How being like a clingy toddler is good

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He (Jesus) called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-3 NIV

One summer day when I treated Graham and his little brother to a day at Water Country in Williamsburg, Virginia, Wes got lost.  This experience scarred him for about four years. I had put Graham in charge of his younger brother when they went into the men’s locker room to change.

Seeing Graham coming out alone, I said, “Where’s Wes?” He turned around puzzled then responded, “I thought he was following me.” I quickly sent Graham back. I wasn’t prepared for what he discovered.  This changing facility had TWO entry points.  We figured that Wesleigh must have gone out the other door, which meant that Graham didn’t pay much attention to his brother like I had instructed. Being only five years old, I often placed young Wes under the supposed ‘watchful eye’ of Graham who was ten.

With this news that Wes was nowhere to be found, I panicked, prayed and ran around shouting his name. Even with a security guard helping me it took about fifteen minutes before I spotted my youngest.  He was walking toward me as though coming from the ticket takers. “Wes!!!! Where have you been?” 

This little kid had gone out to the parking lot thinking we had left him alone. I felt horrified just imagining him among the hundreds of cars.

Hugging him tightly, I rejoiced in God’s goodness.  What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional impact this event had on Wes.  He had experienced it as trauma.  For the next few years, each time I dropped him off at school in the morning, he would seek hearty assurance that I would indeed return.  Now a nervous child and fearful of being abandoned, he would press me for an exact time I’d swing by to pick him up.  The waterpark experience had transformed him into a very clingy child.

The other day, pondering Jesus’ words about being as a LITTLE child, I thought of that long-ago experience.  I imagined a three-year old clinging to his daddy’s leg, not wanting to let him leave.  Don’t little ones feel safe when they are in the presence of their parents?  They don’t want to let them out of their sight.

Jesus is teaching us to be like the toddler who needs that constant reassurance. Physical nearness represents safety.

Of course, we want our children to grow up and develop independence.  But what if Jesus doesn’t mean for us to outgrow our need to be that kind of close to him? What if he prefers that we remain children who crave his constant company?

May we retain the best of being a child and stay glued to our savior and older brother.

Running away from safety

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(Jesus replied) One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:42 ESV

Young Will sat up front and kept himself looking alert in 6th-grade French class. He didn’t act up, goof off, or engage in any typical middle school boy behavior. Only problem was, he seemed to have a sieve where his brain should be. After two months trying different remedies to help him with French, I decided to ask him outright why he thought he wasn’t making progress.

His forthrightness stunned me.  “It’s like this, Madame Cochrane, my mom only allows me two hours a week to play Fortnite (a video game). So, if I want to maximize my two-hours play time on Saturdays, I must spend the week strategizing and planning my time.

Will had mastered the art of appearing to pay attention, with full eyes on me and the board, all the while living somewhere else in his mind.

I think we can all relate to that. Last Sunday in church while singing a hymn, I time-traveled days ahead to when I fly out to Seattle to prepare Mom for a move back East. When I ‘came to’, I pictured reaching forward and pulling Maria back to the ‘here and now’ of standing and singing.

Although actively participating in the singing, my appearance hid a distracted mind.

In our Luke passage, I picture sisters Mary and Martha. Yes, we notice how kitchen tasks absorbed Martha’s attention, causing her to fret.  But even had she put meal prep aside in order to sit down near Jesus, as her sister, would she have been present, attentive to his teaching?

Why is this so hard for us? Many reasons come to mind, but the primary one is that we have an enemy whose goal is to distract us away from Jesus. Our identity which we often attach to our doing as well as the beckoning of the world both fight to be most important to us.

God be praised that he doesn’t leave us alone with our distractions! I thank him for keeping after me. Recently, he has tapped into my power to visualize other ways of living, of being present with him.

I love how God packs the Bible with vivid imagery.

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the faithfulness of God forever and ever. Psalm 52:8 (NASB)

When I read the above verse, I let my mind wander, pondering what a tree needs to flourish. Nutrient-rich soil, cool water, and sunshine came to mind. How clearly these requirements apply to me. For me to grow and produce fruit for others, I have to stay connected to Jesus. Abiding in the vine, following the Good Shepherd, seeking the Kingdom are all metaphors for being present with God.

Picture our green olive tree.  Let’s suppose she’s afraid of what might happen in the future. Can’t you just see her pulling herself up and away from where she is planted?  There she goes, out the door into the dry sandy wilderness of ‘futurizing’, trailing her roots behind her.  How long is her strength going to last? In a short time, away from where she constantly received the light and water she needed, she starts to weaken.  Her branches become dry and wither.  If she doesn’t come to her senses, she will die, away from her One Source.

Friends, that is us, when we don’t stay put, when we don’t grip our Savior’s hand firmly. Jesus is HERE in the present. Outside of each successive eternal now-moment, is nothing but sinking sand. Why do we tend to run ahead into these frightening, lonely places?  I don’t know.

But one thing I DO know…and it’s this.  I want to stay put, to hold on and live this gift of another heartbeat, another breath standing on my Rock where ALL of God’s goodness is.

Do you ever feel ‘blah’ or get bored?

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I proclaim to you new things from this time, Hidden things which you have not known. Isaiah 48:6 NASB

Hey, I found a new app on my iPhone that you might like.

I can’t wait to get that new car!

What’s new with you these days? 

I’m just sick of ‘same-ole, same-ole’.  I wish I had something new and exciting to look forward to.

How we all long for new and improved. Who among us has not wanted to believe the copy about some product that will make a difference in our lives?

When I taught French, I loved going to workshops to learn something NEW.  I always traveled to the training with the hope that I’d come home with a fresh and different way to help students acquire French.  I usually did.

From time to time, seminars on how the brain learns best equipped me with tools to engage my students.  One principle, oft repeated, emphasized how the brain craves novelty.  Anything unprecedent or out of the ordinary will stimulate the brain, will wake it up and push it out of its ‘business as usual’ mode.

The last couple of weeks God’s promises of ‘new things’ have captivated my heart, the seat of our imagination.  Two days ago, as I meditated on the Isaiah proclamation above, I cross referenced it to discover other contexts. For example, Paul quotes Isaiah’s prophesy proclaiming God’s plans to bring about what would never even enter our minds, things never before seen or heard.

So, what are some of these new things God has planned? A rapid scan produced these some verse fragments:

Job 29:20 – My glory is ever new with me

Is 42:9 – Now, I declare new things before they sprout

Is 43:19 – I am going to do something new

Is 48:6 – I proclaim to you new things

Is 62:2 – a new name

Is 65:17 new heavens and a new earth

I haven’t even mentioned the new covenant, our new hearts, new mercies, the good NEWs…….

Finally, consider how often the psalmists talk about singing a new song. Why would a new song be needed, if there were not unprecedented and wonderful praise-worthy acts of God?

Marinading in this image of the ‘new’ has brought front and center a startling realization. If we crave the new, if we long for fresh and are drawn to ‘new and improved’, then could it be that God wired us to actually desire ‘new’ and not be satisfied with ‘business as usual’? 

This possibility really excites me.  If God made us to crave ‘different’, then that means he intends to satisfy that need.  Doesn’t he do that with all our needs?

So, how has this ‘news’, this revelation changed my life?

Simply, that every day, throughout the day I keep saying, ‘New things!  New things!’ and I have my eyes up looking around and my ears open to hear, to see, to recognize what is new.

Friends, this is who our God, our heavenly Father is, the creator of all things new.  He himself must love planning and carrying out what will surprise his image-bearers. Since God is infinite, then his projects will never cease to astound and delight us.

We don’t have to wait for the new heavens and new earth to experience God’s NEW in our lives.  New is occurring all around us if we have eyes to see.

Will my enemies ever depart?

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You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 NASB

I had set aside Saturday morning to do a guided meditation on Psalm 23.  Question number three was: Do you feel anointed, set apart?

I thought I understood the context of this Hebrew word from years of reading through our Bible.  Hasn’t it been kings who were anointed?  In our age, it’s we Christians who have been set apart by God for holiness.  My mind sped to Ephesians 2:10:  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. NASB

When I deep-dived into the Hebrew for ‘anointed – dashan’, I stepped into an entirely different world. For sure, kings have been anointed or appointed for certain roles. The prophet Samuel anointed first Saul as king and then his successor David.

But the first meaning for this Hebrew term staggered me. My Hebrew reference did not mention king-naming but how God ‘fattens’ his people.  Anointing oil moistens our heads, enriching us, prospering us, satisfying us, accepting us.  Look at this context from Proverbs 28:25b, The one who trusts the Lord will prosper (be made fat, be oiled up, be anointed) NASB

Lavishing joy-filling abundance on us is what George Mueller meant when he wrote: “ I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul in to a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished….I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation

What else is in Psalm 23:5 besides oil running down over our heads?  Yes, food, drink and the best company make up that banquet feast spread out for us. Yes, in the presence of all our enemies.

For me, my enemies, my ARCH-enemies are my fears, primarily anxiety about the future. I don’t imagine I’m much different from you.

I know I’m sinning against God when I try to control the future by imagining and planning for possible scenarios. Realistically, I don’t think I can stop myself from flirting with the temptation to figure out and then limit what scares me or fills me with dread.

But as soon as I catch myself falling prey to that fear trap, I can draw back and confess it to Jesus. Because our world 1.0 is broken, full of sinning people(us included) and much evil, enemies will always surround me. What I have taken away lingering in Psalm 23 is the ever-present feast available to those Jesus has anointed.

My practice so far has been to acknowledge the fear, tell the truth about it to Jesus, and ask for his cleansing. Then I make a 180 and direct my attention to the good food prepared to nourish me.  The Lord’s table will never run out.  His helper, the Spirit, keeps the nourishment coming as long as I show up hungry and thirsty. Night or day.

Here’s a glimpse of what fellowshipping at the King of King’s table looks like. Put yourself back in Solomon’s days.  You’re a regular at his table.  The stewards bring in great platters of warm and cold food. Wine flows freely. Nothing runs out because of their attentive service.  The kitchen doesn’t close.

And those deputies provided food for King Solomon and all who came to King Solomon’s table, each in his month; they allowed nothing to be lacking.1 Kings 4:27 NASB

This is our privilege as well. As adopted children, ‘fattened’ and welcomed at the generous table, our God provides constant care for our bodies, our spirits, and our emotions so that we are set up to flourish in his kingdom. Despite the presence of enemies.  Prosperity with enemies still out there is not mutually exclusive.

Feasting on and with Jesus while all those fears linger outside the banqueting house can be my and your reality.  Let’s turn our eyes back to Jesus and his good gifts.

Can we know God’s will?

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For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 Amplified

May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill your whole plan! Psalm 20:4 NASB

Have you ever prayed to know God’s will about a matter BEFORE you ‘did’ anything, before you took action?

I’ve only started first with God once in my life.  It happened like this.  I found myself at civil loggerheads with the other French teacher at my private school.  Thanks to a radically liberating workshop I had attended nine years into teaching, I switched how I taught French. I abandoned textbooks, grammar and spelling, typical emphases for language teachers.  Instead, I embraced helping students acquire French through comprehensible input. Presenting my students rich, varied, repetitive and interesting input in the form of stories and anything novel, I simply copied how we all learn our first language.

It’s natural, organic, fun and thoroughly engages learners.

It also threatens a traditional textbook teacher. My colleague feared that my radical change would slow her down in preparing students who started with me for the AP French exam as seniors.

I endured her pushback for several years.  But eventually, I knew that one of us would have to yield.

In September of my last year at this school I told God of my desire and asked him to reveal his will. I started praying for a sign. I had no idea how the Lord would grant my request, but I trusted that he would.  The ‘deadline’ loomed closer as we approached March, the month when contracts were to go out to those teachers the school wanted to retain.

I don’t remember being TOO terribly anxious.  Mike and I kept reminding our Father of this request. Frankly, it felt like a new adventure in trusting Him.

On Valentine’s Day, I received God’s signal.  I ran into Elaine in the hallway that day. “Maria,” she began, “you’re going to have to go back to using our textbook next year.  I’m losing too much time teaching what they should have learned with you.”  What is poignant is that my students were growing unafraid to open their mouths and speak French. Was it messy? You bet, but I expected that.  Could they conjugate a verb?  No, but they entered my colleague’s classes enjoying speaking French.

Back to my hallway conversation.  “This was it!  God just gave me a sign” With relief, I felt released to look for a new job for the fall.  I refused to teach the traditional way which didn’t serve my students well.  So, I would be the one to depart.

Experiencing God’s answer after months of waiting thrilled me even more than the answer.  Here was evidence, that if we wait on him in faith, he really DOES give us wisdom.

Here the Lord was affirming and opening up a path toward my heart’s desire: the freedom to teach the way I knew allowed learners to enjoy the process of speaking without fear.

Twenty-two years have passed.  I have once again asked Jesus what he thinks about a desire I have.  I have been praying and waiting for 4-5 weeks.

You know how much I love practicing languages.  My ‘monthly allowance’ for this polyglot hobby, my exercise class, nail and hair care and book habit is not enough.  Therefore, I have laid this issue before the Lord. I have asked Mike to pray that God would make clear if he approves of me proceeding with that desire. Afterall, he is the logical person to check with first!

Isn’t the Lord the source of our good desires?  I reason from Scripture like this:  if he gives me a desire, then he is going to fulfill it.  Probably not in the way I imagine, but in a creative and surprising form.

I believe that I received a greenlight nudge three days ago. Listening to a Spanish podcast while doing food prep, Pablo mentioned why people allow fear to stop them from trying something.  Suddenly, I felt the longing to embrace something larger than me, beyond my comfort level and ability so I would have to depend on Him.

I mentioned it to Mike that night and he concurred that very likely was from the Lord.

I continue to pray and wait. At the same time, I have opened a file to capture the practical ideas that are popping into my mind.  I don’t know yet where God is leading me by means of this desire, but I’m excited to find out. His word assures me that it is he who is causing my desire to do works that he has programmed for me.

Fighting fear, one breath at a time

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As long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils…Job 27:3 ESV

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 ESV

Fear, discouragement and shame are Satan’s weapons of choice because they usually work. We look around us, take in our circumstances and listen to Satan’s false interpretation of events. For good reason he’s called the liar, the deceiver.

Over the past weekend, Mike and I retreated to a cabin in the woods of North Georgia.  We spent four days resting, restoring, reflecting and hiking.

Thanks to our newish daily practice of using biblical apps to meditate on God, I’m beginning to notice more often each individual breath I take in. This growing morning routine of observing my intake of oxygen causes me to know that at that moment, all I need, all my body has to have is this next breath.  And the Lord is providing it.  I am 100 % dependent on him. He alone will decide when I no longer need that physical sustenance.

The secular world has used meditation and mindfulness for years. What is different for us as Christ-followers, that is those who aspire consciously to abide in union with Jesus, is that we use Scripture as the content for guided meditations.

A few days before our trip, the speaker in the Encounter app Mike and I use mentioned that each breath is a gift from God who knows just what our body needs, moment by moment. As obvious as it sounds, I had never consciously connected God with each inhale.  Most of the time, I breathe without thinking.

While section hiking the Appalachian Trail with Mike, God gave me plenty of time to pull back from fear.  When the trail became less steep, my mind would wander forward into the coming days.  All of a sudden, the Holy Spirit would alert me to my fear-filled thoughts and I would ‘run back’ to Jesus who inhabits my very breathing. I’d confess my sin and huddle closely to him, breathing in thanksgiving and exhaling fear.  It was during our last full day, while hiking up to the summit of Blood Mountain, that I actually began thanking God each time I caught myself worrying and projecting.  Each fear thought became a trigger to return and enumerate with gratitude the Lord’s numerous blessings to me. I realized that I can’t multi-task.  I can’t nurture fears while naming the gifts God provides. 

For me, this ordering my thoughts, this submitting them to God to govern is new.  That is why I keep talking about this recently-acquired spiritual discipline of biblical meditation.   All the uncertainty regarding my mother-in-law’s care weighs heavily on me. I realize that I have become an expert in ‘futurizing’, that euphemism for ‘worry and fear’. My best friend Joyce has rightly named it for what it is.  This projecting into the days ahead is also sin.  I know, for the Bible teaches, that each time I indulge in fretful imagining of what might happen, I grieve the Holy Spirit who is in me.

This morning, something struck me from Hebrews 13:20-21: ‘May the God of peace…..equip you with all you need for doing his will…’ (NLT)

“Oh”, I mused, “you really are preparing me for the future!”

A daily ‘spiritual retreat’ of 15-20 minutes has become a precious part of my morning routine.  I am learning to be present with Jesus. This early meet-up is where I hand over all that concerns me and my family. Then I arise once again, to follow closely on his heels. I imagine myself often stepping on his heels, so near to him I want to be.  I don’t believe he minds.

God uses hairdressers to provide grace

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How the Lord used hairdressers to help us

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16 ESV

Have you ever considered that passing on useful information or ideas to someone else is a way to share what you have? God, who exhorts us to care for others, has not just given us helping hands and material resources, but words and possible solutions to bless others. Fresh suggestions involving different ways to solve a problem might be just what someone needs to hear from you.

The most valuable tangible help that we ever received came from my hairdresser in Newport News, Virginia.  For decades Mike had suffered from a stress-induced physical symptom that no doctor or psychologist could relieve. Like a gray cloud that hung over our family, this ‘thing’ dogged us.

Did we pray about it?  Of course!  But as developing, growing Christians, we didn’t have a lot of spiritual depth.  Nor did we worship in a denomination that viewed God’s word as true and living. 

Hairdressers make great listeners.  Women benefit more than guys, because they spend longer in their coiffeur’s chair and visit regularly.  A woman’s relationship with her hairdresser can last years. 

One day I was sharing Mike’s condition with my gal and how the ‘on-going-ness’ sapped him of joy.  To my surprise, she responded, “Honey, what Mike needs is Buspirone.  It’s an anti-anxiety med that really works!” Before long, my husband had switched over from his ineffective anti-depressant to Buspirone. It was like a miracle! We still thank God to this day.

That was about twelve years ago. We live in north Alabama now and James is my hair guy. Three weeks ago, as I sat in his chair, he offered unbidden, “Let me tell you about this great meditation app I’ve been using!”

As it so happened, Mike and I had just completed our first experience with meditation apps, using John Eldredge’s Pause app.  Thirty consecutive days incorporating this spiritual practice had instilled in us the desire to keep it up.

Talk about God’s timeliness! With all the churn we are going through with Mike’s mom as well as his impending retirement, we NEEDED to add regular guided biblical meditation to our lives.

I marvel at how through each day’s Bible passages forming this 15–20-minute experience, the Lord guides, corrects, comforts and encourages me, depending on what he knows I need.  I can’t wait to bring James up to date on how impactful his suggestion has been. Thank you, Lord, both for prompting James and for causing him to be obedient to you!

So, what useful information might you be sitting on that God intends for someone needy?   The only way to know is to engage with people throughout the day.  When we show sincere curiosity, strike up conversations, get out of ourselves and leave our circumstances in God’s hands, we often see how what we have or know might help someone.  God uses all of his creation to provide grace.  You and I are part of that grace meant for others.

Centered on Jesus for protection

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…let all who take refuge in you be glad;….you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12 NIV

Lightening shattered the sky as torrential downpours hovered over us.  This storm had caught us unaware half-way into our hike. Besides being soaked through and picking our way carefully among the roots and gullies, I had slipped on a rock and landed on my right forearm. Thank God for his grace, for my arm fell on dirt rather than something sharp.  Nonetheless, the scrape was bad.  I held my arm up to catch the rain, washing off the blood.

When we hike, I follow Mike.  This day, I had been focusing on his backpack.  That morning I had meditated on Jesus’ promised provision of daily bread. I pictured all my stockpiled supplies in that backpack that the Lord daily carries for me. During the rain, I stayed close to Mike’s heels. This gave me a good visual of how closely I need to follow Jesus with my eyes locked onto that backpack full of planned provision.

Once the rain started, we hurried downhill as quickly as we dared. The ominous circumstances triggered a reminder of Satan’s lurking. Those storms seemed to park themselves right over us for the entire long descent.  Encountering two large snakes reenforced my awareness of evil’s presence. Gingerly, we stepped around these serpents, one while we ascending and one on our way down. Neither of them scurried out of the way.  What’s up with that?  I thought snakes avoided people.  Were they intent on catching us unaware?

By God’s mercy, almost an hour after the heavens opened up, we reached Mike’s red truck and found shelter.  Mike’s relief was palpable in his words, “Never again are we going to hike when the sky looks questionable!”  Mike has a healthy respect for lighting.  He knows fellow Ranger candidates who died, having been struck by lightening during patrols.

The next morning, Sunday, our Bible reading plan included Psalm 5.  Given our experience the day before, I immediately connected our safety with the words of verses 11 and 12 cited at the top of this post.

I pictured myself sheltered by God’s three-person shield. In my mind’s eye I ‘saw’ each member of the Holy Trinity with his back toward me. The father positioned himself on my left. Jesus planted himself right in front.  And the Spirit closed me in on the right.  The three locked shields to keep me surrounded and protected. 

I imagined them so close to me that I felt almost cocooned.

Friends, this is what God’s surrounding favor looks like.  No wonder the psalmist rejoiced in the midst of danger. 

God doesn’t block all the storms or the enemy’s attacks on us, but he keeps us safe and provides just what we need to stand firm, not giving into fear.

Empty Hands

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The Lord is on my side as my helper Psalm 118:7 ESV

 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So, we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6 ESV

Have you noticed those therapy animals that accompany people on airplanes or in stores like Home Depot?  Their role is to provide emotional support and comfort. Knowing that this beloved and reassuring creature is always with them helps people face whatever stresses or scares them.

We believers have something better than a support animal. We have Jesus. In one way our Lord is similar to the four-legged friend; he has committed to being with us as long as he lives, which is forever. Beyond that, the comparison changes to how Jesus is so much more. 

For one, he knows our thoughts and he understands our heart. He has already planned the events of our today. He promises to provide not just comforting companionship, but wisdom, strength, guidance, protection, rest, safety and instruction.  He truly has our best interests at heart.

The only ‘drawback’ if any, is that we have to practice using our creative imagination to picture Jesus with us. We can’t reach out and feel him as we do when we rub our hands through the fur of an animal friend.  But Jesus won’t die on us.  We are and will be always with him and he with us.

In the last few weeks, I have been guiding my imagination to picture Jesus.  I have picked our ‘encounter’ location to be, what is for me, the most beautiful spot in the world – a Northern Italian alpine meadow.

I visualize meeting Jesus in a summer-day’s field, surrounded by mountains.  Cattle, with their tinkling bells, and sheep peacefully graze.  I’m either sitting on a bench with Jesus or we’re walking along an unpaved rural road – wide enough for a tractor or an agricultural truck, used only by local traffic such as farmers.

In this part of catholic Europe, you sometimes come upon small roadside shrines off to one side.  The other day while walking with Jesus he stopped as we came upon one of those way-side rustic altars.  Jesus turned to me and indicated that I was to lay down my burdens. So, I placed some worries on the altar.  With a pointed gaze he prompted me to continue

“Do you mean I should place my longings there as well?”  He nodded. I paused, “And my ‘sads’ and disappointments?” Again, that gentle assent.

My hands still held onto one more burden, my fears for the future, specifically what I and we might have to do for my declining mother-in-law. She lives on the other side of the country, with no family nearby. 

“Especially those!” came his response.

With empty hands I backed away. He smiled warmly, approval in his eyes.  Then he hoisted me up on his broad shoulders to carry me.  We resumed our walk.  What was I now to do with my hands, since I had emptied them back there at that altar?  Before an answer formed in my head, Jesus reached up and clasped them tightly. 

As we continued walking together down the road, both of us soaking in the beauty of Alpine Italy that he had created, I felt the comforting top of his backpack underneath my perch.  Besides carrying me, he had brought along all that I would need for the day in a small rucksack.  My daily supply lay close by.

Reassured, I started salivating, thinking about enjoying a chunk of warm, fresh Italian bread.

Do we trust the Lord in dire times?

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Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

Habakkuk ticks off six dire circumstances that he and his fellow Hebrews are facing. He doesn’t even mention that the Lord has announced his plan to hand over their homeland, Judah, to the cruel pagan Chaldeans.  Habakkuk reacts with horrified surprise.  Earlier he had pled with God to save Judah out of her very own wickedness.  He knows his people have broken God’s covenant time and time again.  So, he appeals to God’s love for God’s special people. 

But sending a cruel enemy TO Judah as part of God’s remedy is not Habakkuk’s idea of a rescue plan.  Toward the end of his dialogues with the Lord, he simply hands over the entire situation to God.  Communicating his ‘so be it, Lord’, he specifies all the conditions he had hoped would change for the better.

I decided to write my own version of Habakkuk’s prayer to communicate to the Father that I trust him even if he never provides, heals, restores or changes the issues weighing on my heart.

Though….

  • our retirement savings might not last us and….
  • We still live far from our 7 grandchildren, hindering the close relationships we long for and…
  • Our adult children continue to struggle with work, parenting and relying on God and…..
  • Mike’s mom is suffering alone on the other side of the country away from all family and….
  • We might not ever get to satisfy our desire to live overseas again and…..
  • Aging in these bodies doesn’t loom pleasant

Yet, will I consider myself blessed because I KNOW Jesus is with us. I KNOW for sure that our future with Jesus is going to be bright.

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