Saturday, as we were headed to a graduation party, we drove right into a Florida Storm. If you don’t live here, let me fill you in: our storms come in fast and heavy; the sky can go from beautiful blue to midnight gray in minutes. Lightning flashes, thunder roars, the skies open, and tourists panic.
We happened to be driving across a major bridge at the time. We saw several cars pulled over to the side, hazards on, refusing to drive across. Understandable – the rain was so heavy the windshield wipers barely helped at all. But we knew something they didn’t: the storm was localized. We checked the radar and saw that if we kept driving, we’d be out of it in minutes. So we slowed down (only fools drive the speed limit in a storm!) and drove across the bridge. By the time we got to the other side, we saw blue sky. A few miles later, we were at the party, having a wonderful time with great friends. Dry and happy.
I thought of how like the Christian life that is. God tells us there will be storms. But He also tells us that those storms are followed by joy. We learn more about Him through the storms. We are strengthened through them. As we walk through storms, we become better equipped to help others navigate their way through storms.
Yet, many people “pull over to the side of the road” spiritually during the difficult times. They refuse to check the radar, to keep driving, to believe that the storm is passing. So instead of pressing on through what could be a short drive, they simply stop. For them, the storm lasts much longer and the only lesson they learn is to avoid storms the next time. And worse – they miss out on the party!
In Psalm 57:1, David says, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”
Storms WILL come. But they will also go. Take refuge in Truth – God is with you through them. Go to Him! Seek His word. Don’t let go, don’t stop, don’t give up.
“One may experience sorrow during the night,
but joy arrives in the morning.” Ps. 30:5b
Those of you regular readers and friends (and regular reader friends!) know we have been looking for a job this year. Our position here in Largo was just for one year, and that year is just about up. Where we will go next?
We had our plans, but we have been walking with the Lord long enough to know our plans are rarely the same as God’s plans.
That was certainly true in this case!
We have followed God’s leading to a lot of places – Texas, Costa Rica, Spain, back to Florida. Each time was a step of faith and a time of growth and blessing as we were obedient to His direction. This next step is pretty big – and pretty exciting. We are moving to…..
San Diego, California! Yep, just about as far from Largo FL as we could get: 2,470 miles to be exact.
Dave will teaching Bible, and I’ll be teaching English at Calvary Christian Academy San Diego.
Last summer, we moved across the bay, from Tampa to Largo, and that stretched us as a family. Moving across the country will certainly be a challenge. We have wonderful friends – and lots of beloved family – here and, between our two “tours” in the Tampa Bay area, over a decade of treasured memories. There’s no easy way to leave “home”.
It certainly helps that we are moving to one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Beaches on one side, mountains on the other, and a climate that is practically perfect all year long! Not too shabby.
But we would appreciate your prayers – saying goodbye is never easy. Neither is adjusting to the new, making friends, finding where we fit in a new school, new church, and new location.
We know, however, that God never leaves us or forsakes us, and we have seen how He has guided us to San Diego. Moves always remind me that comfort and “stability” are not – nor should they be – my primary focus on this earth. Following Jesus should be my focus and my joy. The Christ-life is not easy, but it is rewarding and full.
I’m sure you’ll be reading – and seeing – a lot more about this move in the coming weeks. We’d appreciate your prayers. If you’re reading this from the west coast, we’d love your words of advice! And my east coast friends — we expect lots of visitors ;)….Please!!
I am dealing with a HUGE pain in the neck right now. And I’m not talking about that kid in first period who never listens to a word I say. I mean a literal pain in the neck….I have a pinched nerve. It hurts.
But I have noticed something: the pain is worse when I’m thinking about it. When I’m sitting at home, icing it, medicating it, massaging it, it hurts MORE. When I’m at school, teaching, talking, grading, not being listened to, it hurts LESS.
The pain is still there, at home and at school. The difference?
Specifically – my mind. When my mind is occupied on something other than the pain, it seems less awful.
This, I have found, is true of the metaphorical pains in the neck, too. When troubles come – and they come to us all! – we have to make a choice. Will we focus all our energy on that “pain”? Or will focus on something else?
Pain-in-the-neck situations and people can sometimes mess me up far more than any physical pain can. I can stew in anger, dwell on hurts or offenses, plan ways to “pay them back”. This, of course, serves no purpose other than to make the pain even more aggravating.
What I need to do is to occupy my mind on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…” (Phil. 4:8). Focusing on those things will bring more than distraction – they bring freedom!
So the cure to a pain in the neck? A change in the mind.
There’s a popular worship song that many of you probably know by heart: “Always”.
I like it. I close my eyes and pray the words: “I will not fear/His promise is true/my God will come through/Always”.
There are four words in that song that open my eyes and close my mouth. Four words that don’t fit with who God has revealed Himself to be. Those four words?
“He will not delay.”
Um, hang on a second. What about Joseph being wrongly imprisoned by Potiphar, praying and waiting for YEARS to be freed? How about David being anointed as king but waiting years – while being chased by a homicidal Saul – to actually ascend the throne? How about the Jewish people being told a Messiah would deliver them, but waiting CENTURIES for His arrival? What about Paul – longing to see fellow brothers in Christ, but prevented because he was imprisoned OVER and OVER again??
I could go on!
God DOES delay. He delays to strengthen our character, to teach us endurance. He delays to draw us closer to Him, seeking His strength in our weakness. He delays because HE IS GOD, and He knows best.
I have experienced delays throughout my Christian life. I am in a period of delay right now. While I don’t love it, I am grateful for it. God is working in me in ways I would never have experienced if I had just gotten what I wanted right away. God’s word is sweeter, more necessary as I wait. I feel His grace and strength and peace as I wait. My husband and I are growing closer as we wait together, our kids are seeing the “walk by faith” command fleshed out as we wait.
My God DOES delay. He WILL delay. But, as the song rightly teaches, “My God will come through/ALWAYS.”
We don’t need to fear delay. But we do need to expect it. If you haven’t experienced a delay from God, yet, you will! He is not punishing you or ignoring you. He is loving you and shaping you into who He wants you to be. Cling to Him. Trust Him. He is good, and He is GOD. So praise Him in the delay and know that God is FOR you!
There are some things I just don’t like to do: I don’t like doing laundry. Or the dishes. Or cooking. Or anything domestic, really. I don’t like math. I don’t like exercise. I don’t like admitting I’m wrong. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like turning down a warm brownie.
And because I don’t like those things, I justify not doing them. I wait until the “feeling” hits before I do them…meanwhile, everything around me gets messy.
God has been working on me in this area. In His gracious, yet firm, way, He has been pushing me out of this mess and showing me that, very often, we have to suck it up and do stuff we don’t like. Even when we don’t feel like it.
I started a weight loss Bible study (check it out – it is amazing!) about a month ago. The studies focus on God’s word – feasting on that, not looking to food to meet our needs. As I have spent even more time in God’s word than I used to, I have found that more than just weight is coming off. Some of my excuses are falling away too.
I started exercising. I hate exercising. But I realized I can hate it and still do it. I have been foolishly waiting to “want” to exercise before I did it. That will happen about the same time I “want” to sit down with Emma and do Algebra II. Never. But I do it anyway – I swim laps or walk on the elliptical machine. And I hate it. But I do it, anyway.
The “do it anyway” lesson is carrying over to housework. I’m doing a better job keeping up with the laundry and the dishes, not because I suddenly turned into a Suzy Homemaker, but because I can recognize that, while I may hate it, it still needs to be done.
Even better, this lesson is affecting my spiritual life, too – I may not feel like forgiving, but I’m going to do it anyway. I may not feel like being loving, but I’m going to do it anyway. I do not need to wait for my feelings in order to do what I know I need to do. The feelings may follow, and they may not (I seriously doubt I will EVER enjoy doing the laundry. No way). But I can do it anyway.
This is, I realize, both a life-long lesson and a minute-by-minute lesson. I have to wake up everyday choosing to “do it anyway”, whatever that “it” may be. I absolutely cannot do that on my own. But I CAN do it by abiding in the vine (Jn. 15:4), walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), and feasting on God’s word.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13
I love everything 1940s – the movies, the music, the clothes…If I could travel back in time, that is the decade I’d want to return to. I would gladly exchange my straightening iron for pin curls and my skinny jeans for A-line dresses.
But it wasn’t perfect. World War II battered that decade, and the generation who lived through it lost more than just husbands, sons, daughters, and sisters – they lost the hope that one “Great War” is all we’d ever have. They learned that evil can’t be stamped out for good – one evil is wiped out, but another comes on the horizon.
Most of the people in my grandparents’ generation believed in right and wrong, good and evil. They didn’t see Hitler and argue that what he believed was all right for him. They recognized Hitler’s ideologies were sick and destructive. Men like my grandfather went over to Europe to fight against Hilter’s Nazi regime so our country could remain safe and so other countries could be rescued.
My generation, though, and the ones coming after me, hate the idea of right and wrong, good and evil. We want to believe truth is what we make it. We even see that in some Christian circles! As long as we’re not hurting anyone, we can do what we want, how we want. Truth is relative and anyone who says otherwise is close-minded (never mind that those who say that are, themselves, close-minded!).
Here’s the Truth: We don’t get to determine the Truth!
Whether we like it or not, agree with it or not, there is One Truth. That Truth is found in scripture and was given to us by a gracious God. He did not leave us without divine revelation, nor did He give each one us our own personal revelation. He created us to be in community, so he gave us His word as a community – to read, study, and learn together. He gave us teachers to understand it, preachers to challenge us in it, those with gifts of mercy and helps to show us how to live it out. We have Truth, and it is neither unclear nor unfair. It is, at times, uncomfortable.
We believers, then, have to make a choice. Are we going to believe in the One Truth and take a stand against the lies that oppose that Truth? Or are we going to allow the world to dictate what we believe?
Let us learn from the Greatest Generation – there IS right and wrong. There absolutely is Truth. We have it, we can know it, and we should share it.
Normally, this blog is for teens. But, occasionally, I feel the need to talk to the parents. This is one of those occasions…
Forgive me if I offend you with this, but Facebook is not evil. Neither is Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever else is new and up-coming in the social media world. They are not, in my opinion, the harbinger of end times or the destruction of society as we know it.
You’d think my generation would be used to new things. Come on, guys! From the time we started Kindergarten until we graduated college, we saw the introduction of cable TV, the CD, the DVD, cell phones, the personal computer, and the internet – to name a few. We know change. We’ve lived it, appreciated it, enjoyed it. Sure, there are precautions that come with new technology, evils that can be introduced through them. But there is also great good, hope, and endless possibility.
Using social media is like driving a car. It doesn’t guide us, we guide it. Like anything else in life, we should approach social media with wisdom and self-control. I wouldn’t get behind the wheel and drive 100 miles an hour or ignore the signs posted on the road. I know that, used in the wrong way, a car can be lethal. But that doesn’t mean I don’t drive! No, it just means I am cautious when I drive. I teach my daughter to be cautious, as she is learning to handle a car. I am making sure she gets enough practice on the road, with me to guide her, before she is permitted to drive on her own.
I try to do the same with social media – I check my kids’ sites, and I have other adults in their lives who check, too. They have some degree of autonomy, but if I sense they are taking advantage of that, they lose the privilege of using it. I am , in short, a parent! It’s a job that isn’t easy and one in which I fail as often as I succeed, but helping my kids learn to navigate their world in a healthy, God-honoring way is supremely important.
Social media is not going away – it will be part of our kids’ lives, just like cable and the internet is part of ours. So help them know how to use it wisely and cautiously. Teach them to “drive” on what can often be a dangerous highway. Don’t avoid what is new – learn to use it wisely and well so you can teach your kids to do the same.
More songs, poems, books, and movies have been written about love than any other subject. We love love. We long for it, hunger for it, diet for it, scheme for it.
To yearn for love is not only natural, it is Divine. God has given each of us a hunger for true love. But too many of us look to satisfy that hunger in the wrong way, with the wrong people. And we end up unhappy, hurt, and broken. That kind of love fails us, again and again.
The Apostle John is known for his themes of love. In his gospel, he refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” In his letters, he tells us that God’s love is so great, our response should be to share that love with others. In his Revelation, John longs for the day when we will be able to spend eternity loving Jesus in spirit and in truth. John fully embraced the love God lavished on him, and he responded with humility and wholehearted commitment.
We will never be fully satisfied until we accept the love God has for us – unfailing, perfect love. When we look to other people to fill that God-sized hole inside us, we will always be disappointed. But when we live in the light of God’s love, we are free to love others without limits, without unrealistic expectations. We can be full of joy, even in difficult circumstances, because we know that God will never leave us or forsake us, that his love is eternal.
God has been working on me about that particular question, lately.
I know the right answer: “To glorify God.”
But do I live it out?
I start out my day with Bible reading and prayer, but then what? Does the Word of God change me? Does my time with the Creator of the Universe permeate my thoughts as I go throughout my day?
I know the answer should be “Yes. Of course!” I want that to be the answer. But the reality is that it isn’t always the answer. I can get to the end of a day and realize I have “handled” everything since my morning devos entirely on my own.
But if I really believe that I am here on this earth to glorify God, then everything I do should reflect that. Rather than thinking about what I want and what I need, I should be seeking to know how God wants to use me – not just at the start of the day, but every moment of it.
Rather than handling the events of the day – my thoughts, my family, my students – on my own, I should release them to God, ask how He wants me to think, to love, to teach.
As much as I believe and preach that the Christian life is a 24/7 prospect, I am convicted that I treat it more like a check-up – “Hey, God. We good? Got anything for me today….? Oh, that’s nice. I like it!….Okay, then. Thanks. Talk to you tomorrow.”
I am here to glorify God.
I am HERE to glorify God.
I am here to GLORIFY God.
I am here to glorify GOD.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30
Good Friday – the day Christians remember Christ’s work on the cross.
But what, exactly, is that cross? What does it mean? And is it really important?
I see the cross everywhere – in earrings, on necklaces, in children’s craft projects, even as decorations on flip flops and magnets on cars. None of that is bad, necessarily, but I fear that we are so accustomed to seeing the cross that we have forgotten what it actually represents, what it means. It has become merely a symbol of our faith. But it is so much more than that.
On Good Friday, Jesus was led to his execution. He was sentenced to a death so horrendous that it was reserved only for non-citizens of the Roman Empire. Not even the worst Roman citizen would have to endure this. And he was sentenced for one reason:
Because he claimed to be God.
He wasn’t killed for being a good person, for being a wise teacher, for hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He was killed because the Jewish leaders of his day found his claims to deity to be blasphemous. They did not believe he was the promised Messiah. And they understood – rightly – that that is exactly who he was saying he was.
But Jesus was the Messiah. He was God in the flesh, come to earth. He lived a sinless life, qualifying him to be the only one who could pay the penalty for our sins.
Sins separate us from God. But God loves us, and he doesn’t want us separated from him. And so he sent his son to die the death that we deserve so we can have eternal life with him.
And that is what Jesus did on the cross. He didn’t just suffer excruciating physical pain, he also bore on his body the sins of the world. I can’t even begin to comprehend that.
And he did that for us. Because he loved us so much.
Today is the day we remember that death, that price that our Savior paid for us – for all who believe on him.
So while cross necklaces and magnets and decorations are highly visible this time of year, I want to be careful that I’m not forgetting what it represents, the magnitude of the work done there. The cross is more than a symbol. Because Jesus chose to go to the cross, you and I have the opportunity to choose Him, to choose eternity with Christ, to choose a life with Christ here on earth.
If you haven’t made that choice, yet, make it right now. Make this a truly Good Friday.
Listen to the words of this wonderful old hymn….so rich, so true. May it be our prayer this Resurrection Weekend.