Navigation Desperation

Panic seized me as I desperately glanced from the GPS to scan the street signs.

The GPS did not know where I was! The connection icon swirled endlessly, indicating not only was I lost, but there was little hope of pinpointing my location anytime soon.

That thought terrified me as I followed traffic, frantically searching for a place to pull over, pause, and regroup.

Why isn’t my phone working? What is wrong with the connection? Do you ever feel that directions from God are not clearly coming through? Are prayers seemingly not heard? Have we lost that connection?

Even a long-time Christian can suddenly feel stranded on occasion.

But the  Lord promises to never leave nor forsake us.

So how can we reconcile that lost feeling with the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God is there, always even when we can’t discern Him. (Joshua 1:9)

Feeling lost provides us with an opportunity to grow our faith as we witness His faithfulness. (John 14:23)

Cherish the thought that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we are lost, He is already coming to find us. (John 10:27-30)

Those three truths can alleviate the anxiety that can creep into a lonely and lost heart.

When we find ourselves lost, we need to find a quiet place to pull over and pause, pinpointing our present location and desired destination.

Sometimes, our usual communication seems to break down. My GPS wasn’t working and Siri was not telling me turn by turn where to go.

However, the Maps app was working. while parked in safety, I navigated through the app to turn myself around.

If prayers don’t seem to be providing answers, checking in on God’s map, the Bible, may clarify a direct path to your destination.

Getting lost can be terrifying and humbling. Once we’ve found our footing in familiar places again, we may see God was leading and teaching us every step of the way.

 

 

You Can’t Lose God

She moved her hand toward the plastered mess on her face. She discovered it was her hair. She gazed about stunned. Unbelievably the sun was shining as though nothing had just happened. Liar!

LuAnn stared around at the once pristine beaches now waist-deep in water. She wasn’t sure how far the waves of the tsunami had carried her, or where her family was, or if any were still alive.

She squeezed her eyes shut against the last thought, ignoring the pressure of the murky water swirling around her. Psalm 27 came to mind: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?”

God, where are You now? A sense of comfort hit her, shocking her still more. God, I know You’re here. You kept me alive. Her peace wavered. But Lord, I am so scared, she shook from shock. Sobs welled in her throat, bursting forth just like the uncontrolled waves she’d witnessed moments before.

“The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?”

“God, You’re in control, even now, when it doesn’t feel like it. Please Lord, help me trust, slow my racing heart, give me clarity of mind to know what to do.”

“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear.”

Those waves Lord, that wall of water taller than the hotel- it assaulted  EVERYTHING! Despair threatened again, Please help me God!

It would be a day and a half until LuAnn could get to a make-shift clinic. Her wounds, which were actually quite minor all things considered, were bandaged, her broken leg set, and she was fed and rehydrated. Those days plus four more were the longest, most confusing days of her life.

As she wavered between sleep, wakefulness, and simply dazed shock, she tried to pray, tried to be positive. She tried to fight the fear inside her heart.

Six days after the tsunami, she awoke to the touch of someone or something in her hair. Her eyes opened to focus on her husband’s face, bruised and battered, but oh, so beautiful at that moment.

Her two children, bruised and still in that day’s clothing, now torn and filthy, chattered nonstop.

Her chest heaved as sobs could not be contained. God had saved them all!

“Though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

Months later she recounted her story. She reflected on her faith that horrible week. Then she wasn’t confident of anything except the fact that God was there. Her eyes told her everything was lost, probably even her family.

But as those waters rushed and darkened, she knew God was there.

LuAnn’s story is dramatic, yet not necessarily unique in the sense we have all experienced a tsunami of some sort. Oh, maybe not literal walls of water, but emotional tsunamis which prove no less heart-wrenching.

When we surrender our lives to Christ, He doesn’t promise perfect pages in our biographies.

Sometimes, we lose lovely moments.

Sometimes, we lose loved ones.

Sometimes, we lose lovable lives.

Yet, we choose if we lose the Lord.  He promises to never abandon us (Deut 31:7)

We need to make the choice not to abandon Him.

LuAnn demonstrated how even, when we are hit hard, when we can’t feel God in the moment, we can cling to His truth, and His promises. When we need to, we can, and should, ask for faith, for peace, for the ability to trust.

Philippians 4:19 promises that God will supply all our needs. Even when we are desperately in need, especially when we desperately need Him like never before.

 

Waiting for Grace

Waiting.

Forever. Or so it seemed.

“God, it’s difficult to do the “right” thing, especially when I don’t see Your mighty hand sweeping away the sadness, the agony, sometimes found in this life.”

Silence.

Sheila huffed and reached for her beloved Bible. She picked it up tenderly, as the binding sometimes lost pages and the covered sometimes slipped off.

She recalled when it was new, and her faith fresh in a wonderful world.

Shaking her auburn hair away from her eyes, she settled back onto the plush, green couch.

No, it appeared God hadn’t moved on this, yet she knew His promises could be trusted.

She opened her bookmarked page and reread what was already etched on her heart. “But the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.” Psalm 37:28

She reflected on David’s life, the author of many of the Psalms. If anyone knew the frustration and weariness of doing right yet being persecuted, David did.

How long did David, God’s anointed run for his life, waiting for God to change his circumstances? And yet, David didn’t strike out on his own, taking matters into his own hands.

“How long, Lord?” She sighed, resting her head on the back of the couch, lifting her eyes to the ceiling.

The Lord will not forsake his faithful ones.”

In the end, David was king. His time fleeing from a madman who wanted him dead was redeemed.

His time hiding in caves, protecting his life, was redeemed.

His time refusing to seek revenge, was redeemed.

God is always faithful. He knows what happens. He doesn’t always prevent the hard stuff, the stuff we think He should edit right on out of our story!

But He is faithful, thought Sheila again. As hard as it is, I must be faithful to Him, trusting His word, His promises.

Lord,” she prayed closing her eyes against the frustration she felt, “please help me to be faithful to You. Please help me to patiently wait…”

Held

“The Lord is my strength,” Stacy repeatedly murmured to herself as tears slid down her cheeks. Quickly brushing them away, she tried to focus on the task at hand, if nothing else, than to ensure the safety of her sweet daughter in the backseat.

Crisis had hit her like a brick wall. But unlike other obstacles she had endured, this one was not her story to tell. No asking for prayers, not able to talk to a friend. She was not the leading role in this tale, only a strong supporting character who must remain silent.

The tears fell as she turn up the volume of the Christian rock music already vibrating the car. “Focus on the positives, ” she reprimanded herself, “God’s got this.”

God did have even this, but He wouldn’t solve it overnight, or as Stay would learn, even the next year. But, He would reach down and comfort as only He could.

Arriving at the lesson for her little girl, she tried desperately to compose herself. As always, Stacy switched off her ringer before entering the creative sanctuary of the studio.

The lesson, progressed as usual; Stacy relishing some normalcy in the moment. As it ended, Stacy helped her daughter collect her things, and as they steeped away, Stacy felt herself gathering despair and anxiety as she approached the car.

After securing her chatty daughter in her car seat, she dropped into the driver’s seat. Heart ever-so-heavy, she turned on the ringer and plugged in her phone. That’s when she saw it: the message that changed everything about her mental mindset.

“You have been heavy on my heart today. I’m praying for you. I have no idea what’s going on, but God does. If you don’t need these prayers today, save them for a day you do. And remember, it you need anything, I’m here.”

There was no earthly way this godly woman could know about anything; Stacy had not even seen her in weeks.

Stacy’s eyes brimmed over once more and a little voice from the back seat asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?”

“These are tears of joy, honey. God sees me. God hears me. And He’s reaching out to remind me of these truths.”

Starting the car Stacy knew, whatever her day held – and she really had no idea what might come God was right there with her. He might not always halt the horribly hard things of this life, but He held her right in the palm of His hand.

Always There

Pouncing, playing and protecting. That’s a very accurate description of our favorite furry family member.

Minna, a one-year-old Rottweiler puppy, loves each member of our family with her whole heart. It’s evident in the way she lives: she sleeps lightly, springing to her feet at the slightest sound. She often detects things we never would have noticed. But nothing escapes her monitoring.

When someone is upset, she runs to him, nuzzling her big black head directly into his face with her warm, comforting tongue depositing kisses all over until  laughter abounds. Often, she detects emotions even the most perceptive humans miss.

And if anyone new approaches, she is watching the interactions like a hawk, ready to jump to our defense at an instant!

Minna demonstrates a lot about God’s character.

God never loses sight of what is happening to us, and He is always there to carry us through. Whether it’s a physical challenge or an emotional hardship, He is constantly there. He promises He will never leave nor forsake us. He means it – NEVER.  He will always be there, even if we don’t see Him immediately. He is present, watching carefully what is occurring, and seeing far more than we can see with our human eyes.

Dog people will attest to why dogs are called ‘Man’s best friend.’ People who know God say they could never do life without God.

I am so thankful I have both.

God uses Minna to comfort me in addition to His presence and peace. He will never forsake you or me.

 

CPR for the Soul

As she steered into the street, her thoughts got away from her.

It was a mess.

A royal mess.

She never intended for the white lie to grow as it had.

Now what? she asked herself as she drove to the next errand.

She sighed.

She knew the answer.

But knowing didn’t make it any easier.

No wonder God felt so far away. All sin matters to Him.

He must be up in heaven, so disappointed, she thought as she pulled into the parking lot, wallowing in her sorrow.

I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15b.

He’s not just sitting up in heaven judging me. He is here with me trying to revive my heart for Him.

She had done something to halt that heart. Her choice of sin had built a barrier between her and God. But God knew she was sorry and she knew she was sorry.

Leaning over the steering wheel she verbalized her apology to her Heavenly Father who was waiting with open arms.

As she lifted her head and focused out the windshield, her heart and soul felt lighter. Her heart and soul were revived.

Jesus had jump started her heart.

Her soul soared as it no longer searched for a far-away Savior.

He was here, with her, the whole time.

She had just needed a little spiritual CPR to align her hear with His.

 

A Heart Searching

Slamming the trunk closed, Marcy sighed as she walked over to the driver’s door. She was ready to go home for the holidays.

Home.

More than a structure from her childhood. A place filled with people who loved her.

Shaking her head to clear the threatening tears, she slid behind the wheel and buckled up. For the first time in days, she looked at her face in the rearview mirror.

Her eyes looked old. They told a tale of far more life experience than her twenty-two years would suggest.

College was hard. Not so much the academic side, although she’d had to work plenty late hours with the books. No, doing and processing life on her own was not as freeing as she’d once envisioned.

Her declared major threw her into people’s hospital rooms and into their heart-wrenching situations.

She reflected on all the sad scenes she’d not only witnessed but was given a role in which to play. One night she was assigned a young teen in for a simple appendectomy, but was later diagnosed with leukemia.

Another night she cared for a gentleman whose lungs were slowly filling up with fluid. “We’ll keep him comfortable,” the charge nurse had promised his family. Marcy knew her job was to help keep him comfortable until he passed on.

Driving hours to reach home she thought about her childhood.  Why did it seem so easy back then? As a little girl, she’d played among the trees in the afternoons and attended the little white church on Sundays.

She sighed again. Between school and work, she’d dropped her church attendance to maybe once a month.

Yet her heart searched for answers. Answers she thought she once knew. Maybe I need to get back to church. Maybe God has the answers.

She flipped on the radio contemplating if God could help dissolve her disillusionment over life and what she’d thought would be her life’s work.

A bible verse from long ago popped into her mind, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,’” she thought there was more but couldn’t remember it.

“Lord, I truly hope you have plans for me,” she thought as she peered through the snowflakes falling on the windshield, “because I just don’t know anything anymore.”

She settled back into her seat as she sped toward home.

Reflections:

 

Have you ever felt like Marcy? How did you find your way out?

 

This is Part I in a series of three. Return here next Friday (December 15) to learn what Marcy discovers at home.

 

 

When Waiting Seems Impossible

“Did the mail arrive,” our high school senior asked breathlessly as she burst through the door after school.

“Yes,” I answered smiling, “but it hasn’t come yet.”

It was a college acceptance letter she’d been expecting for weeks, anticipating for years.

She knew she was set to graduate in a few short months and desperately wanted to know what God had next for her.

I wonder if Noah ever felt impatient floating around in the ark. Maybe Joseph was a tad impatient to see his dreams materialize. We know Sarah was impatient waiting to become a mom.

Yes, sometimes it is just plain hard to wait. Yet, while we are waiting, God is working. Even if we can’t see it.

Many of us can completely relate to wanting to know now!

But how do we learn to wait, and wait patiently?

One day at a time.

Lamentations 3:25 encourages us, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (ESV)

We don’t want to run ahead of the Lord. He will reward our obedience and help us develop patience.

Psalm 27:14 reminds us, “Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” (ESV)

As we mature in faith, we realize nothing of value comes from diving in without God’s blessing. We can trust God. We can trust His timing.

Even when we can’t understand it.

Even when it’s oh, so hard to wait.

At the end of the day when patience is hard to find, a verse from Jeremiah 29:11 can remind us of God’s goodness, “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you, not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV)

His promises can sustain us while we wait. We know, no matter what, He has only the best for us, and has a reason for the waiting.

 

He Will Be Praised

Frustration coursed through him as he sped away from the one person who so easily broke his heart.

It only took three words: I can’t believe.

He dearly loved his heavenly Father. He knew his life was a testimony to God’s goodness; without God he would never have become a decent person.

Watching his sister struggle so profoundly with faith tore his heart out.

He’d witnessed with words on countless occasions. He’d acted with love when love wasn’t returned.

He’d held his tongue while harsh words rung in his ears. He’d forgiven when she had cut him to the quick.

As he sped away he heard God’s gentle retort,

You don’t need to defend me. You don’t need to change her heart, that’s my job. You only need to love.

Be still, my son, and know I am God.

His heart stilled as he pondered the familiar Psalm. Be still and know I am God.

I don’t need anything from you, be still, calm down. I’m in control here. I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

God will be praised simply because He said it. And He isn’t relying on any of us to bring it about.

We can each relax and trust that He is God. He will orchestrate it all, and it will happen.

Braking the car, he thought to himself, God doesn’t need my defense. With that final though, he pulled into the driveway and parked the car. He also parked his heart directly on Psalm 46:10.

He would stop talking, doing, and concerning himself over things God hadn’t called him to do. He would instead trust that God would indeed fulfill His word.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for my calling. And Lord, thank You for limiting that calling. Please remind me to be obedient to that calling and only focus my words and actions on your instructions. Please help me recall your promises. They will happen because You declared it. Not because I did anything. There is such freedom in You limit! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Refined

Ever been in a place where, you’re trying to do the right thing, trying to desperately do what’s right, and those hardships, those trials just keep on a’ coming?

When there, we may question – does God see me? Does He know? Does He care?

We have someone’s story recorded for us who experience just that.

Joseph, the boy with the beautiful coat.

Joseph who bounded through life, secure in his father’s love.

Joseph who saw inspired dreams foreshadowing his great calling.

Joseph who seemed to have it all.

Until one day, the trials began.

His life was threatened by his own brothers. Then his life was forever changed as he was sold off into slavery. We are told the Lord went with Joseph. I wonder if Joseph always had that first and foremost in his mind?

Joseph prospered in his slavery to Potipher until he caught the eye of Potipher’s wife. Although Joseph did the right thing, the God-honoring thing, he was cast into prison.

Prison. Where he had nothing to do, nothing to distract his thoughts from reality.

He’d been sold into slavery.

Taken to a foreign country.

Forced to learn a foreign language.

Forced to serve a foreign master while serving the God of his father.

And now, he’s in prison, completely innocent.

Does God see me?

Does God care?

Where is He in all this?

Many of us have been there. Maybe, you’re there today.  Stuck in the middle of a terrible plight in a confusing state, trying to make sense out of what went wrong.

Joseph knew he’d once had a dream. God once had a call on his life.

Stuck in a prison in a foreign country he couldn’t feel any further from that calling.

But what Joseph couldn’t see was God actively refining him for that very calling. He was priming him to fulfill that dream.

Joseph, like us, couldn’t piece it all together in the midst of the painful chaos, but he trusted God.

And God never let him down.

In the end, those dreams from his youth were fulfilled. God’s calling culminated in Joseph’s prosperity.

If you’re in a ‘prison’ you don’t deserve and can’t fathom how God can use this, even this, to fulfill your calling, trust Him.

Trust He is refining you. Trust He’s preparing you for the plans He has for you.

Trust your story is not over yet.

 

Prayer: Dear God, You are God. You do work all things together for the good of those who serve You. Even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. Thank You for recording Joseph’s story. May it fuel our faith even when we can’t fathom how today will fulfill a promised tomorrow. You love me. You know the plans You have for me. Thank you that I can trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.