Just Trying to Care

Aaron has recently been fixated on planets and stars and space and seeing pictures of all the above.  And when I say fixated, I am not speaking of a casual interest on Aaron’s part.  Aaron latches on to his current fixation like a tick on a dog.  He does not let go easily, and nothing deters him from researching every little minute detail of said fixation. 

He loves to include us in his latest quest for information, which means two things.  First, we must often look up something on the internet with him that he just MUST share.  Google is our friend.

Second, we must listen to Aaron talk and talk and talk and talk some more about all the facts he has learned.  He just knows that we will be as dumbfounded as he is about his latest find.

He really, really wants us to care as much as he cares.

Yesterday evening, then, found Aaron and I sitting on the couch together listening to Louie Giglio’s famous video, Indescribable.  It wasn’t AS full of planets and stars as he wanted, but it did contain some sounds from outer space that Aaron loved.  Aaron was particularly interested in the sounds that planets and stars make, so he was very happy to hear that part of Giglio’s sermon. 

All in all, the video was a wonderful reminder of God’s astounding creation of the universe.  Aaron and I both loved all the breathtaking pictures of stars and galaxies. 

After we were finished, I was in the kitchen lowering the blinds when I hit my elbow on the back of a chair.  I didn’t just hit my elbow.  I whacked it good!  The pain shot down my arm as I grabbed my elbow and bent over.  Aaron, who was standing nearby talking, kept talking until he noticed my obvious pain.  Then he wanted to know what had happened, in detail.

I didn’t want to talk.  I wanted to be left alone until the pain stopped.  So I briefly answered Aaron’s question about my elbow and moved to another room. 

“Mom!!” Aaron exclaimed, “you act like you don’t want me to talk!  I’m just trying to care!”

Well, that stopped me in my tracks.  I removed the arrow from my heart as I walked back to Aaron and thanked him for caring.  I tried to explain how the pain made me not want to talk as I let him know that I appreciated his concern.

This morning I continued reading slowly through the Psalm I am studying…Psalm 8.    The verses I was to read today were these:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of Him, and the son of man that You care for him?   (Psalm 8:3-4)

These verses fit perfectly with all our talk here lately about space and planets and stars.  Well, Aaron’s talk about space and planets and stars.  Gary and I primarily listen.

Anyway, I just sat and looked at verse 4.  Who am I, God, that you care for me? 

And I thought of Aaron’s comment from the night before as I got irritated because of my pain. 

“I’m just trying to care!”

In my pain, I didn’t want to listen to Aaron…but he was trying to care.

It hurt him for me to not recognize that.

And I also thought of God and how much He cares.  God…Who created all the vast universe…cares about me? 

Yes, He does. 

I love that thought on most days, but when life isn’t going as I want…when I am in pain because of situations that hurt…I sometimes don’t exactly want to listen to God.

But then I hear God speak in verses like I read this morning and I am stopped in my tracks.  Humbled.  And so very thankful.

Like David, when I compare myself to the vastness of the far reaches of our universe, I am insignificant…a mere tiny speck.  But God cares…for me?

I love what Dale Davis says: “Only the condescension of God can hold together astronomical vastness and individual concern.”

God condescends in order to hold together His vast universe, but He also condescends to me out of His care for me.  God loves me.  ME!  I don’t know and can’t explain why He loves me, but I know that He does. 

Who am I that God would love me?   Why does God care?

Davis again says: “Why should a mere speck of dust on the light years of God’s calendar matter to Him?  David at least has no doubt that he does matter; he’s just baffled to bits over why.  When he says, ‘What is man?’, he is not asking a question but making an exclamation – he is really saying, ‘What a God!’  He is not posing a mental teaser; he is engaging in breathless praise.”

I didn’t want to talk to Aaron when I was in pain.  Likewise, I often don’t want to hear from or talk to God when my heart hurts, when life isn’t fair, when my world crumbles.

But He doesn’t quit caring.  And I know that He has a purpose for my pain…a purpose that is for my good in the long run. 

So may I, even through pain, give breathless praise to God for His thoughts of me and His care for me. 

Looking Back

Twelve years ago, our daughter was getting ready to graduate from college with a health sciences degree.  She wasn’t sure of what she should do after graduation, so a friend who had already walked that path told her to get her EMT license and work in an emergency room in order to gain some experience and some insight into the medical field.  She got her EMT license during her senior year of college. 

Shortly before our daughter’s graduation, my friend and I were at Sam’s Club shopping for a big church dinner.  We were standing at the cooler choosing heads of lettuce when another shopper joined us.  This other shopper was a caterer, and soon the three of us were talking away.  We found out as we chatted that she had a grandson with autism.  I told her about our Aaron, and off we went sharing some similar concerns.  I had noticed that this woman was wearing a work shirt from one of our large local hospitals, and embroidered on the front were the words, “ER Services.” 

I told her how my daughter sure would love to work at that ER and that she planned to apply soon.  This woman took out some paper as she asked me what Andrea’s name was.  She then gave me a phone number for Andrea to call as well as the woman’s name that Andrea should speak to.  When Andrea was able to call some time later, this woman said, “Oh yes, Andrea.  I have your file here on my desk.”  Andrea was so surprised!  “What file?” she thought.  Seems the woman I had met talked to this person and they started a file before even talking to Andrea.  It was amazing!  Andrea interviewed and got the job right away.

As time went on and several years passed, Andrea had gained much experience at that job as well as two others before being accepted into grad school.  She was finally sure that molecular biology/genetics was where she wanted to focus.  But it was easy to wonder if all the time and energy devoted to the ER and a doctor’s office was a waste.  But since that time, she has seen over and over that her clinical experience gave her advantages and opened doors that she never realized would happen. 

As believers and followers of Christ, we know that if we are walking in obedience to the Lord then nothing is a waste.  We know in our head that “ALL things work together for good.”  But sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that promise when the steps we’re taking are uncertain and even painful.  What we know in our head often doesn’t reach our hearts very easily. 

I liken it to looking ahead as we walk but seeing no clear path.  It reminds me of our walkway in our back yard.  In one direction there is no path.

But when I look behind me, I see how the bricks were carefully laid to make a clear walkway.

 We put one foot in front of the other as we launch out into the unknown.  Really, each new day is unknown to us.  We have no idea what will happen to us in any given day.  What is important is to walk in obedience to God as we trust Him to open and shut doors.

As the days and the years pass by, we too can look behind us and see how all things fit together in our life to make a beautiful pattern.  Each piece fits just where God meant it to fit.

But sometimes the beauty comes as a result of great pain.  God’s purposes are often more fully accomplished through suffering. 

In Acts 23, the Apostle Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel.  Through a series of events he was transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea, and from there to Rome.  All along the journey, Paul was able to preach the gospel to the highest levels of government.  A normal missionary journey would probably not have opened those doors, but Paul’s suffering and imprisonment did provide the opening for sharing the gospel in ways unthought of and unplanned by Paul. 

D.L. Bock writes about how this incident in Paul’s life was rooted in God’s providence.  But he adds that providence does not always mean physical rescue.  “It is one of the mysteries of providence that many times we cannot see why things are happening as they are.  Yet God is surely at work in ways that we could not have planned for ourselves.”

May each of us, as we find ourselves at the end of our known and seen path…as we get ready to walk into the uncharted areas of life…fully trust that God knows best.

            If we could push ajar the gates of life,

            And stand within, and all God’s working see,

            We might interpret all this doubt and strife,

            And for each mystery could find a key.

            But not today.  Then be content poor heart;

            God’s plans, like lilies pure and white, unfold.

            We must not tear the close-shut leaves, apart –

            Time will reveal the calyxes of gold.

            And when, through patient toil, we reach the land

            Where tired feet, with sandals loosed, may rest,

            There we shall truly know and understand,

            And there shall gladly say, ‘Our God knows best.’  (Anon.)

Did God Say?

No matter the kind or the size of your garden……vegetable, flower, small, large, shady, sunny…..there is one thing that your garden will always have.

Weeds.

Pesky, fast growing, determined weeds.

It’s amazing how quickly they grow, even during times of drought.  We used to laugh when living in Arizona, telling each other not to pull the weeds in our yard because they were the only vegetation that was green!

Weeds themselves come in all kinds and sizes, shapes and colors. Some weeds are very obviously weeds.  One doesn’t even have to look or think twice before pulling them up, hopefully by their roots, like these weeds that were blatantly growing in our vegetable garden recently.  Lots of these weeds were either pulled or tilled over the past two days.

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If you could take a look in our Rose of Sharon bushes, however, you would find another sort of weed.  You might have to look hard, though, to find the intruder.  Can you see it?

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The first time I noticed this plant was when I was pruning our Rose of Sharon bushes two years ago.  The Rose of Sharon bushes were growing well and blooming beautifully as I began to prune some of the dead branches away, as well as some of the growth that was in the way of the lawn mower.

I saw the rich green and the pretty shape of these leaves.

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At first I was deceived by their beauty, thinking that they were a part of the Rose of Sharon.  But then it hit me.  Wait.  These leaves, pretty as they were, were NOT Rose of Sharon leaves.

I investigated further, tracing the growth of this new plant, and soon discovered that this pretty plant with the lush leaves was actually a vine.  It was a vine that was curling itself around my Rose of Sharon branches.

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Two years later, I’m still fighting this same vine.  It wraps and wraps itself around each Rose of Sharon branch, insidious in it’s desire to choke out my bushes…….my flowering bushes with their pretty blooms of white, purple, and pink.

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If I left this vine to do its crafty work, it would soon overtake my entire Rose of Sharon garden.  Every branch would eventually be choked and would die, leaving only the vine to prosper there.

It’s my choice.  I can have Rose of Sharon bushes there, or I can have an area full of this vine.

But this vine is a weed…..an intruder, as I said, that wants to destroy my bushes.  As pretty as the vine may be, it will only bring death to the bushes that I really want to grow.

So I continue to fight this stubborn vine.  I cut……I unwrap its tentacles from around each Rose of Sharon branch……I yank and I pull and I toss it in the trash.

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Yet the only way to permanently do away with each new vine growth that I find is to pull it up from its roots.  I must locate the source of the growth and deal with it on that level……the roots.

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Weeds remind me a lot of sin.  Some sins are very obvious to us.  We may see certain sins in our life and have no doubt about the fact that they are wrong.  Just like the weeds among my vegetables, those sins we know need to be yanked up and thrown out of our lives.

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But then there’s that other form of sin……the vine.

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I think it’s interesting that the very beginning story of mankind occurred in a garden.  God designed this gorgeous place for His creation, Adam and Eve, as well as all the animals and plants that He so carefully created.  God gave Adam and Eve great freedom, along with a free will.

We all know the tragic story, how one day Satan slithered into the picture.  He was captivating and wily, changing God’s words around ever so slightly to Eve in a way that made her doubt God.

Satan was beautiful, and he showed Eve how beautiful the forbidden tree could be to her.  He would never have convinced her to sin if he had shown her the truth of his lies…..if he had shown her that pain and sorrow and death would follow her sin.

We all know the tragic result, too, of this tragic story.  Look around today and we see it still, more and more as our culture continues to decline.

Satan hasn’t changed one bit.  His method is still to deceive us by masking sin in beauty, much as my ugly weed was masked as a lush, lovely vine.

Sin today is presented by the slick Hollywood version, all painted and desirable to those who can’t…..or won’t…..see beneath the surface, where broken lives and death prevail.

The arguments are as old as Satan in the garden himself.

“Did God say?” he whispers in our ear.  “God didn’t really mean it that way.  Those words may have been for a time long ago…..a culture far removed from our own…..but not for our progressive world today.”

“Did God say?” he softly hisses again.  “How hateful that sounds.  You don’t want to be known as a hater, do you?”

“Did God say?” he continues as we are lulled to sleep.  “God just doesn’t want you to be free to be you.  You should follow your heart, not those old words in that old book.”

“Did God say?” he again suggests.  “But you must find your own truth.  Your truth may not be what the Bible says.  Be who you are, without any regret.”

It’s so easy to listen to such charming words, especially when those words embody the popular ideas that are absolutely everywhere around us.  Our movies, our music, our classrooms, our books, our advertisements, are all jammed full of these world views.

Satan has taken such a hold on our culture now that he is entwined in every area.  He has curled himself around our thought processes and our lives in such an invasive way that we hardly recognize him anymore.  It’s all so loving and so warm and so free to think this way…..to live this way…..until it’s too late.

Satan would never want you to see the end result.  Paul told the Corinthians that Satan was an angel of light.  He comes at us with bright promises of a life lived the way we want, full of self-satisfaction and fun and acceptance.

But Jesus also said that Satan is the father of lies.  His lies sound so pleasant, so current, so loving and right.  But what he doesn’t show us is the death that always comes from sin.  Death of dreams, death of a relationship with God, death of living in God’s plan, and eternal death in hell.

Satan and his lies must be dealt with at the root.  Go back to the source of his lies, the evil that he represents, and know that Satan hates God.  Satan hates me.  Satan hates all of us, and he wants us to die eternally.  He is a murderer.  And you and I are the ones he wants to murder.

Sin brings death, but Jesus came to bring life.  He took our sin on Himself on the cross, suffering for sins that He never committed.  Suffering so that you and I could be free….free to live in His grace and His forgiveness.

We don’t have to sin.  We don’t have to have Satan’s lies choke out the life God wants us to have.  Repent…..turn around from your sin and turn to the God Who truly loves you…..and accept His grace and salvation.  Follow Him.

And be wise to the ways of our enemy.  Lush green leaves among my Rose of Sharon were really there to kill.  So is Satan, with all his clever words and his compelling beauty.

You might need to do some serious pruning in your life, but never will you regret the decision to let the right plant grow in your life’s garden.

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What I Know

Based on my title, I should just stop right now. That’s because what I DON’T know would fill a large book.  What I DO know…quite the opposite.

Unless what I DO know is based on a big book about our big God. Now THAT would fill a big book indeed…actually, it already has.

Something this pandemic has shown me clearly is that there is a lot…a LOT…that I don’t know.  I have an opinion about a lot of issues, but I don’t truly KNOW with certainty about most of those things.

The theories and conspiracies surrounding the world’s situation are running rampant on social media. It’s so easy to get caught up in the swirl of it all.  Is this article true? Let me research it! But is the research that I am reading correct?  Maybe. Maybe not.

I simply, really…all too often…don’t know for sure.

This uncertainty and this holding on to our beliefs leads to so much confusion and so much angst. Right there are two traits that God does not want us to have.

Yesterday I was continuing my slow reading through Psalm 33. I was interrupted by a pretty light out my window, so of course you know what I did. I grabbed my phone, ran outside, and snapped a quick picture of our sunrise. I love how God delights me with the beauty that He creates all around us, especially in the sky.

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This moment was the perfect accompaniment to Psalm 33:6:

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”

All around me today I am reminded of how much I don’t know.

But all around me today I am also reminded of how much I DO know.

The difference in the two depends on where I choose to place my focus.

My desire, more and more during this unsettling time in our world, is to place my eyes on God and on what I know about Him. Just as I know that the sun will rise in the morning, there are some other things I can surely know as well.

I know that God is working in this world right now, today.

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.”  (Psalm 33:10)

“God doesn’t keep Himself marooned in creation; He messes in politics. He gets into the dirty stuff of history. This is partly what makes the God of the Bible so unnerving – you simply can’t box Him up in one arena of His world.  He simply ‘takes over’ everywhere.”  (Dale Ralph Davis)

I know that God’s plan will stand forever.

“God’s plan will stand forever, the design of His heart to generation after generation.”  (Psalm 33:11)

I know that God loves the world and gave us His Son to save us from our sin and provide the way to heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

I know that when I lack wisdom, God has told me to simply ask and He will give me the wisdom I need.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  (James 1:5)

This includes the wisdom to live correctly and to live in His will during COVID-19.  Wisdom to make God-honoring decisions. Wisdom to trust God even when I can’t trust anything else that I see or hear.

May I hold on to God tighter than I hold on to my beliefs about non-essential issues.

May I trust God to reveal truth to me, and not let me make decisions that are Biblically incorrect.

May I react with a bent knee rather than a balled-up fist.

May I not waste this moment in history, but may I use every part of it for the glory of God.

Stashed Away

Remember Y2K?  How lots of people were afraid that the world as we know it would be so greatly disrupted that civilization would be in chaos?  People were storing up supplies of all sorts out of fear that at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2000 we would see the beginning of the end.

We were living on Fort Huachuca, Arizona during the time that people were prepping for the possible end.  We lived in military quarters.  Just inside our back door, the door the kids always used to run in and out, was a pantry/laundry room area.  There were multiple shelves there on which I would put canned and boxed food.

You have to understand that I was – and still am to a smaller degree – an avid couponer.  I enjoyed finding items that we needed on sale AND with a coupon.  My kids can still fill in this blank:  “It was on sale and you had a coupon.”  As they roll their eyes, I might add.

In fact, one day Andrew told me that he bet I’d feed them rat poison if it was on sale and I had a coupon.  I told him it depended on what size box it was.  That’s important to know if you want to get the best deal.  😊

Back to our military quarters in Arizona.  I had quite a few boxes of cereal that I had bought at the commissary…on sale and I had a coupon.  OK.  I had LOTS of boxes of cereal on my shelves that were on sale…never mind.

One day, in ran the kids with some friends.  One little boy stopped suddenly in the pantry as his eyes focused on ALL those boxes of cereal.

“Mrs. Moore?” he asked.  “Are you getting ready for Y2K?”

I laughed and laughed.

“No,” I explained.  “Cereal was on sale and….”

You know the rest.

Now here we are, 20 years later, with images of shopping carts overflowing with toilet paper and Lysol wipes and detergent as people were panicked over the Coranavirus.  People weren’t just stocking up, and it had nothing to do with a great sale and good coupons.

It was fear.  So many people reacted out of fear, for various reasons, and hoarded all the supplies they could find.

It’s certainly understandable, to some degree, that human nature wants to stash away all we might need in case things get really bad.

Did you know that God does some “stashing away?”

Yes, He does!

“How massive Your goodness which You have stashed away for those who fear You, which You have worked out for those taking refuge in You before the sons of men.   (Psalm 31:19)

I just LOVED reading that verse this morning!

For those who reverence God and who follow him in trust, God has stored up blessings and goodness.

It’s “…as if God squirrels away stockpiles of His goodness in hidden storage sites.  But the goodness doesn’t remain there – God ‘works it out’ for those who take refuge in Him.  So it is ‘stashed away’ in reserve but then ‘worked out’ in our experience where it becomes visible.”  (Dale Ralph Davis)

I can just imagine God’s shelves stocked full of goodness for each of His children, ready for the time that we need it the most.  He is prepped and prepared for every contingency in our lives.

“The overall impression we should have is that we are not left impoverished even in our worst troubles.  Provisions are in place.”  (Davis)

During this unprecedented time, when literally the entire world has been brought to a stop, I know there are thousands of stories of God’s goodness being poured upon those who fear and trust Him.  Sometimes His goodness doesn’t even take the pleasant shape that we would choose.  But His goodness is like that – coming in all shapes and sizes and ways that we might not like, but that are always for our growth and our good.

Just soak up the amazing promises in this Psalm:

“Blessed be God!  For He has marvelously demonstrated His faithful love to me in a city under siege.  But I, I said in my panic, ‘I have been cut off from before Your eyes.’  But in fact you heard the voice of my pleas for grace when I cried to You for help.”  (Psalm 31 21-22)

We certainly do feel like we live in cities and towns under siege from an enemy we can’t even see.  We may feel cut off from God’s eyes.

BUT!!

God does, in fact, hear our pleas for His grace and for His help.  He has plenty of grace, help, peace, promises, and miracles stashed away – ready to be brought out for us when He chooses and when we ask.

On Saturday evening, a pop-up thunderstorm quickly formed over our house.  Soon we had a short downpour of rain with a little hail mixed in.

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And then, in our front yard and in the street, there appeared a rainbow.  It was just beautiful…so near to us and so amazing!

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God’s goodness to us is like that rainbow.  We had to have the storm and the hail, the lightning and the thunder, in order to see such a rare display of a rainbow right in front of us.

May each of us know that in this storm of COVID-19 and all its effects on our lives, we will also see God’s visible goodness displayed right before us.

Let’s not miss what God wants us to see!

 

Love For Us

I’m sure that many of you would agree with me when I say that I feel like I’m on a runaway train.  The past month has been unbelievable for the whole world.

COVID-19 has dropped the bottom out of our lives.

Just outside the comfort and safety of my home there lies fear.  Uncertainty.  Danger.

I don’t understand or know what’s really happening behind the scenes.  I know that I need to be wise and to be wary, but I can’t control any of this situation that is swirling around us.

What I can do is pray.  Pray for my family scattered here and there.  Pray for friends.  Pray for our nation and for our world.  Pray for our leaders.

I can read my Bible.  With my mind on overload it seems that I can only absorb a few verses at a time, but that’s all it takes for me to hear God’s voice so strong and reassuring.

If there’s ever been a time for people to assess their relationship with God, it’s now.  I heard a doctor in New York say that this situation is Biblical…epic.  The God of the universe has stopped our world and I do believe it’s time for us to stop and to listen to Him for a change.

I’ve been spending tons of time with Aaron for the past three weeks while being mostly home-bound.  Every day I try to get him out for a walk or a drive, which he totally loves.

A couple days ago we went to nearby Swanson Park, one of our favorite places to walk and to enjoy a splash of nature in the middle of civilization.  Social distancing is not a problem there.  Aaron even obeyed me and didn’t stop to pet every dog he saw like he usually does.

There were flowering trees:

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Impressive thorns:

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Historical plaques that we enjoy reading:

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And our favorite little bridge:

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As we walked, Aaron talked…a lot!  One of his main topics of conversation involved the fact that he was waiting very anxiously for a PC game that Gary had ordered for him Sunday evening.  Aaron had earned and saved enough money to buy The Incredible Hulk PC game!!!

That night as Aaron and I were in the kitchen, he was still (of course!) talking about that greatly anticipated game.

“So, Dad ordered the Incredible Hulk out of love for me?” he quietly asked.

And as so often happens, Aaron’s words stopped me in my tracks.

“Yes, Aaron,” I answered.  “Dad ordered you the game out of love for you.”

I have thought and thought about that exchange…about the deep waters of Aaron’s heart.

And this picture I had just taken that day in Swanson Park came to my mind.

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How God leads our steps!  How He directs the paths of His children!

We live in this world and we’re caught up in what He is doing, but we can know beyond any doubt that He is fully aware of our situations during this frightening time.

 

“It’s from God that the steps of a man have been settled, and He delights over his way.  When he falls, he will not be flattened, for God keeps supporting his hand.  I have been young; yes, I have become old, but I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed asking for bread.”  (Psalm 37:23-25)

 

As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home.  I’m just a-passin’ through.”

God is surely at work in this old world, as He has always been since the beginning of time.  But I know, beyond any doubt, that God is very aware of me and my little family.

He knows our path and He is holding our hands.

Therefore, I can say with great confidence, “Yes, Aaron, our Heavenly Father also ordered this time out of love for us.”

We who know Him are not forsaken!

 

                                    

 

 

What Do I See?

Aaron and I were coming out of the grocery store recently.  Suddenly he veered sharply to his left, leaned over, and proudly held up his prize find.  A penny!  He was so happy to have snatched this treasure!  He proudly held it up for me to see before stashing it safely in his pant’s pocket.

This is so routine with Aaron.  Everywhere we go, he spies items on the ground that most people don’t even see.  Or if seen, most of us wouldn’t think they are worth our time or attention. But not Aaron!

We’ve had to teach him over the years that some things he sees are not treasures and are not even safe.  Things like cigarette butts…yuck!  Or random hair bands, bobby pins, or combs.

Last week, he and I walked out onto our driveway after a rain.  Before I knew it, there he was, leaning over to look at what had caught his eye this time.

“MOM!!  LOOK!!” he exclaimed.  “It’s a worm!!”

 

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A worm.  Aaron just had to look closer at this worm and touch it.  Again, to me it was just another worm, if I even did see it.  But not to Aaron.  To Aaron, this worm was a find worth investigating…worth stopping for…worth his notice.

This is such a strange and difficult time we are in right now.  There is so much to absorb…to hear…to try to understand about this virus and about its dangers.  We are besieged with so many changes and challenges.

What do we see when we look around us?

Fear?

Hardship?

Loss?

Stress?

Certainly, most of us can say yes, to one degree or another, to all the above.

But there’s something else we really must keep sight of.  David said it perfectly in Psalm 26:3:   “For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes…”

When my eyes dart here and there in such unusual times as we have right now, may I see…above all else…the lovingkindness of God.

Another version says:  “Indeed, Your covenant love stands right before my eyes…”

God’s love for us is right before our eyes, every day and every moment of this scary and trying time.

Sometimes I just don’t see it, though.  I don’t see God’s love because I’m too focused on looking way ahead at what is yet to come, usually with trepidation instead of trust.

This verse continues this way:  “Indeed, Your covenant love stands right before my eyes…and I have walked along in Your faithfulness.”

It’s not MY faithfulness that is being talked about here.  It’s GOD’S faithfulness to me that matters!

We say God is love.  We know God is love.  But sometimes when life is overwhelming, we don’t see His love through eyes of faith.

We don’t understand why we’re being besieged by COVID-19.  Why is God allowing this to happen?

We can’t say for sure, but what we do know for sure is that God loves all of us, and He wants each of us to know Him and to walk along in His faithfulness.

Sometimes I just need to stop, like Aaron so often does, and bend over before God as I look at His love.

When I observe His love and think of His deep love, I know peace that passes understanding.

Peace even in the middle of panic all around.

Then I can stand up again, sure of God’s love right before my eyes, and take off walking again.

Walking in God’s promised faithfulness through the uncertainty.

God’s love for each of us is worth our time and worth our notice.   God makes THE biggest and best difference to me when I’m stressed.

It’s great to stop at some point each day right now, and just ponder the treasure I see right before me.

Thank you, God, that Your covenant love stands right before my eyes!

Trust and Trouble

As of today, March 27, Aaron has been home and not going to his day group for two weeks.

Two.  Weeks.

But who’s counting?!

What a strange world we are living in right now!  So many lives on hold.  So many lives lost.

How can we even make sense of all this?  We can’t, really.

But as believers, we can trust.  We can trust that somehow God is allowing this time on earth and that there is a reason far beyond our understanding.

I was enjoying a beautiful morning sky one day last week.  The puffy clouds were so pretty.

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I was going about my morning.  Soon I glanced outside again and noticed some thickening of the clouds.

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Darker clouds were moving in quickly.  What a change from just a short time earlier!

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I was surprised at how suddenly the sky changed.

The deep gray clouds soon choked out any sign of the blue sky behind them.

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A spring storm was certainly brewing!

When the storm clouds were starting to form, I snapped this picture.  Can you see what’s out there, in the clouds?

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A small rainbow!

A sign of God and of His promises to us!

It was timely that last week I was slowly reading and studying through Psalm 26.  In verse 15, David said:

“My eyes are continually before the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.”

David was full of confidence in God and in God’s ability to take care of him, and to protect him.

Yet in the following verses, hear some of David’s comments:

           I am lonely and afflicted.

          The troubles of my heart are enlarged.

          Bring me out of my difficulties.

          Look on my affliction and my trouble.

         Look upon my enemies, for they are many and they hate me.

David went quickly from trust to trouble, as Dale Ralph Davis says.

“Sometimes in the middle of that nexus of trust and trouble, the trouble will intensify and multiply.  We don’t like to talk this way, at least not in church, but sometimes when we trust (v. 15) and pray (v. 16) things get much worse (v. 17).”   (In The Presence of My Enemies)

But why is that?  Is God being mean?

We know He’s not, if we truly KNOW Him!

God is working a great work, both in our world and in my own heart.  And sometimes His work and His ways are best taught…and best seen…in the most difficult of situations.

We see Him better then because we are forced to trust Him more.

When things are totally out of my hands, I realize that I must place them into His hands.

At the end of the day, God will still be in control.  His plan will still…and always…be behind every headline and every press conference.

Let’s remember that God is writing this story and has ordained these times.

We had best be sure that we know Him as our Savior, and then trust Him to take care of us in all these troubles.

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Waiting

Nearly every day of our lives we are involved in some sort of waiting, whether that wait is a mere pause or a prolonged period of expectation.

We have happy waiting:  for marriage…a baby…Christmas…a birthday.

We have annoying waiting:  for a red light…being put on hold…a construction zone…a crowded restaurant.

We have dreaded waiting:  for a job interview…for a doctor visit…for a test result…for a lay-off.

In our nation and in our world right now, we are waiting in a way that none of us could have anticipated even a month ago.  Will we get the virus?  Will we get laid off?  Will we have a shut-down of our state?

Will we have enough food…and toilet paper?!

Yesterday I realized another form of waiting happening in a group of people that I honestly had not thought about.

The grieving.  The ones who have lost loved ones to death and now must wait in most cases to properly grieve that loss.

I was scanning the obituaries in our newspaper.  Read some of the instructions that were printed concerning funerals or memorial services:

 

…at a date to be determined, once restrictions are lifted on gatherings in public.

…to be held at a later date when everyone is safe to attend the services.

…delayed due to the current virus pandemic.

Friends are welcome to stop by in groups of 10 or less.

Services pending.

In light of current gathering restrictions, a private memorial service will be held at a later date.

…service will be held at a later date due to current events.

 

Just today I heard that an old friend’s husband had died.  He was a decorated veteran.  Sadly, his funeral tomorrow will only be attended by family.  Friends who would want to visit the family must wait until our health crisis has passed.

Waiting to comfort.

Waiting to grieve in the way needed.

These very strange times are bringing new challenges to us every day, it seems.  There are so many ways that this Coronavirus pandemic is impacting us!  Ways that make us shake our heads and say, “Goodness, I never thought of that!”

But this is also the time for a certain waiting that will be the best waiting of all.

 

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”   (Psalm 27:14)

 

This waiting is not waiting for an event.  It’s not waiting for the next news report.  It’s not waiting for the next shoe to drop.

When we know the Lord and we walk with the Lord, then we learn to wait for the Lord.

We live in continued confidence, as my ESV note says.

All around us things may be crazy and uncertain and scary and disheartening.  God didn’t say He would make all our surroundings a bed of roses every day.

But He did say that in the midst of the crazy, we add waiting for Him to the top of our waiting list.

Wait for Him to speak to us.

Wait for Him to show His power.

Wait for Him to comfort us.

Wait for Him to meet our needs.

Live in the continued confidence brought on by the strength and courage He gives us, and by knowing that He loves us.

Live in the continued confidence of knowing WHO God is.

God isn’t surprised by any of this virus business.  I believe He’s taking away some things we’ve come to rely upon more than Him… giving this old world a chance to know Him before it’s too late.

Maybe God is waiting, too.

Waiting for each of us to stop and think about Him…talk to Him…accept the gift of His Son in our lives.

Let’s not waste this waiting time.

 

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Where Is He?

I pulled into our military post gas station years ago in Germany, got out of the car, and began the familiar routine of filling up with gas.  But suddenly, I don’t know from where, a fire started on the ground nearby.  All I could think about was my little Andrew in his car seat inside our car.  Thankfully, no gas had started coming out of my nozzle yet.  I quickly placed it back in its holder, jumped in the car, and high tailed it out of there as fast as I could!

Andrew knew that something had upset me.  His eyes were big as he asked me what was wrong.  I told him about the fire that I had seen and that I wanted us to be safe.  But most importantly, I told him, God was with us and had kept us safe.

I wanted to stress that fact to Andrew, so little and so curious about why I had been scared.  So, I repeated that truth several times to him on our short drive to our apartment.

“Andrew,” I said, “God was with us and He kept us safe.”

Finally, as I lifted him out of his car seat in our apartment parking lot and held his hand as we walked to our door, I said it once more.

“God was with us, Andrew, and He kept us safe.”

“Yeah,” Andrew agreed.  “But where was He?  I didn’t see Him!”

We smile at Andrew’s innocent question, but honestly, most of us have felt that way at times.

I just finished reading and studying through the book of John.  The end of the book is wrenching.  There was Jesus and His disciples, enjoying a quiet Passover meal one night.  And the next night, Jesus was dead.  The betrayal, the arrest, the farce of a trial, the brutal torture, and the horrible crucifixion.  It happened so quickly!  The disciples were unprepared for this turn…so lost…so scared…so alone.

How quickly their world had turned upside down!

“Now what?!” I’m sure they said to one another.  “What do we do now?  Are we next?”

Of course, we know the rest of the story.  Knowing the rest, though, sometimes makes me gloss over just how frightening and uncertain their futures must have been to them.

But then came Sunday!  There stood Jesus in their midst, very much alive and whole and healed!

And what did He say to them?

“Peace be with you.”

Peace.

The word means quietness…rest…and to be at one again.

Today, we may have the question that my little Andrew did.

“Where is God?  I don’t see Him!”

Sometimes we don’t see him as we look at this upside-down world.  Literally overnight, with news of a strange new virus, people were in a mass panic.  Store shelves emptied…major events canceled…jobs lost…quarantines.

SO much uncertainty!!

“Things are so strange,” everyone is saying.  “So weird and scary.”

Indeed, it is a strange and scary time.

But oh, what a time it is to trust our God, those of us who know Him!  What a time to see Him in His Word and in our hearts, speaking His words of peace and calmness!

The quietness and rest that God speaks of always brings me to my mother’s favorite verse:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

To “be still” actually means to quit striving.

Quit pushing and pulling and struggling and hurrying and worrying and panicking!

Just relax.  Just rest.  Just breathe deep and let God’s refreshing presence fill your soul and your mind.

And know…KNOW…that He is God.

God is in charge of viruses and shortages and disrupted lives and lost jobs and unexpected decisions.

God has a purpose.  He has a plan.  He is not surprised.

And if you don’t see Him, then just be still…be quiet…open your Bible…and let Him talk to you.

Then you talk to Him, too, and see what happens.

God wants to be your Savior.  He wants to be your Father.  He will meet your needs.

His peace be with you, dear ones, during this stressful time.  May we shine bright in this dark time.

And may each of us be able to say, “I DID see Him!!”

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