What’s the Lie You’re Believing?

It was 1983. Russia had shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, killing all aboard and leading to worldwide tension. On September 26th, handsome young Lieutenant-Colonel Stanislav Petrov was in the commander’s seat in the underground early warning bunker south of Moscow. He expected a boring night when nothing would happen. And then it did! A warning light flashed and, in red letters on a white background, his computer screen screamed “LAUNCH. LAUNCH. LAUNCH.” Sirens pierced the night, indicating the US had just gone to war.

When a US missile could reach Russia in 12 minutes, seconds were critical.

Petrov broke out in a cold sweat and his face paled. But he kept his nerve. Other screens were not showing the flash of an inter-continental ballistic missile leaving a US silo. Could this be a computer glitch rather than the real thing? Other warnings flashed onto the screen, but they didn’t make sense. They indicated an attack of three, four, five missiles, rather than a mass preemptive strike of overwhelming force. He decided to wait. After ten interminable minutes the warnings stopped and there was no attack. Petrov’s screen had lied, and his decision to wait stopped what could have been World War III.

Pastor Rene told us this story this weekend and talked of how often, through our culture, the media, and advertising, our screens lie to us, telling us we will be happy “if only …” We’ll be popular if we drink this beer, or wear these sneakers, or use that perfume.

What if instead, we took time to thank God for the many blessings He has given each of us, gifts from the mundane to the sublime, from life itself, family and friends, beauty, laughter brought by a loved pet, and food most of us can access easily. We’re not necessarily told to give away all the blessings we have, but to be content with them, to say no to the lies that tell us we need “a little more”.

I struggle with this at times, wanting something to make me stronger, thinner, happier. Do you? Do we even recognize the lies when they bombard us?

I Timothy 6:6-8 says “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. So if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Contentment happens when we recognize and thank God for the good gifts He gives us rather than looking for what we’re missing. I had significant pain this week, following my recent total shoulder replacement. I can complain and say “I wish my body was stronger.” Or I can recognize the blessing of being able to have this surgery and look forward to significant healing as time (and therapy) goes on. I thank Him for my physical therapist who “hurts me good”; for my husband who ensures I’m tucked in comfortably to sleep; for my surgeon; for a place to rest and renew and exercise; and so much more.

And when I am content, I am also more willing to express my gratitude by being generous with my time and resources, to help others in need.

For what are you thankful today? And, if you’re believing a lie that says you need “more,” how will you counteract that with the truth?

 

 

A Pair of Shoes

Tall, deep blue delphiniums, soft and bright peach roses, white daisies, and burgundy orchids filled oversized flower pots. Always well-kept, each tub held a picture-perfect cornucopia of colors, textures, and heights.

We walked up the curved stairway to the second floor of Macy’s Men’s Store, looking for a new pair of men’s shoes. Don found some very comfortable Rockports he liked. However, on clearance, they didn’t have his size 12 in chocolate brown.

Checking inventory, the salesman told us another store had two pair available.

“That’s a long way to drive,” said Don. However, we were leaving for Canada in five days and he needed good walking shoes for the trip.

“Let’s just do it and make sure we can get these before they’re gone,” I said.

We parked right by the door and meandered into Macy’s Men’s Store, where we saw a tall, red-haired brunette returning to the department.

”Can I help you?”

“Yes, Stanford Macy’s said you had two pair of these shoes in chocolate brown, size 12.”

“I’ll check.”

Returning from the back room, she apologized that the inventory was incorrect and they did not have the shoes we wanted. But she brought another shoe in Don’s size.

Enjoying her accent, I asked “Are you by chance from Russia?”

“The Ukraine.”

I raised my brows. “My father was born in the Ukraine.”

”Thank you for your kindness,” Nataliya said. “So often people get annoyed, saying they can’t understand me. But I speak Russian and English and they don’t speak Russian. But being in America has been a real blessing, thanks to Jesus.”

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

“Yes, I love the Lord.”

“So do we.”

“I knew it; I could see it in your eyes and the way you smiled at me.” Nataliya began to tear up. “I’m having a hard day–some medical and money things. I just asked Jesus to help me, and here you are, a brother and sister to encourage me. He is so faithful. Praise Jesus.”

We talked a bit longer, and Don bought the shoes, after which Nataliya came out from behind the counter. “I’m supposed to be so professional but I have to give you both a hug.”

When I tried to hand her some extra money, Nataliya backed away and said, “No, I will be ok, thanks Jesus, but just pray for me.” We promised to do that and walked away, saying “If we don’t see you again down here, we’ll see you up there,” pointing to heaven.

What a joy. Another divine appointment–all because of a pair of shoes.

Where have you experienced a divine appointment recently? I’d love to hear about it.

 

“Why?”

Dennis R. Fast

I’m pleased to introduce a guest blogger today. Dennis Fast has been a senior pastor for 35 years and is now working in several part time ministries in central California. He recently wrote this devotional for his church congregation. He graciously granted permission for me to share it with you. I found it helpful in giving perspective to the question of suffering in the world. Thank you, Dennis!

 

“In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

A few years ago Lee Strobel, author of A Case for Christ, commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they would ask if they could ask God one thing. The number one response was, “Why is there suffering in the world.”

I’m thinking of that today as it feels like the state of California is on fire.  That’s an overstatement, of course, but the devastation and loss from south to north is incredible.  One report called the fire in Napa and Senora counties a “once in a life time” fire.  And this on the heels of last week’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, preceded by unprecedented hurricanes in The Gulf, sandwiched between earthquakes in Mexico.

Strobel said in a printed sermon, “That “why” question is not a new one; it goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th Century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn’t start any better. There was 9/11, the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why do all of these horrific things happen if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?

If you would like to read the full article/sermon by Lee Strobel go here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/july-online-only/doesgodallowtragedy.html?   But let me give you the five “points of light” that he shares in the article for your encouragement today:

The first point of light: God is not the creator of evil and suffering.

The second point of light: Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.

The third point of light: The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.

The fourth point of light: Our suffering will pale in comparison to the good things God has in store for his followers.

The fifth point of light: We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.

We will never fully answer the question of “why” on this side of eternity.  But my prayer is that you will find some encouragement and hope today in the truth about God in his Word.  And I also pray that you can be a witness to the grace of God as you face the difficulties that God allows in your life.  When we face hardships, our hope is a powerful witness to the goodness of God and can draw others to discover the peace we have – the peace that so many long to experience.  It is easy to ask, “Why didn’t God create a perfect world?”  The answer is that he did, but that perfect creation has been marred over and over by the sins of choice that humans make each day.  Today, choose hope, choose joy, choose grace: choose Christ!

 

Carol Loewen Oct 11 (3 days ago)

Keep me Safe ‘Til the Storm Passes By*

Generosity – largeness of spirit. So often we think of generosity relative to finances, to money. Earning it, keeping it, spending it, sharing it. But scripture speaks about much more than money in relation to generosity. Pastor Rene is teaching on this and talked of how generosity is the “overflow of a heart filled with gratitude.”

In studies compiled in GRATITUDE WORKS, Dr. Robert Emmons says grateful people sleep better, have lower blood pressure and increased alertness and energy, better stress coping mechanisms, and improved cardiac health, among other physical and emotional benefits.

When we realize how much God has done for us, our gratitude leads to a response of generosity. It may be expressed through time given to listen or help others; through welcoming others into family times; or through personal sacrifice that allows another to thrive.

Learning to sleep after surgery, while protecting my right shoulder, has been a process — several nights I’ve been unable to sleep. Don has gotten up with me, tucked me in for comfort and security, and done extra to cover what I can’t do right now. The other night I got comfortable and was able to doze off in Don’s arms, with our Cavalier Paige at the foot of the bed.

Paigey often wanders awhile before settling into sleep. She leans against Don’s body, then mine, checks to be sure she has her chew bone, then wiggles around a bit more. As I started to roll over onto my own pillow later that night, I found I couldn’t. Paige had rolled up against me, moving from my shoulders to my knees, securely tucking my blanket around me.

I had to laugh in thanks. I have a loving provider in my husband, who cares for me in little and big ways. Friends and family express love through calls, meals, visits, notes. And I even get tucked in by my little canine.

There are many who are finding it difficult to feel any gratitude right now: between mass shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes and fires, our country is in a world of hurt. I can’t imagine the horror country fans in Vegas felt as they began to realize what they thought were firecrackers were really bullets. Or the agony of watching your home and belongings burn before your eyes in Sonoma, surrounding counties, and in Southern California. And my heart breaks for these.

There was a time in my own life when I experienced severe depression. I wasn’t able to push past the pain to find any gratitude, I asked God to hold me, confessing I had nothing with which to hold onto Him. And He did. Because He is faithful.

As I pray for the many who are in emotional, physical and spiritual pain right now, I also pray for the firefighters and police personnel who are trying to bring stability and order out of chaos. And I pray that we as a nation might lean into Jesus for hope, comfort, restoration, peace, for repentance as we turn our hearts back to Him.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”   Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV

*From a hymn written by Mosie Lister.

It’s a Parade!

Nurse Paigey on my lap while I recover

I wish I’d had a long selfie stick to capture the moment. Following major surgery last week, I’d had quite a good day at home with lovely visits (and meals) from dear friends. I’d probably overdone it. That night, despite my medications, I was hurting significantly and couldn’t find a pain free position in which to sleep. At about midnight, I told Don I’d go sleep in the recliner in the family room.

Don said he would join me and followed me out of our room, pillows in hand. Walking down the hall, I heard the patter of softly padded paws trotting behind Don. Our little parade of 3 settled onto the recliners and slept thru the night, together. Every time that picture enters my mind I chuckle…this was family, working together toward recovery.

Before having total shoulder replacement surgery, both Don and I thought about the possibility of complications. When it came time, we each had to release our concerns to the Lord, trusting He knew our present and our future.
Afterward, my wonderful surgeon said all had gone well. Several times during the day and night following, I wakened to an enveloping sense of peace and quiet. And a sense of wonder infused my spirit. It was over. I was here. God was here. Don was here.

Now I’m home, with loving thanks to you who’ve sent cards, notes, called, and brought meals. My four-legged buddy has kept very close tabs on me since being home, cuddling up against me at night, sticking close during the day. My two-legged wonder, Don, even watched a shoulder replacement surgery with me online (well THAT explains the bruising!), cared for me, warmed meals, cleaned and laundered.

We have an amazing God who not only fashioned us within our mothers’ wombs, but has given man the tools and experience to rebuild damaged parts of the body. I give thanks!

So we’re into recovery. A day at a time. Grace for each day. Surrounded by love, trusting that I will also respond with grace when pain persists.