When is the Time to Trust?

A couple mornings ago I felt compelled to open my very old copy of the classic devotional book, Streams in the Desert.  This book was a gift from my home church when I graduated from high school way back in 1973.  But even though my graduation date makes the book old…of which I am all too aware more and more each day…the actual writings of Mrs. Charles Cowman were first published in 1925.  Her writing style may be old school, but the deep truths contained therein are timeless.

I was touched deeply by what I read that morning about faith and trust.  I jotted a few notes, tucked the truths away in my mind, and was soon about my busy day.  Aaron was staying home that day and we had fun plans!

Our plans were to meet some friends at All Star Sports for a morning of games.  My friend Joyce and I had decided to get our two sons together.  It would be the first time that Johannes and Aaron would be with each other for an outing, and we both wondered how it would go.

How it went was great!  I mean, there wasn’t tons of interaction between them, but the ice was broken, and plans were made for more time together.  Sweet Johannes held his hand out and with a prompt from me, Aaron shook his hand without squeezing it too hard, and Joyce and I laughed and were happy.  The boys had a good time and that’s what mattered!

 

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Aaron and I then went to eat some lunch and to drop off donations at Goodwill before heading home.  Soon after we got home, Aaron took a nap.  I had the monitor nearby, listening as I always do when he sleeps.  I really didn’t expect to hear a seizure, so I was surprised when I suddenly heard that unmistakable sound coming across the table where I sat.

It was a hard seizure, lasting close to 3 minutes.  And exactly one hour later, to the minute, he had another one.  It wasn’t as long as the first one but was still 2 minutes long.  Thankfully, he was done then and had no more the rest of the day.

It’s so surprising, even now after all these years, how quickly Aaron can go from being out and about, happy and fine, to having a seizure.  I don’t try to figure them out like I used to do, but I still find myself wondering why.

Even the next day on the way home from his day group, his speech was somewhat slurred, and he was very tired.  He fell asleep on the way home instead of his usual non-stop talking.  Was it the residual effects of yesterday’s seizure, I wondered?  Is his sodium low again?  Will he have another seizure when he gets home and takes a nap?

 

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So, even though this is Aaron’s life and our life, it’s still disconcerting.  Worrying.  Unsettling.

My mind was drawn back to the devotional I read earlier that morning.  I went back to it and was, as I always am, so amazed at how God has for me just what I need when I most need it.

Mrs. Cowman’s words were based on the story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27.  The south wind blew gently as the sailor’s pulled anchor.  Paul had warned them not to take this trip, but they didn’t listen.  And that south wind was such a hopeful sign to them that they were right, and Paul was wrong.

But soon a terrible storm hit.  For days the ship was violently tossed on the waves.  During that horrible storm, with no sun or stars for days…with everything thrown off the ship that could possibly be tossed overboard…verse 20 says that all hope of being saved was abandoned.

But an angel of God stood before Paul to assure him there would be no loss of life.  Paul stood bravely before those battered and terrified seasoned sailors, and confidently said, “So take heart, men, FOR I HAVE FAITH IN GOD!!”

I thought about our life with Aaron…the ups and downs in so many areas…and the fear concerning his seizures.  How that day had been so much fun and so without fear, and then out of the blue came two hard seizures.  It was easy for fear to replace our fun.

My need to trust God is always there, right at the surface, even underneath all the normal and the fun and the hopeful.

But ACTUALLY trusting God is a must when suddenly the normal and the fun and the hopeful is yanked away.

That level of trust is a conscious decision that I must make.

That level of trust isn’t based on circumstances or on feelings but is rooted in God Himself…in Who I know Him to be.

This year for all of us has seen the rug pulled out in so many areas of our lives.  Things were going along pretty well for most of us.  Then…BAM!!

COVID…jobs…riots…anger…fear…disagreement.

I want to leave you with the hope that God is not taken aback or surprised by any of this.  He has a purpose and a plan.

Can you say, with Paul, that you have faith in God?

I want to leave you with a wonderful poem shared by Mrs. Cowman that I read that morning.  I hope it will mean as much to you as it did…and does…to me.

 

When is the time to trust?

                        Is it when all is calm,

                        When waves the victor’s palm,

                        And life is one glad Psalm

                        Of joy and praise?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when the waves beat high,

                        When storm clouds fill the sky,

                        And prayer is one long cry,

                                    O help and save!

 

            When is the time to trust?

                        Is it when friends are true?

                        Is it when comforts woo,

                        And in all we say and do

                        We meet but praise?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when we stand alone,

                        And summer birds have flown,

                        And every prop is gone,

                                    All else but God.

 

            What is the time to trust?

                        Is it some future day,

                        When you have tried your way,

                        And learned to trust and pray

                                    By bitter woe?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is in this moment’s need,

                        Poor, broken, bruised reed!

                        Poor, troubled soul, make speed

                                    To trust thy God.

 

            What is the time to trust?

                        Is it when hopes beat high,

                        When sunshine gilds the sky,

                        And joy and ecstasy

                                    Fill all the heart?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when our joy is fled,

                        When sorrow bows the head,

                        And all is cold and dead,

                                    All else but God.

 

 

No Wallowing!

I am NOT where I thought I would be this week!

I am NOT where I planned, carefully planned, to be this week!

But I do believe that most of us are in the same boat and could say the same thing.  How many plans have been totally disrupted due to all this virus mess and stay-at-home orders?

Trust me, I know that there are some very heart-breaking situations in people’s lives right now – far worse than anything I’m going through.

So, where was I supposed to be this week?  Texas.  I was to be in Texas this week.

My husband and I were going to the Houston area this week.  Our daughter and her husband, Kyle and Andrea, live there.  And our son, Andrew, who lives near Indianapolis, was to be there as well.  Andrew works for an NHRA drag race team.  They have a big national race in Houston every April.

Gary had bought our tickets.  I had lined up caregivers for Aaron, who doesn’t attend these events with us.  He loves his own version of a vacation, which is to stay in his comfort zone of home and of eating out every night, loving the undivided attention from caregivers…and calling us multiple times every day, just because he always has something to tell us.

On Facebook this week, the memories from this time last year have been popping up on my page.  As if I need any help with memories of our fun time we should be having!

We should be doing this:

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Enjoying time together:

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And watching Andrew work:

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I was talking to my friend, Joyce, about it a couple weeks ago.  I told her it’s sad not to be going on our trip to see our kids.  How it’s OK to acknowledge that sadness, but that I can’t stop and wallow in it.  We laughed as we thought about that and laughed even more when Joyce mentioned being like a pig wallowing in the mud.

In the park where Aaron and I like to walk, Swanson Park, there is still a depressed area in the prairie grass where buffalo wallowed in the 1800’s.  In fact, there is a plaque there for us to read about it.  And it’s simply called a “buffalo wallow.”   I had to inwardly smile as he and I stood there looking at it once again the other day.

Then nearby, a short distance from the trail, is this muddy area.

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As we looked at it, I could imagine buffalo and wild pigs wallowing in the mud there.  I could see them with my mind’s eye rolling and relaxing in the goopy mud, in no hurry to move on.

Much like I am tempted to do as I think with regret about where I thought I would be this week.

Oh, I have reason to wallow.  Our kids live far from us and we see them so seldom.  In fact, for many reasons, we haven’t seen Andrea and Kyle since last July.  Their jobs, Andrew’s travels, Gary still working, the difficulty of finding caregivers for Aaron…all make it very hard for us to up and travel as we would so desire to do.

I could most definitely stop and wallow in my misery.  And with each roll in the mud, I could find plenty of reasons to condone and excuse my wallowing!

But there’s this verse that makes me stop my wallowing and listen to God instead.

“God is my allotted portion and my cup; You take charge of my lot.”  (Psalm 16:5)

Simply put, this means that God takes care of my circumstances.  Things around me may become shaky, but I can be unshaken as I stand firm IN my circumstances.

Why? Because I believe in God’s direction and providence in my life.  I love the note on this verse in my ESV Bible:   We can have “…contentment with the arrangements of one’s life, seeing them as providentially ordered.”

What a difference it makes to know and to trust God!  To know without a doubt that my interrupted plans are because of His plans for me that are far better than I can know or imagine.

Isn’t that what trust is all about anyway?

So, I acknowledge my sadness as I look at what might have been.

Then I move on.  I don’t jump in the mud and relish it.

“I have set the Lord continually before me.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  (Psalm 16:8)

And I will not wallow!

 

 

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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Where Is He?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How quickly their world had turned upside down!

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

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

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

And what did He say to them?

“Peace be with you.”

Peace.

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

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

“Where is God?  I don’t see Him!”

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

SO much uncertainty!!

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

Indeed, it is a strange and scary time.

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

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

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

To “be still” actually means to quit striving.

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

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

And know…KNOW…that He is God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Heading Into the Fog

I set out on Monday morning for the last day of the Bible study that I have been taking this winter. It was a very foggy morning. As I turned down 151st street, near my home, this is what I saw ahead.

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Later, as I sat with several other precious women around a table in a beautiful conference room, we shared with each other what we feel that God is laying on our hearts as our divine burden. It was a sweet time as we bared our hearts to each other, many times with tears, of what God has impressed upon us to be or to do. A common element among us was the fact that we have a burden…..perhaps a calling…..but we don’t know where it will lead.

“I don’t know what God will do with this.”

“I don’t know how God will use this.”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Make no mistake about it, when God calls a person to a task, He will lead the way. But He doesn’t often, if at all, open every door all at once. Our job is to obey, step by step and day by day. Just obey.

To obey when the way ahead is murky and uncertain.

Like Abraham…..called from Ur of the Chaldeas, of all places. Called because he was faithful to God. Not called because He was so amazing or gifted, but called because he was a man of faithful obedience to God. “You found his heart faithful before you,” Nehemiah said of Abraham.

So there we have our first directive. Be faithful in obedience to God.

That’s a big step in the right direction.

Finding God’s will for your life isn’t some huge, mysterious undertaking. It’s not getting up every day hoping that you do something that will somehow reveal God’s will for you.

“Finding” God’s will is simply doing God’s will for you, which means faithful obedience to the directives given to us in His Word, day by day.

So that’s what Abraham did, too. He set out to follow God from Ur to…..he had no idea where. He just knew that God said, “Come.” And so he did. He went with God, not knowing where.

Humanly speaking, that’s pretty scary stuff. We want to know where we’re going…..how we’re getting there….how long it will take…..will I be taken care of……what happens after I get there.

We set out on the path of obedience and we watch God open doors….shut doors….redirect…..

And sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s pure joy and peace. Sometimes it’s fearful and full of questions. But in the end we can be just like Abraham, who by the way wasn’t perfect and had tons of failures along this journey that God led him. Nehemiah also said, speaking of God calling Abraham, “And You have fulfilled Your promise, for You are righteous.”

God didn’t fulfill His promise to Abraham because of anything worthy that Abraham had done. God fulfilled His promise because HE is faithful to do what He has promised.

Often, God’s calling in our lives is to endure very hard trials. It’s not to be something or do something that will command great respect and attention. Instead, God may want me to endure suffering that will point me and hopefully others to Christ.

Whatever God wants me to do doesn’t depend on me at all, except for my obedience. I don’t need to feel worthy enough or important enough or smart enough or capable enough. God will be all those things for me.

As I head into the fog of the unknown, in obedience, I will begin to see some things clearly. One step at a time the way will be made known. And one day my view will be the same as my view on that road near my home later that afternoon.

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“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

 

My Faith Looks Up to Thee

 

While life’s dark maze I tread,

And griefs around me spread,

Be Thou my guide.

Bid darkness turn to day,

Wipe sorrow’s tears away,

Nor let me ever stray,

From Thee aside.