Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blessings in Disguise

There was a big rainstorm on Monday afternoon.  Although I didn’t see much lightning, the roar and vibration of the thunder was definitely heard and felt.  At one specific moment, after an extra loud clap of thunder that seemed to shake the house, the computer shut off and one of the main phone bases stopped working.  I was relieved to not see or smell smoke after the occurrence.  After Larry came home, he checked out the computer.  When the internet would not come up, he called our provider.  The representative found some things that needed to be cleaned up on the line, but that still did not clear up the problem.  With more trouble shooting, Larry realized that the network card was out.  Even though I had several things to do using the internet the next day, I needed to wait for Larry to get home from work, purchase a new card, and then install it.  Once again I was intentionally grateful for our computer and especially that Larry knew how to install the card and fix the problem.

And then came the blessing in disguise.  I’m not sure whether it was the representative cleaning up the DSL line, the new network card, or both, but the internet now loads up in record time.  Even though it might have been a little inconvenient to be without the computer for a day, the final results were well worth the wait. 

Life has a way of sometimes giving blessings in disguise.  When I was a student at Texas Tech, it was time for the yearly Baptist Student Union Convention.  Busses had been rented and the much anticipated weekend had finally arrived.  Even though I was rarely sick, that Friday morning my allergies got the best of me.  After making it through classes, I realized that as much as I wanted to go to the conference I would need to wait for another year.  I was really disappointed and agonized over whether to still go, but I knew that not going was to be for the best.  Saturday morning, I awoke to the news, on the radio, that one of the busses from Tech had an accident on the way to the BSU Convention and flipped on its side.  One girl died and others were injured and hospitalized.  There was an overwhelming realization that I could have been on that very bus with friends.  Because of illness and choosing to stay in the dorm that weekend, my life had been protected and spared.

Sometimes we can see the answer for why something happens or doesn’t happen in a few hours time while other times it may be a week, months, or years before we know.  And sometimes we have to rely on faith to realize that we may not ever know this side of Heaven all of God’s mercies in disguise.

In the chorus to Laura Story’s song “Blessings”, she reminds us of God’s mercies.

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

He is good to everyone, and his compassion is intertwined with everything he does. Psalm 145:9 (The Living Bible)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sweet Blessings

Acteens is the missions education organization for junior high and high school girls in the Baptist church.  A few months ago, one of the senior high leaders asked if I would be willing to read through, edit, and critique the work for the three girls who have reached the highest level of Acteens, Texas State Citation.  This is the final step, after completing and passing 6 other years of work.  This year, their work is sent to the State Office to determine if the work passes the criteria that have been set.  With all that in mind, the closer the day came to begin reading through their notebooks, the more I started to question whether I would be the best person to do that.  I even had the name of a very qualified person to recommend.  The more I thought through and prayed about it, it was very clear that all God asked of me was to be available and He would take care of the ability part of the process.  So the past two weeks I have had the privilege of reading through and editing the three Acteens’ Texas State Citation notebooks and have been blessed in the process as I read their testimonies of how they accepted Jesus as their Savior; read detailed papers on “What Baptists Believe” as well as research on another religion and the comparison of the two; saw the reports to mission sites they visited; read 3 Bible stories they wrote for a children’s book, along with activities, songs, and Bible verses to help the children understand the Bible truths; read about the worship service they planned and led at the Wednesday night prayer service, read through the devotional and prayer guide that the girls wrote for the Week of Prayer for Home Missions that was distributed on Sunday morning; as well as noting other projects throughout the year.  This year as the young women are recognized, I will again thank God for the blessing of reading and seeing how He is at work in and through their lives and for reminding me, once again, that there are blessings when I am willing to say, “Yes” to His plan.

Another unexpected blessing came Friday afternoon while we were exercising at the gym.  A lady and her grown daughter came over to speak to us as they were about to leave.  The mother reminded Larry that 18 years ago she and her daughter went to his office and he led the daughter to accept Jesus as her Savior.  As the daughter smiled, the mother said, “And she’s still following Him.”  What a precious reminder of the gift of sharing and being available.

The past few weeks, I have been reading through the book of Job for my Bible reading each day.  Job is one of the books that I usually persevere through when it comes time to read it, but this year was different.  Aaron Jeoffrey, in his song “He Is,” sings about God being the “Timeless Redeemer” in the book of Job.  Even in the midst of Job’s losses, hurts, and frustrations, God proved Himself faithful as the Timeless Redeemer and I know He will be the same for me. 

A few of the verses that blessed, challenged and encouraged me in Job:

Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. 
Job 2:10b

I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.

 Job 19:25

And he said to the human race,
    “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
    and to shun evil is understanding.”

Job 28:28

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. 
Job 38:1

So I am continuing to learn that…
* God desires a willing heart that is available to do whatever He asks. 
* Obedience brings blessings.
* Whatever my circumstances, state of health, or concerns, God is and always will be my Timeless Redeemer.
* When God speaks, sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms His child.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Gift of Freedom

This weekend, all across our country, people will be remembering, celebrating and giving thanks for the freedom and independence we enjoy as a nation.  Because of the sacrifices, dreams, and goals of our Founding Fathers, we have the privilege and honor of living in a democratic society.  On July 4th, there were picnics, family gatherings, food, time with friends, and fireworks to add to the festivities. 

Celebrations like these can be bittersweet, realizing that not every person in the world can or has cause to celebrate like we do in the United States.  But no matter where one lives, we all have the opportunity to be free because of the gift of salvation from Jesus.  It’s not the country, state, city, or community where one lives that grants them personal freedom, but rather the One to whom they choose to entrust their life. 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  Romans 8:1, 2

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  I Peter 2:16

And the news about that freedom is worth sharing and celebrating all year long!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Remedy for Stinkin' Thinkin'

The days after camp, even as an adult, were prime times for Satan to try his hand at causing you to choose some “Stinkin’ thinkin’” instead of thoughts that God says are true.  Camp is one of those rare times when you don’t have electronics to deal with, your primary goal is to listen and respond to what God is telling and teaching you, and you are surrounded by peers and adults who encourage you along the way.  Then it is back to reality.  Even as recently as last week, I had to confront some of those thoughts and remember that “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a) what Jesus came to give.

Recognizing Satan’s work is the first step to stopping it.  I notice it when: 
* Comparing myself to others.
* Second guessing if what I am doing is the right thing to do.
* Focusing thoughts on me instead of others.
* Reading into situations and making assumptions.
* Reminding myself of past mistakes and failures.
* Forgetting that it’s availability that God wants and that he’ll take care of the ability and details.

Instead, I need to take to heart the last part of John 10:10 when Jesus says, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

To get rid of the “Stinkin’ thinkin’” it is important to remember that:
* God keeps watch over me.
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
  Psalm 17:8

* God has provided a way for me to stay close to him and resist the lies and destruction of the enemy.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James 4:7

* God is the greatest and he gives me strength to overcome.
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
I John 4:4

* When I keep my focus on Jesus, it helps me keep things in perspective.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1, 2

* There are specific things to think about to have the right kind of thoughts, actions, and reactions.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8

All the time, not just when I’m at camp or retreats, I need to be intentional about spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, listening to and obeying what God asks me to do, and surrounding myself with people who challenge and encourage me to be like Jesus.