Nautical Naughtiness

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”

2 Peter 3:17

In my country, July 4th is a national holiday known as Independence Day.  It’s a day that is celebrated with parades, picnics, barbecues, beach days, boating and of course fireworks.  Everywhere you look American flags and  red, white and blue decorations adorn homes, streets, businesses and even people.  It’s a day the US celebrates becoming its own country, independent of another country’s governing.

In my family, we have a traditional Independence Day celebration.  It’s a small gathering of cousins and their children.  We attend a parade, enjoy a cook-out, relax at the beach and end the day reveling at the firework show.  There is an annual festival going on with many events and we tend to find ourselves exploring vendors and enjoying the whatever entertainment is performing in the park.  There are always a few stressful moments but overall it’s a very enjoyable day.

This year, after the cook-out, I took my daughter and three nieces to the beach.  The lake is very shallow and my younger nieces went out quite a distance before the water was even near their bellies.  Being a “nervous Nelly” when it comes to water safety, I would call out to my nieces and motion for them to come back in.  This of course was no fun to them because they would inevitably end up swimming in very shallow water.  After seeing one of my nieces express some frustration, I explained that I was only trying to keep them safe.  As far out as they had previously gone, if they ended up in danger, it would have taken me too long to get to them from the shore.  After a brief storm interrupted our beach time, we found a happy medium for distance in the water that we could all live with.

As evening approached and only a few short hours until fireworks time, the rest of my family arrived.  This crew included my nephews who are seven, five and three.  Because the temps were cooling off, the sun was setting and fireworks would start at dusk, my nephews were not permitted to go swimming.  In fact, when everyone else arrived, my nieces changed into dry clothes as all swimming had come to an end for the day.  That was, until my three-year-old nephew decided to walk right into the lake.

Keep in mind, this is a very shallow lake.  Thankfully that meant no drop offs anywhere around him that put him in immediate danger.  His mother, seeing what her son was doing, called out his name and told him to stop.  He did not listen.  She called again and he continued walking into the water.  Another adult family member headed to the water to get him.  My nephew turned around wearing a giant grin on his face and continued to walk backward farther into the water as my cousin slowly walked toward him.  My nephew’s mother continued to tell him to stop but alas, he did not listen.  Reading his face, it looked as though he thought his uncle was playing a game with him and he was determined to not get caught.

Just before he went under the water, my cousin grabbed a hold of my nephew and carried him to shore.  He was greeted by his momma who was wearing a very serious, concerned and unhappy look on her face.  As he looked as his momma, that big smile turned to a frown.  He lowered his head and in a soft, sweet toddler voice he said, “Sorry momma.”  As I am one who tends to find these moments funny when it’s not my own child disobeying, I jumped up and took a photo of the very moment he became apologetic.  All in all, his clothes were soaked but he was kept safe from going under water.

As this scenario played out, and especially as I watched my nephew’s facial expressions turn from joy, mischievousness and then to remorse and regret, I thought about God’s parenting and our own sinful natures.  If we are honest with ourselves, we can be certain to recall a time or many where we looked God in the eye, heeded His warnings, possibly flashed a cheeky grin and walked directly into a dangerous and sinful situation.  It doesn’t have to be something as drastic as three-year-old ignoring his mother’s warnings and walking into a lake where he could’ve drown.  It could be something as easy as overeating, overspending, having sex before marriage, telling a lie or a handful of lies, etc.  It could be something more destructive like being married, forming a friendship with a member of the opposite sex, heeding God’s warnings about getting too close and crossing lines into an emotional and/or physical affair.

There are times we face sinful choices and like the situation with my nephew, God steps in just before we’re about to go under water.  There are other times though, God chooses not to intercede but instead waits to piece us back together as you or I self destruct.  With that self-destruction comes collateral damage to ourselves and others that isn’t always fixed.  Relationships can be destroyed and God’s redeeming love doesn’t always restore them.  Some decisions we make can be life changers or life enders.  That’s why God calls out to us yelling, “STOP!” It’s our fault we get into deep water when we choose to ignore God’s warnings.

No matter what type of sin it is, ignoring God’s warning signs will always lead to negative consequences.  When walking through those consequences, that cheeky grin we once displayed turns upside down as we are burdened with remorse and regret.  Thankfully, God’s mercy and grace mean we do not have to live in an eternal state of regret.  Yes we will make mistakes.  Some may even forever change us.  But we don’t have to let our mistakes define or govern us.  We can have our own “independence day” celebrating the freedom God’s love and forgiveness brings-freedom from guilt and shame.

God’s redeeming love covers all of our mistakes.  He is our foghorn when we face temptation.  He is our lifeboat when find ourselves in deep waters.  He is our guiding light when were shipwrecked and lost.  He forgives us as soon as we say, “Sorry Abba” just as my nephew’s mother forgave him immediately when he sought forgiveness too.  If you’re in deep waters today, God can still save you.  All you have to do is cry out for help and trust Him.  If you’re struggling with a regretful past, swim away from the under toe of shame and know that you are forgiven.  If you’re facing a temptation today, listen to God yelling, “STOP!”, heed His warning and walk out of the deep water you’re about to enter.  Walking in obedience may feel like swimming in shallow water but there’s no chance of drowning when you’re right where God can save you.

No matter how enticing the enemy is making temptation look, it will not bring you the joy and satisfaction you’re longing for.  Obedience to God’s word is the only joy that will truly satisfy you. Walking in obedience may not always feel fun or joyful but living with a lifetime of regret from sinful choices is far less enjoyable that doing life God’s way.   I’m writing from experience on this one for sure!

 

While You’re Waiting…

“For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭38:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When you live in a world of high speed data, iInstapot cooking and even drive thru medicine, waiting seems like a never ending inconvenience. It’s especially frustrating when you’re running late and caught in a traffic jam or you have a screaming toddler on a long flight. Maybe you’re waiting for a job promotion or for an open door to get a job. Maybe you’re struggling with an illness or debilitating ailment and God hasn’t healed you yet. Or maybe you’re like me, waiting for God’s best when it comes to dating and marriage. Whatever your season of waiting is, it may feel like God isn’t there, that He’s said or no that maybe He even wants you stuck. Rest assured, God is there, waiting is not always a “No” and He definitely does not want His children stuck.

I’m going to be very vulnerable for a moment and share something I’ve been waiting for-a godly marriage. My biological father left my mom and I when I was a toddler. My mom married the man I called Dad when I was 3. Sadly, he died when I was 8. When he was alive my family felt complete. I’ve lived with a big hole in my life ever since.

In high school I fell for boys who were unkind and just wanted to play games. I had one serious relationship with a boy that lasted through college. He was loyal, kind and hardworking. He even wanted to marry me. But we were both too young to know how to make a relationship work, let alone a marriage. So, five years after it started it came to an end. After that, I settled for relationships that were not God’s design for me simply trying to fill the hole my dad’s death left in me. Each break-up led to more self defeat and left me in a constant of rejection.

As a single mom, now in my early 40’s, I am clearly still waiting for God to give me the desire of my heart. I’ve spent years watching others’ fall in love and get married. I’ve seen redeeming love stories and wondered when I would be next? I’ve cried, begged and yelled at God wondering what He was doing in this area of my life. Then I convinced myself God had so no to my heart’s desire and I gave up on dating altogether. I even professed the enemy’s lie that I simply wasn’t marriage material. I even used to tell my family and friends that if God wanted me married then He was going to have to drop my husband on my doorstep. To which one of my funny besties replied with; “So you’re going to marry the UPS man?”

Clearly, I have not waited well. Thankfully God gives uses the story of Ruth to remind us how to wait. But also, I think Ruth teaches us that God is the only one who can fill the hole left from losing a loved one. Boss may have been Ruth’s kinsman redeemer but he’s not who made her whole. God did before Ruth even met Boaz.

Ruth experienced a great loss in her lifetime. She lost her father-in-law, her husband and her brother-in-law also. In Ruth’s day, men were the provider and stability of their household. She lost family members. She lost her spouse. But she also lost her financial stability and her home. If there was anyone who was left with a big hole in their life, Ruth would be the poster-child example.

Here’s an interesting fact about Ruth. She lost much but she clung to what she had left. While Orpah even let go of Naomi, Ruth said; “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬) If Ruth had stayed in Moab, she would’ve never met Boaz.

The first thing Ruth did in her season of waiting was clung to what she still had. The second thing she did was go to work. As the now provider for herself and her mother-in-law, Ruth has to find a way to ensure they would have food to eat. So she set out to the wheat fields and she gleaned. Please note this-Ruth did not apply for a top notch job with excellent pay and amazing benefits. She didn’t even apply for a minimum wages job. She went to work picking up the scraps left behind from the harvesters. Her primary focus was gathering enough grain to feed Naomi and herself. She was not too proud to glean.

The third thing Ruth did was listen to godly advice. There’s nowhere in Ruth’s story that mentions her desire to remarry. Yet Naomi knew a husband for Ruth would redeem both of them. When she learned that Ruth was gleaming in Boaz’s field, she gave her daughter-in-law some crucial advice. Ruth worked for Boaz through at least two season before Naomi said this; “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” (Ruth‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Ruth’s response was this; “I will do everything you say…” (vs 5) Talk about a trusting and obedient heart.

Ruth did what Naomi instructed her to do and not only did she end up married to Boaz, the Lord redeemed her and Naomi when Ruth bore a son named Obed. Obed was King David’s grandfather. God’s love story for Ruth was merely a chapter in His great design for king David. Ruth was a woman who waited well.

If you’re in a waiting season, what are you waiting for and what are you doing while you wait? Are you making your heart’s desire a god in your life or are you trusting God and waiting on His timing? Are you trying to manufacture your own miracle and producing Ishmael’s when God has promised you an Isaac? Are you running in circles through modern medicine trying to heal yourself? Are you financially drowning because you tried keeping up with the Joneses? Are you wallowing in self-pity, bitterness and wrestling with a spirit of rejection? Are you giving up on everything and losing all hope in God’s goodness? OR-are you clinging to Jesus (what we will always have), getting work (doing your best to make ends meet and not living beyond your means) and following godly advice? If you are waiting well, there’s no guarantee you won’t have to wait less than someone who’s waiting poorly but it will give you peace of mind, added measures of patience and keep your focus on where it needs to be which is fully trusting and relying on God.

Do You Trust Me?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have felt stuck on a hamster wheel going nowhere for far too long. Everyday feels like another battle of jumping on the wheel exhausting every ounce of energy I have only to end up in the same place, worn out and disappointed. Every time I see what appears to be an open door to get me off this hamster wheel I run harder and faster only to watch someone else go through the door and close it behind them.

I’m gonna get real and confess I am so tired of closed doors! I want off this daggone hamster wheel and actually moving forward thriving like some preachers tell us God wants us to be doing. Last night I stopped running in place and prayed a very angry prayer to God demanding I be moved out of the pit and into the promotion in life I long for. I pulled out all the stops too. I reminded Him of how faithful I’ve been and how hard I’ve worked to learn the lessons He’s teaching me on this hamster wheel journey. I also reminded Him of how old I was and that I wasn’t getting any younger so this whole “waiting” thing and trusting His perfect timing no longer resonates well. I lastly reminded Him that I’ve even made efforts to fix my mistakes.

At one point I was so angry I actually told God that I didn’t want to speak to Him. Of course I just kept rambling though. A few minutes later I demanded to hear from Him. No more silent treatment. But the only thing I heard was my own sobs. So I picked up my phone, checked my Bible app and turned to Proverbs 3. I read verses 5 and 6 and cringed. Sounds completely sacreligious to cringe over scripture doesn’t it? Well I cringed because God tends to send me that specific scripture when His answer to my prayer is a big fat “NO!” I throw my temper tantrums and His response Is simply, “Trust in Me and do not rely on your understanding. Acknowledge Me and I will make your paths straight.” Grrrrrrrrrr!

But then I read farther in Proverbs 3 including verse 11; “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline and don’t be upset when He corrects you.” Double Grrrrrrrrrr! How does a person NOT get upset when they’re being disciplined? In my anger I envisioned a callous God with His back against me completely ignoring my cries.

At one point in my prayer rant last night I actually said “You are not the God I know and love right now.” WHOA! Right? Some might think “That’s awfully bold!” Others reading this may think “Who is she to speak to God in such an irreverent manner?” Those words were spoken in a moment of deep disappointment and feeling of great defeat. Those words were spoken to a god who had turned his back away from me. Those words were not spoken to the real God.

You see in my moment of despair, I saw satan’s version of God. But God, through His word showed me who He really is. Even when He tells us “no”, that no may be firm but it’s gentle and it always comes with a “trust Me” after it. God is our Heavenly Father and just like we parents tell our children “no” from time to time, a parent’s no is always for our child’s own good, even if it’s a form of discipline.

I went to bed last night with only this prayer said “I’m sorry for my angry prayer.” My heart was still stubborn so it was all I could offer. I woke up this morning and read this verse; ““So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” Hebrews‬ ‭10:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬ God again sending me a reminder to trust Him. Notice one thing-God was not shaken by my rant. He also-did not ignore me in spite of my spoiled brat meltdown. He will not ignore you either. God loves you and me even when we don’t agree or accept how He handles us or how He answers our prayers.

I don’t like being told no. I don’t like being disciplined. I don’t like this hamster wheel I’m metaphorically running on. Heck-I don’t like to exercise at all. Ha! Ha! But I have to obey God’s directive which is simply to trust Him. So do you. What areas in your life are you struggling to trust Him in? If your heart is angry, so mine has been too. God is so faithful in forgiving a repentant heart and He is faithful to His word. Do you trust Him? It’s what He’s calling you (and me) to do.

A Downpour or a Sprinkle?

“He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭107:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I believe everyone goes through storms in life. Some storms come in the form of financial despair, loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a rebellious child or maybe dealing with some sort of addiction. A stressful situation of any kind, especially the kind that seem to last for years or as if they’re endless, can feel like you’re walking against the wind of a full blown hurricane with no shelter in place to escape. But sometimes, what we imagine or expect to be a storm turns out to only be a little sprinkle. Let me give you two examples of what I’m talking about.

This past Independence Day, the morning started out very hot. My family and I “puddled” as we endured the humid temps watching a parade that celebrated our nation’s birthday. By afternoon we were lethargic and becoming stagnant because no one wanted to move in the heat. Normally we would’ve gone to the beach but this year we had different plans that turned into a day of “playing it by ear.”

Me, being a creature of habit and feeling overheated, felt a strong need to get to a lake. So my niece and I headed to the local lake that has a beautiful walkway trimmed around it. As we were driving the sky started to rumble and large drops of rain sporadically hit the windshield of my vehicle. The clouds didn’t look too stormy and judging by the rain droplets, I assumed whatever was brewing was going to blow over quickly.

For a moment, I was right. By the time we parked and headed on our walk by the lake, there were no raindrops. However, in a few short minutes that changed dramatically. The rain formed a steady sprinkle and by the time we were halfway into our walk we were caught in a massive down pour. When it started raining sideways we decided it was best to turn around and head back to the car.

Did I mention there was limited shelter in the area and lightning was striking over the lakeshore periodically? My niece and I could’ve panicked. But for some reason we just laughed as the rain flooded our heads, faces and clothing. In fact at one point the rain was coming down so hard I could barely keep my eyes open to see where we were going. Once we reached shelter we paused enough to get the water off our eyes and then head back out in order to reach my vehicle and drive home. Once in the vehicle, I had to wring out my shirt and my seats became drenched from soaked clothing. Nonetheless, this was one of the best moments of my life. The rain cooled us off and it was a rare memory that created much laughter with my niece also.

This morning the skies got loud again. The rumbling sound drew me outside to see what was happening. Dark gray clouds were heading my direction and getting noisier the closer they came. The wind was picking up as well. All signs showed one doozy of a storm about to hit. I returned inside and waited for more. Guess what-aside from a five second down pour, this morning’s display was “all talk” with very little action.

Circumstances in life are very much the same way. Sometimes we are hit by situations that nearly blow us over. Sometimes what we expect to be a major uproar turns out to be just a bunch of noise and nothing more. Sometimes, like my niece and I did by the lake, we heed the warning signs and find ourselves up to our eyeballs in a storm that could’ve been avoided. Sure my niece and I made it out and we shared one heck of a laugh as we went through the process but in stormy life circumstances most people aren’t laughing nor do they even know how to get themselves out.

No matter if you’re in a downpour or experiencing a sprinkle, Jesus is the master of the storms. Whether He chooses to calm the storm (like He did for the disciples) or allow you to experience a typhoon like Paul did as a prisoner on a ship, Jesus controls the storm. Even self created storms (brought on by our own sinful choices) can be calmed when we surrender to Jesus and seek His redemption. Jesus may use the storm to break you, but never to destroy you. Also, if you’re being broken by Him, He’s only breaking off what doesn’t honor Him in order for you to grow deeper in and closer to Him.

What situation are you facing today that feels like a major storm? Examine how you got there, confess anything that was self-made (including any lack of trust or disbelief you may be experiencing) and stand on His promise that He will calm your storm and still the waves. Also-ask God for discernment to heed the warning signs and also to know the difference between circumstances that are downpours and ones that are really just light sprinkles or sporadic raindrops.

When It’s Hardest to Forgive

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If you were raised Christian, ever visited a Sunday School class or have been witnessed to, I am confident you’ve heard a message about forgiveness. The plan of salvation alone consists of confessing our sins and Jesus forgiving us. Christ’s death is the epitome of forgiveness both to those who crucified Him and for those He died for. As He was hanging on the cross already beaten and tortured, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Throughout the Old and New Testament there are many passages on God and Christ forgiving sinners. We aren’t just forgiven. God calls us to forgive those who “trespass against us.” If you’re anything like me, being forgiven is easy. Forgiving others can be a very tough pill to swallow especially those who aren’t even sorry.

There are people in this world who may hate you, hurt you, and lie about you because of their own toxicity. Perhaps they’re jealous and insecure, sociopathic or narcissistic even. The stories of Jezebel, Joseph’s brothers and even Saul’s murderous behavior toward David are prime examples. The Pharisees even blasphemed against Jesus. Yet there are multiple scriptures that tell us to forgive. In fact a few verses even say love your enemies and pray for them/do good to them.

Here are a few more scriptures on God telling us to forgive:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. ””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Over and over God tells us to love our enemies, be kind to each other and to forgive each other. When someone we love hurts our feelings or disappoints us-it tends to be easy to forgive them because our love supersedes the offense. It’s hardest to forgive those who’s offenses supersede the ability to love that person. That’s where surrender to God and an obedient heart comes in to play. That’s where seventy times seven needs to be applied.

You may come across someone who will never be sorry for the wrong they did to you. You may want to just avoid them or ignore their existence. However, there may be circumstances where you cannot ignore or avoid them. You may have such a justifiable aversion to them that being kind to them makes your skin crawl. Our wounded hearts don’t want to forgive. Our defenses don’t want to be around them let alone offer them grace or kindness. But God says “Forgive them.” God says “Be kind to them.” God says “Love and pray for them.”

Seventy times seven means we forgive every offense, every time. I think it also means we may have to forgive the same offense over and over as a means to truly let go and fully forgive our offenders. Think about it. How many times a day do you dwell on the offense? Ever have arguments in your head between yourself and the offender? Ever think unkind thoughts or call them vicious names in your mind? Gossip about them maybe? Can you feel roots of bitterness growing and consuming you? Do you think any of that hurts your offender? Trust me-it does not. Your offender is most likely not even thinking about you. If their not sorry for their actions then they’re certainly not dwelling on them either. Our dwelling only keeps us wounded and keeps us from forgiving.

We combat this by choosing forgiveness. When a negative thought pops in your head-confess in your mind or aloud that you forgive the offender. Dwelling on specific actions they did against you? Name them aloud as you declare that you forgive these offenses. Confess each and every hateful thought you entertain and give it all to Jesus. When circumstances arise that you have to engage with that person, force yourself to be kind. You may have to fake it until you make it but if you do this, you will cut off all roots of bitterness and walk in the freedom of having a forgiving heart. You will make it to forgiving your offender(s).

Your enemy may never change. Our greatest enemy will never change so why do we expect our human enemies to change? We cannot control the behaviors and actions of others. We can only control how we respond, what we hold on to and what we let go of. We have a choice to forgive or to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge steals our joy and makes us more like our haters. Always choose to forgive. Even if you have to say it 490 times (which is 70 X 7 by the way) choosing forgiveness makes you more Christlike. That forgiveness may be the exact stepping stone Jesus uses to bring your enemy to salvation. After all-Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20) You never know how God will use your forgiveness to save the lives of others also.