Rant Turned to Gratitude

My husband has a tooth that is broken and needs to be addressed. He’s been using some temporary filling stuff and that’s worked. Until it didn’t. It started hurting a bit on Friday (always!) and wasn’t much fun through the weekend. By Monday, it was getting bad. He called our dentist, but they are scheduled three weeks out. So he toughed out another day, taking far too much Advil and Tylenol, eating very little, and sleeping horribly. Then this morning he called to get a referral to someone else.

I rescheduled my massage took him to the oral surgeon this afternoon to get this taken care of. It just kills me when he’s hurting. Following his appointment, he was in a LOT of pain because the dental chair wasn’t comfortable for his neck, so that morphed into a bad headache. I don’t even know how his mouth is because his head hurt so much. I got him home and settled, then went to get his prescriptions filled. No, they weren’t electronically submitted, because the powers that be won’t allow one of them to be filled that way any longer. Okay, fine. Obviously this will delay things a bit more. I couldn’t stop on the way home because he hurt too much and needed to lay down.

It would take 30-40 minutes to fill them, the pharmacist said. Did I want to wait? Yes. He really needs some pain relief. I wandered around the store for a bit, picked up a couple things, put one back, and went to sit in the waiting area. Naturally, I pulled out my phone, figuring I could catch up a little on email, Instagram, or Facebook. Or something. Well, wouldn’t you know, the pharmacy area has no cell signal. Which I understand. But the waiting area? Come on, people, move things around and at least let your customers have service in the only area of the store they actually have to hang out for awhile. Ugh.

So I walked to the front of the store, leaned on a display out of the way, and scrolled through Facebook. But apparently I looked like I might need help, as the girl working in the Photography Department asked if I needed anything. Nope. Just waiting. About that time, they paged hubby’s name. Yep, 30 minutes later.

I got his prescriptions (all 4 of them), paid for everything, and headed home. As I was riding home, feeling a little annoyed about the extra time while my husband was in pain, it occurred to me that even in this, we are incredibly blessed.

We live in a place where he could get helped today. I was able to take him to his appointment (I don’t think he could’ve gotten himself there with the pain he had). We have dental insurance which will cover the majority of today’s bill. He could get prescriptions today. He has a home to come to and a bedroom with a bed in which to rest. He also has a number of people praying for him. Without posting it on FB. And his pain will be gone before long. It won’t be chronic.

It’s that perspective thing. I run into it often. Or more likely the Holy Spirit is reminding me that things aren’t as bad as they could be, even when they’re difficult. And so I am grateful and praying as he’s resting in the next room.

p.s. – thank you, no REALLY, THANK YOU to the oral surgeon’s office music for leaving me with Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys. {insert eye roll}

Manna Living

When God provided the children of Israel with manna, it was a daily provision (except on the 6th day, when He gave them two days’ worth so they didn’t have to work on the day of rest, the Sabbath). But any more than just what they needed and it got wormy and stinky. The point was to trust God for His provision each and every day, knowing that He had already promised to provide for them.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” Exodus 16:4-5

So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer (2 quarts or 3 1/2 quarts or 1/2 gallon dry measure) for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.'” Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Exodus 16:15-20

Interesting – I never noticed this part until typing the verses out, but in verse 4 the Lord says,

Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them whether they will walk in My law or not.

Will they trust Him? Will they obey what He has said? God gave the promise and the provision. It seems that some did and some didn’t. Which I suppose is indicative of my own walk today. Do I trust Him? Well, let’s back up a moment. Do I know what He has said? Do I know His promises? And when I do learn of them, do I trust Him and His word? Does He provide situations in which He is testing me? No doubt. Not sure how well I do, though. I know of more times that I mess up, probably because my focus tends to be on the negative side of things.

Where I often struggle is that I want to hang onto today’s provision for tomorrow and the next week and next year, because it was so good and such a blessing. His Word today might’ve spoken volumes to me, so I want to hang onto that. A particular Bible study really ministers to me, so I must hang onto it, too. A teaching I listened to brought conviction and encouragement. So I need to hang onto it as well.

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But what if I could look at life through the lens of Manna Living? Yes, that was the word I needed to hear on that particular day – and certainly it can still speak to me the next day and the next. But it doesn’t mean that it has to be memorialized and preserved forever. Because tomorrow I will likely need a different word from God. While keeping records and journals can be good, and certainly it’s a blessing to go back and remember what God has done and the stories of our lives, it has to be balanced with living here and now, depending upon God for today’s manna, and trusting Him with tomorrow’s needs.

Even in the Lord’s prayer, we’re told to pray for daily provision – “Give us this day our daily bread.” Provide what we need today, Lord. Not looking to stockpile for next week or next year. Does that mean it’s wrong to plan ahead and make preparations? I don’t believe so. The same God also says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which having no captain, overseer, or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8

In Genesis 41, “And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.” Clearly He has them plan ahead and store food here. But I believe that there are a couple of issues at hand:

  1. We have to trust God to provide – in whatever way HE chooses to provide. It may be daily, it might be through storing up and planning ahead. But no matter HOW He chooses, we have to keep our focus and our trust in Him, and Him alone. We are not to begin to trust in the reserves that we have stored up.
  2. We can only know God’s desire for us as we spend time in our relationship with Him. We can’t know which He would have us each do if we don’t communicate with Him AND listen to His leading.

It always comes back to our relationship with Him and our faith and trust in Him and His word.

Hope

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, there are things or people in which we hope. Some may be for minor joys, others for something more significant. When I become disillusioned and frustrated with certain matters, I can sometimes step back and remember that my hope is not in any person, event, or thing; my hope is in Jesus Christ. This thought brings me peace and a better perspective.

But the other day I was listening to Day 3 of Emily P. Freeman’s Seven Days of Still Moments in which she speaks about waiting for healing (John 5:1-15) and where we place our hope. While I may be able to both say and believe that He is my hope in some matters, I realized that there’s quite a list of other things in which I have unspoken and misplaced hope. But the reality is that my hope should not be in:

  • a successful photography business

  • mature children

  • less stuff and clutter

  • debt-free life

  • less weight

  • a simpler life

  • living pain free

  • more fun

  • a prettier home

  • fewer potholes

  • less traffic

  • kinder, smarter people

  • or anything else I wish for or which frustrate me

Sure, those things would be nice. They could make my life more comfortable or enjoyable or easier. But my ultimate hope is in Jesus and Him alone. And that brings more long-lasting peace, joy, and comfort than any of the things on my list ever could.

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Lessons From a Bad Guy

During my quiet time, I’ve been reading the books of Ezra and Esther. In chapter 5, Queen Esther has invited the king and Haman (the bad guy) to a banquet of wine at which she invites them both to yet another banquet. At the second banquet, she intends to present a larger request to the king. Haman fancies himself as one of extreme importance. After all, back in chapter 3, the king had “advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him.” Just what an arrogant man doesn’t need.

But back to chapter 5…after having been invited to the second banquet by Queen Esther, Haman is happier than a pig in slop (no, I’m not from the south nor from a farm). We catch up with him in verse 9.

So Haman went out that day joyful and with a glad heart;

I think that’s perfectly understandable. After all, he’s been promoted by the king and was the only other person invited to the queen’s banquets along with the king. I’d probably be feeling pretty special at that point, too. But that’s not the end of verse 9.

…but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and that he did not stand or tremble before him, he was filled with indignation against Mordecai.

Amazing, isn’t it, how one person, one mere man, can rain on his parade so quickly? Everything was going well for him (at least as far as he knew), but because this Jewish man refused to honor Haman the way he felt he deserved, it infuriated him. So much for the joyful and glad heart.

Remarkably, Haman “restrained himself and went home.” Oftentimes, people with extreme anger aren’t very good at this. Then again, sick and diabolical people can manage some level of self-control…for a time.

Once home, he summonsed his friends and his wife Zeresh. In serious need of an ego boost, he proceeds to tell of “his great riches, the multitude of his children, all the ways in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and servants of the king.” Not only that, he told them, “Besides, Queen Esther invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared and tomorrow I am again invited by her, along with the king.” (verse 12)

I’m sure his friends and wife oohed and ahhed over his position and prestige. I imagine they said all the right things to give him that boost he so desperately needed. But it still wasn’t enough. He goes on to say, “Yet all of this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” (verse 13)

All the blessings he sees in his life – power in the kingdom above all others besides the king, honor of the king and queen, wealth, children, and probably much more – isn’t enough. Because he allows this one man, Mordecai the Jew, to get under his skin. He just can’t let it go and move on. Ninety-nine percent of his life looks pretty incredible. But it’s that 1% which gnaws at him and utterly diminishes everything else.

Just as many wives and friends would probably do, they want to see him happy. They want him to have what he desires. The problem is, they find a way to offer it that is sick and evil. Seeing how Zeresh’s name is listed before his friends, I assume that she came up with this twisted plan, or his friends did and nominated her to present it, or they all colluded together. Regardless, a diabolical plan was offered:

Then his wife, Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet.” And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made. (verse 14)

What a wicked and tragic verse!

First of all, their only concern is that Haman isn’t happy with his 99%. Secondly, they quite willingly offer up the death of another human to appease Haman’s narcissism and even get the king’s approval of this murder. Lastly, they suggest that once this bothersome person is out of the way, Haman can “then go merrily with the king to the banquet.” Merrily? Yeah, have another man murdered and then eat, drink, and be merry.

So you may be wondering where the lesson is in all this. There are four things that God showed me as I studied this chapter.

  1. Be humble. Not like this isn’t mentioned in other places in Scripture. But pride is insidious and can creep in at any time. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10
  2. Don’t allow one inconsequential person or thing to detract from all the rest of life’s blessings. This breeds seeds of discontent. We are to be grateful for what we have, not obsessed with what we don’t. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8
  3. Stay focused on the Lord, not that which is an insult to my pride. It doesn’t matter what others think or say about me. The only opinion which ought to matter is God’s. My pride is in direct contradiction to His glory. I am surely not greater than Jesus. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7
  4. Don’t influence my husband or friends towards evil or cruel behavior. I should be encouraging others to godliness, righteousness, and growth their relationship with Jesus. I need to value human lives and spur those within my sphere of influence on to love. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

It’s only as I spend time with the Lord and in His word that I can accomplish this list and keep my flesh and pride at bay. But there’s great joy that comes when I take that time and live in close connection with Him!

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Reminder Pain

My neck and shoulder have been kind of jacked up the past week or so. Long story, but the bottom line is that I hurt. Quite a lot. Sadly, even my chiropractor visit yesterday doesn’t seem to be helping and usually I feel fabulous when I leave her place.

But this morning, I was thinking about people who live with chronic pain. I tried to imagine how hard it must be to have this never-ending sensation. The difficulty of trying to do many basic things. The frustration of not being able to do certain things. Any of the times I’ve had problems with something – even if it lasted for weeks – there’s eventually been relief. But I know people who never get that.

My mom was rear-ended in her Jeep a couple of years ago and it has caused her some long-lasting pain in her neck and head. Sometimes she’s doing better and other times, not so much. She’s tried a variety of treatments. Today she is going for some acupuncture, as she’s hurting quite a bit.

Another friend posted on Facebook, asking for prayer as she was getting an injection for her neck problems. There are countless others I know with issues, too.

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It occurred to me that maybe I have this pain right now so that I can be mindful of praying for my mom and my friend, as well as others. Maybe God has allowed it as a reminder, knowing my forgetfulness.

So when the pain gets my attention, instead of whining and complaining, I’ll pray. For my mom, my friends, and for me. And I’ll continue to do all the things I know to alleviate my own pain.

The Long Way Around

***Okay, this needs a little back story, as well as some after story. I wrote this probably a year and a half ago as a devotional to share with a small group of ladies. It’s been in the back of my Bible since then and the other day, I thought I should put it here on my blog. It took me a couple of days to get it wrapped up, but tonight I finally did, and posted it. Then I went to read before going to sleep.

I’m currently reading Priscilla Shirer‘s book, “One in a Million.” I just started the second section, entitled “Deliverance.” The first chapter in that section is called, “The Long Way Home.” Lo and behold, she is talking about the EXACT SAME THING as what I wrote here. Even more interesting is that I’d never heard this particular point taught before God shared it with me for this devotional a year and a half ago. Never mind that her book was published in 2010.

Whoa!

God never ceases to blow me away with His careful weaving together of the details in my life.

I am awestruck.***

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After years of Egyptian captivity, when the Hebrews are finally freed from Pharaoh, “God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:17) Instead, God took them the long way around.

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How often do I long for short cuts? Yet, the Lord knows the danger they can pose. For the Hebrews, He knew they might freak out and go back to Egypt when obstacles arose. But am I any different? Isn’t it common for us as humans to look at difficult circumstances and become fearful? What do we do with those fears? I think many of us look for a place to retreat. At that point, it’s not always about our sanctification, growing in faith or closer to the Lord. It’s about comfort. But in order to keep us from fleeing in fear, God will sometimes lead us the long way around.

This reminds me of a sort of humorous issue I used to have with a particular intersection in town. There were two left turn lanes and people would very often be in the left of the two lanes and then jump over into the right lane once they were through the intersection (or as they went through it), cutting people off in the process, so they could make an immediate right turn. I would go in the correct lane to make that right turn like I was supposed to. I would pray and try to be patient and calm, but I couldn’t do it. I could never get through the intersection without becoming angry, critical, and controlling. Since I wasn’t able to handle that, God made me go the long way around. It will always be better to take the long way than to fall – or leap – into sin.

When the Hebrews reached the Red Sea, their perspective was probably that they were trapped; cornered by the Egyptian army. So what do they do? They complain against Moses, and ultimately against God. Notice Moses’ response:

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.'” Exodus 14:13-14

First he encourages them to not be afraid. Fear completely thwarts our ability to think clearly and rationally. Then he exhorts them to stand still. Naturally, that’s the last thing we want to do when we’re afraid. Usually, we’d rather run. In the opposite direction. They had no choice, though. There was nowhere for them to flee. Then he tells them to see. Fear can cause us to shut our eyes – tightly. How in the world can we deal with a threat, or decide what to do, when we can’t see? But that’s not what God wants them to see anyway. He wants them to see the “salvation of the Lord that He will accomplish for you today“. Not salvation that comes from anywhere else, but from God almighty. And notice that He’s the one to accomplish it. Not with their help. Not with anything or anyone else. It’s God and God alone.

Additionally, look at the incredible miracle that God performed in taking them via the Red Sea. They may not have seen the hand of God in such a way had they taken another route. God’s detours can bring amazing, faith-building miracles. And this has been recorded for all of history to be shared with a multitude of generations.

The beautiful ending to this is recounted in Exodus 14:31 – “Thus Israel saw (seeing the right thing) the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord (the right kind of fear), and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” The long way around may have seemed harder, but ultimately, it grew their faith and trust in God, and in Exodus 15, you can read their song of praise to Him.

So if you feel like your current path is longer than it should be, rest and trust in the Lord, knowing that He has you in His sights all the way. He hasn’t forsaken you, but He has something for you that will be worth it.

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***And now, another edit to this post. I shared this whole story with John this morning and my amazement at the way God wove these two pieces of the story together. Then he got excited as he pulled up his morning devotional from Alistair Begg, entitled “The Joy of Safety” It actually picks up where I left off, with the song of praise to God in Exodus 15. As ever, God continues the story.

The Potter and the Clay

I am always in awe as I watch a talented potter with clay on a wheel. These particular potters are master craftsmen and their skills are amazing.

It will take awhile to both watch the video and read my post. The video is definitely worth the almost seven minutes of time. Hopefully my words are worth the time, too.

God has some beautiful parallels in the story of the potter and the clay. Having seen the presentation by Potter’s Field Ministries numerous times during the past 20 years, I’m always blown away by what He teaches me through it. While there are many lessons, these are the things that stood out to me as I watched the above video.

  • Great repetitive pressure is required to form the clay into the desired vessel. The clay spins on the wheel and the potter continues to press and mold and shape it into a piece of pottery for a specific purpose.
  • In order to be a useful vessel, that which weighs it down must be removed (the gunk inside) or stretched out to make it able to contain something. A pitcher is only functional when it has the ability to hold something which can be poured out for others. But if the inside were solid, there would be little purpose besides perhaps in being a door stop. One pot had a hole cut into it in order to attach a spout, making it lovelier in form and practical in purpose.
  • When it comes time to create a beautiful design, this is neither quick, easy, or comfortable. It takes a very fine, focused cutting away. Or perhaps a beating. No, I’m not saying that God beats and cuts us. But life does. Sometimes the cuts are just on the surface, other times, they cut clear through. Is there anything more beautiful than a person who stays focused upon the Lord while weathering the storms of life? When they’re on the other side of the struggle, still in love with Jesus, radiating joy, it is very lovely to behold. Some vessels were covered by paint after being cut into, but when the excess is wiped away, beauty remains in the contrast of colors.

What analogies have you seen in the relationship between the potter and the clay and God and His children?