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.

 

 

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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?

 

 

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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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Sweet Sleep

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But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    you are my glory,

the One who lifts my head high.
 I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain.

 I lay down and slept;
   yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.

Psalm 3: 3-5

I love the sound a sleeping child makes – the rhythmic melody of their breathing. When my kids were young, I would check on them at night while they slept. Standing in the dark, I would listen for that sound that reassured me that they were ok.  When I couldn’t hear the sound of their breathing, I would watch intently until I saw the up and down movement of their chest at they slept. I can’t do that anymore; they have grown past the years of mom checking on them. But not past the years of mom wanting to be reassured that they are ok.

It’s probably every mother’s desire that her kids are ok and beyond, but there comes a time when we can’t kiss their boo-boos away and make it all better when things aren’t ok.

Gratefully, I know someone who can. What greater peace can I have as a mother than to know that the Lord is watching over each one of my children and grandchildren as they sleep? He is a shield around them and when they (and I) cry out to them, He answers. He hears their rhythmic breathing and their quiet sobs and knows the deepest longings of their hearts and being moved with compassion, He acts on their behalf.

When my children were young, we said this prayer every night:

Be near me my Father, 

I ask Thee to stay,

Close by me forever

and love me I pray.

Bless all the dear children

with Thy tender care.

Prepare us for heaven

to live with Thee there.

Amen.

That is still my prayer for my children and my grandchildren.

I know He hears, I know He is watching over them,

I know He keeps them in safety.

I don’t have to hear their rhythmic breathing or watch for the rise and fall of their chests as they sleep.

Because I know the One who does! 

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Why is The Sky Blue?

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On Netflix, I have been watching the series “Life”. It’s about a man who is wrongly incarcerated. While in prison, he discovers zen principles and puts them to work in his life as a detective. He never directly answers a question, all his remarks are ethereal and designed, I think, to keep him at peace, but not fix other’s problems. It makes me laugh and at times it is annoying, but I decided to put some of it to the test in my own life. Here’s how it went down one day at work:

A boy was cutting in line and being disruptive, kids around him were getting frustrated. I could tell they were getting frustrated because they were raising their voice and telling him to stop doing whatever it was he was doing. For expedient’s sake, I asked the boy causing the problems to go to the end of the line. I say ask, but actually I told him.

He started walking back, but on his way, he started yelling all kinds of things, use your imagination here, but finally, he yelled the question, “why do I have to go to the end of the line?”

I responded in my new experimental zen-like way with, “why is the sky blue?”

The boy looked shocked but he stopped yelling. Then a girl in the line says, “yeah, right, I have always wanted to know why the sky is blue”.  Another child pipes in but I am no longer listening, I am watching the boy at the end of the line and trying to hold back a laugh ( I never said I was great with kids). He was in shock, speechless, or yell-less as the case may be. He appeared to be pondering the new question – why is the sky blue? We all pondered it until, at last I said, I guess God wanted the sky blue and they were satisfied with that and we went out to play.

I am sure it would be annoying to others if every time they tried to put their problem on me, I could use words, zen-like or not, to let the problem fall exactly where it needs to fall – in their lap, but I think for me, it would be a great relief and help me stay at peace if I could do just that. It would aid tremendously in the healing God is doing in my body to just refuse to take on what is not mine to take on. I am positive that much of my emotional pain for most of my life has been due to my inability to do this and I becoming more convinced that many of the pains in my body are related to this emotional burden.  I tend to try and fix things and when I can’t, I internalize the mess and believe it is due to some lacking on my part.  Do I hear codependency in here?!?!?

I am reminded again of the powerful and freeing concepts found in the Serenity Prayer:

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Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to hear about them?  Do you watch the show “Life”? Does he drive you nuts and make you laugh all at the same time?

pic credit 1: etsy.com

pic credit 2: madaminsideout.wordpress.com

 

Day Planner

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I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. Saying no is a healthy thing.  It’s also a relatively uncomfortable thing to do. So much emphasis is put on getting stuff done. Day planners promise fulfilled days if we can just get organized. Our lives will run so much better if we only learn to plan every minute, every hour of our day and check and double check to make sure we are on track. Ugh!

I don’t know about you, but I like blank pages in my day planner. I don’t get many of those, but I like them just the same. I read yesterday that a very successful CEO of some company puts two things on his day as priority. He writes them down the night before. He suggested the readers might be more successful in reaching goals if we followed suit. It might be good advice. Two things, how hard is that?

Then today, at prayer group, the discussion came up of making time in our lives for committed, regular prayer. Of course, we could all think of how difficult that might be. Then we brainstormed ways to be gentle on ourselves and move in the direction of committed prayer time. It occurred to me that, perhaps, on our list of two items to be done the next day, prayer could be one of them. It could be a couple of minutes, we could be aided by prayers written by other people, we could just sing our prayers, light a candle and whisper our heart to God without the pretense of our words being so important that we trip over them. He knows what’s going on in our hearts. Prayer could be as simple as sitting quietly and allowing a little bit of His peace to infuse my life. We got these ideas from a book on prayer by Richard Foster.

Saying no to some events, even worthwhile ones, may be awkward, but it’s ok. We don’t have to have our minutes scheduled out to be productive, worthwhile people. God accepts us as we are, even on days when the day planner has blank pages.

Father, my life is so full sometimes, there is no room for You. I am not telling You anything You don’t already know. I think that in the busyness of my day, in the productivity of my day, I will find value, but You and I both know that I won’t. I have already been given value by You. So much value that You sent Your son Jesus to take my sins, to right the wrongs of my life, to bring meaning to my life, to lead me back to You – my source of value and worth. Thank You and please forgive me for the times I am just too busy to sit at Your feet. Help me with this commitment to prayer, help me make the time. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Evening News

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I’m overwhelmed with sorrow!     

sunk in a swamp of despair!

I’m like someone who goes to the garden to pick cabbages and carrots and corn

 and returns empty-handed,    

 finds nothing for soup or sandwich or salad.

There’s not a decent person in sight.     

Right-living humans are extinct.

They’re all out for one another’s blood,    

 animals preying on each other.

They’ve all become experts in evil.     

Corrupt leaders demand bribes.

The powerful rich make sure they get what they want. 

The best and brightest are thistles.     

The top of the line is crabgrass.

But no longer: It’s exam time.     

Look at them slinking away in disgrace!

Don’t trust your neighbor, don’t confide in your friend.

Watch your words, even with your spouse.

Neighborhoods and families are falling to pieces.     

The closer they are—sons, daughters, in-laws—

The worse they can be.     

Your own family is the enemy.

But me, I’m not giving up.     

I’m sticking around to see what God will do.

I’m waiting for God to make things right.    

 I’m counting on God to listen to me.

Micah 7:7-8

Although this was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, it reads like today’s news. When I first moved to Vancouver from Montana, I was struck by the news at night. One channel from Portland had an hour program and the first 30-40 minutes were devoted to listing the robberies, rapes, murders, etc. They would tell what neighborhoods the crimes happened in and being new to the area,  I would wonder if that was anywhere near me.  My husband was still in Montana and I was here with our son for several months before Bruce could join us. These news stories put fear in me. So I just stopped watching. If the world was falling apart all around me, I’d just as soon not know about it. Have I mentioned before that I am quite fond of denial?

I can’t keep myself from seeing and hearing about the evil things taking place in our world. I am surrounded by it and it is my duty, I think as a Christian, to be light in that darkness. I can’t do that if I pull the covers over my head and think it isn’t happening.

Whatever the events that are bringing fear into your life, into my life, God isn’t ignoring them or us. He hasn’t pulled the covers over His head and chosen to live in denial.  He will make things right, in His time.

There is a “but” in this verse; a turning point in the prophet’s news report. He claims he is not giving up, he is going to stick around to see what God will do.  That strikes me as a good plan. Wait and see the deliverance God will bring. We don’t have to live in fear, no matter the news, no matter the diagnosis, no matter the destruction that is around us. Our God hears our prayers and we can count on that.

Heavenly Father, the news is often scary, the diagnosis is overwhelming and fear rises in me at times. I know I don’t need to fear, but sometimes, I forget that. Would You remind me to fear not? Would You help me to wait in faith to see what only You can do? I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Oh, No There Will Be Losers!

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The LORD will make you the head, not the tail.

If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them,

you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

Deuteronomy 28:13

 

The other day at work, kids were playing basketball, using street rules. There was no referee to call fouls and keep the game running smoothly and so it didn’t run smoothly. A co-worker suggested that they just play for fun and that way they wouldn’t have winners and losers. One older boy immediately responded, “Oh, no, there will be losers!” It’s so simple, even a kid can get it! In the game of life, like the game of basketball, there will be winners and there will be losers.

It isn’t God’s desire that we be losers. He mapped out very clearly in His word the differences between winning and losing. Winning doesn’t mean a higher point at the end of the game or a raise in pay or even the accolades of others. Winning in this chapter of Deuteronomy means being blessed, blessed by God. His blessings include prosperity (sufficiency for our journey), health, provision, protection, favor, and increase in the things we put our hand to in His name. Losing means falling short of inheriting those blessings.

We can be a Christian and still lose out on those blessings. Often times, we lose because we simply don’t know that these are God’s will for us. Some people have taught that living a life of lack and want is somehow more spiritual than prospering. Please know that when I say prospering, I am not simply talking about money, although that is part of it. But imagine for a moment, your life with no lack.

Imagine having peace and joy and knowing that you are blessed by God in the things that You do. That wherever you go you are surrounded with favor simply because you are His. Knowing that what you put your hand to will prosper because He has so blessed you. Knowing that your children and your grandchildren are blessed and abound in prosperity. Would that change your day, your week, your life?

Some people will lose because they don’t believe that they deserve all that God has for them. They are right, of course, they don’t, neither do I. That’s why Jesus taking our sins is so remarkable. I don’t deserve these blessings from God, but I am heir to them because of Jesus covering me in His righteousness.

There is an “if” in this promise. This promise is conditioned upon our paying attention to the commands of God, to taking God at His word and trusting in that word even if the evidence around us tells us differently. One day the evidence will fall in line with the word of God and we will see that we are indeed winners!

Precious Jesus, what a wonder You are. Without Your sacrifice, I would be forever excluded from the blessings of our God. Thank You for allowing me to share in Your inheritance and for taking my sins so that I can have what I need for success in this journey I am on. Show me where I am failing to keep Your commands and forgive me and lead me to victory, I ask in Your mighty name. Amen.

 

 

picture credit: theprevailingethos.com

 

Glimpses of Heaven

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 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven”…

Matthew 6: 9-10

Years ago, when I was part of an intercessory prayer team, a mother asked us to pray for her daughter.  Her little girl was 4 and couldn’t walk.  She had numerous other issues and I forget what the diagnosis was but the prognosis was that she didn’t have long to live.  We prayed and then shared what we believed God had given us for this little girl.  Everyone shared that they saw her healed here on earth.  I didn’t share that because that wasn’t what I saw.  I saw a little girl about four years old skipping down a street paved with gold.  Every once in a while, she would turn her head back and smile at someone who was behind her.  Her smile and her face radiated joy and peace and happiness.  She was beautiful and full of life.  I didn’t share it because that wasn’t what the mother wanted to hear just then and I sincerely hoped I was wrong.  Unfortunately, the day came when she said goodbye to her precious daughter and released her to God and heaven.   Some time later, I shared that vision with her and it brought her a great deal of comfort.

Jesus Himself tells us to pray that God’s will would come to pass here on earth as it is in heaven.  Here and now, on earth.  I hear so many people talk of the future healing that will take place in heaven and it sounds, well, heavenly.  But Jesus, not Joe Blow, not some anchorman, not some politician, but Jesus said to pray this way.  Why, unless the beauty of heaven is to be released here on earth?  Now.  Not just later.

I’ve read about heaven but I can’t imagine it.  What I saw on that little girl’s face though convinces me that in heaven, legs that couldn’t walk here on earth will walk and skip pain free.  People whose lives were full of issues will be issue-free. Faces that showed pain here on earth would radiate peace and joy and happiness.  I’m sure there’s way more, but that right there is awesome.

And Jesus said, we are to pray for those things to come here on earth as they are in heaven.

How I long to have legs that will walk and skip with no pain and I believe it is Your will that that takes place here and now on earth as it will one day in heaven.  So I thank You. More than that though I long to see joy and peace and happiness all over the faces of those that call You Friend and Savior.  In Your mercy and Your grace You have provided for our healing here and a future that we can only imagine later and forever.  Thank You for reminding me of this little girl and her healing.  When her mother is feeling sad, would You remind her that her little girl is safe in the arms of love and living fully without issues and pain.  In Your name, I pray. Amen.

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I Have A Dream

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When I was a child, I dreamed of being a National Geographic photographer when I grew up, or a missionary, or a famous scientist or a writer living on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  I wanted to “work for God” but not in the nursery or making quilts and there were no other women in my life working for God in any other capacity to be my role models.  There were no go to people in life I could discuss this with and so I never could figure out where and how I could “work for God”.

When I was asked to leave home at sixteen, I stopped dreaming.

Life became about survival and getting by and working and finding the next party.  And then recovering from the last party.  Dreams didn’t come.  I quit thinking about one day and what I might be when I grow up and how I could work for God.  People say dreams die hard, but I don’t agree, this dream crashed and burned and was over with- in an instant.

It began to stir in me, somewhat years later, when I attended Bible school.  I was surrounded with people who had dreams – big dreams.  Dreams of working for God, of making a difference in people’s lives, of being a part of bringing about the kingdom of God.  And they could put feet to these dreams.  They knew they were going to start a church or go to this mission field or launch this ministry.  Me, I knew nothing.  Try as I might, I couldn’t conjure up a dream.  But I was aware that there was an emptiness inside me, a dream size emptiness; I just couldn’t find the dream to fill it.

Until now.  Now my dream is just this – I want to see people walking in all that God purchased for them by sending Jesus to the cross.  I want to see people living victorious and joyful lives and not just trudging through.  I want to see people healed – physically, mentally, emotionally and able to enjoy every day of the days they have been given on earth.  And I want to see all my family, friends, neighbors, kids I work with, and co-workers when I get to heaven.  The party to end all parties!

This blog is a small step towards that dream.   What about you, do you have a dream you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear about it.

Jesus, You are the resurrection.  The One who resurrects dreams, the One who gives dreams and helps us to bring them to pass.  Raise up the dreams You have placed in Your people, stir them up and help us to put feet to them.  However You define working for You, help me to do with joy.  In Your name, I pray, Amen.