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Dancing With the Devil

When I hear the word “dance” my mind immediately goes to ballroom dancing with the guy in a tuxedo and the lady in a beautiful flowing dress.  But when you dance with the devil it is not a beautiful site.  It might start out beautiful in your mind, but by the time you realize you are dancing with the devil instead of an angel, it’s too late.  I think we all know that the “devil” I am speaking of here is evil.  Of course, evil comes in both genders – some devils are men and some are women.  It’s just according to who the devil wants to ruin.

It’s always the same way – as the music is playing and the dancing is being danced, the partner to the devil sees only beauty.  However, those standing around can see the devil for who he/she is and that is pure evil and ugliness.  Some standing around are laughing at the devil’s partner because they can see how the devil is using this partner and what a fool they have become. Some try to break in and take the partner away from the devil, but somehow the devil is able to draw that partner back into his/her arms where the devil takes them further and further, deeper and deeper into the abyss.  Yet, the partner thinks they are going into a happy and beautiful place, all the while friends and family are shouting on the sidelines trying to get the partner to stop and open their eyes, to shed the scales from their eyes.  The problem is the partner does not want to open their eyes, they are having too much fun “now” and don’t want it to stop.  They keep their eyes shut and close their ears to any logical pleadings and so they are left, not realizing it will stop when the devil is finished destroying them and all around them.

Sometimes, before it’s too late, the partner will stop, think and realize that for that bit of happiness they are throwing away great joy.  It’s hard for them to come back, but those that are strong, unafraid, and gutsy will wake up, turn around and run back to the light and away from the devil.  This is not an easy process.  It really does take a lot of fearlessness and no wimpiness.  Turning away from the devil is not for the fainthearted or those who are afraid and tremor when they hear the sound of the devil.  No, those who turn back to the right have to be strong and be ready to face the consequences, no matter what they are.

Consequences are sometimes good and sometimes bad.  When you turn from dancing with the devil you have to pay but have to remember the future consequences are greater and outshine anything gained from staying with the devil, no matter what the devil has to offer.  In fact, there is nothing to be gained by staying with the devil except a few moments of false and misleading, short-lived happiness and long-term anguishing in death.

On the other hand, staying with the devil and continuing to dance will eventually bring nothing but pain and heartache to everyone around you.  It may take a few weeks, a few months, a few years, or a lifetime but it will come.  And if it takes a lifetime then you’ve wasted your lifetime and your best years.  Years that could have been spent in a more sensible and successful way.  However, when the end comes you realize you cannot go back and change anything and you have wasted what was given to you, a life that could have been full and successful, happy and contented.  And for what? A few moments of dancing with the devil – who was beautiful at first but now is so ugly because the scales have dropped from your eyes and you finally see what everybody else saw.  That is what happens when the devil is finished with you – the scales fall from your eyes and you cry out in anguish, realizing you have really screwed up, wishing you could go back! But there is no going back after you pass the point of no return.  You are caught in a web of deceit and lies and have to dance until you can dance no longer and the devil is finished with you.

Yep, dancing with the devil is a dangerous thing in life – I guess we have all danced with some kind of devil now and again and most of us have awakened before it was too late, yet face consequences nonetheless.  It’s when the devil has us so fooled and tricked that we don’t see anything but what the devil wants us to see – that’s the most sad thing of all because it leads to death!  Maybe not physical death but death of our soul, death of our emotions, death of feeling because we can’t feel again, the devil took it all away during the dance.

“At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.”  Genesis 3:7  –  At that moment it all fell apart and death entered the world. I looked up moment and here are some synonyms:  bat of an eye, nanosecond, split second, flash, instant and crack ,to name of few.  I think crack is appropriate because in a crack, by listening to the devil, death seeped in and that crack allowed everything to fall apart.  When we first listen to the devil, it’s a crack that death can then pour into our lives where it all falls apart.

 

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OUR STORY

The title of this one actually came to me before anything else – that’s never happened before. When this title came to my head, what I thought about was our life’s story. When you get older you tend to think too much, actually, about the past. And so that is what came to mind – my life story.

I thought first, which is probably most logical, about do-overs. There are none but what if there were. I know I have a lifetime full of do-overs, my children not being one. But I wonder how far back we would go. I would probably go back to my teen years. I would have not been so “popular” oriented, wanting a lot of people to like me and be my friend, but I would have studied more. Don’t get me wrong, I love the friends I made, I would have just studied more and tried very hard to conquer Algebra. I would have learned Spanish for sure. Had I done that I would have been in the college plan and, consequently, I would have gone to college and taken courses on interior design and became an interior designer, hopefully. That’s what I wanted to do. What I dreamed about. If I had done that, I would have worked while married and hopefully made enough money to put my children through college, or most of it anyway.

I would have tried, though my mother wasn’t keen on the idea, to listen to Ms Flora, our neighbor as a child, and became a Christian earlier in life, but I’ll leave that “do-over” to God because His timing is perfect. I’m pretty sure a LOT of my decisions in life would have been much different and maybe I wouldn’t have as many “do-overs” I’d want to do.

And speaking of children, I definitely would have been a better mom. For one thing I would not have had a house built next to my parents – that was a huge mistake, believe me. They liked pretty much nothing about how I was living my life and consequently there were many, many “discussions” that had we not been next door, would not have happened. I think we all would have enjoyed going to “grandma’s” and having them come over much more.

I guess from that point, there are several do-overs in my 40’s and 50’s I definitely would do. Decisions about how to raise my children, not being so strict. Decisions about moves and how to live life. As I look back, I think somewhere in there is when my deeper depression started. Looking back, I actually believed it started in my teen years, like most, but I never really got over it because that was something not really recognized back then. The decisions I made back then probably landed me where I am now and how I tend to handle my life now instead of a better way, a way that brings more happiness.

So, getting back to the story idea, mine sure wasn’t a “happily ever after” – yet. But it sure could have been worse. Unfortunately, at this time in my life, it’s very difficult to think about a “story” of my life before this part started. I wonder how many people are put in the position where they have to start their lives over and go in a different direction for their story. Especially if they are elderly.  I know there are probably many and for all kinds of reasons. But I don’t want to go into details as this is my story to tell so I’ll tell it how I want to. And that’s the kicker. How I want to.

I’ve never had the opportunity to live alone, as my favorite aunt did for years. When you spend your lifetime caring for others and doing everything for others and each and every move you make and decision you make is for others, it’s just an odd feeling not to do that and realize you can do for yourself for a change. Wow what a feeling! Let me interject something right here, though. One of the do-overs is that I would have given a part of my younger days when I was able to do things, to myself. I never thought about what I wanted or wanted to do unless asked. It was just the way I thought life should be and I was so wrong. Doing for myself occasionally would actually have been doing for others because I would have been more content and happy.

Getting back to being selfish and thinking about myself, I do have my sweet best friend in the world I look after, Buddy, my Chihuahua – I definitely can’t leave him out because I tell many he is my life, but that’s like the emotional or heart part. Anyway – it seems I’m even doing it while trying to write my story – thinking about others. I guess that’s the way I was brought up – think about others first and their needs before mine, even if it put me in an awkward position, was not fun or fair, if I didn’t want to, and so on. Thinking about putting the ones I loved and cared about first. Those that were the most important in my life. That’s pretty much what my life was about.  Did that kind of treatment return to me – not much, actually. On occasion, but I’d say for the big things in life I wasn’t given a choice so I had to go along with the choices others made. That’s why doing what I want to feels so strange.

Being retiRed, of course, adds to my freedom. I wake and get up when I want to in the morning – no alarm clock. I watch what I want to on TV or a DVD instead of someone else deciding. I stay up as long as I want to. I eat popcorn in bed while watching a movie at night. I eat what I want to when I want to instead of trying so hard to figure out what somebody else liked and would want.. If I were not partially disabled I would go where I wanted to go and when I wanted to as well, because I can. That’s a LOT of freedom to get used to for someone who has lived their life as I have. It’s not how I would have chosen to live out the rest of my life by any means, but, again, others made those choices and landed me in this position of living out my life alone. So, the only thing left is to make the best of it and catch every moment of joy and good thoughts God sends to me. And He does send them. He sends blessings my way with someone to help with things like groceries and getting the mail. People you’d never think about – like the maintenance guy. The neighbor across the hall takes my trash to the dumpster unless someone happens to come along and visit and does that or other little things around I’d like done. However, I don’t get many visitors but I think that’s okay, too. Buddy sure only likes a couple of people to come. LOL

So, I’m living a life I guess most live when they are much younger, but better late than never, right? I feel that way sometimes and then I wish I had my life back – the one I thought I was going to have, the one that was stolen from me. But that’s not my story and we’ll never know how that one would have ended. I guess it’s like a piece of jewelry that was stolen. You find another to replace it, even though it was not as special as the one stolen. That’s the piece you have to wear so you make the best of it. You try to make some good come of your new life – at least I’m working on it. I try to think of the things I can do instead of the things I can’t do and the things I am missing out on because of the life that was stolen. Like I always try to say, it could be worse. Some days that’s hard to say because it seems like the worse, but then I remember this life story could be worse. And I’m make a new life story instead of the one expected.

I tried to think of an object as I usually do that a life story would be like, but nothing came to mind. Maybe because objects aren’t living a life story as we do. Maybe because objects don’t feel life from total, utter joy to the worst heartache and despair there is. It’s hard to think of any object like that. Only a person can be like that. Only a person can have those feelings and all the feelings in-between. But a person has to ask themselves in the end of their story, were some of the decisions they made worth the consequences they brought because each and every decision or choice made brought about consequences in their life story. There are no real do-overs, but are there decisions made that can have partial do-over and made right instead of continuing. I think so. I see some that I could have at least partially turned around and maybe the consequences wouldn’t have been so harsh.

Well, we make those choices of how we want to live our life story. Whether we want to be happy and live the life we know we should and God would be pleased with or just have part of what we were looking for because what we were looking for was not actually there and God would not be pleased. Only each individual person can make those choices to end up with good consequences or not so good consequences. Me, no, I didn’t always make those choices that pleased God and brought about good consequences, that’s true. Maybe earlier choices in my life actually did bring about these life story consequences, but I guess that’s for God to sort out in the end.  But, now it’s up to me to make a choice of what kind of consequence I’m going to be living with. One choice brings me continued depression and despair and another one brings about at least some happiness and joy until the end. I think I’ll choose the latter. I don’t enjoy wrong choices. I pretty sure the latter choice will be the right one. And no matter what comes or goes, what choice I make, I know God will be by my side – even when I don’t feel it, He’s there. And it brings Him honor to make those right choices and for all He has done for me, I think the least I can do is make the right choice for the ending of my life story on this earth – cause there’s a whole new one waiting for me in heaven.

So, ever thought about your life story and how you have “written” part of it? What kind of life story are you “writing” now? Most importantly the question is  –  is the life story you are living presently pleasing to God?

PAINTINGS

What I’m about to write is a pretty big stretch, like most of my writings, but bear with me – this is what I see so this is what I write.

An unfinished painting is like our life. We are the canvas and God the painter. The paint colors are our experiences in life. Sometimes the piece of art stays unfinished for a very long time, but sometimes the painter gets it perfect in a very short time and so puts it in His magnificent museum. Sometimes He uses beautiful shades of paint, those that bring joy or peace. Other times, He uses dark paint that brings pain and heartache. I was doing some painting last week and it just came to me how all of these fit together.

There are different types of canvases. Some are stretched some not. Some are board type that have been covered in Gesso. Then we have wood, metal, glass – all kinds of canvases. Before we were born, God decided what kind of canvas we would be. Then the day comes when God chose which canvas He needs and brings it to the easel. This is the day we are born and our canvas is blank. Our canvas is ready to be painted so beautifully that it can be put in His magnificent museum.

Let’s just pretend we are looking through the window and watching God paint this particular canvas, watch how He works. When the canvas is blank he uses light blues and pinks with a little light yellow thrown in. All of the pretty pastel colors. As He continues to paint the canvas becomes a little darker. Then, all at once, He brings up black and dark browns, really dark purples and very dark blues. These are colors we usually don’t think of to be used on a beautifully painted canvas! But wait, He gets out the more colorful paints again. Then we can see how that dark blue was needed, let’s say, water in a flowing stream. If there were no dark colors, the brighter colors would not shine so bright. We would not see how the stream flows. Wait, He’s bringing out those dark colors again! I thought He was finished with those. Let’s see how He’s going to use them this time. Now the brighter colors – wait, the darker colors are representing beautiful trees in the background that is now a beautiful forest next to that stream – and there is this little tiny stream of light shining through that forest. Oh, look at those beautiful yellows and blues, lilacs and pinks with a touch of white here and there – beautiful flowers and bushes. And in the background, we see this beautiful sun shining right through, brightening and highlighting the whole of the painting! Did you see that coming? Look, He’s putting His signature on it and setting it aside to dry, for then it will be finished and He can put it in the Museum to show with all of the other beautiful paintings He has painted through the years.

He always starts with a blank “canvas” and this time we will say it’s a stretched canvas. That’s us. I see those pretty and light pastel colors as our babyhood and youth. When He begins to choose the colors that are a little darker, I see that as we become adults. Have you ever wished you could go back to the pastels? I have. It’s hard being an adult and sometimes no fun at all. We experience real disappointment and unhappiness. Sometimes those dark color times are very hard to get through. Sometimes it was a person who disappointed us, sometimes a job where you were fired, or a divorce just to name a few. Sometimes those dark colors are used quite a bit and sometimes we get through pretty quickly, though at the time it doesn’t seem like it. Then, most of us have another bright time come along. Some brighter than others, some have bright colors that never end while others have another period of darkness. But when the bright colors come on this time, we see the brightness, the beautiful colors, and we see there was a stream of light coming through that dark tunnel. But most of all we see that huge, bright and beautiful Son right there lighting up everything all the time. All of the different colors, the beautiful ones as well as the dark ones, are the experiences in our lives. If there were only pastels and light, beautiful ones the canvas would be rather boring. Just how the darker colors bring out the light, the dark, hard times in our life can cause us to appreciate and see the beauty that comes along in our life. Take it from someone who knows, the dark times seem to last forever and when they don’t, they then seem to keep coming back in spurts, like dark spots on the painting. If we only look at the dark colors in a painting then we miss the beauty of the whole. If we only look at the dark times in our lives, we don’t appreciate or see the beauty in our lives when they come. Believe me when I say how hard it is to look at the beautiful colors when you are up close to the painting and can only see the dark colors. We have to back up and see the whole. And that’s hard, too, because it seems like you’re stuck in place – I know.

I’m not sure you see what I see, but I think God allows us to see just enough to keep going, just enough to keep our hope, just enough for faith. And did you recognize the museum as heaven? I hope so. That is a beautiful and wonderful museum to be in. Eye has not seen nor ear heard the wonderful things God has for us – so many perfect and beautiful colors.

Earlier I said God chooses the canvas He “needs.” We are born for a reason and whether we accomplish our reason or not, He did choose us for reason, something special He has just for us to do, something just for us to accomplish. What happens if we don’t accomplish what God needed for us to accomplish, you ask? Well, we are still His canvas, but He might just set us aside and paint later, when He has something else He wants us to accomplish. But, He never throws away the canvases that belong to Him. They are His forever, whether or not they are painted. They sure won’t be hung in the most beautiful part of the museum, but they are His to hang one day. Have you been set aside? Are you accomplishing what you believe God wants for you to accomplish? I want to accomplish what He has for me so that I can shine bright – bring rewards – for His Son. The Son that was shining so bright in our painting and was there all along, the other colors just had to be put on the canvas before we could see Him.

Like I said at the beginning, this one is a pretty big stretch and I may not have put it in a perfect outline type order. But, again, I write it pretty much as I see it. Please excuse any grammatical errors and if you see something differently that’s great because it’s what you see. What you see is important because you see it. I pray your painting is coming along beautifully!

PAIN

It is amazing how pain can make you feel or act. And, there are many different levels of pain. Physicians give us a pain score to go by of 1-10 with 10 being the worst. I have chronic pain and have had them ask me on a scale of 1-10 what my pain level is and I’ve told them a 15! Now they really know I’m in pain – hopefully. Due to the diligence of some pharmaceutical companies there’s a lot out there to bring that pain level down – and I’m pretty sure we’ve heard on the news that our country has an epidemic of drug abuse.  So, I want to say at the get go that not abused, taken correctly, not used just for a “high” but used as intended, these drugs feel like lifesavers to people with chronic pain. My problem is, there’s pretty much not a pain medication out there that does not make me nauseated plus doesn’t seem to work – I’m talking about everything but morphine (at least that I know of). But I digress.

This is my story of my battle with pain – and it is a battle greater than Gettysburg and my experience with deep depression due mostly to constant pain.  If you’re not already taking something for depression, being in pain many times causes such depression that people need medication for that, too. I know everyone has felt some type of pain in their lives – just think of a dentist office trip, fall off a bike, or banging your finger with a hammer. God has given us those pain receptors so that when something serious comes along, if we feel pain, then we’ll do something about it. Imagine breaking a foot or hand, holding a hot iron skillet right out of the oven, getting too close to a fire and not feeling pain. That’s a catastrophe for sure. But that’s not the kind of pain I’m talking about. I’m taking about an 8-15 kind of pain that never leaves. Like the dentist is drilling on a tooth without Novocain – constantly, day and night. A pain like holding that skillet in your bare hand constantly, day and night. I think you get the picture. Figure out what your worst kind of pain is and imagine it never goes away and sometimes gets so intense you feel you’re going to die. That’s this pain.

After months and years of this kind of pain, it took an emotional toll. Most people turn inward because none of their support givers really understand and when we’re going through something, we want somebody to understand. Turning inward causes us to avoid people, eventually friends and sometimes family. That’s where deep depression comes in. It might be a beautiful, sunny day out but not to us with chronic pain. Beautiful days only make us feel worse because we can’t enjoy them due to pain. Sometimes a trip to even a friend’s home or restaurant just brings about more pain because they are not in their “safe” place emotionally and now not in the place where they are most comfortable and with the least amount of pain physically. That’s what people don’t understand. I love to have people visit though, it brings a light into the darkened world of pain and sadness. There is conversation you can have from the outside world and so, for a few minutes, I’m not thinking about the pain and even a minute or second of no pain is like paradise. Mr Pain is still there, but during this time it doesn’t seem as bad because there is someone there to help, at least emotionally, and that brings almost as much relief as morphine.

I see it as a part of me has died – that part that used to laugh and smile all the time. That part that enjoyed crafting, gardening and traveling – you see my picture. And for most people with chronic pain, you just know that those things will never return and that’s why they feel as though they have died. I know there are other things I can do, but what about those things that brought about the most enjoyment in my life? What about friends and loved ones that have forsaken you? It seems like you’re locked in a funeral home and can’t get out – there’s just death all around as I see others enjoying things I once enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way jealous, as it were, of them. I just want to enjoy life, too.

I know this piece is going here and there but I’m typing it as it comes so bear with me, it will all make sense in the end. Pain does a funny thing – not funny ha-ha –  to a person. When you are having to endure pain, it becomes all you see in life. Then that jumps over to the emotional side, so you have pain there, too. (And if you already have things going on in your life, then this is the kicker!) All of this together becomes like a super-duper glue that sticks to you and you can’t move. You’re frozen or paralyzed it seems. I mean literally you cannot move your body sometimes. You’re thinking in your mind – the brain part, not the emotional part – that you have to get up and “do” something, yet your body no longer follows the “brain” part of you, it is following the emotional and physical part only. You can read books, nothing. You can watch movies, nothing. Bottom line, there is absolutely nothing you can do but continue sitting and basically doing nothing. Not even eat – I lost 35 pounds in just a few months and till have a problem eating more than 1 meal a day. If you have never experience that, I pray you don’t. It seemed like I was at death’s door. Emotionally I was walking right through that door. You just cannot understand unless you’ve been there.

I’ve had many well-meaning people to make suggestions like Yoga, reading or listening to a book I can really get into. Reading is something I used to do, bury myself in, and enjoy. But when you’re in such pain that causes despair, you feel worthless to society or anyone, brokenhearted and miserable, it is very hard to lose yourself in a book. As for Yoga, I can only say “I wish.” I can’t turn my brain off long enough to go to sleep at night, and hardly sleep at all, or even pray, let alone meditate. That brings about more aggravation. Listening to a book is right there with Yoga, I start thinking of something else and off the brain goes and I don’t have a clue about what’s going on in the book being read to me. If anything is going to help me, it’s probably an action/adventure type movie. I have to get into something I enjoy it if I am going to watch it and there are not a lot of “Fast and Furious” movies out there – only 8, at least so far. 😊  I used to do crafts but that just brings about more pain because of the twisting, turning and getting up. There was really not a suggestion made that helped. I did do some blogging which took my mind away, kind of, but afterwards I always seemed exhausted and in more darkness. For that’s what’s it’s like, a dark, black tunnel with no light.

It’s hard to see even the tiniest speck of light in this dark tunnel sometimes. Sometimes the darkness made me want to throw the computer out the window in anger, which is another emotion. Why? Why do I have to be in pain all the time? Why don’t people understand how it just plain hurts so bad? Why do my friends avoid me? Why do people just walk out? Why has my life been changed in so many negative ways? Why can’t somebody do something? The answer – I don’t really know. I know, God has a plan because things happen for a reason. I was told that many, many times but telling me that never took away the physical or emotional pain. It doesn’t take away the sleepless nights. It really doesn’t answer the question. The only one I can give to myself is not really an answer to all the whys, but it is that in heaven there will be no pain. That is my only hope. Actually, the only thing that would help sometimes, outside of a cure, is a hug. Hugs are a wonderful dose of pain medication, whether they are long hugs (the best – like long-acting pain meds) or short hugs, they all help. At least that helps me. For other chronic pain sufferers, it might be an action as small as a squeezed hand, or really looking into the eyes and listening to what is being said. But please don’t say you’re sorry. We already know that and if you could do something you would. Sometimes it’s a small gesture or help with something difficult that brings a tinge of light to that black day. Even asking if there is something you can do, not just physically but emotionally, I think helps most people.

You may be wondering why I’m traveling down such a dark path. First of all, I had a treatment yesterday that brought my pain, at least for I guess a day, but I’m praying longer, down to a 3 or 4. Yes, I’d like for it to be 0 but I’m old enough to know that my body is disintegrating and that’s not gonna happen – not until I reach heaven. So, I am able to type this out without trying to do so through tears – and I don’t mean one or two, I mean a gully washer of tears. It’s still a little hard but I thought if this just helped one person feel better and know they are not out there alone, that’s a purpose, If it helps one caregiver to understand a little better and have a touch more compassion or even energy to keep going on, it’s a purpose. Or if it helps even one friend or loved one that’s about to walk away not to do so, and see how much they are needed, and causes them to stick it out with us, it’s a purpose. If someone can see better through the eyes of the one in pain and you won’t give up on them, or not be as compassionate, or leave them alone for someone else to care of, it’s a purpose and will be worth traveling down this path.

The Bible tells us that God does not give us more than we can bear and when we are having to endure something really hard, it is either because of sin or because there is a lesson to learn. I kept reading that verse and then began to not believe it – emotionally. I know I keep differentiating emotional and physical or logical thinking parts of the brain, but they do separate, it seems. So, seeing it as a lesson to learn, and it might be sin I needed to get rid of, or just learning a lesson to be used later in some way you better believe I began to confess everything I could think of I had ever done and would do – every day!  However, everything began to be just a mist and I couldn’t see anything but that pain. It was constantly there for me. People would try to encourage me – and I say try because their words never got through the pain. I would say to myself, and them sometimes, you don’t get it – and they didn’t. I read verses that said God was with me, walking with me, right beside me, all the time. It felt like He had let go of my hand and I was on this iceberg of pain and floating away.

Of course, now that I’ve shut the door of death and turned back around, I can see that God was never on a different iceberg, letting go of me, and that His Word is true for me, too. That’s a huge lesson, so maybe He knew it was going to take something really big in order for me to learn it. Now, it might not be the only lesson from this experience, and He might show me later there is another lesson I learned through this experience, but I just don’t realize it right now. The mist I talked about, I saw it slowly being burned away (like fog) by the only sun that could accomplish that which was God’s Son shining through and blowing that mist away. How sweet that was. Now, I see Him. I see brightness all around – not physical brightness but like a brightness of peace. And this is an experience only one who knows pain that has been removed can experience. It is unexplainable to anybody else.

So, that was what my journey of pain was like. There will still be days of depression for one reason or another and days of pain, but I pray not like before. I know without a doubt that others suffering pain have a story they could tell. Maybe one that feels different than mine, but believe me, if you’re reading this and are in pain, I know about your pain and what it does and can do to you. I would give you encouraging words like “hang in there, this too will pass” or “you’re strong, you can do this.” While all of that is true, you don’t want to hear them right now because they just don’t work. I wish there was something I could, really do, to ease your pain, whether emotional, physical, or a mixture of the two at the same time. The only thing that helped me was I have a friend that suffers with chronic pain. I hate she has it and wished it would go away for her, too, but it just helped to know there was at least one person in this world who understood. So, I leave you with, hoping my story helps to blow away a little mist and you can see there is somebody who understands and knows – me.

Picture Frames and Perspectives

Perspectives are kind of like picture frames in that some are alike and some different. With picture frames we can get large, small, metal, wood, fancy, and plain ones. Some we purchase for pictures of our loved ones and some for pictures of places we’ve been. We can even purchase picture frames with beautiful, or odd, pictures already in it to decorate offices, homes, cabins, whatever strikes our fancy. Perspectives, however, are what we learn as we go through life and they are the essence of who we are. What do picture frames do? Well, they encircle, they surround, they encompass whatever it is we put in them.  What do perspectives do? As we go through life and learn about life, they mold our character and make us who we are.

Perspectives are pretty much like pictures frames – which is my perspective. What is a perspective? Well, it is pretty much a viewpoint. I looked up viewpoint in the thesaurus and picked three other words – opinion, belief, and idea.  I never thought of perspectives in the configuration as picture frames until today, though.

The idea of perspectives and picture frames being sort of in the same ‘configuration’ came to me through listening to news, my son, and looking at the pictures of my grandparents. This country has had some very ugly things happen, as well as France and England to name a couple others. This piece is not about that. Is about the fact that you hear all kinds of perspectives on the news, social media, even out shopping or dining out. Some people get mad or bent out of shape if other perspectives are not the same as theirs. Some go to social media to rant and rave about the perspective that is opposite of theirs. They go on and on about how the opposite perspective is wrong, stupid, dangerous to our country, etc. Some even spend hours researching their perspective and hours on social media spitting out their perspective. And guess what – those who believe the opposite do the same thing. They research and spend hours refuting the ones who do not believe like them. What both sides fail to consider as they lam-blast the each other is that they are performing a type of bullying – my perspective. Everyone has the right to their own perspective as well as reading another’s without then in turn if they don’t think alike having someone go off on a rant about it.

Not to go off on a type of tangent, I do realize there are some useful, good, and interesting things on social media as well. I have seen beautiful pictures, read encouraging words, as well as things that are entertaining.  I have also seen ugly things, distasteful things, and obnoxious things on social media. And that is just my point. There are many useful and beautiful picture frames as well as some that are not so appealing – all different kinds.  Here is where the similarity to picture frames is the perspective that I see. I don’t like all picture frames, don’t think they are all perfect and just right for my need, I find some that are distasteful to me or just not the kind I need while I find some beautiful, just the right size, and complimenting to what is going in the frame. When it comes to perspectives, I either agree or disagree with a perspective I have read or heard or it makes me think.

So, getting back to our three words from above that describe the word perspective, I’ll tell you the way I think they are like picture frames. The first word is opinion, which is an assessment, thought, or theory. Three different words yet still mean perspective.  There are metal ornate frames, metal dull frames, and metal shiny frames – all different, yet all frames.

Next is belief which is conclusion, deduction, or mindset; all perspective but all different words. Some frames are wood that has been ornately carved, some different sizes, and some painted. All frames but all different.

Lastly, we have idea which is view, concept, or interpretation; all different yet all perspective. There are some frames made of resin type material which is in different shapes, some have something like a bear holding the frame, and some with beautiful flowers or other things attached. All frames but all different.

All of these ‘different’ frames hold very different pictures from Picasso, to your favorite aunt, to a pet, to a landscape – all kinds of pictures. Just as we have different frames that hold different pictures, we have different perspectives that hold different ideas and ideologies. It’s according to who you are as to what kind perspective that holds your ideas or ideologies just like it’s according to your taste as to what kind of picture and picture frame you like.

Each frame can be pretty or ugly with a picture that is as well just as each perspective can be good or bad with ideas and ideologies are as well, according to my perspective. The next time you read or hear someone’s perspective on something, think about pictures and picture frames before you judge too harshly.

 

Challenges, Not Problems

Have you ever had someone say to you, “What you are going through in your life right now is a challenge, not a problem.”?  I have. I was in the midst of what I thought was a problem but after thinking about it, was then able to turn it into a challenge. I’ve had many “challenges” lately and one day I thought of that little statement. And, being the “overthinker” that I am, I began to think about the Bible and all God has left for us to encourage us through these challenges. Knowing that there are people who have gone through something like I am at the time seems to encourage me more, so I thought of 3 people in the Bible who had similar challenges as myself – I had never thought about them quite in this way before.

If you are interested, you can read about Joseph in Genesis 37-50, Daniel from the book of Daniel, and Esther from the book of Esther.) So, thinking about them, I wanted to capture their hardships and understand they, like many others, have “challenges” in their lives, not just me.

All three of them were stripped from all they loved and knew. Joseph by his brothers, Daniel by the Babylonians, and Esther by the Persians.

I thought of 14 things in their lives that could resemble somebody else:

  1. They were stripped from the ones they loved most.
  2. They were stripped from all the things they loved most, including their home, without choice.
  3. Most of the choices made in their lives were made by others, whether or not they were hurtful, good, or bad.
  4. They were moved to a new and unfamiliar home and had to begin a new way of life.
  5. They all lived at the mercy of others, but trusted God to work things out, sometimes through tears.
  6. Their daily lives were lived out in unfamiliarity.
  7. They had someone who wanted to destroy them.
  8. They all had to deal with the anguish of a broken heart.
  9. They were all dealing with wicked and evil enemies who had their own “gods” and did not believe in the One True God.
  10. They all had someone who helped them.
  11. Their enemies were cruel and heartless.
  12. They loved God and trusted Him.
  13. They wanted to please God first in their lives.
  14. They all prayed for God to remove them from their circumstances or give them the grace to endure and live for Him in the midst of it all.

I’m sure there could be more, depending on each individual’s circumstances. However, the constant coping mechanisms in their lives they all showed was their true character and love for God, which are:

  1. Loved God truly and constantly looked to Him.
  2. They wholeheartedly trusted God, no matter what.
  3. They were able to have contentment – not happiness – in their circumstances, knowing God was in control
  4. They thanked God for what they were supplied with.
  5. They were thankful for the people He put in their lives that were helpful.
  6. They adjusted to their cruel and overbearing enemies.
  7. They pleased God as they put Him first in their lives.

Well, I sure can identify with their challenges, but it’s those coping mechanisms I sure would love to come to fruition in my life as I do strive in the midst of my circumstances. My Bible has profiles of many of the people from the Bible and, of course, there is a profile of Joseph, Esther, and Daniel. I thought I would share them with you because they sure made me think about myself.

Joseph:

  • He rose in power from a slave to a ruler of Egypt
  • He was known for his personal integrity
  • He was a man of spiritual sensitivity
  • Prepared a nation to survive a famine

What can we learn from Joseph?

  • What matters is not so much the events or circumstances of life, but our response to them.
  • With God’s help, any situation can be used for good, even when others intend it for evil.

Esther:

  • Not only her beauty, but her character won the heart of Persia’s king
  • She combined courage with careful planning
  • She was open to advice and willing to act
  • She was more concerned for others than her own security

Our lesson:

  • Serving God often demands that we risk our own security
  • God has a purpose for the situations in which He places us
  • Courage, while often vital, does not replace careful planning.

Daniel:

  • Although young when deported, remained true to his faith
  • Served as an adviser to two Babylonian kings and two Medo-Persia kings
  • Was a man of prayer and a statesman with the gift of prophecy
  • Survived the lions’ den

Our lesson:

  • Quiet convictions often earn long-term respect
  • Don’t wait until you are in a tough situation to learn about prayer
  • God can use people wherever they are.

As I read back over this to edit it I see I have quite the lists. But, sometimes when you have quite a lot to say with examples, lists help us see each one better instead of them being all in a big paragraph where we lose some of them. I do want to say that I use the Life Application Study Bible and this information was taken straight from them so I don’t take any credit for this, I got them straight from the profiles of characters in the Bible. I enjoy those and, like these, there is something to be learned from each one.

I guess there really isn’t much more to be said about challenges except that everybody has them and as was documented above, it’s how we handle or respond to those circumstances that counts. I’m sorry to say, most times I don’t respond well right off. Sometimes it seems like God has to shout to me before I settle down and look at the big picture. Or maybe not look at all and just trust and follow God, even when it doesn’t make sense to me – it doesn’t have to make sense to me. Right?!?

I do hope I have peaked your interest in these three people and if you haven’t read about them that you will find a Bible and do so. The New Living Translation has been translated so that it’s almost like reading a novel. Give it a try – you might be pleasantly surprised. (I’m sure the library has copies of the Bible so if you don’t have one that might be a place to try as well as any church around.)

Accepting, Trusting, and Beautiful Things

I’m going to get a little personal in this writing, so please indulge me as I think it’s something I really need to be telling myself as much as writing about it.

As I was reading my devotional book and Bible today, God began to really speak to me – though it seemed He was shouting. If anyone reads this and does not know me or has not seen me for quite a while, I am partially disabled mostly with osteoarthritis in my pelvis/femur/back areas. I say partially because I still can use a walker, do my dishes, make my bed, do my laundry, and a few various other things. So, in my mind that makes me “partial.”

 

As I was reading my devotional book this morning, I came up with three things I believe God was telling me that I really needed to do. And since I really rather obey God than suffer the consequences when I don’t listen, I listened carefully today.

The first thing He spoke to me about was my body. Like many others, I’m sure, I’m having a hard time with getting older and not being able to get around like I used to. I can’t just hop in my truck and go shopping or to a friend’s house. I live alone now so I have to depend on someone to take me places I need to go in the winter during ice and snow days and I order most of my groceries through Amazon and Wal-Mart so I can have them delivered. Milk and freezer stuff, I again, depend on my friends to help out. So, I hope I have described my predicament enough that you get an idea of my life and from where I’m coming from. Here’s the kicker. When I say I’m having a hard time getting older and not being able to do things – I’m mean I try things before I ask for help, even if it means climbing up on a step ladder! (My balance is not that good but we won’t bring that into the subject today.) I’ll crawl on the floor if I have to, which is very difficult because I have my sweet best friend and protector, Buddy, my Chihuahua, giving me kisses in the face all the way – picture that! But it’s the getting up I really have problems with and must look quite funny. I’ll even stand at the cabinet or wherever and cry before I ask, trying to figure out a way to do what I need to do. Wouldn’t you say I was having a problem accepting this? It’s even difficult for me to look in the mirror.

I know there is nothing I can do and crying my eyes out doesn’t even bring 5 years back. I tell all the young people to have fun now because retirement is not what it is advertised to be for a lot of people and you don’t know which one of those people you might be – the ones that are having a blast or the ones like me! Ok, I digress here. I do tell myself every day that things could be much worse for me and I am very thankful for being able to live by myself and take care of myself and my apartment. But that twinge of depression of seeing people leave in the parking lot just willy-nilly and I can’t do that makes me a little jealous, wishing I could too. I’m not sure if any of you are in this condition but if you are you know what I’m talking about.

Getting back to my devotion, I read what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, a part of which says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (the Lord speaking there) really hit home. I think of all the things Paul was able to do. And then I thought of Franklin Roosevelt – he ran a whole country and through a world war at that! I see vets who have lost limbs running marathons. Helen Keller could not speak, hear, and was blind but all the things she accomplished in her life is amazing! Nick Vujicic is an evangelist from Australia who goes all over the world preaching the Gospel and was on Oprah and I don’t know what else, but he was born without limbs – that’s right no arms or legs. Look him up if you want to see the definition of amazing and what God can do with your own two eyes! I have heard him give his testimony and preach and he is awesome. I wish I had a nice framed picture of all of these people to put on my living room wall to look at every day and remind me of what God can do. Who am I to sit around and complain and be depressed about my life? I have said to myself, “Yea, but that’s those people, it’s not me.” So! God uses all kinds of people. He loves each and everyone of us and has something for us to do if we but listen. I’m not sure what He has for me to do at this point but I know at the right time He will point that out and I want to be ready to hear Him without Him having to shout at me. I want to be ready and listening so I don’t miss His call. Yes, His grace is sufficient. After all, if He can create a whole world, He can do anything!

Are you ready for number two on God’s list for me? It’s trust Him. Yep – two words – trust God. How can just two words – actual one word and a name – bring about so much difficulty in our lives? Where in the world do I start with this one? The first reason I thought of, and maybe you could say it’s the crux of the whole thing, is selfishness. I bet nobody reading this considers themselves selfish – I know I didn’t. But all of us are. When I think of selfishness the first thing that comes to mind is a bratty kid screaming in the department store because they can’t have what they want. And they want it right now! How are we different? We want things that we want, right or wrong, with or without trusting God. And most of the time right now. If what we want is wrong, we try to make them right by making excuses or talking our way into it and convincing ourselves it’s right. We want things our way. We’re controlling as we trudge through life, trying to make things go our way and when they don’t, we just take a different turn and go the back route to make a way where we can take control. I had to laugh about that because sometimes when God does give us the reins to see for ourselves what happens when we take control, it’s really like trying to fly a fighter jet with no lessons, get in the ring with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson without reading the script first, standing before a weather map for TV without knowing the first thing about weather. Ludicrous. Our lives are fragile and need to be handled with care and therefore need to be going in the right direction before they get broken because of our carelessness. Thing is, there is only one of each and every one of us. We are each unique, one of a kind. So, if we get broken, God can repair us, but we’re like a broken vase, we’ll never look or be the same again. After being broken and repaired most vases can never hold water for flowers ever again. That is a very sad place to be, being made for something, for a special job, and then not be able to do it.

The next thing I thought about was thinking about and keeping my mind on beautiful things. Now I know that sounds a little Pollyanna-ish, but hang in here with me and think how much better we would feel if we just took a mind vacation. I know there are bad things out there, I’m not saying deny those things and live in a bubble refusing to see the truth about “life,” I’m just saying give yourself a break and take a “mind” vacation. My goodness, we are bombarded more and more with ugly, inhuman, mean, vulgar, unthinkable things all day long. We have TV, computers, pads, and phones. How many people do you see walking down the street that are not texting or talking on their phones? It would be easy to count because there are not many. (I don’t do that because I have a hard time walking and chewing gum, much less trying to text and walk!) Can any of you remember when we didn’t do that? When we didn’t have cell phones? When we didn’t have portable phones? When we didn’t have phones? If you can, think about how much simpler life was and how much happier people were. I’m not saying we need to trash all our electronics because some of those things have allowed us to make progress in medicine, for example. I’m just saying give yourself a mind vacation – minimum 5 minutes a day! (Bet after awhile we start taking longer vacations.)

Some of you may not know what I’m talking about. I don’t know if I really do because I think it’s kind of like meditation except instead of thinking of nothing and clearing your mind, you think about something beautiful like a field of wild flowers moving with a light breeze, a beach with no one on it and the waves in such a repetitive way come to the sandy shore and then go out again, over and over and over, puffy clouds moving through a beautiful blue sky, or standing in the middle of the woods where all is quiet except the sound of little critters scampering here and there.  To me, those things are relaxing as well.  But you might want to go back in your mind to a memory of something you did that was fun and revisit that memory. After all, isn’t that what memories are for? Those are just the first things that came to my mind. Lean you head back and think of something beautiful and sweet, like the things God was talking about in Philippians 4:8 where it says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” There should be something out of those seven things in that list that your mind can land on and think about.

So, to narrow it down, God told me to accept my body, trust Him, and think on beautiful things. How hard can that be? I’m not sure but like I said, if He’s asking me to do it, then He knows I can. I’m kind of looking forward to making these three things a habit in my life where they come second nature and see what He’s got next. Let’s keep in mind, He always and only has things for us to do that are right and we can do and sometimes should have already done!

Fish or Cut Bait

Have you ever heard the expression “fish or cut bait?” I have. In fact, with a large project looming ahead I tell myself that many times. What made me think of this is I have a dear and close friend who told me it was the “putting into practice” what God wants him to do that was the problem. Well, don’t we all have that problem? I know I sure do. So often we know what to do but it’s the doing that gets in the way. And when we are talking spiritually, that’s where Satan comes in to play (and boy does he love to play!). He gets us sidetracked in so many ways from busy work to just plain chores and things that have to be done. Those busy activities in life. That’s one of the areas he must delight in.

Then, there is fear. He whispers in our ear we can’t do it; we don’t want to do it because we’re having too much fun right where we are; people will talk about us; people will laugh at us. Hey, who cares what Satan or anybody says – God is the important One. That’s what we need to keep right there in front of our brain and push Satan way back until he just drops right out of our head. I mean, Satan is slick. He weasels himself right into our lives, in and out and in and out, and there we live – back and forth. We need to keep our eyes “fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” James 4:17 says, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” Sin works both ways, to do and not to do. Things we should do and don’t are sins of omission. Things we do and shouldn’t do are sins of commission.

Like I said above, sometimes we get stuck in a lifestyle or way of living and even though we know we should change and live differently, we don’t or won’t. I think that’s where we can just call it plain ole sin because we know we need to change and won’t, we stay right where we are because we want to, so that’s the doing. We’re hitting both omission and commission in those cases.

Isn’t it funny (well, not really funny) how Satan slips in like in the Garden and makes it so easy for us to get into situations but then so painful to get out. When we allow Satan to take over our lives, to take us by the hand and walk us down the wrong path, do you think he’s going to make it easy for us to come back to God and walk on the right path? Of course not! He’ll put out every roadblock he can find to keep us back where he wants us. He’ll even tell us it’s not so bad and maybe we can do some good where we are. That’s probably one of his best tricks – like having one of those orange barrels blocking our way. Then, of course, he will tell us it’s too hard – that might be one of those wooden or metal things that go all the way across the road to block you from going any further. I’m sure you get the picture by now. He’s got all kinds of things he tells us to keep us away from God and anything or anybody that keeps us from God is not where God want us to be or who God wants us to be with. Truth hurts but truth is always truth and never changes.

I bet you’re saying to yourself, “Yea, easy for her to sit there and write about this. You have to live it to know what it’s like and how hard it is. It’s so hard!” Guess what?  I do know because I’m not just writing about it, I’ve lived it and know the pain, heartache, and hard work it takes to begin the road back to God. I know what it’s like to say to God that I like where I are and don’t want to change or move or be different. It’s comfortable here. It’s fun here. I love here.  And I’ve reaped what I’ve sown, as well. And that is not a good harvest to be reaping. Satan never tells us about that part. He never tells the truth, just like he didn’t tell the truth in the Garden. He sold Adam and Eve a bill of goods – rotten apples and they couldn’t be taken back. God had already told them the truth but they didn’t trust Him.

I’ve also seen others struggle with this as well. In GA many years ago, I was involved in a prison ministry. I met a young woman in one of the jails, in for drugs. She came up to me after the service one Sunday and wanted to talk. She told me her parents were Christians and she was raised in a Christian home. She had fallen in with the wrong group of people and here she was now. Satan had tricked her terribly. He had sold her a bag of goods that cost her much more than she could ever pay – he wanted her whole life and was about to take it over. She finally did her time and was out and contacted the chaplain. However, within a few weeks, she was back in jail – drugs again. Satan again. Hey, if it works once he figures he’ll try it again and if what he used last time doesn’t work, he’ll look in his back of tricks and go on to the next one. I went and talked to her again, read some Scripture, and prayed with her. I was very stern with her as it seemed compassion had not worked last time. She needed some cold, hard, truth from God’s Word.

She got out again but this time had no place to go. So, I took her in, after going over several rules – more than once. We shopped and got her some decent clothes and she stayed a couple of weeks, went to church with us, helped around the house and things were great. The chaplain found her a job and a place to stay. She called me a couple of years later, so happy. She finished school to get her GED, gotten a job, met a nice young man, gotten married, and had a baby girl. I was so happy for her. Satan had lost one and now life was good for her

However, about a year later I saw the chaplain again and she had left her husband and baby girl and gotten back on drugs and on the street. He wanted me to know because he said it was going to take more than we had to help her, she need to go away some place. I was heartbroken. I had no idea how to get in touch with her. So, I prayed and prayed. To this day I do not know what happened to her, I can only pray she was able to get professional help from physicians that would help her get back on the right path. She was smart and could have had a good life, but her choice was to go back and listen to Satan. It’s our choices and consequences. We say we don’t care, we want these choices, we’re willing to pay – until the consequences become more than we can bear. They start out kind of small and grow and grow until God has our full attention. So, if you’re in consequences and think they are bad but God does not have your full attention, you’ve a bit further to go unless you give Him you full attention first. Oh, and don’t let Satan sell you the bag of goods that your sin is so great you deserve any bad thing that comes along. Like I said, that’s just Satan’s bag of goods. If that were true, then why did Jesus die on the cross? If you’ll remember, He died for our sins.

The thing is in everyone’s life, just like hers, there were people around that wanted to help her but she had to want the help more than the sin. You can’t just say you want to turn back to God, you have to make the effort. He’s there, always has been, but we have to do our part. We have to turn our backs totally to the stumbling block Satan has for us and ask for help, ask for prayers, ask for a “hand-up” – we have to start “doing” and not just “talking.”

I’m pretty sure God will bring us to a certain point to where we know what we’re doing is wrong and we need to change, and then he says to us it’s up to us now. We need to either fish or cut bait. And then after we take that step, He takes us to the next step. And the more steps we take, the closer we get to Him and the more we can trust Him. And I don’t think any of us believe in any way this “step taking” is easy. We know it’s hard some days. It’s just like everything, some days or some times are easier than others. That’s life – wake up and smell the roses instead of standing around the outhouse with the devil. It’s up to us and what we really want in life. Do we want the roses or the manure? If we stick around with the devil we get manure! So, I reiterate – we need to fish or cut bait.

Hide and Seek With the Truth

Have you ever played Hide and Seek? I’ve sure played my share of that game. With friends when I was younger and then with my children. I always thought it was so cute when they were like 3- or 4-years-old and as long as they couldn’t see you, they thought they were hidden. Of course, then as they got older, they knew how to hide much better and I had to actually look for them.

I wonder if sometimes we play Hide and Seek with ourselves and with God. That sounds odd but I was thinking about when we try to kid ourselves about what we’re doing. Or we try to kid ourselves about what others are doing or that they are different from what they really are. We try to kid ourselves about what is going on around us. How many times do we lie to ourselves, yet won’t admit it. That is hiding like the 3- and 4-year-olds.

          We can tell ourselves whatever we want, but truth is truth and never changes. Think about something you believe is truth and cannot be changed. I didn’t say will not but cannot be changed. There is a difference. I know the truth is all 3 of my children live in different states. However, that is a truth that can change. One or all could move. I know I love chocolate. That could change – not likely but it’s possible. But think of something that can never be changed. Not friendships because sometimes something can happen and things go awry. Don’t say eyesight because any of us could go blind for one reason or another. Don’t say marriage – that’s why divorce lawyers are so rich.

I can tell myself my friends will always be around – but they are human. I can say I’ll always see but I don’t know what the future brings. I can say my marriage will stand for all eternity but we never know what might come walking into our lives. Get the picture?

Actually, the only thing that I can think of that will never change is God’s Word, His love for us, and the eternal gift He has for us if we only receive it. I think most anything else you say I can think of something that can happen it. Marble statues – a tornado can tear it down. A mountain – volcanoes can blow them up or earthquakes split them in two. You say the ocean and earth. You might have me somewhat there because my science education was not that good. But the reason the oceans and earth will always be around until the Messiah returns is that God said in Genesis that never again would He destroy the whole world with water – hence the rainbow.

It probably seems like I’m drifting away from my original thought of Hide and Seek, but let’s pull all of this together now. My point is, we can try to hide from the truth all we want to by telling ourselves to believe something different, but it does not change truth. I know people who do not believe in God. That doesn’t change the truth that there is a God. I know people who do not believe the Bible is true, that’s it’s just a storybook. That does not change the truth that every word in the Bible is true and we can trust our lives to it. In fact, many men died so we could have the Bible. Many do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. That doesn’t change the truth that He is. A lot of people hide from the truth. They want the truth to be as they see it – but don’t we all. Hiding from the truth, telling ourselves something is different than it really is does not change the truth. We cannot change real truth.

I think that is very comforting to know there are things that stand no matter if the whole world is crumbling at our feet. Job sure had his world crumble at his feet. He lost everything in one day. Have you ever felt like everything was stripped from you in one day? I have except I still have my children. Not many people go through something like that. But I believe you can finally come out the other side like Job. Probably a different person but maybe a better person. At the very least a wiser person. I wonder how different Job was. You just don’t go through something like that without changing,

To me Habakkuk said it best when he said in Habakkuk 3:17-19 – Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. I have read those 3 verses so many times you’d think I would totally have them memorized by now. I have to admit, however, the “joyful” part is the one I have trouble with. It’s very hard to be joyful about anything at a time like that! Another version says, “Yet will I trust Him!” I like that. I think those 3 verses just about say it all. If we can trust God as our world is falling apart, no matter what is happening around us, then the truth is we trust God.

By the way, trusting God does not mean we don’t get mad, scream, cry, go into deep depression, etc. We are human and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that if you are going through something tragic and you’re mad at God, you’re depressed, you want to die, you scream and are hateful, that you don’t trust God. No, those things are just being human and God knows that.

So, do we play Hide and Seek with God? We think as long as nobody knows, as long as we can cover it up, our sins are hidden. Do we believe if we think something to be true, even though it isn’t, believing it will make it true? Do we believe if we want something so much we are willing to be happy with the untruth, yet think believing it so will make it true? The thing we have to remind ourselves is that we hide nothing from God, He still sees everything just as He did in the Garden of Eden. And truth is truth, and no matter how we “want” it to be, truth does not change. Truth and untruth are not hidden from God.

What Holds a Vehicle Up?

Have you ever thought about what holds a car up? Well, I’m gonna give you a quick and basic lesson on automobile suspension. This idea came to me when I was looking out the patio doors at the neighbor’s new used car.

Most people talk about the body – the color, shape, strength, general beauty mostly. But all of that is on the outside. (Which is a whole other blog post to be done.) That outside goes nowhere without the inside. There are lots of different inside parts like the motor, brakes, radiator, alternator – you get the picture. But my thought started with the tires, however in looking up some things on the internet, God led me to the suspension. Now granted, I took a little leeway, maybe a lot, or free rein with my comparisons but I think you’ll get my point and it works for me. (And I learned something about vehicle suspension on the way, too.)

The first part is the frame. That’s the structural, load-carrying component that supports the car’s everything. I likened that frame, the structural part of the vehicle, to God. He’s the load-bearing part. The main structural part. I say that because He provided everything we need on this earth and still does provide for our needs. He loves us so much that He even provided the sacrifice so we can live with Him in heaven someday. Of course, that is a gift – Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Last time I checked, a gift not accepted no longer becomes our gift – we rejected it. I wonder what would happen to a vehicle if the frame was rejected. Without the frame, we have nothing to attach anything to.

The next thing that was mentioned in the definition of the automobile insides was the suspension system. The basic definition was it’s the setup that supports weight, absorbs and dampens shock, and helps maintain tire contact. This is where I thought of Jesus. He supports and is always there through our many difficulties and trials, our heartaches and tears. He never leaves us. Not only that, He gave Himself as the sacrifice for our sins so that not only one day we know we can live in heaven with our Heavenly Father, we can also have contact with God every day! Do you see the comparison like I do? Supports, absorbs and dampens shock, and then contact. It is so encouraging to me there is Someone that I can visually imagine right with me during all those hard times to support me, help absorb and dampen shocks, and most of all makes a way for me to have contact with God. But, let’s not forget, He’s also with us during the good and happy times. We need to thank Him and praise Him when we feel good, when we get a puppy kiss, when we see a newborn anything, or a rainbow in the sky. Praise the Lord!

Then the steering system was listed. That’s the mechanism that enables the vehicle to be guided and directed. If it had no steering system, the car could just roll around here and there, wherever, and eventually crash. A car definitely needs the correct steering system and fluid in that system. [Okay, I realize this part is probably out there and quite a stretch, but stay with me.] Suppose some mechanic refills our vehicle with faulty fluid. We notice things aren’t going quite right but we want to go our own way and think we know what is best, so we ignore it for now. “We’ll keep an eye on it. We’re having fun right now, we’ll take care of it later. It’ll all work out and be okay. Besides, I want to do what I want to do and I don’t want to get this vehicle fixed right now!” Finally, the faulty fluid causes the steering system to gum up everything and we can no longer drive our vehicle or we have a crash.

Now watch this comparison – Satan is the auto mechanic and the faulty fluid are his demons who speak to us each and every day and we listening to them instead of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly they are louder than the Holy Spirit. We figure we’re having fun now. We’re doing what we want to do. This satisfies all our longings so how could it be bad.

Then, after he has us hooked and where he wants us, Satan sits back and laughs as we realize we have really screwed up and we’ve listened to the wrong one. Life didn’t turn out like it was supposed to. We’re miserable and depressed. We listen to Satan as he says, “This is what you deserve, it can’t be fixed, and you’ll have to stay in this spot on the side of the road for the rest of your life.”

“But wait!” the Holy Spirit shouts to us. “It can be fixed, it just needs to have the old fluid drained out and new, good fluid put in.” (Satan snarls.) You get it? Satan has to go so you can once again hear the Holy Spirit. Take action – ask forgiveness – and get that new fluid back in so you can get back on the right road.

Then there are the tires and wheels. Definition given – They make vehicle motion possible by way of grip and/or friction with the road. If the wheels are not balanced or aligned, they do not follow the steering guidance and guide the vehicle crookedly. Here I think of our free will. We need to keep the tires and wheels balanced and aligned so we can drive straight and on the right road, like our instructions say. Otherwise, our vehicle just won’t line up with the road correctly. What happens if our vehicle gets out of line and the tires go bad you ask? Well, if we’re smart, we take it to a mechanic and get it fixed quick, fast, and in a hurry. If not so smart, we keep driving it like that until the tires wear out sooner and/or we have a blowout.

This free will of ours must be taken care of just like the tires and wheels. It has to be pointed in the right direction. I agree, sometimes we do a little something wrong and get misaligned – take it to our Mechanic. Sometimes the tires need to be balanced – take it to our Mechanic. What if we get deflated (depressed) – take it to the Mechanic. Our lives cannot run without help from God each and every day. They will not go in the right direction, stay inflated or balanced if we don’t talk to Him every day, many times a day.

God gives us this free will – it’s a “free will.” We don’t have to listen. We don’t have to follow Him. In fact, we can turn our back to Him. We don’t have to change our ways, we can continue in our misery. He allows us to make that decision. Now, granted, tires and wheels cannot make decisions, but they can give us hints and glimpses that things are not right, they are not straight or inflated enough. Eventually when we see those tires worn so quickly, we realize we screwed up and should have read the instructions and kept them aligned and inflated properly.

God gives us a second chance, though. He nudges and whispers to us that something is terribly wrong, we’ve gone too far off the road with our free will. Our lives are not as they should be. Sometimes we’re smart and listen to Him and get everything “fixed.” Sometimes instead of listening to Him we ignore Him and continue on with what we want to do instead. He continues to speak and we keep on ignoring and plunging deeper into sin until we have a flat tire. You see, sometimes God has to bring us to the place where we will listen. He has to flatten our tires – sometimes more than once. And we ask ourselves why didn’t I listen? Why couldn’t I see this? Why was I so stupid? Why did it have to come to this place? Ever been there? I sure have. And that’s the place when God can help us. He begins inflating and aligning us so we’ll be ready to roll again.

I know a lot of this was a stretch to use a vehicle’s parts as a comparison. When it came to vehicles I realize I took some leeway in how I was describing things to make the comparisons but I thought the general idea was kind of interesting. That’s just how my mind works. However, long story short, how is your vehicle today? Are you letting the frame carry you, or are you trying to carry that heavy vehicle yourself? How about the suspension system? Are you allowing it to absorb the shocks and maintain tire contact? Is your steering system okay? Do you have the right fluid in there? Are you steering in the right direction on the right road? How about your tires and wheels? Are they doing okay? No wear and tear, inflated properly and aligned? There is a lot to taking care of a vehicle and that’s why we’re given that instruction booklet in the glove box. It takes a lot for us to stay in proper working order, as well. That’s why we are given a Bible. Is yours dusty or worn? Are you reading your instructions?

Obviously, God wants us to read and follow the instructions because He said in James 1:22-25 – But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do that it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

How are you getting along? Do you need to see the mechanic today? It just so happens He has an appointment available right now. Maybe you need to go in for a checkup and make sure everything is working properly.

By the way, did you notice there was a solution to each and every problem? But we don’t see that until we read the directions and then follow them. Too many instructions are sitting around gathering dust instead of being read.

Remote Controls

Have you ever really thought about remote controls? We kind of take them for granted now but I remember the day when they were a luxury. There’s all kinds of buttons on remotes and there must be a bazzilion remotes out there. Every TV has a different kind, every DVD player has a different kind. What ever electronic device you have, it has a different remote.

What got me to thinking about this is my remote was sitting next to me on the table and I just looked at that little instrument. It dawned on me there are so many buttons and I don’t even know what some of them are for. You’ve got on, off, pause, stop, rewind, fast-forward. And then, me being me, I thought about how life is like that. I was thinking that sometimes we’d like fast-forward, sometimes rewind, sometimes pause. We don’t have any of those but there are two that everyone has and that’s “on” and “off.”

First of all, we’ll begin at the beginning – the “on” button. If we’re breathing, if we are alive, we have an “on” button that was used at birth. Obviously, the other buttons won’t work if the “on” button is not used. But that is what that button does, turns things on so they will work. So you have to admit, that’s a pretty important button. If the “on” button is not turned on, you don’t get to enjoy movies, TV programs, news (but who enjoys the news?!?), sports – you get where I’m going I’m sure. If we are not born, if God does not give us life, we won’t enjoy all of the wonderful things God has for us like His love, the beauty all around us, or the opportunity to see another button turned on when a child is born.

I think we’ll next go to “pause” button. Have you ever wanted to just say “slow down,” I need to take a breath. I need to get my thoughts together. I need to take a rest. But the other times we want to “pause” is “in the moment.” All those wonderful things God allows us to enjoy from family times, vacation fun, walks with a loved one, a special dance. Those are the “pause” times I think about. When I look at pictures or go through a memory book and see those pictures I think about the memories I took away from those moments. It’s kind of like having a “pause” button in my brain I guess, because I can pause and think about those memories if I want.

Let’s take “rewind” next. Ever want to rewind your life? I sure have – many times. There are different times I would like to rewind and do over for sure. I’d like to rewind and enjoy again those wonderful vacations or the moments I made all those memories like birthday parties, Christmas, and other holidays. But, unfortunately, there are other times I would like to rewind because I really messed up. I don’t know about you but there are a lot of times I’d like “do-overs.” Times when I can think of when I was a kid, sometimes teenager, but mostly an adult. I guess all of us who have children would like do-overs with them. I’d like to be kinder. Witness to that person on the street. Mostly I’d like to rewind and be more of what Jesus died for instead of being selfish and doing what I wanted to do, instead. I would just like to “rewind” and be a better wife, person, and Christian.

Some remotes have “fast forward.” Would we want to do that sometimes? Sometimes when we’re sick, in physical pain, things aren’t going good at work, or maybe emotional pain. What happens when we fast forward. We go through part of a program and miss part of it. If we have a fast forward, we would miss a lot of things – mostly things like lessons God wanted to teach us, I think. If we fast forward through all of these hard times I wonder how much we would miss that God has for us, like the times He was there all along and we didn’t realize it. I wonder if we just fast forwarded through all these things how fast our life might pass by. Solomon said there is a time for everything under the sun and I’m thinking that means the hard stuff, too.

Some remotes have a “record” button. Would we really want somebody recording our lives? Especially those every day, in and out, back and forth, bad, horrible, unlivable days. I don’t think I’d want somebody recording those of mine. And what about our moods? Mine are up and down and some days I don’t know if I’m coming or going. But I think the thing I most would not like to have recorded is my mind – except when I’m having a good day and things are pretty much going my way. But I do have thoughts I shouldn’t have some days. I think we’ve all had those, some more than others, and sometimes there are those thoughts that are worse than others. Some are mean, some hateful, some vile, some wicked. I sure wouldn’t want anybody in my brain some days. I don’t want to be in my brain some days.

Thing is, God is with us each and every day and He knows all we do and all we think. So, while we might not be recording our thoughts for others, while we might be sweet and smiling on the outside but really “bad” on the inside and think nobody knows, God sees our thoughts and knows them – all of them. How is your recording rated? Is it R or X, or G with a little PG? Is it the kind of thing you’d want plastered on a movie screen?

If we stopped and realized our lives are being recorded by God, each and every day, I wonder how different our lives would be. Would we be really nice to people, would we be more patient, kinder, smile more? I’m thinking yes. Would we stop doing the things we know are not pleasing to God? Things like going to an X-rated movie, going to websites that are X-rated, out to a bar and get drunk, take drugs, hang out with the wrong people, cheat on our wives/husbands, lie, or be selfish, just to name a few. I bet we would. I bet we’d end up with a life pleasing to God and “worth watching” if we just thought about the fact that our lives are being seen by God every moment of every day.

Thing is, we can click our stop button. We can stop doing those things that are not pleasing to God and start over and live for Him instead of ourselves. In fact, God gives us the directions for that right in his instruction book – the Bible. The instructions are to turn the remote over to Jesus. Let him take over your life and make it worth living. Make a life movie we’d be proud for anyone to watch. When we hand our life remote to Jesus and let him pick the channels, we see a much different story on the screen. A beautiful story, not a story without twists and turns of different kinds, but a much better story. A wonderful story that never ends because when we hand that remote to Jesus we just walk right into the screen at live that story worth watching, one we can look back at and smile. Then, at a time decided before our “on” button was ever clicked, Jesus will enter our picture and never turn the remote off. We just walk right off with him in the most beautiful part off the story.

What would happen if you gave Jesus the remote control to your life? Would He need to change the channel because the channel it was on was not right? Maybe he would do away with some of the channels we have on there now because they are not needed or they don’t show stories that are pleasing to Him. Can you really turn your remote over to Jesus so He can put it on the right channel? What would He do with your remote? And would you take it back if you didn’t like the channel He chose? But, what happens when God clicks the off button? Are we in that beautiful story or another one that is not so beautiful?

Let’s think about what God wants us to be, His child. And the good news is, Jesus takes us right to Him, so give Jesus the remote.