Baggage, Donkeys, and Kingship

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CROWN

Growing up, I would often hear my Mom say, “be careful what you ask for.”

I never understood that; as a child I thought I knew EXACTLY what I wanted. As an adult, I understand this more. 

Maybe because of my experiences, maybe just due to maturity, but I am more conscience of what I ask for and more aware of the consequences of my choices.  But conscientiousness and awareness isn’t always enough to keep me from following my own selfish desires.  It isn’t always enough to motivate me to leave the status quo and really pursue God.

If you’re honest, you could probably say the same of yourself.

And it was the same for the Israelites.

In 1 Samuel chapter 8, we learn that the elders got together and confronted Samuel.  He was old and his sons didn’t follow his ways.  The elders asked for a solution, a king, so they could be like everyone else.  Notice scripture doesn’t say they asked for a “Godly” king, just a body that would fill the role.  Matthew Henry puts it this way, they wanted a “king in a purple robe, with his guards and officers of state” to look great in front of others.

Samuel takes this request to God, then warned the Israelites:

A king will abuse his power, making you slaves and servants.  He will take your sons, who are free-born and appoint them for himself.  He will take your daughters and make them his cooks and bakers.  He will steal your land for himself and his servants.  He will take the best of your crops and livestock for himself.  Then, when you can’t take anymore and cry out to God for help, God will not answer you. 

He is telling the Israelites that if they insist on a king, it will be an end to the life of freedom they now enjoy. In other words, “Be careful what you ask for!”

Just like us, the Israelites hear but do not listen.  Matthew Henry puts it this way: They were quite deaf to reason and blind to their own interest.  They could not answer Samuel’s arguments against it, nor deny the force of them, and yet they grow more violent in their request, and more insolent.  He goes on and calls their desires absurd.

I’ll admit some of my own requests and desires could be called absurd. Oh, but they sure don’t seem that way when I’m requesting and desiring them!

The Israelites certainly didn’t see their request as absurd either. They considered only the magnificence of a king and thought that would make them great, would make other nations respect them and even envy them.  They were like children, refusing to weigh the consequences of their choices, even after they’re warned.

They’re like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

“Don’t care how, I want it now!”

Veruca Salt

 

 

 

 

 

They get what they demand. God gives them up to their own hearts’ lusts, or desires, and gives them a king. /sigh/

How many times have we charged heaven for something we so desperately wanted, even convinced ourselves we needed, only to later reap severe consequences? 

Remember, Veruca Salt was ambushed in the Nut Sorting Room by Wonka’s squirrels (ironically enough, one of which she had demanded her parents buy for her!).  Then she was sent down the garbage chute, where Willy Wonka told them an incinerator awaited.

Veruca Salt’s experience is a comparable, although entertainingly fictional, picture of what we (and the Israelites) experience.  She was in a euphoric world of chocolate with few rules, few restrictions.  Yet she wants more.  She doesn’t care about the consequences.  She knows what she wants, and she demands it!  In the same way, we’re often warned but don’t listen.  We insist on our own way.

We cling to Matthew 7:7 “keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened for you.”  We cling to it completely out of context, claiming it without understanding it. 

We like the receiving what we ask for part, and we like the finding what we’re seeking part.  But we don’t always like what’s on the other side of that door once it’s opened.

Often God warns us about the consequences of what we’re asking for, sometimes just tells us “no”.  But, like children, we don’t like to be told no, so we continue asking, seeking, and knocking until the door is eventually opened.  Then the metaphorical “squirrels” attack us, and we find ourselves heading down a path that ends in the ultimate “incinerator”.

DOOR

 

Let’s leave our fictional world of Willy Wonka and come back to our story of the Israelites.  They’ve been asking, seeking, and knocking. And they will soon be getting the king they so desperately desired; demanded.

Saul is a Benjamite, a handsome and tall man from a wealthy family.  He is sent out in search of his father’s donkeys, and after searching for days he is ready to give up and go home.

His servant insists they continue and suggests they seek the help of a prophet.  Saul agrees, and they end up running into this prophet, Samuel, on their way to town.  God immediately confirms to Samuel that it is Saul who is to be the king.

Samuel assures Saul that the donkeys he is seeking have already been found, then he convinces him to stay overnight.  The next morning, Samuel pours oil on Saul, anointing him, and prophesies over him.  As Saul turns to leave, God changes his heart.  The Spirit of God comes upon him and he even begins prophesying.  Think about it: a man, on search of nothing more than donkeys, is suddenly anointed and prophesying!

Saul had to be a little freaked out after this experience, I certainly would have been!  Can you imagine waking up the next morning, realizing this wasn’t a dream? This had actually happened!

As news begins to spread, people start talking and questioning, rumors are flying, gossip is flowing.  Finally, Saul’s uncle approaches him and asks him about it.

DOOR

1 Samuel 10:15-16

 “Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”  Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.”  But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.

 

WHY?  After having this incredible, almost unbelievable experience, why did Saul not tell his uncle all that happened?  He surely had to know his uncle would eventually find out he was going to be king!  So why didn’t he tell him?

One word:

DOOR2

Perhaps the fear of accepting all that happened was too much.  Perhaps he thought if he denied it or refused to believe it or speak of it, it would just go away.

After all, he was just a regular guy on the hunt for some donkeys, he didn’t ask for or anticipate any of this. Status quo was good enough; the fear of stepping out was too much.

How many times have we found ourselves stuck in the status quo?  We think everything is fine, overlooking or ignoring what we know needs to change.  Knowing God has plans for us, knowing He has called us to make a change but too scared of the unknown to accept it?

 

The story gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it!).  Samuel obviously knows Saul is to be king, but he also knows these Israelites.  So he summons all of the people to cast lots to choose the king.  Saul was obviously selected, but when his name was called, he was nowhere to be found.

Saul had withdrawn.  Maybe he hoped they’d choose someone else and he’d be off the hook.  Maybe he wallowed in his seemingly unfitness of the position; he wasn’t trained for this.  Maybe he feared the envy of his friends, family, and neighbors that had already been gossiping about him.  Maybe he knew this position was the result of the sinful request of the Israelites.  Maybe he feared failure.  Whatever the reason, Saul allowed fear to cause his withdrawal from what God was calling him to do.

The NLT actually puts it this way:

1 Samuel 10:22b “And the LORD replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”

OUCH!  How often we refuse to step out, refuse to answer, refuse to allow God to take us down whatever path he sees fit, because we’re hiding in our own personal and emotional baggage?

We sit in a battered old suitcase, amongst old shabby garments, hoping to hide there and maintain our status quo.  We somehow find comfort here and we don’t plan to ever come out or be found.

But what if God is calling you to unpack the suitcase, to clean and fold those old garments, to put them away?  What if He is calling you to walk away from that baggage, never to look back.  (Remember, Lot’s wife looked back and turned to a pillar of salt).  What if God is asking you to step out of the status quo because he knows what’s on the other side of that door you’re knocking on?

Maybe we need to set aside what we think we want, what we demand, what we are seeking, and allow God to do whatever He wants in our lives. Sometimes we need to put the “Veruca Salt” in us to death, so to speak, and be more like Saul in this area.

Remember, Saul didn’t set out to become king; he only set out to find donkeys! Kingship was the furthest thing from his mind. But while he was asking, seeking, and knocking for a donkey, God made him KING.

What future awaits us if we’ll only step out in faith and allow God to take us away from seeking donkeys and trade our baggage for a crown!

The (Quarantined) Proverbs 31 Woman

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We’ve all read the Proverbs 31 passage, and most of us can even partially quote it.  But to set the stage for this post, let’s revisit it starting in verse 10:

A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.  She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.  She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  

She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.  She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.  In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.  

When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.  Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.  She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.  

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31:10-31

The Proverbs 31 Virtuous Woman certainly gives us a lot to live up to.

She’s smart, works tirelessly (after all, she gets up while it is still night to prepare their food…does she even sleep!?).

She’s a capable and profitable businesswoman (she considers a field, buys it, and plants a vineyard with the profits).

She doesn’t disappoint or possibly even argue with her husband (after all he has “FULL confidence in her”).

Her children appreciate, honor, and respect her (they rise up and call her blessed).

She clothes her family beautifully and she not only flawlessly takes care of her children and husband, she also does so for the needy and poor.

And while some of us work ourselves to death trying to become her, others dismiss her or even secretly begrudge her… knowing we’ll NEVER measure up.

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Right now, COVID-19 has turned our world upside down.  As women, many of us are finding ourselves overworked, overstretched, and OVERWHELMED!

 

We have suddenly become homeschool moms, many doing so while maintaining a full-time job.  We are suddenly nurses, caring for illnesses at home.  We are suddenly gourmet cooks, or at least “fast-food” cooks, because restaurants and schools are closed.  Many of us are like contestants on the show Chopped, trying to make meals out of whatever ingredients the grocery stores happen to have available.

We are suddenly looking for extra ways to help provide for our families in case of job losses and further economic issues.  We are suddenly struggling to juggling caring for OUR OWN families while also remembering to being BENEVOLENT and caring for others.

We struggle with fear, anxiety, and quite honestly… SANITY trying to be everything to everyone right now WITHOUT leaving our home or putting anyone around us at risk of catching this virus.

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We look at this chapter of Proverbs (starting in VERSE 10, by the way) and think, “I have to do more.  I have to be more.”  And we find ourselves spiraling in exhaustion, discouragement, and maybe even depression.  ALL of which do NOT line up with this Proverbs 31 woman. Yet on the outside, we say “I GOT THIS”

I want to encourage you today to re-read this chapter, starting with the FIRST verse.

 

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.  Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!  Do not spend your strength on women…(and she continues)

Do you notice this chapter written to a man, by his mother?

This passage wasn’t spoken by God Himself as a checklist for women (although all of Scripture is inspired by God)These are words of advice spoken to a King by his mother as advice to her son to perhaps encourage him to look for a good wife.  It’s advice I would give my own son(s), even knowing that I myself cannot and do not measure up to these standards (Steven did pretty good at finding one who does though!)

So, if you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed, like you’re failing, like you’re “not measuring up”, or like you’re drowning in trying to be everything to everyone… RELAX.

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You are doing exactly what the rest of us are doing; trying to stay afloat.  Trying to raise our children.  Trying to keep increase our faith and decrease our anxiety.  Trying to juggle finances.  Trying to please God.  Trying.  That’s what we’re all doing.  We’re TRYING.  Give yourself a hug.  You’re TRYING, and that deserves some recognition.

 

 

So what does it look like to live like the Proverbs 31 woman?

  • She has a mind of her own.  Look at all she does!  Look at the many things she juggles and the many responsibilities she has!  Sometimes as a Christian woman, we think we are to be “seen and not heard”.  That’s not this woman at all!
    1. She speaks with wisdom (she speaks UP!)
    2. She watches over the affairs of her household (she takes an interest in and shares in decisions about the future of their family)
    3. She is an active participant in the home. She is confident and capable.  Her husband goes off to the city.  He is respected, and he is confident in her to take care of things in his absence.
  • She lives selflessly and wholly devoted to God.  She knows her priorities and keeps them in check.
  • She is NOT running herself ragged in exhaustion. She is NOT panicking.  She is NOT focusing on the negative. She is LAUGHING at the days to come.

So how is she doing all of this?  What is her motivation? And HOW does she keep her priorities right, her attitude right, and keep her joy?

Above all, this woman is motivated by her commitment to love.  LOVE for God, Love for her husband, Love for her children, and Love for others.  And we can ALL do that.

 

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Partially Victorious?

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I find it interesting how we often live a “partially victorious” life and think we’re blessed and highly favored.  I don’t see a Biblical example of this, yet it’s what we seem to settle for.

I picture it like a sporting event.  We’re in a fierce battle to win, then we get to the finish line and decide we’re ok to just tie.  If we tie, we didn’t really lose so we’re still partially victorious, right?  What is partially victorious?  That’s not even possible!

I recently read a passage in my Devotional Journal that said, “this life in Christ is to be lived to the fullest, not in partial victories and agonizing defeats”.

It went on to say that it wasn’t until Sarah banished her fear and doubt, completely trusted God, and stopped trying to fix things herself that His promises became a realty.  Until that time, she wasn’t living completely victorious.

I wear quite a few hats and it can be overwhelming.  No, it IS overwhelming, no “can be” about it.

I know I cannot give 100% to everything all the time, so I sometimes find myself being content to just get by.  Just work the best I can and make sure I’m not losing.  I’m a sore loser by nature, so this is an easy objective!  However, I’ve come to realize that merely not losing isn’t the same thing as winning.  It’s only partially victorious living.

It’s only when we’re willing to completely submit, completely surrender control (ouch!), completely abandon all doubt and fear that His promises can become our reality.

Let’s make a commitment today to stop being content to live from partial victory to partial victory, but live VICTORIOUSLY in all things!

The Linen Belt…

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It was not always easy keeping all four of my kids on the right track.  I’d tell one to pick up their clothes, another to empty the trash, tell them all to do their homework, tell them to make their beds, flush the toilets, etc.  Yet I’d seem to repeat these phrases more than 6 times a day…which means SOMEONE wasn’t listening.  And when I’d ask why it wasn’t done, they say “I did it”.  The obvious question is “then why is the trash still full, homework undone, bed unmade, etc?”

They HEARD me, they just refused to listen.  They followed the stubbornness of their own hearts & minds, and let my words fall on deaf ears.  Saying you’re listening certainly doesn’t mean you are.

If you’ve ever been responsible for leading someone, in your family, on the job, etc., you undoubtedly know the frustrations that come with trying to lead a stubborn soul that refuses to listen.  You ask them to perform the simplest of tasks and they want to ask 20 questions before they will commence. And at least 19 of those questions would be automatically answered for them once they obeyed and started the task!  Yet they look at you flabbergasted, completely confused, completely unfocused, and completely void of any real intention to listen.

Look at this passage from the 13th chapter of Jeremiah:

This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.”  So I bought a belt, as the Lord directed, and put it around my waist.

Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time:  “Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go now to Perath and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.”  So I went and hid it at Perath, as the Lord told me.

Many days later the Lord said to me, “Go now to Perath and get the belt I told you to hide there.”  So I went to Perath and dug up the belt and took it from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and completely useless.

“Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless! For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’”  /Jeremiah 13:1-11/

Wicked.  Now, I wouldn’t have called any of my children “wicked”.  After all, they DID (sometimes) listen and obey.  But when their stubbornness and selfishness took over, I would somewhat agree with the term “completely useless”.  These were are all very bright kids.  They were, and still are, gifted with great imaginations, perfect health, and mental soundness. They have such potential, such ability, such talent, such promise!  But they turned a deaf ear to my words and we’d spend days/weeks in a cycle of grounding & un-grounding.  They’d get mad and pout, and I get frustrated.

But this scripture made me think and ask myself a difficult question.  How often does the Lord think of me as being “wicked, stubborn, and completely useless” because I “refuse to listen”?  Oh He loves me, I’m not questioning that. But how often is He frustrated with my unwillingness to listen (and obey)?  I heard someone say, “How can we expect the Lord to listen to us when we refuse to listen to Him?”  Obviously, the Lord can and does listen to us, but that’s certainly something to ponder.  How frustrating the Lord must be with us when He is calling, directing, guiding, leading, and speaking…yet we turn a deaf ear.  And how wonderfully gracious He is to continue to call, continue to direct, continue to guide, continue to lead, continue to speak, and continue to LOVE us even in our wickedness, stubbornness, and complete disobedience.

It should be our mission to hone in and listen.  To acknowledge that still small voice instead of drowning it out with “noise”.  To let His Words resonate within us instead of tilting our heads to let them flow effortlessly out of the other ear.   To obey when He speaks, and to trade our wet linen belt “for His renown and praise and honor”.

Dogs don’t fly

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Can you fly?

This picture makes me laugh. I can envision the man saying “You’re a dog, I asked you to fetch. You refuse to fetch, maybe you’d rather fly?” And I envision the dog screaming back “Ok, Ok, Ok! I get it, I’m a dog. I’ll fetch, PLEASE don’t make me fly!”

Perhaps I envision this dialogue because I can relate. At least to the dog…

The Lord has prompted me to take a step of faith in ministry.  Quite frankly, it’s a step that I find terrifying.  Like the children of Israel wandering in the desert, I don’t want to face the giants and conquer the Promised Land.

Think about it, the children of Israel are miserable. They lead a life of slavery that we can barely even fathom. Their lives are bitter and harsh. These are God’s chosen people, and they’ve been completely oppressed for years. When God is ready to deliver the Israelites, He sends plague after plague upon the Egyptians until Pharaoh finally releases them. Later when Pharaoh changes his mind and comes after them, God intervened on the Israelites’ behalf by parting the Red Sea. God leads them with a Pillar of Cloud and Fire, and the Israelites experience miracle after miracle; favor upon favor; blessing upon blessing.

Moses has spoken the Word of the Lord to the Israelites, saying: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’ (Exodus 6:6a-8)

God has been true to His Word. They’ve been set free, they’ve been rescued, they’ve experienced God’s unconditional love, they’ve seen His hand of favor upon them, and they’ve encountered God through numerous signs and wonders. They’re ready to enter the Promised Land. That is, until they hear of the giants in the land. Fear, intimidation, anxiety, and disbelief sets in and they stop. Instead of pressing onward and believing God can and will see them through, they stop.

They begin to doubt His Sovereignty, they doubt His love, they doubt His ability, and they doubt their own calling. Think about it, He’s called them to a land of milk and honey. To a place they could have previously only silently dreamt about. It’s right there in front of them and He’s called them to take it, to conquer it, to enter it, to possess it. Yet they let their fears grow bigger than their faith… and they stop. And sadly, the majority of them are never allowed to actually enter into the promises of God (i.e. the Promised Land).

faith

Ah, my life! For forty years (how ironic), I lived a life of slavery and wandering. Don’t get me wrong, I was redeemed, set free, and rescued. I experienced God’s unconditional love. I saw God’s hand of favor upon me and I encountered God through signs and wonders.

Yet when He said “Go…and take possession”, I’d reply (and still do sometimes) with “I can’t! Don’t you know what kinds of giants stand at the door waiting to attack me?! Don’t you know who I am? I can’t do this.” And I stop. And I become enslaved. And I wander. And I’m confused. And I’m an emotional wreck, a mental basket case. And worse than any of that, I’m completely miserable inside. I complain. I murmur and grumble. Like the Israelites (God’s chosen people), I begin to doubt His ability. I doubt His Sovereignty. I doubt His love. I doubt my own calling. The fears grow…and the faith shrinks. And wandering I go. Around and around and around. Directionless, passionless, powerless.

The internal misery finally gets the best of me, and I repent. I pray. I seek. I commit. Cycle-diagram

I see the Promised Land before me, God says again “Go…and take possession”.

I take a step or two, and then stop. And the cycle continues…

My 40th birthday was a turning point on this spiritually self-destructive journey.  I took a group of ladies to a Women’s Retreat, and let me tell you I did NOT want to go! Honestly, I didn’t like the rural/rustic location and that’s where I put the emphasis of my grumbling. But that wasn’t really the issue. I had begun to encounter a very familiar and very massive giant in my life, and I knew the timing of it wasn’t a coincidence.

A few months before, the Lord had asked me to step into a role of ministry that I am not necessarily gifted in; and one that I knew wasn’t going to be well received by many around me. I stepped in faith and took on the role of Praise & Worship leader at our church. I encountered major attacks from within and from without, and that’s all of the details I’ll share. However, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt He had called me to take this ministry for this season, and I obeyed. In spite of my natural inability to do so, I did it. And I never doubted.

Yet as the Women’s Retreat approached, the Lord began to once again place in my heart the calling I’ve continually ran from. He used many friends and many circumstances to confirm this, yet I ignored. One night at this retreat, the Lord used a mighty prayer warrior to speak into my life. She spoke directly into my heart to confirm the calling the Lord was placing upon me, yet I ignored.

At the end of service, I responded to an altar call and waited for the speaker to also confirm this calling. After all, she was obviously VERY anointed of God and if she confirmed this calling it couldn’t be wrong. Yet she spoke nothing over me. I returned to my seat and said within myself, “See, it’s obviously something I’m fabricating in my own mind. If it were really a calling of God, this anointed woman of God would’ve seen it and confirmed it.” God immediately interrupted my thoughts and spoke into my spirit loudly and clearly… “Michele. I have called you. I have spoken to you. I have sent confirmation to you over and over again for many years. I sent confirmation to you just tonight. But I am not sending  /the speaker/  to confirm it to you. She doesn’t need to confirm it to you. I have called you myself, and you don’t need any further confirmation.”

I came home and requested a ministry license application. I completed it. And…I put it in a drawer.

I began to argue with the Lord once again. “Don’t You know who I am? Don’t You understand where I come from? This thing you’re asking of me is bigger than me, I can’t do it. Just let me stay in the shadow.” Then the Lord sent a friend, a mighty man of God, to speak at our church.

Sunday morning’s sermon: “Seizgod-prescriptione the moment” (ouch). Sunday night’s: “Know your identity in Christ” (double ouch).    He even spoke about somebody needing Prozac. He couldn’t have known that 4 days earlier, I had angrily left a doctor’s appointment because they refused to write me a prescription for an anti-depressant to deal with anxiety. The doctor (who also happens to be a licensed Assembly of God minister) left me with only these words, “I don’t think you need it. I think there’s something else going on here.” Yet she also couldn’t have known…

Monday morning, I took the ministry application out of the drawer. Still apprehensive. Still full of anxiety. Still somewhat embracing fear instead of fully stepping out in faith. But I took it out and turned it in.

Ps 27:1 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?

The following week, the Lord asked me to sing a solo. I don’t sing solos, especially in front of 100 people. It’s not my gifting, it’s not my calling. I didn’t want to do it and I argued (which is so uncharacteristic of me – not!). We had 3 visitors Sunday morning which made me want to say no even more. But He asked, so I did it.

As the 2nd verse began, the words of the song came out of my mouth while these words were coming out of my spirit, “God, why do I have to do this? I don’t want to do this; it’s not what you’ve called me or equipped me to do. I’m willing, I’m obeying, but I don’t understand!” He answered, “Why are you willing to obey me here, in an area that you know I have not gifted you, equipped you, or called you, yet you’re unwilling to obey me by stepping into what I HAVE called you to do?” I unintentionally and audibly uttered the words “Oh God, I can’t do this”. Yet the music played on, so I stumbled, stuttered, and somewhat unsuccessfully held back a flood of tears through the end of the song.

Which brings me back to this picture…

Can you fly?

I have no desire to ever again be asked to fly simply because I refuse to fetch. I’m not called to fly. I look stupid trying to fly. God can ask me to do either one, and I’ll obey either one. But I’m pretty sure as long as I’m willing to fetch, I’ll not be asked again to fly (hallelujah!).  I have to wonder if the look on my face and the terror in my eyes that Sunday morning resembled that of the dog in this photo! …at least until the look on my face became one of sorrowful repentance and the terror in my eyes gave way to overflowing tears.

Many of us have so much in common with the children of Israel! A chosen generation, a chosen people, yet refusing to move into the Promised Land and take possession. Don’t wait for the Lord to ask you to fly when He’s calling you to fetch. He’ll equip you when you obediently respond to His calling, and He’ll also humble you when you’re not.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Some Glad Morning…

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The old hymn starts out “Some glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away”.

Are we living in such anticipation of spending eternity with Him that we truly cannot wait until  we “fly away” to meet Him? Are we living each day, taking every breath and every opportunity to praise God for who He is and all He’s done?

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Think about heaven…our worship will be true.  It will be pure.  It will be complete.  It will be from the heart, undistracted, and unrestricted.  It will be constant, it will be consistent.

Worship is the one thing we do now that we can be certain we’ll also be doing in heaven.  We’ll spend eternity in heaven worshipping a God who we struggled to spend an hour worshipping on Sunday mornings on earth.

Worship.  It goes on continually in heaven.  Does it go on continually in our hearts?  In our lives?  Or are we waiting for someone to “lead us there” (kicking and screaming) on Sunday morning?  If we’re not living a life of worship the other 6 days of the week, the journey to true, complete, pure, undistracted, and unrestricted worship will be a long one on Sunday mornings.

“I will enter His gates” is not a song that’s intended to describe a long term goal.  It’s a declaration.  I will rejoice and be glad.  I will enter with thanksgiving.  And I will do this because I live a life of praise, a life of thanksgiving, and a life of joy.  I know who my God is, I know Him intimately, I spend time worshipping Him.  I long to see Him.  I long to spend eternity with Him.  And I am entering His gates on Sunday mornings expecting His Glory to come down.

Live a life of worship.  Join the heavenly hosts in singing “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”  Don’t waste a single moment. Enter His gates on Sunday mornings prepared…and expecting!

Deserving

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I enjoy pampering as much as the next lady.  But I wonder, what exactly do we think we deserve in life?  A weekly pampering session at our favorite spa? A nice “self-cleaning” house with a big “no-maintenance” yard? A drop-dead gorgeous husband who waits on us hand and foot? Our own personal assistant who helps us with our housework, clothing selections, and hair/makeup each day? The ability to eat what we want and still have the body of Jillian Michaels?

We’re capable of dreaming of a fantasy life where everything falls naturally into place without a hitch and we are given everything we could ever want in life. Let’s face it, we all want to reach for the stars! But if we’re not careful, we’ll find that our head has been stuck in the clouds while life was going on all around us.

In Philippians 4:11b-12, Paul says “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Yet He knows it is God who gives Him strength in every circumstance.

Job, though forced to face greater challenges than most of us will ever know, found the strength and faith to say “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

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I’m not necessarily a “cat person”, but we did have one. Her name was Annie. Not only did Annie require IAMS catfood to keep her digestive system calm, she also apparently required a certain kind of litter…

There was a covered litter box and an open-topped large tote full of clean litter. And yet I’d catch her going on the floor. Apparently, she would not use the type of litter that resembles a sandy texture and she also apparently would not use the litterbox if there was any baking soda in it.

I realize you can’t expect a cat to be “grateful”, but this was a cat that we rescued from the animal shelter! She thought she deserved $10/bag catfood and special litter in her TWO litter boxes? She should’ve just been thankful she had a home and a life! And the thing is, she knew she was doing wrong too! She’d run from me when I’d try to discipline her for it.

Ah, what a life-lesson there! We’ve all been ‘rescued’ and deserve nothing but death for our shortcomings, failures, and sins. We’ve been given more than we could ever ask for or deserve, yet we act like my cat. “God, I know you gave me THAT, but it’s not the kind I wanted so I’m not using it! I’m gonna make my own mess, I’m gonna do it the way I want to, and when You try to discipline me or get me back on track, I’m gonna RUN!”

God, help us keep our focus on all we’ve been given, to approach You with grateful hearts, and allow You to use everything You give us for Your glory!

Pour It Out

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“stupid kidney stones” That was my husband’s Facebook post after being in bed a few days in agonizing pain. Looking for a quick fix and some pain medication, he went to the Emergency Room only to be told they were small enough to pass at home. He was instructed to drink a lot of water and wait for the stone(s) to pass. Two problems with that remedy: he didn’t like to drink water and he didn’t like waiting!

After a few days of watching him lie in bed in misery and miss work/church, I spent hours online researching ways to help the stone to pass. I knew he wasn’t drinking enough water, but hadn’t been successful in convincing him to drink more. I found several home remedies, the most common being Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Water, and Olive Oil. I was pretty proud of myself when I came home 2 hours (and $80) later with bags of those items along with a few bottles of vitamin/herbal combinations and a box of “kidney health” tea. He didn’t share my enthusiasm, and instead complained about the taste, complained about the amount of water, complained about anything and everything I offered to prepare for him. He WAS willing to take pills, or so he said. One of the pills was to be taken 4 times per day, but he did good to take them once or twice.

Days later, we revisited the Emergency Room. The nurse asked if he was drinking a lot of water, and of course he proudly answered “Yes”. The nurse then asked, “are you urinating at least once an hour?” The answer was no. The nurse’s reply: “Then you’re not drinking enough water.” DejaVu, I could’ve sworn that conversation had taken place daily in my house for the past week. Bottom line was that he didn’t want to drink the natural remedy to pass the stone because it wasn’t pleasant to drink. And although he had admitted that he wasn’t drinking at least 10 glasses of water per day, when it was suggested to increase his water consumption, he’d reply: “I AM drinking water…I’m drinking tons of water.”

He was in unbearable pain, was utterly homebound for almost a week, and wanted desperately to pass the kidney stone. But it was irritating, inconvenient, distasteful, unpleasant, and frustrating to intake what was necessary to get the desired output. He wanted a “quick fix”.

How often we live our lives like that. We deeply desire a specific outcome, but refuse to put in the required the time, energy, sacrifice, and exertion. We live in this culture of “give me, give me, give me”, but we don’t necessarily want to put forth the sacrifice necessary to achieve those things. The Bible addresses this attitude in Proverbs 12:11, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” It makes no sense to expect output without the input!

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I’ve reached an age where I drink (several cups of) coffee to get me going in the morning.  I know when I put the coffee and water in the coffee pot (and turn it on), I will later be able to pour coffee into my cup.  Simple enough. If only it were that easy in life!

Romans 8:13 says “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Yet in life, I find myself trying to accomplish spiritual objectives in the flesh.

Of course, this isn’t something unique to me. We all struggle with living in the flesh, and often don’t even understand why we do what we do. Our inward man wants to please God. We long for a relationship with Him. We crave His love, His approval, and His affection. Yet our outward actions don’t always line up. We slack in our prayer time, leave our Bibles unopened, miss church, forget to tithe, and then find ourselves caught up in gossip, resentment, bitterness, hopelessness, and discouragement.  As Christians, we desire to “pour out”.  Yet how often do we try pouring from an empty vessel?

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25)

Quite often, we want a quick fix in our spiritual lives.  In a sense, we want the coffee maker to produce coffee without the effort of filling it up each morning.  We carry our own burdens, we don’t want to admit that we can’t handle or “fix” our overwhelmed, exhausted, lonely, and burdened condition. We want the Lord to miraculously deliver the desired outcome without our own willingness to let go of the pain and dysfunctions of life. How frustrating God must find this. How patient and merciful He is!

In Jeremiah 8:22, he asks: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” The Amplified Bible goes on to add: [Because Zion no longer enjoyed the presence of the Great Physician] Ouch! God forbid we allow ourselves to become so dry that we no longer enjoy the presence of the Great Physician! This Great Physician works 24/7, and is even willing to make house calls.

All I have to do is fill my vessel, oil my parched soul with the Balm of Gilead…and enjoy the presence of the Great Physician.

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Mission Impossible

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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

Seen the movie?  Sometimes that sums up my Christian life. Mission…IMPOSSIBLE!

I like to think I have a great deal of faith, and that I trust God in all things and in all ways. Yet there’s this little voice inside my head ( or my heart ) that says “This is impossible, it’s not going to work out.” I spend a lot of time wondering ( or wAndering! like the children of Israel) “what if” or “how” or “why”.  I look at circumstances and situations and because I can’t ENVISION how it will turn out, I find myself thinking it somehow WON’T.

We surely limit God by our lack of faith, but we also limit ourselves. If we truly believe we have died to our flesh and are alive in Him, there are no limitations! Matthew 19:26 says “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  All things are possible; there are no limitations!

Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 2.39.18 PM.pngWe’ve read Audrey Hepburn’s quote “nothing is impossible, in the word itself says “I’M POSSIBLE.

But what does “impossible” really mean anyway?

Dictionary.com defines impossible as: not possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc.

Within the boundaries of that definition, isn’t God Himself actually an impossibility? His existence doesn’t follow natural law, nobody knows how He is able to existence or how He happened to be…yet He DOES exist. A belief in God, by definition, is (within the boundaries of the definition of the word) a belief in the impossible.

So why do we believe in an impossible God but then struggle to believe that He is able to DO the impossible? What an oxymoron.

  • This impossible God parted the Red Sea to save His people.
  • This impossible God caused a virgin to conceive the very Son of God.
  • This impossible God set an un-consuming fire to a bush in order to speak to Moses.
  • This impossible God enabled a man to walk on water.
  • This impossible God raised Lazarus, a man who had been dead for days, from the dead.
  • This impossible God created a heaven, an earth, the waters, and life itself from nothingness.
  • This impossible God poured out an invisible Holy Spirit that speaks to and through His people.
  • This impossible God sent His own Son to take the punishment I deserve upon Himself because He loves me with an impossible love.

This impossible God has always been in the business of accomplishing the impossible. And if we believe He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then we have to believe He is able to accomplish the impossible in our lives.

I tend to forget all the “impossibilities” that He has already accomplished in my own life.  I’m sure you do too.

Matthew 17:20 “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Depending on the part of the country you’re from and how extensively you’ve traveled, you may not have a firm grip on this concept.

We lived in West Virginia for awhile, and THOSE are mountains.  They’re so steep that you can only see the sun about 3 hours a day, you can’t drive across or over them (you have to drive AROUND them), and sometimes storms even got caught/stuck on one side of the mountain and would flood the area.  THOSE are mountains people!

Yet faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain.  If you don’t know how small that is, look it up, it’s pretty minute!

The problem isn’t God’s inability to do the impossible, it’s our unwillingness to allow ourselves to believe.

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In Mark 9:23, Jesus responds to a desperate father who is looking for help for his son who has been possessed by a spirit that robs him of his speech.  He tells Jesus that his son has been like this since childhood.  We have no idea how long really, or exactly when it started, but we can gather it’s been a long, long time.  It’s probable that the son has never been able to have a conversation with his father, or even spoken the word Daddy.  Yet the father refused to accept the circumstances as impossible.  He begs Jesus, “if you can do anything…”

Jesus responds, “If you can?  Everything is possible to the one who believes!”

Many of us would’ve been discouraged by his reply.  We’d have been forced to acknowledge our disbelief, our wavering faith, and walked away defeated.

Not this man!  He made a declaration of faith “Lord, I do believe!”, followed by an honest and vulnerable plea for “help me overcome my unbelief!”

This is a man who could’ve succumbed to his circumstances, could’ve retreated and given up when faced with the reality of his quivery faith.  Instead he stood fast.  He allowed nothing to cause him to doubt who Jesus was, or what He was capable of doing.  While he might doubt the impossible would happen, he did not doubt Jesus’ ability to do it!

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There’s an exchange from Cinderella always speaks to me. Not about faith in a “fairy godmother” obviously, but about my faith in my Heavenly Father.

Cinderella was seemingly a hopeless case.  When she was discouraged because she couldn’t attend the ball, her friends came through and helped.  Then her step-sisters got involved and all hope seemed lost again.  Cinderella found herself feeling hopeless.  She was in complete despair and felt nothing would ever change.

Cinderella: It’s just no use. No use at all. I can’t believe. Not anymore. There’s nothing left to believe in. Nothing.
Fairy Godmother: Nothing, my dear? Oh, now you don’t really mean that.
Cinderella: Oh, but I do…
Fairy Godmother: Nonsense, child. If you’d lost all your faith, I couldn’t be here. And here I am…even miracles take a little time.

As a daughter of the King of Kings, God wants to write your “Cinderella Story”.  He wants to use impossible circumstances to fulfill the dreams, plans, and goals He has for your life…beyond your wildest imaginations and greatest dreams!

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When you feel you’ve lost all hope and you’re struggling with faith to believe,  He is there beside you saying, “nonsense, child.  Here I am.  And remember, I AM the I AM.”

For some of us, it’s time to believe in the impossible again!  We need to rise above our circumstances, look past the present, and believe in an impossible miracle.

We need to make the same declaration as the father in Mark 9:24 “I DO believe; but help me overcome my unbelief!”

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Fully Empty

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I remember it well, driving home from work on a busy Indianapolis interstate with my 3 and 4 year olds in the backseat. My fuel light was on, but it was cold…the kind of bone-chilling, nostril-sticking, bitter cold of an Indianapolis winter. Ten miles to go and we’ll be home. Then it happened…on the inside lane of I-465, driving 70 MPH, the minivan spits and sputters, gas pedal fails to work. I managed to get the van to the inside shoulder, and there we sat. We sat for over an hour, in the bitter cold, with no blankets and no food.

Something was desperately wrong with my car, and I began to think of the vast array of mechanical problems that could be plaguing my minivan. In reality, I knew the source of the problem. I had refused to acknowledge the gas gauge was registering “low”, but it didn’t make the emptiness go away. EMPTY. How often we do this in life! “Let them no longer fool themselves by trusting in empty riches,for emptiness will be their only reward.” Job 15:31 NLT

We were created to need…to CRAVE…a realtionship with our Heavenly Father. We have a ‘void’ within us that He was meant to fill. But how often do we truly allow Him to fill that void? Often, I find myself trying to fill the void with a late-night bowl of cereal, a shopping trip, a dream of a new home or job, a new hairstyle, or a clean car & house. Those might sound silly, but those are my things. The things I seem to “crave”, which satisfy me until the newness wears off, then I’m on to the next “thing”.

So often I find myself dissatisfied with the life God has so wonderfully blessed me with. I become complacent with it all. Like the children of Israel, I look around or look back, but refuse to be satisfied with what God is currently blessing me with. Manna from heaven, day after day after day? It’s boring. I long for something more satisfying, more exciting, more stimulating.

Then it happens. My faith gauge begins to fall. While I see my faith gauge registering on “low”, I refuse to acknowledge it. My attitude turns from gratitude to “spitting & sputtering”. Eventually the gas pedal (my motivation & enthusiasm for life) fails me. Slowing to a crawl, I manage to pull myself to the “shoulder” of life. No longer part of the stream of traffic. Flashing my lights vigorously, begging for someone to come to my rescue. For someone to bring me a little fuel to get me going a few more miles, a few more days. For someone to bring me a blanket to warm my bitterly cold heart.

The whole time, the Lord is waiting with an unlimited fuel supply. Strength to fuel me when I’m weak, joy to fuel me when I’m disheartened, love to fuel me when I’m persecuted, and fuel to satisfy my wandering heart and restless soul. Much like that cold winter day, the solution just seems too simple. There HAS to be something mechanically wrong, something mentally/emotionally/physically wrong to cause these feelings. But as I sit on the “shoulder” of life, shivering with fear, suffering with a cold heart, spitting & sputtering about every little problem that is plaguing my life, nothing is getting fixed. It’s only when I acknowledge the source of the problem that it can be resolved.

The source…THE Source. Let us willingly drink from His unending fuel supply and be satisfied. Filled up, complete, whole, content…SATISFIED.