What’s Your Spiritual Heart Rate?

My heart throbs, my strength fails me; And the light of my eyes-it also has gone from me.

Psalms 38:10 (ESV)

Yesterday I sat in four hours of training learning how to assess emergency medical situations and provide assistance to those in life threatening circumstances. Topics discussed included, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid and proper usage of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Although all of the information received was beneficial, the lesson on AEDs stood out the most. AEDs are portable machines that shock a person’s heart. They should be used, when available, during times when a person is displaying symptoms of cardiac distress or is found unresponsive and/or not breathing. When used properly, an AED will guide the person administering medical assistance in the exact steps that include when to apply the pads, when to not touch the person, and if needed, when to shock the person’s heart. Once a shock is administered, the machine then gives an instruction to begin CPR. To better explain how an AED works, I recall the instructor describing it like this: The AED does all the work for you. If you listen to its instructions, you will use it successfully and could inevitable save a person’s life.

This statement made me think of our spiritual heart conditions. What is guiding our spiritual heartbeat and what is our spiritual heart rate? What symptoms do we display when our spiritual hearts are in distress? What can we connect ourselves to when our spiritual hearts need shocked back into the rhythm of God’s heartbeat? When we walk in full surrender and align our hearts’ desires with God’s will, I believe our spiritual heart rate is equivalent to our physical resting heart rate. We feel steady and calm experiencing a level of peace that supersedes human comprehension. However, when we are not aligned with God, or when we focus on what we cannot control instead of surrendering our circumstances to God, our spiritual (and at times our physical) hearts go into distress, racing with worry, despair and confusion. When this happens we don’t tend to turn to the One who created our hearts. We turn to false lifelines like alcohol, medication or other means of escape and temporary fixes. Just like physical cardiac distress, when left untreated turns into full blown cardiac arrest and can quickly become fatal, when we fail to take care of our spiritual hearts, we inevitably find ourselves in a spiritual cardiac arrest also. Spiritual distress can look like an anxious mind and restless spirit. Spiritual arrest is a hardened heart and a bitter or closed off spirit.

CPR and AED techniques are very useful tools in keeping a person’s physical heart beating until they can receive intensive medical treatment from a licensed physician. What tools work to keep our spiritual hearts healthy and/or shock us spiritually to get us back into the rhythm of God’s heartbeat? First, we need to spend regular time in prayer. Just like a human relationship with no communication will not survive, our spiritual hearts need daily communication with God to stay in alignment with His will. Just like routine exercise keeps our physical hearts strong, prayer keeps our spiritual hearts pumping steadily. When we can’t pray, we should ask others to pray for us. Prayer is not only equivalent to chest compressions done in CPR, but moments God speaks to us during prayer is equivalent to the rescue breaths given in between chest compression sets. In CPR, the ratio of chest compressions to rescue breathing is 30 compressions to two breaths. From a spiritual aspect, this could mean we may pray 30 times and only hear God twice. Seeking Him regularly is more important than hearing from Him. Let me say that again. Seeking God is more important than hearing from God. This does not mean we should not seek to hear from God. This just means, God may not speak to us daily but He still requires that we pray daily.

God’s word promises that if we call on Him, He will listen and that if we seek Him, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:12-13). God does promise to answer us, He just doesn’t always answer us right away or in our timeline. Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God doesn’t answer us through our own thoughts either. In fact, I believe 99% of our thoughts go against what God actually speaks to us. We hear God through our spirits only and when we speak from our spirits, at least when I speak from mine, it doesn’t ever align with my own thoughts. The next time you think you heard from God, test the word. Is it coming from your own thoughts or are you recognizing it through your spirit? Get out of your head and don’t listen to your thoughts. Instead, quiet your mind and get in tune with your spirit. That’s where you hear God best.

God’s word is also our one part of our spiritual AED. When we open our Bibles, we find them filled with scriptures that direct us, step by step, in every inch of our spiritual journeys. When we get into God’s word daily, we receive His instructions on how to handle every situation we face. Just like the AED guides users through the process of assessing a human heart condition, God’s word guides us in how to assess our spiritual heart conditions also. When we are intentional with applying His word daily, we keep our hearts in perfect rhythm and won’t need to be spiritually shocked. It’s when we ignore His instructions or we don’t read His word that we get out of rhythm and show signs of serious spiritual distress. In these times, we need the second part of our spiritual AED, prayers, encouragement and at times, even admonishment from God fearing and prayer warrior friends.

Just as a person in physical cardiac arrest cannot do CPR or operate an AED on themselves, we can experience times of spiritual arrest and are unable to save ourselves. This is when God sends in prayer warriors and God fearing friends to speak and pray His word into our circumstances. Some battles are just too severe for us to fight on our own. God’s creation of Eve for Adam, and even giving Aaron to Moses and Titus to Paul is proof that He did not intend for us to do life alone. Jesus commissioned 12 disciples because He couldn’t do His ministry alone and He was God in human form yet somehow we think we can handle all of our circumstances on our own. Just as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to hold up Moses arms when he was too weak to keep them up on his own, our God fearing friends can be our strength and fight for us when we are too weak or too distressed to pray and trust God to handle our circumstances for us. When we allow others to lean in and walk along side us through difficult times, when we lean on others and allow them to hold us up when we are too weak to carry on, we inevitably are allowing God to restore our spiritual heart rates return back to the rhythm of His heartbeat. If we shut people and God out, we put ourselves at risk of having a spiritual heart attack.

Speaking of spiritual heart attacks, Danny Gokey performs a song called, Tell Your Heart to Beat Again (BMG-Chrysalis, 2016). In one music video of this song, Danny gives an introduction to the meaning behind the lyrics of this song. (https://youtu.be/eUHRDCYnFfg) The story depicts a woman undergoing heart surgery. To perform open heart surgery, physicians stop your heartbeat and have you hooked up to a machine that sustains your life while they operate on your heart. All goes well for this particular operation until the surgeon attempts to get the patient’s heart to beat again. With all medical efforts completed, the patient’s heart will not start beating on its own. The physician finally leans down and tells the patient he’s done all he can do for her, it’s up to her to tell her heart to beat again. Within moments, her heart is beating again.

Listeners of the song lyrics are reminded that at times when we feel shattered, we may go into a spiritual cardiac arrest. It’s in these moments we can be so immersed with pain and grief that we cannot feel God’s presence let alone His comfort or healing touch. These are the times we must be still, surrender our pain to Jesus trusting He is fixing our hearts. But even when Jesus fixes our hearts, if we still hold on to that pain, our spiritual pulses remain weak. It’s in these moments we have to surrender our painful pasts and tell our hearts to beat again.

What’s your spiritual heart rate right now? Are you aligned with God’s heartbeat or are you in need of some spiritual cardiac care? Has Jesus restored you from past wounds but holding on to that pain is making your spiritual heart rate erratic or non-existent? Check your spiritual pulse right now and take the steps needed to protect yourself from a spiritual heart attack. If you’re in a spiritual cardiac arrest, maybe it’s time to make a 911 call to your prayer warrior friends. If you’re holding on to old wounds, maybe it’s simply time to tell your heart to beat again. Whatever the source of your heart condition is, I pray you let God heal you, restore you and re-align your spiritual heart rate to the rhythm of His heartbeat.

A Tornado in a Trailer Park Kind of Faith

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

Mark 4:39

“You are the trailer park, I am the tornado.” (Yellowstone, 2021, Paramount Network) If you’re familiar with this TV show, then you probably can recall the scene this quote is from. It takes place in season three. This was Beth Dutton’s response to a man named Roarke, after he asks her if she is up for a fight and proceeds to tell her she’s wrong to think she can win. Instead of cowering to this man’s gaslighting tactic, Beth Dutton looks him square in the eye and says, “Right back at ya” and finishes with the tornado line. To this remark, the man turns and walks out of the establishment where this verbal sparring had occurred. This four minute conversation was centered around this man threatening what was most valuable to Beth and her family, land that her family’s entire existence is centered around.

As I rewatched this scene I couldn’t help but liken it to a conversation between the devil and us. If you’re a Christian, you already know that the devil comes to seek and destroy. He studies our weaknesses and attacks us when we least expect it. If he is unsuccessful, he will attack everything/everyone that is precious to us. He is a constant threat to us and to everything/everyone we value the most. Have you drawn closer to God recently only to have chaos ensue or watch a close family member/friend get hit with a major setback or struggle? As you become a mighty prayer warrior, do you find your life getting easier or harder? When you fast, do you get the answers you were praying for, or does the complete opposite seem to happen? For me, it’s the latter to all of these questions. The closer I draw to God, the more I work to grow my faith and dependency on Him, the worse life gets, for me and the ones I love most. I have 47 years of examples I could list, but if I did, this post would turn into a chapter book that read like a pity party. Instead, I’ll just admit that being hit hard and knocked down by the devil, every time I have turned back to God, has challenged my ability to trust God and even question His plans for my family and me. The firmer I dig my heels into faith, the harder I try to deepen my roots in Jesus, the harder the enemy hits also.

When the disciples decided to follow Jesus, I wonder what they thought their lives would be like. If I were walking, in person, with the son of God, fully knowing that He picked me to be on His team, I would have felt invincible and probably a bit prideful. I would’ve taken Psalm 118 verse 6 to an arrogant level. Someone mock Jesus in front of me? Watch out because God is on my side so what could the mocker possibly do to me? Well if you’re familiar with Jesus’ and Peter’s crucifixions, as well as the number of times many of the disciples were imprisoned for their ministry, I would say, our enemy can and does do a lot to harm us and our families. The bigger a threat to him that we are, the harder he fights to interfere with God’s plan and purpose for us. When God calls us to step out or move in faith, even when He asks for faith the size of a mustard seed, He does not call us into a faith that arrogantly believes, but to a faith that is fearless in believing.

Although the disciples believed Jesus was the Messiah, they doubted Him over and over again. This is evident in not one but at least two different storms they find themselves in while in a boat out to sea. The first storm is in Matthew chapter 8. It occurs after Jesus and the disciples have left a large gathering and are traveling by boat to their next endeavor. The storm happens upon them suddenly and while the disciples go into panic mode, Jesus is asleep. The storm doesn’t wake Him up. Frightened disciples do. If you’ve ever been on a boat during a storm, you know how tumultuous the experience can be. The boat and all it is carrying, including its passengers are tossed to and fro. But Jesus was not bothered by the din or thrashing movement of the storm.

The disciples’ doubt and professed lie is what woke Jesus. Professed lie you ask? How did the disciples lie? When they woke Jesus, they yelled; “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25 NIV) They did not say, they feared they might drown, they professed that they were in fact going to drown. It’s one thing to profess things we fear might happen, it’s another to believe our fears will happen. Followers of Christ, with Jesus physically with them, at the first sign of trouble, believed they were going to die. It’s no wonder some of us have so little faith when life storms disrupt our lives. I wonder how quickly we get God’s attention when we speak lies of defeat into our circumstances? Unfortunately, fear and doubt can be so noisy and consuming that we cannot hear Him rebuke the enemy,

When Jesus awoke, how did He respond? With a calm assurance that told the disciples, “I’ve got this.” Jesus rebuked the storm and mother nature quieted right down. He then asked His disciples why they were so afraid? Where was their faith? But the disciples don’t answer Him, they just marvel at what had just happened and question who He was. They witnessed Jesus perform many miracles firsthand, and yet they still did not always believe.

The first four books of the New Testament give four accounts of Jesus calming a storm. Three of those accounts have similar details, which makes me believe Matthew, Mark and Luke are all recounting the same experience just through a different lens. Interestingly, where Matthew and Luke declare death upon them all, Mark asks Jesus’ this question: “Don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38b). Questioning God’s love for us is another natural response to fear and doubt. When we are in crisis mode, it’s easy to panic and not only doubt God’s deliverance but question His care for us also. After all, if we interpret Jeremiah 29:11 literally, then we presume only good and prosperous things come from God. So if life (or the devil) is throwing some pretty heavy and hard stuff at you or your family, it must not be from God, right? If you can’t see or feel His presence and especially if it feels He is just asleep or silent, it’s natural to ask Him if He even cares about what’s happening. But in each instance, Jesus rebukes not only the storm, He also rebukes the disciples’ lack of faith. It’s almost as if He is saying, “Why are you so rattled? Did you forget who I am? Have you no faith at all?”

John’s account of a storm is slightly different than the other three. Jesus was already in the boat in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s stories. But in John chapter 6, we read that Jesus was not with the disciples when they got hit by a storm at sea. It also happens at night whereas there is one mention of the other storm occurring during the day. When the high wind begins to blow, we don’t read that the disciples called out to Him or professed death over their situation. Instead we read that after they rowed three to four miles, Jesus approached them. How you might ask? He was walking on the water. Once again, the disciples are afraid. But this time, it’s not the wind and waves that scare them, it’s the sight of Jesus walking on water. Still lacking faith in His power, they actually think Jesus is a ghost. They have already seen Him perform so many miracles, yet in their humanness they cannot fathom He would have the ability to walk on water too. Isn’t that true in our own lives? How many times have we seen God move mighty mountains over our circumstances and yet, when He shows up again, we doubt it’s really His hand working? How many times have we given someone else the credit including ourselves because we doubted God would actually come through. Notice the disciples didn’t even cry out for Him this time. They tried rowing themselves out of this storm. How many times has doubt led each of us to say,” God’s not showing up this time, I’m just gonna have to handle this on my own.”? How many storms does God have to rescue us from before we fight our natural instinct to doubt and fear and instead develop a habit of just believing?

Thankfully, Jesus’s response in John chapter 6 can encourage us that even when we doubt that He is not with us, He shows up and says, ““It is I; don’t be afraid.” (verse 20) Just as the disciples were willing to let Jesus in their boat and they were immediately delivered to the land they were traveling to, God promises to deliver us too. Once we let Jesus into our circumstances and believe He will calm the storms of life in His time and in His way, He will take us exactly to the places He wants us and our families to be. Although He delivered the disciples immediately, God’s deliverance in our life storms are seldom instantaneous. So don’t lose heart when you invite Him into your circumstances but they don’t change right away or inevitably get worse before He makes them better. Keep in mind also, that Jesus’ only demand is that we be not afraid and just believe. If you’re wrestling with the crashing waves of fear and doubt, I encourage you to rebuke this in Jesus’ name, call out to God Himself to save you and your family. Invite Him into your circumstances and trust that He will, in His time, rebuke the enemy’s hold on your family, saying “Enough! Be still!”

In the mean time fight your battles through prayer. As you pray, when the devil asks if you’re up to the fight and tries to tell you that you can’t defeat him,, tap into the Beth Dutton depth of your faith and tell the devil he is the trailer park and you are the tornado. Should fear and doubt still try to over take you, as they did to Dorothy, when, in The Wizard of Oz, her entire house was caught up in a tornado (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MGM, 1939), hold on to your faith, and cling to Jesus, for He is holding on to you and your family throughout every inch of these storms. Always remember, when we walk by faith, not by sight, and the devil rages an ugly storm, we can fearlessly look the devil square in the eye and say, “You are the trailer park, I and my God are the tornadoes!”

Pray. Wait. Trust.

“Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

Ruth 3:18 NIV

Waiting-no one enjoys waiting, am I right? I am learning however, that God has called so many of us to wait. We may be entering a new year tomorrow but many people today, the last day of 2022, are filled with unanswered prayers and beginning 2023 with some scary unknowns. Timing, as they say, is everything. A season of waiting right now can especially frustrating, not just because it’s during a holiday season, but it stems right after being locked down in a world pandemic nearly three short years ago. Having normalcy stripped away from all of us and the inability to have any type of stability for nearly two years, left many, myself included, exhausted and if we’re being honest, impatient. To this day, I prefer grocery pick up and drive-thrus over walking into brick and mortar establishments because suddenly the world just got too “peoplely” and I was a lover of people prior to Covid. Add in that this past week was supposed to be a season of joy and being hit with unknowns that rob your peace just makes waiting all the more challenging.

Being called to waiting, especially on the tail end of a world wide lockdown or during a holiday season, should come to no surprise though. I think God’s best endurance lessons come when we can see the finish line yet walk through a season of delays that keep us from crossing it. The Old Testament is filled with examples of God giving people directions/promises and then making them wait. Abraham knew of Isaac 25 years before Isaac was born. David waited 15-20 years from the time Samuel said he would be king to the time he actually wore the crown. Joseph waited approximately 20 years also for his dream to come true. Each endured much hardship, struggle and interruption during their waiting. The world may have been created in six days but most of God’s promises came to pass after very long periods of trials, tribulations and waiting. Even Ruth had to wait for her kinsman redeemer.

Ruth was a Moabite widow, who followed her mother-in-law back to Judah. Although this was her in-laws homeland, this was a strange place for Ruth. Ruth was only married 10 years before she became a widow. In that span she lost her father-in-law and brother-in-law also. Losing a husband and both of her sons, Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, suffered the most. I can’t imagine that Ruth or Naomi realized this loss was leading to a waiting season. But that’s exactly what the rest of Ruth’s story will show us.

While traveling back to her home town, Naomi advises her two daughters-in-law to return to Moab. Naomi is so full of grief that she believes she has nothing left to give either of these two women. Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law does go back. But Ruth responds with this: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV) Thus, Ruth follows Naomi to Judah.

In the second chapter of Ruth, she decides she must go to work. Unbeknownst to her, she happens upon a field, owned by a family member of Naomi’s. She doesn’t apply for a job though, she enters the field for gleaning. Gleaning is not the same as harvesting. Gleaning was done by widows, the poor and destitute and it was an act of gathering the scraps of the harvest the workers did not pick up. Whatever they gathered they could take home. Gleaning was not a job, it was an act of survival. It was also dependent upon the land owner allowing one to glean. On her first day, she meets the owner, Boaz, who extends kindness and welcomes her to continue to glean in only his field. When she returns home with an overabundance of harvest, Naomi is not only surprised but overjoyed learning about Ruth’s encounter with Boaz. Naomi tells Ruth to do as Boaz said and continue to glean only in his field.

Chapter 3 begins with Naomi advising Ruth to show herself available to Boaz. If you look up timelines for Ruth’s story you can presume at least one year has passed from the time Ruth meets Boaz to the time she lays at his feet at the threshing floor. At first read you may think this all happened during the same harvesting season but Ruth 2:23 tells us Ruth gleaned from Boaz’s field until the harvest was finished. Chapter three begins with Naomi telling Ruth to go to Boaz and presumes she will find him in the threshing floor because it is harvesting season once again. If you know how the rest of the story turns out, then you know Ruth obeys Naomi, catches Boaz off guard and then waits one more day for him to negotiate for her with someone else who had more rights to her. When it comes to waiting, Ruth waited over a year for God to redeem her circumstances and restore her family. Ruth’s total waiting, however, was over 10 years because her first husband was not the man she would bare children with nor was he part of the bloodline that led to Jesus. But Boaz was and when Ruth bore Obed, she fulfilled that link in Jesus’ family tree lineage.

None of us should compare our waiting stories to those in the Bible though-at least not the timelines. If God is calling you to wait, as difficult as it may be, waiting will be your best option regardless of the length of time you’re called to wait. The question remains, what should we do in the waiting. Abraham, David and Joseph lived their lives and fought many obstacles during their waiting season. Ruth grieved, went to work and cared for her mother-in-law. Some people believe you should pour all of your energy into praise and worship during your waiting season. Others would tell you to serve God more or do things to better yourself. But God isolated Ruth and at times, He also isolated David and Joseph. So don’t be surprised if God not only calls you to wait, he cancels your busyness and isolates you too.

If you’re a control freak like me, and you center your life around staying busy, you not only dislike your plans being changed but you have no idea how to “be still.” Isolation is not your favorite comfort zone either. If you’re also an overthinker like me, you may deeply struggle with shutting off your brain to even focus on hearing from God. Silence fills you with doubt, worry, and leads to more overthinking. As your impatience grows, you may get one word answers. This is not God being cryptic or playing games. This is simply His way of saying, “wait and trust.”

God’s waiting is never futile and there is always a lesson of trust in every waiting season. Trusting doesn’t always come easy to some of us though. Especially for those who have been betrayed by so many or have accepted the belief that God’s best is the opposite of what we think is best for our lives. To add to it, God doesn’t give us directions in how to trust. He simply just says to do it. Pray. Wait. Trust. Three simple words that are easy to God and nearly impossible for you and me. But, if we, like Ruth, can wait to see what will happen and trust that God is settling the matter, we can find peace to endure the waiting season, no matter how long He calls us to wait.

Feed Your Soul, Not Your Craving

“but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:14

It’s almost 6:00 a.m. on the last day of 2022. All is quiet in my household and neighborhood. I’ve wrestled with disrupted sleep all week, so of course, I’ve been awake for over an hour. Strangely, I am craving a Coke. Not just any Coke, but the kind made with pure cane sugar. I have not had one in well over a year. Perhaps hearing the mention of this kind of Coke on a TV show I watched earlier this week is what triggered this craving. I don’t have any in my home, and the nearest store I could buy one is at least a 30 minute drive. I tell myself it’s too early to drive to the store, especially just for a Coke. But this craving isn’t going away. I start to think of what I could substitute instead-perhaps a McDonald’s fountain Coke. The nearest McDonald’s is only 15 minutes away. That’s not too far, and since they have drive thru, I could just throw a coat over my PJs, because no one would see what I was wearing anyway.

Alas, I tell myself, it’s too early to drive to McDonald’s also. But I still can’t shake this craving. I think I just need something carbonated and sweet. Then I remember my beverage fridge in the garage. Occasionally there is Diet Coke in there. It won’t have the same sweet taste as a Coke made with cane sugar, but it will be carbonated and taste somewhat like a Coke. It may be too early to drive anywhere, but it wasn’t too early to walk outside to my garage. To my disappointment, there was no Diet Coke in there. There was, however, a 24=pack of bottled spring water that I had just purchased from the store yesterday. I knew water wouldn’t come close to satisfying a sugary carbonation craving, but I resigned to accept that craving a Coke must mean I’m thirsty and water was my only option to quench my thirst. As I took my first drink I knew I was right-my body was indeed thirsty. At 6:04 a.m., the entire 17-ounce bottle of water is gone and my body is still wanting more.

Water didn’t satisfy my craving, but it did settle my thirst. My body needed hydration not sugar or carbonation. This is also true for the cravings in life. There are so many things our natural selves crave that do not feed our souls. Comfort for example, is a craving most desire to combat stress. Various foods and clothing are made for comfort. When we crave comfort, we eat mac and cheese and change into sweat pants. We curl up on our couches and watch our favorite television shows in an effort to get comfortable and rid ourselves from a stressful day. But what comfort isn’t what our souls need? What if the lack of comfort is merely a stirring in our spirit, triggering a soul need, but we feed the craving instead of the soul? When that happens, we tend to have to buy bigger sweat pants. Why, because no amount of comfort food or relaxation will satisfy what our souls need. We can stuff ourselves with indulgent foods that taste satisfying but leave us feeling sick and tired when our bodies start to digest it. The same is true for feeding any of life’s cravings that do not meet the needs of our soul. The woman Jesus encountered at the well, is a prime example.

The woman at the well had soul needs. Her soul needed love and wholeness. But her heart craved lust and a need to be desired. She chased her cravings and ended up in five failed relationships. Jesus knew that about her when he greeted her. He didn’t shame her. He doesn’t even mention these details about her when they first meet. When Jesus first encounters her, He asks for a drink of water. It’s not until the end of their conversation that Jesus brings up her relationship status. He mentions it after he tells her how to feed her soul. Through an exchange about water, Jesus tells her about a living water that when consumed eliminates one’s thirst. Then He tells her to go tell her husband, already knowing she is not married and the history of her five failed marriages. This was His way of showing her that what she was craving was not feeding her soul. No human relationship can feed our souls. Our souls were designed to be fed by Jesus only. He feeds our souls when we soak in His presence and consume His word. If we don’t recognize what our soul needs, we will inevitably be sidetracked with false cravings. Take inventory of what you’re chasing after. If it’s money, power, control or lust, you’re feeding cravings. If you’re chasing after Christ, you’re feeding your soul. Feed your soul, not your cravings.

Sacrificial Love

“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.”

Genesis 22:8 NIV

Richard Bach is noted for saying “If you love someone set them free. If they come back they’re yours. If they don’t they never were.” Although internet investigators cannot substantiate this, they did find a similar quote by Jess Lair (1969): “If you want something very, very badly, let it go free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.  If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.” (from the book, I Ain’t Much Baby—But I’m All I’ve Got) This concept of loving something or someone and setting it free forms a belief system based on fate. It’s about as effective as making a wish before blowing out your birthday candles or throwing a coin into a “wishing well.” It’s indecisive and inconclusive. It’s wishy-washy and neither practical nor stable. Love is not something to chalk up to fate, it is a gift and a promise from God. It’s a gift He freely gives but sometimes asks us to temporarily give up. Especially if our love for something or someone exceeds our love for Him or if He is testing our loyalty to Him.

The Greeks describe love seven different ways; eros which is romantic love, philia which defines friendship love, storge is unconditional familial love, agape which is an unconditional selfless love, ludus which describes playful or flirtatious love, pragma which is a long lasting, committed love, and philautia which is self love (from: https://www.elizabethrider.com/7-types-of-love-and-what-they-mean/). The Bible also tells us what love is and what it is not. 1 Corinthians 13 is a famous reading at most weddings describing love as patient and kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. As the reading progresses we are reminded that love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things. But right in the middle, just after love is kind and just before love bears all things, is this sentence: love is not self-seeking. Both the Bible and the Greeks can agree on the concept of love-it is unconditional and it is sacrificial. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us a glimpse at what sacrificial love looks like but let’s take a deeper look at what it is and is not.

Sacrificial love, is not sacrificing love. It is not falling in love with a person or a dream and then throwing them away to test if the dream or person were actually meant for you. It is not pushing people away because of fear or uncertainty either. In fact, 1 John 4:18 tell us: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Do not run away from or close your heart off to love out of fear or confusion. Seek God’s help in overcoming your fears and allow His love to teach you how to truly love and freely accept others’ love. When we are walking in God’s calling of love, we should experience no fear or spirit of timidity. We should only know His peace that surpasses all understanding. But we know the devil uses fear to jerk us off the path of God’s calling. It’s why we read how “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” is written in the Bible approximately 365 times. That’s a reminder a day for an entire year. (from: https://www.quora.com/How-many-times-is-fear-mentioned-in-the-Bible) When fear rears its ugly head, we need to squash it like a serpent under our feet reminding ourselves that there is no fear in love.

Sacrificial love is not sacrificing all of yourself for your family or dream either. In fact, sacrificial love is the opposite of completely losing yourself. It’s about stepping outside of yourself and sacrificing your own will because your love for God is greater than your love for yourself. Abraham is a prime example of this type of sacrificial love.

Abraham had a dream. All he ever hoped for was to be a father. God promised Abraham he would be a dad but he made Abraham wait 25 years before keeping that promise. Abraham trusted God but had a few moments of doubt during his time of waiting. Can you blame him? How many of us could believe we heard God correctly if we were still waiting on Him to keep His word for that long? At one point, Abraham tried to manufacture his own miracle having a son with Hagar, his wife’s maidservant. But God told Abraham, Ishmael, his son with Hagar was not the son God had promised him. Instead, Abraham’s wife Sarah, at the age of 90, would bare a son whom Abraham was to name Isaac. Did you know the name Isaac means “laughter”? Interestingly, both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God reminded them that Sarah would have a baby because they thought they were too old to be parents. How many of us, who have been waiting on God to fulfill His promise are at a point of that kind of laughter? More interesting than that is the fact that God’s covenant with Abraham, was the very definition of laughter. This tells me that God’s dream for you and me involves laughter too.

Isaac, not Ishmael would be God’s covenant with Abraham. God kept his word, and Isaac was born. Special note, God didn’t forget or throw Ishmael away. In spite of Abraham playing God by having a son with Hagar first, God still blessed Ishmael, making him fruitful and increasing his numbers. (Genesis 17:20) I believe God’s care for Ishmael shows that He will redeem any circumstance or at least uses every circumstance for His purpose, even when we get in His way and try to play God in our own lives.

The birth of Isaac isn’t Abraham’s story of sacrificial love. If you are familiar with any Sunday School Bible story, then you know what happens next. As if Abraham waiting on God for 25 years didn’t already show his trust in God’s word, God tests Abraham’s faithfulness too. He calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. (Disclaimer-this took place a bazillion years ago BC. Sacrificing children now is not only illegal but NOT at all what I believe God would ever call any of us to do. In other words, do not try this home.) Now I don’t know about you, but if I waited 25 years for God to fulfill His promise to me, to fulfill the one thing my heart truly desires, then turn around and say, “sacrifice if for me” I’d respond like cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Hughes Entertainment, 1989). Only instead of saying, “Are you serious, Clark?” I would ask, “Are you serious God?!” To add to this, keep in mind Abraham had no warning, just a sudden calling from God to go and sacrifice the very promise He had waited on God to fulfill. Raise your hand if you don’t respond well to anything that happens suddenly, especially if you’re left feeling turned upside down and blind sided. Picture me typing with one hand right now because I’m flailing the other one up in the air.

Abraham however, doesn’t question God. The next day, he takes his son, a donkey, a few of his servants and all he needs to build an altar and heads up the mountain with an obedient heart. Can I stop here for just one moment? The Bible I read leaves no mention of what Abraham was feeling or thinking during this time but I can imagine Abraham was full of anguish, perhaps even a hint of confusion or despair. If nothing else, this had to be breaking Abraham’s heart. I point this out because I believe questioning God’s calling, especially when it feels contradictory to what we know He promised us is a natural human response, just as anguish, confusion, heartbreak and/or despair would be natural human feelings to process. I don’t think it’s a sin to feel any of these emotions. Sin occurs when we lose faith and allow these emotions to redirect us instead of walking in obedience with God. This could look like telling ourselves we heard God wrong or choosing a substitution to sacrifice instead. Abraham could have woke up the next morning and told himself he dreamt the whole thing or he could have convinced himself getting rid of Ishmael and Hagar, something he had already done, was what God really meant. He could have even tried to have another baby with Sarah and use that child as the sacrifice. Instead, he chose to obey and God honored his obedience by sending a substitution and sparing Isaac’s life.

Abraham’s story has an example of another sacrifice, which is Sarah’s sacrifice for Abraham. Women of the Bible were known to see their identity and worth through their ability to bear children. If they were barren they viewed themselves (and society also viewed them) to have little to no value. A moment of transparency, God has gifted me two children. Both of which I call my miracle babies because my chances of having them were lower than the average healthy woman. After having them, continued complications led to surgery that removed any chance of me ever bearing more children again. Like Sarah, I too, struggled with my identity as a woman, questioning my worth and my value after I could no longer bare children. I had to allow God to redefine me and show me who I am in through His eyes to be free from those thoughts and feelings. In the Bible, the barren ones would share their husbands with their maidservants and fulfill their identity through their maidservants’ children. Another disclaimer: this is not a socially accepted practice today nor am I recommending it. Why? Because, as in Sarah’s situation, this brought about jealousy and only increased the barren woman’s insecurity. Anything that brings about jealousy or insecurity is not a form of sacrificial love. God will never call us to make a sacrifice that creates either. God’s calling may hurt, and we may not want to let go of what He’s calling us to sacrifice, but just as He provided a ram for Abraham, if His calling is only a test, I believe He will provide a substitute sacrifice for you and me too. It will never leave you feeling jealous or insecure.

God put sacrificial love on my heart this morning as I was praying over circumstances beyond my control. As I poured out my heart out to Him today, I found myself asking Him to help me let go of my own pain and heart’s desire in order to focus on what really needed to be pray for. God called Abraham to sacrifice what he loved to prove to that he loved God more. He may call us to do the same. Sometimes, God isn’t calling us to let go, but His test may be to loosen the grip on what we love in order to trust Him more. Loosening our grip can be just as painful as letting go but as God showed me today, obeying Him and praying for His greatest good, in spite of our own pain, is a true act of sacrificial love. As you prepare to celebrate Christmas this weekend, reflect on the greatest sacrificial love of all-Mary gave birth to a son. A son who, 33 years later, demonstrated His great love for all of mankind by dying on a cross. While reflecting on this, don’t forget, even Jesus questioned God’s calling for this great sacrifice. Just before He was arrested, alone with His thoughts and two of His disciples, He prayed-““Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV) If God is calling you to walk in sacrificial love, I think it’s ok pray this very same prayer-Lord, take this cup from me. Yet not my will but yours be done. Remember this-a sacrifice is not a closed door. Abraham did not loose his son. The world did not loose Jesus. No sacrifice that God asks you to make will leave you empty. When the time is right, God will provide the ram to replace what He called you to sacrifice and let you keep all that He has promised you. Perhaps sacrificial love isn’t about sacrificing at all. Perhaps it’s merely walking in love, trusting and obeying God, no matter what He calls us to do.

A Playdough State of Mind

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” Isaiah 64:8 ESV

“You’re overthinking too much!”

“You should think before you speak!”

“You’re too lazy!”

“You work too much!”

“You’re too serious!”

“You’re too immature!”

“You’re too stubborn!”

“You’re too much of a doormat!”

“You’re too uptight!”

“You need to be more serious!”

“You’re too overweight!”

“You’re too skinny!”

“You’re….You’re….You’re…” I hear this contraction every day. The ending varies depending on who is speaking to me but nonetheless, everyday someone feels compelled to define or correct me. It’s rather ironic because for the past year I have become more aware of feeling completely invisible to most people-yet somehow I am noticed, daily, for what others think they need to change in me. What’s even more ironic is the “You’res” that are pointed out to me are the same characteristics or personality traits I can see in the “potters” in my life. In fact, they’re common characteristics in most people. Yet for some reason, people feel compelled to point them out mostly to me. These “You’res” are flaws I am already hyper aware of and don’t need others to remind me of.

People that know me best define my “You’res” as “being human.” Those two words are the best grace someone can speak to me. It’s the kind of grace that brings about a relief that allows me to let go of every baggage of insecurity I carry around, even if for only a brief moment. Imagine holding your breath daily, being told you hold your breath too much and then having someone say it’s ok to exhale. That’s what hearing “you’re just being human” feels like to me. It’s physically feeling lighter, emotionally feeling worry free. But that same baggage gets is overloaded with anxiety whenever I hear someone else speak another “You’re too….” to me. It’s heavy baggage that leaves me physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s another day of simply holding my breath once again.

Three “You’res” that have hurt me the most are: I am “too dramatic”, “too sensitive” and “too argumentative.” To overcome these I have become a stonewaller. When I hear these three (or anything similar), I will shutdown, cry behind closed doors and allow my accuser to “be right” before I will defend myself, show that my feelings were hurt or display any reaction that could feed someone else’s already misguided opinion of me. Why? Because in my 40+ years of life I have learned that defending myself gives ammunition to my offender, showing emotion reveals weakness and arguing is simply an exhaustive waste of energy. Right or wrong, stonewalling has my coping mechanism.

But what does stonewalling have to do with playdough? The Bible tells us that God is our Potter and we are His clay. We are playdough that is ever changing and ever moldable. Our own insecurities mold our thought processes, reactions and confidence (or lack thereof.) Others’ opinions of us mold how we interact with them. For example, yesterday, after walking in a spirit of defeat, feeling like I was striking out all day and fighting the urge to just sit the bench for awhile (and drying lots of tears ensuring no one else could see them), I thought to myself, “I feel like playdough.” I wake up everyday with a heart that is open to being molded by God. I have prayed (not daily as I should) for God to use me as He sees fit that day. Before I leave my house though, my own insecurities have remolded the image God made me to be. I change my outfits at least four times settling on what I feel the least “frumpy” in or what I think hides the extra pounds I can’t seem to get rid of. I apply four layers of make-up to hide the damage of not wearing sunscreen in my twenties and the natural wrinkles that most women my age have also developed. I style my hair to cover up the grays no hair dye will hide. Then I face a day where others opinions reshape me once again. By the time the day ends I feel like a blob of clay that is imprinted with knuckles from sometimes harsh words, negative interactions, somebody’s lack of patience (or my own), and failing to meet my inner drive for perfection. So many days I fall asleep with anxiety over everything I did wrong or heard I did wrong that day. Even when others compliment me, one person’s “constructive criticism” will be the instant replay I allow to mold me. We are all ever changing, ever being molded by God, ourselves and others.

What happens to playdough if it’s not cared for properly? It hardens and can no longer be molded. If we aren’t careful we too can harden. Hardening to others’ opinions of us can sound like a wise choice in setting boundaries and protecting ourselves. My coping mechanism of stonewalling is a form of hardening. But the fact is, it can close us off to hearing others correct us in love. I will admit I have been guilty of this. Thankfully, because I can overthink things, I am able to process when my stonewalling is in fact setting a boundary and when I have alienated someone who was speaking the truth in love. When the latter happens, as hard as it is for me to admit I’m wrong, I will seek forgiveness and work harder to listen with an open heart. That’s a time where I let the Lord mold me again. Anytime we are humbling ourselves to seek another’s forgiveness is a moment when God is refining us in His image.

Another form of hardening that is a dangerous level is when we don’t allow God to mold us. The bible warns us that when that happens, “…he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Proverbs 28:14b ESV) Another word for calamity is disaster. Hardening our hearts to God=GREAT DISASTER! I could list so many scriptures to back that sentence up but this post would never end. Instead I will say if you don’t know this concept already, read your Bible, google verses about “great disaster” and calamity and see for yourself just how damaging life can be when we the clay stop allowing our Potter to mold us. Just as playdough cannot form itself, we will remain a useless blob if we don’t allow our Potter to form us.

But back to the “You’re” phrases. Are you told you’re “too sensitive”, “too strong-willed”, “too perfect”, “too flawed”, “too lazy”, “too hardworking”, an “overachiever”, “overthinker”, “overweight” or some other “too” “over”, etc.? You know what you really are? You’re extra! What does that mean? It means you’re guacamole. Guacamole comes from a hardened avocado after it’s softened and hand smashed. Seasonings are added to give it just the right amount of flavor. If you’re extra, that means God has taken your hardened heart, softened it and added just the amount of pizzazz to make you fabulous. Some people will love you, some people may hate you. People that love guacamole always want extra and those that love you are gonna love all the extra fabulousness inside of you too! God is our potter, we are His clay. Let God keep molding you and embrace your extra! After all, in the book of Psalms, David reminds us we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We can’t get anymore extra than that!

Calming Life’s Storm

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13 NIV

In the midst of a world pandemic we are surrounded by scary statistics, rising death tolls, overcrowded hospitals, limited medical supplies, etc.  We’re told the safest place to be is home.  People wear masks and other personal protection equipment when they have to go to public places.  Personally, I have even resorted to “washing” my groceries before bringing them in the house.  Why?  Because our world is fighting against the spread of a scary and unpredictable virus that continues to wreak havoc and steals our hope and our freedoms.

Life, as we know it, has been put on pause for an indefinite time period.  People have temporarily lost their jobs due to businesses closing down.  High school seniors lost the last few months of their high school careers because school buildings closed in mid-March and have been ordered to remain closed for the duration of the school year.  Spring athletes like baseball players and track stars will have no season this year.  Weddings have been cancelled or rescheduled.  Family gatherings are halted.  Grandparents can’t see their grandchildren except through their picture window or via video technology.  It’s as if the world itself has stopped turning and is standing still on its axle.

For many, this sudden change in lifestyle, cancellation of plans and loss of  tradition has brought much despair.  Others wrestle with anxiety while trying to hold their family together with little or no income.  Still for others it brings anger, resentment, sadness and even fear.   Watching TV or scrolling through social media only adds to these emotions due to the barrage of false and overly exaggerated information that pours through both media channels.  Even in the comfort of our homes we cannot escape the eerie silence and chaotic noise of COVID-19.  It’s almost like that dreary calm in nature when the skies are dark and the trees are motionless just before the madness strikes as a destructive storm blows through.

I can imagine the disciples knew that exact dread and fear when their boat sailed right into a deadly storm.  Mark 4:37 describes it as a “furious squall…that broke the waves over the boat making them nearly swamped.” (NIV)  I  imagine twelve men scurrying around, panicked doing everything that can to keep the boat from sinking.  Although verse 38 tells us they ran to Jesus asking Him to save them, based on their history of unbelief, I think they tried to save themselves before running to Jesus.  Here’s the kicker of this story.  Jesus was in the stern, SLEEPING!  When the disciples woke Him, He stood up, “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ (verse 39) Then He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I think Jesus could be asking Christians of today’s world these same two questions-Why are we so afraid?  Do we still have NO faith?  Does His word mean nothing to us when we need it most?  Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that “in this world [we] will have trouble. But take heart! [Jesus] has over come the world.”  In Deuteronomy 31:6, God told His chosen people to “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake.”

We do not have to be afraid or in dread of a deadly disease.  We can be at peace through this tumultuous whirlwind the Coronavirus has brought upon us.  We do not have to entertain anger, despair, grief or fear.  We can choose joy, gladness, gratitude and hope.  How? Taking His word for the very truth that it is and standing on scripture that combats every negative emotion that floods our spirits.

Are you angry because your plans have been ruined and you feel stuck at home?  God’s word says “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:20.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 warns to “not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  Instead of anger, God tells us to “Consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds because…the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)  We combat anger with choosing joy.

Are you anxious because you’ve lost your job, maybe have no income and unsure how you will meet your family’s basic needs?  God is our Provider.  In fact, in Matthew 6: 25-27 (NIV), we are told this; “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body…is not life more than food…? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet [our] Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are [we] not of more value than [those birds]? Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Worrying doesn’t grow a money tree or put food on your table.  But prayer and faith can.  We don’t have to have big faith either, just the faith the size of a mustard seed.  Isn’t that ironic?

Have the cancellation of milestone events (graduations, weddings, etc.) left you grieving what you or your loved one are missing out on?  Are you crumpled in a pit of despair?  Grab on to hope and don’t let go.  1 Peter 5:10 promises us this: “The God of all grace, who called [us] to His eternal glory in Christ, after [we] have suffered a little while, will Himself restore [us] and make [us] strong, firm and steadfast.” Milestone events may not happen exactly as were planned or even in the traditional manner we looked forward to.  But that doesn’t mean they will not happen.

If it’s a part of God’s plan, it will happen.  Sarah and Abraham are the perfect example of that.  Sarah’s dream of becoming a mother fell to the wayside as she grew to be past the child bearing age.  She “thought outside the box” even and tried manufacturing her own family using Haggar. But God’s plan was for Sarah to bear a child, not adopt one.  Even though Sarah laughed at God’s promise, Hebrews 11:11 tells us that “by faith…Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who made the promise.”  Sarah laughed at God-clearly her faith was the size of a mustard seed.  BUT-God is a god of His word and He always keeps His promises.

Lastly, have you been paralyzed by fear-fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of this virus itself?  Then memorize these scriptures and follow these commands!

     1.) “Do not fear..when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not [even] set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

2.) “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discourage for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

3.) “Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” (Isaiah 35:4

4.) “Do not be afraid…The Lord your God Himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22)

5.)  “...do not be afraid, just believe.” (Mark 5:36)

God is in control.  God is bigger than COVID-19.  This pandemic did not surprise Him.  I do not know His “why” for this world crisis but as He tells us in Isaiah 55:8; His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways the same as our ways.  He doesn’t call us to find the “why” in every situation.  He calls us to trust Him and take Him at His word. He also calls us to obey His word.  Right now I believe, He is telling us to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)

In the end of this terribly long pause, God will be exalted among the nations.  Until then, we can stave off anger, despair, grief and fear by  setting our minds on things above and turning off the earthly things.  When the news and social media posts feel like cataclysmic waves crashing into you life’s boat, remember these strategies and trust that just like he did for the disciples, Jesus is calming this life storm too.

Total Transformation

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I have been on a roller coaster of a journey for several years that consisted of short highs and long seasons of lows. Last year was a major turn around for me both career wise and financially. This year I took my health back. I also am practicing walking in full surrender to His will and His ways. I still have shortcomings and a whole lot of “me” mentality to work on but it’s amazing what a little discipline, a lot of faith, full surrender and breakthroughs in prayer can do in a short time span!

Here’s a before and after of me in the same dress, two and half years apart. The 30 pound difference is a combination of Weight Watchers and letting go of heavy burdens, including forgiving my enemies. One day before my 44th birthday, I feel more free and joyful than I ever have. All glory to God for it is because of Him that I am a new creation!

Debunking Boaz

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

If you’re familiar with the Bible then I’m guessing you’ve heard of the story of Ruth.  If not, let me give you a quick summary.  Ruth was a woman who married a man from a foreign land and tied herself to his family.  Her father-in-law, her husband and her brother-in-law all die (not simultaneously) and her mother-in-law (Naomi) decides to return to her homeland.  Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to stay with their own families.  Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah stays.  But Ruth clings to Naomi and ends up returning to Naomi’s homeland with her.  Ruth then goes to work in a barley field as a means to provide for herself and Naomi.  There she meets Boaz who just so happens to to own the barley field Ruth is working in.  Long story short, Naomi finds out who Ruth is working for, realizes it’s a relative who can “redeem” Ruth as wife and mother and plays matchmaker between the two.  Her instructions and Ruth’s obedience pay off as Boaz marries Ruth and Ruth gives birth to Obed who was King David’s grandfather.

The book of Ruth is one of redeeming love and used as an example of how God can take tragedy and turn it into glory.  However, if misinterpreted, it can easily be romanticized and fill people, especially single women longing for marriage, with false hope.   For a woman longing for marriage, especially one has endured much rejection and/or abuse, the story of Boaz redeeming Ruth can fill her with the idea that God will use a man to redeem her circumstances also.  I want to be clear-Boaz was a kinsman redeemer but he did not redeem Ruth.

In Ruth’s cultural times, a kinsman-redeemer was a relative who carried out an act for a near relative who could not carry it out for themselves. In Ruth’s case, she was left a childless widow.  Boaz acted as a kinsman-redeemer by marrying and impregnating her in order to carry on her husband’s name (Ruth 4:10.) Boaz was a man of noble character but he was not a knight in shining armor who rescued Ruth.  He was a man who was impressed with Ruth’s beauty and work ethic.  He saws Ruth’s approach toward him as an act of kindness.  He also admitted there was another relative closer in relation to be Ruth’s redeemer. He protected Ruth’s reputation but was willing to step aside if the other relative chose to redeem Ruth himself (all found in Ruth chapters 3 and 4.)

Ruth was not a damsel in distress either.  She suffered great loss.  She made hard choices.  She worked on her own accord.  Ruth doesn’t bring up the idea of remarriage or children.  Her mother-in-law does.  Ruth only obeys the directives Naomi gives her.  Ruth was not wallowing in sorrow or waiting for a man to come along and rescue her.  She was in survival mode focused on taking care of herself and Naomi.  God stepped in and redeemed Ruth’s circumstances by connecting her to Boaz but God is Ruth’s ultimate rescuer.

No where in the book of Ruth does it mention that the desires of her heart was remarriage or to have a child.  In fact, when Naomi tells her to stay in her homeland, it’s because Naomi had no other sons for her to marry in order to bare a child.  Naomi tells her to stay with her own family and find another husband there.  But Ruth tells her this; “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)  Ruth does not choose to go with Naomi hoping to meet Boaz or any kinsman-redeemer.  She goes with Naomi because that’s who she identifies as her family and she has a loyalty to staying with that family.  The Bible doesn’t say it, but I believe Ruth either had no intentions to ever remarry or simply trusted God to take care of the matter.  Either way, remarriage was not Ruth’s priority.

Please don’t misinterpret today’s post.  I am not against marriage or remarriage.  The point of this post is to empower the woman who believe a man, a relationship and/or marriage is her saving grace to let go of that ideology.  To the woman who thinks her life will begin when God finally sends her the man of her dreams, you’re missing out on life that’s happening right now! God is our true redeemer.  He was Israel’s redeemer in the old testament and He sent Jesus to be our redeemer from sin in the New Testament.  He saves our circumstances and He redeems us from sinful mistakes.  No human being has the power to do that.  Expecting someone to redeem us puts unnecessary pressure on the person we identify as our savior.  It also is a form of worship and violates the Ten Commandments (Thou shall have no other gods before Me…)

If you are a single woman and your heart’s desire is marriage, please don’t pray for a Boaz.  Boaz was Ruth’s husband.  He can’t be yours.  Pray for the man God has designed for you.  While you’re waiting, be diligent in your work, recognize where you can rescue yourself and trust God to rescue you when you cannot.  Be the provider for the family God has gifted you, even if that family is just you and a pet or two. Trust Him to be your leader and partner.  See God as the husband you wish you had because we are all His bride. He is ultimately the One for each and everyone of us.

God will always be our Mr. Right.  If we misinterpret Boaz and especially if we get caught up in romance or Hallmark movies, we can easily become impatient and fall for a Mr. Right Now.  Wait on God.  Trust His ways.  Celebrate your singleness (it’s just as precious gift as marriage) and work hard at being the woman God made you to be.  If being a wife is part of His design, it will come to pass, just like it did for Ruth, in God’s time and His way!  We don’t need to manufacture our own love stories.  Ruth didn’t and God gave her Boaz.  Trust Him to write your love story too!


Crickets? Crikey!

‘For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” ~ Isaiah 41:13-14
When I was a young girl my mom sang in the church choir. She would have choir practice at the church one evening per week. While she was practicing, I was left with the other kids to entertain ourselves. This usually involved a lot of running, going places around the church we weren’t allowed in and being very noisy. We were hollered at repeatedly. Sometimes, when our behavior was too disruptive, we would have to sit in a pew and observe the entire practice. Being a high energy 10-year-old forced to sit still and be quiet was challenging, boring and downright awful. Considering I was benched on a church pew a handful of times I wasn’t only hyperactive and noisy, I was also a slow learner.
One particular cause for disruption was centered around crickets. During certain times of the year, the sidewalks and other areas of the church had an abundance of the big black yucky jumping beasts. By big I mean they were probably 1 inch in size! But let’s be real-that is BIG for a bug, right?!
I have no idea who devised the evil plan but at some point during cricket season the boys in our group decided throwing these bugs at us girls would be their source of entertainment for the evening. Each girl scream prompted boy laughter. It became a disruptive cycle that was definitely heard over the church organ and choir vocals. It was also an event that got some of us, including myself, stuck in a pew for the next choir practice. Cricket throwing was so entertaining that it occurred on multiple occasions.
One of the best pieces of advice my mother gave me was centered around this event. She had grown quite frustrated with the situation and me for disrupting choir practice. One day she said to me, “They only throw crickets at you to get a reaction from you. If you don’t react they’ll eventually quit throwing them.” Being a head strong child determined to do her own thing, I didn’t always take my mother’s advice or listen to her rules. But I did this time. In fact, I went a step further with it. When the boys threw crickets at me, I didn’t scream. I picked those nasty bugs up and threw them right back. I threw them back for my own defense and in defense of the other girls (who by the way we’re still screaming and running away.) My momma was right. When those boys saw I wasn’t scared anymore, they stopped throwing crickets.
The enemy uses fear the same way those boys did, to get a reaction from us. He uses repeated situations and circumstances to keep us afraid. He throws things like rejection, conflict, busyness, failure, exhaustion, and defeat that cause us to scream, cry, argue, become depressed, feel anxious, and even develop recurring health problems that disrupt our lives and relationships. If we’re not careful, we can become enslaved to what we fear and misinterpret people’s words and actions. We can actually expect what we fear.
God is not a spirit of fear. He does not bring rejection, anxiety, depression or defeat. Repeatedly He tells us He is on our side and He will deliver us from the hands of our true enemy. God did not make us to be His puppets but when we give into fear, we allow satan to be our puppet master. Repeatedly God’s word says “DO NOT FEAR.”
Just like those boys, satan will keep throwing fear at us as long as he can get a reaction. The best way to defeat him is to throw the fear back.
Are you wrestling with rejection? Remind yourself that in Genesis God said “It is not good for man to be alone…” and in Ecclesiastes He said again, “Two are better than one…” Psalm 68:6 begins with “God settles the lonely in families…” God does not call us to journey life alone. He gifts us with families, friendships, church bodies, and other relationships to do life with. Families aren’t always biological but I know from experience that God can gift us with people who feel more like family than our own blood relation.
Worried about your relationship? Stand on God’s truth and tell satan he can’t have it. Worried about your children? Guess what! They were God’s before they were yours. Remind satan to Whom they really belong to and that he cannot have them. Worried about your job? God gave it to you and only He has the power to take it away. But He promises to always take care of us.
No matter what your fear is, God has scripture to combat it. Scripture and prayer are the best weapons to throw at the enemy. Every time you worry, experience racing thoughts, feel so anxious you physically feel like vomiting, pray, get into God’s word, google “verses for fear, rejection, anxiety, etc.”, read a devotional or several at a time or listen to songs that remind you of His deliverance. If you’re able to, profess aloud God’s ultimate power and control and His ability to conquer our enemy.
It’s been 30+ years since I had a cricket thrown at me. But they still make me scream. Just this morning one jumped on and at me invoking a high pitched squeal to come from my voice box multiple times. It literally felt like the cricket was attacking me. Every time it jumped, I jumped and squealed. This went on until it made its escape underneath my kitchen island. I looked for it to kill it but it found safety in a secret hiding place.
This morning’s event reminded me not only how we can become enslaved to fear but how small our fears really are when we measure them up to our God. A black cricket is typically no bigger than the size of a peanut shell. I am over five feet tall. I have the power to crush this bug with my bare hands (although I wouldn’t for the simple fact that bug guts on my fingers would gross me out!) Yet fear gave the bug power over me. Rejection and other debilitating fears are just as tiny when compared to God’s power and His promises. God is in control and He promises to squash our enemy like a bug some day. But He also gives us the authority to squash the enemy too. Luke 10:19 tells us this; ““Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.”
The next time satan throws fear at you, throw back scripture, prayer and God’s truth. Watch the enemy get squashed like a bug, scorpion or snake! God is in control and His power makes us powerful and fearless. Do not be afraid!