Storm Delay

So a funny thing happened today. The sun was shining and it looked like it was going to be a gorgeous day, so we decided we’d head on down to the beach. Amy and I got our swimsuits on, got sunscreened, gathered all our beach paraphernalia and headed out. As we were walking through the parking garage to get out to the sand, a huge crack of thunder rolled. It reverberated through the parking garage and we looked at each other with wide eyes. She then announced she had also seen a big flash of lightening. So, back to the condo we came.

As I was unlocking the door, it occurred to me that we were once again experiencing a life parallel. (My friend Michelle always said the physical and the spiritual were parallel to one another!) The thought was that God has the right to alter or postpone our plans and that He always has a better one. As I was starting to write, Keith texted me. For once, I was immediately able to see the reason for God’s delay.

In case you’re not familiar with our story, the super quick version is that Keith was laid off from his job at Wells Fargo, just months after I lost a regular well-paying clown gig and was laid off from my job. The financial hit was more than our budget could handle. We both ended up back in retail, making less than what he made alone at the bank. We lost our van, almost lost our house and ended up moving to the sticks (aka Taylorsville, NC). We make more than we did when we moved four years ago and are in a home of our own up there (with a lot of help!), but it still gets pretty tight.

Now, back to the story. Keith had expressed his interest in returning to the bank to one of his former supervisors. She was interested in having him back. But, we had to wait for a job to come open. Finally, there was an opening. He interviewed and we were waiting for a decision to be made. God had told me weeks ago that this was Keith’s job, but the time lapse was making me doubt what I thought I had heard. Finally, last week, Keith got a call saying that they were going to offer him the job the week before only to discover that the new HR person had closed out all the job applications. Keith would have to reapply for the job. And, guess where the computer is? Yes, with me in Florida. Of course. No problem, I can do it. So, I’ve had the computer within close proximity to me, waiting patiently for the job to be posted again.

That text Keith sent as I was starting to write? It was letting me know the job was posted. Of course. God had used the storm to return me to the room so I would be ready when the text came.

Life comes with storms. All too often we’re busy complaining and stomping our feet about the delays without stopping to find out if it’s a storm God sent. I recently ran across a quote on Facebook that was a reminder that storms can wash away the bad stuff. The nerd in me then decided to google if storms are beneficial. Well. Guess what! They are!

A wiki article I found (I know. Wiki isn’t always reliable. But, I’m not being graded here, am I?). Anyway, a wiki article I found said, “Ten percent of the nitrogen fertilizer needed for farming is made by lightning. So, even though thunderstorms are dangerous, they can be a great help. They give summer water, cool the earth, and clean the air. Lightning balances the earth’s electricity and helps fertilize the soil.” Another article that popped up was from The Weather Channel. It listed five benefits of hurricanes: bring rainfall to areas that need it, break up bacteria and red tide (as well as oxygenate the ocean and bring new life), provide a global heat balance, replenish barrier islands, and replenish inland plant life. (Here’s the link to read it yourself if you’re a nerd like me: https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/hurricane-landfall-benefits-2016).

So. Is it storming where you are? Try asking God the benefits before you have an all-out temper tantrum over it. Who knows? It’s possible He’s holding you in place, waiting for a better opportunity. Or maybe He’s just cleaning your world. Either way. He knows best.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Have you ever noticed that God will reinforce the message He’s rolling through you in unexpected ways? The Bible tells us that His sheep know His voice. In the same way that I’m likely to communicate with a loved one through a note, a text, or in person, I believe God uses different ways to communicate to us. Sometimes He speaks directly to us. Sometimes, He’ll make a scripture jump out at us. And sometimes it’s a picture on Facebook.

I’ve developed a habit of reminding myself that this world is temporary. Maybe it’s my age. Or maybe it’s the way my body now refuses to cooperate with the life I want to lead. Or maybe it’s the loss I’ve felt surrounded with lately. At any rate, when life sucks, as it’s known to do, I tell myself this isn’t my home. I’m just passing through.

As I was scrolling in Facebook yesterday, I saw a picture that perfectly captured that sentiment. It was actually a handmade piece (that I intend to copy and hang in my home). It struck me so fully at the moment, that I took a screenshot so I wouldn’t forget. And what was this fabulous piece of artwork you ask? It was a quote. Look:

Let that sink in for a minute.

I’m not the only person who my struck by the truth of the saying. The sweet friend who posted it was looking for someone to make her one. (No worries. She seemed to have plenty of options. If they fall through, I’ll make sure she gets one!). Another friend posted it in preparation for a memorial service today.

Y’all. Life is temporary. Compared to the light of eternity, our time here is like a trip to the beach – over way to fast. James 4:14 puts it this way, “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

Why do I feel compelled to remind you? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because I’ve had so many friends mourning loved ones lately. Or maybe it’s the thought of the couple burying their three little ones. Or the duck boat accident. You see – these were all unexpected. We don’t get the promise of our next breath, much less the promise of another tomorrow.

So. Take Nike’s advise and just do it. Take the trip. Write the book. Wear the dress. Quit the job. Start the business. But mostly, love on those around you. They’re just on loan and we don’t know when God’s going to ask for them back.

And on that subject – don’t decide God is cruel for bringing them to Heaven. That was their final destination all along (well, the ones who know Him as their Lord anyway). Maybe it’s a gift to them that they get to go before we think they should. I don’t know. I’m just saying.

Go. Live your abundant life! Make the most of the minutes! Love God and love people. That’s the only thing that will matter at the end.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

(By the way, I think Chris Tomblin captured this sentiment perfectly. Take a listen.)

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SonShine

I’m on an airplane this morning, headed for a week on the sunny shores of Florida with my best friend. We arrived at the airport while it was still dark, rain pelting us as we exited the shuttle. We noticed that it was getting lighter outside the airport windows, but was still gray and gloomy looking. As the plane lifted off, the rain streamed past our windows. We rose up into the clouds. As we neared the top of them, it got brighter and brighter. Then, suddenly we broke through. The sun shot through the windows, blinding us with its bright rays.

As I sit here, impatiently waiting for us to get to Florida (are we there yet?), I gaze out the window to the sun glinting off the tops of the clouds. What a good analogy for life!

How often, when the difficulties of life roll around (the clouds and rain and storms, if you will), do we wonder where God has gone? Life is hard. This week, I’ve seen way too many tragedies – close by and far away. I’ve seen friends lose parents, friends lose friends, parents lose children and a boat company lose half their passengers. I’m sure I’m not the only one looking around for glimpses of God.

Let’s go back to the cloud analogy. The worst sunburns I’ve ever gotten have been on cloudy days, especially if the weather wasn’t too hot. I would lull myself into the complacency that, because I couldn’t see the sun, it couldn’t burn me. And I’ve regretted that complacency more than once. I think the science of it is that part of the rays are filtered out, but not the most powerful ones.

And so it is with the Son and our “clouds.” We may not see Him brightly, but He’s powerful enough to shine through.

Are you in a storm? A cloudy time? Has rain been falling in your life? Look around. Look for signs that God’s is shining through – even when you can’t see the rays. Maybe it’s the touch of a friend or loved one. Or a timely word. Or even a touch or word from God Himself. No matter what, He’s still there.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 139 (v 8) that even in the depths of hell, we can’t escape God. Deuteronomy 31:8 says He will never leave us or forsake us. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” So. Hang on. Storms don’t last forever. God doesn’t desert you in the middle of them. This life is but a wink in the face of eternity. Then, those of us who love and trust the Lord will dwell with Him forever.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Hold My Hand

As a lunch lady, I get the opportunity to be around kids daily. Right now, I’m working in a middle school. I’ve truly come to love that age group and enjoy them tremendously. This past week, I was serving and happened to glance up just in time to see two girls heading down the line, one hanging onto the hand of the other. I smiled at the innocence of it and then thought of all the hand holding we experience in a lifetime.

I would say most people’s earliest memories are hearing a parent say, “hold my hand.” As a child, it normally meant I wasn’t going to be allowed to go where I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do. Sometimes it was comforting, but mostly it felt restrictive!

Later, when my sweet husband and I were dating, there was no feeling in the world like him reaching over and grabbing my hand. It was exciting and comforting, all at the same time. Even now, few things make me feel as secure as Keith teaching over and holding my hand.

When I became a mom, hand holding became a new Olympic sport! My little girl was high strung and high energy. Holding her hand was a measure to keep her safe that couldn’t be beat! But those moments when she would slip her hand into mine, unbidden, would absolutely melt my heart!

I was 41 when my dad passed away. I was long past the days of holding daddy’s hand. But, as he neared the end of his life, he became increasingly fearful of being alone. I would sit and hold his hand until I could no longer feel mine. It gave him reassurance that I was still there and it gave me precious time to say goodbye.

As a young woman, I wasn’t a huggy-touchy-feely kind of girl. God changed that and I came to appreciate the hand of a friend. There is something infinitely comforting about the boldness of a friend who will hold your hand in times of need. It serves as a tether of reality in the saddest times, as an encouragement in trying times, as shared joy in happy times and a gesture of love that is solid and tangible.

Then, there’s the hand that matters most. Isaiah 41:9-10 says, “I took you from the ends of the earth,

from its farthest corners I called you.

I said, ‘You are my servant’;

I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

10So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We all have times when we desperately need to know we’re not alone. We need to feel the comfort of a hand, the love of one who cares. In those moments when we feel as if no human knows our pain, this truth from God’s Word bring me hope. He cares. He has chosen us. And He holds us with His hand! Maybe He even holds our hand. I can’t think of another hand I’d rather hold.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Do Not Disturb

Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty easily distracted. If you don’t believe it, simply walk through the aisles of Hobby Lobby with me. I can go from deep theological discussion to “oooh, shiny!” and back again in a split second. If you’re thinking I’m like Dug from the movie Up, you would not be the first to make that connection. Squirrel! (If you’re confused, google it).

Now, most days, I can control the easily distracted thing pretty well. But, if a person knows that I struggle with distraction, it’s a tool they can use. My children both perfected at an early age the strategy of making me laugh when they were in trouble. And my kids in children’s church are masters at distraction! For the most part, these are benign distractions.

Unfortunately, there is one whose mission is to distract is more sinister. The devil, satan, the enemy of our souls, the liar and father of lies is always out to keep us from God’s will. He started early, in the Garden of Eden. He distracted Eve with a question. He used it to make her doubt. Then he led her right to sin.

The devil even tried his tactics on Jesus. When Jesus was hanging out in the desert, after his baptism, satan showed up to distract Him from His mission with temptation. Jesus resisted (more about that later.)

So. Back to me. I am easily distracted. And the biggest tool the enemy uses fits in my hand. In fact, it fits so well, it’s there all the time. Yes, I’m talking about my phone. With Eve and Jesus, first satan distracted then he tempted. For me, the distraction comes when I hear my phone. Or think I hear it. Or think I’m going to hear it. Then, the temptation can come when I see a notification. I must look at it. Now. No matter what’s going on. It grieves my heart to think how many important conversations I’ve pulled away from for the simple act of checking my phone. How many moments have I missed with family and loved ones? How many opportunities have I missed. All because I am so phone addicted.

So. What to do about it?

I woke up with the thought of my weekend away. Amy and I took a weekend trip to the mountains to see Beth Moore. At the hotel yesterday morning, I heard housekeeping knocking on doors, long before I was ready to have them bombard my room. So, I did what any seasoned traveler knows to do. I hung up the Do Not Disturb sign.

Are you catching my drift here? When the enemy comes knocking, we have a choice! We can hang up our Do Not Disturb sign!

But, how?

Well, let’s look at what Jesus did.

 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:“‘He will command his angels concerning you,    and they will lift you up in their hands,    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:1-11When satan came to Jesus, he used a tiny word to try and plant doubt, “if.” But, Jesus knew Who He was and easily put satan in his place with the Truth. He used scripture to refute what the devil was claiming. Then, He simply told satan to leave. And, He did! I think that’s a powerful model of how we can deal with the enemy when he comes. And, he will come!1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Notice this doesn’t say that he might be prowling around. It says, he IS prowling around.

So. What are your distractions? I can tell you some of mine. (I mean, besides my iPhone.) Pain. Sickness. Past sin. Heartache. People. The enemy can use anything to distract you. (Currently, he’s trying to use a wet, smelly dog to distract me from this blog!)

Now, how do we hang up our Do Not Disturb sign? Scripture. Just like Jesus did. Commit to memory the words to repeat back to satan. He can never stand against the Truth.

Is negativity your distraction? Remember Philippians 4:8. I really like the way The Message puts it. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

Is fear a problem for you? Try this one: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7, NLTAnxiety? “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7, NLTGot a past the devil is using against you? “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:16, ESVGot an addiction? (Yes, even to a cell phone.) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1, NIVTruly, there is nothing satan can throw at you that you can’t resist, with the help of Christ.”We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:2, NLTNow, get out there and make a difference for Jesus!Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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God’s Timing

Today, I watched a short video of Beth Moore preaching. It was a tiny piece of a larger sermon. The part I watched was talking about not stressing over finding God’s will for your life. She made a statement that I agree with completely. If you have even a little bit of a heart for God, His spirit will use that for His purpose.

 Acts 13:36 says, “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” (He died). The important part of that is “when He had served God’s purpose”. Now, we all know David had some issues. Adultery and murder are the first two that pop in my head. If he was a modern man, we’d see his face plastered all over Facebook with self-righteous tirades about what a scoundrel he was. Yet, the Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). 

You need to know. I am a David. Okay, not the murder and adultery part. But, I can be a real screw up. I’ve made my share of mistakes plus some. And I’m probably not done! But. I love the Lord. I have a heart for Him. And I want to be useful in His kingdom. Because of His grace and mercy and propensity for using screwups, sometimes I get a glimpse of Him using me for His purpose.

You might have noticed I haven’t written in awhile. Or maybe you haven’t. Either way, I haven’t been writing. I’m always too busy or too tired or my brain isn’t working. And I’ve fretted over it (well, I’ve fretted a little). But the truth is that my life just hasn’t been suited to writing. My body has been doing some crazy stuff and the best I can do a lot of days is work and then come home and collapse. Week before last, my sweet best friend and I went to Florida. We had a condo with an amazing view of the gulf. We were right on the ocean. The weather was amazing most of the week. And most of my pictures were of the view through the sliding glass door. And I fretted. Because normally, I would be out walking on the beach, praying and getting some serious God time in. But I was so tired. So I rested. A lot.

You see, I’m one of those people who tends to pack my days and weeks so full that I don’t always even get the needed 8 hours of sleep at night. The scripture I use to justify it is often Galatians 6:9, “…do not weary in doing good.” But I completely forget that God means for us to rest. 

So, in retrospection this past week, as I thought about all the things I didn’t do in Florida, I felt God telling me I had done exactly what He meant for me to do. I rested. Completely. And when I came home, I started streamlining my life a bit. I’m cutting out some of the superfluous and making a true effort to give my body and mind the rest it needs. 

And in exchange? God has given me a glimpse of how He’s used me. A well timed text. A comment to the pastor. An off-the-cuff lesson in kids church. Not because I’m an amazing person, but because He is an amazing God.

So. Do you have a heart for God? Do you want to do big things for Him? Don’t stress it. Just stay close to Him. Do what He says, even when He says do nothing. He will use you for His purpose. In His timing. And it will be good.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Refused Blessings

I’m back at Food Lion. For the summer, anyway. One of the regular customers is a man who buys food at a reduced price to feed the hungry. Apparently, he’s part of a Christian group that does the feeding. Which, to be honest, kind of shocked me. He isn’t very friendly.

A couple weeks ago, the man came in to buy groceries for himself. I got to the end of the order and he very gruffly shoved a pack of meat back at me and told me to take it off. I’m guessing I had a quizzical look on my face because he quickly explained that he was about a dollar short. 

Now, I’m not wealthy, my any stretch of imagination, but I had a dollar I could spare that day, so I dug in my pocket and told him I had him covered. He assured me that he would come back to pay me back. I told him not to worry about it – just pay it forward. 

I didn’t think anything more about the situation, until he came back in several days later and thrust a dollar bill at me. I thanked him, but told him it wasn’t necessary, that he was supposed to pay it forward, he proudly stated, “I pay all my debts!”

That’s nice.

Except.

Some debts can’t be paid back. 

I have debts I can’t repay. The folks along the way who have helped us financially, those who have watched kids or made food. And then there’s the friend who gave us a place to live.

It’s hard to accept a gift like that. It’s humbling to recognize that we’ve received such a treasure. And that there’s no way we can “balance the scales.” Some things just can’t be repaid.

Jesus paid a debt for us that can never be repaid. We have zero capacity to even come close to repaying what He did for us. Yet, He offers it freely to all those who will accept.

Friends, if we can’t accept a dollar or food or babysitting or a place to live with no ability to repay, then how can we accept the grace of forgiveness and eternal life? 

Are you in a place of need today? Is someone offering help you’re refusing because you know you can’t pay it back? If so, I would gently remind you to check your pride level. It’s so easy to rely on self, but it’s not what God calls us to. Open your hands, let go of the “should haves” and accept whatever gift God is offering you, through whichever vessel He chooses. I can almost guarantee it’ll be unexpected!

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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