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.)

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!

 

Remember When?

Last summer, Aaron had a dentist appointment…and in his usual fashion, he plotted and planned where we could hopefully eat afterwards.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Tomorrow after my dentist appointment, can we eat at Jimmy’s Eggs?”

Yes, he calls Jimmy’s Egg – Jimmy’s Eggs.  I mean, who just eats one egg, right?!

The next day found us sitting at Jimmy’s Eggs enjoying a delicious lunch/breakfast.  And yes, Aaron did happily eat every bite of all this food!

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There was, though, another big reason why Aaron loved Jimmy’s Eggs.  Well, it was actually a very little reason that was quite big to Aaron.

Can you see it?

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An ant!

Aaron wasn’t alarmed at all by having an ant join us for lunch.  In fact, Aaron put a little piece of carrot from his salad on the table so the ant wouldn’t feel left out about not being allowed to order lunch.  Next, he added a piece of bacon.

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The server was embarrassed by the ant, but I told her not to worry.  Aaron loved having the ant company, and it made me happy to watch him trying to care for the little guy.

We haven’t been back to Jimmy’s Egg(s) since then.  It just hasn’t been on our dining list, but not because of the ant.

One day not long ago, when the closure of restaurants during this virus was hitting home with Aaron, he thought about Jimmy’s Egg(s).

“Mom?” he asked, “remember Jimmy’s Eggs and how we used to eat there before the virus?”

He said it so wistfully that it made me sad.  Like now he measures time as Before Virus (BV) and After Virus (AV).

All of us, though, are having similar thoughts.

Remember when?

Remember when I had a job…was planning that trip I had to cancel…was going to march in graduation…could be with my mother in her nursing home or hospital…was having a huge Easter celebration…could go to church…didn’t fear for my family’s life?

I certainly don’t understand everything that’s going on around us and why certain decisions are being made, but here we are.

What I CAN do is pray, a lot, for God’s wisdom and protection for all involved in this mess.  That’s basically the whole world, and for our nation in particular.

When I zoom down to my own life, or the lives of so many that I love, I do find myself at times remembering when…and if I’m not careful, fear and sadness can rule my thoughts.

That’s why yesterday morning, when I read these verses, I was so tremendously encouraged.

“But as for me, I trust in You, Oh Lord.  I say, ‘You are my God.’   My times are in Your hand.”  (Psalm 31:14-15a)

The word “times” here doesn’t just mean that my lifespan is in God’s hands.  David also meant “…all the kaleidoscope of circumstances that meet him left and right.  Calvin rightly draws attention to the plural form – ‘times’, and says that David uses it to ‘mark the variety of casualties by which the life of man is usually harassed.’  (Dale Ralph Davis, In the Presence of My Enemies)

Beside verses in my Bible, I often write a date and sometimes a note to remind me of when and how God especially spoke to me through that verse.  I call them my memorial stones.

Beside those two verses above, I had written “Nov., 1994.” I was going through a stressful time concerning a possible health issue and the death of my Grandma.  We lived in Leavenworth, Gary was deployed for training in the military, I had three little ones, Aaron’s special needs were getting more difficult, and I was far from home and family.  But God reached down in that chaos and stress, and He told me very sweetly and clearly that those times…MY times…were in His loving hand.

Now here I was yesterday, with COVID-19 and all its issues swirling around us and those we love, and I was remembering when…

Remembering when God spoke to me all those years ago in another stress.

Remembering when God filled me with peace.

Remembering when God proved His promise to be my God, then, and is doing the same now.

“How often the truth of this text has proven a bastion and bulwark for God’s servants.  Ulrich Zwingli, a reformer in Zurich, was visiting his people, trying to console sick and dying.  The plague had some to Zurich in August 1519.  By autumn Zwingli himself had succumbed to the disease.  Confined to bed and staring death in the face, Zwingli prayed:  ‘Do as you will, for I lack nothing.  I am your vessel to be restored or destroyed.’ Different words, to be sure, but actually just a paraphrase of ‘My times are in your hand.’  One can rest there even in the plague.”  (Dale Ralph Davis)

We can rest in God’s hands and in His times for us individually…for our families…for our friends…for our nation…for our world.

Now, beside these verses, I have added a new memorial note: “ COVID-19, April, 2020.”

May God’s promises and His faithfulness be what I remember when I’m “remembering when!”

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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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The Cold Snap

We have a little bush in our front flower bed, a perennial that we planted probably 17 years ago.  In fact, I can’t even remember the name of this little bush, so I just call it that – Little Bush.  This hardy bush keeps its leaves on all year long, which is part of its charm.  In the summer the leaves are green with some maroon mixed in, and in the fall and winter the leaves are mostly maroon.  Small berries also grow among the leaves in the fall, so by Christmas it seems to be all decorated for the season.  I really like my Little Bush!

Last year, though, probably starting in March, I noticed that Little Bush didn’t look so healthy.  Its leaves that always stay were falling off, until finally only stark, naked branches were there.

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This was quite unusual, and I was worried.  Was I finally going to lose my long lasting little bush?  Was there something that I could do to save it?

I kept looking at Little Bush, wondering what had happened.  Then one day an article in the newspaper caught my attention.  The headline said something about how certain trees and bushes in Wichita were losing their leaves.  I read the information with interest because of my little bush.  The writer explained that earlier in the winter we had experienced several nights when temperatures had dipped to -10 degrees or lower.  These frigid temperatures had damaged some trees and bushes that normally held their leaves all winter.

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There was my explanation, I thought.  This cold snap had damaged Little Bush.  Then the article went on to assure gardeners not to worry but to be patient…that most trees and bushes would begin to grow again in the warmth of spring because their roots were not damaged by the extreme cold.

So I waited and I observed.  I checked my little bush routinely and sure enough one day I saw tiny new leaves emerging on the empty twigs.

 

As time went on and the days passed, the warm spring sun and the rains did their restorative work.  Little Bush grew…

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And grew…

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Until finally Little Bush was back, as pretty as ever!

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I’ve had some cold snaps in my life, too…times and events that came unexpectedly and with little or no warning.  Everyone has.

Cold snaps hurt.  And they take many various forms.

An illness.  A diagnosis.  Sudden death.  Lingering death.  Rejection.  Accusation.  Betrayal.  Job loss.  Divorce.  A prodigal.  Regret.  Guilt.

I remember my dad’s victory over lung cancer…how relieved and thankful we were when treatments were complete and he was in remission.  But before the five-year mark came the blood work and the testing and the phone call…liver cancer…inoperable…four more years of chemo…hospice…

Cold snap.  Recovery.  Then another cold snap.

But through it all, our family verse brought us each the warmth and the hope that we needed: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)

Sometimes our hard times…our cold snaps…make us feel like David when he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long – “Where is your God?”  (Psalm 42:3)

Where is God in our pain?  Oh, He hasn’t gone anywhere!  He’s a very PRESENT help in our trouble, remember?  He’s right here with us.

Right after David said his tears were his food, he said, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His PRESENCE.”  (Psalm 42:5)

My little bush had hope because its roots were secure, and so do we who know and follow Christ.  We have hope in our despair because we know that God is sovereign…He is in control…He has a plan…He is present…and He has a purpose for the cold snaps that rock our world.

“I called on Your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.  You have heard my voice.  Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.  You drew near when I called on You.  You said – “Do not fear!”  (Lamentations 3:55-57)

God is near in our pain…near in our pondering…near in our praise that arises even out of hurt and unanswered questions.

I love these lyrics of Jeremy Camp’s song, He Knows:

 

All the bitter weary ways

Endless striving day by day

You barely have the strength to pray

In the valley low.

And how hard your fight has been

How deep the pain within

Wounds that no one else has seen

Hurts too much to show.

All the doubt you’re standing in between

And all the weight that brings you to your knees.

 

He knows

He knows

Every hurt and every sting

He has walked the suffering.

He knows

He knows

Let your burdens come undone

Lift your eyes up to the one

Who knows

He knows.

 

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Changes Ahead

If you know me, and especially if you are a Facebook friend of mine, then you know that I love sky pictures.  I have taken hundreds of sky pictures from our upstairs bedroom windows that face the western sky.

Sunsets:

 

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Storms moving in:

 

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Sunrise reflections:

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Even a Great Horned Owl that used to perch on the top of our big pine tree (sorry for the fuzzy picture):

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The view changes depending on so many factors.  Weather, the time of year, the time of day, trees that have been cut down due to disease, and so much more.

On a recent morning, as I finished my quiet time, I looked out the window and was drawn to the pretty sky outside.  But as I prepared to snap some shots of the sky, my eyes also saw this.

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Can you see it?  Where we once had a farmer’s field across the road from us, we now have a future housing development being built.

Civilization is encroaching upon us.  Some call it progress, but we are not exactly happy with how the building of 300 homes will change not only our view, but our traffic and so many other things as well.

But do you know what won’t change?  The sky itself won’t change.

I can still relish our beautiful sky, no matter what’s happening on the ground below.

Change is a fact of life.  Some changes are exciting and wonderful, while others are sad and fearful.

What’s looming in your view today?  Are changes possibly coming in your life that leave you unsettled and scared?

Our focus in those times is vital to our peace.  I can choose to be filled with apprehension or to be filled with peace.

Just like I can choose to look at the houses being built, or I can choose to gaze at the sky above…so I can choose to center my attention on my problems ahead or to center my thoughts on God above.

I control my eyes…my thoughts…my focus.

Psalm 123 states this fact perfectly.

 

To You I lift up my eyes,

O You who are enthroned in the heavens! 

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

 As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes look to the Lord our God,

Until He shall be gracious to us.

 

God is sovereign over our circumstances.

God is also sufficient for us, whatever is our present or our future.

One more thing.  The word “gracious” carries the meaning of someone stooping down in kindness to an inferior.

Just like God stoops down in His mercy to me, time after time, to hold my hand and show me His kindness, so He will do over and over as I walk this path of life.

This is my prayer for myself, to keep my eyes on God and not on what is around me or ahead of me.

I control my eyes.

I am so thankful that it is God Who controls my life.

 

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The Skies From My Window

Many of you know that I love taking pictures of our pretty Kansas sky.  My favorite place to take those pictures is from the window in one of our upstairs bedrooms.  This bedroom will always be, to us, Andrea’s room – even though she moved from home several years ago.  When I see a particularly pretty sky I will run upstairs, open the window and lift the screen, and fire away with my phone camera.   

As I look back on these pictures, I find that no two are the same.  Absolutely every shot of our sky, on every day that I took those shots, is entirely different……if there are clouds involved, that is.  I don’t usually take pictures of a totally blue sky, though blue skies are nice.  But after a while, completely blue skies would be a little boring. 

Sometimes the pictures are simply beautiful, like the one I snapped last night.  Isn’t this just breathtaking?

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Some inspire awe, like this one.

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Sometimes I see life.

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Other times the seasons show themselves.

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This one view, from the same windows…..the same vantage point……is anything from being the same, day by day. 

It’s a lot like my circumstances in life……like yours, too, I’m sure.  Our circumstances change, sometimes often and other times less frequently.  At times the changes are dramatic.  Other times the changes come subtly, but they come regardless.

Our circumstances may be pleasant, and some of the changes we go through can be happy and pleasant as well.

But other circumstances are painful or shocking, involving deep hurt……fear……dread. 

Last week I found out about two friends who were just diagnosed with cancer.  And I took another friend for some testing after an X-Ray showed something suspicious.  We are still awaiting her results.  Some have already received disturbing news…..others are still waiting, with dread, on what may be.

My circumstances……my surroundings……can on one day fill me with peace and on the next day fill me with worry.  It’s like my view of our sky from the upstairs windows.  Sometimes peaceful…..

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Sometimes stormy……

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I’ve been reading through the book of Exodus.  Moses certainly experienced a variety of circumstances in his life……plenty of high’s and low’s.  From a basket in the bulrushes to the palace.  From the palace to the desert.  From shepherding sheep to leading a nation.  From the parting of the Red Sea to the grumbling of that unhappy nation.  From speaking to God on the mountain to confronting idol worship at the foot of the mountain.  From obedience to anger. 

After the Israelites had given up on Moses and turned to worshipping the golden calf, Moses and God both were pretty angry.  Moses went back to God after things settled down a bit and he prayed.  He said, “God, let me know your ways that I may know you….” 

God’s answer? “And He said, My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

God’s presence is all that His people needed……and it’s all that you and I need.  He’s promised to be with us, and He’s promised to give His children rest. 

Two things I’ve learned in the years that I have lived.  First, don’t look to my surroundings for rest…..even in the good times.  When life is going well, with sunny skies and soothing views ahead, those things should not be the source of my rest and peace.  I’m thankful when life is pleasant, but pleasantness is not the source of rest.  Only God is to be my strength and my peace.  Knowing Him and depending on Him, following Him and trusting Him, is still the number one thing I need to do when the skies are sunny and beautiful.

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Second, I’ve learned to also not let my surroundings…..my circumstances……pull me down and rob me of rest.  This happens so easily when skies are stormy and life is stressful.  Bad news…..stressful relationships……more bills than we have money……wayward children……    We all know what it’s like.  Life is full of the hard times, unfortunately, and they often happen suddenly.  At other times we live under the stresses day after day as they gradually take their toll.  But still, the rough times are to be a time of rest……..and they can be if we know the same God that Moses knew. 

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For God’s promise to Moses is our promise as well:  “My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.”  (Exodus 33:14)

Remember I said that pictures of blue skies would get boring?  I love blue skies, but honestly the best pictures occur when clouds are present. 

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So it is with us.  I believe the best lessons are learned when we have some clouds in our lives.  Deeper trust and greater joy have been my experience during the stormier times of life. 

Those clouds also bring a more intimate walk with God, full of so much beauty.  Hopefully I can reflect Him more as I walk closer beside Him. 

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And I can rest.  I don’t know today how God will give me rest, but He has said He will and I believe Him. 

Rest, and enjoy the view, because with God life is stunning.

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