Do Something.

Mummy and I talk almost every weekend. We chat about everything and anything pretty much; but invariably, she always brings me up to speed with her thoughts about what’s happening back home. The main topic of our conversation usually is the godlessness in society and the resulting corruption and crime. Many times, she tells me she cannot believe that this is the same country in which she was raised. She has seen morals and values decay. In her words, “There is no reverence for God, and everyone seems to be doing what he wants.”

In reality, we can say that about any country today. One way or another, we see deterioration of values and morals. Crime, violence, corruption, and injustice are widespread. For many of us, it looks like the world we live in is spiraling out of control! We may be asking God, “Where are You? How long before You do something? Will evil continue to prevail?”

We are not alone in our thoughts and our cries to the Lord about: immorality, modern day slavery, violence, murder, disregard for life, persecution of Christians, corruption, injustice, ISIS, and evil. In the seventh century BC, the prophet Habakkuk cried out to the Lord, too. He saw the wickedness, injustice, evil, idolatry, corruption, and indifference to God’s law in the nation—the same things we see today. He was perplexed, questioning why God was doing nothing about the moral and spiritual decay among the people.

As far as Habakkuk was concerned, God’s very name was at stake. In the prophet’s mind, God should have already intervened. Though he was praying, it was as if God was not hearing Him.

2 How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed,
and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
so that justice has become perverted.

For Habakkuk, things were not changing the way he thought they should or the way that would be consistent with who he knew God to be. So, he concluded that God was doing nothing.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you are there now. In your mind, you believe God is doing nothing to effect change in the world or in your circumstances. You watch the news and see:

  • people being forced out of their countries by extremists
  • refugee camps overflowing with people who have nowhere to turn
  • Christians executed by terrorists
  • the unborn murdered and their body parts sold while no one is held accountable
  • people being gunned down while going about their lives
  • politicians lying for power

Or maybe you have been crying out about your marriage, infertility, illness, joblessness, debt, a wayward child, divorce, or broken family relationships. You wonder if and when God will do something.

Here is good news: God is on His throne! He is control of all things, and He is always at work in the world and in the life of His people. In answer to Habakkuk’s questions God says:

“Look around at the nations;
look and be amazed!
For I am doing something in your own day,
something you wouldn’t believe
even if someone told you about it.” (Habakkuk 1:5)

The Lord was working, but His work would take Habakkuk by surprise! In Habakkuk 1:5-11; 2:2-19, God tells Habakkuk how He was going accomplish His purposes: He would raise up the ruthless Babylonians to judge His own people. This answer only further confused the prophet. How could God use the sinful Babylonians to judge His own people? The Babylonians were worse than the God’s people.

Habakkuk’s response—even in the midst of his confusion—was to go up to his watch tower and seek and wait upon the Lord. Habakkuk did not have to understand or trust the details of God’s plan. He knew he could trust God’s word, His leadership, and His sovereignty (Habakkuk 3:16-19).

Beloved, weary, wrestling, and doubting, the Lord is at work in this world and in our lives for His purposes. His plans are perfect because He is perfect. He is holy and just. We may not understand His work. We may not be able see clearly with human eyes what He is doing. But be encouraged: He hears our cries and sees our plight, even when it doesn’t feel that way to us. Like Habakkuk, let us, in faith, continue to seek, trust, and wait upon the Lord. He will make all things beautiful in His time. He is doing a work we wouldn’t believe!

 

Blessings,

Karen

But even if He does not…

In recent months, there have been several news reports about Middle Eastern Christians who have been detained, threatened, incarcerated, or killed because they have refused to reject their faith in Jesus Christ. It’s hard to imagine being forced to choose between renouncing Jesus or being tortured, imprisoned, or executed. But, we live in a day and time when such atrocities happen.

Although most of us may never face physical persecution, we may have to choose between silence, indifference, and compromise or experience the loss of life as we know it: job security, lost opportunity, or tarnished reputations. It’s a hard reality to think about, much less to face.

Four young Judean men faced that very reality. When Babylon seized Jerusalem (around 605 BC), King Nebuchadnezzar took the brightest, smartest, and best-looking young Judeans to be a part of his court—the best of the best (Daniel 1:3-7). Among the Judeans who fit this profile were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (whose names would be changed to the Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).

God favored these men. He gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of things; and to Daniel, He gave the ability to interpret the king’s dreams (Daniel 1:17). Because of God’s favor upon them, they rose to prominence and were given responsibility in the king’s court. With that prominence and responsibility, there was an expectation to pledge allegiance to the Babylonian gods and to the king. The Babylonians worshipped idols; and when Nebuchadnezzar built his golden idol in Babylon and decreed that all the people should bow down and worship it at the sound of music, he expected all would submit. The choice was clear: obey, or face the consequence of disobedience to the king of Babylon.

But, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah neither served the Babylonian gods nor worshipped the golden image (Daniel 3:12). When confronted by the king for non-compliance and given a chance to change their stance or face death by fire, they still refused to bow to the gods of Babylon or to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).

But even if He does notWHOA! Those are tough words. These young men did not flinch in their allegiance to God. They trusted Him. Whether He would save them from burning to death or NOT, they were going to trust Him and His will. It’s hard to imagine dying for your belief—even harder to imagine God not coming to your rescue when you’ve been obedient and have done what pleased Him.

Again, for us, we may not face death for choosing Christ. The circumstance could be something else. But even if He does not

  • bring healing,
  • open the door to that job,
  • remove the opposition,
  • cure the disease,
  • restore the marriage,
  • change the circumstances,
  • _____________________(fill in the blank),

Will we trust Him? Will we be faithful to Him? Will we rest in His sovereignty? Will we believe that His will, plan, and purposes are perfect?

Our circumstances and situations should not dictate our faithfulness, our trust, or our obedience to God. Neither should they cause us to question His goodness, sovereignty, faithfulness, power, or trustworthiness. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah did not know if they would be rescued from a fiery death, but they still chose God and obeyed His will.

You and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. We do not know if the challenges we face will work out like we think they should. Yet, we will have to decide. What will it be? Safety, comfort, ease, compromise, or…TRUST?

Have a great day!

Karen

Have You Been Listening?

Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem, “For the past twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until now—the Lord has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you, but you have not listened.

“Again and again the Lord has sent you his servants, the prophets, but you have not listened or even paid attention. Each time the message was this: ‘Turn from the evil road you are traveling and from the evil things you are doing. (Jeremiah 25:2-4)

 

All throughout Jeremiah there is evidence that the case was stacked heavily against the Judeans:

  • They rejected God’s Word.
  • Truth had vanished from among them and was no longer on their lips.
  • They worshipped idols of other nations.
  • They sacrificed children.
  • They exploited widows and orphans.
  • They listened to false prophets who tickled their ears.
  • They accommodated, assimilated, and tolerated the cultures of other nations.
  • They disobeyed God and refused to be taught.

God’s people were heading down the road to nowhere good. The Judeans were hardheaded and hardhearted. They absolutely did not care that they were not living up to God’s standards for them.

I wonder if Jeremiah knew how hard it would be to be God’s prophet. For years and years, he repeatedly told them to repent and turn away from the rebellious lives they had been leading, but they would not listen.

Yet, Jeremiah did not relent or waiver in his commitment to God and His people. He kept calling them to turn back to God. He was faithful, consistently pointing the people to God’s Word—despite their stubbornness.

But when Jeremiah had finished his message, saying everything the Lord had told him to say, the priests and prophets and all the people at the Temple mobbed him. “Kill him!” they shouted. “What right do you have to prophesy in the Lord’s …” (Jeremiah 26:8-9)

Did you catch that? The Judeans did not want to hear anything Jeremiah was saying. In response to his pleadings, they threatened to kill him (Jeremiah 11:18-19). They threw him into prison (Jeremiah 37:15); they threw him into a well (Jeremiah 38:6) leaving him to die. They questioned his authority to say the things he was saying to them.

If I were in Jeremiah’s position, I might have given up on the Judeans. Quite likely, I would have been frustrated, to put it mildly.

Before I get too high and mighty, though, I have to admit that I am not—we, the Church, are not—all that different from the Judeans.

  • We wallow in our sin.
  • We don’t always want correction, if ever.
  • We don’t like to think about the consequences of our sins.
  • We, too, question the right of a friend, a loved one, or a brother/sister in Christ to call us out and get involved in our lives when we are sinning.

Right or wrong, no one wants his/her sins to be pointed out by anyone. No one wants to be called on the carpet.

But, on the flip side…

It can be uncomfortable sometimes to confront a friend or loved one about something in his/her life that flies in the face of God. We feel like we don’t have the right to speak, knowing that we aren’t perfect.

What will the person say? Will I be accused of being judgmental?

Do you see the problem? We don’t want to be confronted about sin in our lives. We also want to just mind our own business rather than confront sin in someone else’s life. We want it both ways.

As I have been reading through Jeremiah, I have been convicted by his faithfulness—to God through his obedience and to the Judeans through his persistence. I have been convicted by his love for the Judeans, as evidenced by his desire to pray for them and call them back to God.

Ultimately, Jeremiah’s love for the Judeans was a reflection of God’s love for His wayward people. He sent Jeremiah to them. He gave Jeremiah the command to point out sin and call for repentance. He issued the warning through the prophet about the consequences of continual disobedience.

All of this reminds me of my own life. As I reflect on different seasons in my life, I have had a few Jeremiahs—persons who have nudged me, called me out, held me accountable, and challenged me to repent when I have fallen into sin. When I have wandered off down paths that did not match who I am in Christ, those prophets have been there, calling me back to walk the straight and narrow road.

I’ll admit that, at the moment of correction, I didn’t feel particularly loved…by those people or by God. However, I am grateful to God that He allowed those people to come alongside me and lovingly, if not always gently, point me back to His Word. If I am being completely honest, those times when I have been encouraged to take a look at my life have never felt good. In my pride, I have taken offense. I didn’t want to hear the truth.

But, I thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit who convicted me, using those who were obedient to God’s call to be prophets in my life. Through their love and true words, He led me back to the standard of the Word, causing me to search my heart and confess. Though I didn’t really want to hear words of correction, I thank God for instructing those people to remind me about what is most important: my relationship with Christ and His work in my life.

In this season of my life, my hubby is the person the Lord uses most to hold me accountable. I am grateful for his obedience to the Lord and that he loves me enough to point me back to the Cross.

What about you?

Has God sent someone into your life—a friend, a brother or sister in Christ—who is holding you accountable? Is the Lord using someone to nudge you in an area in your life where you are walking in sin? Is God using someone in your life to call you to repentance?

Have you received the correction of the Lord? Or, have you gotten bent out of shape? Is your response one of humility and gratitude or fleshly, like the Judeans?

Maybe, instead, the Lord has been nudging you to love a friend by pointing out a sin weakness. Are you willing to speak the truth to that person, regardless of the response?

Friend, let us not give up on one another. Let us pray for each other. In love, let us point each other back to God’s Word. Let us remain open to accountability. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to guide our responses toward grace and humility rather than offense.

O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E

I was raised in Jamaica by parents who instilled in me the importance of a good education to attain a good profession. In our house, a good profession was along the lines of doctor, lawyer, teacher, or accountant—jobs that would ensure good income and success. The picture of success was to land a good job, climb the ladder, and stay ‘til retirement. Additionally, success meant getting married, buying a nice house, and having kids.

So, out of university, what did I do? I became an accountant/auditor.

Let me be honest: I did not love my profession, but I was good at what I did. I made a good living. I was well on my way to “success”…

 

Fast forward to today.

My life looks N-O-T-H-I-N-G like that picture that was painted for me by well-meaning parents. In fact, life today is pretty much the opposite of that definition of success.

A few years ago, my life took a turn in a different direction. I laid my life down at the foot of the Cross and placed my faith in Christ. My life became His to use for His ordained purposes. Success was re-defined for me by the Savior. My life has consisted of interesting turns, U-turns, ups, and downs—not the straight-line path defined by the world.

  • I didn’t get married until my late 30s.
  • I have no children.
  • I went to seminary and completed my master’s degree in biblical studies. (How did I get to that from accounting?)
  • Now in my 40s, when most people are settling into a career, I am just getting started in a new career—writing.

This is NOT the life I pictured or even dreamed for myself.

Some days, I wonder, what is going on? This is CRAZY! But, in my hearts of hearts, I would not change anything because I know that being obedient to the Lord and trusting Him to unfold His purpose for my life is best…even when I don’t understand how it will end.

There are days—like yesterday—when my faith and trust in God wanes, and I wonder if I can really trust Him. There are so many days when, even for a moment, I want my life to look the way I dreamed it would be. But…

  • I come back to the Cross.
  • I come back to His Word.
  • I come back to the words of songs like these:

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.

Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,

and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in His wonderful face,

and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim

in the light of His glory and grace.

 

All to Jesus I surrender.

All to Him I freely give.

I will ever love and trust Him,

in His presence daily live.

I am reading through the book of Jeremiah right now, and his life encourages me. He was called to do an extremely HARD and thankless task. He faced moments of despair and discouragement. However, obedience to God trumped his feelings every time. To me, Jeremiah is a picture of success not because he made good money, had friends, had a wife and kids—because he had none of those things. He was successful because he kept saying yes to the Lord in trust and obedience.

Today, again, Lord, I say yes.

Have a great day!

Karen

End of the week ramblings!!

Hey there,

So I decided to record some of what I was thinking as I sat with the Lord yesterday and read through Jeremiah 11. I am in awe of the Lord, and I thank Him for His Word. I pray you are encouraged as you listen.  Have a great weekend. Be encouraged!

 

 

I would love to hear your thoughts. Shoot me a comment. Talk soon.

Blessings.

Karen

When the Enemy Strikes

Then the Rabshekah stood up and called out loudly in Hebrew, the common language, “Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria! Don’t listen to Hezekiah’s lies. He can’t save you. And don’t pay any attention to Hezekiah’s pious sermons telling you to lean on God, telling you ‘God will save us, depend on it. God won’t let this city fall to the king of Assyria.’

 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah. Listen to the king of Assyria’s offer: ‘Make peace with me. Come and join me. Everyone will end up with a good life, with plenty of land and water, and eventually something far better. I’ll turn you loose in wide open spaces, with more than enough fertile and productive land for everyone.’ Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you with his lies, ‘God will save us.’ Has that ever happened? Has any god in history ever gotten the best of the king of Assyria? Look around you. Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? The gods of Sepharvaim? Did the gods do anything for Samaria? Name one god that has ever saved its countries from me. So what makes you think that God could save Jerusalem from me?’ ” (Isaiah 36:13-20, The Message)


 

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Judah was invaded by Assyria (2 Kings 18-19, Isaiah 36-37). The Assyrians were the big bad enemy in the region, capturing the surrounding nations. They were kicking butts and taking names. But, Hezekiah would not surrender to the King of Assyria, Sennacherib.

 

The Assyrian strategy was the use of fear tactics. They struck fear into the hearts of the Judeans hoping to send them running for cover.

 

The Assyrians mocked the Judeans: they questioned King Hezekiah’s confidence, his trust in God, and his alliance with Egypt. They teased; they insulted; and they sowed seeds of doubt. They told the Judeans that their King was not trustworthy and that he could not save them. They questioned the power, ability, and might of the God of Israel. The Assyrian strategy was not only to leave the Judeans scared but discouraged and hopeless so that they had to turn to the plans of the enemy.

 

Sound familiar?

Don’t trust the Lord…

You can’t …

God won’t…

God can’t…

It’s useless…

 

The Assyrians offered the Judeans hope in an attractive alternative—what they could provide—land, food, prosperity, provision, safety, deliverance, stability, ease.

 

Isn’t this what the enemy does in our lives?

 

He uses our life circumstances to shake our faith, to make us doubt God, to make us choose to not trust in God’s promises, to make us question whether God is big enough to meet our needs or powerful enough to deliver us from what we face.

 

He wants us to believe the lie that his good is better than God’s best.

 

  • Single woman, he wants you to give up waiting on the Lord and give in to dating and marrying the unbeliever, all in the hope that one day you can lead him to Christ.
  • Married woman with the challenging marriage, the enemy would prefer you to fix the issue with divorce than for you to trust the Lord on your knees fighting for your marriage.
  • Ladies, he wants us to wallow in our insecurities and find our validation in accolades, good grades, a friend’s opinion, a certain position, prominence, and status, instead of standing on the truth of who God has said we are.
  • Ladies, he would love nothing more than to see us live in fear and not trust and live the way the Lord intended for us—free in Christ.

 

Whatever it is and wherever you find yourself, the enemy’s schemes have always been the same: he attempts to defeat us with lies, fear, and doubt. The enemy comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. That has always been his strategy because he is a LIAR. He wants us to believe that the LORD Jesus is:

  • not enough
  • not faithful
  • not gracious
  • not dependable
  • not trustworthy

 

In Isaiah 36:21, the Judean response to the Assyrian jeering was silence and prayer. The Judeans had a great leader in Hezekiah. He did right before the Lord. He removed the places of idol worship; He trusted the Lord, and he did not depart from worshipping Him (2 Kings 18).  In Isaiah 37:1, when Hezekiah heard what the Assyrians were doing to his people, he went into the house of the Lord, sent his men to the prophet of the Lord, and prayed.  Hezekiah led his people in trusting the Lord, and he trusted the Lord to deliver him and his people.

 

Like Hezekiah, we must reject the enemy and trust the Lord.

 

When the enemy strikes, the only one who can deliver us and save us from whatever we face is the Lord.

 

We have the full armor of God at our disposal so that we can stand against the onslaught of the enemy, and we must use it.

 

It is only in putting our confidence in Him, seeking Him, standing on His word, and going to Him in prayer that we will be victorious against fear, doubt, faithlessness, insecurity, discontentment, discouragement—all the things the enemy uses against us.

 

I don’t know where you are today or what the enemy is using against you. But let us go on our knees and seek our Lord in prayer knowing and believing that His strategies, His word, and His plans will never fail. There is NO enemy that can stand against our LORD. Remember, the Assyrians did not win; and neither does the enemy!

 

Would love to hear from you! ‘Til next time…

Karen

Losing Perspective

 

The door flies open…

 

“I think the dolly flew off the truck!”

 

“WHAT? What did you do?”

 

“I unloaded the truck. I put the dolly back on, and I thought I closed the tail gate. But, when I got here the gate was up, the dolly gone.”

 

“What? Oh my goodness. I hope it did not hit someone’s car as you were driving.” I am not panicking as I just saw dollar signs. I am thinking, Man honey, how could you? But instead, “Well I hope it just fell off and did not hit anyone.”

 

“I will drive back to school and look for it before I return the truck.”

 

“OK.” Sigh…

 

I hate moving!!! I HATE moving!!! I despise the process:

  • packing up
  • cleaning up and cleaning out
  • multiple trips to Goodwill to give away all the junk we really didn’t need
  • millions of boxes all over our small apartment
  • uprooting
  • trying to make everything fit neatly into a box so the glassware does not break
  • hold time on the phone with the cable company to disconnect services
  • hold time on the phone with the power company to disconnect services.
  • loading the truck in 90 degree heat and sweating buckets while playing Tetris, with boxes, hoping everything we own will fit in the 20ft moving truck and it won’t be broken by the time we arrive at the destination—8.5 hours away

old apt boxesKaren loading

packing the truckpacking the truck 3

Then, we arrive at the destination; and its 10 degrees hotter than when we left 8.5 hours ago. After a long day of driving and then signing away our lives on multiple pages of a lease, it is time to go in reverse—unload and haul everything up the stairs.

Unloading in 99 degree weather is not fun, especially when you, the hubby, and the moving men are drenched in sweat and the funk begins to permeate the air. No fun!!!

We paid for two hours of help, so the unloading MUST go fast and smooth. We ignore the sweat pouring off the movers unto the furniture… and the accompanying smell of hard labor…Everything unloaded. Two hours. Done!!!

The apartment is a maze of boxes, and the unpacking and the arranging begins. But also, the connecting of services— waiting all day for the cable guy. The 8-10am installation window moves to 8-1pm with no notice. The process of transition is underway. I know…I know I sound like I am whining, but this was where I was just a week and half ago when we moved.

However, the Lord always has a way of giving me a needed dose of reality. It is good to remember the big picture and not be overwhelmed by what’s immediately in front of me.

In the middle of unpacking, Joey and I stopped to watch a documentary called The True Cost. It was about the fast fashion industry and the factory workers in third world countries who are paid little to nothing to make cheap clothing for fast fashion clothing companies in the US and around the world.

It was a glimpse into the world of the factory workers. They worked long hours in horrible conditions that made me cringe in anger, with pay that made me marvel at how they could truly provide for their families. One of the women interviewed shared that she had to send her little girl away to live with family because she could not afford to keep her —There was no babysitter or daycare she could afford—a reality I cannot imagine. The documentary also showed garment factory workers in one country on strike because they demanded better pay to afford a better life for their families. Their demonstration was met with police restraint and attack which left many wounded and some dead. These workers wanted the same thing my husband and I want, to provide for our families—food, clothing, shelter, education, savings, opportunity. A good opportunity for our family was one of the reasons we moved. Sometimes we have to do whatever it takes—even moving—if that will afford a better life for our families.

The documentary slapped me upside the head and gave me much needed perspective. Honestly, even though I dislike the inconvenience, the upheaval, and the transition of moving and resettling, I am not working in a sweat shop. My baby is not sleeping on a blanket pallet on the floor of a factory while I work to provide. I actually moved in an air conditioned van and slept in my own bed that night, so moving really is not the end of the world. I cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. My hubby landed a good job, and that is good for our family. So, I thank the Lord for the opportunity given to us. And I thank Him that He uses even a documentary to cause me to rethink my attitude.  In the grand scheme of things, I have to choose gratitude because life could always be worse.

So what about you?

Are you feeling over whelmed by your circumstances and have not stopped long enough to see that maybe it’s not as bad as you think?

Have you lost perspective? What is the Lord showing you?

 

Blessings,

Karen

We are like wind.

 

Auntie Norma was my aunt’s sister-in-law. Although not directly related to me, her walk with Jesus impacted me in the very early years of my journey with Christ. She passed away this past week, and I know she is with Jesus. The memories I have of her are vivid and go back to my high school days: she was the stern, no nonsense vice principal who was loved and respected. She was a cancer survivor. While I was in high school, I remember that time when she came to school baldheaded, no wig, and not ashamed. She was a woman who believed in and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ to see her through tough times. She knew the Lord as faithful, as healer, and as provider. He was her ROCK.

When I became a Believer, she was one of the first people I called. This was a new journey for me because, although I had gone to Sunday school and went to church on and off, this was the first time—as an adult—that I understood that I needed a relationship with Christ. Auntie Norma fully understood that and encouraged me. I only saw her a couple of times, since I lived away; but each time we spoke and prayed together, I walked away encouraged and re-charged.

I remember telling her that I met the man who would be my husband, and I remember when they met for the first time. She prayed for us at our wedding. I have not seen her in over 3 years; but I am grateful that, when I had a chance, I told her thank you. She gave me the courage to stand amongst family members who thought that, as a new Christian, I was a fanatic or part of some fad. She stood with me the first time I prayed for my family while standing in their midst. She modeled for me faith when I had never really seen it.

So, even though I did not see her much and did not talk to her much, I will never forget her. I will never forget how, in the few instances, she taught me to trust God no matter what, even when life gets dark and does not look the way you would have hoped. The news of her passing this week made me sad but, more so, made me thankful for her life. Joey and I thanked the Lord for her and who she was.

As I reflect on Auntie Norma and her legacy, a verse from my quiet time challenges me, Psalm 78:39. Psalm 78 concerns the waywardness of the Israelites. The Psalmist reminds them that they should tell future generations of the goodness of God and that they should put their confidence in Him. He recounts how the children of Israel turned their backs on God and no longer trusted or believed Him. After all He did for them (rescuing them, delivering them) and after all the ways He showed Himself to be God (parting the Red Sea, taking them out of Egypt, providing for them, leading them by the cloud in the day and the fire at night), they doubted Him. They looked to the gods of the nations and fell prey to their own desires. It was only when God’s anger was kindled against them that they remembered His goodness and faithfulness and experienced His mercy.

In verse 39, the Psalmist says, “Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.”

Like smoke out of a chimney or morning dew on the grass, life is fleeting. It goes like the blink of an eye. We are not promised tomorrow, not even the next minute. We are not here forever. We are here…then we are not.

So, with the time we are given…
o What legacy will we leave?
o Will we be people who truly follow Jesus Christ?
o Will we walk in obedience to His Word?
o Will we be salt and light before a crumbling world?
o Will we live by His truth or our own?
o Will we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and strength?
o Will we love our neighbors as ourselves?
o As members of the church, will we serve and be Kingdom-minded?
o Will we pray for our leaders?
o Will we pray for the lost?
o Will we pray for family and friends and those the Lord brings in our path? Will we model Christ?

Or…
o Will we be selfish, self-centered, rebellious, not caring if we please our Heavenly Father?
o Will we care more about our feelings and how we feel rather than the truth?
o Will we believe in our own “truth” rather than the Word of God?

Without a doubt, I know Auntie Norma’s life touched many people. She was a follower of Jesus Christ who was an educator, and she was not ashamed of the Gospel! She taught; she discipled; she preached; and she lived. From what my cousins have told me, her last days were challenging as she battled her illness. Yet, I have no doubt that she still knew her Lord as FAITHFUL. She used her time well; I am sure of her legacy.

“So teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

Remember and do not forget: we are only here for a time. We are and will be held accountable to God for the lives we lead. We will stand before Him. What will you say? What will I say?

What will He say?

“For He remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passes and does not return.”
Psalm 78:39

 

We don’t fight alone.

She sits quietly—and alone—on the second pew from the front, the same place she sits every Sunday…looking down mostly, her glasses perched on her the tip of her nose. She looks up occasionally and makes eye contact; her eyes are sad, longing for peace, for a change. The pastor begins. She opens her Bible and follows along as the passage is read. The story is well known: David and Goliath, one of her favorites, 1 Samuel 17.

The Israelites are preparing to battle the Philistines; the only thing separating them is the valley. The Philistines have their champion, Goliath. He is impressive: standing at about nine feet, clothed in bronze armor weighing over 100 pounds, a bronze helmet on his head, bronze shin guards to protect his shins, and his javelin on his shoulders. He is strong and ready for battle.

“Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down.” He taunts the Israelites, challenging them to come, to fight, and to defend themselves.

His words do not incite bravery, only fear. Saul and his men fear for their lives. They stand intimidated, fearful, faithless…overcome by the “bigness” of the enemy in their midst. Although they are the children of God and have seen God’s provision, protection, and rescue in battles past, they do not remember.

Fear often paralyzes our faith.

The story washes over her like a refreshing waterfall; she remembers that the story does not end with Goliath. She faces many Goliaths in her life—a recently buried a loved one, finances swirling the drain, a family member fighting addiction, income that barely pays the bills, and loneliness. She wonders, Lord, are you there?

1 Samuel 17:12 starts with “Now David.” The story shifts; God is revealing His plan. David enters the story, a boy who has been prepared through his everyday life to take on the likes of Goliath. He does not fear. He believes. He knows that the God who has given him the wisdom, strength, and skill to face lions and bears will not leave him now, even as he faces this “uncircumcised Philistine,” this enemy who dares to taunt God’s people.

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)

Goliath curses as David approaches with his sling and stones. “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks? He cursed David, by his gods.” Goliath does not take David seriously. David does not even wear the battle armor of his people. He knows what Goliath does not: he is not going to battle in his own strength. Instead, the future King of Israel is going to battle the way the Lord trained him—with a sling in hand and the Omnipotent God at his side.

“You come to me with a sword, and a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, who you have taunted.” (1 Sam. 17:45)

Like the woman in the pew, what Goliaths are you facing? Doubt, fear, financial crisis, family struggles, marriage challenges, addiction, joblessness, loneliness, sin? Are you paralyzed with fear as you look at what you face? Have you forgotten the goodness, the greatness, the timeliness, and the mercy of our God? Are you facing the battles in your strength…or in His?

Goliath does not get the last word. His taunting does not last. He is DEFEATED.

Like the Israelites who saw David defeat Goliath, we are reminded that our God is greater than anything we face. With Him, we can overcome all obstacles. Like David, we are reminded that God uses different aspects of our lives to train us to meet the challenges and the trials that will come. We are reminded to remember the faithfulness of God in the past, knowing that He is the same. He has not changed. Just as He has seen us through tough times in the past, He will see us through again.

The Vase

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father,

We are the clay, and You our potter;

And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

(Isaiah 64:8)

The sun bounced off the surface of the lake, painting the water in a kaleidoscope of colors; in the distance, a bright green field; the cool fall afternoon alive with creative energy. Concealed at the bottom of the stone-stacked staircase, a studio—isolated, quiet—faced the lake and the field. The studio doors were ajar, revealing glimpses of the potter’s wheel, the stool, and the clay. Excitement raced through my body, like a car at the speedway. What would I make? The list was endless: a plate, a bowl, a dish…no, a vase! I joined the huddle of other eager potters-in-the-making to watch the instructor slowly demonstrate the use of the pottery wheel.

I was led to my station. The wheel was lower and smaller than I had envisioned. It was nothing more than a flat disc resting in a tub, which was really a splash guard. On the ground, a pedal was tethered by a cord to the wheel. A tall stool sat nearby, and a small work table held all the tools: a sponge, a basin of water, a needle, a wooden knife, and a cutting wire. I sat down and straddled the wheel, my thighs opening to embrace it, knees pressed in tightly, my pelvis high. I pushed my right foot forward until I found the pedal, and I rested my foot upon it. I pressed down on the pedal as if it was an accelerator; the wheel spun like a gig let loose. I let my foot up; the wheel slowed.

On the small work table, my lump of clay waited. I reached for it. It was dark, cool to the touch, dry and not moist. The clay was shaped into a ball and carried the aroma of earth. With resolve, I grabbed the clay and slapped it down hard on the wheel. Thwack!

Leaning forward and tucking in my elbows, I lay my left palm, then my right, on the clay ball, applying the full strength of upper my body to the task at hand. I pushed down, the clay moving around my fingers as a stream moves around rocks in its path. Using my right hand, I reached into the nearby tub of water, scooped up all that I could hold, and poured it onto my clay, which became silky, smooth, soft, and pliable. I slowly pressed the pedal, and the wheel began to spin faster. I clasped the clay using all my strength, flesh and earth and water becoming one. I scooped up more water and poured it on the clay. Using just enough pressure on the ball, I gently guided it to the center of the disc and removed my hands. The clay was centered on the wheel, and the vase inside it was beckoning.

Using my muddy hands, I formed the clay. With the wheel spinning, I made a hole in the center of the clay by extending my index and middle fingers. As the wheel spun around and around, the hole became bigger, the inside of the vase revealing itself. Slowly, I began to use the other fingers of my hands to expand the hole; the vase was taking shape.

I shifted my hands so that my right palm faced my left and sandwiched the clay. With the wheel still spinning, I moved my hands upward, making the clay form taller and taller. Every full turn of the wheel combined with the upward movement of my hands brought the vase into sharper relief until it finally had its shape. I reached for the knife on the small table trimmed the edges of the vase, like a butcher removing fat from meat. Using a sponge, I smoothed the outside of the vessel to create a fresh canvas upon which I drew designs using a needle. With my index fingers and my thumbs, I squeezed the neck of the vase, almost as if I was strangling it delicately, until it narrowed into a smaller opening. At last, I removed my foot from the pedal; the wheel came to a stop.

The result… a beautiful vase!