Giants, Grasshoppers, and Grapes

I sat in stunned disbelief last Friday evening as the latest news was being broadcast.  As if the whole week wasn’t bad enough, now there were reports of big tech wrapping their tentacles around people whom they deemed unworthy of using their services.  Deleting accounts…removing followers…attempting to destroy a new social network…silencing thousands who didn’t tow the line that they have declared to be the only sanctioned “truth.”

Clearly, the stage is being set for followers of Christ to be “lawfully” declared as enemies of society and enemies of the government. 

Scary times, for sure.  Full of uncertainty and fear.  Pandora’s box seems to have been opened and evil is spewing out unchecked.

And that evil is being celebrated, legislated, and expected to be accepted by all…or else.

Else what?

Therein lies the question.

We’re not sure of the answer, but current events don’t bode well for conservatives and Christians.

I read something last week, though…an old story that gives me and every Christ follower great comfort and hope.

That story is in the Bible book of Numbers, which I am studying.  The children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt by God.  They had seen His protection in their deliverance and the working of so many amazing miracles.  Now He affirmed to them His promise to give them the land He had marked for them.  God told Moses to select 12 men to spy out the land and come back with a report to the people.

The 12 spies did just that.  They returned to the camp carrying a huge cluster of grapes along with other fruit, evidence of God’s promises to be true.  The land WAS flowing with milk and honey.  The land was very fruitful.  What God said was true!

BUT…there was a problem.  There were fortified cities, for one thing.  And giants!  Huge strong men who terrified the spies.

Ten of the spies focused on the giants. 

“We became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight!” they declared.

But Caleb and Joshua chose to focus on God and on His promises, many of which had already been fulfilled. 

“We should by all means go up and take possession of the land,” they told the people, “for we shall surely overcome it.”

The people listened to the ten spies, though, as they fixated on the giants.  Caleb and Joshua urged them to listen to God…to obey…to not fear…to not rebel against God.

But fear overruled the day and therefore God caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years instead of taking the land right then that He had promised to give them.

I think Christians today are feeling a bit like grasshoppers as we look around us at those who hate our beliefs and hate our God.

There sure are lots of giants today. 

Tech giants…political giants…media giants – to name a few.

How far will they go in this new administration to enforce their new world system? 

What will that mean for those of us who can’t Biblically agree with that system?

We’re not sure yet, but it’s not looking very rosy.

Everyone I talk to is concerned and burdened and feeling great heaviness after the events of this past week…and even longer, actually.

So, we have a choice to make.  Are we going to look at the giants or at the grapes?

Are we going to feel like grasshoppers? 

Or are we going to remember and claim the fact that all of us who know Christ have all of God’s promises…and God Himself?

            “…God has given us His very great and precious promises…”  (II Peter 1:4)

God is here to help us in our uncertain future.  He hasn’t brought us here just to strand us all alone.  The God of our past is the God of our present, and the God of our unseen future.

“The God Who is meeting our present needs will not deny us His future provision.”  (Raymond Brown)

We have only to look in our own lives to see the fruit of God’s presence with us.  His peace and joy in our hearts is ours as we focus on Him and not on the giants of this crazy, sinful world.

No matter what may be ahead for us, God has promised to be with us every step of the way.  He will give us grace and strength for whatever is in our future.

So even if we feel like little grasshoppers, let us remember that we serve a giant of a God!

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!!”

Hovering God

A good word for this year, and especially for the upcoming days of uncertainty for believers politically.  This is from the book I am reading as I study the book of Numbers.  God appeared to Israel as He hovered over the tent of meeting as a cloud by day and fire by night.  When the cloud or fire moved, they moved.  It required a great deal of trust, especially when God didn’t move for long periods.  Like Israel, we want to see God move and when it appears He isn’t, then it’s easy to become discouraged and to lose hope. 

“There were days when they could see that they were making progress, but at other times they may have been puzzled because nothing was happening.  Why the tiresome delay?  For most of us, at some time or another, life has its bewildering waiting times.  The evidence of God’s continuing care appears limited, even absent.  The Puritans spoke about ‘the soul’s winter times’, when everything appears cold, bleak, and barren.  We wish God would speak to us more clearly about why we are going through such dark days, when it is hard to hold on.  BUT WAITING TIMES ARE NOT WASTED TIMES.  When the guidance we look for is just not there, we must calmly renew our confidence in God; ‘such a resolution can never go to hell with thee’, said Thomas Goodwin.  There is some wise purpose in life’s bleak experiences.  GOD IS STILL PRESENT.  ‘Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.’  In the desolate years of late-seventeenth-century persecution, John Flavel urged his contemporaries to ‘exercise the faith of adherence when you have lost the faith of evidence.’  (Raymond Brown)

God knows what He is doing…and if our road ahead is hard, God still knows what He is doing. 

In our personal lives…in our lives in God’s kingdom…in our family lives – we must trust God and obey Him and leave all the rest up to Him.  I believe hard days are ahead for Christians.  But I would by far rather be following God today than to follow any other person or cause. 

Thank you, God, for reminding us at this time of year that You are Immanuel…GOD WITH US.  We really have nothing to fear.

Sunrise…Sunset

I love early mornings at my desk in the room facing west on our upper level.  I have taken scores of sky pictures from the windows in this room. 

It is dark on the mornings I sit there with my Bible open.  But always the sun eventually rises, later this time of year. 

Yesterday the view outside those windows matched my heart. 

Heavy. 

The sky laden with clouds.

Aaron had a seizure a couple hours earlier.  His seizures have been more frequent lately and I wonder why.  Will this mean an increase in one of his seizure drugs and then all that goes along with that?

Our son 10 hours away tested positive for COVID this week.  When it went to his chest, I wanted to be near him in the way that only a mother understands.  Then he got the call that he was furloughed from his job. 

And he can’t join us for Thanksgiving.

We plan to travel to our daughter’s for Thanksgiving.  Should we go?  The virus, you know.

Heavy.

Even the partial early Christmas decorating I’ve done this week doesn’t create the needed cheer in my heart.

But I read Psalm 24:1-2:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains; the world and those who dwell in it.  For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” 

The sun DID rise, obscured by clouds though it was.

God has an order to this world He created.  He’s promised that to us.

            “While the earth remains,

                        Seedtime and harvest,

                        And cold and heat,

                        And summer and winter,

                        And day and night,

                        Shall not cease.”    (Genesis 8:22)

God also has an order to my life. 

I am not a pawn to random chance or karma, but I am under the steadfast and certain predictability of the God Who created this world, and all that is in it.

I prefer this sunrise:

And this sunset:

But I trust the God Who holds this world together (Colossians 1:17).

Whatever the news, national or personal, I am certain that God is in charge.

I don’t know or even understand His plan.

But I’m not to trust the plan.

I’m to trust the Planner.

So I will…through heavy clouds or blue skies.

Sunrise and sunset will not cease.  And neither will the loving control and care of the God behind it all. 

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. 

My Lot in Life

Having Aaron still live at home with us can present challenges in various ways.  One issue that Gary and I face is, at times, trying to have a prolonged conversation with just the two of us.  It’s amazing how often we have the following scenario:

I walk down to Gary’s study and sit in the rocker.  Aaron is safely WAY up on the third floor, in his room, absorbed in a game or a movie.  But somehow, someway, it’s as if the tiniest sound of our voices reaches Aaron’s ears even through his earbuds.  Soon we hear the unmistakable THUMP THUMP THUMP of his heavy footsteps coming down first one set of stairs and then the second set of stairs.  Gary and I look at each other in resignation as Aaron charges into the study.  “MOM!!! (or DAD!!!),” Aaron bellows.  “Did you know that the core of the earth is HOT?!!  Why is the core of the earth hot?  Can we go to the core?  Would you like to go to the core of the earth??”  Aaron doesn’t notice the lack of interest on our faces or hear our sighs.  “No, Aaron,” I (or Gary) reply, “we don’t want to go the core of the earth.”  (Although that thought might be attractive at the moment in order to afford us some privacy!).  “Why not?!!” Aaron asks.  So we tell him that we will talk about this later and we tell him to go back to his room and ponder the core of the earth a bit more and we wait for him to leave before we try to resume our conversation.

I have been known to say, more than once, something to this effect: “You know, it seems to be our lot in life that we can hardly have a private conversation.”  Gary and I laugh as we both agree with this truth in our lives.

However, there are times that referring to my lot in life can take on a more serious tone and one that is defeating.  I may not even verbalize my thoughts.  That thought may be fleeting or if I’m not careful, may take root in my mind. 

My “lot in life” may be an ongoing situation, such as having our adult special needs son still living with us and facing all the challenges that brings. 

My “lot in life” may be a sudden situation that intrudes into my peaceful life.  We all have them.  Health, finances, children situations, jobs…

There is a truth that I must remember when my mind travels to considering my “lot in life.”  That phrase conjures up a roll of the dice…the hand I was given…good or bad luck.

Each of those concepts go totally against my walk with God.  As a follower of Christ my life is not controlled by luck or how my stars are aligned or any such nonsense. 

Here’s how David put it:

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.”   

(Psalm 16:5)

My life’s circumstances are not controlled by chance but are designed by God for me.

God is providentially ordering my life. 

And He is doing the same for yours if you are His child and are following Him.

Therefore, I can…I SHOULD…be content with God’s design of my life.  Even the very hard parts that bring tears and fears.

One more thing.  My “lot in life” is not your “lot in life.”  And your “lot in life” is not my “lot in life.”

When I go to comparing my life to yours then I will inevitably be either discouraged or boastful…and both of those attitudes are terribly wrong.

Again, David said it well:

“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”  (Psalm 16:8)

God is to be my point of reference.  He is the answer to all my questions.

God is the One Who has given me my “lot in life.”

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

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.)

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.