Seeing Him Who is Unseen

I am sure you have all felt the weight of life pressing in on you at some point or other. Maybe you have been blessed to have not felt it as heavily as others, or maybe you have felt as though life weighs on you like the water pressure at 1000 feet below the surface. My husband and I have had an interesting life. Not that we have done so many amazing things or traveled to so many amazing places. Golly, neither one of us has published a book or won the lottery. If you met us you would probably agree that we are not very exotic, however, we have gone through plenty of tough times together. 

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Pixabay

Before we married, we spent a summer in what was then known as Zaire, Africa. We both almost died after contracting cerebral malaria, the most deadly form of that vicious disease. We lived to tell the tale, got married and moved to Ohio, where Mark started working on his PhD. Only a year in, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. We lived in student housing and had no health insurance. God provided a place to live, a little two room shack on a river outside of town with a propane toilet. Piecing together numerous part time jobs, we had, not just one, but two babies in that little home, without health insurance. Our story goes on through various rusty trucks and cars, one of those part time jobs becoming full time and the purchase of the home we currently live in. Over the years we have experienced other heartaches, things that have tested our faith and our limits, not only as individuals, but as a couple. Even now, our hearts are daily burdened by the difficulties of family and loved ones. 

When Moses was born, this was the edict that Pharaoh put forth:

Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’
— Exodus 1:15-16 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Moses' parents were not about to let their son be killed. Taking no thought for the King's edict they kept their baby boy hidden for three months. When they knew they could no longer hide the child, his mother put him in a basket and set him among the reeds of the Nile river close to where Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe. When she spotted the basket among the reeds she had her maids get it for her. When she saw the child, I have a feeling, she fell in love. She named him Moses and the rest is history. 

Recently I was reading in Hebrews and came across this story in the Hall of Faith, found in Hebrews 11. These three verses stood out to me regarding Moses' character. 

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
— Hebrews 11:24-26 (NASB)

There are several things we can learn about Moses from these verses. Let's explore. 

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PIxabay

1. He grew up in Pharaoh's house. Moses was by all accounts the child of Pharaoh's daughter. He was called her son, because the verse says that he refused to be called her son. Just think about what sort of childhood he had. He was raised in the center of the Egyptian kingdom. He was exposed not only to the wealth, pleasures and education available to the ruling house, but he was also exposed to the religious teachings of Pharaoh's priests. However, we find that Moses was not influenced by any of these things. 

2. He turned away from his position as an Egyptian to take his place among the Hebrews. I was struck by this. Moses had grown up with access to so much, yet he chose to go back to his roots. The Bible is not clear on how much time, Moses got to spend with his birth mother. However, I am sure during those special times she shared stories with him of the Israelite people and their God. Perhaps it was during these times that a flame began in his heart for his people and the One who would become his God.

3. He was looking to the reward. Do we know that Moses knew who Jesus was? No. Do we know that he knew there was an eternal reward? No. But Moses had a deep inner conviction that there was something and someone, much greater than himself or the Pharaoh of Egypt, ruling the universe. Who knows, but that at night, when the sky was black and the diamonds of the universe sparkled in its expanse that something in him, didn't yearn to believe there was so much more than just the grandeur of Egypt. 

This brings me to verse 27 of Hebrews.

27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
— Hebrews 11:27 (NASB)

The morning I read this, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged. Life was doing its best to wear me down. From the original story in Exodus we are given a slightly different look at this man called Moses. 

11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?”
14 But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.”
15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.
— Exodus 2:11-15 (NASB)

The man described in Hebrews 11 hardly seems to match the man we find in Exodus. Bare with me, if you will, while I do a bit of comparing and contrasting. 

1. By faith he left Egypt vs. Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh.

2. Not fearing the wrath of the king vs. Moses was afraid. 

Those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament and the full story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, know there is so much more to the story than just these few verses. There begins a long, drawn out and complex relationship between God, Moses and the children of Israel. I am by no means a Bible scholar. My three years at Moody Bible Institute taught me many things, including how to study God's word, but there are still things that baffle me. 

The book of Hebrews paints Moses as a man of faith, fearless and able to endure, but I believe Moses became those things as he walked through the difficulties of life. I'm sure you have heard the idea that some of us are journey people and some of us are destination people. My husband is all about the end goal. I am all about the journey along the way. The fact of the matter is, we are all, by God's design, journey people. We all are walking along in this life, struggling through the hard bits and hoping to enjoy more of the good bits. We don't get to go directly to go, or to jump ahead to the end. It drives me crazy when my husband will read the last few pages of a book, just to see how it ends without reading the entire book....destination mentality. 

Moses became a man of faith, as he grew to know God. He became fearless as he saw God work and overcome. He endured because he saw Him who is unseen. The same is true for us. We become men and women of faith as we grow to know God better. We do that as we struggle on the journey, giving the difficulties over to Him and allowing Him to mold and shape us to be more like Christ. We become fearless as we see God work. We know there is nothing God cannot do. We also know that He doesn't always do the things we would like, because He has a greater purpose. Our fear disappears as we put our complete trust in Him and His goodness. Finally, we can endure because we can see Him who is unseen. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Today, if you are going through a hard time, try to see God. I mean really see Him. Delve deep into His word. Pray to know Him better. Wait on Him in the quietness. Depend on Him in the chaos. Let Him transform your mind, so that you can see with the eyes of your heart. At that point you will endure as seeing Him who is unseen. 

A Look Back at 2017 - My Favorite Faith Posts

I did this on my fashion page so I thought it would be good to do on my faith page as well. Since we are into a new year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my favorite posts from 2017. I picked one from each month. If you haven't read them and are interested, just click on the link below the picture. 

It is good to look back at where we have been, so we can get a better feel for where we need to go. As far as my faith posts are concerned, I want to keep writing and posting things that I hope will be an encouragement to you. We, as older women, are such a valuable part of society. We are capable, strong and worn, and that is just where God wants us to be. 

Here are my favorite faith posts from my blog from 2017.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

I hope you enjoyed this look back at my favorite blog posts from 2017. As we move forward into 2018, I hope to grow my blog in various ways, while still being true to my belief and faith in Jesus Christ. 

If you have any suggestions or things you would like to see me talk about on the blog, please leave me a comment in the comments section or you can send me a message on Facebook. I appreciate all your input and support. I am looking forward to what this year will bring and hope you will join me on the blog! 

Deep Waters

Summer weather always makes me long for the beach, or at least somewhere near the water. What is it about water that fascinates us so? I know for me, some of it may be the lovely pictures I come across in magazines of quaint sea side cottages decorated with lovely reminders of the vast ocean just outside the door. Water has a therapeutic effect. I love to sit near it, watching the waves rolling in or listening to the rush of foam hitting the shore. 

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Water can also be frightening. It can cause catastrophic flooding and overwhelm the largest ocean going vessels. We all desire safe harbor, but sometimes God has something very different in mind. Once in a while He will cut the lines that tether us to the shore and set us on a sea that would scare the bravest and most seasoned sailor. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Oswald Chambers states it perfectly:

If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and send you out to sea...If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters, just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor and into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—-begin to have spiritual discernment.”
— My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I love word pictures. This picture struck me right between the eyes. I love being in safe harbor. I love to feel at peace and know that life is running smoothly. I like organization, and like many women, I want to feel like I am in control, at least of some aspect of life. For me that is safe. What isn't safe is not knowing where your kids are at three or four in the morning, having pain or illness that can't be diagnosed, losing your job or getting old. These things are all reminders that we have very little in our control. 

I believe that we can become dependent and even prideful of our place in that peaceful harbor. We become fixated on the ropes that are tethering us to the dock believing that it is the ropes that keep our boat safe and secure. That is when the storms come and sever our ties, ripping the very ropes we took pride in and depended upon, from the dock and setting us adrift on an angry,  sea.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Why would God do that? Why would He take us from that safe place and send us out on a stormy ocean? Doesn't He care about us? Doesn't He know that we are afraid?

Of course He does, but He also knows that you will never grow if you are forever in the safe harbor. He knows every hair on your head, every cell in your body and He knows just exactly what you need. Our journey in this life is about our relationship with Him. It is about letting go of everything we hold dear and clinging to Christ alone. 

I know this is hard. I have experienced the storm and I have felt my strongest ropes (the things I thought were right) torn away from that peaceful dock. I have cowered, terrified, in the bottom of the boat wondering when that monster wave would finally take me under. But always at that darkest and most chaotic moment, I would lift my eyes just a bit over the edge of the boat and I would see Him coming to me on the waves. He would come, climb into my boat and we would ride those stormy seas like a surfer hanging ten! 

Oh yes, my stomach has roiled, just like the sea. My mind has crashed just like those tumultuous waves, but gradually the storm would move away, the waves would soften and the wind would calm. He would take my hand and say,

"Peace, dear lamb. Be still."

He alone can overcome our pride. He alone can ride the storm out with us. He alone can speak peace into our troubled hearts.

Dear ones, don't cling to tightly to those plans you have made, nor those ropes that tether you to the dock. He may be calling you out into deep waters.

Mulling it Over - Part 1

We struggle with life, just like everyone does, but we live with knowledge of a world beyond what our own eyes can see. A spiritual world where a real battle wages. This is a battle of good versus evil, more real than anything we might read in a Tolkien saga or the world of Harry Potter.

Read More

Three Little Commands - Pray without Ceasing

When we think about our lives how many things do you do without ceasing? Well, I can come up with a few like dishes, laundry and.....Okay, okay, so maybe they aren't constant, but it sure seems that way sometimes. The things that we do without ceasing have more to do with those functions of our bodies that we call involuntary....we do them without thinking. Breathing, swallowing, blinking, these are all things we don't really think about. Yes, our brain does think about them, but we don't consciously choose to breathe, unless we are taking a birthing class or meditating. Ha, ha. Our brain controls all of those cycles and tasks that our body performs that we never give a thought to. Good thing! If I had to think about making my digestive system turn food into all its usable and unusable components, I would probably just give up.

When Paul tells the believers at the church of Thessalonica to "...pray without ceasing..." what exactly does he mean? Is he saying that we should pray like we do our laundry and dishes....when the piles get so high they have to be done or we will be wearing the same pair of underwear again, or we will be eating without plates and silverware? In all honesty that is the way my life is. I only do laundry when we are starting to run out of the essentials and the dishes not only take up the space in the dishwasher and drying rack, but in the sink and on the counter next to the sink! 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Even more unfortunate, that is how my prayer life is. I put it off and put it off until I am driven to my knees by forces beyond my control. When life piles it on higher and higher until there is  no more avoiding it, the only option left is prayer.

I know I feel better when my laundry is done and my dishes are all in their homes in the cupboards rather than in messy piles around the sink (or even the whole kitchen when it is really bad). I feel like I have accomplished something and have a sense of peace that those things aren't hanging over my head, waiting to be attended to. When my home is messy, cluttered and chaotic, my life feels that way as well. So why is it, so often, things get to that point? Because life happens!

The same is true of our prayer lives. When I am in sync with God and I am praying in His spirit, I feel at peace. Life can be chaotic around me, but I am one and at rest with HIm. One of my favorite authors of the past is Oswald Chambers. His devotional My Utmost for His Highest is a daily read for me and has been since my husband gave me the book in 2007. I'd like to share a few things from one of His devotionals. 

Prayer does not equip us for the greater works—-prayer is the greater work.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

We live in a world that is work oriented. Not only do we work at work, we work at home and we work at play. All that work is good. Having a job helps pay the bills. Doing the laundry gives us fresh clothes to wear. Being part of a health club or a sports team gives us benefits socially and physically. However, as a Christ follower, my greatest work is prayer. 

Ever since I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of twelve I have acknowledge this idea in the back of my head, but it didn't really become a central part of my life until I became an adult and then became a parent of adult children. Prayer is the force that moves mountains. I cannot change a person's heart, but God can. I cannot heal a sick child, but God can. I cannot direct this country, but God can. He is in control. I won't go into why God says yes or why He says no, but it comes down to trust. 

When I became a grandparent a little over six years ago, I was able to revisit the idea of child like faith. As I watched my grandson grow and learn and experience life I realized how very much God desires we come to Him as a little child; full of wonder, curiosity, and trust. My grandson never wondered where I was. He always knew I was there. He didn't wonder if I would pick him up when he cried, he just knew I would. 

We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a ‘wise’ man does not.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

A little child has a degree of trust that far exceeds anything we can understand, that is, until that trust is broken. The little child has an amazing capacity to believe. Just think about children and Santa Clause. Unless someone explains that Santa is merely a tale based on the historical figure of Saint Nicolas a child will enjoy the belief that Santa is a very real and magical being. He will also believe that Santa is good and will bring him gifts on Christmas morning.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That is what coming to God in prayer should be like. We should come to Him, regularly, consistently and with anticipation of what He will do. He may not answer our prayers in the fashion that we deem best, but we can choose, like that little child, to trust Him, because we know that He is good. Goodness is a part of His character and He cannot be otherwise.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
— Psalm 106:1 (NASB)

How do we pray without ceasing? Just like we breath. Without a thought. When the day is sunny and the sky is blue, I breath a prayer of joy. When I am tired and need His strength, I breath a prayer of petition. When I am sad, or scared, I breath a prayer of scripture, knowing that His word brings peace and hope. When life is so overwhelming I feel as though I cannot go on, I only breath and let Him do the rest. 

Three Little Commands

As a Christian I am often about, what to do. How do I serve? How do I minister? I often become fixated on one or two commands in the Bible and forget about all of the other ones. In recent years my life has gone down a path I never thought it would take and suddenly everything looks so different. 

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Pixabay

You know how it is. You decide to take a drive in the country. It's a beautiful fall day, the colors are at peak and you are enjoying the scenery. After a while you decide you need to head home. You have things to do. Instead of turning around and going back exactly the same way you came, you decide to take a different route. All of a sudden, you have no idea where you are. Everything looks the same, and nothing looks familiar. 

That is how life can be. You are traveling along and all of a sudden you don't know where you are, nor how you got there. At those times the things we know can be helpful, but they can also be to our detriment. Knowing directions such as North, South, East and West are helpful, but if you insist you are going North, when you are actually going South, well that could be a problem.

For many years as a college student at a Bible school and into adult life, my focus was on how do I spread the Good News; how do I tell others about Jesus? When I became a wife and mother my focus became how do I serve God in my family and train up girls who would want to follow Him? I have never lost my direction as far as wanting to do what God would want me to do. I have however, gone down a path of suffering that I was unprepared for and would often find myself looking up at Heaven and asking, "Are you sure I can do this?" 

His answer was always the same, "With me, you can!"

While my direction was still the same, the tasks that I once thought were all important took second place to the all encompassing work of knowing Him better. Believe me, when you walk a trail that goes through some deep valley's the only way to get through them is to keep coming back to the purpose of life: to glorify Him. It was along this path that He lead me to these three little commands.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:16 - 18 (NASB)

I often find myself back at God's feet asking Him, "What do you want me to do?" 

In recent years His answer is always the same, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things."

"But Lord, is that really enough? Shouldn't I be doing more? Leading a Bible study? Helping at the soup kitchen? Going back to school?"

I always picture HIm smiling at me and saying, "Are you doing those three things yet?"

If you are like me, you know that rejoicing always is like backing your car all the way from Cleveland to Buffalo. It isn't something that comes naturally for most of us. Remember my post from a few weeks ago, Giving Up Grumbling? Yeah, well rejoicing always is a similar dilemma.

Let's talk about praying without ceasing? Does that just happen? Probably not. Prayer is work, just like exercise. It really must be intentional. There is a time and place for going into our prayer closets and having earnest prayer before the Lord, but how does that fit into our busy, chaotic lives? How do we actually pray without stopping?

Finally, in everything give thanks. It's easy to be thankful when things are going well, but when the poop hits the fan, being thankful sometimes goes right out the same window. 

We are all at different points in life. You may be a young Christian who is very zealous about telling others about Jesus. You might be a new wife, determined to love your spouse with the earnestness of the Song of Solomon lover. You might be a mother trying to fulfill the reality of a Proverbs 31 woman. There are so many ideals in the Bible, many of which we cannot fulfill, at least not without Him. None of these are bad. And God has each of us right where He wants us. 

path in the woods

So, for a little while this is the path I am walking. A path of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks, even when life is difficult. Maybe you are on this same path. Maybe life doesn't look exactly like you thought it would at this point and you are feeling a little lost. Don't worry. You are in good company. 

Over the next three weeks I want to look at each of those little commands in a much bigger way. I hope you'll walk with me.

Putting on Patience (or Keep Calm and Carry On)

The funny thing about patience, is how we obtain it. Patience might come naturally for some, but for most of us, being patient is a trait long in coming. It's easy to have patience when nothing is going wrong; when you don't ever have to stand in line or wait for the doctor's diagnosis. Patience comes easy when life is moving along pleasantly with no bumps in the road. But who has a life like that? Not me and I don't expect you do either.

When I was a young adult, especially a young wife and mother I used to pray for patience. Now where in the world, I got that silly idea, I don't know. What I do know now, as the mother of adult children and a grandmother is, never pray for patience. Patience has a way of becoming a part of your life without ever having to pray for it. In fact the only way we develop patience is by practicing it.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull.  Make up  Rachel Christensen .

Webster's dictionary defines patience as follows:

: the quality of being patient: such as
a : the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset
b: the ability to remain calm and not become annoyed when dealing with problems or with difficult people
c: the ability to give attention to something for a long time without becoming bored or losing interest

Another word that could be used to describe patience is long suffering. I have become much more acquainted with this word as I have lived my life as a mother and grandmother. I was a very impatient mother. Though I loved my girls, I was often harsh and angry towards them. Believe me, if there was a do-over button I would have used it many times as a mom. When my daughters became teen agers and then adults and my ability to control their circumstances or their choices disappeared, I became intimate friends with the companion called long suffering. 

Patience requires a purposeful choice to let go. Let go of the traffic. Let go of the lines. Let go of that behavior you expect your husband or child to adhere to. Let go of those things that you cannot do. Let go of all those expectations placed upon you and be patient with yourself. Blaring the horn in your car does not make you move faster. Muttering in line at the supermarket will not make the cashier check people out faster. Yelling at your spouse or children will not make them move faster or change into the people you want them to be. Keeping a list in your head of all the ways you have screwed up will not make you a better person. Patience says take a deep breath in.....now blow it out. In and out. One breath, one step, one choice at a time.

I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
— Ephesians 4:1-3 (NET)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.
— Colossians 3:12-13 (NET)

 Maybe it's because I am a fashion blogger, but I like that image of clothing ourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Patience should be like putting on an article of clothing. Every day you get dressed. Every day we should put on patience. I like to think of it like putting on our rain gear. A rain coat and rain boots are a great idea on a day of thunderstorms. Isn't that analogous to putting on patience? Aren't all those things that drive us crazy - like road construction, traffic, slow moving lines, whining children, changes at work, etc. like so many raindrops falling on us day in and day out.  

 Pixabay

Pixabay

At the beginning of World War II the British came up with a poster to raise the morale of their people during upcoming air raids and attacks. Though the poster was little used back then, today you can see the saying on all manner of nick knacks, posters, mugs and so on.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

In a manner of speaking, keeping calm is having patience. Remaining calm when life get's chaotic or stressful will enable you to practice patience. Patience enables us to show our love and care, not only for others, but for ourselves. 

Abide

What does it mean to abide? When we talk about our homes we sometimes refer to them as our "abodes". Simply put, our homes are where we abide. We sleep, eat, shower and live in these places we call home. Why then does Jesus say in John 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you"? How do we abide in Jesus? 

Think about the other people that live with you. Perhaps it is only you and your spouse, like my husband and I. Your children are grown and have (finally) moved into their own abodes. Maybe you are a multi-generational family with children, grandchildren and grandparents all living together. Whatever the situation, who we live with can affect our daily lives. Parents with small children are (hopefully) trying to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their kids. Their main concern is caring for those children. Families who are caring for their aging parents live their lives around the care and security of people who have their own sets of needs and sometimes health issues. Two people who are new to the empty nest syndrome may be trying to navigate rediscovering this stranger they married. All of these situations require time, effort and choice.

In the same way if we are serious about our relationship with Christ and we desire to abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we must invest time, effort and choice. Don't limit yourself to certain times of the day, after all, the people you live with are there on a regular basis. You can rationalize, "I don't have time to do daily devotions." Do you also not have time to clothe and feed your children? You do that without thinking. So too, our relationship with Christ should be done without thinking.

When you wake, pray before you get out of bed. When you are standing in the shower, recite those scriptures you are trying to remember or think on the words of a hymn or praise song. When you are driving to work pour out your concerns to Him. When you are at the grocery store thank Him for all the good things lining the aisles. Abiding is living with our focus on Him. Day in. Day out.

And observe especially, it was not that He said, ‘Come to me and abide with me,’ but, ‘Abide in me.’ The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete.....

Who would after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited to dwell in the King’s presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life?
— Andrew Murray - Abide in Christ

Pictures, Planning and Prophets

I suppose you are familiar with disappointment! Who isn't? If you know someone who has never felt the let down of being disappointed please tell me how they do it. Being a blogger, I have two goals, to write and to talk about fashion. In order to talk about fashion I have to post pictures. Many bloggers take their own pictures or have their spouses take pictures. I just got a new camera and have only just begun playing around with it. Until, I become proficient I still depend on my eldest to take pictures for my fashion posts. Usually, this means an all day shoot, trying to cover as many weeks of outfits as we can.

Today was our designated shoot day. I spent the last few weeks putting outfits together following a color theme that details the Pantone Fall 2016 color choices. I do this, not because I am so trendy, but because it gives me a spring board from which to put together an outfit. This had been a difficult task. Unlike the Spring 2016 color palette, the colors for fall are not the norm. Instead of yellow, it's Spicy Mustard; instead of green, it's Lush Meadow. The colors are just different enough to make matching them, at least some of them, challenging.

Since my daughter is married, I invited her and our son-in-law over for lunch, along with my other daughter, who does my make up for the shoots and our grandson. I made bacon and tomato sandwiches and corn for our lunch. The house filled with the scent of cooking bacon and the stove was covered in spattered grease. I enjoy having my whole family together, so our lunch lingered. When we were finished my youngest began her make up application, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes. After that, I ran upstairs and changed into the first of 11 outfits. Yes, that's right, 11. 

 Here I am looking at the storm clouds blowing in. Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull . Make up  Rachel Christensen.

Here I am looking at the storm clouds blowing in. Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull. Make up Rachel Christensen.

The sky had grown overcast, but the rumbling thunder made it obvious something was happening. We ran outside for a few pictures of the first outfit and just got back inside when the rain began. Our photo shoot was ruined! The forecast confirmed the possibility of storms were going to threaten until evening. After which the light would no longer be suitable for outdoor pictures. My plans failed. 

The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament has a number of verses that pertain to plans.

The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)

Some of us are planners. My eldest, in true first born form, loves to plan, or at times feels that she is the only one that has the planning "gene". My husband on the other hand says, "Planning is a good way to make sure a particular thing doesn't happen." I'm not exactly sure at this point in my life, where I fall on this scale of extremes. I think I used to be more of a planner. I homeschooled, so planning was essential to getting my daughters through each grade. However, there were mornings where I would tell them, "Free time! Go play with your Barbies! We'll start school after lunch." 

As I've gotten older, I have a harder time wrapping my mind around planning. I mean, I still try to plan out the outfits for my blog posts and occasionally plan meals, but I don't spend vast amounts of time planning. In fact, in true Stephen King and Jerry Jenkins form, I am a panster as a writer, meaning, I write by the seat of my pants. 

The beauty of not being a planner is flexibility. The rub of not being a planner is never getting anything done! It drives my daughter crazy when there is an event coming up and no one has planned anything. My husband on the other hand would like the world to leave him alone and take their plans and put them up their proverbial bums.

The problem with planning comes when plans fall through. My plans to get a photo shoot done for my blog were not evil. They were good plans. My daughters and I both had the time to devote to the shoot, and my son-in-law, husband and grandson were fine with hanging out and having food together. The problem happens when I react to my plans failing. We tend to think that my plans and my life are the only things that matter in this world. But as the first verse above says, it is the Lord who directs our steps. We can think all we want that these are "my" plans, that this is "my" life, but only the Almighty has it all figured out.

The book of Jeremiah is all about calamity and restoration. God's chosen people were on again, off again. God spoke these words to the prophet Jeremiah,

‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.’ Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.’
— Jeremiah 18:2-6 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

There are times where plans go awry. Things don't work out as we would like, or things happen that we feel totally unprepared for or that we feel are completely unfair. How do you tell a mother who is watching her child die of cancer that life is fair or that everything will be okay. What if it isn't?

I am trying to live life with my hands loosely holding onto the plans and the people I cherish most. I realize at any time, those plans could fall apart or those people could suddenly not be there. You might ask me, "How do you do that?" My reply would be "I don't."

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

Only God knows about planning. He is the Master. He created us from dust and to dust we will return. I feel compelled to trust Him, not only with my plans, but with the people that are part of my plans. I will continue to try to live with my hands open for Him to put in or take out,  to plan His plans.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The Gift of Tears

She had been waiting for what seemed like days. The antechamber outside the throne room was filled with people. They milled about faces filled with an odd expression of joy and fear. Those who waited with her had never seen Him face to face before. The thought of standing before the King of all Kings was delightful yet terrifying.

She folded her arms across her chest. Odd that she felt strangely self conscious. Her robes shone with the golden threads woven in a fashion she had never seen before and looked just as lovely as everyone else's, but still she felt...well, she wasn't sure. Her stomach bubbled with giddy anxiety knowing that she would soon be looking into His face.

No one in the antechamber knew for sure what He looked like. Those who went in, never came out. They had heard rumors, that once they had stood before the King and presented their gifts they were led to their new homes in the Kingdom. She thought fleetingly of her new home. She hoped it had a big wrap around porch with a swing and flower gardens bursting with color.

Her mind went back to His appearance. As a child she had imagined Him looking like a wizard; long white beard, flowing colorful robes,  mimicking one of the fictional stories she had read. When she grew into a woman He became more like a handsome warrior, her lover. She blushed. How silly she was to imagine the King of Kings as her lover. Yet she knew that He was all this and so much more than she could imagine. No book, or song or poem ever written, not even the Holy Writings themselves could truly paint the Master's face.

There were rumors that had floated back to them from those who had gone before. One rumor said he was dark like ebony and his eyes shone like blackest glass. Another found Him to be light like finest porcelain with eyes that looked through you like icy swords. Still another rumor had said that He had no form, but was merely glistening brightness, much like a chandelier of a thousand diamonds. She wondered how she would see him.

Trying to ease her anxiety she listened to conversations around her. Voices spoke in muted whispers, but once in a while, someone would come close enough and she could hear them talk about their gifts. Everyone was expected to bring the King a gift, and this was, perhaps, what terrified her the most. She had no gift, save herself. Everyone who gathered in that chamber had pledged their life to Him. What they spoke of were gifts that they had accumulated during their lives: others brought into His kingdom, gifts of gold and precious jewels, even gifts of service. She had nothing.

It wasn't that she hadn't done anything during her life, but she had nothing to show for it. She had lived her life according to His laws and desires, at least most of the time. Oh, she had struggled to submit, to love, to be kind and sometimes she failed, but she tried to do what was right. Maybe that is why she felt different than the others around her. She felt something akin to panic rise in her throat. She fought it down. She knew the King to be wise, patient and fair. Surely, He would let her into the Kingdom because she followed Him, after all she knew it was His mercy that had saved her, not anything she had done.

Suddenly the doors to the throne room opened. Silence fell on the room. She waited...an inhaled breath....holding....her name announced so that all could hear. She let out the breath and lifting her gowns, slowly crossed the room. Those around her, a thousand faces smiling and blessing her, telling her to enjoy His presence. She could  barely lift her eyes noting every swirl and squiggle in the marble floor. Now she was at the stairs. One, two, three, glistening steps that lead up to the heavy golden doors. 

She was ushered in and words failed to describe the scene before her. The Holy Writings filled her mind:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
— Revelation 4 (NASB)

Those beings who brought her into the room, now led her closer to the throne. As she came nearer she could make out His form on the throne and she felt as though her body would disintegrate. Unable to continue walking she felt a weight greater than any she had ever been under. The weight of all her pride, her fear, her complaints, her selfishness, all of it, felt like a great hand pushing her down to the floor. Those who had brought her in moved away from her and she longed for their presence...for now...she...was...alone.

She remained there until a voice spoke to her like the tinkling of wind chimes in a gentle breeze. It was soft, child-like, kind. The voice seemed to come from all around and even from within her. Then it changed to the voice of a man. It spoke with authority.

"Beloved."

She thought she had heard Him wrong.

"Beloved, stand up. You are forgiven. You are washed in the blood of the lamb. You are mine."

She raised her head keeping her eyes closed, but eventually curiosity won out. She looked up.

His appearance was all at once known, yet unknown; old yet young. He appeared to her just as she had imagined Him. A stately King, an aging jovial wizard, a handsome young warrior all wrapped into one beautiful omnipotent being. What raised her to her feet was His smile.

He had descended from the throne and stood near her with His hand outstretched. She rose slowly and extended her hand timidly. He took it and the tingle that went through her body chased every remaining fear and doubt away. She knew she was home.

"You have a gift for me, Beloved." It wasn't a question.

She lowered her face. "But I have nothing my King."

He chuckled and raised her face with a finger under her chin. "Look over there."

He pointed to a place near the throne where there were hundreds of jars. Small ones, large ones, fat ones, thin ones. They looked to be made of all sorts of materials from glass to china, to brass and alabaster.

She looked back at Him. 

He jutted his chin towards the jars and told her, "Go find yours. You will know it when you see it."

She let go of His hand and crossed the throne room to where the jars stood. There were so many. How was she to know which one was hers? She was instantly drawn to the alabaster ones, especially those that ran deep with rusty red and cream. They gleamed in the light of the throne room. She found herself running her hand along the tops, enjoying the smooth sensation beneath her fingertips. Suddenly when her hand brushed a rather large jar with a simple lid her heart shuddered. She had found hers and she knew the jar's contents. 

She turned and saw that He was sitting on the shining steps that led up to the throne. For some reason this action did not seem strange at all. He was a King. He was her King. The very things that she learned about Him from the Holy Writings now all made sense.

He smiled again. "Beloved, you have been filling that jar since you were a child. Every time you scraped a knee, fell off your bike or took a fall those tears went in the jar. Bring it to me."

She picked up the beautiful jar carefully, its weight not even an issue for her new body. She drew near to where He sat. She removed her robes, for now, there was no shame. She knelt before the King and saw that He did not wear shoes. She smiled up at Him. 

When she opened the jar the memories rose around her as so many ghosts of the past and with them the heady scent of familiar perfume, the perfume of tears.

"Yours is a jar of millions of tears. I saw every hurt you ever felt. I held you every time the salt coursed down your cheeks. Tears of love, tears of pain, tears of heartache, and yes, even the tears of joy. This is your gift to me."

She lifted the jar and began to pour her life onto His feet. Her tears were and always had been her gift to Him.

(This was a fictional work - Written by Amy D. Christensen)

The Imperishable Prize

There may be no other simple six letter word that invokes so much stress and fear as change. Have you ever considered how much change you go through in a day, a week, a month or a year, let alone your life time? I was thinking about the changes that I have encountered in the last month. My daughter found a new job which changed her schedule, so that changed my grandson's schedule, which in turn, changed my schedule. Certain procedures at my place of employment changed, which changed how I did the schedule and changed the amount of time I had to spend working on the schedule. Changes are not always good. Sometimes, they are just excruciatingly frustrating. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

In the last few months my daughter and son-in-law have had both cars in the shop, my nephew who was supposed to get married, didn't, another nephew had a daughter which no one was aware of until the mother went into labor and my hairdresser decided to give up being a hairdresser for a different full time job. All of these changes in some way affected my world. Wouldn't it be nice to just go a few hours, days, weeks or even months without changes?

And let's not forget the change, that wonderful time period that all women get to look forward to. Weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal periods, oh the joy! 

Don't get me wrong, many changes are good. Giving up smoking or excessive sugar is good for your health. Ending a toxic relationship is good for your well being. Starting to exercise can, not only help your heart, but improve your mood. Reading can open your mind and imagination to new worlds and learning something new can help delay memory loss. Much of change is good and necessary. 

God does not want us to be static. Webster defines static as showing little or no change, action or progress. Our lives are supposed to change and grow as we come to know Jesus more and as we learn to trust and obey Him.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:19-27 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul was not only uniquely aware of change, he was an agent of change. Once a top shelf Pharisee, persecutor of Christ followers, he met the Lord Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. You can see his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. This intellectual Jew, raised in the strict order of the Pharisees, became a Christian. He changed. He went from killing Christians to believing in Christ and becoming one of the greatest leaders in the early Christian church. 

Paul knew that change did not end the moment he became born again. He was aware that his faith was going to be an ever evolving and changing thing. His desire became, to become all things to all men, so that Christ might be preached. He wanted to do his best and he knew that meant working at his faith and his relationship with Jesus.

I am thoroughly convicted by the above passage.

1. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run - Really? Do I remember I am even in the race, let alone that I am supposed to be running. I am not a runner, but I am smart enough to understand that being in a marathon takes hard work, discipline and practice. What do marathon runners practice? Piano? Chess? Painting? No! They practice running. They run to build their endurance and then they run to increase their speed. So the first question I need to ask myself is, 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Am I running in the race or am I sitting on the sidelines being a spectator? I believe there are times we are on the sidelines. Runners get injuries, after which they have to take time to heal. As Christ followers and as human beings we get injured. We feel pain. And often that means we have to sit out for a spell. However, the analogy goes deeper. Let's say I am one of those marathon runners. My goal may be to win or just to make it to the finish line. If I fall and get injured do I stop or do I keep going? That all depends on the extent of the injury. We live in a world of hurt and pain. Our churches are filled with hurting people. Once in a while we get hurt by one of those hurting people. Does that mean I'm out of the race? Not if God is on your side.

2. Run in such a way that you may win - Winning? Hmmm. I don't feel like I am winning when I keep getting knocked down over and over. But think about it. A soldier who goes into combat keeps getting up and firing back until he can't get up any more. He knows the prize - to win the war, to keep people safe and protect human dignity and freedom. He fights for that to his very death because he is focused on the prize. So my second question is,

Am I running to win? - I have been. I am answering that question honestly. There are times in the last few years where I feel like I have hunkered down in a trench to hide and hope I don't have to ever show my head in the race again. But, my heart says, I want to run and run to win. Jesus' Spirit in me, is not going to let me give up, not if I really believe in the prize.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things - Excuse me? What did you say? Self-control? What is that? You mean you want me to not eat that other donut? You mean you want me to take a walk when I would rather sit in front of the TV? You mean you want me to hold my tongue when that customer was extremely rude to me? You mean you want me to love, give and care even when there is nothing in return? So my third question (no, I don't know how to count) is, 

Do all things, really mean all things? - Uh, yeah! So true, but so hard to do! But what is the motivation? For the Olympians past and present it is to receive a perishable wreath, or gold medal. For a Christ follower it is to receive an imperishable wreath. To hear Jesus say, "Well, done." To me, that seems worth the effort. 

4. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - It seems to me we need to have a purpose for what we do...not without aim, not beating the air. Disciplining ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My fourth question then is,

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Pixabay

For what purpose? - Paul says it is so that he might not be disqualified. Paul didn't want to mess up, not for his own pride and reputation, but for his Lord. Our goal as a follower of Christ should be to lift Him up; to glorify Him; to turn people toward Him. 

What does that all have to do with change? Everything. Every day we experience change we can either take it in stride and glorify Jesus, or we can whine and complain. I know I am not always going to run with the aim in mind and at times I may even be beating the air, but I want to keep running. I want to remember why I run...for the imperishable prize.

Confessions of a Clutter-holic

I had one of those things happen today, that just made me crazy with frustration. I used to be a very organized person when I was younger. But let's face it, it is easy to be more organized when you are only taking care of yourself. But then, I got married, had a few kids, decided to homeschool, worked a part time job and so on. Life happened and when it did, I usually found myself stuffing things into drawers, just to have them out of the way when company came. Now I find that I am still trying to recover from all the stashing and accumulating that we did throughout the last 29 years of marriage and raising kids. 

 Pixabay (This is not my house - ha, ha)

Pixabay (This is not my house - ha, ha)

"Hi! My name is Amy and I am a recovering clutter-holic." Sure, it is a made up word, but you get the idea. Please tell me I am not alone! I have a feeling in our world of storage units and large houses with basements and attics, that we probably all have more stuff than we let on. Then throw in words like sentimental, obsessive compulsive and hoarding and we end up with hills that my husband and I affectionately call, "garbage mountains" outside of every major US city.

After looking through seven boxes, yes seven, I still could not find what I was looking for. I sat down at the kitchen table and said, "Okay, God! You know exactly where that thing is that I put away so carefully so I wouldn't lose it. Can you help me find it?" I'll let you know if He does, or if He finds my lack of self-discipline amusing. In reality, it did get me thinking about how thankful I am that God is more organized than me. I am thankful:

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That God, created our planet with just the right angle, spin and rotation around the sun that we have days, nights and seasons. (Genesis 1:14-19)

That God, created our bodies with the amazing capacity to move, breath, circulate blood, fight off disease and even heal themselves. (Genesis 1:26-27)

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That God, created us with a brain that can create music, poetry and art, the same brain that can learn to perform surgery, design buildings and make a 300 ton airplane lift into the sky.

That God, had a plan from the foundation of the world to save us from our sinful nature. (Isaiah 53)

That God, sent His only Son, Jesus, to be born, live, die on a cross and rise again after three days. (Read any gospel in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John)

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull.

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

That God, sent the comforter, in the person of the Holy Spirit, so we could become more like Christ by His power, not our own and bring glory to Him. (John 16:5-15)

And I am so glad that I do not stand condemned because I am washed in His precious blood. (Romans 8:1)

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Thank you, thank you, thank you! That even though I come up short and often make a cluttered mess of life, You still love me and you never lose sight of me. You are the good shepherd and You always know where every one of Your lambs are. 

The Trouble with Troubles

Have you ever been in the position where you keep hoping things will get better, easier, less painful, but they don't? In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, we just see more of the same barreling towards us like a five ton elephant. Nothing against the pachyderms, in fact, they are one of my favorite animals. However, I wouldn't want to be standing on an open plain in Africa, with a large tusky male charging at me! So why shouldn't I feel troubled that difficulty only stands just far enough away to get a running start? Over and over and over.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Okay, so maybe I am part of the problem. I keep getting back up! Stupid! Just lay down. Let Jumbo squash me again and again. Somehow that seems less painful than getting up only to be knocked down again. 

Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary
— Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)

When I am in that prone position, having gotten run over for what seems like the millionth time, I am in a perfect place to look up. Oh, there are times, the charge comes from behind me and I end up face down in the savannah, but eventually I roll over and I see the sky. God's word says, "those that wait for the Lord will gain new strength." If I am weary, it is most likely the case that I am not waiting for Him. I am probably frantically running, trying to fix things, trying to hide things, trying to take control of a charging elephant. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

God knew this fragile thing He made called humanity would get weary. We would get fatigued, tired, worn out, done in, call it what you want, but He knew. He said, "They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary." That's why I keep getting back up. I'm supposed to keep moving. I'm supposed to run. I'm supposed to walk and when I can no longer walk I am supposed to mount up on wings.....His wings. The wings of the almighty Jehovah Eagle!

Resting in the Lord is not dependent on your external circumstances at all, but on your relationship with God Himself.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - July 4th
 StockSnap

StockSnap

Life is not going to stop being difficult. That elephant is not going to stop charging, but God! God can give us rest. He can give us peace. He can! He will, but I have to want it. I have to want Him. Sure I can tackle the elephant on my own, but I guarantee, that big old difficulty is going to come out in better shape than I do. Unless....Him.

Pies, Processing and Proclamation

With all of the terrible things happening in our country, around the world, even in our own families, it is difficult to not want to run away and hide. A Gilligan's Island type shack on a sunny tropical beach sounds pretty good about now. No radio, no television, no cell phones and no internet. I want to be blissfully ignorant. Who wouldn't? But that is not reality. Reality is harsh and troubling. Reality screams of violence and injustice. Sometimes, reality just plain acts like a vacuum! It really sucks!

 Photo credit Lisa Jessamy on StockSnap.

Photo credit Lisa Jessamy on StockSnap.

We all have to process life's difficulties and we all have different ways of processing. Some people go to the gym, while others sleep. You might lose yourself in a book, or curl up with a movie. Still, others turn to drugs, alcohol or food. We all have to process. You can't get away from it. Oh, you can ignore it for a while, but eventually it will all come crashing in on you, forcing you to process.

Today, I was very tired. My brain felt fuzzy. I really didn't want to do anything. Thoughts of the families of victims of violence flitted through my mind. I also dwelt on a friend who had a heart attack. There were others that my heart grieved for; my nephew who was supposed to marry next weekend, but whose fiancee called off the wedding, my daughter and her five year old son, who is struggling to find full time work, my mother who is almost 90 and still living on her own. Processing, processing.

One way of processing is to worry. Worry basically plays that same scenario through your mind, over and over and over. That doesn't get you very far. Another way of processing is to blame. It has to be everyone else's fault. Good luck with that. Today, I chose to process, by making a pie.

 Photo credit Christy Lane Campbell on StockSnap.

Photo credit Christy Lane Campbell on StockSnap.

As I wearily got out the ingredients and started mixing them together, I began to process. Flour, salt, shortening, water, they are all simple ingredients. It felt almost therapeutic to mix the dough, pat it and roll it out on the table. It reminded me of what a lovely, simple task it was, but how very necessary to making a good crust. It occurred to me that God uses simple ingredients to bring about change in our lives and in our world. Difficulty is an ingredient. Heartbreak is an ingredient. So is love, forgiveness and repentance. If I want to make a good pie, I have to mix the ingredients together. God is mixing. I am processing. Sometimes, I process by writing. 

Part of processing is asking questions: Why is this happening? Why me? Why so much hate and violence? Why so much pain and heartache? It's okay to ask questions. You can even shout them at God in anger if you want. He loves you and He knows you are hurting. But after you've asked the questions, don't forget to listen for the answers. They may not look exactly like the answers you wanted, but go back to the basics. Flour - He is the bread of life. Salt - He is the salt of the earth. Shortening - like a fattened calf, He was our sacrifice. Water - He is the living water. 

 Photo credit  Markus Spiske  on StockSnap

Photo credit Markus Spiske on StockSnap

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
— Hebrews 13:8 (NASB)

Processing should always lead back to Jesus. Only Jesus can make this chaotic thing called life turn into a good pie. If we allow our thoughts to go the road of worry, hate, bitterness and anger, no problems will ever be solved. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. That's what I choose to think on.

crosses
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Philippians 4:8

Life Under Construction

Summer in the Midwest can bring many things including heat, drought, brown grass and extreme quick weather changes. Often the weather men will predict hot sunny days and then a cool front will pass through with gusty winds and driving rain. Other times they predict rain and we get days and days of sun blistering the grass and causing plants to wilt. But there is one thing we can always depend on....orange barrels!

We have come to call this time of year, not summer, but orange barrel season. Here in Toledo, we have numerous, large, road construction projects going on at the same time. My husband and I have lamented over whose idea it is to do construction on all the north-south roads at the same time, or the east-west roads, or it seems, all the roads going anywhere. Currently there is a massive construction project going on just around the corner from where we live. Traffic is almost always backed up and no matter where we go, there are pesky orange barrels.

Sometimes it seems that our lives are as much like a construction zone, filled with annoying barrels, as those streets we drive on. When I look at the construction going on, especially when they are reconfiguring major on/off ramps and moving bridges, I am amazed that the engineers have a plan. For such a long time it looks like a big mess; moving dirt here, tearing up large pieces of concrete there, cranes, bulldozers, dump trucks, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. Eventually it begins to looks like it makes sense. A pile of dirt turns into the foundation for the future ramp. Those large chunks of concrete disappear and are replaced with steel beams for a new bridge. After time, like a butterfly making it's way out of a cocoon, the new ramps are finished and paved with smooth black pavement and the bridge is securely in place able to hold it's own weight and that of a million moving cars.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I wonder just what the engineer of this life is all about. Life looks more like the chaos of broken pavement and piles of dirt than it does smooth, newly finished pavement. God doesn't have to ask me what my opinion is. He is the master engineer, after all. However, there are times, when I look at the brokenness of the world we live in, even the brokenness of my own life and I wonder, what is He doing? Then I start giving me opinion:

"Wouldn't that pile of dirt look better over there?"

"Shouldn't you use that broken concrete as part of the foundation for the bridge? We are into recycling, you know!"

"Don't you think you could get some quieter machinery to do the work?"

As if I could walk into the engineers meeting for the highway department and begin to tell them how to improve their roads and highways. I do not have an engineering degree and know absolutely nothing about building bridges, unless they are made of blocks or Legos. Why then, do I think I know how to run my life? I did not create life. God did. I did not form a planet out of nothing or breath life into dust. Only an almighty God can do that. So simply put, He knows better than I how to construct a life. Sometimes He may dig and tear. Sometimes He may grind and pound, but He knows what He is doing.

orange barrel
For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

He has it all figured out. Just like I trust those engineers to build a bridge that will not collapse the first time I drive over it, I also must trust God that He is doing what is best in my life and in the lives of those I love. I am not sure why this is so hard, but think about it. God is the one who gave those engineers the ability to design plans to build roads and overpasses and bridges. So if the same God who made men with minds that can create amazing things has a plan for my life, shouldn't I believe Him? Shouldn't I trust Him?

Whatever mess you might find yourself in, take a deep breath. He's got this and He's got you! He desires to give you a future and a hope. There will always be orange barrels, but I feel better knowing that He's got my life in His hands.

Vapor

Here I am. Another week, come and gone. Another month come and gone. Truly there is something appropriate in these words penned by James in the New Testament:

Yet 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.
— James 4:14 (NASB)

Sometimes, I feel just like that, a vapor...a puff of water turning into air and then gone. It is in thoughts like that I begin to understand the vastness of the being I have come to know as God. In all honesty it can be intimidating. Knowing that I am nothing more than a vapor, that one minute has a purpose and the next vanishes, is cause enough to make me tremble. 

 Photo Credit  Ravi Pinisetti  on StockSnap

Photo Credit Ravi Pinisetti on StockSnap

Let's face it, we all want to have a purpose. Most of us would like to be remembered as an individual who made a difference, even if it was only in the lives of our families. We want to feel as though our life and all the struggle that came with it counted, for something. But James didn't see it that way. He said, we are just a vapor. How does that make you feel? Are you all encouraged now?

Of course, I am not going to leave us there. That would be very depressing and the point of my blog is to encourage, not make you want to run and jump off a cliff. James had a point for what he said. He was addressing people who were all about their own business. They made plans, but never thought to consult with God about what it was they were planning. The fact of the matter is, we do not know what tomorrow brings. Tomorrow may bring illness or injury. Tomorrow may bring a market crash or a job loss. Tomorrow may bring a miscarriage or a death of a spouse. We do not control tomorrow. We only have control over ourselves.

I have learned to live in the moment. I don't claim that I never think ahead, or that I am free of worry for the future, but hey, I am a vapor, why not just enjoy this moment that I have right here, right now. That doesn't mean I shouldn't plan, but I do need to let God be in the loop. That doesn't mean I just let go and eat everything I want or do things that would hurt my future. But it does mean learning to see God in the little things....even in the vapors that appear for a moment and then vanish.

 Photo Credit  Lucy Chian  on StockSnap

Photo Credit Lucy Chian on StockSnap

Where did you see God today? I saw Him bring in the storm clouds that dumped rain. I saw Him chase the clouds away with  the wind to expose the sun. I saw Him provide in my flower garden a place for a toad to spend the afternoon. I felt His breath caress my face as I sat outside. I heard the birds sing songs to Him, praising Him for His provision and care. I heard a wise man telling me to, "Be still and know He is God."

Am I a vapor? Oh yes, but God knows this bundle of cells and DNA and He loves me. Do I know what tomorrow holds? No, but it is enough to know that He is.

Lessons in the Dark

I find inspiration for my writing in the oddest places, but then I guess that is what makes writing for me so much fun. I can look at a situation and think, "Oh cool! I could write about this or that!" I suppose it is something akin to a photographer or an artist finding inspiration in something as grand as a sunset or as simple as a bowl of fruit. The grand things of life are full of titillating word choices and descriptive metaphors, but how do I take the simple things and find beauty in them? It really comes down to perspective. 

 Photo Credit  Valerie Boltneva  on StockSnap

Photo Credit Valerie Boltneva on StockSnap

The apostle Paul knew about perspective. He went from being a vehement hater of Christians to being the foremost authority on Jesus Christ. Paul went from the darkness of not knowing Christ to the light of knowing and being fully known and loved by that same One he had early on, persecuted.

When we were packing up our campsite Friday morning we noticed a particularly strange smell emanating from beneath our tent. We noticed it as we took out the tent poles and stakes and began rolling up the tent. My husband is a pro at problem solving, he teaches logic after all! He stuck his nose right next to the tent floor as he was rolling it up. Then he brought it over to me and said, "Smell!" Hesitantly, I stuck my nose to the floor of the tent. It didn't smell at all. 

We had placed a large piece of black plastic as a ground cloth beneath the tent to help preserve the floor and keep moisture, sand and gravel from making our clean up more laborious. When we pulled the plastic back to start cleaning it off we were disgusted by the smell and the number of species of creepy crawlies that had taken up residence beneath our canvas condo! Eeeeewwwwww!

My spouse quickly decided we really did not need to keep that black plastic, rolled it up and promptly placed it in the garbage. While he walked the short distance to the camp garbage cans I looked at the space our tent had previously occupied. It was wet with condensation from camping in the hot Florida sun. The bugs were quickly finding other dark places to hide or being eaten by some of the many anole lizards that resided in the camp's palm, sand and myrtle oak trees. I was shocked to find in the middle of all this putrefaction a tiny frog. As an average citizen, who gets a good percent of my knowledge off the internet, it appeared to be a Squirrel Tree frog. When I noticed him, he was a light tan color, blending in perfectly with the sand and gravel under our tent.

I'm sure this little guy didn't comprehend the danger he was in when he wiggled his way under our tent. We have no idea how long he had been there, but it was obvious he had gone under there to feast! It was a bug buffet and he was getting in for free. I realized as I looked at this odd little creature that my husband or I could have stepped on him and never even known!

That tiny little frog, who simply makes our lives better by eating lots of bugs taught me some very important lessons. First of all, there is danger in living at the beck and call of our appetites. The frog is merely doing what its God given tendencies tell it to do, in other words finding creepy breakfast food in dark, moist places. But how often do I give in to my appetites? In all honesty, daily. I struggle with eating well, exercising, not spending too much and so on. Many people struggle with "bugs" that are much bigger and more addicting that my own, and their living at least part of their life in the moist darkness of putrefaction. The greater our lives are lived in darkness the less we will know and identify with the light.

 Photo Credit  Matthew Wiebe  on StockSnap

Photo Credit Matthew Wiebe on StockSnap

That brings me to another important lesson learned from the frog: just because it is available, doesn't mean it is necessarily what is best for you. There are all sorts of delicacies available to wet our appetites. Food, entertainments, sex are all things that can be good when used in the appropriate ways under the appropriate circumstances, but living under the tent floor can make a person forget what is good.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’
— John 8:12 (NASB)

Our little frog friend had a somewhat baffled look on his face when we pulled off that black plastic and exposed him to the light. I've seen people look that way, when they start hearing the words of Jesus from the Bible. The frog, of course went about his way, slowly crawling across the open space and hopefully back to a place of safety. But people don't have to listen. They don't have to care whether they are under the tent floor, dangerously close to getting squashed. They can just keep on feeding their appetites oblivious to the dangers looming over them.

Get out of the darkness and back into the light. As His creation that is exactly where we belong!