Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Need a Break!

First day of school and I’m already getting notes from my younger son’s teacher saying that he is not listening.  Well, of course he is not!  He is a boy!  A few days later, it’s back to work for me.  It’s Monday morning and I can’t find a parking spot near my office.  So I have to walk a significant distance with a bag full of books in one hand, and an oversized purse and my lunch bag in the other one while wearing uncomfortable shoes.  I finally make it to my first class, and the computer doesn’t work.  My next two classes are packed full of first level students who have no interest in learning Spanish other than, “it’s required,” which isn’t the greatest motivator. 

My stomach is unsettled and my brain is racing.  I need a break.  I go for an unhealthy drink at the vending machine to find out that the price has gone up!  I eat lunch on the go, finish up my last class and run to the distant parking spot where I left my car.  By the time I get there, I have ruptured blisters on both my feet.  A forty minute drive later I’m home to get my boys off the bus.  Then, I find out that my little one decided to forget what triangles and rectangles are.  I spent all afternoon working on shapes, and arguing with my too-smart-for-his-own-good older son about how for a number to be in the millions, it needs to have at least 7 digits! 

“Why didn’t you guys eat your lunches?”  “Well, I didn’t like that sandwich you packed,” says one, and the other one tells me, “I didn’t have time to finish.”  I need a break.  I send them both outside and then realize that it is almost six o’clock and I haven’t even started dinner.  My husband comes home and I send him outside too.  “Go practice shapes with Dylan!” I yell as he gladly goes out the door again.

It seems like dinner is going to happen after all; then I catch a glimpse of the pile of clean clothes downstairs already mixing in with its dirty counterpart.  At some point I also have to iron shirts and clean, at least the bathroom.  After dinner the kids have some time to play and relax while I start preparing my lessons for tomorrow.  Soon it’s time for baths.  Bedtime is here, at last!  “Be quiet while I read…do you not want me to read this book?”  “I can’t sleep.  It’s too hot.  Can you stay here a minute.”  I need a break, so I do stay.  I lay down on my older son’s bed and I snooze for a few minutes. 

After the boys are out, I get up and finish my lessons.   My hair is a mess.  I need a haircut really bad.  Where did I put that piece of paper?  “Mama, can I have some chocolate milk?”  “No!  All the cups are dirty.”  Whine, whine, and whine some more until there is silence, blessed silence.  Finally I get a few minutes to talk to my husband.  Bad idea, since a simple question ends up turning into a brain-twister of grave proportions.  My brain is fried.  I need a break.  I go to bed to wake up and do it all over again, tomorrow.
There are stages, seasons of life in which it becomes very hard to remember what the Word says about not letting stress take away our peace.  The season of parenting young children is one of them, but there are many others.  Every season brings with itself its own stress.  The season of worrying about aging parents and how to best care for them, for example, is another highly stressful and gut-wrenching one, as I’ve lately discovered.  There is also the season when we have to deal with our own aging and our own transitions.  There is the season of new beginnings, such as adjusting to married life, or to an empty house, or to a house full of teenagers or infants, or to a new job or to a lack of thereof. 
It’s all so very hard.  What are we to do?  Well, all I know to do is to dwell in His Word and cling to His promises for dear life.  One thing I am thinking about doing, but haven’t had time to do yet is to pull out several verses from Scripture that pertain to not being anxious, and keep them handy for when I forget.  One that will certainly top the list, once I get to it, is Philippians 4:6-7:  6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I want that peace that “transcends all understanding.”  What can I do to get it?  I can present my requests to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  I praise Him, for He is worthy of all our praise and worship.  I ask Him in faith.  And I give Him thanks.  I recount His many blessings on me, and I thank Him for He has been faithful in my life; and He who has been faithful, will be faithful again, and again. 
Jesus Himself told us that He has given us His Word so we can have peace.  He said in John 16:33:  33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  And as we have already realized, we will have trouble indeed; but the one thing we need to realize also is that our faith is in Him, and He is the One and Only who has overcome the world. 
May the words of Paul to the Colossians in chapter 3:15, 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful, be our exhortation to strive for a life filled with the peace of our Lord and Savior.
Other Scripture that may come in handy when faced with the anxiety:
Luke 12:22-26
John 14:1
Psalm 34:4
Psalm 42:5
Proverbs 3:5-8
Please add your own and share with us!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Contemporary Christian singer, Francesca Battistelli, has a fun and profound song called “Free to be me.”  Though not a new song, it has been playing in the “mental MP3 player” of my brain for more than a few days now.  It wasn’t, however, until I heard it for the umpteenth time that one short little line really stroke a cord in me.  The line sits humbly tucked in at the end of the chorus.  The whole stanza goes like this:

'Cause I got a couple dents in my Fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
And on my own, I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me and You're free to be You

The phrase that all of a sudden caught my spiritual attention was the very last one, which says:  “and You’re free to be You.”  My reaction when I finally “heard” this statement was one of shock.  I was stunned and semi-paralyzed by the words.  “What in the world…?  What does the songwriter meant by this?  When isn’t God free to be Himself?  There are no snares that bind the hands of God!  Have I been singing around tunes of blasphemous lyrics?”  All these thoughts raced through my mind at that moment; and it wasn’t until I quiet myself down that I was able to begin to really contemplate what the statement might mean. 

Then, it hit me.  It’s all about our lack of faith.  I have faith in God and I believe the Word; but I have a lack of faith in myself and I doubt that the Lord can actually make any good use me, clumsy, hysterical, angry, impatient, impulsive, explosive, unkind, insensitive, selfish me.  I struggle seeing how and why He would waste His precious time on me, when there are thousands of other Christians way better than I.  I struggle with being able to live by faith and not by sight.  I see the sin, the depravation, the corruption, the injustice, the godlessness and the perversion in this world and I become anxious, afraid, and disheartened.  I see my children in disapproval of their actions and I let myself crumble in worries about what will become of their lives, rather than trust in Him who has a plan for them, a good and perfect plan to benefit them and not to harm them, to give them a future and hope.  I see the economy being so bad and I panic thinking about the horrible financial situation all around us, rather than to breathe in the presence of He who works out all things together for the good of those who love Him and put their trust in Him.  I see my loved ones hurting and I despair rather than rejoice in Him who makes all things new.  I allow myself to immerse in disillusionment because of what I see rather than rejoice in the True Hope of the Bright Morning Star and all His promises.

If I can only trust Him more, I would see everything through the eyes of faith.  I would see that he carries me on His shoulders.  I would see that He created each one of us the way we are with a clear and perfect purpose in mind.  A purpose that could only be fulfilled by the power of His hand, which is the One that formed us in our mother’s womb and is the only one that knows how to work this complicated “gadget” that is us. 

I am truly “clumsy on my own.”  There is no way I can do, whatever it is that The Maker designed me to do, if I don’t do it by His hand.  So, yes, on His shoulders I can see that I am free to be me.  I can also see, that if I don’t start really, truly living by faith, letting go, and surrendering my all to Him, I am not letting Him be free to do what He has to do in me and through me in order to fulfill His purpose for my life.  I have to let go of my desire to perfectly control the process and outcome of everything in my life so He can be free to lead me toward where He wants me to go.  It is not until I surrender to Him, that I will be free to be me, the me that he designed, the clumsy, insensitive, impatient, angry, impulsive, explosive, unkind, selfish me, that only could be used for the good of the Kingdom of God if on His shoulders.  I am free to be me, for He made me this way.  But only guided by Him, I would really be free to do any good in this moment in the timeline of the Kingdom of Heaven that belongs to me.  Only by living life by faith and not by sight, I will let Him be free to be God in my life. 

7 For we live by faith, not by sight.  2 Cor. 5:7

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There Will Always Be a Remnant

So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  Romans 11:5

The meditations for the lesson on Chapter 8 of the Book of Daniel during our last Bible Study meeting left me breathless.  The deep study of fulfilled prophecy as well as the foreshadowing of what is to come were enough to make up for a sleepless night.  However, it wasn’t either the grandiose description of the Ancient of Days or the terrifying depiction of the Beast what kept me awake.  It was, rather, the thought of us being part of the Kingdom timeline right now.  The realization that we are a dot in that timeline was profoundly unsettling.  The words of our teacher rattled my world when she said that we must quit looking around for someone else better to come along, for we are it!  In all my inadequacy, I am part of this “it” that builds up this day in age.  How could it be, if I’m but a vapor?  In His infinite wisdom, however, The Most High created us to be a vapor, yes, but a vapor that is supposed to live a life of purpose with this one breath that is our life, for that one breath is the breath of God and He placed us here for a reason.

What are we to do with our mark on the Divine timeline?  I have no idea!  What I do know is that willingness of heart and Bible study will eventually show us the path.  Our destiny is a journey.  It is a journey filled with unknowns and dwindling ranks.  We feel like we live in the age of indifference.  We see the church diminish as more and more pews are left empty in our weekly services.  It is enough to turn on the television to be disheartened and discouraged.  Where has hope gone?  Are Christians facing extinction?  Is there going to be anybody left to proclaim the truth boldly and unapologetically? 

As long as we are here, the answer is yes.  There will always be a remnant, and today, the remnant is you and me.  As the remnant, we accept our commission and we embark on this journey to seek the truth and to find true hope on the worn out pages of our study Bible.  We hold our sacred map in our hands, and as we leaf through it, we start to navigate the rushing waters guided by His Word.  

As we study the Word, we recognize our own experience in the timeless accounts of the Old Book.  We see ourselves in the Jewish people of the Old Testament, in the slavery of the Hebrews under Egyptian rule, in the graveyard full of dry bones in Ezekiel, or in the take over by the Babylonians.  We plea like Habakkuk, “How long, Lord, must I call for help and You do not listen…” (Hab 1:2).  Though shaken, however, we do not break.  Though tired, we do not stop to rest.  Though oppressed, our hearts do not sink.  Though afraid, we do not despair, for we know who holds the future, and we know who holds us. For we know that evil cannot touch us even if we walk in his valley of sorrow, darkness and pain.  We do not give up.  On the contrary, even though the world rejects us and the fool-hearted says that there is no God, we press on.  We press on because we hear the Lord reply to Moses, “Now you are going to see what I will do.” (Ex 6:1).  We press on because we know that David defeats the giant with just one stone.  We move on because of that empty tomb.  We continue because of the Lamb who was slain for us.  We keep on walking because He has overcome the world and victory is ours in Him who overcomes. 

We know that God will always rise up Daniels and give them the strength to lead lives of integrity in environments of disgrace.  We do not rest in our journey because we know that up ahead we will see God’s answer to Habakkuk’s prayers, and tremble at the command “to look at the nations and observe and be utterly astounded for something is taking place in our days that we will not believe when we hear about it.”  And how the end “delays…but will certainly come and not be late.” (Hab 1,2)  We press on because we trust His promises and we know that His name is faithful and everlasting and never-changing, and because we bear His seal on our foreheads.

We are the remnant.  Like Esther, we were born “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  We are David facing a Goliath of societal debacle.  We are the dry bones clothed with new flesh to praise the Lord in the midst of godlessness.  We are the split rocks that burst out in praise at the presence of the Divine when no one else recognizes it.  We are the remnant that has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives, but lets Christ live in it.  We are the remnant that does not conform to the patterns of this world, but it’s transformed by the renewing of its mind.  We seek Him first, and we know that we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us.  We bring the light to this fallen world and spread the good news to those who might still want to hear it.  We know that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and that the Lord will not forsake those who trust in Him.

            So –“yes,”-  there will always be a remnant, and today, that remnant is us.  As such, we will make our mark in the timeline of the Kingdom of the Most High by putting on the full armor of God, and doing what we are supposed to do to bring glory to our loving, living and mighty Lord.

Monday, August 22, 2011

On the Palm of His Hands

“16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” Isaiah 49:16

The other night, I witnessed piercing agony in a godly mother’s eyes as she told me about the health challenges that her young daughter is facing.  Deeply touched by this dear woman’s story I realized that her biggest concern was, not the scary possibilities of her daughter’s condition, but the fact that her child “is not in a good place with the Lord” right now.  However, though the pain was evident, this mother reminded me that the Lord will work out good from bad and that God is showing her and her confused daughter the reality of His presence in mighty ways. 

I walked away from this encounter with an assurance that God is calling this young woman.  In His mysterious ways, the Maker of the Heavens and Earth is using this difficult situation to summon her back into His presence.  Just as He does with all whom He calls His own, He is seeking her, for once we truly belong to Him, He never lets go.  He can’t let go because He has us engraved on the palm of His hands.  The Creator of the universe has “indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of)” us on His hands, both of them!  (Isaiah 49:16 – Amplified Version) We are on His hands, a place of quick access, a glance away, never far, always within sight, and permanently imprinted, as if by hot iron, never to be forgotten. 
Because of this truth, He will call us when we lose our way.  He has no choice.  We belong to Him, just like He told us at the end of Isaiah 43:1, “I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”   He cannot let go of us more than He could let go of His own hands.  This is what Jesus explains through his precious parables regarding those who, though part of His flock, one day step out of the path and wander away.  The Good Shepherd leaves the 99 behind to go searching for the one who lost his way.  He does not tire and does not stop until He finds him; and once He does, He celebrates! 
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”  Ezekiel 34:11-12 
He searches for us and He calls us, especially when we have lost our way.  He searches and He calls and He rescues us from the dark places where we’ve been.  He gathers us together again, after we’ve been scattered.  He calls us in many ways; and it often depends on how far we’ve wandered off.  Sometimes, when we’ve only stepped out of the path for an instant, distracted by the busyness and stress of our routines; we hear the gentle whisper of His calling in the midst of our daily lives.  Sometimes He uses the voices of those who surround us, or whatever other means available which He knows would catch our attention.  Other times, when we have allowed the world to entrap us in its web of deceit, the Lord has to raise His voice so we can hear Him amidst all the other voices that call out our names.  Raising His voice might involve the need for Him to put us in a situation in which He has our undivided attention, like that young Jewish son who, after squandering his inheritance, ended up among the pigs.  Sometimes we too, after immersing ourselves in the ways of the world for too long, end up tending the pigs.  We might end up tending the pigs in a jail cell out of state, or in an empty house, or in a shelter, or in the streets, or in a lonely bed at a hospital far from home.  However, our stay with the “pigs” last only for as long as it takes us to recognize Our Father calling out our name.  The despair ends as soon as we hear His voice. 

He does, then, whatever it takes in order to draw us back to Him, for the reality is that once we belong to Him, we are never farther away than the length of His arm.  It might seem as if we are light years away from Him, but only from our limited perspectives.  From where He stands, He has only to look at the palm of His hands to see our faces.  And once He sees us, He runs to us, puts a ring in our finger, gives us His robe and orders a big celebration for all to rejoice in our homecoming.

Of course, I will lift up my friend’s daughter in prayer for quick healing and recovery.  However, I know that the Lord has a plan.  She belongs to Him; and He is calling out her name.  Don’t look now, but He might be calling out yours too.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Side by Side

A father and a son stand at the top of the hill, staring at the bike trail, anticipating the thrilling ride ahead, side by side.  No fear, just the excitement of the unknown and the peace that brings the knowledge of being with each other, side by side.

A father, rejoicing in the promise of a bright future filled with the dream of seeing his son grow up in his presence.  A son, at ease, in the midst of the turbulence of growing up because his father holds his hand; and even in the adventure of independence he knows it only takes a glance back to remind him that, always, close by, his father stands just a quick step behind.

But a choice of disobedience turned this world up-side-down.  Man rejected paradise and now we walk in the enemy’s turf.  The fall brought deep darkness, tears and despair, unknown before.  The choice was made and the enemy was given a long leash to roam around, seeking his prey.  We are not in Paradise anymore.

Actions of evil abound in this world, but the LORD is always on His throne.  He is the God Who Sees; and nothing happens that He doesn’t know about.  Nothing happens that surprises Him.  He sees the pain, the agony, the fear, and He sent us the only one who overcomes.  He sent us the Light of the World, who makes the darkness flee.  He sent us His perfect Lamb, who was slain for us; and who is now high and lifted up.  His Mercy is endless and He has given us another choice.  He has given us the choice to receive the lamb and be washed by His blood.  Only through Him we will overcome this world.  He is our only protection against the attacks of the enemy.  Only through Him we have victory.  There is power in the proclamation of His great name, so when the enemy strikes like a bullet, in the blink of an eye, father and son are received in the open arms of the Most High.  The pearly gates of heaven open up so father and son can walk in the streets of gold, once again, side by side.

A mother, left behind, with the memories of sweet dreams and lullabies, stares at the dry dirt and withered flowers of two graves that rest in the shade, side by side.  Like another mother, long ago, whose chest was pierced with the pain of a beloved son’s unfair death; she cries.  The tomb is shot.  The stone is rolled.  But the wait turns short.  The son rises.  Hope lives.  Every tear is wiped away.  There is no fear in love. 

Because He is the Great I AM, and He lives we are able to walk through this valley of the shadow of death without fearing evil.  The knowledge of His presence is the only cure for despair.  For He promises us that, when we pass through the waters, He will be with us; and when we pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over us. When we walk through the fire, we will not be burned; the flames will not set us ablaze.  (Isaiah 43:2).  For as long as we walk with Him, hope lives.  Even in the darkest of nights, and in the scariest of storms, and when we stared evil in the eye, terrified by the helpless knowledge of what's coming next, rest assured - o my soul - He walks with us side by side.

 1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel 37: 1-3a

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. 2 Corinthians 6:10a

“ 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”  Acts 16:25

A few Sundays ago, I had the unsettling privilege to lead the children at worship in our church.  I say “unsettling” since, despite our wonderfully-well-organized Children at Worship Director’s efforts to get me prepared ahead of time, I had forgotten all about it until the moment I drove into the church’s parking lot that very Sunday morning and I saw her pulling in.  Right at that moment, as my heart missed a beat and my palms began to sweat, I waved my family goodbye and drove back home alone to try to find the lesson and organize my rambling thoughts.  At home, I ran around like a crazy woman, gathered my ideas, changed my clothes and left for church once again (the big plus is that we live practically across the street from it!)

As only God would manage it, I ended up having only 4 kids in the class, 2 of which were my own boys.  The lesson was a hard one given the circumstances.  We were to talk about Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown up in jail.  I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me a good angle and insight to present this difficult lesson to these young children, and in a very mysterious way, the Holy Spirit, once again, delivered.  I focused my “talk” on the meaning of praising God.  We talked about how we are to praise the Lord always, regardless of our situation, because to praise Him we don’t need to be happy or feel good.  If we would only praise Him during the good times, that would not be always!  We talked about how when we praise Him we don’t really ask Him for anything; rather, we just acknowledge with our mouth, aloud, in song and in word, that we know He is good all the time!  That we know He is God and He is great and that we love Him, and how the knowledge of His greatness and goodness doesn’t have anything to do with our current situation, which might be one of sorrow and sadness.

My heart ached since one of the children in the group that morning was a child who is going through very difficult circumstances at his young age.  I prayed for the hand of God to be visible to him, and for joy to come to his life, even if for a few minutes.  I don’t know how The Lord orchestrated this lesson, but it, rather quickly, deteriorated into an indescribable exchange of witty and fun-filled comments revolving around thoughts of chocolate-cream-pies,  the sounds of musical instruments and baby birds.  I even told the kids that we better stop because if a “grown up” were to walk by the room at that moment, I would be “fired.”

I walked out of church that morning feeling the presence of God in a very special and surreal way.  Little did I know that less than a week later I would be recalling that less-than-ideal lesson and applying it fully into my own sorrowful circumstance. 

On Thursday night, as I sat outside my aging father’s bedroom door in the middle of the night, watching him old, deteriorated, confused, out of control, frustrated, and not at all the solid rock he used to be, I remembered the screeching sounds of a harmonica and the out of tune notes of a guitar in the hands of those children at worship a few distant days ago.  I sat in that rocking chair and helplessly watched my Dad from the distance as the loyal hands of a woman with a servant’s heart attempted again and again to lead him to get some rest.  At that moment I prayed for guidance and for something supernatural to happen to ease my father’s condition.  What I got was the recollection of my own words from last Sunday, which came to me wrapped around the memories of cream pies and children rolling around the floor pretending to be in an earthquake.  Praise Him always!  Not only in the good times.  Always, because praising Him is the act of declaring with your mouth your knowledge of His goodness.  Praising Him is declaring with words and/or with song that we know He is a Great God and that His name is magnificent.  We declare for all to hear that He is the Maker of the Heavens and Earth.  We declare that He is the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End.  He is the Great I AM and at the sound of His name every knee will bow.  That is praising, and we can do that regardless of where we stand, sit or lay down. 

We cannot wait to praise Him only during the good times.  Some of us may end up waiting a mighty long time that way.  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” says Paul in Philippians 4:4, and Paul sure knew what he was talking about since he practiced what he preached quite a bit.  It is a choice.  We can choose to rejoice or not.  I pray that I can remember that even in my sorrow I must rejoice.  I pray that I can remember Paul and Silas singing hymns of praise in that dark and damp prison after being beaten and stripped of their dignity.  I pray that I can always remember those 4 children at worship rejoicing and having fun with a difficult lesson that taught us how to be always ready to declare our knowledge of how Great Our God is.

Monday, August 1, 2011

He holds our hands, even down the water slide...

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

We recently spent 3 wonderful days at an in-door-water-park.  The first few hours of the first day, however, were a bit challenging.  My little 5-year-old, Dylan, was very reluctant to get in the water.  “Mama, I don’t want to go in because it’s going to sprinkle and make me wet…,” he’d say to my bewilderment.  “But, Dylan!”  I would reply impatiently, “this IS a water park…of course you are going to get wet!”  “C’mon, be reasonable!”  I thought to myself.  After we realized that Dylan wasn’t going to just cheerfully dive in, I shooed my husband and my 9-year-old away, so I could flex my persuading muscles alone.  “Where are Daddy and Grant going, Mama?” A very puzzled Dylan asked me when he saw them leave for the water.  To which question I kindly replied, “to jump in the water, where else???” 

Then, I took him for a walk around the park.  First, we went into the kiddy area.  There, I pointed out that little kids were, not only surviving the water attractions, but also having fun while at it!  The visit to kiddy land bore no fruit, so we moved on to another fun and shallow play area.  Within this site there where twin slides sitting side by side.  My plan was to persuade him to try them by telling him that he would go in the orange one and I would go in the blue one and we’d race to see who wins!  He is very competitive, so it was a great plan!  Of course, it failed.  It didn’t matter how I approached the challenge.  He wasn’t budging.  I used forceful commands, like:  “you are going down that slide, Dylan, and that is that!”  After all, I am the authority figure, and he is supposed to obey me, right?  WRONG!  I also used old-lame lines that parents around the world use when they want to entice their boys to do something they don’t want to do, like:  “look at that little girl, Dylan, she is smaller than you and she is not afraid of the slide!”  Like any parent at the brink of losing it, I also used threats:  “Dylan, if you don’t go down that slide, you are NOT going to have any chocolate milk for a week!”  All these to no avail, of course. 

Finally, surrounded by other parents who were happily going down the slides with their happy children, I sat down on the floor, looked him in the eye, and I said, “I know you are afraid.  It is OK to be afraid, but I’m telling you that there is nothing to be afraid of.  Nothing bad is going to happen to you.  Trust me!  I am right here with you.  I will be with you all the time.  I would never send you to do something that would hurt you.  I will be right there when you come down, waiting for you.  I will be seeing you all the way.  You don’t have to be afraid.”  “Besides,” I added, “remember, you’ve been here before and you loved it!  Don’t you remember?”

Later, as I thought about the incident at the water park, I was, once again, stroke by what the Holy Spirit whispered in my ears.  “Where have I heard those words before?”  Well, I’ve heard them from our Father’s Holy Word, of course.  He is our Father and we are His beloved children.  And, If we, “though [we] are evil, know how to give good gifts to [our] children, how much more will [our] Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  He is our Father.  He is our Good Father, who is always with us, as we cry “Abba” in our hour of fear.  As our Father, He tells us “fear not” so many times throughout the Bible that we could possibly have a Scriptural reference about not being afraid, but fearing only God for each day of the year.  He is with us; and, unlike our earthly parents, He is perfect and He never let go of us.  He never leaves us,  for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.  (Deut. 31:6b)  He doesn’t even become impatient with us for our lack of faith, for He is love and love is patient and love is kind.

The problem is that we are quick to forget how great our God is.  We have been “there” before, and He has, as usual, gone with us, but we forget.  We have faced fiery trials, gone into the lion’s den, challenged giants; and through it all, the Lord has delivered us.  He has surely done great things for us, and we do rejoice, for the moment; but then we go back to our routine, unchanged. To our Father’s bewilderment, we forget.  Then, inevitably, we face the hard times again, and we fear, again.  We forget that He has always led us through the desserts of our lives; and how He gives us exactly what we need when we need it.  We fear because we forget.

Let us change course right here, right now, and pray that the Holy Spirit will never let us forget.  Let’s pray that He will help us remember that He holds our hand always.  May we have a keen awareness that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  This truth we must remember in all situations and rejoice in Him who upholds us with His righteous right hand!  Praise be to Him who goes with us.  Praise be to Him who “has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:7)  In the scary hour, let us all proclaim at loud, for the enemy to clearly hear and retreat, that:  The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid” (Psalm 27:1)

With teary eyes and a frown on his forehead, Dylan finally let me lead him toward the slide.  With hesitation and often looking back to make sure I was really “there” with him as I had assured him, he sat down at the top of the slide and down he went.  I followed down on the one right next to his and we met up at the bottom.  I got up and grabbed him tightly.  Quickly, I carried him out of there, since the lifeguard was already blowing his whistle prompting us to vacate the area for the next sliders to be able to come down.  “You did it!!” I said to him over and over again.  “I knew you could do it!”  “See, you are OK, and it was fun too, wasn’t it?”  As we high-fived, I saw his face torn between a frown and a smile, until he finally admitted that he had liked it indeed.  After that first “trial” slide, Dylan was able to enjoy our visit to the water park.  I was able to tell him later, as we wandered around the lazy river, to remember that Jesus is always with us, and that every time we are scared, we can call on Him and He will hold our hand so we are not afraid.  I don’t know if he heard me, since by then, Dylan was totally immersed in the fantasy of a watery vacation; but as for me, I pray those words continue to echo in my mind forever.