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TRIED BY FIRE

lightning-photo-for-free-download Our noses deep in the very popular school Science book, my children and I read “No one has ever seen the end of a rainbow.” We looked at each other and then broke out in laughter. Coming home from church one Sunday, we pulled into the driveway. There, as brilliant as could be, was the end of a gorgeous rainbow! The bad news: there was no pot of gold. No pot of anything–just the rays of the colors. The amazing thing is, about three years later it happened again. This time we were living further north in Florida, and I remember kidding the family that God must be reminding Himself that He was not going to destroy us personally!

That was an extremely unique experience, but the most amazing scene of all was a late afternoon thunderstorm. You can be aware that the sky is turning dark, when all of a sudden a clap of thunder comes, or a streak of lightning and it causes you to run for cover. We ran to the small front porch, probably about 6 x 8′, under part of the roof (thank goodness), when an enormous streak of lightning lit the sky–so tremendous, in fact, that a ball of orange fire, about the size of a basketball, rolled across the lawn, in front of our eyes. We could not believe what we had seen. Prior to sitting here tonight, I googled “lightning balls” and found that not many are recorded in the manner which the one we witnessed with our own eyes had come and gone. It was a moment of God declaring His majesty.

Seeing something so grand, so marvelous, and so unique is an awesome experience. Yet ranking right along with that–to me–is the reading of a portion of Scripture and suddenly seeing it with a whole new meaning: one which broadens the scope of God’s activity in our lives, and the verse bursts with new clarity and a thunderclap.

I have no idea if I had to name my favorite Bible book, which it would be, but James would be one near the top. I can hardly wait to meet him! I love how he takes a verse, and yet one of the words in the sentence flows into the next sentence. But in the first few verses of Chapter 1, he talks about trials or testing that comes into our lives. With this in mind, he says that we should rejoice in tribulation,  knowing this, that the testing of our faith produces endurance. Later on he says that when we have been tested, and passed (approved), we will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

I’ve long realized that our faith is not tested when we’ve earned money which will pay a bill, only to spend that money on (say) clothes, then pray for God to supply the money for the bill. Or having a flat tire–why should we NOT have a flat tire? Or a child that has caught a virus at school, where “bugs” abound? Those are not tests, just ordinary living. So what exactly is a test?

If you read further, James says that God does not tempt us to do evil; that we are led away by our own lust (for new clothes, new things–the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh or the pride of life)–and Satan knows how to tempt us, by using the bait that will get us to turn away or blame God for our problem. Just as we don’t try to catch sharks with minnows, Satan doesn’t try to tempt someone who can’t stand cigarette smoke with smoking. So what is testing? Especially testing that will cause us to quit, as the sermon from Thomas Road was preached this past Sunday (www.plowingfallowground.com, for Oct. 9, 2016)? It has to be so big that we don’t just get a trial, we get a trial that causes us to cry out “GOD! ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING? ARE YOU EVEN AWARE OF WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH? DO YOU CARE??” As Kay Arthur once so eloquently put it, it’s not so much saying “God, Are You Really There?” as “God, Are You Really HERE?” Suddenly God showed me what the testing is that causes us to leave Him–what our “bait” is that Satan can use to make us give up and leave Christianity behind.

It’s whatever we care enough about to pour our souls out to Him in prayer, asking Him to fix. Something that we love above all things. We lift up the life of our child who has a terminal illness, begging Him to spare the child; we promise everything if He will just heal the child.. or the parent, or the spouse. Perhaps it’s our home, maybe a “dream” home that we have wanted for years, and finally got, and suddenly (as my husband and I know well) we see smoke rolling out some of the windows. For a wife or mom, it’s probably her children, her spouse, her parents, her home; for a man it’s probably his children, his wife, his job and his home. For young children, it’s their parents; for older people, it’s their children, grandchildren, and health. The list is different for everyone, but in the end it is what we hold so dear that we can’t bear to think of living without it. And so we pray, and that prayer doesn’t seem to go above the ceiling. We pray harder, and lose the very thing we prayed for: that life, that home, that job, that parent. And because we’re so hurt, and our faith that God really cares is tested, we decide God is not worth trusting, not worth loving, not worth praying to. We don’t see the result from God’s perspective.

And so, we give up on God, and we quit. Totally the wrong thing to do. We’re setting ourselves up as God at that point, saying we know better what the outcome should have been. He should have loved us more. Why, look at the (friend’s)! They’ve had it easy all their lives: money, prestige, ability to buy whatever they need, especially if it’s a health problem and major medicine is involved–it’s not fair! And we pull out.

That is the time when we should draw even nearer to God. When we should say, “I don’t understand, but I trust You that You are working things out so that it will be good.” You think I’m talking about something I haven’t lived? Wrong. If you ever feel that way, sit down and we’ll talk. I’ve been so far down I’ve had to look up to see the bottom. I’ve made a mockery of the love God showed when Jesus died on Calvary. I’ve spurned His grace, His love and His forgiveness. But by the grace of God, He has cleansed me and removed my sins as far as the east is from the west. But the sad part is, the persons I hurt the most walked away from God because they felt He had not loved them enough to answer their prayer.

It’s time we decide we are NOT going to give in, give up, or trade our faith for ashes. We want beauty. God is working the beauty out. Trust Him–He will not always do what you want, but He will always do what is best.

lightning-photo-for-free-download

 

Serving Two Masters….

Hispanic Boy6

Attitude is everything.

The child climbed into the car’s back door, but refused to get in his car seat. Usually this wasn’t a problem, but this particular day he decided he wanted to stand right behind Dad, holding on to the head rest. “Sit down!” Dad raised his voice at this second warning. The look of rebellion on the child’s face told the father that it was not going to happen today. Is there anything that exerts more will power than a 3-year-old who doesn’t want to do something? His chin jutted out, and he stayed standing.

Dad put the car into park, got out, took hold of his son, and with necessary movements put him in the car seat, snapped the buckles and got back into the driver’s seat. As he pulled out of the parking space his son yelled, “I may be sittin’ down on the outside, but I’m still standin’ up on the inside!!”

It seems to meet that I’ve been standing up on the inside a lot lately. Christmas has come and gone (but will be here again soon, for sure), and I morph into Scrooge during that time. I fight the materialism with everything I am, but it does no good against all those sweet faces turned toward me. My attitude needs a major overhaul after the holidays. I probably wrote the same thing last year.

But in the midst of all the bad attitudes, the chaos, the trials (already!), the crises (already, note the plural!), and the hurt feelings, God spoke to my heart. Don’t ever underestimate the power of the Creator Who “spoke” the world into being (John 1). As I turned to my Bible this morning, I began reading and verses I’ve read hundreds of times “lit up.” That’s God, speaking.

These were the verses that were prepared for me to be reading , the next set of verses on a morning “ritual”—not one of those “put your finger in a passage and read it” type thing. But as I read the verses “You cannot serve two masters; for either you will … love the one and hate the other…You cannot serve God and [the world]. Matt. 6:24).” Years of teaching came across my mind, God and the world… God and money… and then suddenly God shone His light directly upon those verses into my heart, and I knew He was telling me these verses can go much deeper than what I have heard all my life, and how much I needed to hear Him alone.

You see, it’s been a struggling week, one of those Stress Level Ten weeks, one where I felt caught in a conflict between an adult child and my husband. Nothing–nothing!–comes between a momma and her child (or should) no matter how old they get. A momma bear and her cub is a great analogy. Another–which I experienced a lot of years ago–is a cow and her newborn calf. I have been torn, taking up the offense of my child, and mad (as only a wife can be) that my husband would have allowed this situation. But then, God spoke to my heart.

He turned the light bulb in my mind onto the passage, and I saw, a Mother cannot serve her adult child and her husband if there is conflict. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. The truth is, the situation is out of my control and I can’t make them both happy. I can’t change anything, can’t go back and re-do the offense, can’t “fix it.” But if I keep on with my warring attitude, I will end up “hating” one and “serving” the other. But that isn’t God’s best. He made us one in marriage, and to split that unity and go against my husband is wrong, and becomes sin, and He made my child “leave the parent” when they became one with their spouse. Yuk. Yikes. Double yikes.

I also saw that “two masters” could easily be me–with all my desires to control the situation, to control what had happened, to make everything okay again (because I hate confrontation, and disunity)–and my husband, who had done what he thought to be best in a situation where, he felt, there would be no winning. He knew ahead of time it was going to cause friction, and he wisely chose to do what was best for me, rather than for our child. I needed to CHOOSE to love him. Lesson Two.

Two masters, He spoke to my heart, is always a potential in a marriage: if you and your spouse are not dedicated to seeing that you are in agreement with discipline (one of the areas where the most combat is initiated), you are causing your child/children to choose which of you to “love/serve” and which to hate. Lesson Three.

This dredged up a long-ago illustration when we four–dad, mom, son, daughter–got in the car to leave church. Our son turned to me, asking if we could stop by the local ice cream shop and get cones. I said “No.” He got a tragic look on his face and said, “Mom! I didn’t mean to ask you, I meant to ask Dad!” We went. They had learned which questions to ask which parent. To food, I usually said no; Dad said yes. After this we also made (and stuck to) rule #783: if they asked one of us, the answer was set in stone (unless extenuating circumstances dictated otherwise), and they could not ask the other parent. Good rule, even for today.

Be sure you are not serving two masters: yourself and your spouse. Or, your child and your spouse. Or… anyone but God.  Even then, you have to be vigilant that you do not present a second master to yourself. God only is the First and Last in our lives, and He only holds the keys to family unity, love and working out stressful problems when we look to Him to watch our backs. He alone is holy, praise His Name.

Has the situation gone away? No, but my attitude is adjusting, and I see both sides. I also have confessed, and am sorry for the “tantrum” I threw when I first found out. God is in control, I have no doubt at all about that, and my repentant heart can now be worked on. It will be okay. This hasn’t come to stay, but has “come–to pass.” I’ll be grateful when it’s passed!

 © Andrew Taylor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING?

THECRYINGBOYBYDRAGO

The child could not have been more than seven or eight: an adorable looking boy, happy and having fun at the football game. He was obviously among family who loved him. I saw him take a big drink of a soda, and something made him laugh. It happens to all of us–young and old! We laugh, and the soda (or crackers, or food) explodes from our mouth with an intensity we can’t control! Which of us can say we’ve never done that? His family instantly laughed hysterically, and, observing the fiasco, I had to smile.

In the flash of a second, however, the man sitting in the next row in front of him–and a little bit lower, as football seats go–got some drink on the back of his head, and down his neck. With the speed of a striking snake he turned, jumped up, grabbed the drink out of the little boy’s hand, and stalked out of the seats, looking for all the world like he wanted to take revenge. It was so very humiliating for the family to be caught in such a situation in public, and so distressing for on-lookers to witness such a spectacle of rage. I wanted to grab the little guy, who instantly rolled himself into a ball and tried to hold big drops of tears back, and hug him until his little spirit was calmed.  It couldn’t have been more than a teaspoon or tablesp00n of soda, but you would have thought the man got soaked. And the man had not even waited to see if it had been an accident.

Scripture poured into my mind as I watched: “Who can bear a broken spirit?” (Prov. 18:14), “A [seasoned Christian] is [should be] above reproach, self-controlled” (1 Tim. 3:2), and “The anger of man does NOT achieve the righteousness of God,” (James 1:20). From the interaction when the man returned after throwing out the drink, I realized he was the boy’s grandfather. My heart was literally breaking, for many reasons: the man had not asked what happened, and whether it was an accident, he didn’t give the little boy time to re-act, and he was providing an example of what a hair-trigger temper is all about, and what it means to display it. Worse, the child was the victim of an adult who should have–by the grandfather’s age–learned self-control. Somehow I got the impression that the child saw anger like this more times than he should have.

The man’s wife tried to talk to him; I could tell she was indicating that his attitude had hurt the child terribly, and that he needed to heal that “wounded” spirit. Okay, so I sound like any problem with a child is the child’s fault, and amends should be made immediately. Not so. But let’s face it, we all laugh at “slap-stick” humor–witness I Love Lucy! Had the grandfather laughed and wiped his neck, it would have created a tighter bond and a happy ending.

I watched the older man turn around and could not believe the words out of his mouth, which I could overhear: “YOU didn’t even say ‘I’m SORRY!'” Good grief, who had had time? The trigger was pulled before the child had his mouth closed! I felt sorry for the man’s wife. But even more, I was appalled at the “Blame Game” the man used. What?! He was blaming the child for HIS own lack of being a godly role model? Again, sometimes it’s a curse (but always a blessing) to know Scripture: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matt 6:14), or “How many times do I forgive my brother…” (Matt. 18:21) and more. Did I see anything Jesus said about them having to immediately–with the next breath–say “I’m sorry!”? No. You forgive immediately because it’s the right thing to do. And this wasn’t even a sin! Imagine that? Wonder how the man treats his enemies.

I reflected the next few hours on the scene I had witnessed. The child was having fun. He did something accidentally that, yes, should have had a “Grandpa, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that!” but there had been no time. But he learned that it’s okay for a person who says he loves Jesus to instantly have a rage attack against a child; he learned it’s okay to do it in public; that it’s okay to blame the other person–because, after all, for goodness sake, they caused your rage. So the Bible must be wrong–anger is okay, because it was his grandpa; anger is okay but what if I make God mad? What will He do?

What a lesson in love. Is it any wonder the world calls us hypocrites? We talk the talk, but the instant our body or feelings get tramped on, we walk a walk Satan is proud of. I pray for this little boy, that he comes to realize anger is a choice that people make when they have no self-control, when they set themselves up with pride as if they themselves never make mistakes, so it’s okay to throw a stone. Especially at a little child. “Whoever offends one of these is [in danger of hell-fire]” (Matt. 18:6). I pray this little boy does not think God is like his grandfather, and think that God re-acts in anger when he has not meant to offend.

There’s not enough fun in life on the good days, let alone on the bad days. A child laughing in fun is a beautiful thing–and a merry heart does good like medicine (Prov. 17:22). Maybe that’s why so many of our children are on medicines in this age, you think?

 

 

The painting is by Drago Ivanisevic, copyrighted, and not able to be re-copied or painted. If you have questions, please contact me.

 

LOVE IS A CHOICE…

TOWERS2The news came suddenly: mothers started running to the nursery at church, grabbing their little ones, fear full-blown on their faces. It was a Tuesday morning in September, and what we were hearing was bits and pieces–something about an attack in New York. We were in central Virginia, many hours away from NY. One woman was trying to hold herself together, for her husband had a meeting that morning in NYC. She was desperately trying to reach him. My daughter and I left the nursery once the babies were all picked up and headed for a television in the church, where the news had interrupted regular programming. Everyone was shocked speechless, some crying, some stunned. Over the next hours I can so well remember my feeling: how can anyone hate America this much?

It is said that those of us who are old enough to remember when John Kennedy was shot, know exactly where we were when the news came, and it’s true. It’s also true we remember where we were when we first heard of the attack on the Twin Towers. These moments in our past will never fade.

Recently, I was reading a news article on a well-known American family who were blind-sided by a media attack, after news that they were not perfect was made to look like something the whole family should be executed for. I read some of the tweets under the article–something I never do. As I read the venom that poured out of people’s computers, I was once again struck by the hatred that was spewing forth. Stunned and sickened, I considered the truth that, had a Christian written those verbal attacks on a  family of another religious persuasion, it probably would have been labeled a “hate crime,” and they would have been interrogated by the police. Such is our culture today. The hatred is becoming greater and greater.

Now we are watching Lincoln’s prophecy come to pass: America will never be destroyed by outside forces; when it falls, it will fall from decay within. How true his words are becoming! Having been raised in the mid 1900’s, I have seen the black/white racism from A to Z. Well, maybe not yet Z. It’s still heading there.

I was one of the fortunate ones growing up: my mom, a naive West Virginia “hillbilly,” never saw color, only character. She raised me to look at the person, not the color of their skin or the slant of their eyes. I remember in a Sunday night class in the early ’60’s making the remark, “I’d rather my daughter marry a Christian black man who worships the ground she walks on than a white man who beats and abuses her!” I can still remember the shock and disbelief on the faces of those die-hard Southern folks who sat in the chairs. Later, I was outspoken at Dr. Martin Luther King’s tactics, and recall saying, “I would do exactly what he’s doing if I thought my children and grandchildren were going to be treated the way most whites treat blacks.” I wasn’t popular for saying so.

Today we see the hate again becoming an issue between whites and blacks. Haven’t we gotten past this? Have we learned nothing from history? Strip away the skin and what do you have? God said He looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance. That, I have always believed, is why He chose a Jewish mother–so that He was neither white nor black, but of Middle-Eastern appearance. One pastor whom I love once said to me, “A lot of ‘Christians’ are going to be surprised when they see the human color of Jesus!” How true. What we need to be asking is, who is the one who is stirring up this hatred? There is someone who is at the bottom of all of it, I’m convinced.

There’s no excuse for hatred. It cannot be the heart condition of anyone who calls themselves Christian. If you hate someone because of the color of their skin, you are condemning someone made in the image of God. How sad. Sad that we treat brothers and sisters in the Lord as if they are less than we are. Sad that people of the world, whose morals equal that of Sodom & Gomorrah, condemn and judge as if they should be executed, those who are Christians but commit a sin, repent and seek healing. Hatred is a choice, just as love is a choice. As Jesus said, “If you don’t love your brother, whom you have seen, how can you love God, who you haven’t seen?”

Sin is a fact of life: Jesus tells us through John that if we say we have no sin, we lie and the truth (Jesus) is not in us. Once we accept that fact (that we have sin), we are accountable to God as to what we are going to do with it. Are we going to continue living with it, enjoy it, and judge others, or are we going to recognize our right to eternity in heaven depends on our asking forgiveness for what we do that is wrong, asking Jesus to come into our lives and save us–not that we will never sin again, but that we will have someone in our lives who has paid the debt of our sin–and run to Him when we sin again. That’s the difference between love and hate. Hate continues to hate. Love makes a choice to ask for forgiveness when sin rears its ugly head, be cleansed, and continue living with a happy heart, knowing He has forgiven again! That’s what the world does not understand, because their eyes are blind to God. That would scare me to death!

If I realized that the God who will one day be my Judge, whom I will stand before, as someone who has rejected the offer of salvation, if I KNEW that He had crossed me off His list, wiped me out of His Book of Life–it would scare me so badly I would run to Him, gasping for mercy.

Hell is not going to be a party. But stomping on the mercy, grace, and love of Jesus–when it was still a possibility in your life–is a choice only you can make. Before it’s too late.

 

IMPATIENCE: A LESSON IN JUDGING!

dogwoodimpatienceWaking up, stretching, yawning… all of a sudden you ask yourself, “Where am I?!!” Then it all comes flooding back: the telephone call, the quick packing, the trip, and you’re waking in a motel room. You glance outside and see flowers. Everything looks beautiful. But something is missing. What is it? Then reality hits you: someone you loved has left the earth. You will leave here in a couple of days, and go back home, with only memories.

We’ve all gone through a similar experience, haven’t we? Perhaps not that, but close. I recall coming out of a Belk store many years ago (when my mind was sharp!!), and with all the Belk stores laid out the same, for a moment I had a true panic thought, ” What city am I in?!” Too much traveling, too much change, too quickly.

And so today I “wake up,” not having been asleep, but the fog from the concussion is leaving and I am able to function close to normal. Perhaps not at 100%, but enough that this page is now being written–the outcome of weeks when the mere thought was ‘too much.’ Been there? Overwhelmed by a thought of taking on a task? Yeah, me, too.

S0, congratulations! You are now back on track, you say. Who knows? Is there really a track? I know God showed me a lesson this morning, which is the first in weeks. Not that He hasn’t been there, just that I’ve been too far down to care. Does that shock you? Yes, Christians get there. Just like non-believers. Just like you, maybe.

And so God showed me a piece of my heart this morning: life has changed this year! Do you know there’s a “syndrome” for everything?  Look up RHS–it’s a syndrome. I’m a victim. After a lifetime of being at home, raising kids, mowing yards, keeping the house clean, blah, blah, blah, my husband retired. (Retired Husband Syndrome). It should be RSS, because it can/is the same for husbands who have worked from home and then the wife retires. So far I have yet to meet someone who cannot relate, man or woman, when this happens. Love has nothing to do with it. Space has everything to do with it.

Suddenly, there’s someone in your space. You’ve been alone–or with kids–and were used to noises, and identified them mentally, and categorized them. Now it’s a new set of noises. There’s no “quiet time.” He says, “But I go to McDonald’s every morning for breakfast!” Sometimes he says he goes so he can have bacon, other times he says it’s to give me time when I’m by myself. Either way it’s the same, life is interrupted. Picky, picky, picky, you’re thinking. Your time will come. Believe me.

I notice so many changes, being with him constantly. He’s retired… that means no schedule, very few commitments, very few real responsibilities except of his own making. Yet his driving is beginning to create ulcers in my stomach. If someone is in front of him at the drive-thru window, move quickly. If the person at the red light doesn’t go, he fumes. Turn right on red, for crying out loud, it’s the rule in almost all states! I’d rather we took two cars.

I need to go to the post office; when? Who cares? Well, he just wants some idea. I don’t care, as long as it’s before 6 o’clock! Want to go to the gym? Sure? When? Who cares, you’re retired! No, Mr. Impatience wants a time. Why? I’m the one working!

He has taken over the grass cutting, which is good, since I began a hobby from home that has become a monster that is eating me alive. I want out. I dream of running away, but did it once and it created billions of problems I never want to see again. I dream of getting a job outside the home, but couldn’t make the pay I need. I just want out of my present dilemma and there are several ways it can happen. And so every day I beg God, please, let me out! I almost got out by death (that should have showed me right there He’s not ready for me), I’ll take terminal illness (would I really?), just GET ME OUT. And He hasn’t. Not yet. So my impatience grows and has become a tangible, breathing, living force in my life, driving down the joy, peace, and all that. All because I’ve gotten myself in a pickle I am helpless to get out of.

As I was pouring my first mug of coffee this morning, I suddenly saw my constant beseeching God to do something, and please, do it now, as the same type impatience my husband displays behind the wheel of the car. Other drivers are out of his control. My work is out of my control. He wants them to move NOW. I want God to fix my problem NOW. Don’t you hate it when God shows you your own heart? I do.

What to do? Everything. Confess that the things that are driving me up a wall with my husband are things that are in my own heart toward God. Realize my husband spent his whole life working for the money to let me stay home and raise kids–now he deserves his time. Trust God to move in a way that I will recognize is best when it happens. Trust Him that He has my back, and will give me strength. Trust Him that if He can SPEAK words–or THINK them–the world comes into being or a person is healed, then He can change my circumstances if it’s the best thing for me at this time. Trust—don’t fear. Perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18), and FEAR IS TORMENT. Yikes, do we all know that?

Need encouragement? Go to http://www.trbc.org, and listen to the sermon for Sunday, April 19. Besides being a blessing on trust, you’ll hear Charles Billingsley sing “A Midnight Cry,” and yes, we’ll all be going home. Praise God–no more of this world’s garbage and impatience.

Father, You who loves me with a love I don’t understand, forgive my impatience as I beg You to lighten my load; give me strength for the race that is before me. Thank You for showing me that my impatience is no different than that of my husband, and no sin is greater than another–they’re all wrong in Your sight. Help me remember these lessons, Lord. And thank You for the resurrection power You’ve made available to all of us. Amen

 

Photo © Steve Sharp | Dreamstime Stock Photos

LET IT GO!!

let it go

She looked at me with hate, viciously grinding out her words,”I’d like nothing more than to kill you!” I confess I stood for a moment in stunned silence; how many people hear this said to them? Not only said, but truly meant. That was rough. What was rougher was that this was my only sister.

Going through a bitter divorce, she and her ex wanted nothing more than to hurt each other. The easiest way to do that is to tell lies, right? Or push buttons (spouses always know where to push the hardest)! In her case, her husband told her lies about having a relationship with me (there was none), and she believed him.  Maybe you’ve been there. The problem was, because she believed him, which involved me, now she wanted to hurt me. And what better way than to do it through my children? She called my adult children and told them (I can envision her dramatic anguish at having to tell them what she knew) what she had found out, which had not a grain of truth in it at all. She had “evidence” (I never knew what, probably a forged letter), and–of course–it destroyed more relationships for many years. For more than two decades, losing not only my sister, but the closeness that had been built between two of my daughters ate me totally alive, but finally, through time and much hurt, I had to “let it go.” I couldn’t fix it, but I had to move on before it killed me.

My story is no different than thousands of others. I have come to learn that the majority of people have something in their past that is like an albatross around their neck. Maybe it was marrying the wrong person while on the re-bound, and never really having a marriage. Maybe it was having a child outside of marriage, and later having to watch a boy/girl friend abuse the child. Maybe an abortion, which continually haunts you. Maybe you gave a child up for adoption. I know what you feel: every child you see may be him/her, right? And it will always be. Somehow you have to come to the point where you “let it go” and trust God’s love for the child to be working out His plan for your child. I have lived long enough now to know most of us have to be tested by fire. Relationships are destroyed, homes are destroyed, and in the end we are tested to see whom we love the most: ourselves or the Lord.

Israel had the same problem. Adopted by God and raised as a cherished child, she became a great nation, only to fall into sin that destroyed the relationship. God had to put her through the fire in order to try to re-establish the relationship, finally sending His only Son to bear not only the sins of Israel, but the sins of those (us) who were grafted in–the Gentiles. Read Deuteronomy, the last several chapters. It sounds like the USA today!

Soon the first of 2015 will be upon us, and thousands will be making a resolution to start a new life with the new year! Putting behind us those things which bring pain, those things which cause us to harbor bitterness (which gives Satan a foothold in our lives), those things which have hurt us so badly but do not hurt the other person–now is the time to “let it go.” We don’t want to spend the rest of our lives with those feelings “frozen” inside of us, like cancers, eating us alive from the inside out! We want to be free to experience the joy God is so willing to give us. We want to exchange the sadness we feel–or have felt for years–for happiness that only comes when our lives match up with the guidelines He has laid for us.

Last night at a basketball game, I was impressed at how close the guys could come with the ball to that line that marked the court. It could bounce within inches, but they deftly caught it and kept within bounds! We need to have such spiritual tenacity that we don’t let the balls we juggle each day fall and bounce away, where we step outside the lines to grab one. That only comes with diligence and practice. Spiritual exercise, the Bible calls it. Do you know how to do it? I haven’t been very good at it either. But I know Jesus promised that if I would ask (in this case, that He help me), I would receive; if I knocked, the door would be opened; if I seek, I will find! (Matthew 7:7). So, how about if we both “ask” for God’s joy to replace the sadness of our past? And while we’re at it, we can seek that joy and find that it is only in Him–He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Not a popular statement in this day of “tolerance,” but what will you say when you die and find you were wrong?

I can almost hear your thoughts: “but He gave me a rock, when I asked for a piece of bread,” “He took my (mom, dad, whatever),” “He did this, He did that… He is not to be trusted.” And because He didn’t do life the way you wanted it done, you withdrew your trust–you decided to punish Him by withdrawing your love. Just like my sister: you were hurt, so your revenge is to hurt back. Sadly, that’s no solution at all, and the ripple effect goes far and wide. It really is time to “let it go.” Trade in your sadness for obedience and joy before it’s too late.

Holy God, the years have passed in a blur, with no solutions to the problems that have been the result of trying days. But I have enough faith in You to know that Your purpose and plans for me are not to harm me but to give me life. If I could control You, You wouldn’t be God, You would be just like man. Thank you for being the sovereign power of the universe, the great I AM, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer. I ask for freedom from past choices that I made, past consequences that were from the actions of others, and ask that You be my joy, not another person, not this short life. Help me, Lord, to let it all go, and embrace the freedom that is found in You! Amen

WHO? ME?? MAKE A BAD CHOICE? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?

BUBBLES

It happened to another person, many, many years ago. Someone so naive that sensual innuendos went straight over their head. Whatever someone told her, she would believe, even if they were evil. She had been taught to believe in people.

When the breaking point came, and she left her home, within days her life started crumbling. For the next few years she learned lessons each and every day about the trials in life, the liars in the world, the deception Satan has on people’s lives. But she had done what one must be so cautious in doing… she had burned her bridge and there was no going back.

The God she knew could have stopped the break; why didn’t He? So she blamed her parents for not stepping in, and keeping her from making wrong choices when just a young person. Finally she realized, they did what they had been taught–so it was the fault of her naive grandparents. Realizing they, too, probably were doing the best they knew how, she eventually worked her way back to God. It was His fault. He could have stopped her from ruining her life. He could have given her different parents, a more worldly mind, have made her less trusting. The anger against herself for her choices built. And built. Like a volcano, it was going to erupt. You hate yourself so much for making a choice that there is no way to fix.

Better to die than live with this much hate. Easy to do. Take two bottles of pills and it’s done. Only it wasn’t done. There’s one step lower than the bottom: when you have to look up to see the bottom. When someone finds you, and you live. You can’t even die.

In telling this to a person a year later, they had one remark. “You really hate God,” they said. “NO! I hate myself!” Their words were darts on a shield, deflected. A month later the radio was on, and the speaker was talking of hate. “No man hates himself,” he quoted, from Ephesians 5:29. “Wrong! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” It was 1978. The book lying nearby was a workbook from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, by Bill Gothard. The page fell open. There, in black and white, was written: “If you say you hate yourself, you don’t. You hate God.” God had to say it three times before she got it: her anger and hate was not against herself, it was against God. It broke her. She could not stand to think that the God who created such a beautiful world for us to enjoy was Someone she hated. Her repentance for her hatred was genuine. The amazing part? Suddenly a “bubble” surrounded her. You’ve read of children living in bubbles because of diseases? God put a “bubble” that was–had to be!–the unbelievable Holy Spirit, and love crushed her. For three weeks, she walked in a bubble of love, and could feel nothing, sense nothing, except the overwhelming power of God in her life. I was a changed person, for God loved me. I was no longer full of hate.

What did He teach me in all this? So many things: one, that He will NOT keep us from making choices that are far-reaching, life-changing, 100% bad, when we are determined to go against His will; two, His forgiveness is beyond anything we can imagine, but the consequences are there for life. We have to “forget those things that are behind [since we cannot change them], and press on toward” life; thirdly, there is always forgiveness for shutting Him out, for being angry, even for hating Him because you feel He’s destroyed your life–but you have to ask for it. Again, if you killed someone, they won’t be raised again in this lifetime, the ex-husband remarries, the judge’s sentence may have to be carried out in a jail, but that will all pass: His love and forgiveness will remain.

If you look closely at the picture, you will see the bubbles in the hands. We have to live in this world, but its standards, its influences, its definition, as our Life Group leader at church said yesterday, is not to stain us. Is that possible? Yes! But only through being plugged into the outlet of His power source, not our own. Through the power that He gave us when we became His child, we can do all things. But not without it. By accepting His gift of salvation, His power can change you!

Have a blessed week!