Monday, November 13, 2017

Be a Bent Lamppost

A couple weeks ago, as I drove to work I noticed this lamppost at a local gas station. I wasn't in the best location while stopped at the light to take a photo, and I hoped they wouldn't fix the lamppost before I had a chance to get the shot. I might have even prayed that it wouldn't be. Okay, I did pray it wouldn't be. Thankfully the next week, I was in the right spot for a photo. I rolled down my window and took it.


Why? Well, when I saw that lamppost the first time I heard God speak to me. I heard Him say, "be like a bent lamppost."

You might think I questioned why, but I know instantly. See I have driven by this same lamppost for years and I have never noticed it. In it's upright position I simply took it for granted. But in this obviously, a-car-hit-me-hard position I saw it for what it was. I saw that even bent over and barely clinging to its base it was still shinning. Not only that but look how the grass is lit up. Look at how wide and bright the light is. It's not even all in the photo. God told me in that moment that the bent and bruised and broken of us can still shine His Light. Our struggles make others take notice of us. He can shine through a upright lamppost, but unless you need it, you ignore it. He can shine so much brighter and wider when we are bent.

The below photo I took today, and I'll admit it's not great. I wasn't in the right spot and it was misting so I didn't want to roll down the window. But I knew today was the day to write this post, and I needed this photo to do it.

This is the replacement lamppost. Notice it is standing upright and shinning its light. But look at the ground under it. It is not nearly as bright as with its bent predecessor. Not only is it not as bright, its range is much smaller. Standing there lighting the parking lot and no one, except me, probably even notices it.

God wants to shine His Light through our lives. He will use the upright among us and some people will be able to see Him from them. But He really wants to use the bent among us. His Light is so much brighter and wider, and people can't help but notice us. They'll be amazed that we can still shine, just as I was amazed that the lamppost could still shine in its condition.

Let Him use you to shine through. Let Him take your brokenness and show His beautiful Light to others. Let Him spread the Light wide as you wait to be repaired. It isn't easy to go through the struggles we do. It feels like we are barely clinging on. But let others see the struggle and ultimately see His Light.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Afraid to Jump on the Couch

About a year and a half ago, I became the foster mommy to a sweet, but scared dog. I have no idea what kind of a life she had before being rescued from the shelter, but I knew she was scared of almost everything. She wouldn't go outside with out me. I mean she wouldn't even go out the door unless I went first. She was afraid of rain and loud noises. She was fearful of even being touched. Over the year and half she has come along way. She loves to snuggle, and yes, she now goes out by herself. She still doesn't like rain and loud noises still scare her, but she is better than she was.

There is one fear that she has that I can relate to. When she fails, she is too scared to try again. Recently she tried to jump on the couch, something she does daily, but she miscalculated. Her front legs went on the couch, but her back legs never made it. She got back down and they stutter-stopped about five times. Each time I patted the couch and told her to try again. Finally, she jumped up on the couch. Now, every once and awhile she goes through the whole routine again. Other times she jumps up with no problem. I guess the memory of her failed attempt replies and she fears missing.

Now, I don't jump up on the couch, but I do fear failure. Once I mess up, I find it scary to try again. I let that fear of missing to hold of me, and I can't try again. I even feared writing this post, which is why it's taken me awhile to even type it, and why the time between the last sentence and this one was about 5 minutes. Put myself out there and admitting challenges I face is scary. I don't text the friend and see if she wants to do something, because in the past I chose the wrong friend and it's tainted my attempts at friendship. I lost a lot of weight, but listened to "healthy" advice and put it back on. I was so confused, because I was doing it "right", but I was gaining weight so I quit. It took years, but I've finally put the fear behind me and have started doing it the right way. (So far, so good, by the way.) There are so many other ways that I can think of where I let fear stop me, some small and some big.

So how do I overcome the fear? How do I stop the stutter-stop? The only way that I know of is to trust God when the opportunities come. When I want to ask a friend when she can do lunch, I need to just do it and not over think it. I feel great since I changed the my eating and started doing some new exercises. I want to feel great, and not feel fear. I want to stop the hamster wheel of fearful thoughts and trust God. He is the only one who can help me overcome my fear. Easier said than done, but I want to do it!

PS. I adopted Stella, so now I'm the Mommy to that fearful pup. 🐕

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Scattered but Good Come From It!

"...At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles...Therefor those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word." Acts 8:1b and 4

Recently I have heard or read a lot against the idea that good comes from bad situations or that God will use tragedy for something good. The basic argument says that God is good and love and doesn't bring bad into our lives. Honestly, this debate grieves me. I know this is just my thoughts and I'm not stating that I have heard great words straight from God about this idea, but I still feel compelled to share my thoughts on the matter.

God is good. God is love. God does not bring bad things into our lives, because there is nothing bad about God. But the Scriptures clearly shows in the book of Job that God does allow bad things to happen to us. Go read Job 1 before we go any further, paying particular attention to the conversation between the Lord and satan. Did you see it? God asked satan if he had seen Job! Satan didn't come in and say, "hey God! Can I mess with Job's life?" Nope, God directed satan's attention to Job and then said that he could stretch his hand against him, but not take his life. Satan wasted no time, literally as one bearer of bad news was speaking another one would show up. Job's seemingly perfect life was completely destroyed in a matter of moments! And who pointed out this God-fearing man to satan? God did!

The story of Job and all that satan did to him is what always comes to my mind when I hear people try to theorize away the idea that God doesn't use tragedy in our lives to bring about good. In the beginning of Job 1 we learn about all that he was and all that possessed: he was blameless; he feared God and turned from evil; he had seven sons and three daughters; he had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys; he had many servants; and he was greatest of all the people in the east. He had it all! What did he have after satan had done his best to completely destroy the life of Job, even the very essence of who Job was? All his brother and sisters came and gave him money and jewelry; his flocks doubled 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys; and he one again had seven sons and three daughters, who were the most beautiful women of the land and given an inheritance along with their brothers (which didn't happen often during those time).

But God didn't just bless him with much on the other side of satan's destruction. He spoke directly with Job, and even though he was considered blameless before he had wrong thinking of God that needed to be corrected. Read through chapters 38-41, where God corrects Job. If God had spoken these things to Job before he had gone through the suffering he had endured their effect wouldn't have turned Job's heart as they did after his suffering. God used the tragedy for good!

Now, this post started with New Testament verses. I did that on purpose, because I know some will say Job is just a story (which I completely disagree with!) or that that was from the Old Testament and God is different now. The Scripture tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so argument doesn't hold water either. It isn't God who changed, but Jesus's death and resurrection change the nature of our relationship with God. Back to the point. Jesus told the disciples, now apostles, to go out as witnesses to the whole earth (Acts 1:9). Until chapter 8, there is no mention of them leaving Jerusalem to share what God had given them to share. It wasn't until the stoning of Stephen and the persecution of followers by Saul, that anyone left Jerusalem. The "therefor" in verse 4 is in reference to that persecution. Saul was throwing men and women into prison for their faith and the rest were scattering from the city. They went out into Judea and Samaria and shared with others. The first two places Jesus told the apostles to go in chapter 1 were Judea and Samaria, and now because it wasn't safe to remain in Jerusalem, that is exactly what they did. Why did Christianity spread across the world? Persecution. As the followers of God were persecuted,groups would leave and take the message with them. The Pilgrims did that same thing over a 1,000 years later. They were persecuted for their beliefs and they hopped on the Mayflower and came to the New World. They were the first to spread the message of God to what is now America.

I can't stare into the face of the Scriptures and not see that God DOES make good come from evil. God is not evil, but yes, He does use it for good. I can look at the struggles and trials of my own life and see the fruit of good that came from them. I work with children and more times than I can count, God has given me true empathy and words of wisdom to speak into their lives because of those things. Patience with a child who's parents divorced and he was still struggling to cope, even as one teacher told me, "that he should be over it by now." A year when extreme "girl drama" infested the girls in my class and I was able to pull from my own childhood struggles with friends to speak into the situation. The middle school boy, who was so much shorter than everyone else, that I could relate with because at his age I was so much taller than everyone else and was teased as he was. The children who struggles with reading and feel stupid, because so did I. God uses the bad and He makes good come from it, if we let Him!

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. :)