So Great To Be So Small

 I placed the items in the Christmas shoebox.  It has been several years since I filled a box for a needy child; a child that will be thrilled with the necessities of personal hygiene and perhaps a few tiny toys or clothes, stuffed into a small box. I thought of my own children and grandchildren when they were young and the gifts they received. Often times they had so many gifts from relatives there was barely enough space in their car to transport all their gifts home.

I wondered about this little boy age two to four, the recipient of my gift(s). I would like to fill a huge box with large toys and lots of clothes, but they will receive one tiny box. I shopped carefully thinking about what would delight such a child. How could a toothbrush, soap or bandages possibly be exciting for any child? I tried to picture this little angel, wondering if he will receive anything for Christmas? Perhaps at his young age, his thoughts of survival are more important than whether or not he will receive a package for Christmas.

 What if this precious child has never had a toothbrush? What if this child has never had a new shirt or socks? Then the tears flowed, as I thought of this precious life that didn’t ask to come into the world and certainly didn’t ask to be born into a world of poverty?

I used to tell my children often that “if not for God”, they too could have been born poor, handicapped, to parents that were abusive or unloving or countless other situations, “but God.” If not for God’s love none of us would be reading this blog today. My daughter and her children packed shoeboxes for children for many years, allowing her children to select items which they would like if they were the recipients. The churches packing these boxes are given supply lists for each age of child. As I shared with another person also purchasing items for her child, it’s so difficult to purchase only items which will fit into one small box.

Unfortunately, my concern is like that of many parents and grandparents in our culture of “wants and desires.” We desire to fulfill the wishes for the children we love.  I had to realize that if the recipient of this box has basically nothing in his little life, anything he receives will be a blessing. Having worked with the homeless, both in my career and also as a volunteer, I have to realize that often times the smallest of gifts can be cherished as “pure gold” by these recipients.

More valuable than the minuscule gifts in the box, is the love the Christian staff gives these children and their families when these boxes are delivered. We all know at Christmas we truly celebrate the greatest gift ever received with the birth of our Lord Jesus.  The shoeboxes are one small token to these children of the love Jesus has for all of us. Romans 6:23 NKJ “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It Just Doesn’t Matter

For the past months in numerous devotions, the subject was waiting.  “Waiting” has been prevalent during Covid-19.  However, many of the devotions I’ve read were in books printed several years ago. It validates this topic is infinite. No matter our age, locale or status in life, we did, are now or will be waiting for someone or something in our lives.

As Christians we know there are times in our life when the waiting seems to be an eternity. To a young child a few minutes is “an eternity”. To the teen and young adult waiting to graduate from high school or college may seem “an eternity.” As adults our “eternity” can be days, weeks or months as we await our circumstances to change. What happens when the waiting turns into years? What is God telling us? Most of all, what do we do while we are waiting? Do we use this time to see what God is doing with us?

I have shared previously that as I’ve sat in prayer with one of our church staff pastors he queried, “but Jane, would you have been as close to God as you are now? I say without hesitation, “no.” During God’s waiting, He has given me opportunities and experiences I would never have had.  I’ve met individuals I would never have met.

The greatest joy over these last years of “waiting” has been the long, quiet and countless hours that it is only me and God; no angry voices, no confrontations, no distractions.  Such situations can be productive when presented in the right way, but when alone with God, He removes all of these to focus on Him.

 During God’s “waiting”, I have realized, what is done for God is the only thing which will endure. This topic was discussed again this week with women from one of my bible studies, when one of them said, “it just doesn’t matter. Life is short.”

Chuck Swindoll’s words reminded me our waiting which may seem like an eternity is merely seconds compared to our eternal life with God. “Rearing children. We hope…we wait. Standing alone. We hope…we wait. Life presses in, we get discouraged, we come close to quitting. In it all, we hope and wait for the promise of God. That He will be faithful. That He will deliver us and provide. In what or in whom is your hope? Are you waiting on life to change or are you learning to wait on Him?…Be still. Read and pray. He will stand by your side when you feel most alone. Wait…and hope.”

Today, I attended my Christian writer’s meeting which has recently resumed following Covid-19. Whereas, we previously had a room full of attendees, we were now small in number, but what a blessing to hear of how God has used all of us even though we were “waiting.” NKJ Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

Have We Been Blocked?

As I recently opened one of my social media pages, I was taken aback that over 1,500 people had replied to the opportunity to post their prayers for a Christian ministry to join them in prayer.  I was again reminded of the depths of despair people around the world are enduring.

James Banks states, “God moves through our prayers to accomplish great good in the lives of his people. One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them, because through our prayers we open the door to the help only God can provide.”

From the time I was a young girl, I understood my conversations with God were some of the most important of my life. Reared in a poor home to extremely abusive parents, my weekly attendance in Sunday School taught me Jesus would always hear what I had to say. I was in awe of this for I frequently desired to “talk to” my parents, but conversations were not a part of our family life. Innocent queries were almost answered with a beating. I knew God heard all my prayers, short or long, silly or serious.

Recently, there were some serious health concerns with family members. I reached out to fifteen persons whom I believed would join me in praying for these sincere needs. Three were other family members and the remaining twelve were some of the church staff or fellow church and bible study members. Not one person acknowledged my plea to join me in prayer.

Over the years, hundreds of times I’ve been asked to pray for another. Often, I would jot down the name and request and add that person to my daily prayer list. Chuck Swindoll shares, “talking to the apostles…I think they’d emphasize an oft-spoken discipline-but one rarely deployed in our lives: praying for others.”

Chuck also says, “Prayer is one of the deepest subjects we can study. We’ve heard it said that we never stand taller than when we kneel before God. But what actually happens when we offer our prayers and petitions to God?” Do we ever feel as though He has “blocked us” from His prayer list?

Sometimes we pray so long, so earnestly and so diligently that we have become weary from praying. I have serious situations in my life which I prayed over forty-four years and God said, “no.” Another, I’ve been praying for over two and a half years and God has said no. Other serious prayers are twenty six years, one eight years and another almost six.  I’m still waiting. I have to accept His ultimate answer may be “no”, but when it comes to talking to God, unlike people that walk away from us and choose not to hear us, God never gives up. He hears every word. I love Max Lucado’s words on prayer, “prayer is the hand of faith on the door handle of your heart.”

When talking to God, patience has to be one of our strongest virtues. Psalm 27:14 NKJ, “Wait on the Lord, Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart…”

Created For Us

Garbage in, garbage out! What we eat, drink, think, read, watch and surround ourselves with often reflects the person we are. With the current events of our lives and the world, it is difficult to always have positive output, but it is possible.

For several years, I never went to bed without watching some, if not all of the national news.  As it became saturated with only politics and Covid-19, I now seldom watch the news. I happened to turn the news on last week when I learned of a tragedy which had touched the hearts and lives of a local family. I not only stopped and prayed for the family, but asked prayer for them on Facebook.

Oh Facebook! That is a story in and unto itself, isn’t it? For years I had no interest or desire to be on Facebook.  Then like millions of others, I succumbed to being “one of the mass.” As with the news, Facebook can be uplifting or discouraging. It’s the posts we choose to read which allow our feedback to be productive or detrimental.

Like all of you readers, I have my morning routine. Before I begin my day,  I prefer to have my quiet time with the Lord; reading my devotions and bible and THEN it is time for “the latest.” What’s happening on Facebook? Most days I have no comments or inquiries directed to me, so I quickly scan the “home page”, those events or posts which are public for all to read.

Today was a joy! What a change, what a blessing from the on-going political arguments and negative posts! The first enlightening narrative I read was from the perspective of a veterinarian to his or her patient and their family. For those families whom are privileged to remain in one community for the duration of their pet’s life, their “fur baby Doc” is akin to a family physician. The commentary I read today was written as though the veternarian knew that “fur baby” from birth through death.

“Doc” spoke of the family brining the bundle of joy into the clinic for the initial examination. Like human babies, those little ones need their vaccines. Throughout their lives, “fur babies” may have injuries or “ouchies” while “Doc” will be there to intercede in the healing.  “Doc” will laugh and cry with the family as their little one grows, matures and ages. Like humans, the aged “fur babies” also have ailments and conditions which make life more challenging.

The ultimate sorrow for not only the family, but the veternarian is the loss of that precious “baby.” As “Doc” noted, often these little angels from God have been with us for fifteen years or longer. As the author noted, when the grieving and crying families leave the room, how often the “Doc” sobs over the life of that precious pet.

I know God created these angels to make our lives richer, but how very sorrowful we all are when we must bid them good-bye. What I had to tell myself over the loss of my precious fur babies is that they enriched my life while here and I was also able to do likewise for them. Ecclesiastes 3:2 NKJ, “ a time to be born, and a time to die…”

In memory of my fur babies: Mo, a feline that took up residence on our deck, while my children were young and remained with us for over eighteen years, Indy, my beautiful Sheltie, a Christmas gift from my then husband, Charles. Indy blessed my life for over fourteen years. My last “fur baby angel”, also a Christmas gift from Charles, Boomer, a Bichon Frise. Boomer was a certified therapy dog for almost the duration of his life. He was a Therapy Dog International at age one and we spent the remainder of his life bringing joy and smiles to others, until Boomer became ill and passed away at age ten. His time with me was far too short, but the joy he brought me and others was a blessing beyond description. I thank God often for the memories and blessings I had with those beautiful “fur babies.”

I Wasn’t Expecting You

It whispers, so softly we sometimes don’t hear it and we may not see it. Then it hums and we know it has arrived and we see its’ beauty.  It sings loudly to make its presence known and often brings a friend. Most often when it arrives, we welcome it, waiting weeks or perhaps months for the visit.

We may have felt its’ soft kisses on our hair and cheeks when we didn’t anticipate it, or at other times we tried to flee our friend before its’ arrival.  We may have willingly allowed it to fall upon us. Occasionally, we pray our friend will leave for it has lingered too long and its’ presence is bringing our world around us harm.

We may not have had our home ready or “baked the cake to greet it, but we are joyful to see our friend; rain.  Often rain holds hands with thunder, and it is more magnificent as together they proclaim God’s glory.  When the skies are dark, often our hearts are bright, for we have awaited rain’s arrival. Perhaps the summer has been hot and dry. What a magnificent day for its arrival, the first day of September, a reminder that a new season is ahead.

I chuckled when someone was sharing their child doesn’t  wash their car. They allow the rain to do the work. When it is going to rain, the car is driven to the “perfect spot” to have the job accomplished. I love rain for it reminds me of my own life.  When rain comes, it may wash away some of the dirt and debris from our lives, so we can be refreshed.

There are barren and scorching times of life when a cool rain rejuvenates us. No matter how often we water our plants and lawn, they are never as nourished as when God brings us steady, lingering rain. It is more encompassing. God’s rain includes all in its path.

Occasionally some may plead with God to end the rain. It has lingered too long and is causing destruction to the very life it is touching. Living among wheat farms for several years, I understood the devastation and destruction of too much rain. As with the flowers and plants we grow, with too much water,  they will rot and “fall away”, but God is controlling the flow.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could set the rain as we do our timed sprinkling systems? We choose the day, time and duration. Yet this is not God’s plan for our lives. Before the cool months are here, there will be more days of heat and if the rain chooses to delay its’ visit again, it will be dry. We always know it will return, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes with a loud song, hand in hand with thunder, but always in God’s time and remaining as long as God desires. Joel 2:23 NIV, “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful…”

Silent Voices

I was  eager to return to church as it’s been over six months since I have attended a “live” service. I have been faithful to coffee/jammie church, but my church is now open for business “as usual” or is it? Where were the people? Where was the choir” Where was the orchestra? Where were the “how are you today’s?” I can talk to and worship God anywhere and anytime, but I was eager to return to church with my fellow members and worshipping together.

As I walked into the church, I realized the “good ole days” are gone for now. As I dashed into the ladies’ room to comb my wind-blown hair, there was a limit to the number of women allowed in the ladies’ room. I carefully opened the door to survey the space and see if it had reached its’ maximum of three. Oh yeah! There were only two, so I could enter.

As I walked into the sanctuary it was eerily quiet.  Routine conversation and greeting our fellow church members was muted. The choir consisted of ten to twelve people masked and scattered in the choir loft. The orchestra was void of most of the instruments. The organ was quiet.

This church is one of the largest of our denomination, in the state, yet today it appeared to be the size of a small, country church.  My family of four joined the church in the 1980s’ when our children were young.  When I became a “single, senior” over eight years ago, that changed my circle of friends at the church. Yet, this was a place where I always believed I could see familiar faces and be greeted with handshakes, hugs and warm smiles.

I realized the required masks and social distancing would eliminate the hugs, but was hopeful the “hidden smiles” would be revealed with the arched eyebrows which happens when one does smile. Yet, there were very few smiles. I saw two couples I knew and waved from a distance, but no hugs allowed. The congregation was void of fellow, single seniors, for we are in that “age group” and many are still attending “jammie church.” I felt as though I had entered a “couples only” church, as there were only three to four single persons in the entire congregation.

 Hymns were sung beneath the masks with praise to the Lord that is with us in the midst of all this “new normal.” The most important element of the church has not changed. Those of us that were in attendance were there to worship Him and to give Him the honor and glory for being with us. When the masks are removed and the virus is history, I trust none of us will ever forget what it was like to walk into a silent church. I trust we will greet one another with smiles and handshakes and thank our Lord for the times He quieted us, so all we heard was Him. Matthew 18:20 NKJ “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

My Basket Is Broken

Good Morning Readers! As I shared yesterday, we all have times in our lives when our “baskets” are so heavy from burdens the handles break. We are walking with God and He is holding our hand. We’ve also given Him our trials.  Yet we know, some of these circumstances we have to endure with His help, but above all,  for His glory.

God provides these tribulations to strengthen us and bring us closer to Him. Bible studies and sermons often share of such circumstances with our heroes of the bible; Joseph, David, Job, Paul and dozens of others. God was with them. He was there for them, but He also gave them their “baskets” to carry; imprisonment, persecution, destruction, death, false accusations and many more. In the midst of all this, God was right there with each of them and He  was right there with me when the last burden was tossed into my “basket.”

Even though I do not believe in idols or symbols, as a replacement to God,  I was reminded of God’s love and safety when I removed all the possessions from my automobile following the accident. It was a key chain which I had received and placed in my car console. The words reiterated what I knew, “God bless this driver with safety today.”  He did!

I have been so appreciative of the thoughts, prayers and kind words during these past several days. I received this poem as a result of my “broken basket.” You may not be at your wit’s end now, but as I shared yesterday, we all know that sometime during our life, our “baskets” will break.  Routinely, I close my blog with a scripture, but today, I will allow this poem to encourage you.

At their wit’s end, they cry unto the Lord in

their trouble, and He brings them out”

(Psalm 107:27, 28).

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”

Christian, with troubled brow?

Are you thinking of what is before you,

And all you are bearing now?

Does all the world seem against you,

And you in the battle alone?

Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is just where God’s power is shown.

 

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”

Blinded with wearying pain,

Feeling you cannot endure it,

You cannot bear the strain,

Bruised through the constant suffering,

Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?

Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is where Jesus loves to come.

 

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?

Your work before you spread,

All lying begun, unfinished,

And pressing on heart and head,

Longing for strength to do it,

Stretching out trembling hands?

Remember–at. “Wit’s End Corner”

The Burden-bearer stands.

 

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?

Then you’re just in the very spot

To learn the wondrous resources

Of Him who faileth not:

No doubt to a brighter pathway

Your footsteps will soon be moved,

But only at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is the “God who is able” proved.

–Antoinette Wilson

 

Do not get discouraged; it may be the last key in

the bunch that opens the door.  Stansifer

Please Hand Me The Rope

Most of us have heard, the quote that God does not give us more than we can bear.  At times, the baskets we are carrying break from the load of life’s burdens. That happened to me only a few days ago. As I laid in an ambulance, after having my car totaled, I telephoned my daughter, living in another state.  As my tears fell, I said, “I now have to find a heavy rope, for the events of today have broken my basket. I need a rope to drag it.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog and within minutes of hitting the “publish” button, I received a sarcastic comment about the blog. I chose to delete the initial blog and wrote another, apologizing  for being “candid” about the challenges of life. I then received positive feedback for being transparent and for sharing how God intervenes.  The accolades encouraged me. Life at times is difficult, but we can give God the glory for carrying our baskets.

While I was a university teacher,  receiving evaluations from the students each semester, I carefully read each comment. I always understood there would be negative feedback from students not receiving their desired grade. Negativity is to be expected in our lives for we can’t please everyone. My gauge of success as a college teacher was when the positive comments outweighed the negative.

For some of us, our lives have many more challenges than blessings. Yet, it is how we choose to endure which makes us failures or successes. I vividly recall being in a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), lecture when the leader noted one of the participants had come up to her and said there must be something wrong with her life (the participant).  The lady shared with our leader, she was in her sixties and had never had even one negative life event.  She experienced a wonderful childhood and upbringing with loving parents and siblings, an incredible husband and marriage, caring and loving children, financially successful and never an illness. Her life had been what others would consider “perfect.”

It may seem unfair that many people go through life with very few difficulties. When they do encounter challenges, they are quickly resolved and quite minor. At times, I pour my heart out to God, as to why some people receive countless blessings while others struggle with daily life. Charles Stanley reminds us, “whatever the hardship, there is one overarching choice we have to make-to move toward God, or away from Him. There is no standing still. There is no neutral option. Adversity forces our path to split before us, and we will either walk with God or turn down a lonely road without Him.”

God knew before He allowed these problems the persons that would handle them with grace and dignity and use them for His glory and those that would become bitter and angry. James 1:12 NKJ “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

 

Squirrels in My Life

Months ago, I stood at the window startled, but amused that a squirrel had grabbed onto a corner of my patio rug and was literally unraveling the entire edge. I opened the door to scare it away, but the little critter soon returned to complete the task. I had never witnessed anything like that after having patio rugs for years, so I took a picture to capture the moment.

For weeks, the rug looked tattered and disheveled, but I believed the squirrel(s) had lost interest and moved on to other mischief around my house or in the neighborhood. It was time to purchase a new rug, as I knew It would bring new life to my patio. Also, anyone  visiting  my home wouldn’t look upon the rug and wonder why I didn’t take pride in the appearance of my surroundings.

A couple days ago my rug arrived. The wrinkles from being rolled tightly during shipping  were still apparent throughout the rug, as the “new smell” lingered. No more shabby patio! As I opened my blinds today, I was “awe struck.” Whether it was the same squirrel or a relative, it had not only frayed the entire edge of my rug, but had chewed and decimated  some of the rug.

I whispered, Oh dear God, can’t I have anything in my life which isn’t frayed and marred? Yes, it is merely a rug, but it was a reminder to me of the many times in our lives  when we try so earnestly to start over; to replace or repair what has been damaged. We grow weary of having people see us as though we don’t care; as though we have allowed the distressed edges to be what is the most visible.

Even though the center of the rug is new, whole and lovely, the unraveled edge with the missing pieces is what my eye was drawn toward. I sat on the ground, tape and scissors in hand slowing and methodically going around the entire edge of the rug, trusting the heavy tape would deter the squirrel guest from damaging the rug even further.

Satan finds a small way to pull and tug at us, realizing he can fray us so we are unattractive to those we meet. They don’t see the body of the rug; our life and the way God blesses us.  They see only the ugly, mutilated edges of our attitude or personality. Our hearts and lives may be as lovely as the center of my new rug, but the ruined edges, can’t be hidden.

They need to be wrapped in God’s love, so Satan won’t continue to pull and tug until our entire image is destroyed.  The edges Satan chewed and tore are there, but the beauty is “in the center” of our lives. We are bound in God’s love, so the frayed edges are not as visible. We know where the destruction is, but God’s light in our lives has diminished the damage. Psalm 147:3 NIV “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

 

 

 

Detour Again

“I caution you…you will receive swift, legal, action.” What? Why? There was no greeting or closing salutation, merely a threat. I then whispered, okay, God another slammed door, but you are in charge. No words had been written or spoken which were disparaging as I was accused of doing. Thus, no need to threaten. To me, it is one more example of God’s hand slamming the door shut.

The sender of the brusque text presented a business transaction which I chose not to accept. She had entered my home angry and departed in the same manner. What I learned years ago is we cannot control what others say or do, but we can control how we accept and deal with situations which arise. For me personally, it is of no benefit to react to negativity in a toxic manner.  If I react destructively, it only causes me physical stress and anxiety. I prayed about the business transaction before it was presented and following. This has caused another detour, but I know God’s time is perfect.

Then as I read one of my devotions today, I thought of my own situation. Xochitl Dixon wrote, “my anger percolated when a woman mistreated me, blamed me and gossiped about me. I wanted everyone to know what she’d done-wanted her to suffer as I’d suffered because of her behavior. I steamed with resentment until a headache pierced my temples. But as I began praying for my pain to go away, the Holy Spirit convicted me. How could I plot revenge while begging God for relief?”

As I read each word of Xochitl’s devotion, I thought again about what anger does to us. I recall when I learned the truth of a situation a little over two years ago. I was angry, but more wounded than angry. The hurt was so deep and devastating, I became physically ill. How could someone I had loved so deeply and genuinely do something so vindictive and dishonorable? He did and I had to decide how to endure. I cried out to God to remove the emotional sorrow, but it lingered. Even now, if I reflect on the reality of what occurred, the anguish is great, “but God.”

I’ve learned over these past couple years, that no matter how excruciating a situation may be, with God’s help I can survive and thrive. Perhaps that is another reason when situations arise now which I have no control over, I can say “God, this is your problem. Please take it from me.” The actions of the sender of today’s text are unethical, but God remains at the center of the situation.

As Xochitl continued her devotion, she reminded us of the unfair treatment of David. We all know David pulled some “stunts”, but he was also mistreated unjustly when King Saul wanted to kill him. “David suffered while God worked things out.” Sometimes we too suffer, while God’s plan for our life is being implemented.  Psalm27:14 NKJ: “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.”