It doesn’t make any sense

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday hosted by Kate Motaung at Link-up – Five Minute Friday. Today’s prompt is “once.”

My five-year-old granddaughter, a teeny little firecracker of a girl overflowing with personality and sass, asked her mama how to spell “once.”

“O-N-C-E,” mama answered.

“No,” said Firecracker, “no, it starts with “W.”  Wah-wah-wah-wahnce.”

“Well,” replied mama, “That’s how it sounds, but it starts with “O.”

Firecracker would have none of it.  To her, a word that started with “wah” had to also start with “W.”  Anything else was just, well, dumb.  (Welcome to the English language, sweet child.)

She’s not wrong.  It is illogical.  Language would be so much easier if things were spelled as we expect them to be spelled.

Life would be so much easier if things went as we expect them to go.  If families were all like Ozzie and Harriet (I am possibly dating myself here) and any mild conflict that arose was settled sweetly at the end of every half hour episode when we all sat down to a nice dinner together.  If “I do” always meant you really did, forever and always.  And if “till death do us part” never came sooner than it should – whether that’s five years or fifty years.  If our children were never anything but semi-perfect (perfect is tedious) and the worst thing we had to deal with during their growing-up years was that time one of them scratched an unmentionable word into the desk at school.  If, when they grew up and became “adults,” their lives flowed into perfect worlds of college-jobs-marriage-children-happiness without any heartache. 

If people we loved never disappointed us.

If we never disappointed people who loved us.

If we never heard those words, “It’s cancer.”

If we never had to sit in the waiting room … waiting.

If we never had to bury someone we never thought we would have to live without, and then try to figure out how to live without them.

But life is like the word “once.”  It isn’t anything like you expect it to be.  And that’s really okay, because you know what “once” has going for it?

Once upon a time…

Once I was blind, but now I see…

Once there was a man called Jesus…

Once is unexpected and still full of promise.  So is life.

Just wait till Firecracker finds out xylophone doesn’t have a “Z” in it.

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New Every Morning

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday hosted by Kate Motaung at Link-up – Five Minute Friday. Today’s prompt is “sunrise.”

I’m fortunate enough to live on a river in a beautiful place, and in the winter, when the sun is as lazy as I am, I often get to witness spectacular sunrises, with burning skies and likewise burning water.  Or other times, beautiful striations of color, bands one on top of the other painted by the Painter’s brush just for my pleasure.  I take picture after picture, but they never do justice to the real thing.

Of course there are also gray, dismal sunrises.  The kind that don’t light up the sky; the kind that make the river look dark and murky and oh-so-uninviting.  The kind that don’t prod me out of my chair to gasp in delight.  The kind that, quite frankly, often make me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. The kind I never take pictures of. 

Forest Gump said life is like a box of chocolates.  I think life is like the sunrise.  There are times when it’s breathtaking, exciting, invigorating.  So much beauty; so much promise.  A new job, a new love, a new baby, a new grandbaby – sometimes nothing new at all, just the absence of anything bad.  Picture after picture taken that never do justice to the real thing.

There are times when it’s quite average.  A little gray, a little color, nothing much to move you one way or the other.  Just another day to do just-another-day things.  Just-life days.  Maybe a picture taken here and there, for posterity.

And then there are the dark, dismal, totally gray sunrises.  The ones where you can’t see the sun at all.  You know it’s there because it’s light – sort of – but nothing looks beautiful.  Maybe it’s raining.  Maybe it’s just … dark.  Those days when you wake up and for just that one second it’s nice, until you remember.  A broken promise.  A broken heart.  A gut-wrenching loss.  That diagnosis.  The pain.  No pictures; we don’t want reminders, but we will never forget.

Life is like the sunrise.  Every day is different.  With God, though, we know these things are true:  His mercies are new every morning.  Each day is the day the Lord has made, and no matter what our sunrise is like, we can rejoice and be glad in it, because the Lord our God is with us wherever we go.

Always remember, joy comes in the morning.

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It’s Demo Day!

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday hosted by Kate Motaung at Link-up – Five Minute Friday. Today’s prompt is “design.”

Because of a dearth of anything worth watching on TV these days, or maybe because there are way too many stations and streaming services and choices and we are old and easily overwhelmed, hubs and I find ourselves watching a lot of HGTV at night when we’re ready for a little mindless entertainment.

We are amazed at how, in the course of a half hour, these people can take a ramshackle, falling-down old house and turn it into a stunning storybook home that anyone would just die for.  Bathrooms with soaker tubs and body jets, kitchens with the perfect back splash and islands the whole world could fit around, living rooms just begging to be, well, lived in.  And don’t even get me started on the master suites – with closets bigger than any bedroom I ever had growing up. 

And it all comes together because of vision and design.  People can take something I wouldn’t even look twice at and imagine what it could be, and then make it so.  I myself have trouble picking out throw pillows.  And they do it in a half hour!

But … not really, right?  Because if you watch the shows you will often notice whole seasons changing between the beginning of a project and the end.  You will see women go from announcing they’re pregnant and need a nursery in that amazing home to bringing home baby at the reveal.  So we see it happen in a half hour, but in truth of course the process took much longer.

And so it is with God’s design. 

Sometimes – I think kind of rarely – we can see the big picture, the top side of the tapestry, for brief moments, little glimpses of God’s mighty work completed.  But more often we are looking at the underside where all the threads are criss-crossed and mangled (unless you’re a very OCD needle worker in which case just go with me here, okay?). 

More often we see the mess of construction.  We see the walls torn down, everything deconstructed. It’s demo day, baby.

Our lives are so often more about the demo more than the remodel.  Because the remodel takes time. 

This much we know, we who love God and are called according to His purpose:  He has a design.  He has a plan.  He is working on the remodel in our lives, and even though we might be in the midst of demo right now, even if we can’t visualize how it’s going to look at the end or how it’s ever going to be beautiful, we know that God is working for good.  He is taking that diagnosis, or that trauma, or that loss, or that bad choice, or that heartache, and he’s going to make some good out of it, somewhere and somehow.  We know it because He said so.

He has a design.

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Please don’t take my sunshine away

I like smart TV.  That might sound like an oxymoron, and maybe it is in this day and age of reality TV that is anything but real.  Maybe that’s why my cupboards are filled with DVD’s of off-the-air shows (don’t laugh that I still watch DVD’s; I live in the boonies and streaming isn’t always an option).  I have all the seasons of M*A*S*H.  I have all the seasons of Friends.  And Frazier.  And Cheers.  And Northern Exposure, Mad About You, and Remington Steele.  Even Joan of Arcadia – both seasons.   My all-time favorite, of course, and what I think is the smartest show ever written (despite the liberal politics), is The West Wing;  I have all seven seasons and usually watch them all about once a year (yes, I pretty much know the dialogue by heart).

I recognize that some of you will disagree with my classification of some of those shows as “smart.”  You might think I actually meant “smartass.”  But no.  I do think they are all smart shows.  I think they’re well written, some with exceptional wit, some ahead of their time, some with astounding complexity of characters.  All of them had something to offer beyond just the mindless passing of 30 or 60 minutes every seven days.

My latest acquisition, and thus my latest in binge watching, is all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls.  I will staunchly defend my classification of Gilmore Girls as a smart show against anyone who wants to get into it with me, but that’s not what this is about.  This is about something one of the episodes I watched today made me think of.

In this particular episode, Lorelai was asked to talk to a class of Stars Hollow high schoolers about being a successful businesswoman.  She had great remarks prepared, but the kids started peppering her with questions about her scandalous past – didn’t she get pregnant when she was 16? Well, yes, but … Didn’t she drop out of high school?  Yes, but she got her GED … Did she regret it?  Well, no, because how could she regret having Rory?  So getting pregnant isn’t a bad thing?  Well, she wouldn’t recommend it but it turned out okay for her.   Of course, the other moms were all freaked out afterward, thinking Lorelai was advocating free sex and pregnancy for all, blah blah blah.

That got me thinking (which proves it’s a smart show, because any show that gets you thinking beyond how heartbreaking it would be to be on the wrong end of the rose ceremony is smart, right?).  How did Lorelai raise Rory without Rory ever feeling like she was the big mistake that ruined her mother’s life?  How do we ever tell our own kids about the regrets we have (we all have regrets, don’t we?) without making them wonder if we regret them?

Then my thoughts went straight to a young woman I know who, in the next few years, is going to have to start fielding uncomfortable questions from her daughter about the circumstances of the child’s birth.  I say uncomfortable because the young woman wasn’t married, because there was an element of force involved, because it wasn’t the fairytale everyone wants to hear.

So what does this young woman tell her daughter so the girl doesn’t think her very existence is some terrible mistake?  That she was not planned then, so she must not be wanted now?  That she must be a daily reminder to her mom of a terrible hurt?

There’s always lying – don’t ever tell the child the truth.  But rarely is lying a good choice.  Children have a way of knowing when you’re lying to them.  Plus the whole “lying is a sin” thing.  That too.

But this little girl – she is precious.  She is amazing.  She could take the world by storm, this one.  God has a plan for her.  She’s no one’s mistake.  So, this is what I’d tell her:

I’d tell her the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.  I’d tell her about how his brothers hated him and wanted to kill him, and eventually sold him into slavery.  And then how God used him to save a whole country full of people — as well as his own brothers who years before had betrayed him so ferociously.

I’d tell her, sometimes what man means for evil, God means for good.  And that she is a shining example of the mysterious wonder of how God can take something that is a bad thing and turn it into the most spectacular thing ever.  I’d tell her that things happen in our lives, some good, some bad.  But not one thing that ever happens is a surprise to God, and even the things that we don’t think are good can be used for good, and will be used for good, if we love God and trust God.

And I’d tell her this: I’d go through every second of my life exactly as it happened all over again, every single second, because I would not want to miss out on this incredible privilege I have of being your mom.

I’ll bet there are more than a few people out there who have children who will be asking uncomfortable questions soon.  I’ll bet there have been more than a few lives, if not derailed, at least sent down a different track because of an unplanned pregnancy, married or unmarried, consensual or not.  If that’s you, and if you wonder what to say to that child when the question is asked, here’s what I’d say.

I’d say:  You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray.  You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.  Please don’t take my sunshine away.

 

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Fresh Means Call Your Auntie

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday hosted by Kate Motaung at Link-up – Five Minute Friday. Today’s prompt is “fresh.”

Given my determination to write more and play gin rummy on my phone less this year, I opened my Five Minute Friday email with anticipation this morning to see what our prompt was this week.  I thought of some of the words that have been prompts over the last years that have inspired me, words like hope and view and listen.  I was eager to see what today would hold.

Fresh.

Fresh?

Well, fresh is a good word.  I guess.  Lots of different meanings.  The first thing that popped into my mind was new year = fresh start.  But somehow 2021 doesn’t have that “fresh start” feel to it.  It feels like 2020 v.2.  Or maybe that’s just me.  So even though I’m usually the family’s resident Pollyanna, I knew I couldn’t write up a “woo hoo fresh start” kind of post.  Not yet anyway; maybe I’ll get my Pollyanna back and can do it soon. 

In the meantime – fresh.  Hmmm.

I sat in my chair, watching the snow fall and drinking coffee.  Rocky wanted out, so I opened the door for him.  “Oh,” I said (because, duh, I talk to my cat), “It’s fresh outside, Mr. Cat.”

That made me laugh.  It’s what my grandpa used to say up in northern Illinois.  We kids would be in the kitchen with Grandma helping (read: getting in her way) her bake something spectacular, and Grandpa would come in the back door, through the mud room and into the kitchen, take off his hat, shake his head so that his cheeks would flop back and forth and say, “Lucille, it’s fresh out there today.”  That was her cue to pour him a cup of coffee and give him a big slice of whatever yummy was sitting around.

That got me thinking about my grandpa.  I loved that man.  Big old man with a bulbous nose and gigantic ears.  That he could wiggle.  I mean, like, they would wiggle. He could do one at a time, wiggle one and then the other and then the other and then… okay, you get it.  Kept us kids entertained for hours.  Or minutes.

His name was Ernest, but everyone called him Soapy.  Even grandma.  As I sat there thinking about sitting on Grandpa’s lap and watching him wiggle his ears, I tried to think back on how he got that nickname.  Maybe I knew at some point but I couldn’t remember, so I texted my sister and asked if she knew.  Nope. So I texted my cousin and asked her.  She didn’t know but thought her mom, my Aunt Sonja, might.

Well, thinking Auntie, at 80-something, is probably not a big texter, I decided I’d call her, even though we hardly ever talk.  She lives a few states away from me so I don’t get to see her much, either. She lives alone, and even though her son and his family are very close and take good care of her, with the pandemic she’s been very secluded, my cousin said, and she’s pretty lonely.  So I called her. 

She didn’t remember how Grandpa came to be called Soapy, but she and I had a lovely chat.

After I hung up it occurred to me that I didn’t know how Grandpa got his nickname because I never asked my mom while she was alive.  It occurred to me that my Aunt Sonja was one of the last connections I had to my mom’s family (not counting my cousins, who are really more connections to me and my family, if you go generationally).  It occurred to me that I’m not going to have Aunt Sonja forever.  It occurred to me that we (I) so often neglect to cherish people we (I) love until they’re gone. We (I) take them for granted.  I’ll call them later; I’ll get up there to see them next year.

But at some point there won’t be a later or a next year.

I have decided I will call her more often.  At least a couple times a month.  And because I know myself and I know I’ll look up next week and six months will have gone by, I set a reminder in my phone. 

So maybe “fresh” means new start, or it’s cold out, or don’t get sassy with me, or be-sure-to-wear-fresh-underwear-in-case-you’re-in-an-accident, but it doesn’t mean any of those things to me today.

Today, to me, “fresh” means call your auntie.

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Be Still

A strange thing happened to me this morning.  I started the morning as usual, with a cup of coffee, a scan of the many social media sites I participate in (okay, Facebook, which is the only one I use and even that I use less and less frequently these days), and then a game or three of gin rummy on my phone.  I like gin rummy on my phone because (a) its free and (b) even though I’m playing against real people, there’s no chat option so there’s no political talk or snarky remarks.  The worst anyone can do is send a growly face emoticon if the game isn’t going their way.  I can deal with growly face emoticons.

But I digress.

My morning was going as usual, but I was fidgety.  Which isn’t normal.  I’m usually quite happy sitting in my chair being lazy and wasting half my day.  But today I was fidgety.

So I got up out of said chair and got going.  Pretty soon I had started the laundry, loaded the wood rack, put away the chicken stock I canned yesterday, cleaned up and organized things in the root cellar, taken inventory of the food supplies in the motorhome, and fixed a hole in hubby’s jeans (well, I ironed on a patch; that counts, right?).  I was a whirlwind of activity.  Busy busy busy. 

Still fidgety inside.

As I was putting the patch material away, my eye landed on a little sign I have on the end table, given to me one Christmas by a dear friend.

Be still and know.

And all of a sudden – I mean, like, immediately – I understood.

I understood my fidgetiness (is that a word?).  I understood my need to be busy.  I understood why chores were getting done and it wasn’t even noon yet.

I didn’t want to be still.

Hubby and I are in a holding pattern right now; we have been for a few of weeks.  We have an appointment to talk to his doctor tomorrow afternoon about some test results, and then we will know which way things are going to go.  I am confident that everything is fine.  I am confident that it’ll be a short discussion, and we’ll both laugh about our unspoken anxiety.  I am confident that we will head off to Florida in a couple weeks as planned.

But … there is a possibility that I might be wrong.  And that possibility is prodding me into fidgetiness.  Which results in a lot of things getting done, so it’s not all bad, but that little sign on the end table reminded me that God doesn’t want my spirit to fidget.  God doesn’t want me to lack confidence in Him even if the possibility turns into reality.

Be still and know.

I’ve always thought of “being still” as stopping, sitting quietly, reading and contemplating the Word, praying.  But today I recognize it as more than that. 

I think it also means consider my circumstances.  Recognize all the possibilities for what the future holds. And know that God holds that future.  Know that God is God, and I am not.  Know that God knows exactly what the doctor will say tomorrow, that He has known it from the beginning of time, and that it is in accordance with His perfect plan for my life and my husband’s life.  So whatever that may be, whatever words we hear, whatever path our feet may be planted on after that discussion, it is the path that God wants us to walk.  God knows the plans He has for us. 

It means, lose that fidgetiness in my spirit.  Trust God.  No matter what.

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I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday hosted by Kate Motaung at Link-up – Five Minute Friday. Today’s prompt isTime.”

I heard my grandma say it to my mom, I heard my mom say it to me, and I hear myself saying it to my sons and sweet daughters-in-law: I sure don’t envy you trying to raise children in these crazy times.

A new grandchild, a precious baby boy, was born to us last July, right in the midst of a global pandemic, right in the midst of a nation torn by racial tensions and strife, protests-turned-riots.  Our little piece of ecstasy in the midst of all that agony.  I was filled with joy. 

And a little trepidation.  A little fear gripped my soul.  How would our sweet Westley, how would any of our sweet little grandbabies, ever manage to navigate this world into adulthood, ever manage to hold onto the faith of their fathers and live by the principles God has given us in His Word in a world that more and more turns its back on that Word?  They – we – are bombarded on all sides by the “correct,” the “acceptable” world view.  Anything else is intolerant, bigoted, hateful. 

How are my little grandbabies ever going to make it?

I was bemoaning these things to my sister – as I always do – and she said something that brought me up short, both convicting me and comforting me at the same time (as she so often does). 

She said, “God made those children for such a time as this.”

And there it is.  God doesn’t scatter people helter skelter throughout the generations and hope for the best.  He places each person into their place in time for a purpose – for His purpose.  As I was again reminded by a Facebook post yesterday, not only does He place each of us where He wants us, but He also will provide each of us – each of those little children I love so much – with the courage, strength, knowledge, wisdom, and fortitude to live through the times in which He placed them, to act according to His will, and to accomplish His purpose.

His Word is true for all generations:  “I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord.”

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It’s a Challenge …

Remember when adopting a “word of the year” was a thing? (Is it still a thing?)  I never really got into it; too much like New Year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions and I never really got along.  I’d make them on January 1 and – on a good year – not break them until January 4 or 5.  And then feel a little bit like a failure for the rest of the year every time I {pick one} cussed, overate, averted my gaze as I strolled past the treadmill with a cinnamon roll in my hand …

So by the time I was, say 30 (okay maybe 25.  Or 20), I quit making resolutions.  Then along came Words of the Year and it started all over again.  All my friends chose these profound words – or the words chose them, as they said – like kindness, joy, peace, courage, reach, etc. etc. etc.  I tried letting words choose me a couple of times and had to keep swatting away the ones that seemed to be attracted to me – sit, eat, bake, nap.  (Although I’m pretty sure I could have lived up to those all year long.)  So WOTY went the same way as NYR with me.  Buh-bye.

But then 2020 happened.  ‘Nuff said, right?  And in the first days of 2021 a word kept coming to me, over and over and over again (no, the word isn’t “over,” although yes, I’m very happy 2020 is over).  It’s a word I sometimes think I have no trouble with at all but other times realize I walk right past wearing the same blinders I wear whenever I am near the treadmill.

Accept.

As in accept that there are some things I can’t control.  Accept that my will and God’s will don’t always line up – and then accept that God’s will is always, always, ALWAYS better for me.  Accept that people don’t always act, or react, the way I think they should.  And that I can’t change that.  Accept people for who they are instead of trying to force them into the box of who I want them to be.  Accept that I’m not always who someone else wants me to be and that I can’t control their expectations.  Accept that I’m not always right.  Accept that sometimes it’s not a matter of right and not right, just different.  Accept that my cat is the coolest cat in the world (just thought I’d throw that in there). 

Accept that I can love people without necessarily liking everything about them – and that people can love me without liking everything about me.  Accept rejection.  And accept love.  Accept help when I need it.  Accept support when I need it.  Accept that our world might never be what I think “normal” should be again.  Accept that the Lord might return in my lifetime – or that He might not. 

Accept that my job is to love.  It’s so clear in the Word of God – we are to love our fellow believers (“love your brothers”), love the people we come into contact with (“love your neighbors”), and love the people we find very unlovable (“love your enemies”).  That pretty much covers everyone.  (Also I think it must say somewhere to love my cat because he’s the coolest cat in the world but I can’t put my finger on that verse right now.) 

Bottom line:  They will know we are Christians by our love.  Not by our politics, or our church affiliation, or our career, or our favorite football team.  By our love.

So I’m breaking with my decades-old rule of not making New Year’s anythings.  I’m taking on a Word of the Year this year, and it’s “accept.”  I accept the fact that I may, yet again, regret this, but I’m doing it anyway.

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Love Them Anyway

This is the last day of what can only generously be described as a tumultuous year.  Not just for me – for everyone.  Not just in my family, but in my hometown, my state, my country, the whole world.  I don’t know one person who isn’t looking forward to tomorrow, to the beginning of a new year.  Hoping beyond hope that when the clock strikes midnight tonight there will be some kind of magic that makes 2020 recede and a better, brighter 2021 descend.

Of course we all know that the difference between 11:59 p.m. one day and 12:00 a.m. the next is nothing more than a minute.  We know that what was true at 11:59 will still be true at 12:00.  There will still be a pandemic.  There will still be political strife and controversy.  There will be racial unrest.  Justice will still be fallible because humans are fallible, and too often – much too often – we refuse to see it, acknowledge it, and strive to change it. 

And yet we are all holding our collective breath for that one-minute change tonight, so we can bid goodbye to 2020 and jump into the new year with hope and optimism.  I think it’s the Pollyanna in us.  At least it’s the Pollyanna in me.

My lot this past year hasn’t been anywhere close to as dire as that of so, so many others.  I’m on retirement income so it hasn’t been affected by the pandemic.  I live out in the country and venture into town only for necessities, so the lockdown didn’t affect me too much, other than church being closed.  Our state, and my church, reopened in May, and other than taking the best precautions we can – social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands – life has been pretty normal. 

But I have learned a lot this year, about myself and about other people in my life.  Some of it was good, great even; some of it wasn’t.  But one thing I took away from this year that I hope I never forget is to love them anyway.

I hurt someone I love very much this year.  Not intentionally, but pain is pain and isn’t always lessened by intent.  She chose to forgive me and love me anyway.  She became my role model for dealing with this less-than-stellar year, and hopefully for the rest of my life. She taught me to make this my prayer:

When someone hurts me, please, God, may I love them anyway.

When someone disappoints me, may I love them anyway.

When someone rejects me, may I love them anyway.

When someone angers me, may I love them anyway.

When someone disagrees with me, may I love them anyway.

When I think someone is just plain wrong, may I love them anyway.

As I turn my attention to 2021, as I get my Pollyanna back and think optimistically that this new year we are about to embrace will be better, I want to ask – I want to implore – all of us (especially myself) to choose well this coming year.  Choose tolerance for the opposing viewpoint.  Choose openness to different ideas.  Choose forgiveness.  Choose kindness.  Choose mercy. 

Choose to love them anyway. Because, as Mother Teresa so rightly said, in the end it’s not between us and them. It’s between us and God.

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God’s not waiting with open arms

We’ve been lied to.  I know that sounds harsh, and I don’t think it was ever intentional, but here it is.  All these years I’ve believed a lie.

Just a brief history: When I was fifteen I became a Christian.  That is, I entered into a real, personal relationship with Jesus.  I fell head over heels in love with the Lord.  And in the few years since – okay, so it’s been almost half a century, but time flies, right? – I’ve continued to love Him.  But I’ve had ups and downs like most people – times when I’ve been so close to God I felt like I could reach out and touch Him, and times when I’ve been so distantly separated that I thought I would never find my way back.

And that’s where the lie came in.

So many times when I was struggling, good, sincere, loving Christian friends – even pastors – counseled me to just turn to God, because He was there  waiting for me to come back to Him.  He was waiting with open arms!  He hadn’t turned away from me; I had turned away from Him.  All I had to do was run back into His arms, and I’d be safe and warm again.

But it turns out that’s a lie.

Oh, not the part about who turned away from whom.  That’s true.  Always.  Every time.  God never turns away from one of His children.  It’s that other part, about running back into his arms.  That’s the falsehood.

Now let me digress just a minute before I explain.

If you’re at all familiar with the Bible you know something about the Psalms.  The Psalms and I have always had a little bit of a loose relationship.  I love the Psalms – or at least some of them.  The praisey, worshippy, lift-me-up-and-make-me-smile Psalms.  I can sing of your love forever … Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul … The everlasting love of the Lord never fails …  But those Psalms of David where he’s running from his enemies and hiding in caves and dodging all the arrows and all that?  Meh.

But recently my Bible study group started a study called Redeemed by Angela Thomas REDEEMED2Pharr. As part of the study, we are reading through the Psalms, roughly three Psalms a day, which necessitates my reading all the cave hiding, arrow dodging ones along with the happy happy happy ones.

And it was in reading one of those Psalms that I discovered I had believed a lie lo these many years.  (Some might say many many many many years but I think that is borderline rude.)

Here is the first thing I learned:  I may not have enemies like David had enemies, dudes with fire-tipped arrows hunting me through the wilderness, but I have enemies.  My enemies are Satan and his minions, and their arrows are temptation that leads to sin, confusion, busyness, stress, worry, anxiety, uncertainty, envy, frustration, discontent – any of the gazillion things that separate me from God.  Any of the things that keep me from an intimate communion with the Lord.  And here’s the other thing I learned.

Are you ready for the biggie?

When I’m stuck in the cave, bogged down by these arrows being slung at me, trying to fend off my enemies, separated from God by whatever it might be at that moment, I do not need to turn and run back into His arms.

Listen to this.  Read it carefully.  Read it out loud.  It’s a little long, but my friend, I promise it is worth it.

“The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, my cry came before him, into his ears.

{Get ready; this is where it gets really really really good.}

“The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. {Not angry at you; angry at your enemies!}                Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.  He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.  He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain of the sky.  Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

“The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.  He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and routed them.  The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”  (Psalm 18:4-19)

If you don’t have chills  you need to read that again.

I could go on and on about this, and actually I already have to anyone who would listen, but just know this:

You never have to make your way back to God.  Whenever you find yourself separated from Him, no matter the reason, if you want to be back in His arms, the only thing you have to do is cry out to Him.  That’s it.

This should be the thing we learn right after we learn John 3:16 – For I, God, so loved the world that I gave My only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  And whenever any of you whosoevers is in trouble and cries out to Me – you don’t have to turn to Me, you don’t have to look for Me, you don’t have to run to Me, you just have to cry out to Me – I’m going to part the heavens and come after you breathing fire, making the mountains tremble, scattering your enemies – those oh-so-powerful enemies that can’t hold a candle to Me – and I’m going to reach down from on high and take hold of you, and bring you into a spacious place, into My presence.

And I’m going to do it because I delight in you.

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