Don’t Lose Touch

You and me – we don’t cherish difficulties. We don’t look forward to seeing what’s on the other side of hard. Fortunately, that’s normal.

After several days of trying to figure out ‘why’, ‘how’, and a lot of ‘I can’ts’, I was weary. Body and soul. I was still in my Bible daily. Still praying. But as I went to bed one night, I realized I wasn’t talking to my Father as I tried to get comfortable and leave all the unknowns alone. That was not normal.

Although I didn’t do a very good job of it, I called out from my heart and told my great big God: ‘Yes, I’m angry. Disillusioned. Sad. I confessed I questioned why He would allow such troubles. He already knew all this, of course. But I didn’t. I was trying to be the strong Christian woman. And in those moments of releasing those pent up accusations, He blissfully let me fall asleep. “Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

I wish I could say I woke up in the morning and all was well – in many ways, it wasn’t. But in one important way it was. I had been reminded that Christ is faithful. Giving us just what we need, when we need it. I think we often expect that since we’re followers of His, all should be sunshine and roses. How could it be? This is a sin sick world. It’s been spinning towards destruction since Adam and Eve chose their own way.

My mother used to say “Into each life, a little rain must fall.” She forgot to tell me that sometimes it’s just sprinkles and sometimes its hurricanes. All this stuff of life, makes us long for a someday. And the only someday that will fix it all, is the first one in the presence of Jesus. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3 BSB)

When we lose touch with the One who gave His life for us, it doesn’t mean we’ve lost our salvation. It doesn’t mean we’re bad. It also doesn’t mean He loves us less. It means we’re human, still growing into the plans He has for us. We let go of His hand sometimes, but He holds us in the palm of his hand. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28 BSB)

Don’t lose touch. Hold on tight. Through the valleys He goes before us. The Holy Spirit never leaves us. His touch on our souls is forever ours. And our forever is a guarantee.

Every Morning

Morning person or night owl? I’ve always been an early riser – love to greet the day (these days earlier than necessary but that’s an age thing and a whole other subject, not going there).

In that stillness of pre-dawn, I pad around while my hubby blissfully gets in his last snoozes. I glance up often from my reading to see if the sky is beginning to turn lighter. When it does, I go out, breathing in the damp, Florida air and look heavenward to see how the Master Artist is painting the new day. But lately, I haven’t been as enthusiastic.

Around here there’s been stuff that weighs one down. It hangs around and tries to block the view of what is real and important and worth noticing. And, at times, it wins. I find myself looking inward instead of around. Finding what’s wrong instead of enjoying what’s right. Because…I forget. When we forget Who and focus on what, it’s easy to lose sight of what was once joy. “The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, You call forth songs of joy.(Psalm 65:8 NIV)

This weight of life, we were not meant to bear alone. Even loved ones and friends are not our burden bearers. There is only One. He won’t take it from us, but He will gladly accept it. And just when we think we can’t – then we finally realize truth: we can’t.

It is hard. During loss or grief or pain or fear or whatever our hard thing is, I can testify that when I finally melt down and just simply say I can’t, He makes a way. The burden lightens, sometimes just enough to breathe – and that is enough for then. “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.” (Psalm 143:8 NIV)

There’s a little read book in the Bible, Lamentations. As its name indicates, it’s full of woe and dreariness. And the author, Jeremiah, lived a lot of woe. But in the midst of it all, a ray of sun shines through. And what Jeremiah momentarily forgot, what we forget sometimes hourly, is what our souls crave: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

And so, He does it once again (and again and again). And another day closes and the hope of a new morning awaits. As you’re reading this, if you find yourself in that place where ‘I can’t’ is all you know to say, don’t hold back. Shout it out. In the release of that exhausted breath, the Holy Spirit will hold you once more. The Jesus who hung on the cross and bore more burdens than we can even imagine, will gladly take yours.

God’s promises are truth, they all come to pass. Some day we will see His face and not even a vague memory of this journey will linger. Until then we can join the chorus and sing:

Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me —– EVERY morning!

What we need to: hear

I’m a words person. Years ago, Gary Smalley wrote the 5 Love Languages; mine is words. Flowers don’t do it. Gifts are ok. But a card with love words and additional handwritten sentiment, that’s what means the most to me. Our voice isn’t just verbal, it comes through in what we write to others.

Notice that God showers the earth with flowers, gives us gifts of life, children, our very breath. But He made sure to write down all we need to know and filled the pages with a love so deep we can’t even begin to fathom how it could be. He wants us to know His voice even when we don’t audibly hear it. Then there is no mistaking it.

Many will come along saying they are speaking for God. There have been before, and there will be again, those who claim to be God. Only if we hear His voice through the Bible, will we know they are the false ones – out to deceive. John 10 is a beautiful illustration of Jesus as our Shepherd. This verse is key: “But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will flee from him because they do not recognize his voice.” (John 10:5 BSB)

Thirty-nine years into marriage, I recognize my husband’s voice; know my children’s and friends’ voices. There are authors whose writing styles I love. I’ve never heard them speak, but their voice comes through their writing. Our God wants us to know Him well – for He knows us better than we know ourselves.

I don’t know about you but starting each day with a word from the Savior is a comfort I need to get through. “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2Corinthians 1:4 NLT)

On board a flight recently, I skipped taking a decongestant that helps my ears during take-off and landing. The pilot did a slow-circle-the-storm kind of landing. My ear began to build pressure. By the time we landed I almost couldn’t hear out of it.

Everything was muffled, like I was in a tunnel. I had to watch my husband speak to make out his words as a cacophony of other voices drifted around us. Our spiritual ears need to be tuned to the Holy Spirit. Lots of other voices will try to persuade us.

What we need to hear are Truth words, being sure our hearts and souls are grounded in the Word of the Lord. Then our words will shine the good news of eternal life and of hope and of love. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 BSB) Hear Christ’s voice.

What we need to: see

Never a dull moment – I think that about sums up life these days, right? I for one am a bit weary and long for a break, a quiet, a sense it’s all okay.

Recently we flew to see our out-of-state son and his family. The visit was wonderful – some of the mishaps along the way…not so much. The first night I woke up to extreme vertigo – having never experienced this, I was freaking out. Trying to right a spinning world in a hotel room, hundreds of miles from home, and not wanting to ruin the trip – not my idea of a good time.

Vertigo is just plain scary. Nothing looks right or feels right. All you want in the midst of it, is to see clearly. There is a story of a man born blind, all his years spent in the darkness. As Jesus and His disciples approach where he is, they inquire of the Lord why he was born blind, was it sin?

Jesus assures them this is not the case. You can read the full account in John 9. But the most poignant moment is found towards the end of the story. The man did not see who healed him, for he was sent by Jesus to go wash his eyes. Nobody believed he was who he said he was – or they thought perhaps he had never really been blind. A miracle happened and doubt was the response.

But the man knew. When questioned about who did it, he told them ‘the man called Jesus’ – but having never seen Him he didn’t know Him. Things got so out of hand, the priests threw him out of the temple.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, He said “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is He, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in Him.” Jesus said “You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him. (John 9:35-38 NIV)

There are several things happening in this passage: finding, telling, seeing, hearing, believing, worshipping. Jesus purposely looked for the man, Jesus told him who He was, the man saw, the man heard, the man believed and he worshiped.

Today, we do not see Jesus in flesh, but we can see His followers. We can see His written Word. We can see with our heart and soul and spirit. The question is: will we worship? It is the only response a truly surrendered heart can have to such a gift as Messiah. The story is an illustration for our lives – to seek others out and to tell His story, by telling our story of God in our lives. A tired world needs to see the Jesus in you.

Recap

The last few weeks I’ve woven a faith journey into a road trip taken earlier this summer. Today, I’m who knows how high above the earth, with someone else at the wheel.

Keeping it short this week by taking a few moments to ponder the ways the Lord leads us. Turns out there a many, many verses throughout the Bible that have to do with journeys, roads, paths, the way, following Him. Below are just a few, I encourage you to find more. (A good resource when you’re looking for a verse about a topic or with a specific word is: http://www.biblehub.com.)

Psalm 119:05 Who are those who fear the LORD? He will show them the path they should choose. (NLT)

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will give you counsel and watch over you. (BSB)

Psalm 27:11 Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me on a straight path because of my oppressors. (NIV)

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. (NLT)

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (ESV)

Proverbs 3:17 (speaking of wisdom) Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. (NIV)

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV)

And so many more. The best journey we can take in life is one spent daily reading the Bible and finding the way to our true home. May all your paths lead to Jesus…

Getting There

The last few days of our back roads trip started with a final descent leaving foothills in the rearview mirror. But not without one last hold-on-to-the-wheel-here-we-go moment.

I thought the twists and turns were behind us, it was okay a few more were left, but our timing made it a bit more treacherous. Shortly after climbing a hill and making a turn, a dense fog set in. I noticed as I made the turn a law enforcement car turned the same way. As I ever so slowly crept through the curves trying to see more than the three feet in front of me, I was glad someone who knew the road and would help if I messed up, was behind me.

Consider this verse: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV) Solomon, who wrote this verse, chose some great paths, but too often he chose his own way and learned the hard way. He spent a lot of time writing about wisdom – ironically it was the one thing he asked God for and the thing he often neglected.

That foggy road was not near as winding or steep as the others had been. The difference was my vision was limited. In life when we are going along and all is falling into place, it’s easy to see what the next step should be.

But when we hit those places where everything has suddenly changed, and not for the better, we lose sight of the way. We begin to doubt God – we retreat, or we pull up our ‘bootstraps’ – either way, we want out. Oh, we of little faith.

That is the joy and peace of knowing Jesus as Savior. Just like the officer in the car behind me, our Messiah never leaves us. We may feel all alone, wondering why we are on this road. But the truth is, as we most often discover, our constant Companion is faithful, even when we are not.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 BSB) We must never forget this – the world would lead us down its broad road – and it does appear easier, happier. But the road that will leave all sorrow and pain, heartache and body ailments, fear and death in the rearview mirror, that road is a bit more challenging to navigate.

In the end, it leads to LIFE. Getting there is an earth journey full of triumphs and defeats, sorrows and joy for all mankind, believer or doubter. Which road are you on? Do you know the way? The narrow road to life is a forever of all God intended for His beloved creation; the broad road, that’s a sorrow-filled eternity.

The Climb

Native Florida girl that I am, elevation changes make my ears pop. Lots of chewing gum and yawning. But something about those Tennessee/North Carolina mountains beckons me.

Thinking I had already tackled the most challenging part of driving on this trip, I had no idea what I was in for as we set out to begin the trek on the backroads home. We woke to no electricity – also meaning no running water. So, we set out early thinking we would get breakfast in a quaint town just twenty-seven miles away.

Abraham’s story in the Old Testament is fascinating. Full of ups and downs – and a whole lot of faith. Not only did God call him to leave everything he knew and go to an unknown place, the Lord promised him a son. Just when he thought it was never going to happen, Sarah bore Isaac. Their pride and joy. A few years later: “Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2 NIV)

Umm, Abraham was old – Sarah was old. Isacc was it. But faithful man that he was, he made the three-day trip (walking). And then, he and Isaac, had to climb a mountain – no trails marked out or cleared.

Long story short, as Abraham was about to show his devotion and love of God, exceeding that of his love of Isaac, God provided the sacrificial ram. And we have the benefit of a powerful witness showing us how we are to respond in our life’s challenges.

What I thought was going to be about forty minutes before I was sitting in front of a hot breakfast – was actually about two hours with a steep elevation climb of two thousand feet – and then a descent of another thousand feet. Once we made it, only one place in town was open – and take-out pastries and coffee were it. Pout. Acquiesce.

“…Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone.” (Matthew 17:1b NLT) And the events that happened next, they will never forget. But first they had to climb the mountain – probably grumbling a bit, wondering how long. The very voice of God spoke on that mountain, and all the struggle to get there was forgotten. I bet when they came down, they were practically floating in amazement.

My journey that day wasn’t quite as significant, but it was a teaching moment with lessons I can carry. Things like, expect the unexpected when you’re in unfamiliar territory and embrace it. Things like, look for the beauty and provision in what is there, not what you hoped was there. And most of all, that Jesus makes the climbs with us, and steadies us on the descents. Our lives are gonna have hard climbs, but someday there’s going to be a forever that we can’t even begin to fathom. “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1Corinthians 2:9 NLT)

Coasting

There were stretches on our back roads adventure that were smooth sailing. Easy roads without elevation changes or blind curves. Other than watching the speed limit, we could coast along enjoying the scenery.

Thankfully we have times in our lives like that as well. Days where all our plans come together. Months where no one gets sick. But I’ve found we don’t stay in coasting mode long.

David, (as in the greatest King Israel ever had), met many obstacles on his path towards ruling the nation of Israel. But then came the time of coasting. Life is good: wealth, popularity, heirs. What more could he want? So, when he neglected to lead his army on an expedition and decided instead to stay home, coasting up to the roof for some nighttime fresh air made for a whole lot of trouble. (See 2Samuel 11-12)

We tend to enjoy life when all seems well, we tend also to forget/neglect/ignore God. We get a little too comfortable. We begin to think we deserve the break, the financial security, the lack of conflict, the good health, the esteem.

I’m not saying God allows troubles to come our way just when things are going well. God is always about our good and His glory. Honestly, it really comes down to our priorities getting off track – forgetting how much we need to stay connected to our Savior – that leads to many of our issues. “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other!” (Revelation 3:15 BSB – see 3:14-22 for how the Lord feels about our apathy)

Then again, God does often get our attention in a way that will grow us. And there’s the fact that we live in a fallen world, and we can’t escape those effects. As I drove the easy stretches of road, taking in all the scenery, I would sometimes hear the bump bump bump of having gone over the double yellow line; or the rerouting of the gps because I missed a turn. Both got my attention, both helped me pay attention to what was important.

The church at Laodicea mentioned above in Revelation 3 looked like they followed Jesus. But the Holy Spirit knows our hearts. Outward appearances aren’t enough. God wants our hearts. Not because it benefits Him, but because He knows it’s what we need to truly live the life He has routed out for us. “The Lord does not look at things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7b NIV)

Our enemy is sly (satan) and deception is his specialty. We can’t let him, or the world distract us. Keeping focused on the journey towards eternity, whether we’re in coasting mode or survival mode, will get us to where we’re going. “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NLT)

Winding Road

Mountain roads can be tricky. The curves, switchbacks, and altitude climbs aren’t for the faint of heart. Our most recent excursion was the most challenging. While I truly enjoy driving those mountain roads, these particularly put me to the test.

If you go back to the book of Genesis, you’ll discover Joseph. Way too much to tell about him here, but suffice it to say his brothers were super jealous of him and the actions they took put him on a winding road with lots of challenges for many years. How would you react if every time you did the right thing, you wound up in jail forgotten?

Winding roads – like when you buy a home, then lose a job. When you plan on children, then can’t conceive. When you celebrate an anniversary, and your spouse unexpectedly passes away. These are stories of our lives. Where is God? Joseph, like us, probably questioned God many times along the way. In the end it was obvious to him and he declared “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:8 NIV)

Relief came when I saw the sign for the turnout for the waterfall trail. It was nice to park and stretch. The thought occurred to me that the walking trail might have a few turns of its own – but there was promise of a reward.

Fortunately, the hike was nowhere near as windy as the drive, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves standing behind a waterfall. Water roaring over the side so loud we could barely hear each other talk. It was worth the drive.

Fast forward to the book of Acts. A man named Saul (later called Paul) was at the zenith of his ‘career’ – a Pharisee of Pharisees as he was known. It hadn’t been long since Jesus had risen from the dead and gone back to heaven, when Paul decided it was his duty to round up every follower of Christ and squash their foolishness.

But God…He had other plans for Paul. On the road to Damascus, which had enough challenges of its own, suddenly Paul was blinded. He was led, by those with him, groping the rest of the way to town; for three days he refused food or drink. The ironic part is the house he was led to was on a road called Straight Street.

A man named Ananias was sent to Paul by God. After saying to Paul all God had instructed him to say, the Holy Spirit did His mighty work. Paul’s blindness left him and the first thing he wanted to do was be baptized as a follower of the Savior. Only God takes us from our winding roads and leads us to Straight Street. God used Paul to write most of the New Testament. Just like Paul, we are blinded by our selfish hearts – and just like Paul, we can follow our winding road straight to eternity. Every curve is worth that reward. “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17 NIV) He wants to do the same for us!

Road Trip

(For the next few weeks I invite you to go on a road trip with me. Some of them will be uphill, some winding, some smooth – but the final destination is worth the trip.)

Done any road trips this summer? We did – with a twist. We decided that once we left Florida, we would avoid all major highways and only take back roads. It took longer, but it was worth it.

This reminds me of life. So often I just want to take the direct route, get the outcome I want, and go on to the next thing. While the destinations may not have always looked like I thought, I wouldn’t change them.

Whether you’re a Bible scholar or on the fence about Jesus, I’m thinking you’ve heard of Moses. From the beginning his journey was a bit precarious. But the part everyone remembers is Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. The road they were on led straight to the Red Sea with the army of Egypt close behind. The miracle of the sea parting and walking through on dry land has got to be the ultimate journey. The Red Sea Road, God’s provision at its most spectacular. But somewhere on the other side, the gps got lost…for forty years. Yikes! (Exodus starting at the end of chapter 13)

While I don’t think we’ll see seas parted, that doesn’t mean we won’t see God make a way. Sometimes we insist on making our own way – and wander about for days and maybe years. But when that dead end stops us, Jesus isn’t saying ‘Told you so’. More like, ‘This way, follow Me’.

I have an innate sense of direction and a good memory for how to get places I’ve been on previous travels. But sometimes there’s another way, a better way. So, instead of second guessing the GPS, I followed – and it was an easier route to the mountaintop. Hmmm, wish I would apply that to life. Our GPS (if you’re a follower of Jesus) is the Holy Spirit. But sometimes…we just don’t listen. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 BSB)

Here’s the funny thing, I’m a momma of three and grammy to six, daily I pray they don’t have hard roads. Wishing they could learn from my mistakes. It doesn’t work that way (much to my dismay). For each of us God has a purpose, a plan, a destination. How we get there, that’s another thing.

I get to do the driving on our trips – my hubby is content to sit back and enjoy the ride (make his phone calls and keep up with business). That pretty much correlates to my life at times. At the wheel, going my way. I’ve learned – slowly – that it’s a pretty good idea to let Jesus lead.

He knows the way. We’ll avoid a lot more potholes and, though they won’t be completely without hazards, we’ll be on the right track. Still ready to join me on a journey the next few weeks? I’ll share some crazy roads with you – and our Father, God Almighty, will tell us about some He’s led others along too. “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” (Psalm 145:3 NIV)

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