Stormy weather

stormy-weatherIf you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know I write a lot about the storms of life. I have moments when my heart hurts and I think that surely my life has been stormier than most, but I know that it has not. Most of us keep our storms hidden… or at least we find a way to mitigate their appearance.

But however well we hide them, the storms come to us all. Some of us cry in public, others in private. Some of us rage while others medicate. But the common denominator in each of these responses is pain.

The storms of life are painful, even devastating, but every phase is covered in God’s Word. For every moment, there is a promise that He made to us that we can stand on and believe in and draw strength from.

He bore our griefs. (Isaiah 53:4) He healed our broken hearts. (Psalm 147:3) He brings new life and joy. (Psalm 30:11) He fights our battles. (2 Chronicles 20:17) He closes the mouths of the lions. (Daniel 6:22) He restores our souls. (Psalm 23:2)

Whatever we’re facing, we serve a God who is faithful in the storm if we humble ourselves and run to Him. His salvation does not come to those who stand with arms folded. His salvation comes to the heart that is flayed open before Him, the heart that says, “Oh God, please help me. I need you. I cannot do this in my own strength. Save me.” God responds to the softened heart that comes to Him in humility. He responds to the prayer of faith and expectancy. He responds to His children who run to Him, not from Him.

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. Psalm 23:4 AMP

Run to Him. Drop your baggage and run to Him. He is waiting for you.

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Draw the line

Draw the lineJohnny and June walked the line. Last night, I had to draw the line. They say trouble comes in threes, and while I do not subscribe to sayings like that, I have experienced a painful windfall of troubles. I got shingles, my precious mother-in-law went to Heaven without my permission, my heating system went caput, my dog got very sick, and a couple more unmentionable issues from which I will spare you the details but caused me major consternation. These storms hurt my body, broke my heart, scared the crap out of me, and attacked my finances.

Last night I got mad. Mad at the devil. Because that is who brings things meant to steal from us and bring death and destruction into our lives. Why?

Because we let him. Because bad things happen. Because we live in this fallen world. Because a lot of things, but we can fight back.

That’s not to say that I don’t pray over my family and believe God in many, many areas all the time, because I do. But last night I reached a moment where in the spirit realm, I drew a line. I told God where I stood and I told the devil where I stood. I pointed arrows of scripture and fired them. And then I thanked God that this storm and future storms were dead in their tracks.

The Bible says we perish for lack of knowledge, (Hosea 4:6) and God knows sometimes I’m very slow to realize I’m under attack and it’s up to me to engage in the fight. But I engaged and I won.

God wins. We win. And I’m not letting anyone forget it.

The perfect combination

I’ve been pondering grace and mercy and faith and repentance; the balance of which entire theologies are being made of… a little of this, a lot of that; finding the perfect mixture that answers our questions and makes us feel like we’ve got it all figured out.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have it all figured out. I know that all these elements work together in the life and walk of a Christian, but I’m not sure when you cross the line and you’ve got too much of one at the expense of another.

I know that I cannot perpetually walk in sin in an area of my life without having to pay the wages of that sin. The Bible assures me that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) I know that’s when I’m in danger of being out from under the protection of my Father God. But the Bible also tells me that when I repent of my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) If I sin and repent, and sin and repent again, I know His forgiveness will be there for me.

I stumbled upon an amazing scripture the other day and as I’ve let it roll around in my head, I love it more and more. It is found in Psalm 94:18-19, If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. It is the perfect scripture for an imperfect person, like me.

The Lord’s mercy is astounding. His grace is a precious gift. But I believe it has a lot to do with the attitude of the heart; an attitude of repentance, a willingness to say, “I blew it.”

When I blow it, He’s got my back.

But in addition to repentance, I have to receive the forgiveness that He so quickly and consistently provides. I can’t move forward without using my faith to accept His mercy. Only then can I pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward.

I cannot do without God’s grace and mercy… and He cannot do without my faith and repentance. It’s the perfect combination of His job and mine that makes it work.

Live in the rainbow

I love the smell of the earth after a good cleansing rain. I love to see steam curl up from the hot pavement as the cool drops meet their mark. I love that wonderful vibrancy in the green of the grass as its thirst is quenched. I wish I could live in that vibrancy; but it eventually wanes and the sun heats up again and the cycle repeats. Heat and cold, sun and rain, wind and calm… they all come and go.

Such is this life. Things happen and things change and people hurt and then they get better. And those that consistently and faithfully seek the face of God during those hard times will be saved. They that call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21). I know this to be true. I’ve been saved… saved from harm, healed from hurt, strengthened in crisis, comforted in pain. God has never left me.

In times of ignorance or anger, I have closed my eyes and ears to Him, but He has never turned His back on me. And I know He never will. He does not change (Numbers 23:19).

The rainbow comes after the rain, a display of beauty that cannot be simulated. It is only something God could have come up with. And He did it to signify His promise to us; His promise that He will be faithful to us. Every time we see one, we are reminded of that promise. And even though we don’t get to live in the rainbow every day, God’s faithfulness is still there. It just takes the right kind of light for us to see it.

Options

OptionsIt’s so hot here today, nothing should be subjected to this heat with the exception of snakes and scorpions, and maybe tarantulas. It is violently hot. It is hellishly hot. Me no likey. I doubt the snakes even like it. Thankfully, I have an air-conditioned car to take me to my air-conditioned office and back to my air-conditioned house. I have options.

We always have options.

We get to make choices along the way that shape our lives. Whether they be good or bad, it’s the choices we make that define who we are and the kind of life we lead. I’ve made some good ones, and I’ve made some real stinkers. And I’ve been through plenty of storms that have toughened me, and proven to me over and over again God’s faithfulness.

Psalm 57:1 says, “. . . Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until [these] calamities have passed by.”

Do you see the key word there? It’s “make.” I will make the shadow of your wings my refuge. It doesn’t say He will take me under his wings, it says I choose to get under there. I CHOOSE.

Again; options.

I choose to keep my thermostat at 68 degrees. And I choose to pay the consequence each month when the electric bill comes.

I choose to hide under the shadow of His wings when calamities come. And there’s a calamity either coming or going pretty much all the time. It’s called life.

Choose to get under His wings, it’s cooler under there, and there aren’t any snakes.

But then they remembered

They were in a boat out on the water when a sudden storm blew in. The waves were high and the wind got loud. They couldn’t just fire up the engine and power out of there. They couldn’t radio for the Coast Guard to come bail them out. They were looking at drowning in their little boat and they were afraid.

But then they remembered.

They remembered that Jesus was sleeping in the boat and they woke Him and He calmed the storm.

How many times are we going through a storm and fear rises and panic comes and we forget which end is up and we are running around trying to put out fires and stomp on spiders and we don’t remember that Jesus is there? Why is it so easy for us to go to panic mode before we remember Him? Why is our first response fear?

They say when a trauma comes, we either fight or flight. Well, you know what? I don’t want to do either. I want my first response to be peace. I want my first reaction to be to lay it at Jesus’ feet. I want my circuitry to be rewired back to the way it was supposed to be before sin messed at all up.

That doesn’t mean don’t use the brain God put in my head. But focus that brain toward the One who created it and not the nature of the world it was physically born into. You see, I get to choose which way I go. I can align myself to the world’s way of dealing with storms, or God’s way. God’s way to overcome is by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11). If I take what Jesus did for me on the cross and marry it with an unshakeable knowledge of God’s promises to me, then I can’t fail.

But I have to remember.

I have to remember Him when the storms come. I have to remember Him when answers are hard to find. I have to remember Him when the path is dark and the way is rocky.

I want to always remember.

Kick fear in the rear

Things that make me see red: Someone cuts in front of me and steals my parking space that I have painstakingly waited for, the manicurist nicks me and draws blood while trimming my cuticles, or the trash men leave my upturned cans in the middle of the driveway and I back into one.

These things have happened to all of us . . . perhaps a smaller percentage of you men have experienced the manicure part. But there are a thousand things, even little things that can take us from zero to sixty in 2.8 jigowatts.

Personally, I admit to having minor bouts of road rage. I am a careful and relatively slow driver. I usually have children in the car with me and even when I don’t, I’m just not that aggressive. But when someone cuts me off, or runs me off into the shoulder, or tailgates me, I am like a cornered bear. I can feel the heat surging up inside me and a string of really ugly words threaten to hurtle out of my mouth. I think the real reason I get so mad on the road is that I get scared. And I think fear may be the reason that many of these issues make us see red.

My first thought when I hit that trash can is, “Oh, Lord Jesus, I have hit a child!” Or when I’m on the road and someone gets aggressive with me, I feel the danger of a possible accident and I get scared. The manicure part, well when that pain comes, it hurts and it ticks me off and I get scared she’s going to gouge the rest of my fingers. So each of those instances boil down to fear.

We get in a big fight with our spouse . . . fear that it will never be reconciled and that we’re stuck with this person who has so many flaws. Money pressure . . . fear that there won’t be enough money to take care of our needs. Job pressure . . . fear that we can’t get the job done or fear we’ll get fired or overlooked for promotion. Depression . . . fear that life will never get better and things will always be bad. I could go on and on.

Fear is a killer, fear is a four-letter word. Fear can cause heart attacks. Fear can make your hair turn gray. Fear can destroy your family. Fear can destroy your marriage. Fear can worm its way in and before we know it, we can find ourselves totally paralyzed.

Fear won’t fix anything. Fear won’t soothe a wound. Fear won’t heal a hurt. Fear won’t mend a fight. Nothing good will ever come of it.

Kick fear in the rear.

I used to struggle with really bad dreams and I said and did some weird things in my sleep. It was just the devil trying to torment me and mess with my head. Over the years I have developed an arsenal to fight back when fear comes; which is still tries to do. It’s not a battle you just win one time and then the devil leaves you alone. It’s a constant battle. But it’s one that we can and must win.

My choicest weapons were these: I wrote down and memorized every scripture about sleep and rest and peace that I could find. Then I swung those words out there like a sword. I prayed in the Spirit, and spoke those verses over myself before I went to bed. And if I awoke in the middle of the night, I would do it again until I’d fall back asleep. Eventually, I had that battle licked.

With daily stresses in life, I was prepared with scriptures that reminded me of God’s promises to never leave me nor forsake me, Hebrews 13:5, and I would cast my cares on Him because He cares for me, 1 Peter 5:7, and I would say that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13, and the big mama, the mack-daddy fear buster, God has not given me the spirit of fear, but love, power, and a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1:7. I had Jaxon saying that one when he was just a little tiny guy.

I encourage you to recognize fear when it tries to come against you in its many forms. Understand that it’s the devil and it’s not of God, and know that you don’t have to put up with it. Read The Manual; develop your arsenal, sharpen your knives, don’t go into battle naked. Suit up and kick fear in the rear!

A true-blue spectacle

I have been reading through testimonies this week at O.R.M. People call in or write in and testify to a healing in their body or a miracle in their family, or a turnaround in their finances. It is astounding to see what God has done for people. And to think that I sometimes wonder if He’s really going to take care of my issues! Pshaw.

I read about instantaneous miracles and I read about people who combined the prayer of faith with medicine and experienced healing that way. Either way is A-OK by me; as long as the person is healed, that’s all that counts. But it takes more than faith that God can do miracles, it takes faith that He will do them for you. That’s the key.

If faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17), and I’ve read through miracle testimonies all day, every day for a week, then my faith has been built up that God does miracles. Nobody can tell me that God doesn’t do miracles. I’ve seen it… on paper… in black and white…  all week. And even if I hadn’t, I’ve seen it my whole life thanks to growing up in ministry and then marrying into it. I’ve seen all kinds of miracles. I know without a doubt that God does miracles. But my faith for a miracle for myself can only come when I believe that God wants to and will do the same for me. And that’s where the Word comes in. Time spent in the Word of God produces miracles. It just does.

The Bible says that healing is for me. (Matthew 4:23) Jesus went about healing all manner of sickness and disease in all the people He came across. If Jesus did that then and the heart of God hasn’t changed, then I know that healing is for me. And that’s just one of countless scriptures that tell me that God will meet my needs, see me through storms, and walk with me through the valleys.

You know, being a Christian doesn’t mean rosy pathways and bubblegum dreams. This life is hard! The devil is real and he’s looking for how he can steal, kill, and destroy. But God said He would prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. (Psalm 23:5) God said He would not leave me or forsake me. (Psalm 27:9) And God said that He would heal all my diseases. (Psalm 103:3)

God is a miracle-working God. I know it. I live by it. I count on it. His Word is where the miracles are. We just have to get into the Book, find those precious promises, and believe them.

It’s not hopeless

Here’s my scene. I am sitting at the kitchen table, the dog is munching on his food to my right. Jaxon is working on Math homework to my left. I have changed out of uncomfortably binding work clothes and into sweats, and made a cup of tea. And you know what? I am ridiculously comfortable now. Life is good.

Yes, I still have to guide my child through homework, cook dinner, clean the kitchen, wash uniforms, etc., etc., ad nauseam, but you know what? I am so blessed. I am so blessed that I have a warm home to come home to, a car to drive me to the grocery store so I can cook that dinner, a precious son who wants my help and actually likes me, and a loving husband to curl up next to after all is said and done. Like I said, life is good.

I’m so thankful that I serve a God that cares about the things that concern me. He cares about the little things, just like the big things. From healing of sickness, to favor in a court case, to a sick pet, and everything in between, large or small, my God cares about the things that I care about. He cares about all of us. And no problem is too big that God can’t solve. And no need is so insignificant that we can’t bring it to God in prayer.

How can I think that a God that knows how many hairs are on my head wouldn’t care about my little issues? He knows everything, He knows what’s in my heart. He knows what I’m dealing with, what I’m struggling with. And He’s got answers to my questions. All I have to do is ask and I will find answers. I may have to stick with it for a while, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but God always comes through for me. Always. And He will for you too.

A dear and wise friend once said to me that life is hard, even on a good day. And she’s right. Life is hard. It can have moments of transcendent joy and utter satisfaction and it can have real crap piles. Real, stinky, awful, hurtful messes. And sometimes we find ourselves in a situation that truly looks hopeless. But I know in my heart, if we seek God’s face, seek after God’s heart, His will, and His Word, we will overcome these situations. It may not turn out like we planned or even like we’d hoped, but God can take a huge mess and turn it into something beautiful with ease. He is masterful at it. I’ve seen Him do it in situations in my life that you would swear were totally hopeless.

God is the King of fixing the hopeless situation. Take heart. Your situation is NOT the one that’s going to stump Him.

Big brass ones

Do you have the cojones to obey God? Can you say God and cojones in the same sentence? I may have just lost some readers right there, but you know what? The truth is, sometimes it takes big brass ones to obey God. To obey God when it seems like there’s no way, when He tells you to do something that’s bigger than you, when He asks you to walk a path that is dicey and treacherous. That when it takes guts.

Recently as I’ve been on this kind of path, the Holy Spirit has often directed me to verses like Psalm 56:11, In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? And Psalm 118:6, The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? And Hebrews 13:6 . . . The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

God is like a big old German Shepherd that’s walking right beside me, ready to protect me. And when the problems come, and they definitely come, He’s right there to help me through them.

The bottom line is, I’ve GOT to obey God. I just don’t see any other way. I walk the path He asks me to walk. I want Him to find me trustworthy, I want Him to say that’s my Juli, I can trust her to do what I ask. She trusts me to take care of her. He wants you to trust Him to take care of you too.