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.

Wrighter’s Block

“He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while” –for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.”

‭‭MARK‬ ‭6:31‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Hi all. Asking for prayers as I’m battling with headaches and exhaustion the past two days. I’m in a season of busyness with no signs of a day of rest for another few weeks. Headaches and tiredness make it difficult to concentrate so I’m also experiencing writer’s block. This too shall pass as they say, but your prayers may just be what’s needed for me to experience freedom from these headaches as well as having my energy restored.

I’ve been hearing frequently that this stage of warfare means I’m nearing the end of the battle. I pray that’s the case and for the strength to endure as the closer you get to victory, the harder the enemy fights, right? I’ve still got a lot fight left in me but even strong ones get weary. I know this isn’t from the Lord but most likely an attack from the enemy himself to keep me from writing God’s truths. The enemy will not prevail. That truth I will always stand on.

Thank you in advance to all who pray and as always, if I can be a prayer warrior for you, please share a request in the comments section. God bless you all!

A Holiday Hiatus

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Philippians 2:5 NLT

I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, not in the traditional sense anyway.  It’s not for religious reasons it’s simply because I don’t think we need one day to eat turkey and pumpkin pie, watch football with select friends and family and say a few “I’m thankful for’s”.  Personally, I can eat turkey and pie any day I want, football is on TV for several weeks August through January and I should choose to be thankful every day.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not condemn anyone who celebrates this holiday.  I’ve partaken in my share of family gatherings on Turkey Day, overeating and even getting in some pre-Christmas shopping.  But in the past few years, I have chosen to spend Thanksgiving alone.  Most people I share this with are aghast that I am alone on a holiday and some insist I come to their home for dinner because “no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.”  But I actually enjoy being alone that day.  My life is so busy, especially in the fall season that the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) are my guaranteed days to have nothing planned or scheduled and to just be at home.  My children spend every Thanksgiving at a large family party and I take the day to just detach from the hub-bub of a hectic schedule.  On Christmas day, my children are home with me. We spend the day enjoying presents, movies and again, unplugging from busyness-just like Jesus did in His ministry.

The New Testament has many verses on how Jesus would separate Himself from even His disciples to pray and regroup.  Mark 1:35 is one example; “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (NIV)” Luke 5:16 is another great example; “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (NIV)” Jesus often withdrew…why, because He was a very busy, very in-demand man.  Jesus’ ministry consisted of many public engagements across multiple towns.  They didn’t have planes, trains or automobiles back then.  Travel consisted of walking or boat rides.  Distances of 75+ miles (approximately 120 kilometers) were traveled by Jesus and His disciples in any given “road trip.”  Each journey consisted of preaching to multitudes, performing miraculous healings, feeding 4000-5000 people, walking on water and calming storms.  Some journeys consisted of a wedding or family gathering for some Jewish festival or celebration.  Nonetheless if Jesus was in public He was bombarded with people.  Some seeking His healing powers and the truth He preached, others trying to trip Him up and prove His message to be a fraud.  One journey even consisted of a 40 day fast with the devil as His company.

Jesus was God, but He was God in human form.  He grew tired and weary.  He felt the overwhelming responsibility of His ministry and distracting pull away from what’s most important that comes from seasons of busyness.  That is why He was faithful in getting away, even without those He was closest to, simply to regroup, recharge and keep His focus on the reason He was on this Earth.

As the busy Holiday season is fast approaching there’s so much we can get caught up in-planning parties and preparing meals, thawing turkeys and cheering for our favorite football team, choosing the perfect gifts to place under the Christmas tree, decking the halls and spreading Christmas cheer, even thinking about resolutions for the upcoming New Year.  If you’re already an overbooked person like me, adding holiday craze to the agenda can make you feel like you’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet with a full stomach but having more and more piled on your plate.  If we over eat we get major indigestion that can put us on the sofa twisted in abdominal pain for the rest of the day or until our body digests all that we consumed.  In life, if we are overbooked and don’t escape the “noise” regularly, our bodies wear out and we can get far more severe health issues (physical and mental) that outweigh indigestion.

How truly enjoyable are the holidays when you’re bogged down with a to-do list that’s nearly impossible to accomplish anyway?  Been there, done that and never enjoyed a single holiday when I was in that season.  Now, I love the holidays because I am able to step back and focus on what the real purpose for the holiday season is.  I hope this post encourages you to do the same.  I am not suggesting you cancel all of your obligations or downsize on your Christmas shopping list.  Nor am I suggesting everyone should boycott Thanksgiving like I do.  My hope is that reading this encourages you to make sure you are setting aside time daily, once a week or biweekly (monthly is too far of a gap) to turn off the noise, get away from the hub-bub and decompress.  Human beings are not energizer bunnies that keep going and going and going.  We all need a good recharge. The holiday season is the perfect time to pause, reflect, pray and focus on what’s truly important in this life and the lives of those we are called to serve.