Friday, April 20, 2018

Last Words

"Above all, be strong and courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction Moses commanded you."

These words reverberate through my mind as I stand at the river's edge.  Suddenly, I'm flashing back to that day so long ago.  Moses and Aaron had led us to Kadesh and there was no water.  The people were beginning to panic.  Shouting curses and threats, accusing Moses of leading us out of Egypt just to die.  An angry mob of fathers and mothers worried about their children, scared of what would happen if we didn't find water soon.   The whole area had been scouted, there was nothing.

These people hadn't learned anything from all the other times they had cried out against the Lord.  Nothing had turned out like we had all expected it to, when we left Egypt, but God had never let us down so far.  Didn't they remember the manna they picked up this morning?  Didn't they see every time Moses prayed, God provided?  Didn't they look at the Presence in the cloud every day?

As I looked up at my leader and friend I noticed the new lines around his eyes and the slight slump in his shoulders that hadn't been there a few short months ago.  The people and their endless complaining was taking it's toll.  He looked weary and defeated.  As they yelled out accusing him of leading them out in the wilderness to die of thirst, I was overwhelmed with sympathy for him but also secretly relieved it was him and not me that had to deal with these people.

After the worst of the shouting was over and the crowd was subdued, Moses and Aaron went straight to the tent of meeting, they fell face down and the glory of the Lord appeared to them.  The Lord spoke to Moses, "Take the staff and assemble the people.  You and Aaron SPEAK to the rock while they watch, and it will yield it's water.  You will bring out water for them from the rock and provide drink for this community and their livestock."

I watched as Moses walked out of the tent of meeting.  Instead of defeated as he had been walking in, he looked angry.  Who could blame him?  These people were stubborn and rebellious.  They always complained and never praised the Lord for his provision.  They were always accusing Moses and God of neglecting them.  They always begged to return to Egypt.  It was as if they couldn't remember that we were slaves in Egypt.  Sure we had food and water, but didn't they want to be FREE?  Didn't they want to have their own land and live for God in freedom?  Didn't they marvel at all that God had already done for us.

Moses and Aaron called all the people together and with the staff, which had been used to miraculously  part the red sea, in hand he said to the people, "Listen, you rebels!  Must we bring water out of this rock for you?"  Then he raised his hand and with the anger that had been building up for months, he swung that staff and hit the rock twice.  Immediately water rushed out and all the people roared with cheers and rushed to take their fill of the cold refreshing flow.  It was a miracle.

That was years ago and I had almost forgotten about that day, until a few days ago, when Moses called me to him.   At the end of his life, just days away from finally seeing the Promised Land, the man that I had followed, loved and respected for most of my life stood before me with only one thing on his mind.  That day.  He wasn't reliving all the glory days or the miracles he had seen and been a part of.

The man was sitting quietly thinking about the day that he forfeit seeing the land promised to our people.  He was thinking about the day that he didn't follow the Lord's command completely.  The day that cost him the most.

Moses looked at me with fire in his eyes and he said, "Joshua, above all do everything the Lord commands you.  Be strong and courageous."

Moses my hero, who had lived such a life of faith, was thinking about the time He didn't trust the Lord enough and with his last words he begged me to trust God and obey him completely."

The last words of a man reveal everything about him.  The regret that I saw that day sways my decision today.  I will not listen to the lies.  I will believe that if God says, "Do it this way" that his way is better and I will do it his way.

At the river's edge as the sun begins to set and shines out across the water I relive that day again.  I hear my friend one more time urge me to be strong and courageous and turning on my heel I issue the command to prepare...  We walk into the raging river tomorrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

At the River's Edge

Moses the Super hero of our faith is dead.  He walked up the mountain, still tall and virile and full of life at 120, but God had denied him the crossing of the Jordan into our promised land.  We have been waiting for 40 years to enter the land God had promised our forefathers.  And now I'm standing here looking at the banks of the overflowing Jordan, 2 million people behind me, looking to me for answers.  God has chosen me, Joshua, son of Nun to carry on where Moses left off.   Everyone is looking to me.  They know that God has spoken to me.  They know that God has chosen me...  what they don't know is...  I'm terrified.  How can I be responsible to lead these people?  Who am I?

I saw the waters part at the Red Sea.  I saw Moses set the staff in the water and I saw the waters separate.  Sure I was one of the spies that Moses sent into the promised land to check it out and yeah I stood up with Caleb against the other ten spies who said we couldn't take the land, but Moses was there.  I walked up the mountain with Moses.  I watched him disappear when God called him and I saw the mountain shake when God met with Moses in that secret place.  I've seen water flow from a rock.  I've gathered manna from heaven every morning for 40 years.  I've seen the presence of God dwell with us and lead us in the cloud during the day and the fire by night.  I KNOW God is with us.  He spoke to me.  It's me.... I'm not sure of.

Standing here on the edge of the Jordan river, during harvest season, with the banks overflowing, all I can think is this is bad time to cross.  In a couple months the river will calm down and we have a better chance of getting through.  Has God forgotten about all the new babies that have recently arrived and the mothers that have to carry them across?  Has he forgotten about the toddlers, who have trouble walking on level ground, much less through a river bed?  Has he forgotten all the little old ladies that need support, they can't do this!

I'm standing here at the edge of the water with this command to go across in 3 days plagueing me and I'm scared.  Surely God can't see what I can see.  Three times He told me "Be strong and courageous."  He knows me.  They may not know me.  They are willing to follow me, because Moses said God had chosen me to lead.  They look at me and they see a soldier, they see a man, but I feel like a coward.  I'm scared.   My faith will determine the faith of millions...  My trust will determine their trust.  The step they see me take, into these raging waters, will give them the courage to walk in as well.

I'm standing here looking at these waters and I'm not sure.  Will you be with me?  Will you keep your word to me?  Will you make a way when I can't see a way?  Will you walk before me?  Or will I be a fool?  Will I lose heart?  Will I believe the lies that the enemy is pouring into my soul right now?  I've got three days to decide who I will believe.  I have three days to decide if I will lead a nation to believe in an invisible God and trust him to part the waters for 2 million people as we walk through the river or if I will be the reason we stay right here.

Oh, Lord, Help me believe you Lord.  I'm so scared.  I want so badly to believe Lord, help my unbelief.  I know what I've already seen, but it's different this time.

The words rush into my soul, the Spirit of God speaks to my heart...

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name (Joshua, son of Nun);
I will be with you,
when you pass through the waters,
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not overwhelm you.
You will not be scorched
when you walk through the fire,
and the flame will not burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
and YOUR SAVIOR."   Isaiah 43:1-3

I am Joshua, son of Nun, commander of the armies of Israel, standing at the banks of the river telling my heart to believe like Moses did, but I'm still afraid.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Struggle is Real

Lately, I've been compulsively watching "My 600lb. Life".  I can't get enough.  Something about the struggle of these people resonates somewhere deep in my soul.  It's a allegory.  I can relate.  The premise of each episode is 2 people hitting rock bottom with their weight soaring, health declining and at times paralyzed by their bodies, no longer able to care for themselves.  Each one begins a journey with a specialized Doctor, committed to do everything he can to help them lose their weight and regain their health.  Through following a very specific diet and exercise program and undergoing gastric bypass they begin a new journey and a completely new way of life.   Although, I don't really understand physically what they are experiencing, I do relate to being desperate for a change in my life.

In the beginning, most of the people are so desperate for a change and after consulting Dr. Now, they leave excited and in anticipation of a new start.  Most of them have to go home and lose a certain amount of weight to even qualify for the surgery.  Some are in such bad physical shape they wouldn't be able to handle the gastric bypass. Some can't walk and haven't been able to leave their beds for years, but everyone of them leave the Doctor's office ready and willing to do whatever it takes to have that surgery and begin their journey back to health and living again...  Every one of them is so sick of just surviving each day...  and I get that.

I get it.  I totally get being so fed up with your life and knowing that it could be different, it should be different.  Knowing that you could be living a whole new life, IF you decided today that you don't want to live this way any more.

Excited about the future and hopeful for the first time in a long time, they leave the Doctor's office and head home to rearrange everything in their lives.  Junk food out, healthy food in, exercise and living intentionally for the first time in decades.  Coming out of a numb existence, where you mindlessly do what you have always done and making decisions as if every one of them is life or death.

Amazingly, the results astonish, as they each begin to lose pounds by the dozen, and  some take literal steps for the first time in forever, life begins anew.  As the pounds melt away each patient goes to see Dr. Now again to learn their fate...  qualified for surgery or not.  Some do and some don't,  but either way they are undeterred in reaching their goals.  They give all they have to losing weight and having surgery with hopes of regaining a normal life somewhere in the future.

After having the surgery, the pounds begin to melt in much larger numbers, as they do each person undergoes an amazing transformation, losing 1/2 of themselves in a matter of months.  It's a baffling process to watch the complete transformation that takes place, as each person gains confidence and self-respect that had been lost long ago.

Strangely, it never fails that midway through this amazing process each person has a relapse.  They begin to eat things they shouldn't and stop moving like they should.  Shortly after they lose heart and become depressed and when they go back in to the see the Dr. he always asks, "What's going on?"

What's happening to slow down your progress.  What is going on in your life that has caused you to begin gaining again.  Dr. Now will send them to a therapist to dig deeper and find out what the issue is...  The therapist always asks the question "What is your trigger?"

As each patient talks it out they begin to see a pattern...  when this happens...  I do this.  I turn back to what I have always done.

When you are 600 pounds what you have always done can no longer work... because it's killing you.  What comforts you is actually destroying you.

I am not 600 pounds.  I am not addicted to food, although, I do turn to food for comfort on a regular basis, but that is not my thing.  I do have a thing though, a few to be honest, and they are not killing me quickly like a food addiction can, but running to them causes problems none the less.

This post isn't really about my crutch though...  It's about my trigger.  It's about me knowing that Jesus can meet all my needs and it's about me drawing near to him knowing that He is the answer to my every problem.  It's about me knowing that it's not my husband or my kids or my finances or homeschooling that is the problem.

I know that everything I need is in Jesus and I get desperate for a deeper walk with him.  I do the things I need to do...  like prayer and bible study and church and spending time with other people who love him, and I do good for a while, but somewhere along the way, when life happens and I let that trigger rule me, I turn and run away from Him (the source of all goodness in my life) and I veg out, numb out and run to things that I know are only going to hurt me.

Why???  Because it's comfortable.  It's what I know.  I can be mindless.  It's easy.   But my trigger makes me feel hopeless and I give into that hopelessness.  But it's a lie.

In my allegory Dr. Now is like God.  He wants to help and he has the wisdom and the ability to help me achieve every thing my heart desires.  He knows I can do this, but it's up to me to believe it too.

On the other side of that screen are all of us at home saying, "YOU CAN DO THIS."  Take one more step, pass that drive-thru, don't eat that burger, you don't have to live like this...  I imagine people in my own life, who are watching my struggle and see me turn back to destructive, lifeless substitutes, yelling at me through the screen, "You can do this.  I know it's hard and I know it hurts and I know you're tired, but you can do this."  You can have a life again.  You can lose the weight...  Dr. Now is right....  YOU CAN DO THIS.

Eventually, each person decides that the effort to change is worth all the discomfort.  The desire to live pushes them to try again...  and even though they know it's not going to be easy and it may take a long time to get where they want to be... they are convinced that there really is only one way to live the life they want.

We must do the same thing.  We have to decide that Jesus is better.  We have to believe we can do this.  Things are going to happen, but I can't keep using that excuse to give into my old comfortable way of coping.  In Christ we have all that we need to succeed, but we have to turn to him.  We have to be intentional.  We can't live numb.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry again, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again."

Psalms 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good.  How happy is the person who takes refuge in Him."

"Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.  Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live."  Isaiah 55:1-3

Look friend, I don't know what your struggle is, but it's real.  I don't know what your trigger is, but it's powerful, I don't know what your drug is, but if it's not killing you quickly, it's killing you slowly.  It's stealing your joy and your hope.  Only Jesus can satisfy that hunger that keeps driving us all, but that means we have to pursue Him intentionally and be ready to feel, to face disappointment, to push through the pain to get to the gain.

The struggle is real...   but we can do this!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

When I can't save the world.

I want to do stuff and I can't and that's hard.

Sitting on the couch with a fussy 4yr old in my lap.  He's tired and maybe not feeling all that great.  I'm grumpy and the house is a wreck.  Kids are fighting and I know nothing is going to be accomplished today.

It feels like my life is insignificant a lot of the time.  I had big dreams of doing something for Jesus and then I had kids.  Kids are overwhelming.  Pregnancy is tiring. Babies are all-consuming.  Toddlers are toddlers.  Just when I thought I was out of the woods I realized that big kids need you just as much as little kids.  Saving the world has been put on the back burner.  The reality is that it took having kids for me to realize just how messed up I am... so I wouldn't have been much of a world saver anyway.

There is so much I wanted to do that I can't...  For years (13 to be exact) I have wrestled with feelings of insignificance.  I think we all struggle with the idea of doing something that means something.   Our culture is especially affected by the idea of fame and fortune and being someone special.  So, what happens when we can't do stuff or be someone or save the world?

What happens when you're pregnant and sick and tired?  What happens when it's flu season and you can't leave your house for 3 months, because every single time you do, you come home with a sick kid?!  What happens when your life consists of sitting on the couch holding little people?  Instead of mission work, your days are full of laundry and dishes.  Instead of taking care of orphans and widows, you feel mired down by the weight of parenting, knowing you can't even do one more thing?

Through the years of wrestling with all this, I have found a few verses in the Bible that have given me lot of comfort and I wanted to share them with you, if you, like me feel like you're not doing enough, but you know you can't do anymore.

"He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in the fold of his garment.  He gently leads those that are nursing."  Isaiah 40:11  another translation says "those that are with young"...  The idea with this verse is that God is a Shepherd who leads his flock and sets the pace with those who are most venerable.  He leads the flock gently and carries the little lambs in the fold of his garment.  He's not in any hurry.  There is no rush with Jesus... He is the Good Shepherd.

In Psalms 23... the shepherd boy turned king says,

"The Lord is my Shepherd
I shall not lack.
He makes me lie down in green pastures:
He leads me beside still waters."

He makes me lie down...  when I need rest He takes me to a quiet place and makes me lie down.

"Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."  Matt. 11:28

When Jesus is talking about rest here he is talking about resting from striving.  Resting from trying to prove your worth and value.  Jesus is our Sabbath Rest.  We can stop and we can rest, knowing that where we are and what is going on in our lives is right where we need to be...  So, momma if the only world saving you are doing right now is holding a little baby in your arms... rest in that.  If all you can accomplish right now is loving your family and mothering well, rest in that.  Let the Good Shepherd take the lead and set the pace.

King David loved the Lord, who had taken him from the sheep folds to be king over Israel.  He wanted to show his love to God by building his temple.  David called Nathan the prophet to him and said, "I want to build a temple for the Lord."  Nathan told him to do whatever was in his heart, but that night God spoke to Nathan and told him to go back to David and tell him these words...

":Are you to build a house for ME to live in?  From the time I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today I have not lived in a house; instead, I have been moving around with a tent as my dwelling.  In all my journeys with all the Israelites, have I ever asked anyone among the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why haven't you built me a house of cedar?"

"This is what you are to say to my servant David: 'I took you from the pasture and from following the sheep to be ruler over my people Israel.  I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed your enemies before you.  I will make your name for you like that of the greatest of the land........ The Lord declares to you (David): The Lord Himself will make a house for you."

I love this story.  It reminds me that it's not really about me saving the world or doing great things.... It's about Jesus doing great things for me.  I can rest in Him.  I can let him take the lead and set the pace and if the only thing I get done for Jesus today is loving my family... that's right where I need to be.   

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

When I put me first.

Today, like most other Americans, who have made New Year's resolutions, I started my day with a healthy breakfast and restarted my work-out routine.  I have gained 10 pounds since Thanksgiving and even though I have been busy, I haven't been active.  My diet has been a disaster and honestly, I have been feeling like crap.

I have no energy, no motivation, no desire to do ANYTHING.  You can imagine with me then what my house looks like with five kids.  When my house is a wreck I become the ranting, nagging, crazy woman no one wants to live with.  I feel overwhelmed, under appreciated and frustrated.

Worse still is the way I feel about myself.  I feel fat.  I feel ugly.  I feel old and wrinkly.  I don't feel attractive, so I don't act very attractively to my husband, which in turn negatively affects our relationship.

It's amazing the way you feel about yourself affects the way you view the world around you.  How quickly blessings turn to burdens, when you're tired, grumpy and feeling frumpy.

But, this morning I feel good.  I didn't use the excuse of crappy sleep (which I have had for weeks, because my two youngest sons have been up every night), like I did yesterday.  I got up and put my running shoes on(not that they have ever been used for running), because I knew they would motivate me to get up and do something.  I ate a healthy breakfast, instead of drinking coffee until 2pm, took my vitamins and started drinking water.  Even though I really didn't want to and I didn't really have the energy to do a workout, I turned a video on anyway, and let the cute, cheerful, fit instructor lend me the courage to start all over again.  I'm not gonna lie... I didn't make it all the way through the 30min video this time, BUT I did do some yoga after and that was AMAZING, heard my vertebrae pop back into their proper place and worked out that crick I've had in my neck for 2 months. Surprisingly,  I was still feeling pretty good after that and TBH, my kids were getting on my nerves, so I took a 2 mile walk. WOW... I forgot about fresh air and sunshine.  

After making myself a smoothie, I jumped in the shower, AND shaved my legs...  cuz, well I was feeling pretty darn good about myself.  Already I could imagine that my abs, hidden under years of flab, were trying to make an appearance and is it me or does my skin simply glow now?!?!?!  Could be ALL in my head, but I'll take it.  I even decided a little make-up might make me feel human again, so hair did, make-up on... Look out world you can't stop me now.

I might be starting all over again, but if I'm feeling this good on day 1...  can you even imagine me in a couple weeks.

I use to think it was selfish to take time out for me.  The bible does say we have to die to ourselves and put others before ourselves... so I took that quite literally.  I took care of my kids and really didn't do very much for me.  I hated exercise and I wanted to eat crap food, but that was just my preference...   I didn't do things like get away by myself, have time with friends (without kids) or even date nights with my husband.  I felt guilty when I was tired and needed rest and never said no.  I was also miserable, because all those things are important.  All of those areas of my life needed time and energy.

This was years ago and I have had to learn that neglecting me is not really what Jesus was talking about...  In fact Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.  The second is this: 'Love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF." Mark 12:30-31

You have to love yourself to be able to love others well.  You need to take care of yourself to take care of others.  You need a full body, mind, soul, daily routine of self love to love anyone well.

Our Savior understood this...

"And in the morning, rising a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and they that were with him followed him.  And when they found him, they said, 'All men seek for you."  Mark 1:35-38

Even though there were crowds of people looking for him, he took off to a solitary place and spent time with his Father.  This was his custom every day.  Another time we see him tell his disciples to cast off, away from the crowds and he falls asleep in the boat.  Other times we see him call his disciples up on the mountain to be alone with him.

Look at Mark 6:31"And he said unto them, 'Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest awhile."  For many people were coming and going, and they didn't even have time to eat."

Oh, sisters... that sounds like being a mom, doesn't it.

Jesus told his disciples to come away to remote place, so they could at least enjoy a meal with him.  We need the same thing.  First and foremost, we need alone time with Jesus.  We also need to take care of ourselves.  The science backs this up... we all know that healthy food gives our bodies what they need to thrive and everyday there is increasing evidence of the benefits of exercise... from relieving stress to feeling sexier and having glowing skin... what mom could not use ALL OF THAT and many more good things.

Our relationships need alone time as well, to reconnect and revive, whether that's time with our spouse or alone time with each of our children and time with friends or any other relationship that is important to us.

It's a New Year and another chance to give the best we've got.  It's that time of year that we start over and reevaluate what is important...  So, put yourself first today.  Take care of you.  Do good to yourself so that you can do good for others!