Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another One of Those Days

Have you ever noticed that the times you need things to run smoothly are the exact times that things seem to just fall apart?  You know, like you're already running late for work, then you spill your coffee all down your shirt.  After changing tops, you run to the car, only to be stopped in a traffic jam the size of the Great Wall of China.  Frustrating, isn't it?  Well, today has certainly been one of those days.

After taking my morning walk (which I cut short due to the many demands on my plate today), I sat down and made a list of all the things I needed to accomplish before we left for our trip on Wednesday.  To be honest, the size of the list made me a little queasy.  Still, I soldiered on.  God was on my side.  I was in a positive mood.  I had gotten a good night's sleep.  I knew it could be done. . . until. . .

The first sign of trouble was when I booted up my computer and noticed that it had a virus. . .AGAIN!!!  I have cleaned up this exact same virus three times now, but evidently, I'm missing some little piece of it that keeps mutating into its full ugly form every time I shut down my computer.  Grrr!  After cleaning up the problem once again, I rebooted my computer and went to switch out the laundry.  Imagine my frustration when I noticed the wet floor seeping from underneath the dryer.  Wonderful!  The washer was leaking somewhere, and I still had two loads of laundry to do.

I have to be honest with you, at this point I was tempted to drown my sorrows in chocolate and go back to bed.  There was too much work to be done to have to deal with all these problems.  I didn't have the time, the energy or the state of mind to fight these battles.  And so, through my tears of frustration, I did the only thing I knew to do.  I turned my eyes heavenward and cried, "Lord, a little help please!"

And do you know what?  I got it.  No, the virus didn't fix itself and neither did the washing machine.  But as I sought the Lord, He whispered sweet peace to my soul and reminded me that while my problems seemed overwhelming to me, they were nothing that He couldn't handle.  In those quiet moments, He helped me to remember that He has never failed me and that He had everything under control.  And most importantly, He made me aware of His presence.  Right there, in the midst of my feisty computer and leaky washer, God was holding my hand and whispering in my ear, "It's okay, child.  I'm here.  I'll give you the strength and energy and state of mind you need to get through this.  Just hold on to me because I'm already holding on to you."

I can't tell you that the computer and washing machine are now fixed, but I can attest to the fact that my attitude is, and that makes a big difference.  I am no longer facing the day with dread and a sense of being overwhelmed.  Instead, I'm looking at my list with the certainty that there's nothing on it that my God can't handle.

How's your list looking today?  Are you feeling overwhelmed by demands and frustrations beyond your control?  If so, I urge you to do what I did.  Seek God.  Ask for His help.  Then be willing to accept the help in whatever form it may come.  God has it under control, and I guarantee you, there's nothing on your list that He can't handle.

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: Is there any thing too hard for me? - Jeremiah 32:27

Monday, October 27, 2014

Disaster on the River by Cheryl Rogers

Chet has to know. If he’s going to take his third trip into the Florida backwoods with a group of preteens and teens, he has to hear from God. On the first trip, 13-year-old Zack went missing in the middle of the night. Then a hurricane headed their way! On the second trip, two boys left the trail to explore – even though they knew very well what happened to Zack. Then a forest fire struck!

Chet’s a city boy. While he is no longer a newbie at camping, he wants to be absolutely sure it is God’s will for him to return to the backwoods for his most ambitious adventure: A two-night canoe trip.  One of the members of his youth group, Jeff, loves canoeing and has been begging for the group to go. Chet’s lined up a canoeing lesson from a wilderness expert. Now he needs to know if you want to join them (virtually, of course).

We talked with the fictitious youth leader Chet about his wilderness Bible Camps -- and what he has lined up for the next trip.

Q. Are the boys from church eager to return to the backwoods for another retreat, Chet?
A. I have a core group that’s very interested in these wilderness retreats. Zack. Jeff. They always rope in Chang, although I suspect he’d rather have a video party. Then there are the younger boys, Alfonso and Sammy. They are ready. The parents, however, have been somewhat of a challenge. No one wants his boy to go missing like Zack did on the first trip. They need to be convinced. I need to take as many precautions as is humanly possible. And I need to be sure to seek God, to be sure I am in his will. That’s why I’m reaching out, to ascertain the interest in what I’m doing.

Q. What’s the idea behind the Bible Camps?
A. Camping is an integral part of growing up for some kids. They love it. And it gives me an opportunity to teach them about God, amidst his creation, and encourage them to surrender their lives to him.

Q. Spiritually speaking, it seems your Bible Camps have had an astounding amount of success. Can you tell us what God has done?
A. I am always glad to give glory to God. I owe him everything. He picked me up out of a New York gang and turned me into a youth fellowship leader. There was a time when I never thought people would trust me with their kids, at all. Now, I’m wondering if they’ll trust me with their kid in the backwoods. God is so good.

Well, the first year, Zack had a beautiful encounter with God’s love and mercy when he ignored instructions, and wandered off in the middle of the night from camp. It was a traumatic experience, I am sure, and Zack sought God like he was taught to do. In his desperation, he surrendered his life to God, and was born again in the Spirit. This was a major breakthrough, not only for Zack, but for the group. Zack began praying for others and sharing God’s love with them.

Then, the second year, God demonstrated his ability to heal through a woman named Sandy.  The boys found her camping far off the beaten trail to avoid electricity.  She was born again, and healed. The boys got to pray for her and witness her miraculous recovery from an incurable disease, Environmental Illness. I expect to see great things happen this year – if God does indeed want us to return to the backwoods.

Q. Tell us how you prepare for these trips.
A. Well, a lot goes into them, actually. It’s easier, in some ways, to plan because we’ve been there before. But we still need to recruit and sign up the boys, get the permission slips signed, collect the money, buy/rent supplies, train them in outdoor skills, and pray. I learned with the first trip you can never pray too much.

Q. What about canoeing? Why canoeing this trip? Is the group ready to boat with alligators on the Crooked River?
A. I don’t think I could ever personally be ready for that. Children are bait for alligators. Our core group of boys, however, are not little anymore. If they were, I wouldn’t go.  I would never do anything to jeopardize their welfare. The experts from Florida tell me alligators are no problem. We just need to stay clear of them and they will stay clear of us.

Because I don’t believe an overnight canoe trip is advisable for inexperienced canoers -- including myself, by the way -- I have planned for a canoe lesson prior to the trip. That way everyone who wants to accompany us can have some real canoe experience beforehand. We also will have our canoeing instructor, a wilderness expert, accompany us on the trip.

Q. It sounds like you are well prepared. What should our readers who want to accompany you on the trip know?
A.  Get ready for an adventure! We want everyone to have a great time. Every one of the male characters in the book will have a canoeing buddy, and they’ll be plenty of time to chat and visit, swim in the river, cook over a wood fire, sing and praise God. As readers, and virtual participants, they’re along for the ride – without actually facing the mosquitoes and bugs, or whatever else we encounter.

Q. Why should they sign up for this retreat?
A. Every one who signs up will be among the very first to read the third Bible Camp Mystery, and they’ll get a free e-copy.  The 50th person to sign up will receive an autographed copy of the upcoming trilogy: The first three Bible Camp mysteries, slated for released in print sometime next year.

Q. Where can people learn more about the Bible Camp Mystery series?
A. Hop over to www.newchristianbooksonlinemagazine.com, which features some exclusive interviews from some of the series’ characters. The magazine is published by Bible Camp Mystery author, Cheryl Rogers.

Q. How do readers sign up?
A. If they’re ready to sign up for my third expedition into the backwoods, they should visit www.newchristianbooksonlinemagazine.com/signup-for-virtual-bible-camp/  Registrants receive a free copy of Disaster on the River, scheduled for release this November. Remember, you’re not obligating yourself to actually face snakes, alligators, or summer rainstorms in the Central Florida backwoods ... but, you’ll enter their world through the book. Hope you can join us!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Keeping Bad Company

And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;  But sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the Lord stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance. (II Chronicles 17:3-5)

 Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab. (II Chronicles 18:1)

To the casual reader, these passages don't appear to be talking about the same man, but they are.  Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah, and unlike so many that ruled before him, he decided to follow the will of God.  From what the Bible tells us, he was a good man, so why in the world was he hooking up with the most wicked king that Israel had ever known?  It makes no sense.  Ahab was the exact opposite of Jehoshaphat.  He spit upon the very principles that the king of Judah stood for.  They had nothing in common except for their kingship.  So, why join forces?  Was it a lack of faith on Jehoshaphat's part?  Did he feel that there was strength in numbers?  Did he fear attack from Ahab?  I don't know, but I know that God wasn't happy about it.

And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord. (II Chronicles 19:1-2)

God has the same question for the king of Judah that I have--"What were you thinking?"  God knew Ahab's heart and the hatred he had for the Lord.  Obviously, He was not pleased about Jehoshaphat playing nice with Ahab.  They weren't supposed to be on the same side, and God made sure that Jehoshaphat knew that.

Before we get too hard on Jehoshaphat, though, we would do well to take a look at the company we've been keeping.  Those thoughts, habits and activities that keep us company throughout the day.  Are they pleasing to God, or are they the exact opposite of the things we should be doing or thinking?  Do they bring honor to God or pleasure to self?  Do they fuel our faith or our fear?  What kind of things are we playing nice to throughout the day?  I'm afraid that if we'll look deep enough, we'll discover that Jehoshaphat wasn't the only one keeping bad company.  

Let's be careful about who and what we invite into our lives.  Jehoshaphat encountered the wrath of God for his misjudgment.  We don't want to encounter the same, do we?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Cart, A Cart, My Kingdom for a Cart!

Today I had to pick up some supplies for a wedding with which I'm helping.  The trip was supposed to be relatively simple.  Pick up the wooden bases for the lanterns and some small flameless candles. . . and possibly some ribbon. . .and maybe some floral supplies if they were on sale. . . and. . . and.  As I entered the store, I had it in my mind that I only needed a couple of things, so I bypassed the shopping carts.  After all, I didn't need one for the few things I was picking up.

Unfortunately, a few minutes later, I was standing in the ribbon aisle with a box of candles under one arm, four lantern bases under the other, along with some rolls of burlap.  On each finger I was wearing a roll of ribbon, some sapphire, other emerald.  Knowing that I had better check out or get a cart, I decided to head to the register, but as I did, I noticed some raffia at a good price and remembered that I needed that as well.  I eyed the raffia and then the collection of stuff in my arms and wondered if there was any possible way to add the new item to my current load.  Thankfully, after shuffling some things around, I was able to grab the raffia, after which, I hurriedly made my way to the register before I dropped everything.

Naturally, the line was four customers deep. As I stood there, trying to wait patiently, I felt the ribbon shift.  I readjusted in an effort to secure the falling item, but in the process, I ended up with the sharp edge of the wooden bases cutting into my forearm.  I dared not shift again lest it all come tumbling down.  Finally, another register opened up, and I rushed over and dropped everything onto the counter.  My hands were cramped.  My arms had indentations all over them.  And as I exited the store, I eyed the shopping cart and wondered, Why didn't I just get a cart?  Even if I had only ended up with a few items, this entire experience would have been much more delightful.

You know, I often have the same thought in life.  I march along in my own strength thinking, I can handle this.  It's not that much.  But before I realize it, my arms are full and my strength is gone.  I find myself precariously trying to balance everything lest I drop it all.  I take on too much, and then I pay the price.

And all the while God, just like the shopping cart, is standing by, offering help to carry the heavy load.  His hands don't get tired, and they're big enough to carry whatever I need.  He doesn't get overwhelmed by the weight of the burden or bogged down by the immensity of the task.  He's there.  He's available.  All I need to do is ask, yet I find myself doing the very same thing I did with the shopping cart this morning.  I don't know if it's pride or stubbornness or what, but you would think I would know this by now.  God desires to help me.  In fact, He'll carry the entire load if I'll simply let Him.

So, as I end this post today, I am asking myself, "Why don't I let God carry my load?  Even if I only face small troubles today, the entire experience will be much more delightful."

Are you, too, carrying a heavy load today?  If so, may I urge you to call on the One who can lift any burden and carry any load.  Stop struggling and striving to find that perfect balance.   Give it all to Jesus.  Not only will He carry your burdens, but He will also carry you through those burdens.  He longs to help.  Will you disappoint Him?

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. - I Peter 5:6-7