It’s Just a Mole Hill After All

You can find lessons from God in the most surprising places. And sometimes when you least expect it, God says something profound.

One weekend, I went with the family to experience a night hike in a nature park near our home.  We arrived early enough to spend a few minutes with Cliff, who would be our guide on our walk through the dark woods in the middle of a very heavily populated part of Florida. Not much open space around here, unless it’s water. In fact, you wouldn’t even know the park was here unless you were looking for it. A well-hidden secret.

God sometimes hides things from us too. Sometimes he makes us look for the treasures of this life. He doesn’t just hand things to us; we have to seek them out.  I wrote something about God’s hide and seek  a while back. If you’d like to read it you can do so here.

Before our hike, Cliff showed us some owls and other birds they care for at the park. We also saw peacocks, which is always a treat. We learned some interesting facts about some of God’s amazing creations.  Finally, it got dark enough to head out on our walk. We meandered through the woods, adjusting our eyes to the darkness as the sun set in the distance.  We arrived at a viewing dock over a small lake. As we spotted bats swooping in the air, someone pointed out that we were being watched.  Sure enough—in the water, at just the right spot where the fading light was still reflecting off the water, we saw an eye and a snout barely above the surface.  An alligator was quietly observing us.  We were in no danger, but it was a little unnerving to feel him watching us.  I again marveled at how there was so much hidden that could only be discovered by paying close attention.  God’s treasures were everywhere.

There was one point, as we were walking along a boardwalk, that  I overheard a conversation between two of my grandchildren. My grandson pointed beyond the railing and said, “Look, there’s a monument.”     My granddaughter, who had been listening to the guide, said, “That’s the storm sewer.” She was right. It was a concrete structure, perhaps two feet high, with a manhole cover on the top.  Her brother shrugged and said, “Well, to an ant, it’s a sky scraper.”

When he said it, I just thought it was a funny comment. But as I thought about it, I concluded that he was pointing out something I need to learn. We rarely notice that our perspective has everything to do with how we live our lives. From the ant’s perspective, that structure truly was huge. But from our perspective, it was nothing significant at all.

God has been trying to teach me this very thing.  The issues that I face sometimes appear like mountains that I cannot hope to get beyond. But from God’s perspective?

Nothing but a molehill.

Have you ever stepped on a molehill? They have no actual substance at all. With the slightest bit of pressure they disappear, sinking into the ground where they came from.

If you ask Him, God will show you that some of the things you think are mountains are really just molehills to Him.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.”Mark 11:23 (NASB)

Turning Your What If to Even If

If you are familiar with the story of the fiery furnace in the third chapter of Daniel, you will recall the speech that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego made to the king. When asked what god was able to deliver them, they said, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

In times of uncertainty, we can often go down a dangerous path of “what if?” We can look at our circumstances and begin to wonder what if I lose my job? What if I get sick? What if someone I love dies? What if…

Usually the “what ifs” in life begin as fear. That little unsettling suggestion that things may not be going in the direction we want. Then the fear grows and we wonder what will happen if things go from bad to worse.

The men in the story in Daniel were facing certain death unless God did something miraculous and QUICK. But they didn’t focus on the problem, they voiced their unwavering faith in the God who was able. BUT they also understood that God might choose to allow them to die. Either way, they were not moving from their position of faith.

My husband and I have had several conversations about how these verses apply to our lives. And not just recently. Yes, this pandemic has brought this up again, but we have faced this moment many times during our four decades together. The most recent was 3 years ago when Randy was diagnosed with cirrhosis.

For nearly 2 weeks I spent the days with him in the hospital, getting more bad news with each day. It wasn’t just the failing liver, it was a steady stream of additional complications. One day it was learning that he also has a clotting disorder. Then it was learning that as a diabetic, he would now become insulin dependent because his liver could no longer process the oral meds that had been working. Then he developed vertigo and couldn’t get out of bed. Each evening I would leave the hospital and drive through the dark streets alone. I would cry out to God to do a miracle but each time I arrived home, I would conclude my desperate prayers with the same conviction those men feeling the heat of that furnace had.

My prayer would end with “even if… ” I would surrender what I could not control to my God who I knew was much wiser than I will ever be. I had learned over decades of walking with the Lord that He is always with me no matter what my circumstances.

And now, 3 years from those challenging days, we are facing a new challenge because Randy is at very high risk from COVID-19. We have had those conversations again about “what if?” And we have come to the same conclusion.

Even if one or both of us contracts this virus, our trust in our God remains the same. We will be made well through whatever means God chooses. Perhaps a miracle, perhaps a long difficult recovery, or perhaps an invitation to see Jesus face to face.

If you are feeling fearful and asking too many “what if” questions, take your fears to God. He is the answer to all your questions. He knows His plan for you and He has never been distracted. Put your trust in His perfect ability to take care of you and your loved ones.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.” – Isaiah 26:3-4 (NASB)

Slow Enough to Notice the Details

Until a month ago, life on earth was cruising along at breakneck speed. Everyone was in a hurry. No time to stop and rest, no time to pause and ponder, no time to be grateful.

Then suddenly, the breaks screeched and we all came to a standstill. Then the waiting began. We heard people saying how they couldn’t wait to get back to normal. Adults expressed how bored they were, forgetting how they had counseled their children in times past to “use their brains and find something to do.”

The Lord actually began teaching me these lessons several years ago. I was confined to my bed for 8 weeks as I recovered from hip surgery. After I tired of watching movies and reading, I began searching for something to occupy the long days. I learned some new craft skills, started new journals, and began to notice things I hadn’t seen for a while because I had been so busy.
I remember sitting for a long time watching it snow one day. It was fascinating how the wind shifted and the snow danced its way to the ground. Who has time to watch snow fall? It’s amazing what you notice when you have nowhere to go. No time schedule, no place to be, just living on hold.

That’s what we feel like we’re doing now—living life on hold. It’s as though we’ve pushed the pause button on our remote and the TV screen has frozen in place until we can pick up where we left off. But do we really want to pick up where we left off? I don’t.

Could it be that God wants us to take time to notice our surroundings more?

I have been taking walks in the mornings and being intentional about observing things as I walk. I’ve noticed tiny little flowers that aren’t really visible unless you look for them. I’ve noticed the daily changes in the tree branches as the leaves have begun their spring growth. I feel like I’m seeing things I’ve taken for granted for a long time.

It might be a good time to begin to notice other people. We are so used to breezing by people because we have a hundred other things on our minds. Perhaps we should take notice of others now. Maybe we could be of some help to them.

When we look back on this time of isolation and limited activities, we have a couple of potential scenarios. We might remember that we learned something valuable when we surrendered to the slower pace.  Or we will remember how impatient we were, fretting about when this would be over.

In every trial we will ever face, we have the choice to set our own attitudes. Until this quarantine ends, why not choose to just rest and enjoy the pause?

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” – Job 12:7-10 (ESV)

A Fresh Perspective About Holidays

This year, we all experienced a different sort of Easter celebration than ever before. At our house, we had a simple dinner with just 4 of us. Nothing like the Easters past when we had a houseful of children, or grandchildren. After church we would do the traditional egg hunt and then we did a scavenger hunt. Each year Randy would write a series of riddles that were clues. Each child got a different color and had to follow their clues to a surprise. It was great fun to watch them racing around the house and yard to find their next clue.

No egg hunts or scavenger hunts this year. Any interaction was by phone or online. You might expect all of this to make me sad, but it doesn’t.

This is because of something God has been teaching me over the past year or so. It was confirmed the other day when I listened to a dear friend who spoke about what we might be called to “unlearn” during this strange season of pause for the world. You can listen to her devotion here. It would be well worth your time.

So what has God been calling me to unlearn? I believe it is the idea that we need things to go a certain way for holidays to feel special. This year has been a lesson in how I can celebrate holidays without my family surrounding me. For decades I have experienced a large gathering on each major holiday as well as for the many birthdays each year. With seven children, we had a birthday almost every 4 weeks for most of the year. Each celebration was a reason to gather the family—and it was usually at our house since it was the only one large enough for the whole clan.

This lesson had its beginnings earlier last year but came into clearer focus last Christmas. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, Randy and I found ourselves alone on Christmas Eve. We went to the Christmas Eve Service at our church and as we walked out into the warm Florida evening, I was overcome with thankfulness. I was so grateful for the true meaning of Christmas. It was such a simple moment, but it was profound. Everything that used to represent Christmas was not evident. There was no snow, no gifts or stockings, no family gathering for a big meal and celebration. But the true meaning of Christmas was very much alive in my heart.

Fast forward to Easter. Again, through circumstances beyond our control, we were by ourselves. We rose early and listened to our pastor’s sunrise devotion, then later watched the Easter Service online with thousands of our closest friends. Then we went to take a walk and were surprised to find several dozen colorful plastic eggs decorating our flowerbeds and sidewalk. Friends had come in the cover of darkness the night before and scattered the eggs. Inside we found symbols of the Easter story.

So today I am again reminded that Easter, like Christmas, isn’t to be found in the events of the day. Instead the real joy is found in celebrating the first Christmas and the first Easter. It’s in the birth, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. And in the knowledge that He came for me.

He came for you too. Take a moment today to thank Him for coming to earth and trading His life for yours.

“He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.” – Titus 2:14 (CSB)

Do You Have a Thankful Heart?

What if I were to tell you that I know what God’s will is for your life? Sound a little iffy?

Actually, I do. I can tell you that it’s God’s will for you to be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

That’s pretty clear. And I didn’t say it, God did.

So what does it mean to give thanks in all circumstances? We’ve heard sermons on how this doesn’t mean we are thankful FOR all circumstances, we just have to be thankful IN them. But really, what is the difference? No, we don’t have to say, “Thank you, God,” for cancer or for tragic accidents, but we can still say, “Thank you, God,” that we don’t walk through any of it alone. We can be thankful for what God will teach us as we walk through.

No, we don’t have to like what is happening, but we can still find something to be thankful for. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted, so each life circumstance has some sort of value in eternity. We might never guess what that value is as we are during a terrible situation, but God knows the value and must have decided it was worth it, or he would never have allowed it in the first place.

As I watched my mother die of cancer over an 18-month period, I had a hard time being thankful. But at her funeral, my father came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Was it worth it? I think if I could ask my mother today, as she sits at the Lord’s feet, she would say it was absolutely worth it.

How do you stay thankful when you are watching a loved one die an agonizing death? Or when a friend has lost a child? Or when a marriage has disintegrated beyond repair? God could have prevented those tragedies and yet, He allowed them. How can we be thankful?

We are thankful that God is still good. We are thankful that God is still a loving God. We are thankful that God walks with us through every step of every journey he calls us to. Life is difficult. We can easily forget to look for the things to be thankful for.

In her book, Lessons I Learned in the Dark: Steps to Walking by Faith, Not by SightJennifer Rothschild talks about how she lost her sight at 15 and how she’s learned to be thankful for her life in the 30 years since that time. She says,  “I genuinely thank God for what I do have, because it’s so much greater than what I’ve lost.”

And, Dietrich Bonhoeffer perhaps summed it all up the best when he said,” Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”

Life is bittersweet at times, and we must never allow ourselves to hang on to the bitter at the expense of the sweet. Thank God today for where you are, because He is right there with you. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Be thankful for the morning!

 “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13 (CSB)

Perspective: When the World Seems Upside down

If you are like me, you have certain ideas set in your mind about how life should go. It can be a combination of the ideals your parents instilled in you when you were young and lessons you learned the hard way and are determined to never forget. It can also be influenced by your culture or your belief system.

We all have this list of factors we need in order to feel safe and content with our lives. When something goes wrong, we can get derailed easily. It’s at this point when we tell ourselves to take things one day at a time. We try to convince ourselves that we must just keep going and eventually things will right themselves.

But what if they don’t? What if the loved one dies instead of recovering? What if the adult child walks away and rejects the family? What if the dream job suddenly evaporates into thin air? Or maybe the perfect marriage comes apart and cannot be mended?

At some point, we have to decide what we really believe about life. Is life just random and there really is no reason for anything? Just dumb luck? Or, is life a series of events that all flow together for some future good?

As the world is dealing with this pandemic that seems surreal, we have to change our perspective about what life is supposed to look like. We cannot go back to the way things were before and we don’t have any experience to help us understand what the future is going to look like. All we know is that the world seems upside down and we wonder if anyone has the power to make it right again.

There is only One who has that power. There is only One who knows what is going on and can see the final outcome. God has always known this season would come. He is able to bring good from every situation we will ever face.

Just because this has become a global crisis doesn’t mean that God is any less capable of handling it. Remember that He is the one who created this earth. He is still sovereign and in control of everything that happens here.

So now we must decide to change our perspective. We are at a moment in time when we must decide that life doesn’t have to look like the mental picture we’ve always had. It’s time to be open to allowing God to work in new ways. It’s time to set aside our list of requirements for a good and happy life. It’s time to seek God and listen to what He is saying to us. He knows what lies ahead and He will be faithful to see us through.

Perhaps God is saying to us what He said to Isaiah.

“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19 (CSB)

A World in Need of Hope

We were just going about our business. We were living life the best we could. It wasn’t always easy but it was at least manageable most days.

Then, with little warning, we are suddenly confined to our homes. Suddenly learning new phrases like “social distancing.” Trying to figure out how to feed our families, and many becoming instant homeschoolers.

For some, a sense of fear has taken hold. For some, it has grown into panic and dread of tomorrow. But we feel helpless to do anything that will slow the spread of this virus as we see it taking over our homes, our cities and our nation. Most of us will not become sick but the fear that someone we love will die hangs in the back of our minds.

So what can we do to calm our fears? What we need is a large dose of hope but what does that look like? What exactly is hope, anyway?

Hope is not crossing your fingers and wishing for something good to happen or for something bad to NOT happen. It isn’t closing our eyes and holding our breath while we wait to see what happens.

The biblical concept of hope is to have a strong and confident expectation. The modern dictionary calls this definition archaic or old-fashioned. Biblical hope causes us to focus on the future. It makes us see beyond the present circumstance. It brings anticipation of what’s to come. It gives us the strength to live with courage and to remember that nothing in this life is forever. It gives us peace and joy in the midst of the trials and suffering of this life.

This difficult time we are living in reminds us that we can be thankful for the simple things in life. It reminds us that things can change overnight and everything we assumed about life can disappear with little warning.

We can’t wish this virus away but we can grab hold of the truth. Perhaps it’s time to embrace a little of that old-fashioned kind of hope. The hope that doesn’t disappoint.

“This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:5 (CSB)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (CSB)

God’s Grace is Sufficient

God’s grace is a mystery. How can He continuously offer undeserved grace to us? How can He give us chance after chance to get it right and love us when we fail over and over?

God gives grace for the moment. One moment at a time. He doesn’t give us a stockpile of grace to use at our convenience or at our leisure. He gives it as we need it and only He knows when that is.

For that matter, He doesn’t give us a stockpile of anything. Everything He has for us; grace, peace, wisdom, knowledge—it’s all given exactly at the moment we need it and never before. We can’t save it up for future use. If we did that, we would find ourselves depending on our own ability to ration out the supply as we felt we needed it. We would stop being dependent on God.

Sometimes we think God has left us or forgotten us but He cannot do that. When we ask for forgiveness, He forgets our sin but He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. He is always with us.

There’s an old song that says, “Your Grace is sufficient for me. Your strength is made perfect when I am weak. All that I cling to I lay at your feet. Your grace is sufficient for me.”

It is in that place of surrender that God’s grace is enough. He can only fill an empty vessel. When you lay all the things you are depending on for your strength at his feet, he can fill you with his perfect strength. And there you will find peace as well.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”                          2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

What Does it Mean to Wait on the Lord?

Most of us don’t like waiting. We get impatient, restless, perhaps even anxious. We want our packages to arrive TODAY, which is why Amazon is offering same-day delivery now. We want our food quickly, so we use the drive-through, never even getting out of our car.

Is that how we also wait on the Lord?  Are we impatient and restless with Him too?

Abraham understood waiting.  He waited on the Lord to deliver on his promise of a son.  He must have struggled with impatience wondering if God was ever going to come through on his promise, while Abraham just kept getting older and older. Was God going to run out of time? Would Abraham die before God remembered His promise?

Do you ever feel like you’ve prayed and heard God’s answer and then even though you try to stay faithful and expectant, as the days, weeks, and perhaps years go by, you struggle more and more with waiting?  You try not to be impatient. You tell yourself, “all in God’s timing.”  But you still struggle. Why does it have to take so long?

I don’t know about you, but I write notes in my Bible.  The Bible I have now is falling apart from a decade of use.  I underline, write notes, and record dates when I feel God has spoken a particular verse into a season of my life.

Psalm 27:14, which says, Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord,” is a verse God has used over and over in my life.  I have five different dates written beside that verse that span a six-year period.  I can’t tell you what was going on when I wrote each date. It really doesn’t matter too much now. The point is that when I needed to hear from God, He was faithful to remind me what was important. He helped me redirect my attention to His faithfulness when I was faced with a difficult situation. 

Read that verse again. What sort of waiting is God asking you to do?  Can you take that verse for yourself and surrender your timing to God’s, believing that He has a perfect plan? Perhaps you can write today’s date beside it in your Bible and be reminded that God has not forgotten His promises to you.

And in the meantime, while you wait, you can follow this advice that I learned many years ago: Just keep doing what God last told you to do until He tells you otherwise.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”Micah 7:7 (ESV)

God’s Plans for You Are Bigger Than the Answer to One Prayer

So you’ve prayed. You’ve believed God would answer. But now the time for the needed answer has passed. Didn’t God hear you?  Did He say no and you missed it?

Perhaps you expected God’s answer to go one way and now the opposite thing has happened. The thing you most dreaded has actually taken place. It’s unbelievable. How could God so totally miss what you needed?

We often have our own agendas in our heads when we begin to pray about a situation. We can set expectations about how we want our prayers answered. We can also put time constraints on God as if we know better than He does WHEN we need our answer. Then we get discouraged when the outcome doesn’t meet our deadlines.

So here’s my question.

Is today His only day to work?

 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”Proverbs 19:21