I Can’t Find It!

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

My husband and I set out to our favorite grocery store a few days ago for a bit longer list of things to find after being out of town for a week. There were more things to replenish as well as items for the food I expect to prepare for the week. Somehow it has been a bit more of an adventure over the last several years since the pandemic began. Items we would never have expected to have difficulty finding have been scarce or non-existent so having both of us on the hunt has been a help. Maybe you have had similar quests.

List in hand along with a hunt for sales to guide the meal planning, we entered the store to find a remodeling going on in most every area of the store. Now we had an added twist to the usual shopping. The hard part was having the signs to guide you in each aisle were still for the old layout AND not all the revamping was complete, so some things were where we expected to find them, and others were not. We each took a cart on the hunt for what we needed while looking for sale items.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

The process was not producing a lot of results, but then we discovered that more than the usual number of employees were scattered around the aisles trying to help all of us locate what we were looking for. What added to the fun was they weren’t always sure either since everything is in a state of flux and will not be completed until sometime this fall. In one instance after a futile attempt to find an item by an assistant manager, I found the person in charge of the department where the item was supposed to be, and she discovered none of that item was in the cooler. She asked me to wait at that exact spot so she could go back into the supply area to see if she could locate any. In a bit of time, she returned with the item held high in one hand and offered to help any time I saw her in that department.

After a much longer time than usual, we were headed out the door home with bags of food in tow. But it was all an opportunity for some great reminders. We have been blessed for a very long time by being able to stop by a store and find what we were looking for on a regular basis and at a price that was reasonable as well. How easy it can be to take something for granted when it is always there. Secondly, most of us are not very good at waiting and with our world turned upside down in more than one or two ways, we have been reminded that even if we are not rigid about a routine, we like a rhythm and flow to our lives so we can better navigate the unexpected.

But as I was having my time of devotions, I sensed the Lord wanted me to see something more than even those things. Life will often throw us curve balls. Some will not be major challenges, but others will leave us reeling and we will become disoriented trying to find our footing and the path through the upside-down environment. Sometimes the challenge can be external like a job loss or accident or a major move, but even in those the internal landscape can be thrown off course.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

That’s when everything else before the crazy, anxiety-producing upheaval becomes critical. If we have been building a solid foundation of beliefs and values on those more ordinary days and grown our faith in God, we can find a foothold to start to handle what we are faced with a bit more easily. It’s what we read about where survivors of so many things are concerned. The skills are learned before they are needed and if they are practiced, they can make all the difference when disaster strikes, and our world starts to crumble, and we can’t seem to see the way ahead.

Members of military services know that well. They prepare for as many possibilities as possible to be equipped for what may lay ahead.

“The primal fear that sweeps over men and women in survival situations is the fear of not having enough. This reaches to the core of human need. It might be food, water, clothing – whatever ‘enough’ means to each person. This panic has overcome many otherwise steady souls.”

John Eldredge

More than a few of us have seen the evidence of that during the pandemic and we see it as well as the world becomes darker and more dangerous. Crises always expose who we are.

As I reflected on the grocery store upheaval, I was reminded that whatever lays ahead is something I cannot see or predict and yet my preparation for that can be happening every day by how I care for my soul and how I develop my relationship with God. If I make time with Him a priority, I can come to know Him more intimately and develop a trust that better weathers upheaval in my life or the world around me. Learning to listen when I am not in the midst of the battle helps me to know his voice so well that I can recognize his whisper when hearing Him is most needed.

As a child in the small country church where I grew up, one of the hymns I recall was one with lyrics written by Daniel Whittle in 1883 and the refrain points to the key for us:

But “I know Whom I have believed,

And am persuaded that He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that day.”

Daniel Whittle
Photo by Adam Kontor from Pexels

Are You A Game Changer?

Phil_4-6-7_Chalk_Web_2000x

I can almost hear you saying, “Who me?” as you read this title. Then after the question comes those other things so many of us say – “I am just a …” or “I am not…” But if we say that (I can be tempted too.), we are missing the big picture truth.

Today as I was reading a note in my study Bible, I read this fabulous sentence:

“…everyday faithfulness by ordinary people can, by God’s grace, change history forever.”

The note was connected to 1 Samuel 1 and the example was Hannah (future mother of Samuel, the prophet) who was just a wife and a woman dealing with the agony of barrenness crying out to God in the midst of her situation not once or twice but repeatedly.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

If you know the story at all you know that God answered and gave her a baby boy, Samuel, who would be a major prophet in Israel and anoint its first two kings, Saul and David. Can you imagine waiting for a child and then dedicating that child back to the Lord after he was weaned? I am sad to say I cannot. Her faithfulness and God’s response results in her taking Samuel to minister in the Lord’s Temple for the rest of his life.

That faithfulness is then rewarded with more children – three sons and two daughters.

Hannah is not the first person you might think of when you reflect on stories in the Bible, but she was a game changer for sure. Her faithfulness changed the course of history. So did the choices of Rahab despite not being a member of the tribe of Israel. She too became a game changer and her life was spared as a result.

It doesn’t take a long time in reading the Bible to discover a lot of the game changers that altered history are not all the big-name folks that immediately come to mind.

Why is that important?

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

As the world around us is reeling and fear seeks to overwhelm us, sending us shrinking into a corner until this crisis passes, the Lord is looking for ordinary people whose “everyday faithfulness” change history right now. That may not be on the world stage and may receive no accolades, but it matters to the Lord and also to what He may lead you to be during this time.

I know you are hearing many ideas being offered about this very thing and they are good. Even so, that place of “everyday faithfulness” you may be called to might look quite different. Right now, we are scattered rather than together in one place or another and that opens endless possibilities to the Lord and can help us keep our perspective in alignment.

One small light in a dark place can create an incredible amount of light.

“Everyday faithfulness by ordinary people can, by God’s grace, change history forever.”

black-and-white-building-dark-722664
Photo Skitterphoto from Pexels

Even If You Don’t See Him

barriers-building-caution-638487
Photo by Frans van Heerden from Pexels

Life would be a lot easier for most of us if there were not so many ups and downs, sharp turns, and unexpected obstacles. You know how sweet that feeling is when you reach a great open stretch of interstate and you can set the cruise control and relax as the car speeds down the highway. It’s even sweeter when you have just passed through a construction area or several miles of backed up traffic for which there appeared to be no reason.

closed-construction-road-305264

In our area it seems this summer has provided more than a few challenges for those behind the wheel. There has been so much road construction that sometimes my husband and I have wondered if we would at some point be unable to get to any of our usual destinations. Ramp closings, lane changes, construction zones, and detours have been the norm.

Life can be like that more often than we wish as well. You may feel as if you have just overcome one challenge when another pops up. There are some seasons that seem to be especially rough and it can be tempting to wonder if the Lord is paying attention to what’s going on down here.

Sometimes prayers seem to go unanswered.

Will we ever get to the other side of where we are now?

One place we can find great encouragement is to check out some of the other flawed human beings trying to journey through life that we see in the Bible.

asphalt-empty-lanes-1321807

One of my favorite Old Testament characters is Joseph. His early story as his daddy’s favorite gives us plenty of reasons not to envy anyone who seems to be a parent’s favorite child. Despite the great looking brightly colored coat his daddy gave him, it couldn’t protect him from his brothers when they grew weary of his special status and dreams of great success at their expense

His story gives a whole new meaning to the despair of being in a pit. And if that weren’t bad enough, getting sold into slavery and hauled off to Egypt would make you wonder if the pit would have been better.

But things start to look up when his new owner thinks he is tops and gives him more freedom than he could ever have expected. Being apart from his family isn’t his preference, but the master of the house where he works is making it a bit more bearable.

bagger-constructing-construction-2489

Just about the time Joseph thinks his life is settling down into his new routine, his master’s wife tries to seduce him. And when he rebuffs her and flees, she grabs his tunic and accuses him of assault. He had been the model servant and now on top of all he has endured, he gets pulled out of his job and thrown into prison. Things are grim for sure.

Somehow in the depths of the prison, the captain of the guard sees his leadership and puts him in charge. He’s in a dank, dark, moldy prison, but oversight of the other prisoners gives him a little better situation. He can’t help but wonder where God was and what all those grand dreams were about.

Joseph couldn’t imagine he had been so bad that he deserved this. What were his brothers thinking? Their dad was wealthy and they were all going to end up well off if the livestock herds grew and the crops were prosperous.

Prison life looks a bit more hopeful when two of Pharaoh’s servants get thrown into prison and each has a troubling dream. Joseph tells them God will reveal the meaning of the dream to him and both the cup bearer and the baker are eager to hear what he has to say.

accident-action-auto-220996
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Once he gives them the news, he asks them a favor. He wants them to tell Pharaoh about him when the interpretation he’s given comes true. Sounds like a glimpse of light to Joseph.

Sure enough the interpretation comes true three days later and one servant regains his position and the other gets hanged. What a relief for the cup bearer! He goes along watching every aspect of his position so he doesn’t land back in prison again, but he forgets about Joseph until Pharaoh is troubled by a dream. Then he remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh. By now Joseph knew his request was forgotten so what a surprise when Pharaoh now sends for him.

He gets a new tunic, a good bath, and a fresh shave and off he goes to Pharaoh. That God-given gift of interpretation gets a chance to be used and suddenly Joseph is given great favor again.

You know how the story turns out. Joseph is used by God to save his entire family from destruction. More importantly, Joseph’s heart is changed and humbled so that God can entrust him with His purposes.

When our lives feel like we are in a construction zone on an interstate highway and we have nowhere to go, it might be good to remember Joseph and what his life revealed.

Felt or unfelt, seen or unseen, in sin or success, God is with us.

clouds-country-countryside-461797

Are We Like Blind Men?

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

As I listen to different people speak about God, I hear so many different views of Him. It causes me to wonder if we humankind are somewhat like the blind men in the famous poem by John Godfrey Saxe.

If you recall the poem, you know the blind men go to see an elephant to observe what he is like. Each of them approaches the elephant from a different position. As each is trying to touch him and describe him, each comes up with a very different view of what an elephant is.

Photo by  Gustavo Fring from Pexels

I think we are so often blind to the truth of who God is. Our view of Him is skewed by the influence of so many people and things we experience in life (many of them during our formative years in childhood). I have read more than a few books and articles that describe those different perspectives into categories.

One research study by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion in 2006 settled on four categories for our perception of God. These are: “Authoritarian God, Critical God, Distant God, and Benevolent God”.

The labels give you a clear indication of the perspectives. Let’s look at the definitions of the four adjectives for the sake of clarity:

Authoritarian – “favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority”

Critical – “expressing adverse or disapproving comments or     judgments.”

Distant  –  “far away in space or time”

Benevolent  – “well meaning and kindly”

affection-baby-black-and-white-41188
Photo by Public Domain from Pexels

Studies of child development point to how often our relationship with our parents and especially our fathers influence how we view God. Throw in our first exposure to clergy and a pretty strong impression starts to develop in a formative mind.

The consequence is that our values and how we choose to act and react begin to form from those early views and perceptions. How much we want to draw close to God or anything associated with spirituality flows out of these consequences and perceptions.

For some there is a disconnect when they see Jesus in the New Testament as compared to God in the Old Testament. Jesus seems so consistently benevolent and many fail to see any evidences of grace in the God they see, hear, or read about in the Old Testament. Page by page throughout the Old Testament we see God blessing people, showing His kindness, care, and forgiveness despite rebellion, stubbornness and deceit.

Photo by Nguyễn Văn Minh Vương from Pexels

No matter what our earthly fathers may have been and no matter what clergy may have been like in our life, God wants us to know the whole of who He is and not be like the blind men who each saw only a part and believed the whole was the same as a part.

If our images of Him are skewed from wounds and hurts, He offers healing.

We have difficulty in our humanity to balance seemingly opposite characteristics without dissonance when we look at God. He is gentle as a shepherd, but He is also strong like a lion. He is tender and full of love, but also just and promises judgment.

His Word reminds us of the truth that no one is like Him.

Here are just two examples:

“There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours.”  Psalm 86:8 (ESV)

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

“There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.”  Jeremiah 10:6 (ESV)

If you are one who has struggled with seeing God as authoritarian, critical, or distant, consider this: God loved you so much that He didn’t want you to miss out on a relationship with Him even if you misunderstood who He was, stayed away from Him, or ignored Him. He came in human form as Jesus to help you see Him as He is.

He loved you that much.

He still does.

bed-bible-book-bindings-935944
Photo by Nappy from Pexels