Follow the Leader

i-have-cookies-follow-me-cookie-meme

Along with Simon Says, another childhood game was Follow the Leader. Everyone lined up behind the “Leader” and followed them, mimicking the leader’s actions. Failing to gets you kicked out of the game. Climbing over chairs or under tables was a good way to lose players, but no matter what the leader did, if you wanted to stay in the game, you had to “follow the leader.” I laugh at our simple form of entertainment compared to today where a 2-year is more technologically advanced than some adults.

In Deuteronomy 31, we are at the end of Moses’ life. He is 120 and the Israelites are coming to the end of their 40 years of wandering in the desert. Moses knows his time is short and as he shifts his leadership to Joshua the son of Nun, he is preparing the Israelites to enter the land they were to settle in.

This is the land they had been hearing about their entire lives. It was the land of milk and honey, meaning it was a rich land that would sustain their needs. When they left Egypt, it was a short two weeks journey from slavery to the Promised Land, but what should have taken half a month ended up taking 40 years with a whole mess of heartache. An entire generation perished in the wilderness because of their unfaithfulness and refusal to take the land (see Numbers 13 and 14). Joshua and Caleb were the only two of the previous generation to exit Egypt and enter the Promised Land.

Moses is giving his final speech to the Israelites and tells them that even he will not enter the Promised Land, but to assure them they would have a leader, he says:

“The Lord your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the Lord has said…Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it.  And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:3, 6-8 (emphasis added)

God Himself would be their leader into the new land. Now, I have followed many leaders in my life and I am sure that God beats them all. If Moses showed up today and told me that God was going to lead me into the next stage of my life, I would hop in line and follow every move He made. Well, I like to tell myself that, but it’s probably not true. I have a bit of Israelite spirit, so I would probably complain and question just like my long distant ancestors, but still, the Lord is the Leader. He was going to take the Israelites home. Can we really think of a better leader? What a comfort that the God who created the entire universe wants to take our hand and lead us?

You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

Psalm 139:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

This got me thinking about leaders or lack of them. I’ve had good leaders and bad leaders. I’ve had leaders who were incredibly smart but who led badly. I’ve had leaders who didn’t lead at all and leaders who were easy to follow and made the journey sweet.

Maybe you don’t have good examples of leaders in your life. Maybe the leaders who are supposed to be guiding you have shirked their responsibilities and you wonder if they would lead you into disaster instead of blessing.  Sometimes our leaders bail on their duties: parents, husbands, pastors, teachers, bosses, our government representatives including the President, can sometimes make us feel like we are following a 5-year-old climbing over fences and through weeds.

Maybe you look at these leaders and you wouldn’t follow them to the end of the block much less into the next season of your life. But, this concept is not new for a Christian because God is always the leader in our lives. Often the issue is, we don’t follow. See, there are two parts to Follow the Leader, the leader and the followers. As much as we need to have good leaders, we also need to be good followers. Each must do their part for the relationship to work.

See, you don’t have to do what the leader does. You can bail at any time and you are out of the game. Same with the walk of a believer. We don’t have to follow God. Sadly, in verse 16 of this chapter, we see the Israelites will indeed be led into the land they are to inherit, but they do not follow the Leader. They rebel and forsake God, breaking the covenant they made with Him.

I want to follow the Leader. I’m just not great at it sometimes. While He may never make me crawl through bushes or climb a tree, He will ask me to walk through some hard things at times. But the amazing part is, He goes first. He shows me it’s not as complicated as I think. He reminds me it’s as simple as when I was a child. He shows me I can do it. He waits for me to conquer my fears and follow Him. He never leaves me. He won’t forsake me or abandon me. He leads me to my inheritance and hopefully, I follow.

M.http://wanna-joke.com/back-in-my-day/

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Let’s Get To It So We Can Get Through It

Last July with much trepidation, I was re-introduced to camping. My family camped when I was a kid, we had the whole set up including a small porta-potty  because as my mother likes to remind anyone who will listen, “When Misty was little, she could not squat to pee without peeing on her leg.” Thanks Mama. Luckily, I outgrew this deficiency, in case you were wondering.

With growing kids and busy jobs, weekend camping trips slowed, we sold our equipment and life moved on. It’s been 30+ years since I have camped, but Duncan grew up camping and always expressed an interest in doing it again, so last July I decided to dive in and go.

If you know me, it’s humorous. Me. Camping. Doesn’t equate. On work days, my regular uniform is skirts/slacks, heels, and pearls. I rarely leave the house without a shower or makeup. I don’t own sweats or yoga pants and my exercise clothes are expressly that…worn during exercise only.  Not that any of those things are wrong, they just aren’t me. You will often hear me say, “I can’t do that, I’ll break a nail,” (hey, gimmie a break, they’re real) or “I can’t touch that, I’ll get dirty in my good clothes.” I admit, the idea of me sleeping in a tent, without a shower for more than one day is humorous.

I can get dirty. If there is yardwork or cleaning, I’m your gal. Last summer, my brother taught me how to use a lawn trimmer and I must say I am rather adept in its use. It’s not that I can’t get dirty, it’s that I prefer not to stay dirty. It’s not that I must shower every day, it’s that I…ok, I must shower every day, sometimes twice. While I am more suited to an office and a cushy chair, I enjoy seeing the great outdoors, just with working plumbing. I like adventures and seeing different areas of the world, with the promise of a bathroom and some clean jammies at the end of the day.

While the first trip started as uncertain, I really enjoyed it (even with an entire night of a raging thunderstorm that almost flooded our tent, which is another blog for another time). We bought a few items like sleeping bags and cots but borrowed most of the equipment from a dear friend, because let’s get real, why spend money on the very good chance I hated the entire experience and would never go back. But, I loved being outside. I loved disconnecting from electronics and just sitting in the quiet of a camp chair with warm coffee and a cozy fire.

There is something soothing to the soul about hearing wildlife critters (except the time a herd of wild pigs snuck up on me and scared me out of my chair) or seeing the flood of stars in the sky without light pollution to blur them out. It’s calming not having a cell phone notification dinging every 10 minutes. It’s a small reprieve from life’s responsibilities, where the pressing worry is whether my chair is in the right direction to catch the sun or how long of a nap I want to take.

We have been camping six times and have adventured to places like Tent Rocks, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and Chaco Canyon. We have purchased more equipment  and I’m learning to cook over an open flame with cast iron.

All this brings me to this past weekend, our latest camping trip. I planned for us to go south but New Mexico is in an extreme drought, so many of the national forests were recently closed. Last minute, I rearranged and took us west towards Grants.

Friday night we tucked into the Joe Skeen Campground, heading toward Quemado. Free camping spaces nestled in a small, quiet canyon perfect for relaxing. On Saturday morning we headed to Bluewater Lake west of Grants. This was my error. If I had it to do over again, I would have kept us tucked into the quiet canyon abode. Instead, in thinking I was taking us to a more serene and calming spot, I subjected us to the gale force winds that blew ALL day and ALL night.

From the minute we arrived, setting up our canopy and tent was like trying to tame Macy’s Day Parade balloons. Occasionally, but not often, a cool breeze from the lake made its way to the top of the hill to our site, otherwise, the hot wind blasted unceasingly. Duncan often spends his camping days napping, but inside the tent was a furnace and while I was able to read, it was not enjoyable. I prayed fervently for God to stop the wind. Couldn’t we just have a quiet and pleasant weekend in the sun? I begged God for a cease with promises of obedience if He would just put us in a protected section away from the wind. Let it blow all around us if needed, but just not in our campsite. Instead, it felt like He put us directly in the wind tunnel.

Finally, frustrated and tired, we went to bed hoping for a quiet night and better Sunday. Instead, all night the wind whipped our tent back and forth and occasionally collapsed it on one side with the force of the winds. We drifted in and out of sleep only to be woken up the next time a gust tried to pick up our tent like Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz.

Every time I woke up, I prayed for God to still the winds. Just a short break, Lord, PLEASE. But it seemed like the harder I prayed the more the wind was relentless. I didn’t understand why God would ruin such a fun time for us with something so ridiculous as wind.

The next morning, cranky and hot, I got up and started to make breakfast, but with the dawning of the morning, came fresh winds. The eggs wouldn’t cook because the wind flickered the flame so badly. We had planned to stay until mid-day but admittedly like a spoiled child I gave up. I told Duncan I was done and we packed everything up and came home.  Wind – 1, Misty – 0. I even threw out my second cup of coffee because I was so mad.

Since returning home, I have tried to dissect what happened, to understand why God didn’t answer this simple prayer and in the quiet God reminded me of Isaiah 43:2, a familiar one to many of us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.” This verse is dear to me because in 2012, my parents almost lost their home to the Little Bear Fire and this Scripture was the one I clung to. I sat for hours with my hand laid on this verse and prayed for God to spare my parents home. And He did.

As I read it again, I realized the language is active. When you pass. When you walk. No where does it talk about skirting the danger, but rather speaks about being in the thick of it. Just like my parents house was. It literally sat in the path of the fire. The land around their home was charred black as night, burning within 50 feet on one side and 20 feet on another side. They were IN the flames and came out unscorched as God promised. Do I think God saved their house that day because of my prayers? No, I believe it was God’s will to save their house and He heard my prayers in accordance with His will and answered them.

So, God showed me it’s not about going around the storm (or wind), it’s about getting through the storm. A friend I used to work with would often end our morning meetings with the phrase from an old TV show, “Let’s get to it so we can get through it.” Sometimes, we think we want to go around the storm, the fire, the wind. But God wants us to learn to walk through the storms with Him. See the first line is His assurance to us, “I will be with you.” If you go back to verse 1, He assures us, “You are mine.” We aren’t alone. The storm is what makes us rely on Him and seek His shelter. What if God was just waiting for me to surrender to the wind and just when I gave up and packed it in was the time it was going to ease up? I will never know because I quit.

It’s the same with the season I am in, I can choose to skirt it and make my own way, but who knows what I am missing if I do that. Better opportunities. God’s perfect plan. There is no telling what we miss when we make our own detour out of the storm God has purposed for us to walk through.

Did this make me want to give up camping all together? No. I’m already planning our next trip in a month. But, it made me realize I can’t give up when it’s hard. I have to learn to put my head down and wait it out, even when I am frustrated and tired. Like my parents house that stood strong and sure in God’s protective hand, I have to learn to do the same, even when the stupid winds want to push me around.

M.

Used to the Full

Useless is defined as, “not fulfilling or not expected to achieve the intended purpose or desired outcome” or “having no ability or skill in a specified activity or area; pointless, ineffective, fruitless, unproductive.”

No one wants to be told they are useless; we all have a purpose. We all have a strategic gifting innately built in to who we are that I believe is bestowed by God Himself, for His glory and plan.

But what happens when you are not fulfilling your purpose or functioning in your gifting? When you have blown it off? Or have allowed circumstances to muddy the waters? When it got too hard? Too costly? Too demanding? Sadly, in this instance, you have thrown yourself into the useless category.

Ezekiel 15 talks about Israel as the vine, which is common imagery in the Bible, but this chapter includes a new word (depending on the translation): worthless, outcast, or most common, useless. Harsh words for a nation that was God’s chosen people. But, idolatry had entered the nation. Idol worship began, the high places were created, Israel started worshiping every other object available over God. Even with the high calling as God’s people, they rendered themselves useless to the Lord.

It’s only 8 verses and 205 words, but it packs a gut punch of conviction. God asks Ezekiel what is good about a vine branch. It’s not as strong as a tree. You can’t create anything with it, even a small peg to hang vessels. As firewood, it burns fast. Once it’s burned, it’s even more useless. And then, you get the gut punch, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so I will give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will set My face against them.’” Whoa, that escalated quickly. But in reality, it didn’t. God had been dealing with the errant nature of His children since Adam and Even in the garden.

Most of Israel’s sin (and ours) comes down to one word in verse 8: unfaithfulness, the root of many of our issues. We give up our dreams because we don’t believe they will come true, we don’t see how they will work out, we think our giftings are lacking. We lay down what God has given us and we settle for less than God’s best. Spiritual mediocrity. Maybe we don’t even intend to do it, but somewhere, somehow, we quietly give up. The writer stops writing. The artist stops painting. The mind stops solving problems. We stop hearing God because we stop listening for God. We stop getting assignments because we stop completing assignments. We become ineffective, fruitless, and pointless. Because we are useless, we get USED LESS.

And this is where God sets His face against us and we become desolate. I’ve been there. I give myself all the reasons in the world not to do what God has called me to do.

I’m too busy.
I’m too tired.
No one reads.
No one is asking.
No one listens.
No one cares.
It’s too hard.
It’s too intimidating.
It’s too personal.
It’s too much work.
It’s not good.
It’s not doing anything.

We stop obeying and focus on other things, which is fun and games until you are in a pinch and need an answer from God. Then it’s silence. We didn’t realize God stopped speaking to us, right around the mile marker in which we decided to run our own race. Unfaithfulness is the winner of that game.

But, God is a God of redemption and in chapter 16 He speaks of rescue, I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more.” He promises to …remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you…And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the Lord…when I provide you an atonement for all you have done,” says the Lord God.’”

God doesn’t redeem because we are worthy of it (although He thinks we are) but He does it because of His unending grace for His children. He is a long-suffering God who loves His children and wants the best for them. Israel was never meant to be useless and neither are we. God had a plan for their greatness but because of laziness and unfaithfulness they faltered and so do we.

I don’t want to be useless in God’s kingdom. I don’t want to be set aside as fuel in the trash heap or even as a dinky peg to hang a vessel on. I want to answer the call He gives. I want to rise to the challenge of whatever He sets in front of me. I want to be made into something great that beats the fire and is useful, “able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways” so I can be USED to the FULL.

M.

Simon Says, “Stop”

Do you remember playing Simon Says as a kid? Whoever “Simon” was would give a series of instructions and the others had to do the action as quickly as possible. Simon says clap your hands. Simon says stomp your left foot. Simon says stick your tongue out. Simon says moo like a cow. You could get the group to do some funny things with the power of being Simon. Then the trick was to give an instruction without saying “Simon says.” Whoever complied with the unauthorized instruction was OUT.

As this season of waiting seems to drag on, I often want to start taking the next step, even though God has made it VERY clear that my only task is to be still. Do nothing. Stop striving. He alone will make it happen. But see today is 31 days without a job. The entire month of May. I have NEVER not had a job for this amount of time. Never.

So, I rationalize, maybe I’m not hearing right? Maybe I got the messages wrong? All of them. Every day. For 31 days. It’s possible. Weirder things have happened in my life. So, today I woke up and thought to myself, “Yes, today might be the day to start looking for a job.” Nothing drastic, call a few people. Make a few connections. Put myself out into the world. It’s harmless. Surely, I can nudge a little and just make some connections; at least let people know I am on the search.

And then I read Numbers 9. Short history: In two books past, the children of Israel made their Exodus out of Egypt. Finally out from under Pharaohs yoke, they were headed for freedom and God’s presence and protection was with them. With a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night God led the way to their future.

When we get to Numbers, the Israelites are fully in the desert wanderings and God is still guiding them with the cloud.

When it was time for them to journey, “the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey.” Simon says, “Go.” Whenever it was time for them to stop their journey, “…in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents.” Simon says, “Stop.”

Numbers 9:18-23 is lengthy, but here are the highlights, “At the command of the Lord the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the Lord they would camp…Even when the cloud continued long, many days…the children of Israel…did not journey…when the cloud was above the tabernacle a few days…they would remain encamped, and according to the command of the Lord they would journey…whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud was taken up, they would journey…Whether it was two days, a month, or a year…the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey, but when it was taken up, they would journey.  At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord…”

Did you catch that? Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained, the Israelites remained encamped and not journey.

Simon says, “Stop. In your tracks. Stop.”

God is not concerned that it has been 31 days. He causes the rising and setting of the sun every day; He knows how many days it has been. Simon says, “Don’t move.”

Regardless of how I felt when I woke up, that feeling was not from God, because He has given me instructions almost daily in this journey. God says, be still. God says, don’t look. God says, don’t call people. God says, pray. God says, listen. God says, trust. God says, I alone will do it. And when I begin to make my own rules for the game, every time, God has immediately said, stop.

Part of the fun of Simon Says is to see how ridiculous you can make the others behave. But this is the one part of the game that God does not play. He doesn’t want us to mess up. It’s never His intention to disqualify us from participating. He doesn’t want to make us look foolish or stand on one leg or moo like a cow. He wants us to listen to Him. He wants us to get every instruction right. That is often why He repeats His instructions…or maybe that’s just what He has to do for me.

When I quit playing by God’s rules it’s because I am saying I don’t trust Him in some way. Does He know I’m not getting paid right now? Does He know I don’t have insurance right now? Does He know how incredibly bored I am right now? Does He know I have thoroughly cleaned my house every week for five weeks even though there are only 3 people here and they aren’t very messy? Do I not trust that He will provide? Do I not trust that He will bring me to the place He has promised me?

Numbers 11: 23 has God answering my doubts,

And the Lord said…“Has the Lord’s arm been shortened?
Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.”

Is God no longer capable of what I once believed He was? Nope, God is fully capable of doing what He says He will do. He promised me a job and He will deliver. But until He is ready to deliver that promise, I have to listen carefully to the instructions. I have to be ready for the part that does require me to move.

For now, Simon says, “Be still” and I try and comply because I don’t want to get kicked out of God’s plan for being a disobedient child. And I suppose it’s better than ridiculously patting my head, jumping on one foot, or making cow sounds.

M.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

Tom Petty spoke absolute truth, “The waiting is the hardest part.” No one likes to wait. We are a people of instant gratification. With fast food joints handing over dinner in a bag in 2 minutes and Amazon prime shipping almost anything in the world in 2 days, waiting is intolerable. Technology affords us the luxuries of seeing babies minutes after birth, watching someone across the world get married, and seeing what our friends are having for dinner all in the same social media feed.
My daddy has said that in Vietnam it was often “hurry up and wait”. The soldiers would have to hustle to their commanded location, just to get there and…wait.

I hate waiting.
I hate waiting in traffic.
I hate waiting on other people.
I hate waiting for answers.
I hate waiting for food.

But, as I type, I sit waiting. God gave an instruction 2 months ago that it was time to leave my current job and move to the next job He has for me. I knew I needed to give notice and walk away, which I faithfully did, but God has neglected to reveal my next stop. Hurry up and wait.

I don’t wait well. I get antsy. I gotta get going. My personality is a heat seeking missile. I must move and make things happen. Like a bull in a China closet, I gotta shake things up, even if it means breaking a few valuables in the process. Collateral damage, people! It gets worse when I am in a hurry. I drop things, trip over myself, break things. It’s a gift really to be that chaotic and destructive, all while trying to get things done. But, again, here I sit…waiting. This is my fourth week without a job. It’s excruciating.

But, I know myself well enough. If I start making things happen, I will break something…badly. I know that I want to just start making connections, calling people, looking for jobs, whatever it takes to get myself back to work, but that is not what God wants. At every turn, during every prayer time, the message is irrevocably loud and clear:

“At the right time, I, the LORD, will make it happen.” (Isaiah 60:22)

No bull, no China closet, no moving, no shaking. Wait.

God didn’t build me this way, but I am confident He knows what He is asking of me and I must abide. Years ago, I took Self Confrontation (if you have taken this class, you KNOW!) and one of the major things I took away was, “If God says I can do it, then I can.” It doesn’t matter what the IT is, if He said I am capable, then I am. So, if God says I can wait and be still, then I can. This bull got her China closet traded for pastureland.

Every few days, my angst begins to rise. What if I am supposed to be doing something? What if I am supposed to be calling people? What if I am missing God’s message that it’s time to act? This week, as I had one of those moments and just as I was about to break out of the pastureland, God reminded me of King Saul and stopped me in my tracks.

In 1 Samuel 8, we see the Israelites demanded a king. They had always had judges to rule over them, but they were feeling left out of the heathen practices of their neighbors, so they decided they needed a king. Regardless of the many warnings they received, God gave them what they asked for and Saul was it. His reign was riddled with issues, starting with him hiding at his anointing ceremony.

In 1 Samuel 13 and 15, we see Saul make two devastating mistakes that lead to God stripping him of the kingdom. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul was told to wait seven days for Samuel to arrive, but on the seventh day, no Samuel. So, rather than wait, Saul did as he was “compelled” to do and offered a burnt offering and peace offering. It says, “Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came…” So close and by mere minutes he missed God’s mark. Samuel tells him that because he did not keep God’s commandment, his kingdom will not continue. God already sought another king to replace Saul.

Devastating consequences. At this point, I don’t know if Saul could have reversed what was already in motion, but we see in 1 Samuel 15 that Saul continues in busting up his own China closet. Samuel tells Saul to “heed the voice of the word of the Lord” and “Go and attack Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

Very. Clear. Instructions. Save nothing.

Samuel returns and finds, “…bleating of the sheep… and the lowing of the oxen…” And the King of the Amalakites was still alive. Yet again, Saul disregards the commandments of the Lord and because of this, God regrets making Saul King and He tears the kingdom from Saul’s hand and gives it to another.

Regardless of what I am compelled to do. Regardless of what I think is best. Regardless of my anxiousness or bull-like attitude, I never want to be standing where Saul stood. Because, what we learn from Samuel is that God does not delight in our sacrifices or offerings, but in our obedience.

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”

God wants me to obey His commands, because they are for my good. He sees what is coming and knows the havoc I can wreak when left to my own choices. I get Saul. I get his attitude. I get his wanting to make things happen. I get his pushing and pulling in order to DO something, because I bet I can give him a run for his money in the impulsive decisions and foolish actions department.

It makes my heart hurt for Saul. So, I wait. I will not move until God tells me to move. I will not push or pull or sacrifice what I think is a good offering in place of obedience to His command. I don’t want my blessings stripped from my hand and given to someone else who will obey God. I don’t want God to regret giving me something that I could not be trusted to fulfill.

I’m learning to wait. I’m not loving to wait, but I am learning. In this season, I know God is close to me. Probably because He knows I can’t be let too far off the leash. But I feel His presence daily. I feel His calm hand on my heart. I feel His sweet whispers to my spirit. “At the right time, I, the LORD, will make it happen.” And at the right time, I, the child of God, will obey.

M.

Sitting In The Sun

Photo Cred: Misty Foster ©, 2014

Photo Cred: Misty Foster ©, 2014

Sitting at work today my heart was burdened with many things. Change doesn’t come easy for any of us, but in the midst of it all we are reminded that God never changes (see Malachi 3:6). While that truth doesn’t make change any easier, at least we know change comes from the One who is steadfast and immoveable.

I often experience that in times when we are burdened, God will send little reminders of His presence and love, just because He can. Today, as I sat working, a ray of sunlight washed over my face and as I looked up this small window above my desk had a bright ray of warm light coming through. Just for a few minutes, my whole face was covered in sun and then it moved on.

I’m a sun dweller. I am always cold so you can often find me looking for the sunny spot to sit in, but today, the sun came to me. This has never happened before  and for just a moment, I felt God was letting me know He is with me. Just a small reminder that if I lift my face up, He is there to cover me with His love and warmth no matter what is happening in my life.

Often times we think our interactions with God have to be these grand epiphany situations and they don’t. As we know from Elijah (see 1 Kings 19), sometimes it’s just the still small voice of the Lord speaking gently to our hearts letting us know He is with us always.

Just a few moments in the sun and my soul was restored. Just a few moments of God’s light and my spirit was renewed. Just a few moments in a gentle whisper from my Savior and I am content.

Let the sun find you today my friends. Let His warmth and comfort wash over you and release any burdens you are carrying. His presence is all we need.

M.

Can You Bench Press a Buick?

someecards.com

someecards.com

Strong is having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks; another definition is to be able to withstand great force or pressure. I know strong people. Some are physically strong because they exercise their muscles. Others are spiritually strong because they exercise their faith.

Strength is a relative term; it depends on what you are comparing against. I can run 3 miles but compared to others who lift weights, I’m a wimp. I’m strong in the Lord, but there are still days where I need to be reminded of His goodness.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined the phrase, “what does not kill me makes me stronger.” If we are able to survive something that has life threatening potential then usually we come through the process stronger than before.

I agree with Nietzsche, but as a believer I know it’s not my strength that makes me strong, but God’s. Only by God’s ability are we able to face the hardest situations. These are times Paul described when we are “Hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Because in the midst of those really hard things, God promises us that He will strengthen us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10, emphasis added).

Recently, I saw this type of strength in action as I watched a father give a testimony of his daughter at her funeral. At 52 days, her life was too short by earthly standards, but the impact she has made is an eternal one. Watching him speak, with his wife by his side, was impossible for my heart to fathom. How could he stand there, poised and sure? How was he even functioning and not collapsed into a ball of emotion? He explained there was no way he should be standing there, able to speak and share, except for he knew his strength came from God.

Compared to God, we are weak. But it’s in this weakness that we are made strong, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10, emphasis added).

When we are weak, He is strongest in us.

While it’s tough to feel weak, you can rest assure God is a trustworthy God. If there is something extremely difficult in your life, you can be confident there is a purpose. And because we can trust Him we can stand boldly knowing that in the darkest times He is faithful. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.  The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one” (Ps. 28:7-8).

Fortresses are usually made of some type of stone; hard, solid. Jesus is our fortress, the rock of our faith. He is often referred to as the Cornerstone and if you know anything about buildings then you know that the cornerstone is one of the foundational stones. It’s typically the first stone set and is the guide for setting all of the stones after it. In ancient buildings this stone was usually one of the largest and most solid. It had to be carefully constructed and it carried the weight of the entire building. Ephesians tells us that Jesus Himself is the chief cornerstone (see Eph. 2:20). He is the eternal guide, sure and strong, to which we can model our life. He is able to withstand any weight that can threaten to crush us.

someecards.com

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This meme makes me laugh every time I see it but it’s a good reminder. Even though God’s strength can hold us up, there are things in this life we shouldn’t tangle with. We need to be mindful of the things that can harm us and stay away from them. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Avoid the things that bring death and let God carry the weight of what you can’t muster.

So, can you bench press a Buick? Some days I feel like I should be able to, but on the days when I have no strength left, I rely on the One, “In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). His strength never wanes, His promise never falters. He will give you the power you need when you need it. Leave the Buicks…and the bears to Him.

M.