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.

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!
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Caution: Icy Roads Ahead

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.””‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬I’m reading a devotional on You Version called “21 Ways to Thrive by 45.” Today’s reading was about facing fear by putting our focus on Jesus and trusting Him. The scripture for today was Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 . I’ve heard Deuteronomy 31:6 multiple times in my life. At one point I had it written on an index card taped to my desk as a daily reminder. But I’m not sure the passage from Psalms 56 has ever resonated with me before. I had to read it twice this morning before I felt God nudge me about these two verses. It’s summer time where I live. In a month or two the leaves will start changing color, the temperature will turn cooler and the evenings will get darker earlier. Although this is a beautiful time of year with backdrops full of bright yellow, orange and red, this is also a warning sign that winter is right around the corner. For some, this brings the excitement of winter activities such as snowmobiling or skiing. For me, because this also means poor road conditions, it brings fear.Today’s verses reminded me of a time that I found myself caught in an ice storm. My children had had doctor appointments in late afternoon. Although it was the middle of winter, driving to their appointments, the roads were quite clear. However in a short period of time, freezing rain came down and turned the roads into an ice skating rink. I had a 20+ mile drive home. I proceeded with great caution.What should’ve been less than a 30 minute commute was taking well over an hour as I creeped and crawled in my vehicle to ensure I wouldn’t lose control. Vehicles in my area tend to be equipped with four wheel drive but that doesn’t help on ice. Four wheel drive on ice just means you have four wheels spinning out of control instead of two. The closer we got to our home, the worse the road conditions get. The hills also seem to increase frequency and depth.Two miles before home I stopped at the top of a very steep hill. It was dark with freezing rain still falling from the sky. The ice covered road before me had a bright sheen when my headlights hit it. I thought about the best approach for this hill and then I proceeded. My slow decent took a turn for the worst as my vehicle did a complete 180 and I found myself stuck in a ditch, in the wrong lane facing on-coming traffic. With no success, I tried getting out of the ditch and back up the hill. I realized I was going to have to proceed down the hill backward. As I slowly let my foot off the brake to begin backing down the hill, the ice took over and my car slid backward, landing at the bottom of the hill completely parallel to the crossroad that was ahead of me. I was now taking up both lanes. This was a narrow road with large drop offs on either side. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to get my vehicle turned straight into the proper lane and moving forward again. I prayed. I panicked. I constantly reassured my kids that we were going to be ok. But I was shaking with fear. I feared rolling my vehicle. I didn’t fear for my safety-but I feared greatly for the safety of my children. I’m a momma bear by nature and will risk life and limb to protect my children.I also knew that I couldn’t stay where I was at because any traffic coming from either direction could’ve hit us. My daughter was riding in the front seat, my son in the back. All of us had seatbelts on. I grabbed my daughter’s hand. I told my kids I had to get us out of there and proceeded to straighten out my car. Each attempt pulled me closer to the drop off on the right side of the road. In my mind I had already accepted that rolling the vehicle was inevitable. But I spoke out to my children saying “It’s ok. We’re going to be ok. God is going to protect us.” Just as my vehicle pulled farther to the right and I knew we were going into that drop off, my vehicle straightened and I was facing the right direction again. I drove a few feet away from the drop off, pulled to the side of the road then called for help. Tears of fear and relief flowed as I sobbed on the phone to the person I called. God protected us in a mighty way that night. Do you know every winter I still get anxiety over driving on bad roads? Do you know I still wrestle with fear, struggling to sleep some times? I also avoid chasing my dreams and rarely putting myself out there because of fearing rejection. The verses from Psalms 56 were a great reminder to take my focus off fear and remember Who is really in control. It’s also a great reminder that He promises to protect us whether it be bad roads, bad relationships, poor health, toxic situations, etc. When we focus on the what-ifs we give fear and anxiety all the control. We may even become paralyzed and unable to move forward because we’re listening to fear (or get ourselves stuck in a ditch because we tried to handle the circumstance in our own wisdom.) But when we stand on the promises of Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 peace overthrows fear because we know that God is watching over us. Fear is a choice. Trust is too. Do not fear. Choose instead to trust in the One who promises to protect us always.