Spiritual Amnesia

I have this dog.

He is a mixed breed of some kind.  He’s pretty aggressive and has a big bark.  He’s the kind of dog that makes me feel safe when I am home alone.  He’s the kind of dog that we don’t allow kids to pet when we’re out walking, just to be safe.  He’s good with the kids that are part of our family, those he is around regularly. 

For the past 11 years, he has managed to keep us safe from intruders, like the UPS man, the mail carrier, and the neighbor bringing Christmas cookies.  What a relief right?  I have joked for years that his main job is to keep all the elephants out of the yard, and I can assure you that he is 100% successful!  I have yet to have a single elephant take up residence in my yard!

But what I find so interesting is that this aggressive, protective, burly dog is terrified of lightening and thunder.  This time of year (summer) is a challenging time for Chomper (yes, Chomper like The Land Before Time movies….).  In Arizona, we get summer thunderstorms.  Sometimes they produce rain (I’m still waiting this year).  But, more often than not, they just threaten to storm with big winds, lightening, and thunderclaps.  These are the kind of things that send my burly dog running to the other end of the house.  He shakes, he whines, and he cowers.  During those times when the storm goes into the night, my poor hubby ends up sleeping on the couch to comfort this big baby.  Chomper will pace, pant and whimper until the storm passes.

I find all of this hilarious!  How can such a brave, often fierce dog be such a chicken about something outside?  Now, this is not his first year with thunderstorms.  He has lived with them his entire life; they come and go every year.  He has never once been struck by lightning, never been left to fend for himself unprotected while the rain beat down on him, and no windstorm has ever picked him up and carried him away from our home.  And yet, he acts as though at any second, any or all those things could happen to him.

I wonder if God ever feels that way about me…

Williams Arizona~~

Psalm 46:1 (ESV) says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  I wonder If you’re like me.  Sometimes I forget, I get spiritual amnesia.  When trouble strikes in my life, I am immediately thrown into a tailspin of sorts.  “How could this happen?  Why is this happening?  How am I going to fix it?” 

My default is to “freak out”, (even just a little bit).  I want to duck and cover.  I want to make “it” stop.  I try to tackle the issue and figure out a way to end the trial immediately.  This is normal right?

Sometimes we forget about Psalm 46:1. This scripture reminds us that we do not need to tackle our issues under our own strength.  God is our refuge and strength.  He is our very present help in trouble. 

When Chomper hears a thunderclap, he assumes that the worst is ahead, he can’t recognize that our home is his refuge.  He doesn’t know that he will not be subject to the volatile effects of the storm on his own.  He runs to cower and hide because he feels scared and alone.  He doesn’t fully understand that, as his owners, we are there for him.  We are close by; we are very present in his fears.  He’s a dog, he can’t be reasoned with.

But you and I are different.  We have the ability to think differently.  We have the ability to take our fears and struggles and place them directly into the mighty hands of God. 

Our best response in the face of difficulty is to pause and pray.  Not falter and fidget.

In my heart, I know that when hardships come, there is always purpose.  I know that God is at work and that He is doing something in my life that will change me for His glory.  I know that I will come out better for it.  And I truly believe that my pain can be used by Him to ease the pain for someone else down the road (when I seek Him and come out on the right side of it).   But oftentimes, these are the thoughts that come second.  After the “freak out” session has ended.  After I have settled down and come to the end of myself, and my limited resources to handle things. 

Romans 8: 38-39 (NLT) carries another pertinent truth straight to my heart.  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Those are some powerful words, friend.  (Read them again, slower this time.)  Nothing can separate us from God’s love!  Not death, not fears, not worries, not trials of life.  Sometimes we feel that way, but it is not true.

Each time that a crisis arises in our lives, we have a choice.  We can pause and pray, and elicit God’s direction within the crisis.  Or we can freak and fidget, and take things into our own hands.  We always have that choice.  God is faithful and compassionate though.  He wants to help us maneuver through our current difficulty.  Through relationship with Him, we can have peace in the middle of a struggle, even if the struggle doesn’t go away quickly. 

Knowing that God the Father wants to be there in the storm with me, gives me much peace and comfort.  I’ve learned that sometimes He stops the storm around me, and sometimes He stops the storm within me.

There is no way to avoid storms in this life.  Storms are completely a part of being human.  We can’t change that.  But what we can change is our response to the storm.  By trusting God in the storm and remembering the He is a very present help (or ever-present help, in the NIV), we cando our part to stop the storm within. 

The next time there is a thunderstorm, and the lightening has Chomper running for cover, my hubby will be there.  He will sleep on the couch.  He will pet him while he whines.  He will talk to him and try to alleviate his fears.  He will stay with Chomper until the storm passes, and he can rest.

The Lord will do the same for you and me.  He will stay with us through the night.  He will comfort us with His loving embrace of peace.  He will draw us to His word where we can find truth to calm our fears.  And He will not leave us to weather the storm alone.  He’s a good, good Father.  Remember that the next time the winds of difficulty start to blow in your direction.  God is our refuge and strength.  Will you freak and fidget, or will you pause and pray?

Lord, it is so easy for me to worry.  Sometimes life gets difficult, and I don’t always respond the way that I want to.  But Lord, I trust You.  I know that You are always with me.  I believe that You want me to lean into You and that You will fight the storms of life with me if I’ll just acknowledge my need for You.  I pray now and ask that You will remind me of this truth.  That the next time the wind howls and I feel scared, that Your spirit will remind my spirit, that I am not alone.  That You are my refuge and my strength. 

Purposefully,

Shelli

The one and only Chomper!
No dog that looks like that should be scared of thunder!

Even if…

Time is a funny thing, isn’t it?

One minute can seem so short, or so very long depending on what’s occurring within that minute.  If I am hugging my friend goodbye and she will be returning to her home far away, that one minute of hugs can pass so quickly.  But if I am anxiously standing by my coffee maker at 5 a.m. waiting for it to finish my wake-up juice, that same minute is LONG.  Watching my grandchildren play at the park for one minute seems far shorter than the one minute I spend jogging around that same park.  Uncomfortable and painful situations take longer to change than happy ones, or at least so it seems.

2019 was a very difficult year for me.  My heart, my faith and my strength were tested in a powerful way.  That year seemed like the longest year of my life.  (even after all the trials of 2020, 2019 was longer for me by far).  It was a year of difficulty and heart break.  It was a year of struggle and hurt.  And when it was over, the new year emerged almost as a breath of fresh air. 

I learned so very much that year.  I learned to truly trust the process, the way that God works.  Like you, I want God to work faster, more on my timetable.  Because when I hurt, I want it to end quickly.  But I learned that year, that some things can’t be rushed.  That, in order for there to be beauty from ashes, something must first burn.  I learned that refining fire is a real thing, and that impurities rise to the top first when heat is applied.  When the “heat” was applied in my life during this time, I became more aware of some of my own weaknesses.  I came face to face with trusting God in a solid and fresh way.  The rubber met the road, metaphorically speaking.

During that time, I was encouraged by a friend with this scripture from a Psalm by King David.  It is Psalm 27:13-14 “I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; take heart and wait for the Lord.”   I was especially encouraged by this because David was trusting God for His help in a circumstance, and he was counting on seeing God’s goodness here on earth. 

Near Bell Rock, Sedona Ariaona

King David had many trials and many foes.  It seems like someone was almost always going after him.  He cried out to God often for His help and guidance.  In the beginning of Psalm 27, we find David in a struggle of some kind.  Here, David seems to be reminding himself that he need not fear his enemies. In verse one he says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”.  And again, in verse three, “though war break out against me, even then I will be confident”.  He is remembering where his strength comes from.  This is a definite strength of David’s.  He understood well that God alone could rescue and save him.  And that his enemies were greater than him and his men could handle without God’s divine intervention.  It’s possible that David was in exile here.

But whatever the case, it’s clear that something was causing him great anguish.  I understand that feeling wholeheartedly.  Over the course of this Psalm, David developed a kind of “Even If” mentality.  “God, even if my enemies surround me, God is my helper.  Even if my family forsakes me, God will receive me.  Even if trouble finds me, God will keep me safe in His dwelling.”  

For me, in 2019, I embraced some “even if’s” as well.  For me it looked like, even if things don’t turn around with this situation, God is with me.  Even if things are never good again (regarding this issue), I can still trust God because He isn’t finished yet.  Even if I continue to hurt and my heart continues breaking, it is because of evil in the world and not because this is God’s plan.  Those even ifs were tough to swallow, I can promise you that.  They did not slide down easily; they choked and scratched their way into my soul.  But the Lord kept bringing many scriptures to mind, and Psalm 27;13-14 was among them.

I held on to the promise that God was not done writing that story, and that someday (and most days, someday felt very far off) I would see His goodness here, in this life.  The Psalmist remained confident of that, and I chose to do the same.  There were times that I struggled to believe it, but I clung to that verse like a life raft.  Verse 14 told me to “wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait……”  So, I waited.

And prayed.

And sought His face (vs. 8)

And waited some more.

And one day it happened.

I looked up and realized I was seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  And day after day, I kept looking for it, and it kept coming!  And before I had stopped to realize it, two years had passed, far more quickly than I ever thought they could.  It had felt, for a while, like time stood still.  Like nothing was happening.  Like things were not getting any better.  But when God is at work, things are changing behind the scenes, even though we may not see it from our point of view.   John 5:17 “But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” 

Bell Rock, Sedona Arizona

He never stops working.

Maybe you are in a difficult season.  Maybe you find yourself doubting that things will ever turn around.  Maybe you feel trapped and discouraged, but you are never without hope. Charles Spurgeon said that “Hope is heavens balm for present sorrow.”  I can always put my hope in the Lord and His ability to right wrongs, and to mend hearts.

We serve a God who is not intimidated by situations that seem impossible!  The Israelites crossed The Red Sea, David won against Goliath, the walls of Jericho collapsed with just a shout, and Jesus Christ came back to life after death on a Roman cross!  There is still hope when all seems hopeless. 

Be strong and take heart sister.  While you are waiting, God is working.  Seek the Lord, keep trusting Him when it’s the hardest, and someday you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. You can remain confident of that!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Hard things that were, and good things that are

Sometimes life is good.  Sometimes it’s easier than it is at other times. But I think it becomes easier to recognize the good times because we have gone through the rough times.  I am currently in a season of relatively good health, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  But as we all know, that can change without warning. 

In some recent emails with a friend, we have exchanged thoughts about good things for that day.  We have practiced being thankful for things like hot cups of tea, smiling grandchildren, unplanned coffee dates with friends and so on.  I have really been enjoying this practice, because it has forced me to think intentionally every day about the good things of life.

Because of this practice, I have been reminded about the recent times in my life that have been extremely difficult.  Times when my faith felt a bit fragile and trusting in God’s good plan was something I had to work at.  I felt trapped on a merry go round of events that would not stop spinning, and I was literally growing ill from the constant motion of it all. 

In Romans 8:28 we read “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  That’s you and I, sister!  If we know Jesus as our redeemer, then this scripture is for us.  This verse is a feel-good verse, at least it is for me.  It is all wrapped up in hope.  Because, when I read this verse, I know that God sees the whole picture, and that He is working through my difficulty with an end result in mind.  That result is my good, my best interest.

But when we slow it down, and only look at the first half of the verse, it changes just a little bit.  “In all things, God works.”  This implies that there are “things”, difficulties, and hardships in this life.  And I see there that being a Christ Follower does not make me immune to challenges and struggles in life.  I will experience “things” that will cause me to pause and know that, on my own, I am unable to understand it all.  But that God is working.

In the book of Acts, in chapter 9, we read an account of a woman named Dorcas.

Dorcas lived in Joppa, near Jerusalem.  Her brief but powerful life story, is told in just 11 verses.

Joppa was a seacoast town, and the women who lived there were typically married to seafaring men who made their living from the sea.  They were often fisherman.  The sea took the lives of many men in accidents out on the waters. Consequently, Joppa had many widows.  But the women there had a friend in Dorcas.  She was a Christ Follower, as well as the first (and only) woman in the New Testament, to be called a disciple. She loved and cared for the women there, when their husbands (and their support system) were no longer there to do it for them.  She sewed the women garments and undoubtedly put her arms around them in comfort as they mourned their losses.  She put her faith into action.

And then, scripture says, that she got sick and died.  Just like that, with no warning, their situation changed, and Dorcas is gone.

How the women in Joppa must have wept and mourned the loss of their friend.  She had done so much, loved so fiercely, and given so generously.  They were in a difficult time.  The widows of Joppa surely would have doubted God’s good plan for them. Perhaps they struggled to trust God, and maybe felt they were trapped on a merry go round of emotions.  Hard things.

But the apostle Peter was called to come, and God gave him the power to raise Dorcas back to life!  Imagine the great joy and praise happening in Joppa! The women felt joy and hope once again!  God had certainly seen into their difficult situation and chosen to revive Dorcas to prove that He was able to care for them.  Good things.

When the situation changed for the women, they reflected, and realize that there had been hard times before, but that they were experiencing good times right now.  They experienced a time of relief and relative peace in their still somewhat difficult existence as a widow in Joppa.  And many came to know God because of all that happened there.

That can be you and I, too.

The hard things that were, become the good things that are, in time. 

“In all things God works.” 

If you are in a heartbreaking time, I want to encourage you to exercise your faith and not get stuck where you are.  I’ve been there, and I will most likely be there again at some point.  That’s just how life is.  But God is always working.  And He’s working for my good.

He’s working for your good too. 

If right now, you are in a time of hard things, hold tight.  Nothing lasts forever.  We are not without hope when we purpose to let God work.  He will always bring about good in our lives. 

But remember, Dorcas’ story doesn’t end with her death, Paul didn’t stay shipwrecked, Ruth didn’t remain a widow, and Jesus didn’t stay on the cross.

In time, with God’s good plan for you, this too shall pass.  He will work it into something good. 

One day, your hard thing will be in the past, and you will be rejoicing in the good things that are. 

Trust in Him to take you there. Only He can make sense of the spinning, and turn your doubt into trust. God always has a plan, a good plan, and when we trust Him even when we can’t see it, we understand better what Jesus meant when He said “you do not understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” John 13:7.

Father, when I am in a rough time, and life is hard, draw me to yourself.  Show me in your word where those who love you are comforted and learn to trust you again because you are always good.  When my faith is fragile, wrap your love around my heart and remind me that your presence is always with me.  I want to choose to trust you even when I am still in the darkness.

Trust your shoes

Northern Arizona is a beautiful place to be.  There is so much to do outdoors, and I never tire of it!  (Well, not in the warmer months anyway!)

Bell Rock

This past weekend was another adventure to enjoy the great outdoors.  Sedona Arizona is only about an hour away from home, and it is a special place for my handsome hubby and I.  We have been there literally countless times! While we’re there, we love to hike and explore.

This past time we headed out to explore and a place called climb Bell Rock. 

Years ago, I had given in and finally decided to buy a pair of hiking shoes.  I had previously resisted because, personally, I think they are ugly.  They are bulky and they’re not cute or colorful.  They are just all around clunky, ugly shoes.  Vain?  Probably. I much prefer some cute tennis shoes (though I seldom wear those either except to exercise) But I did give in and purchase a pair, and what a game changer they have been!

This trip was one where I knew I would need them.  Bell Rock is absolutely beautiful, and it is exactly what it says it is, a gigantic bell shaped rock!  It’s not a dirt path, or a trail, it is a rock. 

So the hubs and I started out by making the short hike to the foot of the rock.  We extended our hiking poles, checked our water, and just before we started to make our way up the face of the rock, the hubs said to me “trust your shoes”.

Now, these shoes have grip.  They help me avoid slipping on the smooth surfaces of the rock or terrain as I have climbed.  These shoes have a firm sole, one that provides stability to me when things are a bit shaky and I might fall.  These shoes and I have a history.  I have climbed and hiked with them many times and have learned to trust them.  They have stopped me from slipping, falling, and hurting myself over and over.  They have been a worthwhile investment. 

As we were climbing up higher and higher, I didn’t dare let myself look back, or down.  I had to keep moving forward and upward to get to the height of Bell Rock, which was the goal.  There were times when I was practically crawling up the face of this great rock to make it to our destination.  The rock can be smooth and slick in places, challenging me to stay focused.  I was a tad bit afraid, (because no one wants to fall to their death) But being afraid doesn’t make me weak, it makes me aware. I kept pressing on toward the top, and I kept trusting my shoes. 

The Red Rocks of Sedona

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Let’s face it, life itself can be slippery.  We can’t always see where we’re headed.  It can be shaky and full of change (and not the kind of change we like).  If you are in such a season, I hear you.  I have been there, done that.  And I know I’ll be doing it again at same point, that’s just how life is.  But we can decide to walk by faith when we can’t see the way.  Walking in faith that God knows best.  And having faith that His will is perfect. 

So how do we do that when things get rough, slippery and shaky?  How do we learn to “trust our shoes”?

We can start with the practice of recalling the times in your life where God has brought us through.  I mean, you’ve survived your worst day, and you’re still here aren’t you? Try to intentionally bring to mind instances where you imagined “the worst” (as we all do) and yet, things turned out okay.  Begin to search for the happenings in God’s word, where He brought about His best result in spite of difficult circumstances. 

  • Daniel was thrown into a den of lions
  • David was chased by King Saul who wanted to kill him
  • Paul was imprisoned, more than once
  • Rahab hid spies on her roof to spare her family’s life from an attacking army
  • Esther boldly asked the king (who could have had her killed) to spare her people from being massacred

In all of these situations, something very “shaky” was happening.  Each person had real fears.  Still, they chose to place their trust in God.  It was a purposeful choice.  One I’m sure that they made repeatedly.  And God allowed good to come from their circumstance.   Remember, the same God that made a way in the past, will make a way this time too.

The Hubs

Understand that you can be afraid yet trust Him at the same time.

Psalm 56:3 says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  The psalmist was admittedly afraid, but he chose to put his trust in God.  Peace comes when we realize that we can’t always “fix” our own circumstance.  It’s only by turning things over to the one who holds the power of life in His hands, that we can be at rest. 

He is our firm foundation.  Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge”  Read that again.

Friend, whatever has you in knots today, whatever you feel is too much to handle, He knows.  He sees you.  He loves you and He desires your best.

Will you trust Him?

Made it to the top!