Saturday, October 14, 2017

Divine Navigation



He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

For a person who is always lost, the second part of verse 3 of Psalm 23 represents great hope.

Before I ever got a smart phone…which was way later than most people…my GPS used to be my husband Dan. Before I left for a place I was not familiar with, Dan would sit down with me, map in hand or in front of the computer screen and walk me through the route to wherever I was going. He would explain what I could expect, and give me landmarks so I would know if I was going the right way or if I had made a mistake. Often, I would have to call Dan from the road because something went wrong and he would guide me through every stop and turn until I found my way.

I don’t think I have ever thanked Dan for the years of long-distance-navigation-assistance he gave me. Thank you, Dan! I could have not gotten there without you.

I’m telling you. That’s why I don’t clean the house…if I did, how would I find my way without the breadcrumbs?

It is the same in life. I make a million decisions in one hour. But I spend months second-guessing myself. Did I choose the right meal for dinner tonight? Did I buy the right detergent? Should I have bought that laminating machine I saw at Aldi’s? Should I have said no to Dylan when he first asked me to watch that Michael Jackson video he is so obsessed with now? Should I had not pushed to move? Should I had pushed to go back?

Sigh…

I never know if I am going on the right direction. I get distracted by the lights on the road. The incoming traffic blinds me and I get disoriented.

It is a relief to remember that He, the Architect, Designer, Master Builder and Conductor of this thing I call my life is my Navigator, the most perfect one, who will never get me lost, even when I don’t know where I am. And why does He care? He cares because it is for His Name’s Sake. It is for His glory that I get where I need to go.

My Lord and My Shepherd, allow me to trust You enough to follow Your direction so I don’t have to feel lost ever again. Like the sheep follow the Good Shepherd because they know him and know he would take them to the good pastures, let me follow You, Lord…wherever you may lead me.

Friday, October 13, 2017

I am Restored



He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;

How do I feel when I read these verses above? Mmmmm… I feel…restored, indeed!

I don’t know anything about being a sheep, but when I read this I just want to be one. I want to be that little sheep that gets to lie down in a field as green as emeralds, and that runs as far as my little sheep eyes can see. And when I’m thirsty, I want to be led by the water…preferably still, so I don’t have to be afraid or nervous with it being rough or rushing too hard.

But, as I read the first part of verse 2 again, I’m wondering...why does it say: “He makes me lie down…” Why does He have to “make me”? I mean, really?

This kind of makes me think of my sons, especially my older one, Grant. That kid does not like to lie down. He has never been one for sleeping much. When he was a little boy I had to “make him lie down” otherwise, he would have never taken a nap or slept at all. Later, he informed me that the reason was that he didn’t want to miss anything…man! Who cares? I wish I could take a nap. I wish…wait a minute…what am I saying?

Am I saying that I don’t voluntarily lie down either? What’s this: “I wish someone would make me take a nap”? Am I that restless that I need to be made to lie down?

The answer is a resounding YES!

People at work always make fun of me because I don’t stop. At home, everyone gets tired just to see me enter the house because they know peace has ended. They actually love it when I take a nap because they can finally chill. I am always on the run. I am always rushing. I’m exhausted.

Yes, I need to be made to lie down in the comfort of the Lord’s green pastures that He has reserved for me. And, since He knows I love me a beautiful water-front, He has placed the picture-perfect still waters right upon my view.

I can see it in my mind as I close my eyes…

My soul is restored!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I Shall not Want



"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10: 11

I’ve been thinking about Jesus as the Good Shepherd a lot lately…not necessarily by choice, but because everywhere, at church, on the radio, in my devotions, the theme keeps popping up. Today, I did make the choice, though, to meditate on it for a bit.

The question that came to my mind was: what does the idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd make me think about? How does that image make me feel?

Well…as I begin to think about it to answer these questions, I decide it would be better if I take a look at one of my favorite psalms… the ultimate shepherd’s guide, Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord

Forever.

I know, King James version, right? Well, it just doesn’t have the same feeling if I don’t use the King James…and since we are talking about how it makes me feel…well…there…

OK…yes, there are really good, insightful, amazingly thought-provoking and marvelously written volumes on Psalm 23rd…why add to the collection when it is nearing perfection? Well, I guess, I’d like to do my own personal meditations this time.

Therefore, I will go through this beloved Psalm one chunk at a time. Beginning, well, at the beginning:

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not want.

I LOVE this verse. I never truly got it until I read Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23rd, my personal favorite when it comes to studies on this Psalm. I do recommend it! Anyway, before I read Keller’s book I was like, “I shall not want my Lord as my Shepherd? What?” Then, I finally realized it meant that since the Lord is my Shepherd, I will not be in want for anything because He supplies all of my needs. WOW…insert head explosion here!

Yep, no worries. As the sheep, I should have no worries about anything, because I have a Shepherd who is Good and who takes care of me. Then, how come I still worry?

Well, perhaps, it might have something to do with the fact that I don’t know my Shepherd enough to trust Him with my everything…

I think, yes.

Remember what Jesus tells us in John 10?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10: 27

He says that those who belong to Him “listen” to Him. But in order for the sheep to hear…to listen to His voice, they have to, first, recognize His voice, and second, be quiet long enough to actually hear His voice.

Me?

Well, I realize I don’t know My Shepherd enough to recognize His voice among all the other voices that call out to me inside my head. I listen to all of those voices without discriminating which one is the One and Only I should actually listen to. I don’t quiet my soul long enough to allow for this discernment either.

Sigh…

How do I get to know My Shepherd better? The same way I would get to know anybody else: spending time with Him.

How do I quiet my soul long enough to hear His voice? I take captive my thoughts, put them at the foot of the cross and accept the fact that I am not at the driver’s seat.

I am just a sheep. I am not the one carrying the staff.



Lord, please, help me to listen to Your voice and let it soothe my soul as it calms it down long enough for me to relinquish my thoughts to You and allow You to be the Shepherd of my heart.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Elephant on the Highway



How do you eat an elephant? Yeah…I know… the first time I heard this semi-rhetorical question I was confused. I was like, “what? … wait, does it taste like chicken?” I’m a little slow…so it took me a while to get it. And that’s how I am with everything. It takes me a while to get most lessons, especially those divine lessons God so diligently tries to teach me.

I have been so very overwhelmed by life lately, that I have not been able to write much at all this month. I don’t like it when I allow time to slip by without setting aside some to let the Holy Spirit cover me with His meditations as I type. This is my time with the Lord. The very sound the keys make when I press them down on the keyboard soothe me and center me. It’s no wonder I’ve been so out of whack, anxiously tripping by the days as if sleep-walking. I need to get back on track. I need to exchange the craziness of the last few months for moments of peace and freshness.

This past weekend was not one of those moments.

Let me tell you. I despise driving. My limit of driving without stopping is one hour… and a half if I really push myself. Well, last Thursday I had to drive 5 hours by myself one way…in the rain…part of it at night. It was probably the worse driving conditions, second only to a blizzard…btw, I have driven in a blizzard…

At any rate, I was not happy. When I got to my destination, if it hadn’t been because I know how dirty hotel carpets (all carpets for that matter) are, I would have kissed the floor. I did kneel down and praised God for keeping me safe and putting that awful drive in the past, though. Then, I realized I had to do it again in two days…sigh…

When the day to come back home arrived, I woke up as early as possible and as soon as there was light, I got on the highway. The day was bright and sunny and I was driving west, which helped. The trees looked beautiful and the music on the radio was fun! But the road looked as if it would swallow me up, still. My uneasiness with the highway was all the same as it had been two days before. There might not have been any rain or confusing, flashing lights passing me by, but the miles still extended the same distance. Then, I remembered the elephant.

Sigh…

So, I decided to eat the following 223 miles or so, one bite at a time.

I took advantage of interchanges and rest-stops to the fullest. And I broke up the trip in chunks… doable chunks… so when I got home I was not shaking uncontrollably nor feeling like I needed to plant my face on the ground and sob. I was refreshed, and able to enjoy the beauty of the day I still had left!

Then, I thought…this elephant menu makes a lot of sense to me now. I think there might be something there for every time I feel overwhelmed. My Father in Heaven does not want me to try to swallow up all the concerns of life in one bite. He’d never ask me to do that, because He knows I’d never learn what I need to learn that way. I’d be too consumed by the heartburn of my gluttony. He wants me to, first, give my elephant to Him… then, allow Him to cut it up into bite-sizes, to finally start eating it one piece at a time…why don’t I remember that, next time?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Warm Blanket of Peace



Do you ever get cold chills running up and down your spine when you are experiencing fear or anxiety? I do… and I really, REALLY dislike that sensation. I am tired of it. I don’t want to live my life trapped in a web built by my own mind and aided by the manipulations of the enemy. I want to be free! I want to get rid of the chains that keep me a slave of fear. I don’t want to be cold anymore. I want to feel the warmth of God’s love…

I want My Lord to cover me with the warm blanket of His peace so the cold chills of fear may finally disappear.

This is the prayer that I have been using to try to take my thoughts captive every time they start to get out of my control. The thing is that as I am in the middle of a season of waiting, worries about the uncertainties of the future brew a sense of fear in my mind and heart. Then, as the runaway thoughts come in like a dark fog into my brain, the cold shivers immediately follow as a sure sign that I have let my mind wander way too far.

Why do I worry about anything? Why do I insist in allowing my thoughts to go where I know they will find the switch to anxiety and flip it on? Why do I have such a hard time listening and believing the words Jesus Himself tells me in Matthew 6: 25a “Do not worry about your life…” Do not worry about any of it: the body, the clothes, the food, the drinks, and especially, do not worry about the future!

Don’t you love Jesus?! Don’t you just love how clearly He often speaks? It is so plainly stated here, almost as if He is saying, stop it! Quit worrying! It’s not worth it! Leave tomorrow in the future, believe me…you don’t want to bring tomorrow into today. Each day has its own things to worry about, so why worry double!? There is only one thing you need to do, child: SEEK ME!

Sigh…

Lord, help me, please!

During the last day or so, prompted by my niece, who is more like my sister, we have been sharing our favorite psalms among her, my sister and me. Not surprisingly, Psalm 23 came out as a popular one. Today, I want to recall one of my favorite promises this precious piece of Scripture offers us:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23: 4



Enough said…

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Fear of the Lord



As I was sitting in the car, looking for something to distract my mind from the obsessive thoughts I’ve been carrying around lately, regarding upcoming blood work and test results, I fell into Facebook’s lure. However, since God can use anything and everything for the furthering of His Kingdom, He directed me to a video-post by Christian Singer, Natalie Grant. A dear friend had actually sent me that video, but I hadn’t been able to watch it. Lo and behold, this afternoon I was able to play it, and in the video I learned how Natalie Grant is canceling her October and November shows due to an upcoming thyroid surgery.

Among other wonderful things, Natalie Grant explained in the video how she has found out through the current trial she is facing, the crucial importance of holding each and every thought captive. She quoted from the Amplified version, and boy, did that speak to me?

We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 5

I have a hard time controlling my thoughts. When it comes to worrying about my health…I lose the reigns and my mind becomes totally unruly. It gets away from me and it takes me to places I have no business visiting. My thoughts become so argumentative and sophisticated that they totally set themselves up against the true knowledge of God…driving me to a ledge… to a cliff…where they push me down the abyss of the “what-ifs.” There, I lay in helpless desperation, cowering under the attacks of the enemy, shivering with the cold sweats of fear…fainting in dismay.

And that is no place for the child of God to be!

Lord, how and why do I allow myself to get there?

In my case, because I do not have the discipline of taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ!

But, what does that mean? I have no idea…

But then, when I stop to think again, I think it actually is, maybe, an issue of attitude? Like, sort of a combination of staying or keeping an attitude of surrendering and awareness, perhaps?

The trials are real. The outcome could really be bad. The circumstance might not change. The situation can get worst. The end might truly not be ideal. The plan could totally change. It could seriously be a big deal…we are not supposed to deny it or avoid it or act in a delusional way…not at all, I don’t think so. But we are called to be disciplined and intentional as far as how we manage our thought-life while experiencing a rough patch in our path.

And I believe, that management begins with awareness. In my case, I need to be able to recognize when I am letting go of the reigns of my mind. I need to know when I am being attacked by the enemy. I need to see the signs, the warning signs of my thoughts getting out of my control, so I can get back to an attitude of surrendering them to the foot of the cross.

“There is a fear that drives away all fears: the fear of the Lord,” says Jon Courson in his commentary. The righteous man is the man/woman who fears the Lord, who allows the Lord to be LORD over all. The righteous man/woman gets a wonderful promise in Psalm 112:7-8a(AMP):



He will not fear bad news;

His heart is steadfast, trusting [confidently relying on and believing] in the Lord.

His heart is upheld, he will not fear…




As I pray for Christian performer, Natalie Grant in her current trial, I pray I can become the kind of woman whose fear of the Lord dismisses all other fears. I want to be a righteous woman who keeps her mind under control by surrendering to Christ and staying alert. I want to be a child of God who trusts Him and confidently relies on Him. I want to be the person who takes these promises and claims them for herself…so I may never let fear run my life again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Road



We put so much effort in constructing safe lives… lives in which we walk around covered in bubble wrap so nothing ever happens to us. We want the assurance of security and of a comfortable life. We want the safety of a plan that doesn’t get altered. We want to walk along a smooth path without any roadblocks, potholes, detours, ditches or tripping hazards. The smallest pebble under our feet symbolizes a failure in what we picture as the perfect life.

Sigh…

What’s wrong with wanting that?

Nothing!

The problem with that scenario is… that it is unrealistic at best, impossible at worst. No matter who you are, how much money you have, how healthy you are, how perfect life may seem…there will always be something that qualifies as a bump on the road.

So, what does that mean? Is happiness utterly unattainable on this side of eternity? What about this talk about joy? Paul commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord, always!” (Philippians 4:4) How can we rejoice when we are in de depth of our dark night of the soul?

I have no clue…

At the slightest sign of “uneven pavement” ahead, I crumble…I go into panic mode. I can’t give any words of wisdom on how to stay strong when the going gets rough…because I can’t do it on my own. If I were to depend on my own strength and abilities during my times of fiery trial, I would have been burned a long time ago.

I am weak. I can’t withstand the storm alone. I can’t walk through the rough patches on my own.

I need You, Lord. And I need all the help you can send me through your beloved. I don’t want to be a burden, but I am needy. I am in need of all the support I can get from those who love the Lord, and love me. I don’t like to appear weak, but I am, and if I don’t ask for help, I’d fall into the pit right ahead of me. I have to grab hold of those who have compassion on my soul, and above all, I have to hold on tightly to the robe of my Savior, Jesus Christ, My Lord!

I despair as I speculate about the future. I believe the lies of the enemy. I trust everything else, but the One that holds the whole world in His Hands. I need His presence. I need Him to break every chain. I need those He has placed along my path to help me carry my pain.

Life cannot be one long-smooth road. But it could be a road planted with wonderful trees that provide much needed shade when we need some rest. It could be a road where, at every rough patch, bump or detour, there is someone else there, offering us a tall and refreshing glass of cold water. It could be a road that I walk hand in hand with My Lord!

He gives and takes away…but my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your Name!