Was it you?

Some days we can let our circumstances get the best of us. And our emotions. We get tired and we get cranky. On the outside we are adults, but on the inside we can act like an unruly two year old. We want our way, and when we don’t get it, we get upset.

The recent events of the world have stretched me and tried my patience to the point of my becoming that unruly two year old.  I feel bad for feeling bad, which makes the situation worse, it seems. I have been the queen of self- criticism before, and on a particular, hot, tiresome August day, I acted both as a temperamental toddler and a self-critic. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I had been fighting the constant battle of my thoughts. If you read my last blog, you know that I addressed fear versus caution in the midst of this pandemic. Most of the time, I can keep my perspective and my focus on Christ and the things that matter, rather than on the fears that continually get fueled by what I see and read. It is easy to give into fear, especially when you’re worn out and tired.

So, there I was, exhausted, worn out, stressed and alone in a gas station bathroom. I had had enough of it all. The worries of the pandemic, the fears of moving into new chapters of my life, the pressure of resuming my seminary classes after a summer break, the disappointments and disagreements between family members, and the late hour. I felt my eyes well up with tears, but I didn’t want to let myself cry. I’d have to walk back through the store portion of the station, and didn’t want to face anyone, even a stranger with my red eyes and running mascara. I quietly told God I wanted to give up. I’ve had enough. I  knew that much of what had been happening in my personal life was a spiritual attack from the pits of hell, but I was just tired of fighting it.

In those moments of frustration and desperation, it seems like the most logical thing to say or think is to cry “Uncle”. Our faith is being stretched so much. We just want to throw in the towel and tell the Devil he’s won. We’ll stop trying to make a difference in the world. Just look out for number one, forget others, Isn’t that what the world tells us to do? Why go against the current? Why speak up for the truth? Why follow God? Why keep going to school to answer God’s call to be a pastor? How many war wounds and battle scars are enough God? I just wanna give up God, it’s not worth it anymore, can you help me God? If not, I’m giving up!

But, you were there. And you made a difference. I never saw you, might not ever meet you. But I know you had been there and must have listened to God’s voice, that still, quiet voice, to leave me a note in the bathroom that evening. It was such a clear message from God, that in my two- year tantrum mindset,  I tried not to see it. I was just so fed up with everything. I know God it was really a note from you. An answer from you, not just from a person. You are pretty intentional, and you intended for me to see that little piece of folded paper.

There it was, a handwritten note, slightly damp from the water of the sink from others who had seen it, while they washed up. It was written in colored pencil or ink, and some of the writing from the back side of the paper had faded. But there was no doubt about the message; “Jesus loves you so very much” Simple. To the point. And not even a memorized Bible verse. Just the reminder I needed that late evening at a gas station bathroom. I recited in my mind the words over and over again as I walked back out into the parking lot. Jesus loves me. So. very. much. Not just the simple Jesus loves me this I know, of the familiar kids song, but different, personal, and just what I needed to hear from God.

So thank you, who ever you are, you made a difference in my world and hopefully in the world in general. Thank you for not giving up in telling the world that yes, in fact, Jesus does love them so very much. Maybe you were a child, who forget their handwritten picture on the sink earlier that day as you washed your hands, or maybe you were a teen or adult, who knew to hear God’s voice and share the love you know with the world who does not know of God’s love.

We all have a part to play in Christ’s kingdom if we are Christians. Don’t give up and throw in the towel. Your action might be small, like a little piece of paper on a sink. But you make the difference in the world.

The world is desperate for answers, for peace, and for love. God has all that, and He is offering it freely. We all need to encourage each other about God’s love for us. Of His truth. Of His peace He offers. Of His hope that does not disappoint. Of His answers to prayer, that sometimes come in the form of little notes left on sinks.

Maybe you are looking for answers, be sure not to overlook those little quiet voices, reminding you to look to God for those answers. Be quiet enough to listen so that you don’t miss them. They might come in the form of a little, folded, love note from God. God hears you.

Caution or fear

Life is full of challenges. Too many challenges some days, but overall its our attitude in facing these challenges  that can either hold us back or keep us moving forward. Recent days have demonstrated just how quickly life can change. Lives can be disrupted by a small crown like virus. For some it produces no more than the common cold, for others, a serious medical emergency. But all lives have been affected to be sure in some manner or another.

Yet, time continues to pass, whether that time passes while we sit indoors, or as we venture out to our jobs and schools. Circumstances change, locations change, but time is always moving forward.  We can latch onto this forward movement, or resist it and try to drag our heels.We can either find the good in our circumstances or look for the bad in our circumstances, but we cannot change the fact that even if our world seems to stop, life does not. We get older, and hopefully wiser, as we experience life. As the saying goes, time marches on.

I’ve recently been considering how I address the fears that have cropped up since the pandemic, and found that, I have been letting my emotions have first place. I am, by nature, a cautious person. I make sure not to pull out into traffic without looking carefully. In fact, during my driver’s test, that was the one complaint of the tester, I was too cautious! I will agree to that, I’d rather be safe than crash my car. But sometimes too much caution keeps me from enjoying my life. For example, I’m afraid of roller coasters that turn upside down. I love fast roller coasters- in fact the faster the better- but, I’m just too cautious to go upside down. I’m cautious. But, someday I imagine I will get the courage to face this fear and go on one of those crazy twisty, upside down terror rides.

As the days have passed since the beginning of this pandemic I have noticed there is great debate over the seriousness of the pandemic, some toss all caution to the wind, while others are fearful of everyone and avoid everybody. I admit, at first I was scared to death and followed every update on the news. But, then I began to read more about the disease and also a book that challenged my faith. It made me realize how I had allowed my natural caution to turn into fear and here I was with this question posed at me by the author of the book, “Am I afraid to die?” Wow, that’s heavy for anyone to read in a book about helping your thought life. Thanks? for that, I feel so much better now.  Seriously though,that really put things into perspective. I do believe God has given us all a healthy fear of death, so we will be cautious and not hurt ourselves. But, we can allow this fear to control us and manipulate us.

It’s a good question to ask yourself, what am I afraid of? Am I afraid of all the bad news I hear? Afraid of being rejected? Afraid or being hurt? Afraid of failing? Anyone of these fears are normal, but when moved past the level of cautious to downright fearful, we have a problem. It freezes us from moving forward.We close ourselves off to others, and to God. Difficulties will always face us as a planet. There will be more pandemics, more floods, more wildfires, more famines, more earthquakes, more hurricanes, more betrayals, more hurts, more financial problems, more sicknesses and diseases that claim too many lives too soon. But what matters is how we process all of this. We can be filled with fear and resign ourselves to believe that God is a God who doesn’t care what is going on down here, or we can quietly, take a deep breath, pray, seek God’s face and not His hand, and trust. That’s it. Trust. All of our fear and worry will not change the outcome. This planet will move forward.Time will move forward. All the circumstances that cause us fear will disappear as quickly as they came. In the meantime, trust. God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. It is what I have banked my life on. God does not leave. God is with us even through this time of stress and anxiety. We can be cautious and wise, but not let fear get the better of us. God’s got this.

 

Location, Location, Location

Where’s your there? Have you ever thought about that? Confused? Don’t worry, let me explain first and we’ll come back to that question in a minute. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here in the south east part of the United States where I live. So, to enjoy this nice day of warm sunshine without any clouds in the sky, my husband and I went out for a coffee date. We went to our usual place that offers regular coupons allowing us to buy one coffee and get one free (we are very cheap with our dates!). It also has tables outside where customers might sit, talk, and enjoy their coffees on beautiful sunny days.

Coffee dates like this one are great times to talk with your spouse. You are away from home for a short time and free from distractions. On this beautiful sunny day we were out sharing the highs and lows of the past week. We also shared new challenges upcoming for our lives. I share this scene because I want to encourage you to do the same. Spending time talking, away from distractions is a benefit for relationships. Second, I wanted to share with you some of our conversation so that you might understand my question; “Where’s your there?”

As I was sharing my concerns with my husband, who by the way is a great listener, when we are away from the distractions at home, a subject came up. I recently had the opportunity to share some of my personal, educational, professional and ministry information on a website. My first thought when I saw this opportunity was “Wow, this is great” and “This could be a great opportunity for getting my self out there!” Immediately though, my second thought was “Is this where I want to be?” Is this organization the right one for me, that would represent what I believe in and am trying to promote?

Have you ever been the recipient of great advice that tells you “Just get out there!”or, “Put your name out there!” Maybe a coworker was encouraging you, or your best friend, or your mom. I admit I have said this many times to my own adult children. A few years ago there was even a marketing campaign for a cruise line that said “Get out there!”

I admit, I don’t always like the marketing and platform building done in ministry. It is common now days for ministries and churches to build marketing strategies and branding themselves. So, there are many who offer the advice to “Get your name out there” But, let me ask once again, “Where’s there?” I suspect that there is inhabited by they. I’m sure you’ve heard of they. “They say drinking coffee is good for you. They say drinking coffee is bad for you. They say this is in style.  They say this is out of style.They say you should go to college. They say you do not need a college degree” Have you ever thought who are they and why do they have so much to say? And just where is there that you’re suppose to be getting out to? That’s why I suspect there is where they live.

So, why did I have hesitation about putting my name out there? Well, I have often found that opportunities that do not give me peace are best avoided. It is the Holy Spirit giving me caution about what I am about to do. My husband and I often refer to it as the yellow or caution signal. Sometimes it is obvious and we refer to this as a red flag. But sometimes it is about questioning the there asking whether this is where God wants me to be. Other times it requires asking myself about my own motivations, like “Am I calling attention to myself or pointing others to God?” These two questions, coupled with prayer are essential to test whether something is from God and beneficial.

The Bible tells us we are to test things to see if they are from God. One example is found in 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (New International Version Bible).  Paul, like John, offers this from Romans; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:2, NIV).

The Bible also tells us that are works will be tested. This is where the motivation question, my second question, that I ask myself comes into play. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this subject as well; “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will  be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). If my motivation is solely for myself then it is like adding straw to the fire; it’s going to get burned up, in other words, its not going to last into eternity. It’s basically worthless.

So, in this combination of questions, the where and the motivation, helps me to decide if this is the there I want to be. So, let me ask you again; “Where’s your there?”  Is it a place where you will be in God’s will? Is it a place where you are pointing others to God, or just to yourself?  Location is important. God has something good for you and listening to Him will put you in the right place at His right time. We can get ( and give) great advice to help others grow and move past difficulties and “get out there”. Let’s make sure we know where the “there” is. Is it in God’s will, or somewhere else? -God Bless- Nancy