Happy Hassles

We moved this week. Most women would be excited at the prospect of decorating their new home, but not me. Those who know me best know that I read, write, bake and clean, but I don’t decorate.

Decorating requires at least two of several things which I have in short supply: time, money, vision and creativity. Plus, all that stuff you put on your walls and shelves and tables must be dusted. With only one of our five children still at home, soon there will no longer be anyone around to do the dusting, which as we all know is why we had kids in the first place. Mike and I are not about to dust absent extreme duress.

So imagine my angst at having to figure out how to position the furniture in our odd shaped living room, taking into consideration the fireplace, the baseboard heaters and the wall of windows overlooking the Columbia River. I became increasingly frustrated as my husband and son pushed the bulky couch and hefty television stand around the room in search of the perfect location. Their exasperation grew louder with each huffing pull and grunting shove. Finally, we gave up and went to bed.

When making weighty decisions such as proper furniture placement, sleeping on it is always a good idea. I woke up early the next morning and, in a burst of inspiration, switched the position of the love seat and the recliner and voila! All was right with the world. I poured myself a cup of coffee and plopped down on the couch.

As I gazed out the window, it struck me that while my biggest problem last night had been where to put stuff in my house, there were multitudes who longed for a house or shelter of any kind.

I had boxes and boxes of bedding and blankets that would soon sit on my closet shelves while frigid homeless people sat outside wishing they had something to keep them warm.

My biggest concern this Thanksgiving week was getting to the grocery store in time to stock up on a ridiculous quantity of specific holiday staples before they were ravaged by other shoppers, while the hungry simply hoped for some food to quiet the ache in their bellies.

God had given me a beautiful home in the majestic Columbia River Gorge of the Pacific Northwest in the land of the free and the brave, with overflowing cupboards, an inviting living room and a cozy fireplace with a spectacular view of the gem of the ocean, and I wondered not at the miracle of that, but where to put the T.V.

Forgive me, Lord. Thank you for the spiritual, relationship and material blessings you have showered on me and my family. I stand in awe of you, God – your grace, mercy, compassion and loving kindness. Thank you for being faithful when I am faithless. Thank you for saving me from the folly of my sin and myself. Thank you for never leaving me, never giving up on me and always pursuing fellowship with me. Thank you for all the happy hassles of this life, the blessings of brokenness and your peace that passes understanding in the midst of pain. I am humbled and overwhelmed by you.

May we pass your love on to others, Lord, by giving blankets and coats to those without them, serving in soup kitchens and warming shelters and offering the bounty of our cupboards and hearts to those in need.

 

Advertisements

Misplaced Trust

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7.

We all trust in something. When you are a capable person and life is stable and good, it is easy to trust in yourself, your family or friends, job, bank account, house or investments. At times in my life I have trusted in each of these things. The problem with doing so is that they are temporary, and thus any security I think I have which is based on them is illusory.

Life is risky. The only certain thing about life is that it is uncertain. We are not always capable. People are human and will disappoint, betray and die. We can lose our jobs and our houses, sometimes through no fault of our own. The stock market will take us on a teeth rattling ride and may crash. Trials and tragedy for each of us at some point are assured.

There is only one place where our trust is not misplaced. There is only One who is trustworthy.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Just because we know Christ does not mean we will be saved from trouble. It simply means that we will be kept safe in His arms in the midst of trouble.

We will still experience difficulties in our relationships with our spouses, our children, our friends and neighbors. We will suffer pain and hardship at times. We will grieve, but not like those who have no hope. We don’t have to fear tomorrow, because we trust the One who is sovereign over yesterday, today and tomorrow.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23.

 

 

 

 

First Responders

How long do you put up with something that is bothering you before you decide to pray about it? Are you even now, at this moment, fretting about something instead of taking it to the Lord?

I know I often wrestle with a situation or problem in my own mind and complain to my friends long and hard about it before I pray. I take the rocky road to peace instead of the smooth shortcut. I am a self-sufficient fool.

“Pray continually.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Why do you suppose God told us to do that?

Not praying over our problems is like gashing our head open and refusing to seek medical treatment. Instead of calling 911 or going to the hospital and having a doctor disinfect the wound and stitch us up, we sit in our recliner at home and worry about what we should do to stop the blood pouring down our face. We call or text our friends about the problem and ask their advice on how to solve the painful throbbing that is making us feel faint or nauseous. Only after we have tried everything else first and nothing has helped do we finally decide to go see the Great Physician, taking it to the Lord in prayer.

God wants us to be first responders in the matter of prayer. If we will seek Him first, rather than as a last resort when we experience pain, confusion, sickness or discouragement, He promises to give us peace. Not just any peace, but the kind of peace that doesn’t make sense in light of our troubled circumstances. The peace Christ gives enables us to experience joy in the midst of our trials and pain. We can smile, despite the cancer diagnosis. We can trust Him to provide for us when we lose our job. We can be fearless in the valley of the shadow of death. We can have hope when we find ourselves alone and the darkness closes in, knowing that He promises to be with us.

Satan, however, wants to distract us from praying and keep us stewing over our problems as long as possible so that we do not tap into God’s healing power and perfect peace. He enjoys seeing our minds in frenzied, chaotic turmoil and our hearts writhing in pain. Refuse to let him win. Not when, but before all else fails, follow directions:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

Living Water

Water is life in Israel, a desert land with limited rainfall. In ancient times, during the dry season the people survived on stagnant water stored in cisterns. During times of drought they longed for fresh, clean rain to drink and with which to water their crops, and they cried out to God for maim chaim.

Maim chaim (pronounced “mi-eem hi-eem”) is Hebrew for “living water.”  Living water is free flowing water that comes directly from God such as rain or a spring. Maim chaim has not been stored in a manmade vessel, like a cistern, or pooled into a place from which nothing flows out, like the Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea. Because God is the source of living water, maim chaim is associated with God’s presence.

Ein Gedi is a surprising oasis in the midst of the Judean Wilderness on the Dead Sea. A spring arises in this wadi, bringing life to the barren desert. Lush green shrubs stand in stark contrast to the tanned and arid earth from which they grow, signaling the thirsty wanderer that water, and thus life, is near. Today Ein Gedi is a nature reserve, but for thousands of years both men and animals, including David, sought rest in the cool shade of this canyon and refreshment from the living water flowing through it.

While in Israel last year, we hiked up to a waterfall at Ein Gedi where we took a long drink of living water from the Word.

My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13.

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands….They will dwell in the parched places of the desert in a salt land where no one lives.” Jeremiah 17:5-6.

“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’” John 7:37.

As we sipped up the Scriptures, our leader helped us see that in the wilderness of this life, God is our Ein Gedi and Jesus is our living water. Just as the Jews could not get living water in the desert from a cistern or a toxic source like the Salt Sea, so too our thirst for wisdom, love, hope, grace, and mercy will not be quenched by anything or anybody on earth – ourselves, family, friends, careers, finances, fame or addictions.

These broken cisterns cannot heal our burnt and blistered hearts. Anything that we trust in or turn to instead of God to provide shade and shelter in the desert places of life is simply a mirage. Only the living water of the Word of God will satisfy our soul thirst. We must long for it like the Israelites longed for maim chaim in the desert. As David prayed, so must we:

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Psalm 63:1

We who know Christ as Lord and Savior have found living water. But we can’t stay at Ein Gedi.  God has called us to take the living water of the Word of God to the lost, dry and weary souls of this parched earth. Once we have rested and been renewed by the Word, we need to refresh others with it, helping them find the way to the Oasis so that they, too, may drink and be saved.

Let’s not settle for a shot of living water on Sunday mornings and call it good. Let’s be all in, crying out, “Maim Chaim!” People are dying of thirst for living water. May we keep drinking and share our water with the world.

IMG_1695IMG_1698IMG_1697   IMG_1696 (2)