Follow the Leader

I discovered today that perhaps I have become dependent, or at least lazy.  Don’t you love such realizations?

Because of my husband’s work, he constantly tracks the weather.  And because He always knows the forecast, I rarely check the weather sources myself – I depend on his information.  As I began to plan a trip to the beach for the coming weekend, I was surprised to learn that a hurricane was headed for the coast.  My husband hadn’t mentioned the potential storm, even though he’d indicated that his schedule was clear and he was in favor of the trip. Once alerted to the potential danger, I began watching the predictions and travel patterns of the hurricane. 

How often in life do we rely on others for information instead of seeking the source for ourselves?  It’s a dangerous place to be especially in our relationship with God.  For years, I attended church, listened to the preacher, heard people’s testimonies, and attended Sunday School, but I wasn’t studying the Bible myself or engaging in a personal relationship with God. I trusted that others were presenting the truth, but the reality was my knowledge and understanding of the Bible was limited. I simply knew a few verses and stories here and there. 

We take huge risks when we depend on our favorite Bible teachers, leaders and even pastors for all of our spiritual nourishment and direction.  We risk being stagnant. We risk being led astray. We risk always wanting to be fed instead of learning to feed ourselves. We risk becoming clones.  And worst of all, we risk elevating those others to a place above God.  Spiritual leaders are essential in our journey, but God must be the one we follow and our ultimate source of truth. Let’s not take so many risks, and instead study the Bible with eagerness and commitment.  Let’s choose God as our utmost leader as we seek Him and His truth in all things.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  Psalm 86:11

Missing Him

I can almost hear them talking. 

“Those women are crazy. They claim to have seen angels who told them he is alive.”

“And besides,” the other replies, “why would God reveal something to them?  Especially that one woman — remember who she really is?  And really?  Did they see an angel?”   

“He wouldn’t possibly have shared something with those women instead of us. I’m not sure that we should really believe them.”

As they walked along the road that day on their way to Emmaus, they were so caught up in talking about everything that had happened that they didn’t even recognize Jesus when He joined them. They were too busy speculating, pointing fingers, and sharing thoughts of disbelief that they didn’t even realize they were in the presence of Jesus. 

How you ever found yourself in this place – not able to perceive the presence of the Lord because you were too focused on the circumstances around you? Unfortunately, we’ve all been there. When something happens that we don’t understand or we disagree with our tendency is to start venting, processing, and maybe even trying to figure out how we can get our way. We want answers.  We want to blame someone.  We want to fix things our way.  All the while, we miss Jesus.  He’s with us each step of the way, but we have to stop long enough to listen and invite Him to show us His way… to show us Himself.  When we look to Him, our problems don’t disappear but we can put them in perspective and allow Him to do His great work.  He is the answer.  Let’s not miss Him!

They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24: 14-16

God’s Glasses

Ouch!  I was reprimanded by the pastor as he was preaching in front of the entire congregation.  I wanted to crawl under the pew, but being very pregnant at the time I knew I wouldn’t fit.  His comment was seemingly appropriate.  He requested that people not bring their coffee mugs into the worship service and sip their morning cup of Joe while he preached.  He was sure to make eye contact with me as I sat there with my covered mug.  I wanted to stand and say, but you don’t understand… it’s not what you think!  You see, I was roughly 34 weeks pregnant and having difficulty maintaining adequate hydration.  Because it was causing contractions, the doctor had instructed me to drink, drink, drink as much water as possible.  And so, I carried my cup of water with me wherever I went… in a travel coffee mug.   I was not trying to be disrespectful.  I was trying to take care of my baby.  Yet, the image I portrayed was far from the actual condition of my heart.

 Since that time, I’ve often thought about my perceptions of things.  When I see something, hear something or encounter something, I don’t really have the full picture.  Only God does.  We have lots of lenses through which we view life and our human lens are often clouded by past experiences, emotions, and attitudes.  We could be completely wrong about a situation or another person because we don’t have God’s full view.  We need to seek God’s perspective of things before we make judgments on others and be open to allowing God to change our thoughts.   I challenge you to turn to Him during times of confusion and uncertainty instead of relying on your senses.  He’ll bless you with an abundance of peace as you allow Him to share His wisdom and outlook on the matter.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Revealed… at just the right time

Yesterday, four years after Ashlynn’s birth and death, I learned that someone was praying for me the night she died.  The woman didn’t know me at the time. She was praying for me and my daughter because she happened to be awaiting the birth of her granddaughter while a group of my friends, one whom she knew from years earlier, were in the same waiting room and shared my situation with her. 

Not only did she not know me then, but she also couldn’t have imagined that her own son would die just five months later and that I would chase her down in a parking lot to pray over her after a support meeting where we’d just met.  Racing across the parking lot to pray with a stranger was completely out of character for me, but I felt a passion that night to lift her in prayer.  We’ve had a special connection ever since that night in the parking lot, yet never knew that she had prayed for me months earlier.   Now, at the perfect time, she discovered it was me she prayed for in the hospital that night as she was waiting for her granddaughter’s arrival.

God revealed the details to me in His perfect timing.  It amazes me how He works.  God’s ways seem mysterious, yet He’s real.  He’s the ruler over all, yet attentive to each one of His children.  He has all understanding, yet gives us glimpses of His wisdom at just the right time.  He has a plan unknown to us, yet uses us to accomplish His good plans. I delight in the knowing that He has knowledge, purpose, and power over all things and it excites me when He shows His hand in my circumstances.

At a time when my church family is hurting, confused and looking for answers, God again revealed to me how He works.  It may not be visible to us, but He’s always at work and we’re assured that good will come from all things for those who love Him and are called to His purposes.  Four years later, I have a snapshot of how He wove two lives together in prayer, unbeknownst to either of us.  Perhaps one day, we’ll have a better understanding of the difficult situations in our lives.  In the meantime, let’s trust that He’s got it all under control!

 Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

The Mad Dash

There she goes again.  I can hear my daughter running from the den, through the kitchen and into the dining room.  It’s an odd habit, but she does it whenever she’s watching TV.  She despises conflict – whether it’s a cartoon, a movie, or a kid’s TV program – she gets anxious whenever drama and tension enter the picture.  Her response is to run (often accompanied by a little squeal).  Most often she just runs to the other room until she thinks the scene is over; however, I have had to chase her through a dark movie theater before.

Perhaps she inherited her aversion to conflict from me.  I try to avoid it at all costs.  Real life conflict makes me nauseous, restless, and even teary at times.  But what are we supposed to do when God calls us to make a decision we know will be unpopular and result in some form of human disapproval?  Do we cower?  Do we ignore His leading? Do we run?  Or do we respond in obedience and trust that He knows better than we do?

God sometimes calls us to do things we don’t want to do.  But, we will be blessed for obedience and our faith will grow as we trust in Him.  Our challenge is to humble ourselves, listen for God’s voice and embrace His calling.  My prayer is to one day hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. 1 Peter 3:14-15a

Wrestling with God

It was gym class.  I was twelve years old.  And somehow I found myself in a wrestling match with someone twice my size. (This is a true story!) As my opponent lifted me in the air about chest high,  I clinched her with all my might (read: held on for dear life) and offered an emphatic and unequivocal surrender. Fortunately, the gym teacher intervened just before I was body slammed into the mat. (This same friend broke my collar bone about a year later, but I’ll save that story for another time.)

I quickly decided that wrestling was not my thing.  However, I recently found myself in a wrestling match with God.  God was calling me to do something that made no sense to me and would cause emotional pain to both myself and the other person. Surely there had to be another way. What good could possibly come from the scenario?  I cried, I begged, I lost sleep, yet God’s intentions were clear.  And so, I surrendered to Him.  I probably won’t know the outcome for a long time, but I trust that God has a plan and that His plans are good.

Was it easy?  No!  Was it the right thing to do?  I believe with all my heart that I was obedient to Him and I trust that He will honor and bless my obedience.  In the meantime, I trust Him to make something beautiful out of what I’m unable to see.  I pray that you too, will seek God’s will in all things and answer His calling even when you may not understand. Trust that He sees the big picture and know that He will honor your faithfulness.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Moments in the Middle

“I like middles.”  I can’t remember the exact context of my friend’s statement but I started thinking about middles… like the middle of the night, the middle of a good book, or the middle of an Oreo cookie.  I can think of lots of middles that I long for –being nestled in the middle of my kids as they curl up with me in bed; that creamy filling in the center of a chocolate éclair; and being wrapped in the  middle of a blanket during a nap on a cold rainy day.   

But we often overlook the middle. Most of life is spent celebrating beginnings and endings.  We celebrate the birth of a child.  We celebrate retirements.  We even celebrate the end of a hard week at work.  But have you ever heard of celebrating being in the middle of something?  We tend to equate being in the middle with being stuck… and who wants to celebrate that! 

However, the reality is that much of life is lived in the middle and if we only celebrate beginnings and endings, we’re missing out on a huge potential to enjoy life everyday.  If we’re so busy looking ahead to the end result that we miss the journey of getting there, we’re skipping out on real living.  Life is not about where we’re going.  It’s about the everyday experiences along the way.  I challenge to find a way to celebrate TODAY – embrace this very moment – in the middle of where ever you may be.

Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. Psalm 113:2

Press One for More Options

Dreams of a peaceful, quiet, relaxing vacation were quickly shattered by the reality of a sick child.  Fortunately, it wasn’t debilitating or contagious but it did require an encounter with the health care system that was enough to stretch the most patient person’s nerves.  Because we’re vacationing out-of-state, the process was a little more cumbersome than usual.  It began with a call to the health insurance company’s nursing staff who decided that my daughter indeed needed to be seen by a health care provider.   So, we were off to the nearest urgent care center.  They graciously saw her, treated her for swimmer’s ear, and collected our $175.00 payment because they are not part of my insurance company’s network.  We then purchased the liquid gold ear drops for a mere $120.00, but were thankful that we were on the quick road to recovery.  But then, I had to make the dreaded call back to the insurance company to provide the details of the visit as instructed by the nurse I’d spoken to earlier.  Simple enough… right?  After 40 minutes I’m sweating and mildly irritated… OK, maybe I’m an inch from infuriated.  I’d been redirected, reconnected, disconnected, on hold, and have heard and pressed a bazillion options on the prerecorded menu. I’ve even dialed a wrong number TWICE and was greeted by the chipper lady at the Lucky Lands Campgrounds… how lucky!  I’ll spare you the rehash of all forty minutes of frustration. Trust me when I say it was painful. (I even asked my husband to send up some quick and desperate intercessory prayers, to which he happily obliged!)

Finally finished with the phone calls, at least for now, I sighed in relief.  I then thanked God that He doesn’t make us go to such lengths and rituals to reach Him.  We don’t have to get preauthorization to seek Him.  We don’t get put on hold when we call out to Him.  We don’t get transferred or worse yet, disconnected.  We have a direct line to God whenever we need Him… and He even encourages us to come to Him.  He wants our call! Because of His great love for us, He sacrificed His son Jesus so we could be restored and connected to Him at all times.  He is “hassle free” at its finest.  No gimmicks, tricks, or special coupon codes needed.  He is the real deal.  I encourage you to get comfy in a quiet place, grab a Bible and bask in His presence.  You won’t be disappointed.  You’ll come to know Him as Father and Friend and realize you already have a direct line – no need to “press one for more options”. 

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Embrace the Fat

Her request was innocent.  “Mom, Will you come snuggle with me?” She was having a hard time settling down for sleep.  So, I unsuspectingly joined her in her bed.  We chatted, we read, we drew pictures on each other’s backs. By now, I was settled and ready for sleep.  However, she was still restless so she decided she’d rub my back.  Starting at my shoulders, she quickly worked her way down my back until I felt her fingers dancing around my waistline.  They poked and lingered around that soft and squishy part that some would call a spare tire – you know that part that’s responsible for the infamous muffin top. I held my breath and then it came. “Mom, have you been eating too much candy?”  A million thoughts ran through my head as I tried to decide how to respond… most prominent was the one that bellowed, “You just wait until you’ve had a bunch of kids and see if your body is ever the same again.” Instead, I chuckled and quietly replied, “No, I don’t think so.”  Silence… but only for a moment.  Then she brilliantly asked, “Is it necessary to have fat in our lives?” Because she’s only six years old, I shared the condensed version of my expertise as a dietitian.  Yes, fat is absolutely necessary in our lives.  It provides energy for our bodies. It provides insulation and cushioning.  It’s involved in hormone regulation and storage of fat soluble vitamins.  Fat truly plays a vital role in our physical lives. 

But, what about the other “fat” in our lives—you know, those times and activities in our lives when we feel like we’re not actually accomplishing something.  Those times when we’re playing or resting or just having fun.  We sometimes view fun and rest as luxuries in our lives that we can’t afford.  However, they too are a necessary part of life.  Or at least the necessary part of a balanced life.  God created us to work and be productive, be He also wants us to enjoy life.  He wants us to have fellowship with others and Him.  He wants us to rest so our bodies and minds will function at their full potential. He wants us filled with His joy so we can be a light to others.  So I encourage you to embrace the “fat” in your life.  Reenergize, renew, and refresh your soul with a little fun.  He invites you to do so.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Tortured Bananas

You may be questioning my sanity based on the title of today’s post.  However, stay with me and I’m hopeful that you’ll at least find a little chuckle erupting. 

My husband stumbled upon a dessert that our family loves and it all began from his desire for tools.  While watching a food show one day, he saw the host wielding a blow torch for the purpose of caramelizing a dessert.  Of course, from his vantage point, he saw a very cool toy and just needed an excuse to buy one.  So, in the name of sacrifice and dedication to my love of sweets, he set out to the nearest home improvement store to acquire a blow torch suitable to his needs.  Now, in my mind, anything that is purchased in the home improvement store is not fit for playing in the kitchen, but he saw things quite differently. 

Now that he was armed, he needed something to caramelize (read: torch).  He decided to test his abilities on some unsuspecting bananas.  He sprinkled a little sugar on them, lit his torch (as we all took cover) and he was on his way to discovering one of our family’s favorite desserts.  We’ve never named his coveted recipe, until recently.  My daughter who has a refreshing way with words, asked him to make her some “tortured bananas” – named in honor of the now infamous blow torch.  My husband and I had to restrain audible belly laughs realizing that she really meant to say “torched bananas”, which of course was really just as funny.  Nonetheless, the name has stuck and we love to eat tortured bananas.            

So what does this have to do with life?  Well, I thought of the process of torturing those bananas that transformed them into a delicious treat.  And, although I don’t think God tortures us, I do think that He sometimes allows tests in our life that feel like torture.  However, we can rest assured that He’s got His eye on us and won’t let us scorch under the intense heat.  Just as my husband has to watch carefully that the bananas don’t burn, so too God has His protecting hand over us.  And, if we allow His work in our life, we too can be transformed and exude delicious character and beauty in our life.  I challenge you to embrace your trials, look for God’s guiding hand and be transformed in His image.  Oh what a delight you’ll be to Him and those around you!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4