I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something and then heard my 25-year-old son say, “Filter, Mom!” In truth, remembering to filter what goes on in my head before it comes out of my mouth has always been a struggle for me. I tend to speak much more than I should in some situations and then not say enough in others. Often I’ve missed the blessing of hearing what others are saying in both instances.
However, besides the obvious fact that I miss things, what is the ultimate responsibility I have in my words? Are there consequences far greater than what I may or may not miss? (more…)
Have you ever met one of those people who is the epitome of freedom? They don’t care what other people think and don’t seem to be phased by what happens to them, but continue to go forward with almost reckless abandon? I’m not one of those people. I would like to be, but I am far from their level of freedom. I have a comfort zone, a routine, to which I have grown accustomed and like to maintain. Interestingly enough, the most free people I know are those who are very close to God, intimately tuned into his voice, and actively seeking his face. The most free people I know have trusted God through good and bad, displaying an awe-inspiring amount of faith. Trusting God is great in theory, until he asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. So, what do you do when his direction or instruction flies in the face of your instincts?
All of our favorite Bible characters navigated through this same internal struggle. Let’s look at Moses. God told him that he would be used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. What a ridiculous notion! Then, after they had been rescued from their oppressors, God sustained his people through miracles as they wandered about in the desert. God’s instructions to Moses were ridiculous, but he obeyed, why? It wasn’t because he was being forced or coerced into submission. Moses obeyed because he knew God. He knew His voice and character, making obedience a no-brainer. So why do we struggle so often with following God’s instructions?
I want you to think about a time when God has told you to do something. It could be going and speaking to someone, forgiving someone who hurt you, quitting something or starting something new, or a thousand other things. Do you have yours in mind? I have mine. Now, how does that instruction or direction make you feel? Now, that’s a strange question coming from me, I’m not one to talk about feelings often, but I’m learning that there’s value to this type of self-assessment. I think two of the main responses can be: fear or freedom. I think your reaction depends wholly on your perspective. Let me say it another way, your response to obedience reveals your view of God.
The Bible says that God is love, it’s not that he can love or he loves well, but he is the very definition of love. The Bible also says that perfect Love casts out all fear, meaning that fear cannot exist in the same space as perfect love. When a frightening directive is given by God and your focus is on the directive and yourself (i.e. a selfish perspective), the natural result is fear. But when you focus on the one giving the command, it can be a freeing experience.
Most of the time, I take the selfish road, as I am a very selfish individual. But the interesting thing is that this perspective always leads to my detriment. By focusing on myself and how God’s word effects me it causes me to operate in a place of fear. But, when I change my perspective and focus on God, my response changes. When I know that God loves me and is always looking out for me I can trust that his directions are indeed good. I can know that He wants good things for me and will work things together for my benefit and not to my destruction.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I know that God is good. Every time I have entered into a period of transition or stepped into something scary, God has pulled through and, despite all the bumps in the road, I’ve come out better on the other side. And I believe he will do the same for you. If you’re frighted by that next step He’s telling you to take, know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to react with fear, but you can’t stay there. When fear begins to creep in, whispering in your ear to run away or hide, change your perspective and focus on the One who is speaking to you and leading you.
I’m not writing this because I have mastered this or because I have this all figured out. I’m writing this because I’m in the middle of it right now. What God is telling me to do scares me and I have to daily, sometimes hourly, shift my focus to the Lord and off my situation. I’m asking you to join me on this faith walk as we continue to move toward God and away from ourselves.
A simple shift in perspective can change everything. I’m willing to humble myself and change my thinking, are you?
Sarah was raised in Tucson, Arizona, but now lives in Dallas, Texas. She currently works a 9-5 job, but in her spare time she loves to write, paint, draw, and sing. More importantly, she wants to help people receive hope when they feel like they have none.
Sarah: “I believe every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is worthy of being shared.”
Sarah’s Blog: workinprogressblog.co
Have you ever run away from something, and I don’t mean something that might threaten your life? I mean, has there been a time in your life when you ran because you didn’t want what was in front of you, so you did a 180 and took off like lightening in the opposite direction?
Most of us, if we’ve lived for any length of time, can remember at least one of those times, maybe even more than one. As Christians, that running most likely involved running from God. Not too many believers would say that in some way at some time they didn’t run from what God was telling them to do. After all, there is a little Jonah in all of us.
Abraham Kuyper, the journalist, once wrote,
“Our heart is continually inclined to rebel against the Lord our God. So ready to rebel, that O, so gladly, were it but for a single day, we would take from His hands the reins of His supreme rule, imagining that we would manage things far better and direct them far more effectively than God.”
What do we do when we find ourselves running? What do we do when we see someone else running?
If it’s us who’s running, chances are that we don’t even see it. But if it’s someone that we simply know, either from church or just an acquaintance, we may be tempted to sit in judgment, as if it’s simply their weak constitution or their lax moral integrity that might cause such a detour. We might simply shake our heads in feigned remorse, thinking, “What is he thinking? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
If it’s a loved one, maybe a child or a spouse or sibling, the pain can be almost immobilizing. Suddenly all memories of our own course changes are almost non-existent, and the only things we can think are, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
I don’t know….can we?
Let me remind you of how Jonah did. In Jonah 1:1, we read:
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah…
That means that God literally let Jonah know exactly what He was thinking.
Then in verse 2, God said to Jonah,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
This was not what Jonah expected. After all, he was the Lord’s prophet. He was supposed to go and direct his prophecies to the nation of Israel. He wasn’t supposed to go to Israel’s enemies and prophesy so that they might be saved. What in the world was God thinking?
Maybe we should think of this in terms that are closer to home. Maybe the little Jonah in you might sound more like:
“God doesn’t want me in this marriage! He wants me happy, and I’m not happy here! What is God thinking?”
Or maybe this:
“God wouldn’t want me to miss out on a better lifestyle. He says that I will get the desires of my heart, and my heart desires that car or that dress or that house (that I can’t afford). He wouldn’t keep me from it, would He? What is God thinking?”
Or maybe our child’s little Jonah says this:
The little Jonah in all of us might say slightly different words, but it’s pretty much the same thing. All of us have listened to the little Jonah some time or another, and we all run for exactly the same reason that Jonah ran. Verse 3 says,
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
The truth is that this running isn’t literally from God, since we, as His children, are always and forever His and in His loving care. However, what we can and do run from is what the literal translation says is the “face of the Lord.” Jonah was trying to get as far away from where he would be confronted with all that God is. When we run, we run from the same thing, which generally means we run from the church or our church family or anything else that might remind us of who God is.
There is a reason that many have called Satan the “travel agent of distraction.” If he can get us away from the “presence of God” or the “face of God,” then he can also deceive us into thinking that we can get away from it, which consequently keeps us from healing and love and peace. Warren Wiersbe wrote in his book, Be Amazed,
“It’s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf. You might be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep. However, God in his providence was preparing for Jonah a great fall.”
But the good news is that God always provides a fish, doesn’t He? He always provides exactly the right storm at exactly the right time so that even though we may be distracted temporarily, we are never permanently lost.
Jesus said in John 6:39,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me.
If you are running from the face of God today—refusing to go to church, avoiding your Christian friends, finding every excuse in the book for not getting involved with your believing family—genuinely reflect on the little Jonah in you. God will not lose you, but I can promise you that it is no fun in the belly of the fish! Bow before the throne of the One who will never leave you nor forsake you and come home. Unless it is God you are running toward, you’re headed for the storm.
And if it is a loved one who is running from God’s loving face, take heart and never lose hope. The promise that Jesus gave in John applies to every one of His children. The fish is coming. Keep praying and keep your eyes fixed upward. God will bring him home.
After all, there is a little Jonah is all of us, but there is a great God who owns our hearts!
To read more from Dr. Deb Waterbury, visit debwaterbury.com
March 1, 2015 11:35 am
Message from my friend, Daniel:
“Joy, call me ASAP.”
I tried. No answer. I tried again, and still no answer.
I knew in an instant something had happened to my husband, Brent, or else he would have been the one calling me. I was praying my son, Blake, was safe.
The few minutes that went by seemed like hours, but finally I was able to talk to Daniel. There had been an accident at the Imperial Sand Dunes where they had gone camping for the long weekend. A bunch of them, including my husband and son, had gone, and five of them were in our sand car. My husband was driving, my son in the passenger seat and our friend, Daniel, and two other adults were in the back seats. They had been going up and down Test Hill.
If you have driven to San Diego on I-8 about 20 miles west of Yuma, you’ve seen it. It is the big sand hill just north of the interstate with the American Canal running along the base. Trips up and down the hill had been done hundreds of times throughout past trips. This trip, the third time down the hill and as they were making a U-turn to go back up, they lost control. The front wheel of the car caught in the sand and sent them flipping up into the air and over a large berm. They crashed down hard and rolled into the canal at the bottom of the hill. The water was about 20 feet deep.
Daniel said everyone in the car was able to get out, except my husband. They had tried to swim back down to the car, but the current was too swift, and they were not able to reach the car. I was praying he was able to get out of his seat belts and had just been washed down the canal in the strong current and was holding on to the edge somewhere.
I was in a panic on the phone. My daughter watched me. She was frightened and confused. I had to get there as soon as possible. It was a three and a half hour drive. I was ready to go, but I wasn’t in the position to drive myself and my daughter. I was able to contact friends to take me, and my daughter was able to stay with my best friend. It was a very long drive. I got a call about half way there that they had pulled the car out of the water, and my husband was still strapped in his seat. He had drowned.
I was numb. My only goal now was to be there for my son. Just as we were nearing the turnoff, I saw the severely mangled car on a trailer on the highway going the opposite direction.
Finally I was able to be with my son, and thankfully he was physically uninjured with the exception of a few bruises. They didn’t want him to see the car being pulled out of the water so they had taken him away from the crash site. He was in the RV. As I walked in, he ran to me. He was crying and scared. I held him, and I had to tell him his daddy was dead. His fear turned to anger. How could God let this happen? He threw his bible down. I told him it was okay to be angry. God has big shoulders and could take it.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
The ride home was even longer and extremely painful. We arrived home and I now had to tell my daughter her daddy was dead. The only peace I had during this was knowing that Brent knew Jesus and he was in heaven.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Brent was kind and loving. He was a good father. My children’s earthly father was gone, but their Heavenly Father, has been, and will continue to be there for them.
Up until the morning of March 1, 2015, my story consisted of being a wife and a mom to an 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a pharmacist. The list goes on, but just like that, in an instant, “wife” was swapped out for “widow.” I was a widow?!
We all have a story and this was NOT how MY story was supposed to go! Instantaneously and violently the pages of the story I had written had been ripped out and replaced. My story, as I believed at that point in time, was rewritten as a horror story, a horror story filled with body-trembling fear, chest-crushing anxiety, disbelief by the minute, extreme anger and any other terrible emotion imaginable.
Several days after the accident my son and I were talking. I asked him what he remembered. Did he remember being in the water and how he got out? It was just assumed that my husband had helped him, but if my husband were able to help Blake, I believe he would have gotten out also. Blake said he remembers the wheel breaking off, the car flipping and landing in the water. Then he said he tried to lean forward and wasn’t able to move. The car has five point harnesses which aren’t necessarily easy to get out of in a calm situation, let alone under water after a crash. He said he just wanted to go to sleep. He looked up and could see the sun shining down through the water. He said he prayed for God to help him get out of the seat belt. He leaned forward again and was able to get free and swim to the surface. He was wearing shoes and a heavy jacket so that made it difficult to swim. God immediately answered his prayer for help to get out of that car.
As I look at the original message from Daniel, for only the second time since it was sent, I am now two years into the pages of my “new” story. But is it really a “new” story? Perhaps to me it is, but as far as God is concerned, it isn’t. My story was already written specifically for me by Him. He knew exactly what was going to happen that March morning, every day before and every day after. We all have a story given to us by God and He trusts us with those stories.
God allowed the accident to happen. My faith and trust in God was great before the accident, but they have grown exponentially since. Looking back on it, I can recall specific situations before the accident where God was preparing me for this part of my story. People say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I believe this statement is true as long as you allow Him in so that He can help you handle it. I could not have survived any of this on my own.
This journey has been anything but easy. There has been extensive pain throughout, both seen and unseen, but with His presence there has been unexplainable peace, answered prayers, major growth, multiple lessons and blessings experienced. He has a plan for my story, and I will continue to trust His plan with all my heart.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Don’t laugh. If you live in America, then at one time or another you have walked through a Walmart near you and thought, “Who are these people?” I laughingly admitted to my husband and son the other night that I have to repent every single time I leave Walmart for the unkind and sinful thoughts that run rampant through my mind as I walk through the aisles. I truthfully don’t want to admit what these thoughts are, but the subject matter ranges from cart driving ability to attire choice while shopping for groceries.
The problem is that these thoughts often lead to anger, and just as often I leave my neighborhood Walmart having to deal with that anger. Not long ago, my son and I were shopping there and as we left I proclaimed, “I am not shopping here anymore! These people are Walmartians!!”
Consequently, the next week we went to what I thought was a less aggravating and more posh grocery store. My son and I were wandering through the aisles of this food paradise “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over every little thing when we found ourselves standing in front of a vast array of different types of teas. After a few minutes of talking excitedly about all the many sorts of teas we saw, my son looked around him and saw other shoppers looking at us with the same kinds of looks I usually gave out while shopping at that “other place.” That’s when he pulled me aside and whispered, “Mom, we have to go. I think we are Walmartians!”
I giggled, then agreed, and then rather hurriedly left and went to Walmart.
Now, I could go to a lot of lessons from this terrible reflection into my heart, but as we round the corner on Thanksgiving, I can’t help thinking of my beautiful African friends in Malawi and Zimbabwe and Liberia and Kenya. They have no Walmart. The truth is, they often don’t have food at all. Mothers wander around villages that have been decimated by drought and floods and disease trying desperately to find food, any food, but they can’t. There are no food kitchens or welfare programs or even trash cans from which they can scavenge food for their little ones. There is no food. Period.
Priscilla Mgala, my precious friend from Malawi, tells the story of two widows in the village near her who were trying desperately to find food for their children. They went into the bush to try and find something they could cook. They found some roots that looked very much like cassava roots, so they pulled them out of the ground and took them back to the village. There they cooked these roots and served them to their children. Two of the little ones died before morning. Can you imagine the desperation it takes to give your children something that you don’t even recognize simply because you want to fill their sweet, hungry bellies? And then can you imagine the utter terror when you find them dead the next morning because of what you fed them?
When I think of the plight of women just like me, women whose only difference from me is that they were born in a poor country in Africa instead of this great land we call home, I cringe at my silly American attitude when I don’t like the kinds of people I see at Walmart. I’m ashamed that I think I have any right to be picky, especially when I am faced with the tremendous blessing God has given me of being born in America where food is literally everywhere.
And then, my friends, I am struck with what real thankfulness should be. Real thankfulness is looking beyond my over-privileged lifestyle and looking toward others who need what I take for granted. A real perspective on thankfulness is not disparaging this country because some of its leaders don’t lead exactly how I think they should. Real thankfulness doesn’t spit on our flag or protest in our streets or threaten to leave simply because I disagree with an election.
Real thankfulness looks upward, not outward, and says, “Thank you, Lord, for letting me be born in a country where I can go to Walmart. Thank you, Father, that I get to be a Walmartian.”
Finally, real thankfulness is exemplified in those who don’t scoff at the tremendous blessings they have received simply because God allowed them to be born in America. Real thankfulness is instead found in those who willingly and without measure share with those who weren’t so fortunate in the place of their birth. So, I urge you, sisters and brothers, look outside of your walls and even outside of your country and be thankful this year…truly thankful. Find somewhere to give to another. Stop lamenting about the people you don’t like here and thank God that He let you be born here!
This year, let Thanksgiving be about giving, not complaining.
And if you are a Walmartian, I’ll see you in the aisles!
***If you would like to give to women in need this year, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas, please consider contributing to the Reap What You Sew Project, a tailoring school we at Love Everlasting Ministires are launching in Malawi, Africa in April of 2017. The school will give the training necessary so that widows and destitute women in that country can run their own businesses and finally be able to feed themselves and their children. To donate, visit LoveEverlastingMinistries.com now. We appreciate any support you can give. God bless you.
Do you sometimes find yourself saying things that your parents used to say to you, only to grimace and think, “Was that me?” I know I do—a lot. One of the things I used to tell my boys all of the time was that they just needed to be patient, that whatever was happening to them at the time wasn’t the end of the world. It’s just a season. It will all work out. It’s not as bad as you think. You’re being too dramatic.
Don’t miss the forest while you’re looking at the trees.
It’s a wonder they didn’t murder me in my sleep.
And now that I’m older and my boys have left the nest, I find myself in circumstances often where I remember saying those words to them, and even to others, and then find myself thinking that things ARE that bad. There’s NO WAY this is going to work out. This ABSOLUTELY IS as bad as I think. And I’M NOT BEING DRAMATIC!!
I certainly do not intend to write another article on being patient in the midst of trials, knowing that God is at work in all of them. Christians, by and large, know that Romans 8:28 is in every one of their bibles. They know and they’ve heard that God has a plan, just as He promised in Jeremiah 29:11, and that His plan is for their good. The problem arises when that plan doesn’t feel good. The confusion manifests when that plan makes utterly no sense.
What is God thinking? He has to see that this is not good! Why would He hurt me this way?
The issue becomes almost incredulous when we live in the middle of circumstances where seeing the love of God reconciled in the things He allows to happen is just about impossible. When our marriage ends, or a loved one dies, or we lose our houses or our jobs or our children—how do we see the forest of God’s love in the middle of rotten, stinking, dark trees?
I don’t have an answer, but what I do have is the same thing that all of us have, and that’s the bible. The stories and words of God are purposeful, and at the expense of beating this bush again, let me just remind you, and me, of the story of Job.
You remember Job, right? This guy did it all correctly. He was a righteous man, and by Old Testament standards, his riches and many children and great life were a direct result of this righteous life. God had blessed him above and beyond his fellow man. Job was living large, but he did so while humbly serving his God.
Can you imagine how he felt that day when he lost everything? In one fell swoop, Job lost his fortune, his livelihood, all of his children, and finally, his health. He had no friends who sympathized or offered him compassion. His friends assumed these horrible disasters happened because of some hidden sin that needed to be confessed. Even Job’s wife turned on him.
Can you imagine how this man of God felt?
I know that most of you have probably studied, or at least read the book of Job on occasion, and you’ve also most likely labored through it.
And yet, God put it in His Word, and we know that He did so because Job demonstrated for us the endurance of a believer’s faith, even when the entire world falls down around his ankles. Mind you, Job didn’t take it quietly. He yelled—a lot. He screamed at God and at his friends, asking why and what was going on?
The trees were falling, and Job was lost in a cataclysm of endless pain, but he never denied that God was God.
Now, cut to the forest that Job didn’t see, the forest that God showed you and me at the very beginning of this story. This is the forest we would all do well to remember when our own trees block our view.
When Satan came to God and told Him that he had been traveling around the earth, what was God’s first response? Job 1:8 records the Lord as saying to Satan,
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (ESV)
In essence, God looked at Satan, and His very first thought was, “Have you seen My Job? I love My Job! Did you see how awesome Job is? Look upon My son, Job!”
I don’t know about you, but the idea that God would single me out while addressing the angels and say something like, “Have you seen My Deb? I love My Deb!” is a thought I would treasure above all else.
And when Satan asked to test Job, God allowed all of those horrible things to occur because He trusted Job. God looked down upon his child, and He trusted Job so much that He allowed Satan to take everything from him but his life, and God did this because He knew that His servant, Job, would stand in his faith. God knew that He would then use the testimony of Job for all time as a witness of unswerving faith in God’s very “God-ness.”
God looked upon this man and said, “Have you seen My Job? I trust My Job so much that I will allow him to be tested so that I might use him.”
This was the forest of reality in the heavenly realm that Job didn’t see because he was surrounded by the trees of this mortal existence. However, this beautiful forest was always there, even when Job didn’t see it.
My sisters and brothers, there is a heavenly reality occurring every millisecond of every day beyond our human sight. The trees of our lives may be falling and rotting all around us, but the essence of our faith is to emulate Job’s. The essence of our faith is in knowing that God is God, and though we don’t understand His ways, we know that they are ultimately good and right. Our faith comes from knowing the forest is there, even though we only see trees.
Most especially, though, we must remember that when God chooses to bring or allow horrible things in the lives of His children, it’s not because He doesn’t love them or is punishing them. It’s because He is choosing to use them. He’s building our stories, much like He built Job’s story, so that when He has delivered us, He will use us.
I know that when tragedy hits my life, God is in heaven saying, “Do you see my Deb? I trust my Deb so much that I choose to use her. I will deliver her, and once I do, she will be a vessel used to My glory.”
That, my friends, is a forest upon which we should focus, even in the midst of these sometimes very ugly trees.