Some Thoughts On Hurricane Harvey

170827-A-ZW944-005A

During this past week we watched as a historical hurricane named Harvey released its fury on Texas. In its wake, it left thousands of lives uprooted and topsy-turvy, destroying both homes and businesses with its winds and water. A few precious lives were even lost in this terrible storm. It will take a lot of time and an enormous amount of money as the area works on drying out and rebuilding.

While I am always generally interested in the weather (maybe it’s because I am married to a landscaper?), this particular storm captivated my attention because I have a daughter and son-in-law living in the Houston area. I found myself watching the weather channel to keep track of this storm and then watching Fox News as they started to cover it, as well. Here are a few of my (scattered) thoughts about this past week.

1. I noticed that race didn’t seem to matter at all during these past few days. Whether you were Hispanic, white, or black didn’t matter even a tiny bit as rescues took place and shelters were opened. No one cared. Perhaps this indicates that prejudice is not as big of a deal as the press would like us to believe. Do most people really feel a deep-seated prejudice towards other races? Oh, sure we may not understand each other like we should but do we really feel prejudiced? I just don’t believe that most do. Is it even possible that the press is fomenting racism with their constant coverage that aims to divide?

2. Tragedy brings out the best in people. There is nothing like a historical hurricane to remind you that America is a great place to live. As volunteers and resources pour into Houston, we can see that many Americans still care about their fellow man. It is an encouraging reminder for all of us.

3. I remembered why I don’t watch the news. I stopped watching several years ago now, after I realized that it affected my mood and also that the coverage was so biased and incomplete. I do watch a weekly 15 minute recap of world news by a YouTuber who puts clips together. This gives me a great overview of what has happened in the world over the past week. What I have found is that American news channels tend to be extremely myopic and selective in what they cover and there is so much we never even hear about that is going on in the rest of the world.

The other thing I noticed is that they thrive on debate. I just want to hear the news. I was disheartened to see Fox give coverage in the middle of all of this to a fireman who claimed that “Houston just wasn’t prepared for this like they should have been” and then ask a busy official his response to this fireman’s statement. Really? You would do this in the midst of all that’s going on? This was one of several times I saw something like this. It is my opinion that Fox News is just like every other news channel. They feed off debates and arguments and care far more about ratings than they care about the people they are covering. Sadly, this is what the news has become, no matter which way they “lean”.

4. And, finally, on a more personal note, it was quite challenging to be so far away from someone I love during such a time. As my daughter sent me photos and information about what was going on, I felt so helpless. Moments like these are so completely out of our control and they cause us to run straight into God’s sovereignty. I knew that I had to make a conscious decision to trust God for the safety of my kids and choose not to worry–not an easy task for someone prone to worry. And so I grew a bit in trusting God during this past week. And I was reminded that He loves them far more than I ever could. I once heard someone say something like this– “My kids are much safer in the Lord’s will far away from me than they are if they live close and are outside of His will.” So. True.

So there are just a few unrelated tidbits of thoughts I had about this past week. Let’s continue to pray for Texas (and the other states affected, as well) and offer to help however we can. They all have a very long road ahead of them.

 

Victory Over Sin Isn’t an Event

climbing-to-the-top-2125148_1920

When I was a young married woman, I had a big problem. Without going into details, worry was something I battled on an almost daily basis and it was strangling the life out of me. At least that is how it felt. I was able to function normally so I truly doubt most people knew the battle I faced every day.

But God graciously rescued me and He used two verses to help me–

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

and

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

He used the first verse to show me that I needed to take every thought captive in obedience to my Savior. This included all of my fretful thoughts that started with “but what if…” and I had a lot of those. And He used the second verse to remind me that my fear was a hopeless trap and that I could instead turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and be safe in His sovereign care.

It wasn’t instant and it took a lot of hard work (Philippians 2:12) but it was so worth it! I begged God to give me victory over this sin and He answered! I walked out of my prison of worry and into the bright light of freedom and trust in my sovereign, heavenly Father.

I very naively thought I had beat that horrible sin in my life. But I was wrong.

Fast forward many years. Life slowed down and, suddenly, I had that very precious commodity of time on my hands. My life that had basically been the same for so many years started changing… and changing… and changing. Questions and quandaries I had never really prepared for abounded. And, quite without warning, this terrible sin reared its ugly head and viciously attacked me. Well, let me rephrase that– as that makes me sound like the victim. In reality, I gave it an opening and it rushed in and almost ate me alive.

I am on my way to victory once again but it has been rough. I have struggled to not let the fear and worry control me but it has been quite a battle. And I have tried to understand why this sin came back without warning and with such a vengeance.

As I have thought about it (I know, I know–I just think wayyyy too much), I wonder if it isn’t for three reasons–

First, I believe I may have been so distracted during my very busy years of raising kids and running the business that I forgot I had this struggle. I had few moments to myself during that time and when a rare solitary half hour came I was too excited about it to spend even a precious second of it on worrying. Now that I have so much time alone– which leaves me with far too much time to think–I have found my mind wondering in the sinful directions of anxiety and worry.

Second, I naively (and perhaps proudly) believed that my battle with this particular sin was over. The return of this sin in my life has been a good and hard lesson for me. It has taught me that no sin is ever “conquered”, showing me that I must always be on guard since even “conquered” sins can sneak their way back into our lives if we aren’t careful. Victory over sin is not an event but is carefully maintained through humble examination throughout our lives.

Third, I am quite sure I didn’t (probably still don’t) have a proper view of God’s Sovereignty. This is really the root of almost all anxiety, fear, and worry. Every day we hear of the most horrible things that happen to people. Stories hit the news and we talk about them with our family and friends, reeling at the awfulness of them, knowing that the same thing could happen to us. Something I read by John Newton a month or two ago was instrumental in reminding me of one very important fact: Nothing can happen to me outside of God’s plan. Here is what he wrote–

“When believers die–whatever the accident or the illness may be–they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory!

Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt–in defiance of the greatest dangers! But when His appointed hour arrives–then they must depart. When He will have them with Him–we cannot detain them; nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.

None of us can be perfectly happy in this poor fleeting world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can–it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord’s hands–and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.

Death is but a temporary separation. Those who are gone before us, are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb–out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more!”

Oh, this is so true!

And as I have reflected on this sin that I thought had disappeared from my life forever, I realized that it had only lay dormant for many years, while I faced many battles with other sins, and then rushed back just when I least suspected.

And so I am back in the Word, re-memorizing the verses that were so helpful to me many years ago and finding new verses to memorize that will help me. And I am working very hard to take my thoughts captive–determinedly turning my brain from the worrisome, anxious thoughts before they spiral downward and out of control.

This is very personal to share this morning. But I share it here because I hope that this will encourage you, my readers, in several ways–

1. I hope it will remind you that our battles with sin are never over. They ebb and flow but we should never think we have beaten something completely. Knowing this will keep us on our guard against it and help us to maintain victory. Victory over sin is not an event but rather a lifetime of watchful maintenance.

2. If you are fighting against worry or anxiety–or any other sin, for that matter–I hope this encourages you, too, to take your thoughts captive. I hope that you will realize that you can win your battle with sin, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. And I hope that God may use this post to keep you from throwing your hands up in despair and just giving up.

3. I hope this will remind you of the power of God’s Word in our lives as believers.  God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is profitable for reproof and for correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–which is exactly what we need sometimes! The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) and without it we are defenseless. May we remember this always but particularly in our fiercest battles.

 

Now go fight your personal battle with the sin that threatens to overtake you, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the strength and the wisdom you so desperately need. And stay watchful, because although the sin may disappear for awhile, it remains there waiting to pounce on you just when you least suspect it. We can stay spiritually strong and be prepared to fight by staying in the Word and walking closely with our heavenly Father–which is always our safest place.

 

 

 

 

This, Too, Shall Pass

1930s

A few weeks ago I went to my daughter’s cello orchestra concert. As I listened to the music, I stared at the old-fashioned screen–a very interesting relic of the past–that was behind the orchestra. It was from the 1930s and had a beautiful, pastoral scene in the middle with advertisements for local businesses around the outside edge. My eyes went from one advertisement square to the next, where I read names that were completely unfamiliar to me. Two of the local businesses advertised had been in their final years when we had moved to the area in the early 90s and so I recognized the names. Only those two–out of the eighteen advertisements–were even slightly familiar to me.

Wow. This really reminded me of just how temporal this life is. We have a small business (as many of you already know) and sometimes we can get caught up in all of the problems and trials that come along with this particular lot in life. Business owners face issues that most people never even think about and it can be quite the challenge. My husband daily faces most of them, as he is in the day-to-day organization of the field work, while I support him and work with him to process some solutions and plans for the dilemmas and situations that come along. We have been doing it this way for thirty years now. And we have weathered a lot. But I have to admit that this year has brought some challenges that were not only unforeseen, but have also reminded us that we can’t rely on our strength alone.

These challenges can potentially be overwhelming if we forget that this is just a temporal calling.

Not only is this business just a temporary thing, but we also need to remember that our hope does not lie in any business! Only God is our hope. It should never be placed in anything else. For us, we can easily place our hope in our business if we aren’t careful. But for some of you, it may be in your family or in the government or some other thing. It is so incredibly tempting to place our hope in things other than God.

When things go wrong, this is when we find out just where our hope lies. If we are assailed by anxiety and fear, we are probably putting our hope in temporal things. Things that won’t last for eternity.

And so–as always–God has used these trials to gently draw us back to a proper perspective. And for that, we are thankful. While the trials are hard and frustrating, it is a good thing to be reminded that this world is not our home and that our affections shouldn’t be rooted too deeply here. It is good to remember that everything is temporal–except for the souls of men.

I don’t think it was an accident that I saw that screen on that day. And while I still experience moments of deep frustration and fear and even sadness at all of the cultural changes going on, I know that God has not deserted us. God has been so faithful to us through the years, answering so many prayers. We know He will continue to walk with us–just as He has for over thirty years now–as we strive to operate a business with integrity. The challenges may be more abundant than we’d prefer, but we were never told anywhere in scripture that life would be easy. So why do we expect it will be?

And, I know this will seem like a bit of a rabbit trail, but I guess I just have to add one more thing regarding this. I believe that the expectation that life will always be easy–that somehow it is greener on the other side of the fence if we can only get there–is part of why there are so many divorces, failed businesses, and church-hoppers. Years ago, we were taught to live by this sentiment: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” but now that sentiment could be replaced with something like this: “When the going gets tough–or unpleasant–or we just don’t like it– it is time to walk away.”

How thankful I am to be married to one of those rare guys who doesn’t walk away from trials and challenges but, instead, rises up to meet them. Oh, how we need more men (and women) like this!

To tie it all together–you knew I could do it :) — not being surprised by trials and challenges (and then sticking around to see them through) and having an eternal perspective by placing our hope in the Lord (and not in temporal things) both go a very long way in keeping us at peace. When we can accept God’s sovereignty in our life, always trusting that He knows best, we can experience the joy and peace that is promised us in scripture. We may not always know why. We may not always understand. But we can courageously face our trials, knowing that He will always be faithful.

The trials of this life shall soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ shall last.

May we face the battles of life bravely while keeping an eternal perspective. May we remember that there are lessons for us to learn and people, desperately lost in their sins, who need to see us live out our Christian lives in the tough times. And may we remember that all of this life’s trials pale in comparison to the glory that awaits us in heaven!

 

A few verses that came to mind while writing this post–

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

I Peter 1:20-21 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

James 1:10-11 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Isaiah 40:7-8 The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

 

Beyond the Clouds

south-china-sea-1527992_1920

No matter what weather is going on down on earth, when a giant, silver-winged plane soars beyond the clouds, the sun soon appears. Have you noticed that, too, when you have had the opportunity to fly? Above all of the black clouds or fuzzy gray fog, we always–without fail–will find the sun.

I have often thought that there is a very similar spiritual parallel to this. As you may already know, I am a Bible Study leader. Currently, we are studying Philippians and I have been struck–as I usually am in this epistle–by Paul’s focus on joy. When you really think about all of the pain and suffering Paul endured (much of it because he was standing for truth), it seems almost incongruous, doesn’t it?

How in the world could Paul have been content and joyful through all of these hardships? And yet, we read in Philippians 4:11-12

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

And he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 7:4

Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.

So just how did Paul learn to be content in all circumstances? What was the source of his joy?

It is generally agreed that the key word for Philippians is the word joy. And that is most definitely the main theme throughout the book.  The Greek noun or verb form of the word “joy” is found over a dozen times. But I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Paul mentions Christ 50 times in this short epistle. John MacArthur puts it this way in his introductory sermon on Philippians

The theme of these chapters is joy; Paul mentions it at least 16 times in these four chapters.  He also mentions Christ 50 times.  And that is because his joy is found in Christ, and so is our joy.

I think that last sentence is worth repeating–

Because his joy is found in Christ, and so is our joy.

Now think about this with me for a moment. Is your joy found in Christ? Because I can tell you right now that this is a huge struggle for me. Instead, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for happy circumstances and personal comfort and convenience. And when all is lined up just perfectly, then I claim to be joyful. But is this really joy? Or is it rather just a temporary state of well-being that I am calling “joy”?

You may be wondering by now what all this has to do with an airplane and clouds and the sun…

Well, I am glad you asked!

I wonder if we are so desperate for sunny skies and carefree living that we forget that Christ is always there–working through all of our circumstances–whether we can see Him clearly or not. And I wonder if our finite and temporal view of things makes us distracted and forgetful? Are we so focused on the here and now that we lose sight of the big picture?

If we can only see the clouds and forget what is beyond them, we can become embroiled in grief and depression and despair. Without proper perspective, we become unhappy, thankless, selfish people who live just like the rest of the world.

But if we, like Paul, can remember that our joy and, in fact, our very lives, are wrapped up in the Person of Christ, then we become a joyful and peaceful person that not only stands through the storms of life, but who can also boldly testify to the strength and power and faithfulness of Christ’s love through those storms.

For He is always there.

The winds may blow, the skies grow dark, and the rains pour down but Christ will not move. He is the constant that our whole world revolves around.  And He is always there, working in and through the shadows and storms for His glory and our good.

Paul says it best in Romans 8:28-29

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

I guess joy and contentment will always be a battle for most of us. It will be something that eludes us as we focus on ourselves and on our temporal situations. But when we turn our focus to the Lord Jesus, the temporal will fade a bit. Oh, it never fades completely, of course, but it fades a bit. And as we become more and more mature in the faith, we become more and more content. And contentment yields greater joy and peace. Isn’t this a most wonderful thought?

Change is in the Wind

weather vane

My daughter walked out the front door, ready for her first day of soccer practice. It all seemed quite normal, except for one thing that kept running through my head: It’s her last first day.

After having three weddings within 13 months, I was quite ready to settle into normal again. Of course, it was a drastically changed normal, but it was a normal. And somehow over the past year, I have gotten used to having only one kid around. Things are quieter and so much more laid back. There is much less laundry and I spend a lot less money on food and clothing. The kids come to visit and it’s fun and loud and crazy and then they go home and we are left with just the three of us once again. It took me a while to get used to this new normal. But I realized the other day that I think I am okay.

And then I watched my last child head off in her car to soccer practice. It is her senior year of high school and I can smell change in the wind again. My heart sinks a little to think of it. What will life be like with just my husband and me? Will my baby be okay in her new life? What will I do all day? Questions assail me if I let my mind dwell there.

Reminds us just a bit of this upcoming election, doesn’t it? Change is in the air. We can feel it. No matter who wins, this is a historical, unprecedented election. Neither candidate comes with a stellar reputation. Neither seems to have the qualifications or integrity necessary to lead a nation. And questions assail us. What is going to happen? How is this nation going to survive? And what does it mean for us personally?? Will our normal continue or will it be forever changed?

Clips of the unrest and starvation going on right now in Venezuela haunt those of us who understand what socialism really does. We hear about pastors being arrested in Canada for speaking out against homosexuality and can feel that change making its way south. Isis threatens the innocent and unsuspecting across the globe. Natural disasters like floods, wildfires, and tornadoes have uprooted thousands of lives here and throughout the world.

And we are going to have WHO leading this country??

But here we are. And it is what it is.

Now may be a good time to remember that we are just aliens passing through. If we are saved, our citizenship isn’t here.

Now may be a good time to remember that we have had it SO GOOD. So much better than any Christians in any other place or any other time on this earth. We must be thankful for what we’ve had and prepare as best we can for the changes that are coming.

Now may be a good time to thank God for the freedom we have right now on this day. Let’s be sharing the Gospel with that friend or neighbor–while we still have the freedom to do so.

Now may be a good time to stop complaining. As of right now, we can still go to the store and buy almost anything we want to. We can still stop for ice cream. And we can still gather together for worship on Sunday mornings. Life is still mostly good for those of us in western countries and we dare not forget that amidst the fear and doubts that threaten to overtake us.

And now may be a great time to turn our eyes to the One who never changes. He never rests. He is our strength in times of trouble and our refuge amidst the storm. He not only knows what is going to happen, but He controls what will happen. We are safe in His arms.

Life may change but our God never changes. Of this we can be 100% certain–no matter what chaos and craziness swirls about us.

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Malachi 3:6

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father
of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill?
Numbers 23:19

Misplaced Confidence

kayaking

Over the weekend, we had a lovely time by the bay. Well, most of it was lovely. There was about an hour that wasn’t so lovely. Oh, the hour started out beautifully. My friend and I thought we would take a little ride in the kayaks they had brought along. I got into the kayak, completely confident that our ride would be uneventful and peaceful. An hour later, I got out of my kayak, drenched and declaring that I would never get in one again.

So what happened?

I started out with a confidence I should not have had. The bay was pretty choppy and I was a novice at kayaking. We were just at the point where we planned to turn around. One second I was in my kayak and the next second I wasn’t. I have absolutely no idea what happened. In talking it over later, we concluded that I must have been horizontal to the wave. Instead of putting the point of my kayak into the wave, I just rolled over with it. I didn’t even know anything about that. Whatever happened, I landed in the water and in my efforts to get back into the kayak, it ended up completely filling with water. There was absolutely no possible way I was getting back in that kayak. As I bobbed around the boat, trying to hang on to whatever I could, I could feel the panic welling up in me. I looked at the shoreline–which looked so far away– and felt quite hopeless.

My friend, in trying to help me, ended up in the bay with a boat full of water, as well. I can laugh about it now. What a sight we must have been! But at the time it wasn’t a bit funny and extremely frightening. We just started paddling toward the shore. At one point we decided to just rest a bit and as we did, my friend let out a little scream of delight. She had felt the bay floor beneath her. Somehow it felt so much safer to have the earth beneath our feet. We continued walking to the shore, pulling the water-filled boats behind us.

I won’t go into detail about how we finally got the water out of those boats and back down to our campsites, but I can tell you it would have been quite entertaining to watch! When I was finally back in the kayak (thanks to some help from my hero–my friend’s son who had walked down the impossibly rocky, uncomfortable shoreline when he noticed we were having trouble!) I found myself just longing to have my feet back on dry ground. What had brought fun and happiness when I had started out, now instead brought fear and dread. When we finally rowed (is that the right word when you are in a kayak?) into the boat launch area, I looked like a drowned rat and was quite shaken up. I also felt like a stupid idiot. Who capsizes in a kayak?? Seriously.

But while I was having my own little traumatic event, much more was going on in the world, wasn’t it? First, Christina Grimmie, the Voice contestant, was shot and killed while signing autographs and then later on, there was a horrible mass murder in Florida at a gay nightclub. Before I left on Friday, there was also a shooting at the Dallas Love Field airport–an airport that our family uses. Sometimes it feels a little like we have capsized into a swirling ocean, doesn’t it? Like we are paddling hopelessly, wondering where we are going to end up.

If you think about it, there are many analogies in my kayak story to what we are all experiencing in this world. Slowly the things we had confidence in are being removed– our freedom of religion and speech, our confidence in being able to travel or run errands without fear of being shot, and, very possibly, our freedom to bear arms.

And just like I had complete, albeit unwarranted, confidence in my kayak, so, we, too, have placed confidence in the comfortable life that we have known in our western world. But as things change and the horizon grows darker, we find ourselves becoming stripped of these things that have made us feel safe and secure. And we, too, are left paddling in the ocean with only a life vest.

But let’s not forget! We, of all people, have the one and only life vest that will always hold as we swim in this mass of chaos. The Holy Spirit comforts and helps us as we go about our lives here on earth. In fact, perhaps we are finally being stripped of the confidence we had in the things of this earth and turning towards God, the only One in whom our confidence should ever rest.

We will probably never find sure footing until we reach the shores of heaven, but aren’t you so thankful for the life vest that you have on, if you are a genuinely saved child of God? And aren’t you also thankful for the respites God gives us to rest in our efforts for a moment or an hour or a day, as we vacation with family or smell a rose in the garden or help someone in need? They are a little earth to walk on for just a few moments that renew and restore us and energize us once again.

God is so good. Sometimes it is hard to see that in the midst of all that is going on. And, yet, I was reminded as I looked up at the nighttime sky over the weekend and saw millions and millions of stars, of just how small I am. I know nothing. How can I — a tiny speck on the timeline of history–dare to judge what is good and what is not good? How thankful I am to be able to rely on God and His Word in this sea of life. It is only by placing our confidence there that we can know that our souls are safe and that we will accomplish God’s purpose for our lives, whatever that may be.

And, so, I hope that something good came out of my weekend adventure. I am still not interested in getting in a kayak again, although my husband tells me I must try again. I doubt he will take no for an answer, so you may be hearing more kayaking adventures sometime in the future.

Have a great Monday!

 

Lessons from a Snowstorm

IMG_3335rev

To say my weekend turned out nothing like I planned would be an understatement. It started off with a phone call on Friday morning that forced me to change my plans for the whole day. As I drove home on Friday night the snow was coming down much earlier than had been forecasted and the weather reports seemed to be raising the amount of snowfall expected. Our landscape company does snow removal, so I knew we were definitely in for an interesting weekend.

As the snow fell on Friday night everyone gathered at our house and we turned on a movie. But it was not a normal relaxed movie night as my husband, son, and son-in-law kept their eyes on the weather and wondered how they were going to handle such a huge storm.

Three days later, it is mostly over. Although as I sit here at my laptop, my guys are still clearing snow in their efforts to get normal life back up and running for folks. Oh, how I respect and admire them for this. I don’t think I could do it. They have been going nonstop since during the night on Friday with just a few hours of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I know that I couldn’t do that. I am so thankful for the men in my life!

My job is to take the inevitable phone calls, which is always an adventure. One of our secretaries made it into the office this morning, so I am finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write on this Monday morning. My thoughts feel a little scattered, so I am going to try to pull them all together.

The weekend was full of interesting stories and tidbits, but instead of relaying everything, I thought I’d just summarize a few lessons that I learned (or was reminded of yet again)–

1. God is faithful. I never fail to be amazed at how God works out all the details when these days come. We have breakdowns and we have problems, but God is there in the midst of it. Without question. I know skeptics call this coincidence. But really–is there such a thing?

2. Most people are still generally nice. At least that is what I experienced yesterday. Because of the huge amounts of snow, we had run into the unusual circumstance of our normal snow equipment not being adequate for all of our jobs. This meant contracting subcontractors with bigger machines. But most people were patient and very kind when they called to ask about their driveway.

3. Some people are not so nice and they are the ones who remind me that I still have such a long way to go in the sanctification process. At one point, one lady called to complain about something. Her complaint was certainly legitimate, but it was made with such anger and accusations that I had a very difficult time holding on to my temper. I did manage to do so, but I got a little sarcastic and felt quite a bit of glee informing her that I was one of the owners when she demanded to speak to one of them. It is people like this that remind me that I still have such a long way to go in loving others–especially the ones that are selfish and unkind.

4. God answers prayer. In the midst of the weekend, we ended up having quite the crisis. Without going into details, I felt so helpless and really had to reign in the worry and fear that was rising quickly inside me, threatening to overtake me. I learned again that when I am faced with circumstances far outside my control, that I am not that spiritually mature, after all. I enlisted a few people to pray and God answered in an amazing way. We feel undeserving but offer our deepest and most humble thanks to Him!

5. A thank you in the midst of something like this is like a balm to the soul. This morning, before I switched the phones back to the office, I answered a call from a local business that we plow for. As most calls are usually negative, I prepared for the complaint that was sure to come. Instead, they had called to thank us for doing such a great job. Wow. What a blessing! Just a simple phone call, so easy to do, and yet so many of us never take the time to do this. I am thankful that this man did so. It means so much to our guys to hear words of praise once in awhile. We are always so quick to complain but most of us rarely offer a thank you. This phone call reminded me of the importance to express my gratitude to others.

6. I won’t die if I can’t leave my house. One of the things I have had to get used to is being the last one plowed out. Even now, my driveway is full of snow and drifts. This used to really get to me and I would grow a little angry. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that it was just my selfish desire not to be stuck here that drove my anger. Now I just try to be patient and not to be an extra burden that my husband has to worry about. When I feel a little claustrophobia rising in me, I just remind myself that I have people who could pick me up if there was an emergency!

 

These are just a few of things I learned this weekend. I am sure I could come up with more, but I need to go get busy and see if I can get my life back to some semblance of order! Hope you have a great day!

 

 

The Prison of Worry

worried-girl-413690_1280

I would like to tell you that I am worry-free. But, alas, I am not. There are just so many things that can go wrong! If we are the kind of person that thinks too much, we can tend to be worriers. Am I the only one who thinks there is something desperately wrong if I am unable to get a hold of my child on their cell phone for ten minutes or if I have a strange pain somewhere?

Worry can be so debilitating.

It steals our peace.

It controls our thoughts.

It takes our joy.

And the wonderful reward for all this worry?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

The time we spend worrying steals our present, yet makes no difference in the future. Worry keeps us locked up in a prison of our own making, far away from the joys and blessings of life.

When I was a young twenty-something, I was positively crippled by worry. I would lay on my sofa for wasted hours feeling sick because of worry. It was so awful. But God rescued me. He taught me to take my thoughts captive. I learned to move my mind from my worry to something else. Oh, the first few months it felt impossible. But it got easier and easier, until it became a habit. Of course, every now and then, a few question marks show up in my life to remind me that I haven’t mastered worry.

Theologically, I have learned that worry is really an affront to God. When we worry, we are telling Him that He doesn’t know what He is doing. That we can’t trust Him.

But this week as I was reading in Luke 12 for the Bible Challenge, I found some very practical and helpful principles for this raging battle with worry and anxiety that so many of us face–

  1. We are loved and valued by the Father. Luke 12:7 tells us that not even a sparrow is forgotten before God and that we are of far more value to Him than many sparrows. We need not fear.
  2. The Holy Spirit will guide us through trials. Luke 12:11 tells us that the disciples brought before magistrates and authorities for the sake of Christ will be given words to answer the accusations through the Holy Spirit. When I read this verse the other day, I felt comforted to know that if (or when) the church faces persecution, we will not be alone. And there are other verses throughout scripture to show us that the Holy Spirit is there to comfort and to counsel us: John 14:26; Romans 15:13; 2 Timothy 1:14.
  3. Worry changes nothing. Luke 12:25-26 asks this: And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 
    When things are outside our control, many of us tend to stew and fret and make those around us miserable (if we are honest!) and yet, all that frustration and misery won’t change one thing. That is sobering to think about, isn’t it? Especially for us worriers. How many precious hours have we wasted on this time-sapping activity?
  4. God promises to take care of us. A little further on in Luke we read this in verse 28: If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  Worry is probably a timeless sin that has affected almost all human beings at one time or another. And yet, Jesus tells us here that we can trust the Father. He will care for us.
  5. Knowing God and making Him known needs to be our first priority. I don’t think it is an accident that verses 34-35 (Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.) follow right after this whole passage on worry. After all, worry is often the result of having our priorities a little out of order. It is much easier to yield our will to the Father’s when we can keep our worldly possessions in perspective or when we truly want to please the Father in all things first and foremost– even before our own health or popularity, before any relationship, or before our reputation. When we really keep God first in our lives and seek His kingdom, it helps us to sift and sort through all of the trivial–and not so trivial– things we worry about.

Of course, all of these principles are well and good, but if you are in the midst of a battle with worry this may feel a little rote to you. And some of you are facing really big struggles right now, with no good conclusion forthcoming. Illnesses, loss of jobs and income, straying kids. There are very legitimate causes for concern in so many of our lives. If this is the case, I encourage you to pray, begging God to help you live out these principles in your life. If you are a true believer, the Holy Spirit is there to comfort and guide you.

Sometimes in the midst of a deep, dark trial that has me captured by worry, I find myself unable to even pray. If you find yourself in a similar place ask a friend or family member to pray for you until you get though the worst of this.

But, most of all, let’s keep our eyes on the Father, the author and finisher of our faith. He will never leave or forsake us. Let’s glorify Him by showing the world that we trust Him implicitly instead of staying locked up in our prison of worry.

 

Face Value

conversation1

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. It was so unexpected. I was with a fellow Christian that I had known for a long time. We were different ages and in different circles but ended up working together fairly frequently. I had always assumed that we had the same respect and admiration for each other and that our occasional disagreements and debates were viewed as a healthy part of a relationship.

But, on that particular day, I found out that I was quite wrong.

This person did not have the same feelings toward me as I had towards them. In fact, that conversation showed me that they viewed me as a particularly irritating part of their life. There was no confession and no closure. Just a statement that needed no further elaboration. I didn’t really know them well enough to follow up the conversation any further and so I walked away that day with a shocking and hurtful realization:

People can act like they like you when they really don’t.

For many years after that, I found myself just assuming that most people did not like me. I assumed that I was irritating and that most people did not enjoy my company. Even if someone was really nice to me and I thought I had found a friend, I would hear a voice in the back of my head saying: They don’t really like you. They are only pretending. Just like _________.

It would take a long time for me to trust someone and believe that they actually did enjoy my company. After all, a fellow Christian had pretended to be my friend and it had never been true.

Isn’t it amazing how one conversation can change your life?

By my very nature, I am quite outgoing and outspoken (I can almost hear the “amens” even as I write this from those of you who know me!) It is so hard for me to just sit in a room quietly without speaking. I suppose my parents knew they had a problem on their hands when, as a young child, I spoke my unfiltered thoughts about the fat lady walking towards us on the street.

I’ve had a lifetime of trying to curtail my mouth. To learn to think before I speak. To honor God with the right tone, looks, and body language.

And I do think I have made progress, in large part due to God’s amazing grace and the Holy Spirit working in my life. I am not the same person I was. But I do still mess up sometimes. I still–quite unintentionally–make enemies. And I still worry about that. Especially when people are so good at covering their true feelings.

But, recently, I believe that God has been teaching me to take people at “Face Value”. I cannot know anything about a person that they do not choose to share with me. I cannot be responsible for their grudges and unforgiving hearts if they do not choose to come to me with their issues. If someone treats me like they like me, then I should assume that they do. If they are pretending, that is not my concern. That is between them and God. I can’t spend my time worrying about it and I can’t make assumptions that may not be true.

And since that first conversation, I have learned a few things. First, sometimes people are just really shy. It doesn’t mean they don’t like me. It just means they don’t know me. And, second, I’ve learned that moods often determine how people interact with me. Some people just aren’t friendly if they have had a rough day. It doesn’t mean that they have some deep, abiding hatred of me.

Instead of focusing on the reactions and thoughts of others (which are completely outside my control), my concern is to treat people with love and kindness. If there is a truth that needs communicated, then it is to be covered with prayer and spoken with much thought and tremendous grace. If I do these things, then I must let the rest up to God.

It’s been a long journey that I am still on, but I keep learning that I need to get the focus off of me and my feelings and keep it where it belongs– on God and His Word.

If someone doesn’t like me because of my stand for God, then I am okay with that. If they don’t like me because I’ve sinned against them, then, unless they tell me, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. If they do confront me, it is my job to be humble and willing to receive the criticism with an open mind.

Relationships can be so tough. We can make assumptions and we have expectations. When we are disappointed or devastated in a relationship, it can really make a difference in how we treat others for the rest of our lives. But God’s Word shows us how to have healthy relationships. And the first step is almost always putting aside our own desires and thinking of what’s best for the other person. (Philippians 2:2-3). It’s painful. It’s so hard. But it works.

 

Why Crime Will Continue to Rise

firearm-409252_1280

Everyone is so shocked when a shooting occurs in some part of this country. We hear of banks being robbed, young ladies being molested, and drug use abounding. And we are surprised.

But my question is why?

Why are we so shocked? I can think of a number of reasons why we should not be. And why crime will continue to rise in this country–

  1. We have brainwashed our kids in the education system for almost 100 years, teaching them that they are nothing but a bunch of cells thrown together by chance.
  2. We have taught our young people that there is no God to which they are accountable.
  3. Somewhere in the midst of the sexual revolution, the general population started believing there are no absolutes. Something can be right for one person but be wrong for someone else. It just depends on the situation.
  4. The entertainment industry has spewed forth tv shows, video games, movies, music, and books filled with all that God abhors. Violence, sexual perversions, illegal drug and alcohol use, and filthy language are not only portrayed but glorified. Instead of our youth learning to work at a job, they are sitting in front of screens learning how to murder and shoot.

When these philosophies started making it mainstream, did anyone ever consider the devastating consequences that would result? All philosophies have consequences.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out the consequences of a culture that has decided there is no God and no absolutes. Barring unforeseen revival or some other miracle, anarchy almost has to be the final result.

Because what keeps a desperate drug addict from shooting a store owner? What keeps a sexually hungry man from raping a young girl? If there is no God and there is no right and wrong, then NOTHING will stop them. Their conscience has been completely hardened (Romans 1).

It is a rather frightening thought, isn’t it?

If we are a Christian, we need not fear. Many believers before us have gone through awful, terrible times. God has not deserted us, for the Holy Spirit lives within us. He will walk us through these tough times and dark valleys.

If we aren’t a Christian, then these events –like the shooting on an Oregon campus this week–should demand our attention. You need to be asking yourself this question: Where am I going to spend eternity? Because at any moment–at any time–you could be murdered. Instantly, you could find yourself face to face with God. Are you ready? Don’t delay in finding a godly Christian to talk to about this (or feel free to email me at leslie@growing4life.net if you don’t know who else to talk to).

These stories we hear on the news are absolutely frightening. Whether we are believer or unbeliever, may they lead our thoughts towards the eternal.