In The Presence Of My Enemies

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“Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”.

Psalm 23: 5

I  wonder what good food would do for me in the presence of my enemies. Am I going to pelt my enemies with spaghetti and meatballs?  Do I poke their eyes out with bread sticks? This part of Psalm 23 didn’t really make sense to me and I would ordinarily skim right past.

But recently, I saw this verse differently. The table He has prepared is laden with everything I have inherited through Christ – every spiritual blessing, every physical blessing, every weapon I will ever need, every provision I will ever need. All there – laid out for me. When I am in the presence of my enemies there I will find my weapon. The God who spoke this world into existence and created the many species and ecosystems and gave each exactly what they needed not only for survival but also to work in relation to other ecosystems for mutual survival, prepared a table for us! An orderly, lavishly decorated table with everything we have need of in the face of enemies.

When the enemy of fear comes against me, all I have to do is look at the table prepared before me and find what God has provided to combat fear – peace, truth, the spirit of power and a sound mind.

When the enemy of pain or sickness comes against me, I can find on this table the healing Christ paid for on the cross.

When the enemy of worry comes against me,  there on the table lays the  peace that passes all understanding.

When the enemy of rejection comes against me, I browse the table until I find the adoption papers that assure me that I am His.

 

All these and more are piled to overflowing on this banquet prepared by the Lord. And all I have to do is believe and feast on His provision.

 

 

picture credit: weddingbuffet.net

 

God’s Economy

 

 

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Years ago, when I lived in Montana, I had a wonderful gelding named Apache. The whole family loved that horse. Anyone could ride him; he was totally trustworthy. I especially liked taking him out on short jaunts in the woods. Fearless, smart and oh, how he loved to run, but there was one thing he would not do. He would not jump over anything. No, not ever, which most of the time was fine. But sometimes, in the woods, when a tree had fallen across the trail it would have been nice if he would have just jumped it. But alas, he would not.

One day, I came across a fallen log in our path. Way too big for him to step over and no way to go around the log. I sure didn’t want to turn around and go home and he sure didn’t want to jump it. I got off and studied the situation. I got behind him and pushed him on his rump. He glanced back and me and switched me with his tail. Out of frustration, I kicked the log and, to my surprise, the formidable roadblock  just caved in.

Dust flew upward and pieces of bark fell downward. Where the log had crumbled, I noticed tiny evidences of life. Intrigued, I bent down for a closer look. The log which had appeared to be dead, totally useless, too rotten for even good firewood, concealed underneath it an entirely new ecosystem. The sprouts were white from lack of sun exposure and unidentifiable to me.

At the time of this trail ride, I had just ended a 23 year marriage to a man who preferred drinking to sobriety, other women to me and being gone from home more than being at home. I spent a lot of days kicking myself for what I called wasted years.

But, while I studied this undergrowth, the Holy Spirit spoke these words to me, “In God’s economy, there is no such thing as waste.”

Hope blew across me like a gentle breeze.

What wonderful news this is when we are going through a time of limitations. A time when we say no more often than we are able to say yes. Ever feel like this time of being sick or being in pain or hanging onto a relationship that destroys your life is such a waste? I certainly have. Then I remember this story and I am comforted to know that God doesn’t call those times a waste. He is able to bring new life out of old and even in the midst of our waiting and wondering, He is able to use us and our seemingly wasted years for our  ultimate good and His incredible glory. That’s good news, isn’t it?

 

pic credit:  Diane Reid

 

Cast Your Cares

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Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

1 Peter 5:7, AMP

Nothing takes God by surprise.  Nothing. Life takes me by surprise often. I make my plans, set my goals and wham – a diagnosis, a new pain, an unexpected expense, a relationship turns sour – and I am surprised.At my age, I should no longer get surprised. Life happens and sometimes, it is more of a kick in the gut than a stroll on the beach.

Even so, none of this surprises God.

Reeling from the news can send me in two different directions. I can flip out and rant and rave and stress out and lose sleep.  Or I can cast my cares on the God who saw the storm coming and has already mapped out a plan.

Ever gone fishing?  There is prep work to be done, getting the right size line and hook on the right size pole for the fish and picking the spot and the time of day and the bait. But once that hook is cast out into the water, the results are out of your hands. Not much to do but wait at this point. I am not a fisher-woman primarily because I hate waiting (and I am not too wild about cleaning fish).

When the bad news comes, there is only so much I can do and then I have to leave the rest in God’s hands.

What might this look like? For me, it means making a conscious decision to control my racing thoughts. Purposing to focus on God’s promises (one is all I need) instead of the evidence surrounding me isn’t always easy.  It requires a discipline that doesn’t come natural for me. Far more natural is for me to give into to worry and stress.

This verse tells us that God watches over me, over you,  in love. He cares for us affectionately. Nothing about our life escapes His notice and while we are trying to figure it all out, He is behind the scenes working it all out for us because of His great love and concern for us.

Worrying says, “No thanks God, I’d rather do this myself”.

Dr. Phil would say, “how’s that working for you?”

Two choices – cast my cares or keep them – I get to choose.

How about you?  Done any casting lately?

If you would like prayer, I would be happy to pray with and for you, let me know. K?

 

 

pic credit:  first-nature.com

 

 

A Special Secret

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I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation  

Philippians 4: 12

Paul didn’t have a particularly easy life. It may not have gone the way he planned. Maybe he thought following Christ would make his life easier. I mean, don’t we think that at times?  Paul was in jail as he wrote this letter, facing probable death if he wasn’t released. He could have twiddled his thumbs, he could have slept the day away, complained, grumbled, started riots or felt sorry for himself or gotten angry at God and indignant about the things he was going through because after all, he was doing this stuff for Christ.

But he didn’t. He wrote letters to the people he wasn’t able to hang out with, people that for all he knew, he would never see again. He had no way of knowing that those letters would be read today, cherished today as a large part of the New Testament.

We all go through times where our life isn’t what we thought it would be. Oh, we may never be imprisoned for our faith, but let’s be honest, somewhere between Once Upon A Time and they lived happily ever after, things can go horrible awry.

So what do we do when we find ourselves stuck in place that wasn’t our choice, didn’t fit the trajectory we had for a life?  We have choices of what to do while waiting for the way out.

Paul tells us he discovered a secret. A secret that got him through shipwrecks, beatings, and imprisonments. A secret he wasn’t born knowing; it had to be learned in the ups and downs of life, but one that sustained him through the good and bad. He learned the secret of contentment.  Contentment may be defined as being more than ok on the inside in spite of what is taking place on the inside. Having peace and rest in me regardless of the turmoil outside of me. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

It behooves us then to know this secret and fortunately for us, he shares that secret with us:

 “for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power”  

Philippians 4: 13

The best part about this is I don’t have to do this myself; I don’t have to conjure up contentment. I don’t have to fake it til I make it. I just turn my eyes to Jesus, the One who lives in me, the One who gives me strength and power to carry on contentedly, knowing that the ultimate outcome of this present situation is in His hands, in His timing and will ultimately be for my good and His glory.

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Does He Even Have a Name?

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As he (Jesus) stepped out onto land, a madman from town met him; he was a victim of demons. He hadn’t worn clothes for a long time, nor lived at home; he lived in the cemetery.

Luke 8:27

He was somebody before the demons victimized him. We aren’t told his name or what his life was like. But I would like to humanize him if possible. I suspect he was a man of significance; a significance he didn’t even recognize. Oh, it might not have been financial, though it could have been. Maybe it was influence; maybe he was a man that people respected, looked up to, enjoyed knowing. Maybe he had a wife and kids and a nice livelihood that enabled him to provide for them. We aren’t told these things.

Whatever his life was, it wasn’t anymore. Whatever his influence may have been, it was no more. The Bible tells us that he had so many demons tormenting him that they were referred to as Legion (Legion being 6000 Roman soldiers). So either Satan had a lot of unemployed demons just hanging out or this man’s significance had alerted Satan that something needed to be done to stop him.

So the torment began. The Bibles says that in the early stages of this torment, the townspeople could restrain him. This implies to me that he must have tried repeatedly to remain in the town he called home among the people he knew but he was dangerous to them and they sent him out – repeatedly. At some point, he was no longer able to be restrained because of his strength but it reads like he settled into the tombs and no longer attempted to go home.

And there he was when Jesus showed up. This man who had lost everything had finally succumbed to the voices that played in his head – the ones that said – it’s pointless, you will never be ok again, you will never be among your friends again, your old life is gone, you will never be loved again, never have any influence again and as for significance – forget that.

But I think there was an ember of hope in him. He was naked, he was miserable, he was cutting, but he didn’t commit suicide. Something in him wanted to live, wanted to believe that there was hope for him and when Jesus came into his path, that ember of hope fanned into a flame. And Jesus delivered him from his tormentors!  Epic win! Certainly not the biggest epic win Jesus would bring about but a noteworthy and life restoring one.

Regardless of the torment,

regardless of the length of time the torment has plagued you,

regardless of what you may have lost because of the torment,

Jesus is greater! 

The battle isn’t over until Jesus says it’s over!

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Lost at Sea!

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“Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!”

The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.

Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

Mark 4:39

Some of the kids I work with, I have worked with for over two years. Long enough, I would think, to prove my character about certain issues, to know whether I actually mean it when I say something, whether I will actually follow through with the consequences.  It usually plays out like this: I tell them to do something – clean up your area and come to group. That’s simple, right? And they hear that daily, sometimes twice a day.  But invariably, there are those who won’t do what I said.  I believe they question did I really mean what I said.  Not that they come up and say, “did you really mean that”. No, they are much more subtle than that; they just pretend they didn’t know I said it or that I meant them or that I meant now.   Then they are surprised when consequences are realized.  They simply failed to take me at my word to deliver the goods or the consequences that are promised.

I think that the disciples in the boat with Jesus had spent enough time around Him to know His character and whether or not He could back up His words, but when the storm came up, they freaked.  The storm is raging, Jesus is in the boat and they are freaking out. I would be too, I am pretty sure. I love this part – at His word, the wind ran out of breath (oh, that I could say words that immediately stop a child’s ranting!) and the sea became smooth as glass. Would that I could silence the storms around me with just my words.

Then came the stinging consequence of the disciples lack of faith. Jesus turns His words, His powerful, wind stopping, sea calming words on His beloved disciples.  “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”  If, in the middle of a storm, I could hear His voice, I feel certain He would be saying the same things to me, the same things I would say to the kids who fail to take me at my word. “What more can I do to prove to you that I am here for you? How many times can I say the same thing over and over and over again  before you actually start to believe me?”

I am not different than the kids I work with. I should be; I am older, more mature, wiser, been around the block more, had more opportunities to see God at work in my life, but in the final analysis, I am no more a believer than they.  When the storms come, all I know about Jesus seems to fly out into the wind to be caught up in the storm and carried away. When the calm comes and I see Jesus in my life again, I am ashamed of my lack of faith.  And I purpose to do better next time and hope that I will see Jesus in the midst of the storm.

How do you handle storms? I would love to hear from you.

pic credit: yokum1…

Borrowed Prayer

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Lord, I submit myself to You.

I realize that parenting a child in the way You would have me to is beyond my human abilities.

I know I need You to help me.

I want to partner with You and partake of Your gifts of

wisdom,

discernment,

revelation,

and guidance.

I also need Your strength and patience, along with a generous portion of Your love flowing through me.

Teach me how to love the way You love.

Where I need to be healed, delivered, changed, matured, or made whole, I invite You to do that in me.

Help me to walk in righteousness and integrity before You.

Teach me your ways, enable me to obey Your commandments and do only what is pleasing in Your sight.

May the beauty of Your Spirit be so evident in me that I will be a godly role model.

Give me the communication, teaching, and nurturing skills that I must have.

Make me the parent You want me to be and teach me how to pray and truly intercede for the life of this child.

Lord, You said in Your Word, “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).

In Jesus’ name I ask that You will increase my faith to believe for all the things You’ve put on my heart to pray for concerning this child.

Amen. *

 

I struggle with prayer lately. I know I should pray. I want to pray. I need to pray. I am even part of a prayer team, but I don’t pray, not really.  I know that nowhere on earth do my words have the power to bring about what I hope, to fix what is broken, to right what is wrong, except in prayer.  But still, I don’t pray. The words just don’t come. Tears come, but not words. So I am borrowing words from others until mine flow as easily as my tears.

 

* copied from turnbacktogod.com

The End From The Beginning

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I make known the end from the beginning…

Isaiah 46:10

I breed dogs. People that are considering adopting a puppy ask the same questions – what about genetic testing?  What kind of health guarantee do you offer? What if they get this disease or that one?  What they are looking for are reassurances that this puppy won’t become a financial or emotional burden to them over the next 15 years. I do the best I can to weed out these possibilities but I can’t really guarantee that no disease will befall their dog; I can’t see the end from the beginning.

But this verse in Isaiah tells us that God does. He knows how things will play out; there are no surprise endings for Him.

If we possessed that power, how much easier would major decisions become – do I marry this person, is this the right time to have a child, should I leave this job, start this business, should I have this surgery, etc.  But we don’t have that power; we can’t see the end from the beginning.

This makes me marvel all the more about God. On the day, some thirty years ago, when I asked Jesus to come into my life and into my heart, I didn’t know what I was getting into. But He did. He knew the times my love for Him would burn passionately and the times it would only smolder. He knew that my affections towards Him would wax and wane. He knew the times I would be so angry at Him that I couldn’t talk to Him for days and weeks and even months.  He knew the times I would grieve His Holy Spirit, the times I would hurt another child of His, the times I would hurt myself, and yet, He came in. He willingly entered into a relationship with me knowing He would be hurt, neglected and misunderstood. 

I don’t understand that kind of love. I marvel at that. He knew me, not just the now me, but the all the way into the future me, the past me, the me you don’t get to see, the me I’d rather not see and still He said yes at my invitation.

Jesus, I am humbled at the thought of Your response to my invitation. Knowing what You know about me, you still chose to come and live in me. What can I say to a love like that? Thank You, thank You, thank You  and please, please, please help me to be a place where You are pleased to dwell. Help me to be a habitation fit for a King, a Saviour or the very best friend a person could ever ask for. Thank You for loving me in spite of my unworthiness. Amen.

Give Us This Day…

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Give us this day our daily bread.

Matthew 6:11

Jesus teaches us how to pray in what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. One sentence reads “Give us this day our daily bread.” I don’t know about you, but I have never really had to concern myself with getting my daily bread. I may not have been able to eat whatever I wanted, but there has always been food. I tend to take that for granted. Jesus teaches us to ask for what we have need of this day. Not what we may need tomorrow, but what we have need of today. I tend to think that while that includes the nourishment for our bodies it probably includes everything else I may have need of today.

That has transformed my thinking recently. When family members were diagnosed with cancer and our new normal was frightening and terribly unknown, it was hard to even think about, much less verbalize, what our needs were, but Jesus knew. And yet, He says, we need to ask. There is something very humbling about that. There is something about that that makes me look deeper and be more honest about my need.

In trying to put that into practice, I would consider in the morning, before getting out of bed, just what was the daily bread I had need of for this day. That meant laying aside my concerns for a week from now when Bruce was to have surgery, or 6 weeks from now when radiation begins or how will we pay the bills that are coming and my concerns about my daughter’s diagnosis and upcoming surgery and on and on and on. It meant taking one day at a time and asking for just that day. Simply asking for the daily bread I have need of for just this day.

I have found that my need list has grown shorter in spite of the increased demands placed on our resources of time, energy, and money.

Today what I have need of is strength to keep going.

Today what I can most use is grace to not allow this to be about me.

Today, I do need bread, I need gas, I need a tiny bit of time to myself.

Today, I need to be reminded of Your presence, Lord.

Most of all Lord, today I need to be reminded that  You have promised to meet my needs for today and You have taught me to ask for them.

And so I ask, that You would give to me this day, my daily bread.

And I will leave my tomorrow til tomorrow.

Jesus, thank You for teaching me how to pray. Thank You for showing me that You are concerned with the daily things that make up my life; things I might have considered too small to bother You with, except that You said to ask. Thank You for showing me through this season that You provide for my daily needs and that You also give grace to help me let go of tomorrow, knowing that when it gets here, I can, once again, ask for my daily bread and You will hear and respond. You have been so gracious to us through this time and so faithfully providing our daily bread. I am grateful. Amen.

 

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Detour Ahead

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For I believe God.

Acts 27:25

It should be easy: getting from point A to point B. It should be, but we all know it isn’t always so easy. Detours happen. Unannounced, undeserved, unplanned, unwarranted. It happened to Paul and the people on board the ship with him when they encountered a storm so terrible it “blotted out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone”. The crew had been so worried that they hadn’t eaten in two weeks.

Ever been there? Ever had something come against you that left you so shaken that even food lost its appeal? When your stomach was so twisted in knots that you couldn’t have eaten even if you wanted? I have. I experienced that recently when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Some days, it was easy to remember the promises of God and other days, well, not so easy. But always, I had that choice – believe God or believe the doctor’s reports. We all have that choice to make when, in our travels, we encounter a detour. It could be a storm, or cancer, or a horrible diagnosis, or the hurting words of a spouse or a parent, or the evidence of addiction, or the dwindling bank account. It could be undefined, unmanageable fear. Whatever the storm, God has your life in His hands. He didn’t orchestrate the storm for you, or because of you, but He is in control and brings His promises to our hearts in the right time, if we are listening.

Paul was listening and chose to believe God and he was able to encourage the others to believe as well. And God delivered them safely. As He will you and me and our loved ones. Can you believe that?

Father, I am ashamed at how much fear that word cancer could strike in my heart. If the word wasn’t enough there were the reports of the specialists, each one getting rougher and rougher to listen to. Each one making the detour longer and longer,   but I believe You. You have promised to be our Healer, our Helper, our Hope and I am hanging on to You and Your word through this detour. Help me to believe, help me to continually make the choice to hang on to You and Your word, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

picture credit: ribike.org