Snatched…

…it came out of nowhere…

…no warning…

…no time to stop it…

…we weren’t even aware…          

…all of a sudden…

…it happened…

…and then it was over.

Our chickens were all fine and dandy when I left for work.  I did not see them all, but I saw most of them doing their morning duty of hunting and pecking for some insect nourishment.  Everything was normal…

…until I got home.

My man told me that there had been a great impact to our egg production while I was away.  Four of our goofy chickens had disappeared.  This is all that remained of them–spread out in several places on our farm…

I couldn’t believe it.  We had never had a problem with predators before.  Sure, there are hawks, owls, coyotes, stray dogs, cats, etc…all around but we hadn’t had a mass disappearance like this occur.

Those four, silly chickens that had: followed me around, come when I didn’t call, “talked” with me, gave me such chuckles–had just been…

…snatched.

Now I live on a farm, so life and death is just part of the way things are.  I’m not losing my mind in sorrow over chickens.  They’re just chickens.  But the suddenness of their departure got me thinking…

Go with me to John 10.  Jesus is talking about His sheep, how they will recognize His voice, and follow what He says.

Check out the graphic to the left for verses 28 and 29 of John 10. These are truly comforting verses, but…

You see, my sweet, the snatching of my chickens made me think about how quickly we can be “snatched” out of our happy life.  Bad things happen, quickly, without warning. One day, you could be thinking your life is good.  Maybe you’ve recently been blessed with a “mountaintop” experience with our Lord.  As soon as your feet hit the valley lands, something unexpected may happen to “snatch” that feeling of communion with God.  You may find yourself doubting what you know you heard from your Savior.

That’s exactly what our enemy wants you to think…

I’ve been there, friend.  I’ve been there more times than I should be.  I seem to get all fired up about something and believe it’s what I should do…until the reality of life steps in and tries to move my focus onto something totally unrelated.

I’ve been there as recently as the last few weeks.  I’ve had something brought to my attention that completely threw me for a loop.  I mean a serious loop.  It hit me out of nowhere.  No warning.  No time to react.  No time to defend.  Just…BAM!

My enemy wanted to attack me–and I know why.  I’m a child of the King, and that’s reason enough right there.  But I had “changed my mind” about a few things, and my enemy didn’t like where I was headed.  So, he chose to hit me in one of my “safe” areas.  I wasn’t prepared.  I wasn’t watching.  Why would I be?  I had just experienced a major encounter with God…but my sweet, that doesn’t protect us.  If anything, it makes us a bigger target.

I didn’t sit in a corner and let my enemy have his way.  Oh no, not this warrior princess.  I informed those who needed to know about the situation, and left it in their hands.  Now granted, my enemy knows this still bothers me, and tries his best to stir me up (and sometimes I let him).  He has even in a backdoor kind of way tried to use this to sway me to not do the things my Lord and I had discussed.  Our enemy is cunning, and on our own, we can never hope to defeat him.

But take a look at our verses in John 10 again.  If we are children of the King, we are not on our own.  We have a secure resting place, and we cannot be snatched out of God’s hands.  We may feel like we are teetering on the edge of those mighty hands, but we will not fall.  During this time of trial, I have felt overwhelmed–but not crushed.  Knocked down, but not knocked out. My enemy wants nothing more than to snatch me out of my Savior’s hands–or cause me to step out of the plans that God has made known to me.  These verses in John 10 have been a healing balm to me as I walk through this time. I am safe in the hands of God.  This situation will not defeat me.  I will be victorious.

Look to the left.  These are the words that my Savior brings to mind every time this situation comes to mind…

Nothing can “snatch” me from the love of Jesus.  Nothing can make Jesus love me any less or any more.  No thing I can do, or think, or say, can remove me from His love.  No matter how many times I think about this situation, or talk about this situation, or turn my eyes toward this situation–even when I act like I didn’t hear His guidance through His Word and the words of others. The same is true for you, my sweet.  Nothing can move you from His love.  Nothing.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  To be in a relationship that can last forever.  Maybe you’ve never thought about this.  Maybe you’ve been looking for something, but you aren’t sure what.  Maybe you feel like something’s missing, but you’re not sure what.  My darling, it isn’t a “what.”  He is a “Who.”  My Jesus loves you the same as He loves me.  If you enter into a relationship with Him, nothing can snatch you out of His hand.  You are safe in His loving embrace forever.  If this is something you are interested in, or if this has spoken to the very depths of your soul, please get in touch with me.  Leave me a comment and I will get back with you.  Or, go to a local church and speak with someone there.  I know anyone at that church would be more than thrilled to talk with you about Jesus, and how a relationship with Him can truly change your life.

As you go on your way, turn your heart to God, and keep your eyes on the sky.  Rest in the love that never changes.  Find comfort in your position of safety in the hands of our Lord.  Breathe in the peace that comes from knowing that NOTHING can separate you from the love of Christ.

Open your heart to a world of possibilities with God, confident that you will never be…

snatched!

 

 

 

 

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Wholeheartedly…

2 Chronicles 25:2

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.

Wow, what a way to start our time together, huh?

I will confess to you–this verse leapt off the page several months ago, but I just wasn’t in a place to write about it.

I’m not sure I’m in a place now–but…

While I’m in confession mode, I’ll tell you something else:  there are days when I just don’t want to do whatever it is that I have to do.

Shocker, right?

I know we all have those days when we just want to stay snuggled up under the blanket and let the world pass right on by (kind of like today–it’s cold, rainy, yucky and I am under my blanket!)

Anyway, it’s at times like these when I am not wholeheartedly doing something. And, if I were honest, when I’m not wholeheartedly doing something, it gets real easy to not do it at all.  I wish I could say that I do everything in my life with gusto and enthusiasm…  But I try to be honest here!

Let’s take this whole confession thing even a step further.  If we look at our verse, my toes want to curl right under my foot to keep them from being stepped on by our writer.  Why?  Because I have done the very thing that our verses speaks of…

…someone is needed to work with the children at early service.  I don’t necessarily want to, but somebody should, so I do it.

…someone needs to be in charge of a branch of ministry.  I don’t really want to do it, but somebody needs to do it, so I do it.

…somebody should step in and give guidance to a struggling teacher.  I really would like to stay out of it, but somebody needs to talk to her, so I do it.

…someone needs to teach a Bible study.  I’m a teacher, so it is assumed that I would like to do it.  I really don’t want to do it, but the pressure is there, so I do it.

I could fill up this entire page and then some with times that I did something “because it needed to be done.”  All good things.  All God-honoring things.  All things that, when standing on the other side, I could see God’s hand in placing me in those situations.  I am grateful that God placed me in those circumstances because I had the chance to serve Him in ways that I wouldn’t normally.

Did you read what I wrote on the end of every scenario?  “So I do it.”  Not, “So I happily jumped in and did everything I could to make the situation the best possible.”

Nope…not at all.

As our verse in 2 Chronicles says, Amaziah, a 25-year old king of Israel, did what was right in the eyes of God.  But his whole heart wasn’t involved.  What does it mean to be wholehearted, anyway?  Well, you know by now that I’m a huge fan of dictionary.com–so here’s the definition:  fully or completely sincere, enthusiastic, energetic, etc.”

How I wish I could tell you that everything I have done in service to our King has been wholehearted.  Truth is, my sweet, there are times that I have done it grudgingly, half-halfheartedly, grumbly.  Even times when I did it because someone else was doing it and I thought it might be fun.  Even other times when I have done it because I was bored, upset, disgusted, spiteful, prideful… I think you get my point.

I have been, on this journey, just like King Amaziah.  I have tried to do my best, but not always for the right reasons, or not always to the very best of my abilities.  I haven’t served wholeheartedly, and, even though I know our Lord can and does take our meager offerings of service, I wonder what I impacted by not being “all in.”

So I’ve started really looking at my life, my ministries, my relationships.  If for whatever reason I have been reluctant to dive in wholeheartedly, I’m asking the hard question:  Why?  Why can’t I…

Have I gotten any answers?  Not yet, but I believe this is a process that will require dedication (wholeheartedly!) and openness to what God has to show me.

I invite you to join me on this path.  If you are feeling like something is missing in an area or two of your life, ask God to show you if you are “all in.”  Are you fully involved?  Are you ready to do whatever it takes to be fully devoted?  Are you really meant to be involved in this situation in the first place?  Ask the why questions.  I know it will be difficult, and there may be parts of your life that God may prune away or cause to grow stronger and more important.

I’m OK with that, because as I’ve thought and studied this part of scripture, I’ve realized something:  I want to live wholeheartedly in all the relationships that truly matter.  I want to be fully immersed, engaged, devoted, present, in those places that God has designed just for me.  Apathy in a lot of areas has left me feeling detached–with an “all in” attitude, God will show me where I need to be–and where I do not need to be.

I don’t know about you–but that sounds pretty amazing to me.

Wholehearted…Purposeful…Fulfilled.  Who wouldn’t want those things?

Scatter…

 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give,not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.'” 

 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Yep, sometimes I like to shake things up a bit and start out with Scripture…

There seems to be a “movement” lately about scattering kindness…I’m guessing it has to do with a movie theme, but I don’t know what.

I don’t do movies much…unless they are on the Hallmark Channel…don’t get me started…

I thought these verses in 2 Corinthians were particularly appropriate considering this kindness idea.  Incidentally, I am one of those people who loves to have a “word” to guide my year–I’ve had adventure, joy, and my word this year?  Kind…yep, that’s it.

So I’ve been thinking about myself in light of kindness.  How would I rate myself on the kindness meter?  Or perhaps even more appropriately, how would others rate me on that scale?  Though it seems like a goofy question to ask, walk with me for a moment…

When I break 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 down a bit, I find that there are biblical reasons to be kind and to make kindness in life a priority.

  • reaping generously–our verses say if I sow whatever sparingly, I will reap sparingly; and if I  sow generously, I’ll reap generously.   Hmm…do I really sow kindness generously?  What in my life do I sow generously?  I am a teacher to the core of me, and that teacher-ness comes out in places other than the classroom.  I find myself in situations where I am “instructing” in some form–while singing, studying the Bible, cooking, doing things on the computer.  I love showing others how to do things–but am I truly sowing generously those gifts that God has given me?  It does make me stop and think…
  • giving not reluctantly–God loves a cheerful giver.  I know that in my heart, but does my head really let me do that?  Let’s be honest, there are times that I just don’t want to share my “gifts.”  I’d rather stay home under my comfy cover, relaxing.  It is at times like those that I am a “reluctant” or “not-at-all” giver–am I missing out on a blessing because I don’t embrace those times as opportunities to give, and instead, I see them as inconveniences?
  • God is able to bless me–oh my!  He has and will continue to “bless (me) abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that (I) need, (I) will be abundantly supplied in every good work.”  God is able to take my teacher self, the one who is lazy at times and just wants to sit, and give me an abundance of what I need in order to generously sow the gifts that He has given me.  Those times when: I don’t want to write, I don’t want to sing, I don’t want to think about ways to help a student, I don’t want to reach out to a friend to see how she’s doing, I don’t want to lead a study, I don’t want to…well, you’ve read enough of my true confessions.  Take a moment, my sweet, and think about the things you “don’t want to do”–could you take a look like I have and see that, when I give reluctantly or not at all, I am denying not only the chance to help others, but also the chance to receive a blessing from the Almighty? My world has just been rocked...
  • freely scatter–wow, this verse ends with a punch.  I love how Scripture can do that to you.  A section of Scripture that I’ve read before comes to life just when I need it.  Yes my sweet, my Jesus has really been driving this message of kindness home in many ways.  I’m seeing it through my personal Scripture reading, a Bible study that I’m involved in, sermons at my local church, postings I see on social media.  Kindness is all around me–sayings and promptings, that is.  Looking at our world today, there are lots of opportunities to be kind, but we don’t always take those chances.  I’ve given you some of my confessions earlier–but let me go deeper.  For whatever reason, and only my God really knows why, I have been in situations where I am asked for guidance or am looked to as a “leader” of some sort.  I have done my best to get out of those roles, with no real success.  Maybe now, I can see why.  When we are in a position of leadership, or in a place where others respect and ask for our opinions, we have a major opportunity to freely scatter our gifts.  God knows everything that we will encounter, and some of those are ways for us to be a cheerful giver of our time, talents, treasures.  Maybe it’s time for us to embrace those “guiding opportunities”  in order to be a not-reluctant, generous sow-er, abounding in blessing, scattering gifts to whomever we encounter.
  • Radical idea, isn’t it?  Today, my sweet, will you join with me?  Will you see your day as full of opportunities to scatter kindness intentionally, to share your unique giftings, to show the love of Jesus through the abundant blessing that you have?  For, even if you have what the world would define as very little, you are still abundantly blessed because your Jesus woke you up this morning–and He is ready to work through you to touch a desperate world.

So…go scatter, my friend…

Guard…

Photo credit from hug2love.com

 

Happy New Year!

Isn’t it always so funny how we view today as a clean slate?  As a new beginning?

Sweetheart, we don’t need a date on a calendar to start new.

Anyway, I’m standing here in Be Very Well Fed’s kitchen, putting together a new, interesting concoction using cabbage (my man’s FAVORITE veggie…NOT!), hamburger and tomatoes.  Nope, I have no idea how this will turn out…we may start out our year eating pizza!

Actually, it would be protein shakes for everyone…yummy!

Taking myself off the topic of food (though I do love that topic!), and back to the topic of new beginnings,  let’s talk for a minute about the one thing a lot of people do on this day each year…make resolutions.  I’ll just go ahead and put it out there–I don’t do resolutions.  Typically I try to avoid doing things that will make me feel like a loser…and not sticking with some half-achievable goal set doesn’t exactly bolster the confidence meter!

But, I did find a nugget of wisdom that I wanted to share with you that could kind of be considered as a “goal” for 2018–I Corinthians 16:13-14:

 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  

Do everything in love.”

When I read these verses, I was amazed at how they jumped off the page at me.  On a day when our resolutions involve losing weight, managing our time better, spending less and doing more; isn’t it refreshing to see an idea from the Bible that could benefit others as well as ourselves?

Let’s unpack these verses a bit…

One commentator on Bible.org calls these verses “The Exhortations of Spiritual Maturity”…what?

Exhortation–emphatically (with LOTS of feeling) urging someone to do something

Spiritual maturity–the development of Christlike character and behavior in the Christian

So, with that bit of knowledge, Paul (the author of both I and 2 Corinthians) is giving a final rapid-fire list of commands at the end of the book.  These commands were written as present tense imperatives, which means that the ideas are to be continuously undertaken and examined.

“Be on your guard”–what a way to start the New Year!  We have an enemy, and he is constantly looking for ways to stir up trouble.  Make his life difficult–stay alert; stay away from places, people, things, that take your focus away from God.  Sounds like a great goal…

“Stand firm in the faith”–don’t we all want to be known as someone who stands firm in the midst of everyday trials and temptations?  Hold your ground, sweetheart.  Refuse to be overtaken or overwhelmed by the world and all its’ troubles.  Fight everyday, knowing that the God of all creation is fighting for you, with you, through you…

I just had church here in my chair…let me share with you how I did that…  this song…this truth… Exodus 14:14, Deuteronomy 1:30, 2 Chronicles 20:17, 2 Chronicles 32:8, and other verses as references…

Sweet, sweet time with my Jesus… OK, back to writing…

Our next command–“Be courageous.”  Be brave, my sweet.  We will all have situations that come up in this new year that are scary.  Know that God is there with you, and take those scary steps with Him by your side.

“Be strong.”  The same commentator on Bible.org says that this speaks of being strengthened, so it goes along with the previous command.  We all like to think that we can handle things on our own–my dear, I have had to meet that lie from the enemy on several occasions, and kick it (and him) to the curb.  Our strength comes from God alone–He gives us what we need, to do the things we need to do.  Relying on God for our sense of strong will never be wrong.

The final command of these verses pulls it all together–“Do everything in love.”

OUCH!

That’s the hard one.  But, I had a sweet friend once tell me that, as she folded laundry, she prayed for that person.  I was amazed at that, and found it very helpful as I picked up clothes off the floor.  Life isn’t always glamorous (mine never is, and I am perfectly OK with that!), and sometimes we have to do things that aren’t pretty, fun, exciting, “ministry-worthy.” Showing kindness isn’t always our first response.  This much I know:  We can love in anything we do, but it is a choice, my sweet.

A choice I must admit I do not always make.

2018 offers me a clean slate, a new year to be a new me.  A chance to take advantage of the date on the calendar, and begin fresh.   A year to be different…  I’m making the choice, because I want to be…

Alert. Steadfast. Courageous. Strong.

Loving…

Join me, won’t you?

 

As an update, here are my “cabbage 2 ways” that we enjoyed–yes, my husband liked the one with the burger, and did NOT care for the plain cabbage.  Oh well, still a win!

Knot…

I could feel myself sinking…

It had been one awful, terrible, sad, exhausting day.  And…it wasn’t over.

I still had several hours to go before I could leave this small classroom and head to the sanctuary of my home.

I didn’t know if I would make it.

A very difficult situation had gotten worse, and I was literally at my wits end.  Not a great way to feel in a room full of small ones.

Just hold it together for a little longer.

Somehow, through the grace of God, I made it to the end of the day.  After finishing up a few housekeeping chores in my room, I bolted for the door.  No good-byes to workmates.  No cheerful “see you tomorrow”‘s.  Nothing but an overwhelming need to escape.

And escape I did.

My man is the most wonderful guy in the world.  He listens to my gripes, holds me close when I need a hug (and even at times when I think I don’t need one).  This time was no different.  I talked, constantly on the verge of tears.  Where is this coming from? After a bit of talking to him, I retreated to the quiet of our bedroom.  Whispering a silent plead for help, I waited.

In the chaos of my heart, I felt prompted to reach out to my Bible study girls.  We’ve known each other for a while.  We are close sisters in Christ, and serious prayer warrior princesses for each other.  Even with this history, I still felt a little weird.  Do I ask them to pray for me because I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of a really big hole? A really big hole of sadness and defeat?  I haven’t shared much of this with them–do they need to know the details?  Can I even tell them the details without falling apart?

These questions and so many more ran through my distracted mind.  Finally, I wrote the text.  I asked for prayer because, girls, I really thought I was going to fall into that hole.  Just exactly where the enemy of my soul wanted me.

I knew that wasn’t where God wanted me, but I also knew that I couldn’t stop myself from going there.  

You see, my sweet, our God wants us to bring our needs to Him.  I also believe that He wants us to share those burdens with others so that they can have the “joy” of bringing someone else’s troubles to the throne.

There is something powerful in knowing that others are speaking to the King of Kings about you.

My girls went to work.  They sent me encouraging texts, Bible verses, prayers.  I knew that they were “working” on my behalf.  I knew that they were taking poor, sad, depressed, little me to the very Creator of the universe.  They did not know the details that had sent me to this dark place.  All they knew was that I needed them–and when I didn’t know how to pray, they interceded for me.  To know that the Holy Spirit was praying for me, and that my sweet sisters also were on their knees–I am more humbled than I could say.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what                 we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself  intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

By the end of the evening, the chaos in my soul had been replaced by a calm.  I had reached the end of my rope, and my God tied a knot.  He secured it with the prayers of my “girls”.  All I had to do was hold on.

But that’s the hard part.

Because, guess what?  Another day dawned.  Another day of possibilities.  Another day that could be just as bad or worse than the day before.

I am constantly so amazed at my Savior.  Before I left for work, I decided to click on social media–and there I found words that spoke the cries of my oh-so-weary soul.  Borrowing them from Stormie Omartian, here they are…

Lord, I pray that You will always be on my side in every battle with the enemy of my soul. If you are with me, I will always have victory. If You are with me, I don’t need to be afraid or grow weak in the face of an attack. You give me strength to stand, and You will always show Yourself more powerful than any opposition I have. Help me in the battle I face today. Thank You in advance for the victory You will accomplish on my behalf.
In Jesus’ name I pray.

I prayed that prayer with fervor, with belief, with raw desire.  These words spoke to me so deeply that I wrote them out and hung them in my classroom.

I referred to those words several times during the day.  I did not expect a radical turn-around in the situation–I expected a radical turn-around in my heart.  Though the day wasn’t stellar by ANY stretch, knowing that those words were in the room with me helped me cling so tightly to the knot at the end of my rope.

Because Sweetheart, that’s all I could do.

God got me through the day, and I once again drove home feeling low.  I have to be honest with you–teaching isn’t always fun.  Some days are very difficult– lightbulbs don’t always go off, students don’t always behave, situations don’t always turn out the way you imagined.  Days and days like this in a row are hard to shake; I’ve been doing this long enough to have thrown away the rose-colored glasses long ago.  Still, I have always found the positive in whatever comes…

…but not now.

Coming home with the weight of the world on my shoulders really stinks.  As I walked into our home, I really didn’t know what to do.  I had been speaking, pleading, with God on the drive home.  Once again, I reached out to my girls and they responded with encouragement.  Sitting down in the quiet, I thought about the prayer that God placed in front of me earlier that morning (had it only been 10 hours before?  It certainly felt longer…)

It was then that my God reminded me of Bible verses:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:14

“Do not be afraid or discouraged… For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”  2 Chronicles 20:15

He used His words to calm my mind and open my eyes to probably one of the most profound moments in my walk with God.  Remember the prayer I shared?  See how He used it…

Girls, my Jesus showed me that, even though I walk through defeating circumstances, I do not have to be defeated.  You see, I had made it through the day–the string of days.  Victory was mine by the hands of Jesus.  His strength had gotten me through, His voice had prompted me to reach out, His grace had enabled me to tie the knot at the end of my rope, His mercy kept me clinging to that knot, and His love had surrounded me to protect me from a complete breakdown.  I was victorious–even though I felt defeated, I truly was not–I had survived.

That revelation was so powerful, and I know I’ve done a terrible job of writing about it.  Just know that the situation still waits for me–my enemy will do his best to defeat me, but my Jesus will frame the day as a victory.  He will fight my battle; I need only to be still (and keep my mouth shut!).

So, my sweet, what will you choose?  To view the day as a victory through the grace of Jesus, or as a defeat at the hands of your enemy.

I almost let the enemy win…

…and he will be back…

…but my strength comes from God.  And He will fight my battles…

…I will see the victory…

But I would greatly appreciate your prayers, because standing in battles can be oh-so-hard sometimes…

 

But…

I knew it was coming…

It was that time in the school year.  Time to teach conjunctions to my students (for those who aren’t quite sure–a conjunction puts two parts of a sentence together).  I wrote this on the board:

F

A

N

B

O

Y

S

FANBOYS is an acronym used to teach conjunctions.  Each letter stands for a conjunction.  I started writing words in to accompany each letter: F-For, A-And, N-Nor.  And then, I had to write the word.  I prepped my brain and my response as I wrote:  B-But.

Now to elementary students, the word “but” is just funny.  It brings about snickers pretty much every time it is used in this kind of context.

This time was no exception.

I turned to my class after I wrote “but” and said, “OK, let’s all giggle because of this word. It isn’t spelled like what you are sitting on, but (smile, smile) I understand that it’s a funny word. Let’s get those laughs out so we can move on.”

After a few more chuckles and some sideways glances as they snickered, we finally went through the rest of the list (in case you are curious:  O-Or, Y-Yet, S-So.)  We discussed how each word could be used to join two parts of a sentence.

Since my sweethearts so loved the word, I decided to spend a bit more time on “but” (did you grin?). We talked about when we see “but” in a sentence, it means that whatever comes after it will be a contrasting idea:  for example–The little boy wanted ice cream, but he was just too sleepy to eat it.  I then let them come up with “but” sentences to share with a partner, and on we went with the rest of the day…

(And so concludes your grammar lesson for today!!)

It’s funny how things like that stick in my head.  Recently I have been quite attuned to the “but’s” in the Bible.  I have even found myself grinning like a child when I read the word at times.  But (hehe), when that word is found in the Bible, what follows could be a good thing or a not-so-good thing.

Take a look at these examples:

Genesis 50:20–“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Numbers 22:12– “But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

Deuteronomy 18:14–“The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.”

Judges 6:10–“I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

1 Samuel 23:14–“David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”

Psalm 20:7–“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Mark 10:27–“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Luke 18:16–“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Acts 12:5–“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”

Romans 5:8–“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”   I’ll just insert a, “Thank you, Jesus!!” right here!!

I could go on and on.  When I did a search on Biblegateway.com, I came up with six-hundred, twelve references for “but God” alone!  Please feel free to look up these verses in context to dive deeper into their meanings.

Our Lord used conjunctions in His divine inspiration of the Word.  We should pay attention to what’s before and behind them, specifically the “B” in our FANBOYS.

So what should we do with all the times we find the word “but” when we are reading our Bible?  Some scholars suggest boxing it in, so your eyes will pay more attention to it.  That’s great, but unless you are attuned with really studying why that word is there, you may lose some of its rich and important meaning.

In our word today, a lot of people read the Bible on an app–think about highlighting “but”, and also highlighting the contrasting ideas.  You will be amazed I hope, as I have been, to see just how much God draws our attention to an action and then contrasts it with another.  “But” is a tiny word, but (haha) its meaning is huge–we see it especially as we search the Scriptures for answers on how to live our lives as modern Christians.

So today, as you read your Bible (and I hope you have a plan to do that–if not, biblegateway.com has reading plans available), keep your eyes open for our tiny, yet powerful word of the day.  You may want to hurry through your reading, but… if you’ll slow down just a bit and remember what we’ve discussed today, you may find the Scriptures much more meaningful.

Be a Scripture Searcher–and discover the many, many ways God has used a three-letter word to convey some of His most dramatic truths.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorites:

atone

 

 

 

 

 

Crippled…

You could have knocked me over with a feather…

It was true, I didn’t see this person every day.

But nothing prepared me for what I saw.  Instead of the tall, healthy, full-of-life person I was expecting, I found myself face to face with someone hardly recognizable.  Gone was the lively man I knew–in his place stood a tired, drawn up shell of a man.  Shuffling as he walked alongside my mother, it was then that I realized how frail my dad was becoming.  This terrible disease was crippling him; both on the inside, and the outside.

That day will live in my mind forever as the day my dad became…sick.

The disease crippled him in his mental outlook, and in his ability to go and do the things he once did.  It was taking him from me, slowly but surely.  Though he would not lose his mobility, in essence he lost a lot of what made Daddy…Daddy.    Little by little we lost a bit here, a bit there, until one day he lay in bed gasping for breath, waiting for the “all clear” to meet his Jesus.  When his time on earth was finished, he met his Jesus and soared off to an eternity in heaven.  My dad is crippled no more…

But what about those of us here on earth?  Some of us may be literally crippled– struggling to take those precious steps to the kitchen, to the mailbox, to the grocery store. Some of us may be figuratively crippled–struggling to take action in our relationships, our jobs, our ministries.  Being crippled can take all sorts of shapes and be brought on by all sorts of events.  Crippled doesn’t always refer to a difficulty with the legs…

I read a story recently in Luke 13:10-17.  Please take a moment and read it, because it is an awesome story.  The paraphased-by-me version goes like this:  Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath.  The religious leaders of the time didn’t like Him or anyone doing ANYTHING on that day.  There was a lady in the crowd who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years (wow!).  She was all bent over and couldn’t stand up straight.  Jesus saw her and said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity!” (v. 12).  He laid his hands on her and she stood up straight immediately.  Well, those religious leaders were all in a huff because He had done such a thing on the Sabbath.  Jesus called them hypocrites (not the first time nor the last time he did that!), and asked them if they untied their donkeys on the Sabbath and led them out for water? (Of course they did, and He knew it).  You gotta hear these words from Jesus:  “Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (v. 16)  You can imagine how those leaders felt then!

Think about it ladies.  Eighteen years of being crippled, of looking at the world from a different perspective, of not being able to straighten up.  Such a long time to be bound by satan.

My mind goes to situations in my life when, though not for eighteen years, satan has crippled me.  Fighting for years the call of Jesus in my heart, all because I thought becoming a Christian meant living by rules that would only stifle me. Resisting ministry opportunities because I believed I didn’t have what it took to be an effective leader (side note–I didn’t have it, but my Jesus had it all covered).  Believing the lies whispered to my soul–“you aren’t good enough”

“You aren’t pretty enough.”             “You aren’t exciting enough.”       “No one will love you.”

                                “You might as well give in–he’ll like you so much more if you do.”

“No one will want to be your friend.”    

And oh, the destructive reactions I had to those.

And the one whispered over and over that I credit with prompting my most hurtful responses–“Jesus could never love someone as worthless, useless, dirty, and incapable, as you.”

Crippled.  That’s how I’ve been during portions of my life. I didn’t see my life the way I should have.  I didn’t see those opportunities as blessings.  I didn’t see myself as a beloved child of God.

And my sweet, if you were honest, you would probably find you’ve been there, too.

Oh my friend, even after we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are still soooo very vulnerable to attacks from our enemy.  You see, it is when we take those steps with Jesus that our enemy swoops in.  He looks to cripple us so we cannot continue to walk the path that has been set before us through Christ.  Make us doubt, make us stumble, or maybe even in ways we don’t recognize…cause us to withdraw from friendships, ministries, life.

Crippled Christians.  Wounded, weary, worn-out.  Perfect prey for the enemy…

It doesn’t have to end there, my sweet.  Remember our story?  Jesus didn’t leave that woman crippled…nope, He saw her and untied her from her burdens that had weighed her down so long.

Did you get that?  Jesus saw her.  He sees you, and me.  He knows what we’re dealing with, how we have been crippled through our own or others actions.  Our inability to stand straight is not trivial to Jesus–hear me, my dear–He wants to untie us from what keeps us stooped over.  He wants us to stand straight.

Standing straight.  Looking ahead.  With some weight on our shoulders, but not an overpowering, crippling load.  Matthew 11:28 is such a wonderful picture for those of us who feel crippled by the burdens on our backs…come to me

No more crippled.  No more stooped over.  No more seeing life through the perspective of someone who is overwhelmed.  No more…

My sweet, I have come face to face with my crippled status.  I don’t want to be that way anymore.  Will you join me in giving these things that cripple us, that weary us, that overload us, to the One Who will carry all our burdens?  Will you allow Jesus to free you from what binds you?  If so, pray this prayer with me:

Lord Jesus, thank You.  Thank You for showing me why I feel so tired, so worthless, so insignificant, so ill-equipped.  I know now that my enemy is doing his best to cripple me–and I’ve allowed him to do so.  But no more.  I come to You, my sweet Savior, and lay all of those things that want to cripple me, at Your feet.  I am weary and so burdened.  I need Your rest, Lord.  Free me from these things that cause me to be stooped over.  Stop the whispers that cause me to doubt.  Give me the strength to stand straight up and walk in the goodness of You.  I love You, Lord, and I pray these things in the strong and mighty name of Jesus.  Amen.

If You prayed this, would you mind praying this for me as well?

May we stand straight, bound no more, in the fullness of Jesus!

 

 

 

 

 

Off…

 

I had a commercial-worthy event happen to me recently.

I was enjoying a relaxing day beside a crystal-clear river in Western Montana (Little Blackfoot River).  The sun was shining, the water was glistening, the birds were chirping…and the bugs were annoying.

Super annoying.

So, being prepared for this, I pulled out my trusty can of bug protector (deflector?) and sprayed myself, my chair, my clothes…well, you get the idea.  Yep, I was good to go.

As I sat back in my oh-so-comfy lounge chair, I happened to look up.  There, above me ten feet or so, circled a lot of bugs.

A LOT!!

I thought about how well my bug spray was doing its’ job.  It was like I was inside a protecting bubble, looking out at all those bugs just waiting for an opportunity to attack (can you see it in your head?  It would make an awesome commercial—please contact me if you’re in the advertising business.  I will gladly go back to that location to recreate the event!!)

BVWF off by the river

 

That bubble of protection got me thinking about God.  Through His grace, I am protected from an eternity in hell.  Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I am protected from an abundance of bad decisions by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the difference between the bug spray bubble and the God bubble:  eventually, the bug spray bubble pops.  The bugs find their way in.  My protection is gone—until I make another spray of me and my area (which as I wrote this—I just did!!).  It’s a constant re-apply—it doesn’t last long.

Contrast that with my God bubble.  Once I accept Jesus as my Savior, my “heaven bubble” is set.  No more checking to see if it still “works.”  I am firmly set in Jesus’ hands for all eternity—John 10:28 says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand..”  With Jesus as my Lord, the Holy Spirit lives in me, guiding me in decisions and every day life.  Yes, there are times when I choose not to listen to His wisdom—but He never leaves me or stops giving me the words I need.  Hear the words from John 14:16:  “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate (the Holy Spirit) to help you and be with you forever.”  My Holy Spirit bubble never pops.

Notice, my friend, that I didn’t say my God bubble protects me from temptation, satan’s attacks, or difficult times.  My human heart would love that to be the case.  I do know, however, that God will not allow me to be tempted by more than I can handle.

no temptation

I certainly cannot expect to be exempt from satan’s attacks—even the Son of God was attacked and tempted; Matthew 4:1 shows us, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  And we think we have difficult times?  So did the apostles and early believers—they were spreading Jesus fame everywhere and were not immune to hard times (Acts 17:6 says, “These men who have caused trouble all over the world,” and Acts 24:5 reads, “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world.”)  We will have troubles as Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”  Look my friend, at the second part of this verse: “But take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world.”  That, my sweet, is where the God bubble truly kicks in.  We, as children of God, are victorious at the end—maybe not always in ways we can see here on earth, but the final victory awaits.

So today, enjoy life in your God bubble.  Stop looking outside at earthly things, wanting them or believing they will satisfy.  Thank God for His protection, for keeping your safe from so many dangers and temptations.  And stand strong.  Like the bugs outside my bug bubble waiting to attack, our enemy will take even the smallest window of opportunity and use it to shake your faith–remember John 10:10a–“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

Stand tall, and tell your enemy, STAY OFF!  You are protected by the Almighty God!!

Drift…

I am married to a drifter…

Not the kind that goes from town to town looking for poor, helpless souls to swindle.

Nope.

My man is a highway drifter.

Perhaps you’ve seen one:  while driving, the drifter goes from the yellow line to the white line to the yellow line to the white line.

Yep, that’s my man.

(Just to clarify, it doesn’t happen all the time!) It usually happens when we are driving through a particularly scenic location.  You know, there are just sooooo many things to see in this great land–and sometimes, that seeing results in the car veering to the side on which he is looking (or the opposite side, it just depends!).

We haven’t had a drifting accident–though there have been a few close calls with mailboxes and ditches…

Anyway, on one such drifting occasion, after I shook my head in a judgmental way and not quite believing drifting had happened again, God placed some thoughts in my head, some surprising thoughts.

God told me that I was a drifter, too (cue the serious music–duh,duh, dum!).

Not the swindling kind or the driving kind.

Nope, mine is a different kind.

My drifter-ness has happened gradually–I have found myself drifting from God.

Let me set the scene:  once I was deeply involved in ministry at my church.  Once I only listened to Christian music on the radio.  Once I attended church regularly.  Once I wrote on this blog weekly, and studied the Bible constantly in order to do that writing.  Once I found great joy in fellow-shipping with other believers.  Once I had a close, healthy relationship with Jesus.  Once…

Do you see the picture?

These were activities that I enjoyed, activities that were meaningful, activities that brought me closer to God.  Why on earth would I drift away from them?

One answer–I didn’t notice because it all happened so gradually.  Drift…

You know, the ministry is going fine without me.  It’s time for me to step back.  Drift…

You know how much I love music–this is music from my younger days.  They are such catchy songs, and I enjoy thinking about where I was and what I was doing.  And, I know all the words…  Drift…

You know, I’ve had a rough week (a tiring week, a frustrating week, a great week).  It won’t hurt to stay home from church this week.  Drift…

You know, no one really reads what I write anyway.  It will be good for me to take the break.  Drift…

You know, there will be plenty of people at that gathering.  They won’t miss me, and I can get some things done at home.  Drift…

You know, my relationship with Jesus is just fine.  There are no problems at all… Drift.

What was happening in my life was similar to what happens to my man.  There are so many things to see, so many temptations, so many activities…that I let my heart and soul follow in the same direction that I was looking.  I never even realized it…

…until that day in the truck…when God spoke words to my soul that I never thought I’d hear.

You (me) have taken your eyes off Me (God).

Interestingly enough, I had recently attended a church service where the pastor used Colossians 3:2 as part of his text.  The words stirred something in my heart even then (now I know why). Take a look…

set

That verse came rushing back to me.  I had fallen short, very short, of these words.  And another verse also came to mind during that service and again in the truck…

fixing

My sweet, I had moved my focus away from God. I had stopped setting my mind on heavenly things.  I had stopped fixing my eyes on Jesus.

I had drifted… not consciously, but little by little, I moved…

I wish I could tell you that after those moments of realization and repentance came a wonderfully new outlook on life.   Yes, there were some great moments of “Ah-ha!”, but there are still areas where I am struggling to switch my focus.

That’s the thing about drifting…when you do it, sometimes it’s so much easier to just stay in that lane, in that train of thought, in that activity (or non-activity) pattern.

I am more aware of what has been happening, though I am not sure exactly how to stop it in some areas of my life.  Some changes are easy–listen to more praise music, start attending church regularly, find time to write at least once a week, move closer to Jesus through study.  I praise God for showing me the drift, and I have started to implement those fixes. The two hardest areas, ministry and fellowship, were the ones where drifting didn’t really bother me as much.  Those I think will be harder to “fix.”  I just have to remember our verses– set my heart on heavenly things and fix my eyes on Jesus.   Maybe that drifting had to happen with those two in order to show me new ways to serve and be involved with people, new methods to “set” and “fix.”  I wait to see…

Meanwhile, my dear, I urge you take a good look at your life.  Are you drifting in areas that you aren’t even aware?  Could you be moving away from God in subtle, gradual ways?  If so, please take my experience to heart.  Study these Scriptures that God used in my life, and apply them to yours.  Go to Him and have a real heart-to-heart about the health of your heart.

 It will be hard to hear, it will be tough to acknowledge, it will be difficult to believe.  

But it will only be then that you, and me, can begin to move away from being a drifter and move forward as a sold-out follower, with a heart focused on heavenly things and eyes fixed on Jesus.

And that’s really what we are called to be.

 

 

Zoned out…

I zoned out recently.zoned-out

Totally.  Completely.  Like how did I get here-zoned out.

And I was driving.

Scary, I know!

I cannot describe to you the brief, yet completely unnerving feeling I had when my brain finally kicked back into the present–and I had to figure out where I was versus where I needed to be.

Yep, zoned waaaaayyyy out!

I wish I could tell you that I was having a deep, spiritual conversation with my Lord.  Or that I was talking to someone with my nifty hands-free set-up in the vehicle. Or that I was simply distracted by something I saw.

But…that isn’t the case.

What I was thinking and doing for those few minutes is and probably always will be a mystery.

As I said…scary!

After I recovered from my trip to the dark recesses of my mind, I had a chance to reflect on what happened (after I got out of the vehicle, of course!!)

How did that happen?   Where did my thoughts go?   Why can’t I remember any of it?   Should I be concerned?

Sadly, I got no answers.  Instead, my Jesus led me in a different direction…not one I expected.

He turned it around to my soul.  I started thinking of my spiritual self of late.

I’ve been doing a great Bible study, I spend time with Jesus each morning, and I read the Word every day.  Still, I sometimes find myself wondering what to do in certain areas of my life–how did that happen?  

How can I feel so connected to God, yet sometimes feel like I’m not walking in the way He wants me to walk? There are moments when I question the very things I know I shouldn’t.  Where did my thoughts go?

In my lowest moments, I hear the whispers of my enemy telling me I’m not good enough.  Telling me I won’t be missed.  Telling me I’ll never reach the student who needs me the most.  Instead of hearing the promises of my Savior, instead of thinking of His faithfulness–why can’t I remember any of it?

Should I be concerned?  Have I zoned out in my relationship with Jesus?

My friend, that heart-to-heart with my Lord has been one of the greatest encounters I have had with Him.  In His sweet yet firm way, He pointed out so many truths to me.  Truths I had overlooked.  Truths I had taken for granted.  Truths of which I had head-knowledge, but not heart knowledge.  I hadn’t zoned out in my relationship, but I had started to move Him out of the equation in some areas of my life.  Scary!

Can you relate to having head-knowledge about God, but not heart-knowledge?

Sweetheart, it’s OK.  God used this crazy out-of-my-head occurrence to bring a real truth into my life–and He can do the same with you (hopefully without the experience I had!)  All you have to do is be open to His voice, ready for His leading.  Ask Him to show you a new truth about Him.  Then, hang on!  I can promise you that it will be a ride that you won’t forget!

Those questions, as hard as they were to hear and think about, actually have guided me back into a more fulfilling relationship with God.  Yes, there are still questions swirling around (aren’t there always??), but that peace that truly only comes from God is now front and center in my life and heart.  I know He is moving in my circumstances, I believe He is straightening the paths, I have no doubt that He is working.  All those revelations and heart-knowing truths from one brief zoned out moment??  You bet!  My God doesn’t need a lot of time–He just needs my attention.

zone-out-focusThese verses from Philippians 3 sum up my whole zoning-out experience, subsequent God time, and renewed vision quite nicely.  Check them out!

So today, tune into God.  Stop allowing the many distractions of this world to keep you from the Lover of your soul. Move out of the driver’s seat and let God take control of your life (yes, my sweet, it is a decision we have to make every moment to let God be in control).  When you stop zoning out in your relationship with Christ, you can start focusing more on those things He wants to give you–protection, provision, peace, patience, love, joy, kindness… the list goes on and on.  All you have to do, friend, is look, see, be, know, and experience.

Stop zoning out!  Become fully sold out to Jesus! Get on the right track–and stay on it!!!