Change is Enividible-What Can We Do?

     Change is all around us; some good, some not so good, and some traumatic. You may feel like you are continually experiencing it. Or ask, as do I, questions like why it seems that things are always in flux? What is especially frustrating and most of us have or will experience this sometime in our lives is when you seem to get caught in whirlwind, quicksand, or whirlpool. You may have experienced it. When something negative happens and seems to trigger a series of chain-like events and you can begin to forget what normal life feels like when this happens.
 
     Why am I writing about this? Three reasons. First I seem to be in a contemplative season in my life, and secondly, it seems to have the potential to suck me in and drag me down as described above by the terms whirlpool or quick-sand. Lastly, I woke up this morning with a song stuck in my head (more about that in a bit).
 
So what can we do when this happens?
 
     If you are a believer, my first advice is to pray and listen for the answers and search for them in the Word of God. I get it; sometimes this is hard. There are seasons when we don’t know what or how to pray BUT we have an intercessor praying for us, and He knows how to pray and how to translate our groanings and our outcries when we don’t understand what to say!
 
     Personally, sometimes all I can utter is Lord, help or Jesus…  Second, we are not the only one experiencing troubles, we are not alone though it may feel like we are. When we feel like we are, we hesitate to let others come along beside us to help carry the burden. Maybe we are embarrassed, shamed. That is usually the enemies attack and tactic to keep us isolated from others and God. We also need to remember plenty of God’s people experienced seasons like this and overcame them. Most of the best known and revered people from Biblical times found this to be true. Sampson was consecrated as a Nazarite and had taken a vow; he met with temptations that he succumbed to, like taking honey out of a lion carcass, dating and marrying outside his own culture, and other such shenanigans.  Still, he did mighty things for God, and his life counted. There’s also Moses, Jacob, Rahab, Saul, also known as Paul, King David and the list could keep going. This situation is NOT the end of our story unless we choose to let it be!
 
     Next, one thing that has been helpful to me was to stop watching the news. I did this personally in 2003. I will occasionally watch world news, major events and I’ll check in for weather events briefly. Mostly I avoid it like the plague. It is just too much. I once counted up the hours our local stations run news. It is in the neighborhood of eight hours every single day. They start a story and continue it in the next hour, and possibly again in the following hour. Perhaps hoping you’ll stick around and watch it all. If you do, you are inundated with the same tragic and horrifying stories over and over. What has this got to do with change? When we are struggling with a difficult season of life, hearing ghastly stories about our communities, cities, and the world repeatedly; it seems so much worse than if we’d only heard them once. It is not helpful. The truth is, you’ll still come across plenty to keep you current whether it posted on social media, a notification on your phone, or walking by a store display or news stand! Continually watching it can be stressful at best and depressing at it’s worst.
 
 Our minds are bombarded every single day. Pulling back on some of the access gives our brains a rest and gives us more time to do things we enjoy whether it is a hobby, exercise to relieve stress, read, meditate, or get more sleep which so many of us are deprived.  Rest helps, it may not answer the problem, but things look much better when we get proper amounts of rest.
 
That brings me to the song…
 
     This morning I woke up a song on my mind, or more accurately my heart. That isn’t unusual for me, but the song was. Recently, I heard a song I remembered from childhood in the seventies. It was written or released in 1963, but my exposure was later. “The Sound of Silence” was re-released recently by Pentatonix and I ran across the video and listened. Did I mention I’ve been in a reflective state lately? So I pulled up the lyrics and began to read them and think about them. Some people thought them rather dark, which I had never considered. I found them more prophetic than dark. In the early sixties, a few saw them predictive of the so-called Hippie or free love movements according to some. My thoughts ran to the changes I have seen in our culture over my lifetime as I listened. I ran across another rendition by Disturbed. I was not familiar with them; I decided to go and look at their interpretation of the song. It seemed powerful, serious, and poignant.  It was possibly a bit darker but considering all the changes in life and culture during my years on the planet. It seems accurate and still prophetic. 
 
Exerpt from ‘Sound Of Silence’:
“And in the naked light, I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
 
“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence, like  cancer, grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed the wells, of silence
 
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out it’s warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”
Paul Simon
 
 
      Also in 1963, prayer was taken out of schools. Ten years later, Roe vs. Wade passed making abortion legal. Though the majority at the time were against these acts, the vocal minority won; perhaps because of the sound of silence. That has happened many times throughout history from ancient times up until current events. The Holocaust is one example, though there have been many other examples as well. Different times and different places, but the sound of silence has allowed travesties to happen over and over and if good men/people do nothing or say nothing; it will continue. 
 
     As in recent news, yep it still gets through, even without watching, it may be particularly prophetic. Controversial bills are passing to allow abortion up until the babies due date; the law to protect babies born alive in late-term failed abortions failed to pass; a seventeen-year-old gave birth at home and stabbed her just born baby, taking it’s life. All shocking and devastating, especially the last! Yet, enough of the government representatives opposed the protection of life bill so that it didn’t pass, and her country says it is the mothers right whether to choose life or not. So, maybe based on that, she thought it was okay, despite the devastation to her life and the babies. She is charged with murder; as would someone be  who had attacked a mother and caused the death of her baby before it had been born — mixed signals from our laws. contraversial things we hesitate to speak out about and remain silent.
 
      Whether it be on a community, city, state or national level or a personal level, silence can be detrimental and cause devastation. We need to be there for each other, be reasonable and have mature conversations even when we have disagreements;  we need to find common ground. Sadly, a vast majority get deeply offended; of those, some become silent, and others become vocal to the point of being abusive and unkind. Still, others are marginalized and seem voiceless. 
 
     As I read Colossians 3, something stuck out to me that I’d never considered from this passage:
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Col. 3:1-4 NASB
 
 
     I have read this a lot but this time what struck me was when it says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth”;  just maybe it meant not only to not get caught up in possessions, jobs, wealth, or cares of the world; and possibly “gods of their own making” as referenced in the song. Perhaps it means not letting the things we see, hear and experience get to us but to refocus immediately on God when issues come trying to inundate us and give them to Him before they cause fear, concern, temptations and other negative, unproductive feelings and actions to creep into our lives.
 
I had previously only considered it as a warning against getting too caught up in the world, but now it seems clear that it is a protection, a plea for us to keep our focus above on Jesus rather than getting caught in the snares that can lead our hearts into troublesome places. Places that can cause us to lose our direction and silence our voice rather than follow the next directions:
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”  Col.3:12-17 NASB
 
 
     You may wonder how the above passage fits into this train of thought, I did. Honestly, we all desperately need some grace!  We need to give it to others; we also need to give it to ourselves sometimes. We need God’s grace and mercy. Silence is sometimes appropriate; other times it is deadly. 
 
      God help us to have the wisdom to know when to speak; when to reach out for help; and when to hold our tongue.  Grant us the courage to speak up and speak out when the time is right. Help us to reach out when we are overwhelmed, first to You for wisdom and then lead us to those we can trust for help that won’t add to our burden. Grant us wisdom in what and how much we open ourselves up to in the form of news and entertainment and help us find alternative ways to spend our time to protect our mind and heart where it is needed. Help us remember everyone is going through something at any given time and strength to show kindness, mercy, and grace whenever possible.  In Jesus mighty name, Amen.
 

Grace and peace to you!

Secret to a Well-Watered Garden

If our lives were a garden, what kind of garden would we be? Interesting how our day can shift in just a moment in time! That is if we can be flexible. This morning an interesting topic came up, and I began to research it. It was one simple word– dry. My plan: to thoroughly examine this concept throughout Scripture.

The first suggested reference was Isaiah 58:11: “And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones, and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB)

I was totally hooked and fully submitted to where God would lead this particular thought because WHO wouldn’t like to find themselves guided in all the day-in and day-out decisions which are required of them? Who would not love to have every desire satisfied; especially in the dry and scorched places!! How often do we find ourselves in desperate need of strength? A well-watered garden is a perfect example of a beautiful and quiet place; usually with songbirds singing and just an all around quiet peacefulness-a delight to the senses! Can you just picture such a place? A person who personifies this description?

If you’ve been around awhile, you know it is a must for me to go back further into the text to make sure I have a grasp of as much context of the passage as I can for correct understanding; so I dialed back to Isaiah 57:14 for greater understanding.

The later part of Isaiah 57 is all about God’s forgiveness for those who are repentant. Interestingly, it is more about God’s actions and responses to His people. Verse 13 clearly states that whoever trusts in God will inherit the land and possess His holy mountain. God instructs Isaiah to rebuild the road; moving all rocks and stones. It’s to be a smooth road without rocks and stones so that His people can return from captivity to the safety, protection, and freedom in His presence. They had been led away captive by greediness and the desire to go their stubborn ways. Now, it is His desire for them to return to live with Him in the high and holy place; His requirement– a contrite (remorseful) and humble spirit.

Many will think this is a steep price to pay; others fail to see any need for remorse or humility. For those who find it within themselves to return to Him, He promises restoration and courage. In fact, He also has a promise for those who had remained in their stubbornness. Though He was angry, punished the greedy and withdrew from those who kept to their stubborn ways; He declares that He will heal them.
He pledges comfort for the mourners; also, abundant peace. But for the wicked, there is no peace. They will be like a churning ocean; without rest.

In Isaiah 58, we come across the contrast of real and false worship. False worship is described distinctly as worship that is self-seeking, self-pleasing and done with the expectation of recognition or reward. Some would call this form or worship religion rather than relationship; which is God’s heart for His people. Finally, we get to what the Lord, our God describes as His fast. The fast that God finds pleasing:

1. Bring freedom to those wrongly imprisoned.
2. Lighten the burden of those in your charge.
3. Free the oppressed; those subject to harsh treatment or treated as subservient. (remove chains of bondage)
4. Feed those who are hungry.
5. Shelter the homeless.
6. Clothe those who need clothing.
7. Do not hide from relatives that could use your help.

I find it very intriguing that there are exactly seven things that God lists in this passage. Isaiah is part of the Old Testament and is written originally in the Hebrew language. Hebrew tradition gives a numerical meaning to numbers. Seven is defined as the Divine number of completion; a covenant promise; and some say the number of perfection. So is there a promise or a covenant promise attached to the above behavior? Let’s explore…

Let’s pick up in verse 8 of Isaiah 58: ““Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” (NLT)

Five Promises or Results of the Lord’s Fast:

1. Your salvation will come like dawn.
2. Your wounds will heal quickly.
3. Your godliness will lead you forward.
4. The glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
5. You will call, and God will answer; He will quickly reply.

You might be interested to know if you don’t know already; the meaning of the Hebrew number five is God’s grace. God’s grace is abundant in our lives when we find ourselves submitted to His plan and purpose for us. As you can see in the above passages of scripture; our repentant and submitted life to the things which are of greatest importance to the heart of God causes His abundant grace to flow in our lives and allows us to abide in a place of peace, beauty, and fruitfulness!

May His grace abound to you in all you do!

Why Do I Love the Word?

What an interesting question that was posed today in the current Bible study I am doing! Why do you love God’s Word? It was followed with this proposal…consider a friend or acquaintance asked you this question because they did not understand your love for the Bible and you were too taken off guard to respond at the time. Now, you sit down to write a note or letter to explain… How would you explain? So here goes lets give it a try…

 

Dear Friend,

I was taken aback a bit by your question today and needed a little time to process

your inquiry because many emotions rose up within me at that moment. Too many to

put into words immediately.  God’s Word is life and health to me! Without it, I would

not be the person I am… I probably would not be alive and certainly would not even

resemble the person you know.  His Word has been the source of strength to carry on in

the darkest of days, when sorrow, grief and loss were so very overwhelming that easily I

could have crawled into a dark hole, given up and disappeared. It has brought comfort

and peace in the most frightening of times; it has been my source of encouragement

when all seemed lost and I felt totally alone; it has been a well of hope springing up in

the driest of deserts; a balm to heal my heart when it has been wounded or too heartsick

to even move. His Word has been freedom to a soul held captive by her circumstances

and it has flooded joy into a heart teaching me that joy is available even in the times

where happiness is elusive and circumstances are challenging. When I have been wise, it

has offered me the keys to navigate through every passage on this journey of life. When I

have been foolish, He has drawn me back to it to lovingly shine light on the areas that

could have been better navigated and teach me better ways for the future.  Yes, it is life;

strength; comfort; peace; encouragement; healing; freedom; joy; direction; and

instruction. God’s Word also displays my Father’s character, shows the greatness of His

love, and tells me who I am In Christ. In Him, we are called friend; son or daughter;

beloved; accepted; redeemed; justified; set apart; precious; blameless; chosen; and

kings and priests…just to name a few. It contains everything needed to live a victorious

life and to avoid the pitfalls life tends to throw our way. It is a precious gift and a much

needed tool for my life.  Dear friend, I hope this at least in part answers your question

and thank you! for challenging me with this question. It is good to be challenged; to be

able put words to such deeply felt emotions and beliefs and to bring to remembrance

why we hold something or someone so dear and precious. It keeps it fresh to us and

prevents us from taking it for granted!

 

Grace and peace to you my friend!