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Friday, May 24, 2013

Forget the Dropper

I have fallen in love with essential oils.  Who knew that these simple elements could be useful in so many ways?  I make cleaners with them.  I wash clothes with them.  I produce my own specialized insect repellant with them.  They're just great!  And the more I learn about them, the more fascinated I become with them.

One of the things that bothers me, however, is the means of applying some of these oils.  Since essential oils are extremely potent, a little goes a LONG way.  For that reason, most of the bottles of essential oils are fitted with a dropper system.  Basically, you turn the bottle on the proper angle and in the proper direction, and the oil drops out one little drop at a time, ensuring you get the proper amount.

For my insect repellant, I use a 32-ounce bottle, which means I use 30 drops of each of the six essential oils in its preparation.  Some of the dropper systems work great, and I can get my 30 drops out in no time.  Others don't work so well, and I find myself shaking the bottle fiercely in an attempt to get the oil to come out.  This can cause a simple, five-minute task to become ten minutes of tedious bottle-shaking and name calling.  In many ways, I prefer the bigger bottles that don't have a dropper.  While portion control is much more difficult, getting the oil to come out is a lot easier.

Aren't you glad that when God pours out His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, He doesn't use a dropper?  Instead, He uses a bucket.  He doesn't sprinkle us.  He drenches us.  Abiding under the shelter of His wings is like standing out in a torrential downpour.  We become saturated, not with water, but with all things good that God wants us to have.  Need strength to face the day?  He'll give it.  Need wisdom to say the proper thing at the proper time.  He'll provide it.  Need guidance in making an important decision?  He'll lead the way.

I know there are bottles in Heaven because one of the psalmists recorded that God keeps our tears in a bottle.  Whether or not there are other bottles, who knows?  But I'm inclined to think that, like a medieval apothecary shop, there are shelves lined with bottles.   If we were to examine the bottles, we would see that each one contains a label.  Grace.  Mercy.  Forgiveness.  Strength.  These are just a few.  But upon closer examination, we would also discover that the bottles contain no stoppers or droppers.  They're intended to pour!

Whatever you need today, God has it in abundance, and He is both willing and able to give it to you.  Tell Him what you need.  Ask what you will.  And then get your umbrella.  The downpour is coming!

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. - Ephesians 3:16-21

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Deadly Darts of the Devil: Discouragement

Old Fable:
In the devil's marketplace were found many tools.  Tools such as deceit, lying, jealously, pride, hatred, envy, etc. were all up for sale at discount prices.  However, in the corner of the room, there was another tool, separated from the rest.  It was well-protected and encased in glass as a means of protection from the dust.  Unlike the other tools, its price was high.  This tool was discouragement.  When asked why such a small tool was so highly priced, the devil answered, “It is the most terrific of them all.  It can pry open a heart no matter how shielded.  It gets inside a heart when I cannot.  Adultery, idolatry, hatred, etc. have my labels placed upon them, and so people will know it's coming from me.  But not so with discouragement.  You see how badly worn it is?  Because I use it on almost everyone, and few people know it belongs to me.”


Discouragement can suck the joy right out of life.  It can warp our focus to where all we can see is the negative all around us.  Worst of all, discouragement leads to the desire to give up on everything, including God.  Discouragement argues, “Look, you've tried.  You've done what's right.  You've lived by God's standard.  Now, what has it gotten you?”  And sadly, we listen, and that is where our trouble begins.
To illustrate just how much discouragement can change our outlook, I want to share with you two quotes that I found.  Read them carefully.

Quote #1:
It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels he is worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.

Quote #2:
I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth.  Whether I shall be better I cannot tell.  I actually forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible.  I must die or be better.

Isn't it amazing that two people could have such different views of life?  You want to know what's even more amazing?  The above quotations were both spoken by the same man in different times of his life.  Yes, even Abraham Lincoln knew what it was like to face discouragement. While there is no true “cure” for discouragement, there are some things we can do to keep it at bay.

First of all, we need rest.  Yes, I'm speaking of physical rest.  It is an accepted fact that when our bodies are tired, we are more susceptible to mood changes and stress.  However, as important as that is, it is also important to get our spiritual rest.  Psalm 37:7 says, Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.  To rest in the Lord means to lean on Him, to cast our cares upon Him.  The word “rest” implies peace and comfort.  These can be found by going to God and sharing with Him the source of our discouragement.  Then, lean on His strength to see us through.

Second, we need to reflect.  This takes some practice, but it's worth it.  Reflecting means taking all of our negative thoughts and turning them into positive ones.  Bad circumstance?  Yes, but what good came from it?  Sometimes, we have to look really hard, and when all else fails, reflect on Romans 8:28 that reminds us if good hasn't come out of it yet, it will!

Third, we need to resist the devil who will be shouting at us constantly.  No, it's not an audible voice, but sometimes it feels like he's sitting right on our shoulders, filling our ears with complaints and negative thoughts.  It's easy to listen to him without even realizing we're doing it.  That's why we need to become more aware of his presence.  If the thoughts we're having are negative and leading to discouragement, they're not of God.  II Corinthians 10:5 speaks of bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.  When we resist the devil, that's the first step in getting our thoughts straight.  Once he's no longer shouting in our ears, it's easier to bring those thoughts to where they need to be.

***Excerpt from The Deadly Darts of the Devil by Dana Rongione***

Monday, May 20, 2013

Doorways and Decisions

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. - Acts 16:6-7

No doubt about it, there are a couple of strange phrases in those two verses.  Did you notice them?  "And were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia."  The Holy Spirit forbade preaching?   I was under the impression that preaching was a good thing.  Didn't Christ say, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel"?  As far as I can tell, that's exactly what Paul and his gang were trying to do, but the Holy Spirit wouldn't allow it.

Look at the next one:  "but the Spirit suffered them not."  In Bible times, the word "suffer" meant "allow".  So basically, it's saying that the Spirit wouldn't allow them to go to Bithynia.  But they were going there to preach.  They were trying to win souls for Christ.  They were trying to follow the great command of Christ.  Why wouldn't the Spirit let them do it?

The simple explanation is this:  it wasn't His will.  Yes, God wanted them to preach.  Yes, God wanted them to witness.  Yes, God wanted them to win souls.  He wasn't forbidding their preaching; He was forbidding their direction.  Paul and his gang were trying to head further into Asia, but God had other plans, and those plans involved a man back in Macedonia, several hundred miles in the opposite direction.

Has God ever slammed a door in your face?  It smarts, doesn't it?  We don't like to be told "no."  We pout when we don't get our own way.  After all, we have plans, goals and dreams, right?  But aren't God's plans, goals and dreams for us more important?  Yes, it's disappointing when God closes a door just when we thought things were looking up, but we know it's for our good.  The real question is, how do we respond?  I know how Paul responded.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them - Acts 16:9-10

As soon as Paul got direction from the Lord, he set out.  Notice he didn't argue with the Lord.  He didn't ask for an explanation.  He didn't try to persuade the Lord to change His mind.  He obeyed.  He gathered his things and went in the direction of Macedonia.

Did you notice what else he didn't do?  He didn't stand there staring at the closed door.  Have you ever wondered how much time we waste pursuing things that can never be?  We know God has closed the door, but we can't seem to move away from it.  We just stand there, thinking of other ways to "make it happen."  Or maybe we think if we stand there long enough, God will feel sorry for us and open the door.  Who knows? 

Unfortunately, as long as we're standing there staring at the closed door, we're not doing anything else.  If God has closed the door, it's because He has something else for us to do.  So why aren't we doing it?  It's impossible for us to stand at one door and walk through another one at the same time.  We have to make a choice.  

Paul did.  He obeyed, and the Lord worked mightily through Him.  Don't we want the Lord to work that way in us?  He can, but it's going to require something on our part.  It will require obedience.  It will mean turning away from the closed door and walking toward the open one.  And if there isn't an open one, we're told to keep doing the last thing the Lord told us to do.  When the time is right, He'll open the proper doors.  And we'll be amazed at what's awaiting us on the other side!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Everything Is Going To Be Okay

Tippy, my 13-year-old beagle, is getting whiny in her old age.  She's never liked to be alone.  Wherever the people are, that's where she wants to be.  No matter if that's the kitchen, the bedroom or yes, even the bathroom.  She's not really all that sociable; she just doesn't like to be left alone.

As she's aged, however, she's become less mobile.  Her joints have stiffened.  Her muscles have weakened.  Overall, she just doesn't move as well as she used to.  This has made it particularly difficult for her to get up and down from the couch, and she's never been able to get on the bed by herself.  So when we leave a room, heaven help us all if we don't pick her up (or at least get her down) to go with us. 

Within a few minutes of leaving the room, we'll hear the first whimper.  This is quickly followed by another, a little louder and with a good bit more vehemence.  If that summons doesn't bring us to action soon enough, she'll break out the big guns.  You've never heard whines like the ones that can come from that little dog.  Passersby probably think she's being tortured.  It's downright pitiful.

As soon as one of us comes back to her or simply pokes a head in the room so that she knows we're there, she quiets down.  But as soon as we leave, she starts all over again.  This becomes most trying when I'm fixing dinner.  I prefer her to not be in the kitchen when I'm cooking because she doesn't understand how to stay out of the way, and most of the time, I end up stepping on her at least once during the process (which creates a totally new whine).  But the alternative is to listen to her cry from the living room because she can't see me, and she doesn't want to be alone.

I've found the best solution is to leave her on the couch and then to take breaks from my time in the kitchen.  I'll stop occasionally, go out and sit beside her on the couch.  As I stroke her fur, I try to soothe her with comforting words, usually something along the lines of "It's okay.  I'm right here.  You're not alone.  Everything's gonna be just fine."  After a few minutes, I go back to the kitchen, and when the whining becomes too incessant, I return to her side and offer my soothing words.  It's not the perfect solution, but it generally allows me to finish dinner without too much drama.

As I sat calming her a few days ago, my soothing words echoed in my ears and bounced around my brain.  At that particular moment, I felt like I needed calming more than Tippy did.  I was frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged and downright frazzled.  But worse than that, I felt alone.  Did you know it's possible to feel alone even when you're surrounded by others?  You may not be alone, but you can certainly feel alone.  And I did.

I had spent the past week of trials and turmoil wondering where God had gone.  He was there, and then suddenly, it seemed that He was gone.  I couldn't see Him.  I couldn't hear Him.  I couldn't feel His presence.  And in His absence, I felt so alone.

But as I soothed Tippy, I knew the words were not my own.  I knew they weren't coming from me but rather that they were meant for me.  There and then, God spoke to my heart in His still, small voice,  "It's okay.  I'm right here.  You're not alone.  Everything's gonna be just fine."  And you know what?  He was right.  Did all my trials go away?  No, they're still here.  Did He work a miracle in my life?  Well, sort of.  What He did was remind me that I wasn't alone.  And His presence reinforced what my heart already knew--that He would never leave me.  Not even for a moment.

No matter what you're facing today, Jesus will face it with you.  You're not alone.  You have a Friend.  And He will never, ever leave you.  That's a fact!

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. - Isaiah 41:10

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lead, Guide and Direct

I often hear others pray that the Lord will lead, guide and direct us, and I must admit, I'm a bit baffled by their request.  At least, I was until recently.  In my mind, the words lead, guide and direct all meant the same thing, and, to a degree, they do.  But there are distinct differences, and it is in these differences that we see the various ways God cares for us.

The word "direct" carries with it the thought of someone giving directions, which means that, more than likely, that person will not be accompanying you on the journey.  You are given directions to follow, and it depends on how well you follow those directions (or how well the person was at giving directions) as to whether or not you'll arrive at your destination.

The word "guide" carries with it the thought of a companion who knows the territory and can help you find the path for which you are looking.

While it is true that God does direct and guide us, my favorite part is that He also leads us.  The word "lead" carries with it the idea that someone is walking ahead of you, clearing the path, removing the obstacles and keeping a lookout for impending danger.  When someone "takes the lead", he/she becomes the navigator and the one to test the trail ahead.

I prefer for Jason to take the lead when we go hiking.  For starters, he knows where he's going.  But also, he clears the path for me.  He watches for snakes and other creepy-crawlers that might give me a fright.  He also walks through all the spider webs so that I don't have to.  Yes, I like it when he takes the lead.

But how much more is it a comfort to know that God leads me!  He doesn't just direct me by telling me which way to go.  He doesn't just guide me by walking alongside me.  But he leads me.  He goes before me.  He clears the way.  He prepares the path for my arrival while simultaneously preparing me for the path.  I have no reason to fear the trail ahead because I know that He's already been there.

David understood this truth when he wrote the 23rd Psalm.  "He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness."  And because David knew he was being led, he could say with confidence, "I will fear no evil."

I'm so thankful that the Lord directs and guides me as I travel down life's road, but I cannot tell you the joy that I feel from knowing that He leads me as well.  I know I'm in good hands.  Even if I am a bit navigationally-challenged. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pick and Choose

I was recently reading about the power of asking in faith. The author of the book conveyed the thought that if we ask for something and believe with all our hearts that God will give it to us, we will receive it. Want healing? Just ask and believe, and you'll have it. Need more money? Just ask and believe, and you'll receive it. The author's Biblical proof can be found in the gospels:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. - Matthew 17:20

I'll be the first to admit that I've struggled with these verses. You see, I have asked for things in faith, but God chose not to give me what I asked for. Why? I'm not sure, but I know He had a reason. So, is God a liar? Is the Bible inconsistent? No, not at all.

While the Bible does point out the importance of having faith, it also tells us that God does not always give us what we want. Look at these verses for example:

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. - James 4:3

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. - II Corinthians 12:7-10

It's so easy to pick and choose a couple of verses and then claim we know what the Bible says about a certain topic, but we must be very careful. Sometimes we know just enough of the Scriptures to get ourselves into trouble. That's why it's so important to know God's Word inside and out and to compare Scripture with Scripture.

Just to make sure we're all clear on this, I believe that God wants us to live our lives in faith and that He will reward us for that faith. I also believe that God can do anything. Whether He will do something or not is completely up to Him. He is in control, and I have faith that He will do what is best. God will provide for me in His way and in His time. I can't ask for any more than that!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lord, Help Me Remember

When the way is dark and cold and I feel so lost and alone,
Lord, help me remember.

When I feel like no one cares and that my burdens are too heavy to bear,
Lord, help me remember.

When the skies are pouring rain and all I want to do is complain,
Lord, help me remember.

When the steps are hard to take and I think my heart might break,
Lord, help me remember.

When the mountains seem so steep and my faith is growing weak,
Lord, help me remember.

When I feel I can't go on and my strength is almost gone,
Lord, help me remember.

Lord, help me remember what you've done in the past,
How mighty You are, the First and the Last;
The water's You've parted, the needs You have met,
The promises made and the promises kept.

Lord, help me remember the strength of Your love
And how You're always watching from Your throne up above,
Remind me of the blessings You've bestowed in my life
When I was so wrong and You were so right.

Lord, help me remember that night brings a song
Even when the darkness seems to last far too long.
Remind me of Your presence day after day
And of Your constant Light that faithfully guides my way.

Lord, help me remember to give thanks to you
Whether the skies be gray or whether they be blue.
Let me always be mindful that You're in control.
I love you, dear Lord, will all my heart and my soul!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: - Psalm 103:2

Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; - Psalm 105:4-5

Friday, May 10, 2013

I'm Late, I'm Late for a Very Important Date!

One of my favorite Southern Gospel groups is going to be at a church in Greenville tonight.  That, in itself, is legendary.  Not many groups get to this area.  But add to that the fact that Jason doesn't have to work and we have no other obligations, it's downright astounding.  We knew the event was coming.  We've had it on the calendar for months.  We've talked about it and made plans.  The only thing left to do was to get information on ticket prices.

Last week, I attempted to do that very thing.  I pulled up the church's website to find out the information we required.  But something was wrong with the website, and each time I clicked on a tab, I was taken to an error page.  "Oh well," I proclaimed after several attempts.  "I guess I'll just call them tomorrow."

As usual, tomorrow came and went, and in the busyness of my schedule, I forgot to call until earlier this week.  I looked up the number, placed the call and spoke to a very kind lady who informed me that the tickets were free.  I was ecstatic. . . temporarily.  On the heels of her exciting announcement, she informed me that, because of safety codes, the Fire Marshal had set a limit on how many tickets they could give away.  Unfortunately, they reached that limit over a week ago.

"Is there any way to get it?" I pleaded.

"I'm sorry," she replied.  "Not without a ticket."

I was nearly in tears as I hung up the phone.  How was I going to tell Jason?  He was really looking forward to this concert.  After the past few weeks we've had, we NEEDED this concert.  I was disappointed beyond belief.  Everything had been set.  Everything had seemed to be falling into place.  Yet, because we waited too long to contact the church, we'll be spending our evening in an entirely different way.  One week too late!  Just one measly week!

As I mourned and moped about our "bad luck" this morning, an important thought struck me.  A lot of people are going to miss out on an event much more important than tonight's concert, and they're going to miss it for the same reason--they're going to wait too long to make the call.

We know we're living in the last days.  The signs are all around us.  It won't be long before Jesus comes back to take His children home.  But how many will be left behind?  How many will remain because they put off salvation until it's too late?  One hour too late?  One day too late?  One week too late?  It doesn't matter.  Too late is too late!

Unlike the church that is hosting the concert tonight, Heaven has no spacing limits.  There are no safety protocols or Fire Marshal mandates.  There is, however, a timeline.  God's timeline.  And no man can change it.  Not only that, but no man is privy to it.  It is a mystery to all but God.  But when He says it's time, there will be no delay.  Jesus will come, and we'll rise up to meet Him in the air.  By "we", I mean those of us who have made the decision to accept Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and make Him Lord of our lives.

If you haven't made that decision, if you're still living your life by your rules and according to your standards, I beg of you to stop putting off the decision that will determine your eternity.  Don't wait another minute to make Jesus your Lord.  He has paid the price for your sin.  All you have to do is accept that payment and surrender your life to His will.  Don't wait.  I assure you, you don't want to hear the words, "Too late."

There's room for you.  There's a ticket waiting, but you can't get in without it.  Won't you make your reservation today?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Change Is Inevitable, Right?

When I left the house this morning, it was warm and sunny.  Now it's cool, breezy and looks as if the sky is about to burst open and drench the earth once again.

A few weeks ago, Jason had so much work that I hardly got to see him.  For the past couple of weeks, however, he's averaged two small jobs per day.

It wasn't that long ago that I was singing.  Currently, I'm fighting to keep myself from sobbing.

In just a few hours, my computer went from working perfectly to not working at all.

The weather changes.

The work load changes.

Circumstances change.

Technology changes.

So, yes, I guess change is inevitable. . . with one vital exception--GOD NEVER CHANGES!  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His grace that was sufficient last week will be sufficient this week as well.  The mercy that He showed in the Bible days He still showers on His children today.  His love never fails.  His provision never falters.  His grace account is never overdrawn.  We can trust Him for tomorrow because He was faithful yesterday.

What a blessing to know that in this ever-changing world, we have a constant source of strength and guidance!  We have a God who is not swayed by the winds of uncertainty or tossed about by the waves of discouragement.  Like the lighthouse standing securely on the coast leading ships to a safe harbor, our Father remains unmovable and steadfast.  Always available.  Always attentive to our needs.  Always working for our best.

When it comes to the things in this life, we can be assured that change will occur.  When it comes to God, however, we can be confident that He never will!

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. - Hebrews 13:8

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You Are What?

 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?  And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. - Exodus 3:13-14

Poor Moses!  God called him out of his comfort zone. . .way out!  Moses was a shepherd, far more at home with animals than people (a bit like myself, actually).  Sheep were easy.  Sure, they weren't the smartest of animals, but at least they did what they were told and didn't complain in the process.  Moses could handle sheep.  He wasn't so sure about people.  So he did what we all do when God tries to coax us out of our comfort zones--he made excuses.

But I'm not qualified.

But I don't have the right credentials.

But that's not really my talent.

But I don't think that's the best use of my time.

But I can't communicate well.

But I had something else in mind.

But I don't see where that would be very profitable for me.

When will we learn that our excuses aren't going to change God's mind or His will for our lives?  Moses learned right there on the spot.  So when the excuses didn't work, he tried to stall.  "Well, the people are going to want to know Who sent me.  They'll know I didn't come on my own.  They'll know there's Someone greater behind this plan.  They'll want to know who the real Mastermind is.  What shall I tell them?"

Surely such a vast question would require a vast answer, right?  Nope!  God simply replied, "I AM."

I can see the look of confusion on Moses' face.  You are what?  The word "am" is a state of being.  When it is used, it is followed by another word, the state of being.  I am happy.  I am tired.  I am hungry.  I am frustrated.  I am crazy.  That state of being explains how we're feeling and sometimes even who we are.  I am Dana.  I am a writer.  I am a worrier.  I am a dog owner.

But God didn't give a state of being.  To Moses, it may have seemed that God stopped mid-sentence or maybe that God paused to think of the proper way to finish the sentence.  But such was not the case.  God had said all that He was going to say.  "I AM.  That's all you need to know."

Perhaps God could have even answered the question as the wizard, Merlin, did in the BBC show, The Adventures of Merlin.  The eccentric old wizard was outraged when two guards questioned his identity.  "Who am I?" he inquired.  "What kind of stupid question is that?  I am who I am, and I am who I was, and I am who I always will be."

Sounds like God, doesn't it?  He is Who He is, and He is Who He was, and He is Who He always will be.  He's God.  There is none like Him.  He has always been God.  He will always be God.  He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  He is the Three in One.  He is the Creator.  He is the Redeemer.  He is our Counselor.  He is our Shepherd.  He is loving.  He is kind.  He is just.  He is merciful.  

By the time God listed all of His names and characteristics to Moses, the shepherd would have died of old age.  Besides, God doesn't waste words.  He says what needs to be said and leaves it at that.  With those two simple words, "I AM", God bespoke a fathomless message:  "Whatever you need. . . I AM!"

Even the sheep understand that.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Over Easy?

My husband is always amazed by the fact that a high school and college valedictorian could fail her driving test.  In my defense, however, I have always hated tests.  Tests make me panic.  They make me forget everything I've studied and even everything I know.  Even the very first line asking for my name causes me to pause.  Not only that, but I am an over-analytical person.  I tend to over-think, which gets me in a lot of trouble.

The truth is that I did fail my driving test the first time I took it.  Yes, I flunked by one question.  The embarrassing part is that one of those questions was, "What does this sign mean?"  The question was accompanied by a picture of a yield sign and four answers to choose from.  One of the answers was, "Yield to oncoming traffic," but I was certain that couldn't be the correct answer because it was too easy.  I just knew it had to be a trick question.  So, logically, I chose a different answer. . . and I failed.

Unfortunately, to this very day, I still struggle with yield signs.  Not the ones on the road.  But rather the ones in my life.  While yielding my life to the Spirit may sound easy, it isn't.  I know what it means to yield, but I have an awful time pulling it off.  I feel like Princess Mia in the movie Princess Diaries:  "The concept is grasped.  The execution is a little elusive."

More than anything, I want to surrender my life in its entirety to God.  I want to give Him my body, my possessions, my money (what little there is), my thoughts, my attitudes, my emotions, and so on.  I want everything I do and say to come from Him.  I want to be completely under His control.  Yet somehow, I always find myself getting in the way.  It's like Paul said,  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. (Romans 7:15)

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I was finally getting the hang of it.  I had weathered a few storms without worry or fear.  Things, while far from perfect, seemed to be rolling smoothly.  I felt joy and peace, even when things didn't work out as I had wanted.  But then, one disaster after another hit.  My computer crashed.  Jason's work encountered competition which led to reduced work and, in turn, a reduced paycheck.  The refund check I received unexpectedly from the new mortgage company turned out to be a mistake, and they wanted their money back.  The Lord gave, and the Lord took away.  And as is my tendency during tests, I panicked.  The peace and joy fled and were instantly replaced by worry and fear.  It seems my "absolute surrender" was short-lived.

I spent yesterday in a state of despair.  I was overwhelmed by my doubts.  I was frustrated with myself for my lack of faith and failure to yield to the Lord once again.  In short, I was miserable.  It seemed nothing could snap me out of my depression.  Thankfully, this morning, the Lord reminded me of some powerful truths:

(1) God is still in control of all things and always will be.
(2) When I fall, He is always present to pick me up and set me back on the right path.
(3) Even though I have failed Him, He declares that I am an overcomer.
(4) God is a God of second chances.  (Just look at Jonah.)
(5) He loves me no matter what!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, that list above is not multiple choice. The powerful truths are all of the above!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Just the Facts, Ma'am

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. - John 2:1-11

I love the example Mary sets forth in this familiar story.  When she heard the servants whispering about running out of wine, Mary could have responded in so many different ways.  She could have worried.  She could have tried to solve the problem herself.  She could have planned and schemed.  But she didn't do any of those things.  Instead, she did the only right thing.  She took the problem to Jesus.

Notice the simplicity of her statement.  "They have no wine."  That's it!  She didn't whine (get it, whine about the wine, sorry). She didn't complain.  She didn't tell Jesus to do something or even ask Him to do something.  Furthermore, she didn't demand that Jesus explain to her how He was planning to solve the problem.   In other words, she didn't do all the things we're prone to do when we take our burdens to Jesus.

Come now, admit it.  I know you're not that much different than I am.  We take our cares to Jesus and do far more than simply state the problem.  We beg and plead.  We instruct Jesus on the proper way to solve our current dilemma.  We ask to see His blueprints to ensure they meet our approval.  Then we walk away and try to solve the problem ourselves, afraid that if we leave it in Jesus' hands either it won't be solved or it won't be solved the way we want it to be.  Am I right?

Mary left out all the fluff.  She displayed complete trust.  She took the problem to Jesus and waited for His response.  Only after He had responded did she act, and that act was not the solution to the problem but the preparation for the solution.  Mary expected a miracle.  She expected the situation to be remedied.  And in her great faith, she made ready for that event by instructing the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do.

It reminds me of the story of two farmers who prayed fervently for rain.  Both prayed, but only one of the farmers went out and prepared his fields in anticipation of that rain.  Which one truly had faith that God would answer his prayers and meet his need?

Life is full of problems.  There's nothing we can do about that.  What we can do, however, is determine to deal with life's problems by following Mary's four-step formula:

1. Take it to Jesus.  
2, State the facts.  
3. Wait for the Master's response.
4. Prepare to receive the blessing.