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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.

 

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

REFLECTIONS OF REFLECTIONS!

reflection

It was so easy to tell this was a house where Death had come. There were numerous cars lining the country driveway, most with out-of-state license plates. People were coming and going, obviously bringing food and seeking to help. The elderly man who had passed away was several states removed from the place of his birth.

Not long before the viewing on the evening before the funeral, the doorbell rang. On the stoop stood two middle-aged men, dressed nicely, wearing somber expressions. I looked at their faces, and immediately said “I don’t know who you are, but you are obviously near relatives of my father!” The resemblance was amazing, to be a generation removed.

It reminded me of a time when our youngest son was less than a year old. A visitor at church had dropped off his little daughter, and entered the sanctuary. After the service I heard someone greet him, and as he spoke, he added, “I don’t know anything about that baby boy in the nursery, but I can tell you, that was his father up in the choir!” He was right.

That type of comment makes one realize that as we go into the world, calling ourselves Christians, people look at us but do not know us at all. Yet when they see our face, can they tell that we belong to God? We should have such a close relationship to Him that it shows in our face. In Acts 4:13 Peter and John were preaching, and confounding many. Luke writes, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they [Peter and John] had been with Jesus.” The association was obvious in their faces.

Proverbs 13:20 reminds us how important it is that we choose our friends carefully: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” It is our testimony and our reputation that is at stake when we run with fools. God is not glorified, and Christ is not honored. One apple, the Bible says, will rot the whole bag! One potato, left in that plastic bag on the floor, will soon ruin the good potatoes that it touched.

This new year has hardly begun, but it’s not too late to get a relationship with God back where it should be. If you’re afraid to set the alarm, pray that God will wake you 15 minutes early, so you can read His word before leaving for work. And when He does, since you have prayed, get up, get your coffee or Coke, and spend some time with Him.

The biggest thrill of your life should be that you hear someone say, “That man has to be a Christian–he looks just like what I’ve imagined Jesus to look like!” Wouldn’t that be something wonderful?

Father, You truly are our father. When we’ve had earthly dads who have disappointed us, we have sometimes given those attributes to You. Or when things didn’t go the way we thought, we blamed You. Help us to see through the pain and troubled times that You are a constant companion, loving and kind, doing the best for us. Help us spend so much time talking to You, Father, that we begin to look like You. In Christ Jesus, Amen

© Arnon Ayal | Dreamstime Stock Photos

EXAMS, TESTS & PRAYER!

dreamstimebooks

The books were right there, laying on top of the piano where I had left them the afternoon before when I arrived home from school.  I distinctly remembered  having every intention of studying, but then I pulled out the piano bench to learn “The Peer Gynt Suite” by Edvard Grieg! Where had my mind been?? SAT’s would start today! Of all evenings to have gotten a little extra cramming in, last night was the one! Trig was killing me, and physics was right behind it! Sigh. Why do some people have it so easy, while others have to work so hard for a C? Not fair! Picking the books by up, I headed out the door, already feeling the noose around my neck.

The classroom wasn’t crowded, so the teacher separated us in order to cut down on the ability to cheat. There were no cell phones in those days, and calculators or open books were not allowed in the room. Also, this teacher was a hawk: he didn’t miss an eyeball drifting sideways. I looked down at the paper, and the first problem might have been in Greek. Against the rules of the test (do each one in order), I went to the next–wow! Easy! So I zipped through the pages answering the ones I could, then going back to the ones that needed more brain time. Meanwhile, the brainy students were going one by one.

A month later the trigonometry teacher stepped into the English class and asked for attention. He gave the results of those who had scored highest in all areas. Then he stopped. “In Math, although I have no idea how she did it, considering she is failing trig, Sandy Day scored the highest.” Thank you, Mr. Whatever (his name is erased from my memory bank.) (Intentionally, probably).  I knew right then I had figured out how to take tests: go quickly through the ones you know, then go back to the harder questions. Granted, there are probably rules that prohibit doing this now in the technological age, but at that time it worked well.

No one has to be a Rocket Scientist to know that life is full of tests. Only the naive think that when they get out of school, tests will be over! The test for your driver’s license, college classes, balancing checkbooks, having quarterly reviews at work, making the outgo and the income equal out–at least in some respects,–all of those and millions more are tests. It’s definitely not exaggerating to say that each day we have tests in some form or the other. If you have kids, you have testing. If you are married, you have testing.

Recently, I found a different test–one laid out in Scripture put there by the hand of God. I wasn’t looking for it, but this, still able to be called the being the beginning of a new year, is a good time to do a self-examination, or test. I was reading Psalm 15, and was immediately impacted by the question the psalmist asked in prayer: “God, who may dwell with You in Your holy place?” (My paraphrase). And then he gets his answer: anyone who lives a blameless life (wow, can anyone do that?); who walks in righteousness; who refuses to engage in conversation that is slandering to another person; who does not listen to gossip; who does not harm his neighbor; who speaks out against sin; who criticizes those who are committing the sin (that doesn’t go down well in this age of “tolerance,” does it?); who commends (and encourages) those who are faithfully following the Lord; who keeps a promise even if it ruins him; who does not extract the highest interest rate he can get by with, thereby putting a burden too heavy to bear on those he lends money to; who refuses to testify against an innocent person even if he is bribed heavily to do so—this man will stand firm forever. Whoa!! Those are the goals of someone who wants to serve God with his entire life. This obviously was not a test where one could say, “That one is easy, that one I’ll come back to, that one I’ll never figure out,” etc.!

It is easy to see that those are the standards of someone who must have a close and wonderful relationship with the Creator God! It is, as Paul writes in the book of Romans, the reason that the commandments point us to Jesus. Just looking at that list, and then seeing where you “test” out against each one of those attributes, tempts us to throw up our hands and quit trying. That’s why we need a Savior. If there were a chain with thick heavy links holding you to God, and each link was one of the commandments, or one of those characteristics in Psalm 15, how many would it take to break chain holding you to God? Only one. Someone had to pay the price for us, or no-one would be dwelling with God in that holy place!

Hallelujah, there was Someone who was able to pay that price, live up to the standard God had set, and then paid the debt that we could never pay. Yes, He lets us sin, and no, He doesn’t like it when we do. But if your child disobeys, and then is truly repentant, you are ready to forgive. So is God. Let’s try for a “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we stand before Him, having passed His test!

O God, how we can relate to the psalmist as he cried out, “Who can abide with You?!” We see our failings–and I confess, Lord, that I am not always sorry the moment I fail You–and feel we can never be good enough.  Then I realize how badly I need Your grace, and Your forgiveness. Help me–and others–draw near to You, so that You will draw near to us. Thank You for Your grace, Lord God, and for Jesus Christ. Amen

 

© Simon Lawrence | Dreamstime Stock Photos

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

HUNTING

The woods were so frightening! Was that a giant black widow in the web above my head? Maybe a bear was behind the tree, or even a skunk. The loaded gun felt weird tucked under my right arm and balanced with my left hand, and knowing it was ready to shoot caused me fear also. I had always heard that Indians could walk so softly that no one could tell they were in the woods, so I tried my best to make no sound. Behind me, in single file, my grandpa and grandma were also walking quietly. My grandpa must love me a lot, I reasoned, to take me hunting for the first time in my life, and let me lead the way! If I got off the trail at all, he would whisper a quiet encouragement to guide me left or right, back to the trail. I didn’t have to look back to know he was there; for one thing, he was my Grandpa and would never leave me alone in this fearsome place! For another, his quiet words of command to stay on the path, though like a gentle whisper, were evidence that he was there. I didn’t know which was greater, my fear, my excitement, or my pride.

That happened more years ago that most anyone who reads this can conceive, yet I can still feel that experience as though it happened yesterday. I was maybe eight years old, but he gave me such a gift that day as he did what no one else had ever done: he showed he trusted me to handle a gun, lead our way, and listen for his voice.

Now, so many decades later, it is the end of another year and a time to look back at this past twelve months. Did you walk an unknown path, knowing your heavenly Father was behind you, never leaving you, or did you doubt His faithfulness? His still, small voice is a command to our heart if we are about to get off the path; did you listen for it? Sometimes it is a red flag of warning if you don’t want to listen–it probably means you want to do you own thing! Did you act in a manner that He found faithful to His wishes? If so, you have done well.

Some days I feel like that eight-year-old, ready to take on the world. Other days, I feel a hundred and twenty, dreading to put one foot in front of the other! But one thing I know, every day has something to teach me. There is not a day that goes by that I do not discover something new. And because of that, I can look forward to 2015 knowing that I still have so much to learn: so much about Jesus, so much about  myself, and so much about what my purpose is in living. He has plans and a purpose for me, Jeremiah wrote, and I find it only by being in the center of His will.

You may be thinking, not me. Nope, not after the mistakes I’ve made. Not after the way I messed up last year. Not after the sins I committed, when I flagrantly yelled at Him, “Let me do this on my own!” Yet Isaiah 57:15 tells us, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'” There is such hope for the backslider! All you need is a humble spirit of sorrow for what you did when you got off the right path, confess it to Him (1 John 1:9), and you are forgiven! You can start 2015 out with a clean record! How much better can it get?

Do  you have goals for 2015? It seems only once in a great while that a “New Year’s Resolution” is actually kept for the year. But a goal, ah–that’s different. That’s a commitment to stay on the path that God has for you, so that you can be more like Him. What does that look like, to be like Him? Do you actually hunger and thirst to be righteous? Do you want to let others go before you? Do you mind if someone gets credit for  what you’ve done? Do you let someone else have the last word? Do you love others more than you love yourself? Yikes. That stabs. Do you keep the church’s sticker off your back windshield so that if you cut someone off in traffic, they won’t know which church you attend? My license plate says “EL EWE.” LU. I know that no matter how I drive, someone is going to recognize that I am associated in some manner with a certain university and church, and that God’s reality in my life shows in my driving. Ouch. It causes me to drive better, I will say that!

So what about 2015? Can we make some commitments that we will handle this year better than 2014? That we won’t waste as much money, perhaps eat healthier to keep our temple in better condition, that we’ll treat our family as we treat our boss, etc? We could fill up a dozen pages. But let’s go back to a few posts to the “Do Not Fear” and pull out the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord with all that we are, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We can reduce our huge list to two things. And we can trust Him to be behind us every step of the way, whispering if we start to get off track, and loving us. What a God to walk with in the next year!

Holy Father, how we fail You, but how faithful You remain! Your word tells us that even when we are unfaithful, You stay faithful to us. You are willing to save anyone who calls on You, but how can they call unless they hear? And how will they hear unless we tell them? Give us boldness and courage to know You have our back, have ordained our path, and are accompanying us ever step. We love You, Lord. Thank You for the cross. Amen

DO NOT FEAR!

DONOTFEARAs the group sat in a circle around the room, everyone spoke of their experiences raising an adopted child. We sat and listened, occasionally looking at each other obliquely, as we heard all the terrible situations they were enduring. These people were going through fire in many cases. It was not a support group, but a group formed of parents who had adopted, and had been invited by the state to come together and tell what raising a non-biological child could entail. They were, in effect, warning those of us who had been approved for adoption how traumatic it was going to be.

Finally, as the time was winding down, my husband and I joined the conversation. “We have two young biological children,” we informed them. “Children who were prayed for before conception, wanted as much as any of you wanted the child you adopted. We have nurtured them, loved them, and not exposed them to anything we felt would be harmful to their well-being. In spite of all of this, our children are going through the same problems you are having with your adopted children. This may shock you, but we feel that perhaps what you think of as a result of a child being adoption, is not the case. We believe that what you are seeing is a child, acting like a normal child!” Although the parents were almost unable to grasp what we had said, it relieved the fears of many of them (to the aggravation of the state workers, I might add!) that they would never have the family they had desired. They had thought all their problems were the result of adoption.

Fear today has become a daily, constant companion, have you noticed?! The economy has left millions concerned for their jobs, concerned whether their income will pay the bills, and dreading–or living in fear of–unexpected repairs to cars or homes, or medical emergencies. Not only the economy, but life in general has become fearsome. Relationships are being subjected to turmoil because unhappiness at home, for whatever reason, creates an environment where we want something different–and the kids live in fear that mommy and daddy will divorce. There is no end to fear. The story above illustrates for me what we see happening in America through situations that all around us. In other words, we zero in on what we think is the reason for our problems, when in fact it probably isn’t. Fear that most people still have huge racial hang-ups may not be the case as much as it is just the few who are causing problems the rest of us do not feel at all. Most people are open to living agreeably with their neighbors, but if you are of another ethnic background it is easier to believe everyone is against you. And fear of not being accepted by those you admire creates a lifestyle of engaging in activities to make you look like Hollywood’s version of what is acceptable, leading many down an empty path of searching for something that isn’t going to be fulfilling.

That is not how God intended us to live. We are to love our neighbor, which is not Hollywood’s take on love, but showing through our actions the type of love that Jesus portrayed while He was on the earth. He ate, walked, healed, and loved the sick, the wounded, the outcast, the afflicted. We want to love those who can love us back. Shame on us.

God’s plan for us is not fear, it is peace, love and a mind that is not swayed by wrong values. Do we believe that? Do we practice that in our lives? Do we stress about money? Yes… then trust Him. He will not give us what we want, but He will definitely provide our needs if we trust Him. And, as He told Joshua time and time again, “Do NOT fear!” Fear is not His best for us, whether it’s the economy, raising our children, facing obstacles in our family situations, relationships at work, our job…. keep going. We are not to fear. We are to rely on the plans and purposes He has for us, and rest in His everlasting arms. They hold us up, and we can relax in them.

Wow, you’re getting preachy, you say! Yes, sometimes life is not all dessert, but meat. Check out God again–this time with your heart. The thing that amazes me is that people say the Bible is full of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” Christ said there are two things that are important: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as [much as you love] yourself. Two things, and we have peace. Then let us go do them.

God, forgive us for taking the easy way out. For answering back in anger, for not seeing truth where it is, for wanting an easy life. You didn’t promise us that, and Jesus certainly didn’t experience that! Give us the faith to trust You as we go about our daily routines. Please–help us to glorify You. Amen