Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trying to Catch Fish at Night

I just finished reading John chapter 21 and was struck by the disciples' fishing adventure. It would take awhile to type it all here, so I've decided to place a link instead. Take a few minutes and read the chapter, in particular verses 1-11.

John 21

Here's a quick wrap up and the lesson I took away from this story. Simon Peter decides he wants to go fishing, at night. Honestly, I don't know much about fishing, but at night strikes me as a odd time to fish. I believe most people go early morning, when "the fish are biting". He says that he's going fishing and the others with him decide to go too. So the seven of them get in to boat and set out to fish. Presumably they would be fishing for quite awhile, but they caught nothing. They head back to shore, when the morning had come.

Standing on the shore is Jesus. He's just waiting for them. He asks if they have any food and to their answer of "no", He tells them to cast their net to the right of the boat. They catch so much fish that they can't pull the net into the boat, instead they have to pull it onto shore. Once on shore, Peter, who jumped out of the boat early, drags this fish net up on shore. Interestingly, the seven of them couldn't lift the net into the boat, but just Peter pulled it on shore. Then the question and answer session between Jesus and Peter begins.

Okay, now that the wrap up is done, here's my take away. In our own timing and strength we set out to do something. We strive and cast out our "nets" and the results usually end up with nothing, or worse. Jesus shows up in the right time, and gives us instructions, when we follow them, the results are overflowing, they are abundant. We can't even lift them up and place them into our "boat", but God gives us the strength to pull them to where they should be.

Too many times I have felt like I was floundering (no pun intended) in the dark. I get anxious and restless, so I do something, anything to try to make something happen. As I struggle to try and make something happen, I don't feel less anxious, but more and I certainly don't find rest. The results are usually nothing, but sometimes the results are something negative and painful. I'm finally exhausted from all my struggling to make it happen and give up. Once I give up, morning breaks and Jesus is there. Notice in the story from John 21, He doesn't ask them why they went out fishing at night. He doesn't scold them for trying to do everything in their own strength. He asked if they have any food, which of course He knows they didn't, and then tells them to cast the net in a particular direction.

Now, God is God, and could have placed the net-full of fish anywhere on that sea, but He waited until they were in a particular place in their journey. Once they were in the right place, He told them to cast their net. When I am in the right place, at the right time, God gives me the instructions that I need to follow. When I do things His way, the results are so heavy, too heavy to try and bring into my boat of striving, but rather to bring them to the the shore. I have to be like Peter and get out of my boat to drag them forward. I imagine Peter pulled that net of fish to Jesus' feet, right where we should be bringing our abundant haul.

In short, if I try to do something in my timing and strength I won't get the results that I should. If I follow His instructions at the right time and with the strength that He provides, I will have that abundant life He promises.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Most mornings I wake up and try to decide which day it is. This morning I woke up with three names on my mind, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Now it was only 4:26 and I didn't have to work today, so I tried to go back to sleep. But these three names kept rolling through my head. I promised God that I would go and read about them when I woke up. An hour later, and no real sleep, I climbed out of bed.

Now, like many Christians I heard the story of these three men when I was a child. I know the basics of the story, I've seen the cartoon version of the story, so I know what happened. I settled down on my couch and actually thought, "what more can I learn from them?" I read and reread parts of it trying to gauge what God wanted me to get out of it.

If you don't know the story or haven't read it in awhile, like I hadn't, then go to this link and read it. I'll wait for you.

Honestly, I was stumped. I didn't know why God placed them in my thoughts this morning. I didn't notice anything new about the story. No nugget of wisdom jumped out of the words at me. So I decided to just ponder the story and hope God revealed the message eventually.

As the day waned on a small thought started to grow in my mind. I'm not sure God had the three young men on my mind, as much as He had a growing concern of mine in mind. You see, when I was young I came to Christ and went to a pretty different church that was located at a Bible School. I had gone to church before then, but it was the place to go on Sunday. This place was different, at times very weird, but truly wonderful. I learned to love God and seek Him there. I came to think that all Christians were like that. We didn't have just one pastor, often the person who spoke from Sunday to Sunday was different. Each person had his or her own style and some got to the point much faster than others. Sometimes services were hours long and other times much shorter. But everyone seemed to be grabbing hold of God and what He was speaking. I heard prophesies and people speak in tongues. I saw people dance, and clap, and sing with total abandon. I heard God speak to me, and I knew it was Him.

Fast forward many years and many states away and I have come to realize that most Christians aren't anything like the ones I experienced there. Most Christians do not live their lives in abandon as those people did. Most Christians don't talk about God or hearing from Him like we did. I started to wonder who was the weird ones, the ones I grew up with and was a part of or everyone else. More and more I worry for those who call themselves Christians, including myself! How much time do I spend, now, listening to God, spending time with Him? Honestly, not nearly as much as I used to.

As I send less time with Him, the more time I spend doing and thinking things that I shouldn't. I long for fulfillment and seek it in ways that don't include God. Not that all those ways are evil or anything, but they don't bring me the deep heart fulfillment that only He can bring. I watch too much TV. I don't read my Bible enough. I allow myself to be involved in gossip and unwholesome talk. I judge people I don't know and only based a small glimpse of who they are. I worry. I fret. I feel discontent. I follow along with what others think or do.

By now you are wondering about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and if I have completely lost the point of this post. Be assured, I haven't. King Nebuchadnezzar made this golden image and told everyone that they must worship it. Music would play and people of every language and nation would fall down and worship this thing. Now it is conceivable that most people weren't really worshiping it, but he had threatened death to anyone who didn't, so they did. They went along with it, even the very people He had set apart, the Jews. Everyone followed the crowd because they either believed in worshiping this thing, didn't really care one way or the other but everyone was doing it, or they did it out of fear of being told on and put to death. But not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

They refused to bow down, to worship, to follow the crowd. They were men of high position in the governing of Babylon. In the previous chapter they are mentioned as being appointed over the affairs of Babylon. They were important and noticeable when they refused to bow. So of course, people told on them. They were brought before Nebuchadnezzar, and even being told that they would be thrown into a raging furnace they refused to bow. He got so angry that he demanded the furnace be turned up so hot that the soldiers who threw them in were burned up. As you know from reading the story, they were joined by a fourth man in the furnace and came out without being singed or even smelling like smoke. Nebuchadnezzar repented, declared that no one could speak against God, and promoted them.

Back to today, I have worried about how many Christians follow after the words of man or chase after the idols of today. I worry about how I have done this as well. Thankfully He has convicted me and continues to do so. Why does it seem like so many others just keep going ahead and following? Why was it only these three men that we know of defying the king and culture of their time? Why is it like that now? Why do so many of us listen to and follow after the words of "great" men and women? Some of these "great" people having nothing to do with Christ, yet many who say they do! We accept so much that is called sin, and even abominations in the Bible and say that times have changed or God is all about love? Of course He is! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 He loves us but He tells us to turn away from our sin, not keep doing it and say it's okay because He is love. What do we watch on TV or at the movies? Personally, I have been convicted so many times by what I've seen. How about the way we speak? The word we choose to use or the names we call people. The other day I called someone a name, behind their back, and I felt the evilness of it. My insides cringed. Why do I not stand up like these three men more? Why do I follow the crowd?

I don't know the answers for why others do, and the reasons I fall down to the idols of this world vary from I wanted to to I was afraid of what others would say. I want to verse to be true that He will be with me in the fire, but I wish I would stop dragging Him in with me. I create those fires by doing things, saying things, and thinking things that I shouldn't. I would much rather He go into the fiery furnace with me because I stood up and looked to Him instead. I want that for me, and I want that for more Christians. I want us to stop listening to "great" men and women and turn to His Word, not a paraphrase of it or a distortion of it, but the Truth of it. I want us to guard our eyes, ears, and mouths. I want us to speak what He gives us to say. I want to see us stand up, come threw the furnace un-singed and smelling good, and be promoted in His kingdom. I want to be more like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and I want other Christians to rise up too.




Friday, April 14, 2017

Waited Two Days!

Most people know the shortest verse in the Bible. "Jesus wept." John 11:35. Many of those people know it's in reference to the death and resurrection of Lazarus. They know, and some giggle, when Martha, Lazarus' sister, tells Jesus that his four day old corpse stinks. They know that Jesus arrived too late to heal Lazarus before he died. Wait, what? Jesus arrived too late! Or did He?

There are these incredible nuggets of Truth found in the beginning of the chapter. I'll let it speak for itself.

"Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."

When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.  Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." John 4:1-7

Okay, you shouldn't have missed it, especially since I bolded it, but go back and look at each word carefully. It starts with "so" which means you need to look at the sentence before it. Jesus loved them, so when he heard Lazarus was sick he waited. HE WAITED! Aren't you thinking He should have hurried up and headed for Bethany when He heard the news? Especially since He loved them! He could have gotten there in time! In time for what? To do another miracle of healing the sick.

Now, I'm not making light of His healings. They were miracles, and they brought many people to believe in Him. But at this point, near the end of His time on Earth, a simple (for Jesus) healing wasn't going to cut it. Lazarus needed to die. He needed to be dead, and buried, and stinking. Jesus needed to stay away until then, because He loved them. Most of the other people He healed He didn't know. Well, He knew them because He's God, but He didn't have an earthly relationship with them, but He did with Lazarus and his sisters. His healing of the others brought Him believers, and skeptics, and He could heal them and go on with His day. Why was this time different?

In verse 4, He basically is saying this sickness isn't about death, but about glory for God. Everyone, except for Jesus, is focused on the sickness and the resulting death from the sickness. Jesus knows what will happen after the death and that is where His focus is. He knows that Lazarus will come out of the tomb and many more will come to believe in Him, and some will go an tell the religious leaders what He has done. He knows that will further motivate them to seek to put Him to death, which will ultimately lead to His death and resurrection. This story isn't just about Lazarus and his sisters after all!

The story doesn't stop there. It continues today. He still waits, sometimes two days, sometimes two months, sometimes two years, and sometimes much loner than that. He knows all about the sickness, trauma, struggles, finances, and dangers in our lives. He loves us, just like He loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, so He waits. He waits until what seems like death, and sometimes until it really stinks, and then He comes. Why? Because, He sees beyond what we see. He sees how this awfulness of our lives will bring about His glory and bring others into relationship with Him. He could come and stop the sickness, heal our hurt, or give us that clear direction we seek, but He loves us enough to wait. He waits until the right moment. He could have left for Bethany as soon as He heard, because Lazarus would have been dead two days instead of four by the time He could there, but He waited. Maybe Lazarus was stinky enough yet from only two days in the tomb. Jesus needed him to be good and smelly, so He waited. He waits as much time as needed in our lives too. He waits until others, and even ourselves, can't possibly see anyway out except death of some kind, death of an opportunity, a dream or a relationship.

The rest of the story is that Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead. He does gain others who believe in Him. The rest of your story? My story? He does wait because He loves us. He comes exactly on time, when He will be most glorified. Does that mean the wait isn't as agonizing as it was was Lazarus, who most have suffered before he died? Or for his sisters as the watched their brother die, prepared him for burial, and watched him be buried? Does that mean that it won't be for each of us as well? Unfortunately, no. It will be, but we can trust in the Truth that He loves us. And that is why He waits.




Nightly Bible Reading

There have been times when I felt guilty for not writing more in this blog. I just reread my last post, way back in September of last year, and now I remember why I haven't written. It hasn't been a time when God has gone quiet, but rather one where the messages were just for me. There have been a few that I have shared on Facebook, but nothing I felt like needed to be posted here. Until last night.

Last night I restarted my Bible reading at night  before bed. I have tried the "read-it-first-thing-in-the-morning" Bible reading that so many insist is the way to do it. I have gained many nuggets of wisdom from doing it, but most times it feel into the "what-I-need-to-do-before-work" routine. Many times it felt rushed and like a check off on the daily list.

Before that I had always been a before bed Bible reader. Many times my spiritual attacks would come at night. Night terrors being one of the worst. I would wake up terrified that someone was in the room, or just outside my window, looking in and even recording me. On more than one occasion, I have walked my property and prayed against any foul spirit presence and ability to enter. One time I caused a couple of people to puzzle "why they would return?" I actually smiled as they mused, because I believe satan continues to send his forces up against those who he sees as dangerous. Think of Jesus. The religious leaders didn't keep trying to trick Him up on the Law or seek other ways to discredit Him because He wasn't taking many of satan's clients away. He was and satan knew he had to wreck havoc on His ministry if he was to successfully keep his clientele of sinners from turning to God.

Now I'm not saying I'm Jesus, or anywhere near to Him, but the principle is the same. Satan doesn't want to see anyone thrive in Christ. He doesn't want to see anyone minister to others through Christ. He wants to stop any and all advances of God's Kingdom. If you are feeling attacked, stop and think about what you are doing. Are you practicing your faith; serving others; sharing God with others; or any similar steps to increase His Kingdom? Then smile, and pray against the attacks of satan, but expect him to come back and try to attack. But be watchful! He may use the exact same attack, but more times than not, he seeks a different way to attack, a less obvious one. I believe that is one of the reasons for the Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Satan seeks ways into your heart, so he can destroy who you are and how you will touch others to expand God's Kingdom.

Okay, this is not why I started writing this post, but I guess it was the message God wanted me to share first. I will write another post for John 11 and post it later. I will however, state that for me, nightly Bible reading has always been the time when I gained the most through the Word, as well as when I needed it to help me through my personal rough stretches that come some nights. I definitely slept well last night. :)


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Falling Silent

When I started this blog I really didn't think many people would read it. Now it's not read by millions or even thousands or hundreds, but it has been read by many. Some people in far away countries like Russia, Israel, and even China. I don't know if any of those people read more than one post, but I'm glad they read one. I hope it spoke to something in them. I hope it helped them in some way.

I've always felt misunderstood. I would be categorized as an introvert, and I've come to accept that. For years, I wished I was an extrovert. I wished people were drawn to me, like they were my extroverted friends. Because I am quieter, more reserved, I have been accused of being a snob, of thinking I'm better than other people. I remember once at the camp I worked at during the summers I was in college, a friend came to me and told me some girls asked her if I was a snob. Honestly, I was totally shocked. I thought so little of myself that I couldn't imagine anyone thinking I thought highly enough of myself to be a snob. To this day, I think people that I've meet once or twice before don't even remember me. I'm still taken aback when someone actually does know me. I have allowed God to heal areas in my life, and I don't think so little of myself anymore, but I still wonder if people see me, the real me.

A few years ago, something happened that brought about so much healing and freedom, but at the same time it brought a different kind of pain. I found my heart feeling free, but my voice seemed to be fading. I started blogging less. I stopped sharing as much. I felt God tell me that I was to separate and be quiet for a time. Since I was just learning to open up to people and use my voice, it seemed like a strange time to pull back, to shut up. I had been letting others see and hear the real me, and then it stopped. I still feel the strain of it in some of my relationships. I still don't understand it. I have feared that I would fall silent again. I fear it even as I type now. I just don't seem to have anything to share. I fear that people will think I don't care about them. I fear that they'll think I'm being a snob.

I've always had a non-traditional relationship with God. I've never been interested in religion and ritual, but rather I've always wanted to just be in Him. I have known the judgement of others for not being religious enough. They wanted me to follow the program, and God told me not to. Even trying to explain that to someone resulted in being publicly maligned. I've been told I spend too much time alone with God. That I need to spend more time with people. Interestingly, not long after that God told me to separate myself. I was judged for that. I guess I still am. I do wish to have a Church group. A group of people who want to know God for who He is not what He has been made into. A group that wants to spend time together and with Him. A Church that ministers to each other the way they did in the New Testament Church.

Maybe this separation and quiet time are preparing me to be in such a true for of the Church. I hope so. I hope it leads me to speak again. This former, practically recluse, wants to speak even if my voice shakes!



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"What are you waiting for?"

Seven years ago I started working at my school. It was a brand new school. As a new school, the PTA didn't have funds yet, so the year was full of fund raisers. One of them was a golf tournament. That might sound like a good idea, but it wasn't.

The day of the tournament was freezing! It was October in North Carolina so it shouldn't have been, but it was. It was cold and rainy. There weren't a lot of golfers, but there were a lot of staff members at various jobs for the tournament. Mine was to sit in a golf cart, at a hole, and see if anyone got a hole-in-one, I have never been, and still am not a golf fan. It is boring! It was even more boring because of the time that I waited for golfers to come by. Let's just say that 30-40 minutes would pass between groups.

But I wasn't alone. A teacher assistant, who no longer works at my school, was my golf cart partner. She and I did enjoy excursions along the golf paths in the cart. We were really good at timing how long we could wheel around before another group was going to show up at our hole. We never missed a group. But after awhile the trips around the course became boring as well, so we just sat there hoping for golfers to come over the hill to our hole.

So we talked. During the course of this wretched, cold, boring day she questioned me about having kids. I told her I did not. I don't remember the exact words any longer, but she made a comment about it that hurt me. It was meant to be hurtful, but it was said bluntly and well, it didn't need to be said. I can still remember how it touched on the Heart's Desire spot and made me feel like I had a knife twisted in it.

Last Friday was the first day after the school year. Most teachers walked around smiling as they finished up paperwork and cleaned their rooms. I did not. I was missing my kiddos and doing the final paperwork made it all too real that the last two years were over. (I had the best, close-knit, family-like class ever.) I had to go to office and on the way back to my classroom I ran into one of the custodians. She mentioned that I should be happy because the year was over. I told that I wasn't and I missed my kids. Her reply was, "you don't have your own kids?"

"No,"

"What are you waiting for?" she asked.

The golf cart experience of seven years ago had gone along the same line and came flooding back to me in the second before I could reply. That Heart's Desire spot was getting poked at again. I smiled and said,"just waiting on a man." and turned the corner.

Yup, that smile disappeared the second I turned the corner, but I realized that even though it hurt, I wasn't devastated by it, like I was seven years ago.

For whatever reason, I have spent 30+ years with a Heart's Desire for a family, a husband and children, and I have been waiting. I don't for the life of me understand why. I have seen people, family and friends, even former students, be married, have children, and even remarried. I keep looking at them and wondering why they have what I long for, but I don't have it. Not even the least glimpse of it. Well meaning people ask the questions, make the comments, and even tell me that I am a mother to my students. Believe me when I say that it is not the same!

I am glad that the bluntly worded question doesn't hold the same sting it did seven years ago. I still have the longing, but feel more and more like Sarah everyday, and feel that I am past the hope. I don't know if the waiting has eroded my hope, or if the reality of it not happening has made me come to realize it isn't in His plan for me. This post was supposed to be how seven years changed my reaction to the question, and it did, truly.

Yet I sit here crying about what hasn't been and wonder.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Blessed?

If you read anything on social media: Facebook, Twitter, whatever, you will see that people are claiming to be blessed. Married = blessed. Baby = blessed. New job = blessed. New house = blessed. Family time = blessed. On vacation = blessed. And on and on. These things definitely seem like what we have come to know and call being blessed, but I wonder if those things actually equal being blessed.

I live in the United States and I have way more in material goods than most people in the world. I have a house that is fully furnished, a car, clothes, and plenty of extras. My house always has necessary projects to be done; my furniture has been bought at garage sales or given to me; my car is not as big as I want; my clothes are usually bought on sale; and many of my extras have come second-hand. I don't have the biggest or the best, but I have plenty and would fall into the blessed category. But I honestly wonder if these things are blessings or not.

I just read the first chapter of 2nd Thessalonians and it once again made me wonder what being blessed really is. Verse 3 "We ought to give thanks to for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing." That all sounds really good, and honestly makes me think they're blessed people, but then comes verses 4 and 5. "Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering."

Um, what?

So being persecuted means being blessed? Well maybe or maybe not, but being persecuted and being steadfast and faithful; and back to verse 3, faith and love are growing abundantly is being blessed. How do I know that these things are blessings, because of this wonderful line "This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may considered worthy of the kingdom of God..." Because of the persecution they endured, and the ensuing growth of faith and love towards others they have been judged worthy of the kingdom of God. That is the ultimate evidence of being blessed.

(Side-note, did you notice the word "judge"?  That seems to be such a bad word to many Christians, these days. But He still judges and we need to be prepared to be judged.)

Back to the whole premise of this post. I would love all the things that many of us, particular American Christians, call blessed. I would love a husband to celebrate anniversaries with; babies to love on and brag about on Facebook; and all the other trappings we called blessed. Who wouldn't? More than that, I want to be blessed because I have been found worth of the kingdom of God. So often in the Scriptures we see evidence that going though trails and suffering, with faith and love results in the ultimate blessing of being worthy of the kingdom of God. That is being blessed.

Below is one of my favorite photos that I took while in Haiti. It reminds me that others live differently and that she may be more blessed than I am. Because she may has more opportunity to come through her suffering with faith and love for others.