Fiction Thursday: Fully Alive Chapter 2

Here we are at Holy Week! I know it seems odd that we will be celebrating Easter this weekend without full church services, but we can worship together at our computers and celebrate that Christ is Risen. I didn’t even think about that I was sharing this Biblical fiction story in the Easter season, but I suppose it is fitting.

If you missed the first chapter of Fully Alive, you can find it HERE.


The busy sounds of people rushing by to complete their daily chores quieted as Jairus pushed the door to the synagogue closed. He leaned against the door and closed his eyes for a moment as he tried to quiet his racing thoughts.

He focused on the words he had said to Josefa the night after the teacher had healed her. Healed her? Brought her back to life?

Is that really what had happened?

Even now it was all too unbelievable to him. He wondered, did he really believe what he had told Josefa? That this man, this Yeshua was the true Messiah that the prophets had spoken of?

Maybe he had been wrong to say so; to tell his daughter this man must be the true savior of his people. He’d spent his whole life studying the scrolls, learning of Moses and Elijah, about the prophesies of the Messiah. Now here he was almost completely convinced the man he had followed in the street, begging for him to come and heal his only daughter was indeed the Messiah. He knew he was being ridiculed behind his back by the other leaders of the synagogue for asking for Yeshua’s help but he couldn’t deny what he had witnessed that day.

He remembered Josefa’s fever and how she’d no longer been able to stand. Myriam, his wife, had soaked a cloth and laid it across Josefa’s forehead, hoping the cool water from the stream would revive her. For days they sat by her cot, holding her hand, Myriam weeping as Josefa moaned and faded in and out of consciousness.

Jairus had paced the room, rubbing his beard. He stopped and looked at his wife kneeled over their daughter. “You know I told you about this teacher, this man they call Yeshua?” Myriam was looking at Josefa, not responding, merely crying. “Myriam, are you listening? He’s been healing people. I saw him heal a man’s hand in the synagogue last week. The leaders were upset because it was the sabbath, but I saw the man’s hand. It was diseased, scarred, withered but Yeshua held it, touched it and the hand was whole again.”

Myriam dabbed her eyes with her shawl as her husband spoke, barely listening as she watched her daughter’s breathing become more and more shallow. Dark circles were now under Josefa’s eyes.

“I will go to him, ask him to come,” Jairus was speaking again. He paced again, rubbing and pulling at the hairs of his beard as he always did when thoughts overwhelmed him.

“Do we now believe in such men who call themselves healers?” Myriam asked softly, her shoulders slumped forward, her body weary from worry.

Josefa’s body shuddered with a convulsion. Myriam gasped and lifted her daughter, holding the girl’s small frame against her chest. Josefa’s breathing was now labored. Jairus saw the panic in his wife’s eyes and felt it rising in himself as well.

“We are losing her! Go! Go to this teacher and ask him to come!” Myriam’s voice filled with fear. “He’s our only hope now!”

Jairus’ heart pounded as he ran from the house, out onto the crowded paths, pushing his way through travelers and locals and animals being led to market. He could see a crowd around a man in front of him. They were all moving one direction, calling out “Yeshua!” Questions were being asked, some voices mocked, some sounded hopeful.

An image of Josefa’s pale frame flashed in Jairus’ mind and he tried to move faster, pushing more people aside. His chest felt tight, his breathing more labored, reminding him of how old he was getting now. Was this man he was trying to reach a heretic as the synagogue leaders and other rabbis said? What if he was crazy like the man who people called John the Baptist, the man who was covered in dirt and smelled? This John the Baptist, Yochanan the Immerser, had spoken of a healer and prophet who would come to save the Jews. Was this Yeshua that man?

Jairus’ foot caught a stone and he felt himself falling. Dirt flew into his face and pebbles cut at his palms. As he pushed himself up he felt tears hot stinging his eyes. He would never reach Yeshua now.

His head still down he saw a pair of sandal clad feet against the dirt.

“Let me help you.”

Jairus looked up as a man with kind eyes and a smile held a hand out to him. He took it and stood slowly.

“Thank you.”

Jairus barely looked at the man, instead searching the crowd to see where Yeshua had gone.

“Do you seek Yeshua?”

“Yes.”

“Come. I’m one of his followers. I will bring you to him.”

Jairus looked at the man, noticed his unkempt beard and slightly frayed clothes. He nodded at him, seeing kindness and concern in his gaze.

The man gently touched the shoulders of those around them and people began to move aside. Ahead of them Jairus saw that Yeshua had paused and turned to the crowd. His eyes focused on Jairus who suddenly felt unsure, uneasy. Jairus dropped his gaze, overwhelmed with worry for his daughter and overwhelmed with the presence of this man who had performed so many miracles. His body felt weak from running, from being awake for so many days watching over his daughter.

His knees give way suddenly and he fell to the ground before Yeshua. Sobs wracked his body as he bowed low, losing control of his emotions.

“Yeshua.”

He gasped out the name.

“Yeshua.”

 A sob choked his words and he thought he wouldn’t be able to finish speaking.

“Yeshua, my little girl is dying. She is my only daughter. Please. Please, come and lay hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

Tears streamed warm on his face and he shook his head as if to shake them away. He was startled by emotions he usually kept locked inside. A hand touched his head, on the covering he wore there. He sat back on his knees, lifted his face upwards and stared into the eyes of the man he had once seen heal a man’s shriveled hand, an act that had enraged other leaders in the synagogue.  

“Come.” Yeshua’ voice was gentle, yet firm. “Rise and let us go to her.”

Two followers of Yeshua helped Jairus to his feet and Yeshua motioned for Jairus to lead the way to his home. The crowd surged around them as they tried to move forward, moving with them, as if one combined force, following Yeshua. Several moments of chaos followed and Jairus felt a rush of frustration as the crowd pushed between him and Yeshua.

“Yeshua! What does God ask of us?”

“Yeshua, what happens when we die?”

“Yeshua, will I find wealth?”

People pushed against each other; each person wanting to get closer to the man being called a healer and a prophet, each wanting answers to benefit their own life.

Jairus faintly heard Yeshua’ voice over the noise of the crowd.

“Who touched me?”

Jairus tried to push forward in the crowd, looking over his shoulder every few steps to be sure Yeshua was following.

“I felt power go from me,” Yeshua spoke louder to one of his followers. He stopped and turned to look behind him. “Who has touched me?”

The people in the crowd murmured and grew quiet.  Jairus stopped to see why Yeshua wasn’t following him, panic growing in the pit of his stomach.

“Master, there are people all around you and you are asking ‘who touched me?’” one of Yeshua’ disciples scoffed. His tone was incredulous, tinged with annoyance.

Jairus knew this was the man called Kefa, or Peter – a fisherman from Gailee who now followed Yeshua. Many whispered in surprise that Peter, known as brash and abrupt, was following a teacher of God.

 “Somebody touched me,” Yeshua said. “For I perceived power going out from me.”

 His eyes scanned the crowd around him, but no one answered. People looked at each other confused and unsure why Yeshua was concerned. Why did it matter who touched him? Many people had probably touched him, without even meaning to.

 Suddenly a woman’s voice could be heard barely above a whisper.

“It was me.”

Then louder, over the murmurs of the crowd. “It was me.”

“Who is speaking?” another of Yeshua’ disciples asked. “Please, come forward. Answer the teacher.”

The crowd moved aside and a woman, head down, moved toward the front. She dropped to her knees trembling, her head bowed low and covered with a shawl, her clothes tattered and stained. Tears dripped off her face and into the dirt as she clutched her hands before her.

Jairus swallowed hard, shifting in place, anxious. He wanted to grab Yeshua by the arm and drag him forward, back to his house and his daughter, but at the same time he was entranced by the scene unfolding before him. He couldn’t look away.

The woman glanced upwards at Yeshua.

“It was me,” she said softly. “I knew if I could just touch the hem of your garment…”

Her gaze fell again to the ground. She let out a shaky breath. “I heard all that was said about you. About who you are. About what you can do. . . Rabbi, I’ve been bleeding for 12 years. No one will come near me. I am unclean. I’ve been to every doctor, but no one can help me. No one has ever healed me.”

Some in the crowd winced and a few stepped away from her, covering their mouths.

Tears continued to stream down her face.

“I have tried everything. I heard of your miracles and I knew – if I just touched the fringes of your robe – the fringes – that healing would come.

Her fingertips grazed the edge of his robe again. She could barely speak as she sobbed.

“And it did. It did. The healing came the moment my fingertips grazed the tzitziyot of your robe. I felt it. I felt it stop. The pain stopped. It all stopped.” Soft murmurs of awe rippled through the crowd, mingling with her sobs.

Jairus’ heart pounded hard and fast. If this woman was saying that simply touching the hem of the rabbi’s garment was enough to heal her, then he was indeed a powerful man, a messenger of God. If healing flowed from him so easily then there was hope for Josefa.

Yeshua kneeled before the woman, reached out and took her hands in his. He touched her chin and lifted her face up to look at him.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well.”

Yeshua kissed her forehead gently and wiped the tears from her face. He stood and helped her to stand with him.

“Go in peace.”

A sob escaped her lips again and then she smiled and laughed loudly with joy. She kissed Yeshua’ hand as she held it, still laughing. Then she backed slowly away.

“Thank you,” she said, tears of joy now spilling down her face. “Thank you.”

A hush had settled over the crowd. Women dabbed their eyes and men talked quietly to each other, shaking their heads with furrowed eyebrows, trying to make sense of what they had witnessed. Jairus felt a sense of urgency rushing through him, tensing his muscles. He needed Yeshua to hurry. New hope surged within him at what he had seen and he wanted the same for Josefa and his family.  

“Yeshua, my daughter… please …”

Yeshua turned toward him again.

“Of course. Let us go…Lead me to her.”

Jairus felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Josiah, standing next to him, his face stained with tears and dirt.

“Master, there is no need to hurry now. Josefa . . .” his voice trailed off and Jairus began to shake his head. “There is no need to bother the teacher now. She’s —”

“No! No!” Jairus wouldn’t let him finish.

He felt bile rushing up into his throat and his hands began to shake. He pressed his hands to his head, as if trying to wake himself from a dream, rocking slightly where he stood.

“Josefa…” he felt the tears hot on his face and he clutched his robe against him as pain seared through his chest. “Oh Adonai. Adonai help me.”

He looked up as Yeshua touched his arm.

“Do not be afraid.” Yeshua’s voice was soft, comforting. “Just keep trusting.”

Yeshua’s eyes were kind but Jairus’ mind was reeling. If only Yeshua had moved faster. If only that woman hadn’t stopped them. Josefa would still be alive and her laughter would still fill their home.

“She’s gone,” he told Yeshua. “We cannot save her now. You can not heal her. If only . . .”

Yeshua looked over Jairus’ shoulder, his gaze moving above the crowd.

“Come. Lead me to your home.”

Jairus did as Yeshua told him but his legs felt as if they were weighted down. Before they even reached the corridor near his home he could hear the wailing and knew the mourning had already begun.

Mourners were outside the home, trying to comfort Myriam, who was clearly in shock as she pulled at her clothes and repeated “No. No. No.”  
Jairus rushed toward his wife, grasped her by the shoulders and pulled her against him. She clutched at his clothes and shoved her face into his chest.

“She’s gone. She’s gone. Oh, Jairus. Our little girl is gone.”

Yeshua pushed forward in the crowd. He laid his hand against Myriam’s back to comfort her.

“There is no need for tears,” he said with a gentle firmness. “The girl is not dead. She is merely sleeping.”

An angry voice shouted over the noise of the crowd.

“She’s dead! You give these people false hope! You are a liar and a fool! Like all who have come before you!”

Other voices joined in agreement.

“You say you can heal but you only bring hallow promises to these people,” a man sneered.

Yeshua stood with his back to the crowd, kneeling down beside Myriam and Jairus who had collapsed together into the dirt by their front door.

“Send these people away and come inside with me,” he instructed. “Peter, James, John, come with me.”

Jairus opened his eyes to the sound of someone moving inside the temple, interrupting his thoughts and memories of that day.

“Jairus? Is that you?”

He recognized the voice of Ezra, another leader in the synagogue.

“Yes, Ezra. Good morning.”

Ezra walked toward him holding scrolls.

“Have you come to help me organize these for the scribes?” his mouth lifted in a wry smile.

“I did not but I am glad to help,” Jairus said returning the smile.

The men laid the scrolls on the table next to a bottle of ink.

“I do not know how so much has become in disarray in here – and outside,” Ezra said.

He looked at is friend and noticed Jairus was pulling at his beard, as he often did when deep in thought.

“Tell me, Jairus. How is Josefa recovering?”

Jairus smiled. “Well. She is well. It is – dare I say it?”

Ezra nodded but his expression grew serious.

“Jairus, I must ask you – I’ve heard many talk of what happened with Josefa. Is it true, what they say? Was she dead before Yeshua arrived?”

Jairus felt his muscles tense. He was unsure what Ezra hoped to learn with his questions. He pondered how to answer, but knew telling the truth might encourage Ezra to help him understand more what had happened.

“Myriam and her hand maiden said there was no breath. She was cold when I entered the home and I felt no heartbeat beneath my hand. Her skin . . .” he felt his breath catch in his throat and he paused to choke back emotion. He shook his head as if to shake the image from his mind. “Her skin was pale, tinged with blue. And… so cold.”

Ezra laid his hand on Jairus arm and squeezed it gently.

“You’ve been through much, my friend,” Ezra said.

He opened a scroll to read its contents, rolled it again and stuck it back in a space in the temple wall.

“What do you believe happened that day?” Ezra asked.

“I don’t know, friend. I truly don’t. All I know is she was gone and when Yeshua came she arose at his bidding. He took her hand and instructed her to rise and live and she did.”

“After all you have seen .. .” Ezra paused in stacking the scrolls and turned to look to Jairus “After meeting this man who calls himself the Son of God – who do you say he is?”

Jairus realized he didn’t know how to answer. He had seen Yeshua do miraculous things and heard of even more. He believed his daughter was still living because Yeshua touched her, but was he truly the son of Jehovah or was he simply a great teacher, so holy Jehovah used him to heal?

He looked Ezra in the eyes, opened his mouth to answer and then closed it again. “Ezra – I wish I could say, but truly, I do not know what to believe about this man.”

Faithfully Thinking: Honestly, I don’t have it in me

I had thought about writing a post about trusting God, accepting God’s peace over the chaos of the world, but honestly, I don’t have it in me.

I was going to write about how when people abandon you, it’s okay because God is still there. Honestly? I don’t have it in me.

I was going to write how people are actually really good at heart and actually would care if you died, but . . . honestly. My heart is not in it.

That’s reality.

Sometimes we don’t even believe our own words.

Maybe we have to keep saying it until we do?

Faithfully Thinking: The Blessing

So many times we dismiss a pastor or a movement or a singing group because of one thing they did we didn’t like. Maybe we listened to critics who said this pastor or that person presented something against God’s word, but we really don’t know if that’s true or not. Maybe we feel their theology is off in one or two sermons so we completely dismiss every word that comes from their mouth or every song they help to pen.

I hope you can put aside any preconceived ideas you might have about anyone in this following video and just listen to the words behind it and know God can work through people we do not think he can work through. I don’t have any preconceived ideas, any negative views of those here, but maybe someone else does.

God can work through people who we don’t see as blessed by God.

God can work through people who seem to be against us with everything within them.

God can use those who stand on the opposite of our morals, or values, everything we stand for.

He can use world leaders who don’t hold our beliefs.

He can use pastors we don’t think are on point with their theology.

Don’t limit God.

Don’t label God.

Don’t try to put him in a box.

He won’t stay there.

He wants to bless you and that blessing could come from somewhere you never thought it would.

Lyrics:
The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family
And your children
And their children
And their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you
And beside you
All around you
And within you
He is with you
He is with you

In the morning
In the evening
In your coming
And your going
In your weeping
And rejoicing
He is for you
He is for you

He is for you

Written by Steven Furtick, Chris Brown, Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes
©2020 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing, Capitol CMG Paragon / Writers Roof Publishing, Worship Together Music / Kari Jobe Carnes Music
CCLI #: 7147007

Faithfully Thinking: The little girl who brought a community together

*feature photo credit: Brown Photography

I generally skip past blog posts with sad stories, especially those related to childhood cancer so I would certainly understand if you skip this one. What is different about this one, though, is that there is some hope mixed into the story: hope for humanity, I suppose you might say. Or at least it restored within me some hope for humanity.

Back in the fall, probably Septemeber or October, we started to notice Christmas lights on houses in a tiny town we drive through to get to my parents and my husband drives through to get to work. In addition to the Christmas lights, Christmas decorations were starting to appear — like inflatables of Christmas related characters and Frozen characters. It’s not uncommon for Christmas decorations to remain on houses in our areas for months after Christmas, but this was a bit unusual to say the least. My husband soon learned the lights had been put up to cheer up a little girl in the town who had been diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain cancer. The community had joined together to hang the lights for her to see when she came back from treatments.

One member of the community had even gone as far as writing the little girl’s name in lights on the side of his barn. For a full two months, I cried almost every time I drove through the town, amazed by the kindness of the community and the way they had gathered together to encourage this little girl in her battle. Not only did residents hang the lights, but businesses and the township also decorated in her honor.

Last week the family was told there is nothing more the doctors can do for her and a candlelight vigil was held for her at the tiny park in town. Members of two other communities, one where her church is located, another about 20 miles from Ulster, also held vigils, praying for her and singing her favorite song, “Let It Go” from Frozen.

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Little Ariah being held by a friend at the vigil in her honor. Photo credit: Brown Photography

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Photo Lisa R. Howeler

I know you can think of stories like this one, maybe in your own community or in a community near you. Ulster, Pennsylvania isn’t the first small town to rally around one of its’ own in a time of trial and tragedy. The story is not unique; it isn’t terribly unusual. I think, though, that we need to hear these stories no matter how many times they happen, to remind us that all hope is not lost; that the anger the media shows us has not permeated our world as much as they tell us it has.

There are still good people.

There are still kind people.

There are still loving people who recognize that, yes, indeed it does take a village to raise a family.

And there are still people who recognize we were not created to be alone but to be part of a community, a family tied together not by bloodlines but by our common humanity.

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photo Lisa R. Howeler

It is these people who show us that though there are things in the world that will bring us to our knees in grief, it is still true that”the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Ariah’s family showed this weekend that they believe and understand that the moment Ariah’s spirit leaves her earthly frame it will be in the presence of Christ.

 

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

Musicians sang in the pavilion that night:

I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!
I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee
I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me!
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

The niece of a woman I knew passed away a few years ago from cancer. She was very young, I don’t remember the exact age. She told her mother, as cancer made her weaker and weaker, that she was going to heaven. Her mother, of course, was distraught, not wanting her little girl to leave her.

“Heaven is closer than you think,” the little girl told her mother.

It’s so hard to sing in our storms.

It’s hard to sing in our unbelief.

It’s so hard to raise a hallelujah in the face of death.

It’s hard to raise a hallelujah in the face of fear.

It’s hard to raise a hallelujah when all hope seems lost.

It’s hard to understand the idea that our loved ones will be gone from earth but alive in heaven.

Even though it was hard, the people of the community raised those hallelujah’s this weekend.

They raised their voices because they believe that one day hope will arise from the ashes, that death is defeated and that the spirit of a little girl who fought so hard for her life here on earth will live in a heavenly realm we can not even imagine, a realm closer than we think it is.

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Faithfully Thinking: Didn’t I tell you to let me handle it?

I am a control freak.

I know it.

My family knows it.

God knows it.

I’m not as bad as some people, no.

But, I’m still someone who likes to control situations around me – mainly any situation I feel could affect my own well being or that of a family member.

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If I think I can do something to change a situation for the better, I will do it, or at least attempt to do it. Often, though, I can not change a situation and I still lay there at night and try to figure out how I can.

For instance, we need to sell our house, sooner rather than later, so for several nights in a row, I was lying awake, trying to figure out how to get the money to fix this house up so we can sell it faster. I couldn’t figure it out and it was leaving me exhausted and irritated. One night I was laying there, physically tossing in bed while my brain tossed all the possibilities of remedying this situation back and forth. That’s when I heard a voice, of sorts, in my head. Actually, it was more like a sentence that I didn’t put there, so, for me, it was God reminding me of something.

The conversation went something like this:

“Didn’t I tell you to let me handle it?”

“Well, yes, Lord, but . . . ”

“Then let me handle it.”

The conversation was over that quickly.

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God didn’t ask me to figure it all out. He didn’t ask me to find the solution to our need to find a house closer to my husband’s job or figure out how to get people to read my books when I write them (specifically Fully Alive when it is done. This is the book I really feel God was prodding me to write and I’m terrified to continue writing because I feel completely unqualified to do so.) He also didn’t ask me to be the so-called perfect teacher for my children while I homeschool – he just asked me to do it and reminded me he would take it from there.

I’m not good at obeying.

I’m a rebel.

I don’t like to be told what to do, but as a follower of Christ, I need to trust that he knows better than I do about the things of life.

And I need to trust that ultimately God will handle it, whatever “it” is at that point in my life.

 

Faithfully Thinking: This Isn’t What I Pictured

This weekend I heard a sermon entitled “This Isn’t What I Pictured” and, boy, was it spot on for where I am in my life right now. I certainly did not picture my life where it currently is, which sounds entirely negative, but isn’t. There are definitely some negative places I’ve found myself, but there have also been some positive surprises along the way.

This sermon brought home for me that sometimes God wants to use us, bless us or grow us in a way we didn’t picture. The problem is not, as the pastor said this weekend, our situation, but that we pictured it differently and because our imagination of what life would be does not line up with what we see, we are stressed. Sometimes we must have faith in what we do not see, which, for me, is the hardest thing to do.

Maybe we thought we’d be a missionary to a faraway country, but instead, our mission field is at home, teaching our children. Maybe we thought God would use as to minister to recovering addicts, but instead, we are ministering to recovering perfectionists.

I know I didn’t picture being 42 and staying at home with my children, homeschooling, without a career to call my own, but it’s where I am and where I am trying to bloom (though I see myself as wilting). And, actually, I’m enjoying this one, even though I didn’t picture it.

I also didn’t picture being 42 with almost no close friends. I thought that I’d be comparing notes with a good friend about our now teenagers, but instead, I’m out on my own, so to speak. I’m not on my own really, of course, because God is still directing and guiding me even during what I see as unexpected turns in my life.

Even Christian often don’t see God in the negatives of life. I know I don’t and I was raised in the church. I rarely that what appears negative to me as something God is leading me through for a greater purpose. Honestly, there have been a couple of situations that were thrust on me that I felt, and still feel, were completely unnecessary.

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I still have trouble seeing why certain situations were allowed by God. The key for me has been realizing it’s not all about me. When I was asking God years ago “why did you let this happen to me,” I would sometimes hear in my heart “It’s not about you.” Even though it wasn’t “about me” it affected me, though, and I often wonder if the same outcomes could have been reached or lessons learned without all the unsolicited pain. 

Often we see pain, loss, or change as a punishment from God, instead of protection. Sometimes God takes away to protect us and sometimes that removal causes pain we did not ask for or expect.

God is always there whether we feel him or not. He’s there in the pain, the hurt, the life lessons.

The worship song, “Here Again” says: “Not for a minute was I forsaken. The Lord is in this place.”

When we feel like God is not in our situation, that’s where faith comes in.

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Do you know how hard it is for me to write that? I am at the worst at feeling like God is in a situation when the situation does not feel right or good to me.

The worship song “Waymaker” says: “Even when I don’t feel it you’re working. Even when I don’t see it, you’re working.”

Even when we don’t think God is in our situation, he is and he’s working and he’s changing things and he is for us. Even when we don’t see him, we can hear his voice. That’s a hard thing to trust in, isn’t it? The unseen.

Sometimes we can’t trust because we can’t hear him through all the noise in our lives – social media, other people’s opinions of us, or our own perceptions of what life was supposed to be at this point.

God is there for us even when our friends are no longer our friends.

God is there for us even when the texts or calls go unanswered.

God is there when we don’t get the job.

God is there when the bank account is dry.

God is there for us when those closest to us reject us, betray us, turn us away.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever and that is a picture that will never change, even when our lives are not what we pictured.


To see the sermon which inspired this post:

To hear the songs that I quoted here:


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

When people support you even when you feel like you stink

I put a notice on my blog Facebook page yesterday that I had some paperback copies of my book because a couple of people I know had asked about them. I wasn’t thinking about it as an advertising opportunity, I simply wanted to find a way to let those people know I had a few copies.

More people asked for books than I had so I had to order some more, but that’s not the point of today’s post. Today’s post I thought I would talk about how hard it is for me to put myself out there. I don’t like to be seen. I like to hide. I don’t like to share. I like to keep it all to myself. I don’t want to be famous and pray every day I never am. I never feel what I have to offer is as good as what someone else has to offer. In other words, I’m human.

A Story to Tell, my first attempt at a novel, isn’t a masterpiece. I actually wish I had taken a little more time to work on it before I put it out, but I wanted to throw it out on Kindle by my birthday to simply say I accomplished a goal. Because my self-esteem swirls around a toilet bowl half the time, I handed my books out today with apologies for it not being the best it can be. Yes, I apologized for them buying my book. I know. I’m such a weirdo.

I told my brother people were probably buying my book because they felt sorry for me. Isn’t that awful? It may be true, or it may be true that they don’t expect the book to be good, or blow them away, but they are simply trying to support me. Apparently, the idea of people supporting me is a foreign concept, but it shouldn’t be since people have done so in the past. The last couple of years have been a little lonely, yes, but people have still supported me and that’s what was happening with requests for copies of my book.

I told myself today, ‘They are buying it to support you and even if the book stinks, at least they said: “Hey, you tried and we’re recognizing that.””

Maybe it isn’t that some of my friends see something great in what I wrote but maybe it is that they see potential and they want to support it.

Now if only I could see my own potential. If only we could all see our own potential.

So often others see potential in us that we don’t see.

So often God sees potential in us that we don’t see.

We see rejection.

We see failure.

We see fell short.

We see we should be further.

We see not enough.

But God sees: “I’m trying.”

God sees: “I put myself out there.”

God sees: “I obeyed and displayed the gifts God gave me and each time I do it, I pray he helps me to get better.”

God sees us as enough.

God sees as we are right where we need to be.

God sees what will be even when we see only what isn’t.

 

Faithfully Thinking: God isn’t a vending machine

Recently I’ve noticed a couple of things about non-Christian, and even Christians, views of God. Mainly, the view that  “If I didn’t get what I wanted there is no God.”

I’ve held this view in the past, so believe me I understand it. What I don’t always understand as well are the people who don’t follow God but then put in their orders for what they want in life and expect them to fall from the sky simply because they asked.  They deny God, or curse God, almost every day of their life, but when they need something, suddenly He’s real and if they don’t feel those prayers are answered, then He doesn’t exist again.

Yes, the Bible does tell us to submit our petitions to God but it does not say He works like a vending machine.  We don’t put our coins of “good faith” into it and pull a lever and wait.

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I know of a person (I don’t know them well, even though they are related to my family) who posts photos all over social media along the lines of “God says you’re going to have a miracle today” or “God says you will be blessed today” or “God says today all you’ve gone through will be worth it.” This is coming from a person who lives their life for them. They base decisions based on what will benefit them the most.

They don’t live their life as someone who believes in God until they want something. This is a person who texted me the morning they were having surgery asking for prayer the morning of it. I sent a prayer over the phone. The surgery went well. Two months later I never heard from the person again and that was over a year ago.White Red Beauty Quotes Pinterest Graphic

Cha-ching. Prayer submitted, prayer received, move on until the person needs something from God again, I guess. I don’t know that for sure, because only God knows the personal relationship between himself and his children, but it is how it seems from where I stand.

For my own sanity, I’ve made a decision to no longer pick up the phone when people like this call, looking for me to support their vending machine mentality. For a long time, I was the vending machine for a lot of people – needed a place to stay, pull lever; money, pull lever; need someone to watch the kids, pull lever. I finally put the “out of order” sign on the machine and walked away. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard from these people since.

Now my goal is not to look to God to be my vending machine; to practice what I preach.

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God does want us to submit our requests to Him, but he also wants a relationship with us. He wants to give us the desires of our heart, but sometimes He knows those desires are not what is best for us. Ouch. I didn’t even like writing that because I have some prayers submitted these days that are not being answered and it hurts. I don’t understand why I’m in the places I’m in (I mean the places I didn’t get myself stuck in, of course), but God does and one day He will reveal it all for His glory. That’s what I have to try my best to remember even as I struggle with the why questions.

Today I heard a sermon and the pastor encouraged those listening to say throughout their day, as a prayer to God: “You are good. And you are with me.” We need to remember that He is with us, even when we don’t know why we are in the place we are, or maybe we know how we got to a place in our life, but we don’t know how to fix it.

He is good.

He is with us.

But he is not our vending machine of desires.

When you are in the darkness keep your mouth shut.

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Here is some advice I could have used before I rambled too much on my blog about this period of loneliness I’ve been in.

At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light. — Oswald Chambers

My favorite line of this quote, which I first saw in the Jan Karon book I’m currently reading, is “Watch where God puts you into darkness and when you are there keep your mouth shut.”

Keep your mouth shut.

Ouch.

That one hurt because I know I haven’t done it.

I certainly plan to read this quote over a few hundred times and chew on it for a bit. It was very timely for me and interesting because I almost didn’t read from that book due to being too tired.

If you feel so moved, tell me what you think of this quote. Does it fit where you are now or where you once were? Let me know in the comments.