Lost Control at the Car Wash

After a drive in the mountains yesterday morning and another one out in the country to the Paint Mines last night, my car was pretty filthy. So I made a quick jaunt to the very busy automatic car wash. I never want to be very close to the car in front of me and I don’t want the one behind me to be close. It freaks me out. And though it’s a quick ride through, I don’t want to hold my breath all the way through.

I put my car in neutral and made sure all the windows were tightly closed and the rollers took their position under my tires and slid my little Rogue through the neon-lit shower tunnel. As foam began to scroll down my window, obscuring all visibility, I thought how it’s a little like my walk with God. I don’t really have control of my life and I can’t really see what’s ahead nor how far away anything is. But God knows exactly where I am, how far I am from all the things, and when to apply the soap, spray the rinse water, add the spotless clear coat, or activate the dryers. Because He knows just what I need and when I need it. It doesn’t matter whether or not I can see those needs. I just need to trust Him.

And at the end? I get to come out clean and shiny!

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. Philippians 3:20-21

 

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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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