Friendly Reminder

“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord.” – Psalm 117:2

On the way to church yesterday morning, I stopped by Starbucks for my usual breakfast sandwich and chai tea latte.  Driving to the cashier window and whipping out the gift card I’d received for Christmas, my favorite employee appeared.  To protect her identity, let’s call her Mrs. Darla.  Silver hair, bright blue eyes, and warm smile, we chatted briefly about the fog, speedsters down the on ramp, and how I’d planned to avoid the highway altogether.  (Living in Texas has taught me that most of us don’t do well on the road when there’s a single drop of precipitation…no exaggeration, either.)

When food and drink were ready and she passed them to me, we exchanged a “Merry Christmas” and I drove away with a big smile on my face.  I didn’t smile because I had my favorite food from the bucks of stars, but because of the kindness Mrs. Darla exuded towards me.  This was a feeling needed after two weeks of navigating around the standard life stressors.  I told God, “Thank You for that, Lord.  This came right on time.”  

This was the first reminder.

I made it to church safely and worked in the media ministry per usual.  One of the songs ministered by the praise team was “Lord, You’ve Been Good.”  An old school Gospel tune, it filled my heart, or rather it refreshed it.  It brought to remembrance how the Lord had indeed been good to me in the past week, month, even year.  It brought to remembrance how the Lord is still being good to me.  Like the first sermon I gave in November 2015, I saw the Lord’s provision, protection, and prevention in several circumstances, and felt such gratitude.  I know I haven’t been the best me each day, which is why His loving me anyway is just so amazing.

This was the second reminder.

The third came a few hours after worship service wherein I spent time with my paternal aunt and grandmother who turned 103 this year.  Being in the presence, talking with them, laughing with them, making them laugh (because I’m a jokester through and through), watching the Cowboys try to play – there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Familial warmth and peace enveloped me…all three of us, really.  I even got a picture with my grandma, who smiled big and bright.  I think she likes selfies now.  😉

Three separate moments demonstrated God’s goodness so perfectly.  When my spirit needed lifting, He sent to Mrs. Darla.  When my heart needed renewing, He sent me to church.  And when my soul needed connection, He sent me to family.   And He did this because His love is great.  His faithfulness to keep thoughts and feelings fixed on what is good, pure, and honorable endures for all time.  He knew what I needed long before I could even think.

His love and faithfulness are great to all of us.  Think about that unexpected early Christmas gift, or that little boy in the store smiling and waving as you passed by, the verse of the day that spoke beautifully to your situation,  or the financial blessing that enabled you to pay bills with some left over.  All these good moments we experienced these past weeks have all been friendly reminders that the Lord is with us and He ain’t going anywhere.  We don’t have to be anxious about having enough, because He supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory.  We don’t have to fear being alone or lonely because He is with us to the end of the age.  We don’t have to worry about being unloved, because He’s already shown how great and unconditional His love is on a hill called Calvary.

I don’t know about you, but I’m okay with these reminders.  Keep ‘em coming, Lord.  Keep ‘em coming.

Prayer: Lord, Your timing and ways are impeccable.  Thank You for making Your presence known.  Please let others know and experience the same.  Amen.

New Levels, New Devils

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Three weeks ago this blog began with disruptions and reminders of how to handle them.  Two weeks ago there was progression from experiencing the disruptions to being free of them.  With the way this week has gone in the world and in our personal lives (mine in particular), living and striving away from the chicken coops of the past have introduced new levels, unfamiliar territory in heart, mind, and soul.  We’re standing in a large field of possibilities, of ideas we’d once brushed off as fanciful daydreams that could actually be real, opportunities to bless others and bring glory to God.  It’s exciting, isn’t it?  Who could imagine that the man who’d once been told he could never be anything finally sees how he can be so much more?  Or what about the woman who’d been crushed by countless disappointments and yet now sees the Lord opening a door to a blessed and prosperous beginning?

Who would have thought that a nerdy, geeky, little woman from Texas would be committed to creating an inspirational blog and follow through?

New levels, fam, that’s where we are. 

And true to form, our accuser, nemesis, enemy – that no good, low down rascal—is right there sending in new devils to trip us up.  It seems like everywhere we turn in our field, everywhere we look, something or someone comes up that knocks against the core of who we are in Christ.  Granted, it’s the Enemy’s job to contend against the children of God, the joint heirs with His Son.  But like me, don’t y’all think he does his “job” a little too good?  Don’t y’all wish he would do like our Nana’s and Paw-paws told us when we were young and rowdy, and just “get somewhere, sit down, and hush”?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m keeping it transparent, fam: the Enemy is working that very last nerve!

Thoughts and feelings that I never ever conceived coming from me have become a temptation with which I wrestle daily.  Attitudes of “I wish somebody would try me” have now become a thing.  The fight to bring it all under submission to the Holy Spirit feels like a 20-round heavyweight title fight, like I’m going against Mike Tyson in his prime, which means a guaranteed knockout for someone like me.  We’re talking round 1, 3 seconds…but I digress.

And yet even as I’m typing this entry and looking at the verse in a split screen, the Lord opens these tired, bifocaled eyes and says, “You know you defaulted to the natural again, right?  Why fight like this when My word is in front of you?  Is My word not a weapon of spiritual warfare?  I know you’ve got faith in Me, because you’ve seen Me work.  I promised you I would never let you fall.  Am I not a promise-keeper?  I know how much you can bear, too.  Am I not faithful to lift you above these temptations?  Am I not powerful to fight these battles for you?  At the sound of my name these devils will tremble and flee.  I’ve got this, because I’ve got you, to the very end.  So remind me, little lady, why are you trippin’?”

Like a little kid with hands clasped behind me and avoiding eye contact, here’s my timid, mumbled answer: “…I don’t know.”

It never fails to amaze how in the midst of a struggle moment, the Lord cuts a simple path of wisdom, insight, and deliverance at the right time that blows the mind.  His reminders are absolutely the best.  His precision makes the strife and worry disappear instantly and leaves us standing in our field once more, looking around with one hand on the hip and the other scratching our heads.

“Really, Lord?  Was that all it took?”

“My son, my daughter—yup, that was all it took.  Now get back to fulfilling the plans I have for you.”

“Yes, Lord.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for opening the eyes of our hearts when they need to be opened, to confound the Enemy and reconfirm our faith in You and the power of Your word.  Thank You in advance for the power and authority to conquer these new levels in our lives and the devils that think they will overcome us.  It is because of You and You alone that we are already victorious.  Bless Your holy name, Lord!  Amen.

GET FREE, BE FREE

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” – John 8:36

Show of hands if you’ve heard the story of the eagle and the chicken*.  It’s not a long one, but I’ll try to paraphrase as best I can.  There once was a baby eagle who fell out of his nest and was found by a chicken farmer.  The farmer brought him to his home and raised him in the coop with his other chickens for years, and the eagle knew no better.  It ate as a chicken, slept as a chicken, and fluttered about as a chicken.

Word got around about this phenomenon, and when a naturalist heard he had to see it for himself.  You see, this individual knew the eagle was the king of the sky and to witness such a creature strutting around the coop, pecking at the ground—this blew his mind.  The farmer explained that the bird was a chicken, trained and raised to be nothing else.  The naturalist disagreed of course, because he knew the animal was born an eagle, had the heart of an eagle, and nothing could change that.

The two men decided a contest to see who was right.  The naturalist picked up the eagle, set it atop the coop fence, and told him, “You are an eagle.  Stretch your wings and fly.”  The eagle looked at the naturalist, looked at the farmer and fellow chickens, and jumped off the fence back to the comfortable, familiar ground.  The farmer grinned but the naturalist didn’t give up.  His eyes fell on the farmhouse, and with the farmer’s permission he took the scared and confused bird to the roof.  Again he said to the eagle, “You are an eagle.  You belong to the sky, not the earth.  Stretch your wings and fly.”  The eagle looked at the naturalist, and jumped from his arm to the farmhouse roof. 

“Told you so, it’s a chicken,” the farmer said with a smirk.

Knowing a little something about eagles – a lot of something, really—the naturalist asked if he could return the next day for one more try.  The farmer was too amused to refuse, and so he agreed.  Early the following morning, the naturalist arrived to take the farmer and the eagle to the foot of a nearby mountain.  From this new location neither coop nor farmhouse were in sight.  The man held the eagle on his arm, pointed towards the sky and said in a confident tone, “You are an eagle!  You belong to the sky and not the earth.  Stretch your wings and fly!”

This time, the eagle lifted it head towards the sun shining bright, straightened its large body from its chicken stance, and spread massive wings to their full span.  They moved slowly initially, as this was an unfamiliar sensation, but in no time they moved surely and powerfully.  And with a mighty screech, the eagle took off, and flew away.

The story ends there, so no one knows what became of the farmer, the naturalist, or the eagle.  But what’s interesting to note is that the powerful king of the sky had to be told three times, in three different settings, that he was free.  And each time found him further from what was comfortable and known.  It seemed to take near isolation from the squawking and fluttering chickens for the eagle to hear nothing but one truth, the truth of who he was since birth.

Much like this animal, we human beings who were made a little lower than the angels have to be separated from the noise and distractions in order to hear, accept, and live this truth: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Fam, do you know, like really know, that Jesus Christ of Nazareth set you free from the slavery of sin, from the eternal separation from God?  Do you know that as we strut, flutter, and peck around the coops of fear, guilt, unworthiness, and the fake news of being unlovable—we are free to spread our spiritual wings to the max and lift off?  Do you know that once the Son of God is accepted as Lord and Savior, there is no principality or power that can enslave our hearts, minds, and souls again?  No matter how strong their influence may be, they can’t pull us back or down to where and what we once were.  Believing otherwise is exactly what the Enemy wants us to do, to forget who and whose we are so we start to make a U-turn towards those old coops of our past willingly.

If perchance you don’t know, then get ready, get ready, get ready.  The time of isolation will come and feel jarring.  Oh who am I kidding?  It’s gonna be a real scary trip that will raise a lot of questions with few answers at first, and they won’t always be the answers we want when we want them.  However just as the naturalist was with the eagle each time and spoke words of affirmation into its life, so will the Lord be with us and say:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you….”

“I know the plans that I have for you….”

“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“You are more than a conqueror.”

“Greater is He is that is in you than he that is in the world.”

“You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”

“I love you, unconditionally and eternally.”

With words like these coming from an awesome being and creator of all which speaks only truth, how can we not believe Him?  How can we stay with our wings tucked, heads bowed, and our hearts and minds enslaved?  How can we ignore the very basic fact that in Him, by Him, and because of Him, we are free?

Mount up with the wings of an eagle, fam.  Get free, and be free.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for this opportunity to know and accept that in You alone there is true freedom.  Please bless the readers in a mighty, mighty way.  Open doors and knock down walls that have held them back from realizing Your purpose.  This I ask in the matchless name of Jesus Christ, Amen.*Source: The Fable of the Eagle and the Chicken

Disruption Season

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”– Romans 8:28

Friends know (and hopefully you will, too) that I am a Looney Tunes fan all the way and Bugs Bunny is my favorite character.  A definite smart-alecky animal whose mouth sometimes gets him in more trouble than he can handle, most of the time he came out on top.  In the 1951 cartoon “Rabbit Fire” with his two main adversaries- Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, there is a scene in which rabbit and duck wear “struggle” costumes to confuse Fudd – a rather easy feat– so that one of them would be bagged and tagged.

“Duck season!”

“Wabbit season!”

“Duck season!”

“Wabbit season!”…you get the picture.

Amid that chaotic, confusing season– a disruption—poor Elmer makes the same decision that leaves my buddy Bugs victorious and Daffy with several unscheduled facelifts.

I don’t have a not-so-crafty hunter or a daffy fowl with a short fuse preying and plotting after me, but I can definitely say that I am smack dab in the middle of a disruption season.  I can also definitely say I’m not the only one, either.  Tell me if any of these signs ring true:

Heart ache from family disagreements and fallout?  Disruption.

Stress from increasing workload and decreasing support?  Disruption.

Old habits gaining new strength?  Disruption.

New temptations clawing for head and heart space?  Disruption.

Health wear, tear, and scare?  Disruption.

Much like Bugs and Daffy, the disruptions send me back and forth like a tennis ball over the net of life:  every day brings a new volley that threatens to break me—us—down.  We become so distracted with the details in these trying moments that we lose sight of the proper perspective, which is God’s perspective.  We freely sacrifice more time and energy on how we feel about a situation, about what we should/could/would have done instead of asking God to help us through it.  And I say this not because of what I’ve heard or seen, but because I’ve lived through the sacrifice of time very recently.  I asked repeatedly “Is this a test?  A trial?  Spiritual attack?  Consequence of something I’ve done?”, but spent more time asking that of myself instead of asking God once and waiting for His answer.  When the Lord brought me through this latest phase of disruption, it was mind boggling just how much time was wasted, when it rightfully should have been spent with the Lord in prayer, fasting, and meditation on His Word.  Because of the flesh that is weak, I easily forgot what Paul wrote to the Christian believers: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”– Romans 8:28

In a time when believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior carried the threat of persecution, prosecution, and even death, Paul’s readers needed assurance that their present situation was not their final destination, that their faith was not in vain.  They needed to know without question that regardless of the what, why, and how of their experience, God would work it out for their good.  And He would do so in His way, on His time.  This is perhaps the most difficult part of this disruption season: re-calibrating my methods, my schedule, my will to God’s.  See, I want the situations done with a snap of the fingers.  I want the struggle against the heartache, frustration, and anger to disappear in the blink of an eye.  I want the new temptations to “Poof!  Begone and stay gone!”.  I want life to go back to the old normal of safe, reliable, and reasonable peace: no more disruptions, please.  They are bad for my high blood pressure.

Conversely, God wants me to trust Him to sort it all out, period.  Or as the millennials used to say (or do they still say this?), “Periodt.”  He wants me to trust that His timeline and process are infinitely better.  He wants me –us—to trust that He is with us every minute of our disruption season, guiding us from the traps and snares we have no clue are nearby.  He shines the light from heaven on the darkest corners of our situation, exposing the enemy’s lies for what they are and leading us past them. Or, if you’re hardheaded like me, He pulls a defensive move on a decision that stops the play dead in its tracks and leaves us scratching our heads, thoroughly perplexed. 

I firmly believe that the Lord wants us to share in and live through His perspective of our lives to readily say, “Okay, Lord.  It’s that crazy time again.  You lead and I’ll follow” instead of “Okay, Lord, what now?”  Doing so builds our confidence in who He is and who we are to Him.  It readily brings to our memory all the times He stepped in, made a way, and saved the day by confusing the enemy like Bugs did Daffy and Elmer.  It encourages us to take a deep breath, square our shoulders, pray without ceasing, and live the calling God placed on our lives so that we thrive during and after the disruption.

Trust me when I say that if He did it before He will do it again, especially for those who love Him.

Fam, (if you’re still reading this, we’re family now), there’s no avoiding a disruption season.  The closer we get to becoming the men and women of God we were formed to be, the more these “What in the world…?” moments will appear.  I don’t really want to say we should get used to ‘em, but essentially…we should get used to ‘em.  However, let’s also get used to God working them out for our good, to make us better people and stronger believers with an amazing story to tell of how we got over.  Let’s get used to those twins called Grace and Mercy following us every step during these seasons.

Let’s get used to God being God, solving and resolving with perfect precision.  Periodt.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, thank You for Your inspiration and message of encouragement to us when life becomes disruptive.  I pray that You do what You do best for the readers of this word—meet and exceed their needs beyond what they could ask or think.  I ask this in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Amen.