Even When I don’t Feel It He’s Working …

*Note: my computer tells me this was not posted as scheduled last week. If it is a repeat, I apologize; but I am scheduling it again in case it never posted as planned. Thank you.

You know how sometimes you feel God’s presence? And other times you just feel like there’s a wall between the two of you?

I’ve always been taught that feelings follow faith. That my relationship with God is not dependent on how I feel on a particular day, but on the truth of what Jesus did for me at the Cross. That’s a great thing, because my feelings can be like a roller coaster from day to day, depending on how I slept, what I ate, whether I’m feeling overwhelmed by demands on my time and energy.

Our church had a special worship night Wednesday. Don and I pulled into the parking lot a few minutes early, to find the lot almost full. We walked into the church to find the seating rearranged to give an “in the round” feeling. There was a spirit of anticipation, of eagerness to meet God, in the house.

SONY DSC

The music was great, with mic’d vocalists scattered among the congregants. Bill Hayden, Pastor of the Villages Chapel, shared an anointed message of God’s power and grace. For the past 15 years he has lived with pacemakers. Recently, a parasitic infection from a well known restaurant led to a crisis because of which Pastor Bill required an immediate heart transplant.

Amazingly, God provided that transplant. Pastor Bill reported that the doctors were all amazed at how quickly everything moved.

God is always at work. One of our worship song says “even when I don’t feel it He’s working. Even when I don’t see it He’s working.” We are told to walk by faith. We don’t always feel God’s presence but he is always present and at work.

And what a joy when we do feel it, see it. I felt it Wednesday night–the power, the faithfulness, the goodness of God. Bless his holy name!  

What is Heaven Like?

“What is heaven like?” This, as well as “How is my Papa?” were questions some of my Kids’ Club third graders wanted to ask God.  

What great questions. And can we ask God without offending Him?

Yes! We have a Father who loves us and wants us to know Him better. Questions asked from a seeking heart are welcome.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

James 1:5

Heaven. What will it be like? What are those we love who have preceded us into glory experiencing in the presence of Christ?

I love these words from a popular praise song: “For He holds the keys to the grave and forever He will reign.” (From Praise the Invisible by Harvest)   

The hymnist Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1932) wrote

“When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see,
’twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me.”

I Stand Amazed in the Presence

My dear ninety-eight year old mother is eager to go to her heavenly home. She has walked with Jesus since she was a little girl, and helped me to know Him as well. She can hardly wait to worship her Lord face to face, and to meet her beloved husband, my father, who preceded her to glory eighteen years ago.

I too look forward to meeting the One who holds the keys to the grave, who will reign forever. To meet Jesus face to face, to be reunited with loved ones who have gone before, to meet Moses and the prophets and apostles.

Meanwhile I continue to thank God for leading me day by day, for the relationship we have now that will continue into eternity, for my husband and family and friends and life and the beauty of creation.

And I will work to help my third grade kids find answers to their questions.

Bait and Switch

The afternoon was warm and balmy. We walked down the oceanfront street, shops beckoning with beautiful wares. A young woman, cute hat atop her pretty, long brown hair, reached out to hand me samples of skin products.

I usually say ‘no’ and keep walking, which I started to do again. But she was insistent and I took the samples, dropping them into my bag.

“You have such pretty eyes,” she said (oh, does that appeal to my ego??). “Let me give you something for them.”

“Only if I can keep walking,” I said, thinking she would hand me another sample and Don and I would be on our way.

“Yes, just a minute. Come here.” And with that she drew me (and by default, my sweet husband) into the store, lathered some cream under my eye and told me to let it set. Then she did the same to Don. Well … not a good time to walk out!

“Wallah,” Leah said a few minutes later. “You have a great result. Look how the wrinkles have lessened. You too Mr. Don.” And they had. Between her lovely Israeli accent and fast speech it wasn’t always easy to keep up with what she said.

Then she offered us a “treatment” as part of the package, and Chloe took over. She showed us another product, much, much more costly, and how it would take years off our (‘beautiful, handsome’) faces. We told her we didn’t want to purchase it.

“But isn’t your health, your face worth doing something for yourself? You’ve spent your lives helping others. Now what about you?”

Oh, is that ever a lie of the devil! Chloe wasn’t happy when we told her it simply wasn’t how we wanted to spend our money. But she was still gracious and we left.

Those of you who know me know I’m not averse to shopping! But I don’t appreciate being grabbed by a hook (the samples, the compliments) and then getting a pressured sales job for something that’s way out of my price point and out of line with my budget and priorities.

These women were GOOD–fast talkers, persuasive, lovely, complimentary, constantly buttering up in order to appeal to ego, insecurity, whatever. Don and I talked about the experience later and were able to laugh together. We also realized that, had we succumbed, we would have felt sick with guilt and remorse afterward.

The experience reminded me of bygone days in Puerto Vallarta, a timeshare salesperson on every corner. If they could get our attention we were hooked for 30-90 minutes. If we tried to be polite and say “no thanks”, they had us. We learned to say nothing and keep walking.

It’s a typical “bait and switch”. Bait the individual with samples, with compliments, then once you’ve made eye contact, draw them into your spiehl (how is that spelled anyway?).

Satan does this–he promises happiness, fun, success. “Do it my way,” he whispers. “It’s time to take care of yourself instead of everyone else.” But his lies often come at a very high price. Health problems, addictions, debt, family dysfunctions … when true peace and joy and love are found at the feet of Jesus.

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (Jesus)

John 10:10b

And while we all make wrong or unwise decisions along the way, we also have the privilege of returning to the Father to receive forgiveness and cleansing.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9

I want to be wise, to recognize the ‘bait and switch’ maneuvers of the world, the flesh and the devil, and find my peace, my security, my hope, in the only person who gives freely, without reservation, and in truth. No lies, no bait and switch, no high cost of sin. Just walking in truth.

Have you experienced ‘bait and switch’? I’d like to hear about it, whether it’s in a sales environment, your walk with God, or something else.

Togetherness

Two weeks until Super Bowl Sunday … and yesterday our 49’ers fought their way into the SB game. Some of you may be delighted that KC is the other team entering the fray for February 2nd.

It was an exciting day, with my mother, brother and sister-in-law and one of their sons’ families here.

As we watched and cheered and sidelined the plays, we also visited. I enjoyed some conversation with Mom and saw her reading to her great-granddaughter on the couch.

Kyle, Don and I enjoyed time together before the others arrived. Sheila, Heather and I talked about how life might change for Heather once her Cadence starts kindergarten this Fall, and some of what Don and I have been discussing regarding priorities.

I am grateful for events that bring family and friends together … whether it’s a bi-weekly Family Night, as we generally celebrate with those of our family who are still in the area; a football game, or Super Bowl; or a special holiday; or even when someone is ill and others draw alongside to comfort, encourage and help. And I recognize that in our world we have many opportunities for such gatherings to which individuals in other countries and cultures may not be privy.

God has given us the family as a wonderful system of support, encouragement, accountability, training and love. Because of evil in the world, the family often breaks down into abuse, dysfunction, greed. But when family members love and care for one another, the relationships are a tremendous gift.

And there’s another Family God has given us.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.

I John 1:1-3

Amazing to think that when we trust Christ we are called children of God, and are therefore brothers and sisters with each other. This family, too, can become dysfunctional. Selfishness, greed, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, all enter at times. Despite the forgiveness and grace of God, we are still sinful persons in process of becoming like Christ. And we are challenged to forgive and receive forgiveness, to restore relationships because of God’s great love and sacrifice for us. To be freed of the guilt of sin, the shame of hurtful actions, is an amazing gift.

Last Wednesday and Thursday I enjoyed an overnight get-together with six delightful women with whom I was in a Bible study for several years. Half of the group has moved away from our area, so this was a rich and fun time to be together. We laughed and commented on fashions and interactions as we watched the Downton Abbey movie; as five of us converged on one bed Thursday morning to chat; and as we opened our hearts to share a rich time of sharing and praying for each other. Another wonderful gift!

So today I’m thankful for both my families–the relations by blood and by marriage, and those I received by entering the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that I will be willing to ask for, and to give, forgive-ness in both; and to humbly receive forgiveness offered in love. And that I will rejoice in any opportunity to be with either or both families for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and loving each other.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

What’s a special tradition you celebrate with family or friends?

LEAN

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

The game was close, the players intense. Suddenly a Viking went down, the ball spiraling out of his hands. A Saint picked it up and, in the melee around the player on the ground, ran a clean run into the end zone for a TD! Wow, no obstacles in his way. He grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, literally!

That TD was taken away from the Saints because the knee of the Viking who initially carried the ball was on the ground before the ball left his hands, taking it out of play.

Nevertheless, I was impressed with the Saint who took advantage of the opportunity at hand.

How often do we take advantage of such opportunities to live or share our faith? When a ball is fumbled, do we grab it and run with it, regardless of the outcome?

And what about when I’m the one doing the fumbling? Irritable, moody, feeling overwhelmed with the day to day tasks of life? Do I look for ways to work through those feelings or allow them to overtake and overrun me?

Two of my grandnephews, one ‘leaning’ on the other – a picture of how I’ve felt this week!

In my last post I wrote about looking for my word for the year. I thought it might be GAZE – to gaze on my God and take in His presence, His peace, His character. I’ve tweaked it a bit, to LEAN. I choose to lean on, and into, Jesus in the ups and downs and sleepless nights and writing pressures and joys and challenges that make up the patterns of my life. So if you see me grouchy, out of sorts, or needing encouragement, feel free to remind me to LEAN.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17