100% Unscathed

My mom has been in the hospital two times over the last two weeks. My prayers are with her often, as are my thoughts. I know, based on my own hospitalizations, that fear, anxiety and depression can quite easily take over.

Coincidentally, by divine design, I’ve been reading in the book of Daniel. I just read two of the more memorable Sunday School felt board stories: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den.

Where do these two thoughts meet, you might be thinking. I’m glad you asked. Perish or relish.

When life circumstances bring us to the brink of disaster, to the edge of the precipice, to the mouth of a bubbling volcano, we have a choice. We can dwell on the circumstances only and perish through depression, fear, anxiety, regret, bitterness, etc., or we can relish in our God, in our LORD.

This is easier said than done. Duh.

I can probably count on one hand or less the times when on the brink of life disaster, according to my perception, when I chose to relish instead of perish. Even when we choose to perish, God shows abundant grace. Ah, but when we relish.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose to relish in their God and they came out of the fiery furnace, that was so hot it killed the guards who put them in it, 100% unscathed. They had no burns, their clothes were intact, their hair was still there and even the smell of smoke was not on them.

Daniel came out of the lions’ den even without a single scratch.

I want that kind of faith, don’t you? I want to come out of whatever circumstance I find myself in 100% unscathed because of my faith.

What current life circumstance feels like you are on the brink of disaster? How can you relish there instead of perish?

God is faithful and full of grace. Thank You, Jesus.

Zipper Faith

I’ve been zipping a lot, and I mean A LOT, of jackets lately. This happens when you work at a school with pre-schoolers and you are outside with them before, during and after school. I’ve encountered plenty of zippers with problems.

Some are just plain worn out, on jackets handed down from siblings and used repeatedly. Others are smooth and zip easily. Lots of them get jammed by the side material. The most bothersome ones are the ones that zip initially but then split at the base. Even my new jacket did that one day.

So what’s the big deal? What does this have to do with faith?

In my quiet time I sometimes pray the alphabet, which I talked about quite a while back in “God APP.” The letter “Z” is always a challenge to come up with a praise or prayer word for. Many times I use the word zipper. I imagine my journey of faith as a zipper and I want my life to groove in with God’s will as the zipper moves up, as my faith moves up.

The broken zippers lately have me thinking about zipper faith. What kind of zipper is my faith? What circumstances in life cause me to split at the bottom or get stuck on the side? Is my faith right now a smooth kind of zipper or one that has grown complacent and taken for granted God’s zipping of my life to His will?

The zippers that come apart at the base are the most dangerous kind of faith. It is the faith of a person who thinks they are great with Christ, with God, but really are coming apart at the core. The zippers that do that in real life are only fixed by starting over from the bottom with a firm standing. Sometimes, God reminds me of this in certain areas of my life.

What about you? If you had to describe your faith in terms of zippers, how would you describe it?

 

 

Eradication

Lately God’s been speaking to me on the matter of fear. Currently we have mice in our house. Mere coincidence? I think not.

My husband has always graciously handled the mouse issue for me. By the way, they are my biggest, creepiest, scariest fear. I don’t mind them outside, where I expect them to be, but when they’re in my house, I scream like a little girl and climb the highest piece of furniture.

It’s a deep seated fear in me and I’m no dummy. They say elephants are freaked out by the creepy things too, and they’re considered one of the more intelligent of the animal kingdom.

A couple of days ago they got into our food and our dishes. Our dirty laundry became a food storage bin for them. It was time to take a stand. It was time to take action. Awaiting the results of poison, traps and electric current/pitch thing today. Traps catching a few.

God is calling me to take a stand against my fears in the realm of my heart’s desires. He wants me to take action and not to run screaming from the room in fear. I’ve been trapped for far too long. Generally speaking, I tend to allow my emotions to rule over me in my fear, which, of course, does nothing to eradicate the fear. In fact, it does quite the opposite.

That said, I’m still hesitant in taking action. But as the mice so kindly remind me–I do not want to live in or with fear. It is time for an eradication, an extermination. The tools are at hand:  His Word and His weapons forged for me for just such a battle.

What are you afraid of in the physical realm? Where are you lingering in fear when God would have you be courageous and take action? What one thing can you change to move out of a place where you’re bound up by fear?

 

Carpet Rounds

My grandmother spent several years working in a furniture store. I suppose that is why she had two packages of carpet samples, each sample round about 4″  in diameter. All I know is that when we went to her house, they were stored in with the toys and my sister and I would play with them.

Sometimes we would spread them all out around their living room and tiptoe our way across on them. At other times we would use the same concept only the person in front would drop carpet samples one round at a time, resulting in drastic direction changes and laughter.

The other morning in my quiet time, those silly carpet rounds came to mind. I’ve been contemplating fear in my life lately–I know, doesn’t that sound like fun–and there are areas of my life where I know I need to step out and be brave. Instead, I’ve been hiding behind attitudes and cloaking my fears. I’ve been preferring the comfortable and familiar to the great unknown. The ridiculous thing is that I know if I would step out, then freedom and fulfillment would be waiting on the other side.

Sometimes we ask God for guidance and direction, but I wonder, do I really want to take the risk of leaving the familiar horizons behind? “Of course I do,” is the correct spiritual answer. Lately, however, it seems like it is just an automatic response; inside, I’m resisting change like crazy.  Why? Fear.

So I’m trying to not lose myself in the big picture of doing things VERY differently; rather I’m watching for the round carpet sample to be  dropped by Christ. And to follow in obedience, without grumbling, no matter how drastic the change in direction is.

Are there any childhood games you played that are symbolic of something God is trying to teach you currently? How do you overcome fear?

Armed With Kavod

I am embarking on an adventure this week, albeit one I’m admittedly not looking forward to whole-heartedly. And yet it will help my heart become closer to whole, or so I hope.

When heading for an adventure, one usually plans months in advance and prepares for it weekly, if not daily, the closer it gets. According to the google definition an adventure is “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” By these standards I am indeed heading for an adventure, that of heart surgery.

A simple, routine procedure for the surgeon is in fact a battle of thoughts and emotions for his subject. The easy replacement of a medical implant reveals the often invisible battlefield surrounding me, and shows how often I am on it, unarmed and vulnerable.

I’ve been chewing over the concept of glory and being armed with it for a while now. In Hebrew the word for glory is KAVOD, and its definition far surpasses that which I’ve always associated with its meaning, that of high honor. But glory in Hebrew, KAVOD, means heavy weapons and defenses of battle.

In the Bible the Israelites sometimes went into battle armed with the glory of God, and sometimes they just thought they were, which usually ended poorly for them.

I’ve been pulling out KAVOD the last few days in preparation for my surgery–my unusual, hazardous experience, aka:  adventure. Battles are adventures, look at the genre classification for war films. And battles are adventures in my own tiny life. And this time I want to be ready for the adventure. I want to be armed with KAVOD.

And so I am recalling scripture, immersing myself in God’s Word, praying hard, praising hard, gathering the armor of God around me and gearing up.

What about you? What adventure are you embarking on which will require KAVOD to see it through? How will you gear up?

 

GOF OTO

I’ve been reading through the Bible chronologically this year and it has been an amazing journey thus far. This week I passed out of the Old Testament and am now reading the New Testament.

There’s a couple of lingering thoughts left over from my OT readings that I would like to share with you. Unfortunately, both thoughts have to do with obedience. Groooooaaaaannn.

It’s okay, maybe you’ve got God-obedience down. Good for you. I do not in the least. Too often I am stomping my foot, sticking out my lower lip and pouting when God asks something of me. And yes, this response to God has been brought to my attention lately via my job in working with kids.

The first example of Good Old-Fashioned Old Testament Obedience (GOF OTO) is found in Isaiah. If you want to talk about obedience, the prophets get down to some serious obedience business before God. At the beginning of Isaiah 20, God tells Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot for three years as a sign to Egypt and Cush.

Did you catch that, really? Go walk naked and barefoot for three years!!! Now that’s obedience.

The second example comes from Ezra, a priest. His timeline is this:  the Israelites have been in captivity. The king of Persia has given permission for the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and re-build the temple of God. This alone is an amazing feat. They build the temple with many delays and attempts at sabotage and then Ezra gathers all the priests and the people to dedicate it and celebrate Passover. Ezra then teaches the people about the laws of God.

In Ezra 9, he prays about intermarriage between the Israelites and others of a non-Jewish descent. The answer to his prayer is for all who intermarried to make a covenant with God “…to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of the LORD…” (10:3, ESV)

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a tall order to me. I see myself whining and complaining and refusing that one. It’s my family, after all.

I write this to say, I have a long way to go regarding GOF OTO. And you?

Haunting Scripture

Have you ever read a Scripture and have it hit home like a ton of bricks, but then you keep pondering it, uncertain of its complete meaning? Mark 6:45-52 is like that for me.

Jesus and the disciples have just fed 5, 000 and collected the leftovers. Jesus then has the disciples get into the boat and cross to the other side. The ESV says Jesus “made” them, MSG and AMP use the word “insisted”. Strong word choice. Not ask, not suggest, but made and insisted. Hmm.

Jesus then goes off to pray alone and recharge His spiritual battery. Meanwhile the disciples are “troubled and tormented in their rowing, for the wind was against them. . .” (AMP). Jesus sees their struggle onshore and then walks on the sea to head on over.

Alas, alas o my soul, how the next words haunt me. “He was about to pass them by. . .” (ESV); “He intended to go right by them. . .” (MSG); “And He acted as if He meant to pass by them. . .” (AMP). Why?

What was Jesus’ intent when He insisted they move out into the water not only knowing they would encounter a horrific storm of such magnitude that they thought they would perish, but observe their struggle and then come close only to pass them by?

Still, He enters the storm.  He chooses to meet us in the midst of our storms, crossing the choppy waters, heading for us.

The disciples think He’s a ghost until He quickly speaks to them, “‘Take heart! I AM! Stop being alarmed and afraid. . .'” (AMP). This is the point where Peter asks to walk on water (Matthew 14). He steps into the boat and immediately the wind “ceased (sank to rest, as if exhausted by its own beating). . .” (Mark 6, AMP)

God has spoken to me different things regarding this scripture. Matthew’s account does not contain “He was about to pass them by. . .”. These words have haunted for so long and have spoken of my own fears of abandonment.

Maybe its about God calling us out deeper in our faith. Maybe Jesus was heading over and at that point their faith was strong, but then an extra large wave crashed into them. I don’t know. I do know, as I wrestle it out, how quickly circumstances can weaken my faith.

What do you think about this passage? Do you have a Scripture that haunts you?

 

Muscle Grace

I started doing pilates again this week. I have slimmed down via diet and thought now is the time to strengthen the stomach muscles. I pushed through my twelve minute routine two days in a row.

This morning I began the exercises and pretty quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to continue. I had jumped right in only to have to pull back quicker than I had imagined. In fact, I had thought it was not going to be a big deal at all to jump right back into the exercises I hadn’t done for a year or more.

Duh.

I’m giving grace to my muscles today, and maybe tomorrow.

On a spiritual level, muscle grace translates to jumping back into spiritual practices that perhaps have fallen by the wayside such as intercessory prayer, meditation, fasting, whole hearted worshiping. And the enemy will attack there too as we try and push through.

So give yourself grace, whether it be something physical that you are trying to overcome, or something spiritual that you’re trying to take up for the first time or again after a long break.

For myself, muscle grace for working outside the home again too.

Where do you need muscle grace?

The Start of a New Journey

Remember how excited/nervous/happy you were as a child for the first day of school? (If you weren’t, sorry, I can’t identify, as the youngest sibling, I wanted nothing more than to go where my sisters went already.)

Today I begin a new journey. It reminds me of starting out on an adventure into the unknown. You start out clean. Who knows how long it will be before you’ll be clean and comfortable again. I am leaving comfort and established routine behind.

I don’t know what’s ahead, which lies and weapons the enemy will attempt to use against me to take me down–as he always tries to do. I do know that greater is He who is in me than anything I might face on this my current adventure/quest/journey into a land where I haven’t mastered the language, and where the culture is different than anywhere I’ve been before.

And I am excited. This will challenge my faith, this will force me to move out of the pool of stagnate water where I’ve been treading far too long. I must intertwine my heart with His and trust, trust, trust.

Some of us like adventure and newness, and some of us don’t. I’m willing to bet we all have a bit of both in us. It all comes down to perspective and I am trying to keep my eyes on Christ, the Author and Finisher of my faith.

Eyes ahead, leaving comfort behind. Steady shoes on, backpack on and ready and willing to begin.

What new adventure/quest/journey are you beginning? What has God placed in your pack to help along the way?

Three Choices

We all know about genies and three wishes. Of course as Christians, we know we have something better–God and Christ and the Spirit alive in us. And while a genie centers on the immediate physical,  God is interested in our ongoing heart transformation. And sometimes God lays before us three choices.

I was reading yesterday in 2 Samuel 24.  David was nearing the end of his reign as king of Israel and takes a census of the people without God’s consent. In so doing, David sins. God reacts by giving David three choices:  three years of famine in Israel, three months of being pursued by his enemies or three days of pestilence.

David chooses the three days of pestilence which honestly made me wonder why he didn’t choose the three months of enemy pursuit; after all, David was known for his successful evasion of the enemy time and time again. I wonder if he was simply weary of enemies.

Yesterday God laid before me three choices in a particular situation to test my own faith.

I was waiting at a doctor’s office when an elderly woman with an amputated leg was wheeled in by a man who left her there, returned with paperwork and then left again. He was a senior services driver. The woman was placed right in front of the desk where she clutched a half-eaten sandwich in her hand and drifted off to sleep. People had to step around her to check in. I sat across from her wondering if I should do something for her. I longed to know her story or even her name, but I did nothing, said nothing.

This morning I realized my choice had been wrong from God’s perspective. I chose to do nothing, not wanting to interfere, and I was even a bit uppity in my outlook toward her. I could have simply moved her out of the way to make check in more convenient for everyone else, and that would have been the logical thing to do according to the world. But we are called to greater.

I should have asked her name before she drifted off to sleep, tried to lift her spirits some, shone Christ’s light into her existence. This was the choice God wanted me to make. Instead I got caught up in convenience and selfishness, which cost me nothing physically, but caused me,  and her, to lose out spiritually.

Three choices, and I chose wrong. I don’t want to live like this. I want Christ to reign in me. I want to always surrender to His will and obey His voice in any given situation. This journey, this life, is not so much about a huge impact for Christ, as it is a shining His light in little ways everyday.

Interestingly enough, David’s choice led him to the place where God’s future temple would be built. Even in our poor choices, God brings blessing.

So what about you? What choice has God laid before you recently?