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!

Miracles do not expire …

When I wrote my book, Asking What: No More Whys,10341610_796015433751071_4934119075792289721_n I really thought I had discovered how best to handle tough life experiences. Let me begin the way I tend to begin, “Did I tell you I was angry, yet again?” As another challenge came into my life, I began to question so many things, but in the process, another lesson … about what God will do! In the past year I have done some much needed Bible Studies either through my church or through Women’s Bible Café, an online ministry led by Christine Abraham at http://womensbiblecafe  ©. As I saw the topic patterns develop and as my health took another change, I could see God was teaching me another aspect of His love. Here are just some of the recent studies: Beth Moore’s Believing God (online study), Beth Moore’s Esther (with my church), Breaking Free (with my church), Beth Moore’s The Armor of God (online study) and the current online study of Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness (Melissa Spoelstra). Miracles are in every story God gives us when we look for them, it is the same way with the miracles in our personal lives. God gave me a health miracle twenty-three years ago which I wrote about in my book. Last Christmas (2014) I received a “miracle”, I awoke with a new breast! I was immediately filled with fear, the doubt and anger came later. After 180cc’s of fluid was pulled off on December 31, I had that feeling that something had changed, but I also thought it meant the cancer God took from me so very long ago had returned. So I began my study with the miracle that I associated with for myself, the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-50). Jesus told her it was done — go live the life I have for you. Then I looked at Lazarus (John 11:43) whose miracle was one to teach people about faith, because we know he did experience a second physical death. After nine months of needle aspirations (each ranging in 60 to 120cc’s of fluid being pulled off) followed by surgical placement of drains for two months, I had decided or listened to the Deceiver enough to return to the place where anger takes me, rapidly. The only effective way to challenge what Satan is saying is to dig into God’s Word, and I am so there now. I use two approaches which can be found on Pinterest© (http://Pinterest ), the S.O.A.P. method and the approach learned in the Armor of God study, P.R.A.Y.SOAP Example

I found so many answers in my use of these tools, my notebook filling rapidly. The first miracle God told me to look at was for the purpose of teaching me that healing can come in stages, healing is a process (Blind Man at Bethsaida, Mark 8:22)Process Healing. “I see stick people” was the first step of finding the answer to “What has happened to my miracle?” I had become stuck in the stick people mode, which was a move backwards for me. I had used a wonderful doctor who is also a servant of God, and we prayed together almost every month over that needle process. When I had to go to the placement of drains, I just knew my miracle was gone. This is not true, the man with the withered hand (Luke 6:6), the man by the pool at Bethesada, who got us and walked off after his miracle (John 5:5-9) — none of those miracles were on a timeline of expiration or best used by date. So I started my search so that I could go into a second Double Mastectomy confident that what ever it was, it was not the cancer God took care of so many years ago. Every journey is different, every outcome is different, my reaction to the process is only consistent in one way — ANGER. Joe, my husband and Christian of 12 years, was part of my lesson this time because he was not my husband 23 years ago, so I also had to be aware of the setting God was using. I am proof that miracles do not expire, none of this was cancer. I can not be reconstructed this time, but maybe looking this way is an add-on lesson to expand my understanding of what God is doing for me. I even thought God was moving me from the church family from whom I get so much love and strength. I quickly learned, be still and know …. It is where God wants us. I learned I could not run, unless I was running to God. I am still dealing with the new surge of anger about all of this, but these things I know because I asked “What?” Being in my personal dungeon like the dungeon the king placed Joseph in (Genesis 39:19-23) was for the same reason, to be still and know that God is in the midst of the events. First the people, I discovered a relationship with my cousin that I never knew was there, what a blessing. My cousin called me and prayed for me on those days that I just felt so defeated, and I felt love in place of that defeat. Secondly, the women who pray so faithfully, earnestly and in love at the Women’s Bible Café, I felt the prayers and I felt the sincerity and love. What I was over looking is third, Joe, who was on the sidelines 23 years ago and this time he is in the battle with love and prayer. His strong arms help me out of bed, his love helps me get the compression bandage on – and he loves me, deeply. The fourth thing I noticed was how God had changed the people He used to love me, new friends, who have just called at the time I most needed to feel God’s presence. From people who have come into my life at the camp, high school friends, church of origin friends, and all the way to professionals who can now choose to love me as a person. My prayer journal and prayer box look different now, my use of scripture to pray has made my prayer life important and specific, and my confidence in the Lord continues to grow, just as God had promised (Luke 11:9-13). The last thing I need to share is how the players in my life have changed. My daughter who lives near me has not blinked, where before she threw her hands on her hips and declared I was not the mother who had raised her, oh the love she has shared with me. Then there is my cousin who, like me has lost her parents and has life scars that are visible, but she loves me deeply, I just never realized it. The Women’s Bible Cafe© where women pray, women believe and women are confident in God as they too go through health problems, family challenges and are women, who like me are looking into their relationship with God and trying to grow a faith based on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)Ammor of God Wall Chart, God’s truth and the strength to walk in the shelter of God’s hands. The big lesson, I need to depend on God and stop trying to get on the wings of the eagle (Isaiah 40:31) without God securing me on its wings. No, not as angry as I was three weeks ago; yes, growing in my relationship with God — the God who loves me.

 

God Is Not Through Yet … It is not just a cliche

It has been months since my last blog because of so many things. Part of my growth as a Christian is that I have to study, really study the Bible. What I learned first was that I was clinging to my “old” understanding of the Hall of Heroes of the Bible: Moses, Saul, David, Solomon … just so many who I thought I knew. Time allowed me to set my understanding in stone, but studying with new eyes and an open heart and mind has absolutely excited me for even more studying. I had tried doing my own Bible study from devotional books, but that is not studying, that is reading for me. The last time I “really” blogged, I talked about the five stones David went into battle with against the Philistine Giant, Goliath. To learn that he did not kill the giant with his stone, just rendered him down on his level, and the death blow came from the use of Goliath’s sword to defeat him for his king, Saul (1 Samuel 17) taught me that I needed to visit the stories of my youth. Since that time, I have completed directed studies through The Women’s Bible Cafe'(that is a trademark) and can be joined by women interested in truly learning the meat of God’s Word (www.womensbiblecafe.com). My heart has been so blessed by the women in these online studies. A brief overview is that these groups are only an hour long with the individual using a study book/guide to read and study five daily lessons prior to the meeting time one chooses. They have groups every day, several time options to choose from and the participants are from everywhere, different ages, different life experiences and we learn together by answering five questions about the studies of that week. There have been times I have felt God talking to me through the keyboard. The two studies I have done online were: “Jeremiah, Daring to Hope in an Unstable World” by Melissa Spoelstra, and the most recent, “What Love Is” by Kelly Minter, a study of the Love Letters, 1,2,3 John. Although I am considered “mature” at the age of 64, I found myself a baby compared to the depth of some of the women who shared online. I encourage you to consider the option of online Bible study with this group. Having said that, the next study begins March 23, and you have a choice from two studies. I have already signed up for that study and have ordered my book, but books can be purchased from Lifeway Christian Book Store. I encourage you to visit The Women’s Bible Cafe’ at: http://www.womensbiblecafe.com and follow the studies and choose the one you want as there are usually two from which to choose, and do it today so that you can find your own group and your study topic and join a group of women on March 23. The leader of this site is Christine Abraham and joining her world has been the greatest experience for my soul.

While doing these studies, the first for 10 weeks and the second for 6 weeks, I was also participating in a study with a small group of ladies at my church, but we had women from other churches who participated. This group was initiated by two young mothers who attend my church, they were responding to God calling them to study. What a joy to see the devotion of those who take our places as we age and transition out of leadership ourselves. We studied “Seeking a Heart Like His” which was the study of David’s heart, the heart that God loved so very much. This was an awesome experience and I did this at the same time of my online studies. And I am going to do this yet again as we have decided to do a study of Esther, also beginning in March after we do the last video study with David, as led by Beth Moore. I have learned so much, I fell in love with the two young ladies leading the study and came away hungry for the fellowship with these young ladies, the ladies who sat at the table and ready for more. I miss the weekly time together. I have such a respect now for the young ladies, for Beth Moore and for all the women who have studied and put together this group. Cotile Baptist Church may not be on your life’s map, but it is on mine.

What I have learned is that we never stop growing if we listen to God. I also learned a different approach to praying (from the Women’s Bible Cafe’) through the use of a Prayer Journal or a Prayer Box (this one is my preference). I can now see God’s hand in my prayer life, I get to touch the card on which my request is written, and I have learned to pray and leave it with God. This is huge for me because I tended to want to help God answer my prayers, on my timeline and in the way I am sure is what HE will be doing. Yes, I have a control issue that now I am trying to change. I pray for women whom I have never met, except through the responses they type in the 60 precious minutes we are connected through the internet. I am thankful there are no cameras because I am sure I looked utterly dumbfounded when women from Hawaii, California, Maine, New Mexico were talking and sharing with me. My world is so big yet so small now. And although technology is one of my “idols” that steal my time, I am so blessed to have this gateway that provides me with what my heart and soul needed.

Doing two studies at the same time is not good for everyone, and it would be easier for me to do one or the other, but I have never approached anything I do with a mindset of it being easy. I advise that you do one, and really commit to doing the kind of studying that is beneficial. I use the book, write all over the book in the format of the study book, but I also have a notebook where I capture my thoughts and sometimes even more references as God leads my time with HIM. The 20 or 30 minutes of study each day for me becomes much more because of what I need from God and what HE needs from me.

When I started typing this morning, I had my own agenda. After two lines, God led me to HIS topic for today’s blog. Yet another reminder to “let go and let God …”, it is HIS message that HE wants me to share, a reminder to be willing to study, to learn and grow. Yes I am sharing with you because God directed me to write my book of “growing my faith”, but that growth did not stop just because I did what was started in 1985. My journey of growth in understanding and faith continues, and I am grateful for that.

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.

Facing Life’s Giants … Using David’s Pattern …

Living in this small community has such benefits, one of which is a small country church.  A place of worship that is loving, growing, learning and building the character of its members.  The great part to me is the Bible Study we do on Sunday and Wednesday nights.  It is great simply because of its structured approach to learning.  Our pastor, Johnny Miller, will lead one week and the next week one of our deacons, Earl Dugas, leads the next week.  Their approaches are different and this makes those of us who are participating are the ones who benefit from this approach.  We also have the uniqueness in that we, the congregation, the assembled believers and yes, the students are encouraged to share how we see the scripture selection as we move verse to verse.  The openness of communication allows us to not only learn the foundation of the truths that have been before us for years while allowing the new view or understanding through the interpretation and growth of life’s experiences.  The referenced reading is 1 Samuel: 17, the Bible story that all children hear early in life, even if they are not in church, the victory of the shepherd boy over the giant.  But there is more to that story, more to the ritual of preparing for war/battle/conflict, the choice of the weapons we use and the motives or desires behind our actions.  Stepping into my professional training, the sociologist, the behaviorist in me has a new understanding of the story that is often called a Children’s Bible Story; this child of God needed a new understanding of the battle that changed the life completely of the shepherd boy.  Beginning with verses  4 -11 describes the giant, the Philistine warrior and the force he represented.  Tall, powerful, skilled, well-armed, a seasoned victor – he knew his ability and strength, and an idol of his fellow soldiers.  So what about our giants, the giants we face in our daily walk.  My giants have traveled with me a very long time because I gave them breath and I was so small in comparison to the giants of fear, anger, self-doubt, a weak spirit and Cancer.   There are probably a lot more, but I chose to identify five, one for each of the smooth stones that David chose to place in his pouch (1 Samuel 17:40)

.220px-Osmar_Schindler_David_und_Goliath

The artist’s interpretation [David and Goliath, a colourlithograph by Osmar Schindler (c. 1888)] of the overwhelming size of the giant, Goliath, over that of his challenger, David, is a symbolic representation of how we as humans often feel when facing the trials and tests that come as we journey through this life.  I can only speak from my own personal journey of faith, and yes, the giants in my life have been astonishingly strong in their ability to invade, control and paralyze my ability to live the life God had planned for me to live.  Fear froze me in a negative path of “what ifs” and kept me from pursuing the things that would serve to worship God and bless others once I reached a certain measure of growing through the test to a level of faith that would surpass the fear, anytime that giant returned.

Once I learned to challenge the unrealistic components of my fear, the giant was no longer so powerful – just a stone’s throw to defeat each time it would return.  Anger, one of the stones that seemed extremely weighty in my life, became the next giant I was to battle.  Once I knew I was angry and that it was not a sin to experience that emotion, I could manage its power over my life.  David, the youngest of Jesse’s son, fair to look at, but of small stature in comparison to Goliath and his contrasting size and weaponry, helped me to understand the giant is only a giant if I see myself as small and ill-equipped.  So one by one I visited those five stones over the next few days before our small Wednesday night group would meet again.  My stones were becoming smooth because of the acknowledgement of them in my life and because I named them and gave them to God, because God is the only controller of my life.  The fear, anger, self-doubt, a weak spirit and Cancer each had to be faced.  Facing those things that hinder the maturing of faith in life have to be acknowledged, challenged and defeated.  Those five stones bullied me much like Goliath bullied the soldiers of Israel every day – come and fight me, for I will win. In verse 10, the giant would present his challenge “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together”.   The giant knew the power he had over the armies, simply by daunting them with the task of fighting one on one, sure of his size and ability.  That is how much power I was surrendering my own power given by God to the giants in my life.  They seemed very large, very sure of my weakness, I was sure of my weakness – thus the stones self-doubt and weak spirit.  Cancer is huge, there is no doubt of that, it claims lives daily but there are those times the giant loses.  Prayer, personal bible study and exercising faith through prayer and trust in a God who is greater and able to do “… super abundantly able to do above all we dare ask, think, hope and desire …” (Eph. 3:20, Amplified Bible) became my weapons for battle.  But that is only three stones, and David took five stones into battle, and so do I, daily.  It is those three stones plus two more – the first stone being the love of the people who God has placed in my life, and the fifth stone being God working through the doctors and their skills to defeat the giant.  There is more to this David and Goliath story, but that comes later.  Join me next week as I move to the rest of the story.