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!

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.

 

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.

Lessons learned from a Hermit Crab

Since I have began sharing the journey of growing my faith, I find reminders of lessons and new lessons in everything. Joe and I had the privilege of having a weekend visit with our extended family from Oklahoma, the Thoma family. We decided to spend a day at the beach and set out on a journey with yet another reminder and lesson. We were drawn to the beach by the sight of dolphins/porpoises feeding or frolicking very close to the shore. We began to notice the hermit crab shells as we walked, most of whiich were broken in varying sizes of pieces of shells due to natures way of providing food to the sea gulls and the sandpipers. Brittany noted that the shells were broken but she wanted one that was intact, with its lovely spirals. I explained that most of the shells we would find would be broken because of the balance of nature in providing food to the birds. Stumbling across a live hermit crab, shell intact, provided another life lesson. Brittany said: “I would like a whole one, but not with that “thing” in it”, so a brilliant discussion began. Explaining that to have the beautiful spiral we would have to pick up live hermit crabs, kill them and clean them from their habitat. She was so torn by the decision/choice that would have to be made, a decision of life and death. What an astounding observation, and a life lesson. We choose daily to do right or wrong, sin versus the Will of God, good versus evil, to kill or let live. Every decision we make is just as astounding as Brittany’s ultimate decision once she had all the facts. The live crabs we were observing would for the most part be feeding prey for the birds as part of nature’s design. Decisions can change the paths of our lives and impact the balance of those around us. In recalling what I shared in my book, Asking What: No More Whys, this is evident. Decisions made in anger with no consideration of the impact it would have on the coarse of my life, then on the lives of my daughters are reflected over and over. Life can destroy by picking us apart, the scavengers are there. On the other hand, we can seek God’s will for our lives and regardless of the trials at the time, something good and beautiful is the final product. We are promised that if “… in all things with thanksgiving …” will render the results that will not only benefit ourselves but those in our lives as well as though who are “touched” by the hem of our garments or those who are listening to our words, if spoken in love and wisdom.