for the days when you’re in over your  head, in rough waters, and/or between a rock and a hard place

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“Don’t be afraid.”

These were the words handwritten after my name, beneath the bright yellow smiley in a card I received recently. The card was from a fellow participant in Round 11 of Five Minute Friday Snail Mail. (Also know as #fmfpartysnailmail; see link at end of this post for a description).

I read it and had two simultaneous thoughts. (Okay. Not actually simultaneous but they occurred in such rapid succession that they seemed to occur at the same time).

One thought was, “I am not aware that I am afraid.”

The other was, “But there have been times when you did not know you were holding your breath until you exhaled.” Point taken.

And I have lived long enough to know that HE can send me resources and truth before the trial comes. And it is only after the fact that I realize something that came to me in a season of relative quiet, turned out to be the rope I needed to hold onto, the firm place I needed to stand on, the safe place I needed to hide when the storms hit, and my world is shaking.

The handwritten note contained most of The Message translation of Isaiah 43:1-3. I read the verses and was encouraged. So, just in case you can use some encouragement right now, I want to share the portion of this passage which was shared with me. Even if things are going well, perhaps you can hide it in your heart for the days when  you’re in over your  head, in rough waters, and/or between a rock  and a hard place.

” …Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God…”

(As promised, here is the link which explains the hashtag fmfpartysnailmail.)

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Sing

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Joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community (on Saturday) for our weekly writing adventure. To learn more about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is “Sing.”

GO

 “How shall we sing a song of the Lord; in an alien land?
(But how can be sing a song to the Lord, in a foreign, or a strange, land?)
(Psalm 137:4, Wycliffe Bible)

“Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland? (Psalm 137:4, Message)

I can almost feel their heartbreak, the heartbreak of the children of Israel who had been led captive to Babylon because of their sin, their prolonged disobedience to God. They were asked by those who had captured them to sing one of the songs of Zion. They felt unable to do so.

And there are seasons in all of our lives when the idea of singing, of singing a song of the Lord, of singing a song to the Lord, in the place where we are, seems inconceivable. For where we are seems like a “wasteland,” “a foreign place.” But it is in those places and in those seasons that we must sing; we need to sing a song of the Lord, of His goodness and His unending grace of His mercy and of His faithfulness. Of His love and His promise to always be with us, when He seems most far away. It is then we must sing a song to Him.

STOP

Declaring to Him, “You are faithful. You are gracious. You are full of compassion and plenteous in mercy. There is no one like You. Your loving-kindness endures forever.” Because singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, worshipping Him focuses our attention on Him. Reminds us Who He is. And when we remember Who He is, we are reminded of who we are in Him, and of His promise to be with us always … in the fire, in the water, in the flood, in the wilderness. And work everything together for our good. He gives us the strength and the grace in the wasteland. And sometimes He transforms the wasteland, the wilderness, into a place where flowers blossom. Sometimes He transforms us in the wasteland, in the foreign places. Sing.

“… and Peter”

_... and Peter ..._

A drowning person’s life flashes before his or her eyes.
Or so I have been told.
And if there is truth in this statement,
I wonder if Peter’s life with Jesus flashed before his eyes
as he drowned in an ocean of shame, horror, pain, and disbelief
after doing what he had sworn he never would,
that is, abandon Jesus, the One he had left all to follow.

I wonder if he saw the moment when Jesus called to him and his brother Andrew
as they were casting a net into the Sea of Galilee, and said,
“Come follow me and I will send you to fish for people”?
And when He touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law as she was lying in bed with a fever, and the fever left her?

I wonder if remembered vividly the moment his feet touched the water after he asked, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water,” and Jesus responded, “Come”?
And when he responded to Jesus’ question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” with the revelation given to him by the Father, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter.

I wonder if he saw the thousands being fed with a little boy’s lunch, and Lazarus coming out of the tomb after he had been dead four days, and Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount?

I do not know but the One Who knew Peter would deny Him, not once but thrice in a short space of time, and loved him still, He made sure that Peter knew that there was forgiveness, and redemption, and restoration for Peter.

First, He sent the message of His resurrection through the angel, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
“… tell his disciples and Peter.”
“ … and Peter.”

Later, He would pose a question to him three times, “Do you love Me?”
And by the end of the conversation had commissioned him and, as He had done in their first encounter by the Sea of Galilee, called him to follow Him.

Like Peter, I have been guilty of denying Him,
Sometimes with my words.
At other times with my silence, behavior and choices.
Like Perer, I have been guilty of denying Him.
Perhaps you are too.
Thanks be to God, we can all be certain that,
no matter what we have done,
the same forgiveness,
redemption,
and restoration that Peter was given,
is also available to us.

Five Minute Friday: Empty

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Joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community for our weekly writing adventure. To learn more about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Empty.”

“He emptied Himself.”
He who is the Word.
He who was in the beginning.
He who has always been God.
He emptied Himself.

He, by whom, all things were created in heaven and on earth.
Visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.
He emptied Himself.

He, in whom is all the fullness of the Godhead .
He who holds all things together.
He emptied Himself.

He emptied Himself and became flesh.
He emptied Himself.
And allowed Himself to know hunger and be tempted.

He emptied Himself and became the man of sorrows,
intimately acquainted with grief.
To be rejected and despised.
As John notes, He came unto His own but His own did not receive Him.

He emptied Himself and because He did,
we who “were once estranged
and alienated
and hostile-minded toward Him,”
are now reconciled to God through His physical death.
We now “may have and enjoy life,
and have it in abundance,
to the full,
till it overflows.” 
All because He emptied Himself.

His Exclusive Claim

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As I mentioned in a recent post, I saw the movie, “The Shack,” two Sundays ago. I continue to reflect on this fictional story and have talked with several persons about it. As sometimes happens, a fresh insight came as I was telling one of my sisters about the movie and my experience of seeing it. What I noted was that the main character, “Mack,” encountered Jesus first and His words were an invitation.

I thought of John 14:6, which constitutes a part of Jesus’ response to Thomas’s question, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5, AMP). “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” (John 14:6, AMP).

This exclusive claim of Jesus has been the source of offense for many. In the article,  “Is Jesus the Only Way?” the author, Paul Rutherford, identifies Jesus’ exclusive claim that He is the only Way to God as “the most offensive aspect of Christianity today.” He identifies the following objections to Jesus’ exclusive claim: “Tolerance;” “Absolutes Don’t Exist;” and, “Pluralism.” Rutherford also provides the Scriptural basis for believing that Jesus is the only Way to God.  (I encourage you to invest the time necessary to read the article.  I recognize the need in myself to further develop the discipline of diving deeper into the tenets of my faith, to know why I believe what I believe. Perhaps you see this as a need we have in common). 

I think of Jesus’ exclusive claim and how being offended by His claim can result in one overlooking the amazing and incomprehensible fact that God loves us enough to provide any way back to Him, more so this Way. This Way, which required the Word to become flesh  and suffer beyond human imagining to redeem us.

Also, I recall His loving invitations and will close this post with two of them and His promise to those who come to Him. I pray that if you have not accepted His invitations, you will this Lenten season. And if you have, pause to give Him thanks.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls.  For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, AMP)

 Now on the last and most important day of the feast, Jesus stood and called out [in a loud voice], “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink! He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, ‘From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water. (John 7:37-39, AMP)

“All that My Father gives Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, never reject anyone who follows Me].(John 6:3, AMP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Knowability

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The Shack, the movie based on William Paul Young’s bestselling book of the same name, opened in US theaters on Friday, March 3, 2017. I saw it on Sunday. In one of the earliest conversations in the movie, Papa calls the main character by his full name, “Mackenzie Allen Phillipps,” and in response to his question, “Do I know You?” responds, “Not very well.”

As I watched the movie, I came face to face with the fact that I do not know God as well as I should and as well as He has made it possible for me to know Him. As well as He wants to be known. How incredible is this. God wants to be known.

We can never know Him fully but we can know what He has revealed of Himself, beginning with the Word made flesh. Here is a link to an article I found helpful about the knowability of God. I hope you find it helpful also. Blessings.

A life fully lived

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“Sarah lived a hundred and twenty-seven years; this was the length of the life of Sarah.” (Genesis 23:1, AMP)

I read Genesis 23:1 and wondered not about the length of Sarah’s life, but the fullness, the depth, and the breath of her life. I wondered, “Did Sarah live every day fully? Or, like me, like you, were there days when she was just surviving? Going through the motions? Wearied by the mundane?”

She was 90 years old when she give birth to Isaac. We know that she was very beautiful but had endured the heartbreak of infertility for decades, and had lost hope of having a child of her own. Remember how she laughed when she heard the Lord say that she would have a child?

For those of us who have lived with an unfulfilled dream, a yet unfulfilled promise, we can identify with her laughter at that moment. We can identify with Sarah’s laughter because, as much as we want it to be true, few, if any of us, are exempt from being assailed by doubt at some point in our journey of faith. And yet, this same Sarah who laughed within herself is one of only two women named in the Hall of Faith.

Read what is said of Sarah: first, in Genesis 21:1(NIV);

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.”

then in Hebrews 11:11 (AMP),

 “By faith even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive [a child], even [when she was long] past the normal age for it, because she considered Him who had given her the promise to be reliable and true [to His word].”

Read also what  the Bible records Sarah said of her self:

Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” (Genesis 21:6-7, NIV)

So what is my answer to the first question I posed earlier, “Did Sarah live every day fully?” My answer is, “No.” Why? Because she had days, even seasons, like you and I, when she made poor choices. And doubted God. And ill treated people in her life. But I dare say that she lived a full life. Because I believe it is the sum total of our days which matters. Any life characterized by a journey from doubt to faith.  Any life for which the defining statement is, “By faith even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive [a child], even [when she was long] past the normal age for it, because she considered Him who had given her the promise to be reliable and true [to His word]”, such a life is a life fully lived. A life with depth and breath. A life that each of us are enabled by God to live.

 “The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure.” (John 10:10, CJB)

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Slow

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I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community (on a Saturday) for our weekly writing adventure. To learn about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Slow.”

I have a crock pot. I have had it for over 10 years but have not used it ten times. It clearly is not one of the most frequently used items in my kitchen. Interestingly enough, when I do use it, I am always satisfied by the quality of the meal made.

Why have I not used it more? You guessed it. It is a slow cooker and unless I have intentionally chosen to cook a particular dish over an extended period of time, I use other utensils at my disposal.

I am thinking as I write of the things God has purposed for my life and yours. And how often, it seems that He is working very, very slowly to accomplish His goals. Much like if He is “cooking with a slow cooker.” But His timing is perfect. And He can never be rushed. And the finished product will always be worth the wait. Whether it is a situation or a change He is working in us.

 

The log that makes bitter water sweet

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22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

 There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” (Exodus 15:22-26, ESV; emphases added)

They were three days in the wilderness. Three days without water. Then Marah. Marah had water. But it could not be consumed because it was bitter.  The Israelites responded by grumbling against Moses. He  responded by crying out to the LORD. The LORD showed him that which He would use, through Moses, to make the bitter water sweet.

Are you there?

In the wilderness?

Walking through a difficult season?

 

You may have accepted that there is no way around.

Only through.

Or you are moving toward acceptance.

Determine not to complain.

Or at least complain less.

Trusting that things will not get worse.

 

But now you are at “Marah.”

And you realize that you were wrong.

Things can get worse. 

For Marah is a place of bitter water.

And there is nothing here that will refresh.

Nothing that will make the wilderness bearable.

There is nothing life-giving in this place.

 

In our Marahs, we have two choices: grumble like the Israelites; or, like Moses, cry out to the LORD. He is the only One who knows how to and is both willing and able to transform what is bitter into something sweet. He has the “log” which, when brought into that which is bitter, transforms it. The “log” is His Word. The “log” is His love.  The “log” is His grace. The “log” is His power all wrapped up in His finished work of redemption through the Cross (Jesus’ suffering, death, burial, and resurrection). We can cry out to Him to in our Marahs and He will transform that which is bitter into something life giving . . .  even when that which is bitter is us. He says to us as He did to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, your healer.”

 

Five Minute Friday: Weak

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I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community for our weekly writing adventure. To learn more about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Weak.”

GO

Loss and lack. These two states are common sources of weakness. Think of some one with a weak immune system. Some of the factors which can weaken our immune system include, chronic stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and lack of proper hygiene habits.

Anemia can also be a source of weakness and can be caused by a loss of blood. It is interesting to me that the loss of blood can be visible, as in when someone has an open wound. But the loss can also be internal. And that type of loss may take longer to uncover.

In addition to loss and lack, sorrow can also make us weak. Hear David’s words, his prayer to God, “Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.” (Psalm 31:9, NIV). Yes, sorrow can make us weak. Drain the strength and joy, and sometimes even the will to live, right out of us. Thankfully, whatever the source of our weakness, there is one Source through Whom we can experience healing and restoration. Whether it is physical, spiritual, or emotional. He is our Healer and the Restorer.

STOP

He may use diverse means to bring about healing and restore our health and strength but He is the Source of it all.