time, on task, nothing forgotten.  Mental to-do list of who, what, where, when and how.  Small warning signs of trouble may be ignored but this time, God was speaking, preparing for the test and trial.  I knew something was coming, I did not know what.  Easy to praise the Lord when life is going according to my plan but much too easy to coast and think, “I got this…”

During…

The major interruption.  The unexpected, unplanned, unanticipated event; not on my schedule.  All routine out the window, calendar useless, reminders, lists, obligations, email alerts all ignored.

The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. Psalm 18:4, 5

Trying to breathe, to remain calm, to put two coherent thoughts together.  Who to call/text?  There is one, the One who is above all others.  In these moments, I can only fall at His feet.  Heart pounding, I open His Word…

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.” The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. … In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple,
and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.Psalm 18:1 – 3, 6

This enemy is bigger than any ever imagined and foundations are cracking, rendered powerless, without knowledge, adrift without a schedule or plan to follow.  Refusing to dwell on what might happen, what could happen, what is the worst that could happen; choosing to focus on the One Who gave His permission for this trial, this test.

Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, … He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. Psalm 18:7, 9 – 10

God rushes in, He allows every earthquake to accomplish His purposes and He stands at the epicenter with His arms wide.  He gives strength to bear my burden, He sends Aarons and Hurs to keep my arms strong and heart lifted to Him.

He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:16 – 19

The quake was strong, intense and thankfully short.  There were aftershocks that occurred without warning; they were accompanied by shortness of breath, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and ability to focus, a constant sense of anxiety.  God, His character, His Word, His Truth needed to be repeated, often, and deeply planted to recognize and reject the lies, to slow the breathing, to quiet the mind.

As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. Psalm 18:30 – 36

After…

Back on schedule with minor, manageable, interruptions; they are welcome after all the rocking and rolling.  God chose to deliver and give what was requested, He was gracious and merciful to me.  Ultimately He gave the one thing He always and consistently gives, His gave according to His will and purpose.  Would I be praising the Lord as much if my request did not agree with His will?  Difficult to say, I like to think I would and I know I would trust Him to lead me through whatever He allows and I know there will always be another quake. Lord, help me continue to sing…

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation, … He delivers me from my enemies; surely You lift me above those who rise up against me..Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name. Psalm 46 – 49

Scars You Cannot See

What did you want to be when you grew up?  At various ages and stages, I wanted to be a model, an airline stewardess, a teacher, a dancer, and a secretary.  It turned out I have been exactly none of those!  Lots of girls my age wanted to be nurses; I knew at an early age that anything medical was not for me.  I cannot stand the sight of blood, it’s difficult for me to be around sick people and I am famously not compassionate; yep, the Gift of Mercy completely bypassed me.

Years ago, my husband had surgery on his knee – it did not go well.  He was in the hospital for two weeks and came home on crutches with the knee swathed in a huge bandage.  He needed help changing the dressings.  As much as I wanted to help, I could not do it.  He had to first manage to cover the wound so I could not see it; then and only then was I able to help him finish the wrapping process.

When a man covered in leprosy comes to Jesus and Jesus touches this man, my stomach twists.  Leprosy or Hansen’s Disease, can cause severe disfiguring skin sores, large lumps and nerve damage.  Damage to the nerves of its victims results in further injury since burns or cuts are not felt, the injuries easily become infected which causes more severe damage and scarring.  Leprosy is not actually as contagious as thought years ago and can be cured with antibiotics.

In Jesus day, the priest was the one who would examine and diagnose the person who suspected leprosy and in that day, it was a death sentence.  The leper was required to shave his head, tear his clothes, and shout, “Unclean, unclean” when approaching people or towns.  A leper could not worship at the temple and was required to live outside the city walls; alone, isolated, unable to work, a leper suffered physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The leper in Luke 5 comes to Jesus and falls at his feet. He implores Jesus with the words, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.”  There is so much to learn in these words and in Jesus response to this man:

  • He fell on his face – what better place to be – at the feet of Jesus!  The man totally humbled himself, he held nothing back.  What are the things I think I can handle myself?  Is there a part of me I am holding back from Jesus?
  • He calls him, “Lord” – Jesus is Lord and is worthy of worship!
  • He implores Jesus – he recognized his condition was desperate.  I need to recognize how desperate I am for Jesus ALL the time!  Jesus is the answer to every need, every question. I need to come to Him quickly and often, not just in times of crisis.
  • He understands Jesus right to refuse any request – God is sovereign and nothing happens without His permission.  Sometimes His answer is not what I am hoping or asking for; I need to trust Him to respond with what is best.
  • He believes Jesus is able – Jesus ability is limitless.  I need to approach with confidence in Him, not myself or the urgency or intensity of my need.
  • Jesus touched him – how long had it been since this leper had felt a human touch, seen a kind look on another face?  Jesus knows what I need and can touch the most wounded place in any heart.  How willing am I to extend a hand to someone who is hurting?  To risk rejection or hurt for another’s sake?
  • Jesus was willing – Jesus stands ready to help, to save all who ask and He knows exactly how and when to help.

Jesus heals the leper and sends him away with instructions to tell no one and follow the law by visiting the priest and offering the required sacrifices.  I wonder what the leper’s life was like after his healing.  He probably failed on the “tell no one” part since the next sentence (Luke 5:15) says that crowds were coming for healing so somebody said something for sure!  But how could he keep silent?  He went from a life of daily suffering and torment to a pain-free life of freedom and that is heart of the story, the heart of Jesus right there.  Jesus is willing to take us from a half-life to a whole life in every aspect.

Not all of us carry visible reminders of past injuries.  My husband still has deep, very noticeable scars on his knee, nearly 30 years later they remain.  When the leper in Luke 5 was healed, all of him was healed.  Jesus healed him of all visible wounds and marks, restored any lost fingers and toes, fixed the disfigured face, smoothed out the lumps.  But what about the scars that cannot be seen; the scars on his heart of rejection, fear, loss family and friends, of feelings of uselessness and ugliness.  These scars that you cannot see are universal; not all of us carry scars from physical injuries but all of us are wounded and hurting in some way.   Jesus is willing to heal the deepest wounds of your heart and the scars on your broken spirit; the scars no one can see.  Jesus took the leper from a life of pain to a life of happiness; from barely surviving to thriving; from isolation to crowds and He can take you, too.  Ask Jesus for  what you need, He is listening, He is willing, trust Him for the best answer – not what you want but what you need.  He is Lord.

Nothing Test

“i’m starving!”, you say when you walk in the door at the end of a long day at work or school.  Are you really starving?  Did you eat at all today?  Probably, but maybe not.  Did you eat yesterday?  Very likely.  The “I’m starving” complaint is quickly followed by it’s annoying companion, “There’s nothing to eat in this house.”  This is most often uttered in front of the wide-open refrigerator.  Are your shelves and fridge completely and totally bare?  Probably not but, possibly.  Is there breakfast cereal, some almost out of date milk? Then there is food to eat in your house, it’s just not the food you want to eat!

Hunger by choice or circumstance is a very real problem everywhere but for most of us in present day America, food is always available for purchase or can be found for free/low-cost.  We are told regularly and often the average American is eating too much and obesity is considered by many to be a serious health issue.

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1

Famine is a devastating, extreme and wide-spread shortage of food.  There has never been a famine in America.  Gratefully, most of us don’t have any idea what it means to be truly starving.  In a time of famine, the cupboards are literally bare.  There is no food of any kind available to anyone for any price. Famine drives people to extreme lengths to obtain food for themselves and their children.

This famine drives a man, Elimelech, to leave Bethlehem with his wife and two sons and travel to the land of Moab.  Elimelech chose Moab, and while there, he dies, leaving his wife Naomi a widow.  His sons marry Moabite women and then, the sons die. Naomi is bereft of her two children and her husband.  Naomi, hearing that there is food in Bethlehem decides to return home alone.  Her two daughters in law insist on going with her and Naomi urges them to stay in their own land with their own people; one daughter in law agrees but the other, Ruth, refuses to be parted from Naomi.  The two women, mother in law and daughter in law travel to Bethlehem.  Naomi is so crushed in spirit, she now insists on being called ‘Mara’, which means, bitter.

Even in a time of famine and loss, there is blessing.  Naomi/Mara refused to see the blessing of her faithful daughter in law, Ruth who traveled with her, leaving her own people and culture behind.

When you are completely empty it makes logical sense to go somewhere, anywhere, to get full. God allowed the famine into their lives and he allows famine to overtake us.  Maybe your famine is the loss of a loved one, loneliness and sadness is crushing your soul. Perhaps you are experiencing a famine of work, you need a job desperately.  You just don’t feel connected to God, your prayers seem to go unanswered, a time of spiritual famine.  Whatever your present famine, be careful  where or who you go to fill yourself up.  Many things and people promise fullness and don’t deliver.  Elimelech chose Moab, a land of idolatry, it is much easier to turn to the world and things of the world in a time of famine, don’t turn to an idol, turn to God.

God will sometimes strip us of everything, allow the famine to test us.  What will we do when we have nothing left?  Will we turn to Him, depend on Him or look to the world or our own resources to “get us through”?  Trials are an opportunity and we have the choice to become ‘mara’/bitter or better.  Unlike Ruth and Naomi, who had no idea if or how things would work out, we know the outcome of their story.  The famine they experienced was not a coincidence and if you are in a time of famine, of being stripped to nothing, this is not a coincidence for you either.

Moving to Florida was, for me, a small famine.  I was stripped (by choice) of familiar people, places and things.  It forced me to look to God for comfort, strength and peace.  God was getting ready to do something amazing for them and through them. God has given my many new friends, a job and now I can find my way around pretty well in my new neighborhood.  God had a plan and a purpose in their famine and bitterness and He has a plan and purpose for me and you in our “test of having nothing”.  Naomi and Ruth did not see it – we rarely do – but God calls us to keep moving, take the next step and to rely on Him – it’s called Trust!

Here’s Your Sign

It caught my eye.  A sign.  Lots of places have signs and I like finding those with cute or catchy sayings; some very funny signs are outside churches:

  • “Wal-mart isn’t the only saving place.”
  • “Experts made the Titanic, amateurs made the ark.”
  • “God answers knee-mail.”

You get the idea, you can find many more on the internet.  The church sign that caught my eye today was simple and to the point,

“Christians Meet Here”

My first crushing thought was, “No wonder people hate us.”  I was offended by this sign.  Is this church saying they have an exclusive club that only Christians are invited to join?  Are non-Christians not welcome to attend a service or event?  Is it an arrogant declaration that Christians are better than everyone else?  Now, I realize there is more than one way to interpret and read this sign and I am sincerely hoping that this church had the best of intentions but to me that was unclear.

Sadly, a common reason people give for NOT going to church is that they did not feel welcomed,  they felt out of place or they did not feel like they fit in.  One of the things that made me fall in love with Jesus was His ability to speak to anyone and make everyone feel like they had His undivided attention for those moments; He looked at people.  I suggest we, like Jesus, need to much more intentional when we attend our churches.

We need to be intentional in looking for someone we don’t know, especially anyone who looks confused or seems to be alone.  We need to be intentional in focusing on the person we don’t know rather than our comfortable group of friends.  We need to be intentional in not sitting in our “self-assigned”,same seat but moving around so we can greet someone we have not greeted in the past.  Oh, and just another pet peeve, I hate greeting time; if you are the “new person” it is terribly awkward when everyone else is hugging and talking and you are just standing there.  Pastors, if your church does a greeting time, keep it very short – I have been in churches where greetings went on for several minutes; I never go back to those churches.

Church is not about me and getting my needs met; that is a blessed by-product of church participation.  Church is about what I can offer to God and His people.  The only thing God wants, the most important thing to bring to church is my heart, uncertain, searching, broken, wounded, open and sometimes full.  Had that sign, Christians Meet Here, been on the church I visited years ago my unbelieving heart might still be on the outside looking in…

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?   James 2:1 – 4

Assigned Parking

“Anything you can do I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.”

Some of you might recognize these lines as song lyrics written by Irving Berlin from the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”.  The song is a musical duel between the competitive leads, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.  The words are all too true, no matter how good you are or think you are, someone is always better.  Competition can be energizing, it causes some people to work or train harder, to study or practice more, to do whatever it takes to be the best.  Competition can be discouraging, someone will get a higher score than you, someone else can do what you do faster, better, easier and it can make you think it is just not worth the effort.

When I started to blog I discovered an important aspect was connecting with other bloggers, reading what others were writing and thinking, commenting on other blogs and receiving comments on my own posts; this is a part of blogging I am enjoying very much.

It did not take long to discover that some of the people blogging are really, REALLY GOOD!  Way way better than me at expressing themselves and their posts are really REALLY informative, thought-provoking and helpful!  Reading and following these accomplished and gifted people make it easy to allow discouragement to overshadow the inexplicable urge to write and continue blogging.  So you cannot imagine how happy I am to be reading the book of Numbers in my Bible.

Now if you have ever read the book of Numbers it is not exactly the most exciting book in the Bible!  it is one of the first five books of the Bible or the Pentateuch.  Numbers begins with God instructing Moses to take a census of the nation of Israel and counting people and things is the predominate activity in the first 7 chapters – maybe exciting to an accountant but not so much for the rest of us.  But the Bible is full of truth and treasure and in chapter 2 God had a gem for me and for anyone else feeling over-looked and discouraged.

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the tent of meeting at a distance.” 

In the books prior to Numbers, God had given detailed instructions to the Israelites about His tabernacle, His laws and how He is to be worshipped.  Now He gives them very specific camping instructions; who is to camp where.  God tells Moses which tribes are to camp to the north, south east and west of the tabernacle, who is assigned as the leader of each tribe, and, He repeats the number of men (the census totals) for each tribe.  God assigns each one their parking space.  No one is omitted, everyone knows where they need to go and everyone has a specific spot.

I love what I see about God here:

  • God is a God of order and not chaos.
  • God is not random or capricious.
  • God  has a perfect plan.
  • God has an assigned place for everyone.

Yep, I may not be the best blogger or whatever else I attempt, but God has a plan, a purpose and a place that I only I can fill and He has the same for you!  My challenge and encouragement to myself and to you is to keep on keeping on; whatever God is calling you to do and wherever you are – hang in there and don’t stop.  Do it to the best of your ability, ignore the “competition”, and keep putting one foot, or keystroke, in front of the other.  God’s got me an assigned parking spot, it is right where it needs to be and I’m parking there!

A Different Christmas

Christmas Morning, December 25, 2014

It is a different Christmas this year.  For the first time in a long time it is quiet, there is no noise, no cries of “get up”, “what’s to eat?”, “Santa was here!”  It is a joyous day but it is different from past Christmas days.

Maybe your Christmas is very different this year too.  Maybe for the first time you are alone.  Perhaps God has put you in a new family or maybe added some new family members, maybe this is your first Christmas missing someone you dearly loved.  Are you far from home this Christmas or are you home again?  For some, being home is full of joy but not for all, home can be painful when struggle and strife dominate every day.  Your Christmas tree may be piled high with gifts but perhaps there is no tree this year – it is just too hard, there is no money.  Maybe you are one of those who has to be at work this Christmas, you would rather be home but for a variety of reasons you are working, you are a police officer, a fire fighter, in the military, in a hospital, etc.

Everyone has a different view of Christmas and some reject Christmas totally.  I love Christmas.  I love the traditional, American style Christmas I remember as a child, the Christmas I created for my own children and the Christmas I now see my children creating in their homes.  I love making and eating cookies, watching corny Christmas movies, Christmas songs, Christmas decorations.  I love choosing the “perfect” gift, I love watching people unwrap their gifts.  I am so grateful that for me, Christmas is happy but I recognize that is not true for everyone.

Long ago in Bethlehem there was a different Christmas.  Only a few realized it even was Christmas and those few were an unlikely bunch, a handful of shepherds, a young man and his young betrothed.  Sheep herders, half-asleep in a field, on guard against thieves and predators; the outcasts of their day, ignorant, smelly, loners.  The shepherds are filled with terror when an angel appears and makes an astounding announcement and then, a multitude of angels appears and sings praise – what must that have sounded like?!  Oh yeah, that boring, ordinary night became a very different Christmas for those men.  A young man, Joseph and his young betrothed, Mary – now the birth was no surprise, they had had 9 months to think about it, to be gossiped about, to wonder about the conception, to consider their future.  What was different was the place, like most women, Mary probably envisioned herself giving birth in her home town, aided by a local mid-wife and other women that she had known all her life, experienced women who could help and support her during labor and after the birth.  Instead they found themselves in a strange town, alone, surrounded by gaping shepherds – does it get any more different than that?

Jesus, the Sunshine from on High, was born that day – the world was now completely different, it was the first Christmas.

If you do not celebrate or recognize Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, I urge you to reconsider.  The birth of Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies, He came to earth with a single purpose, redemption and reconciliation  – the salvation of mankind.  There are no words I can share that can convince you or persuade you about Jesus, read the Bible for yourself and ask God to give you understanding.

One guarantee about life it that change is constant, maybe your Christmas is the same as always (for good or bad) or maybe it is radically different.  There is one, singular, unchanging constant and eternal truth about Christmas – it is ALL about Jesus and not about me or you, not about culture or tradition; it always was, always is, always will be about Jesus and one day Jesus will return and EVERYONE will know it – oh what a glorious day that will be!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

For it is written, “As I live says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” Romans 14:11

Storm Warning – Acts 27

Soon after moving to Florida, I was greeted by several serious looking men as I entered church one Sunday.  The men were distributing a large and ominous looking flyer entitled, “Will You Be Ready?”  What?  Is it the end?  Armageddon?  Nope, this is Florida and the men were part of my church’s Disaster Recovery Team and the flyer a guide to hurricane preparedness.  Hurricanes are serious business in Florida!

Technology can tell us that a major storm is imminent but what about the storms of life?  That diagnosis we didn’t expect to hear, the spouse who just walks out, the child who is on the path of self-destruction sometimes we get blind-sided but sometimes we are forced to realize that there have been hints and we just did not recognize the signs.

We’re Warned

Paul, the great traveler is now a prisoner in Caesarea and is ordered to Rome; as a Roman citizen he has appealed for a hearing before Caesar.  Winter is approaching and sailing conditions are not ideal, Paul warns against the journey but his warning is disregarded.  Are you being warned of an approaching storm?  A friend tries to confront you about your choices and behavior.  The principal of your son or daughter’s school calls you again to discuss their behavior in class. A persistent cough does not go away, your spouse wants you to see your doctor.  Your spouse is always angry, never home, unavailable by phone and in person.

Look for a Nugget

The sailors and crew decide that weather conditions seem conducive to sailing, they ignore Paul’s warning and set sail.  When criticized or told about a possible problem don’t immediately react defensively or in anger.  Not all criticism is valid but sometimes a nugget of truth, a warning, is buried in words that seem harsh or judgmental – not always, but give it some thought before dismissing it.

We Pull Up Our “Big Girl Panties”

Faced with a “life-storm”, we think, “Ok, I can get through this, I’m tough”  or maybe we create a plan of action to “solve the problem”.  Sometimes we are told, “Keep your chin up.”  “You can do it.”  “Act like a grown-up.”  Any or all of these might work for a short time especially if it is not a big storm.  But for Paul and the men on the ship, when the storm hits it hits big – a major Nor’easter.  As the ship begins to fall apart they use cables and ropes to undergird the ship, hoping to keep the ship in one piece.

We Compromise

We attempt to make deals with God, “God if you just get me through this I will never ask for anything again, I’ll start going to church again, etc.”  We make deals with ourselves, “I will only drink on week-ends.”  We make deals with others, “If you just stay in school you can hang out with your friends on week-ends.”  “I will only call you in an emergency.”  The sailors jettison all the cargo on the ship, hoping to lighten the load.

We Change Our Behavior

Next the sailors toss off all the ship’s tackle; they get rid of the tools they need to sail the ship.  We return to church, we pray and read our Bibles.  We give up smoking and start jogging.  We start cooking elaborate dinners and make sure our spouse knows dinner will on the table at 6.  We search the internet looking for 5 easy steps to health, happiness and self-improvement and jump right to step 5.  We stop drinking or maybe we start, just to calm down.

We Despair

God seems silent, our prayers are not being answered.  It is too cold, too hot, too rainy, too snowy, my calves hurt too much to jog.  The first night our spouse is late, we smile.  The second night when our spouse doesn’t arrive until 8, we seethe.  The third night we throw out the dinner and eat cereal from the box.  We give up.  We have tried everything we know to do, everything the internet has advised.  We enter the dark pit of abandonment, frustration, and despair.  The ship that Paul is traveling on breaks apart completely – all of their effort to save the ship and themselves has failed.

God will sometimes allow the foundation we have constructed to fall apart.  The sailors in Acts 27 depended on their ship to get them to Rome, in the midst of the storm, as the ship split and shattered, they abandoned hope.  Has your foundation been crumbling?  Are you down to one or two bricks?  The foundation of “doing the right thing”, “being good enough”, “a big bank account” – if you are building your life on things or appearances it can and will fall apart in the storm.

Paul shares the vision he was given and reminds his ship-mates to hold fast to God’s promises.  In the storms of life we need to remember the vision and the promises God has given us.  The Bible gives each of us a vision – a picture – of heaven, our future, eternal home.  A place full of God, His peace and joy, a place where there are no more tears, suffering or pain.  Each of us has also received many promises.  Promises that God will be with us through the storms, that He hears our cries, that all things work to our good.

Ultimately, Paul, the other prisoners, the soldiers and sailors reach land, and all of them survive the shipwreck and the storm.  I don’t know the storm you are facing today.  Some storms are so intense, so devastating that it seems hopeless.  But to those who believe in Jesus, we have a sure and certain hope.  Don’t despair, cry out to God, trust His promises, the One who calmed the storm and walked on water will run to you!

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…the good old days…

Is there a period in my life I would consider “the good old days”?

The short answer? No.

My early childhood years were carefree and fun.  As I look back, I realize our family had very little in terms of money and stuff but I had everything because I had a family that loved me and made me feel safe and valued.  I recognize not everyone receives such a rare and special gift.  But kids have no control over their own lives and I always wanted to do my own thing!

The teen years, lots of awkward nerdiness – don’t wanna go back there, don’t hardly even want to think about it!

Twenties and thirties – a time for spreading my wings and making my own decisions, some of them very wrong.  There were lots of changes, and some major life bumps, marriage, divorce, learning how to live a single life, then re-marrying and starting a family.  I was overwhelmed with joy to have a baby, then two years later another baby and three years later a third baby!  Early years with kids were unbelievably busy with little sleep but much joy and happiness.  I became a Christ-follower at 39.

Forty – that number felt like hitting a wall, a big number, the realization that my life, statistically, was more than half over!  These years were good as kids grew and my world got bigger, God sent friends, allowed some challenges and different opportunities for learning and growth.

Fifties, sailed by, full of work, really enjoying the years of raising teens and young adults, celebrating my kids steps to independence. Working full-time brings increased income and freedom to travel and enjoy more of what life has to offer.

Sixties, another big number!  I am in the final years of my life. Although I do not know when God will call me home my body reminds me that it’s all downhill from here.  But so what – I’m just getting closer to heaven!

I am blessed with good health, I get to live in a beautiful part of the world, the beach is 15 minutes away and the sun is shining most days.  I have the love of family and friends, I eat every day, I have a home to live in where I feel comfortable and safe.  Compared to most of our world I have it all and I am humbled by this and grateful beyond words!

As I look back over the decades of my life it has just kept getting better and better.  Not because of stuff but because God has been so very gracious to me.  I feel more secure about who I am, my talents and abilities, more confident with each passing year.  I care less what others may think and realize more and more the value and importance of the people God brings into my life.  Stuff, achievement, acquisition, position, recognition, power – all of these are less important to me daily.  I realize I brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out with me; that I need to invest my time, energy and talent into doing what I love with the people I love.  My desire is to leave a vast legacy of happy memories, to ease the burdens of as many as I can in some way and to share the joy and wisdom God has given me with others.

Is there a time in my life I consider the “good old days”, that I would like to return to?  Nah!  Right now is just right!

Let Me Use Your Words

My eyes open and I know something is very wrong. I am gripped with anxiety. I had a restless night, had trouble falling asleep, tried the couch for a while, drifted off, awoke, went back to bed, fell asleep again and woke at the first glimmer of daylight.

Tired and anxious with a “low-grade” headache, and an unsettled stomach, I took several deep breaths trying calm down.

Walking is a stress reliever for me so I go out and walk. That remedy, usually a sure thing, fails me. My husband asks me what’s wrong but that adds to my distress since the only answer I have sounds lame and whiny, “I don’t know!”

I have been learning the importance of regularly pouring my heart out to God; pouring it all out, the good the bad and the ugly. I take my laptop and start writing, a total free-write. I just type out everything that’s swirling around in my anxiety-ridden brain. I close my eyes some of the time and cry a lot of that time. I talk aloud as I type. I know I have to continue until I feel peace. I run out of words but my mind is still racing. Now what?

I pick up my Bible and turn to Psalm 142. I begin to type the psalm, saying the words aloud as I type. Time passes; I pray and type the psalm at least 3 times before I feel the burden lift.

Is this some kind of magical charm or guaranteed prayer formula – ABSOLUTELY NOT!!   I was not just “saying words”, I was saying God’s Word; this was a deeply personal and prayerful conversation between God and I.  Just as David was pleading for God to hear him, to help him, to release him, I was pleading with God to hear me, for peace, for calm, for deliverance.   I had run out of my own words so I used David’s.

I don’t know how long I sat there with my laptop but I sat there long enough, I prayed long enough, I talked with God long enough that the peace I had sought now replaced the anxiety that had me crippled and powerless. I deleted the conversation, it is private, between me and My King and now, it is settled.

Some hours later I realized why I was so anxious and I was able to deal with the very small issue that had paralyzed me. I believe God wanted me to see how gloriously dependent on Him I am and how His Word is the answer; He was testing me to see if I was going to put into practice what He had been teaching me. I passed the test.

Next time you find yourself anxious or struggling with a problem or person I encourage you to pour out your heart to God and open your Bible. The Psalms in particular are a treasure trove expressing every human emotion. Read a psalm, using the author’s words to talk to God. Write the psalm, take your time and think about the words, tell God how you feel. He is waiting to hear from you, to bring you peace.

I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord; I make supplication with my voice to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. Psalm 142:1,2