Can We Be Done Now?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that nothing ever happens in a vacuum.  When something big happens in our lives we can’t just focus on that one thing. There are still a zillion other things to attend to.

This week we were reminded of the saying, “when it rains, it pours.”  You have a picture of that already, don’t you?  You can immediately think of a time when it seemed so many things were going wrong at the same time and you wanted to say, “can we be done now?”

I’ve said that to God several times in the past month. And, yes, it’s okay to say that to Him. He can handle our frustration.

So our focus for the past week or two has been to get a handle on the new routine we must keep. Medications schedules, giving shots, and logging information to keep track of blood sugars, blood pressure, and weight. It sort of feels like I’ve become the nurse at the hospital taking vitals at shift change. My mother would be proud that I’ve finally followed in her footsteps and become a nurse.

But even though we are trying hard to focus on these details, we can’t just ignore everything else. While we were in the midst of this life crisis, something else happened.  Tax day.  Yep, we missed it.  And we had bills to pay and other deadlines to  meet for the new business.  None of those things went away just because we were facing this difficult situation with Randy’s health.

And then there had to be just one more thing.

Our son in Iowa called to see how his dad was doing. And, oh-by-the-way…the cats we left in his care when we moved are both in their final days. One can barely move now and the other one is in congestive heart failure. Granted, they are both 14 years old, but did this have to happen NOW?  “And,” said this long distance son, “I just found termites in the house.”  Our house. In Iowa. Termites can be expensive. And did I mention? My husband hasn’t worked in over a month. Translate that to no paycheck.  And, termites can be expensive.

Can we be done now?

This is the time when a person must choose to fight despair. It’s the human response to allow hopelessness to start moving in. But our response as Christ Followers must be a different one.

To be in despair can also be called “downcast,” which means just what it sounds like. To look down, to be depressed and discouraged.

Instead of becoming downcast, the scriptures tell us to look up. God is still watching over every detail. Now is the time to look up and set our eyes on the One who holds it all together.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5) NIV

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, he calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. ( Isaiah40:26) NASB

I Found a Rock

We are slowly getting back to normal. Or perhaps it’s really a new normal. At any rate, today, since Randy isn’t driving yet, I took him to a client’s office. It was his first attempt at getting back to work and his plan was to work 4 hours which left me with a large chunk of time to fill while I waited for him. My plan was to go to a nearby library, one of my favorite places to spend time. But since it was such a beautiful morning, I chose to go to a park on the water for a while first.

I walked toward one of four benches facing the water and as I prepared to sit down I spotted a brightly painted rock on the bench. This was a meaningful find for two reasons.

First, there is a pay-it-forward sort of movement becoming very popular in Florida. It may have started on the Space Coast and has now made it’s way to the Gulf Coast. People paint small rocks and then place them in public places to be found by others. The idea is to brighten someone’s day in just a small way. If you find a rock you can move it to another location or keep it and then replace it with a rock you have painted or found elsewhere. A pretty simple but fun activity. I was excited this morning to find my first rock! I envision painting rocks with the grandkids and putting them in places around Clearwater.

The second reason finding this rock was meaningful to me is that it triggered a string of word pictures and if you know me at all… well, let’s just say that word pictures are my native language.

So, this rock I held in my hand immediately spoke to me about Who my rock is.

“There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” – 1 Samuel 2:2

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? ” – 2 Samuel 22:32

In the tumultuous season we have been in, I have felt pretty battered by the waves of life. But for the rock on which I stand, I would have surely drowned.

And the painting on this lovely stone shows the colors of the rainbow. In spite of the fact that the rainbow symbol has been hijacked to serve a different meaning, the original rainbow was a sign of God’s promise to never destroy the earth by flooding again.

So as I sat by the water, with this smooth colorful rock in my hand, I was reminded that God is my Rock. He is a promise keeper and He will never let me drown no matter how it looks from where I stand.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”  – Hebrews 10:23

 

 

Life’s Uncertainties Are…Certain

Some days my mind tries to return to our life 4 weeks ago. Working on projects in the backyard with the family. Going to the beach on date night. Just doing “normal.”

In just 4 weeks, too many changes. So many uncertainties.

But even when so many things happen at once, and you get the feeling things are spiraling out of control, there is one simple truth to consider.

No matter what has happened since yesterday, or last week, or last month, there are really no more uncertainties than there were before. You may have just thought of some new ones, or perhaps you are just suddenly more aware of them. Those uncertainties of life were always there even if you hadn’t seen them before.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between believing that “ignorance is bliss“, and being so “informed” that you struggle all the more with worry.

Faith comes somewhere in between being ignorant and being informed. It’s the place where you realize that you cannot know the future (and that’s a good thing), but you know enough to want answers.

And the only real answer is…God knows.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” – Isaiah 43:2

When the Future Looks Nothing Like What You Expected

We’ve had a couple of rough weeks. While it seems the initial crisis is over, the truth is, our lives took a ninety degree turn from the direction we thought we were going. We can never get back on that old road.

I have been reminded frequently in these two weeks that God’s plan is definitely NOT the same as my plan.  My plan seemed to make sense.  This new plan uses a completely different set of rules. Or maybe it uses no  recognizable rules at all.

Just the weekend before all of this started we were happily working as a family on a book project with a fast approaching deadline. Randy hadn’t been feeling quite right physically but we didn’t see anything that would have been a red flag.  He was tired at the end of the weekend, but then we all were.

Randy had just started his own business two weeks earlier. It has been the plan since we moved to Florida 15 months ago.  The pieces were coming together and we were excited to finally see this dream taking shape.

Then the bottom fell out.  Or so we thought.

What we thought was just some quirky health issues turned into a 12 day hospital stay and a diagnosis of cirrhosis that shattered our carefully laid plans.

One of the things we do as humans is that we project our present into our future without really knowing anything. We think we have an idea where we are going but we really don’t.  And what we think the future looks like actually puts us in a box.  It makes us stop looking for other avenues and possibilities. It makes us get comfortable with our little picture and how it’s supposed to look.

As the days in the hospital began to stack up, I had a lot of time to just sit and think while I watched my very sick husband sleep.  One of the things I realized is that what we thought was an illness that threatened to shut down the business before it even got started is really opening the door to new possibilities that we hadn’t even thought of before.  God keeps showing us things from a completely different angle than we had been looking before.

It has made me think of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis(Chapters 37-50).  All the terrible things that happened to Joseph, God used for good. And God knew ahead of time that all of it would happen. He had a plan that no one else could see.

So at this point in our new journey, we are holding on to that scripture that everyone likes to quote.

For I know the plans I have for you”–this is the LORD’s declaration–“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (HCSB)

It has new meaning for us now. We can look to the future and remember that God is already there. He has already made provision to get US there too.

Is God up to something in your life that doesn’t look like you expected it to?  Take a deep breath and just trust Him. He knows exactly what He’s doing.

 

Navigating in a Strong Current? Better Let God Steer

A week ago I wrote this on my Facebook timeline:

I came to the beach this morning to walk and pray. Now as I sit on the rocks listening to the rhythm of the waves, I am reminded that our lives are in a rhythm of their own. The ebbs and flows, the ups and downs. I can look to the East across the channel from where I am sitting and see the hospital where Randy is and I can look to the West and see nothing but water. I am reminded that the God who could create the vastness of the ocean can handle whatever is going on in the building behind me. God is good.”

At the time, I was only seeing the building in the distance.  Later as I looked at the picture I took, I could see something I had missed.  The sign said:  “WARNING  deep holes and strong current.”  Rather ironic in light of the week I’ve had.  It has certainly felt like we’ve been in danger of drowning from the deep holes and strong current that have tried to pull us under each time another doctor came to give us another round of bad news.

As the week passed, day after day, I tried to keep my perspective positive. At one point I was sitting in a waiting room alone, watching the patient update screen to see when Randy would be done with another test.  I was restless and feeling more anxious the longer I waited.  Finally I changed seats and looked out the window.

From where I sat I could see the same bridge from the other side.  If I looked closely,  I could see the rocks where I took the photo just a few days before. As I looked across the water I remembered what God had said to me that day. I remembered that He has it all under control.

Now as I look at both photos I can see an even greater truth. Though I didn’t actually have to find my way through the dangerous waters to get from one place to the other, God did take me through the difficult challenges that these days have brought.

I sense God whispering to my heart, “I have brought you through rough waters before. Look back and remember My faithfulness and trust me with the future.”

Psalm 42:5 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”

Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

When Trusting is All You Can Do

We say we trust God. And we do. We trust him that the paycheck will arrive next week. We trust Him that even if it doesn’t He will take care of us.  We trust Him with our kids’ bazillion issues. We know that somehow God will come through.

It may seem easy to trust God with those things because in our minds we can see the path to a solution if it doesn’t go exactly the way we are trusting it will. We can visualize a way that God will provide when the paycheck doesn’t arrive.  We can believe the details will all work out for all those day to day things where we tell ourselves that we can trust God.

But then something happens that jerks you off your feet and you are desperately grasping for something tangible to hold on to but there is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Last week my family was collectively jerked off our feet and in some ways it still feels like we are flying through the air. But the fact is, we have landed solidly in the very hand of God and have decided to take up residence right there.  We aren’t going anywhere.

After a long week of gradually deteriorating health, my husband was taken to the hospital on Friday, admitted to ICU and began undergoing a multitude of tests looking for internal bleeding. They found no bleeding but did find that he has cirrhosis.  His liver is failing and nobody knew it.

With words like fatal and transplant  dropped into conversations by doctors, we began to get discouraged. As we sat in the ER that first day and heard those words for the first time, Randy and I just looked at each other in shock. We had no idea what to do with this information.  We felt ourselves flying through the air as the rug was definitely jerked from beneath us.

Now it’s been 3 days and we have made a decision.  We are no longer flying. We know that we can do nothing to change our circumstances. We know that there is only One who is able to help us. Yes, He can choose to use medical professionals. Or He can choose to do a miracle, or not.  But the fact is, He will do the choosing, not us.  The only thing we can do is trust. Simply trust.

Yesterday’s sermon was on Moses being called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he complained to God that he didn’t have what it would take to get through that challenge, God told him that Aaron was already on the way to help him. God had begun to send a solution even before Moses needed one.

Even though this difficult news for our family has caught us off guard, it was no surprise to God. He isn’t wringing His hands saying, “what are we going to do now.”  He knew this day would come when Randy was formed in his mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. (NASB)

And He already has a plan to help us walk through this.  So we will stay firmly planted, in the palm of His hand and let Him carry us. Because trusting Him is all we can do.

Is there something in your life that you need to trust God with?  Throw yourself into the palm of His hand. It’s big enough for all of us. It’s a place of safety and comfort.  Do it today. Just do it.

Psalm 34:4-7

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This [c]poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

What Are You Waiting For?

God’s Word has two major themes that are so simple. The first is “come” and the second is “go.”

He asks us to come to him, first to be saved and then for relationship. He doesn’t have a long checklist of things we need to do to be saved. We don’t have to pre-qualify. We just have to “come.”  To believe that Jesus is who He says He is. It doesn’t matter what stage of life we are in or what our past looks like. We don’t have to clean up our act. We don’t have to have all the answers. We just have to “come” and we will be made new.

If this is true….what are we waiting for?

God’s second theme is “go.”   As our response to God’s willingness to love us unconditionally and save us, He asks us to go and tell others so they can experience eternity with Him as well. Again, God doesn’t have a list of qualifications we must meet before we can answer the call to “go.” He uses the young and old.

Are you young?  “But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.” (Jeremiah 1:7)

Are you…not so young?  “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green.” (Psalm 92:12-14)

He uses people from every class and culture. He doesn’t need to see our college diploma. He doesn’t need references.  Yes, there are certain areas of ministry where some degree of training is helpful.  But you don’t need training to go to your family or your neighbor. You just need your story about how God loved you enough to send His son to take your place. You can be used on the day you receive salvation right up until you breathe your last breath before being ushered into God’s eternal kingdom.

If this is true…what are we waiting for?

Instant Communication

In this high-tech age of cell phones, email, instant messaging and texting it’s easy to stay in constant contact with the people in our lives. Sometimes we even go to extremes and carry on instant conversations with several people at one time. This method of communication can sometimes lead to confusion or misunderstanding. I’m sure if you’ve used texting or instant messaging at all, you’ve experienced a situation where your words or tone have been misunderstood and you had to go back and clear things up.

I know  man believes that he has invented instant messaging but actually…God did.  He’s been using instant communication ever since he created Adam and Eve.  And the amazing thing is when you talk to God there are no misunderstandings. Psalm 139:2 says that God “understands our thought from afar.” And 139:4 says “even before there is a word on my tongue behold, O Lord, you know it all.”

The best part is, talking to the Lord doesn’t need any fancy devices. You can talk to God anytime, anywhere. You can even talk to Him in the shower…try that with your cell phone!

I have to ask myself why we find it so easy to stay in contact with people but we so easily forget that we can talk to the Lord continuously. I wonder…how much time do we spend having urgent conversations about trivial things compared to the time spent talking to our Father?

Being Invisible

Last week I wrote in my journal, “Sometimes I feel invisible.”

Sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing has any real significance. Does any of it matter to anyone? If I were to just disappear would anyone even notice?  Or am I already so invisible that it wouldn’t be evident to anyone at all?

Last week when I wrote in my journal, I had been experiencing an exceptionally challenging week. I’d known ahead of time that it would be difficult and I’d need God’s grace and strength to make it through. The circumstances were out of my control but my response to them wasn’t. I started with a good attitude, acknowledging my need for God’s direction. But as the week went on and I began to get tired, I also began to lose my perspective. By the time I wrote that I was feeling invisible, I’d allowed my focus to shift to myself.  Then, as He does so faithfully, God intervened. The method he often uses with me is the written word. His, as well as others that He has inspired to write.

This time He used John 3:30.  John the Baptist is speaking about his ministry when he says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  The Lord also used a tiny little ninety page book by Nicole Johnson called The Invisible Woman, When Only God Sees.  In this little book the author talks about the building of the great cathedrals in the 1400’s.  Some of these magnificent structures took more than a hundred years to complete. Dedicated craftsmen spent their entire lives working on a project that they wouldn’t live to see completed.

The cathedrals are breathtaking to behold. But what’s even more amazing is to consider the thousands of skilled artisans whose names will never be known and who received no credit for their work even though they faithfully gave their talents for a lifetime. And the ultimate gift they offered? Some of them labored over miniature intricate carvings and then hid them behind walls…where they were intended for the eyes of God alone.

The question I find myself asking is – how willing am I to faithfully complete the tasks the Lord has given me? Am I willing to be invisible on purpose instead of whining about how unappreciated I can feel when no one seems to notice me or what I am doing?

My prayer today is, “Lord make me invisible so others may see You more clearly!”

Melody and Harmony

I read a blog recently by a Christian musician. He was talking about the challenges of serving God in a music-based ministry. He said that sometimes he felt like he was always playing harmony and never melody. This made me think about how life goes sometimes. We think we’ve heard God’s call and we’re trying to be obedient but sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to see how what we’re doing is making a difference. It’s like we are playing the harmony and can’t identify the song.

When I was in middle school the band director tried to teach me to play the bassoon. Aside from the fact that it was a huge instrument for a thirteen year old to lug home for five blocks every weekend, it also required great effort to play. And it wasn’t exactly a solo instrument. Most of the music was the harmony and rather boring to practice. I only played the bassoon for one year. I just didn’t get much satisfaction from the experience.

But as I read the musician’s blog I saw things from a different perspective. When a composer writes a piece of music each part is important. While the melody is meant to stand out, it isn’t meant to stand alone. The richness of a piece of music is in the way each part is combined together. It reminds me of the verses in 1 Corinthians 12 about the body and how each part needs the other.

But back to the music for a moment. In life we can’t all play solos. We aren’t all created to play the melody. But our parts are just as important. A pastor, for instance, may play a solo on Sunday but even he doesn’t always get to play the melody. The beauty is in the way the melody and the harmony flow together. It’s the countless hours that faithful Christ-followers put in just doing their part…just playing the harmony to the best of their ability… that’s what makes the difference.

We may not even be aware, on a conscious level, of the harmony that is being played but if it our part is missing we’d know it. If the musicians suddenly just quit because they were tired of playing the same boring tune the entire piece would suffer.

When we grow weary of playing the same notes, when we can’t even recognize the tune, that’s when we must determine to remain faithful. Our part is important; our harmony is what makes the melody rich. Maybe we are just asked to play the bassoon to the best of our ability. We can be sure that the song the Lord hears is pleasing to Him even if we can’t recognize the tune from where we sit.

Psalm 33:3 “Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy”

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