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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help, Part Five (Repost)

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #5 - Have you ever damaged yourself or something else in your attempt to act alone?

Oh boy!  I can recall several hikes where I charged ahead, instead of allowing Jason to take the lead, and ended up on my rear and in great pain.  I slipped on a rock.  I tripped over a root.  A stone crumbled or rolled from underneath my foot.  I stepped in a hole.  Trust me, I've done them all.  But typically only when I wander into uncharted territory.

Then, of course, there are the times I've dropped and broken something because it was too heavy for me to carry.  Or the time I put a hole in the wall while trying to hammer in a small nail to hang a picture.  Oh, and I cannot forget the time I set the vacuum cleaner on fire while trying to vacuum up the mess around the wood stove (evidently, there were some hot embers in the mix).

All of these incidents could have been avoided if only I had asked or waited for help.  But I didn't want to ask, and I had grown tired of waiting.  So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  And I made a mess.

I wish I could say that my fumbles ended there, but I'm afraid they've breached into my spiritual life as well.  Headstrong in my abilities and weary of waiting on God to make His move, I've charged ahead only to find myself on my backside.  I've taken matters into my own hands only to discover that I ended up with a bigger mess than I had begun with.  I've hurt myself.  I've damaged my testimony.  I've hurt others.  And all because I wanted things done my way and in my timing.

Oh, Lord, will we ever learn?

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. - Psalm 27:14

Monday, May 29, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help? - Part Four (Repost)

Are you ready for the next question? Have you determined whether you suffer from the Wonder Woman/Superman Complex? Let's continue the test and see what else is brought to light.

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #4 - Does the thought of asking for help make you uneasy?

In my case, I'm especially bad about not wanting to ask for help from my husband. After he gets home from a long, hard day at work, the last thing I want to do is to ask him to help me with dinner or with the house chores. I try to justify this hesitation by arguing that although I've worked all day too, his work was physical while mine was mental and emotional (writing will take it out of you). That being the case, surely, I have more energy than he does for the physical tasks of the evening.

Unfortunately, Jason has a tendency to get so focused on some task or hobby that he becomes oblivious to everything that's going on around him. So, as I buzz from place to place, trying to juggle the housework, taking care of the dog and fixing dinner, that seed of bitterness pops up and grows at an alarming rate. I can't believe the man who loves me so much won't lift a finger to help me, but at the same time, I'm too proud to ask for his help. In fact, I argued myself out of asking for help. It's not Jason's fault. He's told me on more than one occasion that if I need help, all I have to do is ask. All? I fear that's much more difficult than it sounds.

An older lady in my Sunday School class confessed that she hates to ask for help because she fears people will think she's getting too old to accomplish simple tasks. She values her independence and doesn't want to lose it because others feel she's incapable of caring for herself.

I see her point, but I'm afraid it can still be traced back to the same root: pride. We don't want others to think less of us or to think poorly of us. We feel we have to prove ourselves to others. We rationalize our behavior, but the truth is that we're too proud to admit we need help.

In our relationship with the Lord, we sometimes feel uneasy asking for help for various reasons. For one, we feel that our problems are too small for the Almighty God to bother with. I mean, seriously, does the all-powerful God care if the toilet is clogged or if I have a headache? Actually, yes, He does, but we forget that. I know, too, that I often feel hesitant coming to God with something because I feel like I've already asked for too much or asked for the same thing too many times. How many times does the Lord want to hear me cry about the pain of my bursitis or about tough financial situations? How often does He want to hear me call to Him and cry out, "Lord, I'm overwhelmed again"? As often as it takes.

It's time we take God out of that neat little box we've placed Him in and allow Him to be the God He is. Yes, He is mighty and all-powerful. But He's also loving and caring. He is our Counselor. Do you know what counselors do? They listen to people's problems and help them find solutions. That's what God wants to do for us, but He can't help us if we're unwilling to take our matters before Him.

As I've been typing, the song, "Does Jesus Care," has been playing in the back of my mind. "Oh, yes, He cares; I know He cares. His heart is touched with my grief. When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares." It's true. He cares. No matter how big or small the problem may be. No matter how many times you've dragged that same burden before Him. No matter how others may perceive the situation. Jesus knows how if affects each of us, and He cares.

We can't blame God for not helping if we're not asking. Go to Him today. Pour out your heart. Lay down your burdens. And accept help from the Counselor. He won't think any less of you. I can promise you that!

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. - Isaiah 49:13

Friday, May 26, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help - Part Three (Repost)

It's time to continue our test, so hold tight and remember, be honest.  The truth shall set you free.

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #3 - Do you feel you need to perform certain tasks regularly to win favor or approval?

In other words, are there things you do, not because you want to or feel led by the Lord to do, but rather you do them so that others will think better of you?  At first, I thought I wasn't really guilty of this one, but then the Lord brought to my mind how often I compare myself, my home and my talents with others.  He reminded me of how, just the other day, a friend was meeting me at my house so that we could walk together on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  I was happy for her to come over, but a quick glance around my house told me that my house was not in the proper state for company.  I forsook my writing tasks for the day and spent the entire day straightening, sweeping, dusting and scrubbing bathrooms.  I just knew my friend was going to judge me by the condition of my house, and I couldn't bear the thought.

We know that God is not the author of confusion, and He likes all things to be done decently and in order.  However, what's in order for me may not be in order for someone else.  I admit, in most areas, I am a perfectionist; however, when it comes to keeping house, I get pretty lax.  With an indoor/outdoor dog and our crazy schedules of coming and going, it just takes far too much effort to keep everything spotless.  So, I don't even try. . . until I know company is coming.

The craziest thing about my recent behavior is that the lady who was coming over has to be the sweetest person on earth.  She is kind and mild-tempered.  I've never heard her speak an ill word of anyone.  She loves the Lord, and that love shines through in everything she does.  Why was I afraid of her?  We've been friends for over fifteen years.  Did I think she was going to ditch me or think poorly of me because there were dust bunnies on my floor and dog hair on my furniture?  How silly is that?

The fact of the matter is that if we have to perform certain tasks or act a certain way to impress others or win their approval, they're really not worth our time and effort.  I'm sorry.  I know that sounds harsh, but it's the truth.  If they're not willing to accept us as we are, they're not very good friends, are they?  A true friend accepts you, dirty house and all.  We live different lives and have different priorities.  It's time we acknowledge that and move on.  Stop comparing ourselves to others and be satisfied with who God created us to be.  My mom and dad both have the clean house gene.  They passed it on to my sister, but evidently, she got all there was because my brother and I seem to have missed out on that one.  But you know what?  That's okay.  My parents don't love me any less because I haven't mopped the floors in. . . well, I don't remember how long it's been.

And God doesn't love me any less either.  He wants me to be me and to stop pretending I have everything under control.  He wants me to accept my weaknesses and bring them to Him, not try to fix them or cover them up on my own.  He desires to work through me, but He can't do that when I keep getting in the way.

Good grief!  We've only covered three questions, and I'm not scoring well.  How about you?  We're one-third of the way through the test.  Maybe things will get better. . . but I wouldn't count on it!

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. - Colossians 3:23-24

Thursday, May 25, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help? - Part Two (Repost)

A couple of days ago, I introduced you to the Wonder Woman/Superman Complex and asked you the first question to help you determine whether or not you suffer from this serious illness.  If you missed that post, you can read it here.  Today, I'd like to move right into the next question.  Are you ready?

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #2 - Do you ever perform a task unaided because you feel it will only be done correctly if you do it?

Gulp!  I have to be honest--this one hit me right between the eyes.  I'm a bit of a power freak.  Not because I like the praise or the glory, but because I like things to be done right.  I am of the mindset that if you're going to do something, you ought to do it to the best of your ability.  Well, actually, that's not entirely accurate.  I'm afraid it goes beyond that.  It's more like this:  if you're going to do something, you ought to do it to the best of MY ability. . . and in the way I would do it. . . and to my precise specifications. . . and in my time frame. . . and. . . and. . .and.  Do you see the problem?  I often don't ask for help because I want things done a specific way, and I know that someone else won't do it that way, so I'd just rather do it myself.

The big problem is that this attitude towards other people tends to spill over into my relationship with God.  I often don't ask God for help because I fear the help He gives won't be the kind I want.  I want Him to work things out my way and in my timeframe.  If He's not willing to do that, then I go off and try to do things myself.  Rather than wait for His perfect will, I settle for what I think is best at the time.  I do things my way.

Notice the pride again?  Just like in the first question, pride is the root here.  It's all about what I want and what I think should be done.  Me, me, me.  What about my needs?  My desires?  My ambitions?  What about me?  Sounds a bit like a toddler's tantrum, doesn't it?  Unfortunately, that's how we often act--like spoiled, selfish brats!

Are you feeling overwhelmed today because you refuse to let go of tasks that could be delegated to others?  Are you feeling weighed down by situations that you refuse to hand over to God because you fear He won't work things out according to your plan?  If so, I urge you to let go.  Release those burdens.  Share those responsibilities.  Lean on others for support, but more importantly, lean on God and trust that He will take care of you.  Get your eyes off of yourself for a little while and take a look around you.  You may be amazed at what you see!

 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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help? -- A Repost

Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul. - Psalm 54:4

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Psalm 46:1

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. - Hebrews 13:6

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

These are just a few of the many verses in the Bible that speak of God our help.  I think the Bible makes it pretty clear that God is both willing and able to help us no matter what the need.  Physical.  Spiritual.  Emotional.  Mental.  Relational.  Financial.  Circumstantial.  It doesn't matter.  God is able to take care of it.  He is there, standing ready to offer us aid no matter what we face.  Willing and able to provide what we need, although not necessarily what we want.  Yes, we can stand and shout it from the housetops, God is our help!

There is a problem though.  Not on God's part, mind you, but on ours.  Yes, it is true that God is both willing and able to help us, but the fact of the matter is that many times we're not willing to accept His help.  Why?  Well, there are many reasons, but I like to group them together in one main problem which I like to call The Wonder Woman Complex (or Superman Complex if you're a guy).  The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex says I can do it.  I don't need help.  I'm in control.  If anyone tries to help me juggle all these balls, I'll just end up dropping them, so I'm better off doing it myself.  Sound familiar?

I'd like to spend the next few posts describing some of the attributes of  The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex.  Think of it as a test of sorts to see if you fall into this trap.  But be warned, you may want to wear your steel-toed boots for the next few posts, for your toes are likely to be tread upon.  Nevertheless, the Bible instructs us to speak the truth in love, and after discovering that I suffered from The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex, I felt compelled to help others discover the truth about this flaw and mindset.  The first step to a solution is to admit there's a problem, right?  Well, let's find out.  Shall we?  In fact, let's dive right into the first question of The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex quiz.

Question #1: Do you ever perform a task unaided because you feel you do not need assistance?

"I'm quite capable of performing this task."
"I don't need any help."
"What will others think if I ask them to help?  I'm too old?  Too feeble?  Too weak?"

I'm not talking about a certain degree of independence or self-sufficiency here.  I'm talking about crossing the line to pride.  I can do.  I don't need help.  I... I...I.  Do you notice a trend? Whether we're trying to prove something to ourselves or to others, we shrug off everything but our pride and set off to accomplish the task at hand.  The Bible assures us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthen us, but when we're acting in pride, we're not acting in Christ's strength.  We're acting in our own.  He's offering aid, and we're basically saying, "No thanks, Lord.  I can handle this one."  Hmm, that is definitely starting to sound familiar, isn't it?

The first step in overcoming The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex is to chunk the pride.  It's not doing us any good.  It's only causing us to spin our wheels while accomplishing nothing.  Not only that, but it's flat out sin.  It's wrong!  It's something that God hates! (Proverbs 6:16)  We are nothing in and of ourselves.  We need God!  We need His help whether we realize it or not.  The sooner we admit that, the better off we'll be.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. - Psalm 121:2-2

Join me tomorrow as we explore a few more parts of The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex.  
And remember, wear your good shoes!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Do I Have Egg on My Face?

This morning, I was fixing a simple breakfast which included scrambled eggs.  As I smacked the first egg on the edge of the counter, it didn't crack.  I smacked it harder and a small crack appeared.  After the third whack on the counter, the shell finally broke.  "Man," I said to myself, "that was a hard shell."  The second egg was exactly the same. It took three tries to break the silly thing.  By the third egg, I had learned my lesson.  I forcefully whacked the egg, the shell breaking into a million pieces and egg running everywhere.  The shell of the third egg was paper thin.  It would have broken under a mild squeeze.

I see a couple of valuable lessons in this story. (Hey, at least something good can come from the mess I made.)  First off, how often are we like the first two eggs with shells that seem impenetrable?  How many times does God have to "smack us on the counter" before we'll break?  You see, while God does want what's best for us, sometimes that requires us to first reach a place of brokenness.  But like the eggs, we don't want to be broken.  We don't want to release everything that we've been keeping inside.  We're fearful of the change that will take place once we're broken.  And so, we resist.

The second thing I took away from the morning mess was a reminder of Proverbs 3:5:  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  This morning, I was leaning on my own understanding, and it led to disaster.  Through my flawed thinking, I assumed that since the first two eggs had been difficult to crack, the third would be the same way.  It wasn't.  I made a decision based on faulty conclusions just like I often do in life.  I study the situation and act in a way that makes sense to me.  The problem is that God's ways don't always make sense, and because of that, I often ignore them and go about things the way I see fit.  The result?  You guessed it -- egg everywhere!

If you think about it, the two lessons actually go together rather well.  If we're trusting in the Lord and not leaning on our own understanding, we won't be so hard-shelled to begin with.  We'll allow the Lord to break us because we'll trust that He knows best.  So what's it going to be -- trust in the Lord or egg on the face. . .and the counter. . .and the floor. . .?

***Excerpt from Daily Discussions of a Doubting Disciple***

Friday, May 19, 2017

Are Rules Made To Be Broken?

I love that I live within walking distance of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  It's an ideal place (though sometimes a bit busy for my liking) for my morning prayer walks.  The trail stretches on for miles in either direction, so I can walk however long or far I choose on any given day.  Yes, it's a wonderful thing.

That being said, there are some who could use a good course in trail etiquette.  For example, if you're riding a bicycle and coming up behind someone,  you should make that person aware of your presence rather than speed past them and cause them to wet their pants.  Seriously, people!  But the one that really perturbs me is the "no passing" sections.  There are places where the trail zigs and zags or snakes around an obstacle.  In these areas, it is difficult and sometimes even impossible to see oncoming traffic.  For this reason, the "trail people" (I'm sure they have an official title, but I'm not sure what it is), have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of all trail users.

They began by painting lines along the length of the trail.  A dotted yellow line means it's safe to pass while a solid yellow line indicates a no passing zone.  Sounds familiar, right?  Those lines might as well be invisible.  I could count on one hand how many people actually slow down and wait their turn rather than passing through those areas.  On the contrary, I cannot tell you how many times I've been run off the trail because someone attempted to pass, swerved to avoid oncoming traffic, and literally bumped me right off the trail.  How rude!

Obviously, I wasn't the only one who noticed this behavior because, before long, there were instructions painted on the trail itself at the start of these "no pass zones."  The instructions were clear and direct:  "Stay Right."  The letters are big and bold, impossible to miss.  But has it done any good?  Nope!  Lastly, they put up a series of signs warning trail users of the dangers ahead and to wait their turn rather than passing.  Still, the rules are ignored and people zip past, not caring whom they may run into or knock off the trail.  It infuriates me!

Honestly, I have to wonder if these people are as unwilling to follow the rules of the road as they are the rules of the trail.  If so, it's no surprise there are as many accidents as there are.  Why can't people understand that rules are there to help us and to keep us safe?  Furthermore, why don't they seem to realize that the rules of the land are not multiple choice?  They must all be obeyed, or there will be chaos.

Sadly though, we all do the same thing from time to time.  We're all guilty of committing those "little sins," you know, the ones we think don't really matter.  Going a few miles over the speed limit.  Overeating.  Telling a white lie.  Going home early from work a few days a week.  Omitting our daily time with God.  They're not big things like murder or rape or adultery, so they're not big deals, right?  Oh, so wrong!

Every sin is a big deal to God.  If all we ever did were those things we consider "little sins," Jesus would still have had to die for them.  Sin is sin!  There is no little or big.  So, when God tells us to do something, we ought to do it.  Otherwise, there is punishment for us, and it could cause someone else great harm.  Think about it this way, our failure to obey God in the "little things" could result in someone else getting pushed off the trail.  What trail?  The trail to truth.  The trail to eternal life.  When others see us claiming to be Christians but disobeying God's Word, they will likely turn away.  Why would they want that kind of faith?  Our disobedience in the "little things" could be leading others astray.

We must be careful and be on guard.  No sin is too small.  Each one cost Jesus His life.  And each one can serve as a hindrance in our ministry of leading others to Him.  Let's follow the guidelines set forth in the Bible and do our best to practice trail etiquette each and every day.  Other travelers will be grateful, and God will be pleased!

Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway. - Deuteronomy 11:1

Thursday, May 18, 2017

When the Best Doesn't Feel Good

A week and a half ago, while on my prayer walk, I heard the pitiful cries of a dog coming from the bottom of a deep ravine.  Unable to resist an animal in distress, I investigated and discovered that the whining was coming from a puppy who was stuck and couldn't climb up the steep bank.  Unfazed by snakes, bugs, poison ivy and whatever else may have been lurking in the overgrowth, I climbed (and slid) down the hill and rescued the terrified canine.

Once back on the road, I had to decide what to do with the poor thing.  My first thought was to keep him.  He was so cute and precious, and I could feel myself getting attached to him with every step.  I got him home, gave him some milk (which he promptly devoured) and set up a little bed in a box for him until I could figure out what to do.  As much as I wanted to keep him, I knew it wasn't in his best interest or ours.  We're too busy to train a puppy right now.  Besides that, Mitch has been the only dog in the house for nearly a year and a half, and I'm not sure how he would react to having to share his attention again.  No, I knew in my heart that the best thing to do was to take him to the animal shelter.

The problem was that the nearest shelter didn't accept strays until noon.  It was 9:30.  That gave me way too much time to grow attached to this adorable bundle of joy.  So, I put him in the box with a pillow and blanket and did my best to ignore him.  He got comfortable and stayed put, barely making a sound, but he watched me intently.  When noon finally arrived, I dug up every ounce of resolve I could muster and made my way to the shelter.

Of course, this would be the day they were swamped.  There was nothing for me to do but to wait my turn, all the while holding and comforting the scared pup.  Before long, he had calmed to the point that he was nearly asleep on my shoulder.  Passersby commented, "You should keep him" and "He's fallen in love with you."  They weren't helping!!!!  I was having the hardest time staying in that line.  I wanted to turn around and leave.  I wanted to take that sweet thing home and show him just how wonderful life could be.  But I had to do what was best, and while I knew we would offer that puppy more love than he could handle, it was not the best thing for any of us.  So, with tear-filled eyes and a heavy heart, I finally handed him over and walked away.

It broke my heart to do it.  I'm still haunted by it.  Yet I have no doubt that I did the right thing, the best thing.  Now, if I could only be sure that little puppy understood that too.

Friend, it gives God no pleasure to do things that seem unfair or hurtful to us.  He takes no joy in seeing us writhe in frustration or confusion.  But because of His great love, He will always do what's best for us.  It may not seem best at the time.  It may not even seem good.  But God sees and understands what we don't, just as I saw and understood what the puppy couldn't.  He knows what's best, not only for us but for all those around us.  He has a perfect plan, and while it is painful at times, He has promised that they are not plans of evil or ill intent (Jeremiah 29:11).  He is busy working all things for our good, and I believe sometimes it pains Him as much as it pains us.  But because He is good, He will always do what's right.  And we can trust in that, no matter how difficult the day may be.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Facing Regret

Very few days go by when someone doesn't stop me on the walking trail to comment about my red hair.  Fortunately, all of the comments so far have been nice ones, and oddly enough, the majority of the compliments come from older gentlemen.

This morning was no different.  A man about the age of my dad pulled up behind me on his bicycle and confided, "I hated my red hair every day of my life until it all fell out, and now I'd do anything to have it back."  He chatted with me a bit more, then road off, hollering back over his shoulder, "I love your hair.  It's beautiful!"  I called out, "Actually, I like it too!"

His comment stuck with me as I continued my morning walk, and I wondered how often I'm guilty of the same thing.  How often do I complain about something that might one day be taken away from me, leaving me full of regret and an immense desire to have that very thing back?  I admit, it was convicting.

We, as Christians, should be the most thankful people in the world, and we shouldn't let a day go by that we don't thank the Lord for all His many blessings.  In fact, we should even thank Him for the things that we don't like about our lives because they may be blessings in disguise.  That job that sucks the life out of us.  That task that we dread doing every day.  Those extra pounds that don't seem to want to find another home.  The red hair.  The green eyes.  The freckles.  The wrinkles.  The cellulite.  We look at these things and turn up our noses in disgust, but is that the proper response?  Will we one day discover that what we had wasn't so bad and the alternative is unthinkable?  Like the gentleman I met this morning would say, "Red hair is better than no hair."

My point?  Instead of complaining about things, how about we live each day with an attitude of gratitude?  If the thing we don't like is something we could (and should) fix, like weight issues or bad habits, then we ought to work on it through the power of Christ.  But if it's simply the way God made us or something that He has provided for us, let us be grateful instead of griping.   We are blessed.  Let's make sure we act like it!

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. - I Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part Seven

Today will be the last post in the whitewater rafting series. I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them. You know, every event in our life has meaning behind it. It's good to stop sometimes and look at all the extraordinary things we can learn from ordinary events.

Whitewater rafting has given me a new-found respect for Peter. Now, Peter gets a lot of criticism for his act that day on the wind-tossed seas. We tend to go on and on about how he started to doubt and took his eyes off Jesus, then he started to sink. But you know what? Peter was the only one brave enough to get out of the boat in the first place. Peter was the only one with enough faith to give it a try.

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. - Matthew 14:22-33

I'm sure that the water on the Nantahala River was a babbling brook compared to what the disciples were facing that night. Still, I didn't want to be out of that boat. The water was choppy and VERY cold. I knew how strong the undercurrent was, and I had no desire to get pulled under. Nope! I was content to stay in the boat. If Jesus had come to me that day and asked me to walk on the water with Him, I don't know that I would have had enough faith to get out of the boat. What if I fell? What if I sank? What if the snakes got to me first? What if . . .?

But Peter got out of the boat. Picture this scene. The lightning is flashing so bright that it temporarily blinds all who witness it. The thunder booms. The wind tears at your hair and your clothes. The waves toss your boat up and down, to and fro, reminding you of the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. The rain beats down so hard that you can barely see the ghost-like form coming closer. At first, you are afraid, but then, above the noise of the storm, you hear a voice that you recognize. It's Jesus . . . or is it? Before you realize it, you speak these words, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. You have no idea where the words came from, but Jesus beckons you, and now there's no turning back.

What would you have done in Peter's place? Would you have gotten out of the boat? Would you have put all your faith into the man that stood before you? Would you have shrugged away your thoughts and fears and instead simply obeyed? Unfortunately, had I been there that stormy night, I probably would have stayed in the boat with all the other disciples. Peter may have lost his faith in the midst of the storm, but at least he had faith to start with.

The next time we want to pick on Peter for his lack of faith, let's stop and examine our own lives. Let's take a good look at our own faith and see if it is where it needs to be. I think we'll find that we have no room to criticize Peter. Peter took the first step. Have we? Peter forsook all safety to get closer to Jesus. Have we done the same? How strong is our faith today? Can it withstand the storms?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part Six

I was a little nervous when I first found out that everyone in the raft had to paddle. Personally, I would have liked to have sat back, found a good place to hold on, and just enjoyed the ride. No such luck! If you want to raft, you have to paddle.

As I mentioned before, I had no idea how to paddle or even how to hold a paddle. My knowledge of rowing a boat went as far as knowing which end of the oar to stick in the water. That's it! Thankfully, we had very knowledgeable and patient instructors. They taught us how to hold the paddle, how to paddle forward, and how to paddle backward (I had a little trouble with this one from time to time. I thought I was paddling backward, but I wasn't. Oops! Evidently, I'm not as coordinated as I thought.)

There were two main rules given about paddling. First, always hold your t-grip. The t-grip is the end of the paddle that is not in the water. If you don't hold it carefully, the current can easily swing it around and whack someone in the face. I held that thing so tightly that my hand literally hurt by the end of the day. Rule one? Check! The second rule was to always paddle with your partner. Your partner is the person who is on the same side of the boat as you are. If you and your partner are paddling in rhythm, the raft will move as it should, and things go relatively smoothly (as smoothly as can be down a raging river.) If you're not paddling together, things get ugly.

My partner was Cody, a 16-year old boy. He's tall. He's strong. He's fast. I am none of those things! Since he was in the front of the boat, it was up to him to set the rhythm, and boy, did he set it! My arms just don't move that fast, especially when I'm fighting the current. Still, I have to say that I did very well keeping a rhythm with him . . . most of the time.

The most difficult times to keep the rhythm were the times that it was the most important--through the rapids. During these times, it was hard enough to keep myself in the boat and hold onto my paddle. Rhythm was beyond my control. During these times, my paddle would be forward when Cody's was back and vice versa. Obviously, the latter didn't cause many problems, but the collision of our two paddles was not helping us to make it through the rapids. Our instructor was yelling, "Paddle, Paddle," and I was yelling to Cody, "Sorry! Sorry!" For the life of me, I could not keep rhythm during those times. If I wasn't hitting his paddle, I was hitting the rocks in the water. (At least I didn't hit anyONE!)

My spiritual application? Life is hard. We, as Christians, need to be in rhythm or in step with one another. Amos 3:3 says, Can two walk together, except they be agreed? We need to help one another. We need to encourage one another. We need to uplift one another. We need to be in harmony. There is enough trouble and discord in the world. We don't need it in our churches! We don't need it within the family of God. Just as with the rafting, sometimes the hardest times to get along are the times of great trial, but those are the times we need to strive the most. Those are the times we need to be there for each other to help each other through. May I challenge you today--get your rhythm and stick with it. The sailing will be much smoother in the long run . . . and you'll have to apologize a lot less!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part Five - A Repost

"Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!" We've all heard that saying, right? You truly understand it when you go whitewater rafting.

I had some white tea with my breakfast at 7:00 in the morning. To cut down on bathroom stops, I didn't drink anything after that. When we arrived in Nantahala, everything happened so fast, and the next thing I knew, we were rafting. Obviously, it was too late to get anything to drink at that point. (Besides, with an 8-mile trip down the river and being a person who has to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so, I thought it would be wise to stay away from beverages of all types.)

I was so thirsty!!!!!! It was a warm, sunny day. We were surrounded by water, and all I could think was, I'm so thirsty . . . and I still have to go to the bathroom! Now, I suppose I could have drunk some water out of the river. In fact, I thought about it, but when I saw a group of kids on the bank pull a huge snake from the water, I realized I wasn't THAT thirsty. As the day wore on, I thought I was going to die of thirst! Finally, it was lunch time.

The beverage served at lunch was Gatorade. I am not a big fan of Gatorade, but that day, it might as well have been water from Heaven. I guzzled down two glasses and then reminded myself that I had a three-hour van ride through the mountains, so I might want to take it easy. (In case you're wondering, no, it didn't help. I still had to go to the bathroom. Plus, we got caught in a traffic jam, causing the trip to take an extra 30-45 minutes. KILL ME!!!!!)

Anyway, the entire situation reminded me of how we surround ourselves with so many things that seem important, yet we suffer daily from spiritual dehydration. We have our jobs, our families, our friends, our churches, our various ministries, our dreams, and on and on. We have our great intentions and our work for the Lord. We're completely surrounded by demands, desires, and obligations. But our hearts are dry. We're doing all the right things, but we're not necessarily doing them for the right reasons.

I'm reminded of Martha in the Bible. She was busy. She was surrounded by duty, obligation, and a desire to serve. In fact, she was surrounded by Jesus and his followers. But, spiritually, she was dry. As Joanna Weaver put it in her book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Martha opened her home, but she didn't open her heart. She was doing a good thing, but she was so busy, she didn't take the time to be blessed. Jesus told her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

Doing the Lord's work is a wonderful thing. Being involved in various church functions or other ministries is great. The Lord desires our service, but He wants it with a servant's heart. The only way to get that is to spend some time refreshing our soul with the water of the Word. How can we tell others the Good News if we are so spiritually dehydrated that we can't even remember why we're serving? It has become a habit instead of an act of devotion. God doesn't want that. He doesn't want to see our souls die of spiritual thirst. That's why He gave us His Word.

Drink! Drink deeply! Drink so deeply that it overflows and refreshes others as well. We have no excuse. The water has been provided. It is our choice whether or not we drink. (And best of all, this water won't make you have to go to the bathroom!)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part Four - A Repost

Trust in your guide. Since our trip on Saturday was my first time rafting, I had no idea what to do. I didn't know where to sit or how to sit. I didn't know how to paddle, when to paddle, or even how to hold the paddle. And I certainly didn't know the river.

Our guide, however, had been down that river so many times that he knew every rock and ripple. He knew where the water was shallow. He knew where the trees hung over the river, causing the rafts to dodge in order to avoid the hanging limbs. He knew how to hit every wave, how to steer the raft, when to paddle, and when to coast. He knew. I didn't. So, when he gave a command, I obeyed. When he gave the order to paddle, I got busy. When he said to stop, I stopped. He was the guide. He had my safety in mind. He knew the course and how to handle it. I eagerly accepted his knowledge of the situation and obeyed his every command.

Why don't we do the same with God? He is our Guide. He knows the course. In fact, He's been down it before. He knows the rocks and ripples in our lives. He knows the trees that hang alongside our path, grabbing at us as we strive to make it through. He knows how to go through the waves, how to steer, and how to paddle. He knows. We don't. Yet, when He gives a command, instead of obeying, we question. I don't know if that's really the best way. That's not really what I had in mind. I was thinking of doing it this way.

Can you imagine if I had said the same thing to our rafting guide? When he gave the order to paddle, can you imagine his response if I turned to him and said, "Are you sure? I was thinking we should just ride this one out"? That would be ludicrous! That would be dangerous! That would be the exact way I often treat God. The One who knows all things gives me a direct order, and I question. Sometimes, it's worse than that. Sometimes I merely thank God for His "suggestion" and go about doing things my own way. Is it any wonder I run into trouble? I have no doubt that if I had not followed the rafting guide's instruction, there would have been trouble. Why should life be any different?

How much better would life be if we would simply trust our Guide? We often sing the song, "Trust and Obey," but it's a lot harder to live it than it is to sing it. But, we should. God knows the way to get us safely home. He has our best interest at heart. Let's listen to His instructions. Who knows? We may find more joy in the journey!

For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. - Psalm 48:14

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part Three - A Repost

The trip to Nantahala takes about 2 1/2 hours. For the last several miles of the journey, the road actually follows alongside the river. This gives you the opportunity to watch other people whitewater rafting before you ever reach your destination.

As nervous as I was, I didn't think it would be a good idea for me to watch other people. I thought it would scare me more than I already was (if that were possible.) However, when you follow the river for that long, you can't help but look. And so, I watched, and I found that I was actually feeling better. The water didn't look that rough at all. In fact, it seemed like the rafts were barely bouncing as they floated along. I can do this, I thought. Little did I know I was in for another lesson.

The water is rougher than it looks! Within a few minutes of actually being in the boat, I realized just how choppy the water really was. The ride wasn't smooth as I had expected after watching other rafters. Why had it suddenly become so rough? It hadn't. I had fooled myself into thinking that it was calm water and that I was fully capable of smooth sailing. I fully realized my mistake after about an hour on the river. Our guides had an activity planned, so we steered the rafts over to shore. When I stepped into the water, the undercurrent swept my legs right out from under me. The water was that violent . . . and this was a "smooth spot!" What a shock when I fell face first into the water.

Life has surprises too, doesn't it? Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that all is smooth sailing, then WHAM! We're face down in freezing water. Why do we do that? Why do we convince ourselves that we are invincible? Why is it so hard for us to admit that we need God?

I can already hear some of you saying, "I'm not like that. I know I need God." Well, I know it too, but I don't always act like it. When I was a child, I asked Jesus to save me, acknowledging that I couldn't get to Heaven on my own. Since then, however, I find myself racing ahead of God time and time again, doing the things that would be better off if I left them in His hands.

My problem? I hate waiting! You see, God has a purpose and a plan for everything, and even though I know that He knows best, I grow impatient as I wait for Him to meet my needs. I often take the attitude, Fine! If you won't help me, I'll help myself! And, before long, I find my feet swept out from underneath me. The current is too strong. My strength is insufficient.

Life it tough. If you haven't already discovered that, you will soon. We can't make it through alone. No matter how strong we think we are. No matter how smooth the path before us looks. We can't do it alone. And praise the Lord, we don't have to!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. - II Corinthians 12:9a

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part Two - A Repost

One of the most important things you learn when you go whitewater rafting is how to stay in the boat. There are no ropes or handles to hold onto. Plus, your hands are busy holding tight to your paddle, so you have to hold on with your feet. You sit on the edge of the raft and tuck your feet firmly into little compartments that are formed by the shape of the boat. That's it! That is all that is holding you in. If your feet are not firmly secured, you'll find yourself floating down the river without the aid of a raft. (Note: Because of how you have to tuck your feet, your legs will become very sore and tired by the end of the day.)

I made sure that I tucked my feet in securely as soon as I got in the boat. In fact, I had my feet so secure that I think I cut off the blood flow for a little while. I didn't care if I could feel my legs or not. I just wanted to make sure I didn't fall off into the freezing water. Near the end of our 8-mile journey, our guide warned us that we were coming up to "the falls." I did NOT like the sound of that! He cautioned us to make sure we had our feet secured. At first, I didn't think it was possible to wedge my feet up any farther in that compartment, but I found a way. With my feet secured, I made it through the falls without ending up in the river.

The whole situation made me think about how important it is to have our feet firmly planted in our faith. When the rapids of life come upon us, it is very easy to "fall out of the boat" or give up on our faith. It's not difficult to find ourselves floating down the river of life without a paddle or even a boat. Circumstances can cause us to question where God is and why we feel the need to serve Him when He doesn't even seem to care about what's happening to us. Situations can cause us to turn our backs on God or fellow Christians. Life is not easy. We must have our feet firmly planted. But how?

1. Stay in God's Word.
2. Talk with God.
3. Share your burdens with other believers.
4. Keep a positive outlook.
5. Be thankful.

There are many other things you can do to strengthen your hold on your faith, but these are a few good ones that will help you through those tough times. Trials come, and there's no way to get around them. Life will toss us around just like a raging river. But we can stay in the boat if we will strive to have our feet firmly planted.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the water, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river. - Jeremiah 7:17-18a

Monday, May 1, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part One - A Repost

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to take our youth group whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. Wow! That was an experience. To be honest, I learned a lot of interesting things during that trip. In fact, the next few blog entries will be lessons that are related to whitewater rafting. It will be a series of sorts.

Today, I'd just like to tell you a little about the trip. If you've never been whitewater rafting, there are a few things you should know.

1. No matter how warm the day is, the water is FREEZING!
2. It is impossible to stay dry, and unfortunately, your bottom gets soaked the most often. (Don't worry though. It becomes numb very quickly.)
3. Whitewater rafting does not work only your arms. It works every muscle in your body. (I know this because when I woke up Sunday morning, every muscle in my body was crying. They're still whimpering today, but it's getting better.)
4. Sun + Water + Energy expended = SNORE!!!!!!!
5. The water is moving much faster than it appears, and if you try to walk in it, you will fall down.
6. The safest place to be is in the raft with the three strongest guys. (Yep, that's where I was!)
7. Even the experienced guides can get thrown out of the boat.
8. If the rafting doesn't kill you, your life jacket will. They cinch those things so tight that every breath is a true effort.
9. When someone in your boat starts a water fight, expect to have a paddle full of water splashed into the back of your head as the boat shifts, putting you directly in the line of fire.
10. When your shorts get that wet, they become very heavy, so you may want to tighten your drawstring. (Don't ask!)

Well, that's all for today. Check back over the next week to find out what other valuable lessons I learned from whitewater rafting. I guarantee you'll be surprised!