The Eraser – The Water – The Blood of Jesus Christ

When I first started learning to blog, I wrote so much that one had to set aside time to read what I posted. For my last blog (3 months ago) I used my husband’s experience of the flooding experienced in Louisiana and Texas this past spring. So I embarked on a “project” months ago, and other things made me wait to get back to the endeavor. The positive things about my project, our deck will look a little cleaner, still have stains that are connected to memories, and secondly, it is a health benefit to me. But then this morning, God spoke in gentle whispers as I decided to give it another try. Yes it is hot here, and I could have started earlier but I did not and the world is still turning. I always tell others to set healthy boundaries in relationships, but learning to set healthy boundaries in our activities is wise as well. Life for me is full of symbolism and it was the same for me as I sat, kneeled, crawled and hoisted myself around on the deck. I have not shared about the health crisis I had in January of this year and I still can not share all of it, but this is a task I took on to regain lost movements, strengthen weakened muscles and fight mental battles. But as I used my “tools” I found God explaining those symbols as it applies to our Christian walk. I like comparison charts so I am sharing this with my fellow Christians as I see it mentally, organized and “neat” (I know who will be chuckling ahead of time).

My Project Tools:
Magic Eraser™
Identified area to clean
Container to hold water
Water
Defined area to clean in set time
Those stubborn stains that are lighter but the reminder remains
Elbow grease
Refill with clean water
Throw out the spent Eraser™
Standing back to appreciate
Checking back after it dries

Purpose:
Cleaning away the dirt
Know what needs to be different
It sets the boundaries for details
Washing away the dirt
Setting aside a time of focus
To look better and feel good
To reach deeper into the dirt and finding the area cleaner
Moving to another area of dirt
To refresh with new ability
See the change
Bring about renewal

God’s Tools:
His Son Jesus Christ
Conviction of Sin
His Word, the Holy Bible
Symbolic cleansing of old self
Prayer and Bible Study
Forgiving us but there are reminders or consequences
Answers to our prayers, growth in Bible Study and yes, scars
Cleansing with Jesus blood
Forgiveness and restoration
Renewing of my spirit
Unconditional Love

Strange way to blog about God’s love for me, but as I scrubbed, assessed and then moved to the next area God was talking to me. You see, there are four Magic Eraser’s™ to a box, so my effort and time is limited on what I will tackle for this day. God told me there were four things I needed to learn. First, when we use our deck it gets dirty and stained. As I live life, I make choices, decisions and omissions that leave me with dirt and stains. Secondly, I can lighten the stains, but I need the reminders. I have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, stained for redemption. Third, I have dirt in my life, and as I sit with my Bible at my side and my devotional book and prayer box or prayer journal – I have some cleaning to do. Lastly, as I dumped the dirty water and go for another clean pan of water, I need to dump the old thoughts that give Satan a stronghold in my life – the anger, the self-recriminations, the excuses. And when I stepped back to assess the change I feel God’s ever present love, compassion and restoration. Can’t wait to vacuum because there has to be another life lesson ahead!

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Washed but shadows of stain versus stained and dirty

The log with a message …. from God

Life is so full of symbolism, often we miss them but the symbols are there and can teach us so much if we are willing to learn.  We frequently ask God to answer our prayers, as we define the answer, and we miss the real answer.  I frequently see His answer in hindsight as I list my gratitude for the day.  How many times before have we gotten  out on the road to go to a destination that requires a lot of travel, and we ask God for traveling grace  — the assigned meaning for that is “get me back home safely”.  Old habits are alive and well, I still tell God how to answer my prayers.  When my husband, Joe, pulled out in the storms that we have been having here in Louisiana, I called after him to be careful, be safe and a gentle reminder that I would be concerned about him traveling in the high water and thunder storms.  I did not know it at the time, but the thunder storms of that morning was my heavenly Father preparing me for yet another lesson of faith.

So we talked frequently as I updated him on the weather and rising water levels, and because I had made this trip with him many times, he told me when and where he had to take a detour or find a new path, but he made it to his destination on time.  My worry frequency was on ‘high alert’ because I knew it was still raining and where we live in Louisiana there is just a lot of water, but then all of Louisiana right now has a lot of water.  Please keep Louisiana in your prayers.  The trip usually takes four-and-one-half hours one way, the trip home took seven-and-one-half hours.  But God needed to give a message to Joe, and I needed another faith lesson – trust God!  I was thrilled that day when my new devotional book arrived because I have been participating in the online Bible Study through Women’s Bible Cafe™ (www.womensbiblecafe.com). Beth Moore’s “Believing God, Day by Day” was my treasure for that day, or at least I thought it was.  So I hurriedly opened to the devotional for that day, and this was the scripture for this worrier (I was not in warrior mode). Joshua 3:4, “Don’t go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before” (March 11).  I laughed to myself because my first response was, oh yes I have, I have worried, I have traveled the worry route many times before, the path is very familiar.

When Joe did get home, with repeated frequent calls because he was searching to find a new way home and I was filled with anxiety, he shared his testimony with me on how God had taken care of him, in a visible manner.  He crossed the Sabine River leaving Texas behind, only to find he could travel no further into Louisiana, or not travel very easily.  He recounted how he had seen the cars ahead coming in his direction begin to turn around, but he saw trucks coming through the water, slowly, but he too can drive slowly when the situation calls for it.  But the truck driver who stopped to tell him that it was very treacherous also cautioned him to turn around.  My husband shared with me his “military” and “law enforcement” reasoning as follows.  Well I am in a large, heavy Tahoe and this should be a breeze, just have to be careful, drive slowly and stay in the middle of the road, actually in the middle of the observable edges of the road.  So then he saw it, the log that suddenly floated across the road, carried by the swift current and deepening level of the water.  So he and several other stranded drivers turned around, drove back into Texas and as a caravan found their way traveling north and then across to the Toledo Bend area, then south and home.  As he shared he noted: “God was not going to let him go that way, so he put that log right there, right then, and if I had gone forward, that log would have hit me.”  God was assuring my husband that the traveling grace we had prayed for would lead him to travel a new path, with a group of strangers who had decided to trust one another, without speaking a word.  I still smile as I think of that log, in the picture below.

Log that stopped joe

Maybe I have missed, no I have missed, many messages, miracles and blessings because I was determined to stay on the path I have traveled over and over, missing what would be on the other path if only I would be still and listen for God’s message, and see the caution signs, detours and natural road blocks, much like the floating log.  We can not tell God how to deliver us,  just trust that He will, and not always by traveling in the middle of the road of life’s journey.   We can not tell God how to talk to us, we have to be willing to see what He is showing us, even in the midst of a storm.  I have been hit by logs that life puts in our path, and now I get the message; I did not listen to the same words Joshua had written so long ago — and take the path God has wanted me to take.  May I be more aware of when God is speaking!

Getting ready for battle … the example of David facing Goliath … and my Five Stones

Picking up on my blog from last week, we will continue in 1 Samuel 17 and taking up at verse 31 when David has decided to accept the challenge that the armies told him about, a chance happening when his father sent him to take food to his brothers who were soldiers, and he was the shepherd, too young and not skilled at war.  Saul reminded David of the futility of his desire to fight in verse 33, reminding him that he was “but a youth” (those labels that I chose to address in Chapter 5 of my book).  How quickly the world seeks to take away our determination and shake our faith in doing what we are called to do in this life with just a few words spoken to remind us of our humanity.  Saul’s grim reminder of how Satan deals with us, how the negativity can seep in and rob us of our confidence and our strength.  Just as quickly as I determine God has something for me to do or face, Satan sets out to remind me of those five stones – mentioned last week and strives to weaken my resolve and faith by reminding me of my past missteps and failures.  In a futile effort, Saul attempted to help David by equipping him with his armor, with the tools that had worked for him.  1 Samuel 17: 38–39 describes the great armor Saul provided to David, to equip him for the battle, but it wasn’t God’s armor.  David could not function to the best of his ability using what had “worked” for others, because God chose him in his ability to use his skills as he had done in defending his sheep from the predators, David was chosen for his own unique abilibities.  David was a skilled shepherd, he knew how to guide his sheep to food and water, protect them from the storms and the natural predators who sought out his sheep to take from him and devour.  Life for me is the same as the picture painted for us in this story.  I have predators, and like sheep I have to have help.  Sometimes I look to those around me seeking the equipment and support I need to face the struggles, challenges and giants that seek to devour me.  But their equipment is not designed to work for me, because my battle is different and God called me to face the giant.  God uses who we are and what we have to accomplish His purpose and it is the same for each of us.  David did find strength in the words of Saul who said: “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (v.37).   Words of encouragement and strength are what we all need from those from who we reach out to for support.  I know how I feel, how I am girded in the prayers and support of others.  I still have to find my weapons for whatever I face which is why my reference scripture has changed throughout my life, a need defined by the battle.  Whether it is running a race (Phil. 3:14), believing God will supply all my needs (Eph. 3:20), facing the results of a \medical test (Phil. 4:6) or preparing for what I know will be emotional and spiritual warfare (Phil. 4:13), my equipment may change based on God’s direction in my life but needing others upholding me in prayer and even walking with me physically is how I face my giants.  My armor changes, but God does not.  So David went into battle with five smooth stones (v. 40) in his shepherd’s bag, and a sling.  I go to battle with God in my heart and on the path going before me.  But the stones re-entered my study of this scripture because now they transition from the giants in my life to those things I carry with me into any battle (if I leave the giants behind).  Prayer is the first stone – it sets the tone of the day; Bible Study is the second stone in my arsenal because it is how God assures me that I am ready to face the giant, Satan’s challenge in my life.  The last three stones in no particular order of preference are Faith – the sword of faith that has been the constant in my life; followed by entries into my journal, the way I identify what I am truly feeling and striving for in order to set my sight on the purpose God has called me for; and lastly the security in the hope I have in what the Lord can and has done for those who are His children.  What can top the great sacrifice of Jesus and the promise of eternal life (John 3:16).  All of this in preparation for the battle, David still has not faced the “bully” that was issuing the challenge to the Philistine army.  David did seek to learn why the battle was not “being fought” and knew the cost to his people if he failed, but it did not deter him.  He was secure in what the God who established His people would continue to honor His promise to His people.  The Israelites were residents of their promised land, so David knew the Jehovah God that established them would continue to supply their needs, and I am promised an eternal life in heaven where I can worship and praise the God of my salvation.  God extends this promise to all who will accept the invitation.

Rick Warren When God gives you an assignment

Image from http://www.saddlebackchurch.com and the studies from his book What on Earth Am I Here For; the Purpose Driven Life.

All the same questions … yet again … What is the new lesson?

Although I am not asking the questions I used to ask when circumstances arise that I do not understand, I still struggle in advising, listening to or providing an ear to others who may be having difficulty with changes in their lives, unexpected and possibly tough changes.  Recalling not only what my dad would say when he struggled with the illnesses and deaths of two of his children, what I said to him as we discussed it along with my cancer diagnosis 22 years ago returns to my mind so quickly when things change.  Today I know, with a certainty, that I serve a loving, living God and that these events come into the lives of those whom I hold dear, and it is not a bad thing but an opportunity to have the reassurance of who holds us in the palm of His hand, forever (John 10:29).  Although the next 48 to 72 hours will be my allowed emotional reaction time out, I know that all will be well just as my favorite song states, “It is Well With My Soul” (Swafford) and I will cling to the “…lively hope …” of which I am assured in ! Peter 1:3-5.  I do not deal with change well, who does?  My dad would say that he wanted to know the sin that was being visited on his generations.  Then this past Sunday the lesson brought up those same scriptures again:  Moses and the first generation of Israelites who did not get to enter the promised land because of the sin of returning to the religion of their Egyptian captors when the going got tough being visited upon them (complaining, doubting and disobedience …) Numbers 20:12 KJV, David and the murderous act resulting that cost him the death of his firstborn child (Nathan bore the news of his judgment … 2 Samuel 12:13-14) … all reminders of our human reaction to unsettling events.  It is so easy to fall back into the questions and the emotions that cause us to fail, doubt, give in to worry and fear, and my all time stand by – ANGER.  While I am in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness month and focused on sharing God’s work in my life in multiple events to include my book signing (The Galilean Religious Books, October 11, 12:00-3:00), I am attempting to help with crises from two directions in my life, and am trying to counsel those who reach out to me on what to do next, I find myself almost stumbling on the Baptist clichés that were crippling to me so many years.  Although I celebrate the victory in my life, I still have strong reactions to the “cancer” threat to others in my life and the possibility of facing the disease that took my brother, diabetes.  Heredity is not always a bad thing, but for me those two diseases bring up so many memories and fears.  In trying to shatter the fear in my loved ones’ lives the words are difficult because it is so near to my heart.  Finding myself struggling to find the words to reassure, strengthen and support others, the carnal me, the scared me, the doubting me attempts to return.  My goal is to spread the good news of God’s great work in my life, but find myself once again wishing “not my loved ones”, and I am aware that is selfish of me and is a step backwards to an infant state of Christianity where I once again want to return to the milk from God’s Word because it hurts to be mature, knowing the meat of the Word and my faith (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 14-15).  I halted as I started to tell someone “remember to ask what of this journey”, because fear and tears do not allow a person to ask the greater question of what.  As we face struggles, challenges and changes we have to deal with the emotions that come first.  The fear (False, Evidence that, Appears to be, Real) is consuming and we have to face it and deal with it.  Then I realized that tears and fears are also a part of grief, it is part of my training as a mental health professional to know these things, the label of who I am in these circumstances: Sister by another mother, mother, and grandmother challenges every fiber of who I am.  Then I hear from those with whom I am talking that “this just isn’t fair…” and I return to my old feelings of playing by the rules and it still not working out the way I think it should be, that I share in my book “Asking What: No More Whys … Soaring on Eagles’ Wings Defeating Life’s Labels, Anger and Cancer.”  This thought pattern was mine as discussed in the failure of my marriage, the man who tried to kill me (Living someone else’s dream …), conquering those mental tapes of playing by the rules and expectations of society (Be sure you have on clean underwear … Chapter 5) and it plagues me when I allow my faith to waiver.  In today’s world, we can find answers and new approaches to the very diseases and illnesses that were at one time a diagnosis that meant death … at some point … a diagnosis that would shorten one’s natural life span.  When I find myself returning to my professional mode, the best way for me to help others, I go through the steps: 1) Validate their feelings, yes you can feel that way …; 2) Figure out what you are really feeling that leads you to choose to be angry (the emotional coping mechanism with which I continue to deal); 3) Start writing in a journal until you work through your feelings, find your direction and your personal peace (some people do not want to be told pray about it and trust God…); and the most difficult thing to say is 4) You’re a mother/grandmother/family member/brother/sister/spouse and you don’t have the option of being emotional in front of those who look to you for strength.  It is important for each of us to find the scripture that can be what we call on every time we are faced with a new mountain, trial or struggle.  I have my cancer scripture, Isaiah 40:31, Before that became my go to scripture, I also used Ephesians 3:20, and then was led to the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48) who stepped out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, “… your faith has made you whole…”.  Mountains can be conquered by “soaring” over them by the method/instrument or person God brings into your life for that one purpose/season; rough ground can be made smooth (the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land, Exodus 14:21-22); and our storms will be calmed in spite of our fears (Luke 8:22-25).  No, there are times when life does not appear to be fair, times get tough and we shed tears of fear and confusion – it is our human nature.  But we have the ability to ask professionals the right questions so that we are better equipped to handle what is at hand; we can turn to the world wide web (internet) to glean information needed to take appropriate action and make needed changes in our lifestyle or environment that may be necessary to equip us for the new journey we may be facing and there are those who God has already prepared to help us that have been through the same journey we may find ourselves on and are waiting for God to direct them to us.  No, it doesn’t necessarily go away, but we can be equipped to handle what comes as we learn the lessons needed to launch into our battle mode that will strengthen us and make us available to someone else once our journey of growing our faith is completed in this area of our lives.