“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
I feel like I am in a time warp, an alternate reality. I am in that zone between being fully awake and yet very much asleep. Who will awaken me to the reality of the day, the time, in which I am now living? Will I have to be physically slapped to be brought into consciousness? Will a thunderous jolt be required to get my attention? I fear unless one of these occurs, I will slumber indefinitely to the drone of a continuing apathy. But I will indeed someday awaken…but, by then, will it be too late?
I grew up believing certain things were good and certain things were evil. There was right and there was wrong. These were very simple concepts to understand, even for a child actually. There was a generally accepted, universal code of “right” and “wrong” behaviors based on the Ten Commandments and the Holy Bible. Doing right was beneficial to me; doing wrong had its negative consequences. It was certain, though, that there was going to be a reaction for whatever action I chose to take (even if, a delayed reaction). I tried both paths, believe me! One simple discovery I made, doing right was way better! I felt better. I knew when I chose right over wrong, other people were not hurt by something I had done. This made a lot of sense to me as a kid.
In this new reality I find myself living in, it is not quite that simple anymore. I feel great empathy for children being born into the world today. Life will not be as simple for them. Right and wrong are no more than a blurred, gray smudge, rather than a clear, legible line. It must be confusing for them, like a child being told to stay far away from a busy street, but without any fence line or marker to show him just how close or far he should be from the street, he turns to his mother with a puzzled look on his face and innocently asks, “How far, Mommy?”
This new reality features a new code for life and behavior, but the only problem is it is not very new. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6, NIV). We do indeed have a king (national leader), but we have no universally accepted code for right and wrong anymore. Worse than that, right and wrong are in many cases being substituted for their very opposite. We are actually moving away from the blurred and gray to “good is evil and evil is good.” “Whoa, wake me from this terrible dream I am in!”
Take a second to think about things once deemed good and evil or healthy and unhealthy, and how there has become a polar shift in universal (almost) thinking about them, at least in regard to popular culture. Think how popular culture affects children and young people, our future as a nation!
“Once” Deemed Good and/or Healthy: traditional marriage (one man, one woman only), stay-at-home-mothering, Christianity, fatherhood, patriotism, financial success due to a good work ethic, a good work ethic, the Pledge of Allegiance in school and on the football field, prayer in school and on the football field, chaste behavior outside marriage, honesty, monogamy in marriage, freedom of speech (not just correct speech), civil discourse, respect for authority, sobriety in regard to drugs and alcohol, our military and police forces, the Ten Commandments, the Holy Bible, our Founding Fathers, Capitalism, the Bill of Rights, the rights of victims of crimes, ministers of the Gospel, holding pro-life views, and positive and moral role-models and heroes. This is a partial list…
“Once” Deemed Evil and/or Unhealthy: alternative sexual lifestyles and marriages, lying, abortion, oppressive governments, disrespect to authority, drunkeness, pornography, many criminal behaviors, vulgar discourse, promiscuity, laziness/no work ethic, divorce, rebellion and anarchy, selfishness, vanity, morally deficient role-models, cohabitation, sexually explicit movies and literature, and violence. This is a partial list…
Go ahead and switch the headings for the above lists to its now culturally popular, polar opposite:
“Now” Good and/or Healthy: alternative sexual lifestyles and marriages, lying, abortion, and so on…
“Now” Evil and/or Unhealthy: traditional marriage (one man, one woman only), stay-at-home-mothering, Christianity, and so on…
For every action, there is a reaction (although, sometimes it is delayed). It will come as sure as the sun will rise in the morning. Truth is truth, whether or not one chooses to believe in it. According to the Bible, there is only One Way, One Truth, all summed up in One Person-Jesus Christ. What is your personal code (truth) for life and behavior? Is it to believe and do as you see fit? How is that working for you so far? How is that working for our culture right now?
Are you in a fog looking for some clarity? Are you, like me, trying to awaken myself from slumber in order to warn others of a pending reaction for this cultural, polar shift in calling good (healthy) things now evil (unhealthy) and evil (unhealthy) things now good (healthy)? Woe to any of us if we cause “one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for us to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around our neck” (Mark 9:42). We owe it to our children to present the Truth with its clear, legible lines. They understand the simplicity of Truth. They understand for every action there is a reaction, although it may delay in coming. Don’t give them the “gray” or the “polar opposite,” but simply, the truth of what is good and bad, right and wrong, light and dark, sweet and bitter-before it is too late!
It is so easy for me to forget that my time here in this world is only temporary and my attachment to everything around me temporary as well. With my eyes I take in the brilliant hues and subtle shades of color everywhere! I see people of all skin tones in brown and beige, grey skyscrapers, green grassy meadows, yellow sunrises over white mountain peaks, and blue ocean waters. Every few seconds, I breathe in countless smells of daily life from the faint perfume of wildflowers and the damp, earthen aroma after a rain, to fried, greasy fast food and emissions from motorized vehicles on a city street. I hear laughter, singing choirs, country crooners, children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, dogs barking, whispers in the dark and cheers from an excited stadium crowd. I feel the touch of a baby’s skin, rough tree bark, a kitten’s silken coat, grains of sand, the coldness of steel pillars, and hot bath water. Drinking my morning coffee gets me going, and a glass of red wine relaxes me; I love the taste of hamburgers and stir-fry and the freshness of toothpaste.
I am stimulated endlessly through my senses and mostly unaware of how much I am affected physically, emotionally, and spiritually by everything around me. I am so accustomed to living in this natural world with all of its beauty and sometimes, its ugliness that I hardly notice there is an unseen realm affecting me, too, in ways beyond that which I can perceive through my senses and with greater consequence because this realm is eternal.
Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The natural things declare God is.
When I see, smell, hear, taste, and touch anyone or anything, it is literally a declaration that He is God. He says there is no excuse not to know He is. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” Romans 1:20.
I know God intends for me to enjoy the world He created all around me, but I believe he wants me to more importantly, find the joy and meaning beyond His creation-namely Him! Literally, all creation points to His existence.
As I enjoy a glass of wine, may I think about His sweetness and the celebrative joy He shares with me. As I reach out to touch a loved one, may I feel his blessing on my relationships with family and friends. As I watch a sunset, may I dream of Heaven, a place of indescribable beauty beyond this temporal world. As I listen to a child sing, “Jesus Loves Me,” in a most tender, earnest voice, may I listen even more closely to angelic voices joining in. While enjoying the smells of scented candles or my fireplace on a cool night, may I be reminded to trust Him in all things because my very prayers are like the aroma of incense rising to Him in the heavenly places” Revelation 8.
One day I will leave this temporary world and I will shed this temporary dwelling (body) I currently reside in. With every passing day, I long all the more for the unseen God I serve.
Because even with all the beauty and smells, tastes, and sounds and people who now surround me, there is a part of me still missing and I know what it is. I am made for more than the temporary; I am made with eternity in mind. “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” 2 Corinthians 5:4-5.
What is this deposit now my guarantee? The deposit is the gift of His Son, Jesus, who is residing in me through His Spirit. “Though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day. For my light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
Open my eyes and stretch my senses beyond what I can perceive in natural realms so I may see and sense Your Kingdom and eternity.
Sensing His glory,
Sometimes I doubt the fact that these “streams of living water are flowing from within” me. I don’t often feel like a bubbling brook over-flowing with the Spirit of God, but more like a stagnant pond. But Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me,” this living water will flow from within him. So it does flow from within me, whether I feel like it or not.
I recently attended a social event where I felt like a fish-out-of-water. It was clear from the moment of my arrival I did not fit in. There was certainly a name tag waiting for me there on the table with my name clearly labeled on it, but in that sea of name tags, mine seemed like it belonged on a sandy beach somewhere instead.
As I made my way through clusters of chattering name tags that evening, I tried to rehearse in my mind this Scripture passage about living water that I had meditated upon before my arrival. I knew ahead of time this was unchartered waters for me-meaning I might not know a soul and would have to try to mingle. I had met the hostess and the honored guest previously, but only briefly, and it is highly unlikely I will be around them much socially in the future anyway.
So there I was meandering in and out those clusters, and watching for anyone to make eye contact with me. I did get the opportunity to speak to the hostess and the honored guest, both beautifully gracious women of prominence in these circles, but they had an entire house filled with name tags to socialize with so I was back to meandering quickly. Finally, a name tag I recognized!
She was making eye contact with me and ready to make small talk! I had met her before, and immediately we found stuff to chat about. That lasted for a bit, and then she was grabbed by someone else to chat with. So off I went on the look-out for new chattering name tags to converse with. I found two tags with an open posture, and I went for it, interjecting myself into their conversation and asking them questions and listening intently. I did it! I even got my picture taken while talking with this group, so I may end up on a cover of some publication showing my ability to chatter with previously unknown name tags!
Meeting up again a bit later with my familiar name-tagged partner, she expressed to me that she did not know a soul here. I told her I was in the same boat. We looked over the sea of name tags together from our vantage point by the front door close to the beautifully adorned table of delectable desserts ,and commiserated a few more minutes before each deciding it was time to go home. We both expressed our well wishes to the host and the honored guest before exiting into the darkness.
Relief met me on my way to the car, and I realized I might have actually been “living water” to my new name-tagged friend that evening and her “living water” to me. It flows, and I go wherever He leads me!
I have unnecessarily opened my mouth on several occasions recently. You see, I am very passionate at giving my opinions on a variety of topics; from college-career advice to marriage and church-related advice, I have uttered countless syllables peppered with wisdom from years of experience. The problem is my words were most likely not heard at all. They fell on deaf ears and rightfully so!
My advice was unsolicited, and the majority of the receivers do not have an established relationship with me developed through genuine commitment over time. In other words, I have not gained the right to speak into their lives because we do not share a long-standing relationship. I do not know them on a more intimate level. I have not had time to show them I care yet. Only in the case of one of these relationships have I earned the right to speak, but the timing in that case was way off!
I am reminded through the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” How true! How many people do I actually listen to myself? If the truth be told-not many! And that is actually wise!
I love the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word aptly spoken (suited to the purpose or occasion; appropriate) is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” So much wisdom found there! I am learning that knowing when to speak and when not to shows maturity. It reflects thoughtful consideration to what we are saying and when we are saying it. It requires us to use fewer words when we do speak to make it count for something in the life of another. I can ultimately speak sweet tasting, golden-apple-words that are well-received by the listener, but I must first pay my dues expressed through genuine love and concern.
Lord, help me to “spareth my words” (Proverbs 17:27) and understand there is certainly “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Help me to let my actions do the talking most of the time. Help me to listen more, love more, and patiently wait until asked before expressing my opinions. Even I might be seen as wise if I am “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).
Holding my tongue,
Some of my best childhood memories took place on family trips with my mom, step-dad, step-grandmother, three brothers, and two step-siblings in our old wood-paneled station wagon adorned with Jesus bumper stickers. During the summer, we often drove from our home in Florida to the Carolinas to stay in cabins surrounded by woods and mountains for up to a week. I remember on those long drives north all six of us kids dangling our bare feet out of the back window in a synchronized foot dance routine for all the passing cars to enjoy. I remember stopping to throw into a nearby dumpster almost all the pillows and blankets due to a chain reaction of regurgitation that took place after eating lunch somewhere. I remember the lack of space due to all the food rations, supplies, suitcases, and five teenage bodies with one elementary kid taking up space. I also remember plugging my nose and all the windows coming down in unison after an expulsion of Cheetos-infused vapors permeated the air!
Oh the seventies! We were a little bit like the Brady Bunch, but instead we were comprised of one mom, one step-dad, four step-brothers, and two step-sisters. We were not as well behaved either. I do not know how my mother was able to pack us all up for those trips, endure the chaos of the station wagon, feed us all for a week, and then unpack us after we got home. But she did it!
Our trips were amazing, but home life less amazing. We struggled as individuals and together to embrace our new found faith during those Jesus Movement years and become a step-family. It ultimately did not work out being a family, although we tried for almost twenty years. There was still too much baggage in all of us at the time-we were all still too broken. But I would not change a moment of my childhood. I met Jesus in those days! My journey to healing and wholeness began!
Salvation is indeed just the beginning! God takes us in our brokenness, saves us, and is working out a beautiful plan for our lives. When I look back to those early days, the good days and the bad, I am beginning to see how my life’s journey is like a tapestry, rich in color and intricate design, still being woven, and will one day be a beautiful thing to behold. In my mind’s eye, I still see the One Way Jesus bumper sticker affixed to the wood-paneled back door!
It’s a grace thing,
“But he (God) took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant (promise) and out of his great love he relented” (Psalm106:44-45, NIV).
This morning I read a brief history of the Israelites and their relationship with God found in Psalm 105-106. I was fascinated by this concise retelling of their story-about what they did and what God did, touching on Abraham and Jacob and detailing the life of Joseph through much of the life of Moses. I was in tears by the time I came to “…he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented” written toward the end of Psalm 106.
Christianity and Christians are getting a bum-wrap these days all around the world. Not much opposition in America currently, but just stand on a street corner with a sign declaring “Jesus Saves,” or “Save a human life,” and well, you get the picture. We are a Post-Christian nation in many ways, and the evidence is everywhere. Thankfully, we are still free, but our freedom to believe and act on our faith in Christ is slowly disappearing and most, even in the church, are unaware. Many Americans are unaware of our nation’s Founders and their faith. They do not know the importance of our founding documents, such as the United States Constitution, and the Biblical foundation upon which they were written. Most have not been taught that many of the early colonists came here fleeing “religious” persecution in their home countries.
Believers all around the world today are being executed or just wasting away in prisons because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They know America’s history better than us. They long to make our nation their new home! Just in recent weeks, an African woman, sentenced to death because of her Christianity, was finally able to come to AMERICA! If you saw this beautiful woman and her baby on your television screen, you probably felt as I did-overjoyed she was now part of us and free!
We know freedom isn’t free. It is costly. Much American blood has been shed in numerous wars over our two-hundred and thirty-eight years as a nation. And our freedom in Jesus Christ, being his “saved” and “free” children, was also costly and bloody. Our Christ, was stripped, beaten, and crucified for our sins (rebellion against our Maker) and He died bloodied and bruised. He died once and for all in hopes we would turn to him for grace (favor). Thank goodness He also was raised, and our hope is to be raised with Him someday!
His Word states “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalm 33:12). Our country has been indeed blessed from our founding to now. We have not been without sin-God disciplines His own. We suffered much for our sin of slavery, but God in his mercy, forgave us and helped solidify us as a people once again. Our influence in the world has been mostly for good since then. People are still trying to cross our borders to become a part of this great land. But, I see the signs now of great distress within her. I know you do too, whether or not you are a Christian.
The question is to what do we give credit for the distress we are witnessing all around us? Could it be that we have turned away from God, the same God that our Founders believed in? “Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.” If He is no longer our God, then what are the principles that now lead us as a nation? We still have God’s Word etched on our monuments and national buildings (check it out) and He is still the God in Whom We Trust on our currency, but I believe our hearts are far from Him. It really comes down to our hearts, as individuals and as a nation, and that is what will ultimately lead us down the path we are on.
If you agree that we are in distress, just as most of the world is right now, please consider the God of our Founding, the same God mentioned in Psalm 105 through 106. See if we do not somehow mirror the Israelites of old. God has blessed us as a nation, in my opinion, because he was our God from the start. He still takes note of our distress and can save us when we cry out to him. I am crying out to him now for my sin, and for the sins of my nation. I love America! I want her to continue to shine so people from all around the world can find the hope and freedom they, too, are crying out for!
It’s a Grace-thing,
All was well in the Cantrell Home until the day Rose arrived. Who would have thought that an adopted kitten from a local shelter could cause such an upheaval in the social order of things? Bella, our aging, hybrid Siamese-Tabby feline, has been the one in charge and that is just the way things have been for well over a decade. Until Rose…
We have actually come full-circle upon our return to Fort Hood, Texas, after an eleven year exodus. The Army sent us back here recently, back to where our lives given over to the cat species all began. Bella was literally brought home from the local Walmart one day years ago, along with the laundry soap, cereal, and toilet paper. Who could resist that tiny, helpless, white ball of fluff with large blue eyes, being literally pawned off to any willing, weak, indulging parents with children in tow who just happened to be crossing the parking lot? As one-half of the willing, weak, indulging parent team, I can attest to that being where it all began.
Bella was a handful from the start. Although, tiny, she was quickly in charge! She kept us up nights with her constant kitty crooning and her temperamental tendencies were immediately discovered. She loved us and hated us. She expected to be stroked one minute, but did not hesitate to bite if she suddenly changed her mind. She growled, hissed, and swatted at any and every unsuspecting house guest, vet clinic attendant, and even us. All of these qualities have continued from kitten-hood to the present. She has a reputation amongst the extended family and beyond as being a real *$%^&&*! She can be sweet, but honestly, only those of us closest to her have seen this. It is those rare moments that have kept her in our home all these years. We have often said that nobody else in this entire world would take her in, and she would be doomed to euthanasia within moments if we just dropped her off at the pound. Hence, she is still with us!
Aging has a way of mellowing us all, and even Bella is not resistant to this. We are aging, too, and maybe this is why we have co-existed with her so well for so long. But Eliza Jane, our young, college cheerleader-daughter, now living back at home, was not content just living with her aging parents and old, aging Bella. She begged for a new kitten to keep her company. That’s when we acquired Rose.
Like Bella, Rose is a handful! She not only drives us crazy with biting, scratching, and drawing blood, she is in constant motion until wearing herself out. And she continually harasses Bella. If I had put a wager on this, I would have bet that Bella would take down Rose from the start. Bella has shown great restraint and patience-she’s been “almost” motherly in her approach to Rose. That is until she has reached her full tolerance level. I have always quoted the movie, Overboard, in reference to Bella’s one-and-only status in our family. The mother of Goldie Hawn’s character says to her high-maintenance, self-absorbed daughter, “If you have a baby, then you won’t be the baby anymore!” Bella has surprised me with her effort to be sweet!
Still, when we see Bella being mercilessly pounced upon and attacked, we step in with a water-filled squirt bottle to help ward off Rose. We put Rose in one of our extra bedrooms behind closed doors at night, so all of us, including Bella, can get a break. Bella often retreats to a high shelf in our master closet during the day, too. Needless to say, Rose is a little like the self-absorbed, high-strung kitten we got at Walmart years ago!
Our life has clearly gone to the cats! I really do wish I could turn back the hands of time, back to when it was just Bella, a mere few weeks ago. I had learned to deal with Bella. I was used to Bella. Used to a one-cat home. We were mellowing with time together. But now, Rose. Rose and Bella. Rose and Bella and us. And Eliza is at cheer camp this week!
P.S. I purchased a gigantic kitty tree from Petsmart yesterday. I had to wait almost an hour in a hundred degrees Texas heat parking lot waiting for my husband to arrive to retrieve the gigantic kitty tree lodged in my car’s back seat almost permanently causing the doors not to close. I should have measured before I purchased!
We arrived at our new rental home just after noon on a weekday following a three day PCS (permanent change of duty station-an Army move) from Fort Drum, New York, to Fort Hood, Texas. We were pulling a U-Haul trailer behind our 2011 Toyota RAV for over a thousand miles, a partial DITY (do-it-yourself) move, because we believed our furniture would arrive at least a week or so later via the Army-contracted movers, and we wanted some conveniences like our queen bed in the meantime. We were exhausted, but excited because the beautiful home found on the website would soon be ours for the next twelve months. A perfect house. A perfect location.
I had really prayed over this move-for the travel, the finances, and the off-post house we would insert our belongings and lives into since the waiting list for on-post housing was way too long. And especially, because our younger daughter was coming home from college in central Florida in a few weeks-possibly for good. We wanted plenty of space for our daughter to have some privacy and be able to entertain friends. This two-story beauty boasted three bedrooms with a double-sink vanity bathroom and large open loft/living area upstairs, with a huge master bedroom, two living areas, a dining area, and large eat-in kitchen and laundry room on the main floor. A beautiful tree-filled backyard with covered porch beckoned us for summer barbeques. And the location of this gorgeous manor was central to my husband’s new job on the Army installation and my daughter’s possible commute as a transfer student to the quaint central Texas college in the opposite direction. Yes, this was going to be perfect. I had prayed, and this house won over the other almost brand-new home, the Southern Living-inspired, eat-off-the-kitchen-floor home because of a misunderstanding of the lease agreement costing us and the former rental company over $600 each. But I just knew with all that and my husband’s insistence that this sight-unseen fortress was “the one,” that this was God’s pick of a home for us. Finally arriving in our new quiet neighborhood with its large lots and homes displaying varying levels of care, we were hoping our home would look just like the internet photo-a stately manor with well-manicured lawn.
Pulling into the drive of 619, it was a little disconcerting, though, to find the vast yard unmowed and unedged. Still the home itself seemed to look like the picture-perfect ideal we had anticipated. But that was before we actually walked through the front door. Reality greeted us in the foyer that beautiful Texas spring day just after lunch. The smell of family dogs past was the first thing we noticed. Then the overly carpeted spacious square footage displaying stains of all color and hue, mostly in gray, urine and grime, captured our attention. As we proceeded from room to room examining the overall space and condition, we were most unhappy realizing this was what we signed the new lease for, and we had a lot of cleaning to do. Dirty baseboards endlessly stretching the entire parameter of this tw0-story beaut and muddy dog-prints on about every door leading in and out of the house could not be overlooked. Dirty screens on windows and a greasy stained kitchen tiled floor too boot. I began to cry!
I had just left a thoroughly scrubbed home we vacated on the military installation in the North Country of New York. I did not want to scrub another one. I expected with this amount of deposit and rent, I would have a move-in-ready perfect house! How dare this rental company rent anything in this condition, especially, to an officer in the United States Army! Don’t they know word gets around about such businesses, especially ones dependent on the continual influx of new Army families year round?
My husband, the annoying optimist and good sport, softly tried to assure me with, “I will make this house nice for you. I promise.” At that, I was furious. “I told you we should have moved into temporary lodging so we could look at homes once we got here, but no, you just pushed to have the home secured before we even got here,” I bitterly replied. “I do not want to stay in this home for twelve months! And to think, you even asked about an extended lease option!” I sarcastically added. I knew even if we could get out of this lease, our furniture was arriving the day after tomorrow (due to an eager furniture-deliverer), and there was no way everything we owned would be coming into a clean and sparkling house. Besides, we had to unload our overly loaded and unnecessarily rented U-Haul even before that!
We decided we were stuck here at least for the time being, so we unattached our unpacked rented trailer from the RAV and headed out for some groceries to stock the fridge for a few days. I had noticed that the refrigerator did not appear very cold upon first inspection, so we turned the knob to a colder setting before departing for the local Walmart. Coming home the evening of our first day at 619, we tiredly filled our refrigerator with some staples consisting of soy milk, coffee creamer, butter spread, and the like. We even managed to unload most of the U-Haul and set up our master bed complete with sheets and pillows before falling asleep from sheer exhaustion for our over three days of travel and for the added bitter disappointment on my part. We were only interrupted during the night by the smoke detector in need of battery replacement; with no batteries in sight or knowledge where they would even be inserted, my husband disconnected the entire wiring system only knocking out power momentarily, but avoiding death by electrocution to stop the endless chirping every few minutes so we could actually get some sleep.
Reality that I was in the house probably for good hit early the next morning as I arose from a coma to receive my husband’s daily, ritual-like expression of his love for me-a morning coffee delivery to my bedside. He mentioned that the creamer did not seem that cold when he poured it into my Kerug morning blend. Hours later we confirmed that the stainless steel refrigerator was not working at all. Not many hours after this, we had to throw away all the purchased food we had stocked in it. The 619 rental company sent a man out to repair it a day or so later, but during the weekend that followed we discovered it still did not work. We used a cooler for more creamer and the like for over a week before the owner finally purchased a new refrigerator for our home.
We received our furniture with no new detectable dents, scrapes, or broken items-thank you, God! My husband, God love him, purchased a new lawn mower (he had just given away a fairly new one and a used snow-blower to a family back at Fort Drum) and began mowing and weeding and edging our new lawn, while also collecting broken limbs strewn all across this tree-covered property binding them into piles for garbage collection. He worked tirelessly on the lawn during the daylight and helped me in the evenings unpack countless boxes he carefully broke down to store for an eventual move in twelve months-at our expense this time.
Well, we have been in the not-so-ready-to-rent-out home for over a month and a half now, and I have learned some things about my heart. I have learned how spoiled I am. I have learned that I possess a sense of entitlement more than I realized. I wrongfully believe I deserve much more than God chose for me to have. I believe He probably wanted to show me the current condition of my heart through a military move and a two-story rental home.
I have already scrubbed most of the baseboards surrounding the now professionally cleaned carpets, with still miles to go. A sweet neighbor came and blocked the gaping holes in our fence which has kept all those stray dogs from neighboring communities from continuing to run havoc in our backyard. I am trying to be humble and just clean that which I do not feel I should, and I am trying to appreciate my husband more because he has worked so hard to make this imperfect dwelling our home. As a military spouse, I understand that this is temporary-only about ten months left on our lease…and counting.
It’s a heart-thing!
Recently, I was in a conference with my husband’s denominational affiliation, and while there, I heard a well-known, Christian minister speak about how the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm had had a powerful impact on his life. He said that about ten years ago, he was struggling in the midst of a very deep depression. He began reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm at least for-to-five times a day, and that He literally was healed through the process of applying God’s Word to his life.
He said that the modern church has lost something in not including many of these powerful prayers and ancient creeds, once recited in unison, as a part of worship. There are still some churches and denominations that do this, and perhaps, they have something to teach us!
The Lord tells us that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If food and water are not enough to sustain us, than no wonder many of us are literally dying on the vine. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual maladies can sometimes be a result of our lack of spiritual nourishment for the soul.
I remember my most difficult bout with depression. It came shortly after the birth of our second daughter. I was so depressed, all I wanted to do was sleep away the hours. I looked forward to bedtime, because once asleep, I did not have to struggle with the nagging fears and sense of hopelessness that filled my waking hours. It was then that I began to feed myself on God’s Word. I found Scripture passages and wrote them down on little note cards-many note cards, and read them over and over again. I had them stuck in my Bible for safe-keeping, so daily I could pull them out and recite the verses that began filling me with HOPE. It did not happen overnight, but gradually, I began to feel more hopeful and at peace.
On two consecutive nights, I awakened in the wee hours from a deep sleep, during which I dreamt the the most amazing dreams, which I believe were messages from God Himself. The first night, the dream ended with no conclusion as to its meaning; I awoke a little disappointed, but believed it addressed my depression. I knew God knew what I was struggling with. On the second night, it was like nothing I have experienced in my life before or since. A rush of wind literally blew into my left ear and awakened me from the most dramatic dream during which I was instantly delivered from my depression at a church service. If I had not awakened when I did, merely seconds after the climax of the dream, I probably would not have remembered it in the morning. I knew at this point, that I would indeed come through this dark period in my life, and it was God who was going to bring me through to the other side. I now had hope!
The point is, feasting on God’s Word as I did, instilled in my spirit the belief, God is Who He says He is. The Word is Truth. And it is that “truth that sets us free” (John 8:32). What does it mean to feast? I believe hearing God’s Word over and over until it becomes a part of us and changes us. Faith to believe God and His promises increases in us as His Word fills us. Roman 10:17 literally says that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. If your faith is low, feast on His Word!
I am not going to say that I have never again struggled with depression. Some people have biological tendencies toward depression; but I do believe feeding one’s soul can have amazing results for this struggle, as with any other human struggle, because we begin to put our hope and trust in God. And His Word promises that He will not disappoint us. He has never disappointed me!
So I am challenging myself now to recite out-loud, four-to-five times daily, The Lord’s Prayer, which is found in Matthew 6, and the 23rd Psalm. Not to be spoken as a rote, mechanical exercise, but as a prayerful, hopeful plea to my God! I will report on my experience in the coming weeks.
Join me in this challenge to incorporate these ancient verses in our daily lives, and watch how God’s Word changes us, renews us, heals us… I will report back my findings, and I would love to hear how it is working for you, too.
Challenged with The Word,
Do you have aspirations to become something you have not yet become? Do you desire to use gifts and talents, lain dormant and unused for some time, to fulfill a longing? Is there a painted portrait of your future displayed in your mind and you cannot imagine how it could possibly transfer from your head to somehow fill the empty canvas of your life with those radiant colors seen only in your dreams?
Have you spent years and possibly decades, awaiting that specific promise from God about how He plans to use you and the gift(s) He has given you? Have you toiled in quiet places through prayer and preparation for this yet-to-be-realized promise, only to grow discouraged because time has eluded your grasp as it has traveled faster than you could keep pace with? You feel woefully behind, stuck in a place where you feel like you can only sit by and watch others move on ahead, floating on the wings of time, reaching their brilliant destiny. Don’t give up on the dream God planted inside of you. You are still a child of destiny, and your God is able and will complete the good work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6). There truly is no expiration date on God’s promises.
At a particular time in my life, I was feeling a bit like a wanna-be, even worse, an old wanna-be-too old to be clinging to my childhood dreams and aspirations. Some life choices I’ve made seemed to bring me farther and farther from the realization of my dream. After lamenting to my mother one day, she announced, “You’re not a wanna-be; you are a gonna-be!” And she is right. In Ephesians 2:10, we are reminded that “…we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He does have a job for us to do, and He has gifted us to do that job, even if it appears to be a long-time coming. Years of waiting are preparation, and the longer the wait…the sweeter it will taste once you get there!
There is a little song the Lord gave me to literally sing to myself, helping instill in me the fact that it is never too late to experience the promise of God fulfilled, a hidden gift used for His glory, or a calling on your life realized like a completed portrait on your life’s canvas. No matter what age you are. No matter what mistakes you have made in the past. God is faithful to keep His promises to you! So sing with me-the melody for Gonna-be is found in My Music section. Be silly, sing it, and keep dreaming!
I’m not a wanna-be; I am a gonna-be!
Cause God’s not through with me; He says He’s plans for me.
So I will walk by faith and not by what I see.
I am a gonna-be; gonna see what He makes of me!
I thought it was too late and that my time had passed.
How could you use me? I feel so talent-less.
But He said to me, “I have chosen you, and it’s up to me
What I do with you!”
So, I’m not a wanna-be; I am a gonna-be!
Cause God’s not through with me; He says he’s plans for me.
So I will walk by faith and not by what I see.
I am a gonna-be; gonna see what He makes of me!