A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Passed Over, Discarded, and Cast Aside

I got passed over for a promotion at work...again. I don't know why. It bothers me that I've gotten passed over twice now for a promotion. I have above average job reviews, I get along famously with all of my co-workers, I show up to work everyday and on time, I work hard and carry my load, but I still have not received a promotion.

When I realized that I had been passed over...again..the devil immediately tried to go to work in my mind. He started whispering things in my ears telling me that I never seem to measure up no matter how hard I try. It is true that if we look back over our lives, we will always remember times when we didn't measure up. I've had people in my life that no matter what I did or how well I did it, they always have some criticism about it. Instead of slapping me on the back and saying "good job!", they offer their opinions about how I did it, how I could have done it differently or better and how I missed some potential or opportunity, making me feel like I just didn't quite measure up. 

It is true that in life, at times, I have been cast aside and discarded by family, friends, employers and congregants. I've been taken for granted, taken advantage of, used, and unappreciated. The devil tried to create a slideshow in my mind of all those times. He told me, this is just one more time you didn't measure up, one more time you've failed, one more time that proves that you really don't matter. Just accept the fact that you're never going to be truly valuable or useful to anyone. You're never going to be special in any way. 

That lasted about as long as it took him to say it. I was ready for him this time. 

You see, the last couple of years have taught me a most valuable lesson. God truly does see me and love me...just the way I am...with all my weakness, all my failures, even if no one else on this earth can find any value in me at all. And that's more than enough for me. 

I love this song. It's been my reality. 

Reckless Love
Written by Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, and Ran Jackson

Verse 1
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Verse 2
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Just as I was telling the devil how much God loves me, I glanced at the promise calendar sitting on my desk. It said:
 "When he speaks in the thunder, the heavens roar with rain. He causes the clouds to rise over the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses." 

That brought a smile to my face. You see, that same God that this passage is talking about is MY father. He is the lover of my soul. He is the one who knows if one of my hairs falls from my head. He treasures every prayer, listens to every thought, keeps every tear, and His good thoughts towards me are numbered more than the grains of sand in the sea. I am the apple of His eye. He delights and dances over me!

When He speaks, things happen. Because He controls the weather, because He tells the sun when to come up in the morning and when to set at night, because He so meticulously shepherds my life, then when it's time for promotion, there's not a demon in hell or a supervisor on earth that can stop it.  

Oh how wonderful to know that I am safe in His care. I am valued in His Kingdom. Nothing comes to me that doesn't pass through His hand or isn't part of His plan to give me an abundant, productive, successful, and joy filled life. I may not understand when hard times come, when rejection is my lot, or when it seems that I am no more than a whisper on this earth, but I do know that I need not fear, I need not feel ashamed, I need not feel passed over, discarded or cast aside because I am God's cherished child and He is thrilled with me. In the end, that is all that will matter anyway.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Watch Your Attitude!

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. 2 Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
A few weeks ago, our Pastor used this passage in a sermon on a Sunday morning. As I was reviewing my sermon notes, I re-read this passage and the Lord dropped some thoughts into my mind that I thought I would share.

It made me think about my expectations and actions in the house of God. I am a sanguine. I like to talk so these scriptures were especially applicable to me. I like to talk to God and do regularly but today I let Him talk and you know what I found? I found that when I shut up, He will actually say something! 

He said the following things to me as I read this passage. I think I've been guilty of almost all of them at some point in my life:

1) Don't be flippant with God. Don't use flippant words with God. How often do we come into the presence of God with a flippant attitude? Flippancy means we do not show a serious or respectful attitude.We forget about who He is. If we stay up til all hours of the morning on Saturday night because it's the weekend and then sleep through church, that's showing disrespect and flippant. If we take scripture and inject it into our conversations in a common way or quote it in a sarcastic way, that's flippancy. If we talk to God as if He's on our level and one of the gang, that's flippant and disrespectful. It's about the heart attitude. Whatever we say to God must be said with a reverent heart. We must remember who He is and who we are. Remember "He is in heaven and we are on the earth; therefore let our words be few." And I would add, let our attitudes be humble. 

2) Always speak faith filled words to God. Faith moves the heart of God and causes Him to listen. When we speak words that truly reflect who He is, what He has said, and what He will do, we will live the reality of those words here on earth. On the other hand, when we whine or rehearse our situation, as if He doesn't already know about it, this dishonors God and He will not answer. We don't need to explain anything to God, especially our situations or the reason we do things. He already knows. To retell it to Him is an insult. It's okay to let God know how you are feeling as long as you as you are well ready to admit that you are wrong when your feelings do not line up with His Word and to speak, by faith, His will into your situation and life. 

3) Don't question God. Don't accuse Him in any way. Instead question your knowledge of His will and ways and ask Him for wisdom and revelation. Whatever God does is always perfect. To question Him in an accusatory way is wrong. To question Him with the attitude of wanting to understand what He is doing is godly and productive. God doesn't cause evil but sometimes He has to allow it.

4) Don't get angry with God. That is sin. Scripture clearly tells us to "be angry and sin not." Be angry with what causes sickness, trouble, discouragement and sadness-sin and the devil. Don't blame God for your troubles. He didn't cause them. If you alienate yourself from your only true source of help by accusing Him of things He didn't cause, where does that leave you? 

5} Speak less and listen more. "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger." James 1:19. If we would listen more to people and talk less, we would probably get angry less with them because we would actually be hearing what they are saying and would understand. We would ask questions for clarification and gain a true picture of what is on their heart so that when we do speak, our words would be effective and helpful.  

Bottom line is that we must be intentional with God. We must approach him with a humble and reverent heart because He is God and we are only there because His love has made a way for us to be in His presence at all! We must speak in a way that represents and honors Him. 

We not fear Him if we are saved, but He must never become common because He has never been or will he ever be common. He is divine. He is eternal. He is all powerful. He is God Almighty!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Battle With the Tootsie Roll Bowl

One of my co-workers had a bowl of Tootsie rolls on his desk to share with everyone. They are the smallest size tootsie roll and when you're having a sugar craving just right to squelch it. They are only 11 calories and since I don't usually eat all my points in a day anyway, I don't feel bad about eating one. So that's five a week or 55 calories.

The problem comes in when I pop that candy into my mouth and the phone rings. Rather than gross out my co-workers by spitting it our and saving it, I just have to chew it as fast as I can before I answer the phone. Then I feel as if I was cheated, so I go get another one. On days when I'm weak, I might end up eating 3-4 of those delicious little bites and THAT IS NOT GOOD! Because after all is said and done, I might have close to 100 calories invested in those little brown devils. That's 15 minutes of walking at a fast pace to burn that off!

The bad thing is now my body wants at least one everyday at 3 pm. I have sworn off the temptation but my flesh is still longing, crying for, aching for a Tootsie roll. It tells me that just one won't hurt. It's not breaking the rules. It's well within the allowable guidelines. And so on and so on.

In our spiritual lives, the devil has a bowl of Tootsie Rolls that he is more than willing to share with us. Those little things in scripture that aren't marked as wrong, but that we are cautioned about. It's okay to have a little wine for your stomach, but notice he said "a little. For medicinal reasons. It's not prohibited. I can't say that someone who drinks a glass of wine now and then is going to hell. The problem is that things like this cause us to walk close to a line that we don't want to cross, if we truly love God, that is.

Let's look at alcohol for a minute. The Bible does tell us that the drunkard will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. From my BC (before Christ) days, I know that it is hard to tell when you have crossed the line from sober to drunk. The law has an allowable limit, but that doesn't mean it's the same as God's. Then factor in tolerance, that the longer we drink, the more we need to get the feeling we were seeking in the first place and soon we are not just taking one tootsie roll from the bowl and if we're not careful we have crossed the line into sin. (As a side thought I would just add that I have no earthly idea why a Christian would "need" a drink. There is nothing found in alcohol that you won't find more abundantly in Christ. If you feel that you "need " a drink, then friend, what you really need is Christ.)

You might say that you can handle it, that you know how much you can drink and stay sober. Godly Noah thought he could to. Read Genesis and see how that worked for him.  Proverbs 20:1 clearly tells us that drinking is not wise. We are always seeking God's wisdom for the things that affect our lives-our marriages, raising our children, making business decisions, handling problems-so why won't we accept the wisdom God freely gives us without us asking? Why do we feel that we have to walk so close to the line just because we can? It's called carnality.

Billy Graham describes the carnal Christian as follows:
"There was a time, perhaps, when you were a spiritual Christian. You still had your first love; a fire burned in your heart for God. But something has happened along the way, something has disturbed your relationship with God, and you no longer know the joy, the peace and the thrill that you once knew." You have fallen prey to the three enemies of your soul-the world, the flesh and the devil and somehow it appears to be sweet like a Tootsie roll that just beckons to you from the bowl.

There are other things as well that if we overindulge in, they will steal our fidelity, strength and resolve and cause us to lose out with God. What are the tootsie rolls in your life? Is it entertainment? Music? The Sabbath? Modesty?

Take each tootsie roll and ask yourself these questions:
Will it benefit me spiritually?
Is there the potential for bondage?
Will it defile my temple?
Could it cause anyone to stumble?
Will it further the cause of evangelism?
Will it violate my conscience?
Will it bring glory to God?

If you truly want to please the Lord, error on the side of safety. Don't get too close to the edge. Don't walk on the line. Your enemy, the devil, is waiting for an opportunity, any opportunity to trip you up.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It's Just That Easy

I have a yahoo email account. For weeks every time I accessed it, a message box would pop up wanting to know if I wanted to increase the security of my inbox. Not having time to investigate I always answered "no" to the question that the end that implied I was an idiot if I didn't click yes. The question choices were "yes" and "no, I just welcome anyone that wants to hack into my inbox." Well it was not quite that bad, but close.

Today I decided to click on the button and see what it was all about. As soon as I did, a message box pulled up that "Thank you! Your security is now updated." BOOM! That was it! If I could reach that far around that I could've kicked myself a good shot, I would have. I must have said "no" a hundred times or more and was irritated that the message box just kept reappearing! How stupid of me to do that when it was such an easy fix. The key to my resistance was that I didn't fully understand or know what would be required to get the update. Turned out that all I had to do was agree and they did the rest.

​How many times have I done this spiritually to God? He comes to me with something that He wants to do in me and offers to do it. At first I see it as an irritation more than a blessing. I don't like change! But He keeps coming and asking. Finally I realize that He is wanting to do something to bless me and I stop and take a look. I investigate it a little more and even though I don't know how He's going to do it or what it's going to entail, I click the "yes" box and He gets to work. I receive nothing but by His grace. It's all Him. I only need to agree to let Him do it. Before I know it, I am delighted with the results and if I could reach that far around would give myself a good, swift kick for not allowing Him to do it sooner.

What things is God offering you? Are you listening? Are you checking the "yes" box of His will for your life? I encourage you to. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Just Be!!

I've lived almost 35 years as a born again Christian. Through the years I have experienced some very precious Christian fellowship. I've also experienced some very disturbing things done in the name of Christianity. With the current teaching pervading Christianity that you are not necessarily what you do, I also experience an increase of comments from non-believers about the hypocrisy of Christianity. Folks are going to hell because they have become disillusioned about Christ from observing His "believers" saying one thing and doing another and using "grace" to justify it.  This essentially makes us no different than "nice" sinners that we meet everyday.

In my case, it's a sad commentary that I have experienced first hand. Our next door neighbors are a a pair of older gay men. They have been our neighbors for over 12 years. Of all the neighbors that have come and gone, these two are our favorites. They are some of the nicest, most caring people I've ever met. Through the years they have taken many opportunities to bless us and frankly their concern and encouragement has at times far exceeded our own Christian community. They are what they are. They just do what they are. The are "nice" people. They are not saved but their experiences and perhaps their personalities given them by God have made them thoughtful, caring and nice. We enjoy talking and visiting with them.

One of our previous next door neighbors was a Minister. Doctrinally we differed on one thing. He was Calvinist in his thinking. We are Armenian. Some would rule this as a large difference, but we both knew that the basic foundation of our faith was being born again by the Spirit of God. When we visited, we talked of Christ and it was very nice. He lived what he professed because he believed that without change at salvation, there truly was no salvation. 

Another neighbor down the street is also Christian. In fact, they believe very closely what we believe except for one thing. They are Baptist and we are Pentecostal. Yet, our foundation is the same-Jesus Christ. When we first moved here I was hoping that we could fellowship together and work at winning our neighbors to Christ. It was not to be. While they are very friendly to everyone else on the street, they treat us as if we don't exist. We drive by their house on our way out of the neighborhood and if they are outside, they don't wave. They walk by our house when I'm sitting on the porch and they pretend that they don't see me. The woman walks a lot with others. When I tried to walk with her one day she told me that she uses her walks as her prayer time and didn't want to walk with me. The only time they are friendly towards us is when their ministry sponsors a welcome dinner for new International students at the local university.  Then they knock on the door with a big smile and ask if we would like to donate. At first our church did. We even attended the event to meet International students and signed up to host them for a meal in our homes. Funny, only one family from our church in 4 years was assigned a student to have to their home even though we all signed up. I can't help thinking it's not by coincidence. The other day I was driving up the street and she and another woman were walking in front of my house. I was pretty close to them because I was parking. I smiled and waved, which I always do, and she acted as if she didn't see me, even though I could have very easily run over her with my car. In the community they portray themselves as such great Christians yet they treat their own brothers and sisters in Christ like this. 

I've discovered that sinners are not dumb. They see and experience this kind of behavior from Christians all the time.  Didn't Christ Himself say that they will know we belong to Him because of our love for one another? Yet, they see this kind of thing within the Christian community all the time. The arrogance and loveless behavior of our neighbors perplexes and saddens me. On the outside they pretend to be good people but their behavior towards us is their true identification. You see, when you belong to Christ, you treat all people with love, saint and sinner alike. Christians need to stop acting and start asking for the fruit of the Spirit. You can act the part of a Christian or you can truly let God make you one. Just be what God has made you. You are a new creature. Old prejudices and judgments have passed away. Behold! All things become new! And that includes your disposition. To me our neighbors practice fake religion because they cannot even be civil, much less begin to act loving towards us. What is in their hearts? If we had ever done anything to them, it might make sense but we have never done anything to make them feel this way towards us that we know of. They have steered people away from our church, even lying about us when they have never passed through our doors, not even once. 

​If you want to act loving, do it because the love of Christ truly rules in your heart. Don't act kind, be kind. Don't act merciful, be merciful. Don't say to yourself that you should act a certain way because you are Christian, act that way because being a Christian has made you that way! There is a huge difference! Just BE what you profess. If you aren't what you know you should be, yield to the Holy Spirit and let Him do that work in you. Then you don't have to work so hard to carry on the facade. Facades will deliver failure and souls may be in the balance. JUST BE! JUST BE!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

In God's Timing

It's been said that "timing is everything." I was thinking about events in the Bible and the timing of them. Do you realize that everything that happened was in God's perfect time? The seven days of creation were God's perfect timing. The birth of Issac was God's perfect timing. The exit of Israel from slavery in Egypt was God's perfect timing. The birth of Christ was God's perfect timing. The things that are to come will also come in the fullness of its time as ordained by a perfect God.

We know all of this yet so often we question God's timing. When things come that are hard and painful we question God's timing. Sometimes we go even further and question His love, His goodness, whether He's paying attention or if He really exists at all. 

Ecclesiastes 3 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
If we believe that all the events in the Bible were God's perfect timing, if we believe that all the events coming in the future are all according to God's perfect timing as they meet their fullness, then why do we find it so hard to believe that the things we encounter in life are part of God's perfect timing for the world, thus part of His perfect plan for us?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I'm Not That Strong

I don't think I've shared much about my husband's health issues the last 3 years. In 7 days, we will encounter the third anniversary of the beginning of years of trips to the emergency room, tests, doctors, pain and unanswered questions. Three years ago, my son requested Chinese food from a local restaurant. We obliged. I also made some food from scratch to complement it. At around 5pm, our whole family-my 4 children, son-in-law, grandsons and husband sat down, gave thanks and ate. 

At 9pm, I got a call from my oldest daughter. She and her husband were very sick and needed help. My toddler grandson was fine and the nursing baby was also well, but they were literally fighting over the toilet because they vomiting so violently and often. I rushed over to their house to take care of them. At around 11pm, I got a text from my oldest son. He, my youngest daughter and my youngest son were still living at home. The text read "by the way...the rest of us are sick too." In other words, come home Mom! I stayed until about 3am at my daughter's house, helping to feed the baby from a bottle and making sure that the sick were at least trying to hydrate. 

When I arrived home, our two bathrooms were being put to the test. Four people were violently ill. I felt fine though. I went to the store and loaded up on Gatorade, Popsicles, and chicken noodle soup. I called off work to take care of them. That evening I began to feel ill as well and ended up joining them in the bathroom runs just as some of them were starting to feel better. I missed another days work because I was laid up too. 

On day three, I called the health department to let them know that we had gotten food poisoning from the restaurant. Their first question was, "did you go to the hospital and get stool samples?" I informed him that we didn't because I couldn't fit nine people, two car seats, and a toilet in my van all at the same time. Because they couldn't match our bacteria to bacteria at the restaurant and because no other people not related to us reported food poisoning, they had to deduce that we had caught a virus. I laughed as I said that he had better call the Center of Disease Control because this virus spread faster than yellow fever and the Bubonic Plague. 

After recovering from the initial poisoning, my husband began to have trouble.  he had two hernia surgeries. He started to get sick during dinner. It took us several months of cutting certain foods out of his diet to come to the conclusion that he had developed a yeast intolerance. We later learned that this is common after having a serious case of food poisoning. This caused us to totally revamp what we ate. I read every food label at the store before putting it in my basket. We quit eating out except for two restaurants because all the other places made him sick. Basically we started eating like cave men without the fancy label of Paleo. That summer, he got to a place where he could not eat anything except water melon. For three weeks he lived on water melon and lost 30 lbs. He went to the doctor who ran every blood test you can run and did a sonogram on every major organ of his body and pronounced him completely normal. Eventually he began to eat again but nothing was ever found. After that, he began to have painful abdominal attacks. They were so severe that I would practically carry him into the emergency room. This happened every 4-7 weeks for the next 2 years. Every time we went to the emergency room, we got a different diagnosis. 

One x-ray revealed that he had a large hiatal hernia and his stomach had gone up into his chest cavity and lodged against his lung. A surgeon operated and sewed his stomach back in place, attaching it to his diaphragm to keep it in place. They also took his gall bladder, just in case. We were hopeful that this would end the attacks he had been having but they didn't. Within one week he was back in hospital and then again in a few weeks after that. A gastrointestinal specialist was called in. She did an endoscopy, a colonoscopy and a stomach emptying test.  All were normal. He was officially declared a mystery. 

Over the last 3 months I noticed that he seemed sick more often. In fact, about 3 weeks ago, he was just sick all the time. He tried to brave it out with me begging him to call the doctor again. Two Thursdays ago he asked me if I would mind staying home from work because he was feeling very rough. I of course agreed. By 8am I knew we were in trouble and I rushed him to the emergency room. A CAT scan revealed that he had a band of tissue, much like a rubber band growing around the outside of the colon and squeezing it off. So back to the operating room he went. After 7 days in the hospital, 4 of those with a large hose up his nose and down his throat to drain his stomach and prevent nausea, and a six inch stapled incision on his abdomen, he has come home to rest, recuperate and gain back the 14 lbs he lost when he went 7 days without any solid food. 

To say that this and many other serious situations that we faced over the last 3 years were anything but excruciating would be a lie. Never in my life have I ever been so pressed, crushed and persecuted than I was then. The physical, emotional and yes, spiritual toll that life took on me was greater than I could have ever imagined. After all, I've been a dedicated Christian for 35 years. I've seen a lot and been through a lot of crushing situations. I would have never imagined that I could ever be in the place that I came to be just a few months ago. 

In the last week someone texted me to encourage me and said something about how strong I am. That immediately scared me. You see, I know that I am strong in the Lord but I also know that I am not as strong as my enemy. I am not invincible. My life over the last 1 1/2 years proved that to me. I suffered greatly in several situations. It was so bad that I even questioned God on many levels and spent two weeks totally prayerless doubting and accusing God. I'm not proud of this but it's the truth.  

So often we face our giants without a word to anyone else. There are times when that is necessary. However, God has given us something called "family" in Him. They are there for the purpose of support and help and prayer. Unfortunately there is much teaching in the church that discourages us from using them. Some teaching would tell us that to be needy in faith is lack of faith. We don't want to appear weak in faith, so we say nothing and bear our pain alone, leaving us isolated and vulnerable to an enemy who is much stronger than we are. 

My fear was that people would look at me and say "She is strong. She can handle this." and then they wouldn't pray for me. I didn't want to imagine that I was going to have to make it through my struggles on my own prayers alone. Perhaps they would be enough but it's a whole lot better to have numbers when you are facing something that is larger than you. As humbling as it might be to admit that you are having trouble keeping "the faith", we have to realize that it can happen to anyone and I mean anyone. It can happen to the strongest person you know. It can happen to the leadership in your church. It can happen to your Pastor, your mentor, or the person who led you to the Lord. We are all subject to the devil's wrath and he is stronger and more cunning than we are. He is out to destroy us. If we allow our pride or the false teaching that tells us that we are invincible to keep us from humbling ourselves in times of need and admitting that we need support, we will surely fail in our spiritual lives. 

The Apostle Paul not only prayed for others but he asked for prayer from others as well. He was strong but even he still needed prayer. He faced opposition and situations that were much larger than he was. I believe it was the prayers of others that sustained him and made him victorious in every situation that he faced. 

So the next time you see a brother or sister facing a situation, don't assume that they are strong enough to handle it on their own. You don't know all the facts. You don't where they've been or what they're facing. You don't know the unseen torment they may be experiencing or the flack they are taking from the enemy of their souls. So even if it seems that they should be able to weather this alone, pray for them anyway and if God lays something practical on your heart that you could do to make their load a little lighter, do it, even if it may seem unnecessary. I can tell you from experience, it could be a lifeline that they desperately need. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Perfect Spot

I love being outdoors in nature. There is a beautiful stretch of creek near my work and home and I go there every day for lunch. I've seen some amazing things in the last year.

I've seen dozens of species of birds: the elegant Junco, the Tufted Titmouse that looks like it was painted with watercolor pastels, the awkward sandpiper, the Baltimore Oriole and his wife eating crab apple buds as they forage for nesting materials, a majestic Blue Heron, the vocalist Red
Winged Blackbird, the Carolina Wren that sounds like a whole orchestra by itself, the sleek and friendly Catbird, the Red Breasted Robin-the bird everyone looks for in the spring and is annoyed with by fall, N. America bluebirds-they really do make you happy when you see one, the white and the Red Breasted Nuthatches hanging precariously overhead from pine cones that have just gone to seed, Indigo Buntings-I've always wanted to see one and he ended  up right in my own backyard, the Pileated Woodpecker along with his cousins the Downey Woodpecker and the Red Breasted Woodpecker, an assortment of sparrows-and the Lord knows each and every one, the striking Red Breasted Grossbeak, the decibel breaking American Redstart, the Scarlet Tanager-not to be confused with the Cardinal-both who made an appearance this summer, the King bird who really does live up to it's name, the Great Crested Flycatcher, the cowbird, the Thrush, the hummingbird that drank from every flower on the plant right below where my feet were hanging, the boisterous, cocky Blue Jay, the Northern Flicker-what a beauty, Bald Eagles both young and old, the Osprey who greeted me every morning as I exited my car and who dive bombed me with some poor creatures carcass hanging from it's feet, the Red Tailed Hawk, the Peregrine Falcon, the Sharp Shinned Hawk, the ever present Kingfisher whose call is unmistakable who caught and ate a fish right before my very eyes, a whole team of Mallard ducks who appeared to be looking for a place on the next summer Olympic synchronized swimming team, Canadian geese-always heading the wrong direction I might add, and the Common Merganser duck with his wife and child,

I also saw some wildlife: a mink swimming, playing and bathing in the creek, a muskrat who didn't see me first and ended up inches from my foot. When he saw me, he put it in high gear and splashed me in the process. A water snake who also wasn't paying attention and followed in the muskrat's footsteps. He hid under a log and spent the next 20 minutes periodically peaking out from under the log to see if I was still there. It was like playing hide and seek. Eventually he decided that I was okay and went on his merry way. There were also several varieties of fish, turtles sunning on logs, bull frogs, tree frogs, tadpoles, squirrels, chipmunks, and one lone garter snake that scooted across the path I was walking on.

I was constantly delighted by the wildflowers that grew and the butterflies and moths that frequented them. I think I got  a photo of nearly every one.

My co-workers complained to me that they had never seen so many things in nature. When I asked them how much time they spent there, they had to admit that they didn't spend much time in nature and when they did, they usually had some sort of an agenda like hunting or hiking to a specific spot so they really weren't paying attention to all the nature around them.

My trips to the creek had only one agenda-just to be there. On those days that I chose to just sit in one spot instead of walking through nature, I found that nature came to me and I was delighted every time. Whether I sat and read, studied, sang, cried, prayed or just closed my eyes to listen to the sounds of the water passing by, I always left with a peaceful calm in my spirit and a sense of wonder at all that God had made.

One day God reminded me we are to seek Him out just as I seek out the wonders of the creek. As we come to Him with nothing but His agenda in mind and we sit and wait or walk through His Word, He meets us there and shows us things almost too wonderful to grasp. We always leave with that sense of peace, faith and the knowledge that He is wonderful, powerful and good.  It surely is true that "when we seek him diligently with all our hearts that He will be found of us" but we have to show up first! That is our part. The amount of time we spend in His presence will determine how much of His beauty we will come to know and understand. Just as the creek calls to me every day, God calls us to come and sit in His presence to see what wonders He would reveal to us that day. His revelations to us will be as diverse and beautiful as the bird population that I love so much. Some people commune with nature as a way to find peace in this crazy world I choose instead to commune with the creator of nature who is the Prince of Peace. He knows me as intimately as He knows every sparrow that falls to the ground and He loves me much, much more than them. And He sees me everyday as I sit among all the wonders He has created for me to enjoy and comes to meet me there. Not one day have I ever left His presence with anything but the knowledge of His pure and perfect love for me. He always brings me to a place of peace in Him and with Him. He is a wonderful God.

He is so much like the creek. Just as I know I will always find the water tripping over the rocks on it's way to the sea, I know that God never leaves me or forsakes me. I can depend on Him when life whether life is rushing at me like floodwaters or when everything seems dry and the water is low. No matter what, He is always there waiting on me to tell me great and marvelous truths. Just as the water sings and giggles as it flows over the rocks and under the limbs on its way downstream, He tells me of His great love for me as His Word speaks to me through the Holy Spirit. Whether I need to see him like the strong rock cliffs that guard the creeks edge and provide shelter for so much of His creation or as the one who soothes away every hurt and concern as the water gently washes over anything standing in its way, He makes Himself known in just the right way on just the right day.

He's always there. I just need to come.


Monday, October 24, 2016

"But Dust" Not A Dirt Bag

Psalm 106: 6-12
We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
7 When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.[b]
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise.
One of the most comforting verses I've found in the Bible is Ps. 103:14. "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." God knew what He was creating when He made us.  He knows what our strenghts and weaknesses are, what we are capable of and what our insufficiencies are. Nothing we do surprises Him. In His great plan, He made provision for our failures and sin before the foundation of the world. That means that in His infinite knowledge, He knew we would fall before He created us. Perhaps He allowed this to be so that He could unveil the greatest love story ever written to let us know just how much He truly loves what He created. He loves us immensely!
In the passage above God's people, Israel, sinned. At the Red Sea they were pressed into a very hard place. The stress of the moment caused them to doubt, fear and accuse both God and Moses. What they knew of their history with God and all the miracles God had performed to get them out of Egypt seemed to pale in comparison to the threat they now faced from the enemy and Israel regretted that they had even started on this journey with God. Egypt had not been good for them spiritually. They had embraced its ways and gods but at least Egypt had given them a roof over their heads, food on the table and an existence that though difficult, had become normal to them even though they knew it was not God's best. In the midst of the moment they forgot that this kind of blending idolatry was what had caused them to be inslaved in the first place.
Before we judge the Israelites, let's remember that we are "but dust", as they were. When life hits us with a Red Sea experience, we may just react the same way that they did. When all you see is what is attacking you and there appears to be no good way out of the onslaught, our natural reaction might be to surrender to it and try to make the best of it. It may seem that a return trip to where God brought us from is an easier, more pleasant experience because we, like them can be overwhelmed and forget where God brought us from and all that He has done in our lives in the past. Indeed, the temptation that we are being tempted with might just look better and easier than to stand in the face of the enemy and believe God when an escape would appear a challenge, even for God!
Perhaps this has happened to you.  Perhaps you have suffered the consequences of this happening to someone else. Perhaps you are currently living in Egypt and enjoying it for the moment forgetting all that God has been to you and done for you. "Sin IS pleasureable for a season, but in the end it brings forth death." It is very deceptive in that it appeals to the comforts craved by your flesh and it looks and feels so good. Perhaps you have already fallen prey to the enemy's deception and you feel that God might as well go ahead and allow you to be slain because even in this pleasurable season you know that you are guilty and condemed.
There is hope! Read on in this passage. Verse 8 says "yet He saved them for His name's sake." I really like that! God stepped in, in spite of everything they were doing that would turn His hand of protection away from them, and He saved them to glorify His own name to the Egyptians.  (I'm sure that the Israelites were impressed too because on the other side of the Red Sea, they had a dance party!) Yes, God, for no other reason than to show everyone how powerful and glorious He is, stepped in and saved His people. It had nothing to do what they deserved or didn't deserve.  It had to do solely with who He is and His perfect plan of redemption that would come through His people Israel. He is a Redeemer!
Now remember that being "but dust" does not mean you are a dirt bag! It means that you are what God created in His infinite wisdom and love. It means that He is on your side. It means that He cares for you even when you don't particulary care for Him. It means that He would split an ocean just to make a way for you.
If you are trapped by sin or the consequences of someone else's sin, turn your eyes towards God. He is there to help and make a way for you to reach the other side! Then you too, will have a victory song to sing!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sometimes The Grass IS Greener On The Other Side

"For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, whee you sowed your seed and wteed it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven." Deuteronomy 11:10-11

The Israelites were on their way out of Egypt. They had endured 400 years of slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.  Still, they had managed to eek out a life and survive as a people. I'm sure that their lives had routines, however stark. I imagine that they were somewhat "used" to their lifestyle and it had grown to become "normal." Even though it was not the optimal lifestyle, I think that they had learned to get along and to be as happy as they could in it.

Then Moses and the miracles came along. I can imagine that had I been an Israelite during that time I would have been a bit fearful at all the supernatural events happening in Egypt. I can imagine that fear AND awe would have been present in my heart. I'm sure I might have wondered what I was getting into with this trip to the "promised land."

Eventually the day came when they had packed their bags and were exiting Egypt to an unknown land that would water itself, a stark contrast to the life they had in hot, dry Egypt. The thought of rebuilding their homes and re-establishing their families must have seemed both exciting and challenging to them but generations who had gone before them had often talked and dreamed of this day. I know they didn't know that 40 years lay before them but I have the feeling that they knew there would be hardships, possible battles and a lot of work. If human nature really does run true, I'm guessing the men were ready for the challenges and the women were not. LOL! Still they took a step of faith and stepped out of the borders of Egypt. What a feeling that must have been!

They left the reality of their "normal" and were entering into an huge unknown in order to inherit something different and better.

In the Christian life, we can become settled in our "normal." Our normal may be a bit like what the Israelites experienced in Egypt, full of situations that aren't the best but we've learned to manage them and they are easier to endure than to try to change. We may pray about them but we don't deal with them. We'd like for them to change, we may even need them to change, but the thought of what it might cost to change them far outweighs the price we pay to endure them, so we choose to stay in a spiritual Egypt. We tell ourselves it's not that bad and many others have it a lot worse than we do.

Then God enters, as Moses did, and says you are getting out of normal and moving into something different. As you see it, you're not sure that what's coming is going to be better. It certainly isn't looking easy. You may not have a choice in the matter. You may be like those Israelite women. The decision is made and you just have to get ready for the trip.

Lately I experienced this.  The actions of others caused me to have to let go of my "normal." My normal was not perfect in many ways, in fact there were parts of it that caused me continual heartache but I had decided to be content, to bear my burden, and to make the best of it-it sounded so spiritual. For whatever reason, God decided that I was not going to live in my normal any longer. As I looked at what lay ahead, I have to admit, I was fearful. What if the best parts of my "normal" would no longer be present in what lay ahead? I was sad. I had learned to be content where I was even though in the deepest, most hidden regions of my heart, I knew things should have been different in a lot of ways. I didn't know what to expect but I mourned the good of my normal that I had lost.

Most of us who come through difficult situations with the Lord's help can look back on them and say I'm glad it happened. We don't emerge from the fray the same as when we went in. With God, we come out stronger, having more wisdom, and tougher. I wish I could say this about my most recent departure from my normal, but I can't honestly yet because I don't know quite how it's all going to pan out in the natural. Yet, I have hope and I have the knowledge that, as the saying goes, "if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." And if He's the one bringing you through it, you can know that you will be better because of it. The grass truly can be greener on the other side.

I have learned a million lessons so far.  Because this was a journey I traveled completely alone, by the Lord's design, I learned the most important lesson that God is all we have and He is all we need. He is enough and much, much more. He is faithful, even when we, in our weaknesses, are not. We all know this as Christians but we don't truly know what it means until we have experienced it ourselves. He has promised that if we will put our trust in Him, He will not disappoint us.

Does that mean that everything will pan out exactly as we think, expect or hope? NO! What it does mean is that His ways are higher (and better) than ours. He is meticulously caring for each of us. He knows what we need and how much we can bear, even when we think we can't bear another thing. For me, it all boiled down to the question of truly trusting Him with literally everything. That might sound weird coming from someone like me who has been made to trust God with some tragic and serious situations through the years. In those situations I was trusting God for someone else, not really for myself. This time, I was trusting God solely for myself.

Sometimes we have to get out of where we are (our normal) to experience something better even if it means that our "normal" will never be normal again. Sometimes the thing causing the exodus from normal is painful, sometimes not but it will always be daunting and challenging. I am finding though that it is totally worth it.  Even though I don't know what my next "normal" may look like, I know the one who is shaping it is faithful, true, and loving. So I wait to see what He's designed for me.