Thursday, November 22, 2007

Life's an adventure...

This isn’t a typical Thanksgiving post… yet thankfulness is a big part of it, prompting me to post what probably should have been posted a week or two ago.

Have you ever felt like the Israelites, wandering around in the desert for years? You just feel like you’re going in circles, with no clear idea of what’s going on in your life and where you’re headed? Have you ever wanted SO much to know where God’s leading you… if He’s leading you at all?

That’s where my husband and I have been for the last two years. Two years ago, right after my mom died, we woke up to a number of facts… we’d been in Florida for nine years… we didn’t really want to finish raising our kids down here where you can’t climb trees or play in the snow or jump in the leaves or hike through the woods… our house was worth triple what we paid for it… and we could probably realize our dream and pay cash for a new home on some land up north. The culmination of all of this led us to decide that it was time to leave Florida. Our plan was to buy 10 acres, build a house, and start a business – all with the money we’d make selling our house. (Notice I said our plan.)

We finished fixing up the last few things on our house, put a “For Sale” sign out, and eagerly started looking for land in the mountains of Pennsylvania. What we didn’t realize, was that the raging real estate market had reached its peak and was about to start plummeting… and that hurricane-ravaged Florida was going to get hit harder by this than it had been by all the hurricanes. We didn’t realize that Charlotte County was going to be hit by this far worse than Hurricane Charley did.

As the days grew into weeks, the weeks turned into months, and the months stretched on and on, we started getting worried. We dropped the price of the house by 10%... we listed it with a Realtor… we dropped the price of the house by another 15%... we found a buyer… that contract fell through… we gave up… we decided to try again with modified plans… we tried By Owner again… we gave up again… we re-listed with another Realtor… we dropped the price again… we gave up again…

To sum it up, we were CONSTANTLY trying to figure out what in the world we were supposed to do. We had already seen how God could bless us with housing that we both need and want. (If you’d like to read the story, it starts in the third paragraph here.) So why was God not doing anything now? Why was He allowing so much of that blessing we thought He’d given us to slip through our fingers? Were we not supposed to move? Maybe we were, but we were being too greedy and wanting more money than we needed. Should we stay? Should we drop the price of the house again and leave, even though we’d get no where near enough money to get the new start that we wanted? Talk about going around and around in circles! But no matter what, God just didn’t seem to be giving us a clear “Go” or “Stay.”

Well three weeks ago, we were in that last “give up” cycle… thinking that if we dropped the price of the house again, we’d be trying to force a door open that God wasn’t opening. That sounds like a good possibility, doesn’t it? I mean, if God wanted us to sell the house, it would have sold by now, right? But then we woke up suddenly to the fact that many people in our town are losing their homes, and we had no guarantee (outside of God) that we wouldn’t end up being one of them at the rate things were going. For the first time, we also thought that maybe we weren’t supposed to move to Pennsylvania… maybe we’d better consider Ohio. My husband’s family is there, and we dearly love them, but we had convinced ourselves that we did NOT want to live in Ohio… until then. But if you’re not going to get much money on your house after all, and you might need to get second jobs to make ends meet, it’s a little easier to do when you’ve got family to help watch your kids and so forth. So we said for the first time, “Maybe we should think about moving to Ohio.”

Two days later we tentatively reached a decision. We would drop the price on the house (again). We would ask God to keep it from selling if He DIDN’T want us to move, but if it DID sell, then we would pretty much go wherever my husband could get a job… aiming for the Ohio/West Virginia area. A price for listing the house popped into both my husband’s mind and mine, so we went with it, hoping that maybe it was God. This price was a 20% drop this time, making our potential profit less than a third of what we once had thought it would be. All we could say was that it would still be far better than nothing.

It was a Wednesday night when we called the Realtor to tell her to drop the price. She said it would definitely sell at this price. We said we'd already heard that four times. Then she said she’d re-list it as a new listing, which basically means that, as far as the market was concerned, we were starting over. As far as WE were concerned… well… we merely prepared to again sit while nothing happened. We didn’t even try to make the house show-worthy.

Thursday the new listing went live.

Six days later we got an offer, they were pre-approved, they didn’t have to sell a house of their own, and they wanted to move in in less than four weeks. (Yes, we did have to do one of those “Oh-my-goodness-someone-wants-to-see-the-house-and-we’ve-got-one-hour-to-
do-two-week’s-worth-of-cleaning” things.)

That night we went to bed in a state of shock. Had we forced God’s hand, or was He finally doing something? Where in the world were we going to go? It’s rather strange to by lying in bed not knowing which state you’ll be sleeping in, in only one month. Our brains worked enough to decide that dh would try to find out what positions elsewhere in the country his company had open. He planned to wait ‘till the next week, though, since the next day was Friday.

The next morning, he went into work to find the district manager there for routine business. He mentioned the move to her and that Mansfield, Ohio, was the nearest city to where his family lived. She didn’t think there was a chance that there’d be a position like his up there.

Three hours later she called him saying that the Ohio district manager desperately wanted someone… for Mansfield.

A mixture of shock, awe, and excitement began surging through us… but the most overwhelming feeling was relief. The wandering was over! God had not forgotten us, and He WAS still leading us. After all, only God can sell a house in six days in a market like this, and make a job hunt successful in three hours!

We feel quite strongly that God had been waiting on us to be willing to move to Ohio. He must have something planned for us there, and we can’t receive it if we’re in Pennsylvania, can we? It’s kind of funny how we’re now excited to move to Ohio, too. All our reasons not to seem to have melted away into nothing.

Since then, we feel like we’re walking with our eyes shut, almost. We both have the most surreal feeling that God is planting each step our feet take, and there’s really no need in trying to look any farther ahead than the next step. What point would there be in doing so? It's not like our plans work out anyway. Besides, God has made it SO plain that He’s got something planned for us there, and He wants to work it out His way. We honestly aren’t having the slightest difficulty not worrying about it… even though we don’t have a guaranteed income amount… even though the profit on our house is far from what WE might think is enough. And THAT is definitely God as well. That peace that passes understanding is definitely surrounding us in a supernatural way. As my dh said the other day, “I can’t wait… not in an impatient way, but in an eager way… to see the house that God is holding for us up there.” I feel the same way.

So all of this brings me to Thanksgiving Day. We are seven days away from moving, and I still have what seems like a million things to do... but I am so grateful to know that God IS leading us. He’s got a plan, and His plans are always good. And while I don’t necessarily say that Ohio is the Promised Land like it was for the Israelites; for us right now, it is. Finally, after all these months of wandering around in what seems like circles, God is clearly leading us forward.

Life's an adventure...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

God is weeding...

This is for anyone who's ever prayed that God would use them more.

As some of you already know and most of you can probably guess... my husband and I are among the thousands (or millions) who are going through financially difficult times. God is showing me so much, though, that I can't find it in myself to wish that this tough time had passed us by. I mean... sure it would have been nice if God could have shown me all this and still given us plenty of money at the same time... but that's probably more my fault than His.

Whatever the case is, it would take pages and pages to share all that He's shown me this year. Not surprisingly, a lot of it has to do with money and how it relates to our lives. More surprisingly, perhaps, is just how many areas of my life these prayers about money have taken me into.

Just the other day, I was asking God questions about Christians losing everything... about Christians being poor. In the Bible, God made it quite plain that He is very jealous of his glory. So I wanted to know how Christians going broke brings glory to Him!

He didn't answer.

So my next question was if/when God ever brings His people down low. The answer to that was immediate. He did it many times, the whole way through the Bible. It's illustrated quite well in Judges through 2 Chronicles.

My next question was when and why did He do it?

The answer to that was also immediate, but it was something I'd never thought about in this way... idolatry. After all, if His people are guilty of idolatry, then they're not bringing glory to Him anyway. Instantly I was reminded of previous times when I've seen how full of idolatry we Christians are – the main idol, of course, being money. I've seen it in myself, but at the time, I didn't know what to do about it. In my heart, I knew I cared too much about having this thing or that thing. I knew I thought much more about the things I could and could not have, than I did about the lost souls that surrounded me. I could deny myself those things, of course, but did that change the fact that my heart cared too much? No, it didn't, and I knew that the difficulty lay there. After all, “The Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) So I prayed the somewhat dangerous prayer of, “Lord, change my heart.”

Well... in that moment a few days ago, I realized that God HAS changed my heart! Somehow, over the course of this very rough year, God changed it! Can I describe the gratefulness I felt at that moment of realization?

But back to riches... as we know, Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Why? God doesn't have anything against being rich... in fact, His Word is filled with promises that He wants to make us rich! The reason is, of course, that money can be a trap... in two ways.

The first trap is the worries that we all-too-often allow into our mind and heart when we don't think we have enough. We've all been there and done that, even though we all (I hope) know that our Heavenly Father owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” and has promised that He will “supply all our needs, according to His riches in glory, in Christ Jesus”. We also, of course, are sometimes guilty of claiming that “wants” are “needs”... and of disobedience and pride, both of which get in the way of God's provision... and of putting material needs ahead of spiritual needs. (I'm 99% sure that God considers spiritual needs more important.) It can sometimes seem so complicated. But the simple fact is that God cannot lie, He has promised to provide for our needs, and He has told us not to worry about it. (Matthew 6:25-34) Thus, worrying about money and things is a trap.

The second trap is the lie that “if we had more money” things would be easier. I'm in a time of little right now, and I've been in times of plenty... and I've observed those who are more rich than I've ever come close to being. And NO ONE can convince me that having plenty of money gets rid of “the worries of the world.” No... the only thing that gets rid of that is trust in our Provider. The devil, however, doesn't want us to know that...so he does his best to keep us from fully realizing this... and to keep us forever working and striving for more or to keep what we have... which keeps us “too busy” to spend time with God... and so on. So once again, it's an issue of the heart, and therefore one that only God can fix, if we're willing.

And that's what He's been doing in me. I've seen it more and more in these last few months, but I saw it so clearly this morning. I was reading the Bible to my kids (we've been slowly going through the whole Bible – well, most of it – for the past three years now). We're up to Matthew 13, which includes the parable of the sower. I've heard this parable since I was a little girl, but once again, God showed me something new in verses I have read probably hundreds of times.

I read the parable to my kids. Next comes several verses where Jesus talks about those who hear and see, but don't understand. Then He said that His disciples could understand, and He went on to explain the parable:

He said that the person on whom seed was sown by the road (and the birds snatched it away) is that person who hears the Word and does not understand it... the evil one snatches it away.

Next is the person on whom seed was sown on rocky places. This person receives the Word, but does not find his/her roots in the Word and falls away when tough times come.

I'm going to skip ahead for a moment to the seed that fell on fertile soil. That person, Jesus said, is the person who bears fruit... that person that so many of us want to be, who is being used by God to bear fruit thirty, fifty, and a hundred-fold.

And now back to the seed that fell among the thorns. Jesus said: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the Word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful. He did not say that the plant died... ie: that the person loses their salvation. He said that the plant did not bear any fruit! In that moment, I saw myself, as I had been and still am to a point. I saw myself as a struggling plant, knowing that the thorns of the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth were taking time and attention from Him... knowing that they should not be there, but feeling powerless to change it... wanting to be used by Him.

And then I saw exactly what God is doing in me...

He is weeding!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mothers are invisible...

Those of you who are new to this blog might end up thinking that I do nothing but quote my sister's. If so, it's not true. The last post and this one are the only times I've done it. (Well, so far, at least.)

But once again, she posted something yesterday that's so encouraging, I wanted to make sure you all got to benefit from it too.

Maybe some of you have already seen the email that's been circulating lately... the one about the mother who decided that she must be invisible, since no one ever seemed to acknowledge anything she did. She resented it... until a friend gave her a book on cathedrals, "with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees." If you haven't read the email, go straight to my sister's post because she posted the whole thing on there, and what's here will make more sense if you do.

But afterward, my sister explained that she was posting it in memory of our mother, whose birthday was yesterday. She died five days before her birthday, two years ago... and only after she was gone, did we realize how magnificent the cathedrals she had been building in our lives really were.

I think all of us mothers (and probably fathers too) have felt like the mother in the story did... that no one notices or appreciates most of what we do. And that's why I'm going to share with you what she wrote at the end of her post, because it's oh-so-true.

She wrote:
I wanted to post this too, as an encouragement to all those mothers and future mothers who may read this. As mothers, you may feel invisible as you raise your kids ... so many mothers have felt this way ... and if you do feel invisible, it is just quite possible that you are doing your job to perfection.

My Mom certainly wasn't perfect. She did everything from outright sin to little idiosyncrasies that drove us nuts. Living with her was a challenge after the age of about 13. It's not surprising, then, that I didn't realize how vital her presence was in my life until she died. If she had lived, I may have lived the rest of my life not quite realizing how much it meant to have a mother like her. And you know what... I think that's the plan. The realization for me of how much she actually meant in our family and in my life came in the days and months and weeks and years after she died. Living without her has made me realize just how invisible she was.

...

So to all those current and future Moms out there (or Dads) - you mean more to your child than they will ever know ... and thank God for that. When you feel invisible to them, it's just because you're as real to them as breathing. You're a part of their fabric of existence, and heaven forbid that fabric should be torn or even stretched. If they never notice you, you just may be doing your job right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Being delivered...

My sister just wrote a post on her blog that I found really, really encouraging. It's all about how God delivers us, and the illustrations she uses... actually, the illustrations she points out that God used... make it so beautifully simple and clear. Read it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Still we beg...

A guest speaker told a story last Sunday that really ‘hit’ me:

Many, many years ago, there was a beggar in Chicago who dressed in filthy rags and ate out of the trash, like many beggars do. Eventually, he rented an apartment for $3.00/month, but still, he went out every day dressed in rags to find his meals in the trash and beg on the streets.

Then came the day when his neighbors realized that he hadn’t come out. They banged on the door, but got no response. Finally, the police came and broke down the door.

He was dead.

And around his waist was a belt with $23,000.00.

He was that day’s equivalent of a millionaire, yet he was a beggar because he did not truly understand the value of what he had.

How many times are we the same as that beggar? The Creator who made everything that exists with the power of His voice… the God of all the universe… the Lord of Lords and King of Kings… our Savior… has given us 1,522 promises. Yet still, we feed ourselves with trash. We beg, because we do not understand the value of what we already have.

I think we need to ask God for things less, and revelation more…

Monday, June 18, 2007

Another not-so-little miracle...

I think that each of us will have decide for ourselves whether this was a miracle, or whether my imagination played tricks on me.

Here's what happened...

I was reading on the couch in the living room, and with my peripheral hearing (that's a new term I just made up), I heard a THUD in the bedroom, followed instantly by a scream. I, just like most mothers, can tell the different screams of my three children. This one, I knew instantly, was from my youngest.

Now, in my family, when the older two scream, it doesn't necessarily mean they're hurt all that much. They're likely to scream out of "I don't like what happened" for a tiny bump, as when they get a goose-egg. But when the youngest screams... it DOES mean that she's hurt pretty badly. So, I jumped up to race back there, and instantly I had this horrible feeling that this injury could be a bad one... something that might need hospital attention. This was somewhat unusual. I'm not the type to freak out easily, and I rarely take my children to the doctor for anything... but something made me think that it was worse than usual this time, so I pled the blood of Jesus as I raced back there, more anxious than usual.

I went into the room moments later to find her sitting on the floor, hiding in a sleeping bag. The sleeping bags were out because my SIL and her girls were sleeping here the last few nights... I knew instantly that the kids had been playing in them, and the littlest had hit her head somehow.

I pulled her out, wiped her hair out of her face, and started looking for blood.

"What happened? What did you hit?" I demanded.

Then I noticed she was holding her nose, so I pled the blood of Jesus again, and pulled her hand away to find that the left side of her nose was already black and purple and starting to swell, and there was a dark pink line across it, just above where the cartilage joins the bone. I instantly thought, "No! My daughter will NOT have a broken nose!" and before I could really think anything through, I took her face in my hands and placed my thumbs on either side of her tiny nose, practically covering it up.

I was simply reacting more than anything else, at this point. I didn't stop to think about what I was doing... didn't stop to think whether I had faith, or anything of that crazy nonsense that bogs us down so often. I wasn't really thinking at all... just doing... just following my impulse.

So I put my thumbs on either side of her nose, and I prayed. I don't remember exactly what I prayed, but it was something along the lines of commanding her nose to be straight and whole. She was still screaming hysterically when I finished, so I just pulled her into my arms, cradling her, and praying in my prayer language all the while.

Finally she started calming down a little, so I pulled her back to look at her nose again.

And there was absolutely NO black, blue or purple, and NO swelling.

Praises!!!

I found myself afterwards wishing I had looked more closely and specifically first... you know, to have a more scientific record of just how black and blue and swollen her nose had been, etc. But then I realized that if I had done so, I probably would have started over-thinking my prayer and whether anything would happen, and I'd have probably ended up praying MY prayer, instead of whatever one God breathed out through me.

So I'm happy. My daughter does NOT have a broken nose. :-) And I still have that quick mental picture of what it looked like before I put my thumbs over it.

I choose to believe that God did something special for my precious little girl in that moment...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Today's minor miracles...

My son is eight years old, and I have often wondered if God has given him a special gift of faith. All children have a tendency to hold onto a faith that is simpler and stronger than what we adults have… but my son’s stands out among my three children. We have watched God hold back the rain for his birthday… literally hold it back a mere couple hundred feet from the park that we were going to. We have seen a fire that had filled an entire block minutes before, dwindle enough to only send up a wisp of smoke. And we’ve seen many more smaller examples of God’s lovingkindness and willingness to grant my son’s simple requests.

Today’s examples might be seen as a bit humorous… but they struck me in an unusual way, because they included me.

The first instance regarded a lost calling card. I’ve been missing this card for weeks, and have looked all over for it. Today I tried calling Sprint to see if they could trace the card number or something, and received the definite answer that they could not. So, once again I repeated my plea, “Lord, can you please show me what I did with it?” I thought of the same places that I had looked before, tore through them again, and still no card.

Finally I went to my children in desperation. “Kids,” I said, “Mommy lost a little card that is worth a lot of money. Can you please ask Jesus to help me find it?” They nodded their heads, and I turned to walk into the kitchen.

Not one full minute later, it occurred to me to check my address book. I nearly discarded the idea, thinking that there’s no way it could be in there because it would have fallen out. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to check. So I opened the cupboard, reached for the address book… and out fell my calling card. The kids grinned real big, but didn’t think as much of it, as I did, that’s for sure!

Today’s second answered prayer happened a couple of hours later. I took the kids for a quick run to the fruit stand to get some fruits and vegetables. They usually sit in the car while I pick up my food and pay for it, and this time was no different. I wandered around the stand choosing what I needed, and made my way to where they had a bin of watermelons. They were seedless and a good price, and I thought of how long the kids had been asking for watermelon. So I picked one up and made my way to the register.

Finally I brought my bags to the car and asked the kids, as I put them in, “Guess what I got?”

“What?” they asked.

“Watermelon!”

“Yeah!” they all squealed.

I got in the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse when my daughter spoke up, telling me that my son knew I was going to get watermelon.

“He did?” I asked. “How?”

“Because,” she answered. “When you got out of the car, he asked Jesus to make you get watermelon.”

He had indeed…

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A song in my heart...

My father-in-law, who was my pastor at the time, once told his church something that many of us had never thought of. He asked us how many times do we wake up in the morning with a song… or a portion of a song… running through our minds?

The answer for me was ‘almost every morning.’ Then he said, “Do you know that God put that song there as a personal message just for you, that morning?”

I had never thought about that! But ever since then, when I wake up in the morning, if I realize a song is going through my mind or echoing through my heart, I pay attention to see what the words are. And so very, very often they’re exactly what I need.

I have to admit that every once in a while it’s just a silly song that was stuck in my head the day before, and I wonder… I think that maybe it’s not a message from God this morning… unless it’s a pointer that I let something else fill my mind so much that He couldn’t get through. I don’t know.

But most of the time I find a reminder from God that is just what I need… even if it’s a secular song. God can speak through those, too.

Why am I writing this, this morning? Well… I’ve been literally fighting to retain my peace in regards to money issues this past week. Mentally, logically, I’m fine… I know that God is in control and He has promised to always provide… that even if the world’s worse financial problems hit us, He can still provide for our needs and give us peace and joy and hope through the whole thing. But that hasn’t stopped that “uh-oh” feeling from sinking right through me over and over again. When it does, I fight it by praying in my prayer language, making the biggest lists of all the things I have to thank and praise God for, and by singing worship songs.

Anyway… that’s what I was fighting again last night. Do you want to know what song filled my heart this morning when I woke up?
“Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
Wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
Wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord…
Our God - You reign forever;
Our hope, Our strong deliverer…

You are the everlasting God – The everlasting God.
You do not faint, You won't grow weary.
You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need.
You lift us up on wings like eagles…”

God is sooooo good! I don’t know why I sometimes have such a hard time trusting Him. I don’t know why I get down and out about money. God will care for us!!! I know that! What is money? It is nothing but a tool… something that God uses, something we use… something that the devil uses to distract us, attack us, get us down… when I get down about it, all I need to do is to keep waiting on the Lord!

You are the everlasting God – The everlasting God.
You do not faint, You won't grow weary.
You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need.
You lift us up on wings like eagles…”

Listen to "Everlasting God":



(If you're interested in reading my thoughts on other songs that have ministered to me, just click on the songs label, and the blog posts will be listed, from newest to oldest.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Why times are rough for Christians...

A number of things were running through my mind while I worshipped this morning. I kept going back and forth between the sweet times of worship to thoughts and feelings about life now and in the near future. And I think that God gave me a special revelation of His grace and mercy that answers some of my recent questions.

I was thinking about how almost every Christian that I know is going through a rough time right now, in one way or another. For a lot of us it’s financial, but with some of us, it’s other things. For my husband and I, it’s money and a loss of direction…on top of other things. But I keep being reminded that money isn’t really important. Neither is where you’re at in life, or perfect relationships with everyone you know. That’s not what brings people happiness, comfort, peace, or hope. At least not the lasting kind. We all know that…and if we dared to doubt it, all we have to do is look at rich Hollywood…at the princes and sheiks of the world…at the CEOs who bargain the wealth that they have to gain more, perhaps hoping that they’ll find what they’re seeking then. God is the only One that can give those things to us. We all know that.

The thing is…many times we forget that they’re there waiting for us in God’s arms and presence. We forget how to draw from what He’s given us…if we ever knew how, to begin with. Me…I draw from it through worship. When I pour out my heart in worship to God, He in turn fills me with His peace and joy. No matter how bleak the future looks, He fills me with hope that is everlasting, because it’s not based on earthly circumstances…it’s found and fulfilled in what He has done for me…inside me. And that can only get better and better, no matter what happens on this earth.

These are the things that I remember and find again when times are rough. I’ve known this for a while, but it was running through my mind again this morning.

Then I thought of the prophecies and naysayers who are predicting horrible things that will/might happen this year, or soon. I honestly have no idea if these prophecies of nuclear attack are from God and will happen or not. Those who say that the US is on its way to economic collapse are undoubtedly right, but I have no way of knowing if it will happen soon, or if we’ll find a way to avoid it. People have been saying for years that the End Times are coming soon if they’re not already here…and I don’t know about that either. I don’t know whether Jesus is coming pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib, let alone whether it will be this decade, my lifetime, or 200 years from now.

But I do know the thoughts that fill me when I think of these things. Part of me is tempted to want to run and hide…to avoid thoughts of it and cross my fingers that I won’t have to go through a nuclear attack, or a bird flu or AIDS pandemic, or economic collapse. But I know that I’m only asking for trouble if I do that…trouble in my spirit. The truth is that there’s an extremely good chance that we’ll have to live through something terrible. Almost every generation has had to live through world war or something equally difficult, and the world is too small now to think that any of us can separate ourselves from whatever ends up happening.

Then I fall to thinking about how to prepare for these things to make them easier to live through…maybe move away from the big cities that are more likely to get nuked…maybe get a good garden going and have plenty of bullets ready so we can go hunting for meat if that’s the only way to get it…maybe we have to get completely out of debt so we can’t loose our house…maybe if I eat as healthy as possible and strengthen my immune system as much as possible, I won’t be as susceptible to diseases…and so forth. But even that short list shows how impossible it really is to prepare for a future that I know nothing about.

And so I end up with God. He knows exactly everything that will happen in my lifetime…both to me and around me and every detail that will affect my life and the lives of my family. And that reminder brings me to one conclusion…

There is only ONE way to prepare for a future that is getting more uncertain every year…and that is to learn to follow the leading of the One who knows the future and who loves me more than anything. He hasn’t promised to protect me from nuclear attack or bird flu…but He’s making a place to take me to if He has chosen to allow those to take my life. He hasn’t promised to let me keep my house and car and the material things He’s given me that mean so much to me…but He’s given me spiritual things that mean even more, and He’s promised that I can never loose those.

Am I ready to loose everything I have and still rest in His peace and joy? Have I learned to truly abide in Him in the way that will be necessary if these things happen in my lifetime? Not completely, but I’m learning more right now as I go through the difficulties that I am currently facing.

And that’s when it hit me. Maybe this is why He’s allowing so many Christians to go through so many trials right now. In His infinite grace and mercy, He is gently allowing difficulties in our lives now, to give us a chance to learn to get what we need from Him alone. He is giving us a chance to learn to find joy and peace in the midst of difficulties. Maybe He’s not working on our finances too much because in a few years the whole nation will be so messed up that it won’t make a bit of difference either way whether we’re out of debt in 2007 or not. Maybe our difficulties aren't the enemy coming against us, OR God closing doors. Maybe it's much deeper than that!

Whenever the world does its end time ‘falling apart,’ there’s only going to be one delineation between people that really matters. There’s going to be those who not only are saved, but who have also learned to hold onto God…to really walk with Him in such a deep and personal way that they still have His peace and joy and hope and comfort…and there’s going to be those that haven’t. Where we’re at financially in March of 2007 won’t make a bit of difference.

And rather than plunge us all blindly into the rough waters of whatever disaster we’re destined to live through—and hope we happened to have already learned to swim—God is leading us into the troubled waters now…giving us a chance to learn to swim through them with Him…before the riptides form.

Maybe this is what the Bible verses about being prepared are really all about. It’s a simple matter to claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior and be prepared for Him to snatch me away. But being prepared to hold onto my faith no matter what might happen—well, that’s a completely different story…

Friday, February 02, 2007

I will lift my eyes...

I've got another awesome song to share. Those of you who listen to Christian music radio all the time have probably already heard it, but for those who don't... or who may have missed it anyway... or who may just be interested in reading everything that this song means to me... read on.

The song is from Bebo Norman, and here are the words to the chorus:
I will lift my eyes...to the Maker of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes...to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes...to the Healer of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes...lift my eyes... to You.

For me, this song is close to the perfect poetic and musical expression of the cry of my heart when I get "stuck." It sums up both God's power and the hope that His power offers us.

He IS the Maker of the universe... of the mountains that I love so well... and He's also the One who allows mountains into my life. But He is so much bigger than every mountain of every kind, and He's there, waiting for me to look to Him, rather than at the mountain like we so often do.

He's the Calmer of the storms of life... those things that threaten to plow right over us and leave us in their wake. He's there, if we'll only look to Him rather than focus on the waves. He's always there with His calming power, waiting for us to let Him choose whether to calm the storm around us or calm the storm within us while He carries us through.

And He is the only One that can heal the hurts that life always seems to stab us with... those that hurt us so badly that we hold them inside ourselves where they act like poison, eating away at us from the inside out. All too often we end up focusing on our pain... but He's there, waiting for us to look up and beyond and outside of ourselves to Him so He can heal us from the inside out.

Lord, help us to remember that all we have to do is lift our eyes to You...

Listen to "I Will Lift My Eyes":


(If you're interested in reading my thoughts on other songs that have ministered to me, just click on the songs label, and the blog posts will be listed, from newest to oldest.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A craftsman...

Just a little tidbit that I want to share...

Something that my brother said to me a week or so ago really impressed me. We were talking about God working in people, and how it's always a process. I don't remember that section of the conversation specifically, but I do remember that we talked about how God has to often remind us of things He's shown us in the past... sometimes He has to re-reveal things to me because we tend to forget as time goes by.

He mentioned how today's society is a results-oriented society... we attend classes and receive training, and once we've been through it once, we're expected to produce results. And he's right. The vast majority of our culture IS that way.

The problem is that we tend to figure that God must be that way, too. That if He's shown us something once and it doesn't produce immediate, permanent change in our lives, then we've failed Him. We sometimes think that this means that He's given up on us, then... or maybe that He's altered His plan for our lives because we're not measuring high enough for His original purpose. Sometimes we think that that mysterious thing called grace can't possibly overcome the anger that He must be feeling over the fact that we've failed Him so many times.

This is why I liked the view of God that my brother shared with me, so very much. He pointed out that God isn't a businessman... or a mass-producer. What is He? He is a craftsman.
Think of it! What does a dedicated craftsman do? Is he concerned with how fast he produces his masterpiece? Is he concerned with how much time and work it takes to perfect it? Not really! What concerns a craftsman the most is the finished product. His main desire is that it become what He intended it to be. If it's not, then He patiently works away, whittling away, or adding, or shaping... dedicating as much time as is needed to get it right.

And so it is with us. "For we are His workmanship..."
Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion