Sure Footing

He noticed wrongdoing at work. He took it as long as he could. So he talked to his bosses. They listened. Offered to help. Told him to be cautious. The harassment continued. So a formal complaint was filed and a hearing was scheduled.

His family prayed. His friends prayed. His church prayed. They hoped and prayed that the wrongs would be righted. That the bullies would be put in their place.

That didn’t happen.

His boss sided with the bad guys. He was told to forget it and move on. No wrongdoing was found. It was just personality differences. That’s what they said.

Now what? How was he supposed to continue working with people he couldn’t trust? How would he get a fair review from sketchy reviewers? What was his next step? What should he do?

How does someone handle life when God hasn’t come through for him? At least in the way he hoped and needed. What does a person do when life gets tougher when it was already tough enough?

Our situational difficulty may be our spiritual necessity. Kandy Persall

Someone else seemed to have the world at his fingertips. His career was looking up. He was going to make a name for himself. Things were going his way. Until they weren’t.  Until his world came crashing down. He lost the business. He lost his family. Then he lost hope. He had nowhere to turn.

It seemed that the foundation his faith was built on was shifting sand. Not the solid rock he thought it was. Was his faith in himself or in God? The test was becoming far too real for comfort. Failure had never been an option, but now it seemed all other options were gone. Where was hope when he needed it most?

What do you do when life throws you a curve ball that you just can’t dodge. How do you trust God when he seems to have let you down?

She had a rough day at work. She was out with friends eating dinner. The first thing she did was order a drink. To take the edge off.  She needed to calm down. Calm her nerves. That’s what she said.

Why was her first thought to numb the stress? Why not walk through the stress with God by your side?  Why not open the word of God? Find a biblical promise to guide you and hold you through the stresses of life? She says she trusts God, but why is alcohol the first comfort she reaches for?


But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. Psalms 73:2


At times, all we have during our hurts, trials and disappointments is Jesus. He’s the calm in the storm. He’s the light shining in the darkest night. He’s the fighter in the fight for survival. He’s the refuge when the going gets tough.

Isn’t Jesus enough? Has he proven himself to you? Do you let him prove himself or do you run straight to that bottle? Or that lottery ticket?  Or that website? Or that credit card?

When will Jesus be enough if you’ve never let him show you that he is enough?

Pain hurts. Fear scares. Pride puffs. Disappointment disappoints. Through it all. God still stands. He is always victorious in his battles.  

Even when our feet slip and our footing is unsure in this life, God is the anchor. He is the rock. He is the current in the stream of life. He stays with us and keeps us from falling if we reach for him. If he is the source of strength we turn to in our most difficult, darkest moments, we will see him shine as bright as the day. His promises are true. He can be trusted. His love is sure even when times aren’t.

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. C.S. Lewis

Above the Fray

I watched a video recently of sand breaking apart as ocean water washed up on it. The sand that had once looked sturdy, thick and solid was crumbling. With one sweep of an ocean wave, the sand that appeared to be packed tight, instantly split apart and fell into the waves. The sand had no strength against the strong force of the ocean. It wasn’t prepared for the liquid force of nature against each tiny granule. The ocean won that day.

Fabric can fray. In order to prevent a bolt of fabric from fraying, the edges of the lengthwise grain of the fabric are tightly and thickly woven. It’s called the selvage. Once cut, though, the fabric can easily fray. If not careful, several inches of fabric can be lost due to the fraying.

Life can be tricky and uncertain. Circumstances out of our control can easily tear us apart. If our faith isn’t firmly grounded in the truth of God’s word, it can fall apart at the slightest notion. If our faith is formed by those who call themselves light but are indeed darkness, will we realize before it’s too late that we’ve been deceived? How strong is faith if it hasn’t been tested and tried? Is it even faith?


If the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! Matthew 6:23


How can a person live above the fray of life without unraveling? How does one hold it together when life is falling apart? When the wind blows the house down? When the waves cause the walls to collapse around you? When you’re accused of wrongdoing even though you’ve done no wrong? When everything seems to go wrong all at the same time? How do you stand in the midst of the crumbling sand? When the test of time tests your faith, does your faith still stand?

Jesus could cite biblical passages to explain his behavior. His entire life was exactly in line with biblical teaching. If someone questioned his actions, he could quote Scripture to back up his behavior. He could discuss biblical passages with comfort and ease. He lived above the fray. Even when tempted, he resisted. Can you? Can I?

How do you explain your behavior?  Does it fall in line with Scripture?  Love your neighbor and your enemy.  Do good to those who persecute you.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Turn the other cheek.  Forgive as you have been forgiven.  Don’t steal or kill. Don’t commit adultery. Resist temptation. 

I look at my life. My actions. What part of Scripture do they point to?

How far above the fray do I live? Could my faith unravel at a moment’s notice? Am I living far enough away from the shoreline that I won’t sink or drown? Do I live just close enough to be accepted by those who don’t call themselves believers? Do I toe the line just enough to say I’m a follower of Christ? Does my life reflect continual growth and knowledge of God’s word?

I have to ask myself. Do my thoughts reflect the attitude of Christ? Do my words cast doubt about my relationship with God? Do my actions mirror biblical truth?

Seek the truth. Know the truth. Live the truth.

Bold Prayers

Do I dare to pray boldly? What request do I have that would seem rather bold and extraordinary to bring to God? Do I dare tell him the deep longings of my heart? Do I risk sharing heartfelt needs that only He knows? The ones He already knows.

When I think of my prayers, I think they’re bland. They’re not daring. They don’t make me uncomfortable. They don’t take my breath away with the thought that I just asked such a bold thing of God. But why not? Why don’t I pray extreme prayers? I don’t want to be complacent, but then I don’t like the thought of being uncomfortable either. I can’t have it both ways. 

I want to pray boldly. I want to see first world miracles. But what exactly is that? What is a first world miracle? What miracle could I possibly need today that would satisfy my deepest longings? Perhaps it’s not my needs I should focus on. Perhaps I should look at the bigger picture and consider the needs of others before mine.

Oh.  I get it.  People in third world countries pray for their basic needs to be met.  Sometimes on a daily basis. Missionaries in foreign countries pray for safety and protection.  They pray for God to provide immediate desperate needs. But I don’t live in a third world country. 

Oh. I trust God. I do. So why don’t I ask for things bigger than I can imagine? Why don’t I make requests that seem impossible? After all. Nothing is impossible with God.


And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.  1 John 5:14-15


I don’t have to wonder where my next meal is coming from. I don’t worry about where I will sleep at night. I have a closet full of clothes. I don’t doubt that my family loves me. I have enough money to pay my bills. My health is good. I have everything I need.

So what should my bold prayers look like? What should I ask for in bold faith? Perhaps the boldness comes in not asking for petty things.  The need isn’t always about having stuff.

Perhaps I’m afraid to pray bold prayers. Perhaps I’ll discover that my bold prayers are answered. Or maybe they’re not. Can’t I reach out in faith and pray those prayers that might just break open heaven’s floodgates? Imagine what might happen.

The King of kings says to come boldly to his throne.  He says we have the same power that caused Jesus to rise from the dead. This offer is free for the taking, because he’s already paid the price.

We need to pray specific, continual radical prayer says Greg Pruett. He also says we should intentionally pray the kinds of prayers that tap into all of Jesus’ open-ended promises about prayer in a way that achieves maximum Kingdom impact.

Oh. I’ve prayed bold prayers. Others have prayed bold prayers. And they’ve been answered. I think of the prayer for the unborn baby who received a diagnosis in the womb. Family and friends prayed for that baby. He was born perfect and healthy.

I think of two churches. One looking for a new location. The other was looking to overcome a tough financial situation. Both churches were praying. Believing God would provide the miracle. Little did they know that God was working on a plan to combine those two churches in one overwhelmingly beautiful location.

The thing about praying bold prayers is that I need to be comfortable with the answers God gives. I must be willing to accept his miracles as he performs them. They may not always be the answers I would have chosen or dreamed of, but they are still answers and miracles. I must be willing to accept the gifts as they are given.

What if I prayed for God to work his plan in my life, instead of asking for him to work my plan. What if I asked God to do the impossible instead of asking for the probable. What if I stepped aside and allowed God to do what only he can do. What if.

The Act of Obedience

Obedience is a long slow path to eternity.  It’s not always easy when I’m asked to do something out of my comfort zone. Or if I’m asked to stop doing something I enjoy. But oh. It should be an easy act. This obedience. When I think of who I’m obeying. And why I’m obeying. 

Oh. I obeyed my parents as a child. I’m a rule follower. I like having boundaries. Call me odd. But that’s when I’m at my best.  I’m at my best until I want my way. I want the discomfort to end. I want the rewards to kick in. I want out of the situation. And God has other plans. Or his timing is slower than mine. 

I always have a choice. Walk my path. Which seems quicker and easier. Or wait for God to move. After all, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. All in God’s timing. But what if my timeline is shorter than a thousand years? Do I continue to wait? Or do I forge ahead on my own?

There’s an old hymn that I love. Trust and obey. For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.

So I’m waiting. And I’m uncomfortable. And I don’t like it. But I’m at peace. I’m at peace with myself and with God.

Oh. I weigh my options. I may be faced with surprising choices at some point. But for today, I’m where God has placed me. So I sit and wait. Oh. I’m not doing nothing. I’m praying like I’ve never prayed before. I’m reading God’s word. I’m searching for answers. 

He’s telling me to trust and obey. For there’s no other way.


Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7


When I think of the consequences of disobedience, it’s an easy decision. As long as my head and heart stay in God’s word. Listening for his voice. Because if I don’t stay close to the lover of my soul, the hater of my soul will sneak in to catch me unaware.

Obedience is a daily act. A surrender of my will. A relinquishing of my wants to the divine will of God. It’s a bowing in submission and letting go of all I want. Of who I am. It’s a full surrender of all of me. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Oh. It’s big. It takes all I have at times. But when I consider the cost of disobedience, it’s an easy surrender. 

I have to ask myself. Do I trust God? Do I have confidence in him? Do I believe he will keep his promises? After all, he never lies. He does what is best for me. His timing is perfect. He is with me every step of the way. So I have to trust him, even if I can’t see the path ahead. I have to believe that he will see me through to the end. I do have confidence in Him. Why would I consider doubting Him?

Trust and obey. For there’s no other way.

 

Great Commission

I heard the phrase on the news again. I never want another person to have to go through what I’ve gone through. It’s a phrase I hear often on the news. Someone was treated unfairly. Someone’s child was bullied. Someone lost a loved one too soon. Someone was swindled out of their life savings. Someone lost everything. Someone was the victim of a crime. And the list goes on.

We never want others to experience the same difficulties we’ve faced. So we share our story. Hoping someone will learn lessons we learned too late. Hoping our loss will help steer someone clear of the same grief. Or teach them how to cope better than we did.

Does it work? Our sharing? Do others listen and learn from our tough times? We only hope they do. Because we’ve learned from those times that we can survive. We’ve learned some wounds will heal and become scars. Reminders of our suffering. We’ve learned we must forgive. We’ve learned that life goes on. Even when we feel that we can’t. But we do.



But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? Romans 10:14


What if we would say this. I don’t want anyone else to go through life not knowing God. I don’t want anyone to live life thinking they have to be self sufficient. I don’t want anyone else to live without God being their source of strength. I don’t want anyone else to die without being ready to meet God. What would I have to do to make sure that happened?

If only everyone knew that in times of grief, God will give sustaining grace. If only everyone experienced the peace that comes with God’s forgiveness. Do people know that God doesn’t lie? When God makes a promise, He keeps it. Always. Does everyone know that God forgives and forgets? Does everyone know that God is three in one? God the Father. God the Son, Jesus Christ. God the Holy Spirit. They’re all different, but they’re one.

Does it work? Our sharing of our faith? Does sharing how God will never quit loving each of us and that He’s always available make a difference in someone else’s life? I hope and pray that it makes a difference. Otherwise. People will be lost. People will live without hope if they haven’t heard that God loves them.

We should tell our story.  Our hurts. Our fears. Our shame. Our successes.  Our failures.  Our losses. Our redemption.  How else will others know salvation is worth it? How will someone else know that a relationship with God is the most important one they could ever have? How will the world know unless those who walk with Christ lead others to him?

There is a great commission. Go and tell everyone that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords. That Jesus died for them. That he wants to spend eternity with them in heaven. That they can escape hell. 

A New Way to Walk

I’ve been told I walk wrong.  When I take a step, I step off on the ball of my foot instead of with my heel.  Apparently, that isn’t the way walking should be done.  So I now have foot problems.  Bunions.  Morton toe.  And they hurt.  They can disfigure a foot.  And they cause problems with wearing shoes.  If I wear shoes that I think look stylish, my feet are screaming by the end of the day.  Oh.  There are remedies.  Surgery.  Toe separators.  Exercises.  Orthopedics.

I stretch my toes with Yoga Toes.  I use Yamuna balls for a foot workout.  I get foot massages.  These things help my feet.  I can feel the difference afterwards.  But I’m looking for long-term relief.  I want relief from the pain I feel from wearing certain shoe styles.

I’m told there is a correct way to walk and an incorrect way to walk.  I try walking the correct way.  It takes deliberate concentration to walk just right.  With each step, I have to think about how I’m stepping.  Some days I do my best to walk correctly.  Heel first.  Roll to the outside edge of the foot.  Then roll from the pinkie toe to the big toe.  That’s what I’m told.  It is less pain.  My feet feel better when I walk like that.  But it takes concentration.  And there are days that I don’t feel like concentrating on how I walk.

I find it’s easy to slip into the habit of walking in the old way.  The incorrect way.  It shows, too.  After I’ve walked incorrectly for awhile, my feet don’t feel good.  The ball of my foot hurts.  The muscles feel tight.  The bunion aches.

I saw a new massage therapist.  As he worked on my feet, he noticed the problem immediately.  He could sense the tightness and soreness.  He applied pressure in tight areas.  He worked to ease the discomfort.  The momentary pressure brought great relief that will last longer than any discomfort I had been feeling.  Oh.  How good it felt to be able to stretch my feet without the tightness.

I’ve probably been walking this way since I learned to walk.  It’s a natural walk for me.  After all these years, it’s hard to re-learn to walk.  After all, I didn’t know I was walking incorrectly.  So when I try to walk the correct way, I have to think through each step of the process.  That certainly slows down the walking.  But I’ve noticed that the discomfort and pain are lessened if I walk the right way.  Maybe there is something to this new way of walking, after all.


But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son, purifies us from all sin.  1 John 1:7


I think of the one who has recently made the decision to walk with Christ.  They asked God to forgive them of their sins.  They’re starting over.  They’re walking in Christ’s footsteps now.  They need to learn a new way of walking in this world.

Oh.  There will missteps.  There will be pitfalls.  There will be tests.  There will be trials.  and there will be temptations.  Temptations to walk in the old way.  The way not of Christ.  Old habits die hard.  Tempers flare.  Words are said.  Attitudes are set.  Behaviors once thought conquered may reappear.

The new walk may sometimes be painful.  Learning to walk in the footsteps of Christ can be invigorating.  humbling.  empowering.  peaceful.  forgiving.  This walk is not impossible.  But it won’t be a perfect step.  This new walk is a walk of obedience.

The thing is.  This new walk is not meant to be a walk of solitude.  It’s meant to be a walk in step with others.  It’s a walk with those who have walked those first baby steps of faith.  It’s a walk of companionship.  Camaraderie.  Fellowship.  A walk with fellow believers.  A walk with someone who can  disciple and mentor a new believer along the path of faith.  This walk can’t be walked alone.

My Kind of Man

He was a man of few words.  Until he spoke.  He gave good solid advice.  He made sound decisions.  He spoke with authority.

He was a man among men.  He was a leader.  Oh.  He didn’t seek out leadership positions.  They sought him.  Whether it was the school board.  The church board.  The farm association board.  He always ended up being the leader.  He never said if he was comfortable in that position.  But somehow those positions always found him.  And he led well.  He was respected and loved.

My dad loved to tease people.  He would honk the horn at pretty women.  Flirt with them.  Joke with others.  He had a nickname for most people.

He laughed when a prank caller insisted he was cheating on my mom.  My mom didn’t laugh.  He wasn’t cheating and they both knew it.  He loved my mom with a fierce love.  He was protective and watchful over her.  To her dying day.

Daddy loved pears and hated iced tea.  He always wanted a watermelon with candles for his birthday in July.  Birthday cake was not good enough for this man.

I think back to my childhood years when life was carefree for me.  They were years of hard work for him.   I can picture him in his v-neck t-shirt, worn thin from years of wear.  I can see him leaning against the kitchen door frame.  Head thrown back in a hearty laugh.  Oh.  I can still hear that laugh.


The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9


After sitting on a hot, noisy tractor all day, my dad liked to walk into a quiet house.  Piano practice had to be over.  The radio turned off.  No noise.  Just peace and quiet.  That’s what he liked after a noise filled day.

Daddy loved his work. He’s the first man I ever knew who loved his job. Oh. It wasn’t a job. It was a lifestyle. It was hard work with few rewards and great sacrifice. It was farming. And it ran in his blood.

His heart attack forced retirement on him in his early 70’s. He never really bounced back from the open heart surgery. It made an old man out of him.

Every night before we went to bed, he would call us kids into the living room.  He would pull out the Bible story book and open it.  There we would sit and listen as he read a story to us.  We read through that book many times over the years, with those stories engrained in our memory.  Then we would kneel and pray as a family.  Each night.  Those prayers are engrained in my heart.

Oh.  He wasn’t a perfect man.  But he was the wisest, smartest and noblest man a girl could ever choose for a father.  No.  He didn’t play ball with us or take us out to eat.  But he taught us a solid work ethic.  He taught us to share what we had with others.  He led by example.

I love the kind of man my dad was.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I chose a husband made from the same cloth.  One who loves God.  Loves his work.  Has a great sense of humor.  Makes solid decisions.  A leader.  An influencer.  Well respected.  Someone I wholeheartedly trust.  That’s my kind of man.

 

The Unpredictable Fight for Survival

It was a cold and somewhat snowy mid-April morning.  Standing outside in my coat and scarf, I held tightly to the leash as the dog sniffed the ground.  Looking over, I noticed the peonies.  They had begun their spring growth with faith and confidence that this season would be their best.  As they had poked their heads out of the ground at their earliest chance, they began to sprout their best red apparel.  I’m sure it didn’t take much time for them to realize this wasn’t a typical spring.

This particular spring has been unpredictable.  Weather colder than usual.  Easter snow.  The seven day weather pattern seemed to include lower temperatures and snow into the middle of April.  These peonies didn’t seem to have a fighting chance.  But they didn’t know it.  They fought for life like their life depended on it.  And it did.

I wondered how strong and deep was the foundation of these peonies.  Oh.  In seasons past, they hadn’t fared so well.  They were planted in a beautiful setting overlooking the wooded ravine.  As they grew in the springtime, they were full of promise and hope. But as the trees bloomed and the leaves spread their wings, the peonies seemed to fade.  They no longer had the ability to reach their full potential.  The leafy trees shaded the peonies so well that their buds failed to open.  At best only one or two buds ever flowered.

In good faith, I had surrounded each of them with the old tomato cages from years past.  Rusty and lopsided, they would do their job for another season.  You see.  This year only three peony plants arose from the soil.  Previous years had four plants.  But not this spring.  Only three plants had survived the winter and decided to brave an unwelcoming spring.

Such disappointment.  Such lost hope.  Such wasted potential.  Sometimes what seems to be an obvious showstopper is sometimes stopped before the show starts.  It seems a total waste.

This spring has sure been a disappointment.


Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  Habakkuk 3:17-18

My spring had started out strong.  I had hope and confidence that this year would be the best ever.  No specific reason for that.  But hope was running high.  Little did I know that before winter had blown over, my confidence in the year would be blown away.  I had to find new reasons for hope.  I had to dig deep to find confidence.  I had to rely upon my stronghold of faith that had grown over the years.  Sometimes it didn’t feel enough.

I will always remember that day.  It started out on an even note.  Actually, though.  If I think about it, it didn’t.  Someone said something to me that morning that really bothered me.  I wanted to talk to someone important about the words, but I hesitated.  Later, as I walked back in the building at lunch time, I saw her heading out the door.  I mentioned that she probably wouldn’t want to come back in.  It was a nice day.  I just have to get out of here for awhile.  She said.  Oh well.  I though.  The day must not be going so well for her.

Little did I know that she held a secret that would change my life.  Two hours later we met in a closed room.  There I learned that I was no longer employed.  My job was done.  Just like that.  In an instant, I went from earning a decent paycheck to the unemployment line.  For no good reason.  I see why her day wasn’t going so well.  She knew that she was about to upset my life.  And apparently, it upset her.  But she did it anyway.

I have been growing roots in my Christian walk for many years.  Sometimes those roots have been tested.  The winds of change and heartache have blown.  The years of tests and trials have stretched those roots until they’ve almost snapped.  But through each test and trial and heartache and loss, I’ve dug deep into the Word to gain strength needed for each day.

The past few years have been good.  Easy.  In fact.  I knew that a new day would come that would produce a new heartache.  A new trial.  I knew that I would be tested again.  I want to say I was ready for it.  But.  Really.

Oh.  Sure.  I had kept myself in God’s Word.  Studying.  Praying.  Staying close to God.  I’ve worked to keep my roots strong and deep and sheltered.  I’ve sat those old tomato cages of faith in place to hold me up when the burdens weigh me down.  But when life is good.  When the flowers are in full bloom.  When the tomato cages are holding me strong.  It’s easy to forget about the tough times.  It’s easy to overlook the daily conversations I should have with my Lord.  It’s easy to take care of myself.  It’s easy to think I don’t need help.

But this time.  I find I’m holding on for dear life.  I find that the old tomato cages aren’t as strong as they once were.  The rusty metal has seen better days.  The uneven legs are wobbly.  Oh.  I had filled my well full of everlasting water.  But I find I’m taking bigger drinks than I have in the past.  I’ve been told that the well never goes dry.  I’m holding onto that promise and looking for the peonies to bloom.