Prepare Before Battle

“I signed up for a marathon in six months, I’ve got to get training,” Sami said as she pulled her hair from her face, “but it’s been a long day and I feel so tired.” She glanced around at the mess in her room. “I’ll start tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was born a crazy day. The alarm somehow didn’t go off early, as she’s planned. Rushing out the door, her thoughts rushed ahead to the evening, I will make time then.

That evening, her workload stacker higher and she knew she couldn’t possibly take the time.

By the end of the next week she had not started. Nor by the end of the next month.

Time for the marathon came and Sami thought, “Well, it’s for a good cause, even if I only go partway, I’m doing something.”

Three miles in she was out of breath and in significant pain. It was time to quit.

Why did I never make the time to train?

Maybe like me, you can relate to Sami. I meant to start this good habit. I knew I would reap many benefits, but somehow I just never found the time.

I have done that with Bible Study. Yes, I want to know God better. Yes, I want to know what His word says. Why can it be a hard habit to start? Why does it seem that everything goes wrong, preventing me from having extra time, extra energy, extra determination needed?

“I can all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 promises.  Did that promise only things which required physical strength? Emotional strength? Spiritual strength? Organizational strength?

It says all things…

All things.

Christ knew what it was to walk this earth, to live with earthly demands. He also knew what was important. He called on God’s strength to steal away and spend time with His heavenly Father.

We need to follow His example. At some point in this life, we very well may be called to run a spiritual marathon. That marathon jut might be the toughest situation we never could have imagined, never could have possibly prepared for. Yet, by getting to know God and His word in a regular routine, when called upon to run that marathon, we just might be ready if we start today.

Awaiting An Invitation

Miranda angrily shook her head, eyes flashing as she read the text message on her phone.

Are you kidding me? she thought. God doesn’t want me now.

She knew her friend on the other side of the words meant well, but really, she’d turned her back on God a long time ago, a lifetime ago, it felt to this young woman.

Ding.

Another text notification. Glancing at her phone, she sighed, Will she never give up?

Read Nehemiah 9:27b- 31.

Really? She stared at the phone remembering the warm hugs and constant encouragement; she felt her heart soften. Looking online for a Bible site, she found Nehemiah.

In their time of distress they cried out to You, and You heard from heaven. In Your abundant compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the powers of their enemies.”

She knew enough bible history to recall who these rescued people were: the Israelites. They had a history of walking with God, turning from God, then repenting and walking with God, then turning from God.

A pattern she knew well from personal experience.

When they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven and rescued them many times in Your compassion.” (v 28b)

She read through verse 29, key concepts leaping from the screen: You warned, they acted arrogantly, disobediently. They sinned, resisted You stubbornly.

You were patient.

Your spirit warned, but they would not listen.

Verse 31 almost stopped her heart: “However, in Your abundant compassion, You did not destroy them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God

He was waiting for an invitation, Miranda thought, tears blurring the words on the screen.

God was patiently waiting for an invitation back into their lives. No matter what idols they built, or sought, or worshipped.

Her heart quaked at the next thought. Could He be waiting for me to invite Him back into my life?

That overwhelmed her as she recounted how she’d lived life after kicking God out.

He can’t care for me now, she thought, almost digesting the lie the Enemy fed her.

But Truth won out. She had been wrong, but He was waiting. It was time to make things right.

Reflections:

How have I turned away, believing the lie that God wouldn’t want me now?

 

What do I need to do to make amends?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, How easily I can get sidetracked, focusing on others things, other relationships, other priorities, other than You. When that distance builds and it’s been a while since I was close to You, it seems easy to believe You wouldn’t want me. Remind me of Your truth. You always want me. No matter what. My choices may separate us, but just as a loving Father, You are waiting for my return with open arms. Thank You for being such a good father, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pause, Pray

End of the day,

but not the list,

Burnt meal narrowly missed,

Pause to pray

 

Piles of laundry,

dishes to do,

A dear little girl sporting a boo-boo,

Pause to pray.

 

Thunderstorms,

Electricity out,

Repair truck on the long route,

Pause to pray.

 

Drop dead tired,

the house to clean,

Confronted by a girl who is mean,

Pause to pray.

 

Angry at life,

frustrated and sad,

refusing to find a reason to be glad

Pause to pray.

 

Crunchy, brown earth

dry as a bone,

the drought and fire endangering homes.

Pause to pray.

 

A dad out of work

who doesn’t know what to do;

how much he is loved, he hasn’t a clue

Pause to pray.

 

A soul longing for God

But certainly can’t see

just how much He loves humanity.

Pause to pray.

 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

 

“Pray continually.” I Thessalonians 5:17

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Conquering Foes

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who set out to do the impossible. He planned to rebuild what had been destroyed. He engaged a king to find him supplies. He journeyed a long distance, taking nothing but faith with him.  He was quite confident in his calling to construct a wall.

He had to motivate his coworkers.

He had to ignore the nay-sayers.

He had to fight the enemies who tried to stop him.

Staying away from the enemies had not worked. The enemy was bent on coming to him.

What did he tell his coworkers concerning the enemy’s arrival? “Do not open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun is hot.”

Nehemiah knew he could not stop his adversaries from approaching, but he thoughtfully determined the details of what they found.

Let them approach in the light, when they are clearly seen.

Let them approach when it’s the busiest time of day, with many others around.

Let them approach when we are ready.

Nehemiah’s plan offers wisdom for us today. Our enemy may not always be a physical soldier but a spiritual warrior bent on killing just the same. We can not control our enemy’s arrival. But we can control how he finds us.

Make him come into the light to find us. The Prince of Darkness loathes the light of Jesus. Let’s saturate our spirits, our minds, and our hearts with God’s love through His word, the Bible. When we are reflecting the light of Jesus, Satan has no choice but to approach the light if he’s trying to get at us.

Nehemiah wanted others around when his enemy approached. We need the love and encouragement of people who will spiritually fight for us when the enemy authors an agonizing battle. We do not want to face him alone. Friends and family of faith will happily hold us in prayer and keep words and deeds of encouragement coming.

Nehemiah wanted the enemy to find him ready. How do we prepare for our enemy?

Prayer

Reading and knowing God’s word

Refusing to yield to fear and anxiety

Self-care for the best physical, mental, and spiritual health

Nehemiah did not halt his efforts to fulfill his calling in order to prepare for invasion. He constructed the wall while fortifying his own defenses.

God calls us to follow Him and His leading while trusting in Him. By following Nehemiah’s instructions we can survive the enemy’s attacks and even emerge victorious!

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.

Perfection Not Needed

Tears filled my eyes as I read my eight-year-old’s handmade card.

ALL ABOUT MY MOM

My Mom’s Name: Stefany (She tried to sound it out!)

My Mom is happiest when I: spend time with her.

My Mom looks prettiest when she: dies her hair. (Yes, she spelled it that way!)

The best way to describe my mom: Awwsome

As I read the gift of words she joyfully delivered, my heart melted.

The author in me ignored the grammar.

The teacher in me ignored the spelling.

The mom in me laughed and cried over the depth of love my sweet daughter displayed.

It was simple, heartfelt, unabashed love for her mom.

I thought my heart might burst.

Our heavenly Father feels the same when we approach Him in like manner. He doesn’t expect us to come to Him presenting perfection with all the ‘right’ words or flowing phrases. He doesn’t expect pristine lives proffered to Him.

He simply gazes adoringly at His imperfect children who bare their hearts in love and praise.

His heart melts too at the sight of our obvious efforts to please and honor Him.

We weren’t perfect when He authored His plan for us to be reunited with Him.

We weren’t perfect when He implemented that plan and His son suffered on the cross for our salvation.

We aren’t perfect today when we come to Him with our fears, joys, sorrows and praise.

Yet, just like a teary-eyed Mom reading a third grade Mother’s Day letter, He could not love us any more.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV

 

His Creation Calls

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

The pebbles crunched under the weight of my hiking boots on the trail.

The sky was beautifully blue. The leaves were gloriously green. The vivid colors captured my attention away from inside my head. The birds called to one another; a woodpecker fed nearby. Even a bunny hopped into the lavender flowers as I quietly crept by.

A sigh escaped.

The woods were wondrous. Oh, to stay here all day!

The babbling brook gurgled as I neared the curve of the trail. Something dashed through the brush.

I slowed and allowed the peace to wash over me.

Why can’t I stay here? What I would give to have these moments  ALL day.

Simply put, I was needed elsewhere.

Psalm 1:3 reminded me that I could baste myself in God’s word and in His presence and I could experience that peace.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:3 (NSV)

While the walk through the woods reminded me that spring had sprung indeed, His words reminded me that wherever I was, I could experience that peace. That rooted in God, I was sure to succeed in whatever the day held.

The sun streamed through the canopy, illuminating the leaves and highlighting just how much beauty God’s creation held. It also filled me with hope that promised I had not an inkling of His plans for me.

My part of that successful equation? Simply remain faithful to Him. Trust Him. Read His word. Trust His word. Rely on Him.

Simple to state.

Difficult to do.

Yet, with Him, all things are possible.

I could trust Him to help me do what he was calling me to do. And I could trust Him to quiet my mind when it raced away, willingly embracing the stress of the moments. I could trust His still, small voice when the loud roar of traffic tried to blot it out.

But most importantly, I could trust Him to help my mind, help my heart, and help my thoughts stay faithful to Him.

And in doing that, some semblance of peace would come.

As I turn around and returned home, the trail  turned the opposite way and I viewed the slight waterfall. How beautiful it appeared. How tranquil. And, how strong.

Just like a tree planted by the stream…