Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Get Over It!

Get over it.  I despise that phrase.  Just typing it makes my red hair stand on end.  Though, to be honest, I don't think it's the phrase that bothers me as much as the attitude with which it is usually uttered.  I can't tell you how many times I've poured out my heart about an issue that was a heavy burden to me only to have some insensitive soul state, "Well, you need to just get over it."  Seriously?  That's the best advice or comfort they could offer?  No, what it says to me is "I don't have time to deal with your issue, and I don't really care enough to even pretend like I care."  Perhaps that is not what the person means, but it sure does come across that way to me.

However, as I listened to my pastor's sermon on Sunday night, I realized that there is actually some sound advice in that seemingly careless statement.  Isaiah 40:31 says, But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Notice that phrase, "mount up with wings as eagles."  The eagle soars high above the ground, over the valleys and mountains alike, just as God wants us to do.  He doesn't want us to be trapped beneath the weight of our burdens, but rather He wants us to soar above them.  From there, not only is our load lightened, but we also gain a different (and better) perspective on our situation.

Get over it.  Get above it.  Don't let the circumstances weigh us down to the point that we can't even look up.  Rise above them.

As my pastor pointed out, there is an odd placement of phrases in this verse.  It speaks first of flying, then running, and lastly walking when human logic would argue that one must walk before he can run and run before he can fly.  That's an interesting point, but even more intriguing to me is that the strength to mount up with wings as eagles only comes after we wait, but doesn't it take strength to wait on the Lord in the first place?  It feels like being caught up in a Catch 22.  You have to wait to have strength, but you need to have strength to wait.  So, how are we supposed to find the strength to rise above our problems if the strength isn't there to begin with?  Fortunately, the Bible covers that as well.

In Exodus 19, God is speaking to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai and reminding them of how He had brought them safely up out of their Egyptian bondage.  Notice what He says in verse 4: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.  Did you see it?  God said, "I bore you on eagles' wings," not "you lifted yourself up on eagles' wings."  When Moses arrived on the scene to lead God's people out of Egypt, he found a nation who was tired, weary and discouraged.  They had no hope, no faith and no strength.  They couldn't free themselves, and they knew it.  As downhearted as they were with their complicated lives, they couldn't find the strength to rise above their circumstances.  They couldn't "get over it."  So God lifted them up and above their circumstances.  He bore them on eagles' wings when they didn't have the strength to mount up as eagles themselves.

And God will do the same for us if we'll allow Him.  Will the troubles vanish?  Not likely.  Will everything work out the way we want?  Probably not.  But God is in control, and He will ensure that everything works out as it should.  If we will surrender the situation to Him and trust Him to do what's best, we'll find ourselves rising above our circumstances.  And take it from a seasoned hiker, the view always looks better from the top!

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Half Truth Is a Whole Lie

I've been busy working on book four in the Delaware Detectives Mystery Series, and I finally finished the rough draft.  As I typically do in these middle-grade novels, I wove a thread of moral lessons throughout the book, helping children to see that God's ways are always best.  Today, I'd like to share with you one of those lessons by quoting a portion of the new book.  Yes, I realize that you are adults and not children, but I know quite a few adults who have trouble with this particular nasty habit.  Either way, it's a good reminder for all of us.

Before Mr. Reed could respond, we explained to him about our spy mission from the night before. We gave him every detail about what we had heard and seen outside of Oldie’s Antiques. In our excitement, the four of us talked over one another as we all tried to fill in bits and pieces of the story. When we finished, I stared at Mr. Reed, certain that he would be thrilled with our findings, but instead, the look on his face was one of disapproval. 

“Your grandfather and your parents gave you permission to go on such a spy mission alone?” 

I grimaced. “Not exactly, but we did have permission to be out that late at night.” 

Mr. Reed folded his arms across his chest and tilted his head to one side. “And how is that exactly? What reason could you kids possibly have to be out that late at night?” 

Before I could answer, Jamie spoke up. “Well, you see, the library was having a movie night, so we told Pop-Pop and Mrs. Hicks that that’s where we were going.” 

“You mean you lied?” Mr. Reed asked. 

I shifted my weight from one foot to another, suddenly uneasy with the direction the conversation had turned. As I was trying to come up with something to say, Scott, who was also swaying on his feet, decided to speak up. 

“We didn’t exactly lie. We did go to the movie night at the library. We just left after it started, but we were there for some of it. So, it wasn’t really a lie. We went where we said we were going to go.” 

I shook my head, knowing this was not going to end well. 

Mr. Reed uncrossed his arms and laid his hands, palm down, on the counter, leaning forward to the point where his face was only inches from ours. “Oh, I see. So, because part of your story was true, it doesn’t matter that you left out the rest of it?” 

Scott didn’t answer, and it was clear to me he was regretting speaking up in the first place. The four of us stood quietly, waiting to hear what Mr. Reed would say next. 

The store owner shook his head. “What you kids did was very dangerous, but more than that, it was wrong. I don’t care how you look at it or how much you sugarcoat it, when you don’t tell the whole truth, it’s still a lie. It doesn’t matter if you tell half the truth or even most of the truth, if you leave out any part of it, it’s a lie, and I think, deep down you kids know that. If you didn’t, you would be defending yourselves right now instead of standing there in shame. You owe your grandfather and your parents an apology and an explanation of what you were really doing last night. It’s up to them how they want to proceed from there, but I don’t mind telling you that I’m disappointed. I expected more from you.” 

Tears sprang to my eyes. I don’t know what was worse: Mr. Reed’s lecture or the fact that he was disappointed in us. Over the past few weeks, we’d grown to really like and respect the elderly man. To know that he thought less of us at this point was truly heartbreaking. But he was right. We did know better. At least, I did. I understand—and have understood for a while no—that telling a half-truth is the same as telling a whole lie. But I knew that Pop-Pop would have never let us go if I told him the truth, so I convinced myself that it was worth a little lie to get what I wanted. But now, I realize that I was lying to myself as much as I was lying to Pop-Pop. Lying is never worth it, and it only brings trouble.

As Abby and her detective team discovered, lying can take many forms, and if we are ever leaving out certain details of the truth, we're telling a lie.  The kids omitted parts of the truth because they knew that their guardians would never agree to their dangerous plans, so rather than risk them saying "no," the kids simply left out some of the facts.  They tried to justify the deception by saying that most of their story was true, but as Abby finally realized, they were lying to themselves as much as to anyone else.  And, as the Bible says, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)  They knew to tell the whole truth, but they didn't, so it was a sin.  Plain and simple.

May we not be guilty of the same!

***Special Note:  I am currently putting together the launch team for I Once Was Lost:  A Delaware Detectives Mystery.  If you would be interested in receiving an advance copy of the book, offering valuable feedback on cover design and such, winning valuable prizes, having your name listed in the book and more, please visit the sign-up page here: http://ddmystery4.weebly.com  Enrollment ends on January 27th.***

Friday, January 20, 2017

Revisiting Bad Habits

Yesterday was such a gorgeous day that I couldn't resist the urge to do some of my work outside.  With notebook and pen in hand, I set up my outdoor chair in the sunshine and sat down to do some serious writing.

The work session would have been more successful, I dare say, if Mitch had not decided that he wanted to be a clown.  Excited to be outside in the beautiful weather, he ran and jumped and danced and, of course, rolled over and over again in the dirt.  Mitchell is all boy!

After one of his rounds of "dirty dancing," he walked over to me, presumably to show me how filthy he was.  Needless to say, I was not amused.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I was actually quite amused at his antics, but I wasn't pleased with the amount of grass and leaves he had managed to acquire in his coat.

Setting my work aside, I rubbed my hands repeatedly down his back and sides, ridding him of as much of the loose debris as I could.  Then I grabbed his face in my hands, placed a kiss on top of his head and told him to go play so I could finish my work.  Evidently, we have different definitions of the phrase "go play," for as soon as I issued the command, he dropped down on the ground and proceeded to roll around in the dirt again.  Then, just as quickly, he jumped up and ran in the house before I could stop him.  Guess what I found all over the couch when I finally decided to go inside!  Rotten dog!!!

But truth be told, I don't have any room to talk because I've been known to do the same thing.  Not roll in the dirt--yuck!  But return to my dirty habits.  How many times have I run to Jesus, ashamed of something I'd done, only to have Him wipe me clean and send me back on my way?  And how many times does my way lead me right back into the very thing that brought me trouble to begin with?  Let's face it, some habits are really hard to break.

Take, for instance, the habit/sin of worry.  I know it's wrong.  I don't want to do it.  I don't even mean to do it.  But, just like Mitch, no sooner have I been cleansed of my lapse in trust than I return to the same old ways.  Fretting over the bills.  Fearful whether or not Jason will have work tomorrow.  Wondering if my health will ever improve.  Anxious over every decision.  It's enough to make the Charlie Brown in me shout, "Good grief!"

But this post is not intended to make you feel guilty or ashamed.  If you're anything like me, you're already there.  Instead, I believe we could all use a blessed reminder of how God handles our relapses.  Is He pleased with our behavior?  No, just as I wasn't pleased with Mitch's return to the dirt pile.  But do you know how I handled Mitch's second round of "dirty dancing"?  I went in the house, brushed him down (again) and cleaned up the mess He had made on the floor. . .and the blanket. . .and the couch.  I didn't fuss.  I didn't give him the silent treatment or explode in anger.  I loved him in spite of his wrongdoing and cleaned up both him and the mess he made.

Now, I cannot assure you that God will always clean up our messes.  Sin has consequences, and often we're left to face them.  However, despite what we've done, God's love for us never falters, and He longs to clean us up and set us back on the right path.  Knowing this doesn't give us a license to sin, mind you, but rather it helps us to understand how much our Father loves us and how far He's willing to go to help us succeed.  I don't know about you, but that makes me want to try that much harder to please Him.

Now, if you'll excuse me, another beautiful day is beckoning me, and I fancy a walk with my Lord.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - I John 1:9

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What's With All the Detours? - Repost

Yesterday morning, I left the house early in hopes of getting my errands done before lunch and, with that done, to be able to go about the rest of my day.  As I typically do, I decided to take the back roads to avoid traffic.  (I don't know about you, but traffic does not bring out the best in me.) Sadly, within two minutes of my drive, I came upon a road sign saying that the road ahead was closed at the railroad tracks.  With no place to turn around, I thought, Okay, no big deal.  I'll turn at the road just before the tracks and head down the road where it actually goes underneath the tracks.  Problem solved.  Never, ever say or think that!

I took the road under the tracks which brought me out right in front of the street I wanted to go down.  Guess what?  Yep, another sign.  It would seem that the road ahead was closed at that set of tracks as well.  Good grief!  No problem.  I would simply go down to the next road and turn there.  That worked until I arrived at the next intersection where I encountered another detour/road closed sign.  "You've got to be kidding me!"  I exclaimed in aggravation.  To be honest, I was running out of ideas of how to get to my desired destination and was seriously contemplating turning around and going home.  This was just too much work!

After a few more turns, twists and recalculations, I finally arrived at my first destination.  To say I was frazzled would be an understatement.  I finished my errands as quickly as possible, then sat in the car for a moment to see if I could remember which route I took so that I could get home without all the extra twists and turns.  With my plan in place, I headed toward home and was actually in my neighborhood when I spotted it. . .well, actually, I should say them.  At first, I noticed the ambulance and police car, but they were both pulled over to the side of the road, so I figured I could just go around them.  But as I swerved a little to see around, I noticed another stupid, orange road sign, this one bearing the words, "Road Closed Ahead."  That did it!  The camel's back was broken, and this little, fiery redhead was indeed fiery.  After another unscheduled detour, I finally arrived safe and sound at my beloved home.  And might I say, I haven't left the house since then!!!!

Doesn't life sometimes seem to treat us the same way?  We set off for an intended destination.  We have a plan.  We have the right motives.  We're doing a good thing.  Then, out of nowhere, we see the sign, "Road Closed.  Detour Ahead."  At first, it's an annoyance, but not much else.  We cope.  We work around it.  We find another way to reach our desired end.  But then, there's another detour and another one and another one.  Pretty soon, we find ourselves sitting on the floor and wondering if we'll ever reach our destination or if we really even want to anymore.

Let's face it, life can be quite frustrating from time to time.  When things are humming along smoothly, we're good, but when life starts throwing those detours in our paths, we're anything but good.  We're aggravated.  We're confused.  We're discouraged.  And we find ourselves wondering if it's really worth it.  May I offer you three suggestions?

1) Pray. -- It could be that God is placing the detours in our lives to set us on a different path. If we're encountering detour after detour, our first order of business ought to be to seek the Lord's will and direction for our lives.  Before we do anything else, we need to know if these detours are new directions for our lives.  If they are, then God will reveal what changes He wants us to make.  If they are not "signs from God," continue on to #2.

2) Don't give up. -- Yesterday, I was tempted to forget about the errands and go home.  My frustration got the best of me and encouraged me to quit.  But if we quit every time we come across a stumbling block, we'll never reach our spiritual "pot of gold."  God has great plans for each of us, but we'll never see those plans realized if we give up at every turn.  Keep going.

3) Encourage yourself in the Lord. -- Yes, road closures and detours are a huge pain in the. . . well, you know.  However, the primary purpose for such things is so that improvements can be made.  The multiple road closures I faced yesterday were the result of repairs on the railroad tracks.  The tracks were being made better, safer and more functional.  So while, yes, detours are a hassle, aren't you glad that someone is looking out for your well-being by ensuring that the roads and railroad tracks are safe?  God is doing the same thing.  If He is allowing roadblocks in our lives, it could be that He is working to improve a particular area of our lives that needs some work.  Instead of complaining about the inconvenience, we ought to be thankful that God loves us enough to help us be the very best that we can be.

What roadblocks are you facing today?

Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. - Psalm 143:10

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where Do You Go?

Once in a while, everyone needs an escape from the nasty now-and-now.  Let's face it, when the Bible says, Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble (Job 14:1), it isn't kidding.  Life is hard.  It seems that we get bounced from one problem to another, and sometimes, it's easy to get weary in well-doing.

That's when it's nice to be able to get away for a day of rest and relaxation.  Some fun in the sun.  A hike through nature.  A day inside buried in a favorite book or playing your favorite video game.  Yes, if we're honest, I think we'd all admit to the need to escape "real life" every now and then.

However, escape can become a problem.  While it's normal and even healthy to enjoy the occasional retreat from life's demands and difficulties, it is both abnormal and unhealthy to constantly be seeking an escape.  It is possible to get to the point where we find life so tedious and discouraging that we spend more time escaping life than we do living it.  But what's even worse is that we can become so used to avoiding life that it becomes our default setting to dealing with our struggles.  Instead of running to the Lord, we run away.  Away from Him.  Away from life's demands.  Away from family obligations.  Away to our chosen place (or places) of escape.

Again, I am not bashing downtime.  There's nothing wrong with watching television, reading a book, playing a video game, indulging in a hobby or any other healthy habit that reduces stress and makes us happy.  But we must be careful not to allow those things to take the place of God.  He is our Comforter.  He is our Joy.  He is the Problem Solver.  When life gets us down, rather than running away to our escape zones, we need to run to Jesus.  Only He can settle our hearts and nurture our souls.  The other things may offer temporary relief, but only Jesus can give us lasting help and hope.

I know life can be trying, and sometimes you may feel like you just have to get away.  I understand.  I really do.  But before you fly off to points unknown, please take a few minutes to give the problem to Jesus.  Invite Him to be the Solution.  Who knows?  Maybe after spending a little time with Him, you'll find that you can enjoy your favorite activities just for the joy of doing them and not for the need of escape.

Jesus has the answer.  He is the answer!   Don't run away from Him.  He wants to help you today.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. - Psalm 55:22