Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When Storms Rage

As I write this, I'm sitting alone in the basement of our house because everyone in this area has been strongly encouraged to seek shelter in a safe place since it's likely that a tornado will form. The rain is coming down so hard and fast that that it looks like a light gray curtain. The American flag in the front yard is flapping wildly. Possible hail is expected in some parts of the county and surrounding areas.

As I sit in the safest place in my house, I pray.
Father, be with everyone during this widespread storm that has wreaked havoc in several states and is now speeding across Georgia. Shelter us as You display Your mighty powers all around us.

We cannot prevent the storms from coming. We can do nothing to lessen their severity. We cannot change their path. Neither can we do anything about the storms of life when they-- with Your permission--arrive, some predicted (as this one is), some not. In all storms, we can only cry out to You for saving mercies and for an awareness of Your presence with us.

As I reflect on this, I recall a Bible story (found in Matthew 8:23-27) about a sudden storm that savagely battered the disciples as they rowed from one side of the lake to the other. Fearing they were going to die out there, they woke Jesus up (for He was fast asleep on the boat) and cried out, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"

Jesus immediately commanded the storm to cease and the waves to stand still. Amazed by His great power to calm the wind and the waves, the disciples asked each other, “What kind of man is this that even the storms and the waves obey Him?”

I realize that regardless of the kind of "storm" that rages in our lives, we can take great comfort in knowing Jesus is as near to us as He was to the disciples and that He will surely help us if only we’ll ask Him to. Whether He stills the storm or allows us to suffer through it, He will be right there with us.

This was taken in another state a couple of months before I wrote the above post.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How Long???

So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?”
~Joshua 18:3, ESV

Some phrases lodge in my brain and remain there for hours, days, or even years. That happened this morning as I was reading the Old Testament book of Joshua. The question above seemed to be directed to me and, thus, has lingered in my mind for hours and has prompted me to share it with you in case it’s a question you, too, need to answer.

Like God’s people in that ancient story, I’ve wasted many precious years “preparing” to do what God wants me to do. I tell myself, “One day I’ll be ready to take the big step and do great things for Him. I just need to learn a bit more and to opt out of some lesser commitments so that I will have time to obey Him.”

That's why I sensed God was asking me the same question Joshua asked. God has been extraordinarily patient with me, as He was with the Israelites, and has provided all that I could possibly need to do what He has asked me to do. Yet, I hang back, begging for more time to prepare in order to do my best for Him. I realize now that my fear has been holding me back, just as it held the Israelites back. That fear has another name, a much more serious one: unbelief. I have not fully believed that the One who assigned me a particular work will enable me to do it.

Today, I sense God is “putting it to me plain” by asking, “How much longer are you going to put off doing what I’ve asked you to do? How much longer are you going to come so close to full commitment to the work I’ve given you, yet fail to step out in faith and DO the work? How much longer are you going to let fear/unbelief rob you of the blessings I have in store for you?”

Father, forgive my lack of trust in You and my failure to carry out the work You’ve entrusted to me. I confess my sins of unbelief and disobedience and humbly ask You to forgive me and to help me to fully enter into the work and its subsequent blessings—beginning today. From this day forward, I will rely on this promise You made to Joshua when You assigned to him a daunting task: Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

One of St. Patrick's Prayers

May the strength of God pilot us.
May the wisdom of God instruct us.
May the hand of God protect us.
May the Word of God direct us.

~Saint Patrick

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unless the LORD...

Unless the LORD builds the house, 
those who build it labor 
in vain. 

Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake
 in vain.
                                                         Psalm 127:1, ESV

I have long known that verse but, sad to say, I have often ignored its wisdom. Thus, God has brought that verse to my mind again and again through the years and especially in the past few weeks. I sense He wants me to share this message with you, Dear Reader, in case you are also struggling with plans and projects that simply won't "come together."

As we go about our work, as we plan our work and work our plan, let's remind ourselves often of the truth in Psalm 127:1 and in these words (excerpted from Matthew Henry's Commentary on that verse):
"Let us always look to God's providence...
If God be not acknowledged, 
we have no reason to expect his blessings; 
and the best-laid plans fail, 
unless he crowns them with success..."

Father, forgive us for failing to acknowledge our need of You, for planning our work without first having sought Your will and Your ways. Help us learn to ask You what You want us to do, and then help us to do exactly what You say and to do it well.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Remembering Mama

My sweet mama died six years ago today (January 9th), and I still miss her so much. Hardly a day passes that I don’t remember something she said or did. I think she’d be happy to know that her life still matters, that her influence and her example live on in my sister and me and in other family members and friends who were blessed to spend time with her.

She wasn’t famous in the eyes of the world. She was never president of any organization and was never in the spotlight. Yet, she was a bright light to those who were going through “dark times” as she, an LPN, ministered lovingly to patients and their families at the local hospital, as she stayed several consecutive days and nights with friends whose mother was dying, as she took care of her parents “to the end”….

She kept the home fires burning brightly all the years my daddy was gone all week (day and night) while he worked in another town, leaving her to take care of my sister and me and the cow and the pigs and the chickens and the mules. At that time we had no telephone, no running water, no central heat or air, no vehicle (except the one Daddy drove to work). But Mama managed and did not complain.

I could go on and on about her, but time won’t permit me to put so many sweet memories in print. However, I just couldn’t let this day pass without acknowledging how much I miss her and how truly thankful I am to have such a wonderful mother, the kind of excellent wife and mother portrayed in Proverbs 31, which includes descriptions such as these:
  • Strength and dignity are her clothing… (v. 25
  • She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue (v.26)
  • She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness (v.27).
  • Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her (v.28).

I want to be like Mama--a woman who is “far more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:1) and a woman “who fears [reverences] the LORD” (v.30). If I am, then I, too, will be deeply loved and, therefore, greatly missed when I’m gone.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Acknowledge God!

When we’re reading, it’s easy to skim right over familiar words rather than stop to reflect on their meaning, as I discovered one recent morning when I came to these familiar words in Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV:
5Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Thankfully, something “stopped me” before I could speed right past them. I wondered, What does it mean to acknowledge God? I jotted down a few words that immediately came to mind: recognize, consult with, defer to….

Next, I read those same two verses in various versions of the Bible and noticed that acknowledge has been translated submit, think about, know...

Then I consulted a Merriam-Webster Dictionary and discovered even more words that are closely associated in meaning with acknowledge: admit, own, avow [boldly declare], confess. One of the longer definitions given in that dictionary says, “to regard or describe (someone or something) as having or deserving a particular status.” Another definition says, “to say that you accept or do not deny the truth or existence of (something).”

Finally, I checked Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and found a long list of closely related words, including these: be aware of, comprehend, consider, declare, discern, discover, perceive, regard, respect, understand

As I reflected on my findings, I wrote this summary:
To acknowledge GOD means:
  • to believe that He is the true and the living God
  • to be respectfully aware of who He is and of His power
  • to think about Him throughout each day—i.e., to live in constant awareness of His presence
  • to consult with Him (through Bible reading and prayer) to discover His will, His preferences
  • to humbly and gladly seek to please Him in matters both great and small
  • to tell others about Him

Bottom line: Dear Reader, if you and I will trust Him fully,  depend on His infinite wisdom rather than on our limited understanding of things, and constantly confer with Him about decisions to be made and actions to be taken, then He will make our paths (our "road ahead") straight rather than like a maze.
Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to acknowledge God by giving Him full control of our lives, including our calendars, our agendas, our to-do lists, our checkbooks…? To ask Him to show us what to add and what to leave out?