I Don’t Hold My Breath

It started last week with some strange pains in my chest.  The pains didn’t seem to be heart related but they were disconcerting regardless.  I talked to my doctor’s nurse, who spoke with my doctor, and I got some advice along with an appointment to see her.

Yesterday, after conversation and an exam, I found myself being ushered to various rooms.  Labs…chest X-Ray…EKG…a CT Angiogram…and all the waiting that is an inevitable part of the whole process.

After my CT scan, I was led to another waiting area.  For a long time, I sat there by myself.  There was a small, tall table beside me.  I hadn’t paid it much attention.  I was looking at the other table across the room and for some reason wondered if the one beside me matched it.  So I leaned forward to look at the table next to me.  Then I saw it…the Bible laying on the little table. 

I felt compelled to pick it up and to open it.  I have opened my Bible often in my life at times like this…times of stress and concern.  I have never been disappointed in what God has to say to me when I look down and start reading. 

I opened the Bible.  I looked down to find myself in the book of Job.

I was a little let down.  I mean, why couldn’t it have been the Psalms?  Not that Job doesn’t have words of God’s encouragement, but the Psalms are stuffed full of really great verses that are meant for these moments of uncertainty such as I was feeling. 

 I started reading chapter 12.  Just look at these verses!  Job was speaking:

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;

    the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;

 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;

    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

 Who among all these does not know

    that the hand of the Lord has done this?

 In his hand is the life of every living thing

    and the breath of all mankind.”

Job looked at his terrible suffering and could still say that the Lord’s hand had done that.  He knew, and said that even animals and nature know, that all of life is in God’s hand.

But I was blown away by that last line.  The breath of all mankind is in God’s hand. 

I had been given breathing instructions in every exam and test that morning.

 Take a deep breath.  Now let it out. 

Take a deep breath and hold it. 

You may breathe normally now.

Hold your breath.

Now breathe.

And as I sat there waiting on test results, wondering if something serious was wrong, God so gently reminded me that He was holding my very breath in HIS hand.

If something was wrong with me, could I say like Job did that God’s hand had done that?  The same hand that held my breath could do with me what He wanted, but whatever it was that He did would be good. 

Did I really believe that?

It turned out that the radiologist that we were waiting on to read the CT results was gone.  I sat there for an hour only to be told to go home and results would come in later. 

It would have been easy to be frustrated by that…to feel like I had just wasted an hour, hungry and tired and with no results.

But I look at it as a sweet gift from God, that time of opening a random Bible and listening to what God had to say to me in that dismal waiting room. 

Right now it seems like I am fine, and I’m thankful for that.

But most of all I’m thankful for God sitting with me in that waiting room.

 Thankful for the very timely reminder that every breath I take is in His hand.

And on the day I take my last breath, I’ll be holding His hand. 

Draw Near

I have a very simple olive wood nativity set that I put out every year for Christmas.  I bought this set in Israel many years ago.  I love its simplicity and the memories it brings to me of my times spent in Israel.   

This year, as I was decorating, I asked Aaron if he would like to place the nativity scene on top of the cabinet where I always display it.  He agreed, and so I left him to it as I continued putting out other decorations. 

Later, as I walked by, I saw what Aaron had done and I had to smile.  You see, he placed the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph, and the animals in a tight group around baby Jesus in the manger. 

I usually have them spread apart, like this.

My first instinct was to rearrange the pieces in the way I always have them.  But I stopped myself.  First, I didn’t want to hurt Aaron’s feelings – making him think that he had not done the job correctly.

But looking at this little scene, with every person and animal huddled close around baby Jesus, has made my thoughts go to the significance it portrays.

The whole depth of God’s love for us is demonstrated in that humble manger scene.   To think that He planned the way of our salvation through the gift of His only Son is astounding. 

Jesus, God Himself, drew near to us as he was born in a filthy animal stable and placed in a dirty feeding trough.  He endured the difficult life of a human during a very hard time in history.  Israel was ruled by brutal Romans.  Jesus was not welcomed in that world and was eventually crucified.  His death went far beyond politics, though.  He lived and died to make the way for us to know God…to come to God through His sacrifice for us…to bear our sin so that we could be sinless in God’s eyes.

Jesus grieved over Israel’s refusal to believe that He was the Messiah.  His heart broke as He looked over the city of Jerusalem and said that He would have gathered them near as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. 

And how He wants us to draw near to Him in that same way!

James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”  (James 4:8)

He has said that if we seek Him, we will find Him.

Draw near to Him for salvation.

Draw near to Him in every upheaval of this life. 

Cancer.  COVID.  Divorce.  Prodigals.  Danger.  Tornadoes.  Finances.  Termination.  Caregiving.  Death.

Just add your situation to the list and then purposely draw near to Jesus.

Satan wants to distract us and defeat us by making us look at the impossible and the hopeless.

But Jesus wants us to know Him and to see that with God all things are possible.  With Him, we have hope both here and now, and for eternity.

And to be able to say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”  (Psalm 73:28)

Secret Things

If there is ever a time that it’s OK to keep secrets from each other, it’s now, at Christmas.  We buy gifts and then try to find the best hiding places around the house so that little…or big…snoops don’t find them.  We rush to grab that delivered box off the porch before our husband or child grabs it first.  It’s fun and exciting and perfectly allowed.

Then we must wrap the gift when prying eyes won’t see what it is.  I used to love stacking our children’s wrapped gifts in their individual piles and having them put their own gifts under the tree.  There was lots of shaking and guessing going on while they worked.  It was so much fun!  I knew the answers to their many questions, but I kept it to myself as I watched them wonder what was in each box. 

Last year, as Gary and I sat by our tree, Aaron joined us.  It wasn’t long before he was on his knees in front of the tree, taking out boxes to see which ones were for him.  He went through that ageless process of trying to guess the content of the gifts that bore his name.  And I went through the same ageless process of telling him that he must wait for the answer.

You know, God has secrets, too.  I just read about that fact this morning.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”

There are things that God keeps to Himself, things about my life and about His doings in my life.  I don’t always understand why God orders my life in the ways that He does.  I don’t always know what’s in each box that ends up on the front porch of my life.  

And perhaps more importantly, I don’t often understand the “why” of some of the gifts that God gives.  In fact, there are things that I wouldn’t even classify as a gift in many ways.  A gift should be fun and wanted and needed, right?

I think of Aaron, of what a gift it was when after five years of marriage God allowed me to finally be pregnant.  Of the immense joy I felt as I held my little baby son 37 years ago, feeling like the most blessed woman in the history of the world.  Of watching him grow, smart as a whip and cute as a button.  Then the sudden huge seizure when he was in the first grade, the years of medicines and tests and doctors and still seizures.  The unexplained behaviors that manifested more and more as he got older, that set him apart from his siblings and his peers.  The diagnosis of autism, the challenges of his anger and his very particular way of conducting his life.  The forever care that he needs and the way that this impacts Gary and me now in our older years.  The questions about his future, and ours.

But on the hard days, in the sadness of seizures and the frustrations of autism, I have a choice to make about this gift that God has given me.  I can question it, I can resent it, I can let it make me bitter.

Or I can look beyond the gift into the heart of the Giver and know that He only has my good…and Aaron’s good…in His loving heart.  God has some secrets that only He knows about concerning Aaron and his life, and therefore mine.  I don’t need to know God’s reasons before I exercise trust in Him.  I just need to know Him.  Period.

When I grasp that concept…and so often I don’t…then I can experience some other gifts that God has given me. 

Peace.

Joy.

Contentment.

Those attitudes, those gifts, come and go with me. 

“What IS this, God?” I can imagine me asking Him as I shake the box.

“Go ahead and open it,” He responds.

“But I didn’t ask for this,” I tell Him as I see what’s inside.

“No,” he lovingly says.  “But I know that you need this very thing.”

“Why?!” I ask through my tears.

“Oh,” he answers, “that is a secret for only Me to know right now.  Someday I will let you in on the secret, but not today.”

“But…” I so often begin.

And God answers:

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  (James 1:17)

Like the old hymn writer said:

And we wonder why the test when we try to do our best, but we’ll understand it better by and by. 

By and by, when the morning comes,

When the saints of God are gathered home,

We’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome

For we’ll understand it better by and by.

The Fruit of Forgetfulness

Aaron and I walked into our Dillon’s store one day this week.  He had happily agreed to my idea of getting him a Cheddar Pasta Salad for supper.  As we walked in the door, he quickly took off in the opposite direction from me. 

“Aaron,” I said to his back as he briskly walked away, “you need to come and find me when you’re done!”

I quickly got the salad.  No Aaron.

As I walked to the meat section, looking up each aisle…no Aaron.

I bought some meat.  No Aaron.

I looked up each aisle that I passed again.  No Aaron.

Finally, I went back to my original location. 

“MOM!!”

There he was, amid the flowers on one side and the boxed bakery treats on the other.  He had seen me.  He took off toward me in a run, holding two jars of peanuts, his face covered in a huge smile of relief.

“MOM!” he repeated.

“Don’t run, Aaron,” I admonished. 

But afraid of losing me again, he ran anyway.

“I thought you had left me!” he dramatically stated as he dumped his jars of peanuts in the cart. 

“I would never leave you,” I replied.  “You’re the one who left me.”

“But I thought you had gone, so I told a lady who works here to page you,” he excitedly answered.

“Oh, Aaron!  Did you really?!” I asked.

“YES!!” he said.  “I told her I couldn’t find my mom and I thought you had left and would she page you.”

I was actually pretty impressed that he had thought about paging me.  He saw the employee in self-checkout that he had spoken to.

“Is this your mom?” she asked.

“YES!!” Aaron told her.  “She didn’t leave me!”

We laughed…and there I stood, feeling like the mom who routinely abandons her son, being eyed by the customers who would never do such a thing.  😊

As I scanned the groceries, and kept reminding Aaron to calm down, I was also reminding him of all our past history.

“Aaron, have I ever, ever left you anywhere?” I asked him.

He said no, but…

“No, Aaron, just remember that I have never left you and I would never leave you,” I continued.

This past January I chose a word for the year.  I’ve never done that before but this year I felt impressed to choose the word “Remember” for my word of the year.

I’m reading and studying through the book of Deuteronomy.  Moses was preparing the children of Israel to enter the Promised Land.  It was a land of “milk and honey,” full of good ground and many resources.

But it was also full of danger from inhabitants who hated the God of Israel and who fully intended to kill all the Israelites. 

So, there were the weary travelers who had just spent 40 years wandering through the desert, and God wanted them to conquer this land.

“Really, God?” they questioned.  “And just how are we supposed to do THAT?!”

And Moses said, “REMEMBER!!”

“…you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well REMEMBER what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.”  (Deut. 7:18)

How easy it is for us to forget God when we are surrounded by the stresses and bad news in our lives! 

Or we don’t really forget God, but we forget all the many ways that He has shown Himself faithful to us over the years.

Sometimes we simply forget WHO God is. 

And when we do that, we focus on our situations and not on God.

This quote jumped out at me this week and planted itself firmly in my heart:

            “FEAR IS THE FRUIT OF FORGETFULNESS.”  (Raymond Brown)

Over and over, Moses told Israel to remember all the works of God and all the ways He had led them.  And the only fear they were to have?

“You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him…”  (Deut. 6:13)

This fear means to have reverential trust in God. 

There is plenty to fear today in our personal lives; in the lives of our families; in our nation and in our world.

I don’t know about you, but I have had – even just this week – several opportunities to practice fearing (trusting) God instead of fearing my circumstances.

You see, trust and a lack of fear does not involve understanding my circumstances.

Trust and a lack of fear involves knowing and understanding God.

There is so much I don’t understand today.

But I DO know and understand this:

“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God Who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”  (Deut. 7:9)

I affirmed to Aaron that I would never leave him.

And may I never forget that God affirms to me the same.

A Cloud of Fear

It was shortly after 6:00 this morning when I walked into the room where I have my quiet time with the Lord.  As I always do, I looked out the window at my usual view…a view I have grown to love. 

And there, right above our Pin Oak tree that has been in hundreds of my sky pictures, was a lone dark cloud. 

It was so odd and unexpected.  Most of the sky was clear except for a few clouds here and there. 

I looked on my weather app and even the radar was clear. 

But there was no denying that just outside my window sat a large dark cloud.

It wasn’t long before I heard rumbles of thunder.  By now the cloud had moved, and the rising sun was reflecting out of it.  I could see a shaft of rain in the distance. 

All of it was truly beautiful.

I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating.  The most beautiful sky pictures usually involve storm clouds. 

Storms can be frightening.

But storms can also be beautiful, and storms can bring much needed nourishment to our land.

In fact, we need storms for life and growth.

None of us have far to look today in order to see a storm cloud.   Not a literal storm cloud.  However, just turn on the news or read the headlines, and there you see it…a cloud of fear.  Many clouds of fear, actually, all around our world.

We’re all dealing with those clouds, but many are also dealing with clouds that are even closer.  Personal clouds of fear are right outside your windows.  Situations exist that are beyond your ability to dictate and manage.

Yet in those fearful clouds, those scary circumstances, there is the beauty of knowing that if you are walking with God then He is in charge.  He will only allow what is best for each of His children, even if part of that plan contains fear or pain.

Never forget this:

            “Out of my distress I called upon the Lord;

            The Lord answered me and set me free.

            The Lord is on my side;

            I will not fear.

            What can man do to me?”  (Psalm 118:5-6)

And finally:

            “The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us…”

            (Psalm 118:27a)

The Lord is God.

Be sure you know God, personally, through Jesus. 

Then take comfort in knowing that the Lord is on the side of His people who know Him.

And we have nothing to fear, now or in the end. 

What Does It Profit?

I have a story to share.  It’s a true story that has impacted my husband and I greatly over the past few years.  I trust it will do the same for you.

Years ago, we met a woman who should have been a part of my husband’s life for all of his life but was not – through no fault of either of them.  That all changed a couple years ago.  I will call her Mary. 

Mary had lived a difficult life before we ever knew her.  Many of her problems were due to her own bad decisions, we came to learn.  But in recent years, Mary came to know Christ personally.  As her faith grew, her life changed.  The consequences of her past decisions could not be erased but her life took on new meaning, new purpose, and was full of new peace.

Our lives became more personally entwined with Mary’s due to the death of a dad and later the death of his wife.  What was to have been Mary’s from the estate was wrongfully taken away.  Mary, now suffering from metastatic breast cancer and still trying to work to make ends meet, was devastated.

Gary and I, though, did what we could to encourage Mary from a distance.  However, we watched with grateful amazement as she turned to the One Who really loved her the most and from Whom she gained the greatest strength. 

Her conversations with us centered on that relationship with God that was growing in her life through her extreme difficulties, her hurt, and her declining health.  Mary turned her back on being bitter and instead turned her heart to God’s forgiveness of her, and thus her forgiveness of those who had done so much wrong in her life.  She had counted on some earthly financial help to come her way but when it did not, she learned the value of counting on God instead…and from that experience, she grew so much.

On what was to be her last holiday season on earth, Mary sent us this message.  I will simply let you read her exact words:

“I’m at the cancer clinic right now getting my blood drawn and waiting to see my oncologist for my usual follow up. On the way here this morning I passed the mall and stores with their crowded parking lots full of Black Friday shoppers. It really caused me to think about what’s most important in this life. It’s God, our Salvation, family and friends. Even if I never ever had another present under the Christmas tree, it wouldn’t matter. Because I’ve already been so richly blessed, and you all are a part of that blessing!  I have so much to be grateful for.”

We commented to her about how thankful we were to have been given the opportunity to know her better over the previous months.  Our relationship probably would not have happened had it not been for the wrong that was done.  But we were sorry for her advancing cancer and for her hardships.  Again, Mary’s words:

“That’s one of the many good things that’s come out of a bad situation. My cancer journey has brought me into a much closer and deeper walk with God, which I am grateful for.

It’s strengthened my faith, and brought about peace, joy, and a sense of assurance, much stronger than I had before. It’s had a positive impact on all areas of my life. It’s truly amazing how our God moves and works His will in our lives.”

What a beautiful example she was of how God makes beauty from ashes!  Her testimony continued to shine with us until her death seven months later. 

Another person recently died, too…a person who was largely responsible for the wrong done in Mary’s life.  He had everything of earthly value that anyone could want, some not rightfully his, but when I think of him, I think of what Jesus said:

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”

A real-life lesson from two people who made choices, one choosing the narrow path and one the wide. 

Two lives…two choices…two eternities.

Which one are you, my friend?

A Woman’s Real Power

Everybody’s scratching and clawing for their place today.  The attitude is one of, “I will NOT be marginalized and pushed aside just because I am….”  And then one can fill in the blank.  Don’t push me aside because I am this color, this gender, this orientation, and on and on.

The world tells women to look at Kamala as an example of power.  Look to Cardi B as an example of sexual freedom.  Look to Caitlyn Jenner as an example of being who you were meant to be.  Look to Planned Parenthood as offering many the way to achieve their dreams.  My body…my choice.  Sounds so appealing and enticing, this ability to be in charge of myself.

Satan offered all of the above to Eve in the garden, and more, but it ended in horrible tragedy and the life-long battle of sin that we see all around us today.

Jesus says to look to Him.  He, and He alone, is the way to real freedom and peace and power.  But it’s not freedom and power such as the world gives.  Today the way of Jesus is condemned and ridiculed.

Jesus says look to the woman in Luke 7. 

Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house for a meal.  Jesus accepted the invitation.  He sat there among the powerful and prestigious of that day, in that town.  The meal was a big deal, seen in the fact that the guests were reclining around the table in the way they did in that culture.  The setting was open so that bystanders could stand on the perimeter, observing and listening…and in this case, judging.

They were judging Jesus for eating with sinners.

And they were judging the woman who appeared at Jesus’ feet.  She was a known sinner in that town.  We can only imagine for what sins she was so labeled and demeaned.

In that culture, a woman did not ever do what she did next.  She stood behind Jesus, where she poured perfume on his feet.  The perfume, mixed with her tears, fell on Jesus’ dirty feet.  Then scandalously, she undid her hair and wiped His feet dry with her hair. 

Her actions were unheard of in that culture!  She was already a castaway, and now she was a total disgrace.

But can you just imagine the strength it took for her to buck every social norm, and to endure the judgment and intense stares of the men around her? 

Where did her strength and power come from anyway?

It came from her faith in Jesus, God’s Son.  Her strength came from God’s forgiveness of her sins.

Nothing is different today.  Our real power and freedom as women comes from the power of being forgiven by God…not forgiven because of anything we have done or achieved, but forgiven by the grace of God.

Jesus told this woman, “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

Her faith was demonstrated in her actions of love to Jesus…in her tears…in her bravery to show herself in that setting and worship her Savior.

The world doesn’t define power the way God does.  The setting today could easily be the Garden of Eden, and our choice is easily the same as Eve’s.  Will we women listen to Satan’s voice, or to God’s?  Will we fall for the lies that tell us to “be all we can be” while ignoring God’s words?

Real progress…real peace…real power, come from knowing that we have been forgiven for our sins through the blood of Jesus. 

Purposeful repentance and faith in God through His Son, Jesus, is the only way of salvation and the only source of that for which we truly yearn.  Don’t fall for Satan’s lies and crumble under this world’s pressures that call for you to set out on a path of sin.  Don’t think for a minute that this world’s promises can hold a candle to the promises of God.

Accept true freedom through knowing and following Jesus. 

Power AND peace…priceless!

Barren

It happened to me again two nights ago.  I was sinking into sleep when I think, honestly, that I snorted and woke myself up.  😊

But then I couldn’t get back to sleep.  Instead, I lay there thinking of a picture I had seen just before bed.  Happy news for someone else created in me a longing for some things I don’t have. 

These are the moments that Satan loves.  He uses the tender areas of my heart’s desires to create in me an unsettled feeling.  The dark of the night is his perfect setting to speak words of doubt and unhappiness into my head. 

I’m a captive audience at that point.  The choice is mine. 

Whose voice will I listen to? 

So, I prayed and I thought of scripture.  I eventually went to sleep.  But I awoke the next morning feeling the weight of my burdens still lingering on my shoulders.

This morning I continued in a new study I just began yesterday in the book of Luke.  Right away we meet the priest, Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth.  They were both righteous in the sight of God and walked in blameless obedience to God. 

They were old.

They were faithful to God.

And Elizabeth was barren.

In their culture, having children was everything. 

They had nothing, in a sense.

I think of Elizabeth beyond the stories we always hear and the ending that we know well.

I think of her hearing with sadness of the pregnancy of yet another friend.  Of probably faking joy when deep inside she is grieving over what she doesn’t have.  Of perhaps not feeling included in the years of family gatherings, celebrations, large happy holidays…

Of laying awake at night, bombarded with these realities, alone and with a broken heart.

And though we know the end of the story, that God gave her a child, she did not know that this blessing would be in her future.

“…there are those who are true servants of the Lord and yet some trial, some disappointment, that may be life-long, hangs over their lives.  ‘Righteous before God’ yet ‘they had no child’.  A very huge fact and a very deep sadness are pressed together.”   (Dale Ralph Davis)

Do you have a barren place?  An unfulfilled desire that eats away at you in the dark stillness of the night?

I do.

We all do.

What ARE we to do?

We are to live faithfully, in daily obedience to God.

We are to “Commit our way to the Lord…”  (Psalm 37:5)  That means to roll our burdens on the Lord’s strong shoulders.  Literally, that’s what it means.

“…God does His most impressive works in a context of impossibility.”  (Davis)

No BUTS…unless we say, “BUT God!!”

Will God give me what I want? 

I have no idea.

The real question should be:  Will I allow God to put HIS wants into my heart?

Will I want to walk with God so closely that His desires become my focus?

“God tends to begin His finest works in the face of human hopelessness and human weakness.”  (Davis)

Walking faithfully with God doesn’t mean we’ll never have our barren places.

But may we, in the barren, bear the fruit that only God can produce in us, to His glory.

What’s Ahead?

Here in Kansas over the past ten days we have had some extreme winter weather, as have many of you around the nation.  We knew it was coming thanks to modern weather forecasting.  We were able to prepare as best we could for sub-zero temperatures and even worse wind chills and snow.  What a blessing it is to be able to look ahead and to be ready when the storm hits! 

Some of you know that I have been reading and studying through the book of Numbers.  This book isn’t exactly known for super passages full of encouragement, but I have discovered, with the help of Raymond Brown’s book The Message of Numbers, that there are indeed many blessings and promises in this often-neglected book.

I finished Numbers yesterday.  The last verse was amazing, and I wanted to share it with you today.

“These are the commandments and the ordinances which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel through Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”  (Numbers 36:13)

I believe I know what you’re thinking.  Nothing in that verse reaches out and grabs you, does it? 

But don’t be so quick to assume that this is just another dry verse from a rather dry book.

All throughout the book of Numbers, God had given His people commands to obey in order to survive the trip through the desert – but more importantly, in order to live victorious lives.  Their lives would only be successful if they obeyed God.  It was a lesson they learned over and over as they left Egypt and entered the desert. 

Obedience brought victory and blessing.

Disobedience brought defeat and curses.

Now at the end of this book, after taking care of matters concerning land distribution and inheritances, there stood the nation of Israel on the east side of Canaan. 

They stood in the plains of Moab, and what was ahead?

God had confirmed his commandments “…by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”

God had given them so many victories over their desert wanderings…so many lessons learned…so many providences. 

Then He confirmed all His final commands to His people whom he loved when there, just ahead, were two HUGE difficulties. 

The Jordan River, in flood stage and impassable.

Jericho, a well-fortified city that far outweighed any hope of defeat by a nation that had no real army.

God had given Israel the land upon which they now stood, but up ahead were seemingly impossible situations.

What was the key to victory? 

Obedience.  God’s presence was with them and His power was theirs if they but simply obeyed Him. 

The Jordan River parted.  Jericho fell.  The stories are so fascinating in the book of Joshua.  But the key, always, was for Israel to obey God.

“How could anybody possibly convey this huge contingent of nomadic people across that fast-flowing river, and how could an untrained army capture a well-fortified city like Jericho?  The secret was in total obedience.  Neither barrier was to be overcome by intellectual skills, geographical proficiency, crowd manipulation, army intelligence or military strategy.  Two doctrinal factors prompted their obedience:  God’s presence and God’s power.”  (Raymond Brown)

What is ahead of you today? 

Have you been walking in life, doing the best you can to obey God and live right?

But are you now looking ahead to a forecast that is anything but encouraging?

What huge thing in your life is looming ahead, causing you to lose sleep and to feel fear? 

Whether our issues are national in scope, or personal in nature, each of us has plenty to keep us anxiously glancing at what is ahead on our horizons.

Please know that God’s presence and His power are fully yours if you know Him, and if you are obeying Him step by step, day by day.

God has not brought you to an impassable river to watch you drown.

And He has not brought you to a strongly walled city to watch you die.

You may be standing near…or in…some very tough situations.  But like Israel as they stared at Jordan and Jericho, listen to what God says to you:

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9) 

Look in God’s eyes as you listen to Him, not over His shoulder at your Jordan and Jericho that are looming large. 

Be strong in God’s strength and rest in His presence. 

Let God do the fighting and trust Him for the finish!   

Don’t You Remember?

One of the many side effects of Aaron’s seizures and even of some of his seizure meds is memory loss.  It makes me sad to see it sometimes. 

Gary and I took Aaron out to eat the other day.  While eating, I got a text saying that his day group would be re-opening on Monday.  I was sharing with Aaron the names of some of his friends that he would get to see again.  At the mention of one of his friends, Aaron’s face was blank. 

I was surprised because just last week Aaron had facetimed with her.  Yet his forgetfulness was genuine just a short time later. 

As I get older (and older and older 😊), I find myself often saying, “Remember when…?”  Gary and I do this at times, remembering events and situations of the past, sometimes with joy and at other times with regret.

There is an incident recorded in the book of Numbers…the book I am now studying…that has impacted me this week and which I want to, well, remember. 

The children of Israel had traveled for a year in the wilderness.  In chapter 11, we find them complaining about their lack of good food.  They remembered all the variety of foods in Egypt, forgetting their horrible life they lived there as they ate that food.

They begged for meat, so God told Moses that He would give them meat.  Then Moses seemed to have memory loss as he questioned just how on earth God would be able to supply so much meat for so many people.

Are you kidding me?!

Moses had seen miracle after miracle, and he dared wonder how God could manage to find meat in the desert?

Actually, Moses asked God how he…Moses…was to get the meat.  Moses left God out of the picture.

Moses was run down, discouraged, tired, burdened. 

Pretty much like we feel today. 

Here we are, on the first day of a new year, trying to summon hope in the middle of our burdens.

2021 must be better than 2020, right?!

It HAS to be!!

We can’t handle anymore stress in our world and in our homes!

But I think that deep down we all know that we are entering this new year staring ahead at huge problems that still loom large. 

That’s why God’s answer to Moses is a HUGE promise to each of us who know and follow God.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s power limited?  Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.’  (Numbers 11:23)

Another version of what God said was this: “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”

That phrase brought to mind the fact that Pharaoh was said to be the possessor of a strong arm.  Yet God defeated Pharaoh with His much stronger arm.

Remember, Israel?

Remember all the plagues and the miracles?

Remember the exodus from Egypt?

Remember the parting of the Red Sea?

How could they forget?!

Yet I am no different.  How can I so often forget what God has done and what He has promised, to ME?

I have been challenged by others to have a word for this year.  And so my word is:

REMEMBER

Primarily, to remember just who God is and that His arm is strong and is long enough to carry me and help me and protect me.

To REMEMBER God’s past answers to prayer.

To REMEMBER His promises to me in His Word.

To REMEMBER Who He is, and how He never changes.

God’s arm is never shortened, and His power is never limited.

So may I…and all of us…remember.

This new year here in our neck of the woods has begun beautifully.

May I allow God’s beauty to permeate my heart every day in the uncertain times ahead as I…

REMEMBER!