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!

This Gift Has My Name on It!

Gary and I were sitting beside our decorated tree one night before Christmas.  We were not alone for long, as is so often the case.  Aaron soon joined us.  He was, of course, drawn to the presents under the tree.  His observant eyes had seen his name on a gift!

“Look!!” he exclaimed, “this gift has my name on it!” 

His childish delight made us smile.

His childish delight is, in fact, a gift to us.

Yet there are other aspects of who Aaron is that we would not describe as a gift.  Maybe more as a burden?  An annoyance? 

We know that God gave us Aaron, and he is indeed the whole package.  It’s just that some of the contents of that package are not what we would have hand-picked. 

Am I being too blunt here?

This reality of God’s gifts to me carries over into every area of my life.  Gary and I had been married for five years before we had a baby…Aaron.  We prayed for a baby.  God gave us Aaron.

Do I really trust God in this answer to our prayers?

So many times in my life I have prayed over some matter…some decision…some issue.  But sometimes God’s answers are not what I would have chosen.

Oh, they may seem wonderful at the time but later the gift might turn sour. 

What happened?

How easy it is, then, to play the guessing game.

Maybe if we had moved there instead of here.

Maybe if we had joined that church instead of this church.

Maybe if we had raised our children in this way instead of that way.

Maybe…maybe…maybe.

Yet if I am walking with God in obedience, and I am praying for direction, I must trust that the way He leads is best and for a reason.

Good reasons, always.

But not always easy.

I must reach out and take God’s gifts to me with trust.

The children of Israel knew that God led them miraculously out of Egypt.  No one could doubt that.  But then it wasn’t long before they disobeyed God.  Even the manna God provided to them became a source of discontentment and complaint. 

Soon the Israelites were comparing their present lot with the life they used to have in Egypt, creating more unhappiness and grumbling.

I do that, too.  I pray…I take God’s gift of an answer…and then when things get hard, I fight the tendency to complain and to compare.

If only I had what they have…lived where they live…got to go where they go…blah, blah, blah.

Such a trap!

This morning, I read the answer to this dilemma in my life:

“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God by magnified.’  (Psalm 70:4)

I must keep my eyes on God in every area of my life. 

My gladness and contentment is in God alone, not in the events of my life – good or not so good.

So, when I reach out and take God’s gifts to me, may I not focus on the gift so much but instead may my eyes stay on the Giver of the gifts. 

That’s easy to do when the gift is fun and happy.

But I must understand that some gifts are not fun and happy.  Some are hard and sad. 

Yet on each gift, I see the tag.

To:  Patty

From:  God

Thank you, God, that every gift from You is good and perfect.  You didn’t say they were easy and fun. 

Help me to trust You.

“Look!  This gift has my name on it!!”

What A Mess!

Aaron and I were in the middle of watching an episode of The Waltons last night when he pushed the pause button and got up from his chair.  He went to the kitchen and soon returned carrying a huge bag of popcorn.  We’re talking huge in the sense of Sam’s huge.  All I envisioned was Aaron putting his hand into our community bag of popcorn, grabbing a few pieces, and then putting his hand up to and partially into his mouth. 

Germs!!  My mind could see all those little, microscopic germs being transferred into our huge bag of popcorn.  YUCK!

I stopped Aaron in his tracks, told him to pour some popcorn into a bowl, and over his grumbling he went back to the kitchen to do what I had said.  It wasn’t long, though, before I heard this:

“Mom, can you come here?  I need some help.”

Did he ever!  When I walked into the kitchen, there on the floor was a big mess.  Aaron had spilled lots of popcorn on the floor.  Mom to the rescue!  Aaron got the broom, and we were soon able to clean up the mess.

All around me today I see messes.  So much upheaval is in our country and the world today.  People are suffering and worried and angry.  I wish the messes we see were as easy to clean up as Aaron’s popcorn on the floor, but we all know that’s not the case. 

I read and studied Psalm 22 this morning.  I agree with Dale Davis, who says that David is speaking of his own suffering in this Psalm and yet goes “beyond his suffering and into the suffering of Another.”  David’s suffering also spoke of the suffering of Jesus still to come.

Certainly, the suffering of Christ for us is the greatest gift ever given.  Yet it’s also  in David’s earthly anguish that you and I as followers of Christ can find great comfort as we navigate this dangerous world in which we now live.

I, like David, can look behind me in my years of following the Lord and I can see His faithfulness to me.  I have no reason to doubt that He will remain faithful in the days yet ahead.

I look around me and I feel the chilling wind of change…change that is not good for believers.  I see how the world’s perception of Christians today has become warped…how we appear by liberal definition to be bigots and racists and haters.  How if we don’t jump on board with radical agendas and unbiblical lifestyles then we are not welcome to live in their world. 

The description that David gives of his persecutors sounds eerily similar to some of our accusers that I see on the news today.  He pictures his haters as bulls who encircle him and open their mouths wide at him; as lions who are tearing and roaring; mad wild dogs who have closed in on him; evildoers who surround him.

Remember the looks on the faces of the rioters when they hurled insults at those who attended White House events this past summer?  We’ve seen and heard that same spewed hatred over and over, aimed at pro-lifers and conservatives and Christians in various settings. 

I never thought I’d see the day when moral values are demeaned and blatant ungodliness is held up as the national standard.

But it is here, and it is now.

What jumped off the page to me this morning as I read Psalm 22 is this:

“But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You, my help, hasten to my assistance.  Deliver my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog.  Save me from the lion’s mouth; FROM THE HORNS OF THE WILD OXEN YOU ANSWER ME.”   (Psalm 22:19-21)

David was already in the middle of great trouble.  The picture is of him being actively mauled.  But in the midst of being attacked, David asserted that God answered Him.

God doesn’t always remove my attackers, in whatever form they come, but He DOES hear me and answer me.

David learned that he may have felt forsaken but in reality, he was not.  God was there in every scary moment. 

And so He is with us and He WILL continue to be with us.  He will surround us while we figure out how to function as the minority in our culture today.  He will answer us from the horns of the wild oxen!

David knew that though he felt forsaken at times, God was there with him.  And God is with us as well. 

“For He has not despised and He has not detested the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His face from him, but when he cried to Him, He heard.”   (Psalm 22:24)

God knows.  God hears. 

I will praise Him and I will share Him with others. 

I will stand strong for truth.

And some day, in His timing, He will clean up all this mess. 

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.

IMG_2333

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!

IMG_2336

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!

IMG_1187

 

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?

IMG_1188

 

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.

IMG_1189

 

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!”

Wichita-20110822-00223

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

IMG_2284

 

Impressive thorns:

IMG_2288

 

Historical plaques that we enjoy reading:

IMG_2290

 

And our favorite little bridge:

IMG_2285

 

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.

IMG_2283

 

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!