Friday, May 25, 2018

Back At The Lake

They call it “retail therapy”.   She can feel the excitement building as she whips her shiny new car, into the parking space.  Work was crap today.   No matter how hard she works, it’s always the same… somebody is complaining and she’s never enough.  The “career” that she thought was going to finally fulfill her and make her feel important, is actually  just a paycheck.  The disappointment of finally reaching the zenith only to find out there’s nothing there, it’s all just vapor has left her empty inside.  So, she goes shopping.   She can feel the rush as soon as the click of her heels hits the linoleum.  New aviator sunglasses, lip-plumping gloss and a cute pair of sandals quickly find their way in her basket and she’s feeling euphoric.  Shopping always makes her feel better.  Walking up to the register, the feel of cold plastic in her hands, probably feels just like the rush of the addicts’ needle.  The fact that she had to open a new charge account, because all the others are maxed out is a problem she will deal with later.  Walking out she knows she must hide the evidence, so she throws the receipt in the trash and tucks the bags under the back seat of the car…  she’s got to make sure her husband doesn’t see her coming in with another bag, because that’s sure to cause a fight.  She’s figured out if he never sees her carry the stuff in, he doesn’t know any difference from the new and old.  In the back of her mind she knows she’s putting a lot at risk for such a short-lived thrill.

Sitting on a barstool in a Chili’s an hour away from his house, he’s thinking he should really go home.  He loves his wife and his kids, he really does, it might not look like it from the outside, but he does.  He’s already ordered a whiskey and coke and as he sips on it, borrowing courage, he waits for her.  They met at work.  They laugh over the same stupid office jokes, making fun of people, like the  brown noser and the flirt who shows all her business and the skinny nerd with all the answers.   She’s young and cute and she makes him feel young and alive again.  The blood is pumping in his veins as he waits in anticipation for the next few hours.  He knows what he’s risking, but the pain is worth the pleasure.  If his wife found out he was doing this again, she’d leave and take his kids with her.   She hates him, he can see it in her eyes every day, the disappointment and disgust, because she had some fairy tale in mind when they got married.  Truth is… so did he.  He really believed she was the one that was going to make him feel like a man and with her life was going to exceed his expectations.  Reality bites.  He knows everything he’s risking doing this again, but he sits there waiting.

It’s a Tuesday night, the kids are in finally in bed.  Tension, stress, and frustration have been a constant companion all day.  She has all she could have ever dreamed of, an amazing husband, beautiful kids, nice house, and yet there are things she didn’t dream of.  She never dreamed she would say the things that she says to her kids.  She never dreamed it was all going to be this hard.  Another night ended in ugly words and guilty feelings.  Sitting in the living room, tv playing in the background, thumbing blinding through Facebook, she pops the top on a can.  Taking the first few sips, it only takes seconds for the knot in the back of her neck to disappear.  Minutes later the stress of the day has completely melted away.  She knows this isn’t really going to solve any problems.  In fact, she will wake up tomorrow tired and groggy and the cycle will start again…  but even though she knows it only makes things worse… she pops the top again and the rush of alcohol hits her bloodstream making her forget for now.

Sitting in the Doctor’s office, he rehearses what he’s going to say.  The Doctor is going to tell him that he doesn’t need the pills and that the dose he’s on is enough, maybe he should see a therapist, it’s all in his head, but he knows he needs those pills.  He used the month's prescription in just 2 weeks and he’s been having withdrawals for days, he’s already anxious and the sweat is beading on his brow and his hands are clammy.  He hates being here.  He hates the way people look at him, like he’s a freak, because stuff that “normal” people don’t get worked up about he does.  He hates life really.  The only thing that makes him feel ok is the pills.  It sucks majorly that they don’t last forever.  The truth is they don’t make him feel better… they make him feel nothing and nothing is exactly what he wants to feel.  He doesn’t want to feel sad, or lonely, or invisible. He wants to feel numb, dead would be even better.  He knows the pills are not making life better, but he needs them anyway.

She finds herself in the drive-thru line again.  It’s been a horrible day.  Screw the diet, she just wants to feel the rush of the Dr. Pepper hit her veins and the smell of the French fries wafting from the McDonald’s has already made her physically relax.  Just knowing in five minutes she can pull over in the parking lot and tear into the bag makes her feel almost happy.  She eats alone, because she cannot stand for people to look at her with disgust.  Stupid people, like they don’t eat every freaking day too.  But, she pulls into the last parking spot with a lone tree surrounded by concrete to shade her.  Here she’s safe to eat in peace and she’s happy for the first time today.  The fries are perfect, and the DP is just what she needed, but the burger is gone before she realizes she’s eaten it.   Maybe she should pull around and order another, but they would probably recognize her.  Maybe she’ll just go to DQ across the street and get a shake.  Decision made she starts the car up to head across the intersection.  She knows what she’s risking… health, feeling good about herself… but the temptation to fix her feelings with food is just too strong.

He sits down at the computer, pushes the power button, waiting for the browser to pop up.  The anticipation is building in his veins as his mind is already conjuring images that his imagination can feast on.  He didn’t mean to get into this kind of thing… it was actually by accident when he clicked on an innocent looking pop-up add one night when he couldn’t sleep.  Hours later he came out of a fog, feeling sick with guilt for what he had just spent hours looking at.  If his parents ever found out about this obsession he would be in so much trouble.  They think he’s gaming and they never give him any grief.  They never ask why he turned his desk around facing the door and they never check to see what’s on his computer, but he’s careful anyway, making sure to hide the evidence of his online fantasy world. Everyday he tells himself he’s not going to do this again, but every day he fails again.  Sadly, he’s lost interest in football and he hasn’t hung out with his friends lately… even though he knows this is sick, and he’ll be consumed with guilt later, nothing excites him quite like what he sees on this screen.

He felt like a ball of frustration and anger and self-loathing.  Everything had gone wrong.  He was confused and tired and angry and he wanted to be numb.  He didn’t want to feel or think anymore.  There was only one thing that could make him feel numb.  Peter, sick of feeling disappointed, abruptly stood up, looked at the men around him and said, “I’m going fishing.”  His friends decided to come along and now he found himself standing on the boat, with the familiar feel of the waves rocking beneath him.  Balancing himself against the sway of the boat felt good, it felt right, it felt comfortable.  The water reflecting the morning sun, the breeze touching his face and smell of fish were exactly what his weary soul longed for.  The only problem being the fact that he would never be able to escape what had happened in the last couple of days.  He was still in shock.  Jesus, the Messiah, his best friend had been arrested, beaten and nailed to a cross and he, Peter, had betrayed him.  He had denied knowing him and he had run, when he said he would stay and die with him.  Now Jesus was dead and nothing made sense.  He couldn’t sort out the jumbled mess that was in his head.  He didn’t know how to fix this or if he would ever get over this, but he knew that fishing would as least make him feel nothing for a while. 

Instead of making Peter feel better, fishing today actually made him feel more like a loser…  how bad was it when a fisherman couldn’t even catch fish?  With empty nets, they decided to head back to shore.  Distracted by his self-loathing, he didn’t see the man standing on the shore, but hearing someone call out he looked up, barely catching the greeting called out across the water…  “Friends, you don’t have any fish, do you?”

Thanks for stating the obvious stranger, Peter thought, but he called out, “No,” instead of what he wanted to say.  The man on shore said, “Cast out on the right side of the boat, and you’ll find some.”  Oh, really, Peter thinks, but something seems familiar about this episode and about the man on shore, so they threw their nets out on the other side of the boat and fish throw themselves in the net and some distant memory comes rushing to Peter’s mind, of the first time Peter had met Jesus.  In the background he hears someone call out, “It’s the Lord.”  Realizing that Jesus really was standing at the shore calling out to them and that He had called them friends made something in Peter crack.  Frantically, pulling his outer clothes around him, he plunged into the water, unable to wait for the boat to carry him to shore.  He had to get to Jesus.  Even though Peter was frantic to get to Jesus, he hesitated for a moment, not knowing how Jesus would respond, but Jesus rushed to him and wrapped his arms around Peter in a bear hug.  The love and forgiveness that Peter knew in that moment was the purest feeling he ever known.   Peter allowed the shame and self-hate to melt away because He knew that in spite of all that he had done wrong and all the times he had messed up he was loved and forgiven. 

Later that morning, Jesus took Peter aside and restored him completely and fully and commissioned him to carry on the work that Jesus was doing.  Somewhere in Peter’s confused mind he realized that only now after he had been broken could he be fully used by God.  Somehow, he had a new understanding that the Kingdom of God was not about over-throwing earthly kingdoms, but it was about forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation, and now Peter knew how to follow Jesus better.  He understood now that the most power thing in the world was forgiveness. 

Going back to the lake was how Peter handled his problems when his shame kept him from Jesus.  Going back to the lake is what we do when we go back to that familiar comfort instead of going to Jesus.  It’s that old thing that never helped us before, but we lie to ourselves that maybe this time will be different.  It’s never different.  I’m not sure what is driving you back to the lake, but I do know that Jesus is standing on the shore calling out to you friend.  He’s saying you won’t find what you’re looking for there…  somehow the net is always empty.  He is saying I have what you need…  Friend, come to me. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Reasons Why

Machines hum in the background, the tv’s turned low, some cooking show, she’s watching, even though she hasn’t eaten food in a week.  Tubes and wires connect her to the fluids that are keeping the pain manageable.  They talk about things like Jesus and heaven and all the things you talk about before someone leaves this life.  “Are you scared”, the daughter asks her mom. 

Tears that stay right under the surface of the smiles and assurances that everything is ok come flooding down her puffy cheeks and mirror the ones pooling in the eyes of her daughter.  Of course, she’s scared. They are both terrified.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Life was just beginning to make sense.  There were grandkids to enjoy and holidays for making memories.  There was Taco Tuesday, little league football games, babies to meet and an adult mom/daughter friendship with many years left to grow.  There were shopping trips left, there were awards ceremonies to cheer at, there were little people to laugh at and a daughter who needed a mom. 

A daughter who needed a mom.  A daughter who prayed fervently for her mother not to leave.  A daughter who wasn’t ready for the end.  A daughter who lost faith as she sat on that bedside knowing this was the end.  God would not answer her prayer for healing.  She would see no miracle.

Sitting at the bedside, holding her hand, and waiting for those final moments to pass, she felt a crack in her soul.  She said all the right things… that people needed to hear like, “she’s in a better place” and “she’s not in pain anymore”, she accepted the hugs and the comfort that other people needed to give to make themselves feel better.  She smiled at the funeral and squeezed hands and tried to make everyone else feel comfortable in her presence.

She went on with life, trying the best she could to not allow her pain to mess up other people’s lives.  When people asked how she was, she gave the standard answers that made them feel better.  She tried not to have bad days that would affect her kids and she tried to pretend that everything was ok.  She tried to believe that heaven was better for her mom and that she was happy, but the truth was she didn’t.

The truth was she was angry. The day she realized her mom was never getting better something broke inside her.  The day that she realized God was not going to heal her mom, everything changed. 

He could no longer be trusted with the things she loved.  She had prayed and begged and pleading for healing that didn’t come, and He had been silent.  Her faith in a good, loving Father evaporated.  Oh, she still went along like she believed it all, and maybe she even lied to herself, but her faith was shattered that day. 

People noticed that something was different, but they really couldn’t put a finger on it.  She wasn’t herself anymore, and that bothered a few, but no one could have known the depths of her despair.  They couldn’t know how betrayed she felt. They couldn’t have known how angry she was.  They couldn’t have known how much of her time she spent wanting her mom back and how cheated she felt. 

They couldn’t have known that she felt like God owed her, because he had already taken one mom from her when she was only a baby, too young to remember her.  No one knew that she felt like he had betrayed her twice and now she lived in constant fear that He would take someone else away that she loved. 

She kept all that to herself, because people can’t handle the pain in another person’s heart.  For years she pretended.  She went to church, she read her Bible, she prayed, but the anger and the hurt and the betrayal lingered under the surface contaminating everything in her life.  Her marriage suffered, her friendships suffered, her children suffered because the fear that was ruling her could only damage and lash out.  She couldn’t take it out on God, so she took it out on everyone else. 

She could no longer trust Him, so she couldn’t trust anyone else.  Security, peace, hope, and joy were replaced by fear, rage, and hopelessness.   Eventually, rage turned into unbelief…  she no longer believed that God was good and that He could be trusted.  Nothing made sense anymore and if she'd had no children to worry about she would have left her Christian faith far behind. 

I still don’t understand.  I still look out at my children playing with their cousins and I long for her.  I long to see the tranquil look on her beautiful face as she takes in the chaos.  I still long for her kiss on my cheek and the love in her eyes as she enjoyed watching her rebellious teenagers morph into competent, responsible adults.  I miss her voice.  Christmas has lost a little magic, because she’s not here.  I think of her every day, all day and I still cry, because it hurts worse now than it did that day I stood beside her casket. 

I still don’t understand why.  But, through the haze of rage and fear, Jesus NEVER once left my side.  He allowed me to cry when no one else could handle it.  He allowed me to question and to argue.  He allowed me to doubt.  He comforted me like only He can. 

One day not long after my mom passed away, I had stopped praying and reading the Bible, but for school each day my beginning readers would read a chapter to me.  That day both read the same story out of different books.  The first time I didn’t pay any attention, I was distracted and just wanted to get this over with.  You know how it is when you have kids learning how to read… the sounding out words is almost worse than a needle in your eye. 

The next one snuggled up beside me and starts reading and instantly my attention turns to what he is reading.  I know they are in different books and some may call this a coincidence, but I knew in that moment what I hadn’t gotten before the Spirit of God wanted me to understand now. So, I listened a little closer.  After the reading session was over I took my bible in my room and fell on the floor and prayed.  What are you trying to say, Lord? 

This is the story I heard that day and this is the story I read today and the one that I’ve read hundred times in the last 6 years.  This is the story that pierces my soul every time I hear it, and this is the story that brought me back to faith in a good God, who loves me and even when I can’t understand He can be trusted. 

“Just then, a man name Jairus came.  He was a leader of the synagogue.  He fell down at Jesus’s feet and pleaded with him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter about 12 years old, and she was dying.”

While Jesus was going with Jairus to heal his daughter, a woman came and touched his robe and she was healed of a blood disease she had had for 12 years.  During the commotion that followed Jairus’s daughter died.  His servants came to him and said, “Don’t bother the Master anymore, your daughter is dead.”

When Jesus heard this, the Bible says He turned to Jairus and said, “Don’t be afraid, Only believe, and she will be saved.” Luke 8:50

I can see Jesus with fire in His eyes willing Jairus to believe.  Willing him to hold on to that little spark of faith that had compelled him to seek Jesus out in the first place.  I can see Jesus holding his gaze and convincing Jairus that He really did have the power to raise the dead. 

I can see Jesus turn to me again and again as we walk to our destination and say I KNOW what you see.  I know it’s hard to believe.  I know you are afraid and I know you are sad, but JUST BELIEVE.  I can see Jesus put His arm around me and reassure me that everything is going to be ok. 

No, He didn’t answer my prayer.  No, my mom didn’t get healed (on this side anyway), no she’s not here, BUT if I just keep on believing I’m going to see her again someday.  

I know my mom would be begging me, if she could, to not be afraid.  She would say, “Angela follow Him, believe Him and you will see miracles.” 

My reasons why I have struggled over the years to follow Jesus are my own, but you have them too.  I see it in many Christians I know…  we all have our reasons why we stopped believing.  We all have our reasons why we started playing church instead of walking on water.  We’re afraid to get hurt, we’re afraid to believe again.

Fear permeates everything in our life and instead of joy we are bitter, instead of peace we are control-freaks.   Instead of love we feel empty.  Somewhere along the way, we stopped believing, BUT Jesus is turning to us today and saying, “Don’t be afraid, just believe…”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Where is Your Faith?

This was crazy.  Abraham could not believe what he was doing.  Trudging up the mountain, sweat pouring down his back and Isaac following behind him.  His mind consumed with anxious thoughts.  He didn’t hear the first few times Isaac asked him, but the boy's question finally penetrated his preoccupied thoughts. 

“Where we going, Dad?”

How could he answer that question?  He really wished that he could understand God.  He had tried to please this unseen God.  From the first day the Voice had spoken to him and called him by name, Abraham had tried to do everything He commanded.  Leave your family and go where I tell you, had been the first thing He said.  No one had understood then and certainly no one will understand now. 

Abraham had been humbled to be chosen by God.  Who was he?  He was no one… but God had chosen him and made him unbelievable promises and showered him with blessings.  The greatest blessing of all was walking up this mountain behind him.  Remembering the reason for this trek brought a fresh wave of tears to Abraham’s eyes.

Isaac, his beloved son, his heir, the fulfillment of the promise, the son of his old age.  He was a miracle.  Who would have ever believed that Abraham, having already lived a century and Sarah at 90 could have a son, but he was learning, with God all things are possible. 

Possible. That’s why he was doing this.   Walking up this mountain, with Isaac following behind him, asking what they were doing, he was trusting that with God all things were possible, like raising his  son from the dead. 

Why?  Why would Jehovah be asking him to do this? He was not like the other gods that Abraham’s family had worshipped in Ur.  He didn’t require human sacrifice.  He was the living God.  He gave life, he didn’t take it, and yet He had demanded Abraham sacrifice his beloved son. 

The troubling thoughts continued to plague Abraham as he ascended the steep slopes of Mt. Moriah.  Usually the beauty surrounding him would calm his soul and remind him of the gracious hand of the Creator, but today nothing could still his thoughts. 

What would he tell Sarah?  He hadn’t said anything, because what do you say?  “Hey, you know the son God promised us, that we waited so long for, uh yeah I’m going to take him up the mountain and sacrifice him.” 

Why God?  Why did you ask this?  A thousand tangled thoughts were colliding in Abraham’s mind, but the one thought that stilled all the others was that God had been so good to him.  He remembered all the times that he had done what God had told him by faith, and all the times that God had rewarded that fledgling seed of faith.  He remembered all the times that he had gotten himself into bad situations and all the times God had rescued him.  He remembered the joy of finding out that Sarah’s dead womb had conceived a child.  He remembered holding Isaac in his arms and laughing with joy, because God had done the impossible.

Remembering calmed his heart.  Even though he didn’t understand why or how, Abraham knew that God was good and that nothing was impossible with him.  He knew that God could be trusted, even with the one thing that Abraham loved most in the world.  He knew that if God told him to do something, somehow it was going to be ok. 

Too soon Abraham and Isaac reached the top of the mountain.  Abraham leaned on his staff to catch his breath and to stall, hoping beyond hope that God would call this whole thing off.  After a few minutes he told Isaac to help him build an alter to perform the sacrifice on. 

“Well, Dad, the fire and wood are here, but where is the Lamb?” Isaac innocently asked.  Looking away across the distant hills, Abraham lifted his eyes to expanse of blue above him and said, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” 

When Abraham could stomach the fear no longer he called Isaac over to him.  Submissively following his father’s instructions, he allowed himself to be bound and placed on the alter.  Abraham couldn’t speak, there were no words for this.  The horrible pit of pain and fear in his stomach were making it hard to breath.  The innocent love looking up at him from his precious son’s eyes was more than a father should have to bear.  GOD WHY????? 

Abraham raised the knife to do what God had told him to do.  This was the moment.  He was going to kill his own son, but as he raised the knife in his hand, He heard his name called out from heaven…  “Abraham, Abraham!” 

“Here I am.”  Abraham replied. 

The Lord said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him.  FOR NOW I KNOW YOU fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.”  At that moment Abraham heard the bleating of a ram, turning around he saw it stuck in the thicket behind him.  Relief, joy, tears all collided in that moment. 

The Lord had provided.  He was good.  He was gracious.  He had made a way.  He had tested Abraham’s greatest fears and although this was the hardest thing Abraham had ever in his life experienced, he felt set free.  He had faced his worst nightmare and with the Lord, he had come through it better than he was before. 

Abraham couldn’t find words to express what was in his heart.  For the first time in Abraham’s life he knew no fear.  God’s perfect love had cast out his fear.  His light had shown in Abraham’s darkness.  He had exposed the lies hidden in the depths of his heart.  The Lord had shown Abraham that there was nothing to fear when you were His.

I have been a Christian for twenty years and just in the past few years has God been exposing how much of my life has been governed by fear instead of faith.  Every time He asks me to take a step I argue and rationalize and try to find another way.  My faith being in what I can see, but God is testing that.  He’s asking me to face my fears.  He’s asking me to step out on unknown waters and do things I don’t think I can do, only to find out that HE has already provided everything I need, once I take the step. 

One day a few men were out on a boat and when an intense storm came out of nowhere.  They were frantic and sure that death was imminent.   They didn’t know what the sleeping guy down below could do, but they knew they had to go wake him up.  “Master, master we’re going to die.”, they frantically cried out. 

Jesus got up and with the authority of a military general He called out to the wind and waves to cease and immediately they calmed.  Then He turned to his disciples and said, “Where is your faith?”

Where is your faith today?  Is it in you?  Is it in your wisdom?  Is it in your circumstances or is it in God?  Is your faith in the sovereign Creator King of the Universe, who with mere words spoke galaxies into existence?  Is your faith in the One who can calm seas, hung the stars in place, and fed 5000 with a few fish and a little bread?  Is your faith in the One who loved you so much that He sent HIS OWN BELOVED SON TO DIE?  Or is your faith in your understanding? 

Where is your faith today?  If God is asking you to do a very hard thing, that you know you can not do, be assured He will provide a way for you to do it.  Be still and know that HE is good, and He is God and He will make a way.  Calm your anxious thoughts today, by remembering who HE is and then take that next step of faith.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Pain We Know

She saw her chance for escape.  An oversight by her captor, a door left unlocked, just waiting for her to walk through.  The night outside was pitch black, no moon out to show her the way.  She had given up long ago.  She had been beaten into submission and she had no courage to run now, but she knew this chance would never come again. 

If it wasn’t for the unexpected distraction, she'd be reliving the same hell she had been through hundreds of times before.  Oh, how she hated herself for not listening to wisdom when she was younger.  Her parents had warned her a million times about talking to strangers on the internet, but when the instant messages came pouring in day after day, she couldn’t resist his sweet lies.

At the time she had no idea he was not who he said he was.  The tiny profile pic was of a cute 15-year-old boy, with blonde hair and sun-kissed freckles on his nose.  She was smitten by the second day of texting.  He said the cutest things and he was always telling her how beautiful she was.  No on had ever said that to her before. 

The day he asked to meet in person was supposed to be such a magical day.  It was the day before her 14th birthday and she was super excited about the party the next day, the only thing that would make it less than perfect is that she couldn’t invite him.  Eve knew for sure her parents would freak.  So, that day she agreed to meet him, because he had a gift for her birthday.  They were meeting at the park around the corner.  Her parents never questioned her about meeting with her friends around the corner.  They wouldn’t suspect a thing.

Eve lived to regret that day a thousand times, wishing more than anything she wouldn’t have responded to that first instant message.  When she got to the park that day, she didn’t see anybody at first, especially not the cute boy she was anxiously waiting to meet in person.  She had been there for about five minutes when an older guy, with a ball cap walked by.  He didn’t stop or talk, but something about him instantly made Eve uncomfortable and she decided to head back home.  Walking briskly the opposite way and turning around frequently to make sure she wasn’t being followed, she didn’t see the man step out of the hedges in front of her.  She collided with him and he wrapped her up in a strong embrace, holding his hand over her mouth.

He whispered, “Hello, Eve, I’m so glad to finally meet you.”  Frantically, she kicked him and tried to bite his hand, while all the dots connected in her teenage brain.  All the warnings from her parents.  All the secrecy, all the lies came to light in that moment.  This was her prince charming, who called her beautiful and he was kidnapping her and taking her away from everything she loved.  If only she had listened.

Eve pushed those thoughts out of her mind for now.  Right now, she had to summon the courage to get up and run out of this dungeon she had been trapped in for two long miserable years.  She had to make her jello legs work and her mind formulate a plan.  She hadn’t made any decisions for herself for so long it was feeling impossible to decide what to do now. 

Where would she go?  She had no idea what lay outside these walls.  She didn’t know if she could make it on her weak legs and she had no shoes.  She wasn’t sure if she was even close enough to humanity to get any help.  All she knew was there was an unlocked door and freedom on the other side. 

Eve was terrified of taking this chance of escape.  She didn’t know what new horror might lie outside that unlocked door.  She waited what felt like eternity trying to figure out if she had the courage to take the step.  Finally, with every ounce of courage she had she lifted herself up and crept to the door.  The faded beat-up blue truck was gone for now.  Deciding that circling the house and running the opposite way of the long gravel drive-way was the best thing to do, she took off at a run, stumbling and falling flat on her face, because she kept turning around afraid to catch a glimpse of that faded blue. 

Eve ran for what felt like forever, she was panting, her heart beating out of her chest, legs burning and mind racing with all the unknowns, but she ran until could run no more.  Just when she thought she was about to die, Eve saw lights from a house in the distance.  She was so relieved to see civilization she collapsed in the field, hoping to regain her composure before she approached the little white farm house. 

Hearing the bark of dogs coming closer to her, Eve tried to pick herself up to see where they were coming from.   Weak and feeling like she might faint, she didn’t have the strength, so she just lay there waiting for the unknown.  A few steps away a woman called out to her dogs to heel, approaching to see what kind of animal they had found.  She gasped when she saw the crumpled shape laying in the tall grass in front of her.  Leaning down beside Eve, she swept the matted hair off her forehead and said, “Oh, honey, you’ve been through something bad, but you’re ok now.” 

Tears of relief and gratitude stung Eve’s eyes and she passed out right there knowing that she had finally made it to freedom. 

For Eve the fear of escaping and the unknown was almost stronger than her fear of the pain she knew.  The pain you know is sometimes more comfortable than the fear of the unknown.  That’s why we stay where we are for so long… because at least we know what to expect. 

In John chapter five, Jesus approaches a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years.  He’s laying on his mat at the pool Bethesda and Jesus comes to him, leans down and says, “Do you want to be made whole?” 

The man begins to make excuses for his situation, but Jesus getting to the heart of the matter says, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk”.  Instantly, the man was healed, he picked up his mat and went on his way.

But, there were many, many people there that day and no one else healed…  Why?  Probably because the fear of the unknown was stronger than the pain they were in.   

Jesus wants us to see that unlocked door and take the chance on freedom.  He is asking each of us today…  Do you want to be made whole?   It may be scary, and you may only see one small step at a time but get up and take the chance.  The pain and fear you know is clouding your sense and keeping you from the freedom on the other side of that door.  Freedom is waiting...  Jesus is waiting.   Don't let the pain you've become so comfortable with keep you from taking that chance.  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Popping Corn

He's standing on a chair in front of the microwave, impatiently jumping up and down, "Mom, mom when is my popcorn going to be ready?"  My mind is preoccupied and my thoughts are a million miles away from this kitchen and that little boy waiting for his popcorn.  He must have said that three times in the 2 minutes and 49 seconds it took to pop that corn.  Finally, his irritated voice broke through my distant thoughts and I just looked at him like he was crazy and said, "Boy, you do this every day, you know how long it takes."  It wasn't even completely out of my mouth when the Spirit of God whispered those words to my turbulent soul.

"Daughter, we've done this before.  You know you can trust my timing."  Suddenly, I could see myself impatiently standing in front of the microwave, watching the seconds tic down and crying out, "when, when, when?!"

My little guy had things he wanted to do and friends to play with and waiting on popcorn was an irritation in his life.  His four year old little brain didn't see the importance of waiting on the just the right timing.  If he had taken that popcorn bag out at the 2 minute mark most of the kernels would be unpopped.  He would have a bag of unfinished popcorn that would have been less than satisfying.  Waiting for that precise moment 2m 49s would produce a full bag of delicious popcorn with enough to share with that little friend he was so anxious to play with.  If he could just hold on 49 seconds he could have it all, his yummy popcorn and playtime with his buddy.  Forty-nine seconds seemed like an eternity, to a little boy who was just ready to be done with it, but forty-nine seconds means everything when it comes to popping a perfect bag of corn.

Oh man, does my heart need this little illustration today.  My heart needs to remember that God's timing is perfect.  I need to quiet my soul with the truth that at the appointed time God will have his way and if I wait on him, I will have the perfect bag of buttery corn and good times with my friends...  but I have to wait.  I have to trust that timing is EVERYTHING when you're popping corn.
And I can remember, because we've done this before.  In previous times when the Lord has given me a glimpse of the future and told me to wait patiently for Him to bring it to pass.  It was hard to wait then, but He made it happen, just the way He said it would... in His time.

The Children of Israel had to wait.  God sent Moses to tell them He was going to set them free from Pharaoh so they could be his people.  They thought it would be immediate, but they had to wait and the waiting was hard.  Their circumstances even became harder as they waited.  Pharaoh and the Egyptians despised the Hebrews for suggesting that God would rescue them.  They made their lives harder with more work, less supplies and more severe punishments.  As they waited they began to doubt that God had really spoken and maybe this guy Moses was insane to suggest that they would ever be set free from Egypt, but God had bigger plans that they couldn't even understand.  God wanted to display HIS GLORY to Pharaoh, Egypt and the surrounding nations.

The Lord HAD spoken and He would have His way, but His timing was everything.  By the time that God was done with the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, they were begging the Hebrews to leave and throwing all their valuables at them as they made their escape.

Waiting is hard.  Especially when you're standing on a chair, in front of the microwave, watching the seconds tic by.  Waiting is hard when you smell that popcorn and your mouth is watering and you know it's gonna be gooooooood!  Waiting is hard when you want to go play with your friends and you think you're missing out on something.

Waiting is hard.  When you're in Egypt, knowing God has something different in your near future.  Waiting is hard when you've finally heard from the Lord about something you've been praying about for a long time.  Waiting is hard when life becomes more painful and what He says, doesn't line up with what you see.  Waiting is hard when the stripes on your back become more frequent and you can't keep up with the new work load.

But the harder it's gets the sweeter that day of deliverance will be when the Lord says, "Get ready, You must be dressed for travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand."

"On the same day the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt according to their military divisions." Exodus 12:51

The Lord did all the work.  He did all the preparing.  He made the way, where there seemed to be no way.  He humbled the greatest nation on behalf of His people.  He set them free and led them to a new land.  All they had to do was be ready when that day came.

The popcorn is popping.  Watching and waiting and worrying isn't going to change one thing.  It will take 2 minutes and 49 seconds just like it does every other time.  Sitting there fussing about it isn't going to make that popcorn pop any faster AND taking it out before it's time is only going to be a disappointment.

"Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him..." Psalms 37:7